I am at a tiny writer’s retreat in Greece to escape an exhausting round of youth trans critical writing, talking and interviews. Only eight wise and thoughtful people are here, between us from Ireland, Holland, Australia and the UK. At the dinner table, in the middle of relaxing small talk about meditation, blessings and enlightenment, trans appears. Everyone has a view, most people ‘know one’, including knowing parents of children identifying as trans. Even here, on the terrace of a remote peninsula, trans is everywhere. Once again, I find I dare not speak of my experience.
I left the table to try and write out my troubled thoughts but couldn’t think where to begin. No, no. Not again, not saying the same things over and over and over. I had been reading Nelson Algren trying to explain the way of things to a girl who had been out of town[i]. It seemed to me the dialogue could transpose to explaining the youth trans critical perspective to those who have not yet come into town. It’s not original to make a pastiche other people’s work but the youth trans critical youth agenda is unspeakably urgent and I have neither time nor talent to do better. I remembered Algren quoting Simone de Beauvoir saying ‘if one gives time to trivial things, the important matters will never be settled’. So I decided to transpose the piece and post. Just as a way of finding a small way to scatter further some seeds of awareness.
‘Not so long ago, ‘what kind of gender does this child have?’ was never a question for asking in schools. Yet now we have changed all the rules. And in the process of changing all the rules, we have confused questions about gender with questions about sex and sexuality’.
‘Is it not against the rules for people to confuse children about gender, sex and sexuality in schools?’ asks the girl from out of town. ‘Yes it is, but the rules keep changing. It used to be against the rules for people who are not teachers to take the lead on educating children and young people in schools. And questions about a child’s gender, sex and sexuality were not uppermost in every day school life. Teachers were supposed to teach children how to learn and what they would learn was suggested in a curriculum put together by education researchers, policy makers and professors. For young children how and what they learned about sex and gender was left for them to discover quietly along the way, in their own terms and largely with reference to conversations within their own family and community. Questions about sexuality were left for adolescence and for teachers who had training in working sensitively with young people on these things’ I told her. ‘Now people who want to promote transgender have unparalleled access to children in schools and children don’t have to wait for sexual development to become embroiled in conversations concerning their gender and sexual identity. They don’t, in fact, have to know the first thing about gender or sex. All they have to do today is to give adults around them a reason to question the way they are behaving so that those adults can start to claim ‘that child was born in the wrong body’. Adults can do this from when the child is only two or three by using stereotypes to ‘prove’ it. If a male infant says they like to play with pink things, for example, and wants to push dolls around in a pram and to grow up to be a princess that can nowadays give people a reason to say ‘child, you were born in the wrong body’.
‘So wouldn’t it be easy for parents who wanted a girl but have a male baby to persuade their infant that they like pink and are really a girl?’ ‘Yes. That’s a possible outcome of uncritically accepting that children who say they are trans are trans. Once the unknowing child goes along with liking pink (of course this is just an example) their parents could nudge along a process of getting their child first socially, then physically, reassigned as a girl. All that is needed is for enough adults to agree the child is ‘in the wrong body’.’ ‘But surely people wouldn’t do that?’ ‘Well it’s not so simple as that, there are parents for example who are homophobic, you can think of how the situation might unfold if their teenage daughters say they are lesbians. There might be a feeling that it’s better to say those girls are in the wrong body. They are really straight guys in the wrong body’.
‘So trans advocacy can be homophobic?’ she asked me. ‘I hadn’t thought of that’.
‘There is a lot we haven’t thought about. You see so many people have become trans activists and so few people are recognized as trans critical that it is like being in a country run by people with chemical bombs when there is a shortage of people who are worried that the bombs might be dangerous. There are simply not enough critical chemists to slow down the danger posed by those with the chemical bombs. So many rich and powerful people have become persuaded by trans activism that they can stop the media writing copy which tells, for a literal example, how dangerous the chemicals can be. This provides a neat way for the trans activists not only to keep pushing the chemicals, but also to denounce the trans critical people and get rich and famous by doing it at the same time. Trans critical people have become so afraid that someone will catch them not applauding the trans activists that we dare not speak out or write so that all the air is taken up by pro trans voices. Most journalists are afraid to write youth trans critical pieces even when people do try and speak out’.
‘I do not understand these youth trans critical people’ said the girl. ‘Are they parents and professionals with no courage?’ ‘Not exactly. But they don’t want to accidentally push the people with the chemical bombs into getting even more excited about using them. And they certainly don’t want to get penalized or policed more than they already are’.
‘But people who are trans critical yet going along with it, like teachers and doctors, why are they going along with it?’
‘Well teachers and others in schools are going along with it because trans activists have already placed incendiary devices in schools by changing the rules and putting in policies which stop people speaking out. Prevent them from saying anything different – like they don’t believe a child is in the ‘wrong body’. Therapists too aren’t allowed to help a child question any feelings that they might be ‘in the wrong body’. Therapists have been put under strict guidelines not to question a child saying they are trans, just accept it. Helping a child reflect is seen as ‘transphobic’ and against the rules. Teachers don’t mind children changing their names and pronouns with their friends so much as they do being asked to use those names and pronouns themselves. They never used to call their pupils ’Fatso’ or ‘GeekGirl’ when a child was self-identifying in such a way. They also mind a lot because they are never sure what the child’s parents know and want, what with the world and its children and young people changing every day’. ‘You mean a school can turn a girl into a boy by changing their names and pronouns without the parents wanting that?’ ‘Yes. Schools pride themselves on being pro trans and have been given the power to trans a child even if their parents do not know or agree this is happening because the view is that parents who don’t agree are transphobic’.
‘It really sounds better for children and young people if most teachers are trans critical does it not?’
‘It would be if those teachers could be trans critical, but silenced as they are they are the world’s biggest distributors of trans’. ‘I am disgusted with teachers I trusted’ said the father of a girl I met in England, ‘they call my daughter a boy and refer to her as ‘him’. ‘Don’t bother with your disgust’ I have to say, ‘until we can be openly trans critical too’.
‘We are in a bind’ said the girl. ‘Where do we find the courage to speak critically directly?’
‘Ah. I have omitted that I am the mother of a trans identifying teen and busy working on that. I am working with others to try to coordinate the best writers and thinkers in the world to dispatch their analysis and views on this problem. In doing so I endure battle with my child and with the whole world. I am helping coordinate a fast growing US/UK organization to unify youth trans critical professionals and parents from around the world. Many of us take great risks to speak publicly though I cannot myself speak openly yet because I must protect the identity of my child. My friends and I are doing everything we can to bring the necessity for trans critical thinking into light’.
‘What are trans activists doing at the same time?’ the girl wanted to know. ‘An excellent question. They are discovering more and more ways to disrupt the way children have been children and the young have been young since the beginning of time, kicking up a celebrity storm of stereotypes and righteousness and earning good dividends at the same time. They are policing what people say and silencing those with experience of desperately regretting transition or who are trying to detransition. Unfortunately the trans activists omit to say that their preferences for transitioning children and young people involve sterilization, life-long reliance on unlicensed drugs, strokes for children and young people, UTIs, scars, mental health chaos and worse and that the trans promise, that intervention will change your sex, is a lie’.
‘How can this be happening?’
‘I am trying to tell you. It is being done by being very disapproving of the society in which we live and at the same time being very angry at anyone who wants to air a different critical edge. They have got us to the point where you will be dragged to explain oppression to your Equality Committee, subpoenaed by the Human Rights Commission, if you criticize the trans movement or gently ask a child if they are really sure they were ‘born in the wrong body’. They know how to lick a critic into shape.’
‘It sounds very confusing’.
‘On the contrary. Trans activists are very clear headed.’
‘But does not what they are doing have a very worrying effect on the children?’
‘Yes. It leaves the children with no confidence about themselves in relation to others. Unless they change their identity to ‘trans’ to explain why they are not like others. And it makes it necessary to have children and young people take drugs they will need for life and have surgery which will change their bodies so that they can be presented as ‘in a pudding of sameness’ that is ‘normal’. But this is the new normal of butchers and lies. These trans activists think they are God themselves’.
‘The power they are taking leaves parents and others looking on with no choice but to present themselves as supporters of trans. So they are cheer leaders in the tyranny of trans chauvinism?’ she wondered.
‘Yes. And they have made it necessary to applaud castration of little boys and mastectomies for young girls and to celebrate the construction of people who may, for example, have a penis, breasts and a high voice or who will live their adult life with a vagina, no breasts and a beard.’
‘In the pudding of normality’ said the girl – and this was a most thoughtful girl I think.
‘I cannot help wonder at what I am seeing and hearing. People recognized as arbiters of social justice, human rights, compassion and learning are not permitted ordinary grace sufficient to speak for our children on the madness of trans orthodoxy. You can report me if you don’t call that a difficulty’.
[i]Based on The Real Thing in Kitsch by Nelson Algren
Algren At Sea. Who Lost an American? & Notes from a Sea Diary 2008 edition, Seven Stories Press, New York.