January 23, 2021

New study gives insight into the spectrum of gender as regards brains, psychology and mental health

A new study argues that 50% of people are some shade of androgynous and that this gives them an advantage as far as psychological health goes.

Male brains and female brains.

Is there such a thing as a “male” or a “female” brain?  Scientists have desperately scanned, dissected and mapped brains in order to see if there are any solid differences. Researchers have found some parts of the brain that seem to be different between men and women, but there are two important caveats:  

These differences are only found on an aggregate level, so there are a lot of men with “female” structures and vice versa. 

Moreover, scientists have never been able to fully document a causality between these brain differences and – let’s say – gendered behavior as reflected in interests, abilities, expressions and identities.

Men are not from Mars

One problem is that we have very messy and blurry notion of what it means to male or female, so the research becomes equally messy. Much of this research is based on culturally defined gender stereotypes, which are not fixed in biology in humans. Since culture and our ideas of the normative female and male behavior changes,  the scientists are basically trying to hit a moving target.

One of the scientists who constantly talk about “female” and “male” brains is Simon Baron-Cohen. His own research shows that only half of women have “a female brain”, as he defines it. Yeah, right...

Contemporary science is gradually giving up on the idea that men are not from Mars and women are not from Venus. We are all from Earth.

The adrogynous brain

To give you a recent example: Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Cambridge, and her colleagues Christelle Langley, Qiang Luo, Yi Zhang and more,  decided to use the connectivity between different brain areas as a measure of gender (as this kind of connectivity has been known to vary between men and women on an aggregate level).

January 21, 2021

With Biden We May be Back to the Transgender Tipping Point

In 2014 we had the "transgender tipping point". Then, shortly after, we had the "transgender backlash", as religious extremists, fascists and trans-exclusionary "radical feminists" tried to turn the gender clock back to the 19th century. Like most right wing extremist Trump skillfully played the transphobia card to rally his MAGA-base. With Biden we may now be facing another and much more positive shift.

As I have reported over at my Trans Express blog, the Biden administration has proven itself to be pro-LGBTQA and it is pro-transgender. It does nothing to hide it. Biden has already signed the first executive order on LGBTQA rights, and it reads like a rainbow manifesto:

Every person should be treated with respect and dignity and should be able to live without fear, no matter who they are or whom they love.

Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.

Adults should be able to earn a living and pursue a vocation knowing that they will not be fired, demoted, or mistreated because of whom they go home to or because how they dress does not conform to sex-based stereotypes.

People should be able to access healthcare and secure a roof over their heads without being subjected to sex discrimination.

All persons should receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation.

The ban on transgender people in the military will be abolished any day now, and the White House web site has already started asking for pronouns.

January 1, 2021

Kourtney Kardashian on "Autogynephilia" in Non-transgender Women

Kourtney Kardashian implicitly debunks the transphobic "autogynephilia" theory in a new article on her Poosh site. She explains why  women may get aroused by their own bodies and sensuality, a kind of sexuality that is used to invalidate the identity of transgender women.
Kourtney Kardashian on Instagram

As you might remember the "autogynephilia" theory of Ray Blanchard argues that gynephilic (woman loving) transgender women suffer from an "erotic target location error" whereby they are sexually attracted to the image of themselves as women. 

"Auto-gyne-phile" means "Self-Woman-Love". 

Their crime is that they may get aroused by the idea of being a sexy, attractive woman.

These trans women are therefore suffering from a "paraphilia", Blanchard argues – basically a sexual perversion driven by a straight, masculine, sexuality.

But what about autosexuality in cis women?

As many have pointed out, this theory presupposes that cis women do not get aroused by their own bodies or by "feeling sexy". Because if they did, that would make this a female sexual trait, and even a human one.

Indeed, if it is found among cis women, you might  argue that finding such arousal in trans women is a clear indication of their female gender identity.

The autogynephilia supporters have dismissed this argument by pointing out that cis women do not have such feelings. They have, for instance,  done everything they can to undermine Dr. Charles Moser's study of "autogynephilia in cis women". In accordance to Patriarchal orthodoxy cis women only get aroused by male bodies "out there", or – if they are slightly more liberal – by female bodies as well. Cis women do not suffer from such "autoerotic" tendencies, as they are, I suppose, innocent and pure.

I would guess that a lot of women have played along with these beliefs, well aware of the fragility of the male ego. If women can get aroused by their own sensuality, who needs a man? 

I guess this is also partly why autosexual feelings often are classified as a kind of pathological "narcisssism", instead of a natural and enriching part of normal sexuality. It ruins the simplistic and banal narrative of the other sex being a kind of "magnet" that is attracting a person due to his or her sexual "magnetism" alone. 

Research documents a lot of autoerotic fantasies in cis women

Studies of women's sexual fantasies documents that cis women may perfectly well get aroused by the idea of being a sexy, attractive, woman. I doubt very much that the multibillion dollar fashion industry is driven by the need to attract men alone. In fact, many cis men show no appreciation of female fashion at all. I suspect may women dress up because looking good feels good.

You may perfectly well argue against this "submission to a sexist fashion industry" on a political level, but the fact that some women enjoy dressing up does not make them mentally ill.

And it is at this juncture that Kourtney Kardashian presents an important argument. Over at her site Posh she has published an article called "Are You Low Key Autosexual?".

December 30, 2020

Depression in Transgender People May be a Tool for Survival

New research on depression may throw some light upon the way transgender and nonbinary people experience depression.  In "We’ve Got Depression All Wrong. It’s Trying to Save Us," Alison Escalante argues that depression may be  part of a biological survival strategy.

Normally depression is seen as a negative side effect of emotional trauma, abuse or some random physiological or medical factor. Depression is not seen as something functional or meaningful per se. 

However, I have seen research that tries to explain depression as an attempt to achieve the social isolation needed for healing and recalibration. 

This article takes this argument one step further:  Depression leads to a kind of withdrawal that reduces the risk of violence and abuse from people around us. So in a dysfunctional family with an abusive parent or spouse, the body triggers a kind of inertia that may protect a person agains physical or emotional violence.

When the inner need for growth collides with people's desire to conform

Think of it this way: We are all born with a need for self expression and self realization, which may lead to conflict with others. Good parents and good friends give people room to explore and express themselves (within reason). 

Sociopaths,  control freaks and people driven by fear of social exclusion  may see such independence as a threat to their own hegemony and/or status in society. They will therefor use violence to curtail this freedom.  They may even think of this as a way of "helping" the child.

November 15, 2020

The Ultimate Proof of Transgender Identities Being Real


The very existence of transgender people proves that transgender identities are real.

If you belong to those who love fixed gender roles and who get scared when someone question the binary, you have probably made one of the following arguments when addressing transgender people and "strange" gender identities:

  • The gender identities of transgender people are not real!
  • It is all in their mind!
  • Gender identity is the same as biological sex – which  means gonads, genitalia or chromosomes!
  • Show me the science!
Truth to be told, most scientists swith expertise in the area of gender variance agree that gender is different from biological sex and that transgender identities are real. Most of them also argue that there is a biological component to such identities, although they also point to the extreme complexity of sex and gender development.

Be that as it may, we do not actually need science to prove that transgender identities are real. The very existence of trans people is proof enough.

Huh? How can the existence of trans people prove that trans people are real?
  • If there was a simple and persistent one to one relationship between gonads and gender identity there would be no transgender people. 
  • If the XY chromosome was the basis for a male gender identity there would be no transgender women. 
  • If ovaries ensured the development of a female gender identity there would be no trans men.
Yet here they are, people who persistently, continuously and intensely experience that they are of another gender than the one they were assigned at birth.

But it is all in their minds!

But that is the point, is it not? Our experience of being a man or a woman or some shade of nonbinary has to be in our minds. Where else could it be? 

A man's sense of being a man is not located in his genitalia, is it? I admit that in some cases this might seem to be the case, given the way some men behave, but in general I think we all can agree that that their sense of self is a matter of the mind.

Sure, our feelings are anchored in our bodies, as expressions of hormones, muscles, blood, nerves and personal histories, but the conscious experience of them is in our minds. It has to be, for all of us.

October 27, 2020

What is the connection between transphobic TERFs and behaviorism?

image

Over at tumblr guiltyidealist asked me the following question:

Hey! I saw a post of yours that grouped TERFs [trans-exclusionary radical feminists] with "behaviorists". Would you mind explaining what behaviorists are in this context? I'm a psych major, so "behaviorism" for me refers to Skinner boxes and shit. 😅

Here's my reply:

Actually, this was a meme originally posted by trans activist and engineer Kelley Winters over at facebook.

The whole text goes like this:

“If gender identities of cisgender children were as eggshell-fragile as behaviorists/TERFs say, the whole world would be trans, and we would be debating whether cisgenderism is a psychopathogy. Hard enough to get kids to bring their dirty plates into the kitchen, let alone control their gender.”

Pavlov’s dogs

The behaviorism of Skinner & Co was based on a view of human beings as stimulus/response machines. The most well known example used to explain behaviorism is, as you probably know,  Pavlov’s dog experiment. 

Pavlov saw that dogs would salivate in response to the food placed in front of them, but he also saw that his dogs would begin to salivate whenever they heard the footsteps of his assistant who was bringing them the food. Pavlov managed to get the dogs to associate the sound of a metronome with food. The metronome would from then on make the dogs salivate, even if they were not presented with food. This is what is referred to as conditioning.

People as programmable machines

Behaviorists ended up believing that nearly all human behaviors were the results of such conditioning. Since these “experts” refused to discuss the inner life of humans  – as feelings and thoughts were thought not to be  scientifically observable and therefor not “real” –  their “therapies”  basically consisted of “reprogramming” patients with new types of associations. 

This led to a lot of unsavory practices, including different types of “conversion therapies” where gay, lesbian and trans people where taught to associate same-sex attraction or gender variance with negative feelings, for instance by giving gay men electric shocks while showing them gay porn.

Given their completely inhumane understanding of what it means to be human, many of these “therapists” ended up as tools of a sexist, homophobic and transphobic society. They became the torturers of cis/het “normalcy”.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!