Deconstructing the Feminine Essence Narrative
Ongoing investigation by OII
by Curtis E. Hinkle
Posted April 20, 2008
In the coming weeks, OII will be working with an informant who has primary sources and e-mails from the individuals involved in an attempt to deconstruct the “feminine essence narrative”, especially those associated with the Clark/Northwestern Clique. Why is OII interested in collaborating with this informant about an issue that at first may seem tangential to intersex? OII is convinced that this issue which at first seems unrelated to intersex really has serious consequences for intersex adults and children. Current protocols for the management of intersex children require a GENDER assignment as soon as possible and the same protocols prevent the child from having any input into the ARBITRARY decision. A gender assignment is not the SEX assignment. In other words, intersex children are assigned a GENDER, which is expected to reflect their gender identity, and many are assigned a "FEMALE GENDER", which is nothing more than an expectation that their lives will reflect a "feminine essence narrative".
However, the very people who are ardent defenders of the imposition of a female gender on many intersex infants, (with the expectation that their lives will be in accord with a feminine essence narrative), are insisting that no such concept really exists, despite evidence to the contrary. The problem is, that some intersex children, may very well have a firm female gender identity (or feminine essence narrative), but others will not, despite the fact that the expectation is IMPOSED on them without consent. If the child later insists, that the imposed female gender assignment is incorrect, as it does not match their true gender identity (or feminine essence narrative), the child risks being told that there is no such thing, (and that "it is not about gender"), despite the fact that justification for the gender assignment was the belief that "gender identity" does exist.
This is strengthened by the numerous investigations of gender outcomes in various intersexed conditions (e.g., virtually the entire August 2005 issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior is devoted to gender outcomes in intersex persons with various types of intersex variations), as well as the NICHD task force on psychosexual development, and the addition of an intersex (now DSD) committee, as part of the HBIGDA/WPATH.
In Alice Dreger’s article in defense of J. Michael Bailey, “The Controversy Surrounding The Man Who Would Be Queen”, (1) she devoted many pages to dismissing the so-called “feminine essence narrative”. After this article was published on the internet, she acted as associate editor of the Johns Hopkins publication, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine in which J Michael Bailey and Kiira Triea published another article against the feminine essence narrative. (2) Many in the intersexed community were somewhat surprised that an intersexed person, Kiira Triea, who is a “genetic female”, was speaking as if she were a homosexual transsexual. Whatever. We were confused enough trying to figure out what a homosexual transsexual was, only to find out it was a woman who is attracted to men, who was once a man. Confused? Oh, well. C’est la vie.
On a more serious note, when reading Bailey and Triea’s article in the journal with Dreger as associate editor, we noticed some serious flaws. However, there was an expert who knows much more about this than we do, Dr. Dick Swaab, who noticed some serious errors in Bailey and Triea’s article also, and tried to correct them by writing to the editor. Did Alice Dreger, the associate editor, once again protect Bailey (and this time also Triea), by using her (Dreger’s) influence in suppressing any accurate discussion of brain sex (something she has done for years now) to shield Bailey and Triea from criticism? The letter was never published.
OII has a letter that Dr. Swaab wrote to the editor of Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, in which he indicated that hypothalamus VOLUME only changed 6% in m to f's and not at all in f to m's, in a study by Hulshoff Pol et al., (3) and that such, discounts Bailey and Triea's use of the findings of this report, which they used for their assertion, that the most likely reason for the finding of a female BSTc in m to f transsexuals, was hormones which the transsexuals took.
Bailey and Triea also claimed that hormones influenced the BSTc neuron NUMBER in transsexuals. But, as Dr. Swaab’s letter pointed out, this is totally wrong, since it is basic morphometric knowledge that total neuron number in a structure of the brain is independent of either pre or post mortem changes in the structure's volume. Thus, Dr. Swaab felt that Bailey and Triea's discussion on the BSTc results in relation to hormones the transsexuals took, should receive out of hand dismissal. Dr. Swaab wondered if it was
Bailey and Triea who just didn’t want to know. Certainly that should leave us all wondering.
(1) Dreger, A. The Controversy Surrounding The Man Who Would Be Queen. 2007. Published on the internet at
(2) Bailey, J. M. & Triea, K. What many transgender activists don't want you to know: and why you should know it anyway. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 2007, Vol. 50, Issue 4, 521-535.
(3) Hulshoff Pol, H. E. et al. Changing your sex changes your brain: influences of testosterone and estrogen on adult human brain structure. European Journal of Endocrinology, 2006, Vol. 155, Issue suppl_1, 107-114.