The eugenics craze: All the BEST people…

by worriedmom

As 2017 rolls along, the pro-pediatric and teen transition movements only appear to be growing stronger.  In the United States, we now have some 50+ transition clinics, up from one such clinic in 2007.  School curricula are revised daily to educate our youngest students about their fluid gender identities, Jazz Jennings is now an authoritative source for kindergartners, and children are fully apprised of their opportunities to choose a different sex from the one with which they were born.  State after state has passed legislation providing that the “full affirmation” approach is now the only legally permissible therapeutic modality for people under the age of 18.  And, of course, the barrage of “transgender” “sparkle princess fairy boy” and mastectomy-receiving, happy at last, teen girl stories continues, with nary a skeptical word, much less analysis.  It’s overwhelming at times, and (despite these smiling faces) horribly sad.

It also seems as if most respected forces in our culture are lined up behind the pro-transition juggernaut.  The major professional medical associations, such as the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, are strongly pro-transgender.  Educators at all levels, many faith communities, major corporations and needless to say what remains of the “mainstream media” could not be more uncritical and supportive of the notion of child and teen transgenderism.  Social service agencies, public and private, adopt affirmative regulations and policies in areas such as adoption and foster care; organizations that previously focused on women’s health and issues, such as Planned Parenthood and even my beloved La Leche League, rush to serve transgender people, whether this service correlates with their mission or not.  Politicians and law-makers, particularly on the liberal side of the aisle (where many of us 4thWaveNow parents previously would have located ourselves without a qualm), bend over backwards to signal their support for this newest of civil rights causes, the transgendered.

In short, all the best, seemingly most educated, and sophisticated, people and institutions in our culture are fervent–if not vociferous–supporters of the transgender lobby.  Some days, it seems as if the pro-transgender outcome is entirely foreordained.

It may well be.  By the time some of today’s children are tomorrow’s exhausted parents, gender change may be the equivalent of getting braces, or a learners driving permit.  Changing one’s gender through surgery and hormones may be as unremarkable as having tonsils or adenoids out, getting ear tubes, or an asthma inhaler.  The distinction between “boy” and “girl” may have ceased, for all intents and purposes, to be relevant to any human activity.  Certainly this seems to be the Brave New Future envisioned for us by the transgender lobby.

And yet.

Perhaps at this juncture  we might recall that there was a time, really not so very long ago, that the most esteemed thinkers in this country, and around the world, believed, and more importantly acted, on an extreme philosophy about human beings and their relationship to society.  This belief system was, in its shaky philosophic underpinnings and its questionable science, extraordinarily similar to the transgender movement.  I speak, of course, of modern-day eugenics.

There is a meticulously detailed record of the eugenic philosophy and its impacts, and no blog piece can adequately convey more than a sliver of this incredible story.  (There is a short list of excellent books about eugenics appended to the end of this blog post, for those who are curious and would like to learn more.)

To put it very simply, modern eugenics was a scientific philosophy and eventually a social movement that derived, in large part, from the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin.  Although ideas of eugenics date back to Plato, modern eugenics emerged in the mid-1800s with Sir Francis Galton, a statistician, scientist, and cousin of Charles Darwin.  Once concepts of Mendelian genetics were discovered (seemingly bolstering Galton’s theory), eugenics, literally translated as “good birth,” became an intellectual craze that by the early 1900’s had swept the United States and which endured, in some forms, right up until the 1960’s.

Using the same logic that underlies modern animal-breeding practices, eugenic theory held that societies would do best to encourage their most capable, energetic and “fit” members to reproduce, and should discourage their less-capable members from reproducing.  The concern was that the mechanism of natural selection (“survival of the fittest”) would not operate, in a modern world, to keep the weakest members from reproducing, “polluting the gene pool,” and would result in an inevitable deterioration and decline of that society.

healthy seed

Eugenicists supported both “positive eugenics” (educating and encouraging “fit” people to reproduce,  which would theoretically improve the gene pool) and “negative eugenics” (sterilizing or institutionalizing the unfit or otherwise barring them from reproducing, to remove their undesirable characteristics from a society’s “breeding stock” ).  With the hope of proving that undesirable social traits were heritable, the eugenics movement also collected massive amounts of data, documenting “family lines” and “inherited characteristics,” although it did not necessarily heed what much of that data suggested.

Eugenics did not originate, or take hold, in a vacuum.  Three underlying social forces were racism (and the ingrained belief that “the races” could be rank-ordered by desirability); persistent anxiety about the impact of immigration on the United States, including fast-paced demographic change created by large numbers of African-American people leaving the South; and, especially in the decade of the 1930’s, worry about the financial and social costs of subsidizing members of society who could not “pull their weight.”  As I believe will ultimately be shown with transgenderism, there were larger and stronger currents that caused eugenics to become wildly popular at the time and place that it did.

feeblemindedFrom today’s perspective, of course, we understand that genetics simply does not work in the way in which the eugenicists hypothesized.  Gene pools are way too large and variegated.  Subjective negative social traits such as criminality, “feeble-mindedness,” and laziness cannot be inherited (at one time people believed that humans could acquire characteristics during their lifetimes, and these traits could then be inherited).  Despite the collection of massive amounts of data, and laws giving state actors tremendous leeway in determining who was and was not “unfit,” it proved to be extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, to measure undesirability and to eliminate or decrease it in a population.

Finally, of course, sterilizing people who are incapable of giving informed consent or who objnazi posterect to it eventually came to be considered to be a human rights violation (except in the current pediatric transition context of course).  The death knell for the eugenics movement came during the post-World War II Nazi war crimes trials at Nuremburg, during which it was revealed that American eugenics theory provided much of the rationale for the Final Solution.  As noted above, however, it took decades longer before mandatory sterilization and sequestration laws were entirely removed from the books.

For a movement that ended in widespread censure, if not to say collective amnesia, eugenics sure was popular while it lasted.  And part of the reason for this popularity was that it received the intellectual imprimatur and endorsement of the finest minds and most elite and revered institutions both in the United States and abroad.  Consider some of the most prominent supporters of the eugenics movement:

  • President Teddy Roosevelt;
  • Helen Keller;
  • G. Wells;
  • Winston Churchill;
  • Alexander Graham Bell;
  • John Maynard Keynes;
  • Victoria Woodhull;
  • Luther Burbank; and
  • E.B. duBois.

Source , source, source, source

Funding for the eugenics movement came from distinguished organizations, such as the Carnegie Foundation and the WK Kellogg Foundation, as well as influential leaders of the oil, railroad, and steel industries (the Harrimans, the Rockefellers, and others).  Eugenics ideas were ratified and endorsed by virtually every powerful institution in society, from the United States Supreme Court on down.  In the notorious Buck v. Bell case (which incidentally has never been overturned), pre-eminent jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. ruled that “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.”

oliver wendell holmes

The elite educational establishment (the best and the brightest, if you will) was fully on board – at one point over 375 American colleges offered eugenics courses, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Cornell.  According to a 2016 article in Harvard Magazine,

Harvard’s role in the [eugenics] movement was in many ways not surprising. Eugenics attracted considerable support from progressives, reformers, and educated elites as a way of using science to make a better world. Harvard was hardly the only university that was home to prominent eugenicists. Stanford’s first president, David Starr Jordan, and Yale’s most acclaimed economist, Irving Fisher, were leaders in the movement. The University of Virginia was a center of scientific racism, with professors like Robert Bennett Bean, author of such works of pseudo-science as the 1906 American Journal of Anatomy article, ‘Some Racial Peculiarities of the Negro Brain.’

Sadly, many religious leaders, particularly mainline Protestants supportive of the “Social Gospel” movement, became strong proponents of eugenics ideology:

Many Social Gospel adherents viewed eugenics as God’s plan to reconcile the truths of science with the Bible. Toward this end, Bible verses were reinterpreted and found to contain what had theretofore been secret eugenics messages. Thus, in one minister’s sermon, Noah’s flood was God’s own eugenics policy for eliminating a human race that had degraded and become inferior. Others insisted that Christ’s Parable of the Talents was actually about improving the population: In eugenics exegeses, ‘Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him,’ took on a whole new meaning.

Early feminists, such as the National Federation of Women’s Clubs and the National League of Women Voters, as well as pioneering birth control activists, such as Margaret Sanger, were strong eugenics backers.  The cultural and academic current was irresistible: receiving support from virtually all elite sectors of society, by 1910, there was an extensive and vibrant network of pro-eugenics research institutes and conferences, as well as lobbying groups and professional associations.

margaret sanger

Was there any pushback against the eugenics movement before its Nazi-engendered demise?   As Andrea DenHoed put it in the New Yorker last year, “there was widespread skepticism about eugenics among those whom Oliver Wendell Holmes once referred to as ‘the thick-fingered clowns we call the people,’ but the opposition wasn’t large or organized enough to effectively counter the influential network behind the movement.”  The Catholic Church and its lay members also mounted opposition to the eugenics philosophy, but were far less effective in thwarting eugenics legislation in the United States, than in Europe.  Even as early as 1910, some scientists began to discover that the field of genetics did not work the way eugenics thought it did (these scientific caveats were mostly ignored or explained away).  Generally speaking, then, eugenics ideas were considered entirely self-evident and socially beneficial, and opponents were consigned to the ranks of “fundamentalist fanatics” and backwoods retrogrades. Concerns or skepticism were simply dismissed or ignored as ignorant, backwards, and out of step with “modern” realities.  Even as scientific knowledge advanced, and eugenics’ principles no longer appeared factually certain, the “true believers” in eugenics persisted and continued to harm the most vulnerable members of society.

Future blog posts will explore the similarities between the foundational understandings and aims of the eugenics movement and modern-day transition theory.  For now, however, the parallel is simply that eugenics, like pediatric transgender philosophy, was a theory that was whole-heartedly embraced and promoted by the social, intellectual, cultural and scientific elites of its day – until it wasn’t.  It is indeed frightening to contemplate whether eugenics would ever have been discredited, had it not been for the fact that the Germans took it to its logical conclusion.  But is this what comes of letting “all the best people” make life and death decisions for the rest of us? What happens when they’re wrong?


Interested in learning more?  Check out these sources:

War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, by Edwin Black

Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck, by Adam Cohen

The Nazi Connection, by Stefan Kuhl

In 1984, the New Yorker ran a four-part series entitled The Annals of Eugenics (reproduced here) (paywall) which is also very much worth the reader’s time.

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Thoracic outlet syndrome & deteriorating verbal fluency: Not on your typical informed consent form

Informed consent: Your Golden Ticket to “affirmative” trans health care.

It’s simple. Go to a gender therapist, tell them how you identify and what medical treatments you intend to pursue. Said therapist refers you to an MD, whose job it is to inform you of what you’re about to embark on, including possible risks, and to obtain your consent. Done.

icath model

And while consent forms do tend to cover (in addition to the provider’s buttocks) the better-known effects and risks of hormone “therapy”–in the case of testosterone, things like elevated cardiac risk, deepened voice, hair growth/loss, and changes to sex drive and mood —there are other physical and neurological problems associated with marinating female brains and bodies in far more T than their biology would normally allow.

Researchers in neuroscience who study hormone effects have uncovered some of these impacts; clinician-researchers who focus on trans people are aware of them. But for some reason, the trans-identified females who’ll possibly bear the brunt aren’t fully informed.  Don’t these clinics owe it to their patients to even mention the ongoing research and clinical discoveries? [Note to readers: If you can supply us with informed consent forms which do mention any of the effects discussed in this post, please do so in the comments.]

On the neurology front, there is a significant and growing body of literature across disciplines showing the deleterious effect of testosterone on language skills. A 2016 brain imaging study found that even 4 weeks of testosterone “therapy” may shrink the zone of language in the brain of FTMs, corroborating multiple, prior studies showing an association of T levels with reduced verbal skills. In 2007, Dutch researchers Gooren and Gitay reviewed clinical data on over 700 FTMs from 1975-2004 and found a similar impact. An earlier 1995 study of testosterone treatment in trans-identified females showed a “deteriorating effect on verbal fluency tasks.”

But hey, you might get a bump in your mental rotation skills.  A 2016 fMRI study (coauthored by Peggy Cohen-Kettenis, one of the members of the Dutch team who pioneered the use of puberty blockers in pre-adolescents), studied “gynephilic” girls (otherwise known as “lesbians”) and found changes in brain regions typically activated during mental rotation tasks after just 10 months  on T.

burke et all 2016 gynephilic FTM

Whatever one’s opinions on the data, isn’t this cross-disciplinary, replicated body of research worth a mention, even as a footnote, on an informed consent form?

Moving on to the skeletal front, we found this recent discussion on the WPATH Facebook page amongst providers caring for post-mastectomy trans-identified females. Asked about tips for dealing with top-surgery induced adhesions and other problems, a primary care provider had this to say about adverse skeletal impacts of T on “estrogen-based” people:

T affects the body by increasing muscle size rather quickly. Often in people who were estrogen based to adulthood, that means a lot of muscle has to fit through a small bony prominences at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist this is often especially apparent. This often leads to things like thoracic outlet syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome like experiences.

Anyone who has ever suffered from thoracic outlet syndrome knows that it can be excruciatingly painful, last a long time, and can even be disabling and prevent a person from working;  in the worst cases, it can lead to more complications and a need for surgery.  Even if a trans-identified female doesn’t follow the path of many FTMs to becoming a bulked-up, gym/workout enthusiast, the increased risk is there because of the smaller skeletal structure of human females.

TOS

As with so much in trans health care, the wanted and unwanted effects of the “treatment” can lead to a need for more treatment (in the case of TOS or carpal tunnel, from physical therapists, orthopedists, and others).

TOS image

Deteriorating verbal fluency. Big muscles forcing through small bony prominences. What else is lurking in the research literature or clinical experience that hasn’t surfaced in media reports, or in the fine print at informed consent clinics? If you know of other under-reported testosterone impacts on trans-identified females, tell us about them in the comments.

One thing we can be sure of: More and more women are starting on testosterone at younger ages, and next to nothing is known about the long-term impacts.

 

No menses, no mustache: Gender doctor touts nonbinary hormones & surgery for self-sacrificing youth

This is another in a series of posts examining statements made by top gender specialists at the inaugural USPATH conference in Los Angeles in February 2017.  (See here and here for more.)


Not so long ago, unremitting distress about one’s gender was the one and only reason for medical transition. Those days are over. With activists clamoring for a change from “gender dysphoria” to “gender incongruence” in the next revision to the international register of diagnosis codes, the ICD-11, the push is on for insurance-paid hormones and surgeries for anyone who believes their body is in any way “incongruent” with their “gender identity.” And this effort includes medical intervention for children and adolescents.

In this clip, excerpted from a USPATH symposium entitled “OUTSIDE OF THE BINARY – CARE FOR NON-BINARY ADOLESCENTS AND YOUNG ADULTS,” pediatric gender specialist Johanna Olson-Kennedy MD, discusses her views on medical interventions for “nonbinary” youth.

As always, we recommend that you listen to the recorded excerpt yourself, as well as reading the transcript included in this post. Time stamps are indicated by square brackets. []

 

According to Dr. Olson-Kennedy,

There are still people who want to embark on phenotypic gender transition—hormones and surgeries—who don’t meet this criterion [for gender dysphoria]. Well, what are we to do?

…And it’s great. I love this. I don’t like the word “pass” at all. Passing as a member of the other sex is not a criterion for treatment, whereas achievement of personal comfort and well being are. And that is really the crux of what should guide our care, as medical providers, as professionals in the mental health role.

How is this any different from elective cosmetic surgery? Trans activists will say it’s “medically necessary” because it is a guaranteed suicide preventative, a dubious claim at best. But how about a teen girl who hates herself and is self-harming because her breasts are (to her) too large or too small? What about her “comfort and well being”?

[:52] So, there are a lot of medical intervention possibilities for folks who have nonbinary identities. And again, this is really not for me to determine. It’s really for me to work with a person to determine what it is they’re interested in.

As we all know by now, the idea that a medical or psych provider should use diagnostic skills to determine whether a young person ought to undergo permanent drug or surgical treatments is so 20th century.

[1:06] Some people are like, oh! no menses, no mustache. You know, assigned female at birth, “I really don’t want facial hair, I don’t want [inaudible], I’m super dysphoric about bleeding.”

So, there’s lots of options, certainly for menstrual suppression. I love—I was so excited to be in one of  the first sessions that I went to, which was gynecologic care for trans-masculine folks, this “leave a gonad” thing.

So, it was this idea of, you know, maybe you don’t wanna have bleeding but you still want estrogen, and you want that support from a medical perspective. Or you just don’t want to go on testosterone.

It’s 2017, and designer endocrine systems are all the rage. Human beings should tinker and tamper with their delicate hormonal balance, because it’s what they want right here, right now. Mix and match–why not?

[1:48] There’s lots of these different things.  Maybe a central blocker and low dose testosterone. I had a young person who went on testosterone for a year, and it was like, that’s enough, I’m fine with it.  I’m masculinized enough, and that’s good for me. Or no medical intervention at all.  That’s absolutely possible.

The slide below,  from a different talk at the same USPATH conference, pretty well encapsulates this “treatment” approach:

nonbinary medical pathways slide

So we see the mindset of “affirm-only gender doctors here; why so many of them don’t acknowledge there might be permanent harm done to young people who eventually detransition. There are no mistakes. It’s all part of the gender journey.

 

[2:06] So, for nonbinary assigned males, maybe just Spironolactone [an androgen blocker] or using a peripheral blocker only. That might be something that people opt for. I had a young person who really [inaudible] nonbinary identity, but kind of, very very huge fear of a large nipple areola complex. Like, “I just can’t even deal with that.”

All you women with large nipple areolas that you just can’t even deal with, maybe you can get Medicaid to cover that in your state? Worth a try.

It would be one thing if these people were arguing for elective, cosmetic treatments on demand, for adults. But activists and gender specialists not only want to retain a medical diagnosis, gender incongruence in the next version of the ICD-11;  they want insurance to cover all trans-related treatments, for nonbinaries and anyone else who wants them.  In fact, some public and private insurance policies (such as that of the San Francisco Department of Public Health) already provide such coverage.

wpath-karasic-cultural-humilty-and-sfdph-cropped1

Back to Olson-Kennedy and her areola-avoidant patient:

[2:33] So, we put them on Spironolactone for a while, and then eventually she came back and said I wanna go on estrogen.  So there’s selective estrogen receptor modulators for people who do not want breast development. That could be a possibility.  Maybe hormones, no surgery. No medical intervention, another possibility.

No medical intervention: Just one of many dishes in the smorgasbord of options for nonbinary, gender fluid youth. Who’s to say (certainly not a medical doctor), which is the least harmful of those possibilities in the long run?

[2:51] My observations: Sometimes nonbinary identities are strategic…to protect themselves, to protect their parents. What I can tell you for certain about trans kids, youth, is they do a lot of taking care of the people around them.

Here we see a theme we’ve heard from other affirm-only genderists: Trans youth are more mature than “cis” kids. They are extraordinarily prescient about their future; they know for certain what they will want at age 20, 30, 40.

winters-trans-kids-are-more-mature

Prominent gender therapist Diane Ehrensaft lauds her tween clients for having the wisdom and foresight to opt for adoption in the future—unlike their balking parents, whose only reason for objecting to sterilizing a 12-year-old is a selfish desire for grandchildren.

But there’s something else crucial to note about Olson-Kennedy’s comments: After initially lauding her young enbies for pursuing smaller nipple areolas, or choosing to halt their menstrual periods without sprouting a beard, she is now implying to her audience that nonbinary is only a stopover for many of these kids. They are only claiming this identity to “take care of” their parents, when what they really want is to go whole hog to a binary transition.

[3:18] “I will sacrifice my own comfort for the comfort of the people around me, who I know I’m making very uncomfortable with my gender.”

What an extraordinary assertion. Trans kids aren’t just mature beyond their years when it comes to making irreversible decisions about their bodily integrity and fertility. They also emanate Buddha-like concern for the feelings of others, especially their woefully ignorant parents. How long before we have religious sects led by trans kid gurus, like Tibetan child lamas on steroids?

And how does the claim that trans kids are precociously mature square with the accumulating evidence of a strong correlation between gender dysphoria and autism? Young people with autism are not exactly known for their self-sacrificing nature or their ability to reflect upon the feelings of others.

[3:33] And so, marking that out is really important. Because again, because expressing that [they are nonbinary] is often used as evidence that they are not trans.  “No, well they don’t want to do this. Clearly, they’re not trans.” And having that conversation, and making sure that someone isn’t taking care of someone else at their own sacrifice.

 Are they “taking care of someone else” or perhaps listening to a family member who just might have the best interests of the child at heart, more than a gender doctor who hasn’t known the kid their entire lives?

So, on the one hand, we hear that nonbinaries need treatments “to feel more comfortable,” and at the same time, we’re told that a significant number of martyr-like trans kids are “sacrificing” themselves by feigning a nonbinary identity for the comfort of their parents. Which is it?

The Guardian recently produced a mini-documentary on nonbinary milennials and their quest for comfort. Meghan Murphy dissected this bit of puffery, and took on the living nightmare of feeling uncomfortable in this article.

Well worth a look.

meghan murphy enbie tweet.jpg