Saturday, December 9

Dear Straight People

Why some gay people are over the rainbow

A few weeks ago, I quit Facebook.

The reasons for this departure were many. Mostly I was tired of confronting daily newsfeeds replete with uncritical reckons, ungracious opinions, and unfettered negativity. I had also noticed myself becoming more reactive in recent months, which set off an internal alarm.

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One incident clinched the deal for me. An acquaintance who works in media posted a photo of “trans rights” protestors at Kellie-Jay Keen’s “Let Women Speak” event in Albert Park, Auckland.

Banners flying and gleaming in the early autumn sun. Placards hoisted high.

These protestors, incidentally, are the same ones that included a young man who is currently up on assault charges after punching an elderly lesbian twice in the face. They also included an intersex woman who allegedly assaulted Kellie-Jay Keen with tomato juice.

And my acquaintance’s caption for her Facebook photo?


For my non-Aotearoan readers, this word is te reo Māori for “love” or “affection”. It can also imply respect, compassion, and empathy.

Given the violence that was to follow, you’d think it was the pungent irony on display here that maddened me. Though this irony was not lost on me, what really peaked me was this: here was a wealthy left-leaning heterosexual pākehā woman signalling her support for a community of activists who have done nothing but irrevocably divide my gay community.

She appeared to have no idea of what has been going on behind the scenes in recent years, perhaps sporting a naïve belief that she was supporting an ostensibly imperilled “trans community”.

Her supposed perception of aroha at the gathering could not have been further from the truth.

There is no love lost between factions in the current LGBT schism. It is the purpose of this piece to introduce my heterosexual readers to things that have been brewing within the broader LGBT population, from my perspective as a counsellor and a gay man, and to present an alternative viewpoint.

A viewpoint that is, ridiculously, often framed as hateful.

I began to notice similar blinkered statements being posted in places I wouldn’t have expected to view them. One such example involved a couple of Facebook pages set up to help counsellors network with each other.

Despite the pages’ moderators warning us to avoid posting political content on the sites, many posts nonetheless assumed certain “truths” to be self-evident: that clinical and socially prescribed affirmation therapy is the only way to treat gender dysphoria (don’t start me on this clinically irresponsible position – more on this later), and that men can literally become women (and visa versa).

Viewing these uncritical, dogmatic posts often provoked much forelock-tugging. Most of them were written by well-meaning heterosexual counsellors with, to be blunt, no skin in the game.

These individuals were usually the first to signal their support for the LGBTQ+ community (whatever that is – we’re not some amorphous blob, people), but nonetheless held embarrassingly one-sided views of the cultural situation we “rainbow folk” have found ourselves in.

Counsellors, psychotherapists, and psychologists are required to maintain a stance that is as neutral as possible. This positioning forms part of our “therapeutic frame”, the boundaries we provide for ourselves and our clients while working together. This frame keeps both therapist and client safe.

Therapists should by default examine their biases, assumptions, and projections regularly. Ethically, they should discuss these with their supervisors. Political, religious, and ideological beliefs must have no role to play in the therapeutic “container”.

So, to discern such entrenched ideological positions in my peers was frightening, to be frank. Counselling is ideally an apolitical space. Non-partisan, dogma-free.

Incidentally, I have received many emails from fellow therapists since publishing previous Substack posts about LGBT issues. They all said one thing: “thank you for saying what I have been too afraid to say”.

Make of that what you will, dear reader. 

At any rate, I wish for my heterosexual peers to be acutely aware of one thing: that not all gay people go along with the ideas that are presented by Queer activism as unvarnished truth.

Without wishing to sound condescending, there is probably much for you to learn in this space. A space where my gay brothers and sisters, my bisexual and trans siblings, and my gender-flexible cousins live. A place I have called home since coming out in 1988 at the tender age of 18.

For the most part, I hate to say, you may have to accept that you have been duped. Certain fringe ideas have somehow made their way into mainstream discourse in recent decades, powered by corporate interests and academic institutions.

These ideas present themselves as virtuous, kind, and inclusive. They are often anything but. They often seem to represent nothing more than a prescriptive, stifling conformism.

I have been monitoring developments in the LGB and trans rights spaces since early 2020, during our first lockdown.

I couldn’t believe what I was reading much of the time, and I read widely. I thought I was going mad, or simply transforming into the middle-aged curmudgeon I’ve been reliably informed I’ll inevitably become, trapped in my echo chamber, railing at the world. 

But no, it was all too real, and consistently unnerving. I rarely spoke of it with others because when I did, I was usually dismissed in that very kiwi way: “oh, that can’t be happening – she’ll be right” or, laughably, “are you right-wing now, Paul?” (fun fact: I’m not, never have been, and never will be).

Some of the rhetoric I am currently hearing in New Zealand echoes what I was reading on Twitter back in 2020 via international accounts. What I was discovering back then regarding developments overseas is now starting to show here.

What do I mean by this?

Queer Theory, an academic proposition, has found its way into our school system in recent years, encouraged in part by LGBTQ support organisations such as InsideOUT and Rainbow Youth. It has also infiltrated my professional field, as I have already suggested.

Queer Theory, like other critical social justice theories, is a postmodern academic position that questions the normality, utility, and validity of just about everything.

Marriage. The rights of minors. Art. Psychological theory. The age of consent. Gender. The medical profession. History. Mental illness. The prison system. Societal structures. Institutional power. Homosexuality. Even gardening!

Like any philosophical approach, it draws its ideas from several places, the main sources here being found in the ideas of post-structuralist, social constructionist, or third-wave feminist philosophers. People such as Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, amongst others. For the most part these ideas originated in the 1960s, reaching their zenith in the 2010s.

Queer theory seeks to “queer” what is “normal”. It identifies sources of supposed institutional and societal power and uncritically regards them as inherently oppressive.

It then seeks to degrade (and decolonise) these institutions by deconstructing and thus subverting the language they would normally utilise in order to function.

Boundaries are challenged and dissolved. Language is co-opted, with overt attempts made to alter long-standing definitions, honouring the projected goals of inclusivity, diversity, and equity.

Paedophile therefore becomes minor-attracted person, or MAP.

The institution of marriage becomes a vestige of heteronormativity.

Male becomes assigned male at birth.

Homosexuals are regarded as queer, despite this being an appalling slur to those old enough to remember the homophobic violence that sometimes accompanied it.

tomboy might become a non-binary person.

Sex becomes gender.

Women are described as birthing persons, their genitalia reduced to “front hole”.

So far, so Orwellian.

InsideOUT and Rainbow Youth have both had their government (read: taxpayer) funding substantially increased in the last three years. Their Queer Theory-informed beliefs around “gender identity” are now widely embedded in schools, government agencies, and NGOs. The language games I have described are embedded in their kaupapa (guiding principles).

Both charities ostensibly appear to have no interest in sexuality issues, only gender. Much of the material they disseminate to schools is notably sexual in nature, and overtly slanted towards matters of “gender identity”.

Children learn via this material that it is possible to be born in the wrong body (it isn’t – this is metaphysical faith statement, not fact), and that if you are a boy who plays with dolls then you are probably female.

Yes, gentle heterosexual readers, you read that right.

I shudder to think what would become of me if I were a child today. Back in the 1970s I adored my Partridge Family paper dolls, desperately wanted a Sindy, and regularly dressed up in Mum’s heels and frocks. I was a sensitive, skinny, effeminate boy, and, like many gay people, went through a pronounced phase of gender non-conformity at various stages of my youth.

Today, this might very well be unnecessarily pathologized by agencies such as Rainbow Youth or InsideOUT. My male body and supposed female “gender soul” would be regarded as mismatched, and I would be treated accordingly.

Almost like, say, conversion therapy, no?

These LGBTQ youth support agencies are now solely focused on “gender diversity”. Try finding the words “gay” or “lesbian” on their websites.

InsideOUT especially seems to be going from strength to strength in terms of embedding its fundamentalist ideas about gender into schools. Our current government officially engages them to advise on the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum. All their ideas have a firm foundation in the blurred boundaries posited in Queer Theory.

These are the same ideas that unilaterally command the use of an “affirmation-only approach” when working psychotherapeutically with gender dysphoric youth. This approach dictates that we must accept the client’s self-descriptors without question, their gender confusion being largely the only issue worthy of recognition.

It is indeed disheartening that I must state in 2023 that this approach is obviously anathema to sound, holistic, and intellectually rigorous psychotherapy. I have written about this in previous Substack pieces.

The potential penalty for defying this edict is not what you may think either. That Conversion Therapy bill you voted in?  A possible cudgel with which we therapists can be beaten. But don’t worry – I thoughtlessly voted in favour of it also. This is despite Aotearoa already possessing substantial legislation protecting people who have been psychologically harmed in therapeutic relationships.

Although I have published a couple of pieces to my Substack in the last three years, I’ve been largely silent about all of this. I have been frightened to say much given the developing institutional capture of various professional bodies, and of the pile-ons that seem to ensue when someone such as myself dares to respectfully question established doctrine.

I have stories about the lengths people have gone to in recent years to have me discredited for simply asking respectful questions. In my field currently, only certain narratives around gender and sexuality appear to be permitted. I have been called some terrible names, and wrongfully accused of acting maliciously. There will literally be people reading this right now wishing me harm. This is the climate in which we currently exist.

Children are undeniably being harmed both physically and psychologically in the pursuit of “trans rights”, and gay activism is being undermined via a coercive force-teaming with Queer Theory-led gender activism.

Thanks to the counterproductive actions of “queer activists” such as Shaneel Lal – which inform the right-wing backlash currently being observed in the US – I now have a target on my back again as a gay man.

At 53 years of age, I now find myself worrying about random homophobic violence for the first time in over two decades, some of it from within my own community.

Let that sink in.

My gay male sexuality is once again being associated by the religious right with paedophilia and “actually wanting to be a woman” (analogous with the “born in the wrong body” trope, ironically).  These are both insulting and archaic quasi-Freudian notions I thought were long dead.

Lesbians are being informed that a man who has decided to “identify as a woman” can legitimately describe himself as a lesbian. Any same sex attracted female who disputes this is called names or threatened with sexual violence.

Drag – a long-standing cultural tradition within the gay community – is now seen as threatening. This is what right-wing luminaries such as Ron DeSantis and Matt Walsh now firmly believe, and the current trans rights movement appears to be doing nothing more than stoking this growing fire.

In other words, queerness as described in Queer Theory is now being conflated with homosexuality, or put simply, same sex attraction.

They are not the same, and never were.

Gay people can certainly describe themselves as queer, should they wish, but most do not. Some straight people identify as queer, interestingly. It is both a culture and a way of describing a sense of self that exists beyond what are considered societal norms. It is an unfalsifiable descriptor in that anyone can “queer” anything and not have to (or, more realistically, be able to) describe how.

I am also being told, from within my own community I might add, that I am a “sexual racist” if I do not consider transmen (i.e., dysphoric natal females living as men) in my dating pool.

It is literally impossible for me to consider this – I am homosexual, and thus only attracted to men. Being gay is not an identity, it is a verifiable fact.

I would even be regarded by many as bigoted if I were to describe myself as “same sex attracted”. The phrase “sexual racist” was actually used by Nancy Kelley, the former CEO of the UK’s LGBT advocacy organisation Stonewall to describe those gay people who refuse to consider sexual intimacy with opposite-sexed individuals.

Nancy is a lesbian, by the way. This homophobic call is literally coming from within our own house.

An attempt is being made, in plain sight, to “queer” homosexuality. To shame us for being attracted to the same sex. Essentially, it’s a variation on the old “you just haven’t met the right woman yet” trope.

All our activism since the 1970s…..potentially undone.

And again, not many heterosexual people realise this.

The current trans movement is markedly different to the one I knew when I was young in the 1990s. I have always regarded my transgender and transsexual whanau as kin. Our communities overlap, and we shared similar struggles in the “old days”. I have trans friends and trans clients. My dear, late uncle was transgender – I know what he went through to live his authentic self.

But this modern iteration of “trans” is ironically, laughably homophobic.

“Trans” no longer simply describes the 0.3% of the population who have been born with an overpowering sense of distress about their sexed body. Under the auspices of Queer Theory, “trans” now refers to anyone who regards themselves as gender non-conforming which, philosophically, could describe any one of us at various points in our lives. It also cogently describes the early experiences of many same sex attracted people, as I have mentioned.

Gay people are now being associated with a boundaryless gender-focused ideology that most of us simply cannot support. This is hurting us, as is pointedly evidenced within my counselling practice.

Every week I sit with teenagers who are struggling with their sexuality, their autism, their self-confidence, or various attachment difficulties. They inform me that they are, in fact, the opposite sex, despite displaying no gender dysphoria in childhood, a reasonably reliable indicator of genuine transgender dysphoria.

Without fail, the main bulk of these teenagers appear to have simply amplified a ubiquitous teenage body dysmorphia by sourcing online information about gender identity. They distrust or dislike their burgeoning bodies (and psyches) and seek to remedy this discomfort, in turn pathologizing it.

Being teenagers, they avidly wish to belong to something. They then decide that their psychological discomfort is present because they are transgender. They’re mostly not trans however, with 80-90% reliably growing out of this phase by the age of 21.

The large percentage of these young people simply turn out to be gay or bisexual, or autistic to some degree.

These rangatahi (young people) have rejected their sexed bodies for various reasons, and this rejection has been codified and applauded by the current Queer movement, transmitted via social media.

As with other vaguely cult-like movements, Queer Theory presents a one-size-fits-all set of solutions for mental distress that should really be thoroughly explored in a counselling room with a competent therapist, not medicated with puberty blockers or surgery.

This is an inconvenient truth that is currently regarded as heresy in my field. 

It is also a slippery slope for our vulnerable youth, with disingenuous, Queer Theory-informed organisations such as Rainbow Youth and InsideOUT waiting at the bottom.

What happens psychologically to a vulnerable young gay man who accesses these services only to find himself shamed by the very agencies supposedly set up to support him for not being attracted to transmen? Or a lonely autistic teenager who has fixed upon the idea of rejecting their sex?

These agencies are not mental health support providers. They are purveyors of a simplistic, reductive, regressive ideology that currently holds sway over our society.

Many youths who have gender-transitioned internationally are now detransitioning. Their stories are slowly emerging, and they are uniformly heart-breaking to hear.

In my work, I also sit with transgender/transsexual people who are dismayed by the rhetoric they’ve heard in recent years. Like me, they feel newly exposed when all they want to do is live their best life in peace and comfort. They speak of vitriol coming from all angles now, from activists of every political persuasion. Their existence has been unnecessarily politicised, adding an emotional load to their already challenging lives.

If they didn’t feel threatened before, they sure do now.

This makes me angry, to be perfectly honest, and I am sure my ever-patient supervisor is tired of me bringing it up. I know my husband is!

This is all obviously an ideological contagion, fuelled by social media. The shortcomings of our politicians, our institutions, our corporations, and our media have become patently obvious, with only the smaller political parties addressing some of the issues in the lead-up to our general election this year.

It pains me that many desperately cling to the notion that all of this “isn’t happening”.

But it is.

The violence in Albert Park earlier this year happened solely because of the polarising ideas espoused by women like Nancy Kelley, Instagram influencers like Lal, and overly pugnacious provocateurs such as Kellie-Jay Keen.

And, clearly, by well-meaning heterosexuals like my Facebook acquaintance who believe they are “allies” simply by attending a trans rights protest.

True aroha is found when we compassionately engage with those we disagree with, putting our ego to one side. 

There’s none of this to be found amongst Shaneel Lal and their ilk. Lal won Young New Zealander of the Year this year despite ample evidence that they experience considerable difficulty with regulating their emotions.

I consider their insulting, divisive tweets in recent years to be below anyone with a working sense of decency, and I have no hesitation in judging people who write these sorts of things as perhaps unworthy of a prominent place in the discourse.

Progress in any relationship, whether it be husband and wife, or warring political factions, is only ever made by leaning into conflict, hearing all sides of the debate, and interacting as adults.

This will often involve loud demonstrations and heated dialogue to get our points across, but it must never involve political violence in any form.

And this is all I saw at Albert Park, I’m afraid.

So, to end, I want to address any heterosexuals who have read this far, including friends, acquaintances, peers, and colleagues. Most importantly, I’m addressing those who might assume they are being supportive of the wider LGB and trans communities by posting virtuous photos on Facebook.

You may be realising by now that you don’t have the full story. And that’s ok. You are coming from a well-meaning place, and you may well be right in some of your assertions or assumptions.

But there is considerable nuance present here which you’re almost certainly missing, and disparate, dissenting voices such as mine are currently being silenced.

Ask yourself this: having read everything I’ve written here, how comfortable would you feel asking questions about these ideas in a public forum?

Why are ideas from Queer Theory so vociferously and violently defended? I can only turn to a lucid quote from psychologist Carl Jung to explain it: “fanaticism is always a sign of repressed doubt.”

Lastly, I am not coming from a place of “hate”, a word bandied around far too often nowadays. I simply reject the current dominant ideology that appears to be driving conflict in my community, and I have profound concerns around the level of care being offered to confused teenagers.

We’re not going to reach a place of authentic aroha, respectful dialogue, and compassionate understanding while bloody-minded tribalistic events such as Albert Park are permitted to occur.

Providing you resist the urge to call me names, however, this middle-aged homosexual will always be ready to listen.

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