On the Science of Changing Sex

Ripe Cherries…

Posted in Brain Sex, Science Criticism by Kay Brown on January 16, 2016

phrenology… or How the Science of Changing Sex is Distorted by the Transsexual Community
Funny how I have been carefully writing about the science regarding transsexuality and transgender sexuality and trying to be very careful about NOT cherry picking or distorting the evidence by either misstating or omitting key points?  Well… now I seem to have competition at The TransScience Project.  Of course, it appears that they are cherry picking or leaving out key data points.  For instance, lets examine an essay written by Sarah Lewis on “The Brain And Gender Dysphoria”:

“The first study of its kind was conducted by Zhou et al (1995). The study found sex a-typical differences in the stria terminalis of the brain stem when studying transgender subjects. A follow up study by Kruijver et al (2000) confirmed the findings and provided greater insight. The central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc) is sexually dimorphic. On average, the BSTc is twice as large in men as in women and contains twice the number of somatostatin neurons. These numbers do not appear to be influenced by sexual orientation or hormone replacement therapy – and both were controlled for by Zhou and Kruijver. A paper by Chung et al (2000) studied how the volume of the BSTc varied with age in both male and female subjects. They found that the dimorphism was only prevalent in adulthood. Suggesting that the differences found by Zhou and Kruijver are not a cause of gender dysphoria but rather a result.”

Ummm… “not a cause but rather a result.”  Yes… and not quite.  No, the BSTc was influenced by exogenous hormones as a result of treating gender dyshoria, not because of gender dysphoria.  Gotta hand it to her, Lewis did a great slight of hand trick there huh?  It almost sounded like the BSTc was related to gender dysphoria… but it’s not.  Ms. Lewis failed to explain that taking hormones causes changes in the brain toward the target sex.  Not quite saying a falsehood… just letting an unwary reader be mislead.  Which is what she continues to do in the paper:

“In Luders et al. (2009), 24 trans-women who hadn’t started hormone-replacement therapy were studied via MRI. While regional grey matter concentrations were more similar to men than women, there was a significantly larger volume of grey matter in the right Putamen compared to men. As with many earlier studies, they concluded that gender dysphoria is associated with a distinct cerebral pattern.  In contrast, Savic et al (2011) did not find any sex a-typical differences in the Putaman, or other investigated areas of the brain. They did however find differences between their trans-women group and both the male and female controls.”

She didn’t mention that this research, both studies, included only non-exclusively  androphilic (i.e. primarily gynephilic) transwomen.  In fact, throughout her essay, she fails to make this distinction, which allows data that supports Blanchard’s prediction that exclusively androphilic (transkid) MTF transwomen would show shifts toward a feminized brain, but the non-exclusively androphilic would not, though they would show non-sexually dimorphic differences from both men and women, to be falsely interpreted to suggest that evidence for brain feminization in MTF transkids to apply universally.  Actually, in this case the larger volume of grey matter in the right putamen was larger than men AND women, suggestive of a non-sexually-dimorphic brain marker for autogynephilic transwomen, exactly as predicted, as explained in my essay, “And the Beat Goes On”.

Had she compared the Savic (2011) paper to the Simon (2013) paper, especially if she had quoted Simon, she might have had a far different interpretation, as I did in my earlier essay, “Shades of Grey matter”

In that paper, Simon pointed out that their study used the same methods, but found quite different results, and noted that it was because of the issue of the two types of transwomen.  Looking at only androphilic MTF transwomen, they did find that they were similar to female controls and not to male controls.  But that would not have suited Lewis to have pointed that out.  In fact, Lewis failed to note that studies which did find sexually dimorphic shifts, were conducted on exclusively androphilic transwomen,

“Two studies by Rametti et al (2011) looked at white matter differences in both trans-men and trans-women.

In their study of trans-men they found that control males have significantly higher fractional anisotropy values (FA is a measure often used in diffusion imaging where it is thought to reflect fiber density, axonal diameter, and myelination in white matter) than control females “in the medial and posterior parts of the right superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), the forceps minor, and the corticospinal tract”.

Compared to control females in the study, trans-men “showed higher FA values in posterior part of the right SLF, the forceps minor and corticospinal tract. Compared to control males, trans-men showed only lower FA values in the corticospinal tract.”

The study concluded that there was evidence for an inherent difference in the brain structure of trans-men.

In their study of trans-women they found that trans-women “differed from both male and female controls bilaterally in the superior longitudinal fasciculus, the right anterior cingulum, the right forceps minor, and the right corticospinal tract.” The nature of these differences suggests that some fasciculi do not complete the masculinization process in trans-women during brain development.”

However, I did point out that this only applies to exclusively androphilic transkids in my essay, “Seeing the world in grey and white”.

Lewis is not a very critical reader of the scientific literature… especially if it suits her thesis.  In fact, she accepted at face value one paper, that purported to have shown that MTF transwomen (all non-androphilic, btw) responded to human male pheromones the same as control females.  (Which is strange, because if they did respond like straight women, why aren’t they attracted to men?)  Problem?  Ummmm… nothing…. except that there’s no such thing as human pheromones!!  I pointed that out in my essay, “False (Scent) Trail”.

And speaking (er… writing) of not being critical,

“Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab (2008) investigated the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus, which is composed of two subnuclei, namely interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus (INAH) 3 and 4. They showed for the first time that INAH3 volume and number of neurons of trans-women is similar to that of control females. The study also included analysis of a single trans-man who also had a INAH3 volume and number of neurons within the male control range.”

As I pointed out in my essay, “The Incredible Shrinking Brain”, this too was easily shown to be an effect of hormone therapy, just like Swaab’s earlier report about the BSTc, in fact, these were the same subjects who had been on HRT for years, sigh…  Had she read my essay, would Lewis have included my analysis?

She concludes with one paper which suggests a difference between control men and MTF transwomen with respect to the ability to mentally rotate images.  Looking at the subject’s ages, average 37, we can see that they are likely mostly non-androphilic.  This paper looks interesting, but is this really a sexually dimorphic difference?  Or a difference in IQ?  The transwomen were about IQ 107-109 and the control men, who performed better, were about IQ 123 (a significant difference at one standard deviation).  Me?  I’m going with IQ.

This isn’t the only example of cherry picking I’ve commented upon, as I wrote in an earlier essay, “Gender Allusions”.

So, we see that when looking at the scientific evidence and how it is presented, by and within, the transcommunity clearly wants to believe, and leave others with the impression, that it supports the notion that all transwomen have feminized brains and that there is only one kind of transwomen.  Sadly for them, neither is true.

Further Reading:

Essays on Brain Sex

Cherry Picking at Scientific American {Author uses only papers w/ exclusively androphilic subjects.}

 

Tagged with:

Comments Off on Ripe Cherries…

A Passing Privilege…

Posted in Editorial, Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on January 1, 2016

Kay BrownOn Privilege and Entitlement in the Transgendered Communities

It’s the first day of a new year, time for another editorial on the transsexual and transgendered communities.  This past year, I’ve noted an increase in discussion on “privilege”, who has it, and who doesn’t.  This is not a new topic in the transgendered forums, or in the so-called, ‘gender critical’ forums.  But, as usual, I find that most of the discussion misses the mark by a very wide margin, largely because of a combination of failing to define what and how privilege is and operates and conflating privilege with advantage and entitlement.

First, among the wider transgendered communities, especially among “older transitioners” and part-time cross-dressers, there is a common lament, a complaint even, of how they are disadvantaged because they don’t “pass”.  They then posit that those who are “lucky” to pass as non-transgendered have a special “privilege”.  I’ve even seen essays that go as far as to criticize those MTF transwomen who do “pass” as expressing a belief that they are somehow “better” than those who don’t.  On one hand, evidence of this is provided by noting that in the (autogynephilic) transgender community, those who pass better are given greater social status.  On the other is that those who don’t pass are exposed to greater transphobic discrimination in the non-transcommunities, even within the LGB communities!

Second, among non-transgendered commenters, especially those with a feminist background and interest in ‘gender crit’, there is much discussion about how transsexuals or part-time transgendered folk do or do not have “male privilege”.

Why, you may ask, is this of interest from the scientific perspective?  Because privilege, accrued advantage, and entitlement lie at the heart of the different social and economic experiences of the different types of transfolk.  It is also key to understanding the response to the growing scientific knowledge and understanding of the etiology and clinical presentations of the two types, by the more socially advantaged, ‘privileged’, of the two MTF types.

So let’s dissagregate (deconstruct, if you prefer post-modernist cant), the terms.

The term “privilege” comes from “private law”, the acknowledgement that some people have legal rights and some don’t.  A king had a special status, a private law, that didn’t apply to his subjects, “rank hath its privileges”.  Until very recently, men had legal rights that women did not in nearly every nation (and still do in far too many).  This is ‘male privilege’ in its most naked and raw form.  But there is another form, that which is given by custom and bias.  It should come as no surprise that, even today, most people, both men and women, still hold irrational biases that grant men more privileges than to women.  That bias is so strong that study after study have shown that women have to be demonstrably more competent and accomplished than men to even hold their own in many domains. (Look up the “Matilda Effect“.)

Privilege of this sort does not lie within the individual.  It lies in those who surround the individual.  It is granted automatically, by law, custom, or bias.  One cannot consciously disown such privilege since it is not within their control to bestow it upon themselves in the first place.

From privilege can, and usually does, come advantage.  It is what allows some people to move forward in their lives in an easier manner.  It also accumulates.  This property of accumulating advantage that comes from privilege is what ‘gender critical’ commenters are usually talking about when they state that MTF transwomen have “privilege”.  When those very same MTF transwomen read the word “privilege” and deny ownership of such, they are only thinking of their current loss of “privilege” due to transphobic bias, or, if they truly pass, of loss of “male privilege” wherein they are now subject to misogynistic bias.  But it is accumulated advantage that is paramount, because, if enough advantage has been accumulated, it can overcome transphobic or misogynistic bias, because advantage leads to further advantages.  (Look up the “Matthew Effect“.)

When someone is accustomed to having privilege and to accumulating advantage, it often engenders ‘entitlement’, the personal belief that such privileges that come from law, custom, or bias are ‘owed’ to them, or that they ‘earned’ them, that they are due to them because of a perceived sense of superiority.  It should come as no surprise that most men, accustomed as they are to socially granted privilege, fail to see their privilege over their female peers until it is painfully lost, as is the case with “late transitioning” MTF transsexuals losing “straight male privilege” as they become subject to homophobic/transphobic bias.  But even then, a substantial number of them fail to adjust to this loss, holding onto their entitlement, especially if they had previously accumulated enough advantage such that the loss of straight male privilege is overcome by compounding socio-economic advantage.

{Great comic strip exploring how socio-economic advantage accumulates and leads to entitlement.}

As an example of how accumulated straight male privilege, internalized bias, entitlement, and the failure to understand its presence, can be found in late transitioning MTF transsexuals, one only has to look at Caitlyn Jenner or Martine Rothblatt who openly touts that she is “the highest paid female CEO”.  Perhaps she can be a role model to the millions of girls who would look to emulate her success?  That is to say, that they should all become straight married men, father children, and climb the corporate ladder, accumulating advantage conferred by straight male privilege?  Or perhaps exclusively androphilic, gender atypical, MTF transkids can do so?   NOT!!!

Well known and respected gender therapist, Dr. Anne Vitale, noted this internalized bias and tightly held sense of entitlement in one of her essays on the phenomena,

“One of the most interesting aspects I have found in my work with genetic males struggling with deep-seated gender dysphoria is ingrained sexism. Although it would seem to be completely out-of-place in this population, the fact that it is present and present almost exclusively in genetic males tells us a great deal about how some men feel about femininity and about aspects of the nature of gender dysphoria. As a general rule, the men I am speaking about present for therapy appearing decidedly male, often to the point of wearing full beards. In addition, they are more often than [Group One transsexuals] to present [as] married, to have children, and to have never considered having a homosexual experience. … There are those that think that what women do — those social behaviors that differentiate them from men — are frivolous and unimportant. Indeed, there are those who take this belief to the point where they feel that women are less than men and are embarrassed over wanting to be like them. Interestingly, these people have no trouble at all with wearing very feminine apparel — as long as they can do it in complete privacy or with the above mentioned male bravado. … Perhaps the most insidious form of sexism resides in the gender dysphoric male who has attained a highly respected position in a male dominated profession. These people routinely tell me that although women are now allowed a certain professional tolerance, the real players are still men.”

Vitale also noted that these late transitioning (universally gynephilic) transsexuals clearly understood that they would be losing their socially conferred straight male privilege should they transition,

“As the number of people who transition on the job grows, they get to see firsthand how public respect between men can quickly turn into private ridicule. Some individuals have even confessed to having participated in sexist jokes as a way to divert even the remotest suspicion from themselves. These people face the very real prospect of becoming outsiders, left to wither on the corporate vine. Given these seemingly unacceptable obstacles, many gender dysphoric males unconsciously accept certain male driven notions about women in an effort to purge the need to be female out of their mind.”

This potential loss of privilege is weighed against the personal benefits of transition, taking into account their already accumulated advantages.  This leads to the phenomena of very advantaged, higher socio-economic status (SES) gender dysphoric autogynephilic MTF transgendered individuals being more likely to transition than those with only moderate SES.  However, heterosexual and male privilege is not the only source of privilege or advantage, others include ethnicity (race/color, etc.), class, and education.  That is to say, that we don’t all start out with the same advantages.  Of course, those with absolutely nothing to lose… those who do not, nor ever did, enjoy straight white male privilege,  or accumulated advantage, poor and homeless “homosexual” transsexuals, both MTF and FtM, of color, whose early gender atypicality is well noted by parents, teachers, and peers alike, do not weigh loss of a privilege that was never theirs.  This is why in the Western countries, we find that most autogynephilic transwomen are white, middle-class, better educated while we find that exclusively androphilic MTF transsexuals (transkids) are more likely black, asian, or hispanic from poor families.

Dr. Vitale, in another essay, contrasted MTF transkids, whom she dubbed “Group One (G1)” type transsexuals, as not exhibiting this presumption of male (straight or otherwise) privilege and entitlement,

“As a psychotherapist I have found female identified males (G1) to be clinically similar to male-identified females (G2). That is, individuals in both groups have little or no compunction against openly presenting themselves as the other sex. Further, they make little or no effort to engage in what they feel for them would be wrong gendered social practices (i.e., the gender role assigned at birth as the basis of authority).”

Gender atypicality, especially notable femininity (disparagingly labeled “effeminacy”) in males, makes most people very uncomfortable, leading to less cooperation and social opportunities.  That is to say, that such individuals are granted less privilege, due to conscious or unconscious bias.  Whether that bias is greater or lesser than the privilege that may or may not be automatically conferred because that individual is male is likely to vary by individual and by the relationship between the individual and their social circle.  But, in many circumstances, this bias against them as feminine persons and gender atypicality/homosexuality far outweighs any potential male privilege, as attested by how many such individuals are disowned by even their own families to become homeless as teenagers.

Thus, for such gender atypical individuals who are contemplating alternatives, the privilegepossibility of passing as a member of the opposite anatomic sex can be very appealing.  But here, the ability to actually pass, really and truly pass, for years on end, with one’s neighbors, co-workers, peers, etc. is carefully evaluated; because, for non-autogynephilically motivated individuals, failing to pass will not grant them part of what they desire, surcease from bias.  Thus, passibility is a necessity for most “homosexual” transsexuals.  While passing as non-transsexual and non-gender-atypical women reduces bias, it does not grant “privilege” in the same sense that being perceived as a gender typical, straight male does.  Thus, attributing “passing privilege” to exclusively androphilic “young transitioners” in the manner that autogynephilic “late transitioners” and part-time cross-dressing transgender males often do, is dubious at best, and an example of autogynephilic projection of a false privilege at worst.  Worse, those who have become accustomed to equating possessing privilege with entitlement, falsely project onto such passable (especially if attractive as well) young transitioning MTF transsexuals the belief that they see themselves as “better than” gynephilic late transitioners, for whom the ability to pass has far less weight on their decisions regarding transition.  As the authors of the transkids.us website put it,

“This kind of perception is very common amongst transsexuals who are motivated by autogynephilia and the desire to acquire femininity and is typical of how hsts issues are re-interpreted within a transsexual context which has meaning to autogynephilic transsexuals and not to homosexual transsexuals.  In the often somewhat oddly “reversed” context of autogynephilic narrative, femininity is redefined in terms of status and hierarchy, as a personal goal and not as a connected social history. Casting transkids as “privileged” because they are defined socially as feminine is a reversal of how things work in the non-transsexual world where femininity grants less social privilege, not more. In a paraphilic value system where femininization is the objective then it can be seen how those who are spontaneously feminine would be considered fortunate but the relationship of homosexual transsexuals to concepts of “passing”, attractiveness and femininity are simply very different from those of autogynephilic transsexuals. Being a member of a very devalued social class from a very young age is not a privilege, it is a huge social liability.”

While femininity in boys is near universally reviled, mild “tomboyishness” in girls is tolerated or even encouraged.  However, extreme masculinity in girls and especially maturing girls and women, is equally disquieting to many.  Here, the ability to pass as straight, gender typical men, may and does confer some privilege, and if one transitions young enough, they may be able to accumulate advantages from it.

Further Reading:

Passibility differences between transsexual types

Differences between androphilic vs. non-androphilic transwomen, passing, and transition decision-making.

Exploring transsexuals stereotypes and how they reveal differences in privilege, socio-economic status, and transition decision-making

Exploring data regarding ethnicity vs. MTF transsexual types in New York City.

Exploring Dr. Anne Vitale’s clinic descriptions and contrasts between transsexual types.

References:

Anne Vitale, “The Gender Variant Phenomenon–A Developmental Review” http://www.avitale.com/developmentalreview.htm

Vitale, Anne, “Sexism in the Male to Female Transsexual”  1997
http://www.avitale.com/MTFSexism.htm

Charlotte Alter, What Transmen See That Women Don’t, Time Magazine
http://time.com/transgender-men-sexism

 

Comments Off on A Passing Privilege…