A picture is worth the many thousands of words I’ve spilled on this blog.
Dr. Kenneth Zucker, who runs the gender identity clinic at the Clarke Institute in Toronto, Canada, and Dr. Susan Bradley, one of its founders, have been vilified as “transphobic” by trans activists because of their caution in prescribing extreme drug and surgery treatments to minors. In fact, the clinic is currently under “6-month review,” Zucker has been forbidden to speak to the news media, and the Canadian legislature is considering a bill that would outlaw the work of the clinic–even though Zucker and colleagues do prescribe puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to “a significant minority” of their pediatric patients.
Update: The Globe&Mail story was sent by a reader who pointed me to a critical discussion about these doctors here. Apparently Zucker and Bradley subscribe to more conventional views about gender and sex role conformity than I’m comfortable with, yet they seem to be some of the only medical professionals who are questioning the rush to pediatric transition. Where are the gender-critical, non-homophobic doctors and therapists who are providing an alternate view? Tell us about them in the comments, please.
It is a measure of how lopsided the transgender discussion has become that these professionals–who have decades of experience with “gender nonconforming” children–are hounded by trans activists simply for presenting a nuanced view. These doctors’ only crime is in encouraging a child to simply consider living life without injecting powerful drugs and cutting off healthy body parts. For this, Zucker and Bradley are treated as personas non gratas who could one day be prosecuted as criminals for merely suggesting that it might be better to love one’s biological body than to permanently alter it; that preserving his or her future reproductive capacity might be a worthwhile goal for an 11-year-old; that other psychological conditions and trauma might play a role in the etiology of gender dysphoria.
This piece in Canada’s Globe and Mail (May 8, 2015) is an extremely important and unusual article. The balanced view taken by the story’s author, Margaret Wente, should be the journalistic norm, not the exception. Some excerpts:
“Some of these kids are quite significantly ill,” says Dr. Bradley. “They often have serious family problems and anxiety disorders. Or they’ve had serious trauma. A girl I saw had been raped, and after that she decided she was going to be a male. If you didn’t pay attention to the trauma you’re not doing that kid a service.” …
“The trans lobby has got us on the run,” Dr Bradley sighs.
These days, that eminently reasonable view is being challenged by people who believe that children’s sexual confusion should automatically be taken at face value. The clinic that Dr. Bradley helped to found – which does, in fact, support gender transition for a sizable minority of its patients – is being pilloried as transphobic. …
Dr. Bradley cautions that transition is a radical step – involving surgery and a lifetime regime of hormone therapy – and that the road, under the best of circumstances, is rocky. “The child is going to find himself in a really difficult situation…”
These days the media are overflowing with heartwarming stories about happy transgender kids and their happy families. But hundreds of kids have resolved their issue without changing genders. Their families are appalled by the attacks on Dr. Zucker …
“My family’s experience with Dr. Zucker has been incredibly misrepresented,” another mother told me. Her daughter was five when they took her to the gender clinic, and strongly identified as a boy. She once asked if God makes mistakes, “because I should have had a penis.” She too was an extremely high-anxiety child. Dr. Zucker advised them that the immediate task was not to remake her into a boy, but to build her confidence and self-esteem. He asked them to dress her in gender-neutral (not boys’) clothing, and to encourage her to play with other girls.
“It took us months to find a therapist who wouldn’t try to make it all about being transgender,” says the mom. “We just wanted to give her space.” Today, at 8, their daughter is a happy kid who wears her hair long, says she likes being a girl, and still prefers gender-neutral clothes. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with her in the next few years,” the mother says. “But because of Dr. Zucker she will love herself.” …
Under pressure to be politically correct, we have allowed a small but noisy bunch of activists to undermine a caring and first-rate institution, and to turn the problems of emotionally troubled children into an ideological battleground. It’s time to stop, before we do more harm.
Someone recently took me to task for daring to criticize PFLAG for abandoning parents of young lesbians, and for daring to suggest that parental or clinician homophobia might play a role in the increasing number of kids and teens who are medically “transitioning.” This first-person piece in the Advocate, written by the mother of a young lesbian who decided to “transition,” is a good case in point. Mom wonders “what she did wrong” to make her child turn out gay. She feels intense shame at even the word “lesbian.” But when her daughter decides she is actually a guy, not gay, mom’s main worry is that her straight son will have a hard time finding someone to partner with.
The Advocate, first published in 1967, was originally the flagship publication for the gay and lesbian community. Back in the day, a mother admitting openly to homophobic feelings in the pages of this journal might have been challenged. Perhaps we would have seen her coming to terms with those feelings, before overcoming them and embracing her daughter’s lesbianism. It’s unlikely that the Advocate of the 1960s or 1970s would have published an Op-Ed celebrating a lesbian turning into a straight man.
What about the fact that mom only turned to PFLAG after the child came out as trans; could her lack of support for her daughter’s lesbianism have had any impact at all on her child’s desire to become male?
But this is 2015, not the dawn of the gay/lesbian liberation movement. Transition stories–particularly of young people–are gobbled up like candy. The reporters at the Advocate obviously didn’t think the mom’s discomfort with lesbianism was worth looking into. In fact, I haven’t seen a single journalist in any media outlet raise the question of why, perhaps, this or that lesbian in the latest trans confessional story couldn’t just stay a lesbian and skip the hormones and double mastectomies.
While this particular piece is an Op-Ed and not a news story, the unfortunate thing is that celebratory feature and news stories about lesbians “transitioning” to male are no different, and no more balanced, than first-person accounts like this one.
“…when my daughter came out as a lesbian, that same voice echoed in my head, reminding me of the honor of our family name. This elder had long ago passed away, but his words lived on.
For months, that voice drove me into the closet. I couldn’t say the word “lesbian”; in fact, it made me cringe. Publicly I walked around feeling dishonest, carrying a secret I wasn’t ready to share, and privately I cried as I searched to learn what I had done wrong to cause my child to be gay. I was lost, I was alone, I had no idea how to support my child, and so I quietly criticized myself for my failure as a mother; I was ashamed.
When my daughter revealed to me that she wasn’t a lesbian but was actually a transgender male, even more fear and sadness entered my life, mostly for my new son’s happiness and well-being: How would my new son find someone to love him and a society to accept him?
I turned to PFLAG, a national organization that brings support, education, and advocacy opportunities to parents, family members, and friends of people who are LGBTQ. PFLAG helped me tremendously as I looked for information, worked to raise my awareness, and discovered new ways to support my child.”
Yesterday on Tumblr, I posted a piece critical of PFLAG, the organization that used to advocate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and their parents. Like most formerly LGB groups, they have now been absorbed into the media and activist lobby for the transgender community.
One commenter took me to task, assuring me that there is plenty of support for lesbian and gay youth and their parents, and that it is fit and proper that those support organizations expand their mission to include trans and “genderqueer” advocacy.
But while support and visibility for “vanilla” lesbian youth and their parents has withered away, there is a large network of US organizations which have sprung up in support of (among other things) the medical transition of children and adolescents. In fact, there are so many of these pro-trans organizations that I could write a post a day on each one, and still not be finished in 2 months. And that’s without even touching the groups in other countries.
One such US organization is GenderSpectrum in the San Francisco Bay Area. I found no mention on their extensive website of the very real possibility that some of the kids who don’t fit gender stereotypes might actually turn out to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual (despite plenty of evidence that many LGB adults start out as gender nonconforming youth). No, in GenderSpectrum’s lingo, these kids are “gender expansive;” and paradoxically, but entirely consistent with the current Orwellian genderist reality we live in today, this means they need to eventually squeeze–not expand–their healthy bodies into breast binders and doctors’ examination rooms.
Here are some excerpts from the medical part of the GenderSpectrum website, wherein they counsel medical providers how to move their young “gender expansive” patients along the road to transition:
An important first step is the manner in which the provider creates space for the young person to talk about their gender. Sometimes a child’s gender-expansiveness will be obvious. Either the family has shared with you their observations/concerns about their child’s gender, or the child’s gender diversity is perceptible. In these situations, it is important to be affirming of the child’s presentation. For instance, if a child comes into the exam room in clothing stereotypically consistent with the “other” sex, show interest. Questions or comments such as “where do you get cool shoes like that?” “I love the color of that dress,” or “how do you keep your baseball hat’s bill so straight?” will demonstrate openness on your part that can help the patient relax and feel more secure.
Because what they wear is a key indicator of whether they will eventually need weekly testosterone injections and double mastectomies.
But it is also quite common to see no evidence of a young patient’s identification. Perhaps the child or teen lives in a context where it has been made clear that this topic is off-limits. They may feel great shame about their gender, or not even have the words to describe what they are feeling. Thus, the provider needs to open the door for this information to emerge. In taking the patient’s history, consider ways you might elicit information about a child’s emerging gender. Ask open-ended questions about the young person’s toys, activities, styles of dress, and friends. Specifically asking whether the child has questions about gender also establishes a setting where it is clear that gender diversity is ok.
Didn’t we already put this to rest in the 1970s and 1980s, during the Second Wave of feminism? Do we really need to be instructing medical practitioners that it’s ok for girls not to behave and dress like stereotypical-circa-1940 girly-girls? But of course, this isn’t really about accepting and supporting a “gender expansive” child. No, just supporting and encouraging a kid to dress and act the way they want to isn’t sufficient anymore:
In some cases, a pre-adolescent or teen patient (and perhaps their parents) may have a clear sense about the medical pathway they hope to travel. The well informed pre-adolescent sees a straight line from using pubertal suppressants to taking cross-sex hormones to undergoing gender affirmation surgery. The teen that has come to recognize their transgender identity recently is immediately ready for hormones. Further, they may have a strong notion about when this will all begin: NOW!
Ok, at least the author of this advice column gets it that pre-adolescents and teens have poor impulse control and the need for instant gratification. And we also see acknowledgment that some teens “recently recognize” they are trans (any mention of the trans trend on YouTube and Tumblr? Nah.)
But, careful, good doctor! You don’t want to dash the hopes of Jodi-call-me-Joe in her baseball cap and boy’s-definitely-not-pink Nikes:
However, for any number of reasons, your professional judgment might well be that it is not time to begin moving down this road. This reality, however medically sound, can be devastating for the child or teen that sees changing their body as the most important aspect of affirming their gender identity. For a young person experiencing significant body dysphoria, the impact is especially intense, and can have significant mental health repercussions. It may well be that the patient and caregivers came into the appointment assuming that the entire process will be a battle, and the fact that they are being told “not yet” may be perceived as affirmation that you will be a gatekeeper standing in their way.
“Gatekeeper” is now the pejorative term for a medical professional who doesn’t immediately agree that the “well informed pre-adolescent” (an oxymoron if there ever was one) knows exactly what they’re doing–including consigning themselves to lifelong infertility.
But have no fear, gatekeeper. GenderSpectrum will teach you how to gently tap the brake for an over-eager child, while assuring them that the gas pedal will be pushed to the floorboards in due time:
Consequently, it is important for the patient to get some sort of “yes” in the process. Maybe this is an explanation about the steps and processes for medical intervention, with a firm follow-up appointment to determine the patient’s readiness. Perhaps it is putting written materials in their hands, or discussing with them what being ready means and what they can look for in the meantime. You may wish to refer them to resources for how they can achieve the desired effects in more cosmetic ways until medical interventions are appropriate.
Because “getting to yes” and encouraging a kid to get on the road to lifelong cross-sex hormone treatment and plastic surgeries is the ultimate destination, sooner or later. Why help them feel comfortable in their own skin? That is so 1980.
A Finnish study, published in April of 2015 in the journal Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, is one of several that are beginning to document the upsurge in teen girls wanting to “transition.” This study focuses on the high level of comorbid mental health issues that occur along with gender dysphoria.
The number of referrals exceeded expectations in light of epidemiological knowledge. Natal girls were markedly overrepresented among applicants. Severe psychopathology preceding onset of gender dysphoria was common. Autism spectrum problems were very common.
So why does this matter? Well, maybe, just maybe, those other issues need to be addressed. And could they even be the cause of the dysphoria?
In the majority of the applicants, gender dysphoria presented in the context of wider identity confusion, severe psychopathology and considerable challenges in the adolescent development. At this point it is not possible to predict how gender dysphoria in this group will develop: will gender dysphoria in these adolescents cease with the resolution of wider developmental problems, or perhaps consolidate later into transsexual identity, with the completion of the developmental tasks of adolescence.
The researchers conclude:
Adolescents seeking sex reassignment represent a variety of developmental pathways differentiated by the timing of onset of gender dysphoria, psychopathology and developmental difficulties. It is important to be aware of the different groups, or developmental pathways, in gender dysphoric adolescents in order to be able to find appropriate treatment options. In the presence of severe psychopathology and developmental difficulties, medical [sex reassignment] treatments may not be currently advisable. Treatment guidelines need to be reviewed to appreciate the complex situations.
Medical “transition” is seen as the magic bullet. But here’s a thought: What if the other, very common, comorbid disorders are actually the cause of the body dissociation that is now celebrated and promoted as “gender identity”? Why do we rush to hack up healthy young bodies and dose them with powerful hormones, rather than addressing the brain that erroneously thinks it should be attached to a different physical form? Why has it become taboo to pose the obvious hypothesis: Maybe we have it exactly backwards. It’s the brain that is mistaken–not the body.
Questions like these should not be controversial. They should not generate a whole new avalanche of hate mail in my Tumblr inbox. Questions like these should spur thinking, caring people–people who claim to care about suicidal and troubled teens–to investigate deeper; to put the brakes on the headlong rush to drugs and surgery as THE solution to a complex intersection of mental health issues.
Trans activists, take heed.
We have reached a very strange point in modern Western societies. Throughout human history, kids and teens have been seen as needing parental guidance as they wend their way through childhood and adolescence. As a society, we do still give lip service to this once uncontroversial concept. Modern neuroscience even tells us that judgment, impulse control, and foresight is not fully developed in young brains until well into the 20s. This brings into question the idea that even a 21-year-old has the wherewithal to make adult decisions. Graduated driver license programs, an increase in the legal drinking age to 21 (formerly 18 in some US states), and other societal changes have been enacted in recognition of the fact that childhood and adolescent brain development is a much slower process than we previously thought–particularly when it comes to awareness of future consequences and sound judgment.
But among activists, medical providers, and in the mainstream narrative around pediatric transgenderism, even toddlers are seen as wiser than their parents. Every day, the mainstream media posts another story of childhood or adolescent transition, with no critical voices, no questions raised. Parental concerns are condescendingly dismissed as “transphobic” at worst, at best out-of-touch.
So many doubting parents have been cowed into submission, called “child abusers,” even receiving death threats for daring to question the wisdom of our offspring. Complete strangers on the Internet are imbued with more authority than loving parents on this issue. Concerned parents who have legitimate reasons for questioning hormones and surgeries for their minor children are being lumped in the same category as blatant child abusers. The effect has been a public silencing of critical parental voices, except in small back corners of the Internet.
It’s time for parents who have done their homework on this issue to speak up. Please join me here. Add your voice. Anyone reading this who knows of a parent who might have something to say, please let them know they have a platform here. Anonymity is respected, although anyone who wants to speak publicly and openly is welcome too. Please note: If you comment on a post, your comments will be published publicly with the user name you have chosen on WordPress.
As a start, I am highlighting (with her permission) a comment made recently on one of my posts. There are so many more like her.
I have finally found someone like-minded in you! I completely agree with what you write. My daughter, who is 17, told me last year that she was now my son. Since I suspected that she might be a lesbian, it wasn’t too much of a shock. However, when I began researching this subject I was extremely concerned with the medical intervention that takes place with these children. Then when I went to a meeting for parents with transgender children, I was shocked about how all of these parents were jumping on the bandwagon of drugs and surgery without questioning. They even complain about wait times for surgeries! I make it a point to question everything in these meetings and I know that they are just annoyed with me. The only reason I go now is to bring up questions, so that the new parents who attend can see that there is another side. Unfortunately, here in Canada, children as young as 16 can make medical decision for themselves and parents are not allowed to intervene (and surgeries are free). Hormones still have to be paid for, so that is a relief to know that my daughter won’t have the money for that.
Anyway, it’s been a difficult road for us. I drew the line on any medical intervention while she’s living in the house (except, of course, she can present as any way that she wants and I will call her by her chosen name). When I told the parents group that they were all shocked.
I wish I could meet people in my area who are in the same situation. It’s very difficult doing this alone.
Note: This post is centered around an NBC Dateline broadcast in 2012 which featured the transition of a 9-year-old child from male to female, encouraged and facilitated by medical professionals. My intent in writing this post is not to in any way blame or criticize any child, but to shine the spotlight on the choices made by adults who are responsible for the welfare of children. A link to the Dateline episode can be found later in this post, along with transcript excerpts.
Only one medical professional in the story voiced a word of caution, Dr. Margaret Moon of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Why aren’t we hearing from Dr. Moon, and others like her, anymore?
Update: Here is just one example, out of Australia, demonstrating how the docile Western media hawks the dominant trans message without even a hint of doubt. The article, dated May 21, 2015, featuring one of the burgeoning number of young women who want to medically transition to men, trumpets the urgent message that waiting lists for government-funded hormones and surgery for children ages 5-18 is a horrible injustice:
The waiting list for a transgender support service at the Royal Children’s Hospital has blown out beyond a year, prompting calls for urgent action to help vulnerable children.
Surging demand has increased pressure on the hospital’s gender dysphoria service in recent years, with young people now forced to wait up to 14 months for a first appointment.
The service works with transgender children, adolescents and their families. The term transgender broadly applies to people whose gender identity is at odds with their biological sex.
The unit sees young people between 5 and 18 years old.
Transgender Victoria executive director Sally Goldner said being told to wait for services could be devastating for children.
“The services available need to be expanded urgently,” she said.
Ms Goldner said being forced to wait for the help they needed was particularly problematic for children about to reach puberty.
(Because, obviously, puberty is a tragedy for these kids. They need to be on blockers followed immediately by cross-sex hormones, rendering them permanently sterile.)
With the bandwagon packed full of MDs and psychotherapists cheering on the transitioning of children and adolescents (and duly praised on a near daily basis by the fawning mainstream media), only a few professionals counsel caution. We so desperately need their voices to counter the deafening unison chorus of “Puberty blockers are good! Early transition is best!” “Infertility? Who cares?”
The proponents of childhood transition have a big podium, a PowerPoint presentation at the ready, and easy answers to such monumental, life-altering questions as: Should an 11-year-old, whose judgment, ability to weigh consequences, impulse control, and self awareness will not be developed for a decade or more, be entrusted to make the decision to be sterile for the rest of their lives? On what basis?
Just how big is the podium owned and operated by the pediatric transition gang? Well, here’s one example: People like Jenn Burleton, executive director of TransActive Gender Center in Portland (featured in two of my other posts on breast binding, and in a recent post on GenderTrender), are participating in pediatric Grand Rounds at hospitals. Grand Rounds are important events; they typically involve many doctors and other providers, and are considered major learning opportunities. Here is a clip of Burleton presenting at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon as part of monthly Grand Rounds in April 2011.
[Hat tip: GenderTrender who first posted this video]
What does Burleton (who has no medical background) have to say at the Grand Rounds podium? Among other things, Burleton says (twice) that most of the kids TransActive “serves” are under age 10. Burleton also reports, quite breezily, that when asked, these kids say they are happy with the “tradeoff” between starting cross-sex hormones immediately after puberty blockers, versus having their own biological children in the future. They choose infertility. And Burleton claims these youngsters “understand” what this means.
Is anyone in the medical profession raising questions about this practice? One MD who has sounded a warning in the not-distant past is Dr. Margaret Moon, a pediatrician and bioethicist at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Dr. Moon was interviewed by NBC Dateline in July 2012 as part of the program “Living a Transgender Childhood,” about a young boy named Joey Romero who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and began his transition to “Josie” at the age of 9, with the help of Dr. Johanna Olson, a gender specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. As Dr. Olson’s bio page says, she is considered a “national expert” on giving puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to pubescent children. You might even call her a trailblazer, since, counter to recommended clinical guidelines, she sometimes takes kids straight from blockers to cross-sex hormones at age 13 or younger, which permanently sterilizes them; ova and sperm cannot develop in a person who has never experienced the puberty natural to their biological sex.
As documented on the Dateline episode, Olson promises Joey/Josie and his mother, Vanessa, that he won’t have to wait until age 16 to receive cross-sex hormones, which up until recently, was the youngest an adolescent could be to qualify for this treatment.
Predictably, NBC Dateline gave plenty of airtime to Dr. Olson, and very little to Dr. Moon. To her credit, Hoda Kotb, the journalist reporting the story, did attempt to push back at times during the broadcast, but Dr. Olson quickly shut her up (as so many others have been similarly gagged) by playing the suicide card.
[Lest anyone unfamiliar with my blog think I don’t care about teen suicide, I have written about it here, and frequently on Tumblr. The blog http://www.transgenderreality.com has also documented the “transition or die” narrative that has gone viral on social media, influencing many young people to threaten self harm if they aren’t allow to medically transition immediately]
There were a few follow-up stories in the mainstream press briefly mentioning Dr. Moon immediately after the NBC show aired, but in the nearly three years since then, no reporter seems to have bothered to ask her to say more about any continuing concerns she might have regarding the gathering tidal wave of childhood transition. In the old days, when journalists were watchdogs, this would have been considered professionally shoddy. After all, an expanding and controversial medical trend deserves to be treated with some balance in the press, but it appears that this duty has been largely handed off to bloggers in the 21st century.
I suspect that Dr. Moon, like psychiatrist Dr. Paul McHugh, who founded the Johns Hopkins sex reassignment clinic, then subsequently shut it down in 1979, is likely being ignored because trans activists have successfully branded her as “transphobic.” Dr. Moon had the audacity to apply her clinical judgment as a pediatrician, and her sense of basic morality as a bioethicist, to try to slow down the careening-out-of-control pediatric transition bandwagon. McHugh wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal in June 2014, explaining that the sex resassignment clinic was shut down at Hopkins because he and his colleagues realized that those seeking the treatment suffered from mental disorders that were not alleviated by the surgeries and hormones. For this, McHugh is persona-non-grata in the transgender world.
The Hopkins Bioethics institute helpfully posted clips from the Dateline episode featuring the few instances Dr. Moon is shown expressing her very reasonable concerns about the sterilization of children. They also published their media contact information. But in the intervening 3 years, I haven’t been able to find a single news story quoting Dr. Moon.
The NBC Dateline clips on the Hopkins page are here:
In her brief cameo appearances, Dr. Moon says drugs that delay puberty, as Hoda Kotb reports, “may be helpful in some extreme cases. But that second step—giving opposite sex hormones is alarming.”
Dr. Moon: Any change you make that’s irreversible is harder to justify when a child is young…We have lots of very well intentioned people looking at the same data and coming away with very different ideas.
Kotb: Is this an overdiagnosis issue?
Dr. Moon: Potentially. Yes, potentially an overdiagnosis issue.
What does Dr. Moon think now, 3 years later? Has overdiagnosis gone from potential to reality?
The segment showing Olson interviewing 9-year-old Joey/Josie is eerie.
“I just want to get surgery right now,” the child says.
Olson : Let’s say you could wake up and have whatever you wanted on your body. No penis. You want a vagina and breasts…I made you giggle! Would that be a yes? Yeah. I hear ya.
Yes, Joey/Josie did giggle. The child nodded slightly at the leading question. A 9-year-old giggles (like many would) when an adult talks about genitals. And the producers at NBC Dateline thought that was the defining, newsworthy moment between doctor and pediatric patient?
But at that first visit, Olson didn’t prescribe the blockers. Joey/Josie was too young. Not because Dr. Olson thought the child wasn’t transgender. Not because Dr. Olson thought a child that young might not be certain. It’s just that little Joey/Josie was nowhere near starting puberty (so there was nothing to block yet). Says Mom: “When she realizes she’s not going to walk out the door with breasts, she’s going to be really disappointed.”
In a one of her brief appearances, Dr. Moon brings up the decades-old evidence that trans activists and their media acolytes seem not to have heard of–despite the fact that even the World Professional Organization for Transgender Health (WPATH) itself acknowledges this evidence in its latest Standards of Care on page 11.
Kotb: The few studies that do exist suggest young kids with gender identity problems often grow out of them.
Dr. Moon: Those kids who start as children, who say, I’m in the wrong body, end up by the time they’re in middle adolescence actually fairly comfortable with their own gender.
At one point, we see Kotb gamely using her common sense: “To me, it seems ridiculous to have a child at 12, 13, 14 deciding whether they want to have biological children when they’re 20, 30, or 40.”
Then Olson goes there, delivering the coup-de-grace: Sterility or death! “Well, they make the decision to kill themselves at 12 and 13. That’s a pretty powerful decision. We take an oath: Do no harm. If doing nothing is doing harm, we have to do something.”
Here we have an authority figure–a doctor–saying that the only “something” you can do to prevent a dysphoric 12-year-old from committing suicide is to sentence them to lifelong drugs, surgeries….and sterility.
In Clip 2 on the Hopkins page, the NBC producers and editors introduce a note of tension.
Kotb: Had Vanessa’s unwavering support of Josie’s transition pushed her too far, too fast?
Mom/Vanessa: The thought of her making such a huge decision in her life, all based on what she thought I wanted, that would be…that would be traumatic for me.
Traumatic for you? How about for Joey/Josie, who might realize at age 30 that he actually wanted to be a dad, after all, but was permanently sterilized by the adults who diagnosed him as a child?
Another cameo of Dr. Moon:
Kotb: Dr. Moon, who opposes opposite sex hormone treatment for children Josie’s age says most 9 and 10 year olds are not mature enough to participate in life-altering medical decisions.
Dr. Moon: They’re not sure of who they are. And they can’t really offer their parent that sort of reassurance.
A voice of reason. How did we get to the point where a young child must reassure his parents that he really, really, really isn’t going to change his mind later? Ever?
Kotb: Even Dr. Olson says there is no exact science that can determine who is truly transgender.
Olson: What’s missing in the data right now is: these exact characteristics mean for sure this person is going to be a trans adolescent and adult. We don’t have that data.
That should be the show stopper—right there. We don’t have the data. We STILL don’t, three years later. We do have data (which NO ONE on the show discussed) that most “gender nonconforming” kids outgrow their dysphoria and grow up to be gay or lesbian, happy in the only bodies they will ever have. But that doesn’t seem to matter here.
What does seem to matter is that Joey as a 3 year old had tantrums and trouble sleeping. The doctors and journalists find it significant that Joey seemed to prefer his sister’s toys and clothes—a younger sister who was adopted into the family. “If we’d go into the store,” Mom says, “Joey would head over to the little girl’s section.” No one—the journalist, mom–brings up the possibility that some of Joey’s behaviors could be attributed to feeling upset or threatened when a younger, female sibling appears and takes some of the attention away. Any family with more than one child is aware of this dynamic. But it’s not even touched upon here.
Joey’s pediatrician was on the bandwagon from the get-go:
Kotb: The doctor noticed the way 6-year-old Joey was playing with his toy.
Mom: Joey lifted his shirt and started breast feeding the doll, and the doctor said, “I think your child may have gender identity disorder.” And I was like, what? And the doctor said, you know, like transgender.
”[I had to rewind the video at this point to listen again. Could a doctor really have said this about a little child playing make-believe-Mommy at age 6?]
Kotb: Vanessa learned more about the condition from online support groups. So she decided to try something radical: Buy her child a new girl wardrobe.
[Where have we heard this before? The child had a “condition.” And confirmation of that “condition” came from Internet “experts” and chat groups. ]
Mom: Joey started saying, “You can’t say he anymore, you have to say she.” So we had to correct our pronouns.
[They had to “correct” their pronouns.]
But Dateline caught a moment of doubt. This segment must be watched, if nothing else, to see the expressions on the child’s face during this conversation between mother and 10-year-old child.
Kotb: Estrogen treatment is irreversible and will make Josie sterile, but Josie and her mother never doubted it was the right thing. Until an unexpected conversation happened.
Mom: On the inside, are you a boy or a girl?
Joey/Josie: Maybe I’m a boy inside, and a girl outside.”
Mom: If you wanted to grow up to be a man, you could. Would you tell me?
Joey/Josie: Sometimes I think I’m a boy, sort of, but I wanna be a girl….would you let me be a boy?
Mom: Of course. I love you no matter what..Sometimes I think you’re afraid to tell me what you really want.,
[Mom is hanging on every word Joey/Josie says, expecting the child, age 10, to be able to predict his future thoughts and feelings; to understand and decide in advance who he will be, whether he should give up the chance to reproduce as an adult; what it means to choose to be subjected to lifelong medical and surgical interventions ]
Mom: I’m just kind of surprised by the answers you’re giving me.
We see Joey/Josie and Dr. Olson meet again, when the child is 11. The first signs of puberty are evident, we learn, from the doctor’s exam.: “You are in the perfect place to start on blockers.” Olson promises to give Joey/Josie estrogen in 2 years. “Around 13,” Olson says. “But you’re not gonna have to wait until you’re 16 to start. You know that. “
Mom: A lot of times it strikes me that if this had happened 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to give her blockers. She would have had to go through male puberty. That terrifies me. I don’t know that she would have survived male puberty.
Again with the only options being death vs. the terrible fate of accepting one’s own body. Maybe 20 years ago, Joey would have been encouraged to be himself and just grow up, without an implant in his arm dispensing pituitary-freezing, off-label drugs. Allowed to just be a kid and see what happened, without diagnoses and medical intervention. Just a thought.
The Dateline episode ends with Joey/Josie reading aloud from his vision of a future as a woman: “As an adult, my hair will be very long, blonde, wavy, and super pretty. I’m going to marry a boy. I want to be a mommy. I’m going to be very beautiful.”
And there we have it. Lots of gorgeous blonde hair.
I would like to highlight the other therapists, scientists, and doctors who dare–or have dared in the recent past—to question the headlong rush to the transitioning of gender nonconforming children and teens. Since mainstream journalists seem intent on ignoring these questioning professionals, let’s give them some more exposure here. Suggestions, anyone? Please tell us about them in the comments to this post.
Paging Dr. Margaret Moon. Dr. Moon, are you out there? Urgent page for Dr. Moon: We have an emergency.
I will be updating this post in the near future, but a recent thread on my Tumblr blog is so good I want to share it now.
Dysphoria is a real thing. It’s unrelentingly painful and can make people feel desperate to do any and everything to fix it. But it does not follow that lifelong hormones and surgery are necessarily the cure. For a few individuals, perhaps. But why would anyone want to push the narrative that expensive, painful treatments should be the first line of treatment–for anyone?
There is a growing community of women on Tumblr who are speaking out about their battles with dysphoria. Some transitioned, only to return to life as females. Others found a way back to themselves without ever transitioning. These women are role models for our youth, far more than the trans activists who offer only two options: transition or suicide.
From the thread:
I don’t have it handy, but iirc I saw a study once that actually showed increased rates of suicide post-transition.
Frankly – and I don’t care what people think of this – I think the only responsible option we have for kids who believe they are trans or whose families believe they are trans is therapy. Licensed psychiatrists and talk therapy and finding the actual root of the problem, rather than treating symptoms with dangerous, seriously harmful*, irreversible surgeries and chemicals/pharmaceuticals.
These are kids, for fuck’s sake. If they hate their bodies so much that they would rather commit suicide than live in them for one more second, one more month, one more year, that is a sign of serious mental illness and it needs to be treated as such.
This is especially true when studies show that up to 80% of these kids grow up tonot be trans, but rather gender non-conforming gay men and lesbian women.
(* There was a post on my dash a while back about how artificial testosterone treatments given to trans men cause uterine and cervical (iirc, maybe just uterine) cancer, but nobody tells this to trans kids. It has been proven, over and over again, that the puberty blockers trans activists want every kid to be on, Lupron, has dangerous, life-long negative side effects that have destroyed the lives of many of the adults who have taken it. We don’t yet know all of the side effects of these treatments, either.)
As someone on my dash once said, very astutely, you don’t prescribe diet pills to someone who’s anorexic, so why on earth are we prescribing these surgeries and artificial hormones and shit, the majority of which we do not have any data on the potential far-reaching effects of, to literal children to treat what is, at the very root of it, a mental illness?
This isn’t just like giving diet pills to an anorexic. It’s akin to if society decided that the best course of “treatment” for anorexia was diet pills, laxatives, WLS and liposuction.
And this isn’t “transphobia,” by the way, before someone comes along to call me a “terf”. This is called giving a flying fuck about the health and quality of life of trans or potentially trans people.
It’s fucking ridiculous that being against physically healthy kids being chemically and surgically altered is considered bigotry and actively encouraging it is considered advocacy. And trans people who point out how messed up that is, even when they’ve personally experienced transitioning and the problems that come with it, are transmedicalist scum who get harassed by the supposedly progressive. I guess the only people worth supporting are the males using someone else’s condition to justify their creepy invasive misogyny?
The full text of the study talked about can be found here.
From the abstract:
RESULTS: The overall mortality for sex-reassigned persons was higher during follow-up (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 1.8-4.3) than for controls of the same birth sex, particularly death from suicide (aHR 19.1; 95% CI 5.8-62.9). Sex-reassigned persons also had an increased risk for suicideattempts (aHR 4.9; 95% CI 2.9-8.5) and psychiatric inpatient care (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 2.0-3.9). Comparisons with controls matched on reassigned sex yielded similar results. Female-to-males, but not male-to-females, had a higher risk for criminal convictions than their respective birth sex controls.
This study has the highest population that I have ever seen in a study on transsexuals (324 sex-reassigned individuals, to be exact) and also spans the longest term I’ve ever seen (30 years – 1973-2003). It should be noted that it is a review, which means the authors gathered data from many different studies and followed up as much as possible to present the largest cohort they could. This takes primary data from many, many different studies and compiles it to look at trends. I think the controls would be much better if they were able to use individuals who experience sex dysphoria but do not transition, but we are not allowed to talk about that.
This is extremely important to talk about. The best scientific study of transsexuals available clearly shows that the rates of suicide are much higher in individuals who undergo sex-reassignment than in the general population.
Dysphoria is the killer. Medical transition is not an absolute cure. Medical transition does not stop a person from suicide if they are suicidal.
In an earlier post, I highlighted the “In a Bind” program run by the Portland TransActive Gender Center, an organization headed up by a male-to-female individual named Jenn Burleton. TransActive specifically notes that to be eligible, you must be under age 22, in financial need and/or have an “unsupportive parent.” The free binders are shipped in plain packages. In a 2011 interview, the coordinator of “In a Bind,” Kit Crosland, an adult FTM, had this to say:
“One of our volunteers, Kate Levy, is a mother of a trans child and was thinking about other young trans people and the various struggles they face. She came up with the problem of obtaining binders when you’re young, still in school, and may live with unsupportive parents.”
So Kate Levy felt she had the right to make life-changing decisions for other people’s children, when those parents might have good reasons for putting the brakes on their child obtaining a binder.
I can’t imagine in my wildest dreams deliberately setting up a program to subvert another adult’s parenting decisions. But then, I’m quite certain people like Kate consider a parent’s reluctance to purchase a binder-on-demand to be tantamount to child abuse.
And Kate isn’t the only adult who feels she has the right to meddle in other people’s family lives. Transactive proudly says this on its FAQ pages for In a Bind:
Why does In a Bind focus on youth?
Youth represent the most overlooked members of the trans community.
[Oh, I beg to differ, Burleton, Levy, and Crosland: Youth are the new frontier, the media darlings, with their parent’s book and film deals, the facial product commercials, the breathless profiles in major news outlets like the Washington Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Exploited? Yes. Overlooked? Not by a long shot.]
They often don’t have a voice or money of their own. If they don’t have a supportive family and at least moderate financial means, it can be almost impossible for them to obtain a new binder on their own. In a Bind strives to create a feeling of “taking care of our own” within the trans adult community by giving them the opportunity to help these young people.
Of course. Adults who identify as transgender have the perfect right to interject themselves in the lives of kids–kids they know nothing about, apart from the fact that they are identifying as trans. These adults are just taking care of their own–their community. Any child who claims the transgender identity or dysphoria, deserves a binder now, and is automatically inducted into the trans cult–I mean, community–to be mentored by its adult members. Full stop.
Did I miss something? When did the discussion take place in Western societies, wherein we took a vote and agreed that any minor female child who wants a breast binder–a potentially dangerous device meant to start a girl on the road to “transition” to hormones and surgery–should get one, free of charge, no questions asked, with no consultation with or consent from parents or legal guardians? Someone, somewhere decided that a mother or father who has concerns about their gender nonconforming daughter being squeezed in a vice should be cut out of the discussion entirely. How do these adult strangers even know where the child and family are in their process of thinking about gender identity? Has the dysphoria been explored in depth, to make sure a binder is the right step to take?
But it never occurs to these people that some of our children might have got a sudden hankering to “transition” after a brief spate of online gorging on videos posted by other kids. They don’t bother to ask. The “application” process for a binder is as simple as filling out a form.
In this 2012 Autostraddle article, Crosland waxes enthusiastic about the program:
Many applications tell stories of unsupportive parents: one 16-year old writes, “I don’t have any other way to get myself a binder. I don’t have the money and my parents aren’t supportive…”
…As Kit explains, there are two main reasons why binders are so important: they help people feel good about themselves and they “curb the body dysphoria of having these things on your chest that you don’t identify with.” One 17-year-old applicant writes, “Whenever I look in the mirror I become extremely upset, stressed, anxious, confused and even sick or angry because what I think and feel is so incongruent with how I look.”
So it is accepted, unquestioningly, that dis-identifying with part of one’s own body because of how it looks has only one solution: disguise it, or get rid of it, one way or the other. Start by strapping it down until you can barely breathe, then move on to cutting it off. Simple, right? Lip service isn’t given for even a moment to the idea that something less radical might be considered.
The MORF free binder scheme in the UK
In Manchester, England, there is an organization called MORF, whose aim, according to its FAQ, is “to provide free binders to all transmen who request them.” MORF states on its home page that the organization is for people age 18+, but it’s unclear whether there is a screening process for binder distribution. It’s worth noting that TransActive links to MORF in its “In a Bind” FAQ, which would certainly imply the UK scheme serves youth.
“Since February 2011, MORF has been redistributing free binders to trans* masculine people all over the UK and around the world. The free scheme (all you pay is the postage) has so far redistributed hundreds of binders in 2014 alone we sent out over 280 binders, and we want to continue giving out as many as possible.”
Like “In a Bind,” MORF assures discretion for its free binder program:
Do I have to give you my legal name/home address?
These groups claim they are doing a service. But what do you think, parents? Should other adults be secretly providing girl children with free devices that compress adolescent breast tissue, risking breathing problems, a collapsed lung or broken ribs, among other health issues–without your knowledge and consent, and with no idea what inner process may have led to the child’s request for the device?
Underworks is one of the main manufacturers of binders in the US. They also sell other undergarments, but with the uptick in business from the ever-increasing stream of YouTube/Tumblr-generated FTMs, they can now support an entire separate website just for FTMs.
The binders range in price from about $28-$35. In addition to breast binders, they have a whole line of other undergarments, including full “binding suits,” binding swim wear, and briefs.
Underworks has a free donation program; they ship to many organizations around the world. Here is Underworks’ self-congratulatory blurb about its donation program:
“why do they insist on Underworks?
because they know they can count on genuine service, an inviting friendly atmosphere, a great binder, but most of all, they can count on us to support them and the community! today, thousands wear a binder donated by Underworks–their first binder...”
we’re about a full life reshaping experience.
Ah, yes. Their first binder! A rite of passage…with many more to come.
The “About” page continues with a series of accolades, most from organizations who acquire these binders for minors–including TransActive and MORF:
“MORF received our binder order yesterday. Thanks for such a speedy service, and thank you very, very much for generously donating to our scheme! We were running low on stock, and have a long waiting list, so you’ve really helped us and our community out. You’re very kind :).
We’ll be sending the binders out to people on our waiting list very soon!
Thank you so much again,”
“We received your generous donation here at TransActive. Thank you so much. We already turned all of the binders around, sent back out to youth on our waiting list who have no way of purchasing one on their own.
Thanks again, what a fantastic gift!”
In a Bind” Project Coordinator”
I want to thank you again for Underworks gracious donation of binders to our Trans Youth Program. Thank you for reaching out to us! Everything at BAGLY is going wonderful; we’re happy to announce that we are expanding our programming to offer a 5 day a week drop-in center for GLBTQ and Allied Youth. I’m also excited to say that we have given out 17 of the binders that Underworks donated to us, including every one of the XSmall, Small, and Medium binders. Our youth are so thankful to Underworks for all of your support!
Please let us know if there is anything else BAGLY can do now or in the future. Underworks has done so much for us and this is the least we can do for you.”
Massachusetts Youth Pride Coordinator
There is another binder manufacturer that appears to be doing well. (For a once vanishingly small group of people, female-to-male transitioners seem to be generating a fair bit of startup business).
Gc2b started out with products for men with gynecomastia, but, like Underworks, the FTM business has expanded enough for a whole new line of business.
Trans* and FtM Customers! We have heard you and designed a dedicated product just for you! Check out our new line of chest binders!
Finally, what post about shopping would be complete without a nod to Amazon? A search for “chest binders” returns 216 hits.
Part 3 of this series will continue with more information about binder “schemes,” as well as a look at some cautionary experiences with breast binders.