Transgender Spirit

Now that same sex marriage has gotten the Supreme Court’s imprimatur, the transgender movement seems the next stop on the civil rights train. Some notables who support full gay equality (including gay rights activist who are center right, or at least for the gay community, i.e., those who challenge “gay left orthodoxy“) don’t think the T belongs in the LGBTQ alphabet soup. (The Q probably doesn’t belong either. I can’t tell if it stands for “questioning” or “queer.” If the former, I support it; if the latter I don’t.)

Likewise, some religious conservatives who, even if they won’t accept same sex marriages as metaphysically “real,” seem more able to make peace with gays living and functioning openly in society, but view the transgendered as something far less acceptable to their consciences. Religious conservatives lost the battle in the culture war for gay equality. The Ts are behind the gays; they have not yet won.

Here I write on a note of irony with the gay rights issue v. the trans. issue. It seems that non-Western cultures, comparatively speaking (in a Ricardian sense), are ahead on the curve of transgender rights than gay rights.

That is, western cultures may be, in absolute terms, ahead of non-Western cultures on both the gay and the trans issues. But non-Western cultures, which tend to be more socially conservative than Western ones, still either treat the transgendered as something if not as legitimate as homosexuals, but in some cases even more “normal” or preferable.

The most notorious case is how Iran deals with homosexuals. Homosexuality is punishable by death; but they seem open to the notion that people can be trapped in the wrong sex. So to avoid execution homosexuals can opt for a sex change. (Presumably to be able to enter into “heterosexual” relationships.)

Iran seems an outlier in its fanatically tyrannical way of constructing such policy; but they are not outliers among countries both more socially conservative than non-Western nations, but also that recognize the transgendered in society and put them on par with or ahead of homosexuals.

For instance, Pakistan, where the transgendered are officially recognized, publicly shamed, but “are worlds ahead of Pakistani gay men, who are outlawed, brutalized and even murdered with no recourse to protection.”

Or in India, where recently “their Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling legally recognizing a third gender, thereby becoming the world’s seventh country to do so.” Yet India is behind on same sex marriage.

While Thailand has some degree of protection for same sex couples, they don’t have full gay equality. Thailand consequently has a vibrant subculture of transgendered people who seem to be taking their rights on the same timeline as homosexuals. As the link to The Daily Beast notes, Thailand’s policy on the transgendered “would put the Southeast Asian nation ahead of 32 U.S. states and all but a few countries.”

In Vietnam, as a 2015 the ban was lifted on same-sex marriage, but “[a]lthough same-sex marriage is permitted in Vietnam, lawmakers have not granted full recognition to the unions, which do not provide legal protections for spouses.” The country has also passed a law which seemingly recognizes full transgender rights as of 2017.

Singapore is behind the curve on gay rights as compared to Western Nations. Likewise the transgendered don’t have full equality. And they too have a vibrant subculture, legal sex change surgeries that have taken place since the early 1970s, and a degree of recognized lobbying power. Though their transgendered don’t see themselves as part of the same united front with gays, they, in Singapore, seem similarly situated in terms of their progress and rights.

Mexico is a nation that has both same sex marriages, recognition of transgender rights, and also subculture of 3rd gender Muxes. According to this article in The New York Times:

Anthropologists trace the acceptance of people of mixed gender to pre-Colombian Mexico, pointing to accounts of cross-dressing Aztec priests and Mayan gods who were male and female at the same time. Spanish colonizers wiped out most of those attitudes in the 1500s by forcing conversion to Catholicism. But mixed-gender identities managed to survive in the area around Juchitán, a place so traditional that many people speak ancient Zapotec instead of Spanish.

So with a little over 800 words I’ve explored samples of the transgendered in the non-Western world. An exhaustive exploration obviously would take more time and effort. Like with homosexuals, the transgendered exist indigenously, cross culturally.This is not some new crazy phenomenon coming out of the modern demented, decadent, relativistic West mind.

A point made in the above paragraph quoted from the New York Times helps transition to the next section of this piece: The transgendered are anathema to traditional Christianity, particularly Catholicism, which conquered South and Latin America and parts of Asia. The Muxes survive and exist in spite of, not because of the traditional forces of Roman Catholicism in Mexico.

In particular Thomism, with its incorporation of Aristotelian thinking, seem hostile to viewing the transgendered as part of the “natural order of things.” Of course the Roman Catholic Church notably posits Thomism in its doctrine and dogma. But Thomism’s influence on other traditional forms of Christianity cannot be understated.

Rather, I think it’s that Thomism seeks a holistic matter and spirit/body and soul understanding of reality, where biology informs “oughts.” Non-Western cultures have a view of reality that elevates the spiritual over the material. So even if they are atheistic or agnostic, Buddhist cultures, for instance, are still quite spiritual, metaphorically speaking and hence likelier to downplay the material as illusory.

So if such non-Western cultures encounter an XY, assigned “male” at birth, but seems to have the spirit of a female, they are likelier to accept the person’s womanhood (or gender non-conformity) on spiritual grounds and carve out some kind of 3rd gender or special place for them. This explains why the transgendered have been recognized as part of longstanding tradition in these cultures.

Indeed, in the 17th & 18th Centuries, French explorers encountered

berdaches, a French term for younger partners in male homosexual relationships. In fact, Plains Indian berdaches are best described as occupying an alternative or third gender role, in which traits of men and women are combined with those unique to berdache status. Male berdaches did women’s work, cross-dressed or combined male and female clothing, and formed relationships with non-berdache men.

They are “two-spirit” people having both male and female essences. But to the Thomist, this two spirit notion is “silliness” (as one of my Thomist friends recently put it me). Looking to biological reality, integrating it with the spiritual (body and soul), deriving oughts therefrom, consistent with Aristotle’s principles of non-contradiction, the Thomist says someone with an XY, a penis and testicles is a man, regardless of what the person may think they are.

If others think different, then it’s a delusion. Ben Shapiro, as a traditional Jewish believer, I don’t think is a self understood Thomist (he might be). But, as a Harvard trained attorney, he argues like one. In his notorious encounter with Zoey Tur, Shapiro didn’t quote verses and chapters from the Jewish canon but rather asked Tur the loaded question: “What are your genetics, Sir?”

That Tur might have a female spirit (even using the term metaphorically) is not dispositive. Rather, body and soul have to be reconciled according to Aristotle’s law of non-contradiction. Yes there are biological exceptions like AIS and Klinefelter’s Syndrome. They give biological evidence that disturbs the notion that gender breaks down only two ways: male and female. Rather it seems, “male and female he made them,” is a strong general rule, with exception. But most transgender people don’t have either of these conditions. Hence Shapiro’s notorious question to Tur, to counter Tur’s invocation of those extant biological exceptions.

The accusation of “delusion” to me seems a low blow. Many socially conservative religious folks, like Shapiro, are quick to term the transgendered as mentally ill, suffering from “delusion.” Well that term has also been levied against all religions by Richard Dawkins. On empirically falsifiable grounds, one cannot reason his way to God. Shapiro and the Thomists, seemingly, pull the same nuclear option trigger against the transgendered when they use that term.


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Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer. ...more →

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137 thoughts on “Transgender Spirit

  1. I mean, Aristotle is long dead nonsense, and Thomism is warmed over Aristotle in bad drag. I don’t know what to say. Dumb ideas are dumb. Maybe that was the best people could think up back then, but on the other hand, there was plenty of gender bending back in olden times. Check out the Roman cult of Cybele, for example.

    We’ve always been here, even if pontificating old fools denied us.

    Anyway, nature does not produce “natural kinds.” Instead, it produces “adaption executors,” and sexual reproduction is messy. Across a broad population, it basically works. So yay. But there are always people who don’t quite fit.

    And maybe this is good. I dunno. Does absolute uniformity sound like fun? Once you have some variance in a species, you’ll have more on the edges. Anyway, what kind of species do you want to be?

    People cannot give a precise analytical definition of “game,” that includes everything people call a “game” and excludes everything they do not. So then people act like they can give a precise analytical definition of “woman.”

    Try being so analytical with every word you use, all the time, and not just the words that hurt me. Good luck.

    #####

    There is some part of gender that is in the mind. We don’t totally understand why, but ignorance is the opposite of knowledge, so don’t do dumb things with the burden of proof. That said, we know more than literally zero. We know that psychological gender identity is a real thing. You have one too (probably).

    It’s probably neurological, in that, for most transgender patients, hormone therapy acts as an amazing anti-depressant and anti-anxiety treatment, far better than typical psychoactive drugs. I mean, part of this is no doubt “yay I’m growing boobs I feel good,” but it ain’t entirely that. In any case, doctors aren’t going to stop giving us hormones. They are the only thing that works.

    Which is to say, gender dysphoria is a real thing, perfectly well established by psychology. Gender transition, including hormone therapy, treats it. Nothing else treats it. If you don’t treat it, it kills us just as clinical depression kills its victims. Those of us who don’t suicide instead eek out miserable, diminished lives. So yeah. There are ways that Christianity is a religion of pain and death. Choose you poison, but don’t make me drink your poison.

    Anyhow, yeah, hormones. Yay ‘mones! So what’s next, now that I have boobs and look like a (very large) woman … there are plenty of cis gals more butch than I. It’s seems preposterously alien to call me a “he.” Good grief.

    Anyway, I’m here. I’m not going away. Medical science is strongly on my side. So what are you going to do?

    What would Jesus do?

    No seriously, what would he do? He threw down with the money lenders. Would he “gay bash” me?

    Or would he wash my fucking feet?

    (Guy seems like he was a mensch, honestly. I really like Jesus from the stories, that weird, cryptic whackjob. Pity about his religion, anyway. So how do you treat the least of his children?)

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    • “Medical science is strongly on my side.”

      Well I’m on your side. But I think it depends on what “on my side” means. I’ve got some friends who are live and let live Thomists. They don’t want to persecute; but they will always see an XY who was assigned male at birth as a “he.” They would note that “on your side” means the medical industry has been politicized and corrupted.

      I’ll go this far: There was a time when the medical industry from psychiatrists to surgeons were not “on the side” of, among others, the LGBTQ folks. And it wasn’t pretty.

      So I think whatever side one is on, one can be suspicious of when the medical profession and psychiatrists take sides in culture war battles.

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      • Well yeah, we fought hard for with regard to the medical community. Which is to say, you now see the result of trans people speaking up, telling difficult truths, and a long path to overcome existing prejudices. How do you think it should work?

        Of course science and medicine are political, but they are not merely political. We are not children arguing about the rules of Monopoly here.

        Regarding chromosomes, you don’t know my chromosomes. Neither do I, to be honest. They’ve never been tested. So if your friends determine my gender based on that — well they can’t. They don’t know. No one does.

        I mean, they are probably XY, but so what? They might not be. Any random cis woman might (with low probability) have an XY chromosome set. Do they demand genetic tests from each person they meet? This is absurd.

        Nature does not produce natural kinds.

        Anyway, if these people are to be consistent — since personally I think the “chromosome” thing is a dishonest post hoc rationalization of a pre-existing belief — do they apply the same standard to cis women who have developmental anomalies. In other words, if five years into marriage, they discovered their otherwise physically normal wife has a XY chromosome pair, would they then consider themselves married to man, in some uncomplicated way?

        I seriously doubt it. This is a dishonest argument. They need to try harder.

        If they call me “he,” we’re gonna have a problem.

        Blah blah blah. Look, we know the circumstances of our bodies. Like, we get it. In fact, it was a long road to convince the medical establishment that we are not delusional. First, back then we didn’t always have the vocabulary to talk about ourselves. We had no idea why we felt this way, and thus we came up with every goofy explanation possible. Second, the only doctors willing to listen and learn tended to be rather outre. But so what? That was then, this is now. Hirschfeld and Benjamin (and others after them) did the hard work within science. We did the hard work interacting with science, often at great cost. But still, with time knowledge grows. There is no doubt we know world’s more now than those people did.

        Anyway, to stubbornly cling to old science and bad semantics is not admirable. Few people today advocate exorcism for depression or draining humors. Our success with the medical establishment has to matter.

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    • People always bring up the issue of Jesus throwing the money lenders out of the Temple as an example of how great he was towards the oppressed but they never ask why were their money lenders at the Temple. The money lenders were actually doing a very important religious function. The Torah states that the donation to the Temple had to be in shekel. By the time Jesus was alive, the shekel was no more a real unit of currency than a Franklin coin. The Temple tax still needed to be paid shekels. The money lenders were at the Temple to make sure that the different variety of coins Jews were bringing across the Diaspora could be changed into shekels. By throwing the money lenders out of the Temple, Jesus was interfering with the Pesach service and this was one of the most important festivals in the Jewish world.

      What would the historical Jesus do? The historical Jesus was born and lived in the world of Late Temple Judaism. The Jewish world defined itself against the Hellenistic world at the time. Jews were highly influenced by Greek culture. Jews often had Greek names or a combination of Greek and Hebrew names. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua. Mary is Greek for Miriam. Many Jews only spoke Greek, especially the big Alexandrian community. Greek culture was also seen as a bad influence. Since homosexuality was associated with Greek culture than chances are Jesus would have seen it as going against Judaism.

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      • The concept of usury is somewhat fraught. Moneychangers need to be paid for their time, but how do you control how many coins disappear into the third pocket? Payday lenders provide a vital service, but the cost of doing business means it’s almost destined to inherently extort their customers. Islam is serious about punishment, but you can’t tell me that, in practice, usury convictions aren’t as political as blasphemy convictions.

        And on the other thing, I suspect that “disrupting a major festival” was a feature, not a bug. Also, in addition to all the plans he had, Jesus was out of bubblegum.

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        • Aristotle thought usury was unnatural and thus wrong. And the Roman Catholic Church (with I understand some kind of limited exception*) banned it during the medieval times as well.

          *I can’t say I’m an expert; but in Islamic banking they can engage in alternative mechanism to ensure bankers get paid and a system is set up that works. Things like profit sharing and fees. From what I know about what the Church permitted in the Middle Ages it was very limited in this sense (arguable on whether it qualified as “usury” at all).

          But it certainly wasn’t a market based interest system.

          Somehow Jewish people made peace with the concept of legal usury before the system of Aristotle->the Roman Catholic Church did.

          The OT — as far as I read it — isn’t exactly “up” on the concept of lending and getting people into debt. Both canons of the Bible are extremely pro-debtor.

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          • Ah, but how to identify what is truly usury? I wonder if it’s one of those transitive things:

            I am getting a reasonable return for my time and risk
            You are squeezing blood from a stone
            He is usurious

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            • Good question. Modern businessmen it seems are shrewder than those of old. Too clever. Think about those credit default sliced and diced financial instruments no one understands.

              I had a student who worked at a car dealership and said they figured out how to do the math where an Islamic “fee based” repayment system could charge exactly the same as an APR loan.

              The method made all the difference.

              This article raises some interesting issues. I think I now know why Jews were willing to lend $ to Christians. Both religions, following the OT were prohibited from lending with interest to their “brothers” but not to outsiders.

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      • The version that I heard was that Jesus grew up in Nazareth (NAZARETH?!?) and, being from the sticks, his attitude was that growing up with synagogues from the middle of nowhere was representative of “authentic” Judaism while the weird stuff at the Temple was some weird perversion of the religion he loved so much.

        So he saw the moneychangers and WENT NUTS the way that a snake handler would go nuts visiting Greek Orthodox churches.

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    • “There is some part of gender that is in the mind.”

      While I agree with this, , doesn’t this suggest that gender is in some senses, or to some extent, “natural”?

      It’s possible I’m misconstruing your arguments here and taking you to be saying that gender identity is not natural. If I misunderstand your point, please correct me. For what it’s worth, I believe that saying “there is some part of gender that is in the mind” is very different from the simplistic and (I agree with you) post hoc rationalization of “well, xy means man regardless of any other thing.”

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        • — The Butler-esque definition of “gender” is something like, “How we socially perform as sexed bodies.”

          That works well enough I guess. I prefer to discuss the social and psychological aspects as separate but related, whereas the Butler-esque definition centers the social aspect. Fine. In either case, none of these things stand alone, which is why I prefer to speak of a “sex/gender system.”

          It is true that humans are physical beings, and many core aspects of physical sex are biologically determined. But then, some women have facial hair and some men develop breasts. But such women will often remove their facial hair, sometimes as great pain and expense, whereas some men will have their breast tissue removed surgically.

          And in case it is not obvious, these things happen to cis people.

          The point is, our physical sex is not entirely independent of social pressures.

          Not everyone who can reproduce does so. Not everyone is reproductively viable. Nature and society are both complicated.

          My (cisgendered) mother was infertile. Nevertheless my father was attracted to her, as if she were a woman. However, the strict definitions of “woman” often used by transphobic people frequently exclude my mother. Was my father “gay”? “pansexual”?

          I mean, that’s nonsense. He was attracted to my mother because she was pretty, kind-hearted, and fun. Plus she was an “estrogen person,” although I doubt he thought in those terms. But all the same, his unconscious sexualized brain-stuff registered her as woman, cuz breasts, skin, hips. etc.

          (And yes, it feels weird talking about my mom this way.)

          I have no idea what her chromosomes are. So far as I know they’ve never been checked. That cannot possibly be what people use to determine her sex.

          #####

          Sex is physical, but the social meaning of sex is more complex. As the blog article demonstrates, societies have often found space for cross-sexed/cross-gender identities. It is entirely human to accept my sex/gender.

          Well, almost. Here is what is new: no society in the past has accepted trans women as “women entirely, in an uncomplicated way.” That is new. We are asking for something new. (And please don’t forget trans men either.)

          That said, no society in the past has had full hormonal and surgical transition, not to the degree we have now. Castration was common. There are even legends of people deriving female hormones from (I’m not kidding) mare’s urine. (This leads to some fun inside jokes in trans space.) But neither is quite the same as the spiro-estradiol cocktail we now have, managed by a MD.

          In any case, my point is, sex, sexuality, and gender are all mixed up together, and assigned social meaning in terms of each other. They cannot be separated in an uncomplicated way.

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          • Phenotype and genotype are in the vast majority of cases the same. To presume your mother was a woman would be accurate as statistically there would be a very very small chance it wasn’t the case

            It is a common fallacy that people who don’t accept that trans women are women are transphobic. It is also a fallacy that would not consider your mother a woman. Sex is about chromosomes, phenotype and reproductive potential. It is irrelevant whether that potential is realised or whether there is something preventing it from being realised.

            The new thing of people insisting they are men or women the same as biological men or women is the reason that the trans movement has run into issues with feminism. It is a form of magical thing, divorced from reality.

            Feminists support every person to express gender however they please, they agree that sex should not determine gender roles. That women can succeed in engineering, have short hair and not have kids and that men can be compassionate and care for children.

            The idea that such people who defy gender stereotypes are in fact the opposite sex is incredibly regressive. It supports conformity to the stereotype. Now we have a situation where kids are being told they are the opposite sex and encouraged to transition merely because they like stuff from the box which is forbidden for them.

            This could explain why there are so many more mtf. It is less socially acceptable for a boy to be feminine. For girls the role of tom boy is more acceptable.

            Of course there are people who have strong disphoria but social contagion is quite likely another factor. The rise in trans youth referals has gone up in some places by 900%. There were surely never that many people silently suffering who only now can come out.

            Setting people down the road of hormones and surgery because no therapist is allowed to question their motivations is dangerous. I speak as someone who wanted a sex change as a yound kid but who came to realise that it was because I was unhappy with the role society offered me. Nowadays I would have been all but encouraged to transition.

            It is often claimed that fears of social contagion and therapists exploring patients feelings are akin to the fears and treatment t around homosexuality. Yet it’s a false analogy.
            For ing yourself to fancy someone you don’t fancy is a very difficult thing to do, regardless how much social kudos you will attain from doing so.

            People feelings around gender are very likely to be mixed because no one is a walking stereotype. We all have a mix of traditionally masculine and feminine traits. This doesn’t mean we are non binary it means we are people with different personalities. Why not get rid of the boxes that are confining us rather than getting rid of our healthy flesh?

            How has it come to pass that the first line of treatment for unhappiness at the constraints on our personalities is surgery? It seems like a collective madness.

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            • “I speak as someone who wanted a sex change as a yound kid but who came to realise that it was because I was unhappy with the role society offered me.”

              If you don’t mind me asking — and if you don’t want to answer, that’s completely fine with me (this is purely about inquiry and not judgment): Are you an adult homosexual male?

              I’ve seen some research that shows a lot of gender dysphoria experienced in youth does abate in the sense that the person learns to feel comfortable as the gender they were assigned at birth. However, of this class almost all of them turn out to be homosexual males.

              There is a different kind of gender dysphoria that has been termed autogynephilia. Unfortunately that term has been poisoned. If there is something real behind the concept, we are going to have to find a different way of putting it. Similar to how “gender identity disorder” became “gender dysphoria.”

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              • I’m a straight male with very slight bi tendencies. I’ve read that 80% of kids experiencing gender dysphoria find it resolved by puberty with a majority ending up gay men.

                I’ve read the Blanchard study re autogynephilia which as you say has become a difficult thing to discuss. I am currently reading the Alice dreiger article about the backlash against the book the man who would be queen. The author was a proponent of blanchards theory and he and his family and anyone with any connection to him were extensively bullied and slandered by a group of academic trans women. The extent of this campaign of intimidation was quite incredible. Yet ironically one of the trans women responsible had previously admitted to another that she was an autogynephile.

                There is a long history of men cross dressing due to sexual motivation or compulsion. I have cross dressing friends who tell me if is in part sexual for them. The trans community in some ways views cross dressers as embarrassing country cousins and tries to disassociate themselves from them.

                Yet it isn’t such a leap to imagine that some cross dressers may wish to transition and that they realise it is far more politically expedient to claim the trapped in the wrong body narrative as it evokes far more sympathy and understanding.

                The claim that one is actually a woman and should have access to womens spaces because one has a sexual compulsion to become a woman is a tough gig.

                Hence the virulent backlash against anyone suggesting autogynephilia plays a part in some trans peoples psychology. This despite it being documented in many transitioners.

                From my take Blanchard may have identified two types of trans people but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other aetiologies. For example I am not an autogynephile. I never felt a sexual thrill from the idea of being a woman, I just felt that my life would be easier as a woman because by society’s standards I failed as a man.

                There may well be men who have transitioned for this reason who are neither gay or autogynephile. I read a blog of a detransitioned trans women who felt this was the case for him. He dearly wished his therapists had dug a little deeper rather than affirming his gender identity immediately and setting him on the transition course.

                This aetiology of gender dysphoria is probably also a factor for women. A number of my female friends both straight and gay say they wanted to be boys or felt they were boys as children. This came from a constriction of their natural interests and it being apparent that boys and boyish things were accorded a higher status.

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            • “It is a form of magical thing, divorced from reality.”

              Assertions like this are reasons why I can’t fully sign on to the “reality based” community of atheists like Richard Dawkins. I think someone like Alan Moore explains “reality” better.

              What I’m looking at right now is method of argument. The hard nosed skeptics argue on secular grounds -> logic, reason, empiricism, appeals to special revelation are disqualified. The Thomists can play that game too. The fideists can’t. Maybe that’s why I specifically mentioned the Thomists, when I could have focused on fideist argument, quoting verses and chapter of scripture, against the transgendered (John MacArthur has given one).

              But according to the above method 1. the existence of God/the soul is not falsifiable; but also 2. the existence of “the mind” as separate from the brain is just as not falsifiable. That’s why even though I believe in the existence of “God, the soul and the mind, and mental illness” I understand what I put in quotes all exist on the same plane as “provable” things according to such method.

              The brain as a bag of chemicals; that’s provable. Illnesses for which we might see a neurologist; those are provable.

              But the only way in which we can find some kind of larger meaning to the world is then through metaphors. Being “demon possessed” and “mentally ill” are the same thing.

              Skeptics who want to debunk the concept of demonic possession will write it off to “mental illness,” something, according to the method just as unprovable or at least unproven until the neurologist discovers the scarring in the brain that comes from something like neurosyphilis.

              To say, “we haven’t proven them; therefore, there is no proof; therefore, they don’t exist; therefore, it’s magical thinking” seems off.

              These things do seem real to me and a whole lot of other people.

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              • For some reason, Jon, your comments to Jerome remind me of a way I used to feel. I used to hate being a man and wished that I wasn’t a man. I didn’t want to be a woman, and I didn’t think I was/am a woman, and I am and always have identified as a man/male and believed myself to be “truly” a man/male. But I really didn’t like what “maleness” meant. That was mostly cultural stuff about cultural/social expectations and privileges, but there was also something about maleness that repulsed me at a more visceral level. Perhaps on some level I still see things that way.

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                • — Yeah. This is really common among the guys I know.

                  I think it might be a flavor of “genderqueer” or “agender” or even Ozy’s (bless their weird soul) “cis by default” stuff. In any case, you have people who are like, “Gender? What the fuck? Why do I need to deal with this?”

                  Of course, there is this whole queer-culture thing, where “assigned female at birth” people go put on a bowtie, call themselves “genderqueer,” and then hang at the queer dance party and shag lesbians. It’s a thing.

                  If an assigned-male-at-birth person tries that — well it doesn’t work the same.

                  Anyway, this is something that comes up a lot on my Tumblr feed. I’m friends with a lot of really weird male nerds — who seem to struggle with this a lot.

                  Myself, I suspect that they are a “little bit trans,” but not to the degree they’d want to go on estrogen.

                  I dunno. It’s complicated.

                  Gender is weird. If someone is “summing up” gender, then they don’t know what they are talking about.

                  Anyway, you are either physically dysphoric or you are not. You either want your body to change, or you do not.

                  Honestly I think it might be easier to be a trans woman than to be a weird male nerd struggling with gender. At least I can go on estrogen, grow tits, and say “Wheeeeee!”

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                  Weird personal note: I didn’t actually figure out I was physically dysphoric until I began hormones.

                  Okay so this is really fucked up. So I was clearly physical dysphoric, a lot. But like, over the decades I really buried this. It’s hard to explain. I would lie in bed and hate my body. I wished so much I had — well — different junk. I would stare down there (sorry for being so graphic) and just wish it was —

                  Like this is actually hard to talk about. (Image that coming from me!)

                  So I just dreamed and pondered on, what would it be like if it were flat down there. It was so nice to think that.

                  But I didn’t think I was dysphoric.

                  I dunno. It’s funny how one can be in denial for so long.

                  So anyhow, as my wishing-I-was-a-girl was getting really bad — like I was sinking and wanting to be dead (but afraid to die having never lived) — anyhow, I began to accept that I was trans.

                  Like, growing up all I knew of trans gals was shit like you saw on TV, the whole “I always knew, I wore dresses as a kid.”

                  I wasn’t like that. Except I was, sorta. My sister used to dress me as a girl and I loved it. I used to play with Barbies whenever I had an excuse.

                  But like, I pushed those memories away. Most of the time I did boy stuff (all alone and dreaming faraway dreams).

                  If this sounds crazy — well, yeah.

                  So I’m now accepting the trans thing, and so I read Whipping Girl, cuz of course. And in the book Serano starts laying out what makes trans gals different from just femmey-genderweird folks, and it’s about physical dysphoria.

                  So I’m like, I don’t have physical dysphoria. I must not be a real trans.

                  So I chewed on that bullshit for a while.

                  Anyhow, I reached a place where I just said fuckit. Serano could think what she wants. I wanted to be a woman so badly — I was ready to die otherwise.

                  And actually I pretty much accepted that transition might kill me. Like, I accepted that I might get murdered or whatever, that it would be so hard, the world would reject me, I’d lose family and friends, everything. But I just fucking took that. To have this one chance —

                  If it kills me, at least I tried to be happy. Die with your boots on and all.

                  So I went in to the gender clinic and got on the waiting list — which was months of hell, so I said fuckit and ordered hormones from overseas. Cuz punk rock! I took them. (Later I did get in to see the MD and the therapist and now I’m all diagnosed and “legit.” Whatevs. But I started by self-medicating.)

                  And my body began to change. And wow.

                  Wow.

                  I mean, WOW! Holy fuck!

                  You live decades and decades with wrongness, and then suddenly you experience a hint of rightness.

                  There aren’t better words for this. I wish there were. I wish I had some language to express what it is like to live for decades in a body that feels — in such subtle but profound ways — wrong, and then suddenly began to get right.

                  If I had the words, transphobia would disappear overnight. People would say, “Oh. That. Okay I understand.”

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                  • Hey I know it’s part of a larger, ambiguouser discourse (and you were dealing with someone getting on your last nerve), but just for the record, this:
                    “Anyway, you are either physically dysphoric or you are not. You either want your body to change, or you do not.”

                    is not true. Plenty of people, myself among them, have struggled with both wanting their body to change, and not wanting it to change; and/or with wanting it to change sometimes, and not wanting it to change other times, sometimes on a day-to-day or hour-to-hour basis.

                    It’s been a long time since my gender conflicts included physical dysmorphia, but not so long that I don’t remember how dramatically inconsistent it was. For a long time I figured I was just *broken*, because everyone else I knew was either happily cis (or, you know, as happily cis as women ever are in a kyriarchal society, which is frequently not all that happily), or dying to transition, and there was I, unable to be consistent about any of it from one day to the next. Eventually I met some other people with equally ambiguous experiences of gender, and I could see *they* weren’t broken, they were awesome, so I got over my own angst. But statements like the above are the sort of thing that used to contribute to it…

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                    • — Good point. I actually meant in the other direction, however. What I mean is, there are some people who feel no physical dysphoria. For example, in the cases I was alluding to above, these are guys who have weird gender-feels, who I became friends with on Tumblr. Anyway, they talked about gender stuff a lot, and it kinda pinged my “transdar,” so I brought it up —

                      — in a careful and thoughtful way.

                      (I actually can be careful and thoughtful. I know! Hard to believe. But when I’m trying, I can play nerd whisperer.)

                      Anywho, for these guys, I was not the first person to bring this up. I mean, they were nerd dudes into gender stuff. I was not their only trans friend (big surprise there). Anyway, long story short, they don’t have any physical dysphoria. They’re like 100% happy with boy-body, dick-having, body-hair-having, etc.

                      Which, fine. Awesome. More cute guys open-minded about gender stuff. There is no downside.

                      (Well, to be serious, I wish they were happier. They struggle a lot with the whole “being a dude” thing. I’m serious when I say it might be easier to be a trans gal — which in this context I mean a white, middle-class trans gal with a job in tech, not a trans gal randomly selected from some social class.)

                      Furthermore, with these guys, I got zero “denial vibes” from them. Like people in denial sometimes become strangely hostile but inexplicably obsessed with a topic. So they go on arguing, even when you were never trying to argue in the first place. After a while you’re like, “Yeah we heard you dude. Who are you trying to convince?” These guys didn’t do that.

                      So yeah, whatever it is these guys got to deal with, they ain’t trans.

                      They’re really sweet tho.

                      #####

                      On your stuff, yep. In a lot of ways I’m kinda lucky. For me, my gender is this bright burning flame, incandescent, seering everything in its path.

                      It’s pretty glorious. Gaze upon me with wonderment.

                      Anyway, that gave me two problems. The first, I was in hella denial for a really long time.

                      But that was an “inside me” problem. Well, mostly. It was shaped by transphobia, especially the bullshit stories the media gives us. Without hearing real things from real trans women, how could I know that I was experiencing the same stuff they did?

                      Books existed, but you have to seek out books, whereas bullshit about trans women was pumped into the culture from movies and TV. Those are the messages I got.

                      Which, speaking of, every young adult should be encouraged to read Nevada.

                      But anyway, the point is, it was an “inside me” problem. I needed to figure shit out.

                      We are all responsible for figuring out how to make our lives work.

                      So I did. Yay transition.

                      My other problem is the vast ocean of transphobia we face. That’s a pretty big problem.

                      #####

                      In your case, I’d say you fall on the side of indeed having physical dysphoria. To be clear, you evidently did not have it in a nice, simple, uncomplicated way. But it was a thing.

                      I’m actually terrible at talking about stuff like that, cuz I totally don’t get it. For someone like me, when my problem was denial — well I’m going to be the exact opposite of the kind of person who can help with genuine confusion. So yeah.

                      Do you read stuff by Ozy Franz? They’re awesome on the whole non-binary “gender is weird” dance. I linked to their blog somewhere on this thread.

                      Blah blah blah.

                      Anyway, it seems like we’ve figured out the correct therapeutic models for this, not that every doctor or therapist has caught up. I still hear about plenty of gross, gatekeepery bullshit. But still, the knowledge is out there. It is clearly correct, and over time more and more clinicians will adopt it.

                      It almost sounds banal: Explore gender in a safe space. Listen to the patient. Help them find for themselves their true feelings. Help them understand their options. Let them make a choice. Support them as they negotiate the choice they made. Etc. This book lays it out in tedious detail.

                      Regarding medical and surgical stuff, those are serious decisions. Treat them seriously. But people make serious decisions all the time. We need information and support, not gatekeeping.

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                      • Thanks for elucidating – I really appreciate the clarification.

                        I’m not actually in need of advice at this point in my journey, but perhaps my theoretical lurker-who-is-nonbinary will find it useful.

                        Agreed re: information and support.

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                        • ( — Just an aside, I didn’t mean to imply that you needed any help. I mean, it’s pretty obvious that you do not. I just thought you might find that to be interesting stuff, like purely on intellectual grounds. It’s a cool conversation. But all the same, you clearly have your shit together. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.)

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                    • For those unfamiliar with the term (like I was until about ten seconds ago), “kyriarchy” means a a social system centered upon domination, oppression, and submission. Gender identity (among other identifiers) of the control group is neutral and there are likely a complex set of factors that are involved in determining admission to or exclusion from the dominant part of society.

                      So you might be male enough, and white enough, to be part of the control group, but denied admission because you’re not Christian enough or heterosexual enough. It makes sense to use a term like that as opposed to “patriarchy” if you’re not sure you’re like or unlike the control group, or if the factors of control and stratification are complex, but you’re pretty damn sure that you’re not actually part of that dominant control group.

                      So now I’ve learned a new word for the day. Thank you, .

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                      • You’re welcome.

                        FWIW, I don’t think of the term quite in that strictly binary way. I may be whatever enough to accidently uphold, or *contribute* to, or *benefit* from kyriarchical structures, whether or not I think I am part of the kyriarchy’s control group. That said, as you explained, I’m also under no illusions that myself, as I am, would EVER be part of any real kyriarchical control group. Because I am not anything enough for that.

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                    • Heh. Reminds me of this one trans woman I know. Lives full time. Passes. Totes femme. Took to estrogen like nobody’s business. (Lucky bitch.) But still, she will maybe once a year take testosterone recreationally. I mean, she’ll just take one hit and then soar for the weekend — which I presume involves fucking everything not nailed down. (She likely has plenty of opportunities. She’s skinny and pretty and yeeesh I hate her.) (I don’t really hate her.)

                      Anyway yeah. I can’t imagine taking T. Like, keep that shit away from me.

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                • I’m 100% comfortable with my maleness. And people tell me I’m masculine. But I have no affinity or feeling for the “manliness” or “machismo” culture. I try to be polite; so I hold the door open for everyone (when I’m mindful that someone is behind me).

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                  • — Well, I’d say, look, Fred Rodgers was a man. He was hardly a “bro-dude,” but no one (outside Fox News) questions that he was quite a lovely model of a man.

                    That ain’t the only way to be a man. Obviously some men want to lift heavy weights and grunt. But even then, heavy-lifting-grunting-guy can still be gentle and kind. He can still have a heart like starlight.

                    And a woman can be femme like razors and cold like the limitless void.

                    So, it’s a mystery, right? Remember, gender is how we relate to the world as sexed bodies.

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                    • Yeah he was a great guy. Though, because he was slightly fey, there were rumors he was homosexual (which he wasn’t).

                      Homosexual men, on average are more feminine than their heterosexual counterparts. But there is a big distribution and huge cross section of people where you really don’t know.

                      Your typical gay man is not Richard Simmons. Rather, a typical gay man is slightly fey. And a huge % of heterosexual men are slightly fey.

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                      • — I guess keep in mind what I talked about, intrinsic versus extrinsic pressures. This is the “inside your head” versus “outside your head” stuff.

                        Like, are you struggling with this? If so, are you struggling cuz you don’t know what you want to be, what makes you shine, what lights you up inside? Or is it cuz how people view you, the social bullshit?

                        Both matter. But it seems important to keep them separate.

                        These days a lot of men are looking around, asking what being a man means, and not finding any decent answers. Women, on the other hand, have many answers. This is a problem. But while feminism has helped women carve out a space, it has not done likewise for men.

                        I don’t think feminism can be expected to. We have enough work to do under the boot of sexism. We got our own problems. However, for men, it seems like all attempts to build a “men’s movement” have ended up a complete clusterfuck of fail, with the “manosphere” and the “redpill” and the “incel” freaks and so on — it’s like, any man with a shred of dignity would flee from that nightmare realm —

                        — but flee to where? I dunno.

                        Anyway, I’m a woman. I cannot fix this. All I can say is, Jimmy Stewart, Fred Rogers. You gotta build it yourself, but build it from something good.

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                        • I’m completely comfortable with my manhood. I don’t like sports and could care less that people judge me for it. But I also don’t like “feminine” things as well (I don’t have much of a fashion sense; but I try to make sure I “match” to not embarrass myself; Neil Young is my fashion idol). I’m more like a Stoic -> though I understand that philosophy is associated with “manliness.”

                          One thing I worry about is the fact that I don’t “get” women. I don’t have a whole lot of female friends.

                          I’m mildly on the Asperger’s spectrum. I tend to focus on the things that I relate to and ignore the rest.

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                          • I’m more like a Stoic -> though I understand that philosophy is associated with “manliness.”

                            Well, there is “stoic” in the sense of genuine emotional strength and resistance to trivial things, contrasted with “stoic” in the sense of “suppresing otherwise healthy emotional expression due to the silly notion that emotions are girly.”

                            The first kind is not gendered and entirely admirable. The second is self-destructive garbage. Be the first kind.

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              • I will have to read up more on the Thomists. I have working my way through the links in your interesting article.

                I agree that demon possession and mental illness are explanations both often with little evidence backing them up, though anti psychotic drugs seem to be more effective than exorcism in most cases. This indicates that the mental illness model is more likely, along with the existence of genetic predisposition. (Though recently adverse life experiences especially in early childhood have been found to be the greatest factor)

                As neuroscience advances I think it will become clearer., re “we haven’t proven them; therefore, there is no proof; therefore, they don’t exist; therefore, it’s magical thinking” seeming off. I would agree. Just because there’s no proof doesn’t mean something doesn’t exist.

                I don’t doubt that some people do experince themselves as the opposite sex. There may be some area of the brain telling us our sex which can occasionally mismatch. What I think is magical thinking is the idea that such a mismatch means that the person is the opposite sex.

                There are people who feel their leg is not a part of them and some studies reveal their brain map is reflects this. This blip in mapping does not mean that they only have one leg. In such cases people do not insist that everyone else pretends their leg isn’t there to be in accord with their perception of themselves. If such a person insisted they should be able to claim disability benefits because of having one leg we would resist this (though it might be awarded for mental illness) Claims that they have a disabled parking permit or be able to enter the Paralympics would likewise be seen as unreasonable and unfair.

                With the trans movement there is the insistence that everyone affirms trans peoples identities regardless of their subjective perception. Some people may be able to square that circle by religious style thinking in the same way that in some cultures people are convinced their child is a reincarnation of someone else.

                For others it is nigh impossible to see a 6’5″ man with beard as a woman. Being honest about this does results in onr being called a bigot just as one who does not believe in God used to be called a heretic.

                “These things do seem real to me and a whole lot of other people.” I believe this is true. Religiosity has been proved to be a an inheritable trait. What I baulk at is the idea that because one person believes in God this is evidence of Gods existence and used as a pretext for forcing everyone else to believe.

                This seems largely what is happening in the trans movement. The parallels with religion are apt. A modern day inquisition has begun. It is ironic that the phrase die in a fire that is so often invoked in online discussion against those who refuse to disbelieve their own senses.

                I believe in religious freedom and that state and religion should be separate. I maintain that science should form the basis of policy rather than religion

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                • The Thomist in chief psychiatrist would be Dr. Paul McHugh.

                  I have an issue with psychiatry in general. I don’t write them off completely. In fact, I think a lot of them (probably the vast majority) do good work helping people with their life problems.

                  It’s more the terminology and categorizations I have issues with. If brain tissue is physically healthy (for all we know) then the “illness” is a metaphor. Even if it’s a deadly serious life problem like suicidal depression.

                  Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, these aren’t metaphors.

                  Likewise the term “disorder” belongs to philosophy, not medical science. It’s pregnant with humanistic, ethical implications.

                  I don’t fault Dr. McHugh for making an interdisciplinary out of Thomism & psychiatry. This is exactly what left leaning psychiatrists do as well when they get into culture war battles.

                  My solution is to describe the real condition, but drop the term “illness” or “disorder.” So instead of “Narcissistic Personality Disorder,” we simply have “narcissism” as a personality trait.

                  We did this when “Gender Identity Disorder” became “Gender Dysphoria.”

                  This is what George W. Bush suggested we do with PTSD.

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                • “There are people who feel their leg is not a part of them and some studies reveal their brain map is reflects this.”

                  This is the favorite analogy of the Thomists I’ve discussed the matter with. But they use it to argue against the bottom surgery, as in, it’s not right to cut off a perfectly healthy appendage.

                  I will admit, the thought of bottom surgery gives me the willies. And I understand some MTF transgender people want nothing do with their penises.

                  However, many MTFs are completely happy with their penises for obvious reasons (sexual functioning, orgasms). So they can go on hormones, grow breasts, but still understand and express themselves as women who have penises.

                  I think this is fine; in fact there are bisexual men, straight leaning bisexual men, and pansexual men who probably prefer MTF transgendered partners this way for dating purposes.

                  Though my Thomists friends think of the concept of women with penises as too much of a mind-fuck.

                  I’m fairly consistently libertarian in my approach. It’s your life; it’s your body; you should be able to understand and express yourself the way you wish as long as you are not directly harming anyone.

                  I also think people shouldn’t necessarily feel “boxed in” to a particular rigid set of assumptions. So a feminine gay man might feel comfortable expressing himself as a woman during a particular period of their life, but then switch and still be a feminine gay man, or perhaps may wish to accentuate the masculine aspects of his persona. Chris Crocker is a good example of this. He now has facial hair and muscles. He still talks in a feminine manner. Gay men tend to be attracted to masculine figures and often find they get more dates with muscles and facial hair than with makeup (that’s more likely to attract bisexual men and straight men who want to have situational homosexual sex for release).

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                  • And Jaye Davidson of “The Crying Game.” If you look at a recent pic of Jaye, you can see the hormone difference (either off female hormones or on testosterone). I think Jaye was more attractive in his feminine state though.

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                  • On the body modification stuff, I guess go look at what I said about the different frames of “natural.” Which, who are they to say what I can do with my body? Who are they to decide what is “healthy”?

                    What is really happening is they have a commitment to some “natural order” — which fine, drink your own poison. But I ain’t a Christian. I didn’t ask for your religious chains.

                    Truth is, I look forward to our glorious transhuman future, when I can finally have my tentacle dick and shoot quills from my neck.

                    (I exaggerate. A little bit.)

                    Anyway, blah blah blah. These are people who think they get to inject their religious preconceptions unchallenged. Bullshit.

                    Nature, red tooth and claw. Nature, take what you get before it gets you. Nature, entropy is the only god.

                    Where is the lie?

                    #####

                    The men into trans women are indeed into girldick. (Trust me, I know. Get a vag installed, the men disappear.) However, I would be very hesitant to call them “bisexual.” Some no doubt are, just as any group of men will have some bisexuals. But the question is, in the typical case, will they hook up with a cis guy? On the other hand, will they hook up with a cis woman?

                    There seems to be a population of men who in public are into cis women. They perhaps have a cis girlfriend or cis wife. But on the sly, they hook up with trans women, and in fact with women with girldick. Great. In contrast, however, they do not hook up with cis men.

                    Are they “bi”?

                    I think they are not. If they were, I would expect them to be kinda indifferent between women and men. I would expect, in a club with a mix of trans women and cis gay men (which happens often enough), they’d pick whichever is available and get some love. But they do not. They want us. They do not want the men.

                    In other words, the unifying factor in what they want is women.

                    You might say, “But girldick is dick so therefore bi.”

                    I dunno. I’m an estrogen body. I have breasts. I smell like a woman —

                    — and this is a real thing. When I first began transition, maybe six months on ’mones, gay men would still read me as a femmy dude. Okay. So they’d hit on me. But like, when they got close to me, they’d lose interest.

                    I smell like a woman. Get it? My breasts are real. When they got touchy-feely with me, the would sense that.

                    Nowadays I pretty much read as woman-on-the-whole, and gay dudes show zero interest.

                    Which fine. I’m not a dude. (I do miss the attention, to be honest. Straight dude tranny chaser types are really fetishy and weird. Like, the other night this one chaser was trying to drop PUA style “game” on me and a girlfriend. It was totally transparent. Then he went and put Lou Reed on the jukebox. Accident? I doubt it — for fuck’s sake.

                    The point is, at least gay men are just kinda happily honest with their horndog desire, which somehow plays out non-creepy. Straight dudes have a creep-factor that pegs out the dial. Anyway.)

                    BBC4 did this strangely compelling documentary about the men who love us. It’s terrible on trans politics, but informative all the same. Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o13is-7ZPno

                    Imagine being a woman and seeing that. Like, those are the men we have to choose from?

                    Truth be told, I feel sorry for those men. They are just So! Fucking! Hopeless! Like the business guy into the Asian woman. Look how pretty she is compared to him. Look at her body language when they are together.

                    Let’s just say I was unsurprised with how it played out. Old fool. (I don’t blame her. She’s just figuring out how to make her life work. As is he. But who was an idiot?)

                    Anyway, I’m glad I’m into women. And yeah, girldick is just fine.

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                      • — There is a difference between people who will hire trans sex workers and fuck them in secret and people who want to date us. Like, when do I get to meet the family?

                        I ain’t no ones dirty secret.

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                        • Well, Mr. Murphy is someone none of us have met, and who we evaluate according to a tabloid image. So whatever. I’ll never meet him, so it is irrelevant whether he is a “good guy” or not.

                          I’ve enjoyed some of his movies. He has a really magnetic smile.

                          He fucks trannies? I mean, I guess he got “caught,” right?

                          Like, fucking women like me is something you get caught doing. That seems weird. It’s almost as if the public thinks that loving me was somehow indecent. Hmmmm.

                          I’ve “caught” a lot of people shagging trans folks. Funny that.

                          It’s all transphobic garbage. Big question: how much shame must someone sift through, when they find themselves attracted to someone like me? How much additional shame gets dropped on them when they get “caught”?

                          That shame is the problem. We trans gals have a right to be kinda upset about that. Cut it out.

                          #####

                          If you’re attracted to me, then you are attracted to me. It doesn’t make you “gay,” not that there is anything wrong with being gay. It just means you are attracted to one person, who happens to be an uncommon type of woman. Proceed accordingly.

                          Likewise, don’t slag other guys who like us. Don’t look down on them, or treat them like fetish freaks, or any of that bullshit. Fuck that. Don’t be part of the problem. And don’t put up with your friends pulling that shit either.

                          Do you hang out with racist clowns, homophobic clowns, any shit like that? Do you want to be among a better class of people? Grant us the same dignity. Transphobia sucks.

                          #####

                          There is this thing where people attach all kinds of status and value to who other people date. In other words, attraction has a social role. Not only do you have your raw, internal attractions, but you also must navigate how those attractions are read and valued in your social circle. If you seem to be dating “down,” then you pay a social cost.

                          I doubt we can entirely eliminate this. We are a social species. Status games are something we do, quite naturally. The idea of a “perfectly leveled” social space seems unnatural to me.

                          I dunno. I’m neither an idealist nor a utopian.

                          Blah.

                          But still, you can make an effort to ensure that your expressed values match your considered moral values. In other words, whatever your visceral attractions, you have to ask, do you dislike this person for “good reasons.”

                          In other words, there is a big difference between rejecting a person for aspects of personality and character, compared to aspects of identity that they cannot control.

                          For example, it is reasonable to openly reject racists-in-general, as they lack character, but not reasonable to openly reject black-people-in-general, as there is nothing wrong with being black.

                          And for that matter trans people.

                          “But,” you say, “I’m not attracted to trans people.”

                          Well that’s fine. Your raw attractions belong to you. They are pre-theoretic.

                          Of course, if you meet enough of us, sooner or later you will feel attraction, as there are a lot of us and we come in all shapes and sizes. If that happens, you’ll have to deal.

                          One rule: don’t be an asshole about it.

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                    • Imagine being a woman and seeing that. Like, those are the men we have to choose from?

                      They look like fairly average-looking men to me. Suit guy could stand to lose some weight, but so could most people his age. Welcome to real life. There aren’t enough models to go around, and a lot of women who’ve never had penises end up settling for much worse.

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                      • The problem is there are plenty of men who want to fuck us, but who don’t want to be seen with us in public. Those who are willing to be seen in public are often — well — they often got some other kind of bullshit. Like in the video you have the weirdo porn cartoonist masturbation addict who cannot even dress himself. Like, ewwwww. And business guy — look, I don’t want to be the midlife crisis of some milquetoast ninnie who can’t work out his marriage.

                        It’s like, do you want to play a game of Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, but in real life? Do I want to light the soul of some clown who can’t even figure out his own shit? I ain’t nobody’s mommy-part-two.

                        Does that sound mean? Who said I was nice? I’m femme like razors, and I can do better.

                        I’m glad I’m bisexual.

                        Anyway, this ain’t about me. I mostly just date other trans women. But some of my friends are straight. I want them to get a fair shot, but it’s a rough road. See, there is a pecking order in life, and our place in the pecking order is overwhelmingly shaped by transphobia.

                        That seems pretty undeniable to me. In fact, you kinda said it yourself.

                        Anyway, blah blah blah. None of this is about people who are not attracted to us. If you aren’t attracted to us, fine, whatever. Just leave us alone. (But seriously tho. We’re rare. We ain’t kicking down your door.) This is about the men who are attracted to us. It’s about the posh guy with the nice job and HAWT trophy wife, but who secretly fucks trannies on the side. Fuck that guy. He’s a liar and a fake.

                        But more, fuck the system that would punish that guy if he ever did step up, so (to a large degree) the only guys who step up are the weirdos and the desperate.

                        Blah.

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              • I wrote a long reply but it doesn’t seem to have come out. Thanks for the Alan Moore vid. Interestingly I was just thinking the other day how art was magic.

                Though Alister Crowley said on his deathbed, “magic is something we do to ourselves”

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            • So I don’t intend to engage with Jerome, at least not directly. But this:

              I speak as someone who wanted a sex change as a yound kid but who came to realise that it was because I was unhappy with the role society offered me.

              Well of course!

              So here’s the thing. I skimmed a few paragraphs of his earlier posts and said to myself, “Yep, rotten egg.” I knew it right away. The pattern was clear.

              Okay, an explanation. In contemporary trans-space, an “egg” is a trans person who has yet to transition. They haven’t yet “hatched.” Get it? Okay, so a “rotten egg” is someone who never transitions and goes bad.

              It’s probably not a nice thing to say, but I’ve seen this pattern many times. You have a person who seems militantly anti-transition, but who isn’t a conservative Christian, worried that God will blight their crops if they suffer me to live, nor a radical feminist, who — well I’m not really sure why the TERFs hate us. But clearly they do. In any case, here you have a transphobe who is neither, so why? Well consider, you have a person who wanted to transition, but who did not, and who seems quite upset by the fact that I did.

              I think the answer is kinda obvious.

              For me, why should I not accept being a femme male? Well fuck off. That’s why. Eat shit. I was fucking miserable as a guy. Being a femme dude was never in the cards.

              Nope. I’m a woman. My body and mind bloomed, thrived, lit up like fireworks, as the hormones took effect. My body now, it fills me with joy, in a way my male body could not.

              So why should someone else care?

              I mean, it’s a real question. Why get all upset that I changed my sex? Why dig in your heels?

              In psychology they talk about projection. (For , if you want to put that in more spiritualistic language, I’m sure you can find a way.) It’s like this: you get a person with some internal psychological crisis, lingering and unresolved, and then you have others whose existence are an affront to that psychic pain — it is no surprise to find that the subject projects their inner turmoil onto the lives of others.

              “I did not transition, so no one should. I did not find that joy, so it must be that such joy is a lie, else I have made an enormous error.”

              Whatevs.

              As a trans person, it is useful to distinguish intrinsic and extrinsic difficulties. My intrinsic difficulties were gender dysphoria. I was wrong. I should have been a woman. It hurt so much.

              And I am blessed that I live today, with modern medical science. They could fix the intrinsic issues. Brave doctors and brave trans activists got us to this place. I owe them a debt I can never pay. (But I can pay it forward.)

              Of course, they cannot today fix the intrinsic issues perfectly. My skeletal structure, it is what it is. My face — well, all those years of testosterone took their toll. So I live with this, but it turns out to be enough. When I look in the mirror, I see a woman looking back.

              Like, oh my god I cannot describe. My breasts are actual breasts. They grew as breasts grow. My skin, my hair, all of it. I am a woman now.

              So the extrinsic issues — well there is transphobia. Yeah, that shit is hard. Many of you here know that I’ve been really hurting cuz the North Carolina stuff, even if I don’t live there. To be hated that way is hard. To know that there is a coordinated effort to enact that hate nationwide — it will in the end fail, but the fight takes its toll on me and mine.

              So that mean that transition is wrong?

              Well, no. OMG how can you even ask? It means that transphobia is wrong. This is obvious.

              But the rotten egg? Well, I dunno. I assume there is pain there, layers upon layers of self denial and false consciousness. Or something. How much disappointment there must be. I hope they figure out their shit. No one should be pressured to transition, but no one should be pressured not to either.

              It is, explore your gender, find what works, let others do likewise, don’t lay your shit on anyone else.

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              • Who’s projecting here? I’m very pleased you found happiness whichever way you achieved it, but your solution is not right for everyone. This is a major problem with trans politics, that it forces others to conceptionalise themselves within a trans framework. Whilst insisting trans people can self define it won’t allow anyone else to.

                I am not cis nor am I trans I am a person. I do not identify with the gender my sex is linked too because I dislike those stereotypes, not do I think I am the opposite sex because of it.

                Society is sexist and that’s the case for men and women. Why are there more mtfs? Could it be because it is far more unacceptable to be a feminine boy than a masculine girl? That at least some people are pressured to think of themselves as a girl because they are continually told that?, the message is if they are bad at being a boy then they must be a girl.

                I believe that’s what happened to me. I didn’t like rough and tumble, liked dolls and was sensitive. I was clearly failing at being a boy from the reactions this elecited from my traditional parents. I wanted to be a girl so that I would be able to be myself without criticism.

                This didn’t mean I was trans. It meant I was living in a society with strict gender roles which was intolerant of those who didn’t conform.

                I support anyone changing their body who has dysmorphia. But what I can not support is the idea that anyone non gender conforming is by default the opposite sex.

                I don’t believe it is possible to change sex but one can have surgery and live as the opposite sex. From the radfems I have spoken to they don’t hate trans people. They object to the idea that one can become a woman by simply stating one is a woman

                There is a difference between a woman and a man living as a woman. Ladyboys in Thailand acknowledge this difference and they live in one of the most trans tolerant places in the world.

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                • This is where I think a 3rd category exception is useful. My Thomist friends won’t hear of it.

                  “Male and female He made them,” might be true. The Bible has all sorts of general truths with exception. And then it’s up to theologians to disagree with one another.

                  I’ve spend a great deal of time on Romans 13. The fundamentalist absolutist understanding of the plain text suggests revolution or rebellion is always wrong. Therefore, the American Revolution was a sin.

                  Yet I’ve met fundamentalists who argue, “no this is one of those texts where there are permitted exceptions.”

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                • Jerome,
                  ” But what I can not support is the idea that anyone non gender conforming is by default the opposite sex.”
                  … v’s specifically not saying that.

                  Maybe the Thomists are, but if so its kinda dumb.

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                  • I’m not saying that she is. But when you ask trans people how did they know they were trapped in the wrong body they usually refer to sexist stereotypes such as “I always knew because I liked pink and playing with dolls”.

                    Online forums such as reddit for gender confused youth say much the same thing- you prefer plating female characters in computer games- yea your definitely trans. Get yourself some hormones forthwith. Butch lesbians are also under pressure to transition.

                    The overall effect is one of cementing gender stereotypes rather than challenging them, of implying that being gender non conforming is undesirable- what you really need to do is change sex. Just look at veronicas assertion that I must be a trans woman in denial, rather than a man who castigated as a boy for having interests that didn’t fit the male stereotype.

                    Its enforcing the gender binary and giving succour to sexist attitudes.

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                    • Her response to you doesn’t really cover the scope of her argument.

                      Her argument is that if you aren’t dissatisfied with your physical features, you aren’t trans. (which if I’m allowed to say something, is “your gender can be all sorts of weird things, but don’t transition unless you want the other parts” — and I’ll add “getting the other parts right costs tens of millions of dollars.” so proceed with caution if you’re getting the budget approach)

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                      • — I’m not saying that either.

                        Look, this Jerome person is a ninny with a bug up his ass about trans folks. The only thing interesting here is — well — he fits a rather sad pattern. Let it go. Don’t engage.

                        My approach to “trans self discovery” follows what is found in Transgender Emergence. I certainly do not say you need physical dysphoria to be “really trans.” I don’t know that.

                        I don’t know.

                        Maybe. Maybe not.

                        In my case, I didn’t quite realize that I had physical dysphoria, although clearly I did. It’s weird. Like, I sat around wishing I had a vagina. But still. I read Whipping Girl, and the way Serano described her dypshoria was different from what I felt. But she was the big expert. I spent a fair amount of time thinking I was “faking.”

                        That happened. But I pursued transition anyhow, and WOW! I lit up. It was profound. As my body changed — I cannot describe.

                        It remains profound. I don’t know what else to say.

                        People like Jerome are toxic jerks with something broken inside. I’m sorry about that. I don’t know what to do. They exist. They have free speech. They get their say —

                        — but so do I.

                        No one should feel pressured into transition. But no one should be forced away from it either. A good therapist helps the patient explore this space.

                        In reality, part of this exploration involves busybodies on the Internet pushing ideas on you. Some of them will be “trans activists” who push their own “everyone is trans” bullshit. They exist, just as any newbs to some social space will be eager to “spread the word.”

                        That said, I suspect 4chan is just teeming with eggs, for whom much would suddenly make sense if they got on E. I dunno. I want them to know about these things, and not just shallow media construction of trans folks, but the real deal, what we feel on the inside. We have stories to tell. For some, they will resonate. For a few, it will open a new horizon of possibility.

                        And the “everyone is trans crowd” — a few over-zealous weirdos against the broad tides of society seems a minor thing.

                        It’s like, go read Nevada. See if you recognize yourself in James.

                        God knows I did. Wow. I wish I had read that before Whipping Girl.

                        If you don’t relate to James that way, that’s fine also. Your gender is yours.

                        Do you want to go on E (or T)? Well, you need to understand what it will do to you. Think it through. Some of this is permanent.

                        Big choices. You get to make those choices. No one else.

                        In Massachusetts you’ll need a therapist’s note to change the gender maker on your government issued IDs. It’s not too hard to get, but you need to go through the process. (MassHealth covers this stuff, cuz we’re civilized up here.) You’ll need a script for ‘mones, although I self medicated for a while. But you’ll want to get your blood tested all the same.

                        (Heh. Funny thing. My doctor kinda figured out I was self-medicating, cuz boobs, and asked what my dosage was. I told him. He was like, “Oh, yeah. That’s what I planning to start you on. Anyway, let’s get a new blood test.” When the test came back, he upped my Spiro.)

                        But what if you make a mistake? — the pearl clutcher gasps with boundless concern.

                        Well then you made a mistake. It’s a big mistake. As I said, some of this is permanent. But it’s your mistake, on your journey through life.

                        And the busybodies who have an opinion on you — fuck ’em. They are small. Ignore them. Shine bright.

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                • I wonder if the disagreement here is really only about the semantics of transition. I don’t get the sense that suggests that transition is an unacceptable response to various aspects of the reality a person encounters.

                  I sort of wonder at the semantics myself, still, even after the substantial and patient education has dispensed on these pages. Let’s use a third party example here: Caitlin Jenner. Was she male at one point and then became female, or was she female all along? Both propositions seem to have a degree of truth to them and gender is a hugely pervasive matter in our culture, so the ambiguity feels uncomfortable.

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                  • — The categories have always been a bit ad hoc, a bit of social construction, a bit of scientific fudging, a bit of legalistic compromise, and so on. That’s okay. We always-everywhere view the world through a lens, a set of abstractions.

                    These abstractions are not arbitrary, given that we recognize this as perverse.

                    But neither are our categories singular perfect truths direct from the mind of God. They are something in between.

                    Can you group “trans woman” among “woman”?

                    Obviously you can. The category “woman” already includes people with XY chromosomes. It already contains people who lack uteruses, who have facial hair, and so on. The way we group concepts has never been about simple black and white definitions.

                    The question is, should you include us in that category? What changes? Who is hurt? Who is helped? How much?

                    Including us is not arbitrary-random. There are reasons we belong, along with reasons we have historically been excluded. It is complicated, because nature is complicated.

                    For example, biologists are constantly readjusting their view of species and genus. The reason is, nature does not produce natural kinds, but for millennia natural philosophy has only been able to reason in terms of natural kinds. And so it goes.

                    We are having to re-learn how to think about thinking.

                    #####

                    Regarding Caitlin Jenner — it’s a pain in the ass. She is a woman and thus a “great woman athlete” who never competed against women, but against men. What do you do with that? How do you talk about it?

                    Well, go read that paragraph. Look! I talked about it.

                    The GLAAD media guidelines recommend that you always use a transgender person’s current gender identity when talking about the past. In other words, “Matrix was written by two women, named Lily and Lana.”

                    They were always women. Caitlin was always a woman. But her role in athletics, particularly as a woman athlete — it’s complicated because it’s complicated. When you must discuss complicated things, use paragraphs.

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                  • The idea that having chosen to live as the opposite sex that one was always in caitlyns case a woman is a nonsense.

                    It is a rewriting of history. If she was always a woman then she didn’t need to come out as one of transition. How about with people who gender dysphoria only started in middle age do they become retroactively always women too? Or what of people who detransitioner, where they always men who thought they were women but got it wrong or always women but decided it easier to live as men?

                    If it seems confusing it’s because its a lot of post modern Orwellian mind tricks. Jenner is a man who for whatever reason feels happier with breasts and living as a woman. I support her choice as I support anyone choice to modify their own body and out of politeness I ll call her the name of her choosing and use she and her.

                    But when it comes down to brass tacks being nice doesn’t change that fact of her biology. I can believe people sincerely feel like they are the opposite sex without accepting this makes it so.Just as I believe some people are colour blind without accepting that red and green are the same colour.

                    Veronicas asks a good question about who does trans ideology help and who does it harm. So let’s look at the wars that are being waged about it. They are between feminists and transgender activists. It is largely women who are unhappy about the new world order. Why is that?

                    It is because changing from mtf and ftm are not an equal parallel. Topically considering Jenner let’s look at the Olympics. The new ruling says that a man can compete in the womens category if he feels he has the personality of a woman. The only proviso is that his testosterone levels be at the low end for a man. That is still 3x the amount of testosterone that a natural woman has.

                    Is that really fair competion to see a male bodied person on the top of the podium flanked by women. It risks turning womens sport into a male b team. On the other side there’s little mention of women who identify as men – they are welcome to compete with the guys but everyone knows they won’t have a chance.

                    One of the major conflicts in the battle of ideology has been around bathrooms and changing rooms. Again itabwomen who are the losers. By opening the door to trans women with penises they also open the door to male pretenders, whereas the presence of a woman with a beard in the men’s room is no threat at all.

                    The final example is most telling. If we accept that being a woman is entirely down to how one feels then a trans woman with penis should be housed in the womens prisons regardless of their crime. By this we advocate rapists being put in a cell with women. The potential for abuse if the system here has already been realised by male prisoners, especially rapists who have been claiming to be trans in droves! The gender specialists feel most of their claims are false, but when the standard for recognition as a woman is self declaration how can one tell?

                    For Trans men, we then advocate they should be housed in prison with men. Yet I’ll wager that if trans women feel unsafe in with the men then trans men most certainly will given the lack of comparative physical strength. Any trans man with a modicum of self preservation would quickly decide he was a woman and fill in a form to change back before a court case with the potential of a custodial sentance.

                    Looking at these real life examples highlights the unfairness in espousing a system which ignores biological sex in favour of a self declared identity. I feel free to point this out as a man.

                    Yet many women my mother and sisters included feels too scared to raise these consequences and object. The trans movement is so strong and so viscious in its rebuttal of anyone who dissents from even the smallest detail of the party line that anyone raising their head above the parapet has it chopped off and put on a spike as a warning to others.

                    An example if this is Peter Tatchel, a well respected veteran uk gay rights campaigner. He signed a letter calling for freedom of speech in response to a series of student unions no platforming speakers they didn’t agree with.

                    As a result he has been labelled a transphobe and no platformed himself even though he is pro trans rights himself! It is this Mcartheyist attitude that I find most worrying.

                    We all want trans people to be treated with respect and to be able to live free from harrassment but how many peoples rights should we be prepared to trample to validate a small number of peoples identities.

                    I invoke the words of Voltaire, those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

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                    • Instead of binaries, perhaps we should be thinking more on the grounds of accommodation. In prisons, we segregate via gender. If we tried to do that with race, then, it raises other different issues. Though, unfortunately that doesn’t remove racial or ethnic issues in prisons. (So maybe that gets solved by soft informal policies; whispers like don’t put the Cambodian in the same cell as with the Vietnamese guy because of tensions between the groups).

                      Gay men, especially feminine ones, too have issues in prisons. So we could have an LGBT wing. It’s been tried. And if this article is accurate, it worked.

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        • Maybe, and I think I mostly think of it that way–and it’s a very good shorthand at any rate–but I also agree with Veronica when she says, “I don’t know to what degree sex/gender is ‘natural’ and to what degree it is socially constructed. It seems evident that it is a rich and highly intertwined combination of both.”

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      • — Well, there are (at least) two frames for “natural” versus “unnatural.” In the first, we contrast “natural,” meaning within the natural order, with “unnatural,” meaning outside the natural order. In practice, this usually ends up suggesting that “unnatural” things are deviant or invalid. Furthermore, it requires a theoretical commitment to some notion of “natural order.”

        The second frame contrasts “natural” as occurring without the intervention of humans or society, whereas “unnatural” things are artificial, generated by us. In this frame, natural things can be seen as more authentic, less constrained. Furthermore, this entails the notion of “social construction,” the idea that much of the world we experience is not a direct result of “nature untrammeled,” but instead social conventions that we adopt (whether deliberately or organically) and could in principle change.

        When I say that transgender people are “natural,” I mean the first frame. This is an assertion that evolutionary biology is more complicated and more uncertain than the “fitness maximizer” theories account for. Furthermore, it is the insistence that reproductive fitness, while clearly selected for, is not guaranteed for each individual. We should not deny dignity to such people. I am one of them.

        Regarding the second frame, the fact is, I don’t know to what degree sex/gender is “natural” and to what degree it is socially constructed. It seems evident that it is a rich and highly intertwined combination of both. In other words, to understand this, we’d need to understand fully the various manifestations of the sexed/gendered brain, as it exists in gendered social structures, and how it might exist in widely variant social structures. That is a lot. I don’t expect we will understand understand these things in my lifetime, if ever.

        But my lifetime is now. I am trans. I thrive as a woman in ways that I deeply suffered as a man.

        I know this: the map-territory distinction is critical. Likewise, it is important to understand that the “territory” of sex/gender is a planet-wide swath of impossible detail, whereas humans, when doing politics, tend to select a very simply, coarse-grained map. If you force people to live according to your eight-and-a-half-by-eleven map drawn in crayon, you will be wrong about sex/gender. You will lay false structures on their life. This will hurt them.

        It is enough to say, “I dunno. It’s complicated.”

        Trans people are not lying, inasmuch as we are describing what happens to us as best we can, given the frames we have available. (Don’t be surprised if a spiritualist trans person talks of “female souls.” I do not speak that way, because I do not believe in souls. That first person, however, is not lying. They are using the best words they have to describe experiences beyond the capacity of their frame. In many ways I do likewise.)

        When we find the map does not fit the territory, we adjust the map. At least, I do. When we find the territory is vast and we have no good maps, I set my false map aside and try to explore.

        (I also use silly metaphors sometimes. It’s part of my charm.)

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        • That’s a really thoughtful response, . Thanks for taking the time to share it. I especially like–and agree with–this portion of your comment:

          I don’t know to what degree sex/gender is “natural” and to what degree it is socially constructed. It seems evident that it is a rich and highly intertwined combination of both. In other words, to understand this, we’d need to understand fully the various manifestations of the sexed/gendered brain, as it exists in gendered social structures, and how it might exist in widely variant social structures. That is a lot. I don’t expect we will understand understand these things in my lifetime, if ever.

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      • Gabriel,
        “Gender” is natural, but it is NOT AT ALL binary. Most of the people (if not all) writing around here, in fact, aren’t on one side or the other of the gender spectrum.

        Gender, we can think of, as the mental/brain chemistry component(there’s also the social stuff, but that’s a Different Quantity — and harder to measure) — where sex is more physical (yes, there’s differentiation there, but,.. most people with micropenises have an established gender identity, and it’s not indistinct, nor do most people have a problem with the concept that people’s genitalia can be weird, for both sexes).

        You also have different types of “gendered men” — a lot of which establishes itself in motivation, which is where the military finds interest in it (as motivation correlates strongly with high intelligence, and especially strongly in the retainment of neural plasticity)

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    • Many people do not appear to have a gender identity. I for one don’t. I know i am a man because of my phenotype and how society treats me.

      The science for transgenderism isn’t clear cut. The idea that opposite sex hormones work as an antidepressant because the person’s mind was in essence the opposite sex hasn’t been proved at all. The only way to find out would be to give non trans people the hormones and see how they responded. In most cases this would be unethical. However cases where women are given testosterone for another condition reveal it also works as an anti depressant for them too.

      The word game is more of an abstract concept than the word woman. Why not accept the reality that some men are very feminine or that some men live as women? Why insist an essentially religious transformation is possible? A neurological condition does not give you thr right to defjne other peoples reality. Some people are colour-blind but they don’t force the rest of the population to deny the difference between red and green. As you yourself say Choose you poison, but don’t make me drink your poison

      The whole trans people will kill themselves without treatment meme is reminiscent of a controlling lover forcjng his partner to stay with him on pain of his own death. Gender non conforming people have been around for a long time and clearly many did not kill themselves in the millenia before sex change and surgery was possible.

      Nowadays the trans suicide threat is invoked constantly and the idea that an innocent misgendering is violence seems to be a symptom of modern day narcissism rather than anything to do with the condition.

      Let’s work towards acceptance for the gender non conforming within a framework of objective reality rather than religious edict

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  2. We understand genders pretty decently, actually. The thing is? We don’t have just two of them.
    We understand what creates weirdos who aren’t neatly “boy” or “girl” — it’s mostly hormonal influences in the womb.

    We further understand that after you get done doing all the biological stuff, you throw cultural crap on top of it.

    In Japan, for instance, lesbians sometimes marry male homosexuals. This, I do not get, but I haven’t spent much time trying to understand.

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    • I kind of get it. There could be a mutual benefit in a society that insists on a heterosexual public marriage norm, but that might privately tolerate homosexuality, but not welcome it institutionally. Likewise you can have children for instrumental reasons.

      Throughout history there have been all sorts of alternative arrangements, some of which weren’t kosher because they engage in deceit (of themselves or others).

      But others, for instance, an openly gay man marrying his best female friend with the understanding that he’ll continue to have sex with men (Jack Wrangler & Margaret Whiting). There are straight men, who do “gay for pay” porn, married to straight women.

      Or there is Gore Vidal and his long term partner of 53 years: Howard Austen. This one only works if you are rich. They were soulmates. However, it’s debatable whether they EVER had sex. Gore said they didn’t have sex. When asked “ever”? He didn’t seem to affirm.

      However both had lots of promiscuous sex, mainly with younger top of the line male prostitutes.

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        • Did the scientists even “find” they have the “exact” set of brains. The problem is with binary categories, when we may be dealing in averages and spectrums.

          There certainly are, as I observe, male and female “essences” in nature. That doesn’t necessarily mean these are pure black and white categories.

          And there is the old deconstructionist technique of using the existence of dawn and dusk to deconstruct the categories of day and night.

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          • Most people fit neatly into the categories of “male” and “female”

            That’s not what the scientists are saying, but i really question their methodology.

            If you really want to have some fun, try getting someone to explain why testosterone is brain poison. (which it is).

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            • I think it depends on which scientists you consult. I think it’s more the non-science based deconstructionist philosophy that wished categories of “male” and “female” were social constructs.

              Though if scientists “find” that male brains are more likely to X and female are more likely to Y (as tendencies) you can get in trouble if you don’t watch how you put your words.

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                • The concept of “mental illness” is as mysterious as that of “the soul.” If the brain is, for all we know, physically healthy, then the illness is metaphorical, even if it’s a deadly serious life problem.

                  If the brain is physically ill, you see a neurologist not a psychiatrist.

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                          • *snort* No, the problem with bimbos is lack of motivation. (which a small bit of testosterone helps with, a lot of the time).

                            The typical Alpha Male has relatively small equipment for his size, because he’s got high testosterone levels. (Yes, I do know someone who’s seen enough of the world to have a scientifically significant sample).

                            In general, being somewhat intersexed (in the brain way, not in the physical feature way) is a prerequisite for high functioning intelligence and creativity.

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                    • You know, I really dislike these kinds of gendered cheap shots. Like, it is hard enough to be a feminist, to hold firm to feminist principles, and at the same time to be fair to those men who are not assholes. It’s all complicated and messy, and it’s worth the effort to be careful how we talk about these things.

                      Some men really do suffer low T — and yes, this is overprescribed as dumb marketing, along with the Viagra set — but it is a real thing all the same.

                      That said, I have a few transhumanist sympathies — which is not to say I’m on board with the goofy “singularity” side of the space. But still, we are figuring out how our brains and bodies work, and we will perhaps someday be able to tinker.

                      Maybe. These are complex systems.

                      That said, I can imagine that future post-humans find that T and E still have deep effects on future-brains, and that our current balance between T-people, E-people, and the mixtures between, is not so great in a post-industrial, post-human society.

                      It is easy to imagine a society with way more E-leaning people than T-leaning people, as any need for high libido will be offset by the fact we make people in labs, and the agro-high-risk-tolerance personality profile will be less useful, compared to the socially-aware-high-empathy personality profiles.

                      I dunno. I think ‘mones play a role in all of this, but not the only role.

                      And once we’re all hyper-intelligent cyborgs with a mix of bio- and electro- tech in our brains, then who will really care what junk we have?

                      Tentacles? Stinger pods? A full set of morphing slime-futa monstrosities? Who knows. Even Porpy cannot guess. But all the same, it sounds pretty wonderful.

                      Anyway, blah blah blah. That has little to do with today, where E-people and T-people exist in roughly equal measure. We must never forget the dignity of each. Don’t take cheap shots.

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                      • Do you read kiwifarms?
                        There’s a very industrious study of abnormal psych.

                        Oh, and what do you do when the bot decides it’s transgendered?

                        I only mentioned “psycho crazy bitch” as being gendered female because most guys don’t do the same sort of crazy. Guys tend to stalk women without going out with them first — it’s women who don’t let go, and can really destroy lives (not that stalker-harassment isn’t horrid too). I know a guy you might as well term Mr. Fix It — he’s seen basically every kind of horror story (This april fools was alligator loose in server room. ayiyi). I kinda trust him to know a bit about the statistics, as he deals with the crazy all the time.

                        [Also, anyone who puts menstrual blood in someone’s food to “help them live forever” is alllll sorts of fucked up…]

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          • So far the findings are that the overlap between male and female brains is so great that it’s impossible to tell from an anonymous brain whether it is male or female. Brains appear to be intersex, each a unique mosaic of typically masculine and feminine which fits in with the idea that we could all call ourselves non binary.

            Its also damn difficult to tease apart nature and nurture because brains are plastic so any adult brain will have been sculpted by experience.

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            • So far the findings are that the overlap between male and female brains is so great that it’s impossible to tell from an anonymous brain whether it is male or female.

              Is that really the best measure? If I tell you that Pat is 5’7, that doesn’t tell you what sex/gender Pat is, but there is certainly a meaningful difference in the height distribution of men and women.

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              • This is true. I watched a science vid on it yesterday which seemed to be saying there wasnt that much in it. Im no neuroscientist and it was pretty heavy going.

                As sexuality does seem to affect childrens interests maybe theres more to m / f interests being different than feminists would like to believe. Yet again though even by age 3 children have picked up a million cues as to what they should be interested in and how they should act according to their sex.

                if children were brought up outside of the modern media with their mothers doing diy and their fathers doing the childcare with the balance of power also reversed we might see many more female engineers and male nurses.

                I can’t remember if it was here or elsewhere I wrote this but the milk mothers provide for their sons is different to that they give to daughters. They also run more quickly to a crying boychild. The theory goes that boys need more attention in order to have a chance of being reproductively successful whereas girls are more of a sure bet.

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                • if children were brought up outside of the modern media with their mothers doing diy and their fathers doing the childcare with the balance of power also reversed we might see many more female engineers and male nurses.

                  That is an interesting idea, but go to the nearest engineering department to you and find the females studying, researching and teaching there. Now come back and tell me what they look/sound like.

                  What does it tell you when more of them are from Iran than from Denmark?

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        • So far the findings are that the overlap between male and female brains is so great that it’s impossible to tell from an anonymous brain whether it is male or female. Brains appear to be intersex, each a unique mosaic of typically masculine and feminine which fits in with the idea that we could all call ourselves non binary.

          Its also damn difficult to tease apart nature and nurture because brains are plastic so any adult brain will have been sculpted by experience.

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          • I would look at cutting edge research by cognitive scientists and psychologists about male/female differences. From someone like Stephen Pinker. Again, one has to be careful when discussing these issues so they don’t bring on the trouble that Lawrence Summers brought onto himself.

            I think it’s true, when discussing brains/psyche/soul, gender is clearly not a binary. You get binary when you break things down into penis/vagina, XX/XY. But I think for psychology it’s more about tendencies on a spectrum.

            There are differences. I’m sure testosterone plays a big role. But I’m sure there are other nature and nurture factors as well. Many gay men — certainly not all, and perhaps not even most, but many — in the single digits of their life enjoyed gender non-conforming interests. They then grow up likelier to be involved in things like fashion, arts, and so on. But there are many feminine gay men who feel completely comfortable as men who don’t necessarily live out expected heterosexual male gender interests. And as long as they have their testicles, they have as much testosterone in their system as heterosexual men do.

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          • I also disagree about plasticity of the brain. Check out Bryan Caplan’s work on the matter. Or, they are more like hard pieces of plastic that snap back into shape when you take the pressure off.

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        • They have discovered differences but they don’t seem very pronounced. Experince molds the brain too and the different way boys and girls are treated also has a big effect so we’d really need to study newborns to be entirely sure.

          Ais women make interesting case studies because they are genetically male without testosterone. As they do not feel like men trapped in the wrong bodies this points to a hormonal or other aetiology for Trans people.

          The David reimar case in contrast seems to point to their being a gender identity. However it isn’t a great example for a number of reasons- he was two before being transitioned, he had lots of medical intervention, an identical twin brother and his parents knew the truth. I have read elsewhere about a baby who was transitioned who did not experince disphoria so for whom it appeared to work.

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          • There are ways to look at aspects of brains that people don’t generally associate with gender. Psychologists are pretty devious when they need to be.

            Differences between men and women are extremely pronounced, actually — but before we really start on that, you have to understand that you’re still on a continuum, and it’s not exactly a bellcurve.

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            • “A set of bimodal distributions of highly correlated traits” seems pretty easy to understand. I dunno. This stuff is complex, but are we making it complex in the wrong ways?

              My suggestion, don’t be too overconfident in what you believe about gender and sex and brains. All of us here certainly understand it far less well than the experts, and even they are often quite confused. They certainly don’t all agree. So yeah. What you know is often bounded by what books you choose to read.

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              • Understanding the biology is a lot easier than understanding the cultural trappings we love to hang on it.

                I don’t think the experts are confused (they understand more than you think)… but then again, they aren’t exactly writing books on the subject, for fear of being drawn and quartered by The Liberal Establishment. (Anything that might be read as “women are inferior to men” is a dangerous thing to publish, just as “blacks are inferior to whites” is a dangerous thing to publish (n.b.: I’m not saying either of these are actually true…) — and if you REALLY want to get drawn and quartered, try publishing a study saying that most of humanity is no longer sentient.)

                Nature is red in tooth and claw, and really unpleasant when you think about it. Liberalism provides “easy” defaults (“all men are created equal”), but they aren’t true.

                (You’re the math geek. I trust you can understand distributions with the best of them. Other people have problems with answers that aren’t binary.)

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  3. Non-Western cultures have a view of reality that elevates the spiritual over the material.

    Totally tangential to the topic being discussed, but isn’t this sloppy Orientalism? Regardless of whatever non Western cultures believe or don’t believe, yeah, every 500 years or so the Roman Catholic church gets too deep into materialism (and gets corrupted by it). Additionally, certainly the Marxists and probably the New Atheists see the primacy of the material over the spiritual. There is also no doubt that the absolute abundance that exists in the American economy throughout (most of) the 20th century makes the median American ‘materialistic’ – a characteristic that is commented on all the time from Sinclair Lewis to Mad Men.

    But does Western culture, writ large, elevate the material over the spiritual? That’s not what Jesus taught as the way of things. Neither did St. Paul (and most of western culture would probably have fewer sexual hangups if Paul didn’t have so many himself). The average bloke and blokette was told for over a thousand years by Western cultural authorities to not be overly concerned about the material word (and the fact that your covered in shit) because the next world, the spiritual world would be so much better.

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    • What I meant by that was, not necessarily “material” as in “things of this world, possessions,” but rather a view of reality.

      Since Aristotle and then Thomas’ incorporation thereof (the reconciling of Athens & Jerusalem), the West has been defined by a certain kind of scientific, rationalistic, empirical method that has advanced its understanding over the ages. One could argue, the “scientific” part (what comes from Aristotle) advanced so much that the “other” part (Jerusalem) could be discarded. (Or not.)

      In terms of the concept of “Orientalism” as articulated by Said, some conservative friends (one’s who defend “Western Civilization” and “Judeo-Christianity”) argue that the Marxist influenced Left — arguably men like Said himself — practice a form of flipped Orientalism, in that they do the very same thing they accuse the “bad guy Orientalists” of doing, but to suit their political ends. That is, they project onto non-Western cultures what their Western, Marx influenced, post modern minds desire.

      Anthropologists are the most notorious of this bunch.

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      • Wouldn’t Maimonides count as the first attempt to reconcile Athens and Jerusalem? Thomas Aquinas was influenced by Maimonides writings and referred to him in his work.

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      • I know that you know more about all this than I do, but my conventional wisdomy view (maybe detailed in Sagan’s Cosmos?) is that the Aristotlelian view *wasn’t* very empirical. That’s why Gallileo was so revolutionary, he did experiments (and look where that got him!)

        ‘Western Scientific Rational Empiricism’ can be, imo, at best a characterization that started in the 17th century (with other parts of the same Western Culture still doing witch trials at the same time) and still didn’t stop stuff like the Reign of Terror, fascism, and all the rest of the greatest hits.

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        • — I’m surely no expert, but Aristotle will seem “empirical” when compared to Plato, insofar as Aristotle’s did care about the physical world, and his metaphysics at least tried to relate to those observations. (The term “metaphysics” literally means “after physics,” cuz it was the next chapter in one of his books.) In other words, Aristotle had nothing quite like Plato’s cave.

          But from the perspective of a post-Galileo (or shall I say meta-Galileo) worldview — nope, he wasn’t so empirical on the whole.

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  4. I have something for the Thomists among you. During fetal development, there are two phases where, in an XY, the testosterone bloodstream level in the fetus surges. The first such surge is where the sexual differentiation emerges. Ovaries become testicles, etc.

    The second fetal testosterone surge affects the brain. We aren’t really sure in exactly what way, and indeed, there are many who would look to this developmental story to uphold long-cherished beliefs about the differences between male and female behavior. (But nobody has ever quite managed to pin down specific anatomy of the brain that is involved in those behaviors or show how they are changed by the 2nd fetal testosterone surge).

    My hypothesis – which I don’t consider proved any more than I think it’s proved that men are better at “spatial manipulation” – is that there is actually a locus of gender in the brain, separate from the “motor homunculus”. Both of these can contribute to gender dysmorphia. That is, there’s a part of ones brain that whispers your gender to you, and that, somehow, that isn’t learned, but was set during the 2nd fetal testosterone surge.

    Because, of course, all of these developmental pathways can sometimes go off the normal pathway. I feel though, that we should be celebrating that rather than recoiling.

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    • there’s a part of ones brain that whispers your gender to you, and that, somehow, that isn’t learned, but was set during the 2nd fetal testosterone surge.

      I’m not sure I understand the hypothesis and wondering how this could cause gender dysmorphia. Are you suggesting that a testosterone surge in females would cause male gender identification, and that the absence of a surge in males causes a female gender identification? Strict causality? Probabilistic?

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      • — The point is, we don’t really know how this works. Which is to say, we don’t know why some factors of the brain would lead me to like makeup and lavender skirts. It all seems rather arbitrary — particularly since gendered clothing styles are hardly uniform. One theory is that the neural makeup “primes” a child to replicate a mother’s behavior rather than a father’s. But that’s probably bullshit. I certainly didn’t “go femme” until much later.

        But there is something there. One clear example is David Reimer. He was born a boy, with presumably a normal male neural makeup. But after his injury as a baby, he was raised as a girl. But it didn’t take. For his entire childhood he rejected the trappings of girlhood, often quite violently. As a teen, when his parents finally revealed to him his true history, he — well, I don’t recall his precise emotional response. I read a book on him, but it was some time ago. In any case, his response was dramatic. He then tried to “transition” to male, his natal gender.

        Whatever we can say about Mr. Reimer, we can be sure he had a male gender identity. Most of you all probably do as well. The difference is, yours was not denied to you, so you never acutely felt its lack. In other words, you have a gender identity, but no gender dysphoria.

        A fish doesn’t know it’s wet. Like Mr. Reimer, I was a fish raised on dry land. I noticed.

        In any case, the various prenatal hormone theories are theories. There is not a sketch of scientific evidence that they are true. What there is, however, is good evidence that gender identity exists, which is closely related to the concepts of psychological sex, gender mapping, body mapping, etc. The prenatal hormone theories are a plausible explanation of how this might happen. There are few better theories.

        A persistent, unchanging gender identity seems to be a real thing, at least for some people. It’s also possible that some people lack strong gendered feelings, and just go along with whatever gender society suggests. Which, fine. For trans people, however, a persistent, unchanging cross-gender identity is undeniable.

        I mean, I’m not making this up. I didn’t grow boobs on a whim. Gender dysphoria was a soul crushing nightmare that robbed my life of joy. This lingered on for years, decades, just a slow march of neverending sadness. It’s hell. Gender transition — OMG. It changed everything.

        Which, it’s really hard sometimes to deal with all the hate. I mean, so much hate. It’s unbelievable. Most of you have seen, at least once, how much it hurts me, just by my occasional meltdowns on this forum.

        But still, at least at get to meet that shit head-on, as the real me.

        I’m veronica. If it fucking kills me, I’ll die veronica. That is far better than a thousand peaceful years as that other thing, that lifeless mass. Yeesh.

        I think the prenatal hormone theory is probably true, but I cannot explain how my need for cross-gender hormones relates to my physical dysphoria (my desire for curves, soft skin, and breasts), nor how these both relate to my desire to occupy a female social identity. These are not essentially related, as you can find people who desire any particular subset of these thing. But the three come as a package deal very often. They are correlated to an enormous degree. This is unlikely to be an accident.

        In any case, the early-phase emotional response to cross-gender hormones points to the neurological cause, as does the frequent comorbidity of trans identity with autism and ADHD traits. A purely behavioral or psychoanalytic basis would not explain why the hormone receptors in my brain get happy-dancy-wonderful on estrogen, but did not on testosterone. These changes began before my physical changes were evident.

        But how does it work? How does gender work?

        We don’t know.

        It’s okay to admit we don’t know. That is how science works.

        Here is a pretty good paper that lays some of this out: http://www.avitale.com/developmentalreview.htm

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        • Thanks for the lengthy reply, VD.

          On the one hand, I sorta wanna say the academic account is academic: some people like to cross-gender identify and if they’re not harming anyone, then what’s the big deal.

          On the other hand, I realize that smart people are gonna look at this issue as a problem that needs solving. Not the trans part, but the causal mechanism which results in such an identification. I’m skeptical (as always :) that Science will provide compelling answers to these types of questions or issues, and I’m especially skeptical that scientific conclusions will mean much (or even should) regarding the normativity of this sorta thing. But as a person who studied neuro way back in the day I do find neurological accounts of overt behavior manifestations very interesting, even if I reject reductive materialism of the mind. I’m not even sure if looking for “causes” of gender dysphoria makes any sense, since it presumes that the opposite requires no causal account at all, other than “normal” functioning, if you know what I mean.

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          • Normal functioning is pretty easy to understand.
            Bimbos and jocks, basically.
            Geniuses are fucked up, in one way or another — and a lot of it hits “gender” because sex drive is a very powerful urge — and sublimation of it in one way or another is a good way to get highly intelligent individuals.

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              • Of course. to get to genius, you WILL get fucked up in one way or another (lookit tesla, there was a real weirdo). There’s plenty of ways to get fucked up that leave someone just… well, fucked.

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                • Genius can’t be terribly better than every other brain type, or we’d only breed geniuses, after all…

                  That’s one side of biological game theory.

                  The other side is: nothing that lasts in the genepool is entirely unproductive. (This is a fun one to point out to people who say stuff about homosexuals.)

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                  • Right. But prenatal hormone theory is specifically not genetic. Plus, natural selection optimises for “adaption executors,” which operate in a hostile environment teeming with error. It does not produce ideal platonic forms. In other words, sexual reproduction among social animals with psychological senses of sex/gender is a plausible local maxima. But such a system, at a local optimum, must still tolerate error, particularly given that such systems might benefit from diversity to a degree different from (for example) ants. In other words, a thriving species should benefit from genetic programs that produce diverse, functioning sexual individuals — but occasionally one of us.

                    I’m assuming everyone here realizes that human values have no need to match the pressures of natural selection. They are entirely independent things. Whether we are, from a “selfish gene” perspective, errors, is a rather different question from whether my life has full human dignity. The former is mindless natural law. The latter comes from inside of us. Choose.

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                    • Prenatal hormones explains why you don’t see things “breeding true” like you do haircolor. It’s still quite plausible that prenatal hormone levels are at least somewhat genetic.

                      We’ve been doing quite a few breeding experiments to get more geniuses, after all.

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                      • — There are all kinds of plausible scenarios on how evolution can produce weird people. I don’t know which ones are true in which cases. Neither do you. We can wonder how a “gay gene” would work, how a propensity to “become X in condition Y” relates to “become Z in condition Q” — where X and Z have different reproductive fitness and Y and Q have different base frequency.

                        It’s all push and pull. Nature seldom finds true stability. Instead, it finds dynamic attractors, which it arrives at again and again, pushed and pulled.

                        I know that genes are selected by evolution, but that the path between genes and organism is long and complicated. This is the “adaption executor not fitness maximizer” thing. People think of evolution as producing optimal forms. It’s nothing like that.

                        My real points are: 1) this is more complicated than most people think, and — the important point — 2) trans people are not unnatural. We are not deviant, at least not in the way that people use that word. We are, to be sure, atypical. But so what? We are not on the mainline of reproductive fitness, but many people are not, but who still deserve dignity. My (adoptive) mother, for example, was unable to have kids. She was still a woman, beloved by her community.

                        Many people think in terms of ideal form, of “natural kinds,” and so on. But humans are not like this. Nature does not produce this. It is a fantasy, a style of belief not grounded in fact. The way we categorize nature, including how we categorize things like race and gender, is at least party a matter of choice, inasmuch as individuals can push for change, and a society can indeed change.

                        Note, these changes are not completely random. When we say “trans women are women,” this is not some completely bizarre categorization. It is obvious why we should be included, as well as obvious why some might wish not to include us. The point is, it is a choice we get to make.

                        Our society should change. I want a world where those like me can thrive. It cost nearly nothing, except that people must be less stubborn and cruel.

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                        • Intelligence, self-awareness is not a dynamic attractor, though. It’s not something nature’s come up with again and again.

                          We’re all a product of some freaky brain damage, that just happened to be biologically fortunate (trading speed of mental computation for “innovation”, roughly speaking).

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        • Women given testosterone often feel better even if they aren’t trans. This indicates it’s not some neurological pining for their innate gender hormone. As for men I don’t know. There would have to be a study done on non trans men to find out, which would probably be unethical.

          There’s a really interesting article on the atlantic, called a new way to be mad which looks at people with the desire to cut off their limbs because they strongly feel they are not part of them. In some they have shown that their body map doesn’t have the limb in it. However this desire can also be invoked by early sexual arousal from seeing an amputee. There are parralels with some trans people’s reported feelings.

          There does also seem to be some connection with sexuality and gender identity though not absolute. 95% of ladyboys are attracted to men for example.

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            • If you have statistics that say otherwise I would be interested. Or do you mean everyone has stats to support their view? I lived in Thailand and the stat I quote was the estimate of a Thai guy who had many kathoey (ladyboy) friends. In fact gayness and kathoeyness wew often conflated.

              It seems to be a different thing to transness in the West. I wonder if it started as an acceptable way to be gay in an otherwise very traditional society

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      • There are people in Dominican republic called guevadoces. They are genetic males who do not respond to the testerone surges in the womb (at least physically) and who are born resembling girls or with ambiguous genitals. They are raised as girls.

        At puberty they do respond to this testosterone surge and ‘turn into’ boys. They develop a normal penis and testes and go on to live as men who can father children.

        Its not an entirely fair natural experiment as the people in their communities are aware of the prevalence of the condition so probably have a good idea which of the girls will transform into boys at puberty due to for example them peeing out of their clitorises.

        Still it’s an interesting phenomenon that could be studied for further insight into both the effect of testosterone and social condotioning

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  5. Simply as a point of notation: there is no verb “to transgender”, and many T people I know consider “transgendered” to be a slur. They are “transgender people”, not “transgendered people” — the past participle would imply that something had been done to them, not that this is simply the way they are.

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  6. Okay I want to say “all”, but let’s play it safe and say “most” cultures have traditions dealing with this phenomenon (and I can’t think of any exceptions) which suggests it’s fairly universal. I’ve thought before that Tiresias would make a decent patron saint for trans people, since his psychic vision was tied in a mythic-logic way to the wisdom and experience gained while living as both a woman and a man. I’m probably misremembering this too, but I seem to remember Greek stories (and definitely Roman ones) about men who lived as women and it seems like adult men who were “catamites” (usually a word applying to boys) lived as women. I could be wrong about that though.

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      • Right, I know they were castrated and lived as women. Catullus’s poem about Attis and Cybele talks about this and has the great line: I, to be a woman–who was a stripling, I a youth, I a boy/ I was the flower of the playground, I was once the glory of the palaestra In the end, he becomes she and a handmaiden to Cybele.

        But it seems to me there were also born males who lived as adult women simply because they wanted to, outside of a cult, and were perhaps somewhat more ostracized for it. I don’t believe they went through any sort of surgery though. Anyway, gender swapping is nothing remotely new, which reminds me of something my lapsed Catholic father said when I asked him his opinion about same sex marriage in Maine, where he lives: “They talk in the Old Testament about gay men. So, I figure they must have always been here, which means it must be pretty normal. I don’t see what the problem is.”

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      • There is a character in poet and the women by Aristophanes who is living as a woman. He is a gay man. Whilst people often proclaim no connection between gender identity and sexuality there does seem tosomr connection. For example 95% of ladyboys are attracted to men. This makes me wonder if it isn’t like in Iran a way that a traditional society copes with gay men. I believe there is encouragement t to be a ladyboys if one is gay

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  7. Fine work Jon; great context on this issue.

    I would quibble with your points about Mexico and Trans-rights however. While it is true that gay and trans groups have many rights on paper, large swaths of the society do not accept these individuals and are actually violently opposed to them. I sometimes wonder if Mexico is actually an argument for a less-democratic state ruled by an elite who make decisions not generally supported by those being ruled. I am making some broad generalizations here, but it is generally true that the Mexican state has operated in this manner since the 1940s.

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    • Thanks. Though I think we can make the same observation about many nations. I don’t mean to paint Christianity here as the bad guy as such was ahead of the learning curve on many humans rights issues than the non-Christian cultures that were colonized.

      But, in Asia and South and Latin America (which I discussed in my OP) have mixture of Christian and indigenous in their culture.

      Likewise not all “Christians” are doctrinaire. I’m sure a great deal of those who are hostile to the transgendered in Mexico are part of the machismo culture, and not practicing sex that is officially endorse by Roman Catholic doctrine.

      I was discussing this concept with someone (a doctrinaire Roman Catholic Thomist) with connections to the Philippines. He said even though there is a vibrant subculture of transgender people who have made progress, there is a lot of residual prejudice against them there as well.

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      • You are right to target Christianity as a major culprit on this front. On a side note, I have been watching alt-right people have some internal struggles over homosexuals in their ranks as of late. The christians in their community seem to hold that they should be excluded, while the neo-pagans are open to said individuals being active in their movement.

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        • “[W]hile the neo-pagans are open to said individuals being active in their movement.”

          And there are a few notable figures in recent modern history who were homosexuals and leaders of said movement(s). I don’t necessarily think Pim Fortuyn necessarily crossed the line of respectability like Jorg Haider did. But those are the kind of folks who come to mind.

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      • Central and South American cultures also inherited a less filtered version of the Mediterranean/Latin “machismo” culture than North American cultures have. If you have a lot more of your social/intellectual capital bound up in gender identity, it’s bound to be harder to be flexible about the topic in general.

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