Your queer toddler knows all about pronouns, but how about gender expression?

by Second Wave Dinosaur

About a year ago, we told you about the importance of pronoun etiquette for preschoolers, as taught by the geniuses at Queer Kid Stuff. QKS fans will be happy to know that Lindsay and her self-described genderqueer teddy bear are still at it on Youtube, busily indoctrinating preschoolers in the intricate and very important topics of identity, pronouns, and (to kick off 2018) gender expression.

Update January 14: Lindsay must have got some feedback on the video. She wants to make sure all Second Wave Dinosaurs are well-educated about the meaning of dress-up:

Season 3 of Queer Kid Stuff  just launched two days ago, and in the first episode, Teddy  learns that gender expression (not to be confused with gender identity) is “just like dress-up!” And you can’t tell what someone’s pronouns or their identity is from their gender expression! But still, it’s really important that preschoolers be able to parse the difference between all these concepts.

Lindsay helpfully teaches us there are three categories of gender expression:

  • Masculine (seems to be about short hair, maybe a beard,  but no lipstick),
  • Feminine (involves lipstick; the example given is a “femme presenting woman” who “never takes a picture without my lipstick” and likes “lots and lots of velvet”), and
  • Androgynous (may or may not involve lipstick).

Got that? Well, forget it, because everyone of course gets to define for themselves what their gender expression means, and every pre-verbal child should know all about it, no matter how you, me, or “they” express!!

But…but…as Teddy says, this is so…complicated.

Teddy: Lindsay, am I expressing my gender right now? I don’t know what my expression is!

Now if it were me, Second Wave Dinosaur that I am, I’d say, yeah, Teddy, nobody cares about your dang “gender expression,” just get outside and have some fun playing on the slides and swing-set and the mud, and don’t trouble your little head-‘o-fluff with all this gender malarkey. But Lindsay is far, far wiser than some Second Wave dinosaur like me.

Teddy is androgynous

Lindsay: You are totally expressing your gender, Teddy! Hm. To me, you look like you’re more androgynous. Does that seem right to you?

Teddy: Yeah. I like that. I think I’m starting to get it…but…it’s kind of hard to understand.

But we need Teddy to understand, don’t we? Teddy must choose and then understand “their” gender identity and expression so they can impose it on everyone else–as well as understand everyone else’s identity and expression (which, Lindsay helpfully tells us, don’t necessarily match). Got it?

Lindsay: That’s because there’s not one definition for how someone can be masculine, feminine, or androgynous. Every person’s gender expression is unique to them! So it’s fun to experiment with how you look and dress so you can find out what works and feels best to you!

Teddy: Like playing dressup?

Lindsay: Exactly like playing dressup!

Second Wave Dinosaur (me, sotto voce): So then, great! Now can we go outside and play trucks or dolls in the mud??? Or…dressup?

But nope, it ain’t recess time yet.

Lindsay: Another thing that’s really important to know is that you can’t always tell someone’s pronouns or their gender identity just from their gender expression.

Teddy pronouns can't tellSecond Wave Dinosaur (me): OMFG (or since we’re watching a toddler show, oh my gosh!)

Teddy: Yeah! You can’t tell someone’s pronouns from what they look like.

Lindsay: So even if someone is feminine, they might not use she pronouns.

Teddy: Yeah! That makes sense!

Second Wave Dinosaur (me, sotto voce): Huh, that stuffed bear grasps this crap way better than I do.

Teddy: Talking about gender is my favorite thing!

Luckily for Teddy and “their” preschool viewers, there’s lots more to come. Come back every other Wednesday, kids! Oh, and don’t forget to donate to our Patreon page, “supportive” moms and dads who are forcing this delightful propaganda on your kids [check the comments on the video to see the damage…and before they get deleted, a few remarks from the sane among us].

Don’t worry if you don’t have sufficiently deep pockets to donate to the QKS Patreon. At least one LGBT organization is funding this crucial educational program:

For now, you can watch the whole episode right here. Better than just playing boring cis dressup, for sure!

 

Advertisements

No glitter life: Don’t be swayed by middle-aged transitioners–including me

by Helen Johnson

As time permits, Helen will be available to interact in the comments section of this post. As always on 4thWaveNow, comments that challenge the author will have a better chance of publication if they are delivered respectfully.


My name is Helen Johnson and I am a trans woman.

That’s partly true. I am trans, but I’m not telling you my real name. After you have read my piece, I hope you’ll understand why. Transgender activists reserve a special kind of treatment for apostates who speak out against their dogma. I have no wish to deal with their threats and intimidation, but neither can I remain silent when those transgender activists are driving a contagion that is consuming our young people.

Much has been written about the explosion in the number of children who have come to believe that they were born in the wrong body. I’ve said nothing because — like other trans women who transitioned as adults — I’ve nothing to offer. I’ve no childhood experience of living as the opposite sex and my own kids are thankfully unscathed by this epidemic. I can therefore only sympathize with other parents whose children are struggling with their gender. Some have asked me directly, but I have always suggested that they seek support from other parents in the same position. Certainly not from me.

Unfortunately, other trans women think differently and some of them seem to think they know best. Entire pieces have been written about trans activists like Rachel McKinnon,  who told trans kids to dump their moms on Mother’s day and join the “glitter-queer” family of adult trans activists. Worryingly, Dr McKinnon is far from alone. The message is pervasive, and it is sinister: transition your kids or lose them. Sometimes it is subtle.  For example, Julia Serano, a leading figure in the trans community, suggested that children will grow distant unless parents affirm the transgender behavior. Others are more blatant. Caitlyn Jenner is one of many who throw suicide statistics around like confetti.

None of them are experts. All they have to offer is their own experience of growing up. But if they can do that so can I and, unlike deluded fantasists like Zinnia Jones who thinks they actually were an adolescent girl, I am in touch with reality.

Gender dysphoria was present in my earliest memories; it persisted throughout my childhood and stayed with me in adulthood. It made me socially uncomfortable and I struggled to make friends. My dreams of becoming a girl were never fulfilled and I reluctantly accepted that there was no alternative to becoming a man. I’ll say no more about that. The trans narrative is repetitive and it is tedious. But just like McKinnon, Serano, Jenner, and Jones, I survived childhood and everything it threw at me. Yes I had difficulties, but lots of children have difficulties. Growing up is hard.

Today’s youngsters are being fed dangerous and fallacious nonsense. Society has been infected by post-modern, post-facts, post-truth ideas that spread unchecked on social media. Opinions and feelings are on the ascendancy, while facts and evidence are cast aside. For socially awkward children struggling to understand themselves, McKinnon’s “glitter-queer” family may look superficially attractive; an easy escape from reality. But it comes at huge cost.

I am glad that I did not succumb as a child.  Male puberty was a mixed blessing for me. It changed my body in ways that I did not like, but it enabled me to have my own children. Today they are my pride and joy: fine kids who are now making their own way in the world.  They would not be here had I been transitioned in childhood.

It’s now becoming all too clear that the first generation of child transitioners may have thrown away more than the chance to be parents.  Sex reassignment surgeons need material to work with. Only after male puberty did I have sufficient tissue for my vaginoplasty. Children who never experience natural puberty, like Jazz Jennings for example, are finding that they have a serious problem. To be blunt, there is no way that a functional vagina can be created from a penis only two inches long and an inch and a half in circumference. Sadly, Jazz may never be able to enjoy the sex that adult male-to-female transitioners take for granted.

Even transitioning later is a mixed blessing. I am in remission from the gender dysphoria but that is only half the story. My life is harder in other ways. Whenever I am clocked as trans I am treated differently, and not better. Mostly I deal with this by living in stealth. In my day-to-day life I just don’t mention it. People can’t discriminate if they don’t know. But that brings troubles of its own: when I’m asked about my childhood, I obfuscate; when asked about my children, I fudge; when asked about my private life, I create back stories. I hope they are consistent. When acquaintances become friends, I anguish over whether to come out to them, then when to do it and finally how to do it. Lying about your past is not great, but admitting it is harder especially in the early stages of a new friendship. Securing a life partner is something else. Trans people are seen as exotic curiosities rather than possible suitors. Rarely are we seen as human beings, usually as trans human beings. Not quite the same and not quite suitable.

But, people say, at least I have found my true self. Maybe, but I’ve always been my true self. I transitioned to escape the pressures that I faced but I will never really be a woman, I merely live as one, and I am always one step away from being outed. It works but it’s an expedient tactic rather than a fulfilling solution.

But you must be sure, they say. How can I be sure? All I have are circular arguments: because I needed to transition I must be a woman, and I must be a woman because I needed to transition. But I can never know what it is to be a woman. All I can know is what it is to be me. My experience will always be different from the women around me. It isn’t a glitter life, it’s a hard life. It works because I make it work, but it’s not great.

To kids contemplating transition I have no answers, only questions. Do you really need to transition? Give up the chance to grow up and form relationships as a human being rather than a trans human being? Have your own children? Have sex like other adults have sex, and live free from lifelong medication? If gender expression is the issue then be yourself and embrace your gender, but don’t try and change your sex in the process. One day, society may free itself from the shackles of gender norms, and feminine men, masculine women and gender-neutral members of both sexes will be able to take their rightful place in it. Make it your generation that does that, not the ones that follow you.

To your parents I would say, give your children a hug. Love them and nurture them. Let them be free to explore their gender and help them make that break from the crushing weight of society’s restrictions and expectations. But steer them away from transitioning from one gender prison into another, certainly before they can experience what it means to be an adult. If their gender dysphoria persists, as mine did, they can always transition in adulthood. That option will always be there. If it desists, then they will have avoided making a truly catastrophic mistake.

But above all, parents, don’t be swayed by middle-aged transitioners. That includes me, but it also includes McKinnon and the others. You know your children, we don’t; you brought them into the world, we didn’t; you love them and care for them, we don’t even know them.

Have confidence in yourselves because, when it comes to your children, you will always know better than people like me. Never forget that.

Mission creep: Respected LGB family support org goes full-on trans

Worriedmom is a mother of four (allegedly) adult children, who lives in the Northeastern part of the United States.  She practiced law for many years and now works in the non-profit area. She is available to interact in the comments section of this post.


by Worriedmom

A piece of advice that parents of the newly-trans often hear, right after the admonition to “educate yourself,” is to attend meetings of PFLAG (which previously stood for Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays and now does not stand for anything, the acronyms apparently having become unmanageable).  According to its website, PFLAG currently has over 400 chapters, representing over 200,000 people in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.  PFLAG has a national administrative and lobbying presence but operates primarily through local chapters.

PFLAG’s original mission called for parents to support one another in what was then the frightening, emotionally draining, and fraught experience of having a gay son or a lesbian daughter.  When PFLAG was founded back in 1972, by a courageous New York City mom, having a gay son or a lesbian daughter meant being in a terribly lonely place, where parents were fearful of confiding even in other loved ones, and social ostracism was the rule, not the exception.  Then, too, ignorance about gay and lesbian people reigned supreme.  Even highly-educated people believed that being gay or lesbian was, at the very least, the symptom of serious mental illness, and that at any rate, the closet was by far the best place for “queers” and their unfortunate parents to live.

pflag-1972

As the 70’s turned into the 80’s, parents needed PFLAG desperately, as AIDS swept through the gay population and families frequently dealt with two simultaneous revelations: their son was gay, and he had come home to die.  Parents became even more isolated and traumatized, often the target of violence and community exclusion (read up on Ryan White for a tragic example, although there were many more).  It’s hard to believe, looking back today, how crazy AIDS made people in the time before effective drugs.  PFLAG served the vital function of connecting parents who were dealing, in many cases, with incurable illness and horribly premature death, and who, as an extra-cruel burden, had to do it in secret.  The support and comfort offered by PFLAG chapter meetings was truly a lifeline for many.

Time and medical science marched on, giving birth to the culture wars.  At the time that my story begins, the U.S. was smack in the middle of the anti-gay-marriage law-making binge that many people thought helped re-elect George W. Bush in 2004.  What originally brought me to PFLAG was my then-14 year old son, who was experiencing the feelings that eventually led him in the direction of bisexuality.  He had dealt with a lot of bullying and other negative behavior in school, and I felt that I needed support to cope with this strange and upsetting situation.  In 2006, primarily due to my congenital inability to say “no” in any given volunteer setting, I became the head of my local PFLAG chapter.  My PFLAG experience became further pertinent in 2012 when my older daughter came out as lesbian during her first semester of college.

To preface, I can’t say whether my experience is typical for PFLAG, although I have no reason to believe it isn’t.  When I decided to help start a chapter, I received no vetting of any kind.  I was not asked to undergo a criminal background check, provide references, or establish my bona fides in any way.  Neither when I established the chapter, nor at any time afterward, was I asked to become knowledgeable in any formal sense about the GLB community.  My good faith was assumed.  Much to my initial chagrin, I was not offered training in group facilitation or dynamics to help me work with an often-emotional and always unpredictable group of people.  I have never had any training or experience in the fields of psychology, human sexuality, addiction or mental health, even though all of these issues came up repeatedly at our chapter meetings.  (I should add that much, much later, PFLAG did begin to offer voluntary training in group facilitation.)  I was actually a bit shocked that I was expected to, and did, “wing it,” in situations that often became intense and even confrontational.

This brings me to my first point on PFLAG and its place in the “trans puzzle” — that neither PFLAG leaders, nor other group members, should be assumed to have any expertise about anything or anyone involved on the “trans spectrum.”  One might argue that when PFLAG’s mission was limited to parents of lesbians and gays extending kindness and empathy to other parents, this lack of professionalism and education was not a major liability (although, as I note above, on occasion I found it daunting).  As the “T” part of the equation has come to predominate, however, it would be natural for parents to expect some level of informed if not authoritative opinion from PFLAG leaders and group members as to the many medical, psychological and social issues involved with an individual’s becoming transgender.  If I am any example, however, it is more a case of “the blind leading the blind.”

Moving on, and energized by the rampant opposition prevalent in the “W years,” our chapter attracted upwards of a dozen people to each meeting, even 20 or more when we featured an author, academic or other person of note.   As a PFLAG representative, I spoke at symposiums, conferences, youth meetings, schools, churches and more.  Every year we fielded a large contingent at the local gay pride march.  The chapter hot-line was connected to my home phone, and I spent hours every month, counseling parents.  And people always called at dinner-time!

And then… the bottom fell out.  By the early 2010’s, the enthusiasm and interest were just – gone.  Newbies became “one and done,” then “none and done.”  We were victims of our own success.  Parents no longer grieved, no longer felt condemned to live in secrecy and fear.  Gay became normal, fine even.  We went on hiatus for a while, then re-booted, in a different location and time.  We tinkered with the format.  We tried publicity, Facebook, networking with other groups.  But the writing was on the wall: parents just didn’t need PFLAG like they used to, and it was pretty obvious they never would again.

We were not alone.  At our monthly regional conference calls, everybody had the same sad story: attendance was down, commitment was non-existent.  The yearly national conference went to bi-annual, staff was cut at National, the end was near.

And then, about four years ago, things changed again.  The chapter hot-line, formerly covered with cobwebs, began ringing off the hook.  This time, it was parents of “gender-non-conforming” children, desperate for help and advice.  Again, I had no expertise, no real understanding of transgender issues, but simply assumed that the “strong affirmation” model that worked fine for lesbian and gay people, would go double for trans.  Today I am ashamed to say that I unthinkingly referred over 50 individuals and families to our local “gender-affirmative” therapist, and at least as many more to trans-activist and other trans-supportive groups (such as “free binder” sites).  I also steered people away from organizations such as Straight Spouse Network, on the basis that those groups were not sufficiently “trans-affirming.”

I don’t feel good about my blind acceptance of trans dogma, but in my defense, I was never encouraged to develop any sort of critical perspective.  The word, from National on down, was that “it’s 95% the same” (in other words, if we were experienced in providing support to parents of gay and lesbian children, we were perfectly well equipped to do the same for parents of transgender children).  I was also told that I shouldn’t worry that I was ignorant about the remaining “5%” (relating to the medical particulars of transition).  As leaders, we were to affirm “innate gender identity” and transition, full stop. “Trans theory” was accepted scientific fact.  No other opinions or viewpoints were entertained, much less explored, and there was no contemplation of the wisdom or safety of the medical procedures that transition entailed.  Parents who questioned were crazy.  End of discussion.

A quick review of PFLAG’s website shows that it is, today, all-in on trans.  We have an online course on “our transgender loved ones,” training in Trans Ally 101, a publication available for sale on becoming a Trans Ally, a transgender reading list for adults, a transgender reading list for young adults, a transgender reading list for children, films on gender and many, many more.  It’s all just so wonderful!

pflag-present-day

Notwithstanding all this joy, meeting attendance was up but the mood was down.  Parents were gutted.  We had “learned” that “trans is the new gay,” but something was off.  So many of the parents had children who already had mental health problems, or were on the autism spectrum, and as they cried and expressed their fear of what life would hold for their vulnerable children, it became increasingly difficult to remain sanguine.  It began to occur to me that it wasn’t terribly likely that transition was going to “cure” anything for these kids, but instead would leave the child, and the family, with two serious problems instead of one.  Parents worried that their children would never find employment, or even someone to love.  Again, it grew difficult to assume those concerns away.  While I had always felt quite comfortable assuring a parent that a gay or lesbian child could go on to lead a normal, even boring, life, I felt like a faker saying the same thing to the parent of a trans child.  But there was never any space to explore alternative ways to mitigate the effects of gender dysphoria, how or whether to slow down a child’s rush to transition, or even whether the proper goal for every potentially trans person might not be transition, ASAP.

Meetings grew increasingly baroque.  A parent would walk in the door:

“My 12 year old daughter just came out as pangender.”

“My older daughter is transitioning to be my son, and my younger daughter is now aromantic.  Is it possible these things are related?”

“I think my three year old son is possibly transgender.  What should we do?”

“My 19 year old son just came back from his first broney convention!”

“Our lesbian daughter is the only non-trans person in her entire GLBT youth group.  Now who is she going to date?”

Gay and lesbian were boring old vanilla, and I was seriously out of my league. Conferences and gay pride panels became an exercise in “can you top this?”  The mantra was “the children are leading the way, and isn’t it exciting!”  Having several children of my own, I was pretty skeptical, given that these children leading the way could not reliably load a dishwasher or return a library book.

I began to look for more balanced discussion of the facts regarding transgender issues, and was horrified to learn (for instance) that transitioned children, whom I had blithely assumed would go on to lead happy and fulfilled lives, would actually wind up permanently sterilized.  To put it mildly, PFLAG does not advertise this detail; nor are most leaders, in my experience, even aware of it.  I also could no longer deny that some of the folks I had encountered via PFLAG were, in the vernacular, “creepy.”  There had been discussion of fetishes and other “alternative” behavior that would, in any other context, have sent me right out the door.  In retrospect, in the name of tolerance, I permitted my own boundaries to become fuzzier than I should have.

The final straw, for me, was the parent-assisted mastectomy of a troubled young woman in my community.  I was just done. I actually continued to run our chapter for another excruciating summer, loathe to simply shut it down after so many years involved with PFLAG, but finally did.  I do not expect that my concerns (which I circulated in a lengthy letter) will have any impact on PFLAG at all.

Absent the trans issue, I believe that PFLAG probably would have died a natural death, and that wouldn’t have been a bad thing!  (As an example, Love Makes a Family, the marriage equality group in Connecticut, showed great integrity in shutting down after it achieved its objective.)  The transgender cause has been a life-saver for PFLAG, organizationally speaking, even though there is a strong suspicion that homophobic parents may embrace transgenderism as a “cure” for their gay and lesbian children – hardly the vision of family acceptance originally put forward for PFLAG.  (Go here for another sad story of an unacceptable lesbian daughter who became a cherished straight son.)  “Trans” has provided new purpose and energy, a new “mission field,” and from what I’ve seen, trans people and their supportive parents have become the majority of PFLAG’s leaders and members.  Some chapters are, today, almost entirely trans and trans-related.  It’s where the action is.

A parent attending a PFLAG meeting needs to know that the people he or she will encounter are most likely strongly and personally invested in the promotion of transgenderism.  If a parent has already endorsed and facilitated transition for his or her own child, obviously that parent has to believe that this was a necessary, benign and positive step.  PFLAG is the last place to hear a dispassionate discussion of the actual facts of transition, much less any mention of the feminist perspective.  Remember: PFLAG leaders and group members don’t necessarily know any more than anybody else about transgenderism, and most often are motivated to affirm and confirm their own decisions.

In my view, PFLAG has entered the trans arena with an approach and philosophy that will not serve it well for the long-term.  Transgenderism is not just “super-gay,” and the “empathetic parent” model that worked so well back in 1984 is increasingly irrelevant in a context involving permanent, serious and potentially disfiguring medical decisions.  Especially where PFLAG is seen as endorsing childhood or teen transition, eventually there will be consequences.  It will be sad to see an organization that did so much good for so many in the last century, come to grief in this one.

 

pflag-then-and-now

Then….                                                                                            …and now

 

 

 

A mum’s voyage through Transtopia: A tale of love and desistance

Lily Maynard lives with her husband and their family in the UK. Her daughter, Jessie, was 15 when she first began identifying as trans.

In this post, Lily chronicles her grueling journey of self education on trans issues, and her determination to share what she learned with Jessie, who at first utterly dismissed her mother’s efforts.  But after 9 months, Jessie, now 16, eventually desisted from trans identification, and, with the support of her mother and another formerly trans-identified friend, came to recognize and embrace herself as a young woman.

Jessie adds her own observations at the end of her mother’s post.

Lily and Jessie are both available to interact with readers in the comments section of this post.


by Lily Maynard

My daughter Jessie was not a ‘girly’ girl. As a small child she was often mistaken for a boy, despite her long hair, because mostly she wore jeans and dinosaur tops. She didn’t care much for the pastel, glitter, hearts and lace that tends to fill the girls’ section of most stores. Growing up, she liked Dora the Explorer and Ben 10; she liked Lego and Bratz dolls. Occasionally, she chose a pink sparkly top, or a crystal ballerina for the Christmas tree.

Once, when she was about 7, a woman in a second-hand shop said to her, “Oh you’re a GIRL! Why are you playing with that dirty old truck? Here’s a nice doll.”

So I bought her the truck to make a point, and on the way home we talked about how silly it was to have different toys for boys and girls. We always applauded the strong women in movies and cartoons. My kids would tell me, “Mum, you’d like this film, there’s a Strong Female Role in it.”

Jessie played with both boys and girls growing up; she had siblings; she was sociable; she had a wide circle of friends. She did ballet for half a term, but tripped over her feet and hated it. She tried football, but tripped over her feet and hated getting up early. She liked jujitsu and roller skating, drawing and writing stories. She hated skirts and dresses and tomatoes.

By age 12, she was spending a lot of time online. She had a Facebook account and loved YouTube, music videos, cat videos; Naruto and Hannah Montana. She hung out mostly with a small group of close girlfriends, but mixed well with anyone. At 13 she had her own iPhone and laptop, and worshipped One Direction. At 14, she began watching videos by lesbian YouTubers Rose and Rosie, and ElloSteph. For the most part, I liked them. These young women were funny, happy and confident, and they gave out good life advice. Their videos were well composed, although there was a bit too much of the obligatory YouTube navel-gazing  for my liking.

Jessie, slightly goth, long dyed dark hair and occasional black eyeliner, always in jeans and a band T shirt, Jessie came out as gay just before her 15th birthday . I wasn’t surprised. She’d briefly ‘dated’ a boy she’d known since she was five but it was obviously no great passion, so I had suspected she was going to tell me weeks before she did. Shortly afterwards she made a ‘coming out’ YouTube video and posted it on her Facebook page. She said she was ‘gay’; she didn’t use the word ‘lesbian’. I did think she was quite young to define her sexuality so suddenly and utterly, and declare it to the world before she had even had a relationship. By this time, I was very aware of the part YouTube youth culture played in the decision to ‘go public’ with a video. I told her that, but I wasn’t shocked or discouraging.  I had a few girlfriends myself when I was younger. If she was a lesbian, so be it. I just wanted her to be happy and healthy.

Soon thereafter, Jessie began watching ‘transitioning’ videos on YouTube with her friends and siblings: cute boys who became girls and cute girls who became boys; endless slideshows of their stories, entitled, ‘My Transition Timeline’.

The girls all had the same sideways smiles and little bum-fluff beards. “I never liked pink,” they declared, “I never liked dresses, I wasn’t attracted to boys. I wore guy clothing.” The boys twisted their long hair as they spoke through heavily lipsticked lips, leaning forward coyly and peering out from over-mascara’ed lashes.  “I always liked pink,” they cooed, “I played with girls’ toys.” I wondered why this generation seemed desperate to put itself into boxes and mark them with labels, but mostly I worried that my kids were spending too much time online.

“Read a book; go outside!” was my mantra. “Turn off the internet and put down your phone.”

Jessie took me to a YouTube convention and we sat at the front during the LGBT discussion. She had a crush on a high-profile teen who identified as a boy. Chris was on hormones and had had a double mastectomy. Chris was kind to Jessie at the ‘meet and greet’ afterwards and posed for a photo. I didn’t see Chris as a boy, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. What I do remember was those eyes, like a frightened rabbit, a frail little thing despite the smiles.

Jessie asked to cut her long hair short. I said, “Of course.” I was surprised how much it suited her. We donated her hair to the Little Princess Trust, to be made into wigs for children with cancer.

Jessie still had her phone 24/7. I ‘trusted’ her, despite knowing that many of her friends were online half the night. I knew some of them self-harmed, or starved themselves, or posted half-naked pictures online. I know now that it isn’t about trust. No one ever thinks their child is doing that stuff. Social media cliques are like a spiral, ever more insular and self-serving. They are more than the sum of the parts of their users. The internet can be a great source of support, but whole online communities have grown up to normalise disturbing behaviours: from the personification of eating disorders with Ana and Mia, through forums where kids discuss who cuts the deepest or most frequently. If my bright, happy child was vulnerable, anybody’s child can be vulnerable. You can’t ‘trust’ your child not to get drawn into a cult, any more than you can trust them not to get run over by a truck.

joolz-pullquote

A month after cutting her hair, Jessie said she had something to tell me. She was distraught, red-faced and bleary-eyed. There was a tiny part of me that knew what she was going to say, although I didn’t realise it until later. After almost an hour of pacing the room she grabbed a pen and wrote on a scrap of paper, ‘I am transgender’.

Despite having half-known what she was going to say, I was shocked. I had heard of people who said they’d always known they were ‘in the wrong body’ but there had never been anything in Jessie’s past to suggest that might be the case with her. She insisted the signs had always been there. She hated wearing dresses, she used male avatars in video games, she didn’t want to flirt with boys. She didn’t ‘feel’ like a girl.

“Do you want to go on hormones?” I asked, at one point during that first conversation. “You’d grow a beard.” I added, pointlessly.

She nodded. She never mentioned surgery, but I saw it looming in her future. The prospect terrified me. I didn’t know what to say.  So I said, “It’ll be ok.”

She seemed much happier after telling me and then went to bed, a million miles away, in her room next to mine. I went to bed too, and the darkness screamed at me. I got up again, and spent the night googling ‘transgender’ and crying. I tried to be open-minded. I wanted to support Jessie more than anything; to do the best thing to help her, but I was sure transition wasn’t the answer she needed. I told myself I was open-minded, but was I really? Was I in denial? I slept very little over the following weeks.

I spoke to a lesbian friend, in a panic.  “What does he want to do next?” she inquired.  I felt as if I’d been punched in the stomach.

One of the first places I looked for information was the National Health Service website, because I presumed there would be impartial advice: something about helping people with the issue of reconciling their bodies with their identity. I thought that thinking you were transgender would be treated as a mental health issue; surely  transition would be recommended as a last resort.

I typed ‘NHS transgender’ into Google, and the first article that appeared was the story of a boxing promoter who came out as transgender  at age 60; about  his ‘dreams, diaries and dress-ups’. A link on that site led to the children’s trans support group, ‘Mermaids’. which is run by parents who believe their children are born in the wrong bodies. Their advice to confused teens, in the section ‘I think I’m trans, what do I do?’ is ‘you can speak to your GP  without your parents being able to know if you are not comfortable with coming out to them yet.’ Next, I flipped through the testimonials from parents. Mermaids receives UK lottery funding and is often the first port of call for concerned parents in the UK.  As far as I could tell, every single child mentioned on the site has transitioned.

Another link on the NHS transgender page led me to a glossy brochure called ‘Living my Life’, featuring studio photos of good-looking transgender people. It struck me as more of an advert for plastic surgery than an information booklet.

A spikey-haired 20-something plays a guitar and shouts into the camera. ’We’re here for a good time, not a long time.’  A coiffed and manicured blonde wears a low-cut salmon pink top, and a pair of surgically enhanced breasts take up most of the bottom half of the picture.  ’I was always me but I just didn’t look like me.’

There was nothing on either of those two links about helping kids to reconcile with their natal sex. Nothing about working through it; nothing about learning to love yourself as you are. I saw nothing stating the obvious: that a healthy natal boy has a penis and testicles and a healthy natal girl has a vulva and vagina, and that both sexes should be able to do all the things they love while wearing whatever damn outfit takes their fancy.

I typed ‘Am I transgender?’ into Google and clicked on the link to amitransgender.com. One word filled the screen: a black YES on a white background.

“I want to change my pronouns,” Jessie announced. “I’m a boy in a girl’s body.”

“How can you know what a boy feels like, when you’re a girl?” I demanded.

She couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.

“You’re a girl,” I insisted. “You can do anything as a girl, achieve anything as a girl that you could if you were a boy, but you can’t just become a boy any more than you can become a cat. It doesn’t work like that.”

“Go away.”

My eyes were opened over the next few weeks. Staying up most of the night, every night, Google led me beyond YouTube, to Reddit, to Tumblr, to Pinterest and Instagram. To posts about pink, clothing, hair and make-up. To seemingly endless pictures and slideshows of men, dressed like pornstars, claiming to be women. Vague explanations about ‘feeling’ different; about ‘being yourself’. It led me to videos of girls in checked shirts with cute quiffs and bound breasts, who genuinely believed they were gay men. They talked of ‘gender identity’ and the sex they’d been ‘assigned at birth’, as if births were attended by a gender fairy who absent-mindedly distributed random gifts of genitalia. A huge amount of importance was attached to public bathroom access and locker rooms of one’s choice. Endless posts claiming, in all seriousness, that ‘misgendering’ transpeople is an act of violence tantamount to trying to kill them, and how the only way to stop the feeling of dysphoria is to embrace transition and start living as your ‘preferred gender’. Immediately. There is no shortage of gender therapists offering to help a child do that, because if you even suspect you might be trans, then you probably are. Type ‘child gender therapist UK’ into Google and you get over 15 million results.

Everywhere I looked, the internet seemed eager to affirm that transition was a simple and marvellous thing, the one and only solution to all the problems of physical and social dysphoria. If you don’t support your child’s transition, parents are warned over and over again, they will probably try to kill themselves.

amitransgender

I learned a lot. I learned that if you don’t believe a man can become a woman; if you are gender critical, you will be called a TERF, transphobic and told to ‘educate yourself’ at best; ‘die in a fire’ at worst. I became familiar with the term ‘die cis scum’ (‘cis’  are non-trans people). I learned that if you are a lesbian who doesn’t want to give fellatio, you are transphobic. You may be called a cisbian and you are responsible for the ‘cotton ceiling’. Men get pregnant  and you should say ‘chestfeeding’ not ‘breastfeeding’. Vulva cupcakes are violent. Women who menstruate should be called ‘menstruators’ so as not to trigger transwomen who cannot menstruate, or transmen who don’t wish to be reminded that they do. The term ‘female genital mutilation’ is ‘cis sexist’. Often, middle-aged people with names like Misty or Crystal will be the ones helpfully explaining this to confused ‘non-binary’ youngsters. If your child thinks they’re trans, there are a host of interested adults out there. They’ll help you select underwear, they’ll advise you to start transition as early as you can. Some will advise you to keep your feelings from your parents because they may become ‘crazy, hateful people’ if you come out to them. Worried siblings are told to keep quiet if they don’t want suicide on their hands. A few clicks will get you tips on how to get a binder without your parents knowing; some sites will even post you a second-hand binder for free. Tips on how to get hold of hormones illegally online and how to get ‘top surgery’ quicker by lying to a therapist are just a few clicks away.

I started taking Jessie’s phone away at night.

Here’s the thing – teenagers are dysphoric. Dysphoria is defined as ‘a state of unease or generalised dissatisfaction with life’ and that just about sums up being a teenager for a lot of kids. Many teenagers feel they aren’t in the right place, the right life, the right time. It is not such a huge leap, especially for a lesbian girl, to conclude that she is in the wrong body. Transkids call the name their parents gave them at birth their ‘deadname’. The appeal is clear. Society demands such impossible things from our youth. Our boychildren are expected to be tough, to ‘man up’, to scorn women yet acquire them, to value money and power above everything else. Is it any wonder if they shirk from what they are told is manhood? And if it is hard for them, it is so much worse for our girls. They are faced with endless images of airbrushed physical perfection in a society where women are told they can ‘have it all’ but are everywhere portrayed as constantly sexually available and intellectually and physically inferior. We are raising our girls in a society where women still earn nearly 20% less than men for the same work hours; where online porn is only a click away; where a third of young women age 18-24 report being sexually abused in childhood and only one in twenty reported rapes ends in a conviction. Is it really any wonder when young women want to cut off not just their hair  but their breasts and fantasise about emerging, as if from a chrysalis, to join men in their position of power and privilege?

“Gender is a social construct.” I repeated. “You are a biological girl. You can have no idea what it feels like to be a boy, because you aren’t a boy. Being a girl doesn’t have to dictate what you like to do, or wear, or who you love.”

She said, “I’m a boy.”

“No, you are a girl.”

“You can’t tell me how I feel.”

I worried myself sick that, at almost 16, my child was only a few months away from being able to visit a doctor privately and start hormone treatment. In fact, as I later learned, some UK children are receiving cross-sex hormones from private doctors as young as 12.

When I first started my research into transgenderism online, I could find nothing that questioned the trans narrative. Everything said transition was the answer, the only answer. Then I found 4thWaveNow, Transgender Trend and Gender Critical Dad. Those websites were saving lights in the blue glow of my laptop on those sleepless nights. From there I was led to others who questioned Transtopia. I read, with a mixture of relief and dismay, articles showing the huge increase in young people identifying as ‘trans’ and presenting to gender clinics in the last few years. Those most likely to be sucked in seemed to be white, middle class girls who spent compulsive amounts of time on social media. I read blog posts by thissoftspace and crashchaoscats. I watched YouTube videos by the inspirational Peachyoghurt. I read Sheila Jeffreys’ ‘Gender Hurts’. I joined online radical feminist groups and met wonderful women full of love and anger who taught me a lot.  I read stories about five year old children transitioning, and about parents discovering their child had ‘changed pronouns’ at school months ago, but the school had a policy not to discuss  the issue with parents. I saw picture books encouraging children to question if they were born the ‘right’ sex. I read about a woman who started a fundraiser for ‘top surgery’ for her disabled daughter who was hospitalised in an intensive care unit. I watched videos where young boys donned false eyelashes and lipstick and curled their long hair, and told the world that they were really girls, while their parents held the cameras that broadcast their lives to the world via their own YouTube channels. Trans-identifying Jazz Jennings stars in a reality TV show. I read about MTT (male to trans) boxers hospitalising women in fights, about MTT golfers who suddenly became world champions, about middle-aged MTT playing on girls’ basketball teams. And I read story upon story about women and girls being assaulted in bathrooms, locker rooms, prisons and refuges, by men who identified as women and used the privilege that gave them to invade women’s spaces.  In all my internet surfing, I never found a single story about an MTT being attacked in a men’s restroom.

I showed Jessie a graph that registered the sweeping rise in girls identifying as trans over the last decade. She seemed somewhat subdued by that.

“A woman can’t become a man, it’s impossible.” I reasoned. “How can your body be wrong but your brain be right?”

She repeated, “I’m in the wrong body.”

We went round in circles. And then, in my Internet wanderings, I discovered ‘Jake’.

Jessie had created an elaborate online persona as a transboy, as Jake. As the story slowly unravelled, I discovered that Jessie hadn’t met her new girlfriend, Beth, at a party, as she had told me. Instead, they had met online, and as far as Beth was concerned, she had a boyfriend, a transboy called Jake. As far as Beth was concerned, Jessie Maynard didn’t exist.

I was devastated, I was lost, I was furious. We’d had a strict ‘no fake profiles online’ rule and she had broken it, and then had lied to me.

“It’s not a fake profile,” she yelled, as she slammed her bedroom door. “It’s me!”

I changed the internet passwords and I bought her a ‘brick phone’, a phone without internet access. She was not impressed.

But I didn’t try to stop Jessie seeing Beth, or any of her other friends. Beth lived two hours away from us, but I paid Jessie’s train fare to visit her fortnightly, and gave her back her old phone to FaceTime most evenings. I was touched when Jessie wanted me to meet Beth, and I took them out for dinner. I had mixed feelings. On one level I felt the relationship was reinforcing her confusion. On another I felt it might help clear it. Yet I was horrified that Jessie had created this online world, slipped so easily inside and pulled it back into reality with her. There were others calling her Jake now, friends she had met online, and a few ‘IRL’ friends. Even some of her friends’ parents, I discovered, used the new name and pronouns.

“Do you think Beth really sees you as a boy?” I questioned, one afternoon.

“Yes.” Jessie didn’t look up from her book.

“Really?”

“She says if that’s how I identify, that’s how she sees me.” Jessie looked up this time, and seemed a little uncertain. “I have wondered about that,” she admitted.

Sometimes I would sit with her, coaxing her to explain how she felt, trying so hard to understand how she thought she really could be a boy; telling her what a talented and creative person she was and what a great life she had ahead of her.

Sometimes I couldn’t bear it any longer.

“Whatever you do to yourself you will always be a woman,” I shouted, exasperated. “Do you want a life where everyone around you creeps about pretending they think you’re something you’re not? Do you want to spend the rest of your life on hormones? Do you want a half-beard, phantom breasts, a life based on a lie?”

Sometimes she would not speak to me at all. And I didn’t blame her.

As I’ve said, the internet told me repeatedly that my child might kill herself if I questioned this new identity or whether transition was the best response to her feelings. I didn’t believe it. Jessie did not seem suicidal. Angry and confused, yes. There seemed to be no space for question, no one out there to tell these kids they might be ok as they are – that it was society’s expectations of what makes a man or a woman that should change, not them. This self-diagnosed condition seemed to be accepted without question by most therapists and health professionals.

I started a Facebook group just for Jessie and me, where I posted blog links, news articles and reports I found online, and checked if she had read them by bringing them up in conversation.

Sometimes I’d say, “You can have your phone to call Beth after you’ve read that article.”

Or, “I’ll wash up, you go and look at that video.”

Many of the links I shared with her explained gender as a social construct. Some unravelled the myth that our brains are gendered; some discussed what makes a woman a woman. Many linked FTT (female to trans) transgenderism to male domination, some discussed internalised misogyny. I made sure she knew that detransition was ‘a thing’ and that detransitioners were rejected by the community that had encouraged them to transition in the first place. Sometimes we read articles or watched videos together. She rolled her eyes a lot but didn’t seem to mind too much.

dolezal

I read everything I could get my hands on. I stayed up most of the night, most nights, reading and copying and pasting appropriate links for Jessie to read. It was easier than lying in the dark, thinking about my perfect child removing her breasts a few years down the line. I learned about breast binders and the problems they can cause. I learned that the facial hair produced by testosterone often remains even if hormones are stopped. I googled pictures that I now wish I could unsee. A pre-op torso sporting breasts and chest hair. Photos of badly scarred, crooked chests; of nipples that looked as if they had been glued or badly stitched back on, reports of nipples that had ‘fallen off’. A photo of bloody breast tissue lying in a silver surgeon’s bowl. I saw pictures of constructed penises that looked like ready-rolled pastry and the raw exposed flesh that was cut away from arms or thighs to build them. I learned about how an artificial vagina can be constructed from a scrotal sack, and how, in the words of one MTT, “some of the tissues get starved of nutrients and oxygen (and) tends to die off”. I learned about ‘phantom penis syndrome’ and how it can affect some post-op MTTs when they become aroused.

It was horrific. It was nothing like the ‘My 2 Year Transition Story’ YouTube videos. I did not make an appointment for Jessie to see the doctor. I did not take her to a gender clinic.

“You’re not a straight boy, Jessie. You’re a lesbian.” I reasoned.

She shouted, furious, “I am not a lesbian!”

Her 16th birthday came and went. She had a party and her friends took over the ground floor. I kept one eye out from upstairs. Some cross-looking little goth girls smoked and drank beer at the bottom of the garden.

“Who were those girls?” I asked the next day.

“Those boys were Ryan and Jake.”

I snorted.

I did try to find Jessie a therapist who would help her reconcile with being female. The only openly gender critical therapist a Google search threw up lived in Texas. No use to us, then. I was put in touch with several people by email, but I could find no-one who worked in our area. Those I did communicate with were wonderfully supportive but asked me not to name them, not to give out their email address or talk about them. The message was clear – publicly questioning Transtopia could be professional suicide.

Jessie talked disparagingly of ‘otherkin’, the world of people who seriously ‘identify’ as animals. Cats, mostly, or wolves, and sometimes dragons. She didn’t take them very seriously. I said I couldn’t see a lot of difference between their beliefs and her own. She scowled–but then she laughed.

I showed Jessie photographs of Danielle Muscato and Alex Drummond: both men who consider themselves to be women.

I showed her a picture of an FTT (female to trans), who claimed she was a gay man, breast-feeding her baby.

“Man or woman?” I pestered her. “What makes a woman? What makes a man?”

We watched a video about Paul Wolscht, a man in his late forties who now ‘identifies’ and ‘lives as’ a 7- year old girl. Jessie was horrified. She said it was gross. I said that if gender really is all about identity, then his identity is surely as valid as any other. She looked at me, incredulous. I shrugged. There was a silence.

I showed her Peachyoghurt’s YouTube channel and we watched the videos together. Peachyoghurt made Jessie laugh. Sometimes I felt like we were getting somewhere, but when I asked her, the answer was always the same.

“Nothing’s changed. I’m still a boy.”

“What about Rachel Dolezal?” I asked one day, in the middle of dinner. “She was born white but honestly feels as if she is black. How is that different?”

“It just is.”

“Why?”

“I’m eating my dinner, mum.”

I taught her about how gender is a hierarchy; I gave her articles that showed that ‘transwomen’ are as likely to be arrested for violent crime against women as men; and that wealthy, older men are investing huge amounts of money in the transitioning of children.

Sigh. “I’m still a boy, mum. Nothing has changed.”

When Jessie was due to register at college at 16, she told me she wanted to register as a boy, as Jake. I had seen this coming and I was not keen at all. I felt that the more she indulged Jake; ascribed the good things in her life to being perceived as a male, the less there would be left of Jessie. The deeper she waded in the waters of Transtopia, the harder it would be to turn back. I worried about the effect on her education, and the damage that would be done by people in authority appearing to buy into her delusion. I was determined to at least find her some time and space to think a while longer before stepping into a life in which her ’transness’ was either the elephant in the room or the main focus of her being. She’d been offered a place at an excellent college an hour away from us. I took a gamble.

“You can do what you like when you are 18,” I told her. “But for now, you register as Jessie- as a girl- or you go to the college two blocks away from our flat.”

To say she was not pleased is an understatement. There were tears and there was shouting.  But she registered at college as Jessie Maynard.

We know that we are supposed to say that transwomen are real women. We know that it upsets them when we don’t. We also know, although we think about it far less, that we are supposed to believe that teenage girls who think they are boys, are actually men. The reason the cry ‘transwomen are real women’ is so important is that the minute we stop buying into that ‘reality’ the whole house of cards collapses.

I talked with Jessie about the way we treat boys and girls differently and how their brains develop differences because of that. I reminded her that in Victorian times, and well into the 20th century, pink was considered to be a boy’s colour and boys wore dresses until they were as old as eight. Gender expectations are different in different cultures. How could your brain be right but your body wrong? Is Caitlin Jenner really a woman, and is the hardest part of being a woman really deciding what to wear? Can sixty years of male privilege be wiped away with surgery and a lipstick? I talked a lot.

After a while I would always ask, “Do you want me to go away?”  Usually she would say, “Yes,” but sometimes she would shake her head. “No, you can stay.”

I told her how angry it made me feel that she had friends whose parents used her ‘preferred pronouns’, because I wouldn’t tell an anorexic girl she looked better thin, or comment on how cool the cutting scars on a boy’s arms looked.

I tried to give her support and let her know that I would always love her, but I never wavered for a minute from the idea that a woman cannot ‘become’ a man. Jessie and I went out for walks, to the cinema; out to lunch. I watched her and thought how clever she was, how compassionate, how thoughtful, how beautiful. I couldn’t bear the thought that she might mutilate herself in pursuit of something she could never really have. I wore sunglasses far too often that summer, but it helped to hide my eyes.

Then, at a party, Jessie met up with a friend she hadn’t seen for a year. Hazel had lived as a boy called Harvey for 8 months and then re-identified as a girl. Unbeknownst to me, they talked a lot over the next few weeks.

“What does Hazel say about it all?” I asked, curious, when Jessie told me. She shrugged. “Pretty much the same as you.”

When she asked if she could stay the weekend at Hazel’s house, obviously I said yes. I began crossing my fingers and hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel.

A week later she said “I’m thinking about it all, mum. I’m not sure what I think anymore.”

Jessie started at college and had never seemed so happy. Slowly, she seemed to begin reconciling with her femaleness. Then she told me she wanted to tell me something ‘later’. I thought I knew, I suspected, I hoped and I hoped. I waited and time passed slowly.

One day she texted me on the way to college,  “I am a girl. I was never a boy.’

She has told the group of friends that called her Jake the same.  Beth has been accepting, saying “Now you’re my preferred gender.” The only friend who is disappointed is a boy.

“You are becoming problematic.” he told her. “You need to educate yourself.”

Jessie saw the irony.

Jessie wrote a respectful but trans-critical post on her Tumblr account, and two of her ‘transboy’ followers messaged her saying they had also been feeling that way for some time and asked her to tell them more. She is currently messaging with several young people who are experiencing gender confusion. I hope she can help them, as her friend Hazel and I helped her, to realise that your potential should not be governed by your genitals; that the problem is gender and the solution is to try to change the system, not yourself.

I realise that it could have all gone horribly wrong: Jessie could have turned her back on our family and bought into the myth that anyone who questions trans ideology is phobic, full of hatred, and should be discarded in the name of liberation and finding yourself. If things had gone that way, I could have lost a child as well as a daughter. Every family is different and I would not presume to tell another parent how to deal with their child’s assertion that they are transgender. It is a minefield. If I had ever felt that Jessie needed to transition to stay alive, I would have acted differently, but I never once felt that she was in danger of taking her own life. Of course, I had never expected my daughter to tell me she was my son, either.

I do not dispute that, for a very small number of people, their gender and body dysmorphia has gone so far that the only comfortable way for them to survive in this culture is to live as the opposite sex. These people should have the same rights as the rest of us, they should not be discriminated against and they should be able to move about their business in safety. Housing and jobs should be open to them, just as they should to any member of society. I don’t want to belittle their suffering and I would not ‘misgender’ someone to their face. But a man is not a woman and a woman is not a man. These are biological differences, and biology is the fundamental basis of female oppression. To claim that being a woman is no more than a feeling is to instigate the erasure of women. The idea that we should buy into the myth that our young people are ‘born in the wrong body’ because they do not want to conform to contemporary gender stereotypes is doublespeak worthy of an Orwellian dystopia. The fact that teenage girls, predominantly young lesbians, are rejecting their womanhood in an attempt to become their oppressors should fill society with horror. Instead we are making ‘being trans’ into the latest fashion and parading these children in newspapers and on reality TV shows. I don’t know where it will end.

What I do know is that if I had let Jessie register at college as a boy and taken her to a gender clinic, we would be looking at a very, very different picture now. My beautiful 16-year-old daughter would have stepped down the road to public transitioning and a lifetime on medication. She would be looking towards a very different future.

Thank you to those of you that gave me support. To the women and men who have written so honestly about their experiences as parents, or as gender questioning young adults. Words cannot describe the strength you gave me when I needed to believe that I was doing the right thing in not supporting Jessie’s immediate transition. One more strong, healthy young woman is growing up a feminist.


Thoughts from Jessie Maynard:

Although at the time I didn’t appreciate it, the constant repetition of “you can’t be a boy” did me good. A lot of good. I had been spending too much time on the internet and I had got it into my head that somehow, biological girls could really be boys, if they “identified” as such (& vice versa).

As someone who’s always had a mostly realistic grip on the world, for some reason I had been pulled into a world where boys could become girls and girls could become boys. I felt that because I said I was a boy, I was a boy.

At the time, I felt that my mum not immediately calling me Jake and using male pronouns was horrible and transphobic. But in the long run, without her resistance, I probably wouldn’t be as happy as I am today, as I would still be thinking I was a boy and trying to “pass” as a boy (which I would never be able to do without body-altering hormones.)

I think that if I had changed my pronouns in September, and registered at my college as a boy I would be a lot more unhappy as I would constantly be trying to “pass” and I wouldn’t be making the friends I wanted to, as I would be trying to fit in with the “male crowd”. When I arrived at my college, making friends wasn’t my primary motive, however the friends I have made are almost all female, and I don’t think I would have those friends if I had been trying to fit in as a boy.

Most of all, understanding gender as a social construct has taken me a long way in my personal life, and in my ideas about feminism and the way women and men are treated, especially women by the trans movement.

I’m glad that I realised before it was too late, as I am now happier in my own body and identity. I think that as a whole, many girls who wouldn’t’ve identified as transgender 10/20 years ago are now thinking they are which is dangerous and harmful to them, and that talking to them maturely and explaining gender as a social construct could really help them.

 

Too much trust

4thWaveNow contributor Overwhelmed is the mother of a daughter who previously identified as transgender. Her daughter is now comfortable being female even though she chooses to eschew conventionally feminine clothing and sports a short haircut.

Overwhelmed can be found on Twitter: @LavenderVerse


by Overwhelmed

Why does the public seemingly trust that gender doctors know what they are doing? Well, one of the reasons is the frequent media portrayals of trans kids. Children who have recently undergone medical transition are being presented as success stories, even though no one knows the long term consequences of gender-affirming treatments.

I came across this article on the University of California San Francisco website. It covers the transition of three children—two who have puberty blocker implants and one, a natal female named Oliver, whose treatment has included puberty blockers, testosterone, a double mastectomy with chest contouring, a hysterectomy (at 16 years old!) and plans in the near future for the first in a series of phalloplasty surgeries. The article also highlights the involvement of three gender-affirming pioneers—Dr. Ehrensaft, Dr. Rosenthal and Joel Baum—whom I will discuss a little later in this post. But first I will focus on Oliver.

Oliver’s story (which I’ve pulled from three separate articles) starts off as expected—a young child uncomfortable in dresses who likes short hair and playing baseball. When puberty started, it caused a great deal of distress. Suicide was considered. And then:

A few months before his 15th birthday, …stumbled across the word “transgender” online. He read about people who had had medical treatment to align their bodies with their gender identity – their inner sense of who they are.

“Bam, my life changed,” he says. “It lifted a major weight to find out I could do something about all this pressure I had been feeling.”

 At first Oliver’s parents, especially his father, didn’t accept that their daughter was really their son.

“It took me a bit to become a really supportive dad,” ….

For months they didn’t speak. But in the end, reading the suicide statistics for transgender teens brought him around.

“My kid’s not going to kill himself,” …. “I don’t care what he is, as long as he’s a productive person in society, and he needs all the support we can give him.”

Oliver was taken to UCSF’s Child and Adolescent Gender Center.

By age 15, Oliver… was on a dual regimen of testosterone, plus puberty blockers to keep his endogenous estrogen from competing with the male hormones.

While he had to endure a second puberty, and he’ll need to take testosterone for the rest of his life, he’s had no second thoughts about transitioning.

The summer after his sophomore year, he had “top” surgery – a double mastectomy and male chest contouring – in San Francisco. To pay for the procedure, which was not covered by insurance, he used earnings from years of showing and selling pigs at the Tuolumne County fair.

“It’s a lot of money for a 15-year-old,” he says of the $8,000 price tag. “But I appreciate it every day.”

His family’s insurance also wouldn’t cover a puberty blocker implant, so… at first chose cheaper but “gnarly” monthly shots. Later, concerned about unknown long-term effects of the blockers, and hating the painful shots, he opted for a hysterectomy at age 16 – performed by the same family doctor who had delivered him.

In June, he’ll undergo the first in a series of “bottom” surgeries to create male genitalia.

His only regret, he says, is not finding UCSF’s Gender Center sooner. “To not go through the wrong puberty, those kids are lucky,” he says. “That’s a team effort. You have to show [gender dysphoria], and parents have to catch it.”

Oliver’s story has been published in at least three media articles, likely reaching a large audience. The teen has also been influential in Oliver’s small town high school  where at least four other transgender students have since come out.

ucsf-logo

An increasing number of children like Oliver are announcing they’re transgender, and families are looking to the experts in the field for guidance. Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, a clinical and developmental psychologist, is one of a number of pediatric gender-affirming pioneers in the San Francisco Bay area. She is Director of Mental Health and founding member of the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center. She is a well-known proponent of the gender affirmative model and has authored two books on the subject. Ehrensaft has a private practice in Oakland and serves on the Board of Directors of Gender Spectrum.

Her credentials seem impressive, but there are concerns that her stance could unnecessarily pressure parents into eventually medically transitioning their children. She’s often quoted in news reports about trans kids. Here she is in the Duluth New Tribune article from above, rationalizing the dramatic increase in trans-identifying kids seeking treatment:

“We have lifted the lid culturally,” said developmental psychologist Diane Ehrensaft, whose Oakland, Calif. practice has seen a fourfold increase in the number of gender-questioning kids in recent years. “These kids have always existed, but they kept it underground.”

She is also quoted in the UCSF article:

“When a child says, ‘I’m not the gender you think I am,’ that can be a showstopper,” says Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, the Gender Center’s director of mental heath as well as a private-practice psychologist in Oakland. “Some parents say, ‘Not on my watch. No way am I signing off on a medical intervention. When they’re 18 they can do what they want.’ I say, ‘You’re absolutely right, you’re the ones minding the shop, but let me share with you the risk factors of holding back.’”

A parent swayed by Ehrensaft’s logic may believe that, contrary to historical records,  there were always this many trans kids. This could lead parents to disregard the impacts of social contagion. And she tells parents that being cautious and holding back medical interventions until their child is 18 could lead to serious “risk factors.” Suicide seems to be implied.

Stephen Rosenthal, MD, is another pediatric gender-affirming pioneer in the San Francisco Bay area. He is a founder of the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center and currently serves as its Medical Director. He is also the program director for Pediatric Endocrinology, director of the Endocrine Clinics, and co-director of the Disorders of Sexual Development (DSD) Clinic. Additionally, Rosenthal spends time as a professor of clinical pediatrics at UCSF and conducts research. Currently, he is participating in an NIH-funded study of pediatric medical transition.

He has stated that “these kids have a very high risk of depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. Not treating is not a neutral option. He promotes early treatment—puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and sometimes surgeries—to alleviate these symptoms without any proof of long term relief.

Under his direction, the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center has grown substantially. It opened in 2010. By 2012 there were 75 patients and currently there are over 300 patients with about 10 new referrals a month. Business is booming. Clinics are being added in San Mateo and Oakland. The UCSF Gender Center network isn’t the only place in the San Francisco Bay area offering pediatric gender affirming treatment. Stanford and Kaiser Permanente provide similar services.

What could be driving all of these children to seek treatment? Well, the San Francisco Bay Area has been well-educated by Gender Spectrum, a “national advocacy group for gender expansive youth whose mission is to create a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens.” Many schools in the area have hosted training sessions by Gender Spectrum. The goal of gender sensitivity training is to increase acceptance and decrease bullying, but it’s likely that some children get confused by the information, leading to a rise in referrals to gender clinics.gender-spectrum-logo

Joel Baum, MS, is an advocate for pediatric gender affirmation. He is the Senior Director of Professional Development and Family Services at Gender Spectrum and is the Director of Education and Advocacy for the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center. He co-wrote Schools in Transition, A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools, which I discussed in this blog post. He has spoken in schools, at conferences (mentioned in this 4thWaveNow post) and, according to this article, promotes transgender awareness on radio shows.

Per the article, it was Baum who helped Emily and her husband realize that their son was really their daughter (Kelly).

One day Emily got a call from her husband, who was in his car listening on the radio to Joel Baum, MS, the Gender Center’s director of advocacy as well as the director of education and training for the Oakland-based nonprofit Gender Spectrum. “You’ve got to turn on the radio,” he told her. “I think this is our kid.’”

Emily was horrified to learn about the high rates of harassment, school failure, and suicide among transgender youth. “I couldn’t talk about it without weeping. I kept going to all these images in our culture for transgender people, that they’re on the edge, disenfranchised,” she says. “I was thinking, ‘I can’t lose my kid. I don’t care what her gender is. I’ve got to get on the other side of those statistics.’”

Her path forward, she says, was “unconditional acceptance of my child’s truth.”

The family started regular visits to Gender Center clinics and let Kelly be their guide. She grew her hair long. In third grade, she switched her masculine birth name to a gender-neutral nickname. At age nine, she transitioned socially, becoming “she” to relatives, friends, and classmates.

Intensely private, Kelly wanted no emails to parents, no classroom announcement. Just a quiet switch in pronouns. Her elementary school administrators and teachers – faced with their first transitioning student – were “incredibly supportive,” says Emily, who sought out staff training and put Kelly in a classroom with only one student who knew her from “before”: her best friend.

Now 13, Kelly has a matchstick-sized implant under the skin near her left bicep to suppress the male hormones her body produces. She’s blossomed into a “beautiful, smart, artistic, empathetic, fun kid,” Emily says. “I’m like, ‘Whoo! I hit the jackpot.’ But it was definitely a process and a journey for our family, and our daughter, to come to understand who she was.”

Ehrensaft, Rosenthal and Baum are promoting treatment for gender dysphoric children based on unproven theories, not solid evidence. There has been a dramatic rise in trans-identifying youth, but instead of questioning why, Ehrensaft says that the increase is due to hidden trans kids coming out. Rosenthal seems to believe that pre-emptive treatment (leading children to become permanent medical patients with unknown long term side effects) is worth it to potentially avoid future depression, substance abuse and suicide. Baum doesn’t appear to consider that transgender advocacy can lead some impressionable kids to mistakenly self-diagnose as trans. Or, that it can affect how parents interpret their children, potentially leading their gender defiant kids unnecessarily down the path of transition.

And each uses suicide statistics, flawed as they are, to justify early intervention. I’ve seen many parents in news articles state that the motivation to go along with transition was to avoid suicide. Parents are scared and feel pressured. They want to keep their children alive, no matter what. They don’t feel like they have a real choice. “I can either have a live son or a dead daughter” (or the reverse) is a common saying. When parents trust the advice of gender experts, they will accept puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, mastectomies, and hysterectomies as necessary. Unfortunately, though, this approach does not guarantee a live child.

Tremendous pressure is being placed on parents to provide gender affirmative “support.” Media articles never quote these pioneers recommending what we do at 4thWaveNow—to support our children in defiance of gender. We allow our children to choose their haircuts, clothing and interests. We accept them as is, without pressuring them to conform to societal expectations. We urge caution and encourage reflection on what it means to be male or female. We consider the long term impacts of medical interventions. We don’t rush into gender affirmation via pronouns or treatments. We want to avoid suicide in our children, but realize that the underlying reasons are more complex than the trans kids media articles portray. And some of us have had success with this approach.

There is a great deal of trust being put in the experts in the field, but we need to remember that they are pioneers in the strictest sense. They are still developing new ways of thinking about and treating gender dysphoric patients. The process is not complete. Gender science is rapidly evolving and changes to treatment protocols are likely. Today’s success stories may not be tomorrow’s success stories. The trust in experts should be viewed from this perspective.

Genderqueer teddy bear teaches toddlers proper pronoun etiquette

You’re never too young to learn about pronouns.

While far too many of us have been snoozing through the 21st century, other intrepid souls have been busy, busy bees. First, they succeeded in convincing mainstream lesbian and gay activists to adopt transgender identity politics. And that has been a fait accompli: Now all major LGB organizations are steered and funded by trans activists, with a predictable mission shift. Over the same time period, university students were brought on board with “gender”(formerly women’s) studies, their brains heavily gummed up with postmodernist gobbledygook.

In more recent years, a new frontier has been pioneered: the open minds of high school, elementary-age…and preschool children.

Just one example is the educational YouTube channel Queer Kid Stuff –sort of a Sesame Street for the preschool gender ID set. The channel has posted three episodes so far, each about 3 minutes long—perfect length for the short attention span of young kids. Clearly much thought has been put into appealing to the little ones. There’s a catchy musical theme, a colorful set, a loveable and gullible teddy bear, and sing-alongs with Lindsay, the ukelele-wielding narrator-teacher.

Episode 2, “What is Gender?” seems to start off on the right foot. Lindsay challenges gender stereotypes, telling Teddy that girls can have short hair and wear a tie. Or long hair and tiaras. It’s all good!hair-and-tiara

Naturally, as with All Things Trans, this gender defiance is presented as if having a certain haircut, wearing what you want, and generally not conforming to sex stereotypes is a brand-new concept.  Funny: We dinosaurish Second Wavers thought we had already taken care of this in the 1970s/80s (how very wrong we were).

But anyway, so far so good…until a confused Teddy plaintively says…

 Teddy: But Lindsay, I still don’t know if I’m a boy or a girl!

Lindsay: Good, Teddy! Did you know that some people aren’t boys OR girls?  Some people are boys…some people are girls…and some people are people

boys-girls-people

Not-boys and not-girls—they’re people! (Translation, I guess: “genderqueer,” but maybe that term is too loaded for even Lindsay to use.) But there’s no way around the standard-issue definition of transgender, which Lindsay dishes up next:

”…people who do not identify with the gender the doctors tell them they are when they are born

Bad doctors!

Do tell, readers. When you were 3 or 4 years old, would the words “identify as” make any sense to you? Can you picture your mom or dad casting aspersions on those dumb doctors who jumped the gun, and stupidly TOLD your parents you were a boy or girl?

Poor Teddy, trying to hang onto sanity despite a head full of fluff, takes a stab at unraveling this mess:

Ok. I think I understand. But if there are boys and girls and people and all of them can wear ties and dresses…then how can I tell who is what gender?”

Teddy’s befuddlement is no doubt shared by all the poor kids being subjected to this educational series (who’d much rather be outside playing in the mud with other children–aka “people”–than worrying about what “gender” their playmates are).

That’s actually really easy, Teddy. All you have to do is ask someone what their pronouns are. When you meet someone, just ask them what their pronoun is.   

It’s easy, preschooler. Just take a few minutes out of your busy play day to inquire whether Jimmy or Judy were assigned the wrong sex at birth by doctors—you know, doctors, the people your parents told you to trust when they jabbed you with those ouchy pre-K shots?

pronouns

Teddy takes a moment to take this in, then asks, in an appropriately awestruck tone,

 Lindsay…what’s YOUR pronoun?

Lindsay looks pleased as punch.

 I use “she.” What’s your pronoun, Teddy?

Wait for it… 

I don’t FEEL LIKE a she or a he. So I guess my pronoun is “they.”

The FEELZ! Lindsay’s response?

 That’s really awesome Teddy.

And the pièce de résistance, the obvious point of this little indoctrination session:

 Now we want to know YOUR pronoun in the comments below. 

As of this writing, “What is Gender?” has been viewed over 4000 times, and the comments are overwhelmingly positive. How many parents will be sitting their kids down in front of this episode while they’re doing household chores?

comments

 show-kids-one-day


In this Brave New Gender Identity World, toddlers and preschoolers are no longer allowed to just freaking play. They have an “awesome” responsibility to ask their playmates—many of whom aren’t yet toilet trained and still fervently believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny– what their pronouns are. Being a boy or girl isn’t about your body (how old fashioned!) or even about what you play with, or wear, or how your hair is cut.  It’s all about the FEELZ.

Lindsay could have done some good with that video. She started off by supporting kids in defying sex stereotypes. But instead of continuing with the idea that girls and boys can wear, look like, or play with whichever toys they want, Lindsey instructs Teddy about “gender” and—we can’t put too fine a point on it–PRONOUNS.

Any parent—or anyone else who has even passing knowledge about normal language development– will tell you that most preschoolers don’t even know what a pronoun is, but Teddy is instructed that to be polite, you should ask people what theirs are!

Now I’ll just touch on Episode 3, “What does queer mean?” (over 5000 views as of this writing). The video description: “Lindsay and Teddy explain what queer means with a song about unicorns!”

what-does-queer-mean

Teddy, queer isn’t a thing, it’s an idea! 

Ok. Now maybe we’re getting somewhere. “Queer” is an idea– as in “ideology”?

Poor Teddy:

Teddy: Ohhhhh….wait. I don’t get it.

Lindsay: Queer isn’t a thing like this crayon…or this watch. Lots of people have a different meaning for the word queer.

You can say that again.

Queer has to do with being…different. And how everyone is different from everyone else. 

Once again, Lindsay is in danger of actually making sense here.

 Some people are different because they’re gay, or because of their gender. You can be different in lots of ways….We are all a little different, or weird, or even strange. And that’s a good thing! So I guess we are all a little bit queer.

Raising my hand here: If that’s the case, Lindsay, why can’t we just dispense with the term entirely then?  We’re all unique and boys and girls can do and be anything they like! But no—Teddy the genderqueer teddy bear has more to learn.

 Teddy: Me too?

Lindsay:  Of course, Teddy! Why don’t I teach you a little song about unicorns to help you remember.

Help you remember what? Why does Teddy need a song to “remember” that everyone is different?

Of course, Lindsay isn’t really saying that everyone is queer. Implicit in her message is that queer people are different from those boring gender-conforming types (the “cis” boys and girls), who exist only in the minds of trans-identified people. Otherwise, why does Lindsay need to “teach” Teddy and the toddlers forced to watch this stuff what queer means in the first place?

ukelele

The insipid song is all about horses (obviously symbolic of “cis” and boring as hell) vs. unicorns who are “different” and being “different” is fun.

As Lindsay finishes the horse-unicorn song, she reminds us that this is not just singalong time, but education:

And now Teddy, it’s so much easier to remember what “queer” means

Because 3-year-olds need to “remember” what the trans activist brigade says! At all times.

And Teddy is on board:

I’m so excited I learned a fun new word with you.   

Fun? It won’t be that much fun to go to the gender doctor (a different doctor from that dumb OB-GYN who “assigned” you the wrong sex) for those puberty-blocker implants and cross-sex hormone shots and surgeries you’ll need when you figure out you’re “really” the opposite sex, Teddy.

This video, too, has plenty of fans in the comments:

nonbinary

Child development expert and online gender educator Lindsay also has a video up about what it means to be gay. While it could be reasonably argued that preschoolers are too young to learn about sexual preference, some of these kids likely have parents in same-sex relationships. And of course, some of them will grow up to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual themselves–although there will be fewer than in bygone eras when there weren’t “gender therapists” watching like a hawk for signs that babies might be transgender. But the glaring difference is that little kids who might grow up to be LGB don’t need grooming into the idea that they will eventually need hormones and surgeries to “be themselves.” Come to think of it, Lindsay should maybe make another video for the trans-toddlers to let them know they will never have little kids of their own to watch fun vids like this if they follow the usual 100% sterilization route of medical transition.

QueerKidStuff is not just a YouTube channel. They have a Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and website, and tout their Patreon fundraiser page at the end of every video.

tumblr-page

Where does this idea come from that young children are anything other than the boys and girls they were born as? Maybe from “gender educators” like Aidan Key:

The way a classroom discussion might go for younger ages is “How do you know if someone is a boy or a girl?” And they’ll list off some reasons: Boys have short hair and girls have long hair. But then they’ll look around, and there are girls with short hair and boys with long hair. So they’ll readily counter what someone offers, and that’s an amazing conversation — is there anything they can find that really is exclusive? So when they say, “Boys have a penis”? That’s when the conversation about being transgender comes in: You can say some people happen to have been born with the body of a boy but the heart and mind of a girl.

The “heart and mind” of a girl?

So little kids are being taught by gender-addled activists to kowtow to an ideology which is undermining common sense, bodily integrity—and the reasonable parents who until recently were not labeled hateful “transphobes” for simply teaching their children about what is real vs. what is fantasy.

From toddlers to graduate students, the gender propaganda juggernaut is moving forward with all cylinders firing.

 

 

Gender-affirmative therapist: Baby who hates barrettes = trans boy; questioning sterilization of 11-year olds same as denying cancer treatment

Note: 4thWaveNow frequently features posts (like this one) that focus, often unflatteringly, on the activists and providers involved in pediatric transition. These people aren’t ogres who intend to bring harm to the young people and families under their care and influence. They undoubtedly sincerely believe they are doing the right thing. The purpose here, as ever, is not to demonize, but to shed light on the potential and actual damage done by the practice and ideology of “gender affirmation.”  Harms done not only to children and their families, but to the decades of progress achieved by the women’s and LGB liberation movements.


A well known subscriber to the “gender affirmative” approach to trans-identified children is Diane Ehrensaft, PhD., a clinical and developmental psychologist. Dr. Ehrensaft, author of The Gender Creative Child, plays a powerful role in the burgeoning field of pediatric transgenderism. She is director and chief psychologist for the University of California-San Francisco children’s hospital gender clinic, and is also an associate professor of pediatrics at UCSF. She sits on the Board of Directors of Gender Spectrum, a San Francisco Bay area organization which is heavily involved in matters pertaining to trans-identified children and youth.

In February, Dr. Ehrensaft, along with other pediatric transition specialists, including Joel Baum, MS (senior director of professional development and family services at Gender Spectrum), presented at a conference and continuing education event in Santa Cruz, California.  The all-day event, attended by over 400 people, was recorded and video is available here. (Hat tip: GenderTrender, which covered part of Ehrensaft’s presentation here.)

The 5.5-hour video is well worth watching in its entirety for anyone interested in the current state of “gender affirmative” therapy. This post will touch on only a few highlights from the conference. There is much, much more.  (Numbers in square brackets give approximate hour:minute time stamps for each video excerpt.)compare-models

Dr. Ehrensaft [1:31] tells the audience that “gender affirmation” differs from the more cautious approach of learning to “live in your own skin” provided by Dr. Ken Zucker in Toronto. Zucker’s clinic was shut down by trans activists a few months ago—reported by Ehrensaft with obvious glee and to the applause of her audience. Gender affirmation also parts company with the “watchful waiting” protocol pioneered by clinician-researchers in the well known Amsterdam gender identity clinic founded by Peggy Cohen-Kettenis. The Dutch have repeatedly counseled caution in social transition and early intervention for gender dysphoric children, given the high rate of desistance and the fact that early social transition has made it more difficult for some young people to change their minds later—and might even increase the likelihood that a child will persist in a trans identity.

kid-tells

Ehrensaft labels “gender affirmative” therapy as “listen and act,” i.e., essentially follow the child’s lead in whether or not to proceed with early interventions like social transition and puberty blockers.  According to Ehrensaft, this boils down to whether the child says they ARE (vs. “want to be”) the opposite sex, and how “persistent, insistent, and consistent” they are in asserting their cross-sex identification and gender “expression.”

Ehrensaft denies that gender-affirmative therapists simply “rubber stamp” a child’s gender identity, yet despite her protestations to the contrary, she constantly reifies the idea that gender identity is innate and recognizable even in pre-verbal babies and toddlers (more on that later in the post).

rubber-stamp

To be fair, in her presentation Ehrensaft does acknowledge the replicated research showing that a large majority of gender dysphoric kids will grow out of it. Yet she strongly believes that she and others like her can reliably distinguish between the “apples” who are truly transgender and the “oranges” who are only exploring.

Even if you believe there is such a thing as a truly transgender child, what is the justification—the evidence— for her hubris, her certainty that she and others like her who peddle the “gender affirmative” approach can predict which children might be happy, decades later, as sterilized, surgically and chemically altered adults? There really isn’t any. Even so, at one point, she claims science is on her side, pointing (without directly citing it) to “research” out of the University of Washington that proves—gender-defiant children really, really, really mean it when they say they prefer the clothes, toys, and lifestyle more typical of the opposite sex.

Let’s take a closer look at the “insistent, consistent, persistent” mantra—droned incessantly by gender experts, with this conference being no exception. While Ehrensaft and Baum take great pains to say they support and even celebrate gender “nonconformity,” when the young trans-identified people (present at the event and on video) talk about their experiences and how they “know” they are trans, we hear the same rationale we always do: they eschew sex-stereotyped behaviors and appearance.

How does Ehrensaft directly instruct us in what it means to be “consistent, persistent, and insistent”? She plays a video clip of a young FtoM who has this to say about why s/he is and has always been trans: [47:00]

 We [trans kids] don’t know about much but we know about gender. We know that girls are the ones supposed to be in skirts and dresses and guys in jeans and fight all the time…I think what should have been a sign to my parents was um…I was a quiet child. I didn’t fuss or anything. But whenever my mom would try to dress me up and put lipstick on me and get me all pretty for pictures I would throw a tantrum, I would scream … that should have definitely been a big sign to her that I was not trying to fit into the girl role… The most feminine thing I did as a child was paint my nails—black.

There is knowing laughter from the audience at this last point—as if choosing black (instead of pink or purple?) fingernail polish were a sure sign that this child was, in fact, a boy.  A child who was, yes, persistent, consistent, INSISTENT…that she didn’t want to act like a stereotypical girl in a dress wearing lipstick.

persistent-teen

If Ehrensaft could respond here, I imagine she might say something like, “oh but it’s more than gender expression!” If it’s more than that, why is the one video excerpt provided to teach us about who is really trans all about stereotypes? Could it be that conforming to stereotypes is the very basis of the definition of a “trans child”?

We hear from another trans-identified teen during the panel discussion, Jordan, a 17-year-old FtoM. We also hear from Jordan’s mom, Heidi, who leads a local support group for trans-identified youth and their families.

Heidi—who at several points mentions her strong church affiliation–talks about some of the childhood experiences that convinced her that her daughter was actually her son, including this [4:37]:

 When Jordan was about 2 it became clear to me that Jordan liked boy things—you know trucks, video games, violence…when he was about between 2 and 4 I noticed he would rip off the pretty little dresses I would put on him. Would go screaming through the house and would not leave the house until he had on his brother’s big, holey T-shirts. I just thought he was a tomboy and that it was a phase.  He was driving me nuts but it was a phase. During this time I worked for a very large church… We are Christians… We were told by everyone around us to make that kid wear a dress.

Another kid screaming in a dress.

Mom tried to force her kid to wear dresses: check. The kid liked trucks: check. A girl not wanting to wear dresses is ”a phase”: check. Mom didn’t like this (it drove her nuts): check. Mom was involved with a church, whose members wanted her to “make” her child wear a dress.

Could this stuff be any more obvious?

Jordan seems to agree that an aversion to wearing dresses is a key sign of one’s innate gender identity [4:44].

 My mom put me in a dress at Easter.  [But I] went to church in dirty jeans and a big T-shirt. That was kind of a big signal.

A big signal of what? That Jordan didn’t like dresses, preferred to wear jeans? What is this obsession with dresses that we see in each and every media story about girls who are “really boys?” When did we step into this time machine, returning to the turn of the 20th century? Even Katherine Hepburn wore pants and eschewed dresses in the 1940s.

Then there’s this from Heidi [4:40]:

[During the elementary school years] I was [putting up] posters of really strong women. You know, like the singer Pink? Oh, this is a real kick-ass girl, you can be like her… when he had a crush on her. It was things like that.

Things like… not wanting a lesbian daughter? This conference took place in 2016, in the San Francisco Bay Area–for decades considered one of the most gay-friendly places in the USA, and the audience tittered at this revelation of Jordan’s same-sex attraction—as if that were a sign Jordan was actually a boy!

Mom goes on to describe how Jordan was diagnosed with a whole “plethora” of mental health issues, from ADD to bipolar to mood disorders, and concludes that it was being trans that was the root of all these other problems; once Jordan transitioned, everything else cleared up: the self hatred, the self harm, the unhappiness.

This is an increasingly common refrain, and in fact, Ehrensaft at several points in her presentation asserts that “gender is the cure” for an array of other mental health issues. What we don’t see, from Ehrensaft or anyone else, is actual evidence that allowing children to “transition” results in improvements in mental health over the long haul. What we are beginning to see in accounts from some people who have detransitioned is that transition essentially put their other issues on hold for a while—only to re-arise when the initial transition exhilaration began to dissipate.

We have evidence from several studies that gender dysphoria often co-presents with other mental health issues. Ehrensaft and others like her are now turning such research on its head, positing that the cause of comorbid mental health problems is a child being somehow thwarted in their gender identity.

Returning to the conference, although Jordan’s “gender expression” is not assumed to be the real reason for transition, it is telling that, as always, it is examples of how a person does or does not conform to sex-stereotyped behaviors that are presented as the evidence for being transgender.

And that goes even for babies, according to Ehrensaft. During the audience Q&A, a man asks how one might tell if a pre-verbal one or two-year-old is transgender. Ehrensaft’s answer, delivered with a knowing and confident smile [Clip for this excerpt is here, starting at approx. 2:05-2:06 in main video]:

 [Preverbal children] are very action oriented. This is where mirroring is really important. And listening to actions. So let me give you an example.

I have a colleague who is transgender. There is a video of him as a toddler–he was assigned female at birth–tearing barrettes out of then-her hair. And throwing them on the ground. And sobbing. That’s a gender message.

barrettes

Ehrensaft miming a significant “gender message:” a toddler ripping barrettes out of her hair

Ehrensaft is a developmental psychologist, and the only reason she can think of that a 2-year-old girl might detest the feel of barrettes in her hair is that the child is really a boy?

Again, I imagine Ehrensaft’s retort: Oh, that was just one thing–there were lots of other signs. Then why does Ehrensaft use this as a seminal example when responding to a question from the audience? And according to Ehrensaft, if the child (consistently, insistently, and persistently?) tore the barrettes from her hair “not once, but twice, three times,” that is the clincher.

Ehrensaft elaborates:

Sometimes kids between 1 and 2, with beginning language, will say, “I BOY!” when you say “girl.” That’s an early verbal message! And sometimes there’s a tendency to say “Well, honey, no you’re a girl because little girls have vaginas, and you have a vagina so you’re a girl…Then when they get a little older [the child] says, “Did you not listen to me? I said I’m a boy with a vagina!

Believers in gender identity accuse gender skeptics like me of “reducing people to their genitals.” But here we have a developmental psychologist saying in so many words that the only thing that makes a girl a girl….is her vagina. I don’t know about the other parents reading this, but I can say my response to my two-year-old in that scenario would not have been a reference to (one aspect of) her genitals.

What else does Ehrensaft advise for parents who are so concerned about their baby’s “gender identity”?

They can show you about what they want to play with…and if they feel uncomfortable about how you are responding to them and their gender… if you’re misgendering them. So you look for those kinds of actions….like tearing a skirt off. …There was one on that Barbara Walters special, this child  wore the little onesie with the snap-ups between the legs. And at age one would unsnap them to make a dress, so the dress would flow. This is a child who was assigned male. That’s a communication, a pre-verbal communication about gender.

Ehrensaft then counsels parents not to try to squelch non-sex-stereotyped behaviors (good advice), but ruins it with a faith-based assertion of innate gender identity:

And children will know [they are transgender] by the second year of lifethey probably know before that but that’s pre-pre verbal.

Not to put too fine a point on it but…this is a PhD. developmental psychologist talking here. What is her evidence base for saying babies “know” their gender identity?

…Especially since, at other points in her presentation, Ehrensaft acknowledges that gender identity can be fluid.

So which is it? A baby innately “knows” their gender identity, or it’s mutable?   To be logically consistent, Ehrensaft ought to also say that some infants are born (innately) “gender fluid”—an assertion that would be much closer to the truth, given the fact of lifelong neuroplasticity.  I wonder when the NIH will fund a study to determine which babies are born “binary” and which “genderqueer”?

What if gender-fluid children transition but change their minds? No harm done, according to Ehrensaft. She breezily asserts [1:50] that there is “no data” that it harms kids to switch back and forth between identities, as long as we “support” them in their “journey”—presumably even if that journey takes them down the road to hormones and surgeries which will alter them forever. She even touts “nonbinary transition” [3:57] as if it is something to be celebrated when youth who define themselves as “agender,” “nonbinary,” or any of the other “genders” (better known as “personalities”) might choose irreversible medical interventions.

Is Ehrensaft aware of cases like this? Would she just chalk it up to this detransitioned woman being “gender fluid” instead of “binary” and the permanent damage done to her body just part of her “gender journey” for which we have “no evidence” of any harm?

My double mastectomy was severely traumatizing. I paid a guy, a guy who does this every day for cash, to drug me to sleep and cut away healthy tissue. I did this because I believed it would heal all of the emotional issues I was blaming on my female body. It didn’t work. Now I’m still all fucked up and I’m missing body parts, too.

Ehrensaft also thinks social media has “been a godsend” [2:08] and a “tremendous boon” for young people to find others like them, with the only real ill effect being the online bullying of trans-identified kids. To be fair, she does throw a bone later to the fact that some kids presenting to clinics may be using a “script” and it’s important to look deeper to see whether it’s “their script”—which is something;  although if Ehrensaft was trained in child/adolescent developmental psychology, her cheerleading for nothing but the positive effects of social media is stunning. Has she never heard about online “communities” of teen anorexics and cutters?

Now to touch upon one final topic covered by Ehrensaft and others in the conference: permanent sterilization caused by prepubescent hormone treatment. This “side effect” is rarely mentioned in the countless media stories celebrating trans kids. One usually has to hunt for obscure literature references to find any mention. But during the conference, several providers do  acknowledge—repeatedly–that puberty blockers followed by cross-sex hormones always result in permanent infertility. They do so at least three times in the conference: [3:53], [4:18], and [5:06].

During the closing panel discussion, Ehrensaft and Baum devote several minutes to the topic of sterilizing trans kids—but explain it away with a twofer: By equating it to treatments for children with life-threatening cancers, and by stating that parents reluctant to sterilize their 11-year-olds are only concerned because they selfishly want grandchildren.

Actually, it’s a three-fer, because Ehrensaft and Baum manage to squeeze in the usual emotional blackmail: children who have to go through their natal puberty might commit suicide. [5:06].

Ehrensaft:

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.

There’s a lot of parents who have dreams of becoming grandparents. It’s very hard for them not to imagine those genetically related grandchildren. So we have to work with parents around, these aren’t your dreams. [she laughs]. You have to focus on your child’s dreams. What they want.

Let’s be very clear here:  Ehrensaft laughingly implies that parents concerned about their child’s human right to choose or not to choose to reproduce, a decision heretofore seen as inalienable and reserved for mature adults, are really only concerned about future grandchildren, not the bodily integrity or cognitive wherewithal of their prepubescent child. These egocentric parents are denying their children “their dreams.” These thoughtless parents need to be “worked with” by gender specialists.

And that’s not all: Ehrensaft goes on to shame these recalcitrant parents with the implication that puberty-blocked, 11-year-old trans tweens are more socially responsible than their clueless parents:

 And what I will say about many of the youth who want puberty blockers is: I have never met such an altruistic group of kids around adoption! Never! “I will adopt because there are so many children who need good homes.” And I think that’s both heartfelt but also they’re trying to tell us the most important thing to me right now is being able to have every opportunity to have my gender affirmation be as complete as possible. Anything else is secondary.

Do we need a PhD in developmental psychology to tell us this? You bet an 11-year-old thinks anything but what they want RIGHT NOW is secondary.  I want it, and I want it right now: the motto of youth, of children who are a decade or more away from full development of their reasoning, judgment, and awareness of future consequences.

But wait—perhaps there’s hope. Asks Ehrensaft:

The question is, can an 11-year-old, 12-year-old at that level of development, be really thinking and know what they want at age 30 around infertility?

Can they? Might it be ok to wait and allow this child to mature to adulthood before making such momentous decisions?

The answer to that is: We don’t think twice about instituting treatments for cancers for children that will compromise their fertility. We don’t say, we’re not going to give them the treatment for cancer because it’s going to compromise their fertility.

So here we have a woman who is directly responsible for sterilizing 11 and 12 year old children equating simply waiting–allowing a child to grow up to make their own decisions—with denying cancer treatment. And of course, we know what’s coming next: Transition or suicide.

For some of the youth, having the gender affirmation interventions is as life-saving as the oncology services for children who have cancer.

And they must have these interventions right now!

I wonder: Do Ehrensaft or any of the others here, so very certain of their moral superiority, ever lie awake at night wondering whether these children in their care could just as easily be supported in waiting?

baum-threat

Joel Baum instructs parents to transition their kids–or else.

Joel Baum, head of education for Gender Spectrum doubles down [5:09] to deliver the coupdegrâce to any parents who might still be hesitating:

I’ll just add one thing here. When we’re working with families, what is the leverage point for that family?…The fact of the matter is at the end of the day, it is their decision and we just hope they’re going to make an informed decision. Just make sure you have all the information you need. Which includes:

Here comes the punchline—the ultimate “leverage point”:

You can either have grandchildren or not have a kid anymore because they’ve ended the relationship with you or in some cases because they’ve chosen a more dangerous path for themselves.

Here, I’ll just let one of my lovely, unpublished commenters translate Joel Baum’s so-very-subtle veiled threat into plain language:

You are a horrible mother and you are abusing your son. You’re the reason trans people kill themselves. I hope one day he escapes from you and your transphobic abuse and never has to see you again.

Never mind that my daughter desisted from trans identity; never mind that our family remains intact despite my “transphobic abuse” i.e., refusal to pay for hormones and top surgery. And never mind, Joel Baum, that there is no evidence that troubled youth will desist from self harm if their parents are terrified into paying for irreversible medical interventions.

At this juncture, let me repeat what I’ve said many times before: A concern about sterilizing children is not a statement about whether a person ought to reproduce or not.  It’s about respecting the right of children to mature to adulthood to make the decision for themselves. It’s a basic moral tenet, respected in every other area of human rights law: you don’t sterilize children.

And this, too: There is no evidence, historical or otherwise, that a child prevented from medically transitioning will kill themselves before making their own medical decisions as an adult. That activist-clinicians feel justified in holding this threat over the heads of loving parents—and that journalists, politicians, and pediatric specialists who should know better abet them in wielding this weapon—is deeply shameful and should be exposed to the intense, disinfecting light of public scrutiny as long as necessary; until the purveyors of this immoral strategy are finally forced to answer the difficult questions they have been avoiding for the better part of a decade.

This conference is worth studying for anyone who wants to fully understand how a formerly rare diagnosis, with medical treatment only available for legal adults, has morphed into a pediatric specialty area where doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists wave away the sterilization, drugging, and permanent medical alteration of children with nary a peep of dissent. And they do it by shamelessly scaring the bejesus out of everyone, by shaming parents into believing that unless they permanently sterilize little Judy or Billy at age 11, unless they agree to irreversible medical interventions for their teenager, they will be colluding in their child’s demise.

Watch the entire 5-hour presentation, even if you have to do it over several sessions. What you’ll be observing is how key movers and shakers on the cutting edge of pediatric transition in the United States are moving inexorably forward. Understand their tactics. Understand their ideology.

Because despite its steady progress so far, the “gender affirmative” pediatric transition juggernaut is only beginning to pick up speed.

[Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, be sure to read this post by a therapist who is skeptical of the “identity model” for trans-identified youth.]