This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1400 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing.)

There is a detailed Index arranged by vocation, doctor, activist group etc.

In addition to this most articles have one or more labels at the bottom. Click one to go to similar persons. There is a full list of labels at the bottom of the page. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

30 January 2018

Dana Bevan. Part III: 7 factors that are not causes

Part I: Life
Part II: Theory
Part III:  7 factors that are not causes

As in part II, we are referring to Dana Bevan's works using the numbers 1-5 for reference with a page number when applicable.

1) The Transsexual Scientist. 2013.
2) The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism. 2014.
3) “Transgender Science Recap”. In Sisterhouse, 2015
4) “The Science of Gender”. In The Wireless, 2015.
5) Being Transgender: What You Should Know. 2016.

For full bibliography see Part I.

In (3) Bevan presents a list of 7 factors that are often taken to be somehow a cause, or even the cause, of being trans. I agree that none of them are in fact such a cause, but for most of them I have problems with how Bevan states the issues.

Sexual arousal or fetishism

As Bevan first came out into SMBD/fetish groups, I was expecting an explanation about how self-styled fetishists are not at all the same as what psychologists mean when they use the word.

However, Bevan simply dismisses the idea of TSTG being a fetish with
“The arousal from crossdressing fades with exposure”. (2:191) 
This is true enough, but not as fast as Bevan implies. Furthermore Bevan does not consider the variant claim that being trans is an addiction, and like other addictions (heroin, gambling, coffee, Facebook) it requires a bigger and bigger fix: cross-dressing at home, then in a group, then going out alone, then hormones and then surgery.


Bevan quotes several definitions by Blanchard and Lawrence, and then writes (2:192)
“it is clear that the concept of Autogynephilia is not well defined and cannot be easily operationalized. For this reason alone, it does not constitute a scientific theory”. 

One wants to agree with this.  However the concept has been frighteningly successful, and quite a lot of trans women have self-identified with it.   It is not to be so easily dismissed.

More importantly, Bevan writes as if Autogynephilia is being considered as a, or even the, cause of transsexuality. As Ray Blanchard makes very clear, he proposed Autogynephilia as a second type of transsexuality with a different etiology.

Why does Bevan obfuscate this? Bevan does not mention Anne Lawrence’s book, Men Trapped in Men's Bodies: Narratives of Autogynephilic Transsexualism, but as it came out in 2013, it was probably too late to be included. More seriously she does not mention Michael Bailey’s 2003 book, The Man Who Would Be Queen: the science of gender-bending and transsexualism. She does mention – actually she cites – Bailey with reference to twins, sexual orientation, and sibling order. But she totally ignores his infamous book on Autogynephilia.

The development of Autogynephilia into Cross Dreaming is not even mentioned.

One last point: from her autobiography we know that Blanchard would regard her as an Autogynephile (late transition, two wives, two daughters). Surely it would have been tactical for her to have conceded this, rather than wait for others to point it out.

Autoandrophilia is not even mentioned.

3 Prenatal testosterone

Bevan writes:
“This theory is rooted in East German eugenics and available scientific evidence refutes the theory. Some of the evidence comes from prenatal conditions in which testosterone should be abnormally low or high but there is no TSTG. Organization of gender begins with early DNA expression, long before testosterone is produced by the testes or adrenals. Measuring prenatal testosterone is currently beyond the state-of-the-art despite research papers it is responsible not only for TSTG but also for autism spectrum and dyslexia. As far as we know, there are no cases in which testosterone was injected into pregnant human mothers to avoid TSTG in males but the East Germans proposed this and played around with hormones in other areas such as athletics.”
On this I have no further comments.

4 Family dynamics.

Bevan writes:
“Research indicates that neither your mama or your papa make you TSTG; however, TSTG behavior does induce parents to use violence against their TSTG kids”. 
In general, yes – however. It was a common idea in the first part of the last century that mothers dressing their boys as girls had a lasting effect. This comes up a lot in the books by Peter Farrer.

There are recent cases like Jill Monro, and Greer Lankton where the mother or the family definitely pushed the child in a trans direction.

There are also the Filipino Baklas where in a family of only sons, one is selected to be raised as a girl (and to do girls’ work). See the article by Robert Turner in The Gay and Lesbian Review, Sept-Oct 2017)

5 Conversion by peers

Bevan writes
’No evidence that this occurs although we do like to get together in clubs and conventions to compare notes”. 
Remember that this is the same author who maintains that we are incapable of conscious decisions. Such incapacity makes it more likely that people will adopt memes and fashions circulating in the culture – of which transgenderism could now be considered one. If one were to believe in this incapacity, it would at least explain the big increase in the number of trans persons over the last century.

6 Psychodynamics.

Bevan writes:
“Not really scientific theories and assume intervening variables that cannot be measured, e.g. complexes. No objective evidence for early trauma involvement assumed by some psychodynamics.“ 
Psychoanalysts still claim that trans persons should submit to years, maybe decades, of analysis rather than transitioning. However their success is noteworthy for its absence.

7 Homosexuality. 

Bevan writes: 
DNA markers are in different locations from those for TSTG. Some TSTG are homosexual but the two phenomena appear to be independent at this time.” 
Not so simple. From the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, the dominant social construction in western societies was that both homosexual persons and transvestites were both ‘inverts’. There is not a single word in Bevan re either inverts or social construction.

Even if DNA markers are slightly different, gay and trans are parallel, and many supposed explanations of gay were later re-used for trans: trapped soul, pre-natal hormones, family dynamics.

Like Ray Blanchard and his predecessors, Bevan uses ‘homosexual’ when she means heterosexual trans women. This is only one step away from referring to trans women as ‘male transsexuals’. We have been arguing for decades that this usage is offensive in that it ignores what we really are. The words ‘gynephilic’ and ‘androphilic’ are well established. Like Blanchard, Bevan chooses not to use them.

There is no mention of Frederick Whitam’s Male Homosexuality in Four Societies, 1986. It is a sociological study of transvestity in third-world countries. Whitam sees heterosexual transvestites as a different category and protests their appropriation of the word 'transvestite'. "Some heterosexual transvestites, not wanting to be identified as being homosexual, have insisted that they are the 'true transvestites' and take a demeaning attitude towards drag queens and female impersonators". (p80).  The only mention of Whitam is a citation of several papers from which Bevan concludes: " the proportion of transgender children who become non-TSTG homosexuals is relatively small". (2:157)

Whilst, even in third world countries, the majority of gay men and lesbians are not and do not become trans, the overwhelming majority of trans woman are androphilic and early transitioners.

Again, as she did with Autogynephilia, Bevan obfuscates that there are different types of trans persons. The late transitioning persons who first become husbands and fathers are very different from early transitioners and also from trans persons who came through the gay community. Traditionally (this includes hijra, kathoey, and most of the Latin American activists) trans women came through the gay community or even were the local gay community. The transkids who have attracted so much attention recently are neither. They will not be gay in the traditional sense (that is heterosexual post-transition), and they certainly will not become husbands and fathers.

The closest that Bevan comes is: "Some transsexuals and transgender people start out as heterosexual and some as homosexual. The difference may help clinicians predict the time course of the emergence of transsexualism because some early homosexuals tend to become transsexual at an earlier age." (2:46)

Even Vern Bullough regards the heterosexual crossdresser/late transitioner as a phenomenon of the 20th century. Bevan however claims traditional third gender persons and modern transkids as being the same as herself.   This is appropriation.


My Conclusion

Bevan is strong on experimental psychology and weak on history, biography, philosophy and the politics of transgender.    The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism is useful in that you can use it as a reference book that summarizes experimental psychology on trans topics up to 2015.  It is particularly useful for refuting simplistic biological theories proposed by some other writers.

However her further reading section includes only two late transition accounts in addition to her own, and no androphilic trans woman is mentioned at all, no early transition person is mentioned at all, no trans man is mentioned.   This is trans without Sylvia Rivera, without Coccinelle, without Louis Sullivan.   The only trans organizing that Beven mentions is a) the Virginia Prince/Tri-Ess/IFGE strand b) computer bulletin boards. 

Historians distinguish between diachronous  (changing through time) and synchronous (at one time) explanations.  Devan's account is heavily synchronous and does not explain the big growth in numbers of trans persons.   DNA varies little from one generation to the next.   The only aspect of change through time in a DNA-epigenetic model is pollution acting epigenetically.    To some extent she is aware of this and has brief sections on traditional third-gender traditions.   However she does not explain how or why these traditions are very different from the Princian/IFGE tradition, and almost erases the 20th century gay trans tradition.  

The irony of a biological explanation is that it does not explain why some are early transitioners, and some are late transitioners, and some go to the grave without ever transitioning.   In her autobiography, Bevan resolved this by making transition a choice: "I should have chosen transsexuality earlier in my life and fought for being my authentic self, no matter what the cost".  So we are back to existential issues and the quest for authenticity.   Elsewhere however Bevan denies our capacity for conscious decision making.

The TSTG phenomenon that she creates is a social construction that emphasizes some aspects and neglects others.  Caveat lector!

No comments: