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Christian Counselor Explains Gender Dysphoria 

Article by Mikel Kelly, MA, LMHC, NBCC    

image text that reads "(dis)Gender(ed)"

May 28, 2023 / 3:00 pm EST read in approx.: 1 hour/36 mins

Updated: October 28, 2023

Blue male and pink female icons

We want to know why (having sound biology) some people are incongruent with their bodies (which this article intends to answer).

The letters d, i, and s (that prefix the title of this article) combine to form “dis,“ which negates whatever word they precede. Inserted before the word “gender” using brackets suggests its inclusion was an afterthought in reaction to discovering something new. These three letters also constitute a slang reference now commonly used as a verb to communicate the disrespect of someone, as expressed, “You dissed me” or “I felt dissed by you.” Misunderstood and disregarded is how gender dysphoric people often feel. Finding an “ed” at the end of a word indicates past tense and that something has already happened, making it a forgone conclusion. Perhaps even implying that some circumstance is irreversible and final with no hope of going back. The underlying implication of designating oneself disgendered (a play on words) includes a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that a person who was once “cisgendered” is no longer that way. But, of course, the fact that something has changed proves that it can change again. While surgeries to remove breasts or sex organs are genuinely irreversible, this article aims to show that a person’s psychology remains pliable amid life struggles and can ultimately find truth and healing for that which challenges a person’s view of themselves.


According to a 2020 entry in the Urban Dictionary, [1] despite there being no such word as “disgendered,” its use now appears to be emerging. Disgendered (sounding like another word, “disjointed”) perfectly describes the modified meaning of gender and family when beliefs about gender and biology do not match one of its members. Essentially, the word disgender has become the antithesis of cisgender, where a person is no longer congruent with the gender they were assigned biologically at birth. In such cases, biologists would say that being disgendered simply means a person’s phenotype does not match their genotype.

Cause for Alarm

Only a generation ago, the incidences of disgender or rather gender incongruence were, at best sporadic. Historically, since the introduction of the term “gender dysphoria” in 1980 by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the diagnosis was relatively obscure, approximating the number of adults in 2013 to be 2-14 per 100,000 with a population average of only 0.008%. More recently, however, a stark upsurge in gender incongruence has become apparent. The surge which began in 2006 reached its peak in 2015 thus causing alarm. [2]  According to a report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, the number of 13-17-year-olds who identify as disgendered has increased to 1.49% nationally in 2022. Not surprisingly New York as the nation’s 4th most populous state ranks first at double that average with 3.00% disgendered youth. Following close behind are New Mexico and Hawaii ranked 36th and 40th in population, with 2.62% and 2.15% disgendered youth respectively. While the rates are undoubtedly fluid, the states presently with the lowest percentages are Kentucky (26th) at 0.68%, New Jersey (11th) at 0.67%, and Wyoming (51st) at 0.56%. [3] Currently, the percentage of US high school students identifying as “transgender” ranges somewhere between 2% and 9% among peers (This equates to 2,000 to 9,000 persons per 100,000), which is well above 1980 estimates. In comparison, 3% of male and 5% of female college students identified themselves as “gender-diverse” in 2022. [4] Perhaps spearheading these surges is Brown University whose student-led newspaper The Brown Daily Herald found that LGBT disgendered identification among Brown students is now five times higher than the national average. [5] The poll also found that nearly 40 percent of Brown students say they are not straight, which lands 14% above previous 2010 figures. Despite unexplained factors for why disgendered youth may choose Brown, the university’s appeal could well be related to what causes disgendered youth to become disgendered. It appears that Brown University’s popularity among young people with gender dysphoria may be due to its emphasis on student-centered and research-based learning opportunities that empower students to make a positive impact on society. Understanding the cause of their dysphoria and ways to prevent it for future generations is likely a priority for many young people who experience it. [6] Notwithstanding the larger-than-average disgendered population at Brown along with surges of gender incongruence across the nation, America continues its search for answers.


Amidst this changing landscape as the stability of gender is refuted more and more along with increasing use of cross-sex pronouns, society can no longer take a person’s gender for granted. This movement has led to much confusion making social interactions tentative, awkward, and distressing. The argument that genotype is the body system out of order and not a person’s psychology per se further fuels the controversy. As the debate grows, America is reaching a juggernaut of opinion that is now playing out not only in America’s high schools and on college campuses but also in the legislatures and courts of many states.

Legislative Trends

In 2022 more than two dozen states introduced legislation restricting or banning access to gender-affirming health care for gender-incongruent youth under the age of eighteen. Presently, twenty-two states have now enacted legislation. [7] Current court injunctions in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, and Kentucky prevent these laws from taking effect either in part or in whole. [8] On September 27, 2023, a District Court Judge added Montanna to that list by blocking its law from taking effect. [9] On September 5, 2023, based on a ruling a month earlier by a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that lifted Alabama’s injunction, Judge Sarah Geraghty vacated her ruling on Georgia’s law allowing its bill to take effect. [10] The bills introduced seek to limit the prescription of gonadotropin (GnRH) puberty-blocking and cross-sex hormone drugs along with transition surgeries to persons under age 18. On April 5, 2023, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill (SB) 480 into law the day after describing this topic “clear as mud.” [11] On the heels of Montana, [12] and Texas [13] is North Carolina which became the most recent state to adopt legislation where on August 16, 2023, representatives voted to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the bill with the support of two House Democrats. [14] Furthermore, the proposed legislation aims to hold back a flood of public acceptance that encourages children, parents, and healthcare providers to expand upon procedures that may produce lifetime unwanted consequences. Especially at an uncertain time of life when the adolescent brain has not fully matured.


Neurologically speaking, the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, responsible for skills like planning, prioritizing, and making good decisions, does not mature until a person reaches their mid to late twenties. [15] Recognizing the importance of providing healthcare coverage to young adults until they fully mature, The Affordable Care Act requires employer healthcare plans to make coverage available to a parent’s dependent children until they reach the age of 26. [16] Despite these accepted milestones in human development, on January 1, 2023, Colorado became the first state in the country to include gender-affirming care services as part of its health insurance plan for essential health benefits (EHBs). [17] 


Therefore, the jumbled title of this article (using a nonexistent word) sums up just how confusing this topic has become, how misunderstood disgendered people are, how divided lawmakers have become as well as the current methods utilized to ease the distress of those who are disgendered. Without question, as one of the most contentious topics today, gender incongruence is an emotionally charged subject not only for growing numbers of insistent children who assert that they are the opposite sex but also for those who seek to hold their best interests at heart.

Historically, since the introduction of the term “gender dysphoria” in 1980 by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the diagnosis was relatively obscure, approximating the number of adults in 2013 to be only 2-14 per 100,000.

Despite the many lines now being drawn among various groups, gender incongruence is not a mental health profession vs. a Hippocratic oath issue. Neither is it a faith vs. secular issue. Nor can it be said to be a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It is not even a father vs. mother issue, even though all the various groups listed bear some responsibility for proliferating and maintaining the discordance. Truth be known, opponents and proponents alike can be found on either side of the argument in every one of these groups. As we will discover, while a person’s biology plays a role, the recent surge in gender incongruence appears to be primarily due to a psychosocial issue rooted in family dynamics. Therefore, any productive discussions to ascertain what is best for children must include what happens in the family. As a Christian Counselor standing with one foot in psychology and the other in faith, successfully treating people with these concerns, the answer seems compelling. Someone must step forward apart from any partisan agendas to advocate for the interests of all those concerned. That mandate is now more urgent than ever, especially since no professional has come forward (as of 2022) to explain these concerns authoritatively. [18]

As the debate continues, it has essentially boiled down to whether or not to affirm a child’s belief about self or dissuade the child. But, unfortunately, all sides disagree about the overarching question of what is the greater and lesser harm. Does affirmation cause more harm, or does resisting a child’s “trans” declaration lead to a better outcome? This is a critical question that parents must answer in these uncertain times. How that question gets answered determines the response, which must drive the outcome to only one of two treatment options. We can treat the body or treat the mind. Which of those choices, in your opinion, should theoretically produce the best outcome; that a child receives surgeries or that their feelings about themselves could change? Despite your opinion, which of those two choices should be preferred? While logically, some think the answer to that question should be a “no-brainer,” it’s not quite that simple. Several extenuating problems are preventing America from choosing what might seem best. And certainly, no one-size-fits-all approach works for everyone. One of those extenuating circumstances relates to a disruption to biological systems during embryonic fertilization and gestation.

Biology-Based Gender Traumas

Studies from the Human Genome Project have discovered that while humans and chimpanzees share a surprising 98.8% of their DNA, there is very little outward evidence to suggest they are that closely alike. [19] Likewise, sharing a whopping 99.9% of their DNA, males, and females might also seem more alike than they actually are. [20] Of the 20,000 genes that each human carries, researchers have identified that 6,500 of those express themselves differently in each gender. [21] Therefore, even though males and females are genetically more alike than different, their lopsided versions of each other reveal dramatic biological and psychological differences. When those genetic differences are blocked by mutations, male and female development can get altered, leading to biological and psychological trauma.


Perhaps one of the least-known biologically based gender traumas is (AIS) Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. It is an extremely rare genetic condition occurring when a person is born genetically male but looks anatomically female. AIS represents a very small percentage of the people who suffer from gender dysphoria, occurring in less than 2 to 5 persons per 100,000. [22]  Instead of the typical female XX chromosome configuration, the AIS person has the XY pattern indicative of males. Biologists understand that the condition manifests itself when androgens (primarily testosterone) fail to masculinize the genetically male body. 

photo of blue and pink DNA

Faulty androgen receptors then allow the person to develop physically (whether wholly or partially) just as the female default, with one apparent exception related to the brain. Acknowledging the significant differences between male and female brains, scientists suppose that the unfortunate outcome for the AIS person is that their body does not match their brain. If their speculations are correct, legitimate gender dysphoria would result, and a bona fide belief of being trapped in the wrong body would persist.

In milder forms of AIS called (PAIS) or Partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, a person’s genitalia may be ambiguous at birth, making it difficult to determine the infant’s gender. When this occurs, even though the child might be genetically male, it is often reassigned as a female for ease of surgery. [23] Theoretically, the mismatch shows up later when a person’s brain signals the incongruence outside any active psychological assessment of one’s body. Why is this important? Because if the body signals the mismatch, it implies that the dysphoric thought comes from beyond a person’s conscious control. If the incongruence comes from a self-assessment, then a person can theoretically change that. Therefore, people with AIS who have incongruence forced onto them biologically rather than being psychologically self-imposed probably have a reasonable gripe for wanting cross-sex hormones, not to help them change from their natal genotype but to better align with it. In principle, their reasons for wanting to change would constitute a more ethical use of hormonal treatments. But, unfortunately, in all practicality, awareness comes too late to be efficacious to them.


Once body systems have formed in utero, the development course is predetermined. Sadly, the AIS person’s body can never function according to their genetic gender despite how skilled a surgeon might be or how effective hormone treatments are. Even so, this does not have to be a bad thing. The uniqueness of their biology can produce exclusive perspectives that could help humanity rather than become a source of consternation. The truth is that men and women have had difficulty understanding one another from the very beginning. How wonderful it could be that someone could bridge those gaps by turning something that happened to them into something positive for others. Beyond AIS, there are other causes of biologically based gender trauma, including teratogens.


A teratogen is any environmental toxin that affects embryonic development in utero. Toxins can include chemicals, radiation, and diseases that a mother ingests, breathes, or is otherwise exposed to. [24] When considering an infant’s embryonic sexual development, the child is most vulnerable to teratogen exposure during weeks seven to nine, even though the continued growth of external genitalia may be impacted throughout the remainder of gestation. Teratogens are generally specific, attacking only one body system. 

For example, when women contract rubella or use opioids during pregnancy, even though their babies might develop heart defects, they are born with normal limbs. Likewise, when mothers consume (PCB) polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated fish, their children typically have normal body parts, and motor skills, with below-average verbal and memory skills, but their hearts remain unaffected. Equally important is the fact that teratogens can have a delayed impact.


From 1947 to 1971, diethylstilbestrol (DES) was prescribed to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage. While their infants appeared normal at birth, the effects of DES did not become fully apparent until they were adults. Daughters of women who took DES became more likely to have a rare cancer of the vagina and to have difficulties becoming pregnant themselves. Sons of women who took DES may have abnormal seminal fluid and are at risk for cancer of the testes. Here is a case in which the impact of the teratogen is not evident until decades after birth. [25] Likewise, who knows what lasting effects puberty-blocking and cross-sex hormones will have on a person? 


No one knows yet the full biological and psychological ramifications of these treatments on patients. Only recently has data started to trickle in. One of the main problems for children with a teratogen injury comes not from a mismatch in their gender identity due to a mismatched brain (as in AIS) but from judgments of their genitalia either by themselves or in comparison with others. Unlike AIS, gender unhappiness due to teratogen malformation is more likely to arise from a psychosocial genesis than due to biologically induced unhappiness.

Therefore, psychosocially induced traumas would be best treated psychologically rather than with surgical intervention.


Since conditions like AIS and teratogen injuries are beyond a person’s control, lawmakers show compassion by allowing for subjective treatment options. But when AIS can be ruled out through blood samples identifying a person’s karyotype (including the presence of X and Y chromosomes)[26] tests could help categorize a person’s gender dysphoria into either biological or psychological causes, thus making the course of treatment more straightforward. Notwithstanding biological forces, this article intends to examine family psychosocial factors. That said, two groups of people have emerged, representing the poles of a statistical distribution.


On the one hand, we have a group who experience gender dysphoria due to marked biological incongruence between genotype and phenotype. On the other hand, a second disgendered group must exist not for biological reasons but from psychological causes. Even though AIS patients could likely benefit from psychological interventions to help accept their reality, those not qualifying for that diagnosis must be distinguished from their biological counterparts and understood. We want to know why (having sound biology) some people are incongruent with their bodies (which this article intends to answer). Intuitively then, any person with a perfectly good body who experiences dysphoria points to a psychological cause. Shifting our focus to this strictly psychological group, we can further segregate them into two additional subgroups. 

diagram "Of Those Disgendered Due to Psychological Causes"

Source Image ID 185747031 © DarkLightPhotography |

One of those psychological subgroups also claims that their bodies have malfunctioned and that they should be the opposite sex. The difference between them and the AIS group is that their claims of incongruence (apart from karyotype testing) are an assumption made from self-diagnosis. Even with AIS ruled out, this subgroup remains unsure of what causes them to feel disgendered. As in every statistical distribution (or bell-shaped curve), a polar opposite subgroup must also exist who are not unsure why they want to be the opposite sex but who purposefully pursue incongruence knowing exactly why. This opposite subgroup (perhaps identifiable as “shemales”) consists of those with alternative purposes for cross-sex hormones and transition surgeries. They may feign dysphoria for purposes of sexual arousal. Counselors and Psychologists encounter the faking of symptoms from time to time and refer to it clinically as malingering. This group consists of those who realize they have nothing against their natal gender but insist on wanting to experience the opposite sex simply because hormones and surgeries are available. Surely it must be these two psychological subgroups that policymakers seek to either protect from inadvertently harming themselves due to a lack of knowledge concerning their subconscious motivations or circumvent the misguided use of vanity hormones and surgeries. Assuming that conditions like AIS are a valid reason for gender incongruence, then false pseudotypes would cause harm by casting aspersions on the legitimacy of those with that condition. Apart from having any guiding legislation, the medical community has gotten caught in an ethical crossfire of deciding who gets treatment and who doesn’t get transition care. Whether for noble or ignoble purposes.

Medical Efforts to Alleviate Stress

Since no psychological expert has brought forth definitive psychological causes or treatments, a well-intentioned medical community has filled the vacuum by attempting to eliminate the suffering of this population just as it has with depression. For example, in 2020, landing just behind the class of medications that control high blood pressure called antihypertensives, antidepressants were the second most prescribed medication of any type. [27] According to statistics from Singlecare, dramatic increases were seen in the percentages of antidepressant fills for generic Lexapro (70%), Zoloft (31%), trazodone HCl (21%), and Prozac (20%), all commonly used to treat psychological depression. [28]  These statistics represent roughly a twofold increase from the prior year. Despite escalations due to the pandemic, pharmaceutical care advancements still seem to be winning the war in treating psychological issues, thus nudging out mental health professionals. Furthermore, one of the major problems with a gender-affirming marketplace, of deferring to medical interventions is that they have been established through precedent rather than scientifically, thus making them experimental. [29] And if that doesn’t alarm you, let us not forget dollars and cents. 

Americans live in a capitalistic society that stands to profit from new sources of revenue. The US sex reassignment surgery market, valued at $267 million in 2019, is expected in the coming years to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.23% from 2022 to 2030. The rising incidences of gender dysphoria and the increasing number of people deciding on gender transition surgeries are expected to boost market growth. [30] If you thought doctors and hospitals might be immune to such profit concerns consider Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s transgender health clinic which fell under scrutiny when two videos surfaced showing a doctor touting that gender-affirming procedures are “huge money makers” thus prompting Tennessee lawmakers to act. [31] In question are the ethics of a gender-affirming marketplace where mega companies who market heavily to youth, have jumped onto the gender-affirming bandwagon. Are hospitals and physicians any less subject to such marketing strategies even though they have a potential for gain by recommending gender-affirming care to minor patients who will, by the way, (87.8% of the time) abandon their (untreated) gender incongruence during adolescence?

The problem posed to legislators and primary care physicians alike appears to stem from a near-universal lack of confidence in the mental health profession and its systems. Psychological advancements have not kept pace with other sciences as their treatment methods have become time-consuming and costly while traditionally offering little if any, guarantees of success.

Because of this failure, pressure mounts from organizations like the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH, 2007) countermanding the previously accepted Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Standards of Care (HBIGDA,1998) by openly endorsing fast-tracked cross-sex hormone therapies and reassignment surgeries, while in the same breath condemning reparative or conversion psychological therapies. WPATH presupposes through Version 8 assertions that mental health interventions are futile and a waste of time. [32] In November 2021, two of its leaders openly declared that “The mental health establishment is failing trans kids.” [33] Sadly, they are correct. The mental health profession has contributed significantly to the maintenance and even proliferation of the problem.

USD money bill with a pink female and blue male symbol

182933090 © CalypsoArt |

The poor quality of mental health services has been a point of consternation for the parents of disgendered youth, prompting the formation of dozens of support groups across North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Distressed parents hoping to understand what caused their children to develop gender incongruence are frequently unable to find anyone in their community who understands it any better than they do, nor anyone who does not immediately recommend affirmation. Amazingly, that list includes mental health professionals who (exasperated themselves) have retreated behind claims of being “inclusive.” And, whether due to abdication of clinical responsibility or ignorance, have inadvertently thrust medical interventions forward as the first line of treatment. Furthermore, the medical community has indiscriminately offered services devoid of sound psychology and ethics, which has caused unnecessary harm, sometimes bordering on malpractice. [34] 


Consequently, without counseling alternatives at hand and in an apparent rush to affirm gender-incongruent persons, many states have bought into WPATH recommendations by banning the counseling of such persons. Presently, conversion or reparative counseling therapies are illegal in California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Jersey, New Mexico, Connecticut, Nevada, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Delaware, New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, Maine, and the District of Columbia. [35] While some states have also contributed to the maintenance and proliferation of the problem by proving to be an obstacle, the church has not fared any better.


Once the overseer for the daily cure of souls and armed with no greater understanding of the problem, members have landed on either tolerance or condemnation. For reasons you will discover later, neither is truly helpful. Therefore, proceeding with an ethical mandate to “not harm” as our nation’s most pressing hot-button issue of today, this article seeks to advance understanding of this burgeoning topic while untying the messy tangle of misunderstanding. To do so, we will examine several case histories beginning with the story of Cheryl. 

Psychological Gender Incongruence (Female to Male Subtype) — The Case of Cheryl

(Names and other identifying aspects of all persons mentioned in this article are fictitious and have been changed to protect client confidentiality.)

Born female and an adolescent at the time of treatment, Cheryl entered my office with her family to receive grief and bereavement counseling for the loss of her mother. The unspoken objective for counseling quickly became apparent when she asked me to call her “Cheryl” rather than the legally given name listed on her intake forms. Unwilling to alienate her so early in the counseling process, the counselor decided to wait and see how the family addressed her. After discovering from my interview with the family that the mother’s passing happened well over a year ago (coupled with their lack of tears), these clues indicated that the acute phase of their grief had passed. However, the concern on their faces told me something else was bothering them. It soon became evident that Cheryl’s alias had become synonymous with another cause of family grief. As you might have suspected, her pseudonym was what her father and brother occasionally called her when Cheryl failed to fit in with them, no matter how hard she tried. As a result, the name “Cheryl” also became a euphemism they used to playfully mock her inept attempts at being a boy. In addition, since Cheryl’s other sisters and brother were cisgender, the counselor began piecing together how she had become gender incongruent.

girl with heand on her head with thinking expression

ID 133037886 © Fizkes |

Further evidence revealed that Cheryl had learned to squash the expression of her feelings in favor of the more scientific language the males in her family used. She engaged in combat video games and pursued athletics with them unless it got too rough. Conversely, Cheryl put away dresses, makeup, jewelry, and stylish shoes in favor of sneakers and camouflage t-shirts. Instead of a bra, she wore an ace bandage to minimize her growing breasts. The counselor also discovered that Cheryl rarely, if ever, participated in the activities of her mother or much older sisters. Cheryl’s rejection of the beautifully feminine name her mother had given her helped encapsulate her growing nondescript identity and how she felt rejected by not only her mother but now, in so many words, by her father and brother.

Cheryl felt that her adopted name also described the “no-mans-land” in which she found herself. The name’s simplicity spoke to the boundaries of being caught between male and female while expressing her thwarted frustrations of not being entirely accepted as a girl or a boy. Choosing such an austere female name told me exactly which side of the gender debate she wanted to land on. Since she didn't choose a male name her female pseudonym indicated that she didn’t honestly want to be a boy but found it impossible to remain a girl. These same feelings of unacceptability are why other adolescents choose avatars to express how they see themselves. Or better yet, how they want others to see them. Aliases, pseudonyms, and avatars offer a safe way to test a person’s acceptance in the paradoxical world of unacceptance. Don’t like me this way? Then try this one. Depending on who withholds approval, they can be easily changed or interchanged to fit the current environment while preserving the more fragile core sense of self.

Now at age fourteen, Cheryl’s puberty began intensifying her paradox. She felt a sense of panic as it forced her to be more female in the male world she was trying to live, while at the same time making it much harder to be a boy. She felt trapped, and the anxiety made it difficult for her to eat. Over the past year, she had lost significant weight. The onset of puberty caused her to compare her physical changes with those of her younger brother; his distinctively deepening voice, the emergence of facial hair, and broadening shoulders all alarmed her. She could not escape the fact that she looked nothing like him. At this time in her life, the chasm between gender rejection and acceptance was widening rapidly. But now, a ray of hope seemed to appear; she had heard about puberty-blocking hormones and thought this could be the answer. While those would have prevented her from looking more female, they would not let her keep pace with her brother’s masculinity. She thought she needed cross-sex hormones also, and maybe even surgery.

These same feelings of unacceptability are why other adolescents choose avatars to express how they see themselves. Or better yet, how they want others to see them. 

Even though the counselor could have ascribed Cheryl’s adoption of male traits strictly to the maternal neglect and male over-identification she experienced, they could just as easily have been explained through the features of an autism spectrum disorder. Symptoms of autism could explain both Cheryl’s disconnection from her mother and their failed attachment. Indeed, researchers have found a connection between autistic persons and gender incongruence. The presence of autism makes a person three to six times more likely to question their gender than non-autistic people. [36]


Theorizing that autism causes females to display subtle forms of maleness and males a more intense form of it, as an infant, Cheryl may have failed to respond positively to her mother’s attempts to cuddle her affectionately or connect emotionally with her. [37] Unable to soothe her infant’s distress or perhaps not feeling affirmed in her efforts to nurture her more stoic daughter might have caused Cheryl’s mom to give up trying, thus precipitating an end to Cheryl’s nurture. If true, this would have caused Cheryl to miss out on an essential part of her development that weakened her ability to express herself emotionally later in life and develop distinctively feminine traits like her mother and sisters. This conjecture begs the question, could Cheryl have been born with autistic features, or did they evolve from a lack of healthy interactions with her mother? Or perhaps did both magnify the other? Cheryl’s stunted development points to another of those chicken vs. egg arguments of what came first.

Unfortunately, in Cheryl’s case, we may never know the root cause since Cheryl’s mom is no longer available for an interview now that she has passed. And because of the rarity of gender incongruence, determining the cause of Cheryl’s male traits, whether due to biological limitations or social reasons, it would be difficult to find other subjects to compare with her. Despite our inability to precisely know what caused her autistic features, we can safely say that Cheryl failed to form a secure attachment or bond with her mother. [38] Making all of that worse was her mother’s cancer which robbed her of the energy she needed to build and maintain the emotional connection with her daughter that would have made Cheryl feel accepted as a female and subsequently acceptable to herself.


One thing is sure: Mom’s passing left Cheryl with a trauma she had to make meaning of on her own which greatly concerned her family. Everyone knew it made no logical sense that Cheryl wanted to be a boy. But, her persistent incongruence was too palpable to ignore. Moreover, her lack of awareness of why she wanted to be a boy and her inability to articulate its cause made it all the more baffling to her family. She only knew that she felt compelled to be a boy. And because she could not state her reasons for wanting to be a boy, the etiology had to be subconscious — coming from a force within. Yet, somehow her mind had made this determination for her. You may wonder how this could be possible. For the sake of clarity, imagine the following scenario.

Positive Subconscious Mental Associations - Glimmers

Suppose you are a young child. Having played outside with friends all morning, you have become famished. Suddenly, your mother appears at the back door of your house. Leaning out, she calls you over. As you arrive, she takes you by the hand into the kitchen, where you detect the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. She then ushers you to a seat at the table, where she serves you a plate full of ooey, gooey, chocolatey chip cookies and the coldest glass of milk you’ve ever had. As you sit there sloshing down those cookies and milk, you notice Mom wearing a flowery apron. She then glances at you with a smile and warm gaze that lets you know she loves you. Were you able to picture that in your mind’s eye? If so, then answer this question.


What would happen if you were at the mall sometime later and saw a flowery apron on a rack or smelled chocolate chip cookies baking? Either of those new experiences would probably remind you of your emotionally charged memory with Mom. The brain process that assembles all of a person’s sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell sensory experiences into an association like that is known as tagging. Furthermore, sensory neurons simultaneously activated form a branch circuit called a dendrite. Stanford neuroscientist Carla Shatz first popularized this process by saying, “Neurons that fire together, wire together” [39] thus describing the brain physiology that accompanies the formation of memories. To simplify things further, imagine your mind working like a computer.


Compared to a computer, your mind temporarily holds the memory of recent experiences in the RAM (Random Access Memory) part of your thinking called working memory. Unless your memory is photographic, recent memories usually stay there only as long as you continue to access them periodically. Less accessed memories eventually migrate to the ROM (Read Only Memory) or the permanent “hard-drive” part of your mind. Like your computer, it does so to prevent working memory from getting bogged down with too much information. Neuroscientists have identified the brain region that holds these memories as the hippocampus. As memories get permanently stored in the hippocampus, they become subconscious and no longer readily available to your immediate awareness. As a result, we often forget they are there unless we have a triggering experience like the example above in which the smell of chocolate chip cookies reminds us of Mom or causes us to crave cookies when someone takes us by the hand. When positive memories are triggered they are often referred to as glimmers. Before moving on, there is one exciting difference between your mind and a computer’s ROM. Your mind is not “read-only,” meaning that memories can be revised. This possibility offers exciting therapeutic news to all who have experienced debilitating interpersonal injuries like Cheryl. For people with longstanding trauma, this means that they can alter their memory by adding a new moderating association to it.

While the subconscious mind can be altered and trigger you to remember past experiences, that is not all it can do. The fight, flight, or freeze part of your limbic brain can take over thinking and behaving for you in as little as 1/10th second. [40] Conversely, average decision-making time requires 7-10 seconds to verbalize once formed in the prefrontal cortex. [41] This limbic speed is an essential feature of the protective nature God created your mind to have. It is vital when you face life-threatening situations requiring immediate action. Once you have survived any such harrowing ordeal, something else happens mentally. In addition to recording the sensory things you experience, your mind also records what happened to you and how you felt about it. Furthermore, it then associates what you did in reaction to it.


It does this for everything you do, including something so menial as putting mechanical parts together. The purpose of which is to establish a mental script of the process. Forget to put the washer on the bolt before nutting it, and guess what? Your limbic brain script that keeps trying to take over the process makes it difficult to do that in the correct sequence from here on out! Mental scripts form to speed up your response time, take the guesswork out, make you more efficient by taking over repetitive things so that you can focus on more important things, and, most of all, lower your stress. The goal is to get your mind to a place of comfort and homeostasis. You could probably tell me several things you can “do in your sleep,” including driving home while in autopilot mode. Once there, you may question how you got home because you don’t remember the turns you made. You can’t remember because it was done subconsciously for you by your limbic brain. At times like these, know that your limbic brain is the one in control and has activated a remembered script that seeks to repeat routine behaviors on your behalf so that you can mentally relax, shut down, and “veg out”.


Subconscious scripts are also why athletes struggle in their game so much. While in the zone where things are happening fast and furious, the limbic brain causes them to keep repeating the same errors, like throwing over a defender’s head instead of using a bounce pass, for example, only to have the pass deflected or intercepted. When the subconscious triggers you to remember something pleasant like flowery aprons or cookies baking, it follows that remembrance with the same warm fuzzy feelings you felt to prompt and motivate you to experience the same thing all over again. The occasional cravings you feel are the beginnings of an activated script where the limbic brain works to bring more pleasure into your life. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. The things the limbic brain seeks to exclude from your life might cause you to develop an unexplained phobia like the one Cheryl had of her gender and the one April developed. 

Negative Subconscious Mental Associations — Triggers
(The Case of April)

April came to counseling with concerns about her marriage and her feelings about men in general. While she liked the idea of an intimate, secure, and committed relationship with a man, the sexual trauma she experienced from her father placed her into a mental dilemma similar to Cheryl’s. The exception was how her subconscious answered her internal paradox. Unlike Cheryl, whose subconscious attributed the cause of injury to her gender, April attributed her’s to the opposite gender. She inexplicably wanted to leave her marriage even though her husband, Scott, was a great guy and provider. She loved him but felt uneasy about living with him. That was not all. April had also developed a phobia of doorknobs. They disgusted her every time she had to touch one. Consequently, April mostly left doors open at home and waited for others to enter buildings and rooms first so that she could follow them in. Finding opportunities to go to the restroom without exposing herself was a bit tricky. April worried that she might be a germophobe or, worse, had gone crazy.

girl sitting on the floor in a dark room, crying

Photo 18587603 / Moonlight Window © George Mayer |

April knew her disgust and fear of doorknobs were irrational, but that didn’t stop her from experiencing negative emotions every time she encountered them. It wasn’t until therapy brought her to a place where she could talk about her abusive encounters with her father that the answer became obvious. As April spoke about how she endured the abuse, she was then able to recall an occasion early on when she once noticed the moonlight coming through her bedroom window and how it illuminated the doorknob to her closed room. Her doorknob was also the last thing her father touched before touching her. 

She told me that she would focus on the doorknob to avoid being mentally present and having to think about what was happening to her. This experience planted a script in her mind that played out each time she saw a doorknob. Her limbic brain’s subconscious fear and disgust of abuse were symbolically attached to doorknobs prodding her to do two things. First, it abstractly attempted to remind her to protect herself and avoid abuse again. After all, her mind concluded that entering a room is where bad things happen to people, and the doorknob is the gateway.

Second, it tried to get her to express something she had never discussed before — with anyone. That had been, up to this point, too dangerous. Victims are often too ashamed and humiliated to discuss their abuse and keep it secret for decades. Frequently senior women in their seventies and eighties who share their abuse with me say I am the first person they have ever told.


For April as a young girl, the thought of exposing her abusive father might have taken him from home. Had this happened, it could have severely threatened April’s security, which left her with the dilemma of how to solve her paradox. Should she report him or play it safe, hoping the abuse would never happen again? Now, as a forty-something adult, the danger of abuse was no longer present for April. The truth was that she had complete control of her relationship with her father. He couldn’t harm her like that again. Yet, despite the absence of danger, her subconscious mind retained the antiquated self-protective trigger and script. The fear of doorknobs and males had since eclipsed the abuse as the dysfunctional aspect of her life. Being abused was no longer what held her back.

Victims are often too ashamed and humiliated to discuss their abuse and keep it secret for decades.

brain hologram

What limited her now were her scripted reactions to her past injury. These subconsciously held dysfunctional scripts are the premise behind those limbic brain reactions that Steve Arterburn hoped to communicate in his book Walking Into Walls. [42] Why? Because that is what they cause us to do. We just keep repeating over and over again the same dysfunctional behaviors. The words of Boston-based psychiatrist Bessel Van Der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score, [43] also ring true. “Trauma comes back as a reaction, not a memory.” [44]

So while our memory of the trauma fades into the recesses of our subconscious as it migrates to our hippocampus, the lingering mental script keeps trying to play itself out.


As the counselor helped April to see what her limbic brain had determined, things began to click for her. And, as she realized she had attributed her emotional disgust from the abuse to doorknobs and males in general, it made sense to her why her mind wanted to keep her afraid of those. As her face brightened and her eyes widened, it was apparent that April had just had one of those light bulb moments we all know about when we learn something amazing. The emotional shock of that revelation convinced her subconscious to let go of its belief that doorknobs were dangerous. In her book, Switch on Your Brain, Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf confirms that you may be presented with all the reason, logic, and scientific evidence in the world, but you won’t believe something is true until your limbic brain allows you to feel that it is true. [45] An emotional reaction must accompany a revelation for it to sink in. Adding that bit of new information revised both April's memory of the abuse and her script, thus allowing her to let go of its attempts to protect her. After having that emotional reaction, April came to believe that her phobias were ridiculous, which enabled her to dismiss her triggers as no longer valid. Subsequently, she began ignoring them, no longer feeling discomforted by them.

April’s phobia teaches us that an underlying trauma always accompanies every fear or feeling of disgust. In confirmation, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” [46] The same is true for the disgendered. The subconscious fear of one’s own gender serves to say that something unspeakable associated with their gender has happened which cannot be exposed thus confirming that a trauma has occurred. The more outrageous the behavioral response simply demonstrates how big the trauma was. Therefore, we should not see disgendered persons moving toward some more real identity but rather moving away from who they truly are and the trauma that precipitated it. Adding to April’s revelation Cheryl’s story reveals more.

Therefore, we should not see disgendered persons moving toward some more real identity but rather moving away from who they truly are and the trauma that precipitated it. 

The imperfect love Cheryl experienced from being dismissed by her family caused her subconscious to question why neither her mother nor father seemed to love her. Even though her subconscious could have answered that question in myriad ways, thinking that; she wasn’t pretty enough, too fat, not funny, impersonal, or not cute enough, it chose to focus on the fact that she was a girl. Had her subconscious chosen physical size as the cause for rejection, she may have acquired a different disorder, such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa. Had she chosen her appearance, she may have developed a histrionic disorder leading her to the world of cosmetics, plastic surgery, and fashion. And since assigning blame for trauma is subconsciously important for the future protection of self, when blame cannot be attached to the actual source of the trauma, the limbic brain often assigns it to the next worst thing. If that is a person’s body or part of their body, a form of revenge or self-punishment may result such as in the case of Borderline Personality Disorder where a person cuts or harms themselves in apparent disgust and anger. Gaining retribution, even though self-inflicted can be psychologically satisfying just as murder might be for others. Sometimes in complex blame, the mind can pick several things resulting in co-occurring or comorbid conditions.

Like April, Cheryl also had a light bulb moment when she realized that her limbic brain had concluded things for her. To be sure, even though people may not notice everything happening around them cognitively, that does not mean those things go unnoticed. Like antivirus software on your computer operating in the background, the subconscious limbic brain constantly assesses our environment and determines things for us entirely outside our awareness. Once again, Caroline Leaf informs us of that fact when she cites that somewhere between 90 and 99 percent of your brain’s activity is subconscious and that only 1 to 10 percent of its work are you cognitively aware of. [47] Consequently, the limbic brain pays special attention to those experiences that cause us feelings of disparity (which we often see resulting in sibling rivalries). For example, despite the competition Cheryl felt with her brother, she highly valued her family, which made her subconscious mind unwilling to blame them for her feelings of rejection.

Just like Cheryl, April was reluctant to blame her father, and she also faced having to assign her fear and disgust to something besides him. Had her subconscious focused on some body part, she may have developed Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). More specifically, had she associated her eyes with the trauma by thinking something like, “If only I hadn’t seen that,” her subconscious may have been tempted to pluck them out. Had her hand or arm been involved with something disgusting, her subconscious mind may have been tempted to cut them off after attributing them to her pain. Like gender incongruence, BIID infrequently occurs among persons who may mutilate themselves or ask surgeons to amputate one or more healthy limbs. Some ask for the transection of their spinal cord to gain pelvic paralysis. [48] Instead of associating her trauma with any specific body part or with her gender as Cheryl did, April assigned the cause of her trauma more generically to her father’s gender instead. And because “no one ever hated their own body,” [49] both April and Cheryl loved themselves well enough to look for something other than themselves to blame for the unfairness of their traumas.

Unwilling to seek prosecution, retribution, or revenge, and with no suitable outlet for the satisfaction of justice to release her anger, Cheryl chose the most straightforward aspect of her personhood from which to detach herself. She was willing to scapegoat her gender for the sake of her greater self-image and her relationships with her family. For her, it came down to a lesser version of self (extracting femininity) vs. family relationships. Likewise, April’s subconscious chose to scapegoat men, which wrecked her ability to have a satisfying marriage. Crucifying some lesser aspect of self (in Cheryl’s case) or the opposite gender (in April’s case) is much easier to sustain than sacrificing self entirely to preserve significant relationships. The answer for both women seemed clear. For Cheryl, the initial thought of becoming a boy should have allowed her to escape the pain of maternal rejection while gaining male acceptance. Instead, unable to anticipate the unforeseen rejection by her father and brother, she became trapped between the two genders. For April, her phobia of men and doorknobs was a subconscious attempt to escape her vulnerability to abuse while retaining the security of her father/daughter relationship. The synergy created when a person can escape something negative while gaining something positive is what often makes that behavior psychologically irresistible. This synergy exemplifies Freud’s Pleasure Principle in action.

Introducing the concept in 1890 when he published The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud originally called it the “unpleasure principle.” [50] Though he knew nothing of the limbic brain, Freud demonstrated that he knew how it operated and the synergy it creates to make behaviors irresistible. The understanding that connected his principles with brain structures would not come until later when only as recently as 1952 did Paul D. MacLean identify the limbic system. [51] 

Here is another important note to make about the limbic brain. In its haste to eliminate psychological distress and to love self, it can call some very dysfunctional solutions “good” even though they could result in more significant trauma later. Case in point: consenting to reassignment surgeries never creates realistic anatomical structures that function as advertised, which like any other good scam, always promises something “too good to be true.


Furthermore, reassignment irreversibly eliminates a person’s ability to reproduce or enjoy a healthy sexual relationship. It is doubtful that even the most brilliant children can meaningfully comprehend the loss of sexual and reproductive experiences they will never get to enjoy. [52] The short-sightedness of the limbic brain’s desire to hastily eliminate emotional pain is why the human brain came equipped with a neocortex designed to override immature or inadequate limbic brain suggestions. When it does so, we refer to that as emotional self-regulation. Children are not typically born with a well-developed ability to regulate their feelings or behaviors. Through loving discipline, fathers are generally the parent who helps his children develop these skills. Mothers usually teach the opposite of self-expression, which is a form of self-love. Both are important to healthy development but inadequate alone.


So far, the stories of Cheryl and April reveal that as a person recognizes the role of their limbic brain, just knowing how it formulates beliefs often causes spontaneous remittance and relief of dysphoric feelings. But unfortunately, symptomatic behaviors are not always immediately released. As a result, gender-incongruent persons may continue to struggle with habits like cross-dressing or homosexual behavior. Such was the case of Clint.

Psychological Gender Incongruence (Autogynephilic Subtype) — The Case of Clint

As a boy, Clint grew up with a father who constantly called him something even more derogatory than a “sissy.” Perhaps a fan of Johnny Cash’s famous song A Boy Named Sue, he may have done so to toughen up his son. But, if so, that plan backfired. His father’s harshness did not cause Clint to become more masculine but actually moved him toward femininity. While Clint did not understand the term his father had called him at such a young age, he knew from his father’s tone that he was not pleased with him. Clint recalled that he later resisted his father’s slurs once he discovered the meaning. Eventually, his father’s persistence caused Clint to give up trying. Ultimately, he began avoiding his father while gravitating to his mother, who showed compassion for him.

blue male icon

Even though Clint steered clear of his father, that did not lessen the approval and acceptance he yearned for. And while unable to receive that from his father, he strangely began seeking it from other, more mature men. As the relationship with his father continued to erode, the more feminine Clint leaned, the angrier his father got. It seemed impossible that Clint would ever gain his father’s acceptance or approval. Clint was unaware of how he developed a hyperattentiveness to male attention until he understood how his subconscious had influenced him. Having acquired an aversion to his own maleness coupled with a positive view of females, Clint’s introduction to the possibility of reassignment seemed like a slam dunk. However, it wasn’t until after he fathered several children did Clint’s wife agree to his transition. As a result, his wife Andrea lost many friends at a critical time when she needed greater support. Her friends left because they could not understand why Clint would want to do such a thing; it just didn’t make sense. Nor did they realize how Andrea could condone or support it. As the cross-sex hormones began enlarging Clint’s breasts, the estrogen caused a critical outcome for their marriage in two ways.


First, the effects of estrogen therapy placed the couple’s lovemaking into a paradox. From being heterosexual her entire life, Andrea felt disgusted at the thought of making love to another woman. Second, seeing her husband more feminine took away the sense of security she banked her sexuality with him on. These two underlying reasons brought their lovemaking to a screeching halt while threatening their marriage. Unfortunately, in her limbic brain’s haste to support Clint’s feelings, she failed to consider the toll it would take on herself and her family. Had she known that her affirmations would have led to these outcomes, she would never have agreed to his treatments. Not to mention that because Clint was genotypically male, his biology caused him to have other personal consequences for himself. 

pink female icon

Clint soon discovered that estrogen offered him a secondary gain. While that doesn’t sound much like a negative consequence, that gain made it virtually impossible for him to stop taking it. Clint found that estrogen supplements neutralized the surge in libido he had felt every seventy-two hours (as a healthy male) before taking it. With his wife’s sexual openness to him gone and his male appetite looming, those two negatives prevented him from wanting to return to his previous biological phenotype. He reckoned that if he stopped taking estrogen, there would be no outlet for his sexuality if he allowed it to return. In Clint’s case, gender transition failed to satisfy his desire to escape from maleness while gaining greater female acceptance that he learned to relish from his mother. Nor, as he had hoped, did it make his sexual experiences more exciting. Instead, the cross-sex hormones trapped him in a “never-never-land” between sacrificed relationships, unfulfilled sexuality, and greater self-condemnation vs. the fatherly acceptance he sought.

According to Ray M. Blanchard, an American-Canadian sexologist known for his studies on gender identity, autogynephilia occurs when a male becomes sexually aroused (philia) by imagining himself (auto) as a female (gyne), or more accurately as he develops a limbic obsession. Most males who seek treatment for gender dysphoria are of this type and do so for sexual excitement. [53] Despite how the typical male starts with cross-dressing sometime before puberty, there are other entrances into this subtype. Due to the male limbic emphasis on pleasure, especially sexual kinds, it is conceivable that partially dressed females are what entice young boys subconsciously to want to wear their clothes and develop a salacious obsession for those things. Especially as they see mothers and sisters (or commonplace lingerie advertisements of scantily clad women) in ways that they are generally not permitted to see women. Wearing female attire because of the excitement attached to those articles could produce a subconscious script and method of being close to a female while keeping the proper social distance taught by putting clothes over undergarments.


Not conforming to the usual way a male adopts autogynephilia (Clint had not cross-dressed as a boy), his late-onset fantasy of becoming a woman was only detectable after he began using cross-sex hormones. By the way, once Clint discovered that his maleness was responsible for driving his biological appetite for sex and that the female libido comes primarily from an emotional connection, he had a light bulb moment. He knew that because of his sizeable sexual desire, he had to be male and not female. Once Clint determined that, he immediately knew that subconscious forces had deceived him into thinking sex could be more exciting as a female. The estrogen he was taking did not increase arousal; it took it away. Clint’s case raises an important point about gender incongruence.

As mentioned previously, most children grow out of their gender incongruence as they reach adolescence. A University of Ontario study of gender-incongruent boys showed that an overwhelmingly large group (87.8%) abandoned their incongruent beliefs about self before adulthood. [54] For the remaining 12.2%, their condition remained dynamic over the lifespan, ever morphing into something different as they searched for ways to resolve their internal subconscious conflicts. Unfortunately, their stabs in the dark could not satisfy the root trauma, which only worsened their situation. In an International Journal of Transgender Health article outlining qualitative research that Annie Pullen Sansfaçon and her colleagues conducted, they shared a quote from a 16-year-old gender-incongruent youth that highlights the subconscious dysphoria that causes many to try various identities in search of answers.


First, I came out as bisexual. Then, as homosexual, and now transgender. So that’s it. Personally, I thought at the beginning that I was homosexual. But [after coming out as homosexual] I didn’t feel better with my life. I though[t] it would fix things but in fact, there was still something wrong and I didn’t know what it was. Similarly, “I knew that I wasn’t cis[gender], I knew that, but I didn’t know exactly [why I wasn’t].” [55]

“First, I came out as bisexual. Then, as homosexual, and now transgender. So that’s it. Personally, I thought at the beginning that I was homosexual. But [after coming out as homosexual] I didn’t feel better with my life. I thought it would fix things but in fact, there was still something wrong and I didn’t know what it was.”

“I knew that I wasn’t cis[gender], I knew that, but I didn’t know exactly [why I wasn’t].”   


Two things deserve mention. First, research on young desisters (people who experience gender dysphoria and ultimately decide NOT to transition) [56] confirms that most settle on being gay, lesbian, or bisexual adults, [57] which are simply alternate forms of gender incongruence. The only thing that has changed is their behavioral reaction to the mental dilemma.


Second, each statement clarifies that subconscious forces are at work creating unrest in sexual identity. Furthermore, the hopelessness associated with being unable to find a solid answer to the feelings of incongruence is what puts this group at risk for greater suicide. And as a group, 56% have reported a previous suicide attempt, while 86% reported suicidal ideations. [58] More importantly, suicidal thoughts indicate an internal struggle between two competing thoughts.


The presence of thoughts to take one’s life emanates from a desire to end the suffering of mental turmoil. In a large way, attempts at suicide can be viewed as a form of self-love designed to eliminate psychological suffering. The existence of any turmoil at all must mean that this group is not only unhappy with the choices they have tried to resolve the unrest but also with not being cisgender. Especially since being cisgender is what they are trying to escape and the thing that they fear or are disgusted by. Therefore, the existence of suicidal ideations divulges and reveals a genuine preference (albeit subconsciously) for wanting to be cisgender. Just as we discovered earlier how Cheryl’s subliminal choice of a female pseudonym revealed her desire to remain a girl, so suicide ideations show a subconscious desire to be cisgender. In addition to sharing suicidal thoughts, this 12.2% group of persisters appears to have something else in common. They not only struggle with dysphoric feelings about their natal gender but also with sexual identity.

That says something about the precipitating trauma they must have experienced. That is significant because one’s gender does not necessarily need to be determined by sexual preferences, lifestyle, or behaviors. While often informing each other, serving as a magnifier, they can coexist or even be independent of one another. Because feelings of gender incongruence are tied to sexuality for this group, through the principle of dendrite formation those two things must have gotten tagged together somehow into a memory and script. That mystery leads us to the last subtype, as told through the story of Marcus, whose story reveals how that can happen.

Psychological Gender Incongruence Androphilic Subtype — The Case of Marcus

Marcus came to counseling near retirement age because of lifelong issues in his marriage with Briana. Marcus classified himself as “omnisexual,” which made Briana wary of his occasional irregular sexual encounters. Knowing that trauma must lurk in his background, the counselor questioned Marcus about his childhood. Marcus then described his father as a “man’s man” who boxed others for sport, including him and his brothers, in the front yard of their home. He spoke of his mother as loving, compassionate, and eager to compensate for the harshness of her husband. He remembered being consoled by her after bouts with his dad. Despite the extreme masculinity of his father, Marcus wasn’t the rough-and-tumble type. He described himself as having more docile interests like art, music, and riding bikes with his friends. Our interview revealed that Marcus qualified for the androphilic (attracted to males) subtype, also known as the homosexual type. He fit the classic picture of a disgendered male viewed as somewhat effeminate and gentle from birth. Unbeknownst to Marcus, his childhood gentility made him a target to a predator, which turned him later into a rageful man. After months of building counseling rapport and gaining his trust, Marcus finally revealed what he had kept hidden.


Marcus reported that his uncle raped him in a restroom stall during a large family gathering while he was still an adolescent (perhaps as an act of revenge for being humiliated in the ring). 

And because this was his first sexual experience, finding the trauma both scary yet somehow pleasurable formed a dysfunctional mental script of how he should enact sex from here on out. Due to the associated pleasure, this aspect of his trauma caused Marcus to question whether he was born gay. Mainly because of the disturbing attraction he began feeling toward other males at a time in life when sexual identity was first forming. Only after recognizing how his trauma had affected him did Marcus realize that he was not born homosexual but had become that way. Once he determined that, his new beliefs enabled him to dismiss the invalid triggers that once had gotten him involved in the many encounters Briana had despised. Here is a major distinction between males and females. 


While virtually all women and some males are disgusted by sexual abuse, not all find it so. It all depends on the person’s gender, perspective, and previous life experiences. The absence of distress is why the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual version four) term “gender dysphoria” has become antiquated. And why the ICD-11 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 11th revision) “Gender Incongruence” terminology is more accurate. Why? Because not all people who are gender incongruent are distressed by it. 

Some embrace the idea of being the opposite gender or having sexual interactions with the same gender. Unlike April, who was disgusted by her abuse, Marcus embraced it with his male emphasis on pleasure. As a result, April developed several phobias, while Marcus developed several sexual addictions. Despite April’s developed aversion to lovemaking, Marcus sought it wherever he could. Perhaps diminishing the magnitude of the rape for Marcus was the violent expressions of love he received from his father, which his subconscious mind confused into jumbled beliefs about sex.

Following the abuse, Marcus displayed a dramatic change in his demeanor. Once displaying a gentility about him, Marcus had flipped completely from who he had been. He suffered a bona fide loss of being able to see himself as the masculine male his father prodded him to be. An unfair shame had replaced the once positive self-image that made him want to fight back — against everything, which resulted in rage, especially on roadways and dealings with others. The most insignificant slights would set him off.

alphabet letters on the floor

While Marcus had been dramatically changed by the unspeakable trauma of childhood sexual abuse, his story teaches us that abuse can also be a gateway into gender incongruence and the LBGTQ+ community. And just because he was no longer incongruent in his beliefs about his masculinity did not mean that his dysfunctional behaviors stopped.

Limbic Understanding is Not Always Enough

While Cheryl extinguished the behaviors associated with her gender incongruence relatively quickly after learning about her limbic assumptions, others had more difficulty. Seeing her later in a photo with her sisters wearing a dress and makeup was a joy. It became obvious that her sisters had taken her under their wing, and standing in for their mother helped affirm her as a female. One factor that helped at her young age was that Cheryl had not immersed herself into a new lifestyle yet. Coming back was much easier than for Marcus, who was in his sixties and had a lifelong pattern of thinking and behaving the way he did. The old adage is true. “Practice does make perfect,” and repeating the same behaviors strengthens our limbic scripts, thus giving them greater power. While understanding how the limbic brain works to create light bulb moments that can instantly remove false beliefs, that does not mean that behaviors associated with those go away quickly. In all actuality, the discovery of the limbic brain is merely the beginning of therapy. The underlying trauma that causes disorders like gender incongruence must also be healed. Unfortunately, psychology falls short once again. It can provide no basis upon which a victim may offer forgiveness. And forgiveness is not just for perpetrators; victims need it even more. Short of prosecution, restitution, or revenge, it is the only way to find release from injustice and the associated pain of trauma. Marcus’ story reveals one other important thing. Parents are not always the cause of abuse, nor are they always aware of it.

Parents are not always the cause of abuse, nor are they always aware of it.

Parents are Not Always the Cause of Gender Incongruence

While Marcus’ parents were not perfect (and none can be), his incongruence was not the direct result of some chronic fault of their own. Instead, his trauma was more acute and outside their immediate control. It was also a trauma he may not have initially labeled a trauma, even though that is precisely what it was. Because of its pleasurable aspects, those hindered Marcus from accepting it as trauma. A large part of his therapy was helping him to define it as such. Still, every American municipality classifies what happened to Marcus as child abuse. While Cheryl had come to her psychological conclusions from a stream of subtle messages from her family, making her situation chronic, it could have happened more acutely like Marcus with just a single question from her mother. Had Cheryl’s mother asked her why she “couldn’t be more like her sisters,” this could have done just as much harm in less time (thus echoing the power of the tongue as the books of Proverbs, Ephesians, and James describe). [59]

neon blue and pink male and female icons on a deep purple background

As you may have discovered so far, there exist a multitude of ways that a child can develop incongruent beliefs about gender. What they have in common is that they all originate from subconscious limbic misconceptions surrounding a person’s self-acceptance from other people’s judgments, critical actions, or inactions. Cheryl’s trauma was due to chronic neglect, which festered over a long time. While Clint’s trauma had also festered chronically, verbal abuse was the culprit that stole gender affirmation from him. And, of course, Marcus was acutely traumatized by an adult familiar to him. Their collective stories infer that children can be affected not just by the action or inaction of parents but also by others.


Of course, children learn about the world from their interactions with people. At especially young ages, they take cues from others that inform them about themselves. Based on what we have learned about the development of scripts from sensory experiences, it is conceivable that a child’s subconscious could draw negative conclusions about their gender from other caregivers besides parents. Perhaps rough or hurried genital touching during diaper changes or even something so innocuous as a caregiver’s constant grimaces, groaning, or moaning over the smell could plant a disparaging attitude inside a child’s mind that causes it to question either the acceptability of itself or its gender. Noticing ambiguous or dual genitalia due to AIS, hermaphroditism, or adrenal hyperplasia could cause a person to develop gender incongruence from their own self-observations. Considering the various mechanisms for invalidation, locker room experiences could also deleteriously affect a person’s gender identity by exposing them to unnecessary comparisons, jokes, jeers, or inappropriate physicality. Children are good at undiplomatically pointing out each other’s differences. 

Gender Incongruence Anecdotally

Privileged to recently share my expertise with Indiana lawmakers on this subject in both House and Senate hearings, and while listening to testimony, a pattern emerged among those who hoped to retain transitioning rights for children. After listening to hours upon hours of deposition in three separate hearings, testimonies either explicitly included or implied the following sequence of events for how a child became disgendered.


  • Happy child

  • Sad Child

  • Mental unrest

  • Coming out

  • Affirmation


In story after story, gender-incongruent persons (or their mothers) described how they had been happy at one point in life, then suddenly a change in their mood occurred, resulting in an unhappy or “sad child.” The child then persisted in some state of mental unrest and altered mood that, in one case, caused a rift in a family relationship (between the child and its stepfather). That was followed sometime later by a gut-wrenching declaration from the child that they had gotten trapped in the wrong body. Then, with many tears, the maternal instinct kicked in to support her child in its decision, thus affirming her child’s self-determination, followed by heartfelt pleas to policymakers to do likewise. Yet, in the majority of those testimonies, two things were missing.

Mikel Kelly standing in the rotunda of the Indiana State Capitol

Mikel Kelly standing in the rotunda of the 

Indiana State Capitol

In story after story, gender-incongruent persons (or their mothers) described how they had been happy at one point in life, then suddenly a change in their mood occurred, resulting in an unhappy or “sad child.”

First, no one explained the cause of the mental unrest except for one female-to-male who was detransisitioning. She explained that she had experienced rape early in life and again the year before deciding on gender transition. Next, another person alluded to victimization by mentioning the topic of “grooming” by a sexual predator. Later a 70-something male-to-female transitioner’s testimony captured the audience’s attention. In his three-minute allotment to speak, he repeatedly recited (rather lamenting) that he was good at hiding things, thus implying that he had kept something a secret throughout his life. He never stated what he had kept private nor how it related to his decision to transition. But somehow, everyone present knew that it was relevant to the discussion. In some way, he seemed to be encouraging others to speak up because he had not. His well-worn self-censorship script continued to play out even in his testimonial.

After years of clinical practice, counselors intuitively know that what is not said is just as important as what a client reports. And our script as therapists is to go looking for implications of the unspoken. Therefore, even though the cause of mental unrest was left out, we know due to the Universal Law of Cause and Effect that something must have precipitated it. [60] Reminiscent of April’s sexual aversion, Marcus’ sexual addictions, and the fact that some children reject their abuse while others accept it, researchers find that psychiatric problems frequently appear before the onset of gender dysphoria but are not always apparent. [61] Indicating that some children can either hide their mental unrest or appear to be fine before coming out.


Research also indicates that somewhere between 20% and 50% of children may be initially asymptomatic, making detection of the trauma even more difficult. [62] This “sad child” period of psychiatric unrest (that psychologists refer to as cognitive dissonance) implicates anxiety, depression, or even something as severe as schizophrenia.

Even so, recent data from the Trevor Project reports that 73% of LGBTQ+ disgendered youth have reported anxiety (which is anticipated fear), while 58% have reported depression (which is severe sadness due to loss). [63] What remains unclear about those two statistics has to do with when the disgendered youth surveyed experienced the anxiety and depression they referred to. Was it before coming out or afterward? Intuition tells us that it was both. Even though the Trevor Project’s purpose for sharing these statistics points to an after-the-fact harmfulness of social stigmatization, there is another way of interpreting the data. Presumably, those reporting mental anguish could also be referring to their ongoing paradox of undisclosed trauma. Their anticipated fears may emanate not only from worry about sneers and jeers from peers but may come just as easily from the anticipated consequences of revealing what happened to them. Likewise, beyond the loss and disappointment of social nonacceptance, depression could also come from the inability to speak about their trauma. 

For those who can no longer bear to keep hidden events buried in their mind, some will sadly take their lives. When that happens, it is essential to note that disgendered persons are 1.5 times more likely than the general population to leave a note  (perhaps finally allowing them to communicate what they have been unable to say). [64] For the remainder who continue to live their lives, a staggering 25% will experience the symptoms of schizophrenia (which simply means split mind), [65] which otherwise occurs in less than 1% of the general population. [66] The disgendered most definitely wrestle with something mentally “huge” that remains uncommunicated. As noted, after a period of “sad child” and “mental unrest,” the next chronological event reported was “coming out,” which points to the second missing statement.

During depositions, what became glaringly absent was how the child arrived at the conclusion of being trapped in the wrong body and no longer the person they once were. The obvious implication was that something somehow hindered them from retaining their cisgender identity. That said, there is one other implication to make about this group as it relates to how prone they are to thoughts of suicide and a declaration of being the opposite gender. 

Only when a person’s situation is deemed utterly hopeless (through much soul-searching) and when an acceptable alternative cannot be found does suicide become an option. Gender incongruence takes time to develop subconsciously, and a person must wrestle with dysphoria (and some potential solutions to it) before a suggested resolution seems like the answer. Clinical experience says it generally takes a year of mental struggle before coming to a head. Therefore, circling back around, any entertainment of the idea of suicide communicates that none of the available options is reasonably acceptable, whether sacrificing gender or revealing the precipitating trauma. The fact that they think about suicide at all says that they don’t want to be “disgendered.” Their mental turmoil says they have resisted making that decision. Which, as we have discovered, the person is rarely consciously able to discern or attribute to the cause of their gender incongruence, especially since it is formed subconsciously from a negative association with gender. Here it is important to distinguish the heart from the head.


When people acknowledge differences in their heart from their head, they differentiate thoughts of the limbic brain from the analytical logic of the prefrontal cortex decision-making part of thinking. Becoming “trans” is an emotionally driven decision of the limbic brain designed to alleviate subconsciously induced mental distress returning the person to emotional homeostasis. That is why a decision like becoming “trans” can be both illogical yet feel compelling. Moreover, unfair judgments they receive after deciding in favor of the opposite gender create a situation where they are held accountable for something they simply have not learned yet (that the decision to transition was based on an injury).

But because they do move in the direction of transitioning or suicide, either choice says that they don’t know what to do with either their newfound fear and disgust of their gender or the trauma that caused it. Realizing all of this can help disgendered persons look back over the past year and pinpoint the injury that their dysphoria is based on. Yet, apart from having this information, some are amazingly willing to take that information to the grave while others leave notes. Indeed most children do not talk about their sexual abuse during childhood. [67] 

Whether unable to talk about the trauma from: fear of reprisal, sworn to secrecy, issues of dependency, humiliation, intense loyalty, or because a mother says, “Keep quiet about it… don’t tell daddy,” (which I hear all too frequently) all such scenarios put victims into an unimaginable dilemma. How can they communicate what has happened to them or protect themselves from it happening again? As the victim, they ask themselves why they must bear the brunt. When stuck between this rock and a hard place, where neither choice offers an acceptable outcome and where authorities fail to protect, they must take matters into their own hands. Of those disgusted by their abuse, wouldn’t the adornment of garish clothes, painted hair, piercings, tattoos, and even gender transitioning itself constitute a way of making oneself less attractive to an abuser while drawing attention to their pain? Shouldn’t defiance, belligerence, open rebellion, and a cantankerous temperament be a way of protecting oneself? Doesn’t the stark transitions in demeanor, attire, and even gender identity communicate that something is wrong? The answer is a resounding “Yes.” And all it takes is for someone to be introduced to those nonverbal ways of expressing what they cannot talk about, to be coupled with the slightest affirmation, for it to complete Freud’s Pleasure Principle (the two-step process of avoidance and gain), thus making the whole thing seem psychologically irresistible. So then, isn’t gender transitioning one of the most logical ways to resolve the paradox of the sexually abused?

Recent data from the Trevor Project reports that 73% of LGBTQ+ (disgendered) youth have reported anxiety (which is anticipated fear), while 58% have reported depression (which is severe sadness due to loss).

girl sitting on the floor with black clothing and heavy eye makeup

ID 704480 © Photoeuphoria |

Through a sixfold limbic brain response, the abused person:




1. The fear and disgust associated with their gender.

2. Further harm of abuse.

3. The identification of and prosecution of their abuser.




4. The potential for acceptance as the opposite gender.

5. An ability to communicate what cannot be said while outwardly displaying their fear, sadness, and grief. 

6. An empathic connection with other victims who look, act, and dress like themselves.

Talk about a “no-brainer,” this really would seem like a slam dunk. And therein lies the problem. Because these do “fit the bill” and seem so appealing, critical thinking often gets hijacked. Yet here is a vital point to make. Disgendered people are not made that way because they are brain-damaged, evil, or unintelligent. More accurately, their limbic brains are probably just too smart and influential for their own good. 

Disgendered people are not made that way because they are brain-damaged, evil, or unintelligent. More accurately, their limbic brains are probably just too smart and influential for their own good.

Nevertheless, the part of their brain designed to protect and seek comfort for them presents some compelling solutions, even though acting on those can sometimes be disastrous. Speaking of the brain, scientific efforts to explain gender incongruence from a biological perspective have discovered one minor distinction in the brains of the disgendered.


A recent Psychoneuroendocrinology study of disgendered individuals found volume differences in the cerebellum; [68] among its many functions, the cerebellum controls language processing. [69] Does that mean the subtle differences in the cerebellum are what causes a person to be disgendered? (Not likely, even though scientists continue to search for a biological cause.) Or, could it be possible that less grey matter (due to neuroplasticity) is the outcome of not using that part of the brain and that the continual suppression of what should be discussed is the cause for the smaller size due to stunted verbalizations? Perhaps it’s the other way around. Maybe a smaller cerebellum prevents people from opening up and talking about what bothers them. If so, that will be for researchers to sort out. 


Nevertheless, whether a smaller cerebellum or self-censorship limits their speech, children find alternative methods when they get blocked from verbalizing their trauma. A University of Toronto Professor, Ramona Alaggia, affiliated with the Women and Gender Studies Institute, concurs when she says that “a child’s disclosure pattern might be quite diverse, giving indirect behavioral and verbal signs” when unable to speak. [70] Similarly, author and Associate Professor at The University of Chicago, Micere Keels, writes, “Behaviour is the language of trauma. Children will show you before they tell you that they are in distress.” [71]

“Behaviour is the language of trauma. Children will show you before they tell you that they are in distress.” 

— Micere Keels

And, as mothers are exceptionally able to tune into these distress signals, they find themselves gripped with paralyzing fears, not knowing how to respond, thus putting mother and child in highly unfair predicaments that they should never be a part of. When people find themselves in no-win situations like these, they must find a way to cope.

When People are Trapped, They Must Find a Way to Cope

The presence of dysphoria, which means that a person is in mental anguish, strongly indicates that the disgendered feel trapped by some situation. Dysphoria is highly present among LGBTQ+ disgendered youth, and despite the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and suicide risk, 82% have said they could not access the mental health care they desired. [72] Was that because counseling was not available? Or was it because they anticipated the worst and realized what the outcome of disclosures in counseling would mean for them — that the secret would have to come out? While all persons are legally required to report suspected child abuse, considering family dynamics, disclosure becomes doubly problematic for mothers caught between an abusive love interest and a victimized child. With many things at stake, there is no wonder why a mother would want to keep all skeletons neatly tucked away “in the closet.”

Because of this, unspoken pacts can often develop. Sometimes they are created between mother and child whereby the child’s transitioning is accepted or even endorsed by the mother to appease or compensate the child for its losses. Sometimes when a father or his surrogate is not the person to blame for the abuses but the parents know they failed to protect their child from harm, a form of “blackmail” can develop where the child leverages the parents because they owe it something in exchange for keeping it secret. This scenario becomes quite evident when parents slavishly serve their disgendered children while protesting or advocating for them in school or legal proceedings. Finally, unspoken pacts sometimes develop between a perpetrator and victim themselves whereby the perpetrator must step in to protect the victim’s coping when it gets threatened, knowing full well that his crime becomes more vulnerable to exposure if the victim loses their comfort. Notwithstanding a mother or parent’s silence, another challenge exists for social workers and counselors who know that finding the source of the trauma is vital in helping disgendered victims.

Mental health clinicians realize they must help disgendered persons open up about their trauma to understand their subconscious influences, which is critical for releasing them from mental prisons. But unfortunately, even though disgendered persons want relief from their mental anguish, they must refuse counsel. And, of course, if counseling cannot be embraced, then coping must be protected. Unfortunately, secret pacts like these may exist to protect not only disgendered coping but may hamper well-meaning addiction counselors who work with other types of coping. In all circumstances, little progress will be made therapeutically when the source of trauma must be protected and coping maintained. The Trevor Project reveals just how big the desire to safeguard coping is when it reports that 93% of disgendered persons have worried about transgender people being denied gender-affirming medical care due to state or local laws that would effectively take away their preferred method of coping. [73] Aggravating this circumstance is the fact that disgendered youth know about the client-privilege paradox.

They recognize that Social Workers and Counselors are caught between client confidentiality and the mandatory reporting of abuse. This makes divulging what has happened to them even more perilous due to fears that the secret must come out. Even though many fail to make the mental connection between their abuse and subconscious coping, they still worry that they might let the abuse slip out while in the throws of counseling. Because these laws threaten to take away a disgendered person’s coping method, namely cross-gender affirmation, anxieties mount because they count on those affirmations to get by. When this happens, it demonstrates the classic definition of codependency, whereby two people (or groups of people) help maintain a dysfunction in each other.

Therefore any laws that threaten to eliminate coping through cross-gender affirmation would increase the pressure disgendered persons feel to open up about their secret trauma. Hence, the manipulative comeback narrative that gets quoted often to protect their method of coping. “Would you rather have a dead son or a live daughter?” [74] This mantra has become the banner not just for disgendered youth and as a justification for medical procedures but also for those sympathetic to the social stigmatization of the disgendered. Because of this group’s double jeopardy space, being caught between disclosure vs. coping, anything that thwarts their coping would seem like an attack. 

Often, when backed into a corner, people usually come out swinging. It makes sense then that LGBTQ+ disgendered youth forced into conversion therapy (by well-meaning parents) are twice as likely to attempt suicide [75] (which, by the way, is an undeniable call for better counseling approaches), thus revealing once again just how strong the desire to maintain the secret pact of silence is in exchange for coping. Some would rather die than voice it. Other studies show that disgendered teens have relatively similar rates of suicide as those who have settled on being gay, lesbian, and bisexual and that any transition away from natal gender fails to reduce suicidality in the long term. The truth is that transitioning away from being cisgender increases those odds. A 30-year longitudinal Swedish study found that adults who underwent surgical transition were 19 times more likely than peers to die by suicide. Even more alarming is a 40 times increase in risk for adult female-to-male transitioners. [76]


Unfortunately, when the precipitating trauma is not connected with coping or, worse, swept under the rug, the child is “locked into” pursuing transition coping strategies once affirmed in their decision to become the opposite gender. Transitioning then becomes their hope for gaining a positive self-image, avoiding social stigmatization, and a subconscious method of managing their hidden trauma. That is, as long as they can continue to pursue it.

The Dangers of Pseudo-Affirmation — The Placebo Effect

Just as April did not have to be continually plagued by her father’s abuse, neither will continued childhood abuse be the long-term challenge for the disgendered. Instead, what will linger is the script of suppression and the pattern of keeping the injury covered up. The more often they get triggered to recall the trauma, the more their self-censoring script becomes ingrained. As these thoughts get suppressed over and over again, the ensuing script stunts the development of language skills in the cerebellum (perhaps), along with a person’s ability to face other life challenges that would allow them to confront issues with others making them perennial victims never able to stand up for themselves. The existence of this developmental loss is supported by the findings of a Center of American Progress analysis of a 2007 California health survey which found that retirement-aged LGBT disgendered adults are significantly less likely to seek out medical care for themselves. [77] Furthermore, the unfortunate consequence of pursuing transition becomes a mental distraction that keeps both the abuse and unhealthy coping alive. 


As long as affirmations and transitioning keep coming, the person does not have to think about or address the root cause. As in any method of coping, the self-soothing substitute, whether affirmations, gender transitioning, sex, social media (Facebook, TikTok, etc.), cigarettes, alcohol, street drugs, shopping, or antidepressants, all help maintain the traumatic memory by preventing the person from addressing it thus creating a feedback loop where coping strengthens self-censorship and self-censorship reinforces coping. Thus, a person persists in denial and avoidance of their issues as long as they keep “taking the medicine,” thereby transitioning into a kind of addiction and placebo with no power to resolve the precipitating issue. Misplaced affirmations fall into the category of soothing agents just like all the others listed, making them highly dangerous and destructive. How so? Because affirmations keep the disgendered on the treadmill of seeking more realistic surgeries and procedures while allowing them to live in a state of denial. As long as they can pursue treatment, they can avoid revealing the secret that would help get them off the treadmill. 

Also working to get and keep them on the treadmill of coping is digital media (social, internet, TV, and Hollywood) where media plays matchmaker introducing the self-blaming gender-confused person to an unholy marriage to medical transitions where media affirmations then keep the marriage alive by portraying disgendered people of the LGBTQ+ community as though they had no secret traumas and that life was wonderful. When seeing those, 89% of disgendered youth reported that it makes them feel good about being disgendered. [78] Why does it make them feel good? Because those depictions paint a rosy picture offering hope that they can attain the same, thus feeding the belief that their lives will improve immensely by gender transition. [79] Here it is important to point out that the media in all its forms is not the smoking gun of a social contagion that causes some rapid onset gender dysphoria as some have come to believe it to be. But that does not mean that the media does not bear some responsibility. [80] There is a vast difference between reporting on something versus promoting it. While the media is not the entrance into a person becoming disgendered, it does provide an exit ramp from the dysphoria caused by neglect or abuse while also helping to maintain the unhealthy coping through the fanciful fantasies it offers. This placebo effect has led some clinicians to claim (short-sightedly) that gender-affirmative care will successfully treat not only depression and anxiety but will also resolve the neurocognitive deficits frequently present in gender-dysphoric individuals. [81]

For the same reason that severely depressed people who take their lives get happy the last few days of their life (due to the false belief that suicide will fix their problems), there is little doubt that transitioning can seem like a panacea to the disgendered as well. However, it will feel that way only if they can keep pursuing it. Unlike suicide, body transformations can never reach finality. There will always be some bodily feature to fix and make look more realistic. Other researchers find fault with the belief that the benefits of these interventions would be long-lasting. [82] The reason is because of the law of diminishing returns associated with aging. There will come a day when transitioning becomes no longer effective at bringing affirmation.

Recognizing the limitations of gender-affirmative care, other studies reveal that youth with underlying psychiatric issues will likely struggle even after transition. [83] The good news is that efforts to pursue cross-gender affirmation are unnecessary, and struggles can be averted relatively quickly. As you may recall, a person’s coping scripts can be changed at any time by ferreting out their trauma while adding a new psychological association to it. Unfortunately, many resist doing so until forced to. Such as when a gambler comes to the end of their credit limit. Or when the substance abuser can no longer tolerate what the drug does to their body, school, [84] work, or marriage. Once the disgendered reach that point (which may still be decades away), they will figure out that gender-affirmative care has sold them a “pig in a poke,” at which time lawsuits will appear. One of which is already underway.

Only two years after her surgery, at age 17, [85]  Chloe Cole came to that very decision. She may well be the first transitioner to initiate a lawsuit after discovering what she had been sold.

closeup of a heart decal on jeans

ID 181453904 © Rafael Randy Cardoso Garcia |

Her lawyer Harmeet K. Dhillon filed suit in February of 2023 against Kaiser Hospitals, seeking reparations from them “for pushing her into medical mutilation.” According to Dhillon, the claim included the off-label use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and a double mastectomy. This happened to Cole between the ages of 13 and 17 as she underwent a transgender transition. From 2016 through 2020, more than 48,000 people nationwide have gone under the knife thus tripling the number of surgical transition procedures performed in 2019. Of that number 3,678 patients were 12- to 18-year-olds. [86] Furthermore, it remains unclear how many of those may have been AIS patients.

At 13, after struggling with many mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and autism spectrum symptoms, it was revealed that Chloe had also experienced sexual trauma. However, after reanalyzing her situation, which many disgendered youths continue to do, she found that she “needed love, care, attention, and regular weekly psychotherapy” instead of being treated with cross-sex hormones and surgery. [87] Since first posting this article on May 28th, 2023, additional reports have emerged. A one-million-dollar lawsuit has been filed against the Crane Clinic in Austin on behalf of a twenty-one-year-old woman named Soren Adalco. [88] Prisha (Abigail) Mosley, 25, has filed a similar lawsuit on July 17 in North Carolina. [89] Others include Michelle Zacchigna, 34, of Ontario, Canada, [90] and California teen Kayla Lovdahl. [91] The same is true for detransitioner Jay Langadinos in Australia who underwent hormonal therapy, a double mastectomy, and the removal of her ovaries and uterus between the ages of 19 and 22. Now at age 31, she no longer claims to identify as male and is suing for having been misguided. [92As the number of cases like Chloe Cole’s increases, it is not too difficult to foresee class action lawsuits against large corporations just waiting to happen where many will be held accountable for misplaced affirmations that caused some disgendered person to go down a path they later regretted. For example, both the pharmaceutical and vaping industries have recently taken enormous hits for their efforts to market unhealthy coping to children.

Adding to the Purdue Pharma 50 billion dollar marketing debacle concerning its promotion of the opioid pain killer OxyContin, [93] is a landmark settlement to resolve thousands of individual claims relating to marketing practices in the youth vaping epidemic that has also resulted in severe addictions. In a December 2022 report, Juul Labs has agreed to pay a $1.2 billion settlement for the company’s role. [94] While Juul marketed to children for profit, this brings into question the motives of corporations who have jumped onto the gender-affirmative bandwagon. Have they done so for similar reasons? One such corporation caught in the controversy is retail giant Target.


After responding to a firestorm from offended customers by removing certain gender-affirming products from their shelves, the attorneys' generals of several states voiced their disapproval of caving into consumer demands. [95] (An ironic request since their continued success as a retailer is determined by providing what customers want.) In a letter to Brian C. Cornell Chairman and CEO of Target Corporation, Mr. Keith Ellison AG of Minnesota penned a letter stating “…we deplore any and all malicious destruction of Pride merchandise…” In an apparent attempt to counter the encouragement of Minnesota and 14 other states including Massachusetts, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington to double down their efforts, Indiana AG Todd Rokita along with Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and South Carolina asked Target to stop promoting Pride merchandise to children. [96] Three corporations including Target, North Face, and Bud Light have lost considerable market share amidst public disapproval and boycotts due to Pride marketing practices reportedly losing over $25 billion in stock values since May of 2023. [97]


Having discovered how addictive and harmful affirmations are, that brings into question whether these entities genuinely care about the disgendered or are leveraging public sentiment to bolster their bottom line. Are corporate conglomerates and state agencies affirming because they care so much about the disgendered, or does pandering make for good politics and business practice? Notwithstanding the profit potential, there is yet another way of explaining the mass individual and corporate affirmations we are witnessing.

The Magnitude of Trauma

The magnitude of the national gender-affirming movement may simply be a measurement of how pervasive childhood sexual abuse actually is. For example, studies show that childhood trauma is much more prevalent among disgendered (T-trans) than cisgendered youth in general. They report nearly twice as much psychological abuse, over one and a half times more physical abuse, and double the rates of sexual abuse. [98] Similarly, Results from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) found that disgendered men and women (LGB) were also twice as likely to report childhood sexual abuse than their cisgender counterparts. [99] Even so, those rates remain shallow reflections of the true extent since not all abused children become disgendered; many retain their cisgender and heterosexual identities yet are included in the measurements of both groups.


Moreover, because abuses are so well hidden, no one truly knows how many people are affected. Rest assured, however, whatever numbers you see estimated will be a gross underrepresentation due to family veils of secrecy. It may be possible that individual and corporate affirmers might be empathizing with the disgendered, from having experienced abuse also. As they watch their comrades break through their secret trauma by expressing themselves nonverbally, their affirmations may simply be a way of cheering them on. Thinking of affirmations as a form of applause, the inclusiveness of affirmers could be a way for them to speak out against their own victimization without revealing it. To help back these claims, we need only look at recent election results that show America is nearly equally divided politically.


Not only is America divided politically, but the parties are polarized on the topic of gender incongruence. One party supports transitioning efforts, while the other is generally intolerant of it. While estimates of children sexually abused in childhood vary from study to study, researchers from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) show that 1 in 4 girls (25%) and 1 in 13 boys (8%) in the United States experience child sexual abuse. [100] Those figures are vastly different from another CDC study, showing that over 50% of all adult women and almost 33% of adult men say they have been sexually traumatized sometime during their lifetimes. [101] First, this shows that a marked increase exists above what is being reported during childhood versus what adults report, perhaps revealing the depth of secrecy during childhood. Second, the number of adult men and women who break through childhood pacts of secrecy by reporting abuse represent nearly half of the population and could easily comprise a political party all of their own, thus becoming an affirming social force to be reckoned with. Third, the smaller number of men reporting abuse (33%) compared with 50% of women may represent some portion of the 17% of men who, like Marcus, have failed to interpret childhood sexual abuse as trauma. Lastly, while political activism and affiliation represent only a few ways of expressing personal angst about trauma, others speak out differently. Some communicate their victimization through subconscious career choices they make.

Results from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) found that disgendered men and women (LGB) were also twice as likely to report childhood sexual abuse than their heterosexual counterparts.

Those injured in childhood may choose occupations to advocate for or protect children, like teachers, police officers, paramedics, nurses, pastors, doctors, surgeons, pediatricians, social workers, counselors, and psychologists. Some may pursue research careers to gain an understanding of what happened to them personally while seeking to change the world like those who attend Brown and other universities. Much rarer are those who choose occupations not to protect children but gain access to them. As indicated previously, the presence or absence of childhood traumas may even influence a person’s affiliation with a political party, whether they go to church or not, and what church they attend. Of course, there are specific reasons why people choose these endeavors.


Many may do so from a sense of compassion and because of the psychological skills they develop from coping with abuse. Some learn they can deal with traumatic or obscene events not only in their lives but also in the lives of others. Others marvel at their ability to pretend that everything is fine and may find their way to Hollywood or local theatrical troupes. Still, others discover that because they have been able to be sexual with inappropriate persons, prostitution or exotic dancing offers a way of escape. While, thankfully, not all children will face the challenges of abuse, the unfortunate truth is that many now do. As some face challenges to their gender, keeping in mind that most people overcome these during adolescence, it should help youth to recognize that struggle is a normal and essential part of their development and that they shouldn’t give up trying.

Emotional Distress is a Normal and Important Part of Development

Developmental psychologists Robert Kail & John Cavanaugh once wrote, “Whether we call them challenges, crises, or conflicts, the trek to adulthood is difficult because the path is strewn with obstacles.” And “Each life takes on a myriad of twists and turns.” [102] This picture of life is what prompted this author to develop the concept of the Vortex Model of Development. The model is based on the benefits of pain and struggles that motivate people in ways that mold and shape life’s direction. According to the model, the most mature person learns to confront pain and difficulty for the express purpose of personal growth and maturity. The prime example is college. People subject themselves to challenging coursework to learn what they need to pursue a career. For some greater purpose, they accept the struggle and endure the pain. 

A major premise behind the Vortex Model is that growth can happen even amidst tumultuous experiences. This is not to say that someone must tolerate or even embrace abuse. Childhood sexual abuse is a terrible blight on America that must somehow be eradicated. But this view of development is intended to encourage the abused to do something difficult by verbalizing what has happened to them. It is also a message for those who should challenge their limbic brain assumptions that they are disgendered. And especially for those who offer and accept gender-affirming messages too easily and too quickly. Cheryl, Clint, and Marcus were all successful at reclaiming their natal gender, but not without struggle and the help of someone who could interpret the symbolism of their limbic brain assumptions.

diagram "The Vortext Model of Development"

Base image source: ID 118086453 © Natis76 |

In keeping with Freud’s Pleasure Principle, even though often attributed to Tony Evans, someone once said (which might have been me) that “until the pain of change is greater than the pain of staying the same, no one will choose to be different." That means counseling is not always about alleviating distress but plowing ground so that something new can emerge. The painful paradox for counselors is the patience they must sometimes exercise as they “watchfully wait” for clients to make healthier changes, and pain is what informs that. In our “pill-popping” culture, where happiness is overrated, and life-changing pain is underrated, jumping in too soon to alleviate someone’s pain can interrupt essential developmental growth. You wouldn’t want to prevent someone from learning to walk, talk, or feed themselves because it is too difficult, would you? Attempts to eliminate all distress are unfruitful. Instead, children should be encouraged to accept challenging growth opportunities. For instance, something became apparent while noticing social media’s prevalent use of personal pronouns.


While the desire to remove social stigmatization from the digendered is admirable (by attempting to empathize and relate to them), consider the unspoken message you send by identifying yourself as “cisgender.” Wouldn’t pointing out that you are cisgender and, well — they are not come across more as mocking the disgendered than affirming them? And be sort of like what happened to Cheryl when her father and brother called out her ineptness at being cross-gendered by giving her a pseudonym? But according to Vortex theory, by all means, continue announcing your “congruent” pronouns. However, as you continue to do so, here’s my question. Will you have the stomach to watch as you intensify the incongruent person’s paradox?

Which by the way may actually help them reject being disgendered due to the pain of having “incongruent” pronouns. Ironically, despite coming across as harsh, Cheryl’s unacceptance of her attempts to be male by her father and brother helped her avoid going beyond the point of no return. In retrospect, was their playful mocking mean or was it love? Of course, an even better approach than mocking someone with pronouns at all would be to introduce the disgendered to a competent counselor so that they no longer have to identify themselves as something they are not and can never be.

Even though stressors are a normal and essential part of development, those injured sexually find themselves challenged in ways other children are not. Those who must remain silent about their trauma must live a life of double jeopardy. They carry both the trauma itself and social stigmatization for their reaction to their trauma. Indeed 73% of disgendered youth report that they have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime. [103] Dr. Myeshia Price, Senior Research Scientist for The Trevor Project, states, “Although our data continue to show high rates of mental health and suicide risk among LGBTQ+ young people, it is crucial to note that these rates vary widely based on the way LGBTQ+ youth are treated.” [104] Dr. Price’s statement seems a little ambiguous. To which injury are survey respondents referring? Are they saying that suicidal thoughts come from childhood trauma, or are they saying that increased rates are due to how society has mistreated them after the fact? Or could they be referring to both? In question here is statistical validity. Are researchers measuring what they think they are, or are they measuring something else? Namely how poorly this group’s coping works and how they fail to develop, grow and flourish.

A Developmental Inability to Report — Not Genetics

Just as no gene has been discovered that would determine whether or not a person will be sexually abused, neither has any gene been strongly correlated to the development of gender dysphoria. [105] Why not? Because (except for biological disorders like AIS) both are undetectable genetically. They are social problems based primarily on family dynamics. Since genetics cannot predict who will become sexually abused, neither will it be able to predict who will develop gender incongruence from having been abused. But because gender incongruence has seemed inexplicable, many clinicians have jumped to a reductionistic limbic assumption that looks to genetics as the only possible cause, despite the principle of development that says biology, psychosocial factors, and culture all come together to form a person’s behavior. [106] Other factors are involved. Even identical twin studies fail to make a genetic cause conclusive.


For example, in her genetic studies of gender incongruence, Ariel Knafo, and her colleagues found an inheritance correlation of only 0.21 in boys and a much larger rate of 0.74 in girls (where zero shows no correlation, while 1 defines complete genetic determination) no definitive link could be made. [107] While Knafo’s research may indicate a more significant genetic influence in females than males, genetic inheritance is still far from determining a person’s gender incongruence. [108] Even though research into the social factors contributing to gender incongruence is still in its infancy, [109] genetics could play a role in the following way. What twins may actually have genetically in common (especially females), whether identical or fraternal, is sharing the same family perpetrator. Theoretically, identical female twins should show an even higher correlation since they would look virtually alike, where both appeal to the same abuser, thereby becoming interchangeable victims. Even though most studies investigating gender incongruence have searched for root genetic causes, less focus has been given to family dynamics. [110] Perhaps it is time to ask different research questions.


Due to the variety of chronic and acute traumas that can happen to children to cause gender incongruence (as seen in case histories, research, and anecdotally), the thing they all seem to have in common can be summed up with the phrase “an inability to report” or in some cases have their report taken seriously. Of course, the only way to rectify the inability to report about oneself is to open up and talk about trauma, which just happens to be a psychotherapy specialty. But unfortunately, medical interventions only forestall these crucial discussions, thus enabling people to skirt their trauma and squirt away from counseling, thus establishing the potential for a generational problem and family legacy.

A Generational Problem and Family Legacy

Keeping these issues hidden can produce a generational problem as sexually abused women beget sexually abused daughters. How could that be so? The answer has to do with the combination of a woman’s biology and her psychological values. Like what happened to April, adding together her limbic brain’s conclusion, her endocrinology, and her injury from incest changed her native values system. For example, the estrogen April’s body produced gave her a much less intense libido as a female than the high-octane libido males get from testosterone. In addition, having been forced or coerced to be sexual at times when her libido was not in agreement with having to be intimate caused her appetite for physical intimacy to be altered. Consequently, the value she placed on lovemaking diminished. Sometimes, however, the opposite can happen when a person’s sexual prowess gets connected to self-worth.


When that happens, the encouragement and praise they receive from their stellar performances make them want to seek it more. In such cases, the limbic brain wants to recapture an intimate relationship not to enjoy physical intimacy but to gain the thrill of thrilling someone (especially a father) once again. At times when people who have associated self-worth with sex find their worth challenged (making them get mentally down on themselves), they may then be prompted to engage in risky hookups to find worth again. As that occurs, mentally detached sex can become overvalued. As for April, lovemaking became undervalued because that type of intimacy was associated with injury. Her new less-than-positive view toward lovemaking made it difficult for her, which meant that her husband Scott received far less than his appetite wanted — scenarios such as these press husbands like Scott to find alternative outlets for their sexuality. [111] As you recall Clint’s story, an appropriate outlet for his libido had also been of great concern. These all point us to another major consideration regarding the formation of values.

Due to the synergy the limbic brain creates, values can either be diminished or magnified. Here is how that works. Let’s say that your favorite food is pizza, and let’s also say that you have it every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as for in-between meal snacks. If so, what would happen to your appetite for Pizza? It would likely drop. And maybe even so low that you no longer like it at all. The opposite is also true. What if your favorite food was pizza, but after having it only once in your life, you could never eat it again? What would happen to your appetite for pizza, then? Due to its absence, it would then be magnified to extraordinary proportions. That said, this allows me to say that there aren’t just five love languages that men and women speak. There are billions of them based on deficits and deficiencies. You will crave whatever you value highly but is missing in your life. And these can shift from time to time based on whatever is in plentiful supply for you versus what is in short supply.

The same holds for marital intimacy. Suppose a husband feels biological pressure to be sexual and values that part of a relationship. When it goes missing, his limbic brain (where a person’s value system is stored) takes over (if he allows it to) and overwhelmingly influences him to search it out. Statistically speaking, adding any mind-numbing (left amygdala quieting) substance like alcohol that makes him feel less inhibited would then allow him to exact that sexual energy onto someone or something else than his wife (remembering Marcus’ “omnisexual” values). Which sadly sometimes includes his own children. [112] Thus once a daughter becomes sexually abused, the generational cycle of abuse perpetuates itself from generation to generation. Therefore, if you find a gender-incongruent person, you have likely discovered a sexually abused mother (with a magnified sense of compassion towards her abused child), a sexually frustrated “male role model” father substitute, and a dysfunctional family in which alcohol generally plays a role in allowing the abuse to happen.

Therefore, if you find a gender-incongruent person, you have likely discovered a sexually abused mother (with a magnified sense of compassion towards her abused child), a sexually frustrated (self-loathing) father, and a dysfunctional family in which alcohol generally plays a role.

It's also worth noting that there are many different factors that can lead someone to identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, and sexual abuse is just one of them. While it’s true that sexual abuse can be a particularly harmful experience for a child and may result in disconnection from their gender, it's important to remember that parents are not always responsible for their child's gender dysphoria. If a child suddenly identifies as “trans,” because of the possibility of sexual abuse it is important to investigate and ensure their safety, especially since many children may not feel comfortable speaking up for themselves. In 2022, investigations were launched by Governor Greg Abbott in Texas into families with transgender minors under the presumption that puberty-blocking and transition surgeries were abusive to children, despite the fact that Texas lawmakers had not yet made these procedures illegal. Now in hindsight, the Governor and his advisors were correct to suspect that abuse might be occurring in these families but had failed to look for the actual cause which could have been some form of neglect or sexual abuse. This led to pushback and uproar from the families, [113] who may have wanted to protect their coping mechanisms and maintain family secrecy.

With this discovery of the role of alcohol and other mind-numbing substances that help to perpetuate a generational pattern of abuse, you might be tempted to blame alcohol or drugs for causing incest. But, if you wanted to maintain the family pact of secrecy, you might also be tempted to scapegoat these substances to divert legal attention from the perpetrator and his greater offense. These well may have been the intentions behind the Temperance Movement in 1830, [114] Women’s Suffrage of 1848, [115] or Prohibition that followed in 1920. [116] If you thought substances were the problem, that would be a shortsighted limbic brain assumption, but blaming alcohol sure would allow a primary breadwinner to remain in the family while giving him a pass for his indiscretions. Make no mistake; incest does become less likely apart from substance abuse. But, unfortunately, men drink for reasons other than the suspension of inhibitions.


Men often drink (especially on weekends) because they know they have free time and energy for lovemaking but also have a wife who cannot or will not love them back in that way. The alcohol is first intended to soothe anticipated disappointment. [117] As the disappointment mounts, alcohol or other substances then serve a secondary purpose by removing mental barriers to what was already on their minds. Regrettably, the elimination of inhibition does not always require mind-altering substances.


Divorce and other serial relationships (that point to high degrees of spousal dissatisfaction) end up creating blended and cohabiting households that expose children to nonbiologically related men (primarily stepfathers and live-in boyfriends) [118] who have even fewer reservations about taking liberties with a wife’s or girlfriend’s children. [119] Given the strong association alcohol holds with sexual abuse and how sexual abuse is connected with disgendered kids, what do you suppose marketing director Alissa Heinerscheid, VP of Anheuser Busch, was thinking when she invited Dylan Mulvaney (a disgendered person) to its brand Bud Light by making him their spokesperson?

Now, in light of the connection that alcohol has with disgendered persons, it is quite a great irony that Bud Light the nation’s number one brand of beer would choose a disgendered person to represent them don’t you think? Probably not knowing how the two are connected, it is highly doubtful that Heinerscheid was deliberately promoting the abuse of children and/or an expansion of the LGBTQ+ community of disgendered persons. Instead, she was probably just employing an age-old marketing strategy.


Ever since the days of P. T. Barnum who was known as the “greatest showman,” when he introduced The Bearded Lady [120] and through Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the odd, eccentric, or sensational has been exploited by media and marketing specialists to capture audience attention. Drag artist Ru Paul demonstrates that some people are entertained by such illusions. Knowing now how trauma plays a role in the development of a disgendered person, to exploit or make fun of such injured persons for gain is highly unethical. Was Heinerscheid’s marketing faux pax simply playing on a growing mass sympathy for disgendered persons? Or perhaps, was she sending America a subliminal warning of what could happen with continued abuses of its beer?


Not only is an inclusive and affirming marketplace dangerous to families, individuals, and corporations who stand to lose revenue due to public boycotts but there are also risks to other public entities as well. Cities, towns, governmental municipalities, local police, and fire departments who support Pride events, parades, and celebrations are also exposing themselves to liability. The risk for them has to do with precedent. By celebrating pride events private and public entities are unwittingly supporting the unhealthy coping of the disgendered. By doing so, wouldn’t other groups who have their own specific brand of coping also deserve recognition, affirmation, and social inclusion? Would that mean that in a sense of fair play, the community will need to stand outside of the nation’s bars, pubs, and taverns to cheer on those who cope with alcohol as they stagger out at 3:00 a.m.? Do drug dealers deserve a pat on the back for peddling fentanyl-laced methamphetamine to those who use it to cope? What about the prostitute or pornographer who satisfies the coping of those with sexual addictions? Wouldn’t they also need a round of applause to ease their social stigmatization? Perhaps we should have a party in the public square for all of the pedophiles who use children as a form of coping with their mental disease. That would be ridiculous don’t you think? And to do so would be reckless as it affirmed something harmful. The point is that not every behavior can be socially accepted. Some things must be discriminated against because of harm to self and others. Even though unhealthy coping has always existed and will never be extinguished does that mean it should be endorsed and promoted? Should we celebrate a person’s unhealthy reaction to their trauma? That would seem counterintuitive and unethical at best not to mention callous and insensitive to what they truly need. Regardless of the role that beer and alcohol play in the proliferation of family problems, as only one form of unhealthy coping leveling blame solely against it still does not go deep enough to explain the deepest roots of the family’s ills.

Concluding Remarks — A Call to Action

As we have seen through the case histories of Cheryl, April, Clint, and Marcus, gender-incongruent people are led astray by subconscious misconceptions and faulty attributions of their limbic brains. Similarly, it seems that the nation, as a whole, has collectively stepped into its own misconception by believing that medical interventions are the best practice for removing children’s mental distress. But in its haste, at what cost? We really don’t know for sure yet. So far, we only know that a puberty blockade followed by cross-sex hormones leads to infertility and sterility, bone density and cardiovascular risks, [121] unhealthy coping mechanisms, and social developmental stunting. Who knows what other psychosocial or medical problems will arise in the years to come? That’s the problem and why steps toward reassignment are so dangerous. It takes time to study complex issues and predict the outcome of decisions because all choices have a domino cause and effect that may not appear in a person’s life or family for decades. It is for these very reasons that psychology has fallen behind. It hasn’t yet produced answers, and while waiting to gather all pertinent data before acting, it might arrive too late to be helpful. The 12.2% of persisters contemplating suicide need answers soon, especially as laws banning their preferred method of coping come into effect. Now with the subject of psychology in mind, that brings us to one other point of contention as it relates to the traditional methods used in counseling.

We cannot continue to counsel relying solely on Rogerian methods of empathic listening, hoping clients will have light bulb moments as they hear themselves talk. While some do, it is not a given. Therefore, counselors must take a more active stance in therapy by helping clients decode the complex-trauma metaphors locked subconsciously in their minds. It was Psychologist Carl Jung who first popularized the concept of the inner shadow where counselors must help people reintegrate the parts of themselves that they have subconsciously rejected. [122] My call is not for greater affirmation of coping in the counseling room but for better-trained counselors who can empathize abstractly.

Furthermore, society must dispense with Victorian notions that “Silence is golden” and that “Children are only to be seen and not heard.” Instead, we must encourage children to draw upon their courage and speak out against atrocities to themselves and each other. Parents and educators must observe and listen more attentively to the children of abuse while digging deep to see what their actions are trying to say. We must be their advocate coming alongside to interpret the moans and groans on their behalf. [123] To answer the question we began this article with, of whether to affirm or dissuade, we must first find out what happened to our children that makes it impossible for them to remain cisgender and then demonstrate that they are cared for, helping them retain congruence of their phenotype and genotype. As we have determined, affirmations of the opposite only forestall the help they deserve while making things worse by forcing them to adopt unhealthy coping.

Adopting unhealthy coping scripts is why condemnation and tolerance are so destructive. Condemnation assumes that disgendered people purposefully behave the way they do because of choice. While having some tiny bit of truth, the limbic brains of the disgendered do choose to crucify gender, but this choice is often accepted outside of their conscious awareness. Sadly, they are primarily victims, not purveyors of evil intent. The evil that should be purged from among us is the insidious abuse that thrusts the disgendered into rejecting their natal gender. What God finds abominable is not specifically that girls wear boys’ clothes or that boys wear clothes that girls usually wear, but what he hates is abuse (by someone who should love them) that forces them to choose a different gender identity or search out alternative forms of relationship. Why? Because abuse is not what should happen in the family. And because it makes a mockery of the gender system he established. Condemnation only heaps greater abuse onto a person who has already been abused. Likewise, tolerance and affirmation simply turn blind eyes to the plight of those suffering while avoiding getting involved. 

A quote by Jacques Abbadie, often attributed to President Abraham Lincoln, once said,  “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” [124] One thing that no one is fooled by is gender reassignment. Everyone knows it is impossible for a person to become the opposite gender. So why affirm something false? That would be unethical, especially for a trained mental health professional or physician. When a person abandons their gender for the illusion of the other, they literally trap themselves in a “No Man’s Land” where they can be neither gender. Unable to turn back, the only thing to do is press for social acceptance. Unfortunately, the deception attempted to plant comes back to them not in the form of true acceptance but in the form of another deception called tolerance. Tolerance is nothing more than an unwillingness to get involved in another person’s life. It is like watching a car accident happen but then walking away as if nothing happened. Tolerance is cold, insensitive, callous, and cowardly. Furthermore, it lets something unhealthy continue to exist, prolonging another person’s suffering. Therefore tolerance and condemnation increase suffering by not getting involved and doing nothing to help.

“You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” When a person abandons their gender for the illusion of the other, they trap themselves in a “No Man’s Land.” Unable to turn back, the only thing to do is press for social acceptance.

So now, when I see an LGBTQ+ demonstration, protest, or parade, I see hurting people grasping to regain the acceptance that neglect or abuse has stolen from them. Unfortunately, I also see other groups of bystanders who don’t know how to help but have instead become complacent, either tolerating or condemning.

Even worse, both groups live with their heads in the clouds ignoring the underlying issues, thus demonstrating a discompassionate view toward injured people. As the curator for the Cure of Souls, the church must root this out, starting with its own people. Child abuse must no longer be allowed to exist. And while trauma is the primary precursor to being disgendered, it is not the root cause. Certainly, live-in boyfriends and stepfathers are not the deepest roots either, even though they are the chief perpetrators of childhood abuse.

girl with tattoos and heavy makeup sitting on a bed and crying on the phone

Photo 107857432 © Rawpixelimages |

So now, when I see an LGBTQ+ demonstration, protest, or parade, I see hurting people grasping to regain the acceptance that abuse has stolen from them.

Looking deeper, however, even the presence of nonbiological male relatives associated with the many serial cohabitations and blended families that are popular today, where enormous numbers of children are vulnerable, is neither the root cause. Nor can we cast ultimate blame onto divorce, which became legal in 1969, even though it contributes to an easy way out of a marriage and as an inroad for nonbiological males. We can’t even assign the final fault to the institution of marriage despite the many difficulties men and women experience with each other. And just to be clear, the gender differences that cause divorce aren’t even the root. Both fathers and mothers bring essential features necessary for the best development outcomes for children. Neither parent is expendable, and their differences are present for a “good” reason. The true source and deepest root is something we’ve talked about throughout this article. It is the contagion that epidemiologists and social scientists have been looking for and is the inheritance that geneticists have sought. It is also what theologians and pastors have wanted to understand. That, of course, is the limbic brain.


It causes people to find fault with each other as well as a person’s own gender. This failure happened when our original parents ate a forbidden fruit that most literally changed their brains. The consequences activated the limbic system, where it became dichotomous, thereby instituting a subconscious values system that gives moral judgment to every aspect of life. No longer detecting only pleasure, it came to rank everything from “good to best” and from “bad to worst.” This mental catastrophe became a spiritual problem as people began harming each other, which Jesus came to counteract. He did many things to help, including providing the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost to help be our mental guide, and he demonstrated a life well lived guided not by intuition and assumption but by deliberateness. Since then, he has called upon the Church to carry the mantle of his mission. And the Church’s new mission, or Pentecost version 2.0, is to recognize that Jesus came to save victims as well, and not just sinners. [125]


For those who find it difficult to reveal what has been kept secret, remember that Jesus demonstrated great courage in making himself vulnerable to sinful men knowing that God the Father would ultimately preserve his life. He took up the cross for all the misconceptions people develop that they subconsciously carry out in haste. With great compassion, he prayed for all those who fail to understand their subconscious motivations and control their limbic brain saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” [126] His sufferings made it possible that no gender-incongruent person had to blame, crucify, or scapegoat their gender. He took the blame for them. If you want to know more precisely how Christ provides that, a more complete answer is forthcoming with the completion of my upcoming book entitled:

Our Father's Remorse

Follow me on Facebook or LinkedIn to know when it becomes available.


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