It cannot be understated that the sheer volume of ignorance about gender variance weighs down on me. I see the same shit repeating itself over and over. It is not the ignorance that is the problem, at least not by itself–but the belief that knowledge is somehow unnecessary to form an opinion on something, which is likely the sole contributor to my blood pressure problems. That is a belief which should be nuked from orbit, because if people actually practiced it, we wouldn’t have cis people passing shitty laws about trans people based off of knee-jerk “eww cooties” reactions or an entire lobby calling itself pro-“life” despite advocating for policies that continually endanger women.
As today’s Transition Reactions is about facts, I will not be including the usual disclaimer about anecdotes and personal experience.
So let’s dismantle one of the more irritating bludgeons used against trans women: “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”
Facts exist regardless of how we feel about them–that is true, unless you’re a solipsist. The problem is the people employing this deepity seldom understand the establishment of what makes a fact to begin with.
Fact #1: Feelings affect our facts
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) is one of the most comprehensive sources you can find detailing the extent of trans-antagonistic positions. In a perfect world I could safely ignore anyone’s opinion who hasn’t read it. Sadly, some of those opinions come from doctors and legislators. Most people can’t be arsed to read through 228 pages of statistics which, while thrilling to me as a lover of stats, are generally dry and unstimulating for most.
That’s why there’s an 8 page summary, most of which is graphs! Less numbers, more pretty pictures! No excuses now. It takes you maybe two minutes to skim through that. This blag tracks which links are clicked, and I will be severely disappointed in you if the page view to link-click ratio is not 1:1 for the executive summary.
Here are some highlights:
• Widespread mistreatment at work: Ninety percent (90%) of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job or took actions like hiding who they are to avoid it.
• Forty-seven percent (47%) said they had experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being fired, not hired or denied a promotion because of being transgender or gender non-conforming.
• Over one-quarter (26%) reported that they had lost a job due to being transgender or gender non-conforming and 50% were harassed.
• Respondents reported various forms of direct housing discrimination — 19% reported having been refused a home or apartment and 11% reported being evicted because of their gender identity/expression.
• One-fifth (19%) reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives because they were transgender or gender nonconforming; the majority of those trying to access a homeless shelter were harassed by shelter staff or residents (55%), 29% were turned away
• Fifty-three percent (53%) of respondents reported being verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation, including hotels, restaurants, buses, airports and government agencies.
• Refusal of care: 19% of our sample reported being refused medical care due to their transgender or gender non-conforming status, with even higher numbers among people of color in the survey.
• Forty-three percent (43%) maintained most of their family bonds, while 57% experienced significant family rejection.
That last statistic is my–uh–“favourite.”
The first thing I’m trying to establish here is the basic fact that discrimination exists against trans women, that it manifests literally everywhere, and that it is motivated by a confluence of multiple factors. If we want to address “facts don’t care about your feelings,” well, we ought to have a conversation about how cis people’s feelings translate into the very real facts like:
• A staggering 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to 1.6% of the general population,ii with rates rising for those who lost a job due to bias (55%), were harassed/bullied in school (51%), had low household income, or were the victim of physical assault (61%) or sexual assault (64%).
If people didn’t feel justified at this state of affairs, it wouldn’t be so widespread. So, clearly, there are some common reactions to trans women, and not all of them–not even most of them!–are kind.
Now that we’ve established what cis people’s feelings are…
Fact #2: The facts aren’t even separable from feelings!
When we want to talk about scientific evidence concerning gender variance, we inevitably have to bring a minesweeper with us. As Julia Serano has herself identified, we can’t even agree on what a good outcome is, never mind whether any given piece of evidence supports said outcome.
We can continue to debate the efficacy of gender transition, or of gender-reparative versus gender-affirming approaches, and each side will be able to find statistics to support their side of the argument. But what is really driving this debate is a difference of opinion with regards to what constitutes a “good outcome.” Trans activists and advocates like myself generally think that a good outcome is a happy child, regardless of whether they transition or not, or whether they grow up to be transsexual, non-binary, gender non-conforming, lesbian, gay, bisexual, etcetera. Trans-antagonistic and trans-suspicious people (who constantly cite “80% desistance”) seem to think that a good outcome is a cisgender child, and they seem to be willing to make transphobic arguments and subject transgender and gender non-conforming children to clinically ordained transphobia (i.e., gender-reparative therapies) in order to achieve that end goal.
The answer as to what you consider a good outcome obviously lies what one considers “good:” happiness, or conformity? If you are determined to view gender variance as being a bad thing, no matter what, then you can find evidence that conversion therapy “works,” at least in the same way that torture “works.” That is because, in those studies, they frame gender conformance to be “successful,” regardless of the impact such a treatment has on a person. Kinda like how reports supporting the use of torture phrase an answer from the prisoner as success, rather than accurate answers.
Contrarily, if you have less of an Authoritarian bend, perhaps you just want people to be happy with themselves, in which case you can also find evidence that gender affirmation healthcare is also successful.
In other words, whatever scientific “fact” we want to prop up to support our opinion is itself motivated by a values system motivated by our feelings, in this example, conformity versus other people’s happiness. To suggest they are separate is to overlook how quacks like Paul McHugh still have a career. In fact, I posit a hypothesis: Valuing conformity over individual happiness is the strongest predictor for the trans-antagonistic position as defined by Serano.
So, sure, you can define success as conformity, and then find “successful” “treatments” for gender dysphoria. But you’re illustrating a fundamental values disagreement in which you require me to be aggressively suicidal, all to soothe your “ick cooties” response, which we’ve established exists. It’s not bad science because the conclusion is invalid–it’s bad morality because accepting the premise means granting you permission to enact violence on me because of an infantile fear of difference.
And you wonder why I’m occasionally rude to you.
Fact #3: The facts do not indeed care about your feelings.
Yes, I’m turning it around on you.
So we can’t agree on what constitutes a good outcome in transgender healthcare. Now we could take a step back and talk about whether we can agree on what “good healthcare” actually is, but in my experience people wielding the “Facts don’t care about your feelings” inanity are actually targeting the existence of trans people in the first place. As in, we don’t exist, we’re “just” crazy. “y chromosome ur a dude”
Except, well, here’s this handy twin & sibling study which indicates a biological basis for gender variance:
These investigators claim that their data indicate that the probability that a sibling of a transsexual will also be transsexual was 4.48 times higher for siblings of MtFs than for siblings of FtM transsexual probands, and 3.88 times higher for the brothers than for the sisters of transsexual probands. Moreover, the prevalence of transsexualism in siblings of transsexuals (1/211 siblings) was much higher than the range expected according to the prevalence data of transsexualism in Spain (the country of their study). Their study strongly suggests that siblings of transsexuals have a higher chance of being transsexual than the general population and that the potential is higher for brothers than for sisters of transsexuals, and for siblings of MtF than for FtM transsexuals.
In other words, the rate of gender variance increases dramatically if you’ve shared a set of DNA as well as foetal environment with a gender variant person. Although the precise link is far from being demonstrated, there’s a host of other research discussed in the above paper that explores possible causes.
If gender variance were indeed “made up,” we would expect monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins to express it at roughly the same rate. But both nontwin siblings as well as monozygotic twins indicate vastly higher probabilities of gender variance if their sibling is also gender variant. That would suggest there is something/several somethings theoretically measurable we can eventually locate and measure.
You know, something real, regardless of how uncomfortable that possibility makes you feel.
If you still wish to insist that gender variance isn’t real, then you have an extensive body of medical evidence to contend with. When I say the medical consensus is “gender variance exists,” I’m not joking. Every statement of fact is substantiated with another citation. And because the trans antagonistic types aren’t likely to actually check that, I’ve taken the liberty of linking the evidence for you!
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to tell every one of these researchers they’ve got it all wrong.
- American Psychological Association. Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People. Am Psychol. 2015 Dec;70(9):832-64.
- Lev AI. Transgender emergence: therapeutic guidelines for working with gender-variant people and their families. New York, NY: Haworth Clinical Practice. New York, NY: Haworth Press; 2004.
- Carmel T, Hopwood R, dickey lm. Mental health concerns. In: Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community. Oxford University Press; 2014.
- Richmond KA, Burnes T, Carroll K. Lost in trans-lation: Interpreting systems of trauma for transgender clients. Traumatology. 2012;18(1):45-57.
- Machtinger EL, Cuca YP, Khanna N, Rose CD, Kimberg LS. From treatment to healing: the promise of trauma-informed primary care. Womens Health Issues Off Publ Jacobs Inst Womens Health. 2015 Jun;25(3):193-7.
- American Psychiatric Association, American Psychiatric Association, DSM-5 Task Force. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
- Bockting WO, Miner MH, Swinburne Romine RE, Hamilton A, Coleman E. Stigma, mental health, and resilience in an online sample of the U.S. transgender population. Am J Public Health. 2013 May;103(5):943-51.
- Meyer IH. Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychol Bull. 2003 Sep;129(5):674-97.
- Hendricks ML, Testa RJ. A conceptual framework for clinical work with transgender and gender nonconforming clients: an adaptation of the Minority Stress Model. Prof Psychol Res Pract. 2012;43(5):460-7.
- Nadal KL, Davidoff KC, Davis LS, Wong Y. Emotional, behavioral, and cognitive reactions to microaggressions: Transgender perspectives. Psychol Sex Orientat Gend Divers. 2014;1(1):72-81.
- Trans Lifeline-(877) 565-8860 Transgender Crisis Hotline. Trans Lifeline. [cited 2016 Mar 25].
- Grant JM, Mottet LA, Tanis J, Harrison J, Herman J, Keisling M. Injustice at every turn: a report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey Injustice at every turn: a report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; 2011 [cited 2016 Mar 17].
- Bauer GR, Hammond R, Travers R, Kaay M, Hohenadel KM, Boyce M. ?I don’t think this is theoretical; this is our lives?: how erasure impacts health care for transgender people. J Assoc Nurses AIDS Care JANAC. 2009 Oct;20(5):348-61.
- Hanssmann C, Morrison D, Russian E, Shiu-Thornton S, Bowen D. A community-based program evaluation of community competency trainings. J Assoc Nurses AIDS Care JANAC. 2010 Jun;21(3):240-55.
- Shipherd JC, Mizock L, Maguen S, Green KE. Male-to-female transgender veterans and VA health care utilization. Int J Sex Health. 2012;24(1):78-87.
- Walinsky D, Whitcomb D. Using the ACA Competencies for counseling with transgender clients to increase rural transgender well-being. J LGBT Issues Couns. 2010;4:160-75.
- Singh A. “Just Getting Out of Bed Is a Revolutionary Act”: The Resilience of Transgender People of Color Who Have Survived Traumatic Life Events.. 2010 May 7 [cited 2016 Mar 24];
- Singh AA, Hays DG, Watson LS. Strength in the face of adversity: resilience strategies of transgender individuals. J Couns Dev. 2011 Winter;89(1):20-7.
- Winters K. Gender madness in American Psychiatry: Essays from the struggle for dignity. GID Reform Advocates. 2008;
- National Center for Transgender Equality. Know your rights: Medicare National Center for Transgender Equality. 2015 [cited 2016 Mar 25].
- World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). WPATH de-psychopathologisation statement. 2010 May [cited 2016 Mar 25].
- Deutsch MB. Use of the informed consent model in the provision of cross-sex hormone therapy: a survey of the practices of selected clinics. Int J Transgenderism. 2012 May;13(3):140-6.
- Coleman E, Bockting W, Botzer M, Cohen-Kettenis P, DeCuypere G, Feldman J, et al. Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender-Nonconforming People, Version 7. Int J Transgenderism. 2012;13(4):165-232.
- Karasic DH. Transgender and gender nonconforming patients. In: Lim RF, editor. Clinical manual of cultural psychiatry (2nd ed). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2015. p. 397-410.
- Karasic DH. Mental health care and assessment of transgender adults. 2015 [cited 2016 Mar 24].
- Deutsch MB. Gender-affirming surgeries in the era of insurance coverage: developing a framework for psychosocial support and care navigation in a perioperative period. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2016;27:1-6.
- Obedin-Maliver J, Goldsmith ES, Stewart L, White W, Tran E, Brenman S, et al. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender-related content in undergraduate medical education. JAMA J Am Med Assoc. 2011;306(9):971-7.
- Pickering DL, Leinbauhg T. Counselor self-efficacy with transgendered clients: Implications for training. [Ohio]: Ohio University; 2005.
- World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). WPATH – Find a Provider. 2016 [cited 2016 Mar 25].
- Ducheny K, Hendricks ML, Keo-Meier C. TGNC-affirmative interdisciplinary care. In: Handbook of trans-affirmative counseling and psychological practice. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.