I’ve been wanting to write something about transgender issues. I’m waiting for the static in my head around the issue to stop being so staticky, but the more I read and think about it, the louder it gets, so here goes. I usually work through these things by writing about them, anyway.
Let me begin with a revelation that shakes me to my core:
I find myself largely in agreement with this Ross Douthat column.
People? That never happens. Until now.
It’s paywalled, and I’ll clip/paste/summarize as best I can:
After laying out some rather eye-popping statistics — that 21 percent of Gen Z identifies as LGBT, he notes:
Here are three possible readings of these statistics. The first interpretation: This is great news. Sexual fluidity, transgender and nonbinary experience are clearly intrinsic to the human experience, our society used to suppress them with punitive heteronormativity and only now are we getting a true picture of the real diversity of sexual attractions and gender identities. (Just as, for example, we discovered that left-handedness is much more common once we stopped trying to train kids out of it.)
So the response from society should be sustained encouragement, especially if you care about teenage mental health: This newly awakened diversity should be supported from the time it first makes itself manifest, at however young an age, and to the extent that parents feel uncomfortable with their children’s true selves, it’s the task of educators and schools to support the kid, not to defer to parental anxiety or bigotry.
The second interpretation: We shouldn’t read too much into it. This trend is probably mostly just young people being young people, exploring and experimenting and differentiating themselves from their elders. Most of the Generation Zers identifying as L.G.B.T. are calling themselves bisexual and will probably end up in straight relationships, if they aren’t in them already. Some of the young adults describing themselves as transgender or nonbinary may drift back to cisgender identities as they grow older.
So we shouldn’t freak out over their self-identification — but neither should we treat it as a definitive revelation about human nature or try to build new curriculums or impose certain rules atop a fluid and uncertain situation. Tolerance is essential; ideological enthusiasm is unnecessary.
A third interpretation: This trend is bad news. What we’re seeing today isn’t just a continuation of the gay rights revolution; it’s a form of social contagion which our educational and medical institutions are encouraging and accelerating. These kids aren’t setting themselves free from the patriarchy; they’re under the influence of online communities of imitation and academic fashions laundered into psychiatry and education — one part Tumblr and TikTok mimesis, one part Judith Butler.
There is no clear evidence that any of this is making kids happier or better adjusted; instead all we see is a worsening of teen mental health, blurring into a young-adult landscape where sex and relationships and marriage are on the wane. So what we need now is probably more emphasis on biology, normativity and reconciliation with your own maleness or femaleness, not further deconstruction.
I find myself solidly in Camp #2. Like most people I know, the second interpretation fits with my direct experience and observation. I have known trans people, know them now, see elements of it in younger people, and even in the young children of people I know. I am happy, proud even, to support trans people in every way I can. I’ll use whatever names or pronouns they might want, treat them with respect. Share a bathroom. Hell, share a locker room if that’s the ask. It seems pretty simple to me, very live-and-let-live. People exist across a broad, vast spectrum of individuality, and that’s what makes them so wonderful.
That said, I am uncomfortable with some of the radical treatments being made available to children, adolescents and even young adults. I’m talking surgery, hormones, puberty blockers, etc. I understand that an older trans man, weary of binding his chest, may opt for breast removal, and OK, your body, your choice. But I’m really leery of saying that to a 19-year-old, let alone a 14-year-old.
Here are some of the ideas and experiences that contribute to the static in my head these days. I offer them in no particular order, just as a slide show of my brain:
** Many conservatives like to say trans people are mentally ill. Having recently shared an evening with a trans woman (hi there, you know who you are), as well as many other encounters in recent years, I reject that out of hand. (Although I’m convinced this trans man has more than one screw loose, sorry. It’s impossible to look at the near-full-length photo of him, showing off the new, surgically constructed bulge in his tighty whities, and not see the enormous divot on his thigh, where the flesh to construct it was harvested, and not be appalled. That’s not to mention the still-obvious female waistline, and I shudder to think how that’s going to be rectified in some future operating room.) But mental illness? For living as a person of another gender? Sorry, no.
** I think back on, of all things, Edward Bodkin, whom you can google, although Hoosiers will remember him as the Huntington Castrator. In the less-edified fog of the late ’90s, there was lots of discussion as to who, exactly, would seek out the castration services of a man who practiced his craft on a filthy kitchen table. As I recall, the easiest answer was transgender women who couldn’t afford the services of a reputable surgeon. I also recall one of my colleagues hanging up the phone after an extended interview with the editor of some fetish magazine — was it Ball Club? Something like that — and coming over to my desk, rather shaken, for a debrief. The gist of the interview was basically that body dysmorphia is real, that it doesn’t always break down along clear gender lines, and that for whatever reason, some men might want to kiss their testicles goodbye.
** Not long after that, the Atlantic published a long story about people who seek out amputation of healthy limbs, sometimes by mangling the ones they have in self-inflicted injuries, out of nothing more than a sense that they are meant to be amputees.
** I’ve been told most people do not regret assuming genders other than those assigned at birth. I accept that. But I reject that this number is so overwhelmingly large that those who do have second thoughts are outliers we can disregard. This essay, recently published in the WashPost, seems noteworthy:
When I was 19, I had surgery for sex reassignment, or what is now called gender affirmation surgery. The callow young man who was obsessed with transitioning to womanhood could not have imagined reaching middle age. But now I’m closer to 50, keeping a watchful eye on my 401(k), and dieting and exercising in the hope that I’ll have a healthy retirement.
In terms of my priorities and interests today, that younger incarnation of myself might as well have been a different person — yet that was the person who committed me to a lifetime set apart from my peers.
There is much debate today about transgender treatment, especially for young people. Others might feel differently about their choices, but I know now that I wasn’t old enough to make that decision. Given the strong cultural forces today casting a benign light on these matters, I thought it might be helpful for young people, and their parents, to hear what I wish I had known.
There follows a list of regrets, and they boil down to: I wish I’d been able to come to terms with my homosexuality. She concludes:
What advice would I pass on to young people seeking transition? Learning to fit in your body is a common struggle. Fad diets, body-shaping clothing and cosmetic surgery are all signs that countless millions of people at some point have a hard time accepting their own reflection. The prospect of sex can be intimidating. But sex is essential in healthy relationships. Give it a chance before permanently altering your body.
Most of all, slow down. You may yet decide to make the change. But if you explore the world by inhabiting your body as it is, perhaps you’ll find that you love it more than you thought possible.
One reason I am sympathetic to this view is my direct experience with a member of our commenting community here. Alex commented on this essay:
If I’d been given the opportunity to change genders at adolescence, I would have gone for it. After a dozen or so years of psychoanalytic work as an adult, I’m glad I didn’t. The counseling I underwent taught me many things, but perhaps most important of all, to accept myself as I am. My identity is no longer tied up in the arbitrarily rigid gender norms that I grew up with, and I find this so much more liberating than if I had gone under the knife and endured a lifetime medical regimen in order to conform to a physical ideal that I would have fallen short of anyway.
Gender fluidity is a state of mind, and a perfectly healthy one that needs no surgical augmentation.
Honestly, I think no one can make an informed choice who hasn’t had a sex life or gained significant social maturity beyond young adulthood. Not an easy message to impress upon young people who fervently believe that a sex change is the one thing they need in order to find fulfilment when they’ve gotten it from nothing else. But I’m willing to go out on a limb and risk being called a stodgy old fart and a buzzkill if I can persuade even one young person to reconsider. Next to getting myself some good counseling, it was the best decision I ever made.
Alex and I exchanged a few emails over “In the Darkroom,” Susan Faludi’s outstanding memoir of her reconciliation and short-lived relationship with her estranged father, following his gender change. I won’t share them; if Alex wants to, he knows where to do it. I highly recommend the book, by the way.
** Conversations with gay men on this topic all seem to end, maybe after a drink or three, with a lowered voice, a glance around to see who might overhear, and a confession that while they are supportive, etc., they sure seem to know a lot of hot-mess trans people. Maybe that’s because they’re treated so badly by others, so misunderstood. It can’t be easy.
** I know I’ll clash with some of you over this, but I’m a feminist who wonders why, once again, women are carrying most of the burden for all this societal enlightenment. Yes, I’m talking about That Swimmer, but also the issues J.K. Rowling is raising: What about women’s prisons? Domestic-violence shelters? What about…identity? Graham Linehan is affirmatively anti-trans, but it can be useful to check in with these folks from time to time. Do scroll through his recounting of the story of Jaclyn Moore, and make your own conclusions.
I’ve known radical feminists who are deeply offended by drag culture, who find it, at base, a mockery of womanhood. I’m not among them, but I feel that way about Jaclyn Moore, sorry.
** Speaking of identity, you know another bad actor in all this? The fucking Kardashians, who have steamrolled through the culture with this insane version of femininity that, had I confronted it at age 14 or so, might have made me call myself non-binary, too. The plastic surgery, the dieting, the fucking waist trainers, the laxative teas, the injections of fillers and plumpers and slimmers and all the rest of it — just fuck them all the way out of town. They are not helping. Has femininity always been this rigid? I thought we’d learned something during the ’70s, and here we are 50 years later, making the same mistakes.
** Language. Oy, the language. Here’s my declaration: I will never, ever be able to say “pregnant people” or “menstruating people” with a straight face. Never mind the they/them stuff. You should hear me talking to Kate about some of her friends, it’s like the who’s-on-first routine: “They’re going with you? X and who else?” etc. Language should make messages clear. This language does not.
Finally, I guess my conclusions are that I have no conclusions. I just have static. Some people are indeed walking around in a body that feels all wrong, and if they accommodate it in some way that doesn’t hurt others, that’s perfectly fine. Young people should be in counseling, maybe for years, before they undergo surgery or drugs that will leave them forever changed. And that’s it for me, for today. How’s everyone else doing today?
Deborah said on April 20, 2022 at 3:25 pm
Good post Nancy. It’s a subject I’ll probably never fully understand because I haven’t lived in it. I may think I fully understand racism and I think I’m certainly not racist and then I find myself thinking something completely racist, if I’m honest with myself. Way back in the 70s I heard a nurse speak who was an attendant for hundreds of births in hospitals, she described how surprised we would be about how many babies are born everyday that are hard to determine if they’re male or female, and that’s just from their physical characteristics. Anyway ever since then I’ve surmised there’s a gender spectrum that is complicated chemically, physically and mentally.
Funny, my husband and I were just discussing this recently because we had dinner with some friends who are politically far to the left of Eugene Debs and the wife of this couple discussed how appalled she was with the surgery trans people subject themselves to. It kind of surprised me when she of all people said that.
annie said on April 20, 2022 at 3:59 pm
The “they/them” drives me crazy too. Can’t we come up with another term that’s not so damn confusing?
jcburns said on April 20, 2022 at 4:05 pm
Yeah, I can’t get comfortable with “they” as a singular pronoun. Just. Can’t. Our language should have a way of referring to single humans in a gender-free way, but this isn’t it.
Julie Robinson said on April 20, 2022 at 4:06 pm
Static here too. When I read the WaPo essay I thought of a young transgender man who has started wearing wigs and feminine makeup now. As I wondered if there was regret I also thought it’s none of my business. Which is my general rule.
The millennial in this house hasn’t gotten rid of his Harry Potter books yet, but is boycotting all things Rowling including the new Fantastic Beasts movie.
Toxic masculinity as well as the loathsome style of femininity espoused by the Kardashians have much to answer for. The former leads to football programs and players like the story from the last post. When I finally read it I was physically ill, but I’ve seen it since I was young in my own community, where the players got away with everything. It’s why I’ve banned the sport from my home.
Jeff Borden said on April 20, 2022 at 4:09 pm
I suppose the camp where I feel most comfortable is among those who are “live and let live.” My adolescence as a geeky, wimpy straight white guy was bad enough and I never faced the kind of ugly behaviors so often directed at those in the LBGTQ community. In retrospect, I learned most teens experienced the same things I did while attempting to grow into adulthood. Who the hell am I to sneer at someone who is grappling with issues far more complicated and terrifying than an ability to find a date for a Friday night dance?
What I am certain of is that politics is a pretty shitty arena to discuss the issues. I’m nauseated by the antics of Fox types and other mouth-breathers working hard to demonize these people, but scare-mongering delivers the eyeballs and the revenues. What a fucking formula for success.
Sherri said on April 20, 2022 at 4:11 pm
I have a friend with a trans child, and I talked with her about her worries about whether she was doing the right thing for her child at every step, about what her child really needed, about the cost in terms of broken family relationships. This was a mom just doing the best she could to support a child who didn’t fit a conventional mold. What she didn’t need were a bunch of other people telling her what she was doing wrong. Just like anyher mom.
It would be a shock if there weren’t trans people who are a hot mess, given the climate.
On Instagram, I follow Janae Marie Kroczaleski, who describes herself as transgender/non-binary/gender fluid. She was the subject of the Netflix documentary Transformer. Before transitioning, she was a world class power lifter and bodybuilder, and has been open in her struggles in transitioning between wanting to become more feminine yet mourning the loss of the strength that had identified her. She has started and backed out of hormonal treatments before, and a recent post talked about the effects of 9 months of hormonal treatments on her body and her strength.
It’s complicated, because people are complicated. People are contradictory in their desires all the time. Biology is far from as simple as the anti-trans people want to paint it as well; there is no simple binary of gender in biology.
I don’t care whether Jaclyn Moore is a “real” woman, because I’m not going to define what a “real” woman is. That way lies trouble. As soon as you do that, you inflict harm. That’s what I care about: harm.
In the abstract, maybe there is the potential for harm to women by having trans women in womens prisons, or allowing trans women in womens sports. But the harms I already know about in those environments dwarf those potential abstract harms, and the harms to trans people dwarf those potential abstract harms. And the people pushing those potential abstract harms have shown no interest in the real harms in those environments. So no, I don’t tend to take them too seriously.
Suzanne said on April 20, 2022 at 4:21 pm
I admit to not really understanding transgenderism but I am bothered by adolescents having surgery and hormones and whatever else is involved. They aren’t mature enough to make that decision in my opinion, especially children. It’s why we have age limits on driving cars, joining the military, getting married (unless you live in TN), running for public office, etc. At that age, the brain is not fully formed and a person really knows so little about life. My heart does go out to the parents of those kids. What do you do? The best you can with what you know at the time.
I don’t know. It’s complicated and I lean toward live and let live but at the same time, making a decision at 12 or 16 that will completely change your life at its core seems like a maybe not the best idea. My heart goes out to the parents of these kids, though, because what do you do? The best that you can with the information you have and hope for a good outcome.
A different Connie said on April 20, 2022 at 4:29 pm
OT, did you see that Rod Dreher announced on his blog that his wife is divorcing him? I know not to exhalt about someone else’s divorce, and he writes the common line about not ever really knowing what’s going on in another’s marriage, but I can’t help but think that his wife got tired of the religion switching and Rod’s increasing shrillness about trans issues (see, not an entirely OT comment after all).
nancy said on April 20, 2022 at 4:59 pm
To be honest, I think that’s projecting. As I recall, when Rod religion-switched the last time, it was partly because his wife was so unhappy as a Catholic. And I doubt she’s that different from him on gender issues.
My money’s on the fact he’s just another dead weight in the marriage, a guy who leaves for months at a time, who writes thousands of words a day and probably never picks up a dish towel, a guy who publishes a book about the importance of forming Benedict-option communities who doesn’t even know his neighbors, because he’s always reading, writing or praying.
On further reflection, I’m struck by two things: The italicized insistence that no one was unfaithful — I mean, what difference does that make? — and the significance of 2013. What happened in 2013?
Jeff Gill said on April 20, 2022 at 5:00 pm
On trans adolescents, I really can’t say much other than “it’s complicated” but I relate to everything Nancy is saying above. I can say I’ve gone from 30 years of never seeing this issue to 10 years of seeing it regularly among youth to the last three years of a significant expansion of youth stating they are trans. Obviously, some of the earlier absence was lack of social acceptance of marginalities of all sorts. Yet some of the more recent expressions, and the back and forth nature of many of those requests, leave me thinking that drastic medical interventions really need to be applied with more care and process than I’m seeing, at least in central Ohio.
The observation about the Kardashian effect has me smacking myself in the head; that’s certainly part, even if only part of the phenomenon, but not an insignificant one. They make Barbie dolls seem benign by comparison.
David C said on April 20, 2022 at 5:25 pm
I know a trans woman who transitioned in her early 30s and thinks it’s the best thing she’s ever done. She hasn’t had surgery only hormone therapy. I knew her before transition and she was an alcoholic mess. She’s now sober and very happy. I can’t extrapolate from the one I know but for her, it saved her life. For kids, I just don’t know.
alex said on April 20, 2022 at 5:36 pm
One of the reasons this issue has some resonance for me personally, aside from the confession above, is that my brother’s 19-year-old daughter (now son) has been transitioning for the last two years. “They” never asked for my opinion and I never offered it.
But my brother solicited my thoughts at the beginning, and they were exactly the same as those expressed above. He was dismissive of everything I said and we haven’t spoken about it again. I’ll be supportive in any case, but still have strong reservations.
My brother has always been supportive of me and recognized just how awful the world was toward gay people when we were growing up. His daughter joined her high school LGBT+ club and he encouraged it. His family are Unitarians and he encouraged his kids to participate in the church’s sex-positive sex ed program and they did. He believes that his daughter, having come through this environment, is equipped to make this decision at this age.
Me, having been through extensive psychoanalysis, cannot see how anyone at 17 or 19 or even 25 can possibly have the maturity to make such a life-changing decision, especially if you haven’t experienced sex or dating. I doubt very much that my niece/nephew has sufficient background in that regard to make an informed choice, or has reflected deeply about why he/she wants what he/she wants.
Also, having lived through persecution as a young person, I can’t see how anyone would want to paint a giant target on their back. Even though the world has softened a bit, I’m living in terror at this very moment. Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham et al. are recasting gay people as “groomers” and are making it okay to hate gay people again for spurious reasons.
I advocate counseling. Psychotherapy, when done right, helps people to find their authentic selves. It helped me to realize that I’m not a female cursed with a male body, as I once thought, but a male who has been gifted with female sensibilities. And I didn’t have to mutilate my body before arriving at that realization.
Charlie (she/her) said on April 20, 2022 at 5:51 pm
I wish I felt like more than a drive-by commenter on this, I’ve been reading nn.com for years, all through my transition and years before that, but I almost never comment on any blog I do read.
I read stuff like this and I think back on the hardest years of my life, when I was making the hardest decisions of my life, and *of course* I had doubts, I had no idea what I was getting into. But one of the worst things was the fear that if I expressed worries to the wrong doctor the choice would be taken away from me.
I think there’s just nothing you can do but trust people to make their own decisions. I’m lucky enough now to have access to “informed consent” treatment (which explicitly treats the doctor’s role as an advisor) but lots of people still have to navigate a system where some old guy you’ve barely met makes decisions for you.
This is the way life works, you get as much advice as you can, you take as much time to think through your decision as you can, and then you pays your money and you takes your chances.
I’m old enough to remember when puberty blockers were a gift, because they were a way to actually get a few years of counseling that a kid needed without, say, their hips getting visibly wider with every passing month.
There’s been an active campaign to undermine this treatment by claiming it’s not reversible; I think the studies, going back to 1988 in Holland, clearly show it’s a huge benefit. Don’t forget that we milk-fed Americans start puberty about five years before the historical average anyway.
Watch out for the double-bind, too – delaying puberty is “extreme” but so are the surgeries needed to reverse puberty? (The hardest choice of all was getting the surgery that moved my eyebrows a half centimeter inwards. It cost five figures with no insurance coverage.)
Please please please please be *careful* when you say things like this. This is how backlash politics works. “Oh I support mumble mumble, but those extremists!” Please remember that right now, today, there are bills passed in Texas, Arkansas, and Alabama outright *banning* any care for trans youth.
We are not talking about hard cases, we are talking cases where the child, both parents, the family doctor, and multiple specialists are *all in agreement* but Governor Greg Abbot says no. We will have to get into the hard cases eventually, but that is not the fight that is going on right now.
alex said on April 20, 2022 at 6:55 pm
Nancy, I’m guessing that the significance of 2013 was the Windsor case demolishing the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”).
I wouldn’t put it past Dreher to blame gay marriage for ruining his marriage. Self-reflection was never his strong suit. Besides, he was always heavily invested in that ludicrous bit of demagoguery and now he can finally offer proof of at least one case.
Mark P said on April 20, 2022 at 7:51 pm
My main contact with sexual “otherness” was with a high school classmate who was fairly flamboyantly gay. I don’t know how the environment — a private boys’ prep school — affected things, but I don’t recall any mistreatment or even particular recognition of it. Of course, if you looked up “naive” in the dictionary you would find a picture of me. I should note that after I graduated, a predator started teaching there and was allowed to prey on young boys for years, despite some complaints by a few of the boys. It took about 40 years and a lawsuit to bring a settlement of that issue.
I’m no expert, but my understanding is that a homosexual is a person of a given sex who identifies as that sex, in whatever way, and is emotionally and sexually attracted to people of that same sex. A transsexual is a person of a given sex who feels that they are internally of the opposite sex, despite whatever genital features they may have. I think a transsexual may be attracted to a person of either sex. This is apparently supported by some research that finds that the genitalia are developed at an earlier stage than the brain, and conditions or genetics may cause development of the brain in a way different from the genitals.
All of this is overlaid on the complexity of sexual development and identity, which is definitely normally non-binary.
Charlie (she/her) said on April 20, 2022 at 8:25 pm
There was one of those big intra-community fights over “transsexual” vs “transgender” in the early 2000s; if you’ve ever seen “trans*” with the asterisk that’s what it’s alluding to. For a lot of people who transitioned after 2010 (including me) “transsexual” sounds weird and old-fashioned; I use “transgender.”
Julia Serano in 2007 I think suggested “transgender” for people whose internal sense of self didn’t match what the doctor put on their birth certificate vs “transsexual” for people undergoing medical procedures to change their body, but the distinction didn’t catch on.
So it goes I guess, especially with medical terms adopted by social groups. The original term Magnus Hirschfeld coined in the 30s was “true transvestite” which would probably be very offensive today.
And yes sense-of-gender vs attracted-to-gender seem to be two different axes, there’s a meme that being trans is just being, like, really really gay but in real life you get all sorts.
See also “How can you be a woman if you don’t like wearing dresses?” which, as a trans woman who’s never liked dresses, I get quite a lot, sometimes from like actual MDs.
LAMary said on April 20, 2022 at 8:45 pm
The they/their/them thing always makes me think of my ex. Whenever he explained where he was going and referred some other person involved in the trip/dinner/whatever as “them” I knew it was a woman he was seeing.
Back on topic: I have many gay friends from high school, college, my brief time toying with getting an MFA. Two of them occasionally dress as women but I doubt they ever considered surgery. Several are married to members of the same sex. Maybe they’re too old to have considered transgender surgery an option when they were younger but I think that they all hit a certain age when they were comfortable with their lives. The two actors, the painter, the theatre teacher, the woman who tests recipes for cookbooks, the lawyer who is politically active in Brooklyn, my dentist… all seem ok. They seem pretty comfortable in their skin. Maybe this wouldn’t be so if they had done anything drastic 50 years ago.
Sherri said on April 20, 2022 at 9:12 pm
Charlie, thanks for your comments. I appreciate them.
I’m no more comfortable with putting in legal requirements for counseling before puberty blockers than I am with all the various requirements that have been put in place before abortion, because they make assumptions that aren’t always valid. Hell, I’m not transgender, but as someone who went through puberty at a very young age, puberty blockers don’t sound like a bad idea to me at all! I would have rather not have started developing breasts at 9.
Ideally, every child would have access to quality, supportive counseling, but I don’t see anybody trying to block trans kids’ access to care proposing an investment in mental health care.
Charlie (she/her) said on April 20, 2022 at 9:13 pm
I really want to be a visible counterexample here because, after all, in my teens I told a doctor how I often wished I was a girl; I got back “ah well, some boys do feel like that but it usually goes away.”
My twenties are mostly a fog, I was pretty severely depressed, but if you knew me then you’d think I was one of these kids who had gender-variant feelings that went away as I got older. In fact I was repressing. I had another false start at 30 before I finally started treatment at 34.
I don’t want to deny anyone else’s experience here but I just want to be around to show that a system that works for some people really, really doesn’t work for others.
And I’d argue that my going through the wrong endogenous puberty is the same sort of mistake as someone getting prescribed hormones and going through the wrong exogenous puberty. Same lifelong consequences, just a different direction.
The hope is that we can try and give people as much space as biologically possible to explore and decide for themselves, and try not to shut off *any* path prematurely. Minimizing this sort of mistake is the goal, but we can never eliminate it completely as long as people have choices.
Sherri, I’m really sorry to hear that; I’m sure you know puberty blockers were developed for cases like yours! And much better studied in endogenous puberty, too. We trans folk are a side story.
Charlie said on April 20, 2022 at 9:29 pm
Charlie, I loved your comment. I think that your phrase “Oh I support mumble mumble, but those extremists!” Is an important one for everyone here to hear. People are using rare or non existent cases to pass laws that are very destructive. Sherry, I think your attention to harm is very important. That is how to evaluate law and policy. Nancy why does Jaclyn Moore offend you? A person dresses a certain way and quit her job because she disagreed with her boss. Who was harmed? Also folks, sorry but in English singular they predates plural they.
BigHank53 said on April 20, 2022 at 9:35 pm
The more significant thing that happened to Dreher’s marriage in 2013 is that he moved his family from NYC to rural Louisiana after inheriting some family property there. Bit of a culture shock. His wife was stuck home-schooling the three kids while Dreher…wrote. He started (and hastily deleted) a crappy local racist blog, strip-mined his deceased sister’s diaries for a book, and continued churning out his turgid hand-wringing screeds. I can’t imagine that someone whose entire stock in trade consists of moaning about how put-upon he is, boo-hoo, is any more sufferable in person.
alex said on April 20, 2022 at 9:59 pm
I’ve known M to F transgenders who were heterosexual and remained with their female spouses after transitioning and were happy. I’ve known some who were gay who didn’t find happiness in gay world and ended up not finding happiness in trans world either.
And I’ve known very few F to M other than my niece, who remains petite with an hourglass shape but has become androgynous and has a voice like a 13-year-old boy. “They” seem to love it, for now.
So, anecdotally anyway, the only people I’ve ever heard expressing regrets were those who realized that on balance being gay wasn’t such a bad thing.
Diane said on April 20, 2022 at 11:19 pm
It took me awhile to get used to the singular ‘they’ thing but when I thought about it I realized that we use they all the time in English when we don’t know someone’s gender. “I don’t know who called, they hung up before I could answer.” So if ‘they’ works when we don’t know a person’s gender why shouldn’t it be fine when a person’s gender doesn’t fit he or she?
Sherri said on April 21, 2022 at 12:43 am
Once I realized how much English usage was just badly mimicking Latin with a Germanic language, I became much more of a descriptivist than a prescriptivist. Singular they has never bothered me, but then I grew up with y’all, and “correct” English usage fails to distinguish between singular and plural second person. So usage clearly isn’t just about clear communication.
Gretchen said on April 21, 2022 at 4:22 am
BigHank53- it’s amazing how folks like Dreher proclaim that women should give up all their own ambitions and devote themselves to family, while the men can pursue fulfillment, and then are surprised when women don’t like that deal. You stay home, cook, clean, homeschool the kids because I don’t trust those evil government schools, but I am too busy doing Important Work to help with any of that mundane stuff.
Jeff Gill said on April 21, 2022 at 7:28 am
Shakespeare uses they for a singular reference; I am perfectly content to use that one, while zhe leaves me a little befuddled . . . but I’ve used it. With respect, I do see clusters spring up (one juvenile states they are in transition and then two or three of their friends state they’re transitioning as well) where I have questions, to which I’m open to a variety of possible answers. And the predominance of female to male cases among young people going through a variety of personal & social & physical stresses has me, in candor, proceeding cautiously. We still make it hard for young women in public school settings in so many ways.
nancy said on April 21, 2022 at 9:07 am
Yes, thanks to all who are participating, and especially to Charlie s/h. Welcome! Some areas of static are clearer now, but others remain.
As for the soon-to-be-single Mr. Dreher, I believe the moves were: NYC-Dallas-Philadelphia-Louisiana. As I recall, he described his wife (a native Texan) as delighted by the move, which put her back in her beloved Souf’, as well as in the storied small town all conservatives believe to be the font of goodness and virtue in American life.
My guess is, the 2013 action was the move from the li’l town to Baton Rouge, which I believe was done because the kids were getting older, and needed a more formal school structure, but of course couldn’t be placed in anything other than a well-padded educational cell. So they went for one of those classical-Christian academies, and I believe Mrs. D teaches there now.
I’m sticking by my belief that Rod is simply a useless lump, another child to care for, but one Mrs. D also has to have sex with. All those blogs about his mono acting up, or his Reynaud’s, or whatever other sniffles he’s afflicted with, which require him to take to his bed for 12 or 14 hours? I’m sympathetic to chronic illness, but man, that can’t be easy, especially when he’s always well enough to fuck off to Europe for four weeks, or months, or the better part of a year. They have something like three kids, mostly older now, but running a household with a full-time job is WORK. You need a partner, not a self-obsessed religious freak.
Go with God, Mrs. D.
Charlie (she/her) said on April 21, 2022 at 10:29 am
Clusters do really sometimes happen, or suggestive coincidences at least; I’ve heard stories of people looking up a best friend from elementary school and finding they’d *also* transitioned.
My own funny story is that I was trialing testosterone blockers and planning to start estrogen, trying to work up my courage to tell HR, when to my flabbergasted shock the person who sat at the desk next to mine came out as a trans man.
We’d barely spoken beyond office chatter and we never found any common thread that could have had us starting treatment within months of each other. But we sure made years of jokes about how weird it was!
(He’s now bought a house in the Scottish highlands and his social media is full of pictures of him hiking in the snow.)
These are funny stories and not any sort of data obviously, though I know kids often seek out peers for help and advice coming out in a way that can make parents get the timeline wrong. (“My kid started hanging out with the gay/straight alliance and now he says he’s gay!” Well, yes. But t’other way ‘round.)
Probably the kids in groups you know actually have this same worry as you – “am I doing this just to impress my friends?” You can’t do much other than try and be someone they can talk frankly with and give them as much help navigating as you can.
Jeff Gill said on April 21, 2022 at 10:56 am
“You can’t do much other than try and be someone they can talk frankly with and give them as much help navigating as you can.”
Amen, Charlie. That’s the need.
The Trans Person Who Knows Who She Is said on April 21, 2022 at 10:59 am
As the trans person with whom Nancy recently shared an evening (waves back), I have … thoughts.
Charlie (she/her), your story sounds a lot like mine. Not every “trans” person knows, but I can remember as far back as 4 or 5 years old, wrapping a bath towel around me to pretend it was a dress, and being told to stop that, “boys don’t do that.”
I was chastised for playing with dolls and stuffed animals, and for acting too “effeminate.” Dad made me sign up for Little League baseball in hopes it would “straighten me out.” (I always say, “I still throw like a girl, but not like the kind of girl who knows how to throw things.”)
All through high school, I had long, blow-dried hair and wore clothes that were “a little too colorful” for boys. At least I learned to defend myself in a fight, because I got my ass kicked a few times.
As a result, my 20s were more or less a depressing fog, too, where I tried to butch up as much as possible. (Hey, I’ll grow a beard! I’ll wear macho hats! I’ll fake more of an interest in “guy” stuff, like guns and sports!)
All it did was push me deeper and deeper into the closet, until I was about 30 and finally either needed to come out or end it all.
(And yes, I know lots of women like guns and sports, and boys can play with dolls and stuffed animals. But I knew I was “girly” a long time before I knew what sex was, or what gender was, or what genitals were used for. I’m just saying, for a lot of us, we know very early on that we’re not the gender we were assigned, just as much as you non-transgender folks know you’re not a tree.)
Little Bird said on April 21, 2022 at 11:05 am
I somehow ended up with several trans friends, and a number of non-binary friends as well. This doesn’t even count the gay/bi/poly friends. I’m Ace, something I didn’t figure out until just a few years ago (I’m 47), and honestly sexuality seems to be a spectrum. And it’s really no one else’s business at all.
As for they/them, it’s really not that hard.
Jeff Borden said on April 21, 2022 at 11:07 am
With all the terrible political news emanating from Macomb County and other looney MAGAt territories in Michigan, it was refreshing to see and hear State Sen. Mallory McMorrow blast the cretinous slander of a QOPer who labeled her “a groomer.” It is an epic takedown and worthy of your attention. It’s how to respond to hateful assholes.
The Trans Person Who Knows Who She Is said on April 21, 2022 at 11:15 am
I understand why people react badly to puberty blockers for children under age 18, but honestly, if I would have had a chance to not grow the heavy beard I have, I would have leapt at it.
For a transgender woman, there is nothing hormones can do to reverse male pattern baldness, a heavy beard shadow, large hands or a deep voice, all of which developed for me before I was 21, and all of which are “tells” for me. Every time I open my mouth, I’m afraid someone is going to hurt me. (A common backhanded compliment I get is, “I couldn’t even tell, until you started talking.” Gee, thanks, I guess.)
Deborah said on April 21, 2022 at 11:30 am
May I say this is one of the best of Nancy’s posts and comment threads ever.
The Trans Person Who Knows Who She Is said on April 21, 2022 at 11:33 am
P.S.: One last thing … Charlie (she/her), I help moderate a private support group of trans folks and their families. Mostly mtf but some ftm and non-binary folks. Nance has my email if you want an invite, or DM me on Twitter — I’m @trishmifflin
We also have a monthly Zoom happy hour, where LGBTQ stuff is generally the least of the things we talk about (could be politics, movies, work, homebuying or any other topic), and it’s open to any friend of Nancy’s. Same deal — DM me and I’ll put you on the email list.
Bitter Scribe said on April 21, 2022 at 11:37 am
Nancy, regarding puberty blockers: I understand your squeamishness about them, but they’re really a way of delaying gender-reassigning (i.e., genital-altering) surgery for a few years to allow the child more time and maturity to decide.
Vox ran a terrific article on this a few years ago, which like an ass I forgot to bookmark. Basically, it says that making a transgender girl go through puberty as a boy ensures that she will grow up with a man’s frame, broad shoulders, an Adams apple, etc. — in other words, the secondary sex characteristics that freak out transphobes. Puberty blockers buy her a few more years to decide, so that if she does go for full gender reassignment, she’ll grow up looking more feminine.
TBH, if I had a transgender child, I don’t know what I’d do, except fret a lot. But I damn sure wouldn’t want Ron DeShithead making my, and my child’s, decisions for us.
Julie Robinson said on April 21, 2022 at 11:59 am
The Floriduh Dept of Health just announced it will not support any services to trans kids. Not only no hormone blockers, but opposition to allowing them to dress as they prefer, and I suppose use the bathrooms they prefer. The article didn’t specify that.
Yesterday the Orange County Health Commissioner resigned from his state position and will now be working in a similar position for the county, paid by the county, not the state. This is the man who sent an email around to his staff imploring them to get vaccinated and was punished by DeathSantis as a result. I’m thinking the trans ruling also affected his decision.
Off-topic but important here, our household can no longer say we’ve avoided Covid, with two positive tests this morning. Whether or not it was our second boosters, we three oldsters were negative. And if I may gripe for a moment, the self tests were very difficult for my 89 yo mom to negotiate. She couldn’t read the instructions (small, light gray print), see the lines on the fluid bottle, open the fluid bottle, squeeze out the sample, etc. Needed lots of help along with lots of hand washing and now I feel nauseous.
Which leads me to another question–we got the free kits from the federal government, but now have only three left, which won’t even cover another round of testing for the five of us. I seem to remember that Medicare recipients can also get some OTC, but the process for that seems murky. If anyone knows you could potentially save me some time in the hunt.
Sherri said on April 21, 2022 at 1:10 pm
Even as a child, I was very introspective, and even in a conservative family in the South, without the help of any counseling or anyone to discuss it with, I remember questioning my gender. I was always a tomboy, preferred playing with trucks to playing with dolls, and cried when I was told I couldn’t play Little League because I was a girl. In my imaginary play, my alter ego was a boy named Tom. So, without any awareness of transgenderism, I wondered whether I was really supposed to be a boy. At some point, I accepted that I was a girl, just a little unusual, and I’ve never had any desire to be a man.
If I had had access to counseling and parents who were accepting of such questioning, might I have decided I was meant to be a boy? Maybe, I don’t know. Obviously, it would have drastically changed my life, but who can say whether it would have been good or bad. My current life is good, but I was a suicidal alcoholic at one point in this life, too, so…
Protecting kids from messages that tell them that they are intrinsically bad and broken is much more important than protecting them from puberty blockers or other medical interventions. Telling them that they shouldn’t feel what they feel does far more damage than any medical intervention.
Icarus said on April 21, 2022 at 1:20 pm
Deborah @ 33: indeed. I was Today’s years old when I learned about puberty blockers. Am I correct that they are like Viagra: invented to solve one problem but found to mitigate another?
jcburns said on April 21, 2022 at 2:51 pm
Very reassuring to hear this discussion play out. Little Bird, I didn’t say it’s “hard” to deal with “they/them”, I was saying it feels like making a grammar mistake on purpose. Something I don’t want to do.
Little Bird said on April 21, 2022 at 3:24 pm
jc, fair point, I wasn’t speaking about anyone specifically, I run into a lot of people in my area that complain about it.
Julie Robinson said on April 21, 2022 at 4:33 pm
Okay, PSA time! If you’re on Medicare you can get eight home Covid tests per month. Take your Medicare card and any supplement or advantage plan card you have, as the billing seems to be a bit tricksy. D and I have the same insurance, but his wasn’t accepted so they’ll have to call in and get approval. Still, after about an hour, we got eight for me and eight for Mom, which is about $400 retail.
Not all pharmacies have them in stock; I had to call three different places. But I highly recommend laying in a store of them in advance, before you start feeling crummy.
Our laddie was to be in three concerts this weekend, so tomorrow is definitely off. If he tests negative Saturday he can perform on Sunday. (Is that smart? Not according to me!) Our tickets are nonrefundable but the venue will give us a credit.
None of this is how I thought I would spend my day today.
Snarkworth said on April 21, 2022 at 4:55 pm
I agree with Deborah @33.
alex said on April 21, 2022 at 5:20 pm
Basically, it says that making a transgender girl go through puberty as a boy ensures that she will grow up with a man’s frame, broad shoulders, an Adams apple, etc. — in other words, the secondary sex characteristics that freak out transphobes.
And I had this fantasy, well into adulthood, that I could be transformed into a passable cisgender woman, relocate to some faraway city, invent a story to explain my past, and never divulge my secret to anyone including my future husband and in-laws. How naive I was. And reflecting back on it, that would have been a life of deceit which totally goes against my grain now. I guess I was influenced by reading things like Myra Breckenridge.
From earliest childhood I showed a strong preference for interests and pursuits deemed feminine. I was roundly castigated for it, and for refusing to embrace what others wanted to impose upon me. And I spent four years in military school, which didn’t break me, at least not the way that was intended.
I’m glad the world is so much more enlightened now, and that there’s so much less assigning of negative value judgments to feminine versus masculine and to children who don’t conform to gender expectations, but I still think counseling is important. I think everyone could benefit from it, not just those who feel misgendered.
Dexter Friend said on April 21, 2022 at 5:41 pm
Ya think this tune would get radio airplay today?
ROGirl said on April 21, 2022 at 5:48 pm
Mallory McMorrow is my state senator.
Shirley P said on April 21, 2022 at 7:43 pm
The News Sentinel was my favorite paper. Not sure if the Pat Parsley
Column was in it or the Journal.
I remember her short lived Columns. I loved it.
I got Zoli’s soup, and Casa Salad dressing recipe’s and have been making them for years.
Sad that the News Sentinel paper didn’t survive.
Thanks for the old memories for this old lady.
Shirley from Fort Wayne,IN
Deborah said on April 21, 2022 at 8:57 pm
The Trans Person Who Knows Who She Is, I followed you on Twitter, I hope that’s OK. I’ve learned a lot already from reading your past posts on your account. Thanks. If anyone who has other places to learn more please let me know. I have a lot to learn.
JS said on April 21, 2022 at 9:41 pm
Thanks for this, Nancy. I want to reread it and read all the comments when I don’t have a project due. Totally agree with you on “why, once again, women are carrying most of the burden for all this societal enlightenment. Yes, I’m talking about That Swimmer, but also the issues J.K. Rowling is raising: What about women’s prisons? Domestic-violence shelters?” We’re not supposed to even raise questions about this without being shrieked at as being bigots. After decades of being the proverbial card-carrying member of the ACLU, I dropped my membership a year ago because free speech apparently doesn’t matter anymore if you dare voice concern and raise questions about biologic males who self-identify as women who demand access to spaces where girls and women should be able to feel safe.
Nancy P said on April 22, 2022 at 8:53 am
Charlie (she/her), thank you for your comments! My college freshman just started on testosterone, and is SO HAPPY. Of course I worry about their health and safety, and would anyway, but I will fight anyone who says they need a couple more years of counseling. It’s a different world out there now! Don’t give DeSantis any “mumble mumble” support.
alex said on April 22, 2022 at 9:01 am
I don’t support DeSantis, mumble-mumble or otherwise. I also think concern a la Rowling about trans people using restrooms for prurient reasons is nonsense. But I advocate for counseling nonetheless.
Jeff Borden said on April 22, 2022 at 10:35 am
For journalists and those who enjoy a good story about journalism. . .
The elimination of the special tax district by Gov. DeathSantis and his GOP goons reminded me of a wonderful book by Carl Hiassen, the Miami Herald columnist and crime novelist, called “Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the
World.” The 1998 book contained one of the most astonishing anecdotes about journalism I’ve ever read.
The Walt Disney Co. was gobbling up land around Orlando in the mid- to late 1960s, often using shell corporations, at extremely low prices. At some point, the Orlando Sentinel found out who was behind those efforts. As Hiassen told the tale, Disney executives called executives at the Sentinel with a warning. If they reported on Disney’s land grab –a move that would hugely increase the per acre cost if the public were clued in– the company would pull out and find another location, depriving the area of an enormous money generating machine that would employ thousands and supercharge the local economy. According to Hiassen, the Sentinel kept quiet until Disney was good and ready to announce its plans.
I’ve always kind of marveled at this. Was the Sentinel correct in protecting Disney because it resulted in a sprawling enterprise that generates economic activity of $75 billion in central Florida every year? Or, did the Sentinel betray the most basic tenets of journalism by keeping its readers in the dark and allowing Team Rodent to suck up properties cheaply? It’s a decision I’m happy not to have confronted, but in my bones, I think the newspaper erred by covering up a huge story. I imagine the thousands who have benefitted from Disney’s investment would strongly disagree.
Nancy P said on April 22, 2022 at 10:43 am
Alex, my fear is that in Florida, it’s a short and slippery slope from required counseling (who decides what kind and how long?) to “conversion therapy.”
Charlie (she/her) said on April 22, 2022 at 10:50 am
I alluded to this, but it might be worth saying that there are two kinds of encounters with therapists that happen in gender medicine:
A) “I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions, possibly pretty invasive, and at the end I will tell you if I diagnose you with 302.65 Gender Dysphoria and what, if any, treatment I prescribe.”
B) “We’re going to talk for a while, about whatever you’re worried about, and I will give you my honest opinion as a professional, but the decision on what to do will be yours.”
The UK NHS (for example) uses type A and, well, there are guides online to what questions they ask and what answers they’re expecting. It’s not useful counseling, it’s a hoop to jump through.
Type B can be incredibly useful to help sort through your feelings and figure out what you want, without the fear of being denied treatment.
There’s a world of difference between “I wish I was a girl because my parents would stop taking away my Barbies” “I wish I was a girl because I could wear pretty clothes and makeup” and “I wish I was a girl because my body parts are in the wrong places.” And I’m pretty sure every woman thinks “I wish I didn’t live in a sexist world” at least a few times in her life.
The job of a good gender therapist is to help disentangle and get to the roots of all these different feelings, so that their patients can work out what steps might help.
This can be really valuable, it was for me, but *requiring* makes it very much harder to have a healthy doctor/patient relationship.
Nancy P said on April 22, 2022 at 11:10 am
Charlie (she/her), I appreciate your contribution. And I’m feeling lucky my kid had a Type B therapist.
Sherri said on April 22, 2022 at 11:38 am
There’s a huge lack of counseling services already for kids. Even in an area like mine, near a major city with lots of health care resources, it can be really difficult to get in to see a counselor who treats kids, much less one who specializes in an area like gender. Requiring treatment is just putting up a barrier because of other people’s discomfort, not for the protection of the children.
I agree that it is a good idea to seek counseling, but forced treatment is seldom a good idea.
Sherri said on April 22, 2022 at 11:45 am
JS, free speech has never protected you from being called a bigot. Free speech means that if you dare voice concern about the safety of women’s spaces from trans women, people who disagree with you can call you a transphobe.
I’m sorry you dropped your membership, but even sorrier that decades of ACLU never taught you what free speech was.
alex said on April 22, 2022 at 12:12 pm
Nancy P and Charlie s/h, I hope you know that I wouldn’t want counseling to be compulsory and certainly not something that the state would have any involvement with. I’m trying to encourage people to find a counselor, not even a gender counselor necessarily, who’s a good fit for them, and I know from experience how difficult that piece can be.
I’ll share that I sought help as a teen from my own community mental health system and it might have screwed me up even worse than I was feeling already. I got passed around by a bunch of younger clinicians who didn’t want to deal with me because they’d had “no experience with my particular issues” (or, more likely, were just plain fucking freaked out). I had older clinicians who were virulently anti-gay and insisted that I was being willfully defiant and just needed to “stop it.” Stop it? I would have gladly stopped being gay at that time if they could have told me how. It was making me a pariah. But they had no real advice in that regard, just empty anti-gay rhetoric. And then there was one psychologist in the place who slept with me when I was a minor, although I’d never been assigned to him as a client.
After all of that, I pretty much gave up on psychology as a total crock. During a particularly depressed phase of my life many years later, a friend (who was no doubt tired of me dumping on her with my problems) referred me to her shrink. I took a chance on it. Not only was it a good fit, it was the best thing I ever did for myself and our work together lasted many years, until I pretty much hit a plateau and was ready to navigate the world on my own with a new sense of self-confidence and a completely different sense of identity than I’d begun with. I learned how to tear down a lot of dysfunctional defense mechanisms and unhealthy habits of mind and and found I had a whole range of alternatives besides fight or flight with which to deal with others.
So that’s what shapes my perspective. And I don’t think I could have gotten there any earlier in life. But that’s just me. And I share it if it can be of any benefit to anyone.
FDChief said on April 22, 2022 at 1:33 pm
On the subject of trans people; are there people who are going to be troubled on the issues of sexuality and gender? Are there people who will be confused, or make mistakes, or do things that they might regret?
(Or not. But that’s not really the point)
The point being; is any of that none of your business, or mine, or anyone’s business but theirs and the people who care about them?
People are complicated. All people – cis, trans, het, non-het, binary, non-binary. Some may be more complicated than others. But either way, it’s the height of arrogance to barge into their lives uninvited and start opining about them, their choices, their lives…
Like anything else that neither picks my or your pockets nor breaks our legs, our most appropriate posture is sitting quietly drinking a nice hot cup of STFU.
I mean…this has been a good and respectful discussion. But why are we even discussing this, other than a bunch of looney wingnuts are screeching about it in public?
Since the whole reason we’re even discussing this is because wingnuts are screeching about it, while we ponder the whole business it’s important to remember that:
1. Wingnuts in 2022 believe things about people, gender, and sex that would be embarrassingly vile and ignorant in a 15th Century Spanish Inquisitor, and
2. Wingnuts don’t want you to think that, so they’ll find something anodyne to cloak their vile ignorance in.
So the current hysteria about everything non-cis-het is all about finding ways to get their hatred and loathing of everyone they find icky into the conversation by linking “trans-people-gay-people-child-molesting”.
That’s as genuine as linking model trains with oenophilia, but they don’t care, anymore than they really care about their lies regarding the Affordable Care Act, Black people, the 2020 election, and the robust manliness of Donald Trump.
It’s performance art, pure bullshit, they’re good at it, and by spending time even discussing this (rather than telling them to STFU and leave other people alone…)
I’m perfectly fine with everyone who’s not me living their lives the way they want (unless it involves stuff like driving drunk or experimenting with the public use of high explosives – picking pockes, breaking legs…) so I have absolutely nothing to add to the issues of human sexuality other than “Good luck. Call me when you figure it out.”
The Trans Person Who Knows Who She Is said on April 22, 2022 at 2:57 pm
Shorter JS: “I could read the comments here from actual trans people and actual families with trans kids — but I haven’t, so here’s my opinion anyway”
I don’t “demand access” to women’s spaces. I mostly just want the right to exist and be left alone. I want my spouse to be left alone. I don’t want to lose my job if my employer decides they don’t like transgender people. I’m not a predator. I’m sorry my existence is threatening to you, but I agree with Sherri, maybe the ACLU wasn’t your speed.
Mssr. Coffee said on April 22, 2022 at 3:13 pm
Interesting. Douthat gets the Strange New Respect award from the proprietress, and the proprietress gets the Strange New Respect award from me. Not complete agreement, but 80%-ish. I freely admit that I was surprised.
Jeff Gill said on April 22, 2022 at 3:14 pm
Veering off, I hope not into a ditch, but to the issue at hand: in general, I wish state legislatures would stop defining and requiring and restricting matters of education in general. Because in the last four decades of working with the intersections of policy and curriculum and students, I can’t say they have ever really been helpful. Obviously there’s a case to be made that some legislators have no intention of being helpful, and are attempting to add obligations and mandates to public education in order to stymie and even end the institution of public education. But the general trend to having state law mandate specifics of curriculum and credits and classes and graduation requirements has been largely well-intended in my view, but utterly unsuccessful and usually counter-productive.
Whether you agree with that last or not, the question raises a bigger issue: when should state law dictate educational matters? It barely did back in the bygone days a century and more ago when effectively no state money went to education . . . and when all education funding to pay teachers, build school houses, and purchase textbooks came from local sources, local school boards could be muddleheaded narrowminded obtuse obstructionists. So it’s not like it was really better then. At least in Ohio, we started seeing state dollars flow to local schools in the 1920s to build better and bigger buildings, then an increased formula to supplement property tax revenue, and as state percentages went up, state mandates grew in parallel with where the dollars went.
And now we have federal dollars (less than most think, mostly through lunch/nutrition supports, hence the confusion of education policy through the Department of Agriculture at times) which as they increase, including the slugs of cash coming in through CARES Act initiatives, draw with them more interest in additional federal mandates on what gets taught and when and by whom.
So we end up with federal and state micromanagement of how attendance is taken and what absences are excused (my daily bread), along with how counseling and medical interventions are made available, as well as detailed prescriptions for teaching financial literacy and Constitution Day and substance abuse awareness. Teachers (I have a couple in my house) are increasingly forced to teach within tightly defined lanes, with minimal latitude for branching out of the mandated curriculum standards.
So going back to local control and teacher “freedom” is both false as to ever been the case, and futile in terms of being a status we could or would want to go back to. I don’t know between state boards of ed and Statehouse lobbyists or federal bureaucrats where I’d like to see curriculum and criteria generated — but the more you tightly control the school year and day through legislative fiat, the less you end up with the best possible education for the greatest number. I’d like to see more local control, knowing that it will be abused in some areas but used to benefit in others, but concede there have to be some kind of channel markers for what a high school diploma consists of for completion. It felt like we were there a generation ago, but the steady increase of “every student must” legislation is choking the life out of education, and now we’ve got political factions making wedge issues out of funding and mandates.
I haven’t come to any grand conclusion here, I’m just wanting to affirm the basic value of public education in general, and liberal arts formation in particular. How we fund it and govern it is where we’re picking up debates over what else can be done at school, and as we shift safety net programs into public education especially for juveniles, I gather we’re now stuck having to litigate social issue debates alongside the funding battles out of Statehouse. It would be better if we were discussing how we fund better children’s and youth medical services, for physical and mental health, in a separate institution . . . but we keep making public ed, especially high schools, into a Swiss Army knife that does almost everything but none of it very well.
Dorothy said on April 22, 2022 at 3:48 pm
I agree with what Deborah said @33. As soon as I read Nancy’s entry, I knew immediately that the comments would be numerous, intelligent, informative and create vigorous conversation! It’s taken me a long time to read through all these comments, and I appreciate very much the time everyone has taken to explain so much and the patience you’re showing with those of us who are trying to understand such new ‘territory.’
I have an older cousin (Tim) who has two adult children, both born female. The younger one is trans. We live in different cities but I can see how his appearance has evolved and A has a beard and looks male in every photo I’ve seen. I guess it helps that his dad (my cousin) is 6’7 – both of Tim’s kids are over 6 feet tall. The trans young man is very happy, his parents love him, his sister loves him, and has been accepted (as much as I can tell) in our very large family. I often wonder what his grandparents would think, though (my aunt and uncle). I also know a few folks at the University where I used to work who have trans kids – including the president of the Uni. Of course academics have a tendency to be more open-minded and informed than the general population.
There’s nothing quite like learning and growing as we age, and I hope that I’ll be able to be open minded and willing to listen to subjects like this for a long time. Getting crotchety and cranky as I age just would not be the real me.
I have to admit that when I was a teenager and found out about sex and what it meant to be gay, etc., I distinctly recall my reaction to other people finding fault with such issues as gayness. “What you do in the privacy of your own house is not anyone’s business, right?! As long as no one is being hurt or held against their will, what people do in their bedrooms is no one else’s business!” I still feel that way and am amazed every day that such issues are spoken about so often and with such withering hatred and disdain. STFU indeed!!
Sherri said on April 22, 2022 at 3:57 pm
There is much I could say in response to Jeff Gill’s comment, which I agree with, but it really boils down to this: as a country, we don’t care about a social safety net, and don’t really care about children. Teaching, child care, etc, are low status professions mostly held by women, and they aren’t important. They’re not job creators, after all! Far more important to keep that carried interest loophole for private equity managers than to fund services for children!!
Bitter Scribe said on April 22, 2022 at 5:00 pm
Regarding the supposed issue of safety in women’s prisons:
Think of the danger that a trans woman would pose to women in a women’s prison. Consider the odds that she will do serious harm to another inmate there.
Then think of the danger of putting that trans woman in a men’s prison. Think of the odds that the other inmates will do her serious harm.
If you don’t understand that the danger in No. 2 is far greater than the danger in No. 1, then I’m sorry, but you need to inform yourself better before we can even have a conversation about this.
Jeff Borden said on April 22, 2022 at 5:01 pm
Those are some of the truest and saddest sentences written about our country and its stance on children and mothers.
David C said on April 22, 2022 at 5:48 pm
I don’t recall ever hearing about any woman being harmed by a trans woman in any rest room, or locker room ever. I hear of men like Limbaugh and Huckabee fantasizing about going into women’s rest rooms and lockers by claiming they’re identifying as women. So maybe the larger problem isn’t trans women, it’s men?
When the governor of Utah vetoed that state’s anti trans law he actually checked and there are only two trans student athletes in the whole state one M to F and one F to M if I recall right. Does anyone really believe that a male athlete who can’t keep up in men’s/boy’s sports is going to start taking testosterone blockers and estrogen to win school athletic events? It’s crazy to think that, yet that seems to be what they’re thinking. So their solutions are solutions in search of a problem.
alex said on April 22, 2022 at 5:56 pm
And in furtherance to what Bitter Scribe just said at 64, I’d like to say:
Hey guys! I’m a biological male who likes dick and I get to see your schlongs when you’re shaking the dew off over the trough. Bet you wish I were using the women’s room instead.
Sherri said on April 22, 2022 at 6:08 pm
Kentucky outdid Utah in its transphobia. Kentucky’s bill banning trans athletes affected just one athlete, a trans girl who had started a field hockey team at her school, because there wasn’t a field hockey team for girls. Now she can’t play on it.
David C said on April 22, 2022 at 6:15 pm
Alex for the win.
FDChief said on April 22, 2022 at 6:17 pm
Bringing up the hoary old “but what about the ladies room?!?” trope just reminds my how much good money I’d pay if Margie Taylor Greene got her bell rung in the House ladies’ can by a grumpy Cambodian ladyboy in a cocktail frock.
Scout said on April 22, 2022 at 6:54 pm
This entire discussion has been extremely thought provoking and sometimes just provoking. I know several trans people and none of them undertook their decisions lightly. They did what they felt they had to do to be able to live authentically and happily. The whole sports and bathrooms thing is just an excuse to justify ignorance at best and bigotry at worst. I’m way more terrified of men with shaved heads and tats sporting their long guns and driving around in ginormous trucks with Let’s Go Brandon stickers than any person who chose to go through emotional and physical pain in order to be who they feel they really are.
alex said on April 22, 2022 at 7:19 pm
“He who smelt it dealt it,” as the kiddos like to say.
Same story for those who accuse others of being homosexuals.
But what are we to make of this? Madison Cawthorn, who says there’s “only one God and two genders” seems to be having it both ways, it seems.
Sherri said on April 22, 2022 at 7:29 pm
Even with the hypocrisy, that barely rates on the Madison Cawthorn scale. After all, we’re talking about a man who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women and who lied about the friend who pulled him out of the car wreck that left him paralyzed, telling the story that he had been left for dead in a fiery car crash.
alex said on April 22, 2022 at 7:34 pm
Sherri, maybe that was the cocaine and sex orgy he was remembering.
Deborah said on April 22, 2022 at 7:50 pm
I’m sure I mentioned this before but the design firm I worked for before I retired did the design for the Center on Halsted in Chicago and that was one of my projects. It’s an LGBTQ+ facility for all kinds of meetings and get togethers. We didn’t put male or female designations on the restrooms, even the multi-stall ones. I was in the restroom once when I was there for some design reason and used one of the restrooms. I was in a stall and a few men came in (I could hear them talking) while I was in there and it made absolutely no difference. We all used our various stalls and that was that. I didn’t feel the least fearful at all, and why would I, It never even entered my mind to be afraid.
Charlie (she/her) said on April 22, 2022 at 8:25 pm
I think I almost haven’t used a shared public restroom since… 2018? The only exception is airports for Christmas visits and when I moved back to LA last year. I never got out all that much, I was pretty down in ‘19 and then, you know, the other thing happened.
My old company did a new build out in ‘17 and instead of the usual space with stalls they put in 8 little single-user bathrooms with a toilet, sink, mirror, and proper floor-to-ceiling doors that closed! It was GREAT. I hear SEA-TAC airport’s new renovation has also gone with this style, I’m excited.
Down with stalls, says I! Up with little rooms and doors that close!
tajalli said on April 22, 2022 at 9:14 pm
One of the branch libraries that I use has two bathrooms. One is now labeled Women/Handicapped and the other All Genders. Each has a fold down baby changing table, a sink with counter and a single stall with a door that can be latched shut, so presumably available for single occupancy or a bunch of friends. No urinals in either. The instructions are to lock the main door to the hallway – it shows occupied/available outside like on airplane lavatories. One can also latch the stall door. There is no longer a special room reserved for men.
I enjoyed the article, especially for its three categories rather than that either/or mentality, still a spectrum but with grey space creeping between the concepts. I’ve waited to contribute something specific to my experience since with large groups, the bases will eventually be covered if one just lets the discussion progress unhindered.
nancy said on April 22, 2022 at 9:22 pm
There’s a coffee shop in Detroit that has two little rooms. One is labeled “Better Lighting” and the other, “Stronger Flush.” I think that’s a good compromise.
LAMary said on April 22, 2022 at 10:25 pm
I painted one of the bathrooms in my home a very warm peachy color. Even with half assed lighting everyone looks great in there, rosy and slightly tanned.
A. Riley said on April 23, 2022 at 12:42 am
From my ages-ago travels in Europe, I seem to recall that public restrooms (in tourist areas and bigger cities, nothing rustic) featured little private rooms with floor-to-ceiling brick walls and solid doors, each housing a hook to hang your accoutrements, TP, and a toilet. The sinks & mirrors were in a bigger space, just like here.
To the topic, sort of: The proprietess mentioned the pernicious influence of the Kardashian model of performative femininity, and I agree. If I were a tween girl, I sure wouldn’t want any part of what pop culture seems to expect of women.
Dexter Friend said on April 23, 2022 at 3:33 am
Off topic but I’ll add that in Vietnam the toilets are quite different. Men urinate freely alongside the road and nobody gives them a glance; kids don’t point and laugh and women could not care less. But the inside toilets would present difficulties to the people who no longer can squat with ease. I understand parts of Europe still utilize these wretched things. This little 2:17 video shows how to do it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7KBbjtan9Q
ROGirl said on April 23, 2022 at 6:00 am
I try to keep on learning. I remember when Jan Morris became a public figure, read about her and saw her being interviewed on TV. The People Who Judge will always find someone or something else to latch onto and attack because that’s what they do. And unfortunately, it seems like stupidity and fear-mongering are ascendant, and nothing is slowing them down.
alex said on April 23, 2022 at 9:10 am
The Kardashian contagion is quite evident online, where you see teen-age girls doing duck lips in selfies and group shots. Small wonder. The Kardashians are flashy attention whores, and that’s exactly what the old social constructs teach females that they must become in order to be valued. That, and the misapplied psychology of advertising.
My brother, who lives in the south, tells me that the culture down there is particularly old school when it comes to the teen rite of girls sexualizing themselves with makeup and clothes and affected coquettishness. My niece was utterly disinterested in all of that and I didn’t think it was unusual, having known girls, both lesbian and straight, who weren’t willing to go along with that game and didn’t want to draw attention to themselves in that way. I always credited it to parental modeling of egalitarian marriage and the kind of parenting that gives kids a strong enough sense of identity in their early years to resist peer pressure when they get to their teens.
So I understand my brother’s confidence in his daughter wanting to transition. She/he has always been her/his own person.
Charlie (she/her) said on April 23, 2022 at 10:09 am
There was a recent interesting perspective on “hyper-femininity” when Naomi Wu, a tech vlogger who is “at the very far end of the gender expression spectrum,” made a video to try and answer the question “why?” She’s obviously thought a lot about what she wanted to say, if you have the time it’s worth hearing in her own words:
She’s got some trauma – she was more or less raised as a boy due to “one-child policy” issues – but she also talks about what a wonderful experience it was for her to finally have access to a feminine presentation. She shows a clip of Dolly Parton talking about a similar motivation.
It’s not for me, and I don’t like to think of anyone being pressured into a body they don’t want, but…. she seems happy? As she puts it “I’m not hurting anyone and I’m not broken – just a little glitchy, I still run just fine.”
Jeff Borden said on April 23, 2022 at 10:42 am
Today, Madison Cawthorn is describing those photos of him in lingerie as happening on some kind of cruise, but maybe Tucker Carlson can straighten him out with some testicle tanning and some cow milking.
Quiz: Which wheelchair bound villain in the worst?
1.) Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life”
2.) Greg Abbott, governor of Texass
3.) Cawthorn, congressdick from Carolina
alex said on April 23, 2022 at 11:20 am
Charlie, thank you. Naomi tells an amazing story and makes me appreciate that as ridiculous as American culture norms seem, the Chinese make ours look like a cakewalk for a gender fluid person compared to theirs.
I’ve heard that ours is the only culture that eroticizes breasts and she seems to affirm this.
Spoiler alert. She begins with a rant about a headless and limbless but quite curvy clothing mannequin that she made and presented on YouTube. YouTube restricted it for being too sexual yet has no problem presenting nude female torsos in other contexts that are much more graphic. This is a Western bugaboo, the idea that a utilitarian clothing mannequin could be too sexual for the public to view while “art” is perfectly fine.
She talks about going back and forth between dressing “normal” and presenting herself with an exaggerated femininity and feels better when doing the latter. She understands that her motivation comes from having been deprived of such expression for the first 16 years of her life.
A lot to digest but all kinds of interesting things to consider.
LAMary said on April 23, 2022 at 5:04 pm
I’m skeptical about ours being the only culture that eroticizes breasts. In my days of repping food companies in NYC, calling on a lot of accounts that meant dealing with Russians, Italians, Caribbean Islanders I saw a lot of evidence of tit appreciation. Russians especially. I used to dread my biweekly sales calls in Brighton Beach and Greenpoint in Brooklyn. The German shops in Forest Hills were a drag too. I actually slapped a German shop owner once. He called my office to complain, but when I got back to the office the two guys who owned the company had no problem with my reaction to old Helmut getting handsy.
Deborah said on April 23, 2022 at 5:06 pm
With just a little over 6 months until the next election I figured it’s time for me to start making my monthly donations. Today I pledged monthly donations to Val Demmings, Raphael Warnock and Tim Ryan for senate races. I haven’t yet decided yet on house races. Probably whoever wins the Dem primary in Marjorie Taylor Green’s district if she is in fact allowed on the ballet. What other house races are important?
FDChief said on April 23, 2022 at 5:16 pm
Referring waaaaay back upthread to Nancy’s observation re: St. Dreher’s insistence about the lack of adulterous fun on either part and “who cares”?
Dreher. Truly, madly, deeply. Every one of these patriarchal religious wingnuts I’ve encountered is insanely nervous about their manliness cred…and your female property getting some that’s not yours? Hooboy, talk about negative man-cred!
How do you think the term “cuck” got to be so popular among these types? It’s the absolute worst thing they can imagine, a weapons-grade hit to their self-image.
So OF COURSE Mrs. D wasn’t out there looking for some nondenominational schlong! With the Hot Rod back home? Unpossible!
Honestly. These people…
Sherri said on April 23, 2022 at 6:01 pm
Many of you may not be aware that there are standards of care for transgender health. The major one I’m aware of is from WPATH, the World Professional Association of Transgender Health. Their standard of care has an entire section on children and adolescents, the role and qualifications of mental health professionals in assessing and aiding children and adolescents, criteria for reversible interventions like puberty blockers, etc. WPATH published its first standard of care in 1979.
The culture war may have brought this all to the forefront, and reducing stigma may have made it more open, but this is not a new situation, nor one where kids are being shoved into changes without due consideration.
If you really want to look at a corner of the medical industry that is exploitative of patients and desires, look around the infertility industry.
Julie Robinson said on April 23, 2022 at 6:15 pm
Yeah, I’m also skeptical that only this country eroticizes breasts. We’re probably the worst, while at the same time the prudish, but I think the vast majority of hetero men have a thing for boobs.
I’m also going to put in a plug as continuing to be exploitative for the drug industry once again. With insurance, one of the inhalers prescribed for our daughter’s Covid infection cost $230. That’s a lot for a poor pastor, but she was having trouble breathing, so what do you do?
D joined the Covid crowd today. Mother and I are still testing negative but I feel like it’s only a matter of time.
Dexter Friend said on April 24, 2022 at 1:06 am
To interject some humor into all the seriousness, I offer the film I am in the middle of watching, John Waters’ “Female Trouble”. My gawd what a filmmaker he is.
“Female Trouble (1974)
A spoiled schoolgirl runs away from home, gets pregnant while hitch-hiking, and ends up as a fashion model for a pair of beauticians who like to photograph women committing crimes.
Director: John Waters | Stars: Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Mink Stole”
ROGirl said on April 24, 2022 at 8:13 am
Off topic, but I got a shingles vaccine yesterday and felt fine all day until around 6 hours afterward. Then the injection site became painful when I moved my arm around, and I couldn’t sleep on my left side. I also felt extremely fatigued and got a headache. I felt crappy all night and was wobbly and a bit nauseous when I got out of bed. My arm still hurts.
I read the information statement published by the CDC and it says that 80% of people get sore arms and more than half have the other symptoms. I have to get another one in 2 months. I had shingles about 8 years ago and got the previous generation vaccine without any problems, and had only a mild reaction after my first Covid jab.
alex said on April 24, 2022 at 8:45 am
Dex, is that the one where Divine’s wearing dukey undies and fucks herself on an old mattress on the side of a road?
Favorite line: “I’m pregnant and I want money!”
Deborah said on April 24, 2022 at 9:01 am
ROGirl, we have a friend in NM who had the shingles vax and had a similar reaction, it knocked him out for a couple of days. My husband and I are supposed to get that shot too but our Dr doesn’t offer it, she recommends getting it at a pharmacy which we have yet to do. LB had shingles last year and it wasn’t fun.
David C said on April 24, 2022 at 9:22 am
Yeah, the Shringrix vaccine is a bomb. It wiped me out so badly, I had to take a sick day. The second round was better. I didn’t have to take any time off but I still felt pretty dragged out.
Julie Robinson said on April 24, 2022 at 9:33 am
Shingrix was no problem for D or me but bad for my mom. Still, as LB could tell you, shingles is pure misery. D had it 40 years ago and was incapacitated by the pain. A couple days downtime for the vax is a good tradeoff.
The Covid in this house hasn’t gotten me yet.
Suzanne said on April 24, 2022 at 10:10 am
I got the first Shingrix shot last fall and the shot itself was very painful. My arm was also very sore. I was planning to get the second one this winter, but then February hit and the leukemia s**t show began. I keep forgetting to ask my oncologist if it’s ok to get the second Shingrix shot. I have had several bumps along the chemo road already and I don’t that screwed up, which it already is from too liver enzymes that are too high. But I also don’t want shingles.
The doctor did clear me for the 2nd COVID booster which I got last week. No side effects besides a slightly sore arm.
suzi said on April 24, 2022 at 1:05 pm
These comments appear to reflect opinions and impressions borne out of personal experience and/or knee-jerk reactions to the political alignment. (“If Republicans and Fox News are against it, it must be good.”) Nothing necessarily wrong about that – not every topic one encounters requires a fully researched understanding. There is, however, a growing body of robust analysis around transgender ideology that is available should one wish to move beyond the superficial. (C.f Helen Joyce, Kathleen Stock, Abigail Shrier, Kara Dansky, Jane Clare Jones, for starters.)
Regarding the medical ethics and veracity of puberty blockers and cross sex hormones for the treatment of body dysmorphia, the Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine (SEGM) is an excellent resource. The US is increasingly becoming an international outlier in its reliance on medicalization to treat dysmorphic youths.
Charlie (she/her) said on April 24, 2022 at 3:06 pm
I admit I have a knee-jerk reaction when people bring up the author of “The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.”
Deborah said on April 24, 2022 at 3:18 pm
Thank God Macron won.
Sherri said on April 24, 2022 at 3:41 pm
Speaking of knee-jerk reactions to the political alignment…suzi’s sources for “should you wish to move beyond the superficial” are hardly robust scientific and non-ideological. SEGM is an anti-trans think tank. Google the people she names, and you’ll see that they’re a bunch of UK TERFs, writers not scientists.
On the SEGM and its involvement with anti-trans bills: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/avivastahl/transgender-trans-kids-healthcare-science
LAMary said on April 24, 2022 at 4:19 pm
You beat me to it, Deborah. I am grateful that Europe doesn’t have another whack nationalist president. Le Pen is as bad as her father was but she was softening the delivery this time.
C’est vachement chouette.
The Trans Person Who Knows Who She Is said on April 24, 2022 at 11:10 pm
Suzi @ 99, if you don’t like trans people, just say it. Calling being “transgender” an “ideology” kind of tipped your hand.
Frankly, I’d rather be told I’m “creepy” or “weird” or “mentally ill” than have someone pee on my back and tell me it’s rain.
Sherri said it better than I can. Citing the “Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine” is like citing the Flat Earth Society or the Creation Museum. It’s a political organization that peddles pseudo-science.
Social transition has been around in both Western and non-Western cultures for centuries. Medical transition is nearly 80 years old.
The only thing that’s changed in the past 20 years is that transgender people have come out of the closets and aren’t as afraid as we used to be, but the medical and social science behind transgender research goes back more than 100 years.
In fact, some of the foundational research on transgender topics was being done in Germany and Austria … up until World War II, come to think of it. Research into the nature of gender identity and sexual orientation was one of the first fields of scientific endeavor that you-know-who destroyed as deviant.
Huh, I guess I have a knee-jerk reaction to that.
Nancy P said on April 26, 2022 at 9:53 pm
I think this is a helpful article. https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/9541181002