Biological Sex is a Big Ball of Wibbly Wobbly… Sexy Wexy… Stuff.

Categories Don’t Actually Exist

Existence does not exist in neat little categories.

We humans like our little categories because they make it easier to understand our world, but these categories only exist within our own minds.

Take, for instance, speciation. We have categories for every animal that we’ve discovered so far. But there is so much overlap. We have two egg laying mammals (the platypus and the echidna), one flying mammal (bats) and yet numerous flightless birds (penguins, ostriches, emus, kiwis, domestic fowl, et cetera),  fish that can walk on land (mudskippers), and the list goes on.

Don’t get me wrong, categories are great and all. Sorting things based on perceived patterns is a beneficial human adaptation. It allows us to understand a broader range of things because we don’t have to define everything by their own physical properties.

For instance, if I wanted to explain a crocodile to someone who’s never heard of a crocodile before, I’d likely start by saying they’re kind of like alligators.  Supposing this person is familiar with alligators, they’ll probably get an image in their head and start drawing mental comparisons. Obviously there are many notable differences between the two species, but they’re close enough to give someone a decent starting point.

If it weren’t for this human ability, we would have to start at square one with every new thing and identify them by their own unique properties in relation only to itself and as you can probably imagine, that would be awfully time consuming and would leave us with more limited time to explain to our new friend why they should probably get out of the water.

My point here is, categories are incredibly useful but there are more exceptions to the categories than there are categories.

A Brief Overview of Chromosomes

We already discussed in my previous article “‘Male’ and ‘Female’ Bodies Have the Same Blueprints” that we all started out as females in the womb, lending to many more similarity between the sexes than just nipples.

And in “Is Transsexuality a Mental Disorder?” we discussed how the genetics behind gender can get really intricate. The Y chromosome, for instance, requires the SRY gene in order to activate. Some folks lack that.

Some people are born XXY, XYY, XXYY. Some are born with a malformed chromosome.

In fact, some biologists believe that the X chromosome existed first and that the Y chromosome began as a malformed X. It is about a 3rd of the size of X chromosomes and is much more limited as far as replicating and passing on useful information.

When you think about it from an evolutionary perspective, we obviously didn’t always have X and Y chromosomes. Many other animals have different sets of sex chromosomes. For instance, birds and some reptiles have Z and W chromosomes, which behave contrary to our XX/XY system. Females are typically ZW and males are typically ZZ.

This gets even weirder when we consider transitional examples between the two apparently different systems. For instance, the southern platyfish has both XX/XY and ZZ/ZW sex determination systems often within the same populations.

This tells us that XY and ZW systems have common origins and transitioned at some point into two separate systems, possibly via fish. Neat!

The platypus is another oddity (I mean aside from the obvious). Instead of a pair of sex determining chromosomes, the platypus has ten. TEN! Five of these behave like the mammalian XX/XY system, while the other five behave more similarly to the avian ZZ/ZW system.

Various other sex chromosomal systems exist, and as we’ve seen, the systems sometimes overlap, and there exist numerous exceptions in any sex determining system.

Considering that our very distant ancestors were single-celled, the lineage of our XX/XY system goes back to asexual roots. It’s not rocket science.

Sex Is Non-Linear

To firmly grasp gender, it helps to think about it as the eventual result of numerous conflicting processes. Some processes contribute masculine traits, while others contribute feminine traits.

So, for instance, one could have XY chromosomes with a normal functioning SRY gene attached to the Y and produce a LOT of manly testosterone. Yet that same person could also have really long androgen receptors but shortened estrogen receptors (or simply more of them), thus decreasing androgen potency and making estrogen much more easily metabolized.

So you can see it’s not exactly straightforward. This is why gender is so obviously a spectrum. Speaking of gender in binary terms doesn’t truly make sense scientifically no matter how you try to spin it.

The fact of the matter is that biological sex is a big ball of wibbly wobbly… sexy wexy… stuff.

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“Male” and “Female” Bodies Have the Same Blueprints

In humans, we all start out as female in the womb. Hence why male-bodied individuals have nipples.

Gonads

Additionally, ovaries and testicles aren’t all that different. Both begin their lives as the same gonads in the womb.

To oversimplify the fuck out of microbiology, the SRY gene attached to the Y chromosome tells the gonads to descend and form into testicles. The absence of the SRY gene results in the gonads developing into ovaries.

Apparently it’s possible for developed ovaries to switch to testicles too. A 2009 study conducted by geneticists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany did an interesting experiment with mice. By removing the FOXL2 gene in mature mouse ovaries, the ovaries ended up producing testosterone after just 3 weeks.

Penis Vs. Vagina

Our genitals also aren’t terribly different from each other. It’s primarily the introduction of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that turns what would be a vagina into a penis.

By the sixth week of pregnancy, the genital area of the fetus develops into a genital tubercle. This tubercle is an arrangement of tissue in the genital area that is the same for both males and females until around week eleven.

The introduction of DHT molds the tubercle into the glans penis, where the absence of DHT results in the formation of the glans clitoridis.

Prior to all this, the urogenital area is just an open cavity for both males and females. This cavity ends up getting fused together, which results in a scar called a raphe line that runs from the anus to the perineum in both males and females. In biological males, however, this raphe line extends up the midline of the scrotum and sometimes continues partway up the penis.

This raphe line, then, is a cruel reminder of what I could have been. I’m going to name it Ralph. Fuck you, Ralph.

I’ve made formal complaints to this god person. I told them “I think my urogenital cavity closed up on accident during the manufacturing process, do you think I could return my penis and be refunded a gift card good for the amount of a replacement vagina?” but they said since it’s already used they can’t accept a return. Go figure: not even a year into being a woman and already I’m being slut shamed.

Fallopian Tupes

The Müllerian duct is another interesting fetal structure. This duct molds into what eventually becomes the Fallopian tubes, which eventually branch off into the uterus, and they exist in both males and females. It’s the introduction of Müllerian Inhibiting Substance (MIS) in males that causes the regress of the would-be Fallopian tubes.

Women also produce MIS, but where males produce more in infancy and gradually produce less and less until puberty, females often have no detectable traces of MIS in infancy and gain progressively more as they age.

What’s Up With Social Norms Then?

So you see, males and females aren’t terribly different from each other. Many of our differences are the result of one or two minor gene or hormone differences.

For instance, if a person with XX chromosomes has their FOXL2 gene inhibited, then their gonads will end up developing as testicles. If a person with XY chromosomes doesn’t produce enough MIS, then they’ll develop Fallopian tubes and eventually a uterus (which does happen). If a person born XY doesn’t get enough DHT, then they develop a vagina (or perhaps ambiguous genitalia).

This makes it unsurprising that intersex people make up around 2% of the population, or the same number of people as their are redheads.

It’s fascinating how such minor deviations result in such firm social norms though.

How I Use to Parody Masculinity

A common criticism of trans women that I hear is that we’re essentially a parody of femininity. Basically the complaint is that we go over-the-top feminine. That it seems a lot like we’re just pretending.

But I was really pretending before I came out.

I tried so hard to be a “real man”. I wore a thick beard. I consciously dropped my voice heavily. I remember being so conscious of things as seemingly nonsensical as my walk. I’d think to myself, “shit I’m shaking my hips too much” and try to “correct” myself.

I’d even feign interest in “manly” things and disinterest in “girly” things.

Basically, I was a really bad parody of a man.

I ended up being really jealous of other guys who it seemed like masculinity came so easily to. This created a lot of issues in my relationships. But of course I never felt “man enough”. Because I wasn’t one to begin with.

Everything I did before I came out was so calculated. And yeah I know this seems kind of odd to a lot of people. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of people out there who claim to not see gender. Who are confused by why we can’t just be our authentic selves without the need for silly labels.

And I have to agree to a certain extent. Labels are stupid. But in a society where we’re constantly told to “man up”, it’s kind of hard not to constantly check our identities when they go against everything we’ve been taught to believe is right.

In a way, I think most of us are parodying one thing or another. We’re social animals who live in a judgmental society. Everyone is parodying something. Most cis dudes parody masculinity as poorly as I use to. Plenty of cis women parody femininity as poorly as people seem to think trans women do. Republicans are a really bad parody of conservativism, and give the rest of us a really bad name.

Really it seems like people only “notice” our hyperfemininity because they become so hyper aware of everything we do after they find out we’re trans. I mean if you pay attention to anything hard enough you’ll find all kinds of discrepancies if that’s the sort of thing you’re into.

The thing is though, I’ve never felt so at ease than I do since coming out. I mean I basically just act myself. The other night a friend commented on how I was passing really well. I was a whole lot of shots and beers in (it was New Years Eve, after all) and I absolutely was not pretending to be anything. I was walking however I felt like walking. And naturally speaking softly (while carrying a big stick).

Like I wasn’t consciously altering my voice. I was just speaking however felt comfortable. But apparently that’s when I “pass” the best. When I’m not even thinking about it. When I’m just being myself. It’s so incredibly freeing to not be constantly checking myself. I always had to try so hard to be a guy. But I don’t have to try at all to be a woman. I just am.

The Singular They/Their

“Alright what asshole tried to pay their tab with arcade tokens?”

See? Right there. We already use the singular they when one’s gender is unknown.

Yet I still hear from people that it’s not grammatically correct (GC police alert). And I’ll admit, it feels a little weird using they in the singular when the person is known.

But here’s the thing. Language is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly evolving over time. So I’ll only entertain arguments against this subject from people who insist on speaking solely in Old English.

For that matter, the word you was originally plural. Thou is the proper singular. It was similar to the French tu (second person singular) versus vous (second person plural). This is why the word you gets followed by the plural conjugation of “to be” (are).

Thus, I am. She is. He is. And yet, you are. They are. We are.

History Lesson!

Thou was actually dropped from our language due to being perceived as rude (alright, who were the special snow flakes?).

After the Norman Invasion of England in the 11th Century, England’s nobility was replaced with predominantly french speaking Norman nobility.

This is the reason for the host of Old French loanwords in the English language, mostly in the areas of government, military, and other areas the new nobility were keen to discuss.

The second person pronouns thou and you were among the retained English words. However, the Normans ended up mainly using thou when showing familiarity or when being otherwise informal, and you mainly when being formal and showing respect.

This would have been similar to the French usage of tu in the informal and vous in the formal.

But once thou became used even in formal situations to show disrespect, it was dropped from the language and you ended up being used for all forms of the 2nd person pronoun.

Medieval nobility were kind of known for this sort of thing. They’re also where we get the word villain, which was borrowed from the Old French vilain, to denote one who works on a villa. In other words, a farmhand. However, once the concept of chivalry became big with knights, the implication was that unchivalrous acts were carried out solely by vilains, which by this point referred to serfs and peasants pretty generally (they’re all the same, right?).

 

In any case, language evolves as we do. Otherwise we’d still be speaking Old English. So the next time someone tells you that “they” can’t be used in the singular, just assume they’re a medieval LARPer or something and tell them “thou art right.”

God Transcends Gender

I know, I know. Some tranny is trying to bastardize your religion again. Okay, but hear me out.

The Abrahamic Religions generally view God as a male deity. However, there are various hints in the Bible that may clue us in that maybe God had some feminine qualities. We’ll start with Genesis 1:26-27, which states: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

See? Females were created in God’s image too. Since we’re all made in God’s image, could we perhaps conclude that, at the very least, we all encompass various aspects of God? In other words, rather than (or maybe in addition to) seeing God as an archetype for the Universe, perhaps we could see ourselves as archetypes for different aspects of God?

This implies that every person of every gender, ethnicity, et cetera is a unique representation of God’s image.

Adam and Eve and Genetics

Another thing to consider is how Eve was made. It’s interesting to me that the mantra of so-called marriage traditionalists is “It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Except that if you look at Genesis scientifically (I know, ironic as that may be), we’re basically looking at an example of cloning. Right? God cloned Eve from Adams rib. I mean otherwise what was the point of jacking Adam’s rib?

Even taking a loose interpretation of the passage, Eve was constructed from a male (XY) bone. Eve was made from male parts. Now I’m not saying my girl Eve was a transgender woman. But I don’t see any reason it couldn’t be read that way.[1]

Further, the entirety of the Creation story ends with God saying “and it was good.” The only thing that God saw as not good was when God saw that man was alone (Genesis 2:18), which prompted God to create Eve, possibly because God saw that Creation was incomplete. Perhaps God felt incomplete as a result.

God as the Father/God as the Mother

In various verses, God is referred to as “Father” (Deut 32:6 ; 2 Sam 7:14 ; Psalms 68:5 & 89:26 ; 1 Chron 17:13 ; and many others). In fact, God is frequently referred to as a masculine figure.

In other verses, however, God’s motherly qualities are revealed, such as:

  • Exodus 19:4 “‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.'”
  • Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you”.
  • Isaiah 66:9 “‘Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the Lord.”
  • Isaiah 42:14 “I have held My peace a long time, I have been still and restrained Myself. Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once.”
  • Hosea 13:8 “Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open; like a lion I will devour them—a wild animal will tear them apart.”
  • Psalm 22:9-10 “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.”
  • Psalm 36:7 “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
  • Job 38:29 (When God challenges Job from the whirlwind) “From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?”
  • Song of Solomon 2:1 “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.”

As you see here, God carries us under Her wing, comforts us as a mother would her child, delivers us into this world, and protects us like a bear or a lion protects her cubs. You’ll notice that God will even occasionally use feminine pronouns for him/herself.

In Exodus 3:14, after Moses asks God what he should call them, God responds, “‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’’”

“I am who I am.” That’s pretty deep. It’s also pretty unassuming.

Additionally, various Jewish texts use the Hebrew word  Shekinah (שכינה‎‎) to denote God’s divine “presence”, and is notably a grammatically feminine word. The word comes up in II Kings 3:15 (Tractate Shabbat 30b), in the 17th blessing of the daily Amidah prayer, and others. Shekinah also plays a large role in the conception of Moses in the Zohar (Book of Enlightenment).

Hebrew Differentiations

It’s also important to keep in mind that Hebrew is a highly dynamic language that, especially in the beginning, was heavily concerned with action. It’s somewhat abstract for us today to think about. If something behaves like something, then it is that something.

Thus, when God behaves like a father, then he is a father. Likewise, when God behaves like a mother, then she is a mother.

It’s a very different way of thinking that I think makes more sense when thought about in the context of the relative time period. If we reflect back on one of my previous post Of Satanism and Paganism (no, the irony of referencing a Satanic post in a Jewish discussion is not lost on me), we’ll remember how the Canaanite Ba’al Zebul (“Lord of the Heavens”) may have been referred to as Ba’al Zebub (“Lord of the Flies”) when called upon to rid a city of flies (or disease). Likewise, the Greek Apollo was sometimes referred to as Apollo Smintheus (“Apollo of mice”) when called upon to rid a city of mice.

So we see that various civilizations around the same time frame would commonly refer to their deities as being whatever they were encompassing. The Hebrew God was not very different.

It’s honestly a beautiful way of thinking. I don’t just act like a mother – I am a mother. I don’t just play music – I am music (this is actually very similar to the Taoist mantra of Wei Wu Wei, “Doing/Not Doing”, which I’ll discuss in a later post). It’s an amazingly empowering concept.

As Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan says in his essay “Understanding God”, “[E]very name and every description that we may give to God can only apply to His relationship to His creation.”

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Notes:

[1] The only problem here is that the X chromosome contains far less genetic material than the Y chromosome, and the Y is also 1/3 the size of the X. Thus, some scientists believe that the X chromosome may have developed first, and then the Y chromosome may have arose as an underformed X. So perhaps it would make more literal sense if it were Eve who were formed first and Adam were made from her rib.

There Are Only Two Religions (Satire)

Ya know, people talk about us LGBT folk just making up words for our various identities. But no one raises a fuss when different conservative ideologies do the same thing. I mean, isn’t modern religion basically on a spectrum?

It’d be like if I said there are only two religions: Catholic and Protestant. Everything else is just a bastardized version of one or the other invented by holier-than-thou heathens to get attention.

I really don’t get it. It’s been two denominations for the longest. Then Next thing you know there’s special snowflakes like Calvinists and Adventists being made-up. Nowadays there’s at least a hundred different denominations, even though we all know Mennonites are just a slightly less hippy version of Anabaptist.

Methodists are basically just whinier Catholics. And what the fuck are the Mormons doing? Seriously, they are trying way too hard to be special. “Look at me, I wear magic undies and am gonna get my own planet when I die!” And as if that doesn’t make them special enough, they just have to preach that Jesus was American. Jesus Christ!

Christians even have other ways of describing themselves beyond their hundreds of made-up “denominations.”

Evangelical Pentecostal…?

Young Earth Creationist Fundamentalist Southern Baptist…?

Just what the fuck is a Northern Baptist anyway!?

Some of these special snowflakes even go numbering their congregations whenever enough factions get split off from it in an area. First Baptist Church of Waco, for instance, would literally just be the first church of that made-up name to arrive to the area of Waco, for instance. And if enough people split apart from that church (over some disagreement), they have to form a “second” church of that area! It get’s so ridiculous in some places that they had to name a Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia and even a Twenty Eighth Church Of Christ Scientist of Las Angeles. Seriously, you were too damn special to get along with any of the first twenty seven!?

We get it. You all have your own very unique ideas of what God is like and what rules from the Bible he’s okay with you cherry picking around. But I’m still only considering you either a Catholic or a Protestant.

All these other protestants are just Lutherans crying for attention. And then Mormons and nondenominational, who aren’t even really either religion, apparently. Really, you felt like there were just too many different denominations, so you decided to reconcile that problem by inventing a new denomination around the idea of not being a denomination?

We have these hipster Messianic Jews, who call themselves Jewish, even though they follow Christ, which makes them at least etymologically Christian. But no, they feel a misalignment with the christian church(es), and so have to have their own little club. “Look at me, I was Christian before it was popular. Christianity just wasn’t the same after their first interpretation.”

Some people even claim to “convert” from one religion to another. But that doesn’t really make sense, because religion is deeply, fundamentally rooted in our upbringings. I’m sorry, but if you weren’t socialized as a Catholic, then you’ll never truly be a Catholic. You can’t be raised feeling reasonably good about yourself and then suddenly be as unworthy as your nearest pedophile (you probably wouldn’t have to go far, considering). There’s no way you’ll take it seriously without that kind of shame rooted deeply in your nurture.

Bottom line, quit making up stupid words to identify with. No one’s impressed that you’re an apologist evangelical young earth creationist who goes to The Forty Second Reformed United Seventh Day Adventist Church of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. If you really need that many names to identify by, you’re obviously just mentally ill.
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A note to my neckbeard religion experts:

This post is completely satire. Yes, obviously since Protestantism itself was a modification of Catholicism, this analogy isn’t exactly perfect. Sure, I could’ve gone with Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism from the Byzantine empire as my examples, but this post is more concerned with using examples that the lay audience can resonate with, and less concerned with historical accuracy (seriously, if your takeaway from this piece is an attempt at a religion lesson, then you’re really not paying attention).

What Even Are Gender Norms?

Everyone seems to have an opinion on transgender culture. But hardly anyone asks the real question: what is gender anyway? Well that’s a broad-ass topic, so we’re going to split it into parts, starting with the more specific question of: what the fuck are gender norms?

Does being a man mean wearing pants and flat shoes – and definitely not wearing makeup – while being a woman means wearing makeup and heels? If that’s the case, then our perception of gender norms is a pretty recent construct.

The Scottish have worn kilts (they get triggered if you call them skirts) since the 16th century. In Asian cultures, men were wearing makeup as early as 3000 BCE, and even later in 18th Century England, men wore makeup and fancy powdered wigs (though for sexier reasons).

Men first started wearing high heels in the 9th Century by Persian horsemen as a practical means of keeping their feet from slipping off the stirrups (similar to cowboy boots today, which keep men from slipping out of a different stallion). The style later became common among men in England in the 1600s.

Heels became a status symbol, likely originating from the fact that mostly horsemen wore them, meaning that wearing them indicated that the wearer owned horses, and therefore was likely wealthy. However practical they may have started, heels started being worn by regular ol’ rich men and soon became steeper so that the man wearing them would appear taller, thus accentuating his boyish figure. In fact, French King Louis XIV wore some ridiculously high heels because he was short.

Later in the 1600s, women in Europe started wearing heels to appear more manly! Not long after, heels began becoming more affordable so that even the lower class was wearing them, so the upper class made their heels higher and more fabulous! to differentiate themselves from the peasants until the style eventually phased out altogether by the early 1800s.

In other words, gender norms are based solely on the time period and culture. But apparently few people regard history, instead insisting on judging others based on sets of arbitrarily defined rules that hardly govern anything practical about the world.

A Side Note For Your Consideration

Now here’s what really gets my panties hard. So I’m just an ordinary trans girl. I positively LOVE wearing skirts and makeup. So now I have to wonder, would I have been more comfortable living as a man in 16th Century Scotland or 3000 BC Asia?

I can be a girly girl, for sure. But if I had been born much earlier in a masculine feminist Amazon warrior tribe, would I still feel like a girl? (Like my interpretation of what it means to be a girl, that is).

I suppose my question is: is my gender dysphoria more a misalignment with my own biology? or with my time period’s interpretation of gender roles?

Trans Military Ban – Denied!

I never did get around to writing about Trump’s transgender military ban. I enjoy writing about academic topics rather than topical topics, but this news is exciting to me so here it goes!

Let me start by sharing my story. I joined the Navy in September of 2011. “Don’t ask; don’t tell” was actually repealed while I was in Boot Camp. Then I separated from the service in September of 2016, shortly after then Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender personnel.

I was honored to be a part of such progressive history. (On a side note, women were first allowed on board ships while my father was serving, so we both got to be a part of some neat history).

I was never out while I was in. In fact, I didn’t even know I was trans at the time, though I did embrace my gender fluidity from the comfort of my own home. My contract was already ending by the time transgender people were allowed in, but I thought it was pretty swell anyway. Only for the ban to be reinstated shortly after I left active duty.

And this was pretty upsetting to me. I mean I served honorably for five years and now I’ve been told by our new Commander in Chief that I’m not worthy of service?

Now I’m not going to get too deep into the reasonings for why I believe trans people should be permitted to serve, since I’m sure most people interested enough in the issue have already heard it. But since the typical arguments against trans people serving argue from a medical stance, and I served as a Hospital Corpsman, I may as well debunk a thing or two while I’m here.

Medication Dependency Myth

A common argument I’ve heard is that service-members shouldn’t be dependent on medications. While it is true that some medical dependencies can result in a discharge, I can’t tell you how many active service-members I’ve personally given ongoing medications to.

I personally was taking Prozac (for depression) and Propranolol (for anxiety and to ease my essential tremors) for the last few years that I was in. And yes, for anyone who is wondering, quitting Prozac for any length of time does result in withdrawal symptoms.

Active service-members I’ve been involved in the care of have taken blood pressure medications. Some even took hormones. Yes, even cisgendered people sometimes go through Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Some men don’t produce adequate testosterone and take supplements.

True, if a cisgendered service-member relies on testosterone treatment and must be deployed to a setting where hormones may not be readily available to him, he may have a bad time. But he won’t be alone. I mean how many service-members become dependent on alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, et cetera only to deploy and experience a bit of an awkward period? It happens. We’re trained to deal with it like adults.

Interestingly enough, I found out after getting out that I have (had?) a serious testosterone deficiency. If I had known this while I was still in, I could have easily received testosterone supplementation through Tricare. So please tell me, what exactly would have been the difference if I had started MtF HRT while I was serving?

Rise in Military Healthcare Costs

According to a RAND analysis employed by the DoD, allowing transgender individuals to serve would only result in a 0.04 to 0.13 percent spending increase. This is assuming a $2.4 million to $8.4 million cost associated with transition related expenditures,

For context, the military currently spends $84 million per year on Viagra. During my time in, I’ve seen active service-members and their dependents receive procedures that were technically cosmetic. They just had to come up with a reasonably compelling argument for why the procedure might produce some kind of therapeutic benefit.

But It’s a Mental Illness!

No, it’s not. See my recent post on the topic: Is Transsexuality a Mental Disorder? As a quick recap, we can’t even seem to firmly define exactly what the fuck sex or gender are. There’s a great many biological components to consider as well.

Seriously, it’s a natural phenomena. Society is the one with the mental illness. Here, I’ll prove it: can society, as a concept, join the military? No. See my point?

Aside from that, even if one could prove that transgender is a mental disorder, the military already spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on mental health treatment. And, as I mentioned earlier, I was a part of these statistics pre-transition.

Lack of Facilities

Another argument I’ve heard is that permitting trans people to join would create a unique burden on military facilities such as barracks and bathrooms. But I don’t see any reason why trans service-members can’t just utilize the facilities that match their gender identity.

Sure, some service-members would be bound to take issue with this. For that matter, some service-members take issue with having to bunk with gays. Some don’t like having to bunk with people of different ethnicities or religions. Know how they reconcile these issues? They get the fuck over it.

Besides, if we’re really so concerned about the added costs of separate facilities, we could always take a page out of Battlestar Galactica’s book and just make everything co-ed. co-ed is the future anyway.

Now Back to the Ban of the Ban

Now that my long overdue rant is over, I’m pleased to announce that just yesterday  Judge Marvin Garbis of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland ruled that the U.S. government must continue funding transgender procedures for service members.

In his order, Judge Garbis opined that the transgender service members

“demonstrated that they are already suffering harmful consequences such as the cancellation and postponements of surgeries, the stigma of being set apart as inherently unfit, facing the prospect of discharge and inability to commission as an officer, the inability to move forward with long-term medical plans, and the threat to their prospects of obtaining long-term assignments.”

Of course, other judges have also stepped up to challenge Trump’s trans ban by calling for the ban to pend formal investigation, but this was the first official ruling to finally stop the ban dead in its tracks.

And I do hope this ruling sticks. I really hope this is the last time I have to talk about this.

TRANS-fer Error

I’ve recently decided to change my major to IT.

That way when people call me an “it”, they won’t technically be wrong.

Plus, I’m already obsessed with PC culture. Macs have no place in society.

Even  more appropriately, when I think about it, our brains are a lot like computers. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the analogy that our short term memory is like RAM and our long term memory is like our hard drive. With enough of a stretch, we can extend the analogies to explain what I mean when I say I’m trans (I don’t pretend to speak for the whole community – they can get their own blogs).

This analogy may be too binary for some readers, but let’s continue anyway.

So what do I mean when I say I feel a misalignment with my body? Well, let’s stretch our analogy to it’s furthest bounds, and consider a PC with a few incompatible parts.

So let’s say somewhere in the manufacturing process, certain cables got placed to the wrong drives or something.

Maybe the machine reads my floppy drive as having a floppy inserted but the computer reads that it’s not. So the processor goes around disk driving it up, while externally, there’s a damn floppy flopping about!

Clearly there’s a misalignment here. One that can be solved easily by simply installing the proper software. Well that’s basically where I’m at. I’m installing the proper hormones into my brain so that my “hardware” will start reflecting more with the way my processor was trying to interpret the data all along.

I don’t know it this is the best analogy out there. Listen, it’s complicated. I don’t even understand it myself! It truly does not make sense. But I’m trying to make sense of it. More so to myself than to the two people who might stumble on this.

Biologically, we’ve gathered that transgender people tend to have brain makeups more similarly related to the sex of the gender that they identify with, which in Male-to-Female transsexuals may be a result of the undermasculinization of the brain due to elongated androgen receptors compared to their cis counterparts (sources cited below).

This sounds somewhat like a syntax error, if you think about it. The elongated androgen receptor in participating MtF patients acts sort of like a string in our genetic code that’s out of place, if you will.

Unfortunately, the damage has been done. We can’t just go into our genetic code and rearrange the sequence until our system reflects what the code maybe should have been. Our brains are what neurologists call “plastic”, meaning that they physically and chemically change construction based on experiences.

I’ve already experienced the female experience. I’ve lived it my whole life. Even if I’ve only recently stopped shaming myself for it. My brain has grown and molded into the woman I am inside. And frankly, I don’t want to change that.

Hell, sometimes coders will make mistakes in their codes only to find that those mistakes are actually useful. It’s the same with any art form. Without mistakes, art would be mechanical and dull.

With that, I’ve chosen to find the beauty in my genetic errors. Rather than hide them, I’m going to do all I can to enhance my external systems in order to agree more with those beautiful errors. Maybe I’ll become some kind of happy hybrid machine.

One thing is for certain: Machines are complicated. Biology is doubly so.

Sources:
Hahn, Andreas, et al. “Structural Connectivity Networks of Transgender People.” Cerebral Cortex. Oxford Journals. https://academic.oup.com/cercor/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/cercor/bhu194
Hare, Lauren, et al. “Androgen Receptor Repeat Length Polymorphism Associated with Male-to-Female Transsexualism.” Biological Psychiatry: A Journal of Psychiatric Neuroscience and Therapeutics. http://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223(08)01087-1/fulltext

Is Transsexuality a Mental Disorder

The short answer is no, because while gender dysphoria is included in the DSM-5 (the regularly updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), transsexuality is not. But that explanation is hardly going to win you any debates.

To thoroughly answer this, we need to ask a few more questions. First and foremost, what constitutes a mental disorder? Once we’ve established that, then we can ask the more fun questions, like what is biological sex? what is gender? and what’s it to anyone anyway?

What Constitutes a Mental Disorder?

First off, let’s define “mental disorder”. I’m no psychologist, so I’ll just quote straight from the handy DSM-5:

“A mental disorder is a syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning. Mental disorders are usually associated with significant distress in social, occupational, or other important activities. An expectable or culturally approved response to a common stressor or loss, such as the death of a loved one, is not a mental disorder. Socially deviant behavior (e.g., political, religious, or sexual) and conflicts that are primarily between the individual and society are not mental disorders unless the deviance or conflict results from a dysfunction in the individual, as described above.”

It’s important to note that the exact definition of mental disorder changes in every edition of the DSM. It’s gone from exceptionally vague to gradually attempting to establish something somewhat concrete. We should also note that mental disorders don’t really exist in any tangible way.

It’s all up to interpretation and largely dependent on what is and isn’t socially acceptable in society. For instance, talking to an invisible man in the sky would normally constitute a disorder – but not if it’s a part of a well-recognized religion.

Homosexuality was once considered a disorder. That was back when society was exceptionally inhospitable to gays. And when society starts locking people up and recommending electroshock therapy to any group, they tend to become depressed, anxious, and otherwise emotionally distressed. Now that society is just a little bit more hospitable to gays, suddenly they seem so much more normal. Imagine that!

In general, if it doesn’t cause “significant distress in social, occupational, or other important activities”, then it’s not considered a disorder. After all, if any condition caused no distressed in these major categories, you probably wouldn’t be going to see a therapist anyway. But this in itself means that a disorder for one person in one career or social group may be normal in another.

The point I’m trying to drive home here is that the notion of mental disorders is largely subjective and dependent entirely on personal variables. Not exactly straightforward.

What is Biological Sex?

If you think this is a more straightforward question, you’d be dead wrong. The typical argument is that XX chromosomes denote female and XY chromosomes denote male. Seriously though, if biology were ever that simple, med school would be a lot shorter and cheaper. We’d all be fucking doctors. Case closed!

It gets more complicated when we consider Klinefelter syndrome, in which a person has XXY Chromosomes, and Turner Syndrome, in which a female is either missing or partially missing an X chromosome. There’s also XYY Syndrome and XXYY syndrome.

Then there’s intersex, in which a person is born with ambiguous genitalia. This isn’t always completely obvious at birth. For instance, some are assigned female at birth because they appear to have a typical vagina. Some don’t find out until later on in life, while others are obvious from the start, often leading the parents to make a decision on whether to raise their baby as male or female (sometimes surgeries are done to make their genitals conform to the parent’s decision).

According to Anne Fausto-Sterling, professor of biology and gender studies at Brown University, intersex people account for 1.7% of the population. This may seem like an insignificant percentage, but that’s about as common as redheads, who also account for under 2% of the population. It should be noted, however, that Fausto-Sterling’s figure includes figures such as Klinefelter’s Syndrome and Turner Syndrome, which aren’t typically diagnosed as intersex. Still, it goes to show that people who fall outside of the XX/XY binary are more common than many would think.

Additionally, the Y chromosome requires the SRY gene in order to activate the male traits of the Y chromosome. In people with Swyer Syndrome, the SRY is absent, leading to typical female sex development, but with undeveloped gonads.

This leads us to an interesting topic. Gonads make up both the ovaries in females and the testes in males. But it’s the same structure in the beginning. In utero, we all got the same gonadal structures. The SRY gene in the Y chromosome tells the gonads to descend into testes. In the absence of the SRY gene, the gonads stay put and form into ovaries (I’m simplifying of course).

In this, female is sort of considered the default sex. After all, we all start out as females in the womb (hence male nipples). Because of this fact, even with typical XY chromosomes with the required SRY gene in tact, people can still be born more or less physically and/or mentally androgynous.

For instance, researchers have found a significant association between an elongated androgen receptor and male-to-female transsexuals. The extra length that androgens (male hormones) must travel in order to masculinize the fetus results in less potency. Hence, undermasculinization of the brain.

This may be the reason that trans women’s brains tend to closely resemble cis female brains, while trans men’s brains tend to resemble cis male brains. Which brings us to our next topic!

What is Gender?

I don’t even know where to start on this.

Well, since everyone wants to be a fucking etymologist when it comes to the distinction or nondistinction of sex and gender, let’s start there. Both words have been used even in Old English and were used interchangeably. The word gender comes from the Latin genus, which means a “class”, “kind”, or “group”.

The word gender was generally used to refer to one’s biological sex, and thus their role in society, throughout English history (possibly to avoid using the dirty word “sex”). It wasn’t until 1945 when the American Journal of Psychology published a paper stating that “In the grade-school years, too, gender (which is the socialized obverse of sex) is a fixed line of demarkation, the qualifying terms being ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine.’”

This is the first time we see a real distinction between how we use the words “gender” and “sex”. The reason for the distinction at that time was that we were becoming interested in the sociological roles of gender.

Keep in mind that women officially got the right to vote in the U.S. in 1920. Prior to women’s suffrage, women were barred from such involvement for a variety of given reasons. Initially, only property-owners were allowed to vote. Women didn’t own property, so withholding their suffrage was easy enough.

But when poor white men successfully gained their right to vote, continuing to keep women from voting required newer excuses. Namely, that women and men simply had different roles in society. Men worked and contributed to society, while women stayed at home and took care of the men.

So whenever women were allowed similar privileges to men, it really called the notion of gender roles into question. Hence the 1945 American Journal of Psychology article.

Fast forward to 1965. A kid named David Reimer suffered a botched circumcision during infancy. Psychologist John Money, who had made a career of studying gender and sex, recommended that the parents opt to just have the genitals altered and to raise the baby as a girl, arguing that male and female characteristics are learned behaviors. In other words, Dr. Money was suggesting that gender was entirely a social construct.

Unfortunately, Reimer was unhappy living as a female, even from the age of 9 – and this was with them not knowing about the circumcision mishap. Reimer enjoyed male activities and disliked the feminine clothing they were made to wear. At age 15, Reimer decided to start living life as a male instead.

This story is often used to show that gender is more than a mere social construct. It’s well embedded in our brains. We know what gender roles we’re most comfortable expressing even from a young age.

Since then, feminists and trans activists have been further adapting the term “gender”. Even today, there’s a lot of disagreement. But in general, sex refers to biology, while gender refers to one’s identity.

Conclusion

Seriously, there’s so many scientific studies showing the naturality of transsexuality. And the literature on how the word “gender” came to evolve in the first place kind of makes you wonder if maybe transphobia is really just misogyny with extra steps.

At any rate, to formally answer the question of whether transsexuality is a mental disorder, you just need to remember what it even means to have a disorder. Mental disorders just indicate anything that causes severe distress in a person’s work or social life. So I guess if you’re transsexual and distressed about it, then sure, maybe you could be said to have a disorder. But if you’re embracing your transsexuality and have supportive friends, family, and co-workers, then you’re probably not quite so distressed.

The reason gender dysphoria is listed as a disorder is because the distressed caused by living in what feels like the wrong body and having to behave in manners that are socially appropriate for your sex assigned at birth is worthy of that label. Hopefully though, transitioning allows one with gender dysphoria to be their real selves, which is immensely therapeutic. In which case, one could say that transitioning is the cure to the disorder of gender dysphoria.

Some people just want anything that they don’t consider “normal” to be a disorder or “unnatural” or anything along those lines. But if ignorance is natural, then I don’t want to be natural. I just want to be me!

 

Works Consulted:
“Klinefelter Syndrome and Other Sex Chromosomal Aneuploidies.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1634840/
“How Common Is Intersex? A Response to Anne Fausto-Sterling.” The Journal of Sex Research. Vol. 39, No. 3 (Aug., 2002), pp. 174-178. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3813612
“Structural Connectivity Networks of Transgender People.” Cerebral Cortex. Oxford Journals. https://academic.oup.com/cercor/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/cercor/bhu194
“Androgen Receptor Repeat Length Polymorphism Associated with Male-to-Female Transsexualism.” Biological Psychiatry: A Journal of Psychiatric Neuroscience and Therapeutics. http://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223(08)01087-1/fulltext
“Sex Reassignment at Birth: A Long Term Review and Clinical Implications.” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, No. 151. http://www.hawaii.edu/PCSS/biblio/articles/1961to1999/1997-sex-reassignment.html