Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pseudo-Scientist Glenn Stanton on "Gender Theory"

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Early in his papacy Pope Francis expressed his displeasure with what he called “gender theory” — something that he now calls gender ideology. We never did learn what theory he was referring to and the utterly meaningless (and thus idiotic) phrase has been uncritically parroted by various conservative Christians. Saturday Glenn Stanton writes “5 Fatal Flaws of Gender Theory” for the National Catholic Register. Like the pope, Stanton fails to identify the theory that he is referring to.

It turns out that Stanton (an official with Focus on the Family) doesn't like something about transgender people. The basis for his antipathy is religious dogma. Therefore, Stanton is effectively attacking science with religion which is kind of like trying to extinguish a house fire with lighter fluid. Critical thinkers will usually accept the science.

To scientists, a theory is an explanation of a scientific fact. There are some facts associated with gender identity that have been established. Among these are:
  • A small percentage of the population experiences gender dysphoria which is a discomfort caused by in incongruity between chromosomal sex and gender.
  • The discomfort can be so severe that (along with the minority stress model) it contributes to self-harm.
  • There is no known medical intervention that will reverse the effects of gender dysphoria.
  • The only known treatment for gender dysphoria is to support the individual's gender.
  • People (including children) who are gender nonconforming did not choose to be gender nonconforming. It is not a character flaw either.
Those facts are indisputable. Nothing that Stanton goes on to write in any way detracts from these five precepts. There is no prevailing theory to explain why some people have gender dysphoria which is one of the reasons why assailing “gender theory” is idiotic. Again, what theory? Were there competing theories I would ask “which theory” but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Now let us wander into the “thinking” of Mr. Stanton:
Fatal Flaw #1: “Gender is a Spectrum”

One of the most basic tenets of gender theory is that human genders are like the hues of a rainbow, seamlessly blending from one to another — and that all of us fit in different places along that spectrum. At the two extreme ends, you have ‘male’ and ‘female’ and in between you have a vast array of diversity.

But it’s not true in reality, is it? You pay attention when you’re out and about in the community. How many other genders of the spectrum have you ever seen? How many are in your parish, school or workplace? I’m betting its only two different types.
Stanton is confusing theory with hypothesis. He is also confusing sex with gender. Stanton is hopelessly confused. Gender does seem to be a continuum with male and female at the extreme ends and that does not include a roughly equal percentage of the population that has some form of genital ambiguity (and about 20% of those people have ambiguous chromosomes). Neither sex nor gender are the simplistic binary proposition that would conform to Stanton's scripture. The notion that we can test the variances in gender through visual observation is spectacularly stupid. We cannot determine, from looking at someone, what their brain is telling them about their gender. Even for Stanton that is a profoundly moronic proposition.
Fatal Flaw #2: “Binary is Bad” (But the “G” “L” “B” and “T” are Built on It)

If gender theory were a religion, the worst demon all the new believers must immediately be exorcised of is the “lie” that gender is binary, the root of all evil. This belief is their flat-earth equivalent. But they don’t appreciate that explaining and understanding their highest state, the “LGBT” thing, is established completely on a binary system.

“L” - What does it mean to be a lesbian? It’s being a woman who is attracted to other women. A lesbian is not a man or any other gender, and she is not attracted to men or any additional gender. There are no other genders that she is not attracted to. It’s a binary system.
[…]
It is not that binary is “bad”. That is just a straw man argument. The scientific fact is that binary doesn't exist in human sexuality. I am bisexual. I identify as gay because that is the attraction with which I am most comfortable. In my case I am not generally attracted to both sexes at the same time but experience periods of time when I am more attracted to women. That causes me discomfort (along with some amusement) and I am pleased when it stops. I am sure that others experience both attractions at the same time which must be very challenging (and amusing).

Stanton is confusing sex with gender again (which does not amuse me). Our attractions are based on sex which means physical appearance. A good looking guy is a good looking guy. If he conforms to my tastes he might also be a transgender man (last season's Shameless on Showtime bravely tackled the issue). When it comes to sexual attraction there are too many variables to quantify. Take, for instance, Stanton's explanation of lesbian attraction. Some lesbians prefer “butch,” some prefer “femme” and others prefer something that cannot be defined in those terms. Sexuality is very complex. When gender identity is combined with sexual orientation our sexual expressions are infinitely diverse. Add some fluidity to that and they become impossible to fully comprehend.

One of the benefits of scripture is that is simplifies things. Some people prefer simple and easy over correct.
“T” - What does it mean to be transgender? This is not a category of one’s sexual interests. It’s the gender one identifies with in relation to the one some narrow-minded, robotic medical professional “assigned” them at birth.
Stanton should eliminate sarcasm from his repertoire. He doesn't do sarcasm well at all. Stanton's link is to an article in Slate dealing with intersex or sexually ambiguous babies. That complexity actually undercuts Stanton's simplistic ideas.

Transgender is an expression of gender that is inconsistent with one's sex. It is a way for some people to address the discomfort caused by gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is not binary either. It can be mild, severe or anything in between.
Fatal Flaw #3: “Gender is Not Naturally Determined ... Unless You're Trans”

The second “original sin” the good student of gender theory students must free themselves from is that gender is natural and objective. It is not. You act male or female merely because your culture dictates that you must look and act according their definition of what a male or female is. Enlightenment consists of overcoming this construct.
Oy veh. Stanton is attacking a nonexistent argument. Gender, wherever it falls, is certainly “natural.” How we act and how we appear are two entirely different things. The “enlightenment” that Stanton refers to applies not to trans people but to everyone else and enlightenment is the wrong word. In a civil society we should not be judging people based on the sexual identity or sexual orientation. There are far more important values that comprise our character or worth. I do not believe that Stanton can get past sexuality. To Stanton, Tim Cook — one of our nation's most accomplished business executives — is probably “just another pervert” for Stanton to feel superior to.
Fatal Flaw #4: “Androgyny is Natural”

Androgyny is naturally occurring, according to the theory — a part of the supposed rainbow spectrum. But it doesn’t exist without very detailed intentional effort, does it? No one really has any problem seeing that the androgynous person is merely a glossed over male or female.
Huh? Androgyny means that some people are gender ambiguous in appearance or gender identity or even attire. This really has little to do with transgender people (which, I think, is what Stanton is opining about). I have no idea what point he is trying to make.
Fatal Flaw #5: “My Little Boy is Actually a Girl”

Suppose you’re a school administrator and you have a student whose parents tell you is not the little boy he appears to be and they ask you to accept and treat their child as the girl he is. If you cooperate, you are a brave, enlightened hero. If you resist, you are evil. That is gender theory orthodoxy. It’s not scientific orthodoxy, though.

The leading researchers working with children with gender identity disorder regularly find that 73 to 98 percent of such children come to identify with their natal sex by puberty. Most benefited from therapy, but many just reverted naturally.
First if all, it is the child (not the parent) who insists on being treated according to his or her sexual identity. Research demonstrates that these kids are neither confused nor pretending. According to at least some of the research:
Using implicit and explicit measures, we found that transgender children showed a clear pattern: They viewed themselves in terms of their expressed gender and showed preferences for their expressed gender, with response patterns mirroring those of two cisgender (nontransgender) control groups. These results provide evidence that, early in development, transgender youth are statistically indistinguishable from cisgender children of the same gender identity.
Assuming that is correct (and I think that it is) treating a trans girl like a boy does more violence to the child than treating a cisgender girl like a boy. To do so is a form of ridicule; a sophomoric demonstration of disapproval.

I do not know who Stanton's “leading researchers” are. Stanton provides a cite to a 2011 study out of Amsterdam demonstrating fluidity but not in those percentages. According to the cited study about 45% of the children had gender dysphoria subside. That's less than half of Stanton's upper range claim and that is Stanton's own citation. Did Stanton not read his own cite? We have no idea how these kids experienced their sexuality as adults. I would think that there is a high probability that some would experience more serious gender dysphoria in the future. More research is definitely called for. I keep seeing these percentages thrown around without ever citing a peer-reviewed article to support them.

More importantly, why is this even relevant? Depending upon the severity, children with gender dysphoria might receive puberty blockers. Their effects are fully reversible. Practice guidelines are not to administer hormones until the child is 16.

Furthermore, according to the science, we no longer use the term gender identity disorder. Stanton uses the wrong terminology pejoratively and purposely as a form of argument that isn't persuasive. The scientific consensus is that gender dysphoria is just that — a discomfort. It is not a disorder. Stanton also fails to cite any literature that might demonstrate his claim of an effective therapy for gender nonconforming children.

Stanton fizzles on:
This is precisely why many of the leading scholars and clinicians working with such children recommend that parents, pediatricians and school administrators do not facilitate cross-gender behaviors and identity of such children. One of the largest such clinics in Europe is the Amsterdam Gender-Identity Clinic.
Stanton has identified one source in Amsterdam (which is not the same as the earlier cite) and his piece  does not link to any of their research. Stanton does not identify who “many of the leading scholars and clinicians” are. Nor does he cite any papers from those folks. Stanton does cite an article in The Atlantic from 2008 which quotes Dr. Richard Green:
Dr. Richard Green, one of the longest researchers in this field and a strongly outspoken advocate in LGBT politics, told the Atlantic Monthly that these children will likely feel “a lot of a pressure to remain” as the opposite gender when they start to feel otherwise as puberty approaches.
Quoting from the Atlantic piece:
The most extensive study on transgender boys was published in 1987 as The “Sissy Boy Syndrome” and the Development of Homosexuality. For 15 years, Dr. Richard Green followed 44 boys who exhibited extreme feminine behaviors, and a control group of boys who did not. The boys in the feminine group all played with dolls, preferred the company of girls to boys, and avoided “rough-and-tumble play.”
The author of a 30 year old study that conflates sexual orientation with gender identity comments on an article published in a magazine nine years ago and Stanton finds that authoritative. And even if Green is correct, the guidance would be for parents not to pressure their kids and my understanding is that the clinicians stress the importance of allowing the kid to be whoever he or she is.

Stanton has not connected any of the dots of his own choosing yet he drones on to a conclusion with the false assumption that he has obliterated the science associated with gender identity:
Gender theory is all about running from the natural order of reality, seeking to turn it on its head. It is anti-reality and anti-science. Just like a police detective interrogating a guilty suspect, the more they tell their story, the more obvious its whopping inconsistencies are revealed. It is remarkable and unforgivable how most of the media, academia and cultural elites have facilitated the perpetuation of this scam by failing to ask its proponents even the most basic questions. No such detective would keep his job. It should be the same with journalists and academics who blindly support this deeply flawed theory.
I still do not know what theory he is referring to. What is truly anti-reality and anti-science is trying to conform the world to scripture. Then to call the peer-reviewed research by dedicated scientists a scam because Stanton doesn't like the outcome is outrageous.

What those journalists and academics that Stanton refers to hopefully do is to follow the credible research. Stanton has not done so and this post of his only exists as an expression of conservative Christianity. It is pretentiously presented as science which it most certainly is not. It represents Stanton's excellent misadventure.

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