Whether kids are gender variant or genital variant, the answer has to be the same. Leave the kids alone.
I am with Dreger on this one. Whether kids have some form of gender dysphoria or variations in sex development, the answer has to be the same as far as I am concerned – keep your hands off them, accept them the way they are, and let them grow up without having these things be such a big deal, and without having one of two mutually-exclusive socially constructed genders reinforced in their behaviour and how they are treated.
I’d rephrase the question posed by this blogger, so not why is some other outcome better than transsexualism – which is not the issue. It is whether people are gay, lesbian, straight, fa’fafine or transsexual, not whether it is better to be one or the other. Transsexualism is simply a socio-medical construction developed in the 1950’s to deal with certain types of people who presented to the medical profession in a deeply homophobic and gender-rigid society. The way I would rephrase it is why is an outcome that avoids a young person undergoing series of invasive and mostly cosmetic surgical procedures better than an outcome that involves that, hormone blockers, hormones, etc. The answer is in the question, really. And there is nothing inherently transphobic in the question, any more than questioning the use of such procedures in the lives of intersex kids. Suggesting we avoid interventions in kids lives until they are adults is not transphobic or ‘adultist’ (whatever sort of crap that is).
I am not even sure this is even an issue for adults who happen to be transsexual, simply because they claim some narrative about childhood gender dysphoria with hindsight. The people who need to be heard on this are those who experienced some kind of intervention and gender reinforcement as kids – which up to very recently has not been transsexual, but intersex people. Most of the voices I hear from this perspective, such as Howard Devore and others, are that people wish they had just been left alone. Not raised as stereotypical little boys or little girls, subjected to surgical and hormonal manipulations – just left alone.
I had surgery, and I had gender dysphoria start around the same time when I was four or five, and and I had gender reinforcement. No way would I have preferred to have been treated in a similar way, but for a different gender. What I would have liked was to have been left alone. Not dressed in pretty frocks or forced to go out and compete with guys. I was quite happy to help out with baking and stuff the way I was. So, for me, all this talk of treating ‘trans children’ – as if there is something ‘wrong’ with their gender and sexual development the way they are and which warrants medical intervention is deeply phobic in some way, and the only way I can think of it is as being transphobic – it is hatred, fear, or aversion to kids who are different and who in some way transgress gender norms. Support for it appears to be mainly grounded in adult fantasies about how transsexuals wish they had been treated and raised as kids. I find that deeply disturbing, to be honest.
Addendum added 28/11:
It’s kind of important not to overstate what this is about. I don’t think anybody is suggesting surgery on trans kids – yet. The problem is medicalising this behaviour, assuming that these kids are going to end up trans, and medicating them in preparation for surgery in adolescence. Now, I am sure that in time, more drastic interventions would end up on the cards, but nobody is saying this as yet as far as I am aware.
What I find disturbing is that kids are being told that their genitals are in some way defective, because they don’t match what is perceived as their gender identity, and that one day they will be operated on to ‘repair’ them. I also get a bit bothered that some parents might have a Munchausen’s thing going on, and that this will make their child seem even more ‘special’ than they have to be – and gets lots of attention as a consequence. Having experienced something of that myself as a kid, the thought of it really does freak me out.
A kid does not need to transition, does not need to conform to a gender role stereotype, develop a clear gender identity. A lot of this stuff just seems like reverse engineering what a lot of transsexuals tend to say about themselves as children, and projecting it onto children who may never end up transsexual, so that when they grow up they can ‘pass’ more effectively and live in ‘stealth’. If they do turn out in some way trans, as adults, they can deal with most of this stuff then. Sure, it is distressing developing as somebody you don’t want to be – but that is what happens, we get the bodies we are born with and they develop in the way they do. If there is a mismatch between how a kid thinks about themselves and the way their body is, they have to learn to deal with that reality; pretending the body is defective in some way goes against everything some of us have been campaigning about for the past ten years. If kids with ‘normal’ bodies get treated as if they have birth defects – how the fuck are we ever going to change attitudes about kids with intersex bodies?
It is just too horrible to even think about what people are starting to do to these kids. It is child abuse, and it really upsets me.
There is a follow-up to this post here: Transphobia – a heresy for our time
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