The Comparison Of BIID and GID

I’m sorry, but I’m afraid it has to be another repost today. I’m dealing with some more nastiness right now that hit a bit too close to home. Just couldn’t finish the piece I was working on (“Is Gender Identity Disorder A Disorder?”). I know, I like repetition in titles. It’s a Gertrude Stein “after the flowers of friendship faded friendship faded” kind of thing. Will post it tomorrow, along with part two of my series on fourth wave feminism. This one is originally from Queereka.

A few days ago, Christina Stephens, a friend and partner of JT Eberhard posted a fantastic and fascinating piece on Body Identity Integrity Disorder over at Eberhard’s blog, WWJTD.

BIID, while one of those things that is widely “known of” (in the pub quiz night “ever heard of those people who voluntarily choose to have their limbs amputated” kind of way) is certainly not widely understood. Christina’s article was a wonderfully non-judgmental and well-researched look at the phenomenon. It basically stems from an incongruity between one’s internal “body map”, or the way that the mind or self “expects” the body to be, and the body’s actual physical configuration. This can create a profound sense of alienation, disquiet or disgust associated with a given limb, extremity, sensory ability or virtually any aspect of the body.

As is fairly common to these discussion, Christina referenced comparisons between BIID and GID, Gender Identity Disorder, the underlying condition that drives transsexuality. GID is also a disconnect between internal “body map” and the actual configuration of the physical body, in this case along the lines of gender. It creates a similar sense of alienation, disgust and so on. Specifically, Christina noted a similarity between the types of argument used against an individual with BIID’s right to elect for surgery to ease the incongruity between body and internal self, and noted how many of the same ethical justifications we’ve ultimately formulated for gender transition are applicable to “voluntary’ amputations or other procedures available to individuals with BIID.

These comparisons, however, have a tendency to put me very much on guard. In the comments, I expressed my discomfort with the comparison, with which I have a long and troubled history. I may, however, have jumped the gun a bit and reacted emotionally before giving it full consideration. [Read more…]

Debunking The COGIATI

I’m on vacation this week! This post originally appeared on Queereka.

My first forays into the trans internet were back in the Fall of 2001, while I was having a particularly bad “episode” of dysphoria that led, for the first time in my life, to actually conducting extensive research into what transition entailed. The e-landscape back then was a bit different than it is now. Those were the days of GenderPeace and AuthentiKate. When TSRoadmap.com was the Bible and Andrea James had yet to fall under criticism for presenting such a scary and difficult, expensive and passability-obsessed vision of transition to those at the beginning of their process. Calpernia Addams was God. Lynn Conway’s TS Women Successes was an important touchstone for demonstrating that yes, it was possible to live a happy, full life as a trans woman, and that many possibilities existed for what, exactly, that life would be (if you weren’t so terrified by TS Roadmap that you spent all your time there comparing and contrasting the levels of passability).

And amongst these various websites there was a cornerstone that promised instant, easy answers to all those who were questioning and exploring the possibility of transition. It presented itself as being able to remove your doubts, rule out the possibility that you weren’t really trans and just confused, show you just how trans you were (relative to all those super-duper transier-than-thou Troo Wimminz), and give you a sort of intellectual “permission” to finally pursue this. It was called the COGIATI (Combined Online Gender Identity And Transsexuality Inventory). [Read more…]

Guyliner, Murses, Bromance And Femmephobia

I’m on vacation this week! This post originally appeared at Skepchick.

There’s been a lovely and adorable video circulating on the tubes-osphere the last few days that I’m sure has helped bolster a comforting sense of optimism about the next generation’s understanding of gender. A little girl named Riley gets irate about the toy store’s division into a pink section and an “every other colour” section, and the way that marketers “trick” girls and boys into liking particular kinds of products:

Notice something? [Read more…]

Bilaterally Gynandromorphic Chickens And Why I’m Not “Scientifically” Male

I’m on vacation this week! This post originally appeared at Skepchick.

You know what this world needs more of? Misconceptions about transsexuality.

Wait… I think I got that backwards.

Right… there is absolutely no dearth whatsoever of misconceptions people have about transsexuality. Sometimes I feel like a sort of trans-advocate Sisyphus, perpetually pushing a boulder of education up a hill of myths, stereotypes, fear, hatred, ignorance, disinterest and general laziness. And really, I could spend the rest of my life just trying to debunk a small sub-set of the mistaken beliefs about us held in the mind of the general public.

Quite often, people tell me to pick my battles. So in the interest of actually listening to my friends for a change, that’s what I’m going to try to do today. Pick a battle. In this case, something that I really need to get out the way if I’m going to keep at this whole “discussing trans issues in the skeptic community” thing, something that I’ve come to regard as by far the most common misconception about transsexuality within skepticism: the belief that transsexuals are and always shall be “objectively”, “scientifically”, “biologically” members of their assigned sex. [Read more…]

13 Myths And Misconceptions About Trans Women

I’m on vacation this week! This post originally appeared in two parts at Skepchick and Queereka. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I’ve chosen to focus this article on trans women only for the sake of brevity and clarity. It is not my intent to contribute to the ongoing cultural erasure of trans men, and I believe their voices, experiences and identities deserve to be heard and understood.  Cis readers please note that much of this can be applied to transsexuality in general.

Debunking myths is one of those things that us skeptics are supposed to do, right?

Okay then…

(my triskaidekaphilia isn’t showing, is it?) [Read more…]

Transkeptuality: Gatekeeping And The Value Of Critical Thought

I’m on vacation this week! This post originally appeared at Skepchick. It was the very first bloggy thing I ever blogged! It’s kind of neat to look back and see how far I’ve come. :)

An important, interesting, and increasingly common question in the contemporary skeptical community is to what extent should social concerns like sexism, misogyny, racism, homophobia, etc. be incorporated into the overall agenda of skepticism. Are these things really the domain of skeptics? Are these kinds of issues something that skepticism should be addressing, or even can address, or are our energies better invested into “traditional” issues like theism, Bigfoot, psychics, natural medicine, homeopathy, creationism, and all that nutty goodness?  The connections between these different sorts of issues and why skepticism can be valuable to addressing them aren’t too hard to make. After all, the same pining for a golden age that never was and belief in the inherent value of tradition for tradition’s sake that often justifies belief in the value of “traditional medicine” can also lead to steadfastly defending the sanctity of marriage, or nostalgia for the good ol’ days when men were men, women were women, and strict gender roles were brutally enforced. But there’s still a widespread hesitancy in our community to take such issues on directly.

Perhaps the desire to shy away from these more complicated and perhaps more subtle assumptions, misunderstandings and biases about gender, race, sexuality and so on is because they’re harder to unpack, harder to prove false with tests and scientific fact. But I’d imagine a large part of it is also that these assumptions are more intrinsically tied into our culture. They’re closer to us, more inherent, harder to identify because we’ve lived with them for so long, and perhaps most importantly, they’re harder to challenge because so much more of our society (and our own identities!) hinges on them. The woo is harder to see when it’s right in front of your nose, and gets harder to pull away the more is leaning on it. The social costs of accepting uncomfortable truths about race and gender are a bit higher than the social costs of accepting there’s no Loch Ness Monster. Some assumptions become so ingrained in a culture that even our science and medicine can get caught up in attempting to maintain them… so close that even people who are genuinely committed to the value of objective truth can miss their influence. That’s why not only is skepticism valuable to addressing these issues, but addressing them is valuable to skepticism. It’s hard to be an unbiased thinker when you’re immersed in a biased culture.

And that, after my long and rambly introductory paragraphs, brings us to my actual topic: the history of bias and assumptions about gender in the medical treatment of transgenderism. [Read more…]

Sacrificing Privilege

This is a repost of an article originally posted on Skepchick. I felt I needed a bit of a day off. I mentioned yesterday the exhaustion I was feeling from having to do a whole lot of fighting, on a whole lot of fronts, in a very short period of time… and then along came Be Scofield, who decided I’m the latest incarnation of the pure evil that is Gnu Atheism, trying to force all the poor defenseless minorities into our imperialistic atheist dogma and “Western” scientific principles. So yeah, just one thing too many, and I need a moment to relax and recharge. Fortunately, Ophelia, Chris and Jason have all done a great job of responding to Be, so I don’t really need to worry much about providing a rebuttal (To respond to Be or not to respond to Be? That is the question…whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageously slanderous blog posts, or to take arms against a sea of inanity and by posting a rebuttal end them…). It does, however, provide a nice touchstone for a piece I was planning to do this week anyway, which will be going up tomorrow. “Confessions Of A Post-Modernist”. So stay tuned, I’ll be back soon!

Special apologies to all the new readers who’ve come in as a result of Kate Beaton’s kind tweet, and the recent new-life my Lorax post has gotten. Under most circumstances, this blog features new content every weekday (typically one theory-oriented essay at 9am EST and a shorter more topical piece around 1pm EST), a recap on Saturdays (with cute animals!), and on Sundays a music video, collection of links and news items and some kind of puzzle or game (I’ll also be adding comics and drawings in the near future). I’ll be back to form tomorrow.

So anyway, here’s one of my articles from Skepchick, which was particularly well-received the first time around. I hope all my new reeders enjoy it, and older ones enjoy getting to return to it with new eyes. [Read more…]

Coming Out (Part One Of Four): When Coming Out Is Shutting Yourself In

This piece was originally posted at Queereka. I am re-posting it here because it had originally been intended as part of a series, which I will now complete this week. Please visit Queereka for all kinds of awesome LGBTQ stuff, from a secular, skeptical angle!

For me, being a skeptic, and the personal importance skepticism has for me, almost entirely boils down to one thing: knowing that I’m an irrational, crazy idiot capable of incredible cognitive distortions and amazing feats of self-deception. Skepticism is a safety precaution and coping mechanism. My intellectual emergency brakes.

The initial crazy that led me into discovering and understanding the enormous importance of doubt and hesitation was managing to convince myself during my first year of college that the world was secretly being run by a cabal of occult-oriented secret societies. I was approximately 2.5 grams of psilocybin mushrooms away from buying into the shape-shifting reptile people. Snapping out of that snapped me into skepticism.

But the conspiracy theories, in terms of personal significance, is dwarfed in irrationality, cognitive distortion and self-deception by how I convinced myself for twelve years following the initial revelation of my transsexuality that that wasn’t what was really going on, that I must have made a mistake (over and over and over), that I couldn’t possibly be the T-word and…

…ultimately convincing myself that I was really just gay. So I came out as such.

[Read more…]