“The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!” - Algernon Moncrieff, in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)
“sex is a spectrum.”
Although sex might not be dimorphic in other animal species, in the human species, sexual dimorphism matters not only to human reproduction but also the basic constitution of human bodies. The human species is organized around two reproductive sex classes, whether or not all of the individuals reproduce, such as in the case of homosexual people or people who are infertile.
Academics have argued that sex, like race, is socially constructed, because science has named the sexes, male and female, and describes their reproductive functions--which is a misunderstanding of what social construction simply means. A question posed against this claim simply could ask: Would human sexual dimorphism exist without being named as such? And the answer is that it would exist, in the same way that a body of land would be the same, whether or not human beings name it this or that. Society can create meaning around the idea of sex, but does that make sex what it is? One could ask this question of anything existing in the natural world: Does the act of human beings naming something make it what it is? The problem is the profound inability to imagine that anything, including sex, can exist independent of human beings naming it. This logic within academia has operated on anthropocentrism, laying claim to a fallacy that humankind using words to mark the natural world makes the natural world what it is. Likewise, human beings saying that males are female and that females are male, because, apparently, words can remake the world, derives from this same logic.
Beyond Judith Butler’s 1990 book Gender Trouble conflating sex and gender as both socially constructed, the pseudoscientific argument that “sex is a spectrum” can be traced back to Anne Fausto-Sterling’s 1993 essay “The Five Sexes.” Transgender theorist and transhumanist Martine Rothblatt cites Fausto-Sterling in the 1995 book The Apartheid of Sex, reissued as From Transgender to Transhuman in 2011. The argument that “sex is a spectrum” has seemed to be far less about making sense of the natural world and far more about making up evidence for transsexualism/transgenderism.
In The Apartheid of Sex, Rothblatt draws a false analogy between observable biological and physiological differences between the sexes and racial apartheid. But, if we see gender as being imposed on the basis of sex, based on the body itself, then it could be argued that Rothblatt’s concept of “the freedom of gender” consists of an internal contradiction. Like race, gender is not a free-for-all. Transgenderism, however, seems to insist upon sex-role stereotyping as both inborn and innate, taking it all to be “identity.” Rothblatt’s analogy ends up actually undoing itself, if considered further. Rothblatt’s work has been endorsed by Fausto-Sterling and transgender activist and author Kate Bornstein, author of the 1994 book Gender Outlaw, among other works.
Ruth Barrett (Ed.), Female Erasure: What You Need to Know About Gender Politics’ War on Women, the Female Sex, and Human Rights, Tidal Time Publishing, 2016. https://www.femaleerasure.com
“sex is assigned at birth.”
Sex is not assigned at birth; rather, sex is observed at birth. Even in cases involving the few individuals born with differences in sexual development (DSDs), sex is not some unsolvable mystery. Unlike some other animal species, the human species is sexually dimorphic, which means that the male sex produces sperm and the female sex produces ova. There is no third gamete, much less a spectrum of gametes being produced by human beings.
In the medicalization of gender, the point of cross-sex hormones is that one attempts to simulate the secondary sex characteristics of the opposite sex, while not being that sex. If sex differences simply do not hold any significance, whether biologically or culturally, then such medicalization would make no sense.
As with the argument that “sex is a spectrum,” the argument that “sex is assigned at birth” can be traced back to Martine Rothblatt’s 1995 book The Apartheid of Sex, reissued as From Transgender to Transhuman in 2011.
Ruth Barrett (Ed.), Female Erasure: What You Need to Know About Gender Politics’ War on Women, the Female Sex, and Human Rights, Tidal Time Publishing, 2016. https://www.femaleerasure.com
“being gay is about ‘Same-Gender Attraction,’ not same-sex attraction.”
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word homosexuality is defined in the following way: “The state or quality of being sexually or romantically attracted to people of one’s own sex.” Gender, although mistakenly seen as a euphemism for sex, does not refer to maleness and femaleness, but rather masculinity and femininity.
Dating back to its first use by Robert J. Stoller in 1964, gender identity has been about how one feeling more or less masculine or feminine has been related to being male or being female. Stoller defines gender identity in the following way:
“Gender identity is the sense of knowing to which sex one belongs, that is, the awareness ‘I am a male’ or ‘I am a female.’ This term gender identity will be used in this paper rather than various other terms which have been employed in this regard, such as the term ‘sexual identity.’‘Sexual identity’ is ambiguous, since it may refer to one’s sexual activities or fantasies, etc. The advantage of the phrase ‘gender identity’ lies in the fact that it clearly refers to one’s self image as regards belonging to a specific sex. Thus, of a patient who says: ‘I am not a very masculine man,’ it is possible to say that his gender identity is male although he recognizes his lack of so-called masculinity.” (p. 220) (emphasis added)
Critiquing Stoller, it could be said that the last sentence would be more reasonably written as saying: Although the male patient is not “very masculine,” which can be construed as his gender identity, whatever he might feel, his sex is male. It should be that simple now. To his credit, however, Stoller gives consideration to biological and sociological elements related to the formation of one’s sense of self in relation to what can be called one’s sexual being.
But, despite the way in which the concept of gender identity has conflated sex with gender, positing that conformity to masculinity or femininity equates to being male or female, activists have argued otherwise. There is trouble there.
Part of the problem with the argument that “sex is a spectrum,” and, embedded in it, that “gender identity” can be interchangeable with sex, is that it basically undermines the boundaries of lesbians and gay men as homosexual people. Thus, the argument that lesbians and gay men are “same-gender attracted” has been a new assault on homosexuality, now coming from queer morality. Reframing sexual orientation around “gender identity” has normalized the casual harassment of lesbians and gay men by heterosexual people on the basis of sex. It has prioritized heterosexual people over homosexual people and allowed them subjectivity through our subjection. While not all transgender-identified heterosexual people do harass lesbians and gay men, the abuse of “gender identity,” in this way, should be understood as a human rights violation.
We must acknowledge and address that misogyny and homophobia, which can differ in form, come from both the right and the left.
“differences in sexual development (dsds) prove transgenderism.”
Arguments that appropriate people with differences in sexual development (DSDs) in defense of transgenderism all seem to go as follows: - - - - - - - - - - [Part A.] It is so that a small demographic within the overall human population exhibits differences in sexual development (DSDs). These individuals can have specific medical needs, which are directly based on the data of biology.
Instances of medicalization performed on infants tend to be mainly cosmetic in nature and have been recognized as human rights violations.
[Note: Also called variations of sexual development (VSDs), these biological differences are simply variations on human sexual dimorphism, as observed at birth, independent of “gender identity.”]
[Part B.] If the above is true, then members of one sex, even those who otherwise do not exhibit any differences in sexual development, can simply identify as members of the opposite sex on the basis of “gender identity.”
The data of biology do not matter, and the medicalization seems cosmetic in nature, rather than being explicitly necessary for health and wellbeing. - - - - - - - - - - The problem between Part A and Part B is that Part B does not follow logically from Part A, which seems like it should indicate a lack of logic, what otherwise would be named as a non sequitur.
Differences in sexual development (DSDs) do not prove what has been called transsexualism, much less the newer umbrella term known as transgenderism. Activists who make this argument engage in a fallacy. Sources: Helen Joyce, Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality, Oneworld Publications, 2021. https://oneworld-publications.com/trans.html
Pubertal development cannot be started and stopped without any impact on physiological and psychological development. Missing even one year, or more, in terms of sexual development for the human body cannot simply be “made up.” That is not how the human body works.
There have been no long-term studies done on pubertal suppression and psychological development from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood. Activists, however, have argued that puberty blockers are reversible, but little has been known about the long-term impacts. This argument has been framed as meaning that one can stop taking puberty blockers after starting them, therefore they can be seen as “reversible.” But this brand of sophistry presents some problems.
A case to consider has been how the NHS (the National Health Service) in the United Kingdom has changed its guidance on puberty blockers in recent years.
First, it read as follows:
“The effects of treatment with GnRH analogues are considered to be fully reversible, so treatment can usually be stopped at any time after a discussion between you, your child and your MDT.” (emphasis added)
Then, as of June 2020, the guidance appeared to be altered to actually reflect how “little is known”—and, more importantly, how little has been known:
“Little is known about the long-term side effects of hormone or puberty blockers in children with gender dysphoria.
Although the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) advises this is a physically reversible treatment if stopped, it is not known what the psychological effects may be.
It’s also not known whether hormone blockers affect the development of the teenage brain or children’s bones. Side effects may also include hot flushes, fatigue and mood alterations.” (emphasis added)
The change from describing puberty blockers as “fully reversible” to saying how “little is known” simply cannot be seen, at least in terms of common sense, as insignificant.
The myth that puberty blockers are reversible seems to coincide with the myth that being diagnosed with gender dysphoria means that one must socially and medically transition.
“transgenderism does not harm lesbians and gay men.”
There are two key ways in which transgenderism negatively impacts lesbians and gay men:
[I.] The Social and Medical Transitioning of Otherwise Gay Youth
As discussed beneath the myth “Being Diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria Means That One Must Socially and Medically Transition,” most children and young people who meet the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria end up being gay adults. The problem, however, is that, with the increasing perception of gender-nonconforming children and young people as “trans kids,” social and medical interventions can do harm. Sexologist Debra Soh (2018 and 2020) acknowledges and addresses these issues with great compassion in her work. This myth about social and medical transitioning of children and young people relates to the myth “Puberty Blockers Are Reversible” and the myth “Only a Tiny Percentage of Dysphoric Individuals Desist or Detransition.”
[II.] Gender Identity and the Queering of Compulsory Heterosexuality
As discussed beneath the myth “Being Gay Is About ‘Same-Gender Attraction,’ Not Same-Sex Attraction,” there is an argument that transgender-identified people sexually oriented toward the opposite sex (i.e., heterosexual people) can be lesbians and gay men. Thus, when “gender identity” can be seen as the new category of sex, heterosexual males can be “lesbians” as heterosexual females can be “gay men.” While one could argue that identity for the self can ideally be isolated from all social interaction, that does not seem to be so.
As most people in the general population are heterosexual, most people who identify as transgender, and who argue for “trans rights,” also happen to be heterosexual--that is, sexually oriented toward the opposite sex. Interestingly, the statistics that show most transgender-identified people as “gay” or ”queer” base sexual orientation on “gender identity.” Proceeding from this point, within the transgender demographic, heterosexual males are “lesbians” as heterosexual females are “gay men.”
Increasing numbers of heterosexual people identifying as transgender, insisting on being “gay” or ”queer,” can become a problem for actual lesbians and gay men. With this increase, cases seen from “the cotton ceiling” and “the boxer ceiling” increase, where lesbians and gay men experience sexual coercion within “the community.” As what once was our community becomes increasingly both heterosexual and homophobic, homosexuality becomes increasingly seen as “transmisogynistic” and “transphobic.” Our bodies and our minds become colonized, once again, by heterosexual people, who now claim to be our community vis-à-vis cultural invasion.
This clash of human rights can be solved by making it clear that “gender identity” does not change one’s sex and that heterosexual people have no right to lesbians and gay men. Sex is the basis of sexual orientation. It even applies to members of one sex who simulate the secondary sex characteristics of the opposite sex by cross-sex hormones and surgical interventions. Whether male or female, heterosexual people never have had a right to lesbians and gay men, neither our bodies nor our communities—and never will.
Sources: “homosexuality, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, September 2021, www.oed.com/view/Entry/88111. Accessed September 8, 2021.
“being diagnosed with gender dysphoria means That one MUST transition.”
Critics of this claim (Soh 2020, D’Angelo et al. 2021, and Evans 2021) argue that, while some evidence does exist suggesting that mental and physical health outcomes can be improved by social and medical transitioning, more research must be done. Taking caution seems to be the best approach toward biomedical interventions, especially regarding children and young people, whose cases require even more consideration. There are other studies (Dhejne et al. 2011 and Blok et al. 2021) that suggest more complicated mental and physical health outcomes long-term. On existing research, in The British Journal of Psychiatry (BJPsych), the circumstances have been discussed as follows:
“A limitation of research to date has been to focus on those who complete transition, often being defined as having genital reconstructive surgery. Much less is known, either quantitatively or qualitatively, about those accessing gender services who do not access all of the interventions they seek. Although older studies observed that some people ‘dropped out’ of treatment, there is no contemporaneous data on this. There are limited data published by adult UK GICs, and to date there has been no requirement for services to collate or report on either access to treatment or outcomes. As such, it is unknown how many UK service users complete their transition as planned or have unmet needs, and the impact this may have on them. It is also unclear how many disengage from services, discontinue treatment or revert to their previous gender role.”(Hall et al. 2021, p. 1)
Thus, with the above unknowns in mind, the evidence simply does not seem robust for transitioning always having positive outcomes for every patient. The cases are truly not that simple. Furthermore, American gender identity clinics, although rapidly expanding in recent years, seem to lack data in a comparable fashion to services within the UK, albeit more widespread. Toward the end of Hall et al. 2021, the study underscores issues, including measurements of patient outcomes and the necessity, as seen in Vandenbussche 2021, for taking into consideration those who stop undergoing transition-related services.
According to sexologist James Cantor (2016), across multiple studies, most otherwise gender-dysphoric children and young people have desisted from these feelings by the end of adolescence. Likewise, sexologist Debra Soh (2020) has further written about this subject, even providing a list of studies in her book The End of Gender (see p. 306). That is, although many otherwise gender-dysphoric children and young people have met the diagnostic criteria for having gender dysphoria, these feelings have eventually resolved. In most cases, these individuals, being gender-nonconforming, turned out to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
In a more recently published study (Singh et al. 2021), of 139 male participants who displayed symptoms of gender dysphoria in childhood, only 17 (12.2%) ended up persisting, while remaining 122 (87.8%) desisted. A majority ended up being homosexual (i.e., gay), some bisexual, with some also being heterosexual. These findings end up reflecting previous findings seen in the research, as discussed by Cantor (2016) and Soh (2020).
The problem that has been posed to gay rights by the concept of “trans rights” is how the early social and medical intervention on gender-nonconforming children and young people can infringe on the human rights of otherwise gay youth.
Critics of the concept of “the transgender child” (Soh 2018, Brunskell-Evans 2019, Pilgrim and Entwistle 2020, Soh 2020, Brunskell-Evans 2020, Evans 2021, et al.) argue how the way in which children are being seen as “trans kids” might simply be a new form of unspoken homophobia. Children once seen as “sissies” and “tomboys,” most of whom grew up to be gay, particularly gay men and lesbians, now end up being seen as “trans kids.” Interfering with the sexual development of otherwise potential lesbians and gay men could be the extreme negative impact of these interventions, aside from other health problems being produced.
The myth that being diagnosed with gender dysphoria means that one must socially and medically transition seems to coincide with the myth that only a tiny percentage of dysphoric individuals desist or detransition.
“only a tiny percentage of dysphoric individuals desist or detransition.”
Activists have commonly argued that less than 1% of people desist or detransition. But these statistics, which tend to be selective, need closer scrutiny. In her 2020 book The End of Gender, sexologist Debra Soh writes:
“In a 2018 study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 46 surgeons across two transgender health conferences reported that, of the approximately 22,725 transgender patients they had surgically treated, 62 were for transition regret. This translates to a detransition rate of about 0.3 percent; however, these numbers were collected in 2016 and 2017. We have yet to see the fallout from the spike in referral numbers resulting from ROGD.” (p. 180)
Although the percentage seen in this 2018 study would support the claim of less than 1%, activists do not explain that it only includes patients who returned for additional surgical treatment over transition regret. It seems of significance to remember that insurance also does not cover expenses related to transition regret, such as reconstructive surgery. Consideration should also be made of how many surgeons, beyond the 46, did not attend the two transgender health conferences and whether all of them actually kept up with every single individual case. (These details would seem pretty significant, although often omitted, because the numbers given regarding transition regret would shift, likely increasing rather than decreasing.)
At minimum, the criticism that should be taken into consideration is that, simply put, not enough studies exist for best considering long-term outcomes from childhood to adulthood regarding social and medical transition. The long-term studies that have been done (Dhejne et al. 2011 and Blok et al. 2021) underscore the need for more studies regarding outcomes post-transition. Although cited for showing potential negative outcomes, we find in these a need for greater psychological support, both relating to family and peers. Transitioning itself, however, is not “inarguably beneficial,” in all cases, as evident in newer studies that, unlike studies before, now account for detransitioners (Vandenbussche 2021).
(See, in particular, D’Angelo et al. 2021 for a critique of the “gender-affirming” therapeutic model and the concept that “one size fits all,” particularly regarding children and young people. For a further discussion of the uncertainties around the existing research, see Hall et al. 2021, as cited above.)
There needs to be further consideration of those lost to follow-up regarding transition-related healthcare. The present evidence should give us pause to self-reflect, not persist in saying that transition always improves the individual’s body and mind. (Likewise, it should not be claimed that transition never improves the body and mind, but the claim of always has not been supported.)
The present assumption seems to be that, if early intervention occurs in childhood, then it will allow the person to more closely appear as if the opposite sex, which, so it must also be assumed, will improve the individual’s life for the long-term. However, the problem with this point of view, aside from the lack of data supporting it, is if it goes wrong and mental health outcomes become far worse in the newer cohorts. There ends up also being the other big trouble that the vast majority of children who present with gender dysphoria, across various studies, desist and grow up gay. Intervention could, therefore, be revealed as medicalization rooted, at least to some large degree, in misogyny and homophobia, rather than just being about “trans rights.”