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can somebody please explain "trans" to me??

(33 Posts)
TheoriginalLEM Sat 03-Sep-16 12:32:28

I am so confused.

My understanding is that a "trans" person refers to someone who identifies themselves as the opposite sex to their genetalia and ir chromosomes/genetics.

Then you have folk who have sex changes

Then transvestites who are men who dress as women but want to remain male?

There seems to be a furore about the whole thing.

pronouns and now what we call our genitals??

can someone simplify this for me?

gender is complex i know. its principally genetic . XY=male then XX = female but then some genetic confitions affect genital development resulting in prople appearing physically different from their genetic gender.

If i meet domeone who introduces themselves as a woman/man then thats all i need to know.

Why is it such a "thing" and why is trans associated closely with the homosexual community?

really REALLY don't want to offend anyone just perplexed.

IBelieveTheEarthIsFlat Sat 03-Sep-16 12:40:33

I think This article sums up the issues quite well

Felascloak Sat 03-Sep-16 15:01:46

LEM the categories you've described are now all part of the "transgender" umbrella. And so a trans woman can denote a woman who's had years of hormone treatment and sex reassignment surgery. Or it can be someone who is a male in appearance, hasn't made any steps to alter their physiology to be more like a female (hormones or surgery) but feels that they are a woman.
The furore is about the impact this may have on females. For example, the Olympic committee are suggesting a testosterone level of under 10 and "feels like a woman" would enable a transgender woman to compete against females. The female range is something like 0.5 to 3 and even women with elevated testosterone are usually under 5. It's suspected testosterone provides a sporting advantage (hence why lots of testosterone doping went on in the past). Males also have physical differences in their pelvises, lungs and circulatory system that improve their sporting performance. So many people feel it's unfair to female competitors to compete against trans women. Some people also worry it will lead to the exclusion of females from competitive sport as they won't be able to compete with the trans competitors at the highest levels. Some of this is already being debated as the women's 800m at Rio had medallists who are known or suspected of being intersex with elevated testosterone.

There is also the concept of the cotton ceiling. Some trans women argue that because gender is more important in defining them as men or women than biology, that their penises are female and that lesbians who won't have sex because they have a penis are transphobic. Lesbians who say they don't want to have sex wuth a penis are being redefined as "vagina fetishists". Many people believe this to be hostile to lesbians and bordering on rape. Although it sounds like scare mongering and an extreme position, it is in fact the logical end point of saying a woman is defined by a feeling rather than by biology.

Recent events here were sparked by a transwoman called Ada Wells who said police officers should be murdered. Afa says lesbians who wont have sex with a penis are transphobic. They (preferred pronouns) called a female student who disagreed with them cuntscum. Some people feel that it's difficult to accept a person who can refer to females as "cuntscum" as a woman. Ada was elected LG BT officer at Edinburgh uni and so was supposed to represent lesbians alongside trans people.

devilinmyshoes Sat 03-Sep-16 15:19:34

"a study of endocrine profiles in 693 elite athletes published in 2014 found that, while 13.7% of women athletes had high levels of testosterone, 16.5% of men had low levels of testosterone levels. The authors noted that there is "complete overlap between the sexes", concluding, "The IOC definition of a woman as one who has a ‘normal’ testosterone level is untenable."" from the Wikipedia entry for hyperandrogenism (which is what Caster Semenya has, I think that's the athlete you're referring to)

devilinmyshoes Sat 03-Sep-16 15:27:55

OP Sexing the Body (Anne Fausto-Sterling) is a really interesting read about these things and what we can do for intersex children - I think the author says 1 in 100 live births are intersex

Felascloak Sat 03-Sep-16 16:05:07

I can't find that whole study devil so I don't know what complete overlap means. Yes I was referring to Semenya. She is probably intersex (definitely not trans) but when testosterone was limited to a lower level her performance was far worse than now the limit is raised to 10. Suggesting that higher levels potentially confer an advantage and therefore trans women are likely to have an advantage as they could be at the top of the range.

Felascloak Sat 03-Sep-16 16:07:22

Should just clarify that intersex is a group of medical conditions where there are hormonal or chromosomal disorders. There is no robust evidence that transgender ism is in any way linked to intersex conditions.

CoteDAzur Sat 03-Sep-16 16:13:11

" It's suspected testosterone provides a sporting advantage"

Not "suspected" but absolutely certain that high levels of testosterone provide a significant advantage in sports - in endurance, strength, and recovery.

devilinmyshoes Sat 03-Sep-16 16:39:18

I think it means the levels were more alike than different between women and men so it wasn't a useful way of determining male/female.

I don't really know what transgenderism is but I did enjoy that book some years ago when it first appeared, until then I had no idea how difficult it is to decide what makes someone male or female or even if it's desirable to do so.

CoteDAzur Sat 03-Sep-16 16:43:30

"levels were more alike than different between women and men so it wasn't a useful way of determining male/female."

There is already a perfectly good way of determining who is male and who is female. Reinventing it is not at all necessary, except if one is desperate to include some males within the female group.

devilinmyshoes Sat 03-Sep-16 16:47:14

Is there? For the purposes of who competes in which sports? it doesn't seem like it otherwise people like Caster Semenya and others before her wouldn't have been humiliated.

Felascloak Sat 03-Sep-16 17:20:41

devil well given the percentages of high/low quoted I think it means the top end of normal for women overlaps with the bottom level of normal for men. Which is why I want to see the whole study as the overlap statement makes no sense yet is very important when considering the potential impact of testosterone on performance. Anyway I'm derailing LEMS thread so I'm not posting more about the finer points of sports performance. Enough to say that including transgender women in female sporting events solely on the basis of testosterone levels is a concern to some.

TheoriginalLEM Sat 03-Sep-16 19:46:23

Thank you for the replies.All really interesting.

Especially the clarification that intersex isn't trans because i mistakenly thought this to be the case.

I guess thats where the sports thing becomes quite complex - i can't see a"fair" answer in the case of intersex in sports it isnt like a decision has been made by the individual so should they be excluded?

The cuntscum and vagina fetshist descriptions are vile!

MatildaOfTuscany Sat 03-Sep-16 20:13:39

Devil, I'm afraid you're talking nonsense about testosterone levels. They do not overlap. This article, an interview with Joanna Harper (who is trans herself, but that's by the by, she describes herself as a scientist first, athlete second and trans third, and she is one of the scientists who advises the IOC) is very informative.

Basically, testosterone levels for several thousand female Olympic athletes were used as a baseline to determine the range of levels - including women with PCOS who have elevated testosterone. They were found to lie between 0.5 and 3.0 nM/l. They then added 3 standard deviations "for luck" if you want to put it that way, not to the mean (which would have taken you to the 1 in a 1000 level in the population, but to that upper limit. So more like 5 standard deviations from the mean - that's the level they use in particle physics to establish the existence of new particles, it's incredibly rare - that gave them an upper limit of 10nM/l. The normal male range is between 10 and 30. So no, the populations really do not overlap, not on any sane understanding of "overlap". It's simply not true to assert that.

(Incidentally, I would also take the 1 in 100 figure with more than a pinch of salt - transactivists have started including genetically male individuals with hypospadias - i.e a mild birth defect of the penis, and genetically female individuals with PCOS, in the way they count "intersex" to give an entirely spurious impression that the condition is more common than it actually is.)

MatildaOfTuscany Sat 03-Sep-16 20:16:58

Incidentally 5 sigma is the 1 in 3 and a half million level, if you want numbers!

devilinmyshoes Sat 03-Sep-16 20:19:14

I was just quoting something from the Wikipedia entry on hyperandrogenism there, I wonder what they meant by overlapping then.

MatildaOfTuscany Sat 03-Sep-16 20:25:18

Therein lies the problem with wikipedia, and its effectively "crowd sourced" approach to knowledge - it's okay for things that are "politically neutral", but anything that is politicised, basically activists get in there and edit things to their own advantage. It's not a good source for anything to do with trans issues, sadly sad.

devilinmyshoes Sat 03-Sep-16 20:27:12

Is hyperandrogenism a trans issue?

Felascloak Sat 03-Sep-16 20:32:47

matilda to be fair to devil the study itself isn't clear. Here's the abstract, I can't get to the full text to figure out what the "complete overlap" actually means .

^Hormone profiles showed significant differences in 19 of the 24 measured variables between sexes and between all of the 15 sporting disciplines in men and 11 out of 24 in women. 16.5% of men had low testosterone levels, whereas 13.7% of women had high levels with complete overlap between the sexes. Women had a lean body mass 85% that of men - sufficient to account for sex differences in performance. There were highly significant correlations between many of the measured hormones.
Hormone profiles from elite athletes differ from usual reference ranges. Individual results are dependent on a number of factors including age, gender and physique. Differences in profiles between sports suggest that an individual's profile may contribute to his/her proficiency in a particular sport. The IOC definition of a woman as one who has a 'normal' testosterone level is untenable.^

Endocrine profiles in 693 elite athletes in the postcompetition setting.
Healy ML1, Gibney J, Pentecost C, Wheeler MJ, Sonksen PH.

devilinmyshoes Sat 03-Sep-16 20:35:41

I'm happy to be told when I'm talking nonsense!

MatildaOfTuscany Sat 03-Sep-16 20:37:30

As I understand it, the reason transactivists want to coopt hyperandrogism into their cause is because they think that by casting doubt on the idea that there is a clear cut distinction between male and female in the biological sense, this means that they can argue that an internal sense of gender identity is more important than biology when it comes to talking about what makes for a man or a woman. Which is why it's in their interests to "inflate" the numbers.

(Incidentally on some definitions of "intersex", phenotype matters as well as genotype, and you could, I suppose, include "hypospadias" in this - but men with hypospadias are capable of having sex and fathering children, so it's a bit of a stretch I think.)

Incidentally, hyperandrogism in intersex individuals is very interesting -in individuals brought up as women it can be coupled to complete androgen insensitivity, in which case the person has high testosterone levels but lacks any receptors, so the testosterone has no effect on musculature or performance, or it can be coupled to partial androgen insensitivity, in which case the individual may have higher-than-normal testosterone for a woman, and more developed musculature (it is speculated in the press that the Indian sprinter Duttee Chand suffers from complete androgen insensivity, whereas Caster Semenya suffers from partial androgen insensitivity).

IfTheCapFitsWearIt Sat 03-Sep-16 20:40:14

Also tranwomen did compete in the 2016 Olympics.

One of the other issues of the trans movement at the moment, is the transitioning of teens, plus children of 4 or 5 being told they are in the wrong body.

MatildaOfTuscany Sat 03-Sep-16 20:46:26

Cross-post with Felas - that's very interesting. Looks like there's a bit of disagreement in the field about this, though: It seems (I am a physical scientist, not a biologist) to centre round resting levels of testosterone versus levels immediately after exercise (which are elevated in both men and women).

devilinmyshoes Sat 03-Sep-16 20:57:11

I'm stuck some time back in the past when feminism was supposed to eschew the notion of binary discrete biological sexes and I certainly can't get behind any kind of feminism that doesn't embody trans activism. But it's still very interesting thread so thanks Op.

MatildaOfTuscany Sat 03-Sep-16 21:03:41

Has feminism ever eschewed the notion of binary sexes? Eschewed the notion of binary gender roles (not identities), in the sense of arguing that all of us are individual people in our own right, full human beings with a range of interests and abilities, not constrained by our chromosomes to be good at nurturing and bad at parking cars (or whatever set of gender stereotypes you pick).

Biological sex does not determine interests, or personhood, or moral or political worth - that certainly is a central tenet of feminism. But you can't render biological sex invisible - we have children, and pregnancy makes us vulnerable, we are smaller and less muscular, which makes us vulnerable, and it is this vulnerability which forms the background to our oppression. If we were all hermaphrodites who reproduced by, say, spraying gametes on the ground, then taking fair turns to look after the resulting frog spawn or whatever happened in this sci fi world, there would be no sexism.

Feminism argues that gender stereotypes and gender roles - the social expectations that are tacked onto biology by culture - are oppressive. But very few feminists I know deny biology!

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