Mr. Econotarian wrote:
Actual science is that your brain can be gendered during development in a different fashion than your sex chromosomes. And that gender is not something that hormones alone can “fix”.
For example, the forceps minor (part of the corpus callosum, a mass of fibers that connect the brain’s two hemispheres) – among nontranssexuals, the forceps minor of males contains parallel nerve fibers of higher density than in females. But the density in female-to-male transsexuals is equivalent to that in typical males.
As another example, the hypothalamus, a hormone-producing part of the brain, is activated in nontranssexual men by the scent of estrogen, but in women—and male-to-female transsexuals—by the scent of androgens, male-associated hormones.
I would stress a social point. If it turns out you are born “different” in these ways (I’m not even sure what are the right words to use to cover all the relevant cases), what is the chance that your social structure will be supportive? Or will you feel tortured, mocked, and out of place? Might you even face forced institutionalization, as McCloskey was threatened with? Most likely things will not go so well for you, even in an America of 2014 which is far more tolerant overall than in times past, including on gay issues. Current attitudes toward transsexuals and other related groups remain a great shame. A simple question is how many teenagers have been miserable or even committed suicide or have had parts of their lives ruined because they were born different in these ways and did not find the right support structures early on or perhaps ever. And if you are mocking individuals for their differences in this regard, as some of you did in the comments thread, I will agree with Barkley Rosser’s response: “Some of you people really need to rethink who you are. Seriously.”
It’s not just the libertarian argument that you have — to put it bluntly — the “right to cut off your dick” (though you do). It’s that there are some very particular circles of humanity, revolving around transsexuality, cross-gender, and related notions, which deserve a culture of respect, above and beyond mere legal tolerance.
India is not the paradise for cross- and multiple-gender individuals that it is sometimes made out to be, but still we could learn a good deal from them on these issues. If nothing else, the argument from ignorance ought to weigh heavily here: there is plenty about these categories which we as a scientific community do not understand, and which you and I as individuals probably understand even less. So in the meantime should we not extend maximum tolerance for individuals whose lives are in some manner different?
No, I do not know what are the appropriate set of public policies for when children should receive treatment, if they consistently express a desire to change, and what are the relative limits of family and state in these matters. But if we start with tolerance and acceptance, and encourage a culture of respect for transsexualism, we are more likely to come up with the right policy answers, and also to minimize the damage if in the meantime we cannot quite figure out when to do what.