Awakening clinician, UK: What do we think we are talking about?

100 Professional Voices

Another post from a professional reflecting critically on how they see the issue of transitioning children and young people. We aim to publish voices of 100 Youth Trans Critical Professionals to begin to evidence our mutual concern. 

I’m a peripatetic clinician who visits many schools on a regular basis. I’m having my eyes opened by encounters involving gender transitioning children and teenagers.  I have realised there is no room for a liberal woolly professional default position of uncritical acceptance.

Here is a snap shot of things that have happened within the first 4 weeks of going into a number of schools in one borough that have led to awakening concern:

  • A quiet cloak of silence amongst staff, uneasy about who thinks what about ‘Trans Assemblies’ being delivered one day to the school’s Primary Department, separately for the Secondary Dept and separately again for Staff.  Over lunch, a teaching assistant who works in both departments says ‘Oh, I have been to two already, have I got to go to the third?’ There is no reaction or comment from other staff around the dinner table; no questions about what had been learned, opinions, value of the talks attended or why attending Trans Training for a third time seemed a bother. Eyes down and simply no discussion.
  • At an enhanced provision meeting (for children whose needs cannot be met solely from within the school’s resources) I was with a parent, a teaching assistant and a 15 year old young person for whom social communication creates barriers;

Teaching Assistant: ‘He stayed in Assembly this morning. Isn’t that great?’

Mum:  ‘I know. He was worried about it. He’s not very comfortable with that sort of thing even though we’ve always been very open with him’.

Young person: silent

I was unaware until later that the subject was a ‘Trans Assembly’ led by an MtoT individual.

  • Conversation with ‘looked-after’ young person of 13 who tells me: ‘I have two brothers. Well one of my brothers is now a sister’. The teacher said nothing, neither did I. We accept this statement and don’t question what it is like for this young person who seems to have been expected to accept the matter too.  Why not? We probably would have talked further with the child about almost any other disclosure.
  • I watched MtoT individual accompanied by a teacher walking through the corridor of a Primary Resource Base supporting 4-11 year old children who have identified educational challenges. I hoped that opportunities to discuss young people’s identities in relation to a range of issues, not solely transgender, would be given equal weight. I wonder about the privilege afforded to an MtoT person in schools and about equality of representation.

Young people learn much from the adults around them about attitudes, both positive and negative. They need to bounce ideas and be free to hear wide ranging thoughts and opinions, experiences and values. Whilst teaching staff, parents, siblings and peers remain uncertain, with limited information and minimal critical questioning, a worrying veil of ignorance faces young people in their immediate world.

In more or less the same period, just going about my ordinary suburban life, I have heard:

  • My friend’s 15 year old daughter who identified as a lesbian at 13 suddenly re-identifies as FtoT. This is out of the blue – following a period of immersion in Tumblr – social contagion comes worryingly to mind.
  • Another friend’s 16 year old niece attends a single-sex sixth-form where a peer is currently transitioning FtoT. She says they had a day of ‘training’ from a Youth Project in advance of the day of transitioning commencing and were expressly told that to ask any questions would be indicative of transphobia.
  • In the local supermarket a boy of about 7 years old reminds his younger brother … ‘you mustn’t say Uncle Andrew any more because he is a man-lady now’
  •  My sister who is a social worker tells me of concern for a young parent she supports who it is felt may be ‘nudging her 8 year old daughter towards trans’. There is concern that the child’s mother who has mental health issues may be seeking some kind of social-role valorisation for herself through encouraging her child to identify as transgender.

Some of my questions

Why are so many children and young people suddenly identifying or being identified as transgender?

Why are gender and sexuality being confused? Why are we not asking questions about including and valuing everyone in a gender neutral way? Why are many professionals – including myself – suppressing our own questions in public and professional forums?

When we talk about transgender – what do we think we are talking about? 

How do we support people with indeterminate sex (different from indeterminate gender) to feel safe alongside every other individual?

How is medical intervention for children of indeterminate sex a different issue from medical intervening for children articulating gender confusion?

Can we clarify the terminology? ‘Male to Female’ and ‘Female to Male’ seems too binary and incomplete. The issue is ‘Male to Trans’ and ‘Female to Trans’ and using this terminology we begin to encompass a broader, more accurate, notion of the shared experiences and identities of men, women and Trans people.

How do the gender differences that sociolinguistics has identified for years in discourse, including power imbalances, play out with MtoT or FtoT interactions in mixed gender groups? Who gets/is given more air space in conversation at the subtle culturally learned level? What might this mean for collaborative, constructive sharing of views? How might this impact on the experience of transitioning children and young people?  Of particular concern here, is an explanation for why MtoT voices seem to be dominating the campaign for transitioning children and young people. Why does this matter?

What questions do we need to be asking in pursuit of a sensitive divide between gender confusion and social and / or medical intervention?

How can adults and young people work together to understand the new possibilities that medical science offer which impact on social constructs and exist, for a time, in a grey soup of unfamiliarity, devoid of dialogue based on experience?


14 thoughts on “Awakening clinician, UK: What do we think we are talking about?

  1. ‘Awakening Clinician’ – Yes, the how question is huge. Where are the mediators going to be? Even though academics, professionals, parents, carers etc. can express valid anxieties, question that research and options are lacking to inform life impacting decisions, where does everyone go from here?’ Is discussion only going to be reduced to phobic versus non phobic as if any other exploration is illegitimate? If for example my child had leukemia I would examine all the treatment options, pros, cons, side effects, long term, short term…. Where has that conversation gone in trans ‘diagnosis’ ? What baffles me most is how 6 year olds or any child can commit to an adult decision and identity prior to having lived or experienced any gender/s as an adult. How is that safe or informed? Yet the hormonal blockers are handed out?

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I am surprised and discouraged that this transgender doctrine has gotten so far so quickly. Every voice on this brings more people to question what we have been force fed. So many of us who have spent our lives trying to battle internal and external racism, sexism, and classism are finding that we are called bigots for daring to question anything trans. Best of luck to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The description of everyone in the schools too afraid to even talk about it is very disheartening. But it’s also important information for us to have. This sounds like the transgender movement with their ideology/worldview are simply going into the schools and insisting that other people who have no intrinsic connection to trans embrace the transgender worldview. This is so very abnormal.

    Progressive politics in general and equality movements for individual despise groups in particular are nothing like that. Women and Black people and gay people and disabled people have via political organizations sought to be allowed to do very ordinary things. There was a disability rights organization whose slogan was, and please picture this as a bumper sticker on a wheelchair, To Go Where Everyone Else Has Gone Before. The transgender movement seems to want the whole of society to participate in their re-creating of their identities. That’s just not feasible. As American comedian Dave Chapelle put it, there’s a question as to how much I’m required to participate in somebody else’s identity. He was speaking of Jenner.

    Aside from the weirdness of the transgender movement wanting us all to basically join it is the fact that it make claims about human biology that just aren’t true. Are we now “bigots” if we refuse to go along with an unscientific fantasy-based idea about human biology? That would be appalling. But it’s also simply not going to happen. The transgender movement may be able to do a shockingly vast amount of things that one would have thought an outgroup movement would not succeed at. Like it’s huge presence in the schools. But it’s not going to be able to convince large numbers of people that someone who ‘dissents’ from its ideas is therefore a bigot. So the question is how long are we going to play along with this?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Just read the letter in The Guardian which says it all with such care and worry. But then the responses … what is the matter with the world? The anonymous place of being connected with everyone can be so dangerous and unpleasant. It must be countered with reflective argument from the likes of professionals who have found our way to this site and with a parent’s desperation and love from the likes of parents such as you.

    I’ve been thinking about the notion of self-diagnosis in relation to trans. So impossible as your self-identities as child, girl, sister, friend, student, therapist, daughter, lover, neighbour, parent, woman, disabled person, bullied person, musician, writer, etc etc – all merge and re-emerge and falter and develop over a life time. We need the support and reflections of others around us to help this complicated fluid business and bounce ideas. Goodness only knows how I would ever manage these multiple joyous challenging changes in self without my closest friends. We must keep critically reflecting and sharing with young people; and push for a sensible divide between gender confusion and intervention

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Right. So what are you pros gonna do about this, seriously? Because, as a parent in an American state that’s passed one of those ‘conversion therapy’ laws that conflates the T with LGB, I can’t get psych treatment for my non-sex-role-conforming minor kid right now that has any path other than ‘your kid is obviously trans because they say so’ and ‘transition prescription.’ I can’t get treatment that will honestly examine this kid’s history and existing, previously diagnosed mental health issues and the interface between those issues and the nonconforming behavior before irrevocable physical changes are advised. I can’t even get treatment for MYSELF that is not going to involve a righteous lecture about accepting/celebrating this inevitable and actually beautiful thing, as we all journey to this wonderful Brave New World of being human (via extreme and risky body modifications).

    And that is on YOU, professionals, you know? Because you have let your professional judgement and everything you know about child development be co-opted by a sociopolitical movement. And so fast, too.

    I think it is no coincidence that a large number of psychologists are females, conditioned to smooth things over, to comfort, to make peace, to believe people’s stories, to sympathize with the oppressed. And that a large number of transactivists are natal males who are used to getting their way in conflicts involving natal females, by shouting them down if necessary. And that the bosses in the med/psych/pharm business are usually also males, some of whom are just worried about damage to the PR facade and the bottom line if anyone pushes back against the narrative that all liberal “good people” are supposed to embrace. Because the T movement is just like the LGB justice movement, right? If you’re a good person, of course you have to go along. Right?

    Somehow the thought of being labeled as bigoted, prejudiced, or phobic is so threatening that everyone is required to comply, to demonstrate their virtue. (God forbid anybody should end up sharing any opinions with, say, religious fundamentalists, you know? Even if, in this particular case, some of them are saying some stuff that actually makes sense.)

    I get it. I do. Your jobs and your professional reputations are at stake. I don’t have much hope for change, at least not in the short term. I’d love to be proved wrong. I’m glad this site exists; I hope it gets some traction. In particular, I hope people are going to find strength in numbers, enough to start using their NAMES. Enough to start speaking to power and saying “what the eff are we actually doing here?”

    Meanwhile I lie awake at night, terrified my kid is going to screw up her body and mind in search of a fix that the movement tells her will be a cure for all the bad things she feels about herself.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I’m not a professional, just a parent. I find the uneasy silence, the lack of discussion in a strange way, encouraging. It’s as if everyone knows it’s bollocks, but everyone is thinks they are a minority of one, they think every one else will think them bigoted and hateful. The Emperor’s New Gender ID

    Its feel like once a voice gets heard, that gets the message across, from a source that people can trust, like the BBC, the Guardian or even Private Eye, the avalanche will be unstopable

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Puzzled, let’s hope starting to post and comment is action in itself. Can you share ideas on what you would like to be done? Things are happening for sure. Anonymity from youthtranscriticalprofessionals isn’t only because ‘jobs and professional reputations are at stake’ – I’m having to take great care not to inadvertently reveal identities of children and young people I work with for example. Thanks for working with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Understood, good points. I dunno, I’m not in your profession so I don’t completely understand how it works. I sympathize w/the anonymity thing — we parents have to be that way also, given that we are still trying to preserve relationships with our kids.

      I guess trying to continue to shape discussion regarding how this is dealt with in the DSM and WPATH revisions, and monitoring what’s going on w/ ‘conversion therapy’ legislation so discussion of gender discordance is not automatically lumped in with LGB ‘conversion’ efforts, and minors and their families would have some hope of getting thoughtful treatment instead of just rubber-stamping a minor’s self-diagnosis. The latter situation remains my biggest beef, that these laws have been passed by well-meaning legislators who do not really understand the implications where putative transkids are concerned. It all just got lumped together based on ‘model legislation’ crafted by activists. In combination w/the informed consent model and the anti-gatekeeper movement, it’s led to a situation where a 15 year old girl can demand T get it after one or two visits, without much need for discussion of any comorbidities or analysis of what is leading her to feel as if she is ‘really a boy.’ How can that kind of speed be right? And if it is right, we should also let these kids drink and drive because they ‘feel old enough’ and get tats and whatever else they want? Why are those things not OK but transition is OK? Autonomy is autonomy, yes? Sigh.

      And eventually obviously getting enough critical mass to make public statements/have meetings. I’m sure you guys are in discussion about these things. Right now it’s easy to point at, say, the statement made by the American College of Pediatricians and write them all off as phobic hateful religious zealots; a nonsectarian group would get more traction. Especially if you are not saying “no one should ever do this” but rather “we need to slow down with this stuff until and unless there is actual evidence that there is long-term benefit and safety.”

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Puzzled, I have found that ordinary people who jump on the trans bandwagon know NOTHING about transgender issues. Most people’s politics are founded on feeling good about themselves, not on critical thinking and analysis. I asked the woman running Resources for Organizing and Social Change in the state of Maine some questions regarding transgenderism and she answered none of them, just that she knew all these wonderful transgender people. (Some of my best friends are black.) I turned on the radio the other day and some man was lecturing all of us on how we must allow men into women’s sex-segregated spaces because they mean no harm.

    People don’t want to allow any information in that might challenge their preconceptions. We realize this about right-wingers, but I have found it just as true of liberals. I have no idea how to counter this except by speaking about this issue to as many people as possible. So many people are stuck in the twentieth-century notion of transsexuals, who were a completely different class of people, and who certainly did not go around trying to persuade youngsters that they were really the opposite sex and should take hormones and have surgeries. What kind of sex education are our young people getting? Do they really have no idea how powerful sex hormones are?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Its very Emperors New Clothes, but I find that it can be explained to people. Most people are horrified at the early transing of kids, especially if you can show that they might of be diagnosed for being not gender stereotype enough at some time.

      Liked by 1 person

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