On the Science of Changing Sex

J. Michael Bailey Video Interview

Posted in Film Review, Science Criticism by Kay Brown on November 19, 2017

Kay Brown 2010Excepting Blanchard himself, no one has been more misunderstood nor falsely vilified than J. Michael Bailey, Ph.D.  The conservatives have lambasted him for researching sexual orientation.  Bisexuals have lambasted him for showing that true bisexuality in men is actually quite rare.  Gay people have maligned him for his philosophical stance that if it is “OK” for parents to use genetic screening or manipulation to effect a non-critical trait such as eye or hair color, then it is equality “OK” to select for the equally non-critical trait of sexual orientation  (meaning that Bailey sees gay or straight as equally valuable and acceptable outcomes in children), falsely accusing Bailey of supporting anti-gay genocide (ummmm… no… he equally supported chosing FOR being gay… as they were morally the same).  But it is his authorship of a book that only incidentally covered Blanchard’s research on the Two Type MTF transsexual taxonomy that got his name on the uninformed LGBT communities black list.

TMWWBQ CoverBailey’s book, The Man Who Would Be Queen is primarily about male androphilia and its deep connection to gender atypicality, to male femininity.  But, in order to explain that connection, he needed to show that autogynephilic transwomen were NOT in that taxon.  Cue that autogynephilic transwomen’s backlash !

So, let’s hear Bailey in his own words:

 

Further Reading:

Book Review: The Man Who Would Be Queen

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James Cantor, Ph.D. Videos

Posted in Film Review by Kay Brown on November 19, 2017

Kay Brown 2010Sexologists are a fascinating group of scientists.  When reading their papers, we occassional get glimpses of their personality, maybe their sense of humor.  But listening to their actual words in a video is much, much more satisfying in this regards.  In this post, I link to videos of Dr. James Cantor, who has been very much at the forefront of research on various issues that interest me, being interviewed by Dr. Amatay.  I hope you enjoy them… or at least learn from them.

 

Remember, if you disagree with something a scientist says, bring data… evidence, not vehemence.

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The Elephant in the Room

Posted in Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on November 9, 2017

female_scientistOr, Is the “Third Type” of MTF Transgender Simply Mentally Ill ??

In the mid ’90s, during a conversation in my kitchen, where we often held our transactivism strategy sessions over coffee, JoAnna McNamara remarked one day that I was the only transsexual she knew who wasn’t mentally ill.  Actually, she used the term, “crazy”.  I was taken aback by her declaration and asked for expansion and explanation.  She listed a number of people we both knew in common and told me of other numerous examples.  Most of them were actually fairly reasonable examples of anxiety and depression associated with typical late transitioning woes (i.e. divorce, job loss, being regularly clocked in public, etc.).  But some of the stories about these same individuals involved episodes that would indeed indicate serious departures from rational behavior, most especially of delusions and even psychotic breaks, that she had either witnessed first hand or had credible accounts from others.

This fit with some stories that I have been told by a number of care providers who have confided in me… and of my own personal experience.

One of the most famous individuals I met was Angela Keyes Douglas, AKA Douglas Keyes.  When I first met Douglas, in 1977, s/he was living in Berkeley as… well… not really a woman so much as s/he didn’t really pass or even really try, and seemed totally oblivious to how people reacted to him/her.  It was obvious to me that s/he was “off”… and I mean “off“.  We maintained a distant connection for decades.  Douglas had SRS sometime in the ’80s and moved to Florida.  Eventually Douglas returned to living as a man full-time.  I would get mail from him that was off the chart “off“… sometimes friendly, sometimes threatening.  He claimed that he was a CIA or FBI agent and was turning me in for my “crimes”.  He also wrote about the “blue lizard aliens” running our government, when he wasn’t writing about the “Illuminati”.  Clearly, Douglas was psychotic, probably schizophrenic.

Another individual, who was never famous, was my roommate for a time in late ’77 early ’78.  I won’t use her name.  She was in her mid 20’s, very pretty, had transitioned and had SRS paid for by her family while in college and was then working as a computer programmer in Silicon Valley.  However, she was “off”… and I mean “off“.  I didn’t realize it when I first moved in.  Given her age of transition, I had initially thought she must be a transkid.  WRONG !  On the surface, she seemed sweet and put together, until you noticed that she never left the apartment except to go to work.  She had exactly one close friend, a lesbian who I believe she had a serious crush on.  She hated and was terrified of men, all men, but especially gay men.  She had this fixed delusion that all gay men were sexual predators out to seduce her, perhaps violently rape her.  It would seem that part of her motivation for transition was to escape the notice of gay men.  Oh… did I mention that she was heavily medicated on thioridazine?  Thioridazine is a powerful anti-psychotic prescribed as a treatment for schizophrenia.  Well, things went down-hill for us as roommates pretty fast when she discovered that I was actively dating… oopsie… men!  She went off on me one evening using homophobic slurs and after that began having and sharing with others a delusional paranoia fixed on me.  Obviously, I moved out after only a very short time.  In the mid-80’s, I accidentally ran into her in the lobby of a hotel.  I greeted her in a kindly and friendly manner… to which she responded like a startled rabbit and literally ran full tilt away from me!

I had another roommate, who again I will not use her name, who was subject to severe bouts of debilitating depression.  However, she also had times when she was filled with energy, able to achieve amazing things.  But there was a dark side to that energy.  During those times, she would hold very odd ideas, conspiracy theories, etc.  Sometimes, these ideas involved those close to her.  She also took dangerous, reckless, risks that would frighten me in the extreme when I was witness to them.  Perhaps you recognize the symptoms?  I believe that she suffered from bipolar disorder w/ paranoid delusions.

These examples are not the only ones that I have witnessed personally…

This issue has not gone unnoted in the literature on transsexuality / transgenderism.  Norman Fisk, in his seminal paper introducing the concept of “gender dysphoria syndrome” also wrote about the ‘third type’ that they saw applying for sex reassignment at the Stanford Clinic,

“Finally, many psychotic patients have a severe type of gender confusion.  Twenty percent of all of our patients contacting our program are overtly psychotic and of course are referred for or given appropriate psychiatric treatment.”

Could this explain the “third type” that consistently disavows ever having experienced either exclusive androphilia or autogynephilia, insisting that they represent a third type?  Well, no, not completely anyway.  We know that many who deny autogynephilia are in fact falsely making such a claim.  However, these psychotic individuals could represent a portion of them and thus serve as a true, “third type”.  On the other hand, they could simply be a subset of one or the other, or even of both, of the already well established two types, simply evincing a co-morbid condition.  That at 20 to 46%, this could alternatively mean that those who suffer from gender dysphoria are especially likely to have such co-morbid conditions, as Lawrence describes,

Some cases of MtF transsexualism are associated with and plausibly attributable to other comorbid psychiatric disorders, especially psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Á Campo, Nijman, Merckelbach, and Evers (2003) reported on a large survey of Dutch psychiatrists, who had evaluated 584 patients with cross-gender identification and possible GID; in 46% of these patients, the psychiatrists interpreted cross-gender identification as an epiphenomenon of other psychiatric problems, including psychotic, mood, dissociative, and personality disorders. Brown and Jones (2016) observed that, among 5135 persons (69% male) diagnosed with GID, transsexualism, or transvestism who had received care from the U.S. Veterans Administration, 32% had also received a diagnosis of “serious mental illness,” meaning “diagnoses associated with psychotic symptoms” (p. 128), including schizophrenia- and bipolar-spectrum disorders. Thus, comorbid psychotic disorders and other severe mental illnesses may account for some cases of MtF transsexualism in nonandrophilic persons who deny autogynephilia — and for some cases of MtF transsexualism in androphilic persons as well.

Mental illness within the transcommunity has been the elephant in the room.  It’s time we talked about it openly and compassionately.

(Epilog 11/12/2017:  JoAnna, herself suffering from serious mental illness, committed suicide less than a year after the conversation discussed above.)

Further Reading:

Essay on Clinical difference between the two types w/ allusions to differential vulnerability to mental illness

References:

Fisk, N., “Editorial: Gender dysphoria syndrome–the conceptualization that liberalizes indications for total gender reorientation and implies a broadly based multi-dimensional rehabilitative regimen.” (1974) Western Journal of Medicine
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1130142/

Lawrence, A., “Autogynephilia and the Typology of Male-to-Female Transsexualism: Concepts and Controversies”, European Psychologist, 22, 39-54. (2017)
http://www.annelawrence.com/autogynephilia_&_MtF_typology.html

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Presented with no comments:

Posted in Female-to-Male by Kay Brown on November 1, 2017

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Blood Lines

Posted in Science Criticism by Kay Brown on October 17, 2017

critical-thinkingA recent study regarding cross-sex blood transfusions and subsequent mortality may have implications for Blanchard’s immune factor Fraternal Birth Order Effect etiology hypothesis.  In the study, they found that when blood from a previously pregnant woman is transfused in men, their subsequent mortality is increased compared to women who are transfused.  Blood from women who had never been pregnant did not increase men’s mortality.  The hypothesis is that when women are pregnant with a male child, immune factors are created against “males” that can be transfused into men and cause iatrogenic harm.  Note the similarity with the immune factor Fraternal Birth Order Effect hypothesis.

To remind my reader.  The Fraternal Birth Order Effect is the now well established fact that androphilic males (both gay and transsexual) have more older brothers than sisters.  That is to say, that the odds that a given male baby will be androphilic increases with each male child that their mother had carried previously.  This is a cumulative effect.

Further research is called for in this new case of transfusion induced mortality connection, of course.  But this suggests a new wrinkle to the immune factor hypothesis.  Could the issue of immune factor mediation for the Fraternal Birth Order Effect be one of increased fetal mortality for heterosexual males rather than immune factors interfering with virilization?  This too should be researched.  If this hypothesis is true, the mothers of gay men would have higher “chemical” pregnancies that did not become clinical pregnancies than mothers of only heterosexual men.

Further Reading:

Essay on Fraternal Birth Order Effect

“Blood Boundaries: Should Transfusions Be Matched by Sex? A new study raises questions about potential dangers” By Karen Weintraub, Scientific American (2017)

References:

Camila Caram-Deelder, Aukje L. Kreuger, Dorothea Evers, et al, “Association of Blood Transfusion From Female Donors With and Without a History of Pregnancy With Mortality Among Male and Female Transfusion Recipients” JAMA (2017)
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2657377

Malvina N. Skorska, Ray Blanchard, Doug P. VanderLaan, Kenneth J. Zucker, Anthony F. Bogaert, “Gay Male Only-Children: Evidence for Low Birth Weight and High Maternal Miscarriage Rates” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2016)
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-016-0829-9


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Santa Rosa Fire

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on October 9, 2017

For my friends and fans:

Jeff and I are safe.  Our house is only blocks from the fire and the smoke is thick.  We will keep a close eye on the fire and will leave if the mandatory evacuation zone moves our way.

Thank you for your kindness,

Kay

Update 10/11/2017:  The air is much clearer and nothing is burning very close…. but there are many fires just over the hills.  We made it though, but many in Santa Rosa did not.  Many homes are gone.  Many of our friends have evacuated and staying with others.  We are still hoping to hear word of one couple who no one seems to know what happened.  They are elderly (~80) and we fear the worst.

The winds are picking up again and I worry about so many who will almost certainly lose their homes tonight.

Update 10/13/2017:  Oh thank goodness our friends are alright… they had been in their house with no power or phone for days.

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Now This…

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorial by Kay Brown on September 23, 2017

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeI’ve been writing science fiction novel for the past couple years.  It is now available from Amazon in eBook format.

The glory days of Silicon Valley are long ago.  Even China is losing out to space based industry and research centers.  More and more people on Earth are losing interest in jobs and are relying on their Universal Basic Income as automation provides enough for all.  No one goes hungry or homeless but cracks are forming in the foundations of society.

Sincerity Espinoza didn’t go looking for trouble, it found her. All she wants out of life is the chance to go to the stars but she is caught in a web of misunderstandings, political & legal maneuvering, and the growing threat of terrorist plots by religious fanatics. She has a secret that if found out too soon could mean not only her own death but the ruin of the hope for humanity ever going to the stars. But even amidst momentous events, life is still about the small moments of love, laughter, and sadness.

Get your e-book signed by Seaby BrownThe story melds social, political, and tech trends into a realistic portrayal of advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, cybernetics, aerospace engineering, genetics engineering, and neural interface technology that will become common place. In a world that has grown cynical about “progress”, The novel is a hopeful and optimistic look into our future.

And yes, while not the main protagonist, there is a transwoman in the story.

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Brain Maps…

Posted in Brain Sex, Science Criticism by Kay Brown on September 19, 2017

phrenologyOr Searching for the Lost Continent of Atlantis

A recently popular counter argument to evidence of the two type taxonomy that arises in the transgender communities is that transsexuals brains have cross-sexed maps of the body.  It sounds so reasonable doesn’t it?  That is to say, if our bodies are sexually dimorphic with respect to genitalia and secondary sexual characteristics, shouldn’t our brains be as well?  And if the sexes have sexually dimorphic brain mapping of those body parts, could it not be that transsexuals have been “cross-wired”?  And further, couldn’t that explain all transsexuals and maybe even non-gender-dysphoric transgender people?

Trusting “truthiness” gut feelings is how we form false beliefs.  We need to look at this issue objectively, both open-mindedly to see if true, and skeptically to find the flaws in this hypothesis to prove it wrong if it is wrong.  So let’s look at the evidence shall we?

First, this idea seems to have cropped up BEFORE any supporting evidence.  Thus, it may be that when this idea is being explored, it will be subject to strong confirmation bias.  I’ve already written about such an incident in a previous essay when, ten years ago, Vilayanur Subramanian Ramachandran tried to pass off experimentally and statistically flawed data to support this hypothesis by comparing the experience of phantom limb sensations of a small group of control men who had penectomies with post-op MTF transwomen.  The study was roundly and rightly criticized by Anne Lawrence for not showing what it purported to show.  When writing about it, I discussed the theoretical objections to the notion of sexually dimorphic neural maps of the genitalia in the brain,

“First and foremost of which is that the genitalia are not really all that different in quality… and only superficially different in quantity.  Nearly each feature of the external and even of some of the internal structures are homologous.  That is, for each feature found in a male, there is a feature that matches it in the female, which is only different in degree, not in kind.  The most obvious example is the glans of the penis is homologous with the glans of the clitoris.  Inside of the penis, and down into its root inside of the body, is spongy tissue that expands when blood pressure fills it with blood.  Inside of the clitoris and down into its root inside of the body, is spongy tissue that expands when blood pressure fills it with blood.  Quite literally, a penis is a very large clitoris; And a clitoris is a very small penis.  Oh there are differences in how the urethra is routed, but even there, they start in the same place.  In men there are two glands called the Cowper’s, which produce a clear fluid that aids in lubrication during sex.  In women there are two glands called the Bartholin’s which produce a clear fluid that aids in lubrication during sex.  Why are they called two different names?  Finally, the scrotal sac is the same tissue as the labia majora, but have fused together.  Thus, the two sexes, which seem so different to a naive observer, are really very nearly the same to a student of anatomy.  So, given that the two are really very nearly the same, shouldn’t the neural maps be the same?”

I stand by my objections with regard to genitalia being sexually dimorphically represented in the brain.  But could there be other areas that are sexually dimorphically represented in the brain?  There could be, in fact… there SHOULD be.  To be specific, those areas of the body which are not homologous between the sexes should be expressed non-homologously in the brain.  Specifically, the uterus and fallopian tubes.  Further, these areas of female anatomy are not served by the pudendal nerves like the genitalia so may experience quite different representation in the brain.

Consider also the phenomena of neural atrophy.  If the brain is not stimulated by external events… for example someone born blind, the portion of the brain not stimulated does not fully develop while it may also be “repurposed” for another function.  That is to say, it is remapped and recruited by neurologically nearby functions.  So, we would expect to find sexually dimorphic maps of the somatic sensation processing functions associated with organs which are non-homologous.

However, under this analysis, we would NOT expect to find a section of a male-to-female transsexual’s brain waiting for input from non-existent non-homologous female anatomy!  That is the equivalent of searching for the Lost Continent of Atlantis.  You can put it one your paper map of the globe, but that won’t mean that you can find it on the real earth.  It sank into mythology a long time ago.

So, can there be sexually dimorphic brain development involving somatic maps where the opposite happens?  That is, can the brain fail to develop a map for a somatically sexually dimorphic feature that does exist?  This might be possible in theory.

Consider breast tissue.  This is superficially sexually dimorphic after puberty, but largely homologous.  But we have evidence from studies in mice that certain nerves leading to the milk glands begin to form in both sexes, but later atrophy in males in utero.  I haven’t been able to find data on humans regarding the same phenomena.  Mice, being rodents, are close cousins of primates, and thus humans.  But evolution does not always conserve every detail.  So we may or may not have the same phenomena.  However, lets for the moment entertain such a notion.  This would suggest that males would fail to develop brain functions that respond to the sensation of milk gland fullness, fail to develop the needed sensory map for the signals from an infant needing to nurse, and fail to send the needed signals back from other unconscious functions to “let down” the milk to an awaiting baby.  This let down signal is triggered by the sight, sound, and feel of a baby wanting to nurse.  It is thought that originally, only the sensations on the nipple bring about ‘let down’, but soon a mother learns by association the sight and sounds (baby hunger cry) that precede nursing.  It is theoretically possible that we could find the location of this somatic sensorium map and how it feeds the let down function in the human brain and see if it is a) sexually dimorphic and b) anomalous in transsexuals.

body2bmapping2bon2bthe2bbrain2b_new2bscientist2bhomunculusIt is also possible, though I’m not totally convinced, that the maps that allow one to experience touch on the nipples as erotic are also sexually dimorphic.  Interestingly we have discovered that the neural map on the neocortex between the genitalia and the nipples are contiguous and overlapping.  But it turns out, that the very same areas also map for the penis and nipples in males.  Thus, the maps are all in the same place on the sensory cortex.  Both men and women have reported that nipple simulation adds to sexual arousal.  This suggests that this is NOT very sexually dimorphic and is homologous between the sexes.

However, hypothesis were meant to be tested and there is a new paper from Case, et al. that deals with FtM transmen and the possibility of anomalous neurological findings regarding somatic representation.

But before I discus that aspect of the study, I have to share a pet peeve of mine that this paper is guilty of.  It peeves me when I see paper after paper by authors making reference to earlier papers that have clearly been shown to not support a given thesis, especially if those earlier refuted papers are their own.  For example, Swaab’s later papers keep referencing his earlier one regarding transsexuals and BSTc as though that study still had any validity regarding transsexual etiology.  As a reminder, it was Swaab himself that proved it didn’t… but you would never know that from his later papers which keep referring to it as though it did.  In this new paper that also includes Ramachandran as a co-author it references his earlier paper regarding phantom penises as though it supported the notion that MTF transwomen experience fewer of them than control men with penectomies.  But as I mentioned earlier, Lawrence demolished that paper showing that it showed no such thing, not passing even the simplest statistical ‘sniff test’ while I showed not only theoretical problems with the notion but that his purported controls did not qualify as such.  I can forgive not having read my blog, but not of ignoring Lawrence’s reply published in the same journal as the original paper.  My pet peeve is that authors of papers, when they make these references without also referencing those later papers that cast their conclusions into doubt, are guilty of the worst sin of bad science, cherry picking.

Further, the Case paper references xenomelia and observes that this may be similar to transgender, but ascribes it to somatic mapping issues while failing to note that we have another name for xenomelia, “apotemnophilia”, the erotic desire to be an amputee and how that desire arises out of an Erotic Target Location Error (ETLE) for the primary erotic target of amputees.  The authors thus sweep the well documented erotic motivations of both amputation “wannabees” and of autogynephilic transwomen under the rug in order to further their thesis of transgender as a brain mapping issue alone.

But for the moment, lets put these transgressions aside and look at the actual study.  Actually… not much to say about it.  They noted that FtM’s seem to have a reduced somatic awareness of their pre-top-surgery chests as shown by functional brain scans.  And although the authors offer a nod to the notion that their higher level conscious aversion to their breasts, i.e. somatic gender dysphoria, might mean that they repress awareness of touch sensations that announced that they have breats, they bend over backwards to posit that the direction of causality is reversed.

Ummm… No.

That would mean that non-transmen would also have to have less awareness of their chests… and that has never been noted to happen.

All in all, this paper has interesting details on how psychophysical experiments can be conducted using brain scanning, a topic that is very much of interest to me as one whose career has been in applied psychophysics.  It also discloses sexually dimorphic differences in white matter distribution in parts of the brain in which the FtM subjects differed from female controls, thus adding to the growing pool of data that show that gynephilic transmen are, like androphilic transwomen, gender atypical in brain development.  But it does not show any convincing data for a somato-sensory brain map issue as being causitive of transsexuality.

Further Reading:

Essay on phantom penises

Essay on xenomelia / apotemnophilia and its relationship to autogynephilia

References:

Case, et al., “Altered White Matter and Sensory Response to Bodily Sensation in Female-to-Male Transgender Individuals” (2017) Archives of Sexual Behavior
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-016-0850-z


Fun Reading:

 

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity Espinoza didn’t go looking for trouble, it found her. All she wants out of life is the chance to go to the stars but she is caught in a web of misunderstandings, political & legal maneuvering, and the growing threat of terrorist plots by religious fanatics. She has a secret that if found out too soon could mean not only her own death but the ruin of the hope for humanity ever going to the stars. But even amidst momentous events, life is still about the small moments of love, laughter, and sadness.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

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Tech Bro’s and Silicon Valley’s Misogyny Problem

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on September 10, 2017

Kay Brown 2010A few weeks ago, I came across an essay that wondered aloud why it was that no prominent trans-activists had written about James Damore’s Google Memo (read: screed).  For a long time, I didn’t want to read the Damore missive, but I read what seemed like a rational take on it from a woman who spoke the kind of language of using science and not shying away from evidence that is unpopular or challenges received orthodoxy… which, is very much something that I strive to do.  So… I read Damore’s Google memo.

OMG! Does his misogyny and even racism leak like a sieve, especially in his footnotes and ending recommendations where the misogynist and racist dog whistles were the loudest. While he uses many science references that I happen to know quite well… he fails to note the effect sizes which he makes sound really big… but are in fact, so small that most psychologists believe that they can be best explained as artifactual based on stereotype threat, etc.  In one footnote he declares that “political correctness” is a “phenomena of the Left and a tool of authoritarians”.  In other words, having to be polite and respectful of others not like himself is felt to be an authoritarian oppression.  Wow!

screen-shot-2014-10-22-at-7-27-29-pm

But what REALLY got me, was that he referenced work that is outside of the mainstream (read: likely bullshit) that states that people’s stereotypes are actually quite accurate and reflect real differences between groups… and based on that, Google should stop its stereotype awareness training – You know, the training that helps people become aware when they are using a stereotype as a short-cut to decisions where they shouldn’t… as in our bias to see a resume with a female or culturally African-American name as less competent… a well documented phenomena.  (Because, hey everyone knows that women aren’t really interested in tech, right?  They just earned that tech or science degree cause it was the way to get easy grades, right?)  In other words, he spent a lot of time dissing feminist orthodoxy (sounding almost reasonable, but in fact not being so) then basically replaced it with a call to allowing hiring and promotion to be based on stereotypes… of which he contributed several.

Let’s talk about women, their psychology, and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), shall we?  Above I posted a great graph that showed that women, once finally (somewhat) unshackled from sexist limits imposed on them at the university level began to take more STEM largely due to Title XII passage in 1972 making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex in the United States.  But it took time to be enforced.  To know how bad it was, consider that until 1980, Harvard admitted five men for each woman, and only ended that discrimination when gender blind admissions were instituted.  Note that this graph sums up what happened to women in my lifetime.  When I was a child, very few women were admitted to STEM programs.  But I earned my BS in physics in 1982 and was admitted to Stanford Graduate School in the Materials Science Dept. right afterwards, during the most rapid expansion of women entering STEM.  Please understand, the field of materials science, and especially at Stanford, is where one learns about applied semiconductor physics and integrated circuit fabrication technology.  Stanford’s Materials Science department was Silicon Valley’s premiere place to learn this field, along with the Electrical Engineering and Physics departments.   Until that fall of ’82, Stanford’s Materials Science Dept. would only allow ONE token woman as a graduate student each year.  In the fall of ’82, it jumped to one in three students.  There had always been women interested and applying… they just weren’t being admitted.

But something ugly happened in computer science around 1984 to 1986.  Suddenly, as the demand for programmers dropped due to a recession in Silicon Valley and massive layoffs became the norm, women took the brunt of it.  But as later total student admissions skyrocketed and along with it their salaries upon graduation, the subject became the province of tech bros and the relative percentage of women admitted to those programs plummeted even as the absolute numbers of women in computer science remained stable or even continued to climb.  But, still the data clearly shows that women like being in STEM.  Any discussion about women being unfit or disinterested in STEM fields is disproven by the data.  They just aren’t welcomed in computer science.

student-numbers-in-computer-science-210116-large

Damore made several insinuations common among misogynists and racists, namely that Google’s diversity efforts were anti-meritocratic, giving unwarranted opportunities to women and others, failing to note that Google was working to make hiring and promotion free of bias, while encouraging women and minorities to apply and to seek out promotional opportunities.  He made comments that Google’s culture was antithetic to “conservatives”, but never quite defined what or who a “conservative” is.  If he is an example, and I do believe that he was in fact making himself the exemplar, then he is defining “conservative” as someone who holds a view that working toward a diverse workforce should not be one of society’s goals.  In fact, he explicitly stated that Google, as a company, was a “zero-sum” game, with an insinuation that working toward a diverse workforce inherently punished men like himself.  To that, I would say, “To those who are accustomed to privilege, equality is mistaken for oppression.”

Although he repeatedly stated that he was not bigoted… his very arguments and especially his ending recommendations belied that assertion.  His arguments regarding population level differences between men and women are in fact a strawman to the real issue at hand.  To wit, is there a bias against women in tech?  Does it affect the level of participation in tech, especially over time?  The answer is YES and HELL YES!  But Damore never addressed the evidence for bias against women in tech, especially in the computer sciences, of which there is plenty (e.g. identical resumes are evaluated differently depending on the perceived gender of the applicant, to the extreme detriment of women.)  Instead, he went off on the tangent of differential gendered desire to be a technologist… and on a non sequitur regarding whether boys or girls are the disadvantaged sex in primary education… that even if true, is meaningless to the issue of eliminating hiring and promotional bias inside of Google, which effort he recommended to be abandoned and replaced with a nebulous “psychological safety” concept that upon careful reading seemed to be premised upon his own feelings of being oppressed as a “conservative” man.  Again,  “To those who are accustomed to privilege, equality is mistaken for oppression.”

Recall that I am a Silicon Valley technologist and entrepreneur with over a forty-year career now.  I grew up in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale and Los Altos).  Went to the same high school and at the same time, as Steve Jobs.  My first job was as a teenaged secretary at a high-tech company at the corner of Scott & Bowers, at the very heart of Silicon Valley, in 1976.  I worked my way up from there to be a founder and CEO.  I KNOW Silicon Valley.  I know tech.  I’ve seen the bias against women, those with disabilities,  ethnic, and sexual minorities first hand, sometimes up close and personal.  Heck, I’ve got over a hundred patents, a text-book chapter, and dozens of conference papers & journal articles… and a prestigious professional society award.  And yet, multiple times, my presence in tech and in tech management has been questioned by the likes of James Damore.

I’ve met with a goodly number of Google employees and executives, VP level and above…  up to and including Megan Smith and Sergey Brin.  I know that Google is making a sincere effort to eliminate bias in hiring and promotion.  Heck… they even offered me a position there (which as I was already CEO of my own start-up, I declined).  But this is an industry wide problem that no one company can solve on its own.

Oh… and I’m a very open-minded scientific “skeptic” when it comes to sexually dimorphic behavior, of which I have shown that there are many.  So I know the science.  I have managed many technologists, both men and women, from ‘baby techies’ to senior researchers that are far more talented than James Damore…  From all of that, I can personally tell you,

This shit of Damore’s stinks!

There, to the author that wondered where an essay from a trans-activist was… now you have one.

Further Reading:

No… you really don’t want to read this tripe… but if you must:

https://medium.com/@Cernovich/full-james-damore-memo-uncensored-memo-with-charts-and-cites-339f3d2d05f


Fun Reading:

 

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity Espinoza didn’t go looking for trouble, it found her. All she wants out of life is the chance to go to the stars but she is caught in a web of misunderstandings, political & legal maneuvering, and the growing threat of terrorist plots by religious fanatics. She has a secret that if found out too soon could mean not only her own death but the ruin of the hope for humanity ever going to the stars. But even amidst momentous events, life is still about the small moments of love, laughter, and sadness.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

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It was just a joke!

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on September 2, 2017

Kay Brown 2010I recently had a very unpleasant facebook “dialog” when an old colleague posted a “humorous” piece in which the second “joke” was making fun of the growing acceptance of transfolk, in this case, a transman, in college today, as an example of “political correctness run amok”.  I tried to point out how vile that joke was and why posting the link to it was not OK.  He and several other people dumped on me saying that “It was just a joke!”  Well – no, it’s not just a joke.  It is a means to denigrate and dehumanize transfolk.  It is an example of “disparagement humor”.

I’ve written about this before, when I tried to explain why Robin Williams was no hero to the transgender communities.  But I feel that we need to have a larger exploration of the phenomena and to catalog some of the types of jokes that target transfolk and place it into the larger context of disparagement humor theory.

A number of researchers are exploring the psychology and sociology of disparagement humor and its effects.  Thomas Ford is one such researcher who explains this phenomena,

“Disparagement humor is paradoxical: It simultaneously communicates two conflicting messages. One is an explicit hostile or prejudiced message. But delivered alongside is a second implicit message that “it doesn’t count as hostility or prejudice because I didn’t mean it — it’s just a joke.”

By disguising expressions of prejudice in a cloak of fun and frivolity, disparagement humor, like the jokes above, appears harmless and trivial. However, a large and growing body of psychology research suggests just the opposite – that disparagement humor can foster discrimination against targeted groups.”

It can be frustrating to explain why such jokes are both offensive and destructive to those who hold implicit negative evaluations of transpeople.  I have found that even people who can recognize ugly racism in jokes about minorities can fail, epically, to recognize its cognate in transphobic jokes.  To them, “it’s just a joke!”.  Disparagement humor, as Ford has shown, fosters further discrimination against the targeted groups in those that hear the jokes when they already harbor implicit bias against those groups,

“On the basis of these findings, one might conclude that disparagement humor targeting oppressed or disadvantaged groups is inherently destructive and thus should be censured. However, the real problem might not be with the humor itself but rather with an audience’s dismissive viewpoint that “a joke is just a joke,” even if disparaging. One study found that such a “cavalier humor belief” might indeed be responsible for some of the negative effects of disparagement humor. For prejudiced people, the belief that “a disparaging joke is just a joke” trivializes the mistreatment of historically oppressed social groups – including women, gay people, racial minorities and religious minorities – which further contributes to their prejudiced attitude.”

These jokes are meant to signal to other biased people that they are not alone in holding their biased views while at the same time hiding their malicious intent from those who do not currently hold such bias yet subtly stretching the social acceptability of such bias even in the minds of those who previously didn’t hold such bias.  As Hodson puts it,

“The appreciation of humor is arguably a fundamental aspect of social life. Yet passing jokes off as “just jokes” can have serious and negative intergroup consequences (e.g., discrimination; denial of rights). We review some recent findings concerning how group dominance motives are expressed in humor contexts through cavalier beliefs about humor. These beliefs legitimize and provide psychological cover to avoid the appearance of bias. We propose that humor and ridicule play a critical part of the delegitimization process, operating in tandem with processes such as dehumanization (representing others as animal-like and/or machine-like) and system justification (i.e., maintaining the status quo in terms of intergroup hierarchies). As such, humor plays a key role in the delegitimization of others that occurs in much of everyday life, such as in the workplace or schoolyard setting. Disparaging intergroup humor effectively rules social groups in as acceptable targets for devaluation, working in tandem with dehumanization processes that rule others out as targets worthy of protection.”

Thus, these “jokes” which aren’t really jokes, are sociopolitical statements of who may be targeted for dehuminization and discrimination and even signal how they may do so (e.g. Dave Chappelle telling his audience that disrespecting and misgendering transwomen is not only acceptable, but trans-allies suggesting that he and others respect transwomen is morally wrong, “Motherfucker!”).

Interestingly, I believe the number and frequency of transphobic jokes has dramatically increased over the past several decades.  Part of this may be increased awareness of the existence of transfolk.  But there is another explanation which paradoxically may be good news for transfolk as Ford explains,

In another study, my colleagues and I demonstrated that this prejudice-releasing effect of disparagement humor varies depending on the position in society occupied by the butt of the joke. Social groups are vulnerable to different degrees depending on their overall status.

Some groups occupy a unique social position of what social psychologists call “shifting acceptability.” For these groups, the overall culture is changing from considering prejudice and discrimination against them completely justified to considering them completely unjustified. But even as society as a whole becomes increasingly accepting of them, many individuals still harbor mixed feelings.

In this research, we can understand that these disparaging “jokes” represent a sort of culture war pushback on the growing acceptance of transfolk in our larger society.

So what kind of transphobic or should I say, “tranny trashing” jokes do we hear?  Interestingly, the jokes seem to take two forms, not surprisingly, based upon the two types of transsexuals, one “homosexual” and the other autogynephilic.

As a blatant and ugly example of humor targeting autogynephiles, one may start with the 1972 film, The Ruling Class in which during the opening scenes, we see very dry humor poking fun at Lord Gurney wearing a tutu (cross-dressing, but not a typical choice) while engaging in auto-erotic asphyxiation by hanging, all the while maintaining an air of upper-class distinction while his valet maintains an air of non-judgemental subservience as he aids his master to prepare for his masturbatory session (not shown).  His death due to mis-adventure during the act is meant to be “humorous”. Cue. Laugh. Track.

Analyzing the joke we see that it is meant to skewer the British upper-class, but it is done with the tacit understanding assumed to be shared with the audience that being an autogynephile and devotee of autoerotic asphyxiation (which are only loosely related, as one-third of those men found dead from similar misadventures, are at least partially cross-dressed, usually in lingerie, but the vast majority of autogynephiles are NOT into auto-asphyxiation) is a disreputable and dishonorable sexual behavior.

Other jokes about autogynephiles abound, especially in Britain, where the mere fact that a man is wearing female typical clothing is considered automatically funny.  The trope has a common name “man in a dress” (Cue Laugh Track).  This trope and the jokes surrounding it extend to post-transition transwomen who do not pass well, who become figures of ridicule and sniggering jokes in both media and in person.  This attitude comes from misogyny.  For a man to take on the attributes, even if only temporarily, of a woman is to degrade himself in the eyes of these misogynists, and by doing so, becomes worthy of being disparaged.  Proof?  A woman dressed as a man elicits no reciprocal humor.  For a woman to take on the attributes of a man is seen as attempting to raise her status in life.  Movies with men dressing as women are labeled comedies.  Movies with women dressing as men are labeled adventure/action.  (e.g. “Some Like It Hot” and “Sorority Boys” vs. “Mulan“)

(As an aside, this trope of women passing as men to raise their status is one of the reasons why historical examples of transmen are misappropriated by heterosexual and even lesbian feminists who disregard their transgender / gender dysphoric natures, misgendering them.)

Jokes about androphilic transwomen also abound.  But here the twist incorporates the fact that most androphilic transwomen typically pass unremarkably as women in their day-to-day lives.  So, the trope becomes that of the predatory homosexual man passing as a women to dupe innocent straight men into having gay sex with them.

A common trope is that the audience, and possibly other characters, in a story or film know that a lovely woman is “really a man” and laugh at the duped straight man.  Such a scene in shown at the ending of the 1988 Sherlock Holmes spoof, Without a Clue when our heroes Holmes and Watson knowingly and maliciously allow Inspector Lastrade, unknowingly to court a professional “female impersonator” (an historically common profession for androphilic transwomen before and during the early introduction of medical feminization treatment for transsexuality) and laugh behind his back at the ‘joke’.  This exact ‘joke’ has been repeatedly used in other films and TV sit-coms.  It relies on the notion that for a straight man to be romantically involved with an androphilic transwoman, no matter how physically and behaviorially feminine, no matter how desirable a personality or moral character, he is demeaned by the experience.  He becomes less of a man, either homosexual, clueless, or both, a figure of ridicule, while the transwoman is to be despised as a liar and a cheat, as well as an effeminate (misogyny) homosexual (homophobia).  The joke disparages both parties, increasing the discrimination that androphilic tranwomen experience and the likelihood of being severely beaten and murdered by transphobic straight men who find themselves attracted to such transwomen (whether or not they knew beforehand).  This “joke” is deadly to androphilic transwomen (no hyperbole).

Another common trope is that of the “confused” or “delusional” transgender… who doesn’t understand what sex they are.  This trope overlaps with transfolk stigmatized as mentally ill.  An example is a photo of a dog with the caption “Caitlyn Jenner’s cat”.   Another example was the reason for writing this essay, the ‘joke’ that parents helping their son move into his freshman year dorm room aren’t supposed to call his obviously female bodied transman roommie “her”.  This “joke” is essentially predicated on the belief that transfolk do not have any real medical or psychological reason for being gender dysphoric and should just, “look in your pants!”

Jokes about “Chicks with Dicks” trope is quite old.  I found a subtle example of it in a pre-WWII vintage limerick,

“Dame Catherine of Ashton on Lynches
Got it on with grooms and her wenches
She went down on the gents
And pronged the girl’s vents
With a “clitorus” reaching six inches”

In my essay on Robin Williams I observed how he uses a variant of this ‘joke’ when his character’s son discovers him urinating while standing in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire.  This entire film is one long “man in a dress” joke, punctuated by another very ugly and sinister false trope of the transgender as pedophile and rapist.  It is no coincidence that the movie included the bathroom discovery scene followed by his children’s horror, disgust, and fear for their safety.  This type of ‘joke’ about transwomen in women’s bathrooms has led directly to the so-called “transgender bathroom” bills in multiple states.

Transphobic jokes are not just jokes.  They are invitations to mistreat and discriminate against transfolk and as such are morally repugnant.  As Ford points out, sometime humor can be used to poke fun of such bias… but runs the risk of backfiring when viewed by biased individuals.  Subtly ironic satire of transphobic attitudes are not discerned by the transphobe…  So, at risk of such happening here, I share this wonderful comic strip.

Fears

Further Reading:

Essay on Robin Williams and his disparaging of transwomen as child care-givers.

Essay on the very high murder rate of young androphilic transwomen

“Psychology behind the unfunny consequences of jokes that denigrate – A joke isn’t just a joke.” by Thomas Ford

“Dave Chappelle Is Back—But His Transphobic Jokes Are No Laughing Matter” by Dan Avery

“Lil Duval Jokes He’d Kill a Sexual Partner If He Found Out She Was Transgender: ‘I Don’t Care, She’s Dying’” by Titiana Cirisano

References:

Hodson, Gordon, Rush, Jonathan, MacInnis, Cara C., “A joke is just a joke (except when it isn’t): Cavalier humor beliefs facilitate the expression of group dominance motives.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2010)
http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fa0019627

Hodson, Gordon, MacInnis, Cara C., “Derogating humor as a delegitimization strategy in intergroup contexts.” Translational Issues in Psychological Science (2016)
http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Ftps0000052


Fun Reading:

 

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity Espinoza didn’t go looking for trouble, it found her. All she wants out of life is the chance to go to the stars but she is caught in a web of misunderstandings, political & legal maneuvering, and the growing threat of terrorist plots by religious fanatics. She has a secret that if found out too soon could mean not only her own death but the ruin of the hope for humanity ever going to the stars. But even amidst momentous events, life is still about the small moments of love, laughter, and sadness.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

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