Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure to attend and speak at Genspect’s The Bigger Picture conference in Killarney, Ireland. It was truly an amazing three days. This is the rough text of the talk I gave about trans identity and doubt. In many ways, trans and the Internet have grown up together. From the 1980s on, the Internet has been a prime site for gender exploration and it’s easy to understand why. The Internet connects us across great distances, links us with strangers who share our unusual interests, and allows us a level of information control that doesn’t exist offline. Online, you really are who you say you are, in the way you never can be in what some of us still think of as ‘the real world.’
I came here to comment, “this should be mandatory reading for every doctor, therapist, or any other professional involved in transitioning people.” But then I wondered, “I what if most of the professionals have also been trained to think this way?” What if reading all the doubts and convoluted thinking people are really having - in contrast to the certainty and confidence they portray when they come into their offices and that they tell the world in their public online personas - would instead of giving them a more honest picture of what’s really going on and cause them to pause and rethink their approach, cause them to dig in even more and feel it’s their duty to also treat the “imposter syndrome,” “intrusive thoughts,” and “internalized transphobia” while also inspiring them to increase their own “work” on banishing any doubts or concerns about all this that they may have? Are we already seeing this?
What happens when differential diagnosis is not allowed by anyone ? It’s not even an unwritten rule. It’s spoken out loud clearly and policed harshly. It’s not a bug in the system, it’s an open and enforced feature.
Doubt, as I see it, is a constant for those ideating an opposite sex persona, taking on new names and proto-pronouns. Doubt and the disconnect between the 2 dimensional chimera onscreen and 3 dimensional, living and breathing reality, are the divergent threads connecting coy mirror-gazing in the former and the enraged behavior we see when ideations are challenged with gender critical logic. I respond as both a retired Kindergarten teacher with 2 and a half decades of work in the classroom as well as a trans widow, who divorced an otherwise likable striver when his secret crossdressing life burst apart our little family. Neddy (my pen name for him) was all over the place, hiding the big chef's knife "from myself" in places where our one year old discovered it and the next day declaring he'd work intelligence in the military. He'd experienced physical abuse in early childhood. His father likely had OCD, or was on the autism spectrum, undiagnosed back in the 1950s. The "gender unicorn" demonstrates body dissociation and illogic, posing as a children's guide to cross-sex ideation. There is no real world there. Our brains actually want our bodies to stay intact. "Genderbread man" and the Barney-impersonator unicorn were invented by high schoolers paid with Arcus Foundation money. No one should be passing that worksheet out in the classroom, ever. Doubt is, always was and always will be part of the ideating life, until detransition commences.
Thank you for this thoughtful treatment of the fiction of 'trans' and those trying to navigate its pernicious 'siren song.' Specifically concerning the demographic of lesbians and gays who get sucked into the 'trans' cult I am both infuriated and saddened that it happens--that it is allowed to happen. I reference those who 'gay convert' themselves by submitting to the construction of a mutilated 'heterosexuality' when instead they could have remained their truly authentic selves as whole and healthy same-sex attracted people w/ whatever 'masculine' or 'feminine' traits they had. My hope is that more LGs will stop being gaslighted and will listen to their doubts about the 'gender identity' 'trans' absurdity that they were 'born wrong' and need to be fixed. And I hope they can find LGs who will support them in being their genuine selves. And for the lesbians specifically, find a supportive lesbian community that will keep the pervy and predatory, male, heterosexual, cross-dresser sexual fetishists out of the community.
It seems like "imposter syndrome" is inevitable when the standards you're trying to live up to are impossible. Patriarchal and capitalistic standards are unattainable by design so that the majority of people never quite feel good enough and remain willing to do almost anything to be "good enough".
The inversion of doubt being a sign of certainty - reminds me a lot of stories of cult survivors . They would be able to ask questions or express doubts when first enrolled in the group, and then receive intense love bombing or intense sessions of criticism/ self-criticism. ( source: Jana Lalich , Bounded Choice) new survivor described it as having her head spun around and fixed backwards.
To try to do something which is impossible is always a corrupting enterprise. Philosopher Michael Oakeshott
Thanks Eliza for this and your thoughts and research. I have had imposter syndrome regarding my career but had not heard "imposters don't get imposter syndrome." I is amazing what one simple adjustment in thinking can do.
I would like to ask the doctor who made the comment about not requiring therapy for insulin; 1. How good is your logic? and 2. If a person with Anorexia tells you her body image is "fat," do you put her on a strict low calorie low carb diet so you can be in sync with her feelings, or do you tell her to get therapy? A doctor who prescribes based only on self diagnosis would be out of business in short order.
I sell investment advice. People's feelings or how they see themselves financially usually has no connection to reality. If I just stopped when someone said they are afraid of the stock market, I would help no one.
Part of me wonders if trans ideology isn't just a bizarre, sneaky ploy by Mother Nature to reduce the human population (which has doubled in my lifetime!)
It is normal for growing kids to question ideas of sex and gender as a way to define themselves and their place in the world. The problem now is there's a cult exploiting those normal questions and twisting them, selling them back to the kids as "gender dysphoria" then offering transition as a solution to all their problems. If a child is unhappy or mentally ill, this becomes the answer to their unhappiness. One of the people quoted above said being unhappy for no reason didn't make sense - no, it's depression, or mental illness, or sometimes just fluctuating hormones that make you grow. The reason is often physical though the expression is emotional or behavioral. This is why a thorough physical and psychological evaluation should be required before transition is considered, but that isn't happening in the US - kids go for one doctor's appointment and leave with a prescription. That's malpractice and ought to be prosecuted as such. This is going to be a huge medical scandal. The first lawsuits are in the works now, and there will be many to follow.
Hi Eliza. I just came across this essay, you may find it useful https://open.substack.com/pub/wesleyyang/p/autogynephilia-and-the-sexualization