On the Science of Changing Sex

I’ve Done My Research…

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on July 18, 2017

20106662_827148660781856_9051171404874056968_nOr… Bringing a Plastic Picnic Knife to a Gunfight

If one were to trust the discussions on various internet fora, and even occasionally a direct email, one would think everyone in the trans* community was an expert on trans* sexuality and experience.  One would think that they all have read the science papers and have considered the evidence.  One would be very wrong.

One transwoman told me on a forum (my own facebook page of all things) that she had read all of Blanchard’s papers and knew that they were all bogus.  I then mentioned another paper by Freund… whereupon she jumped down my throat about how stupid I was to use psychoanalytic arguments.  Oopies… “Gee,” says I, “I thought you said that you had read of all Blanchard’s papers.  If so, you would know that I was referring to Blanchard’s early mentor and collaborator, co-author of his early papers on trans*, Kurt Freund, NOT Sigmund Freud!”  I had caught this individual in a flat out lie.  She had never actually read Blanchard’s, or anybody else’s, papers on the science.  No, she was regurgitating what she had read about Blanchard, from authors who had written about Blanchard after having read about Blanchard from other authors who had written about Blanchard, etc., many suggesting that Blanchard and his cronies are in a conspiracy to defame transwomen.  (Hint:  No, they are not.)

Of course, it is not just Blanchard’s papers that need to be read and understood if one is to understand the hypothesis and evidence involved.  One also must read the papers that followed up on Blanchard’s papers.  And one must also read the papers that preceded his, of which Blanchard was following up upon (for example, Freund’s).  There are literally hundreds of papers that one must read and understand, deeply understand.  It helps if one has a very strong background in psychology, biology, and neurology.  (Did I mention that I have a degree in psychology, strong minor in biology, as well as the degree in physics?)

Oh, for certain there are a few who have actually read the papers… but mostly in an attempt to refute, rather than understand.   Many, perhaps most, don’t actually read the papers, but just skim the abstracts.  This is understandable since many of these papers are behind paywalls.  But this is not a useful means of understanding the evidence, since many of the abstracts were written with the intention of ‘spinning’ the evidence, either into something more exciting than the data actually supports, or attempting to downplay what it actually supports.  From this, a number of trans* commenters have created a mountain of misrepresentations of the papers.

For example, that most risible of “papers” that purported to demonstrate the existence of autogynephilia in non-trans women put out by Moser, if you trust the abstract, one gets a completely different conclusion than what one gets when one reads the actual paper with an understanding of how such science should be conducted, and know that in this case, it wasn’t.

But another example I was confronted with by email just recently, was a part-time cross-dresser angrily contesting my use of the Nuttbrock study as further evidence that supported the two type taxonomy of MTF transgender.  Unwinding the misconceptions that he had, it became clear that he based his contention that Nuttbrock did not support the two type taxonomy on the title and abstract of the paper.  He had never actually read the paper, nor had bothered to follow the links I provide to essays I wrote that quote and organize the DATA from the Nuttbrock study.  The data I had because I wrote to Nuttbrock asking pretty please for a copy of the paper and was graciously provided one.

Another problem is trusting the authors of papers when they cite other papers to correctly interpret what those cited paper’s data actually support (or refute).  For example, I keep seeing papers (and transwomen on internet fora) citing Swaab’s earlier papers on transsexual brain studies as though they supported the brain sex hypothesis for gynephilic transwomen, when in fact, they do not.  (As a reminder, all of the subjects had been on HRT for years and we now know that HRT causes shifts in brain structure.)  To spot these errors, one has to understand the entire corpus of published papers and carefully, and yes, skeptically, construct a picture of what the collective evidence does and does not support.

Unless one has done that, coming at the so-called “Blanchardists” ( including myself ) saying that you have done your research… well, that’s just bringing a plastic picnic knife to a gunfight.

Further Reading:

Essay on Moser’s purported study on autogynephilic in women

Essay on Swaab’s BSTc and INAH3 papers

Essay on Nuttbrock study

 

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Baby Hunger…

Posted in Editorial, Transsexual Theory by Kay Brown on July 9, 2017

female_scientistOr, Rubbing Salt Into the Wound

A couple days ago, a young androphilic transwoman from Portugal, who has been a correspondent for several years, since her late teens, wrote to me asking my opinion of androphilic transwomen’s desire for children.  She, like me, definitely has always desired to be around and to mother children.  She had recently been employed as a caregiver at a children’s group home and had loved it.  She recently entered nursing school and looks forward to someday marrying a loving man and adopting children, preferably babies.  She thought it was be a good idea for me to write an essay on this topic.  So, here it is.

Stoller, in his 1968 book, Sex And Gender, described androphilic transwomen as ardently wanting children including mothering, indeed bearing, infants,

sex-and-gender-the-development-of-masculinity-and-femininityThe ultimate progression for the transsexual … has not yet been reached in our society: he would not only like to have is body appear completely female but he would like to have his internal organs so changed (for example, by transplants) that he would now have is own functioning ovaries and uterus, ultimately to bear a child truly his own.

Stoller described a typical androphilic transwoman and concluded with “The patient is now married and hopes to adopt children.”

When I was first interviewed by Norman Fisk at the Stanford Gender Dysphoria Clinic as a 17 year old in early 1975, I told him of my hopes and dreams of finding a husband and adopting children.  I recall telling him about how much I enjoyed the two summers I had spent as a swimming instructor teaching very young children and of the then previous summer employed as a nanny taking care of two boys, aged four and ten, from early morning to dinner-time.  I had of course, actively sought out babysitting jobs all through Jr. and Sr. high school, with a promise to all of my regular families that I would break any previous engagement for a job.  I don’t remember him making fun of me.

I achieved both of these goals, though it took a lot longer that I had anticipated.  There were many things that had to be achieved first and many pit-falls to avoid along the way.

There are many obstacles for androphilic transwomen to overcome before becoming an adoptive parent.  First, one must have the social stability, an excellent support network, and sufficient family income to afford to raise a child.  Many never reach that goal.  Having a husband with a good income is a dream that is often out of reach.  Second, one has to navigate a system that would much rather find a home for a child with non-LGBT parents, especially for newborns.  Adopting a newborn, even for middle-class non-LGBT families, is difficult as there are always far more prospective families looking to adopt a baby than there are babies available for adoption.  It is becoming easier in some locales for LGBT people to foster-adopt older hard-to-place children, but it still requires surviving an extensive vetting process.  That process will black-ball any who have even the most minor of criminal records.  One also has to have the temperament and above average parenting skills to take in a child who will come with emotional challenges and maladaptive behaviors from early life experiences in a chaotic birth home.  In many locales, in spite of recent legal and social advances for LGBT people, being transsexual will mean not being seriously considered as an ‘appropriate’ placement.

Candice2

Kay Brown with her adopted daughter Liz

I first became a licenced foster parent in California in 1984, almost by happenstance when Cassandra, a 14-year-old lesbian, needed a supportive home of the sort that I could provide.  Now, 33 years later, she still calls me her Mom.  In the early ’90s while living in Oregon, I sought to become a foster, hopefully adoptive mom of a younger child and carefully researched the possibility.  I put out on the transgender social networks looking for any who had been able to do so.  I found exactly one androphilic transwoman on the east coast who was fostering her sister’s children while her sister was in prison.  (Children’s Services gives priority to relatives for placement whenever possible.)  That was it.  One family.  Special case.  I was breaking new ground when seven-year old Liz was placed in my household.  (There were several women living there.)  Liz was adopted on her ninth birthday.  I have since found one other androphilic transwoman who foster-adopted three siblings sometime after me.

There is always the possibility of surrogacy.  But that takes even more socio-economic status.  I have only one reference that may qualify as surrogacy.  Dawn Langley Simmons, who was white, married a black man then apparently faked pregnancy timed to the delivery of a mixed race baby.  The sire may have been her husband or the baby may have simply been unwanted.  We don’t have the details.

There have also been tales and hints that some androphilic transwomen have been aided by close relatives or friends volunteering to be gestational surrogates.  But those stories are kept very private for good and sufficient reasons.

There was a private effort in the transsexual community to develop ethical  biotechnology that would allow transwomen to carry a child to term in ways not too different from that prophesied by Robert Stoller… but that research did not reach our final goal.  Now, there are new developments regarding uterine transplants that may offer the final key.  Sadly, I’m too old now to participate, but I most certainly would if I were younger.

We have enough evidence here to show that at least some androphilic transwomen do have an intense interest in being mothers of both infants and small children.  But actualizing that desire is extremely difficult for most.

So, we see that though it is difficult for an androphilic transwoman to find a loving husband and build a family through adoption, it is not impossible.  But one wouldn’t know that from reading the literature on transsexuality when they discuss whether transwomen are interested in children, have maternal feelings.

In the 1974 paper describing psychiatric grand rounds at UCSD, “Gloria”, a 20-year-old androphilic pre-op transwoman already in a stable relationship with a straight man reported that she too hoped to adopt a new-born, to which an oh so ‘kindly and understanding’ physician throws shade on her coping skills, her character, and her motives for wanting to raise a child,

No matter which way this goes, Gloria is going to have trouble adjusting. A normal woman has trouble when she bears a child or adopts one; this new woman is going to have many more troubles.  At this point she wants a baby because that is part of her image of being a woman. And yet I do not know whether she really wants a baby or whether this is just the image, just as she stated that she doesn’t feel sexy if she doesn’t have a vagina.

But then we come to the most ugly of all comments coming from John Money in an abstract of a case series paper from 1968 in which we can easily discern that he is lumping together androphilic and autogynephilic transwomen together when he writes,

“All 14 patients desired adoptive motherhood, with a preference for small children, though not newborn babies. In general, the group appeared to possess a feminine gender identity, except for a masculine threshold of erotic arousal in response to visual imagery and an unmotherly disengagement from the helplessness of the newborn.”

Remember how hard it is for a post-transtion transwoman to become a mother, especially of newborns?  Remember how the clinicians made fun of “Gloria” for wanting to be such a mother?  Now, do you think it is possible that transwomen can pick up on that negative attitude, perhaps realize that if they state a desire for what is clearly unlikely to happen that it might be interpreted as having unreasonable life goals?  (One of the selection criteria that clinics used in the ’60s was whether their clients had reasonable expectations for their lives post-op.)  Further, is it in fact a good idea to pine for what can never be?  So… calling them “unmotherly” for looking to adopt hard-to-place children rather than hoping for that one-in-a-million chance to adopt a healthy baby was just rubbing salt into the wound.

So ingrained is our view that interest in children is a measure of womanly virtue it effects how autogynephilic transwomen attempt to portray themselves.  A few years ago, continuing my search for transwomen’s experiences regarding adopting children, I chanced upon an online forum where a number of transwomen were discussing how one could tell the difference between a “transsexual” and a “wannabe” [sic] by whether they noticed small children or not.  Of course, they all congratulated themselves on their interest in small children, telling stories of how they had noticed children in social settings, as did the women, while the men in their company, or even other (presumably “wannabe”) transwomen, had not.  Curious, I traced down each of these transwomen’s identities (people leave a lot of breadcrumbs behind them) and discovered that every one of them was in fact a late transitioner and more than one of them had very masculine occupations and interests.  They had not evinced any notable efforts to pursue being motherly, indeed, some had barely maintained contact with their own children from marriages prior to transition.  Their participation in this discussion was more in line with social desirability bias, impression management, and self-enhancement than in honest self-evaluation.  It fits with the well-known (to cognizant clinicians at least) phenomena of autogynephilic transwomen editing their history, experiences, and desires to more closely approximate those of “classic transsexuals”.

We need to conduct research on whether transsexuals and transgender people of all kinds are interested in being parents.  Interestingly Michael Bailey suggested a great instrument for this task in his book the Man Who Would Be Queen:

TMWWBQ CoverINTEREST IN CHILDREN
1. I greatly enjoy spending time with young children.
2. I get a lot of pleasure from holding babies.
3. I would enjoy taking care of a baby for a friend or relative.
4. I daydream about having a baby of my own.
5. Often when I see babies, I experience warm, positive feelings.
6. When I think about it hard, I have strong doubts whether the
rewards of raising an infant are worth the work and responsibility. (reverse scored)

This could be seven value Likert scored from “Definitely Do NOT Agree” to “Definitely Agree”.  Any interested in conducting the survey?

Further Reading:

Essay on Robert Stoller’s description of a “typical” androphilic transsexual.

New York Times Obituary for Dawn Simmons

Scientific American: How a transgender women could get pregnant

References:

Judd, et al., “Male Transsexualism”, (1974) Western Journal of Medicine
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1130141/

MONEY, JOHN Ph.D.; PRIMROSE, CLAY, “SEXUAL DIMORPHISM AND DISSOCIATION IN THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MALE TRANSSEXUALS” (1968) The Journal of Mental and Nervous Disease
http://journals.lww.com/jonmd/Abstract/1968/11000/SEXUAL_DIMORPHISM_AND_DISSOCIATION_IN_THE.4.aspx

 

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Because Boys Must Be Boys…

Posted in Brain Sex, Editorial by Kay Brown on July 5, 2017

Teenage-brain…Its a Fact of Human Nature, and Girls Must Grow Up to Be Mothers!

Over the years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve deliberately avoided using the popular term “gender non-conforming”, using the term “gender atypical” instead.  It may have struck some of my readers as odd and idiosyncratic, given that so many others use the “GNC” term.  But, I have done so for several important reasons, some based on science, some on political-philosophical grounds.

The scientific reasons are easier to explain.  There is no “standard” to which behavior should “conform”.  There is only behavior, period.  However, if we look at, study in depth as scientists, a species we can say that there are behaviors that are far more commonly performed by them than other behaviors seen in other species.  These we can label as “typical” for that species.  If we see a behavior in a given individual of a species that is uncommon for that species, we may label it “atypical”; but we would never label it “non-conforming” since we can’t really say what standard that a given species should “conform” to.  Behaviors are selected by evolution depending upon whether they increase the reproductive ‘fitness’ of the individuals exhibiting them.  The same logic applies to sexes within a given species.  We may observe sexually dimorphic behaviors in a given species.  That is, we will label a behavior sexually dimorphic if we see that it is much more commonly performed in one sex than the other.  If we see an individual performing such a behavior that is uncommon in that given sex, we may label it “atypical” for that sex; but to label it “non-conforming”?  That’s smacks of invoking an outside agency which has the authority to define a standard for such behavior that the theory of natural selection does not provide.  Just as with non-human species, humans do not stand outside of nature.  There is no agency that defines for our species a standard by which to judge whether a given behavior does or does not “conform”.

The political reasons include my personal objection to the very notion that there should be such a “standard”.  But even deeper, is my objection to the post-modernist idea that there are no intrinsic sexually dimorphic behaviors in humans, that there are only socially constructed roles.  This notion would state that since all differences in behavior observed between the human sexes are socially constructed and maintained, there must be a socially defined standard to which we can conform or not.  Another idea that I object to is that of a divinely ordained standard that we must conform to, which has the same effect.  Thus, both of these ideas reduce any behavior that is seen in an individual that is uncommon in that person’s sex to an act of “gender non-conformity” either by accident or by will… but never by nature.  I find both the notion that we stand outside of nature to be scientifically preposterous and philosophically offensive.   Further, those who seek humane treatment for gender atypical individuals will find that they must contend with those who hold these ideas often falling back on unquestioned prejudices, the nature of which is determined by which value system through which they view such gender atypical individuals, post-modernist or religious.

Before going into details about the nature of the prejudices and what we must contend, let’s explore how we know that human beings do have sexually dimorphic behaviors that have both neural correlates and developmental pathways leading to them.  It’s important to differentiate between behaviors that are demonstrably sexually dimorphic because of neural correlates and those that are merely cultural role enactments and false gender stereotypes.  Thus, for purposes of this essay, I differentiate between a strong social construction hypothesis which says that all differences in behavior are purely from culture and a weak social construction hypothesis that says that some behaviors and gender roles are socially constructed around truly sexually dimorphic behaviors and gender role limitations built around cultural prejudice and false stereotypes.  It is the strong social construction hypothesis that I will show is not supported by the evidence.

In other pages of this blog, I’ve made reference to the single most sexually dimorphic behavior in humans: androphilia (sexual attraction to adult males).  In female humans, it is extremely common to be attracted to men.  Approximately 98% of women are attracted to men while only approximately 5-10% of men were attracted to men.  One could object to this being a ‘natural’ phenomena and say that social expectations have defined this.  But it would not fit the evidence that has been amassing that sexual orientation is neither “chosen” nor “taught”.  Further, why should humans be unique in the world?  Most mammalian species are sexually dimorphic in their sexual attractions.  (No, I’m not denying that same sex behavior occurs in non-human species… only saying it is not as common as other sex attraction.)  But, this isn’t the end of the story.

Sexual orientation in adults is presaged by gendered behavior as young children.  That is to say, that humans have sexually dimorphic behaviors as young children and that sexual orientation is highly correlated with those behaviors.  Children that grow up to be homosexual evince notable gender atypicality.  The key behaviors that are noted to be gender atypical in boys are avoidance of rough and tumble play, avoidance of physical aggression, preference for female playmates and play style, etc.  But here is where we start to see the issue of having to contend with those prejudices.  Some cultures attach serious negative stigma to gender atypicality while others do not.  Most of my readers will likely live in cultures that do and will recognize the ugly recriminations in the song, “Boys Will Be Boys”; “You bloody sissy, who said you could cry?” down to the call to an authority defining the standard to which a child must conform, “Doctor, Doctor, tell me where did we go wrong?”.

But we in our enlightened age know that the parents did nothing wrong… (yes, you may take that to be sarcasm).

In other essays on this blog, I’ve explored some of the science that shows that sexual orientation is correlated with childhood gender atypicality, the Fraternal Birth Order Effect, etc.  I’ve discussed possible etiological hypothesis.  I have in the past written about the disappointment with using the 2D:4D digit ratios as a means of exploring the possible effect of varying androgens as being correlated with sexual orientation.  But now, I want to share a really amazing bit of evidence that shows that perinatal exposure to androgens is likely to be responsible for masculinizing the human brain and its absence affecting early childhood gender atypicality, as Vicky Pasterski puts it,

By now, the majority of scientists studying the topic likely agree that homosexuality is definitely not a choice and probably not due to socioenvironmental factors. At the same time, there appear to be no physical indicators of disrupted fetal sexual differentiation in homosexual men that would fit with the basic premise of the hormone theory of sex development. However, it is possible that alterations in the androgen surge that occurs in the early postnatal period, also called mini-puberty, could have effects that are not immediately or physically obvious. Based on the finding that penile growth in the first three months of life correlates with a concomitant surge in serum testosterone levels considered the possibility that penile growth may act as a proxy for neonatal androgen exposure and that change measurements may be related to later neurobehavioral outcomes. In a longitudinal study of 81 typically developing boys, we found that the strength of the early postnatal androgen surge, from birth to approximately three months of age, predicted masculine behavior at 4 years old. By controlling for effects of prenatal androgen exposure using measurements of penile length and anogenital distance (AGD; sexually dimorphic and roughly twice as long in males compared to females) at birth, we showed that penile growth in the first three months of life, but not thereafter, accounted for significant variance in later sex-typed behavior. In the overall regression analysis, which controlled for various factors, penile length at birth was not related to sex-typed behavior. This suggests that disruption to male mini-puberty could have implications for future sex-related outcomes that are masked by a typical appearance at birth. Further, this provides support for the hypothesis that early (postnatal) hormone exposure influences aspects of sex-typed development in men, in a similar fashion to prenatal hormone exposure that is presumed to affect women.

1-s2-0-s0018506x15000033-gr1_lrgIn Pasterski’s research, she divided the boys into three groups (tertiles) based on their gendered behavior from the Pre-School Activities Inventory and mapped against the growth rate of their genitals in the first months after birth, which has been shown to correlate with androgen exposure.  (Though to be complete, it may also correlate with androgen receptor sensitivity, but for my purposes, that would have the same epistemic value.)  The results are dramatic, we see with no ambiguity that the rate of growth of genitalia is positively correlated with gender typical behavior.   That also means that the inverse is true.  Gender atypical behavior is inversely correlated with perinatal genital growth.

Had the strong social construction hypothesis of all gendered behavior been true, there would have been no correlation.  We can reject this hypothesis.  At best, we have a weak social construction hypothesis of gender roles around very real sexually dimorphic differences.  Those that lampoon this conclusion by calling it “Lady Brain” theory are just plain wrong.

It has been previously noted that gender atypically behaving children have differences in facial “attractiveness”.  This fits well with the above research as male children who have not had this intense “mini-puberty” would likely remain neotenous and thus feminine in appearance.  This likely also extends past adolescence to explain the rather dramatic differences in passability between androphilic transwomen and gynephilic transwomen.  Being gender atypical in brain organization, it would naturally lead to later androphilia, gender atypical motor skills (feminine walk and hand gestures), and gender atypical vocal production (feminine or “gay lisp”).

Given the religious (or related social views of gender) prejudice, one can easily see how children who exhibit these gender atypical behaviors are placed under tremendous pressure to “conform” to gender behavior standards that tend to skew to the gender typical, or even an exageration of typical behavior.  Children who meet this standard are prized and praised above other children.  That is to say, extreme gender typicality is valorized as well as held as the gender normitive standard and granted privilege over children who fail to meet this standard.

Here I opine, perhaps even hypothesize, that this pressure to conform to normative gender role standards has distorted what would be the natural course of development of gender atypical children and has led to the creation of the artificial gender normative role of Western Gay and Lesbian culture, especially the “Straight Looking / Straight Acting” Gay male standard to which otherwise gender atypical male children are required to adhere.  To the non-gay community members, the benefit of artificial standard was originally to force gay people to remain deep in the closet.  As the Western Gay Liberation movement gained ground, those who had tacitly accepted this standard began to subtly and not so subtly enforce it.

One would, at first glance, believe that those who hold the strong social construction hypothesis as true would then have no qualms about accepting gender atypical children and adults without reservation as breaking stereotypes.  But, as we can easily discern, they often do not, as demonstrated by the minority movement within the gay and lesbian (mostly lesbian) communities of being “gender critical”.  They philosophically approve of people being gender atypical… but only to a very specified point, accepting the gender normative roles that were established during the early Gay Liberation Movement.  The moment that an individual steps past that point, there will be those who will denounce them as hewing to the very stereotypes that they break, but in the opposite gendered sense, denying that underlying sexually dimorphic behavior as valid.  In some cases, public denouncements of the very existence of gender atypical males have been made (e.g. Jean O’Leary’s public denouncement of Silvia Rivera, early androphilic transactivist, as “mocking women” at the 1970 Stonewall commemoriation for wearing feminine clothing).  On the internet today, this same gender role proscription is made where androphilic transwomen are chastised in the ugliest terms, “just because you’re a gay man doesn’t mean that you can be excused for objectifying women (by looking and acting like one).”  Thus, we see that gender role policing based on accepting gender normative standards exists even in the modern LGB communities.

Further Reading:

Essay on motor movement in gender atypical males.

Essay on vocal production in gender atypical people.

Essay on passability differences between gynephilic vs. androphilic transsexuals.

References:

Pasterski, V., “Fetal Androgens and Human Sexual Orientation: Searching for the Elusive Link”, (2017) Archives of Sexual Behavior
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-017-1021-6

Pasterski, V., et al., “Postnatal penile growth concurrent with mini-puberty predicts later sex-typed play behavior: Evidence for neurobehavioral effects of the postnatal androgen surge in typically developing boys”, (2015) Hormones and Behavior
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0018506X15000033#f0005

Song Reference:

Boys Will Be Boys
(Leon Rosselson)

Boys will be boys, it’s a fact of human nature
And girls will grow up to be mothers

Look at little Peter, isn’t he a terror?
Shooting all the neighbors with his cowboy gun
Screaming like a jet plane, always throwing something
I just can’t control him. Trouble – he’s the one.

Ah but boys will be boys, it’s a fact of human nature
And girls will grow up to be mothers

Look at little Janie, Doesn’t she look pretty?
Playing with her dolly, proper little mum
Never getting dirty, never being naughty
Don’t punch your sister Peter, now look at what you’ve done

Ah but boys will be boys, it’s a fact of human nature
And girls will grow up to be mothers

What’s come over Janie, Janie’s turning nasty
Left hook to the body, right hook in the eye
Vicious little hussy, now Peter’s started bawling
What a bloody sissy, who said you could cry?

Because boys must be boys, it’s a fact of human nature
And girls must grow up to be mothers

Now things are topsy turvy. Janie wants a football
Peter just seems happy pushing prams along
Makes you feel so guilty. Kids are such a worry
Doctor, doctor, tell me, where did we go wrong?

Because boys must be boys, it’s a fact of human nature
And girls must grow up to be mothers

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It was the best of times…

Posted in Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on June 21, 2017

Kay Brown 2010…It was the worst of times   Or, That ’70s Show

In the May 1974 issue of the Western Journal of Medicine, two back to back articles appeared, one from a number of doctors reporting on a grand rounds at UCSD hospital that included Robert J. Stoller and one from Norman M. Fisk.  Reading them both now is not only a window on the past, but explains where we are now and how we got here.

I can’t write about this period without flashing back on my own life and what was happening at the time.  In May of ’74, I was just about to turn 17, finishing my Junior year in high school.  My favorite class was “Individual Voice”, solo singing but I was also really enjoying one other class, “Cosmology; Stellar and Galactic Evolution” I was taking at a local college, taught by a NASA astronomer.  I got an “A” in the class, of course.  I was also summer job hunting and landed my dream job as a nanny taking care of two boys for a local family for $50 a week (~$250 in today’s money).  I was also desperately searching at the library for any and all information I could find on transsexuality and how I could get HRT and SRS.  That search led me to the Stanford Gender Dysphoria Clinic and Dr. Fisk.

In early ’75, after much drama with my parents, who were separated and soon to be divorced, I finally convinced them to let me go to the clinic (but failed to mention that they performed SRS, etc.), which meant first being evaluated by Dr. Fisk.  During the first interview, I got the very distinct impression that he didn’t believe a word I said, though it was all the absolute truth.  From his article, we can see why,

“The concept of gender dysphoria syndrome grew out of clinical necessity very much in an organic, naturalistic fashion.  This occurred because virtually all patients who initially presented for screening provided us with a totally pat psychobiography which seemed almost to be well rehearsed or prepared, particularly in the salients pertaining to differential diagnoses. It would be accurate to say that of the initial 30 to 40 non-psychotic patients screened, all presented as virtual textbook cases of classical transsexualism.  Remembering the old medical saw that “the last time one sees a textbook case is when one closes the textbook,” it was apparent that this group of patients were so intent upon obtaining sex conversion operations that they had availed themselves of the germane literature and had successfully prepared themselves to pass initial screening.  In some instances they had rehearsed friends, spouses and family members in a similar fashion.”

During a later interview, in the company of my mother, who with obvious disapprobation and the mistaken notion that the clinic was to “cure” me, answered his questions about my early childhood saying,

“He was very different than his brothers.  All of their friends were boys, his were all girls. … He was very prissy.  I could dress him in clean clothes on Monday and they would still be clean on Friday. … I’ve known he wanted to live as a girl for years.  I just felt that was wrong.”

In the next interview, in company with my father, who tried to argue with him about what should be done about me after learning that I had been diagnosed as transsexual, Dr. Fisk replied,

“Denial will not serve.  You will win some battles but lose the war.”

That made Dr. Fisk my hero for life!  And he should be a hero to every transsexual who has come after, since it is Dr. Fisk who changed the way transgender people are treated that continues today,

Within the first two to three years of our investigation, it became apparent that when non-fabricated or, more precisely, honest and candid psychobiographies were obtained from our patient population, there was indeed a great deal of diversity and deviance from what had been defined as the symptoms of “classical transsexualism.”  Moreover, the overtly present common denominator was the high level of dysphoria concerning the individual’s gender of assignment or rearing  … employing the diagnostic term gender dysphoria syndrome, our indications for surgical sex conversion therapy have been broadened. Patients now clearly understand that had they been interviewed five or ten or twenty years ago, they would have been diagnosed as not being classical transsexuals. These patients are informed that a diagnosis of transsexualism is not in our view the only valid criterion for deciding who receives surgical sex conversion. Moreover, we practice the rather pragmatic dictum that nothing succeeds quite like success and therefore our criteria for surgical sex reassignment or conversion are more phenomenologically oriented. … Obviously, by liberalizing the indications for sex conversion through conceptualizing patients as having gender dysphoria, we also are committed to provide a program for patients encompassing many factors related to a total overall rehabilitative experience. These include vocational counseling and guidance, psychological and psychiatric supportive therapy, grooming clinics where role-appropriate behaviors are taught, explained and practiced, legal assistance, and, probably of most benefit, an opportunity is afforded to meet and interact with other patients who have successfully negotiated gender reorientation or who are in various phases of reorientation. This program employs some former patients as counselors to persons with gender disorders.

But that’s not to say that my experiences with the clinic were all good.  In fact, personal repercussions of some of what Fisk describes in glowing self-congratulatory fashion were severe.  I’m not alone in experiencing these issues.  While Fisk’s liberalization had eliminated the absolute need for a differential diagnoses for purposes of determining who was to receive services, it has led to a false belief within the trans* communities that there are no differences on the one hand and to the harmful homogenization of treatment protocols on the other.  It is important to note that the Stanford clinic did know that there were in fact two types and organized their services around helping those most in need of “gender reorientation”.

Having seen the best of times… we now turn to the worst of times.

During psychiatric grand rounds at a UCSD hospital, a 20 year old androphilic transwoman is paraded in front of a large group.  The author of the article describing the event uses masculine pronouns to introduce her to his readers and give a bit of her history, then switches to feminine pronouns.  Here’s an excerpt,

“She was told that this interview would be part of a training session on transsexualism so that people in the Department of Psychiatry could learn more about it. She was also told that this session will have no bearing on her treatment, continuing evaluation, or the decision regarding her operation. She understands that coming here is entirely voluntary.  (The patient, whom we shall call Gloria, was escorted into the room. She wore women’s clothing, was heavily made up, and quite attractive.  She was introduced to Dr. Parzen, who interviewed her before a group of approximately 100 staff members and residents. The following are selected excerpts from that interview.)”

Does anyone today believe that “Gloria” didn’t fully understand that her voluntary cooperation was actually mandatory if she was to successfully navigate this clinic’s hoops?  Certainly she did given the times, as Dr. Parzen says,

“These patients become good actors and tend to be paranoid toward anyone who might push them to betray themselves in a way that might jeopardize their surgical treatment.  Gloria had already established a personal relationship with Dr. Millman, and his feelings about her will ultimately determine what will happen to her.”

The doctors had ultimate power of granting or denying services and transfolk knew it!  What’s interesting is that the doctors knew that the they knew it, but saw nothing wrong with this imbalance of power save for complaining about what transsexuals do in the face of such asymmetric power,

Certainly she is quite protective about herself at this point. She is awfully close to getting what she wants, and she isn’t going to tell me anything that might interfere with that. She does not know my orientation, and she isn’t crazy, and therefore isn’t going to present material that might be interpreted wrongly from her point of view.  Transsexual patients classically tend to be very manipulative and very secretive. They tell you what they want you to know, and they have learned through much experience to read and to manipulate medical staff.

I could go on with the odd ideation that these physicians have that relied on classical Freudian psychoanalysis, not to mention the incredibly disrespectful things these doctors said about “Gloria” and transgender people in general, but I don’t need to as the articles have been scanned and available for all to read.

Further Reading:

Essay on differential diagnoses and transsexual taxonomy use in the 1970s.

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/

Judd, et al., “Male Transsexualism”, (1974) Western Journal of Medicine
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1130141/

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Coming of (r)age in Samoa…

Posted in Science Criticism, Transsexual Field Studies, Transsexual Theory by Kay Brown on June 20, 2017

critical-thinkingOr, The Fa’afafine in Context

It seems to me that research focused on the fa’afafine of Samoa has become all the rage of late, at least for those interested in feminine androphilic males / “homosexual MTF transgender” folk.  The interest has at its heart, the hope that it represents a culture that is closer to what we might have had before large-scale civilizations began, one closer to what humans may have evolved within.

First, Samoan culture is very collectivist.  Although we don’t have a formal Hofstede Individualism Index value for Samoa, most commentators I can find all agree that it would be very low, perhaps lower than just about any other on the planet.  They do everything in groups, traditionally even living together under one roof without walls.  Family and extended family are everything.  Thus, if we were to predict the ratio of androphilic vs. non-androphilic transwomen based upon the relationship between the Hofstede Individualism Index and the percentage of non-androphilic transwomen found by Lawrence, we would expect almost no non-androphilic transwomen.  And indeed, one never sees them mentioned in connection with Samoa.

In Samoa, there is almost no stigma attached to being a feminine male.  Feminine male children are not bullied.  Fa’afafine adults are not discriminated against in employment.  There is little to no stigma attached to masculine men finding Fa’afafine sexually attractive.  This is not to say that there isn’t any problems for them.  Christian missionaries and Western colonization has brought homophobic laws and attitudes.  But because there is little to no stigma attached, androphilic males are free to express as much or as little femininity as they find in themselves with little incentive to attempt to suppress it as occurs in many other cultures.

However, before anyone lauds the Samoan culture as being the transgender (or gay) paradise, consider one other factoid.  I can’t find any reference to any fa’afafine who is in a long-term relationship with a lover.  I’ve never seen any reference to their families celebrating a marriage to a man.  The fa’afafine may be called “in the manner of a woman” (as the term loosely translates), but they aren’t given that social status.  They are granted a status as what many anthropologists would call a “third gender”.  But that gender is not seen as equal to women in status and marital desirability.

fafafineFa’afafine are universally androphilic and have sex with masculine men.  They don’t have sex with each other because they are attracted to masculinity which is not especially abundant in fa’afafine.  But those episodes with masculine men are typically “one night stands”.  I can’t believe that they wouldn’t choose to have long-term romance in a committed relationship.  Although not well publicized, and not nearly as common as we might like, such long term relationships do exist between masculine men and androphilic transwomen in Western cultures.  So I must conclude that it is the Samoan culture that in effect prohibits or discourages such relationships.  I would like to be proven wrong on this… I really would.

An educated reader will perhaps recognize my quip of a title from Margaret Mead’s 1928 book.  They may also know of how she was attacked by Derek Freeman.  Maybe I’m just biased by my friendship with Alice Dreger, since I don’t believe a word Freeman says… but the episode does offer a cautionary tale regarding the potential changes that Christian missionaries have already brought to Samoa.  I’ll leave it at that, since those who are better acquainted with the controversy will know what I mean.

One of the interesting aspects of androphilia in males is the question of evolution, to wit, if genetics play a role, and there is strong evidence it does, than why hasn’t it been selected out of the human population?  How can a trait that confers a significant reproductive disadvantage be maintained in the gene pool, should that allele(s) be under very high anti-selection pressure?  One hypothesis is the “Kin Selection” effect in which androphilic males are indirectly “fit”, reproductively successful, because they increase the resources available for their near relatives.  Paul Vasey has been testing this idea in both Western gay men and fa’afafine.  Interestingly, it doesn’t appear to be true among Western gay men, but does appear to be true among fa’afafine who exhibit strong materterally supportive behaviors toward the children of their siblings.  The speculation is that something about the suppression, the crushing, of the natural femininity of androphilic males in Western nations also suppresses this materteral behavior.  I would suggest that we also look at Western androphilic transwomen, being careful to sort by the quality of familial relationships.

Since the culture is presupposed to be closer to that of our pre-civilization ancestors, the question of who the fa’afafine are sexually attracting may offer other insights into the early evolutionary selection pressures on masculine men, specifically the notion of competition for mating opportunities between women and feminine androphilic males.  Lanna Petterson explored this in a study published as her thesis (also published in journals) in which she presented images of faces, men, women, and very plain emojis on a computer screen, asking her subjects to evaluate and report how sexually attractive they found them.  The images were limited only to the faces.  They were composites that had been digitally modified to enhance their sexual dimorphism.  (Frankly, of the two images she included in the appendix of her thesis, I personally found them disturbing, seeming to be slipping over a cliff into the uncanny valley below.  I can’t but help thinking that the results may have been influenced in part by this.)  Unknown to her subjects, the response time latency was also recorded by the computer.  Earlier studies have shown that people tend to linger over images that they find erotically rewarding.  From this data, she comes to the conclusion that the men who are having sex with fa’afafine are “bisexual”.

Sigh… Looking at the data, as well as what we know from other studies of men who seek out transwomen (chasers), I have to seriously question this conclusion.  First, very much like what androphilic transwomen experience in the West, 65% of the men had never had a sexual encounter with a man and 75% had not within the past year.  As Dr. Richard Green wrote about the men who dated Western androphilic transwomen,

“The men who fall in love with and perhaps marry women who are themselves former males, by and large, have known their partners only as women.  Their prior sexual experiences have been only with females.  They consider themselves heterosexual and their relationships heterosexual.  To varying degrees they are consciously and unconsciously aware of the biologic status of their partners, but it would be simplistic and would furthermore blur generally accepted definitions to call these men homosexual.  Rather they are men who respond to the considerable femininity of male-to-female transsexuals, ignoring the dissonant cues of masculinity.”

For many of the masculine Samoan men in Petterson’s study, I believe would fit this description as well.  Another portion of the men I believe would likely fall into the category of gynandromorphophilic (GAMP).  From a wonderful study by Hsu, we know that such men tend to be autogynephilic as well.  Although Samoan autogynephilic men are not likely to transition to presenting as women, that does not mean that they won’t seek out their prefered external sexual partners, women and feminine males, to wit fa’afafine.

From personal experience and hints from clinician and sexologist comments (e.g. Stoller and Bailey, separately), Western androphilic transwomen avoid gynandromorphophiles. One of the hallmarks of gynandromorphophiles is that they prefer pre-op and “functional”, that is, willing to allow these men to touch their penis, as Stoller remarked, “… she considered anyone who was not interested in her penis as normal…”

From reading between the lines of Petterson’s thesis, it appears that she made the assumption that sexual role “flexibility” denoted greater bisexuality.  I would argue just the opposite, that it is a signifier of potential gynandromorphophilia.  Also, I would predict that such men would have a different and “disturbed” response time when presented with faces to evaluate due to their underlying erotic target location error proneness.  While it is true that people tend to linger over images that they find erotically rewarding, they also tend to have trouble responding quickly to associations that reside further away from each other in their personal experience (e.g. implicit bias testing).  Indeed, this issue is shown in the data… that those who are willing to perform fellatio on fa’afafine had longer response latency, even to the crude emojis.

A minority of the masculine men having sex with fa’afafine are also only having sex with other masculine men, but not women.  This would suggest masculine presentation / identity exclusive androphilia, not bisexuality.  Not all fa’afafine present as extremely feminine as adults – some are fairly conventionally masculine, as average gay men would be in the West.  It would appear to me that not all androphilic males in Samoa developed an identity as fa’afafine as a child and that they are having sex with each other and to at least some of the fa’afafine, perhaps those who are less hypomasculine?

Although Petterson rejected the hypothesis that her masculine male subjects included both primarily androphilic and gynephilic subjects based on statistical tests of her response time data for normal distribution.  I believe that the effect of there being three different populations masked this fact.

Although Samoa and the fa’afafine culture seem so different than that of the West, I believe that the feminine androphilic subcultures in the West, that of feminine gay men, drag, and feminine androphilic transsexuals and our experiences very much parallel each other in important ways and future research will bear this out.

Further Reading:

Essay on relationship between Hofstede Individualism Index and non-androphilic MTF transsexual transitions

Essay on cultural influence on androphilic male presenation

Essay on Gynandromorphophilia

References:

Vasey, P. et al., “What can the Samoan Fa’afafine Teach Us About the Western Concept of Gender Identity Disorder in Childhood?”, (2007) Perspectives on Biology and Medicine,  http://muse.jhu.edu/article/222247

Vasey, P. “The Evolution of Male Androphilia” Personal Website:  http://people.uleth.ca/~paul.vasey/PLV/Evolution_Androphilia.html

Petterson, L. “Male Bisexuality In Samoa” (2012) University of Lethbridge Thesis  https://www.uleth.ca/dspace/bitstream/handle/10133/3745/PETTERSON_LANNA_MSC2015_THESIS.pdf

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Fraternizing with the…

Posted in Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on June 18, 2017

critical-thinking… Allies  Or, The Fraternal Birth Order Effect: Early Onset Transwomen vs. Gay Men

In a very recently published meta-study conducted by Ray Blanchard further exploring the Fraternal Birth Order Effect (FBOE), in which he had earlier noted that androphilic males tend to have more older brothers than sisters, he deals with several concerns and new research questions.  First, there had been some concerns with how best to handle the potential effects of family size.  But what really interests me is that here, for the first time, he carefully considers the effect of transgender (feminine presentation / identity) vs. non-trans androphilic men (masculine presentation / identity i.e. conventional gay men).  The results are striking!

“The pooled Older Brothers Odds Ratio for the feminine groups was 1.85, and the value for the non-feminine groups was 1.27. The corresponding risk ratios were 1.52 and 1.19.  The differences between groups were highly significant.  To sum up the results so far in common language:  Feminine homosexual males have more older brothers than non-feminine homosexual males, and non-feminine homosexual males, in turn, have more older brothers than heterosexual males.”

These results weren’t just “statistically significant”, the effect was very great with the 95% Confidence Levels not even overlapping!

But we should introduce a note of caution here.  The feminine androphilic data was very heterogeneous as can be seen in this plot of the data.  This may be caused by the differences between cultures sampled from all over the world.  Some of this data is from Samoan Fa’afafine, some from Western gender dysphoria clinics in the US, UK, and Spain, some from non-Western cultures like Brazil and Korea.  Blanchard also noted this issue and suggested exploration of this might interest some future researcher as more data becomes available.  But in any case, we are shown some very intriguing data that strongly suggests that we may be seeing a difference in etiology between feminine and masculine androphilic males.

Blanchard discusses possible conclusions regarding this,

“A … possibility is that the neurodevelopmental pathway triggered by older brothers is inherently more feminizing than path ways triggered by other etiologic factors (e.g., ‘‘gay’’ genes or prenatal hormone exposure). Thus, a group of homosexual males selected for generalized femininity is likely to contain a higher proportion of individuals who acquired their sexual orientation via the older brother pathway. Other hypotheses, equally speculative, are also possible. … Blanchard and Bogaert (1996) proposed that the FBOE reflects the progressive immunization of some mothers to male-specific (i.e., Y-linked) antigens by each succeeding male fetus and the concomitantly increasing effects of anti-male antibodies on sexual differentiation of the brain in each succeeding male fetus. According to this maternal immune hypothesis, cells (or cell fragments) from male fetuses enter the maternal circulation during childbirth or perhaps earlier in pregnancy. These cells include substances that occur only on the surfaces of male cells, primarily male brain cells. The mother’s immune system recognizes these male-specific molecules as foreign and produces antibodies to them.  When the mother later becomes pregnant with another male fetus, her antibodies cross the placental barrier and enter the fetal brain. Once in the brain, these antibodies bind to male-specific molecules on the surface of neurons.  This prevents these neurons from ‘‘wiring-up’’ in the male-typical pattern, so that the individual will later be attracted to men rather than women.”

Something not discussed, indeed I’m not sure how it can even be explored – unless the curve in the data shown for the odds of an older brother per other sibling is evidence for the effect of first born males experiencing self-induced maternal immunity creating the same etiological pathway.  I would also expect that some first born males may have this etiology due to previous maternal miscarriages and abortions of male fetuses since they too would be expected to have Y-linked antigen challenges to the maternal immune system.

Still, and all, very exciting paper well worth reading.

Reference:

Blanchard, R., “Fraternal Birth Order, Family Size, and Male Homosexuality: Meta-Analysis of Studies Spanning 25 Years”, Archives of Sexual Behavior, (2017),
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-017-1007-4

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When the Numbers Add Up…

Posted in Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on June 17, 2017

female_scientistOr, Scientific Numerology

Sometimes, when one spots numbers that seem to be awfully familiar, they cause us to wonder.  Well, I think I spotted either an amazing random coincidence, or a basic connection between the incidence of autogynephilia and autoandrophilia in the general population and the incidence of potential gender dysphoria found in teenagers.  Check out these numbers.

From the Sumia study  0.5% girls compared to 2.2% of the boys had indicated such potentially clinically significant dysphoria.  Note that this is indeed potential, not clinically significant distress.  While in the Langstrom study 2.8% of men and 0.4% of women reported at least one episode of transvestic fetishism.

Again 0.5% vs. 0.4% for natal females and 2.2% vs. 2.8% for natal males.

So, random coincidence?  Or underlying correlation?  We need further study.  But I’m willing to put a high confidence estimate that this reflects that the GIDYQ-A is picking up on the connection between autogynephilia / autoandrophilia and mild gender dysphoria.

Further Reading:

Essay on Autogynephilia causing gender dysphoria in late onset transwomen

References:

Sumia et al., “Current and recalled childhood gender identity in community youth in comparison to referred adolescents seeking sex reassignment”, Journal of Adolescence
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140197117300155

Langstrom, et al., “Transvestic Fetishism in the General Population”  Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, (2011) http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00926230590477934

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It’s Just Not Fair!

Posted in Transsexual Theory by Kay Brown on June 4, 2017

female_scientist“Life just isn’t fair.”

That’s what I heard as a child and I learned deep down that it’s true.  Life just isn’t fair.

For years now, I’ve seen news articles, blog posts, and internet fora discussions around the issue of transfolk and of course intersex folk and athletics.  The word that keeps coming up, especially from those who oppose allowing them to participate in sports, is that it isn’t fair to women.  But as I hope to convince my reader, sports and athletics have never been about what’s fair.  And its not really about transfolk per se.

First, lets talk about “fair” and how life isn’t.  When I was nine years old, my mother, a serious jock herself, decided to enroll my brothers and I in competitive swimming.  We joined the Mountain View Dolphins coached by Mr. Tom Bottom.  If that sounds familiar, it’s because you may have read that Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were also on the Dolphins.  But I mostly hung out with Patti Jobs, also on the team.  I tried for months to get faster.  But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t swim fast.  Heck, I couldn’t even keep up with the others during regular practice, much less a race!  Eventually, Coach Bottom told my mother that it was useless and I was asked to leave the team.  I never even entered an actual competition race.  I would never be an athlete.  My heart was in it, but my heart wasn’t.  Life just isn’t fair.

Yes, I know that sounds odd, but one has to understand, that my cardio-pulmonary system just couldn’t deliver.  I had severe exercise induced asthma and poor heart-lung capacity.  I also lacked overall muscle strength.  I was poor at every sport.  I was a short, skinny slip of a thing that couldn’t run, couldn’t throw, couldn’t bat.  At school, I knew instantly which team I would be on the moment that they started to pick teams, since I would be picked dead last, after all of the girls (though two of the girls were near the top of the pick list many weren’t good at sports either, but all were better than me).  No one wanted me on their team and they made it very obvious, derisively so.  Children can be cruel and some adults aren’t much better.  Life just isn’t fair.

To make it even more cruel, my three siblings as well as my mother were good athletes.  My father had been keen on sports as well, active until a heart condition forced him to cut back.  My memories of family dinner table conversations are dominated with discussions of times and scores for swimming, volleyball and softball (our mother), gymnastics (my sister), water polo, and diving.  While I sat silent, not participating, as I was just not an athlete.  Life just isn’t fair.

The younger of my two brothers was an elite athlete.  He was winning races since he was four years old.  Eventually, he would compete in the Universiade and if Carter hadn’t insisted that we boycott the Olympics in Moscow, he would have competed there as well.  That had been his burning ambition for years.  He even had the number ’80 in big characters on his bedroom wall growing up.  But… Life just isn’t fair.

handSo what was going on?  Perhaps my family just won the genetics lottery and I lost.  Or it may have been a more complicated story… and interestingly, there are hints that it might have a deep connection with why I am transsexual.  It turns out there is a very strong connection between cardio-pulmonary capacity, 2d:4d digit ratios, and athletic ability, all influenced by testosterone exposure in utero.  Those with high testosterone exposure in utero later develop larger and stronger hearts and lungs (as well as generally being stronger overall).  There is a statistical correlation between having a low 2d:4d ratio and athletic performance, especially for speed at running and swimming.

finger vs sexMy 2d:4d ratio is very high, 1.06 which is quite literally “off the chart”, so one would predict that I would be a very poor athlete.  While the verdict isn’t quite in yet, there is also tentative evidence that high 2d:4d ratios are correlated with male androphilia and gender atypicality, including being an MTF transkid.  Life just isn’t fair.

Regardless of whether the above is true, opponents of transfolk, especially of MTF transwomen, competing in athletic events and sports, are right about one key fact.  Men, on average, do have greater physical strength and cardio-pulmonary capacity ON AVERAGE.  That is to say, that both men and women, boys and girls, vary in their natural athleticism on Gaussian curves that largely overlap but are offset from one another.  I don’t have the data handy so I can’t list the effect sizes.  But my point is that because of this offset, the elite men will beat the elite women, nearly every time, unless something about being female is privileged in a given event (e.g. figure skating advantages shorter, lighter women with a lower center of mass).  One never hears complaints about transkids like me who lose at every event to all of the girls.  We only hear complaints about transkids and adults who win at the elite level.  And yes, statistically, we do expect that, especially for “late transitioners”, that at the elite level, transwomen will have the advantage of having a long history of higher testosterone exposure that begins to privilege males begining in utero.  While HRT and SRS will reduce current levels of androgens and result in decreased muscle mass, it will not erase the advantage of earlier exposure, most especially upon cardio-pulmonary capacity.  Life just isn’t fair.

Here is where I change the subject a bit and introduce a conjecture that I have long been exploring.  I can’t really call it an hypothesis, since I don’t really know how to test it.  I don’t believe that athletics and sports in general are about “fair” in the ethical sense because if it was, we wouldn’t be so freaked out about “doping”.  I know, you think that makes no sense, but bear with me.

First, consider professional sports.  At the deepest level, these are entertainment businesses, first and last.  One would think that anything that increased the entertainment value would be encouraged.  After all, action movies aren’t anything like real life, they are pure entertainment.  So why does the fact that Barry
Bonds using medical advances to improve his performance on the field bother his fans, and thus his employers?  This can’t be about “fairness” because the value of the entertainment is improved by his increase in the ability to hit home runs.  It can’t be about “fairness” because all of the other players could also have access to this technology which would further improve the entertainment value of their performances.  Yet, the public and thus the businesses collectively ban their use.  We actually do want Barry Bonds to have lots of testosterone fueled muscle.  But we want that testosterone to come from his testicles, not a test tube.

It always struck me as odd that in all sports and athletic events, the participants can use any and all crazy training and health regimes to improve their performance except for those that actually work.  We ban steroids.  We ban stimulants.  We ban blood oxygen carrying capacity enhancers.  Again, everyone could use them, so this isn’t about “fairness”.

No, something deeper is going on.  I believe that something is related to peacock feathers and deer antlers.  It is related to the deep-time evolutionary need to compete for mates and to evaluate the genetic fitness of potential mates.  We don’t want amazing athletic performance for its own sake.  We want the ability to stack rank potential mates on their genetically endowed performance.  In ancient times, the young people of a community would have had events which allowed comparisons with each other.  And it would be obvious who was the healthiest, who was most likely to sire or bear the healthiest and strongest children.  We evolved to have such contests and to observe such contests, to be rewarded for such participation and observation.  This explains why we don’t like ‘doping’ or transfolk and intersex folk winning these contests (again, no one complains about them losing).  On some deep level, we feel anger and disgust at anything that interferes with our ability to rate potential mates or allow others to so rate us, because our children will only carry 50% of our own genes, and we want those 50% to have the best genetic partners as we can find.  At this deep level, athletics is about having sex.

Since deep down, this is about sex, competing for mates, and evaluating mates, intersex and transsex people need not apply.  If this was truly about fairness, we would say, well… that MTF transkid did win the genetic lottery… if in an unusual path.   But because we know that she can’t actually bear children, we feel disgust, revulsion, and tell everyone “it isn’t fair”.

Life just isn’t fair… and we instinctively want our children to have the best chance at success.  We don’t want our athletics and sports to be truly “fair”… no we want them to be as cruel as possible… to weed out the weak and inferior and reward only the strong, healthy genetic stock who will give us strong healthy children and grandchildren.  Life just isn’t fair.

Life just isn’t fair.

But life can bring surprising twists.  Less than a decade after I was kicked off the Dolphins by Coach Bottom, I would again see him nearly every day.   Mr. Bottom taught history at my second high school, he coached that school’s swimming and water polo teams.  He was also one of my saviors, as he approached me during my Senior year with an opportunity I sorely needed.  I had been diagnosed as transsexual at the Stanford Clinic.  I was coming out to friends, classmates, and a select few of my teachers.  I was getting ready to refuse to participate in boys’ P.E., stealing up my strength to face down officialdom about being trans… when Coach Bottom offered to let me teach the one and only student who didn’t know how to swim, instead.  Coach Bottom knew that I spent summers teaching little kids to swim.  He knew I knew how to be a strong and fast swimmer… but that I just couldn’t swim fast myself.  So, I spent the last term of my highschool years, as a swimming instructor, a P.E. teacher in effect, with one student.  Life may not always be fair, but it can sometimes be, in the end.

Further Reading:

Essay on 2d:4d digit ratio

“Reading the Body: Finger Length Ratio Predicts Athletic Ability” by Martijn van Mensvoort

“As We Rightfully Applaud Yearwood, We Must Acknowledge Many Questions Remain” by Jeff Jacobs

“How Steve Jobs swimming failure became unlikely source of inspiration” by David Pierini

References:

Deaner, et Al., “A Sex Difference in the Predisposition for Physical Competition: Males Play Sports Much More than Females Even in the Contemporary U.S” https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0049168

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Cognitive Dissonance and Vector Transform Miscalculations in Transgender Tensor Space

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on June 2, 2017

Kay Brown 2010Tension said the Tensor
Tension said the Tensor
Tension Apprehension and Dissention have begun

I am turning 60 years old this week.  This means that it has been 42 years since I transitioned full time the same week I turned 18, graduated from high school, and was informed that I was being kicked out.  Much has happened since then, both personally and within the transsexual and transgender communities.  In the vein of “ya either laugh or cry”, offered for your consideration are random dialogs and events over the decades.  The events were real, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Candice_Caltech

Kay Brown in college

I’m at a “Grooming Seminar” at the Stanford Gender Dysphoria Clinic in late ’77.  I attend in the hopes of getting my “letter” approving me for SRS.  One of the events specially scheduled for this day is a make-over session in which a make-up expert has been brought in to demonstrate how to use make-up to allow one to pass.  She asks for a volunteer.  As the only ‘young transitioner’ in the audience, well known to the others to wear almost no make-up beyond mascara and eye-liner, I was by general acclamation “volunteered” with much cat-calling and barely suppressed jealous jeering, as I was literally compelled toward the stands by gentle pushes and shoves.  As I join the make-up artist on the stage, this young woman does a serious double-take.  She looks at me, looks at her make-up selection, and despairs.  I later learn from her that she had been told to expect that she would have to cover heavy five-o-clock shadows and course ruddy complexions.  She examines my face, noting that I was as smooth skinned as she is without a trace of beard (I had never grown one, never needed electrolysis.)  She asks,

“You have such lovely complexion, what do you use to cleanse and moisturize?”

“Cold cream and rubbing alcohol.”  I answer honestly.  I could barely afford to eat, much less buy expensive skin creams!

“Really?” she asks incredulously, pausing to consider what to do, ” I don’t know what to do.  I don’t have the right make up for your face!”  Which brings more titters and cat-calls from the far older transwomen in the audience who are clearly enjoying her discomfiture, likely having anticipated this development.  I feel my face blush pink from embarrassment.  “Hold on, I know…” as she grabs her purse and pulls out her own personal travelling make-up kit.  Turns out, we have identical coloring.  She makes-up my face such that I look like a beauty magazine model.

ACLUAt a political gathering in the summer of 1982 of several dozen transsexuals, mostly ‘late transitioning’ transwomen and their wives, a woman asks my college roommate Joy,

“Where is your Significant Other?”

“I’m single.”

“Oh, then who did you come with?”

“My roommate,” pointing at me. 

“I’m confused.  Then why are you here?  Most of us only came to support our SO’s,” having decided that I wasn’t transsexual.

“I’m a member of the committee.”

“Oh wait, you mean that YOU are TS?  OMG!  I’m sorry, I thought you were one of us.”  (meaning, one of the natal female wives and girlfriends)

At an FtM conference in late ’99, where I had been invited to give a talk on TransHistory, a very similar dialog occurs as a transman and his wife ask,

“Where is your husband?”

“He’s at home.  He’s not interested in these sorts of events.”

“Ummm… then when are you planning to transition?” as looks me over, obviously both admiring my trim figure in a cute feminine outfit while frowning in confusion and some disapproval.

“Transition?  I did that over twenty five years ago!”

“You’re MTF?  Wow!” as he gives me an even more admiring gaze, “Wow!”

Young transitioning, androphilic transwomen, being a small minority, get this all of the time.  We don’t look “transgender” and even other transfolk aren’t that familiar with us.

Late transitioning transwomen believe that there is only one type, so they tend to make invalid assumptions.  During a group discussion where all of the ‘late transitioning’ transwomen are discussing their military service, one snags me and asks,

“So when were you in the military?”

“What?  They don’t let TS folk in the military!”

“Of course not, I meant before the change…”

“They don’t let minors join either.”

CedarStar_porch

CedarStar

On another day, it doesn’t matter when, and I’m having a discussion with a transwoman I invited over for coffee at my house.  She makes a comment about my roommate, assuming that she is my wife, wondering aloud if she will mind that she is there.

“What makes you think that she and I are an item?”

“Well, you live together.  And it’s obvious that you are affectionate with each other.”

“We have separate bedrooms.”

“But….”

“We have separate bedrooms.  I’m not into women.  I’ve been dating men since I was a teenager.”

“But, if you are only into men, how come you’re hanging out with me?”

“Because I thought you were interesting as a person.  This isn’t a date!”

Serious misunderstandings between myself and late transitioning transwomen have happened repeatedly in my life.  It is understandable, if one knows that people tend to project their own motives and world view upon others as their working assumption until proven wrong.

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Kay Brown with her adopted daughter Liz

I’m with my adopted daughter, Liz, at a large social gathering at the private home of a much older transwoman, literally a rocket scientist, that includes a fair number of late transitioning transwomen in Silicon Valley.  Everyone there is “cool” about transgender folk and I’ve been introduced, and thus ‘outed’ as being trans before I got there.  A middle-aged woman approaches me,

“Your daughter is so well behaved and lovely and looks so much like you.”

“Yes, it’s amazing.  I guess we both just got lucky that way.”

“So where is her mother? Is she here, or is this your weekend to babysit?”

“I’m her mother.”

“Oh… oh yes, of course you are.  I meant her real mother.”

“If you mean her birth mother, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never met her.”

“Huh?”

“I adopted Liz.  I’ve never met her birth parents.  And no, this isn’t my weekend to ‘babysit’.  I’m her mother!”

I wanted to scream at this woman who was so completely clueless on multiple levels.  First, she assumed that I was Liz’s sire.  I wanted to scream, “NO, I’m not her FATHER.  I’ve never even FUCKED a woman in my entire life!  Oh for fuck’s sake, I transitioned a decade before Liz was even born!”

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Jeff and Kay saying their vows

I’m at a trendy wine bar in 2013 in Sacramento the evening after having spoken, by invitation, on a panel at a women’s conference earlier.  The conference organizer is drunk, loudly outs me to several other women, then tells me that she has dated transwomen before, making it very clear that she finds me attractive.  She and her friend stand on either side of me, penning me in as they proceed to hit on me, her friend taking my hand and suggestively stoking it for a moment, then puzzled, notes my wedding and engagement rings, soldered together as one, asks,

“What’s this?”

“My wedding ring.  I’m married.”

“You’re married?”

“Yes, I’m married.  His name is Jeff.  We have a daughter, Liz.”

“I thought you were transgender…”

I wave my hands, shaking my head, as I pull away to make a timely exit to walk back to the B&B for the night.  The next morning, I have a very serious talk to the conference organizer about her inappropriate behavior, explaining why it is not cool to out transwomen in public, nor to hit on them, assuming that we are all sexually attracted to women.  She was shocked.  She sincerely thought that ALL transwomen were attracted to women.

Over forty years of embarrassing misunderstandings.  I sincerely hope that with greater visibility of transkids, they will experience far fewer of these…

Further Reading:

The Invisible Transsexual

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Mommy, Where Do Autogynephiles Come From?

Posted in Transsexual Theory by Kay Brown on May 31, 2017

female_scientistOr, What Causes Erotic Target Location Errors?

Everyone who has an unusual quirk in their psyche asks one time or another what made them that way.  Most people in our modern society look to their past for psychogenic causal factors.  For example, people who are depressed look for events in their lives that were depressing.  This is likely the result of the pseudoscientific pontifications of psychoanalysts and their spiritual offspring, always trying to explain all behavior in psychodynamic terms.  As we shall see, these explanations don’t hold up when examined against the evidence.

Perhaps the most easily debunked hypothesis is that autogynephilia is caused by too much exposure to pornography.  Yes, I’ve seen this being seriously put forth.  It’s not totally a crazy idea in that autogynephiles often are interested in erotica, especially autogynephilic erotica.  But this is confusing cause and effect.  Interviews with a large number of autogynephilic men reveals that their autogynephilic ideation and interest began around puberty, before they had exposure to erotica or porn, and usually long before they had access to autogynephilically oriented erotica.  When they do find such erotica, their interest is rewarded be their previous experiences of cross-dressing or cross-dreaming associated sexual arousal and masturbation.

Interestingly, for both autogynephilic and autoandrophilic youth, certain genres of anime and manga offer a soft-core, romantic, erotica.  This too has been suggested as the source of their sexual interests.  One can well imagine coming across and finding such material interesting and rewarding viewing/reading before one becomes fully aware of one’s sexuality.  But again, it is the cause?  Would a young person with no underlying erotic target location error proneness find such material sexually arousing or romantically rewarding?  I sincerely doubt it.

We know, from direct observation and from parental report, that autogynephilic arousal can occur before puberty, before learning to read even.  Thus, exposure to material around puberty and subsequently seeking further material is likely to be a result, rather than a cause.

One of the most bizarre neo-freudian hypothesis that is fervently supported by a small minority of autogynephiles is that it is the result of “emasculinization trauma”.  In this model, sometime in a male child’s past, a little boy has his fragile masculine ‘feefees’ so badly hurt that he retreats to romantic and later sexualized fantasies of not only being female but being forced to be female or feminized.  This hypothesis seeks to explain both why they are autogynephilic, but also masochistic, combining the two.  It is true that “forced feminization” is a very common autogynephilic/masochistic fantasy.  However, the evidence for actual childhood trauma associated with autogynephilia is weak to non-existent.  Further, while it is well known that paraphilias tend to cluster, and that autogynephilia and masochism is one of the most well documented of such clustering, only 25% to 30% of autogynephiles also exhibit masochism, while the converse is also true, that only 30% of masochistic men are also autogynephilic.  But, for the rest?

Another problem with these psychogenic hypothesis is that they don’t explain the rather well known phenomena of familial clustering of both autogynephilia and autoandrophilia wherein if we find one proband in a family, the odds of finding another are very high.  For example, consider the Wachowski family with two siblings that are both “late transitioners”.  Considering all types of transgender etiologies, research has shown that when one individual transitions, the likelihood of a second in the same family is one out of a hundred-fifty (1:150).  Given that only 90,000 people out of over 300,000,000 people in the US transition, this would seem to be far above random chance, and it is.

Of course, the majority of autogynephilic transgender folk, from serious cross-dressers to post-op transwomen, reject the above hypothesis in favor of those they deem ‘gender affirming’.  There are a number of them ranging from the non-specific idea that somehow being gender dysphoric leads one to become autogynephilic in some unspecified mechanism to the odd notion that all women are autogynephilic, that autogynephila is just part of normal female sexuality.  Given that these obviously implausable hypothesis seem to be popular among autogynephiles themselves, when we see a minority of sexologists and transgender caregivers voice support for them, we naturally suspect that they may themselves be secretly autogynephilic.

Consider the notion put forth in the Nuttbrock study (which looking at the actual data otherwise fully supported the Two Type Taxonomy) that sexual arousal to cross-dressing is caused by finding cross-dressing to be “exotic”, invoking Daryl Bem’s “exotic becomes erotic” hypothesis.

Lawrence took exception to this misuse of Bem’s conception of the origin of sexual orientation that, “individuals can become erotically attracted to a class of individuals from whom they felt different during childhood’’.  I would take this a step further and point out that Bem’s idea is invalid on the face of it.  Same sex sexual orientation does indeed correlate with childhood gender atypicality, but is not caused by it.  Although not a valid scientific nor logical argument, I do find it noteworthy to explore Daryl Bem’s career of proposing equally bogus hypothesis including his ludicrous support for psychic phenomena and violating accepting scientific research norms.  In short, Bem is a pseudoscientific crank that has lead others to waste many thousands of research hours to debunk him.

But back to Nuttbrock, the idea that somehow an individual just happened to cross-dress one day and found it personally and/or culturally “exotic” leads to the obvious question… just how did this just happen?  How do pubescent boys accidently fall into their mother’s or sister’s underwear drawer and come out wearing some of them?  Seriously?  Of course, Nuttbrock is actually assuming that “late transitioners” cross-dress because of their “female gender identity”.  But this also fails to match the evidence.  Recall that nearly 5% of men find the thought of wearing women’s clothing potentially sexually arousing, 2.8% have actually done so, and that 0.7% “identify” as “transgender”, these men are NOT accidentally or incidentally coming to wear these items.  Further, by these very numbers, we know that the vast majority of these transgender people are not gender dysphoric nor have female gender identities (yet), so it isn’t the case that they chose to wear these clothes as part of a sincere effort to pass as female (as is the case for androphilic transsexuals).  The well documented case histories of hundreds of both non-dysphoric cross-dressers and gender dysphoric “late transitioners” includes voluntary private cross-dressing, usually in lingerie, as teens, accompanied by sexual arousal and masturbation, while “early transitioners”/androphilic transwomen do not have histories of such autogynephilic behavior.  One would assume that for these androphilic transwomen, wearing women’s clothing would have been just as “exotic”.  The evidence clearly shows that autogynephilia causes gender dysphoria in a minority of these males, not the other way around.  Thus, Nuttbrock’s hypothesis fails to fit the evidence.

Putting oneself into the shoes of those who experience these phenomena, one could vaguely sense why these hypothesis might feel right given the specific nature of their experiences.  But those on the outside must rely on evidence, not experience.  The evidence does not support the hypothesis.

So if all of these ideas fail to explain or match the evidence, what does?  Truthfully?  We haven’t a clue.

We haven’t a clue.

Further Reading:

Essay on autogynephilic sexual arousal in childhood

Essay on autogynephilia causing “late transitioning” gender dysphoria

Essay on Nuttbrock Study and cross-dressing as “exotic”

“Follow up on Bem’s Psi Research” by Steve Novella

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