“How Changeable is Gender?”

Today’s NY Times has a longish article by Richard Friedman with that title. It maintains

At the same time, we have to acknowledge that gender identity is a complex phenomenon, involving a mix of genes, hormones and social influence. And there is no getting around the fact that biology places constraints on our capacity to reimagine ourselves and to change, and it’s important to understand those limitations.

As conciliatory as this remark may seem, many feminists reading the article may find it objectionable in one way or another. Speaking out of concern for our blood pressure(s), let me say I think the most calming move would be to read it as a review article, full of information about what various science-oriented approaches are now claiming (or uncovering). I do also think that one should read it if one want to know what the science(s) is/are now saying, something that’s really useful to know for all sorts of reasons. Not least because one’s students will have views about the latest science that have passed through parents’ all too fallible interpretations.

One thing stressed: trying to change someone from gay to straight won’t work and is generally considered harmful. Of course, quoting the left-wing NY Times on that may not move everyone.

There’s a dearth of feminist references, which is a shame particularly since Ann Fausto-Sterling’s work anticipates much of what is said.