Free Speech

Free Speech Rights, Parental Rights, and Children with Gender Dysphoria

An interesting Arizona appellate decision rejecting a court's assignment of a treating therapist, and rejecting a gag order that limited parents' discussions with the child.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From Paul E. v. Courtney F. (Ariz. Ct. App. April 3, 2018):

Paul E. ("Father") and Courtney F. ("Mother") married in 2004 and thereafter had three children together, including L., born in 2007. Father and Mother divorced in 2010. The decree of dissolution gave the parties joint legal custody of the children, with final legal decision-making authority awarded to Father with respect to L.'s and one of the other children's education, medical care, and dental care. Mother was awarded final legal decision-making authority with respect to the remaining child's education, medical care, and dental care. The parties were awarded equal parenting time with respect to all three children.

In February 2013, Mother permitted L., who was born male, to wear a skirt to school. She also sent a "Princess Boy" book for L.'s teacher to read to the class. Mother consulted with others (but no professionals) and notified L.'s school beforehand, but she failed to inform Father until after L. arrived at school.

According to Mother, L. had long demonstrated a preference for stereotypically "female" items and would wear female clothing at home; Father reported no previous knowledge of L. wearing female clothing, and apparently did not observe any distinctive gender pattern in L.'s preferences. Soon after L. wore the skirt to school, Father made arrangements for L. to begin therapy with counselor Diana Vigil, who continued in that role throughout this case.

According to Father and Vigil, in 2013 the parents agreed, consistent with Vigil's recommendation, to limit L.'s access to female-oriented items; Mother disputed that the parties ever reached a firm agreement. In late 2013, Father filed a petition under A.R.S. § 25–411(A) to modify parenting time and legal decision-making with respect to all three children. Father alleged, as relevant to this appeal, that Mother, through various acts, was pushing a female gender identification on L. despite Vigil's failure to diagnose L. with gender dysphoria, defined in one source used at trial as "[p]sychological distress due to the incongruence between one's body and gender identity," with gender identity meaning "[a] person's internal sense of being male, female, or something else." Father requested, [among other things], that he be made L.'s primary residential parent and be awarded sole legal decision-making. Father further requested that the court immediately limit Mother's parenting time through temporary orders and injunctions.

On December 13, 2013, consistent with Father's requests, the court entered the following temporary orders:

  • Until further Court order, Mother shall not dress [L.] in female clothing, shall not purchase female or "girl" clothing for [L.], shall not to [sic] permit [L.] to dress in female clothing (including, but not limited to underwear, socks, shirts, dresses, skirts, etc.), shall not purchase female oriented toys or other items for [L.], shall not refer to [L.] in his presence or in the presence of any of the other children as "her" or "she," shall not refer to [L.] as a "girl" or by other female designation, and shall not encourage any of the parties' other children to do so, shall not to [sic] encourage or direct third parties to refer to [L.] as "her," as "she[,]" as a "girl," or as other female designation, or to treat him as such, and shall not to [sic] take any other actions that are inconsistent with the spirit of these orders.
  • Until further Court order, Mother shall remove from her home any female or "girl" clothing of or for [L.] and any female oriented toys or other items of or for [L.] Mother may store such items elsewhere for later use in the event the Court later modifies or vacates these orders.
  • Until further Court order, Mother also shall direct the parties' children not to refer to [L.] as "her," as "she," as a "girl" or as other female designation, or if Mother hears or becomes aware of any of those children doing so [sic].
  • Until further Court order, Mother shall not refer to [L.] as "gender variant" or use such term or any related terms in [L.]'s presence or in the presence of the parties' other children. Mother further shall refrain from any discussion of gender related issues with [L.], with any of the parties' other children or in [L.]'s or any of the parties' other children's presence.
  • Mother shall not provide [L.] or any of the parties' other children with any materials addressing gender preference.
  • Mother shall not take any actions to frustrate or defy the spirit of any of the foregoing orders.

Vigil recommended that L. be assessed by a psychiatrist. In 2014, L. was evaluated by a series of professionals—a psychologist in July 2014, a physician in September 2014, and a psychotherapist in December 2014—each of whom diagnosed L. with gender dysphoria. Later, Vigil also diagnosed L. with gender dysphoria.

The temporary orders, however, remained in place. And Father, to whom the orders did not apply, did not afford L. access to "female" items during his parenting time. According to Father, he was never unwilling to provide L. the opportunity to engage in "gender exploration" but he and Mother believed that the temporary orders applied to both parents. Father reported that Mother was repeatedly noncompliant with the orders; Mother maintained the opposite.

In early 2015, L. made statements about dying, and either threatened or engaged in self-harm. Mother did not promptly notify Father when she took L. to the hospital in response to that behavior. Also in early 2015, Mother reneged on her promise to Father to take L. and another of the parties' children to a sacramental religious ceremony at Father's church.

In mid-2015, Vigil told the parties, and Father agreed based on a log he kept of L.'s statements and behaviors, that L. had become more comfortable with L.'s natal gender. Mother apparently informed L. of Vigil's conclusion, which caused L. to distrust Vigil. And, according to Father, Mother then significantly increased her violations of the temporary orders, and L. increasingly engaged in feminine behaviors. L. also assigned blame to Father for the temporary orders.

By stipulated order, the court appointed Dr. Paulette Selmi, a psychologist, to perform a custody evaluation. Dr. Selmi opined that the manner in which Mother responded to L.'s desire to wear a skirt to school did not take into account the need to protect L. Dr. Selmi further determined that Mother exposed L. to inappropriate information regarding sex reassignment, and failed to comply with the parties' 2013 agreement and the court's temporary orders. Dr. Selmi opined that Mother's conduct demonstrated a lack of foresight.

Dr. Selmi conceded that the temporary orders had harmed L., but she concluded that a "social transition" was not in L.'s best interests because of L.'s young age, and "[i]t is best to take a slower approach to the situation." Dr. Selmi recommended that the temporary orders "be lifted at this time but not entirely," by remaining in place at Mother's home for at least six months to a year and being lifted entirely at Vigil's office and in Father's home for six months to a year. Dr. Selmi recommended that only Vigil discuss the change with L., "because [the parents] do not work well enough together to do this."

Further, finding that Mother has "a proven track record … of talking to [L.] about very inappropriate things i.e. hormones, sex change operations and the like," Dr. Selmi recommend that the court enter a "'gag order' prohibiting Mother [and potentially Father as well] from discussing anything with [L.] related to this topic." Dr. Selmi opined that L. "must" continue therapy with Vigil, preferably on a "safe-haven" basis to restoreand preserve L.'s trust in Vigil, and further stated that "there also needs to be a physician gender specialist who will follow [L.] along the way." …

[After a custody trial, the court] found that both Mother and Father were capable parents, but determined that all three children's best interests were served by awarding Father sole legal decision-making with an obligation to consult in good faith with Mother. The court then held that despite Father's sole authority, the circumstances empowered it to limit that authority under A.R.S. § 25-410(A). The court held that "[L.]'s gender dysphoria diagnosis and the parents' response to it has already caused [L.] emotional harm," and ["t]he complexity of [L.]'s situation, the dynamics of the parties' relationship and the potential for harm if it is not managed correctly lead the Court to a conclusion that the child's physical health would be endangered and emotional development impaired if the Court did not establish some guidelines for the parents in addressing [L.]'s situation.["]

The court further … ordered[, among other things, that]:

  • Diana Vigil will continue as [L.]'s therapist ….
  • The [gag order] is lifted as it relates to gender exploration by [L.] in Diana Vigil's office, Father's home and Mother's home. In all other places, it remains in effect. Neither parent shall discuss the lifting of [the earlier] order with [L.], or permit gender exploration in their home until Diana Vigil discloses to [L.] that the order has been lifted.
  • Although [L.] will be free to explore in each parent's house, neither parent shall discuss gender identification issues with [L.] The parties should utilize a standard response as suggested by Dr. Selmi if [L.] asks to talk about gender identification issues, deferring the question or discussion to Diana Vigil. No person other than the gender expert (and his or her designee) and Diana Vigil shall discuss gender identification/exploration with [L.] The Court is open to allowing the parents to discuss gender identification issues in the future should such an approach be suggested by the gender expert.
  • Neither parent may, directly or indirectly, promote or discourage a specific view of gender identification for [L.] …

Father appealed, and the court reversed the order in part. (Note that mother did not appeal the award of sole decision-making to father.) First, the court held that Arizona courts generally can only select a decisionmaking parent, and not order a parent to make particular decisions:

Legal decision-making is "the legal right and responsibility to make all nonemergency legal decisions for a child including those regarding education, health care, religious training and personal care decisions." The court must determine legal decision-making, whether initially or on a motion for modification, based on "the best interests of the child." … But though "[c]ourts may do many things in the best interests of children, … they cannot advance such interests by exercising jurisdiction that they lack. Every power that the superior court exercises … must find its support in the supporting statutory framework." …

Title 25 of the Arizona Revised Statutes creates a framework for legal decision-making under which "[t]he court's statutorily prescribed role is not to make decisions in place of parents, but to decide which fit parent or parents shall make such decisions." [Footnote: Fit parents are those who (like both parents in this case) adequately care for their children.] Accordingly, though

[a] court faced with uncooperative, recalcitrant parents might reasonably believe that a child's best interests would be served by an order that effectively resolves a disputed issue[,] … in a family-law case, the court does not have plenary authority to make decisions in place of the parents when it deems them to be in a child's best interests. Rather, the court must be guided by the best interests of a child in assigning legal-decision-making authority.

The reservation of decision-making to fit parents, rather than the judiciary, accommodates "the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children" under the Fourteenth Amendment. Of course, in choosing which fit parent or parents shall make the decisions, the court should consider each parent's proposed decisions and assess which parent's plans would serve the child's best interests. But the court generally has no say in the actual decisions of the chosen parent or parents. Even when an allocation of legal decision-making ultimately proves contrary to the child's best interests, the court may typically do no more than reallocate the authority between the parents.

There is one narrow exception, set forth in § 25-410(A), that permits the court, on motion and after a hearing, to limit a sole decision-maker's authority …:

Except as otherwise agreed by the parties in writing …, the parent designated as sole legal decision-maker may determine the child's upbringing, including the child's education, care, health care and religious training, unless, on motion by the other parent, the court, after a hearing, finds that in the absence of a specific limitation of the parent designated as the sole legal decision-maker's authority, the child's physical health would be endangered or the child's emotional development would be significantly impaired.

… [This] statute requires more than merely a best-interests analysis: it authorizes judicial limitation of a sole decision-maker's authority only when "the child's physical health would be endangered or the child's emotional development would be significantly impaired." The editors' comment to the uniform act underlying the statute makes clear that the heightened standard will be satisfied in only the most extreme of circumstances, and does not provide free license for the court to substitute its judgment for that of the decision-maker parent:

[I]n the absence of parental agreement, the court should not intervene solely because a choice made by the custodial parent is thought by the noncustodial parent (or by the judge) to be contrary to the child's best interest. To justify such an intervention, the judge must find that the custodial parent's decision would "endanger the child's physical health or significantly impair his emotional development"—a standard patently more onerous than the "best interest" test. The standard would leave to the custodial parent such decisions as whether the child should go to private or public school, whether the child should have music lessons, what church the child should attend. The court could intervene in the decision of grave behavioral or social problems such as refusal by a custodian to provide medical care for a sick child.

Even if § 25-410(A) applied, it nowhere authorizes the court to appoint a treating professional for the child. The statute provides that the court may impose a "specific limitation of the … sole legal decision-maker's authority." An order prohibiting the decision-maker from withholding therapeutic care would be a limitation on decision-making authority. But an order requiring care by a specific provider is more than a limitation—it is a directive….

Here, the superior court erred as a matter of law by relying on § 25-410(A) to set "guidelines" for Father's exercise of sole legal decision-making. As an initial matter, the procedural prerequisites for § 25-410(A) were not present: the court was faced with a petition to modify legal decision-making, not a motion to limit sole legal decision-making. And § 25-410(A)'s substantive bar was not satisfied.

This is not a case in which the parent awarded sole legal decision-making refused to secure necessary treatment for the child. In fact, long before the court's involvement, Father voluntarily secured therapy for L. and the therapy continued throughout the case, apparently to L.'s benefit. This is a case in which the parents agree that the child requires therapeutic intervention, but disagree about which therapeutic approach would be most beneficial. The court's imposition of "guidelines" to avoid "the potential for harm" posed by Father's exercise of sole legal decision-making reflects its legitimate concern that Father's view of L.'s situation may lead him to make less-than-ideal choices regarding L.'s care.

The court made well-supported findings that Father "has been somewhat less willing to actively engage with [L.] on the gender identification issue," that his creation of the behavior-tracking log and his view that L. might be "in remission" suggest that "he may not be as open to allow exploration as the experts … believe is appropriate," and that both his as well as Mother's "response[s] to [L.'s gender dysphoria] has already caused [L.] emotional harm." But though the court was entitled to weigh such reasonable concerns when deciding how to allocate legal decision-making, it had no authority to ameliorate the concerns by managing Father's sole decision-making….

And the court also held that the gag order, even as modified, violates the parents' First Amendment rights and parenting rights:

In addition to directing L.'s therapeutic care, the court imposed a number of limitations on Mother and Father's interactions with L.: the court prohibited them from speaking with L. about gender identification, and circumscribed their ability to provide L. with clothing, toys, and other items….

The court may "restrict" parenting time only if "it finds that the parenting time would endanger seriously the child's physical, mental, moral or emotional health."… A.R.S. § 25-411(J). But the statute is not an invitation for the court to interfere with constitutional rights. The statute cannot be read to give the court broad license to infringe on a parent's right to care for his or her child, or to infringe on the parent's or the child's free speech, see Nash v. Nash (Ariz. App. 2013) (parenting-time restriction that constitutes prior restraint on speech valid only under strict scrutiny test); see also Goodman v. Forsen (Ariz. App. 2016)….

Here, even assuming that the court's findings were sufficient to support application of § 25-411(J), the parenting-time limitations that the court imposed far exceeded the statutory authority. The limitations constituted severe micromanagement of Mother and Father's parenting and significantly restrained both the parties' and L.'s speech….

For more on the First Amendment and child custody cases, see my Parent-Child Speech and Child Custody Speech Restrictions article.

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  1. >The court may “restrict” parenting time only if “it finds that the parenting time would endanger seriously the child’s physical, mental, moral or emotional health.”.

    Clearly the moms twisted gender ideology endangered L as the boy started death ideation.

    1. Well, at least now that the VC is no longer at WaPo, we’re rid of all the crazy reactionaries…

    2. The “death ideation” and self harming started after the court – at the father’s behest – issued orders that restricted L’s access to stereotypical female clothing, toys, etc. and shut down the mother’s communication with L on matters relating to L’s gender identification.

      Or did I miss an implicit winky face?

  2. It isn’t reactionary to suspect that the poor kids was being pushed into gender dysphoria by a deluded mother.

  3. I have often wondered it gender dysphoria is not in many cases brought on by a parent? I not having any personal knowledge myself I can only speculate.

    1. The best theory I have heard is that true gender dysphoria is cross-imprinting of the brain by hormones during the 8th to 12th week of embryonic development.

      False gender dysphoria could be a Munchausen by proxy imposed by a parent letting the child know they would be loved more if they were the gender preferred by the parent.

      Imposition of a parent’s gender preference regardless of the child’s innate nature is historic. In 19th century America it was not completely unheard of to allow a mother heartset on having a daughter to raise a firstborn son as a girl until she had a biological daughter. H.P. Lovecraft’s mom raised him as a girl until he was about six because she wanted a daughter. When one of Lovecraft’s playmates demonstrated conclusively to him that she was a girl and he was a boy, he went to his mom and demanded a haircut and new wardrobe. Then there is the Neapolitain subculture phenomenon of a daughterless mother allowed to raise the lastborn male child as a surrogate daughter.

      Sometimes I think having a transgender child is the new purse poodle fashion accessory. Forcing a child into false gender dysphoria could be seen as bad a case of child abuse as denying true gender dysphoria when it does manifest.

      1. If gender dysphoria were cross-imprinting of the brain by hormones, that’d mean there was something biologically determined about gender (as opposed to sex), & that the correlations of behaviors to gender were 1, rather than admitting of any variance.

        How can there be such a thing as gender dysphoria, where there’s no way to even establish “gender phoria”? How can you possibly feel like a certain gender? How can you possibly feel like a certain sex, for that matter?

        1. Could you imagine, for instance, race dysphoria? I could imagine, say, nationality dysphoria in someone who’s lived in more than 1 country, or religion dysphoria in someone who’s had or experienced more than 1 religion.

        2. This is a pretty well studied topic, albeit still with much to learn.

          It is pretty well established that in addition to the reproductive parts, our brains have a built-in sexuality… that is we are attracted nominally to the opposite gender and have drives to copulate. It is perfectly self-evident why we would have such built-in mechanisms, what with preservation of the species being of prime importance.

          That these mechanisms can be abnormal is also fairly obvious, just as any other part of the body can develop abnormally.

          Similarly, we have a sense of self that includes a built-in knowledge of our gender. If this is mis-aligned, it causes difficulties which are obvious.

          1. I recommend “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat”, a classic collection of case studies on brain injuries that reveal the physical sources of many mental processes. One case involves the sense of proprioception – the sense of where your body is in space. If this is damaged, you can get the sense that your body is not your own. There was a specific case where a man was convinced that his leg was a foreign object – not his own leg – due to damage to his nervous system that affected the proprioception in just his leg. He was so repulsed by the strange leg that he insisted that it must be cut off. This is not even a unique case.

            So it is clear that there are many, many little details about our perception of the world and ourselves that are biologically determined. And anything that is biologically determined can be damaged, malformed or malfunctioning.

            With this knowledge it should be easy to see that having a misaligned sense of gender is entirely plausible, and would likely be untreatable with our current state of medical knowledge.

      2. Re the childhood clothing of H. P. Lovecraft, see: Was lovecraft dressed as a girl by his mother ? in a Wikipedia talk archive and don’t forget to click the “breeching” link there.

    2. Gender dysphoria is not, or at least not always, brought on by a parent. I speak from experience. Also, from experience, children generally outgrow it. The best thing for parents to do is not particularly encourage the child in cross-dressing etc., but not to make too big a fuss about it either.

      One of bloggers at Crooked Timber–I forget which one–had a daughter like me, who experienced a degree of gender dysphoria. She (the blogger) did as my parents did: mildly discourage the child, without making a fuss, and achieved the same result, as the child eventually became comfortable with her biological identity.

      It’s unfortunate that a court, pretty much institutionally incapable of subtlety or finesse, would be involved in such cases, but there is probably no alternative if the parents are too psychologically unstable themselves to sustain a marriage.

  4. Children get lots of ideas about how they are themselves and what they want to be when they grow up, but it’s important that they actually be allowed to grow up before they decide. Counseling is one thing, but performing any medical treatment such as hormones or surgery on a minor is abuse.

    If a child was biologically born female, and decided at 13 or 14 that she wanted to be female when she grew up, a medical professional would never authorize hormones to grow larger breasts and transition more rapidly in to womanhood. Those kind of decisions can’t be made by adults for children before they are grown, and children aren’t mature enough to make the decision for themselves either.

    Research has also shown that medical treatments for gender dysphoria don’t improve outcomes anyway.

    1. The Gender Ideologists want these children on hormones because it’s the only way to keep the males feminized enough to eventually “pass” as the opposite sexed adults.

      In a twist, these underage hormones result in a micropenis, one too small to be turned inside out into a male neovagina.

      Nature has the last laugh, of course.

  5. Your link doesn’t work, it isn’t even clickable.

    Was the research done in regards to medical treatment of gender dysphoria in adults?

    Hormone treatments to delay puberty for children diagnosed with gender dysphoria is a very recent phenomenon. The idea is that more satisfactory result can be obtained from sex change surgery if it’s done before puberty is complete. At the same time, a prepubescent child is too young and immature to make such a permanent decision. So someone came up with the idea of trying to delay puberty until the subject was old enough and mentally mature enough to make the decision.

    From what little I’ve read on it this approach is very new and I’m a bit skeptical that there’s been enough time or a large enough sample size for reliable research results in regards to outcomes.

    1. I’m trying to understand how any doctor received approval to test this approach on children especially in the absence of adult testing prior to testing on a child.

  6. Well what could have been a few years enjoying dressing up and acting like a girl that may or may not have grown into something else is now a full-blown psychological trauma. Well done, Dad!

    1. Right…

      Dad didn’t even know about dressing/acting like a girl until the child went to school dressed as a girl. Not to mention the mother pushing things like hormone therapy, surgery, etc.

      Does it hurt being that ignorant Nige?
      Or just normal for a Progressive?

      BTW: Is Nige short for Nigel or Nigella?

  7. Aside from anything else, having tried to grapple on many recent occasions with continually shape-shifting, ambiguous, vague, contradictory descriptions of what “gender” is supposed to mean, I’m very grateful for :

    …..gender dysphoria, defined in one source used at trial as “[p]sychological distress due to the incongruence between one’s body and gender identity,” with gender identity meaning “[a] person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else.”

    which is nice and clear and makes perfect sense. The only remaining question is whether this is the canonical version or just today’s offering to be swapped for something else tomorrow. Perhaps a gender studies aficionado could advise.

    1. How can anyone have such an internal sense? I guess if one has such a sense, it must be a hallucination — a perception of something that can’t be sensed. But it’s a class of hallucination I can’t fathom, because other hallucinations are simply percepts that contradict the input to one’s senses, while this is like going completely off-menu among sensations. It’s even more off-menu than extracampine hallucinations.

      1. “How can anyone have such an internal sense?”

        One possibility is a human chimera.

        Occasionally, a human female will drop two eggs at the same time, and if she’s sexually active, both will get fertilized, creating fraternal twins. Fraternal twins can be opposite genders. Sometimes, one of those twin fetuses will absorb the other creating an individual with two distinct DNA strands.

        Suppose the following happens, you have merged fraternal twins (one female, one male) that merge. The head is female and the feet are male. The dividing line is north of the crotch, so the genitals have male DNA and the body develops male, but the brain has female DNA.

        “I guess if one has such a sense, it must be a hallucination”

        In the hypothetical I described above, a naturally occurring human chimera with a female brain and male genitals, would a sense of being mentally female while being physically male still be a hallucination?

        1. Still a hallucination, because unless that person has experienced a different body, how could s/he possibly know what being male or female feels like? It’s like if everything in your world were colored red, how could you possibly know what something green looks like?

          1. …or what the color red looks like? If everything is red, color has no meaning.

          2. Everything that you feel as “you” is in your brain. Your brain is continually constructing a model of the world from sensory inputs and integrating that information with a built-in model of self. You have a sense that you have two legs, and where those legs are in space. As referenced above, damaging specific areas of the brain can damage this sense, leading to a disconnect between your physical body and your sense of your physical body.

            Just because we do not fully understand all of the structures and mechanisms involved in gender identity is no reason to doubt that they exist.

            The real conflict is still ahead of us. At some point we are going to fully map these structures and mechanisms. And eventually there may be a possibility of altering the brain in order to align gender identity with reproductive parts, rather than attempting to alter the bits to match the identity.

            When this moment arrives, expect a great hue and cry. If the deaf community is opposed to cochlear implants to bring hearing to the deaf because it is a threat to their community, just imagine the push-back if you could “cure” gender dysphoria.

      2. It is difficult to imagine both the internal lives of others and to credit they might experience things we do not and that the default response to such experiences is not to treat them as lying for reasons that can only be invented.

      3. And yet, somehow biological males who were born with ambiguous genitalia and were surgically made female tend to act like males.

        You’d almost think we were animals that do a lot of actions because of impulses from our biology, and that our two sexes aren’t identical

        1. ‘Tend’ to act like males is a pretty weak way of proving that biology determines much of anything across the board.

          1. And yet, people write whole scientific papers on such things

            https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/02/11440/
            male-and-female-behavior-deconstructed

  8. TL;DR because not interested in the legal details of family law here, but, I’d just like to ask, what does it mean when someone says s/he “feels like” 1 sex or the other? How can anyone possibly have such a feeling, when one has the experience only of one’s own? This whole biz never made sense to me, except in 1 respect: appearing to buck societal sex stereotypes while actually affirming them.

    1. Well, I offer this purely as an illustration, with no claim to scientific accuracy. Let’s leave societal sex stereotypes out of it by looking at bower birds. Male bower birds build bowers – decorated displays of stuff gathered from around the forest. They build them to attract females. Females stop by to review the bower for artistic merit, and if they like it, they assume the position. if not, they fly off. After a few failures the male gets the message and starts again with a new design. Females meanwhile build nests and have sole care of the young. The sexes display sex stereotypical behavior and – I think it is reasonable to assume – this behavior is largely evolved not learned in bower bird society.

      1. Male bower birds build bowers because their brains tell them to get building a bower. Females build nests because their brains tell them to build nests. And to go round inspecting bowers. It’s conceivable that sometimes a male bower bird’s brain tells him to build a nest and go round looking at bowers, and then assuming the position if he likes the bower. This would be an example of the brain of a male bird provoking female behavior. Since brains are built – in part – by genes, we might imagine that somewhere along the line the genes that typically build male bodies and male brains go a little bit mixed up. The male bird doesn’t “feel male” since he’s probably not that deep a thinker, but he feels like doing things that females typically do because his brain tells him to. Humans being more self reflective may notice that their brains are telling them to do things which are atypical of their sex.

        1. Humans being more self reflective may notice that their brains are telling them to do things which are atypical of their sex.

          But we all do things atypical of our sex, as well as atypical of every other grouping we’re part of.

          1. “But we all do things atypical of our sex…”

            Not me.

        2. You might not have realized this, but Nemo, the fish we all know and love, was a sequential hermaphrodite

      2. Exactly, & that illustrates how people are behaviorally different from birds?& from any other animal AFAICT. We have to learn complex behaviors, we’re not programmed for them. We have reflexes. We’re programmed for some simple likes & dislikes?orgasm & sweet stuff vs. pain & bitter stuff. But beyond that degree of complexity, everything’s learned. To the extent boys & girls pick up certain behaviors & tastes more easily than the opposite sex does, there’s broad variation, such that we can only detect avgs. Nobody’s avg. across the board.

        1. We have to learn complex behaviors, we’re not programmed for them.

          Using language — symbolic, combinatorial communication — is a very complex behaviour, specific to humans. We learn a particular language (first) because we’re programmed for learning a language: (normal) children who are (yet) unable to learn other complex behaviours are veritable experts at learning a (first) language.

          1. Right, but then they have no idea what “foreign language” means until they learn it. Not a particular foreign language, but the concept that there are foreign languages. They can even learn more than 1 language before they understand the concept that they’re different languages, and will mix them freely until then.

            1. This is just completely wrong.

              We are capable of learning a great many things that go beyond our instincts. This does not mean that we do not have instinctive behaviors. It doesn’t even imply that.

              When you get horny and want to have sex, you are not acting rationally and making cognizant choices. These are your instincts compelling you toward procreation. Feeling empathy for others can be enhanced or retarded through experience (learning), but it is a built-in feature of the human brain. We have specific neurons that allow us to vicariously experience things that others are doing.

              There is a great deal of what we do that is built in as instinct. That urge to protect children? That isn’t learned. It comes hard-wired into your brain. That aversion to cliff edges? Built in, kicking in at just 3 – 6 months of development.

              We are our brains. Everything you think and feel is happening in your brain. It shouldn’t be so hard to believe that what you think and feel is influenced by the way your brain grew and developed.

              1. His point was that learning language is itself an instinctive behavior.

                Long before you could possibly understand the concept, your brain is rewiring itself to understand the language it is exposed to. You don’t decide to learn a language, it is something you do instinctively. Your body is built to absorb language for the first several years… and then that knowledge gets hard-coded into the brain. Later, you lose a great deal of this ability and your language functions become less plastic. Sure, you can study and learn French when you are in your 40’s, but you will never become the speaker that you would have been had you spent a year or two speaking French when you were 4 or 5.

            2. I knew a kid that spoke three languages fluently. His parents were Egyptian, living in Germany, working for the US military (one was a doctor, the other a manager.) So they raised him with all three languages from a young age. It was normal for him to both speak and think in the language being used unlike many of us that only learned one language at a young age and have to “translate”. That’s not even accounting for the variations of the individual language; let alone the numerous accents.

    2. “but, I’d just like to ask, what does it mean when someone says s/he “feels like” 1 sex or the other? How can anyone possibly have such a feeling, when one has the experience only of one’s own?”

      See my reply (about human chimeras) to your other comment.

    3. One of my friends, who experienced gender dysphoria as a child and young woman, attributed her overcoming it in part to the intellectual realization that she did not, in fact, know what being a male would be like. However, intellectual realizations are not, generally, sufficient to overcome feelings and desires.

  9. We have to learn complex behaviors, we’re not programmed for them. We have reflexes. We’re programmed for some simple likes & dislikes?orgasm & sweet stuff vs. pain & bitter stuff. But beyond that degree of complexity, everything’s learned.

    This seems a bit simplistic. Between reflex and learned behavior, there are instincts, inclinations, preferences. Sexual attraction, for example, is not a pure reflex, but it’s plainly not a learned behavior. Human behavior is much more plastic than animal behavior because we have the capacity to reflect and turn away from what we might do unthinkingly. But that doesn’t mean that everything we do, beyond reflexes, is a deliberate conscious decision or a learned behavior. There is, as you say, broad variation and so sex stereotypical behavior is a woollier concept for humans than for bower birds. But we can usually do a lot better than mere averages. If you were to look at mug shots of a hundred humans, aged 30, all with shouder length hair, no beards, alll wearing a white T shirt, and identify the sex of each, you might get one wrong. But you wouldn’t get ten wrong.

    1. There are instincts, but humans have never been shown to have any. We have programming (as to certain likes & dislikes) that can be said to be instinctive, but not true instincts, which are complex nonlearned behaviors. There’s also plenty of unconscious learning. So everything we do beyond reflexes is indeed a learned behavior, although it’s not all a product of conscious decisions.

      Nobody has ever shown that human sexual activity is not a learned behavior.

      1. That is just plainly false. Humans are replete with instincts, just like other animals.

        If you put a bunch of babies in a giant people zoo and raised them using only robots, they’d still figure out what to do with tab A and slot B.

        It is impossible for us to truly understand the thought processes of another animal. We can easily see that a bird is acting on instinct as it builds a nest without having the slightest idea of what its thoughts are. But it is extremely difficult to know if our behaviors are instinctive or not.

        How would you know that you enjoyed throwing things as a child because your instincts drove you to throw things, rather than because it was just something you had learned to enjoy? How would it feel any different to you? If you had an instinct to punish behaviors in others that would harm the community, how would it manifest itself? Would you behave like a robot without any cognitive component, or would your emotions drive you to behave a certain way?

        All of those things we label “emotions”, those feelings we get that drive us to react in certain ways, absent any cognitive process… how are those different from whatever it is that drives your dog to bark at passers-by and protect your yard from interlopers?

        1. I’m going to assume you’ve never had kids. Because if you’ve had children, you’d know that nobody has to teach a child that his/her private bits are interesting.

          Absent any instruction whatsoever, they will figure out that tugging, poking and rubbing on those bits is pretty entertaining. They do this until around 4 or 5 years old. Then they pretty much stop until they reach puberty. And then they start again, all with or without any Time-Life books explaining sexuality, puberty and masturbation.

          1. It’s still learned behavior. I wrote upthread that we have some preprogrammed tastes, so we enjoy genital stimul’n. However, we have to learn to do it. We randomly poke around until it feels good, then we remember how to do that. The behavior itself isn’t an instinct.

  10. It would be interesting to see research testing to see if (or how many) patients claiming gender dysphoria, are human chimeras.

    It would be interesting if a significant percentage turn out to be human chimeras with a mix of both male and female DNA.

  11. Just because a kid wants to transition doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. Not everybody who wants to transition has the physiological conditions that make hormone therapy a good idea.

    1. Very true. Meanwhile if the kid wants to wear girl’s clothes let them. Acting as if they’re doing something wrong will only have negative effects all over the shop.

      1. There’s also the fact that a substantial proportion of those with gender dysphoria later desist (i.e., identify with their natal gender), including some who at some point scored very high on gender dysphoria. With this in mind, one should go very slowly.

        Jesse Singal article on gender dysphoria desistance and persistence

  12. 10-11 years old is not the time to decide your child is not the sex they were born as.

    Encourage your children to be children, and let them play with whatever toys they want play with. Instead, cast off the decades of marketing that created “boys toys” and “girls toys”.

    A young boy playing with Barbies is not really a girl just because he plays with toys that are not “boys toys”. Fuck this stupid shit. A young girl who is a “tom boy” is not really a boy.

    Calling your prepubescent child gender dysphoric based on modern, marketing driven, cultural notions of what is for boys and what is for girls is absolutely fucking stupid.

    Parents, stop forcing your children to pick whether they are a boy or a girl, and just let them be fucking kids.

    Parents stop being part of the problem.

    1. Indeed. Forcing a child to pick whether they are a boy or a girl (sex) is like asking a frog to choose whether to fly or swim. There’s no choice, you are what you are.

      On the other hand, choosing between some stereotypically gender-associated behavior (e.g., would you like to ride dirt bikes or get your nails done) is trivial. It has nothing to do with sex (whether you’re a boy or a girl) and in fact it’s sexist to say otherwise. Pushing kids into a mental disorder by suggesting and affirming that any range of preferences, behaviors, or feelings are in fact those of the opposite sex, is abusive. Not to mention the lie that one can actually become the opposite sex.

    2. just let them be fucking kids.

      Hold it a minute…that’s another issue entirely.

    3. I have friends whose Sam(antha) became Sam(uel). Sam got into the Boy Scouts.

    4. …cast off the decades of marketing that created “boys toys” and “girls toys”

      This has got to be one of the most brilliant and effective marketing campaigns ever. Not only has it warped the toy choices of human children, even monkeys succumb to the Madison Avenue hype :

      https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn
      13596-male-monkeys-prefer-boys-toys/

  13. There is abundant evidence that “treating” gender dysphoria by encouraging and furthering the delusion (that one is or ought to be the opposite sex) is extremely destructive and the worst possible response.

    1. Absolutely!

      Would it be appropriate to treat species dysphoria (which is an actual condition) by telling a young human male that he is (for example) the fish he truly perceives himself to be? Of course not — but still some misguided practitioners inappropriately treat the similar condition of gender dysphoria by embracing and encouraging the dysphoria.

      1. Correct. The problem is, basic biology is overshadowed by ideology that is destructive and false, yet influential in the hallowed halls of academia, the administrative offices of institutions, the boards of directors, and so on. Those positioned to dissent from it have no personal incentive to do so.

        Transgenderist ideology is a key step toward selling transhumanist lies.

    2. M.L.: Can you show any quality peer-reviewed studies that support your assertion?

      1. Sure. Here’s one:

        https://bit.ly/1B0Ux1x

        Some lowlights:

        “postoperative transsexual individuals had an approximately three times higher risk for psychiatric hospitalization than the control groups, even after adjusting for prior psychiatric treatment… Sex-reassigned individuals had nearly a three times higher risk of all-cause mortality after adjusting for covariates, although the elevated risk was significant only for the time period of 1973?1988.[85] Those undergoing surgery during this period were also at increased risk of being convicted of a crime.[86] Most alarmingly, sex-reassigned individuals were 4.9 times more likely to attempt suicide and 19.1 times more likely to die by suicide compared to controls.[87] “Mortality from suicide was strikingly high among sex-reassigned persons, including after adjustment for prior psychiatric morbidity.”[88]”

        Limitations on that particular study are also discussed, and many more studies are linked in this comprehensive review: https://bit.ly/2EDPNSo

        Meanwhile, aside from evidence against, there’s little evidence in favor of mutilating your body or flooding it with chemicals. “Birmingham University’s Aggressive Research Intelligence Facility (Arif) assessed the findings of more than one hundred follow-up studies of post-operative transsexuals.. Arif … concludes that none of the studies provides conclusive evidence that gender reassignment is beneficial for patients.”

  14. At one point – boys should play with/dress in items of type A. Girls, type B.
    At a later point – Boys and girls can play with/dress in items of type A or B.
    Now – if a child uses items of type A, they are a boy. If type B, then girl.

    Isn’t this actually a regression of progress we’ve made fighting against artificial gender norms?

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