Following the screening of BBC Two’s broadcast of Louis Theroux: Transgender Kids, the media reaction since has been predictably polarised. Almost uniformly stemming from a position of prior ignorance or downright bigotry, Brendan O’Neill’s contribution in The Spectator is a prime example of intolerance masquerading as intellectual critique.
If Mr O’Neill reads this countering article (by a transsexual) I hope he may learn a thing or two, not just about the realities of being transgender, but also about being a more compassionate human being.
O’Neill’s assertion that “trans activists are effectively experimenting on children” must be questioned. But it is also worth pointing out that raising any child – regardless of their gender identity – is by definition, an experiment. Babies do not come with instruction manuals and, even if they did, their genetics, personal experiences, and unique view of the world would render such documents meaningless long before they start school.
O’Neill claims to be defending children’s rights and liberties against “trans activists”, yet there is very little direct mention of these “activists” within his article – unless he’s referring to their parents and gender specialists, who have no choice but to be anything other as they are working to improve the quality of those children’s lives.
Glibly referring to the children presented in Theroux’s documentary as “silly” and “daft”, O’Neill states that he is “not convinced that toddlers are capable of thinking”. Toddlers may often act in such a manner, because they’re children. Children generally, however, are anything but those things, they study and test the world around them – just as scientists examine the subjects of their chosen fields of speciality. It becomes clear at this point that there is no scientfic basis to O’Neill’s own thinking; he simply believes – as he states within his own article – in a binary interpretation of gender in which any deviation from the “boys will be boys and girls will be girls” maxim is socially dangerous.
And, yes, toddlers are capable of thinking. My niece, when she was around 18 months old, asked her grandmother and myself about death, after we visited her great grandmother in a care home – clear evidence of a cognitive thought process. How many other people can say that of any toddling relatives – I’d hazard a guess that the vast majority of those people would.
Being transsexual is something no-one should have to go through, It’s an incredibly tough, heart-breaking and agonising voyage in which you typically have to make more sacrifices than most people ever would during their entire lives – and all because of muddled genetic coding. Add to that a society forcing you to live two lifetimes in the space of a single lifespan – yet people choose to go through that, simply to be comfortable in their own gender – a privilege that is naturally afforded to most people.
We also statistically face a far greater risk of unemployment, personal relationship problems, bullying, physical assault, and most worryingly shorter lives as we are more likely to die prematurely, either from medical reasons with the numerous surgeries, treatments and other sometimes related health conditions, or suicide, or even being murdered.
This brings me to the more demeaning part of O’Neill’s argument. He asks: “Could there be anything more cruel” than letting that happen to a child?
Goddamned right there is. It’s having journalists firing ill-informed vitriol at vulnerable people who have little, or no means of defending themselves – pandering to bigots and, worst of all, to the sort of wicked and intolerant individuals like the parents of Leelah Alcorn, a 17 year old male to female transsexual who last year, after posting a heart achingly sad suicide note online, tragically took her own life. Not that they cared.
Do people who spout such vileness get their jollies from enabling such monsters to be so evil?
The Western World is finally facing up to the reality of transsexualism, but it’s going to be an extended slog for us and perhaps especially for the current generation of youngsters. They will be the real pioneers of the transgender frontier; those trans-people before them have been advance expeditionary parties.
These children will be growing-up, most likely living their entire lives during this pivotal transitory period in transgender history when the rest of the world itself will be transitioning to become far more accepting of us. That results in inevitable backlashes from people who freak out at the existence of trans people, but it also means that support, acceptance and understanding will grow for us, too.
When I was around five, I realised my gender wasn’t as easy to quantify as it was for the rest of my peers. Living in Scottish society at that time could be very grim if you were in anyway Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual or Intersex (- intersex, if you don’t know Mr O’Neill, is when someone with chromosomal differences makes them genetically neither male or female), and it was illegal to be homosexual here until 1980. The eruption on the HIV/AIDS crisis didn’t help matters. Expressing gender non-conformity during those days was terrifying – even for me as a child, so I chose deny my gender identity for a couple of decades. Eventually, I did come to that brutal, yet wonderful realisation that I am female; but my mother’s health was too far gone to burden her with it, so I decided to keep it from her, for the sake of her health and wellbeing – that was the strongest and bravest thing that I have ever done. I was only able to come out to the rest of my family after Mum passed away. Since then I have started hormone replacement therapy I have never felt more at peace in my entire life than what I do right now, although I still have a long way to go on my transsexual journey.
What O’Neill and those like him fail to appreciate that this is the future of humanity; to deny that trans people exist and have the right to so is also a denial of human nature itself. I hope the continuing generations of people like me to have a far easier time of being trans, and that people uttering these kinds of viewpoints are increasingly ignored.
As far as raising children is concerned, as long as any parent raises a child to be a decent, caring empathetic person who does not purposefully go out of their way to belittle or hurt others, then they’ve done a superb job. Mr O’Neill should take note.