A comprehensive analysis of the concept and diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and its uncritical acceptance from ostensibly progressive quarters.
“When you walk into these clinics, you won’t really see older people around. It’s boys and girls playing dress-up, brought there by clueless parents, waiting for the appointment that could likely ruin their lives.”
– Sydney Wright, 21-year-old female, who desisted and detransitioned, “I Spent a Year as a Trans Man. Doctors Failed Me at Every Turn.,” The Daily Signal (October 7, 2019)
“The treatment needs to change so that it does not put young people, like me, on a torturous and unnecessary path that is life-changing. I feel like I’ve been lied to because it did not make me feel any better.”
– Keira Bell, 23-year-old female, who desisted and detransitioned, quoted in The Daily Mail (January 24, 2020)
Let us suppose that a gender-nonconforming child, observed either male or female at birth, receives a “gender dysphoria” diagnosis and becomes seen as “the opposite sex,” based on “gender identity,” from an early age. Prevalent in present clinical practice, the affirmation model dictates that we must uncritically affirm this child as truly “the opposite sex,” without helping the child better explore his or her sense of self. Then, after years of social transitioning, being fully convinced of having been “born in the wrong body,” even after drastically changing the body, this young person, now older, feels disillusioned, even more alienated from the self. After having taken puberty blockers, being prescribed cross-sex hormones, and undergoing irreversible and expensive cosmetic surgeries, this person arrives at the realization of simply being gender-nonconforming and homosexual all along.
Upon closer analysis, we discover that the external affirmation of the gender-nonconforming homosexual child as truly “the opposite sex” only tossed the internal self-concept of the child into turmoil. For the child, alienation between the mind and the body became more deeply internalized, certainly not at all brought to resolution, aggravated ever more by the very people claiming to help. Such an affirmation of alienation did not arise from any apparent belief in the mutability of human personality. On the contrary, this Western, neoliberal, postmodern, social and medical theory and practice, financially profitable and ethically impoverished, can be traced to its roots in the very same sexism and homophobia fueling the current medical eugenics movement against homosexuality happening in Iran.
Thinking, now, we must ask ourselves questions about desistance and detransitioning: What exactly happened? Under what conditions did these events happen? Why? How do they occur? Who do these circumstances affect? Why? Where does this occurrence happen? And when does it occur?
Although simple and straightforward, these questions remain queerly unaddressed, indeed strategically ignored, by organizations in the wild postmodernist West—those so-called proponents of “progress,” promoting the earliest possible social and medical transitioning of gender-nonconforming youth. In the years to come, how will these institutions answer for themselves if they find that—perhaps inadvertently, in ignorance, perhaps even purposefully for profit—they have harmed the very people whom they have claimed to help? One wonders how individuals working within these institutions will be able to live with themselves after the horrifying discovery of their collaboration in such a crime against humankind.
More than merely supposing, let us begin simply inquiring into the matter not only for ourselves but also for our children.
Etiology, also written as aetiology, can be traced back to its roots in ancient Greek, particularly the word aitiología (αἰτιολογία) where aitía (αἰτία) refers to responsibility, guilt, blame, accusation, cause, reason and -logía (-λογία) refers to a branch of learning. As the Oxford English Dictionary tells us, this term involves a process in critical inquiry, such that we arrive at an “explanation or exposition of the origin or causation of a disease.” Considering this definition, we will inquire, even in the short space of this essay, more deeply into the origin or causation of “gender dysphoria” as a disease.
Applied to “gender dysphoria,” disease, used here, refers to a developed mental condition, driven by biological and social factors, that results in separation from any remotely sustained sense of ease within oneself. Characterized by anxiety, agitation, depression, mania, panic, paranoia, schizophrenia, and other illnesses afflicting the mind, dysphoria, as an umbrella term, involves a sense of sustained unease—disease. Inseparable from social and cultural influences, this sense of self pertains to the complex interactions, albeit seen in far too simplified terms, between self and society.
In improving our ongoing studies, we must consider both psychology and sociology as valuable to our search into the etiology of “gender dysphoria.” Studies, for the most part, appear, either explicitly or implicitly, to take “gender dysphoria” as a congenital disorder, that is, it becomes misunderstood as a condition inborn and not engendered. The process of investigation on our part, then, should prove helpful to us in public and private discourses. Such conversations, in particular, pertain to laws surrounding healthcare best practices in relation to individuals, especially young people, who find themselves feeling a sense of “gender dysphoria” and/or clinically diagnosed as dysphoric.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), “gender dysphoria” involves “a marked difference between the individual’s expressed/experienced gender and the gender others would assign him or her, and it must continue for at least six months.” This diagnosis, as the manual tells us, differs in specification between adolescents and adults, on the one hand, and children on the other. Although, upon comparison and contrast, the diagnoses remain strikingly similar.
For adolescents and adults diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” we see the marked incongruence between one’s mental representation of the self as masculine or feminine against one’s sex as either male or female. For children diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” the definition is much the same as with adults, although with greater emphasis on gendered social differences between boys and girls as indicative of “gender identity.” Gender-nonconforming patterns of behavior atypical for boys and girls appear now assumed as evidence of a child being truly “the opposite sex.”
Questions of Meaning and Method
Transgender rights activists generally talk about “gender dysphoria” as if an inborn and innate condition, as if people must be “born this way”—except, “born this way,” as they say, while also somehow “born in the wrong body.” Contrarily, they also characterize “gender” itself as both “socially constructed” and “fluid,” even if they speak of it as if pre-social and built into the brain from birth, therefore “biologically determined” and “fixed.” These activists frame “gender dysphoria” as congenital, it seems, perhaps because they do not desire any deeper look into the social circumstances surrounding human sexual development. Such critical thinking, which they lack, would undermine their own remarkably antifeminist, albeit ironically conservative, ideological point of view on the nature of sex stereotypes as if always already existing within human beings somehow prior to socialization.
Seeing the mind as separate from the body, they do not argue that “biology is destiny” for “gender identity” (i.e., biological determinism) as much as they argue, rather, that “brain is destiny” for “gender identity” (i.e., neurosexism). Examples of this kind of rhetoric on “brain sex” include expressions of somebody having a male or female brain in the body of the opposite sex from the sex of one’s brain. Informed by stereotypes and social conventions seen as normal for the relations between the sexes, it all derives from assumptions about “male brains” being indicated by masculine-oriented behavior and “female brains” being indicated by feminine-oriented behavior. When shown side by side, these views, repackaged as more or less conservative or liberal in nature, although truly all deterministic, appear to be simply two sides of the very same essentialism.
Paradoxically, despite the activists’ framing of “gender dysphoria” as a congenital disorder, therefore medically treatable as such, they also wish to destroy the perception of it as a “disorder” altogether. They want it to be seen exclusively as an “identity,” detached from its circumstances originally rooted in its diagnosis as a disease. Indeed, their argument that anyone can “self-identify” into being “transgender,” at any time, without even feeling “gender dysphoria,” indicates how they contradict themselves.
We know, however, that “gender” cannot be merely an “identity” and a “spectrum,” when it has been both an ideology and a hierarchy used by males to oppress females. Under patriarchy, we know that the construction of “masculinity” and “femininity” usually derives from the male dominance and female submission that, together, structure male-supremacist ideology. Seen in the sociocultural context of sexual politics, then, gender’s social function has been less about the liberation of the self as much as it has been about imprisoning the human personalities of men and women alike.
“Gender dysphoria” proves remarkably troublesome in the treatments presumably used to remedy this sense of alienation between mind and body. On the one hand, the most vocal activists claim that, because “gender dysphoria” is a “disease,” like any other physical ailment, it must be treated medically with a “cure” of hormones and surgeries. Such a course of action, they tell us, makes the body, as physical matter, more closely resemble an idealized mental representation of the self. They add, so convincingly, that these treatments, in general, lessen “gender dysphoria,” which we presume generally reduces anxiety, depression, and suicidality.
However, despite the positive impact on life for some people who choose to transition, others become more anxious, more depressed, more obsessive, and more suicidal, especially upon taking hormones and undergoing surgeries. They can become even more neurotic than before becoming medicalized, which perhaps corresponds to the feeling that one must perform one’s ideal gendered self “correctly” for others. The activists dismiss the potential negative impact by saying that it is all just a social problem, not a psychological problem left unaddressed by otherwise potentially unnecessary medical interventions made upon the body. “Transphobia,” the activists claim, is truly what leaves desperate and vulnerable people feeling still even more alienated from themselves than before they transitioned.
When people detransition, as they do, after years of still feeling disoriented within themselves, the same activists who once cheered them on now tell them that they were “cisgender” all along, never truly “transgender.” Yet, in their desperation and distress, gender-nonconforming people of both sexes take hormones and undergo surgeries, hoping that it all will make them feel better.
Changing the body through medical transitioning, even following social transitioning, can itself deepen dissociation, rather than dampen it. Preexisting neuroses arising from traumatic experiences during one’s youth can become more intense. And “gender dysphoria” is, after all, a mental ailment, more closely akin to body dysmorphia and anorexia nervosa, so medically transitioning potentially can intensify more deeply the chasm between psyche and physique.
Addressing a mental sense of self as almost exclusively physiological, only curable by acting on the body, the activists downplay “gender dysphoria” as an explicitly psychological condition that cosmetic changes to the body cannot reliably cure. Yet, they also appear to argue that one need not necessarily even feel “dysphoric” at all to be “transgender” anymore.
Because, if gender is “fluid,” and “self-identification” cannot be questioned, then truly anybody can become “transgender,” therefore being “transgender,” whatever the personal rationale for “self-identifying” as such. It would be “gatekeeping,” as the activists tell us, to argue otherwise. Humorously enough, anyone called “cisgender” technically can be “transgender” or “nonbinary,” simply through a simple act of “self-identification,” at any time. One need only claim to be for the self what one must be seen as by everyone else. No observable, objective method exists for visibly verifying a “gender identity” that is, in essence, a subjective sense of self.
In addition, the activists argue that nobody who “self-identifies” as “transgender” even needs to undergo any kind of medical transitioning whatsoever. One can be “transgender” simply by “self-identification” alone, without doing anything at all. When anyone raises concerns about the potential abuse and exploitation of this pervasive view, the activists condemn any emphasis upon hormones and surgery as “transmedicalism.” Offended, unsurprisingly, they say that expecting people who “self-identify” as “transgender” to undergo hormone therapy simply because they “self-identify” as “transgender” amounts to “forced sterilization.” These same activists who themselves condemn “transmedicalism” also emphasize easy, unrestricted access to puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and invasive cosmetic surgeries for “gender dysphoric” youth as medically essential methods of “fixing” their otherwise healthy human bodies.
But this emphasis upon “fixing” the body of the dysphoric person does not necessarily mean, nor does it even guarantee, ease for that person’s mind. The pervasive dogma of gender being “fluid,” in fact, disproves the activists’ excessively grand narrative about the engendering of “gender identity” for “trans kids.” Alongside claiming that gender is “fluid,” they also claim that one is “born in the wrong body,” therefore born with a fixed, not fluid, so-called “gender identity.” It is the secular equivalent, albeit still pseudo-religious, to a soul occupying the flesh as a mere vessel.
No longer seen as influenced by either hormone exposure in utero or sex-based gendered socialization, “gender identity” appears broadly accepted among most transgender rights activists as a kind of special soul within the self. “Gender identity” seems conceptualized as presumably existing before one becomes socialized, therefore internal, already biologically embedded in the brain, except also strangely woven from socially constructed stereotypes reliant on “gender” as a caste system particular to a given society and culture, therefore, in truth, always already external to one’s self-concept until internalized. The activists principally rely on abstraction to advance their arguments against sex in favor of “gender identity” eclipsing sex itself.
Transgender rights activists claim to know what “gender” being a “social construction” means from a feminist point of view. Politically, this knowledge would involve some understanding about the sexist production of “gender” as a caste system under male supremacy. Such an analysis would see the intimate relationships among factors of sex, gender, and sexuality, identifying differential sex-based gendered socialization. It would involve some understanding of the historical, material reality of women’s oppression on the basis of sex.
But it seems that, in fact, the activists do not know what it all means, especially when considering their overarching argument about making the sexed body match “the gendered brain.” Further, they desire the replacement of “sex” with “gender identity” in law, a change that would erase the sex-based rights of women, lesbians, gay men, and intersex people, all of whom would be harmed by this change. Insisting on “gender identity,” in their totalitarianism, these activists do not acknowledge and address (1) that sex remains the basis of sexism faced by women as a sex class, (2) that homosexuality should stay defined as same-sex attraction, not “same gender attraction,” (3) and that intersex people need to know about their own sexed bodies and not be further marginalized, “othered,” as “neither male nor female.”
Markedly departing from any actual feminist analysis, these activists begin from the claim that “gender” should be seen as neither ideological nor hierarchical in nature but rather as both an “identity” and a “spectrum.” It is sexism, except, this time, “gender-neutral,” unwilling to see the factor of sex. In their uncritical approach, they neglect how male supremacy determines the socio-political construction of “gender” as a caste system established on the basis of sex. They seem unwilling to reflect upon how sexism and homophobia inform our concepts of “gender”; rather, they take “gender” as is. As an ideology, then, “transgenderism,” consists of contradictions, most of which remain ignored and unaddressed, even as this wildly inconsistent set of beliefs now heavily informs legal and medical practices that impact human lives. Rooted in the individual fantasy of “gender identity,” detached from social reality, it is a faith-based point of view fundamentally incompatible with the rights of various groups, namely women as a sex, homosexual people, and people with intersex conditions.
Fighting the New Homophobia
We hear narratives about people knowing within themselves that they were actually “the opposite sex,” ever since they were children. When asked how they arrived at this idea that “their minds did not match their bodies,” they provide a typical response itself rooted in sex stereotyping males and females. They tell us how their gendered patterns of behavior differed from the typical patterns of behavior expected of their respective sexes observed at birth. Therefore, because of their sense of alienation, simply caused by them being different from others, they medically transitioned. Lesbian girls and gay boys feel this self-alienation, as we will see revealed to us, although the transgender rights activists will not admit to the truth of it, as the admission would expose their falsehoods.
At the same time, however, these storytellers also strategically downplay the implications of their own presumptions about their “gendered minds” being “wrong” for their sexed bodies. To some degree, their narratives collectively imply that they believed, or even possibly still believe, that the way in which they acted as children was “improper” for their respective sexed bodies observed at birth. Or, at least, perhaps, their response in transitioning, instead of learning to love their own bodies, indicates that they internalized the view of others around them who led them to feel “wrong” living in their own sexed bodies.
Regardless, the activists consistently refuse to self-reflect critically upon how the idea of being “born in the wrong body,” which they treat as sacred like scripture, can impact gender-nonconforming people in negative ways. Nor, in their religious fanaticism, do these same activists wish to consider the fundamental incompatibility between the “born this way” narrative for lesbian girls and gay boys and the “born in the wrong body” narrative for “trans kids.”
Back in October 2019, I wrote a piece, titled “Do We Truly See Her?,” about how experiences of homophobia can engender symptoms associated with “gender dysphoria.” Inspired by critical observations made by Julia Diana Robertson, in my piece I likewise discussed the case of Jaah Kelly, who, when she was younger, felt like she could not like other girls unless she was a boy. As also seen in that essay, I quoted Jaah, who said, at the age of 14: “I believe I am a boy and want surgery and the medication to help me be who I was supposed to be.”
Fortunately, Jaah later realized, by the age of 18, that she was simply a gender nonconforming lesbian rather than a “transgender man.” But the simple idea of being seen by others as a “straight man,” as opposed to being seen, in a far less favorable way, as a “butch” lesbian or a “dyke,” seemed attractive to Jaah in her early teenage years. This idealizing of “straight manhood” perhaps arose from Jaah’s internalized misogyny and internalized homophobia, connected to her being both female and homosexual.
Apparently, the activists do not like thinking that plenty of lesbian girls and gay boys behave in observably gender-nonconforming ways. The behavior of lesbian girls and gay boys alone makes them potential, profitable targets for social and medical transitioning. Plenty of these young people feel uncomfortable living in their own bodies, primarily as a function of the homophobia that they experience in everyday life.
Perhaps, even more so than gay boys, lesbian girls, being both female and lesbian, feel doubly uncomfortable living in their own bodies as a function of both sexism and homophobia, because their oppression happens, at least, at the axes of both sex and sexuality. I argue that, because lesbian girls and gay boys find themselves being funneled into medical transitioning, “transgenderism” functions as a postmodern medical eugenics movement against homosexuality.
Do We Truly See Them?
No activist who truly knows how sexism and homophobia function as systems, not reducing them to isolated acts of discrimination, would underestimate their systemic, social impact on the psyches of children. Yet, it appears that numerous so-called “progressives” misjudge the psychological aftermath of sexist and homophobic conditioning, ignoring all evidence presented to them. Their profound failure to protect the lives of lesbian girls and gay boys makes them complicit in this so-called “progress,” effectively undermining the human rights of multiple vulnerable groups in the name of “trans rights.”
Transgender rights activists generally seem to assume that various industries would never seek to swallow a pretty profit on children’s pain by abusing and exploiting the existing lack of regulations. It is, to put it mildly, a most queer ignorance foundational to the invention of “trans kids.” We already know that industries abuse and exploit desperate and vulnerable people. It all amounts to medical experiments being performed on people, mostly youth, who find themselves buying into the idea that artificial hormones and cosmetic surgeries can bring them new bodies and make their lives much better.
Activists prefer not addressing what happens when, particularly for young people, “buying a new body” does not work as initially advertised to them. We could refer to various cases similar to those of desisted and detransitioned females like Sydney Wright, Keira Bell, Chiara Canaan, and Debbie Karemer. Or, we might refer to the Pique Resilience Project. Or, we could look at cases covered by The Kelsey Coalition. For more firsthand accounts, we could read responses on the Detransition Subreddit. Evidence upon evidence amasses before our eyes. Among the activists, far too many actors now appear to be playing blind. Soon, the sheer depth of disillusionment will shatter the façade of fallacies, which has, for so long, privileged silence in the place of sound. Then, it will become seemingly impossible, if not utterly cruel and deeply inhumane, to ignore this reality of suffering anymore, as has been done so strategically for quite some time now.
Transgender rights activists, however, persistently ignore the harms caused by their own ideology, preferring not to claim responsibility for their sexism and homophobia. They refuse to acknowledge all the lives ruined by their repeated lies. Still alive, surviving, the refugees from this postmodern cult of “gender identity” threaten the integrity of this entire so-called “civil rights” movement, queerly supported by multiple corporations and industries. Ideologically, since the beginning, it has been more about the profit to be made than about the people to be saved.
These activists emphasize the individual socially and medically transitioning as a means of accessing what they refer to as “the authentic self,” which, ironically, they typically access exclusively through artificial cross-sex hormones and invasive cosmetic surgeries. Their rhetoric about “gender dysphoria” engages in the most extreme psychological reductionism, almost entirely negating the social to the overemphasis upon the individual. Such framing separates “gender dysphoria,” as an experience of the self, from the social circumstances under which the dissociation between the mind and the body becomes engendered.
While it does indeed prove helpful to analyze individual experiences, to see how one person’s life course differs from another, it also can be significantly harmful to treat those very same experiences as if somehow themselves impossible to see as interconnected to society and culture. Activists neglect seeing “gender dysphoria” as not only an individual experience but also a social phenomenon. We must ask ourselves, then, if “gender dysphoria” should be taken for granted, as if inborn and innate, or if its origin or causation arises from the complicated relation between self and society. As I have said, this inquiry, interdisciplinary in its methodology, necessitates multiple fields of study, including not only biology but also psychology, and sociology, among other disciplines.
Sex Stereotype Disorientation
When interviewed by Benjamin A. Boyce in a YouTube video titled “A Life in Transition,” on July 9, 2019, the transsexual activist Miranda Yardley discussed what transsexualism and transitioning have meant to him. Significantly, Yardley does not argue that males can become “female” or that females can become “male”; rather, he recognizes that transsexual people, observed either male or female at birth, modify their original sex characteristics to approximate an appearance akin to that of the opposite sex. This sexual approximation, whatever the reason, can be helpful for the individual transsexual person, usually as an attempt to lessen the mental distress that arises from the aforementioned alienation between the mind and the body. To Yardley, whether in social or medical terms, however, transsexual people do not transition from one sex to the other. Toward the beginning of the dialogue, Boyce asked Yardley to describe “gender dysphoria,” with him then reflecting that he did not think “‘gender dysphoria’ itself is a discrete condition,” that it is not “something that exists as a standalone.”
Yardley then added that the typical manifestations of “gender dysphoria,” at least what most clinicians likely see in both children and adults, appears as exhibited “obsessive behavior and depression,” conditions mentioned specifically. One could also add anxiety about social interactions to the combination, which would coincide with obsessive behavior in relation to the presentation of the self as one wishes to be perceived socially among others. Experienced as persistent tension within the self, depression would then arise as a function of one’s inability to achieve external validation of the self in the way that one initially desires to achieve and subsequently finds unfulfilled. The mental representation of the self as “man” or “woman,” which is internal rather than external, clashes with the “masculine” or “feminine” social expectations externally imposed upon the self on the basis of sex. One’s sex, whatever the circumstances of discomfort one feels, remains unchanged, in any case.
When interviewed by Dave Rubin on The Rubin Report in 2018, sexologist Dr. Debra Soh talked about the increase in non-masculine male and non-feminine female children being given the idea that their gender-nonconforming behavior somehow makes them, in fact, “the opposite sex.” Soh reflected:
“[…] I was seeing piece after piece about transgender kids and how young children were socially transitioning, getting on pubertal blockers, and the media was basically saying that this is the greatest thing, that this is something we should rejoice about, that these kids are so much better off after. But, from a scientific perspective, the research actually shows that the majority of kids who are gender dysphoric actually outgrow their feelings. They’re more likely to grow up and be gay [or lesbian]in adulthood, not transgender, so it makes sense for them to wait, not for them to socially transition at a young age.”
As Soh has revealed elsewhere in her work, it becomes dishonest and damaging to present social and medical transitioning as the only reasonable solution for young people seen with symptoms of “gender dysphoria.” Informed by scientific research, this point of view should not be falsely painted as “transphobia” or as if somehow an expression of “hatred” for “trans kids.” On the contrary, our actual concerns, in fact, should be about the current failure on our part to ensure best practices for gender-nonconforming youth potentially misled down the path of social and medical transitioning. From Yardley’s own research and activism, he, much like Soh, observed:
“You can see very clearly when you look at the stories and the narratives that are given by parents and by gender dysphoric children about these children, you can see that behavior that’s coded as being appropriate to the opposite sex is being interpreted as if those children are, on some level, the opposite sex in spite of their bodies. And we are put into this situation where we have a transgender movement that is itself defined upon social stereotypes and social convention.”
Confronted with this current social phenomenon, which is not purely psychological in nature, it should be altogether reasonable for us all to discuss the differences between sex and “gender” and why these concepts must be differentiated in both legal and medical terms. As such, it will prove most beneficial for us all to reorient future studies in sex and “gender” with empiricism in mind, that way we can focus on how lived experience in society informs ideas about the self. This methodology would be defined by knowledge derived from concrete experiences and observations, not merely statements rooted in abstract theories about identity detached from self-development in society.
“Gender dysphoria,” as a term, merely applies to any set of observed symptoms involving discomfort for a person who finds culturally prescribed standards of gender uncomfortable. Gender refers to “sex stereotypes,” while dysphoria, after all, refers to “disorientation.” We could instead refer to “gender dysphoria” as sex stereotype disorientation (SSD). This term, as conceptualized here, could potentially clarify more than obscure the relation of alienation between self and society central to the engendering of the psychosocial condition itself.
Sex stereotype disorientation (SSD), as a term, brings back into our focus the relationships among a few key factors: (1) the observed and/or recorded sex of the human body, based on biological and physiological sex traits present at birth; (2) the masculine or feminine stereotypes socially and culturally associated with that sexed body, whether it be either male-sexed or female-sexed; and (3) the disorientation caused primarily by the external, culturally gendered expectations imposed upon our differently sexed, human bodies. Such pressures from the outside invariably impact the internal development of one’s self-concept. The name of the condition “gender dysphoria” very well could be changed, once again, since it has been changed before from “gender identity disorder” (GID). To the detriment of the patients, current clinical approaches, unassisted by the present terminology, neglect critical thought to the psychosexual and psychosocial factors at play in why alienation occurs between the mind and the body. Applied in place of “gender dysphoria,” sex stereotype disorientation could change the trajectory of public discourses on women’s rights, lesbian and gay rights, intersex rights, and transsexual rights.
Whether an individual observed either male or female at birth prefers “masculine” or “feminine” activities and behaviors, that individual, with careful regard to the boundaries of others, must be free to express the self. Voices critical of gender, as we all should be, find it troubling that activists now treat an individual’s psychological sense of “gender identity” as the determining factor for that person’s biological and physiological bodily sex. It seems beyond ridiculous to see social and cultural sex stereotypes as being interchangeable with biological and physiological sex traits. As we see, non-masculine male children and non-feminine female children find themselves presently confronted with the profoundly absurd idea that they might be truly “the opposite sex.” This sense of “the authentic self” depends on a dualism, medically institutionalizing a split between “the gendered mind” and the sexed body. We should question the ethics of giving hormones and surgeries to gender-nonconforming male and female youth for them “failing” to be masculine enough males and feminine enough females in their external presentations of the self in everyday life. In this way, the roots of diagnosing “gender dysphoria” involve a medicalized reinforcement of the very same “gender binary” against which transgender rights activists claim to rebel, themselves numbed in their narcissism to the irony of it all.
Above all else, sex matters more than gender, for sex is the matter, quite simply, which is what we have known from the start, even before “gender identity” became the queerly enforced order of things. “Gender identity” has subordinated sex and sexuality to an authoritarianism of abstraction, affirming dualism and diagnosing alienation—in the process, waging war against the sex-based rights of women as a sex class, homosexual people, and intersex people. Sex must be situated as central to our studies as we work toward undoing the damage caused by “gender identity” as a concept. If we truly love our children, which I hope that we all do, then we should teach them to love their bodies as themselves.
Donovan Cleckley holds a BA in English and Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Montevallo and is completing an MA in English at Tulane University. His research focuses on sexual politics and the history of the global women’s movement. Learn more about his work at donovan-k-cleckley.com.