The first part of this series set forth a brief history of the eugenics movement in the United States, arguing that while the core principles of eugenics are thoroughly discredited today, during eugenics’ time in the sun, it was endorsed and ratified by the finest and most prestigious minds and institutions in our society. The parallels to juvenile transgenderism are patent.
Today, juvenile transgender theory and practice are considered established fact by virtually all of mainstream medicine, the psychiatric and therapeutic professions, academia, the educational establishment, and the media. It is easy to despair when considering the apparent total capitulation of all the most respected and authoritative voices in our society. Yet, as the case of eugenics makes all too clear, what is chapter and verse today, may suffer a sudden reversal tomorrow – and be shown a source of cruelty and evil, rather than the saving grace it promised to be.
A review of eugenics practice reveals striking parallels with juvenile transgender treatment. This article notes one of the saddest and most obvious similarities: that as applied, both theories result in the sterilization of people who are unable to give meaningful consent to the procedure. In fact, as we will see, the number of people ultimately sterilized by transgender treatment is likely to dwarf the numbers seen in the heyday of eugenics.
A recap of sterilization under eugenics
The eugenics movement advocated both “positive” and “negative” ways of achieving its objective of a “better, healthier race.” “Positive” and less intrusive methods included encouraging “good breeding stock” to reproduce and improve the American “germ plasm;” however, since these tactics were deemed unlikely to achieve improved population quality quickly enough, “negative” approaches, including sequestration of undesirables and coerced sterilization of unfit individuals, were also used.
Evidencing the extremely rapid adoption of eugenics ideas, by 1924, fifteen states had passed sterilization laws targeting individuals with “mental disease” which was “likely” to be passed to his or her descendants (and by 1937, 32 states had passed these laws). The American Eugenics Society hoped, in time, to sterilize approximately one-tenth of the United States population.
American eugenics had at least one avid pupil in Europe: forced sterilization was enthusiastically adopted in Germany after the Nazi regime came to power.
In “Mein Kampf,” published in 1925, [Adolf Hitler] celebrated the ideology. “There is today one state,” wrote Hitler, “in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception [of citizenship] are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States.” Hitler’s Reich deployed its own sterilization laws, nearly identical to those in the United States, within six months of taking power in 1933. (Source)
The Nazi sterilization program, conducted on an industrial scale, ultimately resulted in the sterilization of some 360,000 to 375,000 persons.
It may be surprising to learn exactly how many individuals were affected by forced sterilization laws in the United States. As discussed here, historians estimate that between 1909 and 1979, more than 20,000 men and women in California alone were sterilized pursuant to the state’s eugenics program. Overall, it appears that some 60,000 people were sterilized in the United States during this period, as a direct result of state-mandated eugenics programs. In the 2010’s, several states, including North Carolina and Virginia, compensated surviving victims of forced sterilization. As a historian working on a research project to restore the hidden history of eugenic sterilization in California noted,
Taken together, these experiences illuminate, often in poignant detail, an era when health officials controlled with impunity the reproductive bodies of people committed to institutions. Superintendents wielded great power and proceeded with little accountability, behaving in a fashion that today would be judged as wholly unprofessional, unethical, and potentially criminal.
Modern transgender treatment leads to sterilization
Unlike under eugenics, of course, juvenile transgender treatment does not deem sterilization as a positive good but treats it (to the extent it is discussed at all) as a pesky side effect. However, it is beyond dispute that the recommended course of medical treatment for transgender young people will, in fact, more than likely result in those young people becoming unable to bear children of their own. This is because the administration of “puberty blockers” and ensuing treatment with cross-sex hormones results, unsurprisingly, in the blocking of normal puberty and the attendant ability to procreate. Of course, removing a person’s natal sex organs (as is done in “sexual reassignment surgery”) also results in permanent sterilization.
By and large, the risk of sterilization for children who undergo the now-recommended course of juvenile transgender treatment is simply ignored or assumed away. A good example is a recent article in Vogue magazine, “How the Parents of Trans Teens Are Fighting for Their Kids’ Lives,” which contains sympathetic histories and styled photographs of transgender children and teenagers, and notes in fairly explicit detail the medical course for such children, which includes (as noted above) puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones.
Although the lengthy and seemingly comprehensive article seems comparatively forthright on the potential costs to families of having a transgender child (divorce, poverty, social ostracism), it curiously fails to mention destroyed fertility as a current or future consequence for these young people. This blind spot when it comes to sterility is common to virtually all mainstream coverage of these children. Is this because most reporters do not believe this is important? Or is it possible that the news coverage of transgender people and fertility, that highlights such far-fetched oddities as “pregnant men” and “womb transplants” has so thoroughly confused the issue? Or could it be that a full and fair discussion of these considerations might deter parents from pursuing this course on behalf of their children?
In a 2013 article, Sahar Sadjadi, a medical anthropologist and MD, drew attention to the stunning silence around the trans-child sterilization question:
It must be remembered that puberty suppression as the first step to medical transition, if followed by cross-sex hormones, which has been the case for almost all reported cases, leads to infertility due to the permanent immaturity of the gonads and the reproductive tract. The absence of the discussion of sterilization of children as a major ethical challenge … is striking. For any other group of children, such an intervention would be discussed extensively with ethics review boards. (What grounds might justify the permanent elimination of the child’s reproductive ability? Should parents be able to make such a decision for the child? Which futures are opened by the treatment and which ones are foreclosed? How might benefits be weighed in relation to the loss of reproductive capacity?) The media would likely react with investigations and questions about the long-term consequences of treatment. These “queer” children’s bodily integrity and reproductive rights should not be any less pressing than other children’s. Needless to say, children are not legally capable of consent, and 9–10 year olds are not capable of understanding all the health consequences of the treatment.
Discussion of this topic would not be complete without addressing the blithe assertions of some trans-activists to the effect that medical science or technology will somehow swoop in to save the day for future sterilized individuals.
This is a canard. First, of course, if a young person has not undergone normal puberty, he or she will not have the ability to provide tissue, eggs or sperm on which these procedures may be undertaken. Second, any analysis of fertility and sterilization that depends on the success of heroic, if not currently technically impossible, medical measures holds out a shaky promise indeed. It’s true that if a person’s heart is badly damaged by a drug, he or she might be able to obtain a heart transplant and not die, but simply because the “heart transplant option” exists does not make it the equivalent of not having taken the drug in the first place.
Modern transgender treatment leads to sterilization of gay and lesbian people
As discussed below, it isn’t easy to find reliable statistics about child or teen transgender medical treatment in the United States. One aspect of the field does, however, seem comparatively beyond dispute: that gay and lesbian young people are disproportionately affected. This is because “gender non-conforming” children – in other words, those often identified at a young age as potentially transgender – typically grow up to be gay or lesbian. (See an earlier article on this website for further explanation and detail.) A priori, the children most likely to be sterilized by transgender medical procedures are those who would otherwise grow up to be gay and lesbian adults.
A closer look at the numbers
As discussed above, that 60,000 human beings were sterilized over the 70 years that eugenics held sway in this country is now considered shocking, disgraceful and morally abhorrent. About how many children and teens are likely to be sterilized under transgender practice?
We start by noting that accurate figures for the United States of the numbers of children and teens undergoing transgender medical care are extremely difficult to come by, because the delivery of medical care is so fragmented. A family could take a child to one of the 40 gender clinics that currently serve children and youth in the United States, but that same family could also take the child to a private doctor for administration of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. Remember that in the United States, any doctor with a valid DEA number can write any prescription for any drug.
Recent statistics for the United Kingdom show an average of 50 children a week are being referred to gender clinics, or a rate of roughly 2,600 per year (and if anything, there still exists a much higher level of so-called “gate-keeping” in the United Kingdom than in the United States). The population of the United States, 323.2 million, is roughly 5 times that of the United Kingdom, at 65 million, and given that both countries seem equally enthusiastic about juvenile transition, in the U.S. we would therefore expect to see about 250 children per week entering the transgender medical system, or an annual rate of 13,000 children.
If only half of those 250 referred children go on to medical transition, the annual number of sterilized children in the United States could be as high as 6,500. The rate under eugenics was less than 1,000 per year; so we are looking at a rate of sterilization potentially 7 times higher than it was under eugenics (and we could attain, in less than 10 years, the numbers that it took the eugenicists 70 years to achieve). Today, we rightly perceive eugenic sterilization as having been an “ethical wrong,” “horrifying,” and “deeply, almost physically, infuriating.”
Discussion of this topic would not be complete without referring to the fact that compulsory or forced sterilization is considered under international law to be a human rights abuse. As stated in an interagency report issued in 2014 by the World Health Organization, “[s]terilization without full, free and informed consent has been variously described by international, regional and national human rights bodies as an involuntary, coercive and/or forced practice, and as a violation of fundamental human rights, including the right to health, the right to information, the right to privacy, the right to decide on the number and spacing of children, the right to found a family and the right to be free from discrimination.”
In a display of breath-taking hypocrisy, the Open Society Foundation, a major funder of world-wide transgender advocacy, argued in a 2015 position paper that “[f]orced and coerced sterilizations are grave violations of human rights and medical ethics and can be described as acts of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Forcefully ending a woman’s reproductive capacity may lead to extreme social isolation, family discord or abandonment, fear of medical professionals, and lifelong grief.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
The question that should occur to every reader, proponent of pediatric and juvenile transition or not, is whether in some sense – even subconsciously – we are minimizing or discounting the horror of sterilization because its likely targets are people who would grow up to be gay and lesbian adults. It would not be the first time that a group of people has somehow been determined to be “less than,” and not “deserving” of the same rights and considerations as others in society. This should make us sad, but it should also make us furious.
The last lines of this piece have made me think that the contempt for gays and lesbians, and transkids, is not so unconscious:
1) there is contempt for transgender children, manifested with this line of thought:
transkids will be suicidal if they are not allowed to medically transition and are forced to go through normal puberty ==> they will either kill themselves before they have the chance to have children, or, being suicidal, they will be mentally unfit to raise children. Conclusion: sterilizing them does not change anything.
2) there is contempt for lesbians and gays, with this line of thought:
homosexual couples are not able to naturally reproduce, so despite the existence of artificial insemination, homosexual individuals are way less likely to have children than straight individuals
==> homosexuals are so unlikely to reproduce anyway that even if transkids really are to grow up to be lesbian or gay, it makes virtually no difference. Conclusion: sterilizing these children does not change anything. Also, the argument about gay eugenics does not add up, as otherwise homosexuals would already be extinct.
3) there is contempt for both homosexuals and transkids, with this line of thought:
sexual orientation and sexual preference are a form of discrimination (see the “Cotton Ceiling”, discussions about “genital preferences”, assertions that terms like “gay” and “lesbian” are inherently transphobic, etc.), and thus, transphobic ==> if transkids really are to grow up to be lesbian or gay, then they are to grow up to be transphobic (trans people cannot be transphobic, since they’re trans themselves). Conclusion: transitioning them saves them from becoming bigoted people.
4) contempt for transkids, with this line of thought: “we are trying to save their lives, so if they later complain about sterilization, they are ungrateful brats”
Ultimately, the recurring idea is that since sterilzation does not change anything in any case, there is no problem with taking the decision for them and violating their bodily integrity.
NB: those lines of thought are simplified; they are rarely, if ever, stated that clearly by transactivists (especially 3 and 4).
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On the thought of 2), giving kids blockers means that they’re almost certainly not going to have a normal sexually mature adult body. A lot of the parents of little trans girls are clearly uncomfortable with having an effeminate son and don’t want them to grow up to be gay men. It’s chemical castration, effectively the same as what they did to Alan Turing.
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Thank you for this interesting comment. One issue that I have run across repeatedly in my research in that in every other context, sterilization is considered to be a worst-case scenario, one to be avoided at virtually any cost. It has been a consensus among medical ethicists and practitioners that sterilization is an “unmitigated bad thing.” It’s another example of how topsy-turvy the whole “trans movement” has become, that sterilization is discussed, if at all, as some trivial or de minimus result.
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I can’t believe how transphobic and homophobic your comment is!! Trans people and homosexual people might have reservations or difficulties with reproduction so you think it’s okay to take away the option without the possibility of informed consent? These children are too young to legally consent to sex, and you think it’s fine to sterilize them because they might experience difficulty having children. That is disgusting.
I’m sorry, I think you misunderstood my comment. I wasn’t stating my personal opinion here, I was describing the way the advocates of childhood transition think. I too find it outrageous that adults take that sort of decision for children.
What gets me about this is that, as a grown woman, I could not get my tubes tied, because I “might change my mind” & decide that I wanted another child. I was 32 years old! I have heard this from numerous other women! The only way I could get it done was to have my psychiatrist sign off on it because I was bipolar. Like, I couldn’t make this decision as a sane adult woman but because I had a “mental illness”.
Why is it that adult women are treated like children but children are being treated like adults? This is insanity.
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I agree with you completely about adult women being infantilized by the medical profession — but I don’t think trans kids are being treated like adults. They’re being treated as if they were disposable.
If they were really being treated like adults, they’d be allowed to take out small business loans or perhaps hypothecate that successful lemonade stand. But they’re not. The only adult-like decision they’re being allowed to make is one that will leave them with permanently underdeveloped gonads — and it’s probably because a large chunk of our society is still very uncomfortable with the idea of who those kids might grow up to be if their gonads were left alone.
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They also don’t mention how hard it will be to find someone to date – most people won’t want to date a trans person. I think this will only get harder as they age. Most of their peers will have desisted and the rest – the “queers” and “pansexuals” and “DemiUnicornPolyanything” will have matured and moved on to a more standard life – jobs, marriages, living in single family homes. The “thrill of the trans” will have become something in their past. Trans may need to find another trans, one who hasn’t desisted, and that pool, which has always been small, will not be abysmally small.
So I really feel they need to alert these kids about the childbearing issue and the dating issue, as well. Although, they’re so young, they may have magical thinking about it all, “oh in the future they’ll have invented something to take care of that!”
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ooops … “will NOW be abysmally small”
I believe that if they go first on the puberty blockers, then they never go through any puberty, is that correct? (I saw a tweet from a kid saying that you go through the puberty of whichever hormones you are taking – so he’s a boy taking estrogen, so he feels he has gone through female puberty.)
If I’m remembering right and they do not go through ANY puberty, then that has implications for their brain. I’ve read that puberty does a lot for the brain, matures us. They will be forever without that. That should also be something which should be told, if I’m correct.
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As far as I’m aware, it’s not medically possible for anyone to go through the puberty of the opposite sex. Just substituting hormones can masculinize/feminize bodies, which these kids might be confusing for actual puberty. But they’d be missing the chemical signals from their bodies that begin the real process.
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That’s right. These kids DON’T have puberty. It’s especially visible in boys. Small non functioning penis and testicles, a high voice, no libido etc. They are modern day castrati and grow up to be castrated, sterilized men in pre-pubertal male bodies.
At “least” females on testosterone are able to experience libido BUT too much testosterone also causes vaginal dryness, pain, bleeding and shrinkage and so on.
This is NOT puberty. These are SIDE EFFECTS of drugs. There are thousands of these children and lgb organisations are just sitting there with their thumbs up their asses and think trans activists, quacks and homophobic parents are heroes.
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Aha, see, most people in this delusional bubble think THEY’LL BE DIFFERENT! Me and my friends WON’T be sucked into that awful standard life, that’s what you think because you’re cishet-brained, etc…
… because there have *never* been any ~real~ norm-bending subcultures whose appeal wore off into the adult years, not until the trans movement, nope. Well maybe that’s true in that unlike Goth and emo kids these poor castrated kids will be scarred far more than a few years of long-sleeved shirts can cover up.
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Interestingly, the transsexual narrative begins with eugenic arguments. Christine Jorgensen, the first public example of changing sex, was treated by doctors who disbelieved her (apparent) claims of being female and treated her to create a model of dealing with what they saw as a public health menace. From their 1953 JAMA paper: “At any rate, from a eugenic point of view it would do no harm if a number of sexually abnormal men were castrated and thus deprived of their sexual libido.” Their scientific model was supplied, as noted in the paper, by Richard Goldschmidt, a German Jewish scientist and early theorist of intersexuality and eugenics, becoming, a historian notes, “an outspoken advocate of eugenic sterilization to prevent unfit births.”
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Wow, this is proof of an actual intersection between eugenic theory and transgender practice. Thank you for posting it. Do you have other examples or sources?
Thanks for this article: the dominant trans narrative is clearly homophobic, so the sterilisation of children who would’ve grown up to likely be lesbian or gay is, in that sense, not really surprising. Why it is accepted, or at the least why it goes unchallenged, by professionals is harder to understand. And it’s indefensible. This will go down as another medical scandal, which is no consolation considering the price some will pay.
And then I compare it to what I went through when diagnosed with cancer. My oncologist and nurses were very keen for me to have some of my eggs harvested as becoming infertile due to treatment was a possibility. Despite telling them repeatedly that I didn’t want to have children, quite a big deal was made of it to make sure that I fully understood the consequences of treatment and I didn’t end up having regrets. I had to sign several consent forms, including for hormonal treatment which carries a small risk of cancer itself, to ensure that I understood all the risks. I was 32. Yet children/teenagers are not given the chance to meaningfully consent to treatments that will have huge impacts on their lives. Just awful.
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I recently read a MTF lament that he had himself castrated and after the procedure found out that he could not get an erection and could not have sex. He said that the doctor did not warn him of this possible outcome. He was a young man when he had this procedure and he was a virgin. He was upset that now he would die a virgin. I have seen so many examples of trans people lamenting their lack of sexual opportunities and the sexual dysfunction brought on by the medical treatments they have received. It is not only the sterilization, it is also the lack of any satisfying sexual life. Amazingly, after giving a long history of their pain and impossibility of having the sex life they want, they almost always end with the seemingly obligatory statement of how happy they are that they transitioned.
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One would think that male “intactivists”, who advocate so passionately about the harms of missing foreskin as it relates to sexual function, would find this at least as abhorrent. But I never see any mention of this outcome in articles, and it truly is heartbreaking. Sexuality is a fundamental part of who we are, and is being taken away from many of these kids.
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The TAs generally say our complaints as parents regarding this issue boil down to frustration about grandchildren we will never have. This always makes me laugh as I believe my GNC kid would make a rotten mother, as of this time. I’ve never hoped/expected that she’d be a parent.
But the kid is not yet 20, and people can change, and … bottom line? I don’t think it is my RIGHT to shut this door on her options. Not when she was a minor, and not now, either, which I would do if I were to choose to help her get transition treatment.
Another common argument is, well, what if your kid had cancer and would die if not treated with a medication that had sterility as a side effect?
To which my response is — presumably this treatment and its long-term ramifications would have been well-researched before I had to make such a decision. Not so with blockers and with T in a natal female body. (And the conflation with mortal illness? Gotta tell ya, my kid’s been grappling w/this for several years, has never been suicidal, and continues to make good progress with her other life goals. “Transition or die” is a lie.)
so tired of the steamroller. When will people wake up?
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Excellent post, worriedmom.
Yes, this is modern day eugenics affecting children that would grow up to be gay. It also affects autistic children–and children who have parents caught up in this trend.
After puberty, as teens or young adults, young people can receive treatment at Planned Parenthood and college clinics. It doesn’t matter if one has a serious mental health disorder. That treatment has different consequences.
Puberty blockers have very serious consequences and children cannot give informed consent.
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I read somewhere that a large percentage of female children approved for transition show signs of being on the autism spectrum? If this is the case, then I wonder if the old fashioned willingness to sterilize people with disabilities is rearing its ugly head here in a new context?
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I’ve read that too (about autism), but I don’t think that this is some deliberate plot to sterilize disabled people. The truth to me is more horrifying: that doctors believe they’re doing the right thing, and that the sterilization is, in fact, just an unfortunate side effect. And a lot of these female children have no diagnosis, so the doctors don’t know that they have a disability.
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Yes, many women and girls on the spectrum go undiagnosed much longer than their male counterparts. Since ASDs tend to manifest differently in girls and women, doctors, parents, teachers, therapists, etc., often don’t realize what certain things are signs of. This leads to the false belief that ASDs are predominantly a male condition, when in reality females are seriously underdiagnosed.
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I don’t think not having a diagnosis necc. matters – people may well pick upon it, even if only subconsciously. My mum upsets me with that, because she’ll say things like: *drops voice to whisper as though it’s something shameful* ‘so-and-so is a bit odd’, and I’m left correcting her to ‘so-and so is *autistic*’. And that’s just when it’s not me she’s talking about. >_< A lot of disability discrimination, it doesn't matter if someone knows what your condition is and understands it, what it boils down to is that you're seen as freakish. And trans-kids certainly are seen that way.
By the lack of a diagnosis not mattering, just to clarify, I mean the condition could influence professionals’ actions even without a diagnosis. Honestly, often you’re in big trouble the second the psychologists get their hands on you regardless of diagnosis, to them you’re just a crazy person and everything about you is seen as pathological and probably as morally flawed too -you’re not trying hard enough, difficult, non-compliant-, in much the way it was with eugenics. When they too-often outright blatantly despise their patients, I don’t think trans-identified kids will be treated as an exception.
* this is how disabled people in general are seen, too
Worriedmom, thank you for the excellent, well written post. Ever since my daughter came out as transgender and I started researching all of this, I had made that connection with eugenics, too. I remember googling “transgender and eugenics” and found an article written by Sheila Jeffreys where she made that connection. See here: https://genderidentitywatch.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/tgkidswstf.pdf
Our daughters have probably never heard of eugenics and at this point for my situation, my daughter will not listen to me to make that connection.
Thank you for exposing this for parents who could use this as an educational tool to try to enlighten their kids, if they are open enough to listen.
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And thank YOU for the good words. The Jeffreys article is so much more comprehensive and thorough than we could ever hope to publish here and it is a terrific resource for anyone who wants to pursue more research or reading on the subject.
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Here is the problem:
No-one of the people that give hormones etc actually believe it’s genetic, which is the entire point of eugenics. They don’t believe it’s mental “illness” either.
Blanchard himself has written that for HSTS it’s the brain failing to masculinize through various processes and basically an identity issue, and for autogynephiles it’s most likely a developmental disorder. Then there are those that are not trans but got other issues that have ended up where they shouldn’t be. The latter is a minority though compared with HSTS/Autogynephiles.
I’ve been somewhat bemused at the online response to this piece, which (forgive me) seems really, REALLY “gendered.” I had been concerned that someone might take issue with my assumptions, maybe critique the numbers, or my extrapolations, but so far, not a word on that score. Is it possible that the projected rate of 6500 sterilized children per year is actually low? Or just not all that troublesome?
1. The article was repeatedly called “hysterical screeching.” As best I can tell, that translates to “a woman is saying something I don’t agree with” because it’s a content-free criticism.
2. Much more interestingly, the other major comment is “trans-women can SO have babies.” I guess we’ll agree to disagree on that one, but this entirely overlooks the subject of trans-MEN, doesn’t it? Apparently nobody is even bothering to argue that a woman who has had a total hysterectomy can still have a baby, which once again seems to show that the movement’s focus is almost entirely on men.
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If you didn’t get tagged as a “pearl clutcher” I reckon you’re ahead of the game.