Testosterone metabolization, autism, male brain, and female identity

I began this post intending to write about testosterone metabolization in autism and possible connections with transgender identity, but realized halfway through that I didn’t actually know whether the autist-trans connection was primarily male-to-female or female-to-male. I had assumed that the relevant population is primarily MtF because both autists and trans people are primarily male, but both groups do have female populations that are large enough to contribute significantly. Here’s a sample of the data I’ve found so far:

A study conducted by a team of British scientists in 2012 found that of a pool of individuals not diagnosed on the autism spectrum, female-to-male (FTM) transgender people have higher rates of autistic features than do male-to-female (MTF) transgender people or cisgender males and females. Another study, which looked at children and adolescents admitted to a gender identity clinic in the Netherlands, found that almost 8 percent of subjects were also diagnosed with ASD.

Note that both of these studies are looking at trans people and assessing whether or not they have autism symptoms, not looking at autists and asking if they have trans symptoms. Given the characterization of autism as “extreme male brain” and that autism is diagnosed in males at about 4x the rate of females, the fact that there is some overlap between “women who think they think like men” and “traits associated with male thought patterns” is not surprising.

If the reported connection between autism and trans identity is just “autistic women feel like men,” that’s pretty non-mysterious and I just wasted an afternoon.

Though the data I have found so far still does not look directly at autists and ask how many of them have trans symptoms, the wikipedia page devoted to transgender and transsexual computer programmers lists only MtFs and no FtMs. Whether this is a pattern throughout the wider autism community, it definitely seems to be a thing among programmers. (Relevant discussion.)

So, returning to the original post:

Autism contains an amusing contradiction: on the one hand, autism is sometimes characterized as “extreme male brain,” and on the other hand, (some) autists (may be) more likely than neurotypicals to self-identify as transwomen–that is, biological men who see themselves as women. This seems contradictory: if autists are more masculine, mentally, than the average male, why don’t they identify as football players, army rangers, or something else equally masculine? For that matter, why isn’t a group with “extreme male brains” regarded as more, well, masculine?

(And if autists have extreme male brains, does that mean football players don’t? Do football players have more feminine brains than autists? Do colorless green ideas sleep furiously? DO WORDS MEAN?)

*Ahem*

In favor of the “extreme male brain” hypothesis, we have evidence that testosterone is important for certain brain functions, like spacial recognition, we have articles like this one: Testosterone and the brain:

Gender differences in spatial recognition, and age-related declines in cognition and mood, point towards testosterone as an important modulator of cerebral functions. Testosterone appears to activate a distributed cortical network, the ventral processing stream, during spatial cognition tasks, and addition of testosterone improves spatial cognition in younger and older hypogonadal men. In addition, reduced testosterone is associated with depressive disorders.

(Note that women also suffer depression at higher rates than men.)

So people with more testosterone are better at spacial cognition and other tasks that “autistic” brains typically excel at, and brains with less testosterone tend to be moody and depressed.

But hormones are tricky things. Where do they come from? Where do they go? How do we use them?

According to Wikipedia:

During the second trimester [of pregnancy], androgen level is associated with gender formation.[13] This period affects the femininization or masculinization of the fetus and can be a better predictor of feminine or masculine behaviours such as sex typed behaviour than an adult’s own levels. A mother’s testosterone level during pregnancy is correlated with her daughter’s sex-typical behavior as an adult, and the correlation is even stronger than with the daughter’s own adult testosterone level.[14]

… Early infancy androgen effects are the least understood. In the first weeks of life for male infants, testosterone levels rise. The levels remain in a pubertal range for a few months, but usually reach the barely detectable levels of childhood by 4–6 months of age.[15][16] The function of this rise in humans is unknown. It has been theorized that brain masculinization is occurring since no significant changes have been identified in other parts of the body.[17] The male brain is masculinized by the aromatization of testosterone into estrogen, which crosses the blood–brain barrier and enters the male brain, whereas female fetuses have α-fetoprotein, which binds the estrogen so that female brains are not affected.[18]

(Bold mine.)

Let’s re-read that: the male brain is masculinized by the aromatization of testosterone into estrogen.

If that’s not a weird sentence, I don’t know what is.

Let’s hop over to the scientific literature, eg, Estrogen Actions in the Brain and the Basis for Differential Action in Men and Women: A Case for Sex-Specific Medicines:

Burgeoning evidence now documents profound effects of estrogens on learning, memory, and mood as well as neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative processes. Most data derive from studies in females, but there is mounting recognition that estrogens play important roles in the male brain, where they can be generated from circulating testosterone by local aromatase enzymes or synthesized de novo by neurons and glia. Estrogen-based therapy therefore holds considerable promise for brain disorders that affect both men and women. However, as investigations are beginning to consider the role of estrogens in the male brain more carefully, it emerges that they have different, even opposite, effects as well as similar effects in male and female brains. This review focuses on these differences, including sex dimorphisms in the ability of estradiol to influence synaptic plasticity, neurotransmission, neurodegeneration, and cognition, which, we argue, are due in a large part to sex differences in the organization of the underlying circuitry.

Hypothesis: the way testosterone works in the brain (where we both do math and “feel” male or female) and the way it works in the muscles might be very different.

Do autists actually differ from other people in testosterone (or other hormone) levels?

In Elevated rates of testosterone-related disorders in women with autism spectrum conditions, researchers surveyed autistic women and mothers of autistic children about various testosterone-related medical conditions:

Compared to controls, significantly more women with ASC [Autism Spectrum Conditions] reported (a) hirsutism, (b) bisexuality or asexuality, (c) irregular menstrual cycle, (d) dysmenorrhea, (e) polycystic ovary syndrome, (f) severe acne, (g) epilepsy, (h) tomboyism, and (i) family history of ovarian, uterine, and prostate cancers, tumors, or growths. Compared to controls, significantly more mothers of ASC children reported (a) severe acne, (b) breast and uterine cancers, tumors, or growths, and (c) family history of ovarian and uterine cancers, tumors, or growths.

Androgenic Activity in Autism has an unfortunately low number of subjects (N=9) but their results are nonetheless intriguing:

Three of the children had exhibited explosive aggression against others (anger, broken objects, violence toward others). Three engaged in self-mutilations, and three demonstrated no aggression and were in a severe state of autistic withdrawal. The appearance of aggression against others was associated with having fewer of the main symptoms of autism (autistic withdrawal, stereotypies, language dysfunctions).

Three of their subjects (they don’t say which, but presumably from the first group,) had abnormally high testosterone levels (including one of the girls in the study.) The other six subjects had normal androgen levels.

This is the first report of an association between abnormally high androgenic activity and aggression in subjects with autism. Although a previously reported study did not find group mean elevations in plasma testosterone in prepubertal autistic subjects (4), it appears here that in certain autistic individuals, especially those in puberty, hyperandrogeny may play a role in aggressive behaviors. Also, there appear to be distinct clinical forms of autism that are based on aggressive behaviors and are not classified in DSM-IV. Our preliminary findings suggest that abnormally high plasma testosterone concentration is associated with aggression against others and having fewer of the main autistic symptoms.

So, some autists have do have abnormally high testosterone levels, but those same autists are less autistic, overall, than other autists. More autistic behavior, aggression aside, is associated with normal hormone levels. Probably.

But of course that’s not fetal or early infancy testosterone levels. Unfortunately, it’s rather difficult to study fetal testosterone levels in autists, as few autists were diagnosed as fetuses. However, Foetal testosterone and autistic traits in 18 to 24-month-old children comes close:

Levels of FT [Fetal Testosterone] were analysed in amniotic fluid and compared with autistic traits, measured using the Quantitative Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (Q-CHAT) in 129 typically developing toddlers aged between 18 and 24 months (mean ± SD 19.25 ± 1.52 months). …

Sex differences were observed in Q-CHAT scores, with boys scoring significantly higher (indicating more autistic traits) than girls. In addition, we confirmed a significant positive relationship between FT levels and autistic traits.

I feel like this is veering into “we found that boys score higher on a test of male traits than girls did” territory, though.

In Polymorphisms in Genes Involved in Testosterone Metabolism in Slovak Autistic Boys, researchers found:

The present study evaluates androgen and estrogen levels in saliva as well as polymorphisms in genes for androgen receptor (AR), 5-alpha reductase (SRD5A2), and estrogen receptor alpha (ESR1) in the Slovak population of prepubertal (under 10 years) and pubertal (over 10 years) children with autism spectrum disorders. The examined prepubertal patients with autism, pubertal patients with autism, and prepubertal patients with Asperger syndrome had significantly increased levels of salivary testosterone (P < 0.05, P < 0.01, and P < 0.05, respectively) in comparison with control subjects. We found a lower number of (CAG)n repeats in the AR gene in boys with Asperger syndrome (P < 0.001). Autistic boys had an increased frequency of the T allele in the SRD5A2 gene in comparison with the control group. The frequencies of T and C alleles in ESR1 gene were comparable in all assessed groups.

What’s the significance of CAG repeats in the AR gene? Apparently they vary inversely with sensitivity to androgens:

Individuals with a lower number of CAG repeats exhibit higher AR gene expression levels and generate more functional AR receptors increasing their sensitivity to testosterone…

Fewer repeats, more sensitivity to androgens. The SRD5A2 gene is also involved in testosterone metabolization, though I’m not sure exactly what the T allele does relative to the other variants.

But just because there’s a lot of something in the blood (or saliva) doesn’t mean the body is using it. Diabetics can have high blood sugar because their bodies lack the necessary insulin to move the sugar from the blood, into their cells. Fewer androgen receptors could mean the body is metabolizing testosterone less effectively, which in turn leaves more of it floating in the blood… Biology is complicated.

What about estrogen and the autistic brain? That gets really complicated. According to Sex Hormones in Autism: Androgens and Estrogens Differentially and Reciprocally Regulate RORA, a Novel Candidate Gene for Autism:

Here, we show that male and female hormones differentially regulate the expression of a novel autism candidate gene, retinoic acid-related orphan receptor-alpha (RORA) in a neuronal cell line, SH-SY5Y. In addition, we demonstrate that RORA transcriptionally regulates aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. We further show that aromatase protein is significantly reduced in the frontal cortex of autistic subjects relative to sex- and age-matched controls, and is strongly correlated with RORA protein levels in the brain.

If autists are bad at converting testosterone to estrogen, this could leave extra testosterone floating around in their blood… but doens’t explain their supposed “extreme male brain.” Here’s another study on the same subject, since it’s confusing:

Comparing the brains of 13 children with and 13 children without autism spectrum disorder, the researchers found a 35 percent decrease in estrogen receptor beta expression as well as a 38 percent reduction in the amount of aromatase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen.

Levels of estrogen receptor beta proteins, the active molecules that result from gene expression and enable functions like brain protection, were similarly low. There was no discernable change in expression levels of estrogen receptor alpha, which mediates sexual behavior.

I don’t know if anyone has tried injecting RORA-deficient mice with estrogen, but here is a study about the effects of injecting reelin-deficient mice with estrogen:

The animals in the new studies, called ‘reeler’ mice, have one defective copy of the reelin gene and make about half the amount of reelin compared with controls. …

Reeler mice with one faulty copy serve as a model of one of the most well-established neuro-anatomical abnormalities in autism. Since the mid-1980s, scientists have known that people with autism have fewer Purkinje cells in the cerebellum than normal. These cells integrate information from throughout the cerebellum and relay it to other parts of the brain, particularly the cerebral cortex.

But there’s a twist: both male and female reeler mice have less reelin than control mice, but only the males lose Purkinje cells. …

In one of the studies, the researchers found that five days after birth, reeler mice have higher levels of testosterone in the cerebellum compared with genetically normal males3.

Keller’s team then injected estradiol — a form of the female sex hormone estrogen — into the brains of 5-day-old mice. In the male reeler mice, this treatment increases reelin levels in the cerebellum and partially blocks Purkinje cell loss. Giving more estrogen to female reeler mice has no effect — but females injected with tamoxifen, an estrogen blocker, lose Purkinje cells. …

In another study, the researchers investigated the effects of reelin deficiency and estrogen treatment on cognitive flexibility — the ability to switch strategies to solve a problem4. …

“And we saw indeed that the reeler mice are slower to switch. They tend to persevere in the old strategy,” Keller says. However, male reeler mice treated with estrogen at 5 days old show improved cognitive flexibility as adults, suggesting that the estrogen has a long-term effect.

This still doesn’t explain why autists would self-identify as transgender women (mtf) at higher rates than average, but it does suggest that any who do start hormone therapy might receive benefits completely independent of gender identity.

Let’s stop and step back a moment.

Autism is, unfortunately, badly defined. As the saying goes, if you’ve met one autist, you’ve met one autist. There are probably a variety of different, complicated things going on in the brains of different autists simply because a variety of different, complicated conditions are all being lumped together under a single label. Any mental disability that can include both non-verbal people who can barely dress and feed themselves and require lifetime care and billionaires like Bill Gates is a very badly defined condition.

(Unfortunately, people diagnose autism with questionnaires that include questions like “Is the child pedantic?” which could be equally true of both an autistic child and a child who is merely very smart and has learned more about a particular subject than their peers and so is responding in more detail than the adult is used to.)

The average autistic person is not a programmer. Autism is a disability, and the average diagnosed autist is pretty darn disabled. Among the people who have jobs and friends but nonetheless share some symptoms with formally diagnosed autists, though, programmer and the like appear to be pretty popular professions.

Back in my day, we just called these folks nerds.

Here’s a theory from a completely different direction: People feel the differences between themselves and a group they are supposed to fit into and associate with a lot more strongly than the differences between themselves and a distant group. Growing up, you probably got into more conflicts with your siblings and parents than with random strangers, even though–or perhaps because–your family is nearly identical to you genetically, culturally, and environmentally. “I am nothing like my brother!” a man declares, while simultaneously affirming that there is a great deal in common between himself and members of a race and culture from the other side of the planet. Your  coworker, someone specifically selected for the fact that they have similar mental and technical aptitudes and training as yourself, has a distinct list of traits that drive you nuts, from the way he staples papers to the way he pronounces his Ts, while the women of an obscure Afghan tribe of goat herders simply don’t enter your consciousness.

Nerds, somewhat by definition, don’t fit in. You don’t worry much about fitting into a group you’re not part of in the fist place–you probably don’t worry much about whether or not you fit in with Melanesian fishermen–but most people work hard at fitting in with their own group.

So if you’re male, but you don’t fit in with other males (say, because you’re a nerd,) and you’re down at the bottom of the highschool totem pole and feel like all of the women you’d like to date are judging you negatively next to the football players, then you might feel, rather strongly, the differences between you and other males. Other males are aggressive, they call you a faggot, they push you out of their spaces and threaten you with violence, and there’s very little you can do to respond besides retreat into your “nerd games.”

By contrast, women are polite to you, not aggressive, and don’t aggressively push you out of their spaces. Your differences with them are much less problematic, so you feel like you “fit in” with them.

(There is probably a similar dynamic at play with American men who are obsessed with anime. It’s not so much that they are truly into Japanese culture–which is mostly about quietly working hard–as they don’t fit in very well with their own culture.) (Note: not intended as a knock on anime, which certainly has some good works.)

And here’s another theory: autists have some interesting difficulties with constructing categories and making inferences from data. They also have trouble going along with the crowd, and may have fewer “mirror neurons” than normal people. So maybe autists just process the categories of “male” and “female” a little differently than everyone else, and in a small subset of autists, this results in trans identity.*

And another: maybe there are certain intersex disorders which result in differences in brain wiring/organization. (Yes, there are real interesx disorders, like Klinefelter’s, in which people have XXY chromosomes instead of XX or XY.) In a small set of cases, these unusually wired brains may be extremely good at doing certain tasks (like programming) resulting people who are both “autism spectrum” and “trans”. This is actually the theory I’ve been running with for years, though it is not incompatible with the hormonal theories discussed above.

But we are talking small: trans people of any sort are extremely rare, probably on the order of <1/1000. Even if autists were trans at 8 times the rates of non-autists, that’s still only 8/1000 or 1/125. Autists themselves are pretty rare (estimates vary, but the vast majority of people are not autistic at all,) so we are talking about a very small subset of a very small population in the first place. We only notice these correlations at all because the total population has gotten so huge.

Sometimes, extremely rare things are random chance.

Transsexuals Prove That Gender is Real

Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this one: Sex is biological; gender is a social construct.

Well, you should know my response by now: Sex is also a social construct.

X is a social construct does not mean “X is totally made up.” It means, “The word is defined however the hell people feel like using it.” This is true of all language.

200 years ago, people did not define “biological sex” as “has XX or XY chromosomes,” because no one knew about chromosomes, and yet they still had this concept of “biological sex.” For that matter, if you get right down to the nitty gritty of how “biological sex” develops in the fetus/young person, it is not just a matter of “Do you have a Y chromosome?” Biological sex does not work the same for all species, (eg, for crocodiles, the egg’s temperature determines whether the baby inside develops as male or female,) but even within humans, the process is complicated.

Diseases or medical conditions are the easiest way to highlight all the things that come together to determine one’s “biological sex”:

Klinefelter Syndrome: person is born XXY instead of XX or XY. People with KS have tiny genitals. The Y chromosome triggers male development, but the two Xs cause an over-production of female hormones. Most people with KS are infertile. KS occurs in 1:500 to 1:1000 live male births.

Given about 150 million men in the US, that comes out to between 300,000 and 150,000 Americans with Klinefelter Syndrome.

Some other obscure conditions with similar names are XYY, XXXX, and XXYY Syndrome. People with only one X chromosome and nothing else have Turner Syndrome. TS affects about 1 in 2000 to 1 in 5000 females, or about 75,ooo to 30,000 Americans.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia “are any of several autosomal recessive diseases resulting from mutations of genes for enzymes mediating the biochemical steps of production of cortisol from cholesterol by the adrenal glands (steroidogenesis).

“Most of these conditions involve excessive or deficient production of sex steroids and can alter development of primary or secondary sex characteristics in some affected infants, children, or adults.”

The Wikipedia  recounts the potential first historical description of a CAH case:

“‘In one of the anatomical theaters of the hospital…, there arrived toward the end of January a cadaver which in life was the body of a certain Joseph Marzo… The general physiognomy was decidedly male in all respects. There were no feminine curves to the body. There was a heavy beard. There was some delicacy of structure with muscles that were not very well developed… The distribution of pubic hair was typical of the male. Perhaps the lower extremities were somewhat delicate, resembling the female, and were covered with hair… The penis was curved posteriorly and measured 6 cm, or with stretching, 10 cm. The corona was 3 cm long and 8 cm in circumference. There was an ample prepuce. There was a first grade hypospadias… There were two folds of skin coming from the top of the penis and encircling it on either side. These were somewhat loose and resembled labia majora.’

“De Crecchio then described the internal organs, which included a normal vagina, uterus, tubes, and ovaries. … He interviewed many people and satisfied himself that Joseph Marzo “conducted himself within the sexual area exclusively as a male”, even to the point of contracting the “French disease” on two occasions. “

CAH apparently varies in incidence; among the American Indians, 1 in 280; among whites, 1 in 15,000. Given 245.5 million whites and 3 million Indians, that works out to about 27,000 in those two groups. (Wikipedia doesn’t give numbers for blacks or Hispanics.)

Androgen insensitivity syndrome “is a condition that results in the partial or complete inability of the cell to respond to androgens. The unresponsiveness of the cell to the presence of androgenic hormones can impair or prevent the masculinization of male genitalia in the developing fetus, as well as the development of male secondary sexual characteristics at puberty, … these individuals range from a normal male habitus with mild spermatogenic defect or reduced secondary terminal hair, to a full female habitus, despite the presence of a Y-chromosome.”

The people in this picture have XY chromosomes, but developed as females because they have have AIS or related conditions:

1280px-Orchids01

The exact incidence is unknown, especially since XX carriers are basically unaffected by the condition, but Wikipedia lists estimates between 1 in 20,400 XY births and one in 130,000, or between about 7,000 and 1,000 affected Americans.

Kallman Syndrome isn’t so much an “intersex” disorder as an “asex” disorder. Kallmann syndrome is a genetic disorder in which, “the hypothalamic neurons that are responsible for releasing gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH neurons) fail to migrate into the hypothalamus during embryonic development.”

The most prominent symptom is a failure to start puberty; oddly, one of the other common symptoms is an inability to smell. It affects both men and women.

Incidence: about 1 in 10,000, or about 32,000 Americans.

True hermaphrodites” are rare, but do exist–perhaps due to improper cell division in developing fraternal twins. See also “human chimeras“:

“The Dutch sprinter Foekje Dillema was expelled from the 1950 national team after she refused a mandatory sex test in July 1950; later investigations revealed a Y-chromosome in her body cells, and the analysis showed that she probably was a 46,XX/46,XY mosaic female. …

“Another report of a human chimera was published in 1998, where a male human had some partially developed female organs due to chimerism. He had been conceived by in-vitro fertilization.

“In 2002, Lydia Fairchild was denied public assistance in Washington state when DNA evidence showed that she was not related to her children. A lawyer for the prosecution heard of a human chimera in New England, Karen Keegan, and suggested the possibility to the defense, who were able to show that Fairchild, too, was a chimera with two sets of DNA.”

And as I have mentioned before, people exposed to Diethylstilbestrol–DES–a synthetic estrogen used as an anti-miscarriage drug between 1940 and 1971, (when they realized its major epigenetic effects included cancer,) seems to have triggered female brain development in male fetuses.

“An estimated 3 million pregnant women in the USA were prescribed DES from 1941 through 1971. … The number of persons exposed to DES during pregnancy or in utero during 1940–1971 is unknown, but may be as high as 2 million in the United States.” Or about 1 million men.

There are others, but I will stop here. It is difficult to give a total for such conditions, but folks estimate incidence of intersex conditions around 1.7% of births, or 5.4 million Americans. (By contrast, identical twins occur in only 0.3% of pregnancies.)

As I have mentioned before, I strongly suspect that the vast majority of “trans” people actually have some form of intersex condition–I base this suspicion on the lives of the trans  people I’ve actually talked to. According to LiveScience, about 700,000 Americans, or 0.2%, are trans–significantly less than the estimated number of people with intersex conditions.

Even though 98.3% of us probably don’t have any kind of intersex (or asex) condition, 5.4 million is a lot of people. In a country where we like to put weirdos on TV so we can laugh and point at them, really obscure conditions can become quite well-known. Like octuplets.

Whether you want to call them “male,” “female,” “intersex,” or something else all has to do with your particular definition of “biological sex.” If you’d lived in 1800, your definition of “biological sex” would probably have something to do with genitals and maybe something to do with behavior, but certainly nothing to do with chromosomes or hormones or anything like that. Ten minutes ago, you probably defined “biological sex” as “has XX or XY chromosomes.” Now you’re probably wondering what the hell is up with crocodiles.

None of this changes reality. Reality doesn’t care what you call it.

 

On to Gender!

What does it mean when people say, “Gender is a social construct”?

I’m pretty sure the technical answer is, “Gender is the set of behaviors and social roles and things that people expect out of people based on their biological sex, and those expectations vary by society, ie, people in Uganda expect different things out of ‘men’ and ‘women’ than people in Japan. Heck, some societies even have ‘third genders’ and things like that.”

However, most of the time when people say, “Gender is a social construct,” what they actually mean is, “People don’t actually have gender; gender roles are a mass delusion created by the Patriarchy to oppress women that we are taught to hallucinate as little kids.”

Unfortunately, the belief that children are blank gender slates is not only common among many academics and feminists, but was a thing people really believed–leading to the surgical “correction” of intersex children born with incorrect genitalia, followed by attempts at raising them as whatever gender the parents picked. They usually picked female, because it is much easier to lop a bit off than to add on.

Imagine, for a moment, that you born with a small penis, so your parents just decided to have it chopped off, turned the nub into a clitoris, stuck a dress on you, and called you a girl.

No, it doesn’t work.

I don’t have any statistics, but I have read a lot of stories along the lines of, “My parents lied to me all my life that I was a girl and it turned out I was a boy and it was horribly traumatic and I was suicidal for most of puberty, etc., etc.”

Gender is a real thing, and even intersex kids can figure it out.

If the feminist “You learn gender roles from the patriarchical society around you” school of thought were correct, these kids would turn out completely normal members of the gender assigned to them and not have any issues at all.

If gender is a real thing, then trying to raise a kid as the opposite gender should result in exactly what we see: The kids are miserable, and then they assert that they are the gender they were born as.

 

But what about trans people who don’t have any kind of intersex condition? Given 7 billion people in the world, there are probably some. Again, if gender were nothing more than arbitrary social roles determined by our dumb patriarchical society, why would anyone bother changing their “sex” to match their “gender”? Remember that SRS is very expensive, painful, time consuming, and incurs significant social stigma. If I can just say, “hey, all this business with handbags and football is totally arbitrary; I’m just going to re-define football as a thing “women” like and handbags as something “men” like,”–which is exactly what the feminist theory of gender claims you can do–then why wouldn’t trans people just do that, and save themselves all of the effort?

Because trans people understand that gender is a real thing, not just a made up thing that they can re-define because it happens to suit them.

“But wait,” I hear you saying, “trans people are actually just autogynophiliacs, and so that’s why they transition, not because they’re actually trans.”

To be honest, I consider this a weird story. For starters, half the trans people I know started as “female”, not male. Second, almost all of the trans people I know have really obvious intersex conditions. Third, most people into LGBTQ etc. sorts of things will NOT SHUT UP about their sexual interests. If these people had weird self-fetishes, they’d be talking about it all over the damn place. Like furries. Remember furries? No one was ever confused about furries’ sexual interests.

Now, could some trans people be autogynophiliacs? Sure. There are 700,000 of them in the country. That’s a lot of people. Some of ’em are probably into all kinds of weird things.

But there are about 1 million men who were exposed to DES in the womb. So DES sounds like a more likely cause of biological men who “feel female” than weird sexual fetishes.

However, I am willing to grant a chicken and egg potential: once a “man” starts believing that he really is a woman trapped in a man’s body, then he will of course begin thinking about himself as female, and want other people to treat him as female, and even fantasize about being treated like a normal female, being found attractive as a normal female, etc.

That is, I suspect the autogynophiliac hypothesis has the causation backwards. Believing that one is a female trapped in a man’s body leads to imagining oneself as female, not the other way around. The same probably holds true for trans folks in “female” bodies who decide that they are really men–they desire to be seen as attractive, too.

(I will note that a fair number of people with intersex conditions are asexual.)

Now, does that mean that Jenner or any other high-profile celebrity trans person is actually intersex and not just a weird attention whore? I have no clue, but if Jenner wants to be female, I don’t care.

But I don’t consider Jenner “brave” or “pioneering” or anything like that. Jenner has millions of dollars and a media three-ring circus to praise her every move. Meanwhile, I know people with actual, diagnosed chromosomal abnormalities who live in poverty because their families don’t believe in fucking genetics.

 

But anyway, why does this whole “Sex != Gender” thing get hauled out every time people start trying to explain transsexuals?

Eh, it’s because they’re gender non-conforming weirdos and so for a long time, the only people who would accept them were other gender non-conformists like radical feminists and gay people, and this whole “gender is a social construct” business has been the dominant catch-phrase of feminists out to re-define femininity for a long time. And I’m sure that for some trans people, it has given them some peace of mind to think that it’s okay, they can redefine gender how they want to include people like themselves.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the reality of gender is what trans people are actually seeking.

Transsexuals are not your enemies

I know this is a sign that I am incredibly dumb, but I am always vaguely surprised by neoreactionaries/Dark Enlightenment types who claim to understand human genetics but are openly hostile to transsexuals, transgender, and otherwise trans- folks.

Look, guys. Every trans person I have met has something medically wrong with them–some sort of genetic or hormonal condition interfering with the production/development of normal sex hormones/characteristics. Don’t get distracted by the “gender is a social construct,” nonsense–it’s totally irrelevant. (More on that later.)

So you now how boys are genetically XY, and girls are XY? I have met trans people who are literally XXY. Like Down’s Syndrome, only your genitalia don’t quite develop right due to your body trying to produce male genitalia with way too many female hormones.

Another condition that appears to affect quite a large % of trans people is exposure to massive levels of artificial sex hormones while still in the womb, due to certain medications pregnant women have taken.

Diethylstilbestrol, (or DES,)  is a synthetic nonsteroidal estrogen, synthesized way back in 1938. Between 1940 and 1971, DES was given in large quantities to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages. Unfortunately, it turns out that pumping babies full of unnaturally high levels of estrogen might be bad for them–DES was discontinued as a medication for pregnant women because it gave their daughters cancer, and the sons appear to have high rates of trans and intersex conditions, which is exactly what you’d expect.

And then there are the people I have met whose health histories I am not privy to, but who quite obviously have something hormonal going on–girls who grow up and sprout beards, for example.

Alas, I don’t have data on what is going on with 100% of trans people, but from everything I’ve seen, it looks like we’re really just talking about a few people with rare medical conditions, prenatal hormonal or toxin exposure, etc., not weirdo degenerates who are trying to destroy civilization.

In fact, every trans person I’ve ever met just wanted to live their life without being harassed and be a contributing member of society, like almost everyone else I know.

 

In a nation with 320 million people, and a world with even more,  and the technology to find people with <1/million conditions and put them on TV or find each other on an online forum, it is easy to overestimate the commonness of extremely rare conditions. (Homosexuality comes immediately to mind–gay folks number around 3% of the country, but IIRC, people estimate that about 30% of people are gay.)

Trans people are an even smaller % of the population–even on LGBTetc forums, they complain about being left out and forgotten–because there are just so few of them. 0.3% of the population to be exact, according to Wikipedia. (This number seems consistent with “caused by a variety of rare medical conditions.”)

There are more prisoners in this country than trans people, but I don’t hear people complaining that a convicted criminal might use a public bathroom while they’re in there, even though criminals are way more likely to rape, assault, or kill you than some “chick with a beard.”

So even if I can’t convince you not to hate them, remember that trans people are such a tiny % of the overall population that worrying about them is a total waste of your time.

 

 

But what about all of this business about gender being a social construct?

Look, people throw around a lot of words without knowing what they really mean. Trans people are really the embodiment of the opposite of this principle. If gender were just a social construct, a woman with a beard could just say, “Well, society is wrong to say that beards are a man-thing; I’m going to declare that beards are a woman thing, too!” instead of feeling like there was something really wrong with her. Trans people would not bother with sex-reassignment-surgery (which is expensive, painful, and a pain in the butt;) they would just declare themselves to be whatever they want.

In fact, experiments have been done in which babies with indeterminate genitalia were just assigned a gender, surgically altered, (usually to female, because it is easier to subtract from working tissue than to add to it,) and then raised as their assigned gender, on the assumption that since gender is just a social construct, you can do this.

These experiments went badly. A lot of these kids grew up confused, hit puberty, and realized that they were in fact not the gender they’d been raised as (and that their parents had removed a good chunk of their genitalia.) Gender, in short, has so far resisted our best efforts to make it malleable.

 

In  short, trans people aren’t your enemies. They just want to pee in peace.