Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan gets it, and lots of commentary goodness over at Dr Warren Throckmorton's, a man who I fear has been vastly misrepresented.
One who hasn't is Michael Bailey. But in a first, he says something that is calm, rational, and something I can agree with. Look, as as scientist, I don't care who utters a Truth, if it's true it's true, regardless of source. I'll quote him:
Children like Adam start showing their behavior early (Adam at 18 months). All evidence we have suggests that only a minority (20% or fewer) of boys like Adam become women eventually. But if parents let boys become girls at childhood, will this drive up the probability? It seems highly plausible that it would. Sex reassignment is not minor medical intervention. It involves major surgery and lifelong hormonal treatments. All other things being equal, sex reassignment is something to be avoided. Of course, not all other things are equal. If a 6 year old boy wants to be a girl, it will cause him more short-term pain to refuse than to acquiesce. The costs and benefits are hard to estimate, and Danielle has been frustrated in her search for data-supported answers. It would be a fitting reward to her admirable example if people could set aside their differences (and the government could uncharacteristically support research on a controversial topic relate to sex), and begin to collect and share requisite data.
In other words... we need more data.
The problem is that as far as I'm aware, there's only one group doing research on the topic in the whole of North America. And that is the group at Jurassic Clarke. There's a reason for this - we know that SRS and HRT work as therapies for adults, and so effort has been concentrated on proven, effective therapy rather than research on causality. Doing experiments on children is almost impossible to get past any ethics review too.
But the data is out there. Children are being given one of three types of therapy on an ad-hoc and unco-ordinated basis by individual therapists: coercive intervention, affirming intervention, and no intervention. The data on the effects isn't being gathered though. This should include long-term studies of not just presence/absence of GID, but also basic mental health. Sexual orientation too, if that's deemed important.
The only area of disagreement on this one that I have with Bailey is a small but important one: I would not consider sustained, prolonged, and systematic torture over most of childhood as being merely "short-term pain". The possibility of sequelae and side-effects such as suicidal ideation, debilitating depression, sexual dysfunction etc is so high in other "reparative therapies" that this should be our major concern here.
Finally, one more datapoint about transsexual neurology. From of all places, The Times of India:
After being trained in the basics of computer operations, Linux Operating System, spread sheets and browsing the internet, the twenty transsexuals, most of whom have never touched the monitor, got certificates from the government-run Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu (ELCOT) on Friday.You know, it's almost as if they had some sort of unusual neurology, though it has to be said, the possibility of being raised out of the gutter is a powerful incentive to learn. Michael Bailey and Ray Blanchard think that it's just because they're festishists who want to look like women, and proficiency in computing is a reliable sign of that. Really. That's what Bailey says in his book. He doesn't say why, merely makes the remark based on observation. Older TS people tend to be good at computing, and as he insists they're all fetishists without exception, the deduction follows.
“No group has ever scored such high marks,'' said ELCOT managing director C Umashankar. Ninety percent of them had scored over 90 marks and the lowest was 80 out of hundred. Remember, ELCOT has been training government servants for three decades. And, the transsexuals had not even touched the text books given to them.
The learners, mostly drop-outs from highschool with one or two graduates and post graduates, have lived most of their life in shadows, till they were spotted by Tamil Nadu Aids Initiative (TAI).