Posted in advocacy, Freedom, science, writing

Why We Need To Stop Cancelling Artists

Consider this a longread.

I’m not one to talk political at people, and this will not be a political piece. However, there is something that deeply perturbs me about silencing artists. We’ll talk about two today who have received heaping amounts of backlash for commentary they’ve made on a very touchy subject: LGBTQ+ rights.

Let me start off by making my views clear. I absolutely love LGBTQ+ people. I absolutely believe they deserve all the same rights we have as cis gendered people. I believe in gay marriage, I support Trans-rights, and particularly am in love with unisex bathrooms (because we all do the same thing, why are we so separated anyway?). What I don’t understand (and please, feel free to clarify for me in the comments) is why there is an argument over biological sex. Sex is indeed something we’re born into, but as you learn in undergraduate biological psychology, often times the brain can develop more feminine in a male-oriented body or develop more male in a female-oriented body. There are indeed hormones that are more specific to each sex.

This does not make things black and white, however. This means there is indeed a spectrum of gender identity. What this does not mean is that if you “feel kind of boyish” one day and you “feel kind of girlish” the other day, that you are gender non-binary. We all feel kind of feminine and/or masculine depending on who we are around, where we live, and what day it is in our hormonal cycle (because yes, men have them too).

What does any of this have to do with artists?

Well, let’s look at an example.

Dave Chappelle

Source: Daily Hawker

I was talking with a friend some weeks ago and when I mentioned the comedian, she said “oh, didn’t he say something transphobic or whatever?” and I said “I doubt it.” So I watched The Closer. And low and behold, I was absolutely right. Let me tell you what he DID say.

The beginning of his expression about trans rights and activism, he said specifically that he was for trans rights. Now, this doesn’t make someone ABSOLUTELY for trans rights, hell, anyone can say it. But I listened more closely. One of his first points in The Closer was that the LGBTQ+ movement has moved much faster than the civil rights movement. Things are gettin’ done. Fast.

Yes, trans people are still attacked. Yes, gay people are still attacked. Yes, there is still a humungous stigma against those who experience gender dysphoria. Yes, it shouldn’t be like that.

But things are moving forward. Commercials about LGBTQ+ rights are there. People are celebrating life and celebrating those in their life who are apart of that group. It’s a beautiful thing, it really is. But Chappelle made a striking, obvious, and brutal point: “gay people are minorities until they need to be white again.”

Now, that’s not attacking gay people. What that’s saying is that people who are gay (or any of the LGBTQ+) and who are white, still have a privilege and advantage over those of us who are heavily pigmented. Hell, even I have privilege, because I am mixed race and lighter than my father, who is a very dark black. I can admit that. Why can’t some people of the LGBTQ+ community?

One of his more controversial sayings, which I felt uncomfortable about too until I thought about what he said was: “DaBaby shot and killed a [man] in Walmart in North Carolina. Nothing bad happened to his career. Do you see where I’m going with this? In our country, you can shoot and kill a [man] but you better not hurt a gay person’s feelings.”

This one is hard. But what he’s saying is clear. Careers, particularly artists like him who are in the eye of the public, are being slandered for saying things like biological sex exists. And it does. You can be born and man, you can be born a woman. No one is telling you that you have to stay as a man or as a woman gender-wise. It’s simply saying when you are born, you either have a penis, a vagina, or a combination therein. Nothing can change that as a fact.

Where Chappelle made a mistake is saying “gender is a fact.” Gender is more fluid, it’s on that spectrum, chemically and mentally, as we all learn now in undergraduate study (if you didn’t learn that, you’re learning it now). Sex is biological, and tied to your hormones, which, whether you like it or not, are still divided: men will have more testosterone than women, and women will have more estrogen than men. Nothing will change that as a fact either. If this wasn’t the case, trans people wouldn’t need hormones to grow into who they really are.

What I really liked, though, was what he said at the end: “Go back, go back tonight, after the show . . . I said, ‘how much do I have to participate in your self-image?’ I said, ‘you shouldn’t discuss this in front of black people,’ I know n**as in Brooklyn who wear high heels just to feel safe.’ I asked you why is it easier for Bruce Jenner to change his gender than it is for Cassius Clay to change his name?”

It’s the last line that seals it for me.

This has never been a tirade against trans people or trans rights or LGBTQ+ rights, it’s been about who gets the most privilege. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It’s a very well known fact that the experiences of a black trans woman will be much different from a white trans woman. Chappelle points out the imbalance in justice in The Closer. It has absolutely nothing to do with trans rights.

You know who does have to do with trans rights, though?

J.K Rowling

Source: Hawtcelebs

Infamous Harry Potter author.

She liked some tweets by someone who supposedly said something transphobic. If that supposed transphobic thing was “biological sex exists” I’m going to blow my lid.

I’ll admit that I don’t know what tweets Rowling liked because I’m rarely on Twitter and this happened a few years ago. I do know that Rowling having a cross dressing murderer in her book Troubled Blood (which I have) does not mean she is saying trans people are dangerous. Cross-dressing doesn’t even mean someone is trans. Hell, I love wearing dude sweats with a wife beater tank. I cross-dress. I’m not trans.

Now that we got that out of the way.

Rowling wrote an article on all of the allegations against her, and a few quotes stuck out to me, one of which I do indeed have a minor problem with.

One thing she points out is: “The argument of many current trans activists is that if you don’t let a gender dysphoric teenager transition, they will kill themselves. In an article explaining why he resigned from the Tavistock (an NHS gender clinic in England), psychiatrist Marcus Evans stated that ‘claims that children will kill themselves if not permitted to transition do not align substantially with any robust data or studies in this tea. Nor do they align with the cases I have encountered over decades as a psychotherapist.’ “

In fact, one big topic in the trans community that isn’t talked about enough, and which J.K Rowling mentions in this article, is that people DO de-transition. They are silenced, they are rarely lifted up by the trans community, and that to me is disrespectful and hurtful. There are people who transitioned too early and saw it as a mistake. There are people who were confused on what it actually meant to have gender dysphoria, and thought that because they liked boy toys and played with boys as a kid, that they were actually a man. This sometimes does irreversible harm to the body: some women never get their voice back and testosterone permanently alters their physical form. Now, I am not a conservative and I rarely agree with everything YouTuber Blaire White says, but in this video she invites a de-transitioner on her channel and hearing that story made me research this topic on my own. Take a listen.

What Rowling seems to be afraid of is people taking advantage of the system. She says at one point that “the current explosion of trans activism is urging a removal of almost all the robust systems through which candidates for sex reassignment were once required to pass. A man who intends to have no surgery and take no hormones may not secure himself a Gender Recognition Certificate and be a woman in the sight of the law.”

What I think people THINK she is saying is that people who don’t take hormones or surgery aren’t real trans men or women. She is not saying that. She is saying you can walk up into court, put on a dress as a man, say “I’m a woman” and have a lawful certificate prove it. What Rowling worries about, as a survivor of sexual assault, is sick men praying on vulnerable women.

Now, as someone who has worked for 5+ years as a peer counselor, I will tell you worldview is the first thing we look at and what I hear is a woman who is terrified of something that may never happen because of what has happened to her. I hear a woman who still remembers what it felt like to have a man overpower her, and I hear and understand her worries for other women and children. However, I also believe there are many good men in this world, and most won’t enter a bathroom with the legal guise of a woman to molest or assault a child/woman. Rowling’s comments aren’t coming from a place of hatred, they’re coming from a skewed worldview.

She says: “I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others, but are vulnerable for all the reasons I’ve outlined. Trans people need and deserve protection. Like women, they’re most likely to be killed by sexual partners. Trans women who work in the sex industry, particularly trans women of color, are at particular risk. Like every other domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor I know, I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.”

This is the quote I had an issue with. For one she said “like women”, as if trans women aren’t women. They are indeed, neurologically, women. Their brans have developed with more feminine hormones and structure, so they are women. Let’s just get that out of the way.

But also, most of her article is so focused on the abuse by men, the overpowering by men, the this by men, the that by men, that it almost comes off like she despises or maybe fears them still. This has absolutely nothing to do with trans women or men. It has to do with Rowling and her own inner demons.

If you’re curious of her full article, click here.

Conclusion

And so we see that when someone is called out for being “transphobic”, we really need to dive into what’s being said and what it means. Saying that biological sex exists is not transphobic. Choosing not to date someone who is transgender is not transphobic. It’s hurtful and discriminatory, but it’s not transphobic. I could choose not to date someone because they’re short. It’s discriminatory but it’s not because I hate short people, it’s because I’m not comfortable with it. And that’s my personal preference and people are allowed to have that when choosing their mates (for the record, my boyfriend is shorter than I am and we get along just fine.) Comparing the injustice against people of color to the quick moving, and quite successful LGBTQ+ movement isn’t transphobic. Being afraid of sexual assault, even when it is based on personal past trauma, has nothing to do with trans rights and therefore is not transphobic.

Saying “I hate trans people” is transphobic.

Hurting someone because they are trans is transphobic.

Refusing service because someone is trans is transphobic.

And last but not least:

Artists are the voice of our generations. They point out things to us that maybe we don’t always see. They speak words that are controversial. They bring in their perspective and yes, sometimes that perspective is based on anger or jealousy or past trauma. They are human.

The day you can’t handle someone else’s opinion is the day you need to get off the internet.

I wish I was famous enough to get cancelled for this article.

Until next time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain.

Posted in psychology, science, Supporting Friends/Family

Mental Health Month: Gender Dysphoria

I’m hoping to write this Mental Health Month post with as much care and thoughtfulness that has been given to the other diagnostic labels we’ve covered this month. I am in severe back pain and terrified of going to Urgent Care in fear they’ll label me a drug addict. I’ve been accused of using meth by doctors in the middle of a panic attack, had my blood taken against my consent, and already had a Percocet prescription filled three or four months ago when I first injured my back. I did well, didn’t need the pills, got into physical therapy, but all of the stress and mental deterioration has set my back aflame. Severely.

I thought about postponing this post tonight because my mind is defeated. But I fear people will assume I’m giving unfair and biased treatment to Gender Dysphoria, as people who struggle with it are often treated unfairly and forgotten. My voices were having a nice time watching my suffering tonight. They told me “look at the fun we’re having!”

I’m defeated and emotionally fragile.

But tonight, we talk about Gender Dysphoria as a label and also as an experience.

There is only one diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria in the DSM (besides the unspecified/ other specified category) and that is called, well, Gender Dysphoria.

In simple terms, Gender Dysphoria occurs when someone (child or otherwise) feels their biological sex is incongruent with the gender they identify with. In children, as well as teens and adults, this must be observed for at least 6 months. Criteria includes a strong dislike of one’s sexual anatomy, a strong desire for one’s body to match one’s experienced gender, cross-dressing and insistence that one is different than what they have been told to present as.

Why Do People Argue About This?

To be honest, I have no idea. Gender is indeed a construction, whether people want to believe that or not. We, as a society, have chosen what is masculine and what is feminine. This influences every facet of our lives, from the clothes we wear, the attitudes we bare, the emotions we stuff down, our careers. It even influences how well we do in math; girls are consistently praised less and encouraged less in elementary math. This is not on purpose, it becomes an unconscious habit.

People think that biological sex is black and white; you are either male or female. Hormones in development tell a different story.

Like the rest of the students who started college the same time I did, I was plunged into the diversity of people on campus. Well–gender diversity at least. There were more people open about their sexual orientation, their preferences, their pronouns. I didn’t care, honestly, if someone who presented as John wanted to be called Caroline and wear dresses. It really doesn’t affect my life. But I didn’t understand. How could someone feel like a different gender? When I was a kid, I preferred playing in the dirt and as a teen I preferred wearing baggy jeans and getting into fights. I made out with a girl in middle school. Did that mean I was supposed to be a man? What the hell was all this transgender stuff?

From someone who has never experienced Gender Dysphoria, let me tell you: it’s impossible to imagine how it feels. At least there’s a simulator for hearing voices, that can give a non-voice-hearer insight to what it feels like and sounds like. There’s no Gender Dysphoria simulator.

The depth of my outside understanding came from my Biological Psychology course my second semester of college. Sex hormones, in fact, have trouble making up their minds sometimes. Testosterone, for example, will get busy forming the physical parts of a man while Estradiol gets charged with forming certain pathways of the brain. Depending on the pathways that get more estradiol than average for what would be a biologically male child, the brain may end up having more feminine instinct.

That’s not exactly how it happens, but you get the drift: one hormone develops more in an area of the body while the opposite develops more in the brain. This has been documented. While I couldn’t find the great sources my professor from 6 years ago had–at least not publicly available ones–I did find this review that might be interesting to you. It talks about hormones, development, and further research specific to brain sex differences.

Gender Dysphoria does indeed appear to have biological and genetic connections. What is there to argue against?

Is Gender Dysphoria a Mental Disorder?

It is, after all, in the DSM-5. In the DSM-3 it was considered “transsexualism” and in the 4th it was called “Gender Identity Disorder”. The name has been through many transformations but the fact is they still want to classify this as a medical condition. I’m not quite sure why.

I don’t see how normally developing hormones is considered a disorder. There are no malformations or diseases that result from your brain developing with more female hormones and your body developing with more male hormones. I see that those who are forced to suck back their truth in fear of condemnation, homelessness, violence, and rejection, suffer from depression, anxiety, and consistently die from suicide. That’s not a result of Gender Dysphoria. That’s a result of societal intolerance and ignorance.

Humans come out in variety. Inter-sex is more common than people think; people are born with two types of sex organs, or half of one, half of another, and you wouldn’t know who they are on the street. The internal fight that carries on with people stuck in a world that sees everything in black and white would kill the average person. People think that the rate of transgender transformations going up means the youth is being corrupted, that too many boys are being told “it’s okay wear a dress” and too many girls are being told “you don’t need to have children”. The reality is spaces are getting safer. People are coming out because they can now. People in their sixties are stepping into a freedom they’ve never had. Children are being raised to embrace their feelings rather than stuff them. Gender Dysphoria and Transgender individuals have been around for as long as your average man and woman.

Gender Dysphoria itself, in my opinion, shouldn’t be in the DSM-5. Instead, I vote for added Gender Dysphoria specifiers on things like depression and anxiety. Hiding inside of yourself can cause a lot of internal turmoil. The cause of the dysphoria, however, is not a disorder. We might as well label being human a disorder at this point.

What About The Children?

I think parents get worried when their kid is learning about all these terms, like Non-Binary, Transgender, Cis, Assexual. They worry it will “confuse” them. And I think, as with anything, there are parents who go too far. Some pull their kids out of health class if they discuss gender differences, and there are some parents who force gender neutrality on their kids. None of this seems to help the cause either of them are so passionate about.

No one cannot hammer your kid into experiencing gender dysphoria.

You cannot force your kid into being gender neutral.

You can encourage them to express their feelings.

You can let them know that if they ever feel like they want toy cars instead of barbies, or visa-versa, that it’s okay.

Children will develop into who they are regardless of what you want from them–that is a given. It’s your choice to accept them, and their level of wellness, especially in the beginning, is in some way dependent on your acceptance. As they grow older, it’s then their choice to accept your position. Are you willing to risk losing your child, metaphorically and physically, just because you think stuff like gender dysphoria is some new-age hippie shit? That’s the question I feel parents should ask themselves.

I grew up hating anything girly. I refused to wear pink, yellow, or anything bright. I ripped apart every Barbie or doll I was accidentally gifted (the gifter not knowing my anti-girl tendencies). I had a collection of hot-wheels and other model cars, and all of the toys I played with were animals mostly, who’d i’d give voices and character to. I remember my mom asking me one day whether one of the toys was a boy or a girl and I shrugged and said I didn’t know. It didn’t matter. I wore baggy clothes, got along better with boys than girls (still do) and I greeted all my friends with a fist bump or one of those “masculine” hand shakes.

The point is, NONE of this resulted in me being confused about how I identify. I am comfortable with my biological, female sex. I have a boyfriend of 5 years, and am considering children in the future. I still dress in baggy clothes sometimes, I have a resting bitch-face I’m quite proud of, and honestly I had that problem guys do with women: I used to get friend-zoned constantly with guys. It’s a horrible experience. I don’t hesitate to punch someone in self-defense, but I like to have my nails done and my make-up on point and my club dress “lit af”.

Talks about tolerance and acceptance can’t turn anyone transgender or create true dysphoria. The arguments about whether people with gender dysphoria, and people who transition, are worthy of kindness is what’s going to confuse kids.

There are so many major points to hit with Gender Dysphoria. I can’t fit them all in this post. If you have more knowledge and experience than I do, please feel free to comment below, correct me, or contact me. If you want to share your story with Gender Dysphoria, let me know. I would love to put it on this site. Although it’s talked about often these days, it’s not always talked about in the right way. We need more voices and experiences to drive home that everyone deserves respect regardless of gender identity.

As always, thank you for reading. Please send good thoughts my way. Judging by the amount of mini breakdowns I’ve been having this week, it’s going to take a lot of self-love and self-care to keep me from going back on medication.

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