Meet Dr. Winters: computer scientist, “empty nest mom,” & top pediatric transition expert

Some of the most vocal and vociferous proponents of early medical transition for other people’s children are late-transitioning biological fathers. (Note: While most of these individuals now call themselves “moms,” the fact that their contribution to reproduction was undeniably via biologically male gametes—aka “sperm”– cannot be simply “identified” away.)

Many of these individuals weaponize the fear that gender-defiant kids will kill themselves if not socially transitioned, puberty blocked, and moved on to cross-sex hormones and surgeries at as young an age as possible.  But there’s something hypocritical about their belief in the “transition or die” orthodoxy: Many of these MtF activists–who no doubt consider themselves “truly trans”–transitioned later in life, yet somehow managed to avoid suicide themselves, enjoying long lives as men with lucrative and productive careers (quite a few in typically male-dominated professions such as the military, technology, and finance) and the opportunity to father offspring.

Kelley Winters, PhD., is one of the most prominent trans activists agitating for medical treatment of trans-identified children. Dr. Winters is on the International Advisory Panel for WPATH, is a member of the Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE) Expert Working Group, and is a board member of the youth-transition-promoting organizations Trans Youth Family Allies  and  Gender Infinity. The TYFA bio page lists many other accomplishments:

She has presented papers on the psychiatric classification of gender diversity at annual conventions of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association and the Association of Women in Psychology. Her articles have appeared in a number of psychology and psychiatry journals and in two books.

The Gender Infinity website has more about the “empty nest mom.”

gender infinity

These are lofty achievements, but not unusual for a PhD.  What exactly are Dr. Winters’ credentials? Prior to transitioning, Winters, as a man, had a successful career in microelectronics design and research (mentored, as Winters says at the link, by another well-known computer expert and MtF activist, Lynn Conway, known for attempting to destroy the career of sexologist Michael Bailey, who had the audacity to write a book based on his research findings.) Winters’ PhD is in engineering and, in addition to trans-related activities, Winters is a photographer and retired computer engineer.

Kelley Winters is considered an expert on the medical transition of children, not because of any special training or demonstrated expertise in child or adolescent psychology, or a background in clinical research. Kelley Winters is a top speaker, writer, and expert on behalf of the medical transition of gender dysphoric children by virtue of the fact that Kelley Winters .… is trans.

As one of the most frequent commenters on the WPATH Facebook public group page, Winters’ commentary and opinions are almost always deferred to by the MDs, therapists, and other gender specialists in the group. Winters expends a lot of verbiage claiming that the top experts in the field of gender dysphoria have it all wrong in their decades of peer-reviewed research demonstrating that the vast majority of gender dysphoric kids desist from a trans identity.

Winters is most active on WPATH threads addressing the treatment of trans-identified children and teens—typically arguing, as yesterday, for less gate-keeping and more widespread availability of hormones and “corrective” surgeries for minors under the age of 18.

Winters corrective surgery for minors

Kelley Winters, PhD. in computer engineering, thinks there is “no basis in evidence” that teens ought to wait to make permanent life-changing decisions (aka “corrective” surgery). They can’t get a tattoo or use a tanning bed, but they sure as heck should be entrusted to undergo major surgery and sterilizing drug treatments. According to Winters, any reasoned suggestion that minors might lack the cognitive wherewithal to make such decisions is “purely political.”

Winters does raise one good point in that comment. Puberty-blocked kids do feel, rightfully, that they are left behind in prepubescence while their non-trans peers go through puberty and begin to explore themselves as sexual beings.  Gender doctors have created an iatrogenic problem, with an iatrogenic solution. The problem: Block puberty, thus freezing the kid in arrested childhood while their peers move on, making them naturally impatient for puberty themselves. The solution? Dose them with sterilizing cross-sex hormones and major surgeries as young as 12 or 14 years of age.

As does occasionally happen in the WPATH echo chamber, a commenter in the thread raises the question of whether youth are fully equipped to understand the magnitude of the decision they’re making.

 I am a little concerned about glossing over some of the sticky issues, though. .. For example, part of the socialization experience many youth experience can involve severe pressures to conform (including penalties for not conforming). Some unknown number of youth might be conflicted about genital reconstruction, or not want it at all, and yet be ill-equipped to resist these pressures. There is precious little support for gender-non-conforming girls or boys, or women or men, and even less for people who refuse that binary altogether. Can we spend as much energy on supporting people (youth and adults) who are in that middle or “other” ground as we do helping them move towards our culture’s comfort zones? Is it always a disaster to be different? I also wonder, should we be concerned about decisions affecting reproductive capacity? Many youth may have little awareness that as adults they may desire not only to raise children but also to play a specific role in genetic parenting. What discussions or support would need to take place in order for a youth to make an informed choice about a surgery that would limit reproductive capacity? (I never wanted children “of my own” either as a child or as an adult. But I know any number of people for whom this was a strong desire acquired in adulthood.)

The commenter makes some excellent points about supporting gender-defiant kids in general, as well as pointing out the fact that many young people have no clue what it means to choose to be infertile.  But Kelley Winters, PhD. in computer engineering, isn’t particularly worried about the maturity of trans kids. In fact, in Dr. Winters’ professional estimation, trans kids are more mature than their “cis” counterparts, endowed with the rather unusual adolescent ability to predict how they’re going to feel 20 or 30 years down the road:

Winters trans kids are more mature

“Virtually all of the trans youth I’ve been honored to know were remarkably conversant and thoughtful beyond their years on their own reproductive decisions.”In what universe are the judgments and assertions of 14- or 16-year-olds predictive of their future judgments and opinions? Young teens don’t get to vote, drink, marry, sign a contract (except, apparently, the one giving their “informed consent” to medical transition),  even get a tattoo—but by virtue of thinking they are the opposite sex, they are “mature beyond their years” when it comes to deciding on major surgery and chemical sterilization?

In the same comment,  Winters, who managed to live into adulthood to father biological kids, plays the suicide card, aka “better sterile than dead”:

Winters suicide

The specter of suicide (misused as always) is usually the conversation stopper, and this thread is no exception. But one point of interest here is how Winters started the thread– with a discussion about the trans reality TV star, 15-year-old Jazz Jennings, who has been on a testosterone-blocking implant and cross-sex hormones since at least age 14. Anyone who has recently watched TLC’s “I am Jazz” is aware that medical transition has not prevented this teen (by Jazz’s own admission—in episode 2, season 2) from feeling suicidally depressed, socially isolated, and in need of antidepressants (themselves known to carry a risk of increased suicidality in adolescence)—as well as a yearning for “the classical boobs you see on TV.”

I’ll ask the question I’ve asked before: Why are trans activists like Kelley Winters—particularly adults who transitioned later in life and are themselves parents (and grandparents in some cases)–so very interested in promoting early medical transition of other people’s children? Winters, like others who survived to transition as adults after passing on their genes, isn’t just agitating for the rights of transgender adults in housing, employment, or (even) bathroom access. They devote most of their advocacy to the medical transition of young people.

I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. They likely are convinced (or have convinced themselves) that this is the best thing to do for kids who say they want to be the opposite sex. Adult MtF transitioners who are also biological fathers, like Kelley Winters (and like this person I engaged on Twitter last month) believe that, in hindsight, if given the opportunity themselves in childhood, they’d have chosen medical transition with all that would have entailed–including, evidently, foregoing parenthood. How do they explain this to their own kids, I wonder?

But maybe–instead of promoting suicide contagion and the idea that a healthy young person’s body can be “wrong”–trans activists like Kelley Winters would be better off expending their energies on self-reflection; on the glaring fact that they themselves lived into adulthood without the need of a surgeon’s knife, an endocrinologist’s needle–or prepubescent sterilization.

Advertisements

The adolescent trans trend: 10 influences

The below post is written by Overwhelmed,  4thWaveNow contributor and the mother of a teen daughter who insisted she was transgender, but who subsequently changed her mind. Other parents in the same situation have shared their experiences on 4thWaveNow, and a new research study (currently recruiting) is the first to systematically examine the phenomenon of “trans trending” amongst tweens and teens.

Trans activists and gender specialists constantly assure us that puberty blockers are harmless and “fully reversible.” They claim these drugs “buy time” for a young person to decide if they really are trans. But given that social transition + puberty blockers are followed in 100% of reported cases by cross-sex hormones (see here and here),  the “buying time” assertion deserves a lot more scrutiny. If there weren’t other forces at work (like social contagion and the conditioning effect of being validated in the idea that you are “really” the opposite sex if you prefer the appearance and lifestyle of that sex), a 100% persistence rate in trans-identification simply wouldn’t be happening.

And when it comes to teens who experience onset of gender dysphoria in adolescence, parents like Overwhelmed, Penny White, and the founder of this website–who have personally observed their teens voluntarily desisting from a trans identity–are the ones who have actually bought time for their kids: precious time to realize that becoming a lifelong patient haunting the offices of endocrinologists and plastic surgeons is not the only way to live a gender-defiant life.


by Overwhelmed

Earlier this year, a Nature article reported on the May 2016 launch of a study aimed at documenting the psychological and medical impacts of delaying the puberty of trans youth:

 Funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the US $5.7-million project will be not only the largest-ever study of transgender youth, but also only the second to track the psychological effects of delaying puberty — and the first to track its medical impacts. It comes as the NIH and others have begun to spend heavily on research related to the health of transgender people, says Robert Garofalo, a paediatrician at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Illinois, and a leader of the study. “We seem to really be at a tipping point,” he adds.

Garofalo and his colleagues aim to recruit 280 adolescents who identify as transgender, and to follow them for at least five years. One group will receive puberty blockers at the beginning of adolescence, and another, older group will receive cross-sex hormones. Their findings could help clinicians to judge how best to help adolescents who are seeking a transition.

Despite the fact that puberty blockers–followed in nearly every case by cross-sex hormones–have been prescribed for many years for “trans kids,” this study will be the FIRST in the United States to track the impacts of medical transition on this population. It has become increasingly popular for gender doctors to start trans-identified children on puberty blockers. The rationale is to avoid the potential psychological distress and the physical development of secondary sex characteristics associated with the “wrong puberty.” Based on the constant onslaught of celebratory articles about “trans kids” in the media, the public is likely unaware that puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones are not approved by the FDA for this purpose. These drugs are being used off-label and the science isn’t settled by any means. Even the gender doctors confess there is no medical consensus.

I appreciate that the Nature piece is not just another one-sided article touting pro-transition dogma. Although the journalist failed to mention that children who pause their natal puberty, and then directly proceed to cross-sex hormones, have the not-so-insignificant consequence of permanent sterility, she did include viewpoints not often seen in the mainstream media:

 “But some scientists worry that putting off puberty in older children may disrupt bone and brain development, reducing bone density and leading to cognitive problems.”


 “Because most children who question their gender do not do so past adolescence, many psychologists discourage “socially transitioning” until the teenage years.”


The debate is so heated — and evidence so sparse — that the authors of the American Psychiatric Association’s 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) were unable to reach a consensus. “People are making declarations of knowledge that are their belief systems, that aren’t also backed up by empirical research,” says Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist at the William Alanson White Institute in New York City.”

 But there is one assertion in the article–touted as settled science—that raises a huge red flag:

 “But those who identify as transgender in adolescence almost always do so permanently.”

Many parents who read 4thWaveNow are VERY familiar with this assumption. When their child, out of the blue, with no prior history of gender dysphoria, claims to be transgender, most parents resort to internet searches to become more knowledgeable. They read articles like this one by Irwin Krieger, LCSW, which tells parents it’s pretty much inevitable their teen or young adult child will remain transgender:

 …I do acknowledge that most teens who have come out to parents and others as transsexual are truly transsexual so as not to give them any false sense of the likelihood of their child having a change of heart.

Parents are encouraged to just start “supporting” their child by using the correct pronouns, buying new clothes and aiding their child with social (and possibly medical) transition.

Historically (prior to the year 2000), the research data did show that many kids who consistently believed they were the opposite sex during and after puberty held onto this belief into adulthood. But in the last few years, something new has emerged: a wave of post-pubertal, self-diagnosed trans teens.  These youth may not fit the historical profile due to relatively recent influences like:

  1. The social contagion phenomenon. Many confused teens and young adults (and increasingly, tweens) seek out answers from strangers online. They say they don’t “fit in,” that they prefer clothing and activities usually associated with the opposite sex. They ask, “Does this mean I’m transgender?” The answers they receive frequently affirm they are and urge them to “Transition NOW!” Places like Tumblr, Reddit, and YouTube (MTF and FTM transition videos) are full of this “wisdom.” The blog Transgender Reality documents some of these conversations.

Sometimes it isn’t an online influence that sparks a newly realized transgender status. There are more students socially and medically transitioning in high schools and universities. On some campuses there are entire friend groups claiming to be transgender, and an impressionable child who is befriended by this group may suddenly decide he/she is trans as well.

  1. The ability to achieve an instant “special” status. There is an appeal for some to identify as transgender in order to receive extra attention or boost their social standing.

If a student announces to school administration that they’re transgender, it’s becoming taboo to question them. More schools are enacting guidelines (like this one co-authored by the National Education Association) that enable children to be treated as the opposite sex, regardless of maturity level or mental health status. And parents don’t need to be in agreement, or even informed, about these accommodations.

Additionally, some children and/or their parents may be enticed by the potential to become celebrities. After all, Jazz Jennings and Caitlyn Jenner have their own TV shows strictly based on their transgender identities.

  1. The reduction in gatekeeping. The current train of thought among gender doctors and therapists is that gender identity is innate, unchangeable, and is often realized at a very young age. If you follow this line of thinking (and assume that no one could possibly be confused or misled into believing they are transgender), then you likely feel it is unjust, and even harmful, to make a child jump through gatekeeping hoops before medical treatment.

As an example of this logic, Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, the medical director of the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, was recently quoted in this article about Sam who was given puberty blockers, then began testosterone injections and had a double mastectomy all by the age of 14:

 “It is pretty well proven that people know their gender by the age of 5,” said the Center for Transyouth Health and Development’s Olson. “If we accept and believe that people know their gender by the age of 5, why not accept that trans kids know their authentic gender?”

Treating young people with gender dysphoria is critical, Olson said, as puberty increases the chances they will harm themselves.

“One of the things that puts trans kids at higher risk is this period of time when they are going through puberty,” she said. “Their body is becoming the adult or permanent version of this body they are not comfortable with.”

  1. The push for transgender identities to be seen as a normal variation of human existence (like homosexuality). It has become more common for doctors and therapists to avoid labeling people who think they are the opposite sex as having a mental disorder. An example from Jack Drescher is in this article about the World Health Organization classification system:

When ICD-11 is published, being transgender will be listed in a different part of the document, potentially under conditions related to sexual health, said Drescher, who is a New York psychiatrist and a professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College. “So they’ll be diagnoses, but they won’t be mental disorder diagnoses.”

The medical community’s process of de-stigmatizing being transgender was also reflected in the last round of updates to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013.  The DSM, which is used by clinicians, replaced the diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” with “gender dysphoria.” The diagnostic class was also separated from sexual dysfunctions.

Identifying as transgender shares some similarities with anorexia nervosa  and body dysmorphic disorder for which treatment consists primarily of therapy and possibly medication. But the regimen for gender dysphoric patients often includes medical interventions to physically alter their bodies to better align with their feelings, making this condition treated like no other mind/body disconnect.

  1. The popularity of early social transition. It’s becoming increasingly common to socially transition prepubescent children, to encourage them to live as the gender with which they identify. In the Nature article cited above, psychologist Diane Ehrensaft (a proponent of the gender affirmative model) and transgender rights attorney Asaf Orr comment on this approach:

But encouraging children to live as the gender they identify with is an increasingly popular choice. “There’s been a real sea change,” says Diane Ehrensaft, a psychologist at UCSF. She reports seeing more prepubescent patients recently who have already transitioned socially.

Many transgender-rights activists support this model, and liken any other approach to gay-conversion therapy. “You’re telling a kid, ‘I don’t believe you’,” says Asaf Orr, staff attorney at the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco. The best strategy, he says, is “to affirm a child’s gender exploration, regardless of what the end result is going to be”.

The gender affirmative model encourages children to “explore” their gender identity through social transition. It is often stated that it’s harmless to do so since no hormones or surgeries are involved. But this doesn’t take into account that children who are treated as the opposite sex are being conditioned to continue in their belief, potentially leading to future medical interventions. Even the Dutch researchers who pioneered the use of puberty blockers to treat transgender youth, do not recommend social transitioning in prepubescent children due to the “high rate of remission.”

dutch anti social transition

6. Transactivism. There is a burgeoning group of people who are out to educate the world about the importance of accepting transgenderism. Their pleas are often presented as anti-bullying or anti-discrimination campaigns. They tend to cite high suicide rates and imply that misgendering someone or questioning their gender identity may contribute to these statistics. Many of these activists are transgender themselves and feel they are the most knowledgeable about their condition. They pass themselves off as experts. Many conduct training sessions in schools, police departments, hospitals, etc. They write books, media articles, blog posts. Host conferences. Just one activist can have considerable influence. And there are so many voices shouting this philosophy that it drowns out opposing viewpoints.

7. Framing transgender acceptance as the new civil rights movement. Personally, I was elated when the US Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal. But, after that triumph, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) seem to be focusing more intensely on the transgender rights movement.

It is admirable to oppose discrimination against transgender people in employment, housing and appropriate health care. And I very much condemn violence against them. But there needs to be a balance. It should be acknowledged that some impressionable children, teens and young adults are confused and erroneously self-diagnose as transgender. This vulnerable population needs protection from unnecessary medical interventions. But since these organizations promote the “born this way” dogma, anyone who doesn’t blindly accept and support them as the opposite sex, is called misinformed or even abusive and bigoted.

In a short period of time, the transgender rights movement has made substantial gains. There have been laws passed in the United States and Canada that could be interpreted to mean any therapy that doesn’t affirm a youth’s gender identity is illegal. US schools are being pressured to allow transgender-identifying students into opposite sex bathrooms, locker rooms, and even bedroom assignments on overnight field trips. Overall, there has been a tendency in recent guidelines, legislation and court cases to prioritize gender identity over sex.

  1. The significant growth of the gender industry. There has been a rise in demand for gender clinics, doctors, therapists, endocrinologists, surgeons (and even “packers”—penile prostheses) due to the rapid increase in gender dysphoric children.

Back in January 2016, this pro-transition Cosmopolitan article stated that the first US transgender youth clinic opened in Boston in 2007. And since then 40 more have begun catering—exclusively to children—in the United States.

Surgeons are finding their services are increasingly sought after as well. Dr. Curtis Crane (who performs mastectomies on minors) has commented on how he cannot keep up with the demand for phalloplasties, even though he keeps training more surgeons in the technique:

 Crane says he’s one of only a few surgeons in the U.S. performing a high volume of phalloplasties — a booming surgical niche fueled by an increasing number of transgender men seeking to complete their anatomical transition. Even after hiring and training two colleagues to perform the eight-hour surgery, Crane’s patients must wait a year to have it done.

I frequently come across statements from doctors and therapists saying their transgender-based business is flourishing, often with a significant backlog. Due to their expertise, these are the professionals that I wish would speak out about potential over-diagnosis and over-treatment of trans-claiming youth. You have to wonder if they truly see the massive increase in patients as a positive (“more people are finally being treated because they are better informed and there is less stigma”). Or do they see trouble on the horizon (“I’m pretending everything is peachy, but I’m really concerned this may be a disastrous medical trend”)?

  1. Selective media coverage. Many media outlets portray positive “trans kids” stories, but choose to omit information not favorable to the transgender rights movement. Usually there is no discussion of the high desistence rates, or of the significant risks associated with medical treatments. And when facts like these are not included, the public is misinformed.

US media is chock-full of pro-pediatric-transition stories, many of which have been discussed on this site. You can also click on the Transgender Trend blog links below for examples and excellent analysis of biased programming from the UK’s BBC:

  1. The silencing of skeptics. Unfortunately, it is taboo to voice concerns that children, teens and young adults may be at risk of unnecessary medical transitions. This blog is one of the ONLY places online that parents and their allies can speak out, although most choose to do so anonymously to maintain their privacy.

Unfortunately, there are some trans activists, deeply offended by anyone contradicting the transgender narrative, who work to discredit anyone who dares to express opposing viewpoints. To these activists, it is fair game to try to get someone fired from their job or to post pictures of their children with sexually explicit captions (see the Michael Bailey link). Alice Dreger, Michael Bailey and Kenneth Zucker have been recipients of this treatment.

On a positive note, I’ve heard there are a growing number of professionals—doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists—whispering their concerns to each other. But due to the current environment, they’re afraid to speak publicly. Afraid they’ll be called bigots. Afraid they’ll lose their jobs.

We are living in a time when the number of gender dysphoric children is rising exponentially with no sign of a leveling off.

Guardian increase in peds transition graph

Kids are being medically transitioned regardless of the fact that there’s no medical consensus of what the best treatment options are. No one knows the long term consequences of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries in this population. This may very well be a disastrous fad similar to the false memory and ritual abuse scares of the ‘80s and ‘90s. And to top it all off, there’s significant pressure not to publicly express skepticism.

Mainstream media involvement would be welcome, along with brave professionals speaking up about their concerns. It is essential that the public be informed not only of the pros, but also the cons, of transitioning children.

Instead of focusing solely on treating the burgeoning number of gender dysphoric children, professionals ought to investigate the reasons for the radical shift in this population. Why are so many presenting to gender clinics? Why are there currently so many females vs. males seeking treatment (historically it was the opposite)? Why do so many have co-morbid mental health issues—autism spectrum disorders, OCD, ADHD/ADD, depression, etc.? These are important questions in need of answers. Especially because of the often irreversible nature of medical interventions, and that the patients are children with the rest of their lives ahead of them.

Today’s children are exposed to all kinds of influences that weren’t present until relatively recently. It would make sense to now reject the statement “those who identify as transgender in adolescence almost always do so permanently.” And to re-evaluate treatment protocols so that children, teens and young adults receive the thorough mental health care they need, and avoid any unnecessary medical interventions.

Rapid-onset gender dysphoria: New study recruiting parents

UPDATE August 18, 2016: The National Review is reporting this morning that the study was “launched” by 4thWaveNow. While we are very glad to see this research effort take place, the study was initiated and is being carried out by Lisa Littman, MD, MPH at Mt. Sinai in New York. Please see below for details.


Many members of the 4thWaveNow community are parents of teens who became convinced they were the opposite sex after a steady diet of social media and/or peer influence. In most of our cases, the transgender identity came on suddenly and with little warning.

Our families’ experiences haven’t been acknowledged nor reflected in the mainstream media, but now a researcher has decided to systematically investigate the phenomenon.

The survey study is being conducted by Lisa Littman, MD, MPH, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. Dr. Littman’s survey description is below. The SurveyMonkey link at the bottom of this post contains more detailed information.

If you are–or know of–a parent in this situation, please consider participating in the survey. Note that responses are kept anonymous.


Rapid onset gender dysphoria, social media, and peer groups

GCO# 16-1211-00001-01-PD

We have heard from many parents describing that their child had a rapid onset of gender dysphoria in the context of increasing social media use and/or being part of a peer group in which one or multiple friends has developed gender dysphoria and come out as transgender during a similar time frame. Several parents have described situations where entire friend groups became gender dysphoric. This type of presentation is atypical and has not been studied to date.  We feel that this phenomenon needs to be described and studied scientifically.

If your child has had sudden or rapid development of gender dysphoria beginning between the ages of 10 and 21, please consider completing the following online survey. If you have more than one child with gender dysphoria who fits the above description, please complete one survey per child.

This survey is completely anonymous and confidential and conducted through Survey monkey, an independent third- party. There is no way to connect your name with your responses. We do not track email or IP addresses. The survey should take 30-60 minutes. Participation in this research study is voluntary, and you may refuse or quit at any time before completing the survey.

If you know of any individuals with a similar experience who might be eligible for this survey, or any communities where there might be eligible parents, please copy and paste this recruitment notice and survey link to share.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SCX9RZY

Littman ressearch study

Brain sex: The jury is still out—but does it matter?

Early this morning, Think Progress (a “progressive” news outlet) posted on Facebook what was meant to be a provocative pull-quote from its latest trans-kid piece by reliable journalist propagandist Zack Ford, “It Takes A Village To Bully A Transgender Kindergartner”:

And what exactly is the “need” of this child? A boy in kindergarten would like to be accepted as “girl”? Well, as a woman, I take offense at any boy who is pretending to share my gender when he quite clearly NEVER can nor ever will. … He is not. He never can be.”

The commenter quoted is, of course, a woman (a bigoted bully, as seen through Ford’s tunnel-vision lens) who questioned the parents’ need to socially transition their 5-year-old child. The child’s transgender status has resulted in a giant kerfuffle as result of the Minnesota school’s dilemma in deciding what to do to accommodate the kindergartner.  Zack Ford paints anyone who questions the wisdom of a 5-year-old boy being assured he is really a girl as an ignorant transphobe, a bigot supported only by right-wing conservative groups.

Zack Ford Facebook
In this post, I’m not going to be writing about the fact that it isn’t just conservatives who question the trans-kid trend (obvious to anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis, or for that matter, the increasing number of blogs by left wing parents, professionals, and feminists. Check out my blogroll). Nor will I be dissecting in detail this “news” article set out as bait on the Think Progress Facebook page to incite the reliable progressive hordes.

Instead, my interest in Ford’s latest bit of Newspeak revolves around the huge number (easily 10-1) of reader comments on that Facebook post, which can be paraphrased as follows:

You stupid bigots! Go read up on the science of gender identity. Gender identity is proven, settled brain science. Little kids KNOW from the time they’re born what sex they are. Plus intersex. No one “chooses” to be transgender, they’re born that way.

 I’ve spent thousands of hours marinating in gender dogma and research studies, both pro- and con-, re: “innate gender identity.” So while it’s no surprise to me to see some people spouting as FACT the totally unproven hypothesis that gender identity is set in stone at birth, what does surprise me is the sheer numbers who have bought what, at best, is a tenuous theory, and who have thereby completely shut down even a modicum of critical thinking.

Of course, who can blame well intentioned progressives? They’re fed bittersweet mouthfuls of Innate Gender Identity gruel every single day not only by the media, but even by the President of the United States, who via his Department of Justice, baldly asserts on line 36 of the complaint against the state of North Carolina:

36. Gender identity is innate and external efforts to change a person’s gender identity can be harmful to a person’s health and well-being.

DOJ complaint

US v. North Carolina

(And it’s not just these few lines. The entire complaint reads like boilerplate trans-activist dogma, and interested readers are urged to take a look at the rest of this document).

This increasingly unchallengeable notion that gender identity, aka “brain sex,” is innate, hard-wired at birth, and thus absolutely unchangeable (despite the efforts of us horrible bigoted parents who are rooting for our kids to commit suicide) means, to the masses who now parrot it like the top graduates of a Maoist Re-Education Camp: Every toddler who claims to be the opposite sex must be agreed with by every adult who comes in contact with the child. Innate gender identity is the ironclad reason why no one is supposed to question the sudden flood of “trans kids” we hear about on a daily basis.

Given the gravity of all this—that little kids are now being ushered aboard a train that will lead inexorably from puberty blockers to cross-sex hormones (with concomitant irreversible changes) in 100% of reported cases–these brain sex/innate gender identity claims can’t just be ignored and dismissed. Not when so many  people—more every day—have swallowed them whole.

Here’s the thing. There is some research that supports a role for biological, genetic, or physiological factors in gender dysphoria. And as much as people on “my side” of this argument (the argument being: should children be “transitioned” to the opposite sex on their own say-so?) would like to simply dismiss any and all evidence for biological aspects of things like gender dysphoria, it’s not that simple.

Shunning entire lines of research because we are made uncomfortable by the findings should not be the way of truth seekers. If opening our minds to their claims changes our position, then so be it. As medical historian and intersex-rights activist Alice Dreger says in her book Galileo’s Middle Finger which chronicles (among other things) the chilling effect of activism on scientific inquiry,

[it is] a rare trait in activists: a belief in evidence even when it challenge[s] our political goals.

Human beings, in general, do not appreciate having their cherished ideas challenged. Political viewpoints tend to be set in stone, with any wavering seen by one’s allies as a dangerous and slippery slope. Evidence contrary to the ideological convictions of either side is taken as an existential threat to the fundamental integrity of the position.

For instance, people (like me) who support a woman’s right to abortion often avoid  acknowledging the fact that a fetus is not just an amorphous mass of cells, but a proto-human being. Conversely, anti-abortion advocates give short shrift to arguments about a pregnant woman’s agency over her body, and the critical importance of a baby coming into the world to a parent who is ready–and can financially afford–to raise the child.

The battle lines dividing those who support the idea that self/parent/activist-identified “trans” kids should be transitioned as young as possible, vs. those who disagree (like me) are drawn across a long-contested and hardened piece of ground: nature vs. nurture. And the opposing combatants are highly reluctant to give even an inch on the matter.

As you’ll see, this post is going to argue not for a détente or concession of territory, but rather, for a willingness of “my side”—the gender critics–to consider the evidence marshaled by our detractors, and then ponder whether it changes your mind. I’m only going to touch on a few areas of research typically used by the trans activist side; if you’re interested, you’ll want to spend some delving time yourself.

Let me cut to the punchline right now: Speaking for myself, weighing the claims (and the research they base it on) of the activists who want to transition children as early as possible has actually strengthened my conviction that medical transition should be an adults-only decision, if made at all. The only thing I can say I might have shifted my opinion on after endless investigation is this: There may be a very small (it’s always been very small) number of people for whom medical intervention is the only way they can live a happy life. I don’t believe we should prohibit these interventions for such people as adults. I still do not believe, weighing up all the evidence, that we should be tampering with the bodies of young people who may very well grow up to be happy without the expensive, drastic, and irreversible meddling of the gender-soaked medical and psychiatric professions. Instead, as I harp on constantly, let’s celebrate and support gender defiance in young people.

So let’s start with the obvious. [Note to regular readers: The information in the next couple of paragraphs is well known to you, but please stick with me, because I’m going to cover some research I haven’t formerly written about]. If gender identity is “innate” how come so many gender dysphoric youngsters change their minds?

4thWaveNow is chock-a-block with posts and research studies—as well as personal narratives from formerly trans-identified people who changed their minds, as well as others who experienced and resolved severe gender dysphoria in childhood—supporting the fact that many children outgrow their dysphoria and grow up to be adults happy to have bodies and brains that have not been tampered with by the medical and psychiatric professions. A 2008 meta-study by Korte et al sums it up:

Multiple longitudinal studies provide evidence that gender-atypical behavior in childhood often leads to a homosexual orientation in adulthood, but only in 2.5% to 20% of cases to a persistent gender identity disorder. Even among children who manifest a major degree of discomfort with their own sex, including an aversion to their own genitalia (GID in the strict sense), only a minority go on to an irreversible development of transsexualism.

Because so many trans activists claim that intensity of discomfort with one’s body parts is some irrefutable sign of “true transgender,” or that prior researchers didn’t adequately differentiate between “true trans kids” and the merely “gender nonconforming,” I’m going to emphasize this bit of the above quote:

even among children who manifest a major degree of discomfort with their own sex, including an aversion to their own genitalia.

Even WPATH—World Professional Association for Transgender Health—whose clinician-activists spend a good deal of time promoting younger and younger ages for “transition,” acknowledges on page 12 of its Standards of Care that most trans-identified kids grow out of it:

In most children, gender dysphoria will disappear before, or early in, puberty.

An earlier online version of  the WPATH SOC-7 cited specific numbers—greater than 80%–and included research citations, but this more specific information, oddly enough, has disappeared. But this 2014 study remembers:

…as the World Professional Association for Transgender Health notes in their latest Standards of Care, gender dysphoria in childhood does not inevitably continue into adulthood, and only 6 to 23 percent of boys and 12 to 27 percent of girls treated in gender clinics showed persistence of their gender dysphoria into adulthood.

Ok. So most kids grow out of gender dysphoria. But that fact doesn’t by itself dispense with biological evidence for gender dysphoria, whether or not it persists.

Traditionally, feminists have staked their claim on the “nurture” side of the “gender identity is innate” argument, with little acknowledgement of the findings in biology and neuroscience that hint at any real difference between male and female brain physiology.  And there is plenty of hard science bolstering this nurture-based stance: recent MRI studies have mostly corroborated the view that male/female brains are more alike than different, which leads to the conclusion that sex-role stereotyped behaviors are primarily the result of socialization, as Cordelia Fine laid out in her “Delusions of Gender.”

Nature_versus_Nurture

Trans activists and the clinicians who (let’s face it) follow their lead obviously point to other studies of adult transgender people which support the idea that their brains are hard-wired to be closer to the sex they “identify” with. Some of these studies do offer some evidence for sex differentiation in the brain. But imaging studies of adult brains are pretty much impossible to control, because all adults have had life experiences and social influences (not to mention possible cross-sex hormone treatments in some cases) which, owing to neuroplasticity, will of course have an impact on brain structure.

But even in the (primarily MRI) studies of adult brains that are better executed and controlled, it turns out the fundamental difference in these studied brains is not so much a matter of the subjects’ gender identity but of their sexual preference, as sexologist James Cantor draws attention to in a blog post surveying research studies frequently cited to prove a transsexual brain:

 In Scientific American Mind, journalist Francine Russo takes on a fascinating research question: “Is there something unique about the transgender brain?” she reviews some of the relevant brain research on transsexuals and concludes that transgenderism is indeed a phenomenon of the brain.  Although I agree with Russo that transgenderism is a phenomenon of the brain, I believe Russo over-focused on gender identity, which led her away from the better explanation of the data:

These brain scans don’t reflect gender identity, they reflect sexual orientation.

Cantor’s post, Russo’s Scientific American piece, and the cited research studies are all well worth reading.

There is some other research I find compelling: studies of prenatal hormone levels—specifically, testosterone—and their influence on sex-stereotyped behaviors and other characteristics in children.

A couple of years ago, Brynn Tannehill, a trans activist-journalist, posted a list of what Tannehill obviously considered to be airtight studies,  many of them revolving around prenatal hormones,  in support of innate gender identity . But are they airtight?

First, Tannehill conveniently neglects to mention that many of the cited studies (surprise, surprise) also show a link between prenatal testosterone levels and rate of homosexuality—in other words, hormone levels may have some impact on same-sex attraction.

But, more importantly, it turns out that several of the researchers linked by Tannehill have shown that the impact of hormones on both sexual identity and gender identity, while existing, is small. For example, Melissa Hines, in a 2006 paper, “Prenatal testosterone and gender-related behaviour, looked at several studies and concluded that

 Levels of prenatal testosterone predict levels of sex-typed postnatal childhood play behavior.

 Like what kinds of play behavior?

Research on girls and women with CAH has provided some support for the hypothesized influence of testosterone on human behavioural development. Girls with CAH show increased male-typical play behaviour, including increased preferences for toys that are usually chosen by boys, such as vehicles and weapons, increased preferences for boys as playmates and increased interest in rough-and-tumble play.

 Does this preference for rough-and-tumble, stereotypical “boy” play mean these kids are transgender?

Although there are fewer studies relating prenatal testosterone levels to postnatal sexual orientation and core gender identity, there is also some evidence, particularly from women with CAH or CAIS, that testosterone influences these psychosexual outcomes as well. However, these influences are substantially smaller than those on childhood play behaviour.

 

 

 

 

Prenatal testosterone levels are only a small factor in later sexual orientation and gender identity. What they are more predictive of is –wait for it—preference for non-sex-stereotyped activities! In other words: gender nonconformity (or my preferred term: gender defiance).

So some children play with stereotypically opposite-sex toys, prefer the hairstyles and activities of the opposite sex, and prefer the company of children of the opposite sex. Is it possible these preferences are at least partially “hard-wired” due to the effect of androgens on their brains? Sure. Does it follow that this means they are the opposite sex? Of course not. Nor does it necessarily mean they will grow up to be same-sex attracted, either (as I’m sure many heterosexual women who were tomboys can attest).

Let’s put a finer point on it: while some studies show that prenatal hormone levels could contribute to sex-stereotyped differences in human behaviors and, yes, sense of self, acknowledging these differences doesn’t lead to the conclusion that trans activists reach: If a child is born with a set of proclivities and tendencies more typical of the opposite sex, this means they ARE the opposite sex and medical and chemical alteration of the body is fully justified and should be pursued as soon as possible. 

What else does biological or genetic research show? In an earlier post, I argued that the only way to even begin to prove an innate male or female brain would be to scan a huge number of identical-twin newborns (before they had a chance to have any “nurture” influence—i.e., no social experiences), separate the twins at birth, then compare those brains later when the children grew up, some of whom would no doubt decide to undergo transition to the opposite sex.

For ethical reasons, this sort of research would be pretty much impossible (you can’t forcibly separate twins at birth and raise them separately, and you can’t control how kids are raised by dictating to parents how to raise them, even if you could). But an international team of researchers has looked at twins and the prevalence of gender dysphoria/transsexualism in a meta-analysis published in 2012, “Gender Identity Disorder in Twins: A Review of the Case Report Literature.”  (The full study is behind a paywall.)

Using a combination of their own clinic records and an exhaustive search of the literature, they examined a total or 44 twins of which at least one twin had gender identity disorder (GID)—the diagnostic term at the time, since replaced with “gender dysphoria” (GD). Of these, 23 were identical (monozygotic/MZ). The remainder were fraternal (dizygotic/DZ).

What were their findings?

 Nine (39.1%) of the 23 MZ [identical] female and male twins were found to be concordant for GID. In contrast, none of the 21 DZ [fraternal] twin pairs were concordant for GID.

This was a statistically significant difference, leading to the conclusion that “there is a role for genetic factors in the development of GID.” That difference in rate of gender dysphoria in identical twins matters. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that it was still a minority (39.1%) of identical twins who were both gender dysphoric.

Twin studies
In their discussion of their findings, the authors (like all truth-seeking scientists who submit their work to peer review) acknowledge that reality is nuanced:

The higher concordance for GID in MZ than in DZ twins is consistent with a genetic influence on its genesis although shared and nonshared environmental factors cannot be ruled out. Indeed, from these case reports, very little is known about the “equal environments assumption,” that is, the assumption that MZ twins are not treated more similarly than DZ twins in ways that might affect their gender identity.

In other words—“nature” appears to be a factor, but we can’t rule out nurture. ”Influence” is not causality.

And of even greater interest: In the penultimate paragraph of the discussion, we find this gem:

In the studies on genetics and sexual orientation, a higher concordance for homosexuality has been found in MZ versus vs. DZ twins. Using family methodology, there is also evidence for genetic influences [38]. In the reviewed case studies of twins with GID, from those whose sexual orientation is known, all, with the exception of Green [25], were attracted to their biological sex and nearly 50% of the non-GID twins were also homosexual, reflecting a higher percentage than found in the general population [39]. In all the cases reported to be concordant for GID, there was also concordance for sexual orientation.

Here we have it again. As Cantor noted, as I have noted, as the Dutch pioneers of pediatric transition have noted, this study finds—as nearly every study over decades has found: Whatever the precise contributions of nature v. nurture that leads to gender dysphoria or opposite-sex identification, a huge majority (if not 100%) of the studied individuals exhibit same-sex attraction by adolescence or adulthood.

I’ll hammer it home again: The constantly repeated refrain by trans activists that gender identity has “nothing to do with sexual orientation” is directly refuted in every study, as well as many of the personal accounts by trans-identified people splattered all over the media.


 So, what have we learned from looking at a few studies aiming to tease apart the nature-nurture question about gender dysphoria/opposite-sex identification?

  • there is sparse evidence of an innate male or female brain, and what differences there may be are mitigated and influenced by later life experiences. If anything, brain differences seem to indicate variations in sexual preference, not intrinsic gender identity; and
  • prenatal hormones—specifically, testosterone—have an effect, on….gender nonconforming behaviors in childhood. They have a contributing, but minor, effect on later homosexuality and gender identity; and
  • in general, there is evidence for both biological and non-biological (environmental-social) contributions to the development of gender dysphoria.

For me, it all boils down to this: Nature v. nurture is a false dichotomy. We are all the result of our genetic inheritance, hormonal influences, and how we were brought up and continue to live—which also includes both post-natal physiological influences (e.g., the various chemicals we imbibe in our hyper-industrialized world in addition to drugs and hormones we deliberately take in), as well as what we learn and experience over the course of our lifetimes.

In the end, the squabbling over nature v. nurture is a non-issue. What matters is protecting kids from the—however well intentioned—meddling of adults in children’s bodily and psychological integrity.  Whatever the relative contributions of nature and nurture to a child’s sense of self and ultimate decisions, adults should protect children from undergoing interventions that close off future possibilities.

Proponents of medical transition for children are not champions of gender nonconformity. If they were, as I’ve said many times, they would be celebrating it in children and instead of agreeing with the magical thinking of a child that this means they are “born in the wrong body,” they’d be helping these kids realize they are wonderful and unique examples of their natal sex. A healthy, fully functioning body attached to a brain is an integrated whole with that brain. It is an existential reality, no more “wrong” than the body of a person who demonstrates more sex-stereotyped typicality. By promoting the view that research evidence pointing to certain sex-stereotyped behaviors as having a biological component (however small) means kids’ bodies can be “wrong,” they are using science to limit the possibilities for children.

Puberty blockers, cross sex hormones, and surgeries for children and young people permanently limit their options. Options like: sexual experiences in an unaltered, non-surgically-tinkered-with body. Options like: Figuring out your sexual orientation, especially if you’re gay or lesbian and won’t, on average, come to terms with that fully until early adulthood. Options like: Being a role model for other kids that boys and girls can be and do or be anything, regardless of whether they fit into sex-stereotyped-typical behaviors and appearances.

Yes, a person who later decides to “transition,” who undergoes hormone treatments or surgeries after puberty may not “pass” as well as a someone who had natural puberty curtailed (and was incidentally permanently sterilized in the process). But the Cult of Passing as the opposite sex should be challenged—especially since those same trans activists who worry so much about “passing” (in perhaps their most obvious self-undermining argument) want us to also believe (for instance) that a “penis can be female.” To play Devil’s Advocate with the trans activists, if a boy’s penis can be female, you have no business promoting medical transition for anyone’s child.

Puberty blocking is not a benign intervention. While I’ll grant that, if stopped in time, GnRh agonists are “reversible” (as in, they will not prevent natural puberty), the psychological and neurological effects of delaying natural puberty cannot be seen by any thinking person as “fully reversible.” Neither is social transition “fully reversible,” for that matter. You can’t “reverse” a childhood spent cementing the idea that biological sex can be changed by a society bent on denying the existential reality of sexual dimorphism. You can’t “reverse” a message, repeated over and over to a child by trusted adults that there is something fundamentally wrong with his or her body that must be corrected.

Regarding nature-v-nurture?  Here’s what I’d say to my fellow kid transition critics:  Don’t dismiss the stuff from the “nature” side because you’ve pre-decided that any science supporting an innate contribution to gender dysphoria is a priori bunk and it’s all nurture/socialization.

In my opinion, taking seriously the dogma of the other side, examining it closely, and then coming to well-thought-out, nuanced conclusions is a much stronger place to operate from than dismissing out of hand any kernel of truth “they” might be obsessing over. That’s not truth seeking; that’s just being close-minded in service of an impenetrable ideology.

Nature-nurture—it’s both. Just like our thought-generating brains are indivisible from the bodies they’re a part of.

Your thoughts?

Social work professor speaks out on behalf of her FtM autistic daughter

UPDATE 5/24/16: The National Review (NRO) has published an article discussing Dr. Levinstein’s post here on 4thWaveNow. It was pointed out in the comments thread on the NRO piece that Dr. Levinstein’s bio on the U Michigan-Flint site includes a statement that she is the “proud mother of a trans son.” I asked her for a response, and she submitted the following for this update.

That bio was written two years ago, prior to all my daughter’s surgeries and the ensuing and now chronic health problems resulting from testosterone, at a time when I was trying my best to be supportive of my child’s choices.

I am indeed proud of my daughter, who has been a victim in this process.

Dr. Levinstein also stated that she is happy to discuss her situation further with the press.


Dr. Kathleen “Kelly” Levinstein, PhD, LCSW, LMSW is a Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan, Flint.  Among many other accomplishments, Dr. Levinstein was a Heilbein Scholar at the NYU School of Social Work, where she also taught, and has directed and provided clinical services for people with disabilities for many years, primarily in New York and New Jersey. A clinical and research social worker for 40 years, Dr. Levinstein describes herself as “the only out autistic PhD level social worker” in the world. Her research and advocacy work includes human and civil rights violations against the autistic community.

In this post and accompanying short interview, Dr. Levinstein tells us about the ordeal currently being experienced by her daughter who has undergone transgender medical transition. Dr. Levinstein also shares her thoughts about the current increase in young women with autism being diagnosed as transgender.

A version of Dr. Levinstein’s account will be published in an anthology entitled Female Erasure: What You Need To Know About Gender Politics’ War on Women, the Female Sex and Human Rights, Tidal Time Publishing, Fall 2016. Ruth Barrett, editor, forward by Germaine Greer. www.femaleerasure.com.

For previous 4thWaveNow posts on the subject of autism and transgenderism, see here:

“Insistent, consistent, persistent”: Autism spectrum disorder seen as no barrier to child transition–or sterilization

Guest post: For teen girls with autistic traits — a plea for watchful waiting

New study out of Finland: Girls with gender dysphoria have many other mental health issues


by Kathleen “Kelly” Levinstein, PhD, LCSW, LMSW

My daughter, who is on the autism spectrum, as am I, is now 19 years old. She had felt (and told others) that she was a lesbian most of her life. When she was 16, she began watching a TV show called “Degrassi,” which featured an FtoM character. After a few weeks, she announced that she was not actually a butch lesbian, as she had previously said, but was in fact trans. She started attending a local PFLAG meeting, where she met many trans people, including a number of FtoM trans teenagers who were raving about a certain “gender therapist.” Although the APA recommends a minimum of one year of “gender counseling” before surgery, this gender therapist (whom I consented to, before really understanding what I was doing) gave my daughter the go-ahead to have a bilateral mastectomy after only two sessions. This gender specialist never reviewed any of the Special Ed records or spoke to my daughter’s previous therapist, who had known her for a decade. And, crucially, she never asked my daughter, “Might you be a lesbian?”

The gender therapist (whom I believe has an unholy financial alliance with the surgeon) gave my daughter (then 18 and one day) the go-ahead for the $30,000 surgery (covered for all university employees and their families where I work). My daughter is now on testosterone (which she clearly is unable to evaluate the risks and consequences of).

To give you some sense of my daughter’s level of understanding of what it means to transition, she told me recently that she believes that the testosterone “will grow her a penis.” I had to break the news to her that, although this is the mythology in the PFLAG meetings (where a number of the other young trans people are also autistic), this is not the case.

She has been taken advantage of. Healthy organs were amputated. This is insurance fraud, poor clinical practice, a violation of APA standards, unethical and unjust. It is a crime not just against women, but particularly against disabled women. So many of these young women who are “transitioning” are also autistic.

My daughter has a representative payee on her SSDI [disability] check, as it was felt that she was unable to handle her own money. This was of little concern to the gender therapist. I believe that once the therapist realized the “treatment” would be covered by the University of Michigan insurance, it was full speed ahead.


You mention that your daughter previously considered herself a lesbian, and this changed when she started watching the TV program “Degrassi.” Was that the only thing that influenced her to claim a trans identity? Was there anything else?

Other than Degrassi, the PFLAG meetings–which are now the cult of trans–sealed her fate. There were no young lesbians there. In fact, there are very few young lesbians left–they are all transitioning. If she had been able to have a lesbian relationship prior to transitioning I believe that things would have transpired differently. I attempted to get her in a support group for young lesbians when she was 12, but was informed that because of liability insurance reasons,  she was not welcome until age 18. By that time it was too late.

She had a legal name change in Dec of 2014, a bilateral mastectomy in April 2015, and started testosterone in Sept 2015.  My daughter has severe Crohn’s Disease, and currently, she is having grave reactions to the testosterone. She has been hospitalized three times now for complications.

Many professionals, as well as some autistic people themselves, have written about the fact that young people on the ASD spectrum are often “gender nonconforming” and have a less stable sense of identity. Can you speak to this regarding your daughter?

I DO believe that there is an overlap with the autistic and transgender populations.  Some studies show a higher level of testosterone in autistic human beings. For males a high enough level of testosterone converts to estrogen. This may explain the large number of autistic people of both sexes claiming that they are transgender.

In recent years, activists have agitated for disabled people to be treated as having the same “agency” to make medical decisions as non-disabled people. In fact, when anyone brings up concerns about young people with autism being questioned about their transgender identity, they are accused of “ableism.” Do you have any thoughts about this?

Yes, I agree–anyone asking for critical thinking about these issues with autistics is accused of ableism and transphobia. This is often an effective silencing tactic. I have found no allies in the autism community. Instead, there is a vilification of anyone daring to ask questions about these issues, including the evidence of MtoF physical, sexual and psychological violence against women. Women who publicly question receive death threats, threats to rape us and our children, burn us to death with gasoline, decapitate us, and so on. This all coming from people who claim they are our “sisters.”

Given that your daughter was recently hospitalized for health issues related to her use of testosterone, have you found any medical professionals who are willing to speak up about this?

I have found no health professionals willing to go on the record against this. Everyone is afraid of professional suicide and threats of violence. I am standing alone.

My daughter’s latest hospitalization has been described by doctors as due to “absorption issues.” She now has a full beard but still has her period. The testosterone is wreaking true havoc on her system.

Autistic women (again, I am one) frequently have a difficult time, sensory-wise with their periods. But rather than attempting to help us with this difficulty, our problems get labeled  “gender dysphoria” and the answer has become to remove our periods from us.

We will find out in 20 years the effects of testosterone on our young women. I am confident that it will not be a pretty picture.

Gender Critical Dad is fed up with the bucketloads of doublespeak

Gender Critical Dad is a brand new blog by the father of a teenage girl who—after coming out as a lesbian at age 14–has now decided she is in fact a trans man. They live in the United Kingdom.

As far as we know, this is the first skeptical blog created by the father of a self-identified trans teen.  Click on over and check out his blog. He’s already got several interesting posts up, from the perspective of a “stroppy bugger” (his term).

Gender Critical Dad is available to respond to questions in the comments section of this post.


What inspired you to create your own blog, as a “gender-critical” dad? Did you find other gender-critical blogs or resources that helped motivate you to start your own?

I think it was several things: A displacement activity, to find some use for the anger and restlessness that ran round and round my mind since I realised the danger that my daughter was in; a catharsis, a chance to tell my story, make some sort of sense of it, get a reality check. Was I a horrible person for not “supporting them on their brave journey”? The blog is a place where I can get things out without burdening friends and my partner.

Hopefully my story will encourage others—maybe especially fathers–who are going through the same thing and let them know that the things they perceive and how they feel, are valid and real.

The current predominant narrative of trans kids is very much one of brave kids finding their true selves, supported by loving friends and a family who courageously struggle to come to terms with this brave new world.

I, as well as other parents are telling a more real narrative that features anxious, confused kids, scared of the adult sexuality portrayed in an ever more pornified world and feeling unbearably cramped by the tightening gender roles, desperately looking for an alternative. That scary world includes people encouraging them to identify as trans, sometimes mistaken but well meaning, sometimes for sinister motives. It includes organisations which have infiltrated academia, the NHS [UK National Health Service], and education. It includes a cult with all the manipulative features we would recognise from Scientology or the Moonies.

GC Dad

I’ve used the name “Gender Critical Dad” because it was the most accurate name I could think of. I hope it is taken as a mark of respect to the subReddits with that name and the important work done by radical feminists that I depended on to make sense of my feelings about the transgender dogma.

I have no wish to claim any ownership of the term gender critical. I am using it because it is catchy and memorable, and it will hopefully help me get my story out to other people being hit by transgender. If more people think about wider gender critical ideas and take a more respectful look at radical feminism, that’s fantastic.

4thWaveNow has been an enormous influence, showing me that other people have stories similar to mine, and also demonstrating how telling those stories can give comfort, strength and support to other people. I am also inspired by https://youthtranscriticalprofessionals.org/ and https://rebeccarc.com/ for providing a very sane, calm and well-reasoned critique of transgender.

Have your views about your daughter’s transition evolved since she first announced she was a trans man?

Yes, before I hit Peak Trans, my image of a transgendered person was Hayley Cropper from Coronation Street, a quite dignified person, who had taken a well thought out decision and just wanted to carry on with life as a woman.

The reality I discovered was very different, a world of aggressive men using trans as an excuse to invade women’s spaces and get a kick out of intimidating them. An ideology that, while claiming to be liberating people from assigned gender, actually re-enforces gender roles and then tells vulnerable young people that the only way out is to mutilate themselves, start a life time of drug dependence and nurture an obsession with appearance and other people’s perceptions, claiming it as victimhood.

We were glad to see your new site, since so few fathers seem to be weighing in publicly about the transgender youth trend. Most of the contributors to 4thWaveNow are mothers. Why do you think that is? Is there a reason why dads would hesitate to make their views known?

I think most men, especially those on the left side of the political spectrum, are scared of being seen as intolerant and bigoted. It’s a very “Emperor’s New Clothes” situation. I think most men have no problem with gay men or lesbians, but really don’t believe in the reality of a gender identity separate from biological sex and would find the logic of genderist dogma farcical. The idea of someone, straight faced, explaining that trans women can have a female penis, but are just as much women as biological women would be met with the derision it deserves by the majority of men.

These men might be sympathetic to Hayley Cropper, but also have an understanding of what autogynephilia is, even if they have never heard the word. If they were exposed to the wild west of queer theory and gender identity politics they would find it both ridiculous and sinister.

The difference between what they feel and what they see everyone else express, is a massive source of cognitive dissonance and very difficult to make sense of.

A lot of dads are understandably, desperate to keep some sort of relationship going with their kids and partners, and they may be unaware that other people are experiencing the same feelings so go along with the trans narrative. Many may not be able to cope with the difficult feelings caused by the cognitive dissonance and end up estranged from their children and partners.

4thWaveNow has a couple of posts focusing on Jay Stewart and the organization Gendered Intelligence in the UK. What has been your experience with Gendered Intelligence?

I initially assumed they were some sort of gay and lesbian or feminist support group. What I found from looking up their web site and from https://youthtranscriticalprofessionals.org/ was they are both a trans cult, a trans pressure group and an increasingly lucrative business.

I went to some meetings that were open to parents. I found a small group of young people, all looking younger than their age, some anxious parents and  two strapping blokes who looked like parody transvestites from “Little Britain.” It was a deeply creepy experience and I realised just how perfect a set-up it was for grooming vulnerable young people and setting up dependencies that could be exploited the day they turned 18.

To be honest I only read anything from them to get an idea of what they are doing that directly affects my daughter, I really do not need to wind myself up. The more I see of them, the more they remind me of Scientology, but they are stealing young people’s healthy bodies, not just gullible rich people’s money.

You have written that your daughter originally came out to you as a lesbian, but now says she is a trans man. Obviously you are skeptical of this switch. How does your daughter explain it to you? Why do you doubt it? Does she know about your doubts?

Communication on the topic is difficult at best. It always ends up in rows [UK English for “arguments”] which I do not handle well, so I tend to avoid the subject, so a lot of what I think about this may be supposition.

She says that she has never felt happy as a girl and that once she came out to friends and teachers, she has never been happier.  She tells us that everyone else accepts her new gender and she passes effortlessly. We know from personal experience that this is untrue. It also sounds just like so many stories on the Gendered Intelligence website or any other pro-trans site.

I’ve known a lot of lesbians from a previous job I had, and they were all wonderful, open and friendly people. My daughter seemed to be developing into a very stylish lesbian before the trans thing started. But now she’s withdrawn, ashamed of her body and obsessed with her appearance.

She knows exactly how I feel, but as I said, I don’t handle rows well.

How are you handling the transition? Do you use “preferred pronouns,” and have you purchased a binder?

I’m determined to not be an enabler, so I will not use preferred pronouns, but otherwise I try to keep my opinions to myself, not always successfully. If I try to discuss it, we will end up rowing and I will push her further into the cult.

Somehow she got hold of a binder. I pretend not to notice when she wears it.

Did your daughter show any signs of being gender dysphoric as a young girl?

This question is impossible to answer without either accepting or confronting a lot of the assumptions behind the trans ideology. I’m a stroppy bugger so here we go.

If you look up the symptoms of gender dysphoria on the NHS (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Gender-dysphoria/Pages/Symptoms.aspx), you get a list that includes:

  • disliking or refusing to wear clothes that are typically worn by their sex and wanting to wear clothes typically worn by the opposite sex
  • disliking or refusing to take part in activities and games that are typically associated with their sex, and wanting to take part in activities and games typically associated with the opposite sex
  • preferring to play with children of the opposite biological sex

…all of which is just sexist bollocks. Most people would display these “symptoms” at some time in their lives.

Next in the list of GD symptoms we have:

  • feeling extreme distress at the physical changes of puberty

I grew up a boy, I was late to puberty and not at all happy about that. I can understand why puberty is a bigger challenge for girls, who might well have learned about puberty blockers from the internet. So this too must catch a lot of people.

  • disliking or refusing to pass urine as other members of their biological sex usually do – for example, a boy may want to sit down to pass urine and a girl may want to stand up.

My brother went through a stage of sitting to pee; he had somehow got the idea that that was why women lived longer.

  • insisting or hoping their genitals will change – for example, a boy may say he wants to be rid of his penis, and a girl may want to grow a penis.

As a late developer, I was convinced I was under-endowed. How would I have reacted if offered the chance of being a special snowflake who would grow into a beautiful lady?

So we are left with:

  • insisting they’re of the opposite sex

Girls get a shit deal, since they have to live up to ridiculous beauty standards. Boys watch enormous amounts of porn and that influences the pressures they put on young women. Aspects of puberty that my generation accepted or even celebrated, like pubic and underarm hair, are now deemed repulsive. Young women are expected to be a ridiculous hybrid of constantly available sex toy, pure maiden and pre-pubescent little girl. As I have discovered, post-trans, lesbianism as a distinct, respected culture and role model has disappeared–to now be a category on You-Porn or a pretense of autogynephilia.

Is it any wonder that a lot of young women these days see no alternative to trans?

Kids are weird. That’s just what they do, so just let them be weird kids for a while. Don’t call it either a mental illness or some mismatch between their bodies and a mythical gender fairy that can be cured by surgery, a lifetime of hormones and bucket-loads of doublespeak.

So when you get right down to it, asking whether my daughter ever showed signs of gender dysphoria is a really stupid question. The only answer is “probably no more than you”.

If my daughter lives life for a while as a woman, lesbian or straight, actually has relationships and then comes back to me as an adult and says that she would be happier as a man, then I would think very hard about it and  try to understand.

Do you know other parents “in real life” (vs. online) who share your gender-critical views?

No, although I have ‘come out’ to some close old friends and colleagues. Once I’ve explained the reality of what trans is, they seem to accept my version.

How does your partner (your daughter’s mum) feel about all of this? Do your views differ?

My partner agrees with me and shares my views on gender identity, but is much better at navigating the thin line between enabling the delusion and losing communication, so can still to some degree communicate with our daughter. Still, my partner often ends up being told by our daughter how terrible we are. She really has been a rock; at times I have been close to crumbling and she has always been there for me.

Are you observing other teen girls in the UK who are also transitioning to male?

I see some around town. It’s heart-breaking, these young women, who could be beautiful and confident, who could be enjoying the freedom of youth and all the chances to explore themselves and the world. But now heads down, huddled, painfully self-conscious, anxious, making pathetic attempts to pass, but I’m sure, that at some level they know that people are only pretending to believe it.

How does your daughter’s school handle her transition?

They encouraged and colluded with it without telling us. They gave her a new name badge and use preferred pronouns. One teacher seemed quite proud of how she had supported our ‘special lovely’ daughter. Yes I’m furious about that, but can’t bring it up without outing and alienating her. Someone might be getting a present of Sheila Jeffreys’ Gender Hurts book at the end of term.

How can we support what you’re doing?

Keep doing what you are doing. Let people know that there is another story and that the gender identity dogma is a lie.

I’d love to see us get organised and start acting collectively, but I know that will be very hard, with everyone needing to protect their and their kids’ privacy.

We need to reach out and let people know that there is dissent and that the dissenters are not horrible people. We need to separate rejection of the trans ideology from homophobia and let people know that there is no scientific validity to gender identity and that there are other ways of tackling gender dysphoria.

I’m sure there is a story here that a good investigative journalist could really run with. It reaches from grubby little men in girls changing rooms, through to some very powerful people, all the time trapping and exploiting young people. I haven’t a clue how to get that story out.

 

Shrinking to survive: A former trans man reports on life inside queer youth culture

Max Robinson is a 20-year-old lesbian who recently detransitioned after 4 years of hormone replacement therapy. She underwent a double mastectomy at age 17, performed by plastic surgeon Curtis Crane in San Francisco. Max reports that her gender therapist wrote letters verifying the immediate medical necessity of these treatments.

Max currently works to provide direct support to developmentally disabled adults living in group homes; she detransitioned on the job in December 2015. Her novel Laika, which tells the story of the little stray dog who was sent outside Earth’s atmosphere in a Soviet satellite, is available digitally or in print here. In addition, Max and her partner collaborate on many graphic art and creative writing projects.

 Max, like many young lesbians of her generation, was led down the path to FTM “transition” as a teen, effectively short circuiting her chance to fully integrate her orientation as a same-sex attracted female.  As detailed in her account, the difficulties many young trans men face in queer communities are not widely known; and the less-than- rosy experiences of FTM teens are certainly not discussed in the many mainstream media stories which unquestioningly celebrate testosterone and surgery as welcome treatments for dysphoric girls—many of whom are same-sex attracted.

Max’s story will also appear in an upcoming anthology to be published within the year.

In the meantime, Max is available to respond to your questions and discussion in the comments section below this post.

All of us at 4thWaveNow are very grateful to Max for her courage in writing this post.


by Max Robinson

When I was 5, I led a girl rebellion. We put on capes and chased some boys in capes around. Whatever they said we couldn’t do, we did. It was mostly push-ups or holding bugs. I could hold any bug. My dad still has a picture in his office of me at a science fair, hands full of hissing cockroaches.

I hated to be told there was something I couldn’t do. In first grade, I’d go home from school all in a huff because the girls’ bathroom pass had pictures of bows on it, while the boys’ had soccer balls. My teacher wouldn’t let me choose which pass I wanted. I played soccer!

When I was in third grade, I drafted letters to the author of a children’s book series. I was bothered by the constant underlying sexism in her books about a family rescuing animals. The mom and the daughter were always secondary, sweeping or cooking in the background, while the father and son saw all the action. What troubled me most of all was that these books were written by a woman. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t create a single interesting female character.

Around the same time, my mom finally let me buy a pair of boys’ shoes. They were red and black, and I didn’t have to tie them. I wore them all the time, so often that the plastic frame of them tore through the fabric. It cut into my feet, but I didn’t tell my parents. I thought I wouldn’t get another pair. They didn’t find out until they saw the back of my ankles, torn and bleeding. When I told them why I hadn’t said anything, they got me another pair. This is my first memory of hurting myself on purpose so that I would feel better about my appearance. Later, there was tweezing, high heels, waxing, shaving, running, and trying to starve myself. In all of those, at one time or another, I was encouraged, but they really weren’t for me. I wanted to choose to hurt myself in my own way.

When I was 16, I talked my older sister into ordering me a binder, and I wore it as often I could. It hurt like hell. I insisted it didn’t. The pain made it easier to think less, which was nice, especially at school. Class was boring and I couldn’t focus, so I would always spend the whole day winding myself up with some thought obsession or another to keep busy. I would ask the teacher for bathroom breaks, and then used them to cut myself, just because I was under-stimulated and unhappy.

After school, I read Autostraddle articles and dozens of pages into the archive of FTM blogs. I was glad to see some women who looked kind of like me, saying that they had futures now. I wanted what they had, and I hated what I had. I think I was 15 or just barely 16 when I started checking this stuff out.

The longer I thought about it, the more sure I was that it was true. At first, I thought I might be genderqueer. Then, I wanted to go on testosterone for a while, but keep my breasts. Next I was sure that I wanted them gone. I would confess these changing thoughts anxiously to other trans-identifying friends online. They would reassure me that this happened to a lot of people, and that the dominant transgender narrative was oppressive.  Then I began reassuring others of this, too. We all agreed that being trans was very special and difficult.  Before, I had never felt special or that my pain mattered.

Some part of me knew I was talking myself into it. I ignored that part.

For the first time, I had a community that paid attention to me, at least online. We talked about our feelings and we listened to each other. This was my first real experience with Internet culture. I loved having friends. It wasn’t like school, where I was irritable and weird, floating between tables at lunch. People actually liked me on Tumblr. Almost all my friends were female and trans-identifying.

max jpg

I didn’t know anything. It was just so comforting to think that I was born wrong. If my body was the problem, it could be solved. Transition had clearly defined steps. Everybody chose from a set list, and when it was over, they were properly assembled.

When I renounced my connection to womanhood and what I shared with my sisters, I sealed away important parts of myself. I thought I was turning away from the hurt that came from being seen as a woman by men, but it was too late for that. That hurt has been inside my bones for years. After transition, I kept quieter than ever before. Always afraid, always afraid. Brought back into line.

Transition was supposed to fix things. That’s what I believed and that’s what doctors told my parents. I was 16 when I started hormone blockers, then testosterone. I was 17 when I had a double mastectomy.

If I didn’t look like a dyke and act like a crazy teenage girl, there would have been nothing to fix.

To fund my surgery, I started a blog where I posted print-to-order clothing and gifts, pandering to the interests of the people I saw on there. It worked pretty well. I got a bunch of money, but not quite enough. My parents used some of theirs, and my grandma helped, too. After all, this was a medically validated condition. I had been to appointments with professional after professional, all of whom agreed this was the way to go.

But it turned out to be cold comfort, removing hated body parts. Breasts marked me as a woman dressed funny. I wasn’t afraid to be anesthetized or cut open. The day of my surgery, after the doctor drew the lines of the incisions on my skin in Sharpie, I asked him where the tissue would go. He told me it would be incinerated as medical waste. I cackled. When they led me back to the operating room, I was confused. I thought there would be a silver table that I had to lie down on. I told my doctor this. He told me it wasn’t an autopsy, and laughed.

My first post-op memories don’t start until a day or two later. The pain wasn’t bad, and emptying my drains reminded me of using a menstrual cup, just with a lot more yellow stuff. It felt better than trying to live as a man with breasts. I couldn’t lift my arms to wash my own hair for a couple weeks, but seeing a flat chest was a breath of fresh air. It felt like it made sense after I had been watching my old face disappear, cheeks narrowing, beard coming in, because of testosterone. I didn’t want to be seen as a woman–as a lesbian–and I didn’t want to ask why.

Or maybe I just didn’t know who to ask. I did try. Before I started medical transition, I asked my gender therapist, a trans man, about internalized misogyny. The question was dismissed. I didn’t even really know what internalized misogyny was, but  I wanted to understand. Instead, I was assured that it probably wasn’t that. I got a letter for hormone replacement therapy, and later, for the top surgery. I was grateful.

It took years of testosterone for me to finally realize it was okay to live in my own body without it, that making this peace with myself was possible, and that I deserved that chance. I didn’t know it was okay to be a dysphoric lesbian, that I could survive this way. I was almost 20 when I stopped hormones. I had been 20 for a little while when I stopped understanding myself as a trans man.

Things changed. My mind changed.

There’s a species of rotifer (microscopic zooplankton) called Bdelloidea. A male bdelloid has never been observed. They’re all female, reproducing exclusively through parthenogenesis for millions of years. How did they survive quickly evolving parasites and rapidly changing environments without the adaptability afforded by sexual reproduction? Bdelloids shrivel up under stress. In anhydrobiosis, they’re easily carried away by the wind. For up to nine years, they’ll stay alive like this–barely living, but alive. Shrinking yourself to survive is a legitimate strategy, and sometimes it works.

After I detransitioned, I started a new job where I was known as a butch lesbian. At first, people treated me worse than when I was “passing” as male. Nobody trained me. They tried not to look at me at all. They didn’t relax until I started talking, talking like I had in high school. I made jokes and people laughed. I told them about my childhood when they told me about theirs. I did more than listen, finally. People actually liked me here, the same people who looked at me funny when I first started the job.

It had been so long since I had said anything outside my home without worrying about whether I “sounded male.” I hadn’t realized how much I had been holding back since I decided to transition. I hadn’t made new friends, except online, in years. In a couple weeks at this job, I got rides home and wedding invitations. I thought I was incapable of connecting to anyone in person, but I was just incapable of connecting to anyone as a man — because I’m not a man. I can’t pretend to be one without hiding an essential part of my nature.

I thought “woman” was wrong for me, because of how I dressed, how I related to my body, how I resented the expectations society had for me as a woman. I didn’t realize that my horror at my body could be caused by the horror of living in a world that wants to control all women.

If “being a woman” really was nothing but an identity, if I had been raised in a world where it really did just mean calling myself a woman, I never would have transitioned.  I would never have attempted to surgically and hormonally erase my femaleness. My drive to be anything but a woman was rooted in the material reality of being a woman, a material reality that cannot be identified out of. Trying to live in a fantasy where everything women have suffered for being female is null and void, even as misogyny continues to shape our lives, was valuable only in that I finally learned how incredibly valuable it was to name myself as a woman.

There is power in naming. It’s how we find each other, how we connect to our histories, how we connect to our futures. Driving us apart from each other is the easiest way to keep us from learning to recognize attempts to redefine our realities.

I didn’t know this then. I subscribed to an incredibly misogynistic set of beliefs for years. “DFAB privilege” was a common phrase in our community – “designated female at birth privilege.” It was accepted fact that being born female gave you a lifelong advantage over a male who transitioned. This included men who used transition only to mean using different pronouns on Tumblr and having an anime girl as their avatar. We believed that, as “dfabs,” we needed to shut up about our petty problems. We could never have it as hard as any “dmab women or non-binary people.” Everyone in the trans community agreed that it was our responsibility to uplift “dmab voices.” None of this seemed outrageous or strange to me; it felt pretty intuitive. Growing up under male domination is a grooming process that leaves many girls and women extremely vulnerable to manipulation.

The first experience that did make me start to feel suspicious of male transition was when I was 18 and a genderqueer-identifying man who had never pursued any kind of transition raped my best friend, a woman unacquainted with insular trans community politics. I had indirectly introduced her to this guy via mutual friends. After the rape, she told me what he did; I had been in the next room the whole night, awake, talking to someone I didn’t even like. I had no idea it was happening. When she let our mutual friends know, we both assumed they would have her back; after all, they referred to their apartment as a safe space for rape survivors. But instead, her rapist changed his pronouns on Tumblr, claimed to have schizophrenia, and then said that he couldn’t possibly have raped her, because of the power dynamics between a “cis” woman and a transwoman. He moved back to LA a few months later, without ever taking any steps towards transition. When he got there, he told his old friends he wasn’t schizophrenic or trans anymore.

Years before that, two different transwomen I knew had pressured me into sending nude photos of my breasts to them. I messaged them first, as a 16 year old, after seeing them repeatedly posting about being horny and suicidal, and how only nudes would make them feel any better. They didn’t even know who I was. To one of them, I submitted the nudes anonymously. I didn’t want to talk, I just wanted him to feel better. I thought it was my responsibility. It might still be posted somewhere, I have no idea.  Both of the transwomen who sexted with me identified as lesbians at the time and knew I was a transman. They didn’t care, as long as we were talking one-on-one.

I didn’t fully see the value in differentiating male from female until a traumatized and disabled lesbian I knew well, K, finally admitted to me that her transwoman partner M was beating her regularly.

For three years, she lived with steadily escalating physical & sexual violence, the details of which were originally included in this article but have now been removed for privacy reasons. Suffice it to say – it was an intimate portrait of what radical feminists understand as male violence.

It’s been two years since she moved in with me, away from him, and she’s still recovering from what he did to her. She had two decades of trauma before that, but nothing ever broke her like this did. Calling that relationship “lesbianism” left her stranded from the framework she desperately needed in order to contextualize her experiences as a survivor of captivity. It destroyed her ability to call herself a lesbian or a woman for a long time: if lesbians like to sleep with transwomen and were repulsed by the supposed maleness of transmen, how could she be a lesbian herself? If women are what her ex-partner M was, then she, K, must be something else entirely. The language of transition lends itself readily to abusive gaslighting that disguises and distorts women’s ability to name what is happening. What was done to her was extreme cruelty of a distinctly male variety, cruelty she was especially vulnerable to because of her lifelong history of trauma at men’s hands.

The more I started to understand that M could not have been female, the more I understood why I was. One’s actual sex matters. Running from its significance prevents you from doing anything but continuing its cycles of destruction. As soon as a transwoman said, “No, I’M not a man,” we instantly lost our ability to protect ourselves from him. Women who never transitioned in these trans circles believed their “cis privilege” rendered them man-like in their power. For those of us females (mainly lesbians) who did seek transition, we were often told that, as transmen, we were exactly as bad as any other men.

Loading the language was an incredibly powerful tool. I was a lesbian trying to save my friend from domestic violence at the hands of a man she had partnered with out of intense desperation, facing immediate homelessness as a severely mentally ill woman with limited mobility. Understanding this could have connected us to our foremothers who struggled through similar battles to protect each other from abusive men. Instead, we felt completely adrift. Other women dealing with abuse perpetrated by transwomen have described a similar sense of being in entirely uncharted territory, terrified to speak first, unable to find anyone else sharing experiences; they’re all too scared of being labeled an untouchable “trans-misogynist.”

In the 21st century, intelligent and capable adult women are having to relearn what “man” means, with fear at their backs every step of the way. We were among them, exploring radical and lesbian feminist ideology online and marveling at how decades-old works precisely described circumstances we had thought of as occurring only recently. Janice Raymond’s discussion of transexually-constructed lesbian feminists in The Transsexual Empire was startlingly relevant. She saw this coming. As lesbians, we have a rich history of theory that had been completely denied to women who came of age when K and I did. All either of us knew about Janice Raymond, until last year, was that she was evil to the core; a horrible transphobe. We believed this because we didn’t know any better.

Deprogramming took almost a year. Both of us were terrified just to read dissenting opinions. K, me, and another lesbian exited from the radical queer scene began moderating an online support group for anyone dysphoric and born female, including many who still identified as trans. When that group started, I was still one of the transmen. All of us were so incredibly relieved not to be alone. We disagreed on a lot of stuff, but we were all tired of what we saw happening to females.

When our remaining friends from the transgender community found out that we considered transwomen capable of male violence, and that we were concerned about transition’s effect on young adults, almost all of them deserted us immediately. Female trans-identifying friends who knew K’s history of homelessness and our currently rocky financial situation started talking publicly to each other about how we literally deserved to starve to death.

Losing these friends hurt enough on its own. Being cut off from them just when we had begun to see the severity of the situation within these groups was so much worse. I have a list of 20 intercommunity predators, mainly transwomen who prey on females — women or transmen. Eleven of them are one or two degrees of separation from us. So many women in our community had themselves been pressured to share nude photos, coerced into unwanted sex, or outright violently assaulted by males describing themselves as transwomen, but they still didn’t feel able to challenge the narrative they were being fed. These women, our friends, had been there with us. They saw transwoman predator after transwoman predator being named by their terrified female victims. The “call-outs” (a word used for anything from hurting someone’s feelings slightly to brutal rape) usually only happened once several victims of the same predator found each other and made sure they had friends on their side. When victims couldn’t be sure they would be supported, they didn’t come forward. The political climate made it doubly difficult to “call out” a transwoman. We were constantly being reminded that transwomen are harmed by the horrible stereotype that they’re all rapists or perverts, and we were taught that we needed to be constantly policing ourselves to avoid perpetuating this idea.

The silent victims of transwomen had good reason to keep quiet. We all saw transwomen using the language of “cissexism” and “transmisogyny” against anyone who named their behavior as harmful. Even transwomen dating other transwomen experienced abuse at their hands. In the resulting fallout, it was never clear who the true aggressor was; both of them would immediately begin using identity politics and “privilege dynamics” (i.e., someone poor can never hurt someone rich, under any circumstances, etc.) in a way that was very effective at obfuscating the truth. Our friends had been right beside us for all of this, and they still damned us for beginning to name what had enabled this wide-scale intercommunity violence.

Young lesbians in the “queer community” are known by many names: if you want to avoid scrutiny for not hooking up with transwomen, you’ve got to get creative. Some of us call ourselves queer, bisexual, or pansexual, because there’s no word for only being attracted to females, and you can’t be a lesbian if you date transmen or avoid dating transwomen. A lot of us, having been told that we can opt out of womanhood by choice, decided that we never want to be called “she” again. Young women who cling to the word “lesbian” find themselves increasingly pressured to sleep with transwomen, because—according to trans dogma–they are supposedly more vulnerable and oppressed than any “cis” lesbian.

Many transwomen seem to view dating a “cisbian” as a uniquely valuable source of gender validation. After all, lesbians only date women. There is no acknowledgement that, under some circumstances, some lesbians can be coerced into relationships that they are incapable of experiencing as anything except traumatic. I have never seen a transwoman from these circles ever express the possibility that this might be true. By all appearances, they have never considered it. Running from unpleasant truths is something that a lot of folks who transition (me included) tend to get very good at.

The insistence that lesbianism is not a strictly female experience runs so deep that transwomen, even those who only date other transwomen, often refer to themselves as “transdykes.” This includes those who are not transitioning–men who can literally only be differentiated from any other man when you ask his preferred pronouns. Many women believe that these “transdykes,” even those who have never been identifiable as anything but straight men to the outside world in any way, are more oppressed than any “cis” woman, specifically on the axis of gender. The level of gaslighting taking place here is difficult to overstate.

From the outside, now, I can finally see how ridiculous it is. Realizing this took months and months. It took us a year of exploring the feminist theory that had been forbidden to us before me or K could even call any transwoman a man without having a panic attack.

At first, when I started learning more about opposing viewpoints, I identified as a “gender-critical transman.” I knew that the transgender cause had been used in a lot of disgusting ways, but I still believed transition was the only way I could survive, and I was trying to reconcile seeing myself as transgender with believing that the vast majority of trans activism was harmful to women. During this time, I really looked up to gender-critical transwomen–transitioning males who were usually at least marginally more sympathetic and thoughtful than most men. I tried to reconcile our respective identities and our needs, as we understood them, with the needs of women as a class.

I failed. At the end of the day, I just don’t want anyone male in the bathroom with me. I don’t want them on a women’s volleyball team. I don’t want them at Curves. I don’t want them in a lesbian book club. The experience of being male is fundamentally different from the experience of being female — even if a man passes, even if a man has surgery to more closely resemble his idea of a woman. I don’t say this out of a hatred for transwomen. I say this out of love and respect for women. What we are cannot be conceived nor replicated in a man’s imagination, and it absolutely cannot be formed out of male tissue on an operating table.

The sympathy I feel for men harmed by gender, to the extent that it means I encourage male-to-female transsexualism, is in direct competition with the sympathy I feel for women harmed by gender. Everyone is entitled to make their own choices about their bodies. Everyone is also entitled to have opinions about the choices that others make about their bodies. I feel that transition is a treatment with far-reaching harmful side effects — not only for the individual receiving treatment, but for those around them.

Lesbians who see their sisters disappearing are more likely to try to erase themselves. Lesbians who are forced to welcome men into their spaces will never be able to see or understand the value of female-only space, having never actually experienced it. Transition does not cure the irreconcilability of our selves with our environments. Gendered identity crises are very real to the individuals experiencing them, myself included, but this energetic drive towards change is not best spent reforming ourselves into someone who can assimilate into the world men have built. We need to use this energy to work towards restoring balance to a sick world.

Many young lesbians (and some older lesbians caught up in a youth-oriented trans/queer culture) hold political views diametrically opposed to our collective interests. We genuinely believe some off-the-wall garbage, like that it’s wrong and evil not to be attracted to penises because of “internalized cissexism.” We have been successfully brainwashed to serve males at the expense of our own health and sanity.

I have so much empathy for other women who believed transition was their best choice. I lived that. The fact is, loving a woman does not automatically mean agreeing with her. I believe that all of us deserve better. We deserve to experience autonomous female space. We deserve the opportunity to experience our bodies as a part of nature worthy of celebration, not objects to be “reconstructed.” The energy we spend trying to run from our own bodies is better spent working to support each other.

Those of us who make it out of communities like the ones I was in often only manage to do so because of strong female (in my experience, lesbian) support networks that help us relearn how to think for ourselves without getting angry when we make mistakes in the process. I hear political opponents of the transgender movement calling it extremely cult-like and in the same breath damning the women, usually lesbians, who fall into the trap. This reinforces the learned hatred of anyone who disagrees without creating any opportunity for victims of this ideology to ask questions and explore viewpoints that—while the victims have not yet extricated themselves–genuinely feel like some kind of blasphemy to them. The pace of progress needs to be determined by the individual. Frustration with the behavior of young people in the transgender community is very understandable, but even the most righteous anger is unlikely to change minds when it’s directed at someone who has been manipulated into believing that dissenting women are literally equivalent to murderers.

The beliefs they have internalized are harmful to all women. No one is obligated to subject herself to being triggered or re-traumatized by the virulent misogyny that trans activists tend to espouse, even in the name of reaching out to a sister in crisis. Taking care of yourself has to come first. I try to stay available for conversations with questioning trans-identifying females, but I can’t always be there. I need rest, too.

As I move away from viewing myself and my body as an object to improve, I’m realizing more and more how much of my energy has been devoted to appeasing men in some way. By and large, that was a waste of time. I’m working on using my emotional energy for the benefit of myself first, and then for the benefit of other women.

While I was transitioning, I was terrified of eventually regretting it. I sure as hell didn’t let on much about my doubts, for fear of losing access to medical treatment, but I was consumed all the time with obsessive thoughts about it. I didn’t understand how I could go on living as a woman with no breasts. What man would want to fuck me? Never mind that I didn’t want to be fucked by any man; that didn’t feel like a good enough answer.

I am so incredibly grateful that I learned that there was more to being a woman. Transition was absolutely not the easiest way to learn this, but it was how I learned it. It was how I learned that I could survive without men viewing me as a piece of meat. I never shaved my legs or armpits again. I stopped tittering at their stupid jokes. I dress practically. I’m grateful that I learned it was okay to exist as I am.

For me, transition was a processing of distancing my true self from my body and my environment. Detransition has been the opposite: learning to participate earnestly in the world again. For me, this isn’t about undoing my transition. I’m not seeking any further changes like electrolysis or breast reconstruction. I am a woman, even if my body is recognizable as the body of a woman who once thought transition was the best choice available to me. My body has known tragedies, but my body is not a tragedy. When I catch myself slipping into deeply misogynistic internal tirades about the aspects of my appearance that changed during transition, I practice thought replacement. I am not a waste of a woman.

I’m so grateful for all of the incredible women I’ve connected with who are on the other side of transgender identities now. Some of them are women I met years ago, when both of us were still pursuing transition. Transition doesn’t have to be forever. If transition makes you sick inside, you don’t have to live and die with that sickness. There is community. There is processing. There is genuine healing. More and more of us are waking up, each with her own story. We question and disagree, with our enemies and with each other. We learn. Together, we are moving forward.