Episode 31

Published on:

9th Jul 2021

31 - Silencing Thought: A Conversation with Heather Brunskell-Evans

Heather Brunskell-Evans is a philosopher and sociologist who studies the intersection of medicine and culture. She joins us today to trace the ways in which queer theory evolved in academia and moved into the broader culture, including the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) in the UK. Explaining how a social justice angle is key to the ‘affirmative model’ of care for gender dysphoria, Heather recounts a few key moments when she realized there were authoritarian elements at play in silencing thought and conversation around the topic of transgender, even for parents trying to protect their children.


Heather’s Website  



Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body 



Inventing Transgender Children and Young People  



Transgender Body Politics  



Heather on Twitter 



The History of Sexuality 



Janice Raymond, The Transsexual Empire 



Vanity Fair Cover 



Moral Maze 



Heather Brunskell Evans opinion piece for Leicester University   


Extended Notes

  • Heather has been working in this field since the very beginning --Since the early 1990s. 
  • Heather shares a bit about her background and how she got started. 
  • The moment Heather discovered medical intervention for transgender children in 2016, her work has not been the same since. 
  • Why did Heather decide to do her PhD in child sexual abuse? 
  • Technically, we don’t actually have any human or social rights. 
  • What research did Heather discover when she was doing her PhD in queer theory? 
  • Heather describes what post-structuralism is. 
  • We are a byproduct of the culture we live in, but these concepts have not been introduced into queer theory yet. 
  • When we are feeling insecure about life, we tend to naturally go back to our ‘roots’. 
  • Heather had to censor herself in the 90s. You could not openly talk about women’s bodies. 
  • The serperation between sex, biology, and gender was intially very good and had some valid points associated with it. 
  • Throughout the 70s there was a shift in our views on gender and biology, but by the 90s, there was an overcorrection happening. We are seeing the same thing happening today.
  • People are claiming that some women at the end of the bell curve are stronger than men, which means you can not say women on average are less strong than men. Heather shares her thoughts on this. 
  • Is femininity a performance act? Heather wrote about it, but many disagree with her findings. The university lawyers had to get involved. 
  • This is around the time Heather also discovered that she was no longer able to call Bruce Jenner a man. She was ‘deadnaming’. 
  • Heather wanted to fight it and stand up for herself, but her close friends and colleagues said to surrender now before it gets worse. 
  • The Gender Identity Development Services (GIDS) turned their mission from a clinical model to a social justice model. 
  • It was a perfect storm. The GIDS were now in the business of political activism. This meant that only trans people had the right to speak about trans issues, and the professionals needed to ‘keep quiet’. 

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


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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.

* We are sponsored by ReIME and Genspect.
Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics (ReIME) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving long term care for gender variant individuals. To learn more, visit https://rethinkime.org/

Genspect is an international alliance of parent and professional groups whose aim is to advocate for parents of gender-questioning children and young people. Parents are concerned that their kids are not receiving appropriate treatment and support; many do not feel free to speak out about their concerns.
To learn more, visit https://genspect.org/
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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.