Category Archives: Transgender

The mind-boggling science of gender

We’ve come a long way from the recent time when scientists insisted they had hard evidence that boys were smarter than girls and that science knew why girls liked dolls and boys liked trucks and women could never be soldiers or businesspeople.

Gender and sex difference are hotly debated both in the body politic and in academia, helped along by an increasingly vocal and defiant trans community and its supporters.

The physical sex-related differences in the brain, when corrected for a body mass ratio — a two percent difference in the gray matter to white matter ratio, for example — are thought to be not totally insignificant, but also not convincing evidence of an all-important dimorphic brain difference between men and women.

Yet some differences exist which are still a mystery.  Early onset neurological disorders — autism spectrum, attention deficit, etc. — are more common in boys. Primarily late onset diseases — including depression and anxiety — are seen more in girls.

Adding to the social mix are trans people and their advocates, some of whom insist that gender (as opposed to sex) is a totally made-up construct which should be done away with entirely — including the pronouns long used to identify gender for boys and girls, women and men.

Into this fray steps the venerable magazine Scientific American with a special issue for September devoted to research into sex and gender.

I finally got around to reading mine today and it blew me away. Anyone not steeped in this research already who reads this issue with an open mind will come away having learned something.

Topics include:

The New Science of Sex and Gender
Why the new science of sex & gender matters for everyone

Promiscuous Men, Chaste Women and Other Gender Myths
The notion that behavioral differences between the sexes are innate and immutable does not hold up under scrutiny

Is There a “Female” Brain?
The debate over whether men and women have meaningfully different brains could have profound implications for health and personal identity

When Sex and Gender Collide
Studies of transgender kids are revealing fascinating insights about gender in the brain

Beyond XX and XY: The Extraordinary Complexity of Sex Determination
A host of factors figure into whether someone is female, male or somewhere in between

Doctors Must Dig into Gender Difference to Improve Women’s Health Care
Researchers and doctors must dig deeper into gender differences before they can provide women with better treatments

Lessons from before Abortion Was Legal
Before 1973, abortion in the U.S. was severely restricted. More than 40 years later Roe v. Wade is under attack, and access increasingly depends on a woman’s income or zip code

The Brilliance Paradox: What Really Keeps Women and Minorities from Excelling in Academia
How a misplaced emphasis on genius subtly discourages women and African-Americans from certain academic fields

Coding for Gender Equality
Early intervention is crucial to close the gender gap in computer science

Rewriting the History of Women in Science
Turning online harassment into a force for good

How to Close the Gender Gap in the Labor Force
As more women contribute to the economy, life gets better for everyone. Why are the barriers to opportunity so hard to change?

The Persistent Problem of Gender Inequality
The gender gap remains a global phenomenon

Why Girls Are Coming Back in Some Asian Countries after Neglect
Traditions that favor sons in Asia—resulting in millions of dead or neglected girls—have started to change.

Neuroscientist Dr. Daphna Joel, a researcher at Tel Aviv University, says her work suggests that there are not so much male and female brains as there are some combination of both depending on the person.

Whether these differences she found are hereditary, due to normal genetic variability or affected by outside social forces is anyone’s guess at this point, along with what they mean.

Some researchers disagree with her findings — in the way scientists disagree with one another, not in the way people fight in comments sections online — saying her research is skewed. Yet even among some who say her methods need to be refined to be more scientifically rigorous, there is some agreement that she may be onto something.

Another article, on the latest research into trans kids, reinforces the notion that, instead of learning to think they are trans — the “poisoning the minds of little kids with trans ideas” concept — tiny children can begin showing important and lasting cross-gender behaviors without family members ever pushing them to like “girl things” or “boy things.” Sometimes in spite of parents pushing mightily to prevent their small sons from wanting to go as a princess for Halloween.

Unfortunately, the magazine is behind a paywall. (Good magazines are like that.) To read it you need either a subscription  or to buy the single issue on the newsstand (or online here).

As a writer I’m not ready to give up my gender pronouns, and I’m not sure I ever will be. There is too much that is important in works of non-fiction and fiction that can be transmitted by their use. I also think it is too soon and politically self-defeating to push this issue too far in the public’s consciousness. 

Nonetheless, I think most people with open minds will find the magazine worth the time and effort to shell out a few bucks for the single issue.

Trans And Adopted: Exploring Teen Identity

Nathan Tasker is transgender and adopted. He was surprised and delighted to meet other adopted transgender children at his camp in Maine. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Nathan Tasker is transgender and adopted. He was surprised and delighted to meet other adopted transgender children at his camp in Maine. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

(Reprinted with permission.)

Two summers ago, when Nathan Tasker was 13, his mom drove him from Melrose, Mass., to Maine, where he would attend his first session at a transgender camp. Nathan remembers feeling happy for the first time in years.

“I finally, finally finally was not alone,” says Nathan, a young man with dark, sparkling eyes and a wise smile.

But even at this camp, Nathan expected to be different. He’s transgender — and adopted.

“I thought I was just a packaged deal, like, this only happens to one kid in every place in the world,” he says. But then, as fellow campers told their stories, Nathan realized he was not all that different. “I was like, ‘You know what? There are a lot of adopted kids who are trans.’ And that’s pretty amazing.”

Doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Gender Management Service clinic, where Nathan is a patient, began making the same connection a few years ago. They combed through patient records and found that 8.2 percent of the 184 young people seen in the clinic between 2007 and 2015 were raised in adoptive families. Overall, only 2.3 percent of children living in Massachusetts were adopted.

“Before I started seeing transgender kids, it would not have occurred to me that we might see more adopted kids,” said Dr. Daniel Shumer, a pediatric endocrinologist who treated transgender kids at the GeMS clinic for three years before moving to Ann Arbor, Mich., to work in a similar clinic. Shumer and three co-authors recently presented their adoption data at a conference and have submitted it for publication.

Nathan and his doctors aren’t the only members of the transgender community who’ve noticed this phenomenon.

“People have been talking about this for a long time,” said Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, medical director of the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, the largest such clinic in the country. Olson-Kennedy says she often hears colleagues around the country say, “we have a lot of kids who are adopted in the gender clinics.”

And Diane Ehrensaft, a psychologist and author of the book, Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children, said in an email, “I am seeing the same thing in my work as a gender specialist in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Looking For Explanations

No one seems to know why. But there is some agreement about possible explanations.

First, it may be that there’s a higher percentage of trans adopted children who get health care, rather than a higher rate of trans kids who are adopted.

“Adopted people of all ages, especially children, are disproportionately represented in clinical settings,” said Adam Pertman, president of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency, and author of the book Adoption Nation. “The majority of adoptions today are from foster care. Then add to those the children adopted from institutions abroad and you have a population who suffered early trauma — so of course they are disproportionately represented in clinical settings.”

Shumer suggested another factor when it comes to families with adopted trans children: “Perhaps parents who adopt kids are more open to differences in gender identity — may have less shame in the fact that their child may be transgender,” he said, “[and] may be more likely to present to clinics for help.”

That idea resonated with Olson-Kennedy,

“When parents have biological children [who] are transgender,” she said, “what happens is a blame game, like, ‘Whose fault is it?’ I’ve heard many families say, ‘Well, you know, my husband has two gay cousins’ or, ‘My wife has a trans aunt.’ ”

Olson-Kennedy said adoptive parents seem to “let go of the ‘this is my fault’ piece.”

But maybe there’s something else about growing up adopted — about coming to terms with that experience — that explains why transgender clinics are seeing more such children.

“Adopted children who are aware of their adopted status also have an easier time being ‘other’ than their parents, and therefore find greater ease in being forthcoming in expressing their true gender selves,” said Ehrensaft.

Shumer said he wonders whether children who grow up knowing they are adopted might develop their identities in ways that make them more open to rethinking gender.

“As adoptive kids are becoming teenagers,” Shumer said, “they may more actively consider their gender identity in the context of their overall identity [than kids who aren’t adopted]. This might help them identify that they have a gender difference more frequently than kids that aren’t adopted, that aren’t going through as rigorous an identity-formation thought process.”

Pertman said that’s a new, but reasonable idea.

“Identity in adoption is a complex issue,” Pertman said. “I mean it’s complex for everybody, but there’s a whole other layer for adopted people that sort of triggers, in many of them, a deeper look within themselves about identity. And maybe this is part of what they find.”

More Theories — And The Need For More Study

Maybe, but that reasoning doesn’t ring true to Hunter Keith, a 17-year-old trans male who was adopted at birth — at least not in terms of his own experience. Hunter said the gender transition he started in the eighth grade did not coincide with questions about his adoption.

“I’ve been part of my family my whole life,” Hunter said. “I’ve never had that feeling of not belonging. It’s not something I ever questioned.”

Hunter’s mother Roz, who lives with Hunter and her husband and daughter in the metropolitan Detroit area, would like to see more research about the neurological roots of gender identity. She believes there may be all kinds of connections that no one understands yet.

Here’s one possibility Roz Keith has discussed with friends, based on studies that show greater rates of autism and learning disorders among transgender kids than among the general population: Could the kids be inheriting those conditions from their birth parents, and could those conditions be one reason the mothers place their children for adoption?

“There’s this incidence, then, of children who are adopted who have a genetic history coming from families where there are learning issues — ADD, ADHD,” Roz Keith suggested. “It does seem that those things overlap and correspond in greater numbers [in the transgender population].”

Some members of the transgender community say all these theories deserve more attention, but for now, they don’t see any connection between being trans and being adopted.

“I think it’s a stretch, frankly,” said Jamison Green, the immediate past president of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. “People, in trying to understand what ‘transness’ is and how it manifests, and why some of us are this way, will elicit all kinds of conjectures.”

Nonetheless, Green, who is adopted, said he would like to see more research in this area.

The speculation “speaks to how little we actually know,” Green said. “There’s much more to be learned about transness, about gender, about gender identity development in all people.”

With so little research, it’s not clear if or how these findings should affect care for children at transgender clinics. Shumer said it may help parents contemplating adoption to learn more about gender identity as a spectrum. Doctors, nurses and counselors may want to set up support groups for adopted children, to help kids who might find such groups useful explore any and all sorts of issues as they arise.

Judy Tasker, Nathan’s mom, said she’s sure that being transgender and adopted makes life more complicated for her son.

“It’s the transgender piece that throws everyone off,” she said, “but, really, it’s his issues from being in a poor foster home for the first 15 months of his life that really make him struggle at school, struggle with anger. The trans piece is this little piece, but it over-complicates what therapists see, what schools see, and they fixate on it.”

Nathan said he’s always assumed that being adopted and being trans were two separate experiences. But, “maybe somehow they’re connected,” he said. “Maybe adopted kids feel some dimensions that non-adopted kids can’t feel, because they haven’t been in that situation.”

There are a lot of maybes in the expanding world of gender identity.

This story is part of a partnership that includes WBUR, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

UK moves transgender prisoner to female prison

The world, it changes in small yet important ways:

A transgender woman sent to a men’s prison has been transferred to a female jail after a campaign to get her moved.

Tara Hudson, 26, from Bath, was jailed for 12 weeks and placed at the all-male HMP Bristol after admitting assault.

The BBC understands she has now been taken to HM Prison Eastwood Park in South Gloucestershire.Earlier, she lost an appeal against her sentence, but a judge asked for consideration to be made about where she serves her sentence.

Source: Transgender woman Tara Hudson moved to female prison – BBC News

Transgender Prison Rules in the UK


How some trans people must feel during traffic stops

Trans transgender driver's license traffic stop

While this cartoon is amusing, it does point to a very real problem for trans people: negotiating the often byzantine (though rapidly changing) world of government IDs and vital records with rules that vary widely from state-to-state.

To find out just how much they can vary, click on this link at

National Center for Transgender Equality trans

A transgender singing group in Boston

Photo: Boston Globe. Click on photo to go to Globe article.

What happens when you like to sing, but you are trans and your voice might change weekly?

You get this inspiring effort:

HE PLUNGED A NEEDLE filled with testosterone into his thigh each week. He changed his name to Andre and announced that he was becoming a man. His muscles grew.In nearly every way, his new body fit him better than his old one. Then his voice deepened, as expected, and he tried to sing. He grieved for the voice he had lost, the one he had trained for six years in choruses and choirs, the voice he still heard inside his head.

Andre, who asked not to be identified by his last name, might have given up singing. His voice was too low to continue with the women’s chorus where he had sung for years. So before Andre, 36, fully transitioned, he joined the new Butterfly Music Transgender Chorus, whose founder believes it’s one of two choirs in the country open only to transgender people.

Even as the public becomes more aware of the estimated 700,000 transgender individuals in the United States, many trans men and women say they still struggle to feel accepted. For those who transition, their voices can attract attention. Singers say they are grateful to find a chorus where they can feel the support of others who understand.

The chorus practices near Boston, which has become a center of medical care and research for the transgender community. (Because trans men and women report high rates of harassment, assault, and discrimination, the singers wanted to keep the location private.) Fenway Health , a community health center, saw 90 trans patients in 2006. Last year, 1,600 trans patients visited the center.

Talent and beauty come in many untraditional forms.

Fascinating and very cool.

Source: At Butterfly Music, transgender men and women discover new voices and community – The Boston Globe

White House hires first openly transgender staffer

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan.

Good news out of a White House that has been been the scene of a number of LGBT firsts:

The White House announced Tuesday that it hired its first openly transgender staff member.

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan will serve as outreach and recruitment director for presidential personnel in the Office of Personnel.

Earlier this year, she was one of several advocates to participate in the first-ever White House briefing on the state of transgender women of color. She urged administration officials to develop a national plan on a range of issues, including discrimination, mental health, homelessness and unemployment.

Advocates have been particularly alarmed by the fact that at least 16 transgender women of color have been murdered in 2015, a rate that already surpasses the total number of trans women of color homicides in 2014. Freedman-Gurspan has recommended that the Department of Justice and FBI more closely track hate crimes against transgender women.

Freedman-Gurspan previously served as a policy adviser for the National Center for Transgender Equality. She led the nonprofit organization’s racial and economic justice initiative, which focuses on low-income and transgender people of color. As a staff member for former representative Carl Sciortino, Jr., she was also the first openly transgender woman to work in the Massachusetts State House.

“Her hiring is a symbol of progress for the transgender community, “Her hiring is a symbol of progress for the transgender community, but without a doubt I know it will be her skill and hard work that will benefit many,” Sciortino said in a statement.

Wingnut heads are exploding all over the country. Dee-lish. I can’t wait to read some of it.

Source: White House hires first openly transgender staffer

Shallow grave in NC: another transgender murder

The tragic list of transgender murder victims just keeps getting longer and longer:

The body of Elisha Walker, a 20-year-old transgender woman who had been missing for almost a year, was found in a “crude grave” in Johnston County, North Carolina. According to advocates and local media, the discovery was made more than 100 miles from Walker’s home in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Phoenix woman Kandis Capri killed as transgender murders continue Read moreA Latin Kings gang member, Angel Dejesus Arias, 23, was arrested and charged with killing Walker and stealing her car, reports said on Thursday. He was being held without bond.Amid reports from Detroit, Texas and Phoenix of the deaths of three more black, transgender women, some observers have placed the number of transgender women killed this year at 16.

In a statement, transgender Human Rights Campaign staff member Laya Monarez said: “Even as we are seeing an increase in transgender visibility through a range of inspiring national media stories, including Caitlyn Jenner’s, the levels of violence and harassment transgender people face – particularly transgender women and transgender women of color – constitute a national crisis.”

This week, Texas police announced an investigation into the death of 22-year-old Shade Schuler, whose body was found badly decomposed in a field in Dallas. It took almost three weeks to identify her remains.

Activists in Michigan were also asking for help from Detroit law enforcement, after 20-year-old Amber Monroe was shot and killed in a city park. She was the fifth transgender woman to be killed in Palmer Park since 2014.

In Phoenix on Tuesday night a 35-year-old transgender woman, Kandis Capri, was shot dead.

What can anyone who is not transgender do?

We can start by not laughing at trans jokes, which are rampant in this society. It makes trans people seem like “others” and “not like us,” dehumanizing them and making them easier targets.

More immediately, if one of these trans murders happens where you live, keep your local elected officials and police investigators from giving these investigations less effort because they were trans people, people of color or even because they might have been sex workers.

Many people describe themselves as “allies” in the wake of Caitlyn Jenner’s remarkable story.

But the difference between an ally and mere supporter is that allies will not let these murders be forgotten.

Source: Missing transgender woman found dead in ‘crude grave’ in North Carolina | US news | The Guardian

Elisha Walker

The Daily Show dismantles wingnut panic over transgender bathrooms

Jon Stewart slices and dices the right-wing transgender bathroom scare.

From Equality Matters:

The myth that male sexual predators use non-discrimination laws to sneak into women’s restrooms has been repeatedly debunked by experts, but it remains a tremendously popular conservative attack on legal protections for LGBT people.Transgender Bathroom

Unfortunately, mainstream media outlets tend to treat the “bathroom” myth as if it were true, uncritically repeating it in their coverage of LGBT non-discrimination laws.

Fears that non-discrimination laws will punish Christians or let men sneak into women’s restrooms are as ridiculous as they are pervasive. Media outlets would serve their audiences better by following The Daily Show’s lead and treating right-wing attacks on LGBT non-discrimination laws as the jokes they really are.

Watch the vid. It’s very good.

Beware the “transvestite” army

This guy clearly has no idea what he is talking about. I wouldn’t mess with a group of trans women walking down Broadway, much less an army of them.

The original member of America’s “transvestite” army.

End Times broadcaster Rick Wiles blasted the U.S. military yesterday for moving to end the ban on transgender service members, which Wiles pointed to as proof that America is turning into Babylon and “descending into the pit of filthy lewdness.

”Rather than serve alongside “transvestites,” Wiles said, “all Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces must now come out and all pastors must now announce to their congregations that young men and women in the churches should not enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.”“Shame on the U.S. military for capitulating to Barack Obama’s sexual perversion,” the “Trunews” host said. “History will shame them for their moral cowardliness.”

Oh, the wingnuttiness. It knows no end.

Source: Rick Wiles: Christians Must Leave ‘America’s New Transvestite Army’ | Right Wing Watch

At annual meeting, the AMA votes to support trans military personnel, end personal and religious exemptions for vaccinations

The nation’s top physicians’ organization takes an important stand. More than one, actually.

The American Medical Association has adopted policies against nonmedical vaccine refusals and for transgender people in the military.

The nation’s largest doctors’ group says parents should not be able to refuse to have their kids vaccinated for personal or religious reasons. That’s because of the health risks unvaccinated kids pose to others.

At its annual policymaking meeting in Chicago on [June 8], the AMA said it would support efforts to end those exemptions in state immunization mandates.

The AMA also adopted a policy saying there’s no medically valid reason for the military’s ban on transgender service members. And it agreed to organize efforts to create guidelines for assessing whether older physicians remain competent to safely treat patients.

Good for them.

via AMA adopts policies for transgenders, against nonmedical vaccine refusals – Chicago Tribune.