The little mermaid, barbies, and butterfly wings: how gender sterotypes influence young transitioners

A 20 year old male who is questioning his gender identity posts to r/asktransgender:

I remember when I was in elementary school, I never understod the concept of cooties. “What’s so disguting about girls?” I would ask myself. “I’d rather hang out around girls than guys.” As a young child, I felt like some of the things I did were “wrong” for a boy. Most of them are silly things: my favorite colors have always been bright colors; purple and pink, traditionally “girl colors” are in my top 4 favorite colors, and I remember in first grade feeling that it was wrong for me to like these colors. As a child, and growing into adulthood, I always liked having girl friends better than guy friends. Sure, being socialized as a guy in this world, it was easier to have guy friends, so I had more, but I always liked having girl friends too, even when all the other little kids thought it was “gross” for some reason.

Boy likes “girly” things (as many boys do!), and prefers the company of girls. Hardly unusual, but unfortunately stigmatized in our society, as he noticed from a young age.

I didn’t fit in super well with other guys. I never got into sports, and I was never one for army games or any of these other “manly” things. I liked tech things, and that was about the extent my love for things typically “masculine”. My best friend during the first 10 or so years of my life was a girl. I loved playing with my friend, and I would play whatever game she wanted to play. It’s hard to remember, but I’m sure that sometimes we played stereotypically “feminine” games. I know that, on more than one occasion, her barbies were the center of attention. I remember this one time when I was over at her house, and she left the room for a second. She had butteryfly wings and I just wanted to try them on. It felt “wrong” to me sort of; it felt like I was doing a bad thing, or something I wasn’t supposed to do, but I didn’t think it was fair that girl got to dress up as fairies with butterfly wings, but I couldn’t, because I was a guy. But I felt stupid and ridiculous for doing it. It felt like some sort of guilty pleasure. And if I recall correctly, the moment I could hear her walking back towards the room, I took them off in a hurry so she wouldn’t notice, but there was something I liked about those butterfly wings.

So he has tastes and personality traits that don’t match the rigid stereotype of how boys are supposed to be, and he feels self-conscious about this.

From a young age I did some things that would probably be considered weird, or at least would have, back then. If I remember correctly, I used to use my “blankey” sometimes and pretend it was a dress and just wrap it around my body like it was one. Once my blankey had been forcibly removed from the picture by my parents, I began to accumulate a series of stuffed animals. I gendered every single one of them as a girl. I always wanted a sister, and I never got one. I think I wanted a companion to be female around and do typically feminine things with. I wanted someone who I could relate to. I always felt that I could relate to a sister better than the crappy brother I have.

More of the same. He is perceptive enough to have picked up that he does not fit the male gender role, and he wants to hang out with girls. He also hints at enforcing of rigid gender roles by his parents, something that shows up a lot in these trans kids narratives.

As a young child, with absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of the female anatomy, I would often, in the shower, manipulate my penis in such a way that made it seem more like what I thought down there might look like from a girl. I’ve always wanted to know what it felt like to be a girl. I think a curiosity of the female anatomy stemmed from this, because female anatomy was something I could never experience, but always wanted to, and I was fascinated by learning about what it was like and being able to put that picture together myself.

Curiosity about bodies.

My favorite movie around this time was The Little Mermaid. I loved that movie so, but it felt wrong to me, because I was a guy, and The Little Mermaid is a disney princess movie, and guys aren’t supposed to like those kinds of movies. But I did, and for the longest time I was ashamed of it. When I would watch kids tv shows, I would love when the commercials for girls toys came on. I was tired of seeing all the commercials marketed towards “male” toys, and although I had no intent on buying them, there was always something appealing to me about the way that the “girl” toys were presented in the commercials, almost in a way I could relate to more than with the boy commercials.

I always felt that there was something about girls that I could identify with better than boys. Boys always felt like these hypermasculine war/violence/aggression-loving machines, and I would much rather associate with the less agressive beings not hell bent on fake-killing each other all the time (speaking about stereotypical gender roles here).

Now, I don’t know how accurate these memories of my childhood are – the brain can change the way you remember things – but this is the most accurate I can get, and I’m pretty sure that most, if not all of these things, were real.

I was raised a cisgender male in a cisgender family with baby boomer parents. I was raised and socialized as a male. It’s what society and my parents were telling me to do. They grew up in a different time. I was born with a penis so I was raised as a boy, but I’ve always wished that I could have had the chance to decide how I feel for myself.

He likes a movie about mermaids and he doesn’t want to be aggressive. He even admits that he’s talking about stereotypical gender roles, but still presents these facts about himself like they are significant signs of something other than simply his personality. Note again the reference to his parents enforcing gender roles.

I’ve never particularly hated my body, but I didn’t particularly have a fond liking towards it either. I’m mostly indifferent to it. My body is fine, I guess, I think because I’ve lived with it my whole life, so I guess I’m used to it, but I don’t really like the male aspects of it. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I’ll think about what I would look like if I were a girl, or if I had breasts, or if I didn’t have chest hair, or facial hair, or some other manly feature. I try to look past my masculine features when I look in the mirror. They’re okay, I guess, but I think I’d rather not have them.

I find the naked male body in general to be a displeasing sight to look at. Seeing a naked male body, in movies or in the pornography I’ve seen, is not a pleasing sight to me, and I don’t feel like I really identify with the male body or male the male position in heterosexual sex scenes. Maybe it’s a reminder of my own male features that I don’t have a particularly fondness to, though I don’t know.

Notice how he says he doesn’t hate his body. This is a recurring theme in internet communities like these. Posters will start out not hating their bodies, and then a few weeks or months of obsessing, they suddenly talk about hating their bodies after all. Note also that what he does not like are his masculine features. Why is this? Our bodies have social meaning, and this is a male who has personality traits that our society likes to label “feminine”. Since he full well realizes that his personality is not like the stereotypical “manly man”, he is distressed by the masculine features of his body.

I also enjoy the idea of having long hair, and I’ve always liked something about having long hair. At one point, I grew my hair out really long, and it was just really enjoyable for me, possibly because it made me feel feminine. At one point, while my hair was growing out, I used my mom’s hair bands to try and give my hair a bit more of a feminine look (for brief moments in my own privacy), like pigtails or a braid. I think I really just wanted to (and still do want to) experience what it’s like to have hair like a girl.

More stereotypes. He wants long hair but is apparently unable to separate hair from gender.

I’ve started becoming really worried that every moment I take to figure out whether or not I am trans is another moment that I grow older and have a less likely chance of ever appearing “normal” as a women, and at the age of 20, almost 21, time feels like it’s running out really fast.

And finally, he’s obsessing over time running out. That exact phrasing shows up a lot, we saw it in this post, where a 13 year old kid was obsessing over the changes puberty was doing to his body.

Less than a month later, he starts taking antiandrogens:

I literally went into an appointment with my mom and I had almost no idea what it was about. I talked with a social worker and then a doctor came into the room and basically was like “how would you like it if I told you that you could walk out today with a perscription of spiro” and I honestly didn’t expect that to happen walking in.

Doctors are giving him antiandrogens after seeing him once. Apparently nobody has bothered to actually talk to him about the medication he is starting, becausethe day after he posts again, asking “Can anyone give a detailed listing of what Spiro actually does?

So like, I know some of the stuff it does, but I can’t for the life of me find a comprehensive list of every way that it acts as an anti androgen. I’m just sorta wondering what I can expect it to do to my body until I’m able to start E. So… does anyone actually know?

Then two weeks after that, he asks. Spiro feels like it’s doing nothing?

Yeah, I know it’s only been two weeks, so I shouldn’t expect that much, but hair seems to be growing exactly as fast as before, and I feel 100% the same. I can still feel the testosterone coursing through my brain. The diurect effect seems to have stopped, too, or at least calmed down; I get dehydration headaches every few days, but I’m going to the bathroom like I was before. I feel 95% the same as I did before I started Spiro. Again, I know it’s not even been much time, but I feel like I should feel at least a little bit different or something. Hoping it at least means that E will start working on my body faster once I start that..

Edit: I also just feel all around terrible. My body right now feels like a baggy costume that I can’t take off and I don’t normally feel like this but I just wish I could rip it all off. It feels so uncomfortable right now and I want to get rid of it.

The medication his doctor was so quick to prescribe doesn’t seem to be doing him much good.

Two days after that, he posts this, asking about surgery:

You can get FFS for facial bone structure; voice surgery for the lowered voice; tracheal shave for the adams apple; GRS for, well, you know; hair removal for body hair growth.

What about hips and shoulders, is there a way to feminize those? And are there any other secondary sex traits that I’m missing?

And so we see again, a young male, doesn’t fit into stereotypical male gender roles, likes long hair and disney movies. Goes from saying he’s fine with his body to taking anti-androgens and estrogen in the span of a month, and now seems eager to have as many surgical changes to his body as possible.

From “Not Sure” To Sneaking Hormones Behind Parents’ Backs in a Week

A 17 year old posts to r/asktransgender to ask how he can tell for sure whether he’s transgender or not.

I have no idea where I stand on the whole “gender spectrum” if you can call it that. I know that the idea of transitioning is tied deeply to my sexuality, but I have no idea if it’s a fetish or something more. I tend to have no issue with the fact that I am male; in fact I would go so far as to say I enjoy being male, but whenever I contemplate sex or intimate relationships, I am either effeminate or female in my fantasies.

A teenage male having some confusing sexual fantasies, but having no issues with being male.

When I first found out about the term transgender around the age of 12 or 13, I did extensive research and found out that people who transition either [sic] tend to have better, more passable results. This resulted in me becoming extremely stressed because I felt rushed to make a decision.

This is a pervasive issue with many of the transgender groups on reddit and elsewhere – the preoccupation with “passing” as the opposite sex, resulting in questioners feeling pressured to start transitioning as early as possible. We’ve seen examples of it in earlier posts on this blog with the talk of testosterone “ruining” and doing “damage” to the bodies of the males who go through their natural puberties.

Ultimately, it culminated in me telling my parents I was trans, which I regretted immediately. Not only were they taken aback, but I felt like it all “got too real” too quickly and so I lied and said that I had only done it to get attention. Now I’m 17, no longer stressed about transitioning quickly, but I have no idea what to do. I know that given the opportunity to rewrite my life where I was a girl since birth, I would take it in a heartbeat.

What the poster refers to here is a question that is often posed to the people who are “questioning their identity” in these communities. The “magic button” question asks “if you could push a button and become the opposite sex, would you?”. The problem is that when you have no idea what being the opposite sex actually means (and how could anyone, especially a teenager), the answer isn’t really meaningful.

My worry is that I only ever think about it when I’m horny. After doing the deed, I immediately feel silly or ashamed about it, so I worry that it’s entirely fetishized (if that’s a word). I dunno, I also know that the longer I go from sexual release, the stronger the feelings become. Does anyone else have a similar story?

So. Male teenager has sexual fantasies about “being effeminate or female”. What advice does he get?

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Among others, this. “A lot of us start off with sexual feelings”. And the “button” question again.

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More sexual feelings beeing taken as a good reason to transition.

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“Would I be happier if I was a girl? Yes”. Without any explanation of what “being a girl” means.

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Again the same line we’ve seen before. If you want to be a girl, then you are one. There is nothing more to it.

Five days later, the OP posts again:

I’m in a position where I won’t be able to do anything drastic for at least a few years, and it’s killing me. Is there anything I could, say, add to my daily routine that would feminize or at least slow the frickin testosterone in my body. Diet, exercises, supplements, anything that a teenager with could acquire without suspicion?

Five days. That’s how fast he went from being fine with being male, to talking about testosterone killing him. Also note that he is going behind his family’s back with this.

Then three days later:

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A few people tell him it’s not a good idea, but he also get this:

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As well as advice about brands and dosages:

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Notice again how insanely fast it goes. From a male with some sexual fantasies to asking about sneaking hormones without parental consent or medical supervision, in one week.

“I’m 13, I want to transition, and my time window is fleeting”

A thirteen year old boy posts to r/asktransgender February 11th this year. (redditlog of the post in case it’s deleted). Let’s see what he has to say.

I always acted “feminine”, but it never affected me until much later. I liked playing with my mom’s makeup, putting on my sister’s dresses, I grew my hair out in elementary school, etc.

So, a kid with an older sister likes to mimic what his sister does.

I began getting terrible depression when I entered third grade (presumably as the definition of “gender” was clearly defined at the time), to the point where I got suicide.

I went to a therapist at the time, where I said that I didn’t “fit in with my friends” and was depressed because of it. The therapist blew it off, and said I was just sleep-deprived. In late 3rd grade and through to the end of elementary school, I had terrible OCD. Once I entered middle school, my mom forced me to “stop acting so sensative”, and basically asked me to stop expressing my depressed feelings (I understand why she did it, but it only made me feel worse).

Depression, suicidal ideation, OCD, and a mother who seems to enforce the stereotypically “manly” treat of not being sensitive and not showing emotions. Many of these kids seem to have parents who try to enforce rigid gender stereotypes on their children. This theme is repeated later in his post, when he says that

Telling my dad isn’t an option either, because he has tried to raise me to be his manly son (signing me up for boy scouts, baseball, woodworking, wrestling) and telling him might just break his heart.

He writes about his friends:

My friends, who were only girls at the time (I didn’t like the classic “male” stuff) all abandoned me for other, female friends. I basically was alone until I made a few friends in seventh grade. Nothing came out of all this, and it felt like I would be stuck in this rut forever.

So, in addition to having a hard time emotionally, his female friends abandon him. What this kid needs is emotional support, and for someone to tell him that it’s ok to be a sensitive guy who shows empions. It’s ok to be a feminine guy who likes makeup and long hair. He desparately needs rolemodels who can show him this. What he gets instead is the “helpful” people on reddit’s r/asktransgender.

Cut to January 7th. I was reading about transgenderism on my laptop, in my normal depressive state. However, a major bout of even worse depression came over me, which I basically disregarded at the time. Later that night, however, I connected my experiences to those on the subreddits and connecting communities. I realized how much happier I would be living as female, but also realized that I couldn’t do anything about my condition.

A depressed kid with OCD, feeling abandoned by his female friends and pressured by parents to act “less sensitive”, browses the internet and “realizes” he would be happier “living as a female”. What does he think “living as a female” entails? He’s thirteen, has few friends and limited experience with the world. It took him just a month of exposure to reach this conclusion.

I realize that I’m 13, and it’s only been a few weeks, but I’m sure about this decision. I want to transition, and my time window is fleeting. I’m lost, what do I do?

So what advice does r/asktransgender have for this kid? Do they tell him it’s ok to be a feminine guy? Do they tell him it’s ok to be sensitive? Do they ask him why he thinks he’ll be happier as a female, or what he imagine “living as a female” means? No. They tell him this:

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They tell him that his natural puberty (that he is probably just starting) is going to do “damage” to his body, and they tell him to use suicide as a method of extortion on his parents.

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They tell him that he absolutely cannot wait, he needs estrogen as soon as possible, because otherwise testosterone will do damage to his body.

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You cannot wait! Your body will be ruined!

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“There is no right age to transition. The right time to do it is when they realize that they are transgender and have made the decision to do something about it.” – meaning that a 13 year old with depression, OCD, and suicidal ideation, who has known for a month that he will be “happier living as a female” should not be questioned in any way. They should be put on the fast track to hormones, with or without their parents’ consent or even knowledge.

This is what happens to young teens reading these communities.

Questioning Reinforced, Again: This Is What Recruitment Looks Like

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The person in this thread believes he could live as a male, doesn’t think he could consider himself a woman even if he transitioned, and believes he could end up suicidal if he started presenting as a girl at his high school.

According to him, he’s only been thinking about heading down this road for a few days:

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So what are the responses he gets, this kid who’s been thinking about transition for a few days, admits to obsessive thinking patterns, and so on?

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Yup.  “You sound trans.”  And sure enough, within a couple of days

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Parents: if your child has recently come out as transgender and seems more depressed/anxious than before, CHECK THEIR INTERNET HISTORY.  Find out where they’re posting.  The forums we’re looking at right now are just one location out of many where these things are happening.  Your child may be being manipulated by adults into a situation that is making their mental problems worse, not better.

How Quickly It Happens

Remember being a teenager?  A crush you’d had for a week felt like it had lasted forever and probably meant you should marry the person, the new political idea you had was the one true belief, and so on.  In teenage world, emotions run high and obsessions develop quickly.  Watch what happens:

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In this post from two months ago, a gay teenage boy talks about his high school ex-boyfriend who now has a girlfriend.

That’s pretty tough stuff for a high schooler to deal with–and it only gets tougher when the ex starts kissing his female best friend in front of him, a little less than a month ago:

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“I’ll never have that with him,” he thinks.  He’s sad–who wouldn’t be?

But then comes the next phase–just five days later, this child, who previously has referred to himself only as a guy or a male, says this:

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Now, he’s transgender–mentioned only for the first time.  But he’s still confused:

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Note the lack of desire to transition, just wishing he had a higher voice, not wanting to even shave or have female sex characteristics.  This is a boy who is grieving the loss of an early relationship and realizing that the boy he was in a relationship with preferred girls–and he is endeavoring to become a girl.  It would be heartbreaking enough … but none of the people in the groups he goes into mentions this.  No one talks to him about adolescent heartbreak, or how it can make us wish we were different people just so the person we were crushing on would love us back.

Look what they tell him to do instead.

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Yup.  The solution proposed to this kid’s heartbreak and jealousy, here, is to start acting more and more feminine.  And look what it does–look what this child is saying TWO DAYS after people suggest these coping methods, and four days after saying he was comfortable with his genitals, did not want to shave, et cetera:

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That’s how long it takes, folks.  That’s how long it takes a young child who doesn’t mind his body–who talks in earlier posts about how he doesn’t mind his height, doesn’t want to change his body, and more–to decide that permanent, irreversible bodily changes are necessary for his continued survival and happiness.

It only takes a few days, when a child is caught in the right psychological place, and transgender people on websites like Reddit are eager to guide them toward transgender ideology as a solution to their problems.  Instead, it leads to increasing body dysmorphia/dysphoria (more on that later–many people in these groups have even noticed that when they leave the groups temporarily or permanently, their dysphoric feelings are eliminated) and suicidal ideation.

This is far, far, far from the only case.  This is happening every day.  And we’ll be documenting it.