A long while ago, I had an idea for a blog wholly focused on the variety of issues that come up when one is a trans teacher, both from a teacher standpoint as well as the cold reality of the common, unspoken, discrimination from education professions many of us experience. It kinda fell through the cracks when my life upended into itself, but I might bring it back in lesser form somewhere because I keep on running into things I have views on or people blathering on from a standpoint of ignorance about things I experience on the direct lines as an educator. And today is no exception.
Today’s rant/ramble is based on a long tweet thread by author Ana Mardoll, writer of the book Poison Kiss
Xie wrote a long chain about the fear-mongering surrounding accommodations in university courses for students who are triggered by certain aspects of learning material (typically depictions of physical abuse, sexual assault/rape, suicide, etc… in literature classes) and had a lot of very good points mostly surrounding how we already make accommodations for students who have to leave the class during a lesson due to physical ailments such as the flu as well as students with physical disabilities that keep them from engaging fully with lessons owing to missed absences and other needs for accommodations.
Xie also notes that those complaining about Trigger Warnings are also anti-science, ignoring how things like exposure therapy actually work, how PTSD works, what a trigger warning even is, because much like with trans issues or abortion, people really don’t like that the science of it all is more or less settled on the side of the marginalized and does not agree with their conjectures.
And I roll trans issues, specifically things like bathroom access and scary “social transition” stuff such as names and pronouns into this “debate” about trigger warnings, because it all comes from the same place.
Namely that certain marginalized groups are existing in public in a way that is no longer easy for a person to ignore and this infuriates those who refuse to acknowledge said people and want to make even the slightest efforts to grow up sound like a draconian punishment on their moral and legal right to be an asshole to people without consequences.
And it doesn’t mean that these groups didn’t exist before hand. There’s always been trans kids and young adults and kids and young adults who’ve experienced rape or abuse and mentally ill kids and young adults. We’ve always existed in physical form, but for the longest time, a dominant group member could remain justifiably ignorant about our existence because there was strong social barriers and sometimes even legal barriers about talking about our existence or being visibly present.
And it’s really this piece that ends up driving a lot of these social panics, same as it does for folks that get all up in arms about “PC culture run rampant”, white people’s “right” to use the n-word, or “conservative censorship in universities”/”anti-free speech among liberals” in the form of people using their own free speech to criticize and protest speech they see as harmful.
Basically, those raised on an unequal playing field feel it is their “rights” to have inequality extended forever, where the minority groups they abuse aren’t allowed to fight back or even criticize their actions or call them mean names like “bigot” or “harasser”. And a lot of that anger stems from things used to being one way and now they have changed and now that social expectation that used to encourage folks to remain silent now has started to shift in the direction of viewing as assholes people who don’t grow and accept that people outside the normative exist.
And I don’t say this casually.
But rather out of direct observation of the panic and their distortions of the real issues and real requests of the students making them.
Like, let’s take trigger warnings. I’m a big fan of them and don’t just use them in my teaching, but in casual conversation. In fact, I first started adapting to using them in casual conversation before I incorporated it in the classroom, because of two things.
1) I know a lot of people from really fucked up backgrounds who’ve experienced a lot of bad shit. Trans folks who’ve been beaten by their family, women who’ve experienced multiple rapes and abusive partners, people of color who’ve experienced hate crimes and physical assault.
And 2) I am very politically minded and most topics I tend to cover or want to converse about tend to be really big and scary and potentially triggering, such as transphobia, hate crimes, discrimination, rape, abuse, and so on. I’m a feminist and have been for a long time and a lot of my interactions with other people tend to be on these feminist wavelengths where a lot of the topic of discussion is flatout depressing but interesting to me nonetheless.
And the combination of these two made trigger warnings necessary, because they gave my friends a head’s up on whatever dark road of conversation I was going down and allowed them the time to prepare or bail out as necessary. And because lacking those trigger warnings meant I was more worried about covering any topic for fear of hurting a friend unnecessarily during a casual conversation.
Because a trigger isn’t someone going “oh me, oh my, this person conversing is too REALZ for my delicate female affections, I shall cry trigger so as to censor his FREEZE PEACH.”
It’s basically a phenomenon where you really aren’t there anymore because you’re back in a flashback of whatever traumatic thing that happened to you is, experiencing it like it’s happening now. When I’ve been triggered, I shut down hard, just filling with endless chains of self-hatred, with the feel of my rapist against me and the world I was inhabiting a second ago might as well not even existing.
I can’t focus on whatever else is going on around me because I am essentially not there and I can end up losing days to this, as a trigger tends to make it easier and easier to slip into that space and can flood me with all the emotions of fear and pain and self-hatred that filled such events.
It’s not a matter of exiting out of conversations I don’t want to have. It’s that I’m exited out of conversations I do want to have (most of my triggering events tend to occur when I’m with groups of friends, luckily) by my brain essentially shutting down.
And that sucks. But trigger warnings allows me to prepare first or recognize that no, I don’t actually have the spoons for this topic today, but I’d love to discuss it on a day I’m a bit more functional. And that moment of preparation is key as it allows me to shore up my defenses so I’m not blindsided by a topic that’s just gonna put me in a foul mood or an emotional tailspin.
And in practice, the trigger warnings means I get to have more conversations about pretty dark topics because everyone is able to emotionally prepare as needed as part of their general survival in a world where these topics come up.
In the classroom, I follow this practice, giving kids a heads up when topics are veering into the depressing and potentially triggering. It takes 5 seconds. No really, because all it is “And so as we look at, content warning: sexual assault… (pause for beat) sexual assault data”.
And this is useful and necessary, because I work in a private school where many of our students have dealt with heavy traumas where they might be being physically abused at home or be survivors of rape, or have traumatic experiences with accidents or lost family members to gun violence.
And in practice, using trigger warnings means more of my students are engaged during those conversations or topics instead of drifting off and becoming unresponsive for the rest of the class (the frequent result that occurs when teachers don’t use trigger warnings and I know this because I’ve had fellow teachers ask me how to get X student to engage in classes and then I found out they had been triggering the student without warning and hadn’t realized).
The whole thing barely interrupts my flow as a teacher. And is so small on my end that it doesn’t even eat into class time, unlike when dealing with a student in crisis mode who fundamentally can’t learn because they are in a bad triggered state.
And it’s very similar to pronouns for trans kids. Like, most of my trans students have needed or wanted to explore scary “SOCIAL TRANSITION”. By this I mean, they want to try out new names or new pronouns and maybe want to dress a certain way at school.
And it’s extremely easy to accommodate that.
Here’s what I do. I have an email I send out letting the other teachers know three things, what name a student prefers, what pronoun they prefer today, and what pronoun and name should be used in communication home to parents as not all our kids are out to their parents.
And there was a time when I was sending out that email every day, because we had a genderfluid student whose preferred pronoun changed nearly every day between she and they.
And then the earth opened up, swallowing us all into hell… or teachers just adapted. It just became a routine, teachers would check the email, use those pronouns when talking to the student, use different ones in communications home as needed, and we’d keep an eye on campus to make sure no one was bullying the kids in question. With bathroom access, we just swapped out some single-access bathrooms on a floor for two gender neutral toilets so we didn’t even have to deal with any stress on that front and we just trucked on.
And it really wasn’t the end of the world. The students are happy, because unlike most places, their identities are being respected and they feel safe and the overall impact on instruction is near zero. Like, seriously, the biggest impact is that one of our bigender students explored with pronouns for awhile and eventually settled on ce/cir/cirs.
And that’s an uncommon pronoun. So all the teachers spent some time practicing, not much more than half and hour and now everyone pretty much lets it roll of their tongue with ease. And the impact on the student has been immense. This particular student has struggled a lot with suicidal ideation over the years but has openly said that school is the safest place ce knows and ce feel accepted as cirself here. And that’s important to us as educators. It makes us feel good about our job and our work.
And these are both things that are so minor, so unobtrusive as to not really involve more than mere seconds in the classroom, and yet we get endless thinkpieces bemoaning the “scariness” of these changes. And most are based on either ludicrous scenarios that simply don’t happen or on fixating on some corner case and going all slippery slope on it. So let’s tackle the latter one first.
OH ME OH MY THE SLIPPERY SLOPE!
So, detractors of trigger warnings like to fixate on an extreme case that can happen because arguing that they don’t like spending five extra seconds throwing in a head’s up before covering an intense topic makes them seem like assholes.
And that extreme case is: “What if you drop the trigger warning and a student leaves the classroom instead of engaging in the discussion”. Largely because that trigger warning lets them know that no, they don’t have the spoons for this today (maybe things are too raw, maybe it’s a bad mental health day, maybe they recognize that their defense on these things isn’t great or it isn’t a safe space to have a conversation on this*).
*And this last one is key. Because no one with traumatic experiences is going to risk their mental health if they expect that they’ll just get dismissed and that ignorant conjectures repeating toxic myths are going to be privileged over them. And that’s a failure of a teacher or moderator to control and is going to be responsible for more walkouts than anything else. Like, if something is making me angry and I know I’m about to blow up and yell at people and the room does not feel safe for politely correcting the record about someone else’s bullshit, I exit the room, let myself rant outside so I don’t disrupt the conversation and then either come back or move on to a different conversation. And this is not the same as a trigger warning. This is picking your battles and recognizing when you’re about to be a disruption to everyone else and removing yourself before that occurs.
Well, here’s the thing. In that extreme case, you’ve already lost the student. The only question left is to what degree you’ve lost that student. Like, if you didn’t give that trigger warning and instead jumped right into a triggering topic, that kid is going to be mentally gone. Because they didn’t have the spoons for it.
Worst case, they break down in the classroom, disrupting everyone’s lesson and making them less likely to attend future lectures because of the embarrassment of it. Second worst case, they blow up on a student and now you are de-escalating a heated argument instead of continuing in your lesson plan and everyone will be kind of less engaged because they’ll just be fixated on the argument and their personal feels. Third worst case, they shut down completely, go into a panic state, and absorb nothing from the lesson and are stuck in that hell for a period of time.
And fourth worst case and more commonly, they walk out anyways. Like, kids aren’t dumb, they get their mental health, they know what they have spoons for, and they don’t want to break down in front of everyone anymore than anyone else. So they’ll slip off to the bathroom, have a good cry, and maybe come back later, maybe not and now you’re tracking that student down or in college, hoping they come back to the next class.
Like, I’ve been in discussion groups that didn’t have content warnings or good moderation and the room’s felt unsafe for my experiences. And when that happens, I bail. I leave the panel or the discussion, go outside, rant for awhile in anger and frustration and go to a different panel or discussion group or just go home. It happens fairly regularly in ace discussion groups because I do a lot of atypical things for ace people so I tend to get erased in discussion groups a lot in ways that piss me off.
And that’s not even a trigger. That’s just fuck this shit. And I’ve been in lectures where the topic being covered is being covered wrong. It happens a lot in panels on gender or lectures on gender by ignorant cis straight white guys when you’re a trans person. And the panel or lecture ends up being a wash to deal with because all you can end up thinking about is how much you hate the ignorance of the presenter rather than anything else they said.
Point being with all this is a student who’d walk out at the trigger is a student you were going to lose no matter what.
If you do a trigger warning, now that student knows you care about their experiences and so is more likely to come in engaged in the next class. Like, we’ve been there as teachers where a student is being affected by home shit and is only like 20% there even though they are physically in the classroom. They’re too busy thinking about all that stuff instead. You show that kid openness, you give them the impression that you are safe to talk to, maybe they talk about it and that allows them to engage for the rest of the class because they feel they have support.
It’s the same with trigger warnings. If I have a student bail on me because that’s not a topic they can handle on that day, by giving them the trigger warning they are more likely to be willing to return to that topic on a later date rather than just asking to not even deal with the subject. And they are more willing to put in the work necessary to deal with a tough subject because they know I’m not gonna be an asshole to them about it.
Similarly, detractors of SO SCARY “social transition” like to fixate on locker rooms and bathrooms as if there isn’t already discomfort for the trans student in using those and as if that trans student would be safer using a bathroom where they are signaled out as not being approved by the school thus giving a free pass to bullies to target and harm them.
Like, just letting them use it, letting everyone know that yeah, we support accommodating kids, trans kids exist, deal with it, shuts stuff down real quick.
As noted, we went to gender neutral toilets for a floor and we cracked down hard on transphobic bullying. Within several months, everyone adapted and got over it. The students saying the way X student was dressed was weird got over it and eventually helped defend that students pronouns to others who misgendered them. The students complaining about the gender neutral toilets got used to them and just view them as the toilets that they are.
When we remove the official forced gendering and its enforcement, then the complaints about it tend to cease, because that enforcement has always been artificial and weird and it quickly becomes apparent that some kids being trans really isn’t the end of the world that parents assured them it would be.
And they get this, which leads to the slippery slope part.
Oh, what about kids adopting all sorts of outlandish pronouns and switching all the time. Well, we’ve had kids with neopronouns and kids with fast switches owing to gender fluidity. I sent out more regular emails. Done. For identities that were less common, I attach a link to a comic from an artist with that identity explaining what that identity meant for them or an article about the identity. The teachers take 5 minutes to read it and I serve as point person to answer questions as needed from them or the students. It’s all total cost me maybe a total of two hours of prep time over the course of the last year. Not a big deal.
Oh, but what about the slippery slope of trigger warnings. What about people having triggers of spiders or the letter b, how do you adapt to that?
Those triggers are uncommon, but if you recognize that trigger, you throw it in, it takes an additional five seconds and now you’re not losing a student whenever you cover spiders. Again, done, not that big of a deal. Also, this shit is bullshit, because rape triggers and abuse triggers are common because those issues are common. It’s good practice to always have those warnings, because you’re likely in any classroom of over 10 students who have at least one student with those triggers because they’ve had those life experiences.
But yeah, expanding it out for less common triggers won’t eat up your entire lesson. And you’ll earn a student who will be extra engaged because you acknowledged their trigger even if it seemed weird or unusual.
And now the conspiracy theory excuses
So, many detractors of both trigger warnings and “social transition” quickly realize that they have no legs to stand on. So many times, they’ll turn instead into full on conspiracy theories to try and distance themselves from the bigotry actually underlying their objections.
No, they cry, we don’t have a problem with trans kids and their pronouns or using trigger warnings so that kids with traumatic experiences, we have problems with… uh… er… that is to say… think of something… People faking those things to get stuff? YEAH, that’s the stuff.
You’ve probably heard these arguments a lot because sexists and transphobes love throwing them out there to make themselves seem less like cartoon supervillains for decrying things as minor and unobtrusive as trigger warnings or respecting people’s pronouns.
They go, oh, what about a kid posing as trans to slip into the girl’s locker room or bathroom (and it’s almost always “fake” trans women that these people freak out about, showing the backwards chauvinistic world they’re coming from). And what about a kid faking a trigger in order to claim that they can’t read any of the reading material or be assessed on it.
So, let’s go into these two slabs of bullshit shall we.
1) No one is going to go through all that effort just to intrude on a space where they might see the vaguest hint that someone is going to be undressed unless they are doing so specifically as a protest against the existence of trans people.
No, seriously, gender dysphoria is real and no one is going to go through being misgendered and the gauntlet of violent stares you get when you are visibly trans, being singled out as non-normative and a “freak” by the school, and all the anti-trans harassment that comes with all that just to maybe almost see less skin than they would see in most PG-13 movies or any bikini girl photo search on google.
The kids have the internet and they have porn at their fingertips and understand school blocking systems better than the people running them. That’s frankly too much effort for a creeper to bother with when there are much easier ways to see nudity that’s actually nude.
Additionally, creepers who get off on the violation of boundaries tend to also be heavily wrapped up in toxic masculinity and so are very unlikely to go through all the effort of putting on girly clothes to get off on violating spaces when they can do just as much damage and get in less trouble simply walking in through the unlocked front door and doing their creeper thing.
And that’s why the only people we see who are fitting these right-wing stereotypes of what men would do if this “trans madness” gets passed and we respect kids’ pronouns in schools, tend to be right-wing anti-trans activists who are deliberately walking into women’s restrooms to protest the existence of trans people.
In short, when the people raising the conspiracy theory are the only ones fulfilling the conspiracy theory, you can dismiss the genuineness of that concern real fucking fast.
And there’s a similar conspiracy theory for trigger warnings because right-wing ideologues are nothing if not derivative in their tactics insinuating that kids will claim fake trigger warnings to get out of assignments which has two flavors of what the fuck.
2a) This doesn’t happen, because trigger warnings aren’t actually a change in curriculum, it’s a heads up about planned curriculum. So kids aren’t actually going to be using them to get out of assignments, because trigger warnings aren’t actually about editing assignments to be respectful of the triggers of your students. It’s the verbal equivalent of throwing a warning tag on a mattress.
2b) So let’s talk modified curriculum or assessments. Cause as a teacher, I love these. I live for a student who for whatever reason wants to do an alternate assessment or project that ties more directly with their interests instead of a standard written assessment.
And I’ve done a bunch of different topics and especially love to throw these out as finals or midterms because it allows kids to engage deeper with the curriculum.
And I’ll do the extra work to make those a reality and will even do things like oral assessments for students who have severe test anxiety and can’t quite perform at their best in a traditional assessment. And because of this, I’ve been told by bosses that I’m one of the most requested teachers at my school and I tend to cover more material at a higher level than many of my fellow teachers and have actually given seminars to fellow teachers on how to expand curriculum options.
And the end-results are awesome. I had a student who was an artist do anthropomorphizations of each planet in the solar system and they ended up putting so many good touches into the design based on characteristics of the planets that I didn’t even notice them all at first (like Earth actually had accurate percentages of green and blue on her dress based on the percentage of water on the planet and Mercury had an off-the shoulder dress and mismatched pants to show the difference in temperature between the hot and cold side). I had another gut, clean, bleach, and construct a chicken skeleton as a final anatomy project.
Now, there are on occasion students who think this is a free pass to not do any real work on the final or midterm or on a particular assessment. Those students are wrong and I tell each student this. I grade alternative assessments harder than I would traditional assessments, because I’m taking the extra time to design and provide support for these alternate assessments. And the kids get that and only twice have I had to come down hard in the grading of an assignment because a student tried to test the waters of what they could get away with (those same students tried to play the same games with the traditional assessments, giving one word answers to short responses questions and snarky non-answers to long-form questions so it was not exactly an isolated incident).
You can incorporate that for trigger stuff. Providing alternate assessments or books for students that are just moving too slow owing to triggers on a book covering a particular subject. My fellow teachers have had to do it on occasion for English assignments. And well, it doesn’t have to be a big thing and you can grade it harder for the extra work on your part to have to be familiar to both books.
It’s also not something that’d go away if they didn’t do that. Like, you have a kid triggered by a book about a rape survivor and they’re moving slowly through it. They’re going to be disconnected from the discussions and unable to keep up with reading quizzes if you don’t accommodate them, so it ends up, do you lose the student and have them flunk that section or do you offer them a lifeline?
Most kids appreciate the lifeline.
And again, if you have some anti-trigger-warning asshole trying to bullshit their way out of doing work, well, they tend to back off when you show them the actual expectations you have for an alternate assessment and how you plan to grade it.
Said student is also going to try to disrupt the class no matter what.
Like, any women studies professor or gender studies professor can tell you about “that guy”. “That guy” occurs at least once in any class and they only attend because they view the major as bullshit and so have made it their mission to try and disrupt everyone’s learning experience and be as big an asshole to the other students as he can because he doesn’t want to engage with the material or thinking deeply about gender stuff. “That guy” becomes the bane of every other student, making discussion spaces less safe by mocking people with rape traumas or backgrounds with abuse, recycling MRA talking points, and acting like his ignorant conjectures should be seen as equally weight to the actual professors.
And these assholes love to fuck with assessments, writing essays deliberately arguing bass-akwards nonsense or just straight up refusing to complete work such as reading the novels or completing the essays, taking the F as a badge of pride for having “put those uppity feminists in their place”.
And so, yeah, “that guy” might try and latch onto a bullshit “trigger” to try and dodge out of work, but it’s part and parcel of his standard crap and one of the easiest to dodge, because you can give him a custom assessment that actually forces him to examine his behavior in its context or to research the actual science behind triggers and what they are. In short, you can give an alternate assignment that’s actually a learning experience and maybe get something out of “that guy” that you normally wouldn’t. Even if that’s them shutting up about demanding alternate assessments for the rest of the semester.
But again, even this off-the-wall example is easily dealt with by just having good habits with alternate assessments.
And again, most folks aren’t going to go for it unless they are actively protesting “trigger warning” stuff and trying to be an asshole about it.
These accommodations are minor. But the backlash is strong. And the backlash is strong because the accommodations are new. Because it’s taken us a long time to really respect, hey, there might be some kids who’ve actually dealt with shit in life, maybe we shouldn’t be dicks to them or hey, some kids might be trans.
And for a small core, any change from “what they used to do” feels bad. Feels like an imposition. Feels like oppression, because they have no experiences with oppression outside being asked to stop doing things that are oppressed.
And well, sorry, tough titties, but you need to grow up because the shit being asked for are hardly the imposition you make them out to be. No matter how you try and spin it.
It’s five seconds out of your day, adapt, move on, teach.
It’s really not that hard.
So, I’m still somewhat raw and upset about the latest push against trans kids so hey, my little used personal blog is gonna be all rebuttals to transphobic bullshit posing as concern for awhile.
So, basically the TERFs and the TERF-adjacents have found a new go-to to argue against accepting trans kids. And that go-to is that they aren’t against trans kids, no, they’re just against folks going through “potentially unnecessary medical treatments”:
Now everyone and their mother knows what this is about. It’s about tying the way cis people freak out at the very idea of surgeries or hormones and try and displace that fear on trans kids and act like it’s out of some genuine concern for children. Y’know, like how homophobes associate gayness with sex and then try and argue this automatic word association is a reason to be strongly against anyone talking about queer sexualities with children.
Again, these people are not exactly subtle in their antipathy for us.
So, there’s a few things fucked with this.
One, is that it continues to value the vague unease of cis people over the lives and well-being of trans folks*
*Not to keep beating up the dead horse of Jesse Singal, but he decided to follow-up his last trainwreck with a response to Julia Serrano who is… well, the exact person Jesse Singal should seek out, a biologist, academician, and trans woman who speaks eloquently on both trans research and trans experiences, albeit sometimes with frustrating framing. And he tries to tackle a thought experiment she had, which was to have an audience of cis people imagine that they were offered 10 million dollars for their gender, to live as the wrong gender the rest of their life and suffer through that dysphoria. And it’s pretty powerful because most cis people who actually think about it rather than dismissing it with a crude joke about how “easy” women have it or assuming that being thought of as a man all the time when you are not is somehow bearable, don’t take up the offer. Because they at some level understand that one’s gender is one’s gender. Naturally Jesse Singal repeats the thought experiment, comes to the same conclusion, but nonetheless dismisses the thought experiment and argues that some cis folks would still take that because gosh sexism is just so bad, ignoring the life experiences of trans women who’ve lived that and know that the sexism and transphobia and all the hatred is worth no longer being treated as if a boy over and over again. Cause in his mind the idea that one cis person could somehow be wooed over with the “10 million dollars” of dealing with slightly less sexism is too high of a price to universally get behind any form of actual care outside of “concern for” trans kids. And is worth endless articles wringing his hands because he has vague unease at the thought of someone transitioning (i.e. he has vague unease at the thought of himself transitioning and displaces that on women because he’s that type of male feminist) and somehow this must be based on something worthy of reason rather than just his implicit biases. But then, we already knew all that.
Second, is that it makes no goddamn sense, because we already treat children for things they might not actually have. Hell, we treat adults for things they might not actually have.
Like, the obvious example is mental health. I’ve got a lot of students with various mental health conditions. A lot of them had to go through a lot of processes, a lot of tests, and a lot of drugs that simply did not work for them or didn’t work right at that dosage to find the right blend to help them stabilize and better function as themselves.
Cause that’s part of finding out what works. And it’s a major part of medicine. If you go in to a doctor’s office with depression, they try you on various medications to find the one that works. When one doesn’t, that gets crossed off the list and you continue on. So, all this hand-wringing over this terrifying thought that some cis person could somehow stumble through the years of defeating various gatekeepers trans kids and trans people are expected to go through and the million chances to turn back if the treatment is not working is based on something that is just part and parcel of any form of medicine. You try something on the list for that condition or illness. And if that doesn’t work, you go back to the drawing board.
Not to mention that again, the medicines these fucks are freaking out about are some of the easiest to get off medicines possible. And require the most hoops to jump through to get them. Like, very very few clinics are actually cool enough to say “oh, you’re trans, yeah, let’s get you on some blockers, kid” right off the block. A lot of them require potentially years of stable identity and even then refuse because of this ingrained cis fear that they somehow could be trans-ified in the same way that homophobes are scared that standing next to a gay person could “convert” them to “that unhealthy lifestyle” in their estimation.
And blockers themselves are a compromise to hormones, delaying the decision until its been years of stable identity with no shifts and the kid is practically an adult already, albeit now with a stunted pubescence to “make sure they’re sure”. And are undoable by simply not taking them anymore and as far as medications go, they have very few side effects**.
**Transphobes have recently begun arguing that blockers are “shady” and despite all the research that their health risks are minimal, they insist that ha, there might be long-term damage for those who take them for a long time. Somehow ignorant of the realization that someone who takes puberty blockers for a long time is very unlikely to be cis.
But then, the whining about “medicine” is just to rope in the rubes. A way of demonizing blockers and hormones and making it seem nefarious and shady for a doctor to follow AMA and APA best practices and making recommended treatment protocols and how mental health medication simply works seem nefarious and off and find something anything to complain about that isn’t what really bothers all these fucks.
And that’s surgeries.
Like, push any transphobe about “trans kids” or even trans people and eventually they’ll start ranting about genitalia and saving those genitalia from “mutilation” like some annoying anti-circumcision activist crashing the Trans Pride. Even Singal fell into this trap trying to defend his vague unease about supporting trans people without hemming and hawing all the damn time about it when Noah Berlatsky wrote an article critiquing his article on desistence, by immediately seeking out ex-trans folks who regretted surgeries. Many transphobes in the religious right and in the TERF movements cite the same handful of folks, all ones who underwent surgeries and claimed that those surgeries ruined their life.
Cause like the automatic assumption that gay people equal anal or oral sex among homophobes, people automatically associate trans folks with genitals and genital surgeries.
Endless “comedians” making jokes about trans folks that mostly center around “chicks with dicks” because trans women scare the beejesus out of transphobic fuckheads. Endless sobbing pieces lamenting the tragic downfall of “intact” bodies due to the evils of trans surgeries.
That shit massively impacted my life when my family was in the process of disowning me for being trans and trying to force me into reparative therapy at the careful coaching of a TERF piece of shit. Both my uncle and father lamented over my penis and its future fate, because to them that’s all a trans person is.
Their genitals and “the surgery” which, let’s not kid ourselves, to cis people there is only ever one surgery and that is bottom-surgery. It’s fucking everywhere.
And it’s in the creepy way trans folks talk about trans kids, obsessing about their junks like a child molester eyeing up a victim to groom. SecretGamerGirl had a really good deconstruction of that shit here.
To them, that’s all we become. And our humanity is subsumed into that automatic trigger. And this happens to the point where writers writing about us from a position of bias can’t stop flicking their tongue against that wound as they write, freaking out about the poor penii and uterii of the world and lamenting the idea of a cis person ever going through the horror we regularly expect trans folks to go through.
It’s the reason for the careful framing of hiding behind “just being against unnecessary ‘medicine'”, because it makes their actions seem noble in the same way that homophobes reframe their attacks on gay people’s private lives as “standing up for religious freedom” for the same reason.
Because it’s not like just avoiding giving a kid antibiotics because hey, it might not be a bacterial infection. It’s like denying a kid any form of antidepressant because you don’t want to risk ever giving an undiagnosed bipolar kid experiencing depression an antidepressant that might not work. So all the kids need to suffer without ever even trying the drugs and starting that process.
And it ignores what the kids are asking for. The first medication in all this isn’t those much feared surgeries. It’s not even the hormones and blockers that purity-fetishizing assholes try and demonize as somehow super scary, because they deep down realize that obsessing about surgeries with kids who may never get them is kinda really creepy***.
*** One of the things that’s been fucking with transphobes for a bit now is that their chosen victims have been doing activism for awhile. Fighting against the type of rigid and transphobic/homophobic structures that used to govern our only access point to treating dysphoria. Creating community and community support that was actively discouraged before. And one of the consequences of that and the growing acceptance for trans folks is that a fairly large section of trans folks don’t really bother with surgeries. Or if they do, they opt for the less sensationalized surgeries like orchidectomies or hysterectomies rather than what is typically thought of when people think of bottom surgery. And this fucks with transphobes, because their whole pitch is based on the universality of surgeries and making those seem like a cabal of evil trannies is somehow forcing these surgeries on impressionable youth in the same way that homophobes obsess about older gay men forcing gayness on impressionable youth. So, transphobes have had to switch to these not very transparent methods of demonizing things like blockers and hormones because those just aren’t as scary to a cis frame of mind and actually make one more likely to sympathize with the pain and suffering trans kids go through unnecessarily****.
**** I know this piece has gotten super rambly and a giant hot mess. But I’ll summarize my main problem with this shit. It’s Christian Science. It’s someone knowing of a medical treatment to cure and existing problem and some asshole yelling, stop, no, don’t give this kid that treatment, they might not need it, they might only need Jesus. Just with Jesus replaced with some vague handwaving about potential cis-ness. And it’s because they are just in denial of medical reality as Christian Scientists in that they believe that all this trans stuff is a myth and thus all the “treatments” for it are unnecessary medicine getting in the way of “proper” development.
Hell, the first medication isn’t even names and pronouns.
It’s hair. It’s clothes.
This is where trans kids first fight with their parents. To have the right to look how they want, to reduce that dysphoria sartorially. It’s a bitter fight and it’s often hard won, at best.
Hell, even supportive parents balk at this first medication. Feeling pressure from society to try at least a little to enforce some semblance of gender-congruence.
The second medication is the names and pronouns. Fights to be recognized as who they are, allowed to explore pronouns and see what fits. Find what reduces that dysphoria.
Everything else comes way later. Even for folks who figure it out later in life. I know, I’ve mentored a lot of trans college spaces and I’ve seen a large number of folks who came out as trans in college. Every time, years over appearance. Years over name. Then maybe hormones. Surgery a potential speck on the horizon, frequently reduced in importance once folks see just how magical hormones can be in reducing a lot of dysphoria.
Trans folks think about this shit. A lot. They don’t just go waltzing into a pharmacy and ask for everything on the top shelf. They agonize over this shit, analyze it from every angle, and seek out trusted professionals or close friends.
No transition is chosen willy-nilly.
And that’s kind of the unspoken boogieman in all this. The idea that some cis person could “transition” as a lark and by that they almost always mean surgery. Which doesn’t happen.
Even the scant few ex-trans folks they can pull out who didn’t detransition because of social stress (the majority of names transphobes like to trot out to try and make “desistance” and “detransition” seem like huge issues affecting hundreds of folks are well… folks who had to fight for years to transition in the first place. Folks who spent years lying to doctors and ignoring their own dysphoria and probably still lying to themselves (like honestly, people have we learned literally NOTHING from the whole ex-gay malarky). Folks who weren’t at all pressured to do surgery or else, rather the opposite. Who’ve now conveniently fallen in with folks eager to use their confusion and pain to deny the rights of trans people everywhere.
Because no matter what we do to show how little we’re asking for, they’ll nonetheless try and couch their actions in concern.
Because this is a repeat of the same old shit we went through with gay rights and still go through with gay rights to this day. The same automatic assumptions, the same effect of “liberal” folks using their personal antipathy and feelings of unease to try and demonize or cast “reasonable doubts” on the rightness of letting kids explore gender or sexuality in spaces without prejudice. Even the same organizations forming to oppress us (let us not forget that their used to be a homophobic batch of second wave feminists just as strident as TERFs have been about trans folks).
And being a veteran of a lot of those gay rights battles, I’m tired of all of it.
I’m tired of my kids being hemmed and hawed over, because some assholes can’t stop thinking of junk when they think trans folks. I’m tired of watching kids go without care and respect and recognition and HUMANITY because of all the cis people hemming and hawing and floating bad faith arguments. I’m tired of watching all my trans friends get to the edge of suicide because of endless harassment from the sort of fucks who think we never thought deeply and agonized over our genders.
I’m tired of this bad faith bullshit and bigots hiding behind “science” and “the kids” and “the bible” to justify their tired reflexive negative feelings.
I’m tired of people prioritizing unease built out of ignorance, out of a failure to incorporate us into their personal lives and get to know us and let that fear wash out, over our rights and our access to the very few avenues of legal medicine and care we are allowed as transgender citizens.
I’m tired of the knowledge that we’ll repeat every phase of fighting for gay rights with trans people and hell, will probably do the same damn thing for poly people and ace people and non-binary people and so on and so on. Over and over and over again.
And I’m most of all tired of begging for my humanity from folks who think it perfectly okay to take dominance over it and make it a public issue worthy of debate. Who find the pain I went through, the confusion being a young trans girl growing up with no clue what was happening to her, just that it was all so very wrong, so very fascinating but not nearly as compelling as the way they just sort of feel wary when they think about the health care we use to undo that.
I’m tired of having this fight with fuckers who are the equivalent of some ignorant fuck wandering into a cancer ward going “gosh, what’s the deal with all this radiation, that’s really freaky to think about, y’know what we need, a public debate on whether or not y’all really need this. I mean, imagine if one of you didn’t have cancer, that would be awful.” And acting like their reflexive bullshit isn’t something that’s been answered a thousand times in a thousand ways by people who inherently have thought of it way more than they ever will.
Fuck TERFs, fuck people who surround themselves with TERFs, fuck their transparent bad faith arguments, fuck this bigoted nonsense hiding behind the passive terrorism that is perpetuated against trans folks.
I let myself be disowned because I was done with fighting for my humanity, with begging for my humanity. I walked and risked homelessness and have only now years later begun really putting together the shattered wreckage of my psyche caused by believing the transphobic culture that treats our identities as something to hem and haw over rather than accept. And along the way, being trans, has meant I’ve nearly been killed, multiple times. Has meant a lot of jobs not calling me back “mysteriously”. Has meant a lot of bullshit from a transphobic society that is eager to repeat the bathroom battles of the 1950s.
And I’m done putting up with it from anyone else.
So, all y’all cis fucks can just get over it. Get over trans kids. Get over trans adults. Get over trans celebrities like (unfortunately) Caitlyn Jenner.
Get over us, introspect, just fucking acknowledge why you react with unease at our existence and really examine your life far far away from us.
So we can try and save as many of the kids you try and kill every year as we possibly can and try to build for them a future where they don’t ever have to feel they have to beg for their humanity.
So, yeah, let’s just close the lid on this transphobic waste of space.
And yeah, I’m saying he’s a transphobic piece of shit, because not only does he write these “I’m not saying I’m freaked out by kids using different pronouns, I’m just implying that it’s awful and practically the same thing as surgery in a way that lets me deny it and angrily denounce ACLU lawyers who point out the striking similarity between my arguments and the arguments of anti-trans hate groups by claiming they are the ‘real’ gender essentialists”:
But because of this one tweet chain:
The article he’s complaining about is an article decrying the American College of Pediatrics, a fake organization run by a hate group intentionally trying to be confused with actual Pediatricians because said hate groups want to pretend their bad science is actually what is recommended by pediatricians.
Yes, that’s right. Not only does Jesse Singal keep writing these shit articles about trans people, not only does he salivate over reparative therapy clinics like they were the one true bastion of sanity in the trans “debate”, not only does he intentionally surround himself with TERFs who prop him up against those “evil transgender activists” and let him play male ally hero to his heart’s content.
He has straight up risen in anger in defense of a fake medical organization literally run by folks who are recognized by the SPLC as members of hate groups.
Yes, that’s right, shitbird Singal defended a literal fake agency whose only existence is to disseminate bad science about trans folks. Decrying the writer as a fake ally just trying to get in with the trendy transgenders because gosh darnitt we’re just crawling with allies at the moment.
And his fig leaf to try and justify this as anything other than his rising to the defense of his fellow bigots is this:
Yes, that’s right, he’s angry that an article talking about an active hate organization posing as a real reputable national organization speaking on behalf of all pediatricians didn’t go off on a random tangent to ramble about his pet theory about gender dysphoria having all these social causes so really there’s some secret underground of cis kids secretly tricked into being trans that need to be saved by making it even more difficult than it already is for trans kids to even receive social support in favor of their names and pronouns.
And the worst part of it all is this:
He cites a heart-breaking tale of a genderqueer (i.e. NON-BINARY) individual who experiences variations in just how destructive their gender dysphoria is not as an example on non-binary experiences and how they are frequently erased in these “trans debates” or an example of what fresh hell trans people are expected to deal with before society considers them “trans enough” to even experiment with pronouns and names…
No, not as any of that, but as an example of his bugaboo hinting at a supposed “regret culture” of ex-trans individuals.
Which… no, fuck you. Our non-binary brethren. Our questioning brethren. Our egg-mode brethren terrified by a general culture wherein it is perfectly legal to discriminate us out of jobs, wherein most of our murders aren’t even investigated, and where family disownment is so common, that we’re actually stunned when a trans person actually has the support of their parents.
These are not tools for you to push your bullshit ex-trans cheerleading on behalf of bankrupt ideologies working to strip us of all legal rights.
These are people, scared people, trying to figure themselves out.
Who are not planning on hoping on the surgery three weeks in. They’re still working on whether or not to try a different pronoun or wondering if they remain in the closet, whether or not they’ll become one of the many statistics of trans youth who off themselves because our society treats gender dysphoria as some sort of game or meaningless distraction.
And here’s Singal, defending hate groups, smearing people who expose them as “liberal journalism at its worst”, all because he does not understand what gender dysphoria is, what the transgender spectrum is, or even what trans activists want for trans kids.
Cause, for all the hinting that he’s doing working up to his no-doubt lucrative future career being a Robert Oscar Lopez or a Maggie Gallagher for trans issues that trans activists are somehow recruiting the youth and confusing them with “you can only be x binary with x transition path”, that’s not how any of this shit works.
Trans adults, what we want for our trans kids is for them not to be dying by the hundreds every year. We want them to not commit suicide, feeling alone and scared like so many queer youth have felt for years.
We want them to be able to explore what they want to be without it being terrifying or brutally punished, even if at the end of it, they decide they’re totally cis.
We want kids to be able to try on a pronoun and see if it fits and not have to fight their teachers for it to be respected. To be able to try out a name and have it not be a thing.
And frankly, modeling this behavior in my own school. Letting kids explore, letting them see that trans teachers exist, that trans adults exist, is so fucking easy and non-disruptive. Even our genderfluid students whose pronouns changed from week to week. And for all the scare tweets from Singal hinting at societal ruin resulting from letting kids be, even if they are non-binary. It doesn’t have to be a thing.
Cause if we can do a little to make teenage life less hellish, to create a safe space for trans students to exist and thrive and be who they are. Where their identities and pronouns are respected whatever they may be today.
We should do it.
And in the meantime, I’d like this to serve as the closing of the book on Singal. Because it’s clear that this is just gonna be the typical path of the neo-TERF. Hang out with TERFs, pen questionable articles, defend your hanging out with TERFs and questionable articles, straight up cite hate groups and prominent anti-trans organizations and join a fictional reality.
Because apparently we’re going to have to go through all the same steps as gay folks for the mushy middle to actually recognize their antipathy as the bigotry it is and grow the fuck up already.
In the meantime, fuck Jesse Singal. And when he’s opening for Focus on the Family or retweeting the dark lord of TERFdom in a few years, let it be a surprise to no one.
FINAL UPDATE (8/23):
For those who say, okay, no, Jesse Singal couldn’t actually be defending the Liberty Council’s pet think tank as if they were a legitimate science organization:
No, he did.
So either he’s so bad at his job he literally does not understand what organizations of medical professionals are real or not or he’s gladly willing to stir the pot and murky the waters if it will feed causes he believes in (to whit, performing gender reparative therapy on young trans kids*)
*Again, no really:
Oh, and supposedly “many” trans people now apparently believe reparative therapy is awesome. Yeah, totes, and “many” gay people love ex-gay camps and “many” pregnant women love pregnancy crisis centers.
He’s also a fan of the theory that we were forced to be trans by evil parents who “confuse us” about our true gender (because his unstated belief that comes through in all his works seems to be that trans kids need to be saved from the “irreversible” consequences of trying out a name and a pronoun for awhile and seeing if it sticks, because some combination of evil mothers and trans activists will trick them into taking hormones and getting surgeries when they are actually cis (rather than the kid just figuring it out along the way):
Which, I say to that, I wish. My mom tried to beat the trans out of me and hide that possibility from me and my parents disowned me when I came out. These trans kids I work with, almost none have parents that support them. Every ounce of identity they have to carve out of a mountain of constant fighting. But hey, it’s not like we’ve noticed how sexist asshole men tend to assume that mothers of trans folks are bad mothers “forcing them” to be trans:
Oh wait, we have. And it’s transparent as fuck.
Bonus points? He’s also a non-binary truther, who believes that non-binary gender identities and neopronouns are all a trick to get feminists to “waste resources” on non-women. As if non-binary people aren’t hesitant enough about belonging to “women’s spaces” or like non-binary identities don’t exist:
Cause to ignorant cis assholes the notions of more than two genders seems absurd and proof that us trans folks are delusional and lying.
Bonus to the bonus? He’s also a big fan of claiming trans folks are gender essentialists because of his whole “not supporting reparative therapy means you believe in a strict binary system where there is one way to be trans” strawperson oral sex contest… while decrying the notion of more than two genders as ignorant claptrap and non-binary people as not deserving protections of being a protected class.
Fuck you, you disingenuous hack. Fuck your ascientific bullshit and rancid repolishing of TERF talking points and fuck your working for and standing up for literal hate groups. And fuck your transparent transphobia. Fuck you trying to exploit our NB youth while denying they even exist. Fuck your sad little douche dance and just fucking come out as the bigot you clearly are but don’t want to be seen as.
It’ll at the very least be less insulting to our intelligence.
So, I wrote a monster thread below going in depth on his latest post and especially noting the bizarre nature of his seeming understanding and acknowledgment that even in his shitty studies “regret” or desistence does not seem to happen all that often in pubescent trans kids as well an acknowledgment that blockers and hormones are often very useful and life-saving. But one major thing bothered me and it took several tweets of his to become fully crystalized.
The first is this:
Which is a subtweet to this chain by Sady Doyle:
Which is just… angering, in its myopic woe, is me victim-pose. And it’s becoming somewhat of a habit of late. His responses to trans and trans ally academics and writers writing scholarly deconstructions of his arguments and responding like, well… academics with far more politeness than Singal’s ignorant pop-sci ramblings metrit have been illustrative.
His response to Julia Serrano writing a very long piece deconstructing his arguments about desistence and his continued defense of reparative therapy for trans kids was to argue that her noting that he only bothered to quote parents who thought it was a good thing their kids ended up not trans was actually an attack on the parents themselves:
His response to Noah Berlatsky’s article I cited in my last post was to sic a bunch of ex-trans motherfuckers on him because he noted that Jesse Singal was raising fears of a potential kid existing to deny healthcare to actual kids hurting right now or at least “be very concerned about it”.
Every time he’s rightfully critiqued with an undue amount of respect, he whines about “attacks” and reframes deconstructions as single line mentions that allow him to feign defensiveness on behalf of a “put-upon” population of transphobes and allows him to escape responsibility for the transphobia in the world.
Even I’ve dealt with this shit from him, reaching out to him about how his actions make it harder to keep my trans kids alive because his articles are cited and used by their parents to deny them even the basic dignity of having their pronouns and identities respected. Instead he whined that the parents must have misinterpreted his words, because god forbid he take some fucking responsibility for his actions and the impact his words have as someone who takes deliberate care to pose himself as a rational bearer of “hard truths” in a “irrational” desert of “activists” and their “opinions”.
And it’s especially annoying that he does this, “pfft, words, how could they impact someone’s life” when he’s written extensively about online harassment and abuse and how thoroughly that shit fucks with women’s lives online and where he fully expects that his work as a writer matters and will engage and affect people on a personal level.
But with trans stuff? Nope, displace, deny, and denounce the evil trannies for “smearing his good name”.
Like, fuck, that post on top is sickening in how its phrased, because it’s perfectly designed to be every asshole’s favorite dismissal topic. An unholy blend of “my critics are crazy” and “women be all emotional and shit”. And that’s infuriating.
Largely because despite his denials, his words do contribute to the death of trans kids. And he knows it. He knows and admits and acknowledges that dismissal of trans identities by parents causes an increase in trans suicide rates as does public transphobia and loss of public access. And yet, he makes the same arguments as are currently being used by the ADF to eliminate trans rights around the country and his works are taken by parents as confirmation that it is indeed “a phase” and so there is no point in supporting their trans kids.
He knows that his words contribute, but he can’t accept it, because it would mean introspecting about his actions and the toxic pool of TERFs he has willingly surrounded himself with. And he can’t stop trying to poison the well for his critics, making them out to be crazy, because much like a lot of other “feminist men”, he can’t stand being called out for his garbage.
And it sickens me. And the reason it sickens me is that Sady Doyle is right. Jesse Singal does indeed value living trans kids way less than cis kids and puts his fears of things being “icky” or “hard” over the well-being of children and does fear-monger over things that are completely harmless and easily undone by evoking the larger fears and anxieties society has over the precious penii and uterii of the world and the spectre of surgeries most trans folk don’t even get potentially happening years later.
Cause, there’s a moment when Zinnia Jones has a thread responding to him directly and asking him about his arguments in an effort to get him to clarify, quoting a myriad of studies on trans folks and desistance because Zinnia Jones is a major nerd for scholarly papers and does a lot of the functions of an academician:
Wherein Jesse Singal makes a major revelation as to his beliefs:
Oh, a kid on the cusp of puberty is probably trans, blockers are fine, in Singal’s estimation. Which is news considering his last piece was a giant dumpster fire fixating on blockers and making them sound super scary. Additionally, he’s admitted before that hormones are usually prescribed after years of blockers and thus very unlikely to be given to someone not trans. And so on.
So all the shit he fear-mongers about and acts like is so hard to undo, he’s totes okay with.
But what gets his goat, what leads him to balk at fully supporting trans youth and the AMA-recommended medically ethical care procedures in place, is “younger kids”. Kids who are pre-pubescent.
But here’s the thing about pre-pubescent kids…
THERE’S NO BLOCKERS THEN. There’s no hormones. There’s no surgeries.
Because puberty literally hasn’t even begun so it fundamentally does not make sense even in the most permissively liberal of households for anyone to start blockers because there’s nothing to block. And since no one of their age group is starting hormones, there’s even less of a reason to start the kid on those, because their body is fundamentally not ready for it. And surgeries… well, we’ve already touched on the irony of transphobes being all pearl-clutching over surgeries that fundamentally do not happen before the age of 16 or so while turning a blind eye to how the medical community has normalized the brutality of “correcting” intersex kids’ genitalia for the comfort of those same pearl-clutchers. But again, no one is going to do that. The genitals have not finished growing, have not been through puberty. Hell, most surgeons balk at most any form of non-emergency surgery for these reasons, because the damage can massively extend as the kid goes through puberty in ways that can be hard to predict.
And that’s a big deal, because it means all his hand-wringing isn’t about any of the things he’s hand-wringing about.
It’s instead about the only form of care we give to pre-pubescent kids. Which is respecting names and pronouns.
But he’s too much of a coward to say that outright and so dances around things and keeps raising the spectre of “evil drugs” and “trans activists” to hide the fact that what has got him all worried and verklempt in the night is the idea that prepubescent trans kids might be using a different name or different pronouns and happily supported in that rather than aggressively “encouraged” to be cis.
And he’s blaming those kids and those who support them for him immediately thinking about sugeries and hormones and potential “life-altering medication” they might go through one day never having been told that they are a deluded freak who doesn’t realize how cis they are.
And this is monstrous. Because pronouns and names are literally the least one can do and has little to no impact on anything other than the well-being of the kid.
And I know, because I’m a trans teacher and that means the trans kids in my classes find me. Because that’s the benefit of fighting the very real attempts to ban those like me from my profession, kids get to see themselves in people of authority and this makes them a little more willing to come out and take that risk, because they can trust that at least one person will fight for them.
Currently I work with middle school and high school kids and their struggles often begin with names and pronouns, coming out as them, trying some out to see what fits, convincing parents that this isn’t a phase and to respect their identities and stop causing them pain by misgendering them or calling them deluded freaks. It’s a genuine struggle to keep them alive in a transphobic society, but I work hard at it and knock on wood, I haven’t yet lost one though I’ve gotten way closer than I’d like*.
*Kid away on break, constantly misgendered while on a trip exacerbating a depressive spell, made an attempt that school officials and friends were able to intervene on and which a group of us teachers were able to talk them down from when they got back. If one person didn’t answer the phone, if they didn’t listen to the teachers asking for extra time for them to let new medications have an effect, then we would have lost them. Shit like this haunts me and gets me really riled up about assholes like Singal.
And a lot of the techniques we use to respect names and pronouns, to adapt even to frequent shifting of pronouns for our genderfluid students, are simple. A matter of sending emails updating people about pronouns and what to use in missives home. A matter of taking an extra five seconds to practice. It’s something so little for the teachers, but makes all the difference in our students and in how safe and supported they feel on our campus.
So to demonize and fearmonger about this like it’s some grand social experiment or is somehow going to convince cis kids to go through years of dysphoria — and believe me the kids feel the dysphoria fast. Had a bigender student who initially thought ce might be genderqueer, but was hitting massive dysphoria when trying to just go by they and couldn’t figure out why ce was getting dysphoria in either direction when ce tried to be one or the other. Until ce figured out ce could be bigender and found a pronoun that worked for cir and allowed ce to escape that feeling of dysphoria. Yet, a kid working out something complex out like that with little to no social support is somehow “easier” than a cis kid figuring out they aren’t actually trans after the first week of being misgendered? Puh-leeze. And even the ex-trans folks he trotted out to defend himself note that they spent a long time experiencing dysphoria trying to force a transition, but hid it because they didn’t see themselves reflected and respected and had ignorant health care workers who literally didn’t know what they were doing.
It’s all just gobsmacking.
And frankly, I’m not just speaking about a teacher of older students. Before this job I primarily worked with elementary school aged kids. And well, some were trans or gender-non-conforming and the ones who were sought me out because I was a visibly trans teacher and they told me. And some were young. I had kids who were in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, kindergarten, even one pre-school kid who identified as trans. And well, for them, it was as simple as using their preferred name and pronoun. That’s it.
And when that happened, they were happy, just like any of their cis peers. And you could tell which ones were being bullied for it (usually starting in late elementary school), because they were more quiet, keeping to themselves, but they lit up when I was teaching the class and I could tell who was tormenting them because those kids would get visibly awkward while I was teaching. One even apologized to one of his victims after my class.
And when it didn’t? When it wasn’t even clear if the kid had a vocabulary for what they were going through, but it was definitely clear that their parents didn’t have any respect for the very idea that their kid could be anything but cis. The types who would have lapped up Singal’s and Zucker’s exclamations of “80% desisting” if the kid did try and come out? The pain on their faces was excruciating.
One of my worst teaching moments was in a job I held teaching summer camp classes right after I had been disowned by my family and discriminated out of my job. I was deep back in the closet, pretending to be cis, because I had to eat and take care of my partner who had slipped into a deep dark depression of her own.
In this job, we had a very strongly gendered bathroom policy. It was boys go here, girls go there. All of us using the restroom at the same time, because this is structured summer park time and to do otherwise was to invite the anarchy of the beasts.
And there was this kid there, who was painfully obviously gender-non-conforming and probably not at all cis. And it was painfully obvious, because nearly every time I had to do those gendered bathroom calls, the kid would actually literally flinch and they would never actually use them. Though they would slip off later on their own when they thought no one could see them with their brother watching the door.
I pretended not to notice, but I did ask their parent if the kid had a preferred pronoun. The mom reacted furiously with me, angrily insisting their kid was a boy and that was that and I immediately let it drop, because I needed the job. And I watched helplessly as this confused kid continued to go through the painful ritual of trying to make those bathrooms stop hurting them and not knowing how.
And I know my cowardice in that instance hurt that kid and I don’t know if their mom eventually softened and accepted them or if that kid ever was able to figure things out.
But it’s one of the things you see when you actually work with trans youth instead of penning fear-mongering articles about how “unsettling” you find them and how “worried” you are from afar while distancing the very real damage you do.
And that’s what infuriates me as a trans teacher about shit like Singal’s. It’s the casual dismissal of what the pain is for trans kids who are trans go through. It’s a deliberate attempt to make pronoun switches and names, something as simple to undo as using or unusing a nickname into some major thing that one should be terrified of.
And it’s a refusal to acknowledge why he’s doing any of it.
Cause I’m sorry, but Singal and his defenders are too smart to not realize what they are doing. Singal wouldn’t be dodging all critiques and making out like he’s the unfortunate victim of a howling mob of anti-science activists who just can’t accept basic reality if he didn’t at some level understand what he’s doing and how actively he’s avoiding education on that topic even when it comes from out-of-touch cis academicians or his own preferred sources.
So he knows.
He knows that he’s placing his own prejudice-fueled discomfort about the idea that there could be trans kids, about what his brain conjures in response to the knowledge that there could be trans kids, over the actual humanity of those trans kids and their needs and requests.
He’s projecting all that he thinks about when he’s thinking about trans kids (about things no trans kid is going to have access to for years when it will become quickly obvious that the kid is very likely trans and has been through all the gauntlet of gatekeepers set up currently) onto their lives. And making that immediate prejudiced antipathy into something that’s trans kids and the adults who support them’s fault.
Because he’s too “progressive” to acknowledge that he’s got a big giant blindspot regarding trans issues born out of the same bigotry that leads homophobes to cry rants about “sex” when gay kids come out.
And I just can’t anymore. I can’t keep acting like he’s at all acting in good faith anymore or appealing to his better humanity, when he’s so clearly acknowledging everything trans folks have been saying, but still plays this little victim dance anyways, when he publicly states that “oh, I’m just so worried about prepubescent kids” as if he doesn’t fully understand that all those kids are asking for is for their names and pronouns to be respected and to have the freedom to explore that identity and see if it fits.
And as much as he wants to deny it, deny his hand in the transphobic culture, his articles are indeed hurting people. Are indeed contributing to the toxic cage that drives so many kids to suicide. And it’s that case not because we mean trans activists are trying to guilt-trip him away from the cause of science.
But because this reinforcement for parents that it’s okay to react to requests for pronouns and basic dignity as if it’s a demand for surgeries now and to pray and hope that it’s a phase instead is taken seriously by parents of the same prejudices as him. Who want their kids to be cis so badly that they’ll mistreat and demonize their actually trans kids.
And that shit has a body count. It nearly added one in the case of one of my students when his parent used Singal’s article to justify continuing to deny him his pronouns and his identity.
And as a trans teacher, I don’t want to see myself lose another trans kid because some cis asshole couldn’t get his shit together and introspect about whether or not his immediate balk at the idea of pre-pubescent trans kids might have more to do with his fears about what that “might mean” rather than anything real.
Cause that shit is infuriating and I’m tired of respecting it in an age where trans rights are more under the gun than ever before.
So, sorry, Singal, but fuck you. And fuck your pose as the last rational soldier in a sea of trans adults who just want their kids to not die like so many of us did.