Not that long ago, the answer to this question would have been just as simple: “I know that you really believe that you’re a woman, but the fact is you’re a man, biologically and anatomically, and you can’t just change from male to female.”
Today, such an answer is often considered highly insensitive, if not intolerant and bigoted. After all, don’t we know that some people really are born in the wrong body?
Actually, we don’t. As expressed by Dr. Paul McHugh, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry and chairman of the Johns Hopkins psychiatric department, “We psychiatrists . . . would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia.”
What about people diagnosed with gender dysphoria (or Gender Identity Disorder, GID)? Well, is this markedly different than people diagnosed with BIID?
As expressed by Selwin Duke, “Sure, it strikes us as the most horrid malpractice when a doctor amputates healthy body parts, such as a pair of legs. But, then, should we call it something else just because those healthy body parts are between the legs?” (Note that neurological differences in the brains of transgenders are most likely the result of their gender identity struggles rather than the cause of them.)
So, just as people who identify as transgender are convinced that they are trapped inside the wrong body, people with BIID “see themselves, and have always seen themselves, as amputees” (Dr. Christopher Ryan, a University of Sydney psychiatrist).
The fact is, we know that our minds don’t always tell us the truth, and they are far more malleable than our body. So, if our mind tells us something that biology clearly says is wrong, it’s likely our minds are misleading us. Somehow, this simple observation often escapes the GID debate.
Unfortunately, rather than focusing more of our attention on trying to help transgenders from the inside out, sex-change surgery is now glamorized and gender is viewed as something subjective and malleable. In fact, the Los Angeles Unified School District Reference Guide goes as far as to say, “‘Gender identity’ refers to one’s understanding, interests, outlook, and feelings about whether one is female or male, or both, or neither, regardless of one’s biological sex.”
A biologically normal child who is female, male, both, or neither? Is this much stranger than a girl claiming to be part werewolf and part vampire?
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.