Welcome to Gender Analysis

Most mainstream coverage of transgender topics is largely inadequate – presenting only shallow oversimplifications, produced by cis (non-trans) people, for cis people. Transness is more complex, and far more interesting, than anything you’ll hear from the usual news stories and documentaries. Gender Analysis, published 1-3 times a month on YouTube, offers a deeper look at life as a trans person, incorporating historical and contemporary research and personal experiences.

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Gender Analysis is funded by viewer pledges via Patreon, which support further development of the show. If you’d like to donate, you can pledge any amount per episode on Patreon. To view full episodes of Gender Analysis, just visit the official playlist. Beneath transgender tropes and stereotypes, beyond faux controversies and debates, there’s a real world of trans lives to explore. We’d like to give everyone, both trans and cis, a window into that.

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The Trump administration is using the queer community as a fig leaf for anti-immigrant bigotry

by Heather McNamara

For LGBT people, things have been getting better. The cisgender among us have won the right to live openly in the military and we’ve all won the right to marry whomever we please. Our trans siblings have had fewer victories but more mainstream recognition which normally brings us in the direction of progress.

Naturally, it’s time for conservatives to act like they’ve been our friends all along and to co-opt our struggles as theirs to fight for so long as it serves their interests. This change of heart made for a confusing display as Trump made himself the first conservative candidate to pay lip service to the LGBT community on the campaign trail, holding up a rainbow flag at one rally, supporting Caitlyn Jenner’s right to use bathrooms in a statement to the press, and at one point even betraying his religious base by calling the issue of marriage “settled.”

Of course, this is all lip service. One quick glance at Trump’s cabinet picks betrays his disdain for our humanity and our rights. Sessions has a long and consistent voting record against LGBT rights. Carson, our new Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, does not recognize the right of LGBT people to escape housing discrimination. Pompeo, the CIA pick, has publicly stated his opinions against our rights to marriage on several occasions. DeVos’ family was a major contributor to the Family Research Council. Price, Chao, Priebus, Flynn, and Haley, also have anti-LGBT records. Even today’s new SCOTUS nominee, Neil Gorsuch, has a history of using his position on the bench to deny transgender people equal rights. Hilariously, this nomination was announced on the same day Trump pledged to keep Obama’s nondiscrimination executive order in place.

Then there’s Pence. Pence has possibly the worst anti-LGBT record of them all. In 2000, Pence threw his support instead behind “reparative therapy,” a form of “treatment” for LGBT people which involves associating sexual urges or gender deviance with shocks and vomiting.  Later, as governor of Indiana, he closed Planned Parenthood, the only HIV testing clinic in the area. This decision caused Indiana to face the worst HIV outbreak in the state’s history. Worst of all, conservatives in Congress, with support from both Trump and Pence, are preparing to push through and pass the First Amendment Defense Act, a vile piece of legislation that would give any anti-LGBT bigot all of the legal backing they’d need to discriminate against us in housing, employment, medical care, or any other type of service.

You may be wondering, then, what purpose this lip service could possibly serve. Clearly, they have no actual interest in our rights or protections. So why break out the rainbow flags and hug Caitlyn Jenner for the cameras? For the answer to that, we need look no further than Trump’s most devastating Executive Order since entering office in which Trump, apparently without any sense of irony, claims to be acting in the interest of the safety of women and LGBT people:

 In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Lest we think somebody might have written this bit by accident, here’s what White House advisor Stephen Miller had to say on the subject:

“It only makes sense that we engage in some kind of selections process that prioritizes the entry of people who, as the order stated, don’t hold bigotry, hatred or violence against any sexual orientation, against any race, or against any particular class of people,”

And of course, who among us hasn’t had to hear about Omar Mateen from Trump-supporting relatives?

Side by side, these decisions and appointments represent an arbitrary choice to regard conservative politicians’ homophobia and transphobia as being at an acceptable level, while – with little detail given – assuming that the attitudes supposedly universally embodied by Middle Eastern immigrants are a serious threat to both queer people and American values. This is the ascension of an on-the-ground conservative trolling tactic (Twitter eggs making reference to gays being killed in the middle east, “thrown from buildings”, and so on, as a way of invalidating our own concerns) to a matter of official policy. It remains equally groundless, disingenuous, and offensively transparent.

Straight, cisgender homophobic conservatives are not in a place to tell us in the queer community what our priorities and concerns should be. It is not refugees who founded Exodus International or Family Research Council. Middle Eastern immigrants did not run for office with scare rhetoric about children being taught anal fisting in schools. Boy Scouts of America did not choose to exclude LGBT parents and children for decades on the advice of Muslim Americans. We know that in America, by far the most significant threat we face is from conservatives, usually Christians, and the politicians they elect.

On the night the attacks at Pulse occurred, we were less than 10 miles away. Our original plans for the evening had been to stay in a boutique hotel near Pulse, have a few drinks, and watch the Latin night entertainment there, but Booking.com happened to throw us a better rate to go to Universal City Walk so we were there instead. We woke up the next morning to worried calls from family members who had been unaware of our change of plans.

In the following week, we worked as press and spoke to many victims and family members of the victims of the massacre. We attended vigils and stood as human shields when Westboro Baptist Church came to protest at the funeral of one of the victims.

During that time, the Muslim community of central Florida gathered in solidarity to pray for us and to stand against homophobic violence. They donated generously to the One Orlando fund and made their presence known at the vigils with bottles of water in the Florida heat and sympathetic shoulders.

On that same week, Trump met with a group of Florida pastors hoping he would use his presidency to take a stand against equal marriage.

This past Sunday, the very same Muslim community led a march, which we attended, onto Orlando international airport because their family and friends had been affected by the executive order.

We know who our enemies are.

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Playing both sides: Trans people, autism, and the two-faced claims of Ken Zucker and Susan Bradley

 

In late 2015, the Child and Adolescent Gender Identity Clinic at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health was closed following a review of its practices in the treatment of gender-nonconforming children. The clinic, founded by Dr. Susan Bradley in the 1970s and later directed by her frequent collaborator Dr. Kenneth Zucker, was notable for its use of an approach focused on discouraging children from identifying with or expressing a gender other than the one they were assigned, with the intention of ensuring that they would grow up to be cisgender rather than transgender. This perspective is out of step with contemporary professional consensus that gender-affirming therapy and watchful waiting are the healthiest approaches when treating children who are potentially transgender and gender-questioning.

The allegation that the closure of the Gender Identity Clinic was purely “politically motivated” has received extensive coverage in an investigation by New York magazine, a recent BBC documentary on transgender children, and several articles in the Globe and Mail. However, considerably less attention has been given to Zucker’s and Bradley’s lengthy history of inflammatory and self-promoting rhetoric which irresponsibly plays to popular prejudices. While these researchers have claimed to support transgender adolescents and adults in transitioning, they continue to issue statements which misinform the public about the nature of transgender identity and are scientifically unfounded – in some cases going so far as to offer their tacit approval to religiously-motivated transphobia and long-running myths about queer and trans “recruitment” of children. Their misleading claims in the media do a disservice to transgender youth and adults, as well as the wider public.

Gender deprivation therapy is unproven, unethical, and professionally unsupported

The treatment protocol for gender-questioning children at the Gender Identity Clinic was of a clearly coercive nature, intended to deprive these kids of any gendered apparel, toys, or activities not stereotypically associated with their assigned sex, while encouraging their families to teach them that transitioning is impossible. This approach was described in J. Michael Bailey’s 2003 book, The Man Who Would Be Queen:

First, he thinks that family dynamics play a large role in childhood GID—not necessarily in the origins of cross-gendered behavior, but in their persistence. It is the disordered and chaotic family, according to Zucker, that can’t get its act together to present a consistent and sensible reaction to the child, which would be something like the following: “We love you, but you are a boy, not a girl. Wishing to be a girl will only make you unhappy in the long run, and pretending to be a girl will only make your life around others harder.” . . .

The second prong is therapy for the boy, to help him adjust to the idea that he cannot become a girl, and to help teach him how to minimize social ostracism. . . .

The third prong is key. Zucker says simply: “The Barbies have to go.” He has nothing against Barbie dolls, of course. He means something more general. Feminine toys and accoutrements—including Barbie dolls, girls’ shoes, dresses, purses, and princess gowns—are no longer to be tolerated at home, much less bought for the child. Zucker believes that toleration and encouragement of feminine play and dress prevents the child from accepting his maleness. (Bailey, 2003, pp. 30-31)

Suppose a similar “treatment” were imposed on a cisgender child, denying them the opportunity to engage with any interests that could conceivably be associated with their assigned sex and pushing them to live as a gender with which they don’t identify. It’s obvious that such an attempt at gender conditioning would be not only unsuccessful, but unjustifiable and even traumatic for the child. Those trans and gender-questioning children who were subjected to this coercive protocol were at times very resistant to this as well:

So, to treat Bradley, Zucker explained to Carol that she and her husband would have to radically change their parenting. Bradley would no longer be allowed to spend time with girls. He would no longer be allowed to play with girlish toys or pretend that he was a female character. Zucker said that all of these activities were dangerous to a kid with gender identity disorder. . . .

By the time Bradley started therapy he was almost 6 years old, and Carol had a house full of Barbie dolls and Polly Pockets. She now had to remove them. To cushion the blow, she didn’t take the toys away all at once; she told Bradley that he could choose one or two toys a day.

“In the beginning, he didn’t really care, because he’d picked stuff he didn’t play with,” Carol says. “But then it really got down to the last few.”

As his pile of toys dwindled, Carol realized Bradley was hoarding. She would find female action figures stashed between couch pillows. Rainbow unicorns were hidden in the back of Bradley’s closet. Bradley seemed at a loss, she said. They gave him male toys, but he chose not to play at all. . . .

“He was much more emotional. … He could be very clingy. He didn’t want to go to school anymore,” she says. “Just the smallest thing could, you know, send him into a major crying fit. And … he seemed to feel really heavy and really emotional.”

Bradley has been in therapy now for eight months, and Carol says still, on the rare occasions when she cannot avoid having him exposed to girl toys, like when they visit family, it doesn’t go well.

“It’s really hard for him. He’ll disappear and close a door, and we’ll find him playing with dolls and Polly Pockets and … the stuff that he’s drawn to,” she says.

While this is inflicted on children with the intention of preventing them from growing up to be transgender, there is no clear evidence that this distressing treatment changes the likelihood of that outcome. Zucker and Bradley themselves acknowledge this in their 1995 textbook, Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents:

At this point, formal outcome studies of cross-gender-identified children are needed to determine whether some types of treatment are better than others, and whether any type of treatment is significantly better than no treatment. Process studies are also needed to learn why, with or without intensive treatment, the vast majority of cross-gender-identified children eventually relinquish the desire to change sex. (Zucker & Bradley, 1995, p. 288)

Other clinicians working with gender-questioning children have also noted that gender-disaffirming approaches are not supported by evidence (de Vries & Cohen-Kettenis, 2012):

There are, however, no controlled studies that have investigated psychological interventions aimed at influencing certain types of gender dysphoria. It remains for the most part unclear if “treated” children have been “cured” through interventions or just “grew out of” their gender variance.

Even if one were to accept that preventing transgender adults from existing is a valid clinical goal, it remains unclear whether this protocol can be said to achieve even that or provide any benefits that would justify the harm imposed on these children. Instead, professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend an approach allowing transgender and gender-questioning children to live as their identified gender with the support of their family and community (Dreyer, 2016):

Both families stressed how important it is for home to be a safe and accepting space for the transgender child. When those children walk through the door of their homes at the end of a school day, they should be able to be themselves without any judgment. As one of the fathers passionately said, “I won’t be my child’s first bully!”

The pediatrician’s office, and the entire health care setting, should be a safe, accepting place as well. I was sad to receive an email from one of the parents telling of another family’s encounters with the health care system when they bring their 5-year-old transgender daughter in for care for her serious chronic disease. The doctors refuse to treat her as a girl until she is older, and some have even called child protective services claiming the mother is harming her child for allowing her to live as a girl.

This is done even though a study by Olson and colleagues, published in Pediatrics in March, showed socially transitioned transgender children who are supported in their gender identity have improved mental health outcomes. There appears to be no harm — and possible benefit — from such parent-supported early social transitions.

Contrary to the wide base of professional and scientific support for a gender-affirming approach, much coverage of the CAMH GIC’s closure has misleadingly framed this controversy as a clash between “trans activists” who endorse an affirming approach in implied opposition to scientific evidence, and “researchers” like Zucker and Bradley who have supposedly been unjustly pushed aside by the overwhelming forces of “political correctness”. In reality, this is not a matter of undue influence by antiscientific activists as is commonly depicted – this position is supported by major organizations of medical professionals whose recommendations are counterintuitive to a largely uninformed public, and opposed by a marginal fringe of researchers whose approach is nowhere near as strongly backed by science but is much more heavily backed by the widespread public preference that trans people simply not exist at all. Appeals to the public’s ignorance by Zucker and Bradley are a recurring theme throughout their engagement with the media.

Claims of support for trans people are contradicted by facile and offensive comparisons

Zucker is emphatic in his support of transition for adolescent and adult trans people:

Well, I think that there are good data showing, for adolescents and adults with gender dysphoria, that as they transition they do better psychologically. . . . Nobody who gets the treatment regrets it by and large.

However, this support is rather badly compromised by Zucker’s frequent habit of comparing transitioning to the hypothetical situations of individuals wishing to alter their race or species:

Zucker says the homosexuality metaphor is wrong. He proposes another metaphor: racial identity disorder.

“Suppose you were a clinician and a 4-year-old black kid came into your office and said he wanted to be white. Would you go with that? … I don’t think we would,” Zucker says.

In the 2017 BBC documentary “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?”, Zucker offers another such analogy:

A four-year-old might say that he’s a dog – do you go out and buy dog food?

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Trans toy reviews: the Magic Wand Rechargeable, at Hey Epiphora

While I’ve previously covered transgender sexuality from a mostly academic perspective, I haven’t spent much time on firsthand experiences of sex as a trans woman throughout transition. Hormone therapy has had an extensive range of effects on my sexual response, and even though I haven’t had genital surgery, sex is hardly anything like it was before I started estrogen. It’s been an overwhelmingly positive change, but making it there meant relearning a great deal about how my body works. Continue reading

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“Transtrenders” aren’t a thing, but transphobia-trenders are

It’s common nowadays to encounter the insistent claim that “there are only two genders, male and female”. These simplistic and loud declarations resemble nothing more than a random interjection by a person who’s shouting for no clear reason. This is one of those instances where a statement manages to be as wrong as it is brief. Inaccuracy is compact like that – reality is detailed, and the more details you strip away, the further you get from reality. Continue reading

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Myth: Pimozide and gender dysphoria (Gender Analysis)

Summary: Transphobes are irresponsibly promoting the idea that trans people should be treated with ineffective antipsychotic drugs. The “evidence” they present is so weak as to be practically nonexistent. Such a claim could only be plausible to those with no knowledge whatsoever of the broad consensus of scientific research: that transitioning is the only effective treatment for gender dysphoria.

There’s a particularly odd belief that’s been popularized by transphobes over the past few years: the claim that the antipsychotic drug pimozide can treat gender dysphoria in trans people by removing their desire to transition. This idea has been promoted in videos like these describing trans people as ‘mentally ill’, some of which have several hundred thousand views:

[08:11] Also echoing the research thus stated are pharmacotherapy studies that are 20 years old that used the drug pimozide on a cross-dressing man with a strong wish to undergo a sex change. The outcome of the study, as far as I know, has never been mentioned in the mainstream media, or at least I’ve never heard about it between the cacophony of how Caitlyn Jenner is so brave and so beautiful. But, “There was an excellent response to pimozide 2 mg daily, with a cessation of both cross-dressing and the wish for sex reassignment. When, after 1 year, the dose was reduced to 1 mg daily, there was a rapid return of the cross-dressing and the wish for sex reassignment. An increase in the dose again led to a remission which has been maintained since then.” And the conclusion was that, “Pharmacotherapy with pimozide should be considered in cases of doubtful gender dysphoria.” But in all reality, this is one of those cases where you don’t really need to appeal to scientific authority, as it’s clear even enough to a layman to come to these conclusions.

Continue reading

Posted in Gender dysphoria, Health care, Hoaxes, Outcomes of transition, Psychology and psychiatry, Regret and detransition, Transgender medicine, Transphobia and prejudice | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment