Third Gender is defined?:20th April 2012: Tom Gardner

by Julia Evans on April 20, 2012

This article was spotted by Bruno de Florence who commented on it at the April meeting of LW WG.  As his comments have yet to be posted, the following includes the texts and my comments.

A diversion

This is a tale of how journalists find news.

1) They google a well-known, possibly infamous, neuro-scientist.

2) They discover he has published in a controversial journal [see endnote [i]] and been commented on in a respectable journal ‘Scientific American’

3) They quote all the dramatic symptoms as if they are symptoms of a bodily disease.

4) If the original paper is consulted they ignore all the gooble-de-gook, anything they do not understand or which spoils a good story, about possible physical manifestations.

5) They include the two most salacious quotes in the paper to give an air of legitimacy to their piece.

6) Also they include a note, hidden at the end, to the effect that there is absolutely no evidence for these strange hypotheses.

7) They use the reference to the APA (American Psychological Association) to add verisimilitude to your text – as do the two ‘researchers’. See endnote iii for a critique of the APA’s ethical position.

Outline of my comments:

I propose to present the article and its history, in order of publication, with my comments:

A) Introduction

B)  Comments on: Alternating gender incongruity: A new neuropsychiatric syndrome providing insight into the dynamic plasticity of brain-sex.

Authors:  Case LK, Ramachandran VS.

Published by Journal of Medical Hypotheses in May 2012: vol 78 (5): p626-31

Epub: 22nd February 2012

Source:  Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, McGill Hall, 9500 Gilman Dr. M/C 0109, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92093, United States.

Available here

C) Comments on: ‘Alternating Gender Incongruity’ Causes Rapid Shifts Of Gender, Scientist Claims: Scientific American’

Author: Gary Stix

Published by Huffington Post : 20th April 2012

Available here

D)  Comments on: ‘Our gender shifts by the hour': Incredible claim of group who suffer from ‘phantom genitalia':

Author: Tom Gardner here

Published: 20th April 2012: Daily Mail

Full article available here

E) Conclusions

A)  Introduction:

Which came first the chicken or the egg?

Did biology precede sexual identity or did sexual identity precede biology?

How does sexual identity arise – directly from biology, which seems to be the assumption here, or from your interactions with others, primarily your parents or care-givers?

How does others’ view of each unique human being’s sexuality, even when in the womb or possibly before conception, contribute to sexual identity?

Do hormones, male or female, arise directly from the biology or independently of the frame of reference in use?

If yes, what is the standard amount of male hormones which allows the label ‘male’ and vice versa for females?

B) Comments on ‘Alternating gender incongruity: A new neuropsychiatric syndrome providing insight into the dynamic plasticity of brain-sex’

Please note: these comments are based on the summary of this text, not the full one.  This text and reference is available in endnote  [ii] .

Propositions taken from the text:

– Between the two extreme ends of human sexuality – male and female – lie a poorly understood and poorly studied spectrum of ambiguously defined sexual identities that are very much a part of the human condition but defy rigid classification.

– “Bigender” [JE suspects they mean bi-gender rather than big-ender] is a recently formed sub-category of transgenderism, describing individuals who experience a blending or alternation of gender states.

– While recognized nominally by the APA [iii], no scientific work to our knowledge has addressed this fascinating condition, or proposed any physiological basis for it.

– In addition, the alternation aspect has not been proposed as a nosological entity distinct from blending.

– Finally, our survey found decreased lateralization of handedness in the bigender community.

– These observations suggest a biologic basis of bigenderism and lead us to propose a novel gender condition, “alternating gender incongruity” (AGI).

– We hypothesize that AGI may be related to an unusual degree or depth of hemispheric switching and corresponding callosal suppression of sex appropriate body maps in parietal cortex- possibly the superior parietal lobule- and its reciprocal connections with the insula and hypothalamus.

– This is based on two lines of reasoning:

First, bigender individuals in our survey sample reported an elevated rate of bipolar disorder, which has been linked to slowed hemispheric switching.

Second, we base our hypotheses on ancient and modern associations between the left and right hemispheres and the male and female genders.

– By providing a case of sharp brain-sex shifts within individuals, we believe that the study of AGI could prove illuminating to scientific understanding of gender, body representation, and the nature of self.

Commentary:

In my text the experimenter’s error (available here), I refer to Lacan’s comments that the experimenter finds what he/she is looking for. This experimenter, ‘Ramachandran, has a long-standing fascination with the study of body image and how it contributes to a basic sense of the self’. So he is looking, through a fixed neuroscientist’s framework for links between body image and a ‘basic sense of self’. Neither of these experimental variables is developed within a theoretical framework (both are developed by Jacques Lacan who also constructs possible links between them) nor are they linked to measurable body phenomena.

Further, he does not define what is ‘normal’ or to be expected, from which these 21 subjects are alleged to deviate. (The null hypothesis in my text available here)

These subjects are, what was defined in my youth of studying experimental method within the discipline of psychology, are self-selecting group. They have chosen this label and registered themselves as part of an on-line forum with this label. Apart from a possible feeling of certainty from the identification with the label, (See comments in my inputs to the LacanianWorks Working Group – LW WG ) what else do they have in common? The forum provides a safe place, where they can explore what this identification means.  In experimental method terms, how is the comparator group defined, found and measured?  If no comparison is possible, how can the results be stated to only apply to this group? If there is no external validation of these individuals choice – they do not have different coloured toe-nails, etc or a third party cannot pick them out from a crowd – then how do you know what you are studying? How do you know these are non-standard human-beings?

I suppose what I am suggesting is that the experimental hypotheses are figments of the experimenters’ own fertile, inner life which is probably a condition they share with the rest of humanity.

The predicted results are bizarre. They force together two very different systems of analysing the world: that based in biology and that based in concepts of body image and sexuation and predict a relationship between the two. There is no evidence that this exists. I will be posting Freud’s The Project: 1895 shortly which is far more sophisticated than this reasoning.

And once again, anything which has SCIENCE in the title, is believed whereas results from  psychoanalysis and other therapies are buried.

Second, the question of ‘is this research ethical?’ has not been asked. In endnote iii it is explained that there exists those who feel the APA is unethical (as is the UK Government through its use of standards, evaluation and much else within the treatment of those with mental health issues.). There is a difference between researching the spread of tuberculosis and researching the increasing incidence of ‘bi-gender’ or AGI.  There is no recognition that the objects of this research are real-live human beings, in all their uniqueness. It is reported as if they are interesting microbes. Indeed, the point is made in endnote iii that more attention is paid to how you treat animals when experimenting than human beings.

C). Comments on: ‘Alternating Gender Incongruity’ Causes Rapid Shifts Of Gender, Scientist Claims: Scientific American’

Original source and article available in endnote [iv]

Comment:

I have pulled out the propositions which are embedded within this paper below. These propositions are never examined except in the neuroscience blog – link given below.

The story seems to be:

A neuroscientist with a track record, V. S. Ramachandran, has a long-standing fascination for body image. He persuades one his female students to examine a group of people who report that their sexual identity can switch involuntarily to that of the opposite sex and back again. They invent a label which means these people get designated abnormal – or different from standard sexual identities. Both quotes refer to this as a psychic phenomenon. It is possible that how you behave differs with what assumptions you make about your gender. There is no neuroscientific evidence of changes in hormone levels or use of brain which accompany this change.

Comment:

So this is a further example, of the labelling and standardisation of conditions which are deemed abnormal. There is no physical correlate of this condition. It seems there is a confusion between the biology of sex and how human beings define themselves sexually.  The one can be examined: the other is unique to each individual within the culture/society to which they belong or don’t. Even biologically, there are more than two sexes: those with male organs, those with female organs, those with both (for example, the South African athlete in the news a year or two back), those with none and those who have had their sexual organs removed (for example, eunochs). So I suppose the question that is being asked is: Does having a male or female sexed body mean you become a man or a woman? Without spending huge amounts of research money, I think that generally this is the case and it is not necessarily so. There are people with male or female bodies who think and act like the opposite sex. And further, there are people who are convinced they are in the wrong body or wrong family or other mismatch. ‘Alternating gender incongruity’ just seem to be on the spectrum of what happens when biology is mixed with subjective meaning at a psychic level.

Propositions from the paper:

– A graduate student of famed neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran has found a group of men and women who report that their sexual identity can switch involuntarily to that of the opposite sex and back again.

-The transgender metamorphosis, these people assert, can occur several times a day and at inopportune moments. It is also accompanied by the sensation of phantom breasts or genitalia of the non-biological sex.

– Ramachandran’s has a long-standing fascination with the study of body image and how it contributes to a basic sense of the self, work that has included investigations into the phantom limbs of amputees.

– The preliminary study by Laura Case, Ramachandran’s student, raises the prospect of a new category of transgenderism. “Alternating gender incongruity (AGI),” the neuropsychiatric term the researchers have tentatively proposed, describes the involuntary change of gender identity, along with perceived phantom sex characteristics, a tendency toward ambidexterity and bipolar disorder, all signs that suggest a biological basis for AGI. (A related term, bigender, defined as blending or alternating gender states, precedes AGI.)

Some quotes from the paper:

—“I still have the same values and beliefs, but a change in gender is really a change in the filter through which I interact with the world and through which it interacts with me.”

—“If I’m in male mode and I see someone crying, I’ll think more along the lines of ‘Man up… while if I’m in girl mode I’ll think more long the lines of ‘Oh sweety!’”

—“I sometimes wake up thinking I have a penis,” says one female respondent, “or that I have no breasts…I usually end up in tears and I can’t get out of bed because once I get up I’ll know for sure it’s not really true and it’s just my mind playing tricks on me, so I just lie there and cry. It’s strange though because I normally don’t even want to have a penis.”

– Ramachandran published previously in the journal on phantom genitalia after sex-change surgery.

– The “more research needed” refrain certainly applies to the AGI work, a concession the investigators themselves make. “These results are suggestive but not conclusive,” Ramachandran says. “We need to rule out the possibility that this is just a variant of dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) or the subjects are simply “role–playing.” Without the “smoking gun”- physical evidence in the form of fluctuating hormone levels or brain imaging data – we don’t know what we are dealing with. Its something we are currently working on.”

– At the Cognitive Neuroscience Society meeting in early April, Case presented preliminary research that one nominal AGI subject who was anatomically male performed differently on cognitive tests depending on his gender state: when male, he did better at a targeting task (throwing darts) and he had a superior score on a verbal fluency test after a switch to the female state. It was inconclusive whether testosterone levels fluctuated with the change in sexual identity.

– Ultimately, that line of research would examine patterns of activity within each brain hemisphere that differ between sexes.

– If the researchers’ hypothesis holds, it would furnish an increasingly nuanced definition of sexuality.

– The Neuroskeptic blog, which wrote about the study, wondered what would have happened to the little-known bigenders before the advent of the term. The anonymous blogger wrote: “Would they have been identified as transgender? Maybe… but maybe not. Would they have had any label at all?”

– The scientists expect that AGI could eventually be classified as a neuropsychiatric condition, which would point immediately to the deeper question of “the extent to which each of us is a multiplicity of genders, or even persons, co-existing in harmony.”

– If this research succeeds, AGI could ultimately help provide a biological rationale for the protean nature of the self.

D)  Comments on: ‘Our gender shifts by the hour': Incredible claim of group who suffer from ‘phantom genitalia’

Quotes from the article and reference given in end note [v]

Further information about similar cases is given by the Daily Mail – see end note [vi]

Commentary

So what is the spin the Daily Mail adds? No comments on the ethical side, of course, and no questionning of the validity of what is taking place. Some of the descriptions and adjectives used:

Phantom genitalia; phantom breasts or genitalia; astonishing survey; ‘I sometimes wake up thinking I have a penis,’ says one female respondent, ‘or that I have no breasts.’ ; ‘It’s strange though because I normally don’t even want to have a penis.’ ; tendency toward ambidexterity and bipolar disorder [JE: Are these really equivalents or linked?]; the more bizarre area’s of the human mind.

So the Daily Mail’s interest in these people is so they can salivate over their unusualness.  Breasts, penises, can be joined with astonishing and bizarre. Scientific rules ok and the results of centuries working within the discipline of psychoanalysis jettisoned as they are not scientific. They are, however based, in a larger numbers of practitioners than two and a larger number of subjects than 32 involved in this study.

Quoted from the article:

– Scientist claim to have discovered a new gender of human which is neither male nor female.

– It leaves those with the condition sensing ‘phantom genitalia’ of the opposite sex.

– A group of people with the previously undiagnosed ‘alternating gender incongruity’ (AGI) said they can switch involuntarily from male to female and vice versa instantly.

– ‘The majority of bigender individuals experience phantom breasts or genitalia corresponding to the non-biologic gender when they are in a trans-gender state’, according to the astonishing survey by a respected neuroscientist.

– Professor Vilayanur Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, and student Laura Case, interviewed 32 people from an online bi-gender forum for their study.

– One of those affected by the condition told researchers: ‘If I’m in male mode and I see someone crying, I’ll think more along the lines of “Man up…” while if I’m in girl mode I’ll think more long the lines of “Oh sweety,”’ according to the Huffington Post  [More information in end-note [vii] ]

Another said: ’I sometimes wake up thinking I have a penis,’ says one female respondent, ‘or that I have no breasts. ‘I usually end up in tears and I can’t get out of bed because once I get up I’ll know for sure it’s not really true and it’s just my mind playing tricks on me, so I just lie there and cry. ‘It’s strange though because I normally don’t even want to have a penis.’

– Of those surveyed – 11 of whom were women, 21 men – about a third said that gender switching was predictable.

– The authors said their preliminary study found that ‘between the two extreme ends of human sexuality – male and female – lie a poorly understood and poorly studied spectrum of ambiguously defined sexual identities that are very much a part of the human condition but defy rigid classification’.

– Dr Ramachandran told the Huffington Post: ‘These results are suggestive but not conclusive. ‘We need to rule out the possibility that this is just a variant of dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) or the subjects are simply “role–playing”. ‘Without the “smoking gun”- physical evidence in the form of fluctuating hormone levels or brain imaging data – we don’t know what we are dealing with. ‘It’s something we are currently working on.’

– The study also found those with AGI had a tendency toward ambidexterity and bipolar disorder, which scientists believes points to a biological basis.

– Researchers hope to begin exploring if the condition manifests itself with and increase or falling in hormones like testosterone.

– The scientists are pushing for the new condition to be recognised as a new category of transgender or neuropsychiatric condition, but admitted that more research was needed.

Dr Ramachandran is well known for studying the more bizarre area’s of the human mind.

 E)  Conclusion

Whilst this sort of dangerous nonsense is lauded in the press and psychotherapists are hounded from practicing by this Government, decisions about the qualities of the various approaches are made on hearsay and prejudice.

EndNotes:


[i]Quote from ‘Alternating Gender Incongruity’ Causes Rapid Shifts Of Gender, Scientist Claims: Scientific American’ By Gary StixPosted on 20th April 2012: Available here

From Medical Hypotheses is a controversial journal—it once published an article on the nature of navel lint—and only adopted a peer review system in 2010. Yet, Ramachandran, Nobelist Arvid Carlsson and other science luminaries have served on its editorial board because of its stated goal of foraging for “radical new ideas and speculations.” Ramachandran published previously in the journal on phantom genitalia after sex-change surgery.

The “more research needed” refrain certainly applies to the AGI work, a concession the investigators themselves make. “These results are suggestive but not conclusive,” Ramachandran says. “We need to rule out the possibility that this is just a variant of dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) or the subjects are simply “role–playing.” Without the “smoking gun”- physical evidence in the form of fluctuating hormone levels or brain imaging data – we don’t know what we are dealing with. Its something we are currently working on.”

[ii] Abstract of the original article and its availability:

Alternating gender incongruity: A new neuropsychiatric syndrome providing insight into the dynamic plasticity of brain-sex.

Authors:  Case LK, Ramachandran VS.

Published by Journal of Medical Hypotheses in May 2012: vol 78 (5): p626-31

Epub: 22nd February 2012

Source:  Center for Brain and Cognition, University of California, McGill Hall, 9500 Gilman Dr. M/C 0109, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92093, United States.

Available here

Abstract:

Between the two extreme ends of human sexuality – male and female – lie a poorly understood and poorly studied spectrum of ambiguously defined sexual identities that are very much a part of the human condition but defy rigid classification. “Bigender” [JE suspects they mean bi-gender rather than big-ender] is a recently formed sub-category of transgenderism, describing individuals who experience a blending or alternation of gender states. While recognized nominally by the APA, no scientific work to our knowledge has addressed this fascinating condition, or proposed any physiological basis for it. In addition, the alternation aspect has not been proposed as a nosological entity distinct from blending. We present descriptive data suggesting that many bigender individuals experience an involuntary switching of gender states without any amnesia for either state. In addition, similar to transsexual individuals, the majority of bigender individuals experience phantom breasts or genitalia corresponding to the non-biologic gender when they are in a trans-gender state. Finally, our survey found decreased lateralization of handedness in the bigender community. These observations suggest a biologic basis of bigenderism and lead us to propose a novel gender condition, “alternating gender incongruity” (AGI). We hypothesize that AGI may be related to an unusual degree or depth of hemispheric switching and corresponding callosal suppression of sex appropriate body maps in parietal cortex- possibly the superior parietal lobule- and its reciprocal connections with the insula and hypothalamus. This is based on two lines of reasoning. First, bigender individuals in our survey sample reported an elevated rate of bipolar disorder, which has been linked to slowed hemispheric switching. We hypothesize that tracking the nasal cycle, rate of binocular rivalry, and other markers of hemispheric switching will reveal a physiological basis for AGI individuals’ subjective reports of gender switches. Switching may also trigger hormonal cascades, which we are currently exploring. Second, we base our hypotheses on ancient and modern associations between the left and right hemispheres and the male and female genders. By providing a case of sharp brain-sex shifts within individuals, we believe that the study of AGI could prove illuminating to scientific understanding of gender, body representation, and the nature of self.

[iii] APA = American Psychological Association.

The following quotations explain why the APA is not an ethical organisation. It has the same delusion of current UK Governments, that safeguarding or protection can be provided by the top-down implementation of rules and regulations. Further, it believes that a witness to another human being being tortured, can safeguard or protect that human being from too much suffering or trauma. The APA asserts that that judgment is possible…

There is no consideration of any ethical considerations in researching intimate details of another human being’s life, in this research, as it is considered scientific and on the level of biology.

Quoted from regx2 circulation list mail of 5th January 2010: ‘Ethics and being a Government lackey’: Ken Pope resignation letter

About the letter’s author:

Ken Pope is a US researcher who was the chair of the American Psychological Associations’s Ethics committee and a fellow of that organization. He resigned last year after 29 years in APA over the issue of the practitioners right to principled non compliance with the law. He resigned because the APA placed adherence to the law above ethical principles.

The context for the letter

The following is excerpted from a letter which was sent by Ken Pope to APA President Alan Kazdin via FedEx on February 6, 2008, and to members of the APA Council of Representatives via the Council listserv Thursday morning, February 7:

Extracts (the full letter is available here)

Dear Alan,

With sadness I write to resign from the American Psychological Association. My respect and affection for the members, along with my 29 year history with APA, make this a hard and reluctant step. Chairing the Ethics Committee, holding fellow status in 9 divisions, and receiving the APA Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Service, the Division 12 Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Clinical Psychology, and the Division 42 Award for Mentoring reflect a few chapters in my APA history.

I respectfully disagree with decisive changes that APA has made in its ethical stance during the past 6+ years. These changes moved APA far from its ethical foundation, historic traditions, and basic values, and beyond what I can in good conscience support with my membership.

I would like to note two examples of disagreement. First, the years since 9-11 brought concern over psychologists’ work that affects detainees. APA has stressed psychologists’ “vital role” regarding “the use of ethical interrogations to safeguard the welfare of detainees” and ways that psychologists “help advance the cause of detainee welfare and humane treatment.” Yet in its ethics code, APA chose not to recognize any humane treatment requirements governing psychologists’ work with detainees as enforceable standards.

Historically, when concerns arose about the impact of psychologists’ behavior on groups at risk, APA moved decisively to create specific requirements and limitations in the ethics code’s enforceable standards. These groups included persons “for whom testing is mandated by law or governmental regulations,” “persons with a questionable capacity to consent,” research participants, “subordinates,” clients, students, supervisees, and employees. Facing concerns about the impact of psychologists’ behavior on research animals, for example, APA created an enforceable standard supporting the “humane treatment” of laboratory animals. But for detainees, APA chose not to adopt any enforceable standards in the ethics code mandating humane treatment.

The code’s numbered ethical standards “set forth enforceable rules of conduct.” The code emphasizes that although other code sections should be given consideration, even the code’s “Preamble and General Principles are not themselves enforceable rules…” APA’s decision to adopt an enforceable standard regarding “humane treatment” of animals but not to adopt an enforceable standard regarding “humane treatment” of detainees turns APA away from its ethical foundation, historic traditions, and basic values that should endure even in the midst of post-9-11 risks and realities.

My second area of disagreement concerns the ethics code that Council adopted August 21, 2002 (which took effect June 1, 2003). The 2002 code echoes the earlier code in setting forth the following enforceable standard: “If psychologists’ ethical responsibilities conflict with law, regulations, or other governing legal authority, psychologists make known their commitment to the Ethics Code and take steps to resolve the conflict.” But the 2002 code created a new enforceable standard: “If the conflict is unresolvable via such means, psychologists may adhere to the requirements of the law, regulations, or other governing legal authority” (Standard 1.02).

This new enforceable standard, in my opinion, contradicts one of the essential ethical values voiced in the Nuremberg trials. Even in light of the post-9-11 historical context and challenges, I believe we can never abandon the fundamental ethical value affirmed at Nuremberg.

An attempt to modify Standard 1.02 was placed only in the nonenforceable section. In the 5 years since creating this new enforceable ethical standard in a sharp break with the past, APA chose to make no qualifications, restrictions, or other modifications to Standard 1.02 in the code’s enforceable section.

The code’s 89 enforceable standards identify diverse ethical responsibilities, some representing the profession’s deepest values. The code recognizes that these ethical values can stand in stark, irreconcilable conflict (no matter what steps the psychologist takes to resolve the conflict) with a regulation, a law, or governing legal authority. APA’s creation of an enforceable standard allowing psychologists to violate these fundamental ethical responsibilities in favor of following a regulation, a law, or a governing legal authority clashes with its ethical foundation, historic traditions, and basic values.

Such changes in APA’s approach to its enforceable ethical standards over the past 6+ years embrace issues of enormous complexity and conflicting values. I’ve tried during these years to read as widely and carefully as possible in these diverse areas, comparing secondary sources to primary sources and evaluating claims in light of evidence. On one narrow topic, for example, I’ve read and maintained an archive of citations of over 220 published works (including those from APA) that specifically address the controversy over physicians and psychologists participating in the planning and implementation of detainee interrogations. (The archive is at :
<http://kspope.com/interrogation/index.php>).

Over the decades I’ve written articles and books examining APA’s earliest discussions about ethical responsibilities and accountability, the choice to create an ethics code, the innovative methods used to create a unique code, the revisions and controversies over the years, and APA members’ ethical views, dilemmas, and behavior. During the code’s distinguished history, it has set forth APA’s essential ethics and the standards to which members agree to hold themselves accountable through the Ethics Committee’s formal enforcement. For me, the two examples above represent defining issues for APA. Steps that APA has taken or avoided since 9-11 mark a sharp shift in values and direction.

I respectfully disagree with these changes; I am skeptical that they will work as intended; and I believe that they may lead to far-reaching unintended consequences.

These changes take APA so far away from its ethical foundation, historic traditions, and basic values, and from my own personal and professional view of our responsibilities, that I cannot support them with my membership. In light of my respectful disagreement with APA about these fundamental changes, it is with great sadness and regret that I resign my membership.

Sincerely,

Ken

Kenneth S. Pope, Ph.D., ABPP

[iv] Original source available here:

Alternating Gender Incongruity’ Causes Rapid Shifts Of Gender, Scientist Claims: Scientific American

By Gary Stix

Posted: 20th April 2012

Available here  

Quotes from the article:

A graduate student of famed neuroscientist Vilayanur S. Ramachandran has found a group of men and women who report that their sexual identity can switch involuntarily to that of the opposite sex and back again. The transgender metamorphosis, these people assert, can occur several times a day and at inopportune moments. It is also accompanied by the sensation of phantom breasts or genitalia of the non-biological sex.

– Ramachandran’s has a long-standing fascination with the study of body image and how it contributes to a basic sense of the self, work that has included investigations into the phantom limbs of amputees.

– The preliminary study by Laura Case, Ramachandran’s student, raises the prospect of a new category of transgenderism. “Alternating gender incongruity (AGI),” the neuropsychiatric term the researchers have tentatively proposed, describes the involuntary change of gender identity, along with perceived phantom sex characteristics, a tendency toward ambidexterity and bipolar disorder, all signs that suggest a biological basis for AGI. (A related term, bigender, defined as blending or alternating gender states, precedes AGI.)

A paper published in the April issue of the journal Medical Hypotheses—“Alternating gender incongruity: A new neuropsychiatric syndrome providing insight into the dynamic plasticity of brain-sex”— (see endnote ii) found 32 respondents (11 anatomically female) on an online bigender forum that hosts about 600. Average age was 29. About a third of the respondents said that gender switching was predictable. A majority said they switched weekly and 14 said the transformation occurred once or more a day.

Some quotes from the paper:

—“I still have the same values and beliefs, but a change in gender is really a change in the filter through which I interact with the world and through which it interacts with me.”

—“If I’m in male mode and I see someone crying, I’ll think more along the lines of ‘Man up… while if I’m in girl mode I’ll think more long the lines of ‘Oh sweety!’”

—“I sometimes wake up thinking I have a penis,” says one female respondent, “or that I have no breasts…I usually end up in tears and I can’t get out of bed because once I get up I’ll know for sure it’s not really true and it’s just my mind playing tricks on me, so I just lie there and cry. It’s strange though because I normally don’t even want to have a penis.”

Medical Hypotheses is a controversial journal—it once published an article on the nature of navel lint—and only adopted a peer review system in 2010. Yet, Ramachandran, Nobelist Arvid Carlsson and other science luminaries have served on its editorial board because of its stated goal of foraging for “radical new ideas and speculations.” Ramachandran published previously in the journal on phantom genitalia after sex-change surgery.

The “more research needed” refrain certainly applies to the AGI work, a concession the investigators themselves make. “These results are suggestive but not conclusive,” Ramachandran says. “We need to rule out the possibility that this is just a variant of dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) or the subjects are simply “role–playing.” Without the “smoking gun”- physical evidence in the form of fluctuating hormone levels or brain imaging data – we don’t know what we are dealing with. Its something we are currently working on.”

At the Cognitive Neuroscience Society meeting in early April, Case presented preliminary research that one nominal AGI subject who was anatomically male performed differently on cognitive tests depending on his gender state: when male, he did better at a targeting task (throwing darts) and he had a superior score on a verbal fluency test after a switch to the female state. It was inconclusive whether testosterone levels fluctuated with the change in sexual identity.

Case is now preparing to move ahead with a larger study of forum members in which she will conduct neuropsychological testing by telephone and examine hormone levels with saliva samples sent through the mail. The researchers are not ready yet to do brain imaging studies on the group, which is scattered throughout the country. Ultimately, that line of research would examine patterns of activity within each brain hemisphere that differ between sexes.

If the researchers’ hypothesis holds, it would furnish an increasingly nuanced definition of sexuality. The Neuroskeptic blog, which wrote about the study, wondered what would have happened to the little-known bigenders before the advent of the term. The anonymous blogger wrote: “Would they have been identified as transgender? Maybe… but maybe not. Would they have had any label at all?”

The scientists expect that AGI could eventually be classified as a neuropsychiatric condition, which would point immediately to the deeper question of “the extent to which each of us is a multiplicity of genders, or even persons, co-existing in harmony.” If this research succeeds, AGI could ultimately help provide a biological rationale for the protean nature of the self.

[v] Quotes from:

‘Our gender shifts by the hour': Incredible claim of group who suffer from ‘phantom genitalia': By TOM GARDNER : 20th April 2012: Daily Mail: available here

Quote from the article

Claims: Professor Vilayanur S Ramachandran says he has discovered a new gender category

Scientist claim to have discovered a new gender of human which is neither male nor female.

It leaves those with the condition sensing ‘phantom genitalia’ of the opposite sex.

A group of people with the previously undiagnosed ‘alternating gender incongruity’ (AGI) said they can switch involuntarily from male to female and vice versa instantly.

‘The majority of bigender individuals experience phantom breasts or genitalia corresponding to the non-biologic gender when they are in a trans-gender state’, according to the astonishing survey by a respected neuroscientist.

Professor Vilayanur Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California, San Diego, and student Laura Case, interviewed 32 people from an online bi-gender forum for their study.

One of those affected by the condition told researchers: ‘If I’m in male mode and I see someone crying, I’ll think more along the lines of “Man up…” while if I’m in girl mode I’ll think more long the lines of “Oh sweety,”’ according to the Huffington Post.

Another said: ’I sometimes wake up thinking I have a penis,’ says one female respondent, ‘or that I have no breasts.

‘I usually end up in tears and I can’t get out of bed because once I get up I’ll know for sure it’s not really true and it’s just my mind playing tricks on me, so I just lie there and cry.

‘It’s strange though because I normally don’t even want to have a penis.’

Of those surveyed – 11 of whom were women, 21 men – about a third said that gender switching was predictable.

A majority said they switched weekly and 14 said the transformation occurred once or more a day.

Sensations: Those who are affected by the condition say they experience phantom breasts or genitalia corresponding to the non-biologic gender

The authors said their preliminary study found that ‘between the two extreme ends of human sexuality – male and female – lie a poorly understood and poorly studied spectrum of ambiguously defined sexual identities that are very much a part of the human condition but defy rigid classification’.

Dr Ramachandran told the Huffington Post: ‘These results are suggestive but not conclusive.

‘We need to rule out the possibility that this is just a variant of dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder) or the subjects are simply “role–playing”.

‘Without the “smoking gun”- physical evidence in the form of fluctuating hormone levels or brain imaging data – we don’t know what we are dealing with.

‘It’s something we are currently working on.’

The study also found those with AGI had a tendency toward ambidexterity and bipolar disorder, which scientists believes points to a biological basis.

Researchers hope to begin exploring if the condition manifests itself with and increase or falling in hormones like testosterone.

Evidence of this ‘blending or alternation of gender states’ was published this month in the Medical Hypotheses journal entitled: ‘Alternating gender incongruity: A new neuropsychiatric syndrome providing insight into the dynamic plasticity of brain-sex’.

The scientists are pushing for the new condition to be recognised as a new category of transgender or neuropsychiatric condition, but admitted that more research was needed.

Dr Ramachandran is well known for studying the more bizarre area’s of the human mind.

He previously explored synaesthesia, an strange condition in which people’s senses become intermingled.

Some people can taste words. Others can hear colours and feel sounds. It affects millions all around the world.

Read more here

Picture captions (Pictures available here  )

a)  Claims: Professor Vilayanur S Ramachandran says he has discovered a new gender category

[vi] Related articles, mainly on medical or social aspects of transgender, from the Daily Mail:

Transgender lessons for pupils aged five: Classes will ‘overload children with adult issues’, say critics

LAPD to give transgender convicts their own wing in women’s jail (and cops told don’t call them sir or ma’am)

‘It’s hard to look female': Boom in feminisation surgery as transgender women put the finishing touch on their sex changes

‘When kids said I was a boy it made me sad': Transgender eight-year-old reveals why she’s much happier living as a GIRL