More questions for ‘TERFs,’ answered

This is the remainder of the questions for ‘TERFs’ that I began answering here.

From what I have read, you seem to believe the following about gender dysphoria:
Gender dysphoria is caused by internalized gender stereotypes and norms, often combined with homophobia.

(a) Is this an accurate representation of your beliefs?

(b) If so, do you believe it applies in all cases? Why (not)?

I think that in many cases people believe they are the opposite sex because of internalized gender stereotypes and homophobia. The reason I believe this is because trans people display it all the time. There is an endless supply of articles and videos where people say they knew they were trans because they liked things that are stereotypically associated with the opposite sex. In fact, even the DSM lists sex stereotypes in the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria. If these are the reasons people keep giving for being trans, then this is what people are going to assume.

However, not all trans people have internalized sexism and homophobia. There are lots of different reasons for being trans and these are only two of them. There are tons of teenagers identifying as trans now, and some of them have other conditions such as autism and PTSD. MtF transitioners often have autogynephilia.

Most of the people who responded to my “questions for FtMs” post did not display any signs of sexism or homophobia. I have been learning from what they wrote and they have explained sex dysphoria really well. This has been leading me to realize some important things, which I want to explain in a post of its own, but I will introduce it here.

The respondents to my questions didn’t talk about being uncomfortable with a feminine role, but with their physical bodies. At least one of them mentioned their dysphoria being a neurological condition. This is very different from what we keep seeing in the media—this is actual sex dysphoria. What we keep seeing in the media is people who provide a list of silly sex stereotypes as proof they were trans, and who don’t necessarily feel uncomfortable with their sex organs. I’m starting to see that we need to differentiate between gender dysphoria and sex dysphoria, and I’ll explain that further in another post.

I am open to believing that some people can have a neurological condition that causes them to feel a disconnect from their bodies that is not rooted in cognitive or cultural causes. However, I think this is really rare, and it’s a medical condition, not an identity. This is a really complex conversation that will require a post of its own another day.

c) What do you think about trans people who do not conform to gender stereotypes about the gender they wish to transition to or have transitioned to?

Generally, I think it’s fine for people to express their personalities at any time, so even if someone transitions, it’s still fine for them to express their personality. People should feel free to be any kind of man or woman they want to be, as long as they’re not hurting anybody.

In some particular cases, I might call bullshit to someone transitioning even though they are comfortable with their sex organs and their gender role. Take Fallon Fox for example. He claims to be a woman but he behaves exactly like any violent male. If he actually had sex dysphoria, he wouldn’t be a father, because a male who feels hatred and revulsion for his genitals wouldn’t use them to impregnante a woman and become a father. He is a violent misogynist, which means he is comfortable with the gender role of masculinity, which is the role assigned to him based on his sex. He has absolutely no claim to either femaleness nor femininity. In a case where someone supposedly “transitions” but maintains most of the qualities of their birth sex and assigned gender role, I call bullshit.

I can think of someone who transitioned who is a nonconforming member of their desired sex who I definitely support, and that is trans man Chase. Chase is FtM and is rather effeminate like a gay man, and that’s totally fine with me. I find Chase adorable actually. As with anything in life, it depends on the individual situation, but as a general rule, trans people, like anybody else, should feel free to disregard gender roles and be themselves.

II) Gender dysphoria can be cured by working on finding, dismantling and unlearning these internalized beliefs.

This is where we have to distinguish between sex and gender again, so that we can distinguish between sex dysphoria and gender dysphoria.

Sex is whether you are biologically male or female, and gender is the behaviors, mannerisms and appearance that signify your sex in a social situation. Dysphoria is a feeling of intense discomfort.

So if someone has gender dysphoria, then presumably they are uncomfortable with the behaviors, mannerisms and appearance that people expect from them based on their sex. If someone has sex dysphoria, then presumably they feel an automatic sense of revulsion toward their sexual organs.

The “cure” for these conditions is very, very different. What gender critical feminists are constantly saying is that if you are uncomfortable with societal expectations about what clothing you should wear and how you should behave, that is a cultural problem and it doesn’t require changing your body. The people who have sexist expectations of you should be disregarded, and if possible, told to fuck right off. However, if you have a neurological condition that is causing you to not identify with the person you see in the mirror, that is more of a medical problem rather than a cultural or cognitive problem. I don’t think we even have a cure for that, which is why transition is the best solution we’ve come up with so far.

Unlearning internalized sexism and homophobia is the cure only for those people who believe they should be the opposite sex because they identify with the stereotypical behaviors and appearance of the opposite sex. We’re seeing a lot of those people lately, but that’s not everybody.

III) This (II) is preferable to transitioning.

In cases where someone’s desire for transition is based on internalized sexism and homophobia, working this out in therapy is preferable to transition. These are the people who, if they do transition, often end up detransitioning a few years later.

d) Do you believe that that transitioning and dismantling internalized gender stereotypes/homophobia are mutually exclusive, or that transitioning is detrimental to the latter?

It’s different for everybody, and these things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Some of the people who we’re hearing from who are detransitioning understood their situation much better after they began transitioning and realized it wasn’t helping. Going through that experience gave them more perspective and understanding of their motivations. So in some cases, transition might actually help with dismantling internalized gender stereotypes/homophobia. As much as possible, people should take the time to explore these things before beginning transition.

For other people, transition might be a coping strategy that helps them avoid dealing with underlying cognitive issues. It depends on the person.

e) Some (or even many) trans people express high satisfaction with their decision to transition. What do you think about that?

Of course some of them do. If people want to transition, and then they do, they’re going to be happy about it. When you get what you want, you’re happy. However, some people remain dysphoric after transition, and some of them detransition. So it’s not everybody who is happy. Also, we don’t have much information about trans people 10 + years after transition, a lot of our information is short term. There have been people who transition and are happy for 10 years and then become unhappy after that. We need more research on that.

IV) Gender non-conforming people are pushed into transitioning.

Yeah, a lot of them are. Some lesbians get people asking them when they’re going to transition and calling them by neutral or male pronouns even though they are women. A lot of trans kids are being transitioned by their parents because they are playing with the wrong toys.

b) Some (or even many) trans people claim that this was not the case for them, and often even that – in contrast – their environment strongly pushed them to remain in their assigned gender. What do you think about that?

People probably pushed them not to transition because they knew it wasn’t right. Family members care about them and don’t want them to make drastic changes to their bodies and become life-long medical patients who may never actually pass as the opposite sex.  If someone is in a lot of pain and they are fixated on the idea that transition will solve their problems, they’ll do it at any cost, even if it means going against their family’s wishes.

Thanks for the questions, Skepto!

15 thoughts on “More questions for ‘TERFs,’ answered

  1. Really great post! I love it how you answer the questions so clearly and analytically. 🙂

    One comment: about those people who don’t identify with who they see in the mirror: I also see it as a plausible theory when some trans people say it’s probably a neurological condition (inborn even), but for many people it seems to have other reasons.

    Some female detransitioners mention how their experience is comparable to eating disorders; likely caused by constant sexualization and other vicious social forces causing them to hate their bodies.

    It may be similar for some males too, being influenced by masculine ideals and coming to hate their genitals because of what they symbolize, or because they see them as inadequate and would rather see them gone. Though this is just conjecture, regarding the males; I haven’t read such things by male detransitioners themselves so far.

    Keep up the good work. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think an important part of this conversation needs to be an understanding of trauma response. Essentially every FtM transitioner I have known (and *Every* *Last* detransitioner I have known) has survived sexual trauma. Many have complex PTSD. One of the things I learned as I tried to sort myself out is that it is extremely common for people who have survived trauma to experience a feeling of disconnect from their own bodies. Dissociation is also a common symptom of depression and I used to rationalize to myself that it couldn’t be a trauma symptom because what i went through “wasn’t that bad”.

    I think most women try to tell ourselves that what happens to us isn’t that bad, because if it really is that bad, why does nobody ever step in to stop it? Why do girls still face overwhelming sexual attention from grown men? Why is this considered normal? So we try to tell ourselves to stop being so dramatic over such a little thing. I’ve heard a woman who was literally trafficked as a child have to remind herself that she is entitled to be angry over that and that she will not minimize what happened to make others more comfortable.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I would be very careful in insinuating “sex dysphoria” is a “neurological condition” that is “medical” and “gender dysphoria” is not. As far as my reading has taken me, gender dysphoria is the only “official” term for what causes people to want to transition, and “sex dysphoria” has been promoted as the “next level” to somehow define “true trans” people as separate from those just wanting to identify out of gender roles, be special snowflakes, or fetishize femininity.

    In my own experience, in the personal narrative told to me by the transwoman I was friends with, and in many detransitioner’s accounts I’ve read, the disgust at one’s own genitals and physical sexual characteristics was a psychological extension of the self-loathing stemming from oppressive gender roles and/or abuse and trauma. I was horrified reading my friend’s accounts of her father always belittling her for being effeminate as a boy, how he always celebrated her more masculine brother, etc. This manifested in childhood dreams where her male genitals would be mutilated and removed. It was very deep-seated, very subconscious and visceral, and I do think certainly relieved by SRS, but I honestly don’t think it was a medical, neurological condition that would have appeared without the abuse from her environment and her father.

    I guess one could say that anxiety or depression caused by trauma and alleviated by anti-depressant drugs is also neurological, even if psychotherapy is an alternative treatment. After all there are definitely changes in brain chemistry, and I do think some brains are more vulnerable than others. But I think it’s a dangerous area to say, “People who hate their genitals have a neurological condition that requires medical treatment” separate from the growing popularity of the “identify out of your gender” narrative. One thing has a terrible way of leading into the other, and I don’t think the oppression of gender roles, especially in regards to homosexual people already oppressed by homophobia, can be divorced from the manifestation of hatred of physical sexual characteristics that leads to transition.

    My apologies if I misunderstood or misread. It’s kind of on my mind in regards to a blog I keep trying to write.

    Liked by 3 people

    • One thing to keep in mind is that the mind and body are not separate, that they change each other, so trying to sort out what is physical vs. mental is something of an arbitrary distinction.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This blog is excellent anyway, in its balanced and rational approach to the topic it treats. The two contributions on trans are particularly interesting, even helpful, because so much nonsense is spouted about it. I found the distinction between sex and gender dysphoria very useful but was also persuaded to caution by some of the comments. Evidence of trauma, homophobia or autogynephilia support the notion that that neuronal patterns are involved. Unfortunately, some people have taken this to mean ‘brain sex’ which neatly fits into gender norm templates. We need to keep asking questions and we need to protect women’s safe spaces.


  5. First off, I was not expecting you to take the submissions you received at face value so quickly, and it’s a wonderful surprise that you did. Thank you for that, sincerely. I’ve written and rewritten this comment a few times, and if I regularly have this large a response to your posts I might have to make my own blog. I’m streamlining a great deal of my thoughts here, possibly too much.

    – I’m starting to see that we need to differentiate between gender dysphoria and sex dysphoria

    The trans community has been trying to figure this one out for about as long as it’s been a community. Look up Harry Benjamin Syndrome for an older, trans women centered version, or transmedicalist for a newer, trans men centered version. There are lots of people who refuse to call themselves transgender, insisting that it’s not accurate and we should have never moved away from transsexual.

    Most of the arguing comes down to the questions “Who is trans? Who isn’t? What is dysphoria?” There are more, and less, nuanced arguments for any of the above questions. I’m trying to avoid writing another novel in your comments section, but trust me, a lot of ink has been spilled over the sex/gender divide within the community, and if you are only looking at the mainstream media you won’t find it. (heck, I will send you links, if you are interested!)

    – However, I think this is really rare, and it’s a medical condition, not an identity.

    Last estimate I saw was 0.5% of the population, similar to other intersex conditions. That’s still about a million and half people in the US alone. It’s also a condition causes you to rethink everything you knew about yourself since birth and sets you apart from the rest of the population. Leaving aside how closely it’s associated with the LGB community, that’s exactly the sort of thing that would be a large part of your identity.

    – There are tons of teenagers identifying as trans now, and some of them have other conditions such as autism and PTSD. MtF transitioners often have autogynephilia.

    There’s been quite a bit of research into the autism-dysphoria link, and it’s all very exploratory because neither condition is well understood, but there seems to be a correlation between them. I know that anecdotes are not data, but my boyfriend is autistic and very, very clearly has sex dysphoria. It’s something that can and dose occur together.

    Autogynephilia is a pretty common manifestation of dysphoria. Most of the trans men I’ve talked to wondered if they had the ‘female version’ of it while they were trying to figure themselves out (including me!). It has a loose definition and can be other things, but it’s hardly a disqualifier from being trans.

    I will agree with you that PTSD and trauma can mimic some dysphoria symptoms, and that’s something therapists should look out for.

    – What we keep seeing in the media is people who provide a list of silly sex stereotypes as proof they were trans – He claims to be a woman but he behaves exactly like any violent male.

    Gender dysphoria is a hard thing to talk about at the best of times, and editing is magic. We are in the midst of a culture war about gender and how far people are allowed to stray from it, and “changing your entire body to the opposite sex and living as one of them” is pretty damn far. The conservative faction has also learned that “predatory feminine men” are a great way to pull in revenue and get out of the vote. This exact rhetoric is why I’m effectively banned from the state of North Carolina.

    If you take all this together, is it really surprising that the focus is on transgressing gender norms rather than “strange neurological condition”? (we also have really different definitions of misogyny and abuse, but that’s a large issue with radical feminism)

    – As much as possible, people should take the time to explore these things before beginning transition.

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this, and I wish I knew a way that it could be encouraged without doing more harm than good. Talking with the therapist I sought out who specialized in helping trans people was flat out the most useful and healing therapy I’ve ever had, and generally restored my faith in the profession. However, the first three months were a waste of everybody’s time, because I knew that I had to go through her to access treatment, and I wasn’t willing to mess that up. Thankfully, I leveled with her about this, and she wrote me a letter for T and surgery that day. I took it home, put it in a drawer, and kept going to therapy for another year.

    You can’t build a therapeutic alliance if it’s an adversarial relationship, and without other diagnostic criteria, informed consent really looks like the best we’ve got.

    – However, some people remain dysphoric after transition, and some of them detransition – we don’t have much information about trans people 10 + years after transition – Some lesbians get people asking them when they’re going to transition and calling them by neutral or male pronouns even though they are women – trans kids are being transitioned by their parents because they are playing with the wrong toys

    So I don’t come off as completely adversarial, yeah all this is terrible. Particularly misgendering GNC women. I suspect a few cases of “the wrong toys” are being sensationalized, but if that is really happening it’s deeply misguided. I’m optimistic about the research currently being done, but we just aren’t going to know until it’s actually complete.

    – People probably pushed them not to transition because they knew it wasn’t right.

    I have to hope this happens sometimes, but I’ve never heard of it. I’ve talked to a decent amount of cis glb people and trans people about their coming out experience, and (if the reaction is negative) they all seem pretty similar. “You are defying my expectations and rejecting my values, how dare you!” with a dash of “You are clearly mistaken/brainwashed by the media!” is what it boils down too.

    I had to trim a lot out of this comment for brevities sake, it still feels very long and like I left out half my thoughts. Thank you for hosting this discussion, and making the discourse norms of this blog so welcoming.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Second response and follow-up questions – Omphaloskeptomai

  7. In the current political climate I am trying very hard to dismantle my own beliefs because I believe it is the only way we can move forward and understand each other. So much of what people say today is based on gut instinct and emotion, not logic. I’m hoping that by commenting I can further my understanding of your beliefs and my own. Please do comment!

    My visceral reaction to your article is that you are denying the reality of millions of people. However I wholeheartedly support your assertions that oppressive gender stereotypes should be combated (I am a strong woman who competed in a male dominant sport and have come up against this discrimination endlessly). I am trying to understand what it is you are most afraid of: is it someone telling you that the only thing making you female is a superficial construct, and therefore denying your own identity?

    I wonder if there is a better way to support all people in expressing themselves, however that is, without denying their current experience (it seems so reminiscent of people denying same sex love as true love). Society needs more love! Is there a way to work to deconstruct gender stereotypes with love? Instead of telling little MtF kids that they are wrong and they are actually a boy and boys can like barbies too , maybe we could tell them they are allowed to like barbies whether they are a boy or girl and we will love them no matter what?


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