October 17, 2015

US Report Calls for Ban on Conversion Therapies for Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Youth

A short little update here on LGBT policies in the US, as it may help many of us gain some perspective on where the general consensus is right now as regards sexual diversity and gender variance.

The US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has published a report on so-called "conversion therapies",  based on a thorough review of current research.

The expert panel was set up by SAMHSA and the American Psychological Association (APA) earlier this year, and included prominent American figures in LGBT human rights, policy, research, treatment, and advocacy.

"This groundbreaking report dispels widespread misconceptions about sexual and gender development and definitively concludes that treatments designed to change a child's sexual orientation or gender identity do not work, are devastatingly harmful to 'victims' of this type of therapy, and should not be considered appropriate mental health services," Dr. Celia B. Fisher, who served on the expert consensus panel says.

Conversion therapy does not work

Indeed, the main conclusions in the report are clear:
  • "Same-gender sexual orientation (including identity, behavior, and attraction) and variations in gender identity and gender expression are a part of the normal spectrum of human diversity and do not constitute a mental disorder.
  • "There is limited research on conversion therapy efforts among children and adolescents; however, none of the existing research supports the premise that mental or behavioral health interventions can alter gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • "Interventions aimed at a fixed outcome, such as gender conformity or heterosexual orientation, including those aimed at changing gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are coercive, can be harmful, and should not be part of behavioral health treatment."
Gender variance is not pathological

The message from the American Psychological Association is also clear: Being a sexual or
gender minority, or identifying as LGBTQ, is not pathological.

October 8, 2015

What Dr. Zhana Vrangalova Taught Me About Transphobia in Science

This is the story about how science can be used to persecute transgender people, and on how some seemingly well-intended LGBT-allies can contribute to transphobia.
Zhana Vrangalova
Photo by Enid Alvarez, New York Daily News

In this post I will give you the story about Dr. Zhana Vrangalova's support for the transphobic autogynephilia theory.

The Vrangalova story is interesting because it is such a clear an example of how scientific theories can be used to recruit even  the most well-meaning helpers to the oppression of trans people.

And yes, in this post I will prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the autogynephilia theory is transphobic.


Those of you who do not know the ins and outs of this stagnant backwater of transgender research, may make note of the following:

1. The auogynephilia/AGP theory, created by Dr. Ray Blanchard of Toronto, says that there is a separate category of trans women who are motivated by a sexual paraphilia (perversion) that drives them towards transitioning.  They are, according to Blanchard, sexually attracted to the idea of themselves as a woman. The word is also used to describe male to female crossdressers and crossdreamers who do not transition.

2. Dr J. Michael Bailey is a supporter of Dr. Blanchard, and the author of The Man Who Would be Queen, a book that popularizes Blanchard's theory, dividing the world of trans women into two: "autogynephile transsexuals" (non-homosexual perverted men, according to Blanchard & Bailey) and homosexual transsexuals (extremely effeminate gay men).

3. Zhana Vrangalova is a sexologist; she has PhD in Developmental Psychology from Cornell and is currently an adjunct professor at the NYU Psychology department.

SIDEBAR This is not a blog post about the scientific value of the autogynephilia theory. This is a post about how it is used to harm MTF crossdreamers and trans women. I have elsewhere documented that  the science is bad, and that it has been thoroughly falsified by other researchers. You will find links to papers and blog posts showing this hereI have also written several blog posts on the scientific defects of the autogynephilia theory.

LGBT-support and autogynephilia do not mix

On June 13 Vrangalova tweeted a link to an interview the religious site Patheos had made with Bailey, adding the statement "There are 2 types of trans women".

I have been following Vrangalova since she often tweets interesting links to all things sexology. She has become an active spokesperson for the polyamorous amongst us. I also knew her as a supporter of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights, so her promoting Bailey in this way surprised me.

After all, the autogynephilia model is considered to be one of the most invalidating and stigmatizing theories around right now. It is routinely used by right wing religious  fundamentalists and left wing trans-exclusionary "radical" feminists to harass and invalidate trans women. It has been dismissed by transgender activists as toxic and unfounded, and has very little support among front line health professionals in the field.

The Vrangalova Dialogue

I responded in accordance with this, hoping I had been mistaken about the dear Doctor's intentions: