Sunday, 21 January 2018

The transphobes’ endgame for trans kids becomes clear...

It has long been a trope of transphobes; the idea that trans kids are on some kind of “conveyor belt” to physiological transition, and are being rushed into something they will regret. Like everything the transphobes come out with it is a fabrication.

The problem with the Times in its latest, and not unpredictable, article about trans kids, is that it is suggesting that schools will, at the drop of a whisper, “label” a young child as trans. They then assert that this will mean making irreversible changes in their lives which will lead, inexorably to physical transition and result in all other sorts of "horror stories" (the media likes horror stories).

These irreversible changes that could potentially harm them include…(deep breath)

  • ·      Using a different pronoun!
  • ·      Calling them by a different name!
  • ·      Allowing them to wear different clothes to school!
  • ·      Allowing them to change their appearance!
  • ·      Respecting their gendered preferences!

OMG! How terrible! I mean, changing a child’s name, how irreversible is that? Clearly if a child changes her name from Jack to Jacqueline on class 4B’s register that is totally irreversible, it will go to their grave with them, they can never have another name, even if they live to be 100! Rather like Norma Jean.

The rather crude conflation between supposedly “irreversible” medical changes and entirely reversible ones such as using a different name or wearing a different uniform is not a coincidence. I had several different names at school including Joni (because I was so passionate about Joni Mitchell's wonderful music), was that irreversible? Did I become a Canadian folk singer? 

And allowing a child who used to have to wear a skirt to school to wear trousers and cut his hair short is going to mean he is stuck that way forever, after all once you cut your hair it never regrows does it? And as for wearing trousers and going back to a skirt…?

(Image by Sophie Labelle,

Yet the worst thing about this Times article, is the same thing as in a recent Times interview with Susie Orbach; they asked someone to comment on an aspect of trans people that was both outside their professional expertise and outside their experience. Thus when the Times reported the Tavistock and Portman Gender Identity clinic for children and suggested that schools are “labelling” kids as trans at the drop of a hat, it turns out that the Times has misreported her.

In fact you don’t have to learn very much about trans kids to know that schools are, by and large, not easy institutions to deal with if you are a trans child or the parent of one, although some have improved recently, such as the Harris Academy Chain, the largest one in the UK, which invited me to train all their PGCE students about trans children (BTW I ensured that the teachers understood the most common way of understanding a child is trans "insistent, persistent and consistent" identification, something most other people doing training in this area also do). I know trans kids who have been physically attacked in schools and the SMT has done nothing about it, I know trans kids, even quite young ones, who have literally been bullied by teachers in school. I know one whose headteacher refused to allow her to use her new name, even though she had changed it by deed poll.

There are plenty of schools that are terrible places to be a trans child, as we witnessed with the death by suicide of Leo Etherington, age 15 last year. Reportedly his school continued to use his deadname and the wrong pronouns. Whilst many have responded to the need to make school a trans-inclusive place, the idea that schools are rushing to label kids as trans at a “whisper” is in the outer edges of a distant fantasy galaxy.

As I have said before, there is a “conveyor belt” for trans kids but it is moving in the opposite direction to the one these media TERFs want us to believe. Trans kids and their parents have a constant fight on their hands to make life liveable, to be accepted in their identified genders and to fight off bullies, which sometimes even includes school staff. Of course The Times needs to construct this kind of narrative to support its underlying objective, but more about that in a moment.

The fact is that there are no irreversible medical treatments on the NHS, such as surgery, to trans kids at all. No surgery is available until after 18, and cross-sex hormone treatments are only available (in low doses) for those aged over 16. We have to remember that hormone blockers are a completely reversible treatment, which have been used to help non-trans children with precocious puberty since the 1970s. (This means that there are currently people who are nearly 50 who were prescribed hormone blockers for this, and studies have found no adverse effects).

No, the aim of those campaigning so hard in the media against trans children is not the medical treatment (although they would like to restrict or remove that too), that is not what they are principally aiming at, it is the social treatment. The currently prescribed treatment for all trans children is a simple, and very effective one, and one that can easily be administered by anyone in a child’s life, whether they are a parent, a neighbour, a teacher, a friend, a youth worker or another family member; acceptance.

That acceptance is not difficult; allowing them to express their gender in the way they want, using their preferred name and pronoun. 

Neither hard nor contentious really. 

...Unless you are a transphobe.

And certainly not irreversible. We also need to be clear that anything other that acceptance is, by definition, non-acceptance, and non-acceptance ultimately must therefore include elements of coercion.

It is this that the transphobes are most afraid of, it is this that they
want to put an end to. In effect they want to use coercion to force trans kids back into the box of their birth assigned genders. And there is a name for this kind of coercion; it is called Conversion Therapy; ie the type of “therapy” right-wing religionists in the 1980s tried to use to force gay men and lesbians not to be gay men and lesbians. It has only two notable effects; it makes its victims traumatised and suicidal.

Now of course if you talk to a TERF or a right-wing transphobe; they will deny that they want to torture trans children (let's be honest, they do but they are never going to admit it, they will use euphemisms such as "letting (ie 'forcing') children delight in their birth assigned gender"), but this is the only possible outcome from what they are advocating. Actions speak louder than words.

Ergo their constant conflation of social acceptance with medical transition; a good example of the Production of Ignorance which CN Lester described so lucidly in their book Trans Like Me.

So let us be clear about the ultimate aim of this kind of journalism/campaigning; it is the eradication of trans children through psychological coercion; a kind of media-mandated, amateur, informal Conversion Therapy. Force kids not to be trans; after all forcing gay men to be straight worked so well didn’t it? 

Why are they so afraid of simply calling a child "he", "she" or "they" according to their wishes...? Well their real fear is that all children will learn acceptance of trans children, and will grow up to understand them and not fear them. I mean, Imagine a world where trans people were understood and accepted?!! Then where would we all be?!! More to the point, where would the TERF ideology of hatred be? It is an ideology that depends on hatred generated by fear generated by ignorance. Consequently they need to maintain that ignorance, otherwise the entire ideological chain collapses.

So it is time to stand up to those mealy-mouthed advocates euphemistically attempting to enforce this barbarity by proxy. Ultimately the outcome they want to impose will result in damaged or dead children. And this is something I know about personally.

I was a trans child. But back in the last century there was no understanding of trans kids, no acceptance at school, no pronouns, no-one who would call me Natacha. In effect unofficial, amateur Conversion Therapy. The result was a horrible childhood, underachievement in school and a depressed adolescence, way beyond the usual teenage angst, and being pulled back from the edge of a platform by a British Rail employee just in the nick of time. This is what the anti-trans fanatics are campaigning for, they will succeed only over my dead body.

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