Sunday, 31 December 2017

4%: Burying the Desistance Myth

The fact that Flat Earthers still exist centuries after Gallileo suggests that myths can take a long time to die. That is one of the reasons that the Desistance Myth (the notion that the majority of trans children do not become trans adults) is still propagated. The main reason however, is because it is in the interests of people who hate trans people for it to be allowed to continue.

The problem for the transphobes is that, as the result of a court case in Australia, the desistance myth has been well and truly buried. The proportion of trans children being treated by the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne who desist is not 85% as the transphobes prefer to shout loudly, but just 4%.

Obviously this is a statistic that confounds the received “wisdom” of the anti-trans establishment in the UK, many of whom have been struggling to contrive more anti-trans news stories to feed their campaign against trans people’s human rights. For them this information has come as such a bullet from the blue that, despite searching every nook and cranny of the internet for stories about trans people, have actively and deliberately ignored this one. So despite this being a real piece of very significant news it has been censored, probably under pressure from the new transphobic hate groups that have popped up in the last few months, by those who captain our mainstream media.

For those of us who were trans children or who have worked with trans children the statistic comes as no surprise at all, of course.  As reported by the outstanding blog Growing UpTransgender, one of the world’s leading specialists in trans children’s health, Dr Michelle Telfer submitted an affidavit to an Australian court as part of a court case called “Re: Kelvin”

The witness statement says;

“Since its commencement in 2003, the Gender Service has received 710 patient referrals including 126 between 1 January 2017 and 7 August 2017. 56. 96 per cent of all patients who were assessed and received a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria by the 5th intervenor from 2003 to 2017 continued to identify as transgender or gender diverse into late adolescence.” (Page 8)

Not only is this much more in line with what parents of trans children have come to experience, it is based on a very large sample size indeed. The data is from 710 children making it a massive study, and one that beats the much criticised study by Steensma et al (2013) that reported a 63% desistance rate from a sample of 127. This has obviously got some of the old guard rattled, such that, along with the suppression of the Australian data it seems to have felt the need to row back on it’s more extreme claims. So gone are the oft-cited wild claims of an 80-85% desistance rate, beloved of the trans haters and instead out comes James Cantor with his, apparently more “reasonable”assessment of Steensma. It appears that he has come to accept the criticism put forward by many trans people, that study participants who left before the end of the study should not be counted as desisting, to claim a desistance rate of 54%:

“Regardless of whether one agrees with that, the irrelevance of claim is clearly seen simply by taking it to its own conclusion: When one excludes these 24, one simply finds a desistance rate of (56/103 =) 54% instead of 63%.  That is, although numerically lower, it nonetheless supports the very same conclusion as before. The majority of kids cease to feel transgender when they get older.”
(Cantor 30.12.17)

What is interesting of course is that The Australian data has not been referred to at all, despite representing a much larger, more longitudinal, and more recent sample than the study he cites. In my opinion this outbreak of apparent reasonableness may serve a number of purposes; either it is an attempt to make Telfer look extreme, something that would be impossible with the previous extreme statistics, or it constitutes an attempt to maintain the majority status of the desistance statistics, or its function is to refocus the narrative on Steensma in the hope that Telfer will be ignored, in the way that the UK media has been doing; a kind of “look over there!” strategy.

In my opinion, this article, its contents, its timing and the way it is phrased suggest that the Australian stats constitute a real threat to some people; especially people in the UK who have used these most Churchillian 80-85% figures so regularly, and whose credibility now hangs by a single thread.

The desistance myth has long been used as a club with which to beat trans children, as a threat to parents who treat their trans children with the love and care they need. In my opinion these people have engaged in child abuse by proxy and it is time they were shown up for who they are. What has to be remembered is that there is only one human and officially recognised way to respond to trans children, and that is to respect their choices and let them take the lead. Treat them as the gender with which they identify. Anything else is effectively amateur Conversion Therapy (a mixture of psychological torture and bullying) of the kind that killed Leelah Alcorn. Whatever the desistance stats turn out to be, anything other than treating trans kids this way is unethical, abusive and harmful.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Playing Jo Johnson's Game

Like his Brother Boris, Jo Johnson, the higher education minister, is in the habit of talking hogwash. The idea that not inviting a handful of transphobic bigots to spout their repetitive and disingenuous hate in universities around the country amounts to a threat to free speech is as nonsensical as brother Boris's pronouncements of Brexit (or just about anything else for that matter). None of the transphobes so far disinvited from speaking at events organised by university student societies is under threat of having their "ideas" suppressed or censored. The drivel produced by the likes of Germaine Greer, for example, is widely distributed in mainstream neoliberal media.

What the TERFs do like to do however, is to claim victimhood and then to weaponise it against trans people campaigning for human rights. They need to do this, because otherwise they have no arguments against trans people's rights, at least none that are not PRATTs (Points Refuted A Thousand Times).

Anyway, Johnson seems to be getting his knickers even more in a twist over what is clearly a stupid idea, and one that, like Brexit, falls apart if you even ask elementary questions. However, we should not despair at the possibility of hate-groups like A Woman's Place attempting to organise their hate-fests in a university, in an attempt to make their hate look respectable, to weaponise faux-victimhood or engage in Provoke and Publicise actions like the racist desegregationists of the American deep south whose methods they have recruited. The logic can be reversed.

The Times, amongst other neoliberal mainstream media (MSM) platforms, has operated a policy of no-platforming the voices of trans people or our allies arguing for trans people's human rights. The Times has selectively published dozens of articles  intended to undermine trans rights, many of which are both misleading and dishonest. However they have refused to publish any opposing points of view, like the New Statesman, and even worse than the Telegraph, the Mail and the Express, who have at least allowed small amounts of opposing viewpoints.

What is therefore not unreasonable is for this measure to be applied to the media as well as universities. The right for those who hold differing points of view to those of the editor to be published, and in a reasonable position and quantity, is now something that, as a consequence of Johnson's project can be argued without serious opposition. Pandora's box is opening. Obviously challenging this media bias by selection should not just apply to the deliberately misleading portrayal of trans people, but to other issues where the media has been selectively biased, such as Brexit, immigration and refugees, poverty, indeed the way Jeremy Corbyn (or indeed any other Labour leader) has been portrayed in MSM should precipitate an equivalent right to respond, and this should include minority parties like the Lib Dems and the Greens who are deliberately excluded from MSM.

If Johnson is going to insist that universities must give a platform to transphobic haters, homophobes and other such undesirables, then trans people and others should have the right to be published in the neoliberal MSM arguing our case for the human rights against which they campaign, and those who want to stop Brexit, oppose NHS cuts, tax cuts for the rich etc should also be given a platform in MSM. Occasionally standing in a lecture theatre with my back to a bunch of TERFs while playing video games on my mobile is a small price to pay for that.