Advice for transgender 'free spirits'

If I hadn’t read it in America’s newspaper of record, I would never have believed it. I would have thought that it was parenting advice from The Onion, “America’s Finest News Source”.

But here it is, the New York Times shining a light on both readership demographics and editorial judgement. “Mother of a Free Spirit” appeals to parenting gurus Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond for advice about her “amazing” 15-year-old daughter. Her “free spirit” came out as pansexual when she was 11 (yes, 11). After a few heterosexual “relationships” and “a few girl crushes”, now she wants to date a transgender boy. But this troubles Mother of a Free Spirit. “I worry that I’m being shallow and judgmental.”

Yes, you are being judgemental, responds Steve Almond. Drop this heteronormativity stuff. “Is she happy?” is the only question you should ask.

“Nothing you write about your daughter’s choice of friends and potential dating partners gives me pause,” Cheryl chips in. “I encourage you to examine the ways that negative assumptions you’ve made about L.G.B.T.Q. people have needlessly stoked your fears.”

In a touching coda to their compassionate advice, Steve sums up the educational philosophy of a fluid, ever-experimenting, transgender world:

We’re living in a cultural moment in which kids like your daughter are suddenly free to think more openly about who they are and whom they might choose to love. That can be unsettling for those of us who grew up without those freedoms, and within systems of bigotry that assailed those freedoms as unnatural or sinful. But in the end, the heart desires what it desires. That’s the natural order of things. Your daughter appears to have recognized that early on. She’s now offering you the opportunity to reckon with that truth. Bless her. And bless you for being the kind of mother willing to bear the risks of self-examination. The world needs more people like you.

* * * * * * * *

This is way, way, way beyond parody. What if the desire of Free Spirit's heart is to love a 48-year-old schizophrenic drug addict, or a 68-year-old Casanova, or black belt in BDSM? That's just the natural order of things, eh, Steve? But this is the direction in which experts like Steve and Cheryl are steering children's sex ed when they persuade parents accept the spectrum theory of sexuality. Love whomever or whatever you want because complementary “male” and “female” sexes are socially constructed, artificial, oppressive categories.

The Trump Administration is trying to wind back this fruitcake gender ideology. According to a leaked memo from the Department of Health and Human Services, it wants to create a legal framework “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable” for sex-specific rules and regulations.

This has provoked a storm of criticism for the Administration’s transphobia from media as diverse as Nature and (of course) the New York Times. To stiffen the Administration’s backbone, the American College of Pediatricians has published an open letter explaining why a redefinition of “sex” is unscientific.

Science has already defined the meaning of sex. According to the Institute of Medicine and the American Psychiatric Association, sex is a distinctive biological capacity for reproduction and it is clearly binary.

Human sex is biologically determined and immutable. “Sex is established at conception, declares itself in utero, and is acknowledged at birth.”

Sex differences matter. Every cell in the human body is marked by the chromosomal difference between male and female. There are 6,500 shared genes which express themselves differently in organ systems, behaviour, emotions and many more areas.

Transgenders deserve medical treatment which is influenced by their biological sex. What a person “identifies” as cannot change his or her genetic make-up. Some drugs given to males could be lethal if given to females. For instance, women are more prone to developing a potentially fatal arrhythmia when taking the common heart drug sotalol (Betapace).

Congenital disorders are not additional sexes. There are people with intersex conditions, but 99.98 percent of the population belong clearly and unambiguously to the male sex or the female sex. As evolutionary biologist Dr Colin Wright, of the University of California Santa Barbara, recently wrote, "The claim that classifying people's sex upon anatomy and genetics 'has no basis in science' has itself no basis in reality, as any method exhibiting a predictive accuracy of over 99.98 percent would place it among the most precise methods in all the life sciences." This is a new Flat Earth theory, he commented caustically.

Gender identity is not an immutable trait found anywhere in the body, brain, or DNA. “Gender identity is an awareness of, and comfort level with, one's physical body. Gender identity may be factually correct or factually incorrect, and, unlike sex, may change. Children with gender dysphoria, for example, will come to identify with their biological sex in 61-98 percent of cases by adulthood. There is also a rise in the number of adults who seek surgery to reverse their past sex reassignment surgeries.”

Upholding a scientific definition of sex will not increase trans suicides. In fact, a spectrum view of sex might increase them. Suicide amongst surgically “gender-affirmed” adults in Sweden, with its trans-friendly legislation and social policies, is 19 times as high as the general population.

Upholding a binary view of sex protects women and girls. It is impossible to protect them against predators if they are forced to share facilities with men who self-identify as females. Furthermore, in sports women are starting to lose to men who self-identify as females. “Transgender ideology thereby transforms all that was once reserved for females alone into another male prerogative.”

Transgender individuals possess the same human dignity and the same right to equal protection. “For the law to respect the human dignity of all Americans, including those who identify as transgender, it must be based on biological truth; not on ideological falsehoods at the expense of children and women's rights, health and well-being.”

The letter has been signed by a number of distinguished scientists, doctors, lawyers, bioethicists and journalists. It’s thoroughly documented. Mother of a Free Spirit should have consulted it before seeking advice from the New York Times.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.


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