Too much trust

4thWaveNow contributor Overwhelmed is the mother of a daughter who previously identified as transgender. Her daughter is now comfortable being female even though she chooses to eschew conventionally feminine clothing and sports a short haircut.

Overwhelmed can be found on Twitter: @LavenderVerse


by Overwhelmed

Why does the public seemingly trust that gender doctors know what they are doing? Well, one of the reasons is the frequent media portrayals of trans kids. Children who have recently undergone medical transition are being presented as success stories, even though no one knows the long term consequences of gender-affirming treatments.

I came across this article on the University of California San Francisco website. It covers the transition of three children—two who have puberty blocker implants and one, a natal female named Oliver, whose treatment has included puberty blockers, testosterone, a double mastectomy with chest contouring, a hysterectomy (at 16 years old!) and plans in the near future for the first in a series of phalloplasty surgeries. The article also highlights the involvement of three gender-affirming pioneers—Dr. Ehrensaft, Dr. Rosenthal and Joel Baum—whom I will discuss a little later in this post. But first I will focus on Oliver.

Oliver’s story (which I’ve pulled from three separate articles) starts off as expected—a young child uncomfortable in dresses who likes short hair and playing baseball. When puberty started, it caused a great deal of distress. Suicide was considered. And then:

A few months before his 15th birthday, …stumbled across the word “transgender” online. He read about people who had had medical treatment to align their bodies with their gender identity – their inner sense of who they are.

“Bam, my life changed,” he says. “It lifted a major weight to find out I could do something about all this pressure I had been feeling.”

 At first Oliver’s parents, especially his father, didn’t accept that their daughter was really their son.

“It took me a bit to become a really supportive dad,” ….

For months they didn’t speak. But in the end, reading the suicide statistics for transgender teens brought him around.

“My kid’s not going to kill himself,” …. “I don’t care what he is, as long as he’s a productive person in society, and he needs all the support we can give him.”

Oliver was taken to UCSF’s Child and Adolescent Gender Center.

By age 15, Oliver… was on a dual regimen of testosterone, plus puberty blockers to keep his endogenous estrogen from competing with the male hormones.

While he had to endure a second puberty, and he’ll need to take testosterone for the rest of his life, he’s had no second thoughts about transitioning.

The summer after his sophomore year, he had “top” surgery – a double mastectomy and male chest contouring – in San Francisco. To pay for the procedure, which was not covered by insurance, he used earnings from years of showing and selling pigs at the Tuolumne County fair.

“It’s a lot of money for a 15-year-old,” he says of the $8,000 price tag. “But I appreciate it every day.”

His family’s insurance also wouldn’t cover a puberty blocker implant, so… at first chose cheaper but “gnarly” monthly shots. Later, concerned about unknown long-term effects of the blockers, and hating the painful shots, he opted for a hysterectomy at age 16 – performed by the same family doctor who had delivered him.

In June, he’ll undergo the first in a series of “bottom” surgeries to create male genitalia.

His only regret, he says, is not finding UCSF’s Gender Center sooner. “To not go through the wrong puberty, those kids are lucky,” he says. “That’s a team effort. You have to show [gender dysphoria], and parents have to catch it.”

Oliver’s story has been published in at least three media articles, likely reaching a large audience. The teen has also been influential in Oliver’s small town high school  where at least four other transgender students have since come out.

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An increasing number of children like Oliver are announcing they’re transgender, and families are looking to the experts in the field for guidance. Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, a clinical and developmental psychologist, is one of a number of pediatric gender-affirming pioneers in the San Francisco Bay area. She is Director of Mental Health and founding member of the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center. She is a well-known proponent of the gender affirmative model and has authored two books on the subject. Ehrensaft has a private practice in Oakland and serves on the Board of Directors of Gender Spectrum.

Her credentials seem impressive, but there are concerns that her stance could unnecessarily pressure parents into eventually medically transitioning their children. She’s often quoted in news reports about trans kids. Here she is in the Duluth New Tribune article from above, rationalizing the dramatic increase in trans-identifying kids seeking treatment:

“We have lifted the lid culturally,” said developmental psychologist Diane Ehrensaft, whose Oakland, Calif. practice has seen a fourfold increase in the number of gender-questioning kids in recent years. “These kids have always existed, but they kept it underground.”

She is also quoted in the UCSF article:

“When a child says, ‘I’m not the gender you think I am,’ that can be a showstopper,” says Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, the Gender Center’s director of mental heath as well as a private-practice psychologist in Oakland. “Some parents say, ‘Not on my watch. No way am I signing off on a medical intervention. When they’re 18 they can do what they want.’ I say, ‘You’re absolutely right, you’re the ones minding the shop, but let me share with you the risk factors of holding back.’”

A parent swayed by Ehrensaft’s logic may believe that, contrary to historical records,  there were always this many trans kids. This could lead parents to disregard the impacts of social contagion. And she tells parents that being cautious and holding back medical interventions until their child is 18 could lead to serious “risk factors.” Suicide seems to be implied.

Stephen Rosenthal, MD, is another pediatric gender-affirming pioneer in the San Francisco Bay area. He is a founder of the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center and currently serves as its Medical Director. He is also the program director for Pediatric Endocrinology, director of the Endocrine Clinics, and co-director of the Disorders of Sexual Development (DSD) Clinic. Additionally, Rosenthal spends time as a professor of clinical pediatrics at UCSF and conducts research. Currently, he is participating in an NIH-funded study of pediatric medical transition.

He has stated that “these kids have a very high risk of depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. Not treating is not a neutral option. He promotes early treatment—puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and sometimes surgeries—to alleviate these symptoms without any proof of long term relief.

Under his direction, the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center has grown substantially. It opened in 2010. By 2012 there were 75 patients and currently there are over 300 patients with about 10 new referrals a month. Business is booming. Clinics are being added in San Mateo and Oakland. The UCSF Gender Center network isn’t the only place in the San Francisco Bay area offering pediatric gender affirming treatment. Stanford and Kaiser Permanente provide similar services.

What could be driving all of these children to seek treatment? Well, the San Francisco Bay Area has been well-educated by Gender Spectrum, a “national advocacy group for gender expansive youth whose mission is to create a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens.” Many schools in the area have hosted training sessions by Gender Spectrum. The goal of gender sensitivity training is to increase acceptance and decrease bullying, but it’s likely that some children get confused by the information, leading to a rise in referrals to gender clinics.gender-spectrum-logo

Joel Baum, MS, is an advocate for pediatric gender affirmation. He is the Senior Director of Professional Development and Family Services at Gender Spectrum and is the Director of Education and Advocacy for the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center. He co-wrote Schools in Transition, A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools, which I discussed in this blog post. He has spoken in schools, at conferences (mentioned in this 4thWaveNow post) and, according to this article, promotes transgender awareness on radio shows.

Per the article, it was Baum who helped Emily and her husband realize that their son was really their daughter (Kelly).

One day Emily got a call from her husband, who was in his car listening on the radio to Joel Baum, MS, the Gender Center’s director of advocacy as well as the director of education and training for the Oakland-based nonprofit Gender Spectrum. “You’ve got to turn on the radio,” he told her. “I think this is our kid.’”

Emily was horrified to learn about the high rates of harassment, school failure, and suicide among transgender youth. “I couldn’t talk about it without weeping. I kept going to all these images in our culture for transgender people, that they’re on the edge, disenfranchised,” she says. “I was thinking, ‘I can’t lose my kid. I don’t care what her gender is. I’ve got to get on the other side of those statistics.’”

Her path forward, she says, was “unconditional acceptance of my child’s truth.”

The family started regular visits to Gender Center clinics and let Kelly be their guide. She grew her hair long. In third grade, she switched her masculine birth name to a gender-neutral nickname. At age nine, she transitioned socially, becoming “she” to relatives, friends, and classmates.

Intensely private, Kelly wanted no emails to parents, no classroom announcement. Just a quiet switch in pronouns. Her elementary school administrators and teachers – faced with their first transitioning student – were “incredibly supportive,” says Emily, who sought out staff training and put Kelly in a classroom with only one student who knew her from “before”: her best friend.

Now 13, Kelly has a matchstick-sized implant under the skin near her left bicep to suppress the male hormones her body produces. She’s blossomed into a “beautiful, smart, artistic, empathetic, fun kid,” Emily says. “I’m like, ‘Whoo! I hit the jackpot.’ But it was definitely a process and a journey for our family, and our daughter, to come to understand who she was.”

Ehrensaft, Rosenthal and Baum are promoting treatment for gender dysphoric children based on unproven theories, not solid evidence. There has been a dramatic rise in trans-identifying youth, but instead of questioning why, Ehrensaft says that the increase is due to hidden trans kids coming out. Rosenthal seems to believe that pre-emptive treatment (leading children to become permanent medical patients with unknown long term side effects) is worth it to potentially avoid future depression, substance abuse and suicide. Baum doesn’t appear to consider that transgender advocacy can lead some impressionable kids to mistakenly self-diagnose as trans. Or, that it can affect how parents interpret their children, potentially leading their gender defiant kids unnecessarily down the path of transition.

And each uses suicide statistics, flawed as they are, to justify early intervention. I’ve seen many parents in news articles state that the motivation to go along with transition was to avoid suicide. Parents are scared and feel pressured. They want to keep their children alive, no matter what. They don’t feel like they have a real choice. “I can either have a live son or a dead daughter” (or the reverse) is a common saying. When parents trust the advice of gender experts, they will accept puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, mastectomies, and hysterectomies as necessary. Unfortunately, though, this approach does not guarantee a live child.

Tremendous pressure is being placed on parents to provide gender affirmative “support.” Media articles never quote these pioneers recommending what we do at 4thWaveNow—to support our children in defiance of gender. We allow our children to choose their haircuts, clothing and interests. We accept them as is, without pressuring them to conform to societal expectations. We urge caution and encourage reflection on what it means to be male or female. We consider the long term impacts of medical interventions. We don’t rush into gender affirmation via pronouns or treatments. We want to avoid suicide in our children, but realize that the underlying reasons are more complex than the trans kids media articles portray. And some of us have had success with this approach.

There is a great deal of trust being put in the experts in the field, but we need to remember that they are pioneers in the strictest sense. They are still developing new ways of thinking about and treating gender dysphoric patients. The process is not complete. Gender science is rapidly evolving and changes to treatment protocols are likely. Today’s success stories may not be tomorrow’s success stories. The trust in experts should be viewed from this perspective.

Gender-affirmative therapist: Baby who hates barrettes = trans boy; questioning sterilization of 11-year olds same as denying cancer treatment

Note: 4thWaveNow frequently features posts (like this one) that focus, often unflatteringly, on the activists and providers involved in pediatric transition. These people aren’t ogres who intend to bring harm to the young people and families under their care and influence. They undoubtedly sincerely believe they are doing the right thing. The purpose here, as ever, is not to demonize, but to shed light on the potential and actual damage done by the practice and ideology of “gender affirmation.”  Harms done not only to children and their families, but to the decades of progress achieved by the women’s and LGB liberation movements.


A well known subscriber to the “gender affirmative” approach to trans-identified children is Diane Ehrensaft, PhD., a clinical and developmental psychologist. Dr. Ehrensaft, author of The Gender Creative Child, plays a powerful role in the burgeoning field of pediatric transgenderism. She is director and chief psychologist for the University of California-San Francisco children’s hospital gender clinic, and is also an associate professor of pediatrics at UCSF. She sits on the Board of Directors of Gender Spectrum, a San Francisco Bay area organization which is heavily involved in matters pertaining to trans-identified children and youth.

In February, Dr. Ehrensaft, along with other pediatric transition specialists, including Joel Baum, MS (senior director of professional development and family services at Gender Spectrum), presented at a conference and continuing education event in Santa Cruz, California.  The all-day event, attended by over 400 people, was recorded and video is available here. (Hat tip: GenderTrender, which covered part of Ehrensaft’s presentation here.)

The 5.5-hour video is well worth watching in its entirety for anyone interested in the current state of “gender affirmative” therapy. This post will touch on only a few highlights from the conference. There is much, much more.  (Numbers in square brackets give approximate hour:minute time stamps for each video excerpt.)compare-models

Dr. Ehrensaft [1:31] tells the audience that “gender affirmation” differs from the more cautious approach of learning to “live in your own skin” provided by Dr. Ken Zucker in Toronto. Zucker’s clinic was shut down by trans activists a few months ago—reported by Ehrensaft with obvious glee and to the applause of her audience. Gender affirmation also parts company with the “watchful waiting” protocol pioneered by clinician-researchers in the well known Amsterdam gender identity clinic founded by Peggy Cohen-Kettenis. The Dutch have repeatedly counseled caution in social transition and early intervention for gender dysphoric children, given the high rate of desistance and the fact that early social transition has made it more difficult for some young people to change their minds later—and might even increase the likelihood that a child will persist in a trans identity.

kid-tells

Ehrensaft labels “gender affirmative” therapy as “listen and act,” i.e., essentially follow the child’s lead in whether or not to proceed with early interventions like social transition and puberty blockers.  According to Ehrensaft, this boils down to whether the child says they ARE (vs. “want to be”) the opposite sex, and how “persistent, insistent, and consistent” they are in asserting their cross-sex identification and gender “expression.”

Ehrensaft denies that gender-affirmative therapists simply “rubber stamp” a child’s gender identity, yet despite her protestations to the contrary, she constantly reifies the idea that gender identity is innate and recognizable even in pre-verbal babies and toddlers (more on that later in the post).

rubber-stamp

To be fair, in her presentation Ehrensaft does acknowledge the replicated research showing that a large majority of gender dysphoric kids will grow out of it. Yet she strongly believes that she and others like her can reliably distinguish between the “apples” who are truly transgender and the “oranges” who are only exploring.

Even if you believe there is such a thing as a truly transgender child, what is the justification—the evidence— for her hubris, her certainty that she and others like her who peddle the “gender affirmative” approach can predict which children might be happy, decades later, as sterilized, surgically and chemically altered adults? There really isn’t any. Even so, at one point, she claims science is on her side, pointing (without directly citing it) to “research” out of the University of Washington that proves—gender-defiant children really, really, really mean it when they say they prefer the clothes, toys, and lifestyle more typical of the opposite sex.

Let’s take a closer look at the “insistent, consistent, persistent” mantra—droned incessantly by gender experts, with this conference being no exception. While Ehrensaft and Baum take great pains to say they support and even celebrate gender “nonconformity,” when the young trans-identified people (present at the event and on video) talk about their experiences and how they “know” they are trans, we hear the same rationale we always do: they eschew sex-stereotyped behaviors and appearance.

How does Ehrensaft directly instruct us in what it means to be “consistent, persistent, and insistent”? She plays a video clip of a young FtoM who has this to say about why s/he is and has always been trans: [47:00]

 We [trans kids] don’t know about much but we know about gender. We know that girls are the ones supposed to be in skirts and dresses and guys in jeans and fight all the time…I think what should have been a sign to my parents was um…I was a quiet child. I didn’t fuss or anything. But whenever my mom would try to dress me up and put lipstick on me and get me all pretty for pictures I would throw a tantrum, I would scream … that should have definitely been a big sign to her that I was not trying to fit into the girl role… The most feminine thing I did as a child was paint my nails—black.

There is knowing laughter from the audience at this last point—as if choosing black (instead of pink or purple?) fingernail polish were a sure sign that this child was, in fact, a boy.  A child who was, yes, persistent, consistent, INSISTENT…that she didn’t want to act like a stereotypical girl in a dress wearing lipstick.

persistent-teen

If Ehrensaft could respond here, I imagine she might say something like, “oh but it’s more than gender expression!” If it’s more than that, why is the one video excerpt provided to teach us about who is really trans all about stereotypes? Could it be that conforming to stereotypes is the very basis of the definition of a “trans child”?

We hear from another trans-identified teen during the panel discussion, Jordan, a 17-year-old FtoM. We also hear from Jordan’s mom, Heidi, who leads a local support group for trans-identified youth and their families.

Heidi—who at several points mentions her strong church affiliation–talks about some of the childhood experiences that convinced her that her daughter was actually her son, including this [4:37]:

 When Jordan was about 2 it became clear to me that Jordan liked boy things—you know trucks, video games, violence…when he was about between 2 and 4 I noticed he would rip off the pretty little dresses I would put on him. Would go screaming through the house and would not leave the house until he had on his brother’s big, holey T-shirts. I just thought he was a tomboy and that it was a phase.  He was driving me nuts but it was a phase. During this time I worked for a very large church… We are Christians… We were told by everyone around us to make that kid wear a dress.

Another kid screaming in a dress.

Mom tried to force her kid to wear dresses: check. The kid liked trucks: check. A girl not wanting to wear dresses is ”a phase”: check. Mom didn’t like this (it drove her nuts): check. Mom was involved with a church, whose members wanted her to “make” her child wear a dress.

Could this stuff be any more obvious?

Jordan seems to agree that an aversion to wearing dresses is a key sign of one’s innate gender identity [4:44].

 My mom put me in a dress at Easter.  [But I] went to church in dirty jeans and a big T-shirt. That was kind of a big signal.

A big signal of what? That Jordan didn’t like dresses, preferred to wear jeans? What is this obsession with dresses that we see in each and every media story about girls who are “really boys?” When did we step into this time machine, returning to the turn of the 20th century? Even Katherine Hepburn wore pants and eschewed dresses in the 1940s.

Then there’s this from Heidi [4:40]:

[During the elementary school years] I was [putting up] posters of really strong women. You know, like the singer Pink? Oh, this is a real kick-ass girl, you can be like her… when he had a crush on her. It was things like that.

Things like… not wanting a lesbian daughter? This conference took place in 2016, in the San Francisco Bay Area–for decades considered one of the most gay-friendly places in the USA, and the audience tittered at this revelation of Jordan’s same-sex attraction—as if that were a sign Jordan was actually a boy!

Mom goes on to describe how Jordan was diagnosed with a whole “plethora” of mental health issues, from ADD to bipolar to mood disorders, and concludes that it was being trans that was the root of all these other problems; once Jordan transitioned, everything else cleared up: the self hatred, the self harm, the unhappiness.

This is an increasingly common refrain, and in fact, Ehrensaft at several points in her presentation asserts that “gender is the cure” for an array of other mental health issues. What we don’t see, from Ehrensaft or anyone else, is actual evidence that allowing children to “transition” results in improvements in mental health over the long haul. What we are beginning to see in accounts from some people who have detransitioned is that transition essentially put their other issues on hold for a while—only to re-arise when the initial transition exhilaration began to dissipate.

We have evidence from several studies that gender dysphoria often co-presents with other mental health issues. Ehrensaft and others like her are now turning such research on its head, positing that the cause of comorbid mental health problems is a child being somehow thwarted in their gender identity.

Returning to the conference, although Jordan’s “gender expression” is not assumed to be the real reason for transition, it is telling that, as always, it is examples of how a person does or does not conform to sex-stereotyped behaviors that are presented as the evidence for being transgender.

And that goes even for babies, according to Ehrensaft. During the audience Q&A, a man asks how one might tell if a pre-verbal one or two-year-old is transgender. Ehrensaft’s answer, delivered with a knowing and confident smile [Clip for this excerpt is here, starting at approx. 2:05-2:06 in main video]:

 [Preverbal children] are very action oriented. This is where mirroring is really important. And listening to actions. So let me give you an example.

I have a colleague who is transgender. There is a video of him as a toddler–he was assigned female at birth–tearing barrettes out of then-her hair. And throwing them on the ground. And sobbing. That’s a gender message.

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Ehrensaft miming a significant “gender message:” a toddler ripping barrettes out of her hair

Ehrensaft is a developmental psychologist, and the only reason she can think of that a 2-year-old girl might detest the feel of barrettes in her hair is that the child is really a boy?

Again, I imagine Ehrensaft’s retort: Oh, that was just one thing–there were lots of other signs. Then why does Ehrensaft use this as a seminal example when responding to a question from the audience? And according to Ehrensaft, if the child (consistently, insistently, and persistently?) tore the barrettes from her hair “not once, but twice, three times,” that is the clincher.

Ehrensaft elaborates:

Sometimes kids between 1 and 2, with beginning language, will say, “I BOY!” when you say “girl.” That’s an early verbal message! And sometimes there’s a tendency to say “Well, honey, no you’re a girl because little girls have vaginas, and you have a vagina so you’re a girl…Then when they get a little older [the child] says, “Did you not listen to me? I said I’m a boy with a vagina!

Believers in gender identity accuse gender skeptics like me of “reducing people to their genitals.” But here we have a developmental psychologist saying in so many words that the only thing that makes a girl a girl….is her vagina. I don’t know about the other parents reading this, but I can say my response to my two-year-old in that scenario would not have been a reference to (one aspect of) her genitals.

What else does Ehrensaft advise for parents who are so concerned about their baby’s “gender identity”?

They can show you about what they want to play with…and if they feel uncomfortable about how you are responding to them and their gender… if you’re misgendering them. So you look for those kinds of actions….like tearing a skirt off. …There was one on that Barbara Walters special, this child  wore the little onesie with the snap-ups between the legs. And at age one would unsnap them to make a dress, so the dress would flow. This is a child who was assigned male. That’s a communication, a pre-verbal communication about gender.

Ehrensaft then counsels parents not to try to squelch non-sex-stereotyped behaviors (good advice), but ruins it with a faith-based assertion of innate gender identity:

And children will know [they are transgender] by the second year of lifethey probably know before that but that’s pre-pre verbal.

Not to put too fine a point on it but…this is a PhD. developmental psychologist talking here. What is her evidence base for saying babies “know” their gender identity?

…Especially since, at other points in her presentation, Ehrensaft acknowledges that gender identity can be fluid.

So which is it? A baby innately “knows” their gender identity, or it’s mutable?   To be logically consistent, Ehrensaft ought to also say that some infants are born (innately) “gender fluid”—an assertion that would be much closer to the truth, given the fact of lifelong neuroplasticity.  I wonder when the NIH will fund a study to determine which babies are born “binary” and which “genderqueer”?

What if gender-fluid children transition but change their minds? No harm done, according to Ehrensaft. She breezily asserts [1:50] that there is “no data” that it harms kids to switch back and forth between identities, as long as we “support” them in their “journey”—presumably even if that journey takes them down the road to hormones and surgeries which will alter them forever. She even touts “nonbinary transition” [3:57] as if it is something to be celebrated when youth who define themselves as “agender,” “nonbinary,” or any of the other “genders” (better known as “personalities”) might choose irreversible medical interventions.

Is Ehrensaft aware of cases like this? Would she just chalk it up to this detransitioned woman being “gender fluid” instead of “binary” and the permanent damage done to her body just part of her “gender journey” for which we have “no evidence” of any harm?

My double mastectomy was severely traumatizing. I paid a guy, a guy who does this every day for cash, to drug me to sleep and cut away healthy tissue. I did this because I believed it would heal all of the emotional issues I was blaming on my female body. It didn’t work. Now I’m still all fucked up and I’m missing body parts, too.

Ehrensaft also thinks social media has “been a godsend” [2:08] and a “tremendous boon” for young people to find others like them, with the only real ill effect being the online bullying of trans-identified kids. To be fair, she does throw a bone later to the fact that some kids presenting to clinics may be using a “script” and it’s important to look deeper to see whether it’s “their script”—which is something;  although if Ehrensaft was trained in child/adolescent developmental psychology, her cheerleading for nothing but the positive effects of social media is stunning. Has she never heard about online “communities” of teen anorexics and cutters?

Now to touch upon one final topic covered by Ehrensaft and others in the conference: permanent sterilization caused by prepubescent hormone treatment. This “side effect” is rarely mentioned in the countless media stories celebrating trans kids. One usually has to hunt for obscure literature references to find any mention. But during the conference, several providers do  acknowledge—repeatedly–that puberty blockers followed by cross-sex hormones always result in permanent infertility. They do so at least three times in the conference: [3:53], [4:18], and [5:06].

During the closing panel discussion, Ehrensaft and Baum devote several minutes to the topic of sterilizing trans kids—but explain it away with a twofer: By equating it to treatments for children with life-threatening cancers, and by stating that parents reluctant to sterilize their 11-year-olds are only concerned because they selfishly want grandchildren.

Actually, it’s a three-fer, because Ehrensaft and Baum manage to squeeze in the usual emotional blackmail: children who have to go through their natal puberty might commit suicide. [5:06].

Ehrensaft:

Another thing that’s a show-stopper around [parents] giving consent is the fertility issue. That if the child goes directly from puberty blockers to cross- sex hormones they are pretty much forfeiting their fertility and won’t be able to have a genetically related child.

There’s a lot of parents who have dreams of becoming grandparents. It’s very hard for them not to imagine those genetically related grandchildren. So we have to work with parents around, these aren’t your dreams. [she laughs]. You have to focus on your child’s dreams. What they want.

Let’s be very clear here:  Ehrensaft laughingly implies that parents concerned about their child’s human right to choose or not to choose to reproduce, a decision heretofore seen as inalienable and reserved for mature adults, are really only concerned about future grandchildren, not the bodily integrity or cognitive wherewithal of their prepubescent child. These egocentric parents are denying their children “their dreams.” These thoughtless parents need to be “worked with” by gender specialists.

And that’s not all: Ehrensaft goes on to shame these recalcitrant parents with the implication that puberty-blocked, 11-year-old trans tweens are more socially responsible than their clueless parents:

 And what I will say about many of the youth who want puberty blockers is: I have never met such an altruistic group of kids around adoption! Never! “I will adopt because there are so many children who need good homes.” And I think that’s both heartfelt but also they’re trying to tell us the most important thing to me right now is being able to have every opportunity to have my gender affirmation be as complete as possible. Anything else is secondary.

Do we need a PhD in developmental psychology to tell us this? You bet an 11-year-old thinks anything but what they want RIGHT NOW is secondary.  I want it, and I want it right now: the motto of youth, of children who are a decade or more away from full development of their reasoning, judgment, and awareness of future consequences.

But wait—perhaps there’s hope. Asks Ehrensaft:

The question is, can an 11-year-old, 12-year-old at that level of development, be really thinking and know what they want at age 30 around infertility?

Can they? Might it be ok to wait and allow this child to mature to adulthood before making such momentous decisions?

The answer to that is: We don’t think twice about instituting treatments for cancers for children that will compromise their fertility. We don’t say, we’re not going to give them the treatment for cancer because it’s going to compromise their fertility.

So here we have a woman who is directly responsible for sterilizing 11 and 12 year old children equating simply waiting–allowing a child to grow up to make their own decisions—with denying cancer treatment. And of course, we know what’s coming next: Transition or suicide.

For some of the youth, having the gender affirmation interventions is as life-saving as the oncology services for children who have cancer.

And they must have these interventions right now!

I wonder: Do Ehrensaft or any of the others here, so very certain of their moral superiority, ever lie awake at night wondering whether these children in their care could just as easily be supported in waiting?

baum-threat

Joel Baum instructs parents to transition their kids–or else.

Joel Baum, head of education for Gender Spectrum doubles down [5:09] to deliver the coupdegrâce to any parents who might still be hesitating:

I’ll just add one thing here. When we’re working with families, what is the leverage point for that family?…The fact of the matter is at the end of the day, it is their decision and we just hope they’re going to make an informed decision. Just make sure you have all the information you need. Which includes:

Here comes the punchline—the ultimate “leverage point”:

You can either have grandchildren or not have a kid anymore because they’ve ended the relationship with you or in some cases because they’ve chosen a more dangerous path for themselves.

Here, I’ll just let one of my lovely, unpublished commenters translate Joel Baum’s so-very-subtle veiled threat into plain language:

You are a horrible mother and you are abusing your son. You’re the reason trans people kill themselves. I hope one day he escapes from you and your transphobic abuse and never has to see you again.

Never mind that my daughter desisted from trans identity; never mind that our family remains intact despite my “transphobic abuse” i.e., refusal to pay for hormones and top surgery. And never mind, Joel Baum, that there is no evidence that troubled youth will desist from self harm if their parents are terrified into paying for irreversible medical interventions.

At this juncture, let me repeat what I’ve said many times before: A concern about sterilizing children is not a statement about whether a person ought to reproduce or not.  It’s about respecting the right of children to mature to adulthood to make the decision for themselves. It’s a basic moral tenet, respected in every other area of human rights law: you don’t sterilize children.

And this, too: There is no evidence, historical or otherwise, that a child prevented from medically transitioning will kill themselves before making their own medical decisions as an adult. That activist-clinicians feel justified in holding this threat over the heads of loving parents—and that journalists, politicians, and pediatric specialists who should know better abet them in wielding this weapon—is deeply shameful and should be exposed to the intense, disinfecting light of public scrutiny as long as necessary; until the purveyors of this immoral strategy are finally forced to answer the difficult questions they have been avoiding for the better part of a decade.

This conference is worth studying for anyone who wants to fully understand how a formerly rare diagnosis, with medical treatment only available for legal adults, has morphed into a pediatric specialty area where doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists wave away the sterilization, drugging, and permanent medical alteration of children with nary a peep of dissent. And they do it by shamelessly scaring the bejesus out of everyone, by shaming parents into believing that unless they permanently sterilize little Judy or Billy at age 11, unless they agree to irreversible medical interventions for their teenager, they will be colluding in their child’s demise.

Watch the entire 5-hour presentation, even if you have to do it over several sessions. What you’ll be observing is how key movers and shakers on the cutting edge of pediatric transition in the United States are moving inexorably forward. Understand their tactics. Understand their ideology.

Because despite its steady progress so far, the “gender affirmative” pediatric transition juggernaut is only beginning to pick up speed.

[Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, be sure to read this post by a therapist who is skeptical of the “identity model” for trans-identified youth.]

NEA teams with trans activists to set school policy & secretly undermine “unsupportive” parents—even on overnight field trips

by overwhelmed

As more transgender-identifying children enter our educational institutions, school officials have scrambled to provide accommodations for them, sometimes at the expense of other students’ rights, and sometimes against their parents’ wishes. The complications introduced are legion—ranging from opposite sex pronoun usage to highly controversial bathroom and locker room access.

One such school that has been affected is Township High School District 211, located in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. School officials had granted a natal male trans-identifying student’s request to be treated as a female in all areas (including bathroom usage and sports teams) but drew the line at access to the girls’ locker rooms. An attempt was made to balance the rights of the trans-identifying student (referred to as Student A) with those of the girls, by providing a separate changing facility, but it was deemed unacceptable.

The District offered to install—and in fact did install—a bank of lockers there, and to let Student A choose several female friends who would be comfortable changing alongside her. However, Student A told OCR that she felt this arrangement would “ostracize” her.

…The former Superintendent stated to OCR that she based her decision not only on Student A’s rights and needs, but on the privacy concerns of all students. The Superintendent told OCR that Student A explained that she wanted equal access to the girls’ locker rooms because “she wanted to be a girl like every other girl.”

But this male-bodied student was eventually given access to the girls’ locker rooms. Student A’s parents had filed a lawsuit and as a result, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights had become involved. The accommodation was made only after the school was threatened with the loss of millions in federal funding.

 After the student filed a complaint, the Dept. of Education’s Office for Civil Rights ruled Dist. 211 had discriminated against the student “on the basis of sex.”

Some attendees at the Sunday meeting noted the transgender student had been using female locker rooms already for two years without the school notifying students or parents.

…The school board changed its policies to allow Student A into the girls locker rooms, so long as the student changed behind newly installed “privacy curtains.”

Student A’s parents were able to achieve these new rights for their child, but it came with a cost. The natal girls in the locker room, many who feel uncomfortable changing within sight of a born male, had their right to privacy taken away. Six of these high school girls bravely spoke up during a school board meeting:

 Those curtains, the six girls said, shield Student A from personal insecurities, but they leave the rest of them uncomfortably exposed.

“It is unfair to infringe upon the rights of others to accommodate one person,” the six girls, in a joint statement, told an audience of at least 500.

“Although we will never fully understand your personal struggle,” they said, addressing the transgender student, “please understand that we, too, all are experiencing personal struggles that need to be respected.”

Some parents, organized as “D211 Parents for Privacy,” are putting pressure on the school board and their legislators to try to regain the privacy lost to their children. On their Facebook page, their sensible plea is for a compromise for Student A that doesn’t infringe on the rights of others:

 “We should be able to agree that accommodations can be made for those who need them due to rare situations they find themselves in so they can get through school without undue stress. That same principle should apply to EVERYONE.

Accommodations should NOT infringe on others if it can be helped and especially if the accommodation takes place in a private, intimate space where minor children are getting undressed!

It is called balancing your feelings with others. There is NO BALANCING of needs here. It is all ONE SIDED.”

Unfortunately, the situation in which these parents and their children have found themselves is becoming less rare. There has been a steady increase in the number of kids claiming to be transgender since the early 2000s.

rise in cases

The graph is from 4thwavenow’s post “Why are more girls than boys presenting to gender clinics?,” showing the relatively recent rise in the number of gender dysphoric adolescents–especially girls, but also boys. It’s an international trend. The BBC reported last week that there has been nearly a 1000% rise in the number of young people referred to gender clinics during the last six years, with a peak around age 16. I’ve also seen several anecdotal reports of multiple “trans kids” in one friend group, and the phenomenon was noted by a psychotherapist in this post. It’s clearly becoming more and more common for students to identify as transgender.

In response to the increasing numbers of trans-claiming students, the government has been pressuring schools to implement policies to safeguard these students’ rights. On December 1, 2014, the Department of Education released a memo declaring that gender identities are now protected under Title IX.

In one short paragraph of a 34-page memo released on Dec. 1, the Department of Education articulated a clear stance on gender identity, saying transgender students in public schools should be enrolled in single-sex classes that align with how they live their lives day-to-day.

“We’re thrilled,” says Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “It’s so critical to the health and well-being of those students, and it’s going to be so helpful to have that guidance in writing so that schools understand what their obligations are.”

The memo is explicit that federal law protects students’ decisions made in accordance with their gender identity. “Under Title IX,” it reads, a school “must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of single-sex classes.”

Yes, you read that correctly, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) was “thrilled.” If you’re like me, you wondered why an organization with Lesbian in the title would support the increased rights of so-called transgender youth. After a quick search, I found a Wikipedia article that revealed Shannon Minter, a “trans man,” is a civil rights attorney with an impressive track record of LGBT legal victories. Minter was even appointed by President Obama to a White House commission. Having Minter as the legal director for NCLR coincides with the organization’s aims to cover the entire LGBT, not just the L. “Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy and Public Education” are the goals of this non-profit, public interest law firm.

NCLR.jpg

In accord with the NCLR’s mission to promote transgender equality in schools, it joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gender Spectrum, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the National Education Association (NEA) to create a set of guidelines for schools. In August of 2015, NCLR issued a press release announcing the publication of “Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools.”

 Schools are increasingly being called upon to include and support transgender students. Recognizing that this can seem daunting or overwhelming, Schools in Transition offers practical guidance and field-tested tips to parents, educators, administrators, and community members on planning and supporting a transgender student through a transition at school. The guide is geared toward the needs of all students, kindergarten through twelfth grade, and incorporates recommendations that will allow schools to tailor those plans to the particular circumstances of the student and school. The authors include statements, recommendations, and resources which are based on data, research and best practices that have been tested in this field, as well as narratives of real experiences from students and educators.

So, “Schools In Transition” is a guide to help “schools understand what their obligations are” to transgender students. In fact, schools need so much guidance that this publication is a whopping 68 pages long. Bear with me, there is a lot of information to get through.

Who are the lead authors? Asaf Orr, Esq. (Transgender Youth Project Staff Attorney for NCLR) and Joel Baum, M.S. (Senior Director, Professional Development and Family Services for Gender Spectrum).

Before I get into the details of “Schools In Transition,” I’ll warn you that sprinkled throughout the guidelines is trans activist lingo. Terms like “cisgender,” “gender-expansive,” “assigned at birth,” “wrong puberty,” and “authentic selves” are used liberally and unabashedly. There is neither acknowledgement that students could be confused about their gender identity, nor any mention that most gender dysphoric children desist. It is assumed that once children declare themselves trans, it is a fact and they must be accommodated, even against parents’ wishes, if necessary. (There is actually an entire section devoted to “Unsupportive Parents” in Chapter 5.)

Hang on as I take you on a quick trip through all six chapters (and appendices) of “Schools In Transition.” I will share various nuggets of wisdom from the authors that I deem especially troubling. But I urge you to read the guidelines yourself. The authors thoroughly address all of the complications that trans students introduce into schools.

Introduction:

Don’t ever doubt children who think they are transgender. Period.

 The expression of transgender identity, or any other form of gender-expansive behavior, is a healthy, appropriate and typical aspect of human development. A gender-expansive student should never be asked, encouraged or required to affirm a gender identity or to express their gender in a manner that is not consistent with their self-identification or expression. Any such attempts or requests are unethical and will likely cause significant emotional harm. It is irrelevant whether a person’s objection to a student’s identity or expression is based on sincerely held religious beliefs or the belief that the student lacks capacity or ability to assert their gender identity or expression (e.g., due to age, developmental disability or intellectual disability).

 Chapter 1:

If you don’t affirm their transgender self diagnosis, it will likely lead to suicide.

 The consequences of not affirming a child’s gender identity can be severe, and it can interfere with their ability to develop and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. In the school context, that distress will also hinder a transgender student’s focus in class and ability to learn. The longer a transgender youth is not affirmed, the more significant and long-lasting the negative consequences can become, including loss of interest in school, heightened risk for alcohol and drug use, poor mental health and suicide.

It is best to socially transition children who think they are the opposite sex.

 With the goal of preventing or alleviating the distress that transgender youth often experience, typically referred to as Gender Dysphoria,3 healthcare providers recommend that the child “socially transition” and live consistently with their gender identity. That includes dressing, interacting with peers and using names and pronouns in a manner consistent with their identified gender. For most transgender youth, social transition provides tremendous and immediate relief, allowing them to flourish socially, emotionally and academically.

 Chapter 2:

This chapter deals with bullying of “gender-expansive” youth. I agree that no child should be harassed due to how they present or act. And, actually, I strongly support this statement:

 No child should be prevented from pursuing their passions simply based on others’ perceptions of their gender. By sending a message that certain pursuits are off-limits simply because of a person’s gender, we lose access to an incredible source of human potential.

 Chapter 3:

Staff, students and parents may need to be trained to accept a student’s authentic self.

 A student’s desire to undergo a gender transition at school is borne out of a deep need to be their authentic self. The urgency and timing of the gender transition must be carefully balanced. Ideally, the student is not currently experiencing an unmanageably high level of distress at school, which will allow the student, school and family (if appropriate) to work together as a team to establish the most positive scenario in which the transition can take place. This process could include training for staff, students and parents and a carefully laid out plan for the student’s authentic identity to be shared with the school community.

If anyone has a problem accepting children as transgender, it’s probably because they are uninformed.

 It is important to keep in mind that many negative reactions boil down to a lack of knowledge or familiarity with the idea of transgender people, particularly transgender youth. While a public transition might make others (including you) feel uncomfortable, that discomfort does not outweigh the student’s need to be safe and supported.

 Chapter 4:

Students get to decide where they go and what they do based on gender identity. If anyone has a problem accepting this, they should try to be more open-minded.

 Another crucial element in supporting a transitioning student is giving them access to sex-separated facilities, activities or programs based on the student’s gender identity. Restrooms, locker rooms, health and physical education classes, competitive athletics, overnight field trips, homecoming court and prom are just some of the explicitly gendered spaces that tend to be the most controversial because they require us to re-examine our beliefs about who belongs in those spaces.

Concerning bathroom usage, a transgender student’s comfort level has a higher priority than a non-transgender student’s comfort level.

 Any student who feels uncomfortable sharing facilities with a transgender student should be allowed to use another more private facility like the bathroom in the nurse’s office, but a transgender student should never be forced to use alternative facilities to make other students comfortable.

Teachers, are you planning an overnight field trip? Gender identity determines the sleeping arrangements. And the school cannot disclose to roommates or parents if a student’s gender identity and sex do not match.

 A transgender student’s comfort level with sleeping arrangements will largely dictate the manner in which related issues are addressed. If students are to be separated based on gender, then the transgender student should be allowed to room with peers that match their gender identity. As with any other students, the school should try to pair the transgender student with peers with whom the student feels comfortable. In some cases, a transgender student may want a room with fewer roommates or another alternative suggested by the student or their family. The school should honor these requests whenever possible and make adjustments to prevent the student from being marginalized because of those alternative arrangements. Regardless of whether those roommates know about the student’s gender identity, the school has an obligation to maintain the student’s privacy and cannot disclose or require disclosure of the student’s transgender status to the other students or their parents.

Don’t believe that trans girls could have an advantage over natal girls on competitive sports teams. Seriously, don’t think about it. Stop.

 Even in states whose athletic associations do not have a written policy or rule on this topic, schools and districts should allow transgender students to compete on athletic teams based on gender identity. Unfortunately, schools often erroneously believe that a transgender student, particularly a transgender girl, will have a competitive advantage over the other players and therefore should not be allowed to compete on the team that matches their gender identity. Concerns regarding competitive advantage are unfounded and often grounded in sex stereotypes about the differences and abilities of males versus females.11

Focusing on the perceived differences between males and females too often obscures the fact that there is great variation among cisgender males and among cisgender females. Moreover, the very small numbers of transgender student-athletes who have benefitted from transgender-inclusive eligibility rules have integrated well within the size and skill level of their teammates, such that there has not been any concern with competitive advantage. Thus, while a transgender girl may have been assigned male at birth, she still falls within the wide range of athletic abilities of her female peers.

Similarly, the participation of transgender student-athletes does not compromise their safety or that of other student-athletes. The safety rules of each sport are designed to protect players of all sizes and skill levels and adequately neutralize any concerns regarding the safety of transgender and cisgender student-athletes.

Chapter 5:

Schools should affirm and accept students as transgender even if it goes against their parent(s)’ wishes.

 In these situations, the transgender student will often seek out an administrator or educator for support. Whenever a transgender student initiates this process, the educator or administrator should ask whether the student’s family is accepting in order to avoid inadvertently putting the student at risk of greater harm by discussing with the student’s family. Based on that information, the school and student should determine how to proceed through the collaborative process of figuring out how the school can support the student and balance the student’s need to be affirmed at school with the reality that the student does not have that support at home.

Unsupportive parents might need to be educated by the school on how best to support their child. To sway them, school officials may need to remind them about the high rate of suicide.

 Addressing the student’s needs at school provides a great short-term solution; but where possible, the goal should be to support the student’s family in accepting their child’s gender identity and seek opportunities to foster a better relationship between the student and their family. A parent’s initial negative reaction to indications that their child might be transgender is likely based on inaccurate or incomplete information about gender identity or out of fear for what this will mean for their child’s future. Such reactions often come from a place of love and protection, and are not intended to harm their child — rejection can be a misguided attempt at protection. Learning that transgender youth experience these behaviors as rejection, and that these behaviors can have serious consequences for their children, often helps families change their behaviors.

Schools can assist the process of family acceptance in a myriad of ways, including arranging a safe space for the student to disclose their gender identity to their parents, providing counseling services for the whole family or connecting them to local resources or other parents of transgender or gender-expansive youth. As part of this effort, it is important to educate the student’s family members about the serious consequences of refusing to affirm their child’s gender identity. Sharing observations from school personnel that highlight the effects rejection has had on the student may also help encourage parents to begin moving toward acceptance.

When all else fails, school officials may need to testify against unsupportive parents in court. Parents, unlike educators, can be biased about their student’s needs.

 If the parents are unable to resolve the dispute amicably, it is possible that an educator or school administrator may be called to testify in court.

School officials interact with the student on a daily basis and focus on supporting the student’s growth and development, which gives school personnel unique insight into the student’s needs without the biases parents can or are perceived to have. Sharing the school’s experiences with the student before and after the student began identifying as transgender can help highlight to the judge the importance of affirming the student’s gender identity. Describing the academic, social or emotional changes that school personnel observed will strengthen the testimony and give the judge a fuller understanding of the child’s needs and what would be in that that child’s best interests.

 Chapter 6:

This chapter focuses on ways to get legal protections for transgender students. Just utilize Title IX, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and state anti-discrimination laws.

 Appendix A (Puberty and Medical Transition):

The benefits of binders outweigh the risks.

 At the onset of puberty, gender dysphoria can become incapacitating for transgender youth as their body begins to develop secondary sex characteristics that are inconsistent with their gender identity. These inconsistencies are also visible to peers. Transgender youth often take special precautions to hide their developing bodies with the hope of presenting to the outside world a body that is consistent with their gender identity. For example, a youth who identifies as male may use clothing and materials to flatten the contours of his chest. Those materials can be tight, constricting and uncomfortable; however, the dysphoria caused by not taking those additional precautions far outweighs the drawbacks.

 Appendix B (Gender & Pronouns):

To reduce gender dysphoria, use incorrect grammar.

pronoun chart

 Appendix C (Talking Points):

I won’t reproduce all four pages here, but Appendix C includes talking points developed by Gender Spectrum to address concerns about teaching gender and supporting trans students.

Some examples:

  • So who decides if a student is transgender? What is to prevent a boy coming to school one day and simply declaring that he is a girl and changing in the girl’s locker room?
  • Why should my child learn about gender at school?
  • Isn’t my child too young to be learning about gender?
  • If you’re talking about gender aren’t you discussing reproduction and sexuality?
  • Ideas about gender diversity go against the values we are instilling in my child at home. Are you trying to teach my child to reject these values?
  • Won’t my child get confused if we speak about more than two gender options?
  • Won’t discussing gender encourage my child to be transgender?

Administrators at US public schools–without consultation with parents or the rest of the citizenry–have enlisted the aid of a well known trans-activist organization to set policy. San Francisco Bay Area-based Gender Spectrum provides “consultation, training and events designed to help families, educators, professionals, and organizations understand and address the concepts of gender identity and expression.” Put another way, they are really big into educating people who may have doubts about gender identity.

Gender Spectrum cap.jpg

I admit that the information on their site makes my head spin. On the one hand, I am in total agreement that society’s rigid definitions of gender are harmful. And, likewise, I believe that it “is detrimental to those who do not fit neatly into these categories.” On the other hand, I cannot grasp how rejecting sex role stereotypes would lead a person to believe they are transgender. Their website is full of this kind of faulty reasoning.

Well, let’s get back to Schools In Transition. We are close to the finish line.

 Appendix D (Gender Support Plan & Gender Transition Plan):

Gender Spectrum is also the brains behind creating official-looking, convenient, ready-to-print forms. Included is a Gender Support Plan form and a Gender Transition Plan form.

 Appendix E (Assessing Transgender Students for Special Education):

Make sure that anyone evaluating a transgender student keeps affirming and accepting their gender identity. Educate them if necessary.

 Determining whether a student qualifies for an IEP or Section 504 Plan typically involves an assessment. To ensure the assessment provides accurate results, the assessment must be conducted in a manner that affirms the student’s gender identity. Beyond referring to the student by their chosen name and pronouns, the assessor should become familiar with the literature on transgender youth. Having experience working with transgender youth can also help lead to a more accurate assessment of a transgender student’s needs. Lastly, the assessor must not recommend any supports, services or accommodations that are intended to change a student’s gender identity or otherwise shame them for who they are.

Overall, I am quite amazed at the amount of information crammed into “Schools In Transition.” It seems designed to help schools navigate through ALL of the trans-induced complications. Schools under the threat of losing federal funding may feel they have no choice but to embrace these guidelines. Especially since the National Education Association (yes, the organization representing three million teachers) is a co-author and is promoting it as an “extremely valuable resource.”

 “NEA is proud to be a co-author of Schools in Transition, a first-of-its kind guide to supporting transgender students in K-12 schools,” added NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “This publication is an extremely valuable resource for the three million NEA members who work tirelessly to assure that their schools and classrooms are safe and welcoming for all students. And it will be a lifesaver for the increasing number of transgender students who are living as their authentic selves. Only when every school provides an inclusive, respectful environment can every student achieve their full potential.”

If there are any teachers out there reading this, I hope you are also skeptical about “Schools In Transition.” Many of you know your students quite well and realize that children can sometimes be confused. By “affirming” every student’s gender identity (because it is sanctioned by your schools’ policies), you may actually be causing them harm and setting them on the path to socially and medically transition with all of its attendant risks. If you share doubts  and agree that this type of “support” could be detrimental, please raise questions with your school administrators. There are many concerned parents who need your help.