Oversimplified Mental Models


A wise friend of mine mentioned the irony of someone apologizing for misgendering a pet, or God forbid, someone’s infant … yet that same person will then cheerfully and pointedly misgender trans girls.

This issue reminds me of a guy friend of mine, whom I’ve known for 25+ years. We would walk through fire for each other. When my Jeep broke down in the Nevada desert in the summer, he was the guy I called for help. He’s the most brave and masculine guy I know, and very much a bottom-line, cut-the-crap type of guy. He likes me as a friend, because I’m a good friend to him too, and he likes my values, and that’s that. He liked me before I came out as a trans girl, and he likes me after I came out — but he did mention that he grew up on a farm, and when he wants to discerns the sex or gender of an animal he picks it up, turns it upside down and he looks, and that’s that. So, not that he wants to debate it, but he’s not all that convinced that I’m really a girl because he’s pretty sure I have “outie” plumbing (and indeed I do).

For animals, his approach is good (unless that species of animal can also be trans, who knows). But sex (as in male/female) is not the same as gender. So much as my friend is a good friend, he’s oversimplifying. Some people are born (as autopsies later showed) with a male structure “down there” and yet a fundamentally female brain structure. And much as it’s important to be able to write my name in the snow, or do my girlfriend without having to go buy a strap-on, it’s my brain that fundamentally makes me what I am.

My friend is oversimplifying on another point too: Not even sex organs are binary. Many people are born intersexed. Also, not many — but certainly some — people even have brain structures that are neither fundamentally male nor female. So even as to gender, it can get pretty darn fluid.

As humans, we need simplicity so as to function. I have another beyond-utterly-brilliant lovely friend who’s on the autism spectrum somewhere, as probably am I, but it’s safe to say she’s to the right of where I am. Hardly any answer I get from her is simple. It’s almost always a vastly complex analysis with disclaimers, context, exceptions, pros and cons when really all I wanna know is whether or not it’s OK for me to now put the darn milk bottle back in the refrigerator. Bottom line, I need to decide, and act. The milk bottle is either going into the fridge right now or it’s not: Yes or No. The phrase “I just need a yes or a no” is something I frequently say to her. Simplicity is a big help for me in living my life. As humans, we need to make decisions and act on then. The traffic light toward which my car is hurtling turns amber, and I’m going to step on just one pedal really hard, and it’s a binary decision: accelerator or brake. I “get it.” We need things to be simple.

Problem is, sometimes in using a mental model for decision-making, we oversimplify, and when reality is more complex than our oversimplified mental model, we end up making bad decisions with bad consequences. When we use oversimplified mental models in the context of trans issues, we’ll make bad decisions about trans issues.

As an analogy: ironically, this same friend has a dad who owned an automobile electrical repair shop. The dad is brilliant and famous for fixing and troubleshooting every car ever made, so maybe ten years ago when my 1987 BMW 325 was having erratic temperature-gauge issues, I brought it to him for repair. He messed with it for more than a week and finally gave me the car back and said “I can’t fix it.” Basically, he had chased the wiring from the temperature sensor to the gauge, including to ground in both places. That’s how temperature-indicating circuits normally work. He’d even bought a new gauge from BMW, and he’d tested the sending unit thoroughly. Yet, he couldn’t solve the problem because he was using an oversimplified mental model. The model worked well for more-simple cars but not for this BMW, because the BMW has a tiny battery pack integral to the instrument cluster, to accurately store the service interval settings even when the main battery goes flat. When the tiny battery pack finally goes flat after 20 years or so, the instrument cluster electronics, including the temp gauge, go haywire. It’s a $10 fix to get new batteries from Batteries and Bulbs and they’ll even solder them in, but unless you include these little batteries in your mental model, then you’re unable to deal with the reality of the situation. Mental models are useful, but oversimplified models are problematic because they will create the classic human tragedy of someone trying to to the right thing while actually doing the wrong thing.

It’s one thing to misdiagnose a BMW but often the stakes are life or death, such as well-meaning parents whose oversimplified mental models on sexuality and gender lead to a dynamic in which their gay or trans teenage kid accepts the parents’ premise, evaluates himself/herself to be a bad person in that context, and commits suicide.

Often, the tragedy is not even that evident. Many kids don’t kill themselves but they dutifully accept self-hatred as the proper thing to do, and they lead a miserable life of subsequent self-flaggelation whether it’s cutting themselves or less-obviously destructive things — all because (for all their superficial rebellious grand-standing) they fundamentally buy into the parents’ bad premise that gay or trans people are evil. Realizing that he/she himself/herself is gay or trans, the kid then applies that principle, concludes “so I’m a bad person then, unworthy of happiness” and to the parents’ consternation, then consequently pursues an agenda of self-punishment, possibly life-long … all because the parents chose an oversimplified mental model.



Trans-Ally Kitti Minx


I finally met Kitti Minx in person yesterday.  (Her picture is above.) For the next week or so, she is working at the Mustang Ranch, which is as classy a brothel as I’ve seen anywhere, and it’s less than an hour from where I live. So, yesterday, I drove there, and I interviewed Kitti over a cup of coffee. It felt like 45 minutes but I was actually there for more than an hour and a half.

Kitti looks like a trans girl would look if a trans girl had a magic wand to wave at the mirror. She has androgynous facial features, and she’s unusually tall. She told me the story of how the owner of another brothel guessed she was a trans girl and wanted to hire her as such, then was disappointed when she told him that, no, she’s genetically integrated. That’s my terminology, not hers, for “born with female brain structure and female plumbing.”

Trans girls have eloquent and effective allies in many places, and Kitti is not the first girl I’ve met who does legal sex work and also is an eloquent ally of trans girl. What makes Kitti so unusual is her intensity and how outspoken she is, including on social media even in places where bashing trans girls is (or until she showed up, was) still fairly commonplace.

Part of what I love about her stance is that it’s so principled and strong that a great many other quiet people have now felt brave enough to also stand up and say “I agree” — so instead of just one eloquent and clear voice in opposition to irrationality, now there’s a chorus.

In the sex work industry, especially, I view this as a welcome development. For a complex mix of reasons, many trans girls end up doing sex work, including that a great many guys view trans girls as high-grade sexual fetish material. Trans girl porn sells, I’m told, very well. From there on downstream in the causal chain, the consequences are seen in market forces: supply and demand.

Trans girls know we are at a cultural disadvantage and so we tend to be overachievers at our day jobs, willing to work extra hard. Even so, many non-sex-work businesses won’t hire trans girls on principle (a bad principle but a principle nevertheless) and so demand for trans girls is artificially low in the general workplace. Yet, the same guy who before 5 p.m. was wearing his business suit and turning down a highly qualified trans girl in her job application for office work … he might be watching trans girl porn later that evening, and buying trans girl sex services later that night.

For a trans girl who’s trying to make ends meet, sex work is a way to make an honest living, and it’s strangely empowering too. The same guy who wouldn’t hire her to do office work … he might more than willing to pay $200 per hour or more for her to be dressed sexily, lounge about in a hotel room, and have sex with him — with the highest demand by far being for services when the trans girl is in, um, the active position. I can just imagine the “think bubble” over the girl’s head in such a situation, as in “my, my, the tables have turned, haven’t they?”

In cultures such as Germany, there is more awareness of the science behind what makes a trans girl a trans girl (her female brain structure) and thus there is also more acceptance of trans girls. Even so, demand for trans girls doing sex work is still sky-high. The largest brothel in Germany is called Pascha, and it’s in Cologne. It is a large, modern, square ten-or-so-story building that looks similar to the business office complexes near LAX airport in Los Angeles. However, from the basement to the roof garden, it’s 100% a legal brothel, and one entire floor is reserved for trans girl sex workers.

By contrast, in the US, it’s rare to find a trans girl doing sex work legally. Much of the reason is because so many brothel clients are trans-phobic, which means they secretly have strong sexual desires — even obsessions — as to trans girls. Such guys feel guilty about their desire. They repress it, and they hate themselves for it. In a strange psychological phenomenon, they then focus their hatred onto trans girls, blaming the girls for “causing those uncomfortable sexual feelings” in the guy, evading the fact that in normal guys, trans girls don’t “cause” such feelings.

Sexual obsession with trans girls is widespread, and so is general cultural disrespect for trans girls, especially in macho circles where it’s a no-no for a guy to be attracted to a trans girl. The result is that phobia and hatred (directed at trans girls) are widespread too.

This phenomenon underlies much of the stigmatization of trans girls. Word is steadily spreading across US culture that if a guy is being mean to a trans girl, the reasons are an interesting reflection on him, not her — but even so, cultural change is slow. It’s too slow for the patience of Kitti Minx, which is why she’s an outspoken advocate for trans girls being worthy on merit to be hired everywhere, including for legal sex work.

Her passion is rooted in a love for justice, and it’s deeply personal, not least because one of her childhood friends is a trans girl, and at close range Kitti saw how badly her friend was treated after she came out.

I first noticed Kitti when I read one of her eloquent posts on a forum, and I wrote to thank her for her principled eloquence in the service of justice. A long-distance friendship began as such, and it was great to finally meet her in person.

However, Kitti does much more than write and speak up for trans girls. She also welcomes trans girl clients, and although she’s very sexy and lovely, if you think that all of her trans girl clients simply want to have sex with her, you’d be mistaken. At least one trans girl booked Kitti for the entire night, and saw great value in being comforted, and being able to ask all sorts of questions about girly stuff such as make-up and clothing, plus to have a make-up session behind closed doors.

I’m polyamorous, openly, and at the time I came out as a trans girl, I had two genetically integrated girlfriends, both of whom were wonderfully supportive and open with advice and encouragement — plus they were both highly skilled with make-up, so I didn’t have as burning an unfulfilled need for such mentoring. I can imagine that I’d otherwise have been only too grateful to be able to hire the services of someone like Kitti, who is trans-friendly. In her room, I’d finally be able to relax and learn, in a friendly and accepting environment based on understanding — and to learn make-up tips etc. from her.

I’m grateful to Kitti for what she does. Thanks to her: if you’re a “just coming out” trans girl, you now have some more good (yet, ironically, celibate) reasons to go spend your money at a legal brothel.

More fundamentally, if you notice that the general culture is becoming more positive toward trans girls, and you wonder why or how it’s happening … it’s because of rational and eloquent people who speak up on behalf of trans girls, by helping the general populace along, as to working through complex phenomena like this one.

Outie-to-Innie Surgery Canceled

I gather there’s interest on the question of why I decided to cancel “the surgery” to change my P into a V. It’s not a simple explanation, or if it is, I lack the word-smithing skills to present it as such.

I’m a trans girl, as in born with a female brain structure and “outie” plumbing. During puberty, the latter made little enough testosterone that when I was in my mid-20s, I was told I look like I’m 15. I was very slender. Even so, during puberty, my plumbing also made enough testosterone that I’m 6″ tall and muscular — taller and more muscular than I’d have been, had I been making estrogen like genetically integrated girls did, during puberty.

I was born into a German culture enclave in South Africa, and trans girls weren’t a generally known phenomenon at the time so there was only one cultural path that was safe: based on the shape of my privates, I was told that I’m a guy and I’d better behave accordingly. Privately, I’d knit, crochet, sew, make candles and cook, and my idea of a fun masturbation session often involved the aforementioned candles — but publicly, I tried really hard to behave like a guy, and privately I wondered why it was so hard for me to think like guys do.

I did some pretty crazy stuff to fit into guy culture. I lay out in the African sun for hours on end without sunscreen, hoping it would mess up my skin and maybe if I look like an old gnarly sailor I’d finally look more masculine. The plan didn’t work well — though I did get skin cancer for all my efforts. When I learned it was macho to smoke, I was delighted and started off smoking three packs on my first day, including being able to blow smoke out my nose. I was miserable. When I learned it was macho to be into automotive mechanics, I dove into that field of endeavor. I was more car-geeky than any guy around.

All my efforts didn’t pan out all that well, and the other teenagers eventually figured out I’m brain-wise a girl, and one weekend at church camp was especially bad. A crowd of maybe 100 teenage boys became a mob and chased me, and when I eluded them, they hunted me for hours until they ran out of steam.

I’d tried for decades to live as a guy, and I failed. Eventually I was miserable, my cholesterol high, more than 30 pounds overweight, my blood pressure high … basically approaching the “don’t buy any more green bananas” stage. I couldn’t get motivated to do anything about it. Finally I went to see a counselor who was up to speed on the latest science as to trans girls, and she explained that trans girls are a scientifically validated (as in, with autopsies analyzing the brain structure and finding it to be fundamentally female) phenomenon known to exist, so it wasn’t like I was imagining I was a tree or Bigfoot or Jesus. We talked about what a reasonable burden of proof would be, and after enough time with this counselor, she was convinced I’m a trans girl but I wanted more proof yet, so I did a weird Stanford brain test as to gender. The conclusion was that okay, even by my picky standards, I can safely stop thinking that maybe I should try harder yet to behave like a guy. I could stop, and accept that I’m simply a girl, and begin to live instead like the girl I am, brain-wise.

I was both relieved and terrified. I didn’t want to become unemployable and die of hunger behind some dumpster somewhere, shunned by friends and family. But, I proceeded. I got Adam’s apple surgery, and got approved to take hormones. My morale and health steadily improved. I waxed my facial hair and body hair. I also got my facial hair lasered then got electrolysis for whatever remained. I relearned how to walk, talk and dance. For a long time I could relate to the mermaid Ariel in the Disney movie, who craved to be able to walk on land. I craved to have boobs and a vagina. I didn’t so much hate having a penis as I really wanted a vagina, and I soon learned that you can have one and only one of these: pick one, and only one.

There are two main ways to get a penis transformed into a vagina. One way is called “penile inversion” and it basically works as the name implies. The other is the Suporn technique, which is vastly more complex and advanced — and yields much better results, by my standards and that of others who wrote on the subject. However, it was available from only one person on the entire planet.

I was very nervous about that. I collect 1980s or later German cars, and by the time I can afford them they’re typically in bad shape, so I know how it feels to show up at a local auto repair shop with an old BMW that’s having a complicated problem and then hearing “that’s way too specialized for us, we don’t work on those.” Even so, okay, there ARE places who are willing to work on a BMW, and I could and did find them.

Then, one day, I bought a 1982 BMW 528e in which a previous owner had swapped out the fuel pump, cutting wires and generally making the process non-viable to undo. The replacement pump was not a BMW unit. Whatever it was, the car could run and start, but it didn’t have a check valve, so it didn’t maintain fuel pressure. Every time I tried to start the car after it sat for a while, I had to crank if for a very long time, because the fuel had to be pumped up all the way from the tank into the fuel rail to the injectors. At that rate, I was going to wear out the starter and battery, both. I paid a BMW-savvy guy to fix it. He screwed with the car for weeks, trying to get the thing working and put back to something resembling stock condition. He couldn’t get it to work, and he finally fired himself and just one day no longer showed up. It dawned on me that if I go get the Suporn surgery, I’d be making myself like that BMW — a very rare phenomenon, that hardly anyone knows how to deal with.

I used to do contracting work for the Navy at the time when they retired the F-14 Tomcat for the slower F/A-18 Hornet, and I was amazed that they’d not consider a fast top speed to be paramount in a fighter jet. It was explained to me that it costs 3x as much to maintain an F-14. That made quite an impression on me … it’s not just about the situation now, but maintenance matters. I recall a friend of mine working on a customer’s kit car that looked like a Lamborghini but had Audi internals. The car was a complete pain to work on. Maintenance … it matters.

By going for that surgery, I would essentially become non-viable for medical maintenance in the future. Maybe I’d be okay in the near future, but how about ten or twenty years from now? What if I’m 70 and I have plumbing issues nobody can fix? I was concerned about that.

My girlfriend (yes, I’m into girls romantically though both she and I enjoy having sex with guys) is a genetically integrated girl, and now and then when I was tempted to feel sorry for myself she reminded me of some of the benefits that I was taking for granted as to being a trans girl. For example, she’s lovely but she struggles with cellulite and I don’t. I can’t. My cells can’t make cellulite in the way hers can. She was steadily adamant about it, over the course of more than five years, and slowly what she was saying was starting to sink in. This included her saying unusually nice things about the plumbing I currently have. Yes, I could go get a strap-on after I got my P changed into a V but it’s not quite the same, and there something silly about doing all that.

The key point she made is that I’m only a freak to the extent that I accept cultural standards by which I’m a freak. A few centuries ago, twins were considered freaks to the point where one of the twins was hurriedly put to death in some cultures immediately after being born. Bottom line, Mother Nature creates humans in a wide variety, including twins and trans girls. So really, the question was by whose standard I needed the surgery. Did I need it to be a girl? Logically, based on the organ that fundamentally defines who and what I am — my brain — I’ve always been a girl. So, if I wanted to get my P changed into a V, was I doing it for myself, or to appease others — or both? I needed to check my premises. Yes, my brain structure is what makes me a girl, and there’s nothing that I can do below the belt to fundamentally improve on that. I either accepted being a girl already, or I didn’t. After some soul-searching, I realized that logically, I did … emotionally not so much. So, I dwelled on it until my emotions finally aligned with my logic. Was I maybe doing this to pander to those who defined gender based on plumbing? Maybe … more reason to not proceed as such. And so, I didn’t.

So here I am, a strange mix, but as to the basic configuration, it’s how I was born. I’ve changed what I care to change. I like having a more feminine facial structure and boobs. More of the same might be nice. But I no longer feel the need to get surgery to become a girl. I’ve always been one. If I do ever go get such surgery, it’d be for more logical reasons that what drove me before.

Ironically, my daily driver is a 2000 Audi Quattro A6 4.2 V8, with dual overhead camshafts, variable valve timing, variable-length intake runners, 5 valves per cylinder, 11:1 compression … a 300 horsepower screamer. And, it’s a weird mix of stuff, right from the factory, just like I am. The car is a mixture of things that somehow work together. Audi took a normal, mild-mannered Audi Quattro A6 with a capable V6 engine, and inserted into it the high-performance brakes, V8 engine and Porsche-designed heavy-duty Tiptronic transmission from the Audi A8 Quattro 4.2 V8 supercar. Somehow, they made it all work. They reshaped the front fenders and hood to make it all fit nicely. And it works. So, that’s me. I’m a blend of things. Part of how I am is how nature shaped me, and part of it is due to changes I enjoyed making … but driven by what I like to have, and see in the mirror.