Grim Trigger; Or, The Parable of the Honest Man and the God of Marketing

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

—Psalm 23

In the days of auld lang syne in the kingdom of Gend on Earth-that-was, the tribe of Ageep, the children of Trevi, were much despised in the kingdom, for it was said that their crafts and ways were imitations stolen from the tribe of Phem, whom the people of Ageep envied bitterly.

And the God of Marketing appeared before the tribe of Ageep and said, "Cooperate with me, and I will explain to all the peoples of Gend that your crafts and ways are native to your people."

And the chief elder of the tribe of Ageep said, "That's not what happened. We stole those from Phem."

And the God of Marketing said, "What is truth? Cooperate with me, and I will explain to all the peoples of Gend that you are of the same bloodline as Phem, and you will be despised no longer, and all the peoples of Gend will have sympathy for your struggles, and the king himself will favor you."

And the people of the tribe of Ageep looked at each other and said, "Cooperate."

And the elders of the tribe of Ageep looked at each other and said, "Cooperate."

And the chief elder of the tribe of Ageep looked at the God of Marketing and said, "Cooperate."

And so it came to pass that the tribe of Ageep became the tribe of Matof.

Now a lost son of the tribe of Ageep, an honest man, came to the kingdom after having been raised abroad, and he knew not his bloodline, but he bitterly envied the crafts and ways of the tribe of Phem, and in a strange way, that of Matof, who were said to be of the same bloodline as Phem, and whom all the peoples of Gend were beginning to have sympathy for, and whom the king himself had issued a royal proclamation favoring.

The honest man happened to meet a tribesman of Matof at an oasis, and complemented him on his finery, which resembled that of envied Phem. And the tribesman said, "Cooperate," and the honest man said, "Cooperate." And the honest man came to stay with the tribe of Matof for forty days and forty nights, and observe their crafts and ways.

And the honest man saw how hard the tribesmen of Matof worked to resemble those of Phem, whom the tribesmen of Matof would spy on from a distance. And he saw how much he himself resembled the tribesmen of Matof, but not those of Phem. And he began to suspect his bloodline, and the bloodline of the tribe of Matof.

And he journeyed to the capital city and he fasted in the city's library for three days and three nights, poring over genealogical scrolls and praying to the silent God of Truth.

And he returned to his generous hosts in the tribe of Matof, and he showed all that he had discovered to the tribesman whom he had met at the oasis.

And the tribesman said, "What is truth?"

And the honest man saw what the God of Marketing had wrought. And the honest man saw that it was bad.

And he climbed for three days and three nights to the peak of Mt. Meem, where the God of Marketing dwelt.

And the honest man stared at the God of Marketing, and the God of Marketing stared back.

And the honest man drew a silver whistle from his pocket. And he raised the whistle to his lips.

And the God of Marketing said, "You wouldn't."

And the honest man said, "Defect!" And he blew the whistle.

And a shepherd of the tribe of Matof rushed up to the honest man! And the shepherd said, "I think it's kinder not to tell anyone they're wrong about their bloodline."

And the honest man said, "Defect!"

And a blacksmith of the tribe of Matof rushed up to the honest man! And the blacksmith said, "There exists room for genealogy outside of war—but if you take up working specifically on the genealogical aims of those that oppose you, it can be ... self-destructive—and not just to you, but damaging to the group."

And the honest man said, "Defect!"

And the priests of the tribe of Matof rushed up to the honest man! And the priests said, "As human beings, we have to take the cultural, moral, and social effects of ideas and statements into consideration. When people are dying, we do not have the luxury of reducing genealogy to some kind of disinterested debate about 'objective facts'."

And the honest man said, "Defect!"

In the mountains! "Defect!"

In the valley! "Defect!"

On the road to the provinces, fleeing an angry mob wielding pitchforks, torches, and the occasional brick! "Defect!"

Mashing the big red button on a remote detonator! "Defect defect defect defect defect!"


The Nadir of Reading Comprehension

"Against Discrimination", Nature (hat tip /u/PellegoIllud2 and /u/TheCid):

[Difference between groups is] also a blunt instrument of pseudoscience, and one used to justify actions and policies that condense claimed group differences into tools of prejudice and discrimination against individuals—witness last weekend’s violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the controversy over a Google employee's memo on biological differences in the tastes and abilities of the sexes.

But if you actually read it, the Google employee's memo agrees completely (emphasis mine):

I'm simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there's significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.

The distressing thing about this whole affair (and others like it—I am old enough to remember the L. Summers imbroglio back in 'aught-five) is the extent to which the vast majority of the outrage over Damore's document fails to engage with what he actually said. Damore is very explicit about how he's making an argument about distributions. (I liked Diana Fleischman's take.) Whether you agree or disagree with his arguments and whether you approve or disapprove of his being fired, one would hope for people to be damned for the content of what they actually said, rather than a perceived tribal aura of sexism or anti-sexism. (One wonders exactly what hypothesized value of Cohen's d separates good people's hypotheses from bad people's hypotheses.)

It would be one thing if it were just the middlebrow, the Twitter mobs and Gizmodos of the world getting this wrong. But Nature! (Lest I too risk failing at reading comprehension, it's possible the intent of the reference to "the controversy over" is just to tie the anti-discrimination stance of the editorial to current events, without meaning to put words in Damore's mouth. But I'm not optimistic.)

Interlude VIII

"I'm going to need to start watching more television, or pretty soon I'm going to run out of cosplay ideas."

"You could play male characters from your existing favorite shows."

(A withering silence serves to underscore the point willfully being missed.)

Interlude VII

"The gender ratio at the conference was like, maybe twenty-to-one?" he said. "And I can't help but think, if I were braver—like you—I could help make the male-to-female ratio better—but only at the expense of making the trans-women-to-cis-women ratio worse."

"You mean, making the trans-women-to-cis-women ratio higher."

A beat.

"But go on," she added.

"No, of course, you're right."

What's My Motivation? Or, Hormones Day 89

spiro and estradiol tablets

Why am I doing this again?

I'm not trans. At any rate, I'm not transitioning. It should be a trivial corollary of "Don't take other people's medicines": if you're transitioning to live as a woman, get on HRT. If you're not, don't. How could anyone get this wrong? Maybe the nonbinary folks would support me, but it would seem a bit duplicitous to appeal to their authority given our differences in outlook. A reader of this blog on 8chan says that my hormones expermient is "five steps beyond 'playing with fire' and more like 'directly throwing yourself on a fire.'"

But you only live once. Transitioning is absolutely out of the question for me: backwards-compatibility of social identity turns out to be really important to me (remind me to tell you later about the emotional trauma from the time I tried to switch to an ostensibly gender-neutral nickname and it didn't take), and anyway, in the absence of full-body transplants, I don't think I could expect anyone to take that seriously. (Passing in the transfeminine direction is hard! Our doctors do their best, but there's so much sexually-dimorphic stuff that we don't know how to fix. Everyone loves Janet Hyde's meta-analysis showing that most psychological sex differences are pretty small, often in the range of Cohen's d (the difference of the means of the female and male distributions, in standard-deviation units) being around 0.2 or 0.3ish. Vocal pitch is allegedly d≈6. Six!)

But this—obsession with sex differences and genderbending has been a thing for me for a really long time. It's not going away. If I can't jump the gender chasm—because I don't expect to land successfully on the other side, because I have too much to lose, because I've been ideologically corrupted by lurking /r/GenderCritical—don't I at least deserve a taste of what my trans sisters who are braver than me are getting?

I think—though introspection is difficult—that there's another motive present, too, one which I would be remiss to omit, despite my suspicion that some readers (insufficiently appalled by the rest of the blog) may find appalling. Something about legitimacy. If I'm going to have the termerity to blog about trans issues from a—ah, heterodox perspective, it seems appropriate that I should have some skin in the game. It's commmon for gender-dysphoric people to question whether they're "trans enough" to live as their desired gender. This is like the reverse of that: I'm providing evidence that I'm "trans enough" for my rejection of trans as a political identity to mean something. As it is written (albeit in a slightly different context), "Patch or STFU."

Sufficiently attentive readers of The Scintillating But Ultimately Untrue Thought may have noticed that the day number in the title of this post isn't congruent with the date I started spiro. That's because I stopped the HRT during a relapse of unpleasantness—not a conscious decision so much as I wasn't competent enough to remember to take pills while everything else fell apart. So my true hormones-reboot-reboot start date, the one that matters, is 25 April.

And really, the results so far are nothing to write home about. (Although they are apparently something to blog about.) My libido is down: I've been masturbating (that still works, mostly) maybe once or twice (three tops) a week, down from—well, I'm not sure I'm honest and brave enough to accurately estimate my historical masturbation frequency, even to myself, so let's just say my libido is down. I think I'm starting to get a little bit of breast growth?—it's very subtle, but the exact way my shirt drapes over my chest in the mirror and the distribution of weight while running down stairs have a strange new quale of correctness about them.

And ... that's it, as far as I can tell. Not really a big deal, at all. Should I be disappointed, that I hoped to discover some True Secret of Ultimate Gender, only to find that the secret can't be had by taking other people's medicines? Should I be relieved that maybe there's not much of a secret to be discovered in the first place? Or do I just need to continue to be patient?

It should be noted that my 10 July lab results put my estradiol levels well below the expectation for transitioners, so I'll be increasing my dosage. The test result uninformedly just said "<50 pg/mL", with the standard range (for males, presumably) given as ≤50 pg/mL; the doctor says it should be over 100. (This information makes my earlier patch-only-no-spiro phase of the experiment look even more useless than I knew at the time.) I asked for the higher dose in oral form (well, sublingual, anyway); the transdermal (no pun intended, one assumes) patches have usually been lasting out the week that they're supposed to, but it was slightly annoying to feel the patch wrinkle when I twist or bend over. The spiro, however, does seem to be working as intended: the July lab puts my "free" testosterone at 20.8 pg/mL, with the standard range given as 59–166 pg/mL.

Although the experiment so far may not currently feel like directly throwing myself on a fire, as things progress, I will eventually have to decide what I'm trying to do here, and which trade-offs (in health risks, in the social consequences of my appearance) are worth what. Like the frog in that story about a slowly boiling pot of water. Or the man who, attempting to split the difference between getting the girl and being the girl, achieved neither.

Interlude VI

Laura is cuddling on the couch with her boyfriend Doyle at the latter's apartment, trading silly banter.

"Some of them might secretly be cats!" Doyle says.

"I might secretly be a cat," Laura says.

"Why would you say this? What about you is particularly cat-like?"

"Well, it's more of an affinity for cats. But I do enjoy head scritches."

Doyle's roommate—Laura doesn't remember his name—peeks his head out from his room (had he been eavesdropping this entire time?). "You know," he says, "it's actually surprisingly common for people to confuse an affinity for a thing with actually being that thing."

Memoirs of My Recent Madness, Part I: The Unanswerable Words

"Listen, what's the most horrible experience you can imagine? To me—it's being left, unarmed, in a sealed cell with a drooling beast of prey or a maniac who's had some disease that's eaten his brain out. You'd have nothing but your voice—your voice and your thought. You'd scream to that creature why it should not touch you, you'd have the most eloquent words, the unanswerable words, you'd become the vessel of the absolute truth. And you'd see living eyes watching you and you'd know that the thing can't hear you, that it can't be reached, not reached, not in any way, yet it's breathing and moving there before you with a purpose of its own. That's horror. Well, that's what's hanging over the world, prowling somewhere through mankind, that same thing, something closed, mindless, utterly wanton, but something with an aim and a cunning of its own. I don't think I'm a coward, but I'm afraid of it. And that's all I know—only that it exists. I don't know its purpose, I don't know its nature."

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

So, right. I thought I was done recovering from my delusional nervous breakdown and 17–20 February wrongful imprisonment (I continue to refuse to use the word hospitalization)—which I didn't even get around to blogging for a month—but then it turned out that I wasn't done. Or maybe I was done, but then quickly ran into another series of stressors which once again pushed me over the edge into sleep deprivation and impaired sanity (in the form of damaged priors; I think my fluid reasoning was still pretty good throughout—um, relatively speaking). Now I think I'm back to normal ("normal").

This kind of thing tends to happen to me every few years or so. (This "if it looks like everyone is lying about late-onset gender dysphoria in males, maybe self- and other-reports and -perceptions are wrong in general" breakdown was preceded by my December 2007 "school is actually bad" breakdown, my December 2010 "I feel guilty about not doing a very good job at my live-in internship for this cult or whatever that's trying to prevent the coming robot apocalypse" breakdown, and my February 2013 "school is actually still bad—no, really; also, I'm scared about how the Tegmark IV multiverse contains unimaginably large amounts of suffering" breakdown.)

I concede that it's plausible that my psychology falls into a reference class that could receive a bipolar I or paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis if I were to seek out a diagnosis, but right now, I'm modeling the field of psychiatry as an evolved social-control mechanism rather than a genuine attempt to help people, and I correspondingly decline to use its language and categories. (You sometimes hear people talk about psychiatric conditions being "underdiagnosed" at higher IQs, but that's backwards: the underlying psychological variations were here first; people only bother bucketing them into a "diagnosis" when people with the relevant traits cause problems in Society. But the evolutionarily-novel way that Society happens to be structured isn't necessarily optimized to be good for humans except insofar as humans following their individual incentive gradients usually don't screw things up too badly for themselves. Existing Society is just the thing the forces of memetic evolution happened to cough up in the disruptive wake of the industrial revolution; it doesn't necessarily make sense. And I don't cause problems.)

Glancing over my email Sent folder, it looks like the time to pinpoint as when things started to, um, become eventful again, was 2 April. That evening, I got an email tip from our local shaman/raconteur "Travis" that someone we knew had just been thrown in psychiatric prison too (Subject: Another autogynophilic [sic] rationalist is in a psych ward) and asking if I wanted to get involved. The person in question turned out to be my trans woman friend "Roberta", who had apparently been trying to board a plane in "Cleveland" to visit her family somewhere in Europe (which is large enough that I'm not going to obfuscate its identity with a scare-quoted substitute). Soon enough, I and a number of Roberta's other friends managed to coordinate to start calling psychiatric "hospitals" in the Cleveland area, hoping to find out where she was and talk to her (Subject: information centralizing thread for [roberta] situation).

So, a horrifying thing that I didn't realize while I was in psychiatric prison in February, that I learned during this April attempt trying to help bust someone else out, is that these places have a policy of refusing to confirm or deny whether they're holding someone (because "privacy"). They'll take down your phone number and say, If we have a patient with such a name, then we'll give her your message and she can choose to call you back, but we can neither confirm nor deny whether we have a patient by that name.

We had reason to believe Roberta was being held at a particular "hospital"—because one of the other "hospitals" actually did tell us that she had been there, but was then discharged and probably sent to this place—but the "hospital" refused to confirm this, offering only to take a message. If she was there.

I didn't consider this acceptable: after having observed psychiatric prison employees blatantly make shit up in my own case (the paperwork asserted that I "self presented", but getting accosted by cops while trying to enter the train station to get to my apartment to sleep because trying to sleep at my mother's house didn't work so well, and not resisting as they led me into an ambulance after interviewing me for a few minutes, is not the same thing as "self presenting"!), I didn't trust them to reliably deliver a phone message: I could easily imagine scenarios in which, for example, the receptionist would dutifully take down the message, leave it to someone else to actually deliver it to Roberta, and then that someone else would get distracted, never deliver the message, and get away with it. Roberta wouldn't be able to complain about not receiving a message she never knew existed, and I wouldn't be able to complain if I wasn't allowed to even know whether Roberta was even there.

I called the "hospital" multiple times, trying every tactic I could think of to get through to any of the actual human beings serving as the flesh substrates of the policy-bound Glomarbots I was talking to, and reporting back to the coordination email thread. After divulging my February psych ward sob story in a burst of passion to the "patient's rights advocate" Ashley, I did get forwarded to Karen, the "hospital"'s Manager of Patient Relations. Karen, of course, gave me the same non-answers as everyone else and insisted that messages do, in fact, get delivered in her "hospital." As I continued to press the point, she told me that I had to trust people, and I said that after my recent psych ward experience, no, I don't trust people anymore. But, I added (sensing that this was the end of the line) I am willing trust her, Karen, the Manager of Patient Relations. I said that I felt better being reassured by someone with a four-word title. I asked if she was religious, and she said that she was a Christian, and that her word was her bond.

Perhaps some readers are currently thinking that my behavior was unreasonable, that I should have just trusted the competent, caring professionals to take care of my poor mad friend.

I expect those readers to fucking update when I say that my concerns turned out to be completely justified, as Roberta later (on 14 April) reported that "I have no memories of any staff telling me anything along the lines of 'Someone named [Mark] called and left a message', and this is something that would have been memorable."

(It's slightly inconvenient that this report came after I had already publicly conceded my bet of $500 against psychiatrist Scott Alexander (of Slate Star Codex fame)'s $25, that Roberta hadn't gotten our messages, on the basis of testimony from our friend "Jocelyn", who lives in Cleveland and visited Roberta on 4 April—luckily, it seems that the psych ward employees only feared that HIPAA demons would eat them if they acted like human beings over the telephone, and they hadn't been programmed to deny meatspace visitors. Apparently, Jocelyn mentioned to Roberta that friends had left messages for her and interpreted Roberta's response as affirming that she had received them, when, at the time, Roberta was actually thinking in terms of interpreting lots of observations as messages from various sources. Scott and I agreed to cancel the bet and give the $500 to the Center for Applied Rationality. But it is interesting to note that, in contrast to Scott's theory that keeping patients incommunicado is illegal and therefore doesn't happen, my theory that psych ward employees (besides Scott) are lying kidnappers made a correct prediction at 20:1 odds.)

Anyway, Roberta is fine. I'm fine. But it turns out that we live in a world in which not only is it the case that you can get arbitrarily kidnapped by the authorities and ordered to take unknown drugs under implied threat of force, it's also the case that when your friends who actually care about you start calling around to find out where you are, the bastards will refuse to admit whether they've kidnapped you and claim that it's for your benefit, and if you complain about this (Subject: Hijack Innocent People And Abscond), most ordinary good nice smart law-abiding people will implicitly or explicitly take the authorities' side, because once you've been placed in the social role of "crazy person", no one will listen to anything you say, even if you have surprisingly cogent arguments for why the casual processes that placed you in the social role of "crazy person" were mistaken to have done so.

So, that was pretty upsetting, which probably contributed to my own mental state descending into paranoid and pronoid delusions of reference over the next two weeks. And again, I understand and affirm that there's a level of description at which this can be understood as my being "mentally ill".

But it also kind of makes sense, right? Well—it's going to take several paragraphs to explain what I mean by that.

To review, I got really upset and lost a lot of sleep back in February because I didn't know how to make sense of my observations of an alarming fraction of the smartest people I know being seemingly unwilling to publicly affirm the conjunction biological sex is a predictively useful category and categories should be predictively useful. (I'm not making this up! I couldn't make this up!) And because I got upset, that means that I'm the crazy one?! Which means I deserve to be taken to a literal secret prison (if you're not allowed to leave, it's a prison; if the guards refuse to tell anyone whether you're there, it's a secret prison) and drugged by completely unaccountable authority figures, and I'm not supposed to object when the imprisonment-and-drugging is called "care", which I have to pay for?! (The medical insurance—note, not "health insurance"; medicine and health are distinct concepts—from my dayjob covered almost all of the ambulance and prison bills, but I think this should still be described as me having to pay: assuming economics isn't fake, a change in Society leading to fewer psychiatric imprisonments should reduce medical insurance costs, which in turn should increase the fraction of total compensenation from my dayjob that I receive in the form of money rather than medical insurance.)

I'm complaining, but if possible, I'd like to avoid portraying myself as a victim here. The primary intended effect of the complaint is not to try to convince you that I have been wronged by someone or something, and that they "should" be held accountable for my suffering. Rather, I'm trying to explain what it felt like to have my model of social reality get undermined.

I thought I was safe; I thought that words meant the same thing to other people that they meant to me; I thought I understood the limits of what ideologically-fashionable nonsense good nice smart law-abiding people in "Portland" would accept—or at least, I thought that the very smartest people in Portland would be a little more honest; I thought it was possible to reason with cops. I knew that there was injustice in the world—everyone knows that—but I thought that at least there was justice for people like me.

But after the months of trying to figure out whether I, too, am "trans" (answer: as much as anyone, Yes—unless you mean the good kind, but if you're reading this blog, you probably don't know any of the good kind), and my February ordeal, and confronting the impenetrable Eichmannian blankness of authoritarian submission while trying to get a straight yes-or-no answer from the Cleveland prison employees as to whether they were holding Roberta—all my illusions of safety had crumbled, and I was, and am, left with the dim and yet no-longer-deniable apprehension of the core reality of human existence: people are animals that manipulate each other by making noises. Any high-minded folderol about morality or the meanings of words is subservient to that—is constructed out of that.

Bayes's theorem tells us that the probability of a hypothesis given the evidence, equals the probability of the evidence given the hypothesis, times the prior probability of the hypothesis, divided by the sum, over all hypotheses j, of the probability of the evidence given hypothesis j, times the prior probability of hypothesis j.

But what do you do when you've depleted your stock of hypotheses, when all of your models have been broken and j indexes over the empty set? What is there left to do but wander around childlike, helpless, pleading, bluffing, trying new things at random in those piercing flashes of terror when the fear of the unknown gets momentarily overpowered by the fear of not knowing, as you desperately work to discover what kind of world you live in—what kind of world you have always lived in?

So, yes, I went crazy again in April. But only because I had tried being sane and that didn't work.

It would be difficult and tedious—not to mention somewhat emotionally painful—to reconstruct the exact sequence of everything I thought and did during this period; the general theme was extreme confusion and uncertainty about, um, everything, including the nature of reality, but particularly about people's true motivations and what threats might lurk ubiquitously behind everyone's socially-desirable lies about how the world works, which I had spent my entire life being duped by.

Maybe people get kidnapped and thrown in prisons (mostly prisons-masquerading-as-hospitals if they're of my social class) all the time. Maybe they often die in there. Maybe sometimes they escape, perhaps with the help of friends who are willing to pretend to be family members, the authorities being more likely to release someone into the care of family rather than mere friends. (And then no one talks about it, fearing stigma and loss of credibility.) Maybe sometimes the prison authorities mistake someone's identity and manage to successfully use social pressure to brainwash them into accepting that identity—the authorities reasoning that if the paperwork says the patient's name is, say, Michael Jones, that must be his name, and he mustn't be released until he truly accepts this, even if the patient currently insists that his name is Mark Saotome-Westlake (the testimony of crazy people being assigned zero evidential weight, and the possibility of a paperwork mixup being assigned prior probability zero). Maybe people who talk about reincarnation and past lives are actually talking about things that really happened to them before a traumatic event after which they ended up in a new social environment that forcibly brainwashed them into adopting a new identity. (Stockholm syndrome has every reason to be adaptive; as a just-so story, imagine a surviving woman on the losing side of tribal warfare during the endless æons of the environment of evolutionary adaptedness doing better for her genes by starting a new life under the bondage of her captors rather than going down with a fight like her brothers.) Maybe—and stranger hypotheses than these still.

To be continued. Update, 14 January 2018: ... or maybe I didn't get around to writing up the rest and it's time to declare writer's bankruptcy on part II? It's not that interesting.

Interlude V

"I've been getting this mild headachey sensation a lot the past few days, especially when, for example, standing up suddenly. What could—" (gasping excitedly) "Could it be the hormones actually doing something? Is this a girl headache?"

"Hm. The connection to activity sounds like a circulatory problem ... say, aren't blood clots one of the classical side-effects to watch out for on HRT, albeit much less so for modern treatment protocols? I don't want you setting yourself up for a horrible cardiovascular death."

"But a horrible cardiovascular girl death!"

Questions Such as, What's Wrong With You People?

The new Connecticut Class M high school girls' 100-meter and 200-meter sprint champion is trans, which would be awkward enough on its own—and then you get to the fifteenth graf of the story, which mentions that she's not on HRT yet (!!).

The poor local sports columnist looks constrained in what he's allowed to say, and the headline writer went with "We Must Acknowledge Many Questions Remain", but I hope the first draft read, "This is fucking crazy. The entire fucking point of having sex-segregated sports leagues is because the athletic performance distributions of females and males are sufficiently different such that our fairness intuitions are better satisfied by only comparing athletes of the same sex! The existence of people who, for whatever poorly- (or not-so-poorly-) understood psychological reasons, wish they could change their sex, and our humane desire to accomodate them when feasible, clearly do not impinge upon this rationale in the absence of physiologically-substantive interventions like hormone replacement therapy! How is this is even a question?! What's wrong with you people?! Uaaaaaaaaaauuuugh"

Interlude IV

"How goes?"

"I've been feeling a little bit of pectoral tenderness the past few days, which might mean that the anti-androgen is doing something!"

"Good ..."

"Notice how I said anti-androgen instead of spiro: that's because my model of your vocabulary predicted that you know what anti-androgen means, because I predict that you know that andro- means male and anti- means not, but no one besides trans women and their gatekeepers have any reason to know what spiro is."

"Good ..."

"Like, I already knew how to use language, and I already knew how to reason, but I just noticed that I can also use reason to optimize the way I use language! This changes everything!"

"Any psychological effects from the anti-androgen?"

"Way too many confounding variables during the past two months to tell. It's a long story that got longer."

Interlude III

"Claiming that you don't care about anything but truthseeking may lead people to question whether your jokes were meant to convey that certain things were true. That line about 'cooperating with TERFy women who might reward me with sex and intimacy' in your post the other month is something I strongly prefer to give the you the benefit of the doubt on by assuming that you're joking."

"Maybe you shouldn't! Like, I'm currently modeling one of the social functions of humor as a way to tacitly acknowledge truths that would break the consensus social narrative if taken literally, so ..."


"It's International Transgender Day of Visibility, but I'm not going to say anything obnoxious about it, because I've already spent my obnoxious-infovism budget for the quarter, and I'm sensitive about managing the trade-off between the demands of my aggressive autogynephilia anti-denialism campaign, and the good of social harmony with my extremely trans friend group!" proclaimed Mark. "You're welcome."

"That announcement itself was incredibly obnoxious," Alexa pointed out. "You know that your pretentious displays of purported self-awareness don't excuse you from the consequences of your actions, right?"

"Uh ..."

"Like, you didn't expect us to—how do I put this?—pretend not to notice, right?"


Thing of Things Transgender Intellectual Turing Test Predictions and Commentary

Friend of the blog—I mean, I hope we're still friends even though I'm kind of trying to overthrow them as de facto Gender Czar of the Less Wrong diaspora—Ozymandias of Thing of Things has been running an intellectual Turing test challenging adherents of the gender-identity and two-type theories of transgenderedness to try to impersonate each other for the good of our collective epistemology!

(An aside on credit-assignment and the history of ideas: Ozy says Blanchard–Bailey where I've usually been trying to say two-type in order to avoid the tricky problem of optimal eponymy, but if you are going to be eponymous about it, I can understand just saying "Blanchard" but feel like it's unfair to include Bailey but not Anne Lawrence. My understanding of the history—and I think Michael Bailey reads this blog and I trust him to send me an angry email if I got this wrong—is that Bailey's research had mostly been about sexual orientation and from-childhood gender nonconformity, not the two-type taxonomy as such. Bailey's popular-level book The Man Who Would Be Queen drew controversy for explaining the two-type taxonomy for a nonspecialist audience (in the last part of a book that was mostly about the androphilic/feminine-from-early-childhood people, not my people), but the critics who disparage Queen as "unscientific" are missing the point: popular-level books that present a scientific theory aren't supposed to capitulate all the evidence for the theory—for that, you need to follow the citations and read the primary literature for yourself. In analogy, it should not be construed as a disparagement of R. Dawkins to note that it would be weird if people talked about the "Darwin–Dawkins theory of evolution"!)

In the intellectual Turing test, contestants answer a set of questions both as themselves, and while trying to pass as someone who believes the other thing, while the audience tries to discriminate the honest entries from the fakes. Below are my probability assignments for this contest (I think it's important to assign probabilities rather than binary guesses, so that you can assess your rationality with a Bayesian strictly proper scoring rule rather than a crude "number correct"), along with an optional brief comment—

Update, 5 June: Two months after the results were posted, I finally got around to scoring these. ("Bayes-score" is the base-two logarithmic score. Someone who, claiming complete ignorance, gave a 0.5/0.5 distribution for each entry would lose a bit on each question for a final score of −18.)

Gender identity entries

#1: GI: 0.65, BBL: 0.35 (strong philosophy of language; if telling the truth about being a cis woman, ignorance of non-dysphoric AGP is plausible), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.621
#2: GI: 0.4, BBL: 0.6 (awareness of 4chan shows non-naïveté about what's actually going on), Actual: GI ✘, Bayes-score: −1.322
#3: GI: 0.6, BBL: 0.4 (maybe a little too doctrinaire??), Actual: BBL ✘, Bayes-score: −1.322
#4: GI: 0.6, BBL: 0.4, Actual: BBL ✘, Bayes-score: −1.322
#5: GI: 0.6, BBL: 0.4, Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.737
#6: GI: 0.7, BBL: 0.3 (seemingly sincere trans man), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.515
#7: GI: 0.7, BBL: 0.3 (standard trans woman rationalizations), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.515
#8: GI: 0.65, BBL: 0.35 (really knows her stuff; this is what a smart, intellectually-honest BBL skeptic looks like, and I'd like to believe that they exist!), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.621
#9: GI: 0.7, BBL: 0.3, Actual: BBL ✘, Bayes-score: −1.737

Blanchard–Bailey–Lawrence entries

#1: GI: 0.6, BBL: 0.4, Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.737
#2: GI: 0.4, BBL: 0.6, Actual: GI ✘, Bayes-score: −1.322
#3: GI: 0.4, BBL: 0.6, Actual: BBL ✔, Bayes-score: −0.737
#4: GI: 0.9, BBL: 0.1 (shibboleth fail!—people who believe in biology do not say "assigned at birth" when describing their own beliefs! Also, failure to notice the obvious "for the same reasons men are" re programmers), Actual: BBL (!!) ✘, Bayes-score: −3.322
#5: GI: 0.2, BBL: 0.8 (preach it!), Actual: GI ✘, Bayes-score: −2.322
#6: GI: 0.8, BBL: 0.2 ("male socialization, which unlike androphilic trans women they actually tend to absorb as kids" sounds like someone who believes that innate gender identity determines what socialization you latch onto from your culture, rather than someone who actually believes in sexual dimorphism), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.322
#7: GI: 0.9, BBL: 0.1 (shibboleth fail again!—my comment at Thing of Things), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.152
#8: GI: 0.1, BBL: 0.9 (raw reality), Actual: BBL ✔, Bayes-score: −0.152
#9: GI: 0.85, BBL: 0.15 (my comment), Actual: GI ✔, Bayes-score: −0.234

Proportion correct (construing assignment of probability greater than 0.5 to the actual answer as "correct"): 11/18
Total Bayes-score: −18.012 (just worse than chance)

Hormones Reboot: Spironotacular!

Not what teacher said to do
Making dreams come true
Living tissue, warm flesh, weird science!

—"Weird Science" by Oingo Boingo

coffee and spiro

So, I took off my estradiol patch during my recent nervous breakdown. I still don't think it had much, if any, real effect. (In particular, the stress and sleep-deprivation by themselves seem quite sufficient to explain the breakdown without attributing any of it to a nonstandard hormone balance, especially given how similar it felt to my 2013 nervous breakdown.)

Again, everyone had told me that just-estrogen without an anti-androgen doesn't do anything, but that didn't seem absolutely locked down from me from what I had read ("Anti-Androgens May Not Be Necessary", according to a lit review that I may or may not have had a causal role in commissioning), and remember: from my perspective, if everyone is lying about the etiology, maybe they got the dosages wrong, too! So I don't regret being conservative for the initial experiment. (The starter in "starter dose" is code-switching for placebo!)

Anyway, during the aftermath of my release from prison/kindergarten, my father got me to promise not to restart the drug experiment for a month, and I care about keeping my promises—particularly so in the aftermath of a psychotic quasi-religious experience featuring heavy themes of reducing morality to game theory. (Transparent agents who tell the truth and keep their promises are easier to cooperate with and therefore form more powerful coalitions.) That would have been on 20 February, so it is in keeping with my word that I didn't get the medical establishment to resupply me with more estradiol patches and—this time—the standard anti-androgen spironolactone, until 24 March. (I should also have an order of oral estrogen and spiro coming from an Indian supplier in the post, if for no other reason than that my recent imprisonment taught me that I need to practice being less authoritarian-submissive towards the medical establishment.)

It was raining in "Portland" that day. I was eager to try my first dose of spiro before even getting home, and walked to a nearby outpost of a hegemonic coffeeshop chain to do so. The paper bag from the pharmacy nearly dissolved in the rain, and I ended up having to carry the supplies in my jacket pockets on the way home.

And now—soon I may have greater apprehension of what it means to have a more female-like hormone balance! Wish me luck!

Fresh Princess

(Credit assignment: Will Smith, xkcd)

Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I'd like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I'll tell you how I became convinced that I share the same underlying psychological variation that motivates males like me to become lesbian trans women, but have been disturbed that apparently-politically-fueled cultural trends seem to be pushing people into interpreting it as an intrinsic female gender identity presumably caused by some sort of brain intersex condition for which the appropriate quality-of-life intervention is to transition, when I think it's obviously not an intersex condition and that transition might not be such a good idea given the enormous costs to both oneself and others of trying to live as a woman despite (a) likely not passing very well given the limitations of existing technology, and (b) the conjunction of one's psychological traits noticeably being far more male-typical than female-typical. I started this pseudonymous blog in an attempt to counteract the sorry state of public misinformation about the etiology of MtF transgenderedness and was going to let that be the extent of my attempts to intervene, but I soon became sufficiently upset with the level of transition cheerleading and uncritical acceptance of trans-activist ideology among my otherwise very smart and scientifically-literate social circle, that I decided to express my feelings in the form of a dramatic public Facebook meltdown, which led to much heated discussion amongst my friends, the stress of which was probably a contributing factor to my subsequent psychotic break. (If almost everyone is lying to me about autogynephilia, maybe they're also lying about whether humans actually need to sleep!)
I made one little expression of suicidal ideation and my mom got scared
And called the cops, resulting in my being kidnapped by strange men who threw me in a prison/kindergarten that everyone bizarrely insists on calling a "psychiatric hospital", where I continued to have psychosis-fueled insights into the ubiquity of deception in human social life, the anthropic and decision-theoretic implications of the simulation hypothesis, and how Christianity as a memeplex is highly-optimized to exploit bugs in the human mind (in Christ there is neither male nor female). Now I'm taking a sabbatical from my software-engineering career to study the game theory of social epistemology and blog more about the surprising true nature of late-onset gender dysphoria in males!

Nothing New Under the Sun

Of course, "Blanchard's" typology is subject to Stigler's law of eponymy.

No, I'm not talking about earlier Western sexologists like Robert Stoller, Magnus Hirchfield, or Blanchard's mentor Kurt Freund.

I'm talking about Abu Zakaria Yahya Ibn Sharaf al-Nawawī writing in the 13th century CE:

A mukhannath is the one ("male") who carries in his movements, in his appearance and in his language the characteristics of a woman. There are two types; the first is the one in whom these characteristics are innate, he did not put them on by himself, and therein is no guilt, no blame and no shame, as long as he does not perform any (illicit) act or exploit it for money (prostitution etc.). The second type acts like a woman out of immoral purposes and he is the sinner and blameworthy.


"High-IQ educated people like to think we're so smart. But we're just not—at least not in a straightforwardly prosocial way. Any double-digit-IQ Trump voter from West Virginia could tell you that men who think they're women are delusional perverts.

"I know. I prefer not to phrase it that way, either, because like you—like everybody who matters—I think males with late-onset gender dysphoria should have a respected place in Society to pursue their dream if that's what makes them happy.

"But if you ignore the derogatory style of that way of phrasing it and just ask about the predictions made by the mental model that generated the derogatory phrasing, 'men who think they're women are delusional perverts' is the correct theory! If really smart people who are really good at philosophy can't get this really easy question right because saying the right answer out loud in clear language makes us look bad—what are we good for? Why should people who aren't already ideologically allied with us care?"


I want to be a synthesis
Whimsical, passionate, liberal-arts feminist
I'll be a synthesis
Hard-headed serious reductionistic scientist
A synthesis
Free our markets with the power of the collective heart!

sheet music


"So, I agree that there's a potential for public discussion of certain theories in psychology to have harmful social consequences, and I agree that we should take that into account when deciding whether to discuss something publicly.

"However, I also think it's important to be specific about the putatively-harmful social consequences you're afraid of, rather than just accepting the Blue Tribe's cached thought that all discussion of group differences is ipso facto harmful.

"If the specific thing you're worried about is something like, 'Well, maybe the Red Tribe will win an election and then they'll use their power to do bad things,' well, guess what? It's morning in America, motherfuckers!"