Saturday, 5 September 2015

Dishonest (TERF?) article in Wall Street Journal deconstructed.

My opinion of Debra W. Soh's article in WSJ

There are now so many misleading and deliberately dishonest articles online about trans people in general and trans children in particular that it is difficult to do take-downs of them all, not to say mind-numbingly boring, since they usually employ the same tired rhetoric. This one is typical, by someone who can only be presumed to be a transphobe with an axe to grind. The original is in italics, my comments are in standard text. The original article is in the Wall Street Journal.


"From “Why Transgender Kids Should Wait to Transition,” by Debra W. Soh, a sex researcher and neuroscientist at York University in Toronto, in Pacific Standard magazine online, Sept. 1::
Popular opinion suggests that early intervention is the necessary approach in order to remedy a child’s gender dysphoria
No it doesn't. There is no such thing as "popular opinion" as far as trans children is concerned, there are the opinions of people who know about trans kids, people who used to be trans kids and are now overwhelmingly trans adults, and parents of trans kids.
This consists of early social transitioning 
No it doesn't. It consists of allowing the child to express the gender identity they wish to express and at all times taking their lead. The way this has been written is deliberately misleading in my opinion, in that it implies an element of coercion that is simply not there. Any coercion of trans children is always intense social pressure to conform to their birth assigned gender not to transition.
followed by hormone blockers,
Not necessarily no, however blockers are given when the child is ready in some cases.
 to prevent the otherwise irreversible changes of puberty, 
What Debra W Soh fails to mention here is that the effects of these hormone blockers are entirely reversible at any time. The omission of this information is particularly crucial at this point, unless the reader knows this they will, once again, interpret what is written here very differently from the way it should be. But that sounds like Soh's intention.
contra-sex hormones, 
Again Soh fails to mention is the age at which hormones are prescribed, this article is misleading without that information,
and, if desired, eventual 
That is once they are 18 and legally entitled to decide for themselves what they do with their body.
sex re-assignment surgery. 
Usually referred to by professionals as "genital reconstruction surgery" This section is written to make it sound like a conveyor belt with an inevitable ending which, once children are on it, are unable to get off. This is a rhetorical device which suggests something different from what the actual situation is, without actually having to say it in so many words, which in this case would be lying. In fact it is hard for trans children, at all stages of their development to continue to get treatment that is appropriate for them, and they are always offered the opportunity to discontinue treatment if they so wish.
Denying a child these interventions is viewed as antiquated and cruel.
Which is because it is antiquated and cruel. I should know I was denied them when I was a child and it almost cost me my life, and I know plenty of young trans people and trans children who have had to fight to get the healthcare they need, against such views as hers. This sentence is particularly disingenuous, dishonest and misleading. While the writer opposes this kind of intervention she does not inform the reader what the alternative is. That is because the only alternative is coercion (sometimes referred to as "talking therapies") with the aim of forcing conformity to the gender assigned at birth, refusal of treatment at puberty and forced adherence to externally imposed and inappropriate gender norms. This kind of treatment has a name, its name is "reparative therapy". Reparative therapy is what killed Leelah Alcorn and many other trans kids. Although she does not say it, in effect Soh is tacitly advocating endangering the lives of trans children, only she doesn't have the guts to say so, for obvious reasons.
But research has shown
Highly contested and disputed research
that most gender dysphoric children outgrow their dysphoria, 
or appear to do so, but as I say, the research upon which this assertion is based is contested and, in some cases considered by many to be biased.
and do so by adolescence: 
which is when hormone blockers are prescribed. So in other words no physiological intervention is given until adolescence, which is when, Soh claims, most "grow out of it". As such I fail to see what her problem is here. 
Most 
Once again this is contested.
will 

Given that the research she basis this on is contested, using the modality of "will" is inappropriate to say the least.

grow up to be happy, gay adults, and some, like myself, to be happy, straight adults. 
And many will grow up to be suicidal and depressed trans people because they have not been given the right treatment as children.
There is a small proportion of trans kids 
Again these figures are highly contested. Not only does Soh repeat, Goebbels-style, these contested assertions, but she fails to mention that these assertions are contested. This is profoundly dishonest.
whose dysphoria will persist 
"Persist" is a particularly nasty choice of vocabulary. clearly selected to pathologise and give the worst possible connotative implications. Vicious stuff.
and who would benefit from medical intervention, but the tricky part remains predicting whom these ideal candidates will be. . . .
No. You have said yourself that these children normally stop being trans by adolescence, well adolescence is when treatment begins. 
Waiting until a child has reached cognitive maturity 
And who decides when that will be? Hmmmm, let's have a guess...
before making these sorts of decisions would make the most sense. 
No, this is quite possibly the worst possible solution. The reason hormone blockers are prescribed is to give children the time and breathing space to come to a decision when they are "cognitively mature". Withholding blockers can only be regarded as forcing physiological changes on them which will be distressing at best.
But this is an unpopular stance, and scientists and clinicians who support it are vilified, 
No they are criticised and their views deconstructed and their motives for making these claims questioned. If that seems like "vilification" then that is probably because your ideas and your motives have the potential to harm children. 
not because science—which should be our guiding beacon—disproves it, but because it has been deemed insensitive and at odds with the current ideology. 
No, this is entirely wrong and a straw man argument. This is what you would like the reason for opposition to your ideas and motives to be, because it suits your argument to present it as such but it is not. It is not "insensitive" it is potentially harmful. It is not "at odds with current ideology" it is at odds with current, scientifically and medically guided practice, not to mention the latest research. To be honest Soh's use of the term "ideology" here is very revealing, because it is an element of the empty weaponised rhetoric used by a group of transphobes called TERFs. Using this particular rhetorical attack strongly suggests that Soh is a TERF.
I often wonder, as I review the myriad of editorials 

Editorials written by and large by transphobes.

and magazine articles published every day 

ie. material that is not research-based or academic

on transgender kids, if I had been born 20 years later, would adults in my life be suggesting transitioning as a solution for me? 
No, that would never happen and demonstrates one of two things; either that you are so out of touch with issues regarding trans children that you have no right to be writing this, or that you have a hidden agenda and are using more empty weaponised rhetoric for oppressive purposes. The one thing trans kids have in common is how hard they have to struggle to get anyone, parents, doctors, teachers, etc to take them seriously. Suggesting that somehow someone else would impose some kind of gender transition on you is either fanciful, profoundly misinformed or deliberately dishonest.
Even more alarmingly, with all of the information floating around the Internet and on mainstream TV, would I myself believe that I had an issue that would not eventually subside on its own?"
Oh dear, this final salvo is a typical TERF line of attack; "deny trans kids access to the internet" is a form of reparative therapy in its own right as well as a denial of the basic human rights of trans kids to understand their own situations. Once again this suggests you are a TERF.

This article strongly suggests one of three things; that either Soh is ignorant of just about everything that is being written about trans kids by people who are not TERFs that she is quite clearly not qualified to write such a piece using (or abusing) her professional status to give it more validity than it deserves, or that she is a transphobe, probably a TERF, or both.  The problem is that people like Soh are writing this kind of material and aiming it at people who are largely ignorant of trans issues. If you have any background knowledge this piece is quite obviously rubbish, for those who do not it sounds credible. This is the danger of publishing this kind of output.

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