"This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man."
~ William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act 1, Scene III
Recently, a young Trans Woman by the name of Blaire White released a video with the title "Transgenderism Is A Mental Disorder." Now, Ms White has made this claim before, but this was the first time she devoted an entire video to the claim, and, as she expected, it received some backlash from various circles. The backlash occurred with good reason. But before I address what she said, I'll put her video here so those interested in her words can hear for themselves.
No. It's not. Now I will explain why it's not.
The symptom is not the cause.
"Gender Dyphoria," which is the name of a symptom and not the name of the condition itself, is not regarded as a "mental illness" in the medical community anymore (and hasn't been in several decades, although it took the APA a while to update the DSM and they still waffled a bit with DSM V), but even if it were, the symptom is not the cause. "Gender Identity Disorder" is no longer considered a legitimate diagnosis of anything; it's been removed from the DSM as of DSM V. "Gender Dysphoria" is a diagnosis of a symptom, and is usually required before a person is approved for the various meds to begin transition.
Gender Dysphoria is a symptom of Transsexuality, not the state of Transsexuality, nor the cause of Transsexuality.
That's where people are missing the boat.
(A note on language: A variety of words are in use, some not always used correctly, some preferred by one group, others preferred by other groups, but the general consensus, particularly among healthcare professionals, is that a "Transsexual" is a person with a particular condition, while "Transgender" is a larger umbrella term under which "Transsexual" falls. In her video, Ms White was discussing Transsexuals in particular, and so am I in this post. Some, even among healthcare professionals, use the terms "Transgenderism" and "Transsexualism," which I find, well, frankly, stupid, and prefer "Transsexuality" for the state of being which is the subject of both Ms White's video and this post, for purely linguistic reasons, and to be precise, for etymological and morphological reasons. The Online Etymology Dictionary explains:
-ismword-forming element making nouns implying a practice, system, doctrine, etc., from French -isme or directly from Latin -isma, -ismus (source also of Italian, Spanish -ismo, Dutch, German -ismus), from Greek -ismos, noun ending signifying the practice or teaching of a thing, from the stem of verbs in -izein, a verb-forming element denoting the doing of the noun or adjective to which it is attached. For distinction of use, see -ity. The related Greek suffix -isma(t)- affects some forms.
Again, The Online Etymology Dictionary explains:
word-forming element making abstract nouns from adjectives and meaning "condition or quality of being ______," from Middle English -ite, from Old French -ete (Modern French -ité) and directly from Latin -itatem (nominative -itas), suffix denoting state or condition, composed of -i- (from the stem or else a connective) + the common abstract suffix -tas (see -ty (2)).
Roughly, the word in -ity usually means the quality of being what the adjective describes, or concretely an instance of the quality, or collectively all the instances; & the word in -ism means the disposition, or collectively all those who feel it. [Fowler]
Transsexuality is a condition with PHYSICAL causes (with physical manifestations which can be measured in clinical tests of stimulus-response and through clinical observation such as in autopsies), which has at least one psychological symptom ("Gender Dysphoria").
And that symptom makes perfect sense:
If your body is so incongruent with what you know to be your identity, usually from a rather early age, it would be remarkable if you didn't have any dysphoria.
Here is the first response video from a Trans Woman which was shown to me:
"Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
~ Attributed to Jesus in The Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter VI, vv. 1-6
This biblical passage is a condemnation of hypocrisy, of pretending to be what you are not in order to gain public approval, of being, in the words which Shakespeare put into the mouth of Polonius, true to oneself; the passage also has relevance for the so-called "Transtrenders," whom I will discuss presently. For someone who is Transsexual, living a lie in order to be "accepted" by society eventually usually becomes unbearable, at which time they enter into a crisis and the outcome of that crisis can be tragic; some Trans folk at that time choose to simply end it. Others, however, find the will to be true to themselves, to be who they truly are and stop pretending, or, as some might call it, "playing a role." They choose, if you will, to remove "the mask of masculinity" (in the case of a Trans Woman) or "the false face of femininity," and expose their true face to the world. This can also have tragic results, the loss of friends and family, loss of job, social ostracization, religious condemnation and persecution, and so on. Many Trans persons in former times packed up and moved to a new location (when they could afford it), made their transition (there will be some debate about whether or not there can ever be an end to transitioning, but for the purposes of this discussion, I mean that they did the counseling, began the "Real Time Experience" of living as their true gender 24/7, did the medications necessary to affect some physical changes, and underwent other procedures including surgery/surgeries), and then moved to another location again and started an entirely new life where nobody knew them from before. Most who go through this process are considerably happier with themselves after the process is over (but then come other challenges, like dating, romance, sex, marriage, when to reveal if ever, and so on, which can cause some significant Angst), because most actual Transsexuals really just want the chance to live a normal life as their true gender, rather than to have any publicity over their state of being, who they seemed to be, and who they are, unless they earn that publicity for something unrelated; there are some exceptions to this, which may have to do with a generation gap, but may be due to other factors as well or instead.
Before I proceed further with this discussion, I'll include another response video from another Trans Woman, and let her speak for herself:
I made a claim earlier in this piece that Transsexuality is a physical condition with at least one psychological symptom, but physical causes. I stated that there are measurable physical manifestations which support this claim. Some of my readers may be reeling at that, but here's the evidence, a collection of links gathered by a Trans Woman who is herself a scientist (although not in a field related to these questions, but certainly trained in the Empirical method and critical thinking), mostly from peer-reviewed, scholarly medical and other scientific journals (and a legal case or two):
Transsexual and Intersex Gender Identity
As for "Gender Dysphoria" and "Mental Disorders" and "Mental Illness" and so on, Dysphoria is not a full-blown psychosis, so calling it "a mental illness" is pushing the envelope. Let's just have a look at what "Psychosis" means: NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness | Early Psychosis and Psychosis. Calling Transsexuality a "mental disorder" is denying that the reality is real. Psychosis is the term used for the most severe psychological dysfunctions, which involve a break with reality. Tell me what "crazy" means. Or "insane." Or "mentally ill." And I'll tell you that you're talking about full-blown psychosis. In ordinary parlance, "mental illness" (and even "mental disorder") means "wrong in the head," "crazy," "delusional," "insane." What professionals call "psychotic." Lots of people have minor character disorders or dysfunctions like OCD. Are they "mentally ill" (psychotic) or just have some "issues" which they need to work out (sometimes requiring medication)?
Again, what is "Dysphoria" in a medical sense? Not "Gender Dysphoria" specifically, but "Dysphoria" in a general sense.
"A mood of general dissatisfaction, unhappiness, restlessness, depression, and anxiety; a feeling of unpleasantness or discomfort. The opposite of euphoria."
And then what is "Euphoria" in a medical sense?
"1. A feeling of well-being, commonly exaggerated and not necessarily well founded.
"2. The pleasure state induced by a drug or substance of abuse."
Lots of people would be "mentally ill" if dysphoria (gender or otherwise) were a mental illness, then, yes? Lots of people are in fact dysphoric in the sense given above, in one way or another (although for most, the state of dysphoria is a transitory one, whereas for someone with Gender Dysphoria, it is persistent, at least until such time as that person transitions). Some might even need some treatment for it. But that doesn't mean they're psychotic.
The difference is in how extreme the situation is. A minor psychological disorder/dysfunction is not a full-blown psychosis. Trans people are not disconnected from reality as a whole class (some certainly may be, but their being Trans is not the cause of that, any more than smoking a reefer will cause Schizophrenia; what I mean is that, if someone who is Trans happens to be disconnected from reality, then that disconnection is due to some other condition, and not being Trans, because being Trans in itself is in no way a disconnection from reality, nor does it in itself cause such).
Here's the basic message. Ms White is wrong in generalizing from the symptom to the entire condition, whether the symptom can be called "a mental illness" or not. It's only a symptom of Transsexuality, not Transsexuality itself. Transsexuality itself has physical causes, and physical differences have been measured in clinical testing, autopsies, and so on.
Before I go on to address some other, somewhat related topics, I suppose some may want further references. Alright.
APA Says Being Transgender is No Longer a Mental Disorder | The Bottom Line
DSM-5 Fact Sheets | American Psychiatric Society
So, then. We come to the topic of people whom some call "Transtrenders." Like many other neologisms, this term can be misapplied, and until it finally makes it way into a dictionary (if it should ever do so), the term may have no clear, agreed-upon meaning. So, for some, going back some years, there were ... well, here, I'll just let yet another Trans Woman (who also has her own response to Ms White's video, but the video which follows is about something else) explain, in another video:
I'm not quite sure I agree with everything Ms Lee has to say in the video above, but I think she makes some good points. Now, to be sure, I agree with her that the older use of the term "Truscum" was catty and denied the reality of others simply because they had not yet transitioned. Transsexuality is about who you are, not about what you do (or have done to yourself) or how you look. A person is born Trans, and some would say that person remains Trans even after transitioning. Transitioning does not make someone Trans; it's just a process in their life. Indeed, for some older Trans Women, being "Trans" was something they regarded as their past once they did transition. Here's an example piece by Allison Washington where I have highlighted a portion of the text expressing this idea (the link should take you directly to the highlighted bit):
My experience during the Trans Dark Ages – Medium
She writes, in case the highlight doesn't show up for you and the link doesn't take you directly to the portion to which I wish to call your attention (but please read the entire piece; it's very interesting):
I don’t think any of us ‘identified as trans’. We saw ourselves as women in deep trouble, working under the temporary label ‘transsexual’. Once we’d had surgery (and that was the goal) we considered ourselves ‘former transsexuals’; we disappeared into cis society and left ‘trans’ behind forever. The notion of retaining ‘trans’ as part of who we were would have shocked us. I still have trouble getting my head around this concept — I’ve lived decades thinking of myself as no different to any cis woman, and the idea of moving away from that, after having struggled to get there, feels strange.
What I'm not sure about in Ms Lee's video is the critique of "non-binary." A lot of people operate under the assumption that there are only two genders. I don't think that's accurate. I think gender is more complicated than that. At the same time, however, the phenomenon of "Facebook Genders" or "Tumblr Genders" is a concern, because, rather than helping to dispel misunderstandings about what it means to be Transsexual, it adds to those misunderstandings by spreading misinformation. There are not 37, 56, 58, or 71 genders. And there aren't more than 71 genders, either (one list gives a staggering 114 genders!). I've seen absolutely NO scientific evidence to support such a claim, and I've actually looked. Evidence that gender may be a spectrum? Sure, there is some such evidence, but 37 (or more) genders? No evidence.
You're not a special snowflake, wholly unique from every other person who has ever existed, and you don't get to make up your gender as you go. Gender is. It's not something you choose. This isn't a creative writing class. This is life, and your claims and behavior, like Ms White's, have consequences for other people who are trying to dispel misconceptions and be accepted without the stigma of being associated with people who want to be "Trans-Racial" or "Trans-Species" or "My gender is Attack Helicopter" or "I'm Female on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but Male on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays" or any of that "Oooo, look at me! I'm so special and you have to accept it, and if you say anything which 'triggers' my neurosis, I'm going to accuse you of 'violence,' because I have no idea what 'violence' actually means!" business. You are the people who are called "Transtrenders," and with good reason. It's just a fad with you, a trend, and eventually, you'll grow out of it (hopefully). This is not the case with actual Transsexuals. They don't grow out of it, because it's REAL and not merely some effort to out-weird someone else (and I have the greatest respect for weirdness, but please, stop muddying the waters for people who are only just beginning to be understood by the wider society; go find some other way to be weird).
The facticity of our society at the current moment is that being Transsexual has become more well-known, and significant popularity has come to settle on a few Trans people. This situation has led to people exploring possibilities, and while there's nothing wrong with exploring possibilities, getting up in other people's faces and demanding that they embrace the idea that you are "Abimegender" or "Abamasgender" or "Juxera" or any of these other alleged genders, is not only immature, but presumptuous. You do not have to make up new categories for situations or states which already have names, like "Androgyne." That's a thing. It's been around for ages. I'm sorry if it's not "specific" enough for you. Communication is challenging enough already, and there's no scientific evidence of which I am aware which justifies these 37, 114, or 8 billion "genders."
"I refuse to be categorized!" or "I'm a paradox!" or "I'm on a totally different plane from male and female" is not an adult response to the question of gender. It's just adolescent rebellion or New Age mumbo-jumbo (at best).
And it does significant harm to those who ARE Transsexual, by undermining the cause of educating others and winning acceptance.
But those who have embraced selfishness and youthful rebellion and New Age phantasies don't stop to consider the harm they cause; some just don't care, while others are too busy trying to be "unique" or to get attention or to impress others with how imaginative they are.
That all having been said, limiting gender to two and only two is to ignore reality as well. The existence of Intersex individuals alone ought to suggest that a person can have no gender identity, or can have both (and yes, I am very much aware of the fact that "Intersex" refers to a group of physical conditions and people who have such a condition, and not to gender identity, but insisting that such people have to fit into gender categories which don't even match their physical nature is rather presumptuous and, frankly, asinine). As such, I would suggest that the number of genders is four: Female, Male, Agender, and Bigender. Anything which goes beyond those four should simply be regarded as being under those four "umbrellas," if you will. And no, I'm also not suggesting that people who are Agender or Bigender are Trans or that they require any kind of treatment in a medical sense (although some may need counseling).
In conclusion, Trans People with an audience, or with a particular ideology, may do significant harm to other Trans People, and to the cause of getting ACCURATE AND UP-TO-DATE information out to the rest of society and the intended greater acceptance of Trans People by the wider society as a result of giving them accurate and up-to-date information. And people who are claiming to be "Trans"-something which has no relationship whatsoever to Transsexuality may do harm to the same people and their cause. Which does the greater harm? I wouldn't presume to know, nor to be able to arrive at a conclusion without significant research and application of Inductive Logic (which isn't really my thing; I prefer Deductive Logic, because it suits my philosophical positions better), but harm has been being done, and it needs to stop.
The title of the post comes from Star Trek (The Original Series), Season 1, episode 7; episode 7 overall; production code 10.
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