• Stop Using Phony Science to Justify Transphobia - Scientific American

    From Unbreakable Disease@21:1/5 to All on Sun Aug 15 21:10:00 2021
    XPost: alt.atheism, sci.misc, sci.psychology


    Stop Using Phony Science to Justify Transphobia

    Actual research shows that sex is anything but binary

    By Simón(e) D Sun on June 13, 2019

    Antiscientific sentiment bombards our politics, or so says the
    Intellectual Dark Web (IDW). Chief among these antiscientific
    sentiments, the IDW cites the rising visibility of transgender civil
    rights demands. To the IDW, trans people and their advocates are
    destroying the pillars of our society with such free-speech–suppressing, postmodern concepts as: “trans women are women,” “gender-neutral pronouns,” or “there are more than two genders.” Asserting “basic biology” will not be ignored, the IDW proclaims. “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

    The irony in all this is that these “protectors of enlightenment” are guilty of the very behavior this phrase derides. Though often dismissed
    as just a fringe internet movement, they espouse unscientific claims
    that have infected our politics and culture. Especially alarming is that
    these “intellectual” assertions are used by nonscientists to claim a scientific basis for the dehumanization of trans people. The real world consequences are stacking up: the trans military ban, bathroom bills,
    and removal of workplace and medical discrimination protections, a 41-51 percent suicide attempt rate and targeted fatal violence . It’s not just internet trolling anymore.

    Contrary to popular belief, scientific research helps us better
    understand the unique and real transgender experience. Specifically,
    through three subjects: (1) genetics, (2) neurobiology and (3)
    endocrinology. So, hold onto your parts, whatever they may be. It’s time
    for “the talk.”


    Nearly everyone in middle school biology learned that if you’ve got XX chromosomes, you’re a female; if you’ve got XY, you’re a male. This
    tired simplification is great for teaching the importance of chromosomes
    but betrays the true nature of biological sex. The popular belief that
    your sex arises only from your chromosomal makeup is wrong. The truth
    is, your biological sex isn’t carved in stone, but a living system with
    the potential for change.

    Why? Because biological sex is far more complicated than XX or XY (or
    XXY, or just X). XX individuals could present with male gonads. XY
    individuals can have ovaries. How? Through a set of complex genetic
    signals that, in the course of a human’s development, begins with a
    small group of cells called the bipotential primordium and a gene called

    A newly fertilized embryo initially develops without any indication of
    its sex. At around five weeks, a group of cells clump together to form
    the bipotential primordium. These cells are neither male nor female but
    have the potential to turn into testes, ovaries or neither. After the primordium forms, SRY—a gene on the Y chromosome discovered in 1990,
    thanks to the participation of intersex XX males and XY females—might be activated.*

    Though it is still not fully understood, we know SRY plays a role in
    pushing the primordium toward male gonads. But SRY is not a simple
    on/off switch, it’s a precisely timed start signal, the first chord of
    the “male gonad” symphony. A group of cells (instrument sections) must
    all express SRY (notes of the chord), at the right time (conductor?).
    Without that first chord, the embryo will play a different symphony:
    female gonads, or something in between.

    And there’s more! While brief and coordinated SRY-activation initiates
    the process of male-sex differentiation, genes like DMRT1 and FOXL2
    maintain certain sexual characteristics during adulthood. If these genes
    stop functioning, gonads can change and exhibit characteristics of the
    opposite sex. Without these players constantly active, certain
    components of your biological sex can change.

    There’s still more! SRY, DMRT1, and FOXL2 aren’t directly involved with other aspects of biological sex. Secondary sex characteristics—penis,
    vagina, appearance, behavior—arise later, from hormones, environment, experience, and genes interacting. To explore this, we move from the
    body to the brain, where biology becomes behavior.


    When the biology gets too complicated, some point to differences between
    brains of males and females as proof of the sexual binary. But a half
    century of empirical research has repeatedly challenged the idea that
    brain biology is simply XY = male brain or XX = female brain. In other
    words, there is no such thing as “the male brain” or “the female brain.”
    This is not to say that there are no observable differences. Certain
    brain characteristics can be sexually dimorphic: observable average
    differences across males and females. But like biological sex, pointing
    to “brain sex” as the explanation for these differences is wrong and hinders scientific research.

    Let’s just take the most famous example of sexual dimorphism in the
    brain: the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area (sdnPOA).
    This tiny brain area with a disproportionately sized name is slightly
    larger in males than in females. But it’s unclear if that size
    difference indicates distinctly wired sdnPOAs in males versus females,
    or if—as with the bipotential primordium—the same wiring is functionally weighted toward opposite ends of a spectrum. Throw in the observation
    that the sdnPOA in gay men is closer to that of straight females than
    straight males, and the idea of “the male brain” falls apart.

    Trying to link sex, sex chromosomes and sexual dimorphism is also
    useless for understanding other brain properties. The hormone
    vasopressin is dimorphic but is linked to both behavioral differences
    and similarities across sex. Simply put, the idea of a sexual binary
    isn’t scientifically useful, and nowhere is this more obvious than in
    the brain. It also happens that transgender people have the brains to
    prove it.

    It’s easy to see sexual dimorphisms and conclude that the brain is
    binary; easy, but wrong. Thanks to the participation of trans people in research, we have expanded our understanding of how brain structure, sex
    and gender interact. For some properties like brain volume and
    connectivity, trans people possessed values in between those typical of cisgender males and females, both before and after transitioning.
    Another study found that for certain brain regions, trans individuals
    appeared similar to cis-individuals with the same gender identity. In
    that same study, researchers found specific areas of the brain where
    trans people seemed closer to those with the same assigned sex at birth.
    Other researchers discovered that trans people have unique structural differences from cis-individuals.


    As if the brain and body weren’t complicated enough, another biological factor influences the expression of biological sex in an individual:
    hormones. Anyone who has gone through puberty has felt the power of
    hormones firsthand. But like all things biology, hormones cannot be
    limited to the pubescent idea of “estrogen = female and testosterone = male.”

    For one thing, all humans possess levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone with sex differences not as prominent as is popularly
    thought. During infancy and prepubescence, these hormones sit in a
    bipotential range, with no marked sex differences. Through puberty,
    certain sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone become weighted toward one end of a spectrum. But in developed adults, estrogen
    and progesterone levels are on average similar between males and
    nonpregnant females. And while testosterone exhibits the largest
    difference between adult males and females, heritability studies have
    found that genetics (X vs. Y) only explains about 56 percent of an individual’s testosterone, suggesting many other influences on hormones. Furthermore, measurements of sex hormones levels in any one individual
    wildly vary across the range of “average” values regardless of how close
    or spread apart you take the measurements. The binary sex model not only insufficiently predicts the presence of hormones but is useless in
    describing factors that influence them.

    Environmental, social and behavioral factors also influence hormones in
    both males and females, complicating the idea that hormones determine
    sex. Progesterone changes in response to typically male-coded social
    situations that involve dominance and competition. Estrogen, typically
    linked to feminine-coded behavior, also plays a role in masculine-coded dominance/power social scenarios. Though testosterone levels are
    different between males and females on average, many external factors
    can change these levels, such as whether or not a person is raising a
    child. Differing testosterone levels in both men and women can predict
    certain parenting behaviors. Even the content of a sexual fantasy can
    change testosterone levels. The fact is, behavior and environment—like cultural gender norms and expectations—influence sex-related hormones,
    and the biology of the body and brain itself.


    While this is a small overview, the science is clear and conclusive: sex
    is not binary, transgender people are real. It is time that we
    acknowledge this. Defining a person’s sex identity using
    decontextualized “facts” is unscientific and dehumanizing. The trans experience provides essential insights into the science of sex and scientifically demonstrates that uncommon and atypical phenomena are
    vital for a successful living system. Even the scientific endeavor
    itself is quantifiably better when it is more inclusive and diverse. So,
    no matter what a pundit, politician or internet troll may say, trans
    people are an indispensable part of our living reality.

    Transgender humans represent the complexity and diversity that are
    fundamental features of life, evolution and nature itself. That is a fact.

    *Editor’s Note (6/18/19): This sentence was edited after posting. It originally referred to participants as transgender.
    Tip me: bc1qtwmjzywve5v7z6jzk4dkg7v6masw2erpahsn9f bitcoin:bc1qtwmjzywve5v7z6jzk4dkg7v6masw2erpahsn9f

    Secmail.pro is down, please mail me at current address instead

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
    * Origin: fsxNet Usenet Gateway (21:1/5)