April 5, 2020

Julia Serano gives us the perfect antidote to transphobic pseudoscience

The trans activist and philosopher Julia Serano has written an excellent overview of the autogynephilia theory of Ray Blanchard, its history, its scientific flaws and its roots in traditionalist prejudices.

Crossdreaming is common

I joined the autogynephilia debate some 10 years ago, and have been trying to reduce the damages the theory has caused among gender variant people ever since.

I would say that one of the most important insights that have been brought up since then, is the insight that erotic crossdreaming or cross-gender fantasies are found among all kinds of people and not only among male to female "crossdressers" and gynephilic ("woman-loving")  and bisexual transgender women.

You find cross-gender fantasies among cis people. You find crossdreaming among trans women who love men. You find it among many of those assigned female at birth. This alone falsifies the theory, which requires that only "straight men" (i.e. lesbian and bisexual trans women) have such fantasies.

April 3, 2020

How to solve the transgender problem in sports

How to ensure fairness in basketball

I have been thinking about fairness in sports a lot. That is the kind of person I am.

The average height of men in the US is 175 centimeters. In basketball it would be only fair to ban those over 175 centimeters, as extra tall men have an unjust advantage compared to the others.

However, since the men that are 175 centimeters have a natural advantage over those that are 170 centimeters tall, we need to ban everyone between 170 to 175 cm as well. But this will leave the ones that are 170 cm heigh having an unfair advantage over those that are 160 cm, and so on and so forth, which leads me to conclude that the best  kind of basketball is the one where every participant is exactly one meter tall.

At this point we will also ban everyone who is below one meter, because you have to draw the line somewhere, right?

In Norway the average height of men is close to 180 cm. The average Sri Lankian man is 165 cm. The one meter rule will make sure that all international basketball games are fair. Err on the side of caution, I say.

(I am sure my American friends will find the use of the metric system here a little bit bewildering. Remember, though, that 1 meter is 3.28084 feet. I think we all can agree that it easier to remember 1 meter than 3.28084 feet.)

February 19, 2020

When does a woman look like a man? What AI can tell us about gender.

Most of the images are generated by an artificial intelligence (Artbreeder).
None of these persons exist in the real world.

The way an AI (artificial intelligence) interprets gender can tell us something about how we humans see gender. It seems there is a very narrow tipping point where we start to reclassify from male to female and vice versa.


Gulliver made me aware of a new artificial intelligence (AI)  based app called Artbreeder over at Crossdream Life. It lets you transform images and photos in a wide variety of ways, including merging photos of two persons and adjust "genes", i.e. variables that defines physical traits.

One such "gene" is gender. You can take a photo of a person, adjust the "gender gene", and watch how feminine traits turn into masculine features.

This software is using machine learning, and it  its calculations are based on  input from a vide variety of photos and pictures. I am not sure how they define feminine and masculine in these algorithms, but keep in mind that the input is culturally defined. AI has a tendency of reproducing contemporary cultural biases.

That being said, what interests me here is not how the AI sees gender, but how I see it, how human beings see it.

February 9, 2020

New research indicates a connection between genes, hormones and gender dysphoria

Newsweek reports of a new study of 30 transgender men and women  diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The researchers found what they described as 21 "rare" variants in 19 genes, in pathways in the brain associated with the sex hormone estrogen.

This may indicate an association between some gene combinations and the development of transgender identities.

There is no single "trans gene"

Every time I see an article like this, I feel a strong need to bring in the wider context. There is no transgender gene, in the same way there is not gay gene. This we know. Sexualities as well as gender identities are the end results of a complex interplay between various factors.

These researchers say the same thing to Newsweek:
The authors stressed in the study that they were not looking for a so-called "transgender gene," which might wrongly suggest that those with this gender identity are ill in some way. 
[J. Graham] Theisen said gender is on a spectrum, in the same way that eye colour is. Rather, they wrote, the aim was to "understand the complexities of gender development through the lens of genetics." 
A person's "gender identity is more likely the result of a complex interplay between multiple genes as well as environmental and societal factors," they said. The team acknowledged that categories like "transgender male" and "transgender female" alone aren't enough to describe individuals who don't identify as cisgender. For instance, others might identify as non-binary, or in numerous other ways. 
"While, in some individuals, a single genetic variant may be sufficient to result in gender dysphoria, it does not follow that that particular variant would be necessary or sufficient to cause gender dysphoria in the population at large," they wrote. 
The researchers are looking to enlarge the study to include more trans people. A sample of 30 is a small one.

The potential danger of such studies

I know that some trans people argue that we should dismiss such studies altogether, as they may be used to invalidate trans people as ill or to distinguish between “real transgender people” and “trenders”. There is always a danger of that.

February 2, 2020

The majority of transgender and gender non-conforming people experience changes in sexual orientation

Over at Mel Magazine Calvin Kasulke writes about trans people who seem to change their sexual orientation after transitioning. Research indicates that more than half of trans and gender non-conforming people become attracted to new kinds of people  throughout their lifetime.

The traditional story in this respect is the one about the trans woman who is attracted to women pre-transitioning, but who become interested in men after transitioning. Kasulke, however, documents that trans men may also experience a change in the way they are attracted to other people.

Trans men who have previously been exclusively attracted to women (and have presented as lesbians) may, for instance,  find themselves attracted to men.
Kai, a 21-year-old student in D.C., used to identify as a lesbian — until they started testosterone. Ever since, Kai has retired their previously held lesbian identity, both because they no longer identify as a woman and because they’re experiencing attraction to men for the first time.

“I think maybe before I wasn’t giving myself the option to be attracted to queer men, but now because I’m more comfortable in myself, [my] gender and gender presentation, I’m allowing myself that possibility,” they write via Twitter DM.

January 7, 2020

Sorry, gender cannot be reduced to biological sex.

Why is it transgender people cannot understand that biological sex is biological sex? That is pretty obvious isn't it? Or...?

The recent J. K. Rowling is a transphobic TERF debate has in many ways clarified what the anti-trans arguments boil down to.

Rowling gave her support to Maya Forstater, who – among other things – has argued that “I think that male people are not women. I don’t think being a woman/female is a matter of identity or womanly feelings. It is biology.”

Forstater's statement echoes a lot of similar arguments about trans people denying the reality of biological sex. How can sex be "socially constructed", when everyone can see that little boys have penises, and little girls have vaginas?

These common sense statements are  seductive,  partly because they seem so intuitively true  and partly because many  trans activist have found it hard to communicate their concerns in simple to understand ways.

Here comes a simple and common sense explanation for why Forstater's argument is wrong.

Words about motherhood

To put the whole discussion into perspective, I am going to use somewhat different, but related example, namely the concept of motherhood.

I am sure we all can agree that a good definition of "a mother" is a person who has given birth to a child. This truth actually applies to most mammals. The biological definition of "mother" therefore implies that the person in question is female, and she has a fully functioning uterus and fertile eggs.

But note that this is the biological definition of mother. It does not reflect the way we think of motherhood in a social and cultural setting.

I grew up with a friend whose biological mother had died giving birth to him. Her sister, who happened to be infertile and had no kids, adopted him. She and her husband raised him as their own. As far as he was concerned, she was his mother and her husband was his father, and that was the way the rest of us also saw it.

In other words, there is a cultural and social definition of motherhood that is different from the biological one. We could probably say that a mother is a woman who  who raises a particular kid and loves them and cares for them. The term "mother" is defined by the interaction between the woman and the child. She sees the kid as her child, and the kid sees the woman as their mother.

Moreover, the social role of being a mother also includes other members of the family and the community. They will also see this woman as the mother of this kid.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!