“I Wanted an Identity So Badly:” A Desister’s Account of Trans Indoctrination

This is an important post. This brave and thoughtful young man has been generous enough to document his own process of becoming convinced that he was transgender. He identifies the cult-like thought traps that lead him to believe this, and discusses how difficult it was to work through these beliefs.

Fortunately, John did not take hormones or pursue surgery. Even without these medical interventions, his experience with trans ideology was confusing  and painful.

(Note: Part of this post comes from a Reddit thread that John posted. I am using that with his permission here.)

Thank you, John.

I was 100% thoroughly convinced that I was a woman trapped in a man’s body. I went on believing this for the better part of 6 months, and it did a number on my psyche.

I think these trans communities are a cult. They target lonely, confused teenagers that have a fetish. Not all transgender people are like this but, the group I belong to is, and this group is heavily targeted by these online trans people.

I think that we are basically all masochists. I had several “odd” things growing up that got me going, bondage, humiliation, power dynamics where I was the powerless person — anything that could be considered “shameful.” When you are a horny 14-year-old with these particular sexual tastes, and you discover online porn, it won’t be long until you stumble upon the “feminization” genre (aka, sissification, sissy fetish,). It should be obvious why these genres are so prevalent. If you grow up in a conservative area, what could be more demeaning, humiliating, or thrilling, as having your manhood stripped away from you? (Not that I think there is anything shameful about being a woman, but as a young man you are constantly having to prove your masculinity and any sign of weakness is compared to being a “sissy” or a “faggot” or “like a girl.”)

So you have all these young men who don’t understand their sexuality, watching sissy porn. Eventually they are going try and find out what it all means.

This is where the trans ideology plays its part. The trans narrative sucks these confused young men like myself in with all the “answers.” You see many confused fetishists posting in places like r/asktransgender asking if they are trans. Whatever their questions are, the usual reply from these places is something like “if you could press a magic button that would give you a female body would you press it? If you thought about it, then you may be trans, because a “straight” guy wouldn’t hesitate for a moment.” They try to equate the masochistic thrill with a desire to be a woman. And once you fall for that they have you.

They create a very intricate web of bullshit that is very hard to see out of once inside. It is very cult like. Any non-kool-aid drinking source of information is deemed “transphobic.” Any therapist that doesn’t tow the line is a “gate keeper.”

One day when I was 18, I had decided to try and figure out what was the deal with my sexuality. I had been watching feminization/sissy/sissyhypno-type porn and crossdressing for a few years at that point, and I was very confused. I grew up in a conservative area in a pretty conservative family, and the only information I had ever gotten about sexuality was stuff I had picked up from kids at school and stuff on TV. I was pretty naive about it.

But at this point when I was 18, I had been on the internet for a few years and I had reformed my conservative belief system. Just 3 and 1/2 years before, I was very conservative and a Christian, but I’m the type of person that is constantly questioning everything and with internet access, it was just a matter of time before I became an atheist and began to slowly tear apart my conservative belief system. I went from thinking liberals were evil deluded fools that were going to destroy the country to coming around to their side and seeing conservatives the same way I had once seen the liberals!

So I had begun trusting the “reddit people” since they made so much more sense than anything I had been exposed to in my conservative town. During one of my late night jerk sessions I had come across the typical trans rhetoric somewhere on r/sissyhypno and it scared the ever living shit out of me. I had seen the link to r/asktransgender at this point too. I was terrified but i had to know more.

I stayed awake for over 24 hours pouring over threads in r/asktg trying to understand what for so long had made no sense to me. I think what really hooked me at first was the idea that my sexuality had been “repressed.” I think I fell for this because my sexuality had been VERY repressed. For lack of a better term, I had tried to “pray the gay away” for years. I had pretty much tucked everything I knew about my fetish in a deep dark corner of my mind, and I would try to think about it as little as possible.

So when the “reddit people” would say my fetish was a normal female sexuality that has been repressed for years due to male socialization and homo/transphobia, and that my crossdressing and fetish porn consumption was the only way for my “female self” to express itself, it kinda made sense. And then there were so many people talking about how they used to be just like me, but they eventually stopped lying to themselves and realized they were transgender.

I was completely fooled 100% after that. (And I think that perhaps this pattern does apply to “real transgender” people. But I think that in their efforts to validate their identities as women and coming up with all the trans ideology, they accidentally created a trap for people like me, who are really just people that are a kind of extreme degradation masochist that got into crossdressing as an expression of that.)

I didn’t make any steps in transitioning. I only believed I was transgender. I actually hated the idea that I was transgender at first. I was full of self-pity and I was very, very depressed. I kept trying to think of something to convince myself I wasn’t trans, to find a reason why I wasn’t trans but I could not do it.

Since I had accepted certain beliefs, I could not escape the conclusion that I was trans. It seemed the most logical explanation at the time. After a while of wallowing in self-pity and hating myself, it seemed the only way to be happy was just to accept the fact that I was trans and move on.

So I began to reconstruct myself psychologically around being trans. In the beginning, there was a brief honeymoon period. I felt like a huge weight had been taken off my chest, that I had finally accepted who I was, and I didn’t have to keep being so uncertain about everything. I even “came out” to my family and a few friends. It didn’t last long though about two months.

After that, some doubts started to eat away at my new “happiness,” but I put an immense amount of energy into squashing them. It was kind of ironic in a way, because not that long before, I was trying so hard to talk myself out of being trans but couldn’t. And then not very long after, I was putting the same amount of effort into talking myself into it. The doubt kept eating at me though, and I could no longer believe I was “fully” trans.

It happened in stages though. It was very hard for me to let go for many reasons, one big one being that I just could not accept that I had made a terrible, terrible, very embarrassing mistake. The first and longest stage was that I thought that I wasn’t “fully” trans, but that I was somewhere on the trans spectrum. So I was once again a misfit. I was believing all the trans ideology, but now I no longer had the benefit of finally having a concrete sexual identity — which I think was a huge part in me being seduced by the trans rhetoric, because I wanted an identity so badly.

I kept analyzing myself over and over and over. I just had to know what I was. I stressed so much over this that I eventually just kind broke psychologically. I just up and decided one day that I was tired of it all. I wanted to be free of the never ending questioning and anxiety, so I chose to believe something that didn’t make sense within my own mental framework. It was very strange, because even though I knew it didn’t make sense, I chose to believe it anyway.

I just started believing I was gay. It didn’t work for long, but for two days it was bliss. After that, I really started to lose touch with reality. I started believing things about myself that made no sense. Every week, or sometimes every day I would completely change all my beliefs about my sexuality. I would say and think contradictory things, saying and doing things I never would have said or done before — just all manner of craziness. After about three or four months of that, I regained my senses.

But I still hadn’t resolved the thing that started it all. I just ended up completely repressing and burying everything. I tried my damnedest to just forget about the whole ordeal entirely, and I did that pretty successfully. But I couldn’t block it all out completely because I was still watching all the same porn. Deep down, though, I still believed that I was trans at some level during this period.

This might be hard to believe but i think what broke the “spell” for me were psilocybin mushrooms. I really shouldn’t have been messing around with them at the time because of how unstable I was, but I was doing all kinds of stupid impulsive shit.

I was tripping and at some point all the trans stuff starting bubbling to surface, and it was what you could call a bad trip. All the things I had repressed came bubbling up to the surface. I had no control, and the mushrooms were doing the driving. They showed me that I had been fooled into fooling myself. Basically, they showed me how my own narcissism was blinding me.

Once I had seen this information, it was in my mind permanently. It took around 6 months or so, but I slowly came around to thinking that it was really all just a crossdressing kink that got elevated to extreme levels from watching too much porn. It shouldn’t have taken me that long to get it all figured out after the mushrooms, but it took me a long time to trust my own judgement enough to really BELIEVE in what I was thinking.

I had my mushroom trip nearly two years ago. Now I’m mostly back to my old self.

I forgot to mention a pretty important detail. I didn’t come up with the doubts on my own. I was 100% fooled, but I stumbled upon some dissenting voices and ideas that got the original doubts going. I don’t know how far I would have gone if it weren’t for these voices dissenting from the trans ideology.

Hey! Huffpo Transgender Child Comment Writers! Have You Really Thought This Through?

Two days ago, the Huffington Post ran an article entitled “To The Gay Man at the Vigil: I Didn’t Think I’d Have to Protect My Trans Son from You.” The back story is a familiar one. The author’s child was a gender nonconforming girl with a history of hating “pink dresses” and liking rough and tumble play. Heartbreakingly, the author reveals that her daughter was bullied for her gender nonconformity, being called “lesbo.” Being derisively identified as homosexual, the child “forced himself into being a girl.” (This is a very important point. The child attempted to fit into female sex role stereotypes after being derisively labeled a homosexual. This fits with what we are hearing again and again – that it is more socially acceptable for a lesbian to become a straight boy.)

After being labeled (in a bullying way) a lesbian and subsequently attempting to pass as a gender conforming female due to homophobia, the child became depressed and engaged in self-harming behavior. Sadly, we know that suicidality is very high among gender nonconforming youth. One study shows the 37.4% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth had had a suicide attempt. Then two months ago, this young person announced that they were transgender. The author mom supported her child’s transition, and saw the depression lift.

This piece fits the happy transgender narrative we so often see in the media. According to this narrative, kids who were being bullied for being gender nonconforming or appearing gay or lesbian immediately become warmly accepted and supported by peers when they embrace the rigid sex role stereotypes of the opposite gender. The comments on the article are overwhelmingly supportive and positive of the mom and her decision to embrace her child’s transition. According to the current narrative, this mom is doing exactly what she should do – supporting her child’s immediate transition without critical thought or exploration.

But here is what the supportive comment writers on the piece perhaps haven’t thought through.

This young person likely won’t be happy with changing their name, pronouns, and hair style for long. Many young people who come out as transgender feel an immense pressure to pass. (Clearly the young person discussed in the article is not passing at this point.) As a result, they often feel an immense pressure to start cross sex hormones.

A natal female who takes testosterone for some length of time will have a permanently deepened voice; facial hair; and possible male pattern baldness. The long-term effects of testosterone on female fertility are not well understood. Taking testosterone may cause permanent sterility. These changes will not go away even if she stops taking testosterone.

There are some further health risks. Testosterone may have a negative effect on one’s lipid profile by increasing bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol. It may raise blood pressure and lower the body’s sensitivity to insulin. These changes increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and diabetes.

Taking testosterone as a natal female increases the risks of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer. Not much is known about how these risks might be affected by long term use. Young people going on these cross sex hormones is a relatively recent phenomenon.

So the risks of long-term testosterone use are not insignificant.

But there is more.

Many young natal women who come out as trans decide early on that they would like “top” surgery, meaning a double mastectomy.

Mastectomies are a major surgical procedure that carry with them the usual potential for serious complications that all major surgeries have – infection, necrosis, blood clots, etc. It is a painful surgery, with a recovery time of at least a few weeks. And of course, having a mastectomy means one will never be able to nurse a child.

It is a principle of good medical care to choose the least invasive option possible when treating a condition. Identifying as transgender is NOT the least invasive way to address gender dysphoria because it often leads to serious, permanent medical intervention that can have life-long consequences.

The mom in the article insists it “isn’t a choice” to be transgender. The supportive comment writers (and presumably the HuffPo editorial staff) seem to agree with her. The gay man to whom she addresses the piece apparently does not. Empirical evidence is on the side of the gay man. It truly isn’t a choice to be gay. Sexual response can be — and has been — measured in the lab. Being gay means that as a man, you have an arousal response to men. This really isn’t subjective. Feelings of gender dysphoria certainly aren’t a choice. Intense feelings of discomfort with one’s body are not something most of us would choose. The decision to interpret these feelings as evidence that we are in the wrong body, however, is a choice. A choice with no empirical evidence to support it. No wonder the gay man in the article seems irritated.

Let’s support our gender nonconforming children. Let’s help them fight the homophobia that makes them go underground and feel terrible about themselves. Let’s allow them to defy narrow sex role stereotypes. Let’s look for ways to help alleviate their discomfort with their bodies without having to change those bodies.

Doomed to Repeat

Doomed to Repeat

A scant 25 ago, therapists with (mostly) the best of intentions managed to ruin many people’s lives. Through the use of recovered memory therapy, clinicians unwittingly participated in creating false memories of horrific abuse that in some cases permanently sundered relationships between parents and adult children, cast a life-long pall of suspicion on parents, and sent innocent people to jail for decades.

In the late 1990’s there were numerous lawsuits in which therapists or psychiatrists were successfully sued or settled on charges of having propagated false memories of childhood sexual abuse, incest, and satanic ritual abuse. Fran and Dan Keller served 21 years in prison after young children who attended their daycare began making wild allegations after having been coaxed by a therapist. According to one child witness, the Kellers “had everyone take off their clothes and had a parrot that pecked them in the pee-pee,” and “came to her house with a chainsaw and cut her dog Buffy in the vagina until it bled.” The therapist construed these childish imaginings as literally true, and concluded her small patient was a victim of ritual abuse. The Kellers were finally freed in November of 2014 after the only witness who provided any physical evidence of abuse – a doctor – recanted.

The false memory and ritual abuse scares of the ‘80s and ‘90s now seem bizarre almost beyond imagining. Therapists, psychiatrists, government agencies, congressional committees, and the media bought into the belief that worldwide satanic cults had infiltrated society and were ritually abusing children on a significant scale.

Tragically, history is in the process of repeating itself. Something strikingly similar is happening. The current trend to diagnose children as transgender bears an eerie similarity to this previous social panic. This matters because as with the previous panic of the ’80 and ‘90s, the current trend is harming people who will have to live with the consequences for the rest of their lives. Below, I outline the similarities – and differences.

1.) Victims of false memory syndrome and many transgender kids are orienting their identity and relationships to a false belief. Wikipedia defines false memory syndrome as “a condition in which a person’s identity and relationships are affected by memories that are factually incorrect but that they strongly believe.” Research has confirmed the suggestibility of the memory making process, making it clear that false memories can be created through cultural transmission, peer influence, and the techniques described as a recovered memory therapy.

The Wikipedia article goes on to state that false memories per se are not the problem. “Note that the syndrome is not characterized by false memories as such. We all have inaccurate memories. Rather, the syndrome is diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the individual’s entire personality and lifestyle—disrupting other adaptive behavior.” (Emphasis mine.) The false memory becomes a central point of the person’s identity and determines his or her interpersonal relationships.

The false memory may be bizarre and become obsessional. The McMartin pre-school trial was the longest and most expensive trial in American history. Those that testified claimed they saw witches flying in the air, traveled in hot air balloons, and were taken into an elaborate system of tunnels underneath the daycare.

In an account of the FMSF website, one patient recounts the bizarre things that she eventually came to believe:

“I recalled various fragments of movies, books, talk shows, and nightly news, and soon I had plenty of child abuse memories. But, it didn’t stop there. Eventually, I said I had taken part in Satanic Rituals, been buried alive, drank blood, and helped to kill a baby. With every new memory, my therapist was intrigued and building a case to prove he was right about me all along.”

And these bizarre beliefs can become one’s central point of reference, eclipsing critical thought, leading the person to surrender his or her rational faculties in service of the belief. This is described by a victim of false memory syndrome on the website of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.

“Twice a week, I would go to therapy and be told the only way to feel better was to relive these memories. He would sit next to me on his couch covering me with a blanket while I, in a regressed, hypnotic state would start to have these “body memories.” This therapy continued and I had to be hospitalized six or seven weeks at a time. I’m now convinced that my depression and suicidality were mainly caused by the incredible conflict between wanting to be with my parents and pleasing my therapist.”

Through buying into the false belief, the person’s historical biography is re-written. Old events are re-imagined in light of the new “information,” radically altering the person’s sense of identity and sundering connections to family and friends.

As a victim of FMS describes on the FMSF website:

“I’ve lost six and a half years of my life, a chance to have an intimate relationship with my mother, time with my three young children, and my marriage of 21 years.”

Transgender children fall prey to the bizarre belief that they are born in the wrong body. There is no scientific validity to the idea that someone can be born a “man in a woman’s body” or the other way around. In fact, there is a great deal of research that indicates that there is no such thing as a male brain or a female brain. Taken away from the clamor and din of politics, the assertion that one is chromosomally and biologically one sex, but of a different “gender” in some mysterious way makes absolutely no sense and is every bit as strange as asserting that daycare workers sacrificed babies and fed them to children. Those who define their inner sense of being misaligned with their anatomy often cannot describe this experience without reference to sex role stereotypes, and an appeal to notions that seem much more metaphysical or subjective rather than empirical.

Please note that I am not denying the existence of gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is real and often causes significant distress. It ought not to be stigmatized, discounted, or minimized. Those who suffer from gender dysphoria deserve to have their pain taken seriously and to be offered appropriate help and support by both their families and society at large. In some cases, transitioning may be the treatment required to alleviate the gender dysphoria, though like all invasive medical procedures, it ought not to be the first line of treatment if a less drastic intervention can do the trick. It does not follow, however, that we must accept the groundless and bizarre explanation that someone is born in the wrong body. The feelings of gender dysphoria are undeniable. How we explain those feelings matters a great deal if one of those explanations leads to a young person undergoing serious medical intervention with lifelong consequences that may or may not adequately address the presenting problem. In some of the FMS cases, patients presented to a therapist with distress over a marriage, for example. The therapist wrongly attributed their pain to repressed incidences of horrific abuse, which made the patient worse, not better. Attributing a young person’s pain to being born in the wrong body is no less strange, and is just as likely to lead to an inappropriate intervention.

And as with the false beliefs present in many cases of FMS, the belief of gender noncomforming youth that they are actually the opposite gender disrupts other adaptive behavior, severs important relationships, and can become obsessional. Consider this story about a 16-year-old natal female who came out as transgender at age 14 or 15. The child, referred to only as PD, was adopted at age 6. The parents understandably had a hard time coming to terms with their child’s assertion of being a different gender, and they refused to call their child by the new name. This caused the child “very great annoyance and distress,” according to the courts. As a result of feeling misunderstood because the parents refused to use the new name, PD cut off all contact with them, refusing even to allow them to have any information going forward.

While the transgender teen story is usually portrayed in the media in celebratory terms, my contact with parents living through this indicates that at least some of the time, the tale is a darker one. Even supportive parents report that their teens become increasingly isolated and distressed after coming out. They withdraw from friends who aren’t trans. They cease their involvement in extracurricular activities. Their academics suffer. They stop talking to parents. They become obsessed with their appearance and with “passing.” They suffer outsized distress over the indignity of being “misgendered.” Their ambit of concern shrinks to encompass only the paranoid echo chamber of illusory oppression.

As is the case with FMS, the “discovery” on the part of a young person that they are trans brings about a reevaluation of their prior life that validates their diagnosis, altering their sense of identity and personal biography.

Following is a comment posted by a reader of this article. Note that the commentator reports on fairly common childhood experiences of gender nonconforming behavior that now take on momentous significance as evidence of being trans.

“I didn’t know since I was two. I knew I was different but I didn’t know how. Like I always envied the boys but never understood why. I wanted the boy toys, and never thought about why. I wanted to be in boy clothes cause I never felt comfortable in girly stuff, and never thought about why that was either. But I knew something was different.”

This commentator reaches the rather spurious conclusion that not being comfortable in “girly” stuff as child can now with hindsight be seen as early evidence and “proof” that she was trans. Of course girly stuff is rarely comfortable for little girls. And many little girls prefer “boy” toys, just as many boys prefer “girl” toys. Our refusal to accept narrow sex role stereotypes should not be evidence that we ought to reject our bodies. It ought to be evidence that we should reject sex role stereotypes.

2.) False memory syndrome and the transgender child trend involve highly sensational subjects that involve children and sexuality.

Children and sex are perennially two of the chief lightning rods around which mass hysterias often take form. The false memory and satanic ritual abuse panics of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s occurred in conjunction with a significant cultural shift, as women left home to go to work in huge numbers, leaving their children in daycare. The allegations of ritual abuse that swirled around daycares in the panic may have served as an expression of anxiety and ambivalence about this societal transformation.

Now, the popular imagination has been caught by transgender children. We celebrate the “courage” of these children and their families and rush to endorse hormonal treatment to forestall the “trauma” of puberty. What cultural current might this be in reaction to?

3.) In both FMS and the transgender child trend, the media played a key role.

Both of these trends have been presented in an uncritical way in the media. In the case of false memory syndrome, high profile media attention presented without critical dialogue fanned the flames of hysteria.

In 1983, Geraldo Rivera aired “Satanic Cults and Children.” In 1988, he did another episode mcmartinentitled “Devil Worship: Exploring Satan’s Underground.” In 1995, Rivera apologized for his role in spreading the hysteria with the following words:

“I want to announce publicly that as a firm believer of the ‘Believe The Children’ movement of the 1980’s, that started with the McMartin trials in CA, but NOW I am convinced that I was terribly wrong… and many innocent people were convicted and went to prison as a result….AND I am equally positive [that the] ‘Repressed Memory Therapy Movement’ is also a bunch of CRAP…”

In 1989, Oprah Winfrey hosted a show on “Child Sacrifice,” and Sally Jesse Raphael did a segment called “Baby Breeders.” In 1991, Raphael covered the story again with a show called “Devil Babies.”

20/20 and HBO both did special stories on the subject. HBO’s special was entitled “Search for Deadly Memories.” This documentary shows techniques for recovering “repressed” memories, and featured many doctors and other “experts,” lending credibility to the claims. Eventually, 20/20, 60 Minutes, and HBO would all produce shows that were skeptical of the panic.

I need hardly offer evidence for the media contribution to the current transgender child trend. It is difficult to go through a day without hearing reference to a transgender child on some mainstream media outlet. Nearly all of the coverage is uncritical if not celebratory.

4.) Both movements created high profile “stars.”

In 1980, the book Michelle Remembers by Lawrence Padzer and Michelle Smith was Michelle_Rememberspublished. It was the first book on ritual abuse, and is largely responsible for setting the SRA panic in motion. Though it has since been entirely discredited, it was reported on and taken as fact by journalists and talk show hosts including Oprah, who interviewed Smith on her television show. The book was a bestseller and a tremendous commercial success, and Padzer and Smith earned an estimated $350,000 from its publication.

Jazz Jennings is a 16 year old transgender girl noted for being one of the youngest publicly documented people to be identified as gender dysphoric. She received national attention at the age of six when Barbara Walters interviewed her on 20/20. Other high profile interviews followed. Jazz has her own company (Purple Rainbow Tails, founded when she was 13), her own YouTube channel, a children’s book, and her own reality TV show on TLC. In 2014, she was named one of “The Most Influential Teens” of the year by Time. She has modeled and appeared in television commercials for acne treatments.

5.) Both movements have been fueled by hysteria over immediate peril of children

In both cases, the narrative is driven by powerful fears over the welfare of children. In the case of SRA and FMS, anyone who expressed doubt over the veracity of the claims was subject to intense vitriol and claims that they were harming children by not believing them without question. An advocacy organization was formed by the parents of the children involved in the McMartin preschool trial called “Believe the Children.” It became a clearinghouse for information on SRA.

Regarding the transgender child trend, those who express doubt about a child’s claim that he or she is “born in the wrong body” are often accused of “killing” transgender children. The fact that there are very high rates of suicide attempts among those who are transgender is repeatedly cited as a reason why transgender children must be immediately affirmed and transitioned. (This is an uncritical use of the statistic. A study found that 41% of those who are transgender had attempted suicide. However, the study did not differentiate between whether the attempt came before or after transition. A study from Sweden indicates that suicidality among those who have medically transitioned is significantly higher than in the general population. It would appear that those who suffer from gender dysphoria do indeed have a high rate of suicidality. However, there is no robust evidence that transition reduces suicidality.)

 6.) Therapists played a significant role in the promulgation of both movements.

Protecting the innocent, advocating for those who are at risk and vulnerable – these are appealing roles for therapists to take on. Therapists in both movements have appeared to have the moral high ground. Many have been quick to jump on board to be sure to be on the right side of history.

Therapists used a variety of techniques that have come to be called “recovered memory therapy” to search for “forgotten” or “repressed” memories of trauma. Such practices spread quickly and were fueled by materials developed by those without clinical expertise such as the book The Courage to Heal, which was written by a poet and creative writing teacher and one of her students.

Of course, a darker side to the well-meaning impulse to help those who had been victimized is that the movement to recover repressed memories created lucrative earning opportunities for some therapists.

In recent years, there has been a growth in the number of therapists who identify as “gender therapists.” To my knowledge, this is not a protected title in any jurisdiction. Anyone can call themselves a gender therapist. At most, a gender therapist may have received training from a transgender advocacy organization. Most transgender advocacy organizations have few members with any clinical or mental health background. Online research indicates that a gender therapist is “someone who helps a transgender person with their transition.” This gender therapist, for example, has a video blog where she answers questions. To the question “how do I know if I am transgender?” she answers that “if you are asking that question, you probably are not cisgender.”

Gender therapy is a lucrative and in demand specialty at this point in time. The gender therapist noted above, for example, has recently released a book about discovering one’s gender identity.

7.) Governmental and professional organizations have bought into the movement’s narrative.

No less an organization than the US Congress held hearings on daycare abuse. Recent policies put forward by the International Olympic Committee, the National Education Association, and the Obama administration show that many of our most important institutions have bought into the gender identity narrative.

8.) The concept has penetrated deeply into popular culture, including children’s picture books

dont make me go backA 1990 children’s book entitled Don’t Make Me Go Back Mommy (Hurts of Childhood Series). The description of the book on Amazon reads as if it is a humor piece.

“Five-year-old Allison’s behavior indicates to her concerned parents that something is wrong at her day care center. In unseen action, they discover that the center practices sexual, physical, and psychological abuse in the guise of religious ritual. Through dialogue, Allison and her parents reveal their feelings and the beginnings of the healing process to counselors and legal personnel. Some details of abuse are familiar from the lengthy McMartin trial, such as the “movie star room” in which naked children are photographed. The appendix lists 10 guidelines for parents on how to handle their own feelings during this family crisis.”

There are a number of books for children about being transgender. I Am Jazz is just one i am jazzexample. It is recommended for children ages four to eight. Following is its Amazon description:

“From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boys’ clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way.”

9.) Because the false belief relies on self-diagnosis, it is impervious to contradictory evidence.

In the FMS and in the transgender child trend, someone’s subjective experience of him or herself trumps other claims, even without evidence. According to this paradigm, anyone who is not in the special class (abuse victim or transgender person) cannot speak about that phenomenon with any authority. The premise that the oppressed are infallible gets one way into the weeds fairly quickly. Something becomes true and unable to be questioned simply because a member of a certain special class says it is so.

10.) Both movements were spread by social contagion which relies on the very human trait of suggestibility.

The FMS episode gave rise to a great deal of research about how suggestible we all can be, how easy it is for well-meaning therapists to suggest things that didn’t really happen and in this way, create “memories.” A good overview of this research can be found here.

Many teens coming out suddenly as transgender without a history of prior gender dysphoria or even gender nonconforming behavior say they “knew” they were transgender after they read something online. The language that they use to describe their experience is quite consistent, likely an indication that they picked up the ideas from similar sources on the internet. For example, many parents report that their child said “Would you rather have a dead daughter or a live son?” or something similar. Many teens also talk about the “button” thought experiment – if you had a button that could make you into the opposite sex like that, would you push it?

In both cases, the indicators used to diagnose are vague. Neither SRA nor transgenderism are well-defined phenomenon. The definitions shift and alter as convenient. For example, some transgender advocates do not believe that someone should need a diagnosis of dysphoria in order to transition. Simply saying one is trans ought to be enough without any dysphoria.

In both cases, conclusions with far reaching implications are arrived at using suggestive techniques. Transcripts of therapy sessions in which highly suggestive techniques were used can be found here. The contagion was also spread in both cases by peer groups. Many teens coming out as transgender are doing so in the context of peer groups who are also coming out. I am aware of one school where nine natal girls all announced that they were trans within a short space of time. In regards to FMS, there were documented cases where some people “found” repressed memories after spending time in a peer group for survivors. (See “Therapist Not Needed to Recover Memories.”)

11.) Interestingly, in both cases feminists were the some of the first and most outspoken skeptics

The panic over SRA was problematic not just because it ripped families apart, but also because it diverted attention and resources from real child abuse issues. Some feminists voiced concerns about this. Today, feminists such as Elizabeth Hungerford, the blogger 4thWaveNow, Germaine Greer, and Rebecca Reilly Cooper are drawing attention to the inconsistencies in the transgender narrative and expressing concern about how this trend is distracting attention from issues of sexism and gay and lesbian issues. Of particular concern to feminists is the fact that many young lesbians are identifying as trans and going on to take hormones and have surgery. In this sense, transition acts like medical gay conversion therapy, changing lesbian girls into straight boys. Some suggest that many young lesbians are identifying as trans due to internalized misogyny and homophobia.

I have covered some of the ways in which I see the transgender child trend is similar to the phenomenon of false memory syndrome and satanic ritual abuse. How are they different?

The internet.

Information and ideas travel faster and further now, making it easier to spread social contagion.

In the case of FMS, most of the victims were adults. Now the victims are children.

If there is even a small chance that significant numbers of young people are permanently altering their bodies on the basis of beliefs about themselves that may change, shouldn’t we all be trying to slow this train down?

If we do not wish to repeat the mistakes of history, we are well advised to study and learn from them.

Another Open Letter to Therapists: “I needed someone to to help me unwind the internalized homophobia and misogyny keeping me always repressed and compromised.”

A lesbian coming to terms with her sexuality in her 30’s, thissoftspace considered transition as a solution to her discomfort with her body and feelings of alienation, but found another way.  She writes about her reconciliation with womanhood and acceptance of her sexuality on her blog thissoftspace.wordpress.com and her tumblr thissoftspace.tumblr.com While she did not engage in psychotherapy during the period in which she was transitioning, she does have some thoughts on the kind of process that would have been helpful to her. I am grateful to her for sharing her thoughts.

While thinking about writing this post, I found myself getting my old High School yearbook out of my closet. After all, our concern here is youth, and I was curious about a nagging memory from my own teenage years. I remember well my senior photo, taken when I was seventeen. I remember wearing beige pants, a white oxford shirt buttoned to the top, and a light blue vest under a dark blue blazer. I remember being very uncomfortable as the photographer tried his best to pose me, and intent on looking confident and powerful. In the waist­-up shot I selected for the yearbook I appear a bit like, perhaps, the classy lesbian CEO of a powerful company. The kind of woman who might not only own her own yacht but sail it herself.

Not a bad look, in my opinion. What I remained curious about was whether any of the other girls looked anything like me. Granted, this was the mid­-90’s, so girls wore collared shirts in all styles and colors, but no other girl had hers buttoned up to the top. No other girl wore a vest and a blazer like a three ­piece suit. No other girl faced the camera with a closed­-lip smile, natural, combed­-through hair simply hanging about her shoulders, and a square­-shouldered, slightly intimidating pose.

Out of the hundred or so in my graduating class, no other girl looked anything like me.

I was born into a middle­-class white family in the northeastern United States, both of my parents working professionals. My brother ­ four years older ­ and I went to a well­ regarded school district, and we all attended church every Sunday. Although our family had some ups ­and­ downs, including my parents’ divorce when I was a teen, I grew up more or less free from financial stress, drug or alcohol addiction, or any outright abuse. To most other families who knew us we appeared more or less the American ideal, including the green grassy lawn and a dog.

The surrounding area was a mixture of rural farmland and suburban small towns, still 95% white and predominantly Christian to this day. I thought nothing of the white, American, Christian standard that pervaded my everyday life. I only knew I had to take off my jeans and sweatshirt to pull on tights and a dress for church on Sundays, and there were disparate male and female dress codes at school. I constantly found myself torn between the freedom I enjoyed at home, where my brother and I roamed our grandparents’ acres of overgrown fields and woodlands, and what was expected of me any time other people were present. The girl running barefoot and topless around the backyard with a water­ gun was never acceptable. I learned very early to be quiet, to cover myself, to not speak of my boyish interests, and to do my best to blend in with other young girls ­ at least whenever they or their parents were around.

When I was in high school I existed in two worlds. At school, I had friends and did well in classes, participated in a handful of activities like the Latin club and band and orchestra. I loved marching band and wearing a uniform that blended the differences between the girls and the boys. For our formal concerts, however, the rule was girls had to wear a skirt or dress in order to be allowed to perform, so twice a year my mother and I went on long, stressful shopping trips trying to find something I could bear to wear. (The last year, she kindly made me a black split­ skirt that went under the radar.) I never wore makeup, not even to cover acne. I only grew my hair long so I could have a braid or ponytail “queue” like my male heroes from the 1790’s ­ and also because the short, spiked hair I had wanted in 8th grade had been subtly discouraged.

Away from church and school I lived a very separate existence. While my classmates were listening to Nirvana and Boyz II Men, I was listening the the traditional Irish group The Chieftains and walking through the woods and fields, seeking to find peace in nature. One of my favorite tunes was “The Strayaway Child” ­ a haunting melody with an old rhythmic heartbeat beneath ­ which seemed to capture my sense of otherness, of separation from the rest of society. I am still moved by this song whenever I hear it, still speaking to me of being out of step, perhaps lost, perhaps simply strayed too far from what everyone else considered normal.

I grew up, after all, not knowing anyone like me ­ and I don’t mean that in the superficial sense, as though I knew no one who shared my interests or no one I could be friends with. I had friends, but I knew no one like me ­ no other girl who wouldn’t wear dresses and makeup, no other girl who didn’t want to date boys, no other girl more interested in computer games and building models than she was in preparing for the spring prom. No other girls or even women like that ­ though there were rumors of that one gym teacher. Lesbianism was at best left unspoken and at worst whispered of as a sin, a dirty practice. There simply was no option of being gay in my immediate community, and no example of living as a gender non­-conforming woman. I had to just keep muddling through the best I could, with prescriptions for Xanax and an SSRI for my anxiety, depression and panic attacks. No one ever looked further for the source of my constant distress about who I was and where I fit in.

For young women struggling with their identity today, there is a visible option, a hopeful solution to their own distress. Online, it isn’t difficult to come across young women with short hair and men’s clothing, apparently breaking through our culture’s strict gender norms. Almost always, however, they will describe themselves as queer, genderqueer, or non-­binary, sometimes as trans­-masculine, sometimes as trans men. Sometimes they are visibly transitioning through their tumblr blogs and their Youtube videos. Years ago when I was still struggling to accept myself as a lesbian, I came across an article titled “Where have all the Butches Gone?” supporting the transition of gender non­conforming lesbians to trans men. Chaz Bono, originally Cher’s daughter and a butch lesbian, transitioned years ago and was welcomed as a male dance partner on Dancing with the Stars. The most visible and socially­ acceptable option for a young female exploring gender expression these days is to abandon her womanhood and transition to something ­– anything — else.

Where have all the butches gone? Rachel Maddow, a proud butch lesbian, is seen on television in feminine makeup and scoop-­neck collars. Ellen Degeneres, possibly the most famous lesbian in America and at least grounded in more gender-­neutral clothing, nevertheless is a spokeswoman for Cover Girl. To be a woman in our society who rejects makeup and feminine dress is to step into a world where you are never seen. Our culture either demands us take on some kind of feminine practice in order to be accepted as female, or pushes us towards transitioning away from womanhood.

This may not be the root of every young woman’s interest in the transgender narrative, as trauma and mental illnesses factor in as well, but for me, after seven years of trying to be a gender non-­conforming lesbian, I found myself seeking a solution in another identity. At very least when I looked at and listened to gender-queer, non-­binary and male-­identified females, I found a reflection of myself at last; I heard someone else saying, “I hated wearing dresses. I hated playing with dolls. I hated how others viewed my body. I hated being a girl.”

What was not revealed to me until later ­ because the voices of gender non­conforming and butch women are stifled, twisted and suppressed by overwhelming trans activism and homophobia ­ was that women, natural, mentally healthy women, can hate wearing dresses, can hate playing with dolls, can hate how society views their bodies and can hate “being a girl.” I finally learned that we all deserve to live our lives free of those stereotypes and oppressions, and I finally began to live as myself.

When I found out the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival existed, when I watched video and saw photos and read stories of that event, I found myself in tears. When I watch the women of the Wanted Podcast, I find myself in tears. When I read the experiences of detransitioned women, of women who lived as men for years or months only to return to womanhood, I find myself in tears. Because all of them speak the truth of a shared experience, of walking away from society’s expectations, so often alone, in an effort to find some kind of space and freedom for ourselves. In speaking, we reach out to each other, and at last see ourselves and this alternate path. It is so often hidden, but it exists as surely as gender­-defying women have existed throughout human history.

Finding that hidden path lead me home, for the first time in my life. I find myself echoing what other women have said when they testify “Michfest saved me” ­ finding these women and this path certainly saved me. Once, there were places where this alternative way of being a woman could be welcomed, seen, and celebrated. Now, more and more, all traces of this path are being obscured. Butch lesbians are being asked their “preferred pronouns,” if not immediately assumed to be a “he” or a “they”. Huffington Post embraces “Queer Voices” instead of gay or lesbian voices. Trans­activism has pushed gay men and lesbians from traditionally supportive organizations such as GSA’s. I read all the time of young lesbians, trying to find their way as young women, finding their only support groups full of “genderqueers and trans women.” And with the strident voices of the trans-­equality movement constantly gaining ground through far-­reaching validation such as the recent order from the Department of Justice, identifying as trans is looking more socially acceptable, and perhaps even more socially empowering, than being a gender non-­conforming woman ever has.

If the young women of today who are considering transition or identifying as other than female are going to be reached with an alternate path for their lives, they need to be shown that option in a positive, inspiring, realistic way. Whether they are gay, bisexual, or straight, whether they are exploring gender expression or abandoning it altogether, they need examples of women, role models from history and fellow travelers on the path, who can empathize with the experience, clarify the source of the hardships, and provide guidance and support. In order for this to occur, a bridge must be built between the often straight and gender­-conforming families of these young people and the often marginalized and ostracized gender­-defying women who have made this journey their lives.

Sometimes it seems like a problem that will remain circular: because potential role models never fit in as young women and so are made invisible, the young women of today, seeing no future version of themselves, begin to believe they will never fit in, either. And so they are erased by alternate gender identities, and the cycle continues. My hope is that because this issue has come to a point of crisis ­ an exodus of teen girls dis-identifying as female ­ society as a whole will have to confront the pervasive oppression of modern femininity. When women who exist outside of the conventional female gender role are finally embraced as whole and natural role models for young women, so many possibilities will be opened up, so many paths revealed, so much space will be made for everyone to live and express themselves just as they are.

I didn’t have a gender­-defying woman as a role model when I was growing up, and neither did I have access to a good therapist. I would have benefited beyond words to have had an alliance between the two: a gender-­defying woman to show me who I could become, and a therapist to help me unwind the internalized homophobia and misogyny keeping me always repressed and compromised. I needed ­ desperately ­ to be shown that the barefoot girl running around outside was perfectly acceptable just as she was, and in her essence, without ornamentation or alteration, was worthwhile and lovable. Now in my late 30’s, I’m finally beginning to understand the consequences of being that strayaway child ­ the cycles of anxiety and depression, the obsessive fears about my body being unhealthy and wrong, the strangling social anxiety and crippling lack of self­-confidence. I am just beginning to become whole, thanks in part to the sisters young and old who have shown me the way. If I can show the way to others, I will do so, if only in living as my most authentic self. Let no other young girl stray away on her own, seeking escape from the world and some space to be herself.

Let no other girl become lost with no one to guide her. There is a way home. I hope beyond hope we can reveal that alternative together.