CHAPTER 2: The absence of narrative: why my previous work is fundamentally flawed.
Given the scientific impossibility of proving existing narratives for the transgender condition, I decided that the best narrative was no narrative. This I called…‘transgnosticism’.
While blocking the rabbit holes of female essence, transvestic fetishism and many others, transgnosticism also embraced the stark fact that nobody knows why the transgender condition exists. Thus, having eliminated the transition pressure of trans theory and the stigma of sexology, the gender dysphoric could build themselves a beautiful life without the need for gender change.
However, I now see transgnosticism as an error.
Because it’s a well known principle of psychology that when a human doesn’t know or understand, they invent an explanation. Therefore, not only do humans deal badly with non-narratives such as… ‘we just don’t know’… they can’t deal with them at all. In other words, human nature is programmed to create a narrative, which means that a dysphoric with no narrative to explain their suffering…
Think once more about the men who were kidnapped, blindfolded and placed in a cell. Whatever their differing circumstances, they both understand what was happening and why. Imagine a third man who’s beaten day after day but his captors never remove the blindfold nor reveal their identity. Having no idea of the why, where or who of what was happening, he would go insane. As a species, we can’t stand not knowing.
A dysphoric who embraces transgnosticism is like the blindfolded man. They have no story to tell themselves about what’s happening; all they can say is what’s not happening. This is like our kidnap victim using deduction to rule out captors (not the CIA, not Hamas etc.) – which would provide zero solace because humans find comfort in knowing what something is… not what it is not. So, while a transgnostic can smash down the autogynephilia narrative and feminine essence, he can’t build a new one to fill the void.
The void is a corrosive emotional state left behind by the absence of narrative. Without any means of understanding what they’re experiencing, the dysphoria is experienced as pure feeling and the consequences are obvious when you consider how completely GD infects a life. While many people think of dysphoria in wikipedia terms – as characterised by discomfort at one’s birth gender – it’s much more than that.
Gender dysphoria contains elements of several mental conditions rolled into one: depression, grief, compulsion, obsession, longing and anxiety. And while its true that each of these elements may not be intense as, for example, a clinical depression, they work in combination to create a debilitating mental condition. Therefore, the idea that you can cope with that condition without a narrative is madness.
A good transgender narrative provides solace and understanding. Thus, a transwoman who subscribes to trans theory can interpret her pain as nature signalling a need for transition. Just as physical pain alerts us to an injury that needs tending, this trans narrative transforms dysphoria into a confirmation of true identity and the way forward. While this narrative is not powerful enough to be ‘curative’, it provides solace…and solace is vital when dealing with this condition.
But what solace is there for transgnostics? None! And this is the price paid for a zero narrative position which, though more intellectually honest than trans theory, allows the dysphoria to burrow deeper into the psyche. Therefore, it’s a treatment priority for a transgnostic to build a narrative that fills the void which will inevitably compromise their happiness.
Maybe if GD was more episodic – and disappeared for months at a time – then you could get away with no narrative, but it is not. Gender dysphoria is an ongoing drama with more reruns than a Mexican soap opera, or perhaps a better analogy is Ridley Scott’s alien… because it refuses to die. Just when you think you’ve finally killed your dysphoria and you zoom off in your spaceship to planet euphoria – it somehow manages to get on the ship at the last moment to attack you at a later point. The harsh reality is that you can invert your genitalia, choose a new name, switch your drivers licence, rebirth your wardrobe – change your hormones – in fact, pretty much change everything… and still suffer from it. So, bearing in mind the difficulty in treating the condition and the impossibility of eliminating it, you need all the therapeutic tools/weapons available: one of which is a clear narrative that keeps you strong throughout.
Not surprisingly, this leads to the million dollar question…
CHAPTER 3: Building a narrative
The first problem with establishing a transgender narrative is that the people who’ve rejected trans theory did so because they have high standards for supporting evidence and feasibility.
Futhermore, while some demand empirical verification for any narrative (i.e. extreme objectivity,) others see gender variance as different for everybody and advocate personalized narratives (i.e. subjectivity.) Therefore, while it would be great to come up with a universal transgender narrative for everyone with GD…
Consequently, my job is to help you formulate your own narrative in a 3 step process.
1. Establish a clear time and place where you are going to work through this process – either with a therapist or alone (pad and paper/Evernote essential).
Many of my clients believe they think too much about issue X. The more accurate statement, however, is that they spend too much time thinking the same old shit about issue X. In random moments of the day, they return to the same issue bouncing around the same ideas like a pinball machine, never making progress. Working through problems requires assigned time, linear thinking, and a pen and paper.
2. Establish your personality type when it comes to constructing ideas about the world. Do you follow evidence or intuition? Do you believe that reality is objective and that clear facts exist… or do you believe there is a subjective element to reality? Do you respect science and experts… or experience and myth? Once you have clear what type of general outlook you have, then it becomes clear what type of specific transgender narrative you need.
2b. Luckily, there’s a way of doing this which doesn’t involve going off topic. If you lay out all of the existing theories of the transgender condition you can analyse them and ask yourself why you don’t feel comfortable with each one. Ask yourself what it is about the idea that you don’t like. This will expose the direction which your own narrative needs to take.
3. Having established the type of narrative which your personality leans towards, allows you to construct said narrative. This may seem a bit like giving an Egyptian a pick-axe and telling him to go build a pyramid, but the reality is that the right narrative will have already occurred to you but was drowned out by many other rival or bogus ideas. In other words, it’s rare that a transgender narrative is built from nothing…but is ususally a case of understanding why a previous idea (perhaps slightly modified) is the narrative for you.
So, in order to help you with the three step process, I will now examine various narratives which I have encountered personally – with the aim of helping you to think about the unique story you need to craft. And the first one we’ll look at is the… ‘disease narrative’
Understanding the appeal of the disease narrative is easy when you consider how soothing we all find diagnosis. For example, once a doctor tells us what’s really happening to us, an ache or pain that was freaking us out can suddenly become nothing.
The same logic leads some sufferers of gender dysphoria to an explanation that succinctly captures what’s happening to them. They believe that the disease of gender dysphoria is a consequence of a deeper mental illness: being transgender.
Progressive ideas make it seem like there’s something wrong with labelling gender variance a mental illness. However, when you step back a moment from liberalism, it’s hard to see why it isn’t; after all, if I started telling you I was Elvis Presley you’d think I was mad. Why? Because when people tell you they’re a thing they’re clearly not, it’s a pretty good indicator of madness. Surely it’s reasonable, therefore, to see a middle-aged guy who believes he’s a woman as – if not mad – at least… mentally ill.
This idea – that wanting to be a woman is not a nudge-nudge/wink-wink about who you really are… but a chronic mental illness – is surely a diagnosis that would bring comfort. It perfectly explains the longings, the triggers and the pain: it’s all the result of a mental illness? Let me quote my previous position…
The mental illness tag allows me to control and deal with gender dysphoria. You see, while I respect and love my transgender voice – the illness tag allows me to dispute its authority.
If I didn’t see it as a form of mental illness then I would inevitably see it as the voice of my true self and obey it. It would dominate my life…and my children’s life…and cause a shitload of disruption…and go from inconvenience to harbinger of chaos.
Therefore, my strategy for dealing with gender dysphoria depends on delegitimizing the voice which tells me I’m a woman. My method is to label it as a minor mental illness.
Furthermore, once you start down this road, you can craft a more specific narrative of mental illness: for example, that your dysphoria and transgender psyche come from a family of mental illnesses known as ‘psycho-sexual disorders.’ Yes, you may have rejected autogynephilia, but you can pursue the sexual origins of transsexualism without adopting Blanchard’s terminology or transphobia. And let’s face it, there’s a strong case to be made that sexualities based on becoming another gender are remarkably similar to paraphilias based on transformation.
An hour on Youtube can lead you to documentaries about people who want to be transformed into babies, amputees, and furry animals. And the striking thing is that when they talk about this desire they mirror the same sentiments as a dysphoric transsexual. They talk about how the transformed them is their ‘true self’ and that they have always felt they should be in that transformed state. This uncanny similarity leads one to consider Blanchard’s observation that…
For every class of sexual object, there will be small subgroups of men who develop the erotic fantasy of being the desired object.
So, whether you diagnose your condition as that family of mental illnesses based on delusion or that of psychosexual disorders, you can make a convincing argument. And let’s not forget that its arguments – as opposed to acts of faith (like in trans theory) – that transgnostics need. The disease narrative provides a clinical explanation that denotes illness and therefore the possibility of treatment. Also, by firmly quashing the idea that you are actually a woman, it helps to keep you focused on what’s best for your family, your health and your job: living as a man. Isn’t this the logical narrative you need to help you cope with gender dysphoria?
Telling yourself that you suffer from gender dysphoria because of a mental illness provides no help whatsoever. Yes, it may be useful for bringing you down from a fluffy transgender narrative, but it won’t provide the most important qualities of any narrative: solace, comfort, consolation.
Furthermore, there’s a number of differences between gender dysphoria and other illnesses that are aided by diagnosis. Firstly, that ache or pain the doctor magically expels with his diagnosis is not like GD. Knowing that you have a delusion or psychosexual disorder does not reduce its intensity or the frequency with which it attacks you each day. Secondly, while a diagnosis of depression or anxiety leads to tried and tested treatments (with decades of research behind them) there’s no clear drug or therapy for gender dysphoria. Therefore, you get the doc’s verdict ‘you have a mental illness’ and ask yourself ‘what now?’ and he basically says a medical version of…
And that’s not the only argument against a disease narrative; there’s also feasibility problems. For example, while you’re unlikely to meet a normal person who believes they’re Elvis Presley… you can meet dozens, hundreds, thousands of well adjusted individuals who identify as another gender. Geena Rocero doesn’t look mentally ill to me, and while Caitlyn Jenner maybe extremely irritating she doesn’t seem extremely ill.
Also, another feasibility issue is that while the illness narrative accords with the wrongness and depression of gender dysphoria, it doesn’t accord with the euphoria and rightness. The true origins of gender variance are less revulsion with one’s biological gender and more elation with respect to one’s true gender. The incredible rightness of that feeling makes it impossible for a transgender person to call it an illness when that feeling feels like just about the only right thing in their life.
Naturally, a lunatic who believes he’s Napoleon Bonaparte also feels the ecstasy of belief, but a quick observation of his relationships and mannerisms soon reveal that this is the ecstasy of lunacy; a similar examination of a transwoman does not.
For all these reasons, the disease narrative has little healing value in the treatment of gender dysphoria. In fact, with its harsh views on feminine essence, its most useful application is in wrestling individuals from the clutches of trans fundamentalism, meaning that it is far more effective at destroying narratives than building them.
So, let’s shift to an alternative to the disease narrative: the ‘practical’ narrative.
This narrative accepts the fundamentals of transgender theory: that gender dysphoria is nature’s way of telling you that you should transition, and that in the ideal world you really should transition…
…but it’s not an ideal world.
This is a narrative based on the practicalities of life, and a subscriber will formulate many reasons as to why transition is either impossible or simply won’t work.
A good example is my notion of ‘transition contingency’ where I points out that many genvas (crossdreamers) are obsessed – not just with being female but…beautiful and female; therefore, even if they transition they’ll never reach a satisfactory level of beauty. Thus… transition won’t work. Other more conventional arguments are the amount of non-transitioners, the reality of not passing, family objections and job ramifications. In other words, the narrative formulates many reasons why – despite believing they’re a woman – it’s practically impossible to live as one.
Having accepted their need to be female and the impossibility of satisfying said need, the person responds with the motto of this narrative: “I can handle it.” Yes, they know there’s a price to pay for continuing to live as male, but they believe they’re strong enough to tolerate the kickback. They can…
The first question I ask trans-folk who say they can handle it is… “ define ‘handling it’ because I’m yet to meet one who describes themselves as happy. Consequently, ‘handling it’ means being able to function outwardly and continue as normal, while inwardly being consumed by a gender dysphoria void.
To me, the problem with this narrative is that the ‘inconvenience/impracticality of transition’ is like having cancer and arguing that chemo is not convenient at this time. And there may be many good reasons why chemo isn’t practical at that time and these arguments may be utterly convincing, but they don’t change the underlying fact: you still got cancer!
Gender dysphoria eats away at your heart, your health and your happiness, so the ‘I can handle it’ narrative doesn’t work at all. Like so many other explanations for GD it offers no consolation and no sense of what you’re getting in return for this suffering. It’s simply a justification for not transitioning. And it’s worse than the disease narrative because it accepts the basics of trans theory, meaning that not living as a woman will be all the more painful.
To conclude, both the disease narrative and the ‘I can handle it’ narrative fail because they provide explanation and nothing more. A good narrative not only explains what something is but ‘what’s in it for me.’ For the interrogated spy, there was some solace in knowing that he was saving his country, while the celibate priest had the consolation of saving his soul; the suicide bomber could tell himself that he was on the stairway to heaven, while a junkie on cold turkey is on the path to a new life. In each case, different types of suffering are made tolerable by a sense of payback: that in the end, something of value will come from their suffering.
Therefore, the perfect narrative of gender dysphoria both explains the condition and points out something positive that will come from it.
It is both explanatory and therapeutic.