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Why Are Transgender People Immune To Optical Illusions?

[Epistemic status: So, so speculative. Don’t take any of this seriously until it’s replicated and endorsed by other people.]

I.

If you’ve ever wanted to see a glitch in the Matrix, watch this spinning mask:

Source: http://hearingthevoice.org/2013/11/14/predictive-coding-masterclass/

Did you see it? As the face started to turn away from you, your brain did…something, and then you were seeing a normal frontwards-facing mask again. It turns out your visual system has really strong views about whether faces should be inside-out or not, and it’s willing to execute a hard override on perception if it doesn’t like what it sees.

But not always. Some people get glitchier glitches than others; a few seem almost immune. Studies find schizophrenics and autistic people to be consistently less glitchy than the rest of us. The correlation’s not perfect. But it’s definitely there. Something about these people’s different cognitive processing styles lets them see through the illusion.

I wanted to replicate this result myself. So a few months ago, when I surveyed readers of my blog, I included some questions about perceptual illusions (including a static version of the hollow mask). I got five thousand responses, including a few from schizophrenic and autistic readers. Sure enough, the effect was there.

Schizophrenic readers were about twice as likely to report a weak reaction to the mask illusion as non-schizophrenics (28% vs. 14%, p = 0.04). They were also more likely to have a weak reaction to a similar illusion, the Spinning Dancer (58% vs. 81%, p = 0.01). Readers with a family history of schizophrenia landed in between schizophrenics and healthy controls (16% for mask, 63% for dancer, ns).

Autistic readers were only slightly more likely to report a weak reaction to the mask illusion than neurotypicals (17% vs. 14%), but thanks to our big sample size we could be pretty confident that this was a meaningful difference (p = 0.004). There was no different between autists and neurotypicals on the Spinning Dancer, not even a weak trend (58% vs. 60%, p = 0.4).

Looking deeper, I found a few other anomalies on illusion perception. Most were small and inconsistent. But one stood out: transgender people had an altered response pattern on both illusions, stronger than the alteration for autism and almost as strong as the one for schizophrenia (mask: cis 14% vs. trans 21%, p = 0.003; dancer: cis 58% vs. trans 71%, p = 0.001). These results are very tentative, and need replication. My mass survey isn’t a very sensitive instrument, and I place low confidence in any of this until other people can confirm.

But for now, it sure looks like a signal. Something seems off about transgender people’s perception, something deep enough to alter the lowest-level components of visual processing. If it’s real, what could it be?

II.

A few days ago, trans blogger Zinnia Jones asked me if there might be any neurochemical reason trans people dissociate so much.

Dissociation is a vague psychiatric symptom where you feel like you’re not real, or the world isn’t real, or you’re detached from the world, or something like that. It sounds weird, but if you explain it to someone who’s had it, they’ll say “Oh yeah, that thing!” It’s usually unpleasant, and tends to occur in PTSD, borderline personality, and extreme stress.

And in transgender people. The only formal study I can find on this describes it as “greatly prevalent”, and suggests that up to 30% of trans people may have dissociative conditions (compared to less than 1% of the general population). This matches trans people’s self-reports (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Anecdotally (according to Zinnia’s impression of the trans community) and formally (see Costa & Colizzi 2016) hormone replacement therapy is an effective treatment for dissociative problems.

Intuitively this makes sense. Trans people feel like they’re “trapped in the wrong body”, so of course they feel detached from their bodies / like their bodies aren’t real / like their bodies aren’t theirs. Hormone therapy helps solve the “wrong body” problem, so it also solves the dissociative symptoms.

We aim to bridge psychosocial and biological levels of explanation. We can say that someone is stressed out because their boss overworks them, but also because they’re secreting high levels of cortisol. We can say that someone is depressed because they broke up with their boyfriend, but also because they have decreased synaptogenesis in their hippocampus. Causation gets tricky, and this is a philosophical minefield for sure, but overall these two levels should be complementary rather than competitive. So what’s the biological correlate to trans people having dissociation problems?

Practically all searches for the biological basis of dissociation end up at the NMDA glutamate receptor, one of the many neurotransmitter systems in the brain. Even though its cousins dopamine and serotonin usually get top billing, glutamate is probably the brain’s most important neurotransmitter, and NMDA glutamate receptors in particular are involved in all sorts of interesting things.

Drugs that block NMDA receptors cause dissociation. The most famous dissociative anaesthetic, ketamine, is an NMDA antagonist. So is DXM, a recreational drug that causes dissociation in abusers. Wikipedia’s list of dissociative drugs is basically just fifty-five NMDA antagonists in a row. The only other category they list are kappa opioid agonists, and kappa opioid agonism probably – you guessed it – antagonize NMDA. If we take this result seriously, every substance we know of that causes dissociation is an NMDA antagonist in some way.

Does anything improve NMDA function – an effect we might expect to alleviate dissociation? Yes, and among a list of intimidating research chemicals called things like “aminocyclopropanecarboxylic acid” is one familiar name: estrogen. See eg El-Bakri et al, which finds that “estrogen modulates NMDA receptors function in the brain…enhancing NMDA function”. McEwen et al: “One of the long-term effects of estradiol [estrogen] is to induce NMDA receptor binding sites in the CA1 region of the hippocampus.” Bi et al: “17-B-estradiol [estrogen] enhances NMDA receptor phosphorylation and function.” I don’t fully understand this research, but it seems to point to estrogen promoting NMDA activity in some way.

So transgender people dissociate a lot, a state usually associated with hypofunctioning NMDA receptors. And trans women get better when they take estrogen, a hormone that improves NMDA function. That’s interesting. But what does this have to do with those optical illusions?

III.

The Hollow Mask illusion and its cousins may depend on NMDA function.

To oversimplify: the brain interprets the world through Bayesian calculations. In Corlett et al’s model, it communicates top-down priors (ie assumptions based on previous knowledge about the world) through NMDA receptors and bottom-up new evidence through AMPA receptors. They write:

In a hierarchical cortical system in which representations become more abstract with increasing distance from the primary input, higher levels of the hierarchy specify top-down predictions through NMDA receptor signaling and any mismatches between expectancy and experience are conveyed upward through the hierarchy via rapid AMPA and GABA signaling

When you see a hollow mask, the brute facts of how the mask looks are your bottom-up sensory evidence. Your top-down prior is that every other face you’ve seen for your entire life has been normal, not inside-out. Given the strength of the prior, the prior wins, and your brain interprets the mask as a normal face.

Unless your brain is bad at applying priors, ie its NMDA receptors aren’t working that well. Then it just sticks with the bottom-up sensory evidence showing that the mask is hollow.

Schizophrenia and autism both probably involve decreased NMDA function in different ways. For schizophrenia, see eg Olney, NMDA receptor hypofunction model of schizophrenia, and Coyle, NMDA receptor and schizophrenia: a brief history. Ketamine seems to replicate the symptoms of schizophrenia pretty well and is commonly used as a model for the disorder. For autism, see eg Lee, NMDA receptor dysfunction in autism spectrum disorders and this study where screwing with NMDA receptors in mice seems to turn them autistic.

From this we would predict that estrogen would help treat schizophrenia and autism. It does. Schizophrenia is more common and more severe in men than women, with researchers noting that “gonadal steroids may play a role in buffering females against the development of schizophrenia”. Women are known to sometimes get schizophrenia triggered by menopause when their estrogen levels decrease. Estrogen supplementation is an effective schizophrenia treatment, and there’s some interest in developing estrogen receptor modulators that can help schizophrenic men without making them grow breasts. Meanwhile, autism continues to be about four times more common in men than women, autistic women tend to have more “male-typical brains”, and although it’s considered unethical to treat autistic boys with estrogen, it works in mice and fish. Once again, doctors are looking into estrogen analogues that don’t turn people female as possible autism treatments.

We might also predict that estrogen would increase glitching on the hollow mask. I can’t study this directly, but on the survey, 15% of biological males had weak reactions to the illusion, compared with only 11% of biological females, p = 0.01. Since women have more estrogen, that looks good for the theory.

Transgender people have higher rates of autism and schizophrenia. The Atlantic actually had a good article about this recently : The Link Between Autism And Trans Identity. They cite one study showing 8% autism rate in trans people (compared to 1-2% in the general population), and another showing that autistic people were 7.5x more likely to express “gender variance”. Apparently a lot of trans people have problems getting hormone therapy because their doctors think the gender issues are “just” because of their autism. Some might say that denying people estrogen because they have a condition which studies suggest estrogen can successfully treat is a bit, I don’t know, crazy and evil, but I guess people get really weird around this stuff.

My survey broadly confirms these numbers. Autism rates were sky-high in every category – it’s almost as if the sorts of people who like reading blogs about how gender is all just NMDA receptors skew more autistic than average – but there was a remarkable difference across gender identities. 15% of cisgender people were autistic, but a full 52% of trans people were.

The survey also finds that about 4% of non-schizophrenic people were transgender, compared to 21% of schizophrenics and self-suspected schizophrenics. Other people have noticed the same connection, and I’ve met more schizophrenic transgender people than I would expect by chance given the very low rates of both conditions.

If this is right, we end up with this rich set of connections between schizophrenics, autistics, ketamine, dissociative experiences, estrogen, gender identity, and the hollow mask. Anything that decreases NMDA function – schizophrenia, autism, ketamine – will potentially cause dissociative experiences and decreased glitching on the mask illusion. Estrogen will improve NMDA function, treat dissociative experiences, and bring back hollow-mask glitching.

So I wonder: is NMDA hypofunction related to transgender? That would explain the autism and schizophrenia connections. It would explain the hollow mask numbers. It would explain the dissociation. It would explain why estrogen helps the dissociation. And it would explain a lot of internal connections between all of these different conditions and factors.

IV.

I’m going to stop here, even though there’s a lot more worth saying on this, because I’ve already gotten so far into Speculation Land that trying to chain any more conclusions on would probably be premature. So let’s switch to some reasons for skepticism.

First, the research into NMDA receptors is too interesting. People argue that NMDA is key to depression, key to anxiety, OCD, chronic pain, and borderline personality (my guess is the depression claims are mostly overblown, the borderline claims are 100% absolutely right and revelatory, and I’m agnostic on the others). On the one hand, explaining everything sounds sort of good. On the other hand, it also sounds like what would happen if a field was getting kind of overhyped and slipping into methodology loose enough to prove anything it wanted. Maybe a vague link between a receptor which is literally everywhere in the brain and some psychiatric disease isn’t that interesting. A theory that can explain absolutely everything should always cause suspicion.

Second, I’m still not sure what to make of the Hollow Mask results on my survey. Although the transgender results were unusually strong, I did get mildly statistically significant results on about half of the thirty-or-so things I looked at, including seemingly-unrelated items like political affiliation. Some might argue that this means something is wrong with my survey. Others might argue that hey, we know political attitudes are about 50% genetic, and the last time people tried trace the genes involved all the strongest results were genes for NMDA receptors. Have I mentioned that NMDA receptors are really interesting?

Third, I included a second illusion I asked about on the survey, the Spinning Dancer. It also had an odd response pattern among transgender people. But it didn’t correlate at all with the Hollow Mask Illusion, and it doesn’t seem to be elevated among autists. I don’t know what’s going on here, and the whole thing makes me more suspicious that all of this is some weird artifact.

Fourth, all this predicts that ketamine will cause reduced glitching on the Hollow Mask. It doesn’t. Corlett argues that this is because chronic, but not acute, NMDA dysfunction is required to stop the hollow mask glitches “because [keatmine] has a predominant impact on bottom-up AMPA signaling”. I don’t really understand this and it seems like a prediction failure to me. On the other hand, chronic marijuana use does prevent mask glitching, which might be because of marijuana causing NMDA hypofunction over time, which I guess is a point in favor of the chronicity theory.

Fifth, although trans women dissociate less when they take estrogen, trans men dissociate less when they take testosterone. I can’t find whether testosterone has similar NMDA-promoting properties in the brain, although it sometimes gets aromatized to estrogen so that might be relevant. Also, I’ve never heard of any trans woman taking testosterone or trans man taking estrogen. If that makes dissociation worse – and from the psychosocial perspective it probably should – then that would be a strike against this theory.

Sixth, although I played up the transgender/autism and transgender/schizophrenia links, the truth is that transgender people have higher rates of every mental illness, to the point where it may just be some general factor. I think I’m justified in focusing on these two results because transgender people’s higher rates of depression and anxiety are probably just related to being transgender being depressing and anxiety-provoking in this society. But schizophrenia and autism are 80+% genetic, and so harder to explain away like that. Still, somebody could question the relevance of worrying about these two conditions in particular.

I hope some of this can be sorted out in the near future. A first step would be for someone official to replicate the transgender Hollow Mask pattern and prove that it’s not just confounded by autism and schizophrenia rates in that population. A very tentative second step would be to investigate whether chronic use of the supplements that improve NMDA function in schizophrenia – like glycine, d-serine, and especially sarcosine – can augment estrogen in improving gender dysphoria. Remember to consult your doctor before trying any weird supplements since they may cause unintended side effects, like becoming a Republican.

It could also be worth trying to understand more explicitly why gender identity and NMDA should be linked. This post is long enough already, but I might write more on this in the future. If you want a preview, check out The Role Of Neonatal NMDA Receptor Activation In Defeminization And Masculinization Of Sex Behavior In The Rat and draw the obvious conclusions.

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357 Responses to Why Are Transgender People Immune To Optical Illusions?

  1. sflicht says:

    So I assume you’ll write up your results for publication? It would be a shame if not. I understand you’re busy but… science?

    • registrationisdumb says:

      None of Scott’s surveys are properly randomized trials and draw from a very unique userbase, which makes me hesitant that any of them should be published before replicated in a proper trial.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        reverse nominative determinism.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        But the fact that Scott’s readership survey is not random is what makes it so interesting: it’s 5,000 very unusual people, but the kind of people who have become a lot more influential on the culture over the last century or so.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          I think sci-fi author Robert Heinlein figured out that his readership had some of these statistical tendencies as far back as his 1958 short story “All You Zombies.”

          Heinlein flattered young sci-fi readers as an emergent elite of the future as far back as his keynote address of the first sci-fi convention in 1941.

          One question would be whether Heinlein’s personal tendency toward solipsism was related to autism, transgenderism, or dissociativeness. My vague impression is that Heinlein saw solipsism as central and other traits as side effects. But you don’t see the word “solipsism” that often anymore — especially not in psychological contexts.

          • markk116 says:

            It has been on the decline indeed! From Google.

          • Speaker To Animals says:

            But you don’t see the word “solipsism” that often anymore

            Quite. Sometimes it feels like I’m the only solipsist left.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            That’s a good one …

          • Doctor Mist says:

            My favorite Bertrand Russell quotation:

            As against solipsism it is to be said, in the first place, that it is psychologically impossible to believe, and is rejected in fact even by those who mean to accept it. I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others. Coming from a logician and a solipsist, her surprise surprised me.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t think I can publish my survey since it didn’t conform to proper scientific standards. I also hate writing papers with a vengeance. If someone else thinks some of this is writeupable and wants to give it a try, I’m happy to hand it over to them if they make me a coauthor.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        You can publish anything. You just say that it is a convenience sample of a population enriched for transgender and autism. If you wanted to study transgender and autism, it would be a great resource. Except that you seem to have approached this project intending to study optical illusions, so that it turns out to tell us about transgender and autism is suspicious.

  2. agahnim says:

    About this quote: “So transgender people dissociate a lot, a state usually associated with hypofunctioning NMDA receptors. And they get better when they take estrogen, a hormone that improves NMDA function.”

    This quote makes perfect sense if we interpret “transgender people” as meaning “transgender people who are biologically male but actually are female”. If we’re not using that interpretation then I seem to be confused.

    Is estrogen a common treatment for transgender people who are biologically female but actually are male? Alternatively, are such people much less common (in the general population | in this survey), such that assuming that most transgender people are women is mostly accurate?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thanks. You’re right. I’ve added the following paragraph:

      “Although transwomen dissociate less when they take estrogen, transmen dissociate less when they take testosterone. I can’t find whether testosterone has similar NMDA-promoting properties in the brain, although it sometimes gets aromatized to estrogen so that might be relevant. Also, I’ve never heard of any transwoman taking testosterone or transman taking estrogen. If that makes dissociation worse – and from the psychosocial perspective it probably should – then that would be a strike against this theory.”

      • LadyJane says:

        I knew a transman who, back when he still identified as female, had been prescribed some kind of estrogen medication to treat his unusually low estrogen levels. No idea if it gave him dissociative effects, since he was never prone to dissociation to begin with, but it (unsurprisingly) made his dysphoria significantly worse than it had been before.

        I’d imagine such ‘treatments’ are actually fairly common among medical professionals who aren’t particularly knowledgeable about trans issues. I’ve also seen a few religious/social conservatives suggest deliberately giving estrogen to trans men and testosterone to trans women to ‘cure’ their ‘delusions’, in a similar vein to conversion therapy for homosexuals.

      • sconn says:

        Here’s an example of an AFAB person experiencing less dysphoria while on the Pill and while pregnant: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/catholicauthenticity/2017/03/pregnancy-gender-dysphoria-pill/. She says also, however, that it gave her horrible depression. (She is her preferred pronoun.)

        Don’t suppose you have any thoughts about progesterone?

  3. hlynkacg says:

    It seems to me that a key difference between the spinning dancer and hollow mask illusions would be that there is no strong prior for the dancer spinning clockwise vs counter-clockwise the way there would be for a face being inside-out vs not and that this might explain the weaker signal.

    I’m a bit too much of a knuckle-dragger too comment on the bulk of it but I enjoyed the write up all the same and now I’m chasing neurotransmitters down a google-hole.

    • Quixote says:

      From my perspective, the spinning dance and mask are fundamentally different and I wouldn’t expect them to correlate. I might even expect them to anti correlate. For the mask, there is a correct way to see it (it actually is inverted half the time), and there is a statically likely way to see it (real faces are almost never inverted). Both are objective and lean pretty far one way. For the spinning dancer, its designer intended to make it so it could be seen either way (I think, the designer missed a bit and the way human body moments, gravity, and momentum interact make one direction more natural than the other), but it’s close to the middle. Likewise, in terms of stats, people turn both right and left pretty frequently. So dancer is made to have two systems both toward the center of their tendency and ambiguous, mask is made to have two systems at opposite extremes. They aren’t the same kinds of illusion.

    • Vermillion says:

      There’s also quite a lot of neural hardware that’s usually (but not always) devoted to faces so it makes sense to me that this might make illusions involving faces much more common, except in people who lack the same interest/expertise in other people i.e. individuals with autism.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        But isn’t this the kind of thing that makes people say that autism is the opposite of schizophrenia?
        Schizophrenics have social apophenia (eg, conspiracies), while autists have the opposite. But while autists have low face detection, schizophrenics don’t actually have elevated face pareidolia.

        Thus while it is plausible that autistic weakened face detection leads to the slightly elevated rates of autists seeing through the mask illusion, the high rate of schizophrenics seeing through it is probably for a different reason. If not a common reason, not both NMDA.

        • Speaker To Animals says:

          Speaking as an autistic, I can see through the spinning mask illusion quite easily.

          I just can’t tell if it’s happy to see me or if I’ve upset it in some way.

    • Speaker To Animals says:

      Seems to me that the spinning face is actually an illusion and the spinning dancer is merely an ambiguous stimulus.

      Like the Necker cube, there’s no right or wrong answer to the dancer. When you see the face side on you know there can only be one correct answer.

  4. youzicha says:

    I had never heard of the selective estrogen receptor modulators before. You say that they “don’t turn people female” but… hmm! Like, someone on tumblr were saying that they liked the physical changes from taking estrogen but found the psychological changes intolerably unpleasant. If we can make drugs that affect either the brain or the breasts selectively, it seems that could provide yet another queering of the gender binary. 🙂

  5. Henrique says:

    I’m wondering: if ketamine simulates somehow schizophrenia, and we know that ketamine can be helpful for depression, can we say that some depressed people could use a little bit of disassociation?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Probably not. Latest studies suggest that ketamine’s antidepressant effects are probably because of a metabolite that affects AMPA receptors.

  6. onyomi says:

    I have heard statistics that gay people have higher than average IQ. My subjective impression is that this holds true for transgender as well, maybe even to a greater degree. And people on the autism spectrum often seem to be smarter or more perceptive in many ways, albeit seemingly at the expense of other skills.

    My complete stab-in-the-dark guess as to why there might be a “gender queer”-high IQ correlation is 1. smart people are more likely to thin about their gender identity and 2. One surprisingly often sees even relatively sophisticated conservative commentators quipping that “there’s no evolutionary reason for homosexuality since evolution wants us to have heterosexual sex.” This, of course, completely ignores group dynamics, whereby it might be better for the overall survival of the genes and the tribe they’re concentrated in for the fifth son of a given woman to focus on helping out, rather than competing with, his older brothers. Hence the younger sibling effect.

    If it’s true that gay people are the “help out your siblings rather than having a lot of children of your own” members of the tribe, then maybe there is more advantage to being, I dunno, objective? Perceptive? Not bound by social conventions?

    • ashlael says:

      Helping out the tribe would imply being strongly bound by social conventions. Why else would you do it?

    • abc says:

      Or you know, high IQ people are more likely to take their system II beliefs seriously and self-modify based on them.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      The one late onset male to female transperson I’ve known personally, back when he was a (rather ruthless and extremely unfeminine) man when we were in MBA school together (he was also getting a JD degree simultaneously) had an extremely high IQ, probably at least one standard deviation above mine, maybe two. He went on to make a fortune in space media and another fortune in medicine and is sometimes listed as the highest paid female CEO in America.

      On the other hand, early onset M to Fs who start out as highly effeminate boys and often become transvestite sex workers or the like tend to be, shall we say, more people persons than high tech tycoons.

    • James Miller says:

      Autistics probably have a lower mean IQ but a higher variance in IQ than the general American population, and selection bias is why it might seem to this community that autistics tend to be smart.

      I think you are making a group selection argument with respect to gay sex and evolution, and group selection is usually a weak evolutionary force.

      • onyomi says:

        group selection is usually a weak evolutionary force.

        In what context?

        Today, for humans, it probably is. But when humans were living in tribes of 50ish cousins, and when tribal warfare/famine often meant the survival or extinction of that group, wouldn’t it have been stronger?

        I don’t know about other animals; I assume it would be stronger in social animals?

        • James Miller says:

          I think it’s still weak in a tribe of 50. You have to confer a massive benefit on your group to make up for you having fewer children. Also, within a tribe, someone who has children is going to do a lot better job of passing along his genes than someone who doesn’t have children but spends his time helping others raise their children so even if one tribe gained an advantage from some people having this trait, it would quickly be selected against by evolution. I think what’s stronger in social animals is reciprocity where I help your children today (when you are out hunting) in return for your helping mine tomorrow.

          • onyomi says:

            If the number of females is scarce (chief has 10 wives) and the choice is between “fight my brothers for the right to have a wife” and “take care of my (close genetic relatives’) children”? In such a case, having a certain percentage of a tribe not competing in the heterosexual mating game might even encourage more group-wide reciprocity?

          • James Miller says:

            In this situation the genes of the chief are going to spread. As the greatest evolutionary fail would be for the chief to not want to have sex with women, evolution will, in this situation, strongly select against this possibility.

          • James Miller says:

            Also, by your model people with the “gay gene” will do a worse job than the average man in the tribe would of passing on his genes and so the frequency of the “gay gene” will decline within the tribe over time.

          • onyomi says:

            the greatest evolutionary fail would be for the chief to not want to have sex with women

            What if the personality traits for seeking to be chief tend not to correlate with those for being gay?

            Also, if you’re right about all this, do you have any alternative explanation for the continued existence of homosexuality and the “older brother effect”?

          • Placid Platypus says:

            Also I’m pretty sure when experimenters tried to artificially create group selection pressures in insects, rather than restrain their breeding for the greater good they ate each other’s children.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Isn’t what’s needed here a gene that codes for being gay at some frequency/in some circumstances? So the older brothers also have the “gay” gene, but aren’t gay. Seems like a conditional gene like that could reduce your expected number of children but increase your expected number of grandchildren and thus be selected for, no?

          • onyomi says:

            @Tarpitz

            This seems quite plausible to me (the idea of there being some “gay genes” which do or do not get expressed depending on author circumstances, perhaps including the other genes present and/or uterine environment), but why would having the “gay gene,” expressed or unexpressed, increase one’s number of grandchildren despite decreasing expected children?

          • Debug says:

            Although I’m fairly certain that GWAS has ruled out a simple genetic architecture for homosexuality I’ve never seen it discussed whether a complex architecture is/is not possible. My prior is that homosexuality is sufficiently mal-adaptive that any benefit that it would grant to relatives is insufficient to make up for the fitness decrease.

            However, I’m not sure how complicated the genetic architecture regulating pregnancy is (So this is all speculation). Let’s say you have X common genes in the population where X is a relatively large number. Individuals with mostly those genes are at a local peak in fitness (with respect to pregnancy). Any mutations in these genes will push them away from this local peak in fitness. Since everybody in the population has varying degrees of mutational load they will all be varying degrees away from this fitness peak.

            When you have an individual far enough away from this fitness peak you start seeing effects such as “accidentally feminizing the male fetus if you’ve had many male fetuses” which you’d expect would be removed from the population but – due to the polygenic architecture of “pregnancy fitness” – appear due to offspring variation anyway. Also, selection likely isn’t strong enough in general to remove all the suboptimal genes – so they never get purged from the population.

            However, I’m not sure how heritable homosexuality is. I seem to remember it being slightly (r=0.2 – maybe?) but I could very well be wrong about that. I believe identical twins can be discordant for homosexuality but the key factor regulating homosexuality (in this example) would be the mother not the child.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Is there much evidence that gay men are helpful to their nieces and nephews having more children?

          Perhaps if your gay uncle was the Pope during the Renaissance, but that seems like a fairly unusual social development.

          In general, the genetic math doesn’t seem to work very well.

          A more promising alternative theory might be that femininity is so valuable in Darwinian terms that a small amount of leakage across sex lines is an acceptable loss.

          • onyomi says:

            femininity is so valuable in Darwinian terms that a small amount of leakage across sex lines is an acceptable loss.

            And sperm so chronically oversupplied. Gay men don’t have eggs, of course, but as a small percentage of the male population of most groups, their sperm isn’t a limiting factor on the genetic success of their group. Therefore, any other advantage to having them around (say, less infighting due to conflict over mates), would be worth the tradeoff for the group, genetically speaking.

          • Creutzer says:

            A more promising alternative theory might be that femininity is so valuable in Darwinian terms that a small amount of leakage across sex lines is an acceptable loss.

            Prima facie, that seems backwards: men failing to reproduce for lack of masculinity seem to be more frequent than women failing to reproduce for lack of femininity.

          • Loquat says:

            @ Creutzer

            Another way of putting “femininity is so valuable in Darwinian terms” is that the limiting factor on a given group’s reproduction is far, far more likely to be female reproductive capacity rather than male, unless some disaster has taken away literally almost all of their fertile males. So if some genetic trait tends to make female carriers have more children, but as a side effect male carriers are a bit more likely to be gay, that’s an overall gain.

          • baconbacon says:

            Another way of putting “femininity is so valuable in Darwinian terms” is that the limiting factor on a given group’s reproduction is far, far more likely to be female reproductive capacity rather than male, unless some disaster has taken away literally almost all of their fertile males. So if some genetic trait tends to make female carriers have more children, but as a side effect male carriers are a bit more likely to be gay, that’s an overall gain.

            This is a very myopic view, reproductive success goes well beyond “bim, bam, boom, baby in the womb”.

          • hlynkacg says:

            reproductive success goes well beyond “bim, bam, boom, baby in the womb”.

            Sure but it doesn’t change the fact that wombs are the chief bottleneck, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

            In the simplest terms, a tribe that loses 50% of it’s breeding age males has the ability to replenish itself inside a generation so long as its’ other needs (food, water, shelter, defense, etc…) are being met. A tribe that loses 50% of it’s breeding age females is not so lucky.

          • baconbacon says:

            In the simplest terms, a tribe that loses say 50% of it’s breeding age males has the ability to replenish itself inside a generation so long as its other needs (food, shelter, defense, etc…) are being met. A tribe that loses 50% of it’s breeding age females is not so lucky.

            You can describe specific circumstances where womb>testicles, and I can describe specific circumstances where testicles>womb. Sure, given the circumstances you describe it would be better to have wombs, but what are the odds of a situation where half the mature males die off, but somehow the group can collect enough food to provide for normal pregnancy rates?

            Wombs (femininity) = more desirable in Darwinian terms would lead you to expect a very distorted ratio of males to females. Sometimes wombs, sometimes testicles gets you close to 50/50.

          • hlynkacg says:

            what are the odds of a situation where half the mature males die off, but somehow the group can collect enough food to provide for normal pregnancy rates?

            I would say “rather high”, seeing as this has arguably been the “default” state of human existence since the invention of agriculture.

            Furthermore, I don’t think your claim about the distorted ratio of males to females follows. In a society where most couples have only daughters the couple that produces numerous sons will enjoy a huge reproductive fitness advantage.

          • baconbacon says:

            Rather high seeing as this has arguably been the “default” state of human existence since the invention of agriculture.

            It has? Citation please?

            In a species or society where most couples have only daughters the a couple that produces numerous sons will have a huge reproductive fitness advantage.

            So in other words, in a Darwinian sense what gets favored depends upon the circumstances, and that one is not preferable to the other?

            Also how do you then explain that there are more male babies born than female due to sex selection that happens in the womb (105:100)?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Citation please?

            Is this really a topic of debate?

            The whole point of agriculture is that one no longer need to go trekking through the wilderness (or hostile territory) in search of a meal. Instead your food is right there. Furthermore having your community’s food concentrated in one place means that it takes fewer people and less time to gather it.

            Agricultural societies can support more people on a given plot of land, and can further afford to have significant portion of thier population doing things dedicated to things like inventing art, and metallurgy instead of hunting and gathering. Which is why Agricultural societies tend to curb-stomp hunter gatherers whenever they find themselves in direct competition.

            So in other words, in a Darwinian sense what gets favored depends upon the circumstances, and that one is not preferable to the other?

            You seem to be under the impression that “things that increase the species’ reproductive fitness” and “things that increase an individual’s reproductive fitness” are synonymous. This is not the case. Sure it may be advantageous for humanity as a species if the sex ratio were skewed heavily towards females, but on the individual level, producing children of the less numerous sex confers a competitive advantage. Genes being selfish, the individual incentive wins.

            As for the last bit, males have a higher mortality rate. If women died more often than men (and had been doing so for generations) I would expect the selection to be skewed the other way.

          • baconbacon says:

            The whole point of agriculture is that one no longer need to go trekking through the wilderness (or hostile territory) in search of a meal.

            This doesn’t imply that a society of 100 men and 100 pregnant women would produce the same amount of nutrition/shelter/defense per individual that a society of 50 men and 100 pregnant women would. Pregnant and nursing women need more calories and are less productive (or their productivity is switched from one type of work to producing and caring for children if you like).

            You seem to be under the impression that “things that increase the species’ reproductive fitness” and “things that increase an individual’s reproductive fitness” are synonymous.

            I am under the impression that when someone says “Darwinian terms” they mean selection that happens at the individual (genetic) level. It would be confusing to me if they meant something else, because that is what Darwinian terms should mean given who Darwin was, and what evolution is, and what fitness means etc.

            Sure it may be advantageous for humanity as a species if the sex ratio were skewed heavily towards females

            And how exactly would you define it? defend it? Humanity, as a species, doesn’t undergo Darwinian selection .

          • onyomi says:

            There are 20th c. examples ready to hand in the form of World Wars: big percentages of the male population are abroad getting killed, resulting in a short term drop in birth rates. This is almost entirely compensated for by a big spike in birth rates when the survivors come home (hence “baby boom”). Imagine if the situation were reversed and it was the women getting killed.

            Women in search of sperm almost always find it; not so with men in search of wombs.

          • hlynkacg says:

            This doesn’t imply that a society of 100 men and 100 pregnant women would produce the same amount of nutrition/shelter/defense per individual that a society of 50 men and 100 pregnant women would.

            They don’t need to produce the same amount so long as an agricultural society composed of 50 men and 100 pregnant women can produce more nutrition/shelter/defense than a hunter/gather society comprised of the same. Which they can.

            I am under the impression that when someone says “Darwinian terms” they mean selection that happens at the individual (genetic) level.

            Correct, and that is precisely why your claim about distorted gender ratios doesn’t pass inspection.

          • Tibor says:

            As far as I can tell, in a tribal society men tend to hunt, however hunting with no or almost no tools is very inefficient and in terms of nutrition gathering tends to be more practical. It brings variety to the tribe and also serves as a sexual indicator. This is also why the successful hunter(s) tend to share the meat with everyone. The purpose of killing the pray is less to eat and more to show off and advertise your genes. In fact it is a nice example of status seeking turned to quite a useful purpose. If people (men especially) will show off anyway, a tribe in which it is customary to do it by catching the biggest prey is better than the one where it is demonstrated by hitting other men with a club really hard.

            So yeah, I think that if you have to sacrifice half of the members of one sex to Quetzalcoatl, then unless the neighbouring tribe is looking forward to an opportunity to come and enslave all of your tribe, it is better from the perspective of the tribe to sacrifice the men. Better still, attack the other tribe and sacrifice their men!

      • Speaker To Animals says:

        The stats are skewed for Asperger’s since if you have an IQ lower than 70 you will probably be diagnosed with classical autism instead. I had an IQ test as part of my assessment.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      “If it’s true that gay people are the “help out your siblings rather than having a lot of children of your own” members of the tribe, then maybe there is more advantage to being, I dunno, objective?”

      Given that the kids of your siblings share only 25% of your genes, you’d have to help your siblings to raise FOUR more kids to adulthood if you opt out of having your own two kids to keep your genes in the population. That’s not remotely realistic. I mean on average you only have ONE sibling who has on av. two kids and you have to triple that number …

      And how does being objective, perceptive and not bound by social conventions help you raise your siblings kids but not your own?

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        If you want to look for a cause behind homosexuality you should look for a failure mode of “too much of a good thing”.

        Like, chromosome aberrations are caused by the fact that a bigger ovum is a better ovum. After all that thing has to divide like crazy. This means that the cell division leading to an ovum should be asymmetrical, creating one big ovum (and one scrap cell) and not two medium sized ones. The more asymmetrical the bigger the ovum … but the more asymmetrical the higher the chance of a chromosome not ending up in the smaller cell. So despite being a total killer in terms of reproductive success, we end up having a certain percentage of stuff like Down’s syndrome, with evolutionary pressure unable to rectify this.

        In homosexual men this is probably the mother’s immune system zapping cells that express a lot of proteins encoded on the y-chromosome. Having a better immune system is great, until it starts zapping cells that are in the process of making sure your offspring is interested in procreating. The older brothers in this scenario serve as “inoculation” against y-chromosome, so to speak.

        Anyway, that’s my current theory, which I came up with because Cochran’s gay germ theory wasn’t very convincing to me.

        • onyomi says:

          The “older brothers inoculate mother against y chromosome expression” thing does seem to make more sense, especially in light of the fact that, from what I’ve heard, there is a more “adversarial” relationship between mother and fetus than commonly understood (that is, there is a delicate balance between the fetus demanding enough nutrition and not being destroyed by the mother’s immune system to make it to term and the fetus being so burdensome it becomes a danger to the mother, as with eclampsia).

          Though the y chromosome thing doesn’t explain lesbians. Do they have an older sibling effect too, I wonder?

          • BlindKungFuMaster says:

            I tried to google that a bit, but there doesn’t seem to be an equally clear picture. Apparently lesbians are more likely to be only childs and I’m not sure whether those studies that find an older sister effect, correct for the number of siblings.

            Of course being an only child also points towards the maternal immune system, but the question is why it would zap exactly those neurons.

            Anyway, the paper Scott linked at the end is about defeminization and maculinization in rats via some NMDA-stuff, so maybe he clears up all the confusion about homosexuality in his next post: Why the maternal immune system is uniquely good at messing up nmda-stuff.

          • onyomi says:

            It seems like “only child” could not explain much, genetically, unless the having of a certain type of child predisposed you to become infertile thereafter.

          • BlindKungFuMaster says:

            The line of reasoning would be that a (too) strong maternal immune system would mess up sexual orientation and simultaneously make it difficult to bring a child to term, which would result in more “only childs”.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          BlindKungFuMaster: That sounds like a promising theory.

          In general, there are bio-engineering difficulties in a female gestating a male: two sexes sharing one body for nine months.

          For example, to take an amusing example, when my wife was pregnant with our two sons, she suddenly became very interested in watching baseball and even golf on TV. We watched Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series together:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U157X0jy5iw

          and she was fascinated and asked if baseball games were always as exciting as this. “Oh, yeah, all the time,” I lied. At the moment, she believed me and regretted all the time she had wasted by never before watching sports on TV. But immediately after giving birth she lost absolutely all interest in televised sports.

          This is pretty rare, but several other mothers have told me about similar experiences, so it’s not unique.

          This is the opposite of your hypothesis where the mother imposes feminine tastes upon the male fetus, but having seen the influence go from fetus to mother, I can imagine the influence also going from mother to fetus.

          • BlindKungFuMaster says:

            I want to emphasize that the “maternal immune theory” is not my original brain child. I was led to it because I looked for a “too much of a good thing”- failure mode, but of course whenever you come up with something that kind of makes sense, lot’s of other people saw the same connections decades earlier.

            Your wife’s changes in interest are probably more due to hormonal changes, I don’t think those are particularly similar mechanisms.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The thing about the influence going from mother to fetus is _all_ male fetuses have female mothers; it’s hard to find a control group.

            Testosterone apparently can cross the placental barrier, so some temporary masculinization of the mother might be expected.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Right, I’m just suggesting that when you stop and think about it, having two sexes co-occupy a woman’s body for nine months is a rather daunting biochemical engineering challenge. Ray Blanchard’s findings on the older brother effect suggest that perhaps sometimes there is cumulative long term damage to the function of the gestational system by repeatedly having male fetuses.

            But I haven’t looked into the research in a decade or so, so I’m not up to date on the latest findings.

        • baconbacon says:

          If you want to look for a cause behind homosexuality you should look for a failure mode of “too much of a good thing”.

          It would seem that the obvious place to start would be looking for situations where “attracted to same sex” is beneficial, rather than immediately jumping to “X is beneficial, and same sex is just a an outcome of overactive X”, because there would be extremely strong pressure to eliminate that negative outcome for X, while preserving X.

          Hypothesis: Sex is useful for more than just procreation in humans, it helps form long term bonds which are very useful. Even just in a carrying genes forward sense being protective of your (semi) monogamous partner is handy as she/he will be providing some level of support for your offspring in most situations.

          Bisexuality then could be seen as beneficial for helping group cohesion without the potential cost of pregnancy (which isn’t always wanted, certainly not as often as humans want sex). Homosexuality would then be not just a side effect, but at times advantageous (when group cohesion was in high demand, and extra fertility in low).

          • onyomi says:

            Also, it’s not always a given that more children=better in the evolutionary past. There are many historical cases of people literally killing or even eating unintended children because they can’t afford to raise them.

            Having two children you can feed is better than four children you can’t.

          • BlindKungFuMaster says:

            Seriously, do you achieve group cohesion by sleeping with people?
            Humans have great mechanisms for group cohesion, music, religion, hierarchies … In my experience sex is what messes group cohesion up.

            If from an evolutionary standpoint pregnancies weren’t always wanted, people wouldn’t want sex all the time. Plenty of examples for that in other species.

          • Tibor says:

            @BlindKungFuMaster: There is a difference between homosexual and heterosexual intercourse. The former cannot result in pregnancy, hence it is less likely to damage cohesion. And having a romantic relationship binds you together with your mate. And I think we are programmed to be less jealous about such relationship. My ex-girlfriend was also attracted to women and sometimes (though not very often) had sex with women while we were together, I did not mind at all. I was surprised when some friends told me they would. It did not mean any threat to our relationship and after all (she was primarily interested in men, so she would not leave me for a girlfriend of hers), I could not provide her with some things those other women could. I don’t know how common my attitude is, but I suspect it is way more common in this case than if I were ok with her having another boyfriend.

            By the way, the Carthaginians, who otherwise mostly hired mercenaries for their wars, had their elite sacred band which consisted entirely of gay lovers (maybe they were not strictly gay but they were picked in pairs for the troop). They were apparently a pretty formidable force and despite them all being gay and spending a lot of time together, jealousy did not break the unit (Romans did).

          • BlindKungFuMaster says:

            @Tibor: Women having homosexual side-relationships is at least vaguely plausible to increase group cohesion (though apparently your friends disagree), but men having gay relationships on the side? I’m pretty sure women are programmed to see every deep emotional link between their partner and a third person as a threat. Just look at the mother-in-law thing.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Blind Kung Fu Master:

            Women having homosexual side-relationships is at least vaguely plausible to increase group cohesion (though apparently your friends disagree), but men having gay relationships on the side? I’m pretty sure women are programmed to see every deep emotional link between their partner and a third person as a threat. Just look at the mother-in-law thing.

            There have, as I recall, been psychological studies indicating that men tend to get more upset over sexual rather than emotional infidelity, whereas for women it’s the reverse. Which would make sense from an evo psych perspective: men want to avoid being tricked into raising other people’s offspring, which would only happen if their wife’s been sleeping with another man, whereas women want their men to stay around help raise their children, which would be more imperilled by their husband’s becoming interested in someone else over her than by his having a one-night stand with somebody he never sees again. It would also explain why Tibor would be more OK with his girlfriend sleeping with a woman than with another man: she wouldn’t get pregnant from a woman, so cuckoldry isn’t a risk in such a scenario, whereas it might happen if she had sex with another man.

            @ Tibor:

            By the way, the Carthaginians, who otherwise mostly hired mercenaries for their wars, had their elite sacred band which consisted entirely of gay lovers (maybe they were not strictly gay but they were picked in pairs for the troop). They were apparently a pretty formidable force and despite them all being gay and spending a lot of time together, jealousy did not break the unit (Romans did).

            Actually it was the Thebans who had such a unit (allegedly — the first descriptions of it as being composed of homosexual lovers come from several hundred years after the unit was disbanded). I suspect you got confused because Carthage and Thebes both had elite units called the Sacred Band, but the two formations were quite distinct, and there’s no evidence that the Carthaginian Sacred Band was made up of lovers.

          • Tibor says:

            @The original Mr. X: I see, thanks for the correction.

            I think I am probably less jealous than average in general. I think I also care more about emotional attachment than the possibility of having children. With DNA tests raising someone else’s children is not really an issue any more. If my girlfriend had sex with someone on a business trip or something like that, someone she is not going to see again, I would prefer not to know about that, but it would not be that big a deal for me. If on the other hand, if she were too close with another guy then that could be reasonably interpreted as a threat to the relationship (unless you’re polyamoric, obviously) and so a problem. If she spend that much time with another woman I would be jealous only if I expected this to threaten her relationship with me. This threat is considerably lower than if it were another man that she’d be interested in. I think I’d be more worried if the other woman were strictly lesbian and wanted a “full-time” relationship with her. But those women were her friends who for the most part had (male) partners themselves, so it did not really bother me.

      • baconbacon says:

        Given that the kids of your siblings share only 25% of your genes, you’d have to help your siblings to raise FOUR more kids to adulthood if you opt out of having your own two kids to keep your genes in the population.

        I don’t know why you wrote FOUR is caps and two otherwise, it reads dishonestly and can easily leave the impression that you need a 4:1 ratio, not a 2:1 ratio for the math to work.

        Secondly you have made a major assumption, which is incorrect. It is possible to have ‘negative’ fitness, the possibilities aren’t 0 kids for you and 4 for your brother, or 2 kids for you and 2 kids for your brother, or 2 kids for you and 4 for your brother. Groups can live in precarious situations where attempting to have your own could decrease the survival rate of your nieces and nephews enough that your individual fitness goes below zero (for how most people use the term ‘fitness’).

        These situations aren’t going to be common, but you can invent them and they probably bear some resemblance to points in human history, specifically group splintering.

        • Zeno of Citium says:

          For anyone confused: You share 50% of your genes by common descent with your siblings, so 25% with their children. You share 50% of your genes by common descent with your own children (half you, half the other parent). So, four kids from your siblings is worth 100% of your genes by common descent, two kids of your own is worth 100% of genes by common descent.

          • baconbacon says:

            Not quite.

            If you have 2 kids you transmit 75% (on average) of your total genetic payload with 50% of your genes transferring once to the next generation and 25% transferring twice.

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          It’s not a major assumption, it’s basic math. If each copy of a given gene manages to on average pass >=1.0 copies on to the next generation, then this gene tends to stick around. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
          And it is completely irrelevant how awesome that gene makes it carrier for the group. If that doesn’t lead to >=1.0 copies (i.e. >=2 kids or >= 4 additional nieces/nephews …) in the next generation it’ll vanish.
          In the case of homosexuality that just doesn’t work. The idea that you’ll have FOUR additional surviving kids because your brother is gay, is completely absurd. And yes, gays might be great for the group, but if there is no plausible mechanism how the gene spreads, there probably is no gene.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I wonder how much of that is simply the high IQ people using the label. For example, the group that describes itself as atheists has a higher IQ than average. However, that IQ drops like a rock if you include the people who answer “no religion.”

      It could be that the smart ones use the term “gay,” while the dumb ones are just “men who have sex with men.”

      • dndnrsn says:

        Nobody describes themselves as MSM – as that article notes, it’s a term come up with by epidemiologists to talk about guys who have sex with other guys but are insistent that they are 100% straight. If you define sexuality based on inclination and activity (which I do – straight is as straight does, etc) these guys are closeted gay and bisexual men.

        Gay men describing themselves as gay – being out of the closet – is more likely in atmospheres that are correlated with higher income and education, and thus correlated with IQ. The guy who moves from Bibleville to Big City to go to university and comes out of the closet and identifies himself as gay is probably smarter, almost certainly will make more money, and by definition has a higher educational achievement level than the guy in Bibleville who doesn’t get into Big City U, stays in the closet, and maintains that he is straight (while hooking up with guys he meets on Craigslist or whatever).

        So, agreed, with caveats. “Gay men have higher IQs” has a lot of confounders.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          It’s true that most studies of gays are really about those out of the closet, but the term MSM exists because, in addition to people who identify as closeted gays, there is a substantial population that will admit to a survey that they have sex with men, but reject the label offered by the survey.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I had a longer bit about this but chopped it. I don’t buy the “has sex with men but identifies as straight” thing – it makes more sense to just consider that as being a deeper form of the closet (they’re deep enough in the closet to lie on anonymous surverys, or they’re in the closet to themselves, or whatever) than adopt a definition of sexuality wherein heterosexual means “defines self as heterosexual” and has nothing to do with a person’s sexual inclinations or activity.

            Some people have a reason to lie to some people about their sexuality. The second “some people” could range from “everybody except the campus LGBT group in the city far away from where he went to school” to “himself” for a guy who is in the closet.

            If someone who voluntarily engages in sexual activity with other men vehemently refuses to accept that he is attracted to other men, that’s interesting, that provides a lot of information about the guy, but “this guy is closeted gay/bisexual” is a more reasonable explanation of his predilections and activities than “this guy is just as heterosexual as guys who don’t have sex with other men.”

          • Douglas Knight says:

            MSM does not mean people who lied to the survey because no one knows who the liars are. The MSM terminology exists because there are people who answer two different questions differently. Maybe you should classify one of those answers as a truth and the other as a lie, but it’s pretty different than people who tell different things to different people. You can’t cleanly classify them as closeted / not closeted towards the survey.

            Epidemiologists haven’t studied what these answers mean because they don’t care. They focused on the question that gets the highest response, because they think it’s probably more truthful. And while they use “MSM” interchangeably with “gay,” they do use it in their literature as a reminder of what the question was. And when they write for the public, they sometimes use it in the hopes of reaching a larger audience.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m aware of that – it’s an epidemiologist-created category so they can lump together all guys who have sex with other guys, regardless of what those guys think about it. Looking back at my original post, though, I can see where the confusion arises from. I’ve been mangling posts revising them lately. My bad.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If someone who voluntarily engages in sexual activity with other men vehemently refuses to accept that he is attracted to other men, that’s interesting, that provides a lot of information about the guy, but “this guy is closeted gay/bisexual” is a more reasonable explanation of his predilections and activities than “this guy is just as heterosexual as guys who don’t have sex with other men.”

            I think this might be partly because the terms heterosexual/homosexual are used to refer to both physical sexual attraction and romance. Somebody who has sex with other men but has no interest in forming romantic connections with them could not identify as homosexual for that reason, in much the same way that somebody who’s romantically but not sexually attracted to women might describe himself as a “straight asexual”.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Or at the other end of the IQ spectrum you have Michel Foucault, who objected to identity labels for himself like “homosexual” and “gay” for, at least nominally, social constructionist theoretical reasons.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The original Mr. X

            The terms (developed by asexuals, I think? but I’m not sure) like “heteroromantic” might be useful here. However, you have to wonder: a guy in a situation where he is so in the closet he won’t admit under any circumstances, possibly even to himself, that he’s anything but straight – if the situation were different, would he be seeking out more than random encounters with other men?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The terms (developed by asexuals, I think? but I’m not sure) like “heteroromantic” might be useful here. However, you have to wonder: a guy in a situation where he is so in the closet he won’t admit under any circumstances, possibly even to himself, that he’s anything but straight – if the situation were different, would he be seeking out more than random encounters with other men?

            Maybe they would and maybe they wouldn’t, but in the absence of any actual evidence, declaring that they’re *really* just closeted gays seems a bit doctrinaire.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The original Mr. X

            How is someone who has sex with other men, denies it makes him not heterosexual on anonymous surveys, and presumably denies the sex itself in most other circumstances, not closeted gay/bisexual? That he is attracted to men is shown by the fact that he has sex with them, and his sexual activity with men is established, rather tautologically, by his sexual activity with men. If we require romantic inclination to establish sexuality, that would leave us concluding that people who have tons of random casual sex but are entirely averse to forming pair bonds are asexual, which is an absurd conclusion.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            One thing that exists is that some people are unsure who they are attracted to and they have sex with the same gender to be sure. If such a person never has sex with the same gender again, I would generally not classify that person as bi- or homosexual.

            There is also the phenomenon where men (and women) who don’t have access to the other gender, have sex with each other. You could find that among the general populace in places like Afghanistan where people are kept away from non related people of the other gender. You could find it in prisons, monasteries, convents, etc. I would generally not classify a person as bi- or homosexual in such an environment if they don’t engage in sex with the same gender outside of that environment (in a place where they do have access to the other sex).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            But is someone able to do something they have zero inclination to do? One interpretation of that sort of thing is “hey, it turns out a lot of people are bisexual with a strong preference for the opposite sex.”

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            People have a general inclination to intimacy and to having their intimate parts tickled, plus an ability to fantasize. Isn’t that enough?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            People generally don’t seek out things they don’t want. Ability to fantasize is strong enough that usually another person isn’t needed.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            People generally don’t seek out things they don’t want. Ability to fantasize is strong enough that usually another person isn’t needed.

            My argument is not that everyone who gets in such a situation ends up doing it, but that it happens. I presume that by using the words ‘generally’ and ‘usually’ you are conceding this possibility?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            I’m not confident enough in my understanding of human experience to speak in absolutes. However, I think it is fairly safe to say that a guy in general society (not a society where women are kept away from men unless married, prison, or the navy) who seeks out sex with other men is not heterosexual by any reasonable definition of the term.

    • SchwarzeKatze says:

      Evolution wants nothing. Evolution is a blind chemical process. I think a more likely reason why male homosexuality persists is because it confers an advantage to female siblings of being less responsive to females/neoteny and this gives a sufficient reproductive advantage for the genes involved in this to persist.

    • bbartlog says:

      Speaking in general, the heritability of gayness is low enough (0.15-0.2) that any explanation based on it having a situational advantage and being maintained by balancing selection is probably wrong.

      • hlynkacg says:

        This doesn’t seem like it would follow if we hypothesize that homosexuality is ordinarily latent/recessive and is essentially a rare side-effect of some other trait that is the “actual” thing getting selected for. Which, as I understand it, is what people here are suggesting.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Onyomi proposes that it is caused by an environmental factors — number of older brothers. In that case of course it would have low heritability. But a gene that caused conditional development could be favored, without even a need to invoke balancing selection. (For such a hypothesis, you have to be careful about different methods of measuring heritability. Some attribute the birth order environment to genes and others to shared environment.)

        As Hlynkacg says, low heritability is exactly what you’d expect in sexually antagonistic selection. I think this is a lot more plausible than Onyomi’s scenario (a low bar). The only thing going for Onyomi is the birth order effect, and I’m skeptical that’s even true.

    • Yaleocon says:

      Why are we confident the causation runs gay->high-IQ? It seems like there’s room for other causal interpretations, ones more plausible than anthropologically unjustified speculation about the particular value of objectivity and/or rationality in gay people. Maybe the arrow runs high-IQ->identifies as gay, or both relying on a common cultural cause.

      Sexuality, while probably fixed beyond a certain age, is almost certainly culturally mediated; otherwise, we’re at a loss to explain phenomena like the overwhelming prevalence of homosexual pederasty in Ancient Greece. So maybe more liberal and open-minded communities (which also skew coastal, elite, and high-IQ) produce more gay people with their “anything goes” culture.

      Along similar lines, even without culture as a cause, the people most willing to describe themselves as “gay” might be gay people surrounded by high-IQ coastal elite culture, while homosexuals in more Christian/traditional/narrow-minded/bigoted communities (pick whichever descriptor[s] you like best) are more unwilling to apply the label to themselves, even if it holds true for them.

      Altogether, I think there’s enough there to justify a moratorium on evo-bio storytelling until we actually have a clear lock on the correlates in full light of factors like culture of origin and culture one presently resides in.

    • psmith says:

      What if it’s a pathogen tho

      • Sanchez says:

        That’s an interesting idea, but how does it account for the alleged correlation between birth order and sexuality? Also, if it’s a pathogen, wouldn’t you expect shared environment to play a bigger role in sexuality than it seems to? I mean, wouldn’t homosexuality show up in clusters because of people drinking from the same water supply, breathing in the same soil particles, interacting with the same animals, or whatever?

        • psmith says:

          That’s an interesting idea, but how does it account for the alleged correlation between birth order and sexuality?

          Dunno.

          wouldn’t homosexuality show up in clusters

          Doesn’t it?

          (A couple cursory google scholar searches didn’t turn up anything, but now you mention it, I wonder.).

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The expectation is that it is something common that everyone is exposed to, but that only occasionally causes homosexuality. For example, 95% of people have had Epstein-Barr, but only rarely does it turn into mono. Even more rarely, and more controversially, does it turn into MS or narcolepsy.

        • Debug says:

          I thought about if there is a pathogen what the pathogen might be like. Apparently, many pathogens are quite good at hiding amongst other cells in the body. Evolutionary medicine suggests that most diseases that cause a huge drop in fitness are pathogenic.

          If so, imagine you have a pathogen that primarily reproduces by transmission from mother to daughter. Perhaps that pathogen is much more effective at hiding in females then in males. During development the pathogen invades the developing male and is found by the mother’s immune system. The immune system mounts an attack on the pathogen and it looks like an auto-immune response.

          Now, imagine you have a population of these pathogens who try and invade the first male fetus. The surviving population (if there is one) will likely be better at evading/surviving the mother’s immune response so the auto-immune response in the next male child was be longer. In such a world, the female body’s immune response accidentally feminizes the male fetus (perhaps this pathogen invades during a developmental period in which sexual orientation is wired up in the brain) in trying to deal with the pathogen.

          If it’s transmitted mother-to-daughter and it emerged long enough ago in the past it may be in > 95% of the population. We might not see clusters or any shared environment effect in that case.

    • vV_Vv says:

      This, of course, completely ignores group dynamics, whereby it might be better for the overall survival of the genes and the tribe they’re concentrated in for the fifth son of a given woman to focus on helping out, rather than competing with, his older brothers. Hence the younger sibling effect.

      This is the “gay uncle” hypothesis, a common attempt to explain homosexuality in terms of kin selection.

      The problem with this hypothesis is that it requires the beneficial effect of a gay uncle to be too strong to be probably realistic: an infertile gay uncle needs to make his siblings have four additional children just to break even in terms of evolutionary fitness. More generally, if a gay uncle is not completely infertile but has X% less fertility, then he needs to increase the combined fertility of his siblings by 4X% just to break even.

      This is most certainly unrealistic in most scenarios: even if the gay uncle, or even more a lesbian aunt, produces more resources than their siblings because they are unencumbered by child rearing, they aren’t going to produce 4X more resources.

      • baconbacon says:

        This is most certainly unrealistic in most scenarios

        It is actually very realistic in high mortality scenarios.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Why?

          If child mortality is, say, 50%, then in order to break even you can either produce at least 4 children and make sure that 2 survive to reproductive age, or you can help your siblings produce at least 8 extra children and make sure that 4 of them survive to reproductive age. The second strategy still seems more difficult.

          • baconbacon says:

            Say you are the nth boy born, so you have n-1 potential older brothers. For low n (1, 2) it is very unlikely that you have nieces and nephews when you hit reproductive age, for high n (7, 8+) it is extremely likely that you have multiple nieces and nephews.

            Lets say that childhood mortality is 50%, and half of that is infant mortality*. In this situation having 1 child of your own is roughly equal to ensuring that a non infant child of a male sibling makes it to reproductive age. Now many people will correctly point out that a caring uncle won’t take post infant childhood mortality from 25% down to 0%, but if you include an adjustment where childhood mortality spikes up when one of the parents dies, and a caring uncle steps in and helps raise the child it will dramatically cut that spike back. So the scenario is something like

            1. You are the nth boy.
            2. Your odds having nephews and nieces is 1/2(n-1)**
            3. The total number of nieces and nephews younger than reproductive age is also going to be a function of n.
            4. The likelihood of an adult sibling dying and leaving vulnerable children is also going to be a function of n and adult mortality.

            It is pretty easy to manipulate these numbers for very high n (6+) to make it absolutely advantageous without any additional benefits from helpling raise kids for living siblings.

            *childhood mortality is commonly defined as death before reproductive age, infant mortality death before some very young age, lets just say age 2 here.

            ** the odds that your older siblings survive to reproductive age

          • John Schilling says:

            Now many people will correctly point out that a caring uncle won’t take post infant childhood mortality from 25% down to 0%, but if you include an adjustment where childhood mortality spikes up when one of the parents dies, and a caring uncle steps in and helps raise the child it will dramatically cut that spike back.

            But “caring uncle” and “gay uncle” are two different things, so you need to multiply this hypothetical benefit by the differential probability of a gay vs. straight uncle caring for an orphan. And if your math assumes that gay men are uniformly caring altruists just looking for someone else’s child to raise whereas straight men are uniformly selfish bastards who would let their own nieces and nephews stave, we will all laugh at your math.

            Now let’s talk about gay aunts. Gay men may plausibly be less likely to reproduce than straight men and so more likely to have resources to spare, but a woman’s fertility has traditionally had rather less to do with her tastes or desires than her health and availability. So it would seem to me that gay aunts would be about as busy raising their own children as straight ones, and yet we find homosexuality to be about as prevalent among women as men.

          • baconbacon says:

            But “caring uncle” and “gay uncle” are two different things, so you need to multiply this hypothetical benefit by the differential probability of a gay vs. straight uncle caring for an orphan.

            Yes, but there are also a lot of upwards adjustments that you can make for hypothetical benefits for being a bisexual/leaning gay.

            Now let’s talk about gay aunts. Gay men may plausibly be less likely to reproduce than straight men and so more likely to have resources to spare. . . So it would seem to me that gay aunts would be about as busy raising their own children as straight ones, and yet we find homosexuality to be about as prevalent among women as men.

            Gay aunts could be an artifact of a strong gay uncle effect, or a strong selector for bisexuality, or have different benefits due to differences between men and women. For an example of the latter a gay aunt might end up with delayed reproduction due to her preferences, but she also might have the highest impact on children when the mother dies during childbirth and either the infant survives or there is another breast feeding child left behind and she can step in as a wet nurse (just an example to highlight the potential differences between gay uncle and gay aunt hypothesis).

            but a woman’s fertility has traditionally had rather less to do with her tastes or desires than her health and availability.

            I don’t think this statement is a given. These traits are at least as likely, if not far more likely, to have evolved during the hunter/gatherer past, with lower selection pressures during the agricultural past, and we don’t have good models for our H/G past at all.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, but there are also a lot of upwards adjustments that you can make for hypothetical benefits for being a bisexual/leaning gay.

            Any that don’t require an FTL drive for the associated handwaving?

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Is there even merely anecdotal evidence that gay male relatives boost the number of surviving nephews and nieces at all relative to straight male relatives? Can anybody name three celebrities who were orphaned and raised by their gay uncles? I’m pretty good at coming up with examples in general, but I can’t think of even one example of this theorized phenomenon. This is not to say that it never happens, but I have never heard of it being a pattern at all … except in cases like this when people are inventing theories about how male homosexuality must somehow increase Darwinian fitness.

            In the real world, if a 2-year-old child loses both parents, his or her uncle the antique dealer in Chelsea with a summer cottage on Fire Island is about the least likely member of the extended family who will be looked toward to take on raising the child. A straight uncle who lives in a house in the suburbs and has a kindly, child-loving wife would be much more likely to be called upon.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Lets say that childhood mortality is 50%, and half of that is infant mortality*. In this situation having 1 child of your own is roughly equal to ensuring that a non infant child of a male sibling makes it to reproductive age.

            If your child dies as an infant, then you haven’t spent many resources on them, especially if you are male and thus you didn’t have to carry them in your womb and breastfeed them.

            Therefore the cost of raising a non-infant nephew or niece is probably not much more than the cost of making a child and then, if they survive infancy, raise them.

            The only hypothetical advantage that the gay uncle might have is that he does not have to fiercely compete for females, but is this enough to offset for the 50% fitness loss in raising nephews and nieces instead of his own children? I don’t think so.
            Male competition for females is a high-risk high-payoff game: if you lose you don’t reproduce and might even die, but if you win you can win big and have a lot of children. If you have good genes, overall it’s a net win.
            Moreover the straight uncle who lost at the reproduction game but managed not die in the process could still help to raise his nephews and nieces, so there is no real comparative advantage in bailing out the reproduction game without even trying.

            It is pretty easy to manipulate these numbers for very high n (6+) to make it absolutely advantageous without any additional benefits from helpling raise kids for living siblings.

            More advantageous than having your own children? You’ll have to manipulate the numbers a lot to get that effect. Kin selection or even group selection are not impossible in principle, the problem is that they require a very strong effect to overcome individual selection. We don’t observe this strong effect in the case of homosexuality, and there is no evidence that such effect ever existed.

            Where are all these gay uncles and lesbian aunts caring for their nephews and nieces twice as much, or even as much as their biological parents? It just does not happen.

      • vV_Vv says:

        ERRATA:

        he needs to increase the combined fertility of his siblings by 4X%

        2X%

        they aren’t going to produce 4X more resources

        2X

        • sovietKaleEatYou says:

          This is assuming no inbreeding, which is very inaccurate, especially for agricultural societies (if I remember correctly nomadic societies seem not to have exclusive homosexuality). In an agricultural village the question you should ask is this: say a gene makes males gay with probability 1% and everyone in a village of 100 people is a carrier. Then would such a gene help at least one extra member of the village survive to adulthood?

          This seems very plausible, especially since there is anecdotally a correlation (since Plato’s academy) between being gay and being a better teacher (among other things)

          • vV_Vv says:

            Then would such a gene help at least one extra member of the village survive to adulthood?

            But then the dude who gets a mutation which disables his gay gene has a fitness advantage, since he does not lose fertility even with 1% probability and he can free load on the existing gays. Thus the no gay gene eventually replaces the gay gene.

            This seems very plausible, especially since there is anecdotally a correlation (since Plato’s academy) between being gay and being a better teacher (among other things)

            I’ve never noticed such correlation. Note that in ancient Greece pretty much all high-class males where bisexual, therefore the fact that Plato was presumably bisexual does not imply anything about a link between homosexual behavior and teaching ability.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Is there even much merely anecdotal evidence for the theory that a Gay Uncle doubles fertility among his nieces and nephews by helping the extended family reproduce?

        I’ve looked for anecdotal evidence of this and about all I’ve found might be a few nepotistic popes.

        I think there is a lot more evidence for, say, the hypothesis that living grandmothers help their grandchildren reproduce more. For example, my Aunt F. commuted 500 miles per week from age 65 to 80 to serve as unpaid caretaker for her grandchildren who lived at opposite ends of the Los Angeles metro area. Her free labor probably doubled the number of children her daughters could afford to have. In contrast, my mother-in-law was killed in a car accident just before our first child was born, and, looking backwards, it seems pretty clear that the loss of a highly energetic, competent grandmother made the next decade of our nuclear family life much more difficult.

        So this might help explain why human women evolved to tend to live so long past menopause.

        But the Gay Uncle theory …

        • opulentjoy says:

          You have it backwards. We evolved menopause so that women don’t die in childbirth and we get to have helpful, energetic grandmas.

          The question is not “why do women survive long after menopause?” It’s why do women get menopause at all?

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Either way you want to look at it, grandmothers tend to be an awful lot more helpful around the house than gay uncles.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If having old grandmothers around didn’t help with child-raising, I doubt we’d have evolved the menopause in the first place; evolutionarily speaking, it would have been better for older women to just die in childbirth and stop consuming resources which could go to still-fertile members of the tribe.

          • Randy M says:

            Eh, no, that’s going too far. We’re mammals, after all. A mother who dies in childbirth, especially if the norm, is not saving up resources for the next generation, she’s preventing them from getting nourishment unless a surrogate can be found.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Remember that human children require long parental care, at least 15 years to ensure a good chance of their reproductive success.

            If you are going to live until 55-60 (probably a reasonable life expectancy for an adult woman in a hunter-gatherer society), it’s beneficial to have your last child when you are not older than 40-45. A later pregnancy would risk your life, and thus the life of your existing children, and if you don’t die of childbirth the resulting child would have a high probability of birth defects, and even if they didn’t get them, they are probably going to die anyway when you die of “old age” and can’t care for them.

            Humans, and in particular human females, have an extremely K-selected reproductive strategy, with long gestation, high childbirth mother mortality and extremely long juvenile time with obligate high-effort parental care. Therefore it’s beneficial for human females to focus their resources, including their lifespan, on few early children rather than gambling to produce late children.

          • baconbacon says:

            Either way you want to look at it, grandmothers tend to be an awful lot more helpful around the house than gay uncles.

            Maybe for the last 100 years, but prior to that a healthy 20-30 year old male is going to have vastly more productive potential than a healthy, energetic grandmother AND the GUH is associated with multiple male siblings, which means your HEG is probably maxed out before you have a significantly increased chance of a gay uncle.

          • baconbacon says:

            Remember that human children require long parental care, at least 15 years to ensure a good chance of their reproductive success.

            This is probably an exaggeration, it is more likely that children become net neutral in the 10-14 year old range. Sexual maturity implies that you are/should be capable of producing more than your individual needs so you can start caring for the fetus (heck just menstruation for women is a notable increase in nutritional requirements).

            I would speculate that the second growth spurt humans go through in their teen years is associated with them crossing the boarder from being dependent to being more than self sufficient.

          • vV_Vv says:

            This is probably an exaggeration, it is more likely that children become net neutral in the 10-14 year old range.

            Nah, epiphyseal plates close around age 16 in contemporary males and age 14 in contemporary females. In moder times, females tend to reach sexual maturity and complete growth earlier than males, but in pre-moder societies they did it later (first menstruation occourred around 14).
            Brain development probably does not complete until 20.

            Does this mean that a child who lost their mother at 10 in a hunther-gatherer tribe was destined to die? No, but for sure they would have had a much lower chance of successfully reproducing than a child whose mother sticked around for other 5-10 years.

    • Mediocrates says:

      Greg Cochran has had, ahem, quite a lot to say on the “gay uncle” hypothesis over the years, and he’s at least convinced me that the math just doesn’t work out.

      But if the evolutionary modeling arguments don’t sway you, it’s worth considering that while sporadic/opportunistic homosexuality occurs widely across the animal kingdom, obligate male homosexuality is really observed in two species: humans and domesticated sheep. Per the Wiki:

      Simon LeVay introduced the further caveat that “[a]lthough homosexual behavior is very common in the animal world, it seems to be very uncommon that individual animals have a long-lasting predisposition to engage in such behavior to the exclusion of heterosexual activities. Thus, a homosexual orientation, if one can speak of such thing in animals, seems to be a rarity.” One species in which exclusive homosexual orientation occurs, however, is that of domesticated sheep (Ovis aries). “About 10% of rams (males) refuse to mate with ewes (females) but do readily mate with other rams.”

      Thus a “gay uncle”/tribal helper model of (at least) male homosexuality would need to explain why it’s useful in human societies and flocks of sheep, but skips every other social primate.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Homosexuality is probably just the result of various mistakes in the complicated process of reproduction and development. But homosexuals have enough political and social power (due in part to their being able to afford to invest more resources in themselves due to needing to invest fewer resources in their children) to impose the view that the mistakes are in the social order created by the other 97% of the population.

        The current transgender brouhaha that emerged after the victory of the gay marriage movement left a vacancy is similar, just raised by an order of magnitude. This is in part due to the extraordinary masculine aggressiveness of a few hyper-alpha males in imposing upon the other 99.7% of society their talking point that they always felt like a girl on the inside, even while fathering all those children and defeating all those other sportsmen, soldiers, and financiers.

        I mean, it is pretty funny that almost nobody notices that famous m-to-f trans people tend to be extremely masculine. Of course, there is a sinister reason for this mass obliviousness to the obvious. Here’s a good NYT article from a decade ago about how hyper-IQ, super-masculine academics Conway and McCloskey teamed up with Morris Dees’ SPLC to persecute anybody who gave a blurb to a Northwestern professor’s book offering a more plausible explanation of late onset m-to-f trans:

        http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/21/health/psychology/21gender.html

        These days, most people are pretty good at not noticing the kind of things that could bring the SPLC down on your head. Orwell called it “crimestop” or “protective stupidity.” It’s a valuable trait to possess.

    • Andrew Klaassen says:

      Lots of gay people have children. Being gay doesn’t mean that you don’t have children.

      What it does mean, though, is that your cheating will be unlikely to result in outside-the-marriage children. Your parental investment won’t be divided. That could, theoretically, be attractive in a mate.

      • Andrew Klaassen says:

        BTW, I know that this is 98.5% likely to be a bullshit idea. But I think that puts it in good company with most of the other evolutionary explanations for homosexuality.

      • vV_Vv says:

        What it does mean, though, is that your cheating will be unlikely to result in outside-the-marriage children.

        Still fitness reducing.

        Scenario A: Bob is married to Alice (who is faithful) and messes around with Diana, who is married to Cuck Chuck. Bob gets 1.5 children per unit of time while investing parental resources for just 1 child (Alice’s), Chuck gets 0.5 children while investing parental resources for 1 child. Bob genes are positively selected, Chuck’s are negatively selected.

        Scenario B: Bob is married to Alice, Chuck is married to Diana, Bob and Chuck are gay and mess around with each other, Alice is faithful to Bob and Diana cheats Cuck Chuck with Chad. Chuck’s fitness is the same as scenario A, but Bob’s fitness is reduced, since he only gets 1 child per unit of time.

        The fitness of Alice and Diana are the same in both scenarios, so neither has any reason to prefer scenario B (gay husbands) to scenario A (straight husbands).

  7. Phil Goetz says:

    I don’t think that spinning mask is an optical illusion. It’s a coding error. Watch the reflective highlighting pass over any part of the mask, such as over the eyebrows, just underneath the nose, or on the chin. It is exactly the same for the “forward” and “backward-facing” face. That’s impossible no matter where the illumination source is. Even if the light is all coming in a level plane from the viewer’s direction, the light reflection from a convex surface should be smaller than the reflection of the same light from the same source on a concave surface.

    • erik says:

      Flip your screen upside down and watch the animation. This causes the effect to go away for me at least.

      • Anatoly says:

        When I flip my screen uʍop ǝpısdn, the effect doesn’t go away for me. It’s crazy strong. I extracted all the frames from the GIF and watched them individually – doesn’t help either.

        Do you see normal concave image when looking straight at the mask upside down? What about the Chaplin mask upside down, does it remove the effect for you? (not for me).

        Can someone who just straight up doesn’t see the illusion in the hollow mask in the post speak up and describe what they see?

        • beleester says:

          When I turned my screen upside down, the hollow mask illusion went away completely – it looked convex when it was facing me and concave when it was facing away. It looked like any other rotating object.

          It didn’t work on the Chaplin mask, but it helped a little bit. When it was facing away from me, the mask appeared to bulge outwards, but around the edges it looked sunken in.

          It also made the illusion slower to take effect (or less effective at steep angles?). When right side up, the illusion takes effect pretty much instantly from any angle, it feels like the front of the mask is sliding away to reveal another forward-facing mask behind it. But with the Chaplin mask upside down, I could perceive it as facing away from me for a few moments, then as it rotated fully away from me, my brain made the switch and I saw it bulging outwards again.

        • gbear605 says:

          Flipping the regular image makes the illusion go away for me. Flipping the Chaplin mask does not remove the effect.

      • acrimonymous says:

        The upside-down effect is related to the fact that the “normal” visual coding in the brain is connected with expecting to see illumination from above, which is what you get outside with the sun (and inside from hanging lights!). I’m pretty sure this is connected in some way to the above/below division that explains the spinning dancer illusion.

    • markk116 says:

      I think this is an indication of how strong this effect is. My way of breaking the spell is following a corner with my eyes and only taking in the whole with my peripheral vision. This seems to let this slip under my “prior application” radar.

    • David Speyer says:

      I don’t see the mask glitch — it looks like a normal object rotating at constant speed; half the time it is facing towards me and half the time away. Demographics — cis-male, no autism diagnosis although I have some traits which make me wonder, normal vision and I see most optical illusions normally.

      Here is a possible confounder — men are much better at mental rotation tasks. To me, watching the mask feels like engaging the same part of my brain as solving a Shepard-Metzler test, which I do well. If you were going to do a real study, I think this would be worth looking at.

  8. abc says:

    What I find most interesting about these types of posts is the obvious politically incorrect elephant in the living room Scott keeps dancing around.

    • WashedOut says:

      Is it some variant of “transgender people are more prone to mental disorder”? Or “transgender-ness is underlain by mental disorder”?

      • abc says:

        It’s somewhat stronger than that.

        Scott likes to argue that whether something is a disease is a property of the map rather than the territory.

        However, here he also admits that things commonly considered psychological diseases tend to correlate strongly with each other:

        But all psychiatric disorders are hopelessly comorbid with each other. If someone meets criteria for one DSM disorder, there’s a 50% chance they’ll have another one too. 60% of people with major depression also have an anxiety disorder.

        That’s the problem with insisting that X exists only on the map, not the territory, eventually some discovers an epistemological X detector.

        Also the “things commonly considered psychological diseases” includes things that used to be considered sexual perversions and in the DSM before being removed for political/culture war reasons.

        • sliced says:

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but the psychological definition of a disease has a philosophical component to it. I was told that, for certain psych disorders, it’s not sufficient to have multiple matching symptoms – the patient must report that the presence of the symptoms causes distress.

          For most diseases, this is a moot point. The flu mostly causes distress, there are few things which could make having the flu a pleasant experience. (Though there are probably some aspects of having the flu that are pleasant – time off work, etc.)

          Transgenderism is one of those edge cases where the disease causing distress is very important. I don’t disagree that it should be considered a disease (at least by the psychological definition), but that doesn’t imply that it always needs treatment, or always needs the same treatment. Consider a 45-year-old transman who has masculine hobbies, male buddies, and generally lives according to male norms and is happy with the arrangement. He is comorbid with another psych disease (say depression), but it is managed with an SSRI. He is undergoing gender reassignment therapy and is taking testosterone.

          A treatment comes out which affects NMDA, and promises to remove his dissociation and make him feel like a woman. He is strongly against starting treatment, as the shift toward womanhood may make it harder for him to enjoy all the masculine aspects of his life. He also doesn’t want to figure out how to live as a woman as a 45-year-old, believing that 20-odd years of male experiences will make it much more difficult for him to adapt. Additionally, his depression is already managed and the gender reassignment surgery removes most of the discomfort of being trans.

          I suppose he has a disease – but the gender reassignment surgery + depression medication alleviate his distress, and once the gender reassignment is complete he may not have a disease at all. Yet he will still be trans. A proper cure for the disease (one that removes the root cause) might be the NMDA-based treatment, but he has good reasons for rejecting that treatment.

          Calling transgenderism a disease may be accurate, but not in the sense that we call the flu a disease, or measles.

          • John Schilling says:

            A proper cure for the disease (one that removes the root cause) might be the NMDA-based treatment, but he has good reasons for rejecting that treatment.

            So, you are against transgenderism cures. Can you elaborate on where you think that line out to be drawn and why?

          • sliced says:

            @John Schilling sure.

            My line would be where the cure has a reasonable potential to cause more harm than the existing disease. In the hypothetical case I outlined, the NMDA treatment has the potential to cause more harm because of the following reasons:

            1) The man’s existing/expected future distress is low. The comorbid depression is managed; the man has a healthy masculine identity; and the gender reassignment is expected to improve the dissociation.

            2) The use of an NMDA treatment has the potential to cause a lot of harm. The man is 45 and would have to spend a good deal of time figuring out how to transition to being seen as a woman.

            In other cases the NMDA treatment would be more appropriate. If you can reliably predict transgenderism and can administer the treatment before the patient has time to develop a comfortable trans identity, it would save a lot of pain. There are philosophic/moral issues at play there, but I don’t feel qualified to discuss them.

            So the answer is that I’m against certain transgenderism cures, on a case-by-case basis, according to the line I’ve drawn above.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            After you’ve transitioned for long enough, detransition is basically another transition. You may have a romantic relationship with someone who is attracted to your body, and who would be really unhappy or leave you if you suddenly wanted to have a different body. You may have children who would be confused and upset. You have secondary sexual characteristics which mean that you don’t necessarily pass in your new gender without a lot of effort. You may have to tell hundreds of people about your new pronouns, which they will probably mess up for a long time. You may have to spend thousands of dollars on reconstructive surgeries and other medical procedures. You may have to be on hormones for the rest of your life. Your junk may not ever work the way that of a person who never transitioned does. You may face discrimination– it is not easy to be a woman with a beard in this world.

            There are lots of reasons to take on these costs– most notably, untreated dysphoria, whether because you’re transgender or because you’re a cisgender person who made a mistake and transitioned and is now experiencing gender dysphoria. But if your gender dysphoria is not interfering with your life then there’s not much reason to take on the transition costs.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Mind the beam in thine own eye before picking at motes in others.

      • abc says:

        Nice generic reply to avoid dealing with the person pointing out things you find uncomfortable.

        • hlynkacg says:

          lol no,

          I’m accusing you of dancing around the elephant yourself while castigating another for doing the same. If you see the elephant you should name it. However, it seems that you’re too thick and/or lazy to understand that.

          • abc says:

            Our host has a bad habit of deleting comments that discuss politically incorect topics a little to clearly.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I think it’s more likely that you don’t want to discuss it clearly because doing so would require effort on your part.

    • suntzuanime says:

      But can you make him dance the other direction if you concentrate?

    • James Miller says:

      If true then congratulations Scott! Finding ways to discuss politically incorrect topics without generating hate is a difficult but good thing worthy of Scott’s writing talents.

    • markk116 says:

      If I am understanding correctly, your line of reasoning is:

      [Prior] “Transgenderism” is a mental disorder like depression

      [Information from post] Estrogen helps transgender-related dissociation via NMDA.

      [Inferential step] Transgenderism is caused by a shortage of NMDA receptors, and can thus be cured.

      [Conclusion] Transgenderism is a mental disorder that has to be treated with NMDA, instead of helping these people transition.

      I am not saying any of this is wrong, but I think that you’re counting red cars. If this is indeed your prior, and you are unknowingly only looking for evidence to back this up, you will never find out whether or not your conclusion is actually justified or not.

    • sohois says:

      As others have noted, you continue to dance around your actual point so I’m just going to have to guess that you are implying that transgenderism should be classified as a mental disorder and therefore it needs to be treated with drugs and psychiatry, not the current surgical methods.

      Except that the second part does not follow from the first. Even if every doctor comes out and insists: “transgenderism is a disease”, the most effective treatment for it will remain gender reassignment surgery. Nothing about the world would change except for a definition. (and people subsequently using that definition to attack others)

      Perhaps if there was some radical new drug that could reverse the various brain differences that transgender people have, and leave them with a neurotypical male or female brain, then that would be the new standard treatment. In fact, I would guess that a lot of transgender people would prefer that, as surgery always carries risk and being transgender is really hard, even with gender reassignment. But such a drug does not exist and so the most effective treatment we have will continue to be gender reassignment

      • Murphy says:

        That’s the other elephant in the room. The one abc is dancing around trying to pretend isn’t there.

        From one of scotts old posts:

        I think these people expect me to argue that transgender “isn’t really a psychiatric disorder” or something. But “psychiatric disorder” is just another category boundary dispute, and one that I’ve already written enough about elsewhere. At this point, I don’t care enough to say much more than “If it’s a psychiatric disorder, then attempts to help transgender people get covered by health insurance, and most of the ones I know seem to want that, so sure, gender dysphoria is a psychiatric disorder.”

      • AnonYEmous says:

        the most effective treatment for it will remain gender reassignment surgery.

        But what if it turns out not to be? Like, what if it’s just estrogen, or some non-feminizing derivative?

        • sohois says:

          That’s literally what my third paragraph is addressing. If there is a superior treatment then I believe it will become the medical standard, because Gender reassignment surgery still has a load of drawbacks.

          It would probably not be instantaneous, and doubtless you’d see hundreds of angry blog posts on the topic, but if someone can just take estrogen pills and find themselves no longer depressed, disassociative, potentially suicidal, etc. then I don’t think it would take forever for doctors and transgender people to switch to it as a new standard.

        • philosophicguy says:

          Right. Just for fun, to continue the point with abc’s elephant in the room metaphor:

          If a schizophrenic man believes he is an elephant, and is unhappy because he finds himself “trapped in a man’s body” is the best course of treatment to: (a) surgically alter his body to look a bit more like an elephant, or (b) try using cognitive therapy plus estrogen/drugs/etc to help him feel less like an elephant and more like a man?

          • John Schilling says:

            How good is our medical and surgical technology at making people look like elephants, and how many social niches do we have that could be occupied by a talking elephant?

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Gender dysphoria is not the delusion that one has a particular sex or social gender that one does not, it is the desire to have a particular sex or social gender. It does seem dubious to me to attempt to eradicate people’s desires with drugs and cognitive therapy, although if we are going to do so I’m not sure that otherkin or trans people is the lowest-hanging fruit here, as opposed to (say) sadness about death.

            …estrogen makes people feel less like elephants?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Gender dysphoria is not the delusion that one has a particular sex or social gender that one does not, it is the desire to have a particular sex or social gender.

            You realize that this is a highly counter-productive premise don’t you?

            Edit to elaborate:
            In short, it undermines the strongest argument trans people have in favor of trans-rights/acceptance by raising questions like; “Why should we (as a society) privilege one individual’s desire to be “X” over another’s desire to share a bathroom only with people who’s equipment matches their own?” and “Why should I privilege their desires over observable evidence?”

          • James Miller says:

            @Ozy

            This seems inconsistent with trans people getting upset with others for misgendering them. (I’m a male who has a high pitched voice and occasionally people I’m talking to over the phone think I’m female so I do have some limited experience in being misgendered.)

          • hls2003 says:

            The more relevant comparison seems to be body integrity disorders such as apotemnophilia. Sufferers do not believe that they actually have a particular handicap (such as a missing limb) but they feel strongly that they want it to be true. They often seek voluntary amputation of healthy limbs or other similar surgeries. I fail to see how this is substantially different from body dysphoria leading to gender reassignment surgery; yet as far as I can tell, medical professionals are unwilling or very reluctant to perform amputations but the gender reassignment surgery is presented as a viable front-of-the-line treatment.

          • Protagoras says:

            @hls2003, Not an expert on the literature, but as I understand it those suffering from bodily integrity disorder do not generally feel better if they manage to have the amputation they desire, while those with gender dysphoria do often report feeling better after transitioning. That seems like a relevant difference.

          • abc says:

            You realize that this is a highly counter-productive premise don’t you?

            Edit to elaborate:
            In short, it undermines the strongest argument trans people have in favor of trans-rights/acceptance by raising questions like; “Why should we (as a society) privilege one individual’s desire to be “X” over another’s desire to share a bathroom only with people who’s equipment matches their own?” and “Why should I privilege their desires over observable evidence?”

            Counter-productive to what? Finding the truth of the matter certainly not. Or do you admit you’re more interested in advancing your narrative, the truth be damned? Well, that would certainly explain your other comments in this thread.

          • Nornagest says:

            Or do you admit you’re more interested in advancing your narrative, the truth be damned? Well, that would certainly explain your other comments in this thread.

            Less like this, please.

          • abc says:

            @Nornagest

            If you would prefer less truth seeking and more rationalizations of the narrative maybe rationalism isn’t for you.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Counter-productive in light of Ozy’s previously stated objective, namely getting the rest of society to be more accepting of trans people. Though now I’m curious, just what narrative do you think I’m pushing.

          • Nornagest says:

            @abc — If you’re into truth-seeking and rationalism and all that good stuff, find a way to convey the point that doesn’t make you sound like an asshole. Otherwise you’ll just put their back up.

            Of course, you lose the smug feeling of having put them in their place, but most of us grow out of that around fourteen.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            hlynkacg: Well, I certainly hope trans people can win the argument on the grounds of what’s true, without having to tell lies. And the reason we should accommodate transgender people’s preferences (in general) is that our preference is usually very very strong (and the accommodation of people with relatively weak preferences towards transness usually doesn’t cost more than accommodating the relatively strong preferences). In the case of bathrooms in particular, transgender people have been using bathrooms without particular incident for literally decades. Policing people who “look trans” also harms gender-non-conforming cisgender people, who might be read as transgender, as well as cisgender people who have a perfectly good reason to be in the bathroom of another gender. Most people who desire not to share a bathroom with transgender people don’t have a terminal value of not sharing bathrooms with transgender people, they value it instrumentally as a way to avoid people being creepy in bathrooms, and so we can implement more effective methods of avoiding bathroom creepiness than “ban women who look like men.”

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Well, I certainly hope trans people can win the argument on the grounds of what’s true, without having to tell lies.

            But, of course, actual trans people like Dr. McCloskey and Dr. Conway organized a large scale persecution of truth-tellers in order to shut them up:

            http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/12/when-liberals-attack-social-science.html

          • The Nybbler says:

            @abc

            You’re not truth-seeking, you’re sniping. You want to point out the elephant, point out the elephant. Making snide remarks about non-elephant-seers is not helpful.

            (Me, I haven’t figured out what the elephant is)

          • abc says:

            If you’re into truth-seeking and rationalism and all that good stuff, find a way to convey the point that doesn’t make you sound like an asshole.

            Given that your definition of “asshole” appears to be “someone calling Bulls***ters out on their BS”, I’m proud to be one.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, there we have it, folks.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ abc
            You haven’t actually called any one out thus far. Like I said above, If you see the elephant, name it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Ozy
            I don’t see your preference being “very very strong” as sufficient argument in itself. The question of why we should privilege one person’s preferences (strong or otherwise) over those of another remains.

            Furthermore, in regards to the specific issue of bathrooms, the argument is not about banning “women who look like men” it’s about cock being allowed to enter “vagina only spaces” and vice versa.

          • cuke says:

            Furthermore, in regards to the specific issue of bathrooms, the argument is not about banning “women who look like men” it’s about cock being allowed to enter “vagina only spaces” and vice versa.

            Can anyone direct me to a good piece of writing that makes the case for policy to ban trans women from women’s bathrooms? No need to summarize it here — just a link would be wonderful.

            In over fifty years of using public women’s restrooms I’ve never seen either a penis or a vagina in one since there are no open urinals, so I’m having trouble understanding the perceived threat or how removing the perceived threat would be enforceable. I’m assuming some folks who feel strongly about this issue have made a persuasive case for their position, but I don’t know where to find it.

            Thanks!

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve talked with a person who was desperately unhappy about being organic.

            I have no idea what was going on there, I just felt sad that there was no remotely helpful tech.

      • nestorr says:

        Strapping homemade wings to your back and jumping off the town church’s spire was insanity and lead to death not that long ago, nowadays we have wingsuits and more mainstream, airliners so flying is no longer crazy.

        Given enough technological advance I don’t doubt eventually Culture* style easy gender reassignment will be mainstream and thus no longer viewed as “crazy”. This doesn’t quite apply to other debilitating mental illnesses (Though Larry Niven had a thing about artificially induced paranoid psychosis in his stories)

        * As in Iain Banks, I assume it’s a well known reference around here?

        • Murphy says:

          I liked one bit from Blindsight with a character with multiple personalities who’s shoulder-chip is that up until historically recently for them the standard treatment for multiple personalities had been to basically kill all but one of them and the character regards that as basically long-standing state sanctioned genocide.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Strapping homemade wings to your back and jumping off the town church’s spire was insanity and lead to death not that long ago, nowadays we have wingsuits and more mainstream, airliners so flying is no longer crazy.

          You mean that base jumpers are not crazy and don’t have a greatly reduced life expectancy?

          Given enough technological advance I don’t doubt eventually Culture* style easy gender reassignment will be mainstream and thus no longer viewed as “crazy”.

          Not necessarily. If a cure for gender dysphoria is found, then those who will insist in transitioning and pestering people about their pronouns and stuff, will be viewed as even more crazy than they are now.

      • Horkthane says:

        But such a drug does not exist and so the most effective treatment we have will continue to be gender reassignment

        Is it the most effective treatment? My information might be out of date, but the last I heard, the health outcomes for Transgender patients who transitions aren’t that much better than for Transgender patients who haven’t transitioned? Marginally better, but probably still best described as a constant struggle.

        I feel the same way about this as I do about deafness. If it can be nipped in the bud early (like with a cochlear implant), there is zero reason not to do it. If you can allow someone to live out their life with the full range of life choices they’d have as their biologically healthy birth gender, it’s a no brainer to enable that. I’m extremely worried about this new trend of effectively sterilizing children who think they are transgender. Instead of putting them on the road to surgical intervention immediately. Perhaps other options should be explored.

        But that doesn’t help people who’ve already transitioned, and been living as another identity for the last 10, 20, 30+ years. And I’d see no reason to change their lives. As someone else said, at that point, “curing” them would be another arduous, stressful, difficult transition that would likely not improve their health outcomes. But, and this is not unlike the deaf community, they appear to treat attempts to heal young people as an assault on them.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          There have been no studies that compare transgender people with gender dysphoric non-transitioning people, in part because of the great difficulty of identifying gender dysphoric non-transitioning people. The studies you’re probably thinking of show that transgender people have worse outcomes than cisgender people; of course, being cisgender is not an option available to most transgender people. Before-and-after studies consistently show that transgender people have improved mental health after transition, although of course that may just be the placebo effect.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          I don’t see much discussion of diminishing marginal returns for radical biochemical and/or surgical interventions in the huge push by prestigious parts of our society to get more children defined as transgender so they the can be, say, dosed with powerful drugs such as puberty blockers.

          Maybe that would be a good thing for X% of the population, but would it be equally good for 10X% as this trans fad plays out? I tend to doubt it, but nobody else seems too concerned these days.

          Our culture has gone through a lot of medical fads, like electroshock therapy. I knew somebody who had it 50 years ago and it did her some good. But the general opinion is that our society once got too enamored of electro-shock therapy and subjected too many people to it beyond the optimal cases for this powerful treatment.

          What are the odds that our society is going down a similar path during an era when dissenting voices of prudence and skepticism are denounced as Horrible People?

        • Jim is a pseudonym says:

          Read http://www.refinery29.uk/2017/02/139853/why-transgender-kids-should-be-themselves for instance.

          ‘Reparative therapy’ to ‘heal’ gay or trans youth has been shown over and over again to increase suicide risk, not reduce gayness/transness, and not to ‘work’ by any useful metric.

          The constant barrage of people re-inventing the same basic idea while ignoring decades of evidence is tedious.

          • Horkthane says:

            I’m all for letting trans kids be trans. But there is this weird push to classify as many kids as possible trans. Gay kids are being encouraged to question if instead of being a gay man, they are actually a trans woman. Tomboys are encouraged to ask themselves are they a girl who just likes boyish things, or are they actually trans man? And I’ve seen more then a few horrifying videos of extremely young children being as clearly coached into declaring themselves trans to gain the attention of the adult in charge, as the kids during the Satanic Daycare Panic were coached into describing satanic rituals.

            Kids are impressionable and easily influenced. So maybe lets not put them on puberty blockers are the first opportunity. When they are 18, or hell, lets be generous and say 15 or 16, sure. Begin the process. Plenty of 15 or 16 year olds are confused and make bad decisions. I wish by that age they’d had some prior experience with the permanent consequences of their decisions. But oh well. I understand the medical urgency of beginning a transition before they totally finish puberty. But please, lets not get into this with kids less than 10.

            I wish there was a more hands off approach of be whoever you want to be, instead of this weird push to discover as many trans kids as possible, as young as possible.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Right. The U.S. is headed down the path of countries like Malaysia and Iran where effeminate gay boys are so often chemically/surgically converted into ladyboys.

            What’s so horrible about an effeminate boy being allowed to naturally grow up to be a gay man that we are supposed to attack his “problem” with powerful chemicals?

          • Jim is a pseudonym says:

            @Horkthane

            I haven’t seen any such push – I haven’t seen the videos you mention, and the people I know going through gender clinics while under-18 generally report a lot of frustration at how much they’re blocked from taking useful steps – not being pushed. I wouldn’t be shocked if there are a few terrifyingly bad parents in the world, though.

            Puberty blockers are a ‘pause’ tool; they don’t give kids the traits of the opposite sex, they give kids time to think while reducing the odds that they’ll need intrusive surgeries later (such as facial feminization surgery or chest reconstruction). No one gives them to under 10s – the Dutch protocol calls for them at 12 (which is arguably later than ideal for a lot of AFAB people), and HRT at 16. In practice, even kids who have been clear about being trans from before they were elementary school age usually don’t have access this young.

            The majority of healthcare professionals err so far on the side of caution that clearly trans kids who are denied treatment kill themselves. There aren’t mountains of pressured cis kids out there.

            The gender clinics I’m most familiar with explicitly ask about whether people seeing them can manage as “just” gender non-conforming – which turns out to be a bit of a waste of time, because people don’t get that far into gender pathways when the answer is ‘yes’.

            The only model I’m aware of that doesn’t do this is the Informed Consent model – which on the whole I see as saving lives, at the cost of slightly higher regret rates. NO ONE uses that model for kids.

            Aside from a handful of transmedicalists, the trans folk I know are generally very accepting of gender non-conformity and gender diversity. That in no way changes that many of us need to transition.

          • abc says:

            @Jim is a pseudonym

            Given how much you seem to like the infamous John Hopkins clinic, I don’t see why we should trust your account here.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Puberty blockers are a ‘pause’ tool; they don’t give kids the traits of the opposite sex, they give kids time to think while reducing the odds that they’ll need intrusive surgeries later (such as facial feminization surgery or chest reconstruction). No one gives them to under 10s – the Dutch protocol calls for them at 12 (which is arguably later than ideal for a lot of AFAB people), and HRT at 16. In practice, even kids who have been clear about being trans from before they were elementary school age usually don’t have access this young.

            Because blocking the normal physical and mental development at age 12 until age 16 is totally not going to affect their ability to make the choice to take HRT, is it?

            And anyway, why can they make the choice to take HRT at 16? They can’t drink alcohol, but they can sterilize themselves?

          • random832 says:

            Because blocking the normal physical and mental development at age 12 until age 16 is totally not going to affect their ability to make the choice to take HRT, is it?

            With “blocking the … mental development” you seem to be smuggling in the assumption that they will be somehow frozen in time with the maturity of a 12 year old, and will therefore have less capacity for informed consent than a ‘normal’ 16 (or 18 or whenever) year old. Do you have any justification for this?

          • erincandescent says:

            And anyway, why can they make the choice to take HRT at 16? They can’t drink alcohol, but they can sterilize themselves?

            I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in the UK 16 is the general age of medical autonomy (i.e. a 16 year old is capable of giving consent, and is medically autonomous of their parents; this can also sometimes be true at a younger age – see the test of Gillick Competence). A 16 year old could also – theoretically – consent to a vasectomy (though in general doctors are reluctant to consider vasectomies in under-30s). It’s not clear to me why one thinks there should be a substantial difference in ability to consent between a 16 year old and an 18 year old (especially given that – unlike the consumption of alcohol – this is undertaken after discussion with a plurality of specialists and, in the UK, after a minimum of 1 year of assessment).

            Additionally, in general the option of storing gametes, or where not possible gonadal tissue*, is offered. For children presenting who have already reached a state of fertility, this would be done before initiating GnRH agonist treatment.

            (* While it does not presently seem like any children have been born out of preserved testicular tissue, apparently to date 37 children have been conceived using oocytes from preserved ovaries)

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      If you’re going to darkly hint about a politically incorrect elephant, at least choose one that large numbers of transgender people don’t already believe.

    • Eli says:

      And what I find most interesting about “politically incorrect elephants” is how many people are completely incapable of unpacking normative from descriptive judgements. Mind, this feeds into my own personal theorizing about brain function (we seem to have conscious experiences during top-down active inference, and active inference may be affect-laden by nature in order to push basically predictive machinery into executing distal goals).

      But, point being…

      Descriptive judgement (biological): trans people have reduced NMDA function.

      Descriptive judgement (cognitive/functional): trans people have cortical microcircuits which apply too little precision in their top-down priors, resulting in high prediction error and a weak sense of body-ownership.

      Descriptive judgement (cognitive/functional): suppressing prediction errors by acting to bring about the predictions is one of the hypothesized mechanisms by which action comes about in everyone, in the first place (active inference). As far as we know, a neurotypical brain can “consider” and “choose” to suppress errors through action or through perceptual updating, and there’s actually very little that’s abnormal about a trans person picking action to suppress the errors when the affordance (ie: reassignment surgery) is available.

      Descriptive judgement (psycho-social): trans people literally have brains which predict, top-down, a body-ownership sense of the other gender, or of some arbitrary point in a gender spectrum. As such, their body-ownership sense (and eventually other senses) continually returns large and precise prediction errors — because the driving signals are never suppressed by the predictions!

      Descriptive judgement (psychiatric): if we hypothesize that autism consists in assigning too much precision to bottom-up prediction errors versus top-down predictions, all across the brain, then autism symptoms should co-occur with any other neurological condition in which top-down priors at any level, regarding any concept or sense, fail to be swamped by data.

      Normative judgement (psychiatric): trans people are mentally ill and should be treated to actively reduce their body-sense prediction error.

      Normative judgement (psycho-social): trans people should transition to make their actual body match their top-down body-sense, thus actively reducing body-sense prediction error.

      Philosophical question (cognitive/functional and psychiatric): does the brain actually separate “normative” predictions (those which “justify” or “drive” action by their very nature, throwing the mind into active inference to bring themselves about) from “descriptive” predictions (those which suppress prediction errors by continually updating so that data swamps prior)? Does it systematically mix them (last hypothesis from a real paper I saw), and judgements separate out into “descriptive”, “affective”, and “normative” as we decrease the precision on one source of information or another? What does this mean for the kind of philosophical normativity by which we decide between one of the two normative judgements and action-affordances above?

  9. gamma says:

    for what it’s worth, i’m a trans man (not schizophrenic; probably not autistic; pre-T; i don’t think i dissociate much, but i’m also depressed and sometimes find it hard to tell exactly what i’m experiencing; if i do dissociate, it’s only a mild form) and while i was able to make the spinning dancer switch directions several times, i’m not having a whole lot of success with either the spinning hollow mask or the static hollow mask.

    interesting article, though.

  10. Steve Sailer says:

    A suggestion on making terminology less opaque to casual readers: when I was a kid, golf magazines were full of references to golf ball trajectories that curved left or right, whether through the air due to spin or on the green due to gravity.

    But eventually it became clear to editors that phrases like “a left-breaking putt” confused a sizable fraction of readers. Is a left-breaking putt one that is aimed left of the hole or is that “a right-breaking putt?”

    In recent decades, therefore, golf writers have adopted the convention of spelling out the motion, as in “a left to right breaking putt” or “putting right to left spin on his tee shot,” etc.

    Similarly, my brain doesn’t deal well with terms like “transwoman” because I can’t remember if that’s supposed to be someone who has undergone transition to or from womanhood. Like a lot of people, I’m a little vague about prepositions.

    I realize that making terminology less opaque for the masses lessens the status marker benefits of being able to confidently use obscure jargon …

    So, could we spell out what we’re talking about using terms like “m to f” or “f to m?”

    • gamma says:

      a general rule of thumb these days wrt “trans man” and “trans woman” is that it’s based on how the person in question identifies, and “trans” is simply a modifier to show that they are transgender, not cisgender. so, a trans man is not a cis man, but he’s still a man, and identifies as a man. “trans woman” emphasizes the woman in question’s womanhood, and indicates that she has transitioned to womanhood.

      (trans man: f to m
      trans woman: m to f)

      one reason i’ve read for the shift in terminology is that trans people find it more comfortable/comforting to use a term that highlights their new/current identity rather than emphasizing their old gender, and that this is why the trans community moved towards “transman/transwoman” rather than “f to m/m to f.”

    • j r says:

      This exchange between Steve Sailer and gamma reminds me of the previous post on conversation and comprehensibility. It strikes me that people’s relative preference for clarity in how we communicate is directly related to whether or not they bear the cost or more or less clarity.

      So, we can ask in a very innocent way: if “transgendered women” means the exact same thing as “m to f transgendered woman” and has the added value of being more clear to people who might be unfamiliar with the terminology, then why wouldn’t you default to the more precise language? And the answer is that language is about much more than communication Language is also about power and about status games.

      A world in which transgendered people can simply describe themselves as “trangendered women” or “transgendered men” implies that they have attained a certain level of status that allows them to eschew the “m to f” or “f to m” qualifier because the cost of those in the wider world of being unfamiliar with the preferred nomenclature is greater than the cost to transgendered persons of being less precise.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Like I said, in the apolitical world of writing up golf instruction tips, the phrases “left-to-right” and “right-to-left” have come in to common use because they are less confusing to the less clued in.

        But in a lot of fields, making the masses feel confused and insecure by using non-obvious terminology is not a bug but a feature for those playing these kind of inter-personal dominance games.

        • Placid Platypus says:

          I think by looking at it as intentionally opaque jargon you’re missing the actual difference. In golf nobody has strongly different feelings about a shot going left rather than right, so communicating clearly is the only thing that needs to be considered. But one of the key factors in the whole transgender discourse is that a lot of trans people are very uncomfortable being referred to by the wrong gender, and the general consensus has become that it’s worth losing a little clarity to avoid that.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

            “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

            “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Yes.

      I work with a trans (nonbinary) scientist and even with that familiarity talking about her work to people outside of the lab is a constant stumbling block for the rest of us. You either have to give up and ‘misgender’ her as I am now or spend an additional few minutes filling strangers in on the details of her personal life before getting to the cancer research.

      The current terminology is very opaque and confusing. Part of why I became a scientist in the first place is that I don’t deal well with cognitive dissonance: holding multiple contradictory concepts in my head at once is exhausting. There must be a better way to describe trans people.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        “trans (nonbinary)”

        How can one be both?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I don’t know. That’s the terminology I’ve been told to use.

        • MNH says:

          I’ve never heard it explained, but it would seem reasonable enough to me if the logic is that they were assigned a gender from the gender binary initially, and once they realized that it did not match their identity, they transitioned from it to nonbinarity.

          I’m sure someone more familiar with nonbinarity could do a better job though

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          MNH go it right. (I am actually sort of confused about how one could not be both, unless one has the unusual sort of parent who assigned one nonbinary at birth.)

          • random832 says:

            One would not be both if one does not regard the state of one’s identity gender being “male” or “female” as a nonbinary state.

        • Jim is a pseudonym says:

          ‘Trans’ is a fairly wide umbrella term. It includes genderqueer and non-binary people, not just binary transitioners.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      This is the first time in my life that I’ve been in 100% agreement with Steve Sailer.

      Well, it probably isn’t. But I think that the same dyslexia that prevents me from flipping east and west without painstakingly visualizing a map of California in my mind and then saying “west is towards the ocean” prevents me from ever understanding whether “transwoman” means “mtf” or “ftm.”

      • John Schilling says:

        “Trans” = “wannabe” is an effective mnemonic at that level.

        The next level, with the various gradiations of effort and success, is where the terminology gets complicated and ambiguous. “Pre-op” and “post-op” have been deprecated for various reasons; I haven’t seen a simple guide to the currently preferred language.

    • renderinglight says:

      These words are not intended to describe our physical bodies or transitions but rather our gender identities. A trans woman is a woman. A trans man is a man.

      IF you find yourself so captivated by our physicality, it is your responsibility to understand transgender identities well enough to discern for yourself what our original sex may have been.

      This is not possible to discern with total certainty, however, unless you were rude enough to ask the trans person. Why? Trans people may not have been born with either a purely male or purely female sex body. Some trans people’s bodies are intersex.

      Having explained this, that we do not tell you our SEX but our GENDER, I must point out that your *need* to determine the history and current status of our bodies’ sex characteristics is not only sort of creepy but also transphobic. You surely don’t mean to be transphobic, but please be open to the idea that you have been, unintentionally. I’ll explain: this line of questioning is generally considered transphobic because 1) you may be conflating our body’s SEX with GENDER identity and trying to find out our “real gender,” even though we have shared our gender identity with you OR 2) you think you deserve to know intimate details about the configuration of our bodies. Delving into possibility number two further, why would you feel entitled to such personal information? Perhaps because you find what we have presented to to be inaccurate or dishonest? Morbid curiosity? Consider how your quest for intimate details comes off in the context of a culture which delegitimizes transgender identities and frequently obsesses over whether we’ve had “the surgery.”

      Finally, if you can’t be bothered to learn and to memorize which gender identity corresponds to assigned female at birth/intersex OR assigned male at birth/intersex, why do you care enough to speculate about the possible comorbidities of transgender? Basically, this is me telling you to do your homework and not expect others to walk you through things holding your hand, while erasing their identity for your convenience. Your comfort is not more important than our identities. This level of laziness makes me suspect you care more about the cause of transgenderism than about who we are.

      • abc says:

        This reads like a caricature of an SJW.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve talked with a transwoman that I’d known slightly for some years who was annoyed that I didn’t notice she was transgendered.

        Not a big deal (at least from my point of view) but perhaps interesting because it runs counter to the idea that transgendered people want to pass perfectly as a member of their preferred gender.

        Now that I think about it, I know a transwoman who maintains a big bushy beard, so that’s another example.

        I’m not framing this as awful things that transpeople are doing to everyone else, it’s just filed under “people don’t fit theories very well”.

  11. suntzuanime says:

    You teased us with that bit about political affiliation and then didn’t elaborate. I guess it’s not polite to say “disagreeing with me politically is caused by a malfunctioning brain”, but there’s a puzzle I wonder if it could help solve. I’ve noticed that the alt-right seems to have a disproportionately large number of transwomen in it; especially surprising given the adversarial outlook that the alt-right has towards the identity-progressive agenda, which includes transgender promotion. If there were a direct connection, that might help explain things.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The directionality goes the wrong way – being conservative is associated with stronger NMDA function.

      But my guess is that the alt-right doesn’t have the same biological factors that produce eg GK Chesterton type conservatives. They seem way more into being edgy and trying to change society, as opposed to the sort of strong purity intuitions and “things were fine when I was a kid and people should just be normal” parts of conservativism that I think are probably the most biologically fundamental.

      • acrimonymous says:

        I’m alt-right, I guess. Alt-right-ish? Not really old-fashioned conservative. I can flip the dancer to see it spinning either way at will. My brother has been diagnosed with ADD (by a university psychology researcher, not by a GP), and I’m quite similar to him.

        I don’t know much about neuro-science, but I wonder if there is any connection between spontaneous brain fluctuations and politics. (BTW, my parents are more traditionalist conservatives, my mother is similar to my brother and I in personality, and my brother is an angry leftist.)

    • Yakimi says:

      The extent to which Pink Pill Twitter overlaps with Alt-Right Twitter is indeed bizarre. Even the name is derived from an alt-right meme.

      My theory is that the alt-right tends to attract socially unsuccessful/uncompetitive males who, being unable to compete as men, feel that they will be more successful emulating the ostensibly traditional feminine ideal that the alt-right seeks to preserve.

      • abc says:

        One thing both the transsexual movement (at lest the transsexual movement a decade ago) and the alt-right have in common is that both are skirting the bounds of the Overton window and have claims to being the “next big thing”.

        And they both appeal to people (especially biological men) who take their ideology seriously enough to actually live it.

  12. INH5 says:

    Forgive me if I’m missing something obvious, but:

    Meanwhile, autism continues to be about four times more common in men than women, autistic women tend to have more “male-typical brains”, and although it’s considered unethical to treat autistic boys with estrogen, it works in mice and fish. Once again, doctors are looking into estrogen analogues that don’t turn people female as possible autism treatments.
    […]
    Transgender people have higher rates of autism and schizophrenia. The Atlantic actually had a good article about this recently : The Link Between Autism And Trans Identity. They cite one study showing 8% autism rate in trans people (compared to 1-2% in the general population), and another showing that autistic people were 7.5x more likely to express “gender variance”.

    If lots of transpeople are autistic, and transwomen frequently take estrogen as part of their transition process, then why can’t we easily find out whether estrogen helps with autistic symptoms in humans by simply asking autistic transwomen whether hormone therapy seemed to help with their autism as well as their gender dysphoria? Sure, that wouldn’t be as good as a controlled experiment, but you’d think that it would be enough to get a general idea.

    Or is it just that no one has thought of this yet?

  13. Ketil says:

    An ideal trial would be an intervention, where the same patients can experience varying treatments. Fortunately, 50% of the population experience regular variation in estrogen levels already, it’s called the menstrual cycle. 🙂 Should we expect variations also in e.g. schizophrenia symptoms? I would think so, but from my cursory investigation into the literature, there isn’t much evidence of this (nor of the converse, for that matter).

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26070315

  14. enye-word says:

    I always enjoy your posts, and this one was no exception. However, it was mildly confusing that you referred to the phenomenon of viewing the mask invert itself as “glitching”. I would suggest “mask-reversal”.

    • Yeah, it was a little odd to see the “normal” response being referenced as “glitching”.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        I know what you mean, but still find it a highly apropos word to use. As the mask rotates, the sudden discontinuity that occurs when what I know to be the concave side snaps into convexity (or out again as it disappears) is really jarring, and although I know it’s the most common or “normal” response, I have zero problem with calling it a glitch.

  15. tmk says:

    > Women are known to sometimes get schizophrenia triggered by menopause when their estrogen levels decrease.

    Ok, but isn’t the peak age for women developing schizophrenia well before menopause? Like around 30?

  16. Weak data point, re: estrogen and depression (via NMDA), when I went back on an estrogen-based contraceptive pill it instantly stopped my self-loathing spirals – I outright don’t get them any more – and generally evened me out. (It’s greatly improved my general quality of life.)

    This is actually the first article I’m reading that makes me go “oh, huh, is that what’s going on there?”, since I was previously at a total loss what aspect of the contraceptive pill might be helping me battle my depression.

    (Conversely there are other people that’ve reported getting depressed when they started taking contraceptive pills. You win some, you lose some, I guess.)

  17. Hunter Glenn says:

    Have you heard of any psychological changes in people taking sex hormones? I’m curious as to if people taking sex hormones start thinking more stereotypically male or female, or if they start finding different arguments or different kinds of argument more persuasive.

    I mean, I’m quite curious, but I was hoping to find out that this had already been experienced and described without my having to actually take them myself

    • Steve Sailer says:

      In the great travel writer James/Jan Morris’s memoir of sex change, “Conundrum,” he mentions being more sensitive to the feel of fabrics since taking lots of estrogen. But that’s about it in terms of changes. His / her brain mostly seems to be pretty similar before and after.

      In general, the famous late onset m to f trans people like Morris, McCloskey, Conway, or the guy I knew before he became “America’s highest paid female CEO,” seem to have such extremely strong masculine personalities that even the most radical hormonal and surgical interventions don’t seem to have much impact on who they are. The kind of guys who decide to become women after fathering a passel of kids tend to be pretty far out toward the extreme of masculine willfulness and selfishness, and there they stay

      • Steve Sailer says:

        James / Jan Morris published dozens of books before and after. I never noticed much of a change — Morris always sounded like a romantic conservative imperialist man — but you could feed the text into a computer and see if anything changed.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I have the Folio Society edition of Morris’ s Pac Britannica trilogy, and it was odd reading so many conservative statements (“I admire the Boer lifestyle”) from someone in a demographic strongly correlated with SJW.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      The most commonly reported changes are changes in sexuality: trans men tend to have higher libidos, while trans women tend to have lower libidos; trans men often find themselves becoming more visually oriented and interested in sex with random people; sexual orientation changes happen fairly often, for some reason commonly from being a gay man to a lesbian, or vice versa. Emotional changes also happen, but these are hopelessly confounded by relief of dysphoria, and anyway people often have a poor vocabulary for discussing emotions, so it’s hard to say exactly what direction it’s going in. I think transgender men becoming angrier on testosterone is probably a real effect, but that’s something that depends a *lot* on the guy.

      Some people experience psychological changes far more strongly than other people. I have a transgender female friend who sometimes uses testosterone as a recreational drug because the effects are so strong for her; I personally had absolutely no psychological effects from testosterone whatsoever.

      • Forge the Sky says:

        “sometimes uses testosterone as a recreational drug…”

        Hah, interesting! I am reminded of an article in which a trans man reported that testosterone made the difference between ‘having complex emotions about a bee drowning in my soda’ to not really having much reaction to seeing his girlfriend sobbing on her bed. Caused a bit of an identity crisis, understandably.

        I speculate there’s quite a bit of variability in the way people react to different hormones even within the same gender.

        For example, men are on average more aggressive and violent than women. But there’s a very large variability; some men are very aggressive, while others aren’t very aggressive at all. Yet there isn’t a gigantic variation between how much testosterone healthy men have generally.

        So it seems like some genetic/developmental factors make it so that testosterone makes some men really aggressive along with its other effects, and some men aren’t nearly so sensitive to this effect.

        • Sanchez says:

          Yet there isn’t a gigantic variation between how much testosterone healthy men have generally.

          Is this true? My (uninformed) impression was the opposite.

          • Nornagest says:

            Google suggests that “normal” testosterone levels in healthy adult men range from ~280 to ~1100 ng/dL. That sounds like a pretty big range to me, although female-normal levels are an order of magnitude lower.

          • Forge the Sky says:

            Turns out I’m not totally right here.

            The most relevant number as I understand is free testosterone rather than total testosterone, as free testosterone is the ‘active’ portion. Problem is, it’s hard to measure so there’s not a ton of data about it, but one study I found reported it and divided results into age ranges. The numbers for (for example) 25-34 year olds was 12.3 ng/dl with a standard dev. of 2.8. 35-44 year olds were at an average of 10.3 with a standard dev. of 1.2. This isn’t a tiny range, but is a fair degree tighter than the range of total testosterone.

            Also, and this is bad practice on my part, I mean something a bit different when I say ‘healthy male’ than they do in the medical literature; more ‘optimally healthy’ than ‘not diseased.’ This makes it pretty difficult to back up my assertions with data.

            So let’s just say my assertion was incorrect, but maybe not by so much as a quick google search might suggest.

            Anyways, the claim I was trying to support (that men might react quite differently to the same levels of sex hormones) I think stands. Aggression and testosterone are correlated, but only on average; there’s big individual differences. For example:

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693622/

            “An investigation of testosterone, cortisol and thyroxin in a sample of 4179 veterans, which has increased credibility because of its size, has shown that basal testosterone levels were positively related to antisocial and aggressive behavior (19). It is of interest, however, that supraphysiological doses of testosterone in the order of 200 mg weekly (20), or even 600 mg weekly (21), which were administered to normal men had no effect on their aggression or anger levels. ”

            Some possibilities for the variability:

            “a) changes in testosterone levels may be more important than baseline values in relation to aggressive behavior, b) and more significantly, testosterone by its rapid increase in response to a variety of stimuli, both physical and mental, is entitled to hold a position in the group of stress hormones. Rapid fluctuations of testosterone are believed to be effected by non-genomic actions, mainly through the G protein of the membrane since the DNA reaction with an androgen receptor takes time (31).”

    • Jim is a pseudonym says:

      Yes. http://www.transstudent.org/Affirming_Gender.pdf page 8-10 for instance.

      Biased sample, but still useful.

  18. phil says:

    Is there any history of trying to (treat?/cure?) M to F transgender people with testosterone?

    If so, did it (work?/cause them to be less likely to identify as F?)

    • erincandescent says:

      Endocrine abnormalities are common in trans people, so inadvertently, yes, in the form of testosterone replacement therapy for hypogonadic “men”. Generally they report that, no, it does not work (and indeed quite the opposite); though of course one must note that people it worked for would be unlikely to be discussing things

      (They do often report that it improved things in other areas – lack of sex hormones tends to make people lethargic, amongst other things)

  19. random832 says:

    There was no different between autists and neurotypicals on the Spinning Dancer, not even a weak trend (58% vs. 60%, p = 0.4).

    I think to even ask the question you’d need to know the objective truth about which way it’s spinning – and if it distorts things in a way that makes it not consistent with any objective truth, that could explain why there was no difference.

    The differences between the face when it is facing directly towards and away from the camera of the gif (with one mirrored horizontally to adjust for the lighting) are very subtle, but they’re there (I’m not sure if they’re not consistent with simply being two different faces, though – mostly, the inside-out one has a slightly narrower jaw, and lower brow ridge)

  20. Quixote says:

    So to me the next big question is what pesticide / manufacturing byproduct / chemical is both an NMDA agonist and would have started leaching into the water supply in the last 50 years or so to coincide with the start of the upswing in autism.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Except that there hasn’t been an upswing in autism in the last 50 years. Autists haven’t displaced neurotypicals. There has been an upswing in people previously given the coarse diagnosis of mentally retarded now given the precise diagnosis of retarded and autistic.

      • sconn says:

        Plus the many kids, like mine, who one generation ago would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s and two generations ago would have just been considered odd. There are lots more mildly autistic kids than there used to be, because parents no longer fear a diagnosis would deprive their kids of an education (as was legal up to 1991) but now seek a diagnosis to get their kids services at school.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Glyphosate.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Seems like as good a candidate as any, but is it an NMDA antagonist?

        • Protagoras says:

          It does seem to have an effect on NMDA receptors, which is presumably why Scott mentioned it. My quick search didn’t turn up details on exactly what its effects are, and in fact the study that popped up sounded kind of early, so it may not yet be known in detail.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        So perhaps the current transgender movement is more a symptom of a massive undiagnosed environmental pollution crisis than a self-evidently beneficial social liberation movement?

        Shouldn’t somebody be looking into this possibility?

        • Jim is a pseudonym says:

          There are documented people that fall under a ‘transgender’ umbrella in a wide range of societies throughout recorded history.

          The current ‘social liberation’ aspect is a direct response to the last few centuries in the West being particularly hostile to trans people.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Or, then again, maybe there is some relatively new chemical that is getting into the water supply that is causing an increase of particular kinds of mental problems such as autism and/or transgenderism?

            I certainly don’t know. But shouldn’t somebody be checking? Wouldn’t it be a bad thing if scientists are discouraged from checking because the increasingly powerful Trans Lobby has a track record of persecuting overly inquisitive scientists?

            https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/books/review/galileos-middle-finger-by-alice-dreger.html?_r=0

          • Zephalinda says:

            There are definitely documented groups of people who fail to conform to their communities’ various gender norms throughout recorded history. Our current Western constructions of both gender and sexuality are in many ways unique to our historical moment, so I would be surprised if there were many documented examples of folks across time turning up with experiences verifiably identical to our current USian notions of “being transgender.”

            To demonstrate the historical universality of transgender by making any sort of gender nonconformity “count” (so that Joan of Arc is obvs. transgender because girls don’t fight, etc., etc.) is imho opening the definitional umbrella so wide that it risks shattering into tiny bits.

          • erincandescent says:

            @Zephlandia: The most significant historic examples of trans people are probably the many documented instances of “men” self-castrating and/or consuming pregnant animal urine (Note that today one of the most common forms of estrogen medication – though not generally used by trans people because of excessive side effects especially in high doses, and the modern availability of bio-identical estradiol – is derived from pregnant horse piss.

          • Jim is a pseudonym says:

            @Zephalinda I can’t think of any two cultures that have absolutely identical notions of trans identity. Nonetheless, there are historical records from around the globe of people living their lives as ‘the other sex’ for a variety of reasons. I wouldn’t dismiss all of it as “just gender non-conformity”. I’d point to books like “Gender Reversals and Gender Cultures”.

            Both physical sex and prenatal gendered brain development have existed longer than human beings. Social responses to this reality vary.

  21. Aria Stewart says:

    It’s very common to prescribe both testosterone and estrogen to trans women who’ve had GRS or gonadectomies. A little supplemental testosterone restores sex drive and has some other beneficial effects for some of us.

  22. leoboiko says:

    I’m interested in the philosophical minefield. Physical correlates seem somehow to carry a strange weight of authority.

    My own knee-jerk reaction to posts like this leans that way. I don’t identify as trans, only as a… dunno, not-quite-gender-conforming male somewhere in the trans spectrum, if there is such a thing. I used to crossdress secretly as a teen, and I have transitioning fantasies, and I dislike male features of my body; but I’m generally sufficiently not-uncomfortable with my body, and with presenting as ‘male’, that I don’t feel like these tendencies are strong enough to go through gender reassignment, or to warrant the title of ‘trans’. It feels as if I’d be cheapening the experience of people with real dysphoria.

    But then I can’t see the mask illusion at all, even trying to; and my first thought is something like, “Huh, there you go, see? This proves you’re trans, and in denial”. That seems irrational to me. Suppose a serious study found a (in its sample at least) perfect correlate of being gay; say, all gay men and only gay men have a high level of a certain hormone on brain area such-and-such, associated with sexual attractoin. Suppose my friend John never felt sexual desire for female-type bodies, and always lusted after male-type bodies. Suppose John is tested to have short amounts of said hormone. I’d never go and say “well sorry John, you’re a fake. You only think you’re gay. Must be doing it for attention”. This would clearly be putting the theory before the data. (There was once a study claiming, based on an artificial lab-based test, that male bisexuality doesn’t exist, and males who identify as bisexual must be doing it for some other, self-deluding reason. So apparently when young me got a boner from looking at male models in briefs and female models in lingerie, one of those boners was fake, though hell if I know which. The same researchers later did manage to confirm the existence of bisexuality, as defined by their test.)

    Self-reminiscing aside, my point is: I feel like I’ve been conditioned to give ontological priority to objective facts over subjective facts, and I don’t think that’s always warranted.

    • Anatoly says:

      >But then I can’t see the mask illusion at all, even trying to

      Sorry to go on a tangent from the main point of your comment, but I’m curious – are you also unable to see the Chaplin mask illusion in addition to the one in this post? I’m asking because if anything it seems even stronger and more inescapable to me and people I’ve asked. Also, are you good/bad/ordinary at recognizing familiar faces?

      • leoboiko says:

        Oh, now I know what are you all talking about—yes, the Chaplin mask illusion works for me! It starts hollow, then about 50% through my brain suddenly inverts it. Only when the colored side starts to show to the right, it goes back to hollow, again suddenly. This is consistent with every rotation.

        I’m notoriously bad at recognizing people (to the point of being several times scolded for it).

  23. vV_Vv says:

    It could also be worth trying to understand more explicitly why gender identity and NMDA should be linked.

    Shouldn’t the default hypothesis be that gender dysphoria is a type of psychotic disorder?

    Maybe there is no such thing as an “innate” gender identity, there are just people who correctly process evidence about their gender and people who don’t.

    • neaanopri says:

      I’ve thought about this too, and the neatest conclusion that I’ve gotten is:

      1. Yes, Gender Dysphoria is a psychiatric disorder.
      2. Gender Dysphoria can be treated by transitioning.
      3. This makes other people really mad for some reason, and they should just be thankful that there’s a simple fix for this particular psychiatric disorder.

      I realize that there’s some terminological stuff around what exactly a “disorder” is, in particular, that it needs to interfere “with normal life” in some way. I guess what I am proposing is a redefinition of normal life, which would make it not a disorder (?). There’s some contradictions, but that’s to be expected when the best definition of “gender” I have found is “the thing people mean when they say the word ‘gender'”.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        they should just be thankful that there’s a simple fix for this particular psychiatric disorder.

        As a rule, nothing which involves reordering society from the ground up should be described as a “simple fix.”

        If a psychiatric disorder can be treated surgically, that’s great news for the patient. But if the treatment also requires the lifelong participation of everyone else, then that’s a problem.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          IDK, I think a lot of children with ADHD would experience little functional impairment if they had enough opportunity to run around and play outside, and although that would involve reordering society from the ground up I do think it’s a fairly simple fix.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            This is a problem of language.

            If you say ‘end compulsory schooling,’ that makes it sound like educational system consists of a single action which some individual or group could stop doing. In reality, it is an extraordinarily complex process which is tied into almost every other facet of American life. Ending it would require a herculean effort on the parts of a large number of people, most of whom prefer the system as it is anyway.

            ‘Ending gender’ is at least a few orders of magnitude more complex to implement, and may well not even be possible with modern technology.

          • Horkthane says:

            Running around and playing outside requires reordering society from the ground up?

            Man, things must have really changed since I was a kid.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Nabil ad Dajjal: Very few transgender people want to end gender! As a group, gender is far more important for transgender people than for cisgender people. It is true that, as a group, transgender people would like social gender to be something you can change.

            Horkthane: Yep, because the reason that kids aren’t running outside as much is because parents believe that their kids are in danger because people have incentives to play up stories about kidnapped kids (which would involve complete reform of the news media), and because of screen use by children (which would involve completely changing our hobbies, and probably figuring out how to give parents more time with kids so that they’re less likely to sit the kid in front of Sesame Street to keep them quiet), and because cities are poorly designed for children so they’re more likely to be hit by cars (which would involve redesigning cities), and because teachers punish students by taking away recess (which would involve a huge change in school discipline), and because recess is being cut in a lot of schools to make more time for academics because of high-stakes testing (which would involve inventing another way to keep schools accountable, or letting them not be accountable).

            Social problems are complicated!

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            From my perspective the two statements are identical. Gender is a signal of sex: decoupling the two destroys the value of the former. If gender really did mean nothing more than momentary self-identification, then nobody would bother with it because it’s totally useless.

            But putting that aside for a moment, you must realize that it’s still just as insanely difficult / probably impossible either way. I don’t see what your comment was supposed to accomplish.

          • bja009 says:

            Logged in to reply to @Horkthane, but Ozy beat me to it.

            I deliberately live in a neighborhood where it is still normal and expected for children to play outside with one another under minimal adult supervision. This requires moderate inconveniences to other aspects of my life, mostly related to travel times, but the alternative is for my kids to lose out on a rich part of childhood. Such neighborhoods are becoming more and more rare.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Nabil: Conveniently, transgender people generally modify our sexes as well. You have to have a societal policy on dealing with intersex people; I see no reason why the voluntarily intersex can’t have the same policy applied to them as the involuntarily intersex, that is, that they can have whichever social gender they prefer.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Ozy

            I don’t think your reply addresses Nabil’s argument. Furthermore, it suggests (to me at least) a level of arrogance bordering on chutzpah.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Nabil ad Dajjal

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Ozy,

            Conveniently, transgender people generally modify our sexes as well.

            No, they really don’t. That’s the goal certainly but the technology just isn’t there. Maybe it will become possible in our lifetimes but personally I doubt it.

            You have to have a societal policy on dealing with intersex people

            Why? It’s a pretty rare group of disorders, we could simply invoke a social form of de minimis. Society doesn’t have a “policy” on people born with extra fingers after all.

          • leoboiko says:

            After reading Nabil’s call to treat at least hundreds of millions (by the strictest, most conservative estimates) of people as literally “trifles”, and comparing something as core to their identity as the social roles (indeed, the core social ways-of-living) called “gender” to something as inconsequential as an extra finger, and literally advocating the refusal of doing anything for them, I’ve finally decided to quit reading the SSC comment section. I have a lot of respect for Ozy’s heroic efforts to politely engage with a hostile audience, but that’s not for me; I can’t bear to even witness.

            If you’re lurking here and you feel as frequently baffled and depressed as I do about the kind of open disdain/hostility for fellow human beings expressed so casually around here, I encourage you to get away from the computer and invest these hours in volunteer work and real-life activism. These are troubling times, and in troubling times the disenfranchised always bear the brunt of it; every extra attentive pair of ears makes a real difference.

            I don’t know if self-bans are still a thing, but if they are, I’m requesting one to the admins, to help with breaking the habit.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ leoboiko
            I think your numbers of off by at least an order of magnitude. Most estimates place the prevalence of transsexuality somewhere in the realm of 1 in 1,000.

            Furthermore, I think that you’ve mischaracterized Nabil’s argument. The question whether this should even be a matter of law in the first place.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Wow, that was melodramatic.

            @hlynkacg,

            I mean, it shouldn’t be a matter of law but that wasn’t my point.

            More that there’s no reason we need a specific social protocol for every possible congenital deformity. Nature is beautiful but she isn’t terribly precise: you’re always going to have a few people with extra or missing parts who you just have to deal with on a case-by-case basis.

            Edit: To clarify, Ozy and I were talking about intersex and not transgender. However low the rate of transgender is exactly, intersex is even lower than that. Which is what I was referring to.

          • Protagoras says:

            The number of trans people I know personally seems very high if the overall frequency is as low as one in a thousand. While there may be something about my social circles that attracts trans people, it would also explain the data if instead it were more likely in my social circles for trans people to recognize it and become out about it (so that surveys are likely to undercount, because in many places people are unlikely to reveal it on surveys, if they even admit it to themselves). Or some combination, of course. For various reasons, it seems likely to me that the latter is at least a considerable factor.

          • Nornagest says:

            Social filters can be pretty significant. I haven’t exactly asked, but I’ll bet I know something like a hundred times as many people with very high IQs as I statistically “should”.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The most common estimate I’ve seen from Trans-activists themselves is around 0.3% of the population. While well above 1/1000 we’re still only talking about 100 thousand people or so in the US, far below the 100s of millions that leoboiko described as “the strictest, most conservative estimate”

            Any remaining disparity is likely a result of self-sorting as Nornagest suggests above.

          • James Miller says:

            @leoboiko

            Lot’s of us here have distrust of the government and feel that a group might be better off if the government doesn’t have a specific policy towards it.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Nornagest, I do not deny the importance of social filters; I have a similar number of high IQ people in my social circles (and also a very high number of Jews, for that matter, to pick another group where I wouldn’t make the same argument that they must be more common than usually claimed). But in those cases I have independent reasons for thinking my circles would be non-representative anyway. I can’t see any reason why my circles would be non-representative with respect to transness, at least not to anything like the same degree. Which is not to say that such reasons don’t exist, but obviously reasons for people to deny that they are trans even if they are also exist for people in many circumstances. So unless someone can provide more detailed studies attempting to disentangle the confounds, I’m a little skeptical of the lower end estimates of transness.

          • Nornagest says:

            I suppose that’s fair. Not knowing the details of your social circles, I can’t comment on why or whether trans people might be overrepresented in them (though the correlation with autism up in the top of this thread might account for an SD or so, assuming the people you hang out with are at least somewhat SSC-ish); I do have some reasons to re: my social circles, but of course the plural of anecdote is not data.

          • abc says:

            I’ve finally decided to quit reading the SSC comment section.

            And the average quality of posters improved. In fact a number of the commenters on this thread would do well to follow leoboiko’s example.

          • John Schilling says:

            @abc:

            In fact a number of the commenters on this thread would do well to follow leoboiko’s example.

            In order to assure a most orderly improvement in the group’s quality, may I ask the unwanted commenters to depart in alphabetical priority.

          • Aapje says:

            Hey, whatcha think you are doing, there.

        • Forge the Sky says:

          Since there’s smart people here who have studied the issue, I’ll ask instead of googling.

          How effective is transitioning in treating gender dysphoria? I’ve gotten the consistent impression from sources I’ve read that the answer is ‘maybe just a tiny bit,’ but that could very well be from biased information sources. They’ve tended to reduce the analysis to suicide rates pre- and post-transition, which differ little.

          I wonder because this thread seems to have a lot of people with an attitude of ‘well they can just transition, so other ‘cures’ might not be a huge priority.’

          My opinion has been that gender dysphoria is likely a brain that is malfunctioning to feel ‘wrongness’ without external cause, in the same way that a person with anxiety disorder feels a sense of danger without cause – and is then back-rationalizing that to mean ‘I’m the wrong gender, if this was fixed there’d be no issue’ when in fact the issue is the feeling of wrongness, and any physical transition won’t fix the issue. The sufferer will simply fixate on some way in which the transition isn’t ‘perfect’ or whatever and still feel ‘wrong.’ But this is based on very little information and I wouldn’t mind refining my understanding.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Right.

            Perhaps analogously, I knew a man who at advanced age lost the cognitive ability to remember happy memories overnight. If you asked him how his day had been, he’d have lots of cheerful things to tell you about what he’d done today. But if you asked him about yesterday or the day before yesterday, his face would cloud over in distress: he couldn’t hold in his memory happy long term memories, so while his short term memories of today was very nice, his past life appeared to him, looking back, as one long nightmare of nothing but unpleasant incidents.

            But because his past life hadn’t actually been a nightmare of horrors — he was still highly functional at doing whatever he felt like doing every day — he tended to dwell on obscure incidents, such as times that grocery store checkout clerks had looked at him funny. Because he had lost the ability to remember pleasant memories, he couldn’t replicate his past very well in his mind. He couldn’t say to himself, “80% of the time grocery clerks laugh at my jokes, but 20% of the time they look at me funny.” All he could remember were the times they’d looked at him funny.

            Why, therefore, did grocery clerks always look at him funny?

            But while his memory suffered this specific deficit, his imagination and reason still worked fine. So he constructed giant paranoid, but logical, conspiracy theories from his recollection of clerks always looking at him funny, such as that the grocery clerks union was out to get him. This was the only reasonable explanation; he could remember lots of times visiting new stores and clerks he’d never seen before had looked at him funny. So, ipso facto, the clerks union must have put his picture out to all their members as somebody to look funny at.

            I pointed out to several psychiatrists that his paranoia wasn’t caused by delusions about horrible incidents that didn’t happen — indeed, various clerks probably had looked at him funny over the years — but by a cognitive inability to form long term positive memories such as clerks laughing pleasantly at his jokes. From what he could remember about a lifetime of interactions with grocery clerks before today, the notion that their union was conspiring against him was quite rational.

            But none of the psychiatrists I spoke with had ever heard of such a thing and weren’t in the mood to listen.

            Anyway, this gentleman’s mood improved even later in life, although he never felt any doubt about the validity of his favorite old conspiracy theories. He just laughed them off as not very important: “Yeah, of course the grocery clerks union is still trying to get me, but you just can’t let that kind of thing bother you on a beautiful day like today. If grocery clerks were so powerful that I need to worry about them, they’d have better jobs. Ha-ha-ha!”

            On the other hand, Morris Dees hasn’t yet dreamed up a way for the SPLC to get a lot of donations for fighting hate groups of scientists who are Grocery Clerks Union Conspiracy Denialists.

          • Jim is a pseudonym says:

            In short, it’s very effective.

            The idea that the suicide rates don’t go down with transition is a myth, based on a biased piece of research that was designed to shut down gender treatment at John Hopkins decades ago.

            https://twitter.com/GenderCareDrL/status/820663539232870405
            https://twitter.com/GenderCareDrL/status/820663539232870405
            https://twitter.com/GenderCareDrL/status/820664306320703488
            https://twitter.com/GenderCareDrL/status/820666875067715584
            https://twitter.com/GenderCareDrL/status/820670747119063040
            https://twitter.com/GenderCareDrL/status/820672260596002816
            https://twitter.com/GenderCareDrL/status/820672719473770496

            Transitioning basically fixes gender dysphoria.

            It doesn’t fix suffering from minority stress, or the psychological damage of years being forced into a social role that doesn’t fit, or the costs of discrimination. It also doesn’t magically make trans people healthier than cis (non-trans) people: trans people can have all of the typical things go wrong in their lives that anyone else can.

            Trans people who have transitioned do have higher suicide rates than cis people. On average, they’ve dealt with a lot more stress (from things like social rejection, physical violence, etc). They have lower suicide rates than trans people denied the ability to transition.

            One of the major differences between transitioning and things like body dysmorphia disorders is that transitioning DOES generally fix the issue. This is a major part of why it’s medically endorsed. This was an open question in the 70s/80s; it’s not now.

          • vV_Vv says:

            They have lower suicide rates than trans people denied the ability to transition.

            Reference?

      • Steve Sailer says:

        How much evidence is there that transitioning makes people happier?

        For example, Professor McCloskey, the brilliant libertarian economist and former Harvard football player, appears to have remained extremely unhappy that the children he fathered consider him/her a jerk.

        He/she externalized his/her unhappiness by helping organize with the SPLC a persecution of the handful of scientists who have argued against the conventional talking point espoused by McCloskey. In McCloskey’s logic, the scientists must be silenced in order to avoid confirming his children’s perception of himself/herself as, indeed, a jerk.

        Obviously, that’s just anecdotal evidence, but it was rather extraordinary behavior for a libertarian economist.

        • Forge the Sky says:

          Not to hijack, but if this comment piques interest I asked something pretty similar just above (with a few added nuances); replies could potentially hit both at once.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      Gender dysphoria is clearly a psychiatric disorder (it’s in the DSM and everything!) but it is not a psychotic disorder. There do exist people with psychotic delusions of being a different sex, but they can be easily distinguished from transgender people: transgender people do not generally experience hallucinations, thought disorders, or other common traits of psychosis; transness is not fixed by taking antipsychotics; and transgender people can accurately state what their current biological sex and social gender are, and indeed consider this to be their entire fucking problem.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Right, like the older gentleman who had lost the ability to remember the good things that happened to him, he was highly rational about constructing explanations for why his memory consisted 100% of bad things, such as grocery clerks looking at him funny. He didn’t make up any of his memories, he just made up rational theories about why they were what they were.

        And about why, when he went to the cops to explain that the grocery clerks were conspiring against him, did they carefully write down his complaint about the clerks union but never did anything beyond that? Well, obviously, the police commissioner must know that the grocery clerks union has a lot of pull in this town. So a lowly desk sergeant doesn’t dare mess with the clerks union. It’s simple logic.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Here’s an NYT article about the Targeted Individual community who believe they are being gang stalked by the NSA or the Freemasons:

          United States of Paranoia: They See Gangs of Stalkers
          By MIKE McPHATE JUNE 10, 2016

          https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/11/health/gang-stalking-targeted-individuals.html

          … “Dr. Sheridan’s study, written with Dr. David James, a forensic psychiatrist, examined 128 cases of reported gang-stalking. It found all the subjects were most likely delusional.”

          I’m wondering though whether the psychiatric profession is missing one cause of this kind of paranoia in attributing it almost wholly to positive delusions, where it might also be cause by a negative incapacity to remember certain things.

          In my experience with this one older gentleman, he wasn’t hearing voices or other delusions at all, he just lacked the ability to longterm remember countervailing information.

          So his conspiracy theories were rather reasonable, given what he could and couldn’t remember, just as Dr. McCloskey has a powerful logical mind for constructing explanations for why his post-transition unhappiness is the fault of subversive truth-telling scientists like J. Michael Bailey and Ray Blanchard who must be shut up, along with anybody who has ever associated with them.

          Of course, the anti-science trans activists have powerful institutions on their side today who see their plight as justification for massive social upheaval, while the Targeted Individual activists are seen, in the rare cases when any attention is paid to them by respectable organizations, as deluded loons.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Of course gender dysphoria is not the same as schizophrenia, but the main types of psychiatric disorders exist on a spectrum, overlapping the range of healthy individuals.

        Just like there is an autism spectrum, ranging from the somewhat socially awkward nerd to the non-verbal face-scratching autistic, and there is a depression spectrum, ranging from feeling a bit sad to being suicidal, there is probably also a psychosis spectrum, ranging from dissociation (a vague feeling that there is something off) to being a rambling schizophrenic. Gender dysphoria is possibly just a specific presentation to being a some point in the psychosis spectrum.

        Let me speculate a bit more:

        Human cognition is sometimes modeled as the interaction between the fast, intuitive, heuristic System 1 and the slow, analytic, linguistic System 2. According to this theory, most human thought is driven by System 1, with System 2 usually acting as an overseer, a correctness validator.

        Let’s hypothesize that psychosis is a defect of System 1, which generates incorrect inferences given the available evidence. In mild, subclinical cases, System 2 can still take over and correct the errors, therefore at the linguistic, conscious level the person still makes correct inferences, but they still have a feeling, an intuition, that there is something off. In full-blown schizophrenia the erroneous signals from System 1 are strong enough to overwhelm System 2, or maybe System 2 has become hypoactive (this would explain the typical late onset), thus the person makes incorrect inferences even at the conscious level. In fact, in the most severe cases it’s even questionable whether the patient really has any System 2 activity left at all, given their low IQ and language that looks as it was randomly sampled from one of those computer neural network language models. Maybe antipsychotics work, when they work, by stimulating System 2.

        Suppose that you are a normal, typical, male. Your System 1 looks at the evidence, physical (you have a penis, you have a face and body shape similar to other penis-people, you grow beard, etc.), mental (you like to have sex with the vagina-people, you like to hang out with the penis-people, you like cars, computers, action movies, competitive sports, when you were a kid you liked to play with toy trucks and robots, etc.) and social (people call you a “man”, they interact with you the same way they interact with other penis-people, etc.), so it generates the inference that you are a member of “male” cluster. Your System 2 approves.

        Suppose instead that you are an atypical male: you are homosexual, effeminate, and maybe somewhat socially awkward. Here the evidence is more mixed, but if you are not psychotic your System 1 eventually figures out. Maybe at some point when you realized your oddity you felt some cognitive dissonance as your System 1 was confused and your System 2 had to step in to resolve the issue, but then your System 1 learned what to generate the correct inferences and the dissonance disappeared.

        But now suppose that you are mildly psychotic. Your System 1 is mislead by the mixed evidence and misclassifies you as a member of the “female” cluster, and thus starts generating all sort of incorrect inferences, triggering body integrity alarm signals any time you look in a mirror or pay attention at what is between your legs. Your System 2 manages to override these incorrect inferences, but it can’t knock the System 1 out of the bad local equilibrium it has converged to, so you while you are consciously aware that your body is perfectly healthy and the thing between your legs is not a weird hernia or a tumor, you are nevertheless permanently stuck with these highly stressful feelings of your body being “broken”, which may eventually take their toll. Antipsychotics won’t help you because the problem is not in your System 1, but in your System 2.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Suppose instead that you are an atypical male: you are homosexual, effeminate, and maybe somewhat socially awkward.

          The interesting thing is that the best known m to f late onset transexuals tend to have been highly masculine men, like McCloskey was a Harvard football player (no scholarships at Harvard so you only play if you really like football, especially if you are as scholarly as McCloskey, for whom football practice was a major sacrifice of his time hitting the books), Conway is a computer scientist, Morris is a Kiplingite adventurer, the guy I knew in B-school is an outer space tycoon, the Chicago billionaire heir is a colonel in the Army Reserve (even though he hardly needed the money from serving his country) and built a beautiful library of military history, etc.

          Heck they remain highly masculine in their interests even After.

          What I don’t see a lot of is moderately effeminate adult gay men or slightly below average in masculinity adult straight men (e.g., NPR announcers) announcing they have always been a girl on the inside.

          The usual explanation is that all the He-Men types who decide they were always a girl on the inside have been faking it for all these years to cover up their True Natures.

          But having known a famous one Before, well, he was just about the least feminine guy I’ve ever know. Enormous male ego and arrogance … Heck, Trump, who is somewhat similar in personality, has more feminine wiles than this guy.

          So what is really going on that explains this pattern?

          • vV_Vv says:

            So what is really going on that explains this pattern?

            If I understand correctly, there are two types of MtF transexuals.

            The early-onset MtF transexuals typically report having felt something wrong with their gender as long as they can remember, they transition as early as they can, and before transitioning they present as effeminate gay men. These men have true gender dysphoria.

            The late-onset MtF transexuals typically report having had sexual fantasies of having a female body since puberty, but they don’t seek transition until their 30s or 40s, and before transitioning they are typically quite masculine and heterosexual, and in fact they tend to remain masculine and be attracted to women or stop seeking sexual partners after transitioning. These men have autogynephilia: a sexual fetish of having a female body.
            Probably they don’t have gender dysphoria, at least not as the first group, but they may fake it because they only medically and socially acceptable way to justify transition is to claim that you’ve always felt like a “woman trapped in a male body”.

            Reference.

    • renderinglight says:

      “Psychotic” means you have psychosis…that you’ve had a break with reality, including delusions and hallucination.

      It’s not the same thing as “psychiatric,” which just means having to do with mental illness or its treatment. This includes treatment of non-psychotic mental illnesses like OCD, depression, anorexia, and addiction.

      The default hypothesis has been that gender dysphoria is a mental disorder. That’s why American doctors placed it in the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

      They’ve changed the way this diagnosis is framed, however, to reflect the fact that gender dysphoria can go away with proper attention to it’s causes (the “treatment” usually includes social, physical, and/or medical transition, if desired by the patient. Treating the mind is unethical since it’s not been successful without destroying the person).

      • vV_Vv says:

        “Psychotic” means you have psychosis…that you’ve had a break with reality, including delusions and hallucination.

        And how is believing that you are a “woman trapped in a male body” not a break with reality?

        • Steve Sailer says:

          To use my analogy, the man I knew who was extremely paranoid didn’t have any delusions, he didn’t hear voices in his head telling him the grocery clerks union was out to get him, he just arrived at that conclusion by a logical process caused by a subtle cognitive failure in his ability to form long term positive memories. So when he looked back on what he could remember of his past, the only sensible explanation was that the grocery clerks union had it in for him.

          Maybe some of these famous transsexuals are similar: perhaps they suffer a failure in their memories of their highly masculine pasts or something like that, and thus use their high IQs to retcon a life story that makes sense of what they can now remember about how they felt. Granted, their new story sounds implausible to objective observers, but they get around that due to their high level of masculine rage in browbeating skeptics and punishing dissenters. An impressive percentage of the small number of famous late onset m to f trans people I’ve had contact, private or public, with have been real “wrath of Achilles” types.

          Moreover, they have the ideological winds blowing at their backs. Granted when McCloskey and Conway teamed up with Morris Dees’ SPLC about a dozen years ago to wage SJW jihad against any scientists and science journalists who doubted the Conventional Wisdom on how transexuals had always felt like a girl on the inside, they were a few years ahead of their time.

          Morris, of course, is, in his field, a genius, but one of the prices geniuses pay is they can get out ahead of the public a little too much. If the SPLC had waited until the triumph of gay marriage a few years ago had left a void in the SJW agenda, he would have made a killing off transgenderism. But Morris Dees didn’t get where he is in life by being cautious and moving slowly. The cost is that sometimes he pushes a big pile of his chips in a few years before his donors are in full hysterics.

    • Jim is a pseudonym says:

      That’s closer to how it was seen several decades ago. In the meanwhile, Bayesian priors have shifted strongly among anyone who actually engages seriously with the field.

      In the DSM 5, it’s basically recognized that being transsexual is not a mental disorder. For the sake of not disrupting medical coverage, ‘gender dysphoria’ – the suffering that can arise as a side-effect of being trans – is classified as one.

      I don’t think it would be controversial on SSC to say that people have gendered brains: given scans of appropriate regions of the brains of 100 men and 100 women, you can guess which are which at a rate much better than chance.

      There’s also a large body of evidence that the brains of trans people have resemblances to the brains of cis people of the gender they say they are – even before interventions like HRT.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        I would very much doubt that is true for the highest profile late onset m to f trans people, like the ones I’ve dealt with in my private life or my public life. Instead, they were extremely non-feminine.

      • vV_Vv says:

        I don’t think it would be controversial on SSC to say that people have gendered brains: given scans of appropriate regions of the brains of 100 men and 100 women, you can guess which are which at a rate much better than chance.

        Sure there are anatomical differences between male and female brains, which result in cognitive and behavioral differences, but this does not mean that there is an internal gender identity “sense”.

        here’s also a large body of evidence that the brains of trans people have resemblances to the brains of cis people of the gender they say they are – even before interventions like HRT.

        Do you have a reference to this body of evidence? I’ve heard this claim before, but all the supporting evidence that I remember was a study on MtF transgenders on HRT, and it only found small statistical differences in some brain areas, while the overall brain anatomy was still male.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        >In the DSM 5, it’s basically recognized that being transsexual is not a mental disorder. For the sake of not disrupting medical coverage, ‘gender dysphoria’ – the suffering that can arise as a side-effect of being trans – is classified as one.

        I fail to see the distinction here. “Trans people aren’t mentally ill. Sure they all have this other mental disorder that by definition no one else has, but that doesn’t make being trans a mental disorder. It’s this other thing that has an exact correspondence to it.”

        • Steve Sailer says:

          In 2017, trans people have much power to punish dissenters, so they are treated with respect and fear.

          • Protagoras says:

            I guess I respect Ozy, though I don’t know them particularly well (just from the internet). Can’t think of any trans people that I fear.

        • Jim is a pseudonym says:

          Let’s say you’re very poor, and also extremely upset about it (to the point that your feelings are massively impairing your life). Being poor isn’t a mental disorder. That level of distress is.

          Being trans isn’t a mental disorder; it’s a brain-body mismatch that can cause significant distress. The distress comes with a DSM code (although I would argue that this is largely for historical and institutional reasons – existing pathways of treating trans people have been based around DSM-linked diagnoses so far, generally). Transitioning cures the distress, making people still have a trans history, but they no longer fit the DSM criteria.

          Or, to put it mathematically: all people with gender dysphoria (DSM V) are trans. Not all trans people have gender dysphoria – notably, transitioning cures it.

        • Jim is a pseudonym says:

          See also https://www.reddit.com/r/asktransgender/comments/6kkugv/i_created_a_long_citated_counter_to_the_mental/ for a longer explanation and discussion about why Gender Dysphoria isn’t a mental illness, just a ‘clinical problem’.

          (And no, I’m not a participant in that thread).

  24. Elizabeth says:

    Do people who *don’t* dissociate generally *not* go “oh, yeah, that thing”? I kind of assumed it was a Forer effect thing.

  25. AM says:

    Has anyone looked at the effects of estrogen-based birth control on autistic women?

    • renderinglight says:

      Anecdotally, estrogen-based birth control did not decrease my dissociation or control my menses (lol). But I am an autistic transgender man, not a woman.

  26. Kaj Sotala says:

    Unless your brain is bad at applying priors, ie its NMDA receptors aren’t working that well. Then it just sticks with the bottom-up sensory evidence showing that the mask is hollow.

    One of the things that came to mind while reading this was, “wait, shouldn’t trans people have stronger not weaker priors than other people? After all, they’ve got a strong prior for what their body should be like, one which refuses to get updated to match the sense data, and the constant conflict between the prior and the sense data is a big part of what causes all the problems?”

    This probably only goes to show that concepts on the level of “stronger or weaker priors” are too vague and high-level to translate into useful predictions.

    • renderinglight says:

      Can we call a transgender configuration of the homonculous and the function of neural pathways a prior? Gender identity is no more a preconception than other characteristics of personality (extroversion, neuroticism, openness, conscientiousness, etc.)

      I’ve not studied Bayesian statistics, but here’s what I see on Wikipedia: In Bayesian statistical inference, a prior probability distribution, often simply called the prior, of an uncertain quantity is the probability distribution that would express one’s beliefs about this quantity before some evidence is taken into account.

      I’m taking this to mean the likelihood that something will actually be what you believe it to be before you have enough information to determine what it is. For example, a you expect to see a cat when you see a small, dark creature skittering away at night but it turns out you’re looking at a racoon. The idea that the attributes = cat was your prior. Right? Wrong? …what do you think?

  27. The Nybbler says:

    For what it’s worth, what I usually see is the mask gets to 180 degrees, and THEN it flips and reverses direction. So I see it inside out until I’m looking directly at the back of it.

  28. Jim is a pseudonym says:

    Injecting some facts into the speculation.

    – While trans adults have a higher rate of mental issues than the general population, trans kids who are allowed to socially transition do not (other than anxiety): see http://www.refinery29.uk/2017/02/139853/why-transgender-kids-should-be-themselves . There’s a big literature on the effects of stress, stigma, etc on mental health already.

    – Testosterone can get aromatized to estrogen, but it doesn’t happen anywhere near enough to provide estrogen levels similar to pre-HRT ones for trans guys unless something is extremely far off in their dosing. It generally takes hardcore steroid abuse to feminize through testosterone – hence the famous breasts of some male bodybuilders, and the internet being
    full of drug stacks to prevent that happening these days. Testosterone levels in the normal cis male range (as is normal during HRT) don’t significantly aromatize.

    Wild speculation of my own:
    – What are the P values like for your trans folk don’t see illusions theory when you control for confounding factors, including chronic marijuana use? (As per the stress/stigma/etc literature, substance abuse rates are higher than among less stressed/stigmatized/etc people).

    And lastly, a little anecdata:
    – I’m a pre-HRT trans guy, probably aspie, not schizophrenic, not a marijuana user, and strongly see both illusions.
    – I’ve heard of two autistic trans guys stopping testosterone because it makes their autistic symptoms worse (for instance, worse executive function). Most autistic trans guys do not experience this.
    – I’ve heard a lot of anecdotes about trans people taking the hormone associated with the sex people assumed they were at birth. Some have taken it due to naturally low levels, often on the recommendation of doctors they were not out to. Other times, higher hormone levels are a side effect – for instance, with egg banking protocols. The results I’ve heard have universally been reported to be unpleasant at best – I’ve not heard any neutral, much less positive, ones. I have heard a lot of people drawing analogies to how unwanted HRT led to Turing’s death. This approach has been tried, it gets reinvented all the time, and it does not ‘work’ in any useful way.

    • erincandescent says:

      One potentially confounding factor WRT the effect of testosterone here is that neurons contain aromatase, and it seems to be active in many parts of the brain. While systemic aromatization is insufficient, it is possible that local aromatization is (literature seems to imply that it is important in the sexual differentiation of the brain, though how well we understand the brain is debatable)

    • enkiv2 says:

      Regarding the anecdata:

      This fits with my experience being part of autistic communities, for sure. In my own experience, while these communities have fewer people assigned female, the ratio is much more even than one would naturally expect from the statistics about diagnoses, and gender dysphoria seems extremely common, manifesting about equally in transmen and transwomen, with a lot of people identifying as gender-queer. While these communities often start as support spaces, I’ve seen similar trends in other spaces not explicitly intended for autism support.

      A general association between various forms of dissociation, dysphoria, and autism, not tied to gonadal hormones, makes a lot more sense to me. And, if dissociation is stress-triggered (as it seems to be for PTSD), doesn’t gender dysphoria by itself explain dissociative episodes?

  29. Steve Sailer says:

    An interesting analogy for the much publicized use of sex hormones to transition away from one’s chromosomal sex is the much more popular use of artificial hormones to take on more secondary sex characteristics of one’s own sex: e.g., Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark McGwire, The Rock, Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson, Barry Bonds, Sylvester Stallone, etc. etc.

    • Aapje says:

      Lance Armstrong was not trying to gain lots of muscle.

      Testosterone can be used in ways that doesn’t bulk you up, but that does help with recovery after strenuous exercise.

  30. Andrew Klaassen says:

    (17% vs. 14%), but thanks to our big sample size we could be pretty confident that this was a meaningful difference (p = 0.004)

    Ouch. Having a statistically significant difference does not mean that you have a meaningful difference. You need to look at your effect size to decide whether you have a meaningful difference. You know this.

  31. Steve Sailer says:

    One obvious medical question to look into is whether or not steroid abuse increases the risks of gender dysphoria.

    To take what ought to be the most obvious example, Bruce Jenner finished 10th in the 1972 Olympic decathlon while weighing 180 pounds. He won the 1976 Olympics weighing 220 pounds. Now he calls himself Caitlyn Jenner.

    But there doesn’t seem to be much interest in scientifically researching this phenomenon. Instead, we are supposed to assume that the problem is not in Jenner’s head or body, but in our outdated social arrangements.

    • Tibor says:

      I think this is an attitude of some people, but I would not go as far as to say that there is not much interest in studying this. There is a difference between what is studied and what is presented as clickbait in the media. After all, Scott had a very nice article about that recently – showing that a lot of research, including social science, is a lot more nuanced and actually scientific than what the clickbait drivel journalists often make of it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Or, throwing another theory out there, perhaps the phenomenon of extremely manly men transitioning later in life is due to testosterone _withdrawal_ (which might be exacerbated by steroid use). Testosterone levels drop as men get older, perhaps those with more testosterone are more affected by this drop. (I think Jenner currently claims to have always felt uncomfortable being a man, but I don’t consider that testimony reliable).

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Right. That sounds not implausible and worth checking out.

        I’d add that I think the curious but fairly common phenomenon of people retconning their memories to make them more in accord with how they feel now plays a role as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if this kind of thing is more common in highly masculine men who are talented at browbeating other people into believing whatever is in the interest of the alpha male: the famous “reality distortion field.”

        Is there a name for this tendency to retcon memories to conform with current feelings?

        For example, I don’t retcon my memories of my past political beliefs, but I am a little bit selective in my memory in that I’m more likely to dwell upon early insights that led to my more sophisticated current political beliefs while not paying much attention to memories of the bulk of my past political views that I now consider crude.

        But I’m a fairly objective person with a good memory and a knack for reality checking my opinions. I can imagine that if you instead were a strongly triumph-oriented guy with a tendency to believe whatever was in your interest at the moment and a talent for getting others to believe it too, a drop in your masculinity as you age could set off all sorts of unpredictable retconnings of your memories.

    • Nornagest says:

      whether or not steroid abuse increases the risks of gender dysphoria.

      There might be something to this. Gynecomastia’s a common side effect of steroid use, as the artificial testosterone’s aromatized to estrogen and hangs around in the body; it stands to reason that it might have psychological effects as well, although I have no idea if sex hormones alone can cause gender dysphoria. This is the opposite of what the NMDA theory would predict, though, unless anabolic steroids are masking the estrogen effect somehow while they’re being taken — and while estrogen’s said to improve NMDA function, I’m not aware of an antagonist effect for testosterone.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Keep in mind that I can only think of two Olympic athlete steroid users who have transitioned: Jenner and a lady shotputter from East Germany who went the other direction. (And of course I don’t have proof that Jenner was on the juice, either. But, c’mon …)

  32. acrimonymous says:

    Next time you do this, you should use a video of an actual spinning mask and not an illustration.

    When I watch YouTube videos of the spinning Charlie Chaplin mask, I can see the back is concave except for one split second of the spin. With the mask illustration, I cannot see the back of the mask as concave even when the mask is just starting to rotate from convex to concave and only a portion of the back is visible. This leads me to believe that there is a problem with the light rendering on the illustration.

    This has important consequences as in, who is seeing objectively and who is seeing what they think they should see?

    • random832 says:

      A real object might have conflating factors – i.e. if the two sides of the mask have different textures, it’s easier to keep track. Objectively, the only difference between the illustration when it is facing forward and facing away from the camera is the lighting direction and slight perspective factors. If the camera and the light source were at infinity, they would be identical except for the lighting direction and possibly internal shadows if any features are high enough to cast any.

      • acrimonymous says:

        If the issue is simply that the brain’s prior for “face” is convex, then putting it in a real-world context with extra “tracking factors” shouldn’t matter.

        The brain’s prior is not really face=convex, it’s face=(light=protruding and dark=receding). This means any illustration mistakes make the image worthless for investigating the brain’s priors.

        For example, if you download the gif and look at it still by still, you can see that in the first frame, the light source is to our right (the mask’s left). However, starting around frame 87, the inside (back) of the mask is being illuminated by another light source (otherwise, the right side of the mask, which is still blocking the original light source in the course of its rotation, would be casting a shadow over the inside of the mask, especially the nose, which should be entirely dark were it rendered correctly). The changing light source fools the brain by making it look like a concave object rotating in the frames prior to about number 118, where we are seeing the back of the mask straight on.

        Problems with illustration are much more likely to screw up a light/shade illusion than problems with context.

        Looking back at Scott’s survey, however, I note that he used an image of a real mask, and one where the viewpoint is straight on at the back of the mask. This is the only time the illusion really works completely, which is why Charlie Chaplin looks correct except for a split second in the middle of the rotation when the illusion kicks in. You can see in the following image that the mask Scott uses doesn’t look convex when held at different angles.
        http://blog.brainfacts.org/wp-content/uploads/albert-combo1.jpg

        Even so, it is highly dependent on light source, I suspect. I bet if you completely top-lit that Albert Einstein mask, nobody would be fooled by it.

        Again, this issue is very important as it bears on whether people who see Einstein as concave are not seeing what their brain expects to see (a face) or are seeing what their brain expects to see (the back of a mask)–i.e., whether they are or are not responding to visual cues.

  33. Tibor says:

    Interestingly enough, when I opened this article last night, I was almost unable to make my brain see the inverted face the way it really is (it took me about 6 turns of the face to manage that), whereas today I find it mildly difficult to flip the image mentally to see it as though it were facing me when it in fact isn’t (i.e. I was a lot more susceptible to the illusion in the evening).

    I also observe that I am a lot more emotional in the evening than during the day (regardless of whether I am tired or not, I think). I wonder if these are related, perhaps secretion of certain hormones that influence this is triggered by daylight/darkness/daytime? But I know very little about this.

    • acrimonymous says:

      It’s interesting. Last night, I was completely susceptible to the illusion but this morning I can see the mask accurately for about 80% of the time it’s spinning. Only when the backside first starts being revealed do I see it as convex. I’m not aware of other night/morning emotional differences.

  34. Naclador says:

    Hi there,

    just wanted to leave a short comment on the Spinning Mask vs. Spinning Dancer problem.

    I think the obvious difference here between the two is that while all of us have a strong prior about whether faces should face in or out, we do not have a strong prior about which way a dancer is spinning. If anything, I would say that the difference between the two illusions is an argument FOR the NMDA theory, not against it.

    • acrimonymous says:

      They are two quite different illusions. The mask is providing the visual system with depth information via light and shadow patterns. The dancer illusion works because it doesn’t have any depth information.

      So in a sense, it is true that priors are important–the brain has priors about the information that light and shade patterns are providing–but it is not just a prior about seeing faces as convex objects. If you want, take a look at the following image. If you can’t figure out what it is, turn the screen upside down and you’ll see it immediately.

      http://www.dartmouth.edu/~petertse/boulderupcolor.gif

      The illusion is created from the fact that the brain’s light and shade prior is for seeing things illuminated from above.

  35. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Scott, your references to estrogen made “transgender” read as a synonym for “penis-bearer who sees themself as a woman” until you got called out on it.
    As a psychiatrist, is it your belief that the m-to-f mental state is at least an order of magnitude more common than the reverse? If so, does the vast disparity have a social cause or do the two kinds of transsexual have different biological causes, one much more common than the other?

    • Jim is a pseudonym says:

      Estimates vary from 5:1 to 1:2 ratios. There is definitely not an order of magnitude difference.

      Evidence so far suggests that there are significantly more than two biological causes.

  36. enkiv2 says:

    I had always assumed that the link here was that autistics were more likely to be open about their gender dysphoria (due to less consistent and intense perception of social stigma) and were likely to feel the effects more strongly (due to poor emotional regulation), and that the same mechanisms would be in play in schizophrenia for the same reason that cross-diagnosis between autism and schizophrenia is common (i.e., shared problems with social interaction). And, this relation still seems more likely to me, unless the following possible confounding factors are addressed:

    1) Is there a strong enough link between dissociation and being a transwoman among transwomen that are not diagnosed with autism or schizophrenia that it would not adequately be explained by high rates of these syndromes within transwomen by itself (i.e., some large percentage of undiagnosed cases)?

    2) Is dissociation mostly absent from trans-men? (I know several trans-men and all are either autistic or schizophrenic. Furthermore, I know several people who were assigned female but identify as gender-fluid, and all have generalized dissociation. My experience here may not generalize, but I’d like to see any study that addresses the association with trans-women also address trans-men and separate them out.) Alternately, can we verify that giving trans-men testosterone therapy does not improve symptoms of dissociation?

    If it turns out neither is the case, then we’re probably looking at something that encourages dissociation, gender dysphoria (and maybe body dysphoria in general), and social problems but isn’t actually so strongly associated with one sex.

    There’s been a lot of criticism with regard to gender disproportionality in diagnoses of autism and schizophrenia, with suggestions that the diagnostic criteria are biased in favor of symptoms that usually manifest in people socialized as male & are insufficiently general to account for western femininity, let alone minor cultural divergence from western norms. I’m not convinced enough that the gender disparity is real to buy that low estrogen levels are to blame. A survey looking at secondary sexual characteristics of autistic women should be enough to dismiss the estrogen starvation idea, right? I suspect you won’t find the average autistic women to be taller or have smaller breasts than the average neurotypical woman, and (again based on my own limited anecdotal experience) I think you might find the opposite. If, indeed, autistic symptoms are related to and proportional to lowered estrogen levels even in males, then you would expect female autistics (who are diagnosed at much lower rates) to have androgynous or masculine bodies — and if both socialization and estrogen levels are a factor, then you would expect that those women who are diagnosed would have much more severe symptoms that their male peers and that those symptoms would be proportional to masculine physical features.

    (I’m not a doctor so maybe I’m missing something, like differences in foetal estrogen vs differences in estrogen released at puberty, but even in that case why would hormone therapy in adulthood make more of a behavioral difference than gonadal estrogen during puberty?)

  37. acrimonymous says:

    I wonder if people can be trained to see these images differently and whether or not that affects how the brain deals with top-down vs bottom-up systems in general.

    My father teaches drawing and painting. A lot of what he does is getting students to just draw the image in front of them. People are not very good at forgetting the 3D object and just drawing the 2D image presented to their eyes, resulting in a lot of drawing mistakes. Some of his teaching is giving people tools to figure out what they are actually seeing instead of what they think they are seeing.

    He himself has an unusual ability to see color and shape accurately. For example, when I showed him the famous blue-black-white-gold dress image, he immediately saw the correct colors. He has showed me on numerous occasions the mistakes made by famous artists in famous paintings that look accurately rendered to me. I don’t know whether his visual abilities are innate or from years of calculated observation. I wonder whether he or his students have altered brain functioning.

    Incidentally, he’s also quite good at figuring out who-done-it mysteries. Does this correlate with anything? Mental disorders? Political affiliation?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      That would be a fun subject to study: types of people who are good at figuring out whodunit in mysteries.

      I’m certainly not. I like Raymond Chandler mysteries best because he doesn’t seem to care anymore than I do whodunnit.

      Now that I think about it, your father might make a good character for a mystery writer: a professional painter who moonlights as an amateur detective because of his ability to see things as they are.

  38. Rm says:

    The obvious next step I think, was to check what portion of the face could the viewer identify as describing a full circle and not just swinging this way and that way. I got just past the eyebrows, but I didn’t try going upwards or sideways. I also managed, after a while, to convince myself that the whole thing was actually rotating – but only after I stopped trying to glimpse the “other side” and decided instead that there was a mask doing the rounds and a face that “caught” it when its orbit made it visible. (Must be a metaphor for something.) Also, I recall the Dancer being more… fluid? Also also, thickness matters – if this were an actual mask, surely our brains would not glitch. But why?

    (Family history of schizophrenia, not diagnosed myself.)

  39. Henry says:

    Could your fourth reason for sceptism be because, although the brain has been treated and now updates its bayesian priors like a normal person, those priors will still be starting from an autistic/schizophrenic point of view so there will appear to have been little affect, at least until some time has elapsed?

  40. RiversHaveWings says:

    Data point: I asked my dissociative trans woman friends who use dissociative drugs, and they say the drugs don’t do the same thing as psychological dissocation. You seem to have assumed they were the same due to (presumably) an accident of history causing them to share a name.

    Also, do trans guys have dissociation prior to treatment with testosterone? It would pose a problem for this theorizing if both sex hormones improved dissociation in different populations. Someone should report whether this is actually the case.

  41. mrolympia2007 says:

    I think I narrowed it!

    You observed that there’s a correlation between autism, schizophrenia and transgenderism. You also pointed out that estrogen would be very effective against those conditions, so the way we deal with transgenderism(HRT) would actually work against those conditions. You just couldn’t explain how transgenderism fits in the picture.

    That’s my hypothesis: When the human body detects NMDA malfunction in the brain it will produce estrogen to counterbalance the situation, this is what produces transgenderism, the estrogen. The dissociation is not producing the transgenderism, nor is schizophrenia or autism, but the way that the body reacts to the underlying cause of the conditions that is the NMDA malfunction is in fact the cause of the transgenderism.

    Pls give me feedback if you think my hypothesis isn’t absolute horseshit. If it is right maybe anti-psychotics that combat the diseases previously mentioned could be used as a treatment against transgenderism, because it would stop the body from releasing the estrogen by already stopping the other conditions.

    thanks for reading.

    • mrolympia2007 says:

      This also could explain why the HRT could be effective at combating the diseases mentioned but also not effective at stopping the transgenderism(obviously). It’s because you’re just increasing estrogen that is what caused the transgenderism in the first place. So transgenderism would not be a disease caused by NMDA malfunction but a biproduct of the way that the human body react to the actual NMDA malfunction.

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