(Ottawa, January 18, 2017) The only thing Margaret Wente got right in “Transgender Kids: Who Decides?” (Tuesday, January 17, Globe and Mail) is that adults have weaponized gender creative kids. It isn’t the parents who have done that to their own flesh and blood – it is the ‘experts’ and their media followers who have done the real damage.
Wente refers to a recent BBC mockumentary that did not actually ‘air all sides of the story’ and is of little meaningful help in improving public understanding of the complicated issues surrounding gender diversity in children.
Without having all of the facts, the BBC producer, like Wente, made up their mind that Dr. Zucker is infallible, and designated him the ‘moderate’ in the debate, at the expense of actually listening to transgender and gender fluid people. This begs the question – if Dr. Zucker is so correct and ‘balanced’ as media claim – then why did CAMH close his clinic in Toronto?
Wente, like the BBC, cherry picks particular statistics – selectively chosen to convey a specific judgement and perception of gender variance in children and blame parents, usually mothers. Rarely do the actual facts about the kids and adults most affected, make the cut for public scrutiny. Rarely do transgender and gender fluid people get a voice to put all those numbers into context.
It is this unwillingness to learn from the actual families involved that demonstrates the hubris and bias of both psychologist and journalist alike. Media like to focus on favourite ‘experts’ whose careers are made by presenting themselves as superior in judgement, all-knowing oracles, and who are contemptuous of anyone who sees things differently. Acrimony increases advertising revenue – irrespective of the truth. When it comes to gender, media affords and reinforces privilege, but does not encourage reasoned debate.
Wente, in particular, has been on a steady campaign for years to have the public believe ‘enlightened opinion’ is on the side of her friends – the white, cisgender men who espouse cis normativity as the standard to be achieved. Wente favours those who have a vested interest in sensationalizing the lives of typical Canadian families because, like them, her pay-cheque depends on it too. They represent that segment of society who consistently go the extra mile to disparage those who voice dissent and challenge the assumptions of the many armchair enthusiasts who claim to be ‘experts’. The lived experience of those affected seems to have no value.
Wente alleges that parents who ‘would never feed their kid a peanut have now been persuaded to make drastic social and biomedical decisions that will irrevocably alter their child’s life.’ Parents have been persuaded by whom? To do what – exactly? When? How? This is not only factually incorrect hyperbole but betrays Wente’s contempt and judgement for people that she has never met and has no direct knowledge of. None of the families we know (over 3000 and counting) has EVER considered physically altering a child’s body as a legitimate option. Not even once was that even a consideration. And some of us love peanut butter too.
Both Wente and the BBC presume that parents of transgender kids are making decisions that would ‘irrevocably alter their child’s life’ without providing any substantive evidence to back that allegation up. It is simply NOT TRUE.
Some young adults, who are mature enough, and legally within their right to do so, may medically alter their bodies with hormones or surgery – of their own accord. Younger gender variant kids know they have time and support to explore their own identity at their own pace, with adult and medical interventions only when they need them. Yet this non-invasive and respectful approach to child health and well being is twisted into some sort of ‘activist agenda’ conspiracy, in order to assuage the bruised egos of academic ‘experts’ who are no longer viewed as current, consistent or ethically aware.
Parents of gender variant kids come are from all walks of life and all occupations and have, by virtue of circumstance, had to do much more thorough research than Zucker, Wente, Pederson, Plett, the Pope, or the BBC have done – simply to keep our kids safe.
Though considerably more research needs to be done, journalists are quick to blame parents as THE authority responsible for every aspect of their kids’ personality. They don’t seem to recognize all people as living, breathing, autonomous, sentient beings with their own perspectives and behaviours, and with a right to be heard, validated and respected – no matter their age. Sure we set rules and consequences, and limits – but not on WHO our kids are – only on how they behave.
Affirming parents don’t push anyone to be anything (that is kinda the point of being affirmative) but reparative/desistence therapists do. Every time doctors impose the Pinocchio ideal – they ignore the fact that our kids are already being their REAL selves. Nobody needs fixing because nobody is broken. To judge others as ‘maladapted’ for being true to themselves is oppressive and privileged and unacceptable. Simple as that.
But the court of public opinion would much rather have parents be their kids first bully – to prep them for the ‘nanny state’ that also wants to dictate what they ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be. Since we wouldn’t (like Pederson or Plett) disrespect an adult’s autonomy that way – why would we do that to our own kid? We are happy to model respect by using preferred pronouns – we don’t feel threatened by someone else’s authenticity.
To reduce the debate over supporting a child’s heartfelt and genuine exploration of personal identity to the act of ‘playing dog’ – is reprehensible. Mocking such an important and sensitive issue about individual identity and institutionalized misogyny, by suggesting ‘dog food’ is the parental response, is a clear indication of the bandwagon bias of the contributors.
Luckily we put more trust and faith in our kids than we do the media or ‘experts’. These kids are smart and courageous enough to be themselves when the whole world tells them they can’t. They teach us to stop imposing the pink or blue binary on everyone and stop seeing the world through only the eyes of misogynistic doctors who think that being a ‘real boy’ is better than being a happy kid.
Transgender and gender fluid people have a legitimate right to expect experienced and knowledgeable academics and journalists to actually understand the intersectionality of oppression and work hard to acknowledge and address these issues in a broader context than they have in the past.
The only thing we as a society need to do in response to gender diversity is to learn to check our own gender bias at the door, be willing to be changed by what we discover and humbly embrace uncertainty.