Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy holidays and merry Christmas!

Heya everybody,

I know, I know, I’ve neglected my posting here … but now it’s Christmas and I got almost two weeks off work! I promise, I’ll trail through my 711 unsorted e-mails (😖) and write some posts on what’s new. Sorry I haven’t been able to reply sooner, life keeps getting in the way!

Have a wonderful holiday and festive season! 🐾 ✨ 🎄

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Interview with Swedish researcher Cecilia Dhejne about her often misquoted 2011 study

Heya everybody,

I have written a number of times about the misrepresentation of the 2011 Swedish study by Cecilia Dhejne, et al., (see here for an example).

Cristan Williams, writer at the The Transadvocate has now gone directly to the horse’s mouth and interviewed Cecilia Dhejne in person. This has become the more necessary because trans-haters have continued their misrepresentation of scientific evidence and even claimed links between certain crimes and transsexualism. I so wonder about these people … why do they do that? Presenting facts in a dishonest way is surely the best way to show you have no ground to stand on?

Have a read of the interesting article at Fact check: study shows transition makes trans people suicidal.

Peace and Light ✨. Have a good Sunday!

Danish post-SRS study without conclusive results

Heya everybody,

I know I have been behind with updating the website with the latest studies … so much going on and so little time :)

This is just to mention one new study from Denmark, published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry (2015). The study called Long-term follow-up of individuals undergoing sex reassignment surgery: Psychiatric morbidity and mortality investigated a small number of people (104 individuals, which is nevertheless nearly all people having undergone sex reassignment surgery in Denmark from 1978 to 2010).

The authors Simonsen, Giraldi, et al. found that prior to surgery, 27.9 % of the subjects had been diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses, in comparison to 22.1 % after surgery. This difference was not significant. The authors state that: Despite the over-representation of psychiatric diagnoses both pre- and post-SRS the study found that only a relatively limited number of individuals had received diagnoses both prior to and after SRS. This suggests that generally SRS may reduce psychological morbidity for some individuals while increasing it for others.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to read and understand the entire study. I wonder whether the data has been adjusted for age, demographics, the overall increase in psychiatric diagnoses over the past thirty years, lifetime in years before and after surgery, etc. Even with that in mind, the numbers are quite small – with 29 individuals diagnosed before surgery and 23 individuals after. As usual, it would be great to have better and larger studies.

Peace and Light ✨

Sunday, 27 September 2015

It’s telling when people claim the current scientific consensus is an ideology

Heya everybody,

I have come across a blog called The truth about autygynephilia, which reminded me that I really need to find the time to finish my write-up on autogynephilia. The objective of the blog seems to be to aggressively push the autogynephilia hypothesis.

Interestingly, the subtitle by far the most common reason why male transgenderists attempt to become ‘women’ already seems to shift the goalposts of the hypothesis as defined by Ray Blanchard in the 1990s. I guess the proponents of the hypothesis have accepted that a gender-identity driven pathway to transsexualism exists and now offer autogynephilia merely as an additional, alternative pathway. I so wish they would write a proper peer-reviewed article on what their hypothesis actually is! Anyway, if that is their claim, they need some studies to support the existence of this additional pathway leading to transsexualism.

But I didn’t want to write about autogynephilia today, what has raised my interest is the latest blog post on that website, called Top pediatricians REJECT puberty-blockers, ‘ideology-driven social experiment on vulnerable children and their families’. It quotes a letter written by three American pediatricans, two of them in leading positions, to the journal Pediatrics. In this letter, they object to treating gender-dysphoric adolescents with puberty blockers.

At face value, this seems to be an entirely reasonable thing to do. It is the essence of science that the pros and cons of positions are being discussed in order to come to a conclusion on what describes reality best. Here, the issue is that we have adolescents who have a condition (gender dysphoria) that reduces their quality of life (both self-reported and objectively measurable), and that we need to find a treatment that reduces their suffering.

The current scientific consensus is that some of these adolescents are transsexual. Hormone blockers are prescribed to block puberty (a reversible procedure) until the patient in question is mature enough to be confident that his or her gender identity will not change and is fully able to understand the impact of non-reversible procedures, such as surgery. If these conditions are met, the treatment for transsexuality is applied (i.e. irreversible hormone treatment and surgery). For the effectiveness of hormone and surgical treatment for transsexualism, please have a look here.

What do the letter writers offer in terms of evidence for their position? In their first paragraph, they are off to a bad start, labelling gender dysphoria as a delusion and attacking the current consensus on prescribing puberty-blocking hormones because it treats puberty as if it were a disorder. This is a clear straw-man argument. Nobody says puberty is a disorder. The disorder is the conflict between biological sex and psychological gender identity. This introduction to their letter already casts some doubt on their neutrality and expertise.

So what evidence do they cite? Unfortunately, and fatally for their point of their view it is the well-discussed Swedish study by Dhejne, Lichtenstein, et al, published in 2011. The study with 324 participants looked at transsexuals after surgery and found they were worse off than controls. However, the study was not designed to compare the situation of transsexuals before and after treatment. That was simply not part of the study design, and to imply otherwise is dishonest.

However, we do have studies that do just that (check whether transsexuals are better off after treatment). For example one by Dhejne, et al from 2014 with 767 transsexuals (including the same individuals from the 2011 article) showing that 97.8 % of transsexuals were satisfied with having the surgery done – implying they judge their situation to have improved. For more information, see here. There is more I have written about the study quoted, but it’s tiring having to discuss the same issue over and over again.

In addition, they criticise the lack of a good body of research on the subject (see here for relevant studies) and propose the hypothesis that puberty brings relief for the vast majority of children receiving therapy for GID, because hormone surges propel the development of their brains as well as their bodies and they come to identify with their biological sex.
To support this claim they quote two studies (Zucker, 2005 and Vigil, Oreallana, et al, 2011). The second study doesn’t address gender identity at all, and the first is simply an overview of measures pertaining to gender and sexual orientation. I fail to see how these two studies prove their point. Ideally, they’d need to have two large age-matched groups of gender variant children, one with early onset of puberty, one with late onset (natural or through puberty blockers) and show that the former group becomes more gender-conforming earlier than the latter one, all the while controlling for social and cultural factors.

Anyway, from what I understand the content of their letter is highly dubious and it might not even have been argued in good faith. Show me some evidence that a different type of treatment helps transsexuals more than the current treatment, and I’ll be all ears.

Christian conference on transgender issues rejects the existence of gender identity

Heya everybody,

I have added about twenty studies today, and hope to do the upload soon! Before I give a short overview of the most relevant studies added, I just wanted to mention a different subject:

In a few weeks, a Christian conference on transgender topics will meet in Kentucky, USA (see here and here). It’s organised by the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

I’m not writing about this because I think this conference will have major relevance, I just want to point out what keeps baffling my mind – it’s the way some people think, and how fundamentally different it is from thinking grounded in reality. Apparently, there has been a statement last year by all the speakers rejecting that a human being could possess a gender other than the one indicated by biological sex.

There is a number of problems with this statement.
Firstly, it ignores that biological sex can be ambiguous, i.e. the body has many sexually dimorphic traits, and they can develop in contrasting directions. Biological sex is not a black-or-white issue, as people with disorders of sex development (DSD) demonstrate. These people exist, some with visibly ambiguous sex characteristics. If biological sex determines the gender identity of a person, what is the gender identity of people with DSD?
Secondly, in order for this statement to have meaning, you need a definition of what is meant by gender. I fail to see how one could define the term without relating to the psychological state of a person, i.e. the gender a person feels he or she belongs to and/or has psychological similarities with. If that’s the definition of gender, you’ll find some people claim they have a gender identity different from their natal sex. This is fatal to the claim that gender identity is always identical to physical sex, unless you can show that all transsexuals are mistaken.

We have many studies showing that brains of transsexuals and their psychology exhibit characteristics of their experienced gender and that gender identity exists and is influenced by hormones during the development of the brain.

Let’s wait and see what evidence this conference presents to support its claims. My guess is none.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

More evidence that surgery is beneficial

Heya everybody,

It’s the weekend and the sun is shining!

I have been busy updating my list of studies, but I just wanted to quickly focus on new studies and articles about the effectiveness of treatment.

  • Italian researchers Prunas, Hartmann, et al. have published a study called “Psychosocial outcome and quality of sexual life after sex reassignment surgery: An Italian multicentric study” in the Journal of Sexual Medicine (2015). Their long-term follow-up of about 77 transsexual respondents showed that regrets after surgery are exceedingly rare (less than 1.5 %), satisfaction is high and quality of life increases.
    While the results are very positive, the study suffers from the same issue many long-term studies have – low response rates. Only 37 % of questionnaires were returned. With low response rates it’s anybody’s guess whether the participants of the study were representative of the overall population of treated transsexuals. However, this is the data available.

  • Finnish scientists Mattila, Heinonen, et al. have published an article in Duodecim (2015) stating that Gender dysphoria is effectively alleviated by sex reassignment treatments. Quality of life is improved among the majority of patients, and regrets are rare.

  • Lauren Schmidt and Rachel Ravine from Yale respectively Pennsylvania State University in the US have published a review of longitudinal outcome data evaluating psychological well-being and quality of life among transgender individuals who have undergone cross-sex hormone treatment or sex reassignment surgery in Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America (2015). Unfortunately, the published abstract doesn’t include results and I have not been able to get hold of a full-text copy. If you know what their conclusions are, please send me a mail.

Oh, and in other news the Vatican has stated transsexuals can’t become godparents. Because Jesus said so. No wait, he didn’t. But it’s something they are really sure of, like they are or were of the existence of demons, geocentrism, infallibilty of the pope, unbaptised children going to hell or limbo, etc. Anyway, naturally, your body’s appearance must determine your fate – the soul, the mind, the person, the inner qualities are all completely irrelevant in this theology.

Well, back to the real world – I haven’t yet uploaded the latest additions to my reference pages, but am hopeful to do that this weekend. Take care!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Are we becoming better at accepting reality for what it is?

Heya everybody,

XKCD cartoon “Settled”

I love the cartoon above – it’s so true, and yet nobody is talking about the fact it illustrates.

For decades, we have seen miracles, magic and the paranormal retract at the same rate humanity gets better at documenting things. These days, most people carry around devices that can instantaneously record photos and videos. However, UFO, alien, bigfoot and ghost sightings, sun miracles, Marian apparitions, etc. have just not kept up the pace![1]

I wonder whether our technical progress will lead to less superstition and gullibility in the future. I also hope the Internet might have the same effect. Some people claim the reason why sects such as Mormons, Jehova’s Witnesses or Scientology are finding it more and difficult to gain converts is that the web exposes their claims, and allows them to be evaluated in the open. Open access to knowledge reduces mysteries and secrets and tears the veil from poorly-evidenced statements and assertions.

Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press led to one of the major revolutions in history – first came the reformation, then enlightenment and humanism. Let’s work towards the Internet having a similar effect!

Peace and Light 👻 👼 👽 👾 👿 😏

[1] That’s not to say I reject such claims out of hand – I’m fascinated with the unusual, the extraordinary and the paranormal, and I would like to be the first person to know if something exists outside of our current accepted school knowledge. However, existence needs to be proven with evidence. I’m thankful for anybody working on trying to expand and improve our knowledge.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Diagnostic Manual DSM-5

Heya everybody,

Finally I have been able to put some work in and caught up on something I meant to do for a while!

I got hold of the full text of the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-5, which was published in 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), making it the most up-to-date medical categorisation manual available. It replaced DSM-IV from 1994. The handbook sets standards for both the definitions and diagnoses of mental illnesses and health-related conditions.

I have put the chapter about gender dysphoria on my website and also quoted the subcategory about transvestism, to provide a differentiation. The text is excellent not only for symptoms and diagnostic criteria, but also for definitions and explanations. If you want to know the latest scientific consensus on what gender dysphoria is, have a read! If I have time, I’ll write an article on the changes from the old DSM, and my interpretations of the current status.

The DSM-5 will also provide an important basis for the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), maintained by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO is currently updating the ICD-10, which was published in 1990. ICD-11 is expected for 2017.

Have a good weekend ✨

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Body identification and more

Heya everybody,

Sorry I haven’t been posting in a while, but I have been working in the background, adding new studies to my pages. I hope to make some major updates, but I really need to find the time first.

I have also been working on autogynephilia – an issue I thought went down the drain long ago together with many other unscientific made-up psychological stories … but a discussion on a blog showed me that people still keep flogging that dead horse, and worse … transphobes continue to base their hate[1] on the autogynephilia hypothesis. As you know from my website, I’m all about evidence-based medicine and treatments, and I have been looking some more into autogynephilia, and there just aren’t any supporting facts. I checked: Since Ray Blanchard’s original work in 1989 (which was refuted so authoritatively by Madeline Wyndzen), there was no significant clinical study supporting the hypothesis. The last major episode of the drama was of course triggered by J. Michael Bailey when he published a book about his musings about autogynephilia and his “research” in Chicago bars in 2003. One would have thought that he or his supporters would have been able to come up with some new evidence or facts since, but … nothing … nada … anyway, I’ll write more about it, and supply you with a list of references.

Anyway, in brief: Here is an interesting study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, August 2015, by Feusner, Dervisic, et al., including well-known gender dysphoria researchers Cecilia Dhejne and Ivanka Savic. They studied the body identification of female-to-male transsexuals and found a difference to cisgender individuals. Apparently transsexuals identify more with body images congruent with their gender identity.

Peace and Light ✨

[1] Actually, one of the commentators in that blog discussion advocated the killing of transsexuals, which shook me to the bone.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Transphobic media continue to use Walt Heyer as source

Heya everybody,

I can spend only little time today on updates, but did want to quickly put a post on with regards to the exposure Walt Heyer got in the media (see here, here, here and here), following the public outing of Caitlyn Jenner as transgender.

Walt Heyer has been discussed several times on this blog; he is a person who was falsely disagnosed as transsexual, underwent sex reasignment surgery, only to revert back to his former, natal sex as a male.

Again, this post can only be short, and I don’t want to link back to my previous Walt Heyer articles, I just want to make the following very basic points:

  • If you have a successful medical intervention that produces a 95 % success rate, you will naturally have 5 % of people whose lifes have not been improved by the treatment. This should be obvious to anybody.

  • If you then start presenting people to the public who have not been helped by the procedure, without mentioning that the particular case is a rare event, you are doing a disservice to the public and you are lying.

  • If a treatment fails to improve your quality of life because you have been falsely diagnosed and therefore received the wrong treatment, then that’s tragic. This means we have to work harder on improving the success rates of medical diagnoses.

  • However, if this leads you to the conclusion that the condition you have been falsely diagnosed with doesn’t exist or that the treatment you received in error is not effective for the diagnosis, then you are either very, very stupid or dishonest.

  • If you have been wrongly diagnosed with a health condition, and you are subsequently portrayed in the media as a former sufferer of this condition, then somebody is misrepresenting facts or lying outright.

These are the main points, which should be obvious to anybody with an honest and open mind.

Oh, one of the articles says: Heyer cited reviews of more than 100 studies of transgender individuals that found that sex change surgery is not ‘clinically effective.’ Well, I’m not aware this many studies even exist on the topic.

For 83 studies, reviews and articles on the topic, please have a look at the sex reassignment surgery section of my “What helps?” pages, which paint a very different picture of the matter. To me, Walt Heyer is either grossly misprepresented, or he is lying. And this misinformation does cost lifes.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

J. Michael Bailey is still at it; continues to claim transwomen are lying

Before I continue on the real science, and the facts and evidence surrounding transsexualism, I have to get this out of the way:

Discredited researcher John Michael Bailey, infamous for his autogynephilia hypothesis and his highly “scientific” research in Chicago bars, who has caused so much harm for transsexuals, and poisoned the relationship between transgender patients and psychologists like no other, has been given a platform on a Patheos blog called Warren Throckmorton.[1]

Apparently age, the avalanche of scientific evidence against his hypothesis, and the failure of others to repeat his results, have not caused him to reconsider.

He continues to spout his untruths and accusations. When transsexual Caitlyn Jenner says she was always gender dysphoric and experienced no erotic component of her transsexualism, John Michael Bailey naturally knows better: I believe it is very likely that Caitlyn Jenner’s transition was motivated by intense autogynephilia.

Oh, and he also knows how Caitlyn Jenner feels about the photos of her that appeared in Vanity Fair: I can assure you […]: Caitlyn’s [sic] thrilled with that attention. It’s an autogynephilic fantasy.

I have no words for this person.

We don’t we all don’t start remote-diagnosing people, assume they lie, replace their self-reported motivations with made-up just-so stories unsupported by evidence, and call others sick and sex-crazed individuals. Oh, and then we naturally fake astonishment and surprise at those who call us out on our unethical and harmful behavior.

[1] There is a lot of evidence against autogynephilia on the reference pages of Cakeworld. For a summary of the scientific view, please see Madeline H. Wyndzen’s article series Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Autogynephilia […].

Tons more studies!

Heya everybody,

lots of new studies added (I’ll do the upload later), and more to come later, I hope:

  • The chemical bisphenol A has been under suspicion for a while to alter gender-dimorph structures of the brain, since it mimics estrogen. Yurekli, Kutbay and Saygili discuss in a new article (in Endocrine Abstracts, 2015) whether it could cause gender dysphoria.

  • In Leisure/Loisir, 2015, Muchicko, Lepp and Barkley publish a study that finds that transsexuals exercise less than cisgender people; the reasons are less social support and poor self-perception.

  • Sadly, a study done by Klaver, Vlot, et al. (in Endocrine Abstracts, 2015) finds that hormone therapy for transsexuals increases weight 😏. While weight goes up for both male-to-female and female-to-male transsexuals, the percentage of body fat increases for the former and reduces for the latter.

  • Nota, Klaver, et al. find in Endocrine Abstracts in 2015 that prolactin levels in male-to-female transsexuals increase during hormone therapy, whereas they decrease in female-to-male individuals. For male-to-females, final levels are higher than those of cisgender women. The prolactin levels of female-to-males don’t quite reach the levels of cisgender men.

  • A metastudy by Horbach, Brouman, et al. (in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2015) tried to compare the results of different surgical techniques for vaginoplasty. They found that penile skin inversion is most common, but bowel vaginoplasty does not seem inferior.

  • Alcón and Molina publish their find in Medwave, 2015, that transsexuals suffer more from body dissatisfaction than a healthy control group, but not quite as bad as cisgender people who are being treated for body dissatisfaction.

  • In a somewhat weird study from Russia by Volkova, Porksheyan and Saida Kanaeva (in Endocrine Abstracts, 2015), gender dysphoria is seen as the causal factor for interrupted menses in a natal female.

  • Davey, Arcelus, et al. observe that self-injury is quite common among transsexuals. The prevalence is 19 %. Published in Health & Social Care in the Community, 2015.

  • In the Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science (2015), prolific researcher Melissa Hines publishes a chapter summarising what we know about the development of gender in humans, including the contribution by sex hormones before and shortly after birth.

  • A Turkish study by Turan, Poyraz and Duran reports a case study (in Eating Behaviors, 2015) about an eating disorder in a transsexual male. The pathology improved with hormonal and surgical treatment.

  • An important and large study with over 1000 participants by Andersen, Zou and Blosnich (Social Science & Medicine, 2015) shows that the inferior health of individuals belonging to sexual minorities can be explained by maltreatment early in life. This further shows how important tolerance and support is, and that working towards a better society is essential.

  • Becker, Nieder, et al. report in Archives of Sexual Behaviour (2015) that transsexual persons suffer from body image problems. No subgroup differences for sexual orientation (FtM and MtF) and Age of Onset (FtM) were found.

  • A British study by Gunn, Goedhart, et al. (in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2015) comes to the conclusion that using hormone blockers to stop puberty in transsexual adolescents is effective and well–tolerated.

  • In the International Review for the Sociology of Sport (2015) a study by hargie, Mitchell and Somervill is called ‘People have a knack of making you feel excluded if they catch on to your difference’: Transgender experiences of exclusion in sport.

  • In a dissertation at the University of Cambridge, Miranda L. Abild researches the gender identity development in natally female children with heightened prenatal androgen exposure: Analyses reveal reduced gender typicality and gender contentedness in girls with CAH together with reduced female gender identity and increased cross-sex gendered behaviour. This adds further evidence to the biological origins of gender identity and for a probable cause of gender dysphoria.

  • At the 97th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego, 2015, Boh, Turco and Comi presented a study finding that subcutaneous hormone administration for male transsexuals is safe.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

New link between genes and transsexualism

The Spanish team of scientists researching gender dysphoria have just published a new find, linking differences in a gene to transsexualism.

The study called The CYP17 MspA1 Polymorphism and the Gender Dysphoria, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine (2015), was headed by geneticist Rosa Fernández. The studied genetic polymorphism on the CYPA1 gene had been previously linked to higher levels of serum testosterone, progesterone, and estradiol. The find is exciting because hormone levels in the brain have been shown to shape gender identity, linking this genetic polymorphism to a plausible pathway causing transsexualism.

Rosa Fernández has previously published other studies about other genetic links to transsexualism. In 2013, she found that The (CA)n Polymorphism of ERβ Gene is Associated with FtM Transsexualism, whereas the 2014 study Association Study of ERβ, AR, and CYP19A1 Genes and MtF Transsexualism produced negative results.

New effect found


By the xkcd webcomic.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Ignorance and arrogance harms people – A response to the “Public Catholic” blog

Heya everybody,

I have to put more new studies on, but I found a link to an article called Trans … What Did You Say? Trendy Medical Malpractice on the Mentally Ill on the well-known Patheos blog platform in my inbox that needed a reply first. The article is pretty disgusting, linking gender dysphoria to all kinds of rare and extreme illnesses, a relatively modern version of equating gender-dysphoric people to people who think they are Napoleon or a rabbit. I don’t want to discuss these comparisons here, I just want to highlight one specific point.

The author, Rebecca Hamilton, asserts firmly that hormonal and surgical treatment for transsexuals is an outrageous medical malpractice, surgical mutilation, dismemberment, disfigurement, cruel, destructive, life-long hormone abuse. I wish she told us how she really feels instead of beating around the bush like this! :)

However, what’s relevant for the point I want to make is that she’s absolutely sure hormonal and surgical treatment for transsexuals is wrong:

It is wrong; it is flat-out wrong, to support the surgical mutilation, dismemberment and disfigurement of healthy people for the purposes of pretending that this is a ‘treatment’ for their illness. I cannot and I will not support something so cruel and destructive to the person as this.

I just can’t my head around the logic behind this. In reality, where most of us live, things are so simple:

  1. People suffer

  2. Our goal should be to make people suffer less

  3. We try different interventions, and see how effective they are

  4. We apply the most effective intervention, and keep perfecting it, while looking for better interventions

And that’s really all you need to understand. How hard can it possibly be?

People with gender dysphoria suffer. We can measure this objectively, by asking them, by rating their quality of life, by looking at their suicide rates, by looking at their social adjustment, etc. We can try different treatments on these people, and then measure their quality of life again. Then we know which treatments work and which don’t. That’s it. That’s really it. How can anybody argue against this process?

If you have no heart, and no empathy, and you can’t figure why society should help people who suffer, you even can put monetary values on things. A healthy, well adjusted person contributes +X euros to society, a poorly adjusted person costs society −Y euros. A specific treatment costs −Z euros, and increases the societal contribution of the treated person to some figure between –Y and +X.[1]

I’m not sure how to put it more clearly. All that transsexual individuals are asking for is that we look at how the suffering caused by gender dysphoria can be relieved. I don’t think that anybody is fixated on a specific cure, all we should do is go where the evidence leads us. And overwhelming evidence shows that hormones and surgery can help. Other things that help greatly are the reduction of discrimination, hate, bullying and more tolerance and acceptance.

Oh, before I end this post – pro tip for Rebecca Hamilton: One such step towards a more charitable society would be to stop calling people mentally ill without having sufficient evidence.

[1] I know that in a world with limited resources, we have to make cost/benefit analyses to base decisions on. The polemic at the beginning of this paragraph is reserved for people who are unable to see that helping distressed people is a good thing in its own right.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Speaking from the Margins – Trans Mental Health and Wellbeing in Ireland

I have only now added the 2013 report by the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI), after a friend pointed it out to me. It seems appropriate since Ireland is in the news after the marriage equality referendum![1] The report lists the results of the largest survey of transgender people in Ireland to date. It’s stunning in confirming how effective and beneficial treatment for transsexuals is, and sad in stating how discriminated-against transsexuals are, and how poor their quality of life before transition and treatment is. Here are some of the key findings:

  • Almost 80 % of participants had contemplated suicide and half of those had made at least one attempt.

  • More than 80 % of participants avoided some public places or situations due to fear of harassment.

  • 84 % report that they are more satisfied with life after transition, while 5 % report their satisfaction has reduced.

  • 75 % report their mental health improved after transition, with 6 % saying it has worsened.

  • 81 % say that their suicidal thoughts decreased after transition, 4 % report an increase of suicidal thoughts.

  • 87 % report that their satisfaction with their bodies increased as a result of hormone therapy, 2 % reported they were less satisfied.

  • 90 % reported a higher life satisfaction due to taking hormones, compared to 7 % who were less satisfied.

  • 92 % said they had no regrets about their physical changes due to treatment, 1 % had major regrets.

The report also covers other areas extensively, such as the experiences of the transsexual community when seeking medical help, and other areas of discrimination. Have a read for yourself!

[1] It’s great that the majority of voters in Catholic Ireland voted for marriage equality. It seems so simple to me – if we allow some people to marry the person they love, we shouldn’t deny it to others. I guess the chain of reasons of no voters broke down somewhere. After all, it is hard to provide sound evidence for: god exists, god doesn’t want homosexuals to marry, we reliably know god’s will and we have good reasons to follow god’s orders. 😏

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Epigenetics influences gender identity, societal stigma harms transsexuals and more

Heya everybody,

I have been able to add some more articles and studies. The upload will follow soon; here are the summaries of the most relevant additions:

  • It is interesting how much public discourse and perception can differ from the current scientific consensus. While many people are still not accepting that an innate mental gender identity exists (thereby negating the lived experience of pretty much all transsexual people), scientists are getting ever closer to finding out how gender identity is established in the brain.
    In an article by Leslie K. Feinberg (in Science Signaling, 2015), the mechanism of how epigenetics influences gender identity in rats is laid out. Altering the epigenetic mechanism in female rats produced “neuronal morphology, protein marker patterns, and adult anxiety-related and sexual behavior more typical of male mice”. And, even more remarkable, this process is not restricted to the sensitive perinatal period, suggesting that enduring DNA methylation maintains the female phenotype in the brain. This means we have evidence for a biological mechanism that shapes brain gender and is ongoing throughout adult life!

  • In a 2015 article in The University of New South Wales Law Journal, Felicity Bell perfectly sums up the situation of gender-dysphoric children: [Gender dysphoria] involves ‘clinically significant distress’. Unfortunately, children with gender dysphoria (and indeed many gender diverse young people) are almost by definition at a high risk of depression and anxiety, as well as social isolation, self-harm and suicide. This is unsurprisingly often connected to the discrimination and abuse suffered by these groups.

  • Iranian researchers Azizi, Karimi and Iravani (in the International Journal of Review in Life Sciences, 2015) come to the conclusion that life skill training can improve the quality of life for transsexuals.

  • In the Acta Otorrinolaringológica Española in 2015, Casada, ÓConnor et al. find that the surgical technique of Wendler glottoplasty is effective in feminising the voice of male-to-female transsexuals.

  • Yang, Manning et al. contributed another study (in LGBT Health, 2015) to the question of whether psychological difficulties of transsexuals are directly related to transsexualism or indirectly via societal stigmatisation.
    They find that Higher levels of exposure to [transgender-related stigma] were independently associated with higher levels of depression […] and anxiety […], adjusting for self-reported health and sociodemographic co-variates.
    This adds further evidence to the claim that “transsexuals are not tormented by their condition: it is their condition, which prompts society to torment them“ (Sarah Seton).

  • Spanish researchers Guzmán-Parra, Sánchez-Álvarez, et al. have looked at a larger number of transsexual individuals in Andalusia and found highly interesting results (in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2015).
    Firstly, the social adjustment of male-to-female transsexuals was lower than that of female-to-males, secondly, depression was high in both groups (and personality dysfunctional traits and unemployment status were associated with depression). This adds yet more evidence to the theory that the suffering of transsexuals is caused by society.
    Thirdly, and lastly, they confirm the shockingly high figures of suicide attempts for transsexuals, which have been reported in many previous studies. In their study, they find 22.8 % had attempted suicide and 52.3 % had suicidal thoughts. This underlines the urgent need for support transsexuals have. I’m always surprised how many people don’t get this simple fact – here is a group of people that is suffering, and that’s why society should help.

  • In a large and interesting study published in 2014 (in Psychology and Sexuality), authors Joel, Tarrasch et al. find that the internal feeling of gender identity is on a spectrum and not binary. Sexual orientation was not a major contributor to the perception of gender identity […]. This further underlines the usefulness of separating the concepts of sex, gender, gender role and sexual orientation.

There’s more to come, I promise ☺

New studies, eating disorder and a new book

Heya everybody,

Finally I have started on working on my huge number of links that have been piling up since my last update! I just hope I’ll get everything done before the summer holidays. For a start, here are some news items and new studies:

  • Witcomb, Bouman et al. published a large study (European Eating Disorders Review, 2015) that compared transsexuals to people with eating disorders and a control group. It was found that transsexuals were dissatisfied with body shape and weight. Especially transsexual males are at risk for eating disorders and other body-image-related behaviour.

  • Widely reported in the media was an American study by Diemer, Grant et al. (Journal of Adolescent Health, 2015) that had similar findings. Diemer, Grant, et al. looked at a very large number of people (289 000 US college students), which included 479 transgender individuals. They found that transgender students had greater rates of eating disorders. For media reports, see here , here and here. Alexis E. Duncan, one of the authors, told the media that transsexuals may strive for thinness as an attempt to suppress features of their birth gender, or accentuate features of their self-identified gender. Monica Algars from Finland, who authored a previous study, said: Other potential explanations include minority stress due to stigma and discrimination and On a more positive note, many transgender people report that gender reassignment treatment can alleviate body dissatisfaction and eating (disorders).

  • A somewhat weird study from India looked at differences of the palates (the roof of the mouth) of eunuchs, control males and control females for forensic purposes and found statistically significant variances. I’m not sure whether the study is of a good quality, nor do I know whether eunuchs in India can be equated to transsexuals (male-to-female, presumably), but I have included the study anyway (Saxena, Chandrashekhar, et al in the Journal of Forensic Dental Sciences, 2015).

  • A Spanish expert working group (on gender identity and sexual development of the Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition) has published a position statement (in Endocrinologia y Nutricion: Organo de la Sociedad Espanola de Endocrinologia y Nutricion, 2015) emphasising that diagnosis and comprehensive treatment of gender dysphoria are essential to improve quality of life and to decrease mental comorbidity.

  • A Turkish study (Turan, Poyraz et al. in the Turkish Journal of Psychiatry, 2015) found some differences between male-to-female and female-to-male transsexuals. Social adjustment was lower for male-to-females, whereas females-to-males were more likely to receive medical treatment. The rate of undergoing sex reassignment surgery was higher for males-to-females.

A new book, Management of Gender Dysphoria: A Multidisciplinary Approach, discusses the current scientific status and view on the treatment of gender dysphoria. From the publisher’s abstract:

This book is especially focused on the surgical aspect on Gender Dysphoria. Male to female surgery is widely discussed as well as the female to male conversion. Full information on hormone administration and surgical procedures are provided. Mental health issues are also described, as well as ethics, the law and psychosocial issues. The text is extensively referenced and includes numerous photos, tables and figures to clearly illustrate information. Based on collaboration between international experts in transgender health, this book is an essential guide for health care professionals, educators, students, patients and patients’ families concerning the psychological, hormonal, surgical and social support of transgender individuals.

It’s published by Springer in 2015, edited by a team of urologists at the University of Trieste in Italy (Carlo Trombetta, Giovanni Liguori, Michele Bertolotto), and includes articles from well-known and leading scientists and researchers around the world.

Take care, more will follow soon!

Peace and Light ✨

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Great Britain, elections and democracy

Heya everybody,

I know I haven’t posted in ages … but I keep collecting links to studies, don’t worry. I currently have five pages choc-full of links – and I just need to find time to go through, read, categorise and summarise them … and put them online of course!

In the meantime, just a few thoughts sabout the British elections … nothing deep or special, just my five cents’ worth …

I do think that Britain, one of the mother countries of modern democracy, sadly does suffer from a democracy deficit … here are the three major issues that I find important:

  • The majority (first past the post) voting system. The 2015 election did produce some stunning results – for example, the Scottish National Party received 1.45 million votes and got 56 seats in parliament, whereas the United Kingdom Independence Party had 3.88 million votes and got only 1 seat. With the Conservative Party having the absolute majority of seats, only 11.30 million voters of a total of 30.69 million are represented by the government.

  • The regional structure of government. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have their own elected assemblies, England does not. In addition, the devolved powers (things that the regional assemblies can decide on) differ between the regional parliaments, with Scotland having a higher degree of self-government than Wales, for example. Members of the British parliament have full say on all things in England, but only limited power of government when it comes to Scotland. As a result, a Scottish voter gets a full say on English matters, whereas an English voters gets only some power over decisions that affect Scotland.

  • The monarchy. Clearly, privilege by birth violates the democratic principle.

I think that subsidiarity (the principle that government power ought to reside at the lowest feasible level – i.e. at the local or regional level, instead of the national or supranational level, unless the latter presents clear advantages) and egalitarianism are vital and necessary parts of democracy.

A written constitution would help, in my opinion. A constituent assembly would have to make decisions on very basic matters. If the British public wants to include basic rights such as the following into their constitution, things would have to change: “All citizens are equal before the law. All elections are fair, equal and universal. All cititzens have the same political rights and duties. Every citizen shall be equally eligible for any public office according to his aptitude, qualifications and professional achievements.”

Such a change towards more fairness would make Britain similar to federal structures, like the European Union or Germany. This would currently be a problem, as sadly many British voters feel very strongly that the concept of quarreling, conflicting nation states is better than the one of cooperation with their neighbours, and hence portray institutions such as the EU in a very negative light.

We’ll see how it all works out. I’m confident that the move towards more fairness, equality, democracy and better government continues, just like it has in the past, at times even led by Britain.

The proposed EU memorandum might be a good thing. Time and time again, the EU has been held back by Britain blocking and impeding policies that had consensus among the other member states. It is simple – the EU is a democratic club. If British governments think they have good policy proposals that advance the well-being of all member states, they are free to win over the other members. The fact that typically very few, if any, member countries can get on board with British policy means that there is no majority for those positions. Britain can either accept that or leave. I think the latter might be a likely outcome, considering the British government can’t even agree on basic human rights with its fellow member states and prefers a market-driven race to the bottom, even on principles that should be inviolable. However, leaving the EU might create time and a climate that is necessary to sort out the things that currently divide the country.

Peace and Light ✨

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Correlation between differences in genetic make-up and transsexualism

Heya everybody,

something just hot off the press – Brazilian researchers Cunha, Bachega, et al. presented their latest findings about genetics and transsexualism at the Endocrine Society’s 97th annual meeting in San Diego, USA, in March 2015. They found a correlation between female-to-male transsexualism and fewer repeats of the trinucleotide CAG on the androgen receptor gene.

My understanding is that on the androgen receptor gene, places have been identified where the nucleotides cytosine (C), adenine (A) and guanine (G), three of the four basic blocks of our genetic information, repeat themselves several times in that particular order. In their sample of 35 female-to-male transsexuals, the authors of the study found that the number of these CAG repeats was significantly lower than in the control group of cisgender females.

This is significant for two reasons: firstly, longer CAG repeats on the androgen receptor gene had been linked in an earlier study to male-to-female transsexualism, and secondly, modifications of the androgen receptor gene can directly influence the processing of sex hormones by the body, which in turn have been shown to shape gender identity, especially before and around birth. In other words, if this discovery is true, we seem to have a clear a and consistent pathway to transsexualism.

Excited? Yes, me too. However, it has been very, very difficult to link most illnesses and other health conditions to a specific gene. Think about conditions such as diabetes, schizophrenia, autism, homosexuality, Alzheimer’s, etc.[1] Genes probably are implicated in all of these conditions, but many more factors also play a role. Transsexualism is most likely also caused by a multitude of factors, with genes playing only one part. This is also supported by twin and family studies that show transsexualism has a heritable component, but is not fully explained by heredity.

So, a lot more research has to be done to see whether this result holds up, and how much of a factor it is in causing transsexualism. However, this is another piece of the puzzle that points more and more clearly to a biological basis of gender dysphoria.

If I have time over the next few days, I might wrote more about studies on genes and transsexualism. Take care and have fun!

[1] No, I’m not saying homosexuality or transsexualism are illnesses, like schizophrenia or autism. This is also not a value judgement. I’m just looking at how certain conditions of human experience come into existence, and whether there is a genetic component or not. For a full discussion on whether transsexualism is an illness, please see: Is transsexualism an illness?

Sunday, 29 March 2015

New evidence for a biological basis of innate gender identity and more

Heya everybody,

I finally managed to go through all the studies I have collected over the past few weeks. I added 21 studies in total, the summaries of the most relevant ones ares below. They include more evidence for a biological basis of transsexualism, support the belief by transsexuals that they have a different gender identity and give more facts about discrimination and abuse. Have a read!

  • A new study by Staphorsius, Kreukels, et al. (Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2015) provides additional evidence that brains of gender-dysphoric children function differently. In excecutive functioning tasks, gender-dysphoric children showed intermediate brain activation compared to two control groups. One of the conclusions is that pubertal hormones may induce sex-atypical brain activations in gender-dysphoric adolescents. In addition, the study found that hormone blockers (to stop puberty in transsexual youth) do not affect executive functioning.
  • Munson, Crocker et al. reviewed the speech of transsexual boys (5 to 13 years) in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 2015. Their result was that gender-dysphoric boys were rated as less boy-like than the cisgender boys in the control group. This provides further evidence that gender-dysphoric people are psychologically different from their natal sex, even though it’s not clear yet how the variant speech is acquired.
  • In Endocrine Practice, 2015, Saraswat, Weinand and Safer review the literature for evidence supporting the biologic nature of gender identity and come to the conclusion that there is strong support […] for a biologic basis of gender identity. The conclusion is reached on the neuroanatomical differences associated with gender identity and the connection with disorders of sex development.
  • In a study (Psychological Science, 2015) that found some media attention, Olson, Key and Eaton discovered in a small group of transgender children (ages 5 to 12) that they are statistically indistinguishable from cisgender children of the same gender identity. In other words, gender-dysphoric children are not confused about their gender identity, they express and view themselves just like cisgender children of the same gender identity – transsexual children seem to know who they are, and their behaviour provides independent evidence for their self-chosen gender identity (unless you are willing to believe that they intentionally fake their response patterns to mislead adults). I will write a little more about this study when I find time.
  • Prolific researcher Melissa Hines (along with Constantinescu and Spencer in Biology of Sex Differences, 2015) discusses the distinction between the pre-natal and post-natal surge of testoersterone in male infants. Individuals exposed to atypical concentrations of testosterone or other androgenic hormones prenatally […] have been consistently found to show increased male-typical juvenile play behavior, alterations in sexual orientation and gender identity (the sense of self as male or female), and increased tendencies to engage in physically aggressive behavior.
  • A study by Gibbs and Goldbach (Archives of Suicide Research, 2015) finds that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth growing up in religious households are at higher risks for suicidial thoughts and suicide attempts, thus further underlining the detrimental effects of religious upbringing.
  • Tate, Bettergarcia and Brent find (in Sex roles, 2015) that gender typicality increases self esteem and well-being. They tested homosexual versus heterosexual control groups, however it’s very plausible that the same effect holds true for gender-variant versus gender-conforming people.
  • Along the same lines, Titia Beek finds in her master thesis from the Netherlands that gender-queer people report lower levels of well-being. In addition, she points out that some people do not fit within the dual male/female categories of traditional transsexualism.
  • Shires and Jaffee publish their findings in Health & Social Work, 2015, about how 41.8 % of transsexual men have experienced verbal harassment, physical assault, or denial of equal treatment in a doctor's office or hospital. Among other factors, living full-time as non-birth gender, using hormones or surgery for medical transition, and having identification documents that list one's preferred gender were associated with increased reporting of health care discrimination experiences. In other words, the more you do to try to resolve your gender dysphoria, the more you are discriminated against.
  • In Pediatrics (2012), Roberts, Rosario, et al. find that gender non-conformity increases the risk of abuse (physical, psychological and sexual!) and post-traumatic stress disorder in children.
  • The International Journal of Endocrinology, 2015, publishes a study by Rolston, Gardner, et al. finding that disorders of sex development cause stigmatisation.
  • Another study finds that hormone treatment has little or no negative effects on health. In Endocrinología y Nutrición (2015), Quirós, Patrascioiu, et al find that there is no detectable increase of cardivascular risk factors for female transsexuals. In male transsexuals, they find a a slight worsening in lipid profile […], though within normal limits.
  • In a literature review by Weinand and Safer (Journal of Clinical and Translational Endocrinology, 2015) an increased risk of hormone treatment for thrombosis (transsexual women) and polycythemia (transsexual men) is found. However, cancer and overall mortality does not increase.
  • In a study published by Fertility and Sterility in 2015, Caanen, Soleman, et al. find that levels of antimüllerian hormone are being decreased by hormone treatment for transsexual men. That’s probably a good thing, since high antimüllerian hormone levels are a risk factor for polycystic ovary syndrome.
  • Marchand, Pelladeau and Pommier discuss in L’évolution psychiatrique, 2015, the medical categorisation of transsexualism in catalogues such as the ICD or the DSM. They argue for a distinction between transgenderism and transsexualism[1], and the inclusion of subtypes of transsexualism.
  • Schalkwyk, Klingensmith and Volkmar discuss the relationship between autism spectrum disorders and gender dysphoria (in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 2015) and argue that autistic people should enjoy equal rights with regard to treatment for gender dysphoria.
  • The journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice (2015) is publishing a long series of articles about the treatment of gender-non-conforming people by professional psychologists in its 46th volume. Included is an interesting article by Shpigel, Belsky and Diamond about how to work with non-accepting parents of sexual minority children.

Phew, that was a lot … I’m glad I got that done! I haven’t uploaded the abstracts yet, but hope to do that shortly.

Have a good Sunday! Peace and light ✨

[1] Well, duh! In a way, it’s scary to me that this needs discussing at all. The differences betweeen a crossdresser, who is content to sometimes wear clothing of the opposite sex, an androgynous person, and a person who is so distraught by the mismatch of her gender identity, physical sex and gender role that she can’t function normally, should be self-evident.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Roslyn Hardy Holcomb – How vicious can one get?

Heya everybody,

So much to write and so little time ☺ … just a quick note for now.

On The Transadvocate I found an article about a reaction to the weird Planet Fitness incident (where a trans-phobic female customer had her membership cancelled due to her not accepting the trans-friendly policy of Planet Fitness and is now suing to make the lifes of transsexuals more miserable).

Apparently, writer Roslyn Hardy Holcomb had the following to say about the issue:

The incident doesn’t have to happen in Mississippi. There are a lot of states with open carry, carry anywhere and Stand Your Ground laws on the books. I know in my state you only have to ‘feel’ threatened and you have the right to kill. I don’t know about you, but seeing the likes of ‘Carlotta’ in my bathroom would make me feel threatened as all fuck, and if I still carried I probably wouldn’t hesitate to shoot. I know a lot of women who carry and feel the same way.

I’m shocked and horrified … this is an apparently sane person who lives in a democratic free country, and had the benefit of a good education. And yet, she mandates the murder of people using the same bathroom as she does, if they don’t meet her personal definition of bathroom entry rules. She feels so strongly about the issue, she’d shoot without hesitation. She apparently believes she has the right to take the life of a person who doesn’t look female enough to be using a women’s bathroom – without any questions asked, warnings given, or clarifications.

I simply lack the words, I’m stunned … how can humans be so thoroughly hateful and evil? Oh, and apparently, a lot of women who carry […] feel the same way. And this is exactly why the lifes of transsexuals are as miserable as they are. If you are facing this much hate, suicide does seem a good way out.

In many countries, such opinions wouldn’t be protected by free speech laws anymore, as this is clearly incitement to hatred and violence. I’m not sure about US laws, but a person this deranged and vile must never be allowed anywhere near a gun or any other weapon.[1] Oh, and the law in her state that apparently gives people a right to kill when they ‘feel’ threatened? If this interpretation of the law is correct, transsexuals near her would be apparently legitimised to just shoot her (without hesitation, naturally).[2]

Oh, and this illustrates again the misery of transsexuals who don’t fit in with their gender in terms of looks. “Passing” transsexuals and people with disorders of dex development can fly under the radar, simply be themselves and live a normal life. Non-“passing” transsexuals get discrimination and hate, not to mention a bullet if people like Roslyn Hardy Holcomb have their way.

This reinforces the importance of early treatment for transsexualism in adolescents.

[1] Not trying to be funny, but image what would happen if this madperson went into the wrong bathroom by mistake? Clearly, we need separate bathrooms for women who carry and are haters.

[2] I’m against all violence except for self-defense. If a law that permits murder when “feeling” threatened exists, free speech, tolerance and humanism have clearly lost out against barbarism, arbitrary violence and anarchy.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Good news from the European Union

Heya everybody,

On the 12th of March 2015, the European Parliament voted on the EU’s report on human rights and democracy in 2013. With 390 votes in favour, 151 votes against and 97 abstentions, the parliament called for binding human rights clauses in all EU international agreements.

In its own section on LGBTI rights, the approved Motion for a European Parliament Resolution called for several issues relevant to transgender individuals. I quote this section in full, since I believe it’s a very commendable and exemplary piece of work for advancing equality and human rights.

[The European Parliament …]
  1. Considers it regrettable that 78 countries still criminalise homosexuality, including 7 which provide for the death penalty (Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Mauritania, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iran, the Maldives and Brunei), and that 20 countries still criminalise transgender identities; firmly condemns the recent increase in discriminatory laws and believes that practices and acts of violence against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity should not go unpunished; encourages close monitoring of the situation in Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi, India and Russia, where new laws or recent legal developments seriously threaten the freedom of sexual minorities; reaffirms its support for the continuing work of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to combat these discriminatory laws and practices and for the UN’s work more generally on this issue;
  2. Supports the idea that the EEAS should prioritise its actions in this area and put particular emphasis on situations where the death penalty is in force and/or where LGBTI people are subjected to torture and ill-treatment, by condemning these practices in accordance with the EU Guidelines on the Death Penalty and the EU Guidelines on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
  3. Welcomes the adoption in 2013 of the EU Guidelines to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of all Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons; calls on the EEAS and the Commission to raise the issue of LGBTI rights in political and human rights dialogues with third countries and multilateral forums; emphasises the importance of the Commission and the EEAS continuing to raise the issue of LGBTI rights in political and human rights dialogues and of using the EIDHR to support organisations defending LGBTI rights by empowering them to challenge homophobic and transphobic laws and discrimination against LGBTI people, raising awareness among the general public of the discrimination and violence experienced by people of different sexual orientations and gender identities, and ensuring the provision of emergency assistance (including psychosocial and medical help, mediation and reintegration assistance) to those in need of such support;
  4. Takes note of the legalisation of same-sex marriage or same-sex civil unions in an increasing number of countries – 17 to date – around the world; encourages the EU institutions and the Member States to further contribute to reflection on the recognition of same-sex marriage or same-sex civil union as a political, social and human and civil rights issue;
  5. Calls on the Commission and the WHO to withdraw gender identity disorders from the list of mental and behavioural disorders; calls on the Commission to reinforce its efforts to end the pathologisation of trans identities; encourages states to ensure quick, accessible and transparent gender recognition procedures that respect the right to self-determination;
  6. Welcomes the growing political support for outlawing sterilisation as a requirement for legal gender recognition, as expressed by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, and supports the view that such requirements should be treated and persecuted as a breach of the right to bodily integrity and of sexual and reproductive health and rights;
  7. Welcomes the annulment in October 2013 of the Moldovan law prohibiting the ‘propagation of any other relations than those related to marriage or family’, and calls on Lithuania and Russia to follow the Moldovan example; considers regrettable the outcome of the Croatian referendum of December 2013, which endorsed a constitutional ban on equal marriage; points out that a similar referendum will take place in Slovakia in February 2015; considers it regrettable that in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia a bill constitutionally banning same-sex marriage is currently being considered in parliament; stresses that such developments contribute to a climate of homophobia and discrimination; stresses that there is a strong need for improved protection of basic rights and freedoms for LGBTI people, including through legislation on hate crimes and anti-discrimination legislation, and asks national authorities to denounce hatred and violence on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression; considers that LGBTI people’s fundamental rights are more likely to be safeguarded if they have access to legal institutions such as cohabitation, registered partnership or marriage;

So, what is there to say … except for hurray, yay, well done 👏!
I especially love the excellent and well thought-through wording of paragraph 163. It calls on the WHO, which is currently working on a new edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), to remove gender identity disorder from the list of mental disorders. This motion is based on a vast body of scientific evidence showing that transsexualism is not a psychological disorder. Transsexuality is a condition created by a conflict between the areas of anatomical gender, gender role and gender identity. However, it is a condition that can reduce quality of life for the affected individuals to such a degree that medical care is necessary. This means the continued inclusion of transsexualism in the ICD, under a different category than today, is warranted and required.
In addition, the de-pathologisation of gender-queer behaviour is called for. This is a humanistic and much-needed step: gender-queer behaviour causes no harm, and it’s just weird and sick and bizarre and oppressive to classify behaviour that falls outside some cultural or social norms as sick.

So, thanks for that! It’s great what the EU has done over decades in terms of human rights, environmental protection, worker’s and consumer rights, and freedom of the individual – and all that in the face of a very diverse political and cultural landscape in Europe.

Oh, and I plan to put on some new studies later!

Friday, 6 March 2015

Science, religion and Alvin Plantinga

Heya everybody,

On a website I frequent and like very much, Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is true, I came across an article called The stupidest argument of the month: atheism empowers ISIS. The article deals with a piece on a blog that I hadn’t come across before. It’s called Samuel’s Notebook – A Blog of Inklingations and is located on the Patheos web channel.

Well, the Inklingations blog sadly doesn’t allow comments on blog articles, only on something that’s called Samuel’s Notepad. I wrote two comments there, and then the comments thread was closed. 😏

However, there was an additional point I wanted to make. I’m usually not good at sophisticated philosophical arguments, but this was one was so transparently stupid that I just have to add my two cents worth. ☺

In an article claiming science has no meaning unless god exists, Samuel James, the author of the blog, uses an argument made by Alvin Plantinga to support his claim that only supernatural theism gives us assurance that real scientific knowledge is possible. He puts Plantinga’s point like this:

Philosopher Alvin Plantinga is famous for articulating what he calls the ‘evolutionary argument against naturalism’. The argument is complicated in detail but simple in premise. Plantinga begins by putting two facts alongside each other that nearly all atheists agree on. First, the theory of evolution is true, and humans have descended from lower life forms over time. Secondly, humans are rational beings in a higher degree and superior way to lesser evolved creatures. Plantinga then points our attention towards a tension between these two facts. If human beings are a more evolved species of primate, then our cognitive faculties (i. e., the parts of our body and mind that allow us to be rational creatures) have evolved out of lesser cognitive faculties. But, Plantinga says, if God does not exist, then the only factors that affected human evolution are time and chance. Based on time and chance alone, why should we be confident that our rational minds – which are merely the sum of lesser evolved minds plus time and chance – are actually rational at all? What basis do we have to believe our own conclusions? How do we know we are actually capable of knowing truth more than a primate? If the only players in our existence are lesser creatures, time, and chance, how do we know we are even highly evolved at all? This astute observation was echoed by […]

Apparently, this leads to the conclusion that scientific knowledge is only possible if things unprovable by science are actually true.

I’m not sure how this can pass as a rational argument amongst reasonable people. Let’s start by what we mean by more evolved. Clearly, humans are not more evolved than some other animals when it comes to swimming in water or under water, flying, or running quickly (if anybody asks how we can know this, try to outrun a tiger).

Okay, let’s use intelligence as an area where humans are more highly evolved. A useful definition of intelligence in this context is the capability to learn, to understand and to manipulate the world around us. How can we provide evidence that humans are more intelligent than other animals? Well, humans can control the powers of fire. Humans can create and make use of electricity. Humans can calculate and predict solar eclipses. Compare our abilities in this area to the abilities of other animals, and you’ll find humans are the species with the highest intelligence. Wow, and we’ve come to this conclusion using evidence and reason, entirely without supernatural shenanigans. And it really is that simple.

I don’t know about the reasoning powers of Alvin Plantinga or Samuel James, but if budgies cannot build nuclear power stations, and humans can, then it’s pretty evident that humans are more evolved than budgies when using nuclear power stations as an indicator. Hey, see what I did there? I was able to compare the ability of one species with another, and I did that entirely without invoking the concept of god. Amazing, isn’t it?  😏

Sunday, 1 March 2015

A religious view on gender

Heya everybody,

While doing my usual round of collecting new studies about the topics I cover on Cakeworld, I came across an article discussing gender from a Catholic viewpoint, called Image and imago: a rational defense of a theological anthropology of gender, by Prof. Dr. Christopher P. Klofft. Normally, I don’t read through studies about cultural, sociological or legal issues related to transsexualism, since I concentrate on certain medical/psychological issues only. However, for some reason I read the article – I am curious as to why religions feel they should express an opinion on conditions such as transsexualism. Okay, so here we go:

The author is right off to a bad start by citing from an interview with actress Kirsten Dunst where she makes some unnecessary and gendered generalisations from her personal preferences: And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armor. […]. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s how relationships work. From this inconsequential statement, Klofft manages to construe a false dichotomy: depending on one’s perspective, this is either a thoroughly commonsensical statement or else a betrayal of the struggle of being a woman in the 21st century, and is led to proclaim that figuring out which one of those two contrasting views is correct is at the heart of issues of gender identity, gender meaning, and gender confusion today. Oy … where to begin …

After this assertion, he continues by claiming that confusions run rampant throughout discussions on subjects as practical as marriage and as theoretical as questions of human meaning and purpose because Modern and Post-Modern discourse espouses an increasingly plastic or subjective understanding on gender. His next assertion is that Catholic theology provides a response to this problem with a consistent account of gender that is also compatible with the best evidence available in support of a purely rational approach. This statement naturally got me interested, as that’s my cup of tea. An evidence-based, purely rational approach – yay! And apparently, if we understand the true meaning and purpose of gender, this will lead to a better understanding of ourselves and all of our relationships, and ultimately to the betterment of culture as a whole. That’s pretty good, isn’t it?

I mean, I know what gender is – gender encompasses the mental characteristics developed by evolution that go along with the two biological sexes which formed with sexual reproduction, and the associated cultural and social traits. So I should be well placed to understand myself and all my relationships better, which in turn improves society, right? But Christopher Klofft had a different “meaning” of gender in mind, as I soon found out.

In his next paragraph he says somehow incoherently that feminism is not necessarily the same thing as the contemporary crisis regarding gender, then continues on to define feminism as striving for the best realization of the unique gifts that women bring to culture. The patronising tone of this statement is just incredible, I find (is it just me?). There is a proper culture, male and built by males (that goes without saying), but hey, look, women have gifts, unique to them (of course!), and in our generosity we should permit them to bring their little gifts, and we should nod and smile and humour them like we would a child of less-than-average intelligence. Well, in my book feminism is about equality – equal rights, equal opportunities and equal value.

Klofft then goes on to claim that Modern and Post-Modern thought on gender has reduced it from an element of being human that is readily recognizable and acknowledged as a given to a yet another characteristic of the person subject to radical self-definition. Following on, he takes issue with differentiating the concepts of bodily sex characteristics, gender identity and sexual orientation (which he describes as one’s predilections in regard to sexual pleasure – these Catholics, always thinking about sexual pleasure first, instead of love or romantic attraction ☺). Apparently, distinguishing between the concepts of sex, gender and sexual orientation is very confusing to cisgendered men and women. Um, what? It’s clarifying, it’s enlightening, and it has explanatory power. Why should it be confusing? Our world is always complex and detailed when looking more closely at one particular issue, but the things we learn help us to understand nature better. I can’t even imagine what the alternative would be – should we simply say there are men (who are automatically and always cisgender and heterosexual) and there are women (who are automatically and always cisgender and heterosexual) and nothing else? Do we then deny that homosexuality exists in humans and animals? Disbelieve people who claim they are homosexual and transsexual? Sure, I can simply pretend things don’t exist – but the concepts of sex, gender and sexual orientation help us in understanding ourselves, our relationships and nature as whole better, and are grounded in the best evidence supporting a rational approach. Why abandon them?

Well, Klofft gives the answer. Apparently,

ignoring the binary distinctions of man and woman, male and female, creates challenges for anyone in any way responsible for helping others to understand the value and meaning of being human. This includes parents, educators, health care professionals, and law makers, to name just a few.
Read that again, slowly. He asserts that acknowledging there is more than black and white when it comes to issues relating to sex, makes it difficult to understand the value and meaning of being human. What? Every human life has the same value – what’s so difficult to comprehend here? Why does the fact that biological sex has nuances place obstacles especially for people responsible for helping others? Are parents, educators, health care professionals and law makers more stupid or more bigoted than other people? I have no idea what he’s on about? Are there other facts about nature we need to shield these special snowflakes from, lest they are mean to people entrusted to their care?

He then quotes some studies, correctly, that 95 % to 99.7 % of people identify with their biological sex, only to use this as basis for his complaint that yet a disproportionate amount of energy is placed on changing cultural perspectives. Umm okay, let’s say, just for example, if, say, 1 500 people per year commit suicide because of gender dysphoria, what is the correct amount of energy that should be placed on trying to help them, according to Prof. Klofft? In addition, he sighs, additional challenges are placed on the mental health community because it now has to figure out whether transsexuals suffer because of discrimination or because gender dysphoria is related to mental disorder. I can’t fathom his mind at all. Naturally, it is the job of the health community to find out the causes of illness, since knowing the cause often helps with the cure. Is he of the opinion we should not study the causes of depression and other mental issues? What the heck should we do instead? Stop helping people? I thought he was in favour of evidence and a rational approach? Surely this means we have to look for evidence?

Okay, continuing, he asserts that overall, we have great confusion about questions of gender in the west. He then goes on to talk about essentialist and constructionist definitions of gender. Essentialist definitions of gender are described by Klofft as based on the physiology and neurochemistry of the body, constructionist gender definitions are solely defined by one’s self, with as many genders as there persons, classifying vocabulary merely being used as a convenient shorthand for generalization. The latter is completely false, he asserts, because it is. End of story. So much for a rational approach!

Unsurprisingly, with his definitions for essentialist and constructionist definitions of gender he then continues to build up a completely false dichotomy. Why is it either or? Naturally, two genders/sexes exist, nobody disputes that. But nature likes variety, and things are often normally distributed, on a spectrum. This includes sexual characteristics, sexual dimorphisms in the brain, neurochemistry, etc. His essentialist definition doesn’t have a binary as its only or logical outcome, and his constructionist approach doesn’t have to deny that there are two main categories for gender or sex. Well, to disprove his binary approach to gender, which he equates falsely with the essentialist definition, let me point to disorders of sexual development, which affect up to 2 % of humans (that’s how a rational approach works, quoting evidence, not simply asserting something is false).

He then goes into knowing oneself and talks about the difference between understanding oneself and defining oneself. In a patronising style (I can imagine him reading this passage with a raised index finger) he then declares:

Gender, however, is a characteristic that does go to the core of what it means to be a human person. As such, can it be something that is defined by one’s own perceptions and subsequently thrust upon those with whom one is in relationship? Are one’s personal perceptions automatically to be taken as accurate for that person because they come from within? Or rather, is it possible that this aspect of one’s image, one’s gender, is something that can only be discovered rather than defined by oneself?
I mean, this made me alternate between wanting to laugh and wanting to cry. This statement, probably intended by him to be great moral warning, and a profound truth he has uncovered, is exactly the mantra of us transsexuals. It is what we have been saying all along. If he had bothered to talk to one single gender-dysphoric person, he would have heard exactly the same statement. Gender is innate, we have been saying. Long and hard self-studying has led to us to the conclusion that we are of the other gender than the one assigned at birth. We tried so hard to conform to the gender we were assigned at, but it didn’t work. Nature made us the way we are, we tried to fight against out nature, against who we are, against our very own identity… and ultimately failed. We succumbed to our true and only identity, to the core of who we are. Is this claim so hard to understand? Does he really think there is even a single transsexual child who says to her parents that she has chosen to be a girl, like one chooses to go horse riding or one chooses one’s hairstyle? Every transsexuals child tells the story how he or she is the gender he or she is, how she knows that’s her, down to the core of her identity. How can Klofft have so little knowledge about the people he likes to lecture? How dare he know so little about the subject he pontificates on? How can he be so blatantly ignorant about the claims made by the people he passes judgment on? And the claims we make are supported by evidence, as dozens and dozens of neurological and psychological studies show. What about his best evidence available in support of a purely rational approach?

To raise my ire further, he then says

[…] there is a benefit to acknowledging and accepting one’s gender based on one’s biology. It is easier and convenient. It simplifies relationships with others, especially people who we may not know as well. It promotes good physical health. It leads to psychological wholeness and easier spiritual growth.
Well, there you have it, you idiot! (Sorry!) That’s exactly what the problem is behind gender dysphoria. Transsexuals who have not been able to transition yet, live in conflict with their biology. This gender dysphoria causes poor psychological health. That’s what have been saying, what we are saying, and what the evidence says. All we want is to live, to live as ourselves, to live as who we are, to be true to ourselves and our identity. Has Klofft never heard this argument or never considered it? How can one person be so ignorant? I mean, this is a subject he writes about length, so it’s fair to assume he is interested in it. Is it wilful ignorance?

All these tortured arguments that essentialism is somehow linked to a black-and-white view of gender and that constructionism is apparently patently false, and so on, are just smokescreens. What Klofft says is that there is male and female, and nothing in between, and gender identity doesn’t exist separate from the anatomical sex of the genitals. Period. And he provides no evidence for this view. None at all.

Well, on his last few pages he talks about the concepts of male and female in the bible. Okay, maybe it’s historically interesting what concepts iron-age sheep herders had of the biological sexes and gender roles. Well, okay, I understand Klofft believes the bible is god’s word or at least inspired by god. But the bible is not a book that includes all there is in the universe and rules on everything. There are other planets, there is diabetes, there are dinosaurs. Should we conclude these things don’t exist because they are not mentioned in the bible? Should we conclude that if a topic is mentioned in the bible, however superficial, there is nothing more to learn about it? Why then study astronomy or medicine? We know the sun revolves around the earth and sickness is caused by demons, so why learn more?

In his last paragraph, Klofft says:

The work ahead of us is daunting, but the end result is sure. For the immediate future, there will continue to be curious laws, broken relationships, dangerous misunderstandings of human sexuality, depression, suicide, and one or more generations of children growing up confused about what it means to be a human person. The Catholic tradition offers an alternative to this, one which is founded in God’s revelation, but because of that, it is also accessible to human reason and common sense.
This is twisting the truth beyond recognition. It is religious bullying that leads to depression and suicide. In contrast, human reason and science are trying to learn and to understand human sexuality. The last sentence in the quotation above is incoherent to me. Why is something accessible to human reason and common sense because it’s based on revelation? I thought god worked in mysterious ways? If we can take human reason and common sense to revelation, then the only things that remain of revelation are reasonable and evidence-based, making revelation unnecessary.

Oh, and one more quote: The simple truth remains this: human persons all share happiness as their final end and nothing can ultimately satisfy that longing except for relationship with the Creator in Whose image we are made. I’d like to see some evidence on that, please. If this assertion is true, Christians or at least Catholics should surely be happier than other people?

Well, I’m not sure how reliable Klofft is in his theology, either. I thought the Catholic Church accepted evolution, but he says: The revelation of God about the meaning of the human person as taught by the Catholic Church reveals that we are creatures, lovingly fashioned by a Craftsman Who is Himself personal and relationship. Surely one can’t describe the cruel and wasteful process of evolution as lovingly fashioning creatures?

All this waffle, no evidence, no substance and not much logic in this long article by Christopher P. Klofft. What’s the point? To me, it appears like an exercise in creating an intellectual smokescreen with the aim to cover up how out-of-touch, anti-scientific and inhumane Catholic teachings on sex and gender are.