Saturday, 10 May 2008

Square Peg, Round Hole

I didn't want to continue with yet another post on TS issues. This blog is intended to be a pot-pourri of issues, those of Science, and Space, and Sotware, and Serendipity. Brains too, of course.

I just read the full text of the paper I mentioned in the previous post. It's one of the benefits of being at a University, access to periodicals and journals through the library, and study of issues outside your particular speciality is encouraged. That's what Universities are all about, or they should be: they're not just glorified technical colleges.

I won't give a full analysis of the paper. It's well-written, definitely Good and not Junk science. The methodology is sound, as far as it goes, and the imperfections in the technique not plastered over, but there for all to see. It's what every scientific paper should be.

It takes as an axiom, an unspoken assumption, that all the people being studied are girls. Those men who are in the process of transition are referred to not as men, but as "girls with gender dysphoria". This assumption is questionable, and in one case, one of the study group that was "cured", is, I think, provably incorrect.

Four of the group of 25 were physically and unquestionably Intersexed. Their chromosomal sex wasn't reported, it wasn't regarded as important enough to mention, though easily capable of being measured.

Well, perhaps that's understandable. This is of course about Gender Identity, not extraneous detail that can be difficult to quantify. Except that more than half of the report is on sexual preference, something that is even more irrelevant to Gender than chromosomes, and notoriously difficult to nail down in transsexual people, whose orientation can change at transition.

One case though, we can be certain of. The one with "micropenis of indetermined cause". He has male chromosomes. He has to, or we'd know the cause.

Here's one view. There's considerable "reading between the lines" and interpolation from other evidence, but this is what the evidence strongly suggests may have happened.

Once there was a little boy. Now this little boy had an unfortunate medical condition. His penis was judged by those who had power over him to be too small. Boys in this parlous situation can still be fathers (though it takes technical help), and still derive normal sexual enjoyment. Anyone who thinks that the use of genitals are the only way to please a partner during sex really needs to do some study on the subject.

More unfortunate for him was that those who advised his concerned parents had strong views on this state of affairs. Feminists who believe in the concept of a Monolithic Patriarchy would suspect the advisors were all male. I'd go along with them in this case, not necessarily for the same reasons. We can't tell though. The report doesn't say.

It's likely that the advisors had heard all about the difficulties Intersexed people have at school. The persecution, the bullying. How locker-rooms would be nightmarish places to be avoided at all costs. I had a mild case, and I made sure I was alone when I took a shower after gym. It's not good even now, and at the time we're talking about for this boy, it was worse.

So it was decided to rear this boy as a girl. Now my own studies have shown that sometimes this will turn out well. A substantial proportion of people are just not strongly gendered either way, and could function as either. Not always though, and not even usually. You may hit the jackpot, and get someone who is transsexual anyway, and for them it would be perfect - but that's 1 in 3000. The trouble is, Surgical reassignment to a gender that is intolerable, the wrong gender, is a distinct possibility, and will result in Gender Dysphoria. In severe cases, this will be obvious at a young age, as it is with children born strongly neurologically cross-gendered, "primary transsexuals".

They castrated him.

They do that, you know, routinely to Intersexed kids. 5 times every day, an Intersexed baby is "normalised" by involuntary surgery, one way or another, in North America. There's a US-sponsored special exception to International Covenants against genital mutilation, just for them.

They removed any chance of fatherhood. Sterilised him. Made any hope of having an approximately normal life as a man remote, too. Not zero, for transsexual men do manage it, if they're strong enough. But what would have been easy and natural became vastly more difficult and complex. And they crossed their fingers that his brain was plastic enough to cope. Theory said it should be, no matter how many cases there were that it wasn't, not always.

This boy hadn't read the Theory. He wanted to play with the other boys. Gradually it would have dawned on his horrified parents that this wasn't just "tomboy" behaviour, but that their little girl (as they had to think of him for their own sanity) had a Problem.

So they probably took him to the Clarke Institute, in all probability the same people who had "helped" them before. What else could they do? Again, from memory the report doesn't say where he was taken, just that he had the Zucker Treatment.

So his pencil box had all the olive drab colours removed so he couldn't draw tanks, soldiers and aircraft. Instead, it was pink and purple pastels only. Playing with boys was forbidden, and it had to be Barbie not GI Joe in his toybox. Perhaps, as in many other cases, he hid his toy truck under his pillow, until that too was taken.

The previous post shows the kind of thing that happens. There's another post too, one I did earlier, showing the extremes in those days. I have no evidence whatsoever that the Clarke Institute engaged in this, I must emphasise. But I don't have any evidence that it was the Clarke Institute that gave the treatment, that's not mentioned in the report either. I'll quote from my earlier article, from this time last year:
Parents who brought their children to Rekers had to agree to participate in the "curing" of them. "Kraig," a four-year-old who participated in the UCLA Feminine Boy Project, was also monitored in the clinic's play-observation room. Only this time, it was his mother who wore the bug-in-the-ear, listening for her behavioral cues from the folks behind the wall. While playing, "Kraig would have seen her suddenly jerk upright, and look away from him toward the one-way window," Burke reports (based on transcripts of his case):

His mother was being prompted, through the earphones, by the doctor. She was told to completely ignore him, because he was engaged in feminine play. Kraig would have no understanding of what was happening to his mother. On one such occasion, his distress was such that he began to scream, but his mother just looked away. His anxiety increased, and he did whatever he could to get her to respond to him, but she just looked away. She must have seemed like a stranger to have changed her behavior toward him so suddenly and for no apparent reason . . . He was described as being in a panic, alternating between sobs and "aggressing at her," but again, when his distraught mother finally looked at him and began to respond, she stopped mid-sentence and abruptly turned away, as if he were not there. Kraig became so hysterical, and his mother so uncomfortable, that one of the clinicians had to enter and take Kraig, screaming, from the room.

Kraig's treatment continued in this vein. He was also put on the "token system" at home. Inappropriate, feminine behaviors earned him a red token, masculine ones, a blue token. Each red token earned him a spanking from his father. After more than two years of treatment, Kraig's behavior had turned around. He was now described by his mother as a "rough neck," and he no longer cared if his hair was neat or his clothes matched. But when he was eighteen, after years of being held up (under a pseudonym) by Rekers as "the poster boy for behavioral treatment of boyhood effeminacy," Kraig attempted suicide, because he thought that he might be gay.
The gender is opposite, but the story's the same.

After an unknown number of years of similar brainwashing, this boy-in-a-surgically-created-mostly-girl-body was pronounced "cured". Much to the relief of the parents, and the therapists, who might well have considered the consequences if he hadn't been.

Perhaps, and I would like to think this is true, Dr Zucker is correct. That despite all the counter-examples, despite the "gender dysphoria", this boy's brain was adequately malleable to make him into a successful woman. He's trumpeted as a success anyway, not at all gender dysphoric, no desire to change. And just as importantly (to them), Straight too, and not at all lesbian.

Failing that, I would like to think of him as cheerfully insane, much as I was. OK, that would mean being unable to access memories of childhood. For him, that would mean being unable to wear a man's shirt, or anything but the frilliest, most girly clothes he could get, just in case anyone suspected. Frigid, though yearning for love like anyone else, and capable of pleasing his male partner, who he loves dearly. The bit that says that this is all horribly, terribly wrong and perverse, safely locked away in a box in a safe in a room in a sunken ship under the ocean on a planet in a distant galaxy, so he almost never can hear the screaming in his head. No Gender Dysphoria, no siree, not for this guy, er, gal, the idea is absurd! Happy, for you can be in this situation. I know. I've been there. It's not that bad, really (so why are you crying, Zoe?). It doesn't feel bad at the time, anyway, that at least is unquestionably true. You can be highly functional, and no-one suspect, least of all you.

What I fear is that he might be on huge doses of anti-depressants, or alcoholic, or attempting to drown the misery in activities of one sort or another. Promiscuous sex perhaps, to validate his female identity. Suicidally Ideating perhaps. But again, no Gender Dysphoria, for if he showed that, the voices in his head tell him that no-one would love him. Her. Conforming, Bidable, and not standing out.

I don't know which of these is the case. It might be something else entirely. I don't know because it wasn't in the report. A study using basic tests for mental health would have told us about the last condition anyway, though the first two situations would have been indistinguishable.

But you see, compared to whether GD was still present or not, "happiness", "quality of life" or even basic mental health, wasn't considered important. Not worth measuring. And this is my main critique, why I'm inclined to take a very jaundiced view, not important even compared to sexual preference. It appears to be all about conformity.

Now remember just how much interpolation I'm doing. How much guesswork, lacking facts. Humans are good at seeing patterns that don't exist. I'm not objective either.

But it fits all too well. I hope I'm wrong, I hope my wild surmises and conjectures are nowhere near the actuality. I fear I'm right though. People like me are good at intuition. It also is consistent with every single one of the narratives I've heard from literally dozens of Intersexed people who went through the same kind of thing, and similar to the testimony of literally hundreds of TS people I've corresponded with.

I hope someone at Jurassic Clarke can show me that I'm utterly wrong, and it's vastly improbable that I have all the details right anyway. But I think, in the main, it's likely to be all too accurate.

I'm a boy, I'm a boy, but my Ma won't admit it
I'm a boy, I'm a boy, but if I say I am I get it.

Peter Townsend


Unknown said...

Your past three posts are really heartbreaking; for the individual pain of the individuals involved, for the collective pain of those who have face similar scenarios and know the result all to well, and for the infuriating inability of closed minds to see variation in humanity not only as humanity's greatest strength, but life's most miraculous aspect worth living.

I have not been an activist for many years, nor do I really want to be one now. At 57, I know that most of my own path in life has been played out simply doing the best I can. The events in motion now will not affect me directly. But they may alyer the lives of thousands yet to come very directly and those effects may be repercussions for millions more.
If we destroy our children, do we not destroy the possibilities of our future as well?.

I simply cannot comprehend the logic that places ideology, theory, prestige at a higher value than a human life. It strikes me is being self evident that men who cannot adhere to the ethical standards of their own profession (borh Zucker and Blanchard are clinical psychologists covered by the American Pyschological Association's resolution you linked) would be no more ethical in propsing guidelines for diagnosis for another more learned profession (bound by the additional standards of ethics for the medical profession) the American Psychiatric Association, which compiles the DSM.
Perhaps my vision in regard to ethical conduct is as impaired as my ability to know how I experience my own conflict of gender.

Diane said...

"happiness", "quality of life" or even basic mental health, wasn't considered important