Trans Narrative


Involuntary Therapy


There once was a fish who had bad seasickness

Because the fish lived in the water, they were always sick

Having known nothing else, the fish just assumed this was normal

Though sometimes they would look to the land and wonder

One day the fish met another fish who had taken magic herbs to grow feet and live on land 

The fish with feet had been seasick but now that they lived on land they were much better

Maybe I'm seasick too the fish wondered

Maybe living on land would help me the fish thought

The fish looked for stories of other fish who had grown feet

They had known they were seasick from a young age

I didn't always know I was seasick said the fish - I still don't know

The fish with feet also all wanted a red house on land

I want a blue house said the fish

I'm not like those other fish with feet said the fish

Maybe I'm not seasick at all said the fish

But the fish had to find out and go on land

The fish could always go back to the sea if they were wrong

The fish knew that whales gave the magic herbs to grow feet

But whales didn't know much about fish with feet

Whales thought fish always knew if they were seasick and liked red houses

So when the fish saw a whale they said they liked red houses and always knew too

The fish was scared that they wouldn't get the magic herbs if they had told the truth

The whale would make the fish spend months and months talking about red houses

But that wasn't enough - the fish would then need to see another whale and talk of red houses all over again

This went on for over a year and the fish felt that whales just didn't understand

Meanwhile the fish was starting to feel more sick

The fish knew that only whales were supposed to give magic herbs

But the fish also knew there were other ways, bad ways, to get the magic herbs

So that's just what the fish did

The fish got the magic herbs the bad way without going through the whales

The fish took the magic herbs and grew feet!

They went on land and felt the sickness go away

The fish finally knew that they had been seasick after all!

What's more, they saw that lots of fish with feet preferred living in blue houses too!

The fish did not want to go back to the sea and be seasick again

The fish got a blue house on the land and lived a good life

But they would always think of the other seasick fish who were made to talk about red houses to whales

The End

( Orcas are dolphins, not whales )

Story inspired / copied from
"The Seasick Squid"



Story we always hear about trans people

Knowing from a young age

Adherence to gender roles

Surgery as a given

These are valid narratives!

The problem is that those are the only ones that are circulated

When this informs policy or care giving it can further marginalize those that live outside that narrative

It's especially worrisome given the infantilization of trans people and the criteria they are made to meet to prove they're trans

A process which is especially damaging to gender variant people

"Real Life Experience"

Where trans people are made to live as the gender they identify as for a fixed period of time

Completely ignoring that they already are and have lived as that gender

Rather, these individuals are made to dress according to sexist gender roles and are forced out of the closet

Which is harmful on many levels and completely excludes those that live outside the gender binary

Trans and gender variant clients are denied agency and made to adhere to what the practitioner says their expression and interactions should look like

Applied like this the trans narrative is harmful

It's not the only way it's applied either

In four provinces and two territories, surgery is a requirement to update government documents with the correct gender marker

The narrative says real trans people get surgery


Trans women who have had any surgery


Trans men who have had any surgery

A lot of people are denied access to document changes

When surgery is required to have the government update documents it becomes inevitable that those who would not desire surgery get it anyways

Effectively sterilizing them despite their own desires about their body

This is coercive sterilization according to World Health Organization

Even this whole idea of assessing trans and gender variant clients

Having any criteria beyond the person stating they're trans or gender variant will incentivize clients to use that accepted narrative whether it's representative of them or not


The trans narrative is the accepted "trans life story"

Knowing from young age

Gender roles


It's applied in ways that are harmful to trans and gender variant people



You might end up with trans or gender variant clients

Some might be there voluntarily

Some might not

I'm going to call that involuntary therapy

Let's go back to one basic point

Therapeutic practices should only be provided with the full, free and informed consent of the individual

That's not the case when your signature is a requirement to update legal documents and access hormones

Your care might lead to these things but is not these things and that's a notable distiction

Imagine if you were made to see a therapist for 4 months in order to update your last name on your driver's license

You can see how someone going through that would draw a distinction between the therapy and the document change

More to the point you can see how the opinion of the therapist might not matter to the client so much as appeasing them

We're dealing with the same thing here with trans and gender variant clients

The services you provide might not be what's valued by the client

But rather accessing something else which may have a significant bearing on their quality of life

To which you are a potential blocker in achieving

You are now a gatekeeper

Things are different when you're a gatekeeper

Clients undergoing involuntary therapy might not be truthful

They might tell you what they know works

The trans narrative

Knowing from young age

Gender roles


Let's go with an example

Let's say you're a man who has been out for years and wants to medically transition

You first spend months with a therapist to get a referral where you have to prove you're trans enough

In an absurd twist of fate, you or your peers might have trained the very therapist who is assessing you on what being trans looks like

And you're aware of how flawed their understanding could be

Many months pass and you now have a doctor

You now have to prove you're trans all over again and spend months doing that

Now you fill out forms and write a long document proving you're trans again, this time to CAMH

( Centre for Addiction and Mental Health )

Then you have to wait two to three years

Then you have to go before a panel to prove you're trans all over again

Only then would you have received all the care you deemed necessary to medically transition

At any one of these steps, are you really going to risk jeopardizing your care by telling them your story

Or will you play it safe and tell them what you know works?

With endless stories of trans people educating their own care providers

There's a real skepticism in terms of the value of the opinions provided

I've never heard someone say "gee I'm glad I had to prove I was trans enough  to receive basic care!"

Keeping in mind that none of the care providers would have seen themselves as making their clients prove that they were trans

The other consequence of gatekeeping is that a portion of trans and gender variant people won't receive care

And they will seek alternatives


Have acquired hormones from non-medical source


Currently taking non-prescribed hormones

What we need is informed consent for hormone replacement therapy

 ...and being able to update gender markers as easily as we update other information

Until then I need you to pay attention and ask yourself whether the client is there for your care or because they're forced there by a set of attitudes that doesn't want to believe them

And if you recognize that they are there involuntarily, then spare them of having to share that trans narrative

There's a long history of gatekeeping with trans and gender variant people

Please do what you can to not contribute to it further

Pretend like it's informed consent already and ask yourself how would you act under those circumstances



Trans Narrative & Involuntary Therapy

By Maëlys

Trans Narrative & Involuntary Therapy

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