The phone rings: its from the local Beeb, asking me if I’d like to pop back onto the radio and give everyone an update following my recent encounter with the surgeon. Of course, I agree.
And? Oh, yes. They would like a view on the Worcester case: this is the story about the child diagnosed as dysphoric and being allowed to pause puberty and to grow in her identified gender from age 10.
Sure. Though personally, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. And if you aren’t likely to be listening to Radio Lincoln tomorrow morning, here’s roughly what i’ll be saying.
The dysphoria dilemma
The first and only big point to make is that I don’t know any of the people involved. Which means that I can sympathise, but offer no direct advice. Sympathy, because cutting thru all the headline-grabbing stuff, this is a fraught decision by the child’s parents and one I do not believe has been taken lightly.
Unless you can confidently predict the future, you have no way of knowing whether your diagnosis is right or wrong. Only a best guess.
Diagnose dysphoria where there is none – and you possibly expose a child to embarrassment, ridicule and an extra difficult teenhood. On the other hand, fail to diagnose it when it is present, and you condemn that same child to years of torment in which every day, every developmental step towards growing the wrong body, is slow soul-crushing suicidal agony .
What was it that one mum in this situation told researchers? “Better a live daughter than a dead son”.
In the end, all that this child, her family, the experts have done is to put puberty on hold. That gives her time: time to be sure, time to decide. Crucially, if she does opt for a full transition, her body will not be twisted into a detested alien masculinity. It gives her the best possible chance of an adjusted adulthood.
Don’t forget to involve the parents
Otherwise, there is the very slight faux pas that kicked this issue off into the national media. The school were supportive: perhaps too supportive, as the head teacher welcomed his pupil’s transition process by putting on a couple of special assemblies to tell her fellow pupils…and forget to warn their parents in advance.
Big mistake. Even if not a single parent is remotely transphobic (a big and unlikely if), that’s a bit of a PR error. At tea time: “So, Johnny: what happened at school today?”
“Well, the head called us all into assembly and told us that Robert is now Roberta…”
Nah. I can see how parents might throw a wobbly at that. The golden rule must be: involve, involve, involve. We did that at our son’s school: informed all parents by letter before I began my public transition, and I agreed to be available to answer any direct questions and that seemed to work well.
A pity, because otherwise, this seems to have worked OK.
Instead, what did some of those parents who hadn’t had advance warning do next? Oh. They ran off to the local press, complaining and issuing dire warnings.
Or as one unnamed parent is quoted in the Worcester News: “The headteacher told all the kids that there was a kid at the school who was a girl trapped in a boy’s body.
“The parents we spoke to are absolutely outraged that they weren’t consulted about this.
“This kid is just going to be bullied now. Why didn’t the school send us a letter?”
Huh? Consulted about what? The family’s decision? Or the likely bullying to follow? And if they were really concerned about bullying, intrusion and the like, what the hell are they doing running off to the local press?
And the transphobes gather…
No. Its not hard to spot transphobia when it raises its ugly head. It has a most particular stench. Its there in those oh-so-thoughful comments on some of the national rehashes of this story which bleed with faux pity for the “poor boy”, whose mum probably forced this on him by insisting he play with girls’ things as much as in those vile posters who think it OK to call the child a “freak”.
Utter, utter morons!
Besides, I do wonder if any of those coming out with such garbage have ever dealt with real children.
I know my son. Trying to buy him a pair of jeans with even slightly pink-ish stitching was enough to spark a mutiny: the very idea that I could “trick” him into feminity is just laughable. So, too, it seems to be with other peoples’ children. They mostly tend to be what they will be.
Sadly, I suspect that all of the above is second cousin to the story I posted a week or so back, about the US student whose classmate shot him. It was all his fault because he was gay. Or effeminate. Or something unnatural. So, it was “only natural” for tensions to rise in the school…and presumably only natural, in a US setting, for someone to die.
At base, this is not about the child, who seems to be surrounded by positive helpful people and sensible adults. It is about those poor, sad, insecure folks who cannot envisage a world that is not slotted irrevocably into the gender binary – and whose reaction to anyone who dares to shake the cowardice of their convictions is to bluster, insult and threaten.
The real story is about a child and a family doing as well as they can: the anti-story is how, in 2011, a bunch of bigots still peddle their hatred of what they do not understand – all the time sugar-coating their transphobia beneath a thin veneer of concern.
P.S. All credit to the Worcester News write-up of the main story: sensitive and as far as i can see, they got it right. Unlike some of the national press (the Metro, for one!)