Some of the most vocal and vociferous proponents of early medical transition for other people’s children are late-transitioning biological fathers. (Note: While most of these individuals now call themselves “moms,” the fact that their contribution to reproduction was undeniably via biologically male gametes—aka “sperm”– cannot be simply “identified” away.)
Many of these individuals weaponize the fear that gender-defiant kids will kill themselves if not socially transitioned, puberty blocked, and moved on to cross-sex hormones and surgeries at as young an age as possible. But there’s something hypocritical about their belief in the “transition or die” orthodoxy: Many of these MtF activists–who no doubt consider themselves “truly trans”–transitioned later in life, yet somehow managed to avoid suicide themselves, enjoying long lives as men with lucrative and productive careers (quite a few in typically male-dominated professions such as the military, technology, and finance) and the opportunity to father offspring.
Kelley Winters, PhD., is one of the most prominent trans activists agitating for medical treatment of trans-identified children. Dr. Winters is on the International Advisory Panel for WPATH, is a member of the Global Action for Trans Equality (GATE) Expert Working Group, and is a board member of the youth-transition-promoting organizations Trans Youth Family Allies and Gender Infinity. The TYFA bio page lists many other accomplishments:
She has presented papers on the psychiatric classification of gender diversity at annual conventions of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association and the Association of Women in Psychology. Her articles have appeared in a number of psychology and psychiatry journals and in two books.
The Gender Infinity website has more about the “empty nest mom.”
These are lofty achievements, but not unusual for a PhD. What exactly are Dr. Winters’ credentials? Prior to transitioning, Winters, as a man, had a successful career in microelectronics design and research (mentored, as Winters says at the link, by another well-known computer expert and MtF activist, Lynn Conway, known for attempting to destroy the career of sexologist Michael Bailey, who had the audacity to write a book based on his research findings.) Winters’ PhD is in engineering and, in addition to trans-related activities, Winters is a photographer and retired computer engineer.
Kelley Winters is considered an expert on the medical transition of children, not because of any special training or demonstrated expertise in child or adolescent psychology, or a background in clinical research. Kelley Winters is a top speaker, writer, and expert on behalf of the medical transition of gender dysphoric children by virtue of the fact that Kelley Winters .… is trans.
As one of the most frequent commenters on the WPATH Facebook public group page, Winters’ commentary and opinions are almost always deferred to by the MDs, therapists, and other gender specialists in the group. Winters expends a lot of verbiage claiming that the top experts in the field of gender dysphoria have it all wrong in their decades of peer-reviewed research demonstrating that the vast majority of gender dysphoric kids desist from a trans identity.
Winters is most active on WPATH threads addressing the treatment of trans-identified children and teens—typically arguing, as yesterday, for less gate-keeping and more widespread availability of hormones and “corrective” surgeries for minors under the age of 18.
Kelley Winters, PhD. in computer engineering, thinks there is “no basis in evidence” that teens ought to wait to make permanent life-changing decisions (aka “corrective” surgery). They can’t get a tattoo or use a tanning bed, but they sure as heck should be entrusted to undergo major surgery and sterilizing drug treatments. According to Winters, any reasoned suggestion that minors might lack the cognitive wherewithal to make such decisions is “purely political.”
Winters does raise one good point in that comment. Puberty-blocked kids do feel, rightfully, that they are left behind in prepubescence while their non-trans peers go through puberty and begin to explore themselves as sexual beings. Gender doctors have created an iatrogenic problem, with an iatrogenic solution. The problem: Block puberty, thus freezing the kid in arrested childhood while their peers move on, making them naturally impatient for puberty themselves. The solution? Dose them with sterilizing cross-sex hormones and major surgeries as young as 12 or 14 years of age.
As does occasionally happen in the WPATH echo chamber, a commenter in the thread raises the question of whether youth are fully equipped to understand the magnitude of the decision they’re making.
I am a little concerned about glossing over some of the sticky issues, though. .. For example, part of the socialization experience many youth experience can involve severe pressures to conform (including penalties for not conforming). Some unknown number of youth might be conflicted about genital reconstruction, or not want it at all, and yet be ill-equipped to resist these pressures. There is precious little support for gender-non-conforming girls or boys, or women or men, and even less for people who refuse that binary altogether. Can we spend as much energy on supporting people (youth and adults) who are in that middle or “other” ground as we do helping them move towards our culture’s comfort zones? Is it always a disaster to be different? I also wonder, should we be concerned about decisions affecting reproductive capacity? Many youth may have little awareness that as adults they may desire not only to raise children but also to play a specific role in genetic parenting. What discussions or support would need to take place in order for a youth to make an informed choice about a surgery that would limit reproductive capacity? (I never wanted children “of my own” either as a child or as an adult. But I know any number of people for whom this was a strong desire acquired in adulthood.)
The commenter makes some excellent points about supporting gender-defiant kids in general, as well as pointing out the fact that many young people have no clue what it means to choose to be infertile. But Kelley Winters, PhD. in computer engineering, isn’t particularly worried about the maturity of trans kids. In fact, in Dr. Winters’ professional estimation, trans kids are more mature than their “cis” counterparts, endowed with the rather unusual adolescent ability to predict how they’re going to feel 20 or 30 years down the road:
“Virtually all of the trans youth I’ve been honored to know were remarkably conversant and thoughtful beyond their years on their own reproductive decisions.”In what universe are the judgments and assertions of 14- or 16-year-olds predictive of their future judgments and opinions? Young teens don’t get to vote, drink, marry, sign a contract (except, apparently, the one giving their “informed consent” to medical transition), even get a tattoo—but by virtue of thinking they are the opposite sex, they are “mature beyond their years” when it comes to deciding on major surgery and chemical sterilization?
In the same comment, Winters, who managed to live into adulthood to father biological kids, plays the suicide card, aka “better sterile than dead”:
The specter of suicide (misused as always) is usually the conversation stopper, and this thread is no exception. But one point of interest here is how Winters started the thread– with a discussion about the trans reality TV star, 15-year-old Jazz Jennings, who has been on a testosterone-blocking implant and cross-sex hormones since at least age 14. Anyone who has recently watched TLC’s “I am Jazz” is aware that medical transition has not prevented this teen (by Jazz’s own admission—in episode 2, season 2) from feeling suicidally depressed, socially isolated, and in need of antidepressants (themselves known to carry a risk of increased suicidality in adolescence)—as well as a yearning for “the classical boobs you see on TV.”
I’ll ask the question I’ve asked before: Why are trans activists like Kelley Winters—particularly adults who transitioned later in life and are themselves parents (and grandparents in some cases)–so very interested in promoting early medical transition of other people’s children? Winters, like others who survived to transition as adults after passing on their genes, isn’t just agitating for the rights of transgender adults in housing, employment, or (even) bathroom access. They devote most of their advocacy to the medical transition of young people.
I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. They likely are convinced (or have convinced themselves) that this is the best thing to do for kids who say they want to be the opposite sex. Adult MtF transitioners who are also biological fathers, like Kelley Winters (and like this person I engaged on Twitter last month) believe that, in hindsight, if given the opportunity themselves in childhood, they’d have chosen medical transition with all that would have entailed–including, evidently, foregoing parenthood. How do they explain this to their own kids, I wonder?
But maybe–instead of promoting suicide contagion and the idea that a healthy young person’s body can be “wrong”–trans activists like Kelley Winters would be better off expending their energies on self-reflection; on the glaring fact that they themselves lived into adulthood without the need of a surgeon’s knife, an endocrinologist’s needle–or prepubescent sterilization.