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Are transgendered people broken? Do they need fixing?

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Are transgendered people broken? Do they need fixing?

Post  scott1328 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:21 am

This thread is currently active in @rEvolutionist's "Rational Forums" http://www.rationalforums.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=182#p1236

The topic is "transphobia, the acceptable phobia" I am cross posting a portion of it here because it is directly relevant to the purpose of this forum:

A user wrote:Transphobia, of course, is a dislike of trans-sexual people.

I regard trans-sexuality, not with distaste, but with a feeling of tragedy. When a male is so disoriented with regard to gender, that he undergoes surgery and massive hormone treatment to become 'female', or the reverse for a female, it is a tragedy. In spite of the fact that it is politically correct to regard trans-sexuals as belonging to the 'new gender', that is not really true. A male who undergoes a sex change is not suddenly female. He/she is an ersatz female with breasts and a fake vagina, while still retaining XY chromosomes in each and every cell in his/her body.

There was an article in Scientific American a few years back about this problem. It appears that there is a piece of the brain that governs gender identification. It is about the size of a man's thumb in adult males, and about quarter that size in adult females. But males who think of themselves as female have that piece of brain the same size as in females.

In other words, a man who feels female, is suffering from a minor defect in his brain. It has always struck me as tragic that the only way we can deal with a tiny neural problem is massive and damaging surgery and hormone treatment. Thus, the trans-sexual phenomenon is a tragedy.

To which I responded:
Scott1328 wrote:
But don't you see that the reason it is seen as a tragedy and that the transgender is "suffering a defect" is due to prejudices that there is something "wrong" with the individual?

Those who actually undergo sex reassignment surgery do not represent the entire population of the transgender population. There are many dimensions to gender; it is not a linear spectrum with "Male" at one end and "Female" at the other.

Transgender people don't need our pity. They don't need to be "fixed" and they don't need gender stereotypes imposed upon them.

A user wrote:
The thing is that there actually is something wrong with them. I feel great pity for them. As much as for a person born blind. The defect is in the brain, though. It is a small part of the brain that is misfunctioning. A male who has this problem, and believes he should be female will undergo massive and traumatic surgery and hormone treatment, in order to "fix" a problem caused by a piece of brain tissue that is tiny.

To me, the better 'solution' to the problem would be to find a way to change the gender identification. So that a male who thinks he should be a woman has a minor change in brain structure, and ends up being happy to be a male.

If nothing else, sex change surgery renders a person sterile - unable ever to become a parent. That alone is a tragedy.

Sex change surgery and hormone treatment is like taking a sledge hammer to push a thumb tack. It is a gross and over-violent way of solving a problem that is actually quite subtle. I realise we have nothing better right now, but effort should be put into researching a way to change the gender identification, rather than changing the gender.

Scott1328 wrote:
Why is the difference in that structure of the brain automatically labeled a defect? Is it not merely a difference? What of those transgender people who don't manifest the "defect" are they less worthy of respect or ,for you, pity? Why the focus on SRS? many transgender can't afford or do not want surgery.

For those that do obtain the surgery, why is that a problem for you? I assure you, those undergoing surgery understand far more about it than you or I do.

It's discussion like these that make me wish the A+ forum were a tolerable or tolerant forum. But postings such as from "a user" would result in an undeserved insta ban, and I am not able to present the transgender case well at all.

A user wrote:
Scott

I am not prejudiced against transexuals. My comments are based on science. The brain structure difference is known and published. If a brain difference were noted that led to schizophrenic behaviour, it would be called a defect. This difference results in behaviour that is not typical of the biological gender. Accepting this to be true is not prejudice, but knowledge.

No one, certainly not me, has suggested that people with this problem are less worthy of respect. I pity them because they suffer.

Nor do I think it is a bad thing to recognise that the sex change is a drastic 'remedy' for a problem that is, on the neural level, a minor and subtle one. Of course it results in suffering and confusion to the affected person. But I would much rather that the remedy used addressed the real problem - the difference lying in the brain, rather than the drastic and damaging surgery currently the standard.

(With the following post I meant to remark on the similarity of reports of "phantom penis" and "phantom erections" between cisgendered males who have lost their penis due to illness or injury and preoperative female-to-male transgenered men)

Scott1328 wrote:Recommend you read this article from Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_transsexualism

If I am understanding you correctly, you seem to be claiming that a defective brain structure referenced by a SciAm article causes transsexualism. But that is not borne out by current research.

And consider the cases reported by preoperative FTM of phantom penis and phantom erections that are remarkably similar to that reported by non transmen who have also reported phantom penis and erection.

Could it be that SRS is the less radical correction for the defect?

A user wrote:Scott

Your reference is consistent with the idea that a brain difference is the cause of the gender misidentification.

The point I am making is that gross surgery and hormone treatment is an excessive response to what is, at cause, a subtle problem. However, more research is needed to try to find a way to alter the problem at cause.

@rEvolutionist offered the point:
rEvolutionist wrote:
That's probably a fair point. But keep in mind that currently there isn't the "minor and subtle" solution available. And to be fair, it may not end up being minor and subtle. Invasive brain surgery probably won't be such for quite a long time.

A user wrote:rEvo

I agree.

It will take some research. I see no reason, though, why a simple therapy such as drugs might not reverse the defect, and restore to a person with gender misidentification their 'normal' gender identification. A man who thinks he should be a woman gets returned to an appreciation, and happiness at being a man.

There will be an ethical problem, of course. If a person with this problem actually does not want to be restored to 'normality', then I do not think we can force them. On the other hand, if this option existed, and they still pushed for surgery, would a doctor be able ethically to cut away that guy's entire reproductive system, knowing it is not really necessary?

A user wrote:Yeah.

But in medical ethics, the prime principle is : "First, do no harm."

Hard to reconcile with drastic and damaging surgery.

Scott1328 wrote:The attitudes expressed on this post are saddening for me because they represent an all too common opinion held by the general population. That someone with male genitals needs to be a man and someone with female genitals needs to be a woman. This need for the pigeonholing of people into their proper gender is the source for huge amount of pressure against the trans gendered because all too often it comes from the very people who should be supporting them the most. Why do the surgeries happen? Could it be internalized trans phobia? The trans gendered say they feel trapped in the wrong body. Why shouldn't we believe them? What is so goddamned special about maleness or femaleness that we most force people into one or the other roles? Is it uncomfortable for you to look at a "man" in a dress? Your comfort isn't the issue here. Does it threaten your masculinity that the hot Thai girl over there has a dick? You know what, she is hot, her appearance is eliciting a normal male reaction in you. It merely confirms that yes, you are straight, you do like girls. Do you feel betrayed when it is revealed? I guess that's too bad for you, she is a wonderful, beautiful girl, and you missed out on a good time. Should she be denigrated, demeaned, insulted, or beat up because she "tricked" you? No, she is a girl that is attracted to boys, it's your own threatened masculinity that's the problem.

Transgendered people don't need fixing. They don't need shaming. The causes are irrelevant. But I will agree that reducing suffering is of high priority. Lets just make sure we don't add to the suffering by well meaning but misguided attempts to help.

A user wrote:Deep sigh!

The 'solution' to a person with a tiny part of his brain that is out of kilter with his body should not be to change the body. Especially when that change involves surgically removing his reproductive organs.

Now, it can be argued successfully that the surgery is our best option at present. Sadly, that is probably true, due to the primitive state of medical science. However, it would be better to cure the affliction rather than mutilate an otherwise healthy body. Research is needed to develop such a cure.

The current system is like the old days when an infection of the leg caused the doctor to cut the leg off. Are not antibiotics a better solution?

rEvolutionist wrote:
A user wrote:Deep sigh!

The 'solution' to a person with a tiny part of his brain that is out of kilter with his body should not be to change the body.

Who says? :dunno:


Now, it can be argued successfully that the surgery is our best option at present. Sadly, that is probably true, due to the primitive state of medical science. However, it would be better to cure the affliction rather than mutilate an otherwise healthy body.


You say "mutilate", I say "surgically correct". There's really no need for hyperbole.

The current system is like the old days when an infection of the leg caused the doctor to cut the leg off. Are not antibiotics a better solution?

That's not really a good analogy. If the situation was analogous, the person wouldn't want to keep their leg. But it's not analogous, as virtually everyone would want to keep their leg if it could be healed to it's previous state more or less. And the reason for the difference is that a "leg" isn't anywhere near as critical to a person's identity. Chop a leg off and you are still the same person inside, albeit disabled. "Cure" someone of transexuality, and you change the person's whole identity.

Scott1328 in reply to a user wrote:

I reject your "out of kilter" statement. The science does not back up your statement that there is any thing mal-functioning. The science does support the fact that trans gendered people's brain have measurable structural differences and that most of these differences are due to how androgen receptors work in an individual's brain. You are assuming something is broken because these people differ from the norm and suffer due to that difference.

I get that you view SRS surgery as too radical. I personally believe, that a less trans phobic society would go along way to reducing a trans gendered persons need to conform to gender norms by receiving the surgery. You advocate aligning a person's identity to their genitals. The transgendered person wants to align their bodies to their identity. Can you see how what you are advocating would be unacceptable?

Brain differences have been detected in gay men analogous somewhat to those found in MTF trans gender people. And these differences are linked to how androgens are received in the brain. It might be that it is possible through some sort of hormone therapy to fix homosexuality in some men. I have been asked several times, if I would accept a cure for homosexuality if there were one. I can only say emphatically NO! I am not broken! My sexuality is as much a part of me as my face. It has caused me suffering, ostracism, abuse, and loneliness. But it has given me love and community and excitement and pleasure. And the love of my life. I cannot truly conceive of changing such an embedded part of my identity. I would never ask anyone else to either, even if it meant that surgery was the only option to relieve their gender dysphoria.

another user wrote:Whatever the medical evidence for or against tran sexuality, the fact of the matter is that tran sexuals are human beings and deserve to be treated as such and prejudice toward them is no more acceptable than any other. Furthermore, any adult of sound mind has the freedom to do whatever they want to their own body, long as it does not impinge on the freedom of others. Trans may have a malfunction in the brain but most have a better quality of life - prejudice nothwithstanding - after than before. Also, gender and sex are not the same thing. Gender is a psychological or social construct while sex is a biological one. Generally speaking, they are compatible, but not in the case of trans, hence why they require surgery and / or therapy. And finally, as a straight male I have no qualms in admitting that some male to female trans are absolutely stunning and as good as the real thing

a user wrote:It looks to me as if there is altogether too much importance placed on minor attitudes towards personal gender identity. Please note : gender identity is not the same thing as sexual orientation. A male gay is still male.

The 'cure' is altogether out of proportion to the problem. If a person is depressed, we try to solve the depression - not do a pre-frontal lobotomy. If a male thinks he should be female, the problem is not that he is male. The problem lies with the mental quirk that identifies a healthy male as female. To use drastic and damaging surgery to turn a healthy male into a poor copy of a female is a lousy 'cure' for the problem.

At the present time, we do not have the medical science to use a better cure for the problem, most sadly. In theory, such a proper cure would be simple, and benign. The person will still be the same person, but now comfortable with the gender he or she was born to. No bodily mutilation required. And yes. The removal of the reproductive organs [size=150]is [/size]mutilation.

I feel very sorry for those who are born with the defect in their brain that makes them think they should be the opposite gender of their biological nature. But you guys are trying to suggest that the proper cure for a minor heart valve defect is a heart transplant, rather than a minimal repair to the heart valve. I am talking of the minimal intervention to solve the problem. If a doctor was faced with a patient with that minor heart valve defect, and the patient demanded a new heart, guess what would happen?

rEvolutionist wrote:
A user wrote:It looks to me as if there is altogether too much importance placed on minor attitudes towards personal gender identity. Please note : gender identity is not the same thing as sexual orientation. A male gay is still male.

The 'cure' is altogether out of proportion to the problem. If a person is depressed, we try to solve the depression - not do a pre-frontal lobotomy. If a male thinks he should be female, the problem is not that he is male. The problem lies with the mental quirk that identifies a healthy male as female. To use drastic and damaging surgery to turn a healthy male into a poor copy of a female is a lousy 'cure' for the problem.

You're just saying the same things over and over again. You haven't really addressed the rebuttals put to you about "identity".

At the present time, we do not have the medical science to use a better cure for the problem, most sadly. In theory, such a proper cure would be simple, and benign. The person will still be the same person, but now comfortable with the gender he or she was born to.

They simply won't be the same person. Before they identified as a gendered female (say), and after they will identify as a gendered male. That isn't the same person. It's the same lump of meat, but it's not the same sense of self as before. THAT is the real issue. Not what bits you are or aren't born with.

No bodily mutilation required. And yes. The removal of the reproductive organs [size=150]is [/size]mutilation.

Rubbish. You may as well call all corrective surgery "mutilation". Is removing a giant lump off your face mutilation? Why is this different?

I feel very sorry for those who are born with the defect in their brain that makes them think they should be the opposite gender of their biological nature. But you guys are trying to suggest that the proper cure for a minor heart valve defect is a heart transplant, rather than a minimal repair to the heart valve.

You are still missing the point, as is obvious by your use of faulty analogies. A heart has no part in any person's identity. You can't make analogies between mechanical corrections and emotional (for lack of a better word; relating to self/identity) corrections.


I am talking of the minimal intervention to solve the problem. If a doctor was faced with a patient with that minor heart valve defect, and the patient demanded a new heart, guess what would happen?

I'd fully support the option to have corrective brain surgery if it could help and was not dangerous. But as someone said above, what business is it of anyone else what someone chooses to have corrective surgery for? As long as it is reasonably safe, then it is no one else's business.

Still another user wrote:
a user wrote:Deep sigh!

The 'solution' to a person with a tiny part of his brain that is out of kilter with his body should not be to change the body. Especially when that change involves surgically removing his reproductive organs.


I think the point is that they can decide for themselves, we shouldn't be doing it for them.
If they can afford it, or their need is greater than someone else requiring access to State Health, then what can be the objection?

A user wrote:rEvo

Identity is a subtle thing. Our personal identity is based on a million different tiny things, many of which change minute by minute. If a person's identity includes being deformed - say a hunch back - and that deformity is cured, their identity will change, but for the better.

If a person's identity includes being male but thinking they should be female and that deformity is cured, their identity will change, but for the better.

Every year, multiples of people who have mental deformities are cured, or at least helped to manage their problem. Their identities are changed, and it is for the better.

rEvolutionist wrote:But none of those things are integral to a person's identity.


At this point the topic shifted to a discussion of an article by a transphobic feminist. I am interested in further comment, I removed the names of other parties besides myself and rEvolutionist, because I am unsure of the etiquette of "calling out" someone for criticism. Nevertheless the whole conversation can be found at the link above.


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Re: Are transgendered people broken? Do they need fixing?

Post  mood2 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:32 am

I'm with you on this Scott. Difference doesn't have to be seen as defect and viewed with pity, and somebody who's not in that situation isn't best placed to decide what the best solution is for everybody who is. And the point about identity is central imo.

The article by Burchill was chocka with transphobic insults thrown in precisely to show that she wants to be insulting and knows which buttons to push, I've no idea why a quality paper thought it was a good idea to print it. The likes of Burchill (and Young who's sticking his nose in now) like to think they occupy the edgier niche of the chattering classes which somehow makes it different when they're being obnoxious bigots. It doesn't.

She's tapping in to a section of feminists who I found out about from an American transexual friend which I didn't realise was a UK talking point now, who see MTF trans people as different (in a 'them' not 'us' way) because their experiences are different. I gather it all kicked off when the organisers of an annual women only music festival in Michigan banned non-cis women, and a bunch of trans people set up a protest camp. Been going on for years now.

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Re: Are transgendered people broken? Do they need fixing?

Post  Atheist Dude on Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:50 am

"Broken" no I don't think they're broken. They have a physiological abnormality no different than a thousand other abnormalities people are born with.

Whether or not transgender people need to be fixed, I'll let the individual transgender person decide whats best for themselves.
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Re: Are transgendered people broken? Do they need fixing?

Post  arpie on Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:16 am

Yo Dude! Where ya been hangin? Hope you know you are missed. Sad

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Re: Are transgendered people broken? Do they need fixing?

Post  Glob the Funct on Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:35 pm

Atheist Dude wrote:"Broken" no I don't think they're broken. They have a physiological abnormality no different than a thousand other abnormalities people are born with.

Whether or not transgender people need to be fixed, I'll let the individual transgender person decide whats best for themselves.

I think that the people who are "broken", are those who believe that transgender people need to be told what to do with their lives.
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Re: Are transgendered people broken? Do they need fixing?

Post  arpie on Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:25 pm

Glob the Funct wrote:
Atheist Dude wrote:"Broken" no I don't think they're broken. They have a physiological abnormality no different than a thousand other abnormalities people are born with.

Whether or not transgender people need to be fixed, I'll let the individual transgender person decide whats best for themselves.

I think that the people who are "broken", are those who believe that transgender people need to be told what to do with their lives.

...or protected from unintentional insults of any kind. Intent isn't magic, but it does matter.

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Re: Are transgendered people broken? Do they need fixing?

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