Reposted, with permission from the author.
Early text exchange with a recent client referral:
“While I can’t deny her feelings, I’m not 100% sure on it.”
“100% sure on what?”
“That she is trans.”
“What does that mean?”
“I guess I don’t know.”
“I don’t think anyone does.”
If you’ve read my piece, Are You the Enemy? you have some understanding of sensitive personality types. There’s much more to be said about the profile of teens who are especially vulnerable to the promises of salvation offered by the Trans movement. For the purposes of this essay, I just want to reiterate the idea that those of us who are driven to authenticity want to be seen for how we see ourselves. My daughter believes she wants to be seen as a boy. According to the historical and generally accepted definition of the word boy, this is impossible for me. She’s just not one. But can I see her as Trans? Maybe. What does Trans mean? I can’t seem to get a clear, consistent, usable definition of what it means to be Trans, but after several years of having a Trans-IDed daughter, I’ve come to some conclusions of my own:
Trans is a character, an avatar if you will. We live in the digital age where young people play loads of video games and can design imaginative characters to engage in magical, stunningly gorgeous worlds. It’s actually pretty amazing and a great way for young people to try on identities and test different strategies for engagement. Of course, the downside is that it’s so engaging it makes real life seem dull and for the sensitive and self-conscious, it’s an escape that’s understandably difficult to tear oneself away from. It’s also an unfortunate pipeline to lifelong medicalization—markets have been created. How alluring to believe you can totally customize your actual body and design your ideal self? What could have been a harmless, maybe even helpful way to try on identities and explore what works for you has been exploited as a way to market the adolescent body as a problem that needs treatment.
Trans is a mask. It’s a way to disappear. We all develop coping mechanisms to deal with the pain that arrives with adolescent self-consciousness. This self-consciousness is developmentally appropriate, but for the extra-sensitive, it can be almost too painful to bear. For some the coping mechanism is to be invisible. What better way to disappear than to hide behind a figurative mask? Funny how Covid brought with it literal masks. My trans-IDed daughter is loathe to return to a pre-Covid state of masklessness. I’m sure there’s comfort in knowing the trans mask remains available to obscure her true self.
Trans is a shield. True selves are vulnerable to pain. What better way to avoid pain than to defend your vulnerable heart with a shield? To be able to present to the world a false self that can withstand the abuse suffered through adolescence; the arrows that would normally pierce the heart of a sensitive teen are cushioned and even deflected by the shield of trans. It’s kind of perfect if you think about it. This is such a developmentally difficult time, you’d almost be silly to reject the armor being Trans provides along with the SJW army that comes to your defense and smites anyone who would question your validity!
Trans is a stall tactic. Are you intimidated by the ideas of romance and becoming an adult? No problem! If you’re Trans, you can just opt out of all that uncomfortable interaction with the opposite sex and the pesky responsibilities that come with growing up. Retreat to your group of likewise Trans-IDed friends who are equally uncomfortable with all that awkwardness that comes with secondary sex characteristics and maturity. Buy each other binders and confuse everyone with your androgenous, childlike appearance. It’s a sort of twisted Peter Pan Syndrome where you can remain a self-absorbed, undeveloped child who requires extra protection from what has become a rather scary and confusing real world.
Trans is a conversion experience. Our children have grown up in a culture that seems to many to be completely devoid of meaning. All our natural human cravings for community and belonging have been exploited through this movement. We created a perfect environment for our children to be groomed and inducted into a new religion that offers a rebirth experience. When faced with modernity’s problems of a ravaged planet and economy, little hope of achieving what our culture defines as “success”, who could fault with a sensitive, self-conscious teen for embracing baptism and a new identity in a religion that love-bombs you and promises salvation through very concrete steps and adherence to the Trans dogma?
Trans is the counterculture de jour. I’m clearly convinced of the profile of the sensitive, self-conscious teen who would try on identities (masks) to assert their uniqueness. This personality type is the one who must be seen as different, requiring special care, recognized for their suffering. Of course teens, like all humans, are still driven to find a sense of belonging. This teen predictably adopts whatever was offered to them as the current acceptable counterculture: punk, goth, emo, Trans. Markets were created in all these instances, but the Trans counterculture is the first to concretize a temporary and trendy identity with extreme and irreversible body modifications.
Trans is the current symptom cluster. Most teens experience some level of distress. Highly sensitive teens are vulnerable to acute distress in puberty. When the grown-ups around them are normalizing their adolescent experience (guilty,) there’s a good chance these teens are not sensing that their deep and very real pain is being recognized and addressed. Here comes the medical community to the rescue! Eating disorders, PTSD, cutting–what is getting attention these days? “Maybe this is a way that I can demand that trusted adults do something to help me alleviate this unbearable pain?” Of course it’s not a conscious thought, but we know that symptom clusters spread socially and those in deep, undefined distress will diagnose themselves with whatever is the latest and/or most interesting condition that has captured our collective attention. Unfortunately, while the medical complex would seek to help families heal the pain that results in eating disorders and cutting, they participate in the self-harm that Trans demands. It’s hard for me to even call it “self-harm.” This harm is iatrogenic and marketed to our children.
Trans is an oppression label. We live in a culture that highlights and venerates oppression. If you fit the definition of “oppressor” you are truly the scum of the earth. Read Helena’s story to understand just how precarious and threatening it currently is to be a “cis-het white girl.” Trans is the only (and maybe the most impressive) oppression label a teenager (or anyone for that matter) is allowed by this culture’s rules to opt into. I think. Maybe this is changing? It’s so hard to keep up.
Trans is exceptional. It is exempt from all the other rules of this social justice-oriented culture as well as the central tenets of medicine (like the Hippocratic Oath). To opt into any other oppression category is labeled “appropriation” and seems to be a cardinal sin of the belief system. Again–I think? If this has changed, feel free to update us in the comments. Of course, according to the ideology, one doesn’t decide to be Trans, one is born that way. (So confusing since we’re also constantly told gender is fluid.) Not only is Trans an exception to the rules, but the definition of Trans is also fluid and constantly changing. And when it comes to medicine, Trans is the only (non?) condition that cannot be confirmed except through self-report that is treated with surgeries. (Is there anyone out there who can help me understand how surgical body alterations could possibly be required for radical self-acceptance?)
Having arrived at these conclusions, frankly, I can’t imagine what teenager in their right mind wouldn’t put in the effort to perceive themselves as Trans, then demand that everyone else get on board. The way I see it, my daughter had little choice. Especially being the sensitive, awkward, intelligent, self-conscious kid she is. Wouldn’t it actually be stupid not to?
So, is my bright, quirky daughter Trans? I would say she’s doing the best she can to get through this painful, confusing experience in a “brave new world” and, in many ways, being Trans has been a logical adaptation to today’s adolescent challenges. It is well established that adolescence is a time during which identities are explored and discarded. I’m grateful for my background in education and child development, and for the good sense to not exempt Trans from these fluid identities. Yes, I think I can give my girl that. I can see her as Trans. And I can be proud of her for using her sharp wits to navigate today’s adolescence. Now if I can just get her through to a more developed sense of self and a more mature pre-frontal cortex before the markets claim her healthy body as another sacrifice to the New Gods of Gender and Capitalism, I’ll be forever grateful.