Introduction and Affirmations

Welcome!

This essay is intended to serve as a concise but thorough resource for all people assigned female at birth, which aims to promote free thinking and independent decision making, to draw attention to unhealthy dynamics in the transgender community, and to support disillusioned individuals and show them that answers exist to whatever unanswered questions they might have.

This is not an anti-trans resource. This blog will not use slurs or hate speech, and will always use the correct name and pronouns for any trans people mentioned. The purpose of this resource is not to prevent anyone from identifying as transgender or pursuing transition. The only purpose is to protect dysphoric and trans individuals from exploitation, and to create an environment where people can freely question all beliefs and ideas without fear.

This introduction will include an overview of what I hope to achieve with this essay, as well as an explanation of what manipulative groups are and why I believe the trans community functions as one. It will also include a personal introduction by me, the author, detailing my own transgender identity and the some of the events that led to me creating this resource for others.

If you find any terminology you don’t understand, I have created a lexicon which might be helpful.

Please keep an open mind.

 

Personal Introduction

Newthoughtcrime isn’t about me, but I want it to be known that I’m a real person with feelings and emotions, personal experience with the topics documented here, and a history that anyone would categorize as transgender.

I struggled with dysphoria for half of my life, and identified as various iterations of trans (trans man, nonbinary, genderqueer) on and off for around seven years. I never pursued medical help or came out to my family, but I was in the process of coming out to my (offline) friends when my transition plans came to a halt upon my discovery of online communities of detransitioned men and women — people who had started to medically and/or socially transition, changed their minds, and were now living as their original sex again.

Like many young trans people circa 2015, I had been led to believe that transition regret didn’t exist — and if it did, it was only in people who were genuinely transgender but couldn’t handle the social or financial consequences of transitioning, even though transition was ultimately in their best interests. Reading the testimonies of detransitioned people, I discovered that this wasn’t true. Some people checked every box in the criteria for ‘transgender’, like I did, but found themselves unsatisfied with their new bodies and lives, and were forced to face the reality that transition hadn’t solved all of their problems, or even, in some cases, any of them.

It’s not hard to find information about detransition online. Even four years ago, when less detransitioned people were speaking out about their experiences, it was not that difficult. I managed to stumble across communities of detransitioners by complete accident. And yet nobody — none of the several trans people I was friends or acquaintances with on- and offline — had mentioned the possibility of transition regret as anything but a right-wing myth.

The more I looked into it, the more I found out that an awful lot of things I thought I knew about being trans were misinformation or, in fact, outright lies. I had unthinkingly accepted so many ideas without hard evidence, not because I didn’t understand the importance of fact-checking, but because I’d become convinced that anecdotes from trans people were “facts” and scientific evidence that in some way failed to support the trans movement were “lies”. I realised that ordinary words had disappeared from my own vocabulary, replaced with language that only made sense to one insular group, language that couldn’t be concisely defined and didn’t adequately explain what I needed to say. I was firm in my beliefs about gender identity and transgenderism but couldn’t actually explain to myself why I felt that way. I was afraid of certain books and websites, and afraid of my own capacity to deviate from the ideas that all of my friends considered to be absolute truth. I was deeply confused, and perturbed by my own inability think anything through to resolve this confusion. It had become impossible to follow a train of thought once it began to stray into territory that I knew other trans community members would never condone.

In 2015 I created an anonymous Tumblr account to reach out to detransitioned and reidentified people. For reasons that will be explained later chapters, it was extremely important to me that the research I was doing was completely confidential. I used a throwaway email address not connected to any of my social media, and in the 12 months I ran the blog, only 1 or 2 of my several hundred followers ever learned my first name. When I became brave enough, I also talked about my own experiences and made posts about free thinking, posts about the inconsistencies in transgender ideology, and many many posts simply tracking the current state of my dysphoria and how unpacking what it really means to be transgender made it, at first, much worse, but then, gradually, almost non-existent.

It took me around a year to learn how to think for myself again. It took another year after that to decide what I wanted to do with the knowledge I’d acquired from my experiences; relatively “inside” knowledge of what I now knew to be a deeply unhealthy community, full of wilful misinformation, emotional manipulation and phobia-inducing, medical malpractice, and widespread protection of rapists and sexual abusers. Throughout 2016, I was working on a pet project focusing on the trans community’s stance on lesbians and the specific way that lesbians'(1) sexual and emotional labour is exploited by trans women. This led to me attempting to write a guide on how to effectively speak with the affected lesbian women without triggering their cognitive dissonance and causing them to be more deeply entrenched in the ideology that was harming them. This guide ultimately failed because I was hitting brick wall after brick wall, realising time and again that the dynamics of the trans community are so obscure and specific that I couldn’t convey them to outsiders who didn’t have any  personal experience with them. The depths of fear, guilt, confusion and dissonance experienced by people involved in the trans community just could not be explained without an in-depth analysis of how manipulative groups function. And trying to reach out to women in this community about one specific issue would be pointless without a resource to detail why they were being exploited, and how, and by whom — some kind of evidence that the wrongs that were being done to them weren’t just a freak accident but orchestrated manipulation, because if they didn’t understand that, then what was to stop them being manipulated all over again?

And now, here we are.

Newthoughtcrime isn’t about me, but I want it to be known that I’m real, and I know what it means to be transgender. I’m not here to purposely hurt feelings or cause offense. All I want is to promote healthy community dynamics, honesty, and free thought.

 

Overview

In Part 1, I’ll be debunking myths which are prevalent in the trans community. This part will contain a very clear divide between my own personal opinions, and indisputable, sourced, objective facts. Still, anyone reading is free to agree or disagree with whatever they wish.

In Part 2, I’ll give a detailed explanation of manipulative groups, what they look like and how they function, and sharing Robert Jay Lifton’s 8 Criteria for Thought Reform. This is a list of eight methods used in conjunction with one another to directly influence the thoughts, beliefs, and emotions of individuals under the control or a person or group. These methods can be used within any group environment, whether it is a family, a religious community, an activist organization, a charity, a multi-level marketing scheme, a harem, or anything else you can imagine. When most or all of these traits are found in a group, it has clearly become a space where members are not permitted complete freedom of thought.

Part 3 focuses in the concept of cognitive dissonance, what triggers it, and how to protect ourselves from it. Cognitive dissonance is the state of having one’s inner beliefs conflict with one’s observed reality. When we feel that we are unwilling or unable to change our beliefs to reflect reality, human nature dictates that we will subconsciously change our perception of reality to conform to our beliefs. The only way to protect ourselves from cognitive dissonance is to be willing and able to change our inner beliefs as we learn and grow. As people under the influence of manipulative groups are likely to be punished if their views stray too far from what’s “acceptable”, they may fall victim to cognitive dissonance as they try to rationalise why observed reality does not reflect the group’s ideology.

Part 4 is an explanation of my own personal theory on how manipulative group dynamics manifest throughout various phases of membership of the trans community specifically. Drawing from my own experiences and the testimonies of my detransitioned and reidentified friends, I seek to detail how the concepts explained in Parts 2 and 3 relate specifically to transition and gender identity.

Part 5 is a collection of personal stories from women who formerly identified as transgender, sharing their first-hand experiences of what their time in the trans community was like. These pieces were all requested and volunteered specifically for this project.

Part 6 is currently a work in progress. It will be a thinkpiece-style conclusion, delving into the question of why the trans community has become a manipulative group, and who might benefit from this state of affairs.

 

What is a manipulative group?

A manipulative group is any group which fits the criteria for using ‘mind control’, an intense form of manipulation wherein the group attempts to alter not only the behaviours of its victims, but also their thoughts and emotions.

The term “manipulative group” does not mean that every person in the group is a manipulator. It only means that the majority of members of the group are being denied freedom of thought.

Healthy Group Unhealthy Group
New ideas are encouraged Doctrine is memorized
Free to leave at any time Consequences for leaving
Mistakes are forgiven and learned from Mistakes are shamed and atoned for
Requests only as much funding as it needs to function Funding goes into leaders’ own pockets
Disagreement is respected Disagreement is punished
Facts are presented with sources, opinions are presented with reasoning Facts and opinions are considered valid based only on who is stating them
Outside relationships are encouraged Outsiders are feared
Cooperation is encouraged Permission is required

The practices of manipulative groups will be described in far more detail in Part 2.

 

I’d like to close this introduction with some affirmations. I hope my readers will repeat them, and take them to heart.

First, I know who I am. Other people’s opinions about me does not change who I know myself to be.

Second, I know what I believe. I can read and consider the opinions of others without giving them control over me.

Third, I am entitled to privacy. I can be judged by my words and my actions, but nobody can judge me for my thoughts.

Last, thoughts are not dangerous. I can hurt others with my words and my actions, but nobody can be harmed by my thoughts. 

 

Thank you for being here. While reading the following chapters, please feel free to take as many breaks as you need.

 

 

 

Note: Newthoughtcrime is not a resource for the parents or therapists of trans youth and the author does not in any way support or condone diagnosis or treatment of so-called ‘rapid onset gender dysphoria’.

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Part 1 – Things That Never Happened

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
― George Orwell, 1984

 

In this part, I’ll be debunking myths which are prevalent in the trans community. This part will contain a very clear divide between my own personal opinions, and indisputable, sourced, objective facts. Still, anyone reading is free to agree or disagree with whatever they wish.

 

Violent Crimes of Individual Trans Women
(Please note that these links contain graphic content, including detailed descriptions of child sexual abuse and rape.)

When I was disidentifying, I was told that the notion of trans women being violent or sexually predatory was a stereotype. I even learned that because trans women identify with womanhood, they are by association disidentifying themselves with violence, a traditionally male quality.

Here’s what I didn’t know.

In 1993, Synthia China Blast was convicted for killing a 13 year old black girl named Ebony Williams. Ebony was raped, murdered, and her body was then set on fire beside a highway. According to Blast’s own words in this article, she was originally to be convicted for rape as well, until it was revealed that she had been wearing a skirt that night. “They had to switch their story in the trial because how do you tell the jury that he had on a dress and then he was raping a girl?”, she says.

A few years ago, online activist Sarah Nyberg was exposed as a paedophile. Chat logs from Sarah’s own website emerged in which she contributed in viewing and sharing child pornography, and openly discussed sexual fantasies about her own eight year old cousin.

In 2016, activist Cherno Biko posted an article confessing to the rape of a trans man who had revoked his consent after Biko refused to use a condom, with the explicit intent to impregnate him and have, quote, “a black nonbinary baby”. Biko then heavily edited this article, and was later invited to speak at the DC Women’s March in January 2017.

Also in 2016, Andrew “Andrea” Balcer brutally murdered his parents and their dog. As of this post being written, he voluntarily uses a male name and pronouns to protect himself in prison.

Last summer, a transgender activist named Dana Rivers was arrested for murdering a lesbian couple and their son. She was caught fleeing the scene “covered in their blood”.

Another transgender activist was accused of preying on and sexually assaulting younger trans people she met through her activism. This person also went on to attempt to defend herself by posting screenshots of one of her victims sending her flirtatious texts. Her name is currently redacted from this essay for legal reasons.

In 2017, a trans-identified person named Randy Stair committed a mass shooting in a grocery store, killing three people.

Also in 2017, a trans woman named Evie Amati attacked people in a convenience store with an axe, injuring two.

In the realm of more minor internet personalities, popular tumblr user monetizeyourcat disappeared from the internet circa 2014 after being exposed as a rapist after a younger trans woman came forward about her abuse. Tumblr user leftbians deleted her online presence after it was proven that she was soliciting and grooming underage girls for fetish roleplays. Twitter user and artist Shmorky left the scene after an underage victim came forward about being groomed and encouraged to engage in online sexual roleplays wherein Shmorky pretended to be a toddler. Andi Dier, the trans woman who recieved praise in the media for ‘calling out’ Rose McGowan in early 2018, was immediately accused by multiple people of assaulting them when they were thirteen or fourteen years old, and was found to have repeatedly engaged with simulated child pornography on her personal Tumblr.

And none of this even touches on stories that don’t have hard evidence that I can show you over the internet. There now exist well-populated online communities afab people who were abused by trans women. And of course, there exist people who were abused or raped by trans women and have never told anyone out of fear of being accused of lying, or having their experiences downplayed as an “anomaly” when, frankly, this kind of abuse is all too common.

To reiterate, I am not saying that all trans women are rapists or murderers. What I am saying is that the idea that trans women are inherently trustworthy benefits abusers of all kinds who happen to also be trans women. In the trans community, we’re encouraged to shrug off any discomfort or “creep vibes” we experience around a trans woman, and to see such feelings as transmisogynistic and close-minded. Evidence that it’s possible — not even likely, but just possible — for trans women to violate and abuse others is purposefully covered up and brushed over. Feminist and LGBT publications don’t cover these stories, even when the victim is a woman or transgender, out of fear of being accused of bigotry.

A community where it’s proclaimed that every member is a good person inherently disguises and protects bad people. In a healthy community, trust is earned.

 

Trans Rights Overseas

In the trans community, Iran is framed as a benevolent, tolerant country due to their remarkable policies on transgenderism. While homosexuality is criminalized, transition is not only completely legal but subsidised by the government. Even in Iran, it’s no secret why this is the case. In the Western trans community, though, it’s a little known fact that the Iranian government explicitly uses transition as a form of conversion therapy.

The sourced articles are difficult to read. However, I believe all trans people should have a right to know why transition is and has been so encouraged in other parts of the world.

Once a relatively progressive country, Iran became a fundamentalist Islamic state where homosexuality is punishable by death after the fall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. Public executions of gay men in Iran is a frequent occurrence. In fact, the noosed bodies of young men are sometimes put on trucks and paraded through cities, towns and villages for all to see.

– from a preview, HBO’s VICE Uncovers Gay Iranians Forced to Surgically Change Gender

“They show how easy it can be,” Shabnam says. “They promise to give you legal documents and, even before the surgery, permission to walk in the street wearing whatever you like. They promise to give you a loan to pay for the surgery.”

“My father came to visit me in Tehran with two relatives,” he says. “They’d had a meeting to decide what to do about me… They told me: ‘You need to either have your gender changed or we will kill you and will not let you live in this family.'”

– from BBC.co.uk, The gay people pushed to change their gender

Sorena’s family had raised her as their youngest son, but she saw herself as a woman when she dreamed. She’d also recently had sex with a man for the first time, and the fear that she had sinned beyond redemption drove her into a panic that lasted weeks.

Sorena didn’t tell the mullah about having had sex; she just told him about her desires. But her revelation didn’t shock the mullah, even though homosexuality is punishable by flogging and execution in Iran. He did not denounce her as a sinner or a pervert.

Instead, he told her, “Don’t feel sinful … this is completely acceptable to us.”

In the Islamic Republic of Iran — unlike any other country in the Persian Gulf region — sex reassignment is not only allowed, but also subsidised by the government.

“You are transsexual, and you have to go for the surgery,” he pronounced. “It is accepted in our religion.”

– from Buzzfeed’s Why Iran’s Mullah’s Bless Sex Reassignment. (And please read between the lines in this one. Sorena sleeps with men, Danial has a wife, and we’ve all had dreams where we were the opposite sex. No matter how biased the source, the information remains disturbing.)

Meanwhile, in the United States, studies find that a majority of dysphoric children referred to gender specialists are same-sex attracted.

From this study,

Wallien & Cohen-Kettenis (2008) reported prevalence rates for bi- or homosexuality in attraction, fantasy, sexual identity and behaviour for 68% – 81% of the boys and 60% – 82% of the girls, in 44 gender dysphoric children followed up in adolescence and adulthood (31 boys, 13 girls).

And,

Using the same metrics of sexual orientation used by Wallien and Cohen-Kettenis (2008), the percentage who self-identified as ” bisexual or homosexual ” (in relation to natal sex) was 69% (total n = 39), and the percentage who were bisexual or gynephilic in attraction, fantasy, or behavior ranged from 68% to 87% (total ns were 38, 35, and 29, respectively).

4thwavenow has an interesting article on the subject of homosexuality in paediatric gender clinic patients which references both of the linked studies.

 

Rates of Hate Crimes, Murders and Suicides

There are three dubious, and yet commonly shared, statistics regarding the deaths of transgender individuals. They are:

 

  1. The average life expectancy for trans women of colour is 35 years old.
  2. 1 in 12 trans women will be murdered.
  3. Radical feminists have killed least 50,000 trans people in the United States.

 

The first statistic is one that I have seen many variations of. While the misinterpreted study that this statistic originated from does specify the number “35”, I have personally seen this statistic both rounded down to 30 years, and applied to trans women in general, encompassing all races. Anecdotally, I have known white trans women in my own country (the UK) to apply this modified version of the statistic to their own lives, assuming the average life expectancy of their demographic is only thirty years old.

From the Guardian, and including the study from which this statistic actually originated,

In the past eight years, 74% of all reported murders of trans people were in Central and South America, according to a 2016 report from Transgender Europe (TGEU). Due to violence, poverty and the risk of HIV, the life expectancy for trans women in Latin America is estimated at between 35 and 41 years.

While the statement is technically true in that Latin American trans women are trans women of colour and have a life expectancy of approximately thirty-five years, the phrasing is misleading in that the statistic does not apply broadly to “trans women of colour” across all nations or just in the United States. It refers specifically to Latin American trans women, living in Latin America. This death rate is related specifically to the cultures and laws in Latin American countries. The struggles of Latin American trans women are unique, and deserve to be recognised without being baselessly applied to trans women globally.

 

As for the second point, here is an article wherein the author tries, and fails, to find the origin of the statistic that one in twelve trans women will be a victim of homicide. She discovers and sources many horrifying and real statistics about violence against trans people, but none which confirm that this particular one has any basis in reality.

Let’s do some math.

In 2016, 27 trans people were murdered in the United States. 22 of them were trans women. 

As of 2015, the average life expecancy in the United States was 78.74 years old. Let’s round that down to 78 years old.

According to this 2011 article, it’s estimated around 0.3% of people in the United States identify as transgender. Let’s assume there’s a perfect fifty-fifty split between trans men and trans women, so 0.15% of the population are trans women.

If we made some extreme generalizations and assumed that 22 trans women are murdered in the United States every single year, and that 78 years is one person’s lifetime, then in one person’s lifetime, 1716 trans women would be murdered in the United States.

If 1716 accounted for one in twelve of all trans women, the approximate population of trans women in the United States throughout any one person’s life would be 20,592.

If 0.15% of Americans identify as trans women, and the population of the United States is around 323 million, then there would be 484,500 trans women currently living in the United States.

If 1 in 12 of 484,500 trans women were murdered in one person’s lifetime, an average of over five hundred trans women would be murdered per year in the United States.

And to reiterate, 2016 broke GLAAD’s record for the most transgender homicide victims in only one year.

If you disagree with my methods (I am not a mathematician!), please feel free to do the math yourself. If you manage to come up with something that supports the 1 in 12 statistic, I would greatly appreciate it if you left a comment explaining your process.

EDIT:

A reader very kindly informed me that this statistic actually originated from Kay Brown, and is explained in her own words in this blog post. I’m going to leave the original portion of the essay discussing the statistic intact though, because I think my points that, a) this statistic is never attributed to anyone, and b) finding these numbers via the estimated number of trans women in the United States isn’t possible, are still valid.

I would highly recommend reading Brown’s post, but to summarize:

a) she originally started discussing this statistic in classes she taught at the Harvey Milk Institute circa 1998, and it spread through word of mouth, partly explaining the detachment from her name

b) her estimate is based on numbers from a Dutch study which I assume was also published prior to ’98, rather than the estimated % of trans people in the US in the late 2010s, which is what I was using. Brown explicitly states in her post that she’s critical of these estimates because they take into account people who identify as trans without medically transitioning, and also people who transition late in life, and as such,

c) the statistic is supposed to refer exclusively to male-attracted trans women who transitioned early, as teenagers or in their early 20s, and who experienced dysphoria before puberty

d) most relevant to the contents of this essay, Brown subscribes to the belief that trans women divided sharply into two types: genuine trans women, ie the demographic referenced above, and autogynephiles. In her post, she expresses annoyance that her statistic, meant to refer to a very specific experience, is being applied to late-transitioning, female-attracted trans women, who, Brown says, are at nowhere near the same level of risk.

Knowing this, it’s no mystery why so many reputable news sites deign not to source this statistic when they use it, and why I struggled to figure out when it came from even when I went looking. Personally, I no longer feel that this statistic is baseless or confusing. When it’s applied to the correct demographic, I think that it is probably accurate. But I also think, similar to the life expectancy statistic, that these numbers have been co-opted inappropriately,  with absolutely no regard for where they came from and the context in which they were supposed to be applied.

 

The most bizarre myth of all is that radical feminists have killed at least 50,000 trans people in the United States. This statistic is usually presented in those exact words, implying involvement in hate crimes or murders. However the actual accusation being made is that radical feminists influenced legislation in the United States which then led to the deaths of 50,000 trans people, a claim which is also easily debunked.

As far as I know, the specific number ‘50,000’ originated from this 2013 article from The TransAdvocate, which literally just says,

A very, very conservative estimate of the number of additional deaths that resulted is 50,000. The amount of additional misery – incalculable.

I have searched high and low for some explanation of this statistic and found absolutely nothing. Who estimated this? Based on what mathematics, what logic? How can such a vague “estimate” be disproven when there is absolutely no indication of where it came from or why someone thought it seemed accurate? Can we all invent statistics whenever we want and get away with it by calling them “estimates”? And frankly, is it not obvious why it is an abuse of one’s readership and an insult to their intelligence to expect them to believe an extreme claim like this with no evidence whatsoever?

For context, the meaning of this quote is that fifty thousand trans people lost their lives after it was decided in 1980 that insurance companies and the state should not be legally obligated to cover transition-related medical expenses. Due to the fact that this decision occurred in the pre-Internet era, specific sources and details are difficult to find and most articles on the subject are, frankly, conjecture, written decades after the actual events that took place. Most articles on the subject have no sources to speak of. Please be mindful of this while doing your own research on the matter.

As a result, I believe that the only facts that are certain are that Janice Raymond, a radical feminist academic, submitted a paper on her views on the ethical ramifications of what was then termed transsexuality, and this paper was reviewed by the NCHCT along with several other submissions. The conclusion of the NCHCT was later reviewed and it was decided that insurance companies and the state would not be obligated to provide transition-related healthcare to trans individuals.

Even if you believe that the contents of Raymond’s paper were transphobic and directly influenced the lives of many trans people — which is absolutely a valid opinion to hold — the assumption that every single trans suicide in the United States from the 80’s to the present day was caused by insurance policies is, in my opinion, egregious to say the least. Trans people face a myriad of other problems, including an increased risk of sexual and domestic violence, employment and housing discrimination, comorbid mental health issues, and dysphoria itself — and that’s not even taking into account the impact of unrelated financial and personal issues which can lead to suicide in the non-transgender population as well.

Also, I would point out the strange lack of similar statistics about other minority groups who have been negatively impacted by legislation. How many LGBT lives were lost to suicide as a direct result of the legal status of conversion therapy in some states in the US? How many undocumented individuals have ended their lives due to the threat or reality of being deported? How many unfairly imprisoned men and women of colour have committed suicide before, during, or after serving their sentence? How many disabled people take their own lives after any given cut to their welfare? How many women have taken their lives because their male abuser or rapist was excused by a corrupt justice system? We don’t know, because we can’t know. Because that data isn’t collected. Data certainly has not been collected about transgender suicides since the dawn of time until the present day, where transition is still not always covered by insurance in every state.

So, to reiterate: the issue with this statistic is not that Janice Raymond has been unfairly persecuted for her involvement with the NCHCT, or that literally anything she said was accurate. It’s that “50000 trans people have died as a result of radical feminists” is a baseless statistic made up by Cristian Williams of the Transadvocate. Condemning transphobia does not have to involve treating unrealistic, unscientific “estimates” as gospel truth. There are valid, genuine reasons to criticize Janice Raymond and her paper. There is no need to invent false statistics to justify doing so.

 

Testosterone and Lupron

Let me be clear about one thing: the problem with the prescribing of testosterone and Lupron to trans people, including trans minors, is not that they have dangerous side effects. Plenty of medications have dangerous side effects, and providing frightening lists of potential complications does not negate how necessary a type of medication can be.

However, dangerous side effects become an ethical problem when:

1. The medication is being prescribed when safer treatments are available, because these alternative treatments are either less lucrative, or require more effort on the part of healthcare professionals, regardless of the risk to patient health.

2. The medication is being prescribed without the patient having a full understanding of the risks, OR, the medication is being prescribed has not been researched, and potential side effects are not known and understood by the doctor. In the former case, informed consent is not being upheld. In the latter, informed consent is literally impossible because the information is not available.

3. The medication is being prescribed to children who are too young to fully understand the consequences and consent to taking it, ie. people under 18.  Informed consent cannot be upheld when one party is too young to consent.

Here are some facts about trans healthcare, including testosterone, Lupron, and the experiences of those who have taken them.

117 of the individuals surveyed had medically transitioned. Of these, only 41 received therapy beforehand. The average length of counseling for those who did attend was 9 months, with a median and mode of 3, minimum of 1, and a maximum of 60. I’d like to have something cool to say here, but I’m honestly just stunned at the fact that 65% of these women had no therapy at all before transition.

– Female Detransition and Reidentification Survey, sampling an online community of detransitioned and reidentified individuals.

The doctor told him that he is experiencing these phantom pains as a result of his body being on testosterone for so long. In other words, his reproductive organs were saying, ‘Hello up there. Don’t know if you’ve forgotten about us, but we would like out now please.’

So what was the solution? He needed to have a full hysterectomy as soon as possible.

The Pain That Most Trans Men Are Ashamed To Talk About, from the Huffington Post. The author and her partner discovered that being on testosterone for around five years necessitates a full hysterectomy, casting some doubt on the myth that the effects of testosterone are not necessarily permanent.

4. Abdominal pain is also commonly reported by trans men and can suggest hysterectomy. Testosterone causes atrophy of the uterus and vagina, which puts tension on surrounding muscles and ligaments which can cause painful cramping.

Reasons For Transgender Men To Get A Hysterectomy, from hysto.net

“There’s definitely been a lot of complications in terms of the bottom surgery,” Jennings explained on Tuesday’s PEOPLE Now. “We’ve been talking about it a lot. You’ll see in the show, there’s some problems because I’ve been on the hormone blockers and basically I haven’t had a lot of development — so we’re debating if I have enough material to work with.”

– Jazz Jennings Gets Real About Complications Delaying Her Bottom Surgeryfrom People. Jazz explains that because of the effects of puberty blockers, she lacks the genital tissue required to perform bottom surgery. Prescribing puberty blockers to trans children is still untested and experimental, and can lead to unforeseen consequences like these.

Annika Trippett began the petition, “Lupron, Leuprolide needs to be taken completely off the market immediately without delay until ‘Protection Law’ is implemented!”

“We are proposing it needs to be made law that when getting an injection in the doctors [sic] office you have to sign the most current, up to date printed out ‘Warning Label Consent Form’ before giving any patient an injection,” the petition states. “As a patient we don’t get to see that information and the doctors are not giving it to us! We need protection implemented for our safety, protection, well-being and human rights.”

Lupron Put My Body Into A State Of Menopause, from the Huffington Post. A community of people who suffered permanent bone density issues after being prescribed Lupron claim that they were not warned about the severe side effects and that the drug is unsafe.

Treatment with puberty delaying drugs leads to sterilization if it is followed with the administration of cross sex hormones at 16 years, as the Brill and Pepper handbook on “transgender” children (2008), explains, “the choice to progress from GnRH inhibitors to estrogen without fully experiencing male puberty should be viewed as giving up one’s fertility, and the family and child should be counseled accordingly” (Brill & Pepper, 2008, p. 216). For girls, sterilization is the outcome too, because “eggs do not mature until the body goes through puberty” (Brill & Pepper, 2008, p. 216).

– (quote sources this book). In the trans community, sterilization is a common concern when it comes to bottom surgery being a requirement for legal gender changes. Thus, it is incorrect to assume that fertility doesn’t matter to trans people. Sixteen year olds cannot consent to being permanently sterilized.

The issue of whether blockers and HRT are necessary is a completely different issue from the issue of whether they are being ethically prescribed. Are dysphoric people offered alternative or even supplementary treatments like talk therapy, and if not, why not? Is there a culture of misinformation around success rates and side effects of HRT and SRS and are the voices of people who have had bad experiences with HRT and SRS deliberately silenced? Who benefits from this? Who profits? Who suffers?

Some consider it transphobic to question any of the ethics in place around trans healthcare, but I think it is just a fact that the people harmed the most by these unethical practices are trans people themselves. I don’t think it’s transphobic to believe that trans people deserve the same healthcare standards as non-trans people. It should be beneficial to the trans community to demand that trans people are not exploited, lied to, or unknowingly subjected to experimental treatment, and to ensure that people who are unwilling to expose themselves to the risks and side effects of medical transition are given the support that they need to cope with their dysphoria and pursue their transition in other ways.

 

Autogynephilia

Autogynephilia is a highly controversial topic within the trans community. The term describes the concept of a person assigned male at birth being sexually aroused by the idea of being a woman. Anyone who has spent time in the trans community is probably familiar with the argument that there are no true “autogynephiles”, only crossdressers (who fetishize the idea of wearing women’s clothing without actually becoming women), male-identified trans women who have not yet come to terms with their gender identity and are sexualising womanhood as a coping mechanism, and openly trans women who are simply expressing their sexuality like any other women, by imagining the body they already feel like they have.

But there are no true autogynephiles: amab individuals who experience a desire to embody womanhood solely as a fetish, and may or may not transition as a result of this.

On a personal level, I am not very comfortable discussing this topic and would not have included it in this essay at all if the nonexistence of autogynephilia was not such a prevalent myth. Without getting too in-depth, I want to quickly address the argument that medically transitioning precludes autogynephilia because estrogen and anti-androgens curb one’s sex drive, and sex reassignment surgery involves the complete removal of the genitals.

To be blunt, it is a complete myth that trans women’s genitalia ceases to function after a certain amount of time on HRT. Erectile dyfunction might be a side-effect, but it is in no way a universal state. Trans women can still become aroused, have sex, and reach orgasm while on HRT. After complete reassignment, it is possible for trans women to no longer be able to enjoy sex, but this is in no way the intended result: SRS is supposed to preserve genital sensation and full sexual functioning, and when this is not the case, the operation is not considered entirely successful.

With this in mind, I want to direct you to this post from transgenderreality. I would honestly suggest reading the entire website, because every single post is written by trans people and describes their experience of being trans in their own words. In this article, please note the complete lack of anyone saying, “no, being turned on by womanhood isn’t the same as being trans. No, there is a concrete difference between being transgender and being an autogynephile”.

Related: this post about pornography and trans identity, and this post, also about autogynephilia.

 

Detransition

Thanks to the hard work and bravery of detransitioned people, the myths around reidentification, detransition, and ‘transition regret’ are nowhere near as prevalent as they once were. While I was trans-identified, I regularly encountered (often contradictory) statements such as:

  • Cis people never wonder if they might be trans: questioning your gender identity is in itself evidence that you are transgender and should transition.
  • Trans men and women’s brains match cis people’s of the same gender. If you have gender or sex dysphoria, it’s because your brain is structured like it belongs to the opposite assigned sex.
  • People experience gender and sex dysphoria because of an exposure to cross-sex hormones in the womb. Being transgender is a biological state.
  • Expanding on this, people are born trans and so children who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria will never cease to be trans and should be medically treated as soon as possible.
  • No one has ever detransitioned or regretted their transition.
  • Some people did detransition, but only because they couldn’t handle the social and financial burden of transitioning, and are still innately trans.
  • Some people did detransition, but only because they were confused about their identity and were never actually trans.
  • People who decide to medically transition but turn out not to be trans will find out because they will be repulsed by the effects of cross-sex hormones on their body.

In one way or another, all of these ideas erase the experiences of detransitioned and reidentified people. Let’s do a reality check on what being detransitioned or reidentified is actually like.

First of all, terminology: we usually use “detransitioned” to refer to individuals who identified as transgender and also underwent some level of medical transition. Conversely, “reidentified” refers to individuals who identified as transgender but did not pursue medical transition, though they may or may not have been socially transitioning. You cannot assume anything about a detransitioned or reidentified person’s life other than these exact statements. There is no singular narrative you can apply to the lives of all detransitioned and reidentified people. For example, by virtue of someone being detransitioned or reidentified you cannot determine,

  • whether they experienced dysphoria and how bad it was
  • whether they experienced specifically sex dysphoria and how bad it was
  • what gender they identified as previously (ie. whether binary or nonbinary)
  • what they look like currently
  • how they feel about their own transition or trans identification
  • how they feel about gender or transgenderism as concepts

Everyone’s circumstances are different. Everyone has different feelings, thoughts, and opinions. The same way that the only thing all trans people have in common as that they identify as trans, the only thing all detransitioned and reidentified people have in common as that they used to identify as trans and don’t anymore.

As a reidentified person, the thing I want to make clear about detransition and reidentification is this: we, the community of detransitoned and reidentified people, are not a threat to anyone. We’re not a political group; we’re not recruiting. The message we’re putting out there isn’t that people who are totally satisfied with their transition should go back to living as their assigned gender. It is instead that detransition is a possibility, reidentification is a possibility, transition regret exists and can happen — and if it does, if you identify as trans but then really, honestly feel like transition is not the right thing for you, it’s okay. You can survive that. There are people out there who’ve been through that and who can offer support. It is not the end of the world. It is not the end of your life.

Again, this doesn’t mean that any detransitioned or reidentified person is out there actively hoping that more trans people will come to regret their transition or reconsider their gender identity. The point is that, for reasons outside of anyone’s control, it happens. It happened to us. It happened to me. It simply will happen to a certain percentage of people who at one point thought transition was best for them and then realised that was not the case. This population exists, and we need to make resources, and we need to keep finding strategies to heal from our dysphoria, and we need to connect with one another, and the fact that we’re out there doing these things does not constitute an attack on anyone else’s right to be trans.

So why do trans people feel so attacked by detransitioned and reidentified people?

The truth is that the most extreme myth put forward by the trans community is that if you experience dysphoria or in some way don’t identify with your assigned gender, you must identify as trans and pursue transition as soon as possible, or, to put it bluntly, you will eventually be driven to despair and kill yourself. It is no-one’s fault if they viscerally associate the idea of detransition or reidentification with hopelessness and death. That is what everyone is told will happen if they cease to identify as trans, for whatever reason. And who has ever been helped by this narrative, really? Whose mental health is protected by the idea that suicide is somehow inevitable if they don’t deal with their dysphoria in a certain way, and in a certain time frame? And who profits from the notion that dysphoria is impossible to understand, cope with, and heal from, without spending the rest of one’s life requiring medication?

The truth is that there are some people who have dysphoria and can’t transition, and some people who don’t want to transition, and some people who aren’t sure if they should or shouldn’t transition and need to take the time to seriously consider that choice without being pressured to act before they’re ready — and all of these people deserve to live, and are capable of achieving genuine comfort and happiness. To deny this is to say that those of us who decided not to transition for whatever reason cannot survive, and will never be happy: that we must all be miserable or dead in order to validate people who did transition.

This is a product, I believe, of valid insecurity. I am convinced that far too many trans people were threatened by this idea that they must immediately conform to a certain trans narrative if they wanted any relief from their pain. I believe that throughout the whole trans community there is an undercurrent of manipulation, and part of that manipulation involves convincing vulnerable individuals that they cannot understand why they are hurting, that they cannot do anything to help themselves, and that their wellbeing and recovery depends entirely on other people, so that they may be made more susceptible to being taken advantage of by the very people who are supposed to provide them aid.

 

Now, my question for readers who are transgender, or have transgender friends. If you’ve been convinced that even one of the ideas stated above is true, would you share it with your friends who are trans, or who are trans allies? And if not, could this be considered evidence that it is indeed the case that there is a culture of misinformation in the trans community? That people are punished for speaking out, about the realities of detransition, about medical malpractice, and even about known rapists and abusers? And even, perhaps, that some people might benefit from imposing these limits on not only what you are allowed to say and do, but what you’re allowed to think and believe?

 

 

Part 2 – Lifton’s Eight Principles

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”
― George Orwell, 1984

In this part, I’ll give a detailed explanation of manipulative groups, what they look like and how they function, referencing Robert Jay Lifton’s 8 Criteria for Thought Reform. This is a list of eight methods used in conjunction with one another to directly influence the thoughts, beliefs, and emotions of individuals under the control or a person or group. These methods can be used within any group environment, whether it is a family, a religious community, an activist organization, a charity, a multi-level marketing scheme, a harem, or anything else you can imagine. When most or all of these traits are found in a group, it has become a space where members are not permitted freedom of thought.

These criteria are as follows:

 

Criteria
Milieu Control incoming information is limited. members are forbidden to read certain material and communicate with certain individuals and groups, as well as forbidden from discussing certain topics among themselves
Mystical Manipulation behaviours and emotions are attributed to some kind of ‘higher power’ or otherwise given a mystical explanation
Demand For Purity the world is divided sharply into good and evil, and members are held to impossible standards to qualify as ‘good’, and made to feel guilty and ashamed when these standards are not reached
Confession members must confess to wrongdoings they never committed, or things they have done but which are only wrong or sinful in the eyes of the group
Sacred Science the group’s beliefs are always right. questioning or criticizing the group’s ideology is not allowed
Loaded Language the group uses its own language which is difficult for outsiders to understand. members are taught simple, reassuring phrases to dispel doubts
Doctrine Over Person when a person’s lived experiences do not conform to a group’s ideology, the person is considered to be the one in the wrong
Dispensing of Existence a member’s self-concept revolves around the group; without the group, their life would be meaningless

 

All of these techniques are used on group members to prime them for manipulation. Through the gradual erosion of one’s connection with the outside world, their ability to form their own original thoughts and opinions, and their sense of self worth and self importance, they are made more willing and able to do the group’s bidding, and less able to escape when other individuals within the group are abusing or harming them.

 

Milieu Control 

The most basic feature of the thought reform environment, the psychological current upon which all else depends, is the control of human communication. Through this milieu control the totalist environment seeks to establish domain over not only the individual’s communication with the outside (all that he sees and hears, reads or writes, experiences, and expresses), but also – in its penetration of his inner life – over what we may speak of as his communication with himself.

Like all of these eight criteria, milieu control — meaning environmental control — in part seeks to alter the process by which group members form opinions. This is often achieved by using propaganda and lies to scare members away from alternative sources of information.

The best description I could find on a healthy opinion-forming process was actually this article on Wikihow, which outlines the following steps,

  • choose a subject
  • view the process of forming your opinion as an internal debate with yourself
  • learn about the subject from many different sources
  • talk to people with varying opinions on the subject
  • listen to other people debating and discussing the subject
  • find out what experts and professionals have to say about the subject
  • ask your friends what they think
  • understand and ignore media bias and sensationalism
  • use logic to analyse what other people have said

Under milieu control, where members are simply told what opinions are ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ and by the group and forbidden from exploring alternative views, the process is more like this,

  • choose a subject
  • consult other group members to understand the group’s stance on the issue
  • adopt that stance without question

It is only when an ideology is rooted in greed or hate, or fear or shame, that it must rely on milieu control. Someone who truly believes what they are saying, whose opinion is based on logic and facts, has no reason to manipulate other people into agreeing with them by limiting their exposure to other views. In healthy groups, we put forward our evidence and reasoning and counterarguments, and if someone ultimately is not convinced by us, we accept it and move on. We do not have to control what other people think.

In my opinion, there’s also an element of phobia-inducing(1) in milieu control. It’s a common practice for manipulative groups to convince their members that they are so naive and so vulnerable to believing anything they read that if they’re exposed to “bad” or “evil” sources of information, they will be convinced to become “bad” or “evil” themselves.

The reality of the situation, though, is that a person would only agree with every single thing they read or hear if they had been entirely stripped of their capacity for critical thought. If a group genuinely, honestly cared about protecting its members from misinformation or propaganda, they would encourage people to openly analyse and criticse absolutely every piece of information they come across — this is what anyone in a safe and healthy environment does by default. Instead, the group tells their members that their naivete should be dealt with not by learning to be critical, but by unquestioningly trusting and listening to the group, and closing themselves off from all other sources of information.

Another goal of milieu control that we are all familiar with is that which occurs within the context of an abusive relationship. It is a known tactic of abusers to convince the victim to cut contact with her own family and friends, using subtle manipulation or overt threats. For example,

“Your friend doesn’t approve of our relationship — if she cared about you, she’d be happy for us.

Or,

You have to choose between your mother and I. If you visit her this weekend, I’m leaving you.” 

The goal here threefold. The first is that, if it the case that the victim is prevented from hearing any negativity about her abuser, she will only be exposed to the idea that her relationship is healthy and acceptable, primarily put forward by the abuser himself. The second is that she will become reluctant to leave him: instead of being emotionally and financially supported by her family or her friends, all of her basic needs are instead met by her abuser. And third, if she ever does decide to leave him, having cut contact with everyone else in her life, who can she call for help?

As demonstrated by this example, milieu control doesn’t only apply to infringe on free thought. It also infringes on free will. Some groups control several different aspects of their member’s environment: for example, where they live and work, when they are allowed to sleep and for how long, what they are allowed to eat and how much, whether or not they are allowed to receive medical care, who they date and marry, when and how they have sex, and how many hours a day they must devote to certain activities. All of these restrictions serve to control the person’s thoughts and feelings as well as their behaviours. It’s hard to think coherently when you’re malnourished and exhausted; it’s hard to be opinionated when you’re surrounded by people who all follow the same ideology; and it’s hard to leave when you’re tied to a group by your home, your job, and even your spouse.

 

Mystical Manipulation

Initiated from above, it seeks to provoke specific patterns of behavior and emotion in such a way that these will appear to have arisen spontaneously, directed as it is by an ostensibly omniscient group, must assume, for the manipulated, a near-mystical quality.

Mystical manipulation can be used both to recruit new members, and to strengthen the belief of already existing members. This form of manipulation is used to convince members and recruits that all elements of their personal experience somehow relate to the ideology. Examples of this include:

  • A famous Scientology recruitment tactic is to administer a doctored ‘personality test’ which will always come back with results showing only extreme negative traits. When victims are shaken and upset by these false results, they are told that they would not have such deficient personalities if they attended Scientology-run courses.
  • Some religious groups might convince members that unfortunate but ordinary experiences from their past were actually orchestrated by a divine being, to lead them to eventually find the church.
  • Some groups might research new recruits online, and then present the information they learned in the form of a ‘vision’ or ‘dream’, to convince the recruit that they have psychic powers.
  • In religious groups, masturbation or extramarital sexual desire can be attributed to inherent sinfulness and weakness, inducing guilt and shame for having normal human bodily functions.
  • Various groups have denied medical care to their members, including children, declaring that their illness is actually as result of “impurity”. If the person remains ill or even dies, this is attributed to a lack of faith.
  • Some groups convince their members that random disasters like earthquakes and floods are actually occurring to punish sinners or out-group members in general. As a result, members receive the message that if they ever leave the group, they will be a victim of a similar tragedy.

 

Demand for Purity

The experiential world is sharply divided into the pure and the impure, into the absolutely good and the absolutely evil. The good and the pure are of course those ideas, feelings, and actions which are consistent with the totalist ideology and policy; anything else is apt to be relegated to the bad and the impure. Nothing human is immune from the flood of stern moral judgments. All “taints” and “poisons” which contribute to the existing state of impurity must be searched out and eliminated.

When a new member is introduced to a manipulative group, it is often with the promise that membership will offer them some kind of unique knowledge about the world that they would not have access to otherwise. But of course, they are never just given this knowledge outright. They have to earn it, either in personal study or reflection that will ultimately lead them to this realisation (ie, reading a series of books, meditating, taking courses); or, they must prove themselves to the keepers of this knowledge directly, by conforming to a certain lifestyle or performing certain tasks.

The key element of this demand for purity is that it is never possible to attain it. Group members are told that at some point, they’ll achieve holiness or enlightenment or nirvana or whatever terminology the group uses to describe this state, but this never happens. There’s always another book to read, another prayer to learn, another course to take, another six month secluded meditation trip to embark on, another task to complete before you’re pure enough.

During this time, a member is still considered an ‘acolyte’ of some kind. They might be given rewards and new responsibilities, they are not considered pure, enlightened, or “good”: meaning, they are still considered tainted, ignorant, and perhaps even “evil”. For this reason, they’re afforded no real control within the group environment, are still completely at the mercy of higher-ranking members of the group: ie. the members who decide what constitutes purity in the first place.

Because of the level of importance to which this notion of “purity” is held, lower-ranking group members may be harshly disciplined for any accident, and minor mistakes, like using a forbidden word or forgetting to partake in a ritual, are blown widely out of proportion and made out to be evidence of weakness or even corruption. High-ranking members, on the other hand, can get away with doing whatever they want, including actively abusing other, lower-ranking group members. Low-ranking members have to put constant effort into trying to attain purity; high-ranking members are considered inherently pure, no matter what they do.

 

Confession

There is the demand that one confess to crimes one has not committed, to sinfulness that is artificially induced, in the name of a cure that is arbitrarily imposed. Such demands are made possible not only by the ubiquitous human tendencies toward guilt and shame but also by the need to give expression to these tendencies. In totalist hands, confession becomes a means of exploiting, rather than offering solace for, these vulnerabilities.

If I had been the one to title this criteria for thought reform, I would have called it not “confession”, but “repentance”. In my opinion, this technique of manipulation has less to do with gathering information about true crimes or misdeeds a person has committed, and more to do with inducing guilt so that the victim can be promised forgiveness if they adhere to the previously mentioned ‘demand for purity’, which is, of course, impossible.

 

Sacred Science

The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic dogma, holding it out as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence.

According to the manipulative group, their ideology is right, an absolute truth: and absolutely everyone else in the world is mistaken. There is nothing wrong having conviction in our beliefs. But if we aren’t willing to respect the rights of other to have their own thoughts and opinions, and if we aren’t wiling to reconsider our understanding of a topic when we’re introduced to new information, then what we hold is not a belief: it’s dogma.

Some manipulative groups will even go as far as claiming that their ideology is “scientific” in some way, hence the title of this criterion. However, the fact that the ideology cannot be questioned, analysed, or altered in response to the emergence of new facts means that it cannot possibly be a genuine scientific theory.

 

Loaded Language

For an individual person, the effect of the language of ideological totalism can be summed up in one word: constriction. He is, so to speak, linguistically deprived; and since language is so central to all human experience, his capacities for thinking and feeling are immensely narrowed.

Many groups employ the use of “jargon”: buzzwords that were coined by the group, and are only used within it. The use of confusing language makes it difficult for group members to communicate with other people. Outsiders may become frustrated by the use of the in-group’s jargon, and group members might struggle to explain their own thoughts and ideas without using language that is impossible for other people to understand. Communication becomes even more complicated if the manipulative group has taken it upon themselves to redefine words which already exist, or to designate ‘forbidden words’ which could cause offense if used by an out-group member.(2)

Another way that ‘loaded language’ impacts group members is that their capacity to think and express their thoughts is limited only to the language they are allowed to use. It is understood that the creation of language by oppressed groups is vital: sometimes the words we need to describe our experiences don’t exist yet, and must be coined before we can fully understand ourselves and connect with one another. This principle also works in reverse.  The combination of loaded language and milieu control means that group members can forget ‘forbidden’ words and phrases they used to know, and with them, forget the concepts that those words and phrases represented.

This example of language affecting thoughts and ideas extends to the invention of ‘thought terminating cliches’, a term coined by Lifton to describe short and simple, yet ultimately meaningless, phrases which are used to suppress critical thought, such as

  • Everything happens for a reason
  • You only live once
  • It is what it is
  • The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away
  • C’est la vie (That’s life)

Group members learn to repeat these cliches to themselves when they have doubts. Thought-terminating cliches are not positive: they do not exist to empower the group members, to remind them of their inner strength and ability to create change, the way that a typical mantra might. Rather, they reinforce the idea that group members must remain passive, and accept whatever they are told.

 

Doctrine Over Person

The underlying assumption is that the doctrine – including its mythological elements – is ultimately more valid, true, and real than is any aspect of actual human character or human experience. […] Rather than modify the myth in accordance with experience, the will to orthodoxy requires instead that men be modified in order to reaffirm the myth.

Doctrine over person relies heavily on cognitive dissonance, which will be discussed in far more detail in Parts 3 and 4. The reason for the reliance on cognitive dissonance is that this element of thought reform relies on convincing people that their own knowledge and experiences are not real as long as they conflict with the ideology of the group. For example,

A member of a multi-level marketing scheme cannot make a profit, even though her recruiter promised that she would. The recruiter comments that she must not be working hard enough.

A member of an environmental activist group doesn’t understand the group’s stance on a particular issue, and says that, from his perspective, they should consider taking a different stance. The group’s leader tells him he hasn’t read enough literature on the subject, and that if he had, he would agree with them.

A member of a manipulative religious group’s pet suffers an untimely death, and she asks a priest why a loving God would let that happen to an innocent animal. The priest comments that perhaps the animal’s death was a punishment for her own past sins, and lack of faith.

From these examples it becomes clear that proritizing doctrine over personal experience is often utilized as a way to deflect criticisms of the ideology by turning the issue back around on the person who has doubts, making them feel guilty, ashamed, or otherwise inadequate, and allowing them to believe that they are the problem. Using this tactic, group leaders never have to explain parts of the ideology which don’t hold up to scrutiny, or keep promises that they have made to their followers.

Another example of ‘doctrine over person’ that we are all familiar with is religious views on homosexuality. Some Christian groups, for example, hold the opinion that since homosexuality is described as a sin in the Bible, God would not have made people inherently gay, and so people who identify themselves as homosexual are in fact just confused, corrupted by the media, or in some other way misinterpreting their own inherent sexual orientation. Other Christian groups, though, acknowledge that since there is evidence that inherently homosexual people do exist, they must alter their perception of the Bible being entirely accurate about God and His views: in order to comply with their observed reality, they must acknowledge that their ideological text is flawed.

This cannot happen in a manipulative group. The only people who may scrutinise the ideology are the leaders of the group, who probably created the ideology in the first place, and will only ever make changes to suit their own desires, rather than to be scientifically accurate or to otherwise comply with any observed truth.

 

Dispensing of Existence

The totalist environment draws a sharp line between those whose right to existence can be recognized, and those who possess no such right.

The manipulative group reaches the peak of totalism when it claims the right to determine which human lives are important and which simply don’t matter.

From changingminds,

Who is an outsider or insider is chosen by the group. Thus, any person within the group may be damned at any time. There are no rights of membership except, perhaps, for the leader.

People who leave the group are singled out as particularly evil, weak, lost or otherwise to be despised or pitied. Rather than being ignored or hidden, they are used as examples of how anyone who leaves will be looked down upon and publicly denigrated.

People thus have a constant fear of being cast out, and consequently work hard to be accepted and not be ejected from the group. Outsiders who try to persuade the person to leave are doubly feared.

Dispensation also goes into all aspects of living within the group. Any and all aspects of existence within the group is subject to scrutiny and control. There is no privacy and, ultimately, no free will.

Taken to it’s most extreme, the dispensing of existence is used to justify causing actual harm to outsiders and ex-members, by taking away their humanity and portraying them perhaps as animals, monsters, or demons. It is a lot easier to hurt another person when you don’t view them as a person at all. Manipulative groups use this depersonalization to justify hate speech, harassment, smear campaigns, physical assaults, sexual abuse, and sometimes even outright murder. This violence occurs not only to punish outsiders, but also to make it clear to current members that if they ever leave, they will lose their status of personhood and become a potential target.

Read More »

Part 3 – Overcoming Dissonance

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” 
― George Orwell, 1984

In Part 2, I explained the eight methods of mind control that manipulative groups use. In this part, I’m going to focus on outlining strategies of manipulation that I think are prevalent in the trans community in particular, in the hopes of helping readers to recognise and combat undue influence, and exercise full freedom of thought. I’ll also be going into the concept of cognitive dissonance, what triggers it, and how to protect ourselves from it.

 

Recognising Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is the state of having one’s inner beliefs conflict with one’s observed reality. When we feel that we are unwilling or unable to change our beliefs to reflect reality, human nature dictates that we will subconsciously change our perception of reality to conform to our beliefs.

For some, cognitive dissonance manifests most clearly as a visceral feeling, such as:

  • being so obviously and unquestioningly correct in a debate that you find yourself unable to explain why the other person is wrong, so you withdraw from the discussion.
  • confusion so intense that it’s as if your mind has gone entirely blank and stopped functioning. you cannot string thoughts together anymore, and the only relief comes from dropping the subject entirely.
  • hopelessness. if all ideas presented to you feel ‘wrong’, there must be something fundamentally wrong with you. you feel unimportant and unworthy, and resolve not to think about the issue anymore.
  • an almost paranoid fear that everyone is against you. their ideas conflict with your reality, a reality you are unable to put to words and explain to them. they are attacking you and you feel defenseless: you have the need to turn to others to assure you that your experiences are real.
  • being overwhelmed by some undefinable emotion that is not fear, but experiencing the emotion itself makes you feel afraid. you believe that if you feel this way for too long, it will be too much to bear. you shy away from the thought or idea that triggered this feeling. in the future, you avoid the subject as much as you can.

Of course, simply feeling confident, confused, hopeless, or afraid when confronted with new ideas is not necessarily indicative of cognitive dissonance. There are plenty of reasons why we might feel those things. But understanding how dissonance makes us feel on an emotional level can be the first step to recognising it and confronting it in ourselves. If one or more of these emotional states resonates strongly with you, and is something you experience on a regular basis when confronted with certain ideas, please keep the following paragraph in mind.

Cognitive dissonance is not a shortcoming. It’s not a personal flaw. It’s a quirk of psychology and the way we process information and form opinions, and it’s something everyone on earth can experience, and most likely will experience at some point in our lives: sometimes only on a benign, inconsequential level, and sometimes in a way that negatively affects us on a day-to-day basis.

The only way to protect ourselves from cognitive dissonance is to be willing and able to change our inner beliefs as we learn and grow. As people under the influence of manipulative groups are likely to be punished if their views stray too far from what’s “acceptable”, they may fall victim to cognitive dissonance as they try to rationalise why observed reality does not reflect the group’s ideology.

 

Inducing Dissonance

Here are some conflicting ideas I’ve seen promoted within the trans community. To be clear: this is not a personal value judgement on which of these ideas is correct. There are some where I don’t think either of the ideas are correct. This section only serves to point out that each set of statements are contradictory and that both beliefs cannot reasonably be held at the same time.

Gender is innate
Gender is a social construct

Being trans is inherent
Some people detransition

Trans people need medical help for their physical dysphoria
Gender identity is unrelated to physical sex

Gender is an identity
Gender is a hierarchy

Gender is nebulous and has no definition
Misgendering is hurtful 

Here is a table outlining the beliefs people may form when confronted with two of these conflicting ideas. Please take note that neither ‘adjusting’, ‘repackaging’ or ‘denying’ are inherently good or bad ways to respond to new information because new information is not always accurate. This is not a table of which beliefs are true or false. It is simply an outline of several different ways we might be compelled to act when confronted with two conflicting ideas.

 

Belief Observation Conflict Adjust Deny Repackage
Gender is innate Gender is a social construct Social constructs are not innate; they can be deconstructed Gender identity is not innate. My gender identity is what I relate to the most, based on the current social constructs prevalent in my own culture Gender is innate. We’re all born with an inherent gender identity. Only gender roles are a social construct. Gender is a social construct that must be upheld. Deconstructing gender means trans people would cease to exist.
Being trans is inherent; if you identify as trans, you were always trans Detransitioned people exist Being trans is not necessarily a permanent state; knowing yourself to be trans may not mean that you will always be trans Some people identify as trans, and then cease to identify as trans. They were trans, and now they are not anymore. Detransitioned people were never trans. They were confused, or lied about being trans. Detransitioned people were trans, and they still are; their former gender identity is still legitimate and they are in denial
Gender has nothing to do with physical sex Trans people want HRT and SRS to treat their dysphoria If dysphoria comes from societal influence, it should be eased by changing society, not by changing one’s physical body My idea of what a ‘man’ or ‘woman’ should physically look like is innate. I was born with a brain more reminiscent of the opposite sex. I’m not pursing treatment because of my gender identity, or how my dysphoria makes me feel. I’m doing it simply because I feel like it. Dysphoric trans people are suffering from internalized transphobia and cissexism. They want to look like a cis person, because they are ashamed to be trans.
Gender is an identity; it can be fun Gender is a hierarchy; it can be violent Women are victims of violence and oppression: all genders are not seen as equals in society We experience oppression based on the gender we’re percieved as. Disidentifying from a social hierarchy does not remove its presence in our lives. Gender as an identity and gender as a hierarchy are unrelated concepts. We experience oppression based on the gender we identify as.
Gender is nebulous and has no meaning or definition Misgendering is devastating If gender doesn’t tell us anything about a person and is just a label, why should it be offensive to be referred to as another gender? Gender isn’t meaningless: it’s how we categorise personalities. When someone misgenders me, they deny who I know myself to be. Misgendering is devastating because it reminds me of my dysphoria, not because it denies my gender identity. Because gender has no inherent meaning, trans people get to collectively decide how important it is.

 

If you recognise any of these thought processes in yourself, I would strongly to urge you to consider the issue at hand. Is it possible that, based on conflicting information you have received, you currently hold two beliefs which contradict one another? And if so, does analysing these beliefs make you feel a spike of one of the strong emotions outlined in the previous section, followed by the urge to shut down your train of thought, and focus on something else?

And, taking into account Lifton’s concept of thought reform, is it possible that some avenues of thought are off-limits to you? Would your friends, acquaintances, or community members feel the need to punish you in some way for having certain thoughts, or using certain terms in the privacy of your own mind?

The only advice that can be given to overcome cognitive dissonance is to question everything: to analyse every belief and hold no ideas sacred. This is a lot more difficult to achieve when a person is under the influence of a manipulative group. As a result of the mind control methods discussed in Part 2, openly questioning our held beliefs can have consequences, such as being publicly exposed and humiliated, being shunned and discarded by friends, or simply realising that the world isn’t as easy to understand as we originally thought. Sometimes, we feel that overcoming our dissonance is just not worth the consequences. That is one reason why mind control is so successful. People in manipulative groups forget that there is more to the world than the subculture they’re embroiled in — that inner peace and balance is always, objectively, more important than pleasing other people.

 

Recognising Manipulation

Guilt and fear are the emotional experiences which lie at the core of every manipulative group. The reality is that we have probably all, at some point in our lives, gone out of our way to make someone feel guilty or afraid in an attempt to control their thoughts or behaviour. I can think of one time that I, personally, sent a very cruel and emotionally loaded message to someone online who had expressed an opinion that I found abhorrent about a topic that I was sensitive about. Though I wasn’t consciously thinking this at the time, my goal was to make them feel so awful about themselves that they were forced to reconsider their views — to emotionally devastate them to such a degree that they would have no choice but to see things the way I wanted them to.

And although most of us have probably done something like this in the past, that doesn’t make it okay. As adults, we have to accept that we do not have the right to try to dictate other people’s thoughts or behaviour, no matter how strongly we feel about the matter. If we cannot sway someone with facts and reasoning, we do not then go about trying to change their mind by toying with their emotions. That is manipulation, by definition. And if we succeed in our manipulation to the degree that we are able to control a person’s emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours due to the way we have guilt-tripped and terrorized them, that is known as undue influence, or mind control.

We know that this is how manipulative groups thrive. Thus, I think it’s extremely important to be aware of what is happening when someone is trying to change your mind in some way, whether it’s through gentle persuasion, friendly debate, or heated argument. We all sometimes experience conflict when it comes to our personal views, and we all wish everyone could see things the way we do. This is why it’s so crucial that we understand how to ethically put forward our own opinions, and how to recognise when someone else is failing to do so.

 

Logical Fallacies

A logical fallacy is, simply put, a flaw in reasoning. When we’re analyzing our own and other people’s opinions, it helps to know and understand some of the common pitfalls we can encounter when trying to make sense of new ideas.

This table of logical fallacies includes the names of some fallacies, as well as some questions we can ask ourselves during debates to make sure that we are being logically consistent, honest, and fair. We can also apply these to other people’s arguments to ensure that they are engaging in good faith with us, and to help identify any red flags for manipulation or dishonest intent.

 

Fallacy Ask Yourself…
Ad Hominem Am I ignoring this person’s argument in favour of criticising their character? Would this argument be more palatable if it had been made by someone else?
Strawman Am I misquoting or paraphrasing this person while responding to them? Are my personal feelings interfering with my perception of their argument?
Appeal To Emotion Am I quoting murder, rape, or suicide statistics when the issue at hand is unrelated to physical violence? Am I equating verbal debate or personal opinions with physical violence?
Tu Quoque Did I address and attempt to clarify or correct the problems with my argument? Am I more focused on proving this person wrong than being factually correct myself?
Loaded Question Was my response unfair or cruel? How would I feel if someone said this to me? How would I respond?
Bandwagon Can I think of any cases where the overwhelming majority turned out to be in the wrong? In 50 years, when there is more information available about this topic, will I feel secure about my current views?
Appeal to Authority Have I done enough of my own research on this topic? Have I considered the views of more than one authority figure? Do I understand what I learned, or am I just repeating it?
Composition/Division Do I form views based on categories, rather than individual circumstances?
False Equivilence Am I comparing the issue at hand to a different issue? Can I explain my points without making any comparisons?
No True Scotsman Have I noticed a pattern of in-group members immediately being dismissed as ‘fake’ when they do something wrong? Does this make me feel safer within the group, or less safe? If I did something wrong, would this reasoning be applied to me?
Sunk Cost Would I feel ashamed if I conceded to this person’s argument? Is my pride on the line?

 

 

Linguistic Ambiguity

One manipulation technique that I have noticed has become prevalent in online debates, particularly about abstract concepts such as sexuality and gender identity, is linguistic ambiguity. Transcribed from this youtube video,

Word salad is when you just spew a series of words that actually don’t really connect to each other within the context of the speaker’s own sentence or paragraph — nor do they relate to the question or the conversation. […]

We’ve taken that term […] and applied it to what politicians do. So you ask a politician a direct question, and they word salad the answer. You get a sequence of words that is about the subject, that clearly is around the question that you’ve asked or that is appropriate to that sequence in the conversation, but it’s really not answering anything and it’s really not saying anything.

[…] And it is confusing. Absolutely, it’s confusing. It’s a technique that we’re trained to use in neurolinguistic programming and hypnosis to draw the other person into a trance. When you use a sentence that has neurolinguistic programming it’s called “linguistic ambiguity”. So you say a sentence that doesn’t really follow it’s own syntax, and as the person becomes confused […], as you’re talking to them and you’re using your special hypnotic tone of voice which is so smooth and calm and relaxing, you’d say something like,

“I don’t know if it was time for you before to relax, and sleep down, now, or maybe just later, what we could find ourselves doing is going into that state right before sleep where people find they can dream and have everything that they ever desired…”

And that sentence, if you write it out, is like, what– my English teacher would punch me ’round the back of the head. It doesn’t go anywhere, it doesn’t make sense. But by using word salad — “linguistic ambiguity” — I induce a state of […] positive confusion, which then allows the brain to go into this submissive state of, “I don’t really know what he’s saying, I’ll let the embedded commands go in.”

If that word salad that I just gave you, if it made you feel relaxed it’s because I used the words “relax”, “go down”, “to dream”, “to sleep”… that’s where the embedded commands go in.

This is something to look out for when someone puts forward an argument. If someone’s viewpoint is expressed in a way that is very long, rambling, and difficult or impossible to understand, it could be an example of manipulative linguistic ambiguity. Look out for instances where the argument starts off simple and reasonable but then quickly spirals out of control and become confusing. Also, look out for instances where an argument contains several buzzwords that you recognise and understand, but lacks a cohesive overall meaning.

I could also use word salad to introduce things that trigger things in you. I could use it to imply that you’re […] a nasty person, that you’re dishonest, that you’re immoral…

If someone’s argument is dense and “went over your head”, yet triggers a feeling of shame, hurt, inferiority, helplessness, or any number of similar emotions, this is a major red flag for linguistic manipulation.

 

Conclusion

People who are in and around the trans community simply do not deserve to be treated like this. Nobody deserves to be given constant misinformation, and presented with ever-shifting goal posts so that they go through life with a constant, lingering feeling of confusion and uncertainty. Nobody deserves to be manipulated, even “for their own good”, by being bombarded with emotionally loaded rhetoric and black-and-white value judgements about their personal sense of morality. It is possible to make up our own minds about important issues without anyone else intervening. It’s possible to form our own views on what’s true and what’s ethical without being afraid of what will happen to us if other people don’t like it.

To close this chapter, I’d like to put forward a thought experiment, in the form of a question.

Imagine that for twenty-four hours, nothing that you thought or said could be held against you. For twenty-four hours, you could think and say whatever you wanted without fear of criticism, ostracisation, or backlash. No matter how controversial, or inconsequential, you could focus your mind on anything you chose and ponder any notions that occurred to you.

During these twenty-four hours, what would you choose to think about?

What would you choose to say?

How would it make you feel?

And how does it make you feel, presently, to imagine this?

Part 4 – Five-Step Theory

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”
– George Orwell, 1984

 

Do you remember the first time you were introduced to queer theory?

For me, it was the word “genderfluid” at twelve or thirteen. The word started popping up in online spaces and by fourteen I was being told by friends, when I discussed my discomfort with nudity and my confused sexual identity, that I was “probably genderfluid”. Around that time I remember breaking down in tears in front of my computer, unable to understand why terminology that had been acceptable a few months ago was now heretical to even discuss. Perhaps it was about the infamous “trans*” argument, or perhaps it was about any number of other words and phrases that were at one point mandatory to use and are now considered to be on the same level as a transphobic slur.

Now, things are different. Online spaces and social media are still highly responsible for introducing pre-teenage children to gender identity and queer theory, offering a whole new language and several new guidelines on how one should identify based on one’s personality, history, and any number of other traits. There is also representation on television, like I Am Jazz, a reality series featuring a paediatric transitioner. Here in the UK, a NHS survey was issued to ten year old school children, asking them to define themselves as male or female and introducing them to the concept of being neither.

You’re probably thinking — so what? Arguing that children should be sheltered from LGBT identities is the oldest trick in the book. Conservatives have for years put forward the idea that children learning about homosexuality might somehow turn them gay, and being sceptical of how the concept of gender identity is introduced to children might seem to be a mirror of that. But that brings us back to the age-old question:

What makes someone trans?

And further, what makes some people trans, but not other people?

Is there any real criteria for being trans?

Does have someone have to reach a certain academic or spiritual understanding of gender before they can call themselves trans? Or is it a gene, or an inborn trait, like being gay, or being left handed? Or is just a word we use to define ourselves in relation to social roles, whether in support of them, or in protest?

Let me put it this way: if gender is a social construct, transgenderism must be a social construct too. If being transgender is a social construct, then it can’t be innate. If transgenderism isn’t innate, the narrative of being “born trans” falls apart, as does the idea that there are countless children sitting in classrooms who are inherently transgender and cisgender and that only these predetermined children would feel the need to further look into the new concepts they’ve been introduced to at school, online, or on television. The current narrative is like a time travel paradox: “if you’re trans now, you were always trans”. But what if that isn’t true?

More specifically, what if “being trans” is the answer we’re given for possessing any number of different traits, from being alienated from our own sex due to being gay or bisexual, feeling dissociated from our body after sexual abuse, or being vehemently disinterested in performing the roles our assigned gender is supposed to perform?

What if we’re drawn to this conclusion because being trans is, and always has been, marketed to us as something that makes people happy, “euphoric”, that being accepted as our chosen gender is blissful, and that there is surgery available to fix whatever we don’t like about our bodies? What if we’re drawn in by the idea that we can start over, and be anyone we want?

What if the narrative that there is no real criteria for being trans, other than “feeling trans” or some similarly vague emotion, means that there is potential for anyone, absolutely anyone, to find themselves identifying as transgender if the prospect is made to seem inviting enough?

And what evidence is there that introducing people to queer theory doesn’t lead to trans identification, not overnight, but through a series of stages, each with its own distinct methods of manipulation, taking a person through simply hearing a word they didn’t know to drastically altering their lives?

 

Step One
Introduction: The Language Puzzle

 

Let’s rewind.

I said that my first introduction to queer theory was the term “genderfluid”, but I’m sure for other people, it was something else. Maybe “nonbinary”, or something like “cisgender”. Maybe they were accused of transmisogyny after taking an insensitively worded sign to a protest. Maybe they attended a support group which involved a pronoun circle, or were required to give this information while introducing themselves at the beginning of a class in university.

I imagine that most people are introduced to queer theory by being confronted with some kind of terminology that they didn’t know the meaning of. And I imagine that most of them, like the majority of humans do when confronted with new concepts, asked what the word meant, or went home and did some research on the computer.

So, to sum up, the language of the community provokes curiosity. And the language is everywhere.

But the language of the community also demands participation, on some level, from people who don’t identify as transgender, and may not even be very knowledgeable about the concept what it means to be trans.

For example, I’m sure most of us are familiar with the notion that for trans people to be comfortable sharing their personal pronouns, we all have to share our pronouns, which involves deciding which ones we prefer. The idea here is that cis people don’t even think about it — they just go with whatever they’ve been told their pronouns are. But when you put that in their hands, when you make it a choice, of course they think about it. It sparks the train of thought: why shouldn’t I use my assigned pronouns? What do my assigned pronouns make people assume about me? If I used different pronouns, would people’s perception of me be more in line with who I really am?

The entire concept of being cisgender has a similar effect. Unlike being straight, white, or able-bodied, being ‘cis’ isn’t put forward as something people just “are” — it’s something people choose to be. Even when this isn’t overtly stated, it’s implied. How can someone know how they feel about gender if they, a cis person, have, by virtue of being cis, never really questioned their gender? And if a person actively questions their gender, for more than a couple of minutes, that in itself is a sign that they can’t be cis — because if you are cis, what is there to think about? If people identify as trans because their assigned gender doesn’t fit them, what does that say about cis people? That through some kind of coincidence, 99% of the time, people do happen to prefer the roles and social contracts assigned to them based on their genitals at birth? Or simply that they haven’t thought about it enough?

And of course, one element of queer theory is the dismantling of biological sex as a concept, and the complete inclusiveness within gendered institutions for trans people. Meaning things are being redefined, everywhere — famously, in some regions midwives have to adjust the terminology they use for all patients to refer to “chest-feeding” instead of “breastfeeding”, “mothers” as “parents” or even “carriers”, and on a national level even genders themselves are being redefined. Notably, the proposed Gender Recognition Act makes gender a kind of “opt-in, opt-out” experience for every single person in the country. So if you attend school, university, a support group, use the internet, identify as a feminist, have a baby, or exist in a country with something like the Gender Recognition Act, not only are you introduced to gender identity and queer theory, but you actively participate in it.

In general, the trans community demands that cis people be constantly aware and quite vocal about the fact that they are cisgender. Everyone must have a gender, everyone has to participate. I haven’t found other communities to act this way, in my own experience. As a lesbian, I don’t demand that straight people tell me they’re straight when I first meet them, or expect straight people to be more publicly affectionate with their partners so I could feel more comfortable holding my girlfriend’s hand. I’ve never met a religious person who demanded that I introduce myself as an atheist, either, or in fact that I call myself anything in particular, or do anything in particular, while respecting my status as a person outside of their faith.

To be clear, I am not saying that by simply using its own language, the trans community is forcibly indoctrinating anyone who happens to be around to hear it. What I am saying is that using obscure and confusing language, and even going as far as to apply this language to people who aren’t in the community which uses it, piques the curiosity of outsiders, especially the most compassionate, liberal outsiders who want to understand the politics of an oppressed minority like trans people, and so are driven to learn more about the origins and meanings of the terms that they have heard.

 

Step Two
Recruitment: Euphoria and Dysphoria

 

I would estimate that the majority of people who are curious about queer theory and trans politics leave their introductory phase with pretty basic knowledge. They might be familiar with the “born with the wrong body” narrative, or the more modern narrative of some people simply “identifying as” another gender, without any real insight as to what either of these experiences entail. They are probably familiar with trans women and trans men, and nonbinary people, but without an understanding of the dynamics between these three groups, or the notion that trans people of different genders are oppressed on different levels. It is probable that they haven’t met a trans person in real life. If they have, said trans person most likely described their experience of being trans very favourably, talking about finally being able to be themselves, being accepted by the world, coming into their own, and having a supportive community of peers. The trans person probably did not delve into sex dysphoria, suicidal feelings, or any particular negatives about life as a trans person.

A couple of years ago, the term “gender euphoria” sprung into existence in online communities. The idea of this term was to shift focus away from “dysphoria” — something not all trans people experience — to “euphoria”: something that is possible for all trans people to achieve. I recall reading about people who never felt any particular distaste for their assigned gender, and never had any problems with wanting to change their body, and would’ve happily lived as they were, but also simply preferred being the gender they identified as. It wasn’t that their assigned gender made them feel bad, but their chosen made them feel even better.

Meanwhile, dysphoria was pushed aside as a dated, if not offensive, experience to have. Trans people who continue to advocate for dysphoria being the cornerstone of transition and trans identity were, and still are, shunned in liberal circles, relentlessly mocked and called “scum” for taking this viewpoint. Trans people who experienced physical dysphoria are questioned on a more general level as well because, referring back to some of the inconsistencies I outlined in Part 3, conflating their sex characteristics with their gender identity is considered cissexist, and regressive. One cannot simply say, “I am a man, so I shouldn’t have breasts”. What does that say about trans men who still have breasts? Or trans women, who may not have breasts, and yet are not men? No matter how bad a person’s dysphoria is, there’s no right way to talk about it in relation to their trans identity. The only right way to talk about trans identity is when it focuses on gender, and feelings, and spirituality, and anything else vague and difficult to define. That way, there is no possible condition or trait that would rule out any given person from being transgender.

Because, to reiterate, is there any condition or trait that would rule out any given person from being transgender? If sex dysphoria is irrelevant, dissatisfaction with ones assigned gender is irrelevant, personality is irrelevant, and personal preferences in terms of clothing and physical appearance are irrelevant… what stops anyone, or in fact everyone, from potentially identifying as trans?

At this point, questioning people begin looking for clarity on what exactly sets trans people apart from other people. How does a person know if they are trans? What are the signs?

As it turns out, pretty much anything in the world can be a sign of being trans. Anything, from happening to have personality traits and hobbies which are traditionally associated with the opposite sex, from preferring to have sex in a certain way, to experiencing severe dissociation and impulses to self harm, to for no apparent reason deriving enjoyment from being called by certain pronouns, is indicative of being trans. The toys you played with as a child can be indicative of being trans. And if not that, how often you cry can be indicative of being trans. And if you try hard enough, you can find at least one, if not several of these traits, in literally every single person on earth.

In my opinion, this qualifies as the “mystical manipulation” element of how Lifton’s principles of mind control are applied to the transgender community. When we’re questioning or newly identifying as trans, we’re encouraged to start combing our life history and present circumstances for evidence that we were trans all along — even things which, rationally, could be easily explained by other factors. As an example, small children declaring a hatred of their genitals and longing for a different configuration is considered empirical evidence of innate transgenderism, when in reality children being overly knowledgeable about their own genitals and having self-harm impulses is actually indicative of sexual abuse. Similarly, adults feeling disconnected from their physical body and having a shaky sense of self are symptoms of PTSD — but if one’s gender is involved, despite any past trauma, the person is just trans. A person who wanted to remove a body part other than their genitals of secondary sex characteristics would be diagnosed with BIID, but if their target body part happens to be a sexed one, they’re just trans. And in general, a person who’s preoccupied with what their body looks like might have some kind of dysmorphic disorder, whether this compels them to change their features with surgery, or use steroids to achieve their unrealistically desired level of fitness — that is, unless their ideal body doesn’t align with societal standards of the ideal body for their sex, in which case, they’re just trans.

The trans community is not the only group which recruits new members using this process. Famously, the cult of Scientology offers free “personality tests” which always show results of the recruit being depressed, unfulfilled, and in other ways tragically flawed in ways that only the group can fix. And then, in the trans community, once someone has identified some traits within themselves which indicate trans-ness, they aren’t turned away by words like “dysphoria”, concepts like hating one’s body, hurting oneself, feelings like self-loathing and disgust and alienation. Instead, they find “euphoria” — loving one’s new body, successful surgeries, becoming the person they always wanted to become, feelings like contentment and self-admiration and solidarity. Transitioning is the panacea that can solve all of life’s problems — and if they don’t even have any problems, the trans community can at least offer endless validation and cheerleading for every minuscule life choice they make.

There’s no crime in being positive, but given the previously noted observations — that anyone can be trans, and that cis people are expected to actively participate in using the same framework of ‘gender identity’ that the trans community does — it is not a mystery to me why it’s so important that trans people are expected, at all times, to put their ‘best face forward’, and keep the less savoury elements of being trans hidden away from the general public.

 

Step Three
Fringe Membership: Identity

 

One does not simply identify as “trans”. For all I’ve been referring to “transgender identity” and the “trans community”, the word transgender is just an umbrella term which describes a general state of being but is not really an identity in itself. For the questioning individual who has started exploring queer theory, and who has identified some evidence in their personal history of present lifestyle that is indicative of being trans, the next step is to decide exactly which label fits their experience best. This act ends the questioning phase, and their tenuous, uncertain link to the transgender community becomes something that is now part of their everyday life and, in fact, a crucial element of their sense of self.

A mandatory condition for being able to stay in the trans community beyond the ‘questioning’ phase is examining yourself and adopting a specific gender identity from within a framework of already existing gender identities

Charts like this, and others along the same lines, share the same basic theme: one’s personal gender identity is based on their preference for ‘masculinity’ or ‘femininity’, and the degree to which they prefer one over the other. As much as most members of the trans community will hand-wave or deny this, masculinity and femininity are not simply aesthetics or personality traits but rigid social roles, both involving fixed sets of behaviour for whoever occupies them.

This, in my experience, means that when we enter the trans community and choose our label, our behaviour changes with it. Maybe a person who is masculine-leaning was always athletic and a natural leader, but in order to live up to his identity as a man or masculine person, feels the need to become more stoic and assertive. Maybe a person who is more feminine-leaning has always been physically weak and attentive to others, but in order to live up to her identity as a woman or feminine person, feels the need to display her emotions more often. And maybe a person who is agender becomes aware of acting too much like either sex, and is constantly trying to strike a balance between being emotional and stoical, strong and weak, boisterous and refined, to avoid any miscommunication about what their gender identity is.

Gradually, we begin to change. Elements of our personality which don’t fit out gender identity become discarded, one at a time. We adjust the way we walk, and talk, the way we style our hair, the way we dress. We become well-versed in trans-related political issues, we make new friends, and perhaps leave behind old ones. And as being trans becomes a larger and larger part of our self-concept, we start looking into ways to make sure that our lifestyle is still viable in the long run.

 

Step 4 
Full Membership: Commitment

 

When we talk about manipulative groups, there is a pretty consistent hierarchy across all of them. The bottom rung of a manipulative group is occupied by what we call fringe members — people who run in the group’s circles without having made any real commitment to it. If someone is going to walk away from a group, it will most likely happen during the transition from fringe to full membership, when the individual is expected to give up some element of their own life — usually, something that keeps them tied to the outside world. As we discussed in Part 2’s explanation of ‘milieu control’, this ensures that the individual will have a far more difficult time leaving the group, because they will have given up so much of their old life that there will be next to nothing to go back to.

This journey from fringe to full membership is what caused me to falter in my trans identification. This is also where we draw the line between ‘reidentified’ and ‘detransitioned’ people. I spent most, if not all, of my life never feeling like a girl or a woman, and identifying away from those terms the moment I had the language to do so. But I never told my family about my dysphoria or trans identity, I never took a pill or got a shot, and I never made any surgical changes to my body.

This doesn’t mean I wasn’t committed, on an emotional level, to the transgender community or my personal identity as a trans person. I was certain that I would get surgery and change my legal name and sex — in fact, I thought I would die if I didn’t do all of those things as soon as possible. I was completely prepared to change my body, to throw away my relationships with any critical family and friends, and even move to an entirely new country if that was what it took to successfully transition and achieve happiness. But in reality, I didn’t get around to doing any of those things. That made walking away, for me, a thousand times easier than people who, for example, had made physical and legal changes, lived socially as their chosen gender, participated in the local LGBT community, and may even have been stealth before they detransitioned.

That is, at it’s core, the difference between fringe and full membership status of a manipulative group. How much a person has sacrificed to be a part of a group is directly proportional to how long they will stay in the group. And really, what we sacrifice to a manipulative group is not just in the material loss. It’s not about the money, the job, the house, the friends and family, the body part. What we really sacrifice is our ability to go back to the way things were before.

 

Step 5
Cult Membership: Lifestyle

 

How do we tell the difference between a manipulative group and a cult?

I’ve already mentioned the fringe and full membership levels of the hierarchy, but in a manipulative group, there’s one more: the “inner circle”. These are the people who make the rules — or, in a large enough group, are at least considered important that their opinions on what the rules should be override the opinions of everyone else. The inner circle is who we defer to when we’re unsure what to believe.

The inner circles of manipulative groups is a difficult topic to research, so this is purely speculation, but in my personal experience the “inner circle” is populated entirely by narcissists and sociopaths who understand, on some level, that the ideology of the group is baseless and really only functions as a means to control its members. If someone lacks inherent narcissism or sociopathy, they flounder forever within the fringe or full membership categories. In my view, this is how a manipulative group is able to continue operating after it’s original inner circle has left or died. One narcissist or sociopath, in terms of behaviour and motivation, is extremely similar to any other given person with the same disorder. Thus, the operation of the group will continue to be extremely similar as well, so long as the inner circle is still composed narcissists and sociopaths.

Unlike a manipulative group, the cult has yet another category after this: the “leader”. In a cult, a single leader controls the inner circle, but in a manipulative group, the inner circle is relatively autonomous. The example I like to use is that the Christian church, a massive organization which attempts to control the behaviour of its members through fear and shame and which very obviously applies all eight of Lifton’s criteria in its methods, could be considered a manipulative group. However, a single Christian congregation, which has one reigning authority figure and also meets all of this criteria, is not only a manipulative group, but also has the potential to be a full-blown cult.

If it was not clear by now, I am not saying that by virtue of being a manipulative group, the trans community is also a cult. In my view, unless the trans community somehow acquired a singular “leader”, it could not possibly meet the criteria for being a cult. What I am saying, however, is this: the intense manipulation of thoughts and behaviour within the trans community, the way that trans people are made to feel guilty and ashamed for imagined shortcomings, the nonsensical ideology that trans people are expected to unquestioningly believe, and the undercurrent of excusing, ignoring and denying crimes committed by certain members of the group — all of these elements of the trans community function as a way of grooming members of the transgender community to be recruited into small, cultic groups locally, of which the “leader” is one narcissistic or sociopathic trans person, orbited by other trans people who have been successfully trained, after years of manipulation, to cater to narcissists and sociopaths.

A bold claim, I know. So let’s back up and talk about this final stage of identifying as transgender.

At this stage, every element of someone’s life has impacted in some way by their gender identity. In the previous stage, their body, legal status, and social circle changed. Maybe it ends there, or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe they quit their job to do full-time activism. Maybe they are in a relationship with another trans person. Maybe they aren’t as close with their family as they used to be, or maybe they aren’t even on speaking terms with them anymore.

In my experience, the message people receive that this stage of transition is that any sense of isolation can be healed by more interaction with their trans peers. They should mentor a younger trans person, or volunteer with other trans people. If they’re having issues at home, they should move in with a trans roommate. This not only fosters a sense of dependence on the group as a whole, but increases the chance that any given trans person will eventually bump into one of the cultic groups described above. If the person has not already made contact with one of these narcissistic or sociopathic “leader” figures, they will now. And with nothing left to lose, it will be much, much harder for them to extricate themselves from this person than it might have been if they were in a different stage of their lives.

At this time, the group member will also be struggling with a number of induced phobias. Phobia-inducing is a manipulation technique that I have mentioned briefly a couple of times throughout this essay, and I think that in general, all transgender people who have made it to this stage of group membership have the same general list of induced phobias.

For example — and I mean no cruelty or judgement in pointing this out — a trans person at this level of group membership is terrified of being misgendered. Why? Because trans ideology dictates that our reality is dictated by how other people see us, and also that our sense of personhood is inextricably tied to our gender identity. So, when someone wilfully or accidentally uses the wrong name or pronoun for us, we feel like it goes far beyond the pronoun, and beyond even our gender identity — our personhood, our humanity is being actively denied by this person. We don’t know how to cope. Under trans ideology, misgendering is a violent act — we feel assaultedUnder trans ideology, calling someone by their birth name is ‘deadnaming’ — we feel misunderstood. Under trans ideology, even accidentally misgendering a person means that deep down inside, the person still thinks of the trans individual as the gender they were assigned — we feel deceived, and lied to.

But how would we feel if we hadn’t been exposed to any of these ideas? If we think back to before we transitioned, did our original name and pronouns really offend us that much? Even if we prickled when someone said ‘she’, or never felt that our birth name fit us properly, did we feel such pain and outrage back then? Why did things change? Why, after going through the process of accepting ourselves and finding people who can understand us and even physically changing our bodies to reflect who we are, do we feel worse than we originally did when it comes to other people not being on the same page as we are about our gender? What made us feel so insecure?

The fear of misgendering controls us. It makes us hesitate when we meet new people: we’re afraid of the assumptions they’ll make about us, we’re afraid that they’ll see us differently than we see ourselves. It makes us vulnerable to being wounded and hurt by the outside world, which is populated by people who don’t understand how to address people who are trans, even when they mean well. And we withdraw. All because of a fear of rejection that was instilled in us by other people.

Misgendering is just an example, though. In my view, the most dangerous and salient induced phobia that can be found at this stage, and the most intertwined with cult membership, is this:

Trans people who were assigned female at birth have had instilled in them a debilitating, overwhelming fear of trans women’s disapproval.

And if you’re reading this and rolling your eyes, and thinking to yourself that this is normal: it’s not. It is absolutely not normal to experience fear in response to the thought of someone disapproving of you.

And I will be honest: there have been several parts of this essay where I have made a point of making statements which are objectively innocuous, but which I know will induce a sense of discomfort, panic, and fear in my intended readers (that is, trans people who were assigned female at birth). This is because I know that the most salient, most intense, most terrifying fear we experience as members of the trans community is the fear of backlash: the fear that if someone finds out what we’re reading, doing, thinking, or feeling, a punishment will be handed down to us, probably in the form of public exposure followed by complete excommunication. If someone were to create a little window into our minds, we would lose everything.

And now I’m begging you to ask yourself: who is making you feel like this?

Whose wrath are you afraid of, really? Whose disapproval has the potential to destroy your life? And if you’re thinking that your other friends who were assigned female at birth would be the agents of this destruction, by calling you out and cutting you off, think about it: would they be more motivated by the idea of punishing you, or protecting themselves from punishment? And in that case, who would punish them? Who is sitting at the top of the pyramid, handing down all of these threats without having anything to fear themselves?

Can you imagine a trans person who was assigned male at birth experiencing this fear like you do? The fear of backlash? What would they have to do, honestly, to earn the kind of response you’d get if you admitted to simply reading an essay? Can you think of anything?

My point is this: if everything has gone according to plan, an afab trans person at this stage of identification should be completely at the mercy of trans women. Their biggest fear, the worst thing they can possibly imagine, is disapproval: saying or doing the wrong thing, being “exposed”, and ending up excommunicated. They have a sense that inside of them is a some kind of evil that will eventually show itself, and someone will notice, and they will be punished. They are constantly on thin ice. They could be next. That’s how it feels.

That’s how being in a cult feels.

 

Conclusion

If you find yourself relating to what I have said, I cannot reiterate enough that things don’t have to be this way.

Let me be as clear and transparent as I possibly can: I am not saying that you have to change or reevaluate your gender identity. I am not saying that you have to detransition. I am not about to try to sell you on some other ideology, or claim that I’m the authority on how to achieve freedom of thought.

But I am going to ask one thing of you. And it is completely optional. But I’m still going to ask.

Take the thought experiment I put forward in Part 3, and make it a reality. For twenty-four hours of your life, make a point of thinking about whatever you want. You don’t have to say anything or go public about it — in fact I think it’s probably better that you don’t — but for just one day, make your mind completely your own. Sit with this essay and decide for yourself which parts, if any, you think were valid and reasonable and which parts you think were total nonsense. Think up some rebuttals if you want. Or don’t think about the essay at all. Prioritise what you want to prioritise. And if you catch yourself thinking that you shouldn’t have a certain thought, that you’re not allowed, that you’d be in serious trouble if somebody knew what was going on inside your head, maybe take a moment to read over the affirmations that I myself used so often when I was learning how to think for myself again.

First, I know who I am. Other people’s opinions about me does not change who I know myself to be.

Second, I know what I believe. I can read and consider the opinions of others without giving them control over me.

Third, I am entitled to privacy. I can be judged by my words and my actions, but nobody can judge me for my thoughts.

Last, thoughts are not dangerous. I can hurt others with my words and my actions, but nobody can be harmed by my thoughts. 

 

If you’ve read this far, I want to sincerely thank you for listening to what I have to say. Please feel free to leave feedback in the comments section, or to send me an email at newthoughtcrime@protonmail.com. I’ll try to be as responsive as I can.

 

 

 

 

Call For Submissions!

This chapter of the essay is reserved for stories of real-life experiences of reidentified and detransitioned people who feel that their experiences with the trans community were manipulative or cultic in nature. In particular, I’m looking to share the experiences of individuals who:

  • feel that they were rushed into medically or socially transitioning
  • feel that they were lied to about some aspect of transitioning
  • were manipulated, harassed, or intimidated because they detransitioned or reidentified
  • were manipulated or abused by a trans woman or transfeminine person on an individual level
  • were silenced or ostracized when addressing the abuse of a trans woman or transfeminine person
  • were involved in an unhealthy group of friends, living situation, or polyamorous relationship which centered around a trans person
  • in any way thinks their experiences are relevant to the subject of this essay and wants to share them

The submissions are intended to be read by people with similar experiences, to show them that they are not alone. Nothing will be changed, edited or omitted without your explicit consent.

If you’re interested or have any questions, please feel free to email me at newthoughtcrime@protonmail.com.

 

lexicon

afab/amab – assigned female/male at birth. used to denote one’s sex without implying it takes precedence over their gender identity

biid – body integrity identity disorder. a mental illness characterised by the overwhelming desire to have a body part removed, ie. the eyes, or a limb. also known as being ‘transabled’

cisgender – a person who identifies with their assigned gender

detransition – a person who medically or socially transitioned, but who is now taking steps to stop or reverse their transition.

disidentified – a person who does not identify with their sex, but may not identify as transgender.

doublespeak – language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. for example, to purposely make disagreement sound like agreement, or condemnation sound like support, is doublespeak.

dysphoria – a term colloquially usually used to describe sex dysphoria, the mental distress of feeling that one occupies a body of the wrong sex, or gender dysphoria, the mental distress of feeling that one occupies the wrong social role in society (see also: non-dysphoric)

dysmorphia – a catch-all term for any severe distress related to one’s distorted perception of their own body (ie anorexia, bdd, biid, sex dysphoria)

gaslighting – a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favour the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity

gender nonconforming – describes a person who does not conform to the expectations placed upon their sex with regard to appearance and behaviour, but who does not identify as another gender

internalized misogyny – the involuntary belief by girls and women that the lies, stereotypes and myths about girls and women that are delivered to everyone in a sexist society are true.

manipulative group – used to refer to any group or organization which uses mind control

mind control – an intense form of manipulation where one attempts to alter not only the behaviours of a victim, but also their thoughts and emotions. sometimes colloquially known as ‘brainwashing’

nonbinary – a person who does not identify with their assigned gender, but also does not identify as the opposite gender

nondysphoric – a person who does not experience dysphoria, often used in relation to people who identify as transgender

reidentified – a person who went through a period of disidentification with their sex, but now accepts it.

thoughtcrime  a concept from the novel 1984 describing the criminalization of holding opinions or beliefs that conflict with a dominant ideology