Saturday, 8 May 2021

The trauma of proving a negative: the transgender delusion

 I think it is fair to say that one's identity is a crucial part of one's overall well-being. To know what your body is, to know your own mind, and to understand one's place in the larger whole. When any of these elements are incomplete or missing, one's mental health suffers.

When I think of myself in the period between me finishing HS and my parents divorcing followed by the repeated moving to new homes, it'd seem reasonable to see this as the time when I first began to firmly lose touch with these aspects of my identity. With new, unfamiliar surroundings, no sense of direction when it came to education or a career, I eventually began to also lose any sense of what my body was about.

This was the time when I began to question a lot of things which I had held as self-evident about my body. Which included my sex. Partially using online research and partially using intuition, I ultimately figured that I had to be intersex. This was based on my assigned sex of male, along with the requisite male genitals yet a lack of secondary male characteristics, and what I identified as female secondary characteristics. The latter including the shape of the pelvis and some breast growth during early puberty.


Looking back on this period now, I can see how this discovery gave me a lifeline in a period when it felt that my whole existence had been cut loose and was just drifting around aimlessly. I would figure out what was going on with my body, and build up my life starting from there. With the knowledge of what I was, it should be straightforward to figure out my position in society and my identity.

Many times I have written about this already on my blog. The dismissive attitude by the Amsterdam gender team whom I contacted about this. The hostile attitude from Dutch GPs, along with a massive lack of knowledge by these experts about what intersex is and how to diagnose it. The Groningen gender team whose radiologist tried to convince me that what could be seen on the MRI scans wasn't a blind vagina, but just some air either outside or inside the large intestines. The refusal by the same radiologist to contact his German colleagues who had diagnosed my intersex condition a few years earlier.


I have lost count of how many times a doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist has tried to convince me that I could only be transgender, because obviously my body was that of a male. The first & second MRI-based diagnosis at private German clinics which showed and confirmed the presence of female genitalia along with a normal feminine skeleton were dismissed and disregarded by every subsequent visit to Dutch and German hospitals. Except one.

There was the orchiectomy procedure which I required to have my legal gender changed from male to female in the Netherlands was only possible in a country like Germany, where it can be an elective surgery if there are reasonable grounds. Since I suffered significantly from having the physical appearance of a woman, but the official identity of a man, this provided the grounds, and I was able to find a German surgeon willing to prepare the procedure.

In addition to the orchiectomy, this surgeon also performed an exploratory surgery in the perineum, confirming in the process the presence of the vagina. This provided the necessary documentation to have my official gender changed in the Netherlands using a never-before used law for intersex births. Finally, I also got the biopsy report for the testicles that were removed, showing them to be underdeveloped and non-functional.


In hindsight, I'm not sure how much good much of this did me. Yes, it is undeniably a good thing that I had those non-functional testicles removed, as they were not providing any useful service and were a potential cancer risk due to their aborted development. I'm also grateful that I got my official gender changed to 'female', just so that I do not have to keep explaining to people why my appearance and listed gender do not match up.

Yet despite all of the evidence I have gathered over the years like this, it does not feel like it really matters. Even though my body has since that surgery continued a female puberty and it's undeniably 100%-female-except-for-the-genitals - i.e. that of a hermaphroditic intersex person - there is still so much that I do not know or understand about my body.


Meanwhile, the weight of being told over and over by people who are supposed to be intelligent, educated specialists doesn't seem to be lessening. While I got over the worst of the uncertainty, such as that experienced when I stood in front of a mirror and tried to pin down whether I could 'pass' as a woman, the whole issue feels unfinished and the mental injuries I suffered raw and bleeding.

For so many years I was essentially trying to prove to these doctors that I was not transgender and could not be transgender. That me taking female hormones until a few years ago was only to fix a hormonal imbalance I felt existed in my body. The low levels of both testosterone and estradiol should have supported that notion, but instead I was told by the first gender team that their tests showed my testosterone levels to be at normal male levels. Something which was physically impossible due to the underdeveloped testicles.


How does one process this? How can one give this a place, and put it into the past? To this day, my body is the very representation of the struggle over those many years. And even though I know my body to be a hermaphroditic intersex person, it feels that this knowledge has further divorced me from society, instead of bringing me closer as I had hoped.

Maybe it's just the bitterness and disappointment that inevitably came with those traumatic and other negative experiences. To have lost most if not all faith in doctors, psychologists and kin. To feel that society does not care about or acknowledge intersex individuals. To feel like a square block in a society of round pegs and spheres. Being different and a minority (true hermaphrodite) within a minority (intersex) does not give one that feeling that it helps with settling on that identity.


Perhaps a major part of the problem is not with me, but with society. Instead of seeking to define oneself using properties which are genuinely individualistic, the average person's identity seems patched together using existing concepts within that society. Yet within that society it more or less works. Pick a template, tweak it a bit and off you go as a newly minted member of that society.

At this point I think I am coming closer to understanding how this all works, and how I can figure out both my own identity, as well as a way to make it work with society without compromising on my own identity, but it's definitely not the 'as seen on TV' simplicity. Like the documentaries which I have seen about e.g. transgender people where all their worries are taken away by having their genitals and secondary characteristics of their sex removed, or BIID patients who get their legs or an arm removed. Just tweak the body and it's all fine.

I'm pretty sure at this point that none of that is how it works at all in reality.


Maya

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Have some self-respect

 What's the value of a human life? When it concerns your own life, it literally means everything to you. Yet in the scope of a society or even smaller groups, the value of a singular human life diminishes quickly. As put succinctly many years ago, a single human death is a tragedy, a million human deaths is a statistic.

Does this mean that a human life only has value when regarded by itself? And what are the societal processes which seek to erase the individual?

One could argue that this process begins before the individual has even been born into this world. The first and most universal erasure event is that of gender. The presence or absence of specific reproductive organs (i.e. being male or female) precludes the newborn from being assigned specific designations ('name'), from wearing certain styles of clothing, as well as the colours thereof and the types of toys deemed appropriate.

This simple biological fact results in a specific gender role that seeks to erase the individual, leaving a 'boy' or a 'girl', instead of a 'child'. A child is a young individual who is still becoming their own person. A 'boy' or a 'girl' is a child whose identity as a child has been violated, since this designation results in harsh social responses and possibly punishment if they violate this involuntarily assigned gender role, i.e. the social role which is deemed appropriate for their biological sex.


The human brain is monomorphic, that is to say that there are no specific gradations or divisions that would allow them be divided into specific groups. As a consequence, one individual isn't necessarily better at specific mental tasks, nor are they likely to have stronger preferences in any direction. This precludes the possibility of statements such as 'girls are better at socialising', 'boys do not like pink colours' and 'girls are better at mathematics' to be true. The only way for these statements to be true, is if they are made to be true, i.e. through social conditioning of the individuals in question.

This social conditioning is a repeating pattern, which seeks to put all responsibilities at the feet of the individual, while only grudgingly admitting to the rights of an individual in society. An example of this is demonstrated in e.g. the system of Neo-Liberalism. Much like in the overarching systems of free-market capitalism and oligarchies, the purpose of the individual is not to be recognised and acknowledged as an individual, but rather to perform their duty to society.


Not unlike in the totalitarian regimes of Stalinism and Fascism, the highest good in Neo-Liberalism is the State. In societies based upon these systems, you are a good person if you are working a job that's for the betterment of the State. You are a bad person if you do not have a job, or seek to circumvent the Glory of the State. What the goals of the state are isn't relevant here. The State exists for its own sake, as a purpose onto itself. Something to be maintained and cherished, not unlike a theocracy.

Theocracies and religions in general are based around the very concept of the erasure of the individual. From providing very strict gender roles to prescribing all aspects of daily life, it is hard to consider a system in which the individual is more fully erased. in Neo-Liberalism, the same is true to a lesser extent. Even so, the erasure of the individual is essentially nearly as complete.


An interesting aspect to consider at this point is whether this erasure is the result of a wilful act. Here the answer is likely that it is an evolutionary artefact, from the days when humans lived in tribes. Inside a tribe, you either fit in or you are cast out. To be cast out of a tribe in those hunter-gatherer days meant almost certain death. Such a demand for absolute obedience is likely to have left its evolutionary traces, much as it has transformed the prideful, fiercely wild wolf into a creature for whom their master's wishes are all that matters.

How 'wild' are humans? Is individualism merely a faint dream that some of us hold in our hearts? Is the very concept of maintaining individualism in a society a foolish dream? Can the individual exist within a society?


Within the writings of e.g. Karl Marx (Socialism, Communism) and Ayn Rand (Objectivism) we can see a similar desire towards individualism, even if Ms Rand at no point would have admitted to hold Socialist ideas in her heart. Both of them grew up in an era and surroundings where the harsh exploitation of hapless humans was commonplace, whether it was under the shackles of the Industrial Revolution and the struggles leading up to it, or under the Red banner of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

They both held the belief that in a society the individual is of the utmost worth, as from individualism spring creativity and freedom. This is what led Ms Rand to her conviction that free-market capitalism was the ideal model, based on her experiences in the totalitarian Stalinism regime in the USSR. Despite this, she too admitted that there has to be oversight to ensure that these individual freedoms remain preserved.


In light of this, it is not hard to see today's Neo-Liberalist societies and kin as abject failures in this regard. While not as cruel as the unregulated days of the Industrial Revolution where a worker's life was worth something only for so long as they stayed in good health and could perform their job, these societies nevertheless focus on the exploitation of the individual.

From the strict adherence to gender roles and a refusal to acknowledge the individual, to the pressure for the individual to exploit themselves in what is called the 'job market' by making money the prerequisite for their continued existence. With all land inside a nation's border claimed by the State except where owned by more affluent individuals, an individual must adhere to the rules, if they wish to remain a part of a State. To be  rejected by the State would mean almost certain death.


What is the value of a human life? Does the individual merely exist to ensure the survival of the State? Does it matter what their dreams and desires are?


Truth to be told, I do not reckon that a violent overthrow of the 'ruling classes' is the answer here, nor do I see a clear, ideological path forward. To rid ourselves of tribalism first and foremost would be a step forward. That means ridding ourselves of superstitions and other burdens of the past. One thing which is absolutely an individualist trait is an adherence to science and reason, which is likely where we'll find the answers we seek.

The most pertinent question there is probably whether the average individual in society can be made to rely solely on their own faculties for reason, or whether the social conditioning that has led us to accept the erasure of the individual has to be first resolved.


Maya

Friday, 23 April 2021

The comfort in identifying oneself as something

Perhaps one of the most accepted and vile crimes committed by humankind is that against the emotional well-being of the individual. If one takes an individual to be a being of both rational intellect and unfathomable emotional depths, then it shouldn't be difficult to see how attempting to convey either in simplistic terms is to deny its very existence and with it the whole that makes up an individual.

In light of such thoughts, it's rather telling when I consider that I still cannot put a name to who or what I can see in the mirror. Even as I can feel myself becoming more... myself, in the sense that my thoughts and actions feel more like my own, it's still an impossible task to put what I am, who I am and all the countless details around this into words.

In the end we are all our own person, beyond question. As easy as it would have been for me to pick an identity or accept one of the identities that got picked for me over the decades, to do so would have meant betraying the person whom I am inside. The very concept of identifying as anything when this does not match up with reality is to embrace self-delusion as a life-style.


The identity of being male. Of being female. The endless questions about my preferences when it comes to romance and more, about why I don't like using make-up regularly, and so on. All questions that establish some kind of identity, but which are not about me as a person. At some point it begins to dawn on you that many of those identity things are just behavioural things that are common to a specific culture. Things like what type and colour of clothing one is or isn't allowed to wear, whether men are allowed to use make-up or not, whether seeing someone of the opposite sex naked outside of a romantic encounter is a reason to get sexually excited or not.

After removing all of this cultural decoration, it's really not a lot what you're left with. Identify all you want, but in the end a man is someone with a body that has solely male characteristics, and vice versa for women. Ergo I am neither. And both. Also sexual attraction is just weird and probably isn't supposed to make sense.

The question there for the longest time was probably in how far I should even care about any of those things. I used to think I did care, but over the years it has faded in importance. What I have come to feel stronger is a longing for the parts of 'me' back as a child and teenager which I now feel were my genuine identity.


In the past I have mentioned the sensation of a 'child me' being stuck in this dark, quiet room. Crying and traumatised. I'm pretty sure that was a visualisation of the traumas and PTSD which I have been collecting since I was five years old. Back then it felt as if every single sensory impression and every thought passed through this traumatised child, to be interpreted and parsed.

Even after freeing the child from the room, I could still feel its presence in my mind. Distorting, twisting and subverting my own thoughts and impressions. Over the past months I have fought a battle against this presence, pushing it away when I felt it clouding my mind and thoughts again. With the traumatic presence no longer as strong, it feels as if my thoughts no longer are guided through a convoluted maze. Instead there's just... me, I guess.


The only honest thing to identify as is yourself.


Yet even as I come closer to identifying myself, it becomes more and more painfully obvious that society will not grant me the same favour. When society has collectively decided to abandon its senses with pseudo-scientific concepts like 'gender identity' and its doubling down on the scientifically incorrect dimorphic nature of the human brain, what hope is there for those who do not wish to betray themselves with such delusions?

I have a body which medical science at this point struggles to explain. Simultaneously I feel the complete disconnect with society when it comes to the aforementioned delusions and what I as a chimaeric intersex person have and continue to experience. What can I do with this but to accept that there's no real place for me in society?


The irony is perhaps that by finally accepting myself the way I truly am, I may end up losing that last link with society as my existence escapes its ability to quantify and understand me. When the only way that I can formally exist in society is by pretending to be something which I am not, is that truly an existence worth fighting for?


Maya

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

On the folly of Ayn Rand's 'We The Living'

Released in 1936, 'We The Living' by Ayn Rand is a story about Andrei Taganov, who fought on the side of the Red Army during the Russian Revolution. After the Revolution, he witnessed the rise of the USSR from inside the Party with a growing sense of unease. With the expulsion of Trotsky and his ideals of Communism, what is left behind in the newly branded USSR is merely a totalitarian regime, not unlike the previous regime under the Czar.

When he meets this beautiful and smart girl, Kira, at the university which he frequents, he falls in love and begins to dream of a future beyond the failure of the Communist Dream. She gets him to do things for her and give her all his money which she says is needed for her family. With each new request from her side, Andrei further risks his standing within the Party.

Ultimately, it is revealed that Kira was just using him and never loved him, nor cared about escaping the USSR together by using his plan of a reassignment of Andrei as G.P.U. (secret service) member to a foreign post. During all the time he has known her, she was living with this other man, Leo. When Andrei realises that the G.P.U. will soon be coming for him in the worst way possible because of all the favours he did for Kira, he takes the only option that's still open to him.

After burning all of Kira's clothing and other items which were still left at his place to protect her in a last act of kindness, he takes his gun and ends everything with a single shot. When his suicide is discovered, he is buried with full honours as befitting a Soviet Hero.


What I just wrote is not actually the main story in the novel, but to me it's the most poignant and interesting one. The girl Kira is supposed to be the main character for whom one is supposed to be rooting, to make her last, futile escape attempt in the closing chapter a swansong that proclaims the value of freedom and to make a last, final fist to the crushing boot of totalitarianism.

Yet Kira is the one who begins a secret relationship with this guy Leo who she randomly meets on the streets. Kira is the one who grew up spoiled in a rich aristocrat family, who had dreams of constructing skyscrapers out of glass and aluminium. Yet who gave up all of that because of this sickly... devotion to Leo. Instead of a loving relationship, Leo is abusive, self-destructive, ends up cheating on her and yet she keeps up trying to protect him.

After Taganov's suicide, Kira stands at his gravestone, uncomprehending, as if she cannot grasp that she is the force which is driving good men to early graves. Even as she proclaims the evils of the totalitarian Soviet regime, she fails to look inside and see that the seeds for the very same tyranny can be found inside her own chest.


In light of Kira's behaviour as a foolish, love-smitten girl, the grandstanding proclamations on the back of the book (Signet edition), as well as in Ms Rand's accompanying foreword from 1958 seem rather over the top. Let alone the vilification of 'socialism'. Ironically, the distinction is highlighted right in Ms Rand's novel, with Andrei's disillusionment with the system that is being implemented, and Trotsky's expulsion from the 'Soviet project'. As greed and all of the other worst aspects of human nature led Russia's people into yet another totalitarian world where human lives outside of the wealthy are essentially disposable.

During the decades since Ms Rand's death in 1982 and the collapse of the Soviet Union only eight years later, it has become clear that her favoured 'free market capitalism' and the strongly associated Neo-Liberalism is in many ways reminiscent of the proclaimed evils of Stalinism - as the Soviet totalitarian dictatorship became known after the death of Lenin. Without the ills of the USSR acting as a mirror which kept Western governments in check, Neo-Liberalism has gone down the same path of restricting individual freedoms, of constant monitoring and reduction of the individual into just a grain of sand to be trampled into the economical foundation which holds up the lavish lifestyles of the over-privileged.


When the goal of Ms Rand was to preserve individualism, and provide the room for an individual to grow and live their life to their fullest, then what one needs is a political and economical system which preserves those freedoms. That system is Socialism. In the political sense, Socialism is a system which guarantees that every person born has access to the same education, same healthcare and same employment opportunities as anyone else. No person is better than another merely based on the accident of their birth.

Within a society there has to be something which holds the social fabric together. Due to the integral role of money in the economies which underlie societies, it's clear that money is more important than even food or shelter. As Ms Rand's novel illustrates, having to fight within a society to obtain money just so that one can buy the food and shelter one needs to live is dystopian and inhumane. Contrast that with Neo-Liberalist societies where tenants who fail to pay rent or home owners who fail to pay taxes on their presumed possessions can be tossed out onto the streets without recourse. Here one finds little difference.


More and more Western societies are now experimenting with concepts like a Universal Base Income (UBI), where everyone, no matter who, receives a fixed monthly amount of money. Enough to pay rent and buy food, meaning that they're essentially freed from the stresses of basic survival. Freeing the individual from those worries means that they are free to focus on growing in a way which they desire, instead of one dictated by the harsh rules of survival.

Perhaps the real social revolution does not look like the Russian Revolution, with violence and grand proclamations and people with oversized egos abusing statements like 'for the greater good', 'for the cause' while promising that soon the famine and plagues that are decimating the population will come to an end.

Perhaps giving every individual the guarantee that they are able to live somewhere and eat every day and not worry about tomorrow is the only society in which an individual can be truly free and thus truly become a part of society out of their volition. All of this depends on the successful integration of Individualism into Socialism, counter-intuitive as that may seem.

 

Maya

Thursday, 11 February 2021

The dystopian world of identity politics

 


 Video transcript:

 Identity as it pertains to human beings is an interesting concept [1]. What, after all, makes a person that person? Perhaps most essentially, which components of a human being can be subtracted or added without affecting that person's identity? Perhaps one of the most basic and fundamental discriminations made by humans is that between male and female individuals. Yet in a study by Joel et al. [2] involving fMRI scans of the brains of both male and female subjects showed that this division does not extend to the brains of individuals. In fact, this study showed a distinct mosaic of features and patterns for each subject.

We can thus conclude that every individual has a unique brain structure, which presumably affects an individual's identity in some fashion. We can also conclude that the suggestion of a base identity in the form of a male or female person has no basis in reality. What sex chromosomes and related do affect are one's genitals, one's reproductive organs and along with it one's chances of being colour blind or getting specific types of cancer. Much of which is simply due to the presence of back-up copies of genes on the second X-chromosome which can compensate for defective or recessive genes on the first X-chromosome.


Here an interesting question is that of whether identity is affected by the alteration of one's body, or the experience of the alteration. In the case of a traumatic injury, such as the loss of a limb, the effect is both physical and psychological. The traumatic experience itself, followed by the recovery from the loss and the continuing reminders of one's loss in daily life, all of it form challenges, but does this change one's identity? What if said limb could be miraculously restored, just the way it was before?

Obviously our experiences will affect the way in which we will respond to future events, but does this change who we are, as in our ego and sense of self? Here the question that presents itself is whether a person's identity can be considered to be permanent, or changing. If we consider the concept of 'personal development', then it seems reasonable to assume that a permanent identity is impossible, and thus that what we perceive as our 'identity' is ever-changing, following our experiences in life.


If we take that reasoning, and then apply it to the concept of what is known as 'identity politics' [3], we can see the formation of a highly problematic picture. Defined according to Merriam-Webster as: 'politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group'.

The terms which come to mind at such a description are 'tribalism', 'nationalism', as well as 'discrimination'. Each of which should be rather familiar terms to most, along with their negative connotations. It uses discrimination to segregate individuals based on quantifiers such as skin colour, sexual preferences, cultural and ethnic background, and so on. This type of discrimination is explicitly forbidden in Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [5], which reads:

"Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty."


At this point we have to consider whether positive discrimination, inverse discrimination, or its more euphemistic term of 'affirmative action' [6] is truly the solution to what ultimately is a problem which can be summarised as the annihilation of the individual. Instead of accepting that any human being is their own person, and can freely choose with whom and how they associate with others, they instead are subjected to discrimination before they are even born, whether it is about their biological sex, involves their biological parents, concerns the environment and circumstances of their birth and upbringing, or any of a countless other factors.

Article 1 of the Declaration of Human Rights reads: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."

If we are to accept this, and strive to make it into a reality, then the practice of identity politics, 'positive' discrimination and other forms of discrimination, nationalism and related can never be compatible with such a basic statement. Even as one declares human beings to be the equal of one another, the other declares that some are more or less equal than others.


To this I can add my own experiences to further the theory that a direct consequence of identity politics when it comes to biological sex and the associated (binary) social role, or gender, is that it too is merely a way to eradicate the individual.

As I fought for years within the medical and political systems of my own country of birth to learn the physical identity of my body, and to establish an official identity within the rigid political system, I got offered essentially three choices: the first was to maintain the male identity which I had been assigned at birth, but which matched poorly with my outward appearance. The second was to accept the pseudo-scientific theory [7][8] of transgenderism which I found myself steered towards by the medical professionals whom I consulted, the acceptance of which would have resulted in me having my body remoulded to fit a socially acceptable female pattern using invasive surgery.

The third option was to keep fighting for a third option, which ultimately materialised in the medical finding that my body is in fact that of a true hermaphrodite, as in the intersex condition. Unfortunately, this physical identity is heavily contested and barely known, and carries no official weight in society. Thus it is that to the world I am now of the female persuasion, even as my body is that of a hermaphroditic intersex individual, and my mind is that of my own. The latter two of which are quantifiers which society and with it identity politics do not discriminate on, rendering them practically useless and requiring suitable substitutions which are recognised by identity politics.


Thus it is that we reach this impasse in a rather dystopian system. If nations can sign the Declaration of Human Rights, yet practice identity politics and nationalism, with discrimination not only allowed but even encouraged by the supporters of both, then what hope does the individual have? The individual isn't a group. While groups are made up out of individuals, the latter should only be in the former out of their own volition.

There are only two types of groups which we can find ourselves a part of without explicitly applying for them, and out of these only one type which robs us of our individuality. The latter type consists out of any groups which we get forcibly grouped into, whereas the only group which we all find ourselves in and which we can never leave, but which leaves our individuality intact is that of humankind itself.


Ultimately, it is the human identity that connects all of us.


Maya


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_identity
[2] https://www.pnas.org/content/112/50/15468?fbclid=IwAR1yvJl4c2vdLroc_gu23Blx2Cv1RwfJswrqhvT7ljoV5Wus6tClqKgIQpA
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_politics
[4] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/identity%20politics
[5] https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmative_action
[7] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-pseudoscience/
[8] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pseudoscience