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Mars and Venus Can Be Explained By A Box of Crayons


I will admit that my transition from male to female had more to do with my scientific curiosity about the differences between the genders than probably any other reason and is a primary driver that helped form what Dynamics Intelligence is today. When a patient undergoes Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT), the patient begins a prescribed regiment of medications that feminize the patient (MtF) over a period of three years. Estrogen, anti-androgens, and progesterone medications are prescribed to increase the level of estrogen in the body while lowering the level of testosterone. Regular blood tests allow the provider to monitor these hormone levels.

As the patient shifts from masculine to feminine, a series of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes occur.

"Every soft tissue in your body will be replaced by new feminine cells," said Rixt Luikenaar, MD, my OB/Gyn and an internationally recognized expert in gender transitions from Salt Lake City, UT.

While the physical changes were well documented (fat redistribution, breast growth, soft tissue replacement), the emotional and behavioral changes were not. Rather, I had come to learn about these on my own from my own experience. The most shocking behavioral change was the loss of my ability to navigate.

I was in Portland, OR during the spring of 2015, nearly 18 months after beginning HRT. Encountering traffic, I attempted to turn onto a side street to avoid the traffic. After a few minutes, I was completely lost and had to ask for directions at the nearest gas station. Alternatively, when I first moved to Whitehorse, YT which is a town with only two parallel streets that run the length of the city and has a Walmart at one end. I visited the Walmart when I first arrived, but after a few trips within the town, I was unsuccessful in navigating what I thought was a parallel route back to Walmart. I had to go back to my origination and re-trace the steps to the Walmart. I realized that the issue was that I was navigating based upon landmarks instead of the built-in grid that I enjoyed when I had testosterone. The only way that I was able to find the Walmart was through my recognition of the traffic signal and right turn lane at the corner.

Scientists have discovered several changes to cognition as a result of HRT including greater performance on spatial reference memory tasks (Locklear MN, Kritzer MFHorm Behav. 2014) and an increase in visual memory (Miles, Green, Hines 2006).

When I started on progesterone, which I take during the last 10 days of each month, I began to feel emotional changes that mimicked a monthly cycle. On the 11th of every month, you can expect me to be dressing my best and having the most self-confidence while during the last week of the month, you can expect me to be dressing in sweats/pajamas and not caring very much about appearances. From an emotional standpoint, I experienced increased emotional sensitivity. I use a box of crayons as an analogy to what I experienced.

Men live in a world of 8 colors. (i.e. "Man hungry", "Man threatened", "Man Angry", "Man need relations") Women, I argue, live in a world with 64 or 128 colors. (i.e. I'm hungry, but if I eat now it will make me look fat. You know, I was just talking to Carla, you know my BFF. Well, she told me that she had the perfect diet. Are you listening? Hello, I'm over here. What did I just say? Do you even remember? Were you even paying attention to me?). I argue that this increased sensitivity applies to visual cognition and explains why men see the color of an item as blue and women see the color of an item as any number of shades of blue for which she knows the names of each shade.

With respect to navigation, men have a built-in navigational grid and they always know where they are on the grid and that grid always indicates where north is. In an independent experiment conducted over the last few years, I have asked both men and women to randomly point to north without thinking about it and they are correct. The results have always been the same, men quickly point to north because they always know where it is. Women struggle with this task and are often incorrect. Men never have to ask for directions because they navigate based upon the grid whereas women tend to navigate based upon visual landmarks (Miles, Green, Hines 2006). Increased visual memory in women also explains why women always know where everything is located. They can point to the specific drawer of where to find the scissors. Whereas, men struggle with finding the location of the simplest item.

In 2014, a group of scientists won the Nobel prize for identifying "grid cells" in the brain by conducting a series of experiments on male rats. In May 2018, Google mimicked this study by using artificial intelligence claiming to have accomplished a great scientific feat. Both the claims by the scientists and the claims by Google are flawed. These experiments fail to explore how the brains in both male and female rats are different and how they navigate differently. As I have described above, to be a proper experiment, they would have had to use the following cohorts: male rats, female rats, male rats on estrogen, female rats on testosterone. Observing such a study is bound to conclude what I have described above, that the brains of male rats and the brains of female rats navigate differently due to hormonal signaling or the effective changes in the brain as a result of hormonal signaling.

To conduct this experiment, I have reached out to a group of female scientists to challenge the 2014 Nobel Prize by calling out the underlying gender bias contained in the experiments. If successful, I believe it arguably demonstrates that we need to review scientific publications for such bias.

References

1. Assessment of the effects of sex and sex hormones on spatial cognition in adult rats using the Barnes maze. Locklear MN, Kritzer MFHorm Behav. 2014 Jul; 66(2):298-308.

2. Gibbs R.B. Testosterone and estradiol produce different effects on cognitive performance in male rats. Horm. Behav. 2005;48(3):268–277.

3. Miles C., Green R., Hines M. Estrogen treatment effects on cognition, memory and mood in male-to-female transsexuals. Horm. Behav. 2006;50(5):708–717.[http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh. 2006.06.008]. [PMID: 16884726]

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