Transgender Flourishing Rules: The First Six

| Jan 25, 2021
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What will it take for transgender people to flourish? Flourish in the sense that I mean it is to feel more secure, grow in authenticity and thrive economically. We have been striving for legal protections of laws and precedents to end legalized rejection through job discrimination, arbitrary, restroom assignment and the like. But no amount of laws or legal precedents will, in themselves, allow us to flourish. Short-sighted and unethical employers can and do still find reasons to fire transgender people, no matter what the law. Politicians can continue to use transgender rights as wedge issues to gain attention, despite the overwhelming sentiment of citizens that transgender people should be protected against discrimination (73% in a Williams Institute poll). People can still throw catcalls at us which are too trivial for law enforcement to bother with. Such prejudicial acts are irrational because they interfere with the value that transgender people bring to organizations and society.

Although the new administration is trying to use the Bostock v. Clayton County Supreme Court ruling to promise discrimination protection for LGBT people, this decision is based on a tightly drawn interpretation of sex discrimination. (Clayton County is about 20 minutes south of me here in Atlanta.) The Supreme Court was boxed into a corner because of longstanding practice by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and its own precedents. Given the political composition of the current court, transgender people should not count on protection based on Bostock going forward. And even if new legislation is passed such as the Equality Act, people who want to discriminate and harass will still find a way.

To flourish we need more than legalities. We need to change the culture by adjusting our behavior to reinforce tolerance and acceptance, and make it socially unacceptable to discriminate.

Jordan Peterson has his twelve rules for life. I have my twelve suggested rules for transgender flourishing. Here are the first six.

ONE: Increase Visibility, Be Personable.

Increased visibility shows the culture that we belong and are not afraid to express our transgender behavior. We must remember that we are ambassadors for all transgender people and we should try to make every public experience a positive one for cisgender people. That does not mean that we all have to pass perfectly as women/men. The ravages of sex hormones during puberty may have altered our bodies beyond our ability to change our anatomy. While we should encourage transgender people to look good, many will never pass (including me). Transgender people should not publicly criticize how other trans people look.

Dr. Rachel Levine

The recent Rachel Levine situation is a case in point. She is a doctor who has been nominated by the new administration as Assistant Secretary of Health, after an outstanding career in health administration in Pennsylvania. But she has been severely criticized about her looks by political pundits and, yes, even by transgender people. I have seen the latter on my own Facebook page after I posted news about her being nominated. It should be emphasized that WE ARE HIRING HER FOR HER BRAIN, NOT HER FASHIONABLE GOOD LOOKS.

We must try to be personable in our interactions, otherwise the false impression will be spread to the culture that we are unreasonable, pathological and radical. The old rules apply, do not talk about religion, politics and sex in polite company. To that I would add a fourth, do not push being transgender in people’s faces.

Try to make friends of cisgender people. The percentage of people who know a transgender person has risen from 8 to 20% and we need to keep this increasing. It will be harder for people to discriminate or harass us if they know someone who is trans. They can still do it because of social pressure by the culture but once we reach critical mass of acceptance, the effectiveness of this pressure should be reduced

To those who consider themselves part time crossdressers, when you are dressed please leave people with whom you interact, even for a short time, with a good impression. You may be excited or scared (I have been there) but you are representing me and all other trans people.

TWO: Be Rational.

Rationality is the highest capability of humans. More than our relatively puny physical strength or other capabilities, humans have survived and flourished because of it. Do not get sucked into the orbits of those who use irrationality to foster their own political power and careers. On one hand we have the irrational theists who seek to shame us back into the closet by claiming that we are mentally ill or do not really exist because sex and gender are the same thing. They do this to demonstrate their social power and to support their replacing our government with a theocracy. On the other hand, we have the irrational social justice warriors who seek to use us as victims and poster children in their attempt to shame other people into joining their cult, claiming that all of society is unjust and should be overthrown.

THREE: Be Individualistic.

Resist attempts and avoid situations designed to prevent yourself from expressing your authenticity. Being transgender stems from the natural diversity of all living things that keeps us surviving and evolving. Transgender people are all different and appear in all demographic groups. The only things we have in common are a few genes and the fact that we are cultural outlaws. Conformity to some ideal of how a transgender person should behave runs counter to our being. Of course, this is not a license to use force or threat of force against other people. The Midwest transgender support groups used to have a convention, called the “Be All”. The title was shortened from “Be all you can be”, a slogan used in Army recruitment commercials. A more recent commercial slogan was “An Army of One.” So be an army of one to be all you can be.

FOUR: Resist Pathologization

Medical and mental health providers have shielded us for far too long using pathologization, making being transgender a disorder or saying that it is motivated by social contagion. The idea that being transgender is pathological must die. It is used to publicly denigrate and reject transgender people by political, social and theological critics. Providers should comply with The World Health Organization’s new categorization (ICD) that only provides for medical treatment of transitioning transsexuals. As with homosexuality, being transgender should no longer be included as a mental health category. Mental health providers must stop trying to “cure” us. This does not mean that transgender people sometimes need counseling to deal with social problems. But there are plenty of diagnostic categories for that.

By the same token, we need to reject self-pathologization. Being transgender is not an illness, disorder or disease. We must not use it to gain sympathy.

FIVE: Be Industrious.

Be an entrepreneur; work that side hustle; in all activities, be productive. As we have seen recently, we cannot count on the government or charity to sustain us. We have to create value and have our own resources. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, “The universe helps those who help themselves”. That does not mean that we all should rush out and start businesses. Most of my life, I have been a serial entrepreneur within government and private non-profit organizations. It means that we need to create value that people are willing to pay for. And in this economy of constant change, that side hustle or interest may turn out to be a primary. As this rule applies to art, most artists do their work to create value for themselves through expression. Although many do not get paid for their art, people do respect them for their industriousness. That is exactly the type of respect that is needed to enhance the reputation of transgender people.

SIX: Exercise Your Freedoms in Our Democracy.

Do exercise you freedom of speech, freedom of association, your right to vote and participation in politics and the other freedoms that we value in this society. But do so as a citizen, not as a “transgender citizen” (see rule one). Not to exercise these freedoms, risks accusations that transgender people are shirking their duties as citizens. Do not allow political movements to censor your freedom of speech. Some authoritarian political movements are now converging on transgender advocacy organizations and are trying dictate what words we should use. They already reject scientific papers for using alternative terminology and, in some cases, they appear to be using language as an excuse for censorship of science. Discussion and debate about many scientific issues has already disappeared from their meetings. The result is that many young providers are not familiar with these issues.

I am stating that I am about to give up my association with several advocacy groups that restrict language and freedom of speech. Such censorship interferes with my science and writing art and I will not tolerate it. Starting with this blogpost, I am changing some of the language that I use back to its original scientific terminology. Sorry if you are triggered, but get over it. Freedom of word choice is an integral part of open discussion about issues under our democracy.

Those are the first six of my dozen rules for flourishing. I will deliver the balance in a future blog.

Part 2

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Category: Transgender Opinion


About the Author ()

Dana Jennett Bevan holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and a Bachelors degree from Dartmouth College both in experimental psychology. She is the author of The Transsexual Scientist which combines biology with autobiography as she came to learn about transgenderism throughout her life. Her second book The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism is a comprehensive analysis of TSTG research and was published in 2014 by Praeger under the pen name Thomas E. Bevan. Her third book Being Transgender was released by Praeger in November 2016. She can be reached at

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