Gender: A Wider Lens
Gender: A Wider Lens
41 — Trans: A Conversation with Helen Joyce

41 — Trans: A Conversation with Helen Joyce


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The New York Times describes Helen Joyce’s book, Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality, as “an intelligent, thorough rejoinder to an idea that has swept across much of the liberal world seemingly overnight.” Joyce reminds us that her book is not about trans people, but rather, it is about the idea “that people should count as men or women according to how they feel and what they declare, instead of their biology.” Helen explains the ways it’s more acceptable for men to “give up some privilege” and strategies women in other cultures have used to opt out of unfavorable circumstances. Perhaps denying sex leads to a perfectly clear demonstration of just how different men and women can be. We also reflect on the differences between American’s tendency to double-down on bad policy and the hopefulness Helen feels with the unfolding UK reckoning with gender self-ID. In this episode, we discuss the many ramifications of “you are exactly who you say you are.”


Helen Joyce’s Website:

Helen on Twitter:

Book Review by Jesse Singal

Helen’s interview with Andrew Doyle:

Stella’s Book Review in The Evening Standard:

Becoming Julia (Gender Transition Documentary):

The End of the World is Flat by Simon Edge:

Survivorship Bias:

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett:

Extended Notes:

  • NY Times reviewed Helen’s new book, Trans, and Sasha is even in the book!

  • Helen didn’t even think her book would get published because of its taboo topic.

  • Are people fascinated with gender or with sex?

  • Non-binary people are trying to redefine everybody and trying to change a “fundamental truth.” Of course, it gets people upset.

  • What is the difference between transsexualism and gender self-ID?

  • This book is not about trans people, it’s a book about ideology.

  • If being trans was an ideology, a belief system, that’d be okay. However, this movement is trying to change gender facts, and that’s a harder thing to get behind.

  • Right now it’s very difficult to determine what stance is going to be on “the right side of history.”

  • The trans movement is structured as “the next thing” that needs to be liberated from oppression. However, will it be?

  • Why do men commit more transphobic acts than women?

  • People say that when you call people trans, you’re committing cultural imperialism. Helen expands on this.

  • Children are suddenly baby adults. When did this happen? What happened to the mother/child bond?

  • People think we can overcome natural human problems with technology. We’d like to think we’re above it, but human instincts/nature will always take over.

  • People like to think we’re like lego pieces; easily replaceable body parts.

  • If you are a male that wants to be female, the truth is, you can’t be. What does that mean for you? It means you have to remake the world.

  • Historically, men have been the dominant ruler. By becoming female, you’re giving up power. In society, this is allowed. The same is not true if the genders were reversed.

  • If you change your legal sex from female to male, that does not change your position in legal inheritance. (Which is traditionally important in aristocracies.)

  • Helen is aware that she left a lot of things out in the book. It’s not a complete body of work. There’s so much to talk about in this ecosphere.

  • Helen wrote about what’s happening to trans people in Canadian prisons. It’s horrible, but it’s actually much worse in the United States.

  • People think Helen is a social conservative. Helen says women are not the same as men, but it’s being translated to her thinking women are inferior to men. That’s not true.

  • Helen is very, very worried about the U.S. and how they’re handling this topic.

  • Helen addresses the NY Times criticisms of her book.

  • Who is this book for? It’s for people who want to understand the changing trans landscape.

This podcast is partially sponsored by ReIME, Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics:

Learn more about our show:

Gender: A Wider Lens
Gender: A Wider Lens
Therapists Stella O’Malley and Sasha Ayad explore diverse perspectives through a psychological lens, fostering open dialogue on gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella. Their work with gender dysphoric clients and unique experiences yield an informed outlook delving into gender's psychological nuances. Interviews with clinicians, academics, transgender individuals, parents, detransitioners, and others touched by gender provide varied insights and intimate inquiry into the taboo yet relevant topic.