I received this comment a few days ago. The theme is a common one among trans activists and gender specialists nowadays: They not only think they know how to diagnose “true trans” children. They are confident that social transition, puberty blocking, and cross sex hormones (with concomitant permanent sterilization) will lead to happy trans adults.
I’ve reproduced the comment here. (Boldface emphasis is my own.) My response is below.
People are always mixing up Gender Non Conforming Only children, GNC Only, (usually first defined by their parents) and transgender children (those who show strong cross gender desires and associated Gender Dysphoria, GD, if thwarted).
Now GNC Only (little or no transgender desires and the associated GD) will fairly often, but not always by any means, end up bi-sexual, gay or lesbian as adolescents and adults and be happy with their gender (maybe after some exploration).
GNC with strong GD will nearly always retain that into adolescence and adulthood and at some stage transition or die.
So it is important to separate them out, which to be fair for a very young child can take a few years to work out, hence the WPATH ’support and wait and see’ approach.
The longer a child expresses transgender desires and has GD then the more likely they are really transgender. But, an important but, a child with strong GD may not be a ‘typical’* ‘sissy boy’ or ‘tomboy’. though they will almost certainly show GNC behaviour of some kind and strongly express transgender wishes.
A lot of that depends on how introverted or extroverted they are. The quiet, shy, sensitive and introverted child suffering terrible GD may not express themselves much in public as very GNC even though they may want to. Everyone forgets this point…… not every kid is a blazing extrovert and public performer. This explains the common issue of the child only expressing their transgender feelings at early adolescence, before that they were simply too shy and sensitive and hid it carefully.
The other issue is the treatment of some GNC Only kids, who if you do the ‘drop the Barbie’ stuff to them means you are making them act ‘straight’, which is cruel and if not actual SOCE** it is pretty close.
GNC Only behaviour by itself will not ‘make’ someone transgender, which seems to be the fear by some.
GD plus GNC means they are almost certainly transgender and almost never will change and if you try then you are playing Russian roulette with their lives. There is only one treatment for GD that works, transition***.
So the issue is selection and it is not that hard, although it will never be perfect. A 2012 study on CAMH children showed the only statistically significant factor (logistic regression) in their ‘persistence’ was the strength of their combined GNC/GD scores. So their own tests showed good measures to predict outcomes, which were a lot higher that the commonly stated ‘80% desist’ (based on lumping the two groups together).
A rough ‘back of the envelope’ calculation shows that maybe only 5% of GNC Only diagnosed kids are really transgender (diagnosis is never perfect). BUT, maybe as much as 80% to 90% of GNC + strong GD ones are (based on CAMH published numbers).
The majority, by far, are of course GNC Only with transgender children being a minority. CAMH’s own numbers (awhile back) stated that 70% of the kids they saw were GNC Only.
*And what is a typical ‘sissy boy’ or ‘tomboy’ anyway? This is usually just parent paranoia and absurd social ‘norms’.
**Sexual Orientation Change Efforts = sexuality reparative therapy.
***transition can mean socially or fully medically to the opposite gender, it can also mean becoming ‘gender queer’ or similar.
LisaM, first let me acknowledge that you are not arguing in your comment for full medical transition for all “transgender children.” In fact, you say that some kids may just want to “transition” to be “genderqueer.” But really, that is simply a matter of personality. We don’t need to label it with anything to do with “gender,” unless you believe in gender stereotypes. So it’s nonsensical to say such kids would be “transitioning” to anything–they’re just expressing their unique personalities, as well they should.
But apart from that statement on your part, I’ve done enough homework to know that medical transition is indeed the goal and outcome in an increasing number of pediatric cases. Much of my response will be addressing that outcome.
You don’t disagree, in the main, with the decades of peer-reviewed data that show most GNC kids will desist. What you and the other WPATHers are arguing about is the small core of kids who persist in their dysphoria as preadolescents.
WPATH activists and gender specialists are pretty confident that they’ve come up with a way to separate the “truly transgender child” from the merely “gender nonconforming” (GNC). GD + GNC = transgender for life and in need of transition. To hear them tell it, it’s a slam-dunk. They eschew the older research because they say the net was cast too widely; that the “truly trans” kids were lumped in with merely gender nonconforming.
Here’s what I’m willing to grant:
- There are a minority of kids who appear to be more persistent in their desire or claim to be the opposite sex.
- Some of those kids might continue to want to “transition” as adults.
- Some of the older studies may have been less specific in weeding out the more dysphoric from the merely GNC children.
- Responsible, ethical clinicians don’t want to create “false positives” i.e., kids being trans’ed who would have grown out of it. They aren’t ogres.
Beyond that? What do you and other trans activists have to support medical transition of children?
- Your own memories and anecdotal experiences of wanting to be the opposite sex as children
- A recent study by Kristina Olson showing that kids who are already being socially transitioned really do identify with stereotypes and prefer the lifestyle of the typical child of the opposite sex
That’s pretty much it.
You claim “there is only one treatment that works for gender dysphoria, transition.” But there is zero proof that the medical transition of children will produce happy adults decades later. There simply isn’t.
History and science don’t support the “transition early or suicide” narrative:
- Show me the data proving that gender dysphoric children in earlier times didn’t end up living happy lives; that they committed suicide in the days before hormonal and surgical interventions were widely available.
- Show me the data that dysphoric kids who are medically transitioned will be happier at 40 than kids who weren’t transitioned.
- Show me proof that the very act of transitioning kids doesn’t create persistence. Especially because “social transition” is now being started earlier and earlier, when children are at their most impressionable and the brain is most plastic. Do you know anything about normal child development?
- Show me the data that the “two spirit” and GNC people in other non-technological cultures (that trans activists often co-opt) spend their days wanting to kill themselves because they can’t have surgery and hormones.
- Show me proof that there is any such thing as innate gender identity.
- Show me the data that these children won’t feel suicidal later on in life, after the “honeymoon phase” of transition has long passed. (In point of fact, way too many young people who are gender nonconforming, gay, or trans-identified have suicidal thoughts, and transition hasn’t prevented self harm in many.)
What is the big rush to transition kids, to prevent them from experiencing the “wrong puberty”? I believe it is driven by adult trans activists obsessing about the fact that they didn’t–or still don’t–“pass” well enough. It’s about how realistic a facsimile of the opposite sex the endocrinologists and surgeons can manufacture.
The engine that drives this pediatric transition juggernaut is the memories and yearnings activists carry about their own childhoods. That’s what this whole medical-legal-media child transition craze is based upon: The anecdotal accounts of adult trans.
Anecdotes are fine, as far as they go. But why don’t trans activists give as much weight to anecdotes by formerly dysphoric people who are glad they were born before transition was a thing for kids?
Based on their own retroactive wishes, trans activists are betting that all these kids who are being socially transitioned, puberty blocked, and sterilized are going to be happy adults — at 30, 40, 50 years old.
LisaM, in the name of helping these kids “pass” better as adults, it goes without saying that you and other activists also think it’s worth sacrificing a few false positives. As you said, “it will never be perfect.” Tell me: How many false positives do you think will be acceptable in the future? Regretful adults who were puberty blocked, sterilized, and operated upon, only to discover that they changed their minds later?
We’re talking about clinical guesswork with extremely high stakes. And it’s coupled with an activist strategy that is making it illegal to have a control group of kids who didn’t receive such “treatment.” The only “control group” will be future regretters (like you said, no diagnosis is perfect) who will haunt courthouses and psychotherapists’ offices long after the damage is done.
In the name of preventing the “wrong puberty,” you want to interrupt the natural course of development by blocking puberty and preventing these kids from discovering who they are without medical interference. You ignore the fact that a puberty-blocked kid also has blocked brain development because puberty isn’t just about secondary sex characteristics. It’s also about brain maturation. And by preventing natural puberty, you deny them the right to a first sexual experience in an unaltered body. You give these kids what they say they want, thinking you are doing the right thing, contradicting decades of clinical practice, neuroscience, and child developmental psychology in thrall to a non-evidence-based belief in innate gender identity.
You think it’s all worth it—the sterilization, the false positives, the denial of puberty–because you have convinced yourselves that these kids will be happy adults.
You and your compatriots spend a prodigious amount of time and energy fighting for children to be permanently sterilized and irretrievably altered. What would happen if, instead, you and the other trans activists formed lobbying groups to fight for full acceptance and understanding of gender nonconformity? Make the idea of having to “pass” a thing of the past, so that a little boy or girl would see adults and children who dressed and behaved and did anything they wanted, without the need and the encouragement to think there is something wrong with their bodies. Do you really think most of these “true trans” kids would still want to “transition?” Or that, at a minimum, they couldn’t just wait until adulthood to make the decision?
Trans activists believe strongly that transgender should be depathologized and seen as a normal variation in human experience. But there’s an inherent contradiction here. Setting aside the question of whether insurance and the medical system should pay for any and all interventions for something that is a “normal variation,” if it’s normal to feel “trans” or “genderqueer,” why don’t you fight for normalization of gender nonconformity? What’s wrong with a 6’2 man in a dress? A normal variation shouldn’t require modern Western medical intervention, should it? Not everyone, everywhere in the world can afford that, can they?
Think of what you could do with your time and money, fighting for acceptance of children to be who they are, without thinking there’s something so wrong with their bodies that they have to be cut and drugged to feel whole. Think of the good you could do instead of agreeing with preschoolers that they might “really” not be a boy or girl.
“Girls can be anything! Just because you like/play/feel [fill in the blank], you’re still a girl. A really cool girl!”
How on earth can anyone think that making it easier for an impressionable young child to want to undergo permanent medical changes is the most compassionate path? Wouldn’t it be kinder to fight against the need to conform to stereotypes in the first place?