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WHO on gender and genetics

(50 Posts)
Shedbuilder Mon 04-May-20 10:22:28

Advice please. I have a young, woke female doctor in my social circle and she lives with someone who's declared themselves non-binary. My contact is struggling to be both a feminist and maintain a woke transgender-is-based-in-biology stance. Time after time they've raised things that they say prove that transgender is a 'thing' and I'm just a horrid bigot and time after time I've politely refuted with rational feminist argument.

Their latest response is to quote the WHO and its Genetic Components of Sex and Gender material, which mentions common genetic mutations. They say this must be the root of transgenderism and proves that gender dysphoria is based in biology. The WHO goes on to say at the end of that section that gender is a social construct and adds that some societies allow for more than two genders — so the WHO is effectively linking genetic mutation and transgender.

I've replied asking what evidence they or the WHO can offer to show that those with only one X or Y chromosome or whatever are more likely to identify as transgender than people with a standard XX/ XY genome — and they've come back asking me to show evidence that transgenderism isn't genetically based. I seem to remember someone at some point mentioning that genetic tests had been carried out on young people presenting at the Tavistock and none had chromosomal abnormalities. Was I dreaming/ did I make that up?

Any other arguments I can use to put a stop to this? I'm being sucked down their wormhole.

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RumbaswithPumbaas Mon 04-May-20 10:48:32

I would argue that to assert some science based(?) theory, it is for them to prove their assertation with published peer reviewed studies, not for you to find a study to ‘prove’ the status quo position. This person is a doctor so should have access to journals etc?

If there is actually a dearth of evidence (or sources are dodgy like the doctor that experimented on David Reimer) then I think you’re quite entitled to say that they are entitled to ‘believe’ what they like but they can’t claim a genetic basis that doesn’t (yet?) exist, and you are prepared to stand corrected/change your viewpoint when such evidence is produced.

People believe in homeopathy and if it does no harm then fair enough, but if, for example, my child was ill, I would not be pushing for a homeopathic treatment over a conventional one unless someone can firmly evidence the benefit. I think the same applies to transgenderism. People can believe what they like about themselves, but where it affects legal policy, safeguarding or medicalisation of children, you need more than hearsay, biased studies and pseudoscience.

Otherwise calmly agree to disagree for now? If this is a valued friend then is it worth it?

OhHolyJesus Mon 04-May-20 11:04:57

Sorry this is glib but I'd reply "you first smile"

And she will go quiet.

Buys you time at least wink

Shedbuilder Mon 04-May-20 11:28:38

Thanks for the suggestions but I'm pretty sure they''ll take a 'you first' comment as me giving in/ unable to argue any further. Or they'll cite studies like those in the article below.

I felt sure I'd read somewhere that GIDS had carried out genetic testing on some young people (perhaps where there was a concern about them being intersex) and not a single one had shown any genetic anomalies. But perhaps I was dreaming it. I've googled and can't find it. Instead I'm finding a disturbing number of articles that back up the genetic theory:

for example. Scientists seem to be looking for minute variations that could 'explain' transgender — though of course they all talk in terms of gender dysphoria and autogynephilia is never mentioned.

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OldCrone Mon 04-May-20 11:46:24

I've replied asking what evidence they or the WHO can offer to show that those with only one X or Y chromosome or whatever are more likely to identify as transgender than people with a standard XX/ XY genome — and they've come back asking me to show evidence that transgenderism isn't genetically based

I was going to suggest that you just ask questions, but I see you've been doing that and she hasn't given an answer. It's up to the person making the claim to prove that it's true, it's not up to you to prove that it's not.

But on this particular point, surely the fact that most late transitioning males are fathers is proof that they are genetically typical males.

redsplodge Mon 04-May-20 12:08:27

I can't help with whether GIDS/Tavistock genetically tested patients, but it's always struck me that even if a clear genetic cause was found for being transgender, that's all it would be - a genetic explanation for why an individual is transgender. It doesn't prove that they are a different sex to the one their chromosomal set up (or every other biological marker of sex) indicates.

Shedbuilder Mon 04-May-20 12:15:52

The article in The Conversation (link above) is written by a Melbourne professor of genetics. What she appears to be saying is that while a person's X and Y chromosomes may be typical there may be minute variations in the DNA that may explain why some people feel they are born the wrong sex.

I'm beginning to swirl down the plughole here because surely we all have different DNA (that's what allowed gene profiling) and ultimately I suppose one could argue that we are all unique and have unique identities. I'm not a scientist, so I don't know what to make of a lot of it.

Are scientists like her, and the doctor I'm arguing with, saying that although someone has a man's body and is socialised as a man and looks like a man and produces sperm and has fathered children and won Olympic medals for male sport, one tiny difference somewhere in his DNA actually means he's a woman — or can claim with justification his right to identify as a woman?

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TalkingtoLangClegintheDark Mon 04-May-20 12:16:23

Normal reproductive function is a bit of a clue, isn’t it? All those late transitioning males who’ve fathered children, the NB females who menstruate, the trans females who give birth with no problem... would suggest they’re straightforward XY or XX to me.

But you’ll never win with people like this. There’s a reason for their denial of reality and it’s based in emotional logic, not rational logic. Their need for denial is greater than their interest in truth/reality. Good luck anyway... would be thrilled if you actually did manage to get through to them!

(Out of interest - is the NB partner male or female?)

PermanentTemporary Mon 04-May-20 12:19:45

I went searching ('tavistock karyotype') and there was research by the Tavi team producing papers including Goedhart 2015 and Carmichael et al 2015. The first concludes karyotyping is not indicated as vast majority typical karyotype for their sex. The second is in fact about how terrifically safe early medical intervention in GD youth is, but notes that all children referred to their endocrinology dept had typical karyotype for their sex.

I didn't dig further down the results. But I agree with Redsplodge. It doesn't really matter. I think the vast over representation of children with autism at GIDS is much more interesting. I wonder why they think that is the case?

STILLT Mon 04-May-20 12:24:01

U.K. Gender clinics abandoned Karyotype tests because they are not a feature of their referrals. This is the article. There’s a desperation to find biological explanations. Chromosomal abnormalities are not the answer.

jellyfrizz Mon 04-May-20 12:30:00

Not sure if this is the same as referenced above.

jellyfrizz Mon 04-May-20 12:31:13

From the above link:

Conclusion: Routine molecular karyotyping failed to detect any occult DSD and indicated that the rate of CNVs was similar to that of the general population. Given these findings, we suggest that molecular karyotyping has minimal clinical utility in the routine management of children and adolescents with GD.

Shedbuilder Mon 04-May-20 12:33:41

PermanentTemporary, thank you — that sounds as if it was what I was remembering. Even after looking up karyotype in the dictionary I'm not sure what it means. Does it mean someone's chromosomal identity? So a look at their chromosomes indicates that they are typical for their sex?

Thanks for the reassurance that I'm not going to win with these two. I don't want to lose, though. They were a lesbian couple but now one of them is non-binary I'm not sure how they would like to be described.

Is there any evidence that autism has a genetic component, I wonder? I've raised the issue of all the young women with autism presenting at GIDS before now and they seemed to accept it.

OP’s posts: |
Shedbuilder Mon 04-May-20 12:36:52

Thank you, Jellyfrizz et al: a short, sharp response I can copy and paste.

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RoyalCorgi Mon 04-May-20 13:09:21

they've come back asking me to show evidence that transgenderism isn't genetically based.

The onus is on them to provide the proof that it is. They're the ones making the assertion, so they have to back it up.

PermanentTemporary Mon 04-May-20 13:14:30

I am personally certain that autism has a mostly genetic basis. I can even believe that there are some forms of being trans that have some kind of biological trigger. I think there are a lot if different groups who end up expressing as 'trans'. For example, children who are gay who grow up in a fundamentalist religious or just homophobic family.

Perhaps a more fruitful way forward is to ask more about the process by which your colleague came to understand herself as non binary. Not to point and laugh but it's such a new thing# I'd like to understand the cultural shift that has led to people describing themselves that way

PermanentTemporary Mon 04-May-20 13:15:10

(But: sex doesn't change).

OhHolyJesus Mon 04-May-20 13:17:44

This will inevitably get into DSD conditions as this is always the argument applied to transgenderism/gender ideology and it such nonsense, it's always about seahorses or clownfish and it never ceases to amaze how this argument is applied to humans.

I'm so speciesphobic!

Good luck OP, don't just end up supplying loads of evidence to support your argument without them defending their own. TRAs usually just dismiss what you offer as 'disproven or debunked' data or evidence and never provide anything themselves. So tedious.

Ereshkigalangcleg Mon 04-May-20 13:20:57

they've come back asking me to show evidence that transgenderism isn't genetically based.

This isn't a very scientific way of engaging. Transgenderism is as much of an unfalsifiable ideology based proposition as the existence of God.

Ereshkigalangcleg Mon 04-May-20 13:23:07

The onus is on them to provide the proof that it is. They're the ones making the assertion, so they have to back it up.

Exactly. "Prove my reincarnated cat didn't invent transgenderism." Bet you can't.

TyroSaysMeow Mon 04-May-20 13:27:18

Genetic Components of Sex and Gender

Sex is the genetic component of gender, ffs.

A gender identity is a sex role steteotype. Saying they're genetic is sexist bioessentialism.

testing987654321 Mon 04-May-20 13:55:44

The best point I have seen so far on this thread, is that even if there is a genetic reason for someone thinking they are the opposite sex, it doesn't make it true and it isn't a reason for us acting as though they actually are the opposite sex. Sex is easily identified in the vast majority of cases. Why do they think thoughts override physical reality?

GoldenBlue Mon 04-May-20 13:57:06

There are indications that more people with autism identify as trans gender that compared to the general population. Physiatrist have suggested that people with autism tend to be very focussed and are also often conscious that they are 'different' than their peers. In some the focus falls on gender and they feel that if only they were a different gender then they may feel more 'normal'.

There are investigations to identify whether some autism has a genetic basis and indications are that there is a pattern of hereditary propensity towards autistic traits.

The correlation between the 2 may be used by some to demonstrate that being trans is generic when that isn't necessarily the case.

CuriousaboutSamphire Mon 04-May-20 14:11:55

And don't forget to ask them how COVID decides who is male and female....

Immune differences
A possibly related idea is that women may naturally have stronger immune defences. “There are substantial differences in the immune system between males and females and these have significant impact on outcome from a wide range of infectious diseases,” says immunologist Philip Goulder at the University of Oxford.

One key difference is that women have two X chromosomes per cell whereas men have one. “A number of critical immune genes are located on the X chromosome,” says Goulder, in particular the gene for a protein called TLR7, which detects single-stranded RNA viruses like the coronavirus. “As a result, this protein is expressed at twice the dose on many immune cells in females compared to males, and the immune response to coronavirus is therefore amplified in females,” he says.

While one X chromosome is usually inactivated in each female cell, the TLR7 gene somehow escapes this in some immune cells, meaning women produce more of the protein.

There is also some evidence that female sex hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone boost the immune system, but this hasn’t been specifically investigated in covid-19 yet.

Another possibility is that men are simply less hygienic. They are less likely to comply with basic sanitation measures such as hand washing, says Kunihiro Matsushita of Johns Hopkins University.

You cannot just decide to ignore your genetic make up!

If karyotypes don't cause GD and even a virus can tell the difference between male and female then there simply has to be a very obvious answer... one is genetic the other is a social construct, one with all the usual social pressures attached.

LetsSplashMummy Mon 04-May-20 14:46:21

You can say "you first," in a way that doesn't sound defeatist.

One characteristic of conditions that are genetic in origin is that the prevalence is fairly steady over time. GD has had an enormous spike in the last few years, so its extremely unlikely to have a genetic basis. I would just state this and ask what she is basing it on?

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