I recently encountered the article “A teen desister tells her story” on 4thwavenow. The narrative presented in it is one of “Sudden Onset Gender Dysphoria”, where Noor explains that she initially identified because of pubertal body image issues combined with a social environment encouraging transness. However, if you look a little closer, a very different (and in my opinion much more likely) possibility arises.
The article feels scripted, and it feels like Noor has been heavily coached to say the right things; things that will fit into the TERF ideology of 4thwavenow. I recommend reading it yourself to get a feeling for what I’m talking about, because it’s gives a powerful impression of the situation we’re dealing with. It’s like Noor was been carefully pressured by her mother for years (which she probably has).
The article focuses a lot on trauma and gender roles as a motivation for transitioning, but I think an underrated factor for explaining this is autoandrophilia, which is an example of the hypothesized “erotic target location error” concept, where one directs ones sexuality towards one’s own ideal self image, leading to an interest in being what one would otherwise be attracted to (in this case, men).
Let’s start with something seemingly innocent: the art. Noor seems to like making images of animals, and she was even in a DeviantArt community dedicated to the purpose. This may seem entirely irrelevant, but it is actually very important: Noor seems to be a furry, and being a furry is likely another form of ETLE. ETLEs cluster, meaning that someone who has one likely also has others. In particular, this justifies thinking that Noor is likely autoandrophilic, which is one of the main ways we see true gender dysphoria happening.
This helps us understand why she wanted male characteristics. Most obviously why she wanted anatomic male characteristics, but far more importantly, why she wanted to view herself as masculine in other ways. For example, in her advice on how to deal with dysphoria, she recommends thinking about the ways that she is already (presumably psychologically/in terms of personality) masculine. What we notice here is that she really wants to be masculine, rather than just being masculine; that is, this is not just about existing gender nonconformity, but a desire to be gender nonconforming. We see more of that in another article:
Ultimately, what brought her to the realization that she is not “in the wrong body” (about two years later), were endless, ongoing conversations about sex-based norms, gender roles and expectations, misogyny, and homophobia, between her and lots of other people, mostly women. NO ONE fits neatly into any stereotype associated with their “identity.” She came to understand that her suffering wasn’t because her body was wrong; she was suffering because growing up is hard! To her, “being trans” explained a lot of her discomfort and anxiety, but she came to realize that it wasn’t actually “being trans” that caused any of it.
It seems that Noor was cherry-picking cases of gender nonconformity from her life to justify her identity, a common experience for A*Ps who really want to present a GNC history. I think this further helps reinforce the idea that autoandrophilia helps explain the experience.
Another very telling thing is that Noor never stopped being gender dysphoric, and instead was just convinced that gender dysphoria is normal. She reports still experiencing dysphoria in the original article:
Extreme dysphoria might mean you can’t get out of bed in the morning or function at all. But thinking about it in a more critical way, what teen doesn’t experience being uncomfortable about their bodies? Dysphoria is just an extreme version of that discomfort.
It was that bad for me for a while, and sometimes it can still be bad, but I’ve learned to move my body when I feel that way and do other things that don’t feed the feeling.
The statement that someone who’s still dysphoric is a “desister” seems dubious, yet that is apparently the narrative that 4thwavenow is trying to present.