Charlie Rose Brain Series: Gender Identity
June 19, 2015 6:55 PM   Subscribe

In an new episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, the topic of Gender Identity is discussed. Participating in the discussion are Ben Barres, chair of neurobiology at Stanford University, Norman Spack of Boston Children’s Hospital, Catherine Dulac of Harvard University, Melissa Hines of University of Cambridge, and Janet Hyde of University of Wisconsin. (SL Video) posted by beisny (51 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm still watching this, but a lot of the language and rhetoric in this is, well, rather old-fashioned, unsurprisingly. Implications that trans women 'need' breast enhancement if they don't start hormones in their teens is flat out wrong on so many levels, for example - it's not like all trans women feel they need breast enhancement if they don't develop visible breasts for one, and secondly, it's not like hormonal intervention later in life can't lead to quite extensive breast growth. Probably best to take a this with a grain of salt, and particularly not take too many linguistic cues from it.
posted by Dysk at 7:26 PM on June 19, 2015 [19 favorites]


That was really interesting. Thanks for sharing.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:27 PM on June 19, 2015


I was curious about the other episodes in the series, and I came across a YouTube channel that has a bunch of them. Here's the first one; you'll see the others in the related videos on the right.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:41 PM on June 19, 2015


I don't suppose there's a transcript available, is there?
posted by harriet vane at 10:32 PM on June 19, 2015


> I don't suppose there's a transcript available, is there?

I very much look forward to the day we can make those for ourselves at home. Text to speech is easy; speech to text is hard.
posted by jfuller at 1:42 AM on June 20, 2015


In an new episode of the Charlie Rose Brain Series, the topic of Gender Identity is discussed. Participating in the discussion are Ben Barres, chair of neurobiology at Stanford University, Norman Spack of Boston Children’s Hospital, Catherine Dulac of Harvard University, Melissa Hines of University of Cambridge, and Janet Hyde of University of Wisconsin.

Sounds like some people who know what they are talking about

Probably best to take a this with a grain of salt...


Ok. So this is what I don't get. Who IS the authority? Is it people on tumblr?

posted by hal_c_on at 2:14 AM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ok. So this is what I don't get. Who IS the authority? Is it people on tumblr?

Generally not the medical establishment, when it comes to ways of talking about and conceiving of transgender identity. They are and pretty much always have been very conservative relative to most trans people themselves. Hard to imagine that some people who know a thing or two about something might use tumblr, but I'm sure some of them do.
posted by Dysk at 2:16 AM on June 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


(And frankly, the sneering use of 'tumblr' as dismissive like that is getting dull and boring. Not all trans people are on tumblr. Not even all trans activists. I know I'm not.)
posted by Dysk at 2:18 AM on June 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


Sounds like some people who know what they are talking about


Well, maybe, maybe not. They have some great academic credentials, so they are no doubt experts in where the Academy is on these issues, but they are not necessarily the latest word in people's lived experience. Medical (including psychological) authorities have... let's say a... checkered track record on LGB (and especially T) studies.

I'll know more once I get around to watching it, but Dysk's reaction isn't remotely controversial.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:10 AM on June 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


Ben Barres is trans. He is arguably the most prominent self-identified trans biologist and has had really interesting things to say about how he was treated as a scientist when presenting as a woman versus now.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:30 AM on June 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


Ok. So this is what I don't get. Who IS the authority? Is it people on tumblr?

I hadn't gotten the impression from you that you're the type to accept the academy as the final word on all topic. Obvs., expertise matters, and academic training is one way to gain expertise - but can it never be outdated, uncomprehensive, or otherwise flawed?

Are you asking a legitimate question? If so, I have a question to ask in return: Why is it that you need there to be a single authority? Why for this topic, especially? Do you demand to know who "the authority" is for every topic? Or are you expressing frustration at this particular topic, for some reason I do not understand?

Why can't someone on tumblr have their own expertise?

(Why are you using "tumblr" as a dismissive shorthand for online activists in the same way that /r/TiA does?)

hydropsyche, thanks for the link. I've read an interview with Ben Barres before, which referenced the same comment about his "sister," but I don't think I'd read anything written by him on the topic before. That was a nice piece.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:37 AM on June 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Ben Barres is trans. He is arguably the most prominent self-identified trans biologist and has had really interesting things to say about how he was treated as a scientist when presenting as a woman versus now.

I truly mean this not as an attack on Ben Barres, because I think that article was an important one to write, but people do reflect a bit on what it means that the person we suddenly listen to when they report on gendered experiences is science is a trans man. (I do think women get listened to and believed a bit more now than when that article appeared.)

(BTW, I think Julia Serrano is/was a biologist. She'll win the 'most prominent trans biologist' award, but is primarily known for things other than biology.)
posted by hoyland at 5:49 AM on June 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


Oh, yes, I totally hate that, too. But imposter syndrome is so intense in most of us, that having someone confirm it was a really big deal. Joan Roughgarden is another prominent scientist who is trans, but she speaks about lizards more often than gender.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:01 AM on June 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


hydropsyche: "she speaks about lizards more often than gender."

#goals
posted by these are science wands at 6:04 AM on June 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


Ha, I was just coming to bring up Joan Roughgarden. I'm more familiar with her work on sexual selection and framing thought about evolution than I am on her fieldwork, mind. My impression of Joan Roughgarden's contributions to the intersection of gender discussions and biology is that she is more likely to be going "hey evolutionary biologists I think your thinking about conflict/the evolution of sex roles/what sex is for/etc is off, which is partly informed by my perspective" and Ben Barres is more likely to be going "hey as biologists my perspective tells you that the way we treat each other is informed by gender in a really unfortunate way." But IIRC she's been being loud in at least integrative biology circles about being trans and how that impacts her work for as long as Ben Barres has, although her focus is somewhat different.
posted by sciatrix at 6:19 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought it was a good, educational experience. They're talking about the biology of transgenderism and that's where their expertise is. Dysk's comments may be right that their concepts of gender identity aren't as progressive as others, but that's not what they are there to talk about.

Being charitable to hal_c_on, I think this was the motivation for his post. This was a group of people with seemingly great credentials who are all working very hard to support transgenderism, one of whom is trans himself. It's not that Dysk's comments are wrong, but that hal_c_on wanted to push back on the only evaluative comment of the program being a dismissive one.

Or at least this was my reaction to Dysk's comment. I don't see any reason why anyone should steer clear from this program, but I could see a lot of people doing so from Dysk's comment.
posted by Dalby at 6:38 AM on June 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


I wasn't aware that "take this with a grain of salt, bits of it are a little out of date" meant "don't read it or listen to it or sully your ears with its wrongness." I really appreciated Dysk's comment because it added context to the original piece that wasn't included in the original FPP.
posted by sciatrix at 6:48 AM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Maybe I read it wrong, but the *this* in "take this with a grain of salt", I took to mean the whole program since one of the complaints was related not just their opinions on trans identity, but also on some medical facts concerning breast development. Now hey, maybe I'm wrong, and that's perfectly fine. But just in case some others read it the same way, I wanted to clarify.
posted by Dalby at 6:53 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I didn't watch this because of dysk's comment. That's because after years of seeing how trans people are represented by media and subsequent comment thread discussions I'm very much raw and worn down and my buttons are so close to the surface that stuff can hit me in ways I don't understand or can't predict. So yeah.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:17 AM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


[Repeatedly picking at someone's mild criticism of something like it's an aggressive dismissal is not a great dynamic; it's fine to disagree with Dysk if you do, and if you're coming from a place of having specific substantial knowledge/experience with the issues talking about that constructively is fine, but just speculatively pushing back on the idea of someone's criticism is kind of weird and best left by the wayside.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:26 AM on June 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


I thought it was a good, educational experience. They're talking about the biology of transgenderism and that's where their expertise is. Dysk's comments may be right that their concepts of gender identity aren't as progressive as others, but that's not what they are there to talk about.

OK, I just finished watching it, and I think was a reasonable program and mostly kept within the limited scope that the program set (ie. brain/hormonal development on cis- and transgender development). Reasonably informative and not terribly conroversial. A couple of format criticisms:

1. I'm not too enthused about a single link one hour tv program as a useful basis for an FPP because I think it tends to discourage WTFA before commenting (but that's MetaTalk territory, so I shall move on).

2. thought Barres and Spack were terrific, very much on topic and they did a good job of balancing the "interesting science" angle with a serious dose of "concern and compassion for individuals," which do not always go together.

3. Dulac, Hyde, and Hynes seemed a little out on the edge of the discussion, both in their areas of expertise and the time given to them to present. (I also way prefer the In Our Times approach of host and three guests with threaded discussion rather than this show's one and a half hosts with 5 guests, which is a lot more cramped, especially given that the intro + Barres and Spack's initial comments took more than half the show and they both had significant input in the second half as well.

Obviously, YMMV on any of these ('m a cis man, for what it's worth in this discussion).

My most significant takeaways were Barres' comments about his acceptance as a man (vs being a woman) speaking about science, and Spack's comments about the importance of identifying gender "disjunctions" in childhood and supporting the child to be able to make decisions about their gender before puberty, which seems to be the most successful point where physical modifications can be introduced.

I thought the stuff about animal brains was interesting but somewhat irrelevant, because the speaker was not given enough time to explain what, say, mouse gender roles had to do with human experience -- obviously, there is a connection, but I remain unclear on what other kinds of animals can tell us about humans. Similarly, there was some discussion of brain structure and toy selection that seemed to present certain kind of toys as "inherently gender specific" without considering that the gender specificity of certain toys must be culturally assigned (ie would an Aztec boy from 1100AD, lacking a strong concept of a wheeled vehicle, automatically reach for a toy truck as a masculine toy?). I suppose she could have addressed that issue if she had been given more time to build her thesis, but the format of the show worked against it.

Also, while early childhood intervention would obviously ease a lot of trans peoples' lives, the show was pretty silent on what this research tells us about people who come to recognize a trans identity after puberty (despite Barres' self-discovery coming in early middle age). I can't really blame the show for this, because that wasn't the show that they were making, but I would have found it more interesting/useful than the direction they pursued. Again, YMMV.

Lastly, I am always a little nervous when people focus solely on biological origins of LGBT experience. Frst, because I think it fails to respect the experiences of individuals. Second, because it gives the impression that "it's all biological," which I doubt is true (and I suspect many of the speakers would also doubt this if they had more time to develop their ideas). Lastly, because it still "medicalizes" a social condition, although via neuroscience rather than psychology. We are still left with a condition to be fixed, and, while these researchers seemed overwhelmingly committed to the idea of helping people with gender "disjunctions" find a more "correct gender experience/expression," it does leave out the experience of people who don't exist in a gender binary and opens us up to fetal identification of non-conforming children for whatever purpose (which I find kind of creepy). I realize that this is putting a lot of weight on a short popular show, but I don't think it's an illegitimate reaction.

tl;dr -- I thought it was flawed in format but it's worth a watch, and a 55 minute show can't do everything well.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:26 AM on June 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


transgenderism

*shudder*

That is an awful awful term, steeped in a history of awfulness.

Or at least this was my reaction to Dysk's comment. I don't see any reason why anyone should steer clear from this program, but I could see a lot of people doing so from Dysk's comment.
Maybe I read it wrong, but the *this* in "take this with a grain of salt", I took to mean the whole program since one of the complaints was related not just their opinions on trans identity, but also on some medical facts concerning breast development.
Yes, the 'this' related to the program itself and as a whole. Much as I might've liked to, I didn't tell anyone to steer clear of it however - merely to engage critically with its content. And I specifically mentioned the area where the medical science was flat our wrong (at least according to current research/working consensus in the medical community in Europe) to suggest that however much of an authority the program presented itself and its participants as, what they say should not necessarily be believed to be correct simply by virtue of having been said by these people. Engage critically - think about what you're being told, make judgements, maybe even do some additional research on your own to verify things.

Is it legitimately possible to in any way critique something however gently on trans issues and not be told that you're overreacting and doing it wrong? I mean, fuck.
posted by Dysk at 9:01 AM on June 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Also, while early childhood intervention would obviously ease a lot of trans peoples' lives, the show was pretty silent on what this research tells us about people who come to recognize a trans identity after puberty (despite Barres' self-discovery coming in early middle age).

Barres actually presents a very classical narrative (both in the linked video and elsewhere) of having having really known since he was five, and in fact acknowledges it as such. That he didn't transition until middle age is not the same thing.
posted by Dysk at 9:03 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is it legitimately possible to in any way critique something however gently on trans issues and not be told that you're overreacting and doing it wrong? I mean, fuck.

I never said you were overreacting, and even said you might be right on your point of gender identity (I'm not one to say whether or not you are because as you yourself pointed out, I'm not even up to date on what are the proper words I'm to use when talking about this stuff). I merely wanted to clarify that despite it's drawbacks in some areas it had value in others since no one else had chimed in.

I personally never knew that those who are XY had a dose of testosterone as a fetus and shortly after birth before that hormone became active at puberty, and that for those who are XX estrogen never made an appearance until puberty. And although we know very little about these mechanisms and their purposes, and I can't remember how explicit this was made, but I seem to recall some musings that perhaps gender identity can become separate from biological sex depending on how these hormones fire as a fetus and shortly after birth. For instance, perhaps those who are XY and have testosterone firings as a fetus/shortly after birth develop a gender identity at odds with the female biological sex.
posted by Dalby at 9:27 AM on June 20, 2015


This was a group of people with seemingly great credentials

Something to take away from this is that medical establishments actually have long and horrific histories of being quite openly abusive toward trans people. It is only until very recently that the idea of the, "real-life test" was mandatory per WPATH standards of care for anyone to access basic care (and is still a requirement before gender-confirming surgeries), and the idea still has enormous currency within the medical community. This in spite of a growing consensus that enforcing it actually increases the risk of suicide, the primary reason for using it as a guideline. I agree that 100% medicalization of transness is problematic for a whole bunch of reasons, but bear in mind this is in directly seeking medical care--can you imagine any other condition being made to undergo abusive hazing like this before being considered for treatment?

Having worked in healthcare and struggled to access basic care, I would say the medical community's transphobia is probably above that of the general populace, in spite of the medical consensus on trans care being much lower than same.

This is not to come across as overly grar to people who are honestly learning. It would seem like a safe assumption that the people who treat and study trans patients would be experts, but often, no.
posted by byanyothername at 9:53 AM on June 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


I'm face-palming minutes into this thing with the whole XX/XY discussion.
posted by odinsdream at 10:42 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Dysk's comments may be right that their concepts of gender identity aren't as progressive as others, but that's not what they are there to talk about.

The series title is Gender Identity. They opened the program directly letting the audience know how timely this discussion is, with specific call-outs to Vanity Fair and New York Times, obviously alluding to the piece on Jenner and the piece by Burkett about Jenner. This show is clearly positioned as being relevant to milquetoast NPR listeners who want to get to the bottom of this whole "transgenderism thing" they keep being forced to hear about over dinner with their friends. It's kinda super icky because of the context in which this fits into the overall media narrative of talking about transgender people (yes, I recognize they included at least one openly trans guest. No idea why they couldn't find a whole fucking room of trans people, of course...).

I'll keep listening because I'm just masochistic, so now I'm slogging through the "always knew from a little babe" narrative, complete with all the US-centric "plays with trucks, doesn't like dresses" shit. This, of course, coming from a Voice Of Reason Within The Medical Community.
posted by odinsdream at 10:54 AM on June 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


Barres actually presents a very classical narrative (both in the linked video and elsewhere) of having having really known since he was five, and in fact acknowledges it as such. That he didn't transition until middle age is not the same thing.

It's possible that I misunderstood Barres' narration, but my understanding is that he understood something was seriously out of alignment for him (his description of reacting with disgust to the idea of reconstructive surgery after his mastectomy was really affecting), but he also credits reading an article about a trans man in the San Francisco Chronicle some time after that surgery when his situation became clear to him. This seems to be a very common narrative, at least among older trans men, and was a common narrative among gays and lesbians of the mid-20th Century (the feeling of wrongness without a vocabulary or narrative to make sense of it). Currently, at least in the West, the gay and lesbian narrative is wide spread enough for people to know about it very early, and, therefore, the coming out process is increasingly less traumatic and toxic than it was 50 years ago (for many people; obviously, individual lives vary, and I won't pretend we don't have a long way to go). Trans people have the disadvantage of being 50 years behind that slow-moving change, beyond the multitude of other differences in experience and needs (and I suspect that lumping even trans men and trans women together is an error).

One thing I took away from Spack is that the situation for trans people is much more urgent than the analogous situation for gays and lesbians, because of the physical benefits of deciding to transition before puberty. Assuming this is all as he said, there needs to be much more outreach to parents whose children are experiencing these issues with gender, and I imagine that most parents will be really really resistant to the ideas, undercutting their children's ability to get the most effective forms of help.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:18 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


they are not necessarily the latest word in people's lived experience.

The point of science is to figure out what is subjective "experience" from what is measurable and can be determined as fact.

I am always a little nervous when people focus solely on biological origins of LGBT experience... it still "medicalizes" a social condition, although via neuroscience rather than psychology.

Well, the flip side is that then there is some issue of experience or perception that could simply be resolved to change someone's sexuality or gender identity, and that's a huge rabbit hole that no one wants to go down if only because it has such a severe track record of damage and failure.
posted by deanc at 11:50 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


GenjiandProust, Barres literally calls his narrative "typical" in the video, linking his awareness of his gender identity to his childhood, even if he doesn't fully understand it or how to deal with it until later in life.
posted by Dysk at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2015


Well, the flip side is that then there is some issue of experience or perception that could simply be resolved to change someone's sexuality or gender identity

That doesn't necessarily follow from that premise. That something might be psychological does not require that it must be mutable.
posted by Dysk at 12:08 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The point of science is to figure out what is subjective "experience" from what is measurable and can be determined as fact.

And, as Dysk and I and others have pointed out, the science doesn't even support the poor track record medicine has had with trans issues. You can't fully pull apart "the science" from "the experience" for trans healthcare, anyway, because the treatments (both in the sense of procedures and in the sense of attitudes) are either a medicine or a poison for alleviating or exacerbating the negative experiences. "The science" is rife with unscientific gender essentialism that does active harm to trans people; the actual research has largely come to affirm this. It's not a dichotomy of "hard fact" versus "squishy emotion." It's more like someone extolling to you on the medicinal benefits of lead, and speaking up and saying, "Are you out of your damn mind?"
posted by byanyothername at 12:11 PM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


One thing I took away from Spack is that the situation for trans people is much more urgent than the analogous situation for gays and lesbians, because of the physical benefits of deciding to transition before puberty. Assuming this is all as he said, there needs to be much more outreach to parents whose children are experiencing these issues with gender, and I imagine that most parents will be really really resistant to the ideas, undercutting their children's ability to get the most effective forms of help.

There's a certain grossness to this, as if trans people need saving or that transitioning after puberty somehow had 'bad' results. Puberty generally sucks for trans people, so if, holy shit, try to save your kid from that. But don't do it because transitioning younger will allow them to 'pass' (which is what "most effective" likely means coming from a doctor). That's how we get the endless Reddit posts about 'I think I'm trans, but I'm 17/20/22 and it's too late to transition because I've been through puberty, what do I do?'
posted by hoyland at 12:13 PM on June 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


And, as Dysk and I and others have pointed out, the science doesn't even support the poor track record medicine has had with trans issues

Well, Dysk's main complaint seems to be that the terminology is "old fashioned", as though the most tragic issue is that the scientific medical professionals aren't up on the latest ever-changing language that may well be discarded tomorrow in favor of something else.

And I am inherently suspicious of the claim that a person's internal experience is an accurate arbiter of reality.
posted by deanc at 12:47 PM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, Dysk's main complaint seems to be that the terminology is "old fashioned"

While that is one of my complaints, it is far from my main one. My main one is the conceptual models that underlie the understanding of trans identities that the video communicates - the language is problematic in how it indicates and reinforces it. That's far from my only complaint with it, if course, but many of the others tie into it. Much of the video's being binary as heck stems directly therefrom, for example.

This is not something that can be reduced to a simple quibble of which words we use. It's a more fundamental issue of how we understand gender and trans identities, and how we talk about things (not simply word choice) is a huge part of this.
posted by Dysk at 12:57 PM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


(And the reason I mentioned linguistic cues in particular was out of concern for the likelihood that the problematic ways of talking about trans people exhibited in the video might migrate over to the thread, and that would be a lowering of the quality of discourse and conversation of which Mefi is capable, not because I particularly think the language is the most important issue.)
posted by Dysk at 1:03 PM on June 20, 2015


And I am inherently suspicious of the claim that a person's internal experience is an accurate arbiter of reality.

You might want to reevaluate why you're participating in this thread, and who is in it, before flinging around statements like that. You may not be aware of the vibes you're sending out, but context is everything and what may be a reasonable stance on one topic may come across as willfully ignorant in another.
posted by byanyothername at 1:38 PM on June 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Puberty generally sucks for trans people, so if, holy shit, try to save your kid from that. But don't do it because transitioning younger will allow them to 'pass' (which is what "most effective" likely means coming from a doctor).

I'm certainly not going to speak for Spack, especially since all I know is what is in the video we are discussing, but, in his narrative about the case study he used in the presentation, his primary concern seemed to be that the children grew up happy and in their "right bodies" -- I mean, I dunno, maybe there is some of that grossness going on, but he seemed more concerned that transitioning after puberty would (potentially) require more surgical intervention, along with maybe some idea that helping a child to have the "right" puberty was probably a good idea.

In contrast to a lot of stories I have heard about trans people and doctors, Spack seemed very willing to take a five year old at her word and to support the family in realizing that they had a daughter. Now, his part of the show was maybe 15 minutes, and that leaves huge spaces to hide truckloads of bad behavior, but, on the evidence in the video, he seems to have the well-being of the children as a primary goal (and their well-being as they express it, which has not always been the case).
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:43 PM on June 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


on the evidence in the video, he seems to have the well-being of the children as a primary goal (and their well-being as they express it, which has not always been the case).

I mean, that's a great start, but it's not like we praise doctors in other areas for having the well-being of their patients as their primary goal, we see that as almost a prerequisite. It's a good start, but that's all it is.
posted by Dysk at 1:50 PM on June 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


And I am inherently suspicious of the claim that a person's internal experience is an accurate arbiter of reality.

As the video shows, we are only just beginning to make some guesses about what parts of neuroscience might explain why some people are trans and others are cis. It has only been a few decades since our instrumentation has gotten fine enough to chart much of the brain and the genome and other small scale and occluded biological processes. Until a few decades ago, we literally had nothing but internal experiences to go one, and the work the people in the video are describing is an attempt to bring our understanding of the brain and hormones into line with that internal experience.

Beyond that, denying people's "internal experience" is the height of internet jerkery. I can't count all the threads where we are discussing someone's reported experience (either in the links or from other MeFites) and people, (usually who have no direct experience in the area) come in and start with the "well, she can't have experienced that," "he's not remembering correctly," and the classic "I, armchair internet sage, know better," and it never goes well because it's just plain bad behavior. And our trans members especially, do not need another armchair internet sage telling them they don't know their own lives.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:56 PM on June 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


latest ever-changing language that may well be discarded tomorrow in favor of something else.


Just want to point out that the Euphemism Treadmill doesn't keep going because folks just go "Oh, I'm tired of this term, out it goes!"; it happens because ingrained prejudice against groups of people eventually taints the words used to refer to them.

And I am inherently suspicious of the claim that a person's internal experience is an accurate arbiter of reality.


And here's the usual claim that trans folks are biased and inherently unable to think rationally about things, whereas cis folks are unbiased.
posted by damayanti at 1:59 PM on June 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


I mean, I dunno, maybe there is some of that grossness going on, but he seemed more concerned that transitioning after puberty would (potentially) require more surgical intervention, along with maybe some idea that helping a child to have the "right" puberty was probably a good idea.

I'm mostly saying 'Hey, please be really conscious that you're walking a fine line here'. I mean, it's great when the opportunity arises for someone to transition before puberty and figuring out how to give more people access to transition younger is a worthy thing, but we have to be careful not to think that people who couldn't articulate they were trans before/during puberty are somehow less trans or that they are somehow inherently damaged by not having done so. In the absence of sexism and transphobia, maybe everyone will be able to explain they're trans at three, but we shouldn't assume that's the case and 'in the absence of sexism and transphobia' makes it such a ridiculous counterfactual, we should probably just presume people will continue to realise they're trans after puberty for the foreseeable future.
posted by hoyland at 2:07 PM on June 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


hoyland: "But don't do it because transitioning younger will allow them to 'pass' (which is what "most effective" likely means coming from a doctor). That's how we get the endless Reddit posts about 'I think I'm trans, but I'm 17/20/22 and it's too late to transition because I've been through puberty, what do I do?'"

Fuck yes. The endless reinforcement of this idea gives us teenagers who commit suicide at 18 because it's "too late".
posted by these are science wands at 2:16 PM on June 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


And I am inherently suspicious of the claim that a person's internal experience is an accurate arbiter of reality.

What exactly is your point here? Because it sounds pretty despicable.
posted by odinsdream at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I watched this last night, and thought it was interesting, both in terms of the information presented, and in terms of the places where it didn't match up with how I've seen trans folks here talk about these matters.

It strikes me as a very specific kind of introduction for a specific kind of audience. It seems like a "greetings, senior citizen viewer, welcome to the very first discussion of trans issues you've ever seen that wasn't sensationalized baloney" kind of shallow end of the pool, maximally gentle introduction, talking in the most square/restrained/conventionally-respectable tones, and starting with as muuuuch familiar stuff as possible (i.e. taking binary gender as a given for the moment), just to get across the very most basic points -- like that the fact that some people are transgender isn't made up, it's a biological phenomenon that Real Scientists study.

I did find some of the medical stuff interesting (like the graph of the several times when testosterone peaks, and the stuff about play behaviors of girls exposed to testosterone in utero), and I appreciate the intent of the producers to offer a positive very-most-basic introduction.

But at the same time, I can absolutely imagine a show like this being made about homosexuality in the late 1980s, and it being a useful thing to meet the broader public where they were at then.... but that such a show would look terribly dated and even offensive to us today. I took Dysk's reservations in that vein.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:05 PM on June 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


And I also thought the inclusion of the later scientists was a little odd, although their work is interesting. I wonder if they may have originally been planning the show as a more general "gender and the brain" (so, including the woman who studies cognitive differences) and only narrowed it more toward gender identity after the panel was already established.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:07 PM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm mostly saying 'Hey, please be really conscious that you're walking a fine line here'.

Thank you for that; I stand corrected.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:17 PM on June 20, 2015


And I am inherently suspicious of the claim that a person's internal experience is an accurate arbiter of reality.

"Boy, it sure is raining hard, I'm all wet."

"Wait, wait, I don't trust your first-person account, let me ask a weatherman."
posted by mittens at 6:02 PM on June 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


"And I am inherently suspicious of the claim that a person's internal experience is an accurate arbiter of reality."

You need to go away. Now.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:46 AM on June 22, 2015


Trans people exist in your reality as we say we do and it's not your job to decide if we get be "as we are" in your world or not. If you have any inkling in your gut or mind that tries to tell you "I'm not sure if I agree with these trans people trying to tell me they actually exist in reality" then you need to disengage immediately from talking about your suspicions while you work through getting over that. That's YOUR problem to solve inside yourself, not MY problem to suffer while defending myself from your lack of ability to see outside your own box.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:54 AM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


And here's the usual claim that trans folks are biased and inherently unable to think rationally about things, whereas cis folks are unbiased.

And I am inherently suspicious of the claim that a person's internal experience is an accurate arbiter of reality.

Look (I think) I know where you're coming from with a statement like this because I've had my share of arguments where I said something like that in one context or another and it went over poorly. No, you don't mean trans people are particularly biased and irrational, you mean everybody is. No, I don't think I know better than you, I mean let's look up some stats from a reliable third party.

But when the realities being discussed are the details of trans persons' subjective experiences - that's not what science is for.

(that's not getting into the details of why people are particularly wary of medical handling of this subject still - others can tell you more about that)

By the way "experiences" is one of the weirder uses of scare quotes I've ever seen.
posted by atoxyl at 7:03 PM on June 22, 2015


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