Letters to the Editors, September/October 2010

Letters to the editor about the May/June 2010 issue of Scientific American MIND

As a gender studies scholar, I was quite interested in your special issue. I read all the articles with great enthusiasm. I was, however, surprised that you featured only Deborah Tannen’s ideas concerning gendered speech styles (“He Said, She Said”). Because there is so much fascinating research in the area, I was disappointed that she lists her own work exclusively as possible Further Reading. For other work in the field, visit the International Gender and Language Association (IGALA) Web site:

Well done on a fascinating issue overall.
Allyson Jule
Trinity Western University
Langley, B.C.

The Truth about Boys and Girls,” by Lise Eliot, is the clearest and most unbiased psych article I have read in a long time. Far too many of these studies have interesting results, but then the authors make unwarranted leaps in the conclusions. I like that this one discussed the many possible causes of what we are seeing.
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The Third Gender,” by Jesse Bering, is not of the quality I have come to expect from Scientific American Mind. The author reports myths as facts with no documentation, and the one theory he does document, Ray Blanchard’s theory of autogynephilia, is perhaps the most controversial in the transsexual community. Sexual orientation is no more a part of our identity than it is a part of the average person’s. Our condition centers around the internal subjective feeling of being the opposite gender to that assigned at birth.

Numerous studies support the belief that there is a biological genesis to these feelings. Your article has done nothing but further the view that transgendered people are freaks, rather than taking the opportunity to educate the public and fight the negative stereo­types.

I am disappointed that Scientific American Mind would publish such a poorly researched article that so poorly describes us and our condition.
San Diego

Here they go again.... As shown by the angry comments online, the antiautogynephilia folks have not stopped demonizing scientists who suggest that arousal by the idea of oneself as female explains some male-to-female (MtF) transsexualism—a theory supported by objective physiological evidence.

Why do some people get so angry about a theory they disagree with? Somehow they link it to violence, as if crim­inals who attack minorities pay attention to sexologists. Maybe they think it is shameful (I do not, and no one should). Maybe they are wounded and disordered to the point that they insist on everyone viewing and understanding them in the way they themselves do, and they act out with rage when anyone wonders if the theory might explain some transsexualism. It must be something beyond simply not resonating with their own experiences of their transitions and identities.

I would welcome the day when autogynephilia is disproved, partly because knowledge will be advanced. But also partly because the shrill suppressors of sex science will move on. To that end, I would ask them to help advance science instead of terrorizing people they disagree with. How? Why not help fund, design and participate in studies of MtFs, including studies of arousal?
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This article was originally published with the title "May/June 2010 Issue."

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