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I’m a medical student.

The scene: a group discussion around the various facets of a hypothetical medical scenario. A child with no significant previous history is brought to the family physician by concerned parents who’ve recently noticed that male secondary sex characteristics are appearing on their child who previously appeared typically female (5α-reductase deficiency).

My role: to present a short description of the words sex and gender, as part of considering the social contexts and implications of the case. I did what I was asked, in the most factual way I could. Sex = male or female, humans are sexually dimorphous. Gender = social constructs associated with sexes, with specific associations changing over time. I included a bit about how sex and gender don’t have any meaningful correlation in terms of the mind (i.e. no ladybrain). Cited the science.

After my short presentation, someone in my group asked (because someone always does) what I thought about medical transition. It wasn’t relevant to the case in any meaningful capacity, but I guess this is where equating inherited, medically proven anomalies variations of development and ‘trans’ have gotten us.

I told my group the truth - that given the events going on in the UK, medical transition is not nearly so well studied as it should be before we give out puberty blockers and hormones to children like candy, that people who undergo bottom surgery often have no legal recourse when they go wrong as the procedures are so experimental, and that there’s some cause to consider whether transition is the right choice for everyone, given Keira Bell’s testimony. I mentioned that there are irreversible effects to medical transition, and that non-straight girls are particularly likely to seek out transition as a remedy. I even added that there might be an element of social contagion and that part of the reasoning for these young (usually) lesbians transitioning might be an attempt to ‘opt out’ of oppressive social forces. I added that I wasn’t sure I entirely subscribed to the gender-affirming model given the mounting evidence against it from patients’ own experiences.

I wasn’t sure about the reception I’d get. Shockingly, everyone (out of a group of 9), including my tutor, agreed. You know that feeling when you see it in someone’s eyes that you’re on the same wavelength about something? I saw it there, over and over. One other woman in the group even had a heart-wrenching anecdote about a friend she had in primary school growing up to transition, only to realise that this was not what she needed, transition back, then finding herself stuck with the lifelong consequences. This same woman sent me a message afterwards thanking me for the presentation.

I fully expected my tutor to pull me aside and explain to me why what I said was ‘problematic’ or something. I really, truly did. Instead, seeing my peers’ firm embrace of reality (side note: what a low bar indeed) has reignited optimism for our future healthcare practitioners.

And I swear, this isn’t an, “and then the entire restaurant stood up and clapped” situation.

Edit: I changed the word ‘anomalies’ referring to 5α-reductase deficiency to the word ‘variation.’ I should’ve been more careful with my word choice earlier, and I apologise for my insensitive language surrounding this condition. I will strive to do better.

I’m a medical student. The scene: a group discussion around the various facets of a hypothetical medical scenario. A child with no significant previous history is brought to the family physician by concerned parents who’ve recently noticed that male secondary sex characteristics are appearing on their child who previously appeared typically female (5α-reductase deficiency). My role: to present a short description of the words sex and gender, as part of considering the social contexts and implications of the case. I did what I was asked, in the most factual way I could. Sex = male or female, humans are sexually dimorphous. Gender = social constructs associated with sexes, with specific associations changing over time. I included a bit about how sex and gender don’t have any meaningful correlation in terms of the mind (i.e. no ladybrain). Cited the science. After my short presentation, someone in my group asked (because someone always does) what I thought about medical transition. It wasn’t relevant to the case in any meaningful capacity, but I guess this is where equating inherited, medically proven ~~anomalies~~ variations of development and ‘trans’ have gotten us. I told my group the truth - that given the events going on in the UK, medical transition is not nearly so well studied as it should be before we give out puberty blockers and hormones to children like candy, that people who undergo bottom surgery often have no legal recourse when they go wrong as the procedures are so experimental, and that there’s some cause to consider whether transition is the right choice for everyone, given Keira Bell’s testimony. I mentioned that there are irreversible effects to medical transition, and that non-straight girls are particularly likely to seek out transition as a remedy. I even added that there might be an element of social contagion and that part of the reasoning for these young (usually) lesbians transitioning might be an attempt to ‘opt out’ of oppressive social forces. I added that I wasn’t sure I entirely subscribed to the gender-affirming model given the mounting evidence against it from patients’ own experiences. I wasn’t sure about the reception I’d get. Shockingly, everyone (out of a group of 9), including my tutor, agreed. You know that feeling when you see it in someone’s eyes that you’re on the same wavelength about something? I saw it there, over and over. One other woman in the group even had a heart-wrenching anecdote about a friend she had in primary school growing up to transition, only to realise that this was not what she needed, transition back, then finding herself stuck with the lifelong consequences. This same woman sent me a message afterwards thanking me for the presentation. I fully expected my tutor to pull me aside and explain to me why what I said was ‘problematic’ or something. I really, truly did. Instead, seeing my peers’ firm embrace of reality (side note: what a low bar indeed) has reignited optimism for our future healthcare practitioners. And I swear, this isn’t an, “and then the entire restaurant stood up and clapped” situation. Edit: I changed the word ‘anomalies’ referring to 5α-reductase deficiency to the word ‘variation.’ I should’ve been more careful with my word choice earlier, and I apologise for my insensitive language surrounding this condition. I will strive to do better.

51 comments

[–] chromodorisrex 50 points (+50|-0)

Thank you for sharing, this made me take a deep breath and relax for a moment. Nothing you said was hateful, these are just the facts. Hearing a non-cheerleading stance on this topic gives people a chance to express how they actually feel. Consider recommending the book Irreversible Damage if the conversation continues.. I read it and found it to be straightforward in its arguments with no hate for anyone (just love for young vulnerable gnc women). I would be thrilled for medical students to read it.

[–] gnarlyfem 42 points (+42|-0)

My husband is a medical professional, and he’s had conversations like this with several colleagues. He says most of them are horrified by medical transition, especially in children. I really doubt the majority of practitioners support medical transitioning. It goes against medical science, the oath of doing no harm, and basic common sense.

I believe it. Hope common sense prevails soon.

[–] wildpansy 28 points (+28|-0)

It's not common sense, it's science. Actual science. The libfems are trying to represent themselves as the pro-science ones, it's very important that people who have the credentials use their authority and knowledge to counteract this. The field of science is currently being dominated by ideology and that's downright dangerous for society.

[–] [Deleted] 12 points (+12|-0) Edited

edit: Looking back on this, I'm realizing it's all the people in the arts, in theater, or who went to film school that are super libfem-my. And it's a good mix of men and women. The TiMs and libfem guys are all hardcore video gamers and really into film culture. Should we be shocked that people who grew up wanting to play someone else on the stage (and in video games) believe you can become someone else just by thinking it? And the only 3 people I know in real life who agree with me are (shocked pikachu face) people with science degrees!

[–] Baileyscheesecake 30 points (+30|-0)

Thank you for sharing this story. I've been wondering how medical schools are discussing trans issues, and I'm encouraged that your group is open to facts, at least about childhood transition. There are other ethical questions to consider, such as how to handle women's requests for same-sex practitioners if a transgender woman is on staff. On the one hand, we have a responsibility to respect the patient, which means honoring her wishes, but some would argue that this enables discrimination and transphobia. I'm curious where the medical professions are headed on this. I asked the American Physical Therapy Association last year, and they did not have a recommendation on this. They did acknowledge that women may have "legitimate" reasons for wanting a female/woman/same-sex therapist, so at least there was that.

Actually, this is very interesting. Normally, my school has had multiple ‘fake patients’ (actors or volunteers) come in for demonstrations and for us to practice physical examination techniques. With the coronavirus, of course, that system has been shot as we can’t personally test every single person who wishes to volunteer for us every time.

So, instead, we got to practice on one another - and they kept the groups sex segregated for sensitive exams like the respiratory, pelvic and cardiovascular exams, which involve exposed chests or groins. Female students asked to only be examined by other women, and they got their wish, no questions asked. (Of course, there were some libfems chiming in about how ‘iT dOeSn’T mAtTeR’ but they were ignored in favour of the much more numerous and level-headed female student population). I’ve also had physician tutors this year consistently explain in a way that indicated they would respect the right of female patients to not wish to be examined by men - e.g. a male physician said that if he ever had a young female patient, he never took an all-male group to examine her. Other female physicians heard about the few libfems in our cohort expressing that they don’t mind being in mixed sex groups for our first ever sensitive exams, and basically called them out-of-touch exhibitionists lacking in sensitivity. Basically, there’s been a general trend that people understand why women don’t always want men involved in their healthcare.

Having said all this, I think my school a lot more radfem than I previously realised 🧐

[–] meranii 16 points (+16|-0)

"e.g. a male physician said that if he ever had a young female patient, he never took an all-male group to examine her."

I hope that male physician also extends that thoughtfulness to older female patients. Many older women don't want to be ogled and touched by a group of men either when they're in a vulnerable position as a patient, does he think because they're more experienced they'll just not care or is it him thinking "we men don't find her attractive anymore so she has nothing to worry about"?

You’re very correct in that observation. I hope he’s equally considerate of older female patients, too.

[–] DaughtersOfLilith 11 points (+11|-0)

out-of-touch exhibitionists lacking in sensitivity

Yep. This sums out quite a bit, actually.

YES!!! This is huge and going to be even moreso.

<There are other ethical questions to consider, such as how to handle women's requests for same-sex practitioners if a transgender woman is on staff.>

I hate this term "transgender woman" as though we're talking about a type of woman. We need a better term. "A man in a woman costume" seems the most fitting to me.

[–] TerfSedai 18 points (+18|-0)

I tend to use "male woman" because it's factually correct, honors both sex and gender in a single phrase, is pretty much impossible to argue with, and centers male as the primary component.

I use it regularly when interacting with libfems. No one's complained yet.

[–] Avadavat 23 points (+23|-0)

Thanks for this. Was feeling a bit low today about whether gender critical / material reality would eventually be explored publicly, much less triumph. This...helped.

[–] crlody 22 points (+22|-0)

Brava, well done 🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉

I did nothing worth praising. I just read evidence and patient testimonies, then used my judgment to come to the most reasoned conclusion I could at this stage. My peers, it seems, are open-minded enough to appreciate that for now. Otherwise, my radfem stance comes from a place of concern and deep empathy for my future female patients.

[–] SeahorseLT 20 points (+20|-0)

But you did. It shouldn't be, but in the current climate, stating factual evidence and biologically sound truths is dangerous. You had the courage anyway, and that is worth praising.

The future patients need doctors that are true to their conscience and act and decide based on the best of their knowledge and abilities instead of ideology. You took a huge step towards what kind of doctor you want and are going to be. That is commendable. Because right now we are seeing many who don't.

[–] Womancup 10 points (+10|-0)

So your audience consisted of the other medical students? That's encouraging.

Yes - current medical students, future healthcare practitioners. Also, a tutor with a research background in cancer genetics.

[–] crlody 2 points (+2|-0)

I disagree, that was brave! I am much more cautious. I think what you did was an inspiration, so i will praise you :)

[–] au_dela 16 points (+16|-0)

Women like you give me hope. Thank you for your bravery in speaking out.

You’re too kind. Again, I’ve done nothing worthy of praise.

[–] AmyHousewine 13 points (+13|-0)

No, you have - think how many basically decent people would have gone wobbly in your shoes. And you didn't. You are wonderful. Own it :)

[–] SamuraiGhostCat 9 points (+9|-0)

You absolutely have. It takes courage to do what you did, especially in this climate!!! And to say it so articulately, too.

(Btw I love your username, so clever)

[–] AmyHousewine 9 points (+9|-0)

That must have taken real courage, knowing the social and professional consequences that can befall those who speak the simple truth. You did something wonderful. Thank you.

[–] Teacup-Tornado 9 points (+9|-0)

That's awesome! I love posts like these that give me hope. It's easy to forget that there's actually a lot of normal people in the world when you spend too much time on the internet.

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