Paper tigers

Keeping up with trans-related news is a pretty depressing exercise: most of it is ill-informed or malicious, often parroting the very same “talking points” set out by viciously bigoted evangelical organisations. You can usually tune out if you see the words “cultural Marxism” (an anti-semitic far-right trope), “transgender ideology” (a phrase coined by right-wing evangelists) or “transgender lobby” (the belief that trans people are secretly being funded to the tune of millions from shadowy sources, enabling us to control the media. Not only is that one laughable, but it’s usually anti-semitic too: the source of the trans lobby’s money is usually believed to be “the Jews”).

The relentless and bigoted characterisation of trans women as dangerous is particularly galling when it comes from the likes of Rod Liddle, who accepted a police caution for allegedly punching his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach and who tends to take the side of alleged rapists. Or from Richard Littlejohn, who wrote about the murders of five sex workers in Ipswich: “in the scheme of things the deaths of these five women is no great loss.” I’d link to that piece but as so often happens with such columns, the Daily Mail has removed it from its website.

This week, there’s lots of attention being given to a very flawed, politically motivated and thoroughly debunked study of a made-up condition, rapid onset gender dysphoria. Publications as diverse as Glasgow’s Herald newspaper, whose straight, white, male, conservative columnists rail against black people, feminism and LGBT people, and The Spectator, whose straight, white, male, conservative columnists rail against black people, feminism and LGBT people, have been quick to talk about it and strangely unwilling to note that the grown-ups have pointed out that it’s an enormous crock of shite.

Meanwhile back in the reality-based community US psychologist Kristina Olson has been awarded a “genius” grant for her ongoing work studying the development of transgender children. Among many other interesting things about gender and inclusion her work has found that if trans kids are supported, they don’t want to kill themselves – something that many other studies have found too. As Quartz reports, Olson’s 2016 study:

found that transgender children who have openly transitioned to the gender they identify with have similar rates of depression and anxiety as cisgender children.

Of course, there’s been a pushback from right-wing media and social media: Olson avoided media interviews for eight months after online abuse.

Meanwhile, yet another study has found genetic differences between trans women and cisgender (non-trans) women.

they found a significant over-representation of four genes that are involved in processing sex hormones. This variation suggests a potential biological reason why certain people experience gender dysphoria.

Those behind the study propose that these genetic variations can affect the male brain’s ability to process androgen, meaning that the brain develops differently in a way that is less “masculine” and more “feminine,” contributing to gender dysphoria in transgender women.

This is an emerging field of research but there are already lots of solid studies that suggest there’s at least a genetic component to being trans (the field of epigenetics in particular is fascinating). I could link to reliable studies all day long. But such studies are inconvenient for the people who argue that being trans is a choice or a fad, which is why they don’t write about it.

There’s an agenda, all right. But it’s not ours.