Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A Dialogue with Ron Gold - Part V

Ron Gold wrote:
I'm a bit confused. You said no more of my emails online, but sent me a comment from somebody who's obviously seen my latest email.. Or were you just explaining why no more?
...
I'd thought to go back over our correspondence, make notes, then try to organize my questions and thoughts in an orderly way. I have decided, however, to just select some of the most conspicuous items that have been whirling about in my head, and see where it takes me. If I don't get to everything at once, there's always later (something I finally learned with age.)

First I'd like to get the "born that way" thing out of the way for the time being (one of my attachments more or less deals with that, so if you read it, we'll have more to talk about anon.) I'm not persuaded that the documentation you referred me to proves that even some people are born gay or straight -- even if I was sure that the methodology of the studies was all kosher and the sample adequate. And I think that, born that way or not, people who define themselves as gay or bisexual have made a moral choice not to deny or repress their homosexual impulses the way most people do. Just looking around me here in Bangladesh, I don't see anybody besides Ali, who's been around me for quite a while, who thinks of themselves as gay, or even has a clear picture of what that is. Back when, we used to shout "We are everywhere" and I'm sure that's true, but the culture here doesn't allow us to know who we are or what we want, so the gays among us don't know they're here.

At last, to begin. And not where I thought I'd start but with your comment that transsexuaality is like intersex. Well, from what we've discussed, it is intersex, since one part of the anatomy (the neuroanatomy in the brain) may be typically male while another part (the body) may be typically female. You seem to think, and I'm not at all clear why, that the brain part is what makes somebody a real man or woman and to insist, as I think you've conceded, that one must decide one is, or must choose to be, one or the other. The point I was making in my original piece -- and might make even more forcefully now that I've thought more about it --- is that it's not necessary to choose; that anatomy is not what determines our inner idendities or allows us to love and care for one another. Your own situation, in which you declare yourself to be a straight woman, but are living in a mated relationship with another woman, should certainly illustrate my point.

Okay, so the problem for transsexuals is that they can't comfortably process the hormones their body is producing due to what their brains are telling them, and the only solution for that is what I've called mutilation and you call body reassignment or whatever. Even if I believed, as you do, that this was the only lifesaving procedure available, I would have enormous qualms about it, since it is not only irreversible, but does not turn people into the fully functional men or women of their dreams, only into "transsexuals". And yes, I'm of the opinion that anyone who thinks otherwise is "deluded."

A digression: No one seems to have noted that the focus of my ire was not those who've undergone sex-change surgeries, but the doctors who prescribe and perform them. Perhaps an anology can make you understand the way I feel. I think the plastic surgeons who changed Michael Jackson from an attractive black man to a caricature of a white woman should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, even if they were conforming to their client/patient's requests.

A few questions: I'm not at all clear how the hormonal problem translates itself into the feeling of being trapped in the wrong body. Does everybody with such a problem automatically feel that way and translate that into some sort of ideational form? It doesn't seem very likely to me. Also, it's my impression that hormone therapy is seen by its recipients as a means to achieve the bodies they want, not to serve as counterbalance to the hormones they can't handle.You say that in mild cases, or words to that effect, hormone treatments work and there's no need for surgery. First off, the idea of a mild case seems to conflict with your statement (or at least I think that's what you said) that everybody who's trasnssexual has the same brain vs. body physical makeup. And what happens when the hormones work? Do people get rid of the idea that they're in the wrong bodies, or is just that the hormones have changed their bodies suffiiently to suit them?

My legion of detractors on the blog made it abundantly clear that they felt I had totally mischaracterized their experience, but I was left with a very unclear impression of what that experience actually is beyond the persistent feeling that you're in the wrong body, which I'd had no trouble acknowledging in the first place. No one agreed with my guess about how they got that feeling, and I'm perfectly prepared to abandon that theory if it doesn't apply. Everybody's right, I don't know enough transsexuals. Maybe you can refer me to a memoir that might provide me with another developmental scenario. I note that you were among the very few commenters who offerred an alternative explanaation of how they got that way. And by the way, if I could remember the name of what I read, I'd challenge you to come up with a different interpretation thsn minr of Jan Morris's declared reasons for desiring a sex change.

No doubt I should have known about the neuroanatomy theory, but, as you yourself point out, it wasn't too long ago that nobody else knew about it either. I do challenge you to go back to the literature on the subject from the days of Christine Jorgensen and see if the reasons trans people gave for their decisions doesn't sound like sex-role stereotyping to you.

Does this mean that I'd write the same thing the same way now. Almost certainly not. What would I write now? I'm not at all sure I'd write anything, but if I did I don't know what it would be. I welcome your help as I think about it.

Now that I've written this, I've decided that I wouldn't be at all averse to sharing it with those who've been following our discussion thus far. At least for this email, you can put me back on the blog, if it isn't too late.

Just one more thing. Who is this Bailey person that everyone seems to hate so much? I read the quote in the passage you sent, and it seemed quite innocuous to me (and to you too, I think). What does he say that sends everyone into a frenzy? Maybe I've gpt a kindred spirit.

Can I offer you a hug?


My reply - more later -
Hi Ron!

I'll clear each e-mail individually with you for publication, if you like. Or, if it's convenient to you, just put NFP in the subject, meaning Not For Publication.

We could do it either way, default to publish, or default to not publish. My own preference is to default to not publish, so I don't accidentally make a mistake.

I'll answer this one a bit at a time, over several e-mails, as you are giving me furiously to think.

Ronald Gold wrote:
I'm a bit confused. You said no more of my emails online, but sent me a comment from somebody who's obviously seen my latest email.. Or were you just explaining why no more?

See http://aebrain.blogspot.com/2009/12/dialogue-with-ron-gold-part-iv.html

I think it's "fair use" to quote you that minimum part of your e-mail to explain why no more of your fascinating and cogent replies would be forthcoming. Many people were disappointed, so I'm glad you've given me permission to quote this one.

Perhaps an anology can make you understand the way I feel. I think the plastic surgeons who changed Michael Jackson from an attractive black man to a caricature of a white woman should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, even if they were conforming to their client/patient's requests.

Your analogy is better than you think - see
http://aebrain.blogspot.com/2009/07/auto-immune-diseases-and-michael.html

Just one more thing. Who is this Bailey person that everyone seems to hate so much? I read the quote in the passage you sent, and it seemed quite innocuous to me (and to you too, I think). What does he say that sends everyone into a frenzy? Maybe I've gpt a kindred spirit.


From another article of mine :
Much of psychiatry doesn't even meet the medical standard of proof - it's based on philosophical theory, anecdote and what can only be described as superstition. Just because it's difficult to gather the evidence, and that the evidence by its very nature can never be conclusive, doesn't mean to say that you can look at a Tabloid article, and from that formulate a completely new disorder, diagnose it for someone recently deceased who you've never actually met, and then pretend that it's science rather than speculation. Oh yes, disregarding any physiological disorders or biological evidence that doesn't fit your lede.

Not that anyone would do that of course. Well, except for Dr J.Michael Bailey in his article on Scientificblogging, Michael Jackson: Erotic Identity Disorder?:
Am I suggesting Michael Jackson was a homosexual autohebephile? I sure am.

"Erotic Identity Disorder" is a whole new diagnosis he's just made up for the occasion. Yes, well, and younger trans women are particularly suited to prostitution too, as he stated in his "scientific" book The Man Who Would Be Queen based on talking to less that a dozen Trans prostitutes at a gay bar. (Hint: go to a gay bar and don't be surprised if you find gays rather than women)

Bailey's perceptions might have been skewed by his lack of contact with the health professionals in this field (he is not a member of the Benjamin Association) and his reliance on very limited field work with a very small sample of transgender informants in Chicago gay bars.
...
In the book, Bailey explicitly states how much he respects his informants, yet information from transsexuals that contradicts his theory is dismissed as self-justification, identity politics, and lies: ". . . they are often silent about their true motivation and instead tell stories about themselves that are misleading and, in important respects, false" (p. 146).

Review by Walter O Bockting PhD. The Journal of Sex Research Volume 42, Number 3, August 2005: pp. 267—270


See
http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/Reviews/Psychology%20Perverted%20-%20by%20Joan%20Roughgarden.htm
http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/Reviews/Psychology%20Perverted%20-%20A%20Response.htm

etc etc etc.

Can I offer you a hug?

Only if I can offer one back! OK, even if I can't, yes please.

Zoe
I'll post further replies later, as I compose them.

Posts in this series:
Part VII
Part VI
Part IV
Part III
Part II
Part I

3 comments:

MgS said...

As one of Mr. Gold's critics, I must take umbrage with his statement here:

No one seems to have noted that the focus of my ire was not those who've undergone sex-change surgeries, but the doctors who prescribe and perform them.

There's a reason for this - Mr. Gold's argument hinges upon erasure of the individual narratives of thousands of transsexuals around the world. His ire at the doctors only makes sense if one assumes that transsexuals don't know what they are experiencing.

Mr. Gold is free to hold his beliefs and position as he chooses. However, it remains a sad statement that he hasn't even bothered to do enough basic research to confirm the assumptions upon which he is basing his opinion.

An argument that is purely based on assertions is just that - assertion.

Nicole said...

I tend to agree with you MgS, it also seems as if Mr. Gold likes to pathologize things that he doesn't understand.

There's also a general underlying unquestioning of a gender-binary that I feel from reading his comments, and I'm also not too keen on his use of the word "moral" when referring to an alleged "choice" of sexuality. He makes it sound as if there is a right or wrong.

subluminusx said...

As a transwoman, I think I can soundly answer some of the seams and gaps for most non-transgender people. On the most simple level, those parts of my body that are the basis for my assigned sex feel extraneous. In the sensory deprivation from activity to sleep I feel female physically (always did), and aspects that don't coincide with that quite literally feel numb. More so, I was consciously aware of the effect of testosterone on my state of mind. Some of my innate skills were actually dampened by the effects of testosterone.

I became less emotionally sensitive, sexual sensation predicated any emotional aspects when it came to intimacy and quite frankly it was 'distressing'. It wasn't about social gender stereotypes for me. Most of my problems where fear of violence in being discovered. Many expect, or even demand the hyper-feminine caricature so that is a factor. Body image (body-map), the nature of hormones as well as side effect of HRT, as well as "states of physical completeness" with the above all play significant roles in sexual intimacy and function. Point in case, I experience extreme dysfunction with sexual intimacy without all of the above criteria met.

It is quite similar to the discomfort cisgender people experience from medical sexual dysfunction. No one would question them for seeking treatments to be sexually functional. It's not mutilation because medicine currently can't make someone reproductively viable. Sexuality is an important part of being human. SRS allows for many transsexual and intersexed people experience positive sexual intimacy who wouldn't otherwise. Any provider not following sound guidelines should be prosecuted (like surgeries for BDD sufferers); however, comparing the two be grossly in error. I would agree with misuse being unacceptable for BDD; however, saying the same is true for transsexuals is hypocritical.

Medical transition supported by sound principle, guidelines, and thorough patient involvement and screening should be endorsed and supported. I personally want to be intimate with someone one day, surgery gives me that chance. Hormone therapy helps me feel more complete, but it is only one part. Is anyone just a just their hormones or just their genitals? They are both essential parts of the whole. Given the times and technology we do the best we can, and that is therapeutic support, hormone therapy, and SRS. Thanks for this post Zoe and if you talk to him again, or if he is following you can repost as you like.