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View Diary: Why Scientists Don't Understand Anything about Sexual Orientation (214 comments)

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  •  No. (14+ / 0-)

    Look, I like you. I really do. We have a lot in common. I don't want to get into some sort of big argument.

    But we're not going to be able to avoid it if you insist on claiming (with no evidence but your own opinion) that my sexuality doesn't exist.

    I am not bisexual. I have absolutely no interest in women. None. Zero. I'm approximately as interested in women as I am in your average chicken. I tried to be bisexual, back when I thought being a boy meant I was 'supposed' to like girls, but it didn't work.

    I am gay. Completely, exclusively, without question. I cannot function in a sexual relationship with a woman. My responses to sexual activity with women range from being non-sexually amused (by foreplay and kissing) to being vaguely disgusted (by interactions with bodily fluids).

    It's not easy to be trans and gay. One subset of trans people thinks I'm supposed to be bisexual or "pansexual" (whatever the heck that means, apparently it's different from bi). The other subset of trans people thinks I'm supposed to be straight, and if not, I'm really a girl. Non-trans straight people think I'm supposed to be a girl. Non-trans gay people think I'm supposed to be straight.

    Nobody in the entire world has ever told me that it's normal to be who I am - trans and exclusively gay. This identity is not socially conditioned. It's just who I am. I wish progressive trans people would stop telling me I don't exist. I get that enough from everywhere else.

    "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

    by kyril on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 12:34:32 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Its not easy to be trans and anything (nt) (5+ / 0-)

      I do not demand tolerance, I demand equal rights. --Anna Grodzka

      by VeggiElaine on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 12:49:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This trans person thinks you are supposed (7+ / 0-)

      to be you; that seems to be the main point of this exercise.

      However, I've blown the minds of shrinks by insisting that I am normal -- for the trans population.  

      The purpose of shrinkery is to erase human mental variation and turn people into easily controlled mental clones -- the "normal". When you defy their ability to stamp you as "abnormal", their heads explode. It's fun to watch.

      •  Not all therapists (5+ / 0-)

        are trying to change you into some version of "normal," though some clearly do and they are what are called in the biz "bad therapists."

        While it is not true that a therapist's goal should be helping a person feel good about whatever they do or feel, that is a subset of the goal. Certainly it is not good to try to convince a serial killer or pedophile that their behaviors are "normal" for them and to feel good about themselves. But for transsexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, and all the other "sexuals,' the primary goal is, more often than not, to help them forgive themselves for ideas foisted upon them by imperfect society and less-than-perfect parenting, and help them learn to express their sexuality in a way that is open, hopeful, joyful, true and oriented towards connection with others and, hopefully towards that one particular other who will be their life partner.

        Is it safe? Is it real? is it true (for you)? Does it make you happy? Does it make your partner happy? On the flip side are: Does it hurt? Does it hurt your partner? is it self-destructive? Is it obsessive? Does it make you miserable? Does it make any one else miserable? A good therapist will help you work through all these sorts of questions with the goal of living a healthy, happy, fulfilling sexual life, as a part of the rest of your life.

        "Normal is just a setting on the washing machine." -- Whoopi Gildberg
        •  Yes, I know. It's like "those bad Germans (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dogs are fuzzy

          who did those bad things". "None of us good therapists today would ever torture a transkid to make her gender conformant."

          Except that Dr Kenneth Zucker has spent his career doing exactly that -- and he is the American Psychiatric Association's point man on transsexuals. He chaired the DSM-V committee on gender identity.

          So if the "good" therapists can't even police out the "bad" ones -- the actual torturers -- from running their field as it pertains to us, why should we believe them when they tell us they are "good".

          They're not "good". They're just opportunists.

        •  Wikipedia on Kenneth Zucker, DSM-V chair on GID (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FarWestGirl, Dogs are fuzzy
          Since the mid-1970s Zucker has treated about 500 preadolescent gender-variant children to "help these kids be more content in their biological gender" until they are older and can determine their sexual identity.[7] For children assigned as males at birth, Zucker asks parents to take away their child's "feminine" toys and instruct the child not to play with or draw pictures of girls.[8] Psychologist Darryl Hill describes Zucker's approach to gender-variant children:

              Zucker and Bradley believe that reparative treatments (encouraging the child to accept their natal sex and associated gender) can be therapeutic for several reasons. They believe that treatment can reduce social ostracism by helping gender non-conforming children mix more readily with same sex peers and prevent long-term psychopathological development (i.e., it is easier to change a child than a society intolerant of gender diversity). Reparative therapy is believed to reduce the chances of adult GID (i.e., transsexualism) which Zucker and Bradley characterize as undesirable.[9]

          Zucker is at odds with gay and transgender groups, but distances himself from organizations that share this distinction.[citation needed] Zucker believes that failing to control a child's gender expression at a young age and seek early counseling for transgendered behavior can be considered "some type of emotional neglect." He claims some parents may have been swayed by an activist transsexual agenda and " more and more" behaviors that may not result from transsexualism. Instead Zucker advises such children work through their hatred of their bodies before being accepted as transsexuals.

        •  Kenneth Zucker's reparative "therapeutic" (5+ / 0-)

          techniques included regularly scheduled paternal beatings for gender non-conformant trans girls.

          This is the man the American Psychiatric Association put in charge of transsexuals for DSM-V. And he stuffed the committee with his cronies.

          But when the trans community cried out against this and sought help to get Zucker removed from that committee, all the "good" therapists were deaf. There was no outcry from therapists. None of you "good" therapists heard us.

          So fuck you bastards. At this point, we are stuck in DSM-V thank to your complete moral vacancy. But there is an opportunity now to discredit DSM as a whole. DSM-V is such as farrago of garbage, pseudoscience and drug company bribery that NIMH has disowned it.

      •  I fail to understand how any good counselor (0+ / 0-)

        or psychologist can adhere to a random abstract definition of normal. It's clear that normality is relative. Some people menstruate, some don't. People have different hair color and skin color. Personalities and preferences and connections to various groups differ. Why would there be only one type of psychology? There are some basic human norms, of course, but... it just makes no sense.

    •  Why would trans people purposefully combine (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      sexuality and gender identity in specific, limited groupings as you seem to describe - such folks would seem to be the most understanding people on the planet when it comes to their separation, I would think?

      Not questioning your assertions, I am just a bit baffled.

      "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

      by wader on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 12:54:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We suffer from Stockholm syndrome (4+ / 0-)

        Shrinks rule our lives and control whether we transition or not. Unfortunately, not every one of us is able to realize that they are our true enemies, and that it is vital never to internalize anything they say to us.

        Shrinks impose typologies and make us jump through hoops to fit whatever typologies they believe in at the moment. It's all pseudoscience, but they have the weapons. So too many trans people come to think in terms of typologies and who is a "real" trans or not.

        The solution is to get us out of the hands of the shrinks, which is why it was so important to get trans removed from DSM, as homosexuality was removed back in 1973.

        Unfortunately, the American Psychiatric Association is an old boy's club, and the old boy in charge of us (Kenneth Zucker) got us continued into the next edition.

        The good news is that DSM-V is so bad overall that the NIMH has stopped using it for research purposes. It has no scientific credibility, but it still gives shrinks power to fuck over US trans people -- especially trans kids.

      •  Well, there are basically two major subgroups (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        atana, VeggiElaine, wader, Nowhere Man, nickrud

        of trans people.

        On the one hand, you've got the progressives of the queer theory, gender theory, and feminist traditions, who believe that gender is entirely socially-constructed, sex is a continuum, sexuality is inherently fluid, and being trans is a reaction against confining gender roles.

        This group tends to believe that everyone is inherently bisexual or pansexual because sexual orientations aren't actually real because the things they reference (sex and gender) aren't real.

        On the other hand, you've got the gender essentialists who believe sex is binary, gender roles are biologically-rooted, sexuality is fixed, and being trans or gay is an expression of a biological difference in the brain.

        This group tends to insist that all 'real' trans people are straight because thy think that the process that creates a transsexual brain is a related but more severe version of the process that creates a homosexual brain.

        Neither group is entirely comfortable with people like me.

        "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

        by kyril on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 01:15:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I can think of other possibilities (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, VeggiElaine, wader, CS in AZ, sturunner

          e.g. gender and sex might be biological, but have far more diversity than any culture has recognized. Some cultures are more accommodating of the natural diversity than others; our culture is very anti-diversity in general. That is the main argument evolutionary biologist and trans woman Joan Roughgarden made in Evolution's Rainbow.

          My own view is that brains are really complicated and the truth, when we get it, will also turn out to be really complicated -- as biology usually is.

          •  Orientation & transition (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            atana, Dogs are fuzzy

            I have noticed different attitudes and feelings toward men since beginning transition.  I'm trying to figure out whether that's due to hormones or to variation in the implied social constructs.  

            In any case, we really stretch that binary idea presented regarding sexual appetites.  Once again, the scale itself does not apply.

            I do not demand tolerance, I demand equal rights. --Anna Grodzka

            by VeggiElaine on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 01:55:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I didn't find that estrogen had any influence (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              on my "orientation", which would describe as "asexual lesbian": i.e. I (greatly) prefer the company of women but I have no real interest in having sex with them.

              Perhaps if males had not beaten me into PTSD for the first two decades of my life, I would have found them erotic -- I don't know. As it is, I just find them to be something I avoid as much as I can.

              •  I would describe myself similarly (0+ / 0-)

                It's not sexual re men or even necessarily physical, more aesthetic.  Just different.

                I'm sorry about your experiences.  I had some terrible ones too.  I try to limit the scope of my damages to specific people so the contagion doesn't spread to otherwise wonderful people.  I wouldn't want to ignore nearly half the humans on earth because of the meanness & smallness of a handful of them.

                I do not demand tolerance, I demand equal rights. --Anna Grodzka

                by VeggiElaine on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 02:24:45 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  You are aware, perhaps, that most men prefer (0+ / 0-)

                the company of men, but have no real interest in having sex with them?

                I don't know exactly what that means with respect to your personal observation, other than to say that it does not sound at all out of character for a heterosexual woman, your description notwithstanding.

                This is an amusing subplot in a popular tv comedy: Two men, both vain and shallow, discover they have a lot in common. As they become friends, they bumble into a homosexual relationship, because neither of them has ever actually had a friend before, so they can't interpret a desire to spend time with another person as anything other than sexual.

                To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

                by UntimelyRippd on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 07:51:57 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  There are too many stories like yours (0+ / 0-)

                It's really rough emotionally even to read about the lives of trans* people, so I can't understand what it's like to live them.

                I try to dissociate, distance myself, and hide behind the habits of thought that earned me a hard science degree, but then I just get furious about the crimes against science instead.

                Freedom isn't free. Patriots pay taxes.

                by Dogs are fuzzy on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 11:47:46 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  well, for us materialists, at some level (0+ / 0-)

            it is all biological. so then the question becomes, to what extent can it be manipulated post-delivery? and the answer to this must itself depend on the individual -- their genetics+development, leading to their being born in an anatomy already prepped to go in certain directions.

            it might be possible to actually redirect a person's gender or sexual identity by manipulating their environment (including giving them drugs of various sorts), but attempts to do anything like that have thus far been miserable failures, not to mention pointless ones.

            To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

            by UntimelyRippd on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 08:14:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  More to the point, neither group has any (0+ / 0-)

          significant body of scientific evidence to back up their absolutisms.

          To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

          by UntimelyRippd on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 07:42:40 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Neither group is scientific (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Last year I suddenly found myself interacting with a large number of trans* people in another of my online hangouts. Of course I read up on their experiences and tried to learn about the science behind it.

          I was shocked at how bad the "professional" literature was even by the pathetic standards of psychology. I wondered why the field had not attracted some A-player of a graduate student who would see that she could make a name for herself by being the first competent person in the literature.

          An activist suggested to me that the bitterness of the politics in trans* studies deters potential researchers who just want to be science nerds. That includes both the public politics and the academic politics, in which job opportunities depend on pleasing the Giant Figures in the field who got that way by being pompous. This is, in the technical terms of philosophy of science, fucked.

          If so, maybe the same issue is holding back research on sexual orientation?

          Freedom isn't free. Patriots pay taxes.

          by Dogs are fuzzy on Tue Jul 09, 2013 at 11:42:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  A lot of people have a need to be "right" (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, wader, gramofsam1, FarWestGirl

        especially when they are continually told that they are wrong. Part of their ego formation compels them to decide that their choices are the choices everyone "should" make or "would make" if they really knew their own minds.

        This is exemplified by the "everyone is bisexual" or "everyone is really gay," subgroups. And it is common among members of groups who define themselves by their sexuality when that sexuality is atypical.  There is a need to express one's own choice as an ideal and to denigrate anyone whose choices may be different even when they are only a slight variant of your own.

        This is also seen among traditionally oppressed social, religious or political groups: The need to take their hurt and anger at their oppressors and re-focus it towards other groups. More often than not, such anger is turned towards other oppressed groups and not the original oppressors themselves.

    •  You may not be aware of how much social (0+ / 0-)

      Conditioning is involved in your absolute non interest.

      •  What social conditioning are we talking about? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dogs are fuzzy

        Was it the social conditioning meant for girls? Because none of that took. I mean, I liked glitter and playing dress-up as much as any little gay boy, but it always felt like I was doing something 'wrong' even though I knew other people didn't see it that way.

        Or was it the conditioning meant for boys, that I picked up anyway even though I wasn't supposed to? Because that's what got me to age 12 or so convinced that I was supposed to like girls...and made me really confused when I started having crushes on my baseball teammates at about the same time they started noticing girls (and I didn't, although I pretended to to try to fit in...ever met a closeted gay boy in a girl's body? it's really weird, thinking back on it.)

        "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

        by kyril on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 01:24:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  That was one of the most sensible damned comments (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lostboyjim, Dogs are fuzzy

      I've ever seen from anyone on this (and related) subjects.

      I am always uncomfortable with the utterly unscientific pronouncements that folks love to set forth on sex and sexual politics -- pronouncements that are usually predicated on ideology and little else.

      I don't believe we even have a functioning definition of bisexuality. katiec notes above that we should not necessarily equate ones erotic sensibility with ones sexual orientation. I'm not sure what exactly she means by that, but here's my take on it: I believe there are men who can pleasurably and "successfully" enjoy a sexual experience with a man, but who simply would not ever have a crush on any man, anywhere, ever. (Substitute any other sexes anywhere you like in there, I think it still holds true.) So: Is a "true" bisexual someone who can "fall in love with" a person of either sex? Or is a "true" bisexual someone who can become aroused during sex with a person of either sex? Or what?

      I don't have an answer to this. I lean more towards the "bisexual means you can fall in love with someone of either sex", and anything else is just garden variety hedonism: The ability to enjoy pleasure without becoming concerned about the "rightness" of it. But my leaning is of no particular interest to someone who self-identifies as bisexual without meeting my criterion. The politically correct version is that You Are What You Say You Are, and everyone else must respect that, but that's really sidestepping the issue: If a bisexual is Anybody Who Says They're Bisexual, that doesn't tell us very much at all, and it certainly doesn't give us a definition that is useful for anything much besides legal interpretation.

      Your own particular state of being, kyril, while seeming outlandish to some -- even impossible -- makes perfect sense to me. It is crystal clear that sexual anatomy does not determine gender identity or sexual orientation. It is crystal clear that gender identity does not determine sexual orientation (or, other than via surgical intervention, sexual anatomy). How then could anyone suppose that one particular combination of sexual anatomy and gender identity must determine sexual orientation? Hell, long before there was any widespread consciousness of the reality, it was a common enough joke among young men -- "I'm a lesbian trapped in a man's body!" And I know that going all the way back to the public splash made by Renee Richards, this was a question us cis-gendered heterosexuals entertained: Do all transsexuals orient heterosexually with respect to their transsexual identity?

      In the end, the bottom line is that the existence of transgendered individuals calls into question some basic assumptions of the politically correct, with respect to the precise nature of gender. Girls will be girls, and boys will be boys, even when the girls have boy parts and vice versa. But why? How can it even be so, when we know that at least some gender-associated behaviors are largely cultural?

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 07:39:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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