Gender identity

Political and/or empirical engagement therewith

August 13, 2017 — June 25, 2022

Content warning:

Interrogation of gender identities, links to criticisms of various gender norms, woodcut of hermaphroditic cryptid; stuff I would prefer to have no opinion on

The fraught process of classifying people into lady-people and gentleman-people and sometimes many flavours of other-people, which is a project of startling interest to many of the stakeholders.

I am not pushing a position here, and have little skin in this game, but I am curious about what is going on. It seems a terribly interesting fragment of the human experience, and one of great impact upon the social and political landscape as well as the well-being of the dwellers upon that landscape.

And, I do not have great intuitions about it. I was assigned male at birth, and I am Ok claiming to be male still. Metaphor: Maleness for me is a comfy suit; I think I might be happy to wear a different one, but this one is OK, so why bother? It needs cleaning, mending and alteration from time to time, and occasional it does not fit perfectly, but if I threw it out I would need to get a new suit, so why bother?

Figure 1

1 Language about

See gender and language.

2 Accomplishment of gender identities

What is going on with gender identities? Why are do some people experience gender dysphoria/incongruence and others not? Why do some people wish to assume one particular mainstream gender identity than the one they were given? Why do others wish to assume a bespoke new gender not on the traditional menu?

Question: Is some part of the profusion of gender identities we now witness in something to do with people switching from voice to exit strategies as regard their genders? If so, why would we, as a society, be doing that?

I have little insight except that I did enjoy Ozymandias’ Cis By Default wherein is posited that maybe why I personally might have little insight is explained by the following model: There are two types of people (ish)

  1. People who have a deeply held attachment to their gender, which had better match up to their physical sex and socially assigned role or they will be in distress.
  2. People who don’t mind particularly and will run with the flow.

I cannot cheaply do an experiment to verify that I am in category 2, but I suspect that if I had sudden [surgery formerly known as gender reassignment whose new name I forget], I would be distressed by the medical inconvenience and burdensome social explanations, but otherwise mostly indifferent. For practical, public, rhetorical purposes I am in group 2.1

If Ozy’s model holds, it would be an interesting explanation for some types of confusion with public discourse; an unarticulated divide lies between the actively-invested and inertia-based gender identities.

A resonant model IMO for the accomplishment of gender categories is David R. MacIver’s Gendering. Possibly related, Cailin O’Connor’s The Origins of Unfairness: Social Categories and Cultural Evolution; connection to feminism.

Figure 2: Deathbulge: Womanemon illustrates gendering.

3 Hormones and other chemical pollution is that changing stuff

I see this mentioned on twitter. Seems somewhat interesting, but also quite crowded with conspiracist talking points; possibly too exhausting to engage with that.

4 Trans-inclusion/exclusionism in sports and Goodhart’s Law

TBD. A fascinating invasive argument. In many areas of transgender rights or representation a détente has been reached that includes the idea of different ad hoc gender roles (“this is my pronoun”, I can assert in the workplace; people on dating sites seem to often cut to the chase and mention their gender presentation and current genital configuration separately to avoid confusion, or recruit only from potential partners who truly do not care, etc).

Figure 3

But in sports! A chance to spark acrimony. For sport can have only two categories and physical sex, by tradition, and its variation has a long history of weaponisation. And it is highly competitive and the stakes are high. And high performance athletes and transgender people are highly salient in the public discourse.

Annabelle Quince’s fascinating history of sex testing in sport in the context of the Cold War is highly recommended.

A cursory glance at the literature (only Jones et al. (2017) TBH) reports that empirical data on effect of transgender status on sports performance is not obviously significant, but that needs investigating. Without reading further I am going to guess that the evidence is ambivalent and people are going to be using that to adopt polarised positions about it.

5 Gender diversity in autism spectrum identities

Correlations exist! Fascinating. Dattaro (2020);Strang et al. (2018);Walsh et al. (2018);Warrier et al. (2020)

See autism.

6 Cross-culturally

I am especially curious about gender perseption and misassignment and other phenomena in cross-cultural context, esp contemporary. How are the categories of gender being negotiated in modern Vietnam, in modern Nepal, in modern Thailand etc? Need links on those themes.

7 Incoming

Figure 4: thanks genders.wtf

8 References

Bohannon. 2016. For Real This Time: Talking to People about Gay and Transgender Issues Can Change Their Prejudices.” Science.
Broockman, and Kalla. 2016. Durably Reducing Transphobia: A Field Experiment on Door-to-Door Canvassing.” Science.
Dattaro. 2020. Gender and Sexuality in Autism, Explained.” Spectrum.
Dreger. 2015. Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science.
Jones, Arcelus, Bouman, et al. 2017. Sport and Transgender People: A Systematic Review of the Literature Relating to Sport Participation and Competitive Sport Policies.” Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z.).
Lawrence. 2011. Autogynephilia: an underappreciated paraphilia.” Advances in Psychosomatic Medicine.
———. 2017. Autogynephilia and the Typology of Male-to-Female Transsexualism.” European Psychologist.
Moreno-Domínguez, Raposo, and Elipe. 2019. Body Image and Sexual Dissatisfaction: Differences Among Heterosexual, Bisexual, and Lesbian Women.” Frontiers in Psychology.
O’Connor. 2019. The Origins of Unfairness: Social Categories and Cultural Evolution.
Schiebinger. 1996. The Loves of the Plants.” Scientific American.
Strang, Janssen, Tishelman, et al. 2018. Revisiting the Link: Evidence of the Rates of Autism in Studies of Gender Diverse Individuals.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Walsh, Krabbendam, Dewinter, et al. 2018. Brief Report: Gender Identity Differences in Autistic Adults: Associations with Perceptual and Socio-cognitive Profiles.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Warrier, Greenberg, Weir, et al. 2020. Elevated Rates of Autism, Other Neurodevelopmental and Psychiatric Diagnoses, and Autistic Traits in Transgender and Gender-Diverse Individuals.” Nature Communications.
Zietsch, and Sidari. 2020. “The Kinsey Scale Is Ill-Suited to Most Sexuality Research Because It Does Not Measure a Single Construct.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Footnotes

  1. perhaps that simply implies I am not very introspective? I have thought about this at length, honest.↩︎