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What’s In A Name: Or, Do All Lesbians Experience Some Form of Dysphoria?

When I was about 12 or 13, I decided I did not like my given name (Anna). To make matters worse, being from the U.S. South, I was called by both my first and middle names (Anna Lynn). (This phenomenon was prevalent at that time where I grew up; many of my female peers had double names like Ellie Jo or Mary Beth or Maggie Jean).

At the time, I wasn’t exactly able to articulate why I didn’t like my name. The best I could come up with was that it felt too “girly” somehow…it just didn’t feel right.

And that wasn’t the only thing going wrong for me at the time either. I was distressed with the changes in my body; specifically, I didn’t feel comfortable with my new curves, primarily because I felt I wasn’t running or swimming as fast as before. I felt awkward, off-kilter, out-of-sorts, and just plain wrong in ways that I couldn’t fully explain in words. And I still have trouble explaining it in words.

So I upped my exercise to minimize curves, while I secretly fantasized about finding a new name for myself. My parents had considered naming me Jodie after my father, and I steadfastly wished they had. Other contenders were my middle name (Lynn), Bennett (a distant family name and my current writing pseudonym), and Alex (because it seemed suitably androgynous).

I didn’t mention any of this angst to my parents. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. A lot of thought had gone into my name, and I had been named after a beloved relative, so I didn’t want to offend by admitting I was unhappy with my name.

So I kept my feelings to myself, something I was extraordinarily good at. Any feelings I had were sublimated through daily runs, bicycle riding, hiking, swimming, and tree climbing. My basketball coach always jokingly called me “Bo” anyway (teasing me as if I had a “bow leg”, referring to the knee “brace” I had to wear to run suicide drills), and even that felt more right than my real name. (Side note: It’s apparently no longer politically correct to call those exercises “suicide drills” because everybody is apparently such a tender, delicate, oh-so-precious little snowflake now. Oh, well, that is what they were called at the time so that’s what I’m going with. Sigh.).

My point is: As a young Lesbian, I felt uncomfortable in a way that I didn’t have words for (and I still struggle to explain, even now) about having a (so-called) “feminine” name, even though I am what I’ve seen referred to as a “feminine-presenting lesbian” (although, ironically, certainly not as “feminine” as many people seem to expect me to be — see my previous post, Not Femme Enough…?).

The nebulous feeling that I am struggling to articulate relates directly to what I was trying to describe in my previous post, Lesbians Are Different.

Ever since I was a child, I always had straight female friends as well as male friends, and I always knew I was different than both in fundamental ways.

While I never experienced what I would consider to be true or severe dysphoria, I did, and still do, feel significant discomfort and a certain cognitive dissonance when I have tried to “dress up” and act “feminine”.

After talking to many other Lesbians over the years, who universally reported similar feelings to varying degrees, I now believe that all Lesbians experience some form of dysphoria, ranging from mild to severe, which stems from being inherently different in a heterocentric world.

We will likely write on this topic later.

Lesbians Are Different

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#PicsArt #FreeToEdit

Ever since my partner, spouse, and all-around sweetie-pie, Dirt, wrote a post entitled “Lesbian Children Are Not Girls: How Hetero-Society Ignores Lesbians“, she has received lots of feedback both publicly and privately: positive feedback from Lesbians and argumentative comments from hetsplainers.

One hetsplaining commenter in particular persists in insisting that any differences between the sexes, and/or differences between Lesbians and heterosexual females, is simply a matter of “socialization” and “gender stereotyping”.

While socialization and stereotyping are indeed real, they are not solely responsible for, nor do they sufficiently explain, the differences between Lesbians and heterosexual females that Dirt is writing about.

The other tactic the hetsplainers like to use is the “exception to the rule” argument. They will completely ignore most the information presented and go straight to the argument that they and/or someone they know don’t fit into what Dirt is saying in one way or another.

It should go without saying (but it obviously has to be said anyway!), that, when speaking in generalities about any topic, of course, there will always be “exceptions to the rule”. These expected exceptions to the rule, however, do not disprove the rule, and using this tactic as an argument is simply a way to try to minimize or deny what someone is saying.

My point is that (as usual!) heterosexuals are responding  to Lesbians by arguing, minimizing, and denying what we are saying (in this case, about our own existence!), rather than realizing that they do not know what the heck they are talking about, and therefore shutting up long enough to listen and learn.

Another common misconception (either legitimate or “intentionally misunderstanding” in order to argue) is that Dirt and I are saying the Lesbians are not biologically female. BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT IS BEING SAID, PEOPLE. Sigh. For the love of all that is holy, I implore everyone to please learn how to read, to learn how to COMPREHEND what is read, and to learn how to process what is read BEFORE knee-jerking into an emotionally-charged response based on your own incorrect assumptions rather than what is actually being said.

Dirt’s posts (a 3-part series, here is part 2) will cover the topic of how Lesbians and straight females differ in depth, but I also wanted to write briefly about it.

When I wrote the guest post entitled “A Lesbian Psychologist Speaks Out“, I touched very briefly on this division between Lesbians and heterosexual females:

“Even though I am a so-called ‘feminine-presenting’ lesbian myself, there are still significant differences in how I process and approach the world in comparison to my heterosexual cohorts…

Because lesbians often don’t see others like ourselves in the world around us, we often feel we are different than other females.”

This difference is something that is difficult to fully understand, much less articulate clearly. However, despite struggling to put it into words, feeling “different” from an early age is something that every Lesbian I have ever spoken to (or read about) consistently reports.

I wanted to give a brief summary of a just a few of the ways in which I personally have perceived myself as “different” from my straight friends, acquaintances, and coworkers:

  • I am/was neither flattered by, nor bothered by, males. (Note that I am not talking about stalkers, perverts, rapists, or otherwise abusive males…everybody should be bothered by them! Rather, I am referring to “regular” males encountered on an everyday basis ~ fellow students, coworkers, neighbors, etc.).
  • I didn’t “lose myself” when adolescence hit, unlike my straight friends and fellow students (and many heterosexual adolescent girls!), who were suddenly (and overwhelmingly!) more interested in boys than in anything else. Grades, hobbies, interests, friends, family, pets, etc. are suddenly yesterday’s news for many straight female adolescents.
  • Even though I was already aware that I was a Lesbian as an adolescent, I didn’t go “girl crazy” like my cohorts went “boy crazy”. Even when I met my first partner at age 17, I still made A’s in college, worked 2 jobs, volunteered, worked out, and still maintained my friendships and family relationships. My world didn’t simply stop to revolve around my romantic relationship; yet, time and time again, I have seen (otherwise intelligent) straight females seemingly sucked straight into a black hole
  • As Dirt said in her post, “Lesbian children are not culturally groomed to have our bodies change (develop) for the purpose of pleasing other (teen/adult) Lesbians as/when we mature.” Most heterosexual parents are not even aware they are doing it, but girls are groomed and reinforced from a young age to welcome sexual maturity and the heterosexual assumption/privilege that goes along with it. Girls are reinforced for physically attractiveness (“You’re such a pretty girl! You’re going to break lots of boys’ hearts one day!” and similar comments). Therefore heterosexual girls are often proud of the new curves that appear in adolescence. In contrast, I was extremely uncomfortable about the changes in my body at adolescence, and made every effort to cover up (still do!). Instead of welcoming the sudden attention I got for my looks, I dreaded it. (Although I did not have full-blown dysphoria myself, I do believe that ALL Lesbians have some degree of dysphoria).
  • Because I am not straight (therefore, I am an outsider), I could/can usually see clearly what’s going on (including what is going to happen) in my straight friends’ love lives, to the point where many have said I am “psychic”. Being on the outside allows me to view heterosexual relationships/culture/behavior with detachment, and makes me typically able to observe and understand male behavior more clearly than my straight female friends.
  • I didn’t/don’t understand the hints, innuendos, and vague language often used by my straight female cohorts. I didn’t/don’t understand the desire to speak indirectly rather than simply stating what is wanted or needed. For example, if you want something specific for your birthday, why not just say so, rather than assuming your partner “should” magically know (and then being disappointed when you don’t get what you want)?  I don’t understand it; I never will. But my straight friends say they find such directness “inappropriate” (or even “unimaginable”!). (Note that I am not referring to “good/bad manners” here, but rather simply directness versus indirectness of communication).
  • It wouldn’t have occurred to me to break plans with a friend because I suddenly got a date, yet doing so seems to be often both accepted and expected amongst straight female friends.
  • As a child, adolescent, and adult, I have never completely “fit in” with straight people, male or female, although I get along well with both. I have personality characteristics that are considered to be “stereotypically female” as well as personality characteristics that are considered to be “stereotypically male”. It’s like I live in a middle world, which is separate from both, but also like both, in various ways. Thus, Dirt’s assertion that “Lesbians are not girls”. (Again, please note that Dirt is NOT saying that we are not biologically female. Dirt is saying that Lesbians are different from straight females. Duh.).
  • When I comment online, either anonymously or using a gender-neutral username, I am often accused of “mansplaining”. Straight females often seem to mistake my directness for male behavior. No, it’s Lesbian behavior!

These are just a few examples. Of course, every Lesbian’s experience is unique, and I am not speaking for all Lesbians (nor do I want to).  (Similarly, every straight woman’s experience is unique as well, and, as I said above, of course, there are always exceptions to every rule).

I will say, though, that I have heard of numerous similar experiences in the stories of Lesbians. Enough to ascertain that there is indeed a definite pattern of difference between Lesbians and straight females.

And all the hetsplainers in the universe cannot explain away this truth.

A Lesbian Psychologist Speaks Out

Originally posted here:

https://youthtranscriticalprofessionals.org/2016/07/22/a-lesbian-psychologist-speaks-out/

A Lesbian Psychologist Speaks Out

By: Saye Bennett

I am a lesbian, and I am a psychologist.

Those two facts have been inextricably linked in my mind as I have observed, with increasing dismay, both the mental health community and the medical community unquestioningly accept the current transgender trend as fact.

As a psychologist, the most urgent and obvious concern I have about this uncritical acceptance of the transgender trend is our ethical mandate to “Do No Harm”. How can we, in good conscience, happily send our clients down a long and dangerous path of cross-sex hormones and invasive surgeries?

(If you don’t think there are dangers in these interventions, please take the time to research very thoroughly, making sure to scratch beneath the shiny surface veneer of the relentlessly positive trans propaganda).

Our goal as mental health professionals should be to empower our clients to become their healthiest, best, authentic selves.

To believe that a client’s true self can only be achieved by changing everything true about herself is ludicrous.

And yet that is exactly what the mental health and medical communities are wholeheartedly endorsing.

The current political climate is increasingly limiting professionals’ choices in this matter, and is now even squelching our right to speak out with questions and concerns.

Questioning is now deemed hate speech, and refusal to simply automatically submit to client demands is now deemed unprofessional and “transphobic”.

When it comes to the transgender trend, differential diagnosis is forbidden, yet how can professionals adequately diagnose or recommend treatment without getting the full picture?

Instead of blindly accepting our client’s diagnosis of herself, we should be doing what we do for ALL clients, which is to actually find out what is going on that led the client to this point.

There are many factors that may need to be considered when a client reports she is transgender, including, but not limited to: sexual orientation (more on this below); trauma; general body image; eating disorders; medical history; autism spectrum disorder; mood issues; anxiety; family relationships; and social dynamics (including social contagion).

In other words, a thorough assessment of all relevant factors and a comprehensive background history are needed to get a full picture.

The mention of sexual orientation leads me to my next point, because, as I mentioned above, the transgender trend concerns me greatly in my professional role, but it affects me even more saliently as a lesbian.

As a lesbian, I can say with firsthand knowledge that lesbians often do not meet society’s stereotypical notions of “femininity”. Even though I am a so-called “feminine-presenting” lesbian myself, there are still significant differences in how I process and approach the world in comparison to my heterosexual cohorts.

Therefore, because lesbians often do not fit into society’s narrow definition of alleged “appropriate” femaleness, I have been witnessing many lesbians being ensnared into the trap of thinking that they must be transgender.

Because lesbians often don’t see others like ourselves in the world around us, we often feel we are different than other females. This is likely to be even more true during childhood and adolescence, before we have the independence and the means to get out and explore the world.

Many lesbians have interest in activities, peers, toys, items, hobbies, colors, clothes, books, movies, TV shows, games, etc. that do not fit into society’s narrow view of “stereotypical femininity”.

So if a female reports she “does not identify with/as”, nor feel similar to, other females, it does NOT mean she is “really a male”, it just means that she is a different, unique, and equally valid, type of female.

Similarly, if a female reports that she likes sports, or the color blue, or wearing pants all the time, or wants to play with trucks instead of dolls, (etc.), it does NOT mean she is “really a male”, it just means she carries her femaleness in a way that is different from society’s rigid expectations.

Females who do not fit into the traditional “feminine” stereotype do NOT need hormone blockers or cross-sex hormones; they do NOT need to “socially transition”; and they do NOT need unnecessary surgeries.

Female bodies are not the problem here…society’s expectations are the problem.
There is no “right way” nor “wrong way” to be female.

What girls/women who carry female differently do need is unconditional acceptance and support, in order to become comfortable navigating being different in a critical and rigid society.

Mental health and medical professionals owe it to our clients to think critically about all information being presented to us.

We owe it to our clients to delve deeply to find the truth, and to always strive to “Do No Harm”.

Bottom line, we owe it to our clients to critically question an ideology which is based on John Money’s already discredited gender identity theory; and which is also based on stringent, faulty notions of what it means to be a female.

**Note: The focus of this post is based on females, so that is the term used for simplicity and clarity. However, please note that the same general principles would be relevant for males who do not fit the stereotypical notions of “masculinity”.

09/09/2016:  Edited to add:  I did not discuss dysphoria in the post, primarily because this post was intended to be a general overview of my concerns as a lesbian psychologist regarding the trans trend, rather than an in-depth exploration of the diagnostic process. Dysphoria is a term that is very often misused and overused. I believe that all Lesbians experience dysphoria to varying degrees, but it does not mean we are “really trans”.