Monday, July 02, 2007

Mara Keisling on CNN

National Center for Transgender Equality

Differences between the male and female brain

They just can't help it

What kind of brain do you have? There really are big differences between the male and female brain, says Simon Baron-Cohen. And they could help explain conditions such as autism Do you have a male or female brain?

Thursday April 17, 2003
The Guardian

Are there essential differences between the male and female brain? My theory is that the female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy, and that the male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems. I call it the empathising-systemising (E-S) theory.

Empathising is the drive to identify another person's emotions and thoughts, and to respond to these with an appropriate emotion. The empathiser intuitively figures out how people are feeling, and how to treat people with care and sensitivity. Systemising is the drive to analyse and explore a system, to extract underlying rules that govern the behaviour of a system; and the drive to construct systems. The systemiser intuitively figures out how things work, or what the underlying rules are controlling a system. Systems can be as varied as a pond, a vehicle, a computer, a maths equation, or even an army unit. They all operate on inputs and deliver outputs, using rules.

According to this theory, a person (whether male or female) has a particular "brain type". There are three common brain types: for some individuals, empathising is stronger than systemising. This is called the female brain, or a brain of type E. For other individuals, systemising is stronger than empathising. This is called the male brain, or a brain of type S. Yet other individuals are equally strong in their systemising and empathising. This is called the "balanced brain", or a brain of type B. There are now tests you can take to see which type (E, S, or B) you are. Not which type you'd like to be, but which you actually are.

A key feature of this theory is that your sex cannot tell you which type of brain you have. Not all men have the male brain, and not all women have the female brain. The central claim of this new theory is only that on average, more males than females have a brain of type S, and more females than males have a brain of type E. . . .

What if your personal style interferes with passing?

Mira says: "i'm MtF, and i do like being found attractive in a more traditional femme manner - however, i'm also a deathrocker (goth-punk). i've got a mowhawk, i wear combat boots - this is what i love, and i wouldn't have it any other way.

The obvious problem is that this style interferes with passing.

Have any of you got insights about balancing androgynous or "butch" elements of your personal style with the desire to pass more?"

Tribe readers comments.

They dress up as guys.

The Gazette

They sing. They dance. They do comedy shtick. They dress up as guys. They're King Size, a gaggle of Montreal girls who just want to have fun.

They perform their brand of drag-kinging tonight at La Sala Rossa in their latest burlesque escapade, The Parlour.

Think Liza Minnelli in Cabaret, and then some. The 'then some' also includes the delightfully dry wit of comic/emcee DeAnne Smith and the divinely inspired hoofin' of the Dead Doll Dancers featuring the incomparable Velma Candyass.

Drag-kinging is something of a phenomenon in the rest of North America and Europe. Introduced in Montreal by the Mambo Kings a few years back, it petered out, but is now making a comeback with King Size, a 12-to-15-woman collective that has been kicking it up together since January.

One of the leaders of the King Size pack is Gary Dickinson. By day, she's Nancy Leclerc, a single mom and a respected anthropology professor at a local CEGEP. But by night, she morphs into Gary and acts out her cultural anthropological instincts - in a manner of speaking.

"It's just about letting loose," says Nancy/Gary. "I'm doing stuff at night as Gary that Nancy would have liked to do as a teenager by day. Of course, I get to charm the ladies as well as the guys at the same time."

Donning her academic chapeau, the prof points out there is also a sort of social message to the madness: "We're messing around with the established gender norms and getting the message out there that we don't have to stick to such rigid norms."

Since the dawn of civilization (or thereabouts), drag queens have been messing with established gender norms and have gained mainstream acceptance, particularly on the urban cultural front. Drag kings are relative upstarts compared with their drag-queen cousins and have had to work harder at breaking down barriers. Which explains why they feel compelled to be more than one-trick cross-dressers.

"We cover the gamut of entertainment," says Nancy/Gary. "There's an awful lot of diversity. Some of us sing. Some of us dance. Some of us do comedy. Some of us do all of the above. We're trying to be very well-rounded." No pun intended.

And then there's King Size crooner Nat King Pole, who changes the lyrics of popular tunes and elicits king-size guffaws as a consequence. . . .