If it’s “just a phase”, it’s one helluva long one.
A story broke in the UK press recently about a 5-year-old who returned to school as a girl, having been assigned male at birth. The school and the child’s name are being kept anonymous, to protect her anonymity but the story runs that parents and fellow pupils at the school in Nottinghamshire, England, were given letters explaining that the child identifies as a girl, and asking to respect her in her gender.
The child apparently has been diagnosed as having gender dysphoria, and the local authority are being said to be seeing an increasing number of such cases in children, but one which they are willing to support. Colin Pettigrew, from Nottingham County Council stated “Transgender is a new area for many school and is a characteristic protected by law. Therefore headteachers across England continue to and are required to agree a clear plan to support the needs of transgender children and young people.”
Needless to say, when reported in the printed press and on a national radio station, the backlash from cisgender ignoramuses was immediate, and vicious. It appears to take a special kind of stupid for cis people with no knowledge of transgender issues to lash out at others they have no understanding of.
Amongst the most ignorant comments were the inevitable “It’s a phase he’s going through.”, “he’s playing make-believe”, and of course, “children like to play dress up”. Probably the most depressing and insulting comment of all came from one troglodyte who stated “My child likes to pretend she’s a dog. Should I let her go to school as one?”
Let’s get this straight. This is not pretend; it is not a phase any this or any other transgender child goes through – and if it is, then it lasts until they are put in a wooden box. That’s some ‘phase’. They are not playing make-believe, and they are not playing at all – they could not be more serious.
Think about it. Yes, young children like to play make-believe and to dress up in clothes of the ‘opposite gender’. I have a little one in my own family who in a certain museum makes a beeline for the children’s dress-up area, and makes himself look absolutely FABULOUS! And then at other times, he will have me tell and retell him gory tales from Scots history, which he laps up with relish. When I first saw him dress up, his mother said that she “wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be gay or trans.” I doubt it; he’s every inch the rough and tumble little boy. But even if he is gay or transgender, I am only thankful he has educated and switched-on parents who will take it in their stride and support him every inch of the way.
And this is where the important distinction lies. When a child plays make-believe, or when they dress up, they are playing, they are pretending, they are making believe. Yet they soon tire of that pretence, and move on to the next thing to play at. The mother whose little girl pretends to be a dog would do well to observe and remember that. No child keeps make-believe roles up for years. Not even months, not even weeks, not even a whole day. Not even an hour. Show me the child who does, and I would suggest that the parents get that child to a therapist, toot sweet. There is no way that children playing would ever even think of attending school in their acted-out roles, and if anyone tried to force them, then they would soon rebel against it.
And even if it were a ‘phase’, again, the child would not be able to keep that pretence for any length of time, and would soon revert to the gender they are most comfortable with. Therefore in the case of the child at the Nottinghamshire school, if it were a phase, then the child would soon revert to being a boy, so what the hell are those protesting worrying about. Seems to me that while hiding behind a mask of caring about the child, they merely want any target to aim their transphobia at.
Nor is it a case as one Neanderthal, fittingly going under the pseudonym of BillyNoMates, suggested “So yummie mummy really wanted a girl all along but didn’t have one, so she made one out of a little boy.” Firstly, he has not a shred of evidence to base that upon, secondly I doubt there is a parent worth their salt would ever do that to their child, and thirdly, the child in question has been diagnosed as having gender dysphoria by medical health professionals. I don’t know what qualifications BillyNoMates has, but I will guess that such highly trained individuals, who have actually encountered the child, are far more qualified to comment upon her condition than some loudmouth keyboard warrior hiding behind an assumed name who has never met her.
Could it ever even happen that any child could ever be coerced or bullied by a parent into assuming an opposite gender? Certainly there have been historical cases where boys have been continually ‘petticoated’, but that was more as a punishment, and there is not one documented case of any such boy coming to identify as a girl – unless they were already transgender.
Back in the late 1980s, a seeming child prodigy sprang up who was allegedly a preteen art and antiques expert. James Harries was constantly on television sporting his curly blonde hair, dressed often in formal wear and a bow tie, and speaking in received pronunciation English about some antique or work of art. Frankly, I found him to be an irritating, arrogant, snot-nosed brat who needed a good slap, and 30 years have not changed my opinion on that. In his teens James started seeing therapists, it is claimed on the insistence of his mother, who thought he may be transgender due to his effeminate nature and mannerisms. When I first heard about this, like BillyNoMates, I thought that HAD to be his mother forcing gender reassignment upon her son. I was especially cynical when it was media tycoon Max Clifford who funded the gender reassignment surgery.
Turns out I could not have been more wrong. The former James Harries has very happily been Lauren Harries coming up for 15 years now. Whilst Lauren Harries still irritates the hell out of me (her 2015 attempt at pop, “I Am A Woman” is bloody awful), if she were at all unhappy with her female identity, she would undoubtedly suffered mental health problems. In fact, Lauren’s psychiatric problems of depression, agoraphobia, a mental breakdown and a suicide attempt, all happened before she transitioned.
There is an important lesson to be learned here; where gender identity is concerned, the only pretence involved is among those transgender and genderqueer individuals who have to live a lie daily as apparent cisgender people. And that can only ever manifest itself in severe mental health problems.
So while the transphobic critics of a 5-year-old transgender girl may make a pretence of only caring about the well-being of children, it is they who would force children into roles they are uncomfortable with, do not identify with, and which can only make those children unhappy. Ultimately they, and I include most of society here, are mounting up psychiatric problems for those children, which sadly all too often has fatal consequences.
Which is where critic seems to fail to grasp the facts when he states “You do know people who under go gender reassignment surgery have a high rate of suicide. Right?” Yes, suicide rates among transgender people are depressingly high. But they are highest among young transgender people, most of who have not undergone gender reassignment surgery. And while generally transgender suicides are high, one of the greatest reasons for this is not because the person is unhappy with their gender, but rather because of the prejudice, ignorance, intolerance and violence transgender people are subjected to on a daily basis. I suggest therefore that the commentator checks his figures, and his transphobic attitude while he’s about it, because it is precisely ignorance such as that as he displays which leads to transgender suicides.
I have stated in a previous article that due to the difference between the body and brain forming in the womb that gender, just like sexuality, is much more of a psychiatric construct than it is ever a physical one. It therefore comes as no surprise to me that the youngest transgender child in the UK was fellow Scot, little Danni Macfadyen, who born Daniel, identified as a girl and was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at the age of three. This is backed up by Maria Kontogianni, senior lecturer in psychology with sociology at Nottingham Trent University;
“Children could start feeling gender dysphoria from the age of three-years-old. They will say that they don’t feel like a boy or a girl or they may decide they are not. If the school or parents do not respond correctly it can become a real problem for the child. If a child does start saying these things it is completely fine as long as they get the help they need as soon as possible.”
Such professionals do not take these matters lightly, and can soon identify whether a child has gender dysphoria or not. Certainly, they would even entertain any child who was obviously playing at make-believe, and would soon identify any child who was possibly being coerced by others into identifying with an opposite side of the gender binary. That there are no such cases recorded tells it’s own story.
There is only one expert upon the gender of any individual, and that happens to be the person themselves. Nobody but I can diagnose me as genderqueer, nobody but a transgender person knows their gender, and strangely enough, none but a cisgender person knows their gender identity. And as such, we start to recognise our gender identity as soon as we become aware of ourselves as individuals, which is at a very early age indeed. The sooner society comes to comprehend that, the sooner we will have more happy transgender children like little Danni Macfadyen, and the unnamed little girl in Nottinghamshire.
One can therefore only salute the bravery of this little girl, of that bravery and understanding of her parents, and kudos to Nottingham County Council and the school concerned.
Kisses to all, from Xandra. xxxx
Article illustration curteousy of Sophie Labelle, artist of the Assigned Male cartoon strip.