Cheryl Morgan on Gender

See her post on her website, Cheryl’s Mewsings, here.

It’s excellent except for this part:

However, there is a fair amount of evidence that some forms of gendered behavior have a biological component, and that treatment with hormones and similar chemicals, or even neuro-surgery, can cause animals to change their gendered behavior. Presumably the same is possible for humans.

The best available evidence is that it’s not. At least, not in any non-trivial sense – sufficiently advanced neurosurgery could change any behavior, and sufficiently primitive neurosurgery can eliminate any behavior. But that’s not what’s being discussed.

Identity and sexual orientation resist every mode of therapy and attempt to change known. It is possible to destroy cognitive function to the point where unusual concepts of identity and disapproved sexual orientations no longer manifest, certainly. But changing from one to the other? Can’t be done.

The article is definitely worth reading, and clarifies issues many people are confused about to a high degree. With such contentious issues of definition, I’m sure not everyone will agree completely with her usages, but they’re a good starting point for discussion.

[Edit: Clarification] The best available evidence is that orientation and gender identity cannot be changed in humans. I wasn’t trying to suggest that the evidence is against biological components to both those things – quite the opposite.

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3 Responses to “Cheryl Morgan on Gender”

  1. Oh my. I’d like to reassure you that I was absolutely not advocating any sort of biological therapy. First of all I was talking specifically here about changing gendered behavior, not gender identity or sexuality. These are very different things.

    More generally though, I worry much less about biology than about psychology. As you say, sufficiently advanced neurosurgery could change just about anything, but such changes are well beyond our current abilities. Psychology, on the other hand, can claim to change anything. The people who claim to cure gays and trans people make their claim on the basis that there is no biological basis for how such people behave. Those who claim that gender is solely a matter of social conditioning have to accept that it can such conditioning could be reversed.

    Anyway, very sorry you read what I said in that way. I’ll try to post some sort of clarification.

    • I’d like to reassure you that I was absolutely not advocating any sort of biological therapy.

      No worries – I didn’t think you were. I’m just pointing out that no attempt at ‘treating’ a sexual orientation or gender identity has ever worked even by the standards of the people attempting it. I’m sure they can be changed, at least in theory, but not by any means available to us.

      Psychology, on the other hand, can claim to change anything.

      Such a claim would be a lie. No ‘psychological’ therapy changes sexual orientation or gender identity either.

      You can get people to change their behavior, but not their sexual preferences. Or their gender identities.

      I don’t think I misunderstood what you said; I think what I said about what you said is being misinterpreted. I’m not objecting to the idea that the identities are partly biological, I’m objecting to the statement that they can be changed.

      I want to stress the fact that they cannot. Whether they are acquired socially and become unchangeable or are part of biological development and are unchageable doesn’t matter so much.

  2. I think we are pretty much in agreement, except that I don’t think I said that identities could be changed. I don’t think they can either, which is why I was careful to just say “behavior”.

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