Gender ideology claims that anyone who identifies as the opposite sex or a different gender, whether they have gender dysphoria or have “transitioned” into their chosen identity in any way or not, they qualify for automatic inclusion under the umbrella term “trans” which is short for “transgender”.
Normally, I wouldn’t concern myself with how people identify, after all, identity is personal. However, gender ideology has grown into a political movement whose aims can be summarised in the following, often repeated, conversation between feminists and trans activists:
trans activist: People should be accepted and allowed to be who they are, without fear of discrimination.
trans activist: Nobody should be forced to identify with the gender that’s been imposed on them since birth.
feminist: Strongly agree!
trans activist: Half of all young trans people have attempted suicide. Therefore we must remove all medical and legal obstacles for trans-identified people and children to access gender-reassignment treatments such as puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and various degrees of reconstructive surgery.
feminist: Wait, what?
trans activist: Trans person doesn’t just identify as a gender, their gender identity is evidence that they were born in the wrong body.
feminist: What are you on about, mate?
trans activist: Transwomen are women, their penises are female, and they are discriminated against just like all other women, so they must be given full inclusion into female-only spaces and all the initiatives designed to protect women.
feminist: Transwomen are men. Sex is determined at conception and it can’t be changed.
trans activist: Omg you are so transphobic! You are a TERF. Check your cis-privilege.
So let’s take a look at the various groups of people who are included under the trans umbrella: gender dysphoric homosexual men; gender dysphoric women and children who may or may not be homosexual or survivors of sexual trauma; heterosexual men who get so aroused by the thought of being women, they seek to “become” them; male cross-dressers; people who believe they were “born in the wrong body”; gender non-conforming children and adults; children and adults who are struggling with sex or gender ambivalence in context of mental illness; male athletes who identify as female and go on to dominate women’s sports; men who identify as women so they qualify for positions on all-women shortlists; men who identify as women so they gain access to vulnerable women and girls for purposes of voyeurism, exhibitionism or violence; male sex offenders who identify as women so they get transferred to women’s prisons…This is not an exhaustive list, but it illustrates just how broad a term “trans” is.
I don’t dispute the existence of any of the above. This doesn’t mean that I agree with all of them. Questioning who is really trans, who isn’t, and what “being trans” means in material reality, allows us to better understand trans people and help them fight discrimination they no doubt experience. It can also help us to safeguard the vulnerable.
This may sound progressive at first glance, but there’s a problem. Their basic premise – that our sex is “assigned at birth” – is false.
Everyone, including most people with disorders of sexual development (intersex), has their sex simply observed at birth. In rare cases, such as CAIS, sex can be observed wrongly. In the past, some intersex babies were “assigned sex at birth” in order to raise them in one of the two gender roles, hoping that when they grew up, their inner sense of whether they were male or female (gender identity) will match. This sometimes worked, other times it resulted in catastrophic outcomes, but either way, this is where the term “sex assigned at birth” originates from.
It is argued that only 0.018% of the population are intersex, and these disorders are sex specific. 99.98% of the population fall squarely into one of the two easily observable and unambiguous sex categories – male or female.
It also bears saying that intersex community has repeatedly tried to distance themselves from the trans narrative.
Therefore, it is my opinion that by erroneously applying the term “sex assigned at birth” to the population that has its sex observed at birth, trans activists are conflating two distinct populations in order to assert primacy of “internal, personal sense of being” over the material reality of sex.
Another problem with the definition of “trans” is that it hinges on this “internal, personal sense of being”, which is fluid, mood dependent, situational and there is no objective way to verify or disprove it.
One might be forgiven for asking how are these genders any different from personality, interests or preferences? The answer is – they aren’t, but if this is what “gender” means these days, then we have as many genders as we have people on the planet. As you can imagine, new genders are often accompanied by special pronouns, but feel free to google those, because I have to move on with my point.
To define anything, we need to be able to objectively determine what is It that we are defining, and what is not-It. Because including not-It in the sample of It, will result in the definition of It being either wrong or meaningless.
This is exactly what happened when trans ideology started re-defining women – adult human females with XX chromosomes – to include men – adult human males with XY chromosomes – who identify as women. They rendered the definition of “woman” meaningless, and by making it dependant on men’s “internal, personal sense of being”, they also made it elusive.
However, it is not “woman”, but “trans” itself that is elusive, because “woman” is a sex designation that already has a definition in material reality, while “trans”, does not.
Because “trans” cannot exist without “cis”, trans ideology defines “cis” as “someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-trans is also used by some people”. This is how trans ideology not only re-defines sex of 99% of the population by “internal, personal sense of being” of the 1%, but it also reinforces social stereotypes as something everyone who is “non-trans” automatically identifies with.
This has given rise to claims by white heterosexual trans-identified men or “trans-lesbians”, that they are oppressed by black women who have “cis” privilege over them. This is where trans movement typically likens itself to the Civil Rights Movement, because we all know that was all about white people in blackface claiming not only that they are black, but that black people enjoy “black privilege” over them because they don’t have to perform blackface. Forgive my sarcasm, but at this point in the conversation with trans activists, I start to lose patience.
It’s unsurprising that when asked to define “trans” without using “I am what I am because I am” circular argument, trans activists refuse to answer because “their existence is not up for debate”, and call those who asked “transphobic” and “bigoted”. This is similar to the response we’ve been getting from priests – you must have faith in God, which we get to define without offering any proof other than our inner feeling and conviction, and questioning us is heresy. Similarly, trans activists are not only asking us to believe them, they are asking us to believe in them as agents of truth.
And because trans ideology demands blind belief and seeks to swiftly punish non-believers, it is far from an innocent phenomenon that isn’t hurting anyone.
So far, trans ideology has nearly destroyed sex-based protections for women, which are needed to mitigate the effects of male violence. It maligns lesbians for refusing to accept trans-identified men as sexual partners. Children who are deemed to be “trans” are now being given treatments that jeopardise their development. Trans-identifying adults routinely go on to have some degree of gender reassignment, which involves medications and procedures that can cause increased morbidity and mortality. If only this approach to curing feelings worked – by improving the overall quality of life, for example – but it doesn’t.
Psychiatric symptoms, including suicide, are known to be higher in gender dysphoric people compared with the general population, and they can worsen post gender reassignment. This is especially relevant because the bulk of trans activism focuses on obtaining easier and earlier access to these treatments, and anyone who tries to delay requests for medical interventions until the reasons behind them can be adequately explored, risks being accused of “literally killing trans people”.
Trans activists substantiate those accusations by claiming that “half of young trans people have attempted suicide”. This is an effective silencing tactic because it directly accuses non-believers of causing suicide, and people who question trans ideology, and particularly its fixation on medically and surgically transitioning young people, are doing so out of concern for the welfare of those young people.
However, those accusations are not only manipulative by nature, they are also based on false statistics.
Anyone who dealt with the issue of suicide attempts knows that not all are serious attempts to end one’s life. A lot of them are cries for help, and in some cases they might even be an abuse or manipulation tactic. How we respond to them depends on the context.
This is not to say we shouldn’t act from the place of compassion, or that we should dismiss anyone, it’s just a reminder that if we’re analysing risk to population groups, such as trans youth for example, we need to have good studies and thorough understanding of what the figures mean, rather than take them at face value, or even worse, misrepresent them to suit our agenda.
Suicide statistics tend to break the results down by age, sex and method only, and it is difficult to speculate about causes, but it is estimated that 90% of suicides are associated with a psychiatric condition.
Most studies that explore the issue of youth trans suicide focus on suicidal ideation and attempts, in context of gender dysphoria. Reports of suicide attempts can be corroborated, but suicidal ideation, which usually relies on self-reporting, is much more difficult to assess, especially if we are unable to conduct the full Mental State Examination, such as would be the case if we relied on a survey for our results. Surveys can also be skewed by asking suggestible people leading questions, or by targeting specific population, employing selection bias to generate results, then reverse-applying these results to a much larger population without any evidence that the two populations are comparable. To liken this to a physical symptom, it’s like taking a population of people who are hospitalised due to persistent cough and analysing their incidence of TB, and then claiming that incidence of TB in all people who ever coughed was the same or similar.
Suicidal ideation is a common symptom, less so when it’s persistent. Suicide attempts are rare, and when they occur, most of them are “parasuicide attempts”, rather than genuine attempts at ending one’s life. Serious suicide attempts are even rarer, and are almost always diagnostic of mental illness.
Evidence suggests that mental illness, and especially depression, anxiety, bipolar and dissociative disorder, is present in 70% of individuals with gender dysphoria, either concurrently or at some time during their lifetime. Which brings me to another way by which suicidality in trans youth can be misinterpreted – by diagnosing them incorrectly.
In psychiatry, there exists a hierarchy of diagnoses.
I’d also like to mention psychiatric symptom of ambivalence, which is particularly distressing when it involves one’s own body, sex, gender or sexuality. This ambivalence is not just wondering whether one might be attracted to the opposite sex as the normal stage in sexual development. This is ambivalence that arises from disordered thinking which characterises severe mental illness.
That a lot of mental illnesses tend to develop in youth, and are often accompanied by suicidal ideation and even attempts, illustrates the pitfall with trying to attribute suicidality to “being trans”. Mental illness doesn’t “co-occur” with transgenderism, in fact, symptoms which, in isolation, might justify someone’s inclusion under transgender umbrella, in context of mental illness higher up in the hierarchy, are more likely just symptoms of that illness.
This is important because if the person with mental illness is misdiagnosed as “trans”, and instead of being given treatment for mental illness is fast-tracked down the path of gender transition, it can severely impact their life.
I’ve looked after a few trans patients who were admitted to the psychiatric ward on 1:1 suicide watch, due to repeated and relentless suicide attempts following gender reassignment surgery. Most of them had history of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. What stays with me after all these years is that they were some of the most distressed patients I have ever seen. Their distress wasn’t only in realising that gender reassignment didn’t cure their troubling feelings, but in the fact that they now had to live with their bodies being mutilated irreversibly. It goes without saying that severe psychological distress doesn’t lend itself to the kind of self-care most of these procedures require post-op, which can lead to increased complications which further impact on the patient’s life in an iatrogenic (doctor-caused) vicious cycle that could’ve been avoided.
These patients, and many others who suffer worsening physical and metal health following gender transition, are currently swiped under the rug, silenced like gender-critical people, and institutions are obstructing research into phenomenon of detransition, under the same accusations of heresy against trans ideology.
All this illustrates that not only is it unacceptable for trans activists to use vague definitions of what “trans” is, or to generate false statistics in order to emotionally blackmail their way into deregulating the very process of transition, doctors, hormone specialists and plastic surgeons should not be giving gender reassignment treatments to people who have suicidal ideation, history of suicide attempts and/or serious mental illness. Not only because it can make psychiatric symptoms worse, but because they have ethical and moral responsibility to protect vulnerable patients from making decisions that can harm them.
Time and again I come back to this connection between trans ideology trying to render terms such as “woman” meaningless, and their fixation on “curing” suicidality with hormones and surgery. One explanation that comes to mind is that women, or more precisely feminists, have been some of the most vocal critics of both harmful power structures in the society and the concepts of “gender”, “innate gender identity” and initiatives that force gender non-conforming people and children into rigid gender boxes. And that’s what transgenderism ultimately does, instead of working to dismantle systemic injustice and with it, the gender boxes themselves, or attempting to analyse how gender stereotypes harm gender non-conforming children and adults, it seeks to obliterate gender non-conformance itself by constructing endless new and unique gender boxes. And while a tiny minority of people will identify and alter their appearance to fit one of the new genders, most people and especially heterosexual women will be labelled as “identifying” with their own oppression in the sexist society.
That up to 88% of young people who claim to be trans desist and most of them grow up to be gay, further raises the issue of homophobia and gay erasure within the trans movement.
The rapid rate at which trans ideology is obliterating women’s rights, and making gender non-conforming people into life-long medical patients, should give us all a pause. As always, we must ask ourselves, who does this benefit and who does this harm?
ADDED 26.4.19: Just discovered this article, it was written in 2016 so things have escalated from there, but it echoes a lot of what I discussed here. It is also one of the best articles on the subject I have come across so far: