Misogynist transition

Do teenage girls identify as trans because of misogyny? Does prevalent discrimination against women, sexual violence coercion and assault, make them fear womanhood enough to declare themselves boys?

In a society not prejudiced against gender noncomformity, I don’t believe I would have transitioned. I have made no secret of this. A lot of people, AMAB and AFAB, may decide to transition because their gender nonconformity is not tolerated, and any body dysphoria would arise later because of their understanding of what transition means. But that is not transitioning because of misogyny, because it is discomfort with gender norms enforced on boys and girls alike. Instead, it is prejudice against gender non conformity, commonly known as transphobia.

Do gender stereotypes fit anyone? Not me, or lots of other people with a Y chromosome. I fit feminine better. I did not want anyone to know, and tried to make a man of myself. Many men may appear masculine- I did- and secretly fear their true selves being seen. Do the stereotypes fit anyone? If apparently fitting is no guide, perhaps not. Angry feminists, raised to keep quiet and not cause trouble, think that no woman fits the feminine stereotype. Who benefits? It’s patriarchy, they say. It fits and benefits men.

Not me, I say- or gay men, or darker skinned men. Not working class men. Men may benefit in some ways but not “showing weakness” is a burden. One of the ways the norms are enforced is by language- it is hard to express “abnormal” positively. Naming oppression is a major feminist project. I don’t know positive words for male femininity. It’s hard enough to find words that acknowledge our existence.

Does any woman actually fit femininity? Many seem to. Many say they do. It could be false consciousness but feminism is outspoken, with many platforms. Surely The Guardian would have got through to its feminine readers by now?

So, I consider the people asserting that misogyny makes girls want to transition to male, and hear their revulsion, not only against chest masculinisation but against the very concepts of trans boy, trans man, or non-binary. They hate being told what pronouns they can use. This anger and disgust, the refusal to entertain the idea that trans men may know who they are or what they want (though it is clear misogyny to decide you know better than others what is good for them) is, again, transphobia.

Faced by this pincer movement of transphobia, from feminists as well as social conservatives, we prove ourselves to be Real Trans in the only way we know, by seeking hormones and surgery. The way to freedom is to validate each person’s choices, to allow us to choose our gender presentation and to end discrimination, not to prevent any way of being gender non conforming. If misogyny makes girls transition, trans exclusion makes that worse not better.

“Rapid Onset” Gender dysphoria

The parents’ stories are heartbreaking. These usually involve a teen who was anxious, depressed, socially isolated, or suffering from PTSD coming to identify as trans after internet binges on social media sites. These parents report that mental health professionals are validating the self-diagnosis of transgender after a handful of therapy sessions, without any exploration of prior mental health issues, trauma, sexual orientation, or history of gender nonconforming behavior. This clearly violates APA recommendations, which urge special caution in treating adolescents who present with sudden onset dysphoria.

This is the basis of a great deal of hatred of “trans activists” and opposition to transition. So, is it true? There are stories of young women who went through a phase in their teens of desiring top-surgery, but their parents help them avoid that- and these young women feel they have had a lucky escape. Of course they are young women, not trans men. And here is a story of “wreckage”, where the child is distanced from their parents, who feel the diagnosis is wrong.

After a 30-minute consultation with a physician’s assistant, Molly was given an appointment for the following week to begin testosterone injections. There was no exploration of her other physical and mental health issues, and whether these may have influenced her belief that she was trans.

Testosterone can have a serious effect on a female body, even at the first injection. These are the stories feminists tell each other. I found it after an ill-advised attempt to find common ground on Mumsnet: the comment thread referred us to it, calling it “a heartbreaking tale of social contagion”. It contravenes the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) guidelines

(pdf)

which state,

The criteria for hormone therapy are as follows:
1. Persistent, well-documented gender dysphoria;
2. Capacity to make a fully informed decision and to consent for treatment;
3. Age of majority in a given country (if younger, follow the Standards of Care outlined in section VI);
4. If significant medical or mental health concerns are present, they must be reasonably well-controlled.

Dysphoria here is clearly not “well-documented”, arguably not “persistent”, and the mental health concerns should be assessed.

The PA (physician assistant) also suggested that Molly schedule top surgery – a double mastectomy – within a few months.

No wonder people are shocked, reading this sort of story. The WPATH guidelines say many people find comfort with altered gender expression without surgery, and qualified mental health professionals must make an assessment before surgery, and Assess, diagnose, and discuss treatment options for co-existing mental health concerns. Chest surgery may be carried out after one year of T and ample time of living in the desired gender role.

The parents said they wanted time to think and research, and at first the child agreed, but at college without telling the parents started T. The child- or young adult- kept repeating that she didn’t want to see us, that we were the reason she had been hospitalized because we didn’t support her transition.

Max “did not blossom into his true self”. He was more anxious and isolated than ever and rarely left the house, spending most of his time online.

I tell people you don’t get hormones easily or quickly, especially as a child. This story, contradicting the WPATH guidelines, says differently. I don’t believe it. T after half an hour with a physician assistant? A PA’s qualification takes less time than a medical degree, and they practise medicine supervised by a physician. They may diagnose and treat. I saw a consultant psychiatrist on the NHS.

The post alleges that teenage girls identify as trans because of social contagion, from visiting websites which valorize being trans. Other conditions allegedly spread in the same way: Bulimia was virtually unknown until the 1970s, but once described there was a common language for it, and it spread into culturally remote enclaves following the introduction of Western media sources. NYMag confirms that, and Lisa Marchiano quotes the researcher NYMag interviewed. Fiji first got television in 1995, and shortly after the first teenage girls there showed symptoms of eating disorders.

What do you think?

Partly it depends on whether being trans is acceptable. It could be unacceptable for conservative reasons, that God made us male and female, or for radical feminist reasons, that there is no necessary connection between sex and gender, and both sexes exhibit a wide range of gendered behaviour. It seems possible to me that I transitioned because of social pressure.

The stories are out there. People are angry. If girls imagine that transition is the answer to their problems, though they could have lived as normal women within the freedom of gender expression which other women carve out for themselves, perhaps they are right to be angry. You only learn that medical transition is not the answer to your problems when you have completed it, without robust gatekeeping.

In the comments, someone suggests autistic girls might find boys easier to grok than female teens, and it’s easy to see how a young woman who has no interest or patience for make up and complicated hairdos, who hates frilly clothes (too uncomfortable for those who are “sensory”), and who has a blunt communication style can come to wonder if she is “really” female or “actually” male instead, especially as adolescence brings on an increase in gender differences. Speculation becomes feverish.

Negative capability

Negative capability is the ability to live without answers or solutions. I was going to ask your help towards a particular solution, but I don’t think that would help.

We met in the pub, on a long sofa under the oil paintings. It would be pleasant but for the loudspeaker just above us- we both like Roxy Music enough, but the bass is overpowering-  and the man who sits alone in the armchair at the end of the table, perhaps too big to be just our table but even so. She thinks he is drugged up, not just on alcohol. I notice the colourful tattoo covering his left cheek. He has a smaller tattoo on his right cheekbone. She notices his skinny body, and his rings which look like weapons. He has two drinks then goes, to my relief.

Toxic masculinity, she thinks. He needs to pretend to be a threat. She wanted to give him a hug.

At the bar, I noticed the clothes, the washed, styled hair. Too much washing ruins a wig. Now, I notice a couple leave: he is broad and strongly built, she so slim she could be half his weight or less.

She is in a radical feminist email group. They are currently debating whether to admit men. You know the arguments- admit men, and they will take over; men should support this cause too- they have been rehashed so often. Those willing to give most energy to the emails will have their way. Others may lose interest. It is nice to be in a place where we all agree, but we don’t, as trifling differences in expression get multiplied.

I confessed my paranoia- that I was her project, she wanted me to revert, it would get kudos in the radfem groups- and she said there would be no point, for her or them. I have changed my body; and she is interested in the politics of communities, not individuals. I would not be here if I believed it, I said.

If women object to trans women in their changing room, it is mostly theoretical for them. There are so few of us, they are unlikely to run into one. For me, it really matters: if I have to try something on at home, I can only buy clothes in my home town.

She counters that neutral language for midwives matters to her. She has a female body, and she has had children grown and birthed from her woman’s body. This is a woman’s experience, and neutral language erases that, and her. She gets passionate.

And yet men give birth. One pregnant transitioned trans man got in the newspapers, and now there is a steady, small number; and people who are neither men nor women but genderqueer give birth. Here is an article on it. I may come back to this, to puzzle out my own view. That was my original idea for this post. Yet I am unsure it would solve anything.

Inclusive language is truthful. The first attempts are clumsy, but “police person” becomes “police officer” which is generally used. I would have asked you for alternatives to the terms “pregnant people” and “birthing individuals” for midwives to use for the whole client group which might get round the difficulty, might make the word choice a positive sum game; but it would not help, not really.

I have no power at all in this. I may be tolerated, or not. My thinking cannot create an answer everyone will accept. My loyalty is to pregnant men, however lovely it is to be in agreement with friends.

JD Fergusson People and sails

Positive thinking

I told Serra at the gender identity clinic about my visit to the post office. She said, perhaps it was a success even though the woman did not complete her transaction. Perhaps she had not entered the door of a shop before. Perhaps she had only needed the practice, not the transaction itself. I had thought my view of the incident was positive, but Serra did better.

I woke early on Friday, anxious about Saturday- I had not arranged a lift, I had a lot to do, there was the encounter later. It all mattered. Instant resistance to the emotion. I should not be feeling like this, it should not get to me like this. I feared it, feeling inadequate. I know where the resistance comes from. It is a judgment from childhood, when I took the judgment into myself. Yet the anxiety moved me to email, to deal with the transport at least. It made me do what I needed to do. The resistance did not stop it. I saw the resistance quickly, and knew it was false to me, now, however it saved me in the past.

Thursday, I sat outside in the sun and read. I have little to do. I felt bored and lonely. Serra connects my words about my need for a lift, when everyone’s car is full- “I need someone to make space for me”- to this feeling. I have suppressed, feared and hated my feelings. I come alive to them. With practice, I may even come alive to my wants and desires. They cannot be rationally explained, but they do make me happy. That is why I want to extend my time with Serra, possibly three extra sessions: I am extending my way of thinking, feeling, perceiving, being, accepting my reactions, and she may help me do this.

I do not want to fall back.

I was in her room, looking down and to the side, staring at my date of birth on her file. I noticed. “I am not looking at you.” Because I felt anxiety, which was then paranoia about the following day not going well. I was hurting. I can meet your eyes when I connect to my joy.

You care. It makes you alive, she says. Some people suppress emotions-
-like Permafrost. Steve Hauptman’s analogy pleases her. I am defrosting.

In the waiting room I met a bloke from rural Greece, who told me how stereotyped people were there, the men so macho- he mimed- the women so feminine- he said, high pitched. He does not see his mother. He has told her: she realised. “You want to be a man.” Oh! She spoiled the surprise!  I love his self-deprecating humour. He has come here for first assessment, aged nearly forty, after getting hormones privately. When I came here in 2001 they would not treat anyone who had gone private at all. He has curly side-burns.Then a doctor calls for him by a female name, and I feel such sadness.

Cranach, Madonna and child