Adolescence is hard, particularly if you’re gender non-conforming. Many of us who have grown into happy and healthy lesbian, gay and bisexual adults remember childhoods fraught with a struggle against how we were told girls and boys should act. Perhaps this isn’t surprising; loving someone of the same sex is about as gender non-conforming as it gets. Naturally, many straight people also share this experience of rejecting sexist and limiting stereotypes through their childhood.
There is no one approved way to respond to a child who declares themselves to be transgender. For decades feminists have fought to liberate people from the gendered expectations of being born female or male, and have spread the message that we should seek to change society, not bodies. The opinion that no child’s body is wrong should not be controversial.
Organisations like Mermaids offer only one side of a nuanced and complex debate. The numbers of children identifying as trans are increasing year on year. There is compelling evidence to suggest that the majority of natal girls who suffer from gender dysphoria would otherwise grow up to be lesbian. It is irresponsible not to investigate the possibility that this is evidence of a social contagion, indeed, by not doing so we are in danger of failing children.
I understand journalists are busy and that it can be tempting to uncritically publish press releases from go-to organisations, but this is below the standards one expects of a quality broadsheet. Increasing numbers of people regret their transition and would offer a needed counterpoint, and numerous organisations have been founded since this issue first hit the headlines that offer an alternative point of view – from groups for parents’ and professionals like www.transgendertrend.com to feminist organisations such as www.fairplayforwomen.com or indeed this site, www.criticalsisters.co.uk
Presumably, the children that organisations like Mermaids purport to support will not be reading The Guardian, though their parents might. And as adults, readers deserve to be presented with a plurality of opinions – failure to offer balance is not only doing your readers a disservice, it is also letting down gender non-conforming children.
We look forward to your response.