Transgender wars

Changing gender wasn’t even a thing till the 20th century.* This new concept discombobulated many minds, with hostility toward trans people. But now, happily, they’ve won the argument over their right to be themselves. In fact we seem to have gone to the other extreme. Transgender issues have become a minefield of political correctness, with a pitiless orthodoxy one mustn’t question. 

Here are the biological facts. Standard females — I use “standard” to describe most people, others reflecting naturally occurring differences — have two X chromosomes; males an X and a Y. Those genes guide development of an embryo’s sex characteristics. Male and female anatomies differ, as does the brain software accompanying each. Deploying all this in utero is a complex, tricky process, and glitches can occur. 

Obviously, for reproduction’s sake, standard brain software tells men to mate with women, and vice versa. But sometimes variant software gives you same-sex attraction. It’s not a choice. (Try to imagine yourself choosing it.)

More rare is a mismatch between anatomy and brain software. A genetic and anatomical female can get a male brain, and feel male in their heads. This is called gender dysphoria. Not a psychological condition, it’s actually biological. It tends to show up quite early in life (because males and females are raised and acculturated differently), and no psychotherapy can talk it away. Though of course some people try to fight it or deny it, and to live with it.

But now it can be rectified. Such children are typically given puberty blocker medication, to delay sexual maturation until an age when they can make an informed choice to undergo sex change treatment. That at least is the idea. We’ll get back to this.

Previously, gender dysphoria did seem quite rare. Less so now, with all the attention and ready access to treatment. In fact, it’s acquired a kind of cachet, with transitioning not just accepted, but even made attractive.

So we’re seeing an epidemic of “late onset gender dysphoria,” showing up during puberty and adolescence. Mostly girls coming out as trans males. And today’s society is very supportive of their choice — indeed hostile toward any impediments. They’re often moved straightaway to puberty blockers and/or hormone treatments, on a path to surgery. In one Australian case, a child was removed from parents who resisted. 

But hold on. These years are emotionally and psychologically tumultuous even for standard kids. Wrestling with their emerging sexuality and personal identities, especially sensitive to social pressures and their place in a peer group. Now bombard them with positive messages about transsexuality, the internet full of it, trans kids showered with affirmation, making it look hip, cool, chic. While standardhood is so . . . dull. Convincing yourself that your confusing sexual feelings mean you’re trans might seem a great way to get attention, cut through the fog, and assert an edgy personal identity. (We used to have the term “drama queen.”) 

Parents who suspect something like this are dismissed as bigots. But they may be right. Seeing not true biologically based gender dysphoria, but a self-induced simulacrum. Which, with no medical interventions, many youngsters in due course get over. Studies indicate that between 61% and 98% of even early onset cases, once reaching adulthood, with all the life changes that entails, wind up accommodated with their genetic genders after all.

Another aspect is that a disproportionate number of these cases actually involve forms of autism, depression, or other psychological problems. Importantly, many of these kids, once they get a clearer fix on their sexuality, turn out simply to be gay. Which is indeed far more common than true gender dysphoria. And for which sex change is not a good answer. 

But meantime many will already be on a one-way track, thanks to the trans-industrial-complex seizing them in its jaws to execute their previous choice to transition. Backing out can take more guts than coming out. Though blocking puberty is said to be reversible, that’s true only up to a point. It certainly creates a biological platform that’s not natural. And use of hormones and other chemicals, not to mention surgery, has lifelong impacts. Even just hormone treatments, writes The Economist, “cause myriad severe health problems,” including heart problems for trans men on testosterone. And many who undergo such treatments, who later regret it, can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. A gal in Britain had her breasts removed before realizing she’s just a lesbian. Others are unable to orgasm. Or sire children. Some are left incompletely transitioned, in a limbo between genders. The psychological damage can be huge. 

Trans activists refuse to hear any of this. I’m reminded of the Soviet Union’s “Stalin doctrine” — once a country is communist, no reversal could be countenanced. So extreme has the trans ideology become that its advocates often seem to insist this isn’t biological at all, that gender (unlike sexual orientation) is a personal choice. That anyone saying they’re a woman must be accepted as female in all respects. Penises be damned. In some places where “conversion therapy” for gays is (justifiably) outlawed, there are efforts to apply the same policy to gender identity — a very different matter. This could prohibit counseling to explore what’s really going on in a claimed case of late onset gender dysphoria, a sensible go-slow approach before jumping to medical intervention. 

Unsurprisingly, there’s a backlash. Some states are moving toward outlawing transition medicine, an opposite craziness. Particularly fraught is the sports realm. Should trans women be allowed to race against standard ones? Men’s and women’s sports were made separate in the first place because of relevant physical differences. Allowing XY people to compete as women scrambles that. Trans athletes have rights but so do cis-gender women. This is a mess. I would solve it with a simple penis rule.

J.K. Rowling got denounced for insisting cis- and trans-women are not biologically identical. More recently Richard Dawkins (noting Rachel Dolezal condemned for posing as Black) wrote “Some men choose to identify as women and some women choose to identify as men. You will be vilified if you deny that they literally are what they identify as. Discuss.” Previously he’d deemed the issue “purely semantic,” saying he calls a trans woman “she” out of courtesy.

The American Humanist Association Board voted to revoke Dawkins’s 1996 “Humanist of the Year” award. Dawkins might really be the humanist of the epoch, having spent a lifetime as a top battler for science and rationalism. But none of that counts, for the trans Torquemadas who make the slightest nuance of deviation from their extremist orthodoxy a capital offense. The AHA has lost its mind and disgraced the humanist cause.

This should be a medical issue, not a political one. (Though in today’s polarized America, everything is political.) I salute the courage of transgender people who, in mature consideration, face up to their personal reality and take on the very great challenge of changing gender. But I also feel sorry for immature youngsters who, during a time of stress and confusion, make a dubious choice and find themselves locked into it by adults who should know better. Who should act with caution and thorough analysis before irrevocable action, violating the most fundamental of medical precepts — first, do no harm. But who are too scared of being pilloried as transphobic bigots.

As I will surely be.**

*NOTE: That sentence has been criticized as false. Obviously people were gender-fluid long before the 20th century. The intended reference was to medical/surgical interventions to change gender. If there were any such cases before the 20th century they were vanishingly rare.

** This essay owes much to an in-depth analytical piece, and accompanying editorial, in The Economist: https://www.economist.com/international/2020/12/12/an-english-ruling-on-transgender-teens-could-have-global-repercussions

31 Responses to “Transgender wars”

  1. Don Bronkema Says:

    Bruder wortschmidt: Congrats re

    –transindustrial complex
    –trans Torquemadas

    But orgasm is not a verb; say climax or ‘ich bin transportiert’.

    Consider

    –transmute [deaf trans]
    –transduce [traduce into trans mentality]
    –transduction
    –transport [into gender ecstasis]
    –transchosis

    Substance, analysis & caveats correct. You are 99th %-ile in the commentariat & this proto-centenarian reads Everything. Do consider joining wife, dottir & him on Mars to keep inmates from killing selves in feckless disputation. Bring family. The Stars await.

  2. Lee Says:

    Instead of obvious how about we go with not so fast for “Obviously for reproduction’s sake, standard brain software tells men to mate with women, and vice versa.” The world is a wide a beautiful place and there is no reason that evolution must dictate that every individual try to produce as many babies as possible … bees. From those who understand evolutionary science, I haven’t seen it argued either way as to whether gay people or transgender people are a net benefit or detriment to the survival of our species. I think that diversity is a powerful evolutionary advantage, so my starting guess is that what you call “biological glitches” are instead nature’s way of engineering a net benefit to the species.

    With any complex issue there are bound to be mistakes and horror stories. If you have ideas on how to minimize them then let’s hear them. What do you propose for children who are transgender? Should government step in and stop everything?? In the vast majority of cases, the parents and the youth are sane and on the same page and any significant government hurdles represent an unjustifiable imposition. The solution of hormones to defer the bigger decisions seems like a least bad alternative for many who are in a complicated situation.

    In the rarer cases where there is disagreement between parents and youth, we need procedures to figure things out … if there is no resolution there then I imagine that the decisions fall to judges. Without having heard all the details of the case you mention, I feel it would be sloppy for me to criticize the Australian judge’s decision.

  3. Richard the Lionheart Says:

    This article is so messed up.

  4. Transgender wars – Her Caribbean Legal Musings Says:

    […] Transgender wars […]

  5. Lee Says:

    A question I have is why are many sports separated by gender? (1) Is it that spectators who are attracted to insert-gender-here would rather watch beach volleyball by people who are of that gender and in swimsuits? (2) Is it that too much bodily contact between genders is uncomfortable for some of the players? (3) Is it like wrestling and boxing that separate participants into weight classes — to keep things evenly matched and to minimize harm to the weaker players? Or similarly, like schools that separate players by age, to additionally ensure that there is a pipeline that can train children at many different skill levels?

    For #1, the free market has some options, but it’s no place for government to decide. For #2, I can understand the issue to a large extent, though not if different gender is replaced with different race, different religion, or different sexual orientation; so it’s complicated. Again, free markets have some leeway, but if there is any role for government, it might have to be on the side of inclusion rather than segregation.

    For me, #3 is the crux of the issue. We could get around the question of allowing transgender people to participate in the sport of their (now) gender if we instead use weight, age, or other characteristics to sort players.

    Brainstorming wildly: in horse racing they put a price tag on the horse; any horse can enter a $10,000 race, but the seller has to be willing to sell the horse for $10,000 to any buyer — and that keeps the superstar champion horses from being entered into races intended for weaker horses. Maybe the free market has a solution for people too. Leagues intended for weaker players will have compensation caps — which will keep out the superstars who want to earn more. That’s going to need a lot more thought if it is going to turn into a practical idea … but trying to find an alternative to dividing by gender might be the best way through.

  6. Beate Szanday Says:

    Do we have hard evidence for females born with male brains, or do they just have traits that are considered male but many women nevertheless have.
    A brain and how it works is a lot more complicated than we know today, depending on the physical “layout” inherited, likewise electricity, chemistry, hormones etc.
    So have any studies concluded that some females are born with male brains and how they probably developed during the pregnancy, most likely without the influence of testestorone?
    I think of someone like Simon Baron Cohen and his studies of brains, is this something he could verify?

  7. Abdoozy Says:

    “Software” is not a good metaphoric choice in this context. Software is essentially programming, implying that the “program” installed at birth can be altered.

    A more apt word might be “firmware.”

  8. Melissa Martin Says:

    ALL are left incompletely transitioned. It is physically impossible to change sex.

    And TWs do not have female minds. They think very differently to women.

  9. rationaloptimist Says:

    Referring to brain “software” in this context, differentiating between males and females, was something of an (over)simplification. This is indeed a very complex and not well understood subject. But it does seem obvious that people’s brains do work differently with respect to gender and their sexuality, and cannot simply be “reprogrammed” to change them — e.g., gay conversion therapy.

  10. Don Bronkema Says:

    software/firmware: interchangeable at some level & for some purposes [genes/epigenes can shift laterally twixt one-celled species, per Nobel 35 yeerzago].

  11. Karen H Says:

    Lies damned lies and statistics. In this case almost everything hinges on statistics that are highly contested (actually cannot be relied on – big news statistics from one side of the argument should be treated with suspicion).

    “Studies indicate that between 61% and 98% of even early onset cases, once reaching adulthood, with all the life changes that entails, wind up accommodated with their genetic genders after all.”

    1) In one such study I looked at the term “desistor” was used for such a statistic. However desistor just meant referred as a child and not found to be transgender as an adult in a follow up interview. In other words a child referred but not found to be transgender in the first interview and still not found to be transgender in the follow up was called a desistor. No they simply had parents who were concerned and had them evaluated but they simply were never transgender at all as a child or as an adult. More than one third of the whole sample was in this category. Not counting children who were never transgender as desistors made a big difference to the percentages.
    2) The study included participants across a very wide range of ages and spanning decades. Some received their first evaluation in the 60s. Sadly a time when they were not just left to grow up as the quote above implies but instead were subjected to conversion therapy attempts in clinics that have since been closed down by the authorities (yes really – the “you must stop now you are breaking the law” kind of closed down).

    Even if the study did not use dodgy statistics and it did not include children who had been treated in highly unethical ways (in fact emotionally abused as it would be called today) it used such a wide range of ages there was no way to check if there was some age at which a diagnosis is very likely to be permanent. If you ask that question instead you get a different answer again and that is why every major medical organisation in the US supports gender affirming care.

  12. Don Bronkema Says:

    Let’s hear it for confirmable evidence & not be transported by the satori of fashion.

  13. Gender Heretic (@OsborneInk) Says:

    No child is born in the wrong body. No person is born in the wrong body. There is no pink or blue brain. Also, there are no souls, or gremlins, or thetans, let alone gendered ones. “Feminine” and “masculine” “energies” are not detectable by controlled lab experiment.

  14. Andrea Says:

    Really interesting to read this article that immediately messes up basic medical terminology within the first two paragraphs. “A genetic and anatomical female can get a male brain, and feel male in their heads. This is called gender dysphoria.” No, according to most medical organizations, that’s called being transgender. Gender dysphoria is a phycological disorder where a person feels severe emotional duress because of how their gender is perceived. That’s literally what the word dysphoria means. And that’s not even counting all the statistical fuck-ups going on in this article and blatant confusion of studies and terms. I guess that’s what happens when your prime medical, scientific source is The Economist.

  15. AMom Says:

    As a mother of a 12 year old girl, I can attest to children and pubescent children thinking it’s trendy to be Trans. My daughter was always a “girly girl”. She loved dresses, make up, doing her hair, and she wanted to be pretty. Once she started watching YouTube channels we didn’t approve of behind our backs, she insisted she was bisexual. Which, honestly, I didn’t care about. I told her it doesn’t matter but that she’s going through puberty & she’ll feel a tons of different ways by time she’s on the otherside & not to worry about what she is because she’s got plenty of time to figure it out. She’s now 12, and asked us to buy her a binder. She wants her hair really short, and she’s stopped wearing dresses and wants nothing to do with make up just in the past year. The Trans community has made transition look glamorous when it’s anything but. If any of my kids were Trans, I’d 100% support them. But when they don’t show any signs of being Trans until they’re watching certain people online and their friend groups idolize Trans people, I most certainly will not jump to conclude they are and put them on any road I know they will regret.

  16. Martin Harries Says:

    “ Unsurprisingly, there’s a backlash. Some states are moving toward outlawing transition medicine, an opposite craziness.”

    — Outlawing transitioning medicine —
    Is it opposite [equal] craziness? Isn’t it effectively like organic farming – farming without use of herbicides or genetically altering what forms naturally?

    It seems to me that certain influential Western Psychologists have inexplicably become hysterical.

    I’ve read so much on this matter, yet I still don’t understand gender as a matter that can be identified as a separate notion to sex. Gender used to be a simple synonym for sex. From what I can gather, gender is simply what we used to call sexuality. One’s sexuality does not affect gender, which at birth, is based on observation of the prospective physical role in procreation, not capriciously ‘assigned’ from the outcome of a coin flip.

  17. Ethan Says:

    You haven’t done your research on JK Rowling who said “When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman … then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. I refuse to bow down to a movement … that offers cover to predators”

    When JK Rowling doesn’t want to ban women teaching boys despite the regular abuse stories or ban gay men sharing locker rooms with boys but wants to ban trans women sharing with women, surely the least we can say is Rowling has an irrational obsession with trans people?

  18. Ethan Says:

    You haven’t done your research on the effects of reducing testosterone in athletes which is required for trans women to participate in professional sport. Citation included below.

    Olympics scientists are not stupid. They are hyper vigilant against cheating and doping. Hence why the the Olympics wanted intersex female athlete Caster Semenya to reduce testosterone to compete.

    It is still science in progress, but the the latest research has determined that reducing testosterone to 5nmol/litre for 12-24 months *reverses* the male advantages and in some cases *handicaps* a transwoman. Think of a trans woman with the build of a man carrying the same weight with weakened muscles and reduced bone density – i.e think of a Rolls Royce suddenly given the engine of a Mini.

    (Until recently it was 10nmol/litre but the Olympics realised that was too high when they looked at the performance data).

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6391653/

  19. Ethan Says:

    We know men can be born with female body parts eg Caster Semenya has XY male chromosomes but female genitalia. So it doesn’t take much to extrapolate that a man can be born with a female brain too.

    MRI scans appear to show trans women having similar brain structures to cis women.

    Easy-to-read material investigating biological mechanisms that appear to take place in the womb that to lead to the physical brain/body mismatch:

    1) https://sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180524112351.htm

    2) https://youtu.be/os7bOBlre5E?t=168

    3) http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2016/gender-lines-science-transgender-identity/

    4) https://youtube.com/watch?v=MitqjSYtwrQ&feature=youtu.be&t=123

    5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_transsexuality

  20. Don Bronkema Says:

    Sympathies to ‘mom w/12 y/o dottir’. Undertake whatever measures necessary to stop binding. Pubescent interference w/anatomy should be defined as self-harm: therapy urgent. Lagniappe: tribalistic piercing & tattooing should be abrogated by law, w/stiff punition.

  21. Alex Summers Says:

    “The intended reference was to medical/surgical interventions to change gender.”
    Imagine that, in an era of colonialism and rampant puritanism, gender-confirming surgery, and hormones weren’t properly recorded before the 20th century. Not like we don’t have similar examples of medical negligence in identifying homosexuality, autism, and down syndrome.

    “(We used to have the term “drama queen.”) ”
    Oh good grief, who wrote this? Why is Dawkins reposting this? And how does this even pass for an editorial when engaging in such trite TERF tropes?

    This is the sort of rhetoric that used to be used against gay people when coming out in the late 90’s “the new hip thing kids were doing”. Imagine feeling free enough to come out, and being accused you’re doing it as a phase or for social clout.

    Someone should let the writer know, being trans can be more than just changing one’s secondary sexual characteristics, using puberty blockers, or being placed on hormones. It’s often social, it can be non-binary, it can be feeling out and experimenting with pronouns and outward presentation. This idea that there’s some rapid onset of dysphoria in kids, let alone young female teens is an absurd statistical talking point that’s been factually explained. Fearmongering people into a frenzy to deny care to trans kids is yet again going push them back into closets, increase suicide rates as public approval diminishes, and give people a foot in the door to make laws that target trans teens and adults in terrible ways. Just like they did with gay kids, teens, and adults for years.

    Knock it off, you’ve seen it happen before, quit ignoring the facts.

  22. Alex Summers Says:

    I’d also like to add, the author makes mention that trans activists lack the ability to recognize nuance in their arguments, however, the author and Dawkins lack nuance in the terms and situations surrounding trans kids, teens, and adults.

    If you want to have a functional discussion, this isn’t the sort of rhetoric you use to do it. You don’t call it “trans ideology” and “trans agenda” or fearmonger over “rapid onset gender dysphoria” and say things like “I would solve it with a simple penis rule.” when it comes to trans people and sports.

    There’s a nuanced conversation to have in these aspects, and NONE of that sort of rhetoric is starting on a foot of trying to accomplish anything positive for both parties. It simply seeks to invalidate and excommunicate trans people from the conversation completely.

  23. Don Bronkema Says:

    Respondents: panic not. L’aissez le bon verite* rouler! [*vay-ree-tay].

  24. Gnurfel42 Says:

    I’m just here to note this article is FULL of red flags, reeks of pseudoscience and has just tons of baseless fears and gets so much wrong. The article claims to be well-meaning to trans people, but still gets so many things wrong that it’s a near-complete trainwreck and not helping at all. If you really just want the best for everyone, you are doing a real bad job at it. Your article doesn’t get EVERYTHING wrong. At least it correctly calls out Republican attacks on trans rights and criticises gay conversion therapy. But overall, it’s pretty broken.

    List of red flags:

    – Avoiding the word “cisgender” and substituting it with “standard gender”
    – Wrong definition of the term “gender dysphoria” (noted by other commentator)
    – Fearmongering about late onset gender dysphoria
    – Fearmongering against puberty blockers
    – “brain software”
    – Treating as if transgender issues are being pushed as “trend”. This is EXACTLY the same argument that reactionaries used in anti-gay panic
    – “trans ideology”. “trans-industrial-complex”. This is another 1:1 copy from anti-gay panic …
    – Concerns against too much acceptance: “But now, happily, they’ve won the argument over their right to be themselves. In fact we seem to have gone to the other extreme.”. Another rebranded anti-gay argument, basically
    – Suggests that conversion therapy might actually not be bad when it comes to gender. WTF???
    – The big brain solution to trans people in sports is … “simple penis rule”. Genius!
    – “J.K. Rowling got denounced for insisting cis- and trans-women are not biologically identical.” — oh, if it were only that simple. She talked a LOT of transphobic shit. The outrage was NOT over a single sentence. The outrage was over the whole package. Jammidodger debunked her essay here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Avcp-e4bOs
    – Saying that the trans issue should not be politicized. Sweetheart, the only reason why the trans issue is political is because trans people face severe discrimination, both socially and legally. The trans issue IS already political, pretending that it’s not is delusional.
    – Fearmongering against doctors. No, really. As soon a doctor has anything to do with trans people, you try to argue that they “might do harm”, as if you know it all better than trained professionals.
    – Portraying trans activists as ignorant and as if they form a single block with an uniform opinion on ALL trans-related issues
    – Blowing detransitioning way out of proportion. Detransitioning is real, but it is also super rare. A good-faith discussion on detransitioning is possible, but pretending there’s a big scary wave of detransitions is bad-faith.
    – ONE source is mentioned, but it’s The Economist. That doesn’t sound right …
    – The Economist essay is also full of red flags but that’s a different story
    – “a pitiless orthodoxy one mustn’t question” … Dude! How triggered must one be to react like this to criticism?

    It’s really hard to have a good-faith discussion about trans issues when you get basically everything wrong and focus so much on the risks while ignoring the fact that many trans people have had a good transition and now live a better life as the gender they feel most comfortable with. The way this article stands just blows fear after fear after fear out of proportion. This isn’t helping.

    What really makes me sad that RICHARD DAWKINS retweeted this very poorly-written article with zero scientific citations. Oh, how the mighty have fallen …

  25. Don Bronkema Says:

    Gnurfel: ok, but acknowledge the parlous autotropism of confirmation bias. Truth is relative, agonic & slowly Deutsch-emergent at best. The kosmos keeps its counsel.

  26. Surgimento “rápido” e “tardio” da disforia de gênero é a nova “pseudo-homossexualidade” | Transfeminismo Says:

    […] tem os dois tipos. O texto Transgender Wars, por exemplo, usa o conceito “late onset gender dysphoria”, e tem vários usando o […]

  27. pariskelley Says:

    i like how you did the break down of the brains, and how trans people have brains of a woman, which is something i totally agree with, if thats how it is for you, if you feel a certain way most of the time its okay. If you are feeling like your in the wrong body, or if you just want to experiment, click on the link below and you will be redirected to my gofundme page, please even a dollar helps. so thank you for the ones who donated.
    ps trans rule!!
    https://www.gofundme.com/manage/creating-bodies-for-transitioning

  28. pariskelley Says:

    Thats why im thankful for living in the time i live in. Trans acceptance is at its highest point its ever been in this country. i feel good knowing that we as a people can help someone who is trying to transition to a female body. I even love to help as well, its a passion of mine, to open a line of body suits that people can wear throughout the day and feel like they are in the bodies they belong in. please click my link below and help donate. Thank you!
    ps Trans rule!!
    https://www.gofundme.com/manage/creating-bodies-for-transitioning

  29. rationaloptimist Says:

    NOTE: I HAVE RESPONDED TO COMMENTS, HERE AND ON TWITTER IN A NEW POSTING: https://rationaloptimist.wordpress.com/2021/05/27/transgender-wars-revisited/

  30. Don Bronkema Says:

    RO: Bravo! Death to Wittensgenstein!

  31. Don Bronkema Says:

    Wittgenstein (:-)…

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