So obviously I’m one of the people who buys into this theory and the evidence behind it so when I saw Riley drop this video and make some comments you betcha I had to respond. I think what’s important to remember when we’re discussing this is that Riley doesn’t see “trans” as just meaning transsexual – she extends it to transgender and the whole umbrella. Which of course most of them do not suffer dysphoria and aren’t transsexual – so they would not present as such neurologically.
But also it means that her priorities in terms of trans rights vary massively from mine. For me, trans rights is about securing legal, medical and social support for gender dysphoria, whereas for Riley it seems more to be about social acceptance of being trans. This has a huge effect on our perspectives which you’ll see throughout the post.
Riley: Do trans women have female brains, do trans men have male brains?
Depends on which theory you take. There’s many as I’m hoping you’ll discuss in the remainder of your video. Though the argument isn’t that the brain is wholly male or wholly female. The most compelling studies I’ve seen indicate that it’s a demasculinised brain with feminised regions in trans women and vice versa in trans men. This study is compelling as its a review of all the neuroscience studies out there put together and criticised.
So yeah, your opening statement is false and misleading, its a total strawman.
Riley: [on why we talk about neuroscience to explain trans] I think its largely because of the main trans narrative of being born in the wrong body.
Again. Misleading. I don’t think I was born into the wrong body, I think my brain developed wrong for my body. However I can’t change my brain, I can’t just will away dysphoria any more than someone with cerebral palsy can will away that. There’s no pill I can take to cure this problem. I can only treat it and adapt my self around it so that I can live a pretty functional life.
So I work with what I’ve got, I minimise the problems dysphoria causes me and make it less hard to live with. For many of us, transition is the only way to achieve this. Neuroscience is employed because this problem does come with a lot of downsides, not least being the enormous suicide rates and psychopathology rates amongst trans people. Neuroscience needs to study the cause before it can even fathom trying to create a cure – and I do think there should be a cure. Hands down.
I’ve mentioned before about how it gets a bit weird philosophically for an adult to consider a cure – but for a child? Heck yeah I’d rather spare them years of dysphoria and discomfort. Nobody should have to experience what myself and other trans people experience.
Riley: For a lot of people who hate trans people, finding a biological cause would give them something to point to and say that’s where something went wrong, that’s the neurological disorder in trans people that needs to be fixed.
And it does. Dysphoria sucks. Wanting to fix a disorder isn’t about hating the person with it, or hating that trans people exists – any more than wanting to cure depression is about hating depressed people. There are transphobes out there who will just shout “ugh you’re mentally ill reeee” sure – but most of the people I’ve spoken to online are’t that way. This is kinda like saying people are hating on cancer sufferers because they hate cancer.
Even when they are, so what? Regardless of if they’re transphobic or not, we both agree on the core points. We need to cure this thing. We just disagree on the methodology. I think you’ll find if you talk the problem out with a lot of these people that they’ll realise that you’re just doing the best you can with a bad situation. Though really, their main concern isn’t the fact that transitioned individuals exist, its with the fact that these transitioned individuals often act very authoritarian about the subject.
You are part of that problem, Riley.
Riley: First of all to prove you have a female brain, you first have to prove there is such thing as a female brain.
There is. Here’s but one example of sexual dimorphism of the brain. Sexual dimorphism is a thing that happens in many species – and in pretty much every single mammal. We respect that there is sexual dimorphism of the body and of it’s organs, yet for some reason you want to draw the line at sexual dimorphism of the brain? Why?
Riley: You have to prove there is significant sexual dimorphism with out overlap
Sexual dimorphism has never implied no overlap. It’s taken from an average, Theryn Meyer explains this really well in a recent video she made.
Riley: The human brain mosaic….
Which if you’d taken the time to research you’d realise has its criticisms too. To the point where you can, in fact, sex a brain with 93% accuracy.
To quote the study “the human brain may be a mosaic, but it is one with predictable patterns.”
Riley: Human beings simply aren’t that sexually dimorphic.
I know that you know they are because you’ve already covered biological sex and tried to fudge the lines there too. So you already know the massive differences between men and women on average.
Remember that. On average. Its pretty damn important.
Riley: People often say that men are taller than women, but its really easy to find a woman that’s taller than a man.
Women who are above 6’2″ are fairly rare. Nobody is saying she isn’t a woman, just that she’s atypical compared to the average. The same way someone with dwarfism isn’t typical too.
Nobody is saying that *all men ever* are taller than *all women ever* – that was never implied. This is a terrible criticism to make – because no duh people talk about averages. Even a cursory glance at average heights worldwide confirms this, I didn’t see a single example of females being taller than males on average.
Riley: [on “A sex difference in the brain and its relation to transsexuality”] all of the trans women in the study had either had an orchiectomy, or had taken anti-androgens as hormone replacement therapy.
Either way their bodies would have stopped being exposed to high levels of testosterone and all 6 of the trans women had taken oestrogen as a part of hormone replacement therapy.
Now you just hold on a cotton picking minute. Lets analyse what the study actually says, vs what you’re saying it said.
The study does state that they had been treated with oestrogen – though some had stopped taking it prior to their deaths for many months yet still retained the feminised BSTc range. What it also states is that:
“a 31-year-old man who suffered from a feminizing adrenal tumour which induced high blood levels of oestrogen, nevertheless had a very large BSTc (Fig. 3: S2).”
As you can see, they attempted ruled out the idea that oestrogen had that big of an effect on BSTC ranges, otherwise why would this man still have retained his large BSTc?
How about orchiectomies? Does that have a big effect? In the study it states:
“Our results might also be explained if the female-sized BSTc in the transsexual group was due to the lack of androgens, because they had all been orchidectomized except for T4”
So clearly they thought about it… lets see what they said?
“We therefore studied two other men who had been orchidectomized because of cancer of the prostate (one and three months before death: S4 and S3, respectively), and found that their BSTc sizes were at the high end of the normal male range. The BSTc size of the single transsexual who had not been orchidectomized (T4) ranged in the middle of the transsexual scores (Fig. 3).”
Oh maybe its because they were taking anti-androgens and that had an affect? I wonder if they covered this point in the study?
“Not only were five of the transsexuals orchidectomized, they all used the antiandrogen cyproterone acetate (CPA). A CPA effect on the BSTc does not seem likely, because T6 had not taken CPA for the past 10 years, and T3 took no CPA during the two years before death and still had a female-sized BSTc”
By no means do I think that the study is totally conclusive, its one of many out there which suggests something and means we should keep digging to find the truth. But what you’re saying it said Riley, is just totally not what it actually says.
And of course, as I showed with the mosaic idea above – its not just one or two parts of the brain. It’s a pattern of sexually dimorphic brain structures across the brain – of which you can use to sex a brain accurately 93% of the time.
Riley: So based on this study there’s no way to look at the brains of someone who was assigned male at birth and determine they are cis or trans
Again, brain mosaic. You even argue for the brain mosaic earlier in the video, then you go on to look at one tile and be like “look this study doesnt mean thing!” All while forgetting that its just one tile of many, of which we know show patterns and allow us to sex brains with 93% accuracy.
Riley: Plus as far as tests go, measuring the BSTc isn’t a great one. Because like I said, you can only really test it in dead people, so you can’t really go to your doctor to ask them to test your BSTc region and see if you’re trans or not.
That doesn’t make it not useful. It’s useful because it shows that trans people’s brains are a certain way – and if you actually pay attention to the results of the study, seems to suggest we can’t change that. As the study showed other males who identified as men and had orchiectomies etc and did not reduce their BSTc size.
This is the basis on which we build our claim to medical support and treatment. Also its also used to justify insurance claims in places like America where that stuff actually matters. Without this body of knowledge that suggests, but not proves conclusively, that trans women have feminised brains and can do nothing to change that (and vice versa for trans men) we have no justifiable claim for these things.
Your argument would leave thousands of trans women with severe dysphoria with no real support unless they could pay for it privately as a lifestyle choice or something. Is being trans a lifestyle choice? Because I, as a dysphoric person, hugely disagree.
Riley: [on this study] This test doesnt give you a good measure for trans women either, but it still shows the range for trans women is closer to the range for cis women than cis men.
Which is the point. Feminised brains and all that. Its evidence of a neurological difference not typically found in males.
Riley: [on this study] This study shows that the BSTc sizes in cis men and cis women wasn’t prominent until adulthood. In fact,in infants and adolescents cis women had a larger BSTc region than men on average.
That’s a big deal because trans people often experience their feelings of being a different gender long before adulthood. So the BSTc regions couldn’t be the cause of why people are trans because its differentiation doesnt even appear until adulthood.
Its not argued as a cause. It’s argued as evidence that our brains aren’t typical brains. Which if they’re showing a pattern of brain features congruent with the opposite sex then yes, our brains aren’t typical. This is again, just one tile of that much bigger mosaic you talked about earlier.
This absolutely doesn’t discount early onset GD at all. It just means that this specific difference isn’t one of them until adulthood.
Riley:[on this study] Just like with the BSTc studies found that on average cis males had a larger INAH3 region and its neurons tended to be more dense…
…and yes, once again trans women had a range that was similar to cis women’s. But you still couldn’t test whether a person is a man or a woman by testing the INAH3 region.
BRAIN. MOSAIC. PATTERNS. ADD. UP. TO. MAKE. POSSIBLE. 93%. ACCURACY.
Riley: In 2006 a study on 6 trans men found that the brains and hypothalamus’ of cis women tended to have less volume than those of cis men. They then found that trans women taking hormone therapy had lower brain volume after 4 months, leaving the researchers to conclude that the hormones feminised the brain to some degree. Likewise for trans men [but vice versa].
Just like with all the other studies all of these things overlap so you can’t measure brain volume and determine whether someone is a man or a woman.
This is kinda like saying “but men and women’s toes can look the same as each other, there’s over lap between toes! So therefore men and women are the same, there’s no sexual dimorphism.”
You’re looking at each part one by one and dismissing the whole. Rather than, like the study I posted way back up at the start – looking at the whole of the knowledge we have and discussing it all in context. Of course you’re going to be able to dismiss it like that. No duh.
Riley: In 2009 a study of 24 trans women found that they had grey matter about the same size as cis men in most parts of their brain. Except in the Putamen. Where they were even more female than cis women.
Of course all the ranges were still overlapping.
Riley: In 2011, a study of 18 trans men found that some parts of the brain had different amounts of white matter for cis women and cis men, on average. They found that trans men tended to have white matter that was in between the average for cis men and cis women. Unfortunately, they didn’t list their ranges, so we can’t know if their ranges were overlapping, but given how common overlapping ranges seem to be in the sexual dimorphism of humans, I think it’s safe to assume that their ranges were overlapping as well.
The adolescent groups consisted of 21 control girls (M = 16.3, SD = 0.9), 20 control boys (M = 15.0, SD = 0.6), 21 girls with GD (M = 16.1, SD = 0.8), and 17 boys with GD (M = 15.3, SD = 1.2). The adolescent participants, diagnosed with GD, had been treated monthly with 3.75 mg of Triptorelin (Decapeptyl-CR®, Ferring, Hoofddorp, the Netherlands) by injection for on average 24 months (range 2-48 months), resulting in complete suppression of gonadal hormone production. Female adolescent controls were tested randomly according to their menstrual cycle and 11 out of 21 control girls reported using hormonal contraception.
So no, they weren’t on hormones but they were on blockers. Blockers pause puberty and you can find out a little more about them here. Short story being that in the Dutch method – the method that clinics in the UK and US now use and the one being used in this study, the idea is to wait for some natural puberty to happen as sometimes GD goes away. This is evidenced in the study as two boys with GD were discounted from the study as their GD went into “remission”. Spack and Carmichael of the US and UK respectively recommend tanner stage 2 is reached before prescribing treatment.
This implies that the adolescents in this study had typically female ranges despite having their own natural puberty to a small degree before blocking. This is the hardwiring and its being very clearly suggested to be true. Obviously not 100% conclusively, this test only included 17 trans girls and 21 trans boys, with 21 control girls and 20 control boys. And deals with human pheremone science which isn’t really a great field filled with conclusive evidence for anything.