On the Science of Changing Sex

Curiouser and Curiouser…

Posted in Female-to-Male, Science Criticism by Kay Brown on February 18, 2013

… said Alice.

critical-thinkingIn a recent paper exploring the sibling sex ratio and birth order of transkids, several interesting new biodemographic findings were disclosed.  First, the already known surplus of older brothers of MTF transkids was observed, along with the fraternal birth order effect of having more older brothers than sisters.  But, curiously, these transkids also had more younger brothers than sisters!  The reason this is so startling is that we have no plausible conjectures on how this could come about, as we do the fraternal birth order effect.

Another curious item is that FtM transkids are more likely to be only children than one would expect by chance.  Blanchard does offer a possible conjecture that this may be an immune response, leaving the mother unable to conceive again.

This new finding in MTF transkids is further evidence that there may be more than one biological mechanism at play.

But to me, the most curious thing to note in this paper is the actual paper, who wrote it, and how it was edited.  It has the feel of having had sections written by different authors, who habitually use different terms for the same phenomena and populations.  As I had written in an earlier essay, those in North America preferred the term “homosexual transsexual” and those in the Netherlands preferred “Early Onset” transsexual.  This paper was co-written by Ray Blanchard, from North America, while the rest were from the Netherlands.  It would appear that both formulations were used in this paper, starting with “early onset” in the title then using “homosexual” in the abstract:

Several sibship-related variables have been studied extensively in sexual orientation research, especially in men.  Sibling sex ratio refers to the ratio of brothers to sisters in the aggregate sibships of a group of probands. Birth order refers to the probands’ position (e.g., first-born, middle-born, last-born) within their sibships. Fraternal birth order refers to their position among male siblings only. Such research was extended in this study to a large group of early-onset gender dysphoric adolescents.  The probands comprised 94 male-to-female and 95 female-to-male gender dysphoric adolescents. The overwhelming majority of these were homosexual or probably prehomosexual.  The control group consisted of 875 boys and 914 girls from the TRAILS study. The sibling sex ratio of the gender dysphoric boys was very high (241 brothers per 100 sisters) compared with the expected ratio (106:100). The excess of brothers was more extreme among the probands’ older siblings (300:100) than among their younger siblings (195:100). Between groups comparisons showed that the gender dysphoric boys had significantly more older brothers, and significantly fewer older sisters and younger sisters, than did the control boys. In contrast, the only notable finding for the female groups was that the gender dysphoric girls had significantly fewer total siblings than did the control girls. The results for the male probands were consistent with prior speculations that a high fraternal birth order (i.e., an excess of older brothers) is found in all homosexual male groups, but an elevated sibling sex ratio (usually caused by an additional, smaller excess of younger brothers) is characteristic of gender dysphoric homosexual males.  The mechanisms underlying these phenomena remain unknown.

The use of the term “homosexual” has often bothered many transsexuals, both autogynephilic and non-autogynephilic alike… but apparently it bothered at least one of authors of the paper as well,

(instead of ‘‘homosexual’’ transsexuals, we will refer to male-to-female transsexuals sexually attracted to men as androphilic MtFs, and to female-to-male transsexuals sexually attracted to women as gynephilic FtMs)

While I applaud the sentiment of using language that is more sensitive to the sensibilities and personal identities of transsexual people, the effort here loses its intended effect since all such males are still called “boys”, and such females are called “girls”, largely defeating the purpose.  Further, the authors simply did not maintain the usage of “androphilic” in preference to “homosexual” as later in the paper they write,

It was reasonable to assume that all or nearly all of the early-onset gender dysphoric boys in this study were, or would be, homosexual, and that nearly all of the control boys were, or would be, heterosexual;

So, it would appear that the final editor failed to clean up the language of the paper to make it consistent with a ‘politically correct’ terminology.  But this failure also allows us to unite the terms, making this paper a ‘Rosetta Stone” of research papers:

Homosexual = Androphilic (or Gynephilic for FtM) = Early Onset

Thus, this paper helps spell out, in an unambiguous manner, that the researchers are indeed talking about the same populations, and that there is now universal agreement that the Freund/Blanchard typology is correct.


Sebastian E. E. Schagen, Henriette A. Delemarre-van de Waal, Ray Blanchard, Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, (2012) “Sibling Sex Ratio and Birth Order in Early-Onset Gender Dysphoric Adolescents”



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