What Is Gender Dysphoria?

Here are several talks featured at Q Ideas this week. The first is a talk I gave at Q Denver titled, What is Gender Dysphoria?  I try to explain the phenomenon, as well as provide a little background information on theories of etiology, prevalence, and management strategies.

The second talk is by Melinda Selmys, who shares about her own experiences with gender dyshporia.

After we both spoke, Gabe Lyons invited us to join him for a time to Q & A from the audience. This was a helpful opportunity to reflect further on gender dysphoria:

To give you a little background on Q Ideas, here is a description from their website:

Q was birthed out of Gabe Lyons’ vision to see Christians, especially leaders, recover a vision for their historic responsibility to renew and restore cultures. Inspired by Chuck Colson’s statement, “Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals,” Gabe set out to reintroduce Christians to what had seemed missing in recent decades from an American expression of Christian faithfulness; valuing both personal and cultural renewal, not one over the other. Re-educating Christians to this orthodox and unifying concept has become central to the vision of Q.

Together, we explore topics that fall into four broad themes: culture, future, church, and gospel. Q facilitates the investigation of deeper engagement and responsibility in each of these areas. As we continue to work through these ideas on a deeper level, so grows our commitment to equipping innovators, social entrepreneurs, entertainers, artists, church-shapers, futurists, scientists, educators, historians, environmentalists, and everyday people to do extraordinary things. At Q Ideas, you’ll see a broad spectrum of content represented in our small group curriculum, essays, videos, blog articles, and podcasts. These are all contributed and commissioned to shed light on unique areas of culture and the church.

26 thoughts on “What Is Gender Dysphoria?

    • It’s not the whole story though.

      Mark’s talk focuses almost exclusively on transkids (or homo-trans) – individuals who experience gender dysphoria at a young age and would otherwise grow up to be gay. But the other type (the Caitlyn Jenner’s of this world) can also experience gender dysphoria. It’s much easier (professionally safer) to ignore the sexual fetishism of this second group but their dysphoria (and it would be present in most men who go as far as to openly transition and/or consider some form of gender reassignment surgery) is as real as the first group.

      • You seem to be drawing unwarranted conclusions based on certain stereotypes you’ve constructed. Moreover, sexual fetishism can be more prevalent in circumstances where someone faces social marginalization.

        As Christians, we’re to view each person as made in the image of God, and to be gracious in our judgments of others. When people act as though they’ve earned their salvation and are hasty to judge others, they only reveal themselves to be strangers to God’s grace to us in Christ.

      • “As Christians, we’re to view each person as made in the image of God”

        I don’t disagree with that statement but the whole (official) trans conversation is so dishonest. Sad to see Christians only discussing the subject within the limits set by political activists (Yarhouse will have read the psychological literature and know that activists definitely do try to limit the conversation).

        BTW, I will openly state that my position is – either we admit that gender and sexuality are not two entirely different concepts (which trans activists always deny) or the LGB and T go their separate ways because they don’t really have much in common (the T activists who now dominate LGBT politics don’t like this option either!).

      • I agree that there’s a air bit of dishonesty on many sides of this discussion. This is particularly true of the factions that Yarhouse identifies as the “integrity” group and the “identity” group. Both positions are largely untenable. So, each of them just spend their efforts critiquing the other side without acknowledging the gross dishonest in their own position.

        In my view, the “integrity” position and the “identity” position are about equally dishonest and dangerous.

      • I don’t see any great conflict between the “integrity” and “disability” lenses, Of course, how anyone talks about the subject in a general sense will probably differ from one-to-one conversations with people who self-identify as trans

        The requirement that public statements conform to the same “therapeutic” approach that would be appropriate for one-to-one conversations is where these two lenses slip into political territory – as what is being respected isn’t just the individual trans man or woman (who is given the opportunity to “tell their story”) but a particular way of talking.

        The diversity/identity lens is an explicitly political perspective – placing restrictions on how people talk/think about the subject in every situation. It is a lens that privileges a specific set of (usually American) cultural norms and language rules (although Americans are unlikely to notice this).

        It is extremely difficult to have meaningful conversations across political divides when one side (and it can be either side) insists on policing both the form and content of the conversation.

      • Bear in mind that the “integrity” lens is also a political position, established to silence dissent. Sure, it’s proponents don’t readily admit to their political goals. Most of their positions are designed to uphold the political-social doctrine of compulsory heterosexuality. In that sense, Denny Burk is no less a politician than Dan Savage.

        I’m generally fine with the “diversity” lens, as long as it doesn’t veer off into identity politics. As for transgenderism, I think it’s hard to suggest that it’s not a disability in some sense too.

      • “Bear in mind that the “integrity” lens is also a political position, established to silence dissent”

        Yes – that’s true. I guess the more anyone says about a topic, the more observers get to see if an “integrity” perspective is an honest conclusion or just a piece of political theater. It’s not always easy to make that distinction in our Twitter age.

        Personally, I don’t find a Denny Burk any more or less objectionable than a Dan Savage in a debate/interview situation if they have said more about the topic at length somewhere else (and it is accessible).

        But with the gender and sexuality issues, you will find informed but “politically incorrect” professionals driven out of the public sphere by activists. The BBC recently broadcast a very fair but ‘conservative’ documentary about how best to deal with gender dysphoria in children – which also highlighted the fate of professionals who dare to contradict the views of LGBT activists.


      • I agree. In the current climate it’s difficult to have an honest discussion about the issue. Both sides are more interested in promoting a political agenda than in discovering the truth.

  1. Melinda: “The average transwoman walks into your bathroom, goes in to the stall, you don’t ever know she’s a transwoman”

    Not true… but even it was…

    Bathroom bills are about sex not gender. Sex-segregated private spaces are found in all societies. The degree of segregation differs from culture to culture but even after three generations of feminist advocacy in the West there is still no great female demand for unisex bathroom facilities or similar spaces because there remain situations and places where women need to be protected from the male sex (for obvious reasons).

    Restrooms are probably less of an issue than locker rooms because women do not undress in them. However, transwomen activists (male sex) usually ignore such distinctions. They want access to all women-only spaces. This advocacy can be profoundly misogynist at times and God bless the TERFS who stand up to the bully boys who experience gender dysphoria.

    There are no complaints about transmen (women who experience gender dysphoria) accessing male bathrooms or locker rooms. They enter them at their own risk – and most transmen realise it is far safer to undress in the company of women.

    • There tends to be few complaints about transmen entering male bathrooms because testosterone is a potent hormone and transmen are indistinguishable from actual men. Many even sport beards, chest hair, and the broad shoulder musculature of a biological male. The problem tends to be more pronounced with transwomen but I imagine that will become less of an issue now that society is catching this early and treating transgirls with puberty blockers to keep them from developing harder/expensive to repair male features.

      • Some transmen do sport beards etc but the individual transman who passes (probably) does not use the urinals. If they look like butch lesbians (as a lot of transmen do) I guess they don’t use the men’s room. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. As I said, it’s at their own risk – meaning any potential for abuse or violence is usually directed towards the female sex.

        The transwoman situation is different. If their maleness is detected it becomes problematic because any male is (rightly) perceived to pose a threat to women in certain settings. Go ahead and argue that every male should be appraised as an individual but that would lead to the possibility of unisex facilities – which, of course, never happens.

        There is an “imbalance” between the sexes that gender confusion cannot obscure.

      • Joe

        I agree. It is a sticky situation in the current day. I mentioned puberty blockers as being key to alleviating a lot of the danger inherent and I do stand by that. Part of the issue, as you say, is once a male has gone through puberty the fear will always be there because he will be principally male. The blockers alter not merely appearance but brain development as well, allowing a fuller transition. At least, that is what the endocrinology I have read on the subject states. Hence, it is an issue I hope to see go away in the future.

        I also agree with your sentiment towards men. The biological male is a dangerous artifact of an era that is long since passed. Men cause all the violence, all the wars, commit most of the violence, and so on. Hopefully, though, technology and medical advancements will allow us to remove more undesirable traits in the future and create a species of true equals.

      • EDIT: I said violence twice. The second part should read “…commit most of the sexual assault…”

        In any case, there is no room in the future for the classic male.

      • “Hence, it is an issue I hope to see go away in the future.”

        Transkids (predominately same-sex attracted individuals) will get access to puberty blockers. But this is also a highly controversial intervention as the majority of children who express strong cross gender identities go on to desist and grow up to be regular gay men and women.

      • Joe

        An excellent point. From what I have read on the subject, once the puberty blockers are stopped the child will resume puberty with little to no side effect. I wouldn’t support their use if these were something I thought was making a permanent change. Problem is, I have dealt with kids who grew up self treating with morning after pills and the effects aren’t pretty (thin/weak bones, neurological anomalies, and so on).

        Hormones are serious business and not one to be done by amateurs. The blockers will, ideally, allow us to suss out the confused from the true transgender folks.

      • The health risks of puberty blockers are monumental.

        The fact that 95% + of transmen would otherwise identify as lesbians should be enough of a warning that there is something very wrong with fixing identity problems by mutilating healthy bodies.

        I’m curious to know what you mean by “true transgenders”?

      • The dangers of hormone blockers tend to occur mainly when the blockers are misused without the supervision of an endocrinologist. For many years, some general practitioners have prescribed the blockers to children going through puberty too early or to help overly petite children grow more, but without doing any proper followup. I did address this in my previous point as well. One wouldn’t go to a general practitioner for advice on treating cancer so one shouldn’t go to them for hormone treatments either. With proper oversight, the danger is minimal.

        “The fact that 95% + of transmen would otherwise identify as lesbians should be enough of a warning that there is something very wrong with fixing identity problems by mutilating healthy bodies.”

        Sexual orientation is not really the issue here. Gender dysphoria is different from orientation. What you call mutilating healthy bodies I call repairing a physical abnormality. No different from removing a mole or fixing a cleft palette in my view.

        True transpeople are those who don’t desist in their gender identity with time. For most I have worked with, they knew very early on that they were in the wrong body. These days, proper counseling can suss out the real ones from those going through a phase.

  2. Thanks for posting this. I found Mark’s categories to be helpful for understanding why we may often talk past others on these issues. I’d suggest that Jesus’ singleness utterly vitiates the “integrity” view. Jesus’ singleness announces our freedom from the procreational mandate. I probably favor the “diversity” view, but not insofar as one element of one’s diversity becomes the central feature around which one constructs a social identity. I’d suggest that the Gospel would lead us to embrace a “diversity minus identity” view.

  3. Interesting conversation here:

    “FPIW progressive feminist columnist Silence visits the show to talk about how progressive feminists and conservatives can see eye-to-eye on the transgender movement’s efforts to undermine women’s rights, their privacy, and their safety.”

  4. Thank you very much for this good introduction to a sensitive subject. It is most encouraging that for most, it all sorts itself out with time…

    As the great economist John Maynard Keynes (a homosexual) said,”In the long run, we’re all dead!” But in the meantime, let’s show all the compassion that we can.

  5. The trans debate has been a fascinating one to be sure. In truth, T is as different from the LGB as African Americans are from Latinos. Both experience racism, both have a rough history, but both still have experiences that are worlds apart.

    I have worked with a local group that seeks to make puberty blocking hormones less costly and more accessible to transgirls so I hope that the bathroom discussion will be solved by that, in time. I somewhat disagree with Melinda on saying most transwomen could use the bathroom without causing issue. Currently, it is difficult to allow older transwomen to have equal access to female bathrooms because many had to go through puberty and, thus, appear very masculine.

    Part of why I support puberty blockers is to change this.

    I am not so worried about the rape or sexual assault political nonsense. I am a guy and there is nothing stopping me from hiding in a rest stop or park bathroom, cracking a lone woman over the head, and dragging her into the wheelchair stall – a bad guy is not going to be stopped by door with the word “Women” on it. It is similar logic to taking away guns from ordinary people to keep bad guys from having them. It is bad logic. Men don’t need to crossdress to get women because we tend to be bigger, stronger, faster, and more violent.

    The implications are greater than just bathrooms, though. On the not so distant horizon, the church and society will be grappling with the question of homo autocatalyticus and the morality and ethics of using genetic modification and cybernetics to exercise control over our own evolution to perfect and adapt ourselves as we deem fit. Trans folk are sort of the pioneers in spearheading that conversation, when you think of it.

  6. Pingback: Ideological Musings: dissenting in theory, assenting in practice – Cracks in Postmodernity

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