The non-science of transgender analysis

While I don’t expect this debate to end anytime soon, there’s a new entry in the media push to convince Americans that gender dysphoria is just another part of life which should be accepted without question. It comes to us from Alex Barasch, writing at the Washington Post. Barasch is an author who “identifies” as a male and isn’t engaging in the usual routine of sloganeering we so often see. (Examples include such nonsensical catchphrases as; “Sex is what’s between your legs. Gender is what’s between your ears.”)

This piece purports to talk about an aspect of this subject which is actually quite important, that being the actual science behind transgenderism. Or at least that’s how the essay begins. The author covers a seemingly endless collection of scientific studies and theories, leading the reader to suspect that some “proof” of transgender identity may be forthcoming (or is at least on the scientific horizon). But those hopes are quickly dashed when she inserts the following disclaimer, warning that even if we could answer the question, we probably shouldn’t. (Emphasis added)

Given the complexities of identifying and interpreting differences — and of preventing their weaponization — we should resist the impulse to base the legitimacy of trans identities on findings that could just as easily be used for gatekeeping or parsed as a disorder. The search for the “gay gene” has been long and, so far, inconclusive. Crucially, lesbian, gay and bisexual acceptance has moved forward without it. As Rohy puts it, the real role of civil rights and increasing representation in the culture is about “widening the space of possibility in which [queerness] becomes visible as a livable life.” It shows us ways of moving through the world we might not have imagined or understood to be accessible.

Here’s the closing argument offered by the author which defines the reason that we should apparently talk about science in passing, but not peer too closely into the microscope.

Both good science and good advocacy dictate that we’re better off acknowledging what we don’t know about ourselves than overstating what we do. It doesn’t help the LGBTQ community to pin our validity on what we might learn, if only we could scan the right brains or pinpoint the right genes — and if we trust the volume of the frontal cortex over what a person tells us about themselves, we deny them their autonomy and their humanity. Rather than waiting for firmer biological footing, those who really want to advance the cause should start by believing trans people when they speak up about who they are.

There you have it. A several thousand word analysis which discusses various aspects of science which might be brought to bear on this question, leading to a dead end where we are instructed to simply stop asking inconvenient questions and “believe” people when they tell you something about themselves. If you take the time to go through all of the studies Barasch cites, they add up to essentially nothing that we haven’t covered here before. Highly dubious studies conducted in overly small sample groups providing inconclusive hints at best. The human brain is still a mysterious machine which defies examination on many fronts, but we’ve yet to see anything repeatable which somehow invalidates the existence of two genders, with the previously noted exceptions of the small fraction of the population with genetic anomalies.

This is yet another example of how activists want this question treated completely different than any other debate in society. Show us the science is the rallying cry on so many issues. But when it comes to this question the peanut gallery falls largely silent. When you show us a doctor who can examine an unconscious, naked patient with no identification or witness with any knowledge of them and tell us with an even 51% degree of certainty whether they are transgender, get back to us.

The author would instruct us to accept the premise that people “just know” something about their inherent “identity” in such questions. Well, sometimes the observer “just knows” something when they see it as well, but they can frequently turn out to be wrong. And, again, this is unique in the American debate landscape. There are no activists out there claiming that people suffering from Cotard’s Syndrome are actually zombies and should be treated as such under the law because they believe it so much. Nobody is suggesting that victims of clinical lycanthropy be allowed to roam the fields at night ripping the throats out of people because they believe they are werewolves. Yet there is precisely as much evidence out there that people actually do turn into wolves under the light of the full moon as there is indicating that a person born with a normal chromosomal structure, a vagina, a womb and ovaries, with zero signs of a Y chromosome anywhere in sight is actually a man.

In a different, more reasonable phase of our society this wouldn’t be so important to sort out. As long as you’re not performing these experiments on children, people should be allowed to believe as they like and describe themselves as they wish. But in the era of the social justice warrior, simply allowing other consenting adults to “be and let be” is never enough. It’s the next in an endless line of examples of how You Will Be Made To Care.

Having this debate regarding the science behind the question takes on greater importance when you consider the consequences. Simply allowing someone the freedom to deny medical science (and reality) and dress as they wish and call themselves what they like will never be enough. You’ll next be told that you have to accept these ideas and modify your language to match theirs. And you’ll want science on your side when you are informed that your teenage daughter will be going to school and showering with some “girls who happen to have penises” and if you don’t like it you’ll be taken to court for High Crimes of Bigotry.

This all needs to be hammered out in court, and I don’t mean the shifting language in Title IX or anything of the sort. We need a fair hearing on the science and one set of justices who retain the strength of will to stand up to the mobs of political correctness and declare that the emperor not only has no clothes but stubbornly remains an emperor and not an empress, despite his protestations to the contrary.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023