I missed this story yesterday when the NY Times published it but Andrew Sullivan did not.
An unusual thing happened in the conversation about transgender identity in America this week. The New York Times conceded that there is, indeed, a debate among medical professionals, transgender people, gays and lesbians and others about medical intervention for pre-pubescent minors who have gender dysphoria. The story pulled some factual punches, but any mildly-fair airing of this debate in the US MSM is a breakthrough of a kind.
Here’s the truth that the NYT was finally forced to acknowledge: “Clinicians are divided” over the role of mental health counseling before making irreversible changes to a child’s body. Among those who are urging more counseling and caution for kids are ground-breaking transgender surgeons. This very public divide was first aired by Abigail Shrier a few months ago on Bari’s Substack, of course, where a trans pioneer in sex-change surgery opined: “It is my considered opinion that due to some of the … I’ll call it just ‘sloppy,’ sloppy healthcare work, that we’re going to have more young adults who will regret having gone through this process.” Oof.
The fact that Bari Weiss, who quit the Times after claiming she’d been bullied by colleagues over her views, got to this important story months before the NY Times really says something about the current media environment. In any case, Sullivan points to this quote from the Times’ story as another significant breakthrough in the public debate:
Some of the drug regimens bring long-term risks, such as irreversible fertility loss. And in some cases, thought to be quite rare, transgender people later “detransition” to the gender they were assigned at birth. Given these risks, as well as the increasing number of adolescents seeking these treatments, some clinicians say that teens need more psychological assessment than adults do.
That permanent, life altering medical treatment of children ought to be handled with great care should be obvious to everyone but alas it has not been to some trans activists. As always I checked the comments and here is the most upvoted comment on the Times’ story, from a parent in California:
As a parent of a “trans” teen, I ask you: In what other medical area would it be possible for the patient (an adolescent, no less!!) to not only self-diagnose but also prescribe treatment, including drugs and surgery that are potentially irreversible and for which the long-term effects have not been studied?
The social media-fueled trans contagion among adolescents, particularly girls – further exacerbated by activists (no matter how well-intentioned their support for trans people) – has gotten out of control. Especially among the white upper-middle class youth and their enabling schools, psychologists and psychiatrists. True gender dysphoria is one thing. This craze is another thing entirely. YES, teens need to be screened thoroughly, if not to say aggressively, NOT just affirmed.
This seems fairly sensible but you won’t find this view greeted that way on Twitter. Speaking of which:
This week, the writer Colin Wright posed on Twitter the following question: “What rights do trans people currently not have but want that don’t involve replacing biological sex with one’s subjective ‘gender identity’?” And the response was, of course, crickets. The truth is: the 6-3 Bostock decision places trans people in every state under the protection of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It’s done. It’s built on the sturdy prohibition on sex discrimination. A Trump nominee wrote the ruling.
What the trans movement is now doing, after this comprehensive victory, is not about rights at all. It is about cultural revolution. It’s a much broader movement to dismantle the sex binary, to see biology as a function of power and not science, and thereby to deconstruct the family and even a fixed category such as homosexuality. You can support trans rights and oppose all of this. But they want you to believe you can’t. That’s the bait-and-switch. Don’t take it.
That seems like good advice to me. The compromise position here isn’t aimed at harming anyone or preventing any adult from doing as they wish with their adult body. The issue is really about children who, in every other case, are not considered old enough to make life-altering medical decisions on their own. I’ll close this out with another comment from a gay man in San Francisco which has been upvoted by more than 500 NY Times readers:
Simply stated, it should be against the law to let any person under 18 years of age have gender reassignment treatments of any kind. As a gay boy, most of my friends in school were “sissies” or “tom boys” and were very seriously into hacking the opposite gender, as expressed by all sorts of behavior that in this climate would likely be called “gender fluidity.” Not a single one if asked today would say they wanted a sex change. It’s bizarre and unthinkable to take developing adolescent minds and imaginations so seriously as to prescribe such treatments.