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I am not a biologist


Aggie1

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I am speaking on gender identity at an upcoming meeting and am doing research in advance. Does anyone know of any studies that back up the comments of our most recent SCOTUS addition  when she said “I am not a biologist “ in answer to the question “Can.you define woman”. Does this imply that only a biologist can define woman? 

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Personally, I would not use that quote in a gender discussion. I feel like I am preaching to the choir saying this, but those of us here know that gender and biological sex are two separate things; one is a social construction, the other is a statement of physical being. I was concerned when Judge Jackson said this because it hints that she may consider gender as at least partially defined by biology, and consequentially, it may impact her decisions in upcoming transgender rights cases. That being said, she may also have just mis-spoke because it was a politically-based question she knew was meant to trap her in some obscene way. The uncertainty either way is why I would wait for her to come out with a more defined answer, perhaps in a decision brief or other quote-worthy document. 🙂

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OK. So I am trained in neurobiology. There is a large amount of literature, increasing frequently, to show that brain structure differs from cis-men to cis-women, and from both of them to trans people. (Note: gender is NOT based on hormones or on genitalia.)

 

So there is increasingly strong evidence that there is a biological underpinning to gender, and certainly to gender self-perception. This is precisely why it is so very difficult for, for example, athletic bodies to define who is or isn't a woman.

 

Absolutely, sex and gender are two very different things - not only socially but biologically. So I think she was quite right to dodge the question. Just as I would dodge the question if I was asked something about legal matters. I would expect someone in her position to be guided by medical science. Let's suppose such an issue came before her in court, it would not be good if she could be thought to have pre-judged the issue. In a case like that, she will have to make a decision based on the scientific evidence laid before her.

 

So while I think that her answer was correct in her position, it does not exclude anything. Like anything else, I think one has to read it in context.

 

A while ago there was an article referred to in the scientific forum whch discussed exactly this, ie the brain differences.

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The question proposed to Justice Jackson was a carefully crafted trap question. If you look at the whole premise of the Trump model of politics, he tries to frame things purely from an binary choice; either, or. This causes polarization. By laying a trap question down, there is alienation of one camp or another. There is no gray area. This plays on the conservative themes. Unfortunately, we are on the menu to be hunted. This plays well to those with extreme religious views that have no tolerance or vision beyond the binary of man and woman. Until one their children says they are LGBTQ+, they get plastered wall to wall how they are besieged unholy people like us. We are to blame for their foibles. Does the idea of blaming one group for the ills of many , thus polarizing and uniting these people strike any particular fear or worry? The idea that there may be political divides or extremism in our military worry anybody? Insurrection at the capital right after a legally certified presidential election worry anybody? Someone who admires dictators and tyrants worry anybody? 

 

Yeah, there is evidence to support that our brains are different at birth, and there are changes brought about by hormone replacement therapy. I worry about some factions using this against us down the road. The crazy part is that other than Fox News, certain conservative politicians, and some of the religious zealots, there is a lot of acceptance as to who we are. In coming out, the only people who gave me a hard time were my mother's side of the family (Southern Baptists). Beyond that, even in conservative areas, I have not run into the level of hate that is being spewed by this vocal, but small minority of small-minded individuals.

 

The only bad side to the idea that the differences in our brains can be picked up, is whether someone will get the bright idea that we can be "cured" or eradicated. We do not think that someone could use legal means to punish us, however, what Alabama recently did in barring transgender care of youth is sentence these children to experience a puberty as the gender that they do not want to be. What did the children do to get punished in this manner? 

 

I am proud that my brain may very well be more female than male. I am proud that I am making this journey with all of you.

Sincerely
Katie

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17 hours ago, Kathy2020 said:

she may also have just mis-spoke because it was a politically-based question she knew was meant to trap her in some obscene way. The uncertainty either way is why I would wait for her to come out with a more defined answer, perhaps in a decision brief or other quote-worthy document.

Good point

 

17 hours ago, Mary said:

So I am trained in neurobiology. There is a large amount of literature, increasing frequently, to show that brain structure differs from cis-men to cis-women, and from both of them to trans people. (Note: gender is NOT based on hormones or on genitalia.)

 

So there is increasingly strong evidence that there is a biological underpinning to gender, and certainly to gender self-perception. This is precisely why it is so very difficult for, for example, athletic bodies to define who is or isn't a woman.

 

Absolutely, sex and gender are two very different things - not only socially but biologically. So I think she was quite right to dodge the question.

In my talk I will be making reference to The Gene by Dr Sid Mukherjee. He talks about the genetic underpinnings of sex, master gene regulation switched off defaulting to female expression, epigenetic regulation of genes based on environmental triggers, that sort of thing. The book is copyright 2016 and I’m sure a lot has advanced since then. What would you recommend I read to get caught up? Don’t forget, I am not a biologist! 

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15 hours ago, Katie23 said:

By laying a trap question down, there is alienation of one camp or another. There is no gray area.

I think you hit the mail on the head. 

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A fun fact from my own Law School days is the sheer magnitude of varying definitions in criminal law, tort and contract law -- the latter in particular.  6 hours of class time was taken on one case decided in a federal court on the definition of Chicken in a contract.  The parties were arguing over a major shipment of skinny chickens fit for fried chicken, but the buyer under the contract had wanted plump roasting chickens and was refusing to pay for the skinny chickens that were delivered.  All the contract had called for was pounds of chicken meat, not the body characteristics of the birds.  We dubbed the case the Narrow Chicken Case, because the court found that the term chicken had not been defined further or directly as skinny   or  fat etc.  and the court NARROWLY decided for the seller of the skinny chickens.  This is the type of thing Justice Jackson will be hearing and it will depend on what the parties present to her.  I won't make the extension of this regarding women that would be funny or infuriating to too many on all sides of this one.  

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Unfortunately one is going to have to dig into the literature to find the publications. As far as I know most of the published information is in journals rather than in text books. You might want to look up the International Journal of Transgenderism, which I have found to be a good resource. Unfortunately as with most of these publications, one frequently has to pay for a reprint, but the abstracts are usually available free of charge.

 

I often have to track down references from published articles.

 

There was one which was referenced on this site a while ago which had some nice references in it - probably a good place to start.

 

Unfortunately, all books are, by their nature, a minimum of 2 to 3 years out of date by the time they are published.

 

I don't know if they have done any reviews on the subject, but the Cochrane database is a very good resource. They do meta-analyses of published articles.

 

I'll see if I can find any lying around in the mess I call my office, and if I can I'll post them here.

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In the thread "what do you think about this research" Shelliane_Kay83 on Feb 20 gave the link to an article, which might be a good starting point.

 

I'll carry on looking in the meantime.

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I have just pulled out the article. It was published in 2020, so is fairly new, but the list of references at the back is quite extensive. It is also open-source, meaning you don't have to pay for it - a really good place to start. (Hint - read the Summary, the discussion and the conclusions of any of the articles - if you are not used to reading scientific journals. Skip all the bumpf in the middle about the statistics, and even the methods, unless you are really interested to see where the limitations of the research lie - that's always where the clue is!)

 

Happy reading!! (PS: if you need me to help interpret any of the articles, just give me the reference and I'll get back to you.)

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4 hours ago, Mary said:

In the thread "what do you think about this research" Shelliane_Kay83 on Feb 20 gave the link to an article, which might be a good starting point.

 

I'll carry on looking in the meantime.

 

After a bit of putzing about with the search function, I found the link to Shelliane_Kay83' post, referred to above: https://www.transgenderpulse.com/forums/index.php?/topic/85428-what-do-you-think-about-this-research/#comment-791359

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  I think that her response points to the fact that she is a student of the law rather than a student of biology or in this case politics.  Getting into an argument about biology wasn't appropriate.

 

 

Hugs,

 

Charlize

 

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I was literally just reading the following article linked below a moment ago. I found it affirming that the matter is being discussed and elucidated by scientists who agree its not a simple question, and that in fact it's practically more a social question. One point that is raised in the article is that the definition of "woman" is always changing. For instance, during Jim Crow, bathrooms were labeled "men", "women", and "colored"; thus precluding women of color from the category "women". 

 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/health-wellness/2022/03/24/marsha-blackburn-asked-ketanji-jackson-define-woman-science/7152439001/

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In a follow up interview this is what Sen. Josh Hawley said.

 

"Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was asked by a HuffPost reporter to define “woman,” and replied, “Someone who can give birth to a child, a mother, is a woman. Someone who has a uterus is a woman. It doesn’t seem that complicated to me.” When the reporter asked him whether a woman whose uterus was removed via hysterectomy was still a woman, he appeared uncertain: “Yeah. Well, I don’t know, would they?”

 

"As for Josh Hawley, I’ll say only that I can’t wait to inform my mother that since her uterus was removed when she was 35 via a medically necessary hysterectomy, she hasn’t been a woman in 26 years. Perhaps she will be consoled if I add that the senator sounded like he hadn’t really thought very hard about it: In the same exchange reported by HuffPost, he seemed to change his definition of “woman” to require not a uterus but a vagina: “I mean, a woman has a vagina, right?”

 

(Please note that by Hawley’s new definition he would be forced to accept trans women, post-gender affirming surgery, as women too.)"

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On 4/12/2022 at 12:44 AM, Mary said:

Happy reading!! (PS: if you need me to help interpret any of the articles, just give me the reference and I'll get back to you.)

Awesome, thank you!!! It sounds promising.

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On 4/12/2022 at 6:18 AM, Vidanjali said:

One point that is raised in the article is that the definition of "woman" is always changing. For instance, during Jim Crow, bathrooms were labeled "men", "women", and "colored"; thus precluding women of color from the category "women". 

Sounds like a "social construct" to me! Society has long constructed definitions of women in passive aggressive ways by popularizing expressions like questioning "who wears the pants in the family" or counter arguments like "the best man for the job is a woman". They are purely social constructs. How do these reliable old "standbys" stack up against men who are emboldened to express their femininity, or are amab and now mtf. I have read comments to the effect that Lia Thomas proves that the best woman for the job is a man. It's just another social construct argument designed to sway emotion.

 

Just like the Jim Crow social constructs denying womanhood to one race has completely crumbled and is unthinkable today, so I believe the current constructs will end up on the scrap heap of history. They swayed a bigoted and biased generation, but generations die out. If a social construct can be constructed, it can also be deconstructed. Biology on the other hand is harder to refute - especially the biology of the genome that drives the biology of the brain and other determinants of human behavior.

 

At one end of the argument spectrum there is heated rhetoric regarding the socially acceptable definition of a woman. At the other end is the solid logic rooted in scientific studies of how the human sexual operating system is driven by biological forces that we are only now beginning to understand. Of course, people have "known" this intuitively for ever, that male-female is really a spectrum, but the rhetoric has kept them from expressing it in an acceptable way. Good job there is a track record of bigoted and biased generations eventually dying out. Good job there is scientific research into the cold hard logic of microbiology and the genome.

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@Aggie1 I was reading this article yesterday and it talks about how this argument is also tied into the natural evolution of language and meaning, it seems to tie in with a lot of what you are saying. In the "Facts over feelings" sections there are links to academic articles that you may find useful.

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I think we have to be clear about what we are talking about. Sex is a purely physical thing - XX vs XY chromosomes, vagina vs penis, etc.

 

The feeling of gender, and the expression of gender are two completely separate issues.

 

Gender expression is a social construct. Highlanders wear kilts. Roman legionnaires wore tunics. Some African societies do not expect women to cover the upper parts of their bodies, etc. 

 

However, the feeling of gender is a completely different animal, and has biologically based roots. Simply the fact that a man can produce 80,000,000 sperm in a day, and a woman only one ovum in a month, introduces important differences. In the bad old days, it was best for a man to impregnate as many women as possible, so that his genes had the best chance of surviving. For a woman, on the other hand, during pregnancy she was going to be very vulnerable (as well as at other times, when the man had gone off to impregnate lots more). Look, for example, at the behavior of lions and lionesses in the wild - clear differences, and I think we would be hard-pressed to blame it on socialization. She had to find ways to protect her genes for the future. Certain techniques were thus required, and this has become hard-wired into us, in terms of gender perception and gender behavior.

 

For example, at the beginning of the 20th century, pink was regarded as a masculine color because it was a "stronger" color than blue. At some stage, it was decided that pink should be for girls. Clearly a completely social construct. But whether girls are socialized (generally speaking) into being more caring of infants, or whether this is a survival mechanism for the species, is another matter.

 

So yes, gender expression is a social construct. There is absolutely no inherent reason why dresses should be for women and trousers for men. Or vice versa, for that matter. But there seems to be very good biological reasons why some people feel more masculine or more feminine than others, or than their assigned gender at birth. And this is why "treatment" is nonsense. You can't change things that are hard-wired into you, just as you can't change your sexual expression (i.e  "straight" or "gay").

 

It's complicated - to say the least.

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On 4/12/2022 at 12:20 AM, VickySGV said:

"We dubbed the case the Narrow Chicken Case"

I have to ask...Which came first? The narrow chicken or the narrow egg? 

 

-Katie

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All kidding aside about the narrow chicken, do we then have the case of the narrow woman? Yes, there is a biological difference between male and female. Without question, until we see uterine and ovarian transplants (that will open up a ton of other questions in about 50 years or so). Yet, not everybody who is born as "female" has a working uterus or set of ovaries. There are also those individuals who have androgen insensitivity or partial androgen insensitivity. To further make the conservatives sweat in their answers are those who are those who have ambiguous genitalia. The conservatives look for the simplistic answers because they lack the education and sophistication to understand these issues. I believe that whatever makes us, "us", is unique. There is the spirituality aspect where we often hear about how the body is only a vessel and the spirit lives on. There is no question that many of us wish we would go to sleep one night and wake up as the gender we wanted to be at birth. 

 

Talking to conservatives who lack the willingness to consider the grand scheme of things is like trying to teach an ant tricks. The unfortunate part is that the conservatives have this huge media effort by news media outlets that would sell their soul to make a buck. I really do not think Fox News staffers believe half the crap they put out, but they make money off of fear mongering. It reminds me of the journalistic equivalent of the WWF. It is a show, and nothing more. I wonder what would happen if one of these supposedly conservative news readers suddenly found out one of their kids was transgender or one of their colleagues was transgender? For a while I felt like the sky was falling because of the anti-trans hate messages were filling the airwaves. The funny part is with the exception of a small group of relatives who cling to their MAGA hats, I have had overwhelming acceptance even in conservative areas. 

 

Sooner or later the conservatives like Hawley will make some headlines for unsavory conduct (which they will vehemently deny). We just make the case by being the best person we can be regardless of gender. 

 

Sincerely

Katie

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5 hours ago, DeeDee said:

@Aggie1 I was reading this article yesterday and it talks about how this argument is also tied into the natural evolution of language and meaning, it seems to tie in with a lot of what you are saying. In the "Facts over feelings" sections there are links to academic articles that you may find useful.

 

Excellent article. 

 

In the first video clip, we hear Blackburn's retort to Brown Jackson's reply:

 

"The fact that you can't give me a straight answer for something as fundamental as what a woman is underscores the dangers of the kind of progressive education that we are hearing about." 

 

Brighter begins the article by emphasizing the use of logical fallacy to "catch" one up in a "gotcha" type situation. I would like to expand on this by picking apart Blackburn's statement which (1) assumes there is a "straight" (interesting choice) answer to the question, and (2) that the definition of "woman" is necessarily fundamental.

 

The logical fallacy of begging the question presumes the truth of a proposition without proof. 

 

The logical fallacy of non sequitur (does not follow) occurs when a seemingly plausible conclusion is drawn from something with which there is no (or weak) correspondence. 

 

Replying to the loaded question (another logical fallacy defined in the article) she posed, Blackburn claims that (1), (2), and (3) Brown Jackson does not say what she wants her to say, substantiate that "progressive education" is dangerous. Blackburn's reply, which begins with uneducated propositions, concludes with a non sequitur which begs the question. But, it sounds good to the choir to whom she's preaching, so who needs all that high-faultin logic, when we can just rely on good 'ol fashion "common sense". 

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7 hours ago, DeeDee said:

@Aggie1 I was reading this article yesterday and it talks about how this argument is also tied into the natural evolution of language and meaning, it seems to tie in with a lot of what you are saying. In the "Facts over feelings" sections there are links to academic articles that you may find useful.

Wow wow wow! Thanks so much for sharing this article!!

 

Quite long, necessarily so, to hammer home the themes. So many examples of reasoned voices cascading in wave after wave. Sojourner Truth - Ain’t I a woman. Anne Hathaway- racist and gender orbits, intersex and intersectionality and gender anomalies … all pulled together in a thoroughly researched and documented article. 
 

This is exactly the supplementary material I was looking for to tie together my synthesis of “I’m not a biologist” (and I am not) with a request to present a 500 page book on the history of the gene with its implications for the transgender world in 40 minutes. These are exactly the kind of human stories that punctuate the narrative and make it memorable and actionable.

 

 Thanks again and thanks to TGP for this forum!

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It isn't a gotcha. This is purely toxic political correctness and wokeness as why it can't be answered.  As a biological male, I can not become a biological female.  I'd love to transition, but I will always be stuck as a biological male. Why are people so put off by the obvious? 

Decouple the identity politics and wokeness, as that is why the backlash is gaining traction. 

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1 hour ago, Britney Summers said:

It isn't a gotcha. This is purely toxic political correctness and wokeness as why it can't be answered.  As a biological male, I can not become a biological female.  I'd love to transition, but I will always be stuck as a biological male. Why are people so put off by the obvious? 

Decouple the identity politics and wokeness, as that is why the backlash is gaining traction. 

 

I disagree, Britney.  It wasn't meant to be an honest question; if it had to do with a potential case before the SCOTUS, it would not have been proper for her to answer it.  If it wasn't about a potential case, there was no reason it should have been asked.  It was meant to trap her into an answer that the R's could use in political ads and stump speeches, and she was right not to answer.

 

They didn't ask her about biology; none of us here believes we transition to become biological males or females.  It was all about scoring points.  It is not "politically correct" to point out that what makes a person a woman is not about only biology.  It is more complicated than that, and you know it.  Jackson was not going to walk knowingly into that minefield.

 

Carolyn Marie

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      I apologise, I should not have used the word "synonym", since it can mean both a word that means the same as another word and a word that means something similar. (Eg, "night" is supposedly a synonym for "dark", but I doubt many people would claim they meant the same thing. If it's daylight outside and I turn off the light in a windowless room, am I now in the dark or in the night?) What I should have said is that logic, rationality and common sense are not all interchangeable; they do not mean the same thing. But I take your point, people do often use them interchangeably. I find this worrying, because many people also seem unable to reason logically. For eg, recently one of my teenage clients told me that all people with brightly coloured hair are trans; when I related this comment to some people at a trans support group one of them said, "But that means I can't be trans, because I don't have brightly coloured hair." That is a thoroughly illogical argument, and the type of misunderstanding that is the source of so many disagreements.   But I am going way in the weeds here. Again, sorry everyone. I will try not to go down any more language rabbit-holes.   As to what "activist" means in your neck of the woods, luckily I don't think that meaning has become accepted common usage just yet. Of course that is a grey area, but there are still certainly people in many countries who use the word in the sense I used it above.     I understand that this is your view as you have expressed it many times elsewhere, and tbh I think many people on the left would fundamentally agree with you, though they would slightly favour the Democrats over the Republicans. But I still find it very strange how you framed your lack of safety as if it were more the fault of the Democrats than the Republicans.
    • VickySGV
      There are a WIDE VARIETY of "Activism" things that are NOT political in the direct sense of what is normally thought of.  Two of us at least on the Staff here have been instrumental in managing community organizations for the benefit of LGBTQI people as social and interpersonal care activities.  ALL of the Forum Staff are activists just by managing and caring for our on-line community members here at Trans Pulse. @Carolyn Marie who lives in the same general part of California and I have crossed paths over the years, and she was the coordinator for a Transgender Day of Remembrance in the local area and speaks of her work on the board of a National Organization that has gained much for the communities by communicating with leaders in business and in legal improvements.  Both she and I have spoken at a major Medical School. I am one of the Founding Members of a singing group of Trans and NB singers that has been on the Disney+ Pride Celebrations and has collaborated in the background with over 25 name celebrities (with some to come).  Not to mention two of their own productions. All of the singers and production people are volunteers who have fun with each other. Through an LGBTQ Center I was on the Board of Directors of, I have done education for a group of Foster Care homes that are seeing an influx of Trans and Queer clients who have been removed from their homes due to safety issues. All of this is activism and support for the Trans,NB and IS folks without getting near a single politician other than hosting a few at LGBTQ Community Centers, which by the way may be active in helping all kinds of community work such as Food Pantries or special Back To School or holiday toy giveaways for needy families.  None of this is walking the streets with picket signs or shouting rude noises at Transphobes in a parade.  Yes, actual politicians do see us and occasionally they will come up and talk to me in a dignified manner which I return.  I got political a few days ago by voting early, but that does not mean the topic MUST be in politics.  Lets look at other Activism that can be fun and meaningful, it is there.        
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