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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Harvard.edu "Science of Transgender Identity"

Friday, February 24, 2017

Harvard.edu -- Gender, Science, Biology & Identity

Between the (Gender) Lines: the Science of Transgender Identity


by Katherine J. Wu
figures by Brad Wierbowski

 The article genderates (pun) some discussion --

This article is highly subjective and makes false presumptions. For example, it correctly points out the scarcity and questionable legitimacy of evidence surrounding transgender and its causes, then says “Science tells us that gender is certainly not binary”. In fact, there is no scientific consensus that gender isn’t binary. What we do know is that biological gender is indeed binary (as the article correctly states), and as far as we know, biology describes the totality of our gender experience. The rest is entirely speculation, most of it politicized, based on scant, often dated or discredited studies with hypothetical conclusions that establish nothing close to a consensus.
The article makes no mention of the numerous similarities between Gender Dysphoria and other cognitive illnesses like BDD, Anorexia, BIID, and Schizophrenia; all of which are disorders of body image or delusional perceptions and which come with the same level of “certainty” that transgender people experience. Rather than inventing a mythical “brain gender” unsupported by science, the far simpler explanation is that trans is a variant on other body image disorders that often (but not always) manifests as an identification with the opposite sex. It comes with many of the same co-morbidities of other cognitive illnesses, and it can respond to drug/therapy treatment in some people, also like other mental illnesses.
I could go on about the reasons transgender is much better explained as an illness of illusion, like anorexia, but I’ll end here. Just don’t look to this article as an accurate representation of the science because it’s not.
  1. This article is written based on scientific studies. If you would like to claim that it’s an inaccurate representation of the science, please provide a set of scientific studies to back yourself up. We seek to always represent the science fairly.
  2. While gender dysphoria used to be classified as a mental illness, it is now widely accepted that this is not the case. It is also widely accepted among both doctors and scientists that neither biological sex (i.e. XX, XY, XO, XXY, etc.) nor biological gender (whether it is identity as addressed in this article or otherwise) is binary.
    1. I have to agree with Marshall. The Scientific Method is the process of eliminating possibilities through experiments, not designing experiments to support their hypothesis. This article has not considered many other hypothesis but cherry picked evidence to support the desired conclusion. In Neurobiology you can take any group of individuals and discover similarities in their brain composition. They’ve done this with Republicans and Democrats in the USA and many other control groups.
      While the science may be sound in this article the conclusions can be misleading. It doesn’t answer what happens if an individual shows the same neurobiological signs of a transgender individual but does not identify as such? It does not compare these neurobiological findings to those with mental illnesses mentioned above ^^ (ie schizophrenia, BDD, anorexia etc)
      Also, science has never been about consensus. The strength of a scientific claim comes from it’s infallibility and evidence supporting it and not the fact that the idea is becoming widely accepted. It’s one of the signs of someone who is trying to use science with an agenda instead of discovering truth.
      1. There are some studies (almost all human studies) for which it is not possible to design the types of empirical experiments one can do with animals. The studies presented in this article are very standard scientific studies, designed using the scientific method within ethical confines.
        Twin studies are the gold standard in determining genetic contribution in human studies. If more identical twins (who have identical genomes) than fraternal twins have something in common, then it is very likely that there is a genetic contribution. This is because it is unlikely that two identical twins are raised in more similar environments than fraternal twins. And this is exactly what was seen with the trait of being transgender!
        And science is definitively about consensus! Not consensus in the “people’s court” but consensus between scientific studies–both those that directly replicate previous studies (important to rule out researcher bias) and studies that ask similar questions from the same angle. With the genetic and brain structure evidence we have now (and is explained in this article), there is scientific consensus that gender identity has biological underpinnings.
        Since I haven’t seen any evidence from you or Marshall countering any of the claims in this article, it’s difficult to judge the scientific support of your arguments. If we are biased in our reporting, that suggests there must be a wealth of scientific literature against what we’re saying. Where is that?

 Allison Wunderland --

Gender is not binary.
Sex is binary — on a genetic/biological level. That said, you really should read up on intersex and how that works — on a genetic level. Gender, on the other hand, is socio-cultural. Your reading in this field might start with Anne Fausto-Sterling “Sexing the Body” and then move into Judith Butler “Gender Trouble” etc. etc. Bibliographies on both these works are a good resource for bringing yourself up to speed in the gender studies field.
Let me further note here that homosexuality used to be viewed by the APA and the DSM as pathological. DSM5, just recently revised, changes the terminology in gender ID from “disorder” to “dysphoria” . . . Transgender is not viewed as a pathology. It’s classed as a mood disorder in the anxiety/depression realm.
Dysphoria — sharing the Latin root w/ “eu-phoria” is fundamentally a mood. Moods do not necessarily correlate to some sort of neuro-pathological state (e.g. like schizophrenia, psychosis).
Gender presentation by and large is a socio-cultural function. Essentially presentation is a sort of linguistic process whereby we communicate gender through cultural “semes” — signifying cues that mark gender (e.g. skirts, beards).
Gender-mapping, that process that goes on in our heads and tells us ontologically and existentially who we are, that process as this article explains is determined by “nurture” in the womb. There are two windows in natal development for sex differentiation: First exposure to testosterone in the womb determines physiological development, penis/testes. Second window of natal exposure determines the epistemological “gender mapping” in the natal brain which codes sexual identity. Lacunae of sufficient testosterone, or inhibition to the effects of testosterone may result in a human who is physiologically “male” but nonetheless epistemologically “female” or some other variation along the infinite continuum of the sex dyad.
Anecdotally — I’ve been “trans whatever” since I was about four years old and able to distinguish that there are gender distinctions. It’s taken me nearly 70 yrs to come to terms with who I am and what I feel. As an academic in gender theory, I’ve been inclined to attribute “gender” to a socio-cultural, male hegemonic, hetero-normative dyadic oppression. It’s altogether existentially affirming to know that how I feel and who I am has fundamental biological underpinnings.
It’s not just all in my head

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