Identity is not the same as authenticity

I have been again thinking about identity, because it seems to lie at the heart of all the recent discussion of transgender issues. I have also been thinking about how the way we treat identity with respect to gender dysphoria is very different from that with other conditions. In fact, the way we treat identity with respect to gender dysphoria is the polar opposite of the way we look at most other conditions. In many different contexts, I was taught the importance of not making an identity out of someone’s condition.

For example, we try not to say “schizophrenic” instead we say “person with schizophrenia”. We try not to say “a depressive” and instead say “person with depression”. However, with gender issues it is the reverse, we are encouraged to say “trans person” rather than “person with gender dysphoria” and also to affirm those identities.

The reasons for this disidentification process are several. One is to avoid distorting our perception of the person so we do not see them as just their condition. We must remember that they are so much more than that. Another reason for this practice is to avoid stigmatizing them, so they are not seen as being just that particular condition, they are a full dynamic human being with many different parts

Another reason for this, relates to the person seeking to work with their condition themselves. When someone identifies with something it becomes frozen. It is much harder to treat someone for depression if they identify with it. If they say “being depressed is just who I am, it cannot change.” that is much harder to work with that than someone who says that they “have depression”. One technique for those who are too identified with their depression is to externalize the depression. We try to get them to see the depression as not their whole self, and to perhaps say “that is the depression talking”. This tries to bring their whole self into the picture, rather than just the depression, as the rest of the self can get lost when an identity is formed.

I have talked about identities as self-concept in the past. However, another important aspect of identity which I neglected is group identity. A lot of identities involve identification with a group. When people talk about identities they are often talking about things like race, class, national identity, political identities and certainly gender. Group identities divide us into groups. They say who is “us” and who is “not us”. The desire to be part of a group is a very basic human desire. We are tribal creatures. However, when group identities come into play, they tend to override objective reasoning. There is a sense that our group is right and the other group is wrong. Reason is no longer used to explore the truth, but is instead used to support our moral position. Arguments become moral, rather than rational, and moral reasoning trumps objective reasoning. This is part of what makes discussion of trans issues so difficult. Identity comes into play, and discussion becomes very difficult.

Another problem with group identities is that they can result in a loss of individuality. Connecting with a group and being a part of a group can be such a good feeling, especially if it is a group of people that reflects parts of oneself that have not been reflected before. A lot of my own impulse to transition 20 years ago arose in part from my encounter with the community. It felt so good to encounter people that shared the same feelings about gender that I did, as my gender feelings felt like a deep secret that I would never share with anyone and did not share with anyone “real”. Talking to people who had the same feelings and could relate to my experience was so great. I do think it played a role in my adopting the transgender identity. I am not saying that I adopted this identity due to peer pressure, as the reason I adopted this identity also related to the deeply held feelings that I had. It is rather the intersection between my deep feelings ,and the group that led to my development of this identity. I think this is true of most identities, they are the intersection between biological factors, temprament, and social identity. Cross-gender feelings exists in all cultures but how they are expressed is different depending on cultures. In one culture one might be considered a shaman, in another an abomination, in another a transsexual. Cultures and subcultures say these feelings mean certain cultural identities and the ultimate expression lies at the intersection between the cultural ideas and the internal feelings.

In a way, there is something strange about talking about people “discovering their authentic identities”, because I actually see authenticity as something that opposes identity. I see it as something that lies beyond identities. Identities freeze things into place, and are almost like heuristics. They are shortcuts for who we are, that help explain who we are to others, but are always partial. So, affirming someones identities, is in a way taking them away from authenticity. It is not surprising that many of the people who write of detransition cite mindfulness as an important factor, because mindfulness is precisely a method for loosening identities and the holds they place on us.

I am not trying to say identities are all bad, indeed they are important. They are important because they allow us to feel a part of a group. They are important precisely because they act as heuristics. If we had to feel authentically into each moment of every day that would be a very slow, inefficient process, and probably quite difficult to pull off. Also there are problems associated with lack of stable identity, such as borderline personality disorder for example. Like Jack Engler said “you have to be someone before you can be no one”. Sometimes being authentic can be very difficult or impossible due to the pain associated with it, that can be a reason to live in identities. There is nothing wrong with that, it can be what is right for that time and it can serve an important protective function. Exploring identity is generally seen as part of normal adolescent development, because it relates to being in the world and playing roles in society. However, it seems like we have taken to reifying identities and mistaking them for the person themselves, when they can only be an approximation.

Can transition be the best solution? Yes, but I believe the answer lies under identity and not in identity, because that is where the creativity lies. So, I think it would be much better when looking at these issues to see someone as a person with gender dysphoria, rather than a trans person or a potential trans person. The same applies when exploring one’s own issues. This means the whole person doesn’t get lost and many solutions are possible. It also changes the question from “determining if someone ‘is’ transgender” to determining what the best way to move them towards wholeness.

59 comments

  1. I agree. A life lesson that I suspect just takes years and years of showing up everyday to learn is this: we move through many identities in our lives. And, we create suffering when we confuse identity (our own or others) with authenticity because then we cling to the identity after it is no longer enhancing and reflective of the truth, but rather is becoming destructive.

  2. This is an insightful discusdion which makes sense and explains why people who define themselves by identity politics interpret constructive criticism as an attack, as their ego has become identified and merged with a moral position. I would be interested to see a discussion on ego states and this politics, also how groups then project ‘badness’ onto people who question them. Are there any psychoanalysts reading this blog?

    1. Yes, I think that is exactly what happens, people construe an attack on a position they hold as an attack on them (or an attack on goodness itself!) and then we can’t have any discussions any more. I like Jonathan Haidt’s work on the issue of moral reasoning a lot.

  3. This resonates with me as well. And I have been trying to take your earlier posts to heart as well. I know I started my transitioning process with frustration with the feeling of wanting to be a woman and be seen as a woman growing and continuously bothering me and getting in the way of my life. I had avoided researching it too deeply because I was scared of the answer and didn’t want to screw up the rest of my life. I never even considered it dysphoria until looking back in hindsight. I started on T blockers and felt so much better. The loss of libido was liberating, I loved the knowledge that I would stop balding, and I felt calmness finally. I still didn’t feel like that was the full answer though, so I had to try a low dosage of E. That was incredible as well – being able to finally express my emotions, feeling more complete, feeling true.
    I still didn’t fully identify as even transgender or as a woman at that point. I just knew that I was treating my dysphoria, struggling to help myself while limiting its effects on my family. However, over time I accepted that I was transgender (identity… I know), and I came to the conclusion that I was likely pre-programmed during fetal development with certain female instincts that will never go away. I accept that I have a core female gender. Ironically, my dysphoria has only strengthened in response though – the more I realize about myself and the better I feel during transition. (I’m now 2 years in, but still in the middle – though about the teeter over to the other side). I have tried to avoid claiming an identity after reading your blogs, but I find that it’s easier to claim an identity and easier to explain to people that way as well. I fully accept that people can identify as something and still not fully meet the criteria. I can identify as a woman despite certain masculine characteristics and behaviors.
    I’m not sure I agree with authenticity being in conflict with identity though. I feel that by being vulnerable and “authentic” in disclosing my dysphoria (by claiming an identity, which is more understood and convenient for outsiders) I did not over or under-claim who I am. I see your point of being able to emphasize that it’s just a part of my complete identity though. I have heard others say that after they identify as transgender then they feel like they have to do so much in order to fit the identity. Perhaps more than they really need or are comfortable with. So I suppose that would reinforce your argument of not being authentic. Maybe it depends on the person?

    1. What you talk about when you say it easier to claim an identity and explain things to people is exactly what I see as one of the points of identities. They enable us to explain parts of ourselves to people in a kind of shorthand, and can indeed point to deeply held parts of ourselves. We cannot have a deep intimacy with everyone we know and will have many people in our lives that only see parts of us. Ideally in the cases where we do get to know someone deeply, eventually we no longer become a collection of identities and then are seen in our individuality. I do not mean to say that identity is not useful, it is just that it can really trip us up.

      This lack of a shorthand way to explain identity is one of the difficulties of being a detransitioner, it was easier identifying as a trans woman in that aspect, at least in the circles I live in people have an idea of what that is.

      If you feel better on estrogen vs. testosterone or living in a certain way then I think that is great.

      I’ve seen the pattern of dysphoria increasing in response to accepting a cross-gender identity a lot. This happened to me, and I’ve seen several discussions of it. That is part of why I see holding identity more loosely as a way to decrease dysphoria.

      1. I agree with holding identity more loosely. My response to a lot of questions I get about being trans and transitioning is often “I dont know” because I literally dont! I can’t say why I did it or why it makes me feel better about myself, or how it turned a self-hating lump of human into a functional human being. I will never forget what my Zen priest said when I came to him about my gender dysphoria/identity issues. He said “Look, you’re gonna have an identity regardless. No amount of meditation and strict zen practice will make that go away. So you might as well go with something that’s a little closer to the truth.” So I did and all the troubles I’ve had since were from people who don’t/can’t/refuse to allow that fluidity and uncertainty with regards to my identity. So I get it that people try really hard to fit one category, because I get caught up in the same thought patterns. It gets to you eventually.

    2. What you’ve done is internalized the system of gender such that you claim gender to be both fixed and internal – an assertion that underpins patriarchy. You can say that you identify as a woman or that males can do so, but thinking or saying so doesn’t make it true. A male can take all the estrogen in the world; that won’t make him a woman. A male cannot become female, and a woman is nothing other than an adult female human. If a woman is something else or something more, I have yet to hear a definition that isn’t based on sexist stereotypes (most of the time people refuse to provide a definition because they how it will come off). So much of what you’ve written is biological determinism – textbook sexism. If you’re going to repeat the nonsense that testosterone is the libido hormone, you’ll have to explain why women as a group are actually very much interested in sex and most often their disinterest isn’t genetic but produced by a variety of social factors, not least of which being the sexist circumstances in which they find themselves. Estrogen is not responsible for women ‘being able to express their emotions’. Hormones don’t magically rewire your brain to give you a cognitive ability such as emotional expression. That’s not how it works. Females aren’t born as inherently emotional creatures and males aren’t born as inherently logical creatures. It sounds like you’ve pathologized the medical modifications you’ve undergone so that they fit in with what you think being a woman is supposed to mean. The fact that males find it difficult to express their emotions is the result of gender, specifically masculine socialization, which you have clearly received and internalized. Females are socialized into femininity, which is nothing more than ritualized submission, and here you are embracing the very stereotypes that form the basis of women’s oppression and talking them as though they’re all natural and not at all part of the social hierarchy that is male supremacy. Saying that there’s a set of personality traits, characteristics, and aptitudes inherent to males and females is unacceptable and the trans community and other gender defenders need to stop doing this. You’re harming women and girls.

                1. I feel like this one liner back and forth is not a constructive discussion. If you want to criticize the commentor’s position that is no problem, but it would help to make a more substantial constructive argument and also to refrain from adding insults to it.

                2. Well, that thoughtfully articulated response is just so convincing I must concede defeat! LOL I’m educated, thanks. If your only strategy at this point is making a flippant comment about the value of someone else’s intellect, maybe you’re the one who’s failed.

  4. Excellent points, and excellent argument! You know that we both have disagreed before, but I believe that you’re hitting a lot of points with which I now agree completely.

    I may have a problem with the word ‘authenticity’. In this context, what exactly do you mean by that? Not something like the ‘true inner self’, I hope, because no matter how deep one goes, there are always more and more layers of identities, some conscious, some subconscious, and so forth. There is not really much ‘down there’ which is not a mental construct — such as ‘identity’.

    I totally agree that ‘identity’ is shaped by a lot of causes and reasons — some internal (genetics, embryology), some external (education, environment). And obviously it changes all the time as we get older — more visibly perhaps during adolescence, but it certainly doesn’t remain ‘fixed and immutable’, although the more time passes, the more we’re stuck with certain habitual tendencies which are prone to make us act and behave in a certain way, with which we ‘identify’ ourselves (and with which others ‘identify’ us as well).

    The example of being somehow influenced (not forced, nor pushed) by members of a close-knit community of transgender people is a pitfall that ought to be avoided, and your warning is really very appropriate. I personally struggle a bit to avoid that particular pitfall, although I admit I’m lucky: among my group of friends, which include people with gender dysphoria and a few transexuals, most of us have really little in common — besides being somewhere in the MtF spectrum. There is a huge difference in education, for example, among my friends; what I have noticed is that the higher the education, the more people reflect about their own issues and tend to get professional advice first, and frown their noses at ‘community advice’ (no matter how well-intended it often is). As said, I might just be lucky. I certainly have noticed that a lot of my acquaintances have gone the opposite path: because they somehow feel the urge to ‘please’ the group, they’re more willing to blindingly enter transition, although one can only hope that at some point the doctors following them will catch them in time before they have any regrets.

    Finally, I know this is splitting hairs, but there is definitely a huge difference between ‘being transgender’ or ‘having gender dysphoria’. I think that this is the crux of the matter. Your analogy with depression is certainly interesting, but I think — and I may be wrong about it — that the difference comes mostly from depression being a pathology that can be treated and cured (at least to the degree that someone can become functional again), while gender dysphoria is a condition one is born with, which cannot be cured or treated by conventional means. At least not at the current state of technological development: there is an old saying that claims that gender dysphoria can only be ‘cured’ by either understanding how certain mechanisms inside the brain work, and therefore surgically ‘correct’ the brain by disconnecting some bits and reconnecting others — something that we are decades away from even barely begin to understand what exactly is involved — or by changing the body to externally reflect better what one’s gender identity is. Right now, we’ve been opting for the latter solution, since it’s available to us now, even taking into account that we cannot work ‘miracles’ (not yet, at least) and that the best we can achieve is mostly cosmetic. Fortunately for our species, we’re not very gender dimorphic, so that means that we don’t really have to change that much — compared to other species (like, say, chicken).

    Nevertheless, no matter what current medical science thinks, I also believe it doesn’t harm to postulate ‘what if gender dysphoria is just another mental disorder that we can’t currently cure?’ In that case, people would not ‘be transgender’ but merely be ‘afflicted with gender dysphoria’.

    Current research, however, disproves that hypothesis, although one might argue that it only does so indirectly. Some tell-tale signs of gender dysphoria might actually be correlated to a few malfunctions in the brain formation, which happened during gestation, and these may be the reason why a person ‘is’ gender dysphoric (as opposed to ‘having’ gender dysphoria). Such results, however, are still controversial, since much more research is required, as well as a much larger sample. On the other side of the coin, we know that no known method, treatment, or chemical can ‘change’ gender dysphoria — like we cannot change things like sexual orientation/attraction, even with aversion therapy using electroshocks or similar drastic measures — so researchers tend to believe that, by lacking evidence of a method that might produce a ‘cure’, gender dysphoria has to be considered an inborn condition.

    Perhaps the biggest problem that I personally have with this classification is that doctors tend to oversee that there are other disorders that can produce symptoms very similar to gender dysphoria — many of those disorders being related to traumatic experiences in one’s childhood (or at least in the distant past), or even more recent episodes leading to stress, anxiety, and depression. Certain chemical imbalances at the thyroid and other organs, apparently unrelated to ‘gender dysphoria’ (in the sense that it is supposed to be ‘produced’ at the brain level), may unexpectedly produce symptoms also similar to ‘gender dysphoria’, no matter how strange that might be. All the above are treatable conditions. The difficult role the doctors have in this case is to make sure that they eliminate all possible mental and physical conditions that might produce symptoms similar to the ones reported by gender dysphoric people, and see what remains. Indeed, your own life experience points pretty much towards such issues — and it was sadly the oversight of some doctors, eager to ‘push’ a patient towards transition instead of looking for different causes, that might require some better supervision/overseeing.

    Again, I can only give my personal case as an example. I am unsure if I ‘have’ gender dysphoria or not. I certainly exhibit all symptoms, although they are not at an unbearable level (i.e. I won’t take my life if I don’t transition!). I personally believe that with good doctors, correct therapy, and possibly some medication, I might be able to keep the gender dysphoria in check, never transition, and still lead a fulfilling life (as a mere crossdresser). There are a lot of extraneous conditions (including anxiety and depression) that can be conventionally cured — and once those are removed, I will be quite interested to see what remains of my ‘gender dysphoria’. Maybe there is ‘nothing there’ — in the sense that there never was anything in the first place, I was just self-deluded to believe that I ‘had’ gender dysphoria, while in reality, it was just produced as a consequence of many other reasons and causes. Maybe. I have really no idea. But, speaking strictly for myself, I’m quite grateful to my doctors, who are not ‘trigger happy’ about an eventual transition, but instead try to exhaust all possibilities to see if there is a chance that the symptoms of gender dysphoria disappear on their own, once all causes for those symptoms to emerge are removed.

    I have no idea what would relieve me most: knowing that I had no gender dysphoria whatsoever, and so won’t need to worry or get anxious about a possible transition; or discovering that there is nothing else that produces those symptoms except gender dysphoria itself, for which there is no cure — except transitioning. Both alternatives, in fact, sound equally scary to me. But my psychologist ordered me not to worry about the future. So I’m doing exactly that!

    1. “Dysphoria” = Discomfort, or the loss/lack of fulfilment regarding an emotional attachment.

      “Identity” = The act of relating oneself.

      The “feminization fetishist” (MEF), commonly develops emotional attachments related to their desires (and may self-identify though it), often including the idea itself of female identity.

  5. Wouldn’t it make sense to treat a person with dysphoria in a way that attempts to eliminate the dysphoria? If you are born a male that cannot be changed. So why not try to make the person feel like they are male. Perhaps with male hormones.

    1. Wouldn’t it make sense to treat a person with dysphoria in a way that attempts to eliminate the dysphoria? If you are born a male that cannot be changed. So why not try to make the person feel like they are male. Perhaps with male hormones.

      Sadly, we have strong scientific evidence that it doesn’t work like that. Hormonal and electroshock treatments have been popular in the 1950s to try to change someone’s gender identity and sexual orientation (against their will, and legally so, by court order). There is a terrifying amount of documentation showing how all those attempts utterly failed.

      There might be some hope in the distant future, when we figure out how exactly the brain ‘feels male/female’ in terms of neuronal interconnections. Then we might be able to surgically alter the neuronal pathways so that the ‘feeling’ is of the opposite gender. We are still very, very far away from being able to perform such delicate surgeries (especially because it’s very likely that such a ‘feeling’ is holistically spread across the 100 billion neurons in the whole brain — imagine how much time it would take to surgically remove/change each of the neurons involved in the process of ‘feeling male/female’!). But that might eventually be possible in the future.

      Chemically, however, there is no way to change that (nor does it work with any kind of therapy). If someone who ‘feels female’ is pumped with testosterone and other male hormones, their body might acquire a lot more muscular mass, they might increase their libido dramatically, they might even become much more aggressive and irritated — but they would still ‘feel female’ (there are plenty of genetic females out there who go to the gym to increase their muscular mass and have rather aggressive personalities; they still ‘feel female’ in spite of that).

      In any case, it’s true that we treat people with gender dysphoria with attempts to eliminate it. Because we cannot change the brain, we change the body instead. We cannot magically transform a male into a female and vice-versa; but we can surgically (and hormonally) change the shape of someone to look externally similar to a person of the opposite gender. This alleviates dysphoria (if dysphoria is, indeed, the correct diagnosis!) in almost every case. The only failures in such a treatments have been correlated with wrongly diagnosed dysphoria and/or lack of treatment of other mental conditions (mostly trauma, but not only that) which doctors left untreated before entering transition…

      1. “There might be some hope in the distant future, when we figure out how exactly the brain ‘feels male/female’ in terms of neuronal interconnections.”

        The brain doesn’t “make a person feel “male” or “female”, because “male” & “female” are constructed. A brain for example which is biologically disposed to high aggression, simply makes it more likely that the individual will be associated with associations of aggression, which are in turn, associated with maleness. So if one feels to be predominately affiliated with what they associate as associations of maleness, then they will association themselves through maleness.

        1. Same thing, just written from a different point of view 🙂 What you’re simply saying is that a brain is biologically disposed to a certain number of attributes and characteristics, which we happen to conventionally label, in our society, as ‘male’ or ‘female’. We could easily have labeled them as ‘red’ or ‘nice’ — the labels we use matter little. My point here is that such ‘biological disposition’, in a strictly materialistic point of view, might be encoded in the neuronal patterns of the brain. If they indeed are, and we can somehow disconnect and reconnect neurons at will, then it is conceivable that we might, in the future, ‘rewire’ someone’s brain so that the person doesn’t associate with one label but with the other (i. e. in that case the brain would ‘become’ less aggressive, so the person would now relabel themselves as female).

          1. There is no meaningful thing as “gender” at the level of biology.

            “it is conceivable that we might, in the future, ‘rewire’ someone’s brain so that the person doesn’t associate with one label but with the other (i. e. in that case the brain would ‘become’ less aggressive, so the person would now relabel themselves as female).”

            One could at most alter a biological disposition, such as level of aggression, but there can be no control as to how such an alteration is taken up within a phenomenological referential whole.

      2. Your assertions that women “feel female” are made almost exclusively by those who are transgender.The only time I have ever heard a woman agree that she “feels female” is in the context of cheering on trans males who make this claim. I have never seen such a claim made organically, perhaps because it’s entirely ridiculous on its face. “Feel female” makes about as much sense as “feeling homo sapien.” You are confusing the symptoms of your disorder with the feelings of those who actually are female — that is, “I feel this way about womanhood, I am a true woman, therefore true women feel exactly as I do.” If I am wrong, by all means cite an actual discussion or two by those gym-going women about how female they “feel” inside. Otherwise, stop speaking for women.

  6. ” it seems like we have taken to reifying identities and mistaking them for the person themselves, when they can only be an approximation.”

    Well said, and I agree.

    I suspect that the fact that an identity cannot adequately describe a person might be one of the reasons people who reify identity often create more and more intricate distinctions between ‘different’ identities that do not from here appear to be meaningfully different (like the ever-increasing number of asexual identity terms). This seems to go with thinking something is lost about you as a person if your identity doesn’t describe you precisely (something that is impossible for an identity to do).

    I prefer to use these words not as identities but as descriptors. For me the question is whether the word provides a meaningful description or not. For instance, I have a number of friends for whom ‘gay’ provides meaningful information. ‘White’ is a meaningful descriptor of me — it tells something about how I am seen in society. Yes, it’s true that not all my ancestors were white, but I look white and am treated as white and grew up among other white people, so it’s a useful descriptor. I don’t call myself ‘grey white’ or ‘demi white’ or some such because that level of detail is not useful in most social contexts.

    1. I would agree as well. Nothing is more changeable and mutable than the ‘sense of self’ — even though we tend to pretend otherwise; thus the idea of an ‘inner self’, a ‘soul’, a ‘subconscious identity’ and so forth, which religion, philosophy, and psychology have been trying to grasp for decades and centuries.

      The simple fact is that we can only deal with conventions, e.g. in your example, most people can agree with you that you ought to be labeled ‘white’, even if your DNA tells a different story; and, in any case, as we all know, no human being is the colour ‘white’, but rather what would more appropriately be called ‘flesh colour’… but I digress. The point is that we create conventions, and we establish social norms to go with those conventions: if you’re white and female, you behave in a certain way; if you’re black and male, you ought to act differently; and so forth. We can also complicate matters and establish identities in purely abstract notions: for example, citizens of the USA might label themselves ‘American’ even though all they share is a certain geographic location, drawn on a map, and with little correlation with actual geography. As an European, I’m aware that the ‘continent’ we call ‘Europe’ is not even a ‘continent’ (in the geographical sense) but just the Western bit of Asia. Nevertheless, Europeans identify with Europe, a completely abstract notion, made of a huge mass of people who have very little to do with each other, except for inhabiting a chunk of land on the west of ‘Eurasia’.

      Conventions, however, are still ‘real’ to a certain degree — in the sense that if enough people agree with such a convention, then it becomes ‘reality’ for all of them. Let’s take a look at the vast variety of skin colours that we globally label as ‘white’. A pale Scandinavian has little in common with a tanned Italian, but both are conventionally accepted as ‘white’, even though there is a huge variance in pretty much everything — body shape; skin, eye, hair colour; but also ethical values, attitude towards work, and so forth. Both, indeed, are absolute aliens to each other; however, by convention, we still label them ‘white’ and expect both to act and behave according to the ‘white’ label — even though they’re completely different personalities, and most certainly have quite different identities as well.

      We can delve deeper and analyse gender as well, and once again, we will encounter an amazing variety of change in all sort of body shapes, shapes and sizes of genitalia, body/facial hair patterns, and so forth. In spite of all that diversity, we can still define, by convention, that a certain spectrum of characteristics can be labeled as ‘male’, and another set of slightly different characteristics are to be found among those we agree to label as ‘female’. While some of those characteristics can be measured objectively — say, the presence of an Y chromosome in the DNA — even there, biology cleverly eludes us, as some XY chromosome bearers may have a genetic mutation which prevents their cells to respond to androgens, and, as a consequence, they develop female bodies (‘female’, in mammals at least, is the ‘default’ shape). Because they lack critical information in their DNA, they will not internally develop fully as females (i.e. no menstruation and no ability whatsoever to have children — there is simply no uterus/cervix development there). But for all other aspects of life they are considered ‘female’ — externally they are undistinguishable, even from the perspective of a doctor doing a physical exam to them, and it’s only through a DNA sample that the XY chromosomes might be revealed (meaning that their condition was absolutely unknown before we had the ability to isolate DNA chromosomes — they were just ‘barren women’ for all purposes).

      So we can’t even rely on biology, nor even on DNA, for ‘defining’ such labels as ‘male’/’female’ in a completely unambiguous and objective way. However, we can certainly assign a certain amount of characteristics to a specific label, which will apply to a majority of people, even though we ought to be aware that it won’t apply to all of them. We can learn the lesson from taxonomy in biology/botany — for the past two centuries, we have been refining taxonomy more and more, using more sophisticated tools to measure different properties. But ultimately there will be a point beyond which we cannot separate variations among individuals from a different species (i.e. is a ‘tall human’ a new species — homo altus? — or merely a variation of homo sapiens which happens to be taller than average?). Indeed, Darwin himself pointed out that, ultimately, there is no such thing as a ‘species’, since life is always evolving, from generation to generation, and it’s just a question of convention where we draw the limit and say, ‘this is merely a tall human among the existing species/this is a new species of tall humans’. Biologists and taxonomists struggle every day with such issues.

      My point here is not to cloud the issue further, but merely to point out that all these psychological classifications should not be seen as something ‘written in stone’, in the sense that there are precise areas somewhere in the brain where they are located — because, if there are such areas, we still don’t know exactly how to change/fix them. Rather, we should look at such labels and classifications as merely conventions that are helpful to carry a conversation, and, for the purposes of medical treatment, as a useful resource to allow pathologies to be described and eventually treat them.

    2. Yeah I think they work fine as descriptors, as long as they are understood as inherently incomplete. They are I think a necessary starting point to getting to know people. I think part of the problem is that we started calling them identities, therefore encouraging people to identify with them.

  7. I see your point. But you have to keep in mind:

    – Gender dysphoria -> Identification process -> A dysphoric person.
    – Transgenderism -> Identification process -> A transgender person.

    People doesn’t take the identity from their clinical suffering, they the take the identity from an inborn condition (like being blonde or gay).

    All formal concepts are abstractions of a sublayered reality (and here we only can geo metaphysical).

    While gender dysphoria always implies “trans person”, not always “trans person” implies gender dysphoria. You can argue how optimal is the transition solution. And you also can argue if somebody can misinterpret feelings or think a transition could bring incomes that definitely doesn’t bring.

    Gender dysphoria is an identity related issue. In my opinion taking identity out from the equation may be misleading. People who don’t accept their “transgender identity” suffer. People who accept their transgender identity suffer too, because the lack of connection between their identity and their body.

    And some people still suffer because transition is not perfect, and transition doesn’t bring an identity itself. For a MTF … the person is female before taking the very first step towards transition. But transition can’t do some things: can’t give you an utero, can’t give you always a perfect ‘female shape’, can’t make you always ‘stealth’, etc etc. And for sure, it can’t give an identity. Identity is placed before transitioning. If you think you don’t fit and you don’t like this, transition would not make you to be delighted with yourself, it’s not gonna make you match in society. It’s not a magic pill, it’s just a paliative that needs to be covered and vastly improved.

    Why transition sometimes fails? In my opinion from what I gathered transition fails because:
    a) Lack of effectivity: It is costly and even after all procedures available outcomes are not perfect.
    b) Misinterpreted benefits: It’s not gonna make you happy. It’s not gonna make you to like your persona. It’s just gonna change physical features to an extent. That’s it.

    Just my two cents.

    1. I don’t agree that gender dysphoria implies “trans person”. I see that as actually the main problem. That is exactly the step that causes people to construct an identity around their dysphoria. If someone encounters a community that is trying to convince them that it is true that gender dysphoria means trans person, they will not see other possible options. I’ve also noticed that when people make this leap, it often increases rather than decreases their dysphoria.

      I do agree with the reverse though, that someone can have a trans identity without having gender dysphoria.

      There is actually a second leap in there too. The leap from dysphoria to “gender dysphoria”. Dysphoria is a feeling which someone then interprets as coming from their gender. This may or may not be the actual root cause, as we don’t always cognitively interpret our feelings correctly. That is one of the things that makes things complicated.

      1. “”There is actually a second leap in there too. The leap from dysphoria to “gender dysphoria”. Dysphoria is a feeling which someone then interprets as coming from their gender.””

        This is what I was meaning by misinterpreting feelings. There’s a chance an individual could take dysphoria for gender dysphoria, but this individual it’s not suffering gender dysphoria actually. They’re just misinterpreting.

        Kind of “well I’m not happy where I am, I have social issues, performarnce weaknesses and etc, so… what about if I was really female from the beginning?”. I know it’s quite simplistic, but guess you get my point. But this is not “gender dysphoria”. If somebody tries to encourage this diagnostic or to convince this person about the certainty of it, it is just plain misleading and lack of intelectual integrity.

        “” I’ve also noticed that when people make this leap, it often increases rather than decreases their dysphoria.””

        *Very interesting stuff*. I’ve seen the same, and I think this may be a powerful early indicator. I think this may root in the absence of a “true gender” dysphoria. As I said before in this cases an individual that is actually unhappy with his/her persona tries to fix this by doing a gender transition, going by “I don’t feel normatively male, thereby I must be female” instead of “I am female but I have the body of a male”.

      2. Agreed – there are people who experience body dysphoria and/or gender dysphoria but do not identify as transgender. Such people may see the dysphoria as something unrelated to their core identity in a similar way that a person with diabetes may not limit themselves to the identity of being a “diabetic” … For some people, dysphoria is merely something that they manage but it is not the central focus of their life or identify. I speak from personal experience with this and I feel that I have been able to recover because I did not internalize my experiences of dysphoria as being my true nature.

    2. Just to pipe in to essentially agree with CC. Mind you, TWT, thanks to your blog (and not only that) my own approach towards my therapist was a departure from the usual ‘I feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body’. Instead, I told my therapist two things. One is that I’m aware of a lot of symptoms that the medical community lists under gender dysphoria (I’ve got almost all of them). And the second is that I suffer from atypical depression. Now, anyone suffering from depression has a skewed view of reality; their perceptions are clouded (more than usually, I mean), so I told my therapist that I cannot fully trust my own feelings. I may just think that i suffer from gender dysphoria, but, in reality, all those symptoms might be psychosomatic (they happen inside the mind anyway) due to depression and/or influence from other people and texts I read on the subject. So I cannot self-identify myself with a ‘gender dysphoric person’ because at this stage I cannot fully trust my own self-evaluation.

      Thankfully, the WPATH and similar methodologies are quite helpful in cases such as mine. First, depression/anxiety/trauma/other disorders are treated and cured. Only then gender dysphoria gets evaluated. If it persists even after all other disorders are cured, then there might be something else that triggers gender dysphoria, and transition might be an alternative. But in the mean time, there is quite a lot to be tested for before we jump blindingly into the all-encompassing explanation of ‘gender dysphoria’, just because it’s now much more commonplace and acceptable to self-diagnose that and get accepted for it.

      In a way, it reminds me a little bit of the surge in Asperger’s a few years back, when it became popular to claim to have something in the autistic spectrum to get a job in Silicon Valley, after it became socially acceptable to have Asperger’s and be considered very bright and intelligent. A couple of friends of mine — self-proclaimed geeks/nerds who emulated in all regards what they read about people afflicted with Asperger’s — actually seeked medical evaluation of their condition, and were infinitely disappointed when they were not diagnosed with it. In fact, the way they talked about it was as if they somehow failed an admission exam to a selected club of famous intelligent borderline people — when actually Asperger’s is not a thing to joke with.

      Often I feel that the whole discussion around ‘gender dysphoria’ is not much different. Yes, the disorder exists, and definitely a lot of people can be diagnosed with it, but the solution is not always transition. No, not everybody sharing the same symptoms will have the disorder — there might be other causes and other explanations for it, and almost all those can be treated using conventional therapy & drugs, and transition is not even adequate for those cases at all.

      1. That is exactly how I think things should be approached, as all these potential causes can get tangled together and time should be taken to disentangle them if possible before considering something as big as transition / hormones or surgery. I understand it may not be always be possible, but that would be the pragmatic approach. Unfortunately I don’t think that is currently happening all that often, but it sounds like you have found a good way to work through things.

        Trends in psychological diagnoses are very common, this happens over and over again, like with childhood bipolar a while back, and with Asperger’s like you talk about. Childhood bipolar cases increased 20x when that trend started, leading to many kids being placed on mood stabilizers, some probably unnecessarily. Some how the field has trouble learning this lesson.

  8. Just for the sake of completeness, and I know I tend to write too long comments, so sometimes my questions are lost in the middle of the wordage. What exactly is your definition of ‘authenticity’ in this context? How can you determine ‘authenticity’ in such cases — or, rather, who determines it? Clearly, from your article, it cannot be self-appointed (because I will agree with you that people will rather create their own ‘identities’ instead). But there has to be some way to validate ‘authenticity’.

    My question (and I believe that it’s reasonable to assume it is a valid question) is just if you’re not replacing a mental construct — we can both agree that ‘identity’ is ultimately just that, a personal narrative to explain certain facts about oneself — with a more subtle mental construct which you have conveniently labeled ‘authenticity’. There is nothing wrong in becoming more and more precise in the definitions, of course, but then it begs the question of why it would be better to replace one mental construct by a different one — what exactly is gained, what is lost, by making that replacement?

    I’m actually trying to write a rather long non-scientific essay on this issue, but the only way I have to explain things is by borrowing terms from Buddhist philosophy and logic, since I’m not well-versed in what contemporary psychology says about the issue. From the perspective of a Buddhist, it’s obvious that ‘gender identity’ cannot be anything else but a mental construct which is not inherent and does not exist by itself, but is merely an artefact of thinking in a certain way (which, in turn, might be produced by certain chemical markers in the brain). However, the word ‘authenticity’ is irksome for a Buddhist — if it is just an explanation of a certain amount of attributes and qualities (i.e. what qualities makes something be ‘authentic’?), then it is, once more, a mental construct, and, as such, it lacks inherent existence as well.

    1. When I am talking about authenticity I am not talking about any mental construct. I don’t think it is a great word either necessarily, it is just that other people use it and I was trying to relate it to that. In the Buddhist perspective I think the closest thing is the idea of “basic goodness” which my teacher defined as the impulse of all beings towards goodness (which I think may be a non-standard definition, as I hadn’t heard anyone else put it that way before).

      Also the Tao which can be named is not the true Tao.

      1. Oh, all right; we’re on the same page then! 🙂 In that case, and with that explanation, I have to completely agree with you! In the words of my wife: ‘if you were a good Buddhist practitioner, you would not have gender dysphoria; you would see that “gender” is just a mental construct, precisely like “gender dysphoria”‘. She (and you) are obviously quite right: identity, gender, dysphoria, depression, and so on, are all mental constructs, and, using your words, they are not ‘authentic’ — believing they are, in a way, self-existing and inherent is what causes us to suffer from them.

  9. To me, to live authentically is to be centered in one’s true nature. In this state, a person is most adaptable and resilient. It is as if we are a clay body on a potter’s wheel. When we are true to our core, we realize that although the world is spinning around us, we are centered. Pressures push against us and we are able to easily adapt to take shape and become many things as different vessels: child, sibling, adolescent, student, adult, spouse, parent, teacher, leader, humble group member, friend, widow, healer, recipient of healing … all the way to our gave … so many different energies flow though us. Yet, we are still simply the clay – uncontaminated and pure. We can go through the fire and survive. And having gone through the fire, we find that we are stronger … and should we shatter under some great force, our pieces can be reassembled.

    But a person who lives without authenticity picks up contaminants. They cannot center themselves and they struggle to take shape as the pressures around them push them unproductively from one direction to the other. They may even lose parts of themselves and become diminished as they are dizzied by their spinning life. They topple over easily. Their clay body becomes porous or saturated with water – like mud. When they are under fire, they split at their foundation before they can become any form of useful vessel. They are fragile. Their vessel cannot contain anything for more than a few seconds. It is difficult for them to be useful in this life as they have not been able to reach their full potential. They shatter easily and it is difficult for them to pick up the pieces.

    Every human being has the potential to recreate themselves every day. Every human being has the potential to find their center … just like clay on the wheel … from stardust to stardust.

    Authenticity is not about being perfect. I am sure these few paragraphs are filled with misspelled words and grammatical errors. This doesn’t matter much because I am speaking what I know to be true – from my heart and to the best of my ability. If a person is willing to listen, they will understand what I am trying to say and they will be free to respond without the pressure to be perfect as well. This is what it means to speak and to listen with “authenticity” or at least, this is what it means to me.

    1. Your essay deserves to be placed somewhere else where it gets more visibility. Maybe TWT should have you as a guest writer!

      Even though I have to disagree with you on some points (accepting, however, that your argumentation is very good), and need some clarification on others. Let’s start at the very beginning: ‘being authentic is living according to one’s true nature‘. The trouble here, of course, is to know what that ‘true nature’ actually is, and how exactly it manifests itself, or how it is presented to others. In other words, who exactly defines what one’s ‘true nature’ is, and how can we confirm that this is indeed the case?

      If one narrows the context of the ‘true nature’ to typical examples of people who have detransitioned — pointing at TWT’s own case, for instance: ‘I created a new persona that was futile and superficial’, or ‘I was tired of speaking in a voice that was not even my own’ — then, of course, we can define what this ‘true nature’ is: it is simply when someone is acutely aware that they are ‘playing a role’ when interacting with others in society.

      Obviously that ‘definition’ is still very vague, and it applies only within some very specific contexts. In effect, we all play different roles during our lives: the role of the caring parent, of the ardent and passionate lover, of the intimate companion and friend, of the tough business person, and so forth. We switch back and forth among all these personalities according to the context; obviously we won’t meet with clients while assuming the role of ‘passionate lover’ (or at least we shouldn’t!) and we won’t be the tough businessperson when addressing our children. One might argue that these are not ‘distinct personalities’ but merely social masks that are donned and discarded according to context; and that, philosophically speaking, they are all manifestations of our ‘true inner self’ (whatever that is).

      I always have a problem with that kind of rationalisation, because it implies the existence of something that we cannot really find anywhere — that mysteriously elusive notion of the ‘true inner self’. But even if we postulate for a moment that such a thing truly exists, the next two questions would be how one can be sure that they are being ‘truthful to their inner selves’; and how others can validate that they are, indeed, behaving according to their ‘true inner self’.

      Taking that into account, let’s move to the core of your argumentation. Unfortunately you start revolving around the most provocative issue — bathroom access. Note that I’m biased here, because, as an European, bathroom access is definitely not so fundamentally important as for Americans, and that is certainly twice as true for my country, where public places like cafés, restaurants and pubs usually just have a single stall for women and another for men, and if someone is really in a hurry, they will simply use the one that is available, independently of their gender — you just lock yourself from the inside anyway.

      When discussing transgender issues, talking about bathroom access as an ‘example’ is akin to invoking Godwin’s law 😦 The argumentation is supposed to stop once bathrooms are mentioned. But the simple, plain truth is that the fears you invoke to justify preventing access of transgender people to bathrooms are unjustified — the legions of transgender perverts prowling the bathrooms have simply failed to materialize. Discrimination laws have been put in place to prevent something that doesn’t exist — all statistics show that to be the case. And that’s not a surprise: simple statistics will explain that. The number of sexual perverts in a population is already very small. The number of transgender people is even smaller. When considering the number of transgender people that are simultaneously sexual perverts, those two probabilities are multiplied together, since they represent independent values. As a consequence, the total probability is infinitesimal. Obviously it is not zero, but just consider the facts: a transgender sexual pervert is ten thousand times less probable than a cisgender sexual pervert. On the other hand, non-heterosexual sexual perverts are merely ten times less probable than heterosexual sexual perverts — but no laws discriminate non-heterosexual people from accessing bathrooms (because, in truth, it would be impossible to know who is heterosexual and who is not). Worse than that, there is no law forbidding heterosexual sexual perverts to enter a bathroom! (even formerly convicted sexual perverts, once they have been released, are still allowed to access public bathrooms!)

      So my point here is that this argument is totally flawed. Just because transgender people are much more easily spotted, based on the very remote assumption that there will be a few transgender people that are sexual perverts, they are discriminated — even if only through public discussions using arguments like yours. Although non-heterosexuals are a thousand times more likely to be sexual perverts than transgender people, they never get that kind of public discrimination, and are given free access to any public bathroom. Not to mention people who have all kinds of sexual kinks and fetishes — naturally enough, they are given free access to any bathrooms, no matter how potentially dangerous their particular kink might be.

      That just shows how strong transphobia is — much stronger than homophobia. In a sense, I’m glad to know that society, as a whole, is slowly overcoming homophobia and increasing tolerance towards those who have non-normative sexual orientations. There is, however, still a wide gap between fighting homophobia and fighting transphobia — it’s so much harder, especially because there are a thousand times more non-heterosexuals than transgender people.

      Let’s move on to the next point, which, I think, is philosophically (and politically!) more important. You state, based on the facts, that actual ‘normal’ people of the female gender (meaning those who fully identify with their gender assigned at birth), in spite of being the majority of the population, are given somehow ‘less’ rights than the tiny minority of those who identify with the female gender as well but were unfortunate enough to be born with the wrong set of genes. In other words, due to an excessive protection of a tiny minority of the population, the majority is not given the right to refuse those rights. (I’m tackling your other argument, that somehow gender has to be connected with chromosomes, later; let’s start with this one first.)

      Let’s skip for a moment your other argument, that some transgender people are not ‘really’ transgender (they just want others to believe they are), because actually on that point I might agree with you much more, and I’ll address it in a bit.

      Democracies, among its many virtues and values, although enforcing the ‘majority rule’, are also very strong in protecting minorities — exactly because those minorities will never get a vote that is representative and might give them the chance to actually vote something for themselves. This is one of the biggest strengths and benefits on living in a democratic society: just because the will of the majority will always be imposed upon others, minorities will always enjoy protection under the law. And this ‘protection’, yes, includes special laws that only apply to minorities.

      Let’s address a typical example, with which I’m sure you will agree. In many cities, states, or even countries, disabled persons also get the ‘right’ to ‘demand’ that buildings have facilities for them — from easy-to-navigate paths (access ramps or elevators, wide corridors for allowing easy turning of wheelchairs, and so forth) to, yes, public bathrooms just for them. Now consider the tiny percentage of disabled people in the overall population: not only it’s very small, but they are also increasingly shrinking, since, thanks to medical technology, we are slowly learning to revert many of those disabilities. Yes, it’s true it doesn’t work on all cases. But every decade there is a new development, a new breakthrough, that allows a small group of disabled persons to become ‘undisabled’ again, thanks to technology: even blindness can be partially reverted these days, and exoskeletons are being developed that can restore the ability to walk and manipulate objects on behalf of paraplegics. Yes, of course I know we’re still decades away from reverting all disabilities. But we’re moving forward at a fast pace, and at least we can envision a future where human beings will never be truly ‘disabled’ any more.

      But because we are aware that this is definitely not the case today — and most certainly not the case for all human beings in all the world — we still enforce a lot of laws giving disabled people more rights, to protect them against discrimination, often simply because buildings and objects have not been designed to accommodate their special needs. There is still a lot of discrimination against disabled people. It’s hard to get a job if you’re blind — even though there are many jobs that a blind person can perform flawlessly (think about call centres, for example). I could go on with more examples, but I think you can see my point here: we have a minority which has special needs. They are discriminated against. Democratic societies try to protect them, by enabling certain laws that must be followed, in order to allow disabled people to lead better lives — even if we are aware that the world is not perfect, and we ought to do quite a lot more for disabled people than we do today. But at least we’re not indifferent to them, as we were in, say, the 19th century. Things have changed, we live in a more inclusive and tolerant world.

      In some cases, certain diseases or disabilities are genetic. Until very recently in our history, we could not revert such diseases — at best, we could only treat the symptoms, alleviate the pain, replace some non-working parts of the body with prosthetics, and so forth. Nowadays we already have some genetic therapy — for example, recent breakthroughs show that we can, to a degree, revert some aspects of autism, diabetes, or possibly even Alzheimer, by replacing the DNA on all cells of such an individual. Such treatments are experimental, most definitely not widespread, sometimes even forbidden in many countries, and we still don’t have the least clue about their long-term effects. The point here, though, is that we can use genetic replacement therapy to ‘cure’ people with ‘bad’ genes. We have the technology and the know-how. It’s simply not widespread enough, but that is just a question of time. Perhaps in a decade or so, I might re-read this comment of mine, and laugh at my hesitating words — when genetic therapy might already be handed out as a simple prescription at the pharmacy 🙂 I have no way of knowing the future, and obviously I cannot say what will happen in ten, twenty years, but at least I can claim that this day is not that far off — most of us reading these lines will still be alive in a society where a lot of so-called incurable diseases, which render people incapacitated and disabled, will be easily cured with genetic therapy.

      As such, it’s obviously stupid to argue that we should somehow ‘discriminate’ those people — because we already know that, in the medium/short term, they will not be disabled any more, thanks to advances in medical technology.

      Back to transgender people. Although most of the discussion usually revolves around what and how transgender people ‘think’ of themselves, the easiest way to classify them is merely to assume they have a congenital condition — they have the wrong genes for the gender they identify with. Currently, we cannot change that — we can only, through hormonal therapy and selected cosmetic surgery, approximate one’s body to the phenotype they identify with. Yes, that doesn’t mean they ‘become’ a person of the opposite (biological) sex. But that is just a current limitation of our technology. As said, we’re advancing fast in that area. It will probably take us not much longer than half a century to give transgender people the possibility of changing their DNA to match the gender they identify with. Even though the technology doesn’t exist today, we know that it will be done in the near future. My argument, therefore, is that it’s ‘wrong’ to discriminate people just because they have been born with the wrong set of sexual chromosomes, when such a condition might be easily corrected in a few decades.

      At the same time, we do not discriminate against individuals with androgen insensitive syndrome. Such people have XY chromosomes, but, due to a genetic mutation, none of the cells in their body are receptive to androgens. Since ‘female’ is the ‘default’ phenotype for mammals, such people naturally develop as females, but, because they lack the XX chromosomes, the reproductive organs fail to develop (there is no code in the genome for that, since they have an Y chromosome). Externally, however, their phenotype is purely female — perhaps being taller than usual, and somehow having better developed breasts and so forth, because ‘natural females’ also have androgens in their blood stream, and receptors to them; while people affected with AIS will not respond to those androgens, no matter how high their concentration might be. Now such individuals (and yes, there are many similar genetic conditions that produce similar effects — people whose DNA is male but who developed as female) are fully female, in mind and (most) of the (externally visible) body, and they are registered as female — always have been so, in our history, long before we even knew that such a condition existed at all — and are not discriminated against. Why? Because they have been ‘assigned female at birth’ — nobody bothered to do a DNA test when they were born — and, as such, they simply go along all their lives as females, accepted by all as females, in spite of their ‘male DNA’. Of course they get access to female bathrooms.

      So, no, not even DNA is a ‘true’ test of who is supposed to be ‘male’ or ‘female’, and therefore, assuming that sex is irrevocably determined by DNA alone is simply ignoring modern science and sticking to prejudice. I’m sorry about being so harsh, but your point seems to revolve around the point that ‘we cannot change our biology’, assuming that somehow sex/gender are encoded in the DNA, but we know today that this is simply not the case. Or, even if it’s true for a majority of the population, it’s not true for everybody, and those minorities are still human beings, and deserve respect — and protection against discrimination.

      Now let’s get to the part where I fundamentally agree with you (I kept it for the end! 🙂 ).

      It’s quite true that there is a lot of ‘misdiagnosis’, for several reasons, and that those have not been successfully researched. There is a fundamental difference between liberal countries like the US and welfare states like the EU: in the latter, transition is usually financially supported by the country’s national health service. Because this implies spending public money, and such expenditure has to be scrutinized and approved (not in the least by the citizens who might vote for parties that ostracise and discriminate against transgender people), it also means adhering strictly to certain norms and procedures, based on the WPATH (and often on even stricter guidelines). In short, doctors must be very, very careful about the decisions they make. And, to the best of my knowledge and experience, they prefer to err on the ‘safer’ side, i.e. attempt to treat all possible symptoms first (depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, trauma, compulsive behaviour, and so forth) and only if there remains anything remotely resembling gender dysphoria, the transition is clinically allowed. In my country, for instance, you can only start hormonal replacement therapy after you formally begin with the Real Life test, and although HRT is not mandatory for transition, the reverse holds true: you cannot get prescriptions for hormones unless you’re formally approved for transition. Therefore, there is indeed a very strong participation by doctors in the process, and their evaluation is crucial for a welfare-subsidized transition. Some countries, on top of paying for the costs of HRT and/or surgery, even give the transgender person a stipend or subsidy while they’re undergoing transition, assuming that they are jobless (and face discrimination at work). In my own country, this is not even the case: if you’re really facing transition as your option, you might get the surgeries for free (and hormones at a fraction of the cost), but you have to learn to cope and survive on your own.

      This will automatically exclude a lot of the examples that you’ve covered: i.e. those that feel ‘peer pressure’ to transition, or that are used to living in a ghetto of fellow transgender persons and wish to proceed their lives forging even closer ties to that ghetto. Others simply have completely wrong expectations about what their transition will accomplish. Most — if not all — such cases are very likely much better off without transitioning, and, as such, they’re caught in the evaluation process well before they commit to relatively irreversible surgeries. The institution I go to for psychotherapy to deal with gender dysphoria claims to have a 100% success rate, i.e. no regrets whatsoever about successful transitions. But although they evaluate ‘hundreds or thousands’ of cases per year (consider that our population is merely 10.5 million citizens), only ‘a few dozens’ complete their transition. That is a very low ratio — but it reflects your (and TWT’s) assumptions that most transgender people, while still admitting that they are, indeed, transgender, and that they do exhibit symptoms common to gender dysphoria, can actually be treated in a different way, meaning that transition is not really the option for them. And if the ratios hold true for all transgender people — which, of course, I have no way to find out — it would really mean that only a tiny minority (perhaps less than 10%!) ought to be ‘accepted’ for transition. The rest, for some reason or other, are very likely deluded about their own gender dysphoria, or confuse symptoms from trauma, depression, etc. with gender dysphoria, and although they might be transgender after all, they are not eligible for transition — and, in a sense, that’s the correct approach, IMHO.

      As you might imagine, transgender activists are actively fighting against this ‘doctor-dominated’ imposition. They claim — and often very rightly so! — that doctors are too conservative. In some cases they are actively transphobic and therefore refuse to recommend transition; in most cases, however, they simply make their recommendations based on their external perception of the ‘readiness’ of a certain individual to transition, and how they expect that individual to complete the transition successfully and lead a good life afterwards. This is severely contested by activists, who feel very strongly that doctors should not tell people how to live their lives. Activists might agree that some kind of clinical follow-up might be required for those who opt for HRT and/or surgery, and in those cases the doctors ought to be consulted first, but they refuse to allow doctors to dictate identity. In other words, the right to identify to any gender should be one fundamental right of every citizen, not something that is assigned by doctors. A similar argument, of course, has won the cause for intersex people, since in most cases doctors dictate the gender of the intersex person at birth — therefore, in many countries, intersex persons are almost always allowed to legally revert the decision of those doctors, if they find they were wrong. Such argumentation is made by activists to encompass all transgender people in general, not merely intersex persons.

      I would agree that this is polemic, and while, in general, I’m not against people freely ‘choosing’ their gender and having the state recognize it with as little fuss as possible, but such a huge step ought to have at least some medical evaluation. The only point, for me, worth discussing, is how important such an evaluation must be (i.e. how many different opinions, how long a person needs to be undergoing therapy, how many sessions they have completed, and so forth) and what guidelines ought to be followed. In my country, the legislation is very sparse and vague, and this means that different (public) institutions handle each case differently. The community is aware of the differences, and naturally they gravitate towards those doctors around the country who are a bit less… let’s say ‘careless’ about their evaluations. Therefore, the time a transgender person spends in transition mostly depends on finding two doctors agreeing on their evaluation of transgenderity and the recommendation for surgery and HRT (if required) as well as legal recognition of the new gender someone identifies with. The actual period of transition might be much shorter!

      Besides the national health service, of course, there are private doctors as well. There are not many who are ‘approved’ as specialists in clinical sexology, and who are on the list of ‘approved doctors’ that can make binding evaluations, but there are a few, and the number is growing. Therefore, if you can afford it, you can always sidestep the bureaucracy of the national health service, go directly to ‘friendly’ private doctors who will gladly write the recommendations, and apply for legal recognition of the new gender based on that. Of course it means paying all the procedures out of your own pocket, but it means you can do everything much faster. A friend of mine managed to get it all done in merely six months, culminating in a marriage (where technically she would already be a woman, even though same-sex marriages are absolutely legal in my country).

      Now, the feeling I have — and, remember, this is always based on my personal knowledge and might not extend to the rest of the world (or even the rest of my own hometown!) — is that there are quite a lot of differences in transgender people and the way they get access to transition. At one extreme of the spectrum, there are those who cannot afford private medical care, and therefore go through the long and tedious process involving the national health service. Because this means overstepping a lot of hurdles, but also get lots of different evaluations by doctors who will not be so tolerant as they wished to be — or so their perceptions will be: in fact, those doctors might actually be quite tolerant and allies of the transgender community, but they have enough experience to tell the difference between those who need transition and those who are deluded about their perceptions of that need — and, at the end of the day, only a handful will transition, although those will always be successful cases (or so I get from the institution I go to; others might have different track records). In other words: yes, all those procedures suck and waste years of one’s precious time, but the results are definitely promising — even those who gave up their real life test will actually be happy that they didn’t go further with their transition and stopped at the right time.

      Then there is a class of much more obsessive transgender people (I personally know a few), who, in spite of lacking money to go through the private service, don’t lack patience and persistence to swap doctors in the public service as much as possible, travelling around the country until they finally get two doctors to agree on ‘their’ self-evaluation of their need to transition. This also takes a lot of time, but eventually it will work as well. The results, in these cases, are not so successful. Again, I can only offer anecdotal evidence, but some people I know that went through this method of (almost literally) ‘bullying’ doctors to get what they want, after a few years on hormones, voice therapy, and some surgery (not SRS, but at least some facial feminisation, for example), are still at the stage where they are too insecure to face being ‘read’ in public, and get depressed when they encounter transphobia that applies to them (i.e. not getting a job because they are transgender, etc. — even though that’s illegal, most employers know how to get away with it). Clearly they still have a lot of therapy ahead of them to be able to deal with a daily routine as the person of the gender they identify with. Many regret their decision, of course, but now it’s too late. They ought to have listened to the doctors. Many even spend their ‘real life test’ behind closed doors, often just giving access to a few selected friends or familiars, but waiting until the hormones start having some effect (which will not always happen, of course). This defeats the purpose of the real life test, of course, but they can usually justify it by reminding the doctors that they are now jobless and have no other option but to remain at home — not by choice, they might claim. I certainly know about a few of those cases, both in my country, as well as abroad. One person that I met online has been shutting herself off from the whole world for a whole decade, possibly still waiting for hormones to have some effect on her (which I’m just conjecturing, since she never told me).

      And finally there is the class of those who can afford private doctors and surgery (either at home or abroad). Here, again, we have two separate and distinct cases. There are those who have been very fortunate to already have an androgynous body and figure and already have good looks and a relatively easy-to-pass female-ish face. Forfeiting any local doctors, they just get the therapy and/or surgery wherever they wish, and present themselves to the bureaucracy that will change their name and gender on all identification and documentation. Because they are effectively a fait accompli, they will get such a procedure swiftly done. In effect, those people have just suffered gender dysphoria until they either were able to afford to transition (paid out of their own pockets) or they got their parents/partners to pay for it. Again, I know a few cases of those who routinely travel abroad — or even around the country — in search for a specific surgeon to get them what they want, and the simplicity and ease of access they get to all that sometimes scares me. Money does, indeed, open all doors.

      There is sadly a different subclass of transgender people, who are able to afford their transition, paid out of their own pockets, in private clinics and hospitals (even if not necessarily being rich; they just managed to save enough for all that). They might even have attempted to go via the national health service, but soon figured out that they would not get the diagnosis they wished to have. So they turned to the private doctors, where they found support, encouragement, and, finally, a recommendation to go ahead. Such people almost always do not really have ‘nice’ bodies to start with, which means that it will be hardly possible for them to ever ‘pass’. They create in their minds the illusion that hormones and surgery will get them what they wish, but that’s simply an illusion: not being able to pass means being constantly a victim of transphobia, and, although enduring that can be accomplished through therapy, these people are usually not willing to engage in even more therapy, fearing — perhaps rightly so! — to be discouraged from completing their transition (or being advised to revert it). Because of that, they shun doctors, and suffer in silence. In fact, the few people in that class that I happened to know simply disappeared from the face of the earth, having been very vocal and collaborative before their transition. Some just send cryptical messages like ‘sorry for not being able to continue to be in touch with you, but my life is now incredibly complicated and I have no time for anything’. In some cases they just shut themselves up in their own homes and indulge in suicidal thoughts. And some go actually ahead with suicide, thinking about how big their mistake was, and how now they have few chances to ‘go back’.

      So… in short… I can empathise with all of you who claim (very rightly so) that a lot of transgender people are often misguided, but, being very stubborn, actually go ahead with transition, against everybody else’s recommendations, shun doctors (or pay doctors to get the documentation/prescription/evaluation they require), often shun everybody else (for fear of being ‘discouraged’ by them to go ahead), and, at the end of the day, they regret their choice (at least to some degree). I personally believe that such cases would be caught early in the process, if it didn’t offer so many ‘loopholes’ and the possibility of sidestepping the process. And what I can see is that when people ‘subvert’ the system, sidestep it, then they are much more prone to failure than by following the whole process.

      This is, after all, not surprising. Almost all cases presenting themselves to the doctors with self-diagnosed gender dysphoria will also have other conditions — at the very least, they will have anxiety. Now, the problem with all mental conditions is that they change perceptions of reality — but keep telling the brain that ‘it’s all normal’! — to such a degree that any decision based on those deluded perceptions will almost always be the ‘wrong’ one. Consider an extreme case of gender dysphoria combined with paranoia: someone believes that somehow the only way to escape ‘them’ is to transition. They might even consult a doctor. This doctor might even successfully diagnose the paranoia, and offer therapy to deal with it first, and deal with gender dysphoria next. But this paranoid person looks at the world with different eyes: because the doctor has not given them the answer they expected, they now believe this doctor to be ‘one of them’ as well. So they might jump from doctor to doctor, believing that all those who refuse to sign the papers for transitions are part of ‘them’, until they at least manage to find some ‘friendly’ doctors who help them out with hormones and surgery — only, afterwards, to start believing that all staff working at the hospital, knowing about the surgical procedures, will tell ‘them’ that ‘he’ is now a ‘she’ — therefore rendering the whole procedure pointless!

      Obviously this scenario is clearly seen by everybody as a typical case of gender dysphoria which should not be allowed to ever transition — but that the paranoia has to be addressed first, because it distorts the perception of the world so much that the person cannot reason properly, much less self-diagnose themselves. Unfortunately, loopholes exist to allow such paranoid persons to go ahead with their surgeries.

      And one might then argue that if paranoid people are able to side-step the system, then other kinds of people with mental conditions can do the same. Who is able to prevent some male sexual maniac to go through transition to be able to attack their victims in the female bathroom? I’m deliberately picking out the extreme of the extreme cases, knowing very well that its likeliness is as close to zero as possible. But it’s not zero. And that means that somehow we need to get a better grip on those who are able to side-step the system.

      But I also agree that doctors are not perfect! Not all are tolerant and accepting of transgender people — even if they are clinical sexologists and are fully aware of all research in the field. They are human, too, and they can make mistakes (thus the recommendation for two separate evaluations). Some can be distant, or effectively adopting a negative stance, towards a particular patient (that’s why they ought to be allowed to change doctors!). And some, of course, based on their own perceptions, might actually misdiagnose their patients just because they really want them to be happy and accomplished.

      At the end of the day, there is no ‘perfect solution’. Personally, I think that it’s still safer for society to let the doctors at least screen the subjects for other mental conditions before allowing them transition and a change of gender. It’s true that this gives doctors ‘too much power’. On the other hand, the discussion ought to be opened on how exactly to prevent doctors from ‘stalling’ a process, while at the same time closing possible loopholes where people can step out of the system and, given enough money, do pretty much what they wish. Neither is easy to accomplish.

  10. It is troubling to see that “Authenticity” for “retransitioners” is not supported with the same vigor as transition for people who identify as “transgender”.

    It is disturbing to research and learn that the Transgender Law Center and Sylvia Rivera Law Center support the rights of convicted felons to acquire hormones and surgeries (at tax payers expense) and to transfer to women’s only facilities. One may be surprised to learn that status as a registered sex offender or even a history of homicide with not prohibit the diagnosis of transgendersim – including the right to transition and legally change one’s identity documents.

    Interestingly, legal groups representing transgender rights that extend even to convicted fleons, seem to offer no legal help for detransition for average citizens. From what I can see, there is not even legal support to reverse name changes on legal documents.The WPATH also seems to offer no information on desistance. So gender rights to transition are supported in a “one way” direction?

    I suppose the argument that could be made is that being “Transgender” does not include “De-transition” but I find this stance to be ironic coming from a group that has benefited so much from attaching itself to the LGB. Even the most recent laws against “reparative therapy” were piggy-backed on to gay an lesbian rights to be free from “shock therapy” and other extremely aversive and harmful “psychotherapy techniques” that were used legally, up until quite recently, to change sexual orientation.

    You may want look at the links below to verify see if I am missing something but I see no legal support for detransition. Wha ti have seen all over the internet is that hen a person “detransitions”, they are ridiculed, dismissed as “fakes” and rejected. Their story is essentially erased.

    TRTV’s RealTalk With The Cummings & Guest Walt Heyer …
    Video for detransition+Walt+real+talk▶ 1:31:27

    Jan 26, 2016 – Uploaded by REALTALK W/The Cummings
    Author of Transgender’s Faith, Kid Dakota and the Secret at Grandma’s House an autobiography novel …

    http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/08/26/laverne-cox-distances-herself-controversial-trans-inmate

    http://transgenderlawcenter.org/archives/12048

    A Gender Variance Who’s Who: Synthia China-Blast (1974 …
    zagria.blogspot.com/2014/09/synthia-china-blast-1974-convicted.html
    Sep 2, 2014 – “Synthia China Blast: convicted for the rape, murder and abuse of the corpse of thirteen-year-old Ebony Nicole Williams”.

    Michelle Kosilek: Transgender killer who won taxpayer …
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Michelle-Kosilek-Transgender-killer-...
    Daily Mail
    Nov 19, 2012 – In Court: Transsexual killer Michelle Kosilek, pictured, is suing the … Kosilek is serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of her wife Cheryl.

  11. You know there is a movement called “Neurodiversity” in which people say they don’t want to be cured of various conditions. Mostly this involves the so-called “autism spectrum disorders” (although it’s my opinion that “Autism Spectrum” has become a rather vague diagnosis), but I’ve seen it applied to bipolar, ADHD/ADD, Learning Disabilities, and even things like Schizophrenia, Personality disorders or believe it or not sociopathy/psychopathy.

    There are actually organizations that cater to LGBTQQA individuals who have been diagnosed for an autism spectrum disorder (either under DSM-IV in which case it was usually Asperger’s or under DSM-V) who heavily subscribe to Neurodiversity ideology. In the Phoenix area the two main groups that fit this description are “Rainbow Aspies” and “Purple Lighthouse”. Now if you want to see the dark side of social justice ideology on steroids, amphetamines, and then some, you should check out those scenes. While most members of these groups are civil to people like me who have lost the features of an Aspergers diagnosis as adults (you have my e-mail if you wish to know more), or other who want to be cured, the prospects of most members are not good. It’s a den where the worst excesses of social justice ideology and the worst dogmas of neurodiversity have egged each other on to adult cult-like extremes.

    I’ve seen a lot of people who are deemed trans and for whom the problems of their disability and the difficulties of being trans both magnify each other by about 10X. For one thing Aspies have poor motor skills which for men and women alike won’t usually peg you as a member of your natal sex, but sure as blazes isn’t go to help a woman over 6′ pass for a women or a short man with a big ass and a thin beard for age be accepted as “one of the guys”. (IF you see a group of Aspies walking down the street you could be forgiven for momentarily thinking it was a heard of zombies, because they are often that awkward.). Social cognitive deficits also aren’t a great things to bring to the process of a gender transition. Also I have no idea how somebody with the kinds of sensory issues most of them have is going to cope with much of what both kinds of SRS entails.

    On the other side, I think you have an issue where the subtle often subconsciously registered signals transsexuals (even those who pass very well) give off, tend to make people much less forgiving of an Aspie’s social rough edges than they were be with more unambiguously male or female people. And furthermore, a lot of the resources that go into a transition are taken from occupational rehab, or cause people not to pursue the kinds of treatments I’ve benefited from a great deal personally-basically it all goes to the transition, and the person ends up unemployable.

    1. Yes, I am very familiar with the neurodiversity movement, it is fairly large where I live. I think they have a few good points about the negative effects of stigma on mental illness, but the tendency to identify with one’s condition and celebrate it can have negative consequences, and it is certainly tangled up with social justice ideology like you say.

      I am also someone who had many more autistic-type traits when I was younger and then they gradually diminished over time. Sometimes I wonder if hormones played a role in that. The connection between Autism-spectrum and gender issues is very interesting and not well-understood. There are is also a connection with sex hormones and Autism-spectrum as well. I hope there is more research to untangle that stuff soon.

      I think that is very astute observation about the subconscious signals that people notice. When I was living as a trans woman, I definitely encountered situations where it seemed like the person’s brain subconsciously noticed something, but didn’t consciously interpret it as transgender. The most common was that people kept being convinced they knew me from somewhere, or that I was their old high school friend or something like that.

      1. I’ve read a few journal articles on the connection and I certainly hope more research is done on it. From what I understand ASDs are heavily over-represented in terms of gender dysphoria/transitioning.

        I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (though perhaps ironically I never let that diagnosis comprise part of my ‘identity’) and so I have wondered whether there may be some link between that mental disorder and the mental disorder that causes me to be so dissatisfied with my natal sex.

        More research should be done, though I suspect one of the issues with it is that such research would imply that it is a mental disorder which so many are hostile to. That is why the neurodiversity movement exists after all – no one wants to be told that core components of one’s identity are nothing but a mental disorder or illness.

  12. When discussing personal rights and living “authentically”, according to one’s self-percieved “gender identity”, one must consider the rights of others and how personal freedoms may intersect and crossover at times, or even completely disregard the rights of others. Generally, personal rights are paired with a responsibility to society. While some social norms are purely discriminatory and should be challenged, there are social codes of conduct that are in place for the benefit of society and were put in place to protect those who are most vulnerable. There are also laws that have put into place to help create equal opportunities for women, minorities and other groups who have been historically oppressed. There are times when the objectives of transgender activists and not compatible with supporting women’s rights and LGB rights.

    For instance, the idea of having separate bathrooms for opposite sexes is in place as an attempt to protect women and girls. The idea of having careful mental health evaluations for persons who are considering gender reassignment was put into place to help protect patients from medical negligence and to ensure that patients are mentally competent and suitable candidates for gender re-assignment.

    However, with some recent changes in legislation, safeguards are thrown out the window. (I am thinking of Seattle, WA, in particular where a man walked freely into a dressing room where girls were changing into swimsuits and although he did not appear to be “gender variant” in any way, and he did not disclose that he identified as transgender, he insisted that he had the right to use the locker room based under the new gender identity regulations.)

    People in situations like this, are permitted to self-identify as the sex that they choose, without legal sex reassignment documents or in some cases, without even a psychiatric evaluation to determine the medical diagnosis. There may be no restriction based on status as a registered sex offender or charges involving violent crimes. The right to self-identify one’s gender and therefore gain legal access to sex-specific bathrooms etc. is becoming more common. New questions are arising regarding the point at which a person’s self-proclaimed gender identity may infringe on the rights of others. Privacy, public safety and the freedom of women and girls to access equal opportunities is too often infringed upon under the guise of supporting “transgender” equality.

    There are so many areas where equality, fairness and safety is a concern and support is lacking for girls and women. Athletics for girls and women, specific scholarships for girls and women, even employment rights are compromised to accommodate people who identify as “transwomen”. “Transwomen” are increasingly participating in programs specifically designed to support the rights of natal girls and women. The right of women to secure privacy and safety at battered women’s shelters, in prisons and in medical environments has been challenged. Girls soccer, women’s boxing, college basketball and other sports include “transgender” athletes. The Girl Scouts? Yep. Even breastfeeding and pregnancy is open to “men.”

    And maybe some of this can be worked out but there are many times when the needs of natal women and girls (and natal men) aren’t even a part of the equation.

    There are no spaces that natal women and girls share exclusively. The right to privacy and reasonable measures to ensure public safety in public restrooms are routinely disregarded. Does the general (non-trans-identified) public have the right retain privacy in public restrooms (or elsewhere) at any time? Does the general public have the right to decide whom they are willing to be physically vulnerable? Apparently not.

    These rights have been challenged by transgender activists and are in great part, being dismantled in various parts of the country. Ironically, I think the legal argument for preserving segregated sex-specific spaces could stand even if we applied “transgender theory.” Even transgender activists agree that there is a difference between gender identity, sexual anatomy and/or sex-specific DNA. This belief holds true for many people who are completely at ease with their natal sex but do not subscribe to the belief that they must rigidly conform to gender stereotypes. It is also true for the majority of people who have medical conditions that demonstrate an intersex condition. Most interestingly, it is also true for (a growing number) of people who identify as “transgender” yet retain their genitals/gonads (for various reasons).

    Overwhelming evidence supports the fact that gender stereotypes and the rigid cultural expectations imposed by sexism do not change DNA whether a person meets stereotypes or not. The issue of gender identity is essentially an issue of self perception and the wish for society to validate that identity. Yet, changing one’s physical body cannot promise an “authentic” life (but it may certainly create situations where a person may have to create new stories about their past.)

    One side note, to clarify: The great majority of people who identify as transgender are not intersex in fact, if one is medically determined to be truly intersex, they are NOT “transgender” as they posses cross-sex DNA or are XXY.) Therefore, there is no biological basis to justify that a transgender person should have special rights and access to sex-specific spaces.

    It is interesting that “transgender theory” insists that “sex” relates to genitals/gonads, while “gender” relates to the brain and “sexual orientation” relates to the heart. The fact that every cell in the body is encoded with sex specific DNA is completely ignored. The fact that it is impossible to truly change natal sex with hormones is also conveniently ignored. The fact that we cannot compartmentalize the body and reduce human identity to oversimplified divisions of “brain, gonads, and the heart?” (no matter how cute the ginger bread cookie is) seems also irrelevant to transgender activists.

    The other prominent theory that is pushed by transgender activists is that achieving gender congruency is essential to survival. It certainly sounds dire and fear mongering has been effective in pushing political agendas in the past, but don’t drink the Kool-Aide. The prevalent idea that has been pushed by transgender activists is that that if anatomical “sex” does not match “gender identity” the person will suffer unimaginable and unbearable anguish that can only be relived with hormones, surgery (and shitload of ongoing social validation). But notice, they never mention that last part and I think it is the last part that is causing kids to jump. No amount of validation from outside can compensate for the internal peace that comes with knowing that one is living “authentically”.

    Where is the science? Where is the “control group”? You know, what about everyone else who is “gender non-conforming” yet, survived childhood, adolescence, adulthood and even geriatric years yet remained quite well adjusted? And what about all of those transgender folks like Jenner who lived to be grandparent after producing eleven children? despite (crippling?) body dysphoria? Jenner seemed to be doing pretty well until … oh, until that “Woman of the Year Award” etc. Thumbs up?

    Why doesn’t anyone in the transgender community acknowledge all those geeky-nerd-math-girls? You know the ones … Do they even brush their hair? What about the pretty-boy-metro-sexuals with their silk lavender shirts, tight pants and shiny little shoes – the only thing “buffed” on those guys is their nails! And what about Joe the cross-dresser who doesn’t give a shit when the Mormons knock at the door and see him all dressed up in a gold sequin dress? (That guy is my hero). And what about old Crusty Aunt Vera (her nieces and nephews call her Uncle Vera when thy think she is out of earshot and out of her smack-reach) she worked as a trucker for 40 years and can beat any man in arm wresting – (or at least she can distract them with the dazzling number of tats she has to show off). Now that is “authenticity”.

    But I guess they don’t count (or more precisely, the were NOT counted.)

    It is clear that people live (and have lived throughout history) quite “authentically” without their anatomical sex and gender stereotypical characteristics matching up (or at all). No surgeries. Nor hormones. (Maybe some attitude – okay, a LOT of attitude.) Surely, everyone knows someone who matches the description of a “girly-man” or the “boy-girl” (As I was often called by giggling kids who were hiding in the trees.) But funny thing, it is not politically correct to call me stuff like that anymore – people like me, we are called different names these days, things like “gender-non-conforming” or “non-binary”. And when we respectfully express our dissenting views, we are dismissed and are called new names like “transphobic” or “TERF” and/or arrogantly deemed as being “in denial” and not living “authentically”. (Often by moon faced kids a third of our age).

    It is all pretty annoying, to say the least, but regardless of what I believe, it cannot be denied that the idea that one must match gender identity with anatomy is a long held and cherished belief that has been vigorously promoted by transgender theorists who support the right of SRS … and now, all this is changing? I guess it is part of the “Authenticity” path to make the rules up as you go?

    Ironically, the right to keep one’s genitals and still access formerly segregated sex-specific spaces is becoming the new trend. All of a sudden, transgender people are not so dysphoric after all? A miracle? Well, good for them. The focus has shifted and is no longer centered on if there gonads compliment their outfits. Why not focus on “transphobia” and that fact that mainstream cultures just can’t acknowledge that a penis really is nothing more than a very large clitoris? Personal identity and self-perception is all that really matters if one wishes to live “authentically”?

    I wish it was that easy. However, if a person looks up registered sex offenders in any community, any state, in any nation, one will find that males are disproportionately documented as the very great majority of perpetrators, without exception. Perhaps this is one of the rare long-standing and clear divides between the sexes. In my city, there is not even one female documented as a registered sex offender but the list of convicted men goes on and on (and yes, some of those men wear dresses). This is not an issue of opinion, or bias against men. It is grim, yet well-documented fact. But why should the public blink and eye when a man walks into a bathroom full of young girls and claims to have the right to … “live authentically”?

    And as far as this being an issue of men versus women, it is not. Most men are not sexual predators and many men, if not the majority of men, oppose violence against women. Gender stereotypes hurt both men and women. The problem is that it is impossible to identify a sexual predator by their appearance or mannerism. Predators do not come into the room with a red shirt or a black hat sporting a printed logo that reads “I am a freak”. This would be convenient. However, sexual predators often blend into society and because of this, they tend to be repeat offenders who may have hundreds of victims. This is why spaces where adults and children are most vulnerable, like public restrooms have remained sex-specific. This separation is not an attempt to discriminate against anyone, it is essential social norm that supports public safety. The right to sex segregation in restrooms has been supported without question until quite recently, with the rise in “transgender activism”.

    The bottom line: whether a “transgender” person’s genitals match their gender identity (or not) they want the special privilege to choose what sex-specific space they can occupy and they don’t care how anyone else feels about it – even children? Parents? Nope.

    Transgender activists promote the idea that someone is defined as “transgender”, “gender queer” or “non-binary” if their natal sex and gender identity do match up and that they are accordingly entitled to special rights. They ignore that “transgender theory” is NOT medically or scientifically proven and that normal gender expression is not limited to a “binary” of polarized gender stereotypical characteristics and behaviors.

    Varied gender expression may or may not be innate – and I am not sure it really matters because up until now, the great majority of people who have resisted conforming to gender stereotypes fought for equality as a human right to freedom of expression.

    It has nothing to do with bathrooms. Which “loo” we used and how we used it was never linked to our ability to live “authentically.”

    I guess things have changed?

    I was in a bookstore the other day in a famously “queer” part of the city. In the restroom there were several signs stating that if someone was acting suspiciously, to report it to the front desk. I was wondering, if that was before or after the assault. It would certainly be difficult to get out of the room if someone became violent, especially if they were six feet tall.

    Why would gender expression guarantee the right to enter sex specific bathrooms? People are not discriminated based on their “gender” in these spaces. No one is required to adhere to gender stereotypes when using the loo. Gender expression or gender identity does not prevent a person from using sex-specific spaces. There may be harassment, but this is now illegal and I myself have experienced this in the past, (when there were no laws to protect me.) I support the right of all people to be free from threats and bashing. If someone hits me today just because they don’t like how I look, it is a crime. It is a hate crime to strike a transgender person in the same situation. The “shock defense” has been legally rejected. This is all a good thing.

    Bu t let m emac the point clear, The LGB never asked for publicly paid surgeries, and did not insist on the right to access public sex-specific spaces. A “drag queen” does not demand the right to enter a women’s restroom, even if there is a risk of gay bashing in the men’s room or when the lighting is better for applying make-up on the ladies’ side. A “butch” woman would never insist on using a men’s urinal to make a point that she can pee while standing up to demonstrate that she is equal to men. We used our own bathrooms and we still do. Just ask George Michael.

    But enough of the absurdities. The legal argument boils down to this: Do people (who are not trans-identified) have the right to privacy and to choose the people that they they are willing to become vulnerable with?

    Transgender people claim to have the right to the special privilege to enter historically segregated sex specific spaces despite the fact that their own ideology and transgender theory promotes the belief that sex and gender are two different things?

    They don’t feel the need to meet any standard. They set the standard.

    Transgender activists, want to have complete control of how they define themselves but even more, they want control over how they are defined by others. This is where things get complicated. Transgender activists want to choose the medical definitions and treatment options and they are even working to change the criteria of Gender Identity Disorder to re-catagorized it from being a “disorder” to a “condition” in the DSM. And they piggy-backed on the LGB even though they often enjoyed their loop-holes there was even an Oprah show featuring a women whose partner “transitioned” just to get married – while the right to marry for the L and the G or B had to wait. Nice solidarity. (There is a big dose of “authenticity” for you).

    Back to the rights of the general public. Do people who share the same sexual anatomy be able to retain their right to privacy in places where they are vulnerable: like bathrooms and locker rooms? This is an issue of public health and safety. It is a right that should be equally respected for both men and women. (As I am sure that there are more than a few guys out there who agree and would like to pee in privacy.)

    But who has the legal right of way on this issue is not so clear. Ironically, it may be to dangerous for a transwoman to use the men’s room? And if a transgender person uses the bathroom it could “out them” and ruin their chances of living an “authentic” life?

    While transgender activists work for the right to go where they please and take what they want: scholarships intended for natal girls and women, athletic opportunities to compete with natal girls and women, beds in battered women’s shelters, and yes, even the toilet in your daughters bathroom – all in the name of living “authentically”. They simultaneously, and in the same breath, secure their own right as transgender activists (often at establishments founded by the “gay and lesbian” community) to meet privately in “peaceful assembly” without infiltration by those uninvited “cis” others as they organize to take more form natal women and girls without considering their right to safety, privacy and access to equal opportunities. Because “we are the same – we are all women – so why does it matter?”

    How is it the the gender identity of one group can so blatantly disregard the rights of the group that they supposedly identity with. Hmmm. It all seems just a bit “inauthentic” to me.

    1. I haven’t finished your essay yet Juniper I just want to say that I agree with you regarding the bathroom issue, the problem with trying to make them a safe space for all transgender people is that it entails making them no longer safe spaces for the majority of people.

      If the requirements were a bit higher (so one had to say, have already legally transitioned) then I don’t think it would be a big deal.

      I can see why people who have just started a transition process would feel discomfort, but then are their feelings really worth more than the feelings of discomfort felt by those who don’t feel comfortable with that?

  13. Good points Aran’Gar … it is a very complicated issue. I hope a resolution can be worked out that is fair to all people involved.

  14. Authentic living is different than rigidity. I find that when I clench my fists, I tend to crush what I hold dearest. For me, I had to learn that nothing is completely set in stone. I may hold strong beliefs regarding certain issues … I may feel angry at times and express strong opinions yet, I am also able to remain open to exploring different ideas an dot let go of what no longer rings true for me. I think that it is important to honor different perspectives. I grow and change with experience – I have learned to not cling too tightly to any one perspective and to consider other possibilities. Nothing is a failure. Blind obstinance is counterproductive in supporting honorable values.

    Over my life, my core values have remained the same as I work toward creating greater justice, peace, equality and compassion in my life and in the world around me, was that changed, over time, is the path that I choose. Sometimes, it is necessary to try a different road to reach new levels of understanding. Different perspectives have helped me to discover how I can be more productive in manifesting positive change.

    I am free to shed my skin.

    I am (usually) able to respect and love those who hold differing views, even when they are in direct conflict with my own core beliefs. I am not threatened by challenging opinions because I am secure in my values and I am open to learning from other people and from their experiences. It is a humbling path with lots of falls and sometimes, I have had to rest or even turn around and start again – but what an amazing journey this life is.

  15. TWT – thanks …. great quote by Daniel Siegal – I hope that you are finding beauty in your life and are enjoying your weekend.

  16. According to my n°2 shrink :
    – man work from the inside to the outside
    – women work form the outside to the inside

    For him I work like a woman. Hence I have a gender that is woman.

    Not sur if he is right but what is sure : I would accept to make up with a female body and my current mind with any hesitation or anxiety.

    Even when I am out of the fantasy and do not think about a sex change.

    I want a female body and I think that y life has no meaning because I do not have what I want.

    I do not want to be rich, famous, in good health for 190 years, to be the best looking man, the most intelligent man, to have a wife and kids and parents alive (my mother died last year of breast cancer and my father is 75 and not in very good health because of smoking) in good health, i just want to have an average FEMALE body (not even to be a top model, just a normal woman) because if ALL my fantasies I am a woman with a man !

    So my male body doesn’t allows me to get ride of the drive like a woman despite the fact that I am a woman in my sexual needs.

    Hence a bid problem and a dysphoric state in which the libido can not go outside properly and stays inside. So I feel auto-erotic and never sexually happy.

  17. Hi,
    I am a socially transitioned MTF reading your blog; I try to view things as a scientist: you try as hard as you can to disprove something in order to prove it. I am doing that with my transition in the knowledge that a lot of this is uncharted territory. I found interesting and noticed myself doing certain things that you mentioned about adapting into a new social role, such as changing my name. I mainly did this because when people would ask my name, I wouldn’t have a good answer. I present and walk as female and do that of my own accord, which is a relief after years of pretending to “be manly”, but I changed my name and began speaking in a higher pitch in order to gain social acceptance. I have always spoken in a higher pitch at home when I am with family, but it doesn’t quite reach the pitch of a cis woman’s voice. I decided to use my “family” voice in public now; I should just be who I am.

    One aspect that I don’t find mentioned in your posts is the discomfort I experience from being on testosterone (I haven’t started hormonal transition yet). I feel like there is this roiling part of me full of aggression and a sexual desire that I have struggled to identify with for a long time. I would fall in love and be unable to imagine myself with that person sexually, as a male. I didn’t see myself as female, but just not able to be with them at all. This would cause me so much of a lack of confidence that I would sabotage my relationships.

    This co-occurred with puberty and my sexual desires, which I felt a lot of shame about for a long time. Instead of being something that worked in conjunction with my feelings towards women (i identified as straight but now as pansexual), it was like an animalistic desire that became so strong I had to release through masturbation with porn (I didn’t have sexual fantasies and had to rely on visual media), and immediately afterward feeling entirely disconnected with the way I felt beforehand, and a sense of relief and a return to rational thinking followed.

    Trying to put this sexual part of my body in sync with the romantic part was always a conflict, and it frustrated me because I believed I was a cis, straight man. I was attracted to women, but didn’t want to sleep with them, but at the same time had this sex drive telling me that I had to.

    Only in the past year have I been able to really separate who I am on the inside with my sex drive, and more and more I identify less with it. I actually have sexual fantasies about people I am really attracted to, and I don’t experience erections around those fantasies. It feels more passionate, more complete. Still, I have a sex drive and get an erection, and it feels like an utterly useless part of me that stands in the way of my being able to carry out a relationship with anyone. I don’t want to cut it off as much as I want it deactivated. I don’t hate my penis as much as I want to be bent over and fucked by the woman or man of my dreams.

    I am still leaning in the direction of hormones because it feels like that’s who I am. But I want to be sure, and that’s why I’m reading this blog. If you have any insights, I’m trying to take everything into account before choosing.

    1. Hi, it is good to hear from you, sorry for talking so long to reply.

      I also held the view that testosterone was bad for me and that estrogen was good for me for quite some time. This was bolstered because when I was on nothing I felt worse than when I was just on E. Also I tried to take a small amount of testosterone for sex drive after being post-op this inevitably caused anxiety. Eventually when I got off E and on a full dose of T it felt absolutely euphoric, however this also only lasted a few months.

      I think part of the thing that makes hormones complicated is they have emotional effects which we then sometimes interpret as being “proof of our real gender”. Both Testosterone and Estrogen can cause significant antidepressant effects and create euphoria, especially in the adjustment period. Likewise lack of sex hormones often makes people feel depressed. Also these effects are highly individualized. I don’t see any problem with choosing a different sex hormone if it improves your mental state or your life, but I don’t think it should be taken as proof of a true gender.

      In your story I hear both a desire to take a submissive role in sex and maybe some aversion to being a dominant partner, like there is something wrong or shameful about aggression and dominance. I think that pretty common among trans people. There can sometimes be psychological underpinning to that, particularly the shame part. I don’t know what the right course of action is for you, but I would suggest exploring some of the underpinnings of those feelings of shame if you can. This is also not saying it is right for you to be aggressive or not, just to explore the underlying shame.

      I hope this helps

  18. I find the phrase ‘just a fetish’ both ignorant and demeaning. Fetishes are for life. Are they implanted at an early age, or just awakened? You cannot ‘overcome’ a fetish, you can only make room for it in your life as part of yourself. Please reconsider using this phrase,

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