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Feb 28 2012

Bio-Essentialism, Social-Constructivism, And What Hormones Do And Don’t Actually Do

One of the often jarring things about being a trans feminist, or even just being a trans person who enjoys participating in discussions of feminism and gender theory, is how you’ll sometimes come across cis people using the existence of trans people to prove some point or another. One way or the other, any theory of gender will ultimately have to account for us, and the simple fact that there are such a thing as trans people, people whose gender identity is in conflict with their assigned, physiological sex, and that there always has been such a thing as gender variance, ends up having significant implications for our understanding of human gender and sex.

A lot of the time, people will just try to ignore us, or awkwardly force us into their existing framework somehow, or develop really elaborate, creaky, intellectually acrobatic theories to try to get us to fit and explain how we can exist without threatening whatever theory of gender they’ve decided to put their stake in. But when things get weird, and sometimes insulting, is when they decide to just go right ahead and use trans people as a tool for pushing their theory forward. Most of the time, you’ll seen this done by one of two groups: the extreme social constructivists, who argue that gender isn’t really real, and is sort of only in our heads, who will suggest that the existence of trans folk indicates that clearly biological sex doesn’t determine gender. And also the extreme bio-essentialists, who say that men and women are fundamentally different, and behavioural differences between the sexes emerge from underlying neurological or hormonal or genetic or evolutionary differences, and the fact that trans people exist, or behave in ways different from the gender they’ve been socialized to be, and that gender identity disorder is thoroughly unresponsive to therapy or cultural pressures and stigma, indicates that there is clearly some kind of underlying human trait that drives gender and gender differences.

Two sides of a debate, each holding contradictory theories, each claiming trans people as conclusive proof of their position.

This tends to really annoy me in that neither of their theories actually adequately account for trans experiences, or take into consideration the immense diversity of experiences of gender. One of the things I’ve learned over the course of transition, and one of the ways my conceptualization of sex and gender has most changed from what it used to be, was realizing that there really aren’t, and can’t be, any overarching rules of gender. You can’t say anything about it, or articulate any theory, for which there won’t be significant exceptions. You may be able to construct a theory for how gender operates in an individual, but the instant you try to apply that etiology of gender to another person, you start running into problems. Gender and sexual orientation are consistent only in their capacity for variation, and trans experiences conclusively prove nothing except for the inadequacy of overarching theories of human gender. We provide wonderful counter-examples, but terrible “proof” of anything.

It becomes especially creepy and skin-crawly when I see trans people used as a cudgel to beat people into accepting sexist or misogynistic worldviews. This is just a personal thing, really. I dislike being used as a pawn or token or specimen in other people’s arguments anyone, but it’s relatively tolerable when I see it as a positive, or at least well-reasoned and mostly harmless, argument. But when it’s in favour of positions I regard as loathsome? Not fun.

One way this happens is trans women being used as an example of the fundamental differences between men and women. “Men are like this, women are like that”. This is often done by pointing to the psychological and emotional influences of sex hormones.

A few months ago, I was in a bit of debate with a rather obnoxiously sexist and anti-feminist Internet Guy. If I remember correctly, I was arguing that a man is in no position to tell a woman when she is or isn’t “overreacting” to some kind of expression of misogyny, like being called a “whiny cunt”. Given that men have not experienced misogyny firsthand, they have no basis of comparison for what is or isn’t a reasonable, understandable emotional response to it, and therefore no real justification for stating someone is “overreacting”. How could he possibly understand where the line her reaction has crossed “over” lies?

So, shortly afterwards, Straw Natalie was set up to have been suggesting that men can’t possibly understand women. And Internet Dude sort of agreed with Straw Natalie that men and women are indeed different, but that it would be relatively easy for a man to understand a woman’s experiences and point of view:

“Just take sex change hormones for a couple weeks and PRESTO! Now you understand being an ‘emotive’ thinker, just like women!”

It was like I’d been hit by a truck. A big eighteen wheeler hauling a shipment of Ignorance from Misogynia to Transphobesylvania. Smacking me right in the thinky parts, and splattering them all over the html.

“Sex change hormones” indeed! You mean estrogen? The same hormones everyone has? And what’s this “emotive thinker” bit? Perhaps you yourself, Sir, should be doing a bit less emoting and a bit more thinking?

This is by no means the first time I’ve come across this. Our culture is rife with various misunderstandings about what influence estrogen, testosterone, progesterone and other sex hormones have on human behaviour. They’ve become extremely common urban myths. Such as that women start desiring babies in their late twenties because of hormonal shifts, or that testosterone is the reason men are more competitive and ambitious than women. This helps support all kinds of archaic, outdated, essentialist concepts of gender roles. It’s a case of taking a tiny fragment of science and using it to maintain the cultural conception you’d had all along, and add a veneer of “proof” and justification. That trans people are used to help prop up this flimsy means of keeping the binary entrenched is…well… uncomfortable.

The counter-arguments aren’t all that much better, though, and don’t really help. What many will insist is that actually sex hormones don’t bear any significant relationship to behaviour or psychology or emotions. That there’s NO real difference between the sexes other than basic physiology and any claim otherwise is simply sexist pseudo-science. This again puts trans people in the awkward position of being a pawn in this game between two positions that both invalidate our experiences. And it ends up strengthening the silly bio-essentialists’ position because it’s pretty easy to counter the claim that hormones have no influence at all, and the pure social-constructivist stance isn’t supported by the evidence (unless you start bending over backwards in terms of how you define a constructed gender, and what you consider an environmental or cultural influence vs. an innate or biological one). If some feminists are making one unsupported claim (hormones don’t do anything on a psychological level), then the sexist essentialist dudes can start ignoring all their claims and thinking they must all be equally unscientific wishy washy theory (while not actually examining the degree to which their own claims are misinterpretations of the science).

I end up sort of wishing I had some kind of pamphlet I could just drop by the millions from airplanes from around the world indicating exactly what hormones actually do and don’t do, with a big giant “STFU constructivists and essentialists” printed at the end. “It’s both, you nitwits. An interaction between biological, environmental and cultural factors. Just like almost EVERYTHING. Stop playing ‘I’m the smartest!’ with trans people’s lives!”

Here’s the thing: hormones DO exert influence on psychology, emotions, personality and behaviour. They really do. But to nowhere NEAR the extent suggested by the urban myths, by the essentialists, by the evolutionary psychologists, by the various everyones in all kinds of disparate ideological positions who find it convenient to chock up some kind of trend in behaviour to chemistry, by every asshole boyfriend, spouse or girlfriend who decided to dismiss their female partner’s anger as “just hormones”.

So let’s get the record straight here… I’m going to have to make a little disclaimer, though. Remember what I just said a few paragraphs ago? About how gender is nothing if not diverse? Defined by nothing but variation? That applies here. What I’ve found to be true of how sex hormones have influenced things for me isn’t necessarily the case for everyone. But generally speaking, my experiences are pretty common amongst trans women. So yeah…

Estrogen does make you more emotionally sensitive. Yep. Not in the sense of sending a person into wild histrionics at the slightest provocation, or becoming an “emotive thinker” or whatever-the-fuck, or being unable to control ones emotions and understand them or work through them. And despite an awfully consistent myth to the contrary, experiencing emotions doesn’t detract from being able to think rationally or apply reason. Emotions and reason aren’t in conflict. Lack of awareness of one’s emotions, and the inability to understand them, can inhibit one’s ability to handle the whole human-cognition-thing, but simply having emotions doesn’t. They also pretty seemlessly intertwine with all the other ways that we think and process and understand.

Anyway, the way I tend to describe it is increased emotional nuance and range, if that makes any sense. Between the ages of 14 and 25, I properly cried only about three times. Since beginning hormone replacement therapy, I tend to properly cry a good five times each month. And I get teary eyed far more often than that. We could say this is a psychological thing, or a cultural one, or is simply related to me becoming more emotionally open since transition. But all things considered, I think it’s pretty evident that yeah, female hormones tend to make you a bit more sensitive.

I’m also much, much more sensitive to touch. I enjoy tactile sensations a lot more, I’m more responsive to being touched or hugged, I tend to actually think sometimes just about how much I wish I had a boyfriend to hold me. Not to snog, just to hold me. I also have a stronger sense of smell. And my sexuality is very different (including my sexual experiences and sensations and orgasms… which I’d also emphatically say are far better, too… really guys, you have NO IDEA what you’re missing), and operates in different ways. My libido is significantly lower. I still get lonely, but I hardly ever get horny.

Some of my tastes in food are a bit different. I developed a sweet tooth I didn’t used to have. Ice cream has become something of a staple food for me, and salty/sweet combinations like my recently discovered ambrosia of chocolate-caramel-salted-pretzels are heaven to me. I used to be all about salt, onions, pickles, garlic, starchy foods and carbs and grease, that kind of thing, but not so much anymore. Though sometimes I do end up strongly, desperately craving a steak. Which I now prefer bloodier than I used to.

I feel calmer, and more at ease. Less restless. A bit less energy, but also more able to act upon it. Far less depressed (though that’s almost certainly just a psychological one). Less anxious. A lot more okay with myself. A lot of this happened within just a few weeks of starting on HRT, long before physical changes began to be noticeable.

But you know what didn’t happen? I didn’t suddenly start wanting babies. I didn’t become any less competitive or ambitious. I didn’t become less aggressive. I didn’t become more passive. I didn’t suddenly become better at household chores (though I did become a bit tidier, though I would strongly hesitate to ascribe that to hormones). I didn’t suddenly gain some kind of magical intuition. I didn’t become all nurturing and motherly. I didn’t lose my appreciation for sports. My music taste didn’t change. My hobbies and interests didn’t change. I didn’t become any more artistic, or less intellectual.

I didn’t start liking pink.

At least not any more than I already had.

Which was lots.

This doesn’t say anything conclusive, of course. This isn’t hard science. But at the very least, it punches some pretty significant holes in both the theories that posit a purely socio-cultural origin of gender, suggesting things like that women only tend to cry more often than men due to cultural standards , and the essentialist and evo-psych theories that say hormones and biology and evolution are responsible for binary gender roles, and that the conveniently 1950s North American version thereof just happen to be the ones that are somehow genetically inevitable.

Like I said, the existence of trans people, fluid and diverse a community as we are, do not provide very good proof for any particular theory of gender or another. But we do an amazing job of illustrating when theories of gender fall short of accounting for the whole spectrum of human possibility.

So please… don’t bring us into your arguments, especially not as evidence, unless that argument actually can account for us, the actual us, and you actually understand what you’re talking about.

Being the hormone-addled emotive thinker that I am, that kind of thing just might send me into some dangerous hysterics. You wouldn’t want that, would you?

43 comments

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  1. 1
    Ace of Sevens

    Straw Natalie is so strident and irrational. I’d try talking to her about it, but she’d probably cry, then block me.

  2. 2
    Sas

    “Just take sex change hormones for a couple weeks and PRESTO! Now you understand being an ‘emotive’ thinker, just like women!”

    AUUUUUUGHHHH *banging head against ground, blood everywhere*

  3. 3
    Anders

    It’s always interesting to hear about inside-experiences. That’s data that is difficult to get when you do animal experiments… :)

    My interpretation of your experiences would be this – there’s a postpartum shower of testosterone and we know from rat experiments that blocking this shower has profound effects on the rat’s behavior. It’s possible that the reason you did not become more competitive or ambitious is that no one was there with a testosterone blockade when you were born. This is just a hypothesis, of course, and would have to be borne out with a larger study.

    The brain is riddled with estrogen and testosterone receptors, so it’s clear that sex steroids do something. Estrogen heightens serotonerg and noradrenerg function, which could explain less depression (although I agree that psychological factors are a more likely explanation) as well as lowered libido. It may also influence cognition via the cholinergic system. The entire field has been in flux since 1996, when a second type of estrogen receptor was found. Since then we have discovered all kinds of receptors and what this means – if anything – is still up in the air.

    When it comes to sexual effects – how much of that do you think is a function of you accepting who you are and working towards a tangible goal? After all, most of sex takes place between our ears, not between our legs.

    http://www.psychiatrist.com/pcc/brainstorm/br6205.htm

    1. 3.1
      Anders

      Re sex: There’s a side effect to fluoxetine (Prozac) that only 5% of all women get – everytime they sneeze they have an orgasm. I wonder if trans women get that (and if trans men lose that).

    2. 3.2
      Anders

      Touching people with orgasms…

      Apparently estrogen potentiates the effects of oxytocin on the brain. Oxytocin mediates the pleasure response to gentle stimulation – caressing, fondling, massage. It is also involved in orgasmic behavior and pair bonding. I wonder if you’d long more for a steady partner and not for a one-night stand? I’ve heard jokes about the difference in dating behavior between gays and lesbians…

      If you want to know more about emotions in decision-making and the making of consciousness, you can read about it on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somatic_markers_hypothesis) or in Antonio Damasio’s books Descarte’s Error and The Feeling of What Happens.

      I feel a bit like a cat who takes home mice to give its humans. Is anyone else interested in my forays into the literature or should I just shut up?

      1. hall_of_rage

        Sorry Anders, small language correction request for the future: gay men/boys and lesbians, rather than gays and lesbians.

        1. Anders

          I’ll try to remember that. Thanks.

          1. manoman

            Curious. Is referring to us gay males as gay no longer done?

  4. 4
    Emily

    I was out for over a year before hormones and dressing full time a month prior to hormones. From my experience, I actually experienced most changes in my emotions prior to hormones.

    And I do like pink. My prior aversion was not hormone related :P

    And, yes. I am happier overall too.

    You’re more sensitive to touch? Maybe I am a little, but it’s only been 5 months.

  5. 5
    Vene

    “You can’t say anything about it, or articulate any theory, for which there won’t be significant exceptions. You may be able to construct a theory for how gender operates in an individual, but the instant you try to apply that etiology of gender to another person, you start running into problems. Gender and sexual orientation are consistent only in their capacity for variation, and trans experiences conclusively prove nothing except for the inadequacy of overarching theories of human gender.”

    I simultaneously agree and disagree with this. We probably can form reasonable theories about sexuality and gender, but only as a general rule and you are right that there is immense variety. This is actually pretty common with biology. ‘System a does x in situation y, except for in organism z, then q happens.’ In the life sciences we are accustomed to our theories having exceptions all over the place, and this is fine. We’re just after something that works 90% of the time. Variation is kind of a given. To us a non-gender/sex example of variation, we can’t even say everyone has 12 pairs of ribs (even when we exclude surgeries and accidents and such) because 1 in 500 people have at least one cervical rib.

    1. 5.1
      Anders

      My mutant power is that I have no wisdom teeth. It’s a rather crappy power.

      Re behavior: There’s a law of animal research that goes “Under precisely controlled experimental procedures, an animal will behave as it damn well pleases”. Why should humans be any different?

      1. Sas

        Hey, I have that power too! *X-men fist bump* Don’t knock it, at least we got out of a painful surgery.

        My sister’s mutant power is lack of tonsils.

      2. Anders

        Some people have separate head and tail of the pancreas. The blood vessels leading to and fro the kidneys can have all manners of strange configurations. Presumably our brains are similarly variable.

        However, I would note that the phrase “You cannot make any generalizations” is logically self-contradictory. It is itself a generalization. :)

      3. Alethea Kuiper-Belt

        Hey, me too! *more fist-bumping*
        It’s kind of cool that actually we are all mutants, one way or another.

        1. Anders

          Some of these are not technically mutations (alterations in the genetic germline), but hiccups in the embryonic process. Producing a human baby is a huge and complicated process and there are many many ways that things can go slightly awry and produce a non-typical anatomy.

  6. 6
    Dunc

    It was like I’d been hit by a truck. A big eighteen wheeler hauling a shipment of Ignorance from Misogynia to Transphobesylvania. Smacking me right in the thinky parts, and splattering them all over the html.

    I don’t think I’ve actually commented here as yet, but this seems like as good a time as any to mention how much I’m enjoying your blog, and writing like that is one of the reasons. Not the most important reason by a long chalk, but certainly one of them. Count me as a former strict-constructivist who has been forced into serious reconsideration by your writing. My new theory of gender is “People are really complicated…” It’s a work in progress.

    really guys, you have NO IDEA what you’re missing

    Some of us suspect, and would prefer if you didn’t gloat about it too much. ;)

    1. 6.1
      Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

      Some of us suspect, and would prefer if you didn’t gloat about it too much. ;)

      It’s very old news.

      1. Anders

        That’s the myth I used as a template for Natalie Goddess of Transgenderism. And there are all kinds of sexist things I could say here, but since I value my life I will refrain. :)

  7. 7
    The Nerd

    “It’s both, you nitwits. An interaction between biological, environmental and cultural factors. Just like almost EVERYTHING. Stop playing ‘I’m the smartest!’ with trans people’s lives!”

    I’ve had people from both camps tell me to either drop everything and give a working definition of “gender” that satisfies them or else I need to shut up and stop pushing my transgenda.

    Am I allowed to punch them through the internet? Please? Prettyplease? Sigh, I know, violence is no substitute for a respectful discussion…

    1. 7.1
      Natalie Reed

      “typical male aggression” / “testosterone poisoning”

      -sigh-

      1. The Nerd

        All part of my dastardly plan to lead them on before I drop the bomb: not only am I not on T, I still take hormone-based birth control. Explain that like O’Reilly! :D

        1. Natalie Reed

          “You’re not really trans at all then. You’re just confused, and have internalized misogyny”

          1. The Nerd

            *Wince*
            Ooo… you’re good.

          2. Natalie Reed

            Well, I learned from “the best”.

  8. 8
    hall_of_rage

    Yes, thank you! I have been going around for a while saying that people need to make sure they’re not more attached to their theories of gender than they are to the practice of respect, especially with regards to using trans people to construct theories. I am glad to see this piece. Politically and scientifically, I’m not willing to get behind anyone’s theories so easily.

    There’s a way the academics are talking that makes me uncomfortable, which fits your description and brings intersex people in too. They like to say that because intersex people exist, there is no thoroughly valid sex binary, and so it stands to reason that there can be no strict gender binary. This is firstly problematic in how it objectifies intersex people and maybe pathologizes them. I used to think it was justified because it works as a tactic to force people to let go a little bit. But, speaking from experience, it’s enough just to think about how much hormones form a spectrum of sexed bodies, are balanced differently in different people and in the same person over time; they’re always shaping the body and brain. You don’t have to single out intersex people or trans people. Certainly hanging out with someone in a big part of her transition process was how I learned a lot of trivia about hormones, but all we really need IMO is more accurate sex ed.

    Oh, and said friend mentioned once that with hormones, there’s a lot of things they /could/ do, but for any given person one is never sure which effects are actually going to happen, and how much. That’s a good rule to remember for cis or trans people.

    1. 8.1
      hall_of_rage

      Sorry, /some/ academics. And obviously not the ones still quoting You-Know-Who (Janice Raymond).

      1. The Nerd

        The Voldemort of feminist philosophers!

    2. 8.2
      Xanthë, Amy of my threads

      Yes, h_o_r. The very existence of intersex and trans people can become levers for some very strange wedge arguments: for example, biology tells us there is no really sharp division in embryological development but a spectrum of possible intersex conditions; hence the idea of a gender binary is suspect on a biological basis; hence social division into a gender binary is equally suspect; thus trans people should not feel dysphoric in their socially constructed genders, since they do not need to change their bodies in order to change gender (the latter part of this wedge is almost a verbatim justification argued by Ray Voldemort). The pathologisation of intersex people is only one of a number of fatal weaknesses to this line of argument.

  9. 9
    Rasmus

    Emotional sensitivity and horniness and appetite are areas where I think everyone has experienced more or less rapid changes (the basic/ambient level of) at times. There are women who experience that every month. :) So, yeah. Those things can obviously not be completely determined by anything permanent or slowly changing.

    I think it’s hilarious whenever someone eagerly reveals a naive and incorrect understanding of how things work, but I guess that could be some sort of privilege…

  10. 10
    WilloNyx

    Wonderful post.

    I suppose I am cis-female. I have never really had much to think about what it means for me to be female other than the occasional fighting with people about how I am not necessarily emotional because I am female or because of hormones. I was emotional long before there was a significant difference between the hormones in my body compared to that of my male peers. I have always been and will always be emotional I imagine. I can’t for the life of me imagine what it means to feel like a particular gender. I suppose that makes me lucky in some ways but mostly it just feels odd that I can’t sort out a conceptual understanding of gender the way I want to.

    Thinking about this post has gotten some cogs turning in my ever processing brain. Thinking about a working gender theory and how wonderfully impossible it may be to develop one is where most of my processing power is directed. Perhaps it seems impossible to me because I can’t imagine a a cis people or a trans people being able to identify with each other enough to make it work. I am not sure. I imagine any working theory on gender would have to be a joint effort from multiple perspectives including race, age, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, and more. Still yet I imagine it would be a jumbled mess with no clear testable hypothesis.

    Gender becomes an ever more confusing thing as I grow older.

  11. 11
    thaismcrc

    The nurture vs. nature debate is one that is impossible to solve because it is based on a false premise. Even from a purely biological point of view, any organism is the product of an interaction between its genes and its environment. In the case of human beings, that environment is cultural (and gendered). Emotions are especially tricky. There is something innate, obviously; all human beings feel happiness, sadness, anger, love. But if you look at cultures around the world, you’ll see an immense variability in the way people understand and manifest those emotions, and even in the circumstances that cause people to feel one or the other. Whatever psychological effect any given hormone may have, it will probably manifest differently if you are Canadian, Brazilian or Japanese.

  12. 12
    Delictuscoeli

    If some feminists are making one unsupported claim (hormones don’t do anything on a psychological level), then the sexist essentialist dudes can start ignoring all their claims and thinking they must all be equally unscientific wishy washy theory (while not actually examining the degree to which their own claims are misinterpretations of the science).

    Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis. I got caught in this trap for a long time, actually, because my earliest exposure to a lot of feminist thought consisted mainly of the doctrinaire, theory-laden, and relatively evidence-free variety. It took a long time and a lot of reading to recover from this.

    The trap works the other way, too, especially in the handling of evo-psych in feminist skeptical circles. Pinker has been accused of arguing against a straw feminist position in The Blank Slate, but I’ve seen quite a lot of people dismiss the whole field out of hand precisely because it holds the potential to undermine a pure social-constructivist worldview. Difficult methodology =! pseudoscience.

    Note that I am not referring to people dismissing problematic studies, only those who dismiss the entire field as an avenue of research. There are clearly a lot of problematic studies.

    1. 12.1
      thaismcrc

      The problem with evo-psych goes beyond specific, problematic studies. The entire field is based on flawed premises and unless and until those problems are addressed I think it is reasonable to dismiss it wholesale.

      1. Delictuscoeli

        These premises being:

        All thought is neural activity in the brain.

        The brain is an organ.

        Organs’ development are subject to evolutionary pressures.

        Evolution can be investigated scientifically.

        So are you saying that it is in principle impossible to scientifically investigate evolutionary pressures and their effects on an organ?

        1. Natalie Reed

          It may be impossible, in principle, to investigate those pressures in human beings, since we are additionally subject to cultural, social and individual psychological pressures.

          And evo psych, in practice, is never as simple and honest as what you just described. Instead it is typically based on a much more sketchy premise: “observed trends in human behaviour are best explained by evolutionary pressures”.

        2. Ace of Sevens

          That woudl be evolutionary neurology. Evolutionary psychology doesn’t look at the brain. It looks at behavior and engages in speculation about what may have caused it.

          1. Natalie Reed

            Right. That. “Here’s the behavioural trend, let’s put aside socio-cultural and psychological explanations and assume that it must have a discernible and directly related evolutionary origin, and try to come up with what that evolutionary origin might be”

        3. Anders

          The problem is that there’s just not enough data on closely-related species. If we had had Neanderthals and Floriencis hobbits and could look at their neurology and psychology then we could probably have made some progress. But we don’t. Without that I fear that evolutionary psychology is just an exercise a story-telling. Just because we can tell a convincing story that doesn’t mean it’s true.

          As for connecting neurology and psychology… that’s a huge endeavor. Doing so for a very limited field was part of my research project, and we had a fairly convincing story – but testing it? We had a couple of idea but nothing that really got off the ground. A pity. I think it was worth trying.

        4. Delictuscoeli

          I hope all this off-topic I caused doesn’t end up in a threadjacking!

          I think a problem is that the field is in its infancy and there are a lot of methodological problems. But without engaging in too much of a ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy, I think it is possible to distinguish between the people telling ‘just-so’ stories and the people who are really trying to do their due diligence with brain scans or primate studies, and a broader view of evo-psych would include a lot of work in perception, cognition, and linguistics when you’re looking at it as a response to certain kinds of environmental pressures.

          I guess it just irks me when I see skeptics essentially say “I don’t need to read the study, I know it’s wrong because it’s evo-psych.” Especially if the result just coincidentally says something they also find politically unsavoury. Even if the intuitive response is eventually borne out by closer examination, the response itself is still unexamined denialism.

  13. 13
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    OK, I’m a cis woman
    I hate pink
    I hardly ever cry
    I’m the Mistress of the Toolbox in this household
    I love embroidery
    I hate steak
    When I forgot my make-up in the caravan it took me half a year to notice.
    Hormonal birth-control kills my libido.
    So, probably I’m very confused and my hormones don’t do their job properly ;)
    I think lots of the discussion is that people don’t tell gender and expressions of gender apart.
    The expressions change heavily in place and culture.

  14. 14
    Jason

    “there really aren’t, and can’t be, any overarching rules of gender.”

    This is extremely sloppy logic. Claiming a negative requires a lot of proof and qualification to avoid complete quackery. Your individual experiences don’t really speak to this whatsoever.

    I’m appalled you made a ton of claims about biological science and chose to include your personal anecdote about what hormones do while making generalized claims. You really should have included credible scientific research.

    1. 14.1
      SoF

      @ Jason-
      The thing is- there is barely any scientific research. Until recently, queer or trans people weren’t taken seriously enough to be researched. There is still enough stigma to that so that a fried of mine who was working on her academic title was asked to stop reaserching queer or transgender topics, or it would kill her career (she did stop). In this economy, people think twice before they go in that direction.
      For that reason, when you publish about transgender topics, and intend to transports some insights or theories that come from your own experience as a transgender person, you must heavily rely on the anecdotal. That’s how lesbian and gay studies started, too. At least they have gained some scientific credit by now.
      Especially with the effects that hormones have- one of the few groups of people that have some broader experimental data about this is trans people. So, if you have contact to, lets say about 100 or 200 transitioning trans people worldwide (in some larger self help networks up to 2000 people), and hear certain anecdotes again and again and again, well, that’s where the anecdotes of trans people come from. Obviously, there can be a bias. But there might be some grain of truth in there too.

  15. 15
    risa bear

    When I reached crone status I went off estrogen. Before I was on estrogen, I cried at the drop of a hat. On estrogen, I cried at the drop of a hat. Post-estrogen, I cry at the drop of a hat. Could it be I’m just a person that cries at the drop of hats?

    Not saying the little pills didn’t have effects, but they were effects the little pills had on ME.

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