The Laramee Filter: pseudorandom thoughts, subsequently put on the Internet.
Tom Laramee
Date Published:
October 12th, 2022
Word Count:
5,177 (35:00 read time)
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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 the 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[1]:

Talking About Talking About ...

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:

  1. You're either 100%, fully-embracing, in complete [and wildly enthusiastic] agreement of transgender rights.
  2. You're a hater, transphobic, and generally a bad, intolerant, and ignorant person.

(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[2] 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."[3]

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"[4].

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 her 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 complete thinking.

Some Recent (and Reasonably High Profile) Cancellations

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:

  1. 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[5].
  2. 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".
  3. 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[6]. 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 family). 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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[7]. 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.
What's Happening in Seattle, and What is "Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria"?

Seattle prides itself on being a very progressive city, and as a result, it's often a sort of canary-in-the-coalmine of progressive social experiments (think: WHO protests, CHOP, defund, $15 minimum wage, per-employee taxes on corporations, etc).

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[3]):

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]".

A Little About The Potential Causes & Influences Behind ROGD

Here are some salient excerpts from a Psychology Today article[8] 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[9], 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 find out.

What Are The Adults In the Room Saying?

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.

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:

  1. 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 psychiatrists. 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 school's reputation. 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.
  2. 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.[13]
What Should We Probably Be Saying? (Also: Where The Lines Start To Get Blurry)

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.

On the Upside:

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 America, e.g.:

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.

On the Neutral Side:

I think it's also important to recognize that gender expression is a continuum and means different things to different people[14]. Some of the desired affirmations include:

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.

On the Risky Side:

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 depressive disorder", 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 direction."

In fact, I'm fairly certain that psychiatrists live and die by the realities of:

  1. Accurate diagnosis, backed by formal evaluations.
  2. 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 problems).

In other words: if a psychologist or psychiatrist were to humor me and tell me "Yes, you have major depression" and/or "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 next step?

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.:

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).

On the Negative Side:

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.:

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[16].

What Does It All Mean, and What Are Parents To Do?

I see this through two lenses:

  1. 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?
  2. 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:

I'll Go Out With a Whimper (Not With a Bang)

(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[17].

We all have our roles, it's so very clear, the melodies we're supposed to have rehearsed: "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.

[1] To quote Glum from The Adventures of Gulliver: "It'll never work."
[2] This, coming from an atheist. I suppose "desperate times call for desperate measures" could applies here.
[3] J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues
[4] Politicised trans groups put children at risk, says expert Why I Resigned from Tavistock: Trans-Identified Children Need Therapy, Not Just 'Affirmation' and Drugs
[5] New paper ignites storm over whether teens experience ‘rapid onset' of transgender identity
[6] Sussex professor resigns after transgender rights row
[7] Sacked or silenced: academics say they are blocked from exploring trans issues
[8] Why Is Transgender Identity on the Rise Among Teens?
[9] Politicized trans groups put children at risk, says expert
[10] This is my term, a nod to Ice Cube's famous line "Yelling Compton, but you moved to Riverside".
[11] This is one of the most impressively disingenuous arguments I've ever heard. It's intended, nay "designed", to be "unassailable", in that nobody can question it.
Consider: "what kind of horrible person would drive a young person to suicide when all they need to do is use the correct pronouns and the person wouldn't commit suicide?!? that person is clearly a monster".
Too bad it's not true. The reasons kids commit suicide are many, and they're incredibly serious, and none of this should be taken lightly - but the idea that I'm walking around holding the keys to the suicides of a bunch of kids because I don't use their preferred pronouns is ridiculous, and it's also patronizing, to the young people involved here, treating them like a bunch of fragile porcelain dolls instead of the capable survivors that they are.
Kids commit suicide because they're depressed, and feel hopeless, and alone, and that nothing will ever get better, and that they have no support, no one is listening to them, and so they're hopelessly alone [and suffering in silence]. The idea that anyone could blame suicide on the absence of using the correct pronouns is offensively disingenuous.
(Note: by design)
[12] well no doubt! try to talk to the school, or a psychologist, or even a psychiatrist, and as a parent you'll hear the same message over and over "what kind of monster doesn't support their own kid [and get in line to start using the right pronouns and your kids new name?]".
[13] A great way to track this is via the books recommended by the counselor. These tend to cluster around the decade during which the person was actively learning. Some noteworthy examples include "Reviving Ophelia" (1994) and "Bradshaw on the Family" (1988).
[14] What is Gender Dysphoria?
[15] A professor was fired after criticizing transgender ideology.
Note use of the phrase "transgrander orthodoxy" in that article... that's kind of fun.
Why was he fired? "it’s because some of his peers were upset that Dr. Josephson openly dissents from the transgrander orthodoxy that says gender dysphoria should be embraced, encouraged, accepted and treated as normal and healthy by the medical community".
Also note that he shared his views during his personal time.
[16] Even though I'm trying to be thorough here, I'm not sure where to put the tension/fighting that's happening between two groups (1) TG kids who are mostly just looking for gender and legal affiliation and (2) TG kids who are fully committed to both medical and surgical affirmation. Group 2 is accusing group 1 of being "phonies" (my word), and of generally diluting and/or poisoning the TG movement (both my words). This whole sub-drama is fairly ironic, but I do think I agree with group two.
[17] Don't worry too much, there are so very many of these fictions these days it's probably best not to take stock.
E.g.: that buying a Subaru Outback allows you to flex green/environmentalist (and/or that we have environmentalists here at all), that black lives matter, that Seattle has a serious intent to end the homelessness crisis, that "defund the police" is a rational and articulate point of view, that a $15/hour minimum wage will somehow end poverty, and yes, that the unquestioned embrace of ROGD (and the subsequent ignoring of what's really troubling adolescent kids) best serves our young people.
To me, I live in a world of socio-political fictions, in which nothing is as it appears to be, our roles are well-defined, and we go to sleep at night fully convinced we're best suited to lead the country on issues related to adolescent mental health. In truth, I think we're a bunch of cowards, living in a culture of fear and taking the path of least resistance.