Social Justice Warrior slang for "transmedicalist" or "transfundamentalist". 

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"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

- Genesis 1:27

 

"And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,"

- Matthew 19:4

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We all start out female. As embryos, we begin in a state that is indeterminate and outwardly looking to be female. For the first few weeks, because the embryo doesn't have the material required yet to read its own DNA and therefore all the mRNA and other proteins come from the embryo's mother. For a male embryo, at around the sixth week, the SRY gene on the Y chromosome promotes a protein called the H-Y antigen - and that's when things begin to change.

And in 99.9% of cases or more, when the X chromosome or Y chromosome in the embryo switches on, cells begin to differentiate and apart from chromosomal testing, we can tell you "for sure" what gender and sex the baby is. Given that almost everyone is cisgender it's a moot point. A man, in almost every instance, has a penis and a male identity. Brain sex makes him perceive reality and think in ways subtly different to his sister, who has a vulva and other perceptual differences.

And most parents want to know, as do the loved ones and community of the baby - is it a boy or a girl? And they start writing the script for that person's life upon knowing. They'll start preparing to socialize that child in one or the other gender role and assign values to whatever that child does. Behaviors will be encouraged, others discouraged. And this wasn't a new thing based on modern scientific imaging - there's any of a number of wive's tales about what the sex and gender will be based on whether the mother is "carrying low", "carrying high", has severe morning sickness or doesn't, etc. as people wanted to know back in antiquity - am I going to have an heir, or someone I hope is pretty so I can sell her off as soon as possible at a good bride price? We've wanted to know and predict since we as a species became aware that ejaculating inside a woman at a certain point resulted in another human being nine months later, and that's when all the taboos started.

But then again, that's 99.99% or more percent of the time. 

For some, chafing against gender roles doesn't describe the disconnect they feel. Just as there have been girls longing to have what they perceive as the security in person and the greater social mobility of being boys - a phenomenon Freud dismissed as penis envy - there have also been boys who longed to have a more fluid gender role, to have permission to be softer, to like My Little Pony - to be valued as people innately and not just as a provider and pack mule. But for a small minority, it goes far, far beyond that.

Take the case of David Reimer. To make a long story short, he'd have been a Canadian boy with a normal Canadian life, but for one fateful decision. Both of the Reimer boys were in for circumcision (which is "cleaner", the male equivalent of giving a boy another washcloth just to be used "down there")  - in this instance for an actual medical reason (phimosis) and at the age of seven months. The urologist decided to do it by cauterization, an unconventional technique. His identical twin brother's procedure went without a hitch, but when his turn came the doctor inadvertently set the cauterization unit to a different "scale" and used a magnitude of voltage way way in excess of what was needed and burned the penis clean off.

We still cannot create a functional human penis. We can create one that can urinate and looks like one, but in terms of ability to get erection and sexual pleasure, not a chance. And options were far, far fewer in 1965 in Canada. The boy was taken to a specialist who was putting forth the theory that gender is a construct, and that it's learned. As a result, the decision was made to patch up whatever was left on David and raise him as a "girl". 

He was renamed Brenda, and was told since he was first aware of who he was that he was female. An orchidectomy (removal of the testicles) and sex reassignment surgery were performed in infancy, but regardless of all attempts to socialize Brenda as a girl, they never worked. Brenda insisted he was a boy, and fought everyone every step of the way, even at the age of 9. No he wasn't a girl, he was in no way like other girls.

Eventually the mother tearfully admitted that they had done all this in the best interests of all concerned, and on the advice of all medical professionals present. The doctor was terribly disappointed because in this case he had had a perfect scenario - an identical twin, a perfect "control" - and had "Brenda" grown up to be a woman in every way, it would have validated his theory that gender is really just a made up thing.

David Reimer is now dead - after a lifetime of horror and self-identity problems, he hanged himself. 

Do keep in mind that Reimer was subjected to treatment that by modern standards is horrific. The psychologist had the two boys engage in sex play, with the "boy" twin mounting David on a regular basis either in "doggie style" or with David's legs spread wide with his twin brother on top. The idea was to engage in "normal, natural sex play" and firmly establish gender roles. He also forced the two boys to examine and play with each others' genitals.  At the time, David's were indeterminate, as they hadn't actually done the whole vaginal/vulval reconstruction. David urinated through a hole in his abdomen, but not in the girls' washroom. His school made him go outside and urinate in the bushes. For the record, David's brother developed schizophrenia.

The parents, eager to get rid of and/or please the doctor, lied about the "success" of this treatment, and it influenced thinking of the time that gender was indeed just something we make up and that the experiment was proof of the theory.

Transfundamentalists, or "truscum" believe transgender to work the same way. Pointing to studies that show that the brains of transgender people "work" and scan like the brains of the gender they profess to be and identify with, some believe that it's a medical or physical case - that somehow the brain develops one way and the body another, in a mechanism we have yet to fully understand - leading to a condition of a male brain and a male soul trapped inside a woman's body, or vice versa. They see it as a medical or physical issue - of somehow the "brain" and "body" switches aren't set to the same on/off positions.

And the model of diagnosis and treatment is based on that, and "fixing" the body and brain to integrate better - whether that be by allowing he to live as she, or get hormone treatments, or even to remove the "offending" genitalia in the way one wouldn't even think twice about removing an extra finger or another hand growing out out of a child's arm.

And opponents disagree, and disagree very very strongly. The fact that the word "truscum" was created from "true" and "scum" should make that clear.

Because honestly, and we're not even going to get into intersex people, for every way you can think of defining gender, there's an outlier. "A boy has an XY chromosome and a penis, stupid" - well, uh, someone with androgen insensitivity syndrome has a vulva (but no uterus) and looks entirely female, but test the chromosomes and you have a Y chromosome. In the days before modern science, such a person would have just been considered "barren".

So opponents argue that just as how sexuality is fluid, with truly 100% hetero- or homosexual people being pathologically abnormal, so too is gender. They argue that the definition as provided by "transfundamentalists", of two genders and a disrupt between the two, to be not only offensive ("you're broken and you need to be fixed") but unnecessarily a case of seeing things in only black and white where the reality is shades of grey.

They also point to the fact that the standard by which someone is or isn't trans- is whether or not they are in the care of a doctor and following medical guidelines, e.g. taking hormones etc., who are usually following a disease model and working from a cis-normative psychology and physiology. If someone isn't feeling "dysphoric" or has decided to simply live in the body they are in, who is anyone to negate their experience and their identity?

They have a point. There's a disturbingly high percentage of people who are transgender who commit suicide after transition surgery, which is why it is "gatekept" from a significant number of people. Both Johns Hopkins hospital (who have banned the procedure) and the Catholic Church argue that forcing someone to conform to being exactly one or the other as much as medical science will allow is counterproductive (albeit for different reasons).

But, to argue the other side for a moment - the line does blur - at what point is your seeking a different identity in the label "girl" or "gender variant" a case of simply hating the rigid gender roles we have instituted? At what point does it move from being gender variant in the sense of having a different gender, and simply variant of the box society puts us into? By making it about one versus the other, there's some sense of security in working on the concerns people have for what they are - helping those whose brains don't match their bodies, and supporting women who might not want to be considered second-class workers under a glass ceiling or men who want the ability to cry in public without the double bind of being told they should, but considered weak and pathetic when they do.

This is especially important when considering treatment for children. Of course, the ideal would be to get someone in a healthy spot in childhood, before they miss out too much on the normal experiences of their gender. But given just about every boy has crossdressed and played with his mom's makeup and many girls have experimented urinating standing up, how much of this is normal play-acting and infant curiosity and at what point does it become significant enough to warrant permanent, life-changing intervention? The jury is still out on this one.

The David Reimer case can be used to argue either side of the transfundamentalist or "truscum" argument - you can either look at it as the medical establishment really hurt David by forcing him into a box he didn't belong in, based on the frankly sexist idea that unless you had a penis and could penetrate a woman, you weren't a man, so what the hell, just get the knife out and make him a girl. You can also argue it another way - it's proof positive that it's not "up to you" and that gender is a real thing and there can be a genuine, medical, physically rooted mind/body disconnect.

But given the family history of mental illness and the simply messed-up situation that Reimer went through, the jury is always going to be out.







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