Delayed puberty for trans kids – part two – by Mal Content

Response to critics of my last, and the one by our correspondent Jack Collins, here’s another from gal-dem.*

* be careful to reject the trackers on this, unless you know who all those “partners” are and what they’re up to.

My disdain for law is not up for grabs. Most of the postulates in answer to this point have been facile and unworthy – of course we must agree codes of conduct to live by. I think it inarguable that autonomous communities would have injunctions against rape and murder, but I doubt they’d want to get involved in endocrinology. Medicine is a sphere of trust between patient and practitioner, and such a relationship can only be entered into freely. Similarly I think the suggestion that children at Tavistock were being experimented on by mad scientists belongs in the tinfoil hat section.

There’s always a whiff of metaphysics in the ‘appeals to nature’ from the other side. Children should undergo puberty when their bodies are ready, really? Puberty, like arthritis, comes along whether you’re ready for it or not. I’ve heard of girls having menses at nine years of age. A woman I knew well had her first period at nineteen; both are within the natural range. There are other factors that can delay puberty, starvation being the most common, and this is often resorted to by youngsters desperate to avoid the development of secondary sexual characteristics and the social pressures that attend them.

I’ve written about Stefan Kiszko, who suffered a spectrum of health problems including a rare intersex condition (XYY). He went through a medically induced puberty in his twenties and that was only the start of his problems. Was he ready? We’ll never know, as he was then maliciously prosecuted and convicted of a crime he was physically incapable of committing.

The argument has been made that physical and emotional maturity can, and should go hand in hand. This flies in the face of everyday experience. Children in their teens hold families together in war zones, balancing work and school. Here they often care for younger siblings and sick parents, while adults have children ‘by accident’ and walk away. We’ve got forty-year olds who fight at football matches! In fact, the infantilisation of the citizen by government and law makes it virtually impossible for some people ever to grow up, which as a minimum requires thinking for yourself and taking responsibility for your actions.

What is sexual maturity? Respect for personal boundaries, not spreading disease or unwanted pregnancy, a bit of care for others’ emotions. None of these things comes bundled with breasts or facial hair. Is it so terrible that the intellect might develop ahead of the body? I don’t think so, that nineteen-year-old was a highly intelligent woman who knew her own mind, when last I saw her she was an optometrist.

You can join the army at sixteen and leave your private parts overseas; that’s one way of doing it.

Last of all was the outrageous suggestion that children should be left to fuck up their own future – isn’t that their parents’ job? We’ve all been doing that for millennia. Adults who blew their own chances live vicariously through their offspring, and the habit of gender stereotyping, plus the grand separation of productive from reproductive labour narrows the field. You can join the army at sixteen and leave your private parts overseas; that’s one way of doing it. I set a trap when I referred to all the living Jan Morris had done before her transition. If you read her book you’ll see she made up her mind at four years of age.

The one point not in dispute is that this judgement will lead to an excess of suicide, and children being torn away from their families because they refuse to eat, or otherwise harm themselves, more fodder for your justice system.

Thoughts on the Divisional Court ruling preventing the prescription of puberty-blocking medication to transgender children – by Mal Content.

Now I’m not in the least interested in the law, being simply the manifestation of the state’s monopoly on violence. I don’t believe it actually serves anyone, least of all those who only ever butt up against it in times of personal crisis.

Many of my ilk think that a Working Class anarchist militant should not concern themselves with such matters as “identity”, “gender” or “gender identity”. Nevertheless, as a fifty-plus male of simple tastes and relatively mundane proclivities I find this goes to the heart of my anarchy, and what makes me an anarchist, so I’m moved to comment yet again.

Why, they ask, did we pick this hill to die on? Keeping the military analogy, you don’t always decide where the front line is! Sometimes it’s where the enemy puts it and you either stand or fall. If transgender people were foxes or badgers, we wouldn’t even be having these conversations. Sure enough our enemies are ranged against us: the tabloids, tories, Bolshevik-apologists and god-botherers, who use the coercive state as a stick to beat their chosen scapegoats. This court case is the outcome of a long-running battle between these people and the Tavistock Hospital.

Many people spend their lives seeking an identity they are comfortable with; I congratulate anyone who finds it. Some of us just give up and amuse ourselves by alternately playing up to other people’s impressions, and confounding them. I learned early in life that your acquaintances ‘tie’ you with their thoughts. If you usually act in a particular way their own cognitive dissonance will pounce on any deviation causing them to flap like wet chickens, so it’s less hassle to give them what they expect. This is especially true if like me you are borderline autistic and easily slip into a rut.

When I was a kid I read an excerpt from Welsh journalist and historian Jan Morris’ book ‘Conundrum’ concerning her transition. I believe it was in the Sunday Times, in the era when the same publication’s scientific supplements listed ‘transvestism’ and ‘homosexuality’ alongside bestiality and necrophilia as sexual deviations, among the mental illnesses. I didn’t understand it, but it seemed reasonable to accept the conscious, informed decision of someone who had already climbed Everest, reported from war zones and the trials of Eichmann and Powers, interviewed Che Guevara and had five kids. I was already on my way to being an anarchist.

My conversations with transgender adults and the parents of trans and gender-curious children have led me to the conclusion that no one would go through these tribulations unless it was mandatory. It isn’t necessary for an anarchist to understand why an individual follows a given path, or maybe selects it as their least worst option, only to accept it as an exercise of free will. I read of Sarah Jane Baker who removed her own testicles in prison, because no-one was listening.

In this case inaction is action and I’m in no doubt that a decision not to delay puberty can be life-threatening and as potentially life-changing as the alternative. Add in the confusion that comes with the spectrum of intersex conditions, which are a lot more common than you might imagine. Thank Durruti I shall never have to make such decisions on my own, or anyone else’s behalf.

I had a fair childhood myself, I wasn’t abused, never went hungry nor feared for my life, but my one lasting impression was hatred of adult ‘authority’, those who knew better than I what was good for me. They turned out to be the same folk who were busy wrecking the planet, poisoning the air, water and soil, and plotting the annihilation of half the human race in defence of their moral superiority. I liked Crowley’s “Do what thou wilt”, even after I learned he was no more than a high class con-artist. He took pains to point out he wasn’t saying do what you like, but be true to yourself – without that you are nothing.

So if a thirteen year old decides to delay puberty, is that any crazier than delaying hair loss or dementia – or death itself? If further down the line they find out they’ve got it all wrong and fucked it up, at least they will have the satisfaction of knowing they fucked it up themselves.

An Attack on Trans Young People is an Attack on all Young People.

Yesterday’s ruling by the High Court pertaining to Keira Bell, Ms. A and the Judicial Review of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust is an authoritarian attack on some of the most marginalised and vulnerable young people in the UK. It has been facilitated by a relentless anti-trans narrative peddled by the TERFs that has permeated through all media outlets.

Puberty blockers are now going to be extremely difficult to obtain for trans young people under the age of sixteen. The ruling states that under-13s will definitely not be able to give informed consent and it is unlikely that 14 and 15 year olds will be able to do so as a result of the hormonal changes that happen during puberty. Transgender young people, unless they have the means to bring a case to medical tribunal, are now consigned to undergo a puberty that they categorically do not want. We already know that suicidality is experienced by at least half of all transgender young people, that 80% engage in self-harm and this will be compounded by yesterday’s ruling.

How many more transgender young people have to die? How many more families will bury their children? Why do transgender lives not matter? The TERFs scoff and laugh when these statistics are mentioned and call them “fake”. Who knew that Trumpian behaviour was going to form the cornerstone of radical feminism in the 21st Century?

Keira Bell is a high-profile “de-transitioner”. Bell was prescribed puberty blockers at age sixteen, started taking testosterone in adulthood and had a double mastectomy as a result of formally identifying as a man. Bell ceased transition in 2017 after realising this was not the path she wanted to go down. Bell has every right to live as her authentic self, as do transgender young people, and as a consequence of her experiences will probably need specialist care and support in the medium-term. Bell has seemingly turned to the TERFs for that support and it is unlikely that she will get it. The TERFs have been waging war against the Tavistock for a long time and Bell will be cast aside now she is of no further use to them.

Bell consented to puberty blockers at age sixteen but sought to deny this treatment to younger children. It is baffling that she feels she has the right to take away healthcare options from young people when the ruling would have had no bearing on her case. Ms A. is a parent of a 15-year old transgender child who is currently on the waiting list to receive care from the Tavistock but considering that the waiting lists are approaching two years, the child in question will soon be able to consent anyway. Therefore, this ruling has far more sinister consequences.

Some transgender young people, out of sheer desperation, order hormones from nefarious websites. These sites are not regulated or approved by any healthcare organisation and the people who run them are looking to make a quick buck out of vulnerable young people. Unregulated hormones can have lasting impacts on the body and leave a young person with lifelong health problems. This ruling means that puberty blockers will go down the same route and because the young people wishing to access them are often younger, the damage that could be done to their bodies is potentially catastrophic.

Puberty blockers have been used to treat children experiencing precocious puberty for decades and have a long established history in paediatric medicine. What is going to happen to those children as a result of this ruling? If doctors are reluctant to prescribe, there will be an upswing of cases where six-year-old girls are developing breasts, sex drives and reaching menarche. Precocious puberty robs young children of their childhoods and leads to health complications when they reach adulthood. The TERFs clearly did not think about this possible consequence.

Fundamentally, the most horrific part of this ruling is that it rams a bulldozer through Gillick competency. This is the established legal framework that young people have the right to consent to medical procedures without parental consent. Gillick is the reason young people can access contraception, abortion and mental health services on their own initiative. There are many people out there who have wanted to erode Gillick for as long as it has existed, and this sets a precedent for any group to challenge any aspect of young people’s healthcare. Anti-abortion groups now have grounds to argue young people cannot consent to abortion. Social conservatives have legal grounds to refuse young people access to contraception. Parents who deny their child’s mental health issues now have legal arguments to prevent them having counselling, therapy or psychiatric medication.

Hell has been unleashed upon young people and their autonomy. This is an absolute outrage.

Jack Collins.

J.K. Rowling and The Chamber of Terfdom.

I’m going to be 27 by the time 2020 comes to a close and as someone who is firmly in the millennial category, the whole universe of Harry Potter has been a fixture in both my childhood and my adult life. As a kid I remember my dad taking time out from his taxi driving job on a Friday night so he could join the queues at my hometown’s sole bookshop to be one of the first to obtain the new Harry Potter book.

The first time I remember going to the cinema was in 2001 to see the first Harry Potter film and I remember my excitement to see the story on the big screen as a seven year old boy shivering outside the tiny, two screen cinema that was in the big town about a half hour’s drive from our house. I remember how magical it was to escape into that world and I remember the messages of overcoming adversity resonating with my young self, being the only boy in the class with cerebral palsy and having to wear brightly coloured leg splints and having daily sessions of physiotherapy.

In my teenage years, I retreated away from this world and dove full throttle into the worlds of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P Lovecraft, B-movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and 1980s slasher horror films. I believe these campy, macabre worlds were probably linked to the love my childhood self had for the kitchy, campy, creepy world of Harry Potter. As I approached my twenties and got diagnosed with a bipolar spectrum disorder, the world of my childhood provided much needed comfort at a time where I was experiencing frequent episodes of depression and psychosis whilst trying to complete a degree in English and live on my own for the very first time. Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, one of my coping mechanisms at the beginning of lockdown was to watch a Harry Potter film on Saturday night by candlelight whilst eating Chinese takeaway.

All of this means that I was deeply disappointed by Rowling’s recent tweets that parroted the TERF talking points about “sex-based rights” and her absolute revulsion against the term “people who menstruate”. The damaging implications of sex essentialism have been documented on this blog and many others and I shall not repeat those same points. However, it says a lot that the world’s first billionaire author decides to use her time during a global pandemic and an uprising against state-sanctioned racism to further marginalise and vilify one of the most oppressed groups of people on this planet.

As a response to the criticism and fury she received on Twitter from trans people, queer people and their allies, she decided to write a 3,600 word essay on her blog. I’m not going to link it here because I do not wish to befoul this blog with transphobic rhetoric but it’s very easy to find if you want to read it; although, I would advise that it is very intense and it will probably be quite an upsetting read. I cried tears of rage reading it and I cried for the trans youth that I work with as a youth worker for a local LGBTQ+ charity.

In the essay, Rowling provides a narrative of her life in the early 1990s before Harry Potter exploded into our cultural consciousness. She frankly and openly talks about being a survivor of severe domestic and sexual abuse. As a sexual abuse survivor, I empathise with her and I do hope that she has been able to access the support needed to be able to process the trauma she has experienced.

The question that remains, however, is why did she choose this moment to speak about it? It plays into the unfounded, deeply bigoted caricature of trans women being men who just want to pose as women so they can sexually assault women in public bathrooms. When we look at the reality, we see that in the 21 countries which have introduced self-ID for trans people to change their birth certificates, none have reported an increase in sex crimes as a result. We can also look at several US States, the most notable being North Carolina, where bathroom bills were introduced and we see an increase in assaults being perpetrated against trans people in bathrooms and an increase in those same assaults against cisgender people who present in a gender nonconforming manner.

It is also important to consider that one of the “leaders” of the TERF movement, the increasingly irrelevant and deplorable former Labour Party hack that is Linda Bellos is actually on film saying that she would beat up a trans woman if she happened to be in the same bathroom as her. Approximately every 72 hours, a trans person is murdered somewhere in the world because of their gender identity and by playing into myths and caricatures, JK Rowling has put those people at increased risk.

Rowling also moves onto the topic of incels. Incels, for the record, are men who believe that they are owed the right to sex just because they happen to be male. They are angry that women choose not to sleep with them and several incels have gone on to commit murders of those women. They also harbour a hatred for the men that they see as stealing their opportunities to pursue the women that they wish to sleep with. Elliot Rodger murdered six people in California back in 2014 as “retribution” for his lack of sexual experience and activity.

In 2018, Alek Minassian murdered 10 people in a vehicle-ramming attack in downtown Toronto to instigate an “incel rebellion” and had written several internet posts praising Elliot Rodger. Many incels look at the Ecole Polytechnique massacre of 1989 as a positive thing and something to be inspired by. In this massacre, Marc Lepine burst into an engineering class, forced the men and women in the room to stand on opposite sides and shoot all six women there. He then rampaged for a further twenty minutes, killing eight more women before killing himself. His motive was to “fight feminism”.

Rowling will be acutely aware of how horrific these events are and how the state does not take violence against women seriously enough. Again, we have to question her motives around bringing up these issues in this particular moment. It is morally abhorrent and repugnant of her and her supporters to link trans people and their allies to incels. I’m a cisgender man but I stand with trans people who are just trying to live their lives as their authentic selves and be recognised as such. We are not murdering women to further this cause and we are not terrorists. We simply believe in human rights and in bodily autonomy. She should be ashamed of herself for insinuating that there is anything linking us to the incels and it proves that her interpretation of feminism is fundamentally and objectively wrong.

The final part of her essay I wish to address is where she talks about “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD). ROGD is a pseudoscientific term used by the TERFs and their allies to try and explain away the large increase of young people seeking help and support with their gender identity. They like to blame a plethora of things for this which include but are not limited to; Japanese anime, tumblr, YouTube and autism. There is a link between being autistic and being transgender but that link is being actively researched by experts in the fields of neuroscience, neuropsychology and cognitive psychology and will probably take a long time to come to any semblance of a conclusion. On the other hand, ROGD has seemingly been invented in a chat room on Mumsnet.

As a youth worker who is directly working with these young people, I can confidently say that ROGD is baseless and unfounded. Young people have access to the internet and they are able to learn about gender outside of a Eurocentric viewpoint. Young people have always explored their gender identity but it is only now that they have the tools and the vocabulary to be able to do so fully. Do I think that every single one of my young people who identify as transgender is going to end up transitioning as an adult? Possibly, possibly not. In spite of that, it is important that young people are able to access the support and guidance that they need whilst exploring their gender identity.

They need compassionate and empathic people around them especially as 80% of trans young people will self harm and about half will attempt suicide. These young people are very vulnerable in a world where transgender people are treated as though they are the lowest class of citizen and by using ROGD as an excuse to explain all this away, Rowling and her allies are creating moral panic reminiscent of the moral panic around gay men in the 1980s and 1990s. It is this kind of language that causes governments to enact legislation like Section 28 that will damage a whole generation of young people.

I do not believe that JK Rowling is an inherently hateful person because a hateful person could not have written the Harry Potter series which is essentially an antifascist parable; despite its use of questionable antisemitic and racial stereotypes. What I believe is, like many women who grew up in second wave feminism, JK Rowling is using her platform to try and stay relevant in a culture that has long since moved on. I also believe that she has possibly been radicalised by the likes of Linda Bellos and Graham Lineham on Twitter. Rowling does not need to indulge in this desperate attempt to remain culturally relevant as Harry Potter has become a permanent and ubiquitous fixture of popular culture. People come from around the world just to have their pictures taken at Kings Cross Station where they’ve set up the entrance to Platform nine and three-quarters.

Rowling has often tried to pander to us LGBTQ+ folks, wildly announcing that certain characters in the series are LGBTQ+ when no hint of that was given in the original stories. It is this that makes her latest outbursts beyond offensive. She has used our community to make money and royalties for herself whilst throwing the most vulnerable people in our community under the Hogwarts Express.

I still love those stories of my childhood and I am taking relative comfort in Barthes’ The Death of the Author to take some sort of ownership of those stories and to separate them from a woman I once admired. Her following is large but the loudest voices in that following are the minority and many of the actors who brought those stories to life have expressed their unequivocal support for transgender people. We will win this fight and we must stand in solidarity with our trans siblings, always.

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”

– Albus Dumbeldore

Paul Haw