Transgender Reddit User Leads A Long, Respectful Conversation With Other Users, And It's A Good Day For The Internet

Everyone, stop what you're doing and celebrate: An actual respectful, nuanced conversation was had about a controversial topic on the Internet. No, really. Recently, transgender Reddit user hotchocletylesbian shared some of her perspective on being transgender with other users of the site, and what followed was an actually pretty great discussion. And no you're not hallucinating, this not only happened on the Internet but on Reddit of all places. Maybe the place really is changing for the better.

This magical occurrence began when a Reddit user farawayfaraway33 posted a sincere question on the forum "Explain Like I'm Five," about why transgender people are not considered to have a mental illness and why that illness is not treated the way that most others are, by trying to eliminate the symptom of feeling stuck in the "wrong" body (though it should be noted here that not all trans people feel that way about their bodies, just that their gender identity doesn't match up with what society says it should be, based on their body).

Hotchocletylesbian chimed in with a nuanced and detailed answer that broke the issue down pretty well.

Transgender person here, and your question is a good one (or at least, a common one that really isn't answered clearly very often)

The short answer is: yes, Trans people are considered to have a disorder. Gender Identity Disorder and Gender Dysphoria are disorders recognized in the DSM.

There have been a few studies establishing certain evidence to support the idea that this is inherent (a few having to do with brain mapping/MRIs pop up now and again) but the funding and interest for serious, driven research into the field just hasn't been there until recently. A lot of existing studies are either too old to be taken seriously or flawed due to lack of funding or existing bias. The best guess right now is that the brain is just wired to expect a different set of physical characteristics than it has, and thus causes dysphoria as a way of expressing that it thinks there is something wrong with ones body.

Your question seems to be more "Why don't we get these transgender people mental help instead of physical modifications to their body" and the answer is:

  1. Trans people already have to have years of therapy from multiple doctors and therapists to get the required letters of recommendation (verification that therapists and doctors have confidence that the person does experience Gender Dysphoria and that they believe that sexual transition would be beneficial to the patient's mental health) needed to get hormones and SRS (sexual reassignment surgery) and no form of conversion therapy has worked anywhere near consistently.
  2. It is just easier (at this point in time, at least) to modify the body to reduce dysphoria than it is to modify the brain to stop dysphoria altogether.

As far as what I can describe to you from personal experience, I am not in denial about the fact that I have a penis and that I grow facial hair and that my body produces testosterone. I can tell you that the physical presence of these things causes constant distress, feelings of depression and self hate, the whole nine yards. When I wear female clothes, ask you to call me by a different name or use different pronouns, wear makeup, etc., it is more to fool my unconscious self and distract it from the fact that certain parts of my body just feel wrong.

Plenty of other similar conditions, like Body Dysmorphic Disorder, have long been recognized and accepted by the medical community. Sometimes the brain expects your body to be different than it is.

It's like if you were to take the hard drive out of one computer and into a different computer. You'll probably be able to boot and do most things, but you'll occasionally get some errors because that hard drive and the Operating System inside has been set up to expect a certain hardware configuration in the computer, and has problems when what hardware it thinks you have differs from the hardware you actually hook up to it. We (the medical community) don't know how to reprogram the computer yet, so switching out hardware is the next easiest thing.

Trust me, if there was a pill that got rid of my dysphoria so that I felt content with my male sex characteristics, I would imagine that would be far easier and pain free to take than years of hormone therapy and multiple, very expensive surgeries. Such a thing doesn't exist yet, so I only have one other choice.

Again, this happened on the Internet. I may never get over it.

The poster, hotchocletylesbian, has since edited the post to reiterate that this is her experience of being transgender and her perspective on Gender Identity Disorder and Gender Dysmorphia, and that others can and probably will disagree. And indeed, there are lots of people who don't like framing these disorders as something that needs to be "cured" in the way intended here, but rather as conditions whose proper course of treatment is to transition — or not as "conditions" at all. Being recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders certainly makes it easier for trans people to get treatment, but plenty of people feel that they don't actually belong there.

Obviously, this is a big issue, one that probably isn't going to be sorted out on a Reddit board — but then again, Reddit might surprise you. As I said at the beginning, the conversation that happened after this has been surprisingly nuanced and respectful. People have been chiming in for over 24 hours expressing their support, discussing trans issues, and talking about everything from regional differences in LGBT treatment to the future of perception of trans people to what the best approach is for LGBT people who are expected to answer personal questions all the time.

In the midst of cat videos and trolls and celebrities behaving badly, it's always nice to see the Internet living up to its potential as a major force for good in the world by fostering open and respectful discussion and giving people a chance to learn. As anyone who reads the comments knows, it is rare to ever get a large group of people to stay on topic — let alone respectfully — about just about any sensitive subject. And yet, here we have an example of people doing just that. So congratulations, everyone. It's a pretty good day.