The Current Transgender Orthodoxy Here In Seattle
It's a little hard to get my mind around what's happening in Seattle
these days as far as
number of adolescent females declaring that they are transgender
(described as an "explosion" in that article).
What I do know is that it's a social
phenomenon that's unfolding right in front of everyone's eyes and
nobody is talking about it, for reasons that I hope will become
obvious as you continue to read this post.
Before I get too far, I'd like to volunteer a couple of initial thoughts
to set the tone:
- This is a complex and emotionally charged topic.
- It's also an impressively controversial and confrontational topic.
- If you look for fault below, in both my words and/or my thinking, I'm
sure you'll find it. You can decide what to do about that.
- Nobody in their right mind writes about this topic without fear: of
being attacked, threatened, cancelled, etc, and that's a pretty sad
reflection on where we are collectively that we can't seem to have
a discussion between individuals with respectful, thoughtful,
and informed points of view.
The part I find most difficult to talk about when discussing transgender
issues is talking about transgender issues. Meaning: interesting
conversations about TI are difficult to come by due to the overall
heated and polarized nature of this subject in particular (and I do
consider TI an outlier in terms of just how difficult it is to have
a reasonable discussion).
Up until now, I've sat on the sidelines when the subject of the transgender
zeitgeist comes up, and I've done so specifically to avoid the
bloodshed that invariably happens when someone questions what I
call the "trans orthodoxy" that
dominates the current phase of the TG movement.
I'd like to explain what I mean when I say "trans
orthodoxy". I've observed that there are [generally] currently
two sides to any/all transgender discussions:
- You're either 100%, fully-embracing, in complete [and wildly enthusiastic]
agreement of transgender rights.
- You're a hater, transphobic, and generally a bad, intolerant, and ignorant
(Yes, I honestly believe it's that polarized)
There exists a set of opinions that are socially acceptable to express in public,
and as long as they are in line up as unconditional and enthusiastic support of
the TG movement (1 above), you won't be attacked, but if your opinions are deemed
unsupportive (2 above), may god
help you (because you're going to need it).
This is what I'm referring to when I say "trans
orthodoxy". It's the set of socio-political positions that
are socially acceptable to both hold and to volunteer publicly.
JK Rowling (the author of the Harry Potter series) describes this subject as
"an issue surrounded by toxicity" and
"a climate of fear that serves nobody,
least of all trans youth, well."
Marcus Evans (a psychiatrist and medical researcher) said the following "it has become difficult
in the current environment [to examine the transgender phenomenon systematically
and objectively] as debate is continually being closed down amidst
accusations of transphobia ... this de facto censorship regime
is harming children".
Dr Shereen Benjamin (senior lecturer in primary education at Edinburgh) said
the following: "it is now so risky and frightening
for people to talk critically about gender identity on campus".
Now before you get angry with at me for quoting Rowling, I really urge you to read
thoughtful blog post that explains why she decided to take a big
risk and enter the discussion about the transgender zeitgeist.
(My immediate conclusion after reading that thoughtful BLOG post was "why
has there been so much hatred towards
JK Rowling? Has nobody read that post?!?")
And let me be absolutely clear: if you're basing your opinion on JK Rowling on a
single tweet, you are proceeding from a tenuous
position indeed. I wish there was a correlation between
"strength of opinion" and
"careful and thoughtful analysis",
but alas, sadly, this isn't the case. If you want to have a strong opinion
about something (and someone), it's best to read all you can, to be as
well-informed as possible, and so if you have a strong opinion about JK
Rowling, you're obligated to push past the tweet and read her much more
Before I'm accused of hyperbole, consider some recent examples of attacks on
individuals for expressing what I believe are completely reasonable,
thoughtful, careful, well-intentioned, informed opinions:
- Lisa Littman, a physician-researcher in the Department of Behavioral and
Social Sciences at Brown University, published academic paper in which
she identified a phenomenon she calls "Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria" (ROGD)
and as a result was fiercly attacked. In her paper
"she suggested some young people may be seeking
gender transition to escape other emotional difficulties".
Instead of examining whether she might be right, the paper was pulled
down for review, it's mention on Brown's website was removed, and
she was personally attacked.
- Dave Chapelle has been the target of withering attacks by trans activists
for his simple lament that, while the trans community has made huge
strides in recognition, rights, and advocacy in a very short period
of time, during that same time the black community has made
marginal, if any, strides in equal rights, lowering poverty
and violence, and dismantling systemic racism. At the end of the
day, I'm fairly certain he's asking "If
you want me to advocate for you, I'm happy to do so, but I also ask
that you advocate for me".
- Kathleen Stock, a philosophy professor at the University of Sussex resigned
due to fears for her personal safety after expressing opinions about
biological sex and gender identity.
Her crime? She has said she believes gender identity does not outweigh
biological sex “when it comes to law and policy”, and that people cannot
change their biological sex.
Not sure what's so controversial about that that she should
have to fear for her personal safety (and the safety of her
Whether you agree with her or disagree with her, the idea
that her life should be threatened for expressing an opinion is
dangerous and fascistic.
- JK Rowling has been the subject of vicious attacks since her original
comments on gender roles. As it turns out, she's incredibly
educated on these issues, and deliberate in her speech, and
assuming she's just ignorantly "shooting from the hip" is both
foolish and intellectually lazy.
- Jo Phoenix (a professor of criminology at the Open University) had a
lecture canceled at Essex University. Her crime? Intent to have a
discussion around placing trans women in British prisons, arguing
that there are problems with applying trans rights to criminal
justice. There are many
similar stories for people like Kathleen Lowrey, Germaine Greer,
Sarah Honeychurch, David Sorbello, Allan Josephson (and the list
goes on and on).
This all leads me to wonder: why are people's lives being threatened simply
because they're expressing an opinion (and/or the results of their
research) on gender? It also leads me to wonder: will these
high-publicized stories have a chilling effect on discussions
around gender? (Spoiler alert: yes, they will).
How do these high-profile cases trickle down? Like so:
Huge numbers of women are justifiably terrified by the trans activists;
I know this because so many have got in touch with me to tell their
stories. They’re afraid of doxxing, of losing their jobs or their
livelihoods, and of violence.
Seattle prides itself on being a very progressive city, and as a result, it's often
a sort of canry-in-the-coalmine of progressive social experiments (think:
WHO protests, CHOP, defund, $15 minimum wage, per-employee taxes on
What's currently happening to adolescent girls here in Seattle (the thing nobody is
talking about) (and what is also happening in many other cities
and towns across America) is succinctly described by Lisa Littman in an
interview (quoted here):
Parents online were describing a very unusual pattern of transgender-identification
where multiple friends and even entire friend groups became transgender-identified
at the same time. I would have been remiss had I not considered social contagion
and peer influences as potential factors.
This phenomenon, known as Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD), has caught the adult
population flat-footed in terms of how to respond. I've spoken with psychologists,
psychiatrists, doctors, teachers, and other parents and the response is always the
same "I have no idea [what to say about any of this]".
Here are some salient excerpts from a Psychology Today article
to provide some of the current thinking around what's causing ROGD.
Firstly, it's likely a maladaptive coping mechanism for many:
Littman hypothesizes that ROGD can be cast as a maladaptive coping mechanism for
other underlying mental health issues such as trauma or social maladjustment, but
also for other exceptional traits like high IQ and giftedness.
Secondly, social pressures may affect females more than males, explaining the
discrepancy in gender transitions:
Tellingly, for our investigation, it is broadly recognized that females, perhaps
due to their higher sensitivity to social cues on average, are overwhelmingly
more prone to such phenomena.
Thirdly: both "further investigation" is necessary, and "caution is warranted"
as we [we as in "the collective we"] we navigate this new phenomenon:
It is clear from Littman’s study that the rise of rapid-onset gender dysphoria,
which seems to predominantly involve natal females, points to a complex web of
social pressures, changing cultural norms, and new modes of distress and coping
that warrant further investigation. For parents, educators, and clinicians alike,
caution is warranted in dealing with this growing phenomenon.
And finally we arrive at the beginning of my own thinking (and concerns) about this
issue, with a quote from our friend Marcus Evans,
who I quoted earlier in this post:
I believe the trans political agenda has encroached on the clinical environment
surrounding and within the Gender Identity Development Service,” Evans told the
Observer. “Young people need an independent clinical service that has the long-term
interests of the patient at heart. To some extent, this requires a capacity to
stand up to pressure coming from various sources: from the young person, their
family, peer groups, online and social networking pressures and from highly
politicised pro-trans groups.
Do we have the long-term interests of the patient at heart? Let's
As adolescent girls in the greater Seattle area declare their gender dysphoria
one by one (like dominos falling one after the other), the question becomes:
how is the community of adults surrounding these young women responding?
I can answer this question, as I've spoken to a few dozen people as
I myself began looking for answers.
- Our schools are saying nothing. Or, to
be very clear: they're saying
"Okay, sounds good, what's your new
name, and what are your newly preferred pronouns?"
I've thought a lot about the perspective of the schools and have
come to the conclusion that each and every school is terrified to be branded as
transphobic (and for good reason),
and so the schools are rolling out the red carpet for kids who are
- Our psychiatrists are saying nothing.
Or, to be very clear: they're saying "Okay,
sounds good, what's your new name, and what are your newly preferred
It's a mystery to me as this point in time why the response
isn't more measured, something more like "Okay, I hear you, let's
talk about how you arrived at this conclusion and perhaps do a more formal
evaluation to learn more."
They're also offering up some serious nonsense to parents along
the way, e.g.:
"There are studies that show there is no
social component to adolescents declaring gender dysphoria."
That statement (an actual quote) is very patronizing. I see the social
component unfolding in front of my own eyes. Said psychiatrist had no
answer/theory to explain the explosion of f2m trans adolescents, an
explosion that's hopelessly statistically unsustainable.
- Our psychologists are saying nothing.
Or, to be very clear: they're saying
"Okay, sounds good, what's
your new name, and what are your newly preferred pronouns?"
They're also offering up some serious nonsense to parents to
explain the lack of response, e.g.:
"These kids will commit suicide if we don't
use their correct pronouns"
I found that statement (also an actual quote) so disingenuous it got
it's own lengthly footnote.
- Our parents are saying nothing.
Or, to be very clear: they're using the new pronouns
and [sometimes] the new name, but behind closed doors
are saying things like
"this is a fad", and
"my kid doesn't have gender dysphoria", and
"what the hell is going on?", and
"I feel isolated and alone and have no
idea who to talk to about what's happening to my kid" and
"why does no one seem to be helping these kids?"
So: why is this happening? Why is nobody talking about ROGD? This is
a tough question to answer (because nobody it talking about it, it's
also the case that nobody it talking about talking about it).
I suspect there are two main forces at play here:
- It's partly due to a culture of fear. Schools are terrified (yes, that's
the right word) of being branded as transphobic, as are psychologists and
All it would take is a little negative social-media chatter describing how a
school is hostile towards TG students to cause some serious damage to the
Want your psychology practice to fail in Seattle? All you'll need is a
reputation for being transphobic (perceived or real will do).
After all, look at what's happened to so very many academics and mental health
professionals who have lost their jobs or had to fear for their safety and the
safety of their families.
- It's also partly due to the novelty involved, and how it can take many years for
the mental health community to catch up. I have found that many mental health
professionals base the majority of their thinking of whatever they learned in
college and do not spend enough time reading current literature. This leads
to thinking that's decades old.
As a start, the adults in the room should probably say nothing. We should
be listening. And that's not "patronizing listening", where we've
already made up our minds and are just humoring our young adults.
I think there's a lot to respect, and learn from our adolescent girls
as they find their way and figure out where they fit into the world,
so I recommend listening first and talking later.
There's a lot to admire about young women who challenge traditional gender
expectations and roles. To me, it's healthy to do so (and likely unhealthy
not to), as there's so much bullshit involved in being raised female in
- Societal expectations about how women should look
("Seen not heard")
- Lower wages for similar work.
- Less respect in sports, gaming, etc.
- Overwhelmingly more likely to be the victim of domestic and/or sexual violence.
There's a lot to object to, and I'm just scratching the surface with
that list. It's no wonder young women are calling bullshit
(and more power to them).
Think about it this way: if you thought you got a raw deal, you'd
push back too, and the more unfair you thought things were,
the harder you'd push. As for our young women: it would
be very odd indeed if they didn't push back.
I think it's also important to recognize that gender expression is
a continuum and means different things to different
Some of the desired affirmations include:
- Gender affirmation, including social affirmation (e.g., changing one’s name and pronouns).
- Legal affirmation (e.g., changing gender markers on one’s government-issued documents)
- Medical affirmation (e.g., pubertal suppression or gender-affirming hormones)
- Surgical affirmation (e.g., vaginoplasty, facial feminization surgery, breast augmentation, masculine chest reconstruction, etc.)
Note the repeated use of the word "affirmation" in that list.
Part of the listening here (and asking questions) is to find out where someone
falls along this continuum.
To me, this is where things start to get confusing to me. Recall
the following quote:
“Young people need an independent clinical service that has the
long-term interests of the patient at heart.
If I went to a psychologist or a psychiatrist and told them
"Doc, I've self-diagnosed as having major
the 1st thing that would happen is that I'd be formally evaluated
to see if my diagnosis was accurate.
Same for PTSD, or claims of having an anxiety disorder, or OCD, or claims
of being bipolar: these would all be met with the same reaction:
"I'm listening, and I hear you, and
let's do an evaluation to make sure we're looking in the right
In fact, I'm fairly certain that psychiatrists live and die by the
- Accurate diagnosis, backed by formal evaluations.
- Maintaining no illusory perceptions that a patient is convincing
themselves that they're suffering from a condition they are
not, as this would create a sort of cognitive dissonance
that is ultimately harmful to your patient (among other
In other words: if a psychologist or psychiatrist were to humor me
and tell me
"Yes, you have major depression"
"Yes, you have PTSD"
without those being true, this would actually harm me from
the perspective of "lost opportunity cost" to address my actual
challenges by allowing me to ignore, or bury, the actual
conditions from which I suffer.
So my question is: why does ROGD get a free pass here?
Why is ROGD not subject to formal evaluation?
Why do we give our adolescent girls a free pass to self-diagnose without
even suggesting that a formal diagnosis would be a beneficial
Where is "lying to our adolescents" in the Hippocratic Oath?
Since when did "patronizing our adolescents" become a standard
part of mental health counseling?
Why would any mental health professional do such a profound disservice
to their adolescents by misleading them as to what's really
going on inside of them? E.g.:
- "You're not depressed, you're GD"
- "You're not ASD, you're GD"
- "You're not a social misfit trying to find your tribe,
- "You're not a perfectly healthy young woman questioning
your gender role, you're GD"
- "You're not experiencing the very normal, very disconcerting
process of sexual maturation and all of it's uncomfortable,
alarming, unwelcome changes to both body and soul, you're GD"
- "You're not adroitly realizing that being a young woman in America
is hard (it's wicked hard), and it's unfair, and the expectations
that go along with that gender role suck, and as a collective,
we subjugate our young women by objectifying them and often
treating them as second-class citizens .. and your gut instinct
to raise both middle fingers and unshackle yourself from that
role. It's clearly none of that: you're GD"
So here we are: pathologizing an entire generation of young women: women
who might become leaders, and role models, and could help subsequent
generations of young women to navigate their adolescence in a
way that's true, and to build them up rather than convincing
them that the best parts of them are a "mistake".
I honestly wonder why we're doing any of this.
I've been told "In the case of say,
a request to begin hormonal therapy and/or a request for
surgical transformation, a formal diagnosis would be
done.". This is a very disingenuous position.
It's trivializing the concerns and mental health of
young people (I hope no one tells them we're
not taking them seriously enough to do a formal eval).
This section could easily be it's own article, and will arguably be the
most controversial text here, but in summary: at a macro [societal]
level, we seem to be taking the task of "growing up female" (which is
hard enough as it is) and making it even more difficult and riskier, e.g.:
- We're disenfranchising female athletes (who, keep in mind, are already
disenfranchised relative to their male peers) by allowing recent
m2f transitions to compete in female sports without requiring
hormone therapy (so as to bring the male body biologically closer
to the female body to ensure fair competition). Girls who have
trained all of their lives, and sought achievement, camaraderie,
self-esteem and personal excellence now find their concerns have
been "set aside" for more important concerns (those of TG athletes).
(Too bad girls, you're 2nd class citizens two times over now).
- It is inevitable that many adolescent women who choose to remain
gender-identified as females will both (a) lose some of their amazing
compañeras (I think of this as "partners in the revolution")
as they take "the easy path" and cast of the societal shackles that
come with living as / abiding as a woman and forego the opportunity to
be leaders and role models to the next generation of young women
facing the challenges of growing up female and
(b) will lose much of their core identity as females as the biological
reality of being a woman is eroded to the point of meaninglessness.
- It is also inevitable that the last safe space (the bathroom) will become
slightly less safe for many (and profoundly less safe for survivors
of sexual assault) as men simply declare that they are women and enter
this last safe space unencumbered. (I'm personally not sure why this
point is so wickedly controversial, it seems quite straightforward
to me: yes, it's a small percentage, but it's also a
These negative effect are real (despite the attempts to whitewash them
and/or stop conversations about them). They should be discussed, at
great length, boundaries established, and compromises reached.
I see this through two lenses:
- Even if it's maladaptive, is it possible I'd choose this particular maladaptation for any/all
kids in my life, in light of all the other horrible things that could go wrong?
- Even if it's maladaptive, how much more, or less maladaptive is it than the shit we
did as kids to adapt and to fit in?
And I've asked a number of question along the way, many of which
I have answers to:
- Is the majority of this ROGD a maladaptive coping mechanism?
- Is there a "lost opportunity cost" for these kids to attempt
to address the true/underlying traumas, stresses, and
- Will the vast majority of these ROGD adolescents transition back
when there are negative consequences and/or they're in a
different phase of their lives?
- Is it any different from the maladaptive coping mechanisms we used
when we were teenagers? (E.g.: the punks, the goths, the
druggies, the metal-heads, the bullies, the jocks, the loners, etc).
- Is part of this the very normal phase of adolescent development
where our adolescents need independence, to seek a separate
identity, and to test authority?
- Is there genuine peer-bonding, support, and positive socialization
that's happening in these ROGD pockets?
- Is it bad the adults in these kids lives have no idea what to say?
Yes, I think so. (Though that point may be largely moot)
- Is it bad that the adolescent mental-health community has nothing
helpful to add to the discussion nor is it willing to
listen to the concerns around GD in our adolescent girls seriously?
Yes, I think so.
- Are there any long-term detrimental effects of ROGD?
- If I had to choose between ROGD and other sets of maladaptive
coping mechanisms (e.g.: cutting, suicidal ideation, drug use,
promiscuity, etc), is it possible I'd choose ROGD?
Yes, it certainly is.
(This last section is my own personal view, no footnotes nor citations/sources offered).
This stuff is all so complicated, and it feels so volatile, fraught with
any number of perils. It feels like the cultural war has broken
down my front door, cracked open a beer, pulled up a chair, and
invited themself* to dinner.
Living in Seattle these days means living in an elaborate fiction.
If you'd like a more complete metaphor: we're conducting a fictional symphony
(led by an imaginary conductor), in which everyone is playing their part to
create a whole that is bigger than the sum of it's parts: schools, doctors,
psychologists, psychiatrists, and parents.
We all have our roles, it's so very clear, the melodies we're supposed to
"Yes, of course you're not a girl",
"Yes, of course I can use your new pronouns",
"No, it's not something else, obviously you're TG",
"Indeed, none of this is simply part of the excruciating process of growing up female and the new set of generational challenges you're facing,",
"Yes, I'm fully on board",
"Yes, you have my unconditional support**").
Everyone is wonderfully cognizant of the dance we're supposed to
perform in this fictional ballet: and it's amazing to see how everyone
is playing along perfectly.
But at the end of the day, it's still a fiction. We're lying to
our kids. We've constructed a narrative in which it's
not only okay, but encouraged and characterized as "healthy",
to push down and obscure both the classically uncivilized aspects of
growing up female plus the new set of challenges facing this
generation of adolescent girls.
On top of that, we're patronizing them: not taking any of this
seriously, subjecting it to formal evaluation, and encouraging
our young people to continue the search for their true selves,
which means at the end of the day, all we're doing is giving
them their own parts to play in our elaborate fictional narrative.
* See what I did there? So much fun!
** Because what kind of a shitbag parent wouldn't be? You'd have to
be a sociopath to question any of this as a parent, right?
You'd just be the lowest of the low.