Activist-clinicians tout “cultural humility” & surgery-on-demand for “nonbinaries” & “genderfluids”

Update Dec. 31, 2015: Please see here for instructions on how to submit comments to the World Health Organization (WHO) on their proposed new diagnosis code “Gender Incongruence” and “Gender Incongruence of Childhood.” The public comment period will end soon, so time is of the essence.


A funny thing happened to me recently as I was trudging down yet another Got-Dysphoria?-Must-Transition-or Die rabbit hole.

I came to the realization that those of us who are wringing our hands over the rush to diagnose dysphoric children as trans are way, way behind the curve. That battle has mostly been won (and not in our favor).

Trans activists and “gender specialists” have moved on. Now, they are advocating for fully “depathologizing” transgender, yet at the same time, normalizing the idea that even part-time demiboys, “gender fluids,” and other assorted “nonbinaries,” aka “NBs” (the catchall term for anyone who doesn’t fall neatly into the trans man or trans woman box) deserve hormones and surgeries on demand— fully paid for by insurers.

It’s a neat trick they’re trying to accomplish: convince the public that being on the “trans spectrum” is normal, just like being gay or lesbian. Yet, paradoxically, extreme treatment is still medically necessary for some. How does that work?

As they have been all along, trans activists are riding the gay and lesbian liberation movement coattails to further their agenda. Once classified as a psychiatric disorder, homosexuality is now considered normal; it was removed from the DSM (the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) in 1973. In other words, being gay or lesbian has long been depathologized—in my view, a very good thing.

Now trans activists are pushing for the same thing for transgender. In the DSM-IV, “gender identity disorder” (GID) was the label for what ailed a person who wasn’t happy with their biological sex. That was replaced by  gender dysphoria in the DSM-V. No longer a “disorder,” it was the name for the feeling of discomfort or distress with one’s sex.

The next step?  Activists and gender specialists (I’m starting not to see a lot of difference between the two) want to get rid of the idea of distress or dysphoria as a prerequisite for “transition.” The new term they’re after is “gender incongruence:” a mismatch between one’s idea of gender and one’s actual biological sex. The talk amongst activists and clinicians is that there is no disorder, dysphoria, or distress of any kind necessary to obtain services. “Gender incongruence” is a normal variation in human experience.  But you still need some code to be in the DSM, because–reimbursement. You know, billing.

Funny: When homosexuality was depathologized, the need for billing and treatment for that former “disorder” disappeared entirely.

(Note: The screen capture below was taken from a 9/24/15 post on the WPATH page which, oddly, has since been removed. )

wpath gender incongruence

But wait: How can something that is normal still require treatment? Major, possibly lifelong, medical procedures and drugs?

Let’s hear from one activist-clinician who can explain this a whole lot better than I can. Because it turns out, in certain places, this depathologized-yet-highly-medicalized normal variation is already being implemented as a matter of policy, and fully paid for by the taxpayer. And not only that: you don’t even have to have full time “incongruence” to get your breasts or penis lopped off, on demand. You get it just because you say you need it. And if your gender clinic operates under the increasingly common “informed consent” model,  no psychologist or psychiatrist is going to stand in your way. You, and only you, will have the right to diagnose yourself as needing the wallet-busting fully funded services of plastic surgeons and endocrinologists.

Dan Karasic, MD, is a psychiatrist affiliated with the San Francisco Center for Excellence in Transgender Health. He also is a key player in WPATH and one of several activists and clinicians crafting revisions to the DSM and the WPATH Standards of Care (SOC).

Karasic is quite active on the WPATH public Facebook page, frequently advocating for depathologization and greater access to surgery and hormones for those on the “gender spectrum.” [Please note: The WPATH Facebook page is viewable by the public, so all the information revealed in the screenshots below, as of this writing, is a click away.]

As Dr. Karasic says here, the San Francisco Department of Public Health will fully fund surgeries for even “nonbinary” folks:

WPATH Karasic cultural humilty and SFDPH cropped

Lest any wayward clinician have questions about the wisdom of all this, doubts are no longer acceptable. Acceptance and understanding are not enough in San Francisco. One must have humility. And that extends to “nonbinaries.” Only they/them know. They/them get to decide. Not you, with your outmoded and quaint “clinical judgment.” (Question: If you’re nonbinary, what would you be transitioning to? Oops, sorry. Humility lapse here.)

There are several members on the WPATH Facebook page who agree that any skeptical doctors (such as, evidently, some at San Francisco General Hospital–SFGH) need to be brought firmly into line, and that nonbinaries should get their top surgery too. 

WPATH top surgery for non binaries

Are nonbinaries only receiving surgeries and hormones in cutting-edge San Francisco? Apparently not. In March of this year, WBUR Boston touted reported on medical treatments for nonbinaries on the US East Coast in Not Male Or Female: Molding Bodies To Fit A Genderfluid Identity. 

Jones is part of a growing group of young adults who are genderfluid and are using hormone therapy and surgery to create bodies that matches this identity.

“It’s molding my body to fit my mind, physically changing myself so that I feel more comfortable as a person,” said Dale Jackson, a 33-year-old author who lives in Atlanta. Jackson takes a low dose of testosterone for two reasons. First, because he’s worried that a full dose would exacerbate his anxiety. And second, because a half dose helps him moderate the effects.

I like the idea of being in the middle,” Jackson said. “This allows me to explore my masculine side, but I don’t want to push it too far.” Jackson does not want a big bushy beard or arms so hairy “that gorillas were looking at me like, is that our cousin?”

Comfort, exploration, wants, not wants–what’s not to like? And it’s certainly important to calibrate the testosterone dosage so as not to increase pre-existing anxiety.

Both Jones and Jackson are under the care of physicians who are helping them pursue a more gender neutral body. But there are no guidelines. So far, in the emerging world of transgender medicine, protocols assume that patients want to end up on one end of the spectrum or the other, male or female, says Dr. Tim Cavanaugh, who runs the transgender health program at Fenway Health.

An estimated 100 to 150 of Fenways Health’s 1,500 transgender patients are genderfluid. Most of the genderfluid patients are transitioning from female towards male. So how do doctors know how much testosterone will produce the effects these patients are looking for?

To a certain extent we’re making it up, but I’d like to think of it more as finessing the regimens that we have based on the individual person’s desires and needs,” Cavanaugh said.

Ten percent of your caseload is “genderfluids” who are trying to “mold” their bodies to be more “gender neutral.” And most of them are female. (Wouldn’t a paragraph asking why that is be of value here? Silly me. That’s old school journalism.)

“There are no guidelines”—yet. And if you’re genderfluid, you are transitioning “towards” the opposite sex (even though, presumably, if you’re “fluid” you’re already somewhere in between, but the logic of gender identity is not…logical).

…some genderfluid patients say they cannot find peace without medical intervention.

“I had an incredible amount of dysphoria around my chest, it was consuming. I got to the point where in order for me to thrive and to do the work I wanted to be able to do and just live my life, I needed to have surgery,” said Taan Shapiro, a 33-year-old a teacher and parent in Boston who had surgery to create a flatter, more masculine looking chest.

Shapiro, who uses the pronouns they and them, says some strangers assume they are a teenage boy, others that Shapiro is female. Shapiro is not planning any more surgery or hormone therapy.

“Where I am is where I’m at and I feel good about myself,” Shapiro said, “[in a place] somewhere between male and female.”

This sounds an awful lot like elective surgery. People get procedures like breast augmentation, liposuction, face lifts, tummy tucks, to “feel more comfortable.” Someone might even say they need a taxpayer-funded nose job to “thrive” and just “live their life.” That the “incredible amount of dysphoria” they experience because of their big nose is all consuming. (Likely the late Michael Jackson would have agreed.)

To be fair, Dr. Cavanaugh does voice a few words of doubt about all that money he’s making the wisdom of medical treatment for nonbinaries:

If gender is a product of social construction, then using medicine to fix every patient’s discomfort may not be the best long term solution, Cavanaugh says.

“I hope we are headed to a place where we recognize that gender is not one thing or the other, not male or female, and that culturally we can become more comfortable with that idea,” Cavanaugh said. “Hormones and surgery are always going to be options for people, but I really hope that we won’t feel compelled to use them as much as we do now.”

Hm. I wonder what other means there might be to address people’s discomfort with a socially constructed gender identity?

The WBUR article was discussed on the WPATH Facebook page, and some members were not pleased with this meek bit of dissension in the ranks: the medical model is the way to go!

WPATH nonbinaries surgery critique wbur

So there you have it.  It’s “super problematic” for Dr. Cavanaugh to suggest that some “nonbinaries” (i.e, people without rigid gender-stereotyped personalities) aren’t going to be served by the “medical model.”

How will activist-clinicians continue to walk the delicate line between normalization/depathologizing the “trans spectrum” while still hoodwinking encouraging the taxpayer to pay for expensive plastic surgeries and long-term hormone treatment? Stay tuned!

For now, there’s lots more to read in this thread on the WPATH Facebook page. Rest assured that the activist-clinicians are hard at work to make sure insurers are on board with any and all treatment, on demand, for transmasculine, transfeminine, genderfluid, and nonbinary folks. After all, gold-plated body modification is not just for the garden variety, binary transgender man or woman. That is so 2013.

But sarcasm aside (for now), if these activists and clinicians are really serious about depathologizing? Here’s what they’d do:

Celebrate gender nonconformity. Teach people to respect and take care of their bodies, just as they are.  Work to build self esteem in teens, and mentor them to know that their bodies, the product of millions of years of evolution, are good and whole, and that there is no need to cut or drug themselves to be “comfortable” or to fit anyone’s idea of male or female. Develop therapies that help people realize their bodies and brains are not two disconnected units, but indivisible, complete,  and right. Encourage kids to dress, think, and pursue interests as they like. Celebrate uniqueness and diversity in men and women.

I realize my prescription for truly depathologizing gender nonconformity might put a few people out of work. But our kids are worth it. Aren’t they?

Self harm & the need for more possibilities for “gender variant” kids

Holidays can be rough for people who are experiencing family discord–or worse, total estrangement from loved ones. A time like Christmas is also particularly hard on those who are depressed or suicidal for any reason. You’re supposed to feel merry and festive, and the discrepancy between the holiday cheer surrounding you and your own feelings of despair can make that misery stand out in relief.

Joel Nowak, who describes himself as a retransitioned man and social work graduate student, authors the blog Retransition. Today, Joel posted a really important letter he received from a reader named Juniper, who talks about the great need that “gender variant” young people have for options and positive role models apart from medical transition.

Juniper shares thoughts similar to my own regarding suicide risk amongst gender nonconforming young people: Maybe some of the increased risk is not necessarily because these kids are prevented from “transitioning” medically for some reason, but more because they feel  it is imperative that they do transition, or risk being consigned to a miserable life. As Juniper explains, these teens perhaps feel trapped by the transition-or-die message that surrounds them:

A young person who is gender-variant may feel that they have few options but to pursue transition or to live inauthentically. People overwhelmingly hear in the media that surgeries and hormones are absolutely necessary for people who are transgender to live meaningful and happy lives.

There is no representation in the media for people who live quite well and enjoy balanced and well-adjusted lives yet radically defy gender stereotypes.

Our story is not told. People like you and I are virtually invisible.

So, what happens to the kid who is questioning their gender? They look into their options and literally see a DEAD END. No matter what they do, no matter how far they go with surgeries and hormones, they cannot change their DNA or their root socialization. How can they be sure that society will change their perception of them? Can they be sure that they will “pass?” Can they be sure that the secret of their sex at birth will ever be exposed?

They hear that it will be difficult to find a life-partner, that the surgeries are prohibitively expensive and that they will never be 100% like other men and/or women. They learn that surgeries and hormones can only do so much.For instance, if they are FtM, it is unlikely that they will ever have a successful “bottom surgery” even after paying $100,000. And if you are 5’1 as a woman … guess what … you will be 5’1 as a man.

They hear from the media that their future is bleak. This is a lot of stress for a young person to handle. They seek support in the transgender community and there is no Transgender “Pride” parade but rather a Trans Day of Remembrance to remind them that suicide and murder are very real outcomes in their community and that they are disproportionately at risk.

Earlier this year, there was a cluster of suicides of trans-identified San Diego teenagers. At least two of them were seen as leaders in the LGBTQ community, and family, teachers, and friends supported them in their transition.

What went wrong? I wrote about this on Tumblr in October:

The fact that their parents and other adults were supportive and helping them along the road to transition should have made them feel better, if transition were the answer to the horrible depression and self harm these kids were obviously experiencing. Being “gender nonconforming” in this day and age is also really stressful. Gay and lesbian kids who aren’t interested in transition are also bullied and some have parents who are not supportive of them stepping outside gender stereotypes.

Suicide contagion is a real, known phenomenon. The press should not be advertising these suicides the way it has been. The fact that several of these kids have stepped into heavy traffic as a way to die also indicates a “copycat” aspect. And FOUR of them in the same city? Someone should be looking into the reasons for this cluster.

I have also long felt that some of the trans-identified kids who are socially transitioning, with an eye towards medical transition, could be made even more depressed when they think their only option is painful, lifelong medical treatments. That they can’t be accepted as the unique and unusual people they are, without having to constantly worry about how they are perceived by others. We are not looking at the full picture with these kids. The assumption that assuming a trans identity is somehow the solution to this terrible problem of teen suicidality is so overly simplified. And the pressure so many kids feel now to claim a certain identity vs. just being themselves with no “identity” required has to add to the despair.

Also this year, the first trans-male high school homecoming king Blake Brockington jumped off a bridge in Charlotte, NC.  Like some of the San Diego teens, Blake was a well respected leader in the Charlotte, NC LGBTQ community.  And in September of this year, another 16-year-old LGBTQ community leader, Skylar Lee of Madison, WI, took their own life.  Skylar had earlier spoken about claiming, then rejecting, a series of gender identities, shifting every two weeks, before “discovering” s/he was trans.

Again, from Juniper in today’s post on Retransition:

No wonder young “transgender” people commit suicide. They are trying to find themselves and figure things out and when they seek help they are told that they have no option but to change themselves if they want to be loved. No one tells them that they are perfect just as they are. No one tells them that there are many ways to live. No one says “Hey, I made it … I am happily married, I have a good life … it will get better … I was a lot like you in High School and I am glad that I kept my body as it is and/or that I learned to love myself for who I am.”

Many people who are diagnosed as transgender may not be aware that there are lots of ways to live outside of the gender lines. More perspectives need to be shared so that young people can decide for themselves what what resonates, and feels right for them.

How else can we reduce the risk? One reader on Tumblr offered some simple but powerful advice  that seems to me compassionate and practical–no matter what your position may be on the wisdom of “transition” or a transgender identity:

The real way to reduce the rate of suicide among transgender teens:

1. Stop telling people that they have to hurry up and transition or they’ll regret it for the rest of their life. They can transition later and have a happy life.

2. Stop glamorizing transgender teens who commit suicide.

3. Encourage them to get good therapy for their problems and think carefully about whether or not they should transition.

4. Encourage them to stay connected to their family, even if their family is skeptical.

I hope everyone reading this can find a way to connect or reconnect with loved ones and family during the coming week–even if it’s just a text message, a Facebook “like,” a quick phone call, or an unexpected hug. I have to believe that most families that may be under stress right now because of something to do with a loved one’s identity or transition status still have some reservoir of good will to tap…even if only a few drops to quench the thirst we all have for mutual understanding and support.

Internalized homophobia & teen dysphoria: More reader comments

This week, I’ve been featuring comments submitted to this blog. Today, there are two selections: a commenter asking what the solution is (if not transition) for a female who is sexually attracted to other females, but cannot tolerate the idea of being a woman herself; and a 15-year-old who identifies as trans male. This teen feels angered by what I and others write here, believing we don’t understand.

First, from Dagis:

What if the sexual preference for a natal female is for a female, but only if the natal female were male? That is, what if the natal female does not self-identify as lesbian, could not conceive of being a female having an intimate sexual relationship with a female, but desires an intimate sexual relationship with a female as a male? I’ve yet to see this addressed by critics of “transition,” and yet I have seen this expressed by those considering FtM transition. Perhaps this is generally dismissed as “oh this person is just a ‘closet lesbian/gay,’ and therefore it’s not actually examined. But if it is a real issue for someone who identifies in anyway as having difficulty with their birth assigned sex, and such a person does indeed express desire for intimate sexual relationship (not homosexual), then what is a compassionate and logically sound response to such a person?

“I am attracted to women but I’m actually not a lesbian, I’m a straight man.” This assertion is a key part of nearly every transition account I’ve seen–including from women like Aydian Dowling, who lived happily as a lesbian before deciding she was a man.  (I always wonder why the prior lesbian life is presented as somehow less real than the subsequent life as a heterosexual man).

Trans-identified natal females stringently deny that their desire to convert to heterosexual males is in the least motivated by internalized homophobia.  But why else, then, would a woman be unable to “conceive of being a female having an intimate sexual relationship with a female”?

The accounts of female-to-male transitioners often revolve around a feeling of disgust for one’s own female body.  Transition vloggers are careful not to use anatomically accurate words that might “trigger” their viewers; euphemisms like “down there” and “junk” are substituted for the rejected body parts.  But clearly, for these women who desire to be heterosexual men, it’s not a generalized revulsion for female bodies;  they want to be intimate with other women.  Yet dis-identifying with and speaking disparagingly about one’s own female body, and taking comfort in the thought that they can be transformed, via hormones and surgery, into straight men–how is that not, at base,  a form of internalized homophobia?

As I’ve said many times, I have no difficulty acknowledging that some trans-identified people do feel intense dysphoria or dissociation from their bodies. That is an experience, and as such, it is subjectively real.  What right would I have to deny the feelings and thoughts of another person?

So as Dagis asks, what’s the compassionate and “logically sound” response (apart from simply agreeing that transition is the answer) to same-sex attracted women who are adamant that they cannot stand the thought of being sexually involved with someone of their own sex? I hate to say it, but I suspect most of them are just going to cover their ears if all they hear is feminist analysis.


Next, there is this comment from Kenneth, a 15-year-old who identifies as trans male.

This blog absolutely has pissed me off. To the people who have been saying that this whole Transgender thing is wrong and that people who identify as trans are only going through a phase, you have no idea about it. There are are thirty year olds who have identified as trans since they were old enough to understand that the gender of the their body did not match the one inside their head. I have identified myself as male before I barely knew what Internet was, I’d like to see you calling me ‘brainwashed’ by the internet. But at the age of twelve I was mildly obsessed over YouTube, I enjoyed watching YouTubers such as Smosh and Annoying Orange and etc. but I soon found a YouTuber that goes by the name of Alex Bertie, who has been identifying as male since he was fourteen; as of now he is 21 and personally goes and makes his appointments for his gender needs and hasn’t once had any doubts his doings.

I’m currently fifteen, I do identify as male regardless of what my body is. Could I possibly change my mind in a couple years or even months? Possibly, I’m not going to say it’s impossible but you sure as hell aren’t going to find me doing it right now; wearing girls clothes or mildly looking like a girl? No, that sounds like absolute hell and feel sorry for the children who have to go through that now. Normally children go back to their birth gender because society says that what they’re doing is wrong, some children even commit suicide because of this horrible issue. It isn’t wrong. I’d like to see your reaction if you were somehow ‘magically’ put into a male/female body but were born male/female. Would you like that? Would you try your hardest to become the gender you know yourself as?

Children also do not wish to tell their parent they are trans because the fact they feel like they’re going to be rejected. Many children of the LGBT+ community are thrown into the streets or are still allowed at home but are abused because of this ‘issue’.

I don’t doubt that Kenneth decided s/he was stereotypically male as a child, before being exposed to the Internet–although Kenneth’s subsequent experiences watching other trans-identified  people (like Alex, one of the many “YouTube famous” transitioners) had an impact in cementing that identity, no doubt.

But notice what Kenneth defines as being female: to “wear girls’ clothes or mildly look like a girl.” Because what is it to be a 15-year-old girl, apart  from clothes and looks and–what? Which video games you prefer? What does “girl” even mean to a teen like Kenneth?

I have never once heard an adult trans-identified person actually answer the question: What is a man? What is a woman?  apart from saying “it’s whatever I feel I am.” And I sure don’t expect a teen trans-identified person to be able to respond with any more clarity. But Kenneth: Are your feelings of being the opposite sex rooted in your preferences for the activities and appearances of the boys you’ve been around? What exactly is wrong with being a “gender nonconforming” girl?

Maybe this is what’s wrong: Kenneth brings up being rejected by parents. There is no doubt that “gender nonconforming” kids are more at risk for self harm, and that some do actually kill themselves due to, as Kenneth rightly calls it, this “horrible issue.” One of the risk factors for poor self esteem in LGBT teens is lack of family support, but how much of that is down to the pressure to conform to rigid gender stereotypes and norms?

Kenneth, parents like me aren’t rejecting our kids. We want to support them in expanding what it means to be a girl (or boy).  In fact, we actually see medical transition as another, potentially very serious form of self harm–even self hate.  And transition does not appear to be a magic long-term solution for many young people; witness the rash of teen suicides in 2015, several of whom were fully supported in their transition by family, teachers, and friends.

Kenneth presents this challenge:

I’d like to see your reaction if you were somehow ‘magically’ put into a male/female body but were born male/female. Would you like that? Would you try your hardest to become the gender you know yourself as?

What Kenneth is saying is: I hate this body. I want out of it. If you hated your body as much as I hate mine, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to escape its prison?

Kenneth, I don’t know what it’s like to feel extreme dysphoria; to want to drastically alter my body, even if it means a lifetime of surgeries and doctor’s appointments. I have fantasized, on more than one occasion, about being a man–down to every anatomical detail. I can even say that I’ve mightily wished I were a man at certain times in my life. But it has not caused me the misery you are talking about here.  There are quite a few women who have been there, though, like this one. And there are several more in my blogroll (linked on the right side of the page) who have been down the same path you’re on–but returned home to realizing themselves as female.

I don’t doubt your pain, and your determination to do something to relieve that pain. Nor do I doubt that you sincerely believe your mind knows better than your body;  that you think your body is alien and wrong.

But I don’t believe the intense desire to be something you are not means you are actually male.

I wish there were more therapists and caring adults who could support  teens in exploring options apart from “transgender.” Breaking out of gender stereotypes is a good thing, a brave thing for a teen to do.  But where are the non-trans-identified role models for these young people? Where are the YouTube stars who have chosen not to transition? Wouldn’t it be great to see a series of vlogs that aren’t “one year on “T,” but “one year in my journey to reclaim myself as a strong and independent girl?”

 

Geeks & nerds, boys at risk: Guest post

While the primary focus of my blog is to examine the transgender trend as it relates to girls and young women, the online community of readers and commenters here also includes some parents of boys, as well as men who have detransitioned or who are also questioning the pediatric transition paradigm.

I have been wanting to hear directly from more fathers whose children are affected by transgenderism. Here, the commenter “heteronerd,” a father of young children and someone who sees himself as something of a geek, shares his insights from the world of STEM, as well as concerns about his own kids’ future.

It’s no secret that there are a large number of men from the world of IT and high tech who, as adults, have decided they are “actually women.” How many boys and young men will follow suit?


Guest post

by “heteronerd”

I just discovered this blog — thank you so much for your courage in pushing back against what seems like an unstoppable juggernaut. As a new parent, I’m desperately hoping that things will have returned to some balance of sanity by the time my children reach school age.

I’m Gen X and an introverted, artistic hetero male from a long line of introverted, artistic hetero males, all of whom turned out all right in the end after the usual adolescent turmoil. In my case, these tendencies were exacerbated by an acute but correctable birth defect that required long hospital stays and left me clumsy and physically fragile compared to other boys my age.

So I’m deeply concerned by the way in which the trans industry encourages girls and boys on the ordinary spectrum of human gender variation — “tomboys and soft boys,” as someone said earlier in the thread — to identify as transgender and seek drastic, irreversible medical intervention. Looking back on my own childhood, it’s terrifyingly easy to imagine a scenario in which a clueless but well-meaning teacher, or an adult predator, might have used leading questions (“Do you feel different from the other boys? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to be a girl?”) to elicit the conclusion that I was “really a girl inside.”

I work in STEM academia, a world largely populated by geeky men who don’t fit the macho footballer mold, and in the past few years I’ve watched several younger male acquaintances “discover,” suddenly and unexpectedly (and always by way of a heavy dose of social media), that they “have always been a woman.” Similar to how you and many of the regular commenters here draw on your own memories of being a tomboy in your struggles with “FTM” daughters, my own memories of a “different” male adolescence are what fuel my gut sense that peak trans is leading these vulnerable young people down a terribly dangerous path. Ftmskeptic’s account here describes the exact thought process I’ve heard verbalized by late-adolescent males who get caught up in the trans subculture — just swap out “bad-boy athlete” for “pink sparkly princess” and “lesbian” for “gay boy” while leaving “science, pokemon and video games” the same:

[A] quirky, socially awkward girl who had always identified as a girl (although never a pink sparkly princess) suddenly decides that because she loves science, pokemon and video games rather than makeup, hairstyles and clothes she MUST actually be a boy. She says she is a gay boy, as she is attracted to boys.

It seems crystal clear to me that online and campus trans communities recruit insecure (often mentally ill) young people, both male and female, by offering them an easy “solution” to their difficulties living up to mass culture’s stereotypical gender roles — and that academia, big medicine and the media are irresponsibly enabling them. I’m particularly worried by the fact that “alternative” pop culture interests like fantasy gaming and punk music, which have traditionally been a refuge for gender-nonconforming kids both male and female, are the ones whose online communities are the most saturated by the militant trans narrative. I’m afraid that my kids will be at risk from this in a few years.

You have suggested that a lot of the “trans” phenomenon comes from the collision of autism-spectrum literal thinking with a gender-obsessed culture, and that rings true to my own experience. As an adult with some life experience writing a common-sense armchair prescription, I think that what would really help a lot of self-professed MTFs is cultural validation that their “geekiness” is a different but equally valid way of being biologically male, and from what you and others have written here, it seems like the same is true for FTMs.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there’s also a disturbing overlap between trans ideology and utopian sci-fi fantasies about re-engineering and discarding the human body — especially clear when you look at who’s funding the trans activist movement. And I suspect this appeals to a lot of kids (both male and female) who are uncomfortable with their physical bodies for one reason or another.

Chest tumors and rape gashes: Do trans activists realize they enable this kind of misogyny and self hatred?

This is a comment submitted to my blog this morning on my post discussing my daughter’s desistance from her prior trans identification:

I’m forty. I came out to my parents at nineteen, from an Ivy League school. They took the same hard line you did. Now I’m a happy guy, on T, having shoveled off those gross chest tumors and gotten rid of the disgusting babymaking internals. The rape gash is no more; I happily penetrate my feminine, gay-leaning bi boyfriend of seven years with the genital I should have had at birth. And my parents? I haven’t spoken to them in years, and I couldn’t care less. Do you want your kid to feel like me? All because you want them to accept something that makes them miserable? If you really are a radfem, you should accept reality: celebrating female biology is like celebrating cancer. Read Firestone and Dworkin.


 

Regular readers know I don’t generally provide a platform for hateful and abusive argument in my comment sections. But on occasion, I do believe it’s instructive to highlight the self-hatred and vitriol that some people feel compelled to hurl at parents like me; parents who question whether the “community” their kids are thinking of joining is actually a healthy neighborhood.

  • Does this “happy guy” think this spittle-flecked rant makes a parent like me feel guilty for wanting to protect my daughter from falling into a cesspit like this?
  • Do gender therapists have any idea they enable a person like this to “transition” to a “man” who hates women to this extent?
  • What happened to this woman that would make her detest herself so much that she would not only label her own amputated and re-purposed body parts as a “rape gash” and “chest tumors,” but also feel compelled to send filth like this to the parent of a teenager who actually decided on her own not to continue down the path of self-loathing?
  • Why would a stranger, reading about a teen girl who has begun to accept her whole self, become filled with such venom?
  • Why wouldn’t someone who actually cares about “trans” people celebrate a teenager who won’t have to endure years of injections and surgeries? It would be like a cancer patient becoming enraged when another patient goes into remission.
  • What makes a stranger think that a mother who refuses to march in lockstep with the propaganda spewed by a close-minded cult is equivalent to somehow forcing her child to change?
  • Is not speaking to one’s parents for decades and feeling indifferent about that supposed to be some indicator of mental health and a fulfilling life?
  • Is mentioning they came from an “Ivy League school” supposed to somehow rationalize the crude and offensive words they want to assault me with?
  • And a bit of irony: Telling me to go read books by feminist authors who pointed out the exact same extreme misogyny this “man” is spouting is proof of—what? Certainly not that celebrating female biology is “cancer.” What it is, is proof that the depth of self hatred women like this commenter experience, their extreme dysphoria, ought to merit serious attention from a psychologist.
  • Does anyone reading this honestly think that hormones and surgery were the solution to this person’s troubles?

That a female could dissociate from her own body to the extent of proudly wearing the most hateful misogyny as a badge of honor should cause a lot of soul searching amongst those who purport to care about women with gender dysphoria.

Gender specialists? Are we to understand that hating femaleness to this degree is what constitutes manhood? Or a cure for dysphoria?

Because, trust me: although it is an extreme exemplar, this isn’t the first comment like this I’ve received. And it won’t be the last.

All in the transfamily: Three sets of trans siblings make headlines

Though you’d never know it from the incessant, daily onslaught of “Hey, look mom, I’m trans!” stories in the media, is it possible the garden variety tales of 3-year-old trans children could be starting to get a bit…old hat?

How does a magazine or newspaper editor get out ahead of this and keep the trans angle fresh and new?

Well, we did recently have the 52-year-old father of 7 who has come out as a 6-year-old girl, featured on a Canadian documentary about transgender heroes and lauded by a Canadian politician as instrumental in passing a gender ID law in Canada. That story is still making the rounds, with several permutations that include “Stefonknee’s” sex life with his adoptive “parents” and his propensity for “play therapy” with other young children.

But all these stories about trans kids (of all ages!)–honestly, how many more do we need? It’s time to move on to something new–like multiple members of the same family coming out as trans.

So far, I’ve learned of three such families. Undoubtedly, there are more out there to be discovered.


Cincinnati family transplanted to the UK : Brother and sister swap sexes

First, let’s have a look at the McGarritys, whose teen son and daughter declared themselves trans within a month of each other. Good Housekeeping (which broke the story) is as mainstream American as you can get. It’s the housewive’s mag that has been on grocery store checkout racks since I was a wee lass myself, the go-to publication for recipes, home entertainment tips, and wholesome parenting advice

Housekeeping isn’t typically known for sizzling news scoops, but they hit it out of the park this time, with the heartwarming tale of internalized homophobia not one, but two trans kids in the same fam! The story of the McGarrity family was subsequently picked up by the UK Sun, Huffington Post, and Metro.

As always, it’s a tale of “gender nonconforming kids” who found it easier to “transition” than to live as non-stereotypical members of their own sex.  As a younger child, “Russie” (who now identifies as female and goes by “Rai”), didn’t like football. He preferred pink chiffon, makeup, and playing dress up.

On an “easy” day, Russ would be greeted at school by a football player’s taunt: “Hey, fag, you’re gay.” On bad days, there were interactions with school administrators who didn’t seem equipped to understand or support a student who didn’t fit expected gender norms.

And teen daughter Aly (now Gavin) was conversely not attracted to typical girl stuff:

Low-key Aly seemed to be thriving as a junior high tomboy who loved sports, baggy jeans, and T-shirts. She had good friends and earned good grades. But for years, she had been quietly struggling, desperate to spare her parents any additional worries as they worked to support her brother.

It was Russ who finally got her to talk about it. “I heard you like girls,” he said one evening when their parents were out with friends. “Is that true?”

“Well, it’s deeper than that,” Aly replied. Quiet and studious, she had been researching gender identity online. Now, just a few weeks shy of her 15th birthday, she sat down with Russ to describe some things she had learned, including the term other teens were using on YouTube for feelings that sounded a lot like hers: transgender — experiencing psychological gender differently from the gender observed at birth.

Ah yes, the University of YouTube—where teenage experts convince a girl who likes girls and who eschews stereotypically female clothes and hairstyles that she’s actually a boy.

The kids come out as trans, one at a time, a month apart. The rest of the article is “reported” as you’d expect. The 41% stat is trotted out (as seems to be obligatory in all these stories), in the usual inaccurate way, with the usual implicit assumption that “transition” will be the cure for thoughts of self harm. (I’ve come to see that this scare tactic is what allows journalists to feel they are excused from raising even the mildest skeptical questions when “reporting” these stories.)

Both teens have begun medical transition, and via social media, Rai is helping other kids to realize that deciding they’re trans is a way out of gender nonconformity :

60,000 YouTube channel subscribers. Vlogging as Raiden Quinn, she had logged more than 6.5 million views with her edgy humor and genuine commentary on life as a transgender woman. (Part of that process was undergoing a painful facial feminization surgery.)


The Owens family: Dad is a trans woman, 9 and 10-year-old siblings also trans

In Marionville, Missouri, Heidi Owens is on a mission to secure bathroom rights for her two young (9 and 10-year-old) trans kids, Karri and DeeDee. The unisex bathroom provided by the children’s elementary school wasn’t enough (as it never seems to be in these cases). Karri and DeeDee’s father is also trans-identified, going by the name Krystel Rose. The couple have 5 children.

Heidi Owens says in the linked article that she intends to take her case to the Supreme Court, if that’s what it will take to win. The ACLU has taken an interest in the case, with Sarah Rossi, the director of policy and advocacy for the ACLU of Missouri, quoted multiple times in this article, as well as this one, calling the school’s policy of providing only a unisex bathroom “blatant discrimination.” The school’s attorney, Tom Mickes, is not in agreement, appearing to come down on the side of girls’ rights to privacy:

According to Mickes, MCE [Missouri Consultants for Education] created its policy model to counter recommendations from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights that include allowing transgender students who identify as being female to shower with biologically-born females.

Female students have a well-developed legal right to be secure in their body integrity. They have the right not to be naked in front of a male,” Mickes said. “We are going to provide alternatives, but showering with them is not one of the options.”

Though multiple news accounts about the plight of the Owens family don’t tell us this, a quick Google search reveals that Mrs. Owens was fundraising online for Karri’s medical treatments related to autism a few years ago (prior to the child being referred to as “transgender” male), both in a gofundme-like page and in Twitter appeals. (Heidi Owens’ Twitter feed, evidently unused since 2011, contains some other concerning information which I won’t go into here.) As I wrote about recently, a diagnosis of autism seems to be no barrier to people declaring children to be transgender.


 

Pennsylvania trans siblings inspired by Caitlyn Jenner

A brother and sister in their early 20s made the news in Erie, PA last June, making their joint public announcement just a few days after Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner became a media sensation.

The siblings, who both ID as transgender, tell their story with an odd mix of pronouns:

One huge motivator for Corey to stop hiding is his younger sister, who is also transgender. She came out first, about five years ago.

Stephanie Hepler, a 23-year-old Guys Mills resident, now goes by Stephan and prefers male pronoun.

“It’s not any different than if two siblings said they were gay. To me, it’s just one of those weird  anomalies that happen every so often,” Stephan said in a phone interview. “With moral support yes, we’re there for each other,” he said.

“She’s what ultimately helped me come out. Because of her courage, and her will to do what she believed was right and be the true her,” Corey said.

Corey, who identifies as a trans woman (“Janelle”) but still goes by male pronouns, clearly wanted the siblings’ story to be better known: he posted it to the Today Show’s Facebook page  the same day it appeared on the Erie News Now site.

What inspired Corey to go public about himself and his sister?

Another story that helped Corey make the decision is Bruce Jenner’s transformation.

“That was one of the biggest parts for me coming out. He’s a former Olympian, he’s been on a reality show. Why can’t I?” Corey said.

Why, indeed?

But until Corey gets that reality show?

As far as other future goals, Corey also plans to run for the mayor of Girard.

Nothing wrong with your body that the truth can’t cure: Guest post

This guest post by “fightingunreality,” a regular commenter on this blog, is the second in an ongoing series of accounts by women who at one time experienced gender dysphoria or the desire to become the opposite sex—but who turned away from “transition” without undergoing hormones or surgery. (The first in the series is “Abandoning the Ship of Woman,” by guest poster “Dot.”)

I am looking for more guest posts from formerly dysphoric women and girls, of all ages, who did not take steps to “transition” medically. There are some fine writings/blogs authored by detransitioned/detransitioning women who did embark upon medical transition but returned to embracing their femaleness; I will leave it to those women to continue elucidating their experiences for us. One excellent blog by a detransitioned woman is that of Maria Catt, who wrote powerfully yesterday about the hazards of transition and specifically testosterone—both from the perspective of someone who has used “T” herself, and as a worker in a medical clinic which served transgender people. Another fine blog by a detransitioned woman is “Hot Flanks,” who writes sensitively about her journey home to female after years of trans-identification.


Nothing wrong with your body that the truth can’t cure

by fightingunreality

As one of many women who have faced some of the issues confronting teenagers who call themselves “transgender,” I feel reasonably certain that, had these girls been born in an era before the all-out indoctrination that has taken place in the past decade, they would not only not be seriously considering altering their bodies; they would be developing a framework for understanding why they ever felt the female sex was not their own.

Such dysphoric females would most likely eventually connect, as I have, with other women who had the same difficulties–even if those difficulties remained unspoken. Instead of demanding hormones and surgery, these girls would be learning to cope with the ongoing changes that take place as they gradually mature, physically and socially. And it wouldn’t be easy, but nothing of importance ever is. Especially during the teenage years.

I imagine a self-identified trans teen reading this and thinking, “Eh, what could she possibly know? She was never ‘really trans’.” In response, I ask: What IS “really trans”?

Dysphoric teens often talk about depression and anxiety spiking during their middle school years, when their bodies begin changing in ways they don’t want and can’t stop; changes that feel wrong.

Do you have any idea how common these feelings are? For the longest time, I wouldn’t talk about them because I thought they were weird and embarrassing. But it turns out that a lot of my friends felt the same way and weren’t talking about it either. Nothing seems right when your body starts to change, and it doesn’t help that the hormones that are causing the changes fuel emotional highs and lows that are really intense and hard to handle. I know it doesn’t really seem like it, but things get a lot easier to deal with. It just takes time.

I remember this time period very well. I panicked. I was depressed. I didn’t know what to do because I could not imagine myself becoming what I believed it was to be a woman. I was neither like the women I knew nor those I saw on television. The idea of having to buy or wear a bra was repugnant. As a result, I did the only thing that seemed logical at the time: I hid my breasts and tried to carry on as if nothing had changed. I wore layers and vests and spent a lot of time worrying about other people noticing.

I remember feeling ashamed, especially when my older sisters made fun of me for trying to deny this development, or alternately, for acting or feeling like I was a boy (something that I never verbalized for fear of perpetual teasing). I had been obsessed with becoming a boy prior to hitting puberty, and what I considered to be my body’s betrayal seemed like the ultimate cruelty. Like some sort of unfair punishment.

Remembering those times, I wonder what it would have been like if I’d had someone I trusted who I could talk with about it–someone who understood the depth of my despair, who’d been through something similar. I did not have any such confidante. Yet in retrospect, I consider myself extremely lucky, because what I also did not have–which virtually every other child and adolescent has now–is someone who would have reinforced my belief that I really was meant to be a boy; that I was “trans.” I have to tell you, I would have bought into that belief with everything I had because I did not want to be female. I did not want to wear dresses or makeup, bleed every month, date boys or get married—ever. Being “trans” would have been the perfect out for all of those things, and once your body starts to develop, the pressure is on. Everything changes.

Thinking back, it was around age 5–the time when I started kindergarten –when I began to realize I wasn’t quite like the other girls. To be honest, I can’t even remember what activities the girls engaged in because I didn’t pay much attention. I guess it must have been dolls, since the note inscribed on my very first report card said that I didn’t like to play with them, but instead played with “trains and boys’ toys.” It made it seem like it was a bad thing–like I was bad–and I can recall from that point on a growing alienation from whatever it was that “girl” was supposed to mean. I actually remember at one point feeling sorry for *them,* for the girls, as if I weren’t one myself.

By the time puberty hit, my friends were all boys, so I guess you can imagine the additional issues that started to develop right along with my budding breasts. Suddenly the pressure was really on from the adults to act more ladylike, and there came rules about spending time alone with the boys and separating us for activities. We couldn’t play together as easily. There was increasing snark from the girls at school who marked me out as “other” for my failure to socially conform. I didn’t really need to hear their comments, though, because my changing body was a constant reminder of how I was supposed to behave and look which had nothing to do with how I felt about or saw myself. I felt trapped.

Worse, it wasn’t just the girls who had become suddenly self-conscious about their increasing need to conform: the boys who had been my peers and best friends began to see me as “other,” too. It didn’t matter that I was just as good as any of them when it came to sports, or that in a fight I would most likely win. I was a girl, and that alone altered the dynamic in our little group. It was even worse outside of our circle of friends. Individually, my friends seemed the same, but around the other boys, it was like they had to prove something to each other. Influenced by their own surging hormones, some of them began to make sexualized comments to impress each other with the pretense of worldliness, and the situation became increasingly intolerable. Former friends would dis me in the presence of others in order to get a laugh or to prove their masculinity. Hanging out with a girl wasn’t cool at this age unless it had some sort of sexual connotation. My sense of betrayal was devastating and complete.

It was at this point that I found myself alone. No longer accepted as a peer, I was closed out of the boys’ club and realized that I had little in common with the girls.  I hadn’t really learned the rules very well, and from what I saw, I didn’t want to. Girls seemed helpless sometimes–interested in things that were incomprehensible to me. They began to cover the backs of their notebooks with popular boys’ names, plus theirs, surrounded by hearts. I just didn’t get it. It was pretty clear that I did not really fit in: I was not like them, and I certainly wasn’t going to grow up to be like their moms who I understood even less. I had no role models–I knew no one like me. As an adult, I can acknowledge a multitude of contributing factors, but at the time I could see only one real source of my pain: my body had betrayed me. I was alone, I was depressed, and I couldn’t see any way out of my situation. I felt like a mistake and I too often just wanted to be dead. As it was, I did what I could to simply hide. I sought invisibility and spent a lot of time by myself.

What if, along with my rejection of my maturing body, my growing depression, the loss of my peer group and my increasing alienation, I’d been told that there was a cure? I, along with a number of my friends, have asked that question. What if I’d been told that I must have a “male brain” or that there was science that showed that I had a “medical condition” that caused all of the problems? What would I have done? It didn’t happen, fortunately, but I think I understand my former self well enough to know: I would have attributed all of my social difficulties to that “condition.” I would have believed that if I could just fix that “condition,” all of the other issues would be resolved or at least lessened. They were, after all, entirely related to being the wrong sex. Weren’t they?

Having been raised in a very religious household, I actually believed as a young child that god would give me a boy’s body if I prayed often enough and hard enough. As a result, every time I was made aware that I was, in fact, a girl, I would repeat my litany with the sincere belief that my prayers would be answered. I would imagine myself as having changed, as having all the qualities I believed that entailed. When I showered, I’d plaster my soapy hair to my head so it would feel and look short. I’d shape lather on my face in the form of a beard, imagining how I would look when things were “fixed.” Each time, as my fantasy washed away, I would experience an even greater disappointment in the reality I faced. The more I engaged in the fantasy in its varying forms, the more distressed I was at what was: my body seemed to grow worse and I prayed even harder. I bargained with god, formulated deals, but each morning I awoke to the same disappointment. Despite my lack of progress, I continued praying for a few years because I convinced myself that my long-term dedication would somehow prove my faith, and that would make a difference. It was only the loss of that faith which eventually caused me to give up: I became convinced that god couldn’t hear me. I hadn’t lost my body shame, only the idea that there was anything I could do about it.

Testosterone and mastectomies don’t require a god or magic–just money and a psychologist’s approval. It’s a real thing that you can find out about now without even trying. You can watch hours of videos online as some girls/women sprout beards and their voices are lowered. You can see them pose with fading scars, pectoral muscles now hormonally enlarged and visible in the absence of those hated breasts. You can read all of the accompanying comments supporting her choice and your desire, and you can find a ready-made community to replace the one you lost, to accept and agree with the idea that something is terribly wrong with the way you are now that can be fixed with hormones and surgery. They’ll even tell you how to go about getting them. This is a real thing. But the magical thinking involved is the belief that you can actually change your sex; that you will be indistinguishable from actual males. The unreality of this is easy enough to overlook if you want something bad enough, even if you have no way of knowing what it actually means to be what you want. With “gender reassignment” and T, there’s no need to ever give up hoping for a miracle, because unlike god, the purveyors of gender change are listening very closely. They even advertise, making sure you can hear them. They are waiting for you. They’ve published books to help you, a teen, lay out all of the talking points that will help you convince your parents that you need this “cure.” They’ve made it easy.

As it was, as a teen, I had nothing of the sort. Oh, I’d heard of “sex change” operations, and for awhile clung to the idea of one as I tried to maintain that possibility, but the reality was that they were still really rare and impossible for someone so young and with no money, and there was no question that my family would not approve. As a result, I was forced to face reality. I was female, and I had to accept that and do what it took to learn to navigate the world as such.

One of the interesting things that happens when someone wants something badly is that they begin to fantasize about having it. They imagine themselves in possession of their want and it gives them pleasure, the fantasy itself becoming the reward. Unfortunately, reality is not changed and it often seems even worse or even less real when compared to what has been imagined. For myself, I know that the more I visualized myself as a boy, the worse I felt about who I actually was. The more I saw myself as being what I wanted, the more that want took on the characteristics of a need, something that I had to have; that I could not live without. I was wrong, of course, but had “gender reassignment” existed back then, it would have served as the material manifestation of that need –the promise of a wish fulfilled, that which god would not grant me. There would have been no reason for me to resolve the conflict that I had with my body. The time and experience I had which allowed me to come to terms with my sex would have been spent instead on fueling the same fantasy which had intensified my previous despair: my fantasy visualization would have prolonged my rejection of my body, and the degree of my dysphoria and dysmorphia would have increased.

As it was, I went through an intensely lonely and depressing time, but at some point, after about a year I guess, one of the girls in my class decided to befriend me. To be honest, I think it was because she felt sorry for me, but really, I didn’t care why. What mattered is that through her I gained entry into her circle of friends and my isolation ended. It would, of course, be convenient to slap some happy ending on the story and tell you that all was happily ever after from that point, but I think that kind of thing only happens in made-for-TV movies. I was still a teenager, with adolescent mood swings and depression, and I still was not one with my body. I had my issues, and so did my new friends. We were all pretty messed up, but at least we were messed up together.

In retrospect, I think it’s highly likely that I would have been dragged irretrievably into the world of crime and drugs that many of them fell into had my love of sport not provided a diversion from complete immersion into that subculture. Title IX had just been passed the year before, and even my small rural school was forced to provide some girls’ sport teams in order to comply. It wasn’t the football or baseball that I had formerly enjoyed playing with the boys, but basketball provided me with the opportunity to develop and prove my strength and my skill in a way that as a girl I had been denied. Not only did the physical activity help me gain a new relationship with my body –which believe me, was a very, very big deal. But for the first time, I was in constant contact with other girls whose strength and ability I admired, and with whom I could develop a sense of camaraderie and teamwork. I think maybe it was the first time I really realized that female was something to be.

The bravest and smartest and strongest people I have known have always been women. I just had to open my eyes to see it.

I am not “trans.” I never was “trans.” I was a girl, a female who’s grown up in a culture that makes us feel like less because of our sex. It is a world that teaches us that our opinions are not valued, that our knowledge is incomplete, that we are weak and that we are never safe if we go out alone. It is a place where we’re made to feel that merely being female is an invitation to men to do what they will despite our objections. To be female in this age and this place is to be convinced that the more we mature, the more limited our options become, and it is this belief we must resist, not our sexed bodies.

For myself, I was lucky. I managed to arrive at maturity at a time when women were actively fighting to shatter these myths and I was able to hear their voices over the constant murmurings of those who had and would define me by my use to them. These women were not popular then—they were mocked and reviled just as women are now, but they would not be silenced. Their words let me know that I had truly never wanted to be a boy, but rather that I didn’t want the limitations that were being forced on me as a girl. I was–we all are–more than our culture tells us we can be, and ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with your body that the truth cannot cure.

If you can manage to listen to the voices of the strong women who came before you, voices that are currently being drowned out by the popular trans-narrative, you may just hear them, too.