Thursday, June 11, 2015

This is a must read: On gender dysphoria.

Bruce Caitlyn Jenner may do more good than harm.

Unwittingly of course.  Though everyone claims to be sick of hearing about Jennner's 'sex-change' I still think Jenner has opened up a very important, public awareness of the reality of gender dysphoria, as well as other serious dysphoric obsessions which cry out for equal recognition in our day.  I'm not opposed to grappling with understanding what has caused such a disconnect between being and identity, but I do get bored with people who say they are sick of the Jenner story when really all they want to do is express their opinion pro or con and silence those who disagree.

It has taken on cult-like features.

That said, Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins has an insightful essay on the pathology of gender dysphoria.  I find it especially interesting as regards the possible motivation underlying Jenner's transition.
I have not met or examined Jenner, but his behavior resembles that of some of the transgender males we have studied over the years. These men wanted to display themselves in sexy ways, wearing provocative female garb. More often than not, while claiming to be a woman in a man’s body, they declared themselves to be “lesbians” (attracted to other women). The photograph of the posed, corseted, breast-boosted Bruce Jenner (a man in his mid-sixties, but flaunting himself as if a “pin-up” girl in her twenties or thirties) on the cover ofVanity Fair suggests that he may fit the behavioral mold that Ray Blanchard has dubbed an expression of “autogynephilia”—from gynephilia (attracted to women) and auto (in the form of oneself).
I am ever trying to be the boy among the bystanders who points to what’s real. I do so not only because truth matters, but also because overlooked amid the hoopla—enhanced now by Bruce Jenner’s celebrity and Annie Leibovitz’s photography—stand many victims. Think, for example, of the parents whom no one—not doctors, schools, nor even churches—will help to rescue their children from these strange notions of being transgendered and the problematic lives these notions herald. These youngsters now far outnumber the Bruce Jenner type of transgender. Although they may be encouraged by his public reception, these children generally come to their ideas about their sex not through erotic interests but through a variety of youthful psychosocial conflicts and concerns.
First, though, let us address the basic assumption of the contemporary parade: the idea that exchange of one’s sex is possible. It, like the storied Emperor, is starkly, nakedly false. Transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men. - Finish reading here.

The idea that one’s sex is fluid and a matter open to choice runs unquestioned through our culture.

Perhaps the most important part of Dr. McHugh's essay concerns the growing phenomenon of boys and girls seeking sexual-reassignment surgery.  There is a huge push against any type of psychological treatment or so-called conversion therapy to help young people faced with these issues.  Many gay activists, including 'gay-Catholics' - be they Spiritual Friendship followers or part of New Ways Ministry are often vociferous opponents to any sort of counselling for young LGBTQ people.

Most young boys and girls who come seeking sex-reassignment are utterly different from Jenner. They have no erotic interest driving their quest. Rather, they come with psychosocial issues—conflicts over the prospects, expectations, and roles that they sense are attached to their given sex—and presume that sex-reassignment will ease or resolve them.
The grim fact is that most of these youngsters do not find therapists willing to assess and guide them in ways that permit them to work out their conflicts and correct their assumptions. Rather, they and their families find only “gender counselors” who encourage them in their sexual misassumptions.
There are several reasons for this absence of coherence in our mental health system. Important among them is the fact that both the state and federal governments are actively seeking to block any treatments that can be construed as challenging the assumptions and choices of transgendered youngsters. [...]
In two states, a doctor who would look into the psychological history of a transgendered boy or girl in search of a resolvable conflict could lose his or her license to practice medicine. By contrast, such a physician would not be penalized if he or she started such a patient on hormones that would block puberty and might stunt growth.
What is needed now is public clamor for coherent science—biological and therapeutic science—examining the real effects of these efforts to “support” transgendering. Although much is made of a rare “intersex” individual, no evidence supports the claim that people such as Bruce Jenner have a biological source for their transgender assumptions. Plenty of evidence demonstrates that with him and most others, transgendering is a psychological rather than a biological matter. - Continue here.
Gird your loins if you would confront this matter.

So there you have it.  That is why the Jenner conversation needs to take place - and go beyond the headlines.  As McHugh states:
The larger issue is the meme itself. The idea that one’s sex is fluid and a matter open to choice runs unquestioned through our culture and is reflected everywhere in the media, the theater, the classroom, and in many medical clinics. It has taken on cult-like features: its own special lingo, internet chat rooms providing slick answers to new recruits, and clubs for easy access to dresses and styles supporting the sex change. It is doing much damage to families, adolescents, and children and should be confronted as an opinion without biological foundation wherever it emerges. - ibid


  1. Wouldn't narcissism be involved here too? In the years that I have been on the internet (1995 at the beginning in a small way), I have not once seen a post by a heterosexual (and I am an internet addict) talking about his or her sex life.

    But homosexuals and transexuals can't seem to go two paragraphs without talking about their sex lives and that of others.

  2. McHugh is not without his critics. In her 2014 article "Clinging to a Dangerous Past: Dr Paul McHugh’s Selective Reading of Transgender Medical Literature," Mari Brighe writes:

    "McHugh has decided to ignore the growing body of neurological and genetic research providing evidence of a biological basis for gender dysphoria. A 2009 study found a correlation between an increased number of a certain kind of sequence repeat in the Androgen Receptor gene and gender dysphoria. Another study in 2009 identified significant differences in cerebral grey matter structure in trans women who had yet to start hormone therapy when compared to cis men. In 2011, researchers noted that the structure of a sexually-dimorphic region of the brain, known as the intermediate nucleus, of trans women fell somewhere between cis men and cis women, while a similar difference was not noted castrated cis men. A 2013 functional brain imaging study of adolescents with gender dysphoria demonstrated a tendency for trans teens to perform more similarly to their identified sex (as opposed to their assigned sex) in a verbal fluency assessment, with similar correlation in brain activity during the assessment. Lastly, in 2013, a large study of monozygotic (identical) and dizygotic (fraternal) twins where at least one twin was transgender showed a far higher concordance of a diagnosis of gender dysphoria among monozygotic than dizygotic twins (33% vs 2.6%), which is strong indicator the existence of a biological factor in a trait. While much of the research into the biological aspects of trans people is still very new, Dr McHugh’s assertion that no evidence for a biological basis for trans identities demonstrates a deplorable ignorance of current medical research."

    1. Thanks Michael - perhaps McHugh will address that?

  3. Terry,
    Research also the chimeric person at wiki for a quick view. Fraternal twin eggs...boy and girl...can sometimes merge hours after fertilization and what should have been two people becomes one person with two sets of DNA. I 'm sure I met one as a camper when I was a camp counselor years ago. He was dominantly male but had the legs and feet of a female and the pretty eyes also. For days, other campers kept asking him whether he was a boy or girl. I never encountered another person like that so it is statistically rare but it is a legitimate case of gender confusion because it is actually physical. The research on chimerics is relatively new.

    1. I do know a teeny bit about chimera - I've read about it. Such cases are rather rare I'm sure. There are cases of botched sexual reassignment with person born with 2 sets of genitalia as well - not sure I states that in a clinically correct fashion though.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.