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Laundering Bigotry

June 20, 2018

 

 

So, for those who are wondering why trans twitter is fucking furious about Singal's latest, here's the short version: Jesse Singal is in the business of laundering bigotry into respectable, quasi-scientific terms.  In particular, his latest (a cover story for the damned Atlantic) is an attempt to launder a piece of contemporary TERF propaganda: "rapid onset gender dysphoria," or ROGD.

 

ROGD as a concept emerged on TERF websites in 2016. In 2017, Lisa Littman presented a poster based on surveys from those websites (i.e. surveys of the transphobic parents of trans teens) at a JAH conference.  For those not versed in scientific lingo, it's important to note that Littman's poster never passed peer review. And it would not, since the basic methodology is so obviously problematic. And there are no credible, peer-reviewed publications on ROGD. However, the term is now everywhere in the TERFoverse, and Littman's poster is used to provide it the sheen of objectivity. Just search Twitter for #rogd to see what I mean.

 

The basic concept of ROGD is simple: young butch women are being brainwashed into believing they are trans, then fast-tracked for HRT and surgery. That is, the point is to sow the fear that the trans cabal is encouraging the mutilation of tomboys, and to thus decrease teen access to trans care.  It's worth noting that this ties into a historical strain of anti-LGBT propaganda: the idea that the gays are recruiting children. "Think of the children!" has long been used as a rallying cry for the anti-gay right; Singal's piece fits neatly into that tradition.

 

What makes Singal infuriating is that he has engaged in a careful bit of parallel construction. He does not mention ROGD by name. He avoids its TERF origins. But he deploys fears about precisely the same population (white teen girls) to stoke fears that the trans lobby is coming to mutilate confused children.  He spent more than a year searching out a few cases of teens who have experienced some level of gender anxiety (though not diagnosed with dysphoria), and uses them as props to suggest that we provide too much health care to trans teens.

 

As literally any trans person could and has told you, this is insane.

 

Us trannies are not out there screaming "chop them off!" What we actually want is for health providers to fucking listen to us.  I'll say it again: what gender-affirming care means, in the very first instance, is listening to kids. If they want to socially transition; if they want to change their pronouns, or their dress, or other things: embrace that! Don't take away their princess dolls / prince swords and hope they'll grow out of it. Second, if they loathe what's happening to their bodies, if they are insistent, persistent, and consistent in their desire to not go through puberty, then provide them with puberty blockers. Puberty blockers are not HRT, have entirely reversible effects, and are often prescribed to cis children going through early puberty (more facts that Singal never mentions). Then, when they are an adult, if they still want to change their bodies through some combination of HRT or surgery, let them. And if they don't, then they don't have to! That's it! Gender-affirming care is capacious enough to provide help to queer, questioning, and trans children of many, many types. It does not force medicine on anyone; rather, it gives children the love and acceptance they need to find their own path.

 

It's also worth talking about relative numbers. Singal's exhaustive research was able to turn up two (2) detransitioned teens, neither of whom was actually diagnosed with dysphoria or provided with medical care. On the other hand, every fucking trans person ever can tell you about being discouraged from pursuing care by parents, family, and medical professionals. That is: every trans person can tell you about the years spent knowing they wanted to transition and suffering from crippling dysphoria because of it. (see @scattermoon's thread for a peek into what Singal wants the world to look like.) It is absolutely mind-boggling to think that the biggest problem is too much medical care rather than too little.

 

What we need is affirmation and understanding from parents, guardians, and doctors. Not the life-wrecking insistence that we'll grow out of it if we just try harder. THAT'S IT.

 

receipts, from Julia Serano and Zinnia Jones:

Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation: A Guide for Understanding Transgender Children Debates

“Rapid onset gender dysphoria”: What a hoax diagnosis looks

When “desisters” aren’t: De-desistance in childhood and adolescent gender dysphoria

 

*footnote: None of this means that desistance is bad or evil.  Desisters deserve our love and support in just the same way as all our queer and questioning fellows do. What I have a problem with is desisters being used as props by bigots to deny trans teens medical care.

 

UPDATE JUNE 22: Apparently the parents of one of the children Singal profiles are fervent TERFs -- the mother was very disappointed that Singal didn't mention this in her article.  She hoped he'd raise 4thwavenow, one of the very websites that created the rogd hoax, to a higher profile.  Which all just confirms my point: Singal was deliberately laundering TERF propaganda into a palatable form for a wider audience.  Article: Atlantic cover story is a loud dog whistle for anti-transgender parents

 

 

 

 

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