So a lot of people were saying stuff like “oh I wish you could be in this conversation too” and “what do you think about it Cursed?” and whereas I’m flattered, I’m not really a fan of the livestream style conversation. I much prefer to just chat it out on DM, where I can read and re-read what you’ve said before making a response and doing any link finding I need to back up my point of view. That’s my style, and that’s what I’m going to be doing today in regards to the conversation.
As for the conversation itself, I was totally for it. Like both Laci and Blaire said at the start of the video, we’re all individuals with individual opinions, some overlap and some don’t. It’s all too easy to paint Blaire as an “anti SJW youtuber” and Laci as “a feminist youtuber” – but that’s marketing, not truth. Part of the game of being a YouTuber/Blogger means that you have to give up your surface-level individuality. You can’t just be you because that’s pretty bad SEO (search engine optimisation) and doesn’t fit in an easily searchable tag. Whereas “feminism” or “anti-sjw” both do and are both well searched terms on Google platforms.
The Us vs Them narrative is all too easy to fall into, and I’m really glad this video seemed to try and stray away from that for the most part. Finally, we can stop pretending like we’re all super polarised and instead realise that we tend to agree on stuff 99% of the time. Huzzah. Anyway, on with my criticisms of the video, I’ll be timestamping where I take the quotes from. Hope you enjoy!
9:42 – 10:20
Blaire: Its very common within feminist spheres to argue that there is a lack of differences between males and females neurologically and that gender is entirely socially constructed – and really what that reduces transgender people [down] to is performance of a gender. Rather than behaving in a way that their biology and neurology is fuelling them to behave. Which is what I believe and I have a lot of sources to back that up. That its not just one day you wake up and you’re like “I wanna be this!” You’re biologically fuelled to feel that way.
So brains huh. How about ’em? Okay, lets take male and female brains – no trans. Sexual dimorphism is a well established thing for our species and nearly all of our organs to some extent. There is no denying this and this includes the brain. There are sexually dimorphic areas of the brain and there are countless studies which support this. Here’s one of my favourite videos on the subject which kinda explains how and why sexual dimorphism is a thing.
Dr Sapolsky is a neuroscience professor who at the time of these videos was working at Stanford. He probably still does but I’m too lazy to check. Also yes, these videos, because here’s another one of him speaking on trans specifically in the context of neuroscience. He confirms what trans people like Blaire and myself believe, that gender dysphoria exists as a result of these brain differences.
The typical feminist retort is of neuroplasticity and I can’t even tell you the amount of times I’ve heard the rhetoric of the London taxi drivers whose brain’s changed to after driving the streets for years. As if that’s some how relevant. Neuroplasticity is absolutely a thing, but the issue is that these studies controlled for neuroplasticity. As Sapolsky said, pre-transition people who went to their deathbed saying they were trans but never taking the steps to transition were also found to have this brain difference. It’s almost like neuroscientists know what they’re doing or something.
Neuroplasticity has its limits too, the brain can change drastically, and it can mould itself to be the best brain for whatever you’re doing with your life, like the taxi drivers. However I liken this to a house. You can move the furniture around inside your house all you want, but you’re not going to change a terraced house into a high rise condo. The brain has fundamental parts to it that never change, for example typically people will *always* have a hypothalamus. You can’t just neuroplasticity that structure out of your brain.
However, I quoted this part of Blaire because what I disagree with is that women are biologically inclined to behave a certain way. If that were true then all women would behave that same certain way. The sheer diversity amongst women is incredibly huge, there is no biological will pushing you to have long hair, or wear make-up. That’s all a social construct.
It isn’t a bad thing to take part in the social construct – the vast majority of women do, that’s how our society functions and you can either play the game or you can not. Neither should guarantee success or failure, neither should be why we value women and neither should determine whether someone is a woman or not. It just is what it is. Gender in this regard is absolutely performative – but it isn’t like cis women aren’t also performing this version of gender. However this is the feminist idea of gender as a set of stereotypes – rather than the trans idea of gender which is probably more accurately described as “brain-sex”.
What the brain differences actually do is create this feeling of disconnection and dysphoria between you and your self – which live in your brain and the vehicle you drive around, your body. If dysphoria isn’t dealt with and is instead repressed, it will lead to some kind of psychopathology. Usually in the form of depression or anxiety, sometimes suicide, sometimes weird fetishes and sex practices. Repression is a bitch. Luckily for trans kids who are supported in their social transitions they never repress and instead have normative levels of psychopathology for kids their age. Super!
I guess in a vague way you can say you’re biologically fuelled to feel that way since you brain is part of your biology – but the idea that gender stereotypes like long hair, make-up and skirts are because of your biology is stupid and unfounded.
Laci: The social construction view of gender is more accepting of the existence of trans people and just a more broad idea of gender in general. Because if you say someone’s brain or their gender comes down to their sex or their brain. Its sort of like “well you are just your sex. If you are born male then you are male and that doesn’t change and there’s nothing different about it right?”
I must stress, Laci says this isn’t her view of gender, and that this is the feminist view of gender. However its worth criticising.
The entire reason trans people have been granted access to medical support such as transition is because we were vindicated by the studies which prove our brains to be different. The idea that holding trans people to this standard somehow invalidates the idea of trans is a little absurd.
The above idea isn’t more accepting of transsexual people, its more accepting of transgender people. I’ve spoken before how there’s a big difference between these two – and in short, transgender is a sociopolitical statement of gender non-conformity. Feminists of course, would praise this – because it is challenging the patriarchal enforcement of gender roles which they’re all so very against.
Radical feminists do this by adopting a butch appearance and speaking in a growly monotone on YouTube videos – here’s looking at you Maggy. They also celebrate men who do the opposite – such as Hope DIY. I’ll let you click the link and find out exactly what I mean. Prepare the clorox, you’re gonna need it.
Ironically if you actually analyse what’s being said in the above quote, its some fairly transphobic ass shit. They will celebrate a trans woman for smashing the patriarchal gender roles – which in essence implies that they view you as a man, being feminine. The exact same reason the rad fems celebrate Hope DIY or why Jenni Murray calls people like Eddie Izzard a “pleasant antidote to toxic masculinity”. Whereas a trans woman like Blaire who takes part in the gender roles and societal stereotypes is often hounded for it – I’ve seen it a lot on Twitter myself.
The brain thing invalidates transgender. Because what we’re saying is that you shouldn’t just “transition” because you’re a feminine dude, or a girl that likes monster trucks. It isn’t about gender stereotypes, it isn’t about gender roles, its about an actual physical deformity of the brain. Sure, if you want to be a feminine guy, go right ahead for it, but don’t call yourself trans – you’re not.
Laci: Gender is social
I just wanted to take the time to really stress how both people in this conversation have a different understanding of what gender is.
In the feminist, sociologist and psychological idea of gender – yes, it is purely social constructs and relates to society entirely. Laci is correct in that regard. However when a transsexual person uses the word gender what we’re (by this, I mean this is at least what I mean) actually referring to is the fact that our brain has these differences which imply our brain’s sex isn’t the same as our body’s sex – in this regard, gender is a biological construct.
This is why I don’t use the word “transgender” to describe my self – because its inaccurate and misleading. Its nothing to do with gender and the socially constructed idea of it. Gender is just a convenient way to explain why I’m transsexual.
Edit: by this I mean, I use gender to refer to my brain and the brain differences of transsexual people. Its helpful to separate gender from sex in this way because it helps me explain the difference if I can say gender is my brain, sex is my body. Especially since most people don’t actually follow the feminist gender is social idea. Most people see gender as interchangeable with sex as is said by Laci in the video many times. So usually gender and sex are both the same in brain and body for people. Just not in trans people, this is the mistmatch between the two that causes dysphoria as outlined above.
Laci: There is this argument: Gender is biological, women’s brains are smaller, women are less smart, we can’t do math, we’re just emotional, nurturing baby makers, and these are the arguments which have stemmed from biological essentialism. This idea that its only biological and that’s it. This has been harmful to women and its inaccurate.
Bad ideas stemming from good science happens all the time, it doesn’t make the science less correct. Is it dumb to suggest that women are biologically more inclined to be stay at home mums? Yeah. Yeah it is. Does that mean there isn’t biological essentialism in regards to sex? No, no it doesn’t.
Blaire: If gender was all or even mostly socially constructed I feel like you would see at least one society throughout civilisation in which women were in the roles of men traditionally.
And there are, as Laci rightly points out right after… but even if there wasn’t this wouldn’t disprove social construction. As Dr Sapolsky said in the video above on sexual dimorphism, it happens as a result of socially constructed ideas. Men become larger on average because females choose larger males to mate with, because larger males can protect them. This selection of who to mate with is also why humans have huge penises compared to most primates.
I think Blaire is trying to put the cart before the horse here and argue that men are big and strong and so its biological that they would be out doing certain tasks while women stay at home. However this is a social construct. Its a result of early societies and their brutal fighting and savagery. If a woman was to survive pregnancy she needed a strong man gathering food and protecting them.
Blaire: I do think that if someone’s born male, they’re male and they will die male. I just think we happen to be in a society in which certain people who are born male and identify a different way; we afford them a certain amount of kindness and we will refer to them in a way and treat them in a way.
This presupposes that its just kindness that we’re allowed transition, its just kindness that we’re allowed medical support, its just kindness that we aren’t thrown in mental asylums. It makes it seem like a privilege rather than a right, and I disagree entirely. I think we absolutely have a right to medical treatment and I believe that our doctors should do the best thing for us according to medical science. This, currently, is transition in cases where dysphoria is severe enough to warrant it.
I’m not denying that trans women are male, we are, that’s what our sex is. It is male. That doesn’t mean we aren’t women or that we’re only being taken seriously as our gender/brainsex as a kindness when that’s evidently not the case. Doctors don’t just medically support people because its kind – they do it because its the right thing to do for that person and their medical condition. Their medical condition which as outlined above, shows distinct parts of the brain which are for some reason, of the opposite sex.
Blaire: The science is not completely out (on why trans people are trans)
You’re right, though just a few seconds ago you were adamant that gender dysphoria is a mental disorder. However the science doesn’t entirely support this. This is part of the reason why it was demoted from being a disorder. From a post I wrote before:
“In a medical context, a disorder is a very specific thing. Medical dictionaries describe it as: A disturbance of function, structure, or both, resulting from a genetic or embryonic failure in development or from exogenous factors such as poison, trauma, or disease. The APA came to the conclusion that gender dysphoria does not fit this description – which I agree with. As far as medical science knows, the disturbance of function/structure of being dysphoric does not result from genetic or embryonic failure in development nor from exogenous factors such as poison, trauma or disease. There are lots of theories, but until there is anything concrete there’s no reason to continue using that term. Especially – as the documentation notes – there is a stigma surrounding the word “disorder”. This stigma can present legal and social challenges, which can contribute to poor mental health. So in short, they changed it to be A) more appropriate to what they know about the condition and B) to help ensure people with the condition have a better chance of a relatively normal life.”
The facts are we don’t know what causes the brain differences in trans people. Some will argue its pure socialisation, this is the neuroplasticity argument, some argue its a birth defect this is the TruTrans argument, some argue its down to hormones in utero and some argue a combination of any of the above. Nobody knows for certain just yet.
What we do know is that psychopathology that usually accompanies a mental disorder, such as anorexia being accompanied by depression and anxiety, are not inherent to gender dysphoria. We’ve proven this with children as I outlined above. This may imply that dysphoria itself and the symptoms it presents aren’t mental in nature.
On the general waffling between Laci and Blaire about intersex:
The question on whether they are a third sex comes down to whether you think this is a new fruit or whether you think its a mixture of two other fruits. That’s basically it. Intersex conditions are some kind of mixture of typically sexed characteristics, however big or small that mixture is. Though there is some medical pushback against this idea, arguing that it should be about whether phenotypes match chromosomes, but I won’t get into that here, its a bit long-winded.
Suffice to say, including conditions like Klinefelters, intersex conditions out number trans people 6:1 almost. With a 1.7% rate for intersex and a 0.3% for trans. However not all intersex conditions are the same thing, this is just an umbrella term for a set of conditions which have a similar background. Each individual intersex condition probably makes up fractions of the trans rate. The vast majority of people with intersex conditions never transition and live happily as their assigned sex.
To me, that picture and intersex are not a third sex. They are a mixture of the two sexes – rather than something wholly new. Its not like anyone is being born with a plant-like reproductive system – now that I would refer to as a new sex.
As for gender, that still – in terms of what I mean when I say the word gender (see above for that explanation) lives as part of your brain. An intersex person can have gender dysphoria and its the exact same gender dysphoria that a trans person will experience. Even if your entire body is intersexed to some degree, your brain may still be of one sex or the other. At which point either the male characteristics or the female characteristics of your body will begin to make you feel uncomfortable and dysphoric and you’ll seek to change them and assimilate into what is socially promoted as characteristic of that sex.
In short, an intersex person is either a man or a woman, and that’s about what’s in your brain, not in your pants or chromosomes.
Laci: Isn’t there a spectrum of maleness?
No, there’s arguably a spectrum of masculinity, of being macho – but of being male? No. That is a binary. A man with poor facial hair growing ability is every bit as male as a man who can grow bushy beards down to his knees. Its a fundamental misunderstanding of a binary to imply there’s a spectrum at all. It’s fundamentally opposed to sexual dimorphism to apply there’s a spectrum of sex.
There are variances within the sex, absolutely. This doesn’t imply a spectrum though otherwise this would mean that certain men are less or more men than other men based on whatever you define to be the most man thing vs the least man thing about them. Christ that was a mouthful.
Binary is 1 or 0 and in terms of sex its male or female. Intersex, I know, fundamentally spits in the face of that binary, but that’s because intersex is merely a corruption of the binary. To borrow some terms from quantum mechanics for a second its kind of like superposition. It’s neither, but its both, its only upon measurement that it becomes fixed as one or the other. Like Schrodinger’s cat.
Much like quantum mechanics, these corruptions of the rules only occur at the micro level, not the macro level. The wider laws of physics, much like the sexual binary, is spat in the face of by quantum mechanics – but quantum mechanics doesn’t invalidate the general rules of physics. I’m hoping by now you can see the parallels between these. If not please ask in the comments and I’ll try to explain this point better.
Laci: You don’t feel like you’re actually a woman?
Blaire: No, no, not technically. I think that socially [and] through medical science, and living in the west I’m able to fill the role of one. Perhaps the word “caricature” has a negative connotation to people, but I think that when you’re a transsexual your life is kind of as a caricature.
Laci: I don’t see your life as a caricature.
Like man… I actually feel kind of sad right now… I’m sorry you feel that way about yourself Blaire, truly. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to point out how you’ve flipped from “I’m biologically driven as a trans woman to behave this way” to “lol its just a caricature” all within the space of about 30 mins. Because you did…
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with respecting that your sex is male and always will be male. I don’t see how that invalidates one’s claim to womanhood. If we take intersex conditions there are plenty of “males” who make a claim for womanhood – such as those with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome. They can’t process androgen hormones at all and so never develop boy parts. Instead they have a vagina at birth.
Leaving intersex conditions out, we’re left with trans people’s claim to womanhood or manhood – and I don’t see why if an intersex person’s maleness isn’t an invalidation of womanhood, why a trans woman’s maleness is. Especially when we medicate our bodies into what would be definable as intersex, ie a male body with female secondary sex characteristics.
But yeah no, that’s kinda harsh on yourself and I’m sorry that’s how you see it.
Right. So that’s where the chat about trans stuff ends, and I think that’s a good place to leave this for now before it gets TOOOOO long. I’ll do a part 2 if this one goes down well and people want to see more of my opinions on this video. If not, fuck you all I guess.
If you have any questions or comments or wanna chat about it all, you know where to find me. If you don’t know where to find me, hit me up on Twitter @ObscuredLeg, or drop a comment in the section below.
Oh and as a nice little bonus, I ran the poll of what people thought about the Apple/Orange above on my Twitter as I finished writing this, here’s the results so far: