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Aug. 24, 2015: Dysphoria Debate

August 25, 2015

This New York Times op-ed piece on the changeability of gender is raising a lot of ire in the trans community. Some of what the author says is congruent with articles I’ve read. For example, he cites studies that show that what happens in the womb could make a fetus’ body develop with the features of one gender and the brain develop as the other gender.

But the op-ed piece also draws the conclusion that “gender dysphoria in young children is highly unstable and likely to change.” Every transperson I’ve ever known, including Mara, knew from a very young age that they were not the gender they were assigned at birth. And that knowing never changed for them.

These rebuttals from Think Progress and Vox.com go much more in-depth than that, pointing out research that refutes the kids-going-through-a-phase conclusion, as well as other research that shows why having such skepticism about transgender people is dangerous. I’m sure that many gender-dysphoria deniers will read the op-ed piece and say, “Ha! I knew it! It’s just a phase that some kids go through.” They would lump all gender-dysphoric kids into this category.

The title of the piece, “How Changeable is Gender,” also bothers me. For transpeople, it’s not about changing gender; it’s about changing how they’re presenting themselves in terms of gender. Mara has always been Mara. She was presenting as male, trying so hard to fit into the notion of the gender binary until it got too painful for her, and she really had no other choice than to be who she really is.

 

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