OpinionTrending Commentary

Are Trans Rights Activists Victims — Or Bullies?



As bills banning surgery and drugs for gender dysphoric minors come before legislatures across the country, angry trans rights activists (TRAs) gather outside statehouses to protest this “genocide.” They claim that the Right wants to erase trans people from the face of the earth. They equate depriving minor children of supposedly “life-saving” medical interventions with murder. These allegations align with claims by trans people to be the most marginalized and persecuted minority on the planet, now facing an epidemic of fatal anti-trans violence.

The statistics would seem to demonstrate otherwise. While trans-identified people no doubt experience genuine discrimination, they are murdered at a lower rate than the general population and at a far lower rate than African-Americans, poor people, and men in general. Meanwhile, when women like Kellie-Jay Keen and Riley Gaines speak out in defense of sex-based rights for women, angry TRAs (mostly biological males) spit upon them, shout them down with obscenities, and launch physical assaults to drive them off.

How are we to make sense of this contradiction between self-pitying claims of victimhood and bullying assaults upon women who refuse to accept that Trans Women are Women?

Comparisons to the Cluster B personality disorders will shed some light, in particular features of both Narcissistic and Borderline Personality Disorders. These two conditions involve distorted self-perceptions, a hypersensitivity to criticism, and a tendency to view those who challenge the person’s self-image as enemies, even persecutors. Angry outbursts when feeling slighted or criticized are common. People who suffer from both conditions are prone to self-pity and painful envy toward those they perceive to be superior or having desirable traits they themselves lack. At an unconscious level, they are afflicted with profound feelings of defect, damage, and inferiority (core shame).

For narcissists in particular, this sense of inner defect is so unbearable and the damage so deep that they’ve taken defensive flight into an idealized self-image to escape it. With demands for admiration and special treatment, they seek to reinforce this superior view of themselves. Narcissists experience any challenge to this idealized self-image as an attack because it threatens exposure to the shame at their core. Feeling under siege when criticized or exposed to potential humiliation, they will retaliate in sometimes violent ways. In some forms of vindictive narcissism, they will do everything they can to defeat their enemies by destroying their reputation, relationships, and career, all in defense of their own idealized self-image.

For the troubled young men in my psychotherapy practice who have de-transitioned — that is, lived for a number of years as if they were women and then reverted to their biological sex — their female identity represented such as idealized false self. By imagining themselves to be female, my clients had taken flight from a shame-ridden self which was felt to be defective, damaged, and beyond repair. When this defensive new identity finally broke down, they found themselves engulfed in pain, confusion and shame, and as a result sought professional help.

Meanwhile, the militant trans-identified male continues shoring up his idealized false self. He insists he’s no different from and deserves the same rights and privileges as biological females. When others insist upon the reality of biological sex and assert that trans women aren’t actually women, he feels persecuted; on some level, this challenge to his sense of self may even feel life-threatening. His envy of biological women — for embodying the idealized state he longs for but can never truly reach — may lead to vindictive and physical assaults upon their persons. He wants to destroy them and the truth they embody.

For though he makes increasingly strident claims to be a victim of “genocide” and “transphobic” legislation, it is the factual reality of biological sex that torments him. It challenges the psychological lie he inhabits, forcing him back upon the truth he hates most of all — that he is a deeply troubled and emotionally damaged man.

Joseph Burgo, PhD is the Vice Director of Genspect and the author several books including Shame (St. Martin’s Press 2018) and The Narcissist You Know (Touchstone 2015).

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