Dismantling a right-wing myth about transgender children


This is an amazing video, well worth an hour of your time. It’s an example of the kind of humane skepticism I wish we saw more of.

To summarize, if you don’t have an hour: there is a news story that is circulating on right wing media of a “liberal mom forcing her son to be transgender” — the parents are divorced, and the child dresses as a girl at mom’s place, and as a boy at dad’s, therefore the story of gender dysphoria is all made up and a ploy to torment the father by a bitter, liberal mom, and gosh, isn’t it evil how the Radical Left uses children as pawns? The video creator digs deep into the story, tracing it back to court transcripts and the actual statements made by the principals in the case, and discovers it’s all taking place in opposite world. The father is the one forcing the child to dress as a boy, motivated by conservative religious beliefs, and it’s the mother who is happy to let the child choose for themself. All the horrors of the story have been conjured into existence by right-wing ideologues.

I guessed how this was going to turn out when I learned that the primary source for the skewed story was Walt Heyer, and that the father was supported by the American College of Pediatricians. Don’t trust that organization! Peak irony was reached when some of the father’s friends in the video urge parents to only go to pediatricians who are members of the ACP, because other organizations are ideologically driven.

Also, the video is beautifully done and the presentation fair and sympathetic. Really worth watching. The ending will make you sad.

Comments

  1. says

    Decades ago when I was a wee lad in college I was dating a woman who had a 4yr old child. This child was born male but identified as female. Yes folks gender dysphoria can manifest at very young ages. Her and I went our separate ways almost 20 years ago so I don’t know what happened to her kid, but he/she would be in their early 20s now. I think about them when I read stories like this.

  2. says

    As a father of daughters, living in a west coast city with a robust transgender population, this is a question that has been discussed.

    My strategy, should the issue come up, is to make clear to any gender dysphoric children of mine who might inquire, is to a) reassure them that they can dress and be whatever they like, b) to mention in passing that they look like girls to me, and c) provide a brief and age-appropriate discussion of the ways in which ones life might be made more difficult as a transgender person. Probably followed up with a return to step a).

    This topic has not come up.

    Do items b) and c) make me a manipulative transphobe, using my children to promote an anti-trans agenda? I don’t think so, but YMMV.

  3. anat says

    Do items b) and c) make me a manipulative transphobe, using my children to promote an anti-trans agenda?

    In one word: yes. Also, a parent who does not respect their children as whole people. You lack the capacity to make your kids cisgender if they are transgender. And if they are transgender avoiding gender exploration in childhood is not going to make their transness go away. All you would be doing is pushing them into a closet and telling them they can’t trust you to be on their side with important things in their lives.

    Being transgender isn’t about choosing certain clothes and other means of expression. Being allowed to wear the clothes that are socially associated with their gender but not being allowed to claim that gender is not much of a solution.

    (FYI I am the parent of a transgender kid who transitioned in the second half of high school, is now starting senior year of college. Adjusting to knowingly being the parent of a transgender kid gave me some mental hiccups, but that’s nothing compared to being a transgender kid.)

  4. microraptor says

    Do items b) and c) make me a manipulative transphobe, using my children to promote an anti-trans agenda?

    As someone who is trans, yes, it does.

    A trans kid needs more than anything else parents who are willing to listen to them and not be judgemental. What you’re talking about is the exact opposite and it’s the kind of attitude and behavior that has kept me from coming out to my parents to this day.

  5. PaulBC says

    I’m not here to criticize or grant absolution. I think parents have to use their own discretion. My own parents were by and large open and even encouraging of my eccentricities as a nerdy, very introverted kid (I realize this is not remotely comparable to being transgendered and don’t suggest otherwise, but I draw from what little personal experience I possess). On the whole I am entirely appreciative. Would I have preferred them to be more prescriptive about “normal” behavior? In short, no. Could they have given me more practical guidance on the potential hazards of marching to your own drummer? Uh, maybe.

    I suspect that a transgender child has already figured out that the world might not be fully accepting of them, so it’s unclear that they ever need to have this reinforced by their family even in the most neutral and well-intentioned way.

  6. says

    I dunno, PaulBC. I knew a transgender girl when she was 5 years old.. She seemed pretty much the same as my at-the-time 5 year old, who wasn’t particularly world-weary. Maybe she was, though. Five year olds are pretty young.

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    Andrew Molitor @3: If you’ve written something down as (b) in a list, it can’t really be “in passing”. It’s definitely manipulative, and definitely a transphobic thing to say.

  8. Rob Grigjanis says

    Andrew @9: “In passing” means, I would say, “as an aside, not crucial to the main topic”. Making it the second item on a list of three hardly qualifies it as an aside.

  9. says

    Andrew Molitor:
    “to mention in passing that they look like girls to me”

    This is stupid. Do you think they’re not painfully aware that they look like girls? You’re barely one step up here from saying “boys have a penis and girls have a vagina!” The whole point of saying you’re trans is to say, despite appearances, you’re whatever gender you know yourself to be.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    Andrew @11: You could certainly make it brief, but it is not, in any way, a casual thing to say. Would you say something like that to an adult? If you would judge that to be transphobic (I certainly would), how is it any less so if you say it to your kids?

  11. says

    I find it fascinating how willing you folks are to pass judgement without knowing how old my daughters are.

    andrewglasgow@12: have you met any 5 year olds? the question of what girls look like and what boys look like is one that is not completely resolved at that point for some children. Clothing is, usually, the only substantive visible difference at that age, and that line is pretty vague.

    “What do you think, Dad?” would be an implied, if not explicitly stated, part of the conversation, at least for the next few years.

  12. anat says

    I find it fascinating how willing you folks are to pass judgement without knowing how old my daughters are.

    My response holds regardless of age. From barely verbal to no longer verbal.

  13. anat says

    To expand: In #3 Andrew Molitor said:

    My strategy, should the issue come up, is to make clear to any gender dysphoric children of mine who might inquire,

    Andrew Molitor is saying their kid in the hypothetical scenario is gender dysphoric. Not happily not-quite conforming to societal gender norms but dysphoric. Meaning the child is experiencing strong negative emotions regarding being identified as a particular gender. Andrew Molitor’s proposed strategy is exactly what a dysphoric child should never hear from a parent.

    Regarding

  14. says

    Rob@16: I did! And I am finding the responses fascinating!

    I admit that it was only in perusing the responses did it truly come home to me that the parental strategy must and will naturally adapt and change as the child ages. Obviously at age 18, say, the child is nearly an adult and the conversation becomes a lot more laissez-faire, and takes the form “whatever, kid, I got your back” and at age 3 or 4 it’s.. different. It just struck me as funny that people were willing to sling judgements without knowing either.

    Were people unconsciously assuming some specific age range? I was, but that’s because my kids are, like, right here in front of me, being their respective ages, which happens to have biased my thinking. Mea culpa!

    anat@17: honestly, my kids are profoundly unlikely to find themselves in a “strong negative emotions” scenario, although I suppose anything is possible. My kids know trans folks, they go to pride events, and I think I’m raising ’em OK. It’s not an accident that they’re being raised in a trans-friendly city. If they come to me on this point it’s unlikely to be to help them deal with trauma, it’s gonna be more along the lines of ‘stop buying me skirts and dresses, dad, I think I might be a boy.’ with a side of ‘so, what do you think about that, dad?’ because they’re still little enough to give a damn about my opinion.

    Obviously if they’re cutting or whatever, I’d take a different tack.

  15. says

    I see that I should have said “gender nonconforming” rather than “gender dysphoric” it appears. The definition of the latter appears to explicitly include an element of distress.

    I apologize for the confusion.

  16. Rowan vet-tech says

    The response to even a young child saying “I think I might be a boy” is still not “you look like a girl to me” though.

  17. says

    I feel like it might be a modest efficiency at this point to stipulate the “age doesn’t matter, you’re wrong in every case” response from everyone who hasn’t gotten around to it yet.

  18. says

    This was an impressive feat of derailing…but then, I’ve learned that anytime transgender issues come up here, someone will jump in and kick about until the comments are all over the place.

    I will just mention that in a blog post and video about a very specific, real situation, the third comment invents a completely different hypothetical situation, and now that’s all y’all are talking about. How about if you haven’t watched the video and have nothing to say about it, you refrain from commenting?

  19. redwood says

    I watched the video and felt so sorry for the child being pulled in opposite directions by the parents. My ire was for the lies spewed by the right-wingers and how they vilified the mother without knowing the actual situation. Good job by Timbah.On.Toast for his investigation into what was really happening. He presents the evidence so clearly.

  20. redwood says

    Hmm, well, being pulled by the father while the mother didn’t pull at all, just let things be what they were. Yeah, should preview first . . .

  21. raven says

    I’d never heard of this guy before for good reasons.
    Walt Heyer is a crackpot and a rabid anti-LGBT hater.
    It’s all very routine.
    His big thing is that being trans doesn’t work because some people regret it, which he did and which he regretted and reversed.

    The actual facts are the opposite.
    “Indeed, another Swedish study in 2009 found that 95 percent of individuals who transitioned report positive life outcomes as a result. ”

    So do some people regret transitioning.
    Sure.
    This is completely irrelevant though.
    Who hasn’t regretted something sometime in their life?
    I’ve got a long list myself including an ex who became a stalker and then died from excessive binge drinking.
    Half of all marriages end in divorce and are regrettable.

  22. kkehno says

    Yeah, it’s like there is some bias againts those that are trans what would explain why the father received sympathy even if he is a horrible person.

  23. tacitus says

    This is only Timbah’s fifth video on this channel, but his three part series on Dave Rubin, a popular YouTuber, former Young Turk, supposedly liberal, but who now caters almost solely to an alt-right/far-right audience, is also very well done.

    He’s part of a growing number of young progressive YouTubers who are doing excellent work in countering the far-right on that medium. YouTuber Shaun produces similar videos to Timbah, and Olly Thorn of Philosophy Tube has created some amazing output in the last year, one of which got him noticed by Vox:

    https://www.vox.com/culture/2019/8/2/20749452/best-youtube-video-philosophy-tube-men-abuse-trauma-oliver-thorn

  24. says

    I am gonna take a, surprise, contrarian view here.

    Timbah’s video is wildly overlong for the content, which is surprisingly thin. It is also far too much about Timbah and their emotions, their reactions, and frankly I don’t find that aspect even credible. This “something about Eazy’s video…” narrative rings false, because unless you are an idiot, Eazy’s video and the articles it’s based on are obvious trash.

    Assuming Timbah is actually a functioning human being, the actual story is probably more like “I watched Eazy’s video and realized it was BS. I searched around, found some articles it was based on. Also obviously trash. So I said to myself ‘self, there are probably some court documents around’ so I dug those up and read them. The articles and Eazy’s video are trash. Here are some snippets.”

    But no, it’s all wrapped up in “as I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly I heard a tapping” stories about Timbah.

    The whole “I felt bad” coda should just have been dropped because, let us be honest here, Timbah’s sadness is irrelevant and a distraction. I don’t give a shit that Timbah has a sad about mom deleting her twitter account. Timbah is literally the least impacted character in this entire story. Yeah, yeah, it ties in with “mom is an actual human” which a) is obvious and b) could have been said without a whole personal story about how sad Timbah is.

    Timbah is adopting a largely bogus “even-handed” approach here, and wrapping it in an incredibly long video and moderately boring video. This could have been a 30 minute video without losing a shred of content, and it could have been a ten minute video if some of the content had been summarized. This was like watching the worst powerpoint presenter in the world, reading slide after slide of bullet points in a soporific voice. With plinky incidental music.

    This sort of reasoned, careful, tedious “reporting” is terrible marketing, and classic neoliberalism. The left isn’t going to win by being the smartest kids in the room, or by being the most boring.

  25. says

    Andrew Molitor
    I get this feeling that your position towards trans people is that you are completely supportive as long as their transness doesn’t affect you personally. You are happy with your kids consuming LGBTQ culture, but seem uncomfortable with the idea that they might actually be part of the community, especially the T.

    +++
    To get back to the case at hand: It shows many of the lies and falsehoods currently peddled by the so called “gender critical” activists in their unholy union together with right wing fundamentalists.
    The lie that prepubescent children are rushed into taking hormones and having surgery performed, when the truth is that for children of Luna’s age transitioning means a change of names and gender expression.
    The lie that getting trans affirmative care is quick and easy to get when in reality most people wait for over a year for an initial appointment and yes, that includes children.
    And the lie that especially women are “transing” their children in order to get attention and affection (this is related to the lie that women make up accusations of abuse and violence to hurt the father)

  26. tacitus says

    Andrew Molitor: I am gonna take a, surprise, contrarian view here.

    For fuck sake, it’s the guy’s fifth YouTube video. Most YouTubers, left or right, are still creating low-res talking heads crap with buzzy audio and bad arguments in their 20th video, let along their 5th. I found it perfectly watchable.

    In any case, extrapolating one video as the future of progressive YouTube punditry is beyond idiotic. Let’s see what you have to offer before you start shitting on other people’s efforts.

  27. DanDare says

    Is criticising the style of the video a form of tone trolling?
    The video shows what it needs to show and digs to the evidence. It models appropriate responses but doesn’t have to. So what? I say its a good job.
    And I like The Raven and can read it aloud almost as well as Vincent Price

  28. says

    Well, perhaps someone can explain to me why it’s OK to give Eazy a pass on his clearly terrible trans-allyship? I genuinely cannot figure it out. His behavior looks reprehensible to me, and I cannot figure out why it is somehow a virtue that Timbah didn’t nail him to the wall for it.

  29. says

    At PZ’s specific request I am remaning as on-topic as conceivable, I am evaluating the video on its own merits. Let us review the title:

    “Liberal Mom Forces Son to be Transgender? – A Response to Eazy Ali:”

    Please note the subtitle. On its own terms, then, how does this video fare as a “Response to Eazy Ali” and the answer is “as shit” for reasons stated above. I’m not going to dig in to the fairly transparent reasons why you’re pushing back on this because that would be off topic.

  30. lochaber says

    I think the video was less directed at Eazy Ali, and more at reasonable minded people who might view the video, and think that the conservative bigots maybe have a point.

    This isn’t really that much different from almost any other conservative “news” or talking-point-of-the-moment. It’s very loosely “based on real life events”, but written about by someone with a clear agenda, and then agitated about the right-wing media-sphere, and endlessely quoted and linked to, so that no one individual has to take the blame for just making shit up, they can always point to their buddies at Breitbart or Infowars or whatever, and claim them as “sources”

    And then, those talking points leave their right wing bubble, and start to infect the national discourse. I don’t know them, and can’t speak for them, but I feel that Timbah-on-toast was trying to combat this one instance of an infectious lie.

    might be a while back, but back when Prop 8 happened over here in California, there were a whole bunch of religious groups making ridiculous claims like it would mean kids would be subject to “live, in-class, sex-ed demonstrations” and assorted other absurdities. And people believed it.

    The right is loosing it’s shit over the idea of trans people being accepted, so they are going all out with eleventeen different flavors of nonsense, like “bathroom bills”, “concern” over trans women athletes, and bullshit like this video was trying to address, claims of “child indoctrination”

  31. wzrd1 says

    I’ll not waste my time with the video, as I’m familiar with the American College of Pediatricians. What sounds ever so collegiate and professional, but has a massive 500 or so members, one single employee and is listed as a hate group by the SPLC.
    I didn’t look up the single employee, but I’d not be surprised to see Joe Mengele’s apprentice.

  32. says

    “I’m not going to dig in to the fairly transparent reasons why you’re pushing back on this”

    LOL, right, can’t possibly be because you’re a raging transphobic douchenozzle, can it?

  33. says

    Thanks, lochaber. I agree that this is the intent and thrust of the video, and in general I approve of these things in the abstract. I’m an ex-academic ex-software left-coast leftie stay-at-home-dad living in a ridiculously progressive town. My position is not that Timbah isn’t making a good college try to refute the right-wing lie machine, but that Timbah isn’t doing a very good job of it. I have spent a far bit of time studying and doing marketing, and Timbah is following the lead of NPR-style progressive media.

    Timbah is obviously skilled and experienced, that is a very well made video. I assume therefore that the choices made in its construction are deliberate and thoroughly thought out. The result, though, is nothing like hard-hitting. It won’t appeal to anyone but the choir, it won’t change minds. It is going to appeal to people who already agree with the content, and it is going to shove people who don’t want to agree further into their foxholes. Logic and reason have no place in this fight, and the Left has, for some decades now, been insisting on keeping them as primary tools. Being even handed, mild-mannered, and logical, well, these are all great things, but not in a political fight for world dominance.

    The Left wins when someone step up with some good sloganeering, some feel-good messaging, and a tight logo. Which is altogether too rare, and to circle back, distinctly not present in Timbah’s video.

  34. starfleetdude says

    @42

    I’m no propagandist, I merely read court decisions and use them to inform myself. (See @31 for link.) If you care to read it yourself, what do you think of the case?

  35. says

    #43 – I take Timbah’s reading of the case as accurate. I have not read the court documents myself, and if I did I might find a quibble or two, but I consider it highly unlikely that Timbah has it wrong in any substantive way.

  36. starfleetdude says

    @44

    O.K. then. I am a bit surprised you’re not willing to go to the source though, given your criticism of the video’s appeal. Perhaps I’m just too old school and hidebound to the notion that source materials matter more than their interpretation. I have a different take on the case based on my reading of the court case, anyway.

  37. Rowan vet-tech says

    Srarfleetdude, it might behoove you to treatment that you were banned from interacting with any posts related to trans issues.

  38. DanDare says

    Just for readers that don’t get it, this discussion is about a couple with a transgender child. The mother allows the child to live their gender, the father supresesses it. Conservative anti trans media claim it is the mom being abusive.
    The video about it is itself not the topic.
    How you may treat a hypothetical trans gender child of your own is not the topic.

  39. Porivil Sorrens says

    Inb4 they pull a Holms and start going to BaW to whine about PZ quashing their bullshit transphobia.

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