Episode 79

Published on:

21st Jul 2022

79 - Gender Identity: Literally False, Metaphorically True with Dr. Bret Alderman

Bret Alderman is a writer and life coach who works with gender-questioning teens and their parents. He received his Ph.D. in Depth Psychology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute in 2012. His book Symptom, Symbol, and the Other of Language: A Jungian Interpretation of the Linguistic Turn, is an attempt to understand postmodernism, specifically its intense preoccupation with language, from a perspective informed by the work of Carl Jung. This work, in turn, has led him to an interest in Queer Theory and its relation to earlier, first-generation postmodernist thinkers.

Bret’s insight into postmodernist and poststructuralist thinking provides a rich platform on

which to get to grips with gender ideology. In this fascinating discussion, he explains the “linguistic turn” and the Jungian concepts such as ideological possession and other important archetypes. Perhaps most importantly, Bret tells us why a statement can be literally false and yet remain metaphorically true — and how we can best respond when this is happening.


  • Bret Alderman: Symptom, Symbol, and the Other of Language: A Jungian Interpretation of the Linguistic Turn


Extended Notes

  • For his book, Symptom, Symbol, and the Other of Language, Bret researched the linguistic turn.
  • Bret defines the Jungian “nothing-but” attitude.
  • Queer theory and gender identity theory would be impossible without poststructuralism and the particular understanding of language it inaugurated.
  • In their malleable state, young people may believe they have been misled into a different narrative.
  • A death-rebirth motif runs through the discourse of what it means to be transgender.
  • In the context of gender, something can be literally false yet metaphorically true.
  • The body is a language itself and how physical characteristics are used to communicate who we are.
  • Animals that are sexually dimorphic also exhibit differences in behavior.
  • Bret details Prometheanism and its place in gender ideology.
  • The issue with deifying an idea.
  • Bret describes how he moves past the jargon of the internet during therapy.
  • Jung’s active imagination technique for internalized transphobia.
  • It is normal for teens to radically change the way they present themselves to the world.
  • Bret contends that gender identity theory and queer theory are not sustainable.
  • How knowing more than one language translates into a different mindset.

This podcast is sponsored by ReIME and Genspect. Visit https://rethinkime.org/ and https://genspect.org/ to learn more.

For more about our show: https://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.

* 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.