Guest post by Anonymous: How timely


Revised and edited by Anonymous, so not identical to the comment on It was so disruptive.

How timely.

My 5-year-old daughter has referred to herself as a boy from the time she could talk. A mere taste of this: her imaginative play started at age 2 and has gone on for the next 3 years. Over all this time, never once, not with prompting or cajoling, has she so much as considered stepping into a female character. She’s adopts an average of 3-5 characters per day, which means she is about 4,000 for 4,000 in adopting boy instead of girl characters. Always a Chipmunk, never a Chippette.

After my wife and I realized the behavior was consistent and not “a phase” (and definitely not explicable as older-brother-worship), we’ve let her dress in “boyly” clothes (her word, invented at age 3), bought her boyly toys, get a boyly haircut (the “Bieb”), and have marveled at the pure delight she’s taken in this.

Cue preschool 3 months back. I’d long expected (feared?) that her immersion into the social environment of preschool would serve as a tipping point. For almost 3 years, she was happy to be a girl who was free to act/dress/play as a boy. But the other shoe was bound to drop, and sure enough, her female name and baseline female identity ran smack into the inevitable social pressures toward gender conformity…. And drop the shoe did. Last week, with maturity way beyond her years, she approached us and told us we needed to stop calling her by her birth name. We needed to use a boy name from now on. And we needed to talk to her teachers and tell them to do that, too.

With all the lead-up, with all the signs, with the writing having been so clearly on the wall… nevertheless, it’s been a surprisingly emotional hit to both my wife and me. We’ve done our research, we’ve read our books, we suspected this might come, academically. But now – shit got real.

Speaking for myself, nothing about my daughter’s transition [no – that’s not right – truthfully our daughter hasn’t changed one bit – this is “our transition”] (not even the fact that there may be mere weeks – perhaps days – separating me from ever again referring to her as “daughter” or “her”) has really been that troublesome. She’s a person of remarkable character; spirited, happy, precocious, and every kind of awesome; and nothing about this, or any changes to come, will touch that.

What has been keeping me up at night is the world that waits for her – and how it seems set to chew that up and spit it out. We’re raising her in the bible-belt, and though individuals have thus far been incredibly supportive, I’m extremely worried about how this bible-belt culture, at large, will treat a gender-creative (or possibly trans-gendered) child.

And I wake to read a post like that from DJ Grothe. And realize it’s not just the conservative Christians I’ll need to worry about. From the pit of my heart, on behalf of my daughter, who’s thus far been shielded from such hatefulness:

Fuck you, DJ. I hope you read this post, reread your words, and decide, for my daughter’s sake, to go away. Resign and go into isolation, stay away from the mic, disable your twitter feed; whatever it takes to stop injecting your poisonous hatred into the world my daughter is entering.

Frankly, it’s the only real way I can see you making the secular community a better place.

Comments

  1. Rieux says

    Hear, hear.

    – Rieux (father of a gorgeous and robust nearly-16-month-old and thus extremely susceptible to any account of parental concern and angst)

  2. says

    I wish I’d had such great parents, when I told them the same thing back in 1971, it was a family scandal. :(

    I hope your child finds their path with your support.

  3. beardymcviking says

    It’s quite an insult to someone to tell them they can only improve a movement by stepping out of it, but in his case I think you’re correct.

    Good luck building the best world you can for your little one, I think she’s lucky to have such great parents!

  4. says

    I was really hoping that someone in the Skeptic/Atheist community would speak out against the junk science promoted by transgender theories of sex and gender. Transgender theory is the climate change denial of the left. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google “cotton ceiling.” which is both the worst application of trans-theory and trans theory taken to its illogical conclusion.)

    Gia Milinovich is one of the few people on the left who has been brave enough to admit publicly that the emperor has no clothes.

    “Yes, I am a bigot because I like to stick with the scientific definition of ‘sex.'” http://www.giagia.co.uk/2013/10/22/controversy/

  5. says

    I’d like to say “yes” to everything, but I can only say “yes” up until the bit that says “Fuck you…”

    I’d be more comfortable myself with people considered the source (DJ) and choosing to withdraw from his ranting and administrative exploits, in lieu of supporting and/or learning from, something/someone less ridiculous, than to expect DJ to withdraw from expressing his views.

    If I had kids, I’d rather not have them exposed to DJ’s rubbish, or the DudeBro culture more broadly, but I’d rather do that by criticising the cis-Boys club, and/or keeping my hypothetical kids away from members of the cis-Boys club.

    As for, official positions and whatnot, I’d find any organisation hard to take seriously with DJ at the helm, after the way he’s mismanaged his public engagements on serious issues (he can’t blame anyone but himself for the conclusions the general public makes when he interjects into a public discussion of sexual harassment and assault, with a segue into age-of-consent scepticism – a competent president knows how to manage their own participation), That being said, JREF is an organisation who’s namesake is a climate change denier, who despite a number of competent individuals playing along, have had kooks of all stripes as speakers at their events.

    I file JREF in the “why did people actually take this seriously?” category, along with the rantings of Pat Condell and ThunderF00t. I’m not sure that DJ actually makes JREF worse than it is.

    Rather than tell JREF to sack the carnies and stop letting the clowns out of the clown car, I’d like to see more quality, viable alternatives. Aside from the issues of free expression, having the DudeBros shut-up and shut up-shop isn’t going to resolve any deficit in quality critical thinking.

    The problem there, unless I’m mistaken, is finding decent funding that isn’t tied to the whims some old white fella with stupid ideas about how people should be treated.

  6. ewanmacdonald says

    “But I only called your daughter the worst passer I’d ever seen in order to criticize the gender binary! Why’s she crying? Looking for blog hits, no doubt.” *shakes head sadly* “Truth matters.”

  7. ewanmacdonald says

    (Just to be clear, that – including ‘daughter’ and ‘she’, was deliberately tone-deaf. Like the other commenters here, I have great admiration for the OP and the other parent, as well as their son!)

  8. says

    Angie Manzano, take your TERF assholery and fuck off with it, huh? No one around here is interested in your eliminationist transphobic bullshit. Yes, we all know you TERFs would love to have trans* people just killed off, and no one fucking cares what you think.

    Go reunite yourself with your brain by throwing yourself on the rubbish tip of history, whydontcha.

    Asshole.

  9. says

    @18 Yea, because all scientific models are valid at all levels, and the binary sex model that works so well for determining who has compatible gametes for making babies applies to EVERYTHING ELSE, NO EXCEPTIONS!!! It’s like they’re rejecting General Relativity because the Newtonian Physics is all we needed to get to the moon. All of the below isn’t really science, you see, it’s just dogmatic propaganda meant to trick people into thinking that their (present or former) gonads aren’t the most important indicator of which bathroom they should use:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Androgen_insensitivity_syndrome
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimerism
    http://health.heraldtribune.com/2013/10/14/the-elusive-genome/

  10. carlie says

    Angie, why is it so important to you that you be able to assign people your preferred title based on your interpretation of their genitals?

  11. Shatterface says

    Gia Milinovich is one of the few people on the left who has been brave enough to admit publicly that the emperor has no clothes.

    Actually there’s no shortage of transphobic bigotry among second-wave feminists: Julie Burchill, Suzanne Moore, Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel, etc.

  12. A. Noyd says

    Angie Manzano (#10)

    I was really hoping that someone in the Skeptic/Atheist community would speak out against the junk science promoted by transgender theories of sex and gender.

    No.

    I want transpeople to be accepted for who they say they are. And, as a cisgender woman who gets mistaken for a man or a transwoman sometimes, I want more acceptance of trans people for myself, as well. You don’t have science on your side, either, you’re just too dogmatic to ever admit to that.

  13. Anonymous OP says

    I’m pretty sure this has fallen off the front page by now, so not sure if these’ll be seen, but I felt several comments merited a response.

    @Suido, @Rieux, @Catie, @Joe Z, @Jafaf Hots, @beardymcviking, @carlie, @Badland, @Jackie, @opposablethumbs, @Others_Im_Not_Going_To_Type (sorry, I’m spending more time scrolling around than responding!)

    Thanks so much for the warm responses and encouragement. Only one thing’s for sure here – this ain’t gonna be easy. Nice to have so many supportive people out there!

    @Bruce,

    I’d like to say “yes” to everything, but I can only say “yes” up until the bit that says “Fuck you…”

    I’d be more comfortable myself with people considered the source (DJ) and choosing to withdraw from his ranting and administrative exploits, in lieu of supporting and/or learning from, something/someone less ridiculous, than to expect DJ to withdraw from expressing his views.

    I completely disagree. Someone talks hate – directing disparaging and hurtful words at others, often based on traits beyond their control – call it out. Call it out loud, make them uncomfortable, bring it to the attention of the owners of the site. Respond to it exactly as you’d respond to a person saying it behind you in line at McDonalds: Challenge their bigotry out loud, and put them in a position with no choice but to own or recant their words in front of an impromptu jury of their peers. If they continue, tell management that either they go or you do. What you don’t do is shush everyone else and encourage them to just stand around quietly “ignoring the trolls.” You battle hate speech with more speech, not with silence.

    It seems weird to have to point out how much more sense that makes. Make it clear that hate speech will not go unchallenged in *any* sphere of public communication of which you are a part. If you make it clear to the assholes who broadcast their bigotry, then you’ll also make it clear to those who’re keeping their bigotry to themselves. Maybe they’ll get a learning moment beyond, “tell a racist joke and nothing bad really seems to happen” lesson. Maybe the victims of bigotry will pick up on it – maybe they’ll go to bed that night with a little solace that not everyone out there might be quietly nodding their heads in agreement.

    @ all those wondering about the he/she son/daughter language in my OP: My wife and are doing a balancing act. At this point, about the only person not totally worked up about this situation *is* my daughter. We aim to keep it that way – changes in how she interacts with the world and how she’s addressed are going to be completely at her pace. She may, ultimately, try on this boyly name thing, and decide it’s as far as she wants to go, too far, or not far enough. I am using the reference “daughter” to refer to “her” because, to this point in time, she’s not indicated she wants that to change.

    For the record, we’re not doing this in a vacuum. We’re relying on love to set a destination, and the best science/reason to guide us on the path to get there. To that end, I highly recommend the book “Gender made/Gender Born” – it does wonders for laying out a sound psychological model for understanding what our daughter is going through. The model is both astonishingly spot-on in it’s predictive ability; and (as with any accurate model of reality) refreshingly USEFUL.

    Which provides a nice segue to address the comment from Angie Manzano. Angie, I can empathize with those who responded to your post with expletives and anger. But I feel none of that. I have no inclination to respond emotionally to your post. Because the model you espouse, stripped of everything else, is quite simply wrong. Incorrect. Not in conformance with the real world in which we live.

    Yes, parsimony is a hallmark of a good scientific models; and I get it – Sex=biology, male=XY / female=XX, and gender=culture – indeed, it is a clean and parsiminous model for human psychology. But a good science model must be more: it must also be accurate and useful. The model you advocate for is neither. My daughter was flooded with cultural pressure to be a girl. Your model fails to predict that *any* biological female raised in the manner my daughter was raised, would exhibit anything approaching the boy-gendered personality / behavior which she has portrayed. Much less does it predict that this would be a relatively common occurrence.

    As for utility? What would your model have us do with our daughter; what tangible parental advice would it offer in her best interests? After all, if the relatively innocuous cultural influences to which she’s been exposed thus far are so insufficiently gender-reinforcing that they radically DROVE her gender away from her biology… then, per your model, it would seem incumbent on us to implement Draconian-level gender-reinforcing “cultural influence” to turn that around. According to your model, how ought we respond to her shrieks of indignation and horror at being asked to wear her flower-girl dress at her Aunt’s wedding? What name ought we refer to her as, knowing that calling her by her birthname would be in callous disregard for her wishes and happiness? How many years, day in and day out, would your model have us send her sullenly and dispiritedly to school in girls’ outfits, with long hair in pig-tails, and instructions to teachers to not let her pretend to be boy characters during play?

    Because the science is in. In regards to those questions above, your model is worse than useless. It is outright harmful. Trans-gender children, forced to conform to a the gender role that fits their genitals, are overwhelmingly more likely to suffer from depression. I’d argue that much of the psychological issues suffered by those children who are allowed to live in accordance with their gender are largely side-effects of other people who believe in your model, and seek to shame and ridicule those who do not conform to it. Case-in-point, my duaghter was delighted at being “mistaken” for a boy in her Halloween costume – she lit up everytime someone said, “what a great costume dude!” Such boy-gendering is clearly, dare I say palpably, NOT HURTING her. What ruined her day today is one boy in her class won’t call her by her boy name because “That’s a boy name and you are a girl!”. She literally sat in sullenness for 5 minutes after relaying that to me – and this is not a girl prone to sullenness.

    I could go on, but basically, yeah, I don’t feel angry at your post. I’m actually more amused at how ridiculous it is. The 5-year-old I just tucked into bed (squealing in delight at the light-blue pillowcase, because, “That’s RIGHT – little brothers ALWAYS get light blue!!” (wow, does plain text ever not do justice to the delight she actually expressed at that moment)) single-handedly lays waste to the idea that sex and gender can be reduced to and understood according to your simplistic model.

    Similarly, I don’t feel anger at your insinuations that my wife and I are exercising a lack of skeptical integrity in regards to this issue. On that front, honestly, I’ve got nothing but pity for how out of touch you really seem to be.

  14. says

    For context: I am angry and expletive-spewing about TERFs because I have been personally hurt by people like this, both physically and emotionally, and because I have friends that these people have hounded literally to death – they took their own lives, rather than deal with more of this eliminationist abuse.

    Just so we’re quite clear. I’m not responding out of anger because it’s transphobia; I’m responding out of anger because people like this are a very real threat to trans* people.

    I don’t think you meant to, Anonymous, but it feels like you’re positioning your response as “better” or “wiser” than that of the anger and expletive responses, and I want to be sure you recognize that I am responding in the same manner a Jewish person or a PoC would respond to a Nazi or a Klansman. It might be good to spend a little while reading about what “TERF” refers to, and why trans* people – like your daughter, perhaps some day – react from anger to their eliminationism. They’re vile, hateful people, who rejoice when people like me, and maybe like your daughter, kill ourselves or are raped or beaten.

  15. Anonymous OP says

    Sorry about that CatieCat. I did (and do) think the angry responses were 100% merited, and I didn’t word my response in a way that conveyed that. Angry and expletive-filled posts [such as the OP :-) ] are exactly how I think one should respond to those who are hurting you or others.

    If anything, I think it’s more important to draw attention to the hurtfulness of a post like Angie’s or DJ’s than to point out their factual shortcomings. Obviously the proper response to DJ’s post would not have been to debate objective measures of the (supposedly) transperson’s appearance.

    (sorry, kind of rambling my thoughts onto paper, so bear with me)

    Anyway, I’m not totally familiar with and hadn’t been directly hurt by this TERF dogma, nor had I perceived it as having hurt my son* (though, based on what you’ve written, I suspect it’s a mere matter of time and/or a little more research before that will no longer be true). So I addressed Angie’s post as it struck me – as simply coming someone with an emotional affinity for a scientific model clearly out-of-touch with reality (something like an “aquatic ape theory of gender biology”). Clearly the difference is that Angie’s model, and those who advocate for it, have and continue to harm people of the transgender community.

    My response did not give due deference to that vantage point, and again, I apologize.

    *and, on another timely note for this conversation, speaking of “pace”, my youngest son just corrected me 20 min ago for referring to him as “she” while at the barber. On the drive home, he clearly articulated that I should call him a son, use the words “he” and “him”, and that’s how he always wants it to be forever and ever.

  16. says

    I noticed you didn’t address any of the points that Gia raised in the article that I linked to. I think you probably didn’t read it, because it directly, explicitly addresses this:

    “Your model fails to predict that *any* biological female raised in the manner my daughter was raised, would exhibit anything approaching the boy-gendered personality / behavior which she has portrayed.”

    Read the article. There is no such thing as “cis.” No one’s sex “matches” their gender. Gender is a patriarchal stereotype. Just because you like things that are stereotypically associated with another sex doesn’t mean that somewhere, deep inside, you really are that other sex. The “brain sex” stuff has been thoroughly debunked by Cordelia Fine. And the “cotton ceiling?” What are your thoughts on that? The idea is that lesbians who refuse to have sex with pre-op trans women are bigots. In other words, if you truly believe that transwomen are women, then lesbians should have no problem having sex with them. Even if they have penises. Because there is nothing inherently male about a penis. And it’s not actually a penis, it’s a “neoclit” or a “strapless.”

    My point is that there is a lot contentious stuff put out there by transgender/postmodern/queer theorists. We should be able to discuss the science and politics and ethics behind these ideas. Instead, anyone who disagrees with any part of transgender beliefs and theories is silenced–because it’s easier to write off people you disagree with as being evil, stupid and transphobic than to actually examine your own beliefs. And I get that most leftists and feminists are afraid of thinking about things that are outside their worldviews. But I had hoped that more skeptics, atheists and scientifically-minded people would be willing to engage in these discussions. I really don’t have much to add, because I think Gia said it best here:

    http://www.giagia.co.uk/2013/10/22/controversy/

  17. Anonymous OP says

    Me:

    As for utility? What would your model have us do with our daughter; what tangible parental advice would it offer in her best interests? …. What name ought we refer to her as, knowing that calling her by her birthname would be in callous disregard for her wishes and happiness?

    My youngest child (who has a vagina), firmly insists that he is a boy and demands that he be referred to as a “boy”, called by a boy name, be introduced as my “son”, and be referred to with with pronouns “he” and “him”. He’s been so-inclined from the time he could talk. He wants this today, and he insists it’s how he will always want it to be.

    Is your model predictive: does it predict, a priori, that some children with XX chromosomes, raised in a conventional modern, gender-equality-emphasizing household, will exhibit the behavior described above (and, similarly, does it predict the converse behavior for many children born with XY chromosomes)? If so, please explain how.

    Is your model useful: does it offer tangible, actionable advice that helps me with my # goal as a parent: raising my children to be healthy and happy? If so, please relay what some of that advice might be.

    If your model is neither predictive nor useful, your model is crap. Full stop. Scientifically-minded people recognize that if a model doesn’t fit the facts, if it doesn’t explain phenomena of the real world, it must be tossed to the waste bin. That’s why scientifically-minded people aren’t discussing your crap model.

    But I had hoped that more skeptics, atheists and scientifically-minded people would be willing to engage in these discussions.

    How frustrating for you! Similarly, creationist always seem to hope scientifically-minded people would be more willing to engage in those discussions (and don’t get me started on how frustrating life must be for Aquatic-Ape advocates)

  18. says

    “predict, a priori, that some children with XX chromosomes, raised in a conventional modern, gender-equality-emphasizing household, will exhibit the behavior described above (and, similarly, does it predict the converse behavior for many children born with XY chromosomes)? If so, please explain how.”

    Again, read the link. It is very clear. And I explained it before. Most people simply don’t fit the stereotype that we are socialized to conform to. Our bodies don’t “match” our gender.

    “He wants this today, and he insists it’s how he will always want it to be.”

    There is research on this. Most gender dysphoric children do not persist in the dysphoria after adolescence. Most of them grow up to be gay or bisexual, not transgender.
    http://sexnotgender.com/studies-and-reports-transgender-children/

    “Scientifically-minded people recognize that if a model doesn’t fit the facts, if it doesn’t explain phenomena of the real world, it must be tossed to the waste bin.”

    How’s this for a fact-based model? Transgender theory claims that transgenderism is a “medical condition” in which a person’s body does not “match” their brain. They call it a birth defect. If you want to believe this, that’s fine. But there is no scientific evidence to support the position that there is some innate difference between male and female brains. Those of us who don’t believe that there is such a medical condition in which people are born with the body of one sex and the brain of another (because there is no medical evidence to support this position) have a right not to believe.

    I’ll end with a quote from Gia Milinovich, because she really says it best:

    “Genetically, transwomen and women with AIS are male. That is reality. Again, I don’t understand why this is an unacceptable statement for some vocal trans* activists. Surely, if one’s aim is to break down the barriers between genders and therefore make it perfectly acceptable and normal to be “gender non-conforming”, should it not be desirable to just say ‘Yes, I am genetically male… and…? Do you have a problem with that?’ rather than promote the idea that one’s biological make-up suddenly, mystically transmogrifies because of “thinking really hard about being a woman”? If one really believes there is nothing wrong with being “gender non-conforming” (as I do), then why the desire to pretend that biology isn’t a real thing? For me, as someone who values rationalism, this argument touted by some trans* activists veers into the same territory as Transubstantiation or Lycanthropy which, frankly, isn’t a very strong position to take in a debate…”

  19. Anonymous OP says

    You are dodging. Point blank: per your model, IN THE HERE AND NOW, TODAY, should I respect my child’s wishes to
    1) Be addressed with a boy name
    2) Be referred to as “a boy”, as “my son”, as a “younger brother”, and with pronouns “he” instead of “she” and “him” instead of “her”
    3) Request his teachers, our friends, our neighbors, and extended family to show the same respect for his wishes
    4) Be allowed to attend school, every day, dressed in sharp boys clothing, wearing his favorite necktie, and sporting a devilishly-handsome, boyish crew-cut.

    Yes, or no? Quit dodging. Quit linking. Drop the all this red herring bullshit.

    Show me the money, Angie! Show me the value of your theory by demonstrating that it can at least answer these very simple questions.

    Or feel free to shove your useless theory where the sun doesn’t shine.

  20. Dan L. says

    Angie Manzano:

    Let’s forget for a second whether there’s any “scientific validity” to identification as transgender.

    Are you suggesting that people should identify as transgender if they choose to, or that people who so identify should somehow be marginalized or criticized?

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