Hola World

This is a very quick update from Barcelona. The weather is much better than in England. The food and the wine are great. The University of Barcelona is as beautiful as ever. I am spending much of my time apologizing to young European academics about the awfulness of Brexit. Even the Americans are less embarrassed than me because Trump is a vague and nebulous threat whereas for some of these people, or their friends and colleagues, Brexit means losing your home and possibly being separated from your spouse.

Anyway, the conference is great. I haven’t learned a huge amount, but I have confirmed a few things I was unsure about which thankfully means I don’t have to do any massive re-writes of my talks for LGBT History Month. I’m delighted at the number of people who want to learn about trans theory to help them with their work.

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Fleeing the Country

Well, not exactly. I’m going to an academic conference in Barcelona this week. It is all about gender in the ancient near east and sounds absolutely fascinating to me. Your mileage may vary.

I should be online a fair amount while I am away, at least from the phone for which I still get free roaming while we are part of the EU. I may bore y’all with history stuff.

It will be warmer than it is here. I’ll try to pick up a few tips about resisting fascists while I am away. I think they know a thing or two about that in Barcelona.

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The State of British Politics

Here’s where we are. Our mother, Theresa, wants us to welcome rich Uncle Donald with open arms, despite the fact that he’s a vulgar lout with a reputation for roving hands and rumors that he’s a serial rapist. Mother says we must do this because he’s a good family man, even though his kids keep telling us what an awful bully he is. What Mother doesn’t say is that we are becoming increasingly poorer, especially since she had that huge falling out with Aunt Angela and most of the more distant members of the family aren’t speaking to us any more. Mother thinks Uncle Donald will lend her money. She seems to be unaware that he has a reputation for reneging on all of his promises.

If this was a Victorian novel it is pretty clear what the ending would be. But it isn’t, so we can’t rely on the moral compass of the universe to save us. There’s not a lot we can do to prevent Uncle Donald coming to visit, but he is a dreadful narcissist. If we fail to smile winsomely enough at him, or poke a tongue out at him when Mother isn’t looking, he’s likely to go off in a huff. We can make a start today.

And we can keep signing this, even if Mother says she’s going to ignore it.

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A Side Trip to Egypt

Most of my historical research centers around Mesopotamia and Rome, because they have much more obvious evidence of multiple genders. However, Egyptian civilization existed for thousands of years and it would be very odd if there were no evidence of trans people in that culture. Clearly I need to learn more.

Thanks to Amanda Huskisson I have discovered the Egypt Society of Bristol. Bristol University is lucky enough to have among its staff Dr. Aidan Dobson who is one of the world’s leading experts on Akhenaten and his religious revolution. On Tuesday I got to listen to him explaining the latest theories about Nefertiti.

The accepted wisdom has long been that Nerfertiti died part way through her husband’s reign (or was possibly put aside after having borne him six daughters). However, current theories suggest that she changed her name to Neferneferuaten and shared the rule of Egypt, first with her husband, and then with young Tutankhamum.

This brings into focus the whole issue of female pharaohs, which in turn brings me back to Hatshepsut. The trouble with being pharaoh, as I have explained before, is that the pharaoh was the incarnation of Horus on earth, and Horus was male. So a woman wishing to assume the title of pharaoh had to, in some sense, “become male”. Language is also an issue. In Egyptian the word “pharaoh” is masculine. There is a (feminine) word for “queen”, but it means the spouse of the pharaoh. It cannot mean a female ruler.

The issue of women pharaohs is thus quite complicated, because socially, religiously and linguistically they had to be men, even if they didn’t identify as such. Given that the vagaries of dynastic politics would occasionally throw up the need for a woman to take charge because there was no man available in the family, Egypt had to deal with this as best it could. None of this would have anything to do with how the woman in question understood her gender, except in as much as her culture imposed ideas upon her.

Clearly I need to learn more about Egypt. The University actually has a whole study day about Hatshepsut in February, but I’m giving a talk in Bournemouth that day so I will miss the whole thing.

Posted in Gender, History | 1 Comment

Talking Representation v Objectification

The lovely people at The Future Fire asked me to do a guest post for them to help promote the Problem Daughters crowdfunding campaign. So of course I wrote something about trans people in fiction. You can find it here. Hopefully those of you thinking of putting trans characters in your stories will find it useful.

Tangentially related to which, this morning on Twitter I spotted this:


But this it a good opportunity to remind you that Dreadnought is out today, so you can now rush to the shops and buy it. I loved it.

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Fiction Meets Science

Further to last week’s academic conference on fiction in archaeology, my new pal Anna has sent me a link to the website for the project she is working on. Here’s the headline blurb:

In recent decades, fiction writers have been creating new kinds of stories about science. They are exploring its practices, concepts, people, institutions, products and societal fall-out. What are the literary and social implications of this trend? What does contemporary fiction have to say about the human dimensions of science? Are its practitioners villains or heroes, drones or creative individuals, recluses or team players—stereotypes or multidimensional characters? Is this new wave of thinking about science in fiction leading to new literary forms? What is its role in science communication? Can a novel, film, or play make science more approachable, or inspire curiosity about scientific concepts?

I see that they have a conference planned for Toronto in May, featuring the very wonderful Karen Joy Fowler.

It all looks very interesting.

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Problem Daughters Open for Submissions

Well done, everyone, we will have a book! The Call for Submissions is here. The deadline is March 31st, so I have a vague chance of being able to find the time to write something. Hopefully those of you who are less busy will send in lots of great stories.

Meanwhile the crowdfunding campaign is still going. More contributions means a bigger and better book. Let’s keep going and make Problem Daughters a really amazing production.

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A Note on Exclusion

One of the things I have noticed over the weekend in the responses to the Women’s March is a bunch of women people complaining that they felt excluded by all of the signs talking about vaginas, uteruses and so on. I’d like to talk about that for a while.

First up, trans women were welcome at the marches. (Sex workers less so, but that’s a different conversation.) Janet Mock, Raquel Willis and Julia Serano were all on platform. I don’t know of any trans women who were invited to speak at UK marches, and would like to hear if any were, but at least there were some in the USA. Also there were many trans women marching, and many trans-supportive banners.

Obviously I understand that a huge crowd of women being very positive about body parts that you desperately wish you had, but don’t have, can be very triggering. On the other hand, there are plenty of cis women who can’t conceive for one reason or another, and I didn’t see any of them complaining about the reproductive rights signs.

The reason why there were so many signs talking about vaginas and uteruses is because Trump brags about his sexual assaults, and that he can get away with them, and because he and his cronies are planning an all-out-assault on women’s reproductive rights. That’s what those people were marching about, and they have every right to do so.

OK, I understand that trans rights are under assault as well. People were marching about that too. But that march wasn’t all about us. To put it another way, would you complain about all the people with Black Lives Matter signs because you are not black?

It’s all too easy these days to condemn any popular political movement because it is not aligned 100% with your concerns and beliefs, but where that gets us is all of the angry left wing people who refused to vote for Hilary because, “she’s as bad as Trump”.

Of course there is also the point that anyone claiming that “trans women” are excluded by signs about vaginas is saying that you can’t be a trans woman if you have a vagina. In which case, who’s being exclusionary now? Mostly I suspect people didn’t think of this, but some of us remember the 1990s.

Finally, a little bit of inclusion. Here’s Raquel getting all of the points across on MSNBC. Great job, sis. And thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one who can’t force herself to smile all of the time while on TV. Doing TV interviews is really hard.

Update: I’m getting reports of some marches that were hostile to trans folks. Obviously where that was the case people have every right to protest exclusion. Austin, I am deeply disappointed in you.

Posted in Current Affairs, Feminism, Gender | 2 Comments

Big March, Small Step

Yesterday was fun, right? We had the Orange Puppet crying into his golden champagne flute. But it was only a start. A march like that won’t get rid of Trump, it won’t even slow down the political change that he is planning to bring in, because right now he has the votes he needs in Congress to force that through.

My feeling is, and I accept I’m a long way away from the US these days, that what US politics needs is people calling their CongressCritters, incessantly. They need to know that people are behind them, because right now they are terrified of Trump’s supporters. All those people that the Republicans have been spending 8 years encouraging to buy guns? They are Trump people now.

As for the UK, one very positive thing you can do is join WEP and get involved. WE only have around 65,000 members right now. Almost twice that went on the London march alone. We need your help, and we need you to vote whenever you get a chance. Not necessarily for us because WE won’t have candidates everywhere, but for people who are prepared to stand up against Putin, Trump and May.

The other thing that you all need to do is foreground people from marginalized groups. It is true that the majority of marchers yesterday were middle class, middle aged and white. For now that meant that the police were afraid to brutalize the marchers. Had that march been predominantly people of color, or even white students, there would have been tear gas and baton charges, and the media would have been full of stories about how angry and violent the march was.

So we were allowed to march in peace (for now). What we do, when given that opportunity, is foreground those people who would not have been allowed to march in peace. Like this.

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What Would Diana Do?

Ah, no actual punching, then. Got it.

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We Know What We Need To Do

Fight Like a Girl
It is a great book too.

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Solidarity, Sisters

I am way too busy to get to any marches today, but we do what we can.

I have no idea who created this image, but well done whoever you are.

Update: Via Sarah Ann Watts on Facebook I have learned that the artist is Hayley Gilmore.

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When Archaeology Meets Fiction

I spent today at the Writing Remains conference at Bristol University. It was in the lovely Clifton Hill House, had some great speakers, and came with a free lunch and a wine reception. It was well worth getting up at the crack of dawn for.

I also made a lot of new friends. For example:

Anna from Germany who is part of an international project on science and fiction, her specialism being archaeology. I’m going to feed her a whole pile of science fiction recommendations.

James from Cambridge who gave a great paper on Jack London’s Before Adam and is a champion of Neanderthal rights.

Katy whose paper was titled “Yummy Mummies” and who explained how early mummy tales mainly featured a female mummy and some sort of erotic attachment by the archaeologist. Apparently there was a whole thing about mummy unwrapping as a form of strip tease. Needless to say, this was all related to ideas of the manly Westerners overcoming the mysterious, feminine East.

Joan who is doing a PhD about the pioneering woman SF writer, Jane Webb Loudon. Loudon’s novel, The Mummy!, written when she was 17 and published three years later in 1827, engages directly with the themes of Frankenstein and has some great scientific ideas about the 22nd century. S.J. Chambers has an essay about the book in Clarkesworld (which Joan mentioned).

Kerry who gave a paper about Lovercraft’s story “Under the Pyramids” (which he ghost-wrote for Houdini and stars the great escapologist). He’s doing a PhD on archaeology in weird fiction.

Shari from Melbourne who introduced us to the sad story of the Inca children who not only gave their lives for their community, but had to walk vast distances and climb a volcano to get to the place where they would be sacrificed.

Ellie who gave a paper on Bram Stoker’s novel, The Jewel of Seven Stars, which involves a mummy, some Golden Dawn type magic and a whole of lot Egyptmania-in-London material. She’s just finished a PhD studying with Roger Luckhurst

All of this was organized by the fabulous Josie Gill whose Literary Archaeology project I may have mentioned before.

By this point all of you are doubtless very jealous, especially those of you based in Bristol whom I shamefully neglected to tell about this because I didn’t get the program until earlier this week and been crazy busy, but sorry anyway (especially to you, Alistair). However, on the way back to Temple Meads Anna mentioned that she would be back in Bristol in April for the annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science. It looks fairly cheap to attend, and Anna tells em that they are interested in science fiction as well as non-fiction writing about science. I’ll know more once Anna gets home to Oldenburg and we have exchanged a few emails.

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Drive By Posting

Well, that’s three days of trans awareness training on the trot. All lovely classes.

Of course that means I’m thinking of little else right now, so all I’m good for is another rant. I am resisting the temptation, partly because I like you folks and don’t want to bore you, and partly because the level of woo woo achieved by today’s anti-trans article in the media was enough to make even the disgraced soon to be very few people’s president of the USA blush with embarrassment.

The trouble is that anti-trans people are like anti-vaxxers. They are convinced that anyone who knows anything about trans medical care must either be in it for the money or be an “activist”, and therefore dismiss everything we say as lies. The more evidence we pile up against them, the more convinced they become that some vast conspiracy is at work. It is pointless engaging directly. What we need to do is engage with people whose minds haven’t been locked down under thousands of layers of tinfoil.

However, the good news is that tomorrow is a writer and publisher day. I am going to Bristol University for this conference, which looks like being absolutely awesome (scroll down for the program). I am, of course, that girl: the one who wrote a story about a famous Egyptologist having a talking mummy in her bedroom closet. This is clearly a conference for me.

Posted in Gender, History, Journalism, Writing | 3 Comments

My 2.5 Minutes of Fame

Yesterday afternoon I was contacted by the local ITV news to see if I could come on their show today and talk about trans stuff. I was on my way out to see a client, but I muttered something about my schedule and they said they’d get back to me. When I got home, around 11:00pm, I found an email asking me to be at their Bristol studios for 11:45 today. As that happened to be on my way to today’s client, whom I had to see at 12:30, it all worked perfectly.

Well, perfectly except that I then spent 2 hours doing research so was zombified this morning and running purely on caffeine. Fortunately they only wanted 2.5 minutes of interview, and they were very nice. I think I did OK on content. I know I did really badly on body language, but so it goes.

Anyway, I was on to talk about this lad. We barely scratched the surface of what I could have said about the issue, but at least things are getting into the media and not being treated as a joke.

This evening I had just got back as far as Bath when my phone went. The BBC local news wanted someone to talk trans stuff. Had the call be half an hour earlier I might have been able to do it (except that they would not have wanted me as I’d been on the opposition station that day). I understand that Steffi Barnett from Shout Out did the show. I hope they treated her as well as ITV treated me.

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Fringe 2017 Underway

The new year of BristolCon Fringe got under way last night. The schedule is a little fuzzy because Jo is handing over the management of the events to Tom Parker, so we don’t as yet have confirmed speakers for the months ahead. However, we did have a cracking event to kick off the year.

Amanda Huskisson had read an open mic events before, but this was her first time as a main guest. We got to hear a bit more from her novel, Melody of the Two Lands. I’m afraid I shamelessly took the opportunity to question her about Egypt. We had a great chat about religion and history. Amanda’s book is very feminist, and I was not surprised to learn that it is set during the reign of Hatshepsut.

You may have seen some things online about this woman pharaoh being a trans guy, but you only have to look at the magnificent tomb she had built for herself at Deir el-Bahri to see that this was someone very much concerned with women’s issues. Her problem was that in order to be pharaoh she also had to be an incarnation of Horus, which I’m sure presented a lot of challenges. Images of her tended to look more male, but in inscriptions she is always referred to as a woman and her name means “Foremost of Noble Ladies”.

One of the more interesting historical facts that came out of the conversation is that the Egyptians used exactly the same instruments as were used by the priests of Cybele in Rome. The double flute and sistrum were used by both cultures, over 1000 years apart.

Amanda’s book still doesn’t have a publisher, but I hope to be able to read it one day.

I’d not met Tej Turner before this event. Jo found him at FantasyCon and, as he’s not far away in Cardiff, coaxed him over the Severn to read for us. Jo has an excellent eye for talent. Tej is working on some epic fantasy, but in the meantime he has one book out from a small press and another (which he read from) due later this year.

The Janus Cycle is essentially a fix-up, with each chapter being a short story narrated by a different character. The book is urban fantasy, but more in the vein of Charles de Lint and Emma Bull than the hot chicks in leather with werewolves thing. There is an overarching story centered on a nightclub called Janus. Tej tells me that each one of the characters has a different gender. There is a lot of alternative culture involved. It isn’t as over the edge as Kathy Acker, but the subject matter does get close to that edge at times.

For Fringe Tej read from the sequel, Dinnusos Rises. Dinnusos is an alternative name for Dionysus so you can see that we have a theme going here. The extracts that Tej read were very funny, and very pointedly political. I think a lot of you folks would like his work. And if you don’t believe me, try this five-star review at Rising Shadow.

Tom has big plans for Fringe, including possibly locating to a different venue with more room and better audio equipment. Hopefully we can also get some budget to pay travel expenses and bring in some bigger names. The original plan was to have one big name writer as the main attraction and one local writer as the support act, which will give the local folks a much better audience.

One of the announcements we had at the end was from Jo. Kristell Ink currently has submissions open for no less than three science fiction anthologies. The deadline is the end of January, but if you write fast or have something in the trunk you should be able to make it. Details here.

Posted in History, Readings, Writing | 1 Comment

Fringe Tonight

Tonight sees the first BristolCon Fringe of 2017. We have two great authors lined up for you.

Amanda Huskisson is a writer of historical fantasy. She will be reading the opening chapter of her debut novel, Melody of the Two Lands. A story set in Ancient Egypt about two girls, one living and one deceased, whose lives are inextricably entwined.

Tej Turner is a writer of fantasy, horror and speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Janus Cycle, was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015, and he has also had several short stories featured in anthologies. For the event he will be reading an extract from his second novel, Dinnusos Rises, which is due to be published later this year.

As usual we’ll be at The Shakespeare Tavern, 68 Prince Street (round the back of the Arnolfini). I hope to see some of you there.

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Who’s Regretting Now?

In the wake of last week’s BBC2 documentary, and a follow-up piece in the Sunday Times, there is once again focus on the alleged huge numbers of people who undergo gender surgery and later regret it. There’s no doubt that regretters do exist, and that’s deeply worrying, but it is hard to get any decent information on what that means. When presented with examples there are some questions you need to ask.

Firstly you need to know when the person transitioned. Back in my day, there was huge pressure on ever trans person to commit 100% to full medical transition, otherwise you got no treatment at all. That was partly because the doctors believed that only full conformance to one or the other binary gender stereotype was an acceptable outcome. It was also partly because they felt that insistence on full medical transition would weed out people for whom transition wasn’t appropriate. Maybe it did, but I suspect it also led to people accepting treatment that they didn’t really want or need. Thanks to a lot of pressure from trans activists, treatment is a lot more humane now.

You also need to know where in the world they lived. Hopefully most countries have reasonably strict safeguards, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find that someone out there was encouraging transition because it was good business. And of course there is Iran, where forced transition is an alternative to being executed for homosexuality.

You need to know where in the process people backed out. The anti-trans brigade would have you believe that every regretter had had their penis chopped off (because that’s the fear they are trying to tap into). In practice many people who back out do so long before they get that far. That shouldn’t be counted as a failure of the process. That’s just the patient deciding what is best for them at the time, which is how things should work.

And finally you need to know why they back out. Some people do so because their personal circumstances change and their lives are no longer their own. I have, for example, heard of someone who pulled out of transition to care for an elderly relative. Some people do so because they decide that the price they would have to pay — in terms of loss of job, family and so on — is simply too high to pay. And some take fright at the social discrimination that they face when beginning transition. With all these people, they have not decided that transition is wrong per se, it is just something that they can’t do because of their personal circumstances, or because of social prejudice. If society was less unpleasant to trans people they might all have stayed the course.

Last night on Twitter I got into conversation with Dr. Stuart Lorimer who is one of the UK’s leading gender specialists. Over a 15 year career he reckons to have treated over 4,000 patients. Of those, he says, only around 10-15 have backed out of the transition process and gone back to their birth gender. That already puts the level of regretters at less than 0.5%. When questioned he said that a fair proportion of those were people who had backed out for the sorts of reasons I outlined above, and who might well try again if their personal circumstances changed. He said that no more than 25% of them had de-transitioned post surgery. That makes the level of actual failures of the process under 1 in 1000.

Obviously we’d all like there to be no failures of process at all, but there’s also an awful lot of patients who stayed the course and whose lives are far happier because of it.

You can see my conversation with Dr. Lorimer here.

Of course if you are a TERF then you probably believe that you need to deny treatment to 999 people in order to save the one who might have surgery and regret it. And that’s probably because you don’t care about those 999 because you have already decided that they are monsters.

Posted in Gender | 1 Comment

Local Girl Made Good

The picture above is of Saint Walpurga (alternatively Walburga or Walpurgis). She was born in 710 CE in the Saxon kingdom of Wessex, probably somewhere in what is now Devonshire. Aged 11 she was sent to Wimborne Abbey in Dorset to study and become a nun. 26 years later she took ship for the continent in the company of her brothers, Willibald and Winebald, to help her uncle, Saint Boniface, bring Christianity to the pagan Germans.

Being better educated than her brothers, Walpurga ended up writing a biography of Winibald who had been on pilgrimage to Palestine. This may make her the first woman in England or Germany to author a work of literature.

She was canonized by Pope Adrian II in 870, just under 100 years after her death. Although her official feast day is February 25th, the Germans prefer to remember her on May 1st, supposedly the day of her canonization. Walpurgisnacht, the spring equivalent of Halloween, is the eve of her holy day. Of course a May Day celebration suggests co-option of a pagan tradition, which means that she was associated with Freya, the Norse fertility goddess.

Possibly the most interesting thing about Walpurga, however, is her appearance in something known as Manuscript I.33. It is the oldest known fencing manual or Fechtbuch, having been written in Germany around 1300. I found out about it from the new Sam Willis TV series on the history of weapons.

This 64 page book is full of illustrations demonstrating the technique of fighting with a sword and buckler. Most of the pages show combat between a monk and a student. The book was written by monks, which I guess shows that the far east doesn’t have a monopoly on monkish martial arts. However, the final two pages show the monk fighting a woman who is identified in the text as Walpurgis. There’s no explanation as to why, but clearly the monks felt that our girl would have been good with a sword.

And that is the story of how a girl from the South West of England went to Germany and became famous as a missionary, an author, a sex symbol and a warrior maid. That’s quite a life.

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Auntie Doesn’t Know Best

Back when I was a kid, the BBC was known affectionately as “Auntie”. It had this rather Mary Poppins air of a benevolent older relative who was wise and caring but also gave you lots of presents. Unfortunately everyone gets old, and “Auntie” is now more like that elderly relative who has grown grumpy after too many years reading the Daily Mail. “Auntie” has married a beer-swilling, racist lout called Nigel, and all she seems to do these days is rant about the state of the world and the behavior of kids today.

A prime example of this was last night’s documentary about trans kids. It was, as Susie Green of Mermaids said on the Breakfast show today (the coverage begins at around 2:45), rather like running a documentary with some old guy complaining that doctors don’t recommend leeches and blood-letting as a treatment any more. Kenneth Zucker, the man who was portrayed as a heroic campaigner against political interference in medicine, has been thoroughly discredited by his peers, but the BBC is still billing him as a leading expert in the field.

Also on that Breakfast show is a Canadian trans woman who had been a patient at Zucker’s clinic. She explained that one of the “treatments” that Zucker recommended to “cure” trans girls was for parents to always watch the child while she went to the toilet to make sure that she always stood up to pee. The only real mystery with Zucker is how it took so long for the Canadian government to shut him down.

I spent yesterday afternoon working with a group of staff from Bristol Mental Health (including one psychiatrist who is an actual a gender specialist) looking at ways to educate their staff in trans issues. They were all mental health professions. They understand that you can’t “cure” someone of being trans, or gay for that matter, by making them ashamed of who they are. But some of the staff we need to train, not to mention the staff at the two local charities I will be doing training for this month, may have seen that BBC program. That means we’ll need to put a lot of effort into dispelling the nonsense they will have been fed. I’m going to get some practice in by starting on you lot.

Let’s start with a few facts.

  1. Trans kids are not normally put through any surgery until they are 18
  2. Trans kids are not normally given any hormone treatment until they are 16
  3. “Puberty blocker” drugs are not given to trans kids until they start puberty
  4. Once a patient comes off puberty blockers, puberty will continue as normal, they do not “change the sex” of the patient
  5. Puberty blockers were invented to treat kids with early onset of puberty, and no one questions their use or safety in such cases

Nevertheless we continue to see the media claim that very young children are given actual medical treatment. The BBC did this in a Newsnight show on Wednesday. I’ll come back to why this happens later.

Moving on to more theoretical stuff, I want to make it very clear that gender performance and gender identity are not the same thing. There is a huge difference between a young child, assigned female at birth, playing football, and that same child saying they are a boy. Any reputable gender specialist or trans activist will tell you this. Sadly the media keeps pushing the nonsense about toys and a preference for pink. One of the reasons that Zucker is no longer respected in the profession is that he uses things like what toys you play with and whether you like pink or blue as diagnostic of your being trans.

Interestingly, anti-trans activists such as Sarah Ditum and Helen Lewis regularly accuse gender clinics and trans activists of using things like your toy preferences as a diagnostic indicator. It doesn’t matter how often we say we don’t, they still insist that we do. And yet the one man in the field who does make this fundamental error is the man whom they hold up as the real expert.

The inevitable result of confusion between gender performance and gender identity is that kids who are not trans, know they are not trans, and say they are not trans, get diagnosed as trans, or at least get referred to gender clinics. The generous interpretation of Zucker’s work was that he didn’t understand the distinction and kept making the same mistake. The less generous interpretation is that he knew damn well what he was doing, and knew that he could make a lot of money off worried parents by diagnosing kids as trans, sure in the knowledge that he could later claim to have “cured” them.

Another thing to bear in mind is that gender identity isn’t simple. Some kids who end up in gender clinics will have very clear and strong ideas about who they are. Others will be unsure and need someone to talk to. Many of them will decide, having had time to think about things and talk to psychiatrists, that they don’t need full binary gender transition. They may want nothing at all, or they may want something partial, such as social transition. Others will, of course, insist on getting every bit of treatment they can as soon as they can, but by no means all of the kids who go to gender clinics end up having medical treatment because the point of their going to the clinic is to find out what is right for each individual child.

Back now to this oft-repeated claim of actual medical intervention for very young children. It doesn’t happen, so why do people want you to think that it does?

Well, as I explained, a large proportion of the kids who get referred to gender clinics don’t end up going through full transition, or indeed any transition. Some are misdiagnosed by people like Zucker. Others simply decide that it isn’t right for them. There are claims that the number who don’t go on to opt for full medical transition are as many as 80% of all referrals. That’s not a huge problem as far as I’m concerned. I’d like to see better diagnosis so that kids who do not need referrals are not getting them, but I do want to see kids who are unsure given the chance to talk things over and maybe end up as non-binary adults. The idea that every person who is taken on by a gender clinic must have full medical treatment is ridiculously out-dated.

The media, of course, love quoting that 80% statistic. And they do so alongside the claims of medical treatment for the very young because they want you to believe that those 80% of kids who “grow out of it” have already been subjected to irreversible medical treatment before they get the chance to decide that’s not for them.

There you see the structure of the lie: kids are sent to gender clinics because of what toys they play with, kids are subjected irreversible medical treatment at a very young age, those kids then regret what has been done to them. None of this is true.

Why should anyone concoct such a bizarre fable? Let’s forget about the 80% of kids who don’t need medical transition for the moment and focus on the 20% who do. What about them? They currently have a chance of long and happy lives in the gender that feels natural to them. The point of all of this hoo ha — the lies, the concern trolling and the moral panic — is to shut down gender clinics for kids and prevent that 20% of patients from getting the treatment they badly need.

So that’s my take-away. Don’t worry about the 80% (or whatever % it actually is once people like Zucker are stopped from practicing), those kids don’t have anything bad done to them. Worry about the 20% whose access to treatment is under threat.

By the way, if you want to know what effect this sort of scare-mongering has on actual trans kids and their families, read this.

And of you want to complain to the BBC about the program, this tells you how to do it.

Posted in Gender, TV | 2 Comments