On the Science of Changing Sex

Fraternizing with the…

Posted in Transsexual Field Studies by Kay Brown on June 18, 2017

critical-thinking… Allies  Or, The Fraternal Birth Order Effect: Early Onset Transwomen vs. Gay Men

In a very recently published meta-study conducted by Ray Blanchard further exploring the Fraternal Birth Order Effect (FBOE), in which he had earlier noted that androphilic males tend to have more older brothers than sisters, he deals with several concerns and new research questions.  First, there had been some concerns with how best to handle the potential effects of family size.  But what really interests me is that here, for the first time, he carefully considers the effect of transgender (feminine presentation / identity) vs. non-trans androphilic men (masculine presentation / identity i.e. conventional gay men).  The results are striking!

“The pooled Older Brothers Odds Ratio for the feminine groups was 1.85, and the value for the non-feminine groups was 1.27. The corresponding risk ratios were 1.52 and 1.19.  The differences between groups were highly significant.  To sum up the results so far in common language:  Feminine homosexual males have more older brothers than non-feminine homosexual males, and non-feminine homosexual males, in turn, have more older brothers than heterosexual males.”

These results weren’t just “statistically significant”, the effect was very great with the 95% Confidence Levels not even overlapping!

But we should introduce a note of caution here.  The feminine androphilic data was very heterogeneous as can be seen in this plot of the data.  This may be caused by the differences between cultures sampled from all over the world.  Some of this data is from Samoan Fa’afafine, some from Western gender dysphoria clinics in the US, UK, and Spain, some from non-Western cultures like Brazil and Korea.  Blanchard also noted this issue and suggested exploration of this might interest some future researcher as more data becomes available.  But in any case, we are shown some very intriguing data that strongly suggests that we may be seeing a difference in etiology between feminine and masculine androphilic males.

Blanchard discusses possible conclusions regarding this,

“A … possibility is that the neurodevelopmental pathway triggered by older brothers is inherently more feminizing than path ways triggered by other etiologic factors (e.g., ‘‘gay’’ genes or prenatal hormone exposure). Thus, a group of homosexual males selected for generalized femininity is likely to contain a higher proportion of individuals who acquired their sexual orientation via the older brother pathway. Other hypotheses, equally speculative, are also possible. … Blanchard and Bogaert (1996) proposed that the FBOE reflects the progressive immunization of some mothers to male-specific (i.e., Y-linked) antigens by each succeeding male fetus and the concomitantly increasing effects of anti-male antibodies on sexual differentiation of the brain in each succeeding male fetus. According to this maternal immune hypothesis, cells (or cell fragments) from male fetuses enter the maternal circulation during childbirth or perhaps earlier in pregnancy. These cells include substances that occur only on the surfaces of male cells, primarily male brain cells. The mother’s immune system recognizes these male-specific molecules as foreign and produces antibodies to them.  When the mother later becomes pregnant with another male fetus, her antibodies cross the placental barrier and enter the fetal brain. Once in the brain, these antibodies bind to male-specific molecules on the surface of neurons.  This prevents these neurons from ‘‘wiring-up’’ in the male-typical pattern, so that the individual will later be attracted to men rather than women.”

Something not discussed, indeed I’m not sure how it can even be explored – unless the curve in the data shown for the odds of an older brother per other sibling is evidence for the effect of first born males experiencing self-induced maternal immunity creating the same etiological pathway.  I would also expect that some first born males may have this etiology due to previous maternal miscarriages and abortions of male fetuses since they too would be expected to have Y-linked antigen challenges to the maternal immune system.

Still, and all, very exciting paper well worth reading.

Reference:

Blanchard, R., “Fraternal Birth Order, Family Size, and Male Homosexuality: Meta-Analysis of Studies Spanning 25 Years”, Archives of Sexual Behavior, (2017),
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-017-1007-4

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Flipping the Bird

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

 

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 autogyenphilic 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 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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Triumph for Whom?

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on March 1, 2015

CloudyIn a recent popular magazine article, intellectual essayist, Charlotte Allen wrote an extensive and deep exposition on the events of the past 15 years of the increase in visibility of the Transgender community.  Encouragingly, it was unflinching in its exploration of not only the pop-psychology, but also the REAL psychology and politics.  Of neccessity, this also means that she explained about the two type taxonomy, Blanchard’s role in researching it, Bailey’s role in popularizing it… and of the disgraceful behavior of the autogynephilic transwomen who attempted to shout down those who, in their research, came to support the scientific recognition that “late transitioning” transwomen are on the same continuum as transvestites / cross-dressers.  Ms. Allen writes,

“Blanchard’s theory is that transgenders fall into two distinct categories whose sexual orientations, interests, choice of careers, and even, to a large extent, social class are violently different from each other. One of those categories he calls “homosexual” transgenders, whose sexual attraction, from childhood to death, is strictly toward members of their own genetic sex. Among males, they’re the extremely effeminate boys who identify as girls in early childhood, play with dolls and other girls’ toys, and shun the rough-and-tumble play typical of boys their age. Studies at Vanderbilt and the University of London have shown that 70 to 80 percent of those trans-children grow out of their trans-identity at puberty and become, simply, gay adolescents and, later, gay adult men. The 20 to 30 percent who do take formal steps toward transitioning, Blanchard believes, are a self-selected group who, thanks to their more delicate looks, can function fairly successfully as women. “They’re people who might be unsuccessful as men,” Blanchard said.  —  Homosexual transgender men transition early in adulthood, typically during their twenties, Blanchard observed. They account for the vast majority of transgenders in the non-Western world: from the “two-spirits” of indigenous North American tribes, to the fa’afafine of Samoa, to the kathoeys of Thailand who can easily fool Western sex tourists into misidentifying them as women. In those societies there is typically a recognized and thoroughly integrated social niche for men who identify and dress as women. The fa’afafine typically work as secretaries, nannies, and housekeepers​—​stereotypically female occupations. In that respect, they’re not unlike the flamboyant gay men of Western culture who carved out a recognized social niche for themselves in such occupations as hairdresser, dancer, makeup artist, interior decorator, couturier, and fashion consultant (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy). Boys and men in drag played women’s roles on stage from classical times to the 17th century, and they continue to be popular entertainers for both gays and heterosexuals to this day, as the demographics of the Kit Kat Lounge attest.  — By contrast, Blanchard discovered that the predominant form that trangenderism takes in the West today involves men who, as men, have never identified as homosexual in their erotic attractions, but rather as heterosexual, bisexual, or asexual. Those men, his research revealed, tended to make their transitions in their mid-to-late thirties, or even later​—​at least a full decade on average after the homosexual transgenders did. Furthermore, many of those men were married and fathers before they came out. The paradigm might be travel writer Jan Morris, now 88, who spent the first 46 years of her life as James Morris, the journalist who covered Edmund Hillary’s ascent of Mt. Everest and who fathered five children before undergoing transition surgery in 1972. And many in this heterosexual population​—​in contrast to the homosexual transgenders on the drag scene​—​worked in stereotypically hypermasculine professions: They’d been parachutists, Navy SEALs, engineers, policemen, firemen, and high school football coaches. The billionaire philanthropist James Pritzker, who became Jennifer Natalya Pritzker in 2013, in his early sixties, is a retired much-decorated U.S. Army lieutenant colonel with three children by his former wife. “They’ll say that they chose those professions in order to suppress their feelings as females,” Blanchard said. “But no one put a gun to their heads to choose those jobs.” Many late-transitioning transgenders (Jennifer Finney Boylan, for example) insist, contra Blanchard, that they were aware from early childhood that they were born into the wrong body—​but Blanchard thinks they aren’t being honest with themselves.”

Ms. Allen then goes on to explain how certain members of the autogynephilic tranwomen’s community took umbridge with Bailey’s attempt at popularizing Blanchard’s work,

The Man Who Would Be Queen inflamed transgender activists. It did have certain inflammatory aspects. There was the jacket photo of the man in high heels. Blanchard’s coinage “autogynephilia” (extensively used by Bailey in the book), with its connotations of fetishism, deviance, and mental disorder, has never sat well with transgenders. Bailey was even more adamant than Blanchard that autogynephilic transgenders often lied about their erotic fascination with cross-dressing. Furthermore, Bailey observed, drawing on his previous studies, that homosexual transgenders tended to come from lower socioeconomic classes than autogynephiles, and that they tended to have short time-horizons that often led them into streetwalking, shoplifting, and other petty crimes. “Prostitution is the single most common occupation,” Bailey wrote. His book also, perhaps inadvertently, included details about “Cher” that made her real identity quickly discoverable to those in the know: Anjelica Kieltyka, a Chicago transgender woman who, although disagreeing with Bailey about his characterization of her as autogynephilic, had made frequent guest appearances in his classes and had introduced him to other figures in the city’s transgender scene.  —  Bailey’s book caught the immediate​—​and hostile—​attention of Lynn Conway, now 77, a pioneer of computer-chip design during the 1970s, a longtime engineering professor at the University of Michigan, and a leading transgender activist who figured as one of Time’s “21 Transgender People Who Influenced American Culture” in its May 2014 cover story. Conway was close to Andrea James (both had been patients of Dr. Ousterhout and touted his facial-feminization techniques on their websites). James, best-known for counseling Felicity Huffman, the star of the film Transamerica (2005), on transgender voice and mannerisms, underwent transition surgery in 1996. She and Conway teamed up with Kieltyka, and with Deirdre McCloskey, to make sure that The Man Who Would Be Queen would not receive a respectable academic hearing. McCloskey’s participation in this enterprise seems odd. For one thing, her memoir, Crossing, describes her pre-transition self as having been “sexually aroused” as a young man by accounts of cross-dressing​—​a classic Blanchard-esque theme.”

She also notes that the science does not support the contention that “late transitioners” have female brains,

“The medical evidence for a mismatch between brains and bodies is ambiguous. The two studies cited most frequently by transgender activists, published in 1995 and 2000, examined the brains of a total of seven male-to-female transgenders and found that a region of the hypothalamus, an almond-shaped area of the brain that controls the release of hormones by the pituitary gland, was female-typical in those brains. But those studies have been criticized for not controlling for the estrogen​—​which affects the size of the hypothalamus​—​that most male-to-female transgenders take daily in order to maintain their feminine appearance.”

If I had any serious criticism of her essay, it would be in the way that she hews to the stereotype that transkids, “homosexual transsexuals”, are stereotyped as being prone to becoming petty criminals, prostitutes, and drag performers.  I also found her take on the recent improvments in medicine and law regarding the treament of transchildren and teens to be unsympathetic.  She gives one the impression that too many gender variant pre-teens are being pushed into iatrogenic trauma via puberty blockers, etc.  While it may be true that autogynephiles may overvalue transition, most transkids and our caregivers are careful not to push children who are more likely to become gay and lesbian adults into wrong paths.

It may be uncomfortable reading, but I highly recommend that you do.

Reference:

http://m.weeklystandard.com/articles/transgender-triumph_859614.html?page=3

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What the NEXT Wave of Transgender Activists Need to Know

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on December 9, 2014

CloudyThis post marks five years of writing on the subject.  It seems a good moment to stop and reflect on the reasons I’ve been writing, and to explore what has changed in my lifetime.  I’ve tried to keep the material mostly about the science and its implications.  It hasn’t always been easy, as there is in the background, from what I would call the “Second Wave” of transactivists, a powerful and very ugly, campaign of disinformation.  Why do I say, “Second Wave”?  Because I, and a few folks I knew from the ’70s and very early ’80s, were the “First Wave”.

Christine Jorgensen would undoubtedly have to be called the first, as she wrote and spoke about her life in the hopes that others like her would have a better life in the future. I still keep in my “memory box” a small ticket stub from the day that I attended a talk she gave at a local community college in February of ’76.  After she spoke, she welcomed the small cluster of transwomen who surrounded her, hoping to speak with their heroine.  Christine took a special interest in me, teasing me as a “Baby TS, all of eighteen years old!”

Silvia Rivera is of course oft mentioned when she spoke out from the streets of New York.  I’m sad that I never got the chance to meet Silvia before she died.  Other street warriors came forward, but their efforts were, sadly, largely symbolic, yet important none-the-less.  One of these was Angela Keyes Douglas.  I was with her the evening that she typed the infamous Sister letter that Janice Raymond would later, falsely, use as an example of transsexual misogyny, in her transphobic book, The Transsexual Empire.  Angela angrily pulled it fresh from her typewriter and asked me to review it.  It dripped with hyperbolic sarcasm, angry as she was over the transphobic treatment of Sandy Stone over her employment at Olivia Records, the seminal Womyn’s Music publisher.  I too was angry at the treatment that Sandy was enduring, being on friendly terms with her as well, but I diplomatically reported, “It’s too full of anger to do any good.”  Angela snorted, snatched the letter back from me, and posted it.  Even then, in ’77, it was very clear that Angela’s mind was deteriorating from progressive paranoid schizophrenia.

Joy_Candice

Dr. Joy Shaffer and Kay Brown in the mid-80s

Little known is the real hero of those very early days, transman Reed Erickson, who put his fortune to work helping both the gay and trans communities.  Through the ’60s and ’70s, he supported the Erickson Education Foundation, whose Executive Director, Zelda Suplee, an iconoclastic non-transsexual woman, was a lifeline, on the phone and through the mails, for many transsexuals who would otherwise have been all alone.  Zelda was a firm believer not only in the transsexual community, but in nudism and reincarnation.  Once, as I drove the three of us to a meeting of transactivists, my roommate, Dr. Joy Shaffer asked her, “Do you really believe in that stuff?”  Zelda quipped in reply, “It beats television!”

ACLUBut in the late ’70s came Joanna Clark, Jude Patton, and Joy Shaffer, who I’m proud to say invited me to join them in founding the ACLU Transsexual Rights committee.  Joanna and Jude also worked very closely with fabulously openly gay Paul Walker to continue the educational work of the recently defunct Erickson Foundation and to eventually found the Harry Benjamin Gender Dysphora Association (later renamed World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).  One night in the mid ’80s, Paul Walker, Joanna, Joy, and I were bar hoping in San Francisco, when we entered a bar that Paul liked to frequent, catering to mostly transwomen of color.  The patrons took one look at the towering whiteness of Joanna and informed us that “This is a private club.”  Joanna, with her typically irreverent, and oft dangerously inappropriate, sense of humor, loudly quipped, “Busted!!!”.  These would be the serious activists that pioneered efforts to work with lawmakers and the courts, physicians, surgeons, clinics and scientists… to earn legal and medical recognition, to enable the majority of transfolk to transition and receive appropriate and respectful medical and legal services.

From these early, daring days, came those that soon followed, expanding the ranks of organizations that took our early cutting edge openings, to expand it and now in most of the Western World we have nearly the legal recognitions and protections we need, with a few exceptions that we can all soon hope will be only a sad memory.

In the early ’90s, transactivists across the Western World began actively lobbying their governments.  In late ’96, transactivist lawyer, JoAnna McNamara asked me to work with her lobbying the Oregon legislature to address language in a new bill that would have stripped transfolk in that state of protections that JoAnna herself had only recently won in admistrative ‘court’.  I worked fulltime, alongside her, as we made appointments to speak to key legislators, using a deliberate one-two punch, in which she, as an older transitioner, not very “passable” would be assumed to be “the transsexual” discussed how transphobia worked to deny employment opportunities to transwomen like her.  As I sat quietly taking notes, I was assumed to be her natal female assistant… until I spoke up about what discrimination awaits transwomen like me who pass, but are later discovered by their employer… The sudden shocking realization would cause the legislator to rethink their opposition to our position.  It reached a climax in a public hearing about the bill in which the room was packed with transactivists that JoAnna and I had hurriedly put together on very short notice.  We won.  The anti-trans* languange was removed from the bill in committee.  Six months of full time lobbying paid off.

But from the very late ’90s came a Second Wave that took the previous work for granted… and started a new, and in my own personal opinion, disturbing direction. Not content with being able to transition and obtain legal recognition, these new activists have decided that they could bend the truth to their will, to use the power of the internet to coerce our best allies, the clinicians, therapists, medical practitioners, scientists, and even other transfolk, to ignore decades of clinical and scientific evidence regarding the uninvited dilemma that is transsexuality and transgender sexuality.  To my shame as a transwoman and transactivist, transfolk I knew and respected turned from respectability toward waging a vicious propaganda and slander campaign.

CedarStar

CedarStar

I first met Dr. Anne Lawrence in ’95, when Dr. Joy Shaffer brought her to have dinner at CedarStar, my Portland communal house.  While I prepared dinner, Anne and Joy explained Blanchard’s theory.  OF course, I totally understood and agreed, since I had been first educated about the very same issue when I was but 18 years old by my world wise transwoman of color friend, Marcella, who explained “older transistioners” as “… just TVs that need a bigger fix”.  I remember being amused at the thought that the scientists were finally proving it.

I first heard of Lynn Conway in 1982 from Joy’s father, who was a professor of electrical engineering.  Prof. Shaffer had proudly informed me that Lynn was also transsexual, offering the information to strongly encourage me to finish my undergraduate degree and apply at Stanford Graduate School, urging me to study to become an engineer like Joy’s younger sister was at the time, (joining my boyfriend’s mother in chorus, who being an engineer herself, also wanted her son’s girlfriend to also be an engineer). I finally met Lynn in the late ’90s, when she wrote to me regarding my TransHistory class I was teaching at the Harvey Milk Institute in San Francisco.  I had taken advantage of the web to post my class notes, which brought me to her attention.  I was very happy to finally meet this famous transsexual Silicon Valley pioneer.  Of course, during our conversations, during her frequent visits, over dinner, lunch, and at my house, etc.  I had a chance to explain Blanchard’s two type taxonomy.  I was under the honest impression that she understood and agreed with it.

Then, in 2003, Lynn called asking me to join her in protesting Bailey’s new book that she thought was so dangerous, The Man Who Would Be Queen.  Though I hadn’t read it, I had no interest in protesting what I personally believed was true.  Seriously, I can’t imagine what would lead Lynn to believe that I would join in a fight to deny the science I knew to be true.  But, I was not to take the steps that lead to this blog until I read Alice Dreger’s history of the horrendous behavior of these ‘Second Wave’ transactivists. In 2008, I read Alice’s article, Bailey’s book, and corresponded with a number of the players, including Bailey and Kiira Triea, who became a friend as a result.  I was horrified.  I was also ashamed; ashamed for our community, ashamed for my earlier cowardice for not having tried to stop Lynn and the others.  These people, our community, behaved abominably.  They attacked the very people who were working hard to understand us, to help us.  They falsely vilified both non-transfolk and transfolk alike, members of our own community… and established a poisonous atmosphere of fear and intimidation that persists. As Bailey and Kiira wrote in 2007,

“Beyond denying the role of autogynephilia in MtF transsexualism, some transsexual activists have mounted attacks on those who publicly disagree with them. In 2003, the first author published a book, The Man Who Would Be Queen, about male femininity, including MtF transsexualism. The section on transsexualism included summaries of Blanchard’s theory illustrated by transsexual women of both types whom he had met, and who agreed to let their stories be included. Upon publication, there was a firestorm of controversy among some MtF transsexuals. Most notably, the transsexual activists Lynn Conway (2006) and Andrea James (2006) led an internet “investigation” into the publication of the book. Conway (2004) likened the book to “Nazi propaganda” and said that it was “transsexual women’s worst nightmare.” As a result of Conway’s and James’s efforts, a number of very public academic, personal, and professional accusations were made against the first author. None of these accusations was true (Bailey 2005). The attacks on The Man Who Would Be Queen were precisely an attempt to punish the author for writing approvingly about Blanchard’s ideas, and to intimidate others from doing so.  The second author was also attacked by some of the same transsexuals after she helped create the Website transkids.us. This website was created by a group of homosexual transsexuals, or “transkids,” their nonclinical name for themselves, to educate the clinical and research communities in the wake of the controversy regarding The Man Who Would Be Queen. The writings on the site both endorsed Blanchard’s distinction between homosexual and autogynephilic MtF transsexuals and criticized the standard feminine essence narrative as being both false and harmful to homosexual MtF transsexuals. Subsequently, Andrea James (2007) conducted highly personal attacks on individual transkids (including the second author), urging that these transkids be exposed and asserting that they were “fakes” because they would not reveal their identities publicly”.

As an example of this attempt to intimidate those who might speak out… and “discredit” those who do, James spent a year trying to figure out who the last of the transkids.us website authors, “Cloudy” was… while simultaneously attempting to convince the trans-community that “Cloudy” was yet another “fake”.  After she discovered that I was “Cloudy” she attempted to intimidate me by email and phone, in which Conway participated in a minor way.  James, failing to intimidate me from further writing on this subject, produced a scandalously scurrilous webpage, describing me as both “fringe” and… well… you can search for it yourself.

Let my experience be an object lesson for the NEXT wave of transactivists.  It is not enough to work to change the world… we need to make sure that we ourselves maintain the values that we would wish in others: respect, cooperation, open-mindedness, kindness.  We need to stand up against bullies, even our own… NO, Especially our own. Above all… we need to maintain and reward a search for the truth, even if it is an uncomfortable truth.

References: Bailey, J. Michael – Triea, Kiira. “What Many Transgender Activists Don’t Want You to Know: and why you should know it anyway” – Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Volume 50, Number 4, Autumn 2007, pp. 521-534 DOI: 10.1353/pbm.2007.0041

Alice D. Dreger, “The Controversy Surrounding The Man Who Would Be Queen: A Case History of the Politics of Science, Identity, and Sex in the Internet Age” – Archives of Sexual Behavior, June 2008, Volume 37, pp 366-421 DOI: 10.1007/s10508-007-9301-1

Alice D. Dreger, “Galileo’s Middle Finger – Heretics, Activists, And The Search For Justice In Science“, 2015

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Autogynephilic vs. Even More Autogynephilic

Posted in Science Criticism by Kay Brown on September 12, 2014

critical-thinkingThe $64K question about the Freund/Blanchard two type taxonomy is, “Is it, in fact, taxonic?”  That is to say, “Are there in fact two types of MTF transsexuals with each having a different etiology?”  The evidence pointing to it is formidable;  If one is to try to prove this to be incorrect the evidence to counter it would have to be even more formidable and convincing.  A recent paper by Veale attempts and claims to do just that, but fails utterly upon examination, as we shall see.  What she has done is to demonstrate that the difference between exclusively gynephilic and bisexual/pseudo androphilic transsexuals is purely dimensional and not taxonic.

But first, we need to define what is meant by taxonic, and what is not taxonic.  As Gangestad explains it,

“Meehl defined a taxon as “a nonarbitrary class whose existence is conjectured as an empirical question, not a mere semantic convenience”. A domain containing taxa is taxonic. Examples include biological sex, biological species, some disease entities (e.g., measles), and some ideological systems in politics or religion (Meehl, 1992). Many taxa are characterized by their causal simplicity. Taxonic domains are more likely than dimensional ones to have specific etiologies, including dichotomous necessary causal factors. For example, infectious diseases are taxa, and their causes consist of specific microbes. (More complex causal processes, such as thresholds and polarization effects, “may also underlie taxa” .) The existence of taxa can be supported either by the demonstration of requisite causal processes or by formal mathematical taxometric methods, which decide whether latent taxa underlie a set of candidate indicators of a conjectured taxon based on numerical relations between them. If so, the formal-numerical taxa that are thereby defined are empirical. Their causal basis must be discovered through additional research, and, thereby, taxometric findings can guide future inquiry into the causes of variation in the domain.”

Turning to the Freund/Blanchard taxonomy, as Veale explains it,

“Blanchard (1989) proposed that there are two distinct types (taxa) of male-to-female (MF) transsexuals and these distinctions are characterized by their sexuality: ‘‘autogynephilic’’ or ‘‘homosexual.’’ According to Blanchard, autogynephilic MF transsexuals are sexually attracted to females (gynephilic), both sexes (bisexual), or neither sex (analloerotic); they are not unusually feminine in childhood; and prior to transitioning often live outwardly successful lives as males, frequently marrying and having children. These MF transsexuals also experience autogynephilia—a term which Blanchard used to refer to ‘‘a male’s propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought of himself as a female’’. Homosexual MF transsexuals are exclusively sexually attracted to males (androphilic), do not experience autogynephilia, are highly feminine in their childhood, do not generally have success with attempts to live in the male role, and tend to present for treatment of their gender dysphoria at a younger age. By splitting MF transsexuals into these two groups based on their sexual orientation, Blanchard 1988,1989) and others (Freund, Steiner, & Chan,1982; Johnson &Hunt, 1990; Nuttbrock et al., 2011a; Smith, van Goozen, Kuiper, & Cohen-Kettenis, 2005) have found evidence for the average differences between these groups that Blanchard proposed. However, these differences do not necessarily imply a typology exists. These results could also have been reached if there was a nontaxonic latent structure with a correlation between the sexual orientation of MF transsexuals and these other differences. Although Blanchard (1985a) found some evidence for a taxonic latent structure of the sexuality of MF transsexuals by obtaining cut-off scores for classifying MF transsexuals into two groups using an earlier version of the taxometric procedures described in this article, he did not specifically test whether the sexuality of MF transsexuals was taxonic or dimensional.”

Veale acknowledges that there are other data that suggest, strongly I would argue, that there are clearly two taxa within the MTF transsexual population.  (See FAQ for list of data supporting the two type taxonic structure in MTF transwomen.  Also see my blog category “Supporting the Two Type Taxonomy” for essays.)  She only directly lists the fraternal birth order effect, which exclusive androphilic transsexuals share with conventional gay men, but NOT autogynephilc transsexuals.  This is important, in that Gangestad demonstrated that sexual orientation roughly correlated with a latent taxa in the general population.  Thus, there IS a taxonic structure to be considered here… and if so, we need to ask what would a non-taxonic structure among the transsexual population look like?

What is not acknowledged in Veale’s paper, but should be, is that clinical experience shows that autogynephilia also exists in male individuals who do not exhibit gender dysphoria sufficient to motivate them to transition.  We call these men, “Cross-Dressers” (CD) or “transvestites” (TV).  From long clinical observation, it has been noted that there does not appear to be a sharp line between such autogynephilic individuals, that indeed most autogynephilic transsexuals had careers that exactly match those of CD/TV men before transition.  That is also to say, that there appears to be a smooth, dimensional (non-taxonic) spectrum from mildly autogynephilic men to autogynephilic transwomen.  Also from societal and clinical observation, we note that exclusively androphilic transwomen population appears to smoothly blend toward feminine gay male “drag queens” to “effeminate” gay men, with no obvious gaps in the populations.  That is also to say, that there appears to be a smooth, dimensional (non-taxonic) spectrum from mildly feminine gay men to exclusively androphilic transwomen.  If Veale is right, than that would imply that heterosexual cross-dressers are members of the same taxon as feminine gay men.  Although I don’t believe this to be correct, it has a certain superficial theoretical appeal in that cross-dressers and autogynephilic transwomen both claim that their behavior is related to a ‘feminine essence’.  Hypothesis were meant to be tested.  I will come back to this after further examination of Veale’s study below.

In order to test whether Blanchard’s hypothesis is correct, she used statistical procedures proposed by Meehl; MAXCOV and MAMBAC.  I’m not going to even try to explain how these work.  But there are a few points to using these techniques that should be noted as they will figure prominently in the reasons why Veale failed to demonstrate that Blanchard’s hypothesis is incorrect.  First, the bare minimum number of subjects in the study needs to be 300.  The second is that the minimum number of subjects in the smaller of the two suspected taxons must be at least 30, and that the measures used to differentiate the suspected taxons must be valid.  Veale collected the needed 300 transwomen, but she failed to reach the needed minimum of 30 exclusive androphilic transswomen; worse, she failed to differentiate between bisexual/psuedo-androphilic and exclusely androphilic transwomen, using an invalid measure, as Lawrence showed in her critique of the Veale study,

In this commentary on Veale’s article, which incorporates a reanalysis of some of her data, I will argue that her critique of Blanchard’s typology was invalid, because:
1. Veale’s measures of sexual orientation and autogynephilia were not well constructed, which probably interfered with the accurate identification of participants’ sexual orientations and artificially lowered estimates of their autogynephilic arousal.
2. In her taxometric analysis,Veale employed several measures that were unrelated to the defining features of Blanchard’s typology. This rendered her analysis invalid as a confirmation or disconfirmation of Blanchard’s typology: Whatever typology Veale was examining, it was not Blanchard’s typology.
3. Even if Veale had used well-constructed measures of sexual orientation and autogynephilia and had conducted her taxometric analysis utilizing the defining features of Blanchard’s typology, the number of genuinely androphilic participants she was able to recruit—probably 18 (5.8 %) at most, and possibly even fewer—was too small to be reliably detectable through taxometric analysis. If the structure of Veale’s data appears to be dimensional rather than taxonic, this is because her participants consisted almost exclusively of only one of the two MtF transsexual types: nonhomosexuals (or nonandrophiles).

I’m far less concerned about the construction of Veale’s novel measures of autogynephilia, as almost any measures that meet the minimum required correlations with Blanchard’s Core Autogynephilic Scale would do for a taxonometric analysis.  But the real deal killer to her study was that she incorrectly included so many clearly non-exclusively androphilic transwomen in the “exclusively androphilic” category.  How do we know this?  My suspicions were first raised by the low effect size (d=0.37) regarding core autogynephilia and sexual orientation.  From Veale:

Sexual Orientation:   Androphilic               Nonandrophilic
.                                         (n=36)                           (n=272)
Core                                 Value (SD)
autogynephilia          14.08 (14.66)              19.00  (12.21)

The values are nearly the same, especially considering the very large range of scores (Cohen’s d=0.36).  These score differences strike me as being very much like the differences in reported autogynephilia found between exclusive gynephiles and bisexuals and asexuals in previous studies, rather than the larger differences between non-androphilies and androphiles.  If a large number, more than half, of the putative androphiles were in fact bisexual and asexual, I would expect the scores to look exactly like this.  Lawrence also suspected this to be the case as she corresponded with Veale to obtain the raw data used to classify the subjects into sexual orientation categories.  From this, she demonstrated that at least half (and likely more) of the 36 putatively ‘androphilic’ subjects were decidedly bisexual instead,

“I have reorganized these supposedly androphilic informants into three groups, based on their self-reported gynephilia before age 16 (‘‘degree to which, until the age of 16, you felt sexually attracted to females’’; Veale, 2005, p. 129) and within each of these groups, based on their self-reported androphilia before age 16 (‘‘degree to which, until the age of 16, you felt sexually attracted to males’’; Veale, 2005, p. 129). My reasoning is that some of Veale’s purported androphiles were probably actually pseudo-androphiles or bisexuals—that is, their fundamental sexual attraction was towards females, but at some point they developed a secondary sexual interest in males as a consequence of their autogynephilic sexuality—and that the easiest way to detect these persons would be to look for informants who reported moderate or greater levels of gynephilia or very low levels of androphilia or both during adolescence.

First, consider the 12 informants with Reference numbers 1–12 in Table 1: All reported sexual attraction to females at least ‘‘occasionally’’ before age 16, even though their total Androphilia scores were high and their total Gynephilia scores were low. Not surprisingly, however, their mean Core Autogynephilia score—24.0—was also high, compared to a mean of only 19.0 in the 272 informants whom Veale categorized as nonandrophilic. Moreover, the mean Autogynephilic Interpersonal Fantasy score of these 12 informants—10.9—was also high, compared to a mean of only 8.2 in Veale’s 272 nominally nonandrophilic informants. Based on their early history of gynephilia and their high mean Core Autogynephilia and Autogynephilic Interpersonal Fantasy scores, I believe there is good reason to conclude that these 12 informants were actually pseudo-androphilic or bisexual, rather than genuinely androphilic as Veale alleged.

Next, consider the six informants with Reference numbers 13–16 and 24–25 in Table 1. Although these informants reported little sexual attraction to females before age 16, they also reported ‘‘rarely’’ or ‘‘never’’ experiencing sexual attraction to males before age 16; this suggests that they developed significant sexual attraction to males rather late in life. The mean total Androphilia score of these six informants—11.8—was also somewhat lower than that of the rest of the nominally androphilic group that reported little gynephilia (Reference numbers 17–23 and 26–36; n=18), with a mean total Androphilia score of 16.4. Again not surprisingly, the mean Core Autogynephilia score of these 6 informants was 18.3, nearly equal to that of the 272 nominally nonandrophilic informants, 19.0, and substantially higher than that of the rest of the nominally androphilic group that reported little gynephilia (n=18), 6.1. However, the mean Autogynephilic Interpersonal Fantasy score of these six informants, 6.5, was similar to that of the rest of the nominally androphilic group that reported little gynephilia (n=18), 6.9. Although the case here is not quite as strong as for the 12 informants who reported significant gynephilia before age 16, I believe that most or all of these 6 informants who rarely or never experienced sexual attraction to males before age 16 were also pseudo-androphilic or bisexual, rather than genuinely androphilic as Veale alleged.

There are also a few other specific supposed androphiles whose androphilia seems questionable. For example, consider the informant with Reference number 30,whose total Gynephilia score of 8 reflected her being aroused by females in her current sexual fantasies ‘‘almost all the time,’’ currently feeling sexually attracted to females ‘‘occasionally,’’ and having been conscious of sexual arousal to females while in physical contact with them ‘‘occasionally’’: Given her Core Autogynephilia score of 37 and Autogynephilic Interpersonal Fantasy score of 13, one might suspect that she was actually pseudo-androphilic or bisexual. Or consider the informants with Reference numbers 18 and 26, whose total Androphilia scores of 9 both reflected the identical pattern of only ‘‘occasional’’ attraction to males before age 16 and currently, sexual arousal to males in their current sexual fantasies only ‘‘sometimes,’’ and having been conscious of sexual arousal to males while in physical contact with them only ‘‘occasionally’’ : Here one might suspect mild pseudo-androphilic or bisexual ideation in fundamentally analloerotic individuals.”

From this analysis, Lawrence contents (and I whole heartedly concur) that 18 of these individuals were not exclusive androphiles, and three more were very likely not.  Personally, I would say that these additional three are definitely not.   Given that this would leave, at best, only 18, and likely less, androphilic individuals, the number is definitely too low to be detected as a taxon using the techniques in Veale’s study.  Remember also that for taxonometric analysis, that the scales must be valid.  Failing to differentiate bisexual from exclusively androphilic demonstrated that the sexual orientation scale Veale employed was most definately not valid.  Further, given that most of the putatively androphilic individuals were in fact non-androphilic, Veale’s study does successfully demonstrate that the various non-androphilic categories are dimentional and non-taxonic, supporting Blanchard’s hypothesis.

Lawrence pointed out that Veale’s method of obtaining her subjects was prone to ascertainment bias.  Simply put, one does not find androphilic transwomen at autogynephilically dominated venues such as online forums and support groups.  Veale herself recommended that a “more representitive” sample would be needed for future studies.

Suggestions for future studies.

Hypothesis were meant to be tested.

Lawrence has criticized Veale’s use of her novel “attraction to feminine males” and to “attraction to transgender fiction” scales.  Veale has previously shown an interest in developing these as a means of exploring autogynephilic sexuality, as the former is based on the observation that many autogynephiles are gynandromorphophilic and that many autogynephiles like to write and share autogynephilically inspired erotica.  While I think these are worthy areas to explore, I have to concur with Lawrence that these are not the appropriate scales to use for future taxonometric analysis tests in MTF transwomen.  Instead I would highly recommend using Blanchard’s Autogynephilia Scale and the Childhood Gender Non-conformity (CGN) Scale from Gangestad, as I believe that these will show that the Freund/Blanchard categorization of MTF transsexuals is taxonic with the two types being autogynephilic and “homosexual”.  My prediction is that there will be a very high negative correlation between CA and CGN scales that will show a taxonic structure over sexual orientation.  Sexual orientation should be based on pre-SRS behavior, not on self-report, which has been shown repeatedly, to be unreliable and subject to social desirability bias in autogynephilic transwomen.

For a dichotomous separation of exclusively androphilic and non-androphilic transwomen, I recommend a multi-factorial sieve.  First, if they self report being gynephilic, bisexual, or asexual: believe them, they are non-androphilic.  Next, of the remainder, ask these two questions, “Are you now, or have you ever been, married to a woman?” and “Have you ever fathered a child?”; if yes, then they are non-androphilic.  (Lawrence previously used marital status to exclude bisexuals from androphiles.)  Finally, of the remainder, survey their actual sexual history with these two items, “Estimate how many times you have had sexual intercourse with a woman” and “Estimate how many times you had receptive sexual contact with a man’s penis before SRS (excluding  cross-dressed/feminized males)”.  A validation study may be needed to determine appropriate cut-offs for the first question.  I would be tempted to use “zero” (0), but that may be overly aggressive… but I would be very surprised if genuinely exclusive androphiles had more than a nominal experimental number, say three at most.  The second question supports the first, and also allows discrimination of celibate analloerotic individuals.  I expect that for androphilic transwomen, older than say 2o, the number of sexual contacts with men will be greatly higher than the number of vaginal intercourse experiences.

For a continuous androphilic scale, (moderately) free from social desirability bias, take the number of vaginal intercourse experiences and subtract it from the number of sexual encounters with men.  This scale will be negative for sexually experienced gynephiles and positive for androphiles.

References:

Gangestad, Steven W.; Bailey, J. Michael; Martin, Nicholas G., “Taxometric analyses of sexual orientation and gender identity”
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 78(6), Jun 2000, 1109-1121. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.78.6.1109

Norris, et al, “Homosexuality as a Descrete Class”
Psychological Science, Oct 2015
doi: 10.1177/0956797615598617

Jaimie F. Veale, “Evidence Against a Typology: A Taxometric Analysis of the Sexuality of Male-to-Female Transsexuals” Archives Sexual Behavior
DOI 10.1007/s10508-014-0275-5

Anne A. Lawrence, “Veale’s (2014) Critique of Blanchard’s Typology Was Invalid” Archive Sexual Behavior
DOI 10.1007/s10508-014-0383-2

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Pervert !!!

Posted in Book Reviews by Kay Brown on November 7, 2013

pervBook Review: PERV – The Sexual Deviant in All of Us

Jesse Bering’s latest book is very ambitious, attempting to cover nearly the entire gamut of sexual orientations and paraphilias known to science.  But this is not a text book.  It is written in a conversational style that at times (unfortunately) uses modern pop culture references that date the book even as it reaches the book stores.  At its heart, this book is a plea for understanding and tolerance for sexual minorities and paraphiliacs.  The title promises to show that we are all “deviants” of one sort or another, but ultimately fails, as he attempts to draw upon misguided ideas from our pre-scientific and sexually prudish past as his evidence.  As he delves into modern sexology, it becomes clear that most people are really quite boringly vanilla.  Oh… but those wonderfully “perverted” erotic outliers that he describes make the book worth the read.

Reading the book was like ‘homecoming week’, as Bering references and mentions many of my favorite (and not-so-favorite*) sexologists:  Anne Lawrence, Michael Bailey, Ray Blanchard, Meredith Chivers, Milton Diamond, James Cantor, Kurt Fruend, Richard Green, Ken Zucker, *John Money, and *Charles Moser.

Given that Bering attempts to cover the full range of modern research into sexual orientation and the paraphilias for a wider lay readership, his text necessarily skips along the surface, never dipping too deeply, like a stone skipping over the surface of a pond.  I found the book fun to read, but often wished it went deeper into each of the subjects.  But then, this book wasn’t really written for me, though there were a few hints of deeper import.

One of those deeper ideas, was a restrained, yet clearly scathing underneath, criticism of the trend in modern psychiatry to evaluate the paraphilias based on its supposed “normality” or lack of it.  Digging deeper, he criticizes Wakefield’s ideas of dysfunction and pathology based on evolutionary selected function.  (My reader may recall this from my essay on Anne Lawrence’s exposition on why autogynephilia was such a dysfunction.)  Instead, Bering would see an evaluation of paraphilias, especially by our larger culture, based on a metric of harmfulness.  (Here, I totally agree… as I already touched upon in the essay I referenced above.)

In keeping with his plea for understanding, in the hopes of generating tolerance in his readers, Bering touches upon the nature of intolerance, how we find sexual interests that don’t match our own to be “disgusting” and why that comes about.  The book would be worth reading for this alone.  I have to admit, I thought I was inured to just about every paraphilia out there… but Bering managed to squig even me.

No book so broadly covering sexual orientation minorities and paraphilias would be complete without covering transsexual and transgender experience and the research concerning them.  Gratifyingly for me, he gets it (mostly) right.  Bering takes note of the two types of MTF transsexuals and their relative percentages in different cultures, “There’s one big difference between male-to-female (MTF) and female-to-male (FTM) transsexuals, however, and this is the fact that whereas the vast majority (around 75% in the West) of the former are “heterosexual,” nearly all of the latter are “homosexual”, referencing Anne Lawrence’s research in a footnote.

Bering also takes note of the other differences between the two, briefly discussing the two types of MTF transwomen and the controversy surrounding Blanchard’s research and Bailey’s book, “The Man Who Would Be Queen”.

Here’s where that considerable conflict I spoke of earlier rears its ugly head (and really, it’s all gotten quite brutal, complete with harassment and social-media wars between the opposing theoretical camps).   Whereas it’s clear enough to most researchers that homosexual transsexuals aren’t erotically motivated to permanently transform themselves into women (or men, in the case of FTM individuals) but simply want to rid themselves of the horrible gender dysphoria that has gnawed at them their entire lives (more often than not, these are individuals who’ve lived as very effeminate males or very masculine females since their early childhoods), some prominent sexologists believe that it’s a different story altogether for heterosexual MTF transsexuals (who tend not to have as many stereotypically “effeminate” characteristics as their homosexual MTF cohorts).  Thus, although it’s often misunderstood, the controversial theory that I’m about to describe applies only to one specific subcategory of transgender individuals: those born as biological males, who have a female gender, and who’ve only ever been attracted to females.

The controversy over the “real” motivations of these biological males who are attracted to women dates back to 1989, when the psychologist Ray Blanchard postulated the existence of a paraphilia involving “a male’s propensity to be aroused by the thought of himself as a female.”  He called this “autogynephilia.”  To Blanchard and others, heterosexual MTF transsexuals want to become women not so much to relieve their gender dysphoria as to actually incarnate their erotic target. … But Blanchard didn’t just pull his autogynephilic theory out of thin air.  …  In any event, if Blanchard is correct, then autogynephilia is basically a more pronounced form of transvestism; it’s not the clothes alone that arouse such men but the entire character and essence of the woman they seek to bring to life. … Blanchard’s theory of autogynephilia is one of the most battle scarred in all of modern sex research. … But valid or not, the very idea of autogynephilia is about as benign a paraphilia as I can possibly think of.  (Essentially, one is aroused by oneself as an idealized member of the opposite sex.)  Whether their “real” motives are erotic or the result of gender dysphoria, the personal distress so often experienced by any transsexual is the result of living a life ensconced as a harmless minority among an intolerant majority.

Thus, Bering makes it clear that the science has shown that HSTS, both MTF and FtM, clearly do not have (directly) erotic motives to transition, and expounds on how autogynephilia paraphilically motivates non-HSTS MTF transsexuals, but makes it abundantly clear that all transsexuals are deserving of respect and tolerance.  Importantly, it is in the footnotes that we see Bering supporting the theory, as printed on the bottom of page 163:

In her memoir, “Mirror Image – The Odyssey of a Male-to-Female Transsexual” (… 1978), the now-adult MTF Nancy Hunt describes her adolescent feelings as a boy in this way: “I was feverishly interested in girls.  I studied their hair, their clothes, their figures… brood[ing] about the differences between us.  I seethed with envy while at the same time becoming sexually aroused – I wanted to possess them as I wanted to become them.  In my night-time fantasies, as I masturbated or floated towards, sleep, I combined compulsions, dreaming of sex but with myself as the girl” (60).  And in her rather deliberately titled book, Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies: Narratives of Autogynephilic Transsexualism (… 2013), the self-described autogynephilic transsexual therapist Anne Lawrence provides many similar anonymous accounts of an underlying erotic motivation as shared by her heterosexual MTF patients.

I would recommend PERV for my readers, to gain a broader perspective on paraphilias.

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Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Posted in Editorial by Kay Brown on May 30, 2013

Cloudy♫♫Did Galileo pray?♫♫  – Ellis Paul

I’ve received a number of emails from a number of folks who have read and understood the implications of the science that I report on here, many of whom thanked me for writing about it in such a way as to allow it to be accessible and understandable.  To them, I’m glad you found the material of use.

On the other hand, nearly everyone one of them also reported that they had noticed that when discussing the science, they find that many disagree with the theory, and often deny that the phenomena that led to it even exists!  I will never be able to reach outright denialists.  If one does not even acknowledge that there are male  individuals who are autogynephilic, then one can’t begin to consider a theory of how that leads to gender dysphoria and transsexuality, and even less to the observation that exclusively androphilic MTF transwomen do not experience autogynephilia!  But, I do think it would be instructive to catalog, deconstruct, and respond to many of the objections to the two type theory.

{NOTE:  If you are coming into the middle of this and are not familiar with the two type theory please start with my FAQ}

The most common objection that I have heard is that “everyone” has rejected this theory.  Of course, by “everyone”, when queried, turns out to be most MTF transwomen on their discussion board.  This is the weakest argument one could imagine.  Consider that when Nikolai Kopernik (Nickolaus Copernicus in Latin) first proposed the heliocentric model of what we now call the “solar system”, and when Galileo Galilei’s observations supported it, it was vehemently rejected since “everyone” knew that the Earth was the center of the universe.  Truth by Popularity is  a common logical fallacy.

One commenter on a Reddit discussion had the temerity to pronounce that the scientific community had examined the theory and shown it to be wrong.  Fortunately, a very world wise lesbian woman answered simply, “Liar!”.  The scientific community that has any interest in the field has been steadily testing and showing that the data supports the theory and has been suggesting further studies to test Blanchard’s prediction concerning brain morphology.  {See my essays on Brain Sex}  Lying about the science isn’t considered a valid debating tactic.

Another common gambit is to say that their own personal story, their narrative, proves the theory is wrong.  Sorry, but sexology scientists aren’t terribly interested in what individual people’s narratives are, but what they, collectively, actually do.  Fans of the TV show “House” will recognize the eponymous character’s favorite catch phrase, “Everyone lies.”  Science depends on data; the plural of anecdote is not data.  The data clearly shows that the majority of non-exclusively androphilic MTF transwomen readily admit to having experienced autogynephilia while the majority of (self-reported) exclusively androphilic do not.  {See my essay on Social Desirability Bias for further info on unreliability of individual narratives}

Another tactic I’ve seen is to call into question the character and motivations of those who are doing the research or those that are writing about the science, or even resort to character assassination and false claims of professional misconduct.  {See Alice Dreger’s research into the disgraceful persecution of Prof. J. Michael Bailey}  This is a combination of the ad hominem attack and the Genetic Fallacy, wherein one attempts to refute an augment based on who supports it.  Sorry, but shooting the messenger won’t change the reality underneath the science.  Once a hypothesis is known to the scientific community, the proposer is given credit for having done so, but after that, s/he no longer “owns” it.  Anyone can attempt to refute it, test it, and even modify it to fit reality.  That is exactly what has been happening the past three decades.  The Kurt Freund/ Ray Blanchard two type hypothesis has met every test that has been conducted to date.  {See my essays on supporting the Two Type Hypothesis}

An odd comment made on one of the Wikipedia pages regarding the theory made much of the language that Blanchard used in describing the process by which a scientist makes observations of a phenomena, makes a hypothesis, and then submits it to tests, perhaps by themselves, but certainly by others, and how that develops into a theory.  But the commenter deliberately distorted Blanchard’s acknowledgement that in science, ALL hypothesis and even theories are considered tentative, subject to ongoing tests and modifications, and even outright replacement, if found wrong, as somehow evidence that Blanchard was backing away from the theory, as though he may no longer support it.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  He believes that the theory is solid.  However, this is actually another example of the Genetic Fallacy, one arguing (if wrongly in this case) that the originator no longer supports the argument’s premise.  Again, once a hypothesis is proposed, no one “owns” it.

The most amazing argument that I’ve heard tell is that the theory is “pseudo-science”.  Most of those that utter this do not actually have a clear idea how to define what is and is not good science much less what would constitute “pseudo-science”.  But for the reader that wants to seriously consider this question, I strongly recommend the Wikipedia entry on the subject.  In it not only will one read what philosophers have suggested as solutions to the “demarcation problem”, one will also read the observation that many times when this accusation is made, it is groundless and motivated by a desire to devalue real science that is unacceptable to the accuser.  This clearly applied here as many who would be recognized as fitting the typical profile for autogynephilic transsexuality vehemently deny both being autogynephilic and the theory that describes how it operates to motivate non-exclusively androphilic males to seek somatic feminization.  However, the accusation can and should be directly refuted.

The most popular marker cited to argue that the Freund/Blanchard two type theory is “pseudo-science” is Karl Popper’s test that valid scientific hypothesis should be refutable.  Popper pointed out that Sigmund Freud’s theories of mind couldn’t be refuted because by definition his subconscious mind’s parts could never be directly accessed.  But the Freund/Blanchard hypotheses are based on directly observable phenomena, namely sexual arousal behavior.  Autogynephilia, gynephilia, androphilia, etc. are all observable sexual arousal patterns that may be observed both internally, and externally.  We can refute the theory (in theory) by simply finding that it isn’t true that most non-exclusively androphilic MTF transwomen experience autogynephila and/or that exclusively androphilic transwomen do experience autogynephilia.  This has been tested by a number of investigators and found to support the hypothesis.  But even if these investigators had not found support for the hypothesis, the mere fact that they can attempt to refute it puts the lie to the accusation of it being pseudo-science.

Addendum 6/4/2013:

I find it interesting to learn that researchers and educators in other fields have had similar experiences.  You may wish to read a wonderful blog entry by another scientist and educator, Steven Novella M.D., “Science by Intimidation

Many researchers get out of or stay away from controversial topics to avoid such attacks. These thuggery tactics have an effect – they stifle research and public discourse.

At the very least when people do engage in such activity they should be called on it. They should be made to answer for their thuggery and intimidation. Further, institutions need to recognize what is happening and stand by their scientists and educators.

I also hope that by discussing this phenomenon people will understand the psychology better and perhaps be less susceptible to being sucked into such groups.

(Addendum 3/28/2016:  Lately I’ve been seeing a new meme bandied about, as though it actually refuted the two type taxonomy, that this “theory” is “out of date”.  Ummm… No.  Scientific theories don’t ‘sunset’.  They can be shown to be wrong or incomplete with new data, but they don’t ‘grow old and die’.  Consider, Copercicus’s heliocentric theory of the “solar system” is some 400 years old… and Einstein’s theory of General Relativity is now one hundred years old… and just now we have yet more observational support for it with graviational waves.  Back to the two type taxonomy.  The basic data, the correlation between sexual orientation and autogynephilia… Well, science depends upon repeatability, and these results have been replicated by Buhrich (1977), Freund (1982), Blanchard (1985), Doorn (1994), Smith (2005),  Lawrence (2005), and Nuttbrock (2009), in separate studies spanning four decades, collectively involving over a thousand transsexuals to date.  The latest, the Nuttbrock study involved nearly 600 alone!  It showed that 82% of gynephilic transwomen acknowledged that they experienced autogynephilic sexual arousal to cross-dressing, while of the group with the least number of gynephilic transwomen, the group that had begun transition as teens, only 14% said that they experienced such…  The Nuttbrock data is only seven years old as of today.  No, the data keeps pouring in and certainly is not “out of date”.)

(Addendum 9/7/2016:  I read another meme going around trying to discredit me in particular, to wit:  That what I write is simply a “biased narrative”, not a fair&balanced exploration of all of the “real theories” since I don’t give the feminine essense, brain sex, and “women are autogynephilic too” models equal weight.  That sounds almost reasonable… until one recognizes that this is a call for what’s known as “false balance“.  I do discuss each of these hypothesis in various essays.  But, having examined the evidence, found them totally without evidentiary support and thus am free to explore more likely explanations of the phenomena.  Science education, which is what I am attempting here, is under no obligation to give “equal time” to unsupported hypothesis.  A geography textbook doesn’t give equal weight to flat earth nonsense, an astronomy textbook doesn’t give equal weight to a geocentric model, a chemistry textbook does not give equal weight to alchemy, a biology text does not have to give equal weight to creationism or “intelligent design”.  Science bloggers don’t have to give equal weight to science denialism and I am under no obligation to give equal weight to popular, but wrong, models of transsexuality and transgender sexuality.)

(Addendum 4/20/17:  A new meme is going around, to wit, labeling those who research and educate, or even just acknowledge understanding the two type taxonomy, “Blanchardists” and the taxonomy itself, “Blanchardianism”, in the same way that the science denialists who espouse the oxymoronic “Creation Science” / “Intelligent Design” call biologists, paleontologists, geneticists, and biochemists who understand and use knowledge of evolution, “Darwinists” and the theory, “Darwinism”.  And just like those denialists, they have the habit of trying to direct all of their rhetorical energy to “debunking” only the canonical writings of Blanchard, ignoring the earlier and ongoing science research that has been greatly adding to our knowledge of the two type taxonomy.  As a tactic, it is far easier to knock early research as being incomplete, while ignoring the decades of research and findings that followed.)

Further Reading:

List of Silly Objections to the Two Type Taxonomy

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What is a Transsexual?

Posted in Science Criticism by Kay Brown on April 14, 2013

♫♫She Blinded Me with…  Science…♫♫

Science vs nonsense

Remember as you read this site;  Transsexuals and transgendered people are good people, worthy of our respect, and even of our admiration.  Nothing in this material is meant to imply otherwise.  If you are a transsexual or transgendered person:  You have value as a human being.  You have the right to be respected, valued, and even celebrated as the gender to which you identify and aspire.

In this entry, I’m going to try, real, hard, to explain the science behind what I’ve been writing about here for the past three and some years.  I’m going to try to break it down, telling the story of how it all works… and answer the various questions of the two type taxonomy doubters.

The story begins some years ago, when medical and psychology researchers tried to make sense of those individuals who were requesting ‘sex changes’.  They kept getting confused because the Male-To-Female transsexuals didn’t seem to have just one clinical presentation, one life story.  So, some of them tried to create profiles and categories, usually trying to squeeze them all into an already familiar theoretical framework.  A few people found several “types”, some found only two.  But why?  Shouldn’t there be only one?  Some decided that one of the types was a “true” transsexual, and the others a “pseudo” transsexual, or there was one “primary” and the others “secondary”.  Others found two, but called one type “early onset” and another “late onset”, almost as though there were only one type, but with two different symptomology patterns.

For more information see my essay on this early confusion.

But what was the meaning of this?  Many researchers agreed that one set was strictly “homosexual” with respect to their natal sex, transitioned very young, was feminine since childhood, and the other group was heterosexual, had “fetishistic transvestism” and transitioned much later in life.  Thus was born the hypothesis that was first fully articulated and tested by Kurt Freund, that MTF transsexuals always present with one of two unusual sexual interests, “homosexuality” or “femmiphilic fetishism”.  His concept of “femmiphilic fetishism” was that transsexuals “fetishized” both wearing female clothing and other aspects of simulating being like a woman.  He conducted a study in which he divided the MTF transwomen into two groups based on a questionnaire that statistically separated them into mostly heterosexual and mostly homosexual.  Then asked the BIG question, “Do you find wearing women’s clothing sexually arousing?”  He got a very strong statistical signal that said, yes, the mostly heterosexual group was far more likely to be sexually aroused by wearing women’s clothing than the mostly homosexual group.  This was the state of affairs in the late ’70s.

Enter a very bright and personable younger protegee of Kurt Freund’s, Ray Blanchard.  Starting with Freund’s basic hypothesis, he tested a further hypothesis using a modification to Freund’s questionnaire that placed androphilia on one axis and gynephilia on another axis, rather than as polar opposites along a single line.  This allows one to separate the asexual and bisexual individuals from the strongly heterosexual and homosexual, following up on a hunch that Freund’s method tended to lump half the asexual and bisexual individuals into each of the two other groups.  Thinking about it ahead of time, there is no reason to believe that bisexuals or asexuals would be more or less likely to be sexually aroused by wearing women’s clothing, cross-dressing.  But Blanchard had been talking to a number of candidates for surgery and noted that some who reported that they were not sexually aroused by cross-dressing were aroused by imagining themselves to be female.  So he asked about this same behavior of those who did report sexual arousal to cross-dressing and found that it was universal.  Freund was right, but it wasn’t simple fetishism… but something else… for which Blanchard coined the term “autogynephilia”.  In talking to individuals who were, using this new term, autogynephilic, he developed a new hypothesis, that if a male was gender dysphoric and not exclusively “homosexual” with respect to natal sex, then that individual would be autogynephilic.  This sounds like it is the same as Freund’s, and in a way it is, but it expands it slightly because it predicts that asexual and bisexual MTF transwomen would be autogynephilic.  Interestingly, he found that it  was true.  The data supported this hypothesis.

Having outlined the basic hypothesis, lets describe the two types of MTF transwomen.  If we take these differences between the two groups, and the similarities within each group, we can create a description of the “prototypical” member of each.  While no one individual will conform to the prototype in all respects, it still has explanatory value to describe each.
CoreyThe prototypical MTF transkid / feminine androphilic (“homosexual”) MTF transsexual (HSTS) was called a “sissy” by her peers growing up.  She avoided rough & tumble activities.  Her primary social circle consisted of one or two girls.  She actively participated in girls games and imaginary play.  Her parents were embarrassed by her femininity, and may or may not have sought professional help in trying to discourage her behavior.  As a young teen, she became interested in girls fashion and make-up, often exploring how she might look as a girl by dressing up and experimenting with make-up, with occasional trips out shopping or hanging out with her friends.  This did not, of course, involve erotic cross-dressing.  She had crushes on boys at school.  Her peers thought she might be homosexual.  She was hassled, perhaps even bullied, by homophobic boys, but otherwise was reasonably popular in her chosen circle.  She was considered very neat and well dressed in boy’s clothes.  She sought out opportunities to interact with small children and infants, taking on babysitting jobs.  As she approached adulthood, looking at her own nature, her potential future, both romantic and economic, made a rational decision to transition to living as a girl so as to grow up to be a woman socially.  Her family may or may not have disowned her in late adolescence.  As she is naturally feminine and passes quite well, she found that she was socially and romantically more successful as a woman.  She actively dated men while pre-op, but assiduously avoided direct contact with her penis, finding that emotionally uncomfortable.  Being young and lacking capital, she lived several years as a woman, taking feminizing hormones, before having SRS to improve her sex life, replacing genitalia that she didn’t use with those that she did.  She may or may not have found a husband and adopted children.

Bruce Jenner beginning transition

Caitlyn (nee Bruce) Jenner beginning transition at age 65

The prototypical autogynephilic transsexual (AGP TS = non-HSTS) was accepted as a boy as a child.  She was often a “loner”, finding her hobbies and reading to be more rewarding, but still willing and ready to participate in rough & tumble play.  She often envied girls and observed them more often than most masculine boys.  As she entered puberty, she began erotic cross-dressing in private, often masturbating while dressed, usually with lingerie.  She found this shameful and hid her cross-dressing as best she could.  She entertained thoughts of living as a woman, often in very idealized situations.  As a young adult, she dated women, often finding it necessary to imagine that she was female to “perform”.  She typically hid this fact from her dates.  In an effort to deny her autogynephilic desire for femininity, she may have chosen to pursue a stereotypically masculine, or even hyper-masculine, career such as the military.  She fell in love and found that the previously growing desire to live as a woman abated for a while.  She married and had children.  Her need to cross-dress and use autogynephilic ideation then grew, as the first blush of their romance matured into committed love.  She agonized about it obsessively, trying alternatively to push it out of her thoughts and trying to appease it by cross-dressing.  She chose to dress and groom herself in stereotypically and unmistakably masculine fashion, with perhaps even a full beard.  At one point, perhaps in her early 30s, or in her late 50s, a set-back or other significant personal change brought all of these feelings to the fore… and she made the fateful decision that she could no longer ignore her sexuality.  After having tried to ignore the cognitive dissonance between her successful social identity as a man, husband, and father, and her obligatory autogynephilic image of being female, concluded that the female image is her “true” self.  She then made steps to begin counseling with a gender therapist, obtained prescription for feminizing hormones, began electrolysis and other procedures to effect a more feminine appearance, and then began the painful steps to living full time socially as a “transsexual”, since she didn’t pass very well and had too many social connections who know of her previous status as a man to be truly stealth.  She had SRS within a short time of nominally living as a woman, as she was impatient, feeling like she had waited long enough in her previous life as a man.  Her wife may or may not have demanded a divorce.

From here on in, rather than try to keep to a linear timeline, a history of the science, it may be more instructive to ignore the actual history and imagine a group of scientists who support the theory and a group of doubters, who like the disclaimer in the movies, are all fictional and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  These groups may interact and have a dialog, along the way to discovering and testing the hypothesis and theory so far presented, and perhaps discover more detail and corollaries.

Every new discovery should have a new theory to explain why it works that way.  So Freund and Blanchard searched for one.  The theory that resulted is that autogynephilia is part of a set of phenomena, that when grouped together, is called Erotic Target Location Error (ETLE).  This lumps autogynephilia in with autopedophilia and pedovestism, sexual arousal at the thought of being a child and dressing like a child respectively, known in the ‘scene’ as “age play”.  It also lumps autogynephilia with amputation “wannabees” and “pretenders”, people who are sexually aroused by the thought of being or becoming an amputee or of pretending to be an amputee.  The basic theory of Erotic Target Location Errors is that for every conventional erotic target, there is a subset of people who also find the thought of being or becoming a member of that class of erotic target to be sexually arousing.  Thus, an individual who is attracted to amputees, a “devotee” who also has an ETLE will also “pretend” and if it is very strong, will also be a “wannabee”.  In this theory, the ETLE is both dependent upon and in competition with the conventional erotic target.  If the ETLE is stronger at the moment, the individual will be “asexual”, uninterested in other people.  Conversely, if one falls in love with someone, the ETLE may abate, at least for a while.

For more information, see my essay on Erotic Target Location Errors.

This theory also makes another prediction, that gynephilic “pretenders” and “wannabees” will also be very likely autogynephilic, as their erotic target is female amputees, they will want to become female amputees.  This is in fact what was found; fully 50% of “wannabees” were also autogynephilic.

For more information, see my essay on Autogynephilia in Amputee “Wannabees”.

Every valid scientific hypothesis and theory should be repeatable.  An independent group of scientists should be able to repeat a given experiment or observation and find the same result.  Doubters of the two type hypothesis insisted that it couldn’t be repeated, that the data was a fluke.  Some even wondered aloud if the data was cooked up by Blanchard, saying that he was a charlatan, a fake, a liar, with an ax to grind, that he didn’t like transsexuals and was out to hurt them.  But theories were meant to be tested and repeated.  So a number of scientists, both supporters and skeptics, repeated the studies of MTF transsexuals, asking if they experienced autogynephilia.  Here are the results:

“Type”     Nuttbrock  Smith    Lawrence     Blanchard

Year                  2009     2005         2005           1985

HSTS                    23%       15%           18%             15%

Non-HSTS         73%       60%          56%             75%

Each study was not identical in their method of categorizing someone as either ” exclusively homosexual transsexual” or “non-homosexual” nor identical in the questionnaire that was used to ask about autogynephilia.  For example, Lawrence, in the data above, made the autogynephilia cut at “hundreds” of incidents of arousal to masturbation during cross-dressing.  When she counts all such incidents, 87% of her non-HSTS respondents indicated that they were autogynphilic.  But all of them had roughly the same trend in the data, most “non-homosexual” transwomen acknowledge experiencing autogynephilia while only a few self-reported “homosexual” transsexuals do.  Blanchard’s original data was repeatable.  Blanchard didn’t make up the data.  No one was in any kind of conspiracy, as some doubters have claimed.  In fact, the Nuttbrock group would have loved to have proved him wrong.

Oh, but now our doubters point to the data and show that it isn’t 0% vs. 100%.  So… this theory can’t be right!  Some suggest that there might be another type of transsexual, one that is neither “homosexual” nor autogynephilic.  Others suggest that autogynephilia occurs in both “homosexual” and “non-exclusively-homosexual”.  Those scientists who are familiar with psychological, especially sexological, studies know that not everyone answers the questionnaires accurately, for different reasons.  So they could accept these strong, repeatable, trends on face value.  But, a curious scientist digs deeper.

Anne Lawrence looked at the answers she got from her questionnaires very carefully, suspecting that not everyone answered fully honestly, especially about their sexuality and found,

“six participants classified as homosexual based on their pattern of sexual partnering before SRS reported experiencing autogynephilic arousal before SRS. Two of these participants, both of whom reported “hundreds of episodes or more” of autogynephilic arousal before SRS, had been married to women and had been biologic parents before SRS, suggesting that their reports of no female sexual partners before SRS were inaccurate. Two other homosexual participants, both of whom also reported “hundreds of episodes or more” of autogynephilic arousal, had not been married and had not been biologic parents; one, age 33 at time of SRS, reported only one male partner before SRS; the other, age 44 at time of SRS, reported multiple male partners before SRS. The remaining 2 homosexual participants, both ages 38, reported autogynephilic arousal only “once or twice” before SRS; both reported multiple male partners before SRS and one also reported MtF transgendered partners.  Seven other participants who were classified as homosexual based on their self-reported pattern of sexual attraction before SRS but not on the basis of their pattern of sexual partnering before SRS also reported autogynephilic sexual arousal before SRS. Four of these 7 participants had been married, and 2 of these 4 had been biologic parents; only 1 reported any male sexual partners before SRS. Of the remaining 3 participants, 2 reported no sexual partners before SRS, and 1 reported multiple male, female, and MtF transgendered partners before SRS.”

For this reason, Lawrence looked at the original Smith data and recategorized those who had been married to women but reported their sexuality as “homosexual” to “non-homosexual” and got a stronger statistical signal, which I reported above.

For more information see my essay on Lawrence recategorizing subjects.

Thus, respondents were not accurately reporting their true sexual orientation.  Blanchard had similar suspicions about the reported sexual orientations and about the less than 100% reported autogynephilia in his non-HSTS group, so he did a study to look at the issue of social desirability bias, the tendency for people to respond to questionnaires with answers that they personally believe will make them “look good”.  Using the Crowne-Marlow Social Desirability Scale he found that in non-HSTS subjects, there was a high correlation with wanting to “look good” and down playing autogynephilia and sexual attraction to women, while simultaneously over stating sexual attraction to men.  Knowing this, we can get an increased signal strength when we limit the non-HSTS group to only self-reported exclusively heterosexual and the HSTS group to only teenagers, which in the Nuttbrock group gives us 82% vs 14% respectively.

For more information see my essay on social desirability bias in transsexuals.

There are of course, transwomen, who clearly fit the autogynephilic profile, who deny that they ever felt autogynephilia, but most DO own up to it when questioned.  This denial of sexual arousal to cross-dressing is not limited to transsexuals, it is also found in heterosexual cross-dressers, where only 85% of them admit to arousal, the same percentage as exclusively heterosexual transsexuals.  Blanchard wondered if the ones who denied arousal might simply be mistaken, or denying it due to social desirability bias, so he did a study using a device to measure penile erectile responses.  The results clearly showed that those who denied arousal, DID in fact become aroused when listening to erotic cross-dressing narratives.

Thus, the ‘wriggle room’ for there being a “third type” of transsexual is reduced to ever diminishing possibility as one looks ever closer at the actual people. But then a new group of doubters bring up the idea that perhaps autogynephilia is not the cause of their transsexuality, but an after effect.  But not all autogynephilic males identify as women, in fact, the majority don’t.  Even in those who later transition, female self-identification usually occurs only years after intense erotic cross-dressing or other autogynephilic ideation surfaces in childhood or adolescence.  The case histories, though not necessarily their narratives, of AGP transsexuals strongly suggests that autogynephilia causes gender dysphoria and subsequent female self-identification, not the other way around.

One of the best documentations that autogynephilia is the root cause of non-homosexual transsexuality was done by Doctor and Prince, who showed that cross-gender identification was most commonly preceded by years of autogynephilic cross-dressing, that transvestism and non-homosexual transsexuality are both a continuum and a progression,

“Among our subjects, 79% did not appear in public cross dressed prior to age 20; at that time, most of the subjects had already had several years of experience with cross dressing. The average number of years of practice with cross dressing prior to owning a full feminine outfit was 15. The average number of years of practice with cross dressing prior to adoption of a feminine name was 21. Again, we have factual evidence indicative of the considerable time required for the development of the cross-gender identity.”

Further, consider that those MTF transsexuals who transition earliest, who are the most innately and spontaneously feminine, who one would expect would have the greatest gender dysphoria and strongest “female gender identity” from early childhood,  “homosexual” transsexuals, never develop autogynephilia.

For more information on how the two MTF transsexuals each have different developmental routes read my essay on the Origin of Cross-Gender Identity in Transsexuals.

Faced with ever mounting proof of the fact that autogynephila is a universal and prominent attribute of non-HSTS, a group of doubters put forth the very radical and odd notion that autogynephilia is a normal part of female sexuality.  One doubter, Charles Moser, M.D., whose other scientific and therapeutic interests include bondage, dominance/submission, sadomasachism (BD/SM), etc. did a very small study asking natal women to respond to a questionnaire that was cleverly written to obtain positive answers to ambiguous questions that only superficially resembled questions used in instruments that are only valid for gender dysphoric males.  For example, one question asked if one fantasized about having a “sexier” body?  (One would hardly expect that women would fantasize about having an uglier one!)  Another question asked about becoming aroused while preparing for a sexual encounter with a lover.  (Such arousal would arise due to anticipation, not the mere fact of getting dressed in women’s’ clothing!)  Thus, the paper is of no scientific value in exploring the nature of women’s sexuality.

On a curious side note, there is a correlation between BD/SM in which about one out of three autogynephilic males is also into BD/SM and vice versa.

For more information about this study, see my essay on the lack of validity of Moser’s paper.

While it may be comforting to autogynephilic individuals to imagine that their very unusual and intense sexuality is the same as, or at least similar to, natal women, it is not.  Most women are sexually attracted to their sexual partners.  They are aroused by sexual ideation in which their partner is the significant figure, not themselves, their own appearance, nor their mode of dress, which, if present, is of a supporting, rather than leading role.

Finally, another hypothesis is put forth by doubters, despite their obvious lack of naturally feminine behavior, that they are still neurologically “female-like”, at least in some important way, the so called, “feminine essence” or “brain sex” hypothesis.  Blanchard, in response, made the prediction that brain studies would show that BOTH populations would be different than control males, but in different ways.  He further made the prediction that HSTS brains would be shifted toward the female morphology in sexually dimorphic areas of the brain, while AGP transsexuals would not.

The first major paper that was hailed as “proof” that late transitioning, non-homosexual, transsexuals had female-like brains was Swaab’s study that showed that the BSTc was feminized in such transsexuals.  But Swaab himself later showed that the BSTc was only sexually dimorphic in adulthood.  That is to say, that this area is very plastic, responding to sex hormones, the sexually dimorphic structure being an “activation effect”, casting serious doubt on the value of the entire study, that it was very likely that years of HRT was fully responsible for the feminization of the BSTc.  The next “proof” was the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus, INAH3, that also was feminized in non-homosexual transsexuals.  However, as I personally showed, this too was caused by HRT.  Other studies, too numerous to list individually here, are beginning to show that Blanchard’s prediction is correct.

For more information, see my list of essays on Brain Sex.

There will always be doubters and outright denialists.  But to those who read the literature carefully and yes, skeptically, the growing evidence that the Freund/Blanchard two type taxonomy is correct far outweighs the doubts.

You may wish to continue reading about answering the doubters and denialists in my essay, Don’t Shoot the Messenger.

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Drum keeps pounding… ♫♫

Posted in Brain Sex, Female-to-Male by Kay Brown on April 13, 2013

♫♫…rhythm to the brain…♫♫

shrinking brainData keeps coming in regarding brain imaging studies showing differences between MTF and FtM transsexuals and control males and females.  The question still remains, what does it mean?  Two studies, by two different groups, have measured the cortical thicknesses of transwomen before beginning HRT, to ensure that they are measuring potential organizing effects of endogenous hormones, or other effects, without the confounding activational effects of HRT.  However, the two studies looked at the two different MTF populations.  One, the Zubiaurre-Elorza paper examined only androphilic transwomen (N=18). Given that this group came from Spain, which, as Lawrence demonstrated, has a very low Hofstede Individualism index which is correlated with low percentage of gynephilic transwomen, these 18 were likely to have accurately reported their sexuality as exclusively androphilic.   While the Luders study, as an earlier study reported, examined both gynephilic (N=18) and self reported androphilic (N=6) transwomen.  Given that we know from many other studies of transwomen in high Hofstede Individualism societies, and the fact that the youngest of the Luders group was 23, we would expect that not all six of those who reported that they were androphilic were exclusively so.  In fact, I doubt that more than one or two at most is exclusively androphilic, if any.  Thus arises the question, can we use these two studies to get an early test of Blanchard’s prediction that “non-homosexual” transwomen would show brain difference from controls, but not a shift towards the female typical while the “homosexual” will show just such a shift?

First, some background, since I know that not all readers will be thoroughly up to date on the hypothesis being tested, nor the relevant data supporting it.  I recommend reading the FAQ on the is blog before continuing to read this blog entry, as a starting point.  Given that there is now mountains of data supporting the hypothesis that there are two types of MTF tranwomen, one autogynephilic (AGP) and non-homosexual (with respect to natal sex) and one that is non-autogynephilic and exclusively homosexual (HSTS); and that AGP transsexuals were behaviorally masculine since early childhood, and often even after transition and SRS, while HSTS transwomen had been remarkably feminine in behavior, and often in appearance, since early childhood, Blanchard made the prediction that brain studies would show that BOTH populations would be different than control males, but in different ways.  He further made the prediction that HSTS brains would be shifted toward the female morphology in sexually dimorphic areas of the brain, while AGP transsexuals would not.

This prediction is in opposition to the so called, “feminine essence” hypothesis, which is generally popular among AGP transsexuals, in which they posit that despite their obvious lack of naturally feminine behavior, they are still neurologically “female-like”, at least in some important way.

So far, the very limited data supports Blanchard’s hypothesis and NOT the “feminine essence” hypothesis.  Also so far, no formal study has been conducted that would specifically test these two hypothesis together.

I stated earlier that I didn’t believe that the Luders study group contain many exclusively androphilic (HSTS) individuals.  The reasons I believe this are several fold.  First, they collected most of their group by soliciting via transgender organizations.  As was shown in the Veale study on transsexual sexuality, soliciting through such organizations tends to reach only AGP individuals, as HSTS youth do not tend to be members of such.  Second is the age range of the study entire group.  The youngest was 23.  This would be very unusual for a group of that had a sizable portion of HSTS individuals, given that the median age of transition is 20 years old and the top end is typically 25 years old, and even that old is very rare.  If all six HSTS individuals were 23 to 25, this would be odd.  Also given that the mean age of the entire group is 45, which is a bit higher than the typical mean transition age for a group consisting of only AGP transwomen, this would suggest that there were not many of the total group that was in their early 20’s, certainly not six out of 24 individuals.  Thirdly, as Lawrence has shown, in two different study groups, significant numbers of individuals who claim to be androphilic are inaccurately reporting their sexuality.  Added together, I don’t believe that more than one or at most two, of the Luders study group was actually exclusively androphilic.  I suspect that none of them were.

As we explore the data from these two papers, we need to keep in mind that brains, like bodies, come in different shapes and sizes, more or less.  That is to say, although there are differences between male and female brains, on average, it is difficult to point to a part of the brain and say with absolute certainty, this is a male brain vs. a female brain.  Another thing to keep in mind, if we have a mix of two populations, both may have differences unique to each population… and that when mixed, both of those differences will be detected when we average the data, blurring and blunting the differences, but we should still be able to statistically see a signal in the data, provided we have enough data.

So, lets examine the data.  First, if we look at the high level view, it would appear that there are indeed differences between the control men and women and androphilic transwomen.

Zubiaurre Brain ScansIn general, female brains have thicker cortices (CTh), at least in some areas, as the comparison between male and female controls shows.  As we had expected, MTF  transfolk are different than male controls, but FtM are not that different from female controls.  The authors described the results thus,

“We have found that control females have greater CTh compared with control males in the frontal and parietal regions; in contrast, males have a larger putamen volume than females. With respect to the transsexual groups, we observed that FtMs have greater CTh compared with control males in the parietal and temporal cortices and did not differ from control females. However, FtMs have a larger right putamen than female controls. On the other hand, MtFs did not differ from control females in CTh and had greater CTh than control males in the frontal and occipital regions. In this group, no differences were found in the putamen. All these findings suggest that FtMs have a defeminized putamen, while MtFs have a feminized CTh.

With respect to the CTh of MtFs, we found that this group did not differ from female controls but did from male controls.  These findings suggest that MtFs follow the pattern of cortical thinning typically described for females. Whether the cortical feminization of MtFs depends on a differential cortical androgen receptor distribution, a different efficiency in the androgen receptors or other causes remains to be elucidated.  But what seems clear is that in MtFs the cortical developmental process is affected and follows the direction expected for females. This points out that the developmental approach could help to understand the etiology of transsexualism.”

Let’s compare these results with that of the Luders study, which is mostly (and perhaps entirely) non-exclusively androphilic, which being autogynephilic, Blanchard had previously predicted would show differences from control males, but not in the female like direction:

Luders Brain ScansAt first blush, we see that they are indeed, as predicted, different than control males.  Some areas of the cortices are thicker, but not the same regions as control females nor androphilic transwomen.  So, it would seem unlikely that these brain difference are caused by a feminization of the brain, given that the regions are not those found in control females.  But what does cause these particular differences?  While we might be tempted to conclude that this is caused by autogynephilia, it could also be caused by another attribute that is common in this population, higher IQ.  It has been noted that higher IQ is correlated with thicker cortices.

So where to do we go from here?  This visual comparison of the two studies can only be described as tentative.  But the need for such comparisons are clearly understood by these researchers, as the Zubiaurre-Elorza paper explained,

“On the basis of chromosomal sex and behavior, Blanchard and co-workers (Blanchard et al. 1987, 1989, 1996; Blanchard 1989; see also Smith et al. 2005) have proposed the existence of 2 types of MtFs: 1) MtFs that are attracted to males (“homosexual” transsexuals in Blanchard terminology), and 2) MtFs that are attracted to women (“heterosexual” transsexuals according to Blanchard). Further, Blanchard (2008) hypothesized that homosexual MtFs would differ from heterosexual males in brain sexually dimorphic structures, while in the heterosexual MtFs, the differences might not implicate sexually dimorphic structures. More recently, Cantor (2011) has noted that our findings on the white matter microstructure of (homosexual) MtFs (Rametti, Carrillo, Gómez-Gil, Junque, Zubiarre-Elorza et al. 2011) and that of Savic and Arver (2011) on the cortical volume of (heterosexual) MtFs would support Blanchard’s hypothesis. In the present report, we studied MtF transsexuals erotically attracted to males that show a feminization of CTh but not in the putamen.  …  Consequently, to verify Blanchard’s hypothesis would require a specific design that is beyond the scope of the present study.”

For more essays on trans-brains see Brain Sex.

References:

Eileen Luders, et al., “Increased Cortical Thickness in Male-to-Female Transsexualism”
Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, July 2011
http://dbm.neuro.uni-jena.de/pdf-files/Luders-JBBS11.pdf

Leire Zubiaurre-Elorza et al, “Cortical Thickness in Untreated Transsexuals”
Cerebral Cortex, August 2012
http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2012/08/30/cercor.bhs267.abstract

Katherine Narr, et al., Relationships between IQ and Regional Cortical Gray Matter Thickness in Healthy Adults
Cerebral Cortex, November 2006
http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/17/9/2163.abstract

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Curiouser and Curiouser…

Posted in Female-to-Male, Science Criticism by Kay Brown on February 18, 2013

… said Alice.

critical-thinkingIn a recent paper exploring the sibling sex ratio and birth order of transkids, several interesting new biodemographic findings were disclosed.  First, the already known surplus of older brothers of MTF transkids was observed, along with the fraternal birth order effect of having more older brothers than sisters.  But, curiously, these transkids also had more younger brothers than sisters!  The reason this is so startling is that we have no plausible conjectures on how this could come about, as we do the fraternal birth order effect.

Another curious item is that FtM transkids are more likely to be only children than one would expect by chance.  Blanchard does offer a possible conjecture that this may be an immune response, leaving the mother unable to conceive again.

This new finding in MTF transkids is further evidence that there may be more than one biological mechanism at play.

But to me, the most curious thing to note in this paper is the actual paper, who wrote it, and how it was edited.  It has the feel of having had sections written by different authors, who habitually use different terms for the same phenomena and populations.  As I had written in an earlier essay, those in North America preferred the term “homosexual transsexual” and those in the Netherlands preferred “Early Onset” transsexual.  This paper was co-written by Ray Blanchard, from North America, while the rest were from the Netherlands.  It would appear that both formulations were used in this paper, starting with “early onset” in the title then using “homosexual” in the abstract:

Several sibship-related variables have been studied extensively in sexual orientation research, especially in men.  Sibling sex ratio refers to the ratio of brothers to sisters in the aggregate sibships of a group of probands. Birth order refers to the probands’ position (e.g., first-born, middle-born, last-born) within their sibships. Fraternal birth order refers to their position among male siblings only. Such research was extended in this study to a large group of early-onset gender dysphoric adolescents.  The probands comprised 94 male-to-female and 95 female-to-male gender dysphoric adolescents. The overwhelming majority of these were homosexual or probably prehomosexual.  The control group consisted of 875 boys and 914 girls from the TRAILS study. The sibling sex ratio of the gender dysphoric boys was very high (241 brothers per 100 sisters) compared with the expected ratio (106:100). The excess of brothers was more extreme among the probands’ older siblings (300:100) than among their younger siblings (195:100). Between groups comparisons showed that the gender dysphoric boys had significantly more older brothers, and significantly fewer older sisters and younger sisters, than did the control boys. In contrast, the only notable finding for the female groups was that the gender dysphoric girls had significantly fewer total siblings than did the control girls. The results for the male probands were consistent with prior speculations that a high fraternal birth order (i.e., an excess of older brothers) is found in all homosexual male groups, but an elevated sibling sex ratio (usually caused by an additional, smaller excess of younger brothers) is characteristic of gender dysphoric homosexual males.  The mechanisms underlying these phenomena remain unknown.

The use of the term “homosexual” has often bothered many transsexuals, both autogynephilic and non-autogynephilic alike… but apparently it bothered at least one of authors of the paper as well,

(instead of ‘‘homosexual’’ transsexuals, we will refer to male-to-female transsexuals sexually attracted to men as androphilic MtFs, and to female-to-male transsexuals sexually attracted to women as gynephilic FtMs)

While I applaud the sentiment of using language that is more sensitive to the sensibilities and personal identities of transsexual people, the effort here loses its intended effect since all such males are still called “boys”, and such females are called “girls”, largely defeating the purpose.  Further, the authors simply did not maintain the usage of “androphilic” in preference to “homosexual” as later in the paper they write,

It was reasonable to assume that all or nearly all of the early-onset gender dysphoric boys in this study were, or would be, homosexual, and that nearly all of the control boys were, or would be, heterosexual;

So, it would appear that the final editor failed to clean up the language of the paper to make it consistent with a ‘politically correct’ terminology.  But this failure also allows us to unite the terms, making this paper a ‘Rosetta Stone” of research papers:

Homosexual = Androphilic (or Gynephilic for FtM) = Early Onset

Thus, this paper helps spell out, in an unambiguous manner, that the researchers are indeed talking about the same populations, and that there is now universal agreement that the Freund/Blanchard typology is correct.

References:

Sebastian E. E. Schagen, Henriette A. Delemarre-van de Waal, Ray Blanchard, Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, (2012) “Sibling Sex Ratio and Birth Order in Early-Onset Gender Dysphoric Adolescents”
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10508-011-9777-6

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