Shriveled raisins: The bitter harvest of “affirmative” care

by the parents of 4thWaveNow

Note to readers: This is another in an ongoing series of posts which shine a light on the public statements made by gender specialists in various forums. The aim here, as always, is to inform the public, particularly parents, about the actions and self-reported thoughts and plans of individuals who are currently involved in providing hormones and surgeries to minors. All screen captures are from publicly accessible (i.e. not password-protected or otherwise private) websites. We intend to continue to exercise our free-speech right to report on these public statements, as well as publishing our personal opinions on pediatric transition and those who enable and promote it.

To anyone who may object to our work in this area, hear this: The backlash represented by 4thWaveNow, Transgender Trend, Youth Gender Professionals, and the increasing number of individuals and organizations who question the burgeoning increase in child and youth transition is precisely that: a backlash against the decision taken by trans activists and their media handmaidens to relentlessly promote pediatric transition—especially MEDICAL transition.

The final straw, for many of us, has been the shameless and daily attempts by activists, journalists, and some clinicians to misuse self-harm statistics as a weapon to bludgeon parents into submission. A recent article in Spiked Online exposed this immoral and deeply destructive tactic, and we will continue to expose it on 4thWaveNow.


Scattered through the posts on this site, we have discussed the fact that puberty blockers followed by (or used concurrently with) cross-sex hormones to prevent the “wrong puberty” in prepubertal kids results in irreversible sterilization. This is well-recognized fact, openly acknowledged by researchers and top pediatric gender specialists alike [see the bottom of this post for a collection of links on this matter].

rainbow-health

The reason is that gametes (sperm and ova) require natural, biological puberty to mature to the point that they are viable for reproduction. It is not currently possible to freeze immature gametes, as it is for those of adult trans people who have been allowed to go through natal puberty.

Our point is not that anyone and everyone should have biological children or that women are only fit to be baby machines (a red herring “argument” that has been used against us by trans activists). It also has nothing to do with the demographics of who will ultimately decide to bear or father children. (I notice none of these activists cavalierly argue for sterilization of disabled or gay people, both of whom have a lower statistical rate of becoming biological parents). The point is that it is a human rights violation to sterilize minors, who by definition cannot consent nor understand what it means to give up that future right.  And given that the majority of “persisting” trans kids are same-sex attracted, it is not a stretch to see that prepubescent sterilization of “trans kids” amounts in many cases to a form of proactive anti-gay eugenics—even if that is not the conscious intention. What’s more, as many parents know, the decision to reproduce may come later in life, even if we thought in our youth that we wouldn’t have wanted children. Most young people naturally don’t spend their time thinking about having kids of their own; they have other priorities at that stage of life, as well they should.

But does any of this matter if adult trans people aren’t particularly interested in reproduction?

trans-men-want-children

Well, it turns out that several studies have shown that a majority of trans men and trans women desire to have biological children of their own. 

 

But even setting aside research evidence, all you have to do is look at the increasing number of (sometimes sensationalized) media stories about “pregnant men” to know this is “a thing”.

There are a sufficient number of trans men becoming pregnant and giving birth that the premier midwifery organization in the United States has changed all its literature to be “gender neutral” in an ostensible effort to avoid “triggering” its clients with words like “woman” and “breasts.” Planned Parenthood now campaigns on behalf of “menstruators” and the venerable La Leche League has even scrubbed its language of inconvenient mentions of biological reality, to ensure that trans men who want to “chest feed” won’t feel excluded.

la-leche-chestfeeding

But when it comes to the fertility of trans people,  trans activists want to have their cake and eat it too: Celebrate and support adult trans who decide (often unexpectedly) to reproduce, while fiercely lobbying for medical intervention which permanently sterilizes prepubescent children. There is really no way to square this contradiction. They constantly claim that stopping the “wrong puberty” is the only antidote to suicide, yet that “wrong” puberty is the one and only pathway to possible reproduction in the future.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the very people arguing that the only alternative to these sterilizing pediatric treatments is suicide are very much alive, and quite a fair few of them (notably, several top MTF trans activists) have biological children of their own. “Do as I say, not as I do” is rightly ridiculed as hypocrisy when it comes to any other subject. How on earth did these people survive to adulthood, father children, yet now harangue us that the “wrong” puberty of these children must be stopped?

As to the weaponization of suicidality: There is no record in the history of medicine of children and teenagers killing themselves because they could not medically transition in childhood, or because they were “born in the wrong body.” (Since August when this piece was posted, we’ve been waiting for any evidence to the contrary.) Even the most frequently cited “41%” study of trans adults who have reported suicidal ideation doesn’t assert that medical transition cures suicidality.


So, given that

  • large numbers of adult trans men and women express a desire to have biological children;
  • no child or pre-adolescent can know for certain whether or not they will eventually want to reproduce;
  • it is a universally acknowledged human rights violation to sterilize minors;
  • and there is no evidence that early medical transition will ultimately reduce self harming behaviors,

we must ask: Why do gender specialists continue the reckless practice of promoting sterilizing hormones and surgical interventions on prepubescent children, who, by virtue of their undeveloped powers of reason and judgment, cannot meaningfully consent to such treatments? On what authority does any adult—including these children’s parents—have the right to make a decision for a minor that should solely belong to adults of reproductive age themselves?

Even if it turns out to be true that most of these kids won’t opt for biological reproduction in the future, what of the (already limited) pool of potential life partners they might fall in love with? It’s not at all uncommon for couples to part company over disagreements about whether to have children. And then there’s the issue of what genital surgeries do to sexual response and function. None of this is ever discussed in the glowing portraits of “trans kids” that we see daily in the mainstream media (though it is by the clinicians themselves—as you’ll see shortly).

The gender specialists are fully aware of the irreversible effects of their interventions. Gender clinics detail the risks of infertility and other permanent changes on their consent forms. Research articles, public statements, and news articles capture the admissions by prominent gender specialists (again, see the bottom of this piece for links). Some express reservations (but no accompanying intention to cease and desist or even slow down their caseloads); some mention it in passing. And some, as you’ll see in a moment, appear to lose no sleep at night over what they’re doing, but only express interest in the future market for even more high tech interventions for the young people entrusted to their care.

Last March, Johanna Olson-Kennedy, MD (herself a parent), one of the world’s most successful and best known pediatric gender specialists, posted a call on the publicly accessible WPATH Facebook page for earlier genital surgeries on minors. We wrote about it at the time in this post.

Olson orig post.jpg

The irony is inescapable: By puberty blocking young people, endocrinologists create a situation where these youth naturally yearn for puberty, as they watch their unblocked peers mature and move on. Olson-Kennedy’s solution? More high-tech, expensive medical intervention; earlier cross-sex hormones, earlier sex reassignment surgery. An iatrogenic problem created in the first place by suppressing the perfectly healthy bodies of young people.

Just a few days ago, Olson’s original post was revived via several new comments supporting her radical idea. This one, by Susan Maasch, founder of the Trans Youth Equality Foundation (TYEF) is particularly striking. ( We wrote about TYEF—a purveyor of free breast binders (secretly to girls with “unsupportive” parents) and youth transition propaganda, last year.)

shriveled-raisins

“Shriveled raisins”: The outcome of years of hormone treatment unnatural to the female body.

Other activists and pediatric gender specialists, including Rixt Luikenaar (ironically, an OB-GYN), Kathie Moelig (founder of TransFamily Support Services), and others acknowledge that sterilization (which their clients may someday regret) will result from early surgeries and hormones, but place their faith in high-tech medicine to find a way around it—eventually.

rixt-et-al-on-sterlization

This unquestioning belief that medical technology will solve the problems created by zealous “affirmative” gender specialists is widely shared.  Just a couple of days ago, NPR ran an article acknowledging that immature gametes can’t currently be preserved for future reproduction. But by drawing on fertility preservation research  in cancer survivors treated with sterilizing chemotherapy, the pediatric-transition pushers hope that  puberty-blocked children’s ova and sperm can eventually be coaxed to reproductive viability in a petri dish.

Both groups — young cancer patients and trans kids hoping to transition early — have a demand for fertility preservation at an age where it has not usually been possible. But researchers say they are drawing closer to a solution with new techniques to freeze, or cryopreserve, immature reproductive cells…

… they started to look for ways to grow that tissue in a petri dish, so it can develop into a mature egg. “We’ve had to borrow knowledge from other disciplines and sort of figure out how that applies to trans people … What can be frustrating sometimes is having to adapt and extrapolate all of this information from work that is not done for trans people.” — Zil Goldstein, Mount Sinai

Brave New World. Puts a whole new spin on “test tube babies.” Not to mention a future boost for the surrogacy industry.

No one in the mainstream media—in this case, NPR– seems willing to point out the obvious: If you let these kids simply mature naturally–as their healthy bodies are desperately fighting to be allowed to do–they can preserve their fertility and decide whether they want to choose hormonal or surgical interventions when they reach adulthood,  with mature judgment and reasoning powers. There would be the added benefit of giving kids a chance to desist before it’s too late—as so many were allowed to do before “gender affirmative” treatment was advertised 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Only a few years ago, this would have been seen as just common sense caution. Adults-only transition was the norm.

There are other ramifications besides infertility resulting from this reckless rush for earlier and earlier surgeries and hormonal treatments.  Here, Olson-Kennedy and other commenters analyze the impact of surgeries on sexual function—but disagree on how much should be discussed with the kids themselves about their future orgasm potential after their genitalia have been surgically rejiggered.

olson-orgasm

At least one “practitioner” seems not to want concerns about orgasm potential to be a “hindrance” to  a child achieving their “authentic self”:

low-orgasm

Bringing us into 2017, Jenn Burleton, head of Transactive Gender Center, assured the Facebook group on January 18 that orgasm is a discussion topic amongst “caregivers” in Transactive support groups. Good to know parents and other adults feel empowered to make decisions for these kids about their adult sexual function and fertility in their “support groups.”

Burleton orgasm.jpg

(Just a thought: how many of these people publicly pontificating about the sexual function of children consider how they’d have felt as teens if adults had been scheming about their orgasm potential, and the impact thereon from a surgeon’s scalpel?)

In January 2017, nearly a year after Olson-Kennedy’s original post calling for the WPATH Standards of Care 8 to support earlier genital surgeries, many clinicians, activists, and parent leaders of trans youth groups remain keenly interested in lowering age of surgeries for youth. From the sounds of it, “many many” surgeons are eager to oblige.

maasch-et-al-earlier-surgeries

Dan Karasic, MD, director of a gender clinic at UC San Francisco, moderator of the WPATH Facebook page,  and a key player in WPATH and the co-chair of the recently formed USPATH, helpfully informs us  that a discussion on under-18 surgeries will take place at the inaugural USPATH conference February 5 2017. “Advocacy” to pressure insurance companies to get onboard and pay for genital surgeries on minors is also an important part of the discussion.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Dr. Karasic advocating for lowering the age for surgeries. In this post, we discussed his public support for a mother obtaining double mastectomy for her 15-year-old and her attempts to get her insurance company to foot the bill for it.

Again: The people advocating for drastic and irreversible medical interventions on minors have enormous power over the future lives of children. The decisions they have taken with their careers and activism will impact a generation of youth for a lifetime. These adults, trans or not, were allowed to mature without medical interference in the era preceding this Age of the Trans Child.

Some of the people weighing in are trans adults, among them MTFs who have fathered children and had successful careers, who were not subjected to tampering and scheming about their most private and personal bodily functions as children. And as much as the trans activists may claim they’d have welcomed such interventions as children, the fact remains: Somehow they made it to adulthood, fertility and sexual function intact, without killing themselves.

Exactly what authority gives these people the right to advocate for and perform medical experiments on children, “trans” or not? This is a question a lot more people need to be asking.

Meanwhile, the USPATH conference  session on surgery in minors is on Sunday, February 5 at 10:15 AM  in Los Angeles.

Readers will undoubtedly recognize some of the names on this panel.

uspath-minor-surgery-1


For more information about the irreversible sterilizing effects of puberty blockers followed by cross-sex hormones on prepubescent children, see below. Readers contributions are welcome and will be added to this list.

Sahar Sadjadi, The Endocrinologist’s Office—Puberty Suppression: Saving Children from a Natural Disaster?

It must be remembered that puberty suppression as the first step to medical transition, if followed by cross-sex hormones, which has been the case for almost all reported cases, leads to infertility due to the permanent immaturity of the gonads and the reproductive tract. The absence of the discussion of sterilization of children as a major ethical challenge in this bioethics article, and many other clinical debates on puberty suppression, is striking. For any other group of children, such an intervention would be discussed extensively with ethics review boards. (What grounds might justify the permanent elimination of the child’s reproductive ability? Should parents be able to make such a decision for the child? Which futures are opened by the treatment and which ones are foreclosed? How might benefits be weighed in relation to the loss of reproductive capacity?) The media would likely react with investigations and questions about the long-term consequences of treatment. These “queer” children’s bodily integrity and reproductive rights should not be any less pressing than other children’s. Needless to say, children are not legally capable of consent, and 9–10 year olds are not capable of understanding all the health consequences of the treatment. Parents are asked to make life decisions on issues as critical as fertility for young children. Can they make an informed decision and evaluate benefits vis a vis risks when confronted with such horrendous forecasts for their children?

 Unique ethical and legal implications of fertility preservation research in the pediatric population

 Norman Spack, MD, founder of first US pediatric gender clinic:

The biggest challenge is the issue of fertility. When young people halt their puberty before their bodies have developed, and then take cross-hormones for a few years, they’ll probably be infertile. You have to explain to the patients that if they go ahead, they may not be able to have children. When you’re talking to a 12-year-old, that’s a heavy-duty conversation. Does a kid that age really think about fertility? But if you don’t start treatment, they will always have trouble fitting in. And my patients always remind me that what’s most important to them is their identity.

Brill & Pepper, The Transgender Child, 2008, p. 216

“The choice to progress from GnRH inhibitors to estrogen without fully experiencing male puberty should be viewed as giving up one’s fertility, and the family and child should be counseled accordingly”. For girls, sterilization is the outcome too, because “eggs do not mature until the body goes through puberty”

Diane Ehrensaft, video clip from conference. Time stamp: 5:06

“Another thing that’s a show-stopper around [parents] giving consent is the fertility issue. That if the child goes directly from puberty blockers to cross- sex hormones they are pretty much forfeiting their fertility and won’t be able to have a genetically related child.”

Robert Garofolo, PBS.org:

“It’s an imperfect field with regards to decisions we are asking these families to make,” acknowledged Dr. Robert Garofalo, who co-directs the Center for Gender, Sexuality and HIV Prevention at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital and is also working on the transgender youth study. Garofalo hopes the team will be able to study patients far beyond the current five-year term to address a host of questions that currently have no answers. Does hormone use in trans youth increase breast cancer risk? How well do adults who have transitioned as teens grapple with their loss of fertility? “These are things that are entirely unknown,” Garofalo said.

 

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Could social transition increase persistence rates in “trans” kids?

The trend of “socially transitioning” children as young as 2 or 3 years old to endorse the notion they are “born in the wrong body” is a very new phenomenon. But to read about it in the press, you’d think this was a settled area of clinical practice, with proven results and few doubts about its efficacy.

It is no such thing.

In a 2011 journal article,  Dutch clinician-researchers who first pioneered the use of puberty blockers cautioned that early social transitions can be difficult to reverse:

 As for the clinical management in children before the age of 10, we suggest a cautious attitude towards the moment of transitioning. Given our findings that some girls, who were almost (but not even entirely) living as boys in their childhood years, experienced great trouble when they wanted to return to the female gender role, we believe that parents and caregivers should fully realize the unpredictability of their child’s psychosexual outcome. They may help the child to handle their gender variance in a supportive way, but without taking social steps long before puberty, which are hard to reverse.

Even the Endocrine Society, which actively promotes puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for pubescent children, counseled against social transition in its practice guideline:

endocrine-society

As recently as last year, a 17-clinic qualitative study reported on doubts some clinicans have about aspects of “affirmative” treatments for children:

As long as debate remains … and only limited long-term data are available, there will be no consensus on treatment. Therefore, more systematic interdisciplinary and (worldwide) multicenter research is required.

But among many clinicians and activists, social transition (which usually leads to puberty blocking and then to cross sex hormones) is now being actively promoted as completely harmless and “fully reversible.” Not only that: it is being shamelessly peddled as the only way to prevent suicide amongst children and teenagers.

What evidence do we have for these assertions? There is no historical record of desperately dysphoric “trans children” who demanded sex change lest they commit suicide.  The constant media and activist drumbeat that very young children must be socially transitioned ASAP; must be called by the correct pronouns; must have their “wrong bodies” fixed prior to the “wrong puberty”– or they will kill themselves–is the most irresponsible thing the mass media and medical profession could possibly do. It is a form of emotional blackmail which has terrorized countless parents into handing their kids over to gender clinics and activist-run “charities” for transition to the opposite sex. And the media, by running breathless stories implying that the only way to support gender-defiant and gender dysphoric children is to  “transition” them, may be contributing to suicide contagion, a phenomenon that has been well known for decades.

As far as evidence that social transition is “reversible,” which of these children is actually “reversing”? Certainly, the ones who have continued on to puberty blockers are not:

spack-100-persist

Imagine the pressures on any of the myriad trans-kid YouTube stars, or the children who are the subjects of the too-many-to-count fawning media portrayals we see in every major newspaper and magazine. Can a Jazz Jennings really change course?

None of the children who have been identified as “truly transgender” by clinicians like Norman Spack and Johanna Olson are going to get the chance to find out if they would have been just as happy not being socially transitioned. We won’t learn in any systematic way whether social transition and media validation could be creating persistence in children who might otherwise have grown up without medical and psychiatric tampering.  We can’t know, because researchers aren’t studying them; they don’t have control groups of children who claim to be the opposite sex but who are not socially transitioned and subsequently puberty blocked.

What is a truly transgender child? According to activists and some clinicians, the key trait (along with being generally “gender nonconforming” and preferring the clothes, activities, and appearance more typical of the opposite sex) is that these children are more “persistent, consistent, and insistent” in saying they are the opposite sex (vs simply wanting to be, or wishing they were).

But what is the meaning of “persistent, consistent, and insistent” with children who have only been on the planet a short time, as are the many toddlers, preschoolers, and grade schoolers now being labeled as “trans kids”?  Especially when a rather large percentage of these children also exhibit traits of autism—a disorder known to be characterized by rigid thinking, gender nonconformity, and obsessive/restricted patterns of behaviors?

Activists don’t seem troubled by any of this, nor by the decades of research showing most dysphoric children desist and grow up to be lesbian or gay adults.

korte

The recent study most often cited by trans activists is one by Kristina Olson at the University of Washington, which essentially proved that children who preferred the activities and appearance of the opposite sex weren’t just pretending; they  really meant what they said! (Why would anyone question that?)

But even Dr. Olson, whose confirmation-bias-riddled study includes no control group of non-socially transitioned children, admits that no one can know the outcome for this new generation of experimental patients. kristina-olson-does-not-know

These kids are, by any measure, guinea pigs being subjected to social engineering and then (in most cases) experimental medical procedures, the results of which won’t be known for decades. Researchers like Kristina Olson are fully aware of this, but they think it’s worth the cost of some regrets, some detransitions. Because hey–it’s science.

kristina-olson-admits-kids-are-guinea-pigs

A commenter on the above article aptly points out the elephant in the room:

comment-on-olson-article-persistence-caused-by-social-transition

Fortunately, there is reliable data from other clinician-researchers which suggest a more cautious approach is still in order. We have a 2012 study by Devita Singh, which demonstrated that a very high proportion of kids—some 88%–happily desisted from a trans identification as adults.  It’s worth noting that several of these children were “persistent, insistent and consistent” in their formerly intense gender dysphoria.

Dr. Singh shared her views about early transition in a recent, unusually balanced article in The Walrus magazine:

Singh is frustrated that, despite the findings of her study and others like it, there’s now more pressure than ever for doctors and families to affirm a young child’s stated gender. She doesn’t recommend immediate affirmation and instead suggests an approach that involves neither affirming nor denying, but starting with an exploration of how very young children are feeling. Affirmation, she argues, should be a last resort.

These days there can be a high price to pay for treating gender affirmation as a last resort. Dr. Ken Zucker, a  renowned gender dysphoria expert, has approved puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for many adolescents. Nevertheless, he recognizes that children often change their minds, and takes a careful approach in his clinical practice. For this heresy, he was hounded from his position at CAMH in Toronto by trans activists hellbent on preventing any kind of therapy for dysphoric kids besides “affirmation.”

But Dr. Zucker is still actively publishing,  having co-authored several scholarly journal articles in 2016 alone, and he continues to work with families and young people in his private practice.

In an age when too many believe that children, no matter how young, should be affirmed in their gender identities with no further investigation, clinicians like Zucker are very much needed. Desistance, despite trans activist protestations to the contrary, is a real thing. It’s just not as newsworthy as the latest trans kindergartener coming out story.

This places a heavy burden on parents who aren’t sure who their children are, or who don’t accept the notion that a 5-year-old, even an insistent and strong-willed one, has a set identity in the same way adults do. The current politics leave them behind, because their stories don’t fit neatly into the binary in which trans identities are either accepted or rejected, full stop. There’s no natural political grouping for parents of desisters, because desisting isn’t an identity-politics lodestone in the way persisting is. “We’re quieter,” said Amanda of parents of kids whose gender dysphoria desists. “There are a bunch of us scattered around, and we’re not acting collectively.” As Merry put it, “I feel like sometimes there’s no middle ground. You’re either trans or you’re not, and you can’t be this kid who is just kind of exploring.”

 

Summer camps for gender-whatever kids: Expanding or shrinking horizons?

Summer camp was a formative experience for me as a child. I’ll never forget the counselors who taught me archery, how to steer a canoe, and the right way to build a campfire. Swimming, singing, and giggling with new buddies, away from the watchful eyes of parents—all of it was magical, and crucial to my girlhood.

Perhaps most important was the chance to get to know kids from outside my own little neighborhood and school. Sharing adventures with youngsters from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds and ways of seeing the world, expanded my view of what was possible.

In the past several years, summer camps have been established for young (5-12 year old) children who define themselves (or who are defined by others) as “transgender.” Most of these camps also make a point of welcoming kids labeled as one (or more) of the following in publicity materials:

  • gender nonconforming
  • gender expansive
  • gender creative
  • gender variant
  • gender independent
  • gender fluid

I’m going to collapse this unwieldy bundle of terms into just….gender-whatever.

I doubt I’m unique in my baby boomer nostalgia: running around in scruffy shorts and a T-shirt, getting dirty, and playing a variety of games with both boys and girls, without the need for anyone to define me as gender-whatever. I mean, just exactly what has happened the last few decades, while we slumbered through the gender-fication of childhood?  Evidently a bunch of entrepreneurs found a new way to make money and influence kids by defining girls and boys who don’t “conform” to stereotypes as “expansive” or “creative.”

What does this even mean? There must surely be only a tiny number of school-age kids who “conform” to what—only wearing dresses and hair ribbons, and playing with Barbie Dolls if you’re a girl? No tree houses, Capture the Flag, or cavorting in the mud for you, young lady! Or only playing with trucks and dinosaurs if you’re a boy? No long hair, pink, or dress up for you, young man!

Now, “transgender” kids—we know what that means. Kids who are called by “preferred pronouns,” who are “affirmed” (the latest buzzword in activist/gender lingo) that they really are the opposite sex; the ones on blockers, the socially transitioned.

But the fact that they market these camps to the gender-whatever kids, not just trans kids? What do these activists think happens in regular summer camps for (ugh) “cis” kids? You don’t see ads for Camp Cis Kid.  Gender Uncreative Campfire Kids? Camp Gender Invariant?

We are talking about summer camp here, not school, where maybe the rules of behavior might be a tad more rigid–although public schools are anything but “gender conforming” anymore. (Do any public schools require girls to wear dresses or skirts these days? How many force girls into home economics, cooking, or typing class, with only boys allowed to take auto mechanics or shop? Answer: NONE.)

What would a “gender conforming” girl do in summer camp? Sit in a corner and sew doll clothes? As I recall from my own long-ago camp escapades, kids pretty much wore whatever and behaved however they liked in camp. It was kind of the point of it —to try out different stuff, do different activities. Have fun, you know, with all kinds of kids?

In recent years, “inclusion” has become the norm in classrooms and other children’s activities. For instance, you don’t stick the kids with autism, or Down syndrome, or a physical difference in a separate classroom or group. You include them with all the other youngsters. In fact, ensuring the “least restrictive environment” for all children is a matter of law in many places, because we want kids who are somehow different to be included and accepted by their peers. The goal is to encourage everyone to know and make friends with diverse others.

These camps are going in exactly the opposite direction by segregating kids in a separate summer camp based on their “gender expression.” Having an exclusive camp for young gender-whatever and “trans” kids reinforces the idea that they are different—so different, that some are encouraged in the notion that there is something wrong with their bodies that will have to be medically changed in the future. What does it actually do for these kids, to get the message that they don’t “conform” (to WHAT?) and need to go to camps only for kids like them? Conversely, how does it serve kids who do “conform” (to WHAT?) to attend different camps than their gender-whatever peers?

Let’s take a look at a couple of camps I’ve found for young gender-whatever and “trans” kids.

A cursory look at the promotional material and website for Camp Aranu’tiq shows…kids. Kids roasting marshmallows, climbing walls, canoeing, swimming. Kids doing gender-whatever stuff with other kids.

aranu'tiq home

The camp has garnered quite a lot of media attention, including from Katie Couric and Caitlyn Jenner. It was founded and is currently managed by Nick Teich, who identifies as a trans man and also works for the National Center for Transgender Equality.

In a story last year in the Huffington Post, Teich offered some insight into the reason for establishing Camp Aranu’tiq. It seems to mainly come down to bathrooms and bunkmates:

 Well, I started the camp for transgender youth in 2009. I myself am trans and I didn’t fully realize it until my early 20s, about ten years ago. Now that that the climate has changed and the Internet exists, more trans people are finding their identities and issues affirmed online and they, and their families, are discovering resources earlier. I went to camp as a kid and I really found it a formative experience for me.

As I got older, I started to think about kids who know they are transgender or gender-variant and how they could possibly go to camp. I found out from talking to some parents of trans youth that most camps were not equipped to take their children. Many camp administrators didn’t feel comfortable because they didn’t know where they could place the kids in terms of bunking them or which bathrooms they could use. And so the parents were told, “We can’t possibly do this, the child will have to go elsewhere.” Around that same time I was volunteering at a weeklong charity camp and when I told them that I was transitioning, they said I couldn’t come back for the good of the kids. So that was unfortunate. It was learning about trans youth’s lack of access to camp coupled with this incident of discrimination that motivated me to start Camp Aranu’tiq.

I sympathize with Teich’s experience of being let go from working at the charity camp. Trans-identified people should not be discriminated against in employment or housing. But I wonder about the bathroom/bunkmate issue. Do the “gender-whatever” kids just choose whichever bathroom and bunkmates they want? Do they get to switch around while they’re at camp? After all, they’re “variant” and maybe even “fluid.”

While Camp Aranu’tiq has been in operation for several years, Teich and others have raised money to purchase 115 acres of land in New Hampshire for a new camp facility. The site lists four individuals as “trustees” for the fundraising campaign (which they say is 65% towards its $3.6 million target), a veritable Who’s Who of the trans illuminati: Activist-author Jenny Boylan, WPATH president and activist Jamison Green,  founder of the first US pediatric gender clinic at Boston Children’s hospital Norman Spack, and PFLAG activists Marsha and trans-son Aiden Aizumi. (Some readers may recall a post of mine from last year about Ms. Aizumi and her Advocate profile, wherein she discussed her difficulty with accepting her then-daughter’s lesbianism, but came to embrace her child as a trans man.)

trustees for fundraising

A second camp for young kids is Camp Born This Way, which was featured on PBS affiliate Arizona Public Media in a 2014 story. Like Camp Aranu’tiq, the camp welcomes “gender variant” and “gender creative” kids. Were these children also “born this way?” Are gender variance, gender creativity, gender independence and all the rest of the gender-whatevers mutable traits, or does the camp’s moniker only refer to kids who think they are the opposite sex?

BTW fashion show

The fashion show photo reminds me of my own times playing dress-up as a little kid. I well remember putting on shows for my family. My kindergarten haute couture comprised princess gowns, cowboy chic, and mixed-gender attire. Odd that in the 1960s and 1970s, there was no special camp for those of us who were “gender creative.”

Lest anyone insist that gender-whatever kids are about much more than toys and clothes, a “Born This Way” parent says this in the news article:

 Kerrie had a baby boy five years ago. But growing up, her child wanted pink underwear for potty training and liked wearing sparkling dresses and high heels at childcare.

“We really just thought, ‘Our child is a creative spirit and loves this stuff, it’s bright, it’s fun,’ and we didn’t really think that much about it,” said Kerrie, who asked her last name not be used.

She and her husband would buy their child boy and girl clothes, trucks and dolls. The parents didn’t want to interfere with their kid’s current likes.

“As parents we thought, this is something that our child is interested in and there is no reason to discourage it,” Kerrie said. “Around the time that our child was three and a half or four years old, he started asking for clothes, like dresses, that he could wear to school, wanted to wear them every day. He wanted to be called a girl, he’d always say, ‘I want to grow up and become a mama and have my own babies.‘”

The group has helped clear many of Kerrie and her husband’s doubts and concerns.

“Our biggest value as parents is to raise a child who is confident, who is intelligent, who is kind in the world,” Kerrie said. “We raise our child as a girl, she goes by a new new name, she likes to be called a girl, she likes to have long hair, to wear dresses. In talking to people and to our family, I always say, ‘Our child is the same child she’s always been,’ we just understand who she is.”

Born this way? Either way, the camp counselors will be there to set things straight:

At camp, adults speak about concerns and successes, kids participate in activities seen at any other summer camp. And volunteers, many of whom are transgender adults, are there to advise the parents, and to ensure families that they can overcome any challenge.