Facts and Compassion

There is a lot of heat and emotion around the subjects of sex and gender. This is most visible in the national debates around the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community, but particularly around those concerning transgender individuals. While my own thoughts about such issues have centered on compassion for others, I have been confused about what is really going on for these individuals. Not being a member of this community, I must admit that I do not understand all of the issues. But I long ago concluded that I don’t need to. It isn’t about what I think or understand but about accommodating and caring for people wherever they are and however they see themselves.

Hoping to better educate myself, I recently read the book The End of Gender by Debra Soh, a former sexology researcher who left academia to pursue a career in journalism. The book is a straightforward look at what the science of sexology says about sex and gender and many of the public issues surrounding them. It is an eye-opening book that is likely to both challenge and confirm your views on these subjects, no matter how you feel about identity politics.

This is not a political book, or at least it is not meant to be. It is grounded in published sexology research and takes the position that we ought to be open and clear about the science even if it goes against what we believe or is popular. Some may think this is a license to abuse minorities. The author disagrees. It isn’t the science we should take issue with but how some people use it as a weapon of hate.

The book is organized around nine myths about sex and gender. Two of these myths are “There are more than two genders” and “Sexual orientation and gender identity are unrelated”. Due to the sensitive nature of these topics, you likely reacted strongly to one or both of those statements. I highly encourage you to read this book from a well-educated scientist who uses research to inform her compassion. One of the major concerns she raises is the number of transgender individuals who transition and later change their mind and detransition. Perhaps a better understanding of the science behind sex and gender can lead to better outcomes for those struggling with identity issues.

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