The day Dev could walk, the walk was feminine. The day Dev could talk…it was really feminine. The way he smiled in pictures, the way he posed….He would pick up dolls and we would take them and hide them. …just snatch them out of his hands. I didn’t understand what was happening to my boy.
–Mother of 6-year-old “trans girl” reality show star
Disclaimer: While I do not and will not ever place responsibility for the wave of pediatric transitions on the young people who have been swept up in its undertow, the adults discussed in this post have willingly chosen to place their minor children in the glare of the media limelight, with no attempt to protect the privacy or anonymity of their offspring. Any criticism of this burgeoning “transgender” child celebrity and moneymaking scheme should be aimed at the adults who enable it—not the kids.
Most screen captures in this post are still shots from the People.com video interview discussed below.
It’s official: The trans kid phenomenon has gone totally mainstream. Is there anyone in the US who hasn’t at least leafed through a People magazine–a staple of doctor’s office waiting rooms since 1974? In an age when print media is dying a slow death, People magazine has a circulation of over 3.5 million. In the online arena, it has 6.76 million Twitter followers.
So it’s not surprising that People.com has launched a raft of popular web-based reality shows. And who is one of its newest stars? A 6-year-old “transgender princess,” the youngest member of “The Keswanis: A Most Modern Family.” [Gee. This couldn’t possibly be a coy attempt at one-upmanship—or should I say, oneupyourpreferredpronounship over the hit ABC show “Modern Family,” which just has a couple of boring old GAY people as protagonists?]
ABC’s “Modern Family” is so—1990s. The Kewswani family—now that is MOST modern, which nowadays seems to mean a contest for who can market the youngest trans child to a rubbernecking public.
People.com is not shy about its ambitious aims for its new reality stars.
Actual quote: “Step aside, Kardashians! There’s a new family in town that we’re all dying to keep up with.”
Like the rest of these MOST modern trans kid tragicomedies we’ve been seeing all over the media, this one features the parents talking about that moment they realized that their kid really is the opposite sex.
Pink News, which bills itself on Twitter as “the world’s most respected and trusted LGBT news publisher,” has a promo video up (bottom of linked page) featuring interviews with the whole family. (Why don’t these one-time gay/lesbian publications just drop the pretense; drop the LGB from their monikers? Just make a clean break and call themselves a transgender news publisher and be done with it).
The 7.5-minute promo (also helpfully reproduced on Entertainment Weekly‘s website (which, like People, is owned by media giant Time Inc. with a current valuation over $4 billion), could be used as a sociological study of how so many of these “most modern” parents enforce gender stereotypes on kids who don’t fit the conventional mold of “girl” or “boy.” In fact, it’s the best example I’ve seen of how a child might come to the rather logical conclusion that they are in the “wrong body” because of their parents’ rigid ideas of what a boy or girl is supposed to act like, play with—even walk or talk like.
The day Dev could walk, the walk was feminine. The day Dev could talk…it was really feminine. The way he smiled in pictures, the way he posed….“He would pick up dolls and we would take them and hide them. …just snatch them out of his hands.” I didn’t understand what was happening to my boy.
What was happening? Well, you, the parents, defined your toddler’s every move, every facial expression as feminine. Could that have anything at all to do with why your boy decided he must obviously be a girl? And snatching a favored toy away wouldn’t have anything to do with your child starting to put 2+2 together–would it?
The little boy who happened to like dolls couldn’t possibly be emulating his older sister “Sarina, 15, a budding pageant contestant who’s navigating the emotional ups and downs of being a teenager – and learning to pose in a bikini.”
Nah. Dev’s first-grade ideas about “what I want to be when I grow up,” as reported by big sis Sarina, the “pageant rookie” and model in the opening minute of the interview, are all Dev’s own:
And my mom always uses the excuse, oh yeah, you were just like Devina when you were a kid…She loves dancing, she wants to be a tap dancer, she wants to be a famous singer, she wants to be a famous actor, and a model in a pageant.”
So was there a defining event that convinced the family Dev is really a girl? It was Dev’s kindergarten teacher who raised the alarm, according to dad.
“I think you need to see this paper.” It was a sheet of paper. I still have it. It was a picture of an elephant…trapped in a cage.
The cage of….his parents’ expectations of how a boy was supposed to behave? Because a boy sure as heck couldn’t take his first step or say his first word in a “feminine” manner.
Mom continues the story:
[Devina said] “The elephant is very sad. She is stuck. And she is sad because nobody will listen.”
I felt like I was hit by a car. Because it just hit me? That my child is a girl!
Beautiful–the transgender elephant?
He said, “her name is Beautiful.”
And I said, “Who is beautiful?” She wouldn’t look at me, and I said, “look at me.” “Who is beautiful?
And she looked at me and she was so scared. So much fear in her eyes. “She said, Beautiful is me.”
It took me about 30 seconds to take that in. I just wrapped my arms around her and said:
You will never have to be Dev again. Ever.
And in that moment, the pronouns change. He becomes she–never to be known as a boy again. Ever.
“So much fear.” A kindergartner, so afraid of his mother’s reaction. Maybe the little boy was afraid because he wanted to be “beautiful,” but he knew his doll-snatching mother didn’t think boys can be beautiful. Only girls–like his teen model sister–can be beautiful.
Who built Beautiful’s cage?
Whether we chose this or not…we are parents of a modern family. I have a son who’s a top tier social media star. I have a daughter who’s venturing out into modeling and finding her own place in the world. And then I have a 6-year-old who’s transitioning.
A top-tier social media star? The People.com promotion page for the Keswani reality series features the 17-year-old “Vine Superstar”:
The eldest is “Big Nik,” 17, who suffers from a rare form of dwarfism. His hilarious Vines have earned him a following of 2.7 million, and have made him a social media rock star.
“We’re all a little different and a little dysfunctional,” says Nik, who recently dined out with Justin Bieber and earns upwards of $10,000 a month in sponsorship deals. “But I think that’s the recipe for a happy family.”
So the family isn’t new to social-media stardom, and Mom Vaishali’s Linked-In profile lists her main career as “talent manager” (with only one client listed so far–her son, “BigNik”, though that might change soon enough with the addition of a new star to the roster), and both parents have Twitter feeds promoting their family’s rise to fame.
Entertainment Weekly promo shot of the Keswani family
Returning to the promo interview, there is only one note of discord in the family narrative, a comment from Dad:
Maybe Dev will be an effeminate male, or maybe he’ll be a gay male. It might be a passing fad.
Wait, what? This brief cameo of dad expressing doubts seems hastily spliced in, out of context. I thought Dev was now “she”? But apparently this was a past rumination from dad, before he saw the light. Because by the end of the video, dad has changed his tune–decisively:
People wonder if we’re activists…[they say] this is “morally wrong.” …Spend a day with us. And tell me that she’s anything but a girl.
Based on what? Clothes? The “feminine” walk and talk? Of course, boys don’t like pink, and pink is the only color we see the first grader wearing in the promo pictures or the video, even though pink has only recently been marketed as a “girl” color. It wasn’t long ago that pink was for boys, and both girls and boy children wore dresses:
One of the earliest references to this original color scheme appeared in a June of 1918 edition of the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department.
The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink , being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, three-term US president.
A little over halfway into the promo interview clip, a new character appears. At first it’s not evident who this person is—a teen babysitter? Family friend? She’s wearing makeup and, surprise, a pink blouse. She and Devina are filmed playing (natch) with princess stuff—wands and lots of pink dolls and princess garb.
“Do you want to give her a wand? You have wands here.”
“So cool to be with someone who’s like me in a way…you and I are both, you know, in that same category…”
The category of people who like pink? Who like wands and princesses?
People.com has an accompanying story on the princess-and-wand-loving teen:
Supporting [Devina] through the transition is not just her family, but also new friends, like Lily Rubenstein, a transgender 15-year-old who lives near the Keswani family. The two connected through the area’s transgender community, and have bonded over their shared experience during “play dates.”
Lily says that familial support and acceptance is the most important thing when it comes to ensuring a person has a positive transition.
“Support is the number one thing that parents need to be able to provide,” she tells PEOPLE. “There is nothing worse that you can do to a child than tell them that who they are inside and everything that makes them themselves is not authentic – or is a phase.”
Lily is FIFTEEN. As in, still a kid. But quoted as an expert by the geniuses at People Magazine, who are experts at one thing—profit margins.
So I beg to differ, Lily. And so do the providers who’ve been at this the longest, who say that, for the vast majority of little kids, it IS a phase, with the great majority of younger children with “gender dysphoria” growing up to be…gay. Even WPATH, the main transition-pushing organization on the planet, agrees [see page 11]. And “socially transitioning” a six-year-old will basically entrap the child in a trans identity from which they won’t have a chance of escaping, even if they want to. And if they’ve been a trans-child reality show star? Talk about a beautiful elephant in a gilded cage. And in the case of a natal boy, it’s going to be a gelded elephant in that gilded cage.
Vaishali admits she received a fair amount of backlash for allowing Devina to transition at a young age – even from friends. But Lily insists that what the Keswanis are doing is what’s best for their child.
…”The fact that she has the opportunity to transition at this stage in her life is how it should be for everyone. The Keswanis are setting the example here.”
Lily seems to be awfully confident about the ultimate outcomes for kids who are socially transitioned. Even more confident than the most pro-kid-transition experts. But where exactly is Lily getting this information from, anyway, that transitioning first graders will have such a guaranteed rosy outcome?
A quick Google tells us that Lily was featured in an April CBS Los Angeles puff piece, along with her doctor, Johanna Olson at LA Children’s Hospital (of “skip the blockers” fame).
Lily has been receiving hormone therapy and blockers to stop puberty at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which is home to the largest clinic for transgender youth in the nation.
Ah! The puzzle pieces start to come together.
Olson treats more than 400 trans-youth, the youngest of which is 4.
“Kids do roll through a lot of things as they go through identity formation but our gender is a core part of who we are and we actually all know what our gender is and have pretty solid gender identity by the age of 3 or 4 years old,” Olson said.
Oh really, Dr. Olson? “We actually all know,” do we? It’s all settled then, is it? We have a consensus? Interesting that international researchers who have worked with young gender dysphoric children directly contradict your assertion of certainty. But now we at least know where your
mouthpiece patient Lily gets the information being dutifully passed on to the masses via CBS, People magazine, and virtually every other media outlet on the planet.
Returning to the story featuring 15-year-old Lily’s role as “mentor” to 6-year-old Devina, as always, it’s impossible to discuss this issue without someone playing the suicide card. And this quote from mom Vaishali is as bad as it gets.
And for Vaishali, the risk that comes with not allowing Devina to be who she is was too great to leave to chance.
“There’s a 41 percent suicide rate in people who aren’t accepted,” she says. “That’s enough for me.”
She doesn’t even say “suicide attempt” (which in itself is inaccurate). It’s a 41% SUICIDE RATE. Apparently no one has told mom that this statistic is about rates of either self harm or thoughts of self harm, and that there is no evidence that “transition” will cure it.
As the credits roll on the promo interview, we learn that the family is from San Diego—the same place where four trans-identified teens committed suicide this year. At least two of them were transitioning with full support of their families. They were called by their “preferred pronouns” and accepted–even looked up to–by family, friends, and teachers.
The grain of truth in Vaishali’s statement about self harm is indeed about acceptance. But maybe accepting one’s child “for who she is” doesn’t mean telling a kid they are the opposite sex. Maybe it doesn’t mean setting one’s child up to be a lifelong, sterilized patient, haunting the offices of endocrinologists and surgeons for the rest of his or her life. Acceptance could start with not snatching away dolls from a boy whose beloved big sister is a budding model/beauty pageant queen. Acceptance could mean coming to terms with the fact that they have a “gender nonconforming” son who might grow up to be a gay man.
And when this kid is asked whether he wants to continue the blockers that he will most certainly get at the onset of puberty, when he is asked if he wants cross sex hormones, is he going to say NO? After all this–the media fanfare, the fame, the definitive statements from everyone in his family? Hey, no, this was all a mistake. I’m going to embarrass myself and my family and say none of this was real.
Unless DEtransition becomes a media thing in a decade or two? Somehow I don’t think “Sterilized at 15: A Most Modern Malady” will be quite as sensational–or profit-inducing. Except for maybe a few medical malpractice lawyers.