7.5.17

WHEN IDEAS RUN WILD.

A previous post treated a hypothesized equivalence of gender crossing with racial crossing as a pure case of philosophical inquiry.  But such phenomena are, as I then noted, subject to scholarly inquiry by other disciplines, not to mention to diffusion outside the academy, where the manifestations are not subject to the constraints of discourse practice (or, dare I say it, what we used to understand as common courtesy.)

Consider first the challenges gender crossing or racial crossing pose to psychiatry.  For example, Johns Hopkins psychiatrist Paul McHugh has drawn the ire of the Human Rights Campaign for taking biology seriously, which to the cultural-studies types is the sin of essentialism.
McHugh is standing by his findings. “There are no little boys born in little girls’ bodies or little girls born in little boys’ bodies,” McHugh told the Johns Hopkins News Letter. “You can’t change the biology of a human being, and in my opinion, the attempt to do so is merely a fad.”

The study pointed out that the “rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgender individuals is estimated at 41%” when compared to 5% in the overall U.S. population, among other findings.
Perhaps, although crossing is a real thing, and there are some messy conditional probabilities and sample size questions for future research in that quote.  The first figure is "suicide attempts given transgender" while the second figure is "suicide attempts" and the unobservable relevant figure for comparison is "suicide attempts given concealed transgender," isn't it?  And how might researchers identify influences on suicide, and perhaps give the Human Rights Campaigners solace if the cause is not crossing, or attempting to cross, or conflicted about crossing without doing some research?

All the same, the celebration of crossing, and the attempts to suppress dissenting views of the phenomenon, spills over into the general population, possibly with troubling results.
Rather than a cultural fad like transgenderism among teens seems to have become, gender dysphoria is a strong, persistent feeling of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one's own assigned gender.

One of the trends Stathis has seen is truly heartbreaking. Many young girls have come into his clinic after having been sexually abused, and wanted to change their gender to avoid more abuse.

"The girls say, 'If only I had been a male I wouldn't have been abused'," Stathis said. Situations like this are tragic, but not a justification for long-term surgeries and hormone treatments which may end up damaging girls who have already been abused. Rather than a solution, it seems this would only worsen their trauma.

The Courier-Mail reported that Stathis "has also seen transgender children so desperate to start puberty blockers then progress to irreversible hormone treatment they harm themselves." Warning: this description will be very disturbing.
Yes, I'm quoting Pajamas Media quoting an Australian tabloid, but it's these hard cases that call for the most careful and the most scrupulous research by the best psychiatrists, and epistemic closure reinforced by tone-policing might be closing off those avenues of inquiry.

Then comes the young man crossing to a woman who would like to date men.  That's not working out so well.  Alas, it's up to Megan Fox, a Pajamas Media scribe, to point out the obvious.
It's sad that we've come to this point in human history where biological males who are attracted to other biological males don't understand that heterosexual biological males aren't interested in them sexually even if they dress up like girls and learn how to do contour makeup. This is apparently something trans teens hadn't considered before deciding to live like girls. Parents of these teens must accept some responsibility for allowing them to deny science and chase after the imagined unicorns in their heads.
Claire is in a bad place. Tell the truth and the hookup is over quickly.  Don't tell the truth, and the guy might get an unpleasant surprise, even without grabbing xyr by the ...

More importantly, it might be helpful to know the frontiers of psychiatric and scientific understanding of crossing before the parents and the pubescent teens embark on the voyage.

When the transgender craze puts too much meaning into the life of seven-year-olds, it has gone too far.
She is not gender nonconforming. She is gender role nonconforming. She does not fit into the mold that we adults — who have increasingly eschewed millenniums-old gender roles ourselves, as women work outside the home and men participate in the domestic sphere — still impose upon our children.

Left alone, would boys really never wear pink? (That’s rhetorical — pink was for decades considered a masculine color.) Would girls naturally reject Matchbox cars? Of course not, but if they show preferences for these things, we label them. Somehow, as we have broadened our awareness of and support for gender nonconformity, we’ve narrowed what we think a boy or a girl can look like and do.

Let’s be clear: If my daughter does begin to feel that the gender in her mind and the sex of her body don’t match, I will be supportive. I will research puberty blockers and hormones (more than I already have). I will listen to her and make decisions accordingly, just as I did when she turned 3 and asked for a tie and a button-down shirt.
That's an age-old puzzle in psychology. To paraphrase an old conversation, "professors who don't behave like professors are a mystery to others."  Or substitute any other departure from type.  Where does a reluctance to conform become a disorder?
She identifies as a tomboy, because that’s what some kids at school told her she was, though she has also said, “Why is it a tomboy?” When kids say she’s in the wrong bathroom, she tells them, “I’m a girl,” and invariably they say, “Oh, O.K.”

The kids get it. But the grown-ups do not. While celebrating the diversity of sexual and gender identities, we also need to celebrate tomboys and other girls who fall outside the narrow confines of gender roles. Don’t tell them that they’re not girls.
Or I could get into political economy: ought "socially constructed roles" be tight or loose?  Market economies supplanted feudal economies in part because more individual agency led to more prosperity.  But if we loosen convention so much that cooperation is impossible, or that what we used to understand as tomboys become latent crossers (or in the case of Peppermint Patty, latent lesbians) is that a good thing?
[Cartoonist Charles Schulz] is on record as saying that Peppermint Patty isn’t a lesbian (which – her tomboy qualities and her friendship with Marcie notwithstanding – she absolutely isn’t. Her unrequited love for Charlie Brown is a frequent and on-going theme in the strip. Marcie is also clearly in love with “Charles.”

Maybe they’re both bisexual, although it bears repeating the characters are only eight-years-old).
Linus and Sally are somewhat younger, and Schroeder is probably a precocious seven, unless a wrinkle in time happened when Sparky stopped advancing the gang's ages. But the kids can't be bothered with culture studies. "Patty’s implosion of gender stereotypes is accepted by all the other kids without question, as if it’s simply one other perfectly acceptable way to be."

Just let the kids be kids, and leave your adult obsessions with the latest liberating transformations to adults.

Meanwhile, the culture-studies machine rolls along, unembarrassedly.  Here's the dissenting view to the Tuval thesis.
[Nkechi Amare Diallo, formerly known as Rachel Dolezal] has been a needle in the side of contemporary race theory, with its emphasis on the “social construction” of racial categories – a tendency that reaches its pinnacle with the insistence that racial minorities be referred to as “racialized” minorities, as though there were no physical substratum to the terms whatsoever. There is something similar going on with the use of the term “female-presenting” and “male-presenting.” Both expressions are, of course, pleonastic if one accepts the social constructionist thesis. (Just for fun, I have started referring to my wife as a “female-presenting, racialized minority,” just to savour the bemused expressions that it produces.) In any case, if it’s all just about how people perceive you, if there is no essence to the category (e.g. if gender is merely “performance”), then shouldn’t changing the way people perceive you change your category?
But the way to get past essentialism is to engage in essentialism.
[Ijeoma] Oluo is mixed race (“technically” mixed race, she says), with a Nigerian father who disappeared when she was 2 years old, leaving her to be raised by her white single mother. So when she talks about “inherited trauma,” it’s not clear what she is referring to. Technically, she is no more African-American than Diallo is, in that she is not a descendant of the slaves brought to the Americas from Africa, nor did her family experience segregation, Jim Crow, and all of the other formative experiences of the African-American community. Nor did she experience the socioeconomic disadvantage of racial oppression when growing up, having been raised by her white mother in what she describes as a “lily-white” suburb. In other words, it seems to me that Oluo is someone who has chosen to identify, and to identify very strongly, with the struggles, aspirations, and identity of the African-American community. Which seems to me just fine.
By that logic, Barack Obama is no more African-American than Diallo either, although he, too, identified strongly with those struggles, aspirations, and identity.  (And, quickly: do you think people disposed to behave badly toward black people behave badly differently to a person with slave ancestors on the census than they would toward a person with Islands parents who arrived in the middle twentieth century?)  It's enough to make a white nationalist chug a quart of milk.

But for all the sound and fury unleashed by contemporary snowflakes, it is as nothing compared with Stalinist terror.
[A] mighty enemy of intellectual freedom was in our midst for the bulk of the 20th century.  Does this mean we shouldn't worry about the latest challenge?  No, but we should keep matters in perspective.  The last storm featured a juggernaut of an external threat combined with vocal internal sympathy for the juggernaut.  Intellectual freedom weathered the storm nonetheless.  A few thousand internet and campus activists are insignificant in comparison.  A steely revolutionary like Lenin would have scorned them as soft, impulsive dreamers.  This may be little consolation if protestors won't let you speak, but things could be way worse.  And not long ago, they were.
Undermine them with mockery, dear reader.

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