A new paper published in the journal Human Nature finds that transgendered men were often seen as an asset in some societies.
Among hunter-gatherer communities, the social investments that transgender males made to their groups may have helped to sustain the transgender orientation into modern societies, say researchers led by Doug VanderLaan of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada.
VanderLaan and his colleagues studied 146 non-transgendered societies and 46 transgender societies in both current and older hunter-gatherer societies, and found that transgender men were considered useful to their communities as extra help in supporting the family, whether by maintaining households or by contributing to the raising of children. Those benefits provided an evolutionary advantage to the societies in which they belonged, allowing them to survive and remain healthy, and that in turn provided the opportunity for transgender attributes to continue into future generations, despite the fact that many transgender males did not have biological children of their own. Not surprisingly, this effect was strongest in communities in which both male and female contributions to the health of a family — in the form of emotional, social as well as financial and political support — were considered equally important. In these communities, discrimination against homosexual activity was rare, the authors report.
In fact, that condition was critical to the positive societal contributions of the transgender males. In order for the contributions of these men to benefit the community, they had to be accepted by its members. And that remains true today — people who identify as transgender, or with any other sexual orientation for that matter, become most productive if they can contribute their time and energy to a community that accepts and welcomes their support.