Monday, May 25, 2009

Crossdressing and Biological Causation, a lack of studies doesn't mean a lack of causation

In the coments at Zoe's I had an argument with radicalbitch and since I've referred to it a few times elsewhere I think it's worth discussing here. To see the full argument, the original discussion is here

But there's really a simple way to say it.

Some folk quite rightly disregard the past 'evidence' and 'theories' of psychiatry and psychology regarding homosexuality and transsexuality yet insist on still applying them to crossdressing/transvesticism and/or other parts of Transgender.

It's hypocracy, a clear double-standard.

For those arguing Transsexuals have a biological causation (which the science definately supports) they say rightly that the biological evidence is more valid than the psychiatric... unsurprising ad fairly safely valid.

But they often claim there is no evidence for a biological causation of crossdressing etc...
An archaeologist I know often says 'absence of evidence is not evidence of absence'. But importantly in this case... no-one has looked yet! Absence of Studies is not Absence of Evidence

Pretty simple notion.

Possibility 1. Crossdressing is caused by a mild case of the same cause as transsexualism.

How do you test it? Do the same tests on crossdressers thats found evidence for biological causation in TSs and see if you find milder versions of the same as predicted.

Possibility 2. Crossdressing is unrelated to the cause of transsexualism.

How do you test it? Do the same thing as testing possibility 1.

Posibility 3. Crossdressing is also biologically caused but from a different causation to TS.

How do you test it? First rule out 1 and 2 by doing that test. If that doesn't work then look for other biological causes, functional MRI scans and other brain examinations that have found biological factors in homosexuality etc may provide clues as to what else to look for.

Possibility 4. Crossdressing is not biologically caused but is purely psychological.

How do you test it? Rule out 1 and 2 with that test, then rule out 3 by searching for and not finding any biological cause.

So as those tests aint been done yet all those folk who say its purely psychological are full of it.
It doesn't matter how many psychological studies have been done on it either, that has no bearing on whether or not there is a biological factor, component or causation.

And the 'it's understood as psychological already' argument is full of manure too. Science regularly re-asseses old ideas and tests new explanations. The discovery of the bacteriological cause of stomach ulcers is a good example.

I keep running into anecdotal evidence that crossdressing is inherited. Crossdressers finding a parents clothes and book stash after their deaths I've heard of plenty through to one of the FtM CD friends of mine discovering a coworker is a closeted MtF CD whose brother also turned out to be a CD. Those sorts of cases alone suggest its worth looking into if these are just coincidences or whether incidence of CDs are far more common than usually assumed and whether it is an inherited trait.

And some of the scientists predict that the rest of TG is biologivally cuased. From one of the comments in the above link:

riki said...
I am doing a PhD on the political and social implications of the brain sex theory of trans. My assessment is that there is certainly more evidence for that theory than for any other, but that it is far from "proven", and that many biological hypotheses have been falsified on the past (EG the HY antigen in the 70s and 80s). The psychological theories have very little evidence to support them.

I interviewed Dick Swaab, whose lab produced the BSTc research that is the strongest evidence for a neurological correlate for trans. It should be noted that one of the six MTF transsexual people in the original 1995 Zhou study had never transitioned, but insisted that they had a female gender identity. It sould also be noted that the 2002 Chung study found that the difference between males and females in the BSTc does not occur until after puberty, which poses some problems for a pre or early post natal hormonal causation theory.

Swaab thinks the BSTc is probably a part of a network in the brain involving the hypothalaumus and cortical areas.

"We only, by accident, hit on a little bit of it"

He also explicitly supported the idea that there is a biological causation for the whole range of gender identity variations:

"I think we talked about a scale like the Kinsey scale for sexual orientation – we should also have a gender identity scale. It is not either this or that; there is also something in between. The distribution will not be simple, but here will be people somewhere in the middle."

"So it is not the entire brain that is switching, it is some systems, and that may also be the explanation for the [gender identity] scale. Some systems do switch and others don’t and it depends on which systems have switched where you enter on the scale."

Other recent research (as reviewed by Zoe in earlier blogs) also supports the idea of certain sex differentiated brain areas being switched in ts or tg people while others are not.

So if that is the opinion of Swaab, perhaps the best qualified scientific researcher in the field, perhaps we can accept that tg is as likely to be biological as ts?

Now even if it's not the case that it's biologically caused we won't know for sure till we test for it! so everyone who keeps on about it being certain that CDing is unrelated causilly to TS need to STFU cause we don't know that cause the studies aint been done yet! And to the scientificly literate you look like either ignorant or lying.

Besides, even if it were to turn out to be purely psychological, which I doubt, it's still ethical. And as such should no longer be considered any less valid as homosexuality or any other ethical form of self-expression.

Absence of studies is not absence of evidence.
So it's about time people stop throwing the non-transsexual transgender folk under the bus too.

Busy busy busy

Well it's been a while since my last post, and I've been a busy batty indeed.

My main focus has been on the Human Rights community consultation, on trying to find ways to dissolve enough of the internalised transphobia endemic in the crossdressing community to get them more active including in undoing their own internalised issues (and always working on my own) but I've also spent a lot of time with online socialisation and offline Dungeons and Dragons. And a close friend has had a profound personal loss recently and has needed my shoulder *hugs if you read this*.

And just as my sleep schedule was falling back into gear it's been broken again by each of these. Oh well.

Lots of discussions lately have run into some frequent topics, many with religion...

Why oh why do so many people not understand that there aint just one religion? So religious freedom means ya gotta consider there's more than just one religion? Which means ya can't impose any religious rules outta your religion on everyone else cause some of them wont follow your religion but another one with different rules?

Example: Oh noes, treating gays as 1st class citizens rather than bashing them or discriminating against them interferes with my right to practice my religion.

But it was established a long time ago that basic rights overule religion, thats not new.
Example: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Well murdering witches has been against the law how long?

And what if the christian were to suffer because of another faith?
Example: A worshipper of Camasotz the Vampire-Bat-headed God decides to sacrifice the christian to their god.

Think the christian, like the witch, would at that point be happy that basic civil/human rights overule a persons following religious morality?

Yet still it keeps coming up.

And this nonsense about gay and transgender being 'new' keeps turning up too.

Where are they getting this nonsense from? Gays and Transgender people have been around as long as decent records go! C'mon folks who taught you history?

And to make matters worse in Australia, Canada, America and many other parts of the world the lack of acceptance of transgender, the lack of recognition of same-sex relationships is whats new! Merely centuries old.

Lets face it, heterosexual and cissexual, cissgender dominated society is not only new but a failure... a failed model of society resulting in large amounts of harm.

It only gained dominance by associating itself with colonialism built on expansive warfare with a technological advantage and using religious hostility that used force or coercive measures to stamp out other faiths.

Of course for people to hold these unsupportable conclusions requires them not to know about or understand other religious views, key points in history, other cultural traditions especially GLBT ones and the like.

So why are there key gaps in peoples knowledge and understanding?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On CFS, Psychiatry, TG and idiocy in medicine

I link to two great articles whether you have CFS, know someone who has or have no idea about it.

Read this.

Some days, when my natural instincts slip past my stict internal ethics-filters, i consider how just it might be to get all the people who make ignorant assumptions about CFS and jam them in a room filled with mosquitos carrying Ross River Fever or some other illness with similar symptoms to CFS so they get a taste of it, oh and use some drug to mess with their memory so they have no idea whats wrong with them when they start to feel ill.

That or just take a big hammer with the studies showing biological factors in CFS wrapped around the hammerhead and smack them right in the knee with it to remind them of the damned data!

Thankfully for all these I am both too tired and too ethical for such behaviours.

But lets check another shall we? Try this It took something like 5 years before I was diagnosed. During which time I had to leave school, tried to get work, tried to do several forms of further education all of which made me deteriorate to the point of having to quit and overall dramatically worsened my condition with all the antibiotics and antidepressants, (the latter i was not informed were antidepressants I might add, the doctor led me to believe it was a different antibiotic for the 'unknown virus' he said was the likely cause of my illness after the courses of anitbiotics had no effect... only when i webt for a second opinion did i learn what i'd been placed on!) let alone the fact that no matter how sick i felt I still kept up a moderate level of activity (I get bored too easilly to be happy being bedbound thank you very much you *censored*) till after trying several different doctors one said:

I'd say you had chronic fatigue syndrome.. If i believed it

Amusing no? So when I tried another doctor i mentioned this quote. He was astonished. A bunch more tests later to rule out more possibilities he said i clearly had CFS and there i was, finally diagnosed. Now if this moron discussed in the second article is correct then what the heck illness did i have for years and still have long before I had internet access or had heard anything about CFS beyond vague jokes about Yuppie Flu?

Back from my experiences to the excellent article:

Why can they not see this? Because they don’t want to admit that they don’t know
everything, perhaps? I think that’s a component, but there’s more to
Here’s my current take: These psychologisers are believed, because they
are the people who are reinforcing existing prejudice. I think that popular
conceptions of CFS are heavily gendered: If a disease is suffered more often by
women, we all know they’re doing it to themselves, don’t we? And if people -
especially women - have diseases we don’t understand, they must be to blame
somehow. We’re not very comfortable with uncertainty, we don’t like “shit
happens” as an explanation.
We seek to blame, and who better to blame that
the people who we see at the centre of the problem - women with disabilities?
The shadows of victim-blaming rear their ugly heads again and again and again
within every axis of oppression, and those shadows are multiplied at the
And so, people with disabilities are abused - medically,
socially, financially, and psychologically. Every day. Because of people like
Wessely who are “just trying to help”.

Well my oh my does this seem familiar to me. Just like the Zucker and Blanchard nonsense. Just like constantly calling non-binary folk all 'fetishists'. Despite the data when it fits the prejudice it must be true.

I should point out though that for several years after my diagnosis I was still trying to get work and study. I asked three times and DSS/Centrelink about the disability pension and was told each time that CFS was not covered. Then I met a local woman who also had CFS (and a much much milder case than mine) who had been on the pension for years! I mentioned this to my doctor and he had several other patients with CFS on the disability pension, all women, and he helped straighten things out so I finally got my pension.

So in this case was it an assumption that as a 'strong' male i could just ignore the illness and keep going while 'frail' women could not? Or was it that womens contributions were considered negligible and could be pensioned off while I as a male needed to keep being a productive worker?

I'd appreciate others theories on that. Either way back then I heard of quite a few cases locally at least where males with CFS had much more trouble obtaining the disability pension than females.

At any rate there are patterns here. Patterns of sexism, ablism and more. At each turn there is a lack of Ethics, a lack of conclusions based on thorough data. Just prejudice used to draw faulty conclusions from the outset and construct bad studies to support them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

UNethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini and The Age Newspaper

Today I read this.:

And in that was this:
But ethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini said mainstream medicine did not recognise
hormone treatments and surgery as treatment for gender dysphoria, and that under
US guidelines it was psychosis because "it's a belief out of accordance with
"What you are trying to do is make a biological reality correspond
to that false belief," he told The Age.

Now I think that some FMRI scans and disections count as Empirical Evidence last I checked. And irrespective of ones beliefs based on faith of things existing outside what can be measured in Naturalistic Methodology whatever can be measued Is undeniably part of reality!

And as such that makes UNethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini logically either a liar or incompetant. If a liar which is a clearly unethical act he is incapable of being considered qualified sufficiently to call themselves an ethicist. If incompetant through ignoring Empirical Data of course he is incapable of being considered qualified to be an ethicist.

Q.E.D. So he should quit or be fired in disgrace or publicly retract the statement and apologise or prove those studies and evidence incorrect beyond any possible doubt.

Is UNethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini the equivalent of the legendary man of the cloth who refused to look through Gallileo's Telescope by ignoring these studies? Or deliberately lying because the measurable reality does not match his particular personally accepted interpretation of scripture?

And for the Newspaper The Age to use the opinion of this man without checking the facts or reporting his potential Religious-Politics Conflict Of Interest and Bias is a failure of Journalists Ethics as well as Incompetant. And for every Media outlet that then continued to spread these assertions uncritically and without checking again that's incompetance.

What exactly does UNethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini think the "mainstream medicine"s recognised treatment for Gender Dysphoria actually is? I'd like to see him produce one reliable methodologically sound study of an equally reliable and successful alternate treatment.