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.


Marcus said...

HI Battybattybat

I haven't written on your blog in ages.

Great to see you involvevd in the HUman RIghts consultation.

and on the subject of Biological causation- I feel the western world and some religions are out of synch with what should be a holistic approach to the self.

meaning that one should not subdivide between into compartmentalism in order to justify human rights.

it is a sad reflection on those who feel the situation of one individual is only justififable if an external medical western test is established,

to me the self is the predominant factor in identity and it should be treated with respect as such by others unless it cause harm to others in the community

Battybattybats said...

Hi Marcus!
How are you doing?

I think there are uses in looking at aspects and portions of the self both in pursuit of wisdom and selfiawareness/self-knowledge as well as scientific understanding. As well as the holistic approach.

However rights aren't about innate traits but about freedoms. Choices.

Religion is a choice. Freedom to choose which religion to practice is a choice. Voting is a choice (well for you and I in Australia who we vote for is anyway) and so are many things.

Which is a good point I should make a comment on at the consultation forum.. goes over there typity typity type...
And done :)

Indeed I couldn't miss the online consultation, and i'm part of a group from my town doing one a submission as well following a local town-hall talk on the subject.