April 25, 2011

XDSC: The Crossdreamer Science Circle

I know that most crossdreamers will neither have the time, background knowledge nor inclination needed to read all of the scientific articles out there that directly or indirectly may throw light upon the crossdreamer condition.

This is one of the reasons I try to popularize and discuss some of this research here. No one should feel obligated to go into all the details.

Some of you will be interested, however, and if you are, you will soon find that it is hard to get hold of the original peer reviewed papers.

If you do find them, they are often very expensive. A normal price these days is USD 35 per article. But then again, libraries are normally the only ones that buy them. Researchers then go to their libraries to borrow the literature.

I believe we need to discuss the science covering transgender and gender issues, partly because it may help us understand what causes crossdreaming, but also because science is used to stigmatize and dehumanize us. We need to know the research if we are to engage in a discussion with researchers, and tell them our version of the story.

In order to make the research more easily accessible to those who are willing to spend some time on researching the research, some of us have set up The Crossdreamer Science Circle over at Crossdream Life.

This part  of Crossdream Life is for those who want to read and comment on  relevant scientific material. You have to be a  member of Crossdream Life to get access to the XDSC Library, and you have to deliberately  sign up to the Circle by adding a comment in the XDSC discussion forum.

The literature that is made available in the library is not to be distributed outside the circle, and we will only add papers that have been legally obtained.

If you are interesting in reading some of the literature that has been covered by this blog, XDSC may help you find the relevant papers.

April 14, 2011

Spanish brain scan study shows male to female transsexuals to be different from men


In my previous post I presented a German brain scan study that indicate that gynephilic male to female (MTF) trans women show the same brain patterns as XX ciswomen when being shown an erotic movie.

That study undermines Ray Blanchard’s argument that MTF trans women are “autogynephilic” men with a male sexuality.

In the German study only two out of the twelwe trans women included said they were attracted to men.

This leaves us with a puzzle: How would a group of androphilic, man-loving, trans women react to such a test. Would they show brain patterns more like men rather than like women?

I remind you that Ray Blanchard, the man behind the autogynephilia-theory, believes androphilic trans women are feminine gay men, and that it is their sexual orientation towards men that makes them feminine. Gynephilic men is therefore per definition masculine.

Given a study where “normal” heterosexual ciswomen are compared with heterosexual (i.e. androphilic) male to female trans women, the trans women should display the same pattern as the ciswomen.

The German study was dominated by gynephilic trans women and I have no way of getting separate results for the two androphilic trans women included. It would not make much of a difference anyway, as a sample of two is too small.

No one else have -- to my knowledge -- done a similar study with androphilic trans women. If we want to find out more about this we must look for a study that touches upon some of the same problems, and that includes androphilic trans women.

The Spanish study

It turns out we have such a study. It is so fresh that it has not been formally published yet.

The study is called “The microstructure of white matter in male to female transsexuals before cross-sex hormonal treatment. A DTI study” and it comes from Spain and Catalonia.

April 7, 2011

Do male to female transsexuals react differently to erotic material than cisgendered men?

There are a lot of studies out there that try to determine to what extent transsexuals differ from non-transsexual men and women ( also called cismen and ciswomen).

Today I will present a brain scan study that shows that male to female transsexuals react like when watching erotic material.

A methodological disclaimer

Brains are dissected and brains are scanned, but the results are hard to interpret -- for many reasons:

The scientists may define their experiments and interpret their findings based on a traditional view of gender.

In other words: They may find what they were looking for, even if it is not there. It was not that long ago scientists “proved” that women and black men were less intelligent than white men. They forgot to take the cultural and educational background into consideration when measuring what they called “intelligence”.

The findings are hard to interpret. What a scientist find statistically significant cannot be interpreted to mean that all cismen or all ciswomen are like this or that. The idea of normalcy means that the diversity is not communicated clearly. A statistically significant result that tells us that the brains of female to male transmen are more like the ones of men, does not mean that all FTM brains are like this. Nor does it mean that all “normal” men have “male” brains.

The brain is a flexible organ that changes constantly. Hormones and other substances change the brain. Stress can change the brain. Even learning will change the brain, which means that differences in brain structures or brain activity may be caused by upbringing or cultural conditioning.

Still, I appreciate the fact that researchers -- in spite of these obstacles -- try their best to make sense of it all.

Brain scan study

Here is one such study from 2008: “Specific Cerebral Activation due to Visual Erotic Stimuli in Male-to-Female Transsexuals Compared with Male and Female Controls: An fMRI Study”

The researchers compared twelve male and twelve female heterosexual volunteers with twelve MTF (male to female) transsexuals. Only “MTF subjects without any therapy “were chosen for the study. They were recruited from the outpatient Clinic of Psychosomatic Medicine at the University Hospital Essen in Germany. The M2F transwomen had not had hormone treatment or surgery and any difference in brain behavior can therefore not be attributed to such therapy.

The researchers showed the participants erotic film excerpts during a fMRI brain scan. The results seem to show that male to female transsexuals react more like women when shown erotic movies.


April 1, 2011

Paraphiliphilia makes it into the DSM-5


In a surprise move the American Psychiatric Association has decided to include a new set of paraphilias (sexual perversions) in the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Given the controversy surrounding the already included paraphilias, including autogynephilia (the love of oneself as a woman) and hebephilia (sexual attraction to teenagers), one would think that the experts would be careful not to stigmatize new social groups by labeling them as mentally ill.

Not so.

More paraphilias to be included

Several researchers have, however, argued that the present list of sexual perversions is arbitrary and based on the prejudices of the researchers involved.

As one sexologist is reported to have said during a stag party: "A pervert is any kind of person my mother would not invite home for dinner". Such thinking can clearly not serve as the foundation for a serious scientific theory.

What is a paraphilia?

A paraphilia is defined as any powerful and persistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in copulatory or precopulatory behavior with phenotypically normal, consenting adult human partners (Cantor, Blanchard, & Barbaree, 2009).

Exactly what kind of behavior that falls inside or outside this definition seems to be a matter of taste. Ray Blanchard, one of the researchers behind this new definition, argues -- for instance -- that anal penetration with the finger, penis or dildo is kosher while enemas are not. The definition itself does not explains why homosexuality is out, while crossdressing is in.

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