Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Transgendered neuroscientist

Sharon Begley writes in the WSJ:
Prof. Barres is transgendered, having completed the treatments that made him fully male 10 years ago. ...

Which may account for what Prof. Barres calls the main difference he has noticed since changing sex. "People who do not know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect," he says. "I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man."
Somehow, I doubt that Prof. Barres is really "fully male". If he is not getting respect, it may have more to do with his transgendered status and other factors than ordinary sex discrimination.

Prof. Barres' Nature article is not freely online, but it does have this online editorial intro:
Harvard University president Larry Summers was heavily criticized last year when he claimed that differences in innate aptitude, rather than discrimination, were behind the failure of women to advance in scientific careers. Some other academics agreed with Summers' analysis: "rubbish", to paraphrase the views of female-to-male transgendered scientist Ben A. Barres.
Here is what Summers actually said:
So my best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination. I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong, because I would like nothing better than for these problems to be addressable simply by everybody understanding what they are, and working very hard to address them.
So he said that his best guess was "intrinsic aptitude", not "innate aptitude". There is a difference.

Volokh reports an uncorrected error in the Nature article.

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