Anatomy and Gender

Science can't precisely locate gender but it's neither fully biological nor fully genetic.

The Trump administration’s move to define gender based on genitalia at birth is likely to be popular with a large swath of the country but it is decades out of touch with scientific understanding of the matter.

New York Times (“Anatomy Does Not Determine Gender, Experts Say“):

Defining gender as a condition determined strictly by a person’s genitals is based on a notion that doctors and scientists abandoned long ago as oversimplified and often medically meaningless.

Researchers who have studied gender issues and provided health care to people who do not fit the typical M/F pigeonholes said that the Trump administration’s latest plan to define gender goes beyond the limits of scientific knowledge.

“The idea that a person’s sex is determined by their anatomy at birth is not true, and we’ve known that it’s not true for decades,” said Dr. Joshua D. Safer, an endocrinologist and executive director of the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System in New York. He is also president of the United States Professional Association of Transgender Health.

But exactly what does determine gender identity — a person’s powerful, core knowledge of who they are — is not so clear.

The last sentence of the above-quoted excerpt is the key to the controversy. Most of us instinctively think of gender as something outward. While many of us understand intellectually that it’s not that simple, at a gut level we think of gender as some combination of visible traits and social expectations. Yet the transgender experience points to gender as something else entirely: how a person feels.

“We know that there is a significant, durable biological underpinning to gender identity,” Dr. Safer said. “What we don’t know are all of the biological factors at play that explain gender identity. As far as we in the mainstream biological-medical community understand it in 2018, it is hard-wired, it is biological, it is not entirely hormonal, and we do not have identified genes, so we cannot specifically say it is genetic.”

Genetics does play a role, though. In studies of twins, if one is transgender, the other is far more likely to also be transgender if they are identical, rather than fraternal twins. Identical twins are near matches, genetically; fraternal ones are not. The findings are similar for twins who have Type 1 diabetes, which is known to have a strong genetic component.

It’s possible that our relatively nascent ability to identify genes simply hasn’t advanced sufficiency. But it’s quite likely that gender identity is something more complicated than simply having a specific genetic marker.

Apart from transgender issues, other conditions make it clear that defining male and female is not so simple. For instance, there are people with XY chromosomes — which makes them genetically male — who look, act and feel like women because their bodies cannot react to male hormones.

In other cases, some women with a condition that exposed them to high levels of testosterone before birth identify as male — but many more with the same condition do not.

Some of the most compelling evidence for the idea of gender identity being hard-wired into the brain comes from medical reports on people who were born in the 1950s and 1960s with birth defects involving their genitals. Doctors thought the humane solution, to spare such children from being ostracized, was to perform surgery to make them one sex or the other.

Since it is easier for surgeons to make a vagina than a penis, most of these babies were made female. Their parents were advised to raise them as girls and never to tell them about their condition at birth. The general belief was that their upbringing — a triumph of nurture over nature — would make them truly female.

The idea was a failure. As they matured, many had a clear sense that they were male. According to a study of 16 of them, more than half wound up identifying as male.

“Considering the fact that you can brainwash some people about just about anything, failing with so many is catastrophic,” Dr. Safer said in an email.

Gender dysphoria is of rather serious consequence. It can literally be life-threatening:

Researchers say gender identity comes from the brain, not the body. Some put it more bluntly: It originates between your ears, not between your legs. But the forces that acted on the brain to shape that identity are not understood, and physical or chemical differences in the brain that might relate to gender have not been well defined.

No one knows for sure why body and mind sometimes do not match. But being transgender is not a matter of choice, Dr. Safer said. It is not a fad or a whim. For transgender people, it is generally an overwhelming sense that their gender is not the one on their birth certificate. And gender is not about whom they’re attracted to — it’s about who they are.

Distress over the mind-body mismatch can become especially intense around puberty, and the risk of suicide shoots up for young people in this situation. Mainstream medicine has begun to recognize how serious an issue it is: Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its first-ever policy statement regarding care for transgender children and adolescents, and those who are “gender-diverse,” or non-binary, meaning they are neither clearly male or female.

The pediatric statement urged a “gender-affirming approach,” which translates as respecting and supporting children, even young ones, in “their self-expressed identity.” The society also noted that transgender young people “have high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance use, self-harm and suicide.”

My personal experience with transgender issues is extremely limited. As I’ve mentioned two or three times over the years, my first real exposure was back in 2003 or so when the seemingly very manly sports editor of the publishing house for whom I was then working announced that she was transitioning from Chris to Christina. She brought in her medical professional (I can’t recall whether it was a psychiatrist, psychologist, or what) to explain to those of us interested in learning more about the subject what the science showed at the time, what the safeguards were in terms of gaining permission for gender reassignment surgery, and the nature of said surgery.

That experience caused me to reflect on the issue in a way that I’d never had a reason to before and to come to the conclusion that I noted earlier in the post: that gender identity is indeed deeply ingrained.  Notably, because it occurred to me that there’s simply no amount of money or accolades that would be sufficient to cause me to transition to living as a woman. And that, conversely, for someone to not only be willing but desperate to go through that transition meant that there’s something real, even vital, in the sense of gender dysphoria.

Beyond that, I’ve had no direct encounter that I know of beyond at least one regular OTB commenter and a prominent national security professional I know only through podcasting and Twitter whose children are transgender.

I can’t say that I’ve fully wrapped my head around this subject. At least not to the point where my intellectual understanding and instinctive reactions are in alignment. I’m still somewhat skeptical, in particular, about whether very young children are in a position to decide their gender identity. Yet it seems rather clear that the humane thing to do, individually and societally, is to take the  “gender-affirming approach” Safer and other professionals in the field advise.

This is an emerging issue in terms of public debate. While it has been on my own radar screen going back to the late 1970s or so, it has received scant attention compared to civil rights for racial minorities, women’s equality, and even gay and lesbian rights. It seemed to emerge out of nowhere as a political issue with the various “bathroom bills” a couple years ago and with the Caitlyn Jenner and Chelsea Manning announcements. We should recognize that most Americans are uncomfortable with the issue and that social, cultural, and religious traditions make rapid acceptance of the science on this difficult. Labeling ordinary citizens who haven’t gotten on board as bigots is unfair and unhelpful.

But senior governmental leaders such as the President and cabinet secretaries have access to the top scientific minds in the country. There’s simply no justification for moving our national policy backwards.

Yes, there are political pressures for politicians, especially Republicans, to pander to the fears and prejudices of their base. Indeed, even Barack Obama did that with regard to gay marriage, fearing that white blue collar and African American voters wouldn’t turn out if he moved too fast on the issue. But he at least had the decency not to flame their prejudices as he was catering to them.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Health, Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    OT and Breaking:
    The Secret Service intercepted explosive devices, similar to the one sent to George Soros, intended for the Clinton’s and the Obama’s.
    If you can’t “lock her up”…blow her up?

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  2. Kathy says:

    I’m still somewhat skeptical, in particular, about whether very young children are in a position to decide their gender identity.

    Think about this:

    If a child with testicles and a penis who was assigned male at birth tells you he’s a boy, do you doubt he can decide what his gender identity is?

    Sexuality emerges later in life, around the same time as puberty. A child of eight can’t be said to be gay ro straight, because they feel no sexual attraction at all.

    Gender identity, though, is out there all the time. A child knows if they prefer to play with dolls or trucks (to put it simplistically), if they fell uncomfortable wearing pants or dresses, etc.

    It’s true such feelings can change in time. The human brain takes around 25 years to fully develop, after all. That’s why if a child says they’re transgender, you don’t pump them full of hormones and perform genital surgery right away (as all too many people think actually happens). There are approaches to the issue, without any medical interventions until puberty. At that time there are hormone blockers to prevent undesired development, should they need more time to make a decision.

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  3. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Slugger says:

    How about thinking that other peoples’ junk is none of your business. Maybe if someone has a certain twinkle in their eyes, you might in a respectful and mutually consensual manner arrange for a “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours” deal when everybody involved is of age and not intoxicated. A small minority of the population does things that are a little bit different than the average; so what?

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  5. Kathy says:

    Oh, a point about anatomy.

    We tend to think of anatomy something like as the diagram of the body, with the brain just one organ among many. But each organ has its own anatomy, including the brain.

    For all that science has advanced in both describing the universe, including the human body, and explaining much of how all things work, people tend to cling to very old ideas, going back to Greek and Roman times.

    The brain baffled the ancients. it just sat there and, apparently, did nothing. The Greeks thought it served to cool down the blood. The Egyptians, who believed a preserved body was essential for the afterlife, lovingly mummified their dead, preserving some organs in jars, or later on drying them in nitron salts separately and reinserting them in the body. The brain? They pulled it out through the nose of the corpse and discarded it.

    Human male and female brains are almost identical, but there are a few differences. a few studies have shown differences between the brains of transgender people as compared to “normal” people. Not in every case, but in most.

    The point is we have this very complex organ, the human brain, which we are just beginning to comprehend, and that largely defines each individual person. We know, beyond doubt, that brain injuries can change someone’s personality, for example. Therefore any questions of identity should be directed at the brain rather than other organs. And, as yet, we can’t say for certain what goes on within.

  6. reid says:

    Who knows why Trump does anything. But this just shows yet again that conservatives have a decided lack of ability to feel empathy and an unshakeable certainty that they’re right about everything. Not a good combination. Unless it hits them personally and profoundly, like a gay child or close friend, they’re not going to change their minds. This is uncommon enough that most won’t as a result, I suspect.

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  7. MarkedMan says:

    This is one case where I actually laud a libertarian position (and those who comment here know I don’t do that very often). And by this I mean actual libertarian philosophy, not simply what people who call themselves Libertarians say. Ditto for liberal and conservative positions I list below.

    Conservative position = Gender has been rigidly defined in the United States and that should not change due to the potential for societal upheaval. However, up until now gender has almost exclusively been self reported and in instances where a legal determination had to be made were handled largely on a case by case basis. We should conserve the existing status quo, which includes a general reluctance to talk publicly about such personal matters.

    Liberal position = Our current understanding is that gender is a spectrum (a new concept in the US but one that has appeared previously in history). We should embrace this new thinking and adapt to our norms and laws to it, and the more discussion the better.

    Libertarian position = Everything else aside, the government should not be getting involved in this. It’s simply none of their business.

  8. Notably, because it occurred to me that there’s simply no amount of money or accolades that would be sufficient to cause me to transition to living as a woman. And that, conversely, for someone to not only be willing but desperate to go through that transition meant that there’s something real, even vital, in the sense of gender dysphoria.

    This cannot be stressed enough, I think. These are very real people dealing with clearly difficult circumstances.

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  9. Neil Hudelson says:

    I’m not always a fan of Radiolab, but they had a recent episode on the science of gender and it was absolutely illuminating.

    https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/gonads-xy

  10. I am the only one who thinks that there is some implicit conservative subtext in the issue of the transgenders? After all, it seems to me that the “I was born with the body of a woman, but I feel like a male” (or the opposite ) has implicit that there are “male personalities” and “female personalities”, like “boys like football, girls like dolls”.

  11. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    This cannot be stressed enough, I think. These are very real people dealing with clearly difficult circumstances.

    THIS.

    I know and have worked with a number of people at different points in transitioning. The process is an incredibly difficult one. Beyond the medical aspects, there are incredibly profound social and legal consequences and ramifications to it. The idea that people enter into the process “willy nilly” or to gain some sort of advantage is just absurd.

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  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    …the President and cabinet secretaries have access to the top scientific minds in the country. There’s simply no justification for moving our national policy backwards.

    Well, yeah.
    That goes for almost everything.
    Why are we moving backwards on AGW, instead of making progress? In civil rights? In economics? Health Care? The Social Safety Net? In Foreign Policy?
    When the Republicans talk about taking the country back, they aren’t talking strictly in terms of possession, they are talking about reversing decades of progress.

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  13. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    These are very real people dealing with clearly difficult circumstances.

    Here, here.
    We are dealing with a Republican Party, and it’s dear leader, that has the empathy of a rock.

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  14. @Daryl and his brother Darryl: This a truly reactionary administration.

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  15. @Steven L. Taylor: @mattbernius: I am actually more than a little sad that someone is downvoting pleas for compassion for fellow humans.

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  16. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    But frankly, it isn’t unexpected. Which makes it even more important to keep saying this stuff out loud (or expending a few pixels on it).

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  17. @mattbernius: Indeed.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I can’t say that I’ve fully wrapped my head around this subject. At least not to the point where my intellectual understanding and instinctive reactions are in alignment.

    Neither have I and I’m unlikely to ever do so. But the fact remains that I don’t need to get my brain around it. All I need to do is accept them as they are and treat them with the dignity and respect that all people deserve.

    We should recognize that most Americans are uncomfortable with the issue and that social, cultural, and religious traditions make rapid acceptance of the science on this difficult. Labeling ordinary citizens who haven’t gotten on board as bigots is unfair and unhelpful.

    When a person is acting bigoted, what am I supposed to do? Pretend all is well? Sorry. I don’t care what their excuse is, they are responsible for their behavior. Way back in the 70s, I asked a somewhat homophobic friend a simple question: “Why do you care who they sleep with?”

    He had no answer then, and they have no answer now.

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  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: It’s inevitable, Steven.

  20. Tyrell says:

    I was born a male. The doctor certified that I am a male on my birth certificate. I know that everyone has both male and female genes, but that does not mean that they are both, or that they get to choose one or the other like I choose a paint color. I am not just “identifying” as a male either. I understand that nature is not perfect and sometimes there is confusion, but rarely so. As far as being neither – no such thing, except for robots (“Westworld” if you please). I am not knocking anyone and I know people who are going through this. I am a male.
    I have read and researched this. I went to a urologist a few years ago and we got to talking about this subject. He got me up on the latest research and the hard facts about this subject.
    I am a male.
    “Roll Tide!”

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  21. @Tyrell:

    I am a male.

    And no one is denying your ability to so function. No one is denying your dignity as a human being.

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  22. Franklin says:

    @Miguel Madeira: Sure, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a ‘conservative’ position to accept that men and women are, on average, different from each other (more women than men can birth children, last I checked).

    I did everything in my power to block social influences on my young children, but my girl gravitated to dolls and my boys preferred cars. On the other hand, you couldn’t keep my nephew away from dolls (and believe me, his father and grandmother tried). He’s now in college and identifies as bisexual and gender fluid.

    It’s okay for people to act similar to their gender stereotype, and it’s okay for them to not. That’s all there is to it.

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tyrell:

    I am a male.

    Congratulations. You hit the gender lottery jackpot.

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  24. reid says:

    @Tyrell: That’s like entering a discussion on black lives matter and proclaiming, “I’m white.” Well, good for you.

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  25. Gustopher says:

    @Tyrell:

    I know that everyone has both male and female genes

    Although wildly incorrect in the simplistic XX, XY manner that you mean it, as we get a better understanding of the genetic and epigenetic causes of gender identity, I expect that this statement will be true.

  26. Gustopher says:

    @Tyrell:

    I was born a male.

    This is great. All those young couples now like to have a gender reveal party, before the baby is born, with pink or blue balloons… but they don’t really know the kid’s gender yet. They should wait until everyone is sure.

    Gender reveal parties should be held when the kid is about 30, at the earliest, when they’ve had a chance to explore all they need to, and can make a definitive statement.

    Let us all applaud Tyrell’s caution in postponing his gender reveal until such a time as he was ready. Bravo, good sir, bravo.

  27. Gustopher says:

    @MarkedMan: There’s also the crotchety misanthrope position: I’m sure all or most of you people have genders, but I don’t want to know about it. Just tell me your preferred pronouns.

  28. Gustopher says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: When a person is acting bigoted, what am I supposed to do? Pretend all is well? Sorry. I don’t care what their excuse is, they are responsible for their behavior.

    This is why I don’t like the current trend of calling bigots -phobic. You loose a lot of nuance.

    Everyone is responsible for their behaviors, but not the way they were raised and/or what they exposed to during their formative years. You can be transphobic, and still support trans rights (at least up to the “I don’t care what they do, I won’t try to stop them” level) and that’s basically fine. Tolerance is built on tolerating, not necessarily accepting or embracing.

    People have biases and fears. That’s normal. But that’s not an excuse to not treat others with respect, and let them live their lives without interference as they pursue what they think will make them happy.

    Part of being a decent person is learning not to let your biases and fears — your problems — become someone else’s problem.

  29. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: I messed up the block quoting there, got it complete backwards, and edit isn’t working.

    My apologies for my incompetence. Lo siento soy estupido.

  30. MarkedMan says:

    This is an interesting discussion about gender, but let’s not lose sight about what this is all about: the US government is taking upon itself the right to declare your gender. Whatever position you have on gender issues, that is the radical reactionary position the Trump administration is taking.

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  31. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:

    does not mean that they are both, or that they get to choose one or the other like I choose a paint color.

    Why not? Does it harm you? Does it either put a dollar in, or take a dollar out of, your pocket? If not, what concern is it of yours?

    It really only matters to the individuals involved and their families. Right?

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  32. Kathy says:

    Regarding genes, the common knowledge is that the human 23rd chromosome pair contains either an XX or an XY combination, and that the fomer is female and the latter is male.

    Not quite.

    There’s a gene called SRY (sex-determining region Y) which encodes for a protein called testis determining factor (TDS), usually found on the Y chromosome. This gene and protein signal development of the testes, which produce testosterone, which produce a male.

    Well, same thing, right?

    Again, not quite. There are abnormalities like an XX gene pair with an SRY gene on the second X chromosome, XXY triads, XY pair without an SRY gene on the Y chromosome, XYY triads.

    In addition, there are other genes in the genome (shocking, I know) which have to do with sexual development, hormone production, and how hormones operate in the body (hormones, BTW, include a wide variety of substances, not just so-called sex hormones).

    For instance, there’s a condition called androgen insensitivity syndrome. This comes witha perfectly normal XY pair with a normal SRY gene, but the body does not react fully, or at all (there are degrees), with testosterone. The fetus then develops female.

    In addition to all this, it’s worth recalling that human fetuses grow in a womb very much part of the mother’s body. This means they are subject to influences from their mother’s biochemistry. A fetus obtains oxygen, water and nutrients straight from the mother through the umbilical cord. A woman’s biochemistry may be abnormal for a multitude of reasons, from congenital issues to environmental influences.

    Such anomalies may include “sex” hormones like testosterone and estrogen. these are produced mainly in the gonads, but not solely. They can also get in the body from outside, as for example by taking medication containing them or related hormones, or precursor substances that may be metabolized into them. Oral contraceptives, for example, contain various “female” hormones. Decades ago some women were prescribed various medications containing hormones to prevent miscarriage (I think the practice fell out of use). Even diet may affect this.

    It’s possible these hormones affect a developing fetus. So that even a “normal” XY pair may produce a “normal” male body but with a brain that falls in between male and female, or more female than male. And viceversa for “normal” XX pairs.

    Biology is incredibly messy, and there’s much we don’t know about it. Lately much attention is paid to symbiotic bacteria found mainly in the gut, as they seem to have more of an effect than simply aiding in digestion.

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  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Moreover, people don’t have to “get on board,” if you will; they only have to apply the principle that they should treat others as they would wish to be treated. I don’t have to understand anything about gender to acknowledge that I wouldn’t want to be shunned, abused, and told my rights don’t matter, therefore, I should not shun, abuse, or proclaim that the right of “those people” don’t matter.

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Maybe not even their families–whose members should love them as those members would want to be loved.

  35. Leonard says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “And no one is denying your ability to so function. No one is denying your dignity as a human being.”

    The issue is whether Title IXof the Education Amendments of 1972, which only talks about “sex” should be applied to gender identity as well. It doesn’t take away your dicnity as a human being.

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  36. @Leonard: Yes, it is all so simple!

  37. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    When a person is acting bigoted, what am I supposed to do? Pretend all is well? Sorry. I don’t care what their excuse is, they are responsible for their behavior. Way back in the 70s, I asked a somewhat homophobic friend a simple question: “Why do you care who they sleep with?”

    “Why do you care who they sleep with?” is actually a perfectly useful question, one with the potential to invoke useful conversation and change minds. “You’re a bigot for not believing what I do,” not so much. That’s especially true in cases where your view is an emerging, rather than a consensus, opinion.

  38. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    What do you call it when a “normal” person’s attitudes support limiting the rights of other people, or support such limits?

    Consider same sex marriage. Before the Obergefell decision, it was common to deny same sex couples basic rights that heterosexual couples took for granted, even outside of marriage.

  39. Leonard says:

    @James Joyner: I have a more relevant question: when Title IX refers to “sex”, does it mean “gender”?

  40. An Interested Party says:

    I am actually more than a little sad that someone is downvoting pleas for compassion for fellow humans.

    I wonder if any of those who downvoted those comments would care to share why they downvoted them…

  41. Mister Bluster says:

    I wonder if any of those who downvoted those comments would care to share why they downvoted them…

    I’m curious about what you think you might learn about these down voters that we really need to know.

  42. Leonard says:

    4 people disagree with you in your safe space! IS there someone we should call to help you through it?

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  43. An Interested Party says:

    4 people disagree with you in your safe space! IS there someone we should call to help you through it?

    Oh, so you disagree that we should compassion for fellow humans? As for help, around here it is usually conservative trolls who play the victim…

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  44. Leonard says:

    @An Interested Party: A person can downvote your thread and still have himan compassion. But again you bring up these trolls. They must be so trying for you. Let me guess: bringing up how the proposed change is just over wheather Titke IX should be read to include gender: that’s trolling, right? That’s a lack of human compassion? And it’s the trolls who whine? You’ve made four commments about the 10 or so downvotes on the whole thread.

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  45. Gustopher says:

    @Leonard: oh, poor widdle Leonard, is no one taking your bait?

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  46. mike shupp says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    When the Republicans talk . . . they are talking about reversing decades of progress.

    I think the thing is, if you’re a 70 year old white Republican male in this country — speaking myself as a 70 year old white male — is that your notions of what’s good and proper and The Way Things Are Supposed To be are basically set by the time you’re 10 years old. So we’re dealing with people who just know deep in their guts that there are Daddys and Mommys in the world and Daddys make the decisions, and colored people are mostly poor and subservient and don’t raise their voices to white folks, and proper people go to church each Sunday and people who don’t get married are strange at best and maybe even super-yucky in some fashion according to Mommy so you should stay away from them and their cooties, and people who can’t walk around like normal people know to stay pent up in their houses instead of rolling down sidewalks in wheelchairs, and …. You get the idea. 1950 was Normality and all the changes since have just been making the world awful!

  47. @Leonard:

    A person can downvote your thread and still have himan compassion

    The specific comments that sparked the downvote conversation were about human compassion specifically, and hence the original comment. They were not downvotes about policy.

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  48. @Leonard:

    Let me guess: bringing up how the proposed change is just over wheather Titke IX should be read to include gender: that’s trolling, right?

    No, not trolling. However, your general dickishness fits the trolling profile.

    And to your policy point: it is not unfair to make a political argument that the appropriate way forward would be to seek legislative change to the interpretation of the statute. On the other hand, it is not unusual for the interpretation and application of laws to evolve over time.

    It is clear that there is leeway for the Obama admin interpretation and the Trump admin interpretation to be applied. As such, the argument really isn’t about what the Title IX language meant initially, but how it can be applied know given the evolution of the topic under discussion.

    For example, the US Constitution was originally written to protect the rights of males, but it is now interpreted to protect females as well. Society changes and the way we apply legal strictures therefore change as well.

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  49. An Interested Party says:

    But again you bring up these trolls. They must be so trying for you.

    I wouldn’t use the word “trying”…amusing would be a better fit…

    You’ve made four commments about the 10 or so downvotes on the whole thread.

    Actually I made two comments about the specific comment that Steven made, but I can understand that math isn’t your thing…

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  50. @Steven L. Taylor: Out another way: given the obvious fact that the Obama admin interpretation was being applied already, and Trump is seeking to change that interpretation, the question is not a debate over the definition of “sex” as it is the rightness or wrongness of the differing interpretations.

    You need to convince that the Trump admin interpretation is morally correct, not pretend like it is just about a preferred definition of a word (especially when, as has been noted, even simplistic biological definitions are not so simple–the bottom line of all of this is that it isn’t easy).

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  51. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You need to convince that the Trump admin interpretation is morally correct

    You really think there’s a “moral” component to this? It’s politics, pure and simple. Trump is daring Democrats to go all in in on trans issues, knowing that they are willing to trade political power for conspicuously wrapping themselves like a blanket around any unprotected “minority” any day of the week. (Gotta be on the right side of history, after all.)

    If you want to protect trans rights, don’t make it a political football. But if you insist on making it a political football, play football, in all its punishing and brutal “I’m going to take this ball over that line; try and stop me” glory.

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  52. An Interested Party says:

    Trump is daring Democrats to go all in in on trans issues, knowing that they are willing to trade political power for conspicuously wrapping themselves like a blanket around any unprotected “minority” any day of the week. (Gotta be on the right side of history, after all.)

    So are Democrats wrong because they want to protect the rights of minorities or are they wrong because they are allegedly being so “conspicuous” about it? I mean, your criticisms of Democrats are endless, and I’m just trying to figure out how they have yet again screwed up…

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  53. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @An Interested Party: That’s easy, when they became Democrats.

  54. @James Pearce:

    knowing that they are willing to trade political power for conspicuously wrapping themselves like a blanket around any unprotected “minority” any day of the week. (Gotta be on the right side of history, after all.)

    If there is a right side of history, then is that not what one should use political power to promote?

    You never seem to take minority protection seriously.

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  55. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party:

    So are Democrats wrong because they want to protect the rights of minorities or are they wrong because they are allegedly being so “conspicuous” about it?

    They’re wrong for going “I’ll protect you” when they mean no such thing and, like Trump, they are only interested in using these people for their own political ends.

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  56. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You never seem to take minority protection seriously.

    He doesn’t seem to think they are even valid.

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  57. JohnMcC says:

    @James Pearce: First – and importantly – I’m not addressing this to our Mr Pearce. So f- off, James.

    Second, I am a caucasion man who was born in Montgomery AL in 1945 and have been a life-long resident of the South. The part of the southern US that capitalizes the S.

    I feel in my heart and agree absolutely 100% with my brain that the American nation is infinitely better off because at least one political party is willing to ‘wrap itself like a blanket’ around minorities. Any other approach to society and/or governing is bad for America and the people in it. All of the people in it. Dr King led a movement that liberated ME (by god!) as much as anyone.

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  58. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You never seem to take minority protection seriously.

    What I don’t take seriously is that the Democrats are genuinely interested in “minority protection.”

    A rather consistent theme of many of my comments is that the Democrats are way more interested in being seen as “the protectors of minorities” than they are in actually protecting minorities.

    Five years ago, what was the Dem position on trans rights?

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  59. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce:

    they are only interested in using these people for their own political ends.

    Yet another fact free assertion made by you to prove your fictionalized superiority via an ability to see a truth only you can see, something us mere partisans are blind to.

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  60. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce:

    Five years ago, what was the Dem position on trans rights?

    On 13 May 2016, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division issued a joint “Dear Colleague” letter [PDF] that included “significant guidance” to schools about civil rights protections for transgender students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The letter detailed federal guidelines for transgender students and bathroom use and provided definitions for the terms “Gender identity,” “Sex assigned at birth,” “Transgender,” and “Gender transition”:

    But I guess that doesn’t count because history ended 5 years ago.

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  61. James Pearce says:

    @JohnMcC:

    @James Pearce: First – and importantly – I’m not addressing this to our Mr Pearce. So f- off, James.

    You tell me to F off, then reference MLK? That’s….cute.

    @OzarkHillbilly: May of 2016?

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  62. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    But I guess that doesn’t count because history ended 5 years ago.

    Exactly.

    I don’t get the Republican (and it is Republican), penchant for attacking a current positive Democratic position because the democrats used to hold a different, negative position earlier on.

    Think of the reasoning:

    Democrats didn’t support transgender rights five years ago. So even if they do so now, it’s just a ploy to gain the 1% of so of the population that may be transgender. Instead of supporting the Democrats, we’d be better off as transgender people instead supporting the party that wants to erase us from the map.

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  63. James Pearce says:

    @Kathy: How can I convey the idea that if you really, really want this to be a partisan issue, then you should be prepared for it to be….a partisan issue?

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  64. @James Pearce: I don’t understand your position.

    One party wanted the policy applied one way.

    The other party now is in power and wants to apply the policy another way.

    So, yes, it is a partisan issue. It is a partisan issue not because anyone “really, really want[ed]” it that way, but because the parties rather clearly have different positions on trans rights.

    And we, as citizens, have the right to assess our views on how those parties have taken up those positions.

    What are you even arguing?

  65. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What are you even arguing?

    Good question.

    So far, he’s demonstrating that prejudice disguised as concern fools no one.

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  66. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What are you even arguing?

    The usual…

    The Democrats claim to serve various minority populations, but if they do –and in so many cases, they just don’t — they serve them so poorly that the Republicans have free reign to be as awful as they want.

    You guys seem to think I’m always arguing in favor of Republicans. No. I’m arguing that the Republicans are awful and that the Dems are no hedge.

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  67. JohnMcC says:

    @Kathy: Whatever he’s arguing, Martin argued it before he did so there!

  68. @James Pearce: But, see, even if you think all of that there is no reason you can’t express your own views here on the morality of the question we are discussing (instead, you always go on a skepticism tour of the whatever the topic is).

    I don’t know what you think you accomplish, but you always come across as utterly unsympathetic to the minority group we discuss in any given thread.

  69. Monala says:

    @James Pearce: I’ll bite. Assuming as you say, Democrats don’t really support trans rights and are only claiming to do so as some sort of political football, what would it look like if Democrats actually did support trans rights? What policies would they support, and how would they try to enact them, in our current political system where the Republicans control all 3 branches of the federal govt?

  70. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    you always come across as utterly unsympathetic to the minority group we discuss in any given thread.

    I think you have misdiagnosed what I’m unsympathetic to….

    It’s not the minority group. It’s the ideology.

    @Monala:

    what would it look like if Democrats actually did support trans rights?

    It would look very similar to the way it would look if Republicans supports trans rights, and you know….a lot of them do!

    Maybe we could team up with them and get trans rights codified into law or something. Nah….bad strategy. Let’s bicker over it for years and let the SC decide….

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  71. @James Pearce:

    Maybe we could team up with them and get trans rights codified into law or something

    Here on Earth-1 the Republican controlled administration is reversing a policy that protected trans people. Further, the GOP has campaigned of late against trans rights.

    Tell me, however, about how on Earth-2 there is some obvious pathway for a Rep-Dem alliance on this subject.

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  72. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think James’ politics can be explained by means of Orwell. In this case: Ignorance is Strength.

    What he proposes, is exactly what has been done in several states controlled by democrats have done. Several cities controlled by democrats have also done this or attempted to. He ignores this, I mean either deliberately or he is unaware. He ignores, same meaning, that the Federal government is neither the only government in a country, nor the ultimate judge of the law.

    On the strength of this ignorance, he goes on the offensive.

  73. Monala says:

    @James Pearce: After you address my previous comment, I’d like you to outline your complaints again and your reasons for it. If I might summarize, you’ve said:

    1. Democrats are insincere in their support of trans rights. Why do you believe this is true?

    2. Many Republicans support trans rights, presumably sincerely. Why do you believe this is true?

    3. Do you believe that Democrats aren’t supporting legislation to help transgender people? Given the list I posted, do you still believe this?

    4. Do you believe that Democrats won’t team up with Republicans to pass bills to help transgender people? Again, given the list I posted, do you still believe this?

    5. Democrats aren’t doing enough to help transgender people. After addressing the above questions, what else should they be doing?

  74. Monala says:

    @Monala: Mods, can you release my previous comment from moderation?

    I included a link to the Human Rights Campaign website, listing the current federal legislation supporting LGBTQ rights (including transgender rights). Of course, the link sent me into moderation. If anyone wants to visit the site, it is hrc dot org backslash resources backslash federal-legislation.

    My points to @James Pearce: :

    1. Which Republican officials are supporting trans rights? Name some names, and when and how they’ve supported them.

    2. There are several bills to support LGBTQ rights, almost all supported exclusively by Democrats. A handful (three, to be exact), around fair housing and protecting students from bullying regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, each have one Republican representative as a co-sponsor. Which indicates to me that Democrats are not unwilling to team up with Republicans to support trans rights, if there are indeed Republicans that support them.

    3. Even with this limited Republican support of a handful of bills, what exactly can Democrats do to get these bills passed through Congress and the Senate, and then signed by Trump? Please be specific.

  75. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Here on Earth-1 the Republican controlled administration is reversing a policy that protected trans people.

    That’s because here on Earth-1, the Dems had no interest in protecting trans people until the last five years or so, and their only interest in trans issues now is as part of a suite of disparate and unfocused social justice concerns. What, they’re going to write a bill?

    @Monala: That’s, like, 8 different questions. I love this one:

    Even with this limited Republican support of a handful of bills, what exactly can Democrats do to get these bills passed through Congress and the Senate, and then signed by Trump? Please be specific.

    This is me. (On my knees, backing away.)

    This is what they can do to pass these bills. Get Republicans to help. Start with the dude from Rhode Island, and work on others. Find out who has LGBT friends or family. Enlist their support. Pledge fealty to some bastard cause or another in exchange for that support. Don’t wait for the lawyers and Brett Kavanaugh. Make it a priority. You don’t think Trump would sign it just to brag about it? “I signed the biggest piece of civil rights legislation in American history!” I could totally see that and I don’t even need to squint.

    But alas, here we are on Earth 1. The Democrats are reviled out in the territories and the Republicans are in no mood for trade. Trump needs to buy off some constituency, so he tosses out a bone. “Fetch.” The Dems are facing an election that will probably consolidate Trump’s power base, and they may be too deflated to recover for 2020. A couple brave souls will fight the good fight –I hope the movie they make about them will be good– but the Dems will only be able to pick from a handful of priorities and trans rights may not be one of them.

    Am I wrong to be cynical?

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  76. @James Pearce: Cynical isn’t the main problem.

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  77. mattbernius says:

    @James Pearce:

    It’s not the minority group. It’s the ideology.

    James, serious question: what does this mean?

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  78. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Cynical isn’t the main problem.

    What’s the main problem? All the good soldiers are going over the trench and I’m over here going, “Man, this is stupid?”

    @mattbernius:

    James, serious question: what does this mean?

    I’m accused of being “utterly unsympathetic to the minority group” when I’m actually “utterly unsympathetic” to social justice ideology. Does that make sense?

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  79. @James Pearce:

    What’s the main problem?

    It starts with your inaccurate framing of the situation as it has unfolded, is increased with your odd and arbitrary five-year time limit, and is cubed with your fantastical representation of contemporary party politics.

    I fully understand that there is room for cynicism, and I understand those dynamics, but your entire approach really does feel like you are talking about an alternative Earth, starting with your lack of acknowledgement of who is doing what policy-wise.

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  80. mattbernius says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’m accused of being “utterly unsympathetic to the minority group” when I’m actually “utterly unsympathetic” to social justice ideology.

    Are discussions of things like systemic racism equivilant to “social justice ideology” to you.

  81. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It starts with your inaccurate framing of the situation as it has unfolded, is increased with your odd and arbitrary five-year time limit, and is cubed with your fantastical representation of contemporary party politics.

    Inaccurate? Lana Wachowski’s seminal speech was in 2012. Chaz Bono’s transition started in ’08 and if I remember correctly, it was still being referred to as a “sex change” back then. Let’s not pretend there’s a long storied history of advocacy here.

    @mattbernius: No, systemic racism and social justice ideology are not synonymous. Social justice ideology seems to me to be mostly about resentment towards white people, men most of the time.

  82. Kathy says:

    Solved: the mystery as to why when the Party changed enemies, it felt compelled to claim the new enemy has always been the only enemy; otherwise it doesn’t count. Doubleplusgood!

  83. James Pearce says:

    But in the book it was only a two-minutes hate.

  84. @James Pearce: None of which addresses the immediate question of the proposed policy change (the subject of the post and the discussion) nor does it provide a pathway for your miraculous bipartisan solution.

    Your fixation on time is bizarre. An action is right on its merits, not on some arbitrary timeframe.

  85. @James Pearce:

    Inaccurate?

    Yes, inaccurate (and that was putting it kindly). The post is about Title IX and the Obama administration’s interpretation of the statute and a change in interpretation by the Trump admin that would have direct implications. You shift from that, ignore potential real world consequences, and start complaining about social justice ideologies, five year time frames, and bipartisanship where there clearly is none to be had.

    Your entire framing of the conversation makes no sense, save that this is what you always do when there is a discussion of an actual policy change that negatively affects a minority group.

    And I am now done with this thread because I am tired of going in circles.

  86. Kathy says:

    @James Pearce:

    Very well, Einstein. Explain, concisely if possible, why discrimination and other actions against transgender people are not a GOP partisan issue?

    Later, if you want homework, explain how Democratic support for the rights of gay people and same sex couples never ever included support for transgender people, even though there has been an LGBT grouping since at least the early 90s (probably earlier than that), now expanded to LGBTIQ and other related groups.

    Otherwise kindly STFUP