Recommended, Science, Women

I May Have Gender Dysphoria. But I Still Prefer to Base My Life on Biology, Not Fantasy

Feelings and opinions have displaced facts and evidence in many areas of the liberal arts. This is nothing new. A more recent phenomenon, however, is the extension of this trend into the realm of biology, which has fallen victim to the idea that men can become women—and vice versa—merely by reciting a statement of belief. It is an insidious movement that combines the postmodern contempt for objective truth with pre-modern religious superstitions regarding the nature of the human soul.

The subordination of science to myth was exemplified in the recent British case of Maya Forstater, who’d lost her job after pointing out the plain truth that transgender people like me cannot change our biological sex by proclamation. “I conclude from…the totality of the evidence, that [Forstater] is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate,” concluded Judge James Tayler at her employment tribunal. “The approach is not worthy of respect in a democratic society.”

I’m not sure where that leaves me, a British transgender person who agrees with Forstater. As I know better than most, sex is immutable. I may have transitioned socially, medically and surgically, but I am as male now as I was the day I was born (and the days I fathered each of my three children). As a scientist, I know this to be a fact. It’s Judge Tayler who’s the absolutist here: Under the guise of tolerance, he’s put the force of law behind a cultish movement that treats biological reality in much the same way that the Catholic Church once treated Galileo and his heliocentric ideas. Just like its medieval forbears, this neo-religious crusade demands that adherents chant an absurdist liturgy—in this case, “Transwomen are women. Transmen are men.”

In July 2019, before the Forstater controversy broke, I made up a t-shirt with my own slogan: “Transwomen are men. Get over it.” It caused considerable outrage. But my question was sincere: Why can’t we, as trans people, just get over it? It’s merely another political slogan. What does it matter if we are men or women in some technical sense, so long as we can live our lives in peace, free from abuse, harassment and discrimination?

In recent months, I have been accused of hate speech and reported to my professional colleagues, while newspaper reports suggest that I am at risk of being banned from an LGBT committee connected to my trade union.

By now, many readers will be familiar with the basic elements of the officially enforced system of dogma that sometimes is referred to as “gender ideology,” and which is now legally encoded in many jurisdictions under the policy known as “self-identification” or “self-declaration”:

  • We all have an innate gender identity—analogous to the divine spark that religious adherents claim is lodged within us—which determines whether we are a man, a woman or non-binary;
  • A (possibly incorrect) gender is arbitrarily assigned to us at birth based on the appearance of our genitals;
  • Our true gender is determined through an unerring process of inward examination, and, once articulated, can never be falsified or even questioned by anyone else;
  • Any human adult who says “I am a woman” must be treated as if they were a biological woman, full stop, which requires their admission into vulnerable female spaces—including, but not limited to, shared prison cells, rape-crisis centres, locker rooms and sporting events; and
  • Opposition to any of the above-stated propositions amounts to transphobia, one of the worst kinds of hate crime.

The most obvious problem with gender ideology is that it is entirely circular. It’s like defining an airline pilot as someone who just has that indescribable “feeling” of being an airline pilot. When Massachusetts legislators tried to nail down the idea of gender identity in legislation, for instance, the best they could come up with was “a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.”

Debbie Hayton

Moreover, when people begin trying to get around this circularity by actually detailing what it means to “feel like” a woman, they typically just catalogue a bunch of sexist stereotypes about how they always liked the idea of wearing dresses and maybe played with dolls as a child.

Yes, gender dysphoria is a real condition. I know, because I have it: the feeling that my male biology is at odds with my desire to have a female body. But I don’t have to invent some mystical spiritual force called gender identity to explain it.

Just as there is no single cause of chest pain or headaches, there doesn’t need to be a single cause of gender dysphoria. But there is a well-observed typology. In the 1980s, American-Canadian sexologist Ray Blanchard proposed that transsexualism (as it was then commonly called) in males generally manifested as either (1) effeminate gay men seeking to further accentuate their appeal to other men (homosexual transsexualism, or HSTS); or (2) heterosexual autogynephiles—self-attracted men who prefer to conceive of themselves as women—who typically come out as trans women later in life (and often to the great surprise of family and friends). The most vocal and aggressive proponents of trans rights—biological males who often will express themselves aggressively to women who bring up the issue of biology—appear to be drawn disproportionately from this second, autogynephilic category.

Transsexualism in females appears to be substantially different, and more rooted in socially propagated factors, as suggested by the recent vast increase in the number of teenage girls being referred to gender-identity clinics (sometimes originating in self-reinforcing clusters of friends or classmates). As former Tavistock governor Marcus Evans recently wrote in Quillette, this is the first time in recorded clinical practice that females outnumbered males in this treatment area. Moreover, the girls who present as transgender are now disproportionately autistic, and affected with other developmental and mental-health conditions—which is consistent with the observation that many adolescent trans children aren’t driven by some mysterious gendered force field.

And yet, reporting on these facts in the scientific literature remains difficult. Lisa Littman of Brown University—who first published on the phenomenon now known as Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (or ROGD)—has been denounced as a transphobe, and concerted attempts were made to smear her research. Scientists in the field note that it is relatively easy to get a study published if it supports the idea of “affirming” a child’s self-conception, but difficult to impossible if the data leads to another conclusion.

As noted above, my own experience leads me to believe that efforts to protect gender ideology from critique are most vigorously led by a specific and identifiable sub-section within the trans community. Autogynephilic males who abruptly declare themselves to be trans often experience a sense of insecurity and even shame, especially since the transitioning process can have a traumatic effect on their wives and children. Demanding that the world recognize them as actual women is a strategy for absolving them of responsibility. If gender is an innate quality, like height or sexual orientation, how can they be morally responsible? Gender ideology is the tool they use to legitimize that emotional reflex. Their sudden rejection of their old life is reimagined as a mystical journey into their own gendered soul.

Of course, adults are free to act in this way—and to explain themselves to their friends and loved ones in whatever fashion they please. Unfortunately, this gender mysticism is romanticized in a way that makes the idea of transformation seem attractive to children, especially children struggling with identity and relationships.

Indeed, there is an especially ghoulish militant fringe within the autogynephilic subcategory that explicitly seeks to break family bonds in order to groom children for transition. This apparently includes notorious transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon (rebranded recently as “Veronica Ivy”), who has appealed to children to “dump moms on Mother’s Day and join the ‘glitter-queer’ family of adult trans activists.”

I speak from experience when I say that it’s difficult for autogynephiles to admit the simple truth that they are simply heterosexual males who use the conceit of female self-identification as a means to rationalize their sexual attraction to a female version of themselves. As any sex therapist can attest, people often feel ashamed about unusual sexual proclivities. Shame is a powerful emotion, and a person who suffers from it often will be driven to control their narrative in a way that protects their sense of self-worth.

Autogynephilia drove my own transsexualism. And I can attest that there is huge mental dissonance built up in the brain of a male who somehow is heterosexually attracted to their own body. This paradox can have a devastating effect on one’s mental health. I also can attest that the process of gender reassignment can help alleviate that dissonance. My critique of gender ideology should in no way be interpreted as an argument to deny such therapies to males such as myself.

Rather than protect the emotional fragility of people who don’t want to investigate the nature of their autogynephilia, a better strategy would be to simply demystify and destigmatize autogynephilia itself (much as we have demystified and destigmatized any number of victimless paraphilias), while also ensuring that therapies are available for trans adults who understand the attendant medical ramifications. We should not need to pretend that we are women (to ourselves or anyone else) in order to find relief from gender dysphoria.

Cross-dressing—or transvestism as it once was called—is more common than some imagine: A 2005 study in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that almost three percent of Swedish men reported at least one episode of transvestic fetishism. Of course, this is not the same as being transgender. But since autogynephilia is associated with both the need to dress in women’s clothes and feminize one’s body, we can never fully demarcate the two. (Thus, an old joke in the community about transitioners who start out as occasional cross-dressers: “What’s the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual? About five years.”)

Unfortunately, many trans advocates would prefer to shoot the messenger, and a whole sub-industry of censorship and ostracism has been created to deal with anyone who casts doubt on the gender-identity framework. As many readers will know, Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy was thrown off Twitter, and is subject to constant harassment in regard to her live speaking events, because she spoke the plain truth of biology to a vexatious Vancouver-area individual who goes by the name Jessica Yaniv. Here in the UK, Katie Alcock and Helen Watts were both removed from leadership positions and expelled from Girlguiding UK for objecting to the inclusion of boys who identified as female in their single-sex organisation.

My transgender identity has not protected me from this censorship regime, and I have been excluded and shamed for my political statements (as I regard them). Both my employer and my professional associations have been contacted by activists who claim that my political views should disqualify me from being able to work with children (I’m a teacher), or represent my colleagues. An email campaign targeting my school purported to express “deep concern about Debbie Hayton’s continual harassment and bigotry towards transgender females on Twitter. She provokes anti-trans feelings and mis-represents the trans community. She has sided with several pseudo-feminist and anti-trans groups.”

Not so long ago, we truly did live in a transphobic society, where people like me were subject to public abuse (or worse). And there are still scattered reports of actual transphobia. In extreme cases, trans people have been physically attacked, or even killed, because of who they are.

But on an everyday basis, many trans people are now more afraid, for their reputations and livelihoods, of the opposite threat: They are afraid of saying the wrong thing—which is to say, something based in truth and actual science—about who we are. For their own emotional purposes, members of a militant and vociferous group within our own ranks have found a way to embed a lie at the very heart of our public discussion about gender.

For the rest of society to acquiesce to this lie is not only a betrayal of science, but of democracy. And we must work to restore an attitude of honesty before more harm is done to women, children and trans people ourselves. When society realises that there is no rational basis for gender ideology, the backlash may be very severe indeed.

 

 

Dr. Debbie Hayton is a physics teacher and trade unionist. She Tweets at @DebbieHayton.

Comments

  1. Identity groups form around superficial similarities like race, gender, and sexual orientation. Those that share these similarities but who reject the group philosophy are not only not safe from attack but are often more viciously attacked than any other critic. There is no greater threat to an identity group than an apostate.

  2. Great piece. But this doesn’t sit right with me.

    "Moreover, when people begin trying to get around this circularity by actually detailing what it means to “feel like” a woman, they typically just catalogue a bunch of sexist stereotypes about how they always liked the idea of wearing dresses and maybe played with dolls as a child."

    Are the majority of biological females enacting “a bunch of sexist stereotypes” when they wear dresses, high heels & make up? Monkey see, monkey do? I don’t think so. IMO it’s more of a particular creative expression of sexuality driven from within. Marketing in this area works mostly because it instinctively appeals. Certainly there’s other elements involved such as fashion & power play but at it’s core women are usually ‘naturally’ drawn’ to it. Women who embrace these expressions often ‘feel more sexually attractive’ & men ‘react’. It’s no coincidence this form of expression has been around for so long & even in modern times is at it’s heights. See Kim Kardashian.
    So is it not possible then that for some gay individuals traditional expression of dress of the opposite sex is ‘organically’ driven to sexually attract the same sex? Perhaps this drive then creates subsequent delusion particularly in a confused youth &/or with mental health issues that one is ‘trapped in the wrong body’ or “feels like a woman”?
    As statistics indicate gender dysphoria to be a ‘phase’ for most it would be interesting to know how & why they were able to move past it & what initially drove the compulsion.

  3. Yet another article about transgenderism???

    Look, everyone, or almost everyone, is simply ignoring the elephant in the room, and making up just-so stories and worse to avoid seeing it. And it’s time this intellectual dishonesty is called out.

    Society (both the left and the right) has decided the well-being of women is of far greater importance than the well-being of men, and favors them in numerous ways, under the completely dishonest pretext of “equality”, and shouts down any opposition as “sexism” and “misogyny” (on the left) or “not being a real man” (on the right). It is therefore completely understandable that men should wish to be women. Stereotyping transwomen as sexual predators or taking Blanchard’s theory about autogynephilia (ALWAYS trotted out in articles like this) as the absolute truth based on just a few examples are simply intellectually dishonest dodges on the part of the right to avoid dealing with the real question.

    But the left is now culturally ascendant, and controls the narrative. The left’s very basis for the fight for gender equality is that gender roles are socially constructed. It therefore cannot concede on transgenderism and must shout down all dissenters. If it did concede, it would lose all credibility.

  4. If Bruce Jenner can retain his penis and still be considered a woman, I will keep my firearms but will be considered unarmed.
    Actually I appreciate the author’s honest detached assessment.

  5. Simple statements of common sense can be so refreshing when the world seems to have gone mad. I appreciate the author’s honesty and courage. To start to restore sanity will probably require a lot of these kinds of testimonies from people with gender dysphoria (and, I fear, testimonies from the growing ranks of young people who were wrongly diagnosed and/or treated “affirmatively” and aggressively with unhappy results).

  6. By dressing and behaving as ciswomen, are transwomen engaging in cultural appropriation?

  7. I don’t think it is simple gynocentrism that is driving the transgender movement.

    Yes modern western society is very much biased towards women in almost every way imaginable, in education, in health, in the law and the application of the law, in employment, in the way the sexes are portrayed. However I don’t believe that accounts for many or perhaps even most transgender people.

    It definitely cannot account for the surge in young women wishing to transition to male. It might account for some proportion of men wishing to transition to female but I think this is limited to young men told since early childhood that to be male is to be defective, evil and essentially beyond redemption. If a young man is uncertain about their sexual identity and perhaps coming to terms with being homosexul then in the modern world I can see that becoming a trans-woman may well seem the natural solution. It doesn’t account for the other groups.

    More generally making truthful science based statement and research taboo is large problem for society. It did not start with transgenderism it started with feminism and its denial of the reality of differences between the sexes. This laid the foundation for the nonsense that is transgender ideology and has led to the rise of divisive identity politics and the threat of a breakdown of mutually beneficial trust and cooperation between men and women.

  8. The point is that the notion of the “internal sense of being a woman” is really an external aspect of LOOKING LIKE a woman. There is no truth to the notion that a person is “a woman internally”. What specifically does that mean? Actually nothing, because the “internal woman” is defined by hormones, organs, and brain function, and it is physiologically absurd to say that a man can experience that. Rather, there are several things going on - sexual attraction to yourself as the other sex (autogynophilia) or simply a belief that you will be more attractive as the other sex. Both are mental illnesses.

  9. I couldn’t have said it better. Why did it take this long for someone - anyone - to say it out loud?

    There are two sexes - full stop.
    There are people who suffer from sexual identity dysphoria.
    Their dysphoria is not our reality.

  10. What an excellent piece. I get that some people may have dysphoric feelings. It’s not my reality, but I can still be empathetic to their sufferings and respect what they feel they have to do to get by in life. The beauty of this piece is that it essentially confirms my sense of what is going on. A trans woman is still a man. Of course. You are a trans woman, it is a minority category of human expression, feel as you like, just don’t pretend that what you feel transcends biology or force everyone else to cower to that belief. It seems that most of what is called transphobia, is not hatred of the trans person, but hatred of the ideology and of an illogical supposition. A dog is not a cat, I’m not an Asian because I feel Asian. If we lose the ideology I see no reason to have a problem with men in dresses, with or without penises. Just don’t drag the children into it.

  11. I think it’s great that our society is adapting to trans people. What’s no so great are extremists (some Trans people, but more often their “allies”) who expect people to change language or make other’s rights subordinate to extremist expectations.

    Probably the most obvious example is that of Jessica Yaniv. It should not have required a trip through the human rights tribunal ringer to conclude that women do have the right to refuse services that involve handling male genitalia.

    I know a couple of trans people. For the most part they just want to be left alone to be who they want to be. They aren’t asking others to unreasonably adapt. The trans community would do better if they didn’t take an anything goes attitude and instead respect that there are sometimes competing rights.

  12. Consider this: it has little to do with men or women, dresses or jeans, etc. it has much more to do with the desire to make you profess belief in something g you know to be false. It doesn’t really matter what that thing is, it only matters that you are forced to publicly profess what you privately know isn’t true.

    Once you can get people to do that, you can get them to do anything.

  13. The left is eager to call anyone embracing its hegemonic ideological precepts “brave,” but really bravery is speaking the truth when you know it will make you a pariah. Doubly so when it reveals something deeply personal about yourself. So despite the overuse of “stunning and brave,” I will say the author is very brave for coming forward with his experience as an autogynophiliac. The lucidity of his perception, the brutal honesty, meant I was unsurprised to find out he’s a physicist. I don’t think many people could admit what the author has said to themselves, let alone to a public forum.

    The first order of business with the trans issue is to get to a place where we can acknowledge reality without that being confused with hatred. For that, we’ll need many more transgender people like the author willing to wrestle back the narrative from the disproportionately leftist and mentally unwell activists.

    Then we need to let our scientists look into the best possible treatment for this disorder. The author acknowledges that autogynophiles transitioning when they’re middle aged has a devastating effect on wives and children. Could early intervention help them keep that aspect of their identity contained, such that it needn’t require the social transitioning that’s so harmful to families?

  14. “When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is… in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed.” – Theodore Dalrymple

  15. Unfortunately, we are not. This is why a space like quillette has to exist, so that Centrist, moderate leftist, and right-wing ideas can actually be said without attack or other negative consequences.

    If more people understood how progressives control the dialogue, I think we would have far less of a problem.

    Care to join us in dealing with it?

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