Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Comment of the Week: Joann Prinzivalli

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | April 24, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Site News
Tags: Baltimore, Baltimore Sun, Chrissy Lee Polis, McDonalds, McDonalds attack

On Bil's post Transgender Woman Severely Beaten at Baltimore McDonalds While Employees Watch, which garnered over 400 comments, many of which expressed sympathy for the victim and outrage against the assailants (illuminating a high level of racism), but there was also a strong discussion of whether transwomen are, in fact, women, and whether the victim was correctly identified as a woman, or a transgender woman, or a transsexual woman, or none of the above. Some commenters said yes, some said no, some said it depends on one's surgical status and some said you have to ask the person to find out. Some (now deleted) comments said that she is really a man, and so her presence in the women's bathroom was wrong.

This discussion is, of course, merely a side point to the belief that we all share that trans women have a right to use the bathroom of their new sex. (Do we share that belief? Is "new sex" making an inappropriate assumption? If it's wrong, what is the right terminology?) Projector Carol, however, noted that to most people, a trans woman is not a woman.

Projector Joann Prinzivalli, who is not only a lawyer, but also a plaintiff in the lawsuit over New York City's refusal to correct the birth certificates of transwomen, gave a fascinating analogy in response:


Up until the late 18th century, most people believed whales were fish. That did not make them fish.

In 1818, there was a celebrated court decision, in the matter of Samuel v. Judd, which involved the taxation of fish oil by the State of New York. Mr. Judd had three casks of whale oil, and Mr. Samuel, the tax inspector, called for him to pay the tax of $25 per cask. The case pitted the testimony of whaling captains and preachers up against the leading natural scientist of the day - and the jury decided that the whale was indeed a fish!

The appeal was mooted by the state legislature recognizing whales as mammals the following year.

In the case of trans people, the views of an ignorant and uneducated majority don't actually change the underlying facts of our existence.

In the rest of her comment, after the jump, she defends the idea that transwomen are never a member of their initially-assigned sex.

What say you, Projectors?

In the case of trans people, the views of an ignorant and uneducated majority don't actually change the underlying facts of our existence.

As it is, for much of the 20th century, like the 17th century for the whales, transgender people were viewed in much the way the 1965 blue ribbon medical commission commissioned by New York City saw it - as delusional members of their originally-assigned sex for whom any medical or surgical treatment was merely "palliative."

But towards the end of the 20th century, in 1995, one medical study found brain structures in transgender people matching those of the sex that was not assigned. This was confirmed in a later study in the last year of the 20th century, in 2000.

In 2008, separate studies in Australia confirmed genetic predispositions that can explain how a brain can develop along one sexed path, while the genital tract develops along the other sexed path.

Trans people do not actually belong to their initially-assigned sex, even at birth. The initial assignment is in error.

So, regardless of what a lot of people may believe, those beliefs do not change the actyal underlying phenomena.

The sun may appear to rise in the east and set in the west, and people believed it literally did, for the longest time. Galileo was even condemned by an Inquisition tribunal, and sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life (and that was a mercy granted to him, rather than burning at the stake, because he publicly recanted his "error.")

But even though it still looks that way, people do know better these days - at least those who have a basic understanding of the science involved.

So - we really do need to educate people. Perhaps that little bit of education might make it so that one, two or more people might realize the fact that trans women are really women, and trans mena re really men.


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Dana Beyer | April 24, 2011 6:12 PM

Right on (as we used to shout)!

Standing ovation and applause what a great way of stating the obvious .. well done

Christina Johnson | April 24, 2011 6:25 PM

Does the commenter or anyone else have sources for these studies? I've heard of some done, but I've never seen any sources for them. Sorry, just playing Jesus' Advocate.

To be clear, I am a transwoman, and I can see the plausibility of this argument.

Here is what some of the science tells me:

In 1995, in a peer-reviewed article in Nature, entitled A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality [Nature 378, 68 - 70 (02 November 1995); doi:10.1038/378068a0] the researchers involved gave us a first glimmer into transsexual brain structures.

This was confirmed in a follow-up study in 2000, entitled Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism Vol. 85, No. 5 2034-2041


In 2008, two separate studies from Australia established separate genetic predispositions for different kinds of transgender development.
In one study, the predisposition for those who develop with female-identified brains and male genital tracts was shown to involve a long androgen receptor gene:

Lauren Hare, Pascal Bernard, Francisco J. Sanchez, Paul N. Baird, Eric Vilain, Trudy Kennedy and Vincent R. Harley. Androgen Receptor (AR) Repeat Length Polymorphism Associated with Male-to-female Transsexualism. Biological Psychiatry, Advance online publication date 27 Oct 2008, Jan 2009 print edition

The other study,aimed at those who develop with male-identified brains and female genital tract development, was entitled A Polymorphism of the CYP17 Gene Related to Sex Steroid Metabolism is Associated With Female-to-Male But Not Male-to-Female Transsexualism by Bentz, Eva-Katrin; Hefler, Lukas A.; Kaufmann, Ulrike; Huber, Johannes C.; Kolbus, Andrea; Tempfer, Clemens B., published in Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey: December 2008 - Volume 63 - Issue 12 - pp 775-777
doi: 10.1097/01.ogx.0000338093.21452.0b

These studies, and the brain structure studies from 1995 and 2000, provide clues to the ontological developments that result in transgender people. While there is much additional study required, these studies make it possible to discredit the earlier understandings of transgender people that date back to 1965, in which transgender people were seen as merely delusional members of their initially-assigned sex, for whom any treatment is seen as merely palliative.

- excerpted from my blog essay at:

Thank you for your exposition of some of the scientific studies, Joann. I think it's important for people to see this. At the same time, I wonder whether every transperson was not of their assigned birth sex. I'm not sure whether it's accurate to say it of me - I only know that I had no choice but to live differently, but that didn't occur with finality until I was 35, and even then I might have avoided it except for the suicidal thoughts. And there seem to be different shades of gender dysphoria - levels of intensity - for different people. I'm not disputing you, just wondering.


I'm going to point you at Umberto Eco's Kant and the Platypus for a grounding in some of the principles of the study of semiotics.

With that as prologue, and without making any challenge to your own self-perception of your experience, I'm going to ask you to take another look at your narrative.

I think we can look at the phenomena of our pre-transition experiences in more than one way - and the underlying assumptions (that we were properly assigned as "biologically male" or that we were not properly so assigned) can color our understanding.

I view my own pre-transition experience as that of a woman who spent much of my life hiding the real me beneath a mask. I knew I should have been a long-haired-dress-wearing person when I was four. By the time I was six, I realized that *not* hiding this was going to be injurious to my health - at six I stopped playing with my mom's makeup, clothes and shoes and tried to be a boy.

Puberty appalled me - the changes scared me. I read Christine Jorgensen;s autobiography, and realized I was not alone. I convinced my mom that I should see a psychiatrist, and spent six months seeing one in 1970. Unfortunately, my opportunity to transition then was dashed by the fact that I did not know I had to lie to jump through the hoops. Because I liked girls, I was told that I would not be cured of one disorder to give me another one (This was 1970 - when homosexuality was also in the DSM).

So I returned to and redoubled my efforts to hide the real me beneath a kind of beta-male-trusted-advisor-sidekick kind of persona (alpha was just so alien I could never manage to make that work).

25 years, a marriage and four children later, I discovered the internet, and while my ex realized I was TS before I was willing to acknowledge it to myself, I started transition in earnest after going through nearly all the collateral damage.

I also struggled to remain in denial - I did not want to lose my spouse, my family, my home, my friends and my job - but I lost them all. Until my divorce was final, I had hoped to limit myself to being :me" on a part-time basis, even though my suppression had broken down and the pain of not transitioning was intense.

I could have seen the phenomenon of my experience through the "male-to-female" paradigm, rather than a "woman-born-trans" view. All I would have to have done was to accept that my attempt at assimilation as male was legitimate, and that somehow I must have "changed" at age 45 so that I had to transition.

But my experience at ages 4-6, and at 17, make it clear to me that the male-to-female paradigm does not work for me.

Accepting the MTF paradigm, and accepting the initial sex as being "biologically-correct" plays into the 1965 meme that we are biological members of our initial sex who are delusional.

We construct our narratives from our understandings of the underlying facts. When those understandings are found to be based on facts that aren't really factual, we often resist the change in the paradigm.

Think of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. We *know* that from our direct experience. We have learned that this is an artifact of the earth's rotation, even though it still looks to us as if the Sun does the moving.

I'd suspect your own narrative could fit a "woman-born-trans who spent a lifetime in assimilation" explanation just as well as your current understanding. The underlying phenomenon is the same, it's just the understanding of thet phenomenon that changes. The whale still swims in the ocean, even tough we now know that it's a mammal and not a fish.

While I would not presume to challenge your own narrative, I'd ask you to do the thought-experiment and try to do it on your own.

Then think about Occam's razor - and which version works out to be simpler. Biologically different from the get-go? Pressured by family and society to fit into the expectations of having the blue blanket? -or- Belonging to the original sex, and then somehow going through a psychological change in mid-life that led inexorably to transition?

I really don't think the science supports the latter - even though that was the only way we could be expected to understand things before learning about the advances in research.

Then again, there is always the possibility of a multiplicity of causes for the phenomenon - but William of Occam might disagree, at least for now.

References? Here's a few of them.... there's rather a lot....

Male-to-female transsexuals show sex-atypical hypothalamus activation when smelling odorous steroids. by Berglund et al Cerebral Cortex 2008 18(8):1900-1908;

Male–to–female transsexuals have female neuron numbers in a limbic nucleus. Kruiver et al J Clin Endocrinol Metab (2000) 85:2034–2041

Sexual differentiation of the human brain: relevance for gender identity, transsexualism and sexual orientation. Swaab Gynecol Endocrinol (2004) 19:301–312.

A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality. by Zhou et al Nature (1995) 378:68–70.

A sex difference in the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus: relationship to gender identity. by Garcia-Falgueras et al Brain. 2008 Dec;131(Pt 12):3132-46.

White matter microstructure in female to male transsexuals before cross-sex hormonal treatment. A diffusion tensor imaging study. - Rametti et al, J Psychiatr Res. 2010 Jun 8.

Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35

Male Gender Identity in Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome by T'sjoen et al. Arch Sex Behav. 2010 Apr 1.

Biological and Psychosocial Correlates of Adult Gender?Variant Identities: a Review by J.F.Veale & D.E.Clarke, Personality and Individual Differences (2009) 48(4), 357-366

Sexual differentiation of the human brain in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation D.Swaab & A.Garcia-Fulgaras Functional Neurology, Jan-Mar 2009:

Neuroimaging Differences in Spatial Cognition between Men and Male-to-Female Transsexuals Before and During Hormone Therapy by Scoening et al J Sex Med. 2009 Sep 14.

Regional gray matter variation in male-to-female transsexualism. by Luders et al Neuroimage. 2009 Jul 15;46(4):904-7.

Clinical Implications of the Organizational and Activational Effects of Hormones M.Diamond Hormones and Behavior 55 (2009) 621–632

Dichotic Listening, Handedness, Brain Organization and Transsexuality Govier et al International Journal of Transgenderism, 12:144–154, 2010

Specific Cerebral Activation due to Visual Erotic Stimuli in Male-to-Female Transsexuals Compared with Male and Female Controls: An fMRI Study by Gizewski et al J Sex Med 2009;6:440–448.

You could also see Professor of Biology Veronica Drantz's presentations on the subject, they're tailored to a lay audience. Or Professor of Urology Sid Ecker's presentation to the American Psychiatric Association on the Neurobiological evidence. Or even Dr Kate O'Hanlon's presentation to the AMA.

That should do as a start.

As always, Zoe, you have so much more available at your fingertips than I can manage to track. Thanks!

BRAVO! Among the nonsense on that thread, here is an example of reason and intelligence.

Projector Carol, however, noted that to most people, a trans woman is not a woman.

Why don't we start with the question of what a "trans" woman is. Is that a legal term? Is that a medical term? Who agrees to that usage?

How much do you know about biology? Why don't you ask how many women who are born are really women? I don't even like the idea of raising that question because I know women who that question would be offensive to. I think that is how presumptuous most of the discourse is here, however. Defining sex is elusive. It's been proven over and over again. Of course the courts and doctors can make horrible decisions that negatively impact a person for a life time. It doesn't make it correct, regardless of what a law says.

I suppose this is supposed to be some fun exercise. This is outrageous. Most people know how people were counted and not counted in the constitution. Everyone knows that there are laws that are unjust. Most people know that there are marriages that are challenged in spite of existing laws. What has anyone who posts at Bilerico done to keep from reinforcing the prejudice that women who have had transsexual surgeries don't deserve to have their legal status as women recognized? That is fundamental to any person of transsexual history who is actually transsexual, law or no law.

On another thread a commenter seemed happy that a woman of transsexual history was discriminated against and victimized because it proved how much she needs the help of gender politicians and therefore should be drawn under the "transgender" umbrella.

Why be coy, though? Where did this term "trans" woman come from? Where is it written into law? Where does it appear in medical journals? If "trans" woman doesn't simply mean woman it ultimately means man. Thanks for all the help - not.

"If "trans" woman doesn't simply mean woman it ultimately means man. Thanks for all the help - not."

And that is just a brilliant comment. Not.

You act as if it is the activist community that has made life miserable for you, not religious fanatics who've taken over this country during the past 35 years. You act as if women who transitioned back in the 70's had a peaches and cream life, accepted by their families and friends, colleagues, employers, churches and government, all without an effort because they explained that all they had was a medical condition. Not the ones I know, with whom I've shared a life.

I think it would be really wonderful if just a few of these completely passable, married women came out and spoke to America, to reduce the majority's discomfort with sex and gender difference. I think it would be wonderful if they spoke to the world on Oprah, and testified to legislatures with their husbands and families, to show the world just how easy it is, and how ashamed America should be for not understanding the science.

The term "trans" has a long history, but over the past 50 years derives originally in this country from Harry Benjamin, the German Jewish emigre who made gender transition possible in America. I recommend Deborah Rudacille's "The Riddle of Gender" and Joanne Meyerowitz' "How Sex Changed."

And the term is not written into law, just as "African-American" is not. "Gender identity" and "Gender expression" are the terms most commonly used.

As for scientific references, I suggest you check out Zoe Brain's blog. She often posts on Bilerico and gives the references.

Try this page as a start. It doesn't cover everything, barely scratches the surface, but anything more would get unwieldly.

Here's the Abstract from Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35

The fetal brain develops during the intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hormone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. However, since sexual differentiation of the genitals takes place in the first two months of pregnancy and sexual differentiation of the brain starts in the second half of pregnancy, these two processes can be influenced independently, which may result in extreme cases in trans-sexuality. This also means that in the event of ambiguous sex at birth, the degree of masculinization of the genitals may not reflect the degree of masculinization of the brain. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.

I should really be doing my PhD in this, rather than Meta-Genetic Algorithms in Computational Chemistry, but as it looks like I might be co-authoring a paper with a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (a presentation's already been given in Nagoya, Japan recently on some VERY exciting work they're doing based on my research)... can't really drop that. I just have to finish my thesis.

Now to get back to marking assignments.... which is what I should be doing instead of goofing off writing comments here.

I've read the Riddle of Gender. I've read through most of the files at DES -Sons/Trans. I am aware of the information Zoe provides. I haven't gotten around to reading Joan Meyerowitz' complete book but I gone through some of it on Google Books.

I don't disagree that much with Carol. If the woman who was attacked at McDonald's was identified as a woman in the video where she spoke, without any reference to what had happened, or her particular circumstances, she would simply be understood as a woman. Put trans in front of the word woman and tell me the public is going to understand the complexities of sex and gender.

I realize the woman in the McDonald's video can't move away from people who know her circumstances. I don't think anyone is going to come to understand her as she and her situation really are by constantly reminding people of the uniquely intimate facts of her circumstances, regardless. It really isn't anyone's business. She shouldn't be treated with any less respect than any other woman. I cannot blame anyone for wanting to keep their past confidential. I know what identity theft amounts to. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. The novelty of catching people in their lies gets old very quickly.

Brandigirl | April 24, 2011 7:25 PM

Well I guess to begin with we should clear up that Transgender people aren't GID...Transsexuals are..yes ! its that same old argument. For all of the studies she's points out were Involving Transsexuals not transgender. As for whether transsexuals are really women I'd say yes and I agree that they were misgendered at birth...... Science has shown they have female brain genders, But I wouldn't agree that all those who fly the transgender flag are misgendered or are truly women. since they self diagnosis, self medicate, and self mutilate their bodies with silicone and most of them don't ever have a diagnosis from a trained gender therapist theres no telling if they are truly TS or not some I suspect some may be but the vast majority of them aren't they're just living out a fantasy

As for this women in the Mcdonalds beating she's not Transgender she a post-op and doesn't claim to be Trans anything in any of her Interviews nor does her family see her as trans her brother calls her his sister. Based on the fact she's only 22 I'd suspect she was diagnosis as TS at a young age and has since had surgery and moved on with her life. She's just a women and nothing more not a transwomen. Once one goes through the transition process and has surgery to correct the birth defect and blends back into society they aren't trans anything any longer. Transition is a process with a destination not a stopping point one doesn't transition into trans. It has a beginning a middle and an end once the process is done the person is suppose to be to the point were they can blend back into society only in the opposite gender.

But with the invent of the Internet it opened a whole new world to those out there who'd always dreamed of being the opposite sex, but knew they'd never make it passed the SOC gate keepers they began self diagnosing and taking Internet hormones flying to Thailand and other places for surgeries cutting out the therapist all together. Most never being truly prepared or meant to transition in the first place got stuck somewhere in the middle out of money and without a official diagnosis of Ts they weren't able to get surgery to change official documents like birth certificates. Making it almost impossible for them to find work. This women wouldn't have mis labeled if it weren't for the horn blowing from EQ Maryland but now he's branded with the scarlet letter “ Transgender.” Something I'm sure she's not grateful for. Having had surgery and changed all her documentation she's legally a female and thus entitled to all the rights and privileges that come with being a women in society. PA Laws would do her NO Good as she already has every legal right to be in the womens restroom. EQ Maryland is just trying to co-op her situation for its own political gain and so they can use it to gain rights for non-ops. Trying to make political points off this womens pain is totally discussing and sad. what most who fly that Transgender flag forget is their is a segment of the population made up of TS women of history who after transition melt back into society not wanting to be under their umbrella. Their Identities aren't found in being Trans like so many in the Transgender community their Identities are their own.

What about before and during their transition? I am not asking if they identify as 'transgender', I am asking if perhaps they need some of the same protections as those horrid transgender ppl? Of, if perhaps they were born in a state that doesn't change birth certificates? What about those ppl?

You and your lot remind me of the old thing about ppl who buy land out in the country, then (as teh old farmer said), 'try to close the door behind them'. They have theirs, they can 'melt into the landscape', so I guess why shoudl they care about other ppl?

Carol what about the carry letter? Shouldn't a letter from a medical provider carry some legal protection? It does after all say you are receiving treatment for a legitimate medical condition.
Who has the right to interfere with that treatment and on what grounds?
Considering the high rates of suicide and suicide attempts shouldn't there be a push for people to seek proper medical treatment instead of winging it on their own? Shouldn't what all of us regardless of what side of this we're on be pushing to make that treatment available for all of us even the poorest or even those who don't want to transition fully but wish to be able to go out without hassle? I think a push for pre screening and a carry letter could take a big bite out of the potty police and religious arguments. For those who are post-op an F or M on their drivers license should ideally replace the need for a carry letter. More education about the medical side of this needs to happen.

Amy -- Carry letters (just like Durable Power of Attorney, civil unions, and living wills) are only good to those who recognize them. They're easily ignored by bigots.

One of the most famous cases of the abuse of a carry letter was back in the 1980s, when a number of transwomen were cited by the Denver PD for disorderly conduct for using a women's toilet at a Red Lion Inn.

A trans support group had rented a meeting room and had received approval of using the nearby ladies' toilet. Not long after they started using the toilet, security guards began escorting the women to the manager's office and were cited, claiming a hysterical woman was complaining about "men in the toilet". A number of those women had carry letters *but were cited anyway*!

I've never been able to find out the disposition of the cases, and the so-called "hysterical woman" was never identified.

Gender theory is too complex a topic for the masses of people who have trouble distinguishing between religion and spirituality. How do you expect them to understand a woman with a penis or a man with a vagina? How can they even begin to envision a gender continuum?

It's really very simple yet beyond the willful comprehension of the majority of people: As beings possessing acute self awareness, our dumb fleshy parts should not define who we are. It is the intelligence of our essence, from within our soul, that truly defines us. Sexing by genitalia serves no purpose beyond breeding.

The only remedy will be time and visibility. In the meantime there will be many martyrs yet to emerge in the name of enlightenment, and an exhaustive progression of discussions like this one.

Brace yourselves. Like all transitionings, it's going to be a bumpy ride.


Gender theory too complex for the masses?

I'm don;t think I agree with that. Most people have gotten used to the idea that whales are mammals, that the sun does not travel at incredible speeds around the earth every day (even though we still refer to sunrise and sunset). I grant that some people are resistant to evolution, and perhaps those are the same people who might have a problem with other science.

It's simple to understand, there is just going to be resistance, just as there has been to virtually every advance in the understanding of the world around us.

1. Sex is not forecast by the gross shape of chromosomes, but by the genes on those chromosomes, some of which might interfere with the processes of others, and then by the actual development of the embryo as it struggles to follow the developmental blueprint.

2. In most cases, in humans, sex differentiation of the developing body cells is consistent, either along the default female path, or along the variant male path.

3. In a relatively few cases, development follows a number of different paths. Some lead to a mixed genital development (example, partial androgen insensitivity syndrome, or PAIS); another could lead to an otherwise "male" individual developing largely along a "female" blueprint, because of complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS). In still others, there are genetic predispositions that can cause the brain to develop along one path, and the genital tract to develop along the other - that's something one might refer to as Harry BEnjamin Syndrome, or transsexuality, or transgenderism (think the phenomenon itself and less the label - we can argue about labels all day).

4. People whose bodies took a different biological path than going fully along the default female path or fully along the variant male path, are biologically different.

5. Society has created an artificial binary construct for the assignment of sex. This is because a large majority of peple fit into the binary construct.

6. Those who are different and do not fully fit in to the binary construct should be allowed to fit into the construct (or voluntarily opt out of it) in accordance with the way they identify.

Yes, it means that some women will happen to have penises, and some men may have vaginas, even though some of those will be able to have, or strongly desire, surgical correction to fit better.

Those who are different and feel the need to try to fit into the binary will sometimes try to do what they can to fit in with societal expectations and assimilate in accordance with the initial assignment of sex. The pressure of family, religion, culture, and peers can be great.

At some point, those whose brain development was different, will not be able to carry on with the attempt. Years ago, because of a lack of infoprmation, there was (and still may be) a bimodal distribution of transition.

Those who were attracted to members of the sex the same as that of the initial assignment often realized that there was no reason to try to assimilate, and would transition earlier.

Those attracted to members of the sex opposite that of the initial assignment often found that they could cope wwith the assimilation, at leat for a number of years.

The later modal peak comes around the age of 45 or so.

I believe that in an enviornment in which there is more information about trans, those who would otherwise delay transition to their mid-40's or later are now more likely to transition earlier.

There is another phenomenon I have noticed, as at least some younger people are going after the artificial societal binary construct. (Personally, I think that is a heavier lift, since the vast majority does fit into that construct, and any resistance should ideally be targeted to those who really want to deal with the idea of being "other" and not fitting in - no one should be forced into "otherness" because the binary is pervasive.)

Part of the difficulty to all of this is going to be a recognition that most people's experience will still be binary, regardless of what is happening around the edges of that binary.

So - just like the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, and our daily existence is not marred by the fact that we're really traveling at 700+/- miles per hour in earth's rotation that creates the illusion - the illusion of binary sex is still going to work just fine for most people anyway, even if they get a simple intellectual understanding of the complexity.

After all, most of us can enjoy a spectatular sunset without bothering to think about orbital mechanics.

I have no doubts about the resistance to the understanding - but I believe that we're already in the process of altering the paradigms because the science here is much more robust than the speculation of some in the past.

While I respect Joann, I find it rather bizarre she was responding to Carol, a trans woman who already certainly agrees with the statement that "trans women are women." Nor does it really refute the reality of perception and assumption Carol was mentioning.

While I appreciate science used to prove our womanhood, I might also suggest that science and its proofs aren't absolute. Talk to John Money in the 1970s and that 'science' would have proved how one's gender can be taught to toddlers. Our current science might well be refuted in future by other 'experts' and so on.

I was assuming that since Joann seems to be new to Bilerico, she prolly doesn't know my history as a person or as a poster at Bilerico. :)


Over at the other thread, all you did was point out that a large number of people do not believe that trans women are women. I thought it was fairly clear from the way you made the statement that this was not necessarily your own position - I did pick up on that nuance, and in my two or three comments following up on yours, I thanked you for pointing out the common (but erroneous) belief.

So, I'd think of your post more as a springboard to my analysis, or perhaps a foundational statement as to what many people believe.

I'm sorry if I made it seem like Joann was disputing Carol. It was clear in the original comment thread that Carol was simply pointing out people's ignorance, and Joann was pointing out that it doesn't change the underlying science of the situation.

Jill, just for clarification, I wasn't referring to genuine ignorance, which is just not knowing about something enough to understand it. What I was referring to was willful ignorance--having your mind made up already, and not being willing to consider anything else. And even for those who will listen and expand their horizons a bit, they often understand, but don't internalize that and believe it.

Kinda like racism: you have those who are just straight-up haters, and then you have those who really feel racism is wrong, and try hard to accept all ppl as ppl rather than putting them into some stereotypical framework, but when presented with something shocking, have a visceral reaction that isn't much different from the outright racists.

"Projector Carol, however, noted that to most people, a trans woman is not a woman."

There is not much in my personal life I would like better than to *have* ppl see trans women as just women--I didn't say this as agreeing with trans women being seen as men, or even as trans women, instead of as women.

However, I don't think I know a single person who knows my history who sees me that way. They may accept me as a worthwhile person, and be friendly with me (which is good!), but they don't see me as just another woman. They may see me as a very eccentric man, or as a trans person, even reliably call me by female pronouns, but they never see me as a woman, if they know my history.

What is even more instructive than the ppl who knew me before my transition, are those who meet me now, take me as female and treat me as female, and then of course get 'filled in' on 'what I really am'. In most cases it's a subtle change, though easy to see (please don't tell me I am being too sensitive or imagining or projecting things--that is exactly the same as telling black ppl that the racism they see is just all in their heads, and just as true). In a couple of extreme cases, I have had new women come into my work area, hit it off with me, even to the point of driving me a little crazy, then suddenly one day it was if I was a leper. The change was that fast and that extreme (and no, I didn't say or do anything to them that I know of, of that they gave indication of).

For me, transition is behind me, and I just think of myself as a woman as I go through my day and my life. Being trans is not something I define myself, unlike other parts of my identity, it's something horrible I went through. I know there are a lot of trans ppl for whom being trans *is* an important part of their identity, but I personally would rather just forget about it. To me it's like being born with some serious structural birth defect, like massively deforming curvature of the spine. I had surgery, and corrected it to extent I could, and don't want to forever dwell on that.

However, that is pretty much impossible if I interact with the world, b/c ppl don't see me as a woman. It isn't a matter of overt discrimination. I work at a place that won't fire me, we own our own house, and things like that. It's more a matter of the social aspects to me. And in the community with which I feel the most at home, I am considered with suspicion if they know my history, and am subjected to all kinds of slurs about 'trannies' and such if they don't. Pretty much lose-lose.

While I respect Joann, I find it rather bizarre she was responding to Carol, a trans woman who already certainly agrees with the statement that "trans women are women." Nor does it really refute the reality of perception and assumption Carol was mentioning.

While I appreciate science used to prove our womanhood, I might also suggest that science and its proofs aren't absolute. Talk to John Money in the 1970s and that 'science' would have proved how one's gender can be taught to toddlers. Our current science might well be refuted in future by other 'experts' and so on.

I think it's my fault, Gina. The original comment thread shows pretty clear that Carol was just pointing out the ignorance of most people, and Joann was explaining how that doesn't change the underlying science.

I'm still curious about whether we all share the belief that trans women have a right to use the bathroom of their new sex. Is "new sex" making an inappropriate assumption? If it's wrong, what is the right terminology?

I tend to prefer "corrected sex." Some might like "confirmed sex."

I am also making the assumption that medical transition should be sufficient (though I'd have had GRS by around 2003ish if I did not have medical issues making me a bad surgery risk).

There's a Westchester Magazine article that just came out that describes me as something on the order of "born as a man, but who was convinced she was a woman."

This is despite having been clear with the reporter, and having a discussion with the fact checker (the latter being post-publciation).

As I see it, "born as a man" has a negative semantic loading that supports the MTF hypothesis. A formulation like "assigned as male at birth" would be accurate and semantically neutral, while "erroneously assigned as male at birth" would be semantically positive, but certainly not neutral!

I'd want reporters to stick with the neutral without making the judgment that the initial assignment was correct, that comes with that "born as a man" phraseology. And the way it is, I was actually born as a baby - I didn't spring forth fully formed as an adult from my mothter's womb, from the forehead of Zeus, of from the sea foam.

The thing is, to the reporters, it's like the sun rising in the east. They're pretty much not quite getting it, at least, not in the written language.

Jill, if I may, I would simply say "reassigned sex." There's nothing "new" about it scientifically, just legally. And that's where the disconnect comes in.

The vast majority of humans see sex as a function of genitalia. They know nothing of human sexual development, don't know there are hundreds of intersex conditions, and don't care. The pediatrics community had to be forced to stop treating genitally ambiguous babies as pediatric emergencies just seven years ago.

Surgeons rarely use legal terms to describe medical or surgical conditions or procedures, but we have "sex reassignment surgery." That's a legal term, not a surgical one, and refers back to the cultural standard of "genitals = sex." Sex is far more complicated, and our modern understanding takes into account the interplay of many biochemical factors in both time and space. Maybe we should start teaching this material to high school students, and they'd be less likely to attack strangers in fast food restaurants.

One other thing -- John Money was not acting like a scientist when he pronounced gender identity to be completely malleable. The concept had only recently been conceived, and he had no hard science with which to support his theory. That's not to say that future advances might not undermine the data Zoe and others have presented, but it's far less likely. New data will probably develop our understanding, adding nuance and deeper comprehension rather than overturning the concepts completely. But who knows? That's the beauty of science

Reassigned sex is a *good* neutral term, that does not carry either a weight toward "change from one to the other" or "correction of an original error."

I'm certainly fine with that.

I would also dispute - or at least complicate - the assumption that most people see trans women as not women. I think a major element is based on context. If the only thing that people know about someone is that they are trans, or if they are having a "theoretical" debate about what gender a trans person really is, then I'd agree.

I've had a perfect example about this when the Advocate printed my picture and their commenters argued about whether or not I should be allowed to use the women's bathroom. Looking at the grainy photo of a photo, they imagined a beard where there was peach fuzz and declared that I was "obviously wearing a wig" when it was my real hair. It's clear to me that they weren't seeing me but all the stereotypes and prejudices that they wanted to see in a trans woman.

In contrast, I've had plenty of extended, congenial conversations with strangers (often on a plane, bus, etc). Up until I out myself, there is no question in their mind that I'm a woman, and once I do, their brain won't allow them to see me differently than how they first identified me. When they are dealing with an actual person instead of a theory or a name on the internet, many of those assumptions are clearly negated.

So while a majority might say that they see hypothetical trans people's genders are not real, I doubt they would all reach the same conclusion when it's put to the test.

My personal experience with rl ppl has been the opposite. I am glad yours has been more positive.

One question, though, have you been in a differentiating context where they would treate you one way as a women, and a different way as a guy or a indeterminate gendered person?

This is where I see the difference; ppl who know, esp those who find out some time after getting to know me, may treat me in a very friendly and accepting manner, but when it comes to certain little intimacies, I can see the hesitation, and the processing going on, the questioning of whether I will even relate to what they are thinking of saying.

Hmm, that is a good point, and I'm sure it's happened in some of the cases I'm thinking of where they are being friendly and happily exchange contact info, youtube channels, facebook, etc, and are in no way challenging my status as a woman yet have no opportunity to demonstrate full support (or not) of my gender.

What exactly are you talking about though? Bathrooms? Cause in each case that I can recall, no one's batted an eye when I use the women's restroom. Romance and sex? Because I'd consider transphobic responses to come ons as a different category than negating one's gender -- and also, the one and only time I was made out with someone (a newly out lesbian) who did not know that I was trans, she invited me home and after I told her she invited me again.

I am thinking more of subtle things, like being invited to to girls lunches out, showers, little coffee talks, unselfconscious sharing of private things that cis women tend to share with other women that are women specific, things like that. Just the things that women tend to do when they are around other women.

This is something compltely separate from outright transphobia, it's more about being thought of as being in the group. I find that cis women often catch themselves and break off telling me something that they were going to say, b/c for a minute they saw me as just another woman, then realized that I wasn't. Perhaps kinda like having a middle class white person going on about something they are interested in and realizing that the person they are talking to does not have experience with or access to that activity due to their s-e-class or their ethnic background.

Hope this helps; it's more something I feel than something I can describe, I suppose. I will have to say I get a lot less of this kind of thing from str8 women about day-to-day stuff than from lesbians about gay-related stuff.

My theory is that since 'lesbian' is a social construct as much as a description of a type of romantic/sexual attraction, there is a need to police the boundaries of the group; if the group is defined as 'women-who-love-women', then 'what constitues a woman' is important to the group identity. If just anyone can call themselves a woman and be taken seriously, then lesbian comes to not mean much. I have no idea if this is even close to right, just an idea I have.

Finally, the ppl I have had the least trouble with are bi women. They like women, and of course aren't grossed out by men, so they seem to be the most relaxed about gender issues. However, the ones I have known still make the difference between me and FAAB women, even making explicit comments about how unwanted facial hair is worse for them than for me, b/c they were born and always lived as women.

Sorry for the long reply, which perhaps didn't even answer your question...


That does clarify and answer a lot. I have a much harder time figuring out the frequency of those kinds of things, though, because the random person I meet on a plane is not going to invite me to anything, let alone a girls' lunch out. And when it comes to those in my community who might invite me to something, I specifically select for those who validate and support trans people's identities and as a result do invite me to women's only events.

Even so, I still would want to put most of that category of exclusion as being different from outright denial of trans people's genders. There have been queer women or women of color not invited to a girls' lunch out because the women heading out to lunch are uncomfortable around queer women or women of color in more intimate conversation - yet in those cases the excluded women are still seen as women.

I would think that a good portion of the time a trans woman is left out it is primarily because of people's transphobic discomfort being around trans women, and that doesn't automatically mean that those trans women are being seen as men (although in some cases it might).

I don't support the transgender label, the automatic LGBT association and the supposedly PC trans-woman label. But I think Joann made some great comments with excellent points. Tommorow is a new day and an expected new decision. If Texas bans "Transgender marriage" the sun will set on Transgender INC and scientifically or not that is the West.

A great discussion and very appreciated. Bottomline is obvious. The general population needs to be educated and acceptance of diversity promoted. However, one brief comment is worth mentioning. Someone said that the individual in question should be asked how they perceive themself. There are gender non-conforming individuals who may or may not be Trans. Again, acceptance of diversity is key as is presentation.Honestly, do people expect someone in a skirt & heels to go in the mensroom & use the urinal? I like Tobi Hill-Meyer's comment, most people who initially take you to be female will not alter that view when they find out you are Trans. Also, self-perception is key. MTF, or selfimage as always female, the 'otherworld' can detect if you are insecure. Be a Woman, and be proud. I am! That doesn't change the fact that there are ignorant, hateful people in the world.

Three quick things:
1 – Another study that trans folks and allies may find interesting or helpful: http://cbc.ucsd.edu/pdf/occurence_phantom_genitalia.pdf
From the summary:
The vivid sensation of still having a limb although it has been amputated, a phantom limb, was first described by Weir Mitchell over a century ago. The same phenomenon is also occurs after amputation of the penis or a breast. Around 60% of men who have had to have their penis amputated for cancer will experience a phantom penis. It has recently been shown that a significant factor in these phantom sensations is ‘‘cross-activation’’ between the de-afferented cortex and surrounding areas. Despite this it also known that much of our body image is innately ‘‘hard-wired’’ into our brains; congenitally limbless patients can still experience phantom sensations. We hypothesise that, perhaps due to a dissociation during embryological development, the brains of transsexuals are ‘‘hard-wired’’ in manner, which is opposite to that of their biological sex. We go on to predict that male-to-female transsexuals will be much less likely to experience a phantom penis than a ‘‘normal’’ man who has had his penis amputated for another reason. The same will be true of female-to-male transsexuals who have had breast removal surgery. We also predict that some female-to-male transsexuals will have a phantom penis even although there is not one physically there. We believe that this is an easily testable hypothesis, which, if correct, would offer insights into both the basis of transsexuality and provide farther evidence that we have a gender specific body image, with a strong innate component that is ‘‘hard-wired’’ into our brains. This would furnish us with a better understanding the mechanism by which nature and nurture interact to link the brain-based internal body image with external sexual morphology. We would emphasise here that transsexuality should not be regarded as ‘‘abnormal’’ but instead as part of the spectrum of human behaviour.

2 - @Brandigirl:
No one is “GID”. GID stands for gender identity disorder. People aren’t disorders although some people have disorders. Also, a person cannot be a “transgender”. They can be transgendered. I also find this statement you wrote incredibly offensive, “…I wouldn't agree that all those who fly the transgender flag are misgendered or are truly women. since they self diagnosis, self medicate, and self mutilate their bodies with silicone and most of them don't ever have a diagnosis from a trained gender therapist theres no telling if they are truly TS or not…” Why is it that trans people aren’t allowed to be experts on being trans? Why does it take a “trained gender therapist”? While there do exist some wonderful therapists who work with trans clients there are many that act simply as gatekeepers, deciding on a whim who meets their arbitrary standard of ???true transsexuality??? The whole idea that there are primary and secondary transsexuals is ridiculous, just like all the pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo being spouted by the BBLZ Axis Of Evil.

A trans person can have GID, especially if they presenting themselves to the world as other than their true gender. A trans person may not have GID, which is fairly common after (for lack of a better term) going full time as their true gender. A cis person can have GID, just ask Norah Vincent.

Jay Kallio | April 25, 2011 3:26 AM

I knew I was boy from my earliest recollections at 3 years old, and I felt a horrible mistake had been made giving me the wrong (girl's) body. So I have always had the classic trans experience.

After transition, I live as a man, but I started identify myself as "transgender"for political reasons.To me it is a politically charged umbrella term that has a very different effect than calling myself a man, and passing (I am told by all that I am 100% passable in public). I feel very comfortable with this use of terminology.

As a "transgender" person I eschew the male privilege that is otherwise accorded me without question by society, and reject the sociopolitical system that enforces male privilege. This is a personally important goal to me.

Also, as "transgender", I proclaim my solidarity with all those who otherwise feel delegitimized in the LGBTQ etc community. I am not willing to separate myself from my community by joining a heterosexual male gender binary,not for safety, or privilege, or acceptance.

"Transgender" is my political identity, not a perfect mirror of my private, inner being. I separate my personal identity as a male from the political identity that reflects my core beliefs and principles.

For political purposes of unity, can't we agree on a term, it doesn't have to be transgender, that we can unite under, and agree that it is merely a broad umbrella term we use for expediency, political unity, and to simplify our message when dealing with a public which must be persuaded to grant us equal rights and protections under the law? Such adoption of an umbrella term does not have to co-opt or make invisible anyone else's identity, just as being a person of trans experience does not express all the other facets of one's being. The nuance of who we are we can save for our more intimate interpersonal communications, but meanwhile we really need a term with political utility for the concrete and practical work of our human rights advocacy work.

Just a suggestion, and I'm not at all attached to any particular terms, just trying to clarify a need. Having so many people feel dissed or silenced because "transgender" doesn't fit perfectly for them is using up a great deal of energy that could otherwise be put to productive use, like getting anti discrimination legislation passed! We need to address the real bigotry and take that on, not spend all our energy fighting with each other.

Just curious, Jay

You say you

"As a "transgender" person I eschew the male privilege that is otherwise accorded me without question by society, and reject the sociopolitical system that enforces male privilege. This is a personally important goal to me."

O K, fine, but what about your male brothers. Do you have any sense of solidarity with them? If you were in an army platoon could you be relied upon to cover you brother's behind? Do you feel out of place with women? Does conversation between women leave you feeling left out? Does it leave you with a feeling of not belonging, of being totally out of the loop to the point of driving you out of your mind? If you were sent to a prison which one would you go to without being tortured any more than those who you would be placed with?

I really don't understand female assigned people who supposedly transition into manhood. I have met many. Many certainly have a manly presence. When you speak of male privilege I wonder about the ones who are in the early mid stages of their transition who remind me of the way I used to feel about myself. I wonder about their sense of male privilege. I mean, if you are a man how do you "eschew male privilege?"

I do not understand the male of history experience. How could I?The desperation of having an impossible gender role imposed upon them does not seem doesn't seem apparent somehow. Somehow, I am left feeling the desire to be accepted as "transgender" seems to be a desire to keep in touch with a female history fondly remembered, to be not really a man but an improvement over men, essentially someone with all the benign qualities of womanhood but with all the masculine attributes of a sex you really despise.

Edith may I repost your comment in my facebook group?

Sure, Amy, if you can just refer to me as someone. I'm just another person who has a background who is concerned about the way things may turn out as a result of various political initiatives and very worried about unintended consequences.

Jay Kallio | April 25, 2011 1:29 PM

@Edith, I'm not looking at "transgender" as a personal identity for myself.

You seem to conflate my abhorrence of the injustice of male privilege in society with some presumed dislike of men, or maleness. I love being male, which is part of who I am. After too many years of being forced by medical issues to live as a female I experienced my transition to male as suddenly society started giving me respect, authority, and power they never had before, while I remained the same person inside as I have ever been. That is the injustice of male privilege, a social construct, which deserves to be relegated to ugly history, and has nothing to do with the pleasure and authenticity I experience at finally getting to live my life as male. I am a feminist male, it's that simple! I refuse to give up my feminism to be a male.

During transition, I also directly experienced the hatred, stigma, denial of health care when I was diagnosed with cancer, and physical violence when people found out I was transgender. I was often presumed to be a transwoman during the years before I was passable, so I experienced some of the hatred transwomen experience simply walking outdoors. It was terrifying to have my life at risk.

My transition experience provided a window of understanding that others cannot appreciate, having offered me the unusual opportunity to directly experience walking as both sexes in the gender binary in this world. The difference is extreme. The injustice is very palpable to me. As someone perceived to be a woman I was disregarded, relegated to irrelevance, my talents, accomplishments, and value diminished is countless ways. As a man I am given power, authority, and trust without ever having to earn it. The difference in entitlement is extraordinary, and seems to pervade every aspect of life.

As someone perceived to be a white male, I am boosted to the top of the food chain by others. When I come out as "transgender", I plummet to the designation of "deviant, sick, reject" by the same people.

"O K, fine, but what about your male brothers. Do you have any sense of solidarity with them? If you were in an army platoon could you be relied upon to cover you brother's behind?" -Edith

I feel a sense of solidarity with anyone fighting for social justice, their gender is not relevant to me. Their spirit is what I feel solidarity with. I have more often than most put my life on the line for others, regardless of gender identity, and feel a deep, abiding sense of connection with all humanity, whether I agree with them or not.

"I am left feeling the desire to be accepted as "transgender" seems to be a desire to keep in touch with a female history fondly remembered, to be not really a man but an improvement over men, essentially ..." - Edith

LOL, yes, I do think there is vast room for improvement in all humanity, including "men", whom I understand to be a diverse, wide ranging group of beings, some of whom I feel emotionally closer to than others for reasons beyond gender.

But I do not see calling myself "transgender" as representing a "longing for acceptance" as such. I see it as "wearing the star of David", a courageous act by many people that was protective of the Jews threatened with genocide in Nazi Germany during World War 2, to embrace an identity of a marginalized, persecuted minority. It is in that sense that I call myself "transgender". It is a position of rebellion against social injustice. I would welcome any and all to reside under that political umbrella.

I would love it if all people who believe in social justice would call themselves "transgender" as a political identity, and upend the social constructs that oppress women and LGBTQI people. So that we are all free, and equal.

Does any of that address your questions?

I feel strongly that if we are ever to achieve human rights and equal protection under the law that we need to have a term that we use as an umbrella identity. That is for political utility, not as a personal identity.

Just as umbrella racial designations such as "black", "white", etc., include a vast array of diverse ethnicities, it helps to have an inclusive term to use when challenging injustice, violence, and bigotry against us.

Am I making sense to you?

Actually, the impression I got was that she was saying that trans men are not really men, and don't even *want* to be men, but rather are just really butchy lesbians, and stay associated with the lesbian community rather than the str8 or gay male communities.

Is that close, edith, or am I way off?

No, Carol

I may have been overcome by some shadowy darkness, though.

Sometimes I have questions about misandry.

I might have been influenced by this piece being circulated by Julie Bindel on Facebook. It is a paper by Carolyn Gage called The Inconvenient truth of Brandon Teena. It's absolutely brutal. You should have a look. Lotta haters out there.


Ah, sorry, perhaps I was projecting there...


Are you familiar with Julie Bindel's reputation for writing anti-trans articles? She is regularly protested by the trans community in her area.

In this article she is simply using incest, PTSD, and other issues as a way to negate trans identity. Her main thesis is that Brandon is identifying with his perpetrator by identifying as male (and by implication that other trans people are doing the same). But of course, no one would make a claim that a cis male survivor of incest is "identifying with his perpetrator" when he identifies as male.

Also note that she insists on consistently mispronouning in her own acknowledgment (where she claims to only do it for Brandon's childhood, but continues throughout the article even when referring to Brandon's adulthood). She knows that it is disrespectful to do so and directly states that she is making the conscious decision to be disrespectful.

It may just be that your inexperience with trans male perspectives is making you susceptible to her anti-trans "logic" in this article. I would suggest you read some of her anti-trans pieces that focus on trans women - they are the majority - and her transphobic bias and ridiculous psycho-babble might become more apparent to you for what it is.

Carol -- The attitude you gave about transmen's is the usual drivel spewed by second wave feminists like Lisa Vogel, who allow from what I can remember post-op FtMs, at the MWMF, but then claim that MtFs are parody of women and want to use our so-called "male privilege" to take over the festival!

I am not really sure what you mean here. The stuff I 'spewed' was what I thought edith was asking, though some of it does fit the limited experience I have with trans men. We seem to have very few trans men posting here, so I for one would like to get their perspective on this.

And yes, I agree with your assessment of the extremest lesbians, who claim to be 'pro-trans', but really mean transmasculine and trans men, and who support them b/c they were FAAB. Really, they still see them as women, just as they see trans women as men. The odd thing to me is that most trans men seem to be fine with this, though I have seen a couple post here who insist on being men, and don't hang about in the lesbian community.

I am guessing you are saying that I am as bad as the lesbian who hate trans women, just toward trans men? Please feel free to take another stab at it, 'cause I am pretty confused.

Yes, Jay,

You make enormous sense.

"I would love it if all people who believe in social justice would call themselves "transgender" as a political identity, and upend the social constructs that oppress women and LGBTQI people. So that we are all free, and equal." -Jay

Yes, I won't disagree with that.

One thing I will say, however, is that I would never have the audacity to say is that a transsexual woman would ever be an improvement over women in general. I suppose it says a lot about how much improvement the male sex could benefit by. Strictly speaking, not casually speaking or thoughtlessly speaking, I don't like thinking of people as strictly male and strictly female. I don't think things are that simple. I get nervous, however, when people speaking casually unconsciously accept people as simply transgender rather than male or female. Also, the word and concept of "gender" is just such a slippery eel, I feel it is just a term that is ripe for misuse by the disingenuous and the manipulative.

Thanks for writing what you did. It is what I want to believe about my male counterparts.

Jay may I repost your comment in my facebook group?

@amym440 Sure, if you think it might be helpful, feel free to post elsewhere. Anything I write here I consider to be ideas in the public domain. Thanks for asking, you are considerate.

Joann, I understand and respect your feelings about your early gender -- I had them too. I also appreciate the scientific work that has been done to show that there is something biological about this phenomenon, as well as psychological. But I would echo Yasmin Nair's post "The Gay Gene Will Not Save You," and apply it to the issues of transsexuals:

"I think it's a pointless issue. Whether or not science supports one view or the other, it seems far more imperative to ask: why should biology be the determinant of anyone's right to live, have health care, gain citizenship, get and keep a job and so on... I want to be clear: I'm not against science per se, but "science" is not an essential and immutable, ah, science. Its history is riddled with the worst kind of exploitation of "scientific" facts and has led to the systematic and persistent torture of the most vulnerable among us: the mentally different/disabled, children, women, queers, racial and sexual minorities. When it comes to the issue of sexuality, I think it's time we stopped caring about whether or not people think we're born this way or not.

I suggest an alternative slogan: 'I chose to be this way. And I don't give a fuck what you think.'"


In the final analysis, your analysis is spot on, even though I prefer a different approach.

I think you know me well enough that I like to go after an opponent's POV using their own sources as a starting point - which is why I spent a lot of time working out biblical exegesis for those who use the Bible against us - and I can show how the Bible is supportive of LGBT people and is against those who try to use it as a cudgel to oppress us.

My friend Suzy's approach to the religious argumentation is summed up in four words: "No gods, no masters."

That's fine, but it does not go to the "movable middle" that may well have religious faith but don't otherwise have an awareness of any message other than the intolerance preached from the Vatican and many fundamenalist pulpits.

Similarly, on the science issue, we have courts in places like Texas that use the gross shape of the 23rd chromosome pair as the ultimate arbiter of sex assignment, and completely ignore the real science out there.

Changing the paradigm of understanding of the issue is a good thing, I think.

I know who I am, as you know who you are. And while I know it does not really matter how other people think, how they think might have an effect on how I am treated in numerous circumstances.

My attitude on "passing" is that we're the test, and it's those others out there who "pass" or "fail" based on whether they treat us with dignity and respect, or whether they go out of their way to call us "sir." (That DMV clerk from when I made an attempt to get an enhanced driver's license - as soon as I presented my birth certificate, I was "sir" and "this gentleman." Such situations are mercifully rare, but I had to bite my tongue and just take it in the circumstance - bureaucrats with attitude can make a hellish experience worse if one complains, and I needed to renew my regular license if I did not get the enhanced one.)

It's one thing to not care about what other people think, and a whole 'nother thing to have to try to co-exist with them on the same planet.

So yes, I agree - what "they" think does not have an effect on who I really am - but it can have an effect on my legal status and social interaction. So I do care, at least enough to try to knock down the underpinnings of their arguments.

I think it's fine to try to use scientific data to counter people's ideas of how someone should be treated. But I find this reliance on scientific data to be ironic because much of this could easily be disputed at a later stage, given that it's still in an incipient stage and given that one of the beauties of scientific research is that it is subject to change. Zoe Brain's list is impressive looking but it does present, as far as I can tell, research currently on the make. Furthermore, scientific research is not always based on infallible findings, and they are frequently coloured by scientists' desires to score the next big theory/research. The fact that the most prestigious scientific journals have also figured in controversies around methodology and other issues should give us pause. A really smart extreme right-winger - and contrary to what many of us like to think, there are actually quite a number of them - could easily dispute the weight of scientific journal listings.

It strikes me that the scientific arguments are less substantial than the simplest one: you can't beat the living daylights out of someone for any reason because ... you can't beat someone up for any reason. The bathroom controversy could be easily remedied by gender-neutral bathrooms, but there again we see resistance from many in both the gay (notably gay male) communities and the straight communities.

Alongside that, perhaps instead of trying to prove why or how we are all wired to be either gender/sex, it might be more worth our while to have longer and more substantial discussions about why it is that gender, to put it bluntly, freaks us out and where our understanding of gender-crossing comes from; those conversations can happen alongside discussions about valid and legitimate scientific research.

In that, I would argue that it requires us to move away from our belief, prevalent even in the LBGT community, that it's our essential natures that need to be protected - rather than, say, our right not to be killed/brutalised. I find that pushing at that point often places one in the position of being called anti-trans and even anti-gay. But as I've frequently said, to speak of gender and sexuality as social constructions is not to deny that people identify strongly as male, female, intersex, gay or straight, or to deny that they/we exist - it is pointing to the fact that discourse controls far more than we'd like to admit, including the very real pain of physical abuse.

Alongside that, perhaps instead of trying to prove why or how we are all wired to be either gender/sex,

I think you are overlooking the nature of sex diversity. I don't think you have to look under a microscope to find it, either. Intersex does exist. That fact always becomes overlooked in these discussions. The problem is how the gender/sex problem is approached. Gender/sex is not an either or proposition. You may have more choices available to you than a lesbian who is not bi-sexual or a gay man who is likewise bisexual.

There is no one type of gay, lesbian, bi, hetereo, transsexual, transgender person, however. Looking for a gay gene or some sort of smoking gun will only lead people on wild goose chases. Nothing is that simple. The problem is the the human mind that has difficulty seeing anything outside of dichotomies.

People overlook the obvious. There are websites one can go to where one can find all the variables in chromosomal make-up, hormonal make up and genetic make up. No science is ever going to prove those things don't exist. As far as genetic make-up is concerned most sex determining genes don't even exist on the 23rd pair. When one considers all the possible human combinations and how a person is going to interact with their environment, it should be obvious there are going to be way more than just two types of people and there are going to be a wide range of possibilities for outcomes, with some in the middle some at either extreme and others whose complex make-up is going to be full of contradictions.

Ronnie Drantz, who Zoe mentions, discusses this in a pretty astute manner but has not been without criticism from the group who understand gender/sex complexity better than, perhaps anyone, the people at OII. For transsexual people there are problems, however. Transsexualism is not about being in the middle. It's about extreme contradiction that and has a lot of negative implications for intersex people because of the damage caused by interventionists like John Money, Maria New, Dix Poppas. It also has a history where Harry Benjamin's mentor, Eugen Steinach, thought it possible, for a period of time, to cure homosexuality through surgery and Gunter Dorner thought it possible to cure gayness through prenatal testosterone treatments. Maria New is still trying to do the same thing with xx fetuses who have overactive adrenal glands.

The most misunderstood people remain intersex and transsexual people with transsexual people misunderstood by intersex people and vice-versa. In a two sex legal system there really needs to be a lot of sensitivity where these two groups are concerned and also those who do not conform to societal gender norms in one way or other without creating a third sex ghetto.

I wrote,

"or a gay man who is likewise bisexual."

I meant "or a gay man who is likewise NOT bisexual.

"But as I've frequently said, to speak of gender and sexuality as social constructions is not to deny that people identify strongly as male, female, intersex, gay or straight, or to deny that they/we exist..."

I don't know how or why you would take this to mean that I in any way said that "intersex does exist" or that I don't believe in "sex diversity." If you read my comment carefully - or knew about my previous work, which I encourage you to read - you'd know I'm the last one to advocate for any kind of rigid dichotomies.

Having a conversation about the conversations and theories about the existence of sex/gender/sexuality categories does NOT mean denying their existence. It means having a conversation about them.

The rest of your comment is built upon this essential misreading of my comment, so I'll leave it at that.

That should read, "...I in any way *denied* that "intersex does exist..."

Your words were,

"Alongside that, perhaps instead of trying to prove why or how we are all wired to be either gender/sex,"

I didn't mean to imply that you were denying anything. I don't exactly know how Zoe understands the science she has catalogued. I think she sees brains as being intersex and mis matched in certain ways, with male parts and female parts. I am not going to tell you I've looked into the scientific findings with the intensity she has. A lot of those papers are on locked sites that I don't have access to. I don't know if would have the same zeal as Zoe has for understanding brain sex.

My focus is not confined to one or two parts of the body. I don't like the notion of brain sex or gender identity, to tell you the truth. I think people have a tendency or a prejudice towards seeing things in a dichotomous way. Notions of "gender identity" bring up theories of evolutionary psychology and contain a lot of prejudice on the level of Larry Summers saying women can't do math and science or parallel park very well. I think a lot of that is bunk. I am certain people have a sense of self, however. I think it is very complex and involves a lot of interaction between what nature made a person and the possibilities for a person to react to their environment. I think there is a pretty wide range of possibilities for people not just two and not just simple combinations, just simple statistical probabilities with a lot of possible exceptions which are sometimes extreme outliers which are overlooked because of binary prejudices.

I reread what you wrote. You do say:

"But as I've frequently said, to speak of gender and sexuality as social constructions is not to deny that people identify strongly as male, female, intersex, gay or straight, or to deny that they/we exist - it is pointing to the fact that discourse controls far more than we'd like to admit, including the very real pain of physical abuse."

Very clearly you say intersex. Sorry.

I think overt physical abuse is obviously a problem. I think there are also more insidious, subtle forms of abuse. People do strongly identify as male and female. I don't really see a gender neutral society developing anytime soon. It seemed to be on its way there in the late sixties and early seventies. Most people consider those times passe and superficial. Anyway, it was only a small segment of society that opted for that gender neutrality. Even among people who did groups emerged on the basis of sex and gender, where gender was rendered less meaningful, though not completely stripped of its power and sex was elevated to the true reality beneath the superficialities. In reality it was just a presumptuous gendering of a biology a lot of people didn't fit into.

I don't exactly know how Zoe understands the science she has catalogued. I think she sees brains as being intersex and mis matched in certain ways, with male parts and female parts.
That description's a few rungs down on Wittgenstein's Ladder from my understanding.

"My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them - as steps - to climb beyond them. He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it." - Wittgenstein's Ladder, AKA "Lies to Children"

This is complicated. Maybe I can give an analogy - the shape of the Earth.

Rung 1 - Arguing that the Earth is Spherical, not Flat.
Rung 2 - Arguing that the Earth is Spheroidal, not Spherical.
Rung 3 - Arguing that the shape of the Earth is a Geoid, not Spheroidal
Rung 4 - Arguing that the shape of the Earth at the fine level changes constantly over time, that all the above are models that ever more closely approximate the thing itself.

I'm dealing with Biological Flat-Earthers. That means I have to put it in terms they will understand - that male brains and female brains exist.

Later, one rung up, that some parts of any particular brain may be male, other parts female.

Then that some parts don't match either template, and that there are degrees of each, and that the concept of a "male brain" or "female brain" is a nonsense.

And so on, each approximation closer to reality until hopefully we intersect with Organisation/Activation theory and merge with the mainstream of neurology, and I can abandon social constructs such as "tall", "short", "male", "female" and talk only about "height 165cm" and "BSTc somatostatin neuron number of 95".

I discuss some of the limits of our knowledge at http://aebrain.blogspot.com/2011/02/limits.html and especially the overlap between arbitrary categories of male and female.

Yeah, o k Zoe,

As I said I have limited zeal for this kind of stuff. I am too busy right now to go into an in depth analysis of what you focus on. I am not trying to climb any ladders either.

but from another one of your brain sex articles:

So it's not as simple as "girl brain in boy body", though that captures the essence of it. In certain ways, Trans people match neither a male nor female stereotype, nor anywhere in between.


I am not all that fascinated on narrow foci. I believe the whole is way more than the sum of its parts. As far as organizational activational theories go, Ann Fausto - Steerling wrote about the history of those debates in Sexing the Body when discussing the conflicting opinions of Frank Beach and C W Young.

Everybody knows the limitations of the neuron BSTc studies. Mark Italiano has written how Anne Lawrence is preparing another one of the hatchet jobs she's so famous for.

Benjamin is a tricky go to person because of the kind of homophobic prejudice that existed up until the seventies. I agree that transsexualism is unique, however. I think sexuality, for people who are transsexual, is way more complex than simply heterosexual or homosexual or even bi sexual. I think there are a lot of intesex aspects for a lot of transsexual people. What Benjamin did was look at the person as a whole. He was able to perceive how the whole relates to a person's endocrinology. Over forty percent of his patients were hypogonadal. He was able to perceive a spectrum. He was able to see differences in intensity and he was able to see it wasn't something confined to a persons psychology.

As far as motivations for a person seeking transsexual healthcare, a person might have many reasons. There are existential factors involved. Hormone treatments and surgery, if a person choses to have it, is going to create changes in a person whether or not someone has certain predispositions. This is probably the most, or at least, a very significant factor that is dismissed in discussions about the elusive phantom known as gender. A person who actually goes through sex changing medical procedures has needs other people don't. Benjamin recognized transsexualism existed, that it was biological. He thought of it as intersex in the old German European way, rather than the way it was conceived by Americans at the time.

Fausto-Sterling establishes, pretty conclusively, that sex isn't simply dimorphic. The reasons for it if you go to the charts compiled by Melanie Blackless are all over the place. There is no denying that the information is factual. The only question is how much sex diversity has escaped documentation. All this leads to the conclusion that there should be a movement to de-emphasize dimorphic legal sex differences. The fact is, there is always going to be a dichotomous emergence. Benjamin realized that legal sex change was needed for certain people. You and I both know many intersex people for whom a certain sex assignment creates extreme injustice. We also know that third sex status creates a lot of discriminatory problems for people in places like India and Thailand.

There is plenty of scientific evidence available without narrowing things done to obscure brain studies to prove that there are people who should qualify for legal sex changes and have those sex changes mean what they say. For transsexual and intersex people that is the most important legal imperative. It is outside the sphere, spheroid or what have you of all the current lgbt legal imperatives of the moment.

Joann said:

"I know who I am, as you know who you are. And while I know it does not really matter how other people think, how they think might have an effect on how I am treated in numerous circumstances."


"It's one thing to not care about what other people think, and a whole 'nother thing to have to try to co-exist with them on the same planet."

This is one of the points I keep trying to make. It is all fine and well to say, "I don't care what anyone thinks, I am a woman, period!" However, ppl will treat you how they see you, not as you see yourself, and there isn't a lot you can do about that, if their minds are set.

Jane Thomas | April 25, 2011 11:54 AM

Man, woman, transgender, gender variant et cetera, are categories of human behaviour which may over time and place may well be understood differently. Those of us who identify as transsexual generally desire body modification – and if this desire can somehow be exhibited or explained to medical authorities as distress, then a diagnosis and treatment may be warranted. This understanding can undergo change, not only in a paradigmatic medical scientific change, but legal, moral development too.
In January the German Constitutional Court ruled that
Gender reassignment surgery constitutes a massive impairment of physical
integrity, ... and it involves considerable health risks and side effects for the person concerned. However, according to the current state of scientific knowledge, it is not always indicated even in the case of a diagnosis of transsexuality that is certain to a large extent. The permanent nature and irreversibility of transsexual persons’ perceived gender cannot be assessed against the degree of the surgical adaptation of their external genitals but rather against the consistency with which they live in their perceived gender. The unconditional prerequisite of a surgical gender reassignment ...constitute[d] an excessive requirement because it requires of transsexual persons to undergo surgery and to tolerate health detriments even if this is not indicated in the respective case and if it is not necessary for ascertaining the permanent nature of the transsexuality.

The same applies with regard to the permanent infertility which is
required ... for the recognition under the law of civil status to the extent that its permanent nature is made contingent on surgery. By this prerequisite, the legislature admittedly pursues the legitimate objective to preclude that persons who legally belong to the male sex give birth to children or that persons who legally belong to the female sex procreate children because this would contradict the concept of the sexes and would have far-reaching consequences for the legal order. Within the context of the required weighing, however, these reasons cannot justify the considerable impairment of the fundamental rights of the persons concerned because the transsexual persons’ right to sexual self-determination safeguarding their physical integrity is to be accorded greater weight. Here, it has to be taken into account that in view of the fact that the group of transsexual persons is small, cases in which the legal gender assignment and the role of procreator, or person bearing a child, diverge will only rarely occur.

[Official translation of Press Release No. 7/2011 of 28 January 2011.
Order of 11 January 2011 – 1 BvR 3295/07 – Prerequisites for the statuatory recognition of transsexuals according to § 8.1 nos. 3 and 4 of the Transsexuals Act are unconstitutional. http://www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de/en/press/bvg11-007en.html]

Perhaps this view of things may be of use to judicial or legislative inititatives in the United States.

Wow, a lot of comments, and barely any touch on the critical difference between identity and description.

An individual need not identify as such to be described as a man or a transgender or anything else. The descriptions may be accurate or inaccurate.

An identity, though, is always inherently accurate, and may or may not be an accurate description. Identity is always personal, always individual, and always important.

But description is how appearances are communicated, and if you can't communicate something in a way that can be understood, you cannot communicate.

anomie of the trans community -- too much inward focus, not nearly enough outward.

(sorry, that's my cryptic comment for this two week period)