Tag Archives: trans

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.

Looking for perverts in the wrong place

Cartoonist Nick Anderson from the Houston Chronicle poses the question: For all the time that wingnuts spent hyperventilating about transgender bathrooms, funny it doesn’t bother them that they’re supporting for president the man who appears to be the biggest pervert of them all?



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 jefferly.com

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 TransEquality.org.

National Center for Transgender Equality trans jefferly.com

Howard Brown Health Center to add Rogers Park location

Gerber Hart Howard Brown Health Center jefferly.com
The location in Rogers Park where Howard Brown Health Center will open an additional office, where the health center will share space with the Gerber Hart LIbrary.

Who would have thought way back in 1974 when this institution started with, in its own words, “a coffee pot, a portable kitchen table [and] a room above an old grocery market,” that it would become what it is today?

Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC), Chicago’s much-respected community health center which already operates out of three locations in Uptown (Buena Park) and Lakeview, along with its Broadway Youth Center, announced big news today about a new location on the far North side:

Today, Howard Brown Health Center (Howard Brown) announced plans to open a medical clinic in Rogers Park by the end of 2015. Howard Brown’s new facility will be co-located with Gerber/Hart Library and Archives (Gerber/Hart) and is one of the new opportunities resulting from Howard Brown’s recent designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center.

“We’re thrilled to have an opportunity to better meet the needs of LGBTQ people in Rogers Park, a vibrant neighborhood on Chicago’s far north side and one of the most diverse communities in the city,” said David Ernesto Munar, President and CEO of Howard Brown Health Center. “The new site, located in an emerging hub for LGBTQ culture in Chicago, furthers Howard Brown’s mission to eliminate the disparities in healthcare experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning people. Sharing a space with Gerber/Hart also gives us an exciting opportunity to provide a robust wellness experience that impacts a visitor’s body, mind and spirit.”

Located at 6500 N. Clark Street, the new facility will open its doors and begin providing limited healthcare services by the year’s end. At almost 15,000 square feet, the clinic will offer complete healthcare services by early 2016, featuring primary healthcare services including a sliding scale, behavioral health services, wrap around support services, educational opportunities, and a meeting/event space. The facility will display Gerber/Hart’s unique collection of LGBTQ artifacts and memorabilia from Chicago, giving a rich, contextual experience to visitors and clients.

HBHC (which, incidentally is holding a big Halloween costume ball fundraiser) notes on its web site:

Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) was founded in 1974 and is now one of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) organizations.

With an annual budget of over $22 million, the agency serves more than 18,000 adults and youth each year in its diverse health and social service delivery system focused around seven major programmatic divisions: primary medical care, behavioral health, research, HIV/STD prevention, youth services, elder services, and community initiatives.

HBHC serves men and women, infants, youth, and children through a multi-site operation based in Chicago that includes a main health and research center in the Uptown neighborhood (Sheridan Road), Aris Health by Howard Brown Health Center, the Broadway Youth Center, and three Brown Elephant resale shops in Chicago (Lakeview and Andersonville neighborhoods) and Oak Park.

I regularly visit the Brown Elephant resale store in Andersonville. It’s a great place if you like to rummage around for bargains.

I also use HBHC as my health center and my primary care provider there is easily the best doctor I’ve ever had.

You should note also that HBHC does not limit itself to LGBT health care, providing services to anyone regardless of ability to pay. 

You can read the rest of HBHC’s announcement about the new location at the link below.

Rogers Park is one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods, bounded on the North by Evanston, home of Northwestern University. As it is home also to 16,000-student Loyola University, Rogers Park has a large number of college and university students, faculty and staff while still retaining its diversity from being the northern edge of Uptown.

Source: Howard Brown : Announcing New Clinic in Rogers Park

Howard Brown Health Center Sheridan Road jefferly.com
Howard Brown’s location in Uptown’s Buena Park neighborhood.

Famed gender researcher says not to push children too much, too fast on gender identity

Dr. Alice Dreger, one of the big guns in the medical ethicist arena, offers in a June 4 article in Wired some opinions which, while not new to people who follow the field closely, are sure to anger some in the trans community:

THE RECEPTION TO Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover story this week has been mostly laudable. The country, it seems, may finally be ready to approach transgender people with humanity and calm acceptance instead of snark or fear or hate. In fact, even the president continues to put a focus ona transgender issues, repeatedly calling for an end to “conversion” therapies for “transgender youth.” His intentions are good, but his understanding of gender identity needs to evolve. 636_050213_fx_transgender_symbol

Gender is complicated. Gender identity development in children is even more so. Even with our ever-expanding understanding of gender’s fluidity and variance, we still err by reducing it to simple labels that do not apply to everyone. When children are developing their gender identities, over-simplifying gender can be especially harmful, as a nudge in one direction or another at this crucial phase might forever change a person’s life. Can we respect the expressions of gender-crossing children without being so “affirming” of their declarations that we accidentally steer them to a transgender path they might otherwise not want or need to take?

Dreger goes on to note that gender is fluid in young children and that, of the children who present with cross-gender behaviors when they are, for example, preschoolers, many will simply end up being gay or lesbian and not trans.  Smaller portions will turn out to be actually trans regardless of their sexual orientation. Still others will end up being heterosexual and can lose some or all of their cross-gender behaviors completely.

The point is that while we ought not tell them when they are little that boys playing with dolls or girls hating dresses and frilly things are bad, that is as far as it should go.

Accept, but do not push them one way or the other.

There have been cases of parents who are so hyper-informed on LGBT issues they cross the line from parent into advocate, which is fine if their kid is old enough to conceptualize these ideas on their own. But tell an 12-year-old only one time that you think they are trans and they may fixate on it to the point where they are suddenly demanding hormone therapies when they are not actually trans but rather have bipolar disorder or something else that is making them chronically unhappy and unable to deal with the world.

Interesting stuff, but as I said, not new.

Dr. Scott Leibowitz of Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital and the National LGBT Health Education Center is known for being a knowledgeable, caring clinician with small kids who exhibit cross-gender behaviors — and he also gives excellent presentations on these subjects.

It should be interesting to see how Dreger’s piece is received the trans community.

Finally, some might ask: if gender identity is so fluid that we do not want to push small kids one way or the other, why is the same not true with sexual orientation which is now the subject of efforts to outlaw conversion therapy?

The answer is simple: sexual orientation is not fluid in almost everyone. By the time a kid is reaching adolescence and starting to have feelings of sexual desire — something 8-year-olds shouldn’t be having — sexual orientation is fixed. Efforts to change it are simply medical malpractice since it cannot be changed. Unless, of course, yours is a political agenda and not a medical one.

via The Big Problem With Outlawing Gender Conversion Therapies | WIRED.