A few days ago, a powerful and unusual piece, “The Transgender Experiment on Kids,” appeared in the Wales Arts Review, written by Stephanie Davies-Arai. The whole article is superb, and rather than my excerpting it here, I recommend everyone read the piece in its entirety at the link.
Stephanie is the author of a blog called Communicating with Kids. She has recently begun to write critically about the pediatric transition trend. In addition, along with several other gender-critical and women’s rights activists, she submitted written evidence to the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, which conducted a televised hearing two days ago (October 13) into issues related to “transgender rights.”I interviewed Stephanie via email yesterday, with particular emphasis on the current situation regarding childhood transition in the United Kingdom.
Stephanie will respond to any questions or remarks you may have for her in the comments section of this post.
Thank you, Stephanie, for your important work!
Tell us something about your background and why you are interested in the issue of pediatric transition.
My specialist area is communication. I teach communication skills to parents and teachers. In the past I worked with a wide range of kids in primary school, for eight years, on relationship and communication issues. Part of my work was designing and implementing whole school anti-bullying strategies and behaviour management strategies based on respect. So through this work I learned a lot about how kids behave and how they absorb messages, from parents and teachers but also more subtly from the wider culture.
I am very specifically experienced in how children understand our messages to them, and how we understand what children are saying. I have worked training parents and teachers for over 16 years now, and I see the miscommunication (which goes both ways) very clearly! I am continually researching areas like neuroscience, anthropology, behavioural psychology and so on as part of my work. As my children have grown, I have become more and more interested in cultural messages that kids unconsciously imbibe.
How does your expertise specifically relate to the issue of pediatric transition?
I have four children and over their childhoods there was this very sudden aggressive marketing of extreme gendered toys – it was like we’ve gone backwards in forcing kids into really restrictive stereotypes. I felt angry especially on behalf of girls who were being pushed back into a ‘Stepford Wives’ role through ‘girl’ toys and books. It’s cultural indoctrination into rigid gender roles from the earliest age, when we should really be working to expand the definition of what both girls and boys can be. The transgender movement takes gender stereotyping to its logical conclusion: if you don’t like all this ‘girl’ stuff then you must be a boy.
I worked on the No More Page 3 campaign for over two years (for those who don’t know, ‘Page 3’ was a daily topless photo of a young woman in British national newspaper the Sun) and during this time I researched and refined my understanding of how media messages influence and condition us. The blanket uncritical media coverage of ‘trans kids’ in the UK – it’s all brave and cute and heartwarming – is shocking and irresponsible. Nobody is actually researching and challenging what we are doing to kids. Every gushing media and t.v. report convinces more parents, kids and young people that an ideology held by a few people is in fact a reality. The potential consequences for these kids are so horrific I feel a responsibility to speak out.
Modern parenting culture teaches us that children are psychologically fragile and therefore need constant affirmation of their reality and ‘who they really are.’ We are encouraged to centre feelings and self-identity in kids who don’t yet have a developed ‘self’ – so we burden kids with this expectation of self-knowledge which they don’t yet possess. Current parenting advice is ‘child-centred’ or ‘child-led’ and it became very clear to me over my years of working with kids that this approach results in a combination of insecurity and narcissism.
Children exist in a state of ‘magical thinking’ and if we take what they say seriously as ‘truth’ we can create problems that previously did not exist. This is what I see happening with all sorts of issues. The trans issue is just currently the most harmful and prevalent example.
You write your own blog, as well as for the Huffington Post UK. Why did you choose to publish your recent piece in a more obscure journal like the Wales Arts Review?
I’ve blogged for various parenting sites, including Mumsnet and Mommy HotSpot, and other online magazines/blogs. I did submit my piece to HuffPo, but they didn’t publish. I then approached Wales Arts Review because they had been very happy to publish my last controversial piece criticising the recent political move towards decriminalising the sex industry. Wales Arts Review is left-leaning so I thought if they published that they might publish this! They were very enthusiastic, and I’m very grateful to them, because the popular press is not challenging the trans narrative.
Why do you think major news outlets shy away from articles critical of the current trend to transition children?
Bullying, in a word. The tactics of trans activists are classic bullying techniques: quash all debate with accusations of ‘transphobia’ so nobody dares to speak up. ‘TERF,’ ‘bigot,’ ‘hate speech’ – all these accusations silence people and in some cases make them genuinely afraid of losing their jobs. If you look at how ‘trans’ has become a protected category politically, it’s not surprising that people are afraid.
Nearly every day, there is another story promoting the idea that ‘gender nonconforming’ kids need to ‘transition.’ What can concerned parents who aren’t on board with this actually do to change things?
Find your blog for a start! It’s hard for parents to speak out, for the same reasons as above, but also to protect their kids’ anonymity, so they need support groups of people who are questioning this. I do think that parents should arm themselves with as much information as possible and challenge schools who are teaching not just the ‘trans’ child, but their child too. I know this is really difficult though, you’d really need a bunch of parents to join forces because you wouldn’t want to risk being ostracised from the group. Parents can also write to their local education authority, or local M.P. [member of parliament] to voice concerns about what their child is being taught in school.
What kind of organizations are there in the UK that push transition for kids?
There are over 150 transgender support groups in the UK; ‘Mermaids’ is the most prominent. In the States there seem to be so many support groups set up by late-transitioning men; over here we have ‘All About Trans’ whose ambassador is Paris Lees, in my view quite clearly an autogynophiliac male (both in his appearance and his words). But generally these groups are set up by parents of ‘trans’ kids already fully on board with trans ideology. Mermaids was set up by the mother of a ‘trans’ child and the Gender Identity Research & Education Society (GIRES) was set up by a couple with a transsexual daughter; this group is a politically influential lobbying group. I don’t know of any support group set up by professionals outside the trans community. I am horrified by NHS guidelines, which are written from the unquestioned basis that gender non-conforming behaviour is a problem. The Tavistock and Portman Clinic is the main authority in this area, and I was heartened to see Dr Polly Carmichael, the consultant clinical psychologist, urging caution in a recent Guardian online article about transgender kids.
Does the UK fully pay for all aspects of medical transition–hormones, surgeries, etc? At what age?
Puberty blockers (potentially from age 9 if there is early puberty) hormone treatment and surgery are all available on the NHS.
Does the NHS promote the idea that puberty blockers are totally reversible? Do you agree with that assertion, and if not, why not?
The NHS Choices website states: ‘The effects of treatment with GnRH analogues are considered to be fully reversible.’ Although the Tavistock and Portman clinic was instrumental in introducing them as treatment, Dr Polly Carmichael’s latest statement in the Guardian was that ‘nothing is completely reversible’ so there’s a different message from the top gender clinic. I agree with Dr Carmichael – the fact is, we know of the potential harmful side-effects of these drugs on adults and yet we’re willing to administer them to kids. As you know, there have been no rigorous clinical research trials to ensure the safety of these drugs in this specific area.
I was pretty disturbed by the article about the Penguin storybooks being used to teach preschoolers about “gender.” Is anyone in the UK pushing back on this stuff? What are they doing?
I haven’t seen any specific challenge to the proposed re-education of children in schools, but various feminist groups and individuals (myself included) have submitted concerns about transgender rights v women’s rights to the Women & Equalities Select Committee. We are still awaiting their conclusions. However, in my area there is already a schools ‘Toolkit’ and training available http://www.allsortsyouth.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Trans-Inclusion-Schools-Toolkit.pdf, low on science, high on propaganda. This horrifies me. Where are the biology teachers in all this?
What would you do if one of your own kids announced to you that they are trans?
Well, one of my sons reminded me recently that when he was in his mid-teens he had told me seriously that he thought he might really be a girl. He had always hung out with girls. He was accepted into the girls’ group as ‘an honorary girl’ and he went on holiday with them once and spent the whole week dressed in girls’ clothes and wearing make-up. I had completely forgotten he had ever voiced his concerns to me, but he said he was forever grateful for my response, which was to say carelessly ‘No you’re not, you’re just a bit more sensitive than a lot of boys.’ My son’s reaction was real surprise and relief; then he thought about it and said ‘But Mum I don’t know any boys like me’ and I apparently said ‘Yeah, you just haven’t met them yet.’ He told me that he went away from this exchange feeling that he was normal, but just a bit different. He said with a laugh ‘I still haven’t met any boys like me Mum!’ He is heterosexual and he does care work, he is that sort of personality. He told me that he was mostly grateful for my total lack of worry and concern. The fact that I didn’t act like it was a huge deal told him that it wasn’t a huge deal.
That would be my advice to any parent: be confident of what you know and your right (and responsibility) to say it, unscare yourself first, and don’t burden your kids with your own worry and concern (I know that’s not easy by the way). Don’t lecture, or try to convince or persuade. The less you try to force it, the more you sound like you know what you’re talking about. In the end, you want to keep the communication channels open, that’s the most important thing.
Anything else to add?
We need to recognise the fact that the language has changed over the last decade from ‘transsexual’ to ‘transgender.’ Nobody seems to have questioned the significance of this change.
‘Transsexual’ literally means a change in biological sex: it’s used to describe a small group of people who suffer extreme body dysmorphia, where the body is experienced as disgusting and wrong to the extent that a ‘sex change operation’ has been shown to be a valid way to ease suffering.
‘Transgender’ on the other hand, is a subjective term. The meaning of the word ‘gender’ is open to interpretation; some interpret it as social roles imposed on the sexes, some people think it is innate ‘natural’ characteristics of the sexes. In either case it is an abstract idea, not a biological fact. To ‘trans’ gender means going from one subjective undefined idea to the supposed ‘opposite’ subjective undefined idea.
We are saying that kids are transgender, and yet we are treating them as transsexual (a term we would hesitate to apply to children). Transgender is a very convenient word to obscure what we’re really doing, which is changing children’s biological sex, not their gender.
Along with the change in language has been a change in the claim made that a ‘trans woman’ for example, is a real woman, was always a woman, and is no different to any other woman. Transsexuals did not (and do not) make this claim.
We have absolutely no idea what we’re doing, and yet we’re prepared to allow this very recent niche ideology to justify the butchering of healthy bodies of young people. We should all be very angry.