Jesse Singal and the Unspoken Bias
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.