We all know that conversion therapy is wicked. Attempting to change individuals’ deep-seated personal self-identity is not merely a violation of their autonomy, but a legal offence in many jurisdictions around the world.
So it is quite surprising — not to say outrageous — that a case report about transgenera conversion therapy imposed upon a young woman has been published in a medical journal from the University of Cambridge and has passed without a word of comment from human rights groups.
The journal is CNS Spectrums, which publishes contributions related to clinical neurosciences, neurotherapeutics, and neuropsychopharmacology. The authors are an academic at Windsor University School of Medicine, in the Caribbean island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis and a researcher in Chicago. The article should be retracted immediately and the authors should be outed and shamed.
The article, published only a few weeks ago, is “Xylological Variant of Reverse Fregoli Syndrome, Delusions of Being a Tree”. (Xylo is a prefix from the Greek which means “tree”.)
According to the sketchy details provided in the case report, this is what happened.
Two months before she went to see a doctor, a 21-year-old, right-handed, cis-gender female felt stiff and had difficulty walking. Another month passed with recurrent bouts of depression.
When she was admitted to hospital, she declared “I am a tree”. In keeping with her self-identification, she stood motionless and barely responded to questions. She refused to have her blood pressure taken, as she feared that this would cut off circulation to her limbs.
However, instead of accepting her self-identification at face value, the doctors treated it as a delusion. They administered powerful drugs — quetiapine, mirtazapine and hydroxyzine – for an entire week. It sounds more like a Soviet psychiatric ward for political dissidents.
It is not clear from the article whether the woman had given her informed consent to this drastic medical treatment or whether they had addressed her with her preferred pronouns.
Xylophobic discourse ridicules the lived-experience of transgenera tree-transitioners, but they have a long and well-documented history.
The Greek woman Daphne self-identified as a laurel after being sexually harassed by Apollo. Narcissus identified as a flower. The historical record is not clear, but it appears that dryads, which were common in ancient Greece, were actually tree-identifying women. In one unusual case, a husband and wife, Baucis and Philemon, self-identified as an oak and a linden respectively.
Although the phenomenon needs to be studied in greater depth, the enduring popularity of tree-hugging suggests that trans-trees are also capable of maintaining healthy relationships after transitioning.
According to the internet site EqualDex, the legal status of conversion therapy in St Kitts and Nevis is “ambiguous”. The United Nations needs to examine this issue more carefully if doctors believe – as is apparently the case – that this dubious, dangerous and xylophobic practice should be allowed to continue.
Everyone should be able to live their lives authentically with pride. Trans-trees are not “broken” and do not need to be “fixed”. They do not need psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, hospitalisation, drugs or counselling. Trans-trees are perfect just as they are.