Some notes on desistance research

Epistemic status: To make sure I got this post right, I asked Michael Bailey for comments. I edited my initial draft based on his feedback, and he agrees completely with this version.

Also, I guess this post means that the followup that I promised for my last post will have to wait a bit.

“Desistance”, in the context of research by Zucker et al, refers to a very specific phenomenon. The topic is still an open research area, so it is difficult to say anything for sure. However, desistance research specifically applies to early-onset gender dysphoria, which is strongly associated with gender nonconformity. The association with gender-nonconformity makes it easy to assume that highly GNC kids will eventually turn out transgender, but in practice they are usually observed to outgrow this and end up happy with their sex. This specifically is the phenomenon that is covered in desistance research. Not much is known about why they are so strongly correlated, but some researchers believe that the gender-nonconformity can be a reflection of the dysphoria, and that encouraging it may cause the dysphoria to persist. This specific pattern of desistance is observed only for early-onset gender dysphoria, and it likely relies on specific characteristics of the dysphoria that are not seen in other forms. As a result, there is little a priori reason to expect it to generalize to other forms of gender dysphoria, unless these forms of gender dysphoria also have specific characteristics that would imply a high likelihood of desistance.

In particular, desistance research does not apply to autogynephilic gender dysphoria. Not much is known about the specifics that distinguishes dysphoric autogynephiles from non-dysphoric ones, but equivalent phenomena to desistance have not been consistently observed for them (and is unlikely to ever be observed, even if it does exist, as properly identifying and evaluating autogynephiles in the relevant period is very difficult). Autogynephilic gender dysphoria has, however, been observed to disappear in some cases, but this is not a consistent and reliable phenomenon in the same way that desistance from gender nonconformity seems to be.

The research also does not apply directly to “rapid-onset gender dysphoria”. There is currently no research on the desistance rates of ROGD. However, if the model that rapid-onset gender dysphoria is to a large degree caused by social contagion is true, then this creates a large possibility for desistance under the right circumstances, as the gender dysphoria is not purely due to permanent characteristics of the person in question, but instead also due to mutable social environment. If the social contagion model is incorrect, there is very little reason to expect desistance to happen. There is almost no research on the validity of the social contagion model for rapid-onset gender dysphoria, but there are many anecdotes that make it seem somewhat plausible.

The specific ways that desistance might work in early-onset gender dysphorics also means that if children who *could* desist instead go on to transition, they will likely not experience regret from transition, but will instead simply not desist. This has a number of implications. It means that the harm of transition will be limited to the problems associated with being a transgender person rather than a gay person, rather than implying regret and future detransition. However, it also means that if someone who could’ve desisted ends up transitioning, it becomes easy for people to mistakenly think that the transition was a huge success because the patient is very happy with the outcomes, when actually the patient could have been just as happy if they didn’t transition. And lastly, it also implies that interventions which do not permit unlearning gender-nonconformity and atypical gender identity – for example ones where gender-nonconformity is highly encouraged – might very well prevent desistance.

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Rates of autoandrophilia among FtMs

Let’s talk about the rates of autoandrophilia I’ve observed among FtMs. I’ve had a few different approaches for assessing this, so it’s probably worth going through things in detail. Arguably, the most direct was asking about it directly:

aap_transmasc

Rates of transmasc autoandrophilia in the Transmasculine Sexuality Survey.

For counting this properly, I exclude the third question, since it could conceivably by interpreted as assessing gynephilia, rather than autoandrophilia. Doing this, the total autoandrophilia rate in the survey was 74% (n=31). However, one problem with this survey is that I shared it to a nonbinary subreddit, and so it is possible that some NBs responded too, which might make the data hard to interpret. If I exclude those who didn’t pick “male” as one of their gender responses (I allowed multiple, including “nonbinary”, “genderfluid” and “questioning”), I get a rate of 71% (n=14), essentially the same.

It may be informative to also consider the frequency of autoandrophilic fantasies from this group. I won’t include this when counting the rates, though.

masculine-embodiment-fantasies

Transmasc pre-identification AAP fantasy rates according to Transmasculine Sexuality Survey.

Another survey with a very straightforward methodology was in my Survey of Traits You Are Attracted to or Would Like to Have. Unlike the previous survey, this was targeted at reddit in general, not just transmascs, and so it may have a better accuracy distribution-wise. In this survey, I also asked rather directly whether they found being male hot:

aap_transmasc2

Autoandrophilia in transmasc participants of Survey of Traits You’re Attracted to or Would Like to Have.

Again, the rate of affirmative answers was 74% (n=27). If we exclude the nonbinary participants, the rate increases to 89% (n=9). One nice thing about this survey is that I also asked about “sexual fantasies about being the opposite sex”, so this gives us a way of assessing whether these yield the same sorts of results. The problem is that some trans men will interpret “sexual fantasies about being the opposite sex” as referring to sexual fantasies about being female, so it’s important to figure out how big this problem is.

For the record, the equivalent MtF numbers are 95% (n=19) and 90% (n=10).

In this survey, arousal to fantasies about being the opposite sex wasn’t very strongly associated with autoandrophilia (r~0.28). In fact, it was more closely associated with the autogynephilia measure (r~0.39), despite the fact that the concept of autogynephilic transmascs is… weird. I found that 70% of the ones who got positive scores on the AAP scale also got positive scores on the scale assessing A*P by asking about “opposite sex”, but 43% of those who got zero scores on the AAP scale still got positive scores on the A*P scale. Not great.

Another survey with a slightly less direct approach was my Can you look at some porn For Science? survey, which was about exactly what it says in the title. Before presenting the erotic material, I asked a number of questions about paraphilias, including “Picturing myself as the opposite sex, or with certain physical features of the opposite sex” and “Picturing an attractive man and imagining *being* him”. The latter seemed to work for assessing autoandrophilia in women; assuming the former question assesses AAP perfectly (dubious), the latter had r~0.72 correlation with AAP, 15% false positive rate, and 21% false negative rate.

aap_transmasc3

Amount of autoandrophilia in the transmascs in the porn survey.

68% of transmascs (n=22) and 75% of FtMs (n=8) reported AAP according to this measure. This survey also allows us to revisit the approach of asking about “opposite sex”. It had a correlation of r~0.5, and the rate of positive answers to this among those who had given positive answers to the other AAP question was 80%. Meanwhile, the rate of negative answers to this among those who had given negative answers to the other AAP question was 14%. This is a far higher validity than was observed in the other survey. On the other hand, the equivalent numbers when comparing with the AGP question are 0.37, 91% and 29%, which is still a pretty strong connection, so asking about “opposite sex” probably isn’t great.

The MtF rates of autogynephilia here were 76% (n=33) and 82% (n=23).

So far, this suggests an AAP rate of 68% to 74% (weighted average: 72%, n=80) for transmascs in general and 71% to 89% (weighted average: 77%, n=31) for FtMs. Of course, these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt; for example, there may be some misreporting, where some AAPs report not experiencing AAP. In addition, there is a troubling problem that needs to be taken into account, and which I will address in my next post.

Gender information collaboration project

Right now, a lot of politics about issues relating to transgender and gender nonconforming people are intense and not very forgiving. There’s very little trust, and understandably so, as a lot of people have been hurt in many ways by the current situation.

I don’t think there’s any chance of creating this trust on a big level any time soon. However, this leads to a problem that lots of highly important information will be inaccessible to all the parties who need it. This information might involve the different ways gender issues evolve and present, and how different people cope or treat them. It might involve all sorts of other things of relevance to people. The important problem right now is that this is dispersed across different groups who often don’t trust each other, and who are only interested in sharing it with people they feel are certain to take care of their concerns properly.

The goal here should be to create a win/win situation, where all parties feel that they are treated fairly and benefit from participating. Nothing else can work. For this reason, I propose creating a group of people with diverse, relevant perspectives, and allowing vetos from all the perspectives involved. The group would have to come to a consensus about what information to collect, and how to collect it, before it could even start asking questions. Before making any official opinions about how to interpret the collected information, the group would have to reach consensus on what the interpretation should be. This way, anything done by the group is guaranteed to be a win for all sides, as any problematic suggestions can be vetoed by people who’re concerned.

Example project

For all of this to make sense, it might be helpful to look at an example project that could be worked on. One that I am personally very interested in is documenting the experiences of detransitioners and how they compare to trans people.

If done right, this could help everybody. Detransitioners generally want their experiences to be heard. Trans people would want a fair comparison and contrast of their experiences and those of detransitioners, rather than FUD. If things work out perfectly (and they might not), studying this could also help questioning people decide whether transition is for them.

The problem here is that there are conflicts of interest in mistrust. Detransitioners don’t want their experiences misrepresented, and might reasonably fear that the only goal would be to dismiss their experiences as irrelevant (or worse). Many detransitioners may have strong reservations about transgender issues, and believe in political ideas that trans people find dangerous. This leads to issues about whether trans people feel misrepresented, or feel that the wrong things are getting examined.

All of these issues are solved by having people on each side collaborate. The varied perspectives will allow people who have concerns to make sure that these concerns are taken properly into account, and to ensure that things are only done if everyone benefits. This will allow us to reap the benefits of cooperation despite low amounts of trust.

This is not the only project that could be done. Other possibilities would be to better document what is happening around gender nonconforming people, to process the science and controversy of transness into more-digestible summaries with whatever consensus we can find, and likely a number of other things that I haven’t even thought of.

Proposed structure

Achieving total consensus about everything will only be practical if the groups are sufficiently small, which would lead to problems due to lack of perspectives. An alternate approach would be to create a number of subgroups, each of which is responsible for taking care of one set of concerns. For example, trans people may have one broad subgroup, whose responsibilities would be to ensure that the total group avoids hurting trans people. I expect that it will also be useful to work with radical feminists who have, ehm, strong concerns about trans issues, so they would also have a subgroup, whose job it would be to take care of their concerns. If other groups turn out to be relevant, these groups would also be able to get a subgroup of their own.

We could set up a number of structures, such as a blog, a chatroom or forum for discussion, and maybe also a wiki or something. Depends on what becomes relevant, but at the very least we need some summary of what the groups does, who the group is, and why the group should be trustworthy.

The group might gather and publish raw data. If we can achieve consensus, we might publish some articles on how to interpret our data, various scientific findings, or other things that may be of interest.

The goal would be to try to improve the group quality over time. Initially, it’s likely going to consist of random people on the internet who find the project appealing, but hopefully we can work to establish some respect for the group and start collaborating with people who are more trusted in various ways.

Why?

In reality, I’m doing this for rather selfish reasons. I want to examine various things, but I have views that make people not trust me very much. For example, my views on trans policy are aggressively pro-transition to the point where certain groups of detransitioners whose experiences are highly relevant knowledge do not feel comfortable with my beliefs, while my views on the causes of transness (something similar to Blanchard’s typology) lead to many trans people not trusting me. Of course, I would claim that my policies are based on what’s likely to give good results, and that my beliefs are based on the best evidence available, but I don’t think I can convince enough people who disagree.

So, rather than try to force the information out of people, why not collaborate? Hopefully this can be a more productive approach than what I’ve tried until now.

What’s Up With Bi Men?

For some time I’ve noticed that bisexual men in my surveys tend to score higher on measures of gender issues than other men. Initially, the explanation for this was easy: studies have had trouble finding truly bisexual men (see e.g. here or here), so there’s probably some third factor that makes them think they are bi without truly being bi. One possible factor is autogynephilia, and the bisexual men in my surveys are indeed often autogynephilic. Case closed?

… almost. I don’t have many bi men in my surveys, and most of them are autogynephilic, so it’s not clear whether the non-autogynephilic bi men also score higher. However, today I combined the data from a number of surveys (Broader Gender Survey, Thorough Genderbending Survey, Gender and Psychology Survey, Amazon Mechanical Turk Gender Survey, Sexuality and Attitudes to Gender Survey, Survey on Gender and Valued Experiences) to get a total of 40 non-AGP bi men, along with 469 non-AGP straight men, 761 AGP straight men, 157 AGP bi men, 71 AGP gay men and 64 non-AGP gay men. The different surveys used different ways of assessing gender issues, so I standardized them by dividing by the standard deviation and subtracting the average value from the non-AGP straight men. Here’s the results for the surveys separately:

messy_genderbending_comparison_chart

Results from different surveys wrt. gender issues in different groups of men. The x-axis shows the difference in average gender issues between the group and straight non-AGP men. The y-axis shows the significance of the survey, roughly 1/√N, where N is the number of people in the group. Closer to zero in the y means more significant.

This is a bit messy, so I’ve also made a separate chart with the average gender issues across the surveys:

less-messy_genderbending_comparison_chart

Weighted average of last diagram, with the weights equal to the number of men in the groups.

To me, those results suggest that bisexual men don’t simply score higher on gender issues due to AGP, but also due to some other factor. Unless… maybe some of these men are AGP, but don’t realize it? Though in that case, it’s hard to explain why AGP bi men score higher than other AGP men. This might be attributed to the fact that interpersonal autogynephilia is associated with gender dysphoria beyond the other forms of autogynephilia, but this should also imply that AGP gay men score higher.

I don’t know.

DSM on the Typology

Transness is bimodally distributed:

In both adolescent and adult natal males, there are two broad trajectories for development of gender dysphoria: early onset and late onset. Early-onset gender dysphoria starts in childhood and continues into adolescence and adulthood; or, there is an intermittent period in which the gender dysphoria desists and these individuals self-identify as gay or homosexual, followed by recurrence of gender dysphoria. Late-onset gender dysphoria occurs around puberty or much later in life. Some of these individuals report having had a desire to be of the other gender in childhood that was not expressed verbally to others. Others do not recall any signs of childhood gender dysphoria. For adolescent males with late-onset gender dysphoria, parents often report surprise because they did not see signs of gender dysphoria during childhood. Expressions of anatomic dysphoria are more common and salient in adolescents and adults once secondary sex characteristics have developed.
Adolescent and adult natal males with early-onset gender dysphoria are almost always sexually attracted to men (androphilic). Adolescents and adults with late-onset gender dysphoria frequently engage in transvestic behavior with sexual excitement. The majority of these individuals are gynephilic or sexually attracted to other posttransition natal males with late-onset gender dysphoria. A substantial percentage of adult males with late-onset gender dysphoria cohabit with or are married to natal females. After gender transition, many self-identify as lesbian. Among adult natal males with gender dysphoria, the early-onset group seeks out clinical care for hormone treatment and reassignment surgery at an earlier age than does the late-onset group. The late-onset group may have more fluctuations in the degree of gender dysphoria and be more ambivalent about and less likely satisfied after gender reassignment surgery.

Collection of Evidence for Autoandrophilia

I thought it would probably be a good idea to document the existence of autoandrophilia somewhere, so let’s do it here.

Autoandrophilia has been observed for a long term. While Blanchard doesn’t explicitly label it AAP, he has shared this story:

We had intercourse when I was 18 and, while imagining I was another boy and he was penetrating me anally, I enjoyed it immensely. I always fantasized I was another boy when we were together sexually and was terrified he might find out my “perverse” thoughts. […]. While I loved the sensations of receiving cunnilingus, imagining him performing this turned me off so that I couldn’t enjoy it. He usually brought me to orgasm manually and I pretended he was playing with my penis.

There’s more anecdotes in other old case studies:

  • I find homosexual love scenes in films very arousing, whilst heterosexual ones not at all […] I’m not male, but I’ve tried to imagine myself inside a gay man’s skin. I enjoy anal intercourse, and have fantasies to be active (that way) […] I need a submissive man with whom I play a “male” role.
  • With a male, I fantasized I was male, and although I had a real body (female), I also had a shadow body (male)
  • I paired off with one particular friend at my [girls’] school. We acted out something like the Greek ideal. We took the part of boys and acted out fantasies from films and radio […]

And:

  • She reported willingness to engage in a variety of sexual behaviors but preferred to take the active role in intercourse from behind. She would rub her genital area against her partner’s buttocks while masturbating him manually. Throughout, she imagined she had a penis and was penetrating his anus.
  • During vaginal sex, she imagined herself as a male with another male. […] In a rather different vein, Stephanie described a recurring sexual fantasy in which she was male and living on a planet where men ruled over women who were treated as domesticated animals and used for sexual purposes.

It also notinfrequently pops up in FtM spaces. Since anecdotes aren’t worth much, here’s the rates from a survey on /r/Genderfluid (I was not allowed to post on /r/FtM) with some experiences:

masculine-embodiment-fantasies

Diagram from the Transmasculine Sexuality Survey. Results were similar if asking directly about what they found arousing rather than about which themes were present.

If trans men are autoandrophilic, then this should imply that there’s some collection of nontransitioning AFABs who are also autoandrophilic, and have noticeable gender issues based on that. I’ve talked about this here, here and here, but let’s have a recap:

In surveys, I have no trouble finding some autoandrophilic reports. Probably my surveys are overestimating the prevalence of both AGP and AAP, but I don’t find much lower rates of AGP than AAP. To identify AAP, I use pretty simple questions like “How sexually arousing do you find it to imagine being the opposite sex?”; things seem reasonably stable under different phrasings. Autoandrophilia is strongly associated with desire to be male:

aap-gender-feelings

Association between autoandrophilia and gender feelings. This diagram was kinda tricky to make and needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because AFABs tend to identify as transgender/nonbinary at a lower threshold of gender issues than AMABs. This meant that to properly create this diagram, I had to include both trans and cis people, which can imply various issues. The effect is still there when restricting to cis women, and it’s about as strong, it’s just less striking because the data only exists in the lower-right corner.

I’ve also got some closer details, namely, what do autoandrophilic fantasies look like? Here, I got the information from autoandrophilic cis women, not trans men, so it may not quite match the higher intensities they experience. Still, it should be informative:

  • The last is like most I have had. I see myself as a man either being dominated by a man or by a woman. Sometimes they involve more vanilla sex, usually with another man, but sometimes a woman or both.
  • In such fantasies I tend to instead project myself onto a non-me gay man having sex with another man (in several different ways)
  • Same as any fantasy but I have a dick and a man is happily choking on it
  • I would be an anonymous man at a public sex party, fucking people of all genders with my penis. I’d never ejaculate or go soft. It would be 7 inches long and I’d be strong enough to hold my ‘bottom person’ in any position.
  • I picture my clit growing and becoming less sensitive so I can rub my (now) penis on stuff/put it in stuff. Typically my fantasies involve Kirk and Spock in some fashion. I like to put myself in Spock’s head.
  • Imagining myself as the male I am commiting sex acts onto. Often fantasizing myself with a penis but no other male traits, and being the penetrator. (Having a vagina makes me feel penetratable and therefore vulnerable, so i have never *willingly* been penetrated. I try to penetrate men if they allow.)
  • I like to picture myself in the role of a feminine male top in gay porn
  • I am myself but I have a penis and I have penetrative sex with my husband or a woman.
  • I mostly have these fantasies when dreaming, so I don’t know if it counts. When I dream, it feels as if I let all of my inhibitions fly away and I go all out… As in, orgies with lots of people of all genders/just girls, sex in public (on the street). Only in those two scenarios have I found myself dreaming up an autoandrophilic fantasy (and in these I have my current body exactly as I do in real life except that I have a penis).

Sounds quite AAP to me, at least. This survey also found some other interesting points, for example that most of the participants started being autoandrophilic at the beginning of their sexuality.

Are AGP Men Sexist? (Spoiler: No)

A lot of people feel that many themes in AGP pornography are sexist (which they are, I guess), and therefore conclude that AGPs also are sexist. Maybe they’re also basing it on certain stereotypes about autogynephiles. Either way, the point is that people think AGPs are sexist. But is that true?

Not as far as I can tell. In my Sexuality and Attitudes to Gender survey, I collected 24 items related to opinions on gender and compared the attitudes of AGP men with non-AGP men. The result? AGP men were slightly more feminist across almost all questions; the exception involved AGP men being as feminist as the baseline. Here’s an overview:

correlations

Correlation coefficients between the items used to determine degree of feminism and autogynephilia, along with the correlation coefficients between the items feminism, and a measure of agreement between autogynephiles and feminists for each item. Bold coefficients are statistically significant.

The above diagram shows autogynephilic men’s opinions on a variety of topics. They’re usually quite similar to those of non-autogynephilic men (half the correlations don’t even reach statistical significance), but the difference is there. The second column shows the association between feminism (defined as the belief that “Feminism as a movement does important work”) and each of the items. As you can see, for all the items where autogynephilic men differ significantly from the baseline, they do so in a feminist direction.

To make it easier, I’ve created an “agreement” column, which shows the agreement between feminist men and autogynephilic men. When the number in this column is greater than 0, they differ in the same direction, and with greater numbers indicating greater agreement. Even among the nonsignificant items, there are only two cases of disagreement, and they’re sufficiently orthogonal to feminism that their correlation with feminism isn’t even statistically significant.

We can take a look at some of the individual correlations too. In practice, most of the cases where autogynephilic men are significantly different from the baseline are questions focusing on gender nonconformity. Perhaps this means that this can better be summarized as “AGP men are no less feminist and more supportive of gender nonconformity than other men” than “AGP men are more feminist than other men”, but at the very least, it can’t be summarized as “AGP men are sexist”.

Speculations on the Sexist Themes of AGP Porn

But, there’s still some sexist themes in AGP porn. Or is there? We don’t actually know much systematic about what AGPs usually get off to. Maybe most just like lesbian porn, or PoV porn! This is something I want to eventually examine, but we don’t know yet. Still, I believe that the sexist themes probably exist.

Why? One obvious point is that a lot of porn, especially kinky porn, has sexist themes in general. Maybe it’s a reflection of general societal values or whatever.

A subtler point is that what seems like sexist themes aren’t necessarily quite as bad as you might think. Degradation through feminization and forced feminine behavior sounds sexist, but often the dominant person may be woman who’s not being degraded. This is more “misosissyist” than misogynist. That may be problematic in its own way, but it’s probably more complex than pure sexism.

More Thoughts on Falsifiability

Consider the concept of meta-attraction. It is the assertion that many trans women are attracted to men not because of normal androphilia, but instead because being with men makes them feel feminine, which they find attractive because of their autogynephilia. Skeptics of Blanchard’s typology seem to find this theory preposterous and often use the mere fact that this has been proposed to dismiss the typology.

This seems to imply a strong belief that meta-attraction is an incorrect theory, which makes me tempted to suggest an experiment. The experiment would be pretty simple; take some bisexual-identifying autogynephilic trans women, show them pictures of men or women, and measure their genital arousal. If they exhibit a gynephilic arousal pattern, we declare that meta-attraction is the correct theory, gender identity theory has been debunked, and the typology is correct. After all, gender identity theory clearly very strongly predicts that bisexual-identifying trans women are bisexual in an ordinary sense, so this should falsify that model.

Here’s the problem with this, though: if they did end up having a bisexual arousal pattern, my belief in the typology wouldn’t be all that shaken. Sure, I would probably adjust some expectations a bit, but I’d only rework things a little. The reason for this is that I can imagine a number of ways that AGP trans women might still exhibit genital arousal even if they are only meta-attracted. For example, maybe the genital arousal is learned, maybe they can manage to construct fantasies powerful enough to awake their meta-attraction using only the images, or maybe being paraphilic can lower your sexual specificity. Point is, there’s a lot of possibilities.

But wait, doesn’t this violate the principle of falsifiability? Or the law of conservation of expected evidence? Or some other basic rule of epistemology? Well, the great thing is that we have math that tells us how to form accurate beliefs, so we can see what this says. Let’s build a toy model:

Suppose we say that the only two possible theories are Blanchard’s theory, which we denote B, and the gender identity theory, which we denote I. We then consider the observation E that trans women will exhibit gynephilic arousal patterns. Due to the previously mentioned complexities, I am uncertain, so I will perhaps say P(E|B) = 0.7. Gender identity theory, on the other hand, confidently asserts that bisexual trans women are not meta-attracted but instead bisexual in a traditional sense, so we might say that P(E|I) = 0.05. Let’s assume an equal prior probability of P(B) = P(I) = 0.5. In that case, we can find the prior probability of E, namely P(E|B)P(B)+P(E|I)P(I) = 0.375. Discovering that trans women exhibit gynephilic arousal patterns yields a posterior of P(B|E) = P(E|B)P(B)/P(E) ~ 0.93, and therefore P(I|E) ~ 0.07, clearly moving the probabilities a lot. On the other hand, discovering that trans women exhibit bisexual arousal patterns yields a posterior of P(B|not E) = P(not E|B)P(B)/P(not E) = 0.24, which is more than three times as high probability as the gender identity model would be assigned if we had found gynephilic arousal patterns.

(Of course, this toy model is very incomplete. For example, I don’t think either side would accept the idea that the two theories are currently equally supported by evidence, and the toy model pretends that both sides are honest truthseekers, a proposition that can easily be shown to be wrong by applying something similar to Aumann’s agreement theorem.)

So, first, doesn’t this violate the scientific rule that a scientific finding can only be considered scientific evidence for a scientific proposition if the scientific experiment would have disproved the proposition if it had turned out differently? Well, first of all, I’m not even sure this is a rule of science (but people keep accusing me of violating it and throwing around the word “science”, so it’s at least a rule of the popular conception of science), and even if it is, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a valid rule for figuring out the truth (that rule would be Bayes’s theorem). In fact, this rule clearly doesn’t hold. It both fails to hold in a very strict sense (the rule is formulated in absolute rather than quantitative language, which is an easy way to see that it is invalid because beliefs are not binary) and in a more practical sense. In the simplest example, if someone tells you that some event has happened, then it probably has happened, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened if nobody has told you; it might just be unimportant enough that you haven’t heard about it.

(But what about the law of conservation of expected evidence? Well, first, you’ll notice that the evidence did in fact update away from the typology. However, since the expectation overall was that we wouldn’t even find the evidence in the first place (P(E) = 0.375 < 0.5), we didn’t need to update as far away from the theory when finding it as we update towards the theory when not finding it. Of course, P(E) depends on the prior beliefs about the theory, so when P(B) > 0.69, the asymmetry switches the other way around.)

One thing that’s worth noting here is that it ties in with confirmation bias. “Confirmation bias” is usually defined as only seeking evidence in favor of one’s theory and dismissing evidence against. I think there’s an important distinction here, in that my approach is (or at least, can be) perfectly rational, whereas confirmation bias by definition is irrational. More specifically, if I already know the outcome of an experiment, it’s a waste of time to perform it; technically it would be good as a sanity check, but I could instead be focusing on something where I don’t know the results. This means that it’s a waste of time to perform experiments that my current model can very confidently predict the results of. At the same time, for social reasons it’s useful to perform experiments where other people are very confident about the results and I’m not, as this will give me a ton of relevant information and arguments. This means that implicitly, it’s rational for me to do experiments where my model doesn’t get disproved by the results no matter what the outcome is, but other’s models can. This looks very much like confirmation bias on the surface, but the fact that it’s rational makes me think it’s not fair to characterize it this way.

Endorsing this too much gets a bit problematic, though, because it can easily lead to problems where you get too set in a single model while failing to realize other relevant factors. I think for this reason an adversarial approach should be used, where people on each side of the issue discuss the situation and try to find experiments that would distinguish the two theories. Then people could do the experiments that confirm their theory, and we would get progress on the issue. I’ve been trying to set this up, and it hasn’t worked great yet, but hopefully it will eventually.

An ending note: one aspect of my toy model that is a bit unfair is that I set P(E|I) = 0.05; many typology-skeptics also have serious reservations about the validity of PPG, so they would likely seriously discount the evidence obtained from this source. I don’t find their objections especially convincing, so I don’t think it’s fair for them to set P(E|I) very high, and that kinda puts us in a tricky situation. My interpretation of this issue is that they want to keep traits like sexual preferences difficult to observe directly so their politically-motivated theories on the subject can’t be empirically disproved. This is of course a cynical theory, but Aumann’s agreement theorem requires me to have cynical beliefs when there is persistent disagreement.

Feminism-Induced Dysphoria

Feminism is often correlated with various forms of gender discomfort in women. I suspect this may be due to feminism in some sense causing dysphoria in some cases, but this sort of theory needs to be careful to distinguish feminism-induced dysphoria from Capitalist Patriarchal Gender Dysphoria; it seems plausible that the dysphoria could instead appear because women who do worse with womanhood are more attracted to feminism, or because feminism makes the ways that gender hurts them more clear and crisp. Thus, we need to think about how the kinds of dysphoria that could truly be blamed on feminism look like.

Let’s consider beauty standards. Women with poor body image seem possibly slightly less satisfied with being women (though the effect seems small) than women with a good body image. Since feminism advocates for women who aren’t conventionally attractive, such women may join feminism and contribute to an association between feminism and dysphoria. In addition, feminism might point out the relevance of gender in their body image issues, further contributing to gender problems. This seems to fall more into the CPGD category than the feminism-induced dysphoria category, because the underlying problem isn’t caused by feminism.

To think about true feminism-induced dysphoria, consider some attractive woman who as a result has an excellent body image. Under normal circumstances, she would do better than the baseline due to discrimination in favor of attractive people. Much of her attractiveness might come from deliberately putting in effort via makeup, and this effort would necessarily be in competition with other women, but under normal circumstances this competition would only be acknowledged to a limited degree.

If she then joins a feminist group, one thing she might learn about are beauty standards and how ‘society’ pits women against each other by making them compete on attractiveness. Far worse than learning about this is the fact that it will become common knowledge in her peer group that this is happening, and that she is benefiting from discrimination in favor of attractive people. This could conceivably lower her status or lead to social pressure to compete less strongly, which she would obviously be uncomfortable with. This might show up as a weak effect on assessment of gender satisfaction, as she now likely benefits less from being female than before. The effect likely wouldn’t be big, but this is to be expected since we only find a weak connection between feminism and gender dissatisfaction.

Obviously, you could argue that this discomfort is justified because intrasexual competition hurts women, but I don’t think zero-sum status games are going to disappear any time soon, so causing pain by criticizing them too much is probably harmful (or at least, not helpful).

Attractiveness is not the only domain where feminism-induced dysphoria could apply. In general, whenever it is pointed out that some behavior commonly associated with women has implications (such as submitting to domination, competing unfairly, being dependent or similar) that differ from the image that people would like to project, the contradiction might lead to discomfort and psychological problems. Since a lot of our behavior probably isn’t as angelic as we would like to believe, there will be plenty of places for feminism to dig in and criticize.

Like in the case with beauty standards, there will probably often be situations where this is very similar to CPGD, but I think it can be distinguished as a fundamentally different model. Under CPGD, the dysphoria comes from the person in question being actively harmed by the status games and events, while under feminism-induced dysphoria, common knowledge of feminist analysis makes participation in the status games and behaviors reflect badly (at least to some degree) on the person who is participating.

I could imagine that it’s difficult to actually test whether feminism-induced gender dysphoria is real, and I’m more proposing this as a potential model than a proven theory. However, I thought that laying down these concrete ideas might be useful for future reference.

Capitalist Patriarchal Gender Dysphoria

There is a kind of gender dysphoria that I often see proposed in radical feminist groups. In a sense, it’s not really one kind of dysphoria, so much as a “many roads lead to trans” amalgamation of different sorts of dysphoria, but there seems to be a unified philosophy behind the proposals, and none of them are really mutually exclusive, so in some ways it makes sense to treat it as one “kind” of dysphoria…

I’ve decided to name it Capitalist Patriarchal Gender Dysphoria, because this seems to be the philosophy behind it: that societal sexism causes many women to feel profound discomfort with being female, which leads to Big Pharma trying to trans them for money, turning them into permanent patients. All the while, autogynephilic “transactivists” cheer on and try to accelerate this machine.

The exact aspects that function as the source of the dysphoria can vary. In some cases it may be trauma from male violence, in other cases it may be prejudice against gender nonconformity. I’m not sure I can give a full list, but here’s some other examples: body image issues, lesbianism combined with internalized homophobia, negative views of the female sexual roles caused by porn, periods and other problems with the female body, and autism. Quite often, multiple causes are thought to combine to ultimately become the dysphoria.

Curiously, there’s one cause that’s never seriously considered: autoandrophilia. This is despite the fact that AAP is probably the factor that has the most evidence going for it (not that this says a lot). The reactions to proposing autoandrophilia varies; sometimes they completely reject that it exists, while other times they attribute it to be a mere artifact of some of the other causes. The approach seems remarkably similar to autogynephilia-deniers who try to say that AGP is an artifact of gender dysphoria. (Interestingly, many of the CPGD proponents also seem to attribute autogynephilia to gender roles… but that’s a story for another time.)

I’m able to reject some of the proposed causes right now. For example, body image issues seem to only have a tiny effect on women’s gender feelings. In general, CPGD proponents often think that women hate being women, whereas in reality that is obviously not the case. On the other hand, I find some of them plausible, at least to a degree. It seems imaginable that trauma could cause a form of gender dysphoria, and I seem to have an easier time showing that autism is associated with negative gender feelings than that it’s associated with autoandrophilia. The complete rejection of AAP seems like a major problem, though, when it is likely the biggest cause.

CPGD is associated with “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (i.e. dysphoria caused by social contagion) and many people say ROGD when they really mean CPGD. The theory is that perhaps being a masculine lesbian with trauma from men isn’t itself enough to cause gender dysphoria, but when you then catalyze it with messages that the discomfort with being female is because she is Really A Man, then you can quickly transform relatively-minor experiences into severe gender dysphoria and permanent patienthood.

Basically, the difference between ROGD and CPGD is that while ROGD is proposed to often come from literally nowhere but social contagion, CPGD comes from all the things that radical feminists dislike. Of course, ROGD proponents probably wouldn’t rule out that some of the factors proposed by CPGDers are relevant (and this would be unwise, because nothing about ROGD prevents other factors from affecting things), but they likely don’t consider them necessary or primary.

The evidence on CPGD is… lacking. The concept seems to mostly have been constructed through wild speculation and anecdotes in radical feminist groups, rather than through unbiased gathering of evidence. Unfortunately, I haven’t been working enough on examining the evidence for CPGD, because whenever I’ve engaged with CPGD proponents, we’ve ended up focusing on whether women hate being women or not, or debating the validity of my surveys.

CPGD can also be difficult to study because CPGD proponents tend to actively work to obstruct me from getting into contact with and surveying young CPGD desisters. They have their stated reasons that makes sense to them, but it’s not something that makes me especially sympathetic to their claims. For example, it is difficult to know how to interpret the desisters without knowing whether they still have significantly different gender feelings from the female baseline, whether they in the past have experienced autoandrophilia, and whether this autoandrophilia persists currently.

I think the best evidence against CPGD is that the trans men that they assume transition because of it seem pretty damn autoandrophilic. Of course, this argument doesn’t help much when they think of autoandrophilia as an artifact of CPGD, but there’s not much else to go on.

masculine-embodiment-fantasies

AAP results from my Transmasculine Narratives Survey.

From the perspective of a believer in AAP, the CPGD proponents often have huge model errors. When they see two trans men dating each other, for example, then this is because they are really “lesbians”, rather than because A*P trans people have unusual sexual preferences for being with trans people. They also often rhetorically ask what CPGDs have in common with AGP trans women, and in those cases I want to reply “everything”, even though others might think it’s obviously nothing.

At the same time though, my AAP-based models must seem completely bizarre to people who’re used to thinking about things with CPGD models. In the end, though, the side that ends up right is the one that looks at the facts, and I don’t see many CPGD proponents spend much time working with real data.