Episode 86

Published on:

9th Sep 2022

86 - Hormones & Identity with Bob Ostertag

Bob Ostertag published his book, Sex Science Self: A Social History of Estrogen, Testosterone, and Identity in 2016. At the time, few people took much notice. Six years later, however, this book is causing a stir among gender critical circles and provoking considerable thought and discussion.

Today, Bob Ostertag expands on the book, which explores the way pharmaceutical companies have been marketing testosterone as the essence of manhood and estrogen as the essence of womanhood. Pioneering physicians have also been looking long and hard for a condition, even if they have to fabricate one, for which these hormones offer a solution. Bob’s work raises important questions about the beliefs people hold about these substances and what those substances mean for their personal identity. And of course, these beliefs are changing rapidly as society expands its understanding of gender identity, for better or worse.

Bob also reminds us that no aspect of history should be off limits for exploration. Studying the history of hormones, in and of itself, can be upsetting to people who hold strong beliefs about them. Nevertheless, knowing this history is important for anyone curious about the intersection between medicine and identity.

Bob’s writing style is powerful, witty, and gripping. As you’ll see, he is a very thoughtful and cautious conversationalist. Towards the end of the discussion, Bob also raises some challenges to me and Stella about our show, and how some of our guests frame the biological or organic determinants of sexuality and identity. This conversation gave us much to think about and we will continue exploring these ideas in subsequent episodes. So without further delay, here’s our discussion with Bob Ostertag.

Links & Resources:

Extended Notes

  • In his book, Sex Science Self: A Social History of Estrogen, Testosterone, and Identity,

Bob describes the extraordinary claims by big pharma and the medical establishment about hormones determining gender.

  • Is human gender chemical-based?
  • Bob offers examples of the meaning of how hormones affect the body and how that meaning has changed.
  • A deeper dive into the marketable idea that testosterone represents masculinity.
  • How to better anticipate the landmines of pharmaceutical propaganda.
  • Pharmaceutical hormones were the miracle cure without a disease.
  • At the time, the thought was whoever could synthesize testosterone was going to be rich.
  • Gay liberation groups did not want to talk to the medical establishment.
  • Transgender issues are reflective of all the problems we have in the world today.
  • In the past, a transition was only accomplished through physical surgery.
  • All human identities are becoming chemically constructed.
  • A project out of UC Berkeley is attempting to debunk the Low T campaign.
  • Bob dispels some myths about hormone imbalances and the medical conditions they supposedly cause.
  • Inspecting the ethical dilemma of consumer-led medicines.
  • For 10 years, Bob’s book was mostly ignored.

This podcast is sponsored by ReIME and Genspect. Visit https://rethinkime.org/ and https://genspect.org/ to learn more.

For more about our show: https://linktr.ee/WiderLensPod.

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About the Podcast

Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast
Two therapists explore the expanding concept of "gender" from a psychological depth perspective.
Gender dysphoria has become a minefield for public discussion, with many afraid to express their views or question the narrative. Our mission is to examine this important and complex topic from a range of perspectives, but always through a psychological lens. By openly considering and examining gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella, we hope to give all interested parties permission to engage these fascinating topics with less fear and more honesty. Interviews and discussions will involve clinicians, medical professionals, academics, transgender people, parents, detransitioners and other interesting individuals whose lives have been touched by the concept of gender.

Conversations between two practicing therapists give listeners an opportunity to contemplate gender from a depth perspective not currently taken up in most of today’s accessible debates. As a result of their work with gender dysphoric therapy clients as well as their personal divergent experiences with gender, Stella and Sasha hold a refreshing and informed perspective.

Is gender identity a facilitation of development and expression of creativity, or can it be a defense against painful existential realities of living in a human body? What can we discover about masculinity, femininity, identity, gender performance, and sexuality when we peer beneath the surface and dive into a deeper psychological exploration? What is the relationship between body, mind, identity, culture, and psyche?

This podcast engages listeners in an intimate and fascinating behind-the-scenes inquiry about a topic as taboo as it is salient today.

* We are sponsored by ReIME and Genspect.
Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics (ReIME) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving long term care for gender variant individuals. To learn more, visit https://rethinkime.org/

Genspect is an international alliance of parent and professional groups whose aim is to advocate for parents of gender-questioning children and young people. Parents are concerned that their kids are not receiving appropriate treatment and support; many do not feel free to speak out about their concerns.
To learn more, visit https://genspect.org/
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About your hosts

Stella O'Malley

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Stella O’Malley is a psychotherapist and author who works in private practice in Ireland. Her work focuses on parenting, family dynamics and working with teenagers.

Much of Stella’s counselling and writing focuses on mental health and the importance of well-being and she is a regular contributor to the media. She is also the resident psychotherapist for the current TV series, Raised by the Village, a family programme that helps troubled teenagers reconnect with themselves and their families.

Stella's first book, Cotton Wool Kids, was released in 2015 while Bully-Proof Kids: Practical tools to help kids grow up confident, resilient and strong was released in 2017. Stella’s latest book Fragile, was released in 2019 and focuses on overcoming anxiety and stress.

Stella was the presenter of the documentary Trans - Kids: It’s Time To Talk broadcast on Channel 4 in November 2018 and she contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People.

The Jungian analyst, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella launched Secrets of the Motherworld in September 2019, offering thoughtful exploration of the most intimate aspects of motherhood in a bid to help mothers feel less alone.

Stella is a Clinical Advisor for the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners. She is also the lead facilitator for the Gender Dysphoria Support Network.

Stella holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a M.A. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Sasha Ayad

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Sasha Ayad is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works in private practice, and has treated adolescents for over 10 years. Her work focuses on teens and young adults struggling with issues of gender dysphoria and gender identity.

She became interested in the sharp rise in teenagers who declare a trans identity for the first time during adolescence. She discovered, through working with hundreds of families, that many teens were developing gender dysphoria only after adopting a transgender identity. She questions the practice of medical transition for children and teenagers, and her clinical work focuses on developmentally appropriate, least-invasive-first talk therapy.

Sasha is also a founding member and Clinical Advisor in the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners.

Sasha’s previous work experience includes:
- School counselor for middle and high school students at a charter school for underserved communities

- Behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum

- Individual and group counseling for women and children impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence

- Developed and ran the first counseling program at a large state supported living facility for adults with intellectual disability

Sasha holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology.