Saturday, 18 October 2008

A Reply to Transphobic Feminism

The original's over at Neurotopia, but I think it's worth repeating, with hyperlinks included.

The original post by notorious transphobic feminist, m Andrea:
Zoe, the intersexed get a free pass in my book, perhaps I should have mentioned that. Transfolk have normal chromsomes, comprise .007% of the population, and literally only a handful of those are intersexed. The intersexed organizations are strongly opposed to body modification surgery.

The idea that hard science should exclude everything but numbers is a patriarchal concept.
It has nothing to do with medicine, but the sign of true intelligence is the ability to apply the lessons learned from one field to another, and I'm sure the scientisty folks can manage. To say that medical science should ignore the cost paid by half of humanity for the benefit of .007% is insane and cruel and proves my point that males are incapable of non-sexist behavior....
I'll let that last sentence pass though to the keeper. In my view, no human being is congenitally cruel, evil, or sexist, incapable of humane behaviour and sub-human by virtue of their birth. Not because of race, and not because of sex either.
Again, Zoe, it is the classification of transgenderism which is at issue. Either it is a mental illness, or it is not.
Some would classify rabid misandry in the same category as rabid racism, as a mental illness. I wouldn't, I think it's just evil. It's not in the DSM-IV anyway, and I don't think it should be. I'm not into pathologising as insanity views that I disagree with.

In my reply, I misinterpreted her .007% figure as being that for Intersex, rather than Transsexuals. But no matter, Lynn Conway's figures say greater than 1 in 3000 at the most conservative bounds, that's about .04%. It was a fortuitous mistake, as it allowed me to bring up and tie together some of the IS/TS issues. Anyway, on with the motley:
m Andrea - it's true that Gender Identity Disorder is in the DSM-IV-TR, the manual of diagnosing psychiatric illnesses. It is a psychiatric illness in that context.

The code is 302.85 for adults, and 302.6 for children, or if there is any non-neurological Intersex condition involved. You may give a "free pass" to the Intersexed, but the Patriarchy and psychiatric establishment do not. Any distress caused by a mismatch between reality and arbitrary assignment is considered a psychiatric illness.

But so is having been raped - the codes there are 995.81 (if raped as an adult) and 995.5 (if raped as a child).

In fact, it's not the biological cause that is the psychiatric illness, but the anxiety, depression and other sequelae resultant from the biological cause that requires treatment. For some, putting an end to the underlying cause, be it repeated physical abuse or brain/body mismatch, can affect a complete cure. For others, psychotherapy may be needed, or at least, an end to the Patriarchal system of stigma and shame that further victimises the victims.

It wasn't that long ago that the idea of having rape victims have a say in their own treatment was anathema too. The arguments both for and against are identical.

It's not true that Intersex organisations are against surgery. They are against *involuntary* surgery, surgery without consent. They believe that until the patient can tell us what gender they are, surgical intervention should be minimal, and aimed at preserving urinary, sensate and reproductive functionality, not mere socially-acceptable cosmesis, that will leave the child transsexual in at least 10% of cases, possibly 30%.

I have no idea where you get the 0.007% figure from. There is much confusion about the exact definition of "Intersex", that may account for it. Using the most inclusive definition, where the soma is neither 100% male nor 100% female, the incidence is 1.7% (See Fausto-Sterling et al).

While this may be technically true, the majority of such cases would only be detectable through extensive lab tests, they are essentially asymptomatic, though many compromise fertility. Others are asymptomatic at birth, only developing symptoms later - such as sex reversal, as in my case.

At the other extreme is Leonard Sax's definition, which excludes many syndromes recognised by all Intersex groups as being Intersex conditions. His figure is 0.02%. But to get to this low figure, he has to exclude Kleinfelter Syndrome (47xxy not 46xy or 46xx) and other conditions. Even though some 47xxy people have fathered children, and other 47xxy people have given birth.

I tend towards the inclusive definition myself, while admitting the difficulties. However, I can't be objective about it.

Regardless of the incidence, if it is deemed desirable on Utilitarian grounds that a minority suffer "for the greater good", we should be honest about it. We should not seek to minimise the size of the group affected, nor bury or ignore scientific evidence just to feel less guilty.

The evidence from Kruiver, Zhang et al has already been mentioned. Now that is open to reasonable attack on the grounds of lack of replication - not that attempts have been made to replicate it that have failed, but that no attempts have been made. It is open to attack on the grounds of small sample sizes, though the sample size is not insubstantial compared to the universal set.

But to that evidence, I'd add that of Berglund - "Male-to-female transsexuals show sex-atypical hypothalamus activation when smelling odorous steroids" - Bentz - "A common polymorphism of the SRD5A2 gene and transsexualism." - Kerlin "Prenatal Exposure to Diethylstilbestrol (DES) in Males and Gender-Related Disorders: Results from a 5-Year Study " and "The Presence of Gender Dysphoria, Transsexualism, and Disorders of Sexual Differentiation in Males Prenatally Exposed to Diethylstilbestrol: Initial Evidence from a 5-Year Study" - and especially Krause - "Geschlechtsspezifische Differenzen der Hirnaktivitaet in der fMRT bei Normalprobanden im Vergleich mit transsexuellen Probanden". For the teutonically challenged, that's "Gender differences in brain activity between normal volunteers compared with transsexual subjects in functional magneto-resonance imaging".

We're not sure what the exact mechanism is or mechanisms are that cause transsexuality. It appears to be the combination of an atypical hormonal environment in the womb, combined with a genetic pre-disposition. We're now confident though that we know what transsexuality is. A (partly, mostly or completely) male brain in a (partly, mostly, or completely) female body, or the reverse.

If you give the Intersexed a "free pass", they qualify too. Unless you restrict your definition of "Intersexed" unreasonably, or deem all these papers - none of which have been contradicted - to be a long chain of individual 1 in a million coincidences.

Going beyond the dry, dusty numbers inherent in Science, I'll quote the Full Bench of the Family Court in Australia, back in 2003, when the data was far more scanty, but still overwhelming:

"There should be no escape for medical and legal authorities that these definitions (of male and female) ought to be corrected and updated when new information becomes available, particularly when our outdated definitions bring suffering to some of our fellow human beings."
I simplified - gender is formed during childhood based on comparison with hard-wired emotional response compared to other people - but close enough.


Lloyd Flack said...

Maybe talking in terms of the Patriarchy and oppression is part of the problem. Maybe it is best to think of it in terms of roles that once were functional but are not functional any more.

How much of the pay gap is due to most women being choosier about hours, comfort and danger in jobs? As an example, how many female plumbers are there? That is an example of people being paid well for putting up with ickyness.

To get rid of the glass ceiling one of the things you have to do is get rid of the supply of men who are prepared to do too much for the organization at the expense of the rest of their life. But to do that one of the things you have to get rid of is the supply of women who encourage this behaviour. And to do that you have to dry up the supply of men who want the sort of woman who will offer ego bribes. It is a chicken and egg situation.

While men are regarded as expendable you will have to offer them an inducement to accept that status. This is done by offering ego bribes and telling them that they have to continually prove their worth. How much of what women complain about in men is a result of these inducements and pressures? No, women are not solely responsible for this situation, men are too. And not surprisingly the things men complain about in women are often largely the result of what men seek.

Men are generally less aware than women of what they loose from current sex roles. Whether this is a built-in comparative weakness in introspection or whether it is a result of upbringing is not known. But Feminism eventually ran out of steam because it was a movement focused solely on one sex's experience of whole society problems. Changes had to start with female sex roles, because that is where they could start and women did loose more from existing sex roles than men. But Feminism is now an obstacle to constructive change. They want men to change for women's sakes rather than for their own. This will never work.

Zoe, you were determined to play the male role so you accepted the expendability while not swallowing the ego bribe. You didn't rebel against the core male expectations, but internalized them. Oh, you definitely avoided any macho displays, you didn't swallow all of it. I could see you trying too hard and it puzzled me a bit. I thought you were just being conventional. A lot of things make more sense now.

OK, that's things as seen from a male geek viewpoint.

Lloyd Flack said...

To return to the main theme of your post, it looks as if transsexuals are copping the side effects of misandry as well being attacked because they are reminders that there are differences between the sexes that do not fit in with some ideologies.

Maddie H said...

Interestingly, there was a recent study which showed that trans women experience the full brunt of the pay gap, and that trans men tend to make more money post-transition (although I think it's less than cis men make).

Miss Andrea has a personal agenda, and doesn't know anything about trans people. She prefers to invent a flurry of "facts" in the hopes of wearing down her opposition. In the bluntest terms, she doesn't debate the topic honestly or honorably. To her, it's more about taking her frustrations against men out on women.

If you nail her down on anything, she'll shift the goalpost or the entire topic. She'll arbitrarily change word definitions. There was a conversation on Hoyden About Town in August into September which really shows this.

Lloyd Flack said...

are you saying she argues like a creationist or like a climate change skeptic?

Maddie H said...

Wow, that's a tough call.

I mean, the epically bad science comes across as creationist, but the willingness to enforce an unscientific viewpoint to detriment and real harm against others is not unlike some climate change skeptics I've seen.

I should clarify that everything I say above is my own impression of her behavior.

Battybattybats said...

"Regardless of the incidence, if it is deemed desirable on Utilitarian grounds that a minority suffer "for the greater good", we should be honest about it. We should not seek to minimise the size of the group affected, nor bury or ignore scientific evidence just to feel less guilty."

See I always find that Utilitarian argument a load of hooey. While an individual may choose to sacrifice themselves or of themselves for the greater good no-one should be able to choose to sacrifice others for it. It goes against egalitarianism, against liberty.

It's just rot in my view.

I endorse the notion:
You can justly claim or excercise no right that you do not extend freely to and defend for all others.

The answer to end one groups suffering is not to pass it on to someone else instead as that makes one as culpable of the injustice as those who had imposed it on one.

Becoming the oppressor is no way to justice or fainess.

Anonymous said...

"In male transsexualism, the most outstanding characteristic is a narcissistic withdrawal to a condition marked by submission and pseudofemininity. Anxiety and insecurity are basic to the gender dysphoria but are subdued by means of fantasy escape and gratification in aestheticized ego-ideals with suppression of aggressive and sexual feelings. This results in the often observed pseudofemininity in the male transsexual. A core group of transsexual males are marked by a persistent pseudofeminine narcissism. "

(emphasis added))

Anonymous said...

"Male and female transsexualism: The danish experience with 37 patients"
Archives of Sexual Behavior
Volume 11(2) 1982 133-155

Er, the sample size is a bit small.

They discuss *37* patients from 1951 to 1982 - a period of time where the medical profession (psychs included) weren't known for their detailed understanding and acceptance of sexual and gender variance. These days a gender unit in a small city may have 50-100 patients at any one time. If the paper was contemporary, I'd suspect the authors of cherry-picking. As it is the paper is more than 25 years old.
The authors spend much of their time attempting to analyse the relationships of the subjects with their parents, particular emphasis on the subject's mother.

Really, it was the cumulative effect of papers like this, that tried to prove a psychological cause, waffled for pages and ultimately failed that lent initial support to the biological hypothesis.

The full abstract is below:

"Abstract: Since the first sex-reassignment operation in Denmark at the Rigshospitalet in 1951, a total of 37 patients, 29 males and 8 females, have had sexmodifying surgery and a change in legal status. In our experience a basic insecure gender identity is a predominant trait in transsexuals, dating back to earliest childhood. This insecurity and a concomitant anxiety are overcome differently by the two transsexual sexes. In male transsexualism, the most outstanding characteristic is a narcissistic withdrawal to a condition marked by submission and pseudofemininity. Anxiety and insecurity are basic to the gender dysphoria but are subdued by means of fantasy escape and gratification in aestheticized ego-ideals with suppression of aggressive and sexual feelings. This results in the often observed pseudofemininity in the male transsexual. A core group of transsexual males are marked by a persistent pseudofeminine narcissism. They have stable ego strength, are agenital in sexual attitude, and have an intact sense of reality. This group is expected to remain so after sex reassignment. The transsexual female assumes a narcissistic, phallic attitude displaying outer activities and caricatured masculine manners in an attempt to subdue her insecurity. Examples are given of the characteristic splitting of these persons' phenomenological egoexperiences and how different their reality testing is from that of psychotic persons with a desire for sex change. Transsexual females are much more sexually active than transsexual males. We find a closer connection between female homosexuality and transsexualism than between male homosexuality and transsexualism."

Anonymous said...

From the same paper:

"In "Die Ichspaltung im Abwehrvorgang" ("The Splitting of the Ego"), Freud (1938) describes for the first time the concept of splitting of the phenomenological ego. He describes a boy who lived with the fear of castration, after having been threatened with this on account of masturbation, and who viewed the female genitalia as being the result of castration.
The boy's answer to this conflict was not an either-or, that is either to renounce satisfaction of his drives acknowledging the danger or to continue masturbation with denial of reality. By means of a fetish the boy constructed an illusion of the woman as phallic and thus enabled himself to continue masturbation; the danger was not excluded, but it was sized up realistically, and he attempted to avert it. Freud mentions that the conflict was responded to with two opposing reactions, both valid and active, but the cost was "einesr Einrisses im Ich" (a split in the ego). Further, he emphasizes that the fact that the boy realistically made up his mind about the danger shows that the illusory experience of the phallic woman is not a psychotic state.
Similarly, the transsexual males are marked by a splitting of the phenomenoligical ego experience. As mentioned earlier, the reality testing of the transsexual male is not psychotic."

May I be the first to say: ROFL.

Zoe Brain said...

Denmark has a reputation for being a little... antedeluvian.

8.8 No specific legislation has been adopted as yet. However, the cases are dealt with under Article No. 661 (12 July 1994) on Sterilization and Castration. This legislation was originally catered towards mentally retarded and criminal people and is therefore not particularly popular amongst the transgendered community. The relevant article is Article 13.

8.9 Permission for Gender Reassignment Surgery is given by the Ministry of Justice upon consultation with doctors and psychologists. Gender Reassignment Surgery is only granted in 35 cases per year. Approximately 15-20 applications for Gender Reassignment Surgery are received annually. Applicants mostly receive Gender Reassignment Surgery outside Denmark.

A Comparative Study of European, Commonwealth and International Law
With psychs like these in charge of the gatekeeping, I think you can see why.

It has to be pseudofeminine narcissism, a term they made up for the occasion and which is not found elsewhere, as "real" feminine narcissism is associated under freudian theory with "penis envy", which is something these women conspicuously and spectacularly lack. Not even the most hidebound conservative classical freudians in Denmark try to make a case for that. So they are forced to make a new term, and call it an explanation, or admit that freudian theory is to a large extent complete hokum.

Compare and contrast with the only other place in the world which treats transsexuals in the same rather disrespectful fashion. The neo-freudian interpretation of the same data is that rather than being asexual, the same cases are driven by a strong and mis-targeted sex drive, autogynaphilia. They are men so attracted to women they want to become women. And if they say any different, that just proves they're all liars.

It's interesting that two such opposite interpretations can be made of the same data, especially when they both lead to the same kind of impersonal and rather inhuman (mis)treatment.

The trouble with much of psychiatric practice is that it's very long on (to a great degree debunked) contradictory theories with no actual evidence, and very short on objective measurements.

The observations in this article are valid: the interpretation is really conjecture and bafflegab. They have to go to great lengths to explain why typically feminine behaviour and emotional response in somatic males has nothing to do with neurology, but Jungian Archetypes, Racial Memory or other such... superstitions. Sorry, there's no better word for a model with a supernatural causative mechanism, and such poor correlation with reality.

Anonymous said...

"Gender Reassignment Surgery is only granted in 35 cases per year. Approximately 15-20 applications for Gender Reassignment Surgery are received annually. "

I feel sorry for the poor 15-20 souls each year who receive Gender Reassignment Surgery without applying for it.

Anonymous said...

Also, the DES talk is misleading:

"There is a "Citation Needed" indicator following the statement in the sixth paragraph of the Possible Physical Causes section:

"There is also evidence from transsexual people born between the 1930s and 1970s that exposure to a synthetic estrogen known as diethylstilbestrol(DES), routinely used at the time to prevent miscarriage and treat morning sickness, may have contributed to disrupting the hormonal balance within the womb. Evidence suggests that an unusually high percentage of physical males whose mothers were known to have taken this medication present as transgender or transsexual, either in childhood or in later life.[citation needed]"

This statement has no basis in fact and may have been placed here on the basis of anecdote, urban legend, or wishful thinking. That would explain why there is no reference given. In fact, reference 9, the Centers For Disease Control DES Update, clearly states that as of 2003 the only well-documented effect of prenatal DES exposure in DES Sons is benign epididymal cysts. In no follow-up studies of male children exposed prenatally to DES have psychosexual efffects of any kind been observed. I will watch this page for a while to see if anyone comes forward with a reference to support this statement. If that does not happen, I will edit the page using reference 9 to present what is currently known about the effects of DES exposure on human males.
"Always look to the data!" JRamlow 07:27, 9 September 2007 (UTC)"

Zoe Brain said...

The Citation that should have been used is

Prenatal Exposure to Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
in Males and Gender-Related Disorders: Results from a 5-Year Study
Scott P. Kerlin, Ph.D.

Paper prepared for the
International Behavioral Development Symposium 2005
Minot, North Dakota

An earlier version of this paper was presented at E.Hormone 2004, New Orleans

Zoe Brain said...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Devil's Advocate. Your presence here is exactly the kind of "show me" that is needed, making sure we prove the case, and don't merely state it.

I've added the citation to the talk section over at wikipedia, but haven't edited the main article, as I figure the main editors will want to do that now I've shown them where to look.

Thanks also for the 2001 article too. Although mainly of historical interest now we know more, it does show how the field is swiftly evolving.

Anonymous said...

Since you are familiar with the source, you may be the best person to update it.

Maddie H said...

Thank you for defining feminine narcissism and pseudofeminine narcissism, Zoe. "Pseudofeminine" doesn't even make sense to me.

Now that I know the terminology is Freudian, I can just dismiss it as silly, yay.

That does make me wonder, though - so far, no psychiatric theory has really explained human motivations or psychology to any kind of satisfactory or useful degree. It's helped in identifying ways in which people may experience mental disability, but I wonder if a more useful theory could be constructed around the basis of listening to what people have to say about themselves, and less about assuming influences or motivations that may not even exist.

Anonymous said...

To me, pseudofeminity is where you try to act feminism, but because deep down you really aren't feminine it will always come off as being off, somehow.

I would not trust completely what people have to say about themselves, as it might have biases and their memories may not be perfect.

MgS said...

That scraping sound you heard was m_Andrea moving the goalposts around in a frantic attempt to sustain her pet theory.

Even if her incidence rate for transsexuality were correct, small numbers do not change the fact that transsexuals present a number of problems for hardline feminism's understanding of the concept of gender.

These are problems which are not going to go away simply because she would like them to. Just as we have found with sexual identity, until you have a model that encompasses all of the exceptions, you probably have the model wrong.

Nichole said...

Psychiatric and psychological theorizing is generally done on the same basis as philosphy is done -- no hard science or real-world examples need apply.

The theorizing is often done on the basis of "trying to make sense to me" which means "trying to make the way I see the world normal." This from one who has had plenty of exposure to psychological theorizing.

Psychological theorists had huge problems with the "moral" qualifications of any women during a period when the only behaviors that were considered "normal" for women were nurturing and care-giving. Hence, the women tested and used as referrents for Kohlberg, Ericson, et al were "loose" when it came to what the theorists decided were "clear moral choices:" is someone justified in stealing a loaf of bread in order to feed her children? Correct answer: no. Given answer: maybe she is.

The inclusion by Blanchard and mentor Kurt Freund of the penis-meter to measure blood-flow cannot show results that can be shown relevant to what they supposedly measure: a person's sexual arousal to pornographic scenes from film. The original theories never sought to measure for proof any designated females of any type nor to randomize non-trans subjects with trans subjects. Lots of flawed measurements.

Instead the idea was to invent a justification after the fact for a neo-Freudian outlook by both men.

mAndrea uses Blanchard and his popularizer Bailey as bedrock for her arguments. Toss in a couple of self-adjudged "autognyephiles" to leaven the dough and voila a "scientific theory." Not. The claim that anyone not in agreement or any other evidence is simply lying or flawed and one has the basis for all of mAndrea's theorizing.

In all of my years of loving soccer I have never seen goals moved so often and so randomly during matches. Seems to blunt the ability of the players to play the game well.

Her bases, as those of her paradigmatic 'supports" basically begin from a prejudice and move to justification of that prejudice rather than to discovery that there are more things in heaven and earth, Andrea, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

MgS said...

Psychiatric and psychological theorizing is generally done on the same basis as philosphy is done -- no hard science or real-world examples need apply

I do have to disagree with this assertion - at least where mental health disciplines are involved.

While far from perfect, the mental health world has adapted its understanding of transsexualism considerably as new evidence has become understood in a broader context. Where the original diagnosis of transsexualism was based on extremely narrow observational criteria, the more current understandings are actually quite broad in their scope in comparison. (No, I'm not going to get into whether the DSM diagnostic categories are appropriate, merely that they do reflect gradual change based on evidence and understanding).

Whether the same can be said of other disciplines which are formulating parallel theories is another matter altogether.

Zoe Brain said...

sumptos devil's advocate - I tried that, and as I feared, a WikiWar had erupted, with most of the article being deleted.

Anonymous said...

I checked there, there is James Cantor who has been generally opposed to a lot of stuff on there. I'm thinking that perhaps that DES stuff is questionable, because if it wasn't peer-reviewed maybe something was wrong with it?

Still, it looks like James Cantor kept a lot of your other additions, like the one about fMRI. Don't be afraid to bite back, either.