Friday, 15 September 2017

Transphobia in the Independent: The "Solution" to the "Problem" of Trans People.

Transphobes are fond of regarding the "problem" of trans people as a consequence of what they describe as "rigid gender roles". This is a complete misunderstanding (which is perhaps deliberate). Consequently their "solution" to the "problem" of trans people is nothing but a form of coercive oppression.

A transphobe called Jo Bartosch
has been allowed, by the Independent, to write a transphobic and dangerous article in one of Britain's daily newspapers, this is unacceptable for a number of reasons. However I want to start this piece by saying very clearly that I am not criticising this piece because it is "offensive". That does not mean that it is not offensive, it is, but that my reasons for criticising the editor for allowing it to be printed are not to do with "offence".

So, before the "grow a thick skin" brigade start putting words in my mouth, let me be very clear about my reasons for calling out this piece.

They are to do with harm. Actual. Physical. Harm.

To children.

First of all, how can I tell the writer is a transphobe? Well there are plenty of tell-tale signs that a simple analysis of her writing reveals.

Firstly she uses the standard-issue TERF myth, "transgender ideology". This is a fiction; an item of deliberate misrepresentation used by transphobes and anti trans fanatics. It has been constructed by transphobes in order to make people think that there is some kind of coherent belief-system, like 'communism' or 'neoliberalism', behind the existence of trans people. There isn't, trans people are trans people. Trans people have existed in all cultures for as long as anything that can be regarded as civilisation has existed on this planet. That is all there is to it. There is no ideology, just people. Transphobes use the term "transgender ideology" as just another means of dehumanising us, in the same way that oppressors have done throughout history.

Secondly she pushes the lie, by implication, that trans children irreversibly transition (ie. taking hormones) at very young ages. They do not. Some trans children take hormone blockers until they are old enough to decide for themselves, and no surgery is allowed before 18. Why the Independent did not do a simple fact-check on this I don't know. By printing this they are complicit in spreading deliberate misrepresentation of trans children in a way that could potentially cause harm or even death.

One of the biggest lies that the Independent allowed this transphobe to spread is this;

"There is no one approved way to respond to a child who declares themselves to be transgender."

Yes there is. 

Listening to the child, allowing the child to express the gender they want, and to identify in the way they want. All medical professionals who specialise in trans children agree on this. 

The suggestion that there is not is factually incorrect. A few transphobes who pretend to be feminists disagree, but they are not experts on trans children. That does not stop Bartosch from spouting the following transphobic ideology (which has only been around for a few decades) as though it represents a serious alternative to treating trans children with humanity and care;

"For decades feminists have fought to liberate people from the gendered expectations of being born female or male, and have spread the message that we should seek to change society, not bodies. The opinion that no child’s body is wrong should not be controversial and it deserves to be heard."

What is interesting here is how transphobes try and make out that there is such a thing as "transgender ideology" while then spouting an actual ideology (namely the one Bartosch describes above), which in this instance she attempts to suggest amounts to some kind of "treatment". The implications of this dishonesty are important to unpack.

If we go down the road that Bartosch's ideology suggests, in effect it will mean preventing trans children from accessing the treatment they need, treatment that keeps them alive. Let's be clear what that treatment is; support, believing the child, listening to the child, treating the child in the way they want, and not forcing any ideology, TERFish or otherwise, on them. In some instances hormone blockers are administered, which delay puberty, the effects of which are fully reversible; when you stop taking them, your puberty starts. These have been administered for a long time, uncontroversially and safely, to non-transgender children whose puberty has started too early. 

If Bartosch's ideology is followed then the TERF "solution" to the "problem" of trans children will be imposed coercively. They will not be believed, not treated humanely, not be supported or listened to, but subject to a kind of Conversion Therapy that forces them back into the boxes society has told them they should be in. They might be told that those boxes can be expanded a little but nevertheless the only alternative to currently accepted treatment is coercive. This is effectively what Bartosch is advocating, even though she does not say so explicitly.

This is dangerous. This is something that will cause harm because it delegitimises trans children and makes us think they are not genuine.

Ask any educational expert, child psychologist, what all children need is basic love, care and understanding, to deny that to a particular group, because they are trans has terrifying consequences. Only a few weeks ago Leo Etherington, a 15-year-old trans boy, died from suicide after this humane treatment, love, care and support, was withheld by his school and his doctor. Leo is not the only trans child in the UK to die from suicide this year either. And a short while ago I visited a trans youth group in the North-West; every single one of the youngsters in that group had self-harmed.

This is the result of Bartosch's ideology. 

The sickening consequences of the "treatment" which she implies are all around us; they are indeed the default. Trans children are treated in this way unless they come out, and request otherwise and insist they are trans, something that is fraught with danger in many cases. 

In effect what Bartosch is doing is suggesting that, because one child who is gay has mistaken gender identity for sexuality, all trans children should be regarded, not as trans but gay, lesbian or non-binary. What Bartosch clearly does not understand is that already most trans children are usually regarded as gay or lesbian anyway, and that it can take them a long time to get past this to understand that they are trans. There is nothing inherently better in being gay than trans and the fact that she attempts to infer that this outcome is better represents profound transphobia (a life of hormones is better than being dead with no hormones). In effect she is arguing the age-old trope that trans people are really gay. 

In essence what psychologist Diane Ehrensaft (who really is an expert about them) said about the possibility of trans kids not turning out to be trans is true; 

"If that is a possibility we think that the most important thing is the same exact idea, find out who you are and make sure you get help facilitating being that person then. We have one risk we know about; the risk to youth when you hold them back and hold back those interventions; depression, anxiety, suicide attempts - even successes. And, if we can give them a better life I weigh that against that there may be a possibility of a change later, but they won’t be alive to change. That’s how I weigh up the scales."

Diane explains very well why the TERF "solution" is dangerous, particularly for trans children. The "solution" that transphobes propose to the "problem" of trans kids all comes from their (deliberate) misunderstanding of trans people;-

What TERFs like Bartosch fail to understand, possibly wilfully, is that identifying as trans is about IDENTITY and BODY Morphology not about "gender roles" or anything else. (Nevertheless the transphobes would like to make it out to be this way, because it suits their ideology.) That is why Gender Identity is called "gender identity" because it is about our gender identities, most trans people want to change their presentation and/or body morphology and names, not because of gender roles because of their "gender identities". I can see why they are confused. 

It does not make and will never make, the slightest bit of difference if gender roles become completely identical, or whether men are allowed to wear dresses or whatever, that is not the point. The TERFs can create some mythical utopian genderfree paradise in the future but it will not make any difference. That is because it is nothing to do with gender roles and never will be, it is about gender identity.