I’ve been following the media reactions to a story from Colorado about a young transgender girl in the 2nd grade and the usual gang of clowns are doing their “moral outrage” acts. It’s all fairly predictable, but it’s still fun and somewhat illuminating to pick apart what’s being said, so let’s take a look, shall we?
For starters, if you have questions about young trans kids (and many people do) an excellent resource is the TransYouth Families Advocates FAQ. This group was started by four mothers with transgender children, and their material is written for families who are trying to deal with and understand their kids’ struggles with gender.
The story in question is pretty straightforward. The school district has been working with TYFA and is doing a pretty great job at accommodating the trans child’s needs; they’re making sure pamphlets and counselors are available for students, parents, or faculty who have questions, and they’re making two of the school’s unisex bathrooms available for the trans child to use. Sounds fairly reasonable, right?
Well of course, Neil Cavuto on FOX News doesn’t think so. (Video courtesy of GLAAD.)
I can’t transcribe the whole thing, but he starts off by calling it a “bizzare story,” then brings on a child psychologist to serve as the punching bag for the usual interruptions and “what, are you crazy?” remarks that always seem to be the bread and butter over at FOX News. Let’s see how many myths and fabrications Cavuto managed to rack up:
1. “Bending over Backwards” Part 1: Schools have to build unisex bathrooms to accommodate kids like this, costing taxpayers thousands… or millions!
Yep, he actually says “millions” at one point. Fact-check: nobody has ever actually built a unisex restroom on behalf of trans people, and I have to say it’s not likely to happen anytime soon, either. The most “extreme” accommodations that I’ve ever heard of in this regard are reclassifying one or two bathrooms among mnay as unisex or all-gender — and that’s usually in settings like colleges, or LGBT community centers. And that’s not even the case here; the NBC affiliate in Colorado that reported this story simply said “two unisex bathrooms in the building will be made available.” Of course it’s easier to whip out the hyperbole and assume that expensive construction is going on, but anyone who did a little fact-checking would realize that trans people in these situations are usually asked to use an existing unisex bathroom. In a school, that’s often a single-occupancy bathroom in the teacher’s lounge or the nurse’s office.
And let’s be clear, this is usually a compromise. Trans employees and students aren’t asking to walk to the other end of the building, or in some cases take an elevator to a different floor than the one they work on, or go across the street or campus to a different building because they want to. Trans people are forced to because institutions can’t figure out another way to segregate us from people who might be uncomfortable sharing a restroom with us. Most trans people identify as one gender or another and tend to use the appropriate bathroom in say, a relatively anonymous public place like a movie theater or a restaurant. It’s only in contexts where coworkers, bosses, or other students know someone’s trans that this kind of problem comes up, along with the “unisex bathroom” compromise.
Approximate cost to taxpayers: possibly the price of one or two extra keys to bathrooms that are normally locked. Approximate cost to trans student: segregation from everyone else’s bathrooms, and less convenience since there are only two she can use. OK, what’s up next?
2. “Bending over Backwards” Part 2: Schools are “bending over backwards” to accommodate kids like this, at the expense of other children!
This seems to really bother Cavuto, but it’s almost impossible to figure out what he’s talking about. Besides the bathrooms, the only thing the school is proactively doing is making pamphlets and professional counselors available just in case a student, parent, or faculty member has questions or wants more information. The child and her family have their own counselor.
So what else could Cavuto mean? My guess is that like far too many people, he finds the very presence of a trans person to be onerous and problematic. Why can’t the school district make this little girl just go away, force her to dress like a boy and not look or act like that? The “bending over backwards” he keeps harping actually refers to the fact that the school district is NOT acting to prevent this 8-year-old kid from attending and being herself. I suppose it would be less expensive to erase trans people somehow, huh?
3. What, but this kid is seven years old, how can this possibly be? Surely that’s too young to have a sexual preference!
This one is incredibly common, but also pretty easy to deal with. Gender identity, a kid’s preferred role, whatever you want to call it, doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sex. Adults are just confused because they associate the word “transgender” with gay pride parades with OMG buttsex and leather harnesses! Or, as the TYFA FAQ says:
“A child’s awareness of being a boy or a girl begins in the first year of life…and by age 4, gender identity is stable and they know that they will always be a boy or a girl.” Children ‘know’ who they are, just as you did, from as early as age two. Some children don’t have the words to ‘tell’ you that they are gender variant; therefore, it is important to pay attention to cues and behaviors.
I think there’s a lot of discussion that could be had about what exactly it means to be aware of your gender, especially at an early age. Is this essentializing, positing a biological basis for gender? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case, but that’s not even the issue at stake here. Children do express transgender desires and want to express themselves in cross-gendered ways from a very early age; whatever the reason for that, it doesn’t mean they’ve been sexually corrupted by exposure to the Evil Gay Agenda.
4. How can I explain this to my kids? This is too weird! Why can’t we just let kids be kids?
Cavuto engages in a bunch of hand-wringing about his own sons, mirroring the father in the original news coverage whose daughter is going to be in the same class as this trans girl. Ironically, kids tend to be much more accepting and open-minded about trans issues than adults; it’s the parents who are biting their nails and projecting all the weirdness and sexual connotations onto the whole subject. Why shouldn’t every parent tell their kids that yes, there are some people who want to be a different gender than the category they were born into? There’s nothing necessarily prurient about that; there’s no need to get into the favorite lurid-tabloid obsession of the non-trans media, sex change operations. Again, it’s the parents who are preoccupied with that stuff, not the kids, not the trans kids. And most trans adults would rather people stop being so obsessed with the state of our genitals too, believe me.
Some parents are simply skittish about having to explain to their children subjects that they’re uncomfortable with themselves. But that’s why the school is providing resources. After all, there are a lot of things parents have always had to explain to kids. Why are those dogs humping each other? Why does that man have dark skin, did he get dirty? Why does that lady ride around in a chair? The only way to avoid having to answer these questions is to utterly isolate your kids — or try to eradicate “different” people from their view. But in public schools, kids will always run into classmates who are different somehow, or have different needs. The Douglas County school system is smart enough to see that as a teaching opportunity, not a horrible problem that has to be wiped out.
But wait, there’s more! Cavuto followed up the next day by running viewer e-mails, most of which are the “eww gross, trans people and bathrooms!” variety:
All kinds of “common sense” victim-blaming included and broadcast on national television for your viewing pleasure: trans people are delusional; people who support trans people are delusional; trans people should provide their own bathrooms and not bother the rest of us. And of course, your genitals determine who you are and that’s it, I’ve got my fingers in my ears, nah nah nah nah I’m not listening to you! You can even hear the rest of the FOX News crew laughing in the background.
When one e-mail draws an apt comparison to disabilities — apt because different kids have different needs and the school’s quite aware of that — Cavuto goes so far as to pretend he’s offended. “Are you saying that sexual preference is a disability? Now who’s being offensive? The kid has issues, not disabilities.” Way to miss the point by a mile. He wraps up by claiming that we should be tolerant of diversity… but not pay too much for it. Fascinating… so seeing as the bathrooms are practically free, he must be saying that resources about trans people shouldn’t be provided for other students and adults? Or maybe he’s just saying, as he did the day before, that a student who was male-assigned but lives her whole life as a girl shouldn’t be allowed to attend. Or maybe they should make her change into different clothes, put her hair in a cap, and use a different name than she does somewhere else. No wait, that wouldn’t be “tolerant” at all, would it? Funny how that works.
For a night-and-day contrast, check out the interview that CNN ran with the executive director of TYFA, Kim Pearson:
Of course, the conservative wingnuts didn’t like that one bit. “Americans for Truth about Homosexuality” promptly issued a screed that criticized CNN for not providing “another side” to the issue. Presumably that would be somebody from their organization or one like it, right? Who could come on and spout a bunch of factual inaccuracies and “won’t someone think of the children” statements, in the name of “fair and balanced.” AFTAH Troll-in-Chief Peter LaBarbera goes on to blame Pearson’s parenting for the fact that she has a transgender son:
Could it be that permissive parenting plays a major role in encouraging a gender-confused identity in a child? Pearson says she felt “relief” on hearing that her daughter claimed to have a male identity. Relief? A wiser parent might have sought professional help from someone not beholden to “transgender” activist ideology — to guide the troubled girl into accepting the wonderful body and sex that God gave her.
In the case of the eight-year-old boy, to what future are the politically correct adults — parents and school authorities included — consigning him with their “caring” embrace of deviance?
Of course, the professional help that LaBarbera suggests is pretty much limited to discredited “ex-gay therapy” practicioners. Most other child psychologists these days understand that gender identity issues are not the same thing as other kinds of problems with body hatred and self-esteem — although they can certainly overlap, and make figuring out the right path very complicated, for young people and adults alike.
And this says it all:
In a saner era, it would be clear to all that the child — not society — has the problem.
“Make it go away! The child with the problem!” LaBarbera would rather we go back to the very recent “saner era” when trans youth were given electroshock therapy and experimented on in sex clinics, institutionalized for long periods or forced to shave their heads, wear hyper-gendered clothing to “force” them back on the correct path, etc. At least that way nobody would have to look at them, right? Nobody would have to fear sharing a bathroom, coming into contact, exposing their own precious children.
It would be a saner era.
(If you want more bile on the same subject, Transadvocte has compiled a set of links to various disgusting blog responses.)