Thursday, March 15, 2018

Reality Is Kinder

Have you ever known anyone with anorexia? I’ve known a couple. Their brain is telling them that they are fat, that they must do something to lose weight, when in reality they are dangerously thin. They starve themselves, affecting their health, possibly causing permanent damage, and risking their life if left untreated. It is treatable, but not easily.

Would you go to such a person and support them in their delusion about themselves? Would you say, “You’re right; those people who are telling you that you don’t know what you’re talking about are so unsupportive. You stay away from that food all you want”?

No. If you care about them, you do whatever it takes to bring them back to reality—because their life is at stake. You get them mental health care. You might get them to a hospital or live-in program that will intervene long enough to get their brains to develop new neural pathways.

So, can we agree that, when a person has a mental disorder that causes them to be unable to perceive or accept reality—if that delusion is life-threatening, it would be better to offer treatment than to attempt to change the world to buy in to their false view?

If we compare this anorexia example to gender dysphoria, leading to transgenderism, we need to know two things:

·         Is the person with gender dysphoria unable to accept reality?
·         Is going along with the delusion (if that is what it is) life threatening?
If the answer is yes to both, then the treatment for gender dysphoria ought to be similar in process to treating anorexia or other mental delusions. I’m not saying the treatment is the same, or even that I know how to treat mental delusions. I am saying that treating for the delusion is a more humane approach than supporting the delusion.
image from here

I’m not the first to make this comparison. The CanaVox video blog uses this as a way to discuss transgenderism in an age appropriate way when it comes up with children. And, because of media, and activists within academia, these issues are coming up for children at younger ages than we wish. I'm unable to provide the video here, but this link will take you to the 5-minute video on Vimeo.

Let’s start with definitions. Back when my dictionary was written (which I use in order to recall what certain words meant before recent definition changes), gender referred mainly to the classification of nouns and pronouns in languages that use those distinctions. In Spanish, for example, you can’t communicate without knowing the gender of the nouns and modifiers you’re using. In English, gender is mainly confined to pronouns that are referring to the sex of a person or animal: he, she. But, colloquially, gender can also be a synonym for sex; i.e., male or female.

The invention of gender as something separate from sex, something outside of biology, is newly invented.

So, back to the two questions. There’s the scientific, biological answer. And then there’s the non-scientific, or philosophical (personal belief) answer.

The non-scientific newly invented definition insists that gender is fluid, and a matter of choice, and refers mainly to expression to the world. That’s pretty vague. But it essentially means putting on the trappings—clothing, hair, makeup, mannerisms—of the gender of choice. And this has been extended to include more elaborate expressions, by hormonal and/or surgical interventions that make the transgendered person appear more like the opposite of their biological sex.

The scientific answer is that the gender, or the sex, of a biological creature is determined by what part is played in the reproductive process of the organism.

Ryan T. Anderson, author of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment, explains it this way:
available here

Sex is a bodily reality that can be recognized well before birth with ultrasound imaging. The sex of an organism is defined and identified by the way in which it (he or she) is organized for sexual reproduction.
This is just one manifestation of the fact that natural organization is “the defining feature of an organism,” as neuroscientist Maureen Condic and her philosopher brother Samuel Condic explain. In organisms, “the various parts… are organized to cooperatively interact for the welfare of the entity as a whole. Organisms can exist at various levels, from microscopic single cells to sperm whales weighing many tons, yet they are all characterized by the integrated function of parts for the sake of the whole.”
Male and female organisms have different parts that are functionally integrated for the sake of their whole, and for the sake of a larger whole—their sexual union and reproduction. So an organism’s sex—as male or female—is identified by its organization for sexually reproductive acts. Sex as a status—male or female—is a recognition of the organization of a body that can engage in sex as an act.
That organization isn’t just the best way to figure out which sex you are; it’s the only way to make sense of the concepts of male and female at all.
There is no alternative scientific definition of sex. Maleness and femaleness are biological realities in particular organisms.

As Anderson says, this shouldn’t be controversial. In social “science,” however, the non-biological approach has gained traction. That should not be construed in any way to actual science overriding what we know of biology. Anderson quotes Dr. Lawrence Mayer:

I have searched dozens of references in biology, medicine and genetics—even Wiki!—and can find no alternative scientific definition. In fact the only references to a more fluid definition of biological sex are in the social policy literature.
Dr. Mayer says further:

Scientifically speaking, transgender men are not biological men and transgender women are not biological women. The claims to the contrary are not supported by a scintilla of scientific evidence.
So, the answer to the first question, about reality, is that gender dysphoria is a condition in which the person is unable or unwilling to accept reality. It is not possible to change from male to female, or from female to male. It is only possible to do elaborate play-acting.

There are plenty of delusions in which otherwise sane people might be unable to accept reality, and yet the delusional can go along with their lives functioning well enough anyway. So the second question is also important. Is it harmful?

“Transitioning” does not bring psychsocial outcomes of wholeness. This proves true even in countries that are considered “trans-friendly.” That is, they accept what many societies would consider weird, and take it in stride without social isolation or stigma.

Long-term follow-up studies are rare and inconclusive. But Anderson suggests the best one comes from Sweden. There, it was found,

Ten to fifteen years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to twenty times that of comparable peers.
An argument for having transitioning treatment (hormonal and surgical) has been that it would solve the dysphoria, assuming the dysphoria was caused simply by a mismatch between brain and body. So it was assumed the depression and suicide among those with gender dysphoria would be drastically reduced. Instead, the underlying problem causing the dysphoria is untreated, leading to even greater hopelessness, and 20-fold more suicides.

It is difficult to know if that number is accurate. It may be higher. One of the difficulties with long-term studies is that the few attempted studies have lost track of more than half of participants. One likely reason for being unable to re-locate a participant is suicide.

If that weren’t tragic enough, according to Anderson, “death due to neoplasm and cardiovascular disease was increased 2 to 2.5 times as well.”

So the answer to the second question is, yes, going along with this delusion can be life threatening.
Therefore, treatment to bring the person into touch with reality is much kinder and more healthful than joining activists to change the world and insisting it is wrong to even question the “right” and “rightness” of playing along.

I am now acquainted with a transgender person, which I wasn’t aware of a week ago. I have seen several, of course. But not among people I know. This is not someone I know well. But I have known his wife since she was born, and was there for their wedding.

He has decided to become a woman, and is already undergoing hormonal therapy. He has not, prior to this, been cross-dressing. It used to be a requirement, or at least a recommendation, before transitioning “treatment,” to live as the opposite sex for a full year. Now it appears that, at the first sign of gender dysphoria, a therapist encourages transitioning—permanent changes, as yet untried, just to see whether it helps. Because a delusional person who is denying biological fact should be treated as sensible and capable of making such important decisions?

So, I am sad for the people I know who care about this young couple. So far the couple is childless, and cannot going forward ever engage in sex that results in offspring. They froze some sperm, just in case—because they’re not actually unaware of biological reality. But they stopped going to church and completely altered their lifestyle at the moment of beginning the hormonal treatments. So their support system is compromised as well. The wife is staying with him for now. But she is not a lesbian; she is not attracted to women. But staying with him forces that pretense upon her.

Also, I’m just saying, as a woman, we’re aware of body image, more so than your typical male. What are the odds that a 6”2” “woman,” who is a slightly doughy and hairy male to begin with, will be without body image issues simply by “changing” into a female?

My disapproval will matter not at all to these people; we are not close enough for me to have that influence. But I am sad that people who should have been able to offer actual help—particularly the psychiatric/medical community—offered instead something that is likely to lead to suicide, misery, and the loss of parenting opportunities and anything we might have meant when we wished this couple happiness in their marriage. I see nothing but tragedy in their situation—chosen, avoidable tragedy.

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