On the Science of Changing Sex

On The Science of Changing Sex: The Book

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on November 30, 2020

New Release !

Ten years in the making, well researched, pulling together peer reviewed science and personal experiences, On The Science of Changing Sex explains the deeper, less known, aspects of transsexuality and transgenderism. Sure to spark controversy, it delves deeply into the hidden world and secrets, often suppressed, the public doesn’t hear about. This book is NOT the typical “born in the wrong body” transgender story. Reading it, you will discover that there is more than one kind of “transgender”. You will learn the deep connection between transkids and gender atypical gays and lesbians and the shameful history of efforts to “cure” them. You will also learn about the way that cross-dressing men develop into autogynephilic transwomen. Kay also explores the new fad of teens and young people falsely claiming “trans” and “non-binary” identities to join the “cool kids club”.  Kay Brown, herself a transsexual who was diagnosed as a teenager in the 1970s, while in high school, has spent a lifetime working to better the lives of transsexuals including co-founding the ACLU Transsexual Rights committee in 1980 among other notable achievements.

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Rainbow’ End

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorial, Transgender Youth by Kay Brown on November 26, 2020

I’ve published a book that I hope you will help me publicize, spread the word, by posting on your social media, Rainbow’s End: A Parent’s Guide To Understanding Transsexual Children and Teens.

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To Survive on this Shore

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on August 30, 2018

Kay Brown 2010There is a new coffee table book out on older transfolk.  When I looked at the website for the book, I expected it to be loaded with nearly all older transitioners, autogynephilic transwomen.  And yes, they were there.  But very happily, there were young transitioners from decades ago, like me, who Survived on this Shore…

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“I’m a senior citizen. I made it to seventy and a lot of them won’t make it, they won’t make it at all. Because most of them die from drugs, from sexual disease or they’re murdered. They ask me questions like, ‘Well, Momma Gloria, how did you get through?’ I say, “I got through with love from my family and the grace of God.’ That’s how I got through. You have to have some stability and you have to have some kind of class, some charm about yourself. I never was in the closet. The only time I was in the closet was to go in there and pick out a dress and come out of the closet and put it on.” – Gloria

There are also an almost equal number of transmen.  One them is “Sky”… I knew an FTM named Sky way back when… hmmmm….

Book website:

https://www.tosurviveonthisshore.com

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Now This…

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorial by Kay Brown on September 23, 2017

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeI’ve been writing science fiction novel for the past couple years.  It is now available from Amazon in eBook format.

The glory days of Silicon Valley are long ago.  Even China is losing out to space based industry and research centers.  More and more people on Earth are losing interest in jobs and are relying on their Universal Basic Income as automation provides enough for all.  No one goes hungry or homeless but cracks are forming in the foundations of society.

Sincerity Espinoza didn’t go looking for trouble, it found her. All she wants out of life is the chance to go to the stars but she is caught in a web of misunderstandings, political & legal maneuvering, and the growing threat of terrorist plots by religious fanatics. She has a secret that if found out too soon could mean not only her own death but the ruin of the hope for humanity ever going to the stars. But even amidst momentous events, life is still about the small moments of love, laughter, and sadness.

Get your e-book signed by Seaby BrownThe story melds social, political, and tech trends into a realistic portrayal of advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, cybernetics, aerospace engineering, genetics engineering, and neural interface technology that will become common place. In a world that has grown cynical about “progress”, The novel is a hopeful and optimistic look into our future.

And yes, while not the main protagonist, there is a transwoman in the story.

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SAGE Lies

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on April 24, 2017

Book Review: The SAGE Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Studies

When I was a young teen in the early ’70s, I scoured our home library (larger than most middle-class households) for anything that could help me with my horrible feelings that we now label “gender dysphoria”.  We had a number of college psychology, biology, human anatomy texts, and one medical encyclopedia.  I found exactly one reference of interest, but it declaimed, “There is no such thing as a ‘sex change’.”  That’s it, one line reference in the negative.  Of course, it was both a true statement and a lie of omission.  It failed to explain that there was medical help, if only superficial.  But superficial or not, hormones and SRS were good enough to make my life worth living.  But before I found much better, and truthful, references at our local public library, that one reference left me despairing and despondent for my future.

As I’ve researched our collective  LGBT history and science (especially when I was teaching my class on Transhistory through the Harvey Milk Institute), and of course, through my decades of LGB – and especially – T activism, I’ve read and collected many books and references.  So one could imagine my delight in finding the SAGE Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Studies.  But that was very short lived.

The first thing I do when I look at such purportedly comprehensive works is to see how they treat transsexual and transgender subjects.  In this case.  OMG!  What a &^%$#@! mess!  It is more than simply disappointing.  It is deja vu.  Consider the section on “Controversies”, the only section that deals with the central nature of transgender etiology,

Autogynephilia  –  The term autogynephilia was first used in 1989 by Ray Blanchard, a sexologist, to describe a purported class of transgender women.  Classifications of transgender women prior to this time tended to divide this group into those who were sexually and romantically interested in men as “homosexual transsexuals” and those who were sexually and romantically interested in women were classified as “heterosexual fetishistic transvestites.”  Critiques of these classifications noted that the “homosexual” and “heterosexual labels were applied incorrectly, failing to recognize the gender identities of transwomen themselves.  –  These classifications also reflected mainstream stigma around transgender identity as they resigned many transgender women to little more than sexual fetishists.  The autogynephilia label only intensified this view of some transgender women as sexual fetishists.  The theory of autogynephilia asserted that many of the trans women classified into the “heterosexual fetishistic transvestites” category were primarily attracted not to women but to the idea of themselves as women.  In this way, autogynephilia was proposed as a type of primary sexual-identity category for transgender women.  Subsequent research has found little empirical basis for such a classification, and many researchers have criticized the classification as transphobic.  –  One particular critique of this classification system concerns its failure to recognize the way in which all sexual attraction depends on one’s own gender identity.  For example, a critical component of both homosexual and heterosexual attraction among many cisgender men involves an erotic charge around one’s own manliness or manhood.  To assume that such attachments to (and sexual desire motivated through) one’s own gender identity and expression, in relatation to another’s, exists only among transgender women, is misguided.  Despite a relative lack of empirical support for the diagnoses of autogynephilia among transgender women, some segments of the radical feminist community endorse this diagnostic category in their own writing as well.  …  The most outspoken critiques of the theory of autogynephilia ahve emerged from self-identified transfeminist academics (e.g. Julia Serano and Talia Mae Bettcher), who have highlighted not only the lack of empirical support for these theories but also the underlying biases and assumption revealed in the very foundations of the theory itself.”

I highlighted three phrases as they demonstrate a rhetorical trick, repeat a lie three times and people will tend to believe it.  Yes, I bolded the text because these are bald faced lies.  The material claims that there is no empirical evidence for autogynephilia in transwomen.  But we have numerous studies that put the lie to these statements, some of which were conducted by transwomen ourselves.  To make this assertion is academic misconduct of the worst sort.

Because I know that most readers will only read this one page, I feel I need to point out that we have such empirical evidence in abundance, both prior and subsequent to Blanchard coining the term “autogynephilia” to replace the earlier terms “fetishistic femmiphilia” and “fetishistic transvestism”.  Science depends upon repeatability, and these results regarding sexual orientation and autogynephilia have been replicated by Buhrich (1978), Freund (1982), Blanchard (1985, 1987, 1988, 1989), Doorn (1994), Smith (2005),  Lawrence (2005), Veale (2008), and Nuttbrock (2009), in separate studies spanning four decades, collectively involving over a thousand transsexuals to date.  In fact, this is one of the most repeated and reconfirmed scientific finding regarding transsexuality.  The largest study, Nuttbrock et al. found that fully 82% of gynephilic transwomen acknowledge being autogynephilic, specifically, being sexually aroused by wearing women’s clothing.  I have essays on this blog that extensively survey and discuss these papers and their abundant empirical evidence supporting the “assertion” that many transwomen are autogynephilic.   Let me say this again in another way, we have empirical study after study after study that shows that the vast majority of gynephilic (attracted to women) transwomen fully admit to being autogynephilic.  How much more plain empirical evidence do we need, proof using phallometry to measure the amount of sexual arousal?  We have that too!

The section also includes misleading statements regarding the nature of autogynephilia, trying to confuse the issue with non-autogynephilic sexuality.  With deceptive cleverness this writer has substituted the usual “women are autogynephilic too” meme by referencing men instead.  But here too, we see that they use the classic rhetorical trick of confusing the map for the territory.  Here, they suggest that non-transmen, both homosexual and heterosexual, experience autoandrophilia.  But in fact, this deliberately conflates, or rather confuses, pride or even vanity in one’s masculinity with sexual arousal to one’s own maleness.  This can only be done because the casual reader doesn’t know the exact nature of autogynephilia and autoandrophilia.  These men are not getting turned on by simply being men.  They are not being turned on by simply wearing men’s clothing, although autogynephiles do exactly that.  (As I pointed out, the vast majority fully admit to sexual arousal to wearing women’s clothing.)

So, we’ve caught them out in a outright lie, in misleading statements meant to confuse the issue, but what about lies of omission?  Oh yes, this they have done as well, in that they totally fail to include any mention of transsexual and transgender scientists and writers who support the two type taxonomy and the role that autogynephilia plays in the etiology of one of the types.  Where in all of this encyclopedia is Dr. Anne Lawrence?

Actually, they do reference her.  But in safety, only mentioning her letter regarding the need for better transgender medical care.  But where are her papers, book chapters, and even a book discussing the nature and role of autogynephilia in transwomen’s lives?  How can they simply make such an important transwoman’s work on the subject disappear and call this work “encyclopedic”?

(This is especially ironic in that Lawrence has written material, currently in press, entitled, “Gender dysphoria: Overview; Gender dysphoria: Diagnosis; Gender dysphoria: Treatment; Sex reassignment surgery. In A. Wenzel (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of abnormal and clinical psychology)

There is one other lie of omission… where in this “encyclopedia” is the voice of the exclusively androphilic and known to be non-autogynephilic transwomen?  By printing this disinformation the editors of this work have given voice to only one of the two types of transsexual, and only the minority that are in denial of their autogynephilic nature at that, completely silencing the other.  For an academic work that purports to give voice to the LGBTQ communities, this is a very serious cultural and political offense.

Finally, not content with outright lies, misleading comments, and lies of omission, they top it off with calumny, “underlying biases and assumption revealed in the very foundations of the theory itself.”  That is to say, that this supposed academic work tops it off with character assassination of those of us, scientists and transsexual activists, who recognize the abundant (and socially obvious) empirical evidence for the theory, by implying that we are “transphobic” and “biased”.

I cannot condemn this work in any greater terms, knowing how deeply distorting it is of an area in which I have some knowledge.  It leads me to distrust any areas where I may not have the in-depth knowledge to recognize any other lies it may contain.

I have to wonder, in deep disgust, how many transfolk are going to read this material in despair.  As M. Taylor Saotome-Westlake, an autogynephilic and gender dysphoric (but not yet transitioned) individual wrote in reference to his own experience,

“A brief note on why all this matters. Independently of whether the two-type taxonomy is in fact taxonic, there are obvious political incentives to dismiss the explanatory value of autogynephilia, because it could be construed as invalidating trans women. I get that.

But here’s the thing: you can’t mislead the general public without thereby also misleading the next generation of trans-spectrum people. So when a mildly gender-dysphoric boy spends ten years assuming that his gender problems can’t possibly be in the same taxon as actual trans women, because the autogynephilia tag seems to fit him perfectly and everyone seems to think that the “Blanchard-Bailey theory of autogynephilia” is “clearly untrue”, he might feel a little bit betrayed when it turns out that it’s not clearly untrue and that the transgender community at large has been systematically lying to him, or, worse, is so systematically delusional that they might as well have been lying.”

For more information:

READ MY WHOLE BLOG !!!

List of publications by Anne A. Lawrence, M.D.

Book Review: Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies Narratives of Autogynephilic Transsexualism by Anne A. Lawrence

Website written by exclusively androphilic / non-autogynephilic transsexuals about the negative social, political, and medical impact of autogynephilic transsexual denialism

References:

https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/the-sage-encyclopedia-of-lgbtq-studies/book244331%20

Two clinically discrete syndromes of transsexualism. Buhrich N, McConaghy N. British Journal of Psychiatry. 1978 Jul;133:73-6.  Abstract online

Two types of cross-gender identity. Freund K, Steiner BW, Chan S. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 1982 Feb;11(1):49-63.  Abstract online

Typology of male-to-female transsexualism. Blanchard, Ray. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Vol 14(3) Jun 1985, 247-261.  Abstract online

Heterosexual and homosexual gender dysphoria. Blanchard, Ray; Clemmensen, Leonard H; Steiner, Betty W. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Vol 16(2) Apr 1987, 139-152.  Abstract online

Nonhomosexual gender dysphoria. Blanchard, Ray. Journal of Sex Research. Vol 24 1988, 188-193.  Abstract online

The concept of autogynephilia and the typology of male gender dysphoria. Blanchard, Ray. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease. Vol 177(10) Oct 1989, 616-623.  Abstract online

Nonmonotonic relation of autogynephilia and heterosexual attraction. Blanchard R. J Abnorm Psychol. 1992 May;101(2):271-6.  Abstract online

Varieties of autogynephilia and their relationship to gender dysphoria. Blanchard R. Arch Sex Behav. 1993 Jun;22(3):241-51.  Abstract online

C. D. Doorn, J. Poortinga and A. M. Verschoor, “Cross-gender identity in transvestites and male transsexuals” http://www.springerlink.com/content/u63p723776v57m11/

Transsexual subtypes : Clinical and theoretical significance Smith Yolanda L. S.; Van Goozen Stephanie H. M.; Kuiper A. J.; Cohen-Kettenis Peggy T.; Psychiatry research (Psychiatry res.) 2005, vol. 137, no3, pp. 151-160  Abstract online

Anne A. Lawrence, “Sexuality Before and After Male-to-Female Sex Reassignment Surgery” 2005  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-005-1793-y

Jaimie F. Veale, Dave E. Clarke and Terri C. Lomax, “Sexuality of Male-to-Female Transsexuals”  http://www.springerlink.com/content/bp2235t8261q23u3/

A Further Assessment of Blanchard’s Typology of Homosexual versus Non-Homosexual or Autogynephilic Gender Dysphoria, Nuttbrock, et al. Archives of Sexual Behavior
http://www.springerlink.com/content/b48tkl425217331j/

 

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In the Dark Room

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on June 23, 2016

darkroomBook Review: In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi

This review is painful to write.  The book was painful to read.  I suspect that it was painful for Faludi to write it.  Faludi is an excellent writer; one that I’ve enjoyed reading before.  But in this book, she must confront the confusion of having a father become a post-op transwoman, at a very late age.  As a reader with my background, having transitioned as a teenager, I remember MY confusion meeting such late transitioning transwomen with no clue as to how different they are from our conception of who and what a transsexual is and/or should be like… reading her book is like revisiting that confusion all over again, but with the addition emotional pain of having known a father all of one’s life – and NOT being able to reconcile the cultural image of a transsexual and the reality of knowing an agressively masculine man as one’s father.

Much of the book also deals with Hungary itself, which frankly, held no interest for me.  Other readers may feel differently.  It should be no surprise that as the book unfolds, told as part travel log to Hungary where her father now lives, part family history flashback that we see disturbing instances of inappropriate autogynephilic, even exhibitionist, behavior in her father such as entering her room while only half clothed, asking her help to get dressed, asking her to participate in wardrobe selection, excusing this behavior as “Oh, come now; We’re all women here.”

Later in her visit, the exhibitionist behavior is even more open, as Stefanie asks, “Can you leave your door open?  You close it every night when you go to bed.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to be treated as a woman.  I want to be able to walk around without clothes and for you to treat it normally”

“Women don’t ‘normally’ walk around naked,” Susan replied.

Also, clearly, Stefanie Faludi, as she is now, is totally clueless as to the level of privilege that she has enjoyed during a lifetime as a man before transitioning to an extremely non-passing transwoman in retirement, reveling in her ability to use gender stereotypes when it suits her, “Now that I’m a lady, Bader (neighbor/handyman hired to do odd jobs) fixes everything.  Men have to help me. I don’t lift a finger,” giving Susan a pointed look, “You write of all of the disadvantages of being a woman, but I’ve only found advantages.”

In Stefanie’s wardrobe Susan finds a treasure trove of classic, over the top, cross-dressing fantasy outfits that as she describes it,

“might have outfitted a Vegas burlesque show: a sequin-and-beaded magenta evening gown with a sweep train, a princess party frock with wedding-cake layers of crinoline, a polka-dotted schoolgirl’s pinafore with matching apron, a pink tulle tutu, a diaphanous cape, a pink feather boa, a peek-a-boo baby-doll nightie with matching ruffled panties, a pair of white lace-up stiletto boots, a Bavarian dirndl, and wigs of various styles and shades– from Brunhilde braids to bleach-blond pageboy to Shirley Temple mop of curls.”

Stefanie even shares with Susan her collection of forced feminization fiction, downloaded from the internet, some of it written by her father, her character, “submitting to the directives of chief housekeeper while an all-female crew of iron-handed maids order “Steven” into baby-doll nighties, Mary Jane shoes, and a French chambermaid’s uniform.”  Of course, her father waves all of this away, “I haven’t looked at that website for two years at least.  It was just a–, like a hobby.  Like I used smoke cigars, but I gave it up  This was all before.”

“And now?”

“Now I’m a real woman,” she said, “But I keep these… as souvenirs.  I put a lot of work into them; I don’t want to throw them out.”

Susan Faludi lets us in on the big secret about such transwomen,

“A reigning tenet of modern transgenderism holds that gender identity and sexuality are two separate realms, not to be confused. “Being transgender has nothing to do with sexual orientation, sex, or genitalia,” an online informational site instructs typically. “Transgender is strictly about gender identity” Yet, here in my father’s file folders was a record of her earliest steps toward gender parthenogenesis, expressed in vividly sexual terms.  And here in FictionMania and Sissy Station and the vast electronic literature of forced feminization was a transgender id in which becoming a woman was thoroughly sexualized, in which femininity was related in terms of bondage and humiliation and orgasm, and the transformation from one gender to another was eroticized at every step.  How to tease the two apart?”

In the book, we can see Stefanie trying to rewrite her history, especially in denial about her having violated a restraining order, breaking into her estranged wife’s house, and attacking her mother’s new boyfriend first with a baseball bat, then stabbing him with a knife, sending him to the hospital.  Stefanie tries to play the abused woman in her retconned life narrative.  It was all his ex-wife’s fault for not being accepting of him as a feminine soul.  Fortunately, Susan, having been there, doesn’t buy into it.

It is clear from reading the book, that Susan Faludi has done her homework regarding the transgender scene of today.  Susan takes a number of well earned swipes at famous transsexual memoirists and authors for their anti-feminist statements and attitudes, among them Julia Serano, Nancy Hunt, Jan Morris, Deirdre McCloskey.  She also does the same with the so called “TERFs”, most especially Janice Raymond.  There is even a passing reference, with one of the very few footnotes in the book, about Bailey, Lawrence, and Dreger being unfairly attacked for discussing autogynephilia.  Unfortunately, she never once explains about the two type taxonomy, leaving the reader with the notion that perhaps ALL MTF transfolk are like her father.

If I have any issue with the book, it is this failure to cover this other big secret in the transgender world.

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Gender Revelations

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on March 19, 2016

9780393340242_198Book Review: Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

I have to admit, as I began reading this book, I was ready to grit my teeth to plow through it, notebook and pen at the ready, to note every jot and tittle Fine got wrong, given the popularity of this book among those who identify as “gender critical” (Let’s be honest, that’s often a euphemism for “transgender belittle”).  But I was wrong.  Far from disseminating disinformation and disapprobation of transsexual folk, Fine is very respectful of transfolk and includes anecdotes by transfolk in support of her thesis.  What I found instead was a delightfully accurate, and at times bitingly humorous, take-down of all of the (distressingly all too common) false stereotypes of men and women and their supposed differences and of the people who promote them.  Fine is an intellectual after my own heart, one that I would love to have in my social circle.

Reading Fine’s book did bring up questions as to why ‘gender critical’ bloggers are so adamant that the book directly debunks any and all discussion of sexual dimorphism in the human brain, which many derisively call “LadyBrain” theories, when in fact, Fine clearly and correctly acknowledges that the human brain does exhibit recognizably sexually dimophoric features.

“It’s not, by the way, my intention to present myself as a neuroscience sceptic. Not only are some of my best friends, as well as family members, neuroimagers, but I also think that neuroscience is an extremely exciting and promising field, and can be usefully employed in combination with other techniques. I also understand that speculation is an important part of the scientific process. Nor is the topic of gender difference by any means the only area in which overinterpretation can occur. And I certainly don’t think that research into sex differences in the brain is wrong or pointless. There are sex differences in the brain (although, as we’ve seen, agreeing on what these are is harder than you might think); there are sex differences in vulnerabilities to certain psychological disorders, and hopefully greater understanding of the former might help to illuminate the latter. My point is simply this: that neither structural nor functional imaging can currently tell us much about differences between male and female minds. As Rutgers University psychologist Deena Skolnick Weisberg has recently argued, we should ‘remember that neuroscience, as a method for studying the mind, is still in its infancy. It shows much promise to be someday what many people want to make it into now: a powerful tool for diagnosis and research. We should remember that it has this promise, and give it the time it needs to achieve its potential – without making too much of it in the meantime.”

Fine’s thesis is not that sexually dimorphic features don’t exist, but that these features, whatever they represent, do not correlate with a putative difference in men’s and women’s minds.  Fine doesn’t explicitely define what she means by ‘mind’, but one can infer from the material she covers that she is refering to cognitive and emotional functions ranging from general intelligence, mathematical aptitude, ‘mind-reading’ (emotional expression recognition), empathy, parenting skills, and caregiving.  All of these areas are rife with false gender stereotypes that one sex is better at them than the other.  Fine demolishes them one by one, showing how they arise and that they are demonstrably false.

Having demonstrated that these common stereotypes are bunkum, she then turns her attention to what she calls, “neuro-sexism”, the inappropriate use of neuroscience to uphold sexist stereotypes and beliefs.  Here she really won my heart, as she rips popular authors who misinterpret, sometimes even just making stuff up about, the scientific literature on sexual dimorphism in the human brain.  (A careful reader of my blog here will, I hope, find where I have done the same.)  She also shows that this isn’t just harmless repeating of minor prejudices, but actually creating harmful changes in educational policy that undermines both boys and girls by creating a self-fullfilling prophesy regarding differential higher order cognitive skills (e.g. boys are better at math, but bad at language arts, and visa versa for girls).

Fine finishes the book by exploring how ubiquitous gender stereotypes are and how they effect the social and play life of even the youngest children.  She carefully documents how even non-sexist parenting can’t protect children from being introduced to both stereotypes and to gendered play expectations.  It is here that she tangentially refers back to an earlier comment that far from rejecting the notion that sexually dimorphic neural pathways in the brain may lead to sexually dimorphic behavior and even to gender atypical behavior in some individuals, she briefly mentions research that supports this hypothesis.

There exists female bodied people who were exposed to fairly high doses of masculinizing hormones due to Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH).  These girls vary from conventionally gender typical to quite gender atypical in their play behavior.  Given that the play behavior one is talking about is highly socially defined, such as playing with trucks, one is left wondering how and why this behavior comes about.  One hypothises is that toys become gendered because of some inate property of them.  This seems rather a stretch, given that toy trucks didn’t exist before real trucks were developed only a bit over a century ago.

“But another possibility is that girls with CAH are drawn to what is culturally ascribed to males. Thirty years ago, primatologist Frances Burton put forward an intriguing suggestion that casts the data from females with CAH in an entirely new light. She proposed that the effect of foetal hormones in primates is to predispose them to be receptive to whatever behaviours happen to go with their own sex in the particular society into which they are born”

Did you catch that?  Fine is presenting, and never disputes, the idea that sexually dimorphic neuropathways may predispose one to identify, at least implicitly, as one sex or the other!  Shades of “Gender Identity”!!!  But please note, this is NOT the same concept of “gender identity” that is so oft described by autogynephilic transsexuals, but of an implicit identification with one’s sex, or in the case of gender atypical children, with the opposite sex.  Sadly, Fine fails to follow up very far in this direction, because she is interested not in what we know from research also strongly correlates with such sexually dimporphic play behavior in young children, that of later sexual orientation in adults, but only in egregiously false stereotypes.  Fine simply does not discuss sexual orientation, which is strange, given that sexual orientation is the single most sexually dimporphic behavior in humans and correlates with many of the sexually dimorphic structures in the human brain, far more so than any putative differences in higher cognitive functions.  It is quite likely the reason that Fine doesn’t explore this realm of inquiry is because sexual orientation simply isn’t in dispute as sexually dimorphic.  Let’s face it.  Most people are heterosexual, attracted to the opposite sex.  In the end, we might say that it is not so much that one has “male” vs. “female” brains, but “androphilic” vs. “gynephilic”… its just that there is a VERY high correlation between them.

Further Reading:

Essay on implicit gender identification in gender atypical/dysphoric children

Essay on the differential origins of cross gender identity in transsexuals

Essay on paper/letter regarding an algorithm to classify human brains by sex

Further External Reading:

Book Review: Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine (Reviewed by Stewart Richie)

 

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The More You Know…

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on March 27, 2015

PraegerCoverBook Review: The Praeger Handbook of Transsexuality – Changing Gender to Match Mindset by Rachel Ann Heath

Common wisdom says not to judge a book by its cover.  But one can’t help but be struck by the uncanny resemblance between the cover of Ms. Heath’s 2006 Handbook and J. Michael Bailey’s 2003 The Man Who Would Be Queen.  Take a moment to look at both, compare and contrast the two.  Given the nasty fuss within  the autogynephilic transwomen’s community regarding Bailey’s book, even deriding its cover, calling it transphobic and disrepectful, one can’t help but wonder if the editors at Praeger and perhaps even Heath herself, were making an insider’s editorial comment?  Consider Heath’s own words, in fact the second paragraph of Chapter One, which states it clearly,

“When writing about a sensitive issue such as transsexuality, the temptation to right the wrongs is always present.  However, it is equally important to offer readers a critical evaluation of what is known.  By so doing, transsexed people will not be deluded by half-truths, and professionals and researchers will not be deterred by uninformed claims from disenchanted clients.  This book treads a fine line between upholding the human rights of the downtrodden minority and ensuring that what is known about transsexuality and related conditions is presented accurately and understandably.”

Heath’s book was published before Alice Dreger’s history of the contretemps surrounding Bailey’s book, but I strongly suspect that she understood the wrongness of accusations against Bailey, given the cover and the complete coverage of the very material, the research into the true nature of transsexuality, upon which Bailey relied.

If I have any serious criticism of this book it is that although a wonderful aggregation of the research, it lacks the very “critical evaluation” that Heath states as a goal.  Further, the work lacks a comprehensive synthesis of the voluminous data and accrued hypothesis, which was tested and found supported by them.  It is left to the reader to perform these tasks.  Given that in this absence, a critical analysis requires going back to the original papers, it is essential that a serious reader constantly refer to the many footnotes.

As an example of the failure to synthesize the information contained, consider how she covers the two type taxonomy and the evidence supporting it.  In Chapter Five, Interesting Correlates of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation, she writes in a subchapter, “Relations Between Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation,

“Young transsexed woman are more likely to be nonheterosexual than are older transsexed women.  Transsexed men tend to be nonheterosexual irrespective of their age at transition.  This generalization suggest that the independence of gender identity and sexual orientation is difficult to discern… A contentious idea is to associate heterosexual transsexed people with autogynephilia, the tendency to be sexually aroused by one’s own image as a woman. … According to Blanchard, there are only two fundamentally different types of transsexuality in males: homosexual and nonhomosexual.  In his view, nonhomosexual transsexed women, that is those with a sexual preference for women, are characterized by their propensity towards autogynephilia.”

She goes on for several pages covering the research and evidence, but then fails to note later in the book that other researchers are referring to the exact same two populations and their characteristics, while a critical reader can’t fail to note them.  Consider her Chapter Seven, Transsexualism as a Medical Condition and her subchapter Primary and Secondary Transsexualism,

“Primary transsexualism is distinguished by its early onset, with clients reporting memories of cross-dressing when they were young, as well as partaking in feminine activities such as playing with dolls from an early age.  Primary transsexed women who often exhibit homosexual preferences from adolescence onwards frequently enjoy greater success in transition than do their older counterparts.  Secondary transexualism develops after a period of possibly fetishistic cross-dressing when the client starts to assume a more permanent feminine self-identity around puberty.  Often secondary transsexed women prefer sexual relationships with women.  They seek initial assessment at an older age … The primary transsexed group tends to present earlier for assessment, show better social gender reorientation, have less erotic arousal when cross-dressing, and experience fewer postoperative regrets than does the secondary transsexed group. … Differences between primary (young) and secondary (older) transsexed people have some diagnostic value.”

Note the clear connection between age of transition, sexual orientation, and “erotic arousal when cross-dressing”, also known as autogynephilia.  Later in the same chapter, Heath discusses Anne Vitale’s Group 1 vs. Group 3, while completely missing the obvious, that these are simply names for the same groups as Blanchard’s and for the classic dichotomous Primary vs. Secondary transwomen.

The book, while being somewhat encyclopedic, is very poorly indexed.  For example, she frequently refers to researchers by name, but these names are not found in the index, making it difficult to find such references.

Even with its weaknesses, I recommend buying and referring to this handbook.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Praeger-Handbook-Transsexuality-Psychology/dp/0275991768

 

 

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Flipping the Bird

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on March 22, 2015

Flip_the_bird

Book Review:  Galileo’s Middle Finger – Heretics, Activists, And The Search For Justice In Science, by Alice Dreger

Dr. Dreger’s latest book could be described as a coming of age story as it chronicles her journey from naive graduate student to a world class activist historian, seeker of Truth, Justice, and the American Way.  She truly is a super-hero, if any real, live human being can be.  Hers is a journey into social justice activism, only to find that many of the self-styled activists were searching for anything but social justice.

Dreger’s introduction to activism was the result of meeting modern examples of the very injustice that she had previously documented had occurred to people in the 19th Century when their bodies didn’t conform to the expected norms for males and females, the so called “Hermaphrodites”, which today we called “intersexed” or “people with Disorders of Sexual Development” (DSD).  Writing about her academic work on 19th Century treatment of intersexed people,

“…It ended up pushing me into two unfamiliar and intense worlds: contemporary sex politics and contemporary medical activism.  That’s because, thanks to the Internet, by the time I came to this topic, in the mid-1990s, something was going on that the Victorian doctors would never have imagined: People who had been born with various sex anomoalies had started to find each other, and they had started to organize as an identity movement.  Labeling themselves intersex, many gather under the leadership of Bo Laurent, the founder of the Intersex Society of North America, and after reading my Victorian Studies article, some of these intersex activists, including Bo, contacted me.  A couple wrote me simply to complain that they found some of my language offensive, apparently not realizing I was relaying Victorian rhetoric in my article.  By contrast, Bo got my work.  And she asked for my help in changing the way children born intersex were treated in modern medicine. … I hastened to tell Bo, “I’m a historian; I study dead people.”  However, once I understood what was really going on at pediatric hospitals all over the nation – once I understood that Bo’s clitoris had been amputated in the name of sex “normalcy” and that this practice was still going on – I felt I had to assist in her efforts.”

Dreger rose to that challenge, taking on a leadership role in the fight to end medically unnecessary surgeries on children with ambigous genitalia.  This entailed taking on the medical establishment, confronting them, insisting that they re-examine their protocols in the light of real damage to real people.  It took a while, years, but the work of these activists with whom Dreger worked, began to seriously effect the desired change.  While the work is not truly complete, it is well on the way.  In her book, she details the long hours, the difficulties encountered, but most importantly, the need for such evidence based activism, that the work of these activists was based on demonstrating the real outcomes of these surgeries, which diverged greatly from the view previously held, that these surgeries helped.  If the book went no further, it would be worth buying it.

But Dreger’s work, and her life, as she took a new position at Northwestern University would take another turn,

“It was shortly after this time that I took on a new scholarly project, one that without warning forced me to question my politics and my political loyalties … This was a project that suddenly changed me from an activist going after establishment scientists into an aide-de-camp to scientists who found themselves the target of activists like me.  Indeed, this project soon put me in a position I would never have imagined for myself; vilified by gender activists at the National Women’s Studies Association meeting and then celebrated at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society by the enemies of my childhood hero, Stephen Jay Gould.”

In 2003, J. Michael Bailey had published his book on femininity in males, The Man Who Would Be Queen.   This had set off a firestorm among a group of autogynephilic transwomen who took exception to Bailey’s effort to popularize Ray Blanchard’s research which had shown that there were two etiologies leading to gender dysphoria, that there were two (and only two) types of transwomen, as different as night and day, one that was gynephilic, autogynephilic, and gender typical until they announced their intention to transition –  and the other that was exclusively androphilic and gender atypical since birth.  This led to a number of serious accusations of wrongdoing by Bailey, to which Dreger was asked by her friend Paul Vasey to investigate.  As Dreger expresses her initial reluctance,

“Still, I thought I knew from my background in science studies and a decade of intersex work how to navigate an identity politics minefield, so I wasn’t that worried when in 2006 I set out to investigate the history of what had really happened with Bailey and his critics.  My investigation ballooned into a year of intensive research and a fifty-thousand word peer-reviewed scholarly account of the controversy.  And the results shocked me.  Letting the data lead me, I uncovered a story that upended the simple narrative of power and oppression to which we leftist science studies scholars had become accustomed. – I found that, in the Bailey case, a small group had tried to bury a politically challenging scientific theory by killing the messenger.  In the process of doing so, these critics, rather than restrict themselves to argument over the ideas, had charged Bailey with a whole host of serious crimes, including abusing the rights of subjects, having sex with a transsexual research subject, and making up data.  The individuals making these charges – a trio of powerful transgender women, two of them situated in the safe house of liberal academia – had nearly ruined Bailey’s reputation and his life.  To do so, they had used some of the tactics we had used in the intersex rights movement. … but there was one crucial difference: What they claimed about Bailey simply wasn’t true.”

Here, I have to break from the usual traditional book review to share my own experiences in this story.  I personally know most of the players.  I was an active participant in Bo Laurent’s work, meeting with her on several occasions, donating money, and helping her in a minor way to raise funds from the transsexual community.  One of those transwomen who donated was at the time, also a friendly acquaintance of mine, Lynn Conway, one of the “trio of powerful transsexual women”.  The other two were Andrea James, who I had never heard of before, and Deirdre McCloskey, who my good friend (and college roommate) Dr. Joy Shaffer, had spoken of highly.  It was reading Dreger’s lengthy paper on the Bailey affair that upended MY life, led me to become friends with Kiira Trea and eventually to write this blog at her encouragement.  This blog is the direct result of Dreger’s history of the Bailey affair.  I can think of no greater testament to the power of a scholar’s work, than that it should inspire others to action.

But Dreger’s story is only just beginning,

“You can probably guess what happens when you expose the unseemly deeds of the people who fight dirty … Certainly I should have known what was coming – after all, I had literally written what amounted to a book on what this small group of activists had done to Bailey.  But it was still pretty uncomfortable when I became the new target of their precise and unrelenting attacks.  The online story soon morphed into “Alice Dreger versus the rights of sexual minorities,”  and no matter how hard I tried to point people back to documentation of the truth, facts just didn’t seem to matter.”

I must share, that I too was vilified by these same transwomen, when I openly supported Dreger, Bailey, Blanchard, and Lawrence.

Because of her experiences, Dreger set out on a new scholarly journey,

“Troubled and confused by this ordeal, in 2008 I purposefully set out on a journey – or rather a series of journeys – that ended up lasting six years.  During this time, I moved back and forth between camps of activists and camps of scientists, to try to understand what happens – and to figure out what should happen – when activists and scholars find themselves in conflict over critical matters of human identity.”

The result of those journeys is her new book.  It explores intersex, transgender, indigenous peoples of the South American rainforest, back to intersexed people again.  Its quite a journey, of which I can only barely touch upon in this review.  While I read the entire book with great pleasure, here I chose to focus on the section dealing with transgender and Bailey’s book and its aftermath.

In delving further into the book, one finds gems like this,

“When people ask me how transgender is different from intersex, I usually start by saying that intersex and transgender people have historically suffered from opposite problems for the same reason.  Whereas intersex people have historically been subjected to sex “normalizing” hormones and surgeries they have not wanted, transgender people have had a hard time getting the sex-changing hormones and surgeries they have wanted.  Both problems arise from a single cause: a heterosexist medical establishment determined to retain control over who gets to be what sex.”

She even has a very insightful explanation of why the “trio”, and many others in the autogynephilic transwomen’s community, went to war against Bailey,

“To understand the vehemence of the backlash against Bailey’s book, you have to understand one more thing.  There’s a critical difference between autogynephilia and most other sexual orientations; Most other orientations aren’t erotically disrupted simply by being labeled.  When you call a typical gay man homosexual, you’re not disturbing his sexual hopes and desires.  By contrast, autogynephilia is perhaps best understood as a love that would really rather we didn’t speak its name.  The ultimate eroticism of autogynephilia lies in the idea of really becoming or being a woman, not in being a natal male who desires to be a woman. … The erotic fantasy is to really be a woman.  Indeed, according to a vision of transsexualism common among those transitioning from lives as privileged straight men to trans women, sex reassignment procedures are restorative rather than transformative… For Bailey or anyone else to call someone with armour de soi en femme an autogynephile or even a transgender woman – rather than simply a woman – is at some level to interfere with her core sexual desire.  Such naming also risks questioning her core self-identity … When they felt that Bailey was fundamentally threatening their selves and their social identities as women – well, it’s because he was.  That’s what talking openly about autogynephilia necessarily does.”

There’s a wonderful bon mot moment in the movie, Desert Hearts, when a lesbian scholar vows that she will have her revenge on a homophobe when she writes her memoirs.  In this book, one could say that Dreger takes her revenge on McCloskey, Conway, and especially James by revealing evidence that they are not only autogynephilic, but knowingly so, as Dreger reprints text from an email from Andrea James to Anne Lawrence in 1998,

“A definition is inherently inclusive or exclusive, and there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t feel they belong in or out of a definition.  I got body slammed by the usual suspects in 1996 for recommending a Blanchard book.  Sure, he’s pretty much the Antichrist to the surgery-on-demand folks, and I’ve heard some horror stories about the institute he runs that justify the nickname “Jurassic Clarke.”  However, I found many of his observations to be quite valid, even brilliant, especially in distinguishing early and late-transitioning TS patterns of thought and behavior.  I’ve noticed in most TSs, and in “surgery addicts” especially, a certain sort of self-loathing, a drive to efface every shred of masculinity.  While I readily admit to my own autogynephilia, I would contend that my drives towards feminization seem to have a component pushing me from the opposite direction as well.”

Dreger goes on,

“OK, THIS WAS FASCINATING.  A prior admission to autogynephilia from James and what seemed to amount to the same from McCloskey – plus something very much like an ongoing tacit admission from Conway? – lying behind the attempts to bury Bailey.  All that spoke to motivation on the part of Conway et al.”

Personally, I find this damning, as James has made a special point of defaming a number of individuals in the transcommunity for supporting Anne Lawrence, Bailey, or Blanchard.  She writes scurrilous material on her website against Dreger, Bailey, Blanchard, Lawrence, and many other notable transwomen, including myself; all for writing about a phenomena of which she admits she experiences.

Dreger recounts her year of research on the Bailey affair, detailing the ways in which Conway and James attack Bailey and how she was able to discover the truth of the matter, setting the record straight.  She also recounts how these two transwomen then turned on her, attempting to blacken her name with the same tar filled brush.  In the end, it becomes clear, that though the experience was unpleasant, it lead her to connect with a number of other scholars who have wrongfully been attacked and vilified by other groups, in other fields.

At the end of the book, Dreger lays out recommendations for society and especially for social justice advocates, to follow an evidence based approach.  I would like to think that I would qualify as an exemplar of her recommendations, in my conduct of this affair and of my previous, and definitely of my future, activism.

Further External Reading:

Book review by Jessie Singal

I highly recommend purchasing and carefully reading this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Galileos-Middle-Finger-Heretics-Activists/dp/1594206082

 

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A Grounded Theory…

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on February 8, 2014

Book Review:  Male Femaling – A grounded theory approach to cross-dressing and sex-changing

malefemalingRichard Ekins’ 1997 book is not light reading, especially Part II, which is rather densely written in “grounded theory” method of sociology.  But it is an important book for sexologists to read and understand since it delves into the world of what Ekins has termed, “male femaling”.  This is a wonderful way of putting it, since it succinctly pulls together catagories that are often treated separately and instills ‘agency’ (if I may be allowed to use post-modernist cant) to these practitioners, placing the phenomena as a verb, rather than treating these people as nouns.

Before I read this book, I was completely unaware of “grounded theory”.  I think it is worth reading up on it at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grounded_theory

There one may read that,

“Grounded theory method is a systematic methodology in the social sciences involving the discovery of theory through the analysis of data. … If the researcher’s goal is accurate description, then another method should be chosen since grounded theory is not a descriptive method. Instead it has the goal of generating concepts that explain the way that people resolve their central concerns regardless of time and place. The use of description in a theory generated by the grounded theory method is mainly to illustrate concepts.”

Thus, this book is not simply a travel guide, but a serious attempt to discern the social and introspective means of “meaning”.

To give you a flavor of the denseness of the text, in part of the book, Ekins explores what he calls, “masked awareness”.  This is what most of us would call, “information management”, or simply, secrecy or disclosure, passing or being read.  I’m simplifing here of course, but neccessary to translate this to a more lay reader.  He also makes indiscriminent reference to philosphers, scientists, and pseudo-scientists (e.g. Freud).   He makes a point of showing the “umbilical” relationship between sexologists, their theories, and “male femalers” without explicating how these theories have evolved as the science has moved forward, or how “male femalers” dissimulations have historically distorted some of those theories.  He simply isn’t interested.  He cares more about how these individuals resolve their search for “meaning”.

As I read the book, each and every word, from begining to end, I searched for references and examples of transkids (HSTS).  I found only hints, like Hamlet’s father’s ghost, whispering offstage.  I was dissappointed, as I had hoped that Ekins would compare and contrast transkids from AGPs.  It was only at the very end of the book that I learned that this had been deliberate, as his concluding notes on where he thought others should pick up on his research explains in recommendation 4:

“In my detailed illustrative material, the focus was on male femalers who consider themselves heterosexual or bisexual.  Although homosexual male femalers were quoted, such material is sparse.  The emphasis is, in part, a feature of the arena, but was also, once again, of my own predilictions, training, and abilities.  Certainly, the gay studies literature is a vast one and it largely fell beyond the scope of this study.  I leave to others the possibility of applying the conceptual framework developed here to predominately homosexual male femalers.”

Thus, two conclusions may be drawn from this.  First, Ekins, though he never mentioned it anywhere else, is keenly aware of the profound differences between “homosexual” and “non-homosexual” types.  And second, that though he never mentions the word, this book is ALL about autogynephilia, which he only obliquely refers to as “male femaling impulses” and “erotic femaling”.  The proof of this is found in the very descriptions of what these individuals do in the course of their careers as male femalers, in search of “meaning”.

Ekins divides the “ideal” path into five phases.  Where Ekins used “ideal”, I would have used “prototypical”, as “ideal” would seem to imply a normative value to this sequence, which may or may not apply.  The phases are:

Begining Male Femaling

Fantasying Male Femaling

Doing Male Femaling

Constituting Male Femaling

Consolidating Male Femaling

IF this repetitive use of the term “male femaling” feels odd… it certainly did to me… especially as though it seems to constantly screem, on every page, “MALE … MALE … MALE!”  As though to say, “Get it… these people are forever MALE!!!  Don’t you forget it!”

The illustrative examples used for “Begining Male Femaling” were universally autogynephilic, as this example shows,

“… I was 13 when I stepped, quivering with excitement into a pair of French knickers belonging to my sister.  I ejaculated almost immediately… The feeling was glorious and yet quite alarming and I felt as though I was leaking urine. … Some three days after this first ‘event’ I got home from school to find my mother out.  I went upstairs to do my homework and through the half-opened door of my mother’s bedroom I saw, hanging over a chair, a pair of her pink directoire knickers, obviously discarded in a hurry as she changed before going out.  That soft gleaming bundle turned my whole body and senses into a jelly-like state of desire and longing.  I had to wear them, to try and see if I was all right.  Would it happen again?  My answer was there almost immediately in my swift gathering erection as I struggled out of my clothes.  …”

Likewise, the later phases involved autogynephilic fantasy and enactments, sometimes very overtly erotic, sometimes more genteel, but still recognizably autogynephilic in substance.  In many of these fantasies and enactments, they were scripted, ritualized even.  I think this is a very important aspect of autogynephilic experience that can and does impact how autogynephilia will develop and express itself in the “real world”.  The examples were manifold and various, deeply detailed.  For me… I found myself skimming the pages, as there is nothing more boring than reading about someone else’s erotic scripts, which one does not share.  I suppose that for Ekins this isn’t an issue, given his own self referenced “predilictions”?

I found the section on ‘Private Networking and the Constitution of Meanings’ to be very informative and enlightening.  This may be the most important part of the book, as Ekins demonstrates that peer interactions and the ‘umbilical’ relationship between sexological theories and male femalers influences how one comes to identify oneself and how that subsequently influences one’s career as a male femaler.  Specifically, how does one come to think of oneself as a transvestite / Cross-Dresser or as a transsexual.  Ekins as much as states that there is no substantive or essential difference between them, to which I whole-heartedly must agree.

In the final phase, Ekins lays out three possible paths that a male femaler might take, in typical fashion, ignoring that we already have names for these paths, he calls them, “aparting”, “substituting”, and “integrating”,  I would have called them “closeted cross-dresser”, “transition / transsexual”, and “out / gender fluid”.

“It is instructive to organize the major modes of consolidating around three possible ‘solutions’ to the problems posed by disjuctures between male and male femaling selves and worlds.  I call these ‘aparting’, substituting’, and ‘integrating’.  In ‘aparting’ the emphasis is upon maintaining rigid boundaries between male worlds and male femaling worlds.  In ‘substituting’ the male femaling world increasingly takes over from the male world.  It is in fact, to a greater or lesser extent, substituted for it.  Finally, in ‘integrating’, the attempt is made to transcend previous positions which entailed disjuctures between male and male femaling selves and world, in order to foster the emergence of an ‘integrated’ position which seeks to transcend the conventional arrangement between the sexes.”

This book is mildly dated in that it was written in 1997, before Blanchard’s work become as widely known today.  I would recommend this book for sexologists and therapists, to explicate more fully the lives and search for meanings of autogynephilic cross-dressers and transsexuals.  But I would not recommend it for either the general public or for cross-dressers and transsexuals themselves, unless they have a strong interest in theory.  It just doesn’t read very easily.

 

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