Misogyny, Dissociation, and GID

According to the studies of Jacobs and Herman, the victimized daughter's repudiation of a female identity and her internalization of an idealized male represent responses to childhood sexual abuse.

If gender is considered an aggregate of sex-caste markers in a system of dominance based on biological sex, then it is simplistic and misleading to characterize it as "performative." Viewed in the context of a patriarchal culture, gender is emblematic of a system of dominance in which women are universally oppressed as a caste.

The victimized daughter who adopts a male persona is not "fucking with gender." Gender has fucked with her, and, in attempting to identify with the power that has hurt her, she is adopting the strategy of a desperate child whose only option has been to alter her perception of herself.

What the transgender movement calls gender-fucking is simply an exercise in moving markers rather than any fundamental change in gender. Gender still exists. It is still an organizing structure for society. What's different is that you just 'do' it differently: it is 'allowed' to be attached to different bodies. The aim of transgender politics is to allow you to be 'be' the gender that you 'are.' However, being your gender still means what you wear, what you do, how you express yourself and is still attached to fundamental notions of what it means to be men and women… And it's no surprise that what is female and what is male in this view exactly tracks what is already defined as male and female. (Corson, 3)

Transgender politics does not disrupt the positions of men and women in the gender hierarchy, but what it does do is "render women's choices to oppose this hierarchy as women and on behalf of women incomprehensible."(Corson, 3)

In addition to its participation in the larger political system of male dominance, the GID diagnosis also acts on a more personal front to protect the perpetrators. If the victimized daughter's "gender dysphoria" is a post-traumatic response to sexual violence, it reflects an attempt to dissociate, or split off, the trauma.

A trauma that cannot adequately be represented or narrated remains estranged. It is an alienated chunk of experience that resists any assimilation into the personhood of the host on whom it feeds. Dissociation can also be understood as a narrative act. It narrates fragmentation, breakage, rupture, disjunction, and incommensurability. (Epstein and Lefkovitz, 193)

Dissociation is a survival strategy.

It provides a way out of the intolerable and psychologically incongruous situation (double-bind), it erects memory barriers (amnesia) to keep painful events and memories out of awareness, it functions as an analgesic to prevent feeling pain, it allows escape from experiencing the event and from responsibility/guilt, and it may serve as a hypnotic negation of the sense of self. The child may begin by using the dissociative mechanism spontaneously and sporadically. With repeated victimization and double-bind injunctions, it becomes chronic. It may further become an autonomous process as the individual ages. (Courtois, 155)

Dissociation is a way of altering consciousness. As millions of survivors can testify, these dissociated memories have not really gone away. Whether or not they ever surface to the conscious mind, they continue to exert their influence through somatic disorders, flashbacks, sleep disturbances, intrusive dreams, and dissociative disorders. Repressed memories do not go away because one wishes them away. The survivor takes control of her life by understanding and assimilating repressed trauma, not reinforcing the split. And this is precisely why the GID diagnosis is so potentially pernicious when applied to the victimized daughter.

When the GID diagnosis is substituted for identification and treatment of PTSD, it reinforces the splitting that was a result of childhood trauma. However "queer" the diagnosis, it does not deviate from a model of normativity based on traditional sex-caste roles. The GID diagnosis that recommends transsexualism as a "cure" seriously compromises the victimized daughter's potential for recovery from the effects of her trauma. Instead of offering techniques to aid her retrieval of memory and reintegration of dissociated material, the GID diagnosis enables and encourages an even deeper investment in the disorder, by offering a false promise of legitimizing this ahistorical dissociative identity through "reassignment" of gender. It exploits, rather than deconstructs, the syndrome.