Episode 105

105 — From Rejecting the Body to Finding Female w/ Victoria Smith

Published on: 10th March, 2023

Victoria Smith is a regular contributor to The Critic, writing on women’s issues, parenting, and mental health. Her work has also appeared in The New Statesman, The Independent, and UnHerd. Her book Hags looks at the demonisation of middle-aged women in politics and popular culture.

In this episode, Stella and Sasha chat with Victoria about the depths of body hatred and body loathing. Victoria shares her perceptions about experiences described in the context of gender dysphoria, seeming incredibly relatable to her experience of anorexia and disordered eating when she was younger. The conversation exposes the distress of the burden of acclimating to the maturing female form at a young age manifesting as dysphoric perceptions of reality — a coping mechanism for discomfort.

Another fascinating concept explored in the conversation is how with age, females continue to experience confusion and discomfort with their changing bodies and find themselves in a constant state of reconciling not just their own experiences in relation to their bodies, but society’s reactions to the changes in both their physical presentation as well as their attitudes, expressions, and contributions to society.

Victoria speaks charmingly about the sentiments behind her recently published book, Hags: The Demonisation of Middle-Aged Women; and how society has always fostered a certain lack of respect for the wisdom and discernment women of a certain age contribute to culture and the symbolism behind it. There’s a sort of generational war between young women and older women that has always seemingly existed and yet the journey of experiencing womanhood has a way of bridging the gap between the two.


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Extended Notes

  • Victoria found people’s understanding of anorexia and gender dysphoria confusing.
  • As an early developer, Victoria didn’t associate her body with being her.
  • Victoria began dieting as a child and was hospitalized at 12 for an eating disorder.
  • Victoria felt like she had to be the boy and a girl of the family.
  • There were times when social contagion and the media influenced her need to be different.
  • Victoria feels there is a lot of overlap between anorexia and gender dysphoria.
  • Force-feeding can be traumatizing to people who are already traumatized.
  • During her recovery, Victoria went from starving herself to binge eating.
  • In her 20s, Victoria began menstruating again and felt she missed out on the social aspect of puberty.
  • Female cycles are in a state of constant flux.
  • Throughout time, women have been mistreated because of their lack of choice about getting pregnant.
  • Many women underestimate the amount of misogyny they internalize.
  • In her book, Hags: The Demonisation of Middle-Aged Women, Victoria explores the bias middle-aged women have received for decades.
  • Victoria found herself aligning with men who degraded middle-aged women before realizing what she was doing.


“It seems that gender dysphoria was in this magic kind of ... you’re not allowed to criticize it. You just have to accept it.” — Victoria Smith [6:06]

“People don’t really understand how horrific it is when you have a deep-seated eating disorder and it does equate to someone with deep gender dysphoria.” — Stella [29:26]

“It’s a constantly evolving process. That is what is so scary about making permanent medical decisions about something that is so in flux.” — Sasha [35:54]

“You just don’t know how you are going to feel in 5‒10‒15 years’ time. because so much can change. Both with your body and how other people around you relate to it.” — Victoria Smith [39:51]

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About the Podcast

Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast
Two therapists explore the expanding concept of "gender" from a psychological depth perspective.
Gender dysphoria has become a minefield for public discussion, with many afraid to express their views or question the narrative. Our mission is to examine this important and complex topic from a range of perspectives, but always through a psychological lens. By openly considering and examining gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella, we hope to give all interested parties permission to engage these fascinating topics with less fear and more honesty. Interviews and discussions will involve clinicians, medical professionals, academics, transgender people, parents, detransitioners and other interesting individuals whose lives have been touched by the concept of gender.

Conversations between two practicing therapists give listeners an opportunity to contemplate gender from a depth perspective not currently taken up in most of today’s accessible debates. As a result of their work with gender dysphoric therapy clients as well as their personal divergent experiences with gender, Stella and Sasha hold a refreshing and informed perspective.

Is gender identity a facilitation of development and expression of creativity, or can it be a defense against painful existential realities of living in a human body? What can we discover about masculinity, femininity, identity, gender performance, and sexuality when we peer beneath the surface and dive into a deeper psychological exploration? What is the relationship between body, mind, identity, culture, and psyche?

This podcast engages listeners in an intimate and fascinating behind-the-scenes inquiry about a topic as taboo as it is salient today.

Thank you to our sponsors:
Genspect - an international organization which offers an alternative to WPATH. Providing a range of education, resources and supports to anyone impacted by gender distress, Genspect unites many different organizations globally, and gives voice to 1,000s of previously untold stories. For more info, visit genspect.org.

GETA - an association of therapists who believe that individuals experiencing gender related concerns ought to be treated using a whole person approach. GETA connects like minded clinicians, provides educational resources and trainings, and helps people with gender dysphoria find support. For more info, visit genderexploratory.com.
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About your hosts

Stella O'Malley

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Stella O’Malley is a psychotherapist and author who works in private practice in Ireland. Her work focuses on parenting, family dynamics and working with teenagers.

Much of Stella’s counselling and writing focuses on mental health and the importance of well-being and she is a regular contributor to the media. She is also the resident psychotherapist for the current TV series, Raised by the Village, a family programme that helps troubled teenagers reconnect with themselves and their families.

Stella's first book, Cotton Wool Kids, was released in 2015 while Bully-Proof Kids: Practical tools to help kids grow up confident, resilient and strong was released in 2017. Stella’s latest book Fragile, was released in 2019 and focuses on overcoming anxiety and stress.

Stella was the presenter of the documentary Trans - Kids: It’s Time To Talk broadcast on Channel 4 in November 2018 and she contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People.

The Jungian analyst, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella launched Secrets of the Motherworld in September 2019, offering thoughtful exploration of the most intimate aspects of motherhood in a bid to help mothers feel less alone.

Stella is a Clinical Advisor for the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners. She is also the lead facilitator for the Gender Dysphoria Support Network.

Stella holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a M.A. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Sasha Ayad

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Sasha Ayad is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works in private practice, and has treated adolescents for over 10 years. Her work focuses on teens and young adults struggling with issues of gender dysphoria and gender identity.

She became interested in the sharp rise in teenagers who declare a trans identity for the first time during adolescence. She discovered, through working with hundreds of families, that many teens were developing gender dysphoria only after adopting a transgender identity. She questions the practice of medical transition for children and teenagers, and her clinical work focuses on developmentally appropriate, least-invasive-first talk therapy.

Sasha is also a founding member and Clinical Advisor in the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners.

Sasha’s previous work experience includes:
- School counselor for middle and high school students at a charter school for underserved communities

- Behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum

- Individual and group counseling for women and children impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence

- Developed and ran the first counseling program at a large state supported living facility for adults with intellectual disability

Sasha holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology.