Life can seem very complicated for adult transitioners. I have certainly sucked a huge amount of air out of rooms in the past, while trying to come to terms with my own transition. As a result of social pressures or anticipated social pressures, we frequently seem to turn our adult transition into a baroque edifice of unnecessary complication. In this we have historically been eagerly encouraged by the psychiatric profession. But here I wish to focus on trans children and on an article by Alice Dreger in which she seeks to impose her subjective prejudices on such children and their families.
I’d urge everybody to read Natacha Kennedy’s blog about Dreger. Her exposure of Dreger’s cisgenderist ideology and the non-evidential basis of the ‘arguments’ put forward by the ‘invisible college’ is important. The disingenuousness of Dreger’s locomotive analogy ranks with Ablow’s ‘farm animals’ accusation of delusion and Hakeem’s ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ analogy in its specious dismissiveness … however much she attempts to frame it otherwise.
Dreger is not a new kid on the block. She has been around quite long enough to have descended from her ideological pedestal, familiarised herself with the evidence objectively and shown she was capable of empathy if she had it in her to do so:
“The whole tone of Dreger’s piece seems to me to position any outcome which involves transsexual surgery as worse than any which does not. In reality an outcome which includes surgery is a very good outcome if you are a transsexual,” writes Natacha. I know families who have been routinely accused of child abuse for supporting their children through such medical therapy. These children have all had a ‘very good outcome’. There are over a hundred such children and young adults around the world who have undergone such therapy with more than ‘good outcomes’. One parent described his child as being ‘thrilled with life” which about sums it up for most. If the world and my upbringing had been different, I should have been one of these children.
There’s a short video about one such named Valentijn, who went through the Dutch programme, here. Jackie Green, whose Mum and Dad made sacrifices to take her to the USA to obtain blockers has now, at the age of 18, felt it hugely important to speak publicly about how her life was saved by this course and how she has emerged from the depths of despair to become a fulfilled young adult.
And once again it is important to repeat Natacha’s assertion: “… an outcome which includes surgery is a very good outcome if you are a transsexual.” This is not a spur of the moment abstract decision such as Drefer seems to imagine. This is something parents live with for years from their child’s earliest awareness of gender. The reality is there is no doubt when this is a suitable course for such a child. As one Mum said: you need to walk a mile in such parents’ shoes before questioning the truth of this.
I can only ask for understanding therefore if I go ballistic at any suggestion that people like Dreger should be accorded any credence whatsoever or if any part of the trans community should be criticised for not granting such credence. I will also state what I consider to be a truth which I think is poignantly illustrated in the television series My Transsexual Summer. Transitioning in adulthood is seldom always a bed of roses even in your twenties. If we do not conceal our non-conforming gender as children, we are bullied with sometimes fatal consequences. If we do not receive the support we need in childhood and/or conceal our non-conforming gender, those of us, for whom it is part of our journey to congruence, will face expensive medical therapies and possible social exclusion in adulthood.
I am hugely impatient for the trans community to arrive at the point where many gay and lesbian people are now. Their coming out in adulthood has been relatively smooth compared to previous generations and, as the slogan goes, ‘It gets better’. Now many feel strong enough to look back at their childhoods and to decide ‘It must be possible for this to be better”. For all that Stonewall UK may not always be the best friend to the trans community, I really admire their focus in this area supporting lesbian and gay pupils. Of course Stonewall was founded in response to Section 28, which specifically made illegal the ‘teaching of acceptability’ … of homosexuality in schools so it seems like a natural focus. I hugely admire Schools Out who have always included the ‘T’ in their work.
It is my strong belief that all of us in the trans community, who can, need to move beyond our own problems as adults and direct our focus towards trans kids and schools. That is where the future lies and where the whole culture of our society can be changed for the better.
“For the kids!” is the motto of Kim Pearson, a hugely energetic director of of Trans Youth Family Allies in the US. The support group for trans children and their families in the UK are Mermaids. I urge everybody who can to support them in whatever way you can.