Transgender and You: A guide to interacting the the trans public

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MorRioghain:

the clockmaker:
To give an example from my life I have issues with large dogs due to having been mauled as a child. It would be unreasonable for me to walk up to someone in the street and demand that they not discuss or display large dogs to spare my feelings, and it would be insane for anyone to hold them responsible if I self-harmed because I saw the dog.

Your analogy is failed. So lets fix it:
This person also hides their dog all the time, except when you are around. And when you are around they specifically go out of their way to get their dog in your face.
Now if the situation is like this, does it sound unreasonable for you to request that they don't shove their dog in your face?

Think about it. For every other person in the world, people have no problem addressing them with the name and pronouns they prefer, but when a trans person comes in this courtesy is inexplicably changed.

The situation at hand was that somebody had apparently self harmed due to somebody identifying them as the wrong gender, and from what I took out of it it seemed to be an honest mistake. There was, from what I could see, no malice involved and when I discussed it with the person who first brought it up, they did not change my pereption of the event. All of which you would know if you had paused a moment to take stock of the situation before trying to 'fix' somebody else's post.

Seriously mate, do you realise how condescending and arrogant it is to try and 'fix' something written by someone else as opposed to simply engaging with them?

To put it very simply, and, not insignificantly, to repeat myself,
If I meet someone who to me looks gender X I will refer to them as gender X. If they identify as gender Y instead, and politely inform me of such, I will change gears. If they are rude to me I will tell them to fuck off because while I don't give two shits what gender someone identifies as, I am kinda done with tolerating people being rude to me. If they simply wander off and self harm because I have reffered to them by the 'wrong' gender, that is not my fault and, to put it brutally honest, not really my problem, they should be on suicide watch or seeking help via other means.

the clockmaker:
If they simply wander off and self harm because I have reffered to them by the 'wrong' gender, that is not my fault and, to put it brutally honest, not really my problem, they should be on suicide watch or seeking help via other means.

Indeed. A person who's in such a vulnerable state of mind should be under treatment for it.

RhombusHatesYou:

the clockmaker:
If they simply wander off and self harm because I have reffered to them by the 'wrong' gender, that is not my fault and, to put it brutally honest, not really my problem, they should be on suicide watch or seeking help via other means.

Indeed. A person who's in such a vulnerable state of mind should be under treatment for it.

Ok so maybe my suicide example might of been a bit hyperbolic, but i mean, it does happen more often than naught, due to the lack of resources a average transgender has.(im assuming they lack the resources anyways, since the suicide rate is high, and the climate for transgenders is hostile in alot of places) I'm just saying its the "intentional" mis-gendering that should be controled, the accidentals are understandable.

And if this seems antagonistic sorry, but i just wanted to respond since i started the example anyways.

Helmholtz Watson:
First off, the last ones sure did conclude that it was a mental disorder, and its not like science has ever been pressured to change their stance on something because its politically incorrect, right?

That's a bit of an accusation of unprofessionalism, though I see your point. Still, unless there's something to back this up, then I'd say it's more than reasonable for me to side with the professionals. The older manuals based their definitions on less research than the newer ones, especially with gender and sexuality, which have only relatively recently been the basis of extensive, sensitive, well-done investigation.

As for earlier DSMs, they also categorised homosexuality as a disorder. There's much less reason to believe they're on the money on issues like this.

Helmholtz Watson:
Second off, the DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association, so there is nothing to say that the global community agrees with everything that American Psychiatrist have concluded.

Well, as far as I can see, the NHS and the Gender Identity Research and Education Society both agree, and I can't find anything of any particular merit that goes against them.

Helmholtz Watson:
Third, and most importantly, I wasn't talking about it as a mental disorder but as something that is physically wrong with the brain, hence why I was talking about "rebathing" the brain in the correct hormones.

If there is a mismatch between the brain and the body, why say the brain is "physically wrong", rather than the body? It seems to me (even if we dismissed professional opinion, ethics, and the community itself from the debate), there'd still be no reason to say that made more sense that saying the same of the body.

After all, there's nothing "physically wrong" with a female brain; it's the mismatch that is the problem, not, fundamentally, either part. It's like trying to install a Windows OS onto a Mac, and then claiming that it didn't work because the OS disc was "faulty". Neither part is "broken"; it's simply not with what it should be.

Silvanus:

If there is a mismatch between the brain and the body, why say the brain is "physically wrong", rather than the body? It seems to me (even if we dismissed professional opinion, ethics, and the community itself from the debate), there'd still be no reason to say that made more sense that saying the same of the body.

After all, there's nothing "physically wrong" with a female brain; it's the mismatch that is the problem, not, fundamentally, either part. It's like trying to install a Windows OS onto a Mac, and then claiming that it didn't work because the OS disc was "faulty". Neither part is "broken"; it's simply not with what it should be.

maybe i can answer that a bit.

generally you want the treatment that is best for the patient. that usually means the least intrusive, dangerous, painful etc. now, the only reason why we don't give transsexuals a pill that makes them comfortable with their biological body is because no such treatment is available right now. if it were, it would be 100% the preferred treatment for the condition because it is a thousand times better than an operation that carries risks of disability and death (any operation does, especially those that require an anesthetic coma to be induced) and leaves the patient infertile with only a non-functional cosmetic replacement of the desired organs.

a similar example is body integrity identity disorder, where the patient feels that one or more of his limbs do not belong to his body and has to be removed in order for him or her to feel "whole". similar to transsexualism there is no treatment available. this puts a doctor into a difficult ethical situation to either have the patient endure his suffering which may very well lead down a road of depression and suicide, or remove a completely healthy limb and effectively cripple the patient for life in order for him to achieve happiness. neither of these two courses is very desirable, and "fixing the brain" would be the much, much better alternative.

Kathinka:
maybe i can answer that a bit.

generally you want the treatment that is best for the patient. that usually means the least intrusive, dangerous, painful etc. now, the only reason why we don't give transsexuals a pill that makes them comfortable with their biological body is because no such treatment is available right now. if it were, it would be 100% the preferred treatment for the condition because it is a thousand times better than an operation that carries risks of disability and death (any operation does, especially those that require an anesthetic coma to be induced) and leaves the patient infertile with only a non-functional cosmetic replacement of the desired organs.

That's certainly a good point, regarding the invasive nature of the surgery & risks. That said, I still don't find it likely that it would be the preferred treatment of Trans people themselves. I imagine many would find the idea of chemically altering their self-identity to be worse than altering their physical body.

I'd like to see an opinion poll of the above, actually.

Kathinka:
a similar example is body integrity identity disorder, where the patient feels that one or more of his limbs do not belong to his body and has to be removed in order for him or her to feel "whole". similar to transsexualism there is no treatment available. this puts a doctor into a difficult ethical situation to either have the patient endure his suffering which may very well lead down a road of depression and suicide, or remove a completely healthy limb and effectively cripple the patient for life in order for him to achieve happiness. neither of these two courses is very desirable, and "fixing the brain" would be the much, much better alternative.

I've heard of that, though I'd forgotten all about it. I suppose the difference would be that if a sex reassignment surgery (is that the proper term?) was entirely successful, as they usually are, then the patient will not have suffered debilitating effects anywhere near as bad as somebody suffering from body integrity identity disorder.

That, and the professional opinion tending to regard the above as a disorder (I assume), while it no longer tends to label gender dysphoria as such.

Silvanus:

That's certainly a good point, regarding the invasive nature of the surgery & risks. That said, I still don't find it likely that it would be the preferred treatment of Trans people themselves. I imagine many would find the idea of chemically altering their self-identity to be worse than altering their physical body.
I'd like to see an opinion poll of the above, actually.

true, but in some cases what the patient wants and what is best for the patient isn't always the same thing. see suicidal depressions for example, or the mentioned BIID.
if there is a discrepancy between a patients wishes (that a medical professional is obliged to heed of course) and the best course of treatment, with all its ethical and legal implications, that is an entirely different can of worms though. :D

Silvanus:

I've heard of that, though I'd forgotten all about it. I suppose the difference would be that if a sex reassignment surgery (is that the proper term?) was entirely successful, as they usually are, then the patient will not have suffered debilitating effects anywhere near as bad as somebody suffering from body integrity identity disorder.

That, and the professional opinion tending to regard the above as a disorder (I assume), while it no longer tends to label gender dysphoria as such.

true, sex reassignment will have a much less dramatic disabling impact on the patient than most amputations. but still, if it was between a harmless pill on one hand, or a surgery that leaves the patient with some disabilities, even just small ones (for the people that consider infertility small anyway) isn't even a choice really.

also, the name of the game might have changed, for PC reasons. but in the field the treatment and approach to the problem remains the same. even if it's no longer listed as disorder in the manuals, it's still a condition that requires treatment. and the first concern of any treatment is the good of the patient, despite any re-labeling that might occur.

take anything i say with a grain of salt though, i'm no doctor, merely a med student. no guarantee for correctness and such.

I normally avoid these treads because they tend to constitute some of the best arguments for human extinction, but I'm going to butt in specifically to clear up some of the dodgy science on both sides.

1) GID does not stem from hormones or neurology.

At least, there is absolutely no evidence of such a thing

In the past, such a connection has been widely theorized to the point of being generally accepted as fact in medicine despite limited available data, but now that there is data the evidence overwhelmingly does not support it.

A small number of transgendered people undoubtably still remain personally committed to the idea that they must have abnormal neurology, or the "wrong brain", but there is no reliable evidence for such a thing.

2) There is no current evidence that gender identity can be reliably altered therapeutically, any more than there is evidence that sexual orientation can be altered therapeutically.

Therapy could theoretically deal with some of distress felt by someone who did not identify with their birth sex, but you could not safely use therapy to force a person to identify with that sex. Repressing a person to that degree is not healthy or safe.

3) Drugs are not magic.

Drugs cannot remove or create specific thoughts in a person's mind. They can sometimes reduce the anxiety or emotional instability which such thoughts create or stop a person from hallucinating or imagining things which aren't there, but expecting drugs to be able to alter a person's thought process or identification is, thankfully, pure fantasy. Imagining such a thing has no more purpose than imagining a treatment which can give a person a perfect, functioning body of the opposite sex without significant risk, in that both are equally fantastic at this stage.

The notion that we can deal with gender identity disorder purely by "making people okay" with their birth sex is completely ridiculous, and the sooner you give up on it the sooner you may find this aspect of human experience comprehensible.

4) Not all transgendered people will want to undergo sex reassignment.

The goal of treating GID is increasingly not to make a person into a "perfect" member of the opposite sex, but to enable the person to be happy with whatever body they have. I'm aware there is still some prejudice in the medical profession, as there is in society as a whole, against trans people who do not elect to have full surgery, but it remains nonetheless not uncommon.

Changing sex can be a very, very long process with multiple stages. For some people, simply reaching the point of being outwardly identifiable as a member of the opposite sex may be sufficient. Others may have very intense anxiety about their genitals which can only be resolved surgically. Some may have never wished to be members of the opposite sex, but instead may have wished to be entirely sexless or androgynous.

There is a tendancy, even among certain transgendered people, to simply assume that all transgendered people will want to undergo sex reassignment. There is a lingering presumption than being anything other than a physically "perfect" male or female is too difficult for a person to live with. This is simply not true any more.

Usually I just try not to form an opinion when I meet a person who doesn't conform to societal norms but doesn't appear to be doing anyone harm either. I've actually been friends with trans people in this way, and it's worked out well so far. I didn't really think much of it until earlier this year when suddenly it seemed to have become a big deal on the internet.

What surprised me earlier this year is that you can draw a lot of rage by saying that you think trans people are their birth gender. I have not personally experienced this but I've seen it happen to others who did not intend any offense. I figured it was a reasonable and harmless, if ignorant, assumption, especially since it has some basis in the biological facts of a person's birth. In my case I always referred to trans people as their preferred gender out of politeness, but if you have a binary choice between a person's original biology and their preference, I could understand a person choosing to think of gender in terms of biology. If that's not the way trans people want to be thought of, then publishing guides like the OP did here is a great way to counteract that.

But if a guide is needed to explain this stuff to people who don't know, then I think those who attack people for not knowing it aren't helping anyone. It's a dick move on the part of the people who do it, and through association it makes the rest of the trans community look hysterical, hostile, and unreasonable. This is a problem that any marginalized group has to deal with I suppose; I've been an angry atheist before and did my share of not helping by being angry on the Internet, until I realized how unproductive that was.

Right now I see a lot of anger being directed at statements of the "but you were born a man so you're a man" sort, without very much effort at education, and not very much is being said about how people are supposed to know this stuff when these flame wars come up. I'm glad the OP made this guide to clear things up, but I wish that before all the RAEG gets thrown around, more efforts like the OP's were being made, and a little leeway was given to those who don't understand.

People don't respond to anger by learning what you want them to learn, they respond by perceiving you as an threat or even an enemy and not listening to what you say. If you want to change opinion, rage is only going to work against you.

McMullen:
People don't respond to anger by learning what you want them to learn, they respond by perceiving you as an threat or even an enemy and not listening to what you say. If you want to change opinion, rage is only going to work against you.

That's the tone argument, or "more flies with honey".

This is commonly levelled at anyone wanting equal rights for anyone. It doesn't work, accept sometimes as a silencing tactic.

In this particular case it certainly doesn't work Yes, there are people who are ignorant of the issues. Which is what the very first post in this thread was about correcting, in a calm and civil way. People who are still refusing people their gender identity brushed right over that. Playing nice has already failed to affect them, because they aren't interesting in learning about the issue.

evilthecat:

A small number of transgendered people undoubtably still remain personally committed to the idea that they must have abnormal neurology, or the "wrong brain", but there is no reliable evidence for such a thing.

I dont know if its just me, but it just seems like a really condescending thing to say. Not that your wrong on the lack of evidence mind you. But saying only a "small number" see it through that lense... i dont know..

thaluikhain:

McMullen:
People don't respond to anger by learning what you want them to learn, they respond by perceiving you as an threat or even an enemy and not listening to what you say. If you want to change opinion, rage is only going to work against you.

That's the tone argument, or "more flies with honey".

This is commonly levelled at anyone wanting equal rights for anyone. It doesn't work, accept sometimes as a silencing tactic.

In this particular case it certainly doesn't work Yes, there are people who are ignorant of the issues. Which is what the very first post in this thread was about correcting, in a calm and civil way. People who are still refusing people their gender identity brushed right over that. Playing nice has already failed to affect them, because they aren't interesting in learning about the issue.

As I said, I've always interacted with trans people in a manner consistent with the guide given in the OP. My interest is not in silencing anyone, and I hope that's not what I conveyed.

Can you say more about the tone argument? Is it an actual fallacy? What I know of conflict resolution is that hostility does not work, and can often lead to further polarization. If playing nice, as you put it, does not convince people, then why would they be convinced if you go on the offensive?

There's a lot of talk about what transgendered people think on this thread.

It's more than a bit disturbing so see so many people attribute ideas and thoughts to a group of people who are not participating in the discussion.

Maybe some of you should actually spend time with and get to know transgendered people before you assume how or what they think or feel.

McMullen:
As I said, I've always interacted with trans people in a manner consistent with the guide given in the OP. My interest is not in silencing anyone, and I hope that's not what I conveyed.

I'm not accusing you personally of deliberately doing so, just that it is something to be careful about. Actually, now that I think of it, I'm not convinced it applies, if you are asking people to be less passionate to convince other people, not yourself.

McMullen:
Can you say more about the tone argument? Is it an actual fallacy? What I know of conflict resolution is that hostility does not work, and can often lead to further polarization. If playing nice, as you put it, does not convince people, then why would they be convinced if you go on the offensive?

http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Tone_argument

Now, this deals with the tone argument from a certain point of view, but if you google it you'll see lots of it around.

Anyway, yes, they are not going to be convinced by an aggressive approach, because they do not want to be convinced. Anyone who has decided, in this instance, that trans people are not the gender they identify as is not going to decide otherwise after an internet conversation. The requirement for people to respond politely does nothing that create a false equivalency between the two sides, and imply that people affected by bigotry have no reason to be angry.

Rosiv:
I dont know if its just me, but it just seems like a really condescending thing to say. Not that your wrong on the lack of evidence mind you. But saying only a "small number" see it through that lense... i dont know..

Well, that's my experience, but I could be wrong.

Do I feel condescension towards people who make such an argument? Well, yes, I suppose I do in much the same way I feel condescension towards gay people who argue that they should be tolerated as helpless victims of biological circumstance. Medicalization, I believe, is not a good basis from which to argue for equal treatment.

The history of sexual minorities is primarily one of externally imposed medicalization, and while that has certainly played a role in enabling sexual minorities to imagine themselves as a particular type of human subject deserving of the same rights as any human subjects, there comes a point when we must stop viewing ourselves as inferior copies of an imaginary "norm" and ask ourselves seriously whether the "norm" is even worth aspiring to. Is having sex only with people of the opposite sex, or identifying with the sex on your birth certificate actually worthy of being called normal behavior at all?

The idea of a rigid, biologically mandated separation between trans and cis people assumes not only that trans people are always marked by a total rejection of their original gender identity, but also that cis people have an entirely uncomplicated, stable and positive relationship with their own gender identity. Neither, in my experience, is particularly true.

dversion:
It's more than a bit disturbing so see so many people attribute ideas and thoughts to a group of people who are not participating in the discussion.

I'm pretty sure some are participating in the discussion.

Not all trans people are out, even on the internet, and frankly I can fully understand why.

evilthecat:

1) GID does not stem from hormones or neurology.

This along with number 3 is interesting to me. Why then are hormonal drugs pre-operation treated as such an important part of transitioning?

LetalisK:

evilthecat:

1) GID does not stem from hormones or neurology.

This along with number 3 is interesting to me. Why then are hormonal drugs pre-operation treated as such an important part of transitioning?

Because the hormone therpy causes a physcial change in the body, and its the physical change that alot of trans people want. I think evil the cat was referring to the concept of "being born in the wrong body" or the chem wash hypothesis for how transgenderism comes about.

evilthecat:
The idea of a rigid, biologically mandated separation between trans and cis people assumes not only that trans people are always marked by a total rejection of their original gender identity, but also that cis people have an entirely uncomplicated, stable and positive relationship with their own gender identity. Neither, in my experience, is particularly true.

Maybe thats where the confusion is then, why does the biology have to be rigid? Why cant it be a plausible explanation for the phenomenon of transgenderism? I dont see people arguing against it being a plausible explaination for homosexuality. What i see is a split of the difference, and a consideration of both sides, biolgical and social, to create ones sexuality. Why cant it be the same for transgenderism? It doesn't have to occur at birth, i mean it can be environmental, just something in the brain. Im no scientist mind you, so maybe ill defer to other knowledgeable people, but there is alot about the brain we really dont know yet, and to rule it out as a possibility doesn't seem right, at least until the research is done. Although maybe you could say the same for any unknown entity out there, but i think its been established at least that the brain controls our body to some degree, so to control our behavior, as in gender, wouldn't be far fetched right?

I understand that to take the non medicalization route is better for lgbt rights, but to totally ignore biologly just because it doesn't jive well seems a bit dismissive.

Either way, im not in disagreement with you that if transgender people saw it as non biological, they might be better off, but when you start off an argument with condescension, im not really sure what you expect in return.

OpalEssence:
-snip-

First, apologies for the delay and thanks for this response - its very interesting to read about such personal aspects and I really do appreciate you sharing them. Especially your point about the othering and your tale about the implant[1]is something that I personally and, from what I know of, a lot of people around here can relate to in one way or the other - deviate somewhat from the norm for some reason, be that medical or something else, and you will feel distant to anyone as the second you admit it you will be immediately shunned by most because you cease to neatly fit into their worldview or you become a threat by association.

OpalEssence:
I forgot to address this other interesting point:

Chromatic Aberration:

I think this is actually the most interesting part about this discussion: how much does this condition shape ones identity and how much does it have to play a part in making oneself? I mean a person is always more than the sum of its parts - one doesn't have to make oneself be solely about ones medical condition.

Of course identity is multifaceted and draws on multiple intersections between different social roles and activities. What makes gender different is that it is one of the earliest identities acquired and pretty much colors one's social experiences across all other roles and identities. But wrt the condition itself, I think its varies from person to person how much it defines one's identity. Some trans people are very public about it and wish to integrate their transness in their social persona. I don't. It is not something I want to define me.

I think what I observed up until now regarding gender identities from the broad mass of people is also not so much a thing that can be reduced to the simple "it's a very important thing for everyone". It is also very much a thing of scales in the sense that how much it serves as a method of identity creation depends on the individual. Some seem to internalize the notion, hence the usual backlash against Feminism and everything that dares to challenge or to transcend usual gender roles - but I'd say the broad mass just adopts those viewpoints based on tradition, politicization plus the easy to spot difference between sexes and to simply not be shamed by the vocal people who use this as their sole means of identity creation. Me for instance I simply don't give a fuck and I imagine most people do because they are as lazy as I am - they just seem to because they see no reason to conflict with the expectations due to pragmatism which includes a possible social backlash.

As for integrating transness you make a very good point there with the distinction of a social persona - outwardly living something like this well after it was plainly visible adds another dimension because it can validate as well as it can shame oneself through the eyes of the others. It's a gamble one does not have to take. For my own issues, for instance, I decided to not let them play a role that they don't need to play. The reason being while they are part of me they remain my own problems and connecting to others can also be done in my case in a less risky and perhaps less confrontational manner so to speak.

evilthecat:

The history of sexual minorities is primarily one of externally imposed medicalization, and while that has certainly played a role in enabling sexual minorities to imagine themselves as a particular type of human subject deserving of the same rights as any human subjects, there comes a point when we must stop viewing ourselves as inferior copies of an imaginary "norm" and ask ourselves seriously whether the "norm" is even worth aspiring to. Is having sex only with people of the opposite sex, or identifying with the sex on your birth certificate actually worthy of being called normal behavior at all?

The idea of a rigid, biologically mandated separation between trans and cis people assumes not only that trans people are always marked by a total rejection of their original gender identity, but also that cis people have an entirely uncomplicated, stable and positive relationship with their own gender identity. Neither, in my experience, is particularly true.

Also a very true point to make here. However you as well as I do know that the severity of the deviation from the norm is a factor that needs to be taken into account, too when looking at a general case. While diversity for the sake of diversity is all fine and dandy it becomes very much an issue if such diversity doesn't simply outweigh the costs it incurs - and naturally, say, some severe mental illnesses (which might or might not be based on some biological disposition) need medication to make the ones suffering from it properly function in society or endanger themselves and others.

Your specific examples are, of course, non-issues as people who are simply attracted to the same sex, or just view gender as a fluid quantity don't have to be medicated or be subjected to surgical procedures from a medical standpoint. In response to your other post one should note that the people who wish for HRT and SRS obviously need both of those. Naturally it's also a non-issue, as you argued, at this point since there aren't really alternatives and I doubt that there will ever be any for adults. We might have to deal with the question in the form of embryonic screening at some point, though; After all, is it worth risking that your child will
have to deal with disphoria or does one try to fix any disposition prematurely? The point when we have to deal with those questions
will be when the real fun will start.

[1] ...actually the reason I brought it up, was for me more motivated by the social identity aspect in there, so I looked at it from a far more abstract point of view. Your post was a welcome addition :)

LetalisK:
This along with number 3 is interesting to me. Why then are hormonal drugs pre-operation treated as such an important part of transitioning?

Primarily, to physically masculinize or feminize the body.

The reason male and female bodies look different in the first place is because of differing levels of sex hormones. If you give female-bodied people androgen supplements, they will start to physically masculinize. They will grow body hair and even facial hair, for example. Whereas men taking estrogen will begin to see breast development. There are a whole host of effects which might make it easier for a person to socially appear as male and female.

There are some psychological effects to taking hormones, but they are not the intended effect and tend to disappear with prolonged use anyway.

Rosiv:
Maybe thats where the confusion is then, why does the biology have to be rigid?

Because if you're going to theorize "male" and "female" brains, then there needs to be some kind of essential (i.e. occurring in everyone) trends or differences between them, something there really isn't much evidence to support. A lack of "rigidity" would only be possible in cases where a person's sexual identity was questionable.

A great deal of effort has gone into finding physical markers of homosexuality and transgenderism, and considering that effort very little has come of it.

Rosiv:
I dont see people arguing against it being a plausible explaination for homosexuality.

Again, there's very little evidence of a biological basis to homosexuality. It's a common and popular belief in the general public, but one which actually has very little scientific evidence to support it given quite how much effort has been made to identify such a thing.

Even scientists who are very committed to the idea of a biological component to homosexuality, like Simon LeVay, generally admit now that biology alone would be entirely inadequate as an explanation.

Rosiv:
Im no scientist mind you, so maybe ill defer to other knowledgeable people, but there is alot about the brain we really dont know yet, and to rule it out as a possibility doesn't seem right, at least until the research is done.

This has always been the excuse though.

As our understanding of the brain has increased, those who assert that homosexuality must be neurologically based have simply shifted the goalposts to smaller and smaller measurements or subtler and subtler trends, and each time our ability to look into the brain has increased these theories have simply been proven wrong.

I mentioned LeVay earlier, he did a very famous anatomical study in which he claimed to have found differences between gay and straight men in one tiny area of the hypothalamus (although he never specified how he knew they were gay or straight). The thing is, his measurements are so tiny it is actually debatable whether it would have been possible for him to measure them.

Our anatomical understanding of the brain is very, very precise now. We may not necessarily know what everything does, but we can measure and compare it to a staggering degree of accuracy and yet we're still falling back on the "unknown", on this point just out of reach where presumably the difference between gay and straight people will suddenly become visible, despite the fact that every time our understanding of the brain has increased this point has failed to manifest itself.

So when do we give up and accept, for the sake of our understanding today, that this is probably a cognitive phenomenon? Why are we having to disprove something whose existence has never been adequately demonstrated in the first place? Why aren't we equally concerned with finding the neurological differences which make people attracted to blondes or brunettes, or which make people attracted to black or white people?

The answer is that there remains an enormous public interesting in explaining homosexuality medically because many people remain enormously invested in asserting that their identities, whether gay or straight, are fixed and stable. The question social scientists often want to ask here is actually whether it ever really was that unusual for people to have sexual thoughts or feelings about members of the same sex, because often when you start digging into human sexuality you discover that it really isn't that strange, and it certainly isn't limited to people who see themselves as gay.

Chromatic Aberration:
Your specific examples are, of course, non-issues as people who are simply attracted to the same sex, or just view gender as a fluid quantity don't have to be medicated or be subjected to surgical procedures from a medical standpoint.

Sure, they don't need it, but why shouldn't they get it?

Men who are attracted to other men, for example, really ought to be vaccinated against Hepatitis B. I've had the vaccination even though my own sexual behavior is extremely low-risk, just in case. Indeed, the only reason my behaviour is low risk is me accepting that my sexual behavior requires some forms of medical management.

The question of "need" is interesting. We don't "need" to prescribe antibiotics to treat minor infections, most of them will get better on their own. We don't need to vaccinate people, most won't get the diseases in question anyway. We don't need to prescribe antibiotics to treat depression, we could just let people do what they want even if it means killing themselves. We don't need to offer medical abortions, we could just tell everyone to suck it up and bear children. We don't need to offer contraceptives, we could just tell people not to have sex.

The line between what a person "needs" and what will benefit them is often quite blurry and heavily based on your own priorities of treatment. If you believe the goal of treating GID is to make a person entirely comfortable with their birth sex, then surgery may seem unecessary. However, if you're priority is to improve their quality of life, then what's the problem with surgery if it's likely to do that?

evilthecat:
quote

Yea i guess you make a good point, at what time does it become unnecessary to do the research, when there isnt any results. Although the only real reason i even bothered commenting towards you was your condescension, which i guess i should of been honest about from the start. Just because there is a better case to be made for a social explanation for LGBT issues, doesn't mean you get to be rude about it to others.
If you pay attention to a lot of the transgender posters here, they honestly side with the "biology" idea to a degree,or at least admit that it could be split between biology/social causes. And if your gonna be so condescending towards them I just felt the need to say something in their defense.

evilthecat:

Rosiv:
Maybe thats where the confusion is then, why does the biology have to be rigid?

Because if you're going to theorize "male" and "female" brains, then there needs to be some kind of essential (i.e. occurring in everyone) trends or differences between them, something there really isn't much evidence to support. A lack of "rigidity" would only be possible in cases where a person's sexual identity was questionable.

A great deal of effort has gone into finding physical markers of homosexuality and transgenderism, and considering that effort very little has come of it.

First of, theorizing that male and female brains are different is not about differences between every male and every female brain but about statistical differences between the groups of all male and of all female brains. This kind of differences have been found in various experiments about behavior and brain anatomy, while many other scientists question whether these findings are valid and really reflect inherent differences between the sexes. So, right now it is an open question whether there are on average inherent differences between male and female brains with (often contradicting) evidence for both views.

evilthecat:

Rosiv:
I dont see people arguing against it being a plausible explaination for homosexuality.

Again, there's very little evidence of a biological basis to homosexuality. It's a common and popular belief in the general public, but one which actually has very little scientific evidence to support it given quite how much effort has been made to identify such a thing.

Even scientists who are very committed to the idea of a biological component to homosexuality, like Simon LeVay, generally admit now that biology alone would be entirely inadequate as an explanation.

Of course homosexuality can not be explained by biology alone, as can almost none of human behavior - it is (most times) a combination of genes and experience. Still there are good reasons to assume that biological factors play an important role in which sex people are attracted to: it is a behavior that exists across all known human history and all known societies (as far as i know) and even in many animals, which points strongly to a genetic basis. Also, if it isn't based on biology at all, it must be based on experience alone instead and i still have to hear a convincing psychological/sociological theory that alone explains homosexuality.

evilthecat:

Rosiv:
Im no scientist mind you, so maybe ill defer to other knowledgeable people, but there is alot about the brain we really dont know yet, and to rule it out as a possibility doesn't seem right, at least until the research is done.

This has always been the excuse though.

As our understanding of the brain has increased, those who assert that homosexuality must be neurologically based have simply shifted the goalposts to smaller and smaller measurements or subtler and subtler trends, and each time our ability to look into the brain has increased these theories have simply been proven wrong.

I mentioned LeVay earlier, he did a very famous anatomical study in which he claimed to have found differences between gay and straight men in one tiny area of the hypothalamus (although he never specified how he knew they were gay or straight). The thing is, his measurements are so tiny it is actually debatable whether it would have been possible for him to measure them.

Our anatomical understanding of the brain is very, very precise now. We may not necessarily know what everything does, but we can measure and compare it to a staggering degree of accuracy and yet we're still falling back on the "unknown", on this point just out of reach where presumably the difference between gay and straight people will suddenly become visible, despite the fact that every time our understanding of the brain has increased this point has failed to manifest itself.

I really wish our understanding of the human brain were as good as you think, but sadly it really isn't. Even leaving aside neurobiology, where science is still at the very beginning, and only focusing on neuroanatomy you're still wrong for the important part. Yes, it is possible to record individual humans brains in staggering detail. But, as there are massive differences between individual brains, every time you want to compare brains you have to normalize your recordings, meaning you effectively modify your records to make comparisons possible. This, in combination with the low number of participants per experiment because of the high cost of modern brain imaging, mean that measuring and comparing the human brain is notoriously imprecise. And even if comparisons where as precise as you think they are, it would still be useless to make comparisons based on brain anatomy (at least for the neocortex), as the same brain function can be located in different brain areas for different people (different here means a few mm or cm away, not the other side of the brain).

evilthecat:
Sure, they don't need it, but why shouldn't they get it?

[...]

The line between what a person "needs" and what will benefit them is often quite blurry and heavily based on your own priorities of treatment.

Of course - that was essentially the gist of my argument: these questions cannot be generally tackled and must be treated on a case-by-case basis and very carefully weighted. It's a thing that depends strongly on scale and any possible intervention must have a
very good reasoning behind it along with being carefully balanced to reflect the scale we are tackling here. That people aren't forced
except in the most severe cases should also be understood.

If you believe the goal of treating GID is to make a person entirely comfortable with their birth sex, then surgery may seem unecessary. However, if you're priority is to improve their quality of life, then what's the problem with surgery if it's likely to do that?

It looks as if I was unfortunate in my wording, apologies. Let me assure you, I have no quarrels with it nor do I really give one crap about what gender someone is born as, wants to be or if people get whatever treatment they desire as long as there are enough reasonable grounds for it which is obviously given for surgery in this particular case. For this reason I very much reject your implicit accusation that I'd care more about people being "comfortable with their birth sex" than "improving their quality of life". Still, pretending that operations and extensive surgery don't incur costs at all (which you seem to for some reason assume) is not doing the complexity of the situation any justice. It might be worthwhile to review the case of BIID in this context, too, because it highlights the problem I'm getting at[1]

[1] And for the record: from what I'm aware this also seems to be a case where the surgery required is justified to improve the quality of life for the person who suffer from it. Note that I haven't done any research on the topic, though

How about we just treat people as people?

Crazy talk. I know.

Rosiv:
Although the only real reason i even bothered commenting towards you was your condescension, which i guess i should of been honest about from the start. Just because there is a better case to be made for a social explanation for LGBT issues, doesn't mean you get to be rude about it to others.

Fair enough.

broca:
First of, theorizing that male and female brains are different is not about differences between every male and every female brain but about statistical differences between the groups of all male and of all female brains.

Yes, in reality that is true, as is the case with just about every non-definitive aspect of human sex.

The point, however, is that this makes it incredibly strange to assert a sexual basis for gender identity at all. If there is no essential link between "male" brains and "male" sexual organs, if there any essential link between "male" sexual organs and "male" gender identity and if there is no essential link between "male" brains and "male" gender identity in what sense is it remotely relevant to ascribe transgenderism to differences in the brain at all?

broca:
Still there are good reasons to assume that biological factors play an important role in which sex people are attracted to: it is a behavior that exists across all known human history and all known societies (as far as i know) and even in many animals, which points strongly to a genetic basis.

Really?

Firstly, I think we need to clarify what the "it" is here, because "it" is not homosexuality. Homosexuality is a medical disorder created in the mid-to-late 19th century and later adopted by those labelled with it as a form of sexual identity. It actually has very little to do with "sexual" behaviour between members of the same sex, which is what does crop up in most human cultures and many animal species. It has to do with the notion of being a particular class of person marked by an "abnormal" sexual attraction to the same sex, something which is sadly wired into the etymological DNA of what "homosexuality" is.

Genitals are physically very sensitive. We can derive pleasure from rubbing ourselves against just about anything. Frankly, I don't see why we need to imagine a gene which gives us that desire, our anatomy itself is predisposed towards it. I would say the real question, in fact, is why do most people not want to rub themselves against members of the same sex. For that matter, why do most people not want to rub themselves against just about anything they can? For animals, rubbing yourself against anything you can is fairly normal behavior, although achieving orgasm or ejaculation outside of intercourse is extremely rare. In humans, the reverse is generally true.

The exceptional thing about humans is the degree to which our sexual response is influenced by our thoughts. Prodding yourself when you're not in the mood is at best a minor thrill, but conjure up the thought of something you find sexy and you can probably get yourself off quite easily, and what can constitute a sexy thought is not simple or predictable. People can find shoes arousing, people can find zombies arousing, people can find the idea of treading on kittens in stiletto heels arousing. Human sexual response can attach itself to all kinds of weird shit. Maybe, instead of looking for a gene for each and every one, we could stand to simply accept that the idea of a "normal" human sexuality is largely a socially enforced one.

Of course, we can't rule out the action of pheromones and other forms of biological communication in dictating partner selection, but neither can we particularly assume that reactions to these forms of communication are stable or innate to any given individual.

broca:
Yes, it is possible to record individual humans brains in staggering detail. But, as there are massive differences between individual brains, every time you want to compare brains you have to normalize your recordings, meaning you effectively modify your records to make comparisons possible.

Sorry, perhaps I wasn't very clear.

When I talk about our level of knowledge, I really mean in comparison to earlier points at which theories about the neurological or hormonal basis of homosexuality were theorized. Generally that the further back you go, the bigger the expected anatomical or endocrinal differences become, while at every stage in practice these theories have failed to bear themselves out.

My point was not that there is enough evidence to disprove the entire notion of a biological basis for homosexuality, but rather that there is insufficient evidence to even suggest that such a thing exists beyond the absolute commitment of some people to the idea that it does. At what point do we cease to automatically assume the relevance of phantom variables which we cannot produce any evidence for? At what point do we stop assuming that certain behaviors are so unnatural that they require a specific physical explanation in order to ground them in nature?

Chromatic Aberration:
For this reason I very much reject your implicit accusation that I'd care more about people being "comfortable with their birth sex" than "improving their quality of life".

I think I worded that quite badly on several levels. Certainly, I didn't mean to imply any such thing.

Chromatic Aberration:
Still, pretending that operations and extensive surgery don't incur costs at all (which you seem to for some reason assume) is not doing the complexity of the situation any justice.

I'm perfectly aware of the costs. However, I don't think they are particularly relevant.

For one, I don't accept that many people are having their genitals surgically removed lightly or frivolously. In my country, you are not allowed to have your genitals removed until you have been diagnosed with GID, lived in role for several years and had numerous consultations with a doctor to determine whether there is a legitimate medical basis for removing your genitals. It isn't something you can just do because you wake up one day and feel like it.

Silvanus:

That's a bit of an accusation of unprofessionalism, though I see your point. Still, unless there's something to back this up, then I'd say it's more than reasonable for me to side with the professionals. The older manuals based their definitions on less research than the newer ones, especially with gender and sexuality, which have only relatively recently been the basis of extensive, sensitive, well-done investigation.

As for earlier DSMs, they also categorised homosexuality as a disorder. There's much less reason to believe they're on the money on issues like this.

That is exactly why I brought this up because there were protest for psychologist to cave into pressure and to come to a conclusion that just so happens to conform to the opinions of the protesters. I'm sure that was just a coincidence that the APA shortly afterwords declared Homosexuality wasn't a mental illness, right?

Silvanus:

Well, as far as I can see, the NHS and the Gender Identity Research and Education Society both agree, and I can't find anything of any particular merit that goes against them.

How many of those organizations are not Western European or American? Please tell me how many of them are Middle Eastern, East/South-Asian, African, or Central/South American, because last I checked Western Europe doesn't represent all of the world.

Silvanus:

If there is a mismatch between the brain and the body, why say the brain is "physically wrong", rather than the body? It seems to me (even if we dismissed professional opinion, ethics, and the community itself from the debate), there'd still be no reason to say that made more sense that saying the same of the body.

I guess I would pose the same question to those people who feel that those who have Body dsymorphic disorder, Clinical lycanthropy, Species dysphoria, Body integrity identity disorder have something wrong with their brain. Presumably the answer would be, because there is nothing physically wrong with the persons body and as such it is a problematic message that originates in the brain which tells them that something is "wrong" with their healthy body. As Now whether or not this problematic message from the brain is telling them that they are the wrong gender, species, or physically "misshapen"[1] is irrelevant because the point remains the same, these perceived problems originate in the brain and not in the rest of the body.

Silvanus:
After all, there's nothing "physically wrong" with a female brain; it's the mismatch that is the problem, not, fundamentally, either part.

Its not a "mismatch", from what Proto Taco(the guy who started this thread) stated to me, it has to do with hormonal bathing not the "female brain".

Also, going on what you said about the female brain not being "physically wrong", the same argument could be said with the male body(ie that there is nothing physically wrong with it and that surgery is not needed).

[1] I'm referring to those with Body Dsymorphic disorder and those with Body integrity identity disorder.

If i ever meet a transgendered person I shouldn't have to call them by the gendered name they wnat me to. I'll just call them what they were born as and they'll have to deal with it.
Because what they're born as is what they will always be, that's why I'm a baby.

If i explain to them why I can call them that using science, and logic, everyone will know that being a complete asshole is completely justified.

Also, I pooped myself.

Helmholtz Watson:
Please tell me how many of them are Middle Eastern, East/South-Asian, African, or Central/South American, because last I checked Western Europe doesn't represent all of the world.

Most certainly represents a good chunk of the civilized world. And with the U.S hopping on board thats pretty much the entire civilized world recognizing it as fact that Homosexuality is not a mental disorder.

The Middle East, South America, Africa is still ruled in large by religion and in large, lack of education.

If you wish to argue that religious nutjobs have anything constructive to say that can counter the word of educated psychologists on matters of sexuality, I'll weep for you.

Helmholtz Watson:
That is exactly why I brought this up because there were protest for psychologist to cave into pressure and to come to a conclusion that just so happens to conform to the opinions of the protesters. I'm sure that was just a coincidence that the APA shortly afterwords declared Homosexuality wasn't a mental illness, right?

Come on, Helm, you can't genuinely believe the APA would still, in 2013, consider it a mental illness if not for that protest...?

Helmholtz Watson:
How many of those organizations are not Western European or American? Please tell me how many of them are Middle Eastern, East/South-Asian, African, or Central/South American, because last I checked Western Europe doesn't represent all of the world.

It certainly represents far more enlightened opinion and greater (in both scope and quality) research into matters of sexuality and psychology.

Can I clarify; do you personally believe homosexuality is a mental illness? That I need to be cured? If so, there's little purpose in my replying.

Silvanus:
Can I clarify; do you personally believe homosexuality is a mental illness? That I need to be cured? If so, there's little purpose in my replying.

Isn't it possible it could be a mental illness that is benign and doesn't require treatment?

It's an abnormality that originates in the brain, placing it in the "mental" domain. I'm not certain if the term "illness" would be correct as it implies it can/should be cured. I would call it a "mental abnormality" if one is capable of taking the literal definition of "abnormality" and not the emotional response believing that "abnormality" means "bad" - it just means different from the norm. A harmless crossed wire that makes your motherboard light up purple instead of red, harmful only to those who are offended by the colour purple.

Abomination:
Isn't it possible it could be a mental illness that is benign and doesn't require treatment?

It's an abnormality that originates in the brain, placing it in the "mental" domain. I'm not certain if the term "illness" would be correct as it implies it can/should be cured. I would call it a "mental abnormality" if one is capable of taking the literal definition of "abnormality" and not the emotional response believing that "abnormality" means "bad" - it just means different from the norm. A harmless crossed wire that makes your motherboard light up purple instead of red, harmful only to those who are offended by the colour purple.

The word "illness" is the one I have an issue with, of course. If it were benign, it couldn't really be called an illness, any more than ginger hair could be.

If we take "abnormality" to mean simply, "not the norm", then that would be accurate, though the word carries a lot of baggage.

Silvanus:

Abomination:
Isn't it possible it could be a mental illness that is benign and doesn't require treatment?

It's an abnormality that originates in the brain, placing it in the "mental" domain. I'm not certain if the term "illness" would be correct as it implies it can/should be cured. I would call it a "mental abnormality" if one is capable of taking the literal definition of "abnormality" and not the emotional response believing that "abnormality" means "bad" - it just means different from the norm. A harmless crossed wire that makes your motherboard light up purple instead of red, harmful only to those who are offended by the colour purple.

The word "illness" is the one I have an issue with, of course. If it were benign, it couldn't really be called an illness, any more than ginger hair could be.

If we take "abnormality" to mean simply, "not the norm", then that would be accurate, though the word carries a lot of baggage.

Baggage that has been placed upon it by those who would oppose homosexuality in the first place "It's abnormal!" was a rallying cry for quite some time.

What other word can be used to describe something that is not "supposed" to happen in an individual, does happen and isn't harmful or negative?

Abomination:
Baggage that has been placed upon it by those who would oppose homosexuality in the first place "It's abnormal!" was a rallying cry for quite some time.

What other word can be used to describe something that is not "supposed" to happen in an individual, does happen and isn't harmful or negative?

The thing is, nothing is "supposed" to happen, as there is no "intention" in nature, biology, the universe, evolution, what-have-you. There are only natural processes, without a mind or a will, and these natural processes result in both straight people and gay people (and some other types). There's no true distinction, other than the practical one.

evilthecat:

Genitals are physically very sensitive. We can derive pleasure from rubbing ourselves against just about anything. Frankly, I don't see why we need to imagine a gene which gives us that desire, our anatomy itself is predisposed towards it. I would say the real question, in fact, is why do most people not want to rub themselves against members of the same sex.

[...]

Maybe, instead of looking for a gene for each and every one, we could stand to simply accept that the idea of a "normal" human sexuality is largely a socially enforced one.

[...]

My point was not that there is enough evidence to disprove the entire notion of a biological basis for homosexuality, but rather that there is insufficient evidence to even suggest that such a thing exists beyond the absolute commitment of some people to the idea that it does. At what point do we cease to automatically assume the relevance of phantom variables which we cannot produce any evidence for? At what point do we stop assuming that certain behaviors are so unnatural that they require a specific physical explanation in order to ground them in nature?

It seems to me as if your issue is largely one tied to the normative aspect of what is commonly dubbed as "normalcy". Unfortunately, thanks to the etymology you highlighted and the old tradition of faultily equating normalcy with a positive value judgements, these leaps in logic exist in broad parts of society and I agree with your assertion that the focus on biological explanations will in part imply this leap, too.

This does, however, not devalue the notion of a statistically defined mean which together with other statistical variables like spread and standard deviation might be used to describe the system in question. And from a scientists perspective, deviations need to be taken into account and often provide more insight into the inner workings of said system than the behaviour of the mean does. Naturally one can ask if looking for such is worth the hassle of the implications at some point but one should not forget that looking even for such small, seemingly unimportant things is part of basic research.

To peruse an example of physics, one can be content with saying that metals have a finite resistance to electrical currents and that even the phenomenon of Superconductivity does not change this as it only holds near a temperature close to absolute zero and does not really play a role in daily life. One might also be content in saying that the definition of a metal becomes ultimately meaningless with this phenomenon such that we should abandon the definition and not delve into more research as to why Superconductivity happens - neither viewpoint is a useful approach for science.

As for your point regarding the biological basis I think it is also more worthwhile to not think about the idea of a basis in terms of a binary on-off switch tied to a specific gene but more to a general disposition towards, say, developing a sexual attraction to different things. Moreover, reducing the development of physical attractions down to a simple Pavlov mechanism infused with social norms seems also hardly mandated.

Chromatic Aberration:
Still, pretending that operations and extensive surgery don't incur costs at all (which you seem to for some reason assume) is not doing the complexity of the situation any justice.

I'm perfectly aware of the costs. However, I don't think they are particularly relevant.

I'm very well aware of the reasoning and agree with it. My issue was largely an abstract one tied to the question as to where and when we dub or have to dub something as illness or not. Anyway, I will pull out of this strand of the discussion, however, since it bears a sizeable risk that I'd be seen as advocating "opinions" I not only disagree with but very much abhor.

Speaking of which....

Helmholtz Watson:
That is exactly why I brought this up because there were protest for psychologist to cave into pressure and to come to a conclusion that just so happens to conform to the opinions of the protesters. I'm sure that was just a coincidence that the APA shortly afterwords declared Homosexuality wasn't a mental illness, right?

So, let me get this straight: you are not only implying that Psychologists don't do science but only heed to the call of special interest groups when it comes to Homosexuality but also that said Psychologists do not know what they where doing when they declassified homosexuality as a mental disease? Especially the latter would then also mean that you'd posit, in contrast to leading bodies that were
already quoted a few times like the ICD-11, the APA or the NHS, that classifying homosexuality as a "mental illness" describes the phenomenon well i.e. that it creates marked distress for individual in question and can or even ought to be treated by medication and talk-therapy? And you'd also be fine by all the negative implications the word "illness" bears?

How many of those organizations are not Western European or American? Please tell me how many of them are Middle Eastern, East/South-Asian, African, or Central/South American, because last I checked Western Europe doesn't represent all of the world.

Naturally I could also doubt the validity of Electrodynamics which was formulated largely by European physicists or Quantum Mechanics whose formulation was to a good degree provided by German physicists but I think we can agree that even despite the culturally narrow origins it does provide a good fit to experimental data. Of course one might argue that, say, the world is flat is also a valid theory in contrast to the usual conception and that we need to take the views of the "anti-rounders" crowd into account. Still, at some point we should be able to distinguish a real socio-political bias from actual research.

Silvanus:

Abomination:
Baggage that has been placed upon it by those who would oppose homosexuality in the first place "It's abnormal!" was a rallying cry for quite some time.

What other word can be used to describe something that is not "supposed" to happen in an individual, does happen and isn't harmful or negative?

The thing is, nothing is "supposed" to happen, as there is no "intention" in nature, biology, the universe, evolution, what-have-you. There are only natural processes, without a mind or a will, and these natural processes result in both straight people and gay people (and some other types). There's no true distinction, other than the practical one.

Come now, if there's one thing that we've seen it's that the only "purpose" of a species is to reproduce. It is the only measurement by how its success can be measured. When one fails to do so the species itself fails. Surely something that would inhibit that process would be considered unintentional.

It's be like being born without penis. Can't reproduce? Won't reproduce? The result is the same: don't reproduce.

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