It is a fact that there are gender non-conforming children. It’s not a pathology UNLESS it is a pathology. Transsexualism is rare. Gender non-conformity is actually pretty common and quite often, parents and society set out to crush gender non-conforming behaviors creating distress for everyone. We are so afraid of what it might mean.
We need to advocate for letting kids grow up with the parental support and nurturance they need and not direct them in one way or the other, rather we need to track them, keep them safe, let them speak and express, and work to change the world to make it safer for all kids and all genders.
The vast number of gender non-conforming children only need to be safe and supported and have it explained to them that the world is a particular way and for them to live in it they have choices to make about expressing themselves and living given that context. That it isn’t them, it’s the bigots.
Some kids need to have puberty blockers. When kids are older, they may need to start on hormones. It is extremely rare. The thing is, there are suicidal seven-year-olds related to their body dysmorphia. If a kid has supportive parents who let them explore gender and they are still depressed and suicidal? We are really looking at the need to transition in a child.
When I first encountered transsexual women, as a feminist, I mistakenly thought they were making a mockery of everything I was fighting to overcome. I am not someone who would wear a dress or make up. I did not want male attention or the male gaze. The energy that so many women put into shoes confounded me and made me pissed off because of what they are not putting energy and money towards. What I believed to be a man co-opting women’s experience and making it into a 1950’s television show enraged me. Then I got to know transsexual women and men and genuinely listened to them and their stories and experiences. Listening changed everything for me.
I get that it sounds naive but I believe that if we all really listened to each other we could figure out how to respect that there is such diversity in nature. 1.7% of births are intersex. I’m not sure why it would be so far off to assume that there is some significant yet small number of transsexual people. Here is where tolerance would do versus embracing each other. As I’ve said, I do think there is an issue about young women, patriarchy and self-hate. The developmental age of some people is incongruent with the array of choices for irrevocable change available at their chronological age. Still we all have the right to make choices others will disagree with. I also believe that transition is only part of a solution for most transsexuals in terms of improving the quality of their lives. We can disagree and be respectful and on the side of improving life for girls and boys.
No one wants a person to make the wrong decision about altering their hormones or body. If there are ways to identify who will benefit from what intervention that is what we would like to be able to better identify.
There is no one way to express gender. There are masculine women, men with feminine characteristics, bi gendered folks, eunuchs, and agendered people. We have artificial definitions of masculine and feminine. We could work on people just being human. Today Germany just announced third gender as a choice for birth certificates.
To me the goal is for people to be happy and productive and to contribute to making the world a better place. A better place means fighting sexism, racism, classism, xenophobia and working to turn the environment around as well as all of the other ways we have of dividing people up so that we are fighting against each other rather than fighting against the people who benefit from dividing us all up.
I am not certain why gender transition discussions are reactionary and head in the direction of either or. Whether we are talking about the binary M or F, Pink or Blue or about the existence of transsexualism or sexism/patriarchy. It is all a both and. There is transsexualism AND there are the effects of patriarchy. They are not mutually exclusive categories and they are both very real.