Response: Magdalen Berns


Magdalen Berns is a YouTuber, who unsurprisingly, is trans exclusionary. We’ve been having backs and forths on Twitter for a while, and after reading my blog she agreed with a few things I had to say. Also she disagreed with other things I had to say. We got to talkin’ all civil and friendly like and well, I said I’d critique her video. Here’s that critique, and here’s the video so you can play along at home.

1:08 – “The DSM V introduced substantial changes to the criteria”

Not really. The changes are in essence, in name-only. The other changes that happened cut out large chunks of what was considered to be necessary for a diagnosis of trans when the DSM IV was written. These chunks were largely unpracticed by medical professionals, and if you weren’t cherry picking the DSM V which is largely used in America. You’d have chance to read the ICD which is what a lot of Gender Clinics here in the UK use.

The ICD is the international classification of diseases. My diagnosis for transsexualism given to me by a doctor comes from the ICD 10, not from the DSM. The ICD 10 is having an update too, changing Transsexualism to Gender Incongruence.

The chunks cut out from the DSM’s definition were mostly surrounding the idea that A) calling it a disorder causes problems for people and B) that sexuality has literally nothing to do with gender. Which I’m pretty sure you (Magdalen), as a lesbian, can probably agree with. Being a lesbian doesn’t some how make you not a woman, no?

1:43 “They haven’t deemed sex to be relevant enough to provide a definition for”

Because sex is a common term that we all know the definition for (I’d hope) and it’s not actually that relevant. We’re talking about gender, not sex. For most people Gender will align with sex, these are people who aren’t trans. The two terms are essentially interchangeable for people who aren’t trans, and its understandable that a lot of people don’t understand that they are different things – because for most, they don’t seem that way.

However for trans people we’re fully aware that they aren’t the same thing, its sort of a biological fact of our reality and all that. Why would a definition for a mental condition regarding gender need to include sex at all, other than to reference the distance trans people want to put between our bodies and it?

2:02 “The APA’s definition of gender suggests it is socially constructed”

You say, by not only concealing part of their definition, but also by ignoring the “usually” part of their definition. Just a heads up, usually doesn’t mean necessarily. Legal recognition is not a necessary quality of gender. So you can’t use legality as a way of arguing its a social construct.

Then you go on to reveal the biological factors part of the definition and act confused about how biological factors inform gender. Which is kinda funny… since you actually showed a still from Blaire White’s video. Where within the first two minutes she actually covered exactly how Gender isn’t a social construct. So you should probably just go watch that maybe.

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If we go back to the definition you used for sex – which you agree, isn’t a social construct its a biological one. You can see there are “hormones” listed in the category of what determines sex. Hormones and their effects are not social constructs. Seeing tits and thinking “that’s a girl” isn’t a social construct. This is how biological factors play into gender – because where as a trans woman is male sexed, that doesn’t alter the fact that she’s also female gendered – based on biological constructs.
and what a coincidence… our medication for our condition is…. hormones!

2:44 “They’re using gender and sex interchangeably”

I covered this already in this post scroll up.

3:09 “All aspects of sex are determined biologically”

This is true, yeah. That doesn’t somehow mean gender and sex aren’t intrinsically related to each other – they aren’t the same though. The sociological and psychological aspects of gender are – in non-trans people, a direct result of sex. In trans people they are negatively exacerbated by the mismatach between gender and sex. This is what dysphoria is.

5:22 “That’s the dysphoria (regarding point 7 of the DSM V criteria for children”

Correction, that’s physical dysphoria. Dysphoria isn’t just physical. Not to mention this is only one medical criteria for gender dysphoria in children specifically. The ICD 10 has different ideas as shown here. And I believe clinics in the UK have specific guidelines on how to deal with possibly trans kids – which I’ll get into in another post sometime.

But in short, they have far stricter requirements to be considered trans than adults. Their rules are different to the rules of adult trans people. Neither of your points regarding dysphoria criteria for kids really stand up when you don’t just cherry pick the DSM V as the ICD 10 states : “(gender dysphoria in children is) characterized by a persistent and intense distress about assigned sex, together with a desire to be (or insistence that one is) of the other sex”. There’s more to the definition, but I linked it above. Feel free to look.

Also note how it ends: “The diagnosis requires a profound disturbance of the normal gender identity; mere tomboyishness in girls or girlish behaviour in boys is not sufficient” ie – it doesn’t actually rely on stereotypes and GNC kids dont get diagnosed as trans.

The significant distress part is about their gender – not about what other people think of their gender. You’re a kinda GNC woman no? Go see if you can get a diagnosis of trans without lying to your clinician. Won’t happen and you’ll see they make sure that they find out whether its about what others think of you or whether its about how you feel about your gender.

6:55 – whenever we get off the adult criteria, I’ll take each criticism as it comes.

“it’s an incongruence but it doesn’t refer to the other gender”

An incongruence is essentially a fancy word for “mismatch” if we agree that there are only two genders and only two sexes – then if we have a mismatch it must be in reference to the other gender.

If only A + B exist then the only possible congruent examples are AA and BB. These match. Examples of incongruence would, in this system, inherently imply the other letter. There’s no way to have incongruence in this system without the letters being that of the other, ie AB or BA.

“if you search the terms Non-binary…”

I’ve covered Non-binary folk before, but needless to say – we live in a system where A + B are the only options – Non binary is merely a rejection of that system, not an invalidation of it. People choose to handle their condition outside of the sex/gender binary – which is their decision. This strays away from the medical side of things towards the identity politics side of things as NB is a form of identity. However its important to note that some people with the medical condition Gender Dysphoria, choose to identify as NB because that’s what helps them deal with their dysphoria.

“they don’t necessarily want to be described as male…”

This is true when we’re talking about transtrender types who don’t suffer dysphoria. However when we’re talking about those who do suffer dysphoria – I’m yet to meet an NB person who wasn’t a trans man in everything except name.

“adolescent girls don’t like their bodies”

Good thing this criteria doesn’t just apply to adolescent girls then huh. It’s a criteria that applies to all and a doctor/therapist will be able or should be able to talk the problems out with you. To really find out whether what you’re experiencing is typical puberty blues or something more sinister and troublesome. Dysphoria isn’t the same thing as being upset about stretch marks because you grew too fast. It’s a far more profound sense of discomfort.

“you could easily tick 1 & 5 and get a diagnosis for gender dysphoria”

No… no you couldn’t. If you could, go tell your GP that you’re experiencing 1&5, ask for a referral and then when you get your appointment at a GIC tell them that. It honestly won’t be enough.

“not the truth just the conviction!!”

This is kinda misunderstanding the point of that word being used. Its used because there is no objective measure of what is feelings of the other gender. So there is literally no way to say that it is the truth, only a way to say that these people have a strong conviction of such.

“you dont need to want to transition to be considered transgender according to the APA”

Kinda? I suppose. This is a huge debate happening in trans circles as it is. The point of these rules is that it would be barbaric to tell people that they must get surgery they don’t necessarily want if they want to get support and therapy for the condition.

The condition itself works on levels of severity, like all conditions. You can have minor dysphoria and just want a little therapy now and then and you can have severe dysphoria where nothing short of full transition will help you. The condition itself isn’t as simple as “all these people experience the exact same thing in the exact same quantities.”

This is also why the name in the ICD 10 got updated from Transsexualism to Gender Incongruence in the ICD 11 – because not all people who suffer this condition will want to fully transition. However that decision not to fully transition doesn’t invalidate the fact they have the condition. Forcing them to do so in order to get medical support (therapy) is fundamentally wrong, on so many levels.

“the APA don’t support that there are only two genders…”

Except they do. They just recognise that there are multiple ways of expressing gender and more specifically gender dysphoria – and those ways include people who reject the binary altogether such as the agender and non-binary. These are not new genders, and they don’t state that as such anywhere.

 

If I left anything out, feel free to DM me or comment on this. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Response: Magdalen Berns

  1. Penelope Macgreenhough says:

    … So, do you think non-dysphoric trans should be entitled to transition related treatments on the NHS? If so, on what grounds? Surely there must be a medically definable, objectively measurable, diagnosable illness to medically justify medical interventions of this magnitude? these are not minor body modifications. Are there any other conditions not considered illnesses in medical practice which are routinely treated by the removal on request of non-diseased, healthy body organs, iatrogenic sterilisation and the unknown long term effects of unlicenced exogenous hormone treatments?

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  2. cursedeblogger says:

    Hey there, and thanks for the comment.

    You’re right, it is a big deal and transition has some serious implications, which is why it tends to be fairly well regulated – especially here in the UK, less so in the US. For most people aged 16+ it will take a minimum of a year of regular psychotherapy appointments before any treatment is prescribed. Within the psychotherapy appointments you will be diagnosed with a medically definable and objectively measurable illness. When I was diagnosed it was called “transsexualism” however now I believe it is going to be called “Gender Incongruence”

    It may not seem it, but just as with a flu – you don’t actively test for a flu virus, you check the symptoms against what is likely to have occurred. This is done by discussing how you feel and the symptoms you’re experiencing with a trained professional. Which is exactly what happens when a person suspect they may have Gender Incongruence. This is how they make diagnosis for nearly all medical conditions.

    As for those who don’t experience dysphoria – I’d like to argue that if you don’t experience dysphoria, you’re unlikely to use gender identity clinics. Nor are they likely to prescribe you medications, and in the case that they do its only going to cause them problems. Dysphoria is in part caused by secondary sex characteristics, this is part of physical dysphoria and is why FtM trans men feel uncomfortable about having breasts and get top surgery. So if you’re not legitimately suffering dysphoria and you take a hormone medication which alters your secondary sex characteristics – you’re going to end up experiencing what I call “reverse dysphoria”. Where you’ve medically induced physical dysphoria upon yourself. At this point if you’re still in psychotherapy sessions and being honest with your therapist – you’ll likely be told to stop taking the medication anyway.

    I’m not aware of any other medical conditions which do as you describe, no. However I do have an issue with your description. Particularly the usage of the word “healthy” int his context. I’m assume you’re a woman; would having a penis be a “healthy organ” for you? Would chest hair and facial hair be “healthy” for you? Because I’m not so sure it would, as trans women we have these parts and although they may be fully functional and typically developed organs – they are not necessarily healthy for us. For something to be healthy, as per the definition, it must indicate or promote good health. A penis does not indicate good health and in the case of trans women who experience genital dysphoria it does the opposite of promote good health, as it can be a severe detriment to mental health. I experience a moderate level of genital dysphoria, and its by no means a fun time for me. However at the far extreme end of the dysphoria scale there are reports of children who took scissors to their own genitals because of dysphoria.

    If the removal of these organs can save people from a severe detriment to their mental health and prevent self harm – isn’t that healthy?

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  3. SPOG says:

    Hi — I’m an occasional correspondent on Twitter, and have read a few articles on your blog as well. I have a few thoughts on trans issues that have arisen as I’ve tried to get my own thoughts straight. Pardon the length, but I don’t have time to make it shorter. In short, I periodically see the argument that the ‘T’ should be removed from ‘LGBT’, on the grounds that it has naff all to do with sexual orientation. I am increasingly coming round to that view, and specifically that in the ‘oppression olympics’, most transsexuals are competing in entirely the wrong event.

    I will preface all of this by saying that I am the devil incarnate (a cis het white male — though I am technically disabled, so perhaps merely a Greater Daemon). I say this not as the obligatory SJW ‘mea culpa’ prefacing the expression of any opinion, but rather because I am also an extreme right-libertarian: ie, I am impossible to shock, tolerant of pretty much anything that doesn’t impinge unduly on the rights of others, and have zero time for SJW crap. However, because I have not spent hours reading the scientific detail on this as I am not at all invested in it except insofar as the political debate affects me, and nor have I spent much time on ‘queer studies’ guff beyond what was necessary to satisfy me that it is unmitigated shite. Thus I may be overlooking certain things, so am happy to be corrected.

    My understanding of the trans condition in a nutshell is that it is a mismatch between internal gender identity and physical sex. ‘Gender dysphoria’, to my understanding, is actually something of a misnomer, since I can only see it as a symptom and not the condition itself. Let’s imagine someone who is missing their legs. Let’s further imagine the whole of society treats this person as if they can walk; not just by broad assumption (ie there are stairs everywhere), but actually being told all the time to ‘just get up and walk over there’ to fetch something, etc, as if they appeared perfectly mobile. The massive disparity between the internal reality and the social expectation must cause intense psychological stress, with comorbid depression, questioning of sanity, self-loathing, etc; so far, so easy to understand. So this mismatch between social expectation and reality could drive a sane person crazy: this is what dysphoria is. Now let’s imagine someone who isn’t actually missing their legs, but is simply psychologically convinced they are. This already is a psychopathology. They may even be OK in every other respect. Nonetheless, this incongruence in experience will heap all the other psychopathologies (depression etc following on dysphoria onto them).

    But gender dysphoria has deeper social connotations than the likes of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and probably deeper physiological roots too. Transsexuals are also not simply deformed. It isn’t straightforwardly the case that for a transsexual, having a penis is like believing one has an extra arm, or missing a vagina is like believing one is missing a leg (although there will perhaps be some similarities). In the case of a physical deformity — eg missing a leg — society is divided into two clear groups: the 99% (or whatever the statistic is) who have both legs, and the 1% who are missing one. It is well understood and accepted (other than by extreme ‘differently abled’ activists) that the 99% are ‘able-bodied’, and the 1% suffer from a disability. In the case of gender, whilst it may be that 99% (or whatever the statistic is) are not transsexuals and 1% are, there is another way of slicing it. This is because humanity is also split 50/50 into the two genders, and therefore the transsexual belongs, certainly in their thinking, and to differing extents their appearance and behaviour as well, not simply to the 1% who are trans, but to the opposite 50% group to that into which they were originally assigned. So instead of belonging very obviously to the outgroup, they belong more properly to the *other ingroup*. As gender goes far more to identity than being able-bodied, it is even more profound. This must, I should imagine, compound the dysphoria tremendously, but it also complicates the social handling of the condition (often, but not exclusively, due to superstitious prejudice by the uninformed). And because the dysphoria may arise not just from external factors, but because our psyches are the sum total of our social conditioning as well as our brain structure, then self-perception alone may create similar problems and pathologies.

    However, given that this seems to show that the dysphoria is a symptom, the actual problem is whatever *causes* the incongruence between internal gender and physical sex characteristics (since all the social elements will flow from the fact that society, by default and from birth, treats someone according to the gender matching their sexual characteristics: and it does so quite reasonably, based on the statistics). It may be why, political correctness concerns aside, the DSM is moving the definition of the disorder in that direction, ie to incongruence. Now I know there’s a body of scientific literature on the causes, and though it isn’t settled, it seems to be caused by a mixture of genetics, and being soaked in the wrong hormone mixture in utero, potentially even affecting the brain structure, hence why ‘talking therapy’ alone isn’t a cure (as it might be if the condition were merely of social aetiology) but endocrine, and sometimes surgical, intervention does help to palliate the symptoms. This sounds pretty much like a *disability* to me, just one with particularly far-reaching social consequences. Transsexuals should not be racing with the LGB folk at the oppression olympics, because it isn’t a sexual preference. They’re disabled. Of course they could be LGB too, but that’s totally irrelevant to the matter at hand.

    So, the correct way to handle this seems to me to be not to decide that the existence of transsexuals means that our conceptions of normality, binary gender, etc is wrong. Occam’s razor would dictate we should seek the simplest explanation, which is simply that transsexuals are abnormal, just as a congenitally deformed person is abnormal, as a schizophrenic is abnormal, as indeed I am abnormal because I have a genetic autoimmune condition. To put it another way, having four limbs is normal, being of sound mind is normal, having a working immune system is normal, and having your gender match your genitals is normal. We need a baseline assumption of what ‘normal’ is in order to allow society to function and not fracture into a million pieces. But ‘abnormal’ doesn’t mean subhuman or deserving of vilification, pity, or being patronised. We can treat the congenitally deformed, the schizophrenic, the immunocompromised, and the transsexual with compassion, understanding and humanity. We can give them the medicine that seems to control their symptoms best; we can perform surgery where appropriate. We may not be able to cure them (for a transsexual, a true ‘cure’ would probably be bringing their gender into alignment with their genotype and birth physiology), but we can make their lives tolerable. Part of doing this for disabled folk is, whereever possible, by making ‘reasonable adjustments’ for them. Employment law and certain elements of public law, of course, dictate that we must.

    Such ‘reasonable adjustments’ are small accommodations that enable the disabled to integrate more fully into society: wheelchair ramps, hearing loops, beeping pedestrian crossings. For transsexuals, this could be using a traditional pronoun to refer to the person in their post-transition gender; changing their name and legal documents to reflect it; not discriminating for employment selection (unless the disability or phenotype is an absolute bar to employment, but the cases where this applies are few). And so on. The argument provides a solution for toilets even: ‘passing’ transsexuals use the appropriate toilets all the time, and cause no problems by definition, because ‘passing’ means people can’t tell. If unisex toilets are not culturally appropriate or economically viable, I see no reason why a transsexual who knows they can’t pass (and I get the impression this is something one knows) shouldn’t use the disabled toilets, which are almost universally unisex anyway. I use them often, and whilst I have occasionally gotten ‘looks’, it doesn’t bother me, and I suspect my skin is not nearly as thick or as calloused as the non-passing transsexual who almost certainly gets ‘looks’ whatever they’re doing (rightly or wrongly — amputees in wheelchairs get ‘looks’ too, but note the caveat above on why gender is different).

    Now a corollary to the above, which was briefly touched on, is that it deals only with those who could be medically classed as transsexual on the grounds of objective evidence. It does not account for genderbender types. There may or may not be objective evidence that genderbending exists as an actual medical condition. I do not believe that there is. But since we’ve established that a scientific basis to a condition doesn’t mean that ‘normality’ needs to be deconstructed, even if genderbending were an objective phenomenon, it wouldn’t matter. What’s more, it’s not clear that the ‘adjustments’ that some of these individuals say they require could be described as ‘reasonable’: some of the more outrageous pronouns, laissez faire attitudes to bathrooms and changing facilities which could cause distress to the vast majority of occupants, and generally restructuring society quite profoundly for the sake of a delicate few. Given that it is most likely a *subjective* rather than an *objective* state of being (unlike genuine transsexualism), there is of course no real argument as to why they should be taken any more seriously than otherkin or their ilk. It also doesn’t touch on intersex, but it is certainly not contradictory with your analysis of that, which appears to me to be sensible (I would simply say being intersex is another flavour of disability).

    I hope the above makes sense, as it was written in haste. It is also in no way meant to be offensive; it is, rather, a good faith braindump of my own current state of thought on the matter, trying to use straightforward and dispassionate analysis not reliant on postmodernist nonsense. It’s merely based on a growing realisation that the existence and humane accommodation of transsexuals poses a social challenge which hasn’t, to my mind, found an adequate resolution. But because it’s so politically charged and the debate, insofar as there is one, is so completely dominated by extremely shouty extremist mobs, I think many otherwise reasonable people are afraid to stick their heads above the parapet: most of all the scientists, who fear kangaroo courts, public apologies, and having to recant before being shuffled off into the gulag of silence for offending the wrong crowd. Yet it’s maybe the scientists who ought to be heard the most. But overall, I think viewing the phenomenon as a disability instead of as an extension of LGB, and a deconstruction of one of the fundamental tenets of Western civilisation, is better for absolutely everyone concerned, and also caters more directly to the facts.

    Would be interested to hear your thoughts on all this, as you seem reasonable. Feel free to move elsewhere else delete if too long/ranty/objectionable. Alternatively, if there is a body of literature — particularly social sciences — which approaches things from this angle, and especially without ridiculous postmodernist nonsense, I’d love to hear about it…I haven’t been able to find anything.

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