Sunday, May 13, 2012

Why Relating Trans* to Otherkin is a Poor Analogy at Best

Orangeban asked: "Here's something I was thinking about today, what do you think about people from the Otherkin communities comparing their experiences of dysphoria with their own species to the experiences of trans* people?"

 First off, I have to admit, I've never looked into clinical/psychological information regarding otherkin. However, that's also because I've never once heard anyone really relate the two except by people trying to equate trans and otherkin, and by doing so basically arguing via slippery slope "If we accept YOU, then where does it end?"

This is actually why I took this topic, more than anything else. When I was first defending my transsexuality, I had many people compare me to otherkin and it stumped me at first. I'm now far better educated, and I hope that those who read this can use this knowledge to defend against this poor analogy.

This analogy is so incorrect, that it's insulting. First and foremost, lets begin with the biology issue. Humans, before we're born, all start out as female. The chromosomes we have in our DNA cause us to differentiate into Male and Female. This results in many structures being similar, because, essentially, we're cast from the same blank slate. Intersex people have the issue where they didn't really differentiate into one neat category properly.

(Please note that I'm speaking of PHYSICAL sex. This is in no way targeted at people who identify as gender neutral or gender-queer. In both of those cases, we're talking about gender. This topic is physical sex)

Additionally, there's studies that have found that the MtF transsexual brain has portions which are partially feminized. So what we have here is a case where the brain is not differentiated properly into a 'sex'. I'll go ahead assert that transsexuality is a neurological incarnation of intersexuality. In fact, those who write the DSM guidelines for treatment pretty well agree, but kept it on the books so insurance providers couldn't weasel out of covering us. (even though they do anyway)

So, now, how does this relate to Otherkin? Well, it's fairly obvious now: When we're developing in the womb, gendered bits of us develop one way, the other, or indeterminate. Nowhere in that gendered scale is there a chance to develop 'like a dragon' 'like an angel 'like a faerie'. Though it's entirely possible that someone may feel in their heart of hearts they're a werewolf, there is no part of their brain that is 'partially werewolfized'. It simply can't happen. The species involved in otherkin do not even exist, much less exist in human biology.

So first and foremost, they have no biological imperative telling them that something is wrong. But that extends further out into society. I know a great many transgender people who really, really hated the expectations thrust upon them by society. This is because society, and culture, are HEAVILY gendered things. Girls generally hang out with girls, boys with boys. Girls are expected to look pretty, submissive, and thin. Boys are expected to be big, strong, tough and assertive. Even the clothes we wear are scrutinized, each 'team' has their own 'uniform' As such, even just going out into society when you're trans is an intensely alienating and upsetting event.

On the topic of society, we also have the rampant discrimination that transgender people face. Our medical needs are denied because we're trans. If we're found out to be trans, some medical insurance places raise our premiums, without covering our medicines. We're denied housing, we're denied jobs, we're denied a place in society. Even the topic of marriage manages to screw us; some jurisdictions essentially rule that getting your gender changed means nothing; and they deny you rights relating to your opposite gender spouse on that basis. Others rule that it does matter, and you thus can't marry someone of your same gender. With all the rampant contradictory statements running around here, we manage to be denied marriage, identity, chance at family, chance at happiness.

And that's nothing to speak of the violence faced by transgender people. It seems you can't look up a trans news feed without seeing another notification of a transgender person murdered for being themselves, then see the police and the media ignore it like it never happened. All of this? THIS is persecution. THIS is what transsexual people find staring back at them when they read their news. THIS is why we have the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

I never see stories of people being brutally murdered because they're otherkin.
I never see stories of people being denied basic human rights because they're otherkin
I never see stories about otherkin being denied healthcare
I never see stories about how stressful it is for otherkin to interact in society with "non-otherkin"
I never hear about how otherkin cannot have children due to their medical regimen. 

I think they have every right to do what they do. They should be able to meet up, have their communities, think what they want about their 'spiritual past', do whatever it is they do. What they should NOT do is try to compare their spiritual quirk, and how people 'don't get them' with people suffering from a physical incongruity between their gender and sex. There is a definite physical difference between someone who's trans and someone who's not trans. I have yet to see even one study showing how someone's brain is "Pixified", or something similar, and until I do, I'll continue to call this comparison out for the poor analogy it really is.

[Edit]: In light of some discussion that has cropped up related to this article, I want to make clear that my scorn is mostly with cisgender people who use this argument, ignoring the differences. The only otherkin I have any similar scorn for are ones who persistently, insistently say that we're the same, in the face of all the discrimination we face. Regardless, it's not my place to say someone cannot practice a spiritual / religious thing, but it IS my place to call out comparing it to trans, with it's scientifically understood basis.

Quote of the day: "Be who you are, and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind" Dr. Seuss


(I just wanted to remind you guys that questions can be submitted by ANYONE, and that they help me tremendously by giving me a prompt to work with. Even if you don't have an account, comment submission is open to anonymous posting. Currently the number of views is fairly high (thank you, faithful readers!) but the comments are very low by comparison. If you have any question you'd like me to look at, please leave it in the comments.)


  1. Thank you! Just the kind of eloquent response I was hoping for!

  2. I'm a bit confused – you start off talking about physical sex and people with intersex conditions, and note that you're not looking at people who are gender-neutral or genderqueer, but by the second half of your essay it seems like you're looking more at gender issues than sex issues; gender roles, etc. It seems as though you're first saying that these things are distinct, and then saying that the one flows directly on from the other. Could you clarify this?

    Also, I was wondering about your statement that "There is a definite physical difference between someone who's trans and someone who's not trans." Are you using this to only refer to transsexualism, or does this also apply to transgendered experiences? (And where *do* the aforementioned genderqueer and gender-neutral experiences fit in?) Do you believe it's the case that if someone's mind is not masculinized or feminized, they cannot be considered trans?

  3. I have a bad habit of using the word transgender when I mean transsexual - mainly because I dislike the implication of the word 'transsexual' (i.e. it's sexual in nature, or that we're changing our sex) Hopefully that clarifies some of it.

    So yes, I was referring to transsexualism, explicitly. I don't know quite how to place gender neutral or gender-queer, but my assumption is that the portion of the brain that develops a strong sense of identity (I.E. the part that essentially causes transsexualism) just doesn't have a strong pull either way, or has a pull both ways, in their case. I could be far off, but that's my guess regarding it. (I, of course, wouldn't make this claim in an article because I have no backing understanding. This idea here is a mere guess)

    The last point is sort of moot, because from what I've read, nearly everyone who's transsexual, who's gone in for these scans, had their brain register such anomalies.

    But lets take it at face value. I'm a big proponent of "If you're born with it, it's not your fault". I think someone who's mind is not partially feminized/masculinized should, maybe, be more closely scrutinized (as to determine why, with their 'normal' male brain and identity, they would want to do this) but not necessarily barred from doing it. But again, it's my understanding that if you're not trans, the changes from hormones are intensely unpleasant (not just physical, but emotional changes too)

    my 0.02

  4. It's tricky when we go into the biology of transgenderism in general and transsexuality in particular. Mainly this is because to what extent of the role biology plays in shaping one's gender and the extent the role of culture plays is still indistinct. That a person can go through the entire socialization process of a boy and realize at puberty or later that they are a girl definitely negates the traditional theoretical belief of the original feminist movement that gender is wholly cultural. Furthermore, intersex and androgyne individuals like myself bring into question the very existence of two mutually exclusive sexes and genders. A quick read I would recommend to anyone is the work of pathologist Dr. Gerald N. Callahan "Between XX and XY: Intersexuality and the Myth of Two Sexes". He compares the male/female dichotomy of both biological sex and the self-concept of gender to the bass and treble on a radio. You can never have "pure male" or "pure female" but you always get some combination of the two.

  5. Just realized my last post may be considered as dismissing the idea of anyone identifying as either a man or a woman, this is not the case. My thinking is that the best conception is instead of seing sex and gender as "either this box or that box" instead think of it as a spectrum. Those who are in this range generally identify as male, those on the opposite end generally as female, and those in between like myself as androgynous (which itself as a whole spectrum of feeling and behavior).

  6. Ha, you've never been to the north of England if you think women are supposed to be submissive!

  7. I quite frankly think it's quite insulting you demonize transpecies people. It's the exact same thing, being something on the inside that is different from the outside. But unfortunately transpecies people are forced to stay in their goddamn ugly pathetic fleshy human bodies instead of being what they really should be. You talk about being demonized for being trans, at least you're not called insane for feeling something different.

    1. If you're feeling that way yourself I'm sorry to hear it =(

  8. At least someone out there is willing to take your issue seriously. The fact that it's even fought against at all means you've been 'acknowledged' but here you stand scorning, mocking, and belittling another group of people as if they are somehow inferior to you. It's sad and honestly pathetic.

  9. "Additionally, there's studies that have found that the MtF transsexual brain has portions which are partially feminized."

    I was hoping you would be able to clarify by what you mean with "partially feminized"? Are you saying that the brain has the opportunity to develop with either XY chromosomes or XX chromosomes independent of the body? Or are you talking about the chemicals released into the body like estrogen? Thanks.

  10. I would like to say thanks for your sharing this useful information. Nice post keep it up. Hope to see you next post again soon.
    With Regards,
    Clinical Psychologist | Clinical Psychologist in Sydney