Fractals, not pyramids: Why “8th grade biology” isn’t enough

Zinnia JonesPreviously: Chromosomes: Cis expectations vs. trans reality, How sex hormones work, and their use by trans people

In the years I’ve spent covering gender topics on YouTube, I’ve occasionally encountered one particularly strange objection to the core principle of transness, that a person’s gender can differ from their assigned sex. This typically takes the form of an overt appeal to simplicity in support of a model of human sex and gender that precludes trans identities entirely, usually phrased as “There are only two genders, male and female”, or “There are only two sexes, XX and XY”, or “If you have XY chromosomes, you’re a man – it’s 8th grade biology!”

Such comments seemingly contend that trans people’s genders run contrary to some absolute, incontrovertible, foundational truth about biological sex and gender identity. But calling on the simplicity of a middle school science class (sometimes also “elementary school science”, or “high school biology”) to refute trans people’s identities is a deliberate choice to ignore the genuine complexity of transness. And not only is such a claim wrong about how the process of education works, it is exactly wrong: education functions in the diametrically opposite way.

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Posted in Biology of transition, Philosophy and language, Rhetoric | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Transphobic rejection: an ineffective and dangerous “treatment”

Zinnia JonesWhen discussing transgender healthcare needs, I’ve previously covered the known health benefits of gender-affirming approaches such as social transition, puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and surgeries. The evidence for the efficacy of transition treatments is overwhelming, with clear improvements in dysphoric symptoms, body uneasiness, stress levels, depression, anxiety, overall mental health, quality of life, and social functioning. For these reasons, major medical organizations, including the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Family Physicians, Endocrine Society, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and World Professional Association for Transgender Health, recognize the importance and necessity of affirming care for trans people.

However, this strong expert consensus is evidently unpersuasive to a number of people who engage with my work. I still frequently receive comments declaring that trans-supportive care is an inappropriate approach, and that trans people should not be accepted in society or facilitated in living as their genders. Often, commenters state that trans people should simply attempt to live as their assigned sex, or should obtain some unspecified therapy to assist them in rejecting their known gender identity. Continue reading

Posted in Ethics, Family, Gender dysphoria, Outcomes of transition, Trans youth, Transgender medicine, Transphobia and prejudice | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

“We don’t let kids get tattoos”: Trans youth treatment, ethics, and decision-making

Previously: Transgender youth fact check, Debunking hypothetical arguments about youth transition

Zinnia JonesIn the public conversation over the use of puberty blockers for adolescents with gender dysphoria, those who object to this treatment often express concerns about the ability of these youth to make such a significant medical decision. Such objections often call into question adolescents’ maturity and their capacity to understand potentially permanent consequences:

If a child is too young to drive a car, get a tattoo, vote, buy a drink at a bar, then they are too young to decide to make life altering decisions like transitioning. (YouTube user legacy1X, Apr 25, 2017)

Others emphasize specific impacts to these youth such as fertility loss, holding that this is unacceptable under any circumstances:

There is no good argument that allowing children to permanently modify their bodies and sterilize themselves is ethical. NONE. (YouTube user Blaire White, Dec 19, 2016)

While parallels to tattooing and other “life-altering decisions” might intuitively resonate for many, these superficial comparisons do not hold up on closer analysis, and do not reflect the expert consensus on the appropriate use of puberty blockers for trans youth. Potential ethical considerations and the importance of informed consent are recognized by professionals involved in the treatment of these adolescents, and these concerns have been addressed at length.


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Posted in Biology of transition, Ethics, Outcomes of transition, Trans youth, Transgender medicine | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Does the public need more time to learn about transgender people?

By 1933, so much knowledge about transgender people had already been accumulated at the library of Germany’s Institute for Sexual Science, the Nazi party chose to burn it all in front of a crowd of thousands. This happened 12 years before the advent of nuclear weapons.

The burning of the library of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft on May 10, 1933.

In 1952, nine years before a human being first traveled into space, Christine Jorgensen made headlines as one of the first trans women to come out and educate the public about her transition. In 1966, trans women led the riots at Compton’s Cafeteria in response to being targeted by police violence, and did the same in 1969 at Stonewall shortly before humans first landed on the moon. That year, the 1st International Symposium on Gender Identity was sponsored by the Erickson Educational Foundation, an organization founded by trans man Reed Erickson to support transgender research and awareness initiatives throughout the 60’s and 70’s.

In 1977, Renée Richards, a trans woman and professional tennis player, was allowed to compete with other women in the U.S. Open. This was one year before computers were first installed in the White House.

Renée Richards.

The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, now known as WPATH, was founded in 1979. In 1981, Karen Ulane sued her former employer, Eastern Airlines, after they fired her for being a trans woman. In the early 90’s, puberty blockers were first used to treat transgender adolescents in the Netherlands, allowing them to transition earlier and without experiencing the effects of the wrong puberty. This development predates the Nintendo 64. America’s first gender identity clinic offering puberty blockers was opened at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2007. Also in that year, the first iPhone was released.

Trans people have been around for longer than your grandparents, yet it seems like we’re still waiting for much of the population to get their act together. I’ve been explaining trans issues nonstop since I came out five years ago. Contrary to Time magazine’s 2014 proclamation of a “transgender tipping point” of public understanding and acceptance, I now receive more comments than ever from people who seem to think I expect too much from my audience. “Being trans is still very new to a lot of people,” I’m told. “You need to be patient and give them time to learn.” Continue reading

Posted in Awareness building, History, Rhetoric, Transphobia and prejudice | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Counter-realities: The practice of denialism in transphobia

If you’ve been following Gender Analysis for any length of time, you might have noticed a common theme: We address and refute arguments for transphobic positions. Almost universally, this is not very challenging at all, and it mostly just involves pointing out the obvious at length. It’s nearly always the case that these are simply not good arguments – they reliably feature both overt and subtle misrepresentations of reality, omissions of relevant facts, logical flaws, tricks of language and definitions, deceptive rhetoric, and so on. I’ve sometimes found myself wondering: Where are transphobia’s good arguments, arguments based on sound interpretations of consistent evidence? And what would those arguments even look like?

In considering this, it can be helpful to play a game I call “How Would the World Look Different If”. This is an exercise in thinking about counterfactuals – potential states of the world that could hypothetically be the case, even if in reality they are not. When examining the components of a given argument, we can treat certain parts like axes that we can move back and forth along to see where we end up, or a set of knobs that can be dialed to different settings to change what result is produced from the combination. By exploring what is not – this space of possible arguments and possible realities – we can often gain a clearer understanding of the narrower space of what is, the space of what is a good argument that connects to what is actual reality. Continue reading

Posted in Awareness building, Hoaxes, More Trans, Rhetoric, Transphobia and prejudice | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments