Jesse Singal and Desistance
Let’s talk about trans kids and the state of academic information on trans folks and the history of medical misconduct that trans people have had to cope with.
But before all that, let us talk about a science writer named Jesse Singal. Jesse Singal is a senior editor and science writer for New York Magazine. He’s especially well known for some particularly well-written deconstructions of that particular hate movement in gaming that will never end.
He, however, is also becoming more and more well-known for his articles on trans kids. Which are… okay, the only charitable way I can put this is that they are awful. Absolute drek.
Defense of Zucker’s Reparative Therapy Clinic
His first infamous article on the subject of trans kids was a defense of Zucker’s infamous Gender Identity Clinic in Toronto.
Now, most cis people have never heard of Zucker or his clinic in Toronto. A few have and assume that since it was a clinic set up to serve “trans and gender non-conforming kids” that it must therefore have been an empathetic and caring institution that tried its best to serve trans youth and young trans adults.
Except it really wasn’t. Zucker’s clinic was essentially one based on the idea of reparative therapy. I.e. the idea that one can “fix” being trans or being “girlier” or “butcher” than is typically expected for your gender.
As such, Zucker’s main treatment methodology surrounded “gender-confirming behavior”. Basically, if you have a boy child that is expressing that she is a girl or that he would like to play with dolls or dress up in high heels, that the best way to care for that is to aggressively counter that by giving them stereotypically masculine clothes and toys and refusing to call the child by the gender or names they ask for. This sort of “tough love” will then set the boy straight and keep them from growing into the sort of “deviant” lifestyle that the sort of permissive parents who would let little boys play with dolls would encourage.
Sure, if a child fought through all of Zucker’s many steps of emotional abuse for years and years and their parents (specifically their mothers, Zucker was a big fan of the “your mother is the source of gender confusion” theories)*, then he might deign to allow them to pursue medical transition options in late childhood, early adulthood and a lot of kids in the Toronto area had no choice but to do that, because for the longest time, he was literally the only game in town for transgender youth. But his main goal was no
*Here’s a heartbreaking account from a mother of a transgender child talking about the lack of research and trying to follow Zucker’s advice and seeing just how much pain and misery that was causing in her daughter.**
**Which of course, it does. Singal tries to turn Zucker into a martyr, speaking obliquely about an untold and hidden number of folks who mourn Zucker’s clinic for it’s “excellent” trans-related care, because it’s telling that there’s not many trans folks who went to his clinic who think fondly of him, or even many folks at all. And that’s unsurprising. Even if his methods work, and even he admits that his methods are fully unsubstantiated, they are still awful abusive things. Like, almost no child who is gender non-conforming as a kid but grows up gay instead of trans or even grows up cis and het looks back and goes, “you know what time in my life was awesome? When I was brutally bullied for liking the color pink.” Hell, a lot of male geeks carry lifelong chips on their shoulders entirely surrounding being bullied for “not being tough” and “being a girly wimp”.
Overall, his method was rather indistinguishable from the status quo treatment of “effeminate” boys (and those read by society as boys) and its treatment of “masculine” girls (and those read by society as girls). Bullying, threats, social condemnation, outright refusal of expression. And for those of us who have been through the gay rights struggle for the last few decades, from the methods of ex-gay camps which also fixate on “gender affirmation”.
Hell, the hilarious and brutal coming-of-age comedy But I’m a Cheerleader is entirely based on the weird gender ideas of sexuality reparative therapy and the overall ex-gay movement. And a central motif was the aggressive attempt to “normalize” “deviant” attraction with stereotypical feminine or masculine activities, completely unaware of how homoerotic many of them are:
And that’s the thing, Zucker’s clinic is no different than any run-of-the-mill ex-gay clinic, hell his protocol is literally what Pre-Snake Person Dispensationalist Christian parents are encouraged to do with their kids if they suspect they may have “deviant” tendencies***.
***The comic below is “Dumbing of Age” by David Willis. In this comic, Joyce is a former homeschooled evangelical kid from the PMD culture and her boyfriend Ethan here is a gay male she is in the process of trying to “fix” (she later realizes how fucked up this is and comes to fully support him). The “Joshua” they are referencing is Joyce’s trans sister Jocelyne, who has yet to come out to the family but has come out to Ethan:
The main idea behind Zucker’s clinic is that the first priority in any form of trans healthcare is to make doubly, triply sure that no single cis person ever be forced through the ignominy of going through what we expect trans people to do.
And the thing about it is that view was not that uncommon very long ago and still holds a lot of sway in the academic literature on trans individuals. In fact, Zucker himself started a vanity press solely devoted to publishing his papers on the awesomeness of his method and other works by former mentees of his. By volume, this makes up a hefty bulk of the available research on trans youth. To the point where a lot of the protocols at the time were heavily sourced from Zucker or his associates.
History of Bad Health Care
For the longest time, trans healthcare and the access to it has been based on convincing cis gatekeepers that you are in fact trans enough to be allowed to seek healthcare relating to the treatment of gender dysphoria or receive legal recognition for your gender identity. And it’s main goal has been to discourage as many seeking care from doing so in the hopes that that will make sure not a single cis person will transition and come to “regret it”****.
**** “Transgender regret” is a major watchword of the TERF movement and among right-wing transphobes including the ADF and is frequently used in papers arguing against the extension of equal rights to transgender individuals. A lot of it surrounds a single man by the name of Walt Heyer who is basically just PFOX Part 2. (No really, here’s Zinnia Jones looking into his claims on the number who regret transition and what she found about his claims and the claims of other “ex-trans” activists).
For the longest time, the Standards of Care for transgender individuals was based on the infamous Harry Benjamin Standards (which are still in effect, unfortunately, in many places, despite the hard work of trans activists). The Harry Benjamin Standards of Care basically demanded from trans folks looking to transition be of specific body types and levels of femininity or masculinity (overweight patients were forced on crash diets and unhealthy eating disorders to approximate the shape allowed to proceed and those whose overall body shapes were not deemed masculine or feminine enough or those who were non-binary were straight up denied care). They then were expected to spend up to 2 years living without hormones as the gender that they were (meaning putting themselves at high risk for street harassment and violence), then allowed hormones and surgery, but and here’s the catch, they were expected at the end of the care to disappear and become stealth, literally starting brand new lives with brand new names, miles away from any friends or family, so as to best blend in as cis and certainly never mention that you were trans or aid younger trans folks trying to get care.
These standards devastated the trans activist community, denying us our activists for decades and convincing many to hide themselves and their lives away lest they be denied medical treatment for their trans identity. And it’s only been in recent years, thanks to the tireless activism of trans folks who refused to disappear and abide that stealth requirement in the 90s and 00s (not to mention the rise of the internet) that has allowed the trans community to rebuild its community strength and actually advocate more effectively for its rights. This was the normal and the academic side of things was no better.
One of Zucker’s other main defenders has been Alice Dreger, who wrote a pop-science book on “activists wars on scientists” that was basically a giant hit list of people she disliked personally. (Zinnia Jones did a big deconstruction of her and her work here). But she was a major source for Jesse Singal’s article. Her main objection surrounded defending a book called “The man who would be queen” by J. Michael Bailey. Which was in and of itself defending an academic concept known as “autogynephilia”. The idea behind it is that there are “true transsexuals”, who are hyper femme and attracted to boys (unurprisingly given social anxiety surrounding masculinity and the idea that boys “can become girls”, most of the research in existence focuses on freaking out about trans women first and often added trans men standards and research as an afterthought and never even broaches topics of non-binary identities) who should be allowed to undergo this whole procedure, because hey, in the mind of the researchers, if they’re hot enough, it’s almost like they’re girls and it’s better than being gay*****. And so everyone else, the trans lesbians, the trans bisexuals, the trans girls who like butching it up with flannel or a pair of jeans and sneaks, were clearly just “fetishistic straight men” who “get off on wearing women’s clothes” and so should be denied any treatment what’s so ever” (again, no really, go back and read Zinnia Jones’s deconstruction, it’s hella damning). This second group was then referred to as “autogynephiles” because they weren’t, in the eyes of the researchers, “trans”, they just were in the love of the idea of themselves having vaginas (hence the term). It’s still a popular term among TERFs and is usually trotted out to justify harassing trans lesbians and argue that they are just “pretending to be women” in order to “get off with sleeping with lesbians”.
***** No really, that was a large part of the theory. And part of the conspiracy theory TERFs break out every so often to argue that trans people in general is all a conspiracy to turn all the gay people straight. Trans lesbians and trans gay men are ignored in this or called the wrong gender in order to justify this feeling of persecution (not to mention straight up ignoring bi or ace trans folks or nb trans folks of all varieties or orientations or how interconnected the trans movement has always been with queer rights in general (Miss Major threw the first brick at Stonewall and trans activists have been at the center of a lot of gay rights struggles including the right to get married)). Ironically enough, they usually cite things like Iran’s support of trans folks only when they would otherwise be gay to “prove” this conspiracy. Despite the fact that the system Iran is using is the same systems they themselves praise as the “good ones” (like the old Harry Benjamin system) before “political correctness” took over. And are otherwise fine with reducing the idea of trans people into “former gender-non-conforming gay person turned trans” when it means rejecting the huge trans spectrum (or wibbly-wobbly ball) that the trans community puts forth.
Her and Bailey are also big fans of Blanchard’s Typology. Which is based on the idea that there is an “objective” survey that separates out the “lying autogynephiles” from the “true transsexuals” and labels said “autogynephilia” as a paraphilia similar in structure to pedophilia or bestiality. Blanchard is also somewhat famous as that guy that trained a bunch of the scientists the right-wing likes to parade around from time to time who rant about how transgender identities are all made up or harming America and for being a massive homophobe who believes that the opposite of being gay is being “normal”. A lot of it is based on questions about feeling attraction to being viewed as a woman (interestingly enough 93% of cis women have “autogynephilia” according to the autogynephilia side of his “test”) as well as questions asking about orientation.
J Michael Bailey in fact simplified the test to look like this:
“Once you have learned about the distinction between autogynephilic
and homosexual transsexuals, and seen several of each, distinguishing
the two is easy. If Blanchard and I saw the same 100 transsexuals, I
would be surprised if we disagreed on more than two. But most readers
will not have met a single transsexual of either type, and even most
clinicians who see gender patients are not used to thinking about them
this way. In any case, you cannot simply ask someone “which type are
you?” I have devised a set of rules that should work even for the
novice (though admittedly, I have not tested them empirically). Start
at zero. Ask each question, and if the answer is “yes,” add the number
next to the question. If the sum gets to +10, stop; the transsexual
you’re talking to is autogynephilic. If the sum gets to -10, she is
[Actually you should take the whole test before making judgment.]
+10 At least three times, have you become sexually aroused enough
when wearing women’s clothing in private that you masturbated?
+10 Have you been married to, and had biological children with, a
+9 Have you been married to a woman, without children?
+10 If I had observed your childhood behavior, would you have
appeared about as masculine as other boys?
+10 Are you nearly as attracted to women as to men? Or more attracted
to women? Or equally uninterested in both? (If “yes” to any of these)
+9 Is your sexual preference (to men, women, both, or neither)
difficult for you to decide?
+9 Were you over the age of 40 when you began to live full time as a
+9 Were you a virgin (no oral, vaginal or anal sex with another
person) until after the age of 20?
+7 Do you refer to yourself as “transgendered?”
+6 Have you often felt envious when looking at sexy women?
+10 Have you ever been in the military or worked as a policeman,
truck driver, or something equally stereotypically masculine? (use
+9 Have you worked at any of the following occupations: computer
programmer, businessman, lawyer, scientist, engineer, or physician?
-8 (If the previous two questions are answered “no”) Have you ever
worked as a hairstylist, beautician, female impersonator, lingerie
model, or prostitute?
-9 Does this describe you? “I find the idea of having sex with men
very sexually exciting, and the idea of having sex with women not at
+9 (If the answer to the previous question is “no”)
-8 Is your ideal sex partner a straight man?
+8 (If the answer to the previous question is “no”)
-9 Have you had sex with many men and no women (or only one woman to
see what it was like)?
-7 Would you like to look at pictures of really muscular men with
their shirts off?
+5 (If the answer to the previous question is “no”)
-8 Were you under the age of 25 when you began living full time as a
-8 If you saw an elegantly dressed and sexy woman on one sidewalk,
and a muscular, naked man on another, which would you look at? (Man)
+8 (If the answer to the previous question was “woman”)
-7 If you could spend only one hour with a very attractive man, which
would you like to do more: dance with him or suck his penis? (Penis)
+5 (If the answer to the previous question is “dance”)
“Interviewer, ask yourself:
-8 If you didn’t already know that the person was transsexual, would
you have never suspected that she was not a natural-born woman?
+9 (If the person has been on hormones for at least 6 months) Do you
find it difficult to imagine that this person could ever pass as a
-6 Would some of your male friends find this person sexy?
-3 (Male Interviewers) Is this person flirting with you?
+8 (Female Interviewers) Is this person flirting with you?
“Finally, this interview could be invalid if you suspect that the
transsexual may be autogynephilic and either (a) worried you will
think badly of her or will deny her a sex change if you know the
truth, or (b) obsessed with being a “real” woman. As far as mistakes,
it is more likely that the interview would identify an autogynephilic
transsexual as homosexual than vice versa.”
Which looking at it, we can see the major problems inherent in it, the way it dismisses queer or closeted trans women as fake, the way it prioritizes the sexual gaze of the observer and whether or not the trans person turns them on or not and puts in rewards for being sexual in the right way (i.e. straight and horny).
Not to mention it is straight up disproved by the fact that gay and ace and bi trans folks are still trans. And the fact that these questions when looked at directly are such absolute garbage, it becomes hard to believe anyone actually gave this shit the time of day, much less felt this was a valuable and accurate piece of science worth pissing away one’s credibility to defend or worth setting up whole systems of care to codify. Like, seriously, we’re supposed to put up with a system that heavily weights the stereotypes and biases of the interviewer and which straight up ignores the majority of trans experiences in order to pitch a discriminatory model? Puh-leeze.
And we also see the garbage that has been sold as science for so long. Nonetheless, Jesse Singal continues to defend Alice Dreger as much as Dreger defends Bailey and Bailey defends Blanchard and the other old transphobes that had a stranglehold on the state of science for so long.
And here’s the thing. That’s been the case for a long long time. Our science has been transparently awful and designed to create a very narrow means of accessing health care and has prioritized restricting and denying care in the name of “protecting” the very idea that a cis person could accidentally transition and have to go through the dysphoria and misery that we expect trans folks to go through.
Hell, trans folks have published zines and guides for decades entirely about how to get around gatekeepers, sometimes to the extent of informing each other on how to illegally acquire things like testosterone, estrogen, and spirinolactone so as to self-medicate.
And nonetheless, these systems have stood for far too long, dominating the literature on trans health care with garbage essay after garbage essay sexualizing and dehumanizing us in the hopes of making our existences more palatable for a cisgender society, putting their comfort ahead of our lives. And it’s only begun to change recently thanks to the tireless work of trans academics like Susan Stryker and Julia Serrano as well as throngs of trans activists risking the staggering murder rate of trans individuals and all manner of social costs to speak about our actual lives rather than the sanitized pap this whole crew had been smearing everywhere.
Bi and ace trans folks speaking out. Non-binary trans folks speaking out. Trans kids speaking for themselves. Building community and proving these theories wrong largely by simply existing. Showing that these attempts to other and disappear them into bizarre categories was entirely a fiction crafted by a cisgender society that is desperate to recast trans folks as “just what happens when someone gays too hard”.
And we’ve seen the results of this system we’ve had in place for so long. The suicide rates among transgender individuals is staggering (According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey 41% of surviving trans individuals have attempted suicide at least once in their life and conservative estimates of those lost to suicide before getting a chance to be surveyed stand at about 31%-50%******) and is even higher among trans kids owing to the pure hell that being forced to go through the wrong puberty is.
****** I’m sorry for the long runup, but I’m trying to stay somewhat dispassionate about this shit, but this shit infuriates me for several reasons. One, I love good science and I hate pseudo-scientific garbage people nonetheless accept because they so desperately want to believe what its peddling. Like, you could have the worst designed study, but if you conclude that black people are dumber than white people, gay people are bad parents, 1950s gender roles are evolutionary, or most trans people are cis, you’ll get no end of assholes lining up to tongue your ass and call you a visionary and overlooking massive design flaws in your tests. Two, I’m a trans woman and I am also a teacher. And so I have trans kids in my classes who are directly at risk from this faffing about surrounding their health care. I have so many friends and students were all my work is just keeping them alive, because the world is so painfully shit to trans people that that is actually a difficult thing to do. And every ounce of garbage that calls itself science and its defenders makes that job harder. And third? My dad wanted to send me to reparative therapy. Because he believed this shit. He disowned me and tried to ruin my life because he believed this toxic awful shit. And I see the same thing happening to my students. Where their parents read this crap and then suddenly backtrack on treating their kids as human beings, because “scientists say you’re just making it up or are diseased” and the best thing for you is to abuse you. And it makes me so mad I can barely see.
Back to desistence
Which brings us at long last to Jesse Singal’s latest abomination, which is about desistence.
Much like “autogynephilia”, desistence is a term much beloved among TERFs and is an old scientific idea that has zombie-like floated around the cesspool of research on trans issues for awhile, contributing to misinformation among parents.
Here is the idea behind desistence. Desistence is the scare term to describe an efect wherein “most” “gender non-conforming” youth do not actually turn out trans and thus “desist” from that (unhealthy) “lifestyle”. Already, it’s got some major problems. First among them that it is called desistence or desisting in the first place. Because desisting is something you do from a crime. You are ordered to cease and desist when you are being given a court-order to stop doing things or when a cop orders you to stop your commission of a crime. The type of people who view being trans as akin to a crime do not in any way have our best interests at heart. Full stop.
And the science its based on is fatally flawed, often lumping together gender-nonconforming kids (i.e. those perceived as boys who like playing with pink or dolls or other objects socially associated with girls or kids who are tomboys (whether they turn out to be girls or boy) with kids who state out loud that they are transgender and who express marked discomfort at being misgendered on a consistent basis.
Which, no shit, sherlock. Most kids who are just being considered by society as “too girly to be a boy” or “too manly to be a girl” will not end up being trans, because they are not trans, because that has nothing to do with being trans. They are kids who have an interest society has decided is too masculine or feminine for their gender.
This is not even in the same ballpark as actual trans kids who have stated repeatedly what their gender is to the point that their parents no longer wrote it off and actually sought out care. And who persist in that year after year. But hey, lump those non-trans kids in with actually trans kids and count all the non-trans kids as having “desisted” from being trans, you can sell the oft-cited narrative that “80% of trans kids desist from being trans”*******
******* This shit actually pisses me off a lot. Because, it’s intellectually dishonest and it is such a transparent repackaging of the “don’t worry parents of gay kids, your kid being gay is just a phase, he’ll shake it off in adulthood, see look at all these other kids labeled gay by their peers, not many of them ended up gay, did they” bullshit during the blatantly anti-gay days that I can’t fathom how so many can willfully blind themselves to the similarities. But also, because this is directly used to deny trans kids even the smallest forms of dignity and support because “why bother going through all that effort and social stigma, if you’re just going to grow out of this anyways”. And that lack of social support from parents and culture directly leads to dead trans kids and is a large part of why our suicide rates are so high.
And those performed at clinics (specifically clinics run by proteges of Kenneth Zucker, the aforementioned reparative therapy guy) counted those who simply did not return to the clinic as having “desisted” under the argument that “well, it’s the only clinic in the country, so if they didn’t go here they clearly didn’t seek out trans-related medical services. Which, given the aforementioned suicide rates of trans kids is gross negligence at the very least and painfully unscientific (like no, from a study design standpoint, no, just no, you never do that shit).
Also, probably doesn’t help that Singal’s essay literally only quote former mentees of Zucker, because that asshole is the cancer on trans academic literature filling it with this unscientific muck.
In fact, this desistence idea is one that Zucker was very fond of and used to justify his many horrible practices (all in the name of making sure those “80% of cis kids” were weeded out as quickly as possible because again, they are seen as worth more than trans kids [not to mention that to TERFs that quote these papers incessantly, trans kids literally do not exist or exist in such microscopic proportions as not to be worth considering. Because they don’t believe trans people really exist, that we are instead all lying for nefarious purpose]).
Which brings us to Singal
I’m gonna try really hard not to shit on Singal here, even though evidence is mounting more and more that his decision to alienate trans voices and curate a readership of self-identified TERFs is deliberate and intentional, but I feel it is important to talk about the what of what Singal is doing as that is monstrous enough whether he’s just got an academic blindspot or is willingly throwing his hat in with the TERFs.
First up, let’s talk about this desistence. The theory is bunk, but even among those who subscribe to that shitty shitty bunk theory, they willingly admit that their “desistence” numbers magically disappear once they start talking adolescent trans kids and those who actually go on blockers.
Jesse Singal is no exception to this:
The article he cites to argue that he’s not transphobic even spells out that close to a 100% of kids who go on blockers remain trans. And we know from other studies that trans kids on blockers report less dysphoria, suicidal ideation, and depression than trans folks who did not receive blockers.
Additionally, he’s aware of the impact having parents support trans kids before blockers identities has on a student’s mental health and ability to survive as well as the importance of letting a child explore their identities:
So, by this side of his position, he is in agreement with most trans activists. Gender expression =/= gender identity. Kids who actually state they are trans and make it to the age of the onset of pubescence are almost certainly trans, but there is no problem in supporting a pre-pubescent child’s gender exploration and in fact it can be critical to their mental health.
He supposedly gets that.
And again, I’m gonna try really hard not to go off on him, but his article and his statements since the article have largely consisted of demonizing blockers and scary “social transition” (i.e. calling your kid by the name and pronouns they prefer and letting them dress how they want and play with the toys they want to play with, ooooooooh so scary) despite even his awful broken evidence and supposed understanding of issues saying this is scientifically the wrong thing to do.
And he largely does so by raising the scary spectre of hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) and non-reversible surgeries (which is the thing every transphobe gets hooked on. Honestly, if I had a dollar for every transphobe weeping over the potential future of my penis despite my having no actual interest in seeking Gender-confirming surgery, I’d be a frickin’ millionaire) happening to your kids. And arguing that mean old trans folks are somehow against this idea that not every tomboy turns out to be an actual boy or not every effeminate little girl turns out to be a girl.
Okay, let’s break this down into sections, cause there’s a lot here.
1. Social Transition, scary stuff, right?
So let’s talk social transition, because that’s been the main way that Singal has tried to raise the demonization of trans children. Most of the “research” he cites focuses on pre-pubescent children, that’s where his numbers of “desistence” come from and its majority focus on gender non-conforming kids rather than trans kids. Additionally, it’s where he shows his inability to tell the difference between gender dysphoria (the feeling your body is fundamentally wrong, something that usually doesn’t hit trans people until puberty, because their body is literally becoming wrong during that time********) and gender-non-conformity (displaying social traits more associated with one gender than the other).
******** That being said, trans kids can experience social gender dysphoria from wrong names and gender pronouns being used. This is usually the experience that clues in pre-pubescent trans kids that they are who they are and is behind more trans kids feeling safer to come out and be who they are earlier and the source of Singal et al’s panic about “younger and younger trans kids, ohmahgod”.
In fairness, the studies he cites also have the same problem given they are largely based on the work of a man who genuinely believed you could get a kid to stop claiming they are trans by forcing them to play with toys stereotyped to their gender.
“Social transition” is all that’s available to trans kids under the age of pubescence. And for the scary title they try and add to it and how desperately his defenders try and make that indistinguishable from the ideas of surgeries************* that transphobes like to fixate on, all it really is is when a child says they want to go by a certain name or use certain pronouns or hang out with other kids of that gender, you let them.
************* Read that whole thread cause it really shows that rhetorical trick exploited to its full extent. “He’s talking about pronouns. Pronouns are easy to switch.” “How would you know, here’s some folks who regret ‘transitioning’ who are all people who regret surgeries“. The whole point of calling pronouns and names “social transition is to deliberately conflate it with surgeries*************** so as to make the freak out over kids using different pronouns for awhile or going by a different name or wearing a dress to school some week seem like something other than a transphobic freak out. Also, “how would you know if changing pronouns is hard…” Ugh. I’ve got some examples below of why this is especially galling, so I’ll just say, changing pronouns is only “hard” when transphobes create a culture of transphobia that punishes kids for asking. And that’s not “letting them choose”, that’s bullying the trans kids to remain closeted so you can go back to pretending everyone is cis.
*************** And of course it is. That’s the source of all consternation about trans people is the spectre of genital surgeries. If you’re trans you will hear no end of hand-wringing about your body parts as if they are public consumption and everyone gets a say about what happens to it. And for transphobes, including the pack of TERFs that worship Singal’s articles, everything a trans person does can be looped back to this primal fear in the same way that discussions about gay rights issues used to always loop back to anal sex. In that thread and in many of Singal’s responses to the article itself, you see the article writer talk about pronouns and blockers almost exclusively and the detractors response is to immediately bring up surgeries and those who regret surgeries (we’ll get to that can of words later). Because to them, all trans people are are surgeries and genitals. It’s all they can think about when they think about trans kids is the possibility that that kid may one day have surgeries or that their genitals might not match. And it’s genuinely disturbing. Not just because this dehumanizes trans folks to their genitals, not just because this presumes a lifelong control over a trans person’s body by scared cis people who will deny even social acceptance out of the fear that one day someone might work closely with doctors and therapists and decide a surgery is best for their needs after years of conversations, but also because it creepily sexualizes trans kids and gives adults an excuse to fixate about kid’s junk to an unhealthy degree. And that last one tends to be on full display when bigots start talking about trans kids in a very similar way to how it’s on full display in obsessions about queer kids. And all of this obscures the fact that “social transition”, i.e. using a person’s pronouns and not being an asshole about their identity is not actually all that scary and is only scary in the context of bigots freaking out and obsessing about surgeries and their own baggage about trans people at the expense of actual trans kids just wanting people not to misgender them all the time.
It’s quite literally THE LEAST YOU CAN POSSIBLY DO TO SUPPORT SOMEONE WHO IS TRANS.
And yet, it’s critically important. Trans people of all ages try and “socially transition” and its a literal fight for a lot of them, with schools resisting their rights to use the bathroom in accordance with their gender identity, with workplaces and housing discriminating against those who come out, with the high murder rate of trans folks, and with some places actively misgendering trans kids.
Zucker’s clinic was an active opponent of the idea of social transition, seeing it as a negative imposition on a potentially “normal” child and an unhealthy indulgence by a mother more interested in being liberal than doing what is right for their kid (Zucker was a great guy, salt of the motherfucking Earth).
And Singal echoes those fears by connecting them in the minds of his readers with “scarier” transition stuff:
Much of the controversy stems from questions of age: How young is too young to help a child socially transition — that is, to change their name and pronoun, and possibly the way they present themselves? To prescribe them cross-sex hormones to begin the process of physically transitioning?
In this model, if young children’s claims about their gender identity are “insistent, persistent, and consistent,” these claims are taken as face-value evidence that the child is actually trans, and should be socially transitioned with little delay. Zucker and his colleagues’ view was that since, in their theoretical model at least, gender is partly a matter of behavior and identity being learned and reinforced over time, socially transitioning a young kid is likely to reinforce their dysphoria. “I have predicted that we would see rates of persistence increasing overtime as more children engage in social transitioning in childhood,” Singh told me in an email. In other words, if kids who begin socially transitioning shortly after their first appointment at a gender-affirming clinic are more likely to persist and come to permanently identify as trans, and more and more gender-dysphoric kids find their ways into these clinics, the overall desistance rate may well drop over time.
Note in this last quoted paragraph that he literally argues trans kids remaining trans is a negative outcome. The goal, in Zucker’s mind and in Singal’s focus is to force trans kids through abuse and hell that actively harms them, because this might somehow convince them not to stay trans.
The prevention of trans is valued over the health and well-being of the children affected.
But “social transition”, i.e. not being an asshole about pronouns and identity and letting the kid explore with gender is not exactly all that terrifying except to transphobes who are appalled at the idea of their children somehow ending up trans.
And the best part of social transition is that its literally instantly reversible if that identity or pronouns don’t stick. Come to school saying you are a boy one day, a girl the next, to see which feels right to you, change your mind in a year or two? Yeah, doesn’t hurt anyone, in the same way as kids trying to figure out their sexuality and flitting between self-identifiers to find the best fit doesn’t actually hurt anyone.
And for all the hand-wringing of its “disruption”. It really isn’t.
I’m a trans teacher and I have trans students. And as main LGBT mentor, I am often in charge of best supporting these trans students and keeping them alive and safe. As such I was in charge of supporting these students in their gender explorations and pronouns and creating a safe space on campus for these kids to figure out what they were (even if that meant deciding they were cis all along). Two of my students first identified as genderfluid and had shifting pronouns*********. One of them, shifting pronouns that literally switched around from day to day.
********* Between they and the pronoun relating to their gender assigned at birth. Shockingly, despite being an evil trans activist, I somehow didn’t shame my kid every time they felt more like their assigned at birth gender or treat it any worse or less worthy of respect than when they identified with the they pronoun. Nor did I try and exploit their gender fluidity to push an agenda. Almost like we want trans kids and kids who turn out not to be trans to be comfortable in whatever gender identity best fits them… I know, shocking, right?
So, to ensure our teachers could not misgender them while they figured out what fit for them, I would send out daily emails just with the current pronoun the students preferred to use and which pronouns to use with parents until they were ready to come out. One of my students was genderqueer and wanted to explore using multiple pronouns at the same time, so correspondence with them involved switching between he, she, and they between each usage of a pronoun.
So we did that. We practiced. We got good at it. And it didn’t take all that much from us other than some specific focus to do our students right. Currently, the majority of our students have come out to their parents. And for many of them, having the freedom to explore and experiment with pronouns and identities allowed them the space to figure out what they are and have that remain consistent for months and years and find the ways that best helped them treat their dysphoria.
Those kids are also alive, something I’ve worked very hard to ensure, and many of them have thanked our campus specifically for giving them a single space where their identities don’t get them drowned in transphobia and denial of their identities.
This is not hard to replicate. All it takes is not being an asshole and deciding that you must know their gender identity better than them simply because you don’t value it. And that’s really all “social transition” and its assorted hoopla translates to. Not being a dick to kids over their pronouns, identity, or behavior.
So this panic over “socially transitioning kids without delay” as Singal states, is complete bollocks because why wouldn’t you let a kid “socially transition” without delay. It’s literally the least one can do and requires very little actual effort and is 100% reversible in a second assuming you have a system set up that doesn’t socially punish “freaks” for daring to explore their gender.
And to Zucker and Singh, that is viewed as awful, entirely because the idea of trans kids being happy and ending up trans and their precious 80% number not being accurate is a terrifying idea for them. They genuinely like the idea of trans kids going without care and pretending to be cis because it lets them sell to parents the idea of reparative therapy to get them over this “scary phase” without having to do anything so small as using a new pronoun.
And this gets used to deny actual trans kids respect. So many of my trans kids had to fight their parents for every pronoun. Had to build up courage for months and find what fit best for them before hand because they knew their parents wouldn’t support them exploring. Wouldn’t accept them as trans unless they could state a truth without hesitation. And even then getting them to use pronouns can be fights lasting years.
One of my students is a trans male and has known this for years. He is in his teens and his mom still refuses to call him by his preferred pronouns and we’ve had to use “she” in all correspondence home to her about her kid. And this is because she took him to a psychiatrist of the Zucker school who told her it was a phase and to actively resist the pronouns and identity in order to convince him to drop it, aggressively enforcing the “she” pronouns until he relents and accepts it and retreats back into the closet again. His fight to be seen as who he is continues largely because of articles like Singal’s.
And that’s the damage of denying “social transition” for these bigoted horseshit reasons.
2. Blockers and the golden snitch
First up, let’s be specific. Raising the spectre of “blockers”, “hormones”, and “surgeries” in pre-pubescent trans students is fucking bigoted and transparent. Largely because social transition at that age is literally all you can do. They aren’t in puberty yet, so there’s nothing to block. They aren’t in puberty yet, so giving them hormones would be bizarre. And no one’s going to be performing genital surgeries on them**********, because they are not finished going through puberty and thus not done growing. All fears about pre-pubescent kids facing any of those is thus based on literally nothing.
********** And here’s where I awkwardly cough and reference the genital surgeries performed on children born intersex which is somehow still the common medically recommended procedure and which is literally based on the idea of making the genitals look like one or the other default so that it’s less confusing or alienating for cis folks. Like, literally it’s done because doctors are worried “about the child not fitting in during puberty or when examining their genitals”. So again, we see the hypocrisy where even the spectre of genital surgery is enough to deny trans kids pronouns, but we’ll happily make it required for intersex kids to have their genitals surgically “corrected” in order to preserve our societal delusion that genitals = biological sex and biological sex = binary despite its noted harm to intersex individuals growing up. Yes, I am pissed at that shit and the cavalier hypocrisy this underlines.
So let’s talk blockers. Blockers are what is currently given to pubescent kids and really all that’s given to pubescent kids until the kid is around 16-18. Puberty blockers are frickin’ magical. Because all they do is delay puberty. Basically they are only prescribed when the person is starting puberty and is showing the first signs of going through a puberty that will likely induce dysphoria in them. And what it does is buy time for the person to figure out if they are actually trans***********.
*********** This buying time also conveniently marks the trans kids by their delayed or absent puberties at the same time as their peers, but who are we to suggest that this is working as intended. Especially when lawmakers and school officials are playing around with various ideas to identify and mark their trans kids.
That’s it, a big ol’ delay switch. If at any point the trans kid’s like eh, fuck this trans shit, I’m actually super cis, they can do so as easily as stopping taking their blockers.
The day they stop, their pubescence will pick off where it left off. The worst having happened is being a late-bloomer. And given that this is a medication, it has one of the fewest list of side effects, being safer for kids to take than even over-the-counter medication like Ibuprofen.
Not that this stops Jesse Singal panicking over this like its lead in children’s toys:
And this is where I have to stop myself from just straight up screaming at him, because this is willfully blind.
He straight up admits most kids assigned blockers don’t “desist” and remain trans. He straight up admits that the costs of not going on blockers is horrifying and terrible for trans kids. And he’s too smart an individual to not know that the only existing alternative in existence right now is forcing a kid to go through the wrong puberty and somehow survive that, unnecessarily. He has genuine sympathy for kids like many of my students whose parents struggle on the 1st step of social transition, much less letting them have publicly available medicine that could keep their kids from going through a puberty that is visibly making them more depressed and suicidal************.
************ And I speak from direct observation here. I had a trans male student who went through middle school into high school. As his body developed more and more into that which he didn’t want, he became more visibly uncomfortable, awkward and exhibited more self-harming behavior we had to put him on watch for. His parents were even supportive too. They used his correct pronouns and referred to him as their son. But they read a lot of pop science articles like Jesse Singal’s demonizing blockers and so denied their son them because “it’s probably a phase anyways” and “I’m really scared of the idea of surgeries” and a bunch of other nonsense completely unrelated to what blockers actually do. And I’m tired of seeing kids who didn’t have to go through the hell of the wrong puberty that I did forced to go through it anyways simply because a bunch of transphobic pieces of shit decided to throw whatever bullshit at the wall in the hopes that it would stick, because they want to deny that they are appalled and terrified at the idea that trans kids exist.
And yet, here he is, tsk tsking a critic, because “what, why would we dare medicate a child who might not need it”.
And to that, I say, what the ever loving fuck.
My school is specifically focused to serving an at-risk student body in general. Mental health, LGBT, drug addiction, debilitating injuries or disabilities, that sort of thing. Kids who’ve been through hell and need some support getting through stuff.
As such, a number of my students struggle with various mental health issues including depression, anxiety, and bipolar. And so for these students, every month is sometimes a medical carnival as their psychiatrists try and find the right dosages and drugs to deal with their pubescent body’s reactions to the drugs needed to get their mind to stop trying to kill them. Our bipolar students in particular tend to shift medications very frequently as the hormonal changes mess with what is and isn’t working at any given moment.
As such, this notion of “why bother trying a kid out on a medication if it might not work” is just… literally stunning.
And the answer is somewhat obvious. You medicate a child who might not need it, because that’s how you find out what is working or not and what is helping or not. You try an anti-depressant on a suicidal patient. Maybe that works, maybe that doesn’t. Maybe that’s the wrong drug because the patient doesn’t actually have depression per se, they have bipolar and so a different set of medications is needed to treat it.
You try things out because there’s already a noticeable problem needing adjustment (the patient is dysphoric and is starting to go through the wrong puberty).
To go, “why would we use medicine, maaaaan”, is to deny a kid diagnosed with diabetes their insulin shots because “hey, it might be a gland disorder or diet or something, so why don’t you do without this necessary potentially life-saving medicine for a bit while we make extra double-sure you’re not faking this diabetes thing for attention”.
It’s unnecessarily cruel. More than that. It’s medical malpractice.
We don’t deny people medicine that might help, that is approved as ethically safe by our medical institutions, that’s been heavily tested and vetted by the FDA, and which is therapeutically recommended for patients with that condition out of our personal ideas that we somehow know better than them what they need.
For Jesse Singal to state this is appalling and seems to hint rather strongly that he simply does not value the health and well-being of trans kids and their right to receive medicine that could help them. That can literally be gone off of at any time to resume their original pubescence if they so choose.
Especially when his literal next tweet was:
Which was then followed up with:
And ugh… where to even start.
Detransition and Ex-trans
Okay, so, first up, let’s note that we didn’t even get to hormones and surgeries because those don’t really occur until trans kids are forced to jump through hoop after hoop to prove that no really, despite the 90 billion times to turn back, I can confirm that I am truly genuinely trans. And as such, isn’t even offered as an option until late teenagehood at best and more like young adulthood. Even if the kid has remained consistent for years. Even if Jesse Singal admits that the rate of kids on puberty blockers who “desist” and change their mind is near zero.
Hell, he opens his article with a scare story about a parent who acquired their child hormones somewhat illegally or certainly without official approval:
“He had been on puberty blockers since the age of 9,” Helen Webberly, a general practitioner, told Lyons, discussing a 12-year-old patient to whom she prescribed cross-sex hormones. “He would have to now wait until 16 to get testosterone. This child has always been a boy, never worn a dress, always played with boys. He was so ready, his mates are starting puberty and he’s desperate to start puberty. I felt and the mother felt and the child felt it was the right time, so that child’s now on cross-sex hormones.”
12 years old, you’re supposed to cry! Why, that’s much too young! I must weep and worry about surgeries even though this boy just wanted to go through puberty at the same times as his peers and not be left out.
All to raise the spectre of this happening more frequently. The whole article is designed to raise the idea that this sort of thing is happening younger and younger and being “pushed” on kids even though he again, readily admits that the “desistence” rate of adolescents (i.e. the age of kids who’d be at around this example boys’s age) is near zero. And yet, when called on it, he’ll deny and claim that people readying a scare story about trans health care are “misreading things” and “showing their anti-science bias”. All while citing studies all from one single crew of people, peddling stuff his own statistics disprove, and here, straight up trying to recruit a group of ex-trans fuckers to harass a critic and references “gender detransition” like fucking Focus on the Family does, citing this and recruiting voices as if to pretend this is some grand number of people, when it really isn’t and those that do exist tend to artificially inflate their numbers by citing folks who “detransition” for reasons other than no longer viewing themselves as trans.
And this is the point where I’m just seeing red. Because this ex-trans shit and “you can change” garbage should not be being given a free pass after so much ink has been spilled on the horrible damage the ex-gay movement has done and how thoroughly they’ve fucked up so many kids. When we are now more aware than ever at the sheer awfulness of reparative therapy.
But somehow, it’s trans kids, so who gives a fuck, right?
And I’m even more incensed because he straight up overvalues cis kids and the fear he has of them possibly having regrets about thinking they were trans than trans kids being forced to go through a puberty they don’t want and don’t have to do. He readily admits the number of “detransitioners” is near infintessimal, and yet he amplifies their voices over trans kids (none of whom he actually quoted or interviewed for his articles on trans kids, though he certainly takes his time to reach out and recruit and highlight the stories of “ex-trans” bigots who’ve joined hate movements), even when their stories often have literally nothing to do with puberty blockers or social transition or even hormonal stuff************.
************ He cites one case in specific which is a woman who feels she was “railroaded” into transition, but she describes an endo who literally had no idea what trans people were and literally had to google care guidelines because he had no idea and the thing she says she regrets is a double mastectomy she had in her early adulthood. Oh, and she also deliberately kept quiet about adverse health effects because she really wanted to transition, so I’m not sure what the message is other than, hey, we need to force every kid to go through the wrong hormones and need to have later surgeries in their early adulthood, to prevent the possibility of one single cis kid having to go through with that. Oh and she belongs to a TERF network actively harassing trans folks, but let’s forget about that last part.
And of course, it’s not frequently about hormones, because hormones are pretty easy to get off of as well. You literally stop taking them and then, boom, back to your old hormone patterns for better or worse. And if you stop taking them within the first three months (which is usually far long enough for people to notice if this is suddenly inducing dysphoria in a major way), then it is completely redone and reset by your old hormone patterns within a few months. Again, as medical procedures go, it’s safer than most things, but regulated like liquid gold out of the fear that some cis kid could “irreparably harm their fertility” using them out of the “delusion” that they were trans (again, among TERFs who are Jesse Singal’s biggest fans, all trans people are deluded and secretly cis, so in their minds no one should be allowed hormones or surgeries or even “social” transitions because in their minds, we’re all ex-trans waiting to figure it all out.
And again, I’m speaking from personal experience here. My enbyfriend went on testosterone for a period of time, about a year actually, but had to drop it because the hair growth was making them feel dysphoric. They are not “not trans”, they are just non-binary. Since, they’ve restarted their old hormonal patterns simply by stopping taking testosterone. And that’s meant things reshifting back to how they were, with little overall effect and all the old dysphorias of the old system as they try and figure out their next steps to best address their dysphoria with the options available to them. The lasting effect is “their clitoris is a bit big and can serve as a small dick”, same as a person who did steroids for a period of time in their youth. And that’s with a full year of the stuff. Hell, they are even still fertile as much as they wished they weren’t.
And yet, Jesse Singal is peddling garbage from ex-trans activists and arguing that this undoes the evil trans narrative of “everyone who has dysphoria being trans” and buying their bullshit that gender identity clinics somehow don’t support “detransition”*************:
************* Okay, this pisses me off, because A) trans people get shit for medical care. So, some ex-trans acting like the mean trans people lobby somehow moved to block them from accessing “de-transition services” because all the doctors are focusing just so hard on giving trans people all their time and energy is downright offensive. We have to fight, beg, borrow, and steal every moment of health care, usually against hostile gatekeepers, but somehow we’re in control of a medical institution we can’t even reliably get to see us as human and using it to deny ex-trans folks care. B) It’s a transparent copy-paste from ex-gay narratives that argue that all the gay organizations and services discriminate against ex-gays and don’t affirm their “equal” “lifestyle” in their literature. And C) Most “detransition” care is simply going off of stuff. Want to “socially detransition”? Tell people you’re your Assigned at birth sex. Done. Want to “detransition” from blockers? Stop taking them. Done. Want to “detransition” from hormones? Stop taking them. Done. Want to “detransition” from surgeries? Well, no it’s actually taking effort, but here’s the dirty secret. It’s totally available and open to folks needing to do that, the only catch is that it’s just as difficult to obtain as transition related surgeries and ex-trans folks believe that as cis folks, they shouldn’t have to suffer the ignominy of that to get “restored” and so pitch a fit that they have to jump through the same shitty hoops as trans folks to receive the surgeries they feel will best serve their gender identity. And well, yeah, that’s the bed you created with all your wailing about how our existing system of bullshit isn’t nearly onerous enough for trans folks. You made it, so you get to lie in it, same as us.
And chiding folks for not seeing “both sides” like a fucking creationist or an anti-vaccer. All while accusing trans folks of not being more aware of the folks who gladly joined our oppressors and working against our access to health care and arguing that all of our kids have to go through unnecessary hell all to protect the glimmer of a thought that one cis kid might have to go through a fraction of what we regularly expect trans kids to go through.
And at that point, I find it extremely difficult to not conclude that Jesse Singal knows exactly what he’s doing. And for all he says he empathizes with trans kids, he simply does not value them even a fraction as much as cis kids.
Conclusions and side-note on trans folks being unfair
These mythologies, these scare stories, hurt real kids. And they hurt real kids, serve to deny them care they need, simply because the narratives that folks like Singal accuse trans folks of spreading “against science” just don’t get out there all that much.
Most parents are much happier to believe that 80% number means their child who’s said they are trans for years is one day gonna magically decide it’s all a phase and become cis that they straight up deny their trans kids care until they tragically end their life like Leelah Alcorn did.
I’m on the ground. I get to pick up the pieces of these types of clickbait horror-shows selling “you were right to be concerned about the trans menace coming for your kids” and “science totally backs your misgivings about supporting your kids” narratives. The one trying to keep them alive as their parents deny them care that could end their pain out of a misguided idea that this will somehow be a kindness to the cis kid hiding deep inside of them.
And I get to see how close we are at every minute we are to losing them to the transphobia in our culture and the pain that such untreated dysphoria causes. We want excuses not to deal with the reality of trans individuals and their medical needs. We want to make it seem terrifying for a trans person to use a bathroom, to use a new pronoun to refer to someone, or for a kid to use medicine to see if it helps a condition they have.
Because if we do that, then we don’t have to evolve. We don’t have to accept how this changes things and that the way we did things has changed.
Jesse Singal thinks this acceptance is against science and cites discredited articles from people literally stripped of their roles by scientific bodies who found their work distressing and harmful and folks in active hate campaigns against marginalized individuals as non-biased sources. And even then, he ignores what his biased studies say when they argue in favor of more compassionate and accepting medical care procedures. He thinks this is somehow an act of censorship against science itself, as if science was pure and virginal and never allowed to be wrong.
And well, it’s not. Hell, things exist in scientific parlance today that really shouldn’t.
One of the classes I teach is Forensics Science. And so, every time we get to hair analysis I have to give a talk about how slow science is to adapt to the existence of people who are not cis straight white men and how this can lead to science sometimes feeling painfully behind the times. I have to give this talk not because I’m an evil PC-culture lieberal destroying the ethical foundations of science, but because of how the existing science refers to the racial category of hair fibers.
Basically there are three categories: “Caucasoid”, referring to hair fibers likely orginating with a European origin, and then… CONTENT WARNING: RACISM… “Mongoloid” to refer to hair fibers with a likely east asian origin and “Negroid” to refer to hair fibers with a likely african origin. These terms are genuinely horrifyingly out of date and bring visible cringes to my students. And I feel genuinely uncomfortable teaching this section, because the terms of science were put down by racist white men and the field has not quickly adapted to this and fixed it.
This happens all the time. We’ve had to change how we study things like heart attacks, because we were for a time treating the white male as a default state for all humanity and thus simply overriding actual symptoms of heart attacks in women as “non-indicative” leading to an adverse survival rate.
And a lot of times, it has been the community most affected who has had to gently remind science to actually look at them and recheck the assumptions they have always gone by. Black folks were responsible for breaking through the horrendous scientific racism of the 1800s, women were responsible and are currently responsible for undoing a lot of our sexist myths, gay people had to create their own literature and studies to counter the hate machines of Focus on the Family and the American Family Association. And now, trans people are doing the same with the horrendous state of affairs that has been trans health care and science up to this point. With folks not connected in the Bailey, Blanchard, Zucker triumvirate actually contributing their studies and evidence disproving the horseshit that they peddled for so long. With trans folks putting forth their life experiences to counter universalist statements of who is “allowed” to be trans.
And this leads me at very very long last to my final point.
And that’s Jesse Singal’s very first framing and the central problem with his whole persecution complex surrounding the trans individuals who have critiqued his bad science, the very title of his piece:
What’s Missing From the Conversation About Transgender Kids
The “missing” is implied in the essay and in Jesse Singal’s tweets to be trans folks not wanting to talk about kids who are just gender-non-conforming but not trans. Who don’t want to talk about non-binary spaces or folks who don’t want all the transitions, or even folks that change their mind and don’t identify as what they did anymore. That we are so inflexible we can’t stand any critique of our orthodoxy and that and only that is the reason we are so unwilling to politely tolerate someone shoving harmful discredited “science” in our faces. Because of our inflexibility.
And it’s this essence that reveals that Jesse Singal truly has no clue what he is talking about, that he is bereft of trans people in his life, or if he does, that he lacks empathy and connection to their lives in a meaningful way.
Because trans people as a whole, and especially in the last decade or two have been incredibly accepting to diversity. And this “you’re not thinking about this” smacks of “you feminists aren’t paying attention to muslim women’s issues” arguments. Because yes, feminists were the ones to bring those issues to your attention. Muslim feminists in particular, the first to beat the drum of what had been happening to them. And it’s the same with trans folks.
Trans folks have worked tirelessly to try and reduce the amount of shit a gender non-conforming cis kid gets for their non-conforming behavior, in reducing the weight of gender norms because we remember thinking we were our birth sex and being brutalized for what we were into or how we were. Trans folks have worked tirelessly to try and value the voices of marginalized folks outside the binary and have worked with queer communities to help aid the rights struggle of gay, lesbian, bi, pan, queer, intersex,asexual, and so on communities. They have in many cases been an amplifying voice to intersex people and their fight to be recognized in scientific classes and to stop being mutilated in childhood.
And we might not always get it right, but we work harder than most communities to respect our diversity. We’re one of the few communities that fully supports genderfluid and genderqueer individuals and a lot of us came from gender-non-conforming movements like drag or the stone butch scene. And what we argue for is that every kid has the freedom to explore and figure out who they are and not have to defeat an army of gatekeepers intent on pretending they are all cis. What we argue for is to improve things so our trans kids can SURVIVE.
We’re not talking about “desistence”? True. We don’t often talk about hate terms designed to marginalize us and make us seem like a crime. But we do talk about how not every kid who plays with dolls is going to grow up to be trans or gay. We talk about how gender expression =/= gender identity. We talk about the freedom of letting kids figure themselves out and not abusing them for it. Our webcomics and art are full of this idea (comics below are from Assigned Male by Sophie Labelle):
This rhetorical trick where the marginalized are accused of the bad behaviors of their oppressors because their oppressors don’t want to change and adapt and accept what the existence of the marginalized people means regarding their assumptions needs to stop. And it is disingenuous to pretend that trans people are somehow undermining science by participating in science how it was intended to be participated with, finding their own studies, disproving old bunk theories, making the field of science more accurate.
And to Jesse Singal, I will point out three things to conclude.
1) The medical community agrees with trans people on what best serves them. You are free to disagree. But the onus is no longer on us to disprove the ideas and protocols that were shed. It is on those who want them maintained to defend their merit and prove the new ways are harmful. So, you can do that or you can whine about it, but if you do the latter, we trans people are not being the ones who are anti-science.
2) Your work is harmful to trans kids. When you imply their lives are worth less than the idea that a cis person might have to go through what we expect them to endure. When you sell disproven mythologies to their parents that reinforce their fears, that’s not on them “misreading your work”, that’s on you to check your framing and assumptions and make sure you are not reinforcing bigoted nonsense.
3) Fuck your word games with framing.
No, I’m sorry, but seriously, fuck the bullshit word games. Like, you’re a professional wordsmith. You know what you are doing when you frame a discussion about kids “socially transitioning” and use words and arguments echoed by hate groups to imply fear about surgeries. And fuck your “I’m just defending and talking about science” when right now trans kids are fucking fighting for their right to be seen and survive and when there’s little to no conversation about what they face and the actual safety of what services exist now.
And fuck your “I’m being technically accurate” bullshit, because it’s the same shit we’ve seen a thousand times before. Doing this “ooh, what about desistence, even though it doesn’t apply to the population I’m talking about” and “Oh, what about the poor ex-trans, you trans folks aren’t talking enough about them” dance is the frickin’ equivalent of chanting “all lives matter” to a “black lives matter” protest. Yes, it’s technically true, but it’s still fucked and deliberately trying to erase the fact that the other side does believe all lives matter, but that there own is not being considered part of that all.
And so with trans healthcare, to pretend we have actual power, that it is a heavier question to wonder about the ex-trans already receiving the same care as trans kids over the trans kids just trying to access any health care, you are saying you do not value the suffering and suicides of our children. That we are worth less, because we are not cis.
And for what it’s worth, we take care of the folks who are gender-non-conforming but cis. We ally with them. We’ve marched with them. We’ve let them come into our meetings and figure out if this trans thing fit them. We encourage them to explore who they are. We’ve done all we can. So fuck you if you’re going to pretend we don’t simply because we refuse to sit still and let poisonous garbage be spewed at us without response or let folks condemn our health care because they once thought they were trans, but now have aligned themselves with hate movements against us.
In the same way that gay groups are not wrong for not accepting the casual bullshit of Robert Oscar Lopez and their right to harm our lives and families based on their negative experiences and feelings surrounding their time identifying as gay. And for criticizing every debunked anti-gay factoid he throws up to try and argue legally against our rights and against treating gay kids like human beings.
And I’ll be damned if I watch my kids suffer or worse, kill themselves because some cis prick wants to believe that he’s a brave centrist seeing through the “extremism of both sides”.
Cause I don’t want to spend the next 10 years teaching watching kids who could have the blockers they desperately need or the social acceptance they so desperately need denied to them because of school officials and parents believing that some asshole still mourning the closing of a Reparative Therapy Clinic is telling the truth when he says the consensus of science is that most trans kids are going through a phase.
Especially when he can’t even bother to believe that is true, except when convenient to escape the reality of how his arguments are being used to harm others.