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Evolutionary psychology and transgender people

Evolutionary psychology (EP) is an ideology within psychology that proposes that neurological traits and behaviors have been shaped by sexual selection to serve survival and reproduction. Biologist Stephen Jay Gould described it as “Darwinian fundamentalism” because of the field’s rigid and dogmatic misunderstanding of evolution.

Evolutionary psychologists often engage in unfalsifiable theorizing about gender roles, derisively dubbed “just so stories” after the erroneous folk legends about how animals got various charateristics. Evolutionary psychologists are particularly fond of making claims about behaviors that allegedly evolved in prehistory. They then use the claims to explain and even justify sexist sterotypes.

Sex and gender minorities pose a special dilemma for evolutionary psychology: we muddle what they see as simple formulas regarding reproduction and sex differentiation.

If you think about gender diversity as a value that eludes full human understanding within a scientific language, like pi in mathematics, gender diversity exposes the limitations in EP’s system of representation. Rather than appreciating and understanding the elegance and intricacy of this mysterious value of gender diversity, evolutionary psychologists are suggesting we essentially round pi to a nice easy-to-understand integer by saying there are two sexes and rounding off the little fractions of sex and gender minorities to make the other equations easier.

J. Michael Bailey

J. Michael Bailey is a transphobic eugenicist and evolutionary psychologist trying to figure out “the puzzle of sexual roientation” within the dogma of evolutionary psychology. Bailey claims there are two, and only sexes, and two, and only two two “types” of trans women that fit into this paradigm: extremely gay males with a fetish for straight males and extremely paraphilic males with a fetish for their feminized selves.

This simplistic definition allows for an easy answer to the problem we pose for EP. Of course, this model is worthless given existing and upcoming reproductive technologies that bypass natural selection.

Nonetheless, Bailey insists this model is correct, since conceding it is not would open up a huge flaw in that worldview and hypothesis. In Bailey’s world, it is very important that gay/straight and male/female binaries be defended and justified.

This of course leads to fundamentally flawed results from calculations with this rounded number, but that hasn’t stopped Bailey and friends from a vigorous defense of this decision to simplify humanity to a Mendelian quadrant of XX/XY.

In the EP worldview, gay people are “a big mistake” evolutionarily (as J. Michael Bailey calls it), or perhaps more generously an evolutionary paradox: why does a trait that leads to fewer offspring persist?

I’ll have much more to say on this matter in the future, but evolutionary psychology is a very attractive field of inquiry to eugenicists and others who believe that all humans are not equal, and that many are in fact unfit or maladaptive. These people who measure human worth by a narrow definition of “intelligence” or reproductive capacity are the leading edge of the upcoming bioethical battle regarding diversity of all sorts, from genetics to gender.

Evolutionary psychologists and like-minded academics connected to anti-transgender activism include:


Gould, Steven Jay (June 12, 1997). Darwinian Fundamentalism. New York Review of Books [archive]

Havens, Kiera (June 13, 2013). Box of Rocks #3 — Never Change. Medium

Wren B, Launer J, Reiss MJ, Swanepoel A, Music G. Can evolutionary thinking shed light on gender diversity? BJPsych Advances. 2019;25(6):351-362.

Hagen, Edward (2004). Evolutionary psychology FAQ. [archive]


Noam Chomsky (January 17, 2008). Noam Chomsky on Evolutionary Psychology

Rebecca Watson (August 29, 2020). Why Do Humans Have Sex in Private? Evolutionary Psychology has a Guess

Georgie Taylor [münecat] (May 18, 2024). I Debunked Evolutionary Psychology.


Wikipedia (