On 13 February 2014, Facebook’s collaboration with Press for Change and Gender Intelligence culminated in the drop down autocomplete menu of genders for users to choose from. The initial list constituted 58 genders but Facebook ultimately settled on 3 options; female, male and other (please specify.) The addition of the ‘other’ category was necessitated by the recognition of people who do not fit neatly into the gender binary. The ‘T’ in LGBTIQ represents the portion of the population which has an expressed gender identity which is incongruent with their natal sex. In America, this group represents 0.6% of the population which translates to 1.4 million people. Transgender people demonstrate the fluidity of gender as a social construct. After all, sex is determined by what is between one’s legs and gender reflects what lies between one’s ears.
The previous sentence is politically correct and it insinuates that gender and natal sex are independent of each other. Natal sex is said to be assigned by midwives and society at birth. Natal sex is not arbitrarily assigned by society, it is a biological reality which solidified by the 23rd pair of XX and XY chromosomes imprinted in the nucleus of every single one of the 10 trillion cells that make up the human body. The XX and XY chromosomes are functional outside the reproductive tract as discovered by MIT Professor, David Page. The genetic differences between one male and one female are 15 times the differences between two males and two females. To deny the significant biological differences between the two sexes is to deny Darwinian evolution theory, genetic science and the common sense logic that human beings are sexually dimorphic. Nature loves variety and so there are outliers such as people with intersex conditions who, in the past have had their most pronounced features decide which of the sexes they will be assigned. The claim that sex is assigned is a pseudoscientific statement used by ill-informed ideologues and belongs in the same category as phrenology.
Unlike chromosomes and hormones, gender identity is not empirically measurable. The extent to which societal conditioning impacts gender identity cannot be denied as gender is performed. It is absolutely disingenuous to assume that societal conditioning nullifies the biological differences between the sexes. Methods designed by child psychiatrist, Trond Diseth to determine the most appropriate sex for intersex infants demonstrate the limitated influence of social norms on gender identity. An experiment on male and female monkeys on their preferences for typical male and female toys also proves it. Infants and primates cannot be indoctrinated to prefer one toy over another. How did we come to believe that biological sex and gender develop independently of each other? The distinction between sex and gender has its origins at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s and 1960s.
Clinical psychologist, John Money repurposed the word ‘gender’ to make it specific to human beings and pioneered gender fluidity theory. He believed that humans are born gender neutral and indoctrinated into assuming one of the two genders. To prove his hypothesis, he performed an experiment on identical twin boys, Brian and Bruce Reimer. Johns Hopkins was the mecca of clinical studies and treatment of people with intersex conditions, people exhibit delayed and precautious puberty as well as those with ambiguous genitalia. The Reimers sought help from Johns Hopkins because their sons had phimosis which is a condition that prevents the penis from retracting fully to facilitate urination. A circumcision was the simplest solution and was performed at seven months old. The physician used cauterization (burning) to remove the foreskin and ablated Bruce’s penis beyond surgical repair. Brian’s phimosis resolved itself naturally.
John Money advised the parents to raise Bruce as a female and so they renamed him Rebecca. Money convinced the parents that through conditioning, Bruce would assume the identity of a heterosexual female. Bruce was surgically castrated at 17 months and underwent genital reconstructive procedures at 21 months. A rudimentary vagina was created and an opening was made in the abdomen to enable him to pass urine. Oestrogen was administered during adolescence to promote the development of secondary sex traits like breasts. The twins offered the perfect sample for Money because they had identical DNA, were reared in the same environment and Brian was a control subject.
Money documented his annual psychological tests with the twins as part of his research on childhood sexual development and gender. The twins reported that Money would instruct them to perform genital inspections on each other, watch pornographic material and rehearse sexual positions. Money said these exercises were necessary for healthy childhood sexual exploration and would help Rebecca assume the identity of a heterosexual adult. After threatening to commit suicide in protest against attending another session with Money, Bruce’s father told him of his botched circumcision and subsequent procedures. Bruce immediately assumed the male identity at 14 years and opted for a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery for a penis. He then changed his name to David. He married a woman and attempted suicide twice before he succeeded at age 38. Prior to his death, he participated in a follow up study by Milton Diamond and publicly disclosed his ordeal in the December 1997 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. Brian struggled with schizophrenia and died of an antidepressant overdose in June 2002.
The legacy of Money’s unethical and unscientific methods persists today in the sphere of transgender medicine. Children are increasingly being subjected to these experimental methods of treatment to address the dysphoria brought about by the incongruence of their sex and gender identity. There is no scientific consensus on the standardised diagnostic tools and treatment of transgender people. The cause of the gender dysphoria transgender people suffer with is a mystery and is a contentious issue in the medical community. Some experts believe that it is a neurological condition that places the wrong brain in the wrong body and thus the wrong hormones interact with the opposite gendered brain. Other experts believe that it is a mental illness characterised by a person’s persistent and consistent delusions. They believe that psychotherapy alone is necessary to treat it. Gender dysphoria was called ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ in the DSMIV and a technique called ‘watchful waiting’ was used to treat transgender children. Dr Paul McHugh closed Money’s operation in 1979, has over 125 peer reviewed articles and he is a proponent of watchful waiting. Dr Kenneth Zucker boasts a success rate of 80% for female patients and 98% for males using his methods. His study on this method of treating gender dysphoria is not peer-reviewed and thus does not loyally follow the scientific method of discovery. Proponents of altering the body to match the mind have no evidence to prove that cross gender hormones and sex reassignment surgery truly alleviate gender dysphoria. The suicide rate of transgender people is 20 times that of their comparable peers even after surgical interventions.
The common shortcomings of the studies that embolden people on both sides of the argument are major. They often have small sample sizes so assessment tools are not always validated. Secondly, there is considerable loss to follow up which compromises the studies. Thirdly, they lack concurrent control subjects or testing before and after surgery. Their tendency to be hypothesis generating instead of hypothesis testing is also worrisome. There is no standardized testing for gender dysphoria, all that is required is for an individual to self-diagnose. Part of the reason for this can be found in a study of 1400 brains through autopsy at Tel-Aviv University.
The researchers at Tel-Aviv analysed three features that correlate with sex. The features are patterns of brain activity, grey and white matter. The research showed that it is rare for a single brain to exhibit either masculine or feminine features exclusively. The male brain is larger than the female brain but the female brain has thicker cortexes which are associated with cognitive ability.
The main physical difference between male and female brains is the ration of grey to white mater. Women have 10 times more white matter than men and men have 6.5 times more grey matter than women. The grey and white matter studied is related to intelligence. Another study used MRI techniques to examine the brains of 18 FtoM (Female to Male) transsexuals and 19 heterosexual female controls and 24 heterosexual male control subjects. They discovered that the transsexual subjects (born female) had the same grey to white matter ratio as the gender they identified with (males.) This study was done on people who experienced gender dysphoria but opted not to transition using cross sex hormones and surgical interventions. The amount of testosterone in the bloodstream is also linked to how microstructures form in the brain. As a layman, it is incredibly difficult to reconcile the fact that there is no such thing as a gendered brain and that transgender people have the “wrong” gendered brain interacting with the wrong body’s hormones. Researchers also state that one cannot infer anything about innate skills, behaviours and the extent to which social engineering can be discounted when observing the brains of the sexes.
Behaviour alters the brain so there may be some credibility to the notion that gender dysphoric children tend to desist from transitioning if allowed to go through puberty naturally. Due to the loss to follow up in older transgender studies, desisters and detransitioners are not accounted for. Websites like sexchangeregret.com and organisations such as The Heritage Foundations do the work to assist detransitioners who believe that surgical interventions did more harm than good. The assumption that gender identity is innate is also challenged by twin studies which show that identical twins with identical DNA do not share a gender identity 72% of the time.
The use of puberty blockers was restricted to help those experiencing precautious puberty. Now, they are used to assist children with gender dysphoria even though they are not FDA approved for this use. Puberty blockers, when used in physiologically normal children, have negative effects. They reduce the growth rate in height, lead to low bone density, abnormal glucose tolerance, breast cancer and in some cases lead to more self-harming tendencies. They permanently sterilize children because they force the reproductive organs to atrophy. They are used to stop the sexual development at the onset of puberty and are followed up by cross-sex hormones. Gender reassignment surgery also does not alter the genetics of a transgender person’s natal sex.
The ethical issue of experimenting on children has not been addressed adequately. Puberty is a natural development state. It is stage three in Piaget’s model of cognitive development. Puberty’s main function is not only to make humans reproductively viable but also involves changes in the brain and psyche. Although the human brain reaches 95% of its full size by age six, it doesn’t stop developing until adulthood.
The prefrontal cortex which is responsible for higher order cognition, planning and decision making stops growing in the mid-twenties. The limbic system which is responsible for hormone regulation also develops during puberty. From a psychological perspective, teenagers try to balance their need to stand out with their need to belong to a social group. I would not trust many of the decisions I made as a teenager in as much as the government did not trust me to vote, drive or enter a legal contract. Teenage offenders are not expected to be sanctioned as severely as adult offenders for the same antisocial behaviours and crimes. This is because it is common knowledge that children do not have the ability to control their impulses as well as adults. Yet, through experimental science, children are expected to make life-long decisions on their fertility and gender-identity. There is nothing as transphobic as a society that has higher standards for weight loss products than for drugs that relate to the treatment of a group of people who are so marginalized. Banned drugs like DES (DiEthylStilbestrol) are possibly linked to gender dysphoria and demonstrate the disastrous effects of shoddy medical research on human lives. The latest studies on puberty blockers for pubescent children indicate that instead of resolving the dysphoria, they increase mental health issues in children. It is abusive to tamper with a child’s natural biological development when there is no conclusive evidence that it is beneficial in the long term and where the full extent of the medical effects is unknown.
The transgender agenda should extend beyond discussing the unfair advantage transgender females have over cis-gender women and the issue of legislating the use of preferred gender pronouns at the expense of free speech.