Brain sex: The jury is still out—but does it matter?

Early this morning, Think Progress (a “progressive” news outlet) posted on Facebook what was meant to be a provocative pull-quote from its latest trans-kid piece by reliable journalist propagandist Zack Ford, “It Takes A Village To Bully A Transgender Kindergartner”:

And what exactly is the “need” of this child? A boy in kindergarten would like to be accepted as “girl”? Well, as a woman, I take offense at any boy who is pretending to share my gender when he quite clearly NEVER can nor ever will. … He is not. He never can be.”

The commenter quoted is, of course, a woman (a bigoted bully, as seen through Ford’s tunnel-vision lens) who questioned the parents’ need to socially transition their 5-year-old child. The child’s transgender status has resulted in a giant kerfuffle as result of the Minnesota school’s dilemma in deciding what to do to accommodate the kindergartner.  Zack Ford paints anyone who questions the wisdom of a 5-year-old boy being assured he is really a girl as an ignorant transphobe, a bigot supported only by right-wing conservative groups.

Zack Ford Facebook
In this post, I’m not going to be writing about the fact that it isn’t just conservatives who question the trans-kid trend (obvious to anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis, or for that matter, the increasing number of blogs by left wing parents, professionals, and feminists. Check out my blogroll). Nor will I be dissecting in detail this “news” article set out as bait on the Think Progress Facebook page to incite the reliable progressive hordes.

Instead, my interest in Ford’s latest bit of Newspeak revolves around the huge number (easily 10-1) of reader comments on that Facebook post, which can be paraphrased as follows:

You stupid bigots! Go read up on the science of gender identity. Gender identity is proven, settled brain science. Little kids KNOW from the time they’re born what sex they are. Plus intersex. No one “chooses” to be transgender, they’re born that way.

 I’ve spent thousands of hours marinating in gender dogma and research studies, both pro- and con-, re: “innate gender identity.” So while it’s no surprise to me to see some people spouting as FACT the totally unproven hypothesis that gender identity is set in stone at birth, what does surprise me is the sheer numbers who have bought what, at best, is a tenuous theory, and who have thereby completely shut down even a modicum of critical thinking.

Of course, who can blame well intentioned progressives? They’re fed bittersweet mouthfuls of Innate Gender Identity gruel every single day not only by the media, but even by the President of the United States, who via his Department of Justice, baldly asserts on line 36 of the complaint against the state of North Carolina:

36. Gender identity is innate and external efforts to change a person’s gender identity can be harmful to a person’s health and well-being.

DOJ complaint

US v. North Carolina

(And it’s not just these few lines. The entire complaint reads like boilerplate trans-activist dogma, and interested readers are urged to take a look at the rest of this document).

This increasingly unchallengeable notion that gender identity, aka “brain sex,” is innate, hard-wired at birth, and thus absolutely unchangeable (despite the efforts of us horrible bigoted parents who are rooting for our kids to commit suicide) means, to the masses who now parrot it like the top graduates of a Maoist Re-Education Camp: Every toddler who claims to be the opposite sex must be agreed with by every adult who comes in contact with the child. Innate gender identity is the ironclad reason why no one is supposed to question the sudden flood of “trans kids” we hear about on a daily basis.

Given the gravity of all this—that little kids are now being ushered aboard a train that will lead inexorably from puberty blockers to cross-sex hormones (with concomitant irreversible changes) in 100% of reported cases–these brain sex/innate gender identity claims can’t just be ignored and dismissed. Not when so many  people—more every day—have swallowed them whole.

Here’s the thing. There is some research that supports a role for biological, genetic, or physiological factors in gender dysphoria. And as much as people on “my side” of this argument (the argument being: should children be “transitioned” to the opposite sex on their own say-so?) would like to simply dismiss any and all evidence for biological aspects of things like gender dysphoria, it’s not that simple.

Shunning entire lines of research because we are made uncomfortable by the findings should not be the way of truth seekers. If opening our minds to their claims changes our position, then so be it. As medical historian and intersex-rights activist Alice Dreger says in her book Galileo’s Middle Finger which chronicles (among other things) the chilling effect of activism on scientific inquiry,

[it is] a rare trait in activists: a belief in evidence even when it challenge[s] our political goals.

Human beings, in general, do not appreciate having their cherished ideas challenged. Political viewpoints tend to be set in stone, with any wavering seen by one’s allies as a dangerous and slippery slope. Evidence contrary to the ideological convictions of either side is taken as an existential threat to the fundamental integrity of the position.

For instance, people (like me) who support a woman’s right to abortion often avoid  acknowledging the fact that a fetus is not just an amorphous mass of cells, but a proto-human being. Conversely, anti-abortion advocates give short shrift to arguments about a pregnant woman’s agency over her body, and the critical importance of a baby coming into the world to a parent who is ready–and can financially afford–to raise the child.

The battle lines dividing those who support the idea that self/parent/activist-identified “trans” kids should be transitioned as young as possible, vs. those who disagree (like me) are drawn across a long-contested and hardened piece of ground: nature vs. nurture. And the opposing combatants are highly reluctant to give even an inch on the matter.

As you’ll see, this post is going to argue not for a détente or concession of territory, but rather, for a willingness of “my side”—the gender critics–to consider the evidence marshaled by our detractors, and then ponder whether it changes your mind. I’m only going to touch on a few areas of research typically used by the trans activist side; if you’re interested, you’ll want to spend some delving time yourself.

Let me cut to the punchline right now: Speaking for myself, weighing the claims (and the research they base it on) of the activists who want to transition children as early as possible has actually strengthened my conviction that medical transition should be an adults-only decision, if made at all. The only thing I can say I might have shifted my opinion on after endless investigation is this: There may be a very small (it’s always been very small) number of people for whom medical intervention is the only way they can live a happy life. I don’t believe we should prohibit these interventions for such people as adults. I still do not believe, weighing up all the evidence, that we should be tampering with the bodies of young people who may very well grow up to be happy without the expensive, drastic, and irreversible meddling of the gender-soaked medical and psychiatric professions. Instead, as I harp on constantly, let’s celebrate and support gender defiance in young people.

So let’s start with the obvious. [Note to regular readers: The information in the next couple of paragraphs is well known to you, but please stick with me, because I’m going to cover some research I haven’t formerly written about]. If gender identity is “innate” how come so many gender dysphoric youngsters change their minds?

4thWaveNow is chock-a-block with posts and research studies—as well as personal narratives from formerly trans-identified people who changed their minds, as well as others who experienced and resolved severe gender dysphoria in childhood—supporting the fact that many children outgrow their dysphoria and grow up to be adults happy to have bodies and brains that have not been tampered with by the medical and psychiatric professions. A 2008 meta-study by Korte et al sums it up:

Multiple longitudinal studies provide evidence that gender-atypical behavior in childhood often leads to a homosexual orientation in adulthood, but only in 2.5% to 20% of cases to a persistent gender identity disorder. Even among children who manifest a major degree of discomfort with their own sex, including an aversion to their own genitalia (GID in the strict sense), only a minority go on to an irreversible development of transsexualism.

Because so many trans activists claim that intensity of discomfort with one’s body parts is some irrefutable sign of “true transgender,” or that prior researchers didn’t adequately differentiate between “true trans kids” and the merely “gender nonconforming,” I’m going to emphasize this bit of the above quote:

even among children who manifest a major degree of discomfort with their own sex, including an aversion to their own genitalia.

Even WPATH—World Professional Association for Transgender Health—whose clinician-activists spend a good deal of time promoting younger and younger ages for “transition,” acknowledges on page 12 of its Standards of Care that most trans-identified kids grow out of it:

In most children, gender dysphoria will disappear before, or early in, puberty.

An earlier online version of  the WPATH SOC-7 cited specific numbers—greater than 80%–and included research citations, but this more specific information, oddly enough, has disappeared. But this 2014 study remembers:

…as the World Professional Association for Transgender Health notes in their latest Standards of Care, gender dysphoria in childhood does not inevitably continue into adulthood, and only 6 to 23 percent of boys and 12 to 27 percent of girls treated in gender clinics showed persistence of their gender dysphoria into adulthood.

Ok. So most kids grow out of gender dysphoria. But that fact doesn’t by itself dispense with biological evidence for gender dysphoria, whether or not it persists.

Traditionally, feminists have staked their claim on the “nurture” side of the “gender identity is innate” argument, with little acknowledgement of the findings in biology and neuroscience that hint at any real difference between male and female brain physiology.  And there is plenty of hard science bolstering this nurture-based stance: recent MRI studies have mostly corroborated the view that male/female brains are more alike than different, which leads to the conclusion that sex-role stereotyped behaviors are primarily the result of socialization, as Cordelia Fine laid out in her “Delusions of Gender.”


Trans activists and the clinicians who (let’s face it) follow their lead obviously point to other studies of adult transgender people which support the idea that their brains are hard-wired to be closer to the sex they “identify” with. Some of these studies do offer some evidence for sex differentiation in the brain. But imaging studies of adult brains are pretty much impossible to control, because all adults have had life experiences and social influences (not to mention possible cross-sex hormone treatments in some cases) which, owing to neuroplasticity, will of course have an impact on brain structure.

But even in the (primarily MRI) studies of adult brains that are better executed and controlled, it turns out the fundamental difference in these studied brains is not so much a matter of the subjects’ gender identity but of their sexual preference, as sexologist James Cantor draws attention to in a blog post surveying research studies frequently cited to prove a transsexual brain:

 In Scientific American Mind, journalist Francine Russo takes on a fascinating research question: “Is there something unique about the transgender brain?” she reviews some of the relevant brain research on transsexuals and concludes that transgenderism is indeed a phenomenon of the brain.  Although I agree with Russo that transgenderism is a phenomenon of the brain, I believe Russo over-focused on gender identity, which led her away from the better explanation of the data:

These brain scans don’t reflect gender identity, they reflect sexual orientation.

Cantor’s post, Russo’s Scientific American piece, and the cited research studies are all well worth reading.

There is some other research I find compelling: studies of prenatal hormone levels—specifically, testosterone—and their influence on sex-stereotyped behaviors and other characteristics in children.

A couple of years ago, Brynn Tannehill, a trans activist-journalist, posted a list of what Tannehill obviously considered to be airtight studies,  many of them revolving around prenatal hormones,  in support of innate gender identity . But are they airtight?

First, Tannehill conveniently neglects to mention that many of the cited studies (surprise, surprise) also show a link between prenatal testosterone levels and rate of homosexuality—in other words, hormone levels may have some impact on same-sex attraction.

But, more importantly, it turns out that several of the researchers linked by Tannehill have shown that the impact of hormones on both sexual identity and gender identity, while existing, is small. For example, Melissa Hines, in a 2006 paper, “Prenatal testosterone and gender-related behaviour, looked at several studies and concluded that

 Levels of prenatal testosterone predict levels of sex-typed postnatal childhood play behavior.

 Like what kinds of play behavior?

Research on girls and women with CAH has provided some support for the hypothesized influence of testosterone on human behavioural development. Girls with CAH show increased male-typical play behaviour, including increased preferences for toys that are usually chosen by boys, such as vehicles and weapons, increased preferences for boys as playmates and increased interest in rough-and-tumble play.

 Does this preference for rough-and-tumble, stereotypical “boy” play mean these kids are transgender?

Although there are fewer studies relating prenatal testosterone levels to postnatal sexual orientation and core gender identity, there is also some evidence, particularly from women with CAH or CAIS, that testosterone influences these psychosexual outcomes as well. However, these influences are substantially smaller than those on childhood play behaviour.





Prenatal testosterone levels are only a small factor in later sexual orientation and gender identity. What they are more predictive of is –wait for it—preference for non-sex-stereotyped activities! In other words: gender nonconformity (or my preferred term: gender defiance).

So some children play with stereotypically opposite-sex toys, prefer the hairstyles and activities of the opposite sex, and prefer the company of children of the opposite sex. Is it possible these preferences are at least partially “hard-wired” due to the effect of androgens on their brains? Sure. Does it follow that this means they are the opposite sex? Of course not. Nor does it necessarily mean they will grow up to be same-sex attracted, either (as I’m sure many heterosexual women who were tomboys can attest).

Let’s put a finer point on it: while some studies show that prenatal hormone levels could contribute to sex-stereotyped differences in human behaviors and, yes, sense of self, acknowledging these differences doesn’t lead to the conclusion that trans activists reach: If a child is born with a set of proclivities and tendencies more typical of the opposite sex, this means they ARE the opposite sex and medical and chemical alteration of the body is fully justified and should be pursued as soon as possible. 

What else does biological or genetic research show? In an earlier post, I argued that the only way to even begin to prove an innate male or female brain would be to scan a huge number of identical-twin newborns (before they had a chance to have any “nurture” influence—i.e., no social experiences), separate the twins at birth, then compare those brains later when the children grew up, some of whom would no doubt decide to undergo transition to the opposite sex.

For ethical reasons, this sort of research would be pretty much impossible (you can’t forcibly separate twins at birth and raise them separately, and you can’t control how kids are raised by dictating to parents how to raise them, even if you could). But an international team of researchers has looked at twins and the prevalence of gender dysphoria/transsexualism in a meta-analysis published in 2012, “Gender Identity Disorder in Twins: A Review of the Case Report Literature.”  (The full study is behind a paywall.)

Using a combination of their own clinic records and an exhaustive search of the literature, they examined a total or 44 twins of which at least one twin had gender identity disorder (GID)—the diagnostic term at the time, since replaced with “gender dysphoria” (GD). Of these, 23 were identical (monozygotic/MZ). The remainder were fraternal (dizygotic/DZ).

What were their findings?

 Nine (39.1%) of the 23 MZ [identical] female and male twins were found to be concordant for GID. In contrast, none of the 21 DZ [fraternal] twin pairs were concordant for GID.

This was a statistically significant difference, leading to the conclusion that “there is a role for genetic factors in the development of GID.” That difference in rate of gender dysphoria in identical twins matters. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that it was still a minority (39.1%) of identical twins who were both gender dysphoric.

Twin studies
In their discussion of their findings, the authors (like all truth-seeking scientists who submit their work to peer review) acknowledge that reality is nuanced:

The higher concordance for GID in MZ than in DZ twins is consistent with a genetic influence on its genesis although shared and nonshared environmental factors cannot be ruled out. Indeed, from these case reports, very little is known about the “equal environments assumption,” that is, the assumption that MZ twins are not treated more similarly than DZ twins in ways that might affect their gender identity.

In other words—“nature” appears to be a factor, but we can’t rule out nurture. ”Influence” is not causality.

And of even greater interest: In the penultimate paragraph of the discussion, we find this gem:

In the studies on genetics and sexual orientation, a higher concordance for homosexuality has been found in MZ versus vs. DZ twins. Using family methodology, there is also evidence for genetic influences [38]. In the reviewed case studies of twins with GID, from those whose sexual orientation is known, all, with the exception of Green [25], were attracted to their biological sex and nearly 50% of the non-GID twins were also homosexual, reflecting a higher percentage than found in the general population [39]. In all the cases reported to be concordant for GID, there was also concordance for sexual orientation.

Here we have it again. As Cantor noted, as I have noted, as the Dutch pioneers of pediatric transition have noted, this study finds—as nearly every study over decades has found: Whatever the precise contributions of nature v. nurture that leads to gender dysphoria or opposite-sex identification, a huge majority (if not 100%) of the studied individuals exhibit same-sex attraction by adolescence or adulthood.

I’ll hammer it home again: The constantly repeated refrain by trans activists that gender identity has “nothing to do with sexual orientation” is directly refuted in every study, as well as many of the personal accounts by trans-identified people splattered all over the media.

 So, what have we learned from looking at a few studies aiming to tease apart the nature-nurture question about gender dysphoria/opposite-sex identification?

  • there is sparse evidence of an innate male or female brain, and what differences there may be are mitigated and influenced by later life experiences. If anything, brain differences seem to indicate variations in sexual preference, not intrinsic gender identity; and
  • prenatal hormones—specifically, testosterone—have an effect, on….gender nonconforming behaviors in childhood. They have a contributing, but minor, effect on later homosexuality and gender identity; and
  • in general, there is evidence for both biological and non-biological (environmental-social) contributions to the development of gender dysphoria.

For me, it all boils down to this: Nature v. nurture is a false dichotomy. We are all the result of our genetic inheritance, hormonal influences, and how we were brought up and continue to live—which also includes both post-natal physiological influences (e.g., the various chemicals we imbibe in our hyper-industrialized world in addition to drugs and hormones we deliberately take in), as well as what we learn and experience over the course of our lifetimes.

In the end, the squabbling over nature v. nurture is a non-issue. What matters is protecting kids from the—however well intentioned—meddling of adults in children’s bodily and psychological integrity.  Whatever the relative contributions of nature and nurture to a child’s sense of self and ultimate decisions, adults should protect children from undergoing interventions that close off future possibilities.

Proponents of medical transition for children are not champions of gender nonconformity. If they were, as I’ve said many times, they would be celebrating it in children and instead of agreeing with the magical thinking of a child that this means they are “born in the wrong body,” they’d be helping these kids realize they are wonderful and unique examples of their natal sex. A healthy, fully functioning body attached to a brain is an integrated whole with that brain. It is an existential reality, no more “wrong” than the body of a person who demonstrates more sex-stereotyped typicality. By promoting the view that research evidence pointing to certain sex-stereotyped behaviors as having a biological component (however small) means kids’ bodies can be “wrong,” they are using science to limit the possibilities for children.

Puberty blockers, cross sex hormones, and surgeries for children and young people permanently limit their options. Options like: sexual experiences in an unaltered, non-surgically-tinkered-with body. Options like: Figuring out your sexual orientation, especially if you’re gay or lesbian and won’t, on average, come to terms with that fully until early adulthood. Options like: Being a role model for other kids that boys and girls can be and do or be anything, regardless of whether they fit into sex-stereotyped-typical behaviors and appearances.

Yes, a person who later decides to “transition,” who undergoes hormone treatments or surgeries after puberty may not “pass” as well as a someone who had natural puberty curtailed (and was incidentally permanently sterilized in the process). But the Cult of Passing as the opposite sex should be challenged—especially since those same trans activists who worry so much about “passing” (in perhaps their most obvious self-undermining argument) want us to also believe (for instance) that a “penis can be female.” To play Devil’s Advocate with the trans activists, if a boy’s penis can be female, you have no business promoting medical transition for anyone’s child.

Puberty blocking is not a benign intervention. While I’ll grant that, if stopped in time, GnRh agonists are “reversible” (as in, they will not prevent natural puberty), the psychological and neurological effects of delaying natural puberty cannot be seen by any thinking person as “fully reversible.” Neither is social transition “fully reversible,” for that matter. You can’t “reverse” a childhood spent cementing the idea that biological sex can be changed by a society bent on denying the existential reality of sexual dimorphism. You can’t “reverse” a message, repeated over and over to a child by trusted adults that there is something fundamentally wrong with his or her body that must be corrected.

Regarding nature-v-nurture?  Here’s what I’d say to my fellow kid transition critics:  Don’t dismiss the stuff from the “nature” side because you’ve pre-decided that any science supporting an innate contribution to gender dysphoria is a priori bunk and it’s all nurture/socialization.

In my opinion, taking seriously the dogma of the other side, examining it closely, and then coming to well-thought-out, nuanced conclusions is a much stronger place to operate from than dismissing out of hand any kernel of truth “they” might be obsessing over. That’s not truth seeking; that’s just being close-minded in service of an impenetrable ideology.

Nature-nurture—it’s both. Just like our thought-generating brains are indivisible from the bodies they’re a part of.

Your thoughts?

37 thoughts on “Brain sex: The jury is still out—but does it matter?

  1. It’s funny they portray their opponents as fundies, because the trans lobby sounds like they’re Bible thumpers. GOD MADE MEN AND WOMEN DIFFERENTLY SO THEY CAN FULFILL THEIR ROLES IN PROCREATION! and so on. It’s just the same old genderism with different terms.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know what you mean about portraying anyone who questions the trans agenda as a fundy Christian or a political right winger. I’m an atheist, a liberal and see science as the most important set of intellectual procedures and real world improvements ever developed by humans.

      It is my skepticism and need for actual evidence that makes me not willing to accept the claims I have seen up to this point that there are individuals who are either a man trapped in a woman’s body or a woman trapped in a man’s body. To me all the claims so far trace back to “muh feelz”. If I were to see unambiguous physical evidence, I would change my mind. I’ve done it on other issues before (I was with Greenpeace when they were campaigning against the hunting of endangered whales. When they started their “frankefoods” campaign, I stopped contributing)

      One piece of evidence that makes me extremely suspicious that transgenderism is a social contagion rather than a physical condition is the fact that females claiming to be male have suddenly begun vastly outnumbering men who claim to be women. I remember in middle and high school a lot of girls were uncomfortable with their newly-womanly bodies. Some thought their boobs were too big/too small/too soon/too late. Our shapes changed much more drastically than boys. And our shapes changed quickly. I think a lot of girls I knew back then might have been seduced into thinking of themselves as boys as a distraction from their discomfort.

      Another piece of evidence that makes me suspicious there’s no physical basis is the fact that there are businesses that teach MTT how to walk, talk, dress and act to “pass”. Why would it be that girls and women pick up all these things without lessons, but these “really truly all my life a women” need remedial education?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for your time and care in research and pulling it into a cohesive overview of the brain and natal dynamics. Thank you for your nuanced interpretation and your admonition for those on your “side” (which includes me) to take an honest look at what authentic scientific studies are saying. I have been waiting for your next blog and this one is one I am going to re-post and highly recommend for all to understand what is happening to our children. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your work!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Comprehensive and in depth. The Trans arguments sound increasingly shrill as the arguments against it stack up. Your experience makes your argument extremely authentic. It is interesting those with the most and best to say receive so little media attention. Instead we have ‘older celebrities’ who were happy in themselves for years suddenly support this very youth driven populist transgender movement. Let fashion be fashion, question why it is so stressful to present as a boy or girl and the appearance stakes or so high, but stop medicalising our children.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Another trans meme that gets my teeth grinding is when they refer to their pre-annnounced trans-identity as “living a lie”.

      How is it a lie for a person with XY chromosomes and a penis to identify as a male? How is it that the 60+ percent of trans-identifying individuals who never have any surgery to conform to their claimed sex claiming to *be* the opposite sex “not a lie”?

      Not that I think there should be legally sanctioned discrimination in employment, housing, voting or any other citizenly rights if a man puts on a dress and says “Call Me Kate” (however it’s spelled). But demanding the rest of us go along, and punishing people who use the terms male and female, men and women, boys and girls, to describe individuals with specific genetic coding and genitalia – Not So Much.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. 4thwavenow, as a parent of an all-of-a-sudden older teen victim of trans-“science”, thank you so much for this thoughtful, well researched post. Please media and government officials, pay attention to why us parents are so very alarmed with this trend.

    Newer brain science tells us that the brain is not fully put together until about our mid-20s. The frontal lobes connect last….guess what our frontal lobes are in charge of? According to Frances E. Jensen in her book The Teenage Brain (2015), “frontal lobes are the seat of our ability to generate insight, judgment, abstraction, and planning. They are the source of…our ability to assess dangers and risk, so we use this area of the brain to choose a course of action wisely…..The college years are still a vulnerable period.”

    So I argue that even young adults are not yet old enough to make this long-term decision without a whole lot of careful weeding out of body image and mental health issues….let that teen impulsiveness die down first. So university officials, please pay attention too.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I empathise, riding a similar storm and seeing professional field. Quietly it is being dealt with as a cult and challenged but on an individual basis. Fear of accusations of transphobia silences many. We need more counter messages which simply pose difficult questions and role models who have ‘peaked’ and moved on. Media have a massive re to play, but we cannot expect integrity and honesty there, The Saville Enquiry taught us that. My advice, give it no oxygen, as long as no permanent change is being undertaken treat and think of it as fashion. If you detect unhappiness or anger as issues speak to your gp on that as a separate issue. But if you wait will likely burn out.


  5. I am a consevative on the “left” coast, and my 1yyear old daughter told us she is a boy. No exhibition of gender non-conformity. Except she is has been self conscious of her breast size. Oh, her best friend is a female that says she is a boy, too. We told her she is a girl and this is likely phase. She was influenced by media, I believe. Most people want her to run with is idea, without consider the teen brain.


    • As a lefty, with a relative who announced after a semester of college that she’s a boy, I offer my sympathy.

      I also noticed during an extended visit during the winter, absolutely no male behaviors, and lots of female ones (playing all day with infants and toddlers, barely even spoke to anyone else)

      Another part of the young brain so many people on the trans cheerleading squad ignore is how hard it is for a kid to say to parents,”I changed my mind”.

      I remember, after 2 years of violin lessons, how hard it was to say, “I don’t want to do it next year”.

      How much harder would this be if one is talking about “my real true identity”?


  6. Maybe it’s not nature vs nurture, but it’s certainly “hardwiring” vs neuroplasticity. That’s what I boil it down to.


  7. This is a really interesting post. I appreciate you discussing the biological explanations for why some people come to feel they are not the sex they were born and raised as. I also agree that it’s important not to dismiss information for ideological reasons, and I’m impressed to see you not fall into this trap.

    I do want to make a comment regarding the twin studies. My point is actually touched on in your excerpt from the paper. Identical twins are going to be the same sex; they’re also going to look very similar; people may get them confused, parents may dress them alike, and they are likely to be constantly compared to one another. And there is internal comparison as well. Fraternal twins can be different sexes, which makes for one large difference in both external and internal comparison. Thus, it’s not really surprising, at least not to me, that identical twins have a much higher rate of both twins being diagnosed with the same issue-in this case, GID-than do fraternal twins.

    It seems to me that in past decades, when young people were not “gender conforming” they were labelled by others as “gay” or “lesbian”; that labeling has somehow shifted to “trans.” When you keep hearing from others that you’re gay, it’s likely you’ll eventually internalize the label. This should be basic to anybody that’s taken an intro to soc class, and I imagine it’s taught in psych as well.

    I want to make another comment not directly related to this post, but I’m not sure where else to put it. I know GID used to be considered a mental illness in and of itself, though it was recently taken out of the DSM. One thing that differentiates GID from other mental illnesses is that it “appears” at very different parts of the lifespan. For example, most actual mental illnesses first become clear in a specific age range: young adult for schizophrenia, after a traumatic event for PTSD, beginning of puberty or end of high school for anorexia, late teens for binge eating and bulimia, etc. But with GID, we have men in their 60’s and 70’s saying they are dysphoric, as well as children as young as 5, preteens, teens, college students, etc. To me, this says gender dysphoria is not an organic feeling as much as a social phenomenon. Just twenty years ago, there were far fewer people in all of these age groups coming out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So many excellent points in your comment. Thank you! Especially appreciate your insight about identical twins. There is simply no way to separate what’s hard wired from what is experienced/conditioned, and as you say, it’s even more difficult with twins. Identical twins who were separated at birth and raised in very different environments, then studied for rate of gender dysphoria, might shed more light on the genetic aspect. But even in those cases, you wouldn’t be able to tease apart and control for social aspects and how they impact each child.


      • It seems to me that “transgenderism” in children does have a genetic factor: that of being related to parents who are willing to buy into non-stop unsupported media proselytization surrounding the issue, accept the advice of self-appointed experts, and are willing to believe that toddlers are able to distinguish between sex and gender (something the parents themselves appear to have great difficulty discerning).

        Liked by 1 person

    • It seems to me that in past decades, when young people were not “gender conforming” they were labelled by others as “gay” or “lesbian”; that labeling has somehow shifted to “trans.” When you keep hearing from others that you’re gay, it’s likely you’ll eventually internalize the label. This should be basic to anybody that’s taken an intro to soc class, and I imagine it’s taught in psych as well.

      It is basic to anyone who has ever studied history that historical speculation should be supported by evidence. Do you have any evidence for this theory?

      I find it very dubious. Identifying as lesbian or gay is a stage in recognising and accepting that one’s desires are directed towards members of one’s own sex. I cannot see that labelling a child or teenager lesbian or gay could affect that person’s sexual responses.

      Five or six decades ago, in Britain at least, it was certainly not usual for ‘gender-nonconforming’ children to be routinely labelled lesbian or gay. A girl was called a tomboy; a boy might be called a sissy. Sissy could carry the implication of homosexuality but it often simply meant ‘effeminate’, ‘girly’. I was a ‘gender-nonconforming’ little girl, but no one, not even the kids in the school playground, from whom I learned many rude words, called me a lez or a queer or any name of that kind. In fact, in fifties and sixties Britain, homosexuality was all but unmentionable in most sections of society. A phrase in common use among adults was ‘one of them‘, as in “Do you think he’s one of them?” This would be asked in a low tone, with emphasis.

      I developed into a ‘gender-nonconforming’ teenager, and then, in my mid-teens, I woke up to the realization that I was in love with another girl. No one ever told me I was a lesbian. I had to work it out for myself, with clues from books I’d read and hints from smutty jokes.

      My evidence is anecdotal, of course, but at least it is a first-hand account of relevant experience in past decades.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Artemisia,

        I actually first heard the theory related to how lesbian and gay people come to self-identify from a lesbian sociologist friend of mine. She explained it much better than I. For me, what she said immediately rang true to my own experience. I was often bullied at school and occasionally called “dyke” or it was inferred that I liked girls. I was always adamant this was not true. It wasn’t until my first year away from home, at a very liberal college with a large LGBT population that I started to seriously consider that I might be lesbian. I have read that, for some people anyway, one factor in coming out as same-sex attracted is being around other people who are gay/lesbian. For me, I started to see being lesbian as a viable possibility.

        There is the looking glass theory in sociology: we see ourselves as we think others see us, and I think, at some level, I internalized the negative comments about how I must be attracted to girls. I also got some positive feedback, in that, lesbian young women at my school thought I was same-sex oriented and were potentially interested in me, though again, I insisted I was straight. I have come to think the feedback of others, expressed in both words,and more furtive glances was internalized, though I don’t believe that is the only reason I identify as I do.

        Interestingly, when I first came out, I was immersed in the mainstream, biological thinking that being gay is something one is “born as.” I used different stories from my childhood to illustrate this point, though I was never fully convinced of them myself. I don’t think the above theory holds true for every gay or lesbian person, but I do think there is truth in it for some.

        There was a blog post linked to in the comments on this site by a detransitioned ftm who believed she was “socialized trans.” She described having people assume she must be trying to pass as a transman because of her appearance. This was before she ever decided she was trans. This story immediately made me think about my friend’s theory regarding how people come to a gay/lesbian identify and my own experiences.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This was a great, very thorough post. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if my lifelong “tomboyish” interests and behavior are due to having been exposed to more testosterone than usual while in utero, though I certainly never thought I were truly male or wanted to become a boy. Being raised as a person and not a collection of stereotypes also helped most mightily.

    I wish the mainstream media would report more things like this, instead of celebrating yet another “brave trans kid” or former gay or lesbian teen or twentysomething who all of a sudden transitions after a social media binge.


    • I wonder how I came to be a girl who loved science, science fiction, had endless fun with my own mini-electronics kit from Radio Shack & also loved miniskirts – and how my straight male hairdresser came to be… a straight male hairdresser.

      PS – been kissed by women a couple of times. It was flattering but didn’t change or even make me question for a moment my sexual orientation.

      Also have to say that I’ve noticed a big dif between gays and trans identifying individuals. In the 1980s-90s, when gay began coming out in numbers, but it was still dicey, at least a few of the people who were told “I’m gay” reacted with “I’m not surprised (often lifelong friends or siblings). Not everyone, but I can’t think of a gay person who came out in that time who didn’t have a singled “not surprised” response. Often the “not surprised” loved ones could point to specific behaviors/situations that supported their not being surprised. On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of trans individuals whose announcement blindsides loved ones.


  9. Really valuable analysis, 4thwave. Good for you. I do think there’s a genetic aspect in some of this, because my daughter’s interest in the more active kinds of toys and rough and tumble behavior appears to be innate, and certainly was expressed at a very early age. My question is in the modern interp of these behaviors (or the opposite type, for natal males) as defacto trans signals that need medical treatment.

    I can’t for the life of me understand why so many transactivists are intent on ‘supporting’ this wrongbody interp rather than admitting that these kinds of choices are indicative of PERSONALITY expression rather than an organic disease state. (Of course they’re now naming it a ‘normal variation’ but in that case, insurers shouldn’t be expected to pay for a ‘fix,’ right? the goalposts keep shifting.)

    We’ve all got our share of genetic stuff. I say … let it fly, you know? If society could figure out how to deal better with ‘girl with shaved head’ or ‘boy in a dress,’ these harmful body modifications would seem less desirable/urgent/necessary. Kids with deep-seated gender-related dysphoria (which seems less and less a component of the quick ‘transkid’ diagnoses) could be treated in a manner similar to those who have anorexia or body integrity identity disorders of other kinds.

    Just more reinforcement of the philosophy of letting kids express how they will, but not agreeing that this means they need fixing. thanks for the research; very helpful.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I totally get what you’re saying. As a very young child, I was crazy about fashion – miniskirts, makeup, perfume. But I also loved science, SF & my Radio Shack electronics kit. My oldest boy cousin played with dolls – and also played football.

      Maybe if we want to limit the harmful body modifications, perhaps we should react with horror when a girl shaves her head or a boy wears a dress. If they’re trying to get a rise out of people by doing these things, perhaps they get more extreme when a reaction is not forthcoming. Sort of reverse psychology…

      Liked by 1 person

  10. From what I can gather from the article, the kindergartner in the story started out as “gender nonconforming” and was bullied because of it. Maybe if the school had been more accepting of this “princess boy”, the child (or the parents) may have left well enough alone instead of proceeding with a full social transition at the ripe old age of five.

    Liked by 4 people

    • As I harp on over and over again, we 4thWaveNow parents SUPPORT gender nonconformity. The trans lobby (and that’s what it is–a very well funded lobbying group with outsized political power and influence) is the one creating rigid ideas of what “gender” is. We have to say it over and over again–we are fully in support of our kids defying gender stereotypes. The trans lobby (being totally Orwellian) paints parents who don’t want to sign onto the idea that their kids’ bodies are “wrong” as being on the retrograde side of history. But you can’t get more regressive than these activists, who point to a love of trucks and short hair in a girl as being a sign she’s actually a trans boy.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Exactly!

        It’s the trans activists who have been trying to put children in a blue box or a pink box – and use as evidence for which box to put which child into external and often transitory behaviors (like playing with dolls – which even very feminine girls will not still be doing in their college dorm rooms)

        When I was a kid, all the Legos were the same – blue, red, green, yellow and black. Now there’s Lego sets for girls and Lego sets for boys. That, to me, looks like making gender roles more rigid. And I can’t see the connection between this a the supposed “spectrum” of genders.

        Speaking of the “gender spectrum” – can anyone name a gender besides Male or Female? I can’t. Even the “gender fluid” media figures seem to just oscillate between male and female.

        Liked by 3 people

  11. I got far too much sex education from zookeepers.
    As a result, much of what you think of as “feminine and masculine” I tend to think of as “domestic and wild”. Those traits aren’t making you any less male or female, but they are making you more likely to survive a nasty, closed environment while not reproducing in to it.

    Males less violent, less twitchy. More likely to cooperate with their (unrelated) brothers and less likely to be impregnating females.
    Females more twitchy, less ready to stay put somehere dreadful, less likely to stay pregnant under stress.
    A population stays alive and genetic resources aren’t wasted breeding into a hell hole.

    Our problem is we’ve come to think of males that’ll fight each other in cages, and females that’ll reproduce in to them, as the best and only way for it to be, when it’s really an adaption to a less than ideal territorial circumstance.


    • This reminds me of something else trans activists ignore – the variety of male and female dress and behavior in different cultures/times/places. In the mid 20th century, women and girls in the US mostly wore longer hair than guys, but even the short-hair girls would have been horrified to have their heads shaved. Same time period, there were women in subSaharan Africa who did shave their heads. What most women in both cultures had in common was that the women liked to dress and groom like other women in their own society. Men in western societies rarely wear makeup, but there are men in Africa who buy and wear the same products western women use, and wear them to impress the women in their world.

      What I see is that there’s a tendency in humans to want to dress & groom like others in their society in a way that draws a distinction between male and female. And within those sets of dress/grooming habits, individuals make their own choices. One may refrain from wearing the latest jacket shape if it is unflattering. But nobody in 1950s America was wearing Little House on the Prairie dresses (even the FLDS only adopted those in more recent decades – photos of the Short Creek raids show women in conventional clothing)

      I also suspect that fashion is so full of fads because it functions to reinforce the division between the truly young and the older adults.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. “Proponents of medical transition for children are not champions of gender nonconformity. If they were, as I’ve said many times, they would be celebrating it in children and instead of agreeing with the magical thinking of a child that this means they are “born in the wrong body,” they’d be helping these kids realize they are wonderful and unique examples of their natal sex. A healthy, fully functioning body attached to a brain is an integrated whole with that brain.”

    This is an excellent quote.

    Rarely do I find transgender advocates and gender therapists that are advocating for transgender rights. They’re all advocating for transition. Transition is a completely unnecessary process that for some reason–due to the lovely propaganda we’ve all encountered–is being associated with being transgender. It’s no longer about gender identity, it’s about passing, it’s about being ashamed of your natural features.

    In tribes and regions separated from popular culture, transgender women and men embraced their biological features and retained their identity. Transgender women took on the roles of being mothers and housekeepers while transgender men would take on roles of providing food for the family and constructing huts for them to live under. There was no hormones or surgery involved. There was no claim of this “Born in the wrong” nonsense that’s getting thrown around in our popular media.

    I’m a transgender teen, nonpartisan, trans-advocate, and although mine is more so personally based, all I see is transgender advocates doing more harm than good. They’re not embracing gender identity, they’re embracing medically unnecessary procedures to make children pass, yet transgender skeptics are the villains. it’s bigoted and cruel to question whether giving children unnecessary treatment that will permanently alter their future body apparently, yet it’s suggested by most studies done that most transgender children will grow out of their identities.

    It’s acceptable to let them live in the moment and just pump them full of drugs because of how they feel, but it’s unacceptable to try to encourage them to embrace their natural features and support their nonconforming expressions?

    It seems a bit hypocritical. The transgender movement isn’t about embracing identity. It’s about passing. There is nothing sound about pumping children on hormones and mutilating your genitals simply because you feel like you were born in the wrong sex. Is chromosome “treatment” going to be next?

    I’ve spent months reading your entries, and I’m loving the overall message of changing society to express gender nonconforming children and gender identity.

    The transgender movement has been so influenced by the anti-transgender movement and its own insecurities, that it’s become all about medical procedures and being seen as the correct gender in the eyes of others.

    Me and my mother were both victims of these gender therapists that were going “diagnose” me when I was a child. When I came out, I have lived as a boy at that point for around three years with no label, no gender conforming expression, and no desire to want to transition. I embraced my female figure, and my mother taught me to accept my sex. She told me I was unique and different; she respected me, and I respected myself. She embraced the crushes I got on both genders and the days when I’d want to wear dresses even if she herself found it odd.

    It was the gender therapist that questioned my identity, and all because I showed up wearing pink with long hair. All because I got crushes on boys and had a “cute” voice. It was as if they were disappointed I wasn’t trying to appear as a more gender conforming boy. I cut my hair, suppressed my sexuality, demanded procedures, and I became depressed.

    I can’t stress more to people that don’t take the time to read through your entries and just the movement in general, the transgender movement isn’t about embracing identity. It’s about conforming to a stereotype. It’s not about respecting people’s identities. It’s about respecting an image of who is a boy and who is a girl.

    I’ve spent the last three years struggling to come to conclusions with my body and who I am as a person. I was close to getting my breasts cut off when I only thirteen because I was convinced that to be a boy, I had to look like one, and my gender therapist was the one that encouraged me to get one.

    Noticed how I was encouraged to conform more to a stereotype? It’s all about trucks and jeans. It’s not about expression.

    Parents rush their kids off to a gender therapist nowadays because their boys like other boys or because their daughter decided she wanted to play with trucks instead of dolls.

    What happened to embracing your child’s identity? What happened to telling “sissy” boys that it’s okay to be into ballet and wear dresses and telling our daughters that it’s okay if they want to fix trucks and box? I only see a society developing backwards.

    This is no longer about respecting pronouns. It’s about respecting a movement that’s insisting unnecessary medical procedures are the answer, and I refuse to do so.

    I’m a transgender advocate. I’m not an advocate of the movement, and until it changes, I refuse to be so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ashton, you speak of “embracing an identity” instead of “transitioning”. It seems that by “embracing an identity” you mean merely declaring oneself to be the opposite of one’s physical, genetic sex, and by “transitioning” you mean having some sort of medical procedure/s to make one’s body appear more like the opposite of one’s sex.

      Maybe it’s because you are young, but before the recent explosion of trans activism, our society was trending towards increasingly expanding the options in clothing, accessories, jobs and social roles for both sexes. When I was in kindergarten, girls were not allowed to wear pants to school – rules like that are no longer enforced, and that is fine with me. Even back then, I was able to play with Legos that came in one set of colors (no pink box for girls and blue box for boys), had a Radio Shack electronics kit and plenty of dolls (loved Barbie), and my oldest boy cousin played with dolls and played football. And things were trending in an even more relaxed direction as years went by. My current best girl friend works in the city water department doing installations, repairs and lots of technical and grubby stuff. One of my good guy friends is a nurse. Yay.

      I would argue that “toy trucks and jeans” are forms of expression, just as much as speaking or writing words are forms of expression. I don’t understand what kind of division you are trying to make by claiming that choice of toys and clothing are not expression. What I see is that you are attempting to use whatever kind of demarkation you’re trying to create to justify the concept that someone like you, born with XX chromosomes and a vagina, can become a boy by declaring yourself to be one.

      Here’s the thing, it’s called Physical Reality. If a person has XY chromosomes and a penis, that person is, physically, the male that he has been since before he was born, no matter if he wears a dress and says “Call me Susie”. Same thing for someone with XX chromosomes and a vagina – that person can say “I’m a boy” all she likes, but physically, she is still the female she was from before she was born. I would also argue that even with surgery, the fact of XX or XY chromosomes remains, the hormone profile – even with artificial estrogen or testosterone still doesn’t match that of a natal male or a natal female, and a “sex change” surgery doesn’t change one’s sex, but is closer to gelding/spaying/neutering, perhaps with some hormones thrown in.

      This stuff can actually be physically dangerous. Besides the health effects of cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers, and the complications of surgery (urinary infections, permanent damage when tissue from an arm is used to create a faux penis), I recently heard that trans people can have big health problems because of refusing to identify as their true biological sex – for example, men who transition to women still have prostates but don’t go to see a proctologist and wind up with cancer being far more serious by the time it’s discovered, or women who transition to male having a similar problem with breast cancer (which can appear even after a mastectomy).

      Also, have to say, it is impossible that you were close to cutting off your breasts at 13. No matter how much you may have wanted to, no doctor would do it (and not just for ethical reasons, also because a 13 year old’s breasts are still growing, so a mastectomy at that age would be a failure in the long run). Making claims like that make you sound overly dramatic, and also make you sound like you are willing to stretch the truth to get what you want. (your stories about having long hair and crushes on boys while also claiming to be a boy sound like part of such a pattern, too).

      I think if our society were to permit people to just declare themselves to be the opposite sex from the one they were born – whether or not they have all the possible surgeries – that would be society cooperating with individuals who are trying to obliterate reality by merely claiming something other than reality is “more true”. And I think reality is too important to let it come in second place to the feelings of individuals who are unhappy with the reality in which they find themselves.

      I will leave you with this thought: I guarantee that within 5 years, you will disagree with a lot of what you wrote.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Great comment. The only thing I’d add is that there ARE quite a few doctors who want kids to obtain surgeries as young as possible. Witness this 14-year-old who received a double mastectomy, with the blessing of gender therapist Aydian Olson-Kennedy, spouse of LA Children’s Hospital Dr. Johanna Olson, who actively lobbies for–and approves–both hormones and surgeries for young teens.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 4thwavenow

        Again I am shocked by what trans-enabling doctors are willing to do.

        I can’t imagine a 14 year old would be finished growing breast tissue. At 14 mine had barely started. It seems to me a mastectomy that early would be a failure in the long term.


      • PS

        As for the claims that other cultures let people live trans lives as the opposite sex. Even if that were true, that should have no bearing on our society. Those societies did not have the ability to understand reality via science that we do, and many pre-scientific societies had other practices that may not have been so very appealing: much more rigid sex roles than we have had until recent transactivism started working to increase the rigidity of male/female roles, more problems with disease, water supplies and famine, human sacrifice.


      • I’m not trying to make any division. I think toys and clothing are forms of expression. I’m speaking about identity associated with pronouns. I also don’t think I became a boy. I am not biologically a boy nor was I born a boy. I identify as one. I don’t think sex and gender should be associated as the same thing; I see them as two different entities. Thus, physical reality to me is acknowledging you’re female and accepting the body you’re born with. However, I still identify as a boy, and I’m addressed by masculine pronouns since that’s how I choose to live my life.

        I also believe it’s respectful to call someone the gender they prefer because the delusion that comes with transgenderism–in my eyes–is the fact many transgender people think they’re going to change what they were born with by hormones and surgery. This is not that case, and it will never be the case. Transgender people need to accept how they were born and embrace their expressions–such as dolls, trucks, monsters–though I don’t see an issue with someone identifying as the gender opposite of what they’re born with.

        You don’t alter oneself with or the “normal” way of living life by identifying as a gender–thus why I’d argue most of the trans-labels I’ve seen shouldn’t be respected. I have a balance of emotion and logic in my life. I feel like a boy, so I’d like to be called a boy. I don’t realistically know what this feeling is nor was I born a boy. I also know no amount of surgery or hormones can change one’s chromosomes or the gender they were assigned with at birth.

        I have yet to see any accurate study posted suggesting identifying as the opposite gender causes negative effects.
        You’ve heard of such things; that does not mean they represent the majority or a fraction of a community. There is studies, however–such as the many ones that have been analyzed here–showing hormones and surgery have a negative effect of transgender individuals.

        “Also, have to say, it is impossible that you were close to cutting off your breasts at 13. No matter how much you may have wanted to, no doctor would do it (and not just for ethical reasons, also because a 13 year old’s breasts are still growing, so a mastectomy at that age would be a failure in the long run). Making claims like that make you sound overly dramatic, and also make you sound like you are willing to stretch the truth to get what you want. (your stories about having long hair and crushes on boys while also claiming to be a boy sound like part of such a pattern, too).”

        No, it’s not impossible. My gender therapist already had me hooked up with a endocrinologists at the age, and by Colorado state law, you can start hormone therapy this young. I believe it goes down to twelve. With their help, they were trying to push the need for me to get breast surgery as a medical issue. My breasts were already almost done developing, and by the time I was thirteen, I had double D breasts. I was already having back troubles, so they thought it would be a good opportunity to try to push for insurance to pay for it since my parents have always been a bit poor. In Colorado, if it’s medical, a breast reduction can be done. I have no idea how that makes it seem like I’m stretching a truth and trying to “get what I want”. I’m sharing a story about how the modern transgender community is trying to push unnecessary procedures on children as young as possible. This may or may not make up the majority of the transgender community, but it happened to me. Some doctors and gender therapist do support children getting surgery.

        I’m also not sure how my stories have anything to do with a “pattern”, either. In my stories, I said I liked boys when I identified as a boy. I also liked girls. It should be noted I liked boys and girls even before I told my mom I wanted to be identified as a boy. I’m not sure what you’re trying to get at.
        What am I disagreeing with exactly? I’m against children taking hormones and having surgery. I’m for transgender people’s identities. I don’t know why I’d change my mind.

        I support the views on this page.

        Perhaps you’re misinterpreting something I’m saying.

        From my understanding, the people on this site aren’t exactly against people being transgender. They’re against the procedures involving transgenderism and how it’s pushed on kids. They support gender nonconforming children and want us to go back to embracing expressions instead of associating it with a gender. Correct me if I’m wrong.

        That’s what I’m for, as well. Besides a few personal stories, there isn’t anything to support that identifying as the opposite gender you’re assigned with is unhealthy. I’m transgender. I know I wasn’t born a boy. I accept my sex. I just live as a boy with masculine pronouns. I don’t want surgery, and if I ever wanted to inject hormones in to myself, I will wait until I’m an adult.

        As for other cultures accepting transgender people, yes, they exist. I wasn’t trying to use them to validate transgender people. I was using them to validate the fact that hormones and surgery aren’t generally used in other cultures. Transgender people in cultures–such as tribes–embrace their body.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I also wanted to say, it seems me and you don’t agree about what sex and gender are. I believe you’d argue I’m still deluded and should live as a girl, so regardless of what I say, I am going to make the assumption we’re going to disagree.

        If you think I’ll disagree with what I wrote, would you mind pointing it out? I have a feeling perhaps you’re seeing it the wrong way because I’m either wording it terribly or you’re misinterpreting it terribly. So, if you’d be willing to, I’d like to clear it up.


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