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Hope_WA comments on Changing Emotions - Less Wrong

22 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 05 January 2009 12:05AM

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Comment author: Hope_WA 07 January 2009 01:17:30AM 4 points [-]

I have strong reservations about the completely unsupported theory of autogynephilia. As Abigail wrote, it is a theory posited by someone with a limited imagination, who can only see a world in which gender and sexuality are linked, instead of independent of each other. Like the captain said in Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

There is strong evidence that the brain is sexed from birth. One example is the research being done by Zhou, Hofman, Gooren and Swaab and another is the body mapping research being done by V. S. Ramachandran at U.C. San Diego. There is not enough evidence to propose a strictly binary model, where a person’s brain is either male or female with no variations in between, but there also isn’t any evidence supporting the idea that each person’s brain falls somewhere on a spectrum between male and female. Any evidence that the brain is inherently sexed, hardwired from birth with both a sexual identity and male or female body map contradicts the theory of autogynephilia. The problem that we run into is that our language has not evolved enough to adequately discuss gender and transsexuality. It has also not evolved enough to adequately describe the experience of being the sex opposite to the one a person is born into. Let’s say that someone is considered a “normal” male or a “normal” female. For simplicities sake, I will use someone born female as my example. That person would be: Biologically female - This is a more complex question than simply saying that the person has XX chromosomes. The most common accepted biological definition is that this person does not have an active SRY gene, which would mean that her Mullerian ducts would develop into female reproductive anatomy instead of her wolffian ducts developing into the corresponding male anatomy and her gonads would develop into ovaries instead of testes.

Gendered female – Having a brain which is hard-wired female by the proper hormonal influences in the womb

Anatomically female

Socialized female – Raised in a manner consistent with her anatomy in the culture she lives in

On top of the previous variable, layer sexual orientation. The majority of “normal” women are sexually attracted primarily to males. I am not making a value judgment here, just expressing what the majority is. Most rational people would concede that sexual orientation is an innate trait as well. If we take this person, biologically, anatomically, gendered, and socialized female with a sexual attraction to males, what would it mean for her to live as a “male but ‘otherwise identical’ copy of herself”. It would require someone biologically, anatomically, gendered, and socialized male. It seems that to make that many fundamental changes to an individual would cause that person to have a completely foreign identity to the original person. If I replace every part on a 1976 Chevrolet Chevette, part by part, structure by structure, with the parts from a 2009 Chevrolet Corvette, modifying and re-modifying the parts as needed, until there are none of the original parts of the Chevette left, and all the Corvette’s parts are in place, is it still the same car? It seems hard to believe it is.

Is sexual orientation part of this discussion, or is it a trait unrelated to maleness and femaleness? I would argue that the two are separate, and only useful to define homosexual and heterosexual, rather than implying anything about a person’s gender. The situation becomes even more complex when considering someone who is transsexual. What defines homosexuality in their case? Is it their anatomy, their biology, or the gender of their brain? When are two people considered to be the same sex? These are questions ignored by Blanchard, Bailey, and Lawrence, as well as anyone else who believes that autogynephilia has any merits as a valid theory of transsexualism.