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Sandra Lopes has offered a long and very thorough synopsis and analysis of the work of Blanchard, Bailey and Lawrence in a recent post on her blog. It was well written and researched to be sure and it offers a nice summary about where we have come and where we are going with the science behind the causes of the transgender condition. I urge you to read it here.

The fact is that we are once again a crossroads between the mental disorder/trauma model of the Blanchard, Bailey and Lawrence triumvirate and the biologically rooted gender identity that most transgender people prefer to espouse.

I have made no secret that I favour the school of Benjamin and Vitale but primarily because I have found the BBL work to be shoddy, mean spirited and thoroughly unscientific. It never addresses other scientific work such as the John Hopkins Cloacal exstrophy study nor the mistaken theories of John Money who thought that a gender identity could be acquired through socialization; an assertion which has now clearly been proven to be false.

People who favour the emasculation trauma theory must hinge on something happening during childhood that is not even consciously perceived by the child but I have trouble buying it. Sure you can have a case where the grandmother dresses the little boy in skirts and ribbons (as happened to Walt Heyer) and perhaps he develops some psychological trauma but most of us have never experienced that. The idea that an event or events are as innocuous as to not even be remembered seems like a stretch.

But the reason all this is important has more to do with the way science sees us than how the average person does. After all, most people have not read anything on the subject of gender variance or dysphoria (in fact many of us don’t either much to my surprise) and we find all kinds of opinions out there on the subject. Yes there is empathy for the transgender because teens are committing suicide at an alarming rate and because the public sees that intelligent people are willing to uproot their lives and that of their families in order to become who they deem to be their authentic selves.

The question remains whether this is a form of mental delusion or a biologically predetermined condition. In either case experts agree that it must be dealt with and even Blanchard recommended surgery for people he was convinced were male on the premise that he was alleviating their mental suffering. He must have thought of it as medicating the schizophrenic as he does not personally believe that there is any such thing as a female gender identity for a male bodied person. In any event, Blanchard’s opinion on the subject is losing weight by the year and, as I used to tell my dear sister, it’s easy to pronounce yourself on something you have never personally experienced.

While it would be nice to have conclusive proof in scientific terms, in the interim we need to deal with acquiring credibility through public education and awareness. The more people we are out to, the more they will realize that most of us are well adjusted and intelligent people who are as sane as anyone else and I might argue we might be a degree or two saner after living with the weight of dysphoria for many years. Many of us have had to train our brains to ignore or refuse to acknowledge something that gnaws at us from our earliest awareness in order to conform.

I continue to read some of the blogs of other transgender people and see varying degrees of contentment which hinge on the following criteria:

• Acceptance from their loved ones
• Acceptance of themselves
• Acceptance at their workplace (if one transitions)

There is no getting around that we want to be loved for who we are. In that way, we are like everyone else and while some people will have little trouble with us, the most important of the three is your own acceptance. Without that you will be weakened by self doubt, worry and trepidation and will have little fight in you to deal with the ignorant and mean spirited of this world.

Gender is the last bastion of certainty that people wish to believe is immovable but gender identification and birth sex are not always clearly delineated nor closely related for every person. For most of us it’s actually a graduated spectrum that usually has gender and birth sex well aligned. But for the small minority where there is sufficient misalignment, there is a problem to contend with and it’s mostly socially constructed because given the carte blanche to behave and dress as they want most gender variant children would simply have no issue. It’s only when their desires clash with the norms and dictates of their society that the problem arises.

We may be coming to a future where gender identification will not necessarily involve (for many) having reassignment surgery to the other role but will be more a matter of how we identify in our brains. Given the freedom to express themselves as they wish, some men would dress as women and some women as men and what of it? The idea is to allow them the liberty to do so without persecution even if it sticks in the craw of people who see gender as an infallible and rigid structure.

Conchita Wurst is an example of a gay male who presents and wishes to be addressed as a female but has not had surgery or taken hormones. She may be more acceptable as an entertainment curiosity than as a plausible employee of a fortune 500 company and yet who knows what the next decade will bring.

I am surprised every day.


  1. It is always nice to see a new posting from you. I often find your approach to gender to be sane and rational. Of course, there is an inate desire to try to understand and confirm the 'why' of everything but with my own gender issues I have long since come to realize that I may never know the why and have come to accept what is and to make of it what I can.
    I fully support the concept that the more people that we are out to and who get to know us the better it will be for all.

  2. Pat I belive the why is important and has ramifications for the future of people who suffer from gender dysphoria. If it is proven to be something that is predetermined at birth instead of a mental disorder it will go a long way towards solidifying support on all fronts including governmental protections at all levels and should improve the way transgender people are viewed and treated. Some people out there even see this as a lifestyle choice.


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