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Beyond faith-based debates

I follow some transgender activists on Twitter, and since I don’t subscribe to transgender dogma, I follow some “trans critical” or “gender critical” activists as well. I don’t expect to agree with anyone completely, but I like to find some community with others. Lately I’ve been disheartened by how much I’ve been disagreeing with all sides.

What bothers me more than the disagreement is that the takes on transgender feelings and actions are so uninteresting. The “gender critical” people are fighting to save “girls who believe they are boys,” while the trans dogmatists are fighting to save “authentic selves” from “conversion therapy.” Many of the “gender critical” activists is that they’re only concerned about a recent increase in “transtrenders,” and don’t want to get in the way of transition for “people who are really trans.” Meanwhile, some of my biggest fans get a hard-on talking about mythical “attractive HSTS,” who put all the big fat ugly hairy late-transitioning trans women to shame with their mutant femme beauty.

I follow some therapists who livetweet transgender-focused mental health talks and conferences, and those all focus exclusively on people who transition. For all these professionals, the thousands of people with transgender feelings who have decided not to transition, or have detransitioned, or haven’t decided whether to transition, seem to simply not exist. The first time they encounter someone with trans feelings may be when they’ve decided to transition, but everyone reports struggling with feelings for years before going to therapy. If the therapists only see them once they’ve made their decision the system is clearly broken, but nobody seems to acknowledge that.

All this screaming and pontificating and triage is based on a common faith that you can divide the world into real men and real women – and many also agree that there are real trans men and women, and maybe even real nonbinary people. But they all believe that these categories are fixed at birth, and transition is the exclusive destiny of the real trans people. Even the Blanchardians who concede that “AGP” people may benefit from transition do it begrudgingly, with a sense that it goes against their true nature as men.

As someone who practices skepticism and mainly wants to see people lead happy and healthy lives, all these faith-based debates and practices seem beside the point. We could transition all the AGP fakers and misguided butch teens tomorrow, and never transition any of the attractive HSTS and true trans men, and as long as they all led happy, satisfied lives I wouldn’t give a shit. Even setting aside the fact that these faith-based categories don’t correspond to anything I’ve seen in the world, I have actually seen people who would probably be put in the “not really trans” categories who were as satisfied as anyone with their transitions, and people who would be put in the “really trans” categories who struggled, doubted and detransitioned.

I don’t second-guess anyone’s decision to transition or not, but I tell everyone that the most important criterion they should use when making their decision is which gender they can realistically envision as hosting the happiest, most fulfilling life. In the end, everything else is bullshit, and nobody should consider transition without doing this basic visioning exercise.

But when I go on Twitter or Reddit and see the same faith-based screaming and pontificating, I feel like I’ve walked into the Council of Nicea and everyone’s yelling about whether Jesus is the same entity as God or not, and all I want to say is, “wow, what do you think about what Jesus said about how if you only salute your brothers you’re no better than the tax collector?”

I’m sick of hearing from people who already know it all and want to beat everyone else over the head with it. I want to follow people on Twitter who care about everyone who’s feeling trans feelings, regardless of what stupid category they’re in, and who’s trying to help them. I’m particularly interested in people who are finding ways to deal with these feelings without transition, but I’m really looking for compassion – and not just compassion for brethren. I hope there’s some out there!

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  1. I follow all sides of this debate and agree it’s a horribly bad-tempered chanting of faith-based dogma.

    I don’t mind who has what gender expression. I don’t mind who does, and who doesn’t, socially, medically and/or surgically transition.

    My one piece of personal dogma is that nobody should be able to self-identify into the legal rights and protections of a protected class (ie – don’t mind if trans men use self ID to become legally men but do mind if trans women use self ID to become legally women. To become a member of a legally protected class, there must be gate keeping).

    But apparently, this one opinion makes me tantamount to a genocidal maniac.

  2. That’s a nice distillation of the issues, Leona. The problem is that protected classes are always defined by the very people they need to be protected from. In other words, the true gatekeepers are the oppressors; the people who determine legal class membership are only interpreting their actions. Our reality is, in a very real sense, imposed on us by violent bigots. and for them, trans women are close enough to women.

  3. I’m guessing we follow different trans people because I don’t see any trans dogma in my own tweetline. There’s occasional stuff against conversion therapy, sure – who’s in favour of that anyway?! – but when it comes to children, most people I know support gender *affirmative* therapy which, as I’m sure you know, is about allowing kids to explore who they are, be themselves, without any clinical goal in mind. Most children thus supported do not go on to transition.

    For adults entering health care, the most obviously apparent people are naturally those taking medical paths. For the rest of us, I dunno, what do we need exactly? Mental health care sometimes, in which case it can be useful to find someone who has experience of trans and gender non-conforming issues. But otherwise, I guess all we require is basic human respect or, as you put it, compassion.

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