Considering the Ethics of Discussions About the Origins of Gender

I thought I would pause in this blog series about the biology behind gender and consider the approach I have used to address the question, “Where does gender come from?”

To be sure, for this series, I’ve  focused on science, biology, behavior and data; however, I want to acknowledge that what we are really talking about here is people.

Even though I might dispassionately discuss the scientific and biological underpinnings of gender and sex, I never take lightly the issues that are faced by intersex people and their families, and that includes my own family.

Likewise, I acknowledge that although I am transsexual, not all trans people would be comfortable with a discussion that looks for the biological basis of gender.

Some members of the trans community might say that there are more important discussions to be had, that discussions about gender just perpetuate the gender stereotypes that confine us, and that we are who we are and it shouldn’t matter how we became this way.

For the intersex community, the goal is to refrain from forcing a gender on the intersex child, to give intersex people the right of self-determination and to eliminate genital surgeries that are designed to “correct” something that is actually a natural result of biological variation.

Therefore, in considering these different points of view, I would like to use this post to ask a different question:

“Are these scientific discussions about the origins of gender disrespectful and insensitive toward trans and intersex people?”

I am not an ethicist and I don’t know enough about the discipline to be able to speak about ethics with authority, and yet, that is what I am faced with in answering this question.

This question and the doubts behind it did not come to me suddenly.  If they had, I’m not sure I would have made posts on this topic in the first place.  Instead, I wrote these posts in order to address my own internal question of, “Why am I transsexual?”  and I have taken the scientist’s approach toward the answer.  In satisfying my own curiosity about myself and in sharing this discovery process with others through this blog, I now wonder whether I may be offending some people or even working against their goals.

To explain what I’m talking about, I would like to direct readers to the website of The Intersex Society of North America and their mission statement.  Even though the ISNA is closed, the information on their website is still up-to-date and important:

The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) is devoted to systemic change to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female.

We have learned from listening to individuals and families dealing with intersex that:

In my recent blog posts, I have referred to research publications about the gender of intersex people in order to help understand the biology behind gender, but the first bullet point above is clear that gender is not the issue with intersexuality.

Reading further on the ISNA web site, I came across a web page devoted to “Shifting the Paradigm of Intersex Treatment” by Dr. Alice Dreger.  I have reproduced some of this page here, and have highlighted in bold italics the statement in the table that is of note:

Shifting the Paradigm of Intersex Treatment

Prepared by Alice Dreger, Ph.D., for the Intersex Society of North America

Key points of comparison

CONCEALMENT-CENTERED MODEL

PATIENT-CENTERED MODEL

What is intersex?

Intersex is a rare anatomical abnormality which is highly likely to lead to great distress in the family and great distress for the person with an intersex condition. Intersex is pathological and requires immediate medical attention.

Intersex is a relatively common anatomical variation from the “standard” male and female types; just as skin and hair color vary along a wide spectrum, so does sexual and reproductive anatomy. Intersex is neither a medical nor a social pathology.

Is gender determined by nature or nurture?

Nurture. Virtually any child can be made into a boy or a girl if you just make the genitals look convincing. It doesn’t matter what the genes, brain, hormones, and/or prenatal life are/were like.

Both, surely, but that isn’t the point. The point is that people with intersex conditions ought to be treated with the same basic ethical principles as everyone else—respect for their autonomy and self-determination, truth about their bodies and their lives, and freedom from discrimination. Physicians, researchers, and gender theorists should stop using people with intersex conditions in “nature/nurture” experiments or debates.

At first, when I read the highlighted sentence above, I thought that I was guilty of doing just what is criticized– using people with intersex conditions for my own blog discussions about gender.  Then, after a some thought, I considered that I am not debating nature vs nurture determinations of gender.  I am squarely in the nature camp because, as a trans person, I know that I have felt my gender since a very young age and I believe that I was born this way.

That brought up another question then.  Even though I know that I have not entered into the nature vs nurture debate, have I referred to any data that were generated by researchers who did?  If so, am I then perpetuating their work to the detriment of the intersex community?  By citing these data, am I being just as exploitative as some of the scientists who have indeed researched intersex people to the tune of the nature vs. nurture debate?

And then going back to the people in the trans community who feel that discussions on the origins of gender act to reinforce gender stereotypes, I wondered whether that added a second “strike” against the discussions I had written in my blog posts.

Because of these doubts, I not only considered canceling the final post in the gender series that I have been writing, but I also thought about taking down the first three parts that I had already posted.

Then I stopped and wondered, is there danger in silencing the discussion?  Would ignoring these issues be any better than putting them out in the open for transparent dialog?

This is new territory for me and I don’t know much of the history involved, so I decided to talk to some people who are more knowledgeable about this subject than I am, one of whom is Jamison Green.

To quote James on the subject, “Scientific discussions are not inherently exploitative.  Silence perpetuates the exploitative science that was done.  Discussion is good so long as the discussion eradicates the exploitation. There’s no way to combat the bad science if you don’t discuss it.”

So my next question was then, “Are my discussions eradicating the exploitation?”  At this moment, I’m not sure I have an answer, although I’d like to think that my posts are anti-exploitative.

James continued, “We have every right as trans people to use the language that is available to us to try to articulate our experience.  The unfortunate thing, in our case, is that there is no science about us.  The science is about disorders of sexual development, and they have biological markers that we are able to measure at the present time.  But, trans people need to be very careful not to co-opt the experience of intersex people, even though we use similar language to speak about our own experience.”

In addition to talking with James and other members of the trans community, I have also reached out to knowledgeable people in the intersex community for their input.  I will continue these discussions until I feel that I understand the issues well enough to make a decision on how best to proceed with my blog posts on the origins of gender.

In the meantime, I invite readers to weigh-in with their own insight and opinions in the comments section.

–ATM

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80 Responses to Considering the Ethics of Discussions About the Origins of Gender

  1. Satya says:

    Hi ATM,
    Not only is it ethical to discuss the biological origins of gender, it’s crucial in order to get past the current psychological stigma and the politics that tend to confuse the situation. Having been a student of evolutionary biology and anthropology, I came to my own realizations a few years ago of gender’s origin in biology, and solidified my thinking around it. I think it has a very rational and critical place in the evolution of any sexually-reproducing species, and specifically transgender plays an important role in evolutionary biology. In a nutshell, the mere existence of sexual anatomy doesn’t guarantee that individuals in a community will actually have sex—there also needs to be gender as an emotional motivator to actually want and need to intimately interact with others in certain social ways to ensure that sexual intercourse actually happens. The full text of my explanation is here: http://satyasmind.blogspot.com/p/tmc.html

    Thanks for your post on this!

    • Thank you Satya and J. You make some good points. I still have to wonder, however, whether, by discussing scientific studies of intersex (and trans) people, I am perpetuating the objectification of them by researchers. Sort of like talking about someone when they’re standing right in front of you but failing to acknowledge them or include them in the discussion. It’s not the discussions about the origins of gender, per se, that I am questioning but whether using data from studies about intersex people to do so is wrong.

      • Satya says:

        Hi ATM,
        I think that the objectification of people who live with transgenderness can be reversed through a more open scientific inquiry about the origins of gender. Right now, people like Blanchard, Zucker, Bailey, and Dreger overtly objectify people with transgenderness, and they are the ones currently controlling the dialog on the subject, especially in the psychiatric community. Truly scientific research about the origins of gender can change that, and remove that kind of sexual objectification from the research. Intersex conditions suffer a parallel kind of objectification, but for different reasons, as intersex study is focused more on formation of reproductive anatomy than on emotional, cognitive, and volitional states of consciousness.

        All medical research requires studying subjects who have the conditions being studied, but, for example, studying the efficacy of mastectomy or hysterectomy as preventative treatment against cancer in women who have a high risk for breast or uterine cancer doesn’t have Zucker/Blanchard/Bailey distracting the research with questions about those women’s sexual paraphilias regarding their reproductive systems.

        • Thank you Satya for your comments. I agree that there are issues with the research done by the Blanchards, Zuckers and Baileys of the world.

          You mentioned that intersex study is focused more on anatomy, but there are still quite a few publications about gender of intersex people. If you look at the references in my blog post on CAH, you’ll see that there are quite a few that focus on gender identity or gender-typical behavior in intersex children and adults. I have a similar list of references for people with AIS that I planned to put in the next part of the series. My question is, should I even be referring to papers such as those, as a non-intersex person, to understand the origins of gender to make sense of my transsexuality?

      • Grace Annam says:

        I still have to wonder, however, whether, by discussing scientific studies of intersex (and trans) people, I am perpetuating the objectification of them by researchers.

        I think that there is probably a meaningful difference between these questions:

        Why do people like YOU exist?
        Why do people like ME exist?

        It seems to me that the second question is less likely to carry baggage, and likely to carry less baggage. However, both questions can be problematical, as Julia Serano points out in _Whipping Girl_:

        As a scientist, I can understand why people might feel that “what causes transsexuality?” is a compelling question. But as a trans person I find that such questions invariably reduce me to an object of inquiry and curiosity. In other words, questions of etiology marginalize me.

        and

        Once I accepted my own transsexuality, then it became obvious to me that the question “Why do transsexuals exist?” is not a matter of pure curiosity, but rather an act of non-acceptance, as it invariably occurs in the absence of asking the reciprocal question: “Why do cissexuals exist?” The unceasing search to uncover the cause of transsexuality is designed to keep transsexual gender identities in a perpetually questionable state, thereby ensuring that cissexual gender identities continue to be unquestionable.

        I agree with Julia. The fix is not to not ask questions; asking questions is the first step in scientific inquiry. The fix is to ask the right questions, or at least the rightest possible questions. What if, instead of asking, “why do transsexuals exist?” we asked questions less burdened with heteronormative assumptions:

        What are the variations in human sex and gender, and what are the mechanisms which result in those variations?

        or

        How do humans normally vary, what developmental mechanisms are involved in that variation, and how do those mechanisms work?

        We could even specify nonpathological variations, as long as we define the term with some rigor, as Joan Roughgarden does “genetic defect” in _Evolution’s Rainbow_. She pointed out that there is a very strict mathematical relationship between the degree of reduction in Darwinian fitness which results from a mutation and the frequency of that mutation. A 5% reduction in fitness occurs once in 50,000 births. A 1% reduction occurs once in 10,000. A 0.1% reduction occurs once in 1,000.

        Lynne Conway has demonstrated that the LOWER BOUND on transsexual frequency is about 1:500.

        http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/TSprevalence.html

        In other words, transsexuality is NOT a significantly maladaptive trait in the arc of human evolution. It’s frequency is within normal human variation, using “normal” in its mathematical sense.

        And we should study it from that point of view, not from a point of view which pathologizes it and sets it outside of the bounds of normality.

        Grace

        • Thank you Grace for your insightful and thought-provoking comments. You definitely got me thinking again (and also realizing that I should really finish reading Julia Serano’s book).

          I agree with you that transsexualism is a “natural” human developmental variation. How, then, should we consider the medicalization of transsexualism? If transsexualism is a medical condition as stated by the American Medical Association, would investigation into the etiology of transsexualism be any different than investigation into the etiology of, say, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease or cancer?

      • Grace Annam says:

        Darn it. Blockquoting fail. Is there any way to fix that, ATM?

        Grace

      • Grace Annam says:

        I agree with you that transsexualism is a “natural” human developmental variation. How, then, should we consider the medicalization of transsexualism?

        The same way we nearsightedness, baldness, dental malocclusion, and so on: fix it and move on.

        Baldness is a pretty harmless variation in general, but there’s a reason people with little hair more often wear a hat; without some such prosthesis, you’re more vulnerable to hypothermia and sunstroke. Nearsightedness is probably disadvantageous enough to be called a deleterious mutation in the wild, but it’s adaptive in select circumstances, so I’ll call it a variation. It’s easily fixed with glasses. Dental malocclusion can be minor or very serious, but we have orthodontia.

        So we fix them and move on. It’s simple in concept, but it has a precondition: we have to stop regarding trans people as crazy for knowing that their actual gender is not the one they were assigned at birth.

        All three variations I mention above share two traits which are absent with transsexuality: they are common enough that everyone knows lots of people who have them, and if someone is enough of a jerk to be skeptical, their existence is easily proven. On the other hand, transsexuality is something which is prima facie wrong: every day we categorize people in a split second by what we see, and we’re right more than 99% of the time. Who is this person to tell us we’re wrong when we have all the evidence in front of us, and she can’t present anything but her testimony? There’s only one way to fight a dispute where the other side has evidence: get some evidence of your own.

        Until recently, we had to rely on all sorts of indirect reasoning. But now the direct evidence is starting to mount.

        The more we discover about physical differences between the brains of transsexual women and cissexual men, and between the brains of transsexual men and cissexual women, and the more we discover about physical similarities between trans and cis men and between trans and cis women, the easier it will be to show that transsexuality is a medical condition, and should be treated as such.

        If transsexualism is a medical condition as stated by the American Medical Association, would investigation into the etiology of transsexualism be any different than investigation into the etiology of, say, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease or cancer?

        Yes, because those are diseases, not variations within a norm.

        However, investigation into human development, and how cissexual development differs from transsexual development (or vice versa)? We will reap dividends from that.

        One of the problems we will eventually have to face is when we come up with an objective way to reliably distinguish cissexual people from transsexual people, and then someone comes along who identifies as transsexual but who can’t prove it via the objective method. And then we’ll be right back where we started. And it will happen, because I would bet my life that there are many ways to develop into a transsexual person, just as there are many ways to develop into a cissexual person. But some of the transsexual people who can prove it, using whatever method we discover first, are going to insist that they’re the REAL transsexuals, and the others are just deluded.

        99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer, take one down, pass it around…

        Maybe someday we’ll learn.

        Grace

        • All good points Grace. Thanks for sharing them.

          Your point about nearsightedness and baldness versus diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s is well-taken. But in addition to “fixing” poor eyesight and baldness and then “moving on,” there are people studying the etiology and genetic and environmental mechanisms behind those “natural variations” as well in order to improve the “fixes.” That’s where Propecia came from, after all. People ask, “Why does baldness exist?” so why not ask “Why does transsexualism exist?” Is that so different than asking, “Why does this human variation exist?”? Are not the studies to answer the questions, no matter how they are posed, going to be the same?

  2. j says:

    I’m neither from the trans or intersex community, so I dont have any right to comment. But I want you to know I read this and I am thinking. ATM, scientists must to their job. And activists must do theirs. And knowledge can be used to harm or heal. So it should be used prudently and with discrimination. By the way good to see you in Susans Place. Everyone was so worried abt their hair that I left a link to this place.

    • j says:

      Ummm… I think people understand you are just trying to help in your own way,,, but through using science. And I should think that by throwing open the site to comments, and inviting debate, you ARE including trans and intersex people in the discussion. If you don’t write these articles, someone else will. And if they are not trans, they may not do as good a job in as sensitive, polite and scientific a manner. Look there are enough sites on the emotional issues of being intersex and trans. This site is valuably different. Now go write another of your brilliant scientific pieces! And throw in some non-scientific lighthearted ones, once in a while.

  3. Nicky says:

    As an Intersex/DSD person, I am offended when trans people use intersex language and intersex people do try and articulate their experience. It not only diminishes intersex people. It erases their life experience, their up bringing and their identity as an intersex person. By using Intersex language in the context of trans people, It diminishes intersex people as a whole and It erases intersex people’s history.

    The problem with that is as an intersex/DSD person, I see it every day where trans people Co-opt the experience and upbringing of intersex people on a daily basis. I see trans people online and off line co-opting intersex people and using the intersex community as a base to launch their social and political agenda from.

    Even as an intersex/DSD person, I am not happy at how trans people have claimed intersex and trans are one in the same. It even irritates me when I hear trans people claiming to be intersex and claiming to have an intersex condition.

    • Thank you Nicky for your comments. I think what you are saying is very important. I would add that I agree with you, that intersexuality and transsexuality are not the same. There are some intersex people who also identify as trans, but that’s not the same as trans people who claim to be intersex based only on their transsexuality. What you are talking about, the co-opting of the intersex experience by trans people, does indeed happen and is what Jamison Green warned against, as quoted in my blog. I don’t think that the majority of trans people do this, but there are some who do.

      So now my question to you is, do you have an opinion about the questions I posed in my post? Do you think that research about the gender identities of intersex people is exploitative and objectifying and if so, do you think that the use of those data to explain the basis of gender perpetuates the exploitation and objectification? Or do you think that open discussion is the best way to erase the exploitation? Or do you have an even different opinion?

      Thanks!

      • Satya says:

        I agree with you Nicki (and ATM) that transgenderness and intersex are different and separate things, and attempting to conflate the two in order to try to improve your own social condition does neither situation any service. But I also understand that the motivation for a transgender person to adopt an intersex identity is completely a response to the overwhelming stigmatization and rejection that comes with the lack of understanding of what transgenderness really is, and that’s a stigmatization you reinforced in your comment here.

        When you say that co-opting an intersex identity “diminishes intersex people as a whole”, you are saying that transgenderness is something less than intersex, and you are implying that an association with transgenderness is an insult to the intersex condition. I agree that it’s not constructive for someone who was not born with an intersex condition to claim they were, but I also think it’s destructive to both situations to engage in ‘my condition is better than your condition’ posturing.

        ATM, from a purely scientific perspective of trying to better understand the intersex condition, I think it is valuable to inquire about how ambiguous reproductive genetalia relate to gender in the individual. I think your hesitations on this speak to how that inquiry has been distorted and abused in certain circles, but I can’t see that as a reason to shut down the chance of gaining better unbiased understanding of intersex conditions. I also think that unbiased research into the root of gender through transgender and intersex research can complement and inform each other.

        • Thank you Satya for your comments. I hope that Nicky (note spelling) responds.

          I am not speaking for Nicky but for myself when I say that my own interpretation of what Nicky posted is not the same as yours. I did not take Nicky’s comments as a degradation of transgenderism, nor as an inference that one condition is better or worse than the other. I do think that when trans people appropriate intersex rhetoric, which some do, they do so at the expense of intersex people’s agency.

      • Nicky says:

        I think research into Intersex people either for medical, sociological and psychological is not exploitative or even objectifying. It’s gaining more knowledge and understanding. Even maybe learning how intersex conditions got their start on a genetic and molecular level. I think an open discussion is the best way to learn the difference between a social condition and a medical condition. I think it would just bridge the differences but keeping it seperate

  4. Matt Kailey says:

    This is not to address Nicky’s comment, although I hope that discussion will continue, because I would like to read more of it. This comment is to address the question as a whole.

    I personally don’t pursue biological explanations for transness, partly because I’m not a scientist and I’m so right-brained, but also because I don’t want a biological cause to be found – because, in my mind, a “cause” necessitates a “cure.” I’m not looking to be “cured” or to eradicate transness in the world through medical intervention.

    That said, I think that biological discussions are important for a couple of reasons. I think that there are people looking for “cures” and people who would utilize those cures.

    In addition, I understand that a proven biological cause – a trans “gene” or hormone imbalance or other condition – would “legitimize” transness and treatment for transness. No “choice” argument would hold up. No “cosmetic” argument would hold up. So I understand those who support continuing to look for a biological explanation.

    And I understand that there are those people who just want to know why. Why am I like this? Tell me, and I can deal with it.

    So while I personally am not in favor of finding a cause, I can understand the many benefits of such. So I can speak to how I feel as a trans person, and I can understand why some trans people want to examine every possibility in terms of gaining insight into their own situation.

  5. gr_transguy says:

    Concerning your question about if “discussions on the origins of gender act to reinforce gender stereotypes” I’d have to say “no” because gender and gender stereotypes are not at all the same thing. When discussing the origins of gender, you are simply seeking out the origin of what made someone such as myself feel like my body doesn’t match my brain. That has nothing to do with stereotypes, though there are certainly transpeople out there who may fit into the stereotypes of the gender they identify with. But there are also females out there who like power tools and playing football, yet they still feel like a female. Likewise there are men who like to knit and hold babies but they still feel male.

    I am definitely one of those people that wants to know what caused this–not because I feel a need to legitimize it, though some people may, and your enquiries can be helpful to them as well. In fact, I’d think that helping to show that there is a biological cause could help a lot guys deal with being trans, and probably make it more acceptable to many non-trans people who originally thought it was a mental disorder or a choice. Some people may be offended, but as the saying goes, you can’t please everyone. I don’t think you should let a fear of offending someone take away all the good that others can get from what you are doing. I respect the fact that some people might feel offended, but I also think it should be recognized that you are doing something that can be very beneficial to some people both inside and outside of the trans community. You are helping to promote understanding, which we definitely need more of. And another great benefit to recognizing the science behind gender is just that–that there is science behind it, which goes a long way in showing that transgenderism is not just some mental disorder. If we are ever going to do away with that stigma, and hopefully one day have medical transition regularly covered by insurance, we will need scientific evidence of a biological cause.

    I feel that it is the obligation of science to put the pieces together and give us answers and I’ve been quite disappointed at how little attention transpeople get from the science community. You are definitely an asset.
    Because trans people have been studied so little by scientists, whatever other info is out there that is relevant must be used. This has nothing to do with offending or co-opting anyone else’s condition. It’s just the way it needs to be done, similar to how law is done. If a lawyer wants to persuade a judge to utilize a particular reasoning, that reasoning need not necessarily even be from a similar case. There can be some mandatory authority on a certain aspect of an issue that can be applied to the case at hand. In law, you use what is out there that you can apply to the details of your case and what you use may be from a case that is quite different.

    As I already stated, I’m a person who wants to know the answers. Some people may not want to know the answers because they want to break down the gender categories or just be accepted as whoever they are, regardless of how they got to be transgender. I’m not like that, but I can understand it and I think that attitude has a usefullness in helping to change overall attitudes in a way that reaches well beyond the gender issues within the trans community. But multiple approaches are more beneficial than a single approach, so the science avenue has it’s own important place as well.

    • A legal analogy — very interesting. Thank you for the comments. Unfortunately, I know just as little about law as I do ethics. (Dammit Jim, I’m just a scientist!) And thank you as well for the compliment.

      Okay, if I might play the devil’s advocate for the sake of the discussion and go to one of the comments you made —
      “you can’t please everyone. I don’t think you should let a fear of offending someone take away all the good that others can get from what you are doing. I respect the fact that some people might feel offended, but I also think it should be recognized that you are doing something that can be very beneficial to some people both inside and outside of the trans community. ”

      What if my citations of research involving intersex people are only beneficial to trans and non-trans people, but not intersex people? I’m not saying they are, but I’m not saying they aren’t — just for the sake of the discussion, is it worth benefiting us trans folks at the expense of intersex folks?

      • gr_transguy says:

        Trans people may benefit directly from your research and what you write and they may also benefit indirectly through understanding that non-trans people might gain about transgenderism. And non-trans people, particularly those who know someone or might know someone who is trans will benefit from a greater understanding. This understanding can have a huge impact on a trans person’s life, as you should know. Understanding from non-trans people can be the difference between living or committing suicide for some trans people. So helping to create understanding is most beneficial and I think that you are helping to create understanding.

        I doubt that you could ever say whether your references to intersex studies benefit or don’t benefit intersex people in any way. However, I’m not sure that there is any “expense” to intersex people, other than some people feeling offended, and really, there’s nothing in this world you can do to avoid that. I’m sure somewhere out there, there’s someone who is offended by your reference to monkeys. Maybe lots of someones. Maybe they are offended because they feel humans are way too superior to have the behavior of a mere animal compared to that of a human. Well, there goes one hell of a lot of research out the window if we are going to start worrying that someone might possibly be offended by referencing animal studies. Does the potential of offending someone really carry any weight as a “harm,” especially compared to the benefits that can come out of the research?

  6. Nicky says:

    Well even as an Intersex/DSD person, i think that it’s wrong that trans people use the intersex language and intersex people that their expense for their social gains. It just diminishes what it means to be born with and intersex condition. The problem is, that you have a proliferation of transgender people who are claiming to be intersex and claiming to have an intersex condition. To them, they think that claiming intersex gives them a leg up in society and that they think intersex gives them some legitimate excuse to throw at people for why they are transgender. As a result for them to do that to society diminishes an intersex person’s life history, upbringing and the whole meaning of what it means to be born an intersex person.

    I think that their a very, very few intersex people who claim trans and i believe the number is about 1% of the intersex population that do. The rest of the Intersex people such as myself, just want nothing to do with transgender or even the larger extent the whole LGBT community. The vast majority of intersex people just simply wants to be left alone to heal from all the medical and scientific abuse that has been done to intersex people.

    The issue with transgender people co-opting the intersex community is that for transgender people, some thing intersex and transgender people are one in the same. Some within the trans community think Intersex is a subset of transgender and some even think that transgender people can claim intersex as a sexual identity and a sexual orientation. The problem with the way some transgender people think of intersex people in their context. It just makes life even harder for intersex people to exists and live. The problems I see, is that when ever you say your intersex/DSD people tend to thing your trans or LGBT without thinking intersex is a medical condition. The problem their is that some transgender people have turned intersex conditions from a medical condition to a social, and sexual identity. Which results in intersex people being classed with transgender people and making life harder for intersex people to exists.

    For the biological cause, I think some in the transgender community are trying to find a biological cause. That’s because to find the biological answer to who they are would legitimize their existence. Much in the same way as as transgender people trying to find existence linked to intersex people and their intersex condition. Their are some within the transgender community who think that they are intersex and they are some form of an intersex condition. Which the problem is, that their very little scientific evidence to go on and the proof is either nonexistent or not their at all.

    Their is a essay that I want you to look at and understand why it’s a bad idea for transgender people to claim intersex. It’s called by Raven Kaldera

    • gr_transguy says:

      “Their are some within the transgender community who think that they are intersex and they are some form of an intersex condition. Which the problem is, that their very little scientific evidence to go on and the proof is either nonexistent or not their at all.”

      This is true that there is little scientific evidence out there about trans people, which is why we must look to research about intersex people. However, the research is not completely non-existent, and there is the possibility that trans people are transgender because of an interesex condition, or a condition that can cause some people to become intersex.

      I hear your point of view, Nicky, however, it’s only your point of view and I would beg to differ with you that all intersex people feel the way that you do and want to be separate from the trans or glbt community, or that people in general automatically associate intersex with transgender.

      However, the fact is that there is some overlap in our struggles. This type of overlap also exists between the trans and gay communities, which is why the T has been tacked onto the GLB. Believe me, many GLB don’t want us there and feel there such a big difference between trans and gay that we shouldn’t be in the same group. Not having come from the gay community myself, I had a very hard time at first in being placed in a group that’s called “queer” and that had people with issues unlike any that I had ever thought of before and I didn’t want to be included along with the GLB. But even though there are some differences, I came to realize there are also some similarities and it is in those similarities that we need to unite for the benefit of us all.

      Another point I want to touch on is that you seem to be categorizing trans people as completely separate from intersex people, and even suggesting that trans people are usurping the intersex condition. While I have on a couple of occasions noticed some transmen doing that, it is rare that I see that (and I do believe that it’s wrong because it’s not true. Having genitalia that have become ambiguous because of the use of testosterone does not make one become intersex). However, that is not to say that transgenderism does not arise from an intersex condition. There is some evidence out there to suggest that CAH is more prevalent among transmen than in the general population. This condition, in it’s more severe form, can result in females born with ambiguous genitalia (intersex). But there are also moderate and mild forms of the condition which can easily go undiagnosed because the physical effects are not so obvious. So while intersex is not a subset of transgender, transgender may be a “subset” of intersex. And that is something that needs to be explored, but if we never discuss the possibility that there may be a connection between transgenderism and intersex conditions just because the research doesn’t exist, then the research will probably never get done. Research requires a starting point. If we can see a possible connection, then we can design research to test that connection. But if we ignore possible connections, then it’s a game of chance as to whether or not a connection will just happen to be discovered in the course of some other research.

      As for your statement “For the biological cause, I think some in the transgender community are trying to find a biological cause. That’s because to find the biological answer to who they are would legitimize their existence.” Well, I don’t need any type of biological answer to legitimize my existence and I don’t think any other trans people do either. We have a right to exist–as transgender persons–whether there is a biological cause or not. However, some seek to legitimize the condition as something other than a mental condition, and with good reason. It is not a mental disorder, at least not in me and I’m sure there are a lot of other trans people who do not feel they have a mental disorder either. So if it’s not a mental disorder, the cause for the body and brain not matching up must be biological or spiritual. The spiritual avenue is pretty impossible to study, but the biological avenue isn’t. And finding the biological cause is important for a number of reasons, many of which include legal rights to fair and equal treatment in the social and healthcare systems. Also, the underlying biological condition may have other biological effects that need to be known. I’ll use CAH for an example again. This condition doesn’t just cause virilization of a female body. It’s a genetic disorder that causes hormone imbalances that can cause other medical problems. So if a person has CAH and doesn’t know it, it would be good to find out. Thus, if there is a connection between being trans and having CAH (or any other medical condition, such as PCOS), this needs to be explored in order to discover what other medical problems might exist.

      • Nicky says:

        That’s where your wrong, because Transgender people are not intersex to begin with. That is because you have to have the genetics’s, DNA and chromosomes of an intersex condition to be born as an intersex person. You have to fit the medically narrow defined definitions of what is considered to be intersex. Intersex is what you are born into from day one as oppose to Transgender is something you choose to and their is no biological link, that I know of.

        Currently, their is no scientific link that I know of that says transgender could be intersex. I know their are lots of research being done on intersex conditions and those can be found in the National institute of health’s PUBMED library. At the moment, their is no way that a transgender person could claim intersex without being thoroughly tested for it. If they are found to be intersex, then they would not be called transgender. Under the current DSM guidelines, if an intersex person rejects what is medically assigned to them, they are classified as trans having GIDNOS. Also, under the HBSoC and WPATH guide intersex people are exempt from meeting the transgender Dx.

        The problem is, that the vast majority of Intersex people do not want anything to do with the LGBT community. The vast majority just simply want to be left alone and left to heal from the medical and scientific abuse that has been done to intersex people. Their is a tiny minority that dose want to be part of the LGBT community, but most don’t and most just simply want to get on with their lives in spite of having an intersex medical condition. Also, their are no overlapping similarities because intersex needs and issues are far different than those in the transgender community. Intersex needs are more of a medical issue than social and gender. That’s why Intersex issues are never the same as a transgender.

        Now again this is where u are wrong because transgender is not a subset of the intersex community and the current science dose not even support that claim. That’s why intersex people get very offended when transgender people claim that transgender is a subset of the intersex. They do that without showing all the scientific proof of that claim. It’s also why intersex people don’t want to transgender to be a subset of the intersex because the science is not their to support it. Also transgenderism does not ever rise from intersex because it is not possible. Their is very little evidence that transmen have CAH because the data is very much inconclusive and it is incomplete to say if it’s true. See, what you don’t seem to get is that to have ambiguous genitals, you have to be born biologically with an intersex condition.

        See, I think you don’t understand gr_transguy that Intersex has to be treated like a medical condition and not be treated like a social condition. What you don’t understand is that some transgender people who will go to any lengths to find a biological cause such as intersex. Because to them, if they think they are linked to intersex, then they start using intersex as an excuse to throw at people and that will result in society conflating intersex with transgender people. That will make society even more confused as to what is intersex and what is transgender.

        Read this and you will understand why is it so dangerous for transgender people to mix in with intersex people;
        Dangerous Intersections: Intersex and Transgender Differences
        http://www.ravenkaldera.org/intersection/DangerousIntersections.html

        Adding the “I”: Does Intersex Belong in the LGBT Movement?
        http://www.intersexinitiative.org/articles/lgbti.html

  7. Wow, this is some really great discussion. I would like to thank all of the people who have participated.

    Nicky, just to let you know that the post above that you made was held back by Word Press because it had website links in it – I approved it when I got home from work. By the way, thank you for the links. I learned a few things when I read the essays. I have not met Raven Kaldera but I have heard many good things about him.

    I was going to stay out of the debate but I think I’ll toss in a few opinions. Okay, maybe more than a few.

    First, regarding the inclusion of the T in the GLB, sure, many people within the community don’t get why the T should be with the GLB. It’s about gender expression. The freedom to not be judged or discriminated against because we don’t hold to rigid gender stereotypes, whether it be the butch lesbian, the effeminate gay man, the crossdresser or the transsexual.

    Second, although it’s true that diagnosis of GID is separate from an intersex diagnosis, that does not negate the intersex people who were raised in a gender that does not match their sense of self, and so although they would not technically be diagnosed as trans, they can still *identify* as trans (like Raven Kaldera, for example).

    Third, speculating that CAH might be an underlying cause of transsexualism does not make it so. Appropriation of the intersex label by trans people should be based on more than a theory.

    On the other hand (Fourth), trans people cannot afford the expensive chromosomal and genetic analyses and tests required to rule out intersexuality and the medical establishment and insurance companies certainly aren’t going to do it for us.

    Fifth, I’m not sure that all transsexuals who co-opt the intersex identity do so for social legitimization. Some may do it to try to make sense of their own experience for themselves. When I first realized I was trans, I was convinced that I was intersex and my parents just hadn’t told me. It was a way for me to try to come to grips with who I was — it made more sense to me than, “Sorry, but your mind and your body are not congruent.” At the time, I knew nothing about these debates or the issues that intersex people face — I only knew that I needed something to hold onto. I don’t say that to give support to trans people who claim the intersex identity; I only tell the story to explain that not all trans people have the same motivations.

    Sixth, Nicky, I value this dialog because I am learning more about intersex people because of it, so I hope you are able to do the same and learn more about trans people. I hope you can put aside your frustrations with trans people to be open to my reply to your comment, “Transgender is something you choose.” This is not an opinion — this is fact: Trans people do not *choose* to be trans. It’s who we are, just as homosexuals are who they are, just as intersex people are who they are. We might choose how to deal with our mind/body mis-match and make decisions as to what steps to take, if any, to medically transition, but we are who we are and we are trans. There’s no choice involved there.

    Along those lines (seventh), transsexualism *is* a medical condition. Yes, it has social ramifications, but so does intersexuality (although different than those for trans people).

    Eighth (and now this is an opinion again), I firmly believe that there is a biological basis for transsexuality (or more than one) and that eventually we will know what it is. However, that still does not mean that trans people fall under the intersex umbrella and so I do agree that trans people, without the proper medical, genetic or biological evidence, should not appropriate the intersex label for themselves, for all the reasons that are given in the two great essays that Nicky shared with us.

    • Nicky says:

      Well that maybe because some of the older gays and lesbians are still resentful of transgender people being in the LGB. Despite the younger generation openness to include them. It’s the older gays and lesbians who been around that still believe that trans has no place within the gay community.

      As for Raven Kaldera, I like his essays very much and what he writes about trans and intersex issues, makes it very clear that Raven Kaldera feels that it is very dangerous for transgender people to claim intersex. That he feels that any transgender trying to claim intersex amounts to claiming a nonexistent disability or claiming a minority status in order to get a leg up. I respect Raven Kaldera’s views and his writings are very well sound and very well regarded.

      With the GID diagnosis, in terms of DSM a GIDNOS diagnosis is for intersex people who reject what is medically assigned to them at birth. That is why medicine classifies any intersex person who rejects what is given to them medically as having GIDNOS. That’s why most intersex people stay the way they are. Those that do reject what medicine tells them. They are then classified as a transgender having GIDNOS. Now under WPATH and HBSoC intersex people are clearly exempt from meeting a transgender diagnosis and having an intersex condition bars you from meeting the transgender guidelines under WPATH and HBSoC.

      The problem with Raven Kaldera, he reassigned from female to male because he’s intersex person. As a result under DSM he is classified as a transgender having GIDNOS because he rejected what was assigned to him medically as an intersex person. Under DSM, he can’t be called intersex, but WPATH and HBSoC, he can despite him transitioning from female to male as an intersex person and not as a transgender.

      The problem with the theory of CAH and trans is that it’s just a theory and as of right now, it has not be proven as scientific fact. All it does is it appropriates intersex labels by transgender people without ever having any concrete scientific facts to back up the theory.

      Genetic testing and testing for intersex conditions is expensive and that’s why insurance companies only cover for intersex conditions and not for transgender. As an intersex person, I know i am covered for genetic testing, chromosome testing, Hormone testing and intersex care because some consider intersex to be a medical disability and a rare condition.

      Okay, I understand ATM that transgender people think they didn’t choose. The problem i see their is that they are looking for all the reasons why they are that way and trying to latch on to the intersex community as if they have an intersex condition without being tested for one. Like me, I choose to live my life as a normal human being despite having an intersex condition and having an extra chromosomes in my body. I don’t see myself as either male nor female. I see myself as an intersex person.

      The problems i see where transgender people think that intersex people choose who they are. Well if I was able to choose, then someone should have at least told me when I was in my mothers womb being formed. That i had the right to choose my chromosomes and my body. See the problem here is that transgender people don’t understand that intersex people didn’t choose to be born intersex. Intersex people didn’t choose to be mutilated and cut by surgeons. Intersex people didn’t choose to be lab rats and didn’t choose to be medical oddities.

      At the moment, i don’t believe that transgenderism dose not have a biological basis for transsexuality. That is because the evidence is very little and that medical technology is not advanced enough for us to know. That’s why within the intersex community most will not support the transsexual biological origin theory because their not enough evidence to make it proven.

      Both essays are written by very well known and respect intersex advocates such as Raven Kaldera and Emi Koyama of the Intersex Initiative. I highly recommend everyone take the time to read them and understand why their theory’s and ideas are sound.

      • Hi Nicky.
        I think we see things similarly, just from opposite sides of the fence (whatever fence that happens to be).

        I am troubled by this statement, “transgender people don’t understand that intersex people didn’t choose to be born intersex.” I have never seen evidence of trans people having the opinion that intersex people have a choice. I think trans people accept that intersex people had no more choice in the matter of who they are than we did. I do think that some trans people don’t fully understand the issues that intersex people face. I hope people will read the essays you provided to learn something that might be new to them.

        One other comment I would make would be to suggest that blanket statements cannot be the reality. For example, “The problem i see their is that they are looking for all the reasons why they are that way and trying to latch on to the intersex community as if they have an intersex condition without being tested for one.” is a blanket statement about all trans people. If I said, “Intersex people identify as trans,” then that would be an untrue blanket statement. Only some intersex people identify as trans. Similarly, only some trans people co-opt the intersex identity, a minority in the community I think, just like you estimate that a minority of intersex people identify as trans. Sometimes, however, it’s the smallest number of people who can cause the biggest problems. You seem frustrated with trans people co-opting the intersex experience, and rightly so. I just hope that you don’t see all trans people through the lens of that frustration, because the majority of us do not consider ourselves intersex.

        Lastly, for this statement, “some of the older gays and lesbians are still resentful of transgender people being in the LGB” — I think some gays and lesbians still don’t even want the bisexual people in the same group with them…

        I appreciate the great discussion, Nicky.

        • Hah! I just noticed that I used a blanket statement in my second paragraph… shame on me!!!

          Ahem… I would like to think trans people accept that intersex people had no more choice in the matter of who they are than we did.

      • Grace Annam says:

        I got a chuckle out of this:

        Nicky, after referencing Raven Kaldera: “As for Raven Kaldera, I like his essays very much and what he writes about trans and intersex issues, makes it very clear that Raven Kaldera feels that it is very dangerous for transgender people to claim intersex. ”

        Raven Kaldera, in THE FIRST SENTENCE of the page he wrote which NICKY REFERENCED: “I’m an intersexual, and I’m also transgendered.”

        Delicious.

        Grace

  8. Nicky says:

    For me, as an intersex person, the way I see it from my side of the intersex fence. Though I am all for better fences make better neighbors.

    I have seen some transgender make that statement and I have even seen some transgender make statements implying that intersex is a subset of transgender and even some claiming that intersex and transgender are one in the same. That as a result conflates intersex with transgender and it causes society to confuse intersex people with transgender people. I know a dialogue is a good thing, but as long as people are aware of differences in the two groups.

    Well, their are some transgender people out their who do latch on to the intersex condition without being tested for one. I have even seen some claim to have “HBS” or even an “Intersex brain”. As for Intersex people identifying as trans, it is an extremely small minority of less than 1% that do. Even those that do, don’t become intersex because under the DSM rules that states that they are GIDNOS and not intersex.

    Well I have been frustrated because I have seen the intersex community being used by the transgender community as a base for their social and political agenda. I have seen some transgender people turn the intersex community and the intersex identity from a medical condition to a sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result of that, it makes life harder for intersex people to exist. It even puts intersex kids and babies in danger because if their parents find out that their intersex kid and baby could wind up growing up trans. The parents are going to shove their intersex kid and baby into more needless, necessary and very traumatic surgery. Which would result in a more mentally, physically and emotionally traumatized intersex child and baby. That’s why I am weary of transgender people co-opting the intersex community because of what it’s going to do to the intersex kids and babies.

    As an intersex person, I don’t want to see another intersex child or baby to go through what I had to go through. I don’t want them to experience what I had and I’m all for letting them to grow up and let them decide when they are ready. I’m also against surgery of any kind for intersex people until they are of legal age of consent.

  9. I have been trying to figure out how to make a new comment that does not look like a reply of an existing comment, and I can’t figure it out, so I hope this works.

    This has been a great discussion and I hope that people continue to comment if they have more to say in the thread.

    We have, however, gotten away from the original subject of the post, which I would like to go back to. Let’s talk about the research of intersex people and my citation of that research in my blog posts. Here is an analogy:

    What if there was a prison where doctors performed scientific experiments on the prisoners without their consent? That would be unethical, right? And what if the data from those unethical experiments were published in the public domain? And what if I cited those data in my blog post to answer questions about my own issues? Would it be unethical for me to use data that were unethically derived?

    The analogy would be with the research about the gender and gender behavior of intersex children. The research was done with the parents’ consent, but not the consent of the children. And then those data were published and I cite them in my blog to try to make sense of my own experience.

    Two questions then: Are the studies on intersex children as unethical as the hypothetical studies on prisoners? And, if so, am I being unethical by citing the studies that were performed unethically on intersex children?

    That’s really what I’ve been interested in answering with this blog post. Anyone have any thoughts to that?

    • Nicky says:

      Okay, I think research is good and Research into intersex condition is okay as long as you follow standard research protocols and rules. I’m in favor of research for intersex conditions because the more we understand intersex conditions, the more were able to diagnose and treat intersex conditions. We may not be able to cure intersex, but understanding the biological and medical science of it will help in finding treatments and even better understanding of the human genetics.

  10. gr_transguy says:

    1. NO. You’re comparing apples to oranges.
    2. irrelevant

    • Nice strong response. Now I can ask, “Why?”

      • gr_transguy says:

        I was angry and frustrated at trying to reason with someone so unreasonable, contemplated responding to his post, decided it would be a wasted effort, and just read on in the blog instead–still steaming. Was a bit upset that you were trying to appease him. Guess I inadvertently took my frustration out on you. Sorry, man. (and sorry this response took so long, haven’t been at the computer much the last couple days.)

  11. j says:

    If I had an intersex baby, and if a highly recommended specialist wanted to conduct 1-2 small blood tests and brain scans… anything that wouldn’t cause physical change, hurt or embarrass my kid, I’d say yes. Conditions: I am in the room with my kid at all times, his name is kept anonymous, if he objects I won’t force him. No medication/ substance is to be given to my kid. Studies should not be used against my kid. I want a legal document stating how the research is going to be used, and for what.

    My kid comes first. Science second. And yes, I will use legal means to protect my kid, because I don’t want to leave things to chance.

    I’d give permission because I feel intersex children, adults, have an even tougher time in life, and I’m hoping through my co-operation scientists will invent a pill that pregnant women can swallow and her kid wont be born intersex.

    ATM, I believe most of the parents acted in the best interests of their children. I don’t see it as being exploitative. I see it as being helpful.

    Are you being wrong to use the research?
    That depends on:
    Were the kids harmed? Were they forced? Were their bodies altered? Has the research caused them a lifetime of mental trauma? Were their identities not safe-guarded? Did they grow into unhealthy adults because of those tests?
    If the answers are yes, then please don’t use the research. Moreover you have an obligation to expose these unethical researchers.

    And Nicky, (hello… good to meet you). You said “It even puts intersex kids and babies in danger because if their parents find out that their intersex kid and baby could wind up growing up trans. The parents are going to shove their intersex kid and baby into more needless, unnecessary and very traumatic surgery. Which would result in a more mentally, physically and emotionally traumatized intersex child and baby.”

    Nicky, I’m stunned. It got me thinking: are there any websites to guide parents who find themselves in this situation. There are so may trans sites. But none I’ve seen for parents with intersex kids. You know, parents can get so panicky and hysterical, they have knee jerk reactions all the time. Many are not aware they are not supposed to do this. Is anyone educating them? I’m so very glad you wrote this. But how many parents will read what you have written? After reading this I can understand your anguish and frustration. If not the trans community then is anyone working to educate doctors who will then educate the parents?

    ATM, I hope I’ve not gone off topic and I hope I have answered your question. If this is an unnecessary deviation, pls feel free to delete my answer.

    • Nicky says:

      Hi J
      I know a lot of intersex groups and I will put a link to my blog where it has all the intersex groups out their. I am friends with a lot of intersex groups that I know of that work towards children of intersex conditions.

      My Reason for being very weary of transgender people within the intersex community is what will the parents of intersex kids and babies think of their kids in the context of transgender people. I know parents can get panicky, hysterical and very scared of the intersex child if they see a transgender person, think and assume that their intersex child could wind up like a transgender. That’s why I am against allying with transgender on the grounds that we don’t need another needless intersex child to be forced into the operating table and having them go though the forced surgery. Which would result in an unhealthy adult and a very traumatized and abused person. We simply have to think about the intersex kids and any kids in general first before anyone else.

      As for the research J, I am in favor of intersex research as long as research rules are followed and test subjects are kept very confidential. I would make sure that any research on intersex people goes through an ethics board or even an institute research board for review prior to doing any intersex research.

      My blog is

  12. j says:

    Maybe this is not relevant to the topic. But here is why you need more research. Doctors themselves need education

    • j says:

      Hi Nicky, thanks. I was already onto your blog. no no… you misunderstood my statement … I said “parents get panicky when they see their baby is intersex ” not because of the ‘kid being transgender’, but because all parents have this desire to ‘fix’ things in their kid and make their kid look like other kids. And if you have ignorant doctors like the one in the video above, see what happens! I’m Asian like you. and you know how we treat doctors like Gods.. never questioning them. And endocrinology is the most tough of all medical disciplines. I’m very new to this world of Transgender and intersex people. Till April or March this year, I did not really know what the words meant. But I’ll continue our conversation on your blog sometime later. We’ve all gone away from ATM’s topic!

      • Nicky says:

        Yea, but still I think researching intersex people is a good thing as long as it meets scientific and academic standards.

  13. Satya,
    I believe I owe you an apology – seems you were right. I went to Nicky’s blog and found it to be fairly transphobic.

    We’ve been respectful to you here Nicky, and it’s a shame that you apply bitterness toward all trans people on your blog. Repeatedly referring to the Houston firefighter’s widow by her birth (male) name is just rude and disrespectful, not to mention your statement that *all* transsexuals lie about *everything.* If the firefighter’s widow is claiming to be intersex when she actually is not, then condemn her when the truth comes out. At the moment, none of us know whether she is or is not intersex, including you.

    I copied this statement from the Intersex Soceity of North America website that you have linked on your blog: “We also believe that people with intersex conditions and folks who identify as transgender or transsexual can and should continue to work together on human rights issues”

    It’s too bad that you do not hold this kind of collaborative spirit for our two communities rather than condemn all trans people for the acts of a relatively small number who co-opt the intersex identity.

    • Nicky says:

      Well I am for intersex people only and I don’t consider my writings to be transphobic because to me, calling someone transphobic is like Rev Al sharpton and the NAACP throwing out the race card at people who says things racist things about people’s race. My writings is about protecting the interest of intersex people including intersex kids and intersex babies. It’s all point out to those who claim try and claim intersex so they can get a leg up in society.

      As for the Houston TX thing, I am going by with what Texas law states in writing that blog post and under Texas Law, they do not consider that transgender person to be a woman in the eyes of Texas law. Texas has a standard called Chromosomes and DNA. I write that blog post in the context of what Texas Law states. I don’t consider that to be transphobic because all it’s nothing more than a strawman’s argument, without thinking critically, logically and common sense.

      If you read carefully, ISNA dose not support transgender people within the intersex community. They only wrote that to appease curtain people within the intersex community. That’s why ISNA no longer exist and what became of ISNA is now Accord Alliance.

      • You think that statements that transsexuals are liars about everything is not transphobic? Really? Come on Nicky, can’t you protect the interests of intersex people without attacking ALL trans people?

        And you think it’s okay to hide behind a Texas marriage law to be insulting toward this woman? You repeatedly called her by her male name — what does that have to do with Texas marriage laws? Her legal name is her female name.

        I never said that trans people should be IN the intersex community and I never wrote that the ISNA said that either. I said collaborative spirit for the two communities. That means working together, which is what the ISNA wrote and something you don’t seem to be about.

      • Nicky says:

        Calling someone transphobic is like calling the kettle black. when you call someone transphobic, it means you have nothing sensable to say to a person. Calling me transphobic doesn’t mean nothing to me anymore. The word transphobic is meaningless in my book.

        I protect the interest of intersex people because I do not want to see another generation of intersex people growing up confused, messed up, traumatized or even abused by the medical and scientific community. When you have transgender people trying to claim intersex, what do you think Parents are going to do to their intersex child and baby? That’s why I fight to make sure intersex people’s interest are protected and to make sure that parents of intersex kids and babies are not being shoved into the operating table. Making sure they are not forcing their intersex child and baby into needless, unnecessary and very traumatic surgery, all on the count that their parents panicked that their intersex child and baby could wind up growing up trans.

        I go by what the LAW says in Texas, even though I am not from around their. If Texas doesn’t recognize same sex marriages and transgender people. Then that’s Texas law and that’s their laws. They have a every right to define things under their laws and i wrote that blog in the context of what Texas state law says about same sex marriage and transgender people.

        If you really think ISNA is all about working together, I would think long and hard. Even research more about ISNA and their connections to DSD(Disorders of Sexual development) and Accord Alliance. I would even look into the likes of Alice Dreger, Emi Koyama and Anne Fausto-Sterling. It’s obvious you don’t know enough about intersex history.

        • You still haven’t explained your comment that you wrote in your blog that transsexuals lie about everything, but I don’t expect an answer. You talk in circles and repeat yourself. You also attack the entire transgender community as your means of supporting the intersex community – I suppose that’s the easy thing to do rather than address specific people or issues, but it’s not going to accomplish much. It’s ironic that you find Raven Kaldera quote-worthy and yet you attack the very trans community with which he identifies.

          As for Texas marriage laws, they have nothing to do with this woman’s legal name, which I asked you about twice and which you still haven’t addressed. I suspect you used her male birth name to purposely be disrespectful because you are transphobic. And once again, I will point out that you do not know for sure whether she is intersex. She will get her day in court and if it turns out she was lying about being intersex, then you and everyone else can give her holy hell but until then, you know no more about her than she knows about you. You have decided she is guilty before you know the facts.

          Lastly, I know about the Accord Alliance – they’re the ones I referred to in my blog post when I said I contacted someone knowledgeable in the intersex community to ask their opinion regarding research of intersex people. They have not replied.
          I know who Alice Dreger is. If you look at my blogroll, you will see that I have a link for the Bioethics Forum for which Alice Dreger is a writer.
          I know who Anne Fausto-Sterling is and I have her book Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality.

          Please do not presume to know what I do and do not know. You don’t know squat about me.
          I think it’s time for you to go back to your own blog now.

  14. Nicky says:

    I think you don’t understand why intersex people like me are fearful of transgender people claiming intersex and why you are calling someone a transphobic. This is quoted from Raven Kaldera;

    “The suspicion of the IS community towards the TG community stems from more than just internalized transphobia. Intersexuals have been continually assaulted by transgender activists who offer to do work for us only because they feel that it will look good on their activist resume (to have an “in” with the “real” freaks, I suppose), and transsexuals who express envy to those of us who have been mutilated at birth. (“You’re so lucky! You got the sex change that I wanted!”) This latter disastrous bit of public relations probably stems from thoughtless but well-meaning frustration, but it comes across on the IS end with all the charm of an amputee fetishist expressing envy to a former marathon runner who lost both legs in an accident. Intersexuals also have some discomfort with the nebulous labels of the TG community; let’s face it – ask any four different transfolk where the difference lies between “transgender” and “transsexual” and you’ll get four different answers. Perhaps we, the transgender community to which I also belong, should maybe work on nailing down some common definition of our existing labels before we go appropriating more. “

  15. j says:

    Friends … we have contributed our ideas: some say yes if done in an ethical way, others have other interesting and valid opinions on ATM’s question. But the topic has gone elsewhere now to ‘transphobia’ and ‘warring groups’. Please get back to the main topic. And sweeten your remarks to each other.

    • Sorry J. I have been supportive of Nicky’s point of view and the dialog contributed to this blog post but reading Nicky’s blog has quite a different flavor to it. It’s very anti-trans, all-encompassing, rude and disrespectful, and Nicky repeatedly defends it. What am I supposed to say to that? All transssexuals lie about everything? Should I agree to that? I was fine until I read that blog. Nicky respects Raven Kaldera but does not seem to respect what Raven Kaldera stands for. It’s a shame.

  16. j says:

    Nevermind ATM. It’s okay; these things happen. It could have been a useful debate; unfortunately emotions got in the way and diplomacy was forgotten. So let’s all go in peace to another topic when you feel it’s time.

    • True. After sleeping on it, I wish I had slept on it… before replying about Nicky’s blog, that is. This will be a good learning experience, especially since I’m new to blogging.

      • Zoe Brain says:

        Don’t worry about Nicky. He’s a notorious troll, who has been ejected from every Intersex forum he’s ever been on for obsessive transphobia.

        Most of his comments here have been relatively sane, even constructive. But in every forum he eventually goes off the rails, blaming trans people for everything from genitally mutilating intersex kids to being pedophiles. He also uses multiple aliasses and sockpuppets.

        He also claims all IS people who disagree with him – such as Gina Wilson from OII Australia, Sophia Sedelberg for OII international, myself and many others – are all actually trans people who have infiltrated IS groups for nefarious purposes.

        I think he actually believes this, he’s got a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock, if you get my drift.

      • Nicky says:

        I wouldn’t even worry about Zoe Brain, because Zoe Brain is not an Intersex person like me and is in fact a transsexual with an identity crisis. Zoe is not even an intersex person and has been trying to claim everything under the sun and can’t even explain his intersex condition to people. Zoe Brain has even been caught lying as a woman in front of Radical feminist and has been caught lying by the likes of Dirt and Polly. Even Kailana Alaniz has known that Zoe Brain is not an Intersex person and she has caught Zoe lying time after time. If you want to know what Zoe really says about Intersex people, the links will be provided below.

        As for Zoe Brain, Zoe likes to think he’s an intersex person and likes to clam he has everything from 5ARD to severe androgenised non pregnant woman. Zoe even likes to claim he has “an intersex like condition” when even Kailana Alaniz knew that Zoe isn’t intersex with that line. Zoe got caught lying about being an intersex person to Kailana Alaniz and I have been going after him for lying in front of Kailana about being an intersex person.

        Even their is a blog out their called Women born transsexual, Enough Non-Sense, AROO and miss Andrea’s blog has known that Zoe brain is a fraud to them and has known well that Zoe Brain is not an Intersex person and is in fact a transsexual with an Identity crisis. That’s why Zoe is no friend to feminist and to those in the HBS community

        Even Zoe likes to claim that transsexuality is a subset of the intersex and he will troll the internet to make that claim. Just so he can make people validate his existence. Zoe likes to claim that he is intersex and tries to hard but fails miserably to claim he’s an intersex person. In fact, Zoe brain takes a drug which in Australia, he is branded as a registered sex offender and that drug is Andorcur. Also for a Kicker Zoe likes to claim that transsexuals have an intersex brain, when even Kailana Alaniz has even told Zoe that the theory is unproven.

        The problem with Zoe Brain that Kailana Alaniz has told me is that Zoe likes to push to people that Intersex has something to do with Transsexuality. Zoe Brain likes to push the “Transsexuality is a subset of Intersexuality” crap to intersex people and intersex people like me know what’s going to happen. That is Why Zoe Brain is not on any intersex forum and intersex sites because Zoe has had a spat with Kailana AlAniz.

        We’re all intersex

  17. Zoe Brain says:

    BTW – Texas law was amended not all that long ago, long after the Judge in Littleton vs Prange called on the legislature to change the legislation if they wanted a different outcome.

    Under the Family Code, Title 1, Subtitle A. Marriage, Chapter 2, Sub-chapter A, Age and Identification, forms of Identity document:
    “(8) an original or certified copy of a court order relating to the applicant’s name change or sex change;”

  18. j says:

    Anyway this is mostly (so far) a blog about endocrinology, so once in a while if we have a bit of disruption in our online classroom, it’s like a student paperball fight- a diversion. Any class on medical ethics will of course get heated. You posed a very interesting question. Look on the brighter side… my brains got shaken with all that happened and now I WANT to get back to safe studies. I’ll print your past chapters and study this weekend.

    • Haha.. thanks J. I am still swamped with work, probably until Monday morning — working through another weekend, so Part 4 of the series, which I likely will write, will not be until after the weekend. Big hairy deadline on Monday…

  19. G’day Zoe. Nice to see you here and cool to meet you. And thanks for the info.

    By the way folks, I came home late from work today to find 21 spam comments caught in the filter along with one “legitimate” comment from Nicky. I feel that unless they’re offensive, everyone’s comments should be aired. Open dialog solves problems and brings people together (for the most part) so I am going to approve Nicky’s comment.

    Oh, and gr_transman, I don’t feel that I was trying to “appease” Nicky. I actually agreed with Nicky, and on the one point I did not agree upon, Nicky reversed course. Nicky’s blog, on the other hand, is loaded with anti-trans rhetoric and so no one should be surprised, especially Nicky, that it will alienate trans people.

    • Zoe Brain says:

      I completely agree with letting Nicky’s comments be published. I even let him do the same on my own blog – as long as he uses a constant monicker, and doesn’t pretend to be a dozen different people.

      Something else – before his last meltdown, he made some constructive contributions here. When his illness doesn’t get in the way, he shows a keen intellect, and if you ignore the obsessive/compulsive transphobia on his blog, there’s some good things there.

      • Yes, he did make some good points and I agreed with pretty much everything Nicky said except when he said that trans people “have a choice.” If I had not reacted immediately (i.e. emotionally) to his blog, I might have been able to have a more constructive dialog with him about it. Unfortunately, he ruins his credibility with exaggeration and rhetoric against the entire trans community. But I guess I don’t need to tell you that.

  20. j says:

    I’ts ok. All the best for your deadline.

  21. Thanks J.

    By the way, Zoe, would you be interested in commenting on the original question for this post? What do you think about research of intersex children and adults regarding gender-typical behavior and gender identity and of people (like me) who use those data to investigate the origins of gender?

    • Zoe Brain says:

      I’ve been guilty of the same thing myself. See http://aebrain.blogspot.com/2008/06/bigender-and-brain.html

      The point is, although we can perform experiments on animals, manipulating hormonal environment in foetu and observing both neuro-anatomical and behavioural variance from the norm, we can’t do the same on humans.

      We therefore have to rely on “Nature’s Experiments” and those accidentally exposed to hormonal drugs such as DES, to determine to what extent the animal studies are valid for H.Sap.. Intersexed people.

      Then there’s the question of exactly what we mean by “gender” and “gendered behaviour”. From my own observations, and treat these figures as rubbery guesses rather than well-evidenced estimates, I’d say that perhaps 70% of what is commonly thought of as “gendered behaviour” is purely socially constructed, with no measurable biological component. Such behaviour varies between societies, and between geographic and historical millieu.

      Another 20% has some biological basis, but is grossly exaggerated and reinforced by sociological forces – the same factors responsible for the differences in social construction.

      For an example of the latter – African Americans, through an accident of history, have had less opportunities for educational advancement than their white counterparts in the past. First, the whole Slavery thing, and then systematised legal persecution. Poor nutrition over a century ago would also have had an effect, putting a small statistical bias stunting their intellectual capacities, but it’s the socio-economic issues that dominate.

      There is no evidence whatsoever of any biological basis for a difference in educational achievement compared with other racial groups. However, as has been well-documented, African-American children who excel academically are often accused of “acting white”, and there is intense peer-pressure for them to slack off, so as to be part of “their” group and not been seen as sellouts. Thus a small, actual biological and social bias that no longer even exists has led to a much larger effect that continues today – and may even be strengthening.

      To show how a small, real but only statistical bias is amplified, consider the following: Boys at puberty tend to be taller and stronger than girls. Thus they are better athletically, statistically. But this effect has been enormously amplified by social pressure. Boys who are not athletically inclined are denigrated, so tend to engage in physical sports to a greater extent than could be accounted for by biological differences, so as to be “real men”, and not be ostracised by their peers.

      Conversely, girls are often discouraged from being too athletic, lest they be seen as “not feminine enough”. Given two children, of exactly equal biological capability in an objective sense, and if one’s a girl she’ll be discouraged from athletic competition, while her male counterpart will be encouraged, even though there’s zero difference in their capacity.

      Thus a small, statistical difference can be greatly amplified into what appears to be a universal principle.

      Finally, there’s that last 10%. And it’s that that we should be most interested in, and yet its existence is controversial as it directly contradicts some popular idiology.

      “Boys and girls behave in different ways and one of the stereotypical behavioral differences between them, that has often been said to be forced upon them by upbringing and social environment, is their behavior in play. Boys prefer to play with cars and balls, whereas girls prefer dolls. This sex difference in toy preference is present very early in life (3–8 months of age) [1]. The idea that it is not society that forces these choices upon children but a sex difference in the early development of their brains and behavior is also supported by monkey behavioral studies. Alexander and Hines [2], who offered dolls, toy cars and balls to green Vervet monkeys found the female monkeys consistently chose the dolls and examined these ano-genitally, whereas the male monkeys were more interested in playing with the toy cars and with the ball….” — Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Identity and Sexual Orientation Garcia-Falgueras A, Swaab DF Endocr Dev. 2010;17:22-35

      I’ve seen some more fanatic feminists argue that as vervet monkeys are social creatures, that somehow a primate patriarchy is in operation that is responsible for somehow teaching them this behaviour at birth, rather than instinct. They can’t say what such a hypothetical mechanism might be though, just that because of their ideology, there has to be one.

      Meanwhile, studies on girls with CAH show cross-gendered behaviour in this area compared with controls. Which brings us back to the issue of using Intersexed people as experimental subjects to explore the nature of gender.

      I think that as long as informed consent is given – or in the case of children, that the observations are made covertly in an otherwise standard environment with parental permission, there are no ethical problems.

      • “Then there’s the question of exactly what we mean by “gender” and “gendered behaviour”. From my own observations, and treat these figures as rubbery guesses rather than well-evidenced estimates, I’d say that perhaps 70% of what is commonly thought of as “gendered behaviour” is purely socially constructed, with no measurable biological component. Such behaviour varies between societies, and between geographic and historical millieu.”

        Yes, exactly! This is why I have such a difficult time with the behavior studies, especially the ones where the parents completed the surveys for their children. And the monkey data blew me away, how the young monkeys have toy preferences that correlate with their sex. I might have to make that a focus of one of my blog posts some time in the future.

        Thank you for taking the time to provide such in-depth comments. Oh, and I had seen your blog before too. Pretty good stuff, for a rocket scientist 😉

  22. To answer your initial question it would be best to take a look at the history of the misstreatment of intersexed children as presented by Milton Diamond:
    Clinical implications of the organizational and activational effects of hormones
    http://ts-si.org/files/MDiamondClinImpOrgActHormones.pdf

    Suffice it to say, a theory that supported prenatal organization of
    adult behavior had little sway among pediatricians, pediatric urologists
    and others. The American physician’s derived management philosophy
    and belief in psychosexual neutrality at birth, spread throughout the
    medical world and essentially held from the 1970s. As far as the general
    public was concerned it also might be said that nurture was usually
    given prominence over nature inpopular discourse of human sexual and
    gendered behavior. And this belief, in the public world and in the
    scientific world as well, held through the 1980s and into the late 1990s
    despite evidence mounting to the contrary.

    Since no environmental influences could be linked to
    this transsexual phenomenon one might have thought itwould be taken
    as particularly strong evidence for a theory of sexual development
    incorporating some prenatal organization. This did not occur. Instead
    transsexualismwas seen as amental problem(Gender Identity Disorder
    or Gender Identity Dysphoria) and so recorded in the Diagnostic and
    Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-IV-TR,
    2000). Transsexuals were to be treated, not believed.

    When you look at what is Ms Dregers history in all of that, you might be able to see the pattern. Even when she opened her bioethics blog and in some of her posts, she makes more or less hidden hints, how she sees transsexual people only through the lense of her buddys Bailey, Blanchard and Lawrence – pretty much like Nicky as fetishistic driven nutcases.

    You might take a look what OII has to say about her (and about ISNA).

    I look at Nicky with quite some fascination. He is, as he says, Kallmann which means his puberty didn’t start and he can eat at Mc Donalds without experiencing a difference to nobel restaurant when it comes to food. As long, as he can supress any brainsex amd belittle it as a theorie with very little scientific background instead the biological fact it is, he can blame his crossdressing, however it is motivated, to an IS Condition (noone looks to close, don’t they?)
    He reminds me of the exgay activists who need help with their luggage.

  23. I may be fooling myself, but I think, he has two Youtubeacounts. One for his hatemassages in our context, and one for hate about caucasian cosplayers. At least I see his trademarkstyle in this:
    http://www.youtube.com/group/AntiWesternCosplayer?topic=bvClYkrltz_g
    “The purpose of this group is to force all western cosplayers to stop ruining our favorite/loved Anime/Asian characters by forcing them to stop cosplaying all of our favorite/loved Anime/Asian characters because westerners will never able to do a good Cosplay of Anime/Asian characters since Anime/Asian characters facial & body form are not made based on westerners facial & body form but made based on Asians facial & body form.”

  24. A says:

    you know.. seeing the number of replies to this I think this conversation is needed and also a bit of a challenge.. 🙂
    hmm awards for trolling…. XD

  25. Angle says:

    above, how do you define male? And for that maettr female? Socialisation/pants contents/DNA/appearance? If you met a random cis woman,their personality, looks and the way they acted/thought about the world might suggest to you that they were male or female. Would you believe that they were a female if they appeared masculine and seemed to be derogatory of females/other mysogynistic/steretypically male behaviour? I have met people of whom I have been unsure of gender, and know to be cis. I assume If they showed you their genital-dependant birth certificate or evidence of XX chromosomes, you would believe them?Other way round. Im also a cis woman, and from my appearance, most people assume Im a woman upon meeting me. But for all I know, I could be XY. I haven’t checked. I could have what I thought were cis female genitals, but were in fact remodelled cis male genitals and internal cis male genitals that I never realised I had because my body didn’t correct produce enough testosterone. On the changing of a body’s sex organs, its happens, or at least used to happen. Babies with damaged cis male genitals have had their genitals cut and remodelled to resemble female ones, because that’s seen as easier to cope with, and those babies are brought up as female, but they often in later life come out as male, and undergo genital surgery.Uteri are also occasionally transplanted. Maybe I had a cis female twin, and I the uterus I think of as mine is really hers. I would hope my parents would have told me, but my parents didn’t tell me that I had an older sibling who died, I only found out by accident. This is aside from all the chemical changes you can carry out on a baby in utero to switch on and off the developement of particular limbs/organs. Basically, I don’t know for sure if my genitals have always been there. I don’t know if Im XX. I don’t know that I’m cis. And unless you have checked, neither do you. I don’t know about you, but if I was told tomorrow that my genitals had been altered at birth, and that my DNA told me XY, I wouldn’t say that my 20 odd year long life as a women was a lie, and that I was suddenly say I was a man. And I would base that not on the fact that that is what I’ve been told all my life, but my identity. I identify as a woman. So do you. If I took a blood sample from you right now and told you you were wrong, if I showed you proof that you’re genitals had been modified, would you, personally, say that you were still a woman? That is identity

  26. Bob says:

    If a country’s worth of imports is greater than its exports, then the nation is stated to have a Trade Deficit.

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