Disclaimer — First up — I’m not Trans. I have absolutely no idea what it’s like. I have many Trans friends and colleagues and I exercise empathy with all my relationships — I actively try to put myself in their position to the best of my understanding. But I can only comment on what I experience and learn from them… so this is an opinion piece. And I would dare to say that any comments from anyone who hasn’t lived with gender dysphoria and all that entails are also just opinions. Please read the whole article, and be assured that I am 100% supportive of all Trans issues.
I’m touching on very taboo topics here, on both sides, so please stay with me!
Of all the letters in our Rainbow the T get’s the worst treatment. LGBs are quickly becoming more socially acceptable (generalisation of course, and mostly in western countries), and even gender-fluid seems to be regarded as a bit weird but we’re getting there.
Trans however, is the sticking point — especially trans women (male to female) in particular. They receive the most vitriol and bigotry and face a constant barrage of social, religious and even scientific abuse.
I’m writing this to answer the serious concerns of many who have asked or challenged me, with all sincerity, to justify the whole trans issue. We are painfully aware of people like J K Rowling’s ignorant and damaging comments, and yet, for her, they are reasonable conclusions drawn from her observations. Her overall attitudes to LGBT+ are very supportive, and yet her lack of education and the stigma around the topic have blinded her to the reality. This is true of most who struggle with Trans people. They genuinely think it’s a mental health issue.
Humanity is making leaps and bounds in the study of gender and sexuality, but the downside of this is the speed at which people will accept new understanding. It takes time for us to assimilate research that challenges our social norms and culture, and when that research is constantly on the move, we tend to back pedal — especially with something so taboo as gender! We simply cannot expect people to make radical changes to their paradigms overnight.
But here’s the reality:
Our “sex” is all about our body parts and biology — male bits and female bits. Pretty straight forward…. almost! Intersex is a thing, possibly far bigger than we realise, and a high number of people who present as Trans are believed to have some sort of intersex issues. One in 1800 (roughly) have some type of Intersex attributes. This can be anything from obvious genital ambiguity (having both a penis and vagina, hidden testicles or ovaries etc) through to complex hormonal, genetic variations that can affect pretty much every part of the body and brain. There is still a lot to learn about this whole area, mostly because it’s been a hidden and taboo topic, even amongst the medical world for too long.
Then there’s “gender”, which has nothing to do with our physical bodies! Yes, that’s right, whether we like it or not. Gender is how we perceive ourselves in terms of femininity and masculinity.
But wait!! Femininity and masculinity are predominantly social constructs, that certainly have some correlation to physical sex, but none the less are determined more by society (ask any good social anthropologist). The most obvious relationship between sex and gender is through hormonal differences, but again, the reality is far more nuanced and definitely not black and white. If you Google “femininity and masculinity” you’ll get an amazingly complex amount of info that attempts to define the whole topic — good luck sorting through it all!!
Basically — it’s all fluid, no matter what our physiology is, or our mental health. We have a fairly well defined set of personality traits that describe femininity and masculinity, but the reality is every human has a different mix of them. Even the most macho males have feminine aspects (which they will often attempt to hide) and visa versa.
So when we talk about gender in simple either/or terms, we are completely at odds with every piece of science currently available.
I also get comments around Trans activists and their “agendas”, which is also often confused with Drag Queens and general “gay agenda” stuff.
This is where things can get heated!
There’s a lot of commentary around the problem of young kids being encouraged to not only explore their gender, but the readiness of the medical profession to use “blockers” to allow time for them to explore their identity, and start hormone treatment and surgery. This problem though, varies widely around the world and is often blown out of proportion. Most medical professionals will not actively promote blockers just because it’s “PC”!
Many TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) point to the fact that no matter how Trans women feel about their gender, their body will never actually be female. Rowlings is basically supporting this idea. The reality is it’s far more nuanced than this when we consider the whole fluidity and interconnectedness of sex and gender, but never the less, it is a fair point given the medical limitations we currently face.
There are also many documented cases of young people who regret making decisions on transitioning. This is especially so when they have been influenced by Trans activists and social media “influencers”. Many “progressive” parents, in their enthusiasm don’t realise the pressure they put on their kids, despite their best intentions. And we must remember that one of the most critical factors as kids mature is finding a “tribe” — peers and subcultures that accept them and provide cultural and social stability, no matter what that may be.
I understand the need for promoting acceptance, normalising and integration into society of Trans people, but to inflict that in a way that mocks, belittles or is overtly aggressive is not just unhelpful — it’s destructive. I see this agenda often amongst some of the LGBT+ community and it upsets me, not just because of it’s overtly aggressive and arrogant stance, but also because many of these people are projecting their own fears and trauma onto society “unfiltered” by compassion and empathy.
But young kids should never be forced into the stereotypes either. They must be given the freedom to simply be who they want to be — no pressure either way. Sure, your son may show very feminine attributes, but don’t push him there, just let him work it out in a safe environment. Simply knowing that options are available is all they need. There are also many factors around how the growing teenage mind can be influenced as it explores every single aspect of life. It simply isn’t something we can push around or attempt to define for them. And don’t let the medical professionals push you around either way!
Every one — child or adult — must be given the time and space to explore their sexuality and gender, at their own pace and in safe environments, without any pressure to conform to stereotypes.
Having said all that, I will stand right up there with trans people. I will do everything in my power to address bigotry, ignorance and hatred. I will actively promote the science and psychology. I will give my time and energy to helping with religious trauma, providing safe spaces etc. The damage I’ve seen to these precious people is absolutely heartbreaking. Every time I hear the disgusting vitriol hurled against them I am moved, often feeling helpless to do more.
So what does this all mean?
Despite the problems of overly PC professionals and parents not realising the potential for damage, and the ignorant and offensive activists, the absolutely overwhelming difficulties that Trans people have to face are real and often life threatening. If you want to whinge about the handful of more overly PC medical professionals, and find yourself emotionally influenced by the handful of “mistakes” that have been made, I suggest you take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Take the time to educate yourself, and I mean really educate. Don’t read so called research from religious organisations and TERFs — I have yet to read one single factually verifiable piece from any of them.
In conclusion, my apologies if I’ve offended any Trans folk — as always that is never my intention. I hope you can see what I’m trying to say here. But I make no such apologies for those who refuse to exercise anything less than empathy and compassion for the millions of Trans people in this world.