Mayer and McHugh Part II

| Sep 12, 2016
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[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]

Part 2: The End of Gender

By Dana J. Bevan, Ph.D.

The objective of the first part of the Mayer and McHugh article is to put an end to gender as we know it. They propose to replace gender and call it “sex-typical traits and behaviors,” in effect, sexualizing gender. They attempt to do this by tearing down accepted definitions of gender, by refuting strawman arguments, and by ignoring most of the scientific evidence. I define a strawman argument as one that consists of an exaggerated statement that is made for the sole purpose of easily knocking it down. The authors are clearly ignorant (or are pretend to be ignorant) of most of the scientific evidence, particularly in the biological and social anthropology fields.

In my last blog I critiqued the overall conclusions of the article. In this post we will start with the first part of the contents.

You may want to follow along with the article as I give you my comments. I know this discussion may be tedious but the contents of the article are likely to appear soon in some court case near you, concerning your transgender rights.

The article starts out by defining sex and gender according to the American Psychological Association definition. Sex has to do with biology, gender with behavior. All well and good.

They then proceed to trash these definitions by ignoring the scientific evidence and referring to a strawman in the feminist literature that defines gender as culturally defined. The feminist argument is easily overcome because it does not involve scientific evidence. The better evidence for cultural creation of gender comes from the scientific social anthropology literature that indicates that gender systems vary from culture to culture and evolve over time. In previous posts I have summarized this literature across the world from the historical Native American tribes to the existing cultures that have 3-5 gender behavior categories and are neither cisgender, binary nor inflexible in movement between categories. Because I have a military background, my favorite is the Chukchi of Siberia who have successfully defended their 3-category system against both the Russians and the Soviets in winter warfare.

The authors of this article do not cite this body of social anthropological evidence, I believe, because it might conflict with their arguments that a sex-based, binary, inflexible system, like our Western system is more “natural.” In previous posts I reviewed the scientific literature on various theories of gender evolution. The authors clearly subscribe to the “sex-based traditional” theory but the “kinship theory” has more supporting evidence. The former assumes that evolution is driven by sex division of labor, with female gender evolving based on biological female roles in reproduction and child care and the male gender evolved based on their strength and hunting ability. The kinship theory says that groups of humans evolved with diverse genders and specializations because it was the survival of the group that had the most evolutionary significance. The evidence from anthropological studies indicates that both males and females engaged in work for the benefit of the group in hunter-gatherer societies. Most of the groups in this category are near the subsistence level and could afford the luxury of overspecializing that a sex-based gender system would create. Essentially, they all had to pitch in to help with group tasks, including hunting, gathering and childcare.

Then the authors set up another strawman argument by saying that the following statement is absurd:

“If gender is entirely detached from the binary of biological sex, gender could come to refer to any distinctions in behavior, biological attributes, or psychological traits, and each person could have a gender defined by the unique combination of characteristics the person possesses.”

This is a strawman argument, because no one that I know argues that gender is totally independent from sex. Some of the stimuli that accompany gender behavior also signal the possibility of sexual behavior. By setting up gender behavior categories, culture automatically creates the likelihood that gender behaviors will provoke sexual arousal because of prior learning and because the stimuli become novel. It is no accident that clothing fashions change frequently to create novelty. In previous posts I reviewed how sexual arousal is learned and that novelty tends to trigger it. The rest of the statement seems fine to me and not absurd at all, given the current trends toward genderqueer and gender fluid that are backed up by evidence that the authors omit.

The alternative that the authors offer is to reject the notion of culturally constructed gender and to replace the term gender behavior and substitute “sex-typical traits and behaviors.” This is clearly meant to muddy the waters and to support the Western sex-based gender system as “natural’ although it is cisgender, binary and inflexible.

In support of this change, they offer no scientific evidence but instead offer another strawman argument:

But this would imply that a boy who plays with dolls, hates guns, and refrains from sports or rough-and-tumble play might be considered to be a girl, rather than simply a boy who represents an exception to the typical patterns of male behavior.

These behaviors mentioned in this quote are not patterns of behavior that are exclusive to males or female children and the absence of them does not indicate that such people are atypical male or female children. Notice that they already refer to boys as the same as a male child and a girl as a female child. Gender has vanished! A boy no longer belongs to a masculine gender and a girl no longer belongs to a feminine gender.

The behaviors in the above quote are typical patterns of gender behavior under the influence of Western culture. Recent science has shown that males want to play with dolls until their parents or other people discourage them. Their parents indicate to them that this violates the gender behavior category to which they have been assigned, although usually it is expressed as “boys/girls don’t do that.” Attitudes toward guns are clearly set by culture, in that, some cultures severely ban guns while others encourage gun ownership and gunplay. Rough-and-tumble play is not unique to males, many female children engage in it until they stop being “tom-boys” under pressure to conform to cultural rules. The authors cannot see through the strong influences of the Western gender culture. They are either blind to these influences or choose not to acknowledge them.

Rather than cite human scientific studies about these and other behaviors, the authors cite the popular example (seen in TV documentaries and animated movies) that male Emperor penguins provide maternal care for their eggs and therefore might be considered feminine because of their behavior. But Emperor penguin maternal behavior is not human gender behavior. We have a much more human-made sophisticated gender system to guide behavior. Maternal behavior is provided by males in many species, particularly if no female is present. For example, in the absence of the mother rat, males will attempt to hover over and keep the litter warm and move it to safety. They cannot nurse the litter, of course without the right mix of hormones. They also will perform arbitrary behaviors, bar-pressing in a Skinner box, to obtain a rat pup to take care of, just as they might press a bar to get food reinforcement.

The authors then set up strawmen semantic arguments in an effort to prove their case that gender is no longer needed and sex-typical traits and behaviors should take their place. One has to do with the old debate of whether a male or female retains their sex classification if they lose a sex organ or lose its functionality. These are irrelevant philosophical and semantic questions that they can be easily knocked down in order to seemingly support their position. Their argument, in essence is that sex can be determined after, say, a hysterectomy in a natal female by the pattern of the remaining sex organs. A more interesting but similarly irrelevant question is how many sex organs must be modified in order for a person to be considered to have changed sex. Does the caterpillar cease to exist when it emerges as a butterfly?

The authors then turn to John Money and quite rightly state that he was the one to start using gender to refer to behavior. He did this simply because he was dealing with intersex children whose sex could not be determined. The parents of these children were opting for changing external genitalia to female through genital plastic surgery and raising them in the feminine gender. He theorized that gender was independent from sex and could be learned through proper upbringing. In these natural experiments, the genitals are either damaged by circumcision are formed in an unrecognizable way. Of course his “natural experiments” and others disproved his own theory because gender assignments to the feminine gender category were ultimately resisted by what were thought to be males. The science is still not conclusive on this point because there only exist a few cases (glad of that). Those that do adapt to a new gender behavior category might have had the genetic gender predisposition that was congruent with the feminine gender. In essence, by chance, some of these poor males who conformed to a feminine gender behavior category might have been transgender. Until we have better genetic information we will never know.

Hidden in the discussion of Money’s work are several of the authors’ assumptions and opinions. They just slip them into the narrative without providing any scientific evidence or definition. As above, the authors are now using boy and girl to mean male and female:

No degree of supporting a little boy in converting to be considered, by himself and others, to be a little girl makes him biologically a little girl.

The authors quote McHugh in order to translate gender into their “sex-typical traits and behaviors” terminology:

We in the Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Department eventually concluded that human sexual identity is mostly built into our constitution by the genes we inherit and the embryogenesis we undergo. Male hormones sexualize the brain and the mind. Sexual dysphoria — a sense of disquiet in one’s sexual role — naturally occurs amongst those rare males who are raised as females in an effort to correct an infantile genital structural problem.

The authors do not attempt to define sexual identity nor to provide evidence that this concept has scientific validity.

And I am not going to let that second sentence go either. As I have discussed many times in this blog, there is no evidence that testosterone is involved in organizing the brain with regard to gender. Testosterone may have a role, along with genetics in establishing mechanisms to connect the brain with sexual organs through neural or hormonal connections. But it only has an effect where it can be converted into estradiol. (Yes, Virginia, male patterns in the brain are formed by estradiol. Only a quarter of my Georgia Tech students ever got this right.)

The word sexualization is not a biological term. It means that an object comes to have sexual meaning or significance. In this they show their ignorance of the science and etymology. (In the second sentence of this article, I used this word correctly.) There are structural differences in the brains of males and females and these differences are correctly termed sexual dimorphisms in biology.

Next, there is no scientific evidence that hormones establish different “minds” in the brain. There is disputed evidence that males and females differ in terms of intellectual capabilities (if that is what they mean by mind) but no evidence exists in that debate that shows that hormones are involved in specialization of these intellectual capabilities. And now in the third sentence of this quote we have a new term, “sexual dysphoria” which presumably is a substitute for “gender dysphoria.”

So in that quote, the authors now have eliminated the concept of gender altogether, replacing it with sexualized behavior terms.

We are not done yet; you may look forward to a Part III of this serial blog in the future wherein we consider the authors’ attacks on being transgender.

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul, Transgender Politics


About the Author ()

Dana Jennett Bevan holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and a Bachelors degree from Dartmouth College both in experimental psychology. She is the author of The Transsexual Scientist which combines biology with autobiography as she came to learn about transgenderism throughout her life. Her second book The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism is a comprehensive analysis of TSTG research and was published in 2014 by Praeger under the pen name Thomas E. Bevan. Her third book Being Transgender was released by Praeger in November 2016. She can be reached at [email protected]

Comments (1)

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  1. says:

    “…because no one that I know argues that gender is totally independent from sex.”

    Hmmm, I seem to recall that not too ago, Angela made the statement that sex and gender are two completely different things.

    Without the ability to search the site, I can’t verify that and I’ll certainly apologize if I’m wrong.

    The reason that statement jumped out at me is the reality is that 99.7 to 99.1 percent of Americans have no essential conflict between their minds and their bodies, ie they are not transsexual.

    That cannot be a coincidence.

    Nor can the universality of male dominance in all the major cultures in human history. Whether testosterone changes the physiology of the brain (to make male brains), it absolutely changes the physiology of the body, which is why males in general are bigger, stronger, and more aggressive.

    Which would historically explain why hunting and fighting, either defensively or aggressively, fell to males. Not to mention the fact that males are expendable; females are infinitely more valuable to the survival of the tribe (and species, for that matter).

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