On the Science of Changing Sex

Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria

Posted in Autobiographical, Female-to-Male, Transgender Youth by Kay Brown on June 6, 2018

Kay BrownIs this a newly emerging etiology?

Unless you’ve been under a rock the past few years, you will have heard of what many are describing as a new phenomena affecting natal female teens, “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD) to join the old duopoly of “Early Onset” and “Late Onset” gender dysphoria seen in natal males.  The description of the putative phenomena is that gender TYPICAL and not at all previously gender dysphoric girls learn through the internet and perhaps from friends at school about transgender issues and then suddenly, because of ‘social contagion’, seemingly out of the blue, declare that they are trans.  There have been a number of speculative hypothesis regarding the putative phenomena which I will explore here.

One hypothesis with a lot of weight of evidence is that this is merely the outsider’s term for “Tucutes” / “TransTrender” / “TrendsGender” in which teenaged girls with no real gender dysphoria take on the social position of “transgender”, from identifying as a pre-transition transman to more recently as “non-binary”, a social position that doesn’t require one to actually have to socially, and certainly not medically, transition.  Without doubt, this is happening.  I first met such an individual in 1980.  Their numbers have grown in the intervening years.  But this phenomena, annoying as it may be for some gender dysphoric transmen, is not a major cause of concern to medical professionals in that they rarely seek medical intervention.

Some within the transcommunity have argued that these young people, including those labeled “Tucutes” are in fact the female equivalent of “Late Onset” natal males in that they are autoandrophilic.  This too certainly exists.  While some sexologists and therapists will deny that autoandrophilia exists, I know for a fact that it does, as I had a very close friend since high school who clearly experiences it.  Absolute proof of existence N=1.  We have more evidence than just my one anecdotal one from the years of reports on the sexuality of androphilic transmen.  Such individuals do experience gender dysphoria, but of a notably different character and developmental arc than autogynephilic transwomen.  But just as with autogynephilia, not everyone with autoandrophilia will develop extreme gender dysphoria and thus a range of accommodations occur.

Of course, there is another hypothesis coming from the gay and lesbian community in which they claim that these teens are simply gender atypical lesbians who have been falsely convinced by “Transgender Ideology” that they must be transgender.  At the heart of this is a misunderstanding or deliberate disinformation about the nature of transgender etiology and experience.  Either there are true transsexuals and true lesbians and they shouldn’t be confused… or there are only lesbians and transgender ideology gives them a false sense of gender dysphoria.  The evidence suggests that neither is wholly the case. Gynephilic natal female people exhibit a range of gender atypicality and gender dysphoria.  How they accommodate these within a given culture is variable.  However, when extreme gender atypicality and dysphoria are accommodated by social and medical transition, these are typically labeled “early onset” even if they transition in their 30’s.  If with changing attitudes more such individuals are seeking to address their gender dysphoria at an earlier age, we would expect to see just what we are seeing today.

The question is, are all of those who are labeled with ROGD actually either tucutes or autoandrophilic?  Are some actually gynephilic gender atypical and dysphoric natal females who were simply not recognized or acknowledged as such?  I’ve come to suspect that many may be.

Consider that pre-adolescent tomboys have always been given greater latitude than sissy boys.  In today’s climate of empowering girls to pursue sports and allowed to wear jeans and t-shirts… just like boys, but over scheduled and constantly under parental supervision, with little time for personal choices and expression by privileged helicopter parents, the type that are active on social media, these girls may not have been acknowledged as being gender dysphoric… until the social pressures of adolescence to be heterosexual and feminine.

TransSupportConsider also that nearly half of these parents acknowledged that they knew that their daughter was attracted to girls BEFORE they had confided being gender dysphoric.  (Gynephilia is a key co-presenting factor in transmen.)  These parents also point to their children having other emotional problems, which for them mean that their gender dysphoria is just another symptom, failing to note that gender dysphoric youth living in transphobic households typically experience such problems.  One out of seven of these parents state homophobic attitudes while the rest say that they support LGBT people.  (Really?  Recall that support for same-sex marriage hovers at only 50%… yet 85% of these parents say that they support LGBT rights?  Anyone remember the 60’s cliche “We’re not racist… but our daughter will never marry a black man.” ?!?)

In recent interactions via social media that I’ve had with parents of teens who they claim have ROGD and further claim that means that they are “not really transgender” and they should NOT be encouraged, acknowledged, nor affirmed, I’ve had an extreme sense of deja vu.  What I sense is not that these teens are tucutes or ‘non-binaries’… as most of them have very laid back parents who allow their children to explore their place in the world, knowing that kids do that.  No, I sense both angry denial, genuine concern for their child’s welfare, combined with homo- and trans- phobia, saying “my child is not one of those people“.

Deja Vu

About that deja vu.  At this point I have to switch from academic exposition to personal anecdotal mode:

In very early ’75, at the age of 17, I had “come out” to my father about being transsexual (the word “transgender” did exist at the time, but it was reserved for heterosexual lifestyle cross-dressers = autogynephilic men and specifically excluded androphilic gender atypical MTF transkids).  The time and place had NOT been my choice, having been forced to do so by my mother.  (That’s a whole other story.  My parents were divorced and my mother had custody, as was usual back in the ’70s.)  He seemed calm and concerned, no anger or lamentation.  Instead, he suggested that we should seek professional advice and help.  I recognized an opening.

I had for some months been in contact with the Stanford University Gender Dysphoria Clinic.  I literally had in my possession, in my pocket, the contact information for them.  I gave it to my Dad who said that he would be contacting them.  I was astounded.  The clinic had told me that they would love to help me but that I had to have my parents make the arrangements.  But my mother had made it abundantly clear that she would never help me transition.  Now my Dad was opening the door for me!

I had several intake interviews with Dr. Norman Fisk, the man I would later learn had coined the term “gender dysphoria”.  At the time, I had no idea how influential and expert he was in the field.  He was just a guy who might be able to help me get medical help.  He asked about my sexuality.  I told him about the boy I had a crush on.  He asked me about my dreams for the future.  I told him about how I hoped to find a husband and adopt children.  I told him about my summer job as a nanny and of the two summers I volunteered teaching little kids to swim.  And sadly, I told him about how unhappy my parents were about my behavior and how I had been sent to therapists (who had been anything but affirming).

Then I had a joint interview with my mother and a week later another with my father.

During the interview, my father made it abundantly clear that he thought transsexuals were sick perverts.  Dr. Fisk assured my Dad that transsexuals were NOT mentally ill and that social and medical transition was the typical course of treatment.  My father then became very agitated, objecting, “My son is NOT transsexual.  I’ve never seen anything feminine about him.  This is just a phase!  It will blow over!”  Dr. Fisk knew better, having talked to me and more importantly talked to my mother.

My father focused on the fact that he and I had over the years gone fishing and hunting together (ignoring that during their courtship, so had he and my then teenaged mother).  That we spent hours working together on projects (that he usually chose).  That I was a Boy Scout (ignoring that he had insisted I and my two brothers join since he had been a Scout as a boy… and the deeply mortifying incident in which I had been kicked out of the first Troop though I had done nothing objectively wrong in any sense… but none of the boys wanted the “faggot” around… and that the Scout Master declared to my Dad with a sneer that I was “not Eagle Scout material”… and that my Dad had to find another troop for me to join that accepted queers).  At the end of the interview, my Dad stormed out making homophobic references to Dr. Fisk to me in the parking lot.  (Dr. Fisk was straight, married, and had a son near my age.  I learned that they lived only blocks from my mother’s house.)

The interview with my mother the week before was quite different.  Far from being in denial, she was petulantly resentful that she had such a first-born child.  “I have known for years that he wanted to be a girl.  But I thought that was [morally] wrong.  He was very different than his brothers.  All their friends were boys.  His were always girls,” naming several of my friends over the years, but couldn’t remember my friend who had been my only guest on my tenth birthday.  “Marian,” I interjected for the only time during the whole interview.  “He was always very prissy.  He would walk clear around even the shallowest puddles.  When he was little, I would put him in clean clothes on Monday and on Friday they would still be clean.”  She confirmed that I had been sent to a therapist about my behavior when I was ten years old… and again when I was 15/16.  She came away under the impression that she had spelled out all of the things about me that needed to be fixed, that Dr. Fisk and the clinic would endeavor to make me a normal, healthy, masculine heterosexual man and had shared that impression with my father.

So, it was a shock to my Dad that Dr. Fisk was recommending to him that my family accept that I was never going to be a masculine straight man.  That I was going to transition.  And when my Dad objected, offered this bit of advice,

“Denial will not serve.  You will win a few battles but lose the war.”

At home my mother began sharing comments such as sweetly asking, dripping with obvious false concern, “What will your friends think of you when they find out?”

“They already know,” I replied honestly, having grown used to the twisting knife within her tone.

“I could understand it if you were petite like your sister (at 12 years old, not yet fully grown she was 5’2″ – our mother was 5’5″ –  I’m 5’7″ – our brothers were closer to 6′).”

“That’s funny, Cassie (school friend) is 5’9″ and she has no problems,” I demurred.

“No man will ever love you,” she taunted.  I couldn’t answer back, it hurt too much, but I could feel my eyes smouldering with suppressed anger.

My father came over to see me and begged me not to transition, “You’ll be throwing away a chance for a career.  No one will hire you.”  I couldn’t answer him, having the same fears.  He also tried to shame me, telling me that I was embarrassing the family, that we all have our “cross to bear” and that I should think of my siblings and how they might be treated at school and by friends.  I replied that it was unfair that they should ask that I be extremely unhappy my entire life so that they could avoid some mild embarrassment.  In that same conversation he begged me to live as a closeted gay man, promising that the family would look the other way when I had boyfriends.  My thoughts on this were bitter, as that would put me in the same position as his gay brother, the one we weren’t allowed to meet or talk about.  He then tried to sweeten the deal by offering to pay for vacations in which I could dress up as a woman (!).

I lost my temper at that and loudly replied, “I am NOT a part-time woman!”

Conclusion

I hear that same combination of denial, anger, embarrassment, resentment, desperation, and socially & religiously motivated transphobia in those parents who now describe their teens as having ROGD. Which to them indicates that they are “not really transgender” and should not be allowed to socially transition nor allowed to use puberty blockers much less actual HRT.  These parents sound suspiciously like my parents.

Epilog

I think it worth describing how things went down after the events above, as a sincere warning.

Candice_Caltech

Kay Brown in college

I had already been in the process of social transition, presenting as a girl after school but continued to dress as a boy at school until graduation day.  But had already made arrangements for my high school records to be changed to my new name, female gender, and even to have it say that I attended girls P.E.  It became very apparent that my family, led by mother, was going to do everything they legally could to stop me from successfully transitioning.  Although I had been accepted at a four-year college, I was made to understand that I would not be supported if I continued to present as a girl, so was unable to attend.  I was kicked out of the house by mother and my father was not to take me in.  I started HRT right after I turned 18, forgoing food to buy them.  Using documents from the clinic, I was able to have my driver’s licence and social security ID changed to my new name and gender that summer.  I was given a meagre allowance for about a year with the proviso that I was NOT to show my face anywhere near home.  I attended community college part-time, as they were nearly free the next few years.  I became, in the modern vernacular, a housing and food insecure student.  It took me a few years, having no financial or social support or capital.  But I managed to climb back out of the hole that being effectively disowned had thrown me.  I established a career in Silicon Valley, first as a secretary at age 19, then working my way up.  At the age of 23, I had saved and borrowed enough for SRS.

After SRS, it was perhaps ‘barn doors’ and all… but slowly my folks then began to extend more social and financial capital to me… perhaps also in embarrassment when comparing how they had treated me compared to my siblings.  One had gone to Stanford as an undergraduate and was then attending Baylor Medical School while living in a condo provided by my mother’s family money.  Another was working as an engineer in Silicon Valley, living in a condo also provided by her money.  My sister was going to a small private college… oh… you get the picture.  I had earned a BS soon after SRS, on my own resources, combining credits from four different community colleges and all of my upper division credits earned entirely by examination.  I was then admitted to Stanford Graduate School.  At that point, my father began offering emotional and logistical support and a couple of years later, my mother’s family provided the down payment on a condo for me.

family

Kay, Jeff, Liz, & Reese

Over the years, my mother never really accepted me and we haven’t spoken in decades now, just as I haven’t spoken with any of my siblings.  Oh… and she was wrong.  One man does love me… and we’ve been married these past two decades and I did become an adoptive mom.

And my father was wrong.  My career took off.  I rose to executive rank and even founded and raised venture capital for a start-up which I sold to Samsung.  My father and I speak often… and he makes it clear that he loves and is proud of me.

So, if you are a parent of a transkid or a so called “ROGD” teen.  Please recall Dr. Fisk’s advice to my Dad.

“Denial will not serve.  You will win a few battles but lose the war.”

 

Addendum 9/3/2018:  The past week and some has seen renewed publicity regarding this putative phenomena of ROGD since the Littman paper was published.  I have been following this issue for much longer.  I chalked it up to standard parental denialism which I have written about for a decade now.  But I became disturbed by it when champions of MTF transkids approached me urging me to in effect throw FtM “ROGD” transkids under the bus.  They had been bamboozled by these parents in denial and what I now see as growing anti-transkid propaganda. The Littman paper does NOT document a new phenomena of social contagion among teens… it documents parental denial and rationalizations.  If there is any new social contagion phenomena occuring it is that the internet allows transphobic parents a means to create memes that can be used to bolster their denial and obtain social approval among their “transgender critical” peers for obstructing their teens.

Further Reading:

Essay on TransTrenders & Tucutes

Essay on Androphilic Transmen being Autoandrophilic

Advice to Parents of Transkids

Essay on Transphobic Propaganda Aimed at Parents of Transkids

References:

Lisa Littman, “Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports” (2018)
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0202330

External Further Reading:

Brown University Statement regarding the Littman study controversy

https://thinkprogress.org/conservatives-complain-people-have-noticed-their-anti-trans-junk-science-is-in-fact-junk-ab9ee965b865/amp/

Advertisements

Comments Off on Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria

Autism and Transgender

Posted in Brain Sex, Female-to-Male by Kay Brown on May 24, 2018

critical-thinkingCo-Morbidity of Gender Dysphoria and Autism Spectrum

More studies show that there is a higher than expected by random chance of co-morbidity of gender dysphoria and autism spectrum disorders.  It’s seems to be true for both MTF and FtM.  There are hints that it may be more likely in “nonhomosexual” individuals.  The question not yet answered is whether this is an independent path to gender dysphoria in adults or is co-morbid with autogynephilia and autoandrophilia, though we have seen adolescents with and without autogynephilia in earlier studies.

From the Shumer study abstract:

“There is evolving evidence that children and adolescents with gender dysphoria have higher-than-expected rates of autism spectrum disorder (ASD)… We conducted a retrospective review of patient chart data from 39 consecutive youth ages 8 to 20 years (mean age 15.8 years, natal male: n = 22, natal female: n = 17) presenting for evaluation at a multidisciplinary gender clinic in a large U.S. pediatric hospital from 2007 to 2011 to evaluate the prevalence of ASD in this patient population. … Overall, 23.1% of patients (9/39) presenting with gender dysphoria had possible, likely, or very likely Asperger syndrome as measured by the Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scale.”

From the Pasterski study abstract:

“The current study examined this co-occurrence of GD and autistic traits in an adult population, to see whether this heightened prevalence persisted from childhood as well as to provide further comparison of MtF versus FtM transsexuals and homosexual versus nonhomosexual individuals. Using the Autistic Spectrum Quotient (AQ), 91 GD adults (63 male-to-female [MtF] and 28 female-to-male [FtM]) undertaking treatment at a gender clinic completed the AQ. The prevalence of autistic traits consistent with a clinical diagnosis for an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was 5.5 % (n = 3 MtF and n = 2 FtM) compared to reports of clinical diagnoses of 0.5–2.0 % in the general population. In contrast to the single previous report in adults, there was no significant difference between MtF and FtM on AQ scores; however, all of those who scored above the clinical cut-off were classified as nonhomosexual with respect to natal sex. Results were considered in the context of emerging theories for the observed co-occurrence of GD and autistic traits.”

This was not a very large enough sample size given the small number of individuals found on the spectrum, but note that all five were nonhomosexual.

Further Reading:

Autistic Sky

References:

Pasterski, et al., “Traits of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Adults with Gender Dysphoria”, Archives of Sexual Behavior (2013)
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-013-0154-5

Shumer et al., “Evaluation of Asperger Syndrome in Youth Presenting to a Gender Dysphoria Clinic”, LGBT Health (2016)
https://doi.org/10.1089/lgbt.2015.0070

Comments Off on Autism and Transgender

Presented with no comments:

Posted in Female-to-Male by Kay Brown on November 1, 2017

Comments Off on Presented with no comments:

Testosterone Poisoning Real?

Posted in Female-to-Male by Kay Brown on April 30, 2017

critical-thinkingHow T Makes Men Dysrational

Back in the early ’90s when I was staying home from work because of some bug, I recall watching daytime reruns of really dumb shows. I chanced upon a silly sitcom for ‘tweens where one of the plot elements was a math problem which was supposed to be challenging for the middle school students. It was a classic dual rate problem: How long it would take two boys washing cars if they did the next car together instead of separately.  As I was bored, I set up and solved the simple (to me) algebra problem during the next commercial break. I looked forward to seeing that I was correct.  As the show progressed, the kids were becoming more and more agitated that no one could solve it, not even the stereotypical “brain” of the class.  Only the stereotypical airhead girl (obnoxious portrayals) seemed to be immune.  At the climax of the show, no one has solved it, but the airhead… who states, “It can’t be solved.”  “Right!” the math teacher concurs.  WTF!?!?!  I think.  The “brain’s” head explodes.

I was dumbfounded.  I checked my work.  No, I could easily solve it.  No, it didn’t take a genius.  It was a very straight forward bit of algebra any first year high school algebra student could solve.   How could the writers, producers, stage crew, and actors not know this?  What the &^%$#@! were they doing telling their young audience; that it couldn’t be solved?

This episode (pun intended) stuck in my mind.  I couldn’t understand it until I learned of the phenomena of Dysrationalia, researched by Keith Stanovich.  It was a revelation.  But I never thought this topic would find it’s way to my blog here, not being related to trans issues (save perhaps as one possible explanation for the irrational denial of the two type taxonomy).  But, here it is…

High testosterone levels increase dysrationality.  Seriously.

In a recent study, healthy men were randomly given T gel or placebo gel to apply to their skin.  Hours later, their plasma T levels had doubled.  They then took on a series of cognitive tests buried within them were three “trick questions” that measure “Cognitive Reflection”, a subset of the Stanovich’s original seven dysrationality questions.  These three questions, mathematical in nature, are extremely easy, deceptively easy, in that unless one slows down and thinks, one will all too easily try to use irrational mental shortcuts that get the wrong answers.  The key to being rational is that another part of the brain double checks one’s thinking to spot this and says to one’s self, “hey, hold on, that type of thinking is flawed.”

The results were dramatic.  Those who had been given T got 20% more wrong answers than those given the placebo.  The difference was quite robust ( Cohen’s d=0.41 ).  High T levels seem to reduce the ability of the brain to spot irrational thinking processes.

This has implications for transmen as they begin and continue hormone replacement therapy (HRT) using testosterone, as transient high levels of T occur.  Transmen should be counseled on this phenomena and given cognitive tools to compensate.

Researchers should also look at the effects of androgen suppression in transwomen.  Does this effect go in reverse?  Does low T make one less prone to cognitive reflection errors?

Further Reading:

Rational and Irrational Thought: The Thinking That IQ Tests Miss

Reference:

Nave, Gideon and Nadler, Amos and Zava, David and Camerer, Colin (2017) Single dose testosterone administration impairs cognitive reflection in men. Psychological Science . ISSN 0956-7976 .   http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechAUTHORS:20170428-091020875

 


 

Fun Reading:

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity 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.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Comments Off on Testosterone Poisoning Real?

Getting Lost in the Crowd

Posted in Female-to-Male, Science Criticism, Transgender Youth, Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on April 16, 2017

Kay Brown

Or, How the Big Tent Transgender Movement Distorts Science and Holds Back Civil Rights for Transsexuals

The word “transgender” was originally coined and used by Dr. Virginia Prince, a full time autogynephilic cross-dresser, in the early ’70s, to denote those like her/him as opposed to “transsexuals” who took hormones and had “sex change” surgery and also opposed to secretive “transvestites” who only occasionally cross-dressed, usually in private.  The term was meant to be exclusive of any other group, like drag artists or gender atypical gays or lesbians.

But…

In the early ’90s, Beth Elliott, using her nom de plume Mustang Sally, wrote an essay entitled, “The Incredible Shrinking Identity” in which she decried the social effects of subsuming transsexual people into the larger umbrella of “transgender”, which with each passing year seemed to be growing at its margins to include more and more people who just a few years before, would never have been considered to be in the same grouping.  Of course, she was mostly talking about secretive cross-dressers, “transvestites”, autogynephilic men, who as we know, are in fact in the same etiological taxon as autogynephilic MTF transsexuals.  In the ’90s, it was possible to ignore this complaint as being specious on the social level, given already rampant socially unwanted and scientifically unwarranted lumping of autogynephilic and exclusively androphilic MTF transwomen.

But what started as merely political embarrassement (for AGP transwomen) has now become a serious scientific and civil rights issue as the term “transgender” has now been stretched to the point where it has little meaning as to actual sexual, social, or gendered behavior.  It is no longer enough for scientists to differentiate between autogynephilic/late onset vs. androphilic/early onset MTF transwomen… nor even between autoandrophilic vs. androphilic FtM transmen… now we must differentiate between an ever growing host of self-defined “other” gender categories and underlying behaviors, identities that are lumped under “transgender” to the point of making the term meaningless to sexologists and social scientists alike.

Flashback, 1980:  Hanging out in the L.A. transsexual community, as it gained a political self awareness, was a teenager; let’s call her “Lee”.  Lee would tell anyone who asked that she was “transsexual”… yet caused great confusion to all who met her.  She was natal female, short even for a woman, pleasantly plump, and decidedly feminine in both appearance and manner.  She was in no sense gender atypical.  And during the time that I knew her, over 18 months, she never made any attempt to present as a man, nor even as butch.  She was always on the femmy side of androgenous to the point of being decidedly “cute” as she hung out, mostly with younger MTF transwomen whom she seemed to admire.  Had she been hanging out in this same manner in the gay male scene, they would have likely labeled her a “Fag Hag”.  The transsexual community, while leery of non-trans males who would have acted this way, affectionately accepted Lee’s non-threatening presence, while secretly rolling their eyes when she declared that she was “FtM”.

Thinking back on Lee, I’m fairly certain that she never transitioned and I’m willing to place fairly high odds that she married and had kids, probably now has grandchildren, none of which have any idea that she once hung out in the trans-scene.  At the time, we had no label for her.  Today, on the internet, the FtM transsexual community does have a label that would have applied, “tucute”, as in “Too Cute” to be trans.  If you visit the FtM pages on Tumbler, you are sure to run into a few… and will also note that they in turn, grumble about the negative feedback they get from those they call “Truscum” (“true” masculine gynephilic FtM transsexuals) for not accepting that they too are just as “trans”, even if they are in no sense gender atypical nor gender dysphoric.

Recent Events:  A couple years ago, via her facebook page, a very socially liberal, rather prominent (and wealthy) venture capitalist in my professional circle proudly announced that her teenaged child was “transgender”.  I’ve been living “mostly stealth” in that most of my professional contacts do not know of my medical history (yes, I “pass”).  But in a move to be supportive and perhaps even help her with the emotional issues that almost always come with a child’s transition I came out to her.  BAD MOVE!  Nope, upon learning more about her child, it became very clear that her daughter had always been very gender typical as a girl, was not the least bit gender dysphoric, and had no intention of legally, socially, nor medically transitioning.  No, she just wanted to be recognized as “transgender” and have everyone around her use gender neutral pronouns (cause she is they are so special, she they deserves it).

There is another couple names for this behavior, “TransTrender” and “TrendsGender”, as in it is now “trendy” to say that one is transgender, in the right circles.    Back in my college years, hanging around Stanford University, I would often hear complaints from actual gynephilic women, real lesbians, about the phenomena of primarily androphilic women taking social positions as “Political Lesbians” and “Lesbians Until Graduation”.  The “transgender” community now has the same phenomena.  It seems to have become “cool” in some comfortably well off, very socially liberal teenaged and young adult circles to be associated with the LGB and now T community, as though being associated with a marginalized group made up for their obvious social privilege.

One could well imagine the growing resentment felt by those of us who have experienced familial rejection, social disapprobation, economic deprivation, and psychic pain from a lifetime of gender atypicality and dysphoria towards those who misappropriate an identity from the protective cocoon of indulgent family, liberal universities, and the anonymity of the internet.

As one young transman put it,

“Dysphoria is the defining factor of a transgender person. It’s why they want to TRANSition. It’s why they’re called TRANS in the first place, fuckwits. It doesn’t have to be crippling “I hate my body ugh I can’t look at myself naked” (And I do know some trans people whose dysphoria is that bad). On a 10 is an “I can’t see myself naked” to 1 is a “I don’t feel right in this body”, I’m probably a 5-7. I can see myself naked but it just doesn’t feel right. Specially with my chest. That’s dysphoria. Not “omg I don’t want to be human I want to be a rabbit/sunflower/magical girl” or whatever these tucutes are on I don’t even know.   …

The more I look at it, the more I see tucutes acting like being transgender is a cute little accessory they can put on. You’re comfy with your body but you like girls even if you’re a girl yourself? Congratulations, you could be a lesbian. You like boys but you’re a boy? Good on you, you might be a homosexual man. You like the opposite gender? That makes you a terrible hetero person and that’s bad because all hetero people are transphobic and evil. 😦 Be trans instead. That’s cooler.

Except… it’s not.

It’s not cool to be trans. It’s not cool to wake up and see these parts of you that you feel so uncomfortable with having that you would wish cancer on yourself just to have them taken away. It’s not cool to have to struggle with the longing to tell your parents that you’re not the right gender because you want to trust them and want to open up to them but you’re afraid it’ll just add to the laundry list of things you’ve already disappointed them with. It’s not cool to have known you were one thing from birth but everyone else and your own body telling you you’re not and that you were supposed to be a certain way because that’s what you looked like from the outside.

It’s not cool to be trans.

If I had a choice, if being trans WAS a choice I would choose to be cis.”

If these issues had stayed on the pages of tumbler and facebook, it wouldn’t be a problem for science or those seeking better civil rights for transitioning transfolk.  But it hasn’t.

Consider a recent paper published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence in which the authors very laudably explore the issues of safety and bathroom access for “transgender” youth.  Ah… you are probably anticipating some of the problems that this might entail and you would be right.  But let’s explore each of them carefully.

The authors cite the now popular William’s estimate of 0.7% of the population in the US as “transgendered”.  The problem with that study is the number who identify as “transgendered” because William’s did not apply any operational definition beyond asking if they were “transgendered”. Yet we know that only 0.03% of the U.S. population has actually socially transitioned, according to US Census study that cross-correlated with name/sex status changes to Social Security cards (arguably the absolute best estimate we will ever get to the number of individuals who actually transitioned).  This means that less than 5% of those who identify as “transgender” ever transition.  Thus, by definition, more than 95% of those who identify as “transgender” never transition, that in fact, they aren’t all that gender dysphoric.  So who are they?  Well, given that 80 to 90% of MTF transsexuals are autogynephilic and that an estimated 2.8% to 4.6% of men in the general population are autogynephilic, while only 0.5% of women are autoandrophilic, we can surmise that the vast bulk of those who identify as “transgender” adults are autogynephilic males, otherwise gender typical heterosexual men who cross-dress in the privacy of their homes and perhaps occasionally have a “girls’ night out” with other cross-dressers.

We know that autogynephilic males are gender typical growing up.  They are also gynephilic.  These are, save for their secret cross-dressing and sexual fantasies of being or becoming female, typical, average, run of the mill straight men.  Thus, autogynephilic males who have not transitioned are not socially visible.  Further, we know that the median and average ages of transition for autogynephilic transsexuals (the moment that they become socially visible) is 35 and 40 respectively.  In fact, in the Nuttbrook study, which surveyed 571 transgender women, only one gynephilic (and presumably autogynephilic) individual had begun transition before age 20 and of those who had begun transition before age 20, only 7% said that they were bisexual (of which a number of them are likely to be autogynephilic, as we know from other studies).

Now, compare that to the number of early onset / androphilic transwomen who transition before age 20… that number is half.  HALF.  Further, we know from study after study that such transwomen are very notably gender atypical, as well as gender dysphoric.  THESE are the kids who will be the most socially visible as youth, NOT autogynephilic “transgender”.  On the FtM side, the Autoandrophilic population similarly transition later as adults, not teens.  It will be the rare, very rare (remember, only 0.03% of the total US population transition) exclusively gynephilic, gender dysphoric kids that will be socially visible as youth, not the TuCutes and the TransTrenders.  These are the kids who are socially and personally vulnerable as youth, not the vastly larger number of individuals who will identify as “transgender”.

How badly off are the numbers?  In the Wernick study they found 86 individuals who self-identified as transgendered out of 935 students.  Seriously, 9%?  NINE &^%$#@ percent?!?  That’s more than ten times the number of adults who self-identify and three hundred times the number who actually transition.  That’s higher than the number of teens who grow up to be gay or lesbian.  Are all of the LGB kids claiming to be “transgendered”???  Or is this representative of all LGB plus all of the secretly cross-dressing and cross-dreaming boys plus the TuCutes and the TransTrenders, all balled into one?  Because, if the schools were statistically representative of the population as a whole, with only a thousand or so students, we could only expect a one in three chance of finding an actual transsexual among them, most likely an autogynephile who will transition as an adult and only one in fifteen chance of finding a transkid.

The design of this study was flawed from inception, as the numbers surveyed were never enough to find any statistically valid number of transkids, while using self report of being “transgendered” without a valid operational definition lead only to a measure of the trendiness of the label in the teenaged population combined with “mischievous responders”, kids saying ‘shit’ to mess with the study.

transkids

Transkids after transition

So we see, that truly gender atypical and gender dysphoric individuals will be a very small percentage of youth who will self-identify as “transgender”.  These are the kids who social scientists and policy makers should be concerned with, not those who have yet to transition or never will.  These are the kids who, while finding more and more visibility in the press as they transition, are the ones who are getting lost in the crowd in social science studies and policy making because of the failure to apply appropriate operational definitions.

(Addendum 5/5/2017:  To reinforce my point that one needs to have an operational definition of “transgender”, we can see in another recent study (Sumia 2017) using the GIDYQ-A that only 1.3% of teenagers had any “potentially clinically significant gender dysphoria”.  Interestingly of the natal female teens, only 0.5% compared to 2.2% of the natal males had indicated such potential dysphoria.  Note that this is indeed potential, not clinically significant distress.  These numbers tally better with the hypothesis that most of these boys are autogynephilic and will likely live as secret cross-dressers.)

Further Reading:

Essay on US Census Estimate of Post-Transition Population

Essay on the Ratio of Gynephilic vs. Androphilic MTF Transsexuals

Essay on the Nature of Autogynephilia

Essay on the concordance between percentage of erotic cross-dressing adults of both sexes and measures of teenaged sub-clinical gender dysphoria

External Further Reading:

“Tucute: What it is and why its wrong”

Research on “Mischievous Responders” causing over-estimate of transgender in teenagers

References:

Wernick, et Al, “Gender Identity Disparities in Bathroom Safety and Wellbeing in High School Students”, Journal of Youth and Adolescence
DOI: 10.1007/s10964-017-0652-1

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


Fun Reading:

 

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity 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.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Tagged with: ,

Comments Off on Getting Lost in the Crowd

Brainstorm

Posted in Brain Sex, Confirming Two Type Taxonomy, Female-to-Male by Kay Brown on July 2, 2016

critical-thinkingA new review paper has just been published on the current status of brain structure research in transsexuality.  Interestingly, it was submitted to the Archives of Sexual Behavior two full years ago.  This suggests that it went through a rather thorough peer review.  For myself, the first thing I do when reading a review paper is to see that the reference list is comprehensive to ensure that the authors aren’t cherry-picking.  In this case, they are not.  The paper looks to be very complete and scientifically honest.  You may wish to read it yourself, as it is not behind a paywall, thankfully.

The paper is written rather densely, with a great deal of information and discussion; so much in fact, that I will likely be writing several essays covering a number of topics from it.  At the high level, my regular readers will not be surprised at the primary conclusions drawn from the review, as I had already written about a fair number of the brain research papers.  The authors offer this chief conclusion at the end of the paper,

“The review of the available data seems to support two existing hypotheses: (1) a brain-restricted intersexuality in homosexual MtFs and FtMs and (2) Blanchard’s insight on the existence of two brain phenotypes that differentiate “homosexual” and “nonhomosexual” MtFs”

The review of all of the available brain structure research fully supports the Two Type Taxonomy.  In light of this, the authors recommend that future researchers take care to distinguish between the two types, lamenting that some studies in the review had not made this distinction, and further, that it is important that the control groups also be concordant with sexual orientation,

“The study of mixed samples implicitly assumes that transsexuals are a homogeneous group. This is far from the truth with respect to the onset of GD and sexual orientation.  …  These observations signify that control groups in studies of the transsexual brain must be homogeneous in regards to sexual orientation.”

The authors did find separate studies of androphilic “homosexual” MTFs and non-gender dysphoric gay men that used the same methods, such that a tentative comparison could be made,

“The only study on the CTh [cortical thickness] of homosexual persons that do not present gender dysphoria is by the Savic group (Abé et al.). If we compare this study with that of Zubiaurre-Elorza et al. on the CTh of homosexual MtFs, we see both studies report sex differences showing an F > M pattern in similar structures of the right hemisphere. But there is only one region, the pars triangularis, in which homosexuals and homosexual MtFs both present differences. However, these changes are in opposite directions. The pars triangularis of homosexual MtFs is thicker than in heterosexual male controls, while for homosexuals it is thinner than in heterosexual males. Thus, it seems that for transsexuals this region is feminized but demasculinized [i.e.: “different that straight men, but not in the heterosexual female direction” – K. Brown] in homosexual individuals. Interestingly, in both studies, the affected pars triangularis is in the right hemisphere. Nevertheless, confirming Blanchard’s prediction still needs a specifically designed comparison of homosexual MtF, homosexual male, and heterosexual male and female people.”

This is interesting, that there is a difference between gay men and androphilic transwomen?  But the right hemisphere pars triangularis of all things?  For left hemisphere dominant people, this region of the brain is believed to be involved in the understanding and production of prosody, emotionally nuanced speech modulation.  We know this because individuals who have serious lesions in this area have trouble with prosody.

For more information, read the Wikipedia page on prosody.

Before anyone gets too excited about the possible implications for a neurological marker for androphilic transsexuality that differentiates them from gay men, we need to note that the brain exhibits neuroplasticity.  That is to say, that like a muscle, exercise of particular skills causes the brain to increase in volume and neuron number in those regions used to supply that skill.  If this is about language and more particularly, about language production that imparts an emotional / sexual identity / gender identity through one’s voice, the difference in this part of the brain may be caused by experience and practice.

For more information, read my essays on feminine speech production and on voice recognition.

On the other hand, it just might represent a real difference.  We need more studies.

References:

Guillamon, A et al., “A Review of the Status of Brain Structure Research in Transsexualism” Arch Sex Behav (2016). doi:10.1007/s10508-016-0768-5

 


 

Fun Reading:

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity 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.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Comments Off on Brainstorm

A Passing Moment…

Posted in Female-to-Male, Science Criticism, Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on December 13, 2015

critical-thinking… Or, Who’s the Fairest of them All?

For years, clinicians, therapists, researchers, and transfolk alike have remarked that “younger transitioners”, transkids, “homosexual transsexuals”, “early onset” (whatever label or demarcator in fashion) MTF transsexuals simply ‘pass’ better than “older transitioners”, autogynephilic transsexuals, “late onset” MTF transsexuals.  For years, I wanted to conduct a study about this.  Well, now we have clinical data to test this observation.

In a study conducted in Europe, by our favorite Netherlands based researchers, they looked at both body image and clinician assessment of gender incongruent physicality.  That is to say, how well or poorly they pass.  The same single clinician rated them all, so while a different clinician may give folks a different absolute score, the relative scores for all subjects is likely to be very accurate.

In deference to the currently debated question and researching the potential validity of which signifier is the accurate basis for a taxonomic typology of transsexuality, the data was presented for both sexual orientation and age of onset.

MtF                                                                 FtM
Androphilic      Non-androphilic           Gynephilic Non-gynephilic
Early onset 88 (70%) 102 (43%)                   193 (88%)   37 (69%)
Late onset  38 (30%)   139 (57%)                   26 (12%)     17 (31%)

The Dutch have long contended that age of onset was the salient signifier, while those in North America contend that it is sexual orientation, specifically “homosexual” vs. “non-homosexual”, which readers of my blog, and those familiar with the literature, know gives a strong signal / correlation with autogynephilia in MTF transsexuals.

In the graphs below, a higher score means more gender incongruent appearance (i.e. ‘readable’), while a lower score means more gender congruent (i.e. ‘passable’).

passingtransNow, looking at our earlier observation, do exclusively “homosexual” transsexuals pass better than “non-homosexual”?  For transwomen, the answer is a resounding “YES!”, with a large effect size (d=0.7).  Putting this into everday language, this is to say that the most passible of the non-androphilic transwomen are just barely comparable to the average androphilic transwoman.  Or another way of putting it, nearly half the androphilic transwoman pass better than nearly all non-androphilic.  Or yet another way of putting is that the least passible androphilic is the same as the average non-androphilic transwoman.

However, keep in mind that we know that many “late transitioners” misreport their sexual orientation because of Social Desirability Bias and Autogynephilic Pseudo-Androphilia.  From several studies we know that perhaps 38% report that their sexual orientation ‘changed’ from exclusively gynephilic to androphilic or bisexual. and that estimates of misreported sexual orientation means that from 20-40% of the self-reported androphilic group is in fact, non-androphilic, which would tend to pull the data toward the non-androphilic value.  Even with that possibility, the data still shows that androphilic MTF transwomen pass far better than non-androphilic.  The data also shows a greater range, standard deviation, which we would expect if 20-40% of the self-reported androphilic were in fact a mixture of the two populations.

Joy_Candice

Dr. Joy Shaffer and Kay Brown at ages 27 & 26.  Joy is non-androphilic, transitioned at age 21/22. Kay is androphilic, transitioned at age 17/18.

So what of our question about early vs. late onset?  Here again, early onset passes better.  But look closely at the data, 46% of the early onset group are androphilic.  If we hypothesize that the salient signifier is sexual orientation and NOT age of onset, then we would expect that the relative score for early onset would be intermediate between androphilic and both non-androphilic and late-onset (which is predominately non-androphilic at 79%).  And that indeed is what we see.  Further, one would predict that since late onset is predominately non-androphilic, that they would have the same level of passability… and indeed that is what we see again.  The data clearly supports the position that sexual orientation and NOT age of onset is the salient signifier, given the stronger signal.  That is to say, variation in the data is explained completely by sexual orientation and that the variation of passability with respect to age of onset is from the correlation between sexual orientation and age of onset.

It is clear that there is a mild correlation with sexual orientation and age of onset, with androphilic MTF transsexual more likely to report early onset (70% vs. 43%).  However, given clinical experiences with each, the meaning of age of onset is quite likely different.  If 43% of non-androphilic transwomen really did have an early onset… why do they all wait so long to socially transition?  The modal age is about 35 years and the average is about 40 years old compared to the 20 years old for androphilic.  I contend that retrospective age of onset is time shifted to an earlier age due to Social Desirability Bias AND to having a different internal meaning to the question.  For transkids (androphilic transwomen), the age of onset is demarcated by extreme somatic and social dysphoria, while for non-androphilic the demarcator is retrospectively found by their strong but vacillating autogynephilic desire for somatic transformation, but with little as yet stable social or somatic dysphoria.  As per Doctor and Prince, it takes considerable time for true gender dysphoria and cross gender identity to develop in non-androphiles / autogynephiles.

We are still left with an open question.  Why do androphilic transwomen pass so much better than non-androphilic?  Three possible hypotheses exist, 1) Having a truly earlier age of onset and social transition age, they experience less masculinization from endogenous androgens. 2) Self selection for passibility as they are motivated to fit into society better, being both physically and behaviorally extremely gender atypical (and not autogynephilically motivated). 3) Actually being, as a group, intrinsically more physically gender atypical.  (That is to say, that the etiological cause for their behavioral gender atypicality causes physical atypicality as well.)

Its also quite possible that any or all of these may be operating.  In fact, I strongly believe that all three are, in fact, operating.  MTF transkids do transition and obtain HRT at an earlier age.  They (we) do care and want to pass to better our lives.  And, from research into gender atypical children, it has been noted that gender atypical and dysphoric male children are considered more attractive than their gender typical male peers.  This ‘attractiveness’ is caused by hypomasculinity (masculine faces aren’t “pretty”).

Looking at the data for FtM transmen, there seems to be a small signal.  I would really like to see a study with more subjects, as this didn’t seem to be as statistically significant as we would like.  Even if real, the effect size is small.  However, we do have collaborating data from earlier studies that show that FtM transkids are judged to be more physically masculine than non-trans-girls.

(Addendum 9/10/2017:

There have been hints from a number of studies that there is a correlation between sexual orientation and subtle gender atypical facial physiognomy.  A new study just how strongly supports this observation.  Using a deep-layer neural net AI trained to categorize faces as heterosexual or homosexual, can differentiate between two faces, one of a heterosexual and one of a homosexual, of the same natal sex at 91% accuracy for males and 83% for females.  That is, the researchers in essence found that there is a sexual orientation dimorphism with an effect size of d=1.9 for males and d=1.4 for females.  This is an amazingly high effect size for both populations.  In fact, this is higher than the effects sizes found for passability.  Of course, I believe this is because many of the subjects have been incorrectly categorized, as I mentioned above.  But it could also be due to this study being restricted to the face and the passability study looking at one’s entire physique.  Note that the effect sizes for the sexes both agree in proportion, males being larger than females.  This adds more strength to the hypothesis that at least some of the cause of the difference in passability between the two types is native gender atypicality of the “homosexual” transsexual taxons.)

Further Reading:

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

References:

Tim C. van de Grift, Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, Thomas D. Steensma, Griet De Cuypere, Hertha Richter-Appelt, Ira R. H. Haraldsen, Rieky E. G. Dikmans, Susanne C. Cerwenka, , Baudewijntje P. C. Kreukels, “Body Satisfaction and Physical Appearance in Gender Dysphoria” Archives of Sexual Behavior
DOI: 10.1007/s10508-015-0614-1

Zucker KJ\, Wild J, Bradley SJ, Lowry CB., “Physical attractiveness of boys with gender identity disorder.” Archives of Sexual Behavior. 1993 Feb;22(1):23-36.
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01552910

Stephanie A. Mcdermid, Kenneth J. Zucker, Susan J. Bradley, Dianne M. Maing, “Effects of Physical Appearance on Masculine Trait Ratings of Boys and Girls with Gender Identity Disorder” Archives of Sexual Behavior
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A%3A1018650401386

Sari R. Fridell, Kenneth J. Zucker, Susan J. Bradley, Dianne M. Maing, “Physical attractiveness of girls with gender identity disorder” Archives of Sexual Behavior
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02437905

Michal Kosinski, Yilun Wang, “Deep neural networks are more accurate than humans at detecting sexual orientation from facial images.”
https://osf.io/zn79k/

 

Comments Off on A Passing Moment…

Shades of Grey…

Posted in Brain Sex, Confirming Two Type Taxonomy, Female-to-Male by Kay Brown on February 23, 2015

shrinking brainShades of Grey… Matter

We live in exciting times – At least scientifically.  We can now peer into the heads of transsexuals to see if their brains exhibit sexually dimorphic features that match their natal sex or their preferred gender.  Years ago, Ray Blanchard made a prediction, based on early evidence that there was a taxonic difference between “homosexual” and “non-homosexual” transwomen in sexuality, natural gendered mannerisms, age of transition, etc, that the former would show sexually dimorphic features in the brain that were shifted in the female direction while the latter would not, but would show features that were different than controls, but that they would not be sexually dimorphic features, and definitely not shifted in the female direction.  We now have yet more evidence that that prediction is correct, giving more weight to the two type taxonomy of MTF transsexuality, namely exclusively androphilic vs. autogynephilic.

The best evidence would be to use two populations of transwomen, one known to be exclusively androphilic and the other not, and test them for the same features, using the same type of measurement.  We now have that data for grey matter distribution in the brains of both types of transsexual.

In the earlier Savic and Arver paper, they compared grey matter distribution of 24 gynephilic transwomen, before HRT to that of heterosexual men and women.  (Remember, HRT itself causes a shift in sexually dimorphic features due to activational effects of sex hormones, and the lack of such hormones.)  The conclusion?

“The present data do not support the notion that brains of (gynephilic) MtF-TR are feminized.”

In the later Simon paper, they compared grey matter distribution of 10 exclusively androphilic transwomen, and 7 exclusively gynephilic FtM transmen, before HRT to that of heterosexual men and women.  The conclusion?

“Our findings support the notion that structural differences exist between subjects with GID and controls from the same biological gender. We found that transsexual subjects did not differ significantly from controls sharing their gender identity but were different from those sharing their biological gender in their regional GM volume of several brain areas, including the left and right precentral gyri, the left postcentral gyrus (including the somatosensory cortex and the primary motor cortex), the left posterior cingulate, precueneus and calcarinus, the right cuneus, the right fusiform, lingual, middle and inferior occipital, and inferior temporal gyri. Additionaly, we also found areas in the cerebellum and in the left angular gyrus and left inferior parietal lobule that showed significant structural difference between transgender subjects and controls, independent from their biological gender.”

The choice to explore only “homosexual” transsexuals in this study was informed by the researchers’ knowledge of the Freund/Blanchard taxonomy and of Blanchard’s prediction, as they explained,

“Both MTF and FTM patients were eligible for the study, but only those with homosexual orientation. The rationale for this choice was based on the Blanchard typology which considers two fundamentally different types of transsexualism: homosexual and nonhomosexual. Homosexual transsexual individuals are sexually attracted to the same biological gender, while nonhomosexual transsexual individuals are attracted to either the opposite gender or show no sexual orientation/attraction at all. According to Blanchard, homosexual transsexuals are usually younger at initial presentation of gender identity disorder and show more pronounced and frequent childhood femininity, as well as different anthropometric data. One might argue that mixing individuals from both transsexual groups in one study targeting the neurobiological background of transsexualism might bias the results by introducing heterogeneity in the sample. Thus, in our study, only homosexual transsexual individuals were included preventing our findings from the aforementioned bias.”

This points to growing recognition within the scientific community that the two type taxonomy is correct.  They went further, indirectly referring to the taxonomy and Blanchard’s prediction,

“In another study also limited to MTF transsexuals Savic and Arver, reported no “feminization” of any brain region with regard to structure. Nonetheless, certain brain areas (clusters ≥100 voxels) showed characteristic structural features in the transsexual group compared with both male and female control groups. Specifically, they found reduced thalamus and putamen volumes and increased GM volumes in the insular and inferior frontal cortex and in the right temporo-parietal junction (angular gyrus and superior temporal gyrus) in the transsexual group compared with both control groups. In our study, however only the angular gyrus (but in the left hemisphere) was affected among these areas, showing lower regional GM concentration in both FTM and MTF transgender subjects compared to controls, independent of their biological gender. When comparing the results reported by Savic and Arver to either our study or to other imaging studies in the literature of transsexualism, it has to be taken into consideration that their reported results were obtained from a solely nonhomosexual transsexual group of patients. The lack of real overlap between our and Savic and Arvers’ findings, despite the very similar methodology used, might at least in part be explained by the difference of the sexual orientation of the two samples.”

Truly, exiting times.

References:

Ivanka Savic, Stefan Arver, “Sex Dimorphism of the Brain in Male-to-Female Transsexuals”
http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/04/05/cercor.bhr032

Lajos Simon, Lajos R. Kozák, Viktória Simon, Pál Czobor, Zsolt Unoka, Ádám Szabó, Gábor Csukly, “Regional Grey Matter Structure Differences between Transsexuals and Healthy Controls—A Voxel Based Morphometry Study”
10.1371/journal.pone.0083947

 


 

Fun Reading:

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity 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.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Comments Off on Shades of Grey…

Child’s Play

Posted in Female-to-Male, Science Criticism, Transgender Youth by Kay Brown on February 9, 2015

critical-thinkingFor years, critics of transkids’ identities have made claims that transkids are either “confused”, “delayed”, or “pretending”.  Many papers describing feminine boys from the 1960’s would describe them as being “talented mimics”, explicitely taking the position that men and women, boys and girls, do in fact have in-born differences in behavior, mannerisms, and motor-movements, but that these feminine boys were NOT exhibiting natural behavior, but were consciously, or “subconsciously”, observing girls and women, and learning to “mimic” these behaviors.  Of course, those of us who were such and grew up to transition, have long begged to differ!

Today, we have a published paper that demolishes these notions.  At the core of the paper is the ability to determine implicit associations between concepts.  If you are not familiar with this tool, it may be useful to review the Wiki page on Implicit Association Testing .  One of it strengths is that it cannot be “faked”.  It is impervious to Social Desirability Bias or other impression management distortions.  It is also impossible for someone to be “pretending”, as the cognitive load to evaluate the test set-up, determine the “right” answer, etc. would create an obvious delay in the test.  Further, if a child were “confused” as to the meaning of sex and gender, there would be an obvious anomalous signature in the test results.

ImplicitThe study involved 32 transkids, ages 5-12, 12 FtM, 20 MTF, who have already transitioned full time, with the full support of their families.  This would obviously include “early onset” transkids.  However, and this is critical, we know, or at least suspect, that some of these kids will “desist” being gender dysphoric before puberty, if they follow the trend already seen in other studies, most especially the Steensma study from the Netherlands.  Yet, for all of that, the results of the study show that these kids are completely consistent in their implicit gender identity and preferences as their opposite sex, non-trans, controls and siblings.  They are NOT pretending, nor confused.

The folks who conducted this recent study are continuing their work, looking at these kids as they grow up.  They are looking for additional transkids to join the study.

Study on Gender Nonconformity in Children

Hi from the TransYouth Project at the University of Washington! We are researchers interested in gender development in children and have a new research project we are currently recruiting families for. The project aims to better understand gender development in gender nonconforming and transgender children.  Our new study takes 30-60 minutes and includes children ages 3-12. We are running the study all over the U.S. and Canada so please let us know if you are interested and we can let you know when we’ll be in your area. We are hoping to recruit gender nonconforming children as well as their siblings (where applicable). All data collected as part of this study are confidential. Payment is $10 per parent and $10 plus a small toy per child. There is an optional longitudinal component that we can tell you more about as well if you are interested. To sign up for the study, please visit: http://www.transyouthproject.org. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, Dr. Kristina Olson, via email (krolson@uw.edu) or phone (206-616-1371). Thanks for considering being a part of this research or telling someone who might be!

Reference:

Kristina R. Olson, Aidan C. Key, Nicholas R. Eaton, “Gender Cognition in Transgender Children“, Psychological Science

Thomas D. Steensma, Roeline Biemond, Fijgie de Boer and Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, “Desisting and persisting gender dysphoria after childhood: A qualitative follow-up study”
http://ccp.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/01/06/1359104510378303

 


 

Fun Reading:

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity 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.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Tagged with: ,

Comments Off on Child’s Play

Are Your Ears Burning?

Posted in Female-to-Male, Science Criticism by Kay Brown on January 19, 2015

critical-thinkingIt has long been hypothesized that prenatal or perinatal hormone levels influence sexually dimorphic behavior in humans.  The evidence from studies of people with Disorders of Sexual Development and in numerous animals studies lends strong evidence that this is true.  So it would seem natural that we should ask if sexual orientation and gendered behavior in otherwise phenotypically normal individuals could also have been affected by hormones.  The ultimate study would be one that longitudinally follows a large cohort of individuals from conception to adulthood, taking extensive hormonal assays while evaluating gendered behavior and sexual orientation.  The problems of doing such a study for transsexuality is obvious… the cohort would have to be in the hundreds of thousands to ensure statistically significant numbers of transsexual individuals were included.

Thus, researchers are interested in finding sexually dimorphic markers that record historical hormone environments.  That is to say, something that is an organizational and not an activational effect, preferably one that becomes fixed at the same period in prenatal development as organizational effects in the brain.  It must be something that is observable at birth and remains stable long enough to allow us to use it to retrospectively determine ones hormonal environment after we have found our gender atypical population of interest.

I’ve already blogged about one such putative measure, the 2D:4D ratio, which is mildly sexually dimorphic, and in at least some population has a recognizably large enough effect size that we can hope that we can use it.  Sadly, the results have been contradictory so far.  But despair not, another such sexually dimorphic marker is available, though it requires specialized equipment to measure.

In individuals with normal, unimpaired hearing, a curious effect is found in which our inner ears respond to external sounds with sounds of their own, which is known to be mildly sexually dimorphic, as described in the abstract from a recent paper out of Europe, the first known to explore this effect as a potential probe of the role of androgens in gender dysphoria,

“Click-evoked otoacoustic emissions (CEOAEs) are echo-like sounds that are produced by the inner ear in response to click-stimuli. CEOAEs generally have a higher amplitude in women compared to men and neonates already show a similar sex difference in CEOAEs. Weaker responses in males are proposed to originate from elevated levels of testosterone during perinatal sexual differentiation.  Therefore, CEOAEs may be used as a retrospective indicator of someone’s perinatal androgen environment.”

coeaeBefore we get too excited about this marker, we need to look at the effect size, with is quite small at only d=0.30 in the left ear and was better in the right ear at d=0.60.  You may recall that this is of the same order as the 2D:4D finger length ratios at d=0.63.  This is large enough to be useful, but only if enough subjects are available to achieve significant statistical power.  Sadly, this lack of enough subjects seems to be the case in this study.  Too bad, because there is a hint at some exciting results in that looking at a group of gender atypical and gender dysphoric children and teens, the natal males seem to show a shift in the female-like direction, but oddly, the natal females do NOT,

“In the present study, we retrospectively investigated possible organizational effects of prenatal androgens on CEOAEs in relation to gender identity. We found that boyswith GID had sex-atypical (hypomasculinized) emissions. Their mean response amplitudes, though, were not significantly different from either the male or female controls. Thus, boys with GID had an intermediate position between the sexes in terms of CEOAE response amplitudes. By contrast, girls with GID showed emissions in the same range as female controls.  Consistent with several earlier studies, sex differences in emission strengths were observed in the control group, with girls having significantly stronger emission amplitudes than boys. Our finding that boys with GID showed stronger, more female-typical emissions compared to control boys suggests that boys with GID might have been exposed to relatively lower amounts of androgens during early development. The effect sizes for the comparison boys with GID versus control boys were similar to those for control girls versus control boys, supporting the notion of a hypomasculinized early sexual differentiation in boys with GID.  However, considering the lack of statistically significant differences between the control boys and the boys with GID and the relatively small sample size of subjects with GID, this conclusion may still be premature and our results therefore need to be interpreted with caution. Furthermore, our findings did not support the hypothesis of an increased exposure to androgens in girls with GID during prenatal development. Though speculative, this might reflect that GID in girls does not develop under the influence of prenatal androgens or at least not during the same critical time window as when androgens exert influences over OAEs.”

This result is surprising, in that previous studies involving gay men and women, researchers saw the opposite pattern, in that gay men showed no shift from control men, but lesbians showed a shift from the female to the male response.  The most exciting times in science are when you hear, “That’s strange!”  This is one of those times.  Several possibilities exist.  This result could just be spurious, with not enough subjects to have seen the real signal.  It could be that there is an additional activational effect that occurs as children mature, that causes a shift for both gay men and gay women toward the masculine response.  We may be seeing the effect of heterosexual “tomboys” swamping out the FtM signal.  Or, we could be witnessing the first hint that there is a difference between transkids, both MTF and FtM, and conventionally gay men and lesbian women.  Time and additional studies will tell.

References:

Sarah M. Burke, Willeke M. Menks, Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, Daniel T. Klink, Julie Bakker, “Click-Evoked Otoacoustic Emissions in Children and Adolescents with Gender Identity Disorder”  Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI 10.1007/s10508-014-0278-2

Dennis McFadden, Edward G. Pasanen, “Spontaneous otoacoustic emissions in heterosexuals, homosexuals, and bisexuals” Journal of the Acoustic Society of America, http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.426845

 


 

Fun Reading:

All the Stars are Suns ebook completeSincerity 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.   Available as an ebook at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

Tagged with:

Comments Off on Are Your Ears Burning?