Transgender Children: an Intersex Activist's Point of View

"Pink and Blue Project" by Jeongmee Yoon

I dropped back over to the Alice Dreger article on the medicalization of gender non-conformity in children (that I mentioned the other day here) to check out the comments. There were a few comments left by an Intersex person and activist named Georgina that were so thoughtful, well-researched, and well spoken that I am reprinting them here.
I get an awful lot of parents coming here to read and get perspectives on their sex-role noncompliant children who are so often pushed into a “treatment path” towards medicalized sterilization and lifetime disability by the trans lobby and by groups that claim to be supportive of children that reject sex roles but are actually pushing a medicalized gender enforcement. Groups like Trans Youth Family Allies, whose very motto “Trust. Accept. Confidence. Treatment.” epitomizes submission to sex-role enforcing and medically disabling “treatments”. For that reason I am reprinting a few of her comments to assist questioning parents who might otherwise miss such an important perspective left 60 comments down on a thread. Do feel free to read them on the original article comment thread if you prefer by clicking on the link to the article at the top of this post. Otherwise, for your convenience here they are:
“Actually this is NOT a trans issue, it is a human rights and children’s rights issue. Children should be accepted and loved as they are, and a societally defined “mismatch”of Gender and Sex should never lead to assumption that a child will need to or ought to change their mind or their body. Children should be free to explore and to be and to grow. We should start with the assumption that everything about them (body, mind, gender expression) is to be treasured as it emerges. The type of thinking that starts socially “transitioning” children in a pathway towards surgery at 5 or six hatefully pathologises the childs body in the same way earlier therapies hatefully pathologies hatefully pathologised childrens minds and identities. Intersex activists like myself have fought long for acceptance of diversity and against parents or mediocos making life-limiting decisions for children. This applies as much to children society (or parents or medicos) judges as having as miss-match of gender and biology as it does to intersex children with biological aspects that don’t match conventionally.
In adult life people chose gender expressions, sexuality and roles they never could have anticipated as children. We should not let parents or medicos limits life options for children by offerring sterilization and medical dependancy as part of package deal to “fix”gender/sex missmatch. The possibility that a child might grow up to be gay, genderqueer, or even a non-op transgender person is denied these children. While I am utterly against Dregar’s (former) advocacy of DSD terminology I believe she is that rare species of Academic who actually braves learning and changing her opinion to adapt to new understanding. This issue is really important human rights one regardless of your views on Dregar. And to the Academic [refers to Zoe Brain-GM] who has an astounding ignorance of the growing practice of transitioning children before they have the cognitive development to understand sex v’s gender (let alone the happy missmatches they might find as an adult) – please try to familiarise yourself with this very visible increasing trend (the topic of this article). Type “trans children” into you tube – and watch the multitude of interviews with children and the parents who descibe their 6year old’s genitals as birth defects and watch while parents tell lies to their children about the exciting surgical plans already made for them.
Posted by Georgina on July 8, 2011 at 6:35 AM ”
” Two Families’ Reactions to Sons who like Pink:
The program and article I’d like you to look at show two different ways parents might react to having a son who from pre-school age seemed to behave in non-gender conforming (“girly”) ways.
What if your preschooler son was “Girly”?
If your preschooler son asked for a Barbie doll, how would you feel? Would you give it to him? In years gone-by almost all parents would answer a resounding “no!” to that question and would probably add “my son would never ask for that” in a defensive or dismissive tone. These days many parents are more flexible. They allow children access to toys and even clothes of the “opposite” gender, seeing it as part of growing up and exploring. But what about families of boys who recurrently break gender norms, those who raise undeniably feminine boys?
Let’s look at two very different families who let their son’s “choose pink”, and how these families different assumptions about gender lead to very different socialization of their children, and, consequently a very different range of future possibilities for their children.
Family One : “My son the pink boy” – by Sarah Hoffman…
This article “My son the pink boy” (published on the Open Salon blog on 21st Feb 2011) describes a mothers acceptance of her son’s gender non- conforming choices. She let her son wear dresses, grow his hair and do ballet instead of football. The mother “Sarah Hoffman” notes other parents mixed reactions to her son, but also describes his happy interaction with both boys and girls his own age. She still sees her son as a boy – but describes his shade unconventional gender expression as being a “pink boy”. Hoffman notes peoples assumptions that her son will grow up to be gay but asserts “Random Mom doesn’t know who or what my son is going to grow up to be, any more than she knows who or what her kid is going to grow up to be.” Hoffman asserts that gender expression doesn’t necessarily predict sexual orientation and gives her husband’s feminine behavior as a heterosexual example of a feminine man, but further states that she will embrace her son’s orientation whichever way it goes.
Sarah Hoffman defends her son’s right to self-expression, and embraces and accepts his choices and his right to determine and define his own identity and sexuality as he grows. She accepts him as a perfect and healthy variation of his gender and sex and does not limit what or who he might be in the future. Hoffman’s son is likely to internalize positive and accepting ideas about himself because of this positive upbringing
Hoffman’s article also provides an insightful analysis of hidden homophobia in both social and media reactions to non-conforming gender expression in boys. She describes how talk show Guru Dr Phil discourages feminine behavior in boys because of its association with homosexuality
In Context:
In the 1970’s when feminine behavior in boys was widely ostracized, many feminine boys were diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder. Researcher Zucker theorized these boys would go on to be surgery seeking transgender people. In a large scale longditudinal study it was found that these boys rarely ended up trans – usually ending up self-accepting homosexual men (roughly 3/4) or heterosexual men (roughly 1/4). This is important to consider when looking at the socialization in the following video, set in a cultural context where there is little tolerance for gender ambiguity.
Family Two – Real life: Transgender Kids – The Romero Family…
This documentary details the journey of a number of children who are being socialized towards surgery intended to match their body with their gender expression.
Josie Romero was born male, but showed a preference for feminine toys and clothes. In Josie’s cultural context gender roles are still very traditional, with no room for ambiguity. Such cultures are usually also stridently homophobic. In such cultures men are masculine, and because homosexuality is seen as “sinful”, it is something you would avoid seeing the possibility of in your child. Boys in such cultures internalize the view that pink and sparkly is only for girls, so if they feel drawn to such things it compromises their gender identity. Socially unacceptable variations can sometimes be excused as blameless by re-conceptualizing them as medical problems. Here Josie’s family describes their child’s penis as a birth defect. They are blind to other differences in primary sexual characteristics. Josie is told by her mother she will get an operation that will fix her birth defect by turning her penis inside out to make it the vagina it was meant to be and hormones will give her a female puberty. When Josie asks “How?” her questions are brushed off. Science and medicine don’t offer Josie these possibilities. If she does not escape the path already plotted for her Josie will be sterilized and artificial genitals will replace her real ones before she even gets to try them. She will be medically dependent for life. She will never experience a live and responsive endocrine system, only a flat-line one delivered by pills. Josie is being socialized in a way that deprives her as self-determination and betrays her with false choices. The characterization of her biological self as defective, will likely be internalized in her self –perception, as will the lack of autonomy created by her dependence on medical intervention she has not initiated. Her experience of surgery and treatment might be expected to be closer to that of an intersex child who has had surgery chosen for them than the potentially empowering experience of a self-determined transexual who has chosen surgery for themselves. Josie’s parents say she has made this choice, but it is clear that an informed choice could not be made by an eight year old in this situation.
Josie has been socialized in a way that limits her future choices and autonomy. The drastic pathway planned for Josie at the tender age of eight is new and extreme form of gender policing, where if minds and behavior can’t be conformed, to sex –matching ideals then bodies are controlled to give the appearance of a match.
Henslin, J. M., Possamai, A. and Possamai-Inesedy, A. (2011) Sociology: A Down-to-Earth-Approach, Pearson Australia
Hoffman, S. My son the pink boy, 2011, Feb 21st.…
Zucker, KJ. Gender identity development and issues. Child Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics North America 2004, 13: 551-568.
Posted by Georgina on July 8, 2011 at 6:53 AM ”

32 thoughts on “Transgender Children: an Intersex Activist's Point of View

  1. Like many (most) writings on trans Georgina’s is male-centric and lacking feminist critique. All discussion of gender should have the social status of females centralized, since gender is designed to enforce that status. Even so, I thought it was an excellent commentary and an important perspective for parents looking for answers.

  2. Excellent comments by Georgina.
    Children should be free to explore and to be and to grow
    have fought long for acceptance of diversity and against parents or mediocos making life-limiting decisions for children
    are exactly it.
    LOL, I like the way Georgina had a dig at Alan Zoe Brain!

    1. Shakesville is nothing but a porn site for men who get erections impersonating, colonizing and bullying women- and preventing them from having female-centered and feminist spaces and discussions.

    2. When I saw that post on Shakesville I think I vomited in my mouth a little. First, I HATE the word cunt. I don’t care if other women want to use it, the word just rubs me entirely the wrong way. Second, the title just sounds so fucking horrible. A cunt of one’s own? Like a vagina is something to be taken and owned? Really?! And this is supposed to be GOOD for feminism, this idea that a vagina can be bought and acquired whenever one feels like it?!
      I second GallusMag’s sentiment about that site. Back in the day I would try to comment on posts and would usually get shouted down because of semantics or I failed to properly add a disclaimer of some nature at the beginning of my comment or something. You know the disclaimers? The ones that go “I know men get raped too and have a hard time with masculinity and also face unfair institutional practices and other isms, but it really sucks how bad women have it now a days.” Seriously, I had someone yell at me once when I posted a comment about rape and women because I failed to address that MEN GET RAPED TO. I pretty much felt completely unwelcome to comment after that. Now a days I usually go by just to laugh at how everyone just falls all over themselves to be the BEST at pointing out their privilege. Like when someone apologized for mentioning eyeballs because omg that’s SO ableist to mention that some people have eyeballs. But I guess it makes sense when they basically expect me to apologize for having a vagina because it’s just really insensitive and transphobic to have one. -_-

    3. Now “Cunt For Sale”, that would have been original. And way more accurate:
      “let the poets pipe of cunt
      in their childish ways
      I know every type of cunt
      better far than they
      if you want the thrill of cunt
      I have been through the mill of cunt
      old cunt
      new cunt
      every cunt but TRUE cunt”
      Apologies to Cole Porter.

      1. And to everyone with a vagina who read that comment. But not those with store bought surgi-imitation-vagina’s. They can shove it up their second asshole.

      2. I haz the factory-fitted model.
        None of that fake retro-fit crapola. 😛
        Following on a bit from what PMS Rhino said, and the mangina thing, a few years ago on the (rad)feminist blogosphere we (the possessors of original vaginas) were supposed to feel sorry for those with manginas because they had to dilate them to keep them as functional fuck-holes. Diddums, nice attempt at trying to score Gold in the Oppression Olympics, but it didn’t wash with me.
        Such a stupid concept to fabricate a vagina, then add all the maintenance crap on top.

  3. “The drastic pathway planned for Josie at the tender age of eight is new and extreme form of gender policing, where if minds and behavior can’t be conformed, to sex”
    God I’m SO glad me and parents never met these gender fascists because not once my behaviour matched my “gender”. Now I’m old enough to see trough this dangerous shit and don’t belive their gender fairy tail. It’s a big cultural step back.

  4. Thank you for covering this topic. I hate how the strawradfem is wielded, as though we are against bodily autonomy! This is an ideal case study for illustrating how stringent culture norms actually *rob* children of bodily autonomy, both as children and as adults.
    I am *not* against individuals making their own choices about their bodies, even if there are reasons to deconstruct them analytically. That is not the same as hating transgendered people and dismissing their struggles, but thanks for the strawradfem that is always trotted out when we try to make our points about cultural gender policing.
    So frustrating.

  5. Whatever happened to all that “Free to Be You and Me,” and embracing your children in all their variety and individuality? It’s like we took a hard right turn somewhere along the way and people forgot to tell me. Or maybe it was a hard left turn? I can’t figure out the difference between the political left being so open minded about trans issues their brains have fallen out or the right insisting we all conform to rigid gender roles. They’re like one mass entity of insanity at the moment.
    Anyway, I’m grateful to all the intersex advocates who have spoken out and written so much good stuff. They’ve really taught me a lot about gender issues, about supporting children and allowing them to find their own way, about culture and it’s influence on us.

  6. “[…]to make it the vagina it was meant to be”
    What?? This woman has never seen all these butcher jobs called neovag!! I was curious and looked for photos of it. God! I was shoked! Seriously not once I saw a result that resembled a vagina. All what I saw was scarfes, strange shaped holes and other weird things. But of course parents let this surgery happen to their little boy. That’s child abuse! This poor boy will not only have his healthy genitals destroyed he will get a created fuckhole and have to prevent it from closing because it’s an open wound and if he has really bad luck he will suffer incontinence (sooner or later).

  7. It would be interesting to see the legal liability protections that these butchers think that they have against the lawsuits that they will be facing twenty years from now.

    1. I cannot wait, Mary Sunshine.
      DEfinitely a human rights issue, rather than a civil rights issue, because the doctors cannot plead ignorance. THey *know* hysterectomies on healthy young women lead to terrible outcomes such as immediate menoopause, osteoporosis, heart disease, and that’s just off the top of my head.
      I’ve found quite a few FTM on youtube blogging about their hysterectomies. It just makes me so incredibly sad to see these quacks doing to women what men have been doing for centuries: curing them of their femaleness.

  8. CBL over 600,000 women a year are hysterectomized in the U.S. A very small percentage are for pathology. Those diseases you mentioned are rampant, even if the surgery is done when women are older. There are no lawsuits. The mutilations and HRT are a lucrative feedback loop. Now that women are onto the harm of hysterectomy and HRT, the physicians and surgeons turn to a new market.

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