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[Blog/Commentary] [USA] Sociologists on Transgender

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  • Stephanie Stevens
    Daily Kos, USA Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 03:30 PM PDT Sociologists on Transgender by rserven for TransAction
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 7, 2013
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      Daily Kos, USA

      Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 03:30 PM PDT

      Sociologists on Transgender

      by rserven <http://www.dailykos.com/user/rserven> for TransAction <http://www.dailykos.com/blog/TransAction>

      The journal Human Nature <http://link.springer.com/journal/12110> has a recent publication by Doug P. VanderLaan, Zhiyuan Ren, and Paul L. Vasey entitled Male Androphilia in Ancestral Environment.

      The abstract for the paper <http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12110-013-9182-z> is, of course, highly filled with jargon.

      The kin selection hypothesis posits that male androphilia (male sexual attraction to adult males) evolved because androphilic males invest more in kin, thereby enhancing inclusive fitness.  Increased kin-directed altruism has been repeatedly documented among a population of transgendered androphilic males, but never among androphilic males in other cultures who adopt gender identities as men.  Thus, the kin selection hypothesis may be viable if male androphilia was expressed in the transgendered form in the ancestral past.  Using the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS), we examined 46 societies in which male androphilia was expressed in the transgendered form (transgendered societies) and 146 comparison societies (non-transgendered societies).  We analyzed SCCS variables pertaining to ancestral sociocultural conditions, access to kin, and societal reactions to homosexuality.  Our results show that ancestral sociocultural conditions and bilateral and double descent systems were more common in transgendered than in non-transgendered societies.  Across the entire sample, descent systems and residence patterns that would presumably facilitate increased access to kin were associated with the presence of ancestral sociocultural conditions.  Among transgendered societies, negative societal attitudes toward homosexuality were unlikely.  We conclude that the ancestral human sociocultural environment was likely conducive to the expression of the transgendered form of male androphilia.  Descent systems, residence patterns, and societal reactions to homosexuality likely facilitated investments in kin by transgendered males.  Given that contemporary transgendered male androphiles appear to exhibit elevated kin-directed altruism, these findings further indicate the viability of the kin selection hypothesis.

      The Kin Selection <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kin_selection> Hypothesis, as posited by sociobiologist E. O. Wilson, is that

      «homosexual individuals help collateral relatives (siblings, nephews and nieces, cousins) so that “homosexual genes proliferate through collateral lines of descent, even if the homosexuals themselves do not have children."»

      The article linked above is given an alternative title:  Transgendered males seen as an asset to some ancestral societies <http://www.springer.com/about+springer/media/springer+select?SGWID=0-11001-6-1438341-0> .  

      «Transgendered androphilic males were accepted in traditional hunter-gatherer cultures because they were an extra set of hands to support their families.  Conversely, by investing in and supporting their kin, these males ensured that their familial line – and therefore also their own genetic make-up – passed on to future generations despite their not having children of their own.»

      The study's position is that this kin selection is still at play in pro-transgender societies today.

      I find myself with mixed emotions in reading this.  On the one hand the use of the term "transgendered males" is really offputting.  And the promotion of "transgendered androphilia"

      «(a gender role markedly similar to that of females in a given culture)»

      …is highly exasperating.  

      It could be the inherent reinforcement of patriarchy (it's okay to be transgender as long as the transperson ends up heterosexual).  That rubs the wrong way for me, reflecting the fact that I identify as a lesbian.  

      And then again, the failure to identify transwomen as women, especially in the Time magazine review of the article <http://healthland.time.com/2013/10/04/transgender-showed-evolutionary-benefits-in-ancestral-societies/> , is really hurtful in this day and age.

      And in the end, I am appalled at the total erasure of transmen (female-born transpeople).

      But it is also the fact that the American culture is not one of those pro-transgender societies.  Indeed kin slection is highly unlikely in this society, given that transgender people are highly likely to be excluded from their families of birth.

      So the research is more closely related to the fa'afafine <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fa%27afafine> of Samoa.

      «The researchers also wanted to test predictions that enhanced kin-directed altruism is prominent in societies in which transgendered male androphilia is predominant.  To answer this question, VanderLaan and his colleagues compared the sociocultural environment of contemporary transgendered societies with ancestral small-group hunter-gatherers.  Ancestral group size, sociopolitical systems, religious beliefs and patterns of residency were analyzed in 146 non-transgendered societies, and 46 transgender societies.  The analysis utilized ethnographic information about well-described nonindustrial societies from the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample.

      VanderLaan and his colleagues found that transgendered male androphilia is an ancestral phenomenon typically found in communities with certain ancestral sociocultural conditions, such as “bilateral descent.”  This term refers to societies in which the families of both one’s father and mother are equally important for emotional, social, spiritual and political support, as well as the transfer of property or wealth.  Also, the acceptance and tolerance of same-sex behavior evolved within a suitable, accepting environment in which discrimination against transgendered males was rare.  Importantly, kin selection might have played a vital part in maintaining genes for male androphilia these societies.  For example, it continues to be a driving force in contemporary Samoan fa’afafine transgender communities.

      Unless transgendered androphilic males are accepted by their families, the opportunities for them to invest in kin are likely limited.  What was true of our ancestors still holds true.  A society’s specific social organization and its general acceptance of transgenderism and homosexuality is even important today.  When supported by society, transgendered males invest their time and energy in their kin in turn.»

      Time Healthland writer Alexandra Sifferlin, despite the unfortunate failure to identify transwomen as women, concludes with the following:

      «In fact, that condition [male and female contributions to the health of a family are considered of equal importance] was critical to the positive societal contributions of the transgender males.  In order for the contributions of these men to benefit the community, they had to be accepted by its members.  And that remains true today — people who identify as transgender, or with any other sexual orientation for that matter, become most productive if they can contribute their time and energy to a community that accepts and welcomes their support.»

      © Kos Media, LLC

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