I generally avoid direct criticism of parents who are struggling to raise a child who adamantly claims to be the opposite sex. After all, these are often desperate, distressed parents, just trying to figure out the right thing to do–like I am.
But some of these parents have turned into activists, eagerly promoting pediatric transition, even starting their own organizations with dubious policies–like sneaking free breast binders to 9-year-old girls behind their parents’ backs. And a fair few seem to be capitalizing on the kid-trans-trend to make money or garner media attention, essentially trapping their kids into a transgender identity by parading them in front of TV cameras.
Recently, one of these online moms has been cited a lot by the early transition activists, so I thought I’d take a closer look at what she had to say.
What I found is that….she agrees with me!
Well, not exactly.
But in her attempt to justify the early transition of kids, her epiphany, her resounding conclusion is (boldface emphasis hers):
There have been NO (as in zero, zilch, nada, none) reliable long-term studies that follow transgender kids over time in order to determine how many of them “change their minds.”
That’s right. Gendermom agrees that we just don’t know how many of these socially transitioned, then puberty-blocked, and ultimately sterilized kids will actually grow up to be happy adults with no regrets about what their parents and the “gender specialists” did to them in their tender years. But she has come to a radically opposite conclusion than I have. Somehow, she thinks this uncertainty justifies the social transition of little kids.
And while Gendermom and I agree that we have no way to determine exactly which young kids will identify as transgender adults, what she glosses over, either because she isn’t aware of it or is willfully ignoring it, is that we do have many decades of research, comprising multiple studies, indicating that most kids change their minds: something like 80-98% of them, depending on the study. (More on that data shortly.)
In an accompanying video Gendermom made featuring cute stick figure “trans” kids, she dispenses with the high number of desisters by claiming that studies conducted in the past incorrectly combined groups of kids who were simply “gender nonconforming” with actual “transgender kids.” So, according to her, that research is fatally flawed.
There is nothing in the primary body of research used by gender specialists to justify early transition, a batch of self-referential studies from Holland, that posits an actual criterion for determining which prepubescent child is “truly trans” versus simply “gender nonconforming.” In point of fact, the Dutch research actually strongly cautions against the social transition of young children under the age of 10 for the simple reason that it is impossible to determine who is going to “desist” and who will “persist” with wanting to change sex. And, in the linked study, which is based on the experience of 25 adolescent subjects, early social transition made it much more difficult for the “desisters”–the children who did change their minds–to reclaim their natal sex. [The journal article is behind a paywall; excerpt below from page 16]:
As for the clinical management in children before the age of 10, we suggest a cautious attitude towards the moment of transitioning. Given our findings that some girls, who were almost (but not even entirely) living as boys in their childhood years, experienced great trouble when they wanted to return to the female gender role, we believe that parents and caregivers should fully realize the unpredictability of their child’s psychosexual outcome. They may help the child to handle their gender variance in a supportive way, but without taking social steps long before puberty, which are hard to reverse.
The “Dutch protocol” is constantly used as justification by pediatric transition promoters. But here we see Steensma et al strongly warn against the very trend we see today: parents and other adults doing everything in their power to cement a transgender identity in their young child, thus making it extremely difficult for the child to change their mind.
To take but one recent example, in this recent video that has gone viral on social media, the mom repeatedly insists that her 8-year-old girl “is a boy, regardless.” In fact, in all the recent stories I’ve read, I see no parent entertaining the possibility that their child might change their mind. There is no “might be.” There is no “we know it’s possible s/he will change back.” More and more, we see the label “transgender child” used to define these young kids who are simply exploring who they are.
Why don’t people like Gendermom (whom I have to assume are well meaning and loving parents) realize that socially transitioning their kids–using opposite sex names and pronouns, advocating for access to bathrooms and locker rooms, insisting to anyone who will listen that the child is unequivocally not their natal sex–could actually help to trap them in an identity they would otherwise shed?
What of the 4-year-old girls who are encouraged to wear “packers” and stand-to-pee devices? Can anyone really imagine those kids will abandon these devices a few years later, after all the adults around them have been applauding them for “passing” so well in their school bathroom and gym class?
Gendermom and others subscribe to the notion that a truly transgender child is one who states they are the opposite sex–“consistently, persistently, and insistently,” as the meme goes. But even if we use that criterion, isn’t there an inherent contradiction in claiming that a 3 year old or a 5 year old or a 7 year old is decidedly and already the opposite sex? They haven’t been alive long enough to persist or be consistent at anything—though they certainly know how to insist on what they want, as all young children do.
According to Gendermom’s video, youngsters who are currently being routinely socially transitioned at 2-10 years old, and who say they are the opposite sex are more likely to be “truly trans” than the ones who say they want to be the opposite sex. But the important thing is that these childhood feelings can change later on.
According to this 2008 literature review by Korte et al,
Multiple longitudinal studies provide evidence that gender-atypical behavior in childhood often leads to a homosexual orientation in adulthood, but only in 2.5% to 20% of cases to a persistent gender identity disorder. Even among children who manifest a major degree of discomfort with their own sex, including an aversion to their own genitalia (GID in the strict sense), only a minority go on to an irreversible development of transsexualism.
Gendermom implies that only the much-maligned Dr. Kenneth Zucker has provided evidence that upwards of 80% of gender dysphoric kids “desist” from gender dysphoria and (mostly) grow up to be non-transitioned gay or lesbian adults. Trans activists tend to discredit Dr. Zucker because one of his treatment protocols has been to discourage “gender nonconforming” behavior–like, don’t let Billy wear a dress, and don’t let Judy play with trucks and shave her head. This is a fair criticism. However, just because some of Dr. Zucker’s therapy techniques are questionable, it does not follow that all of his observations of gender dysphoric children published in peer-reviewed scientific journals are worthless.
Besides, a number of other researchers and clinicians apart from Kenneth Zucker have written about the fact that gender dysphoria in young children is most typically a phase. Nancy Bartlett and colleagues, in a review of the literature on childhood gender dysphoria published in 2000, conclude:
To summarize the outcome literature, then, though a significant proportion of adolescents or adults with GID may have childhood histories of GID, very few children with GID go on to develop adolescent or adult GID. The likelihood is relatively high that they will grow up to be homosexual… Ironically, it seems to have been generally accepted in the literature that children with GID are at high risk for adolescent or adult GID… Indeed, this line of reasoning has provided much of the basis for endorsing treatment for children with GID, which is unsettling given that a relatively large body of empirical evidence points to GID in adolescence or adulthood as being an outcome for only a small percentage of children with GID.
Even the Global Action for Trans Equality, an organization that advocates for transgender people, has stated in a 2013 critique of diagnosis codes that
… childhood development is a process of change and exploration. Such a diagnosis, which attempts to establish a concrete definition of a child’s gender identity precisely during the phase of life when essential aspects of identity are most in flux, is likely to create the presumption that the child is transgender, whether or not that is in fact the case.
Anyone who has raised a son or daughter knows that, during the years of fantasy and make believe, a child will frequently pretend to be something they are not–sometimes consistently, persistently, and definitely insistently. The entire medical, political, and media-enabled edifice of pediatric transition rests on a shaky foundation of adults interpreting literally the utterances of children at a stage of life when they are just as likely to claim they are really a dog, a cat, or a train engine. Oh yes, consistently. Insistently. Day in, day out. If you don’t believe this, then you haven’t spent much time around small children—particularly children with obsessive, vivid imaginations.
Do some kids throw throw temper tantrums when reality impinges on their magical thinking? You bet. I’m noticing a pattern in how often these parents of “transgender” kids mention frequent toddler tantrums, a refusal to wear certain clothing, and overall difficult and demanding behaviors. And they tell these stories of exasperating and angry kids as if this is somehow a hallmark that the child’s demands are proof of innate gender identity.
Nobody is denying that certain children would rather be the opposite sex, nor that they even believe they are the opposite sex. What people like me are challenging is the assumption that those desires, ideas, assertions mean these children should be “socially transitioned” in preparation for being pumped full of off-label hormones and, if all goes according to the assumptions these parents keep trumpeting to the media, permanently sterilized.
Let’s be clear. We are not talking about simply allowing children to express themselves. We are talking about something new under the sun: a treatment paradigm that leads, in most cases, to drugging, binding, cutting, and sterilizing minors. And gender specialists and activists are actively lobbying for younger and younger children to be taken at their word and “socially transitioned,” which conditions them to think they can achieve the impossible: change their biological sex.
There is zero, zilch, nada evidence that there is any such thing as a “transgender” 2 or 3 or 5 or 7-year-old child. All we have are adults claiming that if a little girl insists, “Mommy, I’m a boy,” this means she is a boy. There is only this quasi-religious, fervent belief in the idea that someone can be “born in the wrong body.” The growing number of powerful adults who promulgate what amounts to a weak theory based on a fantasy seem to be stuck in the childhood phase of magical thinking themselves.
For the parents who have been hoodwinked into believing that transitioning their kids is the best and most loving thing they can do, I have a question: Which is the path of least harm? The one that leads in nearly every case to irreversible changes, medical intervention, and likely sterilization? Or the one which simply puts off the question of a transgender identity until adulthood?
I want to dwell a bit longer on this question of sterilization. Trans activists don’t tend to talk about what happens to prepubescent kids who go immediately from puberty blockers to cross-sex hormones, which is almost certainly sterility, because the sperm or ova cells can never mature. The assumption is that this previously unheard of and truly outrageous consequence is worth it for these kids, who have no capacity to make such a monumental decision when they themselves are still children. And while there are certainly people who will choose not to reproduce as adults, it is still the case that the vast majority of adults—on the order of 95%–have or want to have children.
And before you chime in to say, oh well, adoption is always an option, ask yourself this: in what other context would activists or, even worse, medical doctors, be advocating a treatment that denies children the future choice to have their own biological children?
The likely retort to this argument is: Well, surely sterilization is preferable to my child attempting suicide as a teenager.
But there is no evidence that “transition” cures suicidal impulses and self harm in these kids. Witness the rash of recent trans teen suicides in San Diego, the horrible tragedy of 14-year olds taking their own lives. According to the linked Advocate account, at least two of them were being supported in transition by their parents, friends, and other caring adults.
Just last month, a 16-year-old who was celebrated as a leader in the “genderqueer” and trans communities took her own life, as did a celebrated young activist and the first trans homecoming king in the US earlier this year. Identifying as transgender and being on the road to transition did not prevent these horrific events, nor apparently alleviate the terrible suffering of these teens.
I will here emphasize a point I have mentioned in previous posts: If experiencing strong gender dysphoria made most such children feel life was not worth living, the clinical literature from the time before pediatric transition became so heavily publicized and promoted would show that. There would be multiple accounts of young people insisting that living in the wrong body was intolerable, and that they planned to end their lives because of it. I will dare to suggest that at least some of these attempted and completed suicides we are now seeing are the result of young, impressionable, gender nonconforming people who –yes—are subject to bullying and depression–being encouraged in the idea that they must either transition or die.
Here is some wise advice from an anonymous reader who posted on my Tumblr blog:
The real way to reduce the rate of suicide among transgender teens:
1. Stop telling people that they have to hurry up and transition or they’ll regret it for the rest of their life. They can transition later and have a happy life.
2. Stop glamorizing transgender teens who commit suicide.
3. Encourage them to get good therapy for their problems and think carefully about whether or not they should transition.
4. Encourage them to stay connected to their family, even if their family is skeptical.
It is beyond irresponsible that activists and organizations that push pediatric transition are playing on the worst fears of parents, emotionally blackmailing them into entrusting their children with “gender specialists,” when there is no indication that transition cures the desire to self harm.
Where exactly does a child get the idea that they need to transition now or never? Ultimately, these messages come from adults. We should demand that adults stop promoting the idea that a child’s life will be less meaningful or worthwhile on the basis of how the child looks or what name or pronoun they use.
When I read all these accounts of parents insisting their kids are transgender, I want to ask them:
Have you really examined your behavior, language, and choices to look for all the ways that you reinforce gender stereotypes? Have you considered that it could be you who has put these ideas in your child’s head? Have you examined all the media messages that your child has been subject to since they were born? Have you closely examined the kinds of relationships your child has with people who encourage gender stereotypes?
In Gendermom’s video, she refers optimistically to future research that will settle the matter once and for all. She says “we’ll just have to wait and see.”
But “wait and see” isn’t what is being done with these kids. The innocent looking stick figure children, smiling and playing with toys that match their gender identities, belie a scary reality. In greater and greater numbers, kids are being diagnosed and defined as the opposite sex, at younger and younger ages: fitted with pretend genitalia, encouraged to “pass” as something they are not, implanted with GnRh agonist pumps, and paraded before a prostrate media. No one is “waiting and seeing.”
In the words of Gendermom, once again:
There have been NO (as in zero, zilch, nada, none) reliable long-term studies that follow transgender kids over time in order to determine how many of them “change their minds.”
Reblogged this on eachone and commented:
Read, Think, SHARE!
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Thank you! Excellent information, complete with sources. Bookmarked for sharing and future reference.
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Jamison Green, president of WPATH, told this to The Atlantic: ““As far as I know, I have not heard of anyone reversing their decision,” Green says of young people who undergo puberty-suppressing treatment, which he also says is completely reversible.” Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/10/delaying-puberty-with-the-help-of-the-state/381366/ By the way, Green’s PhD is in “trans equality law” — unusual credentials for the president of a body which publishes standards of care for medical treatment.
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It’s a self fulfilling prophecy, isn’t it? I have seen this 100% success rate touted in several places by gender doctors. Wow, we are so good at what we do, not a single puberty-blocked kid changes their mind! 100% success rate? That should raise a red flag right there. If you look at this quote from one of the key Dutch researchers, Peggy Cohen-Kettenis (from my earlier piece featuring a skeptical psychologist, David Schwartz), you see her acknowledging the difficulty a child would have “desisting:”
“What of the gender variant child whose social environment both accepts and encourages an early transition but may be unaware that the child, unwilling to disappoint, has had a change of heart ?”
Yes, and the president of a rule-making body, an adult FTM who specializes in trans activist law? No agenda there. Although I really wonder why more of these adult trans-identified people aren’t more concerned about what their policies are actually doing to the “false positives”: the vulnerable children who would not have grown up to be trans if left alone…
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I mentioned Green’s credentials because they are not what any medical professional would expect. To a clinician seeking guidance, WPATH sounds like other organizations that issue clinical guidelines (like the American Diabetes Association or the American College of Rheumatology). But other organizations that put out clinical guidelines are always headed by expert physicians and researchers who are concerned about misdiagnosis, false positives, and balancing the benefits and risks of treatment. WPATH is an advocacy organization masquerading as a legitimate medical body, and they are absolutely taking advantage of physicians’ assumptions.
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I think what czz outlines below is VERY important.
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Yep, because no family ever has a child who feels pressured (or threatened with the withdrawal of approval) to participate in sports, attend certain schools, go into the family business, etc. Choosing when you have no other choice really isn’t a choice and scientists should know better.
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I think it’s striking that adult trans people aren’t critical of the child transition thing just out of sheer self interest. If they transition a bazillion kids on this slender basis obviously they’re going to they’re going to catch some false positives in their net. Those kids will de-transition and the media will go nuts with that. This will significantly damage their ‘rainbows and unicorns, transition is great and only mean bigots will ever see anything wrong and it’ public image. If they actually understood where their own self interest lies it would, ironically, cause them to do the right thing. And follow what the research is telling us which is that you don’t transition kids. Since so many grow out of it.
Another thought: this whole process is allegedly to alleviate emotional suffering. But the ‘cure’ involves successfully getting random members of the general public to pretend that you’re a sex that you aren’t. That just doesn’t strike me as feasible or realistic. If you have a sex change people are going to know that you’re a person who had a sex change. In the same way that if you have the most kinds of disability, I’m disabled, people are going to know that. You can’t control how people respond to you. People responding to you in a way that is upsetting doesn’t strike me as an effective way to cure emotional distress.
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From what I’ve read of the science that actually does exist, the gender nonconforming kids who don’t grow up to be trans adults start identifying as their natal gender once puberty hits. The puberty hormones help their bodies to sync with their minds, or something along those lines. So if you put a kid on blockers, this rebalancing (for lack of a better term) won’t happen. The child’s body remains in a Peter Pan state. If you look at it through that lens, it is not surprising that they choose to transition.
However, not all trans individuals fit this profile. There are some who are more or less OK with their natal gender when they’re kids, but then puberty hits and the dysphoria sets in. This seems to have been the case with Chaz Bono.
Well, he is correct in saying, “As far as I know,…” because the fact of the matter is that he doesn’t know much at all regarding outcomes. Which is pretty scary shi* when one considers the seriousness of these treatments.
Some people have lost their ever living mind.
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As far as he knows because the fact is he does not know.
LOL..it was so good I decided to repeat myself. Was having some log in issues.
The only thing with a 100% success rate is death.
4thwave, you da bomb. You really are. (And thanks for adding the ‘recent comments’ feature to the blog — that’s a great benefit.)
So … let’s say you’ve got a challenging kid. A kid who pushes all your buttons. A kid who is insistent and demanding (likely about stuff other than gender presentation and toys, too). And someone out there is telling you that your kid’s behavior issues are all linked to irrevocable gender frustration — so if you just affirm the perceived gender ID with early social (and later physical) transing, your kid will transform into a much happier person, long-term. (And if you don’t fix this thing … your cute dress-wearing natal boy or camo-wearing natal girl will likely do some radical self-harm.)
Not to mention the relative simplicity of having a kid who is easily identifiable as One Thing Or The Other, vs being that weird family with the boy in the dress. (OMG, what kind of parents have such a kid? Obviously, crummy parents who are doing something really wrong. Or that can be the mental loop a parent gets into.)
Honestly, I can see why these families look at the dubious science — and even acknowledge that there is really NO WAY TO SEPARATE the “truly trans” from the “transient non-conformers” — but then yield to the “expert advice” and just roll the dice, like Gendermom. I’m not even talking about the ones who go on to become activists and who court media attention on behalf of their kids and themselves. I’m talking about the ones who are trying to make decent decisions and spare their kids pain and go on with lives that aren’t centered around gender issues. People who are looking for some kind of normalcy.
I can see why they do it. But as hard as that path is, to me it has some easier aspects than simply affirming your kid’s superficial presentation choices without affirming their notion that they can actually BE (or become) the opposite sex. I think it’s harder to let it ride and act like it’s not a huge deal and just keep coping with all the ambiguity and uncertain future. (And now the let-it-ride option is REALLY hard because you cannot get psych help for your kid’s other issues without the psych pushing you to accept the inevitable and just trans your kid. You know?)
People who won’t go into boy/girl boxes are profoundly unsettling to society, and frankly they can be profoundly unsettling to their parents, too. My kid is often very unsettling to me, you know? Not just because of her presentation choices but because of behavioral/mood issues that go way, way back. From what I read of a goodly percentage of the famed ‘transkids’ — they had such issues as well. I expect mom and/or dad or both were just hoping for a fix. For relief.
I think they’re making a serious error, but I can see why they do it. It’s going to keep happening until/unless skeptics in the med/psych/pharm world develop some backbone. As I’ve said before — I am dubious that’s going to happen before some high-profile disaster stories emerge. Right now everyone is basking in the glow of their tolerance/acceptance/progressiveness/bravery. Meanwhile those of us urging caution are languishing over here on the Wrong Side of History.
Sometimes I also think that I’m making different decisions because …I’m an old parent, a lot older than these parents who are transing their little kids. I came to it late, and my kid was already well into her teens and past puberty when she started thinking she might have GID. Because I am older, I’ve seen a lot of cases of brilliant medical advice that went disastrously wrong. This phenomenon is widely on view for even a casual student of history, and it’s played out in my own family’s life as well. Maybe some of these parents of littler putative transkids have only had positive interaction with “experts.”
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Thank you, puzzled. And I understand where these parents are coming from, too. They love their kids and want what’s best for them. And once these parents start down the transition road, it would be hard to turn back. And imagine how MUCH harder it would be to do that if you had a public media presence as well. The fact is, it’s hard for both the kids and the parents to “desist” even if either wants to. And there is no support for detransition or doubts because it undermines the narrative–especially when the providers tout a 100% success rate with puberty blockers. Even one puberty-blocked kid and family going public with desistance would raise the specter of doubt that “false positives” are possible. And when the stakes are this high–drugs, surgeries, sterility–you can be sure none of the gender specialists or activists want to see that. Hell, even people who transitioned as adults who “desist” are shunned. One misdiagnosis of a “trans child” might cause the public to start voicing doubts…
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puzzled, this was really good. Trenchant, clear. Put a smile on my face. 😊
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Raising My Rainbow is a blog by a mother who I believe has a good, supportive attitude towards her child.
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Well, I’m proof that you don’t even need to have a kid who insists they are in the wrong body to have people attempt to push these protocols on them. Maybe they think the more the merrier.
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I’ve wondered about this a long time too – everyone wants to say “oh, the kid can always change his mind, the puberty blockers are removable” and the rest.
I can’t help but think of boys like Coy Mathis. They’re considered “trans” at age three or so, and start doing the “social transitioning” around 6, say. They start school as girls, and their parents will start a big fight to get them able to use the girls’ bathroom.
In order to do that, the parents have to insist to all and sundry that this is in NO way a phase, it’s permanent, baked into the kid’s brain, it’s not a psychological thing, kid is born in the wrong body, etc. The kid obviously hears this message constantly.
In some cases (again, Coy) the parents go on national TV with the kid, parading him before the cameras, leaving video evidence of him (and parents) saying this is not a phase, etc. The parents spend all kinds of money on lawsuits over the bathroom thing, always with the justification that “this is not a phase.”
Okay, so fast forward a few years. Kid gets on puberty blockers. All his classmates start physically maturing, but he still looks like a little child. Kid’s friends (mostly girls) are starting to date and they are growing breasts and worrying about periods. He will, even if accepted fully as a “girl,” still be completely flat-chested and look younger. That’s already not a great place to be.
Assuming he isn’t seen by the latest doctors who advocate cross-sex hormones as early as THIRTEEN, let’s say he reaches the age of 16, still flat as a board, no growth spurt yet. Now it’s time to make that decision – do you want to continue being a “girl,” or do you want to revert?
How is that even an open question to ask?
The kid KNOWS damn well that not only have his parents spent a lot of money on this, but also that his parents have very much created their own identities around being “parents of a trans child, so accepting, so progressive.” That is a LOT of pressure. What are the parents going to say when the kid suddenly decides it IS a phase after all? How can anyone speak up, with that pressure? Particularly in 2015 when he also knows that the entire hopes of the “trans community” are about him insisting that “born in the wrong body” is real and that this isn’t a phase?
Meanwhile, as adults we think “it’s only been ten years” but to a sixteen year old kid, ten years might as well be FOREVER. Heck, the four years of high school already feel like forever.
Whichever decision the kid makes, how will he feel at age 40, with a completely different understanding of what ten years means?
People saying “oh but puberty blockers are reversible at any time, and this is only social transition” just seem to really be ignoring the strength of social pressure, particularly social pressure inside your own family and knowing that your parents’ identities are formed around your having made a certain call back when you were just a baby.
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Exactly! And if they do decide to get of the blockers, they will still be years behind all their classmates. They have to go through their puberty through their 20’s? Will they be able to have a normal puberty? What happened to the brain that didn’t grow and mature at the same rate? They will be so far behind.
Holy crap! Perfect. Exactly. ‘It’s not a phase’. Yep. The power of social pressure. That genderists with their (squirrley) biology obsession would ignore that, what a shocker!
On top of all this, kids who socially transition VERY early wouldn’t even remember much, if anything, of their lives beforehand. Does Coy Mathis remember living as a boy? Does Jazz Jennings? If they only remember themselves as girls, it’s likely that they really can’t envision themselves as growing up to be men.
I understand that these parents love their child and want their kid to be happy and fulfilled in life. I also understand how horrifying the line is “Better a live A than a dead B.” But millions of kids face life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and other internal diseases, the treatments for which have profound life-long consequences (including sterility and long-term maintenance medications). The parents of those kids, who love them the same and want all the good in life for those kids too, readily seek out second opinions, dispute treatment plans with physicians, look to the long-term physical and psychological impact of various treatment options, and even lobby legislatures about access and choice in medical treatments. They aren’t accused of genocide and their children face a demonstrable risk of mortality. Those parents aren’t cast as villains, unmindful of their child’s needs, even when they seek out clinical trials or wildly unorthodox alternative treatments.
I wish parents would wake up and ask themselves: “If my kid was diagnosed with cancer, would I accept the word of only one person for treatment and go for treatment that no body knows would work even though my kid could survive without the treatment?” Until they ask this question, nothing will change. I can’t wait until they do wake up.
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In the case of a cancer that will likely kill them I’d be a lot more keen to try something experimental if there were on other options. Some vague thought that there is some disconnect between one’s mind and body? No,since that is not a life threatening condition.
Oh, sorry Gwen, I was trying to respond to Ocean and the post has appeared out of order – my bad. Ocean wrote: “I wish parents would wake up and ask themselves: “If my kid was diagnosed with cancer, would I accept the word of only one person for treatment and go for treatment that no body knows would work even though my kid could survive without the treatment?” Until they ask this question, nothing will change.”
I assumed that Ocean was continuing the analogy of treating a kid with cancer and a kid with gender dysphoria. As a parent of a kid with gender dysphoria, I objected to the idea that “all parents” in my position accept the word of only one person for treatment. I can’t count the number of people and sources I’ve consulted and questioned. I would add though, re your post, that gender dysphoria is a quite a bit more than “a vague thought that there is some disconnect between one’s mind and body.” And of course gender dysphoria can be life threatening. If it couldn’t I don’t think parents like myself would worry as much as we do.
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What makes you think that parents of children with gender dysphoria don’t seek out second opinions (or third, fourth, fifth, etc)? In fact, what parents are you talking about, exactly?
I don’t assume anything curious. But what I know, and please correct me if I’m wrong because I’d love to be wrong. is that there are no other opinions.
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Okay, I’ll bite. Exactly how many professionals cautioned you against allowing your child to medically transition? I’m sure WPATH has a whole list of professionals you can consult.
OK, since I started this :). I didn’t realise we were talking about medical transition though. My son is eleven and he’ll have to be at least sixteen and go through a pretty arduous process in the Family Court. So, that’s not something discussed yet. As for puberty blockers, no one cautioned against, but they were not immediately granted (and he was too young anyway). Thinking about it, the first transgender person we saw, with a clinical psychologist, cautioned against ‘medical models’. We did consult a GP and a hospital at that point but settled on a counsellor with a PhD in gender nonconforming children. The focus was on supporting all of us to be happy & integrated in the present. No diagnoses were given. Later, we saw an endocrinologist, but only to determine and monitor hormone levels. He said he would not do anything without us having regular consultation with a paediatric psychiatrist. She was trained by the Tavistock school which is conservative in its application of blockers. She told us that her job would be initially to listen, to get to know everyone in the family, and, yes, to consult with the GP, counsellor and endo. She also said that she saw part of her job as to slow everyone down, which suited us.
I’ve simplified this a little, but hopefully you get the idea. There’s a lot of caution, if not ‘cautioning against’ and getting any medical approval is not a simple process. I am not entirely comfortable with a healthy child seeing so many professionals but I am grateful for the support and the care. I realise that this is not the situation for everyone but it’s comparable to everyone I’ve talked to in Australia. Incidentally, all of this consultation was covered by public health care, apart from the private counsellor early on.
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Look, I want to have a civil and respectful discussion, so I don’ t want to “throw down the gauntlet” with you. I respect that you see your parental responsibilities as best fit your life and your family. Maybe you talked to a lot of people about GD, but I don’t know of any professionals who are advocating waiting until later to start medical transition (just FYI I’ve worked in the mental health system for many years). I know WPATH will provide lots of resources that all agree with WPATH’s stance on transitioning children. I truly am interested in whether or not anyone you consulted said no because of the medical and psychological risks.
I’m just very frustrated that parents who are concerned and don’t think early transition is safe or appropriate are demonized online whereas a parent who disagrees with a treatment for pretty much any other condition, even a life-threatening condition, is considered a hero if they disagree with “experts.” While any condition causing a child agony is unfortunate, I cannot fathom why GD is allowed to be in an almost-unquestionable status. This is especially compelling when we can all see the staggering lack of meaningful research data and the sheer number of unknowns.
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Within my circle, there’s a number of kids who have no diagnosis of GD and a number who have chosen no medical intervention. I know that’s not quite the answer you’re looking for, but in my limited experience, no professional has diagnosed GD quickly and unquestionably. It would seem that’s not the case with everyone, but there’s a big difference between saying ‘no’ and saying, let’s look closely at what is most appropriate for your child. I’m very grateful we have had the latter experience.
Ah, you’re not in the US? My bad, I assumed that. In the US, it’s a very profit-driven health system as I’m sure you’re aware. I don’t know any mental health providers who offer up any resistance to transitioning kids, even children with documented histories of mental health issues. 4thwavenow and other parents get a ton of abuse for not being fully on board, yet were they to question treatment for almost any other condition affecting their child they would be regarded as caring parents. But since it’s all about the almighty “gender” they’re called abusive instead.
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My bad too – I keep saying “that would never happen” when I hear about cross sex hormones for young adolescents and then hearing, sadly, that in the US it has happened.
It’s the Wild West over her in the US — twas ever thus, alas. I’m glad you got some reasoned advice of some sort, curiousmother. I assure you that right now, in the States, it is difficult to get psych therapy for any ‘gender nonconforming’ kid or teen without the psych simply telling the parent ‘your kid is trans, get on board the train of supporting transition, deal with your grief/denial, because that’s what your kid IS. Because he/she says so. Full stop.’
And you know, there is just not science supporting the firmness of the contentions being thrown around here. What there is, is a sociopolitical movement making a lot of noise (and using some bullying tactics), as well as a med/psych/pharm community seeing some long term $ in this business (not all of them, but they are out there, these folks), and a media entranced with the celebs du jour and the exoticness of these cute and special transkids. The fact that there are health risks associated with this path, and the sterilization stuff, is absolutely minimized in the media coverage.
It’s nearly impossible to get decent treatment for your kid in such a climate. I’m glad it’s not like this worldwide, as yet.
I appreciate that we’re having a civil discussion. I wish you and your family all the best.
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If that is what is happening, that is truly dreadful. My kid is entranced with all things American and has begged us to visit the US (I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at the airline prices from Oz but suffice to say it won’t be happening just yet). I have even wondered (idly, at the moment) if it might be a better place for him to transition, should a transition be the best thing for him.
I know that US culture is not homogenous – you have 318 million to our 23 million after all – but I am thinking that the US is the place that has produced baby beauty queens after all. It’s not surprising that there’s an element of celebrity culture that is just not that critical about being transgender. Add to that a broken health care system and less checks and balances on things like pharmaceuticals and psychiatric practices and I can well see that this could get out of hand. And I’m sorry. I don’t know what I would do if this happened – perhaps what some of my acquaintances have done – basically decide to just celebrate gender diversity and eschew any medical intervention.
The thing is, it’s complicated, and there are so many different experiences. I feel like I’ve learned something already because I couldn’t understand how we could be arguing at such cross purposes. The Debra Soh article inflamed me, for instance, because to mind she was describing something that simply didn’t happen. I still find it a poorly sourced, disingenous piece but I accept she is describing something that does take place in the US.
Where I might differ from some on this page is that it would seem indisputable that transgenderism is real, if rare. Gender diversity and transexualism – as well as sexual diversity – has occurred across the globe throughout human history.
The almost unbearably difficult thing is working out where our own children belong amongst this diversity. Unscrupulous doctors would only make this difficult situation more difficult, and my heart goes out to you and others in this situation.
I didn’t expect to find this conversation as informative as I am. Thank you to you and others for sharing your experiences with me.
I wish you the best also!
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Hi curiousmother. I’m glad we’ve been able to host a mutually respectful conversation here, too. Thanks again for participating. I think it would be interesting to talk more about the idea that transgender/transsexual is “real.” There really is no reliable evidence that there is such a thing as “male” or “female” brain, although researchers have been trying on both sides of the issue. There have certainly been people who have identified as such–but there has also been some rewriting of history to claim certain “gender non conforming” people as actually transgender (Joan of Arc comes to mind). This question of male/female brains is important, because it undergirds most trans activist and provider claims that some children are “born in the wrong body.” There is no evidence of this at all, and how would you prove it if there were? All brain sex studies have relied on adult trans-identified people, who by definition, have been exposed to life experiences, hormones, and all the rest, confounding any attempt to separate nature from nurture. In my view, it’s a false dichotomy to say any brain is “born in the wrong body.” If a brain is attached to a female body, it is female. Perhaps unusual for a female, given the norms, but female all the same. Why not just as easily say the brain is wrong? Anyway perhaps others would like to chime in?
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I’ve found this conversation beneficial. I’m not sure what I expected when I lept in, but now I feel we’re approaching some very comparable issues from different angles and it’s well worth continuing.
I’m writing this very quickly, but will say now that I’m interested in the ways that we’re both trying to pick apart what are essentially arguments about biological essentialism.
When I’ve got the time I might address this in a blog post myself.
With best wishes,
I guess I still struggle with understanding that there “really are” transgender kids. I completely understand kids who hate the social expectations for their biological sex. I was a total tomboy. I hated being a girl and would pray to God every night to make me a boy when I was a kid. I hated dresses, hated pink sparkly stuff, and hated everything the other girls liked. I hated getting a grown female body. Fortunately this happened decades ago and trans wasn’t even remotely possible.
I don’t know your personal story, but certainly the media pumps up stories about little children who like toys/clothes intended for the opposite sex. They just might like the toys or clothes or have opposite sex siblings who are treated differently or have other serious mental health issues. But often we are told that a small child under the age of 10 has decided that he/she is the opposite sex and the family is admonished to cater to that decision or else the family basks in the media glow of catering to that decision. The other common story is that the child has no history of any dysphoria of any kind but abruptly decides he/she is trans. Any family member not on board with that is regarded as abusive.
Here in the US, children are regarded as too immature and lacking in judgment to be allowed to enter into contracts, get married, consent to sexual activity, consume alcohol/tobacco, get a job, etc. Yet despite all of the sound reasoning behind these prohibitions, parents are told that an 8 year-old child knows best and can make a decision to delay puberty (the long-term consequences of which are completely unknown) and ultimately be sterilized by use of cross-sex hormones. Any of us who express any reservation at all are demonized (not by you personally).
There seems to be little regard for the idea that these kids don’t like the gender roles as opposed to being in “the wrong body.” The stories of girls getting their breasts removed (they’re in for some nasty surprises if their family has a history of breast cancer) simply because their idea of being female begins and ends with a silly ultra-feminine prom queen/cheerleader make me cry. I know what it’s like to hate being female. We all know how awful it is to be a female in a sexist society. But no one is reaching out to these girls and telling them to stop; that there’s so many wonderful ways of being female! That it ISN’T about the clothes, make-up and silly stereotypes. And anyone tries, they get shouted down. It’s very sad and frustrating.
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My suspicion is that there’s a whole lot of things getting conflated here. Believe me, I’m not lover of gender stereotypes – and I don’t follow many of them. I planned to raise strong, intelligent independent young women who were proud of their bodies. I was lucky enough to raise three daughters but the youngest is different from the other two. This child is not a tomboy, although being a tomboy is praised within my family and where I live. What is going on is very different to rejecting female stereotypes. I won’t pretend to have all the answers, so in closing I’ll just give two Australian links that you might find interesting. Please note that while the people featured could hardly be unaware of prom queen/cheerleader stereotypes, many live quite isolated lives, without mobile coverage and internet connections. ‘Sistergirls’ are documented to have existed before European colonisation : http://sistersandbrothersnt.com/
Maybe, just to make sure you’ve covered all the bases, you could talk to a professional who doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with a girl who doesn’t fit the current stereotypes.
Josephine, please see above.
I hope that if you take away anything from these exchanges is that those of us who are skeptical of medical transition for kids are coming at this from a good place. There’s lots of parents on this site. There’s lots of us who had gender struggles long before transitioning was a thing and there was NO support but we got through it. There’s lots of us who see this in a historical context of medical procedures/products that seem wonderful at start and then backfire horribly. None of us want to see anyone suffer: not your child nor your family. But we worry that the suffering of the moment is minute in comparison to what can happen down the road and that the proper “gatekeepers” aren’t doing their jobs. We see a society racing backwards at breakneck pace to enshrine terrible sexist stereotypes. We see solutions being prescribed for desperate parents that have little hope of truly working. While we may disagree on how to get there, I think we all want kids to grow to be who they truly are.
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“We got through it.” Yes. There is much to be said for questioning a very recent media and medical paradigm that is suddenly promoting “transition” as the solution to depression or anxiety arising from a child’s likely transitory discomfort with their body or sex role. When so many gay men and lesbians report a “gender nonconforming” or even dysphoric childhood, we should all stop and think whether these gender specialists are effectively practicing proactive conversion therapy–even eugenics–on gay/lesbian people. Especially when there is no evidence, despite the hype, that transitioning children lowers the rate of self harming behaviors. If anything, we have seen a spate of suicides and suicide attempts that have increased since the kid transition trend began–even kids who were supported in every aspect of their transition.
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I do see that you’re coming from a good place, Oceans. There are also very justifiable reasons to be scared, and to be angry. I hope what we will all get out of this exchange that “we all want kids to grow up to be who they truly are.” Warm thoughts to you.
In order to demonstrate that there is such a thing as the “true transsexual”- that such behaviors are innate- the existence of the “Sistergirls” of the Tiwi islands was referenced. I find this evidence uncompelling for a number of reasons.
First, the links cited are not without displays of significant Western transgenderist influence (unless you think that backwards baseball hats and African American and trans slang terms along with mastectomies, exogenous testosterone, and internet trans communities where they learn *for the first time* about “brotherboys” are traditional Tiwi culture). Further, these links inflate the number of “transpeople” by including gay, lesbian, and bisexual in their numbers (see the first link below).
“’Sistergirl’ or ‘Yimpininni’ is a term used to describe transgender, homosexual or bisexual indigenous people”. In other words, the cultural terminology applies to sexuality as well as “gender identity” and “gender roles.”
One of the interviewees states that his social transition to living as a woman “only took place after a long fight for acceptance within the Indigenous community — *one that has strong traditional views toward gender roles that are religiously grounded.*” (Curious that such a long-standing culturally accepted phenomenon would garner such opposition.)
Gender roles, the *social* performance that one enacts to define and be defined in relation to socially defined “maleness” (masculinity) and “femaleness” (femininity) are “religiously grounded” — culturally imposed and divinely ordained. It is under these circumstances that gender-non conformers here *learn* and establish their understandings of themselves as sexed beings — their “gender identities.”
It seems obvious to me that the “gender identity,” given the *original* use of the term “Yimpininni” (which includes same-sex attracted people), is inextricably linked in this case to *sexuality* and the cross-cultural heterocentric tendency. This linkage lends itself to the creation of a separate social sex category (gender identity) for those who do not conform to compulsory heterosexuality. In such cultures, sexual non-conformity is seen as being separate from those men and women who participate within the social confines of patriarchal family structure, and same-sex attraction may very well be viewed — and even experienced — as indicative of being “other sexed.”
According to one who has studied N.American indigenous culture (see link below), “[i]n some third gender societies, two-spirit was simply a way to handle homosexuality within the group: homosexual men were considered not fully men, a halfway gender that wasn’t quite “normal.” If the Yimpininni are “true transsexuals,” then by their example, same-sex attracted people are, as well.
Please note, also, that as in many other cultures where a “third” gender or sex is created, females are not generally included or, at best, are in the minority with different status. The Tiwi people appear to be no different in this regard. According to one of the linked interviews, they did not have, until relatively recently, any significant “brotherboy” presence at all.
As a demonstration of this ‘gender identity inequality’ phenomenon, I am again quoting the previously mentioned link to a discussion of a similar situation among indigenous North Americans. The author states: “The Lakota two spirit people are never born women. Almost all of them, historically, have been men.”
“Were no Lakota women ‘born this way’ while men were? Let me postulate a different theory: that it’s men in power who impose gender roles, and that Lakota men’s patriarchal society had to have somewhere to put “men who don’t ‘act like’ men” because of male gender policing. Lakota people put two-spirit men in the part of the camp where women and children lived, which was generally not as well cared for and considered not as prestigious because of the patriarchal way that they lived.”
“You see this in large numbers of patriarchal American Indian cultures: societies where there’s a firmly established ‘third’ gender that men can elect to participate in (sometimes as older people, sometimes from an early age), while women’s gender roles are firmly entrenched and allow for little variance.”
Altogether, it seems very odd, indeed, that “innate” feelings of *being* another sex are inextricably linked to the culture in which they occur. Clothing is neutral outside of *socially designated* associations. Likes and dislikes and activities which we prefer have different “gendered” associations across time and place and our understanding of our sexed bodies is informed by these associations. How is it exactly that one is “innately” destined to identify ones “sex” in relation to such things if the social meanings of these things change?
The truth is, males and females aren’t that different at all aside from our roles in reproduction and relatively minor (and overlapping) physical traits. It is only the culturally imposed linkage between sex and ultimately neutral human aptitudes and expressions (albeit with differing social assigned value) which shape the meanings which we attach to bodies. If anything is innate, it is the desire to pursue our desires and talents. If the limitations imposed by our societies on the basis of our sex make us feel alien in our bodies — wrong sexed — it is not our bodies that need the alteration.
(Do yourself a favor and read this link It is very interesting and informative)
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This is really interesting stuff. Would you be open to a guest post for more prominence? In left-liberal circles, there is a tendency to unquestioningly praise or promote non-Western cultural practices without much critical thought. This has me curious to look more deeply into the few existing matrilineal/matrilocal tribes–to see if there is any difference in how “gender nonconformity” is handled or enforced. This might be a good place to start: http://mentalfloss.com/article/31274/6-modern-societies-where-women-literally-rule
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To clarify: I was not trying to suggest that the existence of ‘sistergirls’ and ‘brotherboys’ ‘proves’ that transgender or transsexual identities are innate. I was only citing examples of gender/sexual diversity existing outside contemporary society and North America. More cultural/historical/geographical comparative studies on this blog would be be great and I would be interested in reading them.
Regarding changing their mind. Let’s see. They spend the majority of their life pretending to be the opposite sex with full on encouragement from everyone around them. Then bam at 18ish they can get the surgeries (in some cases sooner), and then they’d suddenly change their mind? Probably not. And many people probably don’t have all their shi* together at 18. I certainly didn’t.
‘Nicole,’ Maines who was once ‘Wyatt’ — part of a set of identical twins, a Spack patient — just had the surgery at … 18, I think. There’s a book coming out today by a Pulitzer prize winning author; there has been lots of media coverage all along (including the obligatory school facilities law suit); there was NPR coverage yesterday. And even with this support express train, reportedly there was some hesitation before the surgery. Reportedly this was discussed in the Terri Gross ‘fresh air’ interview; I didn’t hear it so can’t verify details. Whatever happened, it’s a done deal now. My question is … in this situation, with the whole family already so invested in long years of this path, who on earth is going to look such a kid in the eye and say bluntly: “You don’t have to do this. You can do it later. Or never. You don’t have to do it now. You can say stop.” (Rather than “Everyone is nervous before this, it’s a big thing, but it’ll all be OK.”)
I don’t know, obviously. Maybe someone said just what I said: “You don’t have to do this.”
But I wonder what is said in such situations. To this kid, or to any kid, when the family has become so invested in the rightness of what the have done and are doing.
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If anyone wants to read the article on the NPR website (promoting the book “Becoming NIcole”) about Wyatt/Nicole Maines here is the link:
The article hits on the highlights of the interview with parents and author, including the author’s odd comment on the fluidity of gender: “Gender isn’t something that’s necessarily fixed, that it’s dynamic, that it’s fluid.”
I’m not sure the exact context of this quote since I didn’t listen to the audio version, but it would seem to me that if gender changes over time then we shouldn’t be permanently “fixing” it in case it changes back.
I do worry about all of the Wyatt/Nicoles that are being experimented upon. It makes me sick to my stomach knowing that some of these kids will likely grow up to regret what was done to them.
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There was a documentary “Growing up Trans” on Frontline about trans kids, where a 19 year old FTM college student was looking back over the whole thing with what really seemed to be the early stirrings of regret – not regret per se, maybe, but a realization with age that time periods that seemed like forever when she was young really weren’t, that adulthood comes with more freedom that perhaps she had envisioned, and particularly some feelings of being somehow artificial.
She mentioned having only an “artificial” puberty, planned to the last moment, never knowing what it would be like to just wait and accept what your plain genetics and environment would do on its own schedule. Of course now having done the exogenous testosterone, done the imposed “male” puberty, had the breasts removed, there’s no going back. The path not taken.
The inclusion of that one story in the documentary got a LOT of heated criticism online from the usual places.
But even more relevant to your question (and tying in with my similar thoughts above too) there is another documentary I saw online which I can’t remember the name of now. This one too interviewed trans kids. One of the kids was around 13, maybe? Sitting at a kitchen table being interviewed by the reporter. Earlier they had interviewed the kid and mom together, and mom was 100% on board, yes, born in the wrong body, “she’s a girl,” the whole bit. And the kid seemed enthused also.
But Mom leaves, and the kid actually says something that shocked me. The kid admits, on camera, to not being sure, and considering his identity to be “boy girl” and being “sometimes a boy” and similar (I can’t remember the details). The reporter notes this too, but doesn’t dwell on it.
It was creepy, to me, to think of the pressure that that kid is under. At such an age, kids have no concept of time (how short their lives have been so far, and how much longer adulthood is) or really what fertility is about.
And at that same age, you can find plenty of kids who have trouble even admitting to their parents that they no longer want to play the violin or compete in soccer or whatever other hobby they were steered to and praised for being “so good at!” for their entire remembered lives.
See also: “child prodigies” whose parents build their identities around the idea of having a “prodigy” who starts college at 12, once those kids hit around age 20 or so…
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Excellent comment. Thank you. Would love to know if anyone knows how to find that second documentary?
This is in response to Adrian (there is no reply option under your comment). I wish I could remember where I saw that second documentary or the name of it — but I do remember it. A natal boy who is living as a girl says something like, “sometimes I feel like I maybe I really am a boy” or “sometimes I feel like a boy who is a girl, and sometimes I feel like a boy who is a boy,” or something to that effect, right after he had been speaking with his mother and confirming to HER that he really was a girl. I am going to hunt around and see if I can find that film.
Response to comments by Adrian and 4thwavenow:
In a Guardian article last month on ‘transgender children’ the reporter interviewed a child who when they were alone together said: ‘“Sometimes I say to my friends – because they were born a girl – ‘Would you be a boy for a day to see what it feels like?’ And they say yeah, but I’m like: ‘I don’t have to because I’m both.’”
Do you really think you’re both, I ask, or do you think you’re a girl?
“I’m both. It’s all right if I’m both. I want my mum to take me to football lessons.” But then the next minute she says she never feels like a boy, even though being a girl can be tough. “When you’re a boy you fall out and then the next day you’re friends, but with girls you fall out for months. It’s easier when you’re a boy.” …’
The reporter also interviewed Polly Carmichael of the Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service, who has this to say about ‘puberty blockers’:
‘“When the idea of the blocker being available to younger people was being pushed forward, I think that inevitably – understandably – there were quite simplistic arguments that if you have the blocker then all the problems disappear. In our experience, all the problems do not go away.”
The blocker can be therapeutic in itself, because it takes away the anxiety that comes with going through the “wrong” puberty. It also gives young people much-needed time and thinking space. “The idea was, if you could reduce that distress, then there would be room for young people to really explore the less reversible interventions: cross-sex hormones,” she explains. “But there’s also a lot of pressure to introduce cross-sex hormones at a younger age. It’s currently at 16. For some, there’s a real wish to bring it down to 14.” When I ask who she means, she says Mermaids and the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (Gires), a transgender advocacy charity based in the UK. “Really big changes like that should not be considered outside proper research protocols. We just don’t have the evidence.”
Carmichael says it’s very important for young people to experience some of their own puberty. “The blocker is said to be completely reversible, which is disingenuous because nothing’s completely reversible. It might be that the introduction of natal hormones [those you are born with] at puberty has an impact on the trajectory of gender dysphoria.” …
The available evidence suggests that most prepubescent children with gender dysphoria will have a different outcome in adulthood, Carmichael says: “The most common would be one around sexuality, rather than gender identity.” In her experience, they are more likely to be LGB than T.’
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@4thwavenow and others – I can’t seem to find the one documentary with the reporter alone, but I DID find this other one I remembered that is also very telling for similar reasons.
It’s the story of Josie Romero, a documentary from 2012 (an episode of NBC Dateline) called “Living a Transgender Childhood.” It’s available on YouTube from a bunch of links.
It focuses on Josie Romero, born Joey Romero, who is 9 years old and planning to go on blockers and hormones when the time is right. The parents are completely convinced that he’s a “girl,” and is one of the ones who won’t desist. There are interviews with a medical ethicist who doesn’t believe in giving hormones to kids, and there are interviews with Dr. Johanna Olson from Los Angeles who does. The family take Josie to see Dr. Olson in the documentary. Dr. Olson (and mom, and the show up to this point) are all convinced that Josie is the real deal, won’t revert.
Anyway, the interesting bit is right around minute 13. The interviewer is in the room with Josie AND Mom in this one, and the topic of are you a girl comes up. Kid answers “maybe I’m a boy inside, and a girl outside.” Mom gets worked up. Mind you, this is after they’ve been insisting that the kid won’t revert and that he wants hormones and that he’s crushed that he can’t get “breasts” on the way out of the doctor’s office.
Better yet though, the kid follows up the “maybe I’m a boy inside, and a girl outside” with “…is that true?” QUESTIONING HIS MOTHER.
Mom gets worked up, answers “only you know the answer to that.” Says “if you wanted to grow up to be a man, would you tell me?” Josie hesitates, says “mmm… yeah.” Mom kneels down, gets serious, says “if you wanted to grow up to be a man, you could.” Kid answers, “I wanna be… (pause) Sometimes I think I’m a boy, sort of… but I wanna be a girl.” Then goes on, “Will you love me if I’m a boy?” Mom says “OF COURSE.”
Mom is pretty worked up, says she feels that maybe the kid is afraid to talk. Mom says “what if I said ‘oh PLEASE, PLEASE, don’t be a girl” and… the kid answers “well, I guess I’d be a boy, I don’t know.” Mom is upset to hear that (I think Mom is starting to realize that the kid’s desires might be being influenced from her). Kid goes on, “well, I need to listen to you, you’re my Mom.”
…etc. It’s worth a watch.
After this section, the mom talks again, and admits that everything she was thinking was so certain and sort of all planned out, now really isn’t.
Given that this documentary is from 2012, I’m wondering what has happened since then.
…and I see now you’ve covered this case here on your blog, also, so maybe this is old news to you. 🙂 But, hopefully still of interest to people reading this comment thread. Anyone know what happened to this kid?
We have some new, reliable research that shows how many children with gender dsyphoria desist. The Dutch clinic followed up to see how many of the patients they diagnosed in childhood went on to transition. They looked at data on adults to see if any of them had come back after puberty. They are free and provide services to virtually all the adults who transition in the Netherlands.
They found that 70% of the children did not transition when they grew up. 27% transitioned as teens and 3% transitioned as adults. 95% of the children who desisted as teens did not return as adults.
The Dutch clinic is the one that first began prescribing puberty blockers to children with gender dysphoria, so they are not opposed to transition. They are a very reliable source.
I think GenderMom has a point about some of the older research. The very first study by Green in the 1980s included boys who were identified by their parents as feminine. 98% of them did not have gender dysphoria as adults. For his study, there may have been some boys who identified as boys but were worrying their parents.
Other, more recent studies, have found that more kids go on to transition than in Green’s study. Nevertheless, most children are still desisting from their gender dysphoria.
However, we don’t know what makes children desist. In the past, children were given therapy aimed at preventing gender dysphoria. There were no control groups, so we can’t know if the therapy changed anything or if they would have desisted without therapy.
As for children who socially transition before puberty, we have no data. That is not something that was done in the past. The experts disagree as to whether or not parents should do this.
More about the 2015 follow-up study from the Netherlands:
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Thank you for the link to the Letter to the Editor from two of the top Dutch researchers, which raises many more questions than it answers. I encourage others to read this letter (at the link George David posted). First, it again solidifies the fact that the vast majority of kids who present with GD in childhood desist–even when there is government-funded treatment available to them in the only clinic offering full transition services in Holland. It should also be noted that Amsterdam is highly supportive of transgender people, as a societal whole, so choosing to “transition” would come with far less stigma than in many other places. The main point of my original post is that we should not be “transitioning” young children given this data (and as you point out, there is NO real data on kids who “socially” transition). But the letter also leads to another point: there were a few “persisters” who returned to the clinic only as adults (average age 24). If someone is going to transition at all, better it be when they have started to develop the decision making capacity of an adult, which is generally recognized to be around the mid-20s.
As to your comment, George, that “the experts disagree” about whether parents should be “socially transitioning” their little kids, the only “experts” who are doing that are basically flying in the dark. They should NOT be encouraging this, given the data we DO have, and given the terrible stakes–lifelong drug treatments, surgeries, and sterilization. It’s a massive uncontrolled experiment, and the very act of conditioning kids that they are “actually” the opposite sex weights and confounds the experiment in the direction these “experts”–people like Johanna Olson and Norman Spack–want it to go. In other words, they are tainted by massive confirmation bias–and they are doing it with innocent children with no clue about the grave and permanent consequences they will face as adults.
Several wonderful readers have sent me more links regarding the Dutch studies and I am planning a followup post in the near future.
Just to clarify, the link is to my summary and review of the letter to the editor. The original is unfortunately behind a pay wall.
Thanks. That is correct. I read the entire letter. For readers with access to clinical and research journals via university or other means, please read the letter itself. I cannot post copies of paywalled articles on my blog due to copyright restrictions.
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Every parent considering this treatment for kids needs to read this stuff. Right now, it’s all just “your kid’s not in the expected box so your kid is now and always will be …. trans, and there’s only one treatment.” It’s so patently agenda-driven at this point, and so NOT reflective of the actual typical outcomes. Or the outcomes that used to be typical before all this sociopolitical crap and med/pharma greed started driving the treatment bus. The analysis of what actually usually happens if these kids are not treated with blockers/hormones is totally buried under all the glowing “cute kids’ media and “we’re so progressive” back-patting and “suicide.” The treatment risks, the physical/emotional/monetary costs, the sterility, the dubious mental health outcomes even after the treatment is done — those things are all waved aside as worthwhile tradeoffs for the “fix.” Oh. My. God.
At least this info exists, though. What I’ve yet to see and probably won’t, because researchers don’t give a shit, is some long-term study on kids whose gender nonconformity did not even EMERGE until adolescence. Not the “I knew I was the opposite sex when I was two” stuff. But rather, “I was uncomfortable with puberty and social expectations, and I read a lot of reddit and tumblr and watched a lot of YouTubes, and I decided I must actually be trans.” What’s WITH all the natal females exhibiting this pattern, in particular? Are they going to be persisters or desisters? Who the hell knows? No one is paying attention.
The current APA guideline bullshit just advises that such a pattern simply means the kid is trans and was just previously repressed, and the parents should be aided in working through their surprise and dismay. O_o.
Thanks from a mom, George. 4thwave, keep making NOISE.
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Yes. We need a ton more real research info on girls like mine and yours, who suddenly go from being perfectly happy in their bodies to “I must start “T” NOW”!
@puzzled – It’s particularly disturbing if you read around the trans internet, so many sites are telling these kids who find themselves horrified at puberty that this is a sign that they are in fact trans and should “get on blockers” asap to prevent these dreaded bodily changes.
They paint this picture of “cis people” being completely happy to go through puberty and anxious to take on the various gender roles prescribed for adults of their sex, and anyone with doubts must be trans.
Thing is though, I am a somewhat gender non-conforming woman (straight, if anyone cares) who hated and dreaded puberty. All those stories of feeling dread at getting breasts, not wanting to wear a bra, insisting on just sticking to undershirts for as long as it was possible – that was all me.
I did not like this idea of “turning into a woman” because of what being a woman MEANT. Suddenly, it was all about being a sexual object, objectified by others, supposed to somehow remain “chaste” (“you’re a lady now, you can’t sit like that”) while at the same time seeing all the clothing in the stores switch over to “sexy” (shirts are form-fitting, it’s expected you don’t close the top button, necks are scooped, shoes have heels, pants are tight, I can go on). It was about the leer in the voice of a man pointing out “you’re a woman now.” It’s about being shunted into this “lesser, secondary” track. It’s about being told by society that “well, we tolerated your ‘tomboy’ attitude as a child but you’re too old for it now, you need to get serious and ‘pretty up’ and start thinking about getting married at some point.” “You’ll never get a boyfriend acting like that.”
Thankfully I had support of people helping me learn that all of those expectations are… nonsense, and that it’s okay to resist, to fight back and give myself my own message for my body, that it is mine, and there are non-sexy (“so prudish!”) clothes out there to be had, and it’s okay to look different or weird and eschew the purse. It’s okay to not be considered “sexy.”
I doubt I’m alone. I know plenty of others like me, now. We’re not trans. We’re not “mannish.” We’re just OURSELVES, and we are women. Refusing “femininity” does not make you a man. And that’s ok.
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Puzzled, there are a number of studies from clinics that talk about the increase in the number of teenagers that they are seeing. They don’t know why the numbers are increasing although some of them speculate about it.
If I may promote my website, you can read some summaries of studies at TransResearch.info under the Trans Kids and Teens header. My website is incomplete and at the moment I am focusing on eating disorders, but you may find some helpful information there.
I wish more of these studies were available to the public instead of behind a pay wall. I try to summarize them at the top and then put as many details as I can lower down for people who are interested in more information.
From the evidence given by Dr Bernadette Wren, consultant clinical psychologist, Tavistock and Portman Gender Identity Development Service, to the Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee (UK) on 15 September:
‘It used to be that you could not get puberty suppression until you were 16. Now it is at any age, effectively. These things change over time, but we try to proceed in as wise a way as we can, looking at what the research shows, looking at what other countries are doing and debating with other centres of excellence, like the Amsterdam clinic, who have been the pioneers in this, … who have not gone below 16, interestingly, and who are very nervous about it.’
Response to comments by 4thwavenow and puzzled on girls who decide they are trans after they have reached puberty.
More from Dr Wren of the Tavistock clinic:
‘ This is the surprise to us: that many of the young people, and increasing numbers of them, have had a gender‑uncontentious childhood, if you like, and it is only when they come into puberty and post‑puberty that they begin to question. That now represents a substantial proportion of our group. …
… one group we did not mention—a much higher proportion of natal females is coming forward who have got through to puberty but who now really dislike their female body. I have to see that in the context of the attack on female bodies and the general sense that feminism has not delivered—
Jo Churchill [MP]: And the media.
Dr Wren: Absolutely. You put that in the mix as well. I do not have the answers to any of that, because we are just a service, but these are massive social issues of change.’
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This should be FRONT PAGE NEWS in all the major UK papers. Instead, we get Channel 4 pushing “born in the wrong body.”
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And really where is this all coming from? It’s like the fad of the day. My family member didn’t talk about sex change operations when he had unusual thinking because that wasn’t mainstream talk. So he got help for disordered thinking. Nobody told him to get freaking surgery. He is now fine and doing well. He didn’t need to mutilate his body and ruin his life.
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My kid’s didn’t emerge until 13. I’m told that’s it, he’s doomed for life it’ll never be better. Because of all the evidence they have. That huge massive study they did about it. You know that one right? Oh, you don’t? Well it must be there somewhere. Anyhow, it is so just because everyone knows that and they can’t tell us stuff without it being true.
I must say though that after being stressed to hell about this for 6 months I finally have a new feeling about it. It’s called, “I’m not buying into the bullshit.” This feels a whole hell of a lot better than before.
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Adrian, thank you for telling a bit of your story. I believe my daughter is in the much of the same frame of mind. She suddenly began saying she was trans at age 15, after having an up-until-then normal girlhood. For her, I believe it is a combination of being socially awkward, not being interested whatsoever in traditional “girly-girl” trappings, seeing that women are given the short end of the stick in society, and wanting to fit in with her friends, most of whom are gay (she says she is gay, because she is a boy who likes boys). Also, the rude, handsy boys at school — who used to bother and harass her — now leave her alone. She went from powerless to powerful!
So, as a boy, she is not expected to wear tight, uncomfortable or revealing clothes, be subservient or passive, or deal with males who want to look at or touch her — and she can join the LGBT club with her friends. She is not expected to paint her face, torture her hair, cook anyone’s dinner, babysit our neighbor’s bratty kids, change diapers or wipe snotty noses. “The Dirt from Dirt” blog has a post up currently titled “Gender Dysphoria or Gender Disenchantment?” I think “gender disenchantment” is a good way to explain what many of these girls are actually going through.
What makes “gender disenchantment” dangerous, unfortunately, is that when they explore their feelings on the internet or with a psychological professional, these girls are being told they for sure are trans, must transition to be happy, and if they don’t they’ll certainly become suicidal. They are told by strangers on the internet to lie to their parents, threaten suicide or make superficial cuts in order to get hormones, or told how to get black market hormones and “DIY.” Then there are the euphoric youtubers who brag about feeling powerful when they have testosterone running through their veins, and how they went from suicidal and troubled to having a perfect life, thanks to T. They are told their parents are abusive if they aren’t 100% on board with transition. Strangers prey on these girls, and as pointed out already by others, even psychological professionals push them to transition, because it is the only treatment they are allowed to recommend.
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I was and am not interested in girly girl trappings either. I’m also not a lesbian. And I’m married to a guy who particularly likes that about me. Imagine that. No surgery or drugs needed.
That said, I can understand the pressure and the questioning that a teen goes through. It’s an awkward time for sure. Which is why radical decisions such as transitioning should not be made at that age.
This is something I found stunning about both therapists. They both said stuff like teens need a lot of guidance and help with making decisions. But then they said teens know what they want regarding their gender. Right…
Maybe they know what they want in terms of their gender because it’s keeping you in business.
As you said, I really don’t much like to focus my criticism directly at individual parents, as most do want what’s best for their kids, but most are not well versed in gender critical thought, transgender philosophy, nor even child psychology, particularly childhood cognitive development. Nor are there many online sources, nor books available, for questioning parents from a gender critical perspective. So, I can see how easily it is for confused parents to get sucked into the trans party line. It’s not like it was when I was a kid, when most parents of kids with personalities and interests atypical to their sex simply understood that their child was a tomboy or a sensitive boy, and not “really” a member of the other sex.
But I don’t cut the medical professionals running these gender clinics any slack whatsoever. Unlike the average parent, they’ve had courses in childhood cognitive development as part of their training. They should know better about how young children typically engage in magical thinking and of how the law recognizes that children do not have sufficient cognitive development to make many kinds of important decisions for themselves. Similarly, they have to know how dangerous it is to dispense drugs that have not been long-term tested for safety, especially to children. What they do to children – sterilizing htem and leaving them open to other health complications down the road is nothing short of reprehensible and should be banned legally. As you said, what adults do to their own bodies, however ill-advised, is one thing, but doing it to kids before they’re old enough to make an informed decision, is a human rights violation of the highest order.
One thing I’d like to tell questioning parents is that it’s OK for their kids to be atypical; that unlike what the trans script is telling them, their kids don’t have to “match”, personality and body. Really, there’s nothing TO “match”, as the stereotypes, though expected, are neither innate nor necessary to being a so-called “real” man or woman.
Thanks again for providing a place for questioning parents to get an accurate and informed alternative take on the trans kids phenomenon. I wish you’d write a book for such questioning parents, written on a layman’s level, so all parents can understand that there’s a better alternative to sterilizing their kids and making them permanent medical patients. There really aren’t any books about transgenderism, concerning kids or just in general, that aren’t written in an academic style or for a general audience.
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Hey, this blog is my book! Thank you for your great comments–and the support.
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I almost got sucked in. I just had no clue what any of this was about at first.
I agree the professionals don’t get a free pass from me either. On the other hand, I do think there is this attitude where you go to them so they can advise you or offer you some sort of treatment. Something proactive. Being proactive feels better than doing nothing. Especially when that something is so confusing and uncertain.
I suppose it’s nuts of me to walk into the office of one of these people in the hopes they tell me it’s nothing go home and live your life. No therapist or doctor has ever said that to me.
I think we have all seen parents do unethical things for personal gain at the expense of their children. Depending on your insurance this way might be easy compared to other avenues for attention or money. I know its hard to say which parents are that way, but it is hard to imagine none of them are. I know there will be tell all books in a decade or two.
To be fair, some of these gender “experts” push them into doing these things. When I went to the therapist she kept going on and on about how I had to “join the cause”. Oh I have joined a cause alright. It’s in direct opposition to her BS. But uh yeah, it’s hard because you have to basically tell everyone around you they aren’t getting it right.
Someone just posted this comment on a thread at Reddit/GenderCritical: https://redd.it/3pmhc7
“My mom has degenerative disc disease, one of the side effects of Lupron. It’s a disability. She hasn’t been able to hold a job since she was 25. It’s interacted with other medical conditions (IANAD) to give her tumors on her adrenaline gland, made her feet go numb, and has given her brain aneurysms (that we caught in time, luckily).
And parents are praised for putting their kids at risk for that kind of life? Because they played with the wrong toys?”
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Like GenderMom, and probably like everyone here, I’m extremely interested in Desisting/Persisting statistics. Why? Because I have a child who is biologically female but consistently (and yes, persistently) says they are a boy. I would love it if they were to be comfortable with being gay, being gender nonconforming, gender diverse or, really, anything other than a transgender male, because gender dysphoria is distressing and body modification is expensive, painful and risky. I would love it if there was credence to a statistic claiming 80% of preadolescents desist and I would love it if my kid was one of those 80% So, I got hold of a copy of the Dutch paper that 4thWave has referred to. Here are the citation details: Steensma, Thomas D., et al. “Desisting and persisting gender dysphoria after childhood: A qualitative follow-up study.” Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry (2011): 1359104510378303.
However, there are some problems. I think GenderMom nails a lot, although not all of them. (Incidentally, I think she does a wonderful job of translating academic study into lay terms – I’m a fan of the stick figures).
Firstly, the practical issues. This paper is behind a paywall, like so many academic papers. It’s very frustrating when you are trying to get your hands on the most rigorous studies available. I don’t work in this area and so I try to read this stuff in my spare time. I’m the first to admit that there’s some big gaps in my knowledge and understanding too. I am happy to email this paper to anyone who contacts me.
Secondly, this particular study is qualitiative – that means, it looks at the personal interviews that have been conducted – the words, rather than the numbers. There are a lot of interesting theories in this paper that are worth having a look at. However, as GenderMom correctly says, the number side of things is pretty flawed. Here’s an excerpt, explaining how the subjects were selected:
“Between January 2000 and January 2007, 198 children (< 12 years of age) were referred to the Gender Identity Clinic at the Amsterdam VU University Medical Centre (VUmc). Out of these 198 children, 53 adolescents were selected to participate in this study. The criteria which led to the selection of these adolescents were: (1) the adolescent’s age was 14 years or above, (2) the adolescent had been diagnosed with a GID in childhood, and (3) the adolescent was competent in the Dutch language (See table 1 for demographic background information).
Twenty nine of these 53 adolescents (54.7%) reapplied for treatment to the Gender Identity Clinic during adolescence between the ages of 12 and 14, and requested medical treatment (sex reassignment by means of hormone treatment and surgery). These adolescents were subsequently diagnosed again with GID and considered eligible for treatment (puberty suppression with GnRH analogues first, cross-sex hormone treatment after the age of 16, and surgery after 18 (for details on treatment see Cohen-Kettenis & van Goozen, 1998; Cohen-Kettenis, Delemarre-van de Waal & Gooren, 2008). The other 24 adolescents (45.3%) did not reapply for treatment at the Gender Identity Clinic during adolescence. As the Amsterdam Gender Identity Clinic for children and adolescents is the only one in the country, we assumed that their gender dysphoric feelings had desisted, and that they no longer had a desire for sex reassignment."
So, here's my understanding – you have 198 kids, already from a small sample pool, which you then narrow further in terms of age and nationality. In other words, there is nothing socially, economically or culturally comparative about this study. You choose just over one third of these kids going to a single medical centre to study further. The problem is that nearly half of this third don't return. Strictly speaking they should then be eliminated from the data, but they're labelled 'desisters'. If you look at the original figure of 198 children, only 29 children, or 14% 'persisted' ie requested further treatment. But, actually nearly half of the children selected for this study never came back. Look at GenderMom's video if you want a break down of all the issues with this. i would add that 'persisting' and 'desisting' are slightly slippery terms in and of themselves. Were there any adolescents that continued to identify as transgender or as having GID, but chose not to have medical treatment, for instance?
So, this is where the "we simply don't know how many kids persist" statement comes from. All we have at present (as far as I've been able to find, anyway) is some clearly dodgy data. Questions I still have:
* Unlike GenderMom, I can't unquestionably trust Kristina Olssen. She is doing some pretty interesting research, but it's still in its preliminary stages. I've heard mixed reports of Olssen's own practice and methodology, but I simply don't know enough.
*Peggy Cohen-Kettinis (Amsterdam) has researched and published for years with Kenneth Zucker (Toronto). Zucker's research is discredited (although I agree with 4thWave that doesn't render all of it useless, it just needs A LOT of analysis). The Amsterdam researchers quote the Toronto people and vice versa. There's a huge amount of repetition in the data that they cite and I haven't disentangled the relationship between the two. If anyone has, I'd love to hear from them.
*The money trail. I haven't had time or the means to pinpoint who funds Zucker or Cohen-Kettinis. Again, if someone else knows, I'd love to hear from you. Obviously, their research can be viewed differently depending on whether it's funded by the Catholic Church, a left-wing thinktank or a government research council.
I think 4thWave has done a good job of analysing some pretty confusing and contradictory data. However (in closing, as this is getting pretty long), I would respectfully call to readers' attention some of the slant that 4thWave gives some of the statements in the desisting/persisting paper. This passage for instance:
"As for the clinical management in children before the age of 10, we suggest a cautious attitude towards the moment of transitioning. Given our findings that some girls, who were almost (but not even entirely) living as boys in their childhood years, experienced great trouble when they wanted to return to the female gender role, we believe that parents and caregivers should fully realize the unpredictability of their child’s psychosexual outcome."
The writers certainly suggest caution. But 4thWave says the writers "strongly warn against". The writers don't. They suggest 'caution' and although this is perhaps just a difference in degree, it's important. The writers don't say, "don't let your preadolescent child socially transition". They do say that it should be considered carefully, and it may well be a bad idea. This is not the same as saying, "Don't do it."
Remember too, that the researchers had selected children over the age of twelve. They haven't actually provided any data on preteens. The data is from older children recalling their younger selves. And remember, the 29 children they ended up studying were only 14 percent of an already very narrow sample pool. The recommendations from this paper are interesting, but unfortunately they are hardly something to base decisions about treating gender dysphoric children on.
I wish it was more conclusive, but it's not.
Hello curiousmother. I appreciate you coming over here to discuss, and I want to ask my regular commenters here to respond respectfully. While curiousmother and I come from pretty different vantage points on this issue, it appears we both are interested in reasoned and fact-based discussion. So please join in!
I have read the 2011 paper and was planning to write a post incorporating information from that, as well as a couple of other Dutch journal articles in the near future. There is a lot that is inconclusive in their work, and you’re right it’s a narrow sample. But here’s the thing. It’s not just the Dutch who found that gender dysphoria is generally transient in younger children (often more than just 80%), leading in many cases to these kids growing up to be gay or lesbian adults. I cited a few other studies in my main post here, as well as in several other posts I’ve written this past summer. Also, there are quite a few women who have come forward recently (including two guest posters on my blog) to talk about their OWN strong gender dysphoria as children, which resolved by early adulthood. (I do have links which I can add in another comment if anyone wants them.) These women all talk about how happy they are to have been born in a time before this pediatric transition trend started, because they had a chance to find out who they were without intervention from gender professionals. Children who are “socially transitioned” are being conditioned to believe, over many years, that they are the opposite gender. You can’t separate that social experience from the ultimate outcome (i.e., whether they “persist” or not), especially when there is currently so much societal, medical, and media support for labeling children as “transgender.” I do not believe there is sufficient evidence to justify either social or medical (puberty blockers) treatment for these kids because the stakes are very, very high. Sterilization is what happens in pretty much every case when blockers are followed by cross sex hormones. Since people can still transition as ADULTS, there is no reason to start that process in childhood. There is plenty of time.
In addition, in the 2011 paper you mention wherein there are personal reflections by the children, one point the desisters make is the difficulty they had with disentangling themselves from the “trans” identity when they wanted to detransition. In fact, it was much easier for them to transition than to detransition. The pressures on children to conform to what they think OTHERS expect of them is huge (I hope you read the many good comments on this post discussing this)? Don’t you think this affects whether they persist or not? And I have to ask: How many false positives would be acceptable? Given the gravity of the medical issues and treatments these kids will face in the future, even one kid falsely transitioned is a big deal. (See here for more: http://4thwavenow.com/2015/07/18/false-positives-how-many-12-year-olds-is-it-acceptable-to-mistakenly-sterilize/)
You and Gendermom seem to have decided that the open questions regarding who will eventually persist and the uncertainty around social transition mean it’s worth the risk to socially transition your own children. To me, those questions and uncertainties lead me to believe that we should err on the side of caution. I don’t think there has been enough discussion about how social transition can essentially ensnare a child in identifying as transgender. They aren’t given the CHANCE to desist, if you will, and I think that is grossly unfair.
Gendermom’s video would be quite interesting to discuss here. I would like to hear what others think, beyond what I wrote in my post. https://vimeo.com/132256588
Regarding Kristina Olson in Seattle, I have read an interview with her about her work and also plan to post on that. Suffice it to say that she is studying kids who are already being socially transitioned and some on puberty blockers, making her study highly suspect due to confirmation bias. Also, her idea of teasing out “intrinsic transgender” is asking kids to say whether they identify with photos of girls or boys. That really amounts to asking how much a kid identifies with a stereotype (if the pictures are of children who appear conventionally male or female). If the photos are of kids with the same haircuts and same clothes, and they are prepubescent, then they are going to look pretty similar to each other, so what is the child “intrinsically” identifying with?
And here is one more cautionary note, this time from another 2013 Dutch study, “Factors Associated With Desistence and
Persistence of Childhood Gender Dysphoria:
A Quantitative Follow-Up Study.” (paywalled, here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23702447) What the authors suggest here is exactly what I’m talking about regarding the conditioning effect of “social transition” on kids. In essence, if you socially transition your kid, you are likely increasing the likelihood that they will persist. And why would persistence be the goal, when many of these kids could be allowed to grow up to be healthy gay or lesbian adults with intact bodies, without hormones, surgeries, and sterilization? Remember, too, that the Dutch researchers are quite supportive of transition (they run the clinic), so this isn’t coming from a critic like me…
“Childhood social transitions were important predictors of persistence, especially among natal boys. Social transitions were associated with more intense GD in childhood but have never been independently studied regarding the possible impact of the social transition itself on cognitive representation of gender identity or persistence”
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Thanks for such a respectful and thoughtful reply. I only have a short time to respond, so this won’t address every point you’ve raised.
I was just thinking about the term, ‘social transition’. As you might see on my blog, it was something that my child and my family did without having a name for it. There was no change in clothes, appearance or activities: he was already presenting as a boy. Where we live this was completely unremarkable for a nine or ten year old. All we did was to say: “please call him by this name and use these pronouns.” That was the extent of the ‘transition’.
I don’t want to make that sound like it was nothing. It was still hard. It’s reversible, but indisputably “changing back” would also be hard. However, it could certainly be done. I also try to be very conscious of not jumping from a personal story to a general theory so I don’t want to conclude that because this extent of transitioning was not a big deal for us it might not be a very big deal for other families in other places. My kid certainly didn’t do this for parental, peer or social approval though. He is still the only one in our area that we know to have done this. We all tried to dissuade him for some time.
Generally though I think that life is better when society is relaxed about gender play and children wearing, playing and identifying the way that they want to. Prematurely labelling children as ‘transgender’, however, is certainly unwise.
I need to look at the other studies that you’ve cited. I’ve wanted to write a post on desisting and persisting but it seems we’ve both discovered that getting to the bottom of some of this data takes a lot of time. In my preliminary research I found that I kept going in circles. In short, all roads lead back to Zucker. What I want to find is a large scale longitudinal study, which is government funded and that looks at gender diverse young people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures.
If Kristina Olsen is *only* basing her work on asking kids about stereotypical pictures of men and women, I would agree that’s a problem. On the other hand, I can’t see where else she would find her subjects if she isn’t selecting kids that already identify as gender nonconforming. A quick google has brought up an article about some of her preliminary study (I don’t have the research paper itself): http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/02/01/gender-identity-deeply-held-in-transgender-kids/80598.html. It says they used an Implicit Association Test. I would need to know more about that before I knew what I thought of it.
As to weighing up risks for transitioning and not transitioning, as you might already know, I believe it needs to be considered case by case. What seems right for our child and our family might well be a very wrong decision for another child in other circumstances. Some grown men and women might be very glad that their childhood gender dysphoria did not lead to support gender transitioning but it doesn’t follow that early transitioning will always be the wrong decision for every child. There are of course many stories from trans people who say that they wish they had been given the opportunity and support for early transition. For this reason, while following individual stories is of great interest to me, I would strongly reject the idea that personal testimony ‘proves’ an ideal treatment protocol one way or the other.
What I think (and hope) we agree on is that it is difficult to determine what child will benefit from puberty blockers and for what child it might be a mistake, so it’s imperative to inform ourselves, with as little preconceived agenda as possible. When discussing the care and health of children I don’t find it useful to identify myself as being on the opposite ‘side’ to someone else. Our children’s well-being is surely a strong common interest.
First, I’d like to state that I’m one of the Women that 4th mentioned that experienced childhood dysphoria/dysmorphia and who moved past it by virtue of having matured before the “cure” became a profitable growth industry promoted by media outlets and social circles exerting the unremitting pressure which children are facing today. As I have said before- and I’ll say again (and again), there is no way that I would have had any motivation to overcome the rejection of my sexed body had adults confirmed and granted validity to my troubled beliefs. Why would I? Why would any child forfeit their deeply held desire if they had someone telling them that they didn’t have to- that they could have what they wanted?
That having been said, there are some points that were made regarding the Steensma paper which I would like to counter. First, the sample selection of that study was, for the most part, irrelevant to the purpose of the paper since the intent was not to determine what percentage would persist with GD, but rather, to attempt to discern the differences between those who did and did not persist. So long as there were children whose GD remitted and those whose did not, they had two groups to compare. It was intended as an exploration of factors which might be indicative of remittance in order to prevent the false positives which have been previously discussed.
When it comes to Kristina Olson and her research, it is right to have doubts. Serious doubts. What she has done is to apply the principles of measuring implicit response- as has been used to measure things like racial or sexual bias- and apply them to children’s responses to things stereotypically associated with the different sexes. What she has managed to do is to demonstrate that children learn and internalize sex stereotypes (in much the same manner), and that they can come to believe that those stereotypes define sex. This is not really news. There are reams of sociological research regarding the social transmission of such stereotypes in addition to their developmental nature.
I don’t know about Zucker’s funding, but I do know that Cohen-Kettenis thanked a pharmaceutical company in the credits on this paper. From what I’ve seen, most of the funding of “gender researchers” is tied to pharmaceutical companies. Even when the studies themselves are independently funded, there remains the question of the financial ties of the researchers, themselves. Many of them, such as Johanna Olson, are on the payroll of such companies. (For the record, Zucker’s scientific methodology, from the (significant) amount that I’ve seen, is as sound as any of them- more so in many cases. I do not personally agree with some of his therapies of the past because they attempt to teach gender roles which I believe are at best, unhelpful, but he *does* medically transition patients. Do not confuse him with George Rekers who did have ties to the church, and could more fairly be associated with ‘religious conversion therapy.’)
To me, the most significant thing that this paper reveals about GD is the relationship between sexuality and GD. It is clear, from the commentary of the children interviewed, that same–sex attraction is a contributing factor in the persistence of GD, and is one that I believe that we need to look at with much greater scrutiny. Much greater scrutiny.
From the paper: “All persisters reported feeling exclusively, and as long as they could remember, sexually attracted to individuals of the same natal sex…” Might these children, if left alone, have grown up to be gay or lesbian adults? For myself, I am very grateful that I was allowed to mature without constant scrutiny and medical interference, only to eventually understand that I could never really “change sex.” This desister is quite happy in my own unaltered Lesbian body. My partner of many years is good with it, too.
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I just wrote you a long reply and then lost it. In any case, I’m dominating this thread more than I intended.
I stand corrected on the Steensma articles (one of which I haven’t been able to look at in its entirety anyway) and I agree that the Olsen research sounds problematic! If you’re just testing for social transmission of gender norms it’s pretty obvious what you’ll find.
My only outstanding issue with the Steensma papers is that they are often referred to as proof that childhood gender dysphoria usually desists. This is quite possibly a misuse of the data (which, as I’ve said, is not rigorous enough to be used this way anyway). The other source is usually Zucker and/or Cohen-Kettinis’ group – so lots of doubt there, too.
I think the child that a few people have referred to here is Josie Romero. I do wonder if she’s ‘desisted’. I agree that celebrity trans kids would be under a lot of pressure not to desist. However, I would posit that this is a greater problem with celebrity US culture – and not just an issue within the domain of trans issues. How many ‘Jazz’s, ‘Laverne’s and ‘Caitlyn’s can people name from other parts of the world?
It sounds like waiting was definitely the right strategy for you and led to a happy life path. However, self-evidently, not everyone’s life path is the same as yours. Do you think that, perhaps, if a child is born gay, they can also be born transgender? I don’t know the answer, but it seems likely. In the meantime, acceptance of different approaches, attitudes, perspectives and treatments is needed.
Personally, I don’t think anyone is “born” transgender. i think it is a notion that is planted and then nurtured. Just my “average mom” opinion. And there is much quality research and data needed before I will accept that the transitioning of children is not harmful in the long run. I am willing to keep an open mind, but I have not yet seen quality data which will sway my opinion.
Best wishes to you and your child, curiousmom.
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As a parent with a kid who has told us any number of changing stories about her sex identity and her sexuality, I have told every professional we’ve talked to that I am loathe to commit to ANY irreversible treatment while she is still developing. And, yet, that is seen as horrible and proof that I hate my kid. So, you’ll forgive me if I don’t have a lot of patience for the counterarguments of treating our kids as individuals when all we see in the media and all we’re encountering in the professional community is exactly a one-size-fits-all approach.
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If anyone is using Steensma to prove percentages, they’re misreading the papers. The only break-downs that are shown have to do with the proportion of desisters (or persisters) that have certain characteristics. The second paper does discuss the fact that a couple (maybe 3?) of the people that had desisted decided after a few years to transition, but the vast majority of the desisters did not.
In general, the “desistence” figures are *not* based on Zucker or Cohen-Kittenis alone. They are averaged from a number of different studies. Regardless of whose specific numbers you look at, the information is clear: the vast majority of children experiencing GD remit.
Really, truly, it’s ethically impossible to conduct a scientifically controlled study with regard to GD. As a result, we are stuck with the kinds of papers that make broad assumptions and do not delve into the specific clinical differences of these children. Details matter, since the trajectory towards GD varies significantly from child to child.
It’s really important to understand- when you’re reading any of these papers- that the people who are composing them believe that “gender identity” is innate (regardless of the lack of definitive proof which virtually all of them will admit), and as a result, their focus is not whether or not these ‘therapies’ are correct, but how to decide when and whom to give them to.
K. Olson thinks, that because the ‘persisters’ demonstrate a more closely held (implicit- beneath the conscious) belief that they are *actually* members of the opposite sex that her test of implicit belief is an absolute way by which persisters can be identified. I do not believe that this is true on the basis of what we know about childhood cognitive development and because our brains are plastic: we are capable of learning new things.
I have come to believe that our sexuality may be influenced by biological factors because of some suggestive research and because it makes sense that as evolutionary creatures we possess rudiments of innate sexual behavior, but how can I remotely believe that “gender,” a SOCIAL CONSTRUCT which varies from culture to culture is innate? “Boy,” to my former self and to children is ‘male in a social setting-’ a social setting that overtly imposes standards of what is acceptable behavior which limits and defines us based on our biological sex. The fact that so many rebel against these limitations becomes proof that our social standards do not represent our potential as unique human beings. Ours becomes a choice of changing our bodies to match these standards or of changing our social standards. I will forever stand as an advocate for the latter.
I agree, there are definitely some limits to the Qualitative study from the Netherlands. They were trying to find out what kids who desisted and persisted said about their lives. There’s a limit to what we can conclude from that study.
Their sample size is small. I wish we had bigger studies of gender dysphoria. We need more research on every aspect of this issue from how common it is to whether or not older trans women should stop taking hormones.
I raise some questions about their study on my blog, but I would like to defend them a bit today. Looking at all the people who applied to a clinic during a certain time period is a standard way researchers select a sample. It is an attempt to avoid bias.
Excluding children based on age makes sense here since the point of the study is to find out if people they diagnosed as children still want to transition as teenagers.
Excluding kids who don’t speak Dutch well means that you may not know as much about immigrant kids in the Netherlands. This could be relevant if they are more or less likely to transition than native Dutch speakers. However, since the point of this study was to interview children about their experiences, I think it is a reasonable criteria. It doesn’t invalidate the study, it just means that we don’t know what happens to non-native Dutch speakers in the Netherlands who have gender dysphoria as kids.
Although this is a single clinic, it is also the only one in their country. It is free. They are willing to give children puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. They are not in any way anti-transition.
I agree with you that there could be some children who still experience gender dysphoria but choose not to transition. However, this study is a good source for figuring out how many children with gender dysphoria go on to transition.
The clinic actually collected some follow-up data on how many kids come back to transition as adults and found that few did. For the first 150 kids they treated who are now grown up, 70% did not go on to transition.
Anyhow, back to the numbers in the study. They had a sample of 53 Dutch teens who had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria as children between 2000 and 2007. 29 of these kids (55%) came back to their clinic to transition and were approved for blockers and then hormones.
That leaves 24 kids who did not return for further medical treatment (45%).
This is a lot less than 80%, but it is still a significant percentage of kids.
Again, you are right that some of the 45% who did not return might still experience some gender dysphoria.
However, they did interview 11 kids who “desisted.” We know for sure that 21% of the kids no longer had gender dysphoria. These teenagers are clear about their gender identity.
So if we want to be very cautious, we could say 55% of the kids transitioned as teenagers, 21% identified as their birth sex when they were teenagers, and 24% did not return to the clinic to transition.
(It’s actually possible that they talked to some of the 13 kids who didn’t transition and weren’t part of the study. The study says they approached everyone, but doesn’t say what the response was.)
I think it’s important to look at other studies to figure out how many children go on to transition since this study was intended to be a qualitative one. The idea here was to interview people and find directions for future research. For example, the kids they interviewed saw ages 10-13 as a critical time period in the development of their gender identity. We should study what exactly happens then.
However, I think the numbers in this study do mean something. They selected a sample and followed-up with them in a way that is typical of most research on gender dysphoria.
They found that 45% of the children did not come back to transition as teenagers. They interviewed some of them so we know that at least 21% of the teens clearly identify themselves as their birth sex.
I wish we knew more, but we do know that some children with gender dysphoria change.
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I just wanted to qualify my comment above. Selecting a set of patients at a clinic is not ideal, but the kind of carefully selected representative sample you would see in a well-funded study is not something I have seen in many studies of gender dysphoria.
The qualitative study interviewing teens about their gender dysphoria was funded by the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Seksualiteit (FWOS). According to Google, it’s the Fund for Scientific Research of Sexuality.
A Canadian follow-up study of girls with gender dysphoria doesn’t mention funding. The lead author is affiliated with the University of Toronto and did related research for his master’s thesis.
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PS. I keep mixing up Kristina Olson, who works on the TransYouth Project (and is the one that GenderMom refers to) link here: http://depts.washington.edu/transyp/, with Johanna Olson, who is the Medical Director at the Centre for TransYouth Health and Development link here: http://www.kidsinthehouse.com/expert/parenting-advice-from-johanna-olson-md
It’s a pretty easy mistake to make and I think it’s been made in some of the posts above, too 🙂
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Steensma and Cohen-Kettenis wrote a letter to the editor “Gender Transitioning Before Puberty?”
You can read the full letter here: http://dspace.ubvu.vu.nl/bitstream/handle/1871/35122/282164.pdf?sequence=1
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This short letter is well worth reading (not paywalled). More advice that social transition is ill-advised, with several examples and detail on what is meant by social transition. It can’t be overemphasized that the Dutch actually support the idea that “true trangender” exists, and believe in puberty blockers/adolescent transition (which I also question). But again: Why is the transition of little kids taking off with such ferocity, given the longstanding data on desistance AND the distress desisters who transitioned as young children experience? Why are there no media stories about these children? It’s as if they don’t matter.
“Such an approach assumes a high persistence of gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder (GID) after puberty. However, follow-up studies show that the persistence rate of GID is
about 15.8% (39 out of the 246 children who were reported on in the literature), and that a more likely psychosexual outcome in adulthood is a homosexual sexual orientation without gender dysphoria.”
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Quick info on a study from 2008, “A follow-up study of girls with gender identity disorder.”
This one looked at the patients seen at a clinic in Canada. 71 girls were referred to them between 1975-2004. 37 of them were over 17 at the time of the study. They were able to contact 30 of the 37. 25 of the 30 girls they contacted agreed to participate in the study.
“22 participants (88%) reported no distress with their female gender identity at follow-up. None of the participants desired contrasex hormones or sex reassignment surgery to masculinize their bodies, nor did they express a desire to get rid of their female sex characteristics.”
3 participants still had gender dysphoria.
“Among these 3 participants, 1 had been living as a boy since early adolescence (i.e., was known to others as a boy) and was in the process of legally changing his name on official documents. The other 2 participants were living as girls, although both were often perceived of as boys by naïve others (e.g., new acquaintances, strangers, etc.), which they preferred. All 3 gender dysphoric participants wished they had been born a boy and wondered whether they would have been happier as a boy. Two of these individuals indicated a desire to have surgery to masculinize their bodies. The other participant classified as gender dysphoric reported indifference with regard to altering her physical appearance but felt that “it was better to be neutral.” On the basis of this information, 2 of the participants met DSM–IV–TR criteria for GID. Although the other participant did not meet full criteria for GID, information from the clinical interview and semistructured GID interview indicated that she was gender dysphoric at follow-up.”
The mean age at follow-up was 23, with a range of 15.44-36.58. (They included one girl under 17 because her guardian had contacted them about something else.)
If we include all 37 of the people they saw as children:
22 identified as women (60%)
3 had gender dysphoria (8%)
12 are unknown (32%)
Of the 3 with gender dysphoria, two wanted to medically transition and one did not. One was living as a man and two were not.
The authors mention one limit of the study: “the sample size was small, but this is, at least in part, understandable because the number of referred girls to specialized gender identity clinics is notably lower than that of referred boys.”
This is just a quick overview, there’s a lot more information in the study.
88% desisted. More data that supports leaving little girls alone, instead of “supporting” them in their transitory (in most cases) conviction that they are actually boys.
And even if you pick this study apart to find flaws (all studies have flaws), I have a very hard time understanding why anyone would argue that socially transitioning a kid, and thereby taking a chance on influencing your kid to “persist” later (with all the major medical treatment and trauma that entails) is the right way to go. The real wonder is that we are discussing this in a thoughtful way on an obscure blog, when the rest of the media is unquestioningly promoting the social transition of preschoolers with essentially no questions asked. Something is wrong here.
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I agree. Although I wonder how this applies to boys. Pretty difficult to socially transition as a boy after a certain point (after around age 12ish).
I am really at a point where I basically don’t believe most of this stuff though. It’s just so out there to me. Yes, something may be going on, but why we are handling it in this way is just something I cannot wrap my head around.
When I was a teen, this would have been up there with talking about Facebook and Pintrest. It just did not exist. Now it’s everywhere.
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There is plenty of data on both boys and girls with gender dysphoria, indicating that most desist. It’s not just girls, although girls were the subject of this particular study. And yes–this is only one aspect, one line of research. Deeper questions about the whole narrative–which is what this blog has been exploring since inception–are NOT being explored anywhere other than a few outposts like this on the Internet. Gwenkingsly, you have been an articulate and incisive voice in that skeptical investigation. Keep going.
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gwenkingsley – From the discussion in the follow-up study of girls:
“How do the results of the present study compare with those of follow-up studies of boys with GID? In Zucker (2005b), a follow-up on 40 boys with GID from the same clinic, using the same methods as in the present study, showed a persistence rate of 20%, only modestly higher than the rate of 12% for the girls in the present study.”
There have been other follow-up studies that looked at boys, and they found even lower persistence rates than 20%. It is possible that the earliest studies included some boys who were feminine but did not identify as girls.
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More from the evidence given by Dr Bernadette Wren to the Parliamentary Women and Equalities Committee (UK):
‘On our recent figures, 17% of people who are referred never show up, and another 17% come for a bit and then do not come again. We have a small proportion of people who start on physical intervention and then back off. A typical situation might be where they go from 16 to 17, perhaps start their first sexual relationship and then have a different relationship to the body. That might be, in terms of their gender identity, a shift in how they see things. There is always a proportion of people who think twice. ‘
Dr Wren is a clinical psychologist at the Tavistock and Portman Gender Identity Development Service, which is the only NHS service treating ‘gender dysphoric’ children under 18.
Dr Wren indicates in her evidence that the Tavistock clinic is concerned that too many children may be being put on puberty blockers and hormones (the clinic apparently puts all its patients on puberty blockers for at least a year before they are prescribed hormones):
‘There are issues about the range of young people coming forward and the difficulty of knowing which are the children who might do really well, unless we confine it to a vanishingly small number, which we possibly should, but that would be an issue.’ The context indicates that she believes it would be ‘an issue’, that is, opposed by, Mermaids and GIRES, activist organisations in the UK.
Artemisia, thank you SO much for providing this detail about the doubts that are being voiced by providers in the UK. I really would like to emphasize something in your above excerpt. The providers mention how very important first sexual relationships are in helping young people figure out who they are. Blocking puberty and denying teens this powerful experience in their unaltered, perfectly healthy bodies seems cruel and reckless. An adolescent girl who thinks she’s a boy might become comfortable as a lesbian (if that is her orientation) when she has her first love affair with a girl. She can only know this, only LEARN it, by experiencing it without tampering. This is another point that is never mentioned in media stories about kids who transition. Thank you so much for allowing that point to be made on this blog. Much more needs to be written and said about the proactive conversion therapy being foisted on our young girls. Why on earth has it become nearly taboo to suggest to a girl that she might be lesbian, and to give herself a chance to find out? Why has the only path become “if a teen says they’re trans, they ARE, and don’t you dare contradict them!”
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Thanks everyone. Food for lots of thought here. I’m particularly grateful to George for the research he makes available.
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Reblogged this on Stop Trans Chauvinism.
I guess I have perspective on another part of “transition”. As a kid, I was a normal boy, I played with cars, kicked balls around, normal “guy” stuff, but around 12 I guess, I developed this affinity for women’s clothing.
I would romanticize the “feminine” life style. They were loved, told how attractive they were, admired and they seemed to hold all of the cards over men, or so my younger self would come to believe.
Well, as an adult I started to develop this fixation. For the longest time I thought I was a pretty straight guy, and I am I guess, being that I do satisfy my girlfriend, the fixation went from how humiliating it was to be a woman to imagining myself as this beautiful woman. I’d bring up pictures and just stare with envy at the female body. The way their clothes drew so much attention to their figure. How “in demand” they were compared to me, etc.
So, a lot of mtfs will lie and say to their therapist that they feel they are trapped in the wrong body, and that’s somewhat true I guess, but that isn’t what its about. It’s moreso about embracing a certain type of sexuality. What I do have a problem with however is the claim that they’re actually female and demanding to use the female facilities. Some of them have deluded themselves so much in their fantasy world that they do indeed believe they “feel” female.
In the last year I really came into my sexuality though, it’s scary but weird. It’s like my whole life has been this lie and when I view transgender forums, etc, they all tell me to transition and it’s inevitable. I started to develop this pseudo bi-sexuality to where I want to “feel” like a female and this includes being with a guy even though I have no real attraction to them, just to confirm my femininity
It’s hard to say what to do from here though I guess… but this blog is a breath of fresh air.. It isn’t hateful, but it does give me an alternative point of view.
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I think what you’re doing is a lot healthier and more honest than those who go ahead with transition with those same feelings. We can’t change our sex, but we can learn to accept ourselves and whatever feelings we have about ourselves- that’s just part of being human.
Right. I don’t agree at all with hormones, but not unique to any other fetish, fetishes can go WAY too far. The closest of course being the “phantom limb” fetish, where the person feels that their body part isn’t there’s and will somehow remove it themselves, or cause harm to it, forcing it to be amputated.
Some fetishes are more dangerous than others and I think you have to use caution when letting it interfere with your psyche.
“I started to develop this pseudo bi-sexuality to where I want to “feel” like a female and this includes being with a guy even though I have no real attraction to them, just to confirm my femininity”
That’s actually one of the markers of autogynephilia. No real attraction to males but wanting to date them for validation.
Thank you for another informative blog post, 4thWaveNow. And, thanks to all who contributed research and insight. It has been a great read.
Curiousmother, I wish you and your child the best. I don’t know what I would do if I was walking in your shoes. I have a healthy skepticism of the medical profession and tend to be very cautious, but I realize that believing I would act a certain way and actually living that experience are two separate things. Thank you for presenting a different perspective.
My daughter is of the trans-identifying post-puberty variety (with no previous tendencies noted). Thanks for the research on girls over 17, George Davis (nice blog by the way). It is refreshing to see that there were significant desisters in that age group. I have read in numerous places (not scientific research) that assume a child past puberty will keep the trans identity for life. So glad to see research that contradicts this belief.
I would like to see more research and media articles on teens that have belatedly come to the conclusion they are trans. Acknowledgement needs to be made of the big influence of social media. According to many accounts I have read, parents cite Tumblr, reddit and Youtube transition videos as having convinced their kids they are trans. The wonderful blog TransgenderReality documents a lot of disturbing advice that confused teens receive. Here is an example:
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Thank you overwhelmed,
I too don’t know what I would do if I was in your shoes. I agree that a lot more discussion is needed around the effect of social media on the gender & sexual identity of young people. We are in such early days of understanding these developments and it must be unbelievably tough.
I’m continuing to learn about the very disparate experiences of being a parent of a gender questioning young person and I appreciate you taking the time to write.
Best wishes to you and your child.
“…‘There are issues about the range of young people coming forward and the difficulty of knowing which are the children who might do really well, unless we confine it to a vanishingly small number, which we possibly should, but that would be an issue.’ The context indicates that she believes it would be ‘an issue’, that is, opposed by, Mermaids and GIRES, activist organisations in the UK.”
This truly is the crux of this very serious matter. Almost exactly 60 years ago these very same sentiments expressed to my parents after I had been examined by a certain Dr. Richard Green and his team of post graduate researchers. Dr. green was doing his internship under the aegis of a certain Dr. Robert Stoller. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Stoller).
I would find it amusing if it were not so tragic in terms of lives ruined, that I still remember being placed in a room with a bunch of gendered toys like trucks and dolls. It must have been highly frustrating for those young graduate students when I told them their theories and lines of questioning had nothing to do with the fact that I was really a girl despite the harsh really that I was still built like a boy.
As it turned out many years and tears later, I was one of those “vanishingly small number” of children that actually did follow through with the full medical transitions and actually benefited from it.
However when I did this, I was forced to avoid the “consensus of medical opinion” in order to avoid being dragged unwillingly into the then nascent but fast growing “transgender narrative”. I have never been “trans” or transgender.
The bottom line is that there does exist a very tiny percentage of people who are born with some yet to be adequately explained genetic anomalies. These anomalies seem to interfere with the normal interaction of androgens in pre-natal infants. Despite all this I am not convinced that puberty blockers and early “social transition” is the way to go for everybody based on the now widely accepted meme that “I am a girl/boy because I say so”. When I first told my mom at about age five, she told me to “sleep on it”. Nevertheless my parents must have picked up on something because a couple years later I found myself a research subject for Dr’s. Stoller. Green et al. The truth is that despite their good intentions it is difficult to drill down and develop some adequate diagnosis protocols when there is so much political noise “advocating”, (read bullying”) for “inclusion”.
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I’m finding the discussion on this thread is still very much on my mind, so I hope that leaving these links will be valuable further reading for some who follow this blog. I would imagine we are all, albeit from different angles and perspectives, invested in determining whether or not a transgender identity has a biological basis or is otherwise ‘innate’.
My best guess is that the jury is still out – but it is still entirely possible that gender identity is determined in utero. Some of you might already be aware of the first link I’ve copied here. I confess that I was disappointed when it was first published at the start of 2015: it was touted as being evidence that there is a biological basis for transgenderism. It does not give evidence or ‘prove’ anything: it is, however, a lit review garnering research that suggests biological causality for transgender identities. Despite its limitations, I think it is still worth following up. The second link is one that I’ve just found. It studies pigs (!!!) in Vanuatu and looks at some very interesting chemical and chromosomal variations that lead to pseudo hermaphroditism.
I share this to add to the body of knowledge of what we know. I am not trying to ‘prove’ anything. i am not aware that any irrefutable proof exists. However, I also think it’s impossible to declare that there is ‘no such thing’ as transgender children/adults. We are all on the cusp of understanding gender diversity in human beings and I think we have a lot to gain from educating and sharing information with one another.
Ok, so here’s an odd set of instructions which I hope will work in order to access the paper in the first link: First, enter the google search https://www.google.com/#q=Megan+Weinand%2C+BA%2C+BS then select the listing ENDOCRINE PRACTICE Rapid Electronic Article in Press It should take you to a downloadable version of the original paper.
Although it’s been a while since I went over that “review”- as mentioned, it’s *not* new research- what I do recall is having been appalled at the fact that it was compiled by 3 endocrinologists- none of which have expertise in the majority of the science that they were reviewing. They cite intersex people who have experience vastly different both biologically and socially than those identifying as ‘trans.’ They cite brain difference studies conducted postmortem on transsexuals that had received exogenous hormones (*after* having “identified” as trans) which we *know* alters grey and white matter, and they IGNORED the readily available research done on this subject regarding gynephillic M2 pre-HT transpeople compared to gynephillic ‘gender-typical’ males which showed NO significant difference. ( http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/11/2525.full.pdf+html -a study which suggests highly that the difference in brains that they have found is related to homosexuality, NOT transgenderism) This was, to them- the endocrinologists-the “strongest neuroanatomical case for transgender gender identity.”
Because this paper- which I found to be horribly lacking- was being widely reported as “PROOF” of a biological cause for GD, I decided to see what I could find out about the authors. The first thing that came up was another “review” paper by one of the same authors concluding that the use of exogenous hormones were safe. Given the fact that there has only been ONE long term study that I have been able to find (and believe me, I searched) on the long term effects of testosterone use in females (and that was specifically with regard to uterine tumors, I believe), and because I have seen numerous first hand accounts of serious problems in F2 transpeople and know that there have even been warnings on the use of exogenous testosterone in men, this really crumbled my cookies. I don’t mean to seem flip or hostile, here, but the papers I’ve seen published by members of this crew actually made me mad! Compared to other papers which I merely found unconvincing, these ones seemed as though they were intentionally lacking information which might call into question the conclusions and that they were compiled strictly with the intent of self-promotion. (They were all published in endocrinology journals. They are also out of the hospital which houses Spack and his gender program which was the pioneer clinic in the US to experiment on children with hormone blockers. There is a distinct conflict of interest.)
My advice to anyone attempting to research this subject is to first, understand that these papers are written by people who start out with the bias that gender has biological roots, and second, avoid “review” studies and read as much original research as possible. It is only through doing so that you can critically assess the validity of the methods used and whether or not the conclusions are well founded. Oh, and lastly- Science Daily publishes uncritical articles on new papers that are composed from the press releases of the researchers themselves. They *always* (no matter the subject of research) consist of sensationalized headlines that get picked up- again, uncritically- by whatever publication has an interest in promoting the conclusions of the headlines. That publication is, for the most part, only good for locating the information you need to search for the original paper.
(As far as the pigs go, two things: humans are not pigs (well, mostly not), and sex is not gender)
OK, I’m prepared to let the pig stuff go. It interested me because the research was done in my part of the world and because there appear to be some compelling comparisons between hormonal variations in porcine brains and human ones. However, I don’t want to claim any conclusions about human transgender identity from it and nor, I would think, do the writers of the article.
I tried to get hold of the other paper and just can’t get behind that damn paywall. This is an issue that extends beyond the difficulties of people trying to educate themselves about gender research. The gatekeeping of information is driving me nuts!! I also seem to remember that I did access the original article at some point. However, like you, I found it disappointing. I did want to have another look at it but my recollection is that there was a lot of cherrypicking. On a personal note, I’ll concede it’s hard to avoid confirmation bias in these days of instant googling. Of course, as the mother of a gender nonconforming child, I would love to find a biological basis (let’s be honest – it would let me off the hook!) and so keeping a critical and balanced perspective requires discipline and self-reflexivity.
Thanks for the heads up on Science Daily. It does come across as clickbait.
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I have deleted part of your comment, curiousmother, and all of mine that I posted in response, because I have realized, on further reflection, that I am not interested in linking to and thereby providing a platform, on my blog, to an activist who very frequently promotes the transition of children/adolescents in various forums all over the Internet. In addition, this individual has (according to several in the intersex community) falsely appropriated an intersex identity and been an unwelcome presence to that community (easily googled). There is more I could say but do not choose to do so on a public thread. Thanks.
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Oh, and a thought on animal research. We are very close genetically to both chimpanzees and bonobos, sharing close to 98% of the same DNA. There is plenty of homosexuality/bisexuality observed amongst these primates (particularly bonobos), but as far as I’ve heard, no cases of any of them attempting to mutilate their genitalia because of dysphoria. And the great apes would be perfectly capable of attempting to do such a thing. Granted, this is not proof that there are no transsexual humans, but it seems to me that the only animal species foolish enough to damage their own perfectly healthy bodies, in the name of something their brains concoct, is homo sapiens.
I guess all I can say is that apes don’t perform Caesarians, or orthodontics, or myofacial surgery, etc etc etc. Homo sapiens have a monopoly on all of these things. Hooray for developed frontal lobes, I guess.
curiousmother, I also wish that the studies were not behind a paywall! It is one reason I have my website, TransResearch.info so that people can read more of the details of the studies. My hope is to present the science and information as fairly as possible so that readers can come to their own conclusions.
At this point, I do not think we know what causes gender dysphoria. It is likely to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
We have a lot of evidence that prenatal hormones can influence behavior. We, naturally, do not have any information on the prenatal environment of children who grow up to be transgender. However, there are no known cases of fraternal twins who are both transgender, so if prenatal hormones are involved, then genes would have to be as well. There are also many cases of identical twins where only one twin is transgender, so there must be some environmental influence, which could be either prenatally or later. (More on twins here bit.ly/1NRq8Iu)
Researchers have looked for possible genes involved in gender dysphoria but have not found them for trans women. They may have found a gene for trans men, but it could also be a gene for sexual orientation. We need more studies that control for sexual orientation.
The brain research is all over the place. I can say, however, that there is no way to identify the brain of someone with gender dysphoria. The studies I personally find most interesting are the ones that look at ways the brains of trans people are different from the brains of cis people. Again, we need more studies and they need to control for sexual orientation. I have reviewed some of the studies on my site, but not all of them.
We need a lot more research to figure out what causes some children to be transgender, not to mention why some children desist and some don’t.
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I would add that there is no evidence that there is such a thing as a “transgender child.” Are there children who *identify* as transgender? Yes. And since this is your comment, I will let the term “cis” stand. However, many people, myself included, find it offensive. It is a label that has been imposed on people who don’t buy into the trans narrative, and I for one reject it. A post I have in my queue will refer to a very recent review of the research on “brain sex.” The main thing the authors point out is that differences found in most studies point just as much to a homosexual brain. It should tell us something that attempts to identify a transsexual brain end leading down the road in most cases to people who are not heterosexual. It will be very interesting to see if anyone can actually “control” for this very interesting correlation.
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4thwavenow, I will refrain from using the term cis on your site. It could be worded as studies that compare the brains of people who have gender dysphoria to people who don’t have it. What I find interesting is that there may be differences related to body perception. Anyhow, I hope you’ll all look at the studies I do have up.
Thanks. I find that to be a much better way of wording it. It can’t be denied that some people experience dysphoria and some don’t. The million dollar question is what to do about it, and I’m sure it’s obvious I have serious doubts about the current treatment paradigm.
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I just came across this article “Why I let my son dress like a girl for five years…and why for his sake I put a stop to it” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2092412/Why-I-let-son-dress-like-girl-years–sake-I-stop-it.html
I’ve not come across an article like this before. A liberal parent initially indulgent of her son’s penchant for “girly” attire, changes her mind, but only after several years.
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i think the second documentary refers to the Louis Theroux Trans Kids programme.. there is a scene in there where the child tentatively expresses his doubts about being a girl, yet it is clear that mum has invested them both too much to turn back without losing face…
on the subject of culturally associated cross gendering,as FtM the Sworn Virgins of the Balkans are a good example…. and i think quite telling about the motives behind women choosing such a life… http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/05/women-celibacy-oath-men-rights-albania