The REAL ME is fundamentally an illusion

There is no such thing as an “authentic self.” Arguably there’s not even any such thing as a “self” – there is instead an illusion of a self that keeps us somewhat organized. Louise Perry explains how the trans movement is chasing unicorns when it talks of transitioning to an Authentic Self.

The core idea of the trans narrative—that we are all possessed of a gender identity, which is more true and authentic than our physical bodies—depends on claims that do not withstand scrutiny. Not only is it unwise to write legislation based on incoherent principles, but it also does real harm to vulnerable people desperate to find themselves. We could spend the whole of our lives waiting for our true and authentic selves to come along. They never will.

The real me is fundamentally an illusion. For some people, it might provide a compelling way to understand certain thoughts and feelings and I don’t doubt that this is how Jazz Jennings sincerely conceives of her identity. It can be a comforting idea, particularly for people who live in oppressive environments that restrict their natural impulses. It is also a useful way of expressing your desires in a society that still holds strongly to the idea of inner authenticity. But it misrepresents the messy reality of our lives, and the ways in which our identities are constantly being shaped by the world around us. Although we all have some innate predispositions, the real me isn’t a fixed entity that we can discover if only we try hard enough. Searching for your true and authentic self is like chasing a shadow. You might focus all of your energies on trying to discover it, only to be ultimately disappointed. The trans narrative promises unhappy people the hope of self-actualisation: “stay true to who you are no matter what, then one day things will get better.” The trouble is, they might not.

There is unfortunately no conclusive evidence that the process of transition (either social or medical) actually alleviates distress in the long term. For some people, living as the opposite sex (or as some non-binary gender identity) can make them feel more comfortable in their own skin, and they should be free to make that choice without fear of stigma. But the increasing number of people flocking to the trans movement—many of them vulnerable young natal females—may well find that the promise of discovering the real me is an empty one. The growing community of detransitioners attest to the long-term suffering and health problems that can result from the decision to transition. Sometimes, searching for your true and authentic self can just make things worse.

What if, instead of obsessing over the search for the real me, we accepted that people are complex, imperfect and ever-changing? What if we faced up to the many and varied reasons why people might feel a desire to transition, and saw the trans movement within its historical context?

Then much foolishness would cease.

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