“I just gave him the language”: Top gender doc uses pop tart analogy to persuade 8-year-old girl she’s really a boy

We’ve heard it over and over, ad nauseum, from gender doctors, trans activists, and their enablers:

  • Follow the child’s lead.
  • We don’t tell kids they’re trans. The child tells us!
  • You can’t “make a child trans.”
  • Just listen to the child.

OK, then. Just listen to this 4-minute excerpt from top pediatric gender doctor Johanna Olson-Kennedy, MD and decide whether the 8-year-old in question arrived at the conclusion that she’s a boy all by her lonesome.

Olson-Kennedy is the Medical Director of the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the largest transgender youth clinic in the US. She delivered these remarks at the inaugural USPATH conference in Los Angeles this past February, as part of a symposium entitled “OUTSIDE OF THE BINARY – CARE FOR NON-BINARY ADOLESCENTS AND YOUNG ADULTS.”

The first four minutes of the audio are transcribed in this post. However, readers are strongly encouraged to listen to the whole clip themselves. Timestamps are in square brackets [].

Olson-Kennedy starts with background on the case:

An 8-year-old kid comes into my practice, and this is the story with this kid: Assigned female at birth, 8 years old, was completely presenting male whatever that means—short haircut, boy’s clothes–but what was happening, is, this kid went to a very religious school and in the girls’ bathroom which is where this kid was going. People are like, “why is there a boy in the girl’s bathroom? That’s a real problem.” And so this kid was like, so that’s not super working for me, so I think that I wanna maybe enroll in school as a boy. This kid had come up with this entirely on their own.

When the kid came in, mom was like, “oh we don’t know what to do, so please help us” and so we started talking about it and what was interesting is that …you know some kids come in and they have great clarity and great articulation [sic] about their gender. They are just endorsing it, “this is who I am, and yes there’s gender confusion but it’s all of you who are confused,” so there are those kids. So this kid had not really organized or thought about all these different possibilities.

Girl likes short hair and comfortable clothes: check. Kid goes to a religious school, where people aren’t comfortable with gender nonconformity: check.  Parent (who we can guess is conservative, given her kid was enrolled in a “very” religious school) takes daughter to a “gender clinic,” thereby signaling to the kid that something is wrong with you, you need a doctor: check.  Said doctor believes her role is to help the kid “organize” about gender “possibilities”: check.

[1:55] You know the mom had shared this whole history, and said, when the kid was 3, the kid said, “Could you stroll me back up to God so I can come back down as a boy” and the kid’s like,” Ah, I didn’t say that.” You know, 8-year-olds, [2:09] so I’m like, “I don’t think your mom made that up, that’s crazy.”

Hang on a damn minute. Genderists always want to have it both ways, and here we have another example. When a parent like one of us on 4thWaveNow says to a gender doctor, “No, my kid never said anything about wanting to be the opposite sex until a binge on social media at age 13,” the gender doc tells us we just weren’t listening. “Listen to the child. Follow the child’s lead.” But because this mom reports that her kid said God made a mistake at age 3, and the 8-year-old denies having said it, the mom in this case has to be right.

In other words: We should “just listen” to what a parent claims a child said at age 3, but openly dismiss what the more mature child says herself at age 8.

[2:10]:  So at one point, I said to the kid, “so do you think that you’re a girl or a boy? And this kid was like…I could just see, there was, like, this confusion on the kid’s face. Like, “actually I never really thought about that.” And so this kid said, “well, I’m a girl, ’cause I have this body”

The kid was brought to a doctor at 8 years old because she likes short hair and “boy’s clothes” and she has gotten flak from the school about it. What is this child going to say? This is a doctor, in a clinic, in a hospital; an adult authority figure, encouraging her to question her own already-voiced sense of reality.

[2:34] Right? This is how this kid had learned to talk about their gender…that it’s based on their body.

“Had learned?” Is Olson-Kennedy actually telling her audience that a little girl demonstrating her understanding of biological reality is something that was erroneously imparted, as opposed to the doublethink-newspeak indoctrination Olson-Kennedy is about to peddle?

[2:40] And I said, “oh, so …and I completely made this up on the spot, by the way, but …I said, “Do you ever eat pop tarts?” And the kid was like, oh, of course.  And I said, “well you know how they come in that foil packet?” Yes. “Well, what if there was a strawberry pop tart in a foil packet, in a box that said ‘Cinnamon Pop Tarts.’? Is it a strawberry pop tart, or a cinnamon pop tart?”

Your body is just a wrapper, a piece of foil to be discarded (more like: pumped full of hormones, sterilized and eventually surgically reconfigured) so the “real” self can be revealed.

[3:00] The kid’s like, “Duh! A strawberry pop tart.”  And I was like, “so…”

At this point [3:09], there is a staged pause and we hear the audience laugh loudly and knowingly.

[3:12] And the kid turned to the mom and said, “I think I’m a boy and the girl’s covering me up.”

[3:17] Audible murmurs and “wows” from Olson-Kennedy’s rapt audience

pop tartsJohanna Olson-Kennedy is not a developmental psychologist. Of course, it doesn’t take a PhD, an MD, or even a high school diploma to know that children as young as eight still believe in Santa Claus; that they can transform themselves into animals or super heroes; have not learned to distinguish fact from fantasy. (Then again, developmental psychologists like Diane Ehrensaft are jettisoning decades of knowledge about child development as they hop aboard the trans-kid bandwagon,  so there’s that.)

And the best thing was that the mom was like, [squeals] and she goes and gives the kid a big hug and it was an amazing experience. But I worry about when we say things like “I am a” vs “I wish I were” because I think there are so many things that contextually happen for people in around the way they understand and language [sic] gender.

Here we go again with having-her-cake-and-eating-it-too. Olson here is referring to the trans-activist talking point that a kid who claims they ARE the opposite sex is truly trans (vs one who just says they “wish” they were); it is claimed (without evidence) as a surefire diagnostic indicator.  But Olson is having it both ways: Because this kid did not fit that particular trans-activist talking point, it must be dumpstered (or put another way, the goalpost must be moved).

Regarding the evidently overjoyed mom, an aside: “Progressive” doctors/activists show no shame, none at all, when using religious conservatives as mascots for their trans kid cause. Take Kimberly Shappley, a conservative Christian mother from Texas, who initially (by her own admission) tried to spank and shame her effeminate toddler son into behaving “like a boy”. Shappley finally showed love and acceptance when the child essentially gave in and announced he must be a girl at age 4. Shappley is now a celebrated activist, who is trotted out by the transgender press, Slate, and the Huffington Post as a model parent of a “trans” kindergartner.

Back to Johanna Olson-Kennedy and her 8-year-old client:

[3:41] So, I don’t think I made this kid a boy.”

Again, a dramatic pause for appreciative laughter. No, Johanna, you didn’t “make this kid a boy.” You made her believe she is a boy, authority figure that you are.

I don’t THINK so.

More laughter.

[3:44] I mean, and if I did, and I’m wrong, then I’m totally gonna come to this conference and tell people that I was wrong. I will.

That probably won’t be necessary. You did a bang-up job teaching a young child that she can change her sex, that her defiance of gender norms means she’s not a girl, so desistance is unlikely at this point. We’re on the road to blockers, cross sex hormones, and sterilization. The whole enchilada.

Of course, Dr. Olson-Kennedy could study whether leading questions and kid-friendly analogies have any impact on persistence of a trans identity, using some of the taxpayer money she got from the NIH, but it doesn’t appear to be a particularly urgent research question for her at the mo.

[3:58] But I think giving this kid the language to talk about his gender was really important.

“Important” would be one word for it.

And actually, it did not make him a boy, it gave him language to understand his gender.

[4:03] An unidentified audience member or co-presenter interjects: Why are we talking about this again?

Oh, how do you talk to people about…Oh and are you a medical provider? Ok, this is something I learned from being married to a mental health person.

Another unidentified participant: “Tell me more about that.”

More raucous laughter and extended applause.

But “tell me more about that” isn’t what Olson said. Even if psychologically counseling children were in her scope of practice, Olson-Kennedy didn’t use what is referred to as “active listening” with this kid. That would have meant validating the kid when she denied saying God made a mistake (why doesn’t Olson-Kennedy give any weight at all to the insight of an 8-year-old vs a 3-year-old?). If she’d been “actively listening,” Olson-Kennedy would have taken seriously the little girl’s stated understanding that she was, in fact, a girl. Instead, Olson-Kennedy “gave him the language” that she was actually a boy.

Make no mistake: This approach is what is on the ascendant when it comes to gender nonconforming children and how such kids—our kids—are being treated in the United States of America in 2017.  Johanna Olson-Kennedy is one of the leading pediatric gender doctors in the US, running the largest clinic in the country.  She is not some fringe figure. She is one of the recipients of a $5.7 million grant from the NIH to “study” kids like this 8-year-old (with no control groups of non-transitioned children).

Olson-Kennedy favors lowering the minimum age for genital surgeries. She is not averse to calling Child Protective Services on parents who won’t transition their kids (something she and other gender docs openly discussed at the same USPATH conference).  Johanna Olson-Kennedy is a true believer in medicalizing gender nonconformity, with all the very grave repercussions stemming from that belief.

And she is not alone.


UPDATE 7/24/17: A reader sent us the following commentary in response to this piece via email today:

Olson-Kennedy appears to be unaware of the decades of research on suggestibility, which is defined as “the quality of being inclined to accept and act on the suggestions of others when false but plausible information is given.” Research psychologists have demonstrated repeatedly that children are vulnerable to suggestion when being interviewed by adults. They can be influenced by an interviewer’s status, interviewer bias, and leading and repeated questioning.

In one study, children witnessed a staged event, and were then interviewed by adults who were given incorrect information about what they children had seen. The study found that “children’s stories quickly conformed to the suggestions or beliefs of the interviewer.”

In the cited transcript, the question Olson-Kennedy first asks – “so do you think you’re a boy or a girl?” – is leading. A leading question is defined as “a question that prompts or encourages the desired answer.” To ask the question “do you think you’re a boy or a girl” is to suggest that it is possible that either is an option. Olson-Kennedy tells us that the child provided a clear answer to the question that was based on the child’s knowledge of her own biology. However, Olson-Kennedy signaled to the child that she is not satisfied with this response. She did this by repeating the question using the pop tart metaphor rather than accepting the child’s answer. A repeated question carries with it the implication that the initial answer given was not satisfactory. We must assume that the child picked up that she had given the “wrong” answer by stating that she was a girl.

Within the repeated question, Olson-Kennedy offers an alternative explanation for the child’s experience – couched in alluring, child-friendly image of sugary pop tarts. The child complies with Olson-Kennedy’s implied suggestion that she is in fact in the wrong body, and receives affirmation for this compliance in the form of breathless acclamations by both mother and the high-status doctor. By “providing the language,” Olson-Kennedy encouraged this child to conceptualize herself as having been “born in the wrong body,” complete with the imprimatur of a major medical center. The kid didn’t stand a chance.

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