Thursday, June 8, 2023

Trans Rights are Human Rights

The trans community isn't safe in Canada, that's why Pride month is necessary. And there's no straight month because nobody has ever been discriminated against for being straight! Last week I said, "a glance towards Florida should be enough for the rest of us to recognize this anti-pride position as absolutely terrifying!" But I should have looked closer to home.

A pastor in my city recently told his congregation, "If you're going to live a lie to the point where you're willing to mutilate your own body, it's going to send you into dark despair." 

He was referring to the death by suicide of a Redeemer University student, Bekett Noble, back in November 2022. Noble had fought with the school about the climate of intolerance there. Shortly after their death, over forty students came forward with complaints about Redeemer, calling their time there "the darkest period of my life" and calling the culture there, which included policies "forbidding same-sex intimacy," "agony" and terrifying for 2SLGBTQIA+ students. The students at the school believe the school's climate of intolerance is what led to the suicide, not their trans identity. 

Here's what I've seen in my many encounters with people who are transgender and from working with students in general. Being trans can be part of a happy, fulfilling life. Being ostracized, humiliated, and discriminated against on an ongoing basis can lead to depression and self-loathing. Try to meet up with and listen to at least ten trans men, trans women, and/or non-binary people before committing to condemning them or preventing them from having access to care. 

This is going to be a long one.


For people who believe in the notion of sin at all, it's a violation of God's will. But the Gospel according to Matthew makes it clear that we should never judge others. Don't even think of pointing out the speck in someone else's eye while you've got a beam of wood in your own eye, amIright?! That bit takes the burden of judgment right off our shoulders. Only the perfect can judge, and that means none of us since we're all fallible humans. So our Christian duty here isn't to condemn people for not living up to all the rules; it's to love our neighbours. Judging others is against God's will, which make it a sin

Furthermore, there are many passages about purity in clothing and food preparation in the OT that most faithful Christians ignore (no cotton-polyester blends or ham and cheese sandwiches), yet some maintain that we must all follow the very, very few passages relating to 2SLGBTQIA+ communities that are in the mix. Curious. Why uphold just those bits? A fairly common Christian perspective maintains that Jesus died for our sins, so we don't actually have to follow every single rule in order to be righteous; we just have to love God and love others no matter how much dust they have in their eye. That's the challenge. And it's a tough one!

The rest of this below is arguing that condemning trans people for being trans is not a form of loving kindness (i.e. saving them from themselves), but a form of hateful persecution that can lead to more suicides or worse


This week, transphobic hate speech was graffitied all over a school in Port Colborne. And last month, a Niagara Catholic DSB trustee said that flying a pride flag is the same as a flying a Nazi flag. 

Here's the difference: A pride flag supports people living their lives who are causing zero intentional harm to anyone else (although some people may feel harmed by the display of views that differ from their own). The Nazi flag, by contrast, supports people who actively and systematically targeted groups of people for death in a massive genocide: the disabled, the 2SLGBTQIA+, and then Jewish people and any groups who disagreed with this process, like Catholics. (Protestant churches capitulated to them.)

A mere century ago, in the roaring twenties in Germany, there was open acceptance of transgender identities. But then in the 1930s Nazi Germany, magazines, clubs, and organizations supporting trans rights were shut down. By 1933 police were ordered to no longer honour gender identity, so people were arrested for "cross-dressing." As early as 1938, trans people were put in concentrations camps because their "criminal activity justifies draconian measures by the state." From enjoy your life to let's round them up in less than a decade.

Last month Florida passed a bill that allows the state to remove transgender minors from families if they are receiving any gender-affirming care. In the U.S., 20 states have banned gender-affirming health care for anyone 18 or younger so far, which has never before happened in any state. Some states are considering banning care for anyone up to and including 26 years old.

"By preventing doctors from providing this care, or threatening to take children away from parents who support their child in their transition, these bills prevent transgender youth from accessing medically necessary, safe health care backed by decades of research and supported by every major medical association."

This condemnation and these policies are following in the footsteps of Nazis!! The fact that this might not be so obviously a problem to everyone is unnerving! The stages of genocide start with simple name calling, then move into dehumanizing measures like using "mutilation" to describe surgery in order to make it seem barbaric; then restrictive policies get put in place one by one, and then come arrests and extermination. And then they pretend that somehow it was all necessary. It's absolutely vital we stop this downward spiral before it goes any further. 

Gordon Allport's Scale of Prejudice 

Okay, this word really gets to me. 

About seven years ago, I had my breasts removed preventatively because I have the breast cancer gene. After removal, they found three (!!!) tumours in one of them, and I started a shitshow of treatments. I had estrogen-dependent cancer, so I ditched the ovaries. I have less estrogen running through my system than most men. I went into menopause immediately, which gave me nasty hot flashes, which - seriously - was the worst part of all of this. I still can only dress in layers and have resigned myself to repeatedly donning and doffing a sweatshirt or sweater, over and over, all day and night. A drop in estrogen made my body change fat-distribution, flattening my butt and making my torso much more square.

I don't look my best - I get that; we're all getting older here - but mutilated?? That's a shockingly offensive term for a medical procedure to remove two blobs of fat (as my surgeon called them).

Furthermore, in the states, more than ten times as many teens get surgery to make their boobs bigger than to remove them, and nobody bats an eye at adding bags of silicone or saline under their skin. It's their choice; they have a right to decide how their body should look. One trans guy said, 
"I had top surgery 13 years ago. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about how it was the best thing I have ever done for my survival. I also had orthopedic knee surgery at 14 and often regret it. But no NYTs pieces about orthopedic regret I see."  

Here's another story: 


The DSM-5 "articulates explicitly that 'gender non-conformity is not in itself a mental disorder.'" From the horse's mouth: 

"Gender dysphoria refers to the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one's experienced or expressed gender and one's assigned gender. Although not all individuals will experience distress as a result of such incongruence, many are distressed if the desired physical interventions by means of hormones and/or surgery are not available" (451). 

Diagnostic criteria is mainly just an incongruence between experienced and assigned gender for at least six months with a strong desire to be rid of the natal gender markers.

One study found that 98% of people who transition starting with gender-affirming hormones in adolescence continued treatment into adulthood, happy with their choice. An article published in Nature supports this care, explaining:

"A lack of gender-affirming care relegates a person to live and be perceived based on societal expectations related to the sex assigned at birth. . . . Gender affirmation requires inclusive and culturally responsive healthcare environments, as well as broader policies and laws that support and protect gender diversity locally, nationally and globally. 

Historically, the response of the medical field to transgender and gender diverse people has primarily consisted of conversion efforts, which are psychological attempts to change a person's gender identity so that it aligns with societal expectations based on the sex assigned at birth. This approach unfortunately remains common, including in the U.S., and is associated with substantial harm--most notably an increased risk of suicide attempts. 

In recent years, the American Medical Association and the United Nations General Assembly have therefore both taken steps in support of bans on gender identity conversion efforts. The alternative . . . is a clinical approach that facilitates safe psychological exploration of a person's gender identity . . . with the ultimate goal of patient-driven gender identity discovery and affirmation."

That Gender Dysphoria is in the DSM-5 doesn't mean it's a condition to eradicate through therapy. Autism, ADHD, and IDs are also listed there, and treatment is to accommodate, not eradicate, the conditions. But the way this is all connected to mental illness reveals all sorts of issues with our attitudes towards mental health going back to the basic notion that something is wrong with a person that needs to be corrected so they can be more normal. It's been a long hard struggle to try to shift that mentality towards understanding and accepting differences. As someone with ASD, I sometimes need more time to respond to a simple question or don't always use the right tone when responding, and then I have to clarify how I feel about what I said because people are far too confident in their assessment of nonverbal communication, causing huge misunderstandings (more on the pseudoscience of nonverbal comms here, here, here, and here). There are people who call me weird to my face, or tell me it just takes time, but soon I'll be able to fix all that if I just keep working on it! But I've tried various therapies for a good thirty years now. It's just how I am, and I accept that. What would really help is if other people could also accept this difference, pause a bit for an answer without harassment or humiliation or ask for clarification instead of making assumptions about what I really mean. We're far too quick to try to make everyone fit a very narrow definition of normal. (Dr. Hane Maung addresses the harmful dysfunction analysis of mental health further in this 50 minute lecture.)

So I strongly identify with the plight of people who just want to be accepted as they are, without being fixed, even though their lived experience may not be typical. 


Whatever kids and their medical team decide is best for them is none of our beeswax. And it has precious little to do with school boards who don't - in any way - weigh in on these decisions. But let's get into it. 

First up, social transitioning: Some people worry that allowing kids to be called by whatever name and/or pronouns they like will have an adverse effect on them in future, setting the stage too firmly for what might come next. I'm not sure that's the real issue here. I'll tell you a quick story about my own little one who changed his name in grade 3. I didn't find out about it until months later, at Parent-Teacher's night when the teacher kept insisting on using this other name. I was confused and taken-aback. Apparently, although I tried to give him a unique and special name when he was born, many other parents chose that very same unique and special name, and he found a solution to the confusion in the classroom: giving himself a new name! He still goes by that new name -- and after all those months I sweat over choosing his original name! 

I think the real problem showing its face here is that parents don't like finding out - particularly publicly - that they don't know their own kid as well as they had thought! It might mean that their kid is not comfortable talking with their parent, which leads some to judge the family dynamics in all sorts of negative ways. It leads to self judgment of family dynamics, which can be painful. However, it might just mean that the kids are stretching their legs into burgeoning independence by doing something without parental knowledge! Seeing a start to independent action, that doesn't harm others, should be seen something to celebrate (after getting over that initial bit of embarrassment)! 

Our children are ours to guide, not to control, and guidance involves a whole lot of listening. From the interactions I've had first hand, trans kids aren't uncomfortable being trans, they're uncomfortable being treated as if they don't know themselves, treated like idiots, intentionally dead-named, or otherwise ridiculed. Adults involved need to get over themselves enough to let the kids flourish. 

Employers can't legally force employees (e.g. teachers) to misgender people -- and kids are people. Dr. Hane Maung explains

"I've seen it suggested that people under 25 can't consent to gender affirming care because their 'brains haven't fully developed,' but here's the thing: (1) The brain continually changes throughout the lifespan; (2) When it is deemed 'fully developed' is laden with various assumptions about what changes are taken to be salient, what features mark 'maturity,' etc.; (3) The relation between brain development and actual behaviour is underwhelming and too weak to support inferences about individual cases; (4) Decisional capacity isn't fixed but relational and contextual; hence, what's relevant is not whether people's brains are still changing, but whether they can (and how they can be enable to) understand and make informed decisions. This is established by talking to them, not by conjecturing about their brains."

Second, parental permission/notification: Forced outing to parents about pronouns or names can mean violence and/or homelessness for teens. It's not like telling parents their child is failing math. It's more like telling parents that their kid is following a different belief system than they follow, one that accepts differences and is incompatible with their current exclusionary beliefs. Some parents can't accept that type of difference in their home and will exile their own children because of it. I've personally never had a student get kicked out for failing, but I have known some who were kicked out for coming out. In a Toronto Star article,

"After hearing her child's teacher call them by that name in a parent-teacher meeting, she realized her child was already happily out at school. In time, she grew thankful that the public school had been a safe and affirming place for her child to express their identity before it was fully accepted at home--and that they were able to tell family on their own terms. . . . Proposals with forced-outing provisions could create life-threatening situations for those with unsupportive families."

I've heard parents complain about teachers who used 2nd person on report cards to keep their children's gender secret from them. Heads up: I've done that since forever to be better able to copy and paste parts of comments without having to go back to correct them afterwards!! It's not a conspiracy. Nobody's trying to turn straight kids gay or trans. Nobody's out to keep secrets from parents. But if a child wants to try on a new name in class, it makes no sense to force teachers to call home about it. If they want to legally change their name and/or gender in Ontario, and they're under 17, they'll still need supporting documents from a medical professional as well as parental consent, so their original name shows up on report card until then (although my son's new name somehow was on report cards.) The overarching goal is to keep kids safe, and, unfortunately, sometimes that means keeping them safe from their own parents. Keep in mind that all this only affects the very very small number of kids who want to transition and have parents who think that's an abomination. 

ETA: New Brunswick just made a policy, based on three complaints, that says "students under 16 who identify as Trans and nonbinary won't be able to officially change their names or pronouns in school without parental consent," which isn't the same as forced outing. It means they can still unofficially change their name without a phone call home. But they took away the teacher needing the student's consent before discussing it with a parent, which is a little slippery. They also plan to have single-use bathrooms in every school, which this reporter thinks is a bad thing, but it's a GOOD thing, so kids can go privately and not worry about which bathroom will be less likely to get them beaten up! Here's a great TikTok explaining the problem with the policy when we know that some parents are just downright abusive. 

"The World Professional Association for Transgender Health said hormones could be started at age 14, two years earlier than the group's previous advice, and some surgeries done at age 15 or 17, a year or so earlier than previous guidance. The group acknowledged potential risks but said it is unethical and harmful to withhold early treatment. . . . Age is just one factor to be weighed. Emotional maturity, parents' consent, longstanding gender discomfort and a careful psychological evaluation are among the others."

Furthermore, even though those are the minimum ages suggested, many Canadian clinics have higher age limits, and the other barrier not mentioned is lengthy waitlist of five years or more, so we're looking at top surgery not likely until at least 20.  

Yes, doctors can prescribe puberty blockers, but only after puberty starts,

"to delay puberty, reduce stress and provide time to explore identity and make decisions. Puberty blockers essentially put a pause on puberty by stopping the advancement of secondary sex characteristics. The effects of puberty blockers are considered to be fully reversible, and youth who choose not to pursue gender transition can cease treatment and resume puberty without long-term physical effects." 

And if y'all care so much about kids, check this out:

"A recent British Medical Journal study found that young people living with LongCovid experience fatigue that can be more debilitating than the fatigue of those suffering from cancer related anemia, advanced lung cancer, stroke, inflammatory bowel disease, and kidney disease." 

And maybe wear a mask so you're not a vector of transmission destroying the lives of little ones! So far, 23 children in Ontario have died of Covid officially (16,590 Ontarians in total so far), and about one in ten are expected to get LongCovid. The fewer the infections, the better their chances! I'd like it if we could all spent less time having to protect people's basic rights, and more time on reducing the effects of pandemics and climate change! 


I know nothing about sports or the culture, and this is a tricky issue beyond my scope. I question concerns about unfair advantage, as I explained last week, because Michael Phelps has huge genetic advantages that don't raise any concerns. But the University of Pennsylvania swim team issue is an interesting conundrum. I don't know the full nuance of it all, but from what I gather, the gist of it is that one swimmer, Lia, is trans but still has a penis, which is uncomfortable for some other team members changing together. A few spoke out and were chastised for being discriminatory and berated for hiding in a stall to change. 

My take on this version of the events: Shutting down discussion doesn't help anything; it just lets it fester underground and pop up all over social media. I can totally understand, for instance, some young women being uncomfortable with it. I imagine someone sexually assaulted or sexually inexperienced being particularly upset. And I don't think that can be completely dismissed. But at the same time, Lia's right to be there has to be upheld as well. 

This isn't a great analogy, but it's somewhat similar to someone with ADHD who constantly jiggles their foot living with someone with misophonia who absolutely cannot stand the sound of it. There's no middle ground to find: either one leaves or else one is distressed (from trying to sit still or from trying to tolerate the almost imperceptible noise). We can't just demand people be comfortable or claim it's offensive to express discomfort. And sometimes the only solution is to have separate areas to be. 

But something I am sure about is that we can't deny rights to an entire group because we aren't sure of the best solution for a tiny faction of people, like elite athletes. 

This gets at one more covert concern: For some, there's a fear of being tricked or duped, as if it's all a ruse to get more trophies or to weasel a way into the girls' bathroom to see them naked. It's possible, but highly unlikely, and we shouldn't be crafting policy or even just opinions based on the rare outlier who might be taking advantage of acceptance at the expense of the majority of trans people who just want to live their lives. It would be like removing all welfare programs because some people are hiding scads of money. It's possible that's happening, but rare, and the focus on the very few exploiting the system destroys the system for those in need. 

We don't have to wait to figure out what to do with elite athletes before making sure we prevent hate crimes, stop discriminatory policies, and listen to kids when they tell us who they are.

Here's a great resource from the Human Rights Campaign and a list of local resources from SickKids and the Canadian School Libraries Journal has lots of human rights info.

And some Catherine MacKinnon to round this off:

ETA from a rally in Newfoundland:

And this bit from the UN CRC, Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada ratified in 1991. Children have rights. 

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