We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
– T. S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”
Even though it’s still young, the transgender movement has occasioned many bizarre and horrific stories. But even in that company, the saga of Jamie Shupe stands out.
Born in 1963, Shupe has been married to his wife, Sandy, for three decades; they have a daughter. He spent eighteen years (1982-2000) in the U.S. Army. In 2013 he began identifying as a transgender woman, claiming that he had struggled for years with a deep sense of being different and had been harassed in the military because he was perceived as gay. After declaring that he was a woman, he “lived for a year in Pittsburgh, got hormone treatments and a name change,” but never had a sex-change operation. Finding Pittsburgh inhospitable for a trans woman, he relocated to Portland, Oregon, where he continued living as a woman for another two years. In 2015, the New York Times profiled Shupe as part of a splashy, upbeat series celebrating “transgender lives.”
“I have effectively traded my white male privilege to become one of America’s most hated minorities,” Shupe lamented in the full-page Times testimony. “I now live in a world where radical, conservative politicians and religious groups routinely attack my very existence with legislation to deny me basic human rights such as a bathroom that matches my gender-identity….I am a transgender woman. My civil rights are fragile. I live in daily fear in a country that claims world leadership. And my trans brothers and sisters are forced to serve their nation in silence.”
The next year, however, Shupe made another change. Now rejecting the idea that he was a woman, he petitioned the Oregon courts to be officially recognized as non-binary. In a June 2016 ruling, a Multnomah County judge, Amy Holmes Hehn, declared that Shupe’s sex was “hereby changed from female to non-binary.” The ruling made international news because Shupe was the first person in the U.S. to be legally recognized as non-binary.
In reporting this breakthrough, USA Today said that according to Shupe, his “three years of living like a woman were nearly as painful as those spent as a man.” Shupe told the newspaper that as a trans woman he had felt pressured “to maintain a hyper-feminine appearance 24-7”; otherwise, “you were back to getting called sir.” A year later Rod Kackley, writing at PJ Media, reported that Shupe planned “to be at the front of the line to apply for a new Oregon driver’s license” on which his non-binary status would be officially recorded. Kackley quoted Shupe as telling NBC News: “I’ve trembled with the fear of failure and cried tears until I had no more tears to cry, because of the magnitude of what’s been at stake — and now won.”
Shupe’s journey from male to female to non-binary made him a darling of the mainstream and gay media and of the trans and gay establishments. (Since same-sex marriage became the law of the land, many gay-activist groups have focused almost entirely on carrying water for the trans lobby.) Following the Oregon court ruling, the Guardian ran a piece by Shupe in which he declared that the U.S. “desperately needed a third sex classification of non-binary for all of the people such as myself that simply do not fit into the existing binary system of just male or female. As a transgender person who was forced to live as a male for nearly 50 years, and who then electively lived as a female for the following three years to alleviate my gender dysphoria, I have discovered that I am healthiest and best served by not being forcibly classified as either male or female against my will.”
But that wasn’t the end of Shupe’s story. In a July 2017 article, he expressed concern about the potential impact of his court ruling on “the future of transgender children.” He argued that such kids need “societal change,” not “surgical procedures” or “cross-sex hormones” or sterilization. In an radio interview at about the same time, Shupe supported a bathroom-privacy ballot initiative. Trans activists who had been his allies began to think twice. And Lambda Legal, the nation’s premier gay-rights law firm, which had agreed to help him obtain a gender-neutral passport, dropped him as a client. In a letter, which I have seen, dated August 1, two Lambda lawyers explained to Shupe that he had “taken a position contrary to, and irreconcilable with, Lambda Legal’s organizational interests, the transgender clients we currently represent in other legal matters, and members of the transgender community at large,” and that the firm had therefore concluded “that it is necessary for us to terminate our relationship.”
This didn’t silence Shupe. Writing in August 2017 for the Federalist, he stated that while he was a “staunch advocate for open transgender military service,” he opposed “all the nutty elements of transgenderism that insist on cutting off healthy body parts, claiming they’re ‘confirming their genders.’” In April 2018, he reaffirmed his view that the military was right to ban people who’d had sex-change surgery or wanted to. He admitted that even as the media had been patting him on the back for his brave proclamation of trans identity, the hormone treatments and other procedures he’d undergone as part of his M-to-F transition had not made him more psychologically whole but had accomplished the opposite.
“As the patient and recipient of these unscientifically proven treatments, and as a guinea pig for the toxic ideology that one can change his or her sex,” Shupe wrote, “I’ve come to believe the whole transition process is tragically and fatally flawed. The proof is in the suicide statistics and the rampant suicidal ideation.” Last September he again bucked the trans party line, this time by expressing support for a Brown University study that attributed the relatively new phenomenon of Rapid-Onset Gender Disorder to “social contagion” (e.g. peer pressure or media influence); in a December piece he argued against permitting male-to-female transsexuals to use ladies’ rooms.
Obviously Shupe was a non-binary person with a difference. So it didn’t come as a total surprise when, on January 26 of this year, he posted the following statement on his website: “I believe that gender identity is a fraud perpetrated by psychiatry, the likes of something the United States and other nations hasn’t experienced since the lobotomy era. As a result, I have returned to my male birth sex.” He announced that he had lived in Ocala, Florida, since July of last year and that, on the previous day, he had been issued a Florida driver’s license identifying him as a male. “In my thirty plus year marriage,” he went on to say,
I am the husband. To my daughter, I am her Father. I no longer identify as a transgender or non-binary person and renounce all ties to transgenderism.
I will not be a party to advancing harmful gender ideologies that are ruining lives, causing deaths and contributing to the sterilization and mutilation of gender-confused children.
My history-making and landmark sex change to non-binary was a fraud based on the pseudoscience of gender identity. I am and have always been male. There should be no social or legal penalty for others to state that.
In addition to supporting the President’s ban on gender dysphoria in the military, I also support President Trump’s policy of recognizing and enforcing that there are only two biological sexes, male and female.
Whereas Shupe’s declaration that he was trans and, later, non-binary had earned him widespread media attention, the response to his renunciation of trans ideology has been met, he told to me by e-mail the other day, with “[t]otal silence” from the mass media. “When I won that court decision,” he recalled, “I had ten days of nonstop media frenzy from every big media company. It tapered down over 18 months.” But now, although he had contacted some of the same major outlets that had previously been so eager to tell his story, he had not gotten a nibble of interest: “As long as you’re advancing transgenderism, they want to talk to you. The second you say something negative, they disappear.”
But Shupe isn’t disappearing. He’s posted an extensive online archive of articles, by himself and others, that challenge transgender ideology. (In our e-mail exchange, he told me that he’d “had to rebuild” the archive and move it to another site because “[a] trans activist got it shut down.”) This month, moreover, he began posting an autobiography serially at the Medium website. It’s a truly remarkable document, revealing the story behind the story.
And what a story! Countless media, along with a parade of therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, had bought readily into the claim that Shupe was really a woman in a man’s body – and, then, that he was non-binary. The plain truth is that Shupe is a married man who was sexually active with a great many women before his marriage and who, while in the Army, discovered that he was turned on by cross-dressing and by fantasies of being a woman sexually penetrated by a male. When, after leaving the military, Shupe experienced paranoia and engaged in compulsive and destructive behavior, he and his wife recognized that he had urgent psychiatric issues; but when he sought out help, he received incompetent treatment and wasn’t given “a firm diagnosis.” Desperate for answers, he looked online, “scouring mental health articles and related websites.” And what happened? He stumbled upon material about “gender identity disorder, gender dysphoria, and transsexualism” – and decided he was a “trans woman.”
Thus began his path of self-reinvention. Forget the pretense that patients don’t get approved for transsexual treatment until after they’ve been through extensive psychological evaluations: when Shupe presented himself for the first time at a clinic, a doctor there “immediately affirmed my new identity as a woman” and wrote a hormone prescription. Shupe later met with his share of psychiatrists and therapists, but his account of their interactions mostly confirms my own view of these professions at their worst. To be sure, one gutsy psychiatrist – who supervised Shupe’s therapist – dared to venture the opinion that Shupe was not really a woman; but all Shupe had to do was get up, leave the room, and find some other practitioner who was prepared to give him the instant confirmation – and meds – he believed he needed. Meanwhile VA doctors compliantly prescribed drugs that scrambled his emotions and harmed his body.
Eventually, however, Shupe agreed with that defiant psychiatrist: he wasn’t a woman. He recognized that he’d been “equating femininity with being female” and that he’d felt obliged to put on constant displays of “hyper-femininity” in order to affirm his ersatz femaleness. Yet instead of reclaiming his male identity – and thereby admitting he’d made a mistake – he came up with the “non-binary” stratagem. Telling the two doctors who were then treating him – one at the VA, and the other at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) – that he had no expectation of “ever resembling a cisgender female,” he asked them for letters affirming his “non-binary status.”
Both came through with flying colors. His VA doctor wrote a letter affirming that “Jamie’s gender identity and expression does not fit the current simplistic binary model of male or female. Therefore, I support Jamie in deciding for themselves [sic] what gender identity most closely reflects their [sic] reality.…To force Jamie into identifying as male or female soley [sic] is not only limiting and inaccurate but is also detrimental to Jamie’s self-expression and pursuit of happiness which is a basic human and constitutional right.” Shupe’s OHSU doctor, for her part, wrote a letter declaring that Shupe had “had appropriate clinical treatment to the new gender of non-binary.” In a private note to Shupe, she assured him that “[g]ender identity is your identity, not society’s, and I’m happy to support you in this.”
Of the two doctors, Shupe now says: “These two would have let me transition into being a cat.”
Shupe wanted to have the letters to buttress his case for being declared “non-binary.” But Judge Hehn, according to him, didn’t even bother to look at them before making her historic ruling. Shupe shared with me an e-mail, purportedly sent to him by his lawyer prior to the court appearance, telling him that Hehn is the mother of a transgender child. Shupe believes to this day that this is why she ruled as she did. He also says that in the months before and after the ruling he was psychotic, suffering from both visual and auditory hallucinations. As evidence, he shared with me an e-mail about paranormal experiences that he wrote at the time to one journalist who had covered his case. “They all knew I was nuts,” he now says about these media people, “and hid it.” Did his doctors know it, too, when they wrote those letters?
In any event, “non-binary” proved not to be a good fit for Shupe, either. On January 25 of this year, he finally threw in the towel, deciding that he could “be a feminine male and wear women’s clothing as a male” without having to “hide behind a female or non-binary identity.” In short, after that years-long, emotionally exhausting, and financially costly roller-coaster ride through Transworld, Shupe finally faced up to the fact that he’s just neither a female nor a non-binary person – or, for that matter, a cat, a duck, or an armoire – in a man’s body. He says he’s probably bisexual; it sounds to me as if he’s a straight guy with a couple of kinks.
Whatever he is, he could have kept this ultimate revelation to himself and remained an LGBTQIAPK hero. But – bravely, in my opinion – he felt a need to spill the beans about the truth behind the media story, in large part because he didn’t want to continue sending a misleading, destructive message of triumphant transformation to gender-confused children. While he was still identifying as non-binary, he was giving lectures to kids who thought they were trans, and was telling them to embrace that identity but not to leap into surgery. He now feels, as he puts it, that “these kids should be celebrated for persevering against gender dysphoria rather than be celebrated for succumbing to it.”
At first denied “a firm diagnosis,” Shupe has since been given several: in addition to gender dysphoria, he’s been told at various times that he has bipolar disorder, PTSD, and borderline personality disorder. It’s painful to reflect that Shupe could had been spared all this turmoil and notoriety, and all these visits to clinics and courthouses, if he’d ever been treated by one competent and courageous psychiatrist who went below the surface in search of a solid diagnosis, initiated appropriate treatment, and put the brakes on all the reckless, destructive medical procedures. And, of course, if it had not been so easy for Shupe, when confronted with an uncooperative practitioner who did question his self-diagnosis, to find some quack who’d play along. But in these days when all too many members of the mental-health professions are desperately eager to affirm that a patient is indeed a case of wrong-mind-in-the-wrong-body – and who needs invasive surgery stat – that’s obviously too much to ask.
Some readers may fault Shupe here. Indeed, he faults himself, feeling guilty about the expense he’s put taxpayers to and the pernicious ideology he helped promote. I don’t agree with him here. Shupe was a man – a veteran! – who needed serious professional help and who was failed by a medical-care system that’s embraced an inane, deadly trend with little or no basis in scientific fact. Here’s hoping that his story makes it past the MSM censors and gets out there where it can do some good. If it manages to persuade just a few doctors and therapists not to move so fast when approving of trans treatment – including the crimes of prescribing puberty blockers to perfectly healthy children, and taking a scalpel to perfectly healthy genitalia and gonads – it may well save lives.