Episode 41

41 — Trans: A Conversation with Helen Joyce

Published on: 17th September, 2021

The New York Times describes Helen Joyce’s book, Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality, as “an intelligent, thorough rejoinder to an idea that has swept across much of the liberal world seemingly overnight.” Joyce reminds us that her book is not about trans people, but rather, it is about the idea “that people should count as men or women according to how they feel and what they declare, instead of their biology.” Helen explains the ways it’s more acceptable for men to “give up some privilege” and strategies women in other cultures have used to opt out of unfavorable circumstances. Perhaps denying sex leads to a perfectly clear demonstration of just how different men and women can be. We also reflect on the differences between American’s tendency to double-down on bad policy and the hopefulness Helen feels with the unfolding UK reckoning with gender self-ID. In this episode, we discuss the many ramifications of “you are exactly who you say you are.”


Helen Joyce’s Website: 


Helen on Twitter: Twitter.com/HJoyceGender


Book Review by Jesse Singal 



Helen’s interview with Andrew Doyle:



Stella’s Book Review in The Evening Standard: 



Becoming Julia (Gender Transition Documentary): 



The End of the World is Flat by Simon Edge: 



Survivorship Bias: 



Small Gods by Terry Pratchett: 



Extended Notes:

  • NY Times reviewed Helen’s new book, Trans, and Sasha is even in the book!
  • Helen didn’t even think her book would get published because of its taboo topic.
  • Are people fascinated with gender or with sex?
  • Non-binary people are trying to redefine everybody and trying to change a “fundamental truth.” Of course, it gets people upset.
  • What is the difference between transsexualism and gender self-ID?
  • This book is not about trans people, it’s a book about ideology.
  • If being trans was an ideology, a belief system, that’d be okay. However, this movement is trying to change gender facts, and that’s a harder thing to get behind.
  • Right now it’s very difficult to determine what stance is going to be on “the right side of history.”
  • The trans movement is structured as “the next thing” that needs to be liberated from oppression. However, will it be?
  • Why do men commit more transphobic acts than women?
  • People say that when you call people trans, you’re committing cultural imperialism. Helen expands on this.
  • Children are suddenly baby adults. When did this happen? What happened to the mother/child bond?
  • People think we can overcome natural human problems with technology. We’d like to think we’re above it, but human instincts/nature will always take over.
  • People like to think we’re like lego pieces; easily replaceable body parts.
  • If you are a male that wants to be female, the truth is, you can’t be. What does that mean for you? It means you have to remake the world.
  • Historically, men have been the dominant ruler. By becoming female, you’re giving up power. In society, this is allowed. The same is not true if the genders were reversed.
  • If you change your legal sex from female to male, that does not change your position in legal inheritance. (Which is traditionally important in aristocracies.)
  • Helen is aware that she left a lot of things out in the book. It’s not a complete body of work. There’s so much to talk about in this ecosphere.
  • Helen wrote about what’s happening to trans people in Canadian prisons. It’s horrible, but it’s actually much worse in the United States.
  • People think Helen is a social conservative. Helen says women are not the same as men, but it’s being translated to her thinking women are inferior to men. That’s not true.
  • Helen is very, very worried about the U.S. and how they’re handling this topic.
  • Helen addresses the NY Times criticisms of her book.
  • Who is this book for? It’s for people who want to understand the changing trans landscape.

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


Learn more about our show: Linktr.ee/WiderLensPod

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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

Profile picture for Stella O'Malley
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.