sillyolme, TERFs

Gender Nonconforming

(Post in question #1)

(Post in question #2)

For years, clinicians, therapists, researchers, and transfolk alike have remarked that “younger transitioners”, transkids, “homosexual transsexuals”, “early onset” (whatever label or demarcator in fashion) MTF transsexuals simply ‘pass’ better than “older transitioners”, autogynephilic transsexuals, “late onset” MTF transsexuals. For years, I wanted to conduct a study about this. Well, now we have clinical data to test this observation.

Who would have realized that male-attracted females are more gender-typical.

The Dutch have long contended that age of onset was the salient signifier, while those in North America contend that it is sexual orientation, specifically “homosexual” vs. “non-homosexual”, which readers of my blog, and those familiar with the literature, know gives a strong signal / correlation with autogynephilia in MTF transsexuals.

‘The Dutch’ have published empirical studies showing this is the case for a number of other variables, while showing sexual orientation is a lesser factor. Furthermore, the homogenization of North American trans researchers to represent Canadian researchers and then Anne Lawrence is interesting considering that a number of clinics that Brown and Blanchard and co. criticize are also from North America. Moser, a critic of Blanchardianism, is also from North America. The clinics in my area don’t follow Blanchardianism, neither have any of my therapists or psychiatrists.

In the graphs below, a higher score means more gender incongruent appearance (i.e. ‘readable’), while a lower score means more gender congruent (i.e. ‘passable’).

Modern society has the unfortunate phenomenon of gender stereotypes and gender norms that are enforced on trans and GNC individuals. This means that people who choose to present themselves as something incongruent with their gender, they are ostracized. This effect is magnified for trans people who choose to present in this manner (feminine trans men, masculine trans women).

passingtrans

Interesting results, but the lack of controls for choice in presentation is problematic. I can’t tell what the lines are supposed to represent, but I’m guessing that it’s either error bars or range, either of which add some important caveats. If it’s error bars (my initial interpretation), then it seems as if the correlation is inconclusive. If it’s range, then we can’t make claims about universal ‘passability’ because there’s such a large range of results. I’d be interested to see the results for GNC cis lesbian, GNC cis straight, GC cis lesbian and GC straight women as a reference point, of course using a subgroup of post-transition trans people to ensure we aren’t comparing mid-transition trans people to cis people.

Or yet another way of putting is that the least passible androphilic is the same as the average non-androphilic transwoman

Assuming that the bars represent the range, then she’d be wrong. The least passable androphilic trans women is far higher than the average for non-androphilic trans women.

There’s one other interesting graph in the study that Brown ‘forgot’ to include. The only about BIS (Body Image Scale) that measures how satisfied an individual feels about their body.

transBIS

We can clearly see that the difference between androphilic and non-androphilic trans women is negligible, visually and statistically:

With regard to overall body satisfaction (i.e., BIS scores), no significant differences between sexual orientation and onset age subgroups were found in both natal sexes.

If non-androphilic trans women and androphilic trans women are equally satisfied with their body image, then it begs the conclusion that non-androphilic trans women are (relatively) content with their gender atypicality and probably even choose this. Among cis lesbian women, there is a much higher rate of chosen gender atypicality, as in “butch lesbians”, and the phenomenon of butch lesbian trans women has been documented by Leslie Feinberg.

If we hypothesize that the salient signifier is sexual orientation and NOT age of onset, then we would expect that the relative score for early onset would be intermediate between androphilic and both non-androphilic and late-onset (which is predominately non-androphilic at 79%).

The homogenized ‘Dutch’ believe that age of onset is a more significant signifier for a number of other variables, not exclusively passability.

That is to say, variation in the data is explained completely by sexual orientation and that the variation of passability with respect to age of onset is from the correlation between sexual orientation and age of onset.

The conflating of saliency with a variable explaining all of the variation of passability is disingenuous. The fact that one variable has the most significant single variable explanation does not mean other variables do not matter, or that 100% is explained by one variable.

However, given clinical experiences with each, the meaning of age of onset is quite likely different. If 43% of non-androphilic transwomen really did have an early onset… why do they all wait so long to socially transition?

I’ve given this some thought and come to the conclusion that if the etiology of FEFs is the internalization of gender dysphoria, then of course non-straight trans women are going to socially transition later on average. Regardless, we know this isn’t universally the case: Grossman et. al 2006 found that a majority of trans youth are non-“homosexual”:

While youth used a variety of terms to describe their sexual orientation, a majority of the FTM youth (15) used the word “queer”; other terms chosen were heterosexual, bisexual, and lesbian, with four youth not wanting to label their sexual orientation. In comparison, of the MTF youth, 14 identified as heterosexual, 8 as gay, 4 as bisexual, 3 as trans, 1 as lesbian, and 1 did not to select a label.

Now this is self-evidently anecdotal, but the only adolescent trans girls (I hate the term ‘girls’ but it’s the only applicable term I can think of here) that I’ve met are lesbians. And there are some interesting result about passability in this study too, so I recommend giving it a read.

We are still left with an open question. Why do androphilic transwomen pass so much better than non-androphilic? Three possible hypotheses exist, 1) Having a truly earlier age of onset and social transition age, they experience less masculinization from endogenous androgens. 2) Self selection for passibility as they are motivated to fit into society better, being both physically and behaviorally extremely gender atypical (and not autogynephilically motivated). 3) Actually being, as a group, intrinsically more physically gender atypical. (That is to say, that the etiological cause for their behavioral gender atypicality causes physical atypicality as well.)

I think that this passage, particularly point #3, really exposes Kay Brown for her beliefs. She doesn’t believe trans women are women, otherwise she wouldn’t say “gender atypical”. Feminine trans women are gender typical, because femininity is associated with womanhood. Masculine trans women are gender atypical, because masculinity masculinity is associated with manhood. The only way you can conclude that “androphilic transwomen” are “gender atypical” is if you consider their gender to be equivalent to the sex they were assigned at birth which is almost universally male.

There have been hints from a number of studies that there is a correlation between sexual orientation and subtle gender atypical facial physiognomy. A new study just how strongly supports this observation. Using a deep-layer neural net AI trained to categorize faces as heterosexual or homosexual, can differentiate between two faces, one of a heterosexual and one of a homosexual, of the same natal sex at 91% accuracy for males and 83% for females.

Citing this incredibly controversial study without referencing any of the controversy is a c h o i c e. The study has some serious methodological and logical flaws throughout, and is entirely based on the psuedoscience of physiognomy. This Medium article articulates the points better than I could. By ignoring social signaling and how the choices of what to wear (glasses, makeup) and shaving, they base their conclusions on biology rather than the obvious conclusion: that stereotypes exist. And even more, this Calling Bullshit piece explains the scientific flaws with how the study interprets its results.

The study could alternatively support the conclusion that lesbian women (cis and trans) and straight women (cis and trans) can be grouped together based on physiognomy (not one that I believe).

Onto the second article.

There is no “standard” to which behavior should “conform”. There is only behavior, period

Her first mistake is confusing the prescriptive for the descriptive. People using gender nonconforming (very often researchers studying trans people) are not saying that people should or should not conform to anything, just that they do or do not. She also seems to have missed the point as to what standard the term refers to: societal standards. It is far more socially acceptable to be a masculine man and a feminine woman than the reverse (something that has been noted by Brown herself). Conform can alternatively be interpreted as conformation to the majority, or what is most typical of the population. Gender nonconforming is a useful term politically in the first sense because by emphasizing societal standards, we offer a way to highlight those who are harmed by them and advocate for their abolition.

However, if we look at, study in depth as scientists, a species we can say that there are behaviors that are far more commonly performed by them than other behaviors seen in other species. These we can label as “typical” for that species. If we see a behavior in a given individual of a species that is uncommon for that species, we may label it “atypical”; but we would never label it “non-conforming” since we can’t really say what standard that a given species should “conform” to.

Again, nothing about gender nonconforming terminology talks about what standard an individual should conform to (as that would be a prescriptive statement), it’s describing how conformity (a social phenomenon used everywhere in the social sciences, and sometimes in the natural sciences) functions in punishing feminine men and masculine women. This is actually something recognized later in the piece, where she uses the word conform to describe the same phenomenon, while failing to recognize the meaning of gender nonconforming:

Given the religious (or related social views of gender) prejudice, one can easily see how children who exhibit these gender atypical behaviors are placed under tremendous pressure to “conform” to gender behavior standards that tend to skew to the gender typical, or even an exageration of typical behavior.

The irony.

But even deeper, is my objection to the post-modernist idea that there are no intrinsic sexually dimorphic behaviors in humans, that there are only socially constructed roles.

The everpresent postmodern (-‘ist’ in this case) strawpersyn persists. Nothing about postmodern analysis precludes the existence of sexually dimorphic behavior and some queer theorist researchers have even incorporated that into their analysis.

This notion would state that since all differences in behavior observed between the human sexes are socially constructed and maintained, there must be a socially defined standard to which we can conform or not.

There is a socially defined standard to which we can conform or not, but that is not because of ‘differences in behavior observed between the human sexes are socially constructed and maintained’ (which is definitionally true if anti-constructionists would bother to read Ian Hacking’s The Social Construction of What?), it’s because we can observe this in society.

Thus, both of these ideas reduce any behavior that is seen in an individual that is uncommon in that person’s sex to an act of “gender non-conformity” either by accident or by will… but never by nature. I find both the notion that we stand outside of nature to be scientifically preposterous and philosophically offensive.

The assertion that gendered behavior is caused by social differences rather than nature isn’t saying that we stand “outside of nature”. Her logic is a non-sequitur. The nature-nurture dichotomy has been explicitly criticized by the so-called “post-modernists” she’s alluding to (she never names them by name, but the ‘postmodernists’ that study sex and gender usually fall into the category of queer theory). Dichotomies are constantly questioned by post-structuralists, including true-false, gay-straight, man-woman and so on. My favorite example is Judith Butler:

Lévi-Strauss’s structuralist anthropology, including the problemaic nature/culture distinction, has been appropriated by some feminist theorists to support and elucidate the sex/gender distinction: the position that there is a natural or biological female who is subsequently transformed into a socially subordinate “woman,”with the consequence that “sex” is to nature or “the raw” as gender is to culture or “the cooked.” If Lévi-Strauss’s framework were true, it would be possible to trace the transformation of sex into gender by locating that stable mechanism of cultures, the exchange rules of kinship, which effect that transformation in fairly regular ways. Within such a view, “sex” is before the law in the sense that it is culturally and political undetermined, providing the “raw material” of culture, as it were, that begins to signify only through and after its subjection to the rules of kinship.

This very concept of sex-as-matter, sex-as-instrument-of-cultural-signification, however, is a discursive formation that acts as a naturalized foundation for the nature/culture distinction and the strategies of domination  that that distinction supports. The binary relation between culture and nature promotes a relationship of hierarchy in which culture freely “imposes” meaning on nature, and, hence, renders it into an “Other” to be appropriated to its own limitless uses, safeguarding the ideality of the signifier and the structure of signification on the model of domination.

and so on. For post-structuralists, a nature-nurture, nature-culture dichotomy is as incoherent as the man-woman dichotomy. Fausto-Sterling (who is not a post-modernist, but I expect would be similarly criticized by Brown) similarly criticizes the distinction between biology and culture in Sexing the Body (another fantastic read that shows how sex isn’t a natural phenomenon).

In other pages of this blog, I’ve made reference to the single most sexually dimorphic behavior in humans: androphilia (sexual attraction to adult males). In female humans, it is extremely common to be attracted to men. Approximately 98% of women are attracted to men while only approximately 5-10% of men were attracted to men. One could object to this being a ‘natural’ phenomena and say that social expectations have defined this. But it would not fit the evidence that has been amassing that sexual orientation is neither “chosen” nor “taught”.

The entire division of behavior by sexual orientation is a social construct. We can note that sexuality is constructed differently in many societies: Latin America and ancient Rome didn’t conceptualize penetration and being penetrated as equivalent forms of sexuality that are both classified under the label ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’. In fact, penetration was classified as

Further, why should humans be unique in the world? Most mammalian species are sexually dimorphic in their sexual attractions. (No, I’m not denying that same sex behavior occurs in non-human species… only saying it is not as common as other sex attraction.) But, this isn’t the end of the story.

I will quote Daphna Joel and Lutz Jäncke on this matter.

Joel [,] has recently suggested that such evidence may be found in animal studies reporting that the effects of sex on the brain differ even to the point of opposition under varied environmental conditions and that sex-by-environment interactions may differ for different brain features. For example, Reich et al. [] found that three weeks of mild stress reversed a sex difference in the density of CB1 receptors in rats’ dorsal hippocampus. Thus, what was typical in one sex category under some conditions (i.e. low density of CB1 receptors in non-stressed females and high density of CB1 receptors in non-stressed males) was typical in the other sex category under other conditions (i.e. following three weeks of stress). A different sex-by-environment interaction determined the density of CB1 receptors in the ventral hippocampus, as the same manipulation (three weeks of mild stress) eliminated a sex difference in the density of these receptors in the ventral hippocampus.

and

In contrast to humans, genetic, developmental and environmental conditions can be highly controlled in laboratory animals. Thus, the variability of factors that might interact with sex to affect the brain (such as age, stress, housing conditions, nutrition, history of drug exposure; for references and review, see [,]) is greatly reduced. Consequently, brains of laboratory animals in a specific experiment are expected to be less heterogeneous compared with brains of humans in a single study. Therefore in laboratory animals, differences between the sex categories may indeed reveal the effects of sex rather than the effects of some chance difference between the sample of females and the sample of males in the study.

and

Although in animals there is probably no equivalence to gender as a social system, there are still environmental variables that, in addition to physiological variables (e.g. weight), correlate with sex category (e.g. number of animals in the home cage []). Studies in laboratory animals that use sex category as a variable should take special care to either control for (physiological) and avoid (environmental) sex differences in these variables, or systematically manipulate them.

and

This research has also been strongly influenced by animal research, where it is much easier than it is in humans to study genetic differences in terms of sex/gender, including at the molecular, hormonal, and neurophysiological levels , . However, it is not a simple endeavor to transfer results and interpretations from animal research to explain human behavior and cognition, since there are still some substantial differences between humans and other animals. One major difference is that the brain of humans is different in many respects from the brain of most other animals, although the human brain comprises the same neurons as even simpler constructed animals. The human brain comprises the largest number of neurons compared with all other animals in absolute terms . In addition, it is characterized by extreme, and in the animal kingdom unprecedented, interconnectivity that provides the necessary basis for the computation and storage of information, which is necessary for human learning and culture . This huge neural network is also significantly plastic and can be shaped by individual experience and practice

Let’s move on.

Had the strong social construction hypothesis of all gendered behavior been true, there would have been no correlation. We can reject this hypothesis.

Specifically note that she said correlation. Without causation, we cannot reject the social construction hypotheses because we could have not controlled for enough socioenvironmental variables.

This likely also extends past adolescence to explain the rather dramatic differences in passability between androphilic transwomen and gynephilic transwomen

Interesting how she overstates the ‘passability’ difference.

Being gender atypical in brain organization, it would naturally lead to later androphilia, gender atypical motor skills (feminine walk and hand gestures), and gender atypical vocal production (feminine or “gay lisp”).

Unfortunately, brain organization theory doesn’t have enough evidence to support it, especially given the predominance of the theory in contemporary neuroscience research. Rebecca Jordan-Young’s Brain Storm is a great read on this topic.

One would, at first glance, believe that those who hold the strong social construction hypothesis as true would then have no qualms about accepting gender atypical children and adults without reservation as breaking stereotypes.

Many do. For example, Andrea Dworkin, Catharine MacKinnon, Monique Wittig, Gloria Steinem are all examples of radical feminists who are in favor of trans people’s existence.

But, as we can easily discern, they often do not, as demonstrated by the minority movement within the gay and lesbian (mostly lesbian) communities of being “gender critical”

Overwhelmingly, adherents to gender critical ideology are women and most theorists are (or at the very least profess to be) radical feminists (the followers are somewhat different).

They philosophically approve of people being gender atypical… but only to a very specified point, accepting the gender normative roles that were established during the early Gay Liberation Movement.

I spend quite a bit of time reading and contesting gender critical ideology, so I like to think that I’m “educated” on it. I can definitely say that radical feminists and gender critical feminists believe themselves to be against gender roles. Their issue with trans people is that they:

  1. Believe that gender nonconforming people are erased by ‘trans ideology’. This is because they so often see female-attracted trans men transitioning (or very often themselves) who were previously butch lesbians, and male-attracted trans women that used to be feminine gay men. From their point of view, transitioning and claiming oneself to be a man/woman erases GNC individuals and turns them into gender-conforming individuals. A butch lesbian is GNC, a masculine man is not. A feminine gay man is GNC, a feminine woman is not.
  2. Believe gender roles are reified by ‘trans ideology’. While I do have gigantic issues with certain trends within some trans subcultures and communities, they by and large misrepresent the trans community to conclude that trans people reinforce gender roles. From their POV, telling feminine men that they must be women means that femininity in men is unacceptable and treated with transition. On the /r/GenderCritical sidebar (right side), there is a diagram that helps elucidate their actual beliefs.

sz2yhf3

By erasing the lived experiences of trans people and ignoring those important things called gender dysphoria and freedom, they construct their narrative that ‘trans ideology’ reifies gender roles. Now I do agree that ‘gender critical’ feminists tend to uphold and reinforce gender roles, it’s for quite different reasons than their lack of support for transition (which has more to do with a fundamental reification of the beauty of ‘original bodies’ and narratives about mutilation). When discussing and analyzing gay men and trans people, they tend to uphold the exact stereotypes they profess to oppose.

The moment that an individual steps past that point, there will be those who will denounce them as hewing to the very stereotypes that they break, but in the opposite gendered sense, denying that underlying sexually dimorphic behavior as valid.

They are (usually, but it varies based on the topic: they are often very opposed to drag queens) completely fine with feminine men, in fact that’s exactly what they wish trans women to live as. The unnecessary mutilation of their bodies is what they oppose (but as we all know, transition is neither unnecessary or mutilation).

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sillyolme

Cherrypicking The Transgender Brain

(Post in question)

I won’t comment on the Daphna et. al literature, because it’s still an emerging line of research that has some more philosophical and definitional questions as to what actually constitutes dimorphism (I’ve seen contradicting meanings).

Ummm… this result is in complete agreement with another hypothesis that many transwomen find uncomfortable, one made by Ray Blanchard, in which he hypothesized that late transitioning transwomen would have brain structure differences from both men and women that would NOT be sexually dimorphic; while young (“homosexual”) transsexuals would show shifts in sexually dimorphic structures toward female morphologies.  There was an earlier review of previous studies (which I also wrote a post about) that had shown that hypothesis to be supported.

There’s also recent research that shows controlling for sexuality has absolutely no effect on trans brain structures.

From the abstract:

However, controlling for individual estradiol, testosterone, or progesterone plasma levels or for subjects’ sexual orientation did not change group differences

And then in the statistical analyses section they explain their control:

To investigate whether the three sex steroid hormones (E2, T, and P4) or sexual orientation explained group differences, the named variables were added as covariates of no interest within separate ANCOVA analyses. Finally, multiple regression analyses were performed to determine the effects of hormones and sexual orientation on diffusivity maps independent of group membership, i.e., with group in addition to TIV as factor of no interest. Separate models were calculated for each of the independent variables (E2, T, P4, and sexual orientation). Because hormone values over the entire sample were non-normally distributed, they were transformed to ordinal scales based on ranks before inclusion in the analysis. Sexual orientation was entered into analyses in three different ways of coding: (1) as raw values of the Likert scale (1 for attraction toward females; 7 for attraction toward males); (2) as a spectrum from homosexuality (e.g., 1) to heterosexuality (e.g., 7) with reference to the raters’ genetic sex; and (3) as a spectrum from homosexuality to heterosexuality with reference to the raters’ gender identity. The statistical threshold was set at p < 0.05 FWE corrected, using the threshold-free cluster enhancement method to define the clusters (). Voxels showing significant differences were assigned to white matter tracts using the DTI-81 white matter atlas of the International Consortium for Human Brain Mapping as provided by the DiffeoMap software package (www.mristudio.org/wiki/user_manual/diffeomap). Diffusivities based on tract-specific quantification for right and left CST, Fmajor, and Fminor were compared using ANOVA in SPSS. Separate models were calculated for each tract and diffusivity parameter, followed by post hoc pairwise comparisons and correction for multiple comparisons using the Bonferroni’s procedure. Analyses were run with and without TIV as covariate of no interest. Separate correlation analyses were performed to examine the association between diffusivities and age and between volumetric data [gray matter volume (GMV), white matter volume (WMV), CSF, and TIV] and age for each group.

And their results:

Here, we investigated whether sexual orientation associates with diffusivity measures. No effects on our main findings were observed when sexual orientation was regressed out in the ANCOVA design. Moreover, there was no significant effect of sexual orientation on diffusivity parameters in the regression analysis including all subjects and using group as factor of no interest.

And furthermore:
In our study, we find robust differences between investigated groups in MD, AD, and RD indicating that biological sex and gender identity both contribute to observed group differences. Moreover, the high positive correlation with adult plasma T levels (controlling for group membership) indicates that group differences cannot be explained by peripheral sex hormone plasma levels. As expected, biological males (MCs and MtF transsexuals) had higher T levels than biological females (FCs and FtM transsexuals), whereas group differences in diffusivity values showed the transition FC > FtM > MtF > MC. Furthermore, group differences were not explained by differences in sexual orientation, narrowing potential determinants for differences in diffusivity parameters to biological sex and gender identity.
As I said, I don’t particularly care about etiological debates over neurology considering the field is new enough to warrant skepticism about replicability and usefulessness, and the extent that socialization and environmental factors affect brain neurology.
But I’ll offer an alternative interpretation of the data that lesbian trans women have ‘masculinized brains’ (taking that as an axiom for the purpose of argument).
We know from some recent on the neurology of gay men and lesbian women that sexual orientation has an effect on brain neurology independent on trans status:

diffusivities and age and between volumetric data [gray matter volume (GMV), white matter volume (WMV), CSF, and TIV] and age for each group.

A 2008 study demonstrating that homosexual men and women have sex-atypical brain structures

The connectivity pattern in homosexual subjects was almost reciprocal in relation to the same-sex controls

Second, HoM, just as HeW, displayed connections with the contralateral amygdala, the anterior cingulate, the subcallosum, and the hypothalamus

Group comparisons confirmed these findings: HeW, as well as HoM, showed a greater connectivity with the contralateral amygdala and the cingulate cortex compared with both HeM and HoW.

We also found that the hemispheric ratios, as well as the patterns of amygdala connectivity, were sex atypical in homosexual subjects, with HoM exhibiting more female patterns and HoW showing more male-like features (albeit less pronounced).

(Note that this has been replicated quite a few times)

A TERF or transphobe could easily interpret this data to show that “trans women are just gay men!” and “trans men are just lesbian women”, which is exactly why the neurological argument is intrinsically flawed. But this data yields an alternative interpretation of the (contested) result that lesbian trans women have brains more similar to that of men: they should. Just like lesbian cis women have brains “more similar to that of heterosexual men” (to paraphrase), lesbian trans women do too. My conclusion is that brain structures are not organized by sex or gender, but by who one is sexually attracted to. Male/men-attracted people and female/woman-attracted people differentiate themselves. It’s internally consistent with the data, while the “male brain” / “female brain” hypothesis is not: gay men and lesbian women provide contradicting data. The issue is not one of data, but one of the paradigms we interpret the data through.

Now, this is all moot if we take the data from the study that I cited above that showed that sexual orientation had no impact on brain structures for trans individuals, which just explicates that trans brains are neurologically distinct than cis brains categorically rather than by subgroups

But either way we look at it, her argument is incorrect in some manner: paradigmatically or scientifically.

Searcy is likely to have written her article in an attempt to discount the growing evidence from transgender brain scan research that shows that the two type taxonomy for transwomen is supported.

There’s exactly one study that has shown gynephilic trans women have ‘male brains’, and there is at least one that shows the contrary. I wouldn’t be so eager to run and shout that the two type taxonomy is supported by the research

Where once older transitioning transwomen cherry picked the brain structure research in an attempt to spin it such that all transwomen had female brains.  She is spinning the science to lead us to believe that brain structure research is unimportant and should be ignored, first by saying that there is no brain structure sexual dimorphism of any consequence and then say that what differences between transgender folk and nontransfolk is unimportant anyway.

This just gets back into the debate over dimorphism, which as I said I won’t get into those weeds today, but I’d just emphasize that it’s not a simple topic. There are fundamental philosophical disagreements over what constitutes sexual dimorphism between the two camps that can’t be ignored by saying that ‘one side is supported by the evidence’ and that the other isn’t.

I believe it represents a growing fear by autogynephilic transwomen that the brain scan science will undermine their own identity as transwomen if the public were to become aware of what the evidence means.

To me it seems Brown is alluding to her own denial of lesbian trans women’s identities and womanhood, which contradicts her stated “support” of “autogynephilic transwomen”

sillyolme

Here Be Liars

(Post in question)

Autogynephilia in cis women does exist. Denying the facts is just harmful to the cis women in question. It’s science-denying and it prevents them from fully expressing their sexuality.

Now that was mostly satire, but what I said about the existence of autogynephilia in cis women is true.

First, there is the wonderfully creative, if fallacious, redefinition of autogynephilia, the softening of the language, more than simple euphemism, of calling it “female embodiment fantasies”.  How delightfully it allows one to then state that, of course, women naturally see themselves as female embodied as they have sexual fantasies.  See, women are autogynephilic too.  Or, as some twist it around, “Blanchard is defining normal female sexuality as a paraphilia!”

Autogynephilia is stigmatizing. It’s pathologizing. Reconceptualizing it (despite whether cis women have autogynephilia or not) as female embodiment fantasies allows trans women with supposed autogynephilia to feel more comfortable about labeling themselves.

Women are not sexually aroused by, nor become romantically enamored with, their femaleness

Here’s where Kay Brown is wrong. I don’t like the blog or the person here, but they did have a survey that found significant levels of attraction to femaleness among cis women that’s about the same/slightly higher than in trans women. Furthermore, Veale et. al 2008 used Blanchard’s scale and found that cis women do qualify as autogynephilic.

But that is what autogynephilia is… sexual arousal and/or romantic attachment to the contemplation of becoming or being female in and of itself.

So, definitionally cis women have autogynephilia

If autogynephilia were an effect of gender dysphoria and a female gender identity, we would predict several consequences from that effect to show up in the data.  We would expect that those who were the most gender dysphoric from an early age, those who are the most naturally feminine from an early age, those who transition the soonest, to report the most autogynephilia.

This ignores at least one of the Blanchardianist skeptics argument about the origin of autogynephilia: that autogynephilia is a result of being closeted and internalizing gender dysphoria for long periods of time. If an individual is open about their gender dysphoria (see: ‘early transitioners’), then they would not have the decades of denial and internalization that the closeted individuals do (see: ‘late transitioners’). Having the highest level of gender dysphoria does not necessitate that autogynephilia is developed, but rather that the internalization of gender dysphoria does. She homogenizes anti-Blanchardianist arguments into one neat and nice strawman that she tears down.

 In Nuttbrock (2009), those who had begun Hormone Replacement Therapy as teenagers only 14% reported having any autogynephilic arousal to cross-dressing compared to 82% of the gynephilic subjects (of whom only one had started HRT as a teen).

This could alternatively lead to the conclusion that transition reduces and/or prevents autogynephilia from developing. This conclusion is further supported by evidence of reduction of FEFs/AGP after transition in adults.

Further, if it is an effect of gender dysphoria and of a female gender identity, we would expect that only those who experience gender dysphoria and claim a female gender identity, to experience autogynephilia

The contention that autogynephilia is a result of both gender dysphoria and a female gender identity is a vicious strawman for a few reasons. The idea that autogynephilia is a result of gender dysphoria and a female gender identity is only posited as a single etiology, which does not preclude the possibility of other etiologies of autogynephilia in individuals of different gender identities.

sillyolme

Nuttbrock et. al

Many transfolk make the claim that data supporting Blanchard’s hypothesis has not been replicated

Yes, because it hasn’t. The non-monotonicity has never been replicated, neither has his findings using penile plethysmograph or the social desirability scale. I could go on, but the short is that a lot of his research has not been replicated.

Already I’ve shown how it had been replicated by both the Leavitt&Burger study and the Smith Study, which was further refined by Lawrence when she showed that the statistical signal strength is increased when one carefully sorts by sexual history.

I’ll have to go read her articles on these two, but I doubt she’s accurately representing the research.

First, the conclusion, so as not to lose my reader’s attention:  The Nuttbrock paper confirms, absolutely confirms, the Freund/Blanchard two type taxonomy for Male-To-Female (MTF) transsexuals, one that is exclusively androphilic and one that is autogynephilic. There can be no doubt now.

There are a number of gigantic issues with this claim. First off is that the study never claimed that. Nuttbrock found a monotonic association between gynephilia and autogynephilia, found substantial differences between heterosexual and bisexual respondents, and concluded;

These limitations notwithstanding, we nonetheless conclude that a classification of the MTF population, based solely on sexual orientation, is fundamentally limited

Which seems to point out that Blanchard’s typology at its core is not as useful as other models.

The second issue is that an association between autogynephilia and gynephilia (which every study on sexuality and trans people has found) is not contested. I have never met anyone who contests that, I know I don’t. The contest is over whether a correlation proves causation (it doesn’t), and whether we can coherently create a mutually exclusive typology (we can’t). Nuttbrock et. al does not do any research on those claims, which makes it problematic to make the type of conclusion Brown does from the study.

Lawrence took the Smith study data set and further sorted out those who self-reported being androphilic but had a sexual history of being attracted to women, as being non-homosexual.

Here’s the issue. A lot of homosexual men (cis gay men) have a history of attraction to women. It’s pretty difficult to coherently categorize people’s sexualities into nice neat boxes when sexuality has been shown to change over time, and that the boundaries between bisexual and homosexual are permeable (Is homoflexible subsumed under the category of bisexual or homosexual? Or is it a distinction orientation?) What Lawrence did is disingenuous to say the least.

A very important study that Brown forgets to cite here is Nuttbrock’s reply to Lawrence, which replies to some of Lawrence’s claims and points out her fundamental misunderstand of a few core methods used in the study;

Our analysis showed that age and ethnicity, in addition to homosexuality, were statistically significant predictors of transvestic fetishism. Lawrence pointed to the moderately high correlations among homosexuality, age, and ethnicity and asserted that our multivariate regression analysis of these three predictors of transvestic fetishism was flawed due to multicollinearity (Light, 1995). The‘‘moderate effect sizes’’ among these predictor variables, according to Lawrence, rendered our regression analysis invalid. This reflects a basic misunderstanding of multicollinearity

Furthermore, they detail problems with Blanchard’s typology (these quotes are out of order and miss headings and other portions of the reply);

Blanchard’s dualistic typology of homosexual versus nonhomosexual or autogynephilic gender dysphoria is one broadly defined dimension for classifying this population, but it is simply too crude to reflect the diversity of sexuality in this population and to serve as a singular basis for understanding these individuals and their sexuality across differentage groups and ethnic categories.

At odds with this strong prediction, in Blanchard’s studies, and our study as well, some of the homosexual MtFs reported transvestic fetishism and, in contrast, some of the non-homosexual MfFs did not do so. The cases not predicted by Blanchard’s theory have been assumed to reflect a combination of measurement errors whereby some homosexual MtFs over-report autogynephilia while non-homosexual MtFs under-report autogynephilia (Blanchard, Clemmensen, & Steiner, 1985; Blanchard, Racinsky, & Steiner, 1986). Some under-reporting of this phenomenon may indeed occur in clinic-based studies (such as Blanchard’s) but invoking this particular combination of measurement errors in a broad-based community sample (such as ours) is highly speculative. A more productive approach would be to better understand aspects of sexuality in this population that are at odds with autogynephilia theory

Lawrence, following Blanchard, claimed that a dichotomous measurement of sexual orientation (homosexual vs. nonhomosexual) is a basic divide that fully classifies and sufficiently describes this population. This broad dualistic typology necessarily assumes that differences across categories of non homosexuals(heterosexual,bisexual,andasexual)arenotempirically
and theoretically significant. We found that bisexual MtFs reported statistically significant lower levels of lifetime transvestic fetishism and (if they reported it during adolescence) they were more likely to ‘‘age out’’ of it during post-adolescence. Rather than ignoring these differences, as Lawrence chooses to do, perhaps we should attempt to better understand them

We attempted to replicate Blanchard’s (1992) intriguing finding regarding a non-monotonic association between a continuous measurement of gynephilia and autogynephilia (including transvestic fetishism). Lawrence complained that we misread Blanchard’s original article regarding a hypothesized non-linear (inverted U) association between gradations of gynephilia and transvestic fetishism (as one indicator of
autogynephilia). Lawrence was indeed correct that Blanchard clearly distinguished between transvestic fetishism and autogynephilia and predicted that autogynephilia (not transvestic fetishism) would show a curvilinear association with gynephilia. Blanchard’s (1992) empirical analysis nonetheless showed that the level of transvestic fetishism, like the specific measurements of autogynephilia, dipped significantly at the highest level of gynephilia (Fig. 2). We attempted to replicate the non-monotonic association between transvestic fetishism and a continuous measurement of gynephilia

Ironically, it seems that Lawrence fundamentally misunderstands Nuttbrock, basic concepts in statistical analysis and possibly Blanchard himself.

Nuttbrock, et al.  followed the Smith example and used self-report, but with Blanchard’s original four categories, sorting into exclusively androphilic, bisexual, exclusively gynephilic, and asexual.  I must emphasize, this was self-reported sexual identity, not actual sexual history

And I must emphasize that sexual orientation is a political category not deterministically decided by past action, but contemporary engagement in sexual intercourse as well as relevant factors like current attraction and identification with the category. To classify androphilic

Another important difference between the Nuttbrock study and the others is that while all of the other subjects were from a gender reassignment clinic seeking somatic feminization, those in the Nuttbrock study were obtained through advertisements and direct contact, in the community at large

Which is an important factor to consider when assessing the validity of Blanchard’s typology. If it only applies to a specific subpopulation, then it does not explain a large part of the trans community.

This means that potentially, an important personality type may have been missed, as it has been remarked that asexual transsexuals are typically schizotypal (fancy word for non-social, shy, loner)

It’s not clear what she means by “important personality type” here.

 It also means that many of the subjects are not strongly motivated toward somatic feminization, instead simply identifying as “transgender” or “gender-queer”.  Indeed, 28% of the subjects are not even taking feminizing hormones.

The fact that 28% of the subjects were not taking feminizing hormones could easily be explained by a number of factors; lack of the diagnoses required to obtain the hormones, needing more money before being able to afford hormones, still being closeted, and so on.

It is important when reviewing the above data, that as in all sociological studies of taxa, because we have not yet found a perfect instrument by which to sort the taxa, and do not have a perfect instrument to detect autogynephilia, we are only able to statistically tease out the two types.  After all, we are asking people to be self-reflective, honest, and accurate, about something that is very personal and as yet poorly understood.  But about the existence of the two types, there is no doubt.

I think this is where some theory on what taxon/typologies are (we should note that taxon are primarily used in the biological sciences, while the terminology of typologies is used in the social sciences, with some important differences) is going to be useful. But that’s for another day.

sillyolme

Moser Was Right

An older Kay Brown post this time.

 

only superficially resembled questions used in Blanchard’s original instrument that are only valid for gender dysphoric males

The idea that autogynephilia is only present in ‘males’ is completely unfalsifiable because it’s defined that way. Moser’s study showed similar phenomenons in cis women that have bearings on Blanchard’s theories, which we can summarize into the short epithet “cis women have autogynephilia too!”. If we operationalize autogynephilia in a different manner, perhaps as ‘arousal to the thought of one being a woman’ (which is often how Kay Brown defines, describes and uses the term), then it’s clear that Moser’s study shows autogynephilia in cis women.

For example, one question asked if one fantasized about having a “sexier” body?  (One would hardly expect that women would fantasize about having an uglier one!)

When trans women fantasize about having a woman’s body, they are fantasizing about having a sexier body. It’s sexier to them, it’s what feels right to them, and it’s the body that they should have had.

Another question asked about becoming aroused while preparing for a sexual encounter with a lover.  (Such arousal would arise due to anticipation, not the mere fact of getting dressed in womens’ clothing!)

The statement in parentheses has some truth to it (I’m sure that anticipation is a confounding factor), but there is little evidence to say that all of the results to the question can be explained by anticipation.

The validity of Blanchard’s survey instrument (or was it originally Freund’s?) was developed against a group of known autogynephilic males and a control group of men that was known not to be so.  Thus, the validity has only been made for males, in a gender clinic setting.

Again, it’s an unfalsifiable claim to say that autogynephilia is only present in “males” if you define it that way. It’s tautological and ignores the pragmatics of showing similar or identical phenomenons in individuals of different genders.

Does anyone doubt that there is a difference between a man answering, in the affirmative, the question, “I have been aroused by wearing womens’ underwear?”  A man who is likely to be thinking of the first time he snuck into his sister’s underwear drawer, slipped into his own bedroom, and posed with panties and bra, observing how he has made his body look more like the girls he daydreams about at school, and ends up masturbating… compared to a woman, likely to be thinking of how she grabbed the stuff to put on this morning, while thinking about how much she is looking forward to that night with her boyfriend?

Here’s Kay Brown’s problem. Now she isn’t comparing the correct items to each other. She is comparing the preparation for a sexual encounter question to the arousal question among cis women and trans women, and then acting like anyone is equating the two. It is not so.

Given that I’ve been seeing this so called study remaining to be popular among autogynephilic transwomen, I thought I should share some factoids about it.  First, it was published in the Journal of Homosexuality a journal with such a low impact factor one would have trouble finding one lower.  The impact factor is only 1.364.  For comparison, the impact factor for Nature is 41.456 and for Science is 33.611.  The impact factor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, where most of the serious papers on transsexuality are published is 2.589, about twice that of the Journal of Homosexuality.  Oh… and second, Dr. Charles Moser is on the journal’s editorial board.  Now, do you think that might have an effect on whether a really weak paper that he himself wrote could get published there?

Comparing two of the top two journals in two of the largest fields to a smaller journal in a small field sounds very disingenuous.

Some of the journals Anne Lawrence publishes in don’t even show up on the impact factor lists that I’ve searched through (Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy)

Advances in Psychosomatic Medicine, which her “Autogynephilia: An Underappreciated Paraphilia” paper was published in, has an impact factor of 0.43.

Another one of the journals Anne Lawrence publishes in, Journal of Sex Research, has a similar impact factor today that the Journal of Homosexuality did then.

Third, where in the study is the validation data?

I’m not exactly sure what she’s refer to by “validation data”. I was thinking either data validation or replication? If she was expecting replication after less than a year after the paper was published in a relatively slow field, then it’s unrealistic.

What is the alpha value (test-retest correlation)?

I doubt he had the funds, time or want to retest. It’s not necessary for a pioneer study into the idea that cis women can have autogynephilia, which is why I’ve emphasized the need for further research on whether autogynephilia is present in cis women and to what extent.

Where is the control group?

There need not be a control group, and I’m not sure what the control group would even consist of. The point of the study (badly worded) is to show that autogynephilia is present in cis women to some extent. The fact that it may have a higher prevalence in some demographics than others is mostly irrelevant to the study at hand.

Indeed;

My study was a small, proof of concept study. It never purported to be definitive,
although it does cast doubt on Blanchard’s prediction about women

.

Where is the clinical observations of autogynephilic behavior in women that led to the trial construction of the instrument?

Also irrelevant. He adapted Blanchard’s scale (see Moser’s response to Lawrence) to show whether autogynephilia (as conceptualized by Blanchard) has a similar equivalent in cis women. If he had used a different instrument, then you would have pointed out that the instrument is very different from Blanchard’s and then does not represent “True Autogynephilia”. It’s a catch-22.

 

It’s also very very worth noting that Veale et. al found autogynephilia using very slightly modified versions of Blanchard’s scales (adding more attractive because cis women already have ‘female forms’), at the rate of *52%*;

It should also be noted that there is another article that has shown autogynephilia in natal women. Veale, Clarke, and Lomax (2008) studied a group of biological females who scored as autogynephilic on their variation of Blanchard’s autogynephilia scales. Lawrence and Bailey (2009) conveniently calculated mean scores for nonhomosexual (autogynephilic) MTFs from Blanchard’s (1989) data; they found the Core Autogynephilia Scale mean was 6.1 (range 0 to 9) and the Autogynephilia Interpersonal Fantasy scale was 2.7 (range 0 to 4); higher scores imply more autogynephilic arousal. On Veale et al.’s versions of these scales, 52% of the biological female subjects scored 6 or higher on the Core Autogynephilia Scale and 3 or higher on the Autogynephilia Interpersonal Fantasy Scale (J.F. Veale, personal communication, July 7, 2009). Lawrence and Bailey concluded that Veale et al.’s transsexual subjects who scored at these levels were autogynephilic. Therefore, they should conclude that Veale et al.’s biological female sample is also autogynephilic. This is another confirmation that autogynephilia is common in natal women