Suddenly disclosed gender dysphoria

Just because someone has only just noticed signs of a person’s gender dysphoria does not mean that it has had a “rapid onset”. A parent might report that the child had appeared happy and gave no sign of gender dysphoria, but the child might have had distress which s/he could not name, or even known their own gender identity for years. A child might suddenly disclose because they have decided to take action on their gender dysphoria, which they had concealed because they did not know what they could do about it. And just because someone has not noticed signs of gender dysphoria, does not mean they were not obvious to anyone open to seeing them. Some children repress their gender identity when they know they will gain only grief for it.

There is the suggestion that teenage children, especially those assigned female at birth, may suddenly decide that they are trans and seek treatment. There is a conviction where there was no sign of it before. Those asserting this tend to find the thought revolting.

Those who assert that “ROGD” is a thing, rather than a name for childhood gender dysphoria, say that it might be a social contagion brought on by suggestion, as some say anorexia can be. There are pro-ana groups promoting anorexia as a lifestyle, though it can threaten health and stop menstruation, just as testosterone might. If transition revolts you, you might be prone to see it as a way of fleeing independent adult womanhood akin to anorexia. These feminists know that womanhood, and fertility, can be very scary. Men come on to teenage girls, follow and assault them, do not take “no” for an answer- only “I have a boyfriend”, perhaps, claiming to be some man’s property rather than being entitled to decide and refuse in my own right- and this is dangerous. Claiming to be a man is a way of escaping that.

So they claim that teenage “girls” are “mutilated and medicalised”, rather than treated. The child wears a binder, which constricts breathing, and craves chest masculinisation surgery (“mastectomy”). This revolts the ROGD theorist. Why should you want a healthy part of yourself cut off? We are sad for women who have to suffer lumpectomy for cancer, and the NHS offers reconstructive surgery. I sympathise. I like my breasts and would not want to lose them. But I can empathise: chest-masc surgery changes the way others look at you, and I can understand someone might want it. I have seen the delight people have in it.

If there were a theorist who believed that ROGD was a thing, a phenomenon distinguishable from other types of childhood gender dysphoria, who was not also repulsed by current surgical treatment for female to male gender dysphoria or gender incongruence, I would be more likely to believe in it.

There is a place for people who want to resolve the distress of gender dysphoria by some means other than transition, hormones and surgery. A patient might explore their personality and character with the aim of casting off restricting inhibitions and accepting themselves. Transition is not the only treatment for people who find “femininity” constraining. However, transition alleviates distress and enables people to accept themselves, in a way they could not before.

Those who advance the hypothesis are revolted by “girls” transitioning. They think the “girls” should be supported into accepting womanhood, and supported in subverting restrictive feminine roles as women. They are not fit to research their idea, unless they can accept that sometimes transition is right for a person. Rather than supporting a teenager in becoming an adult, they want to restrict the way the teenager knows he can thrive.

I am told that gender dysphoria can have a rapid onset, where someone with an intersex condition receives a new hormone treatment. That is not what the transphobic campaigners are exercised about.

Allies IV

Allies can say things I find difficult to say. “A woman could be frightened and distressed to see you in a women’s toilet,” says a TERF. “Don’t you care?” Of course I care. Of course I would be sorry about that- but not sorry enough to change my life. What my father, a teacher, used to call “dumb insolence”- just looking at her but not saying anything- might be my best resource. I do not want to get into an argument, and I do not want to give ground.

If I were to argue the point, I would say I mind my own business in loos, worried about confrontation, and did not think it likely enough to warrant excluding me at all times. However Mhairi tells me it would not bother her. “A man might have been coming on to you, in a creepy, threatening and inexorable way, you escape, but see me and feel sick,” I said. “A lesbian might have been coming on to me,” she countered.

The answer to that one- for these arguments are rituals, honed in hugboxes then flung at the enemy- is that lesbians take “no” for an answer, but men never do. Mhairi merely snorts. My “but- but- but- I would never,” or even “well, I wouldn’t. Judge me by my acts, not by someone’s fears about me” does not have nearly the same force.

She is about 15-18 years younger than I am, and she has not got my baggage. The idea that trans is queer is bad never occurred to her. She does not need my circumspection. All women have different histories, different experiences, she says. Menstruation may seem to be the great trump card to others, but not to her. Perhaps it is that these things are not an argument at all, but a stand-off. No trans woman is going to hear a TERF and be persuaded, though some might be discouraged and revert in misery. Both sides have arguments as armour, protecting them against recognising the other side’s humanity.

She gave an example of a man showing emotion, crying far more than women do. She loves that. Possibly she is particularly an ally because she is neuro-diverse. She hates forms asking whether she is disabled, because her diversity gives her a different perspective. It is the social model of disability: her condition is accounted a disability because of the shallow observation that she does not pick up particular skills as neuro-typicals do, and that is perceived as a lack. There has been little attempt to see it as good, or even to find better ways suited to her for teaching those skills, so that the difficulty would be less. As an ally, in our conversation most of that came from me, though I was not telling her anything she did not know.

I can spend too much time with the “trans-critical”, so that their arguments come to seem to have force. It was good for me to spend time with her, to reassure me.

“Fat” is the reclaimed word. I wondered what was the self-identifying word for anorexics. Just as “obese” is a medicalising word, is “anorexic”? Is “skinny” insulting? I searched for “Anorexia forum” and found this site. It’s “pro-ana”, promoting behaviours related to anorexia nervosa, as a lifestyle choice or identity rather than a disease. So as a word chosen by the group themselves, it’s “ana”. And I find that problematic. People die because of these behaviours, but then so do climbers and cave-divers. I’ll go for “thin”, which has never been insulting in my culture.