On the Science of Changing Sex

Searching High and Low

Posted in Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on December 15, 2011

female_scientistThe first time I met other transsexuals, (February 1976) at the Stanford Gender Clinic, the very first thing I noticed was that they all seemed to tower over me.  I’m 5’7″ and a half (172cm).  The other thing I noticed was that most of them were obviously male in appearance and manner, in spite of being dressed in women’s clothes… and that most of them had been or still were married to women.  To say that I was confused would be an understatement!  It would be a while before I understood that there were two types of MTF transsexuals.

Later, when I met HSTS trankids, I noted that they were more my height.  My friend Jennifer was the tallest, Marcella was about my height, while Stella was very slightly shorter.  Over the years, I’ve met many MTF TS folk.  It has been my observation that transkids were shorter than the AGP transsexuals.

Clinicians from Harry Benjamin to Robert Stoller have remarked on the shorter stature of transkids.

But the plural of anecdote is not data.

Which brings us to Blanchard’s observation and study of the very same phenomena.  He and his colleagues used the same data set that had been used earlier to explore the issue of HSTS vs. AGP typology, along with height and weight data collected by the clinic in Canada, and found that those who had been in the ‘homosexual’ cluster were shorter and lighter than the rest.  Specifically, they found that the non-homosexual group was 175.70 cm (5’9″) and that they were exactly the same average height as non-transsexual Canadian men, by age group.  But the mean height of the homosexual group was 172.94 cm (5’8″), 3.23 cm shorter than the norm for their age.

The mean height of each group is only a little over an inch different, but what really interests me is the histogram of the heights of the two groups.  The two groups have very skewed height distributions, as shown in Fig. 2 of the paper.  It shows that 25% of the non-HSTS group is 6’+, while only 10% of the HSTS group is 6’+.  (But, keep in mind that we know that perhaps 15% of the ‘homosexual’ cluster was not actually etiologically HSTS… so the real percentage may be lower.)  Thus, from the data, we may draw the conclusion that a non-HSTS is two and a half times more likely to be 6′ or taller than an HSTS.  Conversely, 22% of the HSTS population will be 5’5″ or shorter, while only 10% of the non-HSTS will be this short.  Thus, although the means don’t look all that different, as a group, because of the very large differences in the numbers at the tall and short end, the impression one gets when exposed to groups of both types of transsexuals is that the HSTS type is significantly shorter than the non-HSTS (AGP) type.

Science depends on repeatability.  An independent study should confirm a finding before it is fully trusted.  The Smith study in the Netherlands tested the same hypothesis, and failed to find any difference in the mean heights of the HSTS vs. non-HSTS types.  Lawrence suspected and demonstrated that the sort method was incorrectly including too many non-HSTS as HSTS in the Smith study.  But, when she resorted, the data still failed to support the differential mean height hypothesis.  However, is it possible that there is still a difference in the distribution?  Or is there something basically different between Dutch and North American populations?

Further Reading:

These studies were in essence, attempts to use replicable metrics that might explain the oft clinically and community noted trend that MTF transkids (HSTS) passed better than non-homosexual transsexuals.  A more recent study from the Netherlands, using clinically scored metrics of physical gender congruity found that this observation is statistically supported, as described in my essay on passability differences between homosexual and non-homosexual transsexuals.

References:

Ray Blanchard, Robert Dickey, Corey L. Jones, “Comparison of Height and Weight in Homosexual Versus Nonhomosexual Male Gender Dysphorics” http://www.springerlink.com/content/w318411nq4q7387u/

Lawrence, A., “Male-to-female transsexual subtypes: Sexual arousal with cross-dressing and physical measurements”
http://akikos-planet.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/files/maletofemale_transsexual_subtypes_sexual_arousal_with_crossdressing_and_physical_measurements_319320.pdf

Yolanda L.S. Smith, Stephanie H.M. van Goozen, A.J. Kuiper, Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, “Transsexual subtypes: Clinical and theoretical significance”
http://akikos-planet.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/files/psychiatry_research__transsexual_subtypes_clinical_and_theoretical_significance.pdf

Anthony F. Bogaert, Jian Liu, “Physical Size and Sexual Orientation: Analysis of the Chinese Health and Family Life Survey:
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-013-0110-4

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