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You can’t be born in the wrong body The science behind gender ideology is dubious at best

Veronica Ivy, the first transgender world track cycling champion (OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Veronica Ivy, the first transgender world track cycling champion (OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)


May 5, 2022   6 mins

What if you woke up one morning and found you’d swapped bodies with someone else: your mum, the boy next door, “a monstrous vermin”, an older version of yourself? Would you still be “you”?

There’s a reason this setup is a classic. Most of us feel that there’s an “us” conceptually distinct from the body we inhabit. In fact, anthropologists suggest it’s a belief held in some form or other across all human cultures.

This ancient dichotomy crops up in Different: What Apes Can Teach Us About Gender, a new book from primatologist Frans de Waal. Most of the book is about sex differences in our closest cousins. But de Waal briefly touches on the experience of transgender humans as evidence, supposedly, of innately gendered brains that can be effectively the opposite sex to the rest of the body.

The hypothesis he advances is a steelman of gender identity theory: the idea that whether we’re “really” a man or woman depends on an internal state knowable only to ourselves. In de Waal’s conception (the “scientific” version of the theory), gender identity isn’t an immaterial essence but is physically located in some part of the brain. Supposedly this brain module develops in utero and tells women and girls “this brain is in a female body”, and men and boys that their body is male — but it is possible for this module to find itself in the “wrong” body. De Waal suggests that “in a fraction of human pregnancies, the body takes off in a different direction to the brain”, and this physical mismatch is the cause of gender dysphoria.

De Waal’s argument rests on claims, made by a number of studies, that the brains of transgender people are closer in structure or function to their target sex than to their natal sex. But, unsurprisingly, this is far from settled science.

For one thing, studies of the brain involve either the very expensive process of imaging living brains, or brain tissue from deceased donors. It’s hard to get a decent sample size — and harder still when the group you’re interested in makes up just a tiny minority of the population. Plus, the pressures on scientists and journalists to produce eyeball-grabbing #content to keep their careers afloat can lead to conclusions being brazenly over-interpreted, especially in areas in which research often attracts media buzz.

On top of this, there are a number of complicating factors, which most of these studies are much too small to control for (if they even attempt to — plenty don’t). Hormones are one such complication: if people have medically transitioned, it’s difficult to say whether any resemblance to their target sex is because they were born that way, or because of their newly cross-sex hormonal profile. Many studies acknowledge this problem, but small sample sizes mean that their efforts to address it are often not statistically meaningful.

The fact that trans people are more likely to have autism or mental illnesses is another potential confounder, one that’s rarely mentioned. These diagnoses are thought to be associated with physical changes in the brain, so any study of average differences between trans people and control groups would need to rule them out as explanations.

Sexual orientation, too, should be taken into account. People who are trans are much more likely to be non-heterosexual pre-transition; if they are only compared to heterosexual controls, then it’s impossible to tell whether differences are down to gender identity or sexuality — especially if your experiment, like this one, is based on volunteers’ responses to an erotic film. This particular study found that trans women responded differently from straight men and similarly to straight women. Is this a sign of a “female brain”, or could they just be attracted to men, like straight women are? We don’t know, because the paper doesn’t say.

Since sexual orientation is the single most binary psychological variation between men and women (well upwards of 90% of women are attracted to men, and vice versa — a fact often considered so obvious that it goes without saying), you’d think it would be important to carefully control for. Most studies don’t adequately do this, though, and at least one actually does the opposite. The methods section of this paper published in Nature explains that for trans women to participate as subjects, they had to be exclusively attracted to males (i.e. they had to be homosexual), while to be in the male or female control groups, participants had to be heterosexual. The confounding variable of sexual orientation is therefore completely baked into the study, so that it’s impossible to draw separate conclusions about gender identity.

On the other hand, the first study to explicitly factor this into the experimental design reports that once sexual orientation is accounted for, the brains of trans people were sex-typical in most of the variables measured. In other words, comparing like for like, trans people’s brains were similar to people of the same (natal) sex and sexual orientation, rather than the opposite sex.

I don’t think it’s implausible that gender dysphoria could be caused in some cases by some kind of neurological similarity to the opposite sex —just that the evidence for it is currently not especially convincing. On top of this, there are a few troublesome observations that suggest the “brain in the wrong body” narrative can’t be the whole story.

Why have gender clinic referrals skyrocketed for girls in particular — in the UK, there’s been an increase of 4,400% in less than a decade — when gender dysphoria used to be diagnosed primarily in boys? This looks suspiciously similar to documented cases of peer-to-peer social influence in teenage girls (which can be facilitated by social media), but is usually explained away as a decrease in the stigma that would otherwise prevent people coming out. If this is the case, though, then where are all the middle-aged women who should also be coming forward after years of repressing a trans male identity?

And what about the large numbers of male-to-female transitioners who do not seem to suffer from gender dysphoria, may have no desire whatsoever to alter their male anatomy, and behave in strikingly male-typical ways? News of women arrested for sexual crimes — especially those involving a penis — used to be a rarity; now it is increasingly commonplace. One such headline from a few weeks ago reads: “Ex-soldier exposed her penis and used wheelie bin as sex toy in public”. Are we really meant to believe this is the behaviour of a “woman trapped in a man’s body”?

Undeterred, however, de Waal concludes that “it seems […] the brain offers a better indicator of the gender people claim for themselves than their genital anatomy.” This statement borders on the pseudoscientific. How can we believe that the brain, with all its vagaries, is a “better indicatorof whether the average person describes themselves as a man or a woman than the simple binary of what’s in their pants?

But let’s say it’s true that gender identity is an immutable physical property of our brains, and one day we will be able to point to it on a fancy type of scan. Even with this newfound neurological knowledge, wouldn’t we still need to recognise that male and female bodies are different, for instance in contexts such as sports?

De Waal doesn’t think so: to him, rulings that restrict female sports to people with female bodies are no more than “attempts to demonise [transgender people] and make their lives more difficult”. This is despite a less conspiratorial explanation being within reach — as he himself states in another chapter: “body strength is a glaring exception to the general rule that gender differences are gradual and overlapping […] More than two out of three men can lift 110 pounds directly off the ground, but only 1% of women can do the same.”

De Waal refers here to a gender difference, though actually it’s a difference of sex, caused by the physical characteristics of our bodies. Such mix-ups are not infrequent. And matters are not helped by a glossary inset. “Sex”, we are told, refers circularly to “the biological sex of a person”; “gender” is “the role and position of each sex in society” (emphasis mine), while a “gender role” apparently is something else entirely. With a guide like this, the blind are led by the blind.

Perhaps the strangest thing is how at odds this all is with the rest of the book, in which de Waal is scathing of over-simple politicised narratives from all sides. In a final chapter titled “The Trouble with Dualism: Mind, Brain, and Body Are One”, he argues that thinking the human mind can be separated from our bodies and our animal natures is an arrogant form of “neo-creationism”. The neuroscientist Antonio Damasio is approvingly quoted as saying that “a mind is so shaped by the body and so destined to serve it that only one mind could possibly arise in it”. In other words, you are your body, and the idea of being born in the “wrong” one is a logical impossibility.

It’s hard to believe this chapter is written by the same man who uncritically adopts the language of “boys born with female anatomy”. It’s as if there is a set of beliefs on gender identity which have been downloaded as a self-contained unit, prevented by some kind of firewall from mingling with pre-existing knowledge.

Perhaps this makes sense. Many universities officially subscribe to this set of beliefs (in fact, in the UK they’re likely to pay money to do so, via Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme), and increasingly ask that new hires do, too. Students enforce the beliefs among their own ranks and among their lecturers. Research that asks the wrong questions may be pulled from publication, or have ethical approval retracted. You don’t have to understand — just profess your allegiance so that we all know you’re on the side of decency.

It’s no wonder that some intelligent and well-meaning people seem to decide, consciously or unconsciously, to think the right thing and reach the right conclusions without worrying about whether they’re sound.

When it comes to sex, gender and trans issues, it’s hard to know which information to trust. There is a clear market for non-partisan scientific expertise, to help us sift through the propaganda and hype. In books like Different, we trust that the authors will hand-pick reliable facts for us, rather than buying them wholesale from the merchants. But if even the experts are too befuddled to look at the evidence with a critical eye — or worse, self-censoring — then there is little hope for the rest of us.


Ellen Pasternack is a PhD student in evolutionary biology at Oxford University.

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Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

Even if there were one syllable of truth to the theory (and I don’t admit for a second that there is), the physical crudity of “transitioning” is so massively barbaric that it would be far better to remain in the birth body. There’s a reason trans suicide rates are high, and it’s not because the rest of us are “haters”.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago

Strangely enough, I had a discussion about it with trans supporter yesterday.
Another bitter “graduate” of crap university who works in a bar now.
He honestly believes that gender is separate from sex.
He would not accept that there are obvious genetic differences between male and female.
He thinks that banning transgender athletes from women competitions is hateful.
He doesn’t agree that women should be allowed female only spaces.
List of his moronic views is endless (communism is great but was never implemented properly)
He said that Corbyn was the best future uk could had had.
I asked him what is his main source of “knowledge”.
Nevarra media (or close).
Sounds like venereal disease.
Why do we waste taxpayers money on mis–educating these morons?

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

It’s like the woke are a different species, isn’t it. How does one relate to these people on any level?

Last edited 2 years ago by Drahcir Nevarc
Roger Ramjet
Roger Ramjet
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

My answer to them all is simple: Pound sand. If they believe they have a right to an opinion about their gender, then because rights are inherently equal for all people I too must have a right to an opinion about their gender. By the mathematically transitive property of “I’m right and you’re wrong,” my opinion is supreme….

Roger Ramjet
Roger Ramjet
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Sounds like the sort of nonsense you might hear from any other cult fanatic.

stephencarlsbad
stephencarlsbad
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Gender/sexual orientation is part of our personality construct, so it is different from biological sex.
However, it’s preposterous, ludicrous and pure insanity to claim “biological differences dont exist.”
There’s an identity politics agenda using the radical, fringe, left to promote pure nonsense in order to separate Americans and other Westerners into opposing camps to make us fight among ourselves instead of focusing on “the little magician, at the controls, pulling the strings, behind the curtain.”
And in order to grasp and understand this, you must have some political knowledge, a psychology background, (no other medical background needed), the will to fight against your liberal leanings (a majority of psychologists are liberal) in order to arrive at the truth, and a personality construct that’s either highly altruistic or antagonistic, in order to share this “unpopular truth” publically.

Last edited 2 years ago by stephencarlsbad
Ivano Darra
Ivano Darra
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

He was right about Corbyn though! And Navara media is not too bad as a media outlet. Having said that, I think the left got itself into such a pickle wanting to defend minorities at all cost, even when it’s detrimental to other demographics

Mike Robinson
Mike Robinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Ivano Darra

No he wasn’t. Corbyn was the worst prime minister we never had. Thankfully. Is it that you think communism was just implemented badly everywhere it has been tried? He is an honourable and decent bloke in every other way, but he is not capable of intellectually punching his way out of a paper bag. And don’t get me started on the alternatives, including the present one.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago

Ain’t no science. It’s a religion.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

“Don’t question, just accept” is the advice given by Mermaids. To me it smacks of “our case doesn’t hold up to scrutiny” and feels like a brainwashing mantra.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

Precisely.
But the missing, key bit of information is that this religion wasn’t started, developed or foisted upon the rest of us by merely a few trans.

This cult of equity and victim groups – where tolerance or equal opportunity are not enough, but where you have to assume everyone is absolutely equal in ability and any difference in outcome (unless it’s in favour of the victim groups of course) is inherently due to evil white men, and anyone arguing otherwise is an evil bigot.

This ridiculous, illogical, brain-dead religion has been around for decades. We have already accepted that it’s fine to claim that women sports are equally worthy and strong as the male version, merely quoting a Bible scripture on gays is grounds for dismissal for rugby players, media and ads happily suggest blacks are 50% of UK population etc etc

No wonder these cultists thought they could get away with this latest phase where rapists go to female prison or 6ft males bash up sportswomen.

Last edited 2 years ago by Samir Iker
Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
2 years ago

The experiment design – where only homosexual trans people were recruited to “test” the theory – tells you all you need to know about the value of this nonsense, and the integrity of this scientist. Still, I suppose if he had published a paper claiming that there was no evidence for a physical/structural basis for trans feelings, he would have been hounded out of his job.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Any theory that has to insist on someone performing the research to be completely biased is junk science from the start.

Roger Ramjet
Roger Ramjet
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

But, but, but – it was “peer reviewed!”

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago

Very brave of Ms. Pasternak, who can now anticipate bullying and intimidation by very nasty men in frocks.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Yes, I was surprised that she published this in current climate.
When I express my views about woke believes, many people who argued with me ask where I work.
When I tell them, I am retired, they loose interest.
They are nothing more than another version of Marxism/communism.
Totalitarian lefties, who can not handle debate and accuse anyone not agreeing with them of being “far right”

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

It works both ways. A couple of weekends ago, one of my lodgers shouted at me and called me a “transphobe”, because I was wearing a t shirt with the caption “I stand with J.K.Rowling”. Having explicitly told her before she moved in that woke would not be tolerated, I promptly evicted her. I will not be spoken to like that in my own home.

Last edited 2 years ago by Drahcir Nevarc
Roger Ramjet
Roger Ramjet
2 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Breach of contract, so to speak…

Michael K
Michael K
2 years ago

Honestly the whole argument kinda starts and ends with “how do you know”?
And how is “knowing” that you are a woman when you are a biological male, different from “knowing” that you are overweight when in fact your BMI is below average?
The thing that causes problems when someone is supposedly born in the wrong body is not the hardware (the body) which remains unchanged, but the software (psyche) which solely is open to such change.
I personally like to be tolerant towards people who have changed their sex, especially with a corresponding operation. But at the same time I just can’t deny that it reeks of mental illness. And according to actual experts in the field, “the data” – which I have admittedly never verified – shows that the suicide rate of transpeople remains high even if they are accepted and supported.
Lastly, it usually looks grotesque. I cannot imagine how it must feel to live in a sex-changed body. I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just accept the biological facts and “take the loss”. God knows I myself have had times in my life where I didn’t feel all too manly. Those come and go.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

I note your point about ‘How do you know?’. There is also increasing information about the disproportionate incidence of other mental diagnoses in people presenting with trans issues.

But how to explain really young children, otherwise ‘ordinary’, who say with absolute conviction pretty much as they can speak, ‘I am a [girl/boy]’ contrary to their physical sex?

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
2 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

Most of those children grow out of it.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
2 years ago
Reply to  Wilfred Davis

This reminds me of a commercial, I forget what it’s advertising, where there is a child that refuses to wear pants, because, to quote the child “I’m a dinosaur”. Shall we start grafting scales onto the child’s skin then? A young child will say or do most any random thing that crosses his/her/its? mind. Arguments based on the say-so of someone who can’t be left alone lest they inadvertently injure themselves or someone else doesn’t strike me as wisdom.

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael K

There are no humans who have changed their sex. They may have had surgery to take bits off and/or add other bits on, but at best that gives them a vague appearance of being of a different sex. ONE’S SEX CANNOT BE CHANGED.

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
2 years ago

My favourite response to trans-twaddle is from a woman asked whether she was a biologist: “I’m not a vet, but I know what a dog is.”
The dogs in the street can tell male from female, so I have no difficulty, but I struggle to imagine how anyone, male or female, uses a wheelie bin as a sex toy.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Katy Hibbert

There are some things out there that it’s best not to know about.

Roger Ramjet
Roger Ramjet
2 years ago

Especially since once you know, you can’t “un-know…”

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Katy Hibbert

He was in the army, maybe on long tours of Afghanistan or Iraq, so wheelie bins were his only joy.
Please forgive him….

Jim R
Jim R
2 years ago
Reply to  Katy Hibbert

I feel somewhat liberated that it’s finally out there – after years of lusting in secret after wheelie bins, feeling so misunderstood and shunned by society. I think its time we add a few letters to the LGTBQ… – “WBL” for us Wheelie Bin Lovers. And then of course we mustn’t forget our allies – those who identify as wheelie bins. We need to start exploring surgical interventions to help them transition. Never mind cancer – there’s more important work for the medical community! And inclusiveness demands that such people no longer be excluded from working as wheelie bins. I could go on.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim R

It’s society’s crime. You’re not to blame. Give in to your urges. Go with the flow.

Roger Ramjet
Roger Ramjet
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim R

It will be spoken as “wee less,” and noted that they wobble but they don’t fall down.

Kirsten Walstedt
Kirsten Walstedt
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim R

 “WBL” for us Wheelie Bin Lovers
Ah yes, Wubblies. We used to talk of them in School

Andrew Raiment
Andrew Raiment
2 years ago

Post-modern “science”.

Roger Ramjet
Roger Ramjet
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Raiment

Scien-tism.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago

I suspect Pasternack will have far more career problems than de Waal. Perhaps that explains the contradictions in de Waal’s book and the lumps of gender ideology incorporated wholesale into it.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

I’d thought that. Very brave of her as a researcher at Oxford. I wonder if she will face consequences.

I followed the link to the book and was very disappointed to see Yuvel Noah Harari endorsing it.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

That is assuming that this insanity of transgender nonsense never goes away.
I am listening to Sibelius “Finlandia” now.
They were conquered by Sweden than by Russia but still dreaming and eventually achieving independence.
Now they are free to join NATO.
So, there is hope…

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
2 years ago

“The fact that trans people are more likely to have autism or mental illnesses is another potential confounder, one that’s rarely mentioned.”.
Surely gender dysphoria or being trans is the very definition of mental illness, no?

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
2 years ago

Interesting article. I haven’t read Frans de Waal’s new book yet, but I will. Even without reading it I can say pretty surely that you are right in thinking rigor is lacking. In books like The Bonobo and the Atheist and then Primates and Philosophers he shows how the shackles of science don’t inhibit at all his wandering freely where his thoughts take him.
Myself, I’ve been interested in the biological roots of the human sexes since I took a seminar in college decades ago that dove into the topic. We read Man & Woman, Boy & Girl and other books that were then cutting edge. We looked at pictures in the professor’s “human zoo” (a term he used to purposely shock us) that showed a gamut of naked people with Klinefelter syndrome, Turner syndrome, androgen insensitivity, chimerism (a fusion of a male and female embryo into one so that some cells are XX and some XY) and a variety of other genetic conditions. We heard from a doctor who specialized in dealing with infants born with “ambiguous genitalia”. We went to an institution and talked with some people with sex-related genetic problems so severe they were disabling.
I’m sure such a seminar would be impossible today. But the seminar impressed me enough that I still remember it vividly, and I have since kept up with reading on the subject (as a nonexpert). I don’t think the science has progressed all that much. We can’t do experiments on humans. There’s no way to know what is in a person’s head. That makes science hard, and a poor guide to how to deal with social issues that sex issues create.

Last edited 2 years ago by Carlos Danger
R.Craven
R.Craven
2 years ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

You’re talking about actual physical intersexuality, which is a completely different issue from people feeling that they’re in the wrong body.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
2 years ago
Reply to  R.Craven

The basic issue in the case of intersex and transsex seems to me to be the same one: Where do we get our sexual identity? Is it physical? Mental? Social? If a combination, what sort of combination? Is it innate at birth? Is it immutable?
We usually use science to answer questions like those. But we can’t experiment on humans, so the most powerful tool of science is unavailable. And especially when the question is so personal and political, science struggles to provide an answer.
When I took the seminar, most experts thought that those few people who thought their physical sex was the wrong one were physically intersexual to some degree. That is, that their sexual identity had at least some physical component. That is still being debated today.
We have made some progress in understanding the science of sexual identity, but as this article suggests it’s very hard to rely on scientists as we normally would. Political pressures and informal censorship make it doubly hard.
Trying to apply unsettled science to real life led to tragedy in one case. I mentioned the book Man & Woman, Boy & Girl. That book argues that sex identity is cultural, citing a case where the author John Money advised that an infant boy (“John” in the book) whose genitals had been severely damaged be surgically, hormonally and socially raised as a girl (“Joan”). The author claimed the transition had been a success.
When I took the seminar, the case of John/Joan was known not to be as John Money had claimed. A later book, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl, tells the story of “John”, raised as a girl, and his identical twin brother, raised as a boy. It’s riveting and macabre. And tragic. The book tells the story as one of amazing survival against tremendous odds, but sadly first “John” and then his brother committed suicide a few years after the book was published. Once a top scientist at Johns Hopkins, John Money is now seen by most to have been an arrogant and amoral man.
How do we handle sexual identity issues? I’ve thought about and read about these issues for decades now, but I’m no expert on the subject. Trouble is, the experts don’t have answers either. I hear people say we should “follow the science” in cases like this. But what do we do when the science leads us nowhere?

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 years ago

It’s hard to believe this chapter is written by the same man who uncritically adopts the language of “boys born with female anatomy”. It’s as if there is a set of beliefs on gender identity which have been downloaded as a self-contained unit, prevented by some kind of firewall from mingling with pre-existing knowledge.
I have read de Waal’s work and find this observation disturbing.
To gain a firmer grasp of this topic, I would recommend The Gender Paradox by Zachary Elliott. It is the most authoritative exploration of the issue I have read. He also has a YouTube channel
https://www.youtube.com/c/ParadoxInstitute
Elliott is also working on a forthcoming book titled Sex Defined, that is a rebuttal of every single, major, sex spectrum argument, with each chapter devoted to the rebuttal of a particular argument.

Last edited 2 years ago by michael stanwick
Russ W
Russ W
2 years ago

Thank you, Michael. Just bought his current book. His sources and influences and approach gave me the confidence to buy right away.

Russ W
Russ W
2 years ago

Michael, wow. Elliott’s book, The Gender Paradox, goes way beyond gender. It is the most direct, coherent, and accessible explanation and critique of social constructivism and post-modernism I’ve found. I’ve read a lot of books on the topic, and this is likely the best. Who the heck is this guy? He deserves a much larger audience.

Russ W
Russ W
2 years ago

Thank you for bravely applying rational, objective reasoning to a fraught topic. If you are persecuted for it by woke university administrators then know that there are a small number of classical liberal colleges starting up, they’d love to have you.

UnHerd, thank God you provide real rather than “activist” journalism. Please continue. I’m betting you bet promoter scored a high!

Last edited 2 years ago by Russ W
Ian Burns
Ian Burns
2 years ago

Poor Frans, what a mug.

R S Foster
R S Foster
2 years ago

…I’m also interested to know how many of the male-attracted, male-bodied transwomen…fall into the category of being attracted only to men who are keen on women, and really don’t fancy other men at all. Or in other words…gay men who find straight men more attractive than other gay men…

B Davis
B Davis
2 years ago

‘Push, push…almost there!” A baby’s cry.
Congratulations Mary!
“Boy or Girl?”, she asks.
I’m no biologist, how do I know?
Sorry dear, we’ll need to do brain scans and gender-response testing. All we can tell you now, for sure, is that your gender-unknown child has a p***s. Whether that is a male appendage or a female anomaly… requiring subsequent removal and whole-body chemical dunking if, that is, it turns out the invisible and unfindable whatsit somewhere in the brain leans slightly left — well, that remains to be seen.
C’mon. This is insane. The whole discussion, the entirety of the question. No one is born into a ‘wrong body’ (well, except for me, I should have been tall enough to dunk a basketball) Men cannot become women. Females can’t transition to male.. Body mutilation and drug abuse accomplish only a perversion of the human condition. With Popeye we must exclaim: “We Yam What We Yam!” And that’s all we’ll ever ‘yam’: boy or girl, man or woman.
To believe otherwise is delusional…a kind of body identity dysphoria . Or perhaps, for some, it’s just a sexual kick, an autogynephiliac turn-on to think yourself the other sex. No matter. You’re not. You never will be the other sex. Nor is it cruel or unusual for the rest of world to privilege reality over delusion in every up close & personal interaction with the person playing pretend. Steve, your pronouns are he, him, his: they always will be….even if you spend a fortune to make yourself look like Jayne Mansfield.
Bad enough when we play these reindeer games with adults. 10,000 times worse when we allow, encourage, and enable children to commit sexual suicide every time Billy carries a doll or Sally a hammer. ‘They need a new drug!” And a bevy of so-called adults in lab coats more than willing to supply the poison to every anxious parent indulging in Munchausen by proxy. This must stop.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

The term “steelmanning” was new to me.

It should much better known as it seems to be the debating tactic of choice for every kind of progressive argument. It lays the ground for auto-dismissing any dissent as stupid or immoral.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Bollis
Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I, too, was intrigued by the term. It is a phenomenon that prevents rational thought. Then again, thinking seems to be a skill that is waning in today’s world. We tend to simply go with what is fed to us on the screen via algorithms.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

But it wasn’t meant to be like that. It was supposed to be a technique in which one’s opponent helps to build your strongest argument and then argues against that; this was to foster trust during arguments and confidence that your opponent is engaging seriously with your pont of view.

Lourenço Almeida
Lourenço Almeida
2 years ago

Aren’t X and Y chromosomes enough to tell male from female? Sure, some men are more effeminate and some women more manly, just as some old guys are childish and youngsters may be grave. Still, if a boy wants to play with Cindy toys and wants to change his body, it is really not that different from old hags stuffing their faces with botox, from a third party standpoint. As long as those boys don’t line up at the 100m Olympic women’s race, of course!

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago

It was enough back in a time when facts were facts. Today, facts are subjective. All indicative of a society moving away from biblical truth and towards subjective truth, which, of course, is subject to anything that can someone can conjure.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

The main differnce is that these “old hags” are not going around demanding that their birth certificates be changed to reflect their desired age, nor are they protesting that that they are not permitted to get a “young person’s rail-card”.

Jamie Hall
Jamie Hall
2 years ago

I am so tired of this. I am so tired of the identity politics and the craziness on the left and within the trans movement itself that pushes people towards the kind of ignorance and arrogance I see in the comments.
I am so tired of people stepping into an issue I have been forced to ponder and question every day of my life for 5 minutes simply because it has become a politically popular topic, and have to watch them with all the confidence of in the World claim they understand my experience better than I do. Listen to them confidently define me.
I am so tired of people who know nothing about my intellect, my character or my morals define me as mentally ill or sexually perverted.
Trust me-every argument you have, every thing you have considered about what it means to be trans, I have had myself. I’ve made your arguments better than you have. I have pondered harder. I have thought longer and deeper. None of it brings any definitive answer or any peace.
I don’t know if there is a scientific basis to being trans. I agree with the article in that respect. Even in the most persistent cases that go back to childhood, could it be some kind of pattern of thinking that takes hold from a young age as opposed to be being hard wired into the brain? Sure. Or maybe it is hard wired but the technology to pinpoint that remains beyond us at this present time. I don’t know. I don’t know what it is.
But I know that if there is an enlightening conversation to be had-it won’t be found here. Most of you people are just a victim of another kind of identity politics. You are being fed a story about what trans people are by your social media feeds and clickbait headlines. By people who want you to believe certain things and see only a certain version. For example someone in the comments is surprised by the fact a young trans girl had a feminine face-I mean seriously I can’t describe the level of ignorance that displays about what treatments can do for people and the thousands of trans people out there who just look like normal, unassuming men or women. But that isn’t the version you are being shown. It doesn’t get the clicks. This article is largely about the rational and integrity of scientific studies and yet in the same breath uses an anecdote about some sick individual. Why? What is the scientific value of that? All lapped up by the types of people in the comments who use it to define me. Use it to make the World feel that little bit more like a cold and unwelcoming place for someone like me.
I know in a lot of cases it is unintentional but I am so tired of your ignorance.

Dave Corby
Dave Corby
2 years ago
Reply to  Jamie Hall

You could enlighten us. I hope you don’t think these questions are petty….the answers would help me.
What is your definition of a woman?
If you feel that you are one, then what is it that you feel you are?
Is it that you feel more empathetic than your average man?
That you sexually desire men rather than women?
That you prefer to wear and be seen in women’s clothes?
Is this really true: “the thousands of trans people out there who just look like normal, unassuming men or women”. ? Maybe I would be surprised.

Jamie Hall
Jamie Hall
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

Here’s my experience: My earliest memories are of wanting to look like a girl. I never remember a time when I was open about that. I’m talking 4-5 years old and I already knew I wasn’t supposed to feel that way so I kept it a secret. I hid my sister’s clothes under my bed during the day so I could put them on in secret at night. I had lots of dreams in which I was a girl. It didn’t make me unhappy at that age. I had a pretty idyllic upbringing as a normal boy. Good family. Good friends. I was very lucky. I didn’t hate myself, my body, or think I was a girl. It was just something I thought about in the same sense a kid might lie in bed and imagine how great it would be to be able to fly or have superpowers, well I thought about how great it would be to wake up a girl the next day. My life involved mainly boys as friends and playing Sports. The older I got the more aware I became that this other thing in my head was unusual but I was able to completely wall it off from my everyday life. Being good at Sports and also being reasonably good looking meant as a teenager I was pushed into what from the outside looked like a quite stereotypical ‘macho’ experience. I was captain of various Sports teams at school. Girls liked me.

Two things then happened which made this feeling start to really affect me. From late teens onwards I felt this growing disconnect with my body. That it was changing in ways that made me not see myself in the mirror anymore. I felt warm, open and compassionate as a person and I looked in the mirror and saw a cold, hard, angry reflection. It was like an alien thing was growing on my exterior, pushing what I felt was the real me further inside until eventually I felt trapped and beyond uncomfortable in my skin. It’s like a permanent sense of having a piece of clothing on that is irritating you-you want to tear it off but you can’t because it’s your body. Eventually I realised that what I didn’t like was the more extreme ‘maleness’ to my appearance that had developed in late teens/early 20s. I guess at that point it had become what you might have heard other trans people describe before about simply feeling wrong in their bodies.

The second thing that happened which really started to make me feel horrible and that life was going to be difficult is quite sensitive to discuss. As I went through puberty and started to have wet dreams I was always a girl in those dreams. I thought I was a straight male as a teenager so to experience that was extremely distressing-as was beginning to realise that when it came to actually having intercourse my body didn’t really seem to respond. I didn’t desire it. Didn’t seek it out. Didn’t want it. That started to make me ‘odd’ in relation to my peers. You have asked me about my sexuality-the answer to that is that I don’t have one. It is like my brain is wired to expect my body to be female and the fact that it isn’t means that part of me just doesn’t work in any functional way. I say that not because I am claiming that actually is the fundamental scientific explanation-but because it most accurately describes the experience.

I can tell you what I do now know for certain as I sit here today as a 35 year old man-if I woke up tomorrow in the body of the biologically female version of me, that would cure these feelings. If I could go back and intervene in my early/mid teens and have my body shaped by female hormones instead of male ones, that would also cure these feelings. Why? Because it would be like putting out this fire in my mind. There are actually many trans people who describe that same feeling once their body is running on different hormones irrespective of any physical changes. The interpretation is often because it corrects some kind of ‘wired in’ mismatch in the brain. I have no idea whether that is a real thing. Again, I am just reporting the experience.

For me I am 35 year old born male in a very male looking body. I have no interest in looking like a man in a dress. The kind of person the commentors here react so negatively too. I am an introvert. I am not camp or proudly queer in my expression or personality. I do not want that attention (despite yet another person in the comments who is convinced that this is all because I want attention) I just want to look like a normal person.

Could it be some psychological process that took hold in my mind beginning from very early years? Sure. Is there some kind of ‘mental correction’ that could help me? I’m not against the idea that there might be. But if the people in the comments again convinced that this ‘reeks of mental illness’ could direct me towards that help it would be much appreciated because I’ve tried a lot at this point. I have spoken with a therapist and taken courses on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I use those tools to help with other things in life but I’m afraid here they don’t make a dent. It feels so pervasive, instinctive and almost subconscious in nature that trying to ignore it or change it feels akin to trying to change your sexuality or some other fundamental thing about who you are. And any time I can go a day or two without being hit with that feeling of wrongness in my skin and the hopelessness about the future that comes with that-I have a dream where I am female anyway and it all comes flooding back.

If I want to convey one thing here it is that, in my case and in many others, this is a feeling that happens to you, against your will and in spite of your best efforts to make it go away. 

Below is the answer to the questions you asked.

What is your definition of a woman?

I don’t know and I don’t care.

If you feel that you are one, then what is it that you feel you are?

I don’t feel like anything other than myself. Above is my experience. None of that makes me feel like anything other than myself. Whatever words other people want to use to describe me I don’t really care.

Is it that you sexually desire men rather than women?

Explained above.

That you prefer to be seen in women’s clothes?

I’d like to be able to wear women’s clothes and look like a woman. I’d like to be able to wear androgynous clothes and look like a woman. In reality I do not look like a woman in either of those scenarios, so no, I do not prefer to be seen in women’s clothing. I would rather look like a man in men’s clothing than a man in women’s clothing.

Is this really true: ‘the thousands of trans people out there who just look like normal, unassuming men or women?’

Yes. It is. Google Trace Lysette, Valentina Sampaio or Geena Rocero. Go on Reddit and search for r/transitiontimelines, filter by ‘top’ > ‘all time’ and then scroll for however long you want. The fact that you think it isn’t true speaks to the fundamental ignorance you usually find in places like this. I hold no judgement or ill-will towards that, why would you know about a World that you’ve had no reason to experience? Especially now that you are being fed a warped, clickbait, identity politics version of that World which only serves as confirmation bias to your ignorance. We are all socially conditioned to think of this as a taboo thing. I was the same growing up. I didn’t know what was possible. You didn’t see trans people anywhere. I only remember one programme Channel 4 put on late at night called Sex Change. I watched that and felt like I was doing something wrong or seedy. I suspect it’s how you might feel if you actually take my advice and look for trans women on the internet. Why would a ‘normal’ person go and search that out? Wouldn’t that be a a bit of a weird thing to do? But you can bet that as soon as some criminal or pervert does something horrible the Daily Mail or some other news outlet trafficking in outrage will make sure that you see THAT. Your personal social media algorithms are already likely fine tuned to perform a similar kind of narrowing of your experience (a problem that extends much farther than just trans issues)

When you look at some Pride rally or other congregation of trans people, the ones who don’t ‘pass’ will catch your eye. The others won’t because…guess what-you’ll believe them just to be normal men or women and have no idea.

But purely because of the hand I have been dealt in life I was pushed to find out everything I could. Once you’ve read and listened to enough experiences, viewed enough convincing transitions, day after day, year after year, what eventually happens is that social conditioning just melts away. Trans people are just people like the rest of us. As good or as bad as the rest us. You also start to realise that science is pretty incredible and the human body is quite malleable.

I see people in places like this talk about surgery a lot. I’m not sure they are even aware of what hormones do. For example I think people have no idea that when it comes to male to female transitioners, if they start in their teens before/around/or even after puberty in a lot of cases, estrogen will make their bodies completely indistinguishable from a natural female’s (excluding genitalia obviously), including bone structure. Even in their 20s people have a pretty good chance of looking indistinguishably female with hormones alone. The older you get the less likely it becomes.

This is really pertinent when it comes to the debate around young people. I’m all for anything that prevents people doing things that they might later regret but it’s that knowledge I feel is often missing from the ’non-trans’ side. I would ask those people to think of the prototypical ‘man in a dress’ vision that they have of a trans woman. An older person who loks obviously male with their deeply masculinised bone structure, face, skin, hair etc but have tried to change that with hormones and surgeries. Then go on Youtube or Instagram and look up Emma Ellingsen. She is a 20 year old trans girl who started treatment young. There are many others like her. Then imagine it’s your child. Which of those two lives do you think is a happier one? Which would you want for your child? They seem like different fundamentally different things but they aren’t. It is the exact same condition being addressed. They were both children once with both possibilities ahead of them.

I don’t really know where I stand on how young people should be able to start. It’s a difficult question to answer. I am very sympathetic to being really careful about it but I also see that most of the outrage comes from people completely unaware of the kind of life they are condemning some young trans people to (my perspective here is obviously very much from the male to female side) Regardless of that question-I also use this as a way to illustrate the ignorance when it comes to suicide rates. In the example above-who do you think is more likely to be depressed? If there is a high suicide rate in trans people (I don’t know if that’s actually true btw I haven’t looked into it. Maybe it is but again it always seems to come from people who in the next breath display their ignorance so I have never taken it very seriously) then that doesn’t reveal anything about the fundamental nature of the condition. It doesn’t reveal anything about what works as a treatment without controlling for the wildly differing outcomes possible in terms of how convincingly one ‘passes’ and is able to live normally as the desired gender. And yet what we appear to have happening is something extremely cruel (I accept unknowingly a lot of the time) where people are wanting to deny access to treatment, then those same people see the outcome of that (ie the ‘man in a dress’) and use it to inform their views that it’s ‘barbaric’, ‘doesn’t work anyway’, ‘is a mental illness’ etc etc. It is a self-fulfilling cycle of ignorance and has an extremely cruel effect.

Here’s a list of things I also believe:

There are loads of stupid people within the trans movement expressing stupid things and it’s often those things that make the headlines.

There are fundamental differences between women and trans-women. Obviously.

I don’t give a toss about pronouns. They are just mouth noises. I think it’s mad to get so offended if people use them wrongly but I also think that, just like if I told you my name and you went ‘nah­­ I’ll call you something else’, if you deliberately decided you weren’t going to use my preferred pronoun ones  I’d just think you were a bit of a knob. You see some pretty crazy, hysterical stuff about these mouth noises heralding the downfall of society.

Bathrooms-I don’t know. That’s a hard one.

Trans athletes shouldn’t compete in the Sport of their desired gender. In many ways the distinctions we draw when it comes to Sport are arbitrary. Serena Williams would spank me at many Sports purely because of her bone structure and genes, so is that really any different than a born male beating a born female because of theirs? But when it comes to what is the most fair line to draw for most people, clearly it’s biological sex at birth. That’s tough for a lot of trans people but I think it’s just one they have to suck up. There is obviously an advantage to having had a body shaped by male hormones even if at the time of competition that’s not the case.

Nell Larkin
Nell Larkin
2 years ago
Reply to  Jamie Hall

This is a necessary read for everyone, male, female, trans, whatever. But writing as a woman, you lost me with your response to the question of how you would define a woman: “I don’t know and I don’t care.” Of course you don’t know, but you should care so let me enlighten YOU: it’s having a body with female sexual organs that society has used for ages to define and often limit your opportunities and your rights. It is not clear from your post but it appears that you have not had any surgeries or hormone treatments to alter your body to conform to your gender identity and you continue to live and dress your unaltered male body as a man most of the time. If that is the case, it is likely that you are treated by society as a man and have experienced male advantages and male privileges as a result. You have clearly experienced enormous psychological trauma as a result of your gender identity, but that’s no excuse for being so flippant and incurious about what you think your life would have been like if you had been born the woman that you want to be.

Jamie Hall
Jamie Hall
2 years ago
Reply to  Nell Larkin

First off I appreciate you saying that this is a must read. It means a lot when so many people give me the impression that they have made up their mind on this topic and generally shut out anything that might change or inform that.

You have misunderstood me. Understandably so, in retrospect. The misunderstanding comes from me reading into the questioners intent with that. You have to realise it is so often used as a ‘gotcha’ question to someone like me. I felt it was much more informative to lay out my experience over getting bogged down in another discussion which leaves them none the wiser about what this actually feels like. Part of that is why everything that’s happening right now exasperates me, coming from all sides. People are having the politics of it forced upon them before they understand the experience. My definition of a woman would be the same as yours. I think so much of this stupid debate would be gone in a second if we just called women, women and trans-women, trans-women, understood the obvious differences but treated everyone with as much understanding and respect as possible. What I was reacting to in my initial post was the obvious lack of understanding in many of the comments so forgive me for the deliberately flippant way my answer came across.

Again, if you think I have been flippant about imagining all that living as a woman entails you have misunderstood me. My instincts are that removing this internal strife would more than outweigh experiencing all the downsides of being female in this World (also bear in mind that while I totally accept male privilege bear in mind that toxic masculinity is also a very real thing which has quite a negative effect on someone like me) That any problems I faced would go from being about me to being about the World. From being this fire in my mind to being out there in the World, and that would be easier to deal with. Do I know that for sure? Of course not. Do I know exactly what it feels like to experience living as a female in this World? I mean I’m very empathetic, I grew up with sisters, when I hear women speak I never feel anything other than ‘yeah I feel you’, but could there be something unknowable about that experience until you’ve actually lived it? Of course. 100%. This touches on what I wanted to get across about this feeling often being something one wrestles with in all the logical ways a normal person comes up with when discussing the topic. Do I have days when I think, ‘this is absurd how can you know you want to be a woman without knowing what being a woman actually feels like’? Definitely. Loads of them. Does it make the feeling go away? Nope.

I also think it’s informative to flip it when thinking about societal experience. Would you swap your body for a male one if it made all the sexism go away, or on order to experience male privilege?

And no, I have not done anything to my body. I do not present female in any way because I do not look female in any way even when I do. I stopped that when I could no longer see female in the mirror at about 18. I do not want to be trans. I know you are seeing a different version with the identity politics of it all, and the way trans people double down when they feel they are being attacked by another ‘team’ who doesn’t understand them, but for lots of people this is the experience. It’s being given something against your will that makes your life a constant struggle. From a male to female perspective, if you are not lucky enough to start early or have a uniquely androgynous looking body into old age, hormones and surgeries will not solve the problem. I am not a woman. I wil never look like a woman. I will never be a woman. And yet I will always have to live with this feeling. I do not know what the future holds. Living with this is not fun. That’s part of what I wanted to illustrate about any suicide rate discussion. I guarantee you there will be some trans women who kill themselves precisley BECAUSE they agree with all the comments here that they are not ‘real’ biological women (even if they don’t admit it) That will range from most likely for those who unfortunately look in the mirror and still see an obvious male reflection looking back at them and face harassment walking down the street every day, to less likely but probably still occurring in those who ‘pass’ but still feel a sadness that they aren’t really women. That they’ll never have biological kids, or that experiencing relationships are difficult. It’s not a logical conclusion to look at any potential suicide rate and say ‘see this isn’t a real phenomenon-these people were just sad/mentally ill/depressed in some other way’.

Eva aoibhinng@hotmail.com
Eva aoibhinng@hotmail.com
1 year ago
Reply to  Jamie Hall

Jamie, thanks for sharing your experience. What I found refreshing was that you stuck with your experience, displayed very little anger, and admitted that you don’t know all the answers. I wish there were more of you to explain in this way. I have been very skeptical over the last few years, feeling like it’s a trend; maybe some of it is. But your story really gives me pause for thought. As a vegan I’m also in a minority group, so I understand what you mean when you say that some trans people or lefties are putting people off understanding with stupid ideas or comments. With hate too. People then use that to dismiss everything, and it’s maddening. Of course veganism is nothing similar; it’s a philosophy that animals are not ours to harm or use. I have found though that once we turn issues into battle grounds we lose people; people need convincing on issues, not bullying. Teachers losing their jobs over pronouns etc, that’s not gonna help. We can’t hurt people in the service of not hurting others. We need to be non-threatening and empathetic.
Again, thanks for sharing 🙂

Last edited 1 year ago by Eva aoibhinng@hotmail.com
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Jamie Hall

I think you hit the problem in your first paragraph. Most commenters on here would be quite willing to engage with somebody really living the experience to understand it better, but their (my) only experience of this debate is the craziness of the identity politics driven left.

Those people are consciously trying to bring our societies down and must be fought. Most of them are not trans people. Abhorring them, their tactics and objectives, is entirely possible without any negative judgment about the actual condition. Debbie Hayton’s articles are always well received.

I think Dave Corby’s questions are a good start. I would add

Do you accept your condition is very rare?

How far do you think it is necessary for non sufferers to adapt their lives to accommodate yours, beyond basic civility?

Jamie Hall
Jamie Hall
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

My reply above to Dave explains my thoughts more.

Andrew F
Andrew F
2 years ago
Reply to  Jamie Hall

Most people commenting here are not wishing trans people ill.
Problem is that many trans people and their supporters are trying to silence people with different views.
It is not trans people who are dismissed from jobs for having different opinion.
What should 99% plus majority of society accept non scientific nonsense as new religion because it makes you feel better?

Jamie Hall
Jamie Hall
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew F

My reply above to Dave explains my thoughts more.

bryant1010 0
bryant1010 0
2 years ago
Reply to  Jamie Hall

But the article is not about you. Nor do we know you. Nor does anyone here seek to define you. How could we? You’re an utter mystery, a cipher, an avatar in a comment forum who may or may not have anything to do with the story you relate.
You tell us you have lived inside this insanity for X period of time. That’s too bad. But your lifetime of experience carries no guarantee that those equally cursed with their own variety of dysphoria/autogynephilia share that same experience. Bill and Mary may both be diagnosed as schizophrenic but their experience of schizophrenia may be completely different. Nor does your own experience really lend much insight into the subject of the essay beyond the anecdotal.
But the fact that we don’t know you and you don’t know us, doesn’t make us all ignorant. It only makes us human. And this a place where we humans meet to share opinions and perspectives on the Trans Phenomenon as it unfolds within our shared public square.
We end at the same place. Men cannot become women; women cannot become men. Even when expert-carved by scalpels and drugs, the resulting creature will still be exactly what they were, pre-surgery, even if the passing stranger is regularly fooled.
You tell us you “know for certain” that “if I woke up tomorrow in the body of the biologically female version of me, that would cure these feelings”…but you don’t know that. Not really. You only dream that…you suppose that….you hope that….you cling to that. But no, my friend, you can’t know what is in fact an impossible thing to know, as the magical transformation you seek is itself completely impossible.
The solution, as you well know, is not hoping for the impossible. (My life would be great if I had superpowers and could fly!) It is in the painful reconciliation of reality and dream.

Jamie Hall
Jamie Hall
2 years ago
Reply to  bryant1010 0

If you don’t believe I am genuine then there’s nothing I can do about that and we may as well end the discussion here.

As for the rest of your comments…well yeah I take some of your points. Let’s try and find some common ground- if I can’t know ‘for certain’, do you accept that I am more qualified to know than you are?

While I do agree with some of what you say again there is this hint of ignorance that you don’t really know the subject matter. Again, removing whether it’s the right thing to to do or not, a born male body given testosterone blockers and estrogen before puberty will look indistinguishably female in every way except genitalia (even a close resemblance there is possible with male to female surgery but the results can vary-again why in God’s name would someone like you look that up, you don’t want to see that! Hence the cycle of ignorance) That is a fact that is plainly obvious to anyone who really pays attention. Similarly it’s possible for a female body on testosterone to look indistinguishably male-google Benjamin Melzer- to the outside World. We are not talking fooling a ‘passing stranger’ who doesn’t have time to investigate or look harder, we are talking that it’s entirely possible, if one declined to show their genitalia their whole life-to be read as their desired gender, to be treated as their desired gender, to be assumed to actually BE their desired gender, by everyone and everything in their life.

Even if I meet you significantly more than half way and say that’s possible only in a tiny minority of people, that should inform the discussion. Is that something you accept? That it’s possible? Correct me if I’m wrong but you seem to be hinting otherwise and it’s hard for me to value the opinion of someone who is so obviously ignorant. Did you take my advice and search for Emma Ellingsenn on instagram or YouTube? If you didn’t-why not? If you did-I wonder what your reaction to seeing someone like that would be? Have you seen anyone like that before?

Mark Lombardi
Mark Lombardi
2 years ago
Reply to  Jamie Hall

I respect your attitude while engaging in this debate. I wish you well!

Douglas Gray
Douglas Gray
2 years ago

I recently saw a long YOUTUBE interview with Nicole Maines, the actress who played DREAMER in the TV Supergirl series. She was born with male sex organs, but says she hated them, and felt she was a girl from a very young age, I mean 2-4. This was not a case of her finding out about gender issues on social media. Even her older brother told her Dad very early on, “Dad, this is girl.”
She had surgery when she was around 18-19, after High School. I was very surprised, as she has this very feminine, doe-like face.
Then again, there is this man in Australia that did the gender transition and regretted it, feeling he would have been better off not doing it. He claims he as a support group where scores of others say the same thing.

Lesley Keay
Lesley Keay
2 years ago
Reply to  Douglas Gray

When I was 4 years old I wanted to be a dog. I even tried to eat the dog’s food. Fortunately my parents didn’t accept my assertion and I grew out it. Just as well, as they may have had me put to sleep.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Lesley Keay

You were a dog trapped in a human body and I am a banana trapped in a man’s body.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  Douglas Gray

I think this reflects the confusion fostered by trans activists. There are clearly a tiny number of people who have dysphoria from a very young age. Surgery can help them. And then there are the growing number of people who think they belong to this group but really are not: people who are simply gay; people with autism and other psychological differences from the norm; men who in the past would identify as transvestites; troubled teenagers; and so on. It’s in the activists’ interests to create a bandwagon by inflating the number of people who fall into the trans category.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

You leave out the number of opportunists climbing on the bandwagon. For example adult men who pretend to be the opposite sex for nefarious reasons – many of them don’t even pretend to look like a woman.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
2 years ago

When what is on the outside is no longer relevant to what is on the inside does it even matter anymore? When the warrior priest of Mermaids spoketh unto me, he said “everything you think you know about gender is wrong, don’t question – just accept” their brain tells them what they are regardless of what our eyes say, but it’s not a mental health thing… it’s genetic, they can’t prove it yet but they totally know it is…

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
2 years ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

When the warrior priest of Mermaids spoketh unto me, I said “get thee behind me, groomer. Actually, on second thoughts don’t.”

Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

And with all the celebration around transitioning, I am certain there are many that simply want the attention it brings. It is a bit like suicide that is often a scream for attention.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

What’s wrong with shouting “help” very loudly.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Douglas Gray

Maines sounds like a genuine case of gender dysphoria. Until it became fashionable it was very rare, seen at a very early age, and mostly boys who wanted to be girls. That is the real thing. The overwhelming number of “cases”
seen now are not.

Mark Lombardi
Mark Lombardi
2 years ago

A massive issue with the left’s militant trans agenda is the targeting of children. It is pivotal to teach children at a young age that people are different and we must accept everyone for who they are. We must teach anti bullying. But therapists, teachers and doctors in certain countries are encouraging this to children and accelerating transitioning at an alarmingly young age! With little evidence of long term effects of puberty blockers, hiding evidence of the hideous side effects of cross gender hormones, and performing unrealistically unsuccessful cosmetic surgeries to organs… this is the issue we all should be concerned about. A grown man or woman wanting to change themselves to appease feelings, I can support that. But allowing a child to transition in any form (including socially with just name/pronoun), is unethical and potential sexual abuse. Maybe after years of therapy, years of just being oneself without focusing on gender (neutral gender nickname/wardrobe/avoid pronouns) and AFTER puberty and when the child has the ability to think as an adult…

Last edited 2 years ago by Mark Lombardi
Roger Ramjet
Roger Ramjet
2 years ago

The theory fails utterly as it rests solely on an opinion. Period.

You are born male, female, or in extremely rare cases of mutation, XXY or some other combination. You may find yourself attracted to men, women, both, or neither – but no matter which, it has zero bearing on “what you are.”

Yendi Dial
Yendi Dial
2 years ago

you are your body, and the idea of being born in the “wrong” one is a logical impossibility. Excellent!

N T
N T
2 years ago

There seems to be a disproportionate amount of interest in trans on unherd.

Steve Elliott
Steve Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  N T

You are right but it is strangely fascinating. The issue doesn’t affect me at all but it’s like a puzzle that you can’t let go of until it’s solved.

Ted Peters
Ted Peters
2 years ago

The human mind is tabula rosa at birth. In fact, the human brain undergoes development for far longer outside the womb than inside. Most critically, the human self takes years to develop and for optimal psychological health must do so in the context of a mother/father/child triad. An infant requires maternal love as psychological milk and then requires paternal involvement to foster separation from the mother. This was all written into our DNA’d programming by a million years or so of evolution. However, the entire program can be thrown off course and development can be arrested and perverted if there is a parenting deficit. This not only results in mental health issues in adulthood but also concurrent physical health problems. While humans have inherited many psychological tendencies from our evolutionary predecessors, none of them had nearly as long a development after birth. The really interesting issue is why this ever occurred?

Tara van Dijk
Tara van Dijk
2 years ago

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763421000804
Highlights: Meta-synthesis of 3 decades of human brain sex difference findings. Few male/female differences survive correction for brain size. When present, sex accounts for about 1% of variance in structure or laterality. Male and female brains are monomorphic, not dimorphic, in structure and function.

Alison Sainsbury
Alison Sainsbury
2 years ago

Thank you so much for this! I am reading deWaal’s “Different” right now, but stalled out at exactly the place you cite where he conflates gender and sex (after defining it…), abandons biology, and embraces ideology. What a disappointment. I expected more from the man who wrote “Mama’s Last Hug,” “The Ape and the Sushi Master,” “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are” and “Our Inner Ape.”

Ian Ryder
Ian Ryder
1 year ago

According to the DT report on a recently publicised case “employment judge Andrew Glennie said the decision to not offer Ms Forstater a contract or renew a fellowship following her tweets “was direct discrimination related to her beliefs.” ie about the existence of biological sex
But it is not just a belief. Biological sex exists for humans as it does among every mammal, and is immutable in the chromosomes in every one of our billions of cells. The trans propagandists have so successfully distorted the language, shoving gender into everything, that it seems even a court cannot recognise a scientific fact when it hits them in the Tweet.

Kolya Wolf
Kolya Wolf
1 year ago

Gender dysphoria is a psychological disorder.

Linda Siegel
Linda Siegel
1 year ago

As a medical professional/registered nurse, I just default to the basic binary cellular physiology to refute any nonsensical notion of gender being “assigned” (haha) at birth: every person has either XX or XY chromosomes in their DNA, in EVERY CELL in their body at birth, which can be quickly verified with a simple blood test.

Oro Mazzei
Oro Mazzei
2 years ago

There actually is no evidence that over 90% of people are straight, just that 90% of people identify as straight and not bi or gay. There is big difference between what people are in practice and what they claim to be, and there are plenty of reasons for people to be closeted.

Bryant O
Bryant O
2 years ago
Reply to  Oro Mazzei

Actually all the evidence available, in survey after survey, study after study, interview after interview…it all consistently indicates that about 93-95% of the human population is straight.
https://www.npr.org/2011/06/08/137057974/-institute-of-medicine-finds-lgbt-health-research-gaps-in-us
https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/how-many-people-lgbt/
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/05/10-per-cent-population-gay-alfred-kinsey-statistics
https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/americans-are-identifying-lgbtq-more-ever-poll-finds-n1258627
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/07/15/what-percentage-of-the-u-s-population-is-gay-lesbian-or-bisexual/
Now certainly, to your point, if all these millions of people are consistently, year after year, lying to the survey takers, the interviewers, the study consultants (and even to themselves), then this self-identification is unreliable. But since there is zero evidence that they are lying (and only the hypothetical ‘what if’), I’d tend to go with the evidence that exists, even it is and will be haunted by a certain subjectivity.

Melissa Martin
Melissa Martin
2 years ago

That government lawyers deliberately omitted definitions of the words sex & gender in the GRA is frightening. A religious Law passed in 2004. Interpretation of the meaning of the words was ceded to the High Priests of a new religion.

Philip Francis
Philip Francis
2 years ago

Walt Heyer, who had the op, and lived for years as woman, compares it to the frontal lobotomy.
He can be contacted at sexchangeregret.com

Oro Mazzei
Oro Mazzei
2 years ago

The author of this article doesn’t take a clear position on transgenderism, just on whether gender is something biologists are qualified to talk about. Her answer seems to be that gender is a social concept, not a biological category, or at least that there’s no evidence that gender is biological and inborn. But what does she think about transgenderism as a concept? The title of the article suggests an attempt to delegitimize transgenderism, but the actual content of the article is arguing that gender isn’t biological or physically real.

Unfortunately, if she is in favor of transgender rights, by not taking a clear stance here, she is giving the anti-trans crowd a lot of ammunition. They will distort her arguments and use them to advocate against trans rights.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 years ago

The Wisdom of the Butterflies: Critical Theory, Again
Where is the affirmative evidence on “gender-affirming” interventions?
https://dvwilliamson.substack.com/p/the-wisdom-of-the-butterflies-critical

Last edited 2 years ago by Chauncey Gardiner
Craig Russell
Craig Russell
2 years ago

I have a theory that a big unacknowledged variable behind the 4400% increase in F>M transitioning is that testosterone is a fun drug to get high on. I have to imagine that it just feels good to take it, that it gives a sense of euphoria and strength and confidence that women — especially lesbians who aren’t interested in getting pregnant — are whispering to each other about. And if the way you get this drug is by filling out paperwork that says you’re trans — well, it’s kind of like the medical marijuana game, isn’t it?

Craig Russell
Craig Russell
2 years ago
Reply to  Craig Russell

And hey, if that’s the case, no judgment here. Rock on, ladies, men, whatevers, take all the testosterone you want, call yourselves whatever you want. I just like watchin the show

Iris E
Iris E
1 year ago

We ARE our bodies.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
10 months ago

Suppose that the “brain origin” of transgenderism is true. Suppose that “trans” women (i.e., biological males who believe themselves to be females) have a “female brain”, and “trans” men have a “male brain”. Suppose that we develop a non-invasive method to determine which “brain” an individual has. Suppose further that I undergo this procedure and discover that I have a “female” brain while also being biologically male. And suppose I identify as male, in accordance with my chromosomes and genitals. Am I wrong? Am I in fact female, because I have a female brain? Do I then have to change my gender identity, because SCIENCE tells me I ought to be trans?

Oro Mazzei
Oro Mazzei
2 years ago

Telling a trans person that their body is wrong is unethical. There is nothing wrong about being trans or about wanting to change your body –granted that not all trans people want to change their bodies. I am in agreement that a trans person’s body isn’t “wrong.” It isn’t wrong prior to transition and it isn’t wrong after transition. It doesn’t matter, morally or otherwise, whether it is something they want or something they need, but it does matter to insurance companies.

Dave Corby
Dave Corby
2 years ago
Reply to  Oro Mazzei

A transition that includes a bodily change of this severity does need to be considered wrong by default – surely. Wanting to make such a drastic change to your body should have some mental assessment before it’s performed – for the safety of the individual. They may not be in a rational state of mind when they make the decision for something that is irreversible.
The most basic requirement should be that they are an adult of sound mind.
You could say that everyone should be able to do what they like to their bodies, but we do have some duty to protect people from themselves – especially to protect children who have someone else making that decision for them.

John Mack
John Mack
2 years ago

I would prefer to hear from a physician who has actually worked with transgender people. Not from a PhD studnet who is attacking an odd straw man outside the medical/therapeutic realitity. Then grandiosely proclaiming that her narrow take settles the whole question.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
2 years ago

We need to ask ourselves why are transgender people readily accepted and integrated in South East Asian countries. What do these countries’ cultures know and have understood for centuries that the west is only beginning to discover recently?

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
2 years ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

Facts are uncomfortable.

Last edited 2 years ago by Vijay Kant