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?


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”.

October 26, 2020

Are all transgender people gender dysphoric?

No, the headline is not another variant of the “you cannot be trans if you are not gender dysphoric” meme, often used by transmedicalists and transgender separatists who think they more trans than other trans people.

The headline rather refers to our understanding of the term “gender dysphoric”.

Could it be that the “you have to be dysphoric to be trans” statement is based on a misunderstanding of the term “gender dysphoric”?

Over at CDL Carah Maisie (who is herself a transgender woman) makes this argument on the basis of an analysis of the DSM-5 “gender dysphoria” diagnosis. Her argument is inspired by an article written by Jocelyn Badgley.

The DSM-5 manual and its criteria for being gender dysphoric

The DSM-5 is the current edition of the American psychiatric manual. “Gender dypsphoria” is not seen as a mental illness in the manual, but it is included all the same to ensure that trans people get access to health services and proper insurance.

Carah and Jocelyn list the various criteria that indicate gender dysphoria in the DSM-5, and some of them do indeed refer to a mind/body misalignment:
  • A strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics
  • A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of another gender
But these are not the only criteria. Others refer to social and societal dysphoria:
  • A strong desire to be of another gender
  • A strong desire to be treated as another gender

September 24, 2020

Feminist philosopher Judith Butler is crystal clear in her condemnation of transphobic feminists

Judith Butler presents a strong defense of transgender and nonbinary people in a new interview with The New Statesman. 

I have developed a deep respect for Judith Butler, feminist philosopher and gender theory developer. 

I do not agree with her in everything. I do believe, for instance, that her strong focus on "gender as a peformance" makes it harder to discuss the biological side of  the complex interplay between genes, epigenetics, hormones, mind, culture and society that shapes a gender identity.  

But here observations about how language, narratives and power leads to the oppression of women (and people in general) are very helpful. She is a hard read, though, which is why the interviews we have are so useful.

I am not sure Alona Ferber of the New Statesman really knew what she was letting herself into when she approached Butler for an interview. The recent British debate on feminism, gender and transgender lives has been colored by the vicious attacks of "trans-exclusionary radical feminists" (TERFs), and the way Ferber asks her questions it may look like she thinks J.K. Rowling and the TERFs represent mainstream feminism.

Butler, however, will hear nothing of it. She clearly and systematically describes a feminism that is inclusive of transgender women and where the TERFs are seen as allies of Trump and the transphobic extreme right.

This means a lot, because Butler is one of the most respected and influential gender philosophers in our time. When she says that the "gender critical" TERFs have misunderstood the basis of feminism, it is much harder to dismiss the arguments made against them.

Not that there is anything new in what she says. Trans activists have made the same arguments for years. But she presents them in a "I need to bookmark this" manner.

I have published a summary of the interview over at Trans Express that gives you the most important highlights of Judith Butler's understanding of feminism and the role of transgender women. 

Click here to read it

By the way: The quote in the image above is for an interview Judith Butler made with the Trans Advocate back in 2014. Her dislike of TERFs have been known for a while. I guess Ferber did not read it.

August 31, 2020

Another Way of Understanding The Diversity of Transgender Lives

Koloa presents a model for MTF transgender people that helps us understand how personality traits may explain why trans people take different paths on their trans journeys.

The two type model for transgender women

One of the most important lessons I have learned when writing about trans and queer issues, is to make sure that we distinguish clearly between between the terms and the model you use to understand the world on the one hand, and reality on the other.

As most well informed philosophers will tell you: We do not have direct access to "reality in itself". All we have access to is our own interpretation of our world. So when we see patterns in the world around us, we should always ask ourself: Is this pattern only a mirage produced by my own mind? Is it simply a reflection of my personal prejudices? Are there other models and terms that may explain what I see in a better way?

Since this is a blog covering transgender and queer issues, an obvious example of how badly this can end, is the way the two type typology of transgender women has been used to invalidate them. 

Many researchers have noticed that trans women who come out and transition late are more likely to be gynephilic (being attracted to women) than those who come out as trans at an early age. This has, until quite recently, been quite true on an aggregate level.

August 25, 2020

Zagria on Transgender History 4: Living as a Transgender Person

Roverta Cowell, transgender Spitfire pilot and racecar driver.

Zagria is the researcher, writer and editor behind “A Gender Variance Who’s Who”, the most extensive repository for transgender history on the web.  In this part  our interview we look at her own personal history and how that one reflects shifts in the way we think about transgender issues. We also talked about misgendering, the use of pronouns, deadnaming and those who do not transition.

See also:
The Transgender Historian Zagria, Part 1: "A Gender Variance Who's Who"
Zagria on Transgender History, Part 2: Key Concepts and Terms
Zagria on Transgender History 3: Key Transgender People and “The Tipping Point”

The Clarke

The Clarke Institute’s Gender Identity Clinic in Toronto (later known as the Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health – CAMH) has played a controversial role in recent North American transgender history. 

It was the institution of researchers like Kenneth Zucker and Ray Blanchard, people who have actively contributed to an invalidation and pathologsation of trans men and women, for instance by presenting their identities as “paraphilias”.

Since Zagria did approach The Clarke to get help, she is also a witness to this part of transgender history, so we asked her about her meeting with the institute.

Russell Reid is a retired British psychiatrist who specialized in sexual and gender-related conditions.

You have a rather unusual transition history in first going to The Clarke, and then to Russell Reid. Could you compare and contrast the two?

My interactions with The Clarke was a series of interviews with the different personnel. I was fortunate that Freund was away that week so that I was not asked to experience his Plethysmograph [an instrument used to measure volume changes in body organs].

It is difficult at this length of time to member what each member asked. The major thing that I remember was the marked disinterest in my husband. Being in my mid 30s and working in informatics, I suppose that they assumed that I should not have one. They did have him in for an interview but it was pretty cursory.

The final session was with the entire team. It was like being fired by committee. It was made clear that they would not do anything for me, despite me being able to name others whom they had helped.

Their major comment was that I had not met the right woman yet. As I got up to leave one of them interjected that I should keep in touch as it was a research facility. Fat chance of that! I saw my doctor the next week and he then started me on hormones. I think that he had referred me to test my determination.

August 24, 2020

William Shakespeare’s Love for a Transfeminine Crossdreamer

Southampton in his teens, c. 1590–93, attributed to John de Critz
The third earl of Southampton en femme.

If I told you William Shakespeare was in love with a transfeminine crossdreamer, would you believe me? 

Some will tell you that gender variance is a recent phenomenon. It is not. Transgender and gender variant people have existed all the way back to Antiquity and beyond, and they have been found many different cultures. See, for instance, my post on the poem written by a European Medieval transgender woman  and the article on transgender characters in the Indian Kama Sutra.

And yes, Shakespeare was in love with a male to female crossdreamer/gender variant person/transgender woman.  Our modern terms do not translate easily into the context of the English Renaissance, and we cannot ask dead people about their identities, but I am pretty sure that at least one of these terms hits pretty close to home.

August 23, 2020

Zagria on Transgender History 3: Key Transgender People and “The Tipping Point”

Zagria is the researcher, writer and editor behind “A Gender Variance Who’s Who”, the most extensive repository for transgender history on the web. In part 1 of our interview we talked about how she does her research. In part 2 we discussed key concepts of gender variance. In this part we ask her about trans people who have influenced her thinking. We also look at recent political and cultural trends, including the increased visibility of transgender men.

April Ashley, transgender Vogue model and actress in the 1950s and 60s. Photo Ken Walker.

Most influential transgender person

If you were to pick one person from transgender history who has influenced you the most, who would that be? And which trans and  gender variant persons are the most underrated, as you see it?

There was no internet when I transitioned in the 1980s. The most famous trans women were performers such as Coccinelle and April Ashley. I never thought that I was going on the stage. So there is no one such person. I was influenced in many things large and small by the individual cis and trans women whom I knew. 

Some trans persons have been overrated, as I see it. Overrated does not mean that they did not achieve anything. It means that a lot of attention has been directed to them while other people who have done as much or more are ignored.

The following have been given a lot of press and academic attention. They don’t need more. The attention would be better directed to those in the underrated list.

Some examples of those overrated: John Radcliffe-Hall, Gertrude Stein, Lili Elevenes (Elbe), Caitlyn Jenner, Major Griffen-Gracy, Sylvia Rivera, Virginia Prince, Jack Bee Garland, Susan Stryker.

Underrated:  Most activists etc in South America, Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. North America/Western Europe is well reported, but at the cost of the rest of the world.

Some underrated individuals: Barbara de Lamere, Masha Bast, Janine Roberts, Diana Sacayán, Simone Heradien, Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi. Sally Mursi, Yollada Nok Suanyoy, Rachel Webb, Toni Ebel, Demet Demir, Marie André Schwidenhammer, Chloe Dzubilo, Johnny Science, Brenda Lee, Marcello Di Folco, Alejandro Portadino. There are many, many more.

August 18, 2020

Zagria on Transgender History, Part 2: Key Concepts and Terms

Zagria is the researcher, writer and editor behind “A Gender Variance Who’s Who”, the most extensive repository for transgender history on the web. In part 1 of our interview we talked about how she does her research. In this part we ask her about her understanding of key concepts like transgender and gender variance.

Part 1 of the interview can be found here.
Transgender historian Zagira (private photo)

The word "transgender"

Your site is very inclusive. You explicitly refer to gender variance in the name of the blog, instead of transgender people. 

Could you say something about how you see and understand the transgender community, and the development of the terms used to describe it?

I wrote an extensive discussion of the history of the word Transgender and pointed out five distinct meanings of the word:

1. To change gender full time, but without surgery.

2. As a synonym of transsexual, e.g. in the expression ‘transgender surgery’ (which turns out to be an early usage). Given that transsexuality is not a sexual orientation and that it is more a matter of gender.

3. Rejection of the gender binary. This has a definite history, and was articulated by Gay Lib, etc. and encompasses gender queer, non-binary, street queens etc. Such persons were generally rejected both by gays concerned to be gender normative and by people such as Virginia Prince with their false-consciousness concepts of respectability.

4. At least as far back as Magnus Hirschfeld there has been a need for an umbrella term for all who do not conform to the expectations of their birth gender. Harry Benjamin designed a scale. Leslie Feinberg and others proposed the term ‘transgender’ as an umbrella term, and it has been generally accepted since.

5. As a rejection of the medical pathologization implicit in ‘transsexualism’ and ‘gender dysphoria’. As an articulated usage, this is associated with queer theory, but the implicit attitude goes back to the early days of Gay Lib. Some of the anti-transgender people, especially those who identify with HBS or Truscum [i.e. communities of transsexual separatists], actually affirm themselves as having a medical condition.

In some ways Trangender is a good word because it is polyvalent, it has a richness of meanings. However – particularly when discussing pre-1950 and more so previous centuries – the term has baggage that is better avoided.

It is also damaged by boundary disputes. Some of the people are said by other people not to be transgender: drag performers, femmiphilics, cross-dreamers, gay transvestites, ‘female husbands’, butch women, non-binaries etc.

The Transgender Historian Zagria, Part 1: "A Gender Variance Who's Who"

Zagria is, as far as I see it, one of the most important transgender historians around. She is running “A Gender Variance Who’s Who”, an amazing repository for transgender history. The site contains a large number of posts, over 1500, about transgender and gender variant people from all over the world, spanning centuries.

We talked with Zagria about the site, her work and important transgender issues. Here follows part 1 of the interview.

(Above: Private photo of Zagria at Iguazu Falls in 1989)

A site about transgender history

How did you come up with the idea of starting a site about transgender history?

A major influence was Kay Brown’s Transsexual, Transgender, and Intersex History web site. I quickly noticed the narrow range, but thought that the basic idea was good. I had made an HTTRACK [web site copier] copy so could still refer to it when it was taken down.

Now of course it is available to all via the Wayback Machine.

I cannot help thinking that finding information about all these transgender and nonbinary people, and writing about them, must require a lot of research. How do you identify the people you are writing about, and where do you find the information you need?

Yes, a lot of research indeed. Basically I read widely. Sometimes while researching A, I encounter B, and follow up B and encounter C. I find inspiration from books, news articles, academic journals, academic theses, the internet, gossip, history, transphobic sites etc.

It is nice to discover someone while reading a book not about trans history at all. Such as Dudley Clarke, whom I discovered in a biography on the mid-twentieth-century popular novelist Dennis Wheatley, Charlotte Bach whom I discovered in Colin Wilson’s Mysteries, or the trans candidates for being Jack the Ripper.

There is a lot more information out there than there was 13 years ago. Google even suggests which books discuss a person or topic. However the amount of data is itself a growing problem, and results in a lot of reading before I can write something.

Access to journals

As I am not associated with a university, access to journals was a problem. An academic friend allowed me to use his library ID and I was thereby able to access journals until he retired and the ID stopped working. 

 However these days almost all journals and even many books are available via TransReads, LibGen,, ResearchGate, Erudit, etc. Increasingly academic theses are available online, and older ones were available – until recently – at the UCalgary Gay, lesbian, Bisexual, Queer, Transgender & Two Spirit Info Site (Archive).

I was frustrated when Google News was restricted. However we now have the Digital Transgender Archive which would be worthwhile for the issues of Drag Magazine alone, but has so much more.

August 6, 2020

Gender Variance in the Movies: The Bugs Bunny Story

2020 US stamp of Bugs Bunny crossdressing.
This is not a prank. The American cartoon character has actually been a positive role model for crossdreamers, queer and transgender people.

In the very interesting Netflix documentary Disclosure, on transgender presentation in American movies and TV, the transgender movie director Lilly Wachowski (of Matrix fame) tells the story about how the Bugs Bunny movie What's Opera Doc? helped her in her transgender journey.

The actor Laverne Cox agrees: "It was just fabulous".

As the documentary explains, most Hollywood representations of crossdressers and transgender people have been  transphobic at the core. The positive view of Bugs Bunny may therefore come as a surprise.

US Crossdreamer Stamp

Given that the US Postal Service is now celebrating Bugs Bunny's 80 year anniversary with a series of stamps, two of them depicting him as a crossdreamer, I decided to write  more about this over at my Trans Express blog in the article "Bugs Bunny as a Positive Transgender and Queer Role model".

Role models 

Here I would like to look into how important media coverage is for young trans and queer kids who are trying to find out who they are. They do not read science papers or follow LGBTQA media. They watch cartoons, play games and read comic books, and if they cannot find anything there (or have good friends who can help them), they will have no language to help them.

The young MTF crossdreamers Lilly Waschowski and Laverne Cox watched the cartoon below and saw a male assigned person dress up as a woman with great confidence and with no shame, embodying femininity with impressive bravado and in a positive way. 

Sure, today we will probably comment on all the gender stereotypes, but the fact is that Bugs Bunny embodies a proud and beautiful crossdreamer (or crossdresser or drag queen or trans woman) in a way that is affirmative and helpful.

July 14, 2020

Sex, gender, biology and culture in the chaos that is the transgender debate

Photo of chromosomes with the caption: You are not a chromosome

You need both biological and cultural perspectives to understand what makes transgender people trans. Some anti-trans activists deliberately try to ignore this fact  is in their quest to invalidate transgender people. Here's why they do this.

Recently I got a question over at tumblr from a person who wanted to understand their transgender friend a little better, and who wanted to know more about concepts like sex and gender.

For those of us who are debating sex and gender on a regular basis, the answer might seem pretty straightforward. For those who are not well versed in the gender debate, however, what may seem straightforward is normally not.

You can read my answer over at tumblr: What is the difference between sex and gender?

The article basically presents the five different phenomena people refer to when using the term "sex":
  1. Biological sex
  2. Sexual characteristics
  3. Gender expressions
  4. Gender roles
  5. Gender identity
Much of the confusion and misunderstanding found in gender and transgender debate is caused by people not being able to distinguish between these different phenomena.

There is one interesting dimension I did not explicitly discuss in that article, and which might help us understand the current sex/gender/transgender debate a little bit better. 

This dimension reflects the difference between biological and cultural processes, and the interactions between them. It is used in the arguments of both trans and anti-trans activists, but not in the way many people think.

May 21, 2020

The Autogynephilia Theory Debunked by New German Study

transgender asian woman with asian woman

The autogynephilia theory of Ray Blanchard has been part of the transgender discussion since the late 1980s. It is currently being aused by anti-transgender activists in order to undermine the legitimacy of transgender identities. A new German study proves – again –  that the theory has no foundation in reality.

If autogynephilia theory is a completely new concept for you, you might want to read the following  short summary of what it is all about. If you already know the theory, you can skip the next part.

A very short introduction to Ray Blanchard's theory about the two types of transgender women

Blanchard's two type theory on transgender women and MTF crossdreamers has its root in the late 19th century idea that gay men and lesbian women are "inverts".  According to this way of thinking a gay man has a female sexuality and a lesbian woman has a male sexuality. This is why, the story goes, all gay men are effeminate and all lesbian women are butch.

This isn't true, obviously, but it was a neat and simple to understand model. Transgender women were extremely effeminate gay men and transgender men were extremely masculine lesbian women.

This is the basis of Blanchard's category of "homosexual transsexuals" (HSTS). Trans women who love men are gay men who try to seduce straight men by presenting as women.

The people who came up with this model  faced one serious challenge, though. There were transgender women who loved women.

They attempted to solve this problem by focusing on the crossdressing of these "men". So the "transvestites" where straight men who got turned on by dressing up in female clothing – a  parallel to a fascination for rubber and leather, if you like. They were therefore put in the same category as other sexual perversions ("paraphilias" in the current lingo).

Blanchard still  thinks that both gay and trans people are mentally ill, but trans women who love women (including those he calls "pseudo-bisexual") are doubly so. Unlike the androphilic (man-loving) trans women, they are basically in love with the image of their inner female self, as Blanchard sees it. They are suffering from an "erotic target location error". They are "auto-gyne-philiacs" (broken Greek for "self-woman-love").

This means that Blanchard is expanding  upon the traditional "transvestic fetishism" model: It is not the clothing that is the trigger anymore, but the idea of being or becoming a woman.

As you can see, the model rests on one very important premise: What causes the transgender identities in the two categories (HSTS vs autogynephiles) has to be completely different. These women will have to have nothing in common beyond the desire to live as women.

If there is overlap between the two, the model's explanatory power is lost. The gender identity of man-loving (androphilic) trans women can no longer be reduced to an effect of their sexual orientation. The gender identity of woman-loving (gynephilic) trans cannot be caused by a "erotic target location error". Instead you will have to identify another factor or factors that explain their gender variance.

The German study of "autogynephiliacs" and "HSTS"

The German researchers – Jelena S. Laube, Matthias K Auer, Sarah Biedermann, Johanna Schröder, Timo O. Nieder, Peer Briken, Johannes Fuss and Thomas Hildebrandt – have been taking Blanchard's theory very seriously.

In their paper "Sexual Behavior, Desire, and Psychosexual Experience in Gynephilic and Androphilic Trans Women: A Cross-Sectional Multicenter Study" (Journal of Sexual Medicine) they make use of new data provided by 189 gender dysphoric transgender women recruited at four transgender health care centers in Germany.

May 8, 2020

Some reddit polls indicate that an increasing number of MTF crossdreamers would like to transition

Over at the Crossdreaming subreddit two members have posted some polls that give surprising results. They indicate that  male to female crossdreamers are much more likely to want to live as their target gender than many  previously thought.

By crossdreamers I mean people who dream about being "another" gender.

The methodological foundation for these polls are weak, as the concepts used are not clearly defined and we are not completely sure who the respondents are.

That being said, r/crossdreaming is a subforum that attracts people who are interested in the concept of crossdreaming, and the history of that forum tells me that most of the respondents are most likely people who are experiencing crossdreaming fantasies themselves, including – most likely – erotic ones.

The great majority are also male to female crossdreamers, i.e. they were assigned male at birth.

We should keep in mind that it is possible that those who are most likely to find this forum and its poll interesting are those crossdreamers who struggle with their gender identity. We do not know this for sure, but this may represent a selection bias.

In any case: The data tells us something interesting about this specific part of the transgender community.

So, what do the polls tell us?

May 2, 2020

This is why true diversity, and the acceptance of queer and transgender people, is the best way of addressing human suffering

The quest for finding safety in normalcy is a hopeless one. It is better to embrace the diversity of humanity, and let people be who they were meant to be. This also applies to queer and transgender people.

Korviday's brilliant queer analysis of Shrek

Why is it that so many people fear transgender and queer people, or any people that do not follow the norms, for that matter? Why do they want everyone to be like themselves... No, strike that. They do not want them to be like themselves, given that they are all imperfect beings... No, they want them to be like the idealized versions of themselves. The perfect man. The perfect woman. Why is that?

In the  video embedded below korivday uses the two first Shrek movies to discuss what causes this pressure towards “normalcy”.

It is not that these movies present Shrek as queer. They don’t. But they do give us a very good idea about what it means to be an outsider who does not fit the norm.

Korivday is using the interaction between Shrek and the powers that be (Lord Farquaad and the Fairy Godmother) to describe the way society forces queer people back into the closet.

It is a brilliant analysis, and I recommend that you watch it!

April 24, 2020

Transgender and Non-binary News on Flipboard

Here are four new Flipboard magazines on transgender, nonbinary and queer issues.

I have, over the years, become an active transgender and non-binary news curator. I am doing a lot of research when I write my blog posts and take part in online debates, so I might as well share what I find with likeminded individuals.

So you can find me on twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and tumblr.

Right now I am experimenting with a service called Flipboard. Flipboard is an app for smartphones and PCs that gathers news that might be of interest to you and presents it all in an online magazine format. I use it a lot, not only for transgender news surveillance.

Users can create their own magazines on Flipboard, where they share content they find interesting. Others can then subscribe to these channels, visit them and get news from those magazines in their main feed. Shared items may also pop up in search results.

I have made four Flipboard magazines that may be of interest to some of you. You do not need to register as a user to read the magazines in a browser.

If anyone is interested in becoming co-curator for any of these magazines, let me know. 

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!