On the Science of Changing Sex

Ruth Barrett, Or When An Old Friend Becomes An Enemy

Posted in Autobiographical, Editorial by Kay Brown on June 16, 2021

When J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame came out as a major transphobe, many LGB & especially T people felt as though it was a personal betrayal. They had read her book, viewed her movies, responding to the tropes of love and inclusion triumphing over hatefulness… only to learn that Rowling was herself a Death Eater. I was one of those transsexuals who felt betrayed. I had taken my daughter to each of the movies as they came out. She was the same age as the child actors portraying the lead characters. She had all the books. Now, those memories are bitter ashes, tainted by the vile transphobia Rowling has vomited over them.

But there has been an even more bitter betrayal by one that I had admired and emulated, Ruth Barrett.

Ruth Barrett is a musician and Wiccan. She and her musical partner, Cyntia Smith, recorded songs and dulcimer instrumentals. Another Wiccan singer & dulcimer player I admired was Holly Tannen. I was in love with their music, bought all of their recordings.

Note the dulcimer on the wall

I purchased a dulcimer from Folk Roots, the same type that Ruth & Cyntia had learned to play and perform using, taking lessons from Holly. But I struggled to play it. I had studied Individual Voice and Small Group Harmony in high school, but had never learned to play an instrument. I was a klutz. My fingers just didn’t seem to know what to do.

Then, by chance, in the mid’ 80s, I was invited by Z Budapest, feminist author and Wiccan Sage, to help her set up and run the sound system for a conference and concert in Berkeley, as I had learned that skill helping with concerts at the Billy De Frank Gay and Lesbian Community Center in San Jose. It would have been quite churlish of me to have refused. One of the women to perform that day was Holly Tannen, another was Ruth Barrett. Thus, I met and got to know two of my musical idols on the same day.

I engaged Holly as an instructor. I still struggled. My fingers still didn’t seem to know what to do.

By luck, at a pagan event, I met Ruth and Cyntia. They both gave me quick lessons and pointers. Ruth gave me photocopies of her chord charts and tab sheets for several of their songs. Ruth and I talked about how to find one’s own singing and playing style, one’s own authentic voice. I was to see them at several other events over the next few years and was on very friendly terms with both of them. I met Cyntia’s husband, Dale, who was a master luthier, a maker of the finest classical guitars. As a means of courting Cyntia, he had copied the basic design of the Folk Roots dulcimer to make Ruth and Cyntia new dulcimers in the tradition of the finest guitars, with a sound and playability unmatched by any other in the world.

As my playing had vastly improved, thanks to Cyntia and Ruth’s tips, and that I had come into unexpected money from having been granted a patent, which was rewarded by my employer with a cash bonus, I commissioned Dale to make me a custom dulcimer in the same style as Ruth’s and Cyntia’s. As it happened, Cyntia and Ruth were scheduled to perform at the Billy De Frank Center, so it was natural that they stay at my place. Cyntia and I, in the comfort of my condo, spent our time discussing the custom inlay that she herself would design and carve for my dulcimer.

That dulcimer was a wonder. In just a few hours practice, my playing vastly improved. Having a fine instrument is worth everything, both to the performer and their audience. No wonder the greatest musicians pay thousands for them. I began to play the dulcimer, modern full chording/fingerpicking style, mostly British Isles folk tunes, at pagan events to the great appreciation of my audience.  You may listen or download free, should you be interested, to my indie produced cassette tape album of mostly folk music, but a couple Early Music, and even a few of my own composition, on dulcimer, guitar, and flute, I recorded back in ’89.  (Tap on “Side One” or “Side Two” to listen to the MP3 version.)  Please keep in mind, this is my hobby… I don’t pretend to be a professional.

On one of the occassions I was to see and converse with Ruth, at a Wiccan gathering / camping event, she strongly encouraged me to attend The Michigan Wymym’s Music Festival. The irony is not lost on me, as she was to rail loudly against allowing transwomen to attend in the years that followed. She has become a vociferous voice for TERF / GC / Transphobic propaganda, using Wicca / Goddess worship as her authority for her hatred. She edited a book entitled “Female Erasure” whose central theme was that transfolk are a serious threat to women’s existence. She has even led spiritual events for “detrans” female bodied people to “sever” their past “trans” experience.

If learning that the author of Harry Potter is transphobic feels like a betrayal, imagine how I feel about Ruth Barrett spewing the most vile transphobic propaganda after having been a personal musical mentor and friend, a guest in my house, a hero that I emulated.

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Machine Learning Transsexual Brains = Garbage In: Garbage Out

Posted in Brain Sex, Science Criticism by Kay Brown on June 8, 2021

If one spends any time reading science papers about transsexuality, one finds good science, mediocre science, poor science, bad science, and bogus science. But here is an example of garbage science. A paper came out last year that baldy stated that using machine learning and brain imaging, they could, somewhat accurately, determine an individual’s gender identity. This sounded like really exciting results. But after reading the paper, I’m calling BULLSHIT! It’s a harsh characterization, I know. But please follow along to see why I had no other choice.

First, let me state that I’m not an expert on Machine Learning and Deep Neural Net coding. But I have, in my capacity as an engineering executive, managed such experts. I’ve also, in my capacity as a Venture Capitalist (VC) technology advisor, conducted due dilligence research on start-up companies developing ML and NN technology. So I have just enough knowledge to be dangerous… that is to say, I know bullshit when I see it. And I see it here.

The bullshit consists of three elements.

The first is that researchers failed to tell us how many of their subjects were in the training set and how many were in the testing set. But first, let my tell you an anecdote about the time I was in the audience at a technical conference where a young researcher was presenting almost unbelievably high classification accuracy from his new computer vision algorithm. Finally, the first question from the audience during the post-presentation Q&A was how many examples were in the training set and how many in the test set? The young man then acknowledged that he had used the training set to test his algorithm. You could hear the visceral disgust sweep across the room at this basic error. Question is, did the authors make the same mistake? They said that 95% of the DATA was used in training and 5% in the “validation” of the model. Umm…. something is not right. There were less than 25 subjects in each category. There was no way they could have used different subjects to have gotten a percentage accuracy of classification without having used the same subjects to provide both training and accuracy tests. So, what was the data split? Different parts of the brain scans of the same subjects? Seriously, something is very wrong here. One cannot do that.

The second garbage element is that they knowingly ignored prior science that there is very clear evidence that there are two separate taxons, at least for the Male-To-Female transsexuals, that have notably different brain phenotypes. We know that they knew because they referenced the Guillamon review paper on that very topic. But, since they didn’t bother to identify and segregate the two taxons for separate analysis, they were knowingly conflating the two, which would dilute the signals of both. The basic rule of thumb is never ascribe to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence. Given the above issue of questionable Machine Learning validation, incompetence may have been the reason. The second possibility is that they knew this conflation was occuring, but felt, for non-scientific reasons, that they wanted this to occur. (I’ve seen this happen in other papers.)

The third garbage element is actually the most egregious. They claim that they identified nine “cardinal” gender related vectors in their study. But did they? I will argue that no they did not. This is where garbage in, garbage out really applies. They used the Bem Sex Role Inventory and cross correlated it will the brain scan data, claiming that the Bem inventory provides a window to gender. Flat out, it does not. It is an inventory of circa 1970s gender stereotypes! The most enraging thing about this is that the authors KNOW that, fully acknowledge that, but decided to use it anyways.

All in all, the Clemens paper is garbage. So the next question is how could such a paper pass peer review? The answer is where it was published. Cerebral Cortex would have reviewers who were experts in the brain science, but NOT sexology nor in machine learning. They just would have looked at the material that was in their field of expertise and allowed the other material to get a pass, unquestioned.

Further Reading:

Silly Stereotypes: Essay on the BEM inventory

Brainstorm: Essay about the Guillamon brain scan review

Reference:

Clemens, B. et. al., “Predictive Pattern Classification Can Distinquish Gender Identity Subtypes From Behavior And Brain Imaging”, Cerebral Cortex, (2020), https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhz272

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Where Are All These “Detransitioners” Coming From?

Posted in Editorial, Female-to-Male, Transsexual Theory by Kay Brown on June 1, 2021

Perhaps, as we begin Pride Month, we should talk about both the psychology and the politics of non-gender dysphoric / non-gender atypical people , mostly teenaged girls and young women, claiming a “trans” and especially now days, a “non-binary” identity.  It must be hard on lonely straight folks seeing LGBT Pride celebrations and wishing that they too could be part of something larger than themselves, where they can be accepted and feel ‘loved’ by so many others, all at once.  Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?  Oh, and add into the mix the frisson of being a rebel, joining a cause, resisting homophobia and transphobia?  It’s every teen’s dream; They aren’t just some dissaffected youth, they are special and have a right to be angry with the world.

But, here’s the rub.  If they claim to be lesbian, they can’t be with the cute guys w/o looking silly.  If they claim to be bisexual and aren’t… well then they might have to fend off girls, and that might be akward, though it might be easier than claiming to be lesbian.  If they claim to be “trans”… well… you don’t have to like girls to be “trans” right?  Lot’s of transmen are into men, right?  Then the awkward issue of people pointing out that they aren’t actually gender dysphoric nor all that masculine.  One might get labeled (correctly) as being “tucute” to be FtM transman.  No problem, just wear unisex clothes and chest bind on occasion at LGB and especially T events and support groups.

But wait, there’s this new category of “trans” where one doesn’t have to actually be “trans”; one can claim to be “non-binary”.  One can still date boys and still dress as femininely as one wishes, when one wishes; because to be non-binary doesn’t require one to be butch in any way.

So, we get more and more feminine girls and young women “coming out” as “trans” and  “non-binary” to be one with the LGBT community.  Some LGBT, in an effort to be accepting and inclusive, openly accept and even celebrate these non-LGBT people as though they were.  After all, they aren’t hurting us, and the more that come to the political fight, the better, right?

Except, there is a danger for the transsexual community lurking just underneath.  What happens when these young women tire of LARPing as “trans” and “non-binary”?  Some will quietly stop.  But some will connect with “ex-trans” types, just like “ex-gay”, and claim a new identity, in another community that love bombs them, offering a new group identity that supports and assauges their loneliness: “desister” or “de-transitioner” (even if they never actually transitioned).  We are already seeing this coming about.

And as they become “detrans”, they become the darlings of transphobic political efforts, weaponized as “proof” that “transgender ideology” is “seducing” girls into believing that they are trans.

But actual transsexuals are NOT the villains here.  It is the young people who falsely claim these identities that are.

Consider that a recent claim was made that there are 13,000 “detranstioners” on a single subreddit. How can that be when we know from solid data that there are only ~100,000 actual transitioners in the United States, and that detrans post-op regret is rare at less than 0.015%. That’s around one in 10,000 post-op people. So where did these 13,000 people come from? Simple, only a tiny handful were ever trans to begin with. The rest were those described above, falsely claiming to be “trans” or “non-binary”, now falsely claiming to be “detrans”.

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