Sunday, 18 January 2009

Today's Battles

What is the diffrence (sic)in male and female? That's a question asked at Yahoo Questions. Nice, simple, obvious... except it's none of those.
Sex can be determined on the basis of several biological criteria:
1. Genitalia - primary sex characteristics
2. Secondary sex characteristics
3. Endocrine (Hormonal) balance
4. Genes, either XX vs XY, or presence/absence of SrY complex
5. Neuroanatomy, sexually dimorphic development of the brain.

None of these are strict binaries though. They all have gradations with 2 distinct peaks, one for female, one for male, but some in the middle.

The Gender Binary is an excellent approximation, where all 5 criteria align 59 times out of 60. The difficulties begin when we try to make an approximation into an absolute: biologically, this is senseless.

Some common examples:

1. Kleinfelter syndrome, with neither 46xx nor 46xy but 47xxy chromosomes. Most are sterile males, some are infertile males, a very few are infertile masculinised females, and there's a handful of fertile females.

2. CAIS or "Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome" where the endocrine system is male, but a mutation in cellular receptors causes insensitivity to the male sex hormones. The women concerned have got underdeveloped female genitalia, male endocrinology, but all the rest is strongly female. Having insensitivity to testosterone makes them look very female indeed, and their neurology is very female too.

3. Transsexuality or "Harry Benjamin Syndrome", where the neurology is strongly cross-gendered and mismatches (most of) the rest, I say :most of" because about 10% have other mismatches too.

There are other, less common, conditions where the primary and secondary sex characteristics can naturally change, due to endocrinal and cellular receptor anomalies (5ARD and 17BHDD syndromes). Configuration at birth may not be the configuration after puberty. There's also a handful of cases where such changes are Idiopathic - they happen, but we haven't found the cause yet. IPSR "Idiopathic Partial Sex Reversal" is only 1 in several million though.

The subject is complex, I'm afraid. 59 times out of 60, it's easy. The other 1 in 60 can be very difficult, and neither "male" nor "female" may be accurate 1 time in 1000.
There's References of course.

Onto sport, and over at the Bleacher Report, another question: Under Which Category of Sport Should a Transgender Surgery Person Compete? The person asking the question knows her own lack of knowledge on the issue, and the question is a genuine request from someone seeking the truth. Her reply after I filled her in:
Zoe, thank you for sharing. It absolutely is an eye-opener. I never knew any of this information. It is tough to generalize as I understand from your commentary, and that it needs to be addressed from a case-to-case basis. While it might prove advantageous in some cases to have a GRS, there are bound to be disadvantages too...we cannot say which outweighs the other though.

Sport should embrace all and it should not have any sort of disparity, as in your case, if you ever wanted to be athlete, it should not make a difference to sport.

Thanks a lot for sharing your personal journey, means a lot to us.
It's comments like that that make this all worthwhile.

At the Indiana State University, an article on Psychiatry and the DSM-V controversy that, while respectful, completely misses the point, and is full of factual inaccuracy.
GID - Gender Identity Disorder - has been classified as a Disorder since DSM-III.

The debate is whether to remove it, as there's no evidence is that these people are mentally ill by the APA's own definition.

The evidence is that Transsexuality is a form of Intersex - a condition where the body is neither 100% male nor 100% female. In Transsexuality, or Harry Benjamin Syndrome, fMRI scans show that the brain, the neuro-anatomy, is cross-gendered. It's no more a "mental illness" than a cleft palate is.

But like a cleft palate, if untreated surgically, it can lead to intense persecution. And like a cleft palate, the terrible feeling of wrongness and insecurity can lead to depression, which *is* a psychological condition.

The difficult bit is going to be to move the diagnostic code from being a mental illness, to a physical one, and introducing a new subset of depression and other symptoms which result from the physical complaint - much as the depression an anxiety resultant from being raped has its own classification.

The current diagnostic code for GID is 302.85 by the way, and 302.6 when it occurs in childhood.

As for surgery being "no longer regarded as cosmetic", it isn't at the moment. The article even references the specialist professional association's Standards of Care. I'll quote from it:
"Sex reassignment is not "experimental," "investigational," "elective," "cosmetic," or optional in any meaningful sense."
This article deals with the subject sensitively, but appears to have completely missed the point about the disputation: we have on one side the endocrinologists, biologists, neuro-anatomists and some psychologists saying it doesn't belong in the new edition in light of the evidence gathered since 1996, and on the other some other psychologists who are defending their traditional turf because they don't believe the evidence is absolutely conclusive yet.
Finally, at the Rapid City Journal, a reply to the article "City could expand non-discrimination policy" by pointing out that they wouldn't exactly be Robinson Crusoe here. It's nothing particularly Avante-Garde.
Martinson doesn't believe the city would break new ground if it adopted the resolution. She said other cities have passed resolutions or ordinances addressing sexual orientation, though she didn't offer examples.

"I don't feel like we'd be doing something brand new, something scary. Other cities have done this without any consequences as far as insurance and liability. I don't think this resolution creates any special rights," Martinson said.
She didn't give examples. I did. The same list I mentioned in August last year. We lost that one, an unholy alliance of Muslim and Catholic clerics mobilised their constituencies to restore their rights to persecute. The Good Guys don't always win. Not initially.


Anonymous said...

A for effort, C for misunderstanding the issues, eh, Professor Brain? Still, all in all, more evidence that our condition(s) and our issues are becoming more widely known at institutions of higher learning. I mean, IU?! I thought all they cared about there was basketball and football! After all, we're talking about InDiAnA here!

Redneck Texan said...

You might find THIS interesting.

Laserlight said...

What's the difference between male and female? How simple! If the two are arguing, the one who's wrong--regadless of facts or logic--and must apologize is the male.