Transsexuality and Transgenderism, Truth and Falsehood

Well, I have posted on this subject and subsequently deleted each post because I just can’t be as tactful as the matter seems to require.  I cannot, however, shake a feeling of obligation to speak against the grain regarding an important issue.

Here’s a post over at philosoraptor which may or may not have been spurred by an offline conversation between Winston Smith and myself, but for what it’s worth, I think his points are the right ones.  I will cross-post a bit from my comment on his post below to add what I would like to add to the subject:

This may be some masterful trolling, but it demonstrates the issues which will inevitably arise if you try to enforce the denial of reality.  In fact, the recent revelation of an NAACP leader lying about her ethnicity seems to show that the majority of people reject the idea of being born in the “wrong skin” as laughable, and yet, I wonder what subsection of those individuals simultaneously accepts the idea of being born in the “wrong sex.”

The important point here is: “identifying” as something does not make one into something.  A male can claim to be female, and he can even get surgery to try to make himself appear as though he is biologically female, but none of that actually makes him female.  Even if he completely believes that he is female, he is not, and anyone who believes that he is actually female merely on account of believing it to be so is going to have to endorse some obvious insanity.

It’s pretty plain to see that assertion and/or belief does not mold reality on its own in this way.  I’m afraid the idea that biological sex is purely relative to one’s beliefs/mental state/emotions/assertions about oneself would be laughed out of the room if people weren’t so painfully invested in it.  As WS notes (see the link to philosoraptor above), feminists have struggled for decades to point out that gender and sex are distinct from one another, and that one’s sex does not dictate one’s gender in some normative manner.  It is true that most men are more masculine than not, and most women are more feminine than not; this is not some arbitrary distinction formed by society.  Yet, the important feminist point is that the distinction is not normative.  You don’t have to be feminine because you’re a girl.  You don’t have to be masculine because you’re a guy.  Anyone who says otherwise is being an asshole.

And yet, after these decades of struggle to free ourselves from irrational normative inclinations, we are now witnessing more and more people become so obsessed with gender and sex that any discrepancy between the two is viewed as life-ruining, sometimes to the extent of requiring cosmetic surgery and increasingly vocal confirmation of lies on behalf of society out of fear that, should we not recognize the lie so desperately sought after, the only possible explanation for our reluctance must be bigotry or some other like vice.

I’m with WS, and hopefully every sane person out there:  I want people to be able to live as they choose, within reason.  Clearly I have no problem with women enjoying their masculine traits or men embracing their feminine side.  In fact, I hardly find the distinction important or useful in my life at all.  Hopefully it is also clear that I certainly do not advocate for any sort of discrimination or bigotry against transgender or transsexual individuals, and you can rest assured that I would stand with them in the face of persecution for their rights to do as they choose and to be treated with dignity and respect.  Nonetheless, it is a disservice to everyone, transgender/transsexual individuals as well, to try to reject reality.  Knowingly endorsing falsehood is bad.  It leads to all kinds of insanity and problems.

As Zhuangzi said, “The sage labors not over that which life cannot do.”

While I think this point is extremely important, it isn’t the reason I am compelled to write on this subject.  If I wrote about every single lie in the world, I’d never do anything else.  However, this particular strand of deception is insidious, for it relies for its persistence on our inclination to compassion and empathy; we don’t want others to feel so miserable, and it often seems that, if we could just let someone have this one little lie which he or she so desperately desires, one which can be seen as largely otherwise inconsequential to everyone else, then we should.

I have to argue that we shouldn’t fall into this position; the truth is too important to reject for any reason.  In fact, life’s greatest challenges are frequently the result of temptation to do just that, and we must remind ourselves that our duty is to the truth, and the way in which we deal with emotional turmoil at the hands of reality is not to simply reject reality.  Fortunately for us, I don’t think it’s in any way better for us to do so, though it may seem to be in the short term.

So I worry for those who have become so convinced of the importance of biological sex that they will go to extraordinary lengths, alleging that they are trying to live “as they truly are” when they are, in fact, doing the exact opposite.  I can’t help but notice irony in that the movement which makes such a scene out of an abhorrence for persecution-begetting stereotypes seems to be gripped by a dramatic and incessant need to conform to them.  We need to free ourselves of this nonsense and stop worrying over needless correlations between relatively unimportant distinctions.

It does not matter if you are male or female when it comes to what you like to wear or do.  Enjoy your life – you need not modify your body to appease anyone’s perception of appropriate gender-sex correlation.  And further, such modification is purely a cosmetic exercise in deception – it’s not worth any effort, and certainly not the pain and suffering endured by those who undergo it.

Unfortunately, as WS notes, it’s nigh impossible to calmly discuss this with anyone intimately connected to the matter at hand.  And it’s not hard to understand why – we’ve all had theories to which we found ourselves dogmatically committed in the face of reality, and getting past those issues is part of the human experience.  In this case, while I wish I could help, it seems I can do only very little (this blog post is about it, and it ain’t much).  I fear that my lack of gender identity issues weakens my voice in this regard, and I must admit I have never suffered from gender dysphoria (I very rarely think about my gender or sex, and it seems I am in league with most people I know in this regard).  Of course, I’ve never really experienced any gender euphoria either – my sex and gender are purely accidental to more important pursuits in my life.  If I were female, then so I would be.  Being that I am male, that’s what I shall be.  I find discontent with neither option, and it seems to me that one ought not to have great preference for one or the other.  Whatever I am in this regard, my goal is righteousness, and I see neither femininity nor masculinity as impedance to this pursuit.

As I wrote above, I’ve posted and near-immediately deleted posts about this matter because I just can’t be as tactful as I want to be.  I don’t want to hurt anyone, and neither does WS, but we can’t deny reality for others, no matter how badly they may want it.  It is a disservice.  I understand that it must be unbelievably painful to live in such a condition as that which is described by transgender/transsexual individuals, and I want for them to have relief from that pain, but that relief just can’t come from living a lie. Even if everyone is obligated to address that lie as though it were true, ultimately, you cannot engineer around the truth, and I would argue, you needn’t feel that you must.

I don’t know all the reasons that people feel they ought to “transition,” but I do know this:  you don’t need cosmetic surgery to be who you are.

And you certainly don’t need to be what you’re not to be who you are.

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53 Responses to Transsexuality and Transgenderism, Truth and Falsehood

  1. Aelita says:

    I strongly disagree with your position. I was born with the wrong parts and I’m someone who can have a logical frank discussion with you. Human sexuality is kind of like one of those old style Vegas slot machines with the wheels. For most people, they either all line up “FFF” or “MMM.” For a small number of people they don’t. Some people are homosexual. Some people have intersex conditions. Some people have a brain with the characteristics of one sex and the opposite genetic sex. As for me, I’ve never “felt” like a female. I’m not trying to be “something else.” I’m just trying to live a normal life. As far as I am concerned, I am female and have been as far back as I can remember. I also have an intersex condition (XXY) so I never developed secondary (i.e. stereotypically male) sex characteristics and had small breasts and not very large male partially developed male organs — so you can’t “tell.” By chance I was exposed to higher than normal amount of oestrogen in utero before I was born so my brain has structures similar to a normal XX female. I didn’t ask of any of this — it’s just what happened. The only choice I had is what to do about it.

    I’m not a man, I’ve never had any desire whatsoever to do anything sexually via male sex organs and I am not like you and could never be like you sexually or would desire to be. I’ve heard men say this sort of thing many times. I didn’t have a good family situation and I wasn’t able to have corrective surgery until I was twenty-nine. I’m no different in behaviour than any other female. Only your prejudice makes me different or inferior.

    Approximately one in five hundred females are actually XY with AIS (androgen insensitivity syndrome). These women usually don’t know they have this condition until later in life until they want to have children or undergo genetic tests for sports. They have a vagina but no womb or cervix. If you found out your wife or partner had this condition would you view her negatively the same you view transsexual women because now she’s suddenly “male?” Probably not. Once you understand that transsexuality, gender dysphoria, etc have real physical causes perhaps you will change your mind. I doubt it, but take a look at the following paper:


    PLoS One. 2013 Dec 31;8(12):e83947. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0083947. eCollection 2013.
    Regional grey matter structure differences between transsexuals and healthy controls–a voxel based morphometry study.
    Simon L 1, Kozák LR 2, Simon V 1, Czobor P 3, Unoka Z 1, Szabó Á 2, Csukly G 1.

    Author information

    Gender identity disorder (GID) refers to transsexual individuals who feel that their assigned biological gender is incongruent with their gender identity and this cannot be explained by any physical intersex condition. There is growing scientific interest in the last decades in studying the neuroanatomy and brain functions of transsexual individuals to better understand both the neuroanatomical features of transsexualism and the background of gender identity. So far, results are inconclusive but in general, transsexualism has been associated with a distinct neuroanatomical pattern. Studies mainly focused on male to female (MTF) transsexuals and there is scarcity of data acquired on female to male (FTM) transsexuals. Thus, our aim was to analyze structural MRI data with voxel based morphometry (VBM) obtained from both FTM and MTF transsexuals (n = 17) and compare them to the data of 18 age matched healthy control subjects (both males and females). We found differences in the regional grey matter (GM) structure of transsexual compared with control subjects, independent from their biological gender, in the cerebellum, the left angular gyrus and in the left inferior parietal lobule. Additionally, our findings showed that in several brain areas, regarding their GM volume, transsexual subjects did not differ significantly from controls sharing their gender identity but were different from those sharing their biological gender (areas in the left and right precentral gyri, the left postcentral gyrus, the left posterior cingulate, precuneus and calcarinus, the right cuneus, the right fusiform, lingual, middle and inferior occipital, and inferior temporal gyri). These results support the notion that structural brain differences exist between transsexual and healthy control subjects and that majority of these structural differences are dependent on the biological gender.

    • Hey, thanks for the post. I know this is a sensitive subject, and I’m appreciative of an opportunity to discuss it. I just want to say, I’m not sure we disagree about anything here, and I hope I haven’t come across so offensively as to put you on guard despite our apparent lack of disagreement. But, I may not understand your position.

      So, to get right down to it, I’m don’t mean to sound as if I’m denying the existence of intersexuality. I think the biological distinction between male and female is clearly defined (and by that I mean, roughly, males produce spermatozoa and females produce ova), but I agree that there are certainly cases which don’t easily fit the criteria for either, or perhaps they fit the criteria for both. The classifications of male and female clearly fail to exhaustively describe all organisms, and they were never intended as criteria which would do such a thing.

      Having said that, I’m not sure your situation is really being addressed in my post. How do you see our disagreement?

      Given that we’re having an actual conversation and I’m not just posting on the Internet to no one, I’ll take an opportunity to try to clarify myself:

      My point is that the technical, biological classification of organisms into male and female categories is a matter whose importance is being way overblown and, as a result, misinterpreted. The misinterpretation has resulted in a sort of conviction that gender defines sexuality, when the reality is that sexuality, among other physiological properties, influences (but does not determine) gender. I brought up the feminist distinction between gender and sex in an attempt to drive home that point; you don’t have to be a woman to be feminine, nor do you have to be feminine if you are a woman, and so forth. My concern is that people are basically feeling coerced into surgery to try to align their sex with their gender in the minds of others, and that isn’t necessary!

      I don’t want people to go through the horrid humiliation described by so many on account of a sense of disconnection between their gender and their sex. The relationship between the two is one of influence, not determination, and it is in no way normative. The relationship between these concepts is in no way a moral issue, and so no one has any reason to consider it a problem, much less shame someone on its account. I know our society is utterly backwards about this stuff and there’s a lot of horrible hatred spewed at those who buck the traditional and false conception of sexuality’s determination of gender in a normative way, so I worry that people are basically being psychologically traumatized and/or coerced by such prevalent bigotry into an unnecessary and brutish “sex reassignment” surgery whose title is a misnomer given that the physiological sex of the person has not been altered.

      Additionally, I see the abstract for the provided article which seems to conclude the discovery of neurological differences between transgender and non-transgender subjects implies the presence of what they call “biological gender.” Though I don’t contest their findings of structural neurological differences exist between the two groups (which isn’t surprising to me), I would point out that the term “gender” is, at least in the classic feminist sense, a non-biological concept. Gender can be influenced by biological properties; estrogen seems to have a feminizing influence, but estrogen is not biologically feminine on this account. It seems to me an inappropriate mixture of concepts.

      What do you think?

  2. Aelita says:

    “Gender” is a subjective and hard to define concept. I may have mis-understood you. I thought you were (like so many others) against trans people being allowed to exist. I like to use the gunpowder ratio — 75% are against, 15% are indifferent, and only 10% are supportive. Trans people experience almost nothing but hate and legal and social acceptance is on the same level that gays had thirty or forty years ago (

    In Western culture, females are socially allowed to be gender fluid and express their sexuality over a wide spectrum of gender expression. Males are not. This is what I think your comment is about if I’m understanding you correctly. For example, some men (both gay and straight) like to dress or perform as women but don’t identify sexually as female. These individuals wouldn’t be approved for surgery nor do they desire it. Your concerns seem to be more appropriate for the situation in Iran where gay men are forced to have surgery and live as women. If you are a female born with the wrong parts you realize this at an early age. It doesn’t come from external stimuli. It’s not just a “feeling.” You grow up wondering why you have this horrible, disfiguring thing on you that you don’t need and don’t want. You just want to be normal — not anything “different.” For these individuals it’s the same as having corrective surgery to fix a cleft palate, club foot or other birth defect.

    Fortunately, the social situation is getting better and more and more parents today are listening to their daughters when they tell their parents they aren’t boys and don’t want to be male when they grow up and are being allowed to live and dress as girls and go to school. There is a rigorous medical and psychological screening process. Puberty blocking drugs like Lupron prevent the development of secondary sex characteristics so on one will be able to “tell” when they are adults. Most have surgery around sixteen or eighteen (if they can afford it — insurance only pays in a few states as of now –unlike like Europe).

    Unfortunately, too many kids are being forced from their homes by conservative or religious parents, are homeless, get sucked into drugs and prostitution or sex trafficking. The suicide rate is very high — even with an accepting family. Our society has a long, long way to go.

    • Well I’m glad we understand that I’m certainly not advocating for any sort of insane, draconian idea that trans people should not be allowed to exist. The situation you reference in Iran is barbaric and atrocious, and I am certainly against it.

      My concern is that we maintain an appropriate understanding of the purely non-moral quality of and relationship between gender and sex. I think that some people believe they “ought to be” women on account of a set of feelings, emotions, or desires, or something (which you may be indicating, as well?), but my understanding of the matter is that being female or male is purely a matter of physiology. Though physiology influences one’s gender, one’s gender does not determine what one’s physiology “ought” to have been, though I do believe that one’s gender and one’s body influence one another. Rather, one’s physiology is discovered not through emotions or feelings, but inspection of the body. My body has a standard-issue XY chromosomal pair and I have the standard-issue male apparatus which come along with it, therefore I am male. I’m not male because I want to be, I’m not male because I feel like a dude, I’m not male because I want to engage in sexual relationships with a penis. None of those things are required or even relevant to the conclusion that I am male; I’m simply male because of my genetic makeup.

      My worry is principally that individuals might come to believe that physiology must conform to one’s feelings about oneself. That’s not how the world works, and I think that it induces a sort of infantile expectation of reality (that it shall always be forced into agreement with emotions/feelings/desires). Further, the issue simply isn’t as important as it is often made out to be; that one likes stereotypically male things, or what-have-you, is not sufficient reason to conclude that such a person “ought” to be male. There’s no “ought” involved here. We simply have the bodies we have, and we must live within their limitations, but that is all. Being a good person and living a satisfying life as a result does not depend in any significant way on being male or female. I recognize that it would be difficult to desire to be what one is not, and I think we all go through this in myriad ways as we progress through life, but the answer is not to call a nasty, brutish process “sex reassignment” and carry it out.

      That’s my position. I recognize that this isn’t something I’m living with, and I recognize that there is an argument to be made for an analogy between a club foot or cleft palate and your situation, but your situation is significantly distinct from the position I am targeting in important ways. You genuinely have the chromosomal makeup associated with both sexes, and I understand the complexity of the situation. However, the problem I see is that some people who are obviously XY (for example), with no question whatsoever about their physiology, come to loathe that physiological trait so severely that its lack of conformity with their emotions/feelings/desires is viewed as a catastrophic disaster. I think we need to be very wary of endorsing such positions. To allow a matter of such peripheral importance to take such control over human lives worries me a lot.

      I do worry a lot for children who express the notion that they don’t want to be what they are. I really don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to reinforce that desire with intervention that does not change the genetic makeup of the child, but rather, suppresses the natural consequences of that genetic makeup and aims to produce consequences more in line with those of alternate makeups. In intersex conditions, however, it may be right to be more flexible.

      So your situation is far more complex than that which I was attempting to address. In fact, given your genetic makeup, I’m not sure the term “transsexual” applies to you. It seems you adopt it, though? What do you think about that? For someone who is intersex, it seems to me the situation is challenging (to say the least) and best left to your judgment. Of course, in the end, I think everyone’s own judgment must reign over their bodies; I’m just offering what I think is an important critique of many, but not all, transgender/transsexual positions.

  3. Ae says:

    “I’m simply male because of my genetic makeup.”

    No, you aren’t. You are male because you have a male brain. Surgery is not “brutish” if you have the mind/psyche/brain of one sex and the body of the other. As I said earlier human sexuality is complex and a lot of things have to line up to make someone “male” or “female.” Fortunately for most of the human race this isn’t an issue. For some people, it’s not so easy. I’ve never considered myself to be anything but female and I don’t use the “T” words to refer to myself but I know other people aren’t so enlightened.

    It may be hard for you to understand but there are a lot of little girls out there who were born with the wrong parts and they don’t want them. They will never want them. They will never ever desire to be male or do male things. You wish to classify them as “boys” but they aren’t. They are female and should be raised as such. The same is true for trans boys — they aren’t tomboys but male and not female. They may have an easier time socially but have the same legal problems as trans females. It’s not noticed as such because females are allowed to be non-gender conforming in Western society. Many parents try to force their children to be the opposite sex (what you would refer to as “cisgendered” — my parents tried — and failed — to do this) and there is strong social pressure brought to bear. This especially true in America (unlike Asia and Europe) and why we see news stories about people like Caitlyn Jenner who “transition” (never liked that word) later in life when it’s “safe.” Younger people with non-accepting parents have very, very, difficult lives. What usually happens is children are forced out of their homes, denied work or a place to live and people think this is right. They are denied necessary medical treatment either due to cost, lack of parental permission, or both. The social ostracism, loss of family, educational opportunities, future career, etc. is so acute that some people can’t face it. You have no idea what it’s like to hate yourself because you are deformed when you just want to be normal and no one will listen or even try to help. That’s what it’s like. That’s why the suicide rate is so high.

    I’ve had this discussion with a few male friends and/or colleagues who know about my background many times. Men seem to have a more difficult time dealing with it than women but not always.

    I guess we will have agree to disagree.

    • Well, first, let me say that regardless of how this conversation proceeds, I’m never going to disagree that you should be allowed to live your life as you see fit, and that includes obtaining whatever medical procedures you see fit. I’m not for making life harder than necessary on anyone; in fact, my worry is that the source of difficulty here may be in many cases built on fundamental misconceptions. So I’m not trying to force anyone into anything. I hope we don’t simply have to agree to disagree, as well, though we may.

      It seems what we’re running into here is that you and I don’t share a common definition of “male” and “female.” My definition is in line with the commonly-accepted biological or physiological terminology and has to do with the organism’s role in sexual reproduction (i.e. production of spermatozoa or ova). Sure, there’s some need for judgment there (a sterile human being of an XY chromosomal configuration is still male, though no spermatozoa may be in production), but we can even ignore those areas for the sake of conversation and go straight to the clear-cut cases.

      When I said that I fear the classification of male and female is being overblown and misinterpreted as a result, I think your post kinda exemplifies what I was talking about. I would argue that it’s inappropriate to classify things one can do as “male,” or that one ought to be raised “as a boy” or “as a girl” beyond the requirements of addressing their particular physiological needs. That’s the sort of out-of-bounds step I’m worried about here. Certain acts can be considered more common of males, and therefore masculine, perhaps, but desiring to do masculine things does not make one male. It’s totally ok, and completely expected, that females will have masculine qualities, and that males will have feminine qualities. It seems to me that people are taking masculine or feminine inclinations as evidence that they are the wrong sex, and that strikes me as an invalid inference. Sexual classification is limited purely to the role played in sexual reproduction. That’s the limit of the meaning of these terms, in my estimation.

      Am I understanding correctly that you take the definition of male or female not to be dependent upon the organism’s role in sexual reproduction, but rather, some neurological structural requirements (or even some sort of intellectual/emotional identification)? It seems as though you’re arguing that, in order to be male, one need only have a “male brain” (?), and everything else is to be disregarded. However, if we throw roles in sexual reproduction out the window when it comes to identifying males and females, how do we determine which brains are male and which are female? Are we simply allowing people to choose their sexual classification?

      By your schema, it seems, a person with a male brain (again, whatever that is) whose sex chromosomes are XX and whose sexual organs are the expected consequences of such an arrangement (“female”, as I would refer to them) is to be nonetheless considered male in your estimation? That sure seems strange to me. As I said, I understand that there can be socially-imposed difficulty in being a masculine woman or a feminine man, but the sexual classification of organisms is dependent solely upon roles played in sexual reproduction. Being male is not a matter of believing or desiring anything, but genetic makeup. I can’t make sense of your competing theory here.

  4. Aelita says:

    It’s actually difficult to define “sex.” You seem chiefly concerned with biological sex — either XX or XY. When I talk about sex, I mean the gender/sexual identity component. That’s identity, social, and legal sex. It is my opinion that the gender/identity component be the deciding factor. Then there is of course sexual preference — either heterosexual, homosexual or asexual. In most people all of these things line up together but sometimes they don’t. I’m intersex — (XXY, about one in five hundred births) and I identify as female — but it also happens to people who aren’t like the above case you mentioned. Yes, you can biologically be XX and have a male brain and identify as male. Not only that, there are cases on record of biological XX females being born with male genitalia and raised as boys only later to discover they aren’t biologically male — just like their are girls who are XY with AIS.

    The crux of the matter is this: What is a human being? What is identity? What is sex? You seem to think it’s a very simple matter of XX vs XY and that’s it. Not so. No one knows how sexual identity develops but it is immutable and cannot be changed. A famous case is that of David Reimer ( who was XY, born with male genitalia, but raised as female after his organ was damaged and subsequently removed as an infant. He never had a female sexual identity and killed himself. It’s not about private parts.

    I didn’t date much at university but I went out with a few guys. Although my background was supposed to be a secret only known by the administration people liked to gossip so it was rumoured. One guy I dated was actually gay and he didn’t tell me. So, just like so many other girls who have had this happen to them he takes me home, kisses me, feels my body next to his, gets aroused, then he stops and says “I can’t do this — I’m gay — I like guys — you aren’t a man — sorry, I can’t.” As he saw it my birth defect so to speak was immaterial. I didn’t look like a guy, act male, talk or walk like a man, had smooth skin, and was female and not male and therefore not an object of same sex attraction.

    Why do guys like gynids (female robots)? They aren’t human, can’t reproduce but look beautiful and sexy. They aren’t “real women” but men lust after them nonetheless. I remember seeing Caroline Cossey on television in the early nineties when I was growing up. I later found out she was intersex just like I was. She was sexy enough to be featured in “Playboy” magazine even though her vagina was created via SRS. Gender testing for sport is a current problem. It’s not so easy to define who is “female.” Some women have naturally higher levels of testosterone. If you are XY and have AIS are you not “female” enough to compete? Heidi Kruger was forcibly given so much testosterone by the East Germans that she eventually became male and is now Andreas Kruger. Andreas has said that he never really identified as female to begin with and being doped against his will forced the issue. Men seem to have a fear of people with sexual or gender differences that perhaps stems from their own insecurity.

    This is my position. Human sexuality is complex. If we lived in a world where everyone was gender neutral none of this would matter but we don’t. Western culture is fixated on sexual differences and gender and never the twain shall meet. No one “picks” their sexual identity. It is chthonic and immutable and cannot be changed. If, for whatever reason, an individual’s sexual identity is in opposition to their biological sex or has indeterminate sex characteristics, gender identity should be the deciding factor and set the “sex” to which they belong.

    • So, this seems to me the crux of the issue: it’s actually not that difficult to define “sex.” The term is strictly biological/physiological in nature. That’s why I’m chiefly concerned with biological sex – that’s what we’re talking about when we say “sex.” The conflation of meaning between sex and gender/sexual identity is part of what concerns me. Fundamentally, where we differ seems to be in that you believe the gender/identity component of human sexuality determines the biological/physiological component. I, on the other hand, believe the components influence one another, but one thing is certain: the gender/identity component certainly does not determine the biological/physiological component.

      A person is not male or female purely because said person “identifies” as such. Beliefs do not control reality in that way. This is my most central point. Sex is a matter of physiological reality, and not belief or desire. That said, my subsequent points are that this shouldn’t be THAT big of a deal! Like I said previously, I’m sympathetic to frustrating cognitive dissonance or the desire for that which cannot be, but the good news is that there’s basically no good reason to prefer one sex over the other. There certainly aren’t any moral reasons to do so, so in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t that important. One’s physiological sex is basically accidental to the human experience, and not essential to it. That doesn’t mean it’s utterly unimportant, and again, I recognize and want to alleviate the agony of those who do not conform to society’s expectations (largely through changing society, and not the individuals in question..), but for the most pressing human concerns, I’d argue that it’s virtually unimportant. It certainly isn’t true that one’s gender must align with one’s sex in any particular way, and I worry that people are arriving at this false belief because of confusion over the relationship between sex and gender.

      So ultimately, I agree that the issue of human sexuality, when considering sex, gender, and associated beliefs, is complex, but my concern is that people are falsely believing that their gender and/or beliefs about their “sexual identity,” as it were, determine their physiological makeup. And that should be obviously false to everyone. In fact, if it were true, there would be no such thing as transsexualism or transgenderism! Anyone who had a gender identity of male or female would simply be male or female, and no one would therefore have any problem with anything whatsoever. But, because that theory runs against reality in a problematic way (i.e. when one’s gender/identity does not match up with one’s sex), therein lies the problem set.

      For one sort of off-the-wall note to address a part of your post: I wouldn’t say “guys like gynids.” I certainly don’t. Inanimate objects have yet to attain status as objects of my sexual attraction. Some guys are probably into objects they can more or less easily pretend to be something other than they are, but I’m guessing that’s all that’s going on in that hypothetical case (save for a few people who are perhaps actually sexually attracted to robots).

      Again, I really appreciate your calm clarity here – I think we’ve very clearly identified the issue at hand, and that’s not frequently possible in discussions about such sensitive matters.

      • Aelita says:

        I don’t think anyone is seriously saying that you can change your biological sex. That’s impossible. But, as I have stressed, what people call “sex” for identity, social and legal purposes — in other words, gender — is dependent on sexual identity. Gender identity is a product of the brain and psyche and is independent of biological sex and genitalia.

        I hope you are merely concerned with this issue as a matter of semantics and not as a justification to deny equal rights or legal status to trans or intersex people. If someone is medically and psychologically determined to have a gender identity different from their biological sex, gender identity should take priority for legal and social purposes and should have full and equal rights, legal documents, access to health care, etc to match their gender. In most European countries trans people get new birth certificates and passports and are legally members of their determined sex. In the US, only a few states allow this although recently passport regulations have changed on the federal level. Most large cities have some type of equal rights ordinance there is a long way to go.

        More and more parents are choosing to allow their trans children to live as their professed gender and with proper medical treatment prior to puberty and surgery it’s almost impossible to tell them apart from cisgendered people so this issue is not going away. It is not inconceivable that trans women will be able to bear children and give birth via Caesarean section in the next twenty years or so. Just saying that “XY = woman” and “XY = man” was not and is not the whole story when it comes to sex.

      • Well, actually, lots of people are saying crazy things about biological sex. Take the choir of voices singing in unison about the “social construction” (ugh) of biological sex. I’d be stupefied if you hadn’t encountered such nonsense before, but if so, Google it and you’ll see it everywhere. The semantic issues to which I am pointing appear to be manifestations of genuine conceptual problems.

        And that’s kind of the main point of my concern; it seems to me that people are everywhere conflating sex and gender when it suits their purposes, and in doing so, they have dug a conceptual hole from which they (and those who follow them in) have a very hard time escaping. The discussions I have heard almost invariably have these problems, and they influence the directions and conclusions of the thought involved in serious ways. For example, the medical procedure(s) undergone by transsexual people are often referenced as “sex reassignment surgery.” That’s an incredibly incorrect name for the procedure(s); not only is sex not “assigned” (but rather, discovered), but it is certainly not being “reassigned”; we’ve already agreed that one cannot change one’s biological sex.

        Not only have we become confused about the medical procedures themselves, but we are also confused about the issues purportedly being addressed by these procedures. The idea that a person can or should change one’s birth certificate, for example, is very strange. Why would anyone desire that a birth certificate report falsely one’s sex? The birth certificate is not reporting gender, but biological sex. If someone determines that he or she feels masculine or feminine, this does not alter the person’s actual, biological sex, and on that basis, I don’t see why legal forms should be changed. That there is any sort of desire for such a thing seems to lend evidence to my conclusion that there are serious conceptual problems surrounding these issues.

        I worry that some individuals desire redress for their woes through what are essentially lies. They want others not simply to accept them for who and what they are, but they want to declare that they are not what they are and have others endorse this declaration. My concern is that this is desirable only on account of rampant conceptual issues such as the conflation between the concepts of sex and gender. If I’m correct, these conceptual issues are exerting an extreme and unwarranted control over people’s lives, and I want to help stop such a thing from happening; the cause which propelled me into this discussion is that I see people rejecting themselves in a movement ostensibly about accepting oneself.

        I worry SO MUCH about children who allegedly “profess” that they are not males, but females, or vice versa. They are CHILDREN. They have no idea what they’re talking about, and it strikes me as horrifically misguided to conduct medical procedures of such severity and irreversibility on children, ESPECIALLY when the suitability of those procedures to the resolution of the problems at hand is highly questionable to me. If there’s really no normative connection between gender and sex (something which, when considered apart from the current context, nearly everyone accepts), I don’t want children to grow up believing that there is, and that the feminine inclinations of young boys (for example) tell us that they are “in the wrong body” or somesuch claim which implies that there IS a normative connection. I want our society and the individuals who compose it to accept their bodies and their genders for what they are, as they are. I have no problem with men and women who completely buck the traditional correlation between sex and gender, and I worry that the transsexual/transgender phenomenon is driven largely, if not primarily, by the impossible desire to force reality into compliance with irrational beliefs about correlations between gender and sex.

        Of course, as stated previously, your situation as an intersex individual puts you in relation to these issues in a different light. And, as I also said, I recognize that I’m not living with these conditions which I am discussing, and I don’t intend to force anyone into anything here. But, as someone who’s living the glorious “cissexual” life so strongly desired by some transsexuals, I think it’s important for me to point out that it really ain’t that big of a deal. I don’t wake up in the morning and thank God that I have a penis or that I am male. I probably hardly even consider such observations about myself for 99% of my life (well, now that I’m not a hormone-crazed teenager, I guess). It is accidental to my existence. If I were female, then I’d be female, and it’s as simple as that. I really don’t care about the matter, and philosophically, I don’t think anyone should care. We should be what we are and, as a result, simply do what we can with what we have where we are.

        We should all recognize the bigotry and hatred sent after transsexual/transgendered persons and fight it with all our might, for it is as wrong as it gets. However, simultaneously, I am very worried for what appears to me to be strongly irrational ends pursued by those who are targeted by such bigotry and hatred. It seems perhaps an irrational response to unbearable social intolerance, and nothing is worse than watching someone’s dignity quashed in such a manner.

      • Aelita says:

        “I worry that the transsexual/transgender phenomenon is driven largely, if not primarily, by the impossible desire to force reality into compliance with irrational beliefs about gender and sex.”

        It’s not an irrational belief and you are incorrect about the age issue. It’s not a “belief” at all. That’s where you are wrong. Sexual identity develops early and three and four year olds know their gender. I don’t like the name “sex reassignment surgery” or the “trans” words either. Originally it was just a conversion operation, then SRS, and now the PC buzzword is “gender confirmation surgery.” Nothing is being changed — just fixed. Would you really force a child to be something they are not? Don’t you see how cruel that is? There are very few kids past age twelve who change their minds. A birth certificate is a legal document, not a medical one.

        You say you are against bigotry and hatred yet you seem to want people permanently labeled in some fashion. That would just make things worse. Gender is not an “inclination.” Sexual identity can’t be changed. How would you make someone “accept” their sex if they have an opposite sexual identity? What good are the wrong sex organs to someone who doesn’t want them and has no use for them? Why would you condemn someone to that kind of existence? You say you don’t think about what sex you are — you just are that sex. That’s the point. That’s what sexual identity is. It’s just part of you like being left handed or right handed. In some cases, for some people, it’s different than their genetic sex. It’s as simple as that.

  5. See, but my point is that your assertions, such as “Nothing is being changed — just fixed. Would you really force a child to be something they are not?” are incorrect if what we’ve already discussed remains accepted. Namely, that the child’s physiological status as male or female simply is what it is, regardless of the child’s psychological status. Nothing we can do can change this, and therefore nothing can be done to “fix” the situation (fixing something requires that it change, incidentally, so I’m not sure what your statement really means in that regard).

    Not providing these medical operations to children who are, frankly, incapable of comprehending them, is not “forcing” them to “be something they are not.” These children are, in fact, whatever they are, regardless of my unwillingness to intervene with medical procedures. If the child is male, then my lack of medical intervention does not force that child into being something he is not; he is, and remains, in fact, male, with or without any medical intervention. Nothing we can do will change that the child is male, and I argue there is no normative reason anyone should feel a desire to change such a thing. We should not act in such a way as to give the false impression that this is not the case.

    You say things like “How would you make someone ‘accept’ their sex if they have an opposite sexual identity,” and that phrase right there is exactly emblematic of the rational problems these positions seem to have. The person must accept his or her sex, regardless of the person’s “sexual identity.” The person’s sex is what it is. Unless it amounts to a mere rejection of physiological fact, one’s “sexual identity” cannot be “opposite” to being male or female. Rather, one simply IS male or female (as these are simply descriptive terms regarding one’s physiology) and one’s sexual identity, on the other hand, must be closer to the psychological concept of gender; one’s sexual identity, in this regard, might include masculine or feminine aspects (i.e. psychological traits which are commonly associated with, but not limited to, males or females, respectively), but it makes no sense to say that, on account of these masculine or feminine aspects, the person in question has a sexual identity of “male” or “female.” This is the error I am discussing in which one falsely asserts that sex and gender must align in a particular manner. Using the terms “male” and “female” in regards to one’s psychological state is a conflation of terminology which provides a false rational segue into the claim that one is in “the wrong body.” One is not psychologically male or female, but psychologically masculine or feminine, and, unlike the impression given through the use of the terms “male” and “female” in describing one’s psychology, it is not necessary in any way that one be male or female on account of one’s masculine or feminine psychological qualities.

    The entire argument that people must undergo medical intervention in order to simply be as they are seems to rest upon the fundamental misconception that one’s psychological sexual identity must align with one’s physiology in a particular manner. Further, there is no reason provided to believe that, should there not be a “proper alignment” here, it is the physiological aspect which is in need of correction and not the psychological aspect. If this really is about simply rejecting one’s physiology, then one who does this must wrest one’s false beliefs into alignment with reality (i.e. accept that one is male or female, as the situation may determine) rather than attempt to wrest reality into coherence with one’s false beliefs (which is impossible, as we’ve already covered).

    One might try to sidestep this critique by suggesting that the person has no control over the psychological aspect here being discussed, just as the person has no control over the physiology. But, insofar as the psychological aspect includes a belief that the person is not the “correct sex,” it seems to me that this is a belief people are capable of rejecting or accepting as they see fit. It may be similar to being left or right handed, as you say, but where you run afoul of that analogy is in suggesting that such a thing cannot be changed. With left or right handedness, there’s no real reason to change it, though it can be done, even if it is difficult and against the person’s natural and habitually developed inclinations. With belief regarding one’s physiological identity, if one is inclined to believe that he or she is not what he or she is, there IS a real reason to change it despite the difficulty which might be faced in doing so. I recognize that plenty of psychological conditions and beliefs, including sexual identity, are influenced by physiology (hormones certainly have that impact), but where one’s physiology would incline one towards falsehood, one must combat this inclination (and that’s not restricted to transsexual or transgender matters, of course; testosterone likely influenced a whole lot of my idiocy in my youth; idiocy which it was my responsibility to reject nonetheless).

    In light of all this, the theoretical foundation on which rests the hypothesis that one can be “the wrong sex” seems to depend entirely on either:

    (1) a bad theory about the necessary manner with which gender and sex must relate to one another (i.e. if you have masculine tendencies, you should be male)


    (2) a bad theory about the primacy of psychology over physiology (i.e. if you think you’re male, you should be male)

    Given that, I’m hard-pressed to determine why the theory that one can be the wrong sex shouldn’t be rejected. My entire worry spurring all of this on is that this theory should be rejected and its acceptance is ruining lives.

    See what I’m saying? Your post seems to embody the worries I’m expressing. You seem to me to be conflating “sexual identity,” which is a matter of psychological gender, with the concepts of “male” and “female,” which are physiological characteristics separate from (but related to) that to which “sexual identity” refers. On account of this conflation of ideas, you arrive at the conclusion that, because someone feels or believes a certain way, he or she must be in the “wrong body.” That is false; the body is what the body is, and it is not “wrong” because the person’s psychological state is not closely aligned with traditional mappings of sex and gender relationships. Insofar as a person might reject or dislike his or her physiology, that is a different matter entirely, and it certainly doesn’t mean the person is “in the wrong body.”

    I don’t see how you can define the concept of a person’s sexual identity and combine that with a sane definition of the person’s physiological sex to create a situation where it is rational to conduct surgical operations to alter the appearance of the person’s physiology to more closely approximate that of a different sex. It just makes no sense.

    For a final note: my rejection of bigotry and hatred towards transgendered/transsexual people is in no way incompatible with my belief that birth certificates should accurately reflect the physiological sex of the person being described. I guess it’s not unreasonable to say this is a sort of “permanent label,” but its permanence is not on account of any irrational whim on my behalf, but rather, the permanence of physiological sex.

  6. Aelita says:

    You mistakenly assume that sexual identity, gender, sexual orientation, anatomical sex, etc. all descend from biological sex sequentially. They do not. They are parallel to one another.

    The “wrong body” terminology is a misnomer. The body isn’t wrong — just wrongly developed. That’s what it feels like to a person who has a sexual identity / biological sex / anatomical mismatch. If you were injured in a car accident or had some other birth defect would you not want it corrected if it were possible to do so? Sexual identity is innate and can’t be changed. It has nothing to do with and independent of biological sex or sexual orientation or anatomy. From your comments it’s oblivious you are focusing on the external and superficial. You think it’s the same thing as a human saying they “feel” like a dog, cat, bulldozer, kitchen sink, or turtle or some other irrational thing, animal or object. It isn’t. I’m naturally female. By chance I’m also intersex. If I dated women I’d be a lesbian. For me, pretending to be male is an act and because of my condition no one really thought I was “male” anyway. No matter how long or short my hair is or what clothes I wear or what I’m doing I’m always going to be female. It’s isn’t an “act.” I was able to finally have surgery a few years ago so I’m able to have sex if I choose but that’s only secondary. I just wanted to be normal and have an ordinary life as possible. I can wear a swimsuit, run on the beach, swim in the water, and I’m as free as a bird. That’s what it’s about. I’m not trying to be something that I’m not.

    I had a friend at school who was ambidextrous. That’s because she was naturally left handed and her old-school grandmother thought it was unseemly for a young lady to be left handed so the grandmother made her use her right hand. She was still naturally left handed — but she was able to use her right hand very well. You also seem to want to force people to be something they are not — that is “adopt” a sexual identity as an external persona to please others. Living this way is like torture. This is what so many parents have done in the past (and still do) to their children. I also had to endure this until I was forced from my home — never to return.

    These aren’t insane ideas or irrational “theories.” There is substantial medical and scientific fact behind what I’m saying. I urge you to investigate further and try to have an unbiased, open mind.

    Click to access intersex.pdf

    • Well, I definitely do not believe that gender/sexual identity (are we using those terms interchangeably?) is determined by physiological sex. I believe I’ve repeatedly, clearly, and explicitly stated that sex influences gender and gender influences one’s physiological characteristics, but sex does not determine gender and gender cannot determine sex.

      So I’m not sure why you think I think gender “descends from biological sex sequentially.” I’m not really sure what that means, unless you’re purely discussing chronological development, in which case, given the formation of the sex chromosomes prior to the brain, I guess I could agree that I believe sex develops before gender. Though, given that they do not determine one another, it doesn’t seem to me very relevant to our conversation here.

      I’m not focusing on the external and superficial. Actually, I’m afraid I believe that’s what the whole transgender/transsexual thing is doing; the thought seems to me to be that human beings are somehow necessarily male or female based entirely upon their psychological character, and that seems incredibly superficial to me. There’s some sort of implied premise here that there are certain psychological characteristics that one may have which indicate that one is male or female, and I disagree. I think males and females can basically share any psychological qualities; I can’t think of any psychological quality which one might have that would lead one to conclude himself or herself to be male or female. That you are male or female does not mean much at all about how your brain must be characterized; it’s entirely a matter of one’s sexual physiology.

      Again, as I have stated and restated, I don’t want to force anyone to adopt anything. This is purely a discussion about whether or not the theoretical foundation of transsexualism/transgenderism makes any sense. One main point of mine throughout all of this is that sex and gender (or “sexual identity”) are determined independently of one another. Given this understanding of their relationship, I really don’t understand how it is that someone can claim to know one’s sex from psychological traits alone. What about someone’s character could mean that one MUST be female and that one CANNOT be male? I don’t believe I’m aware of any intellectual/mental characteristics which imply such a thing, so I’m not sure how anyone could move from any claims about one’s brain or intellectual qualities to the claim that one is female.

      In short: there are no psychological traits which are either sufficient or necessary for being female or male.

      I’m afraid the medical and scientific facts don’t seem to imply that there is some sort of utter physiological determination of gender, or that one’s gender must dictate one’s sex, or that the two traits must correspond in any particular fashion. I’m not sure what your links are intended to prove, but they don’t seem to prove that. Fortunately, if you ask me, We have a great deal of free influence over how we choose to be, and our it doesn’t seem to me that our physiology determines our psychology to the extent it appears you’re arguing that it does.

      • Aelita says:

        “There’s some sort of implied premise here that there are certain psychological characteristics that one may have which indicate that one is male or female, and I disagree. I think males and females can basically share any psychological qualities; I can’t think of any psychological quality which one might have that would lead one to conclude himself or herself to be male or female. That you are male or female does not mean much at all about how your brain must be characterized; it’s entirely a matter of one’s sexual physiology.”

        “I’m afraid the medical and scientific facts don’t seem to imply that there is some sort of utter physiological determination of gender, or that one’s gender must dictate one’s sex, or that the two traits must correspond in any particular fashion.”


        The etiology of transsexualism is unknown. How gender and sexual identity develop is also unknown at present. The same is true for sexual orientation. What is known is that sexual identity is immutable and develops independent of biological sex and/or anatomy. There are some theories that I’ll mention later but that’s not really the point. The question is what to do about it.

        Your position is reminiscent of that of feminist Janice Raymond. Her motives were different — she regarded trans women (she didn’t seem to be concerned with trans men very much) as a threat to cisgendered women from a male dominated society. In her view, trans women were simply sexually deviant males and regarded the concept of sex or gender identity as bogus.

        You also seemed to be concerned with children being given hormonal treatment, puberty blockers, and surgery. This is one area where there has been change in the last twenty years since I was a pre-teen. Unlike years past, more and more parents are listening to what their children are saying instead ignoring them or forcing them to behave opposite to their gender identity. When this happens it often results in family turmoil, abuse and violence against the child, and the eventual expulsion of the child from the home to fend for themselves on the streets. This is what happened to me. My parents tried to make me live and act as a boy by force and it never worked. I was never accepted as male by other children. It didn’t matter how short my hair was or how I was dressed. I didn’t act like a boy and they could tell and I paid dearly for it.

        I couldn’t understand or relate to the male attachment to genitalia. It meant absolutely nothing to me. I didn’t have male autosexual desires or nocturnal emissions. To me it looked like a miniature hand or fist that urine came out of and that’s all. It meant nothing more to me than a wart or tumor and I just wanted it gone. I can understand on a cognitive level why men want sex but I have no emotional understanding of it as it is something that I never had any desire to do. Surgery for me was not a “mutilation.” I first tried to kill myself when I was ten years old. The prospect of having to spend the rest of my life with male organs attached to my body (even non sexually functional ones) made death preferable. People like me exist. Not very many as a percentage of the population but a significant number nonetheless.

        How would you account for people with intersex conditions? How you would explain XY females with AIS? They aren’t men. How would you explain XX males? There is a link between brain development and sexual/gender identity as I’ve mentioned previously. The current theory is hormonal levels in utero affect sexual identity. There have been experimental tests with lab animals to verify this. There’s no sure way to tell without a brain scan or section but there is a rough test. Look at your hand. If you are a cisgendered male your index finger and ring finger will be about the same length. In females the opposite is true — the index finger is longer than the ring finger. If a male fetus is exposed to estrogen in utero there’s a good chance it will develop the same female digit ratio. My index finger is almost the same length as my middle finger — which makes me very, very different than normal. This only happens to people because of hormonal estrogen exposure levels or an intersex condition like I have. Lesbians and trans men tend to have a typically male digit ratio.

        This brings me back to my point. People like me exist. We don’t “choose” this. It’s something that just happens like being right or left handed. You may not agree that sexual identity is a real thing but you can’t deny our right to exist. The only difference is now it’s not swept under the rug like it was years ago. None of this is new either — you may have never heard of Lily Elbe from the twenties but you have probably heard of Christine Jorgensen from the fifties. How is my case different from that of a woman with AIS or CAH who has to have a vagina surgically constructed? I’m not trying to be something I’m not. I’m female and I’m just trying to be normal.

        You wanted to know “whether or not the theoretical foundation of transsexualism/transgenderism makes any sense.” Yes, it does. We don’t know what sexual identity is but what we do know is some people have a sexual identity that is in opposition to their assigned gender and there are possible explanations having to do with fetal hormonal exposure. No matter what the etiology is we still have a right to live. That’s the important thing. Think about it — would you “decide” to join the most hated, discriminated against group in America with the highest violence, murder, and suicide rate because you “felt like it?” I don’t think so.

      • Well, you keep saying that sexual identity is immutable, but my guess is that that is false. In fact, I think the modern categories of sexual identity into which people are shoved are largely silly falsehoods that people tell themselves.

        Regardless, I am very sympathetic to your situation; it sounds horrible. I’m sorry you had to go through it, and clearly nothing I’m saying here endorses any of it. Nonetheless, your discussion of your trials strikes me as a sort of surrender to your harassers. You say you didn’t “act like a boy” and you weren’t “accepted as male” by other boys, as if that is somehow relevant to your actual physiological sex. But I say your sex is not dependent on whatever idiotic stuff children said to you. You speak of “male attachment to genitalia” which is just… kind of silly? Again, I say such “attachment to genitalia,” to whatever extent it’s actually a real thing, isn’t relevant to your physiological sex. Neither does your lack of desire for sex prohibit you from being male.. Again, it’s not relevant.

        I agree with you that there is a link between brain development and gender. I even grant that it’s almost certainly related to hormone levels. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it was determined that sexual orientation and gender correspond strongly to variance in hormone levels (if it hasn’t already been so determined?). The finger observation seems a little out there, but maybe there’s something to it.

        But my point is this: it’s all immaterial to your physiological sex. None of the things you have listed as some sort of evidence that you’re female actually implies such a thing. Anyone who tells you that you must be a girl because you don’t obsess over your penis or its use is a total ignoranus (that’s an asshole AND an idiot). All of that hogwash is utterly irrelevant to whether or not you are actually male or female, which is simply and solely a physiological fact unmoved by the voices of morons the world over.

        Additionally, I argue that your sexual identity simply can’t make sense if it somehow opposes your physiological sex. You are what you are, period. If you’re male, you’re male even if you don’t have particularly masculine traits. If you’re female, you’re still female even if you don’t have particularly feminine traits. Your gender and your physiology don’t have to line up in any particular way, and your gender (or sexual identity or whatever) doesn’t determine what sex you “really” are. You’re just whatever you are! EOF! Period!

        That’s my point. It seems to me transsexualism/transgenderism is an extreme overreaction to, and insidious, pseudo-secret acceptance of, the theories of assholes who tell people that they must be girls if they aren’t manly men, or they must be dudes if they’re not wearing hoop skirts and pigtails. It worries me that this whole transsexual/transgender phenomenon seems to be abject capitulation to the schoolyard bullying adults were supposed to overcome and recognize for the puerile horseshit that it is. I know it can be hard to live in a society that’s so stupid about this stuff, and I mean, damn, given what you’ve written about yourself, it’s obvious that you’ve been severely mistreated on its account, but I don’t want anyone to be coerced into hating his or her body because it doesn’t fit the stereotypes pushed by raging asshats.

      • Aelita says:

        As far as biological sex you are correct — with the exception of intersex people which you left out. In terms of sexual identity, legal and social sex — what we call “gender” — you are wrong. I always knew I was a girl — as far back as can remember. No one ever told me that I was female. I knew that I was. I never wanted male organs attached to me — even when I was four or five years old. Bullying at school didn’t have anything to do with it. Being feminine and effeminate are two totally different things. My parents never treated me like a “sissy” or anything like that. When my mother found out I was intersex she tried even harder make me fit into her perception of male gender norms. I didn’t know there was a name for what happened to me until I was nine.

        By your logic, an XX male (a rare, but real condition) is a woman even though most these individuals identify as male, exhibit male traits and have secondary sex characteristics and an XY female with AIS is a man since she doesn’t have a uterus and can’t give birth — even though she identifies as female and doesn’t have secondary sex characteristics.

        As I said, no one knows how sexual identity develops but what IS known is that you can’t change it. Think about it. Could someone “turn” you into a female? If you woke up the next morning a’la Franz Kafka with a vagina and breasts would you feel any different than normal? Would you suddenly start having a sexual interest in men if you never did before? I don’t think so. There are some indications that sexual identity has a physiological basis in terms of brain structure. Can you not accept the possibility that if someone has different brain it might effect identity and behavior?

        You misunderstand how gender is evaluated. Femme boys and tomboy girls are not considered to be transgendered. There are many, many feminine acting men who don’t consider themselves to be female and vice-versa for “masculine” or androgynous women. It’s an entirely different situation. Conchita Wurst and Ru Paul are good examples. They perform and act as women but they don’t consider themselves to be female and they want people to know that.

        There is a classic test that psychologists use with young children. The test subject is given two anatomically correct dolls — one with male parts and the other with female parts — and asked to choose which doll best represents them. I chose the female doll. No one told me which doll to pick.

      • So, it seems we agree on the definition of biological or physiological sex and that the terms “male” and “female” refer to this property. However, it appears we disagree about gender or “sexual identity” (we’re using the terms interchangeably, as has been previously discussed).

        Where previously I asserted that there seemed to be a conflation between the terms “female” and “feminine” going on here, it now seems that there is also a false equivocation being made; specifically, you suggest that gender and “legal and social sex” are equivalent terms. However, that’s not how gender or sexual identity has been defined in our discussion. Gender is one’s relation with the set of traits which might be considered masculine or feminine, dependent upon the frequency with which they are observed in males and females. It’s not “legal and social sex.” It’s not sex at all. It is a psychological quality distinct from the purely physiological property of sex.

        Can we agree to that? I thought we had sort of agreed that gender and sexual identity are being used interchangeably here, and that sex is separate from both in that it is purely a matter of physiology. The definition of sex should be the most clear-cut and relatively incontrovertible in this conversation, and we seem to have agreed about it a few times. I admit that gender is harder to define, but I don’t see how it could reasonably be believed to be equivalent with “legal and social sex” given that we have already established it to be separate from the concept of sex. This seems like another logical flaw which would allow for the assertion that someone can “identify” as male or female, and thereby be entitled to be legally and socially identified as male or female irrespective of his or her actual physiology. And that would make nonsense of the concept of sex as a purely physiological property.

      • Aelita says:

        “The definition of sex should be the most clear-cut and relatively incontrovertible in this conversation, and we seem to have agreed about it a few times. I admit that gender is harder to define, but I don’t see how it could reasonably be believed to be equivalent with “legal and social sex” given that we have already established it to be separate from the concept of sex. This seems like another logical flaw which would allow for the assertion that someone can “identify” as male or female, and thereby be entitled to be legally and socially identified as male or female irrespective of his or her actual physiology. And that would make nonsense of the concept of sex as a purely physiological property.”

        I’ve been wondering how to reply to this. You seem to have an emotional bias and this makes trying to have a logical debate difficult.

        As I have mentioned several times it’s actually difficult to clearly define biological sex as simply either male or female. This is why I mentioned the subject of gender determination in sport. Not everyone has forty-six chromosomal pairs that are either XX or XY. Hormonal levels also vary between individuals. Gender is what most people think of when they think of “sex.” Gender is a combination of sexual identity, sex characteristics and anatomy and is assigned at birth. Some people are born with indeterminate gender. Sexual orientation is completely separate from both biological sex, gender, anatomy, and sexual identity.

        You also don’t seem to be all that concerned about non-gender conforming gay males, lesbians or trans males like Chaz Bono. Non-gender conforming biological males might wear women’s clothes and have effeminate mannerisms but are identifiable as male. Does that make them “safe” for you? Children begin to have a professed gender identity at a young age — typically three or four years old — and this is supported by research. Some children do have some variance but this usually becomes firmly fixed by age ten or twelve. The prospect of living a world with trans females who are indistinguishable from cisgendered females does seem to bother you a great deal. That world is already here. More and more parents — unfortunately not yet all — are choosing to allow their trans children to live as their professed gender instead of throwing them out on to the street. Puberty blockers and hormone therapy prevent the development of secondary sex characteristics so you won’t be able to “tell.” The conversion surgery is also at a state now where only a gynaecologist who knows what to look for is able to know the difference. Why does this bother you? You say you are against hatred and bigotry but want trans people to be identifiable in some fashion — perhaps not directly like Jews being forced to wear the yellow Star of David — but indirectly through denial of legal gender status and identity documents like birth certificates and driver’s licences. Denial of these rights only serves to support and and enforce an exclusionary caste system and leads to joblessness, homelessness, depression, suicide, a drift into forced sex work and quite often murder.

        You say sex a simple matter. Suppose you were dating an XY female with AIS. This condition is more common than you think. How is she different from a trans female without male sex characteristics who has a surgically reconstructed vagina? Both women are genetically male and are practically indistinguishable from cisgendered females. Is it because her gender was assigned at birth? Is it because she was always “told” she was a girl and not a boy? Most women are unaware they have this condition. Would you force such a person to live as male simply because they are XY?

        You have also stated that you believe that the conversion surgery is a “mutilation” and that somehow agenetic (i.e. trans) females are merely effeminate males who have been wrongly convinced they are “female” by misguided therapists or by external means such as a internalised reaction to bullying. This view is false and is not supported by the facts. Such gender variant persons exist but not all of them are transsexual. Sexual identity is innate and immutable and is a product of the mind and the brain. You cannot make someone with a female sexual identity into a person with a male sexual identity and vice versa. Tests conducted with laboratory animals in utero have shown that a hormonal imbalance can cause a sexual identity / biological sex mismatch. Sexual identity is not an illusory or false concept. Brain scans on living trans people and brain sections on dead trans people show there is a clear difference in brain structure and that they are different from people with the same biological sex and more like individuals of the opposite biological sex with whom they share the same sexual identity. This means they will naturally live, act, and behave as a cisgendered person of the opposite biological sex — just as a right handed person naturally uses the right hand instead of the left. It is cruel and inhumane to force someone who has this condition to live a life opposite to their state of being just to please others — but you seem to think it is right to do so.

        You are not the first person to have these views nor will you be the last. As I stated previously, your position is very similar to that of the feminist Janice Raymond as stated in her book “The Transsexual Empire.” Her position, albeit from the radical feminist perspective, was also based more on emotional reaction rather than on fact. You seem have some emotional concern about this issue instead of just an academic or intellectual one. I’m an intersex person who has a sex identity / assigned gender mismatch but I try to have an open mind and I don’t dismiss other opinions and try to examine them logically.

        I’ve argued with flat-Earthers, UFO conspiracy theorists and creationists as well. There doesn’t seem to be any logical argument or evidence I can present that would convince you that having a sexual identity / biological sex mismatch is a real, biophysically based phenomenon and not some form of mental illness or insanity and this makes a debate difficult if not impossible.

      • Ok, first: I am very sensitive to the assertion that I am in some way thinking incorrectly about this. I may die of self-loathing if I ever discovered that I were as intellectually intransigent as a flat-earther. So rest assured that I am open to the demonstration of fallacious thought on my behalf.

        I can’t say I recognize an emotional bias, but it is, of course, possible. In an attempt to root that out, allow me to simplify and clarify this matter as directly as I can. My words may be misleading by not including a reference to the term “intersex” when I speak of sex. I have pointed out repeatedly that I’m not denying the classification, and that I include it among “male” and “female” when discussing human sexuality, but when I don’t mention it, it seems to cause problems. So, allow me to clarify and simplify my point:

        Sex is purely a physiological property of an organism. It has nothing to do with anything aside from one’s genetic makeup and consequent role in sexual reproduction. Gender or “sexual identity,” on the other hand, is a set of psychological properties. Additionally, I observe that one’s psychological properties do not determine one’s physiological properties.

        Therefore, if you are a standard-issue XX female, no amount of psychological qualities (e.g. gender, sexual identity, etc.) will mean that you are actually male. What you are calling a “sexual identity / biological mismatch” rests on the assumption that there must be some sort of “matching” required between your psychological qualities and your physiological ones. The only correspondence which I would admit necessary here is that of your beliefs with facts. If you are female, and you believe that you are female, that’s the end of your obligation in this regard. You don’t have to think or be a certain way because you’re female, save for the obligation to acknowledge it and accept the truth of the matter. The same applies if you are male or intersex.

        That’s it. Can we agree on that before we move on to other issues, or is there something problematic there?

      • Aelita says:

        I don’t where you are getting this idea of people believing they can change their biological sex. This is impossible. I think this confusion arises because of terms used by the media like “sex change,” “sex reassignment surgery” and so on. Gender is what people really mean when they use the term “sex” which is why I always say “biological sex” to distinguish it from gender, social sex or legal sex.

        Gender is a social and legal construct based on sex characteristics and anatomy and gender is not fixed. Here is one of the most common examples. A child is born with internally trapped male sex organs and appears to have a vagina, determined by inspection to be female and is socially and legally given female gender at birth and raised as a girl by her family. The child reaches puberty and the male organs pop out. Now things get complicated. Often the family wants the child to be female because that’s what they believe. But what about the child? Does the child have a male or female sexual identity? What is the legal status of this person? This isn’t simple stuff.

        Sexual identity is not just a belief. It is an innate property unique to each individual. It’s not just psychological. I don’t believe that I’m female or think that I’m female — I KNOW that I’m female. I can’t explain how I know this but I do. I’ve known I was female as far back as I can remember and I’ve never doubted that. Why is currently unknown. What is known is that sexual identity is immutable and can’t be changed. Psychologists and biologists have arguments on both sides but the current theory, as I have mentioned previously, is that sexual identity has a physiological basis. It’s not something that’s just “in your head.”

      • People assert that they have changed their biological sex all the time. People say that Chaz Bono is male, or that Caitlyn Jenner is female, to use your examples. They are said to have “transitioned” when no such transition has taken place. This is what I’m arguing against. If you’re arguing that such statements are confused, I suppose we’re in agreement. However, if that’s true, I can’t really figure out what your position is regarding your assertion that someone can “know” that he or she is male or female independently of his or her physiological sex. Insofar as “male” and “female” refer to physiological sex, that just doesn’t seem to make any sense.

        Additionally, that you can’t explain this knowledge is a problem. On what basis do you have this knowledge? You seem to have described your physiology sufficiently to make it clear that you are not simply female, but rather, intersex. Knowledge is something like a rationally justified belief. If (as we seem to agree) being female is a simple matter of physiological sex (i.e. the organism’s role in sexual reproduction), and your physiological sex is not female, you’re going to have a tough time asserting knowledge that you are female. There is no rational justification, as far as I can tell, for this assertion. Given your status as intersex, the evidence seems clear and to the contrary. You might WANT to be female or desire it or something like that, but that doesn’t make it so.

        This is my point. The only way we can get around this, it seems to me, is to assert, as you have, that people aren’t really talking about physiological sex when they say “female,” so when you say you know you are female, you mean something else, but if that’s true, isn’t that just verifying the issue of conflation I’ve been pointing out all along?

        So perhaps, rather than physiological sex, you mean to refer to gender or “sexual identity.” Regarding your definition of gender as a “social and legal construct,” I’ll have to disagree. It’s a hard concept to define, but we need to get it right from at least a high level to make progress in the conversation. We’ve been using it interchangeably with “sexual identity” and I thought we had a pretty reasonable conceptual boundary established for it. We seem to kind of agree that gender or sexual identity is something like one’s characteristics which are typical to one sex or another. The reason I disagree with your definition, therefore, is that gender or sexual identity refers to a set of personal qualities which are qualified independently of social or legal forces (it’s purely a statistical correlation). The manner in which a person is considered (or identified) legally or socially is a separate issue entirely. Legally and socially, persons may be identified by physiological sex or gender as called for by the situation.

        Additionally, it seems to me that you want to kind of build into the concept of sexual identity or gender the idea of maleness or femaleness. My contention with this is that those terms refer to physiological sex, and not the psychological traits which form sexual identity or gender. When I pointed that out, you proposed that your sexual identity is determined by your physiology rather than psychology. Specifically, you seem to be claiming your knowledge of your femaleness is determined not by reasoned judgment, but your brain’s physiology. This strikes me as a pretty outlandish position, to be honest (and incidentally, it probably means you can’t claim to “know” you are female in this way, since knowledge is a function of reason, and reason is not involved here; you’d have to know you are female on account of an examination of your brain structure or somesuch). And what’s more, even if true, it doesn’t seem to help much. If we’re using the term “female” to refer to physiological sex, your argument is basically that your brain’s physiological structure is forcing you into holding a false belief (since your brain’s structures are hardly relevant when determining your physiological sex). If, on the other hand, you’re attempting to change the definition of “female” to refer to the structure of one’s brain, thereby rendering the belief that you are female correct because your brain is female, then all that you’ve done is change the definition of the term.

        In any case, I don’t see how assertions regarding your brain’s physiology help your position.

        If we agree about physiological sex, and we agree to use the terms female and male to refer exclusively to physiological sex, we can eliminate some of the confusion here regarding gender and sexual identity. If we disagree about the way we’re discussing gender or sexual identity, then we need to define those terms more clearly before we can converse further regarding the matter.

        P.S. Your thought experiment seems actually very simple to me. What is the person’s sexual identity? Well, to the extent that that term refers to the collection of traits possessed by the individual which can be said to be feminine or masculine, that’s up to the child to determine. What’s the child’s legal status? Male, obviously. If the doctors were wrong in declaring him female, then we now know that, and the relevant legal documents can be corrected accordingly. It might be difficult to deal with, as the child, but the questions you posed are, in fact, simple to answer.

  7. So really, to move forward, let’s agree about physiological sex, since I think we do. If we could constrain use of the terms “male” and “female” to matters of physiological sex, I think that’d remove a lot of confusion.

    We can then discuss the terms “gender” and “sexual identity.” It seems to me that our disagreement depends on these concepts and their consequences; I have held that they are psychological properties, influenced but not determined by physiological properties, and it seems you are holding that they are psychological properties determined by physiological properties.

    What do you think? I’m trying to keep the conversation from expanding into a bunch of unaddressed points. It seems like the problem is focused on that which I have described above, to me.

    • Aelita says:

      If you want to qualify biological sex as “biologically male” “biologically female” that’s ok but you are leaving out the fact that not everyone is XX or XY. As I have said several times, there are females that are naturally bio XY and males that are naturally bio XX. I’ve told you about Kleinfelter’s syndrome (XXY). There are even more rare combinations like triple-x (XXX) syndrome, hyper male (XYY), Down’s syndrome, mosaics, etc.

      The terms “Male” and “Female” in common, every day usage refer to gender and not biology. Chromosomes weren’t even known until the twentieth century. Some people are born with indeterminate genitalia as I’ve mentioned previously. It’s easy to see in some cases and in others it’s not. Current research also shows that sex/gender identity isn’t related to this issue ether and is independent of it.

      Your hang up seems to center on calling trans females Caitlyn Jenner and Jazz Jennings “female” and trans males like Chaz Bono “male.” I don’t know why this is. Humans are hard-wired to judge sex on anatomy and appearance. The word “sex” actually comes from the Latin verb “secare” which means to “cut,” “divide,” or “separate” meaning that man was divided into two sexes. The concept of sex pervades language and thought. What is a human being? Is a human being a mind, a body, a brain, or a combination of two or all three? No one knows what makes a person a sentient human being but we do know that there is a relationship between the form and structure of the human brain and intelligence, memory and behavior to constitute what we call the human psyche. By your logic an XY female with AIS should be considered by society and law as a man simply because she is biologically male and for no other reason. This is the most common form of intersex condition and occurs roughly in one in five hundred births. Externally they don’t look any different than XX females and have the correct parts to match. According your way of thinking, it doesn’t matter what she looks like or how her brain is structured or what her sexual identity is. “She’s a man, baby!” and that’s it. Not even the International Olympic Committee does this any longer. The opposite is true for XX males — another rare but not so rare condition. Externally, they appear normally male with matching parts but are genetically female. Again, by your way of thinking, individuals like this should be treated by law and society as female even though they have male parts, secondary sex characteristics and a male sexual identity. This makes no sense at all.

      Sex and gender identity is not based on biological sex or human anatomy and there is plenty of scientific evidence to support this. Gender is a multi-faceted concept. It’s not just biology. The entire transsexual controversy centers around people changing their appearance to match their innate gender. Some of these people may or not be intersex — like Caroline Cossey — who have very little externally to modify in terms of appearance. The purpose of the conversion surgery to have gender-normal genitalia for the well being of the person so they can have at least a semi-normal life. As more and more parents are helping their children with this issue there are going to be fewer and fewer dramatic cases like Christine Jorgensen, Chaz Bono or Caitlyn Jenner in the future.

      There’s another classical psychological test you should know about. Young men are shown pictures of models then are asked to rate them on appearance. After the test is over, they are told they are biologically male to judge their reaction (the models are actually all cisgendered females). Some the test subjects are shocked or claim that they knew all along and could tell. Some even throw up. Whatever your problem is I don’t know but I’ve given you plenty of evidence to backup everything that I’ve said — most of which you don’t seem willing to accept.

      Gender identity is not a bogus, politically correct concept. Did you ever see the film “Gandhi” (1983) ? Remember the scene from the protest at the salt works where line after line of demonstrators marched up to the front gate only to be beaten senseless again and again? Would you do this? Transsexuals belong to one the most hated and discriminated against groups in modern society. Your theory basically is that trans people are not born but “made” that way. I don’t see how the “external” influences or forces you talk about could make someone want to be like this against their will. It doesn’t make sense.

      • Ok, let’s move slowly and carefully. I want to address everything you’re saying, but I want to move systematically so as to avoid the need to repeat ourselves and whatnot.

        I am postulating that physiological sex is defined by the role which the organism plays in sexual reproduction. While sex chromosomes are the primary means by which human beings are differentiated into roles in sexual reproduction, the classifications of male and female need not be limited to XX and XY arrangements. If the organism, by virtue of its genetic structure (whatever that may be) can participate in sexual reproduction through the contribution of spermatozoa, then the organism is male. If the contribution is through ova, then the organism is female. If neither, through some issue separate from the sex chromosomes, then the organism can be classified per its genetics. If neither, through some issue related to the sex chromosomes, then there is a need for judgment in determining the classification appropriate to the intersex condition, and it may be that the organism in question is best classified purely as “intersex,” or perhaps “intersex male” or “intersex female” or somesuch.

        So that’s physiological sex.

        Is that fair?

      • Aelita says:

        Yes, you are correct — except not all XX females have a uterus or ovaries and not all males make sperm. I’m not trying to deny basic biology or the facts of life. I remember you saying before that you had heard people express the idea that they could “mentally” change their biological sex by force of will or some such. This is of course impossible. I don’t disagree with you because that’s basic Biology 101 common sense stuff.

        Genetic sex, anatomical sex, sexual orientation and sexual identity all develop independently of one another. The vast majority of the human race don’t have to worry about this but sometimes not everything is in sync and some people have a sexual identity that’s in opposition to their genetic sex. Why this is currently obscure but it is a quantifiable, demonstrable phenomenon.

        That’s my position.

      • Ok, right. Sorry for the long delay, and really, thanks for being so reasonable about this.

        Moving on, then, if those are the right definitions of male and female (and I account for the problems you raise in the lack of organ development or whatnot), how do you define “sexual identity” or “gender”?

      • Aelita says:

        There is an old joke that says “sex is between your legs and gender is between your ears.” Sexual identity is the innate perception of sex. Gender is social and legal sex. The external perception of gender is the chief problem when dealing with trans issues. Suppose you are right-handed. You are sleeping and the alarm clock goes off. Without consciously thinking you reach over to the clock with your right hand and turn off the alarm. You just naturally use your right hand. Now suppose people tell you not to use your right hand because “you look like a left-handed person,” “only special people are right-handed,” “you don’t qualify as right-handed” and so on. People get upset if they see use your right hand to get something and complain. In order to be served at a restaurant or get people to talk to you they have to see you use your left hand instead of the right. You just want to use your right had because that’s what comes naturally to you. You aren’t trying to do anything abnormal or unnatural.

        That’s what sexual identity is like. Sometimes the structure and development of the brain is like that of the normal brain of the opposite biological sex. Such people will naturally act and behave just like normal people of the opposite biological sex. The question is what to do about it.

        Humans live in societies. Societies make laws that reflect the culture in which they live. Not so many years ago in the West women couldn’t wear pants in public as it was considered to be unseemly. Stylistically there is no difference between a pleated skirt and kilt or a wrap skirt or a lava lava but you go to Scotland or the Fiji Islands and tell that to a guy you will have a big argument on your hands. Perception of gender norms and physical differences between men and women are the chief cause of sexual identity based hate, discrimination and intolerance.

      • Right, excellent analogy. If someone tells you that you should be left-handed ’cause you look left-handed, that seems to me properly related to a situation in which someone tells you to act feminine because you are female. Just as someone doesn’t have to be left-handed because he or she appears left-handed, a woman need not act feminine because she is female. Our hypothetical appearance of left-handed-ness and sex are both facts over which the individuals in question have no control, and they have no normative bearing over whether or not said individuals (or anyone else) should be left-handed or feminine, respectively.

        Regarding this point, I don’t think we have any disagreement. Regardless of appearance, people can choose to use whatever hand they want; regardless of sex, people can choose to act however they want.

        However, how does being transsexual relate to this situation? It seems to me, were we to extend our analogy to cover the question, we would have to posit that the right-handed person who appears left-handed would get some sort of cosmetic surgery to make him appear right-handed.

        And I have a problem with people surgically modifying themselves purely for the sake of appeasing society’s ignorance.

      • Aelita says:

        You misunderstand my meaning and took my analogy the wrong way. You have it in reverse.

        If you naturally act and behave as a male but are biologically female with female parts then your sexual identity is male. Because you look externally like a female there is strong social pressure to make you live and act as a cisgendered female instead of a male. There’s no external pressure to act male but the opposite. If you start dressing and living as a man then your gender is male and that’s what you are going to put on forms if asked.

        Sexual identity is innate. It comes from within and is contingent on the form and structure of the brain — not the DNA of the brain cells. It develops in utero and can’t be changed.

        I don’t understand why you think there is some sort of “conspiracy” to “create” transsexuals. There is not. Most parents still try and force their children to be cisgendered (i.e. behave in a manner consistent with biological sex) and inflict grave mental trauma on them in the process. This is why the suicide rate is so high. There are people and groups that are trying to help kids not “convert” them. It’s cruel and inhumane to force someone to deny their existence or force them to live with disfiguring sex organs that they don’t need or want just to satisfy their family or society. Imagine if you are a transsexual teen girl. You are going to want to do all of the normal things girls do at that age. The last thing that you want is body hair, facial hair, deep voice or male sex organs. You worry about breast development, dating, when you are going to start wearing a bra, etc. You want to wear a bikini at the beach with your friends and have fun but your body prevents you. Your family denies you access to medical treatment and puberty blockers and all of the bad things happen to you. Things get worse and worse. You get expelled from school, kicked out of your house and have no place to go. People won’t help you because now you have all of the secondary sex characteristics that are not only physically and mentally painful but mark you. You don’t want to live like this. Death becomes preferable and you kill yourself. It happens to people even in accepting families. That’s why is so important to have your outside match your inside. It does help alleviate some of the depression and self-hatred. You know you will never be “normal” — you just want the best life for yourself that you can have.

        It’s not about “modifying” yourself for the appeasing of society. I can clearly remember how I first tried to hang myself at age ten because of what my body looked like. I’d be dead now if our maid had not found me and cut the rope. That’s what you don’t understand. It’s totally internal. I’d never ever heard the word “transsexual” at that age. I just knew I was a girl and I had this horrible thing on me that had to go. If I couldn’t cut it off I’d rather be dead. By chance I was intersex and didn’t develop secondary sex characteristics and had small breasts and that helped me get through life somewhat but that does nothing to take away the feeling of hopelessness, despair and helplessness of being deformed. That’s what the corrective surgery is for. You still have the same social, legal, and relationship problems — but at least you don’t have to live with having “it” on your body anymore.

      • Aelita says:

        BTW, what is your alternative? What do you propose be done with people who do not want to live within an imposed gender role? You seem to think there’s some sort of cabal or group that takes gender non-conforming kids and tells them what they should be and “makes” or “turns” them into something. This doesn’t happen. How can someone be forced to live with private parts they don’t want, need or have any use for? You may remember the film “Faranelli” about the famous eighteenth century castrato. There’s nothing like that going on here. No one is taking unsuspecting innocents and doing things to them. There’s no group of Amazons burning girls’ breasts. It’s about trying to help people live and thrive in life when they have a brain – body mismatch.

        You say you don’t care how someone dresses but they shouldn’t have surgery or legal status. The desire to be “normal” — that is normal from an internal perspective — isn’t imposed by others. It’s totally an internal matter with external consequences.

        I think what you really mean without saying it directly is that you would support some sort of caste status for transsexuals like the Hijra in India. You don’t care how they dress or what they do but everyone would know who and what they are so people could avoid contact with them, be denied equal rights and access to medical care or surgery, only allowed to work in a few professions and they would have no legal status, passports or identity documents. This is the case now in most states in the USA — we just don’t have a three thousand year old culture.

        There’s no reason to deny corrective surgery to people. What would I do with a penis? Why would I want one? It had nothing to do with me or my life. Even if I had a lesbian relationship with another female I would still have no use for it and nor would a lesbian partner. It was not part of me and did not belong on my body. You are saying that just because that part of my body looked male I’m supposed to change myself and my life and make myself into something I wasn’t or didn’t want to be because of it? That was never, ever going to happen. I would have rather been dead. Either it had to go or I had to die. I wouldn’t want to live with it — ever.

        Either you live as yourself or die. No one is turning you into something else you would not ordinarily be. You are trying to stop other people from doing that. That’s what you don’t understand.

  8. Ok, there’s a lot there, and I totally want to address it, but I think we’re really honing in on something going slow and steady, so I don’t want to abandon our course. I do reject a lot of the beliefs you have ascribed to me, and I think my previous words sufficient to demonstrate that rejection, so I’ll just get right to it:

    You say “You misunderstand my meaning and took my analogy the wrong way. You have it in reverse.”

    Can you explain how the analogy is supposed to work? You stated what I thought a fine analogy when you wrote:

    “Suppose you are right-handed. You are sleeping and the alarm clock goes off. Without consciously thinking you reach over to the clock with your right hand and turn off the alarm. You just naturally use your right hand. Now suppose people tell you not to use your right hand because “you look like a left-handed person,” “only special people are right-handed,” “you don’t qualify as right-handed” and so on. People get upset if they see use your right hand to get something and complain. In order to be served at a restaurant or get people to talk to you they have to see you use your left hand instead of the right. You just want to use your right had because that’s what comes naturally to you. You aren’t trying to do anything abnormal or unnatural.

    That’s what sexual identity is like.”

    I interpret that as relating:

    (A) a right-handed person, left-handed in appearance, who is told on account of that appearance she must act left-handed


    (B) a woman, feminine in appearance, who is told on account of that appearance that she must act feminine.

    Is that incorrect?

    • Aelita says:

      I think it would help if I put out a few facts which you may or may not be aware of. Much of what you say seems to be more concerned with gender non-conforming, gender ambiguous or gender questioning people (the “Q” in LGBTQ) rather than people born with the wrong parts.

      Transsexuality is a rare phenomenon. There aren’t any firm estimates. These range from as high as one in two or three hundred to one in a thousand to as low as one in two or three thousand. Compare this to the commonly accepted gay population estimate of ten percent of the population. This means if you have a thousand people in a location a hundred of them might be gay but less than five of them will be trans.

      Trans people are few in number but are more visible — especially trans women — because of the gender, sex and appearance issues. Let’s look at cross-dressing. It’s almost an exclusively male issue because females in Western culture are more gender fluid and allowed to dress however they wish. Many heterosexual and homosexual men wear female clothing or live as women for a variety of reasons — including sex. Uninformed people don’t realize this is different from transsexualism.

      As I’ve said previously, most people assume anatomy determines sexual identity and our laws and social customs derive from this perception. This is incorrect. The form and structure of the brain determines sexual identity. Sexual identity develops in utero prior to birth and can’t be changed. This is why we have individuals who naturally live, act and behave like people of the opposite biological sex. They aren’t acting or performing. There’s also a skewed trans female to trans male ratio. There aren’t any good estimates for this ether — the numbers range from one in five to one in twenty. This means that if you have a hundred trans people in a room only around twenty or less will be males who are biologically female.

      There are also a few people who don’t have any firm or fixed notion of gender. This is not the same as intersex people who have a chromosomal or anatomical difference but an instinctive lack of the concept of gender and don’t see themselves as fitting into the gender binary and could be androgynous, asexual, pansexual or neuter and not having any sex at all. This is even more rare. Most trans people don’t fit into this category. They aren’t “confused.” They have a firm, fixed sexual identity — it just doesn’t correlate with their anatomy or biological sex.

      Many of your comments seem to center on the issue of people — especially children — having their bodies altered to fit their sexual identity to complete their gender identity — the physical, cultural, social, and legal part of sex. There’s no cottage industry trying to get people to have corrective surgery to be anatomically correct. There are too few trans people and in America most insurance policies don’t cover it. Due to the efforts of conservative politicians and Janice Raymond (the anti-trans feminist that I mentioned) in the early 1980s, federal health funds can’t be used for any trans related treatment or surgery. Most trans people are very poor and are ostracized from society. In many cities police mistakenly assume all trans women are prostitutes because many of them are left with no option except sex work to survive. Social attitudes are starting to change and more and more parents are allowing their children to transition and not throwing them out of their homes but these parents are still a minority. The surgery is not super expensive but still not cheap — $30K -$50K or more in the US — $20K in Phuket, Thailand — and most trans people will never be able to afford it and have to spend their entire lives living with the emotional trauma and physical pain of having the wrong parts. Some do get to have it after a lifetime of struggle. High profile cases like Caitlyn Jenner are rare. It’s more common to find people who were forced out of their homes as teens who become homeless and have to resort to the illicit hormone trade and back alley clinics were crude genital surgery is performed.

      I’ve never heard of but a few — very few — cases of trans people wanting to “go back.” Sexual identity is fundamental to human existence and trans people suffer great injustice just to live. What if you were told “you can keep your job if you wear pants instead of a skirt.” Would you say “no, I’m sorry, I can’t do that” knowing that not only will you lose you job but your career, your home and your life as you know it? What if you were a talented scientist, doctor, engineer, athlete, or musician and were not allowed to practice your profession simply because you were trans? This is what life is like for trans people.

      • I don’t want to get off track from our other line of thought where we’re honing on in the problem at hand, but I have to say in response to:

        “What if you were told “you can keep your job if you wear pants instead of a skirt.” Would you say “no, I’m sorry, I can’t do that” knowing that not only will you lose you job but your career, your home and your life as you know it?”

        If I had my druthers, I’d take that asshole to court, win, and then continue wearing a skirt. If, as life is often wont to do, such a path were inhibited by other considerations, I would probably just wear the pants ’cause it ain’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. In fact, I have frequently considered that a skirt would be a lot more comfortable than pants (for guys, especially; seems we’ve got those articles of clothing backwards when it comes to who ought to be wearing them, respective of anatomy), but given the waves that it generates and the conflict I don’t need to introduce to my life, I just wear loose pants. I gotta pick my battles.

        But suffice it to say, my position is not that guys who want to wear skirts should be disallowed the option. It’s that wearing a skirt isn’t that important, and that guys don’t have to get surgery to look like girls so they can wear skirts.

        But the analogy is more important to discuss, I think. I think we agree on the nature of it, and the fact that we don’t agree on the implications of it is likely representative of a logical problem one of us is having. If we figure that out, we figure the whole disagreement out.

      • Aelita says:

        As for the job issue, it’s perfectly legal in America to fire or not hire someone because they are transsexual. You can’t sue under that criteria. It’s done every day. A few states and cities have laws and other legal protections but not many and companies find a way to get around it. You can be denied entrance into a store or other business, not served at a restaurant, thrown out of a theatre or nightclub, etc. and that’s legal too. All of this and more has happened to me and there’s not a thing I can do about it legally. I’ve been lucky to find work at times but that’s only through the good graces of others who didn’t care what was on my birth certificate.

        “It’s that wearing a skirt isn’t that important, and that guys don’t have to get surgery to look like girls so they can wear skirts.”

        People don’t get surgery to please other people. You are missing the point entirely. Suppose you were injured in a car accident or an acid attack and you wanted to have plastic surgery to restore your appearance. It’s the same thing. You are focusing on the external and superficial. A trans woman is not a “man in a dress.” She has a female sexual identity and therefore is FEMALE AND NOT MALE. Her biological sex has nothing to do with it. She has the same ideas and thoughts as any normal female and wants to have normal functioning sex organs and breasts because she IS female. If a guy dates her he’s dating a woman and not a man. If she’s attracted to other women then she’s a lesbian.

        I think root of your logic is based around the idea that there’s no such thing as “sexual identity” and males are males, females are females and if you try to be the opposite — gender conforming or not — then you have some sort of problem. That’s not how it is. Sexual identity is real and it exists.

      • Aelita says:

        Just in case you didn’t know — there is a screening process to determine if someone is a candidate for surgery. Here is some information.

  9. Aelita says:

    I don’t want to put words in your mouth so I apologise if my zeal has caused problems. Yes, (B) is incorrect. It should read:

    (B) a genetic male who naturally lives and acts as a female but is told on account of their genitalia, body shape and assigned birth sex that they must act male and not female.


    (B) a genetic female who naturally lives and acts as a male but is told on account of their genitalia, body shape and assigned birth sex that they must act female and not male.

    To go to school, get a job, avoid police harassment, attacks, avoid discrimination, etc. people try and force such persons to behave as cisgendered people. To do so is a conscious, unpleasant and unnatural act.

    Why do people do this? Why do they deny possibility that some people have a brain body mismatch? Why would they refuse to allow a person to be and live as their innate gender?

    The reasons given usually have to do with social status, social position, religion, pressure from friends or family, misperception of transsexuality as homosexuality, and so on.

    Sexual identity is not imposed. It is innate to the individual. The problems arise because of the wants and needs of others to impose an opposite gender norm on a person that has a brain-body mismatch.

    • No worries; I really just don’t want you to think that I’m one of the assholes with whom I utterly disagree. I am in no way seeking to prevent you from doing whatever you want to do, and I don’t think you should be treated unfairly on account of your own private choices.

      But are we not saying the same thing? Your rendition of (B) seems only slightly more explicit, but in total agreement with mine. In (B), you see a woman who “acts as a male” (i.e. is masculine), but who is pressured by society to “act female” (i.e. be feminine) because she appears feminine (that is, exhibits physical characteristics typical of females). That’s what I’m saying in my rendition of (B). I could easily be more explicit and modify my (B) to read:

      (B) a woman, feminine in appearance, who is told on account of that appearance that she must act feminine against her innate inclination to be masculine

      I had just left that bold part absent, feeling it was implied since the entire problem is based on the woman’s perceived gender “mismatch.”

      Then, it seems to me, we’re on the same page. So, if we extend the analogy to cover the transsexual response to this situation, it seems the woman is getting cosmetic surgery merely to thwart the bigotry of others. Others are being asinine and telling her she can’t be masculine, so she’s getting surgery to prevent them from detecting the premise (her feminine appearance) on which their asinine behavior is based.


      • Aelita says:

        I don’t mean just “act” but “be.” That’s what you are missing here I think. There are lots of biological females that “act” masculine — gay or straight — but who still have a female sexual identity. I’m talking about sexual identity/biological sex mismatch — not just appearance or way of living. “She” is not a “she” but a “he.” You seem to be saying the social pressure is trying to make a girl who is just a rough and tumble tomboy into a trans man because it’s politically correct. I’m not saying that at all. He’s going to want to prevent his breasts from growing and have facial hair and a phallus (medically difficult) because she is a boy and not a girl and wants to a man when he grows up — not to please other people. He just wants to be himself.

        I’m saying the social pressure from other people is directed at a boy like this because, in their view he’s is a female and ought to remain female — even a gender non-conforming female — and not actually BECOME a male and LIVE as a male.

      • You wrote in your formulation of (B) that a “genetic male” “lives and acts as a female,” which I have fairly rendered as a male who has an innate inclination to act feminine. You are now taking issue with this, saying that “lives and acts as a female” really means “is a female.” You say “‘She’ is not a ‘she’ but a ‘he.'” Again, you say “She has a female sexual identity and therefore is FEMALE AND NOT MALE. Her biological sex has nothing to do with it.”

        But, of course, that makes your formulation of (B) utter nonsense, as instead of this:

        (B) a genetic male who naturally lives and acts as a female but is told on account of their his genitalia, body shape and assigned birth sex that they he must act male and not female.

        your position gets us something like:

        (B) a genetic male who naturally lives and acts as a is female but is told on account of their his genitalia, body shape and assigned birth sex that they he must act male and not female.

        You’re using the concept of sexual identity as some sort of device to redefine the concepts of male and female not halfway through (B). At the start of the assertion, it is clearly a reference to genetics (as you prefix it, and as we have more or less agreed previously), but then it becomes a reference to something about neurophysiology, and it seems to me that false equivocation is driving your entire position. It appears you are qualifying the male as a “genetic male” in the onset of your formulation of (B) to clarify between that concept and that of sexual identity which is being referenced by your subsequent and different use of the terms “female” and “male.” You want to simultaneously hold that yes, someone is male on account of sex chromosomes and accompanying physiological properties, but ALSO, somehow, sexual identity comes into play and means that this male is really female!

        To have what you consider a “brain-body mismatch,” we are required to adopt the theory that one’s brain can be “male” or “female,” and therefore improper to the rest of one’s physiology, rather than masculine or feminine (i.e. exhibiting qualities typical of males or females, respectively). Because if someone’s brain can’t be male or female (which it cannot, since it’s neither a sexually reproducing organism nor is it an organ possessed by only one sex), but just masculine or feminine, then there is no argument that a person has a brain-body mismatch without a theory stipulating that one must be female if one’s brain is feminine, or one must be male if one’s brain is masculine.

        And that’s why I’m saying it seems like capitulation to one’s harassers, who make a very similar, incorrect assertion in saying that one’s personality must be feminine if one is female and masculine if one is male (or the contrary: e.g. if you act like a girl, you must be a girl).

        It does not seem to me that this makes any sense. This is why I have pointed out the apparent conflation of the term “male” or “female” to refer on one hand to physiological sex and on the other hand to sexual identity, which is something about one’s neurophysiology.

        P.S. Your statement: “I think root of your logic is based around the idea that there’s no such thing as ‘sexual identity’ and males are males, females are females and if you try to be the opposite — gender conforming or not — then you have some sort of problem.” is almost right, I think. The only problem I see here is when, as you write, someone tries to be something he or she is not, i.e. someone decides to reject his physiological status as male on account of sexual identity. It’s not necessarily the case that there’s no such thing as sexual identity, but whatever it is, my position is that it can’t establish male or female status in the way you describe without either redefining the concepts of male and female or making the concepts nonsensical.

        I don’t have any problem with someone acting however he or she wants when it comes to being feminine or masculine, nor do I consider it problematic. I do, however, consider it problematic to hold the belief that sexual identity can somehow determine one’s status as male or female, regardless of the physiological criteria we already agreed upon as definitive of the concepts. One’s sexual identity could be a whole lot of things, but one thing it can’t be is the false assertion that “I’m female” if I am, in fact, male. That’s just false. It’s not that I am a female trapped in a male’s body; it’s that I’m male, per the physiological criteria we formerly established, and I somehow (incorrectly) think I am or should be female based on some entirely separate set of criteria.

        This is the confusion I am observing.

      • Aelita says:

        Sexual Identity has a physical basis in fact.

        It is not a “device.”

        I’ve tried to present several examples of how biological sex (chromosomes, DNA, etc.) is only one component of several of what is usually meant when people use the term “sex.” Your sex is actually assigned to you at birth by the obstetrician who delivered you — usually by genital inspection. Until very recently, if an infant had indeterminate sex organs it was common practice to make all such infants female — physically via surgery and legally via a birth certificate.

        There are natal males who are XX and natal females that are XY with AIS, intersex people who are neither, chromosomal mosaics, chimeras, etc.

        Sexual identity and behavior is closely associated with the form and structure of the brain. I’ve presented evidence of MRI studies and laboratory experiments where transsexual behavior was induced in animals by a prenatal hormonal imbalance in utero. I’ve also mentioned the digit ratio test as an evidence marker for this.

        I’ve been part of such an MRI study at a large university. The results were the same as in the other study I mentioned. My brain is very similar to a cisgendered XX female brain. I responded to sexual stimuli as a XX female would. This means I’m naturally going to behave as a biological female when it comes to sex, identity, desire, relationships, and so on.

        In the face of all this evidence I don’t know why you continue to insist transsexuality is not innate to the individual but a reaction to external pressure. Your statement about “redefining sex” is awfully reminiscent of the “redefining marriage” opinion of people opposed to marriage equality.

        By your theory, how could someone “develop” the “wrong” sexual identity before they had conscious contact with the outside world as infants and toddlers? Mothers of trans kids report that their children began showing signs of a sexual identity opposite of their assigned birth sex at very early ages — usually between two and three years old. These children haven’t been bullied. You seem to think trans people are like the old Soviet illegals who were trained to live and act like Americans. The opposite is true. It would take a conscious effort for me to live and act like a male and it’s something I could not do without considerable effort and personal emotional cost.

        Human beings are sentient life forms — not plants or animals. We have minds and can think and reason. Sexual identity is innate and immutable. It has a physical basis. If someone has a sexual identity that is different from their assigned birth sex it should be the main component in determining their gender — the anatomical, legal, and social component of sex.

        You really aren’t saying thing anything new here. It’s just a slightly elevated way of saying trans people are “dudes in dresses” or “gay chicks in a suit,” etc. Even though you say you don’t care how someone lives or what clothes they wear you don’t want to see them for what they are but for what you want them to be and you would deny them legal and social status.

      • Ok, to respond to a few of your smaller points:

        1) This is a tangential point, but: sex isn’t “assigned” – it’s discovered. People don’t arbitrarily decide “You’re going to be a girl,” and then assign that sex to one another. Rather, upon discovering female genitalia, they say “Oh, I see that you are a girl.” As we’ve covered, there are less clear-cut situations, and people can be wrong or they can be right in making this discernment, but in either case, they are not “assigning” sex to anyone.

        2) We agreed that, regardless of what some people think or say, you and I are talking about physiological sex when we say “male” and “female” (and that’s the appropriate use of those terms, so we’ve got that going for us, too). So, for our purposes, the alleged fact that other people mean something else by those terms isn’t relevant.

        3) I think I may be saying something new-ish here, because very few of your arguments against my position seem to actually be arguments against my position. I’m not saying your brain doesn’t have structures that are more common of females than males. I’m not saying this isn’t typical of transsexual people. I’m not saying sexual identity and behavior isn’t closely associated with the form and structure of the brain. It doesn’t surprise me in any way that animals behave in a more feminine or masculine manner when subjected to hormonal stimulation while developing as embryos. Nearly all of the empirical evidence you have offered seems utterly plain to me. What seems incorrect are the conclusions you are drawing from this unsurprising evidence.


        My position is that none of what you have said here means a male human being (i.e. one who produces spermatozoa) with a feminine brain structure is actually female. In fact, nothing could ever mean that because it’s nonsense. As our discussion of (B) in your analogy makes clear, the only way to say something like that is to redefine the terms “male” and “female” half-way through the sentence. Your analogy is very important to this discussion because it demonstrates in a more concrete manner the problem your position is running into. It’s a false equivocation buried in nebulous terminology.

        So, people might come to falsely believe this idea that status as male or female somehow depends on brain structure, and maybe even really early on in their development people will wrongly interpret their inner world to imply some sort of brain-body mismatch, but it’s still false. All that can be said here is that some people may be exposed to hormones in their development which result in brain structures more typical of the opposite sex than the sex which they are, but it certainly cannot be concluded that this means the person is a girl trapped in a man’s body or what-have-you. The person is whatever physiological sex the person is, and the person’s brain structures are what they are. The person may be a male with a feminine brain, but that doesn’t warrant holding the position that the person should be a girl, or is a girl, or any of that. That’s where I think people are becoming confused and pursuing false solutions to their problems.

        Like I have repeatedly stated; I’m not living with this issue, so I’m not going to say “You must resolve your issue in the following manner,” but it seems to me, for whatever that’s worth, that the perceived problem (e.g. being “a female with male parts”) is being incorrectly perceived (it’s really: “a male with feminine inclinations” or something like that), and the solution, therefore, is wildly inappropriate. Based on my limited knowledge here, the solution I would choose for myself, were I capable of deciding upon a solution in a cool, objective way, and only subsequently being subjected to the situation that may obscure that calm clarity, would be to live as I am, without regard for society’s hang-ups and issues, for it is only on account of those that I can see there is any problem with my hypothetical physiological configuration. If I were the only human on the planet, and I happened to be a feminine man, there would be nothing odd about it whatsoever. My qualities are only known to be feminine on account of statistical knowledge of (nonexistant, in our hypothetical situation) female and male populations, and only from that knowledge rises the possible (and false) conclusion that they are incompatible with being a male. If I’m the only guy around, then nothing seems wrong to me at all.

        People can live however they choose, but they can’t be male or female purely because of brain structure similarities to males and females, and they needn’t think they are male or female on that basis. My theory allows for just about all the evidence you’ve racked up. By my theory, there is no surprise that femininity and masculinity correlate strongly with exposure to certain hormones. Gender is, in part, just that kind of natural reaction to these conditions. I’m not denying that men can be more feminine on account of greater exposure to estrogen, or that women can be more masculine on account of greater exposure to testosterone. However, by my theory, it is only through error that a person might believe that he or she is a member of the opposite sex based on the perception that members of the opposite sex have more in common (emotionally, personality-wise, or what-have-you) with the person in question than members of his or her own sex. It’s an incoherent thought that requires the standard physiological definition of sex to be traded out half-way through the thought for some sort of alternate neurophysiological definition. The coherent interpretation of what’s going on is that the person exhibits traits more common of the opposite sex, and is therefore still male or female depending on his or her sexual physiology, but also feminine or masculine depending on the person’s character (which is influenced by the person’s neurophysiology). Sexual identity almost certainly does have a basis in physiology, but it doesn’t imply what you think it implies; a person is not male or female on its account. So, I argue, a person’s sexual identity, to whatever extent it is a coherent concept, cannot imply male or female status, but only masculinity or femininity.

        Finally, I’m not arguing that sexual identity is entirely a response to external pressure (that wouldn’t make any sense). As I wrote, it is not surprising to me that gender (or sexual identity) correlates strongly with the very non-external pressure of hormone levels within the body and to which the body is exposed during development. My argument accepts this, and builds on it by asserting that transsexuality is a response to external pressure faced when exhibiting a socially unacceptable sexual identity. There is no reason to surgically alter one’s body to appear more feminine or masculine so that it “matches” one’s personal character; there is no normative correlation between females and femininity nor males and masculinity. It’s ok to be a masculine girl or a feminine guy. What seems incoherent (and therefore not ok) is to think you must be a male trapped in a female’s body or a female trapped in a male’s body (or something of the sort).

        See what I’m saying? I think we’re very clearly focusing right now on the issue between us. The fact that you can’t render (B) in a manner which is both coherent and in support of your position seems to indicate to me that the incoherence I am observing is actual, and I am not mistaken about your position.

      • Aelita says:

        Why are you fixated on the idea that human sexuality is solely determined by cell biology? It is not. Sex in humans is a complex matrix of many different components. This is not only my opinion but the opinion of the scientific community.

        Your sex IS assigned at birth. It’s not “discovered.” My father was an OB/GYN who performed almost twenty thousand deliveries over a very long career and I know this as fact.

        Here are some hypothetical statements that I think align with your position using public figures as examples. I would like your response before I finish my reply.


        “Caitlyn Jenner is a man. He is male. It makes no difference what clothes he wears or how he alters his body. The IOC shouldn’t give him a new gold medal that says ‘Caitlyn Jenner’ because he’s a male and not a female.”

        “Chaz Bono is a woman. She’s female. It makes no difference what surgeries she’s had, what drugs she’s taken or if she has male sex characteristics or chooses to wear male clothing or not. She will and always be a female named Chastity Bono.”

        “Candis Cayne is a man. He is a male and will always be male. He made himself look like a female with hormones and plastic surgery. It makes no difference if he has breasts or a vagina or how he thinks of himself. He is actor and not an actress.”

        “Jazz Jennings is a boy. He’s not a girl. It makes no difference if his parents raised him as a girl or gave him drugs to prevent him from developing as a boy. He’s an just an effeminate male and will be a man when he grows up no matter what he does to his body. He shouldn’t be allowed to use the girls bathroom or locker room in school or live in the girls dorm at university.”

        “Caroline Cossey is a man. Even though he is intersex (XXXY) he was still born with male sex organs and therefore is male. It makes no difference if it was physically impossible for him to naturally develop secondary male sex characteristics or if he has a surgically constructed vagina. He’s male and shouldn’t have a birth certificate, passport, green card, or any other legal or identity documents that identify him as female.”

        “Andreja Pejic is a man. He is male and will always be male. Sexual identity does not matter. It makes no difference if he physically resembles an attractive female. He shouldn’t be allowed to model women’s clothes because he is and will always be male.”

      • Ok, I’ll be glad to respond to those examples, but before we get there, let’s think about the assignment vs. discovery bit. And then, I think the analogy deserves our attention because it’s really honing the discussion down. From what I can tell, it demonstrates that your position can’t be coherently formulated.

        The term “assign” refers to an act of designation or allocation for a particular purpose. If you are assigned a job, someone in authority has designated you for that job. It is up to this authority to determine for you your job, and the authority has done so by assigning it to you.

        It seems quite obvious that this is not the case with sex. When you are born, no authority has the ability to decide what your sex will be and assign the result of that decision to you. Rather, you are observed to be male, female, or intersex based on your sex organs or chromosomes. The observation is reported as a discovery. Just as your father never assigned pregnancy to anyone, he never assigned sex to anyone. He discovered that people were pregnant, and he discovered that people were male, female, or intersex.

        How am I incorrect on this one?

      • Aelita says:

        The medical term is sex assignment

        Fetal gender assignment by first-trimester ultrasound

        Z. Efrat, T. Perri, E. Ramati, D. Tugendreich andI. Meizner*

        Article first published online: 21 FEB 2006

        DOI: 10.1002/uog.2674

      • So, I of course cannot argue that no medical professional ever uses this term. I do maintain, however, that it is incorrect. Can you address the reasoning for my position? I understand some of the theories behind the use of the term “assignment,” but I don’t want to assume to know which you maintain.

        P.S. I kinda balk at going down this path because we’re drifting ever more distant from that analogy in which I am very interested in your response to my observation that your theory appears to entail that (B) is rendered:

        (B) a genetic male who naturally lives and acts as a is female but is told on account of their his genitalia, body shape and assigned birth sex that they he must act male and not female.

        As I had observed, it can’t be correct, and seems to rely upon false equivocation for its structure.

      • Aelita says:

        This debate is pointless.

        You obviously have some emotional issue with trans people and you are unwilling to accept fact or medical and scientific opinion. You can still acknowledge facts without moral acceptance of the issue.

        We live in a gender binary society. We could have three sexes if we wanted to but we don’t. Our culture and language are based on the concept of two sexes. The obstetrician or midwife who delivers an infant has to examine the evidence and assign the sex to which it will belong. It’s not always clear cut and at times a critical decision must be made.

        It is not a false tautology to say that if someone has a persistent female sexual identity — which the evidence strongly suggests is based on brain structure and fetal development and is one of the several components of sex as a whole — then it is proper to assign female sex to such a person. I’ve presented several other examples of how this happens in humans — XY females with AIS or CAH as the most common. Biological sex is only one component of several that comprise sex in humans. Which component should be the most important? This is a medical, psychological, ethical, and philosophical question. All current research indicates that sexual identity is innate and immutable. In other words, she’s female because she — the intrinsic entity that makes us who and what we are as sentient beings — is female…even though her biological sex is XY.

        You keep stating you believe that trans people alter their bodies for the benefit of others and transsexuality has external rather than internal causes. This is untrue. It is also illogical. How then would you explain how a girl with a classically feminine body shape and appearance who has never been told she looked masculine in her entire life would have a male sexual identity and a male homosexual sexual orientation? Sexual orientation, sexual identity, and biological sex are independent of each other. In most people they develop in parallel. In other people sometimes they don’t.

        If a child shows signs of gender dysphoria at an early age and after examination is determined to have a sexual identity opposite to that of their assigned birth sex I don’t see how anyone with a rational mind could say that the child’s gender dysphoria was induced externally. It is external family and societal pressure that forces people to suppress their sexual identity — not the other way around — often with grave mental and psychological consequences.

        I’ve presented the facts. You can develop an alternate theory but you can’t reject the facts. If you choose to reject them that’s up to you but that makes a rational debate impossible.

        There will be more and more girls like Kim Petras and Jazz Jennings in the future who are recognized at an early age and get pre-pubertal medical treatment and conversion surgery and it will be practically impossible to differentiate between them and cisgendered XX females. They would fit within the female side of our gender binary culture. What sense would it make to classify them as male? There would be no rational reason to do so and it would be impractical. If they make you uncomfortable and you don’t want to be around them then say so. If you don’t wish to accept them as female from a moral, religious or an emotional standpoint you are free to do so. It won’t matter to anyone else but you.

  10. Aelita says:

    I’m going to conclude this debate by discussing transphobia — which I think is what is really underneath all of this. You entitled this debate “Transsexuality and Transgenderism: Truth and Falsehood.” I’ve tried to present a lot of truth but you didn’t seem to be really interested in the truth. You seemed more interested in finding “facts” that would support your preconceived (and medically incorrect) ideas.

    You also really seemed to be bothered about the use of the terms “male” and “female” to refer to the sexual identity of trans people and the fact that they could, at least in some states and countries, obtain legal documents of the appropriate sex.

    Transsexuality is a naturally occurring phenomenon. It just happens. At the present time it’s not known exactly why. What is known is that it’s because of a difference in brain structure probably caused by a hormonal imbalance in utero. It’s interesting to note how some non-Western cultures deal with non-gender conforming individuals. Several Native American tribes have the concept of people with “two spirits.” In many Asians societies there’s a long history of males performing and/or living as women — even though these societies are very male dominant. Western culture just doesn’t have a tradition of people living outside of the gender binary.

    I really don’t have an answer as to why so many people hate — and fear — trans people. There are entire books on the subject. I can tell you what my experience has been. Men can’t seem to disassociate transsexuality from homosexuality. They feel that trans women are just strange gay men who look like women — both attractive and un-attractive — but aren’t really as if they were a a “third” sex. They don’t seem to be all that bothered by trans men — as long as they stay “in their place.” Women tend see trans women through the lens of cultural appropriation and male dominance. They also can’t distinguish easily between trans women and men who wear women’s clothing for sexual arousal. Women tend to see trans men as extremists who reject their femininity and go too far when they “become” male. There is also a significant amount of transphobia in the gay and lesbian community — much like the “shadism” that exists in the African-American community between lighter skinned and darker skinned blacks. I can’t think of another medical issue — except perhaps leprosy or AIDS — that engenders so much hatred in in a wide range of people.

    It’s only been within the last one hundred years that modern medical science has made it possible for trans people to correct their outward appearance to align with their sexual identity. That’s the only thing that is really new. The term “transsexual” didn’t even exist until the 1950s.

    I wish you had asked me about what it’s really like or how I felt. I’ve tried to convey some of that but you clearly weren’t interested.

    So, what is the “truth” about transsexuaity? A trans person just wants to have a normal life. They aren’t trying to be anything different — except the greater society they live in doesn’t see things that way and thus makes their existence extremely difficult. It’s a medical problem innate to the individual that has a significant social dimension and makes people espouse hatred and fear.

    It you decide you really, sincerely want to know more let me know.

    • Well, first, let me say I appreciate that you spoke with me about this. As I’ve said, it’s a sensitive topic, and not everyone is up to discussing it. We will, of course, part ways disagreeing, but I’m glad this content is here to be read, for I think it’s been a good discussion.

      It seems to me this conversation took a very distinct path towards a logical problem in your claims. You seem to want to hold, as I observed, that “male” and “female” refer to physiological sex or, separately, something about one’s brain structure, and you hold these conflicting definitions together in the same assertions, leading to a false equivocation between the terms, and making it seem like saying:

      (B) a genetic male who naturally lives and acts as a is female but is told on account of their his genitalia, body shape and assigned birth sex that they he must act male and not female.

      makes sense.

      But it doesn’t make sense. The person who is born as a male, female, or intersex individual will remain male, female, or intersex, regardless of whatever it is the person desires to do. Against this point, you make clear the desire isn’t to do something, but to be something. The assertion runs into fairly plain problems when faced with the fact that one remains male, female, or intersex regardless of desire to be otherwise. In an attempt to circumnavigate the impossibility, your position clandestinely changes the definition of “male” and “female” to allow for it. It was eventually argued that neurophysiology renders some men “female brains” and what-have-you, but that is again, incoherent. Even if the person’s brain is physiologically feminine, developing characteristics typically seen in females, the brain cannot be said to be female, for it is nearly entirely unrelated to the physiological sex of the organism, to which “male” and “female” refer.

      That’s it. That’s all there is to it. The relatively simple classification of male and female is being taken as a personal attack because it doesn’t conform to the person’s image of himself or herself. In reality, there is no normative relationship between males and masculinity, nor females and femininity, so there can’t be any argument that one ought to be male or female for any psychological reason. That’s not to dismiss the torment faced by those who feel compelled otherwise, but it is to address that torment in a different way. Ideally, this knowledge, if attained, should help to free the person from a tormenting desire to do something impossible.

      So my point is that, if the claim or desire to be the sex opposite to one’s actual physiological sex is incoherent, it should not be pursued. None of this has anything to do with hatred, anger, or fear of any kind. My position is coming purely from an original assessment of the rationality of the claims being made and the belief that one ought not to pursue that which is logically impossible.

      That being firmly established, I’d like to add that, despite your constant claims to the contrary, current medical evidence is not entirely in favor of transgenderism as the sort of incoherent phenomenon which you seem to think it is. In fact, as you’re almost certainly aware, Johns Hopkins, the hospital that pioneered “sex reassignment” surgeries has discontinued the practice and now campaigns against it. There is strong evidence that, contrary to your assertions that “sexual identity” is “innate and immutable,” 70-80% of children expressing transgender feelings lost those feelings over time.

      I’m not the only one noticing this stuff. My conclusions do not depend on the irrational precepts you ascribe to me. I am not alone in believing that the desire to effect the impossible is to be disowned, not embraced. As I quoted Zhuangzi, “The sage labors not over that which life cannot do.”

      And that’s why I semi-ignored your medical references. Their discussion is not essential to the understanding that your argument is incoherent, so I didn’t want to wade into it unnecessarily. But, as we part, I can’t help but point out that you are demonstrably and incontrovertibly incorrect when it comes to your sense that, as you put it, “All current research indicates that sexual identity is innate and immutable.” In fact, there is far stronger medical evidence against your position than there is for it, in my estimation, but at the very least, you are obviously incorrect to make a consistent case that I am merely ignoring obvious scientific and medical facts.

      So that’s where we will end this, and I appreciate the conversation, but I think there is more left for you to consider than for me.

      • Aelita says:

        Before I let this go I’d like to address the Paul McHugh/Johns Hopkins issue.

        This information is from GLAAD.

        — Refers to homosexuality as “erroneous desire”

        — Argues that being medically accommodating to a transgender child is “like performing liposuction on an anorexic child”

        — Filed an amicus brief arguing in favor of Proposition 8 on the basis that homosexuality is a “choice.”

        –Describes post surgical trans women as “caricatures of women”

        — As part of the USCCB’s Review Board, pushed the idea that the Catholic sex abuse scandal was not about pedophilia but about “homosexual predation on American Catholic youth.”

        Back in the 1980s, there was very little research on transsexualism and psychologists had all sorts of theories. Again, this is an example of how you can look for “facts” to justify a pre-conceived idea. McHugh is a social conservative and there’s been much more research in the last thirty years that refute his ideas.

        Humans are complex organisms. In a new paper mentioned in a recent article in the New York Times ( ) XY cells were present (roughly one in a thousand) in every mother that gave birth to a male (XY) infant. No one is 100% “male” or “female.”

        Since you aren’t willing to accept current scientific evidence I’ll leave you with a final anecdote. I have a few female friends who know me very well that know about my background. What surprised them the most wasn’t my physical appearance — which in my case was due to natural causes as I have told you — but how I lived and behaved. Or, in their words “you are totally feminine – you don’t act like a guy — you really are female.” So why am I different? Why am I naturally female? How would you explain why my brain has similar structures as a normal cisgendered female (XX) brain? How would you explain my brain having the same sort of response to stimuli to the latter in a controlled experiment? I’m not a sissy nor am I effeminate like the stereotypical hairdresser you see in the movies. I’m just behaving normally. No one taught me to “act like a girl” — in fact my mother went to great extremes to try and get me to act like a rough and tumble boy. I just didn’t happen to be one. I’ve heard the same thing from psychologists who have seen hundreds of patients. I’ve never been molested or “groomed” by a paedophile. No one dressed me as a girl or tried to raise me as female. I wasn’t trying to make an absent father love me instead of my mother or any other outmoded psychological theory. Something about me was different. I am not like you. I’m a girl. If you can’t deal with that well that’s too bad for you.

        Science isn’t set in stone. Old ideas are discarded as new evidence comes to the fore (go read “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Kuhn if you haven’t). What you believe to be “right” or “correct” doesn’t matter at all.

        There’s no trans “conspiracy.” Children aren’t being “mutilated.” XY females are not “effeminate” men. Your relative silence on trans men (XX males) is also telling. You can discount the current facts and evidence all you want to but, to quote Giordano Bruno, “Eppur si muove.”

      • Aelita says:

        Here is an article for you.

        Bruce Jenner, Paul McHugh, and Transgender Denialism

        Posted on February 18, 2015 by Alison Hudson

        The media has been full of speculation recently about whether or not Bruce Jenner is transitioning to live life as a female (and it is all still speculation at this point, no matter how many anonymous sources TMZ speaks to). This has fueled a sometimes raucous and angry reaction online about what it means to be transgender and what the proper treatment is for gender dysphoria, the mental distress that comes from the conflict between a transgender person’s gender role and gender identity. I’m not interested today in speculating on whether Bruce Jenner is or is not transgender. I’m more interested in the high amount of science denialism the Jenner story is bringing out on the Internet, regardless of how accurate the reports are.

        And yes, the crass, transphobic responses many have expressed to the Jenner story can be classified as a form of science denialism. just as climate change deniers reject overwhelming consensus about the damage we have done to the environment; just as evolution deniers ignore overwhelming consensus about the origins of life; just as vaccine deniers ignore overwhelming consensus about vaccination; so too do those who deny the validity of transgender identities and the proper treatment for the mental distress of gender dysphoria do so by ignoring overwhelming medical consensus on these topics.

        A typical trans denialist response to the Jenner story came recently from conservative pundit and radio host Carl Jackson. His screed, “My Hope for the Man Bruce Jenner,” (note the forced insertion of “the Man”) has been widely shared on conservative blogs, religious sites, and social networks over the past week. Jackson starts by saying he will “pray [Jenner will] get the psychiatric help he needs to conquer his illness,” and then dives into repeating a number of transphobic talking points.

        Did you know that transgenderism [sic] is a mental disorder? Nothing more, nothing less. Dr. Paul McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for John Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry has stated that “transgenderism is a ‘mental disorder’ that merits treatment, that sex change is ‘biologically impossible,’ and that people who promote sexual reassignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder.”

        I was not surprised to see a trans denialist cite Dr. Paul McHugh. In fact, Jackson’s article is largely just a repetition of McHugh’s on-the-record positions. McHugh is the kind of poster-expert science denialism often seeks out: an educated professional in the right field with a distinguished career who, nonetheless, supports their brand of willful ignorance. McHugh has taken a number of controversial stances in his career. He opposes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the standard diagnostic tool in psychiatry; he disregards Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a valid medical condition; he believes that homosexuality is a choice individuals make; and in all things transgender, he rejects the accepted, science-supported view in favor of his own antiquated ones.
        McHugh screenshot

        McHugh wrote an editorial for the WSJ in June 2014

        McHugh rejects, as do all trans denialists, the notion that one’s biology (“sex”) is separate from one’s self-identity (“gender”), a position that is increasingly in the minority of both psychology and society. This position puts him at odds with the likes of the World Health Organization and even his own employer Johns Hopkins University.

        McHugh instead embraces the idea of autogynephilia, otherwise known as “Blanchard’s autogynephilia typography,” or BAT. BAT argues that transgender women are actually just extremely gay men and that the rest are just heterosexual men with a fetish for their female identities. Autogynephilia was never widely accepted as science, has been highly criticized since its introduction, and only exists in any form today because the idea’s originator, Ray Blanchard, sat on the board that compiled the DSM-V. Even then, it’s relegated to a small sub-section of the “paraphilic disorders” category, nowhere near the diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

        McHugh also voices a common trans denialist position that claims gender-reassignment surgery (GRS) is not an effective treatment for gender dysphoria. In fact, trans denialists like to tout McHugh’s connection to Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of the first medical institutions to offer GRS, in support of this claim. The hospital has since stopped performing GRS because, they say, the institution “no longer saw a need to amputate ‘normal organs’.” What they fail to mention is that this happened in 1979 and was largely done because McHugh himself was the one in charge. Hopkins Hospital hasn’t brought it back since, not because they still stand by McHugh’s views, but because the administration feels that there’s no need to start a new program, as there are other facilities that perform the surgery.

        Furthermore, the study McHugh used to justify the cessation of the surgeries at Johns Hopkins was flawed. It is is often held up as “proof” that such surgeries are ineffective, but that study was done in the late 1970s, at a time when the procedures were still rare and experimental; and it was done by Johns Hopkins, under the purview of McHugh himself, and focusing only on a small sample size of patients at Johns Hopkins. This all suggests ample conflicts of interest for a man who admits to having been opposed to GRS from the start.

        [Incidentally, the other study trans denialists like to point to, the so-called “Swedish Study,” doesn’t actually say what they claim it says. Like so many things in denialism circles, it’s a case of the deniers cherry-pickikng the numbers that suit them and ignoring the rest.]

        Another argument McHugh and other trans deniers often repeat is the idea that “surgery cannot change one’s biological sex,” insisting that because GRS does not change one’s chromosomal makeup or grow new organs, the surgery is invalid and its results a sham. But this sort of biological determinism isn’t what the surgery is about. I challenge McHugh or any detractors to find a single informed trans person, pre- or post-op, who honestly believes they are being changed on a DNA level by these surgeries. Quite the opposite; trans people probably understand the surgeries and the procedures behind those surgeries better than most people do when going in for other routine or extreme surgeries. GRS is about aligning the secondary sex characteristics to better fit the patient’s gender identitiy; but then, to understand the theraputic value of GRS requires one to understand that sex and gender are not the same thing, something we already know trans denialists reject.

        Finally, McHugh and trans denialists also support the supposed value of reparative therapy. “Advocates for the transgendered,” McHugh wrote in 2014, “have persuaded several states […] to pass laws barring psychiatrists, even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor.” The “natural gender feelings” line is just more biological determinism; the rest is advocating for a type of therapy that was part of the stew of intolerance and rejection that recently led to the heart-rending suicide of Leelah Alcorn. Reparative therapy has been outlawed in several places because it doesn’t work and because it causes harm to those it tries to “cure.”

        In taking these stances, trans denialists stand opposed to a growing body of science literature and the stated position of virtually every major domestic medical organization on the record. In the United States, organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and others all have spoken out against the diagnosis of transgender identity as a mental illness. They all support the treatment of gender dysphoria through necessary medical care including gender-confirming mental therapy, hormone replacement therapy, and gender-reassignment surgery. These organizations base their positions on over 50 years of study. Transgender identities are real, and science has built up an increasingly impressive corpus of evidence in support.

        It’s not surprising to see all of these discredited denialist arguments coming up as the Jenner story continues to make headlines. Jenner and the Kardashian clan are lightning rods for criticism and insults, and unfortunately news stories involving transgender individuals are also likely to draw ignorant vitriol and ire. Putting the two together is a proverbial tempest in the teapot of gossip sites and tabloid publications. Fortunately, the science is on the side of transgender identities, and that is why public opinion and public policy is increasingly on our side as well. So let the deniers continue to deny; they do so as vaccine deniers, evolution deniers, and climate deniers before them, from a position of increasing willful ignorance and disregard for the scientific consensus. Science is about progress, and that progress has generally bettered humanity. We can’t let the deniers hold us back.

      • Aelita says:

        Another very good article you should read.

        Sex isn’t chromosomes: the story of a century of misconceptions about X & Y

        The influence of the XX/XY model of chromosomal sex has been profound over the last century, but it’s founded on faulty premises and responsible for encouraging reductive, essentialist thinking. While the scientific world has moved on, its popular appeal remains.

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