Applying general psychological principles to gender issues

One of the problems that contribute to unclear psychological thinking on gender issues, is that it is treated as a special case of psychology. For whatever reason, general psychological thinking goes out the window when dealing with gender issues. There is already well-established thinking on issues such as identity, trauma, dysphoria, narratives, and sexuality. Many of the ideas I will present are derived from taking a step back and applying these general ideas to the issue of gender dysphoria. What is healthy for those without gender issues is also healthy for those with gender issues. General principles of psychological health must be applied to these issues. All of these things are interconnected.

This often does not happen in the case of gender issues. Gender dysphoria is seen as a specialized field in the world of psychology. This means that people dealing with these issues are referred to specialized gender therapists. Gender therapists are generally very thoughtful and caring people. However, the gender issues are generally treated as separate from other issues. In particular, trauma seems to be correlated with transgender identity formation, yet trauma is often seen as having nothing to do with gender identity, both by gender therapists and the trans community. Many people that have retransitioned have cited trauma as a key factor in their transition and felt their gender therapist did not see it as relevant. It is not as simple as trauma causes gender dysphoria, but it does play a role. Biological and cultural factors seem to play a role as well.

In the psychology series on this blog I will expand upon these topics further. By working through my trauma and studying psychology I was eventually able to reclaim a male identity, which was not a possibility expressed by anyone during my transition journey. I am not against transition, as I do think it is right for some people. I also think there are people who transition and don’t need to, and that the psychological community is contributing to this. It is a complicated issue.

2 comments

  1. I agree that there is often a ‘push’ to transition when transition is not necessary. It’s not only childhood trauma that might trigger gender identity issues — there is a whole lot of reasons for that, and a good therapist with a general understanding of psychology (as opposed to a specialized training in gender issues) should be able to figure those out.

    Another typical example: someone claims to have gender identity issues and crossdresses, but simultaneously exhibits depression — especially atypical depression, where crossdressing very often triggers a raise of serotonin (and possibly adrenalin) and may be used as an ‘escape’ for depression. So, what should be treated? The gender issues or the depression? Many psychologists focusing only on the gender issues might (incorrectly) believe that in fixing the gender dysphoria (which means transition), that person might get rid of the depression forever. But a more generalist psychologist will follow the APA protocol for this situation: let’s cure depression first (because it’s curable) and see what happens with the gender issues afterwards (which can only be ‘curable’ through transition).

    Correlation is not causation, and the patient might be aware of a wrong causation and therefore influence the therapist in believing the same. Effectively determining the order of causation is crucial.

    I totally agree with your assessment.

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