November 28, 2019

An alternative hypothesis for the evolution of same-sex sexual behavior in animals



An article in The Washington Post presents a new approach to same-sex relationships in animals (and humans, by implication). Researchers argue that heterosexuality is a pretty recent invention, as far as evolution is concerned.

When Procreation is a God

Traditionally homosexual or bisexual practices have been seen as deviations that need to be explained. The premise is that sex is for pro-creation, so same-sex sex makes no sense. Why does not evolution eradicate such behavior, given that it does not lead to offspring?

Ray Blanchard, the man behind the transphobic  autogynephilia theory is, for instance,  deeply anchored in this way of thinking. He has spent a lot of time trying to explain why homosexuals exists. Moreover, he presents both homosexuality and transgender conditions as mental illnesses, again because they – presumably – do not lead to procreation.

(Why “evolutionary psychologists” have decided to make procreation God and the ruler over right and wrong will have to be addressed at another time. It makes little sense to me.)

Same-sex behavior is the starting point

The report presented in the Washington Post takes a completely different approach. Polysexuality might just as well be the natural default, if I understand the researchers correctly. Same-sex behavior has always been there.

November 19, 2019

Lesbian TERFs are using the exact same tactics against trans people as homophobes used against gay men and women


image

The arguments TERFs and other transphobes use against transgender people these days have also been used against gay and lesbian people.

"Trans-exclusionary radical feminists” (TERFs)  are arguing that trans women are a threat to cis women and children. The tactic is partly to sexualize transgender people, reducing their gender identity to some kind of perversion, and partly to describe them as member of some kind of sinister misguided cult ("transtrenders").

These are  not new types of tactics, historically. They have been used against feminists, people of color, working class citizens and gay men and lesbian women for ages.

So, you might rightly ask why lesbians and pro-lesbian feminists are using the same tactics against trans people, as straight, cis, people used against homosexuals. They have clearly learned nothing from history.

Over at twitter The Implausible Girl has collected a wide variety of newspaper clippings documenting how the arguments used against gay men and lesbian women are now repeated in a transgender context.  I will present some of them below.

The point is simply to document that the TERFs and other transphobes are committing the same crimes against trans people as those that have been committed against gay and lesbian people. And although there may be some people out there who ask legitimate questions about some of the arguments raised by some trans people, it is clear that as far as the TERF activists are concerned, this is not about discussing facts. This is about using any false argument that may force trans people back into their closets, even if that argument has been used against people like themselves.

October 1, 2019

Understanding the tactics of TERFs

Trans-exclusionary radical feminists are now actively harassing transgender kids in an attempt to erase their identities. (Photo:  Antonio Guillem)

Here's how trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) are trying to hide their transphobic bigotry.

I never recommend that trans people get engaged in online discussions with militant TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists). Many of them are Internet trolls, and there will be no constructive debate.

Nevertheless,  a few times a year I do engage with them on twitter, partly to show those who are listening in that there is a different way of looking at transgender people, and partly to find out how the TERFs think. There are not many of them, but they do some serious damage, and in order to limit that damage, we need to understand what drives them.

The two main groups of TERFs


There is no simple answer to that, as the TERFs are not a homogenous group. Still, if we allow for some simplification, we could say that there are at least two groups of women associated with their cause:

  1. White, straight, middle or upper class women, who are looking for some kind of excuse to force transgender children back into the closet and restrict transgender women to their homes.
  2. Militant "radical feminists".  The latter group consists mainly of real cis lesbians (some of them channeling aggressive  masculine energies), or cis straight women who resent men so much that they "have abandoned heterosexuality" (also known as "political lesbians").

The most vocal trolls belong to the second category.

(Please note that these women represent a very small, but active, minority among feminists. Most feminists, lesbians included, support transgender people.)

September 16, 2019

What does "assigned gender at birth" mean?


I think the transgender community and its allies often take the word "assigned" for granted, rarely stopping to think about what it means or what it conveys to others.

Guest post by Veronica Claire

This is a topic that I raised in a private conversation with Jack, and he was keen to see it shared with a wider audience.

Assigned gender and assigned sex

Nuances differ between assigned gender and assigned sex, and there are shades of meaning within each. The everyday sense of the word is easiest to recognise when we are talking about (a) the way society allocates social roles and expectations based on our genitalia, or (b) the case of intersex people who were raised as boys or girls and even operated on for no reason other than society's intolerance of ambiguity. This is assignment in anyone's dictionary.

Other times, assigned sex or gender is used essentially as a euphemism for anatomical sex at birth, in contexts where neither society's social assumptions nor the possibility of intersex conditions are really under consideration, and where casual readers might be mislead to believe that we are denying the reality of anatomical sex beyond the act of assignment. Such usage is not wrong, but it should be cogniscent rather than reflexive.

September 12, 2019

Are cis women responsible for the murders of transgender women?



Some  trans-exclusionary "radical feminists" (TERFs) are getting really annoyed at me over at tumblr.

I believe the main reason is that I present the similarities between them and other transphobes in a clear away, and they hate to be put in the same box as right wing extremists and religious fundamentalists.

My comparison of apartheid bathroom segregation and the current TERF/extreme right attempts at banning trans women from women's spaces really got them going, as did a tumblr post I wrote on how TERFs  must share some of the blame for current violence against transgender women.

This is probably why I was asked this strange question: "how is it women's fault that men kill trans women?".

This is most likely a TERF trying to bait me. She wants get  me to write something outrageous that can be used in her fight against transgender people. And the fact that she even bother to ask such questions is a good thing. My blog is clearly making a difference.

Did I bite? But of course I did!

You can read my response regarding the murder of trans women and the role of TERFs and other "Aunt Lydias" over at Trans Express!

The photo is from the TV series The Handmaid's Tale. The woman to the left is Aunt Lydia, the matriarch that is doing all she can to support the misogynistic tyranny of Gilead.

September 9, 2019

On being non-binary and bigender and the fear of coming out to the family

Bigender people sometimes feel male, other times female. (Illustration photo. Original photo: Nadofotos, gender switch in Faceapp).

In this guest post Jemimah writes about being non-binary and bigender and the fear of coming out to their family. Jemimah is assigned male at birth, but they may switch between a male and a female gender identity.

By Jemimah

I was recently asked whether writing help me deal with my gender complications.  The answer is possibly.

A follow-up might be to ask about reading. I do a lot of reading; I am, for instance,  about to go and follow the Silk Road to China. But while the Chinese situation in Xinjiang is interesting,  it is not directly relevant to the topic of this blog post.

Non-binary and bigender identities

I have read lots of books on transgender issues recently, though. One book in particular did provide some relief. It was Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows, a collection of essays arranged by Christine Burns.

It is a complete history of all modern activities in the non-straight world in Britain and has, for instance,  some surprisingly encouraging accounts of straight politicians helping the LGBT community.

The book probably caught my eye because included in it is an essay on non-binary identity, by Meg-John Barker, Ben Vincent and Jos Twist. Non-binary is, as they point out, the most common umbrella term for people who experience their gender as neither male nor female:
"Non-binary people can have a fluid experience of gender, experiencing themselves as more male, more female, both or neither, at different times. Other non-binary people experience themselves as somewhere between male and female, or as a separate third category, for example."
Their main focus is on the area somewhere in between male and female. This may be the more common condition. They think that about one in 250 identify themselves as other than male or female.

The non-binary identities they are discussing are not necessarily bigender in the sense that I, Rick/Ria [a 26 year old British bigender person] and the neuroscientists V.S. Ramachandran and L.K. Case understand it, though.  I believe myself to have, one at a time, a male and a female gender.


August 7, 2019

What to do about the transgender narrative?

The gender stereotypes  and the "male brain" versus "female brain" narrative live on. But there is no reason to think that stereotypical interests or abilities reflect gender identity. Photo Andrey Popov.

I got an interesting comment/question over at tumblr, where the author strongly argue that the "born transgender narrative is wrong". I agree with a lot of what they say, but still think that some of their objections are based on a misunderstanding.

This misunderstanding is based on the idea that arguing for an inborn component of gender identity development equals having to believe that  male and female brain are significantly different from each other, and that having a male or a female brain automatically leads to a specific set of behaviors.

There is nothing in the world I see that proves that the brains and minds of men and women are significantly different. Indeed, the radical new role of women in a country like my own (Norway) tells me that  the scientific dogma used to chain women to the kitchen stove were nothing but cultural prejudices.

All the same: We still face a constant barrage of stories, images and theories aimed at explaining why men and women are different. When I wrote my response over at tumblr, I searched for stock photos I could use to  illustrate the "born as a man or woman narrative", and a lot of them (the one above included) presented women as creative and emotional and men as logical and rational.

The truth is that there is little in contemporary research that proves that such a distinction makes sense on the individual level. It barely makes sense on an aggregated level, if at all.

But the fact that the male versus female brain model is misleading, does not in itself mean that your gender identity cannot have some kind of biological component. And that is what I try to explain over at my Trans Express blog.

For more on my take on the transgender narrative and "nature versus nurture", read my reply over at tumblr.

Further reading:



July 27, 2019

Straight men's fear of knitting


What a friend taught me about how we all play along to let the gender stereotypes govern our lives.

A month ago I posted a comment on my "real life" facebook account about similarities between Nordic knitting patterns and neolithic chevrons, wondering what they both expressed something about our subconscious minds.  (Yeah, I am a nerd. Deal with it ;-) )

I think it was the accompanying photo of a Norwegian sweater that made a friend add the following comment:
"So you have started knitting now?" 
I believe there was a smiley involved. I cannot remember.

That sentence got me thinking.

Friendly bullying


There are three possible interpretations:
  1. He genuinely wanted to know if I had started knitting, with no ulterior motive.
  2. He questioned my status as a real male, as I indicated an interest in womanly knitting.
  3. It was a man to man joke, where he acknowledge my "manhood", but he was teasing me for challenging the borders for proper male behavior.

If he had been a woman, I would have gone for alternative 1. But since he had shown no interest in tricotage before (or for any stereotypical "feminine" hobby for that manner), I doubt very much he was looking forward to discussing the sizes of knitting needles with me.


June 9, 2019

A new US study of changes in people's attitude towards homosexuals, tells us how trans people may gain recognition and acceptance


In the US people's attitudes towards gay and lesbian people have changed dramatically, and in a positive way. It turns out it is much harder to dehumanize sexual variation when people meet gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the workplace or among friends. In other words: The more gay and lesbian people straight people have meet, the less likely they are to be homophobic. It is a fair guess that over time the same will apply to the attitudes towards trans people.

In 2004  polls showed that 60 percent of  Americans opposed same-sex marriage, while only 31 percent were in favor. Today  61 percent support same-sex marriage, while 31 percent oppose it.

Support for same-sex marriage has increased among nearly all demographic groups, across different generations, political and cultural divides and religious faiths.

In The Washington Post Samantha Schmidt argues  that the main reason for this reversal is that gay and lesbian people started to come out in great numbers. At the same time gay and lesbians became much more visible in the media.


May 8, 2019

Y does not necessarily equal M: On what intersex people can tell us about gender identity

Emily Quinn is an intersex woman with XY chromosomes and (as she says) "balls".
According to the logic of transphobes she should be banned from women's bathrooms.

The current debate about intersex women in sports, is actually weakening the TERFs and the transphobic right's attacks against transgender people. The very existence of  XY intersex women, who have been raised as women and who identify as women, makes it very hard to reduce gender identity to chromosomes and genitals.

A few times I have ended up in discussions with "trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) in social media. These women are neither "radical" nor real "feminist", sharing – as they do – the common traditionalist prejudices against transgender women.

On the "positive" side: They have taught me a bit about how prejudices are created and spread, and that might come in handy.

But Science!


TERF activists often pretend to have a discussion with you. In this pretend discussion they may even refer to Science (capital S implied), their most common argument being that trans women cannot be women, because they have Y chromosomes.

When you refer to real science, the one that show that gender dysphoria is a real phenomenon, and tell them that most experts in the medical field believe that the transgender identities are caused by variations in the hormone balance in the womb, combined with environmental and social factors, they simply fail to respond.


Alternatively they argue that the science community has been taken over by "transgender cult". In other words: They are not really interested in science at all. They want to cherry pick findings that seem to confirm their own prejudices.

The Gender Pencil Test


The TERFs are masters at using social control and stigmatization to invalidate and marginalize trans people.

Like the racists of Apartheid and Jim Crow, they know, for instance,  that  access to public bathrooms serves as a very important symbol of social acceptance and inclusion.   So they do their best to ban the people they do not like from these spaces, in order to hurt and humiliate them.

Like the white racists of South Africa they also use sports to put "The Other" in their place.

May 6, 2019

Autoandrophilia Defined

"Autoandrophilia" has been defined as "the paraphilic tendency of a biological female to be sexually aroused by the thought of becoming a male."

A lot of women have fantasies about being a man, but
 "autoandrophilia" is not a scientific term, and it does not
capture what this gender-crossing crossdreaming about.
This  is in the mirror term of Ray Blanchard's concept of "autogynephilia", where male to female crossdreamers and transgender women who are attracted to women are believed to be suffering from some kind of "erotic target location error". They are,  according to this theory, attracted to their "inner woman" as opposed to real women "out there".

So "auto-andro-philia" would translate into "self-man-love".

Autoandrophilia is not a thing

If you are a woman having fantasies of being a man, and who has found this article by searching for "autoandrophilia", there are a few things you should know:

1. Your feelings are real. You are not alone. There are many people assigned female who have such fantasies. Some of them identify as trans. Others identify as qenderqueer or nonbinary. Many identify as cis (non-transgender). Regardless: You are a natural part of the wonderful spectrum of sexuality and gender. This is not a sexual perversion.

2. "Autoandrophilia" is not a thing. It is a made up and misleading pseudo-scientific term, referring to an explanation for crossdreaming for which there is no proof, and which has not been accepted by the broad medical community.

3.  Ray Blanchard, the  man who proposed top include "autoandrophilia"  in the American psychiatric manual, the DSM-5, has stated that this  was in order to placate feminists. He does not actually believe that people like you exist.

This diagnosis was not included in the DSM-5 and nothing like it is listed in the new edition of the WHO ICD health manual.

More about FTM crossdreaming and the concept of "autoandrophilia"

This site has several articles that discuss the lives and sexual fantasies of women who (sometimes) dream about being men. Here are a few to get you going:
Photo: Carlos David

EDIT May 6 2019: Adjusted bullet point #2 to clarify that even if female to male crossdreaming is a thing, the "autoandrophilia" presentation and explanation of it is unscientific and misleading.

May 1, 2019

On women who have sexual fantasies about being men

It turns out there are a lot of people assigned female at birth who have sexual fantasies about being a man.

Illustration by francescoch.
Last year I wrote a post about what the sexual fantasies of non-transgender people can tell us about crossdreamers and those who are some shade of transgender.

I documented that a lot of the fantasies that are used to invalidate the identity of trans women (and that are also found among many male to female crossdreamers) are actually quite common among non-transgender women.

And if these fantasies are found among cis women, they cannot be explained as a misdirected form of male sexuality when reported by  MTF crossdreamers and trans persons.

Do female to male crossdreamers exist?

Another myth of this kind is the one saying that there are no female to male crossdreamers. Women do not get turned on by the idea of being a man or having a man's body, the argument goes.

Post from a female to male crossdreamer from the reddit crossdreaming forum.
Republished with permission.
A relatively new collection of female sexual fantasies tells another story. The book, Garden of Desires, is a follow up to Nancy Friday's influential collections of such fantasies. Emily Dubberley, the editor, is the creator of Cliterati, a British fantasy website for women.


April 18, 2019

Left-Hander in London


We know that facts and logic may not be enough to help bridge the divide between LGBTQ people (especially transgender) and some people. There is also a place for humor and music to help facilitate understand and discussion. This is where I believe I can help.

Guest post by JJ Marie Gufreda


JJ Marie Gufreda (JJ) is the author of Left-Hander in London:  A Field Guide to Transgenders, Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals - In the Family, On the Job and In the Pew and  a playwright and performer. (Private photo).
I’ve been focusing my marketing and development on two areas - doing my show for as many people as possible, and helping companies improve their Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.


March 31, 2019

Strike a Pose! On Trans and Crossdreamer Cultures.

The TV series Pose tells us how amazingly creative crossdreamers and trans people can be, when they need to explore and express who they are.
Poster for the TV series Pose.


Crossdreamers are people who sometimes or constantly dream about becoming another gender. They may identify as trans, cisgender or nonbinary. There is an amazing variety in the way they dream about – and express – their longings.

You should think the fact that we have this cross-gender orientation in common, would make us want to share and learn from each other.

But no, instead the interplay between gender roles, sexual orientation, assigned gender and race has divided us into different tribes.

This is unfortunate, because there is so much to learn from how other crossdreamers have expressed themselves and explored their identities.

This is one of the reasons the TV series Pose should be of great interest to all crossdreamers and gender variant people.




Pose is a work of fiction, but it follows up the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning, a film about the 1990s ball culture of New York.


March 23, 2019

New Research on Genes and Gender Identity



The feedback-loops between gender identity, real life experiences, cultural concepts, genes and hormones are complex and messy, but there is a growing consensus among scientists that hormones do play a role in the creation of transgender identities.

The main focus is on the pre-natal period, when that person is still in its mother’s womb, being exposed to hormones aimed at triggering the development of gender specific organs and a gender identity.

Mapping the genes of trans women

In a paper called “Genetic Link Between Gender Dysphoria and Sex Hormone Signaling” Madeleine Foreman, Lauren Hare, Kate York, Kara Balakrishnan, Francisco J Sánchez, Fintan Harte, Jaco Erasmus, Eric Vilain and Vincent R Harley reports on a research project including 380 transgender women who have transitioned and 344 control male subjects.

They have looked at associations and interactions between variants of 12 sex hormone–signaling genes and gender dysphoria in transgender women.


February 5, 2019

New research shows that gender variance does not follow sexual orientation


New research indicates that as many as one third of non-transgender people may dream about being or presenting as the opposite gender. Crossdreaming is common among both cisgender, gender diverse and transgender people. But is there a connection between cross-gender dreams and sexual orientation?

In my blog post on crossdreaming among non-transgender (cis) people, I presented the research of Daphna Joel and Roi Jacobson on gender identity and sexuality of trans, queer and cis (nontransgender) people. Their study shows that there is only a very weak correlation between sex, gender identification and sexual orientation.

According to this research it makes little sense to  divide trans and queer people into distinct categories based on their sexual orientation (as researchers like Ray Blanchard and J. Michael Bailey do):
Sexual attraction was similarly characterized by a wide range of combinations of attraction to women and to men, from attraction to only one gender, to both genders, or to none. These findings replicate results from previous studies conducted on cisgender (Jacobson & Joel, 2018; Joel et al., 2013) and gender-diverse individuals (Joel et al., 2013) and extend them to transgender individuals.
Or let me phrase this differently: You can divide people into categories like "homosexual" versus "non-homosexual" if you want to, but those categories do not tell you much beyond the fact that some people are attracted to people of their own gender, while others are more flexible. These categories are too blurry and indistinct to be used to say anything about the their gender identity.


January 13, 2019

More than one third of non-transgender people have had crossgender dreams and fantasies


Some people dream about being the other gender. The fact that transgender people do so, are increasingly becoming accepted, but a recent Israeli study indicates that more than one third of non-transgender  people have dreamed about belonging to "the other side" too. 

It becomes harder to separate  transgender people from non-transgender (cisgender) people if cisgender people are crossdreaming, but if we think of gender as a complex continuum rather than a strict binary, it starts to make sense. The Israeli studies tell us that the boundary between cis and trans is very fuzzy, indeed.

One in three people have had erotic crossdreaming fantasies

In my recent presentation of Justin J. Lehmiller's  comprehensive study of sexual desire in the book Tell Me What You WantI noted that one third of his respondents report that they have had erotic crossdreamer fantasies. In other words: They have imagined themselves as having the body of the opposite sex in their sexual fantasies.

Given that the great majority of his respondents identify with their assigned gender, this could mean that at least one third of Americans have been crossdreaming. Since there are many who have non-erotic crossdreamer fantasies, the percentage may be higher.

He writes:
For instance, about one-quarter of men and women had fantasised about cross-dressing, and nearly a third had fantasised about trading bodies with someone of the other sex. In addition, about one in four men and one in six women had fantasised about having sex with a cross-dresser, and even more (about one in three men and one in four women) had fantasised about sex with a transsexual partner. [My emphasis]

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!