Simona Giordano, an expert in gender identity and Reader in Bioethics at The University of Manchester Law School, who did not work on the study, told Newsweek: "A number of studies conducted in the last few decades suggest that gender identity and gendered behaviour might be, at least to an extent, influenced by prenatal hormone exposure. It is likely that a number of genes are involved in sex differentiation and development during prenatal life."
Giordano said such studies may help transgender people with gender dysphoria seek treatment, bolstering arguments that being transgender is not a lifestyle choice and "therefore people are entitled to help and support and social acceptance."
"But we should not need medical diagnosis to seek acceptance and provide help," she argued. "We provide medical help to women in labour because they suffer and there are means to alleviate their suffering—there is no need to suggest that suffering is pathological or being pregnant is pathology.
"Accepting people's differences at the condition that some biological factor is found as a 'cause' of that difference is a distorted idea of acceptance," Giordano said.
On the other hand, Giordano argued that finding a biological basis risks leading some to argue that interventions should be developed to change these genetic variations, rather than people's bodies so they align with their gender identity.
"We are now speculating, but given that genome editing is now possible, one could argue that, once the gene variants responsible for gender dysphoria are found, one could 'repair' the faulty gene with a 'healthy' one, to prevent or cure gender dysphoria," she said.
"However, in this way, one would not really treat gender dysphoria but eliminate transgender people," said Giordano. "This way of resolving problems is like addressing racism by eliminating people of colour" which would be "outright wrong."
Giordano concluded: "There is value in research that tries to understand gender identification and sex differentiation. However, grouping people in discrete categories is problematic: the categories of trans and cisgender, male and female, lack precise contours.
"Research in this area, if performed, should be directed to enhance the understanding of gender identification in us all, not just in only some of us. Singling out transgender people as subjects of research risks, even if inadvertently, to increase stigma and social perception of gender minorities as deviant and thus social discrimination."