Among various topics worth intellectual consideration, LGBT+ science and research in 2018 gave us a better understanding of gender identity, sexual desire and same-sex reproduction.
In the field of medicine, there have been continuing signs of effective HIV treatment via daily antiretroviral therapy (ART), while an experimental vaccine for the virus, so far only trialled on small animals, is due to begin testing on humans next year.
This year also marked the first international celebration of LGBTSTEM Day, an initiative organised by a group of associations working to support LGBT+ rights in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). LGBTSTEM Day aims to bring visibility to LGBT+ scientists, more than 40 percent of whom remain closeted at work.
Thanks to the tireless work of straight and LGBT+ scientists and researchers, these are five things we learnt in 2018.
Transgender people are born that way
A growing body of scientific evidence is indicating that being transgender is a matter of a person’s biology.
Researchers at the University of São Paulo’s Medical School examined the brains of transgender and cisgender—those who identify with the gender assigned at birth—people. Their findings indicated that transgender people’s brains display characteristics similar with the gender they identify with.
A subsequent study presented in May, titled “Brain structure and function in gender dysphoria,” appeared to back those findings. It indicated that brain scan results corroborated subjects who reported having gender dysphoria.
According to another study, there is a link between someone’s gender and their genes. The study, published in the peer-reviewed The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in September, indicated that trans people’s sex hormone genes tend to look different to those of cisgender people and produce different physiological results.
While these findings help contrast anti-trans activists who argue that transgender identities are a “trend,” the LGBT+ community should be cautious in using scientific findings to justify their identities.
As trans journalist Alex Barasch explained in The Washington Post, flawed research and a twisted interpretation of these studies may lead to the creation of arbitrary standards reinforcing gender policing and the impression that being LGBT+ is an “anomaly.”
Conception is not exclusively a binary business
The binary understanding of conception is changing. This year, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing managed to create baby mice—known as pups—from two male mice using gene editing techniques.
Though these offspring died within 48 hours, researchers believe that this breakthrough may eventually lead to same-sex couples being able to have healthy children of their own.
While such development may be years away, new medical ground in human gestation was broken this year. Two married lesbians carried the same baby before birth in the first IVF pregnancy of this kind. Their healthy baby boy was born in June.
“This is something a heterosexual couple can’t share,” Dr Kathy Doody, a fertility specialist at the CARE Fertility in Texas who invented the device that made this possible, told PinkNews.
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As LGBT+ parents across the world fight to have their family rights acknowledged, researchers in Italy have found that children of same-sex couples showed fewer psychological problems than children of heterosexual couples.
Men can feel sad after sex
Men can experience feelings of sadness, irritability or other negative emotions after sex.
The study, led by the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, found men can experience postcoital dysphoria (PCD), a term used to describe feelings of tearfulness, anxiety and agitation after intercourse.
Researchers found PCD was associated with “current psychological distress, childhood sexual abuse, and several sexual dysfunctions.”
LGB people masturbate more than straight people
This is good news particularly for gay and bisexual cisgender men, as we know from a 2016 study published in European Urology that masturbation has distinct health benefits—for instance, those who ejaculated more often had lower incidents of prostate cancer than those who did it less.
Women who have sex with women orgasm much more
Researchers at the University of Arkansas have discovered that though straight partners have sex more often, bisexual and lesbian women have more orgasms—by far.
The study, titled “Are Women’s Orgasms Hindered by Phallocentric Imperatives?” had 2,300 respondents.
It found that women were 33 percent more likely to orgasm when they were having sex with another woman—those in same-sex relationships said they orgasmed, on average, 55 times per month.