This is an amazing response. VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) reviewed a young-adult book and flagged it as “recommended for mature junior and senior high readers” because it used naughty language and one of the main characters was described as bisexual. Not that it described sexual activity explicitly, but simply that the character was stated to be bisexual.
Horrors. Can’t have young people discovering that sexuality isn’t a simple binary switch.
Just to make it even more fun, the review was published around the time of Bisexual Awareness Week. So readers called out the magazine for their inappropriate and thoughtless commentary. Wait until you get a load of how VOYA responded to that.
I’m impressed. That’s a world-class notpology. But it looks like they’ve practiced a lot, because the whole magazine went into a prolonged notpological freakout over the fact that readers criticized them.
This has led me to the SorryWatch blog, which is most entertainingly horrifying. But they also have an excellent post on what makes a good apology, and a fun post on what makes for a bad apology. Both are useful resources.
Erlend Meyer says
I read this as more of an non-notpology, i.e. sarcasm: We’re sorry that you’re offended, but fuck you. You are wrong, we are right. Deal with it. Since I don’t know enough about sexuality and development to make any firm judgment, I can’t really say if they’re wrong or not. But at least they’re flagging their true colors rather than issuing a fake apology.
Or am I reading too much/too little into the answer?
sophia daniels says
yeah that basically went from sorry your offended to fuck you we’re the enemy of bi-visibility activists.
and if you really want to hide behind the idea that you included the bisexuality part to make it easier for bi kids to find the book you need to make that explicitly clear in how you publish these reviews/recommendations. so that it’s clear that the age suggestions are due to the langue and than tag the book for including bisexual representation and any other topics that might help it’s audience find it.
That reads to me like a straight up “Fuck you, cupcake, *condescending pat on the head* you’re a peon, a stupid one. I, however, am a sniffy professional, and you don’t have the slightest idea of what is right or wrong. That’s what I’m for, to tell you.”
SorryWatch went straight into my bookmarks!
Andrew Zibuck says
It’s certainly a fuck you, but we were made to think VOYA responded to the general criticism. This letter is to a particular person. And I’m curious now just how that person did reveal their 5yo’s sexuality. Without knowing anything else they said, I’ll believe it’s possible Tristina’s letter went full crackpot.
MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says
The writer who received that letter posted it with the letter she sent.
It did not go crackpot. VOYA simply sucks in the apology department.
m n says
Just a note – I believe the review was published back in March, not right before Bi Awareness Week. I think the initial complaint was made just before Bi Week, and oh boy but has VOYA had a heyday with that timing, blaming the “witchhunt!” on bi people wanting to “crush our enemies!” as a Bi Week celebration or whatever.
This whole thing has been a huge letdown and very disappointing. If anyone wants a rundown of what’s been going on, bisexual-books has been keeping tabs on it over on Tumblr (http://www.bisexualbooks.com/) and has linked to some other synopses of this garbage fire as well, IIRC.
The timing is not relevant, of course. If you publish something, you have to be prepared for a reaction any time after the publication. It’s still a thing whenever someone reads it, as for example when someone comes across it while preparing a booklist for Bisexual Awareness Week. That’s just the way publishing works: people read the publication when it’s convenient to them, and react according to their sensibilities at that time, so the publishers don’t get to declare it out of bounds if the timing isn’t convenient to them. It’s only out of bounds when everyone concerned is dead and it’s being read by a digital archaeologist.
Andrew Zibuck @ 4:
Why in the hell would you make such a stupid assumption? Especially being on the ‘net and all, where a person can actually research such things, more than easily.
Ms. Wright mentioned the importance of such books to children, such as her 6 year old daughter, who is genderqueer and recently came out with her bisexuality. Some parents have figured out that’s it is vital to listen to their children when it comes to gender and sexual orientation, because the earlier children are accepted, supported, and surrounded with love, the stronger and healthier they are. This is a serious matter, given the high suicide rate of kids who are not hetero.
I’m bisexual, and I knew that at a very young age myself. I’m also going to be 59 in a matter of months, and if you wanted to read something, anything, that represented you, oh you were so outta luck. Representation is crucial for kids (and adults), especially those kids who do not have loving support and encouragement at home.
I highly recommend reading Invisible and Invisible 2, to correct your ignorance on the importance of representation, the need to trust children on knowing themselves, and the importance of reading material in which they can see themselves reflected.
Wait what? Bisexual 5 year old? That far away from the onset of puberty, way before all the relevant hormones get released, how can sexual orientation even be a thing?
Since some people can’t be bothered to get their facts straight; she never said her 5 year old was bisexual, she said her 6 year old was genderqueer. That term refers to gender identity, not sexual orientation.
Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- says
Why do I have this feeling that nobody will tell little Suzie “you’Re way too young to know if you’Re heterosexual” if she comes running and tells you that sh’E going to marry Jayden. But suddenly when little Suzie declares she’s going to marry Jayden and Keisha there’s a problem and noooo, you cannot tell.
Things never said about heterosexuality when little Jenny comes home and says “Mommy, I have a boyfriend”.
I knew I was non-hetero when I was four. I didn’t have the concepts or the vocabulary to properly describe it as such (I didn’t hear the word bisexual until I was in middle school, I didn’t learn about pansexuality until considerably later than that), but I knew that I was attracted to people of different genders.
I knew I wanted to marry/date more than one gender before I knew I wanted to have sex with more than one gender (and before I got the trauma that makes me generally revolted at the idea of sex, even though I do feel attraction. I just say sex-averse bisexual at the moment, while I’m groping for a term. )
Interestingly enough, I also knew I didn’t really like my assigned gender or my biology from a young age too. Go figure.
Andrew Zibuck says
Caine @ #8
You completely misconstrued my comment. It has nothing to do with whether her daughter sexuality, identity or anything like that. If I’m a dick for finding it odd that a parent would disclose something like that in a letter about a book review, well, I’ll accept being a dick. Thanks for the condescension anyway.
I didn’t care that much so didn’t try to find the original letter. I took what was presented here.
@Silentbob: the only facts I have is the letter, which talks about a 5 year old bisexual, and the post of Caine, which says that the child in question is actually 6 and bi AND genderqueer.
@11, 12, 13: Well, from the specks of memory I have from my prepubescent life, I’m pretty certain that I did not have any kind of sexual orientation whatsoever. Sure, there was curiosity because of the whole taboo around sexuality, but I don’t think I was ever actually attracted to anyone before the onset of puberty, at least not in the sense it started to happen afterwards.
Derek Vandivere says
#16 / Prae: The original complaint said her daughter was genderqueer (e.g., in how she identified herself). VOYA misconstrued that to mean that she was bisexual (e.g., who she digs). I’m not sure where Caine got that the kid’s also bi. Maybe from other posts from the user, but not from that particular one.
I’m straight – I certainly wasn’t aware of any orientation or attraction until hormones kicked in, but I can well imagine that being immersed in heteronormative society would trigger some feelings of not fitting in for queer kids even before their orientation comes to the surface (as #13 / Matrim, #14 / Vivec, and a few others have said). Hope I put that in approximately the right words…
Hell no. If they get used to that sort of thing early, it’ll be so much harder to teach them hate and fear later.
Wow, that is so bad, it’s not even a notpology. They’re not even trying.
Maybe don’t generalize from your experience to others, when said others are explicitly telling you that their experiences contradict your generalization?
Cerberus is working overtime at the outrage factory says
Important note: She didn’t say anything about her daughter’s sexuality or romantic orientation. She said her daughter was genderqueer.
And she specifically said:
“To see this sentence in your review makes me wonder how you would treat my 6yo daughter who is genderqueer. It makes me think about my 15yo self who was just realizing she was bisexual for the first time. It makes me wonder how you would treat my teen readers, many of whom ID as bisexual and find refuge in books with bisexual characters.”
And VOYA’s response was to ignore all that and go, ew genderqueer equals queer sex stuff, how dare you talk about that in public.
Which is kinda emblematic of the central problem. That they view the very existence of non-cis non-hetero individuals as inherently sexual and “private” or not worth considering the feelings of because of “activists” or whatever.
It’s the same tack Jesse Singal used to try and deflect his transphobia and put the blame on the folks calling him out while still peddling the same myths about trans kids using a simplistic kids being trans = sex and genitals = bad framework.
And that’s a problem queer and trans people have been up against for awhile. That our existence in the eyes of bigots and the bigoted public is viewed as inherently sexual and “mature” in a way that heterosexual or cis experiences aren’t and that gives gatekeepers like this the feeling that its somehow okay to deem works as more “mature” than they are simply because they feature queer, non-sexually active characters or to endlessly speculate creepily about the genitals of children because the children in question are trans.
This VOYA review is a microcosm of Hollywood labeling any teen comedy focusing on queer kids being rated an R of libraries feeling justified to block off youth access to content that features kids like them. Of sex education not even mentioning orientations and what someone can be.
It’s why youth for content that represent them frequently only have online and a handful of works that fight hard for said representation.
And that. That is messed up and not okay.
The Mellow Monkey says
prae @ 16
Y’know, orientation isn’t exclusively about libido. Apparently for some people it is and they were only aware of their orientation when they started getting those hormonal urges. Okay, hey, that’s you. Other people are different. Lots of other people are different. Some prepubescent kids get crushes and have romantic feels towards their peers and might be perfectly aware that they want to grow up and marry Kyle/Keisha. Some kids know in a vague sort of way, without even a specific crush, that they’re romantically interested in people of a particular sort or lots of sorts. Some people are different from you.
But as others have pointed out, the letter writer mentioned her own orientation (at fifteen) and her child’s gender identity. These are two different things. Gender identity is pretty clearly understood and expressed by that age in the vast majority of cases.
Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says
Caine@8 + prae@9 I knew I had attraction to both sexes at 4. As a matter of fact, I can identify the exact moment.
I was in the hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, for my 2nd eye operation. The children’s ward was filled with kids, and the staff brought in a 16mm projector to show cartoons. One of them was the MGM cartoon “Tom Thumb”. At one point the tiny Tom was bathing naked in a pool at the bottom of a flower, and he popped out of the bath and shinnied up the long stem of a flower, showing his naked bottom for several seconds. I felt an undeniable and memorable thrill as I watched this, followed by these thoughts:
“Oooh, that’s exciting!”
“I’d like to see a girl’s bottom, too!”
“But they won’t let us see a girl’s bottom.”
“That’s unfair! Why can’t I see both?”
“I’m supposed to want to see girl’s bottoms,, so they don’t show them. So they show boy’s bottoms, because we’re not supposed to want to see them. ”
I had no vocabulary for sex, as I was being brought up in a repressed, religious, homophobic family. But I knew RIGHT THEN that I was not a regular person. And so the hiding started.
Interesting. I honestly didn’t know that that stuff is even possible before puberty. You live and learn, as they say.
John Morales says
prae, your acknowledgement of anecdotal evidence is noted.
It would be good if you further acknowledged that the anecdotal evidence goes the other way too; essentially, what you have is an existence claim, not an universal claim (and for that matter, the relative distribution is not determinable from the various anecdotes).
I was too busy being a train or a dog or playing in cardboard boxes when I was 5 or 6 to be concerned with whether I was genderqueer or gay or not. Surely the best approach is to let your child be who they want to be, its not rocket science. I do find it strange that she would ‘out’ her kid as genderqueer at that age, sounds pretty ludicrous to me (as ludicrous as going round telling everyone they are straight).
How do you know she isn’t letting the child be who they want to be?
That’s because straight people have no reason to do so.
Also, she isn’t “going around” telling people about her daughter. She’s registering a legitimate complaint about a specific incidence and talking about an issue that needs to be talked about in society. Did you not read the many reasons her and others here have given so far?
@Saad What I meant was that I wouldn’t pay it any attention if my kid aged 5 years old decided to tell me they were genderqueer (obviously you can aknowledge and discuss it, but I wouldn’t then decide right my kids a genderqueer), I certainly wouldn’t announce it in a letter to a magazine.
I’ve just seen her posts on twitter, didn’t realize it was all done anonymously.
How is concluding that your kid is nonbinary and saying such any more or less ridiculous than concluding that they’re a boy or girl and openly saying such?
Cerberus is working overtime at the outrage factory says
Genderqueer is not an orientation, it is a gender identity. Here’s a snarky mirriam-webster tweet to clear up your confusion:
And respecting your child’s statements about their identity, treating it as real rather than something they will grow out of is what you’re supposed to do, as the denialist culture surrounding gender identity, especially among parents is directly responsible for the suicide rate of transgender youth being obscene to say the least.
From Laura’s Playground:
“Our mission is to prevent suicides. The transgender suicide rate has been estimated between 31% to 45%, depending on who you talk to. In 2005, we conducted our own study and asked people about suicide attempts. Over 50% of all transgender respondents reported that they had attempted suicide at least once before the age of 20, with one being as young as seven years old at the time of the attempt. Many others attempted numerous times, some more than 20, resulting in a lifetime spent in a hospital.”
Considering the line about the attempt at 7, believing your 6 year old when they tell you they are genderqueer is pretty damn important.
And if you believe them, if you don’t think it’s shameful or a phase, why wouldn’t you point it out in a conversation about bias?
It’s a reasonable thing to ask how VOYA would react to or treat the existence of her genderqueer kid. Especially as VOYA’s response clearly echoed her point in bringing it up. That her 6 year old’s mere existence as a non-cis person in the world is considered “mature” and “private”. Not to be spoken aloud in society, or acknowledged.
And this culture where we act like the existence of people, of kids is “too mature to even talk about” means those kids grow up without resources, without representation, and oftentimes without support as others are encouraged to dismiss their identities out of their misguided ideas that such things are sex stuff for older folks.
And the end result of that is a shit ton of dead trans kids.
@Vivec What I said was it is equally ridiculous because they are only 5 years old and know precisely feck all (in general).
@Cerberus Yes I know what genderqueer is, where did I say otherwise? I said genderqueer or gay because I don’t think you can really know until you’ve gone through puberty, I thought that was the general consensus anyways.
“And respecting your child’s statements about their identity, treating it as real rather than something they will grow out of is what you’re supposed to do”
That is exactly what I would do – and what I said I would do. I just wouldn’t take it seriously (despite treating it as real with the kid obvioulsy) until they were a bit older. As I said before I just can’t see how anyone would take it seriously at 5 years old. Heck I thought I was bi up until late teens, each to their own though.
CaitieCat, Harridan of Social Justice says
I knew I was trans from my earliest memories – regularly got spanked for being too girly, or for dressing in girls’ clothes. Just because you, dusk, didn’t know when you were a child, is no excuse to propose ignoring à child’s declaration about their gender, at whatever age.
And if you don’t give a rat’s ass about the people who will kill themselves because of attitudes like yours, then an aphorism involving the horse you rode in on comes to mind.
What on earth are you talking about? You must be trying very hard to be offended to get that from what I wrote As I made clear if I was in that situ I would support the kid in anyway possible and let them act how they like (excluding drugs and surgery) as we are talking about a 5 year old! I see you bemoan my personal experience despite already using your own as proof….about all we can tell from both of our anecdotes is that growing up is complicated and everyone’s experience is different – so it seems strange to me to pigeonhole a 5 yr old as anything (including cis or straight).
I hope you never have a trans kid.
Like, legitimately. Do you have any idea how traumatic going through puberty is for a kid with dysphoria, and how easy it is to circumvent that with hormone blockers? Which, by the way, are completely reversible and pose no threat to the kid’s long term health?
Glad to know you’d pay them lip service, but not take them seriously enough to help them avoid something that, in my and many other’s cases, multiple suicide attempts. How fucking magnanimous of you.
Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy says
If a five-year-old who was assigned male at birth said “I’m a boy,” would you accept that, or would you decide he was being ridiculous, because there’s no way he could know that before puberty? Almost everyone would take that child’s self-identification as legitimate, if they even bothered to think about the question.
If a child says something like “I’m a girl and a boy” or “I’m a girl who is so-and-so’s brother” (things a child might actually say*, even if they’ve never heard the word “genderqueer”) the parents can either accept what the child says and try to support them, or they can argue or deny what the child says, with something like “no, you’re a girl” (or something more judgmental like “don’t be silly” or “how can you say such a thing, you’re not her brother, you’re her sister” or “that’s ridiculous, nobody can be a girl and a boy”). Denying that such children exist may be easier for the parent, or for their friends and neighbors, but a good parent won’t value “protect the neighbors’ world-view” over supporting their children.
*I did not invent those examples; those are things an acquaintance of mine posted about an actual four-year-old.
Theres some seriously angry people here. Jeepers. Why dont you ask me the question before assuming the worst? If a kid was unhappy for any reason I’d seek advice from those most qualified, and do what the Dr’s or whoever that may be recommended. Don’t let that stop you from getting angry at anyone who doesn’t spend every waking minute thinking about this stuff though….
Well, say what you mean rather than backpedaling and changing your story every time someone challenges you.
You literally said that you’d exclude drugs and surgery, which by-definition includes hormone blockers.
Also, yeah, no shit I’m fucking angry, the kind of shit you espouse has made my life and many others’ quantifiably worse.
@Vivec OK fair enough I maybe wasn’t very clear. Surely they wouldn’t give hormone blockers to a 5 yr old though?! Either way I was meaning things that would have a permanent effect and from what you’ve said hormone blockers are irreversible which I wasn’t aware of (as you probably guessed). Apologies for the confusion and my general ignorance on the topic – it did just jump out at me as odd to classify a 5 yr old as genderqueer. I’m going to look into it more though
You specifically stipulated that you don’t think kids know a thing about this “before puberty”, by which point it is too late for hormone blockers to prevent puberty from happening.
Also, bullshit. My prepubescent ass clearly knew enough about my dysphoria to feel discomfort to the point of attempting suicide when my body suddenly went through changes I couldn’t control.
Hormone blockers are reversible. Once you stop taking them, exposure to hormones will begin the process like normal.
OK so you take them right before puberty? As I said I’ll do some more reading on the matter, you’re clearly not a fan of educating people (or have understandably gotten fed up of doing it). Hopefully it’s not something I’ll ever have to deal with (and no not because trans kids are awful).
Maybe next time there is a discussion on a subject you are ignorant about, you should look into it or ask respectful questions first, rather than going straight to arguments and ridicule?
@jefrir Where did I go straight to arguments and ridicule? There was none of that until it was assumed that because I thought it was odd to pigeonhole a 5 year old as anything (and still do) that I would therefore completely ignore it and force a kid to suffer in silence. When the discussion moved onto actual behaviours and treatments (I was envisaging harmless remarks that could be discussed, explained and encouraged, as opposed to discomfort and depression) I admitted my ignorance and bowed out. Lesson learned.
John Morales says
You seriously think it’s odd to “pigeonhole a 5 year old” as a boy? As a girl?
(If not, fair enough; if not…)
John Morales says
(If so, fair enough; if not…)
I wouldn’t assume anything about a 5 year old, because they’re a 5 year old.
John Morales says
dusk, so, you equally object to a 5-yo being identified as a boy or as a girl as you do to their being transgender.
(Do you call parents out when they do that? It’s the norm!)
Yes in similar circumstances sure
John Morales says
dusk, no worries. Must be annoying when you do so, given societal norms.
So, at what age do you think children merit being designated (pigeonholed) a particular gender, and to what degree is their own stated position, behaviour and attitude relevant to that assignation? I understands it exceeds 5 years of age, but you have hardly been specific.
(In passing, do you give credence to the concept of genderqueerness, or do you ascribe only to the existence of a binary gender status?)
Oh it is, drives me round the bend.
I would say at least 12 years 3 months and 6 days. Give or take.
Yes I give credence to the concept of genderqueerness.
As I thought I’d made painfully clear, any sign of depression or mental illness I would seek medical advice, no matter what age. None of this had been mentioned initially, and I also stated very clearly that I’d support the kid in anyway possible and let them act and dress how they like.
And I didnt mean to equate genderqueerness with mental illness, I was meaning the resulting depression and suffering that leads to suicide attempts etc
John Morales says
dusk, whyever do you imagine that genderqueerness in itself leads to “depression and suffering that leads to suicide attempts etc?”.
That’s exactly like saying that being gay (or atheistic, for that matter) leads to “depression and suffering that leads to suicide attempts etc” — it’s purely a product of an intolerant society punishing those who don’t conform to its norms.
In a healthy society, it would be no biggie — much like being red-headed or blonde or brunette.
John Morales says
… or bald.
John Morales, some of you on here try really hard to see the worst in every possible statement don’t you. Kind of annoying. Give up with the nitpicking….Funnily enough we don’t live in a healthy society do we? I was referring to the suffering already mentioned by people in this thread who identify as genderqueer, a lot of which would be outwith parental control.
I think we’re done here, have a good weekend. I’ve got to get home to meet the postman and sign for a delivery (sorry, postperson).
John Morales says
Yeah, we’re done, dusk.
Well, yeah. I note you’ve gone out of your way to evade my point about societal intolerance being the root cause.
You could have addressed it, but you tellingly ignored it. I understand.
BTW, postman works only for an identified male, else it’s a misnomer — but postal officer (or similar) works for anyone.
(Lemme guess: you find it problematic for an actress to be called an actor, though both linguistically and semantically the term encompasses both ‘actors’ and ‘actresses’.)
Whatever, I said postman because I thought it may wind you up, I was correct.
I didn’t respond to the societal intolerance claim because that is blatantly obvious. What else would cause depression etc? Again with the jumping to the worst conclusions. Newsflash- most people aren’t bigots so stop assumin the opposite.
Dusk, your first post on this thread referred to her calling her kid genderqueer as “ludicrous” – I would class that as ridicule, and certainly not a good opening if what you actually meant was “I support genderqueer people but don’t like any gendering of 5 year olds”
And yes, most people are bigots to some extent, something you notice pretty quickly if you’re part of one of the groups they’re bigoted against.
Yeah, gonna need the world’s biggest [Citation Needed] on the claim that most people aren’t bigots.
Did I just pull a Methuselah and wake up in a time when my existence as a non-binary person isn’t either denied or treated as inherently ridiculous by the majority of people?
Also idk John, the specific kind of suffering I was mentioning upthread was in reference to going through puberty with severe dysphoria, which I don’t think social intolerance is the root cause of.
Someone who thinks
wouldn’t say half the things you’ve said here.
Your “each to their own” is sounding more like “I don’t mean to be racist but…” in reverse. You’ve first said cisnormative things and then added “each to their own” at the end. It doesn’t work like that.