On the Science of Changing Sex

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.

Candice2

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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