Features, Sex, Social Science

A Plea To Trans Activists: We Can Protect Trans Rights Without Denying Biology

International Transgender Day of Visibility falls annually on March 31, though even the most casual observer must wonder if we still need a day to mark it. In the three years since Caitlin Jenner transitioned there has been an explosion of transgender visibility. What might be lacking is an International Day of Transgender Understanding. Western society has been keen to affirm trans people, and that is to be welcomed, but it has been slower to think critically about the wider impact of legislative change, and particularly the effect on women and their right to organise and associate as a biological sex.

Debbie Hayton

Muddled thinking about sex and gender, and what it means to be male or female, also threatens the credibility of transsexual people who transition to escape the chronic and debilitating effects of gender dysphoria. I know that struggle first hand. I can recount the standard trans narrative of discomfort with my sex from a very early age. Throughout childhood I yearned to be female but concrete reality displaced my wishful thinking, and instead I grew into a man who married and had a family.

I graduated in physics and became a high school teacher. When gender dysphoria finally overwhelmed me, my goal was to carry on teaching and stay out of the newspapers. That strategy was partly successful: I still work in the same school, but my desire for obscurity has been obliterated. I was never exposed by a hostile press, as even the most antagonistic journalist would struggle to spin much from my unremarkable transition. I outed myself when I started to challenge postmodern thinking that suggests our sex depends not on our chromosomes, but what is in our heads; something that is not based in facts and evidence but in feelings and opinions; something that has established the mantra transwomen are women.

In the UK trans rights are still underpinned by the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, which allows us to change our legal sex on the basis of two medical reports, a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and evidence of a meaningful social transition. Many trans rights campaigners would like to sweep away that requirement for facts and evidence and follow the example set by other jurisdictions including Argentina, Malta and Ireland. The UK House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee agreed with them when they reported on Transgender Equality in 2015. They recommended that the UK must also adopt the principles of gender self-declaration and introduce Gender Identity as a protected characteristic.

Worryingly, concerns about the impact on women went unaddressed, and Gender Identity was left undefined. That was perhaps unsurprising as attempts by other jurisdictions to pin down Gender Identity have been less than satisfactory. For example, the State of Massachusetts defined it as: “a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.” Which, to me, is a conflation of circular reasoning and sexist stereotyping. Recent Scottish legislation has gone further and redefined the word woman to include a person who “is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process for the purpose of becoming female.” Quite apart from the fact that this allows any man to qualify merely by self-declaring an intention to transition, it introduces the idea that someone can become female. The Act doesn’t explain how that is possible so perhaps wishful thinking has displaced concrete reality in the minds of our legislators.

 

These are uncertain times for people who rely on the law to protect our rights when we change our legal sex because trans people do not exist in isolation, we exist in society. UK Government proposals to consult on those recommendations from The Women and Equalities Committee report have crystallized women’s concerns, and disputes that had been simmering on social media spilled out into the street in London last year.

Confidence has been damaged because any law based on self-declaration of Gender Identity would be based not on facts and evidence but on feelings and opinions. If society loses faith in the law to determine how someone might “become female,” then society may do its own gatekeeping that could be far less sympathetic to trans people than what we know at present.

When it comes to our own individual preferences, feelings and opinions are not a problem. You prefer coffee; I prefer tea. You prefer to wear a dress today; I prefer to wear trousers. But this isn’t a debate over what we choose to drink or wear. Nor is it a debate over our identities. Nobody’s identity is up for debate: we are who we are, and it’s nonsense to argue that we might be somebody else.

It also isn’t a debate over how we express our gender. And we should defend the right of everyone to express their gender however they please. Why do we still restrict men and women to different dress codes? Why does every bank need to define us by gender markers? Organisations do need to know our sex, because if they’re blind to sex they’re blind to sexism. Across society, we should also provide safe and secure unisex facilities for all who want them. Those are progressive steps that should be offered to everyone.

What is being debated is access to women’s rights and protections. Generations of women have fought to establish and maintain them, but if anyone can self-declare their Gender Identity to be female, then anyone who wants to be a woman is a woman. Women have every right to be concerned because biological sex ceases to be definitive, and womanhood is reduced to a collection of feelings. It is unclear how declarations based on feelings could be challenged. While attempts might be made to criminalise fraudulent self-declarations, how can they ever be falsified? It is dangerously naïve to assume that men would never self-declare as women with nefarious motives. Most men probably wouldn’t, but those who might are the ones that cause concern. Women’s boundaries are hardly secure if they have to rely on the assumption that men wouldn’t do that, would they?

UK law does allow providers of women’s services to apply discretion and exclude transwomen if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The Government has no plans to change that. However, while service providers are permitted to apply “single-sex exemptions,” they are not obligated to do so. The law is poorly understood, and providers are eager to be inclusive. Realistically, however, boundaries are maintained principally by social norms, taboos and conventions. Those conventions make a potential intruder think twice, and they allow women to challenge someone they suspect should not be there. But legal self-declaration shifts the burden of proof when concerns are raised. Women are less likely to challenge that person who looks like a man, walks like a man, talks like a man, and – most importantly – behaves like a man if they might reply with confidence, “I’m a woman because I say so.” This is hardly the way to build trust between women and transwomen.

Gender Identity is being introduced into legislation as a simplistic inner quality that drives our nature but even as a trans person I can neither prove my Gender Identity nor compare it with anyone else’s. All I know is me and my identity. That identity was certainly oppressed by the restrictions and expectations that society placed on me because I am male, and I transitioned when I could no longer cope with them. Gender Identity might label that mismatch in some way but it is merely a collection of feelings.

Creating laws on the basis of these unchallengeable assertions, opinions, and feelings is problematic for transsexual people because women are not taking this lightly. We do enjoy widespread acceptance in liberal communities but that acceptance comes not from legislation but from relationships. The law may grant us the right to walk into a women’s meeting, but it can never stop everyone else leaving at the same time; it may demand everyone to call us women because we say so, but it can never compel anyone to accept us.

Should the law try to force compulsion, genuine acceptance will be harder to find. As a teacher, I know the likely result when you try and force someone to believe something: grudging compliance, and only while you are watching. As soon as your back is turned, there is disrespect and defiance. Transsexual people need better than that. We need to maintain laws that are credible and respected. It’s not progressive to replace them with laws built on feelings that we need to defend with rhetoric such as, transwomen are women. If people don’t believe it, then repeating it ad nauseum is not going to make them believe it. If it did, we could solve the problem with two lines of computer code:

10 PRINT “Transwomen are Women”
20 GOTO 10

The transwomen are women mantra is being presented as irrefutable truth. That worries me because ordinary people know what it means to be a woman, and it isn’t a feeling. Crudely, a lot of it can be reduced to our reproductive organs. Laws that are effective need to be grounded in solid foundations: in science and in society; how we relate to nature and how we relate to each other. These are truths that are real and objective.

Science is clear. Our biological sex indicates our role in the reproduction of our species. We are like other mammals. Some of us have male sex organs and others have female sex organs. I have three children and unless there were repeat visits from the Angel Gabriel that neither my partner nor I knew about, I was responsible for the male gametes that produced them. Arguments over labels do not change the underlying facts. I know that I am not biologically female.

Society is also real. Boys and girls are socialised differently. Boys never face the prospect of becoming pregnant, nor are they expected to take on more than their fair share of caring responsibilities or make sacrifices for their future spouse’s career. They are stronger, taller, and are generally given more freedoms, and their bodies are not subject to the same scrutiny that girls’ are.

To say that trans women are the same as women, therefore requires denial of some rather huge concrete truths. I can’t do that with any integrity and, rather than identify as a woman, – a rather meaningless concept – I identify with women.

Science and society may be the truth, but they leave trans people in a very vulnerable position. I would find it intolerable to live in society as men are expected to live. Thankfully, western society is compassionate and many jurisdictions allow us to change our legal sex, and undergo medical transition. But changing your legal sex is not the same as changing your wardrobe. When we change our legal sex from male to female we acquire rights and protections granted to women at the exclusion of men. Women are affected by this and they must be heard.

Critical thinking is not hate; it builds understanding and establishes foundations that are robust and can protect trans people without compromising the rights of women. Transwomen are not the same as women, and it is disingenuous to try and argue that they are. That being said, there is much that we share in our day-to-day lives, and we both face adversity and hardship, including oppression and prejudice. We must, therefore, abandon philosophies based on wishful thinking and return to concrete reality. Only then will we be able to work together with trust and confidence, combat discrimination and build a better society that works for us all.

 

Debbie Hayton is a high school physics teacher based in Birmingham, UK. Her writing focuses on transgender issues; more pieces can be found at debbiehayton.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @DebbieHayton

61 Comments

  1. Steve Smith says

    Finally, some sanity in this societal conversation. Debbie Hayton puts into words what I have been feeling for a long time. I believe in trans rights but have had a lot of problems with the idea that I am a transphobe if I have questions around the mantra of accepting trans people as if they were biologically the sex they identify as. Shouting my questions down does not increase my comfort level, and instead allows prejudices to grow in me that I am uncomfortable with. More articles like this one will, as the author notes, allow us all to work together with trust and confidence.

  2. Alice says

    Psychology and medicine didn’t support gender dysphoria and transgender identity with feelings. They did it with evidence and studies of the psychological impact. Studies are being done showing the brain differences in transgender people. Then, in parts of the article, you conflate gender and sex. We understand that for medical reasons our biology needs to be treated similarly to how we were assigned at birth. That is our biological sex. Our gender is different, and you not understanding the reasons psychologists say so is not a justification for claiming you know better.

    • Debbie never claimed there were no underlying neurological causes for sex dysphoria. I’m an evil “terf” but even I strongly suspect there is a neurological basis for sex dysphoria. But a male with sex dysphoria is not the same as a female. There are differences between us that need to be respected. If brain scans find differences in the brains of trans people, then brain scans can be used as a concrete basis for diagnosis. Then all of the trans trenders falsely claiming to be trans can go away & find a new medical condition to appropriate for attention.

      • Brains are plastic and will adapt as they grow to what is required of them, eg the brains of London cabbies are overdeveloped in the mapping/spatial recognition part. So a man who has lived their life in ‘female’ mode will probably demonstrate whatever subtle differences there are between women’s and men’s brains, especially if they have been treated with cross-sex hormones.

        • Tom More says

          That is exactly right and well founded. One never reads of the many who live for decades in pscychotic states and then one day …it stops. And sex is not “assigned”. Give me a break. This all began incidentally in the 1930’s in NA with the acceptance of “divorce”.. the most destructive influence in western history. Marriage and natural human sexuality is about its loving fruit, children. They have a natural need for loving mothers and fathers in committed relationships. This is what we used to call nature… All the absurdities including marxist “power” centred feminism stem from this willful break with our actual nature. We could all use a little Aristotle.

      • Vincent says

        Another good, uncomfortable and important article from Quillette. Penny, great comment.

    • markbul says

      ‘Medicine’ doesn’t support gender dysphoria or gender identity. Unless you think gender dysphoria is an illness. Do you? Psychology has been used to support transgenderism as it has come to be, but that’s just supportive people using psychology to do good deeds – it’s certainly not science. The very concept of gender is just a very recent agreement among certain people to use it for social/political purposes. Gender, properly, is a linguistic/grammatical concept. It had nothing to do with ‘gender identity’ until academic activists hijacked the word for their own purposes.

      You can sincerely believe anything you want about yourself. As long as you’re doing no damage to anyone else, I’m perfectly happy to humor you. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the perfectly simple concept of sex. There are two. With the exception of rare people with odd combinations of sex chromosomes, you are either one or the other. And we don’t need to ask you to figure it out. If there’s a dispute between your body and your mind, you mind is wrong.

      • Ali says

        “If there’s a dispute between your body and your mind, you mind is wrong.”

        Interesting opinion. One that I have a lot of personal experience of.

        I was told as a child that I was ‘mad’. I spend the next 30+ years trying to come to terms with my ‘madness’, trying to understand it and why I felt the way I did. Every time I looked in the mirror it just proved I was mad because mirrors don’t lie and I had a male body. I was a bloke, end of. full stop.

        My ‘madness’ resulted in many suicide attempts, a lot of self harm, and frankly ruined my life. Can you imagine what it’s like to have this madness pervade one’s every waking moment, and many dreams as well? I sought help from anyone I could find that may be able to help me. I tried to explain what I was feeling but didn’t have the words, didn’t have any clarity of thought. Psychiatrists and Psychologists and counsellors, even friends couldn’t understand what I was trying to explain to them, so just passed me on to someone else. This only reinforced my belief that I was mad. If the professionals couldn’t understand what the problem was how could I?

        Then, one night during a night shift, when for the umpteenth time I was trying to explain to a work colleague what this madness was she said something that had never ever crossed my mind, something that no-one had ever said to me. That maybe I was a woman trapped in a mans body.

        The instant she said that, for the first time in 30+ years of my life, I had clarity of thought and a perfect explanation for what I was feeling. I suddenly had the words I had been searching for all my life. It wasn’t my mind that was wrong, it was my body. A few simple words but so profound that my ‘madness’ suddenly disappeared, at that exact instant.

        No, mirrors don’t lie, but they don’t show the whole picture either. They only show what’s on the outside, not what’s on the inside.

        I am living proof that in my dispute between my mind and my body, no matter how much I fully believed it was my mind that was wrong, the reality was the opposite. 30+ years of madness, 30+ years of my life thrown away and another almost 10 years of time on top of that spent unravelling and understanding the first 33 and trying to figure out who I really was because for those first 33 years I had absolutely no idea.

        • Tom More says

          I sympathize greatly with your suffering, but I will not put my children’s identity at risk by telling them .. as Canadian law now states I must.. that they are however they “present”. Good luck.

      • Tom More says

        Exactly and succinctly right. And I will NOT support the delusion or condition as normative or acceptable as I would not have my kids learning that having a club foot or a heart that didn’t beat was as good as normal feet and a functioning heart. We have to rediscover our metaphysical foundations in Aristotle.. that is the sane path of reality. We have a duty to our children to encourage their mental health and THEIR identity issues.

    • Tom More says

      “Gender”.. a grammatical term in Romance languages was first co-opted by feminists to attempt to differentiate women from their natural role as the complementary sexes of male and female human beings. It is utterly arbitrary and artificial and not to be confused with reality. And nobody.,, “assigns” sex at birth any more than one assigns humanity. What a mad world we live in.

      • SamsaPDX says

        Thank you, Tom More. Despite 100 years of human experimentation, we are no closer than we ever were to proof that there is such a thing as a man trapped inside a woman’s body, or vice versa. Suffering is real, but the idea that lies can ameliorate it is not. And when those lies are being legislatively forced onto children, we must indeed refuse to allow that.

      • So what is our “natural role”? All feminists have ever asked is to give women the right to define ourselves. For thousands of years people with penises defined themselves…then they defined people with vaginas…as helpmeets, as child bearers…while taking every other definition. For a few decades, women have fought to define ourselves…as architects, fire fighters, politicians,…leaders of nations. Are you seriously suggesting we would all be better off if women were reduced to help meets again?

        What men like you fail to notice is that feminism is good for men too, if they would only stop fighting it. They wouldn’t have to define themselves as endlessly brave, strong, in charge, etc. We can share, peacefully.

        Ever noticed something? Serial killing rose exponentially with feminism. That’s how furious some men are about women simply asking to not waste all their talents bearing children and serving men.

        As Scarlett O’Hara said:”I’m tired of being so unnatural, tired of walking when I want to run, of pretending to know nothing so men can tell me things and feel important..I’m tired of never doing anything I want to do and saying “how wonderful you are!” to fool men who haven’t got one half the sense I’ve got…”

        Really, Tom, why should half the human race be forced to serve the other half…and be forced, by violence, to pretend we like it? We don’t. We never did. It’s not natural. It’s unnatural and takes a hell of a lot of energy to conceal our contempt. We laugh at men and their conceits, behind your back, of course….and we always have. Don’t try and pretend having our lives taken away is somehow good for us.

        Oh and if you think women are bitter? It’s not because we “can’t get a man” but because we have to endlessly fight for what men take for granted: safety from rape, the ability to walk out in the dark, to be taken seriously, not talked over….and above all not to be told we’d be better off serving men and not making our own mark on the world.

        Try listening to a woman sometime.

        • Kristen McCabe says

          Fiona, I am a CPA and a mother. Literally no efforts I have undertaken as mom feel wasteful to me. It is by far the most rewarding and fulfilling investment of energy that I have yet to experience in my 33 year on earth. I grew a human and now I work with her father to do the best we can to help her be the best she can. Holy christ it provides me with an almost daily dose of genuine joy. It’s not a waste and while my role as breadwinner, friend, college grad, business consultant, partner and other checked boxes are deemed laudable by some, there is no role in my life that is more meaningful to me than the role I play as mom. You can be a feminist without degrading traditional roles – good mothers and good marriages are the foundation for a thriving society. I have yet to be asked to “serve” a man but if I did, being that I live in a Western nation, I’d kindly tell him to go f*ck off. You should try that.

          I run & no one has ever stopped me (I’ve done marathons). I’m bright, intellectual, and educated and broadcast those qualities like a designer dress. I find any man worth his salt finds those qualities attractive in a woman whether he is interested in a traditional home life or otherwise. Scarlett O’Hara existed in a different time. If she made this statement now, I’d tell her that her problem was with herself because in the West in 2018, there is literally nothing preventing you from doing whatever you damn well please because you are a woman (it’s more of a wealth barrier these days). If you feel a sense of kinship with that statement, you might just have a small addiction to complaining. A better parallel would be something like “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” which shows the working mom successfully killing it financially while all areas of her life seem to be ripping at the seems and not at all rewarding.

          And men, we don’t laugh at you behind your backs. Fiona does not speak for all women.
          We love you. The men in my life (partner, dad, uncles, brothers, coworkers, friends etc) are kind, funny, generous, hardworking and loving. They express constant feelings of gratitude and awe at the women in their lives when we plan our kids parties, survive a hectic work schedule, maintain optimism in dire times, and especially when we grow little babies in our bellies and experience the absolute painful wonder of childbirth followed by the bonds we form with our children. I’m sorry it’s infuriating for you, but men do find it cool when we grow a child that was formed using their genetic material because it is cool. I think you need to find different men. The men in my life, every single day, bring me hope and happiness. I’m not sure when feminists developed such unbridled enthusiasm for loathing men, but I find it extremely off putting and consider it a bad look for feminism as a whole. I love my daughter but my goodness,

          Martyrdom gets old, fiona. You have to figure out a way to love yourself, hating all the men is not going to be a successful conduit to self love.

          • Buffy says

            Did you actually listen to Fiona, Kristen?

            She said NOTHING about motherhood being wrong, she wants women to be able to DEFINE themselves; whether they want to be mothers or doctors or both. She didn’t degenerate ‘traditional’ roles anywhere, she said she didn’t want them FORCED!

            “The men in my life, every single day, bring me hope and happiness.” Bully for you, not everyone is as lucky.

          • Kristen McCabe says

            To buffy below, no one is stopping women in the west from defining themselves. IF you believe that to be true, you are a lover of martyrdom. Define yourself how you please as a western female. If the men in your life are not good people, simply expel the from your life. Not hard. It’s certainly a more satisfying existence than taking part in mass antagonism towards all males because you don’t like your own life.

  3. Linda says

    As an old stalwart of SHAFT , who passed through CCGIC several decades ago , most of us under the radar men and women who live quiet lives without any problems are agast at some of the violence metered out by some very young and foolish people , Not In Our Name !

    Debbie,s article is more or less there ,however some very elderly women have been extremely hurt by some truly vile posts on certain websites , who it seems want to abolish the GRA 2004 !
    and want it seems to impose Janice Raymonds beliefs on UK society !
    These angry people are equally as bad as the foolish young people

    I have heard it all tried engaging with my old friend Rachel Webb who held similar view to Wilchins even tried engaging with the clown in the Cowboy hat , she doesnt want a debate and suspect the Cowboy is an attention seeker , and in many reasonable folks eyes is only making matters worse

    keep up the good work Debbie
    Linda
    Editor
    CERTAINLY NOT

    • emm says

      some very elderly women have been extremely hurt by some truly vile posts on certain websites , who it seems want to abolish the GRA 2004 !
      and want it seems to impose Janice Raymonds beliefs on UK society !

      ##

      Oh no. Janice Raymond’s at it again: torturing poor elderly women.

  4. Solidarity Sister! Most of us “evil terfs” know the difference between trans activists & trans women who are merely trying to survive (we also know & love such women) My fear is that trans activists have appropriated the issue of transsexualism for attention & will do terrible harm to people’s attitudes toward actual transsexual people. Debbie is very brave for speaking up. I have seen transsexual women (the only real trans women in my opinion) condemned as “tru scum” for asserting the difference between themselves & mere cross dressers. This is disastrous & must stop.

    • Linda says

      As you know Penny not all us women with a past are as visible or vocal its not relavant to who I have always been
      and its nobody elses business apart from who I am sleeping with

      I was never out at work ,some of my girlfriends have known some haven’t ,
      that’s down to being quite small , and quite young when I transitioned

      I haven’t experienced anyone mis-gendering me ,that’s the bit of your argument Debbie I have issues with , that you allow anyone to do that , but that’s your buiness

      which is why some of us are appreciative of Debbie and a few other brave souls for putting their heads above the parapet , taking a bullet for the team

      Debbie I will try to contact you privately

      thanks for the love and support Penny

      Linda

      Editor

      CERTAINLY NOT

  5. Shannon says

    From one trans women to another, thanks for being a voice of sanity amongst the craziness. Sometimes I feel like I’m attached to this group of activists that don’t represent me, making my life more difficult by attacking foundational values of the society that we’re trying to gain greater freedom in (free speech/science etc.)

    • Shannon – hard to feel that your life is impacted upon by activists who don’t represent you. We hear you and won’t stop hearing the voices of you and others like you, it is a reminder to us all that those using hate speech and violence in their activism don’t represent the majority of trans people.

      • Linda says

        Helen
        many of us under the radar folks with a certain past refuse to have our lives valedated with trans anything !

        why should we ? We have lived and devoted our lives to the NHS without our patients or client base knowing

        we were Anaesthetists, Gynaecologists, Orthopaedic Surgeons , Solicitors , Journalists until retirement

        why should we always have that word before our sex ! It was a long time ago many of us attended Medical school , without even our peer group knowing our past

        a number of Drs and Consultants previously working in the NHS , who gave their retirement to charity work , have now retired from all that work , due to abuse thank god we could use alias,s

        we are so much more , than that word we have brought up children and grandchildren

        Someone who wet the bed as a child , isn’t validated as a bed wetter for the rest of their lives , we are people , parents , grandparents !

        If you commit a crime after you have served your sentence its supposedly spent ?

        Why cant you allow us to forget and live our lives , surely we should be allowed to forget the childhood nightmares !

        Expect a greater crisis within the NHS this winter , because us people with a trans past aren’t there to take up the slack or stop your local maternity unit closing , your local Orthopaedic unit closing

        none of us have ever been activists , other than to opposite cuts to NHS services for everyone , perhaps some of these TERFS who have hurts us so much would like to take up the slack

        Linda
        Editor

        CERTAINLY NOT

        • emm says

          You don’t pass. I know each of you always thinks you pass. The people who didn’t call you on it were just too polite or bullied by you to call it.

          You don’t pass.

  6. Science is clear. There’s a popular, but mistaken, belief that sex is determined by X and Y chromosomes. In fact, all being XX or XY does is determine whether you develop ovaries or testicles. Everything from that point onwards is driven by hormones. Because hormone levels are not binary but exist on a spectrum, sex itself isn’t binary but exists on a spectrum too.

    The vast majority of people do develop ovaries or testicles at the appropriate point in embryonic development, and for most people those organs produce their hormones as they should throughout the time their prenatal development is taking place. That’s why the majority of the population fall into an easily defined male or female category. However, for a minority of people, things don’t go according to plan, and they have hormone levels outside the range for their genetic sex for part or all of their prenatal development. In that situation, you end up with people with a mixture of male and female characteristics (or in some situations are even completely the opposite physical sex to their genetic one).

    Historically, medicine has looked at intersex purely in terms of genitals. However, in reality, sexual dimorphism extends throughout the body, including the brain. Animal studies show that there are hardwired differences between male and female brains, that arise before birth and drive most of the differences between adult male and female social and sexual behaviour. As with other aspects of sexual development, the factor that decides whether you develop a male or female brain is hormone levels during the time brain development is taking place.

    In human beings, the critical period when the sex differences between male and female brains are thought to arise is during the second half of the pregnancy. This is long after the critical period for genital development, which starts about 7 weeks after conception and has largely finished by the end of week 12. Therefore it’s possible to have people whose genital development has taken place in line with their genetic sex, but whose brain development has taken place as the opposite sex. All it takes is for something to disrupt foetal hormone levels during the second half of the pregnancy. The available evidence points to this being the underlying cause of being transgender.

    The personal experiences of myself and others, whose mothers were given hormones during pregnancy for miscarriage prevention or for various other medical reasons, also bear out the importance of hormones in determining the sex of your brain (and suggest that a large number of transgender people are probably like that because of doctors administering hormones during pregnancy).

    • <>
      Humans thinking they can solve everything with a drug or a pill. We never stop interferring on so many levels, totally unaware of the problems we are creating.

      Total narcissism.

    • Ian says

      Yes, from an evolutionary perspective, the possession of functioning sexual reproductive organs is subject to extremely strong natural selection pressures and will effectively follow a bimodal distribution in any animal with exclusively sexual reproduction. Other sex correlated characteristics will be subject to weaker and more complex evolutionary pressures, and sex will explain a smaller fraction of the observed variance in these characteristics. Sexual differences are real but the degree of bimodality depends on the characteristic and how closely it is related to sexually differentiated evolutionary fitness.

    • Tom More says

      Large cohort non advocacy identical twin studies indicate that nobody is “born” either homosexual or “trans” sexual. One may have biological traits similar to very tall black kids ending up playing basketball.. that may cause issues of sexual behavior variation from normal an issue with any given individual. It is not a determined state.

    • It would make more sense to give male hormones to gender dysphoric men, and female hormones to dysphoric women, rather than the opposite. We all know how messed up the brain can get. We don’t treat any other mental condition with mutilation of the body.

    • None of these studies has proved any such thing. Other studies show that it is human beings that exist on a spectrum. No such thing as male and female brains. Plus these studies Ignore Neuro plasticity. Brains develop throughout life through environment.

      I live in Hong Kong. Over the past twenty years, girls and boys have become so alike. Why? Because men don’t prey on women. They treat them as full people. No cat calling the young, no ignoring the old, no speaking over women…and no rape and murder. It’s incredible, the effect. A city full of girls who entirely reject princesses, love sports and studies. Boys who want to be nurses…and architects. Girls, same. Physics classes, half and half.

      They dress the same too…all in jeans and t shirts. No high heels, no bare stomachs, no faces full of make up. Simple sensible clothing for busy people. And all achieved painlessly, thanks to Hong Kong men being decent people and secure in their manhood, not screaming with rage at every female advance. They are proud of their smart wives, daughters, and friends.

  7. CentristGal says

    @ Hugh Easton

    “the sex of your brain”

    Yet feminists dispute that there are innate differences between the sexes, hence the insistence on gender neutral clothing and toys. Note the contradiction: if a child identifies as the opposite sex, the parents are obliged to give them the clothes and toys of the gender that they identify as! It seems conceivable to me that there could be neurological mis-wiring regarding the innate recognition of one’s body and how it functions. So maybe the brain has developed the wrong set of instructions for the wrong equipment, and the conscious appraisal of one’s body doesn’t fit with the internal instructions? What doesn’t make sense to me, is that if ‘gender’ is merely a set of cultural expressions (how you dress, the activities you prefer, etc) and stereotypes are totally dissolved around that (eg. it becomes normal for men to wear dresses) then transgenderism ceases to make any sense, unless transgender people actually do alter themselves physically in accordance with their dysphoria. There are no fixed rules other than cultural norms around what particular items of clothing each sex prefer, which is obvious when you look at history and other cultures. So with no difference between cultural gender expression, distinguishing between men and women will revert back to biological sex. Which is where we started before gender was separated out from sex!

    • Tom More says

      Clothing and habits of dress and adornment are very much sex related , for both sexes.

      • Really? Then why do the kids of Hong Kong dress alike? Why has this evolved without any input from b feminism…just happened because women here are full human beings. What matters v is our money earning, our academic achievement, or values…things like that. Men here look for compatibility, not for the hottest girl…it’s not about getting pats from other men.

        So women don’t wear sexualized clothing. They…we…wear comfortable and smart practical stuff, mainly jeans, leggings, shirts, etc. Can’t remember the last time I saw high heels….they slow you down. And wreck your back. Yet, wow, the women aren’t strident and bitter…could it be because men actually don’t do things like let does slam in their faces if they aren’t hot…or demand they smile if they are?

    • It’s not feminists in favour of all this. Feminists know gender is a construct. It differs across cultures. Nothing is innate…rare cases of children found with animals…they don’t even walk upright. Everything is installed and subject to environment, except reproduction and feeding of young

  8. ga gamba says

    Long ago when the transgendered were transsexuals didn’t they claim their plight was, at least in large part, biological? “I’m a man born in a woman’s body.” Transsexual was originally used in medical and psychological contexts to refer to individuals with sexual identities incongruent with their birth (biological) sex who sought medical technologies to alter their bodies. The brain-body mismatch was a biological claim. One doesn’t hear this claim too often anymore. Now it’s all about cultural, societal, and institutional constructs.

    How did this happen? The “blank slate”, which is the lie du jour held amongst most feminists, is to blame. By shifting their advocacy from transsexual (biological) to trangenderual (cultural) it aligned with (gender) feminist ideology, ironing out many of the wrinkles between trans people and most feminists, though not the TERFs. TERFs are mostly blank slaters too, but assert those years trans people lived as the wrong sex, during which MtF enjoyed male privilege and FtM didn’t, still matter and can’t be wished away. This essay sums up the radfem position; it’s not keen on gender equality, thinking it a trick by the patriarchy. Suffice it to say, there exist complex relations between feminist theory and trans and intersex theory and politics. (There’s much more to unpack than my short comment will address here; those who wish to learn more about the antagonism will find Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire, published in 1979, informative, though the start of the enmity is years earlier, such as Robin Morgan’s attack given at the keynote speech at the West Coast Lesbian Conference in Los Angeles in 1973.)

    Like many things believed by contemporary progressives and radicals, it’s ideologically based rather than supported by science, unless one deems the quackery of John Money “science”; this held the “gender of rearing” was the most reliable factor in determining one’s “gender identity”, which didn’t work out so well for David Reimer. If science happens to buttress a feminist belief that’s great, but feminists don’t get hung up on that because “white, male, cis, heteronormative” science contradicts feminist ideology, which is a reason why “science must fall”. Departments of Science Studies have been established on campuses to wage that bizarre war.

    Amongst the trans community there is a lively debate fratricidal strife about this. The traditionalist trans group prefers transsexual; by and large they accept the reality of the sex binary. They understand the prefix trans means moving from a place or state of being to another, i.e. they are transitioning from one sex to another to eliminate the incongruence. But the transgender camp, those who advocate they are “trapped in the wrong culture”, is larger, more influential, and they have more powerful allies. Their emotive arguments have cajoled many to parrot their ideology or face the consequences.

    I think people need to more closely scrutinise the ideology behind the emergence of gender on the scene and the goals of its advocates. But don’t neglect understanding the hot mess that is radical feminism.

    • The core of the transgender movement is men – specifically autogynephiles, who are hetero and hence aggressive and unused to being bottom dog. The gay/lesbian contingent is quite small.

    • Hutch says

      I hope you keep commenting on this website.

  9. Derrick says

    A couple concrete examples of women rights that men could enjoy through fraudulent declarations would have been helpful. Very good article nonetheless.

    • Chester Draws says

      Derrick:

      Any “gender equality” quotas, such as representation on boards, scholarships to do STEM, etc.

      Less strenuous physical requirements for police, fire etc

      Not being called up for the draft will cause major issues when it comes.

      Playing sport is the one that’s going to blow it all wide open. I was a very ordinary rugby player. I would be a monster playing women’s grade. The hormones wouldn’t stop me being tall. Soon women’s physical sports will be dominated by former men.

    • Zoe says

      Women don’t get many rights, what we get is the right to be protected from men in certain circumstances (we shouldn’t need it of course, but women’s oppression). The rights men will enjoy through fraudulent declarations is the ability to intrude on women protecting themselves in those circumstances, and insisting that women will have no right to refuse.

      I recently went for a smear test. At a test you get half naked, sit at the end of a bed with your legs open while the nurse puts a clamp in and takes the smear. I bled copiously during this (my cervix is quite sensitive) and the nurse also had trouble finding the little string from my coil. As a woman I get to be protected from a man doing this examination. I’m not actually bothered, I’ve seen lots of male gynaecologists, but some women might be quite upset at being naked in front of a man they don’t know who is having a good feel around looking for their coil string.

      • ga gamba says

        Women don’t get many rights, what we get is the right to be protected from men in certain circumstances (we shouldn’t need it of course, but women’s oppression).

        Could be an April Fool’s Day comment, but I’ll bite because the other 364 days are filled with foolishness.

        Women in the western world get all the rights men get; in fact, many rights for all are eroded by women’s demands, such as infringing speech liberties. Further, looking beyond rights, because of coerced affirmative action they also get privileges such as preferential hiring and promotions at the workplace. From the US government women receive set asides from the Small Business Administration (WOSB programme) and legs up when bidding on government contracts; twelve of the federal government’s 19 largest and most lucrative contracts have requirements, known as “tracks,” that ensure certain socio-economic groups such as women have access to the contracts and make use of quotas. Women-owned public businesses, such as fitness clubs and yoga studios, violate Civil Rights laws with impunity by barring men with women-only policies, and this breach of law even intrudes onto university campuses when female students demand separate facilities and hours set aside for their exclusive use.

        There seems to be few limits on women’s expectations to breach law and contravene the “equality of the sexes” when it suits their preferences.

  10. Tom More says

    I found what I consider to be the sanest treatment of this issue at https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-dysphoria-in-children . Brain differences are at this point as easily attributed to neuroplasticity as some potential difference. And we actually owe it to children .. the people modern culture ignore starting from conception,,, to let them know that they really are boys and girls and will grow up to be men and women. And lastly,.,. sex is not “assigned”.. what a bizarre idea. Male and female precedes the appearance of human life by hundreds of millions of years and is not at all optional. It is perfectly well known that people can suffer lifelong delusions. Its called psychosis. But we’re all so desperate to virtue signal our “inclusivity”.. no matter how many women and girls get attacked or lives ruined by sterilizing teenagers. The west has literally lost its mind, nay, its very identity as human beings.

    • Gender dysphoria is neither a delusion nor a psychosis. As the author and many other reasonable transsexuals demonstrate, it is perfectly possible to transition without denying the reality of one’s biological sex. While I agree that children are not mature enough to decide to transition, it’s not accurate to say that adults like Debbie Hayton, Blaire White, and Miranda Yardley are delusional.

    • Amen. As the transagenda gains strength, we’re teaching the coming generations that A does not equal A. With not even basic logic to hold onto, without being able to trust their own eyes, these kids are destined for a life of confusion and strife.

  11. SamsaPDX says

    Thank you for the insightful article, Debbie. The attempts to legislate what cannot be explained are indeed worrisome. The Massachusetts law you describe is so incomprehensible that I doubt it would withstand the void-for-vagueness doctrine–a US constitutional standard that invalidates any law that is so uncomprehensible that a reasonable person could not understand what it describes or what it requires. It will be interesting to see how long it takes before the proverbial rubber hits the road on that issue in the US. I wonder, does the UK have a similar legal doctrine?

    http://www.rotlaw.com/legal-library/what-does-it-mean-when-a-law-is-void-for-vagueness-or-overbroad/

    • SamsaPDX says

      (Incomprehensible, not uncomprehensible–proofread fail. Yikes.)

  12. Rorty says

    “Critical thinking is not hate” – there’s a slogan worth repeating ad nauseum

  13. dirk says

    On Dutch TV: a father yelled at his son of 4 who came dressed up in a pink skirt on a children’s party, for behaving girlish. General outcry of the public in the media for being sexist, or anti-gender (I’m not sure anymore about the right term nowadays). Small detail: the father was a colored man, from ancestors of our former colonies, where, as among moslims, the ideas about sex and man/woman relations are not yet as farflung and evolved as in the white privileged ambience). What to think about that? I give up, really!

  14. The strident and inappropriate tone of trans activists claiming that no one can dissent from their talking points alienates people, especially women who are hurt. Thank you for the sane, reasonable trans activists who speak about the fact that trans people can have a trans identity without co-opting women’s. For more sane conversation, find people like us on twitter using the words GENDER CRITICAL.
    My thanks to sane trans activists who risk the wrath of their angry, strident counterparts by talking about these issues.

  15. It’s great to see that people are finally starting to openly push back against the politically correct myth that “trans women” are women. They are not, and obviously not. A woman is an adult, female human. This is the definition of the term, and that cannot seriously be disputed. Furthermore, though it may some day be possible to change a person’s sex, we cannot do that at current levels of technology–and won’t be able to for some time.

    Though the author makes the point of the essay very clear, nowhere does the essay outright assert the crucial points outright: your sex currently can’t be changed; ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are sex terms, not gender terms; “transwomen” are not women, and “transmen” are not men.

    I agree that the Orwellian campaign to force us all to deny plain facts could generate backlash. But, in a way, that’s irrelevant. And it more-or-less accepts the crucial, false, destructive premises of politically correct transgender ideology: that utilitarian concerns can alter truths.

    We ought to set aside considerations about possible harms and simply address the facts. It will make some people sad and some people angry to hear it, but, again, as matters of straightforward fact: “trans women” are not women and “trans men” are not men.

    What we do after that, with respect to people’s non-standard choice of clothing and names and so forth–that’s a different set of questions entirely. Nothing about acknowledging facts of biology entails that we should force people to adopt culturally idiosyncratic clothing conventions.

  16. dirk says

    What we should realize here is that the trans and gender issue simply is a small issue of the much greater one of humanism: what you feel, as an individual, is the essential that counts, all the rest is junk. Where does this come from? Not from religion, science, nature, or the U. N. parafernalia, or political broth, but, what else, or wherefrom?? Cogito, ergo sum, was a theorem of Descartes, but who, for God,s sake, ever came with : What I feel is what I am?? Last week, on Dutch TV, a child of 6 in the Voice Kids program told the viewers, asked for what counted most for her, -just follow your heart and feelings, be yourself-. Something that in my youth would have been quite incomprehensible talk for a child, but now quite normal.

  17. ccscientist says

    There are several places where biology and “feelings” clash in this debate that I have not seen addressed here.
    1) Sports. Already some men/boys who have transitioned or are in process have won major victories in women’s sports. A man has grown up with a big physical advantage that a short time of taking hormones (or even not taking them if your feelings are all that matters) does not erase. This is an unfair arrangement. In some sports even a rather average man can beat all the women.
    2) Children. In some places it is already illegal to deny children transitioning services (even by parents)–and yet we do not let children drive, vote, own property, buy a gun, sign contracts, or have sex. Children are very subject to social fads and pressures and are full of unrealistic ideas about the world. Consenting to their feelings and doing irreversible surgery on them is criminal.
    3) Personal privacy. Women particularly can be very freaked out by a man in their showers/locker room. If facilities are terrified of getting headlines for “transphobia” then they will allow this and women will suffer. This applies to school children as well. Even men can get pretty upset by seeing a transvestite like Bruce Jenner (he still has a penis but also breasts) in their showers. In this case, it is deemed that the hurt feelings of one “victim” (a trans person) outweigh the freak out of hundreds of normal people. That is not my idea of justice.

  18. Pingback: A Plea To Trans Activists: We Can Protect Trans Rights Without Denying Biology | Debbie Hayton (a TIM who thinks TRAs have gone too far) - Elrinco

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  20. Yosi says

    But the very concept of trans, with its emphases (re: the etymology of ‘trans-‘), actually is anti-biology. Take a pro-biological stance and attempt sympathy; then any medical cause, is akin to an intersex disorder with no real moral or political import. But since words like transgender were first introduced, their popularisers leaned away from any such biological understanding; that is, toward a social and increasingly hardline social constructivist one.

    • Yosi says

      As an addendum, why is there such an emphasis on legal sex? In Thailand, until recently, no one was allowed to change it as, after all, no one stuck a womb and ovaries up there. Less facetiously, there was no call for it, as society had understanding of the condition of kathooey (re: equivalent to Blanchard’s HSTS). Where medical and social understanding is high, there is no need for the legal fuss, or stealth; if and when things improve in the west, the call for a change of legal sex/gender will appear antiquated, and even as a waste of time.

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