Transgender goats and genetic manipulation

Intersex ‘goys’ created in New Zealand lab

Today I saw a headline online that immediately caught my attention: “Scientists create lady goats trapped in male bodies”.

My first question was, how do the scientists know the goats are trans? (The writer uses the term “transgender” in describing them.) How could the goats tell them?

I never claimed to be an expert on terminology involving gender variance and have recently discovered that I actually know far less than I thought did. But still, doesn’t being trans involve having a physical gender that does not match up with the individual’s mental, emotional and/or spiritual gender? And if that is at all accurate, how would a scientist know what a goat is thinking or feeling and be able to determine the animal is trans?

Then I read the article and realized that what they are really talking about are goats that have been genetically manipulated to be intersex. They have male genitalia, but are sterile and are otherwise female. The whole point to this scientific exercise, taking place at a genetic research institute in New Zealand, is to see if the genetically altered goats, called “goys,” are able to produce milk closer in makeup to human breast milk.

After reading the article — which is more of an opinion piece, by Stephen Messenger at TreeHugger.com, than a news story — I have to say I share some of Mr. Messenger’s concerns over this kind of “toying with nature.” I do understand the nature of science and experimentation and the need for new discoveries and inventions. But these “goys” are living, breathing, feeling creatures, and I don’t think that we have the right to manipulate their very beings that way.

(I had a bit of a problem with some of Mr. Messenger’s language, too. I wasn’t sure if he was horrified that these goats had been genetically altered for science, or if he was horrified at the thought of them being transgender/intersex.)

But I was interested in the questions this experiment raises in terms of the “nature or nurture” argument. It isn’t the same exact thing, of course, because these goats are intersex and trans (not gay or bi). Still, it is an example, once again, that gender isn’t as simple as some people want to believe it is.

—  admin