The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

Trans Reality:
“I Didn’t Know There Was Another Side”

American culture is prone to psychological and medical contagions. An idea catches fire, seeming to be a plausible and important explanation of a familiar problem — depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sexual dissatisfaction. The idea outruns evidence. Experts emerge to treat people suffering from the problem, exploiting the most credulous. They open clinics. They give prestigious lectures and write books. They make fortunes. They blur the diverse possible origins of a person’s difficulties, attributing them all to the latest explanation.

Throughout the 1980s, the hot explanation was childhood sexual abuse: you have an eating disorder? Your father (or grandfather, or uncle, or close family friend) probably molested you. You don’t remember that? You repressed the memory. In the 1990s, it was Multiple Personality Disorder: your other personality remembers the bad stuff; let me give you a little sodium amytal to bring it out. In the 2000s, it was PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), said to apply to all traumatic experiences from war to an unwanted touch on the shoulder. Tearful sufferers tell horrific personal stories, and who could doubt them? Who wants to be accused of being misogynist, antifeminist, or simply cold and heartless?

In the case of the recovered-memory epidemic, for example, many state legislatures, confronted with countless stories of repressed memories of sexual abuse, began expanding the statute of limitations, permitting lawsuits to be filed against alleged perpetrators from years since the abuse occurred to years since the victim remembered the abuse. The door was thus opened for people to sue their fathers, priests, teachers, and neighbors 20, 30, and even 40 years later, and they swarmed through. “We didn’t know there was another side,” said an Illinois legislator, explaining the haste to extend the statute of limitations. There was.

I am old enough to have lived through too many of these social contagions, seeing how they rise, generating more and more believers and patients while trampling skeptics and doubters; and how, over time, as patients’ symptoms worsen, as cases of family devastation escalate, as recanters begin telling their stories, we start hearing the other side — from researchers, practitioners, and intrepid journalists.

Today, once again, the public is hearing only one side of an emotionally compelling issue: the transgender story. Once again, distinctions are ignored, this time between people for whom identification with the other sex began in early childhood and those whose rapid onset gender dysphoria started during adolescence. Yet the difference between the two groups is itself a fascinating and puzzling phenomenon. Historically and cross-culturally, it is not uncommon for some very young children, mostly boys, to reject their natal sex early on and grow up to be gay or to live in an official, socially accepted category, a “third sex,” such as berdache among Native Americans (the term is now “two-spirit”), hijra in India, muxe in southern Mexico. But the last decade has seen an explosion of rapid onset gender dysphoria, which is occurring mostly among adolescent girls who are unhappy with their bodies and their sexuality and are persuaded that this discomfort is a sign they might be transgender.

Adolescence is rarely an easy time, but life for most American teenagers now is more difficult than it has ever been, as rising rates of depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphia indicate. In a world where “gender identity” has become such a dominant theme, infusing language, art, and politics, where young people struggle to decide if they are cis, gay, other, pan, a-, or some combination, no wonder it has become the explanation du jour of the difficult miseries of adolescence — anxieties exacerbated by COVID, climate change, the economy, school costs, and uncertain futures. Saying you suffer from “gender dysphoria” is cool and common, just as saying you were sexually abused in your youth once was. It explains everything. It gets attention and support. Sometimes gender dysphoria is the explanation; statistically, given the tiny percentage of actual transgender people in the population, far more often it isn’t.

So let’s consider the story that isn’t being told. The public hears trans people tell how their lives were saved, their misery ended when they transitioned, their relief to be in the right body at last. The public hears that without the legal and medical opportunity to transition, young people are at high risk of suicide. Reporters cover tragic, infuriating stories of the hateful bigotry and violence that many trans people endure — and make no mistake, they do. Supporting “gender affirming” clinics therefore seems so obvious, so morally right, so sex-positive. What could go wrong, what could be wrong with offering unhappy children and teenagers this option, even if they are just entering puberty? Countless parents agonize over this question, wanting to be liberal and tolerant, wanting to do the right thing — but not knowing what that is.

An August 6, 2021 episode of WNYC’s “On the Media” illustrates the problem: the hosts focused on efforts “to block access to medical care for trans kids,” the “politics and propaganda behind the recent wave of anti-trans legislation,” and “what the science tells us about gender affirming care in adolescence.” But “On the Media” did not tell the full story. The usually thorough reporters did not invite a cultural historian to wonder why “gender affirming” clinics have proliferated, from only one in 2010 to more than 400 today, offering puberty blockers and hormones to facilitate the change, including helping teenage girls have “top surgery” to remove offending breasts; or why the sex ratio of transgender claims has changed so dramatically. “On the Media,” of all programs, did not even consider the role of the media in generating and perpetuating social contagion effects.

In its most glaring omission, “On the Media” said not a word about the “desisters,” a term often used for those who make a social transition (changing their names and pronouns) but do not persist in having surgery and hormones or changing their gender identity, and often change back; or about the many (possibly thousands of) “detransitioners” who now regret that they had medical procedures. Many of them are bitter and angry that they have had irreversible voice and hair growth changes, underwent surgical procedures that cannot be corrected, and have become infertile. Elie Vendenbussche, in the Faculty of Society and Economics, Rhine- Waal University of Applied Sciences, Kleve, Germany, did an international on-line survey of 237 male and female detransitioners, who reported “a major lack of support” from the medical and mental-health systems and from the LGBT+ community.

The results were illuminating. Fully 45 percent of them said they had not been fully informed about the “health implications of the accessed treatments and interventions before undergoing them.” (An additional one-third felt “partly informed.”) They also suffered serious psychological problems — “gender dysphoria, comorbid conditions, feelings of regret and internalized homophobic and sexist prejudices.”1 “On the Media” did not contact any of the support and advocacy groups that have proliferated — Detrans Voices, Post Trans, and the Detransition Advocacy Network among them. (I had no idea how many of these groups now exist; our leading news media don’t report on them.) But the available research on the harms of premature life-long medical interventions is why Finland and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden have stopped routine hormonal treatment of youth under age 18, and put psychological interventions and social support ahead of medical interventions, particularly for adolescents who have no childhood history of gender dysphoria.

The fundamental problem, a sure sign that we are in the midst of a social contagion based on pseudoscience and not the emergence of a science-driven medical advance, is that researchers and professionals who want to raise any questions or concerns have been silenced with vehement and often ugly accusations of transphobia and bigotry, their work shut down, some of them fired. Many gender professionals have marginalized, bullied, and tormented their colleagues who disagree. Politically organized “transactivists” protest that any research on, say, factors contributing to the rise of cases of gender transition, the potentially negative consequences of transitioning, or the importance of counseling and treatment before transitioning are indications of the unacceptable idea that gender transition is a pathological problem or disorder. Their second silencing tactic is to conflate psychological interventions with “conversion therapy,” a long-discredited effort to “cure” gay people and turn them straight. Conversion therapy for gay people is cruel and it doesn’t work, which is why it is illegal in many states. But providing psychological counseling before providing irreversible medical procedures for adolescents who are questioning their gender identity is not remotely comparable, especially when the vulnerable young person is also suffering from comorbid conditions, as the vast majority are, including depression, anxiety, and, evidence is now suggesting, autism.

Research is desperately needed, and if transactivists truly care about the mental and physical health of trans people, they should be demanding it—not shutting it down.

Transactivists also cite as a main reason for “gender affirming” approaches the scary statistic that if young people are denied the means of transitioning early, nearly 41 percent will attempt suicide, and many will succeed. That’s an astonishing number — virtually an impossible number — but it generates the sense of urgency to perform interventions as soon as possible. Parents understandably panic — ”oh my God, if I don’t allow this now, my child might die.” Therefore the number warrants careful consideration. The 40.4 percent statistic is from one study done seven years ago, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, based on a sample of transgender adults. About 82 percent reported ever seriously thinking about suicide in their lifetimes, while 48.3 percent had considered suicide in the past year; 40.4 percent reported attempting suicide at some point in their lifetimes, and 7.3 percent reported attempting suicide in the past year. A sad picture, to be sure, but the research did not determine whether the suicidal thoughts originated before or after transition, or for that matter had anything to do with transgender concerns, or at what age.2 “Transgender people have many of the same risk factors for suicidality as found in the U.S. general population, such as depression, substance use, and housing instability,” the report noted, and indeed the trans people most likely to report thinking about suicide were those who were in serious psychological distress, in poor general health, and who reported heavy alcohol or illicit drug use. They were also more likely to have a disability, been homeless in the past year, or been arrested for any reason. Are these problems independent of having transitioned, a cause, a consequence, or all of the above? Research is desperately needed, and if transactivists truly care about the mental and physical health of trans people, they should be demanding it — not shutting it down.

But we may, at last, be entering a new phase. As usual, we can thank the first wave of writers who have refused to be cowed or bullied — Abigail Shrier in Irreversible Damage, Kathleen Stock in Material Girls, Helen Joyce in Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality. Detransitioners are growing in numbers, blowing the whistle on the unregulated gender-identity medical clinics that have sprung up overnight (reminding me of all the Multiple Personality Disorder clinics that likewise mushroomed across the country, until malpractice lawsuits shut them down). Those who study cultural contagions advise us to follow the money. And indeed, these clinics and a new legion of specialists are making plenty of money off every aspect of transitioning: offering to harvest a teenage girl’s eggs so she can have children later, when she is a he; voice therapists, offering their services to those wanting to transition and to those detransitioning, who want their old voices back; cosmetic surgeries, of course. No wonder they support the “gender affirming” belief that all of this is best for the child. No wonder they object to asking crucial questions, such as at what age are teenagers mature enough to give informed consent to treatments and interventions that may be irreversible and destroy their fertility: 13? 16? 18? And who makes the decision? The teenager? The parent, often risking the anger of their child, who demands hormones now (or else … suicide)? The clinic, eager to hand out hormones and puberty blockers without the pesky delay of psychological counseling?

Finally, though, gender specialists are breaking into media venues that once would have blocked the door to anyone questioning transactivist beliefs. In November, 2021, Laura Edwards-Leeper and Erica Anderson, two psychologists whose practice has been devoted to offering transgender patients ethical, evidence-based treatment, wrote an editorial in the Washington Post. Their trans-supporting credentials are flawless. One was the founding psychologist of the first pediatric gender clinic in the U.S.; the other is a transgender woman. They have held leadership positions in the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). They vigorously asserted their support for “appropriate gender-affirming medical care for trans youth, and … are disgusted by the legislation trying to ban it.” But they are alarmed by the “skyrocketing” number of adolescents requesting medical care: “Now 1.8 percent of people under 18 identify as transgender, double the figure from five years earlier.” They are horrified by the rise in gender clinics that have spurred “many providers into sloppy, dangerous care … . We find evidence every single day,” they wrote, “from our peers across the country and concerned parents who reach out, that the field has moved from a more nuanced, individualized and developmentally appropriate assessment process to one where every problem looks like a medical one that can be solved quickly with medication or, ultimately, surgery. As a result, we may be harming some of the young people we strive to support — people who may not be prepared for the gender transitions they are being rushed into.” Tragically, they added, the informed treatment they call for is in short supply: “the demand for competent care has outstripped the supply of competent providers.”3

Read that again: “Nuanced, individualized and developmentally appropriate assessment” has yielded to a rush to medical intervention. That’s where the money is. That’s where the panic is — no time to waste! That’s where the social contagion is. And “competent providers”? How, where to find them, as the demand that they be “gender affirming” supersedes a staggering absence of empirical research?

Skeptic 27.1 (cover)

This article appears in Skeptic 27.1 which begins shipping mid-March 2022. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it!

By now, medical historians have enough information to give us the larger picture. In “The Gender Affirmative Treatment Model for Youth with Gender Dysphoria: A Medical Advance or Dangerous Medicine?” Alison Clayton traces the 20th-century rise of medical advances and “dangerous medicine,” which is “invasive, risky, and lacking a rigorous evidence base,” yet catches hold of physicians and the public. Over time, as people become more skeptical, the dangerous practices suddenly are seen as “not being as beneficial as claimed and as causing more harm than acknowledged. It comes to be mostly seen as misguided, occasionally even criminal.” In thinking about the gender affirmative treatment approach for youth with gender dysphoria, including the prevalence of masculinizing chest surgery, she asks: “Is this approach a medical advance or is it a contemporary example of dangerous medicine?”4

For me, the answer is clear. The pattern repeats: vulnerable patients flock to an explanation; experts exploit many of them; dissenters are silenced. Eventually, as the “other side” starts telling their stories, the bubble bursts, the contagion slows. It’s happened before in medical history; perhaps it will happen again. END

My thanks to Leonore Tiefer, PhD, for her resources, advice, and expertise.

About the Author

Carol Tavris, PhD, is a social psychologist and writer. She has written hundreds of articles, book reviews, and op-eds on many topics in psychological science. Her books include Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), with Elliot Aronson; Estrogen Matters; and The Mismeasure of Woman. A Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, she has received numerous awards for her efforts to promote science and skepticism, including an award from the Center for Inquiry’s Independent Investigations Group; an honorary doctorate from Simmons College for her work in promoting critical thinking and gender equity; and the Bertrand Russell Distinguished Scholar, Foundation for Critical Thinking, Sonoma State.

  1. Elie Vandenbussche. “Detransition-Related Needs and Support: A Cross-Sectional Online Survey.Journal of Homosexuality. 2021. doi: 10.1080/00918369.2021.1919479. See also Lisa Littman. “Individuals Treated for Gender Dysphoria with Medical and/or Surgical Transition Who Subsequently Detransitioned: A Survey of 100 Detransitioners.Arch Sex Behav. 2021 Nov. 50(8):3353–3369. doi:10.1007/s10508-021-02163-w. Epub 2021 Oct 19.
  2. A. P. Haas, P. L. Rodgers, & J. L. Herman. “Suicide attempts among transgender and gender nonconforming adults.” 2014, January. Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.
  3. Laura Edwards-Leeper and Erica Anderson. “The mental health establishment is failing trans kids.” 2021. Washington Post, November 24.
  4. A. Clayton. “The Gender Affirmative Treatment Model for Youth with Gender Dysphoria: A Medical Advance or Dangerous Medicine?Arch Sex Behav. 2021.

This article was published on January 25, 2022.


65 responses to “Trans Reality:
“I Didn’t Know There Was Another Side”

  1. DB says:

    Thank you for this important article. It is the one that is needed, because it highlights the dangerous response by trans-activists to shut down all conversation using emotional pleas and bullying. It simply doesn’t make sense. Movements benefit from MORE research, not LESS! Empathy alone (while absolutely necessary) is a flimsy and manipulative platform. Proper research will help (1) identify the proper treatment for those who may be misguided and (2) eliminate bad actors who are taking advantage of the movement. Fact-based arguments will help us move forward together, and I don’t understand why any questioning minds are being shut down. That, in my mind, seems like transphobia.

  2. Felix F. says:

    Reality: there is no other side

    American culture is prone to enthusiasm. A familiar issue is taken up by prominent persons in the public eye and made emotionally compelling. Skillful debates confuse the the general public and exploit the credulous. Throughout the 1980s, that was childhood sexual abuse. In the 1990s, it was Multiple Personality Disorder. In the 2000s, it was PTSD.

    Today, the emotionally compelling issue is transgender. Reporters cover tragic, infuriating stories of the hateful bigotry and violence that many trans people endure and are informed that without the legal and medical opportunity to transition, trans people are at high risk of suicide.

    Anxious parents want to do the right thing but do not know what it is. Given the small percentage of transgender people in the population, reliable information is hard to find.

    Historically and cross-culturally, some children grow up to live in a scientifically investigated category, a “third sex.” Unfortunately, most of these research activities took place in the Weimar Republic republic and all traces of the data were consumed by a notorious book burning perpetrated by the Nazis. Obviously, first-hand witnesses of gender transition were also eliminated.

    Research into the clinical phenomenon of transgender identification started slowly in the Federal Republic. There were no scientists available to effectively counter Nazi propaganda.

    In the meantime, enough people whom the Nazis considered freaks and undesirables grew to maturity. They received healthcare and they were the subject of serious medical research. Nevertheless, do we suspect you are gay, lesbian or gender nonconforming? Best keep quiet about it. There is nothing journalists can do to protect you from prurient interest.

    High schoolers with stellar academic records are diagnosed to suffer from rapid onset immaturity. Professional trolls twice their age set on college students and obfuscate whatever issue. Woe betide any parent who dares to continue loving their child.

    Quo usque tandem Catalina…

  3. M says:

    So, you’re making the claim that transitioning harms a large number of youths who will ultimately detransition but offer no data. Instead you point us to a subreddit which notoriously banned polls after one revealed that the vast majority of its users were conservatives, religious fundamentalists, and gender critical activists who had never transitioned in the first place. I would have expected to have some sort of standards in place for its articles.

    Let’s look at:

    13% of the participants had detransitioned but 82% of those had detransitioned due to discrimination or hardship. Not because they changed their mind about their desires. I’m sure you’d have seen similar numbers in the past for gay people who had “desisted” from being gay due to external factors….

    Also to the commenters calling transition “conversion therapy.” You don’t know what you’re talking about. Please don’t try to launder your disgust at trans people as concern for the gay community….

    I am AMAB and transitioned right after high school. Before I transitioned I dated gay men and dabbled in drag and other GNC things. My attraction to men which I have been aware of since I was 9 years old or so has nothing to do with gender dysphoria however. I’m still close with the gay community but your typical gay man, even those who are feminine, do not experience the dysphoria that I or my sisters experience. I was on a path of self destruction due to depression before I transitioned 13 years ago and now I have a great relationship with my family and I’m married to a wonderful man. I’d probably have died or been addicted to drugs if I’d tried to continue just living as a gay guy because I suffered too much with my body before. When my body finally started to look as feminine as I’d wanted it was like a weight I’d been carrying around got set loose and I was able to move freely in the world finally.

    Please just leave us alone and let us live our lives. We will be okay. Many of our struggles are from angry straight parents who are scared to death that their kids will end up “freaks” like us. (We aren’t freaks btw we can contribute to society and lead full lives like anyone.) But your kids aren’t going to up and decide to transition one day just because they saw it on tv. That’s not how stuff like this works. It’s in you or it isn’t. You repress it or you don’t.

    • M says:

      I ran out of time to edit. The subreddit comment was from a comment and not the article it looks like. My mistake. I came back to this after it had been sitting open in my browser and read that line from one of the comments as if it were a part of the original article.

    • GS says:

      I don’t understand why being gay made you dislike your male body.

      • M says:

        I don’t know why I wanted to look more feminine. I had sex with men and enjoyed it but I still felt devastated that I couldn’t look like a woman. It’s impossible for me to answer why this was the case. A lot of people have theories but who knows which one is correct because it’s not easy to test.

        I would even go so far as to say that I was very comfortable having sex with a man in a masculine body and would even “top” men but didn’t want to have a masculine body in any other context.

        But the cause doesn’t even matter. After an initial rough period my life improved so much from transitioning I could never imagine going back. My social circle, my husband, my job…. Everything is built around my identity as a woman and wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t look like and live as a woman: my social group is mostly cis women who I’ve met at various womens social events/facebook groups in the city we moved to, and my husband is only attracted to people who look womanly. I get upset when people suggest that I should have lived as a gay male when the life I have now is the life I always dreamed of. Please don’t rob people like me from getting to live a life that works for us.

        • Ben Thare says:

          You think you’re a woman because being a gay male violates the values you were given as child, and so to rationalize your attraction, you think you’re a woman.

          Pretty obvious.

        • Laura says:

          Have you looked into Autogynephillia? Mostly straight males — but it might be you?

    • SVS says:

      So, any influence either affirms or doesn’t affirm, right? Why would parents not want children to question any influences? If a child born in a white family felt black as a teengaer, would the parents affirm that? If a child feels fat and won’t eat, would you affirm that? What is reality? What is fiction? What is happiness? Why are so many youth claiming to be trans? These feelings and thoughts should be discussed. Parents are unattached to their children and peers and society is taking the place of parents. This has been going on in our modern history as we’ve seen teenagers get into drugs, join cults, become alcoholics, have other mental illnesses and question gender. Please don’t tell parents to leave their kids alone. That is how we got into this in the first place. Parents are fighting for the health of our children and where that lands is where it will land, but I for one will not give up on a future for my child that is not dependent on the medical community and has co-morbidities attached. I will work with my child to make sure healthy decisions are being made without influeces but with skeptism from all, with reading different perspectives, evaluating feelings and having a healthy mind/body connection. This will take work because of people who are euphoric about transition, not telling the hard truths of that decision, because of youth making serious decisions about themselves when their brains are not fully developed, because of all the social media all around them sending love-bombing messages everywhere and adults and peers who affirm without any concern for long-term effects. And then there is the medical community, afraid to do or say anything lest they be sued. The laws have been changed by radicalism and fundamentalism from the left. I am a liberal person, but this goes too far. Parents will always be there for the good, bad and ugly. Not their peers, doctors or radical teachers feeling guilty about their white privilege. Trans ideology has been rolled into everything else. I am skeptical and will remain skeptical for so many reasons. There are many questions and I don’t think we need to add gender to to the list of issues that our youth are dealing with. What is the rush for this? There is plenty of time for them to pursue answers as their brain develops. All perspectives are necessary and as much information as possible so they can make an informed, fact based decision with all the medical consequences they have to live with. I appreciate this article and the comments and remain skepticle of all opinions and all data as none are without doubt or further review.

  4. Norbert Roessler says:

    Dear Carol Tavris,

    Cis Reality:

    male genital mutilation has been widespread in the US for more than a century. It is usually performed on newborns.

    Did you know there was another side?


  5. Oscar says:

    A second attempt at saying what I meant to say more concisely: It is vitally important that society be able to steer these kids away from considering their genitals as the source of their feelings and problems. The trend seems to start 100% environmentally: peers, social media, etc.. inducing kids to believe that if they can just pick the right terms to identify with, they’ll feel better, and know themselves better. That appeals even to me. This philosophy is no doubt titillating as a sexualized sort of meta-verse as gender and sex merge to become the new Holy Spirit. These kids just want a path to feeling better about themselves…… Most of us want them to find that too, sans the frightening never-ending, illusory path of plastic surgery as a therapeutic.

  6. JDK says:

    I hope people here don’t respond to the emotional blackmail comments being used to try to silence because there are people being very significantly damaged by this. Many are LGB youth, not surprising given prior research indicates gay and lesbian people can outgrow clinical (DSM-positive) childhood GD. There has been a concerted effort to downplay this fact, even by LGBT orgs which are really just trans agenda orgs now. There is a growing movement of LGB people to dissociate from this agenda that is putting scores of minors on drugs used to chemically castrate sex offenders, interfering with natural puberty in ways that may affect bone heath, brain development, and when they go on cross-sex hormones, become sterilized and unable to have an orgasm in some cases. They decide this at age 10 BTW now, at the crack of puberty. We also don’t want MtF sex offenders in female prisons or MtFs in girls sports, nor do we want to be a part of this authoritarian movement that seeks to destroy all dissenters. We just wanted to be able to marry our partners for legal protections (aside from a few obnoxious types who agree with these immoral gay-wedding cake lawsuits).

    On the endocrine disruption issue, it’s hard to say. Many MtFs are autogynephiles (AGP). It’s a heterosexual male paraphilic compulsion, not a lady brain in a man’s body. People who say this has been “debunked” are lying. They are different from homosexual transexuals and make up the majority of MtFs. Anne Lawrence has several studies and one stated almost 3% of males may be on an AGP spectrum, and now that they are fierce and brave, more may just be engaging in the behavior publicly. Most of the increases are biological females. You’d think endocrine disrupters would be causing more homosexual transsexualism in males as they mimic estrogens and/or negatively impact testosterone. The increase in females mimics many other historical contagions that tend to mostly affect females between the ages of 12-30. My vote is social acceptability and social contagion, and an iatrogenic “mental health” movement, not chemicals, but it’s worth researching.

    The suicide terror induced in people fearing kids will commit suicide if they don’t get blockers and hormones doesn’t hold up to scrutiny when you look at the data, despite what the media plays up. It’s a concern that must be taken seriously, but overall, trans activism over reports the threat in adolescents and over promises on the ability to prevent suicide through medical transition. When you look at the drug damage, affecting natural puberty, the destruction of genital function and other issues and realize the suicide issue is being used to manipulate, it brings you to a different place on this topic. That was my journey after heavily delving into this issue and wanting to understand it properly.

    Yes youth feel very dysphoric. Yes, there are people who very much want to transition and say they are happier for it. But if you want to support medical transition for minors because you think the risks are worth it as a utilitarian principle, you must own the reality you are willing to perpetrate a human rights atrocity on potential desister youth who just needed time to grow up. The ones who didn’t pick their perfect “choose your own gender adventure” perfectly at age 10, or 13, or even 17. The stories of ones harmed are mounting (see thousands on a detransition subreddit). In another time, they’d have an intact body because they would have had the human right to just grow up without being defaced by the gender clinician as a cognitively immature youth. Also, maybe ask yourself why alleviating teen distress and more desired cosmetic result are worth sterility, significant brain rewiring, loss of sexual function, and other risks from Lupron (over 20,000 adverse side-effect reports to the FDA). Why is it worth the need for a truly ghoulish and experimental bottom surgery (see Jazz Jennings) due to the fact blockers leave the youth with a child’s penis. Maybe you should prioritize their brain development and sexual health and help them learn to regulate their emotions. Because many of their problems are not going away just because of “transition.”

    • GS says:

      That’s the saddest thing. The drugs and surgery make the changes *permanent*. Therapy can’t undo that.

  7. GS says:

    Our daughter, intellectually very gifted but socially awkward, glommed onto the trans community when she was about 15. We tried everything, including therapy, but all that accomplished was affirmation of her belief that she was actually male. She even admitted she fit the profile of “sudden onset gender dysphoria” to a “T”.

    She is now 23 and is still on testosterone, after having a double mastectomy about two years ago. We expect she will need a hysterectomy if she doesn’t detransition and her risk of cancers has gone up tremendously.

    I don’t wish this nightmare on anyone. Our beautiful girl has turned into a freak.

    • Alex says:

      Your son’s cancer risk has not increased; that’s a myth. He does not need a hysterectomy if he doesn’t want one (more myths and misinformation). But I’m sorry he’s dealing with such intense disdain and rejection from his parents, which can be so seriously detrimental to emotional and physical health.

      • GS says:

        You know nothing and have amply proven that.

        • Alex says:

          I’ll leave these here in case you want to become better informed; they’re a good start as relatively accessible reads for people without a medical background. But in case it’s confusing, the bottom line is that there is no evidence of increased cancer risk. There were some misconceptions years ago about ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer, but they turned out to be unfounded and are not supported by current evidence.

          Harris M, Kondel L, Dorsen C. Pelvic pain in transgender men taking testosterone: Assessing the risk of ovarian cancer. Nurse Pract. 2017 Jul 15;42(7):1-5. doi: 10.1097/01.NPR.0000520423.83910.e2. PMID: 28622261.

          Hawkins M, Deutsch MB, Obedin-Maliver J, Stark B, Grubman J, Jacoby A, Jacoby VL. Endometrial findings among transgender and gender nonbinary people using testosterone at the time of gender-affirming hysterectomy. Fertil Steril. 2021 May;115(5):1312-1317. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2020.11.008. Epub 2021 Feb 12. PMID: 33583596.

          With ovarian cancer, there have been a tiny handful of cases published, but we don’t actually see elevated risk in the population or warning signs of cancer when we look at their ovaries. With endometrial cancer, people once worried speculatively that the endometrium (uterine lining) would experience overgrowth (hyperplasia) that can increase the risk of cancer, but when we actually look at current data that isn’t what happens; testosterone doesn’t increase endometrial cancer risk the way PCOS does.

          I hope that provides some relief to your family’s worries, and I’m sorry you were misled in the past into thinking your son’s health was at risk. Your calling him a freak is genuinely harmful though, and I hope you’re able to rethink things and repair your relationship.

      • Christopher Lees says:

        Alex, it’s a fact that any woman who takes large amounts of testosterone long-term will eventually experience crippling pain from her uterus and ovaries. This can only be fixed by a hysterectomy.

        The patients at gender clinics are never told about this, though. That’s a terrible breach of medical ethics and breaks the whole principle of “informed consent”.

        • GS says:

          Our experience is akin to having a child on heroin or in a cult. Reason simply no longer works, and the mental health community is committing malpractice by supporting these girls (and this sick “fad” is almost entirely among girls).

        • Alex says:

          Again, that’s an unfortunate myth. Some trans men do experience pelvic pain while on testosterone, but that doesn’t make testosterone the cause. It can be a factor, and there are causes of pelvic pain that testosterone can make more likely, but also others that it makes less likely. Hysterectomy or oophorectomy are options if someone wants them, but they’re not the only option. Pelvic pain is far from inevitable on testosterone, even long term, and it’s sloppy transphobic medicine when some clinicians jump right to blaming testosterone instead of actually working it up.

      • Louis E. says:

        Their daughter is not a “son”;that’s a myth.
        Validation of a transgender identity is indefensible in all circumstances.

      • Laura says:


        1. T causes significant damage to the uterus & vagina (atrophy like an old woman’s). There may be extreme pain and cramping from orgasm. Many FtMs wind up with hysterectomies due to this. No fun.

        2. You are part of a cult which believes preferred colors, toys etc determine one’s ‘true’ sex more than biology does. That’s an *absurdity.* And, now, here you are committing the *atrocity* of slurring a heartbroken parent.

        3. Teen girls have NOT been studied as they have only been presenting as trans in numbers since about 2015. We have not had time to fully see what T does to girls.

        4. It’s a kooky religious belief to think there’s a natural innate identity that can be at odds with nature itself, requiring surgery/meds. Nope! That’s a mind out of synch, not a body.

        5. Psychiatric care: You are not your thoughts.
        Gender Ideology: You ARE your thoughts.

        Adults like me (age 60) lived in a pre-gender world, and raised children in a pre gender obsessed world. We know what we know. There was less suicide then and gender was not even a topic among teens, except in reference to “BS sex based expectations.” Try watching Sixteen Candles, Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, The revenge of the Nerds, American Pie…. You will count ZERO references to gender. Invisible till 2010, and now the be-all, end-all of human existence?

        I call BS

  8. Oscar says:

    This is not at all an issue I would normally be interested in. But then it gets into your home and begins influencing your kids, and parenting has to be upped.

    This trend doesn’t start with transgender aspirations. It starts with a major social media based platforms offering stages (through influencers) for inducing kids to believe that if they can just pick the right terms to identify with, they’ll feel better, and know themselves better. That appeals even to me. The problem is as the kid persists, the incapable child with no where else to turn, has to either phase out and look elsewhere, or go further down the rabbit hole.

    It is vitally important that society be able to steer these kids away from considering their genitals as the source of their feelings and problems (which sadly seemingly is symptomatic and in line with the broader inclination in society to look for answers external to oneself). This is not a commentary on traditional clinical dysphoria, which I know nothing about.

    This philosophy is no doubt titillating as a sexualized sort of meta-verse. It could also point to what we as a society fail to offer kids. This peer led belief system is swallowing special kids that we know personally. Thinking your child will be exempt from this was a mistake for us. I had known of it all around us, but had no idea. It’s hard to say enough how influential and seductive it is for those who have young daughters.

    The facts are many kids are becoming permanently altered, often to their own horror when they come to – many finally willing or brave enough to call it out for what it is, and look to reality based solutions for their own lives.

    If the evidence one day backs up and proves all this transitioning is helping more kids than it hurts, then, fine. But it seems in reality we are nowhere near that. And the reactions against anyone questioning the philosophy reminds me of litigious cults.

  9. Bry Morwood says:

    It is interesting that while Tavris says that transactivists ‘conflate psychological interventions with “conversion therapy” ‘, she does not mention the counter-argument that some of these activists can be seen as proselytising for a form of conversion therapy themselves.

    This came up in Shermer’s Salon #130 with sexologist Debra Soh, when Soh attributed such activity to hompohobia. As Soh puts it, referring to transgender children: ‘many of these children would have grown up to be gay, but are instead undergoing a new form of conversion therapy.’ [Conversion from gay to hetero]

    Soh elaborates on the underlying homophobia as follows: ‘As children grow up, parents will undoubtedly notice if their son is effeminate. For those who are troubled at the thought of having a girly son, transitioning offers a promising solution — by allowing a child to transition, a feminine boy now presents as a feminine girl. A little boy who enjoys indulging in make-up and other female-typical activities will bring about much less attention and criticism if he were a girl.’

    It would be valuable to hear Tavris’ take on this debate.

  10. Steve Bratteng says:

    As a non-expert it is hard for me to sort through this in a meaningful way. However, it does seem a bit like looking at other conditions, such as those called psychosomatic, where it often assumed the subject was just making things up. This failed to take into account that the distress was completely real to the subject, regardless of medical science’s inability to find an organic cause. We have a number of conditions that fall into this nebulous category where doctors and researchers cannot determine causes, or even if there might be multiple causes. The gender dysphoria situation may or may not be one of these. The biggest problems seems to be the willingness of many to label anyone making an attempt to sort through the facts as transphobic. Just asking questions is enough to get one cast into the outer darkness. And, I noticed a commenter implying links to anti-semitism! I predict it will be difficult to get a handle on this any time soon.

  11. EmGee says:

    Crossposting this from the Blocked and Reported substack as it seems relevant here – But we were here in the mid-20th century –
    “I know J&K kind of hate it, but I feel like it’s something that deserves a really good journalistic dive.

    And that is how transsexuality was actually pretty decently and well studied in the mid 20th century, with the clinics generally fading out in the early ’80s – Major universities had programs dedicated to studying this – Johns Hopkins, in1966, launched the first university-based, interdisciplinary gender identity program in the country exploring the benefits, etiology, etc. of transsexuality, sex reassignment, etc. with many institutions following suit and establish more programs to study transsexuality (e.g., University of Minnesota; Stanford University, etc.) – I think at the peak there were over 35 programs operating?

    There have also been a pretty decent number of public facing transsexuals, workplaces is making accommodations for them (Rene Richards, Lynn Conway, Deirdre McCloskey, etc.), research on outcomes, standards of care, etc. This was all for adults but it seems like society has collectively forgotten any of this ever happened.

    What did these programs discover? What happened to them? What kind of people were going? What were the outcomes? I can actually answer a decent number of these questions though not in the most comprehensible fun-to-listen-to format.

    That said, we (The United States) has been transing minors since then too – I could actually put J&K in touch with people who did get cross sex medical care as minors as to what the process was like – people who are now in their 20s, 30s, and likely older.

    Then there’s also the public facing element of fetishistic cross-dressing, how there were these resorts for men who were into it; figures like Virginia price, who launched the magazine Transvestia, and who didn’t consider homosexual crossdressers valid or some such, and so on…

    There’s so many different narratives to go down but I would say the big one is the university programs and what they did discover, and what limitations they ran into.

    And the biggest question, why does it seem to have been completely memory-holed from ever having happened? Why aren’t people pointing to that research to make their cases? And so on.”

    • j chicago says:

      Having past outcomes and expected outcomes would indeed be great. They are not something that a person considering options is able to know right now. Even though hormonal treatments continue for the rest of one’s life, so these people are getting medication somewhere if they are following the expected treatment.

      There is one long term study of a young person treated with “the Dutch Protocol”: Puberty suppression in a gender-dysphoric adolescent: a 22-year follow-up (Cohen-Kettenis et al, 2011)
      It is one person and he is not happy with his body.

      If you look at the earlier studies of medical interventions, they were of very few people, and had many methodological difficulties. Now, some have more people, but the studies are almost all low quality or very low quality. They often have large loss to follow-up or not following people long enough (regret times in detransition studies average from 3.2-10+ years), or measuring something which is hard to interpret or measuring an irrelevant population.

      The evidence base is very low. Especially for young people, the UK just did two large evidence reviews and found the evidence to be very low quality certainty for both puberty blockers and hormones (i.e., as far as being usable to estimate outcomes), for surgery the studies are similarly low quality or hard to generalize (e.g. focused on older people, included long term process, etc., such as those in Dhejne et al 2014). There is a writeup and links to the UK reviews here:
      and the Endocrine Society (Hembree et al, 2017) also did evidence reviews and found low, very low quality data.

      There is a large grant right now for UCLA, Chicago, Boston, UCSF because: “Yet, there is a real lack of long-term data to effectively and safely guide the clinical care of these youth. “–Rosenthal ( .

      It would be good to follow up a randomly selected sample of the young people who took the medical pathway 15 years ago, or those who took the pathway more recently, when the criteria for intervention changed.

      There should be calls for keeping track of those being treated now, so that there is more evidence upon which to base these discussions.

    • Laura says:

      The head of the Johns Hopkins gender clinic for kids closed it because he determined it was unethical and unhelpful. Paul McHugh. Vilified and discredited by Trans activists. As was Kenneth Zucker the top gender doc in Canada.

      The pushers of Trans ideology decapitated and doxxed existing experts in the field and made up their own ‘science.’

  12. Tzindaro says:

    To add a few points:

    There is a missing link in all this talk. It is biology. Sexual attraction and subjective feelings of one’s body are determined by the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. An individual who feels attracted to members of his or her own sex, or who feels that he or she is “really” of the other sex and is in the “wrong” body, feels that way because of a damaged or not fully developed hypothalamus.

    Autopsies of male homosexuals show they have on average a smaller, less-developed hypothalamus than normal males. While no data are available for lesbians, it is highly unlikely they would turn out to have normal brain development in this area.

    Failure of the hypothalamus to fully develop is usually due to prenatal ingestion of hormone-mimicking chemicals at a certain stage of gestation. Such chemicals are frequently discharged into public water suplies by factories that make plastic. Sexual development and behavior of animal life downstream from such factories has been shown to be affected by thgis form of pollution.

    This kind of pollution has become so much more common in recent decades that it tracks with the enormous increase in sexual disturbances of the kinds discussed in this article, so it is strange that the article makes no mention of a possible biochemical, physical cause for the sexual disturbances being discussed.

    Homosexuals, bisexuals, trisexuals, and sexually displaced persons are victims of industrial pollution of the environment and the only realistic response to the proliferation of such disorders is to clean up the environment and regulate or abolish the industries that are causing sexual malfunctioning.

    To attempt to deal only with the social results, which are only symptoms while ignoring the root cause of the problem is not likely to result in any real solution.

    • Dee says:

      The majority of people transitioning today are heterosexual; that is, males who become “lesbians” after transition and females who become “gay men.” The new surge of gender dysphoria has next to nothing to do with homosexuality (although there has been a push to conflate the ideas)

      • Laura says:

        I think dysphoria CAN be sourced developmental trauma. Lack of a formed identity, struggle to feel comfortable in one’s self because of bad inputs, neglect, etc in early life.

        The Developmental Trauma symptom list is EASILY morphed to ‘trans.’ ” I hate myself” becomes “I hate my female sex.” “I feel disgusting” becomes “I feel disgusting as a girl.”

        Dissociation, shaky sense of self, self hatred, sense of being unreal/a robot, bad self regulation etc are all easily conflated with “I am miserable because I am Trans.”

  13. Tzindaro says:

    There is plenty of evidence that chemicals used in manufacture of plastic have an effect of disrupting growth of the hypothalamus at certain stages of gestation. This is why there has been such a huge increase in homosexuality and gender disphoria in the last 50 or 60 years, just the time frame in which plastics became so common. Human sexual response is controlled by the hypothalamus, which controls all autonomic responses. Autopsies have shown that male homosexuals have a smaller, less developed hypothalamus than normal men.

    Clothing customs and work roles are superficial, but sexual preference and behavior is biologically determined and cannot be changed by upbringing or social indoctrination. There is evidence for that:

    The idea that gender is socially determined is a new one, invented by academics in the last 40 years or so. Before that everyone was agreed that gender and biological sex were identical.

    The wave of gender misidentification currently prevailing is largely due to hormone-mimicking chemicals released into the food and water supply from the manufacturing of plastics. At a certain stage of prenatal development such chemical exposure can damage the formation of the hypothalamus and cause gender misidentification later in life.

    The issue of why so many people who are not so damaged, people who are sexually normal, are so tolerant of such deviants is a separate issue. I suspect that the sexually normal people who accept the theories of the sexual devients are those who are, although normal in their sexual responses, blocked and out of touch with their deep biological instincts, instinctive responses of hostility and agression towards those who are sexually defective.

    The current issue is not about gender or sex. It is about free speech. I do not give a damn if a man wears a dress or not. He has a right to wear whatever he wishes. And I will call anyone by whatever name he, she, or whatever, chooses to be called. But I insist that I have the right to say whatever I think, regardless of how offensive or hurtful it may be to anyone.

    I have a right to say that homosexuals are mentally ill and should seek a cure for their mental illness. I have a right to say that “transexuals” are silly, deluded, or just plain nuts.

    And I do not give a damn if anyone objects.

    My right to say what I want is more important than someone’s feelings and I will never give up that right.

    • JDK says:

      We agree on the free speech absolutism, You just have a strong disgust response to homosexuality. Which is your right. I find disgust in women performing their unwrapping of their mastectomy bandages rituals on YT. It’s all the rage. Homosexuality is something that is found in our closest relatives. Bisexuality is the norm in bonobos. It could be a strategy to obtain more resources in female humans, if a woman has children and there is no father and she’s open to pair bonding with females. . We just don’t know why homosexuality exists. Homosexuals may have more resemblances to opposite sex people, but that is likely due to in utero hormone related effects. And as a happy bisexual female in a lesbian marriage- as far as you wondering why the normies don’t just perpetrate violence against us to get rid of us- they better not try it with me. It will be the last thing they do. I’m not a pacifist and neither are my friends.

      • Tzindaro says:

        How would you know what my response to homosexuals is? I said nothing about that. I only presented the hypothesis that homosexuality and gender dismorphia are a result of chemical pollution of the food and / or water supply affecting development of the part of the brain that governs such things. I made no mention of my personal feelings about anything.

        In fact, I am happy to see an increase in male homosexuals because that leaves more women available for those of us who appreciate them. Lesbians, on the other hand, are a deplorable waste of a useful natural resource that someone could be putting to good use.

        As for bonobos, they may be among your closest relatives but as far as I know there are none in my family.

        • JDK says:

          Mine obtains and secures lots of resources rather than be a resource to be exploited. She’s a power lesbian. And she spreads resources to those who have less. Tough and achieving but kind. Everyone loves her. If you are talking about birthing babies, we’d do our part if humans were at risk of extinction and if it was necessary. We could work something out with our gay male friends, who like kids as they have already adopted 2 from foster care.

          Homosexuality pre-dates plastics. But I don’t rule out chemical affects on orientation.

      • M says:

        JDK I hope you’ll take note of interactions you have with people like Tzindaro who agree with your views on trans people. A person who believes it’s right and natural to hate homosexuals and that homosexuals are “mentally ill.” And he isn’t even among the worst. Religious fundamentalists, white nationalists, neo nazis. They are all in strong agreement with you. Maybe this should cause you to take pause and ask yourself if your own “disgust response” is getting the better of you and making you into a less moral and compassionate person than you would otherwise be.

  14. Jeff says:

    How a prominent figure like Dr. Tavris could get roped into spreading transphobic misinformation is astounding. How Skeptic would publish this collection of debunked notions and anecdotes is beyond me.

    This is why we need pieces written by experts in the field. Even the books she mentions in her article are by political pundits and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists, rather than those who work in the field. Where is the legitimate research that skeptics ought to crave?

    So much of the piece relies on the idea of rapid onset gender dysphoria, which is considered unproven by the American Psychological Association and many others.

    There is so much wrong with this piece that I hope Skeptic will offer an expert in the field a chance to discuss some of these points, most of which have been debunked within the scientific community.

  15. Elliot says:

    Thank you for this clear and unbiased article. The lack of comprehensive mainstream media coverage has baffled me, but I do know that fear of the mob and loss of readership are real concerns. Aside from not covering any alternative viewpoints or research until very recently, there has been a purposeful dearth of interviews with parents of minors struggling with the issue you mentioned — how to balance the coercive threats of potential suicide with medical choices that have lifelong consequences children absolutely do not have the capacity to comprehend. No parent should be tasked with deciding between sterilizing their child and “supporting” their mental health, especially when that support leads to an experimental pathway for which the evidence is weak. Until there is a way to identify who will benefit long-term from transition, taking a precautionary approach with children is the most ethical path. It’s a true shame that clinicians cannot see this. Notably, when the defining argument is “no debate,” it’s a pretty clear sign that something is amiss.

  16. j chicago says:

    Thank you so much for describing what is happening right now, especially the enormous and rapid rise among young people with gender distress who are being rushed to (often indiscriminate) medical intervention. Young people and their families do not know that gender dysphoria is being found to have many causes and ways of progressing. It is not a one size fits all situation, just like blurry vision or chest pain are not one size fits all situations.

    it is unknown how to determine ahead of time who will not have gender dysphoria resolve with mental health support and/or time. Many experts in the field are calling for differential diagnosis, exploratory therapy, and waiting until developmental maturity for medical intervention, at least until the evidence improves, until long term outcomes of clinical studies are known so that people can make informed decisions about risks, benefits, alternatives. The Society for Evidence-Based Gender Medicine and Genspect are both resources with information about what is known and not known right now.

    This in no way invalidates the lived experiences of those who found medical transition helped them, but there are many others for whom this path is a terrible mistake. And many with gender dysphoria, especially the young kids themselves, don’t even know there are any options besides medical intervention which might help them. That there are other factors like being on the spectrum, trauma, depression, social anxiety, etc., which can develop into gender dysphoria, and which, when addressed, result in the gender dysphoria resolving.

    Thank you so much for this important essay!

  17. A great piece, so well-written! The best I have read on the matter. Indeed, social contagion needs study! I was interested in your passing remark about rates of transgender youth among those with autism. As an autism specialist, I can confirm that autism diagnosing also is infected (as I see it/ write about it) by social contagion, e.g., the ‘cool’ of being ‘on the spectrum’ (just like Elon Musk)–but ignoring co-morbid or earlier diagnosed conditions in young adults who find someone (in a pop-up clinic somewhere) to validate self-affirmation.

    • j chicago says:

      There are only a few case studies published involving autism/autism spectrum disorders.

      One is here, of 2 young men who desisted
      Parkinson J. Gender dysphoria in Asperger’s syndrome: A caution. Australasian Psychiatry. 2014;22(1):84–85. doi: 10.1177/1039856213497814

      There is concern being raised by Gillberg, e.g., quoted here in the Jan 9, 2021 London Times article entitled: Autistic girls seeking answers ‘are seizing on sex change’ .

      There is an often quoted a set of guidelines about gender dysphoria and autism, by Strang et al, 2018, but they received a unanimous “do not recommend” in a rigorous guidelines review (International clinical practice guidelines for gender minority/trans people: systematic review and quality assessment , Dahlen et al, 2021, table 2). Strang et al note that at the time of their paper, only 14 people’s case studies (people with co-occurring ASD and gender dysphoria) had been published.

      There are several papers noting a larger representation of those with ASD in the gender dysphoric population, and, I believe, vice versa. I’ve heard guesses as to why (e.g., black and white thinking, obsessive tendencies, etc.), but just guesses.

  18. Edward Kreusser, M.D. says:

    Great article, Dr. Tavris!

    To expand on the media’s impact, I note a preponderance of coverage focusing on sports, where a man ‘transitions’ to a woman and then excels in her new category… way beyond what had been achieved when he competed against men. Recent news showcased a swimmer breaking many records. In the Olympics, a New Zealand weightlifter had transitioned to a female and competed in the women’s division. This got much more media coverage than many truly outstanding performances by other athletes; the ‘oddity-factor’ trumped excellence.

    The ‘oddity’ also trumps science. As an Orthopedic Surgeon, I’m very troubled by how much traction this entire movement has gotten; this is because I’m very aware of important, established scientific facts that are rarely, if ever, “unpacked” by the media or considered by legislators:
    * A male’s growth and development- in utero and through puberty- is influenced by testosterone and growth hormone: bone, muscle, ligaments, tendons are all, on average, more robust than a female’s. The heart and lungs are also larger, on average.
    * Lowering or eliminating the testosterone after this development has occurred, does nothing to diminish these differences.
    * We have on the order of a trillion cells in our bodies. With rare exception, each cell’s DNA contains either an XX or an XY chromosomal arrangement. Each type of chromosome has a genetic array which participates in the formation and functioning of all parts of the body. In general, X differs from Y in many ways…
    * Surgically modifying the body’s outward appearance, coupled with medically rebalancing some of the hormones, does nothing to change the trillion sets of chromosomes and their many influences.
    * Medical intervention is certainly indicated, but only rarely, when there is genetic and physical confusion in a child’s appearance at birth.
    * In summary, it’s not possible to convert one gender into the other. Today’s efforts simply yield a sophisticated disguise.
    * Whether it’s justifiable in certain cases, for optimum mental health, however, is a related topic- one which is beyond my level of expertise.

    • John Mackenzie says:

      A brilliant and concise view. Nothing left from me to add.

    • David Ayre says:

      A little clarification about physical conditions; two statements in your post use the word “rare” without being very specific, namely “With rare exception, each cell’s DNA contains either an XX or an XY” and “Medical intervention is certainly indicated, but only rarely, when there is genetic and physical confusion in a child’s appearance at birth”

      Klinefelter syndrome (XXY) seems to occur in about 1 or 2 in 1000 live male births, roughly similar to Jacobs syndrome (XYY); more complex chromosome patterns (XXYY, XXXY and others) are rarer

      When you say “Medical intervention is certainly indicated, but only rarely, when there is genetic and physical confusion in a child’s appearance at birth”, how “rarely” are you imagining?

      • gcmale says:

        Sex chromosome aneuploidy is tolerated in humans, probably due to X-inactivation and the small number of potent genes on the Y chromosomes. With exception of Swyer and XX male (which can be explained easily), the pattern is pretty easy:

        XY = male
        XXY = male
        XXXY = male
        XXXXY = male

        X = female
        XX = female
        XXX = female

        Can you figure what the pattern is?

        • Dee says:

          Thank you. I am so very, very, very tired of Klinefelter and similar conditions being used as a “gotcha!” to somehow prove that biological sex is untrue. Especially when it is combined, as it often is, with some finger-wagging about how “biology is more complicated than what you learned in grade school!”

          Inevitably these self-appointed geneticists have no conception that “XXY” doesn’t mean you are some hybrid of male and female. It means you are a male with an aneuploidy. Males with Klinefelter have “active” X and Y chromosomes in their cells and a Barr body. Not exactly a “gotcha.”

        • SocraticGadfly says:

          At the same time, re Dee, “biological sex” is NOT JUST two chromosomes. It involves material pregnancy hormone production, their timing and amount, fetal sensitivity to these hormones or lack thereof, and many other things.
          Problems that happen with all of these can in some cases indeed cause transsexual or intersexual issues.
          They’re more likely to cause sexual relationship orientation issues, ie, fetuses that grow up to be gay or lesbian adults.
          This all said, good language use always separates, on this tough issue, “transsexual” and “transgender.” Sex and gender are not the same thing.

  19. Richard says:

    Let’s see here. When a person is born, they either have XX chromosomes (we call them female) or XY chromosomes (we call them male). In 2009, using DNA, archaeogenetics identified a fingertip, discovered in Siberia, from the 70,000-year-old remains of a person who belonged to a previously unknown kind of archaic hominin. Not only did they identify the bone as human, but it was of a girl between 5 and 7 years old. Now, if scientists can make an identification like this, I bet there is no difficulty identifying a eunuch in drag even if the creature does self-identify as a woman – or as a tomato plant.

  20. Johnny says:

    What misinformation are you referring to?

  21. George Hanson says:

    Jennifer, I am sure your life has been difficult, judging from your comment. That is truly sad. The author refers in the article to this issue quite clearly, not ‘nowhere taking into account the abuse’. But, Jennifer, this article is not intended to be about the abuse you and other transpeople experience. That does not mean the author is not sympathetic.

    I am very curious as to what ‘misinformation’ there is in this article that ‘hurt your brain’. To me, it seemed a cogent, rational discussion. Would you like to point out which specific items were ‘misinformation’, so that they can be discussed. Perhaps with some references.

  22. Laura says:

    “Reporters cover tragic, infuriating stories of the hateful bigotry and violence that many trans people endure — and make no mistake, they do.” I don’t think it’s fair to say Dr. Tavris doesn’t take mistreatment of the trans community into account; she does so here. And the rest of the article to me appears to support fair treatment of the community as well, without ignoring facts or voices that point out other types of mistreatment such as profiting off of people’s gender dysphoria or pushing them to pursue treatments without informed consent. As usual I am proud of Skeptic for publishing pieces that seek truth in an environment where disagreement is labeled bigotry.

  23. Em says:

    Having experienced the frustration of having a condition and feeling horrible about it for over 6 decades I am conflicted about this article. On the one hand, I agree with everything written by the author, and on the other hand, I have endured gatekeeping that would drive a Mormon to drink. I believe that professional competency is sorely lacking in this arena and the profit motive is one of the significant motivators.

    I do wish some laws, like those that can delicense therapists for not giving gender affirming advice were eliminated. They are certainly as counterproductive as some laws that overregulate teachers in the classroom. The real question is, where do we draw the line?

    I have found that post-transition is not the cureall for every problem that faced me before. The physical dysphoria may be gone, but social issues are leigon, in spite of the fact that I am just as intelligent and capable as I was before, (perhaps more so).

    To not deal with the entirety of a persons life can lead to tragic outcomes — a situation which magical thinking cannot alleviate.

    I whole hartedly support more stringent oversite for therapists, doctors and research in this field.

    In the end, I am much happier, but my circumstances are unique to me and not applicable to anyone else.

  24. Jennifer says:

    As a transgender person, seeing this kind of misinformation in this publication hurts my brain. Nowhere does it take into account the abuse we take from society, in many situations, just for being ourselves. Walking around with ID that doesn’t match your presentation. Being stared at, giggled at, scowled at, outright laughed at, while just trying to go about your life, can be more than many can tolerate. Rejection by family & friends, co-workers, neighbors and/or organizations is hurtful to the point that without support or high self esteem, one may be compelled to go with the pain of pretending to be someone they are not, rather than deal with a whole new range of hurt that often comes with transition.

    • gcmale says:

      Many people other than you suffer much more as a result of all sorts of afflictions with much much greater consequences to them.

      There is no misinformation in this piece, just a pathetic attempt at emotional blackmail by you.

    • Dee says:

      I am sorry you have experienced hurt. Lots of conditions cause hurt. That does not mean we should not discuss them openly and try to obtain actual information about what helps people.

      I agree with the other commenter that this comment sounds like the type of emotional blackmail some people use to deflect personal criticisms away from themselves during arguments–even though this thoughtful article was not a personal criticism.

    • Felix F. says:

      “They scoff at scars that never felt a wound.”

      I share your disappointment at this publication. Is Schirmer accommodating vicious trolls?

    • SocraticGadfly says:

      Gender is not the same as sex and transgender is not the same as transsexual.

      That said, should transgender people have certain legal rights and protections? Yes. Should these all be the same as transsexual or cis-sexual? No.

      That also said, to wingnuts? Should transsexuals be denied certain legal rights? No.

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