Gender Identity Anxiety

Those vulnerable to existential uncertainties seem more prone to gender dysphoria. My experience at a large secondary school is that gender identity anxiety seems most common among students who are on the Autism spectrum. (Still a very limited data set, I know. Mostly it is girls relinquishing the trappings of femininity: an easier step, in a residually patriarchal society, than boys having to adopt all these physically enhancing adjuncts.) After all, ASD people tend to have difficulties making connections with other people, and thus locating themselves securely within communities. My better-read colleagues tell me that this is borne out by the data. 

I have also noticed that, in less than a decade, the number of people with this condition has grown from virtually none to being a well-represented minority. Is this because people have finally plucked up the courage to come out? Is it because pollution has altered the hormonal balance of the amniotic bath in which foetuses develop in the womb? Is it because society is now suggesting this as a solution to their existential angst?

This last seems the most likely to me[1]. Some people have trouble fitting in with a group identity. Their feeling of exclusion greatly unsettles and upsets them. Part of fitting in is aligning yourself with the sexual expectations of your community: adopting recognisable roles that send recognisable signals. This allows you to participate in the group’s sexual discourses: its talk and behaviour towards each other.  

Gender and sexuality signalling must be among the most obvious and unsubtle forms of non-verbal communication. (Sometimes you may have to reproduce with the most unaware dullards – i.e. men.) So, a most glaring aspect of alienation is likely to be gender alienation. 

Nowadays, though, people who feel this way are encouraged to see this gender dysphoria as the single cause of their issues. They are encouraged to channel their distress into a sort of gender envy, to believe that, if only they were the other gender, all their problems would be solved. When they are not, supporters tend to attribute the high levels of mental un-wellness, depression and suicide among trans people wholly to the discrimination they face. This seems unlikely. Other groups who experience discrimination do not show anywhere near the same levels of distress. GOV.UK’s Ethnicity Facts and Figures website (updated 2nd March 2021) states that, in 2014, other than a higher number of white people saying that they had had suicidal thoughts or self harmed, “There were no other meaningful differences in the prevalence of suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide or self harm.” (ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk)

In fact, in a healthy society, no one should have to relinquish their gender because they don’t manage well its superficial social constructs. You should be able to own your gender and sexuality despite not presenting it in an orthodox manner. In our modern internet-mediated society, where all truth is merely appearance, social constructs of gender are un-natural enough, even when built upon biological foundations. (Those enormous, ultra-false eyelashes and slabs of fake nails!). Without such foundations, gender constructs degenerate into grotesque and degrading parodies. No one should feel compelled to enact them. 


[1] I am less convinced by the idea that society has finally become liberal enough to create safe spaces for trans people to come out. Homosexuality was taboo for centuries, yet persisted as a clandestine community throughout that time; gay people tended to know they were gay, but have realised they’d have to hide it. In contrast, the urge to transition has had a meteoric rise without being preceded by much of a sub-culture. 

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