Here’s the stunning story of [name redacted by request], 14, who had begun to change her gender, but ceased and desisted. She talks about how she got into it, and how she escaped it. It’s a long story, and I’m only going to quote parts of it that talk about the role the Internet and popular culture played in exploiting ordinary stresses and cracks within a pubescent teenager’s psyche. Excerpts:
For a couple of years, you thought you were transgender. How did it start? Why did you think that?
It started when I was 11. I thought I might be trans after spending time online where I saw people saying that if you feel dysphoric, you must be a different gender. So many people were saying it, that I came to believe it. At first, I identified as agender and then after thinking about it more, I realized I was a boy because I wanted to be “masculine.”
What did that mean, be “masculine?”
For me, it meant wanting the physical characteristics of adult males: a beard, being taller and strong. And being masculine was about feeling safe.
Were you dysphoric?
I felt like I didn’t want to be in my body. I didn’t like it. It kinda felt like my body wasn’t mine and I wanted a different one.
What was going on that made you feel like that? What was it about your body that “wasn’t yours?”
A few different things. Mostly, it was previous trauma and being in the early stages of puberty. I don’t know anyone who isn’t uncomfortable during puberty, but at the time, I thought the way I was feeling was something extreme and different.
I used being trans to try and escape being scared about being small and weak. I thought that if I presented myself as a man I’d be safer.
What first got you thinking about being trans?
Things online. First, it was on DeviantArt. It’s an art-sharing website, but the DA communities I was in, which were made up of kids drawing animals and other original characters, went from sharing and commenting on each other’s art to being super dramatic and depressed. It also turned into a disrespectful “call-out” culture.
Some of the people I was watching, whose art I admired, came out as trans. Some people posted about how much they hated themselves and how badly they wanted to transition. Some started to transition and talked about how amazing they felt. Suddenly, a lot of the people I knew on DA were making transgender artwork.
Why do they call it “DeviantArt”?
There are some “deviant” areas of DA but the places I spent time in were for kids sharing art but I don’t think it is the main focus anymore. It was originally a great art site and I made a lot of friends there and everyone was very nice to me. I liked it. It was a friendly art community.
But now it’s mean. And it’s also a place for kids to post about all their self-diagnoses and identity issues. I know lots of kids who post about their self-diagnosed schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
All these self-definitions, are they real?
I think the kids believe they’re real. But I don’t. If someone calls themselves “schizophrenic,” I believe they believe they have it! But it isn’t a disorder a teen can self-diagnose.
Were there other online places besides DeviantArt that influenced you?
I started to use Tumblr, also because of the art. Reading people’s bios, I learned more about being trans and that what I was feeling is called “dysphoria.” There are a lot of artists there expressing their dysphoria in comics and I identified with some of the things they were saying
From Tumblr, I found YouTube transition videos. When my dysphoria got worse, I started watching a bunch of FTM videos. All of the ones I watched were like, “I feel amazing!” and “I am finally my true self!” I thought it was weird that no one regretted anything but I wanted to believe medical transition would help me too. I started wanting hormones and maybe even surgery later.
I also talked to some of my friends. I was in a homeschool group and lots of the kids there were also trans.
“Lots” of the kids were trans? How can that be, when trans make up a miniscule proportion of the population?
I wonder how accurate the data is that tells us only a “miniscule proportion of the population” is trans, because most teens I know identify as anything other than “cis.”
Think about that. This kid’s mom must have thought it was a wonderful thing that her daughter found a website where she could meet up with other kids interested in art. But it was a vector for psychological contagion, as was Tumblr and YouTube. How is it that “lots” of kids in a homeschool group are trans? Does that not tell us something about the transgender phenomenon, e.g., that it is in many, even most, cases simply a state of mind adopted by kids wanting desperately to fit in, to explain the anxiety they’re feeling as normal teenagers, and to have a community?
[Name] talks in detail about the psychological and emotional stresses she was feeling, and how she convinced herself that transitioning to male would be the answer. She talks about how her mother was skeptical but comforting, and only encouraged her to investigate more in-depth what she was feeling, and whether or not gender transition was the answer. Her mom even took her to a youth transgender health conference in Philadelphia so [Name] could meet other kids who considered themselves trans. Check this out:
What was it like going to that trans conference? Did you feel connected to the other kids there?
All the kids were really friendly. But I did feel some pressure after talking to kids there to “look more masculine.” It was interesting. It wasn’t a bad experience. But most of them were like Tumblr-SJW trans; I definitely got that vibe from them. When I was identifying as trans, I was what they call “truscum” or “trans-medicalist:” you have to have chronic dysphoria to be trans, and you definitely want to get some kind of help for that problem—not necessarily hormones, but maybe talk therapy if you just want to learn to cope with your dysphoria.
None of those kids were trans-medicalists like I was. I hate saying the word “snowflakes” because it seems rude, but…There was stuff like, “you can’t be a trans boy unless you get your head shaved and dyed.” It’s like the trans-boy starter pack. They all had the same haircut. I don’t remember if anyone said exactly “you need to cut your hair and take hormones” but I felt that vibe from the other kids who were all talking about their anxiety over passing and being more “masculine.” I wasn’t wearing a binder yet but I was sure I was trans. I had long hair and I loved my hair so I didn’t cut it. Even then, I thought it was silly that all the transboys I knew had the same haircut, shaved on the side and dyed blue or green or some blue streaks, and that they thought boys had to have short hair.
That sort of made me question. I mean, all these kids were following the same exact trend. I never wanted to brag about being trans. Stuff like pronouns was the least of my concerns; I just wanted to deal with my dysphoria. Because that’s a mental feeling, something people can legitimately feel.
In the banquet hall where they had a pizza party for trans kids and their parents, a few of the moms had their kids pull up their shirts to show off how great their binders worked to flatten their breasts. My mom remembers that a few transboys also showed off their bare chests and people talked about what a good job their surgeons had done. Some of them were like 14 or 15.
So did that event push you more or less in the direction of thinking you were trans?
It pushed me toward wanting to medically transition, but I saw what those kids were doing as trendy. Like, there was a whole line of penis packers there, in different colors and sizes. There was a neon pink one hanging up on the wall. It was horrifying. There were some for 6 year olds. Six year olds shouldn’t be worrying about what’s in their pants unless there’s a problem going on. I think it would make little kids sad to think about having to fake it.
Did you want one?
God, no. During that time I did want a penis, but not a fake one.
The culture of medicine as well as parents conspired to push this thing on kids. “Penis packers” for six year olds! Notice the way parents are manipulated, and again, the way online culture facilitates this:
Until quite recently, believing oneself to be the opposite sex was considered a mental disorder and treated as such.
It is a mental disorder sometimes. People who feel mild dysphoria are like “I hate this thing about my body” which is different than “I hate this thing about myself and I am willing to hurt myself to relieve the feeling.” The second is a mental disorder. Somebody wanting to hurt themselves is a mental disorder. Dysphoria always has a deeper root.
“Trans” isn’t the right word. We’ve learned to know it as trans but really what I think some people feel is extreme, chronic dissociation, possibly from trauma and PTSD.
And for adults, it is different. Adults can do whatever they want, even if they don’t have dysphoria or other mental health issues. But kids need their parents and sometimes a psychologist to help them think about why they feel the way they do.
I don’t know any trans kids who have gender-critical therapists. And by the way, being gender critical wasn’t pushed on me either, but my mom and my therapist and other friends would gently suggest that I think about things beyond just “being trans.” They’d say I should think about why I felt that way, the reasons for feeling that way, and any other perspectives or reasons someone might feel that way. And that I should also think about my history and my experiences and relationships and why I might feel uncomfortable or not want to be a girl.
Parents who put their kids on hormones are trying to take care of their kids. I know they want to do the best thing. But what if they haven’t heard other ideas and they don’t understand about being gender critical, or about how to see their kids’ identity or presentation without stereotypes?
Most parents just want their kids to be happy, and their kids say “I need hormones to be happy.” Some kids even threaten to kill themselves if they don’t get the treatments they want. I’ve also seen kids say that after they started cutting, their parents took them seriously, and let them take hormones. There are places online that tell you, “This is how you come out to your parents to get hormone therapy.” I always hated those, because it was always … just threaten something to get what you want. That’s just putting so much pressure on your parent to make an impulsive decision and it’s such a terrible thing to say. I know people who’ve killed themselves and also people who have tried to kill themselves. People who are suicidal need help and love but using suicide as a threat is manipulative and cruel.
Did you see a lot of that online?
Oh, everywhere. Everywhere. Most ways to come out were like, “say this, you’ll be sure to get them to take you seriously.”
Noor believes that there are true transgenders in society, but that most kids are just confused. Here’s the final question. Observe how she tells the kids to get outside their heads and get offline:
What would you say to other girls who think they are boys? Any advice for them?
There’s nothing wrong with your body. To be straightforward, you will never be male. You will never have a Y chromosome. You will never have a real penis. Stop hurting yourself. Not wanting to be female doesn’t mean you’re really male. Not wanting to be female makes sense when girls are sexualized before we’re ready to even feel sexual, and when people think we’re weak both intellectually and physically, when people don’t take us seriously, when people tell us to smile and be nice.
You weren’t born in the wrong body because that’s not possible.
You were born into a society where looks mean everything. But really our bodies are just what keep us alive. Why don’t we fight back against the idea that any person looks wrong as they are? Your “outside” doesn’t need to “match your inside.” The outside isn’t important enough to hurt yourself over.
Get angry at gender stereotypes. You can dress however you want but that’s called “fashion” or presentation. Your identity should be who you are and the things you do, not what you look like. I have resting grouch face. I don’t need to train my face to look kind or have surgery to make my face look kind, I just have to be a kind person.
You think, how can I act male? There’s no such thing as acting male. Male is a biological sex and you will never be that. Just act like you.
Go outside. Move your body. Make art, do something. Don’t spend time with other people’s stories about self-loathing and self-diagnosis. Stop feeling oppressed when you’re probably not oppressed. I know transitioning can make you feel like you get a lot of control but medically transitioning doesn’t give you power. It just makes someone else money.
Find people to talk to and ask for help if you need it. And find people who will ask you hard questions.
I came across this essay via this Twitter link:
“To be straightforward, you will never be male. You will never have a Y chromosome. You will never have a real penis. Stop hurting yourself.” There is so much wisdom here from a teen desister, it was hard to decide what to quote. https://t.co/o1ld0BudtH
— TransgenderTrend (@Transgendertrd) November 8, 2017
It’s true. If you only go to the entire Noor interview to see the art she was making during this time, it’s worth it. Those images tell a story. A very dark story.
[Name’s] interview appears on 4th Wave Now, a website for parents and others skeptical of the transgender trend. You might think this is not an issue that will ever affect you, but if you read her story, and see how a girl enduring the ordinary discomfort and alienation from her body that most adolescents go through at puberty became convinced that she was a boy, you’ll be a lot more careful about your kids going into the Upside Down that is the Internet.