Justifying Our Existence: The Antioch Review and the Transgender ‘Debate’

May 16, 2016 | 38 8 min read


Daniel Harris begins “The Sacred Androgen,” his Antioch Review essay on “the transgender debate,” with a dutiful recounting of the travails transgender people face today: violence inflicted by others and self, bullying, lack of access to resources, etc. Harris does not condone these trials. He goes on to assure his readers that whatever decisions we transgender people make about ourselves, he still believes in our “humanity.”

By the end of the essay, Harris’s readers would be forgiven for doubting this assertion. “The Sacred Androgen” is a mess of unreflective bigotry, incoherent assumptions, and wildly inaccurate conclusions. Harris uses outmoded, offensive, or simply strange terminology, referring to transgender people as “TGs,” trans women as transitioning “from virago to vamp,” or as “Mrs. Doubtfires or Victor Victorias.” Harris’s research methods date him as much as his movie references; most of his anecdata seem to have been collected from AOL chat rooms for macho “studs” and the trans women they fetishize. In the light of this content and the alternately patronizing and hostile tone of the essay, Harris’s opening paragraph reads like an attempt at inoculating himself against the inevitable criticism of what follows.

Not surprisingly, the essay has been widely decried. In Medium, Gabrielle Bellot writes that, “pieces like this…crassly marginalise and attack vulnerable communities.” Brynn Tannehill on the Huffpost Queer Voices blog writes that her time living near Antioch College “as an out transgender person was a lonely, soul-crushing hell,” an experience Harris’s essay confirms. A petition denouncing the Antioch Review for publishing the essay has collected more than 4,000 signatures.

The Antioch Review, for its part, first punted to Antioch College itself, which issued a typically milquetoast appeal to “free expression.” On realizing the fervor wasn’t going to die down, Antioch Review editor Robert Fogarty wrote that, “I sincerely regret any pain and hurt that the publishing of this piece has caused,” promising to publish responses in future issues. One almost feels sorry for Robert Fogarty, who has been the journal’s editor since 1977, when you didn’t have to worry about transgender people. The Antioch Review has the reputation of being prestigious yet staid (an account of the magazine’s history on their website makes their 2013 transition to digital JSTOR archives sound like a giant leap for mankind). This controversy may bolster their readership, though more likely it will act as a cautionary tale for what happens when a stagnant editorial staff leaves a magazine out of touch.

“The Sacred Androgen,” while purporting to say what good liberals won’t, actually operates like a juvenile game of “gotcha.” Harris seems to believe that if he can expose enough supposed inconsistencies in how we trans people talk about ourselves, the house of cards we’ve constructed will fall apart altogether. To that end he accuses transgender people of being subject to a “mass delusion,” the fault lines of which emerge in our discussions of the differences between transgender and transracial identity, the way we talk about fetishes and sexual pleasure, and in our claims to radical embodiment vs. how radical we actually are, to name a few.

Each of these gotcha moments requires the creation of a straw man — typically a straw trans woman, in this case — who espouses views Harris believes to be hypocritical. Transgender people have long been distancing ourselves from the “trapped in the wrong body” narrative (itself a simplified creation for the benefit of mainstream media), to name just one example, yet Harris takes for granted that we all believe this about ourselves. Because Harris doesn’t source any of his straw people, we don’t know who believes that, for example, “a fetish [is] not a legitimate reason for modifying one’s body.” No doubt some trans people do; yet to assume a monolithic set of beliefs is to radically ignore the nuances in the last decade-plus of conversations on transgender identity.

This is not to say that there are no inconsistencies in the ways in which we trans people talk about ourselves, or that there is no room for exploration or growth. Like a toddler sensing a word is “bad” without knowing why, Harris shows a remarkable ability to hone in on the issues that get trans people feeling defensive. Take the Rachel Dolezal controversy, which he brings up with glee: Trans people have yet to come up with a foolproof answer to the question of whether transgender can equate to transracial. This is because the issue, like all questions involving the thorny intersections of identities, is complicated.

But here’s the thing: What’s the reason trans people rush to defend the legitimacy of our identities at the first challenge, often at the cost of complexity or rational discussion? It’s because of assholes like Daniel Harris, who prey on the burden of proof transgender people feel we need to justify our existence. As if our lives require the armor of pristine argumentation; as if every inconsistency makes us less real. If this were the case, this article should have made Harris himself disappear into the ether.

Unfortunately for his argument, Harris is unable to distinguish the gotcha points that are worth pursuing from the ones that are patently ridiculous. Among the latter includes the suggestion that trans women are failed homosexual men. Not only is this offensive, it doesn’t make sense: many trans women are attracted to other women — how do they fit into the paradigm of the “homosexual manqué?” Not to mention the many trans women that don’t want to “achieve an hourglass figure with gigantic breast implants,” a demographic that — like trans men — Harris doesn’t seem to realize exists. So it’s difficult to take the potentially productive provocations — such as the equation between transgender rhetoric and positive psychology — seriously. How can we be expected to, within a framework that says we must be intellectually incontrovertible in order to exist?

The real question is why Harris felt the need to write this. His tone suggests his resentments have been building for some time, but why? His familiarity with transgender people in the post-AOL world seems to be limited to knowing the names of Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox. I doubt he knows many transgender people personally (and I feel pretty sorry for the ones he does), nor do I suspect transgender people are constantly demanding onerous accommodations from him. The younger, campus-based faction of the transgender community could have provided Harris with enough material for a mean-spirited mockery (Making up YOUR OWN pronouns? What next?!?), but he doesn’t know enough about transgender culture to be able to take advantage.

There are really two questions. Why does Harris claim — explicitly or implicitly — that he wanted to write this, and why did he really want to write this? Both questions interest me. Both deserve to be discussed, because the sad truth is that Harris’s feelings aren’t uncommon. Because of my various privileges — my masculinity, my whiteness, my socio-economic mobility — I don’t typically encounter animosity like Harris’s. But I hear enough of these views secondhand all the time: in the comment sections of articles, in the accounts trans women give of trying to go about their dating lives or simply daily lives, in the subtext of news reports on hate crimes. Harris’s essay feels like an unburdening, the kind of cut-the-PC-crap that’s popular with — dare I say it — the Donald Trump crowd. For all of its pretense at provocation, the essay is often no more than a dressed-up version of a bro on a dating app who messages a trans woman to say, “You can say you are who you say you are, but know that I’ll never see you that way.”

“The Sacred Androgen” cloaks malice in the language of concern. Daniel Harris doesn’t want trans people to fail. He wants them to realize that taking hormones won’t solve their problems, that they could be left “as out of sorts with their bodies and their failure to pass as they were before they underwent hormone replacement therapy.” All that trouble, and we still won’t look real. Trans women would do better to come to terms with their limits: “men’s noses are too big, shoulders too broad, jaws too square, voices too deep, brows too beetling, and gait — at least in heels — too lumbering” to effect any convincing change.

Plus, he’s concerned about the children. Under the sway of the trans-brainwashed media, well-intentioned parents may make an “irreversible decision” in giving their child “hormone therapy.” It’s yet another of the essay’s many inaccuracies: children do not receive hormone therapy in the sense of injecting estrogen or testosterone, they receive hormone blockers that buy them time to make their own decisions. But who cares about factual rigor when you’re playing the oldest trick in the book: mobilizing “innocent” children for culturally conservative ends?

If Harris’s rationale for writing the essay really was concern for the self-esteem of transgender people or the futures of children, we could dismiss his arguments as misguided or patronizing. But I know Harris didn’t write his essay out of concern. As much as he’d like us to believe it, he didn’t write the article to open up a conversation he perceives as stifling, either. Let’s look a little closer to find the real reason.

It starts with his thoughts on plastic surgery. Harris purports to appeal to a shared ethos when he claims that “the general public almost universally disapproves of plastic surgery.” His source for that wildly sweeping generalization we’ll never know, but what are sources, really, in the face of the ridiculous things that women do? Listen to the pleasure Harris takes in describing the “botched” plastic surgeries of celebrity women: “The obscene trout pout of Donatella Versace, the misshapen nipples and oblong breasts of Tara Reid, the Joker’s grimace of Kim Novak.”

Ah yes, it’s always fun when women fail. How harmless, to peruse the clickbait of plastic surgeries “gone wrong” and laugh at the litany of misguided attempts to secure the male gaze. Because these women are silly, aren’t they? Their breasts, their ambitions: they are all too much. Cisgender women often undergo plastic surgeries because they want to be women in excess. This hostility towards excessive femininity underlies Harris’s criticism of trans women: “Their mimicry of women extended only to the most superficial aspects of femininity, the reproductive and secondary sex characteristics, from vaginas to curvaceous hips — in short, a man’s interpretation of what it means to be a woman.”

Daniel Harris isn’t about to go beat up trans women — he does claim to want them to have “full protection under the law” — but his rhetoric has more in common with those who do than he’ll admit. Take Zella Ziona, murdered by her boyfriend, Rico LeBlond, in Maryland last year. According to CBS, Ziona “began acting flamboyantly towards LeBlond and greatly embarrassed LeBlond in front of his peers.” What was the source of LeBlond’s embarrassment? Was it perhaps the same failure that Harris wants to spare her, the failure to be woman enough through, paradoxically, wanting womanhood in excess?

Or James Dixon, who beat Islan Nettles to death in 2013. Dixon had a chip on his shoulder. “A couple of days before this incident, I got fooled by a transgender and this could have led to this incident, [this] blind fury,” Dixon testified. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and I kill you. We’re a nation of dupes, according to Harris, and transgender people are taking advantage of us when we “insist that we not only call them ‘he’ or ‘she’ but that we treat them as if they were indeed men or women.”

I’d like to say that transgender people don’t care what Daniel Harris thinks. And in a purely theoretical sense, we don’t. So what if he doesn’t like someone’s nose job, so what if he thinks someone is too fat or too concerned with her breasts or has too strong of a jaw line. Believe me, I’m not crying myself to sleep every night because Daniel Harris doesn’t think I’m a real man. I may not even want to be a real man — and here, too, is something that Harris doesn’t consider: that some of us are happy in the middle. That some of us are happy failing at gender. Because all of us fail gender in some way. The woman who talks too loud; the man who takes to the dance floor without sufficient irony. But that’s the thing: gender is so much more complicated, so much more of a dialectical exchange between real and ideal, than Harris could ever know.

In end, however, it doesn’t matter how little we care about what Daniel Harris thinks about our genders, because words like his carry consequences. If you really believe that transgender people fail at their genders and you make it a business to say so publicly, you should know that your words resonate far off the page. If your supposed concern for transgender people masks plain old misogyny, a vitriolic relationship to femininity so deep it saturates the pores of even your most innocuous words, then you are complicit in violence. You highlight the path that leads from your vacuous think piece to some other man’s fists.

is a recent graduate of the PhD program in writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln whose essays and fiction have appeared in American Literary Review, The Believer, Better: Culture and Lit, Chicago Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Cincinnati Review, Confrontation, Cream City Review, Joyland, Mayday, n+1, The New Inquiry, Passages North, and The Pinch.


  1. Jesus. How could the Antioch Review publish something so ridiculously wrongheaded and reactionary?

  2. Very cathartic, thank you for articulating all that was wrong in all the right ways. “Harris’s research methods date him as much as his movie references.” YES.

  3. Didn’t read it, wont read it. My 20 year old nephew is transgender, works for a lumber place. Recently had a commendation written by a customer thanking the young lad for his assistance. Made his day. But even for me keeping up with the language and appropriate and thoughtful ways to speak of his “journey” is confusing. It seems the language changes all the time.

  4. I’m deeply grateful to Clarence Harlan Orsi (and The Millions) for helping me better understand how insidious a piece (however pitiful and poorly written) like Harris’s can be. It must have taken great courage, patience, and vulnerability on Harlan Orsi’s part to engage with that “mess of unreflective bigotry, incoherent assumptions, and wildly inaccurate conclusions” and create something so powerful and unflinching from it. This is the response we were waiting for, whether we knew it or not.

  5. It is difficult to find much in the way of true scientific evidence supporting the belief in transgenderism. Feelings are not scientific evidence. In the future, this period of time, in which we allow the mentally ill to physically harm themselves in order to comfort their delusions, will be looked at as foolish as we now see the superstitions used to treat medical ailments in the middle ages.

  6. As a professor with students engaged with these trans debates and writing research papers at this point in the semester, I couldn’t be happier for the existence of Harris’s piece, it’s rhetoric at its best. As I tell my students all the time, just because you disagree with a classmate or the “opposing side” doesn’t mean they’re evil or bigoted, it just means you disagree with them.

    Harris’s comparisons to race (you can say you just have always “felt” female despite being born male and yet you can’t be one race and then just say you’ve always “felt” like another race and how dare anyone not respect your wishes etc etc) and plastic surgery are brilliant and oft-overlooked parts of the discussion. In colleague with the Michelle Goldberg piece in the New Yorker in 2014 and Elinor Burkett’s piece in the June 6,2015 NY Times, Harris’s piece makes an extremely strong argument for skepticism. That’s really what’s at stake here, skepticism. To be truly agnostic and unbiased you need to look at both sides and not just scream racist/sexist/homophobe/transphobe at people you disagree with.

    Being intellectually consistent IS important. The best way to prove someone wrong is to point out that their argument is inconsistent, that they are hypocrites. And yes, there needs to be a “burden of proof,” that’s a great phrasing by Clarence Orsi. Someone isn’t a certain gender just because they say they are. Just like not everyone who says they were raped were really raped. Just like just because someone says they slipped and fell on the slick supermarket floor shouldn’t be immediately believed either. It’s about the fact that people straight up lie and that people are often deluded and confused. When we were teenagers, a lot of my friends were certain they were lesbians. They made out with women, even had sex, but now they’re married to men and have kids. Are they bisexual? Straight? Were they “just experimenting”? These are interesting questions.

    To debate anything you need to be logical, rational, and reasonable and put feelings and emotions aside and use your brain, not your heart, to talk about these issues. Stop being so easily offended, stop these psych-101 attempts to figure out a rhetor’s “real hidden reasons”, grow a thicker skin, and have an intellectual discussion. Stop looking at yourself as a part of groups and look at yourself as an individual and argue as one. If I’m arguing with you over a parking spot, it’s not because you’re a different race or gender than I am, it’s because I think you’re trying to steal my space! It’s not about you and whatever you think constitutes your identity.

    Daniel Harris deserves credit and so does the Antioch Review. Orsi’s rhetoric, by comparison, is lazy identity politics and the emotional fallacy and succumbing to new left censorship.

  7. @Sean

    “To debate anything you need to be logical, rational, and reasonable and put feelings and emotions aside and use your brain, not your heart, to talk about these issues.”

    a) Applying “logic” to topics as un-scientific as “race” (the pseudo-science of thinking one knows, in a common-sense sort of way, who is and isn’t “white”, essentially) and poorly-defined as “gender” (is gender a matter of what you do or which organs you have? If it’s the former, what gender is a celibate? If it’s the latter, is a woman without breasts and/or fallopian tubes a man? and so forth)… is problematic at best. Too often, the appeal to “reason” is really a thinly-veiled command to defer to deeply-ingrained traditions of a random nature… in other words, it’s an Authoritarian argument. The only rigor it observes is grounded in social pressure from The Herd.

    b) There is no thinking with the heart, it’s all with the brain, and some brains hold opinions/beliefs incongruent with your own. Having said that: the closer an issue gets to relating to matters quite private/personal to some brains, the more these brains will get emotional about discussing these issues. Which is only human, no? Some brains get emotional when the issue is gun-control (as some brains fear that their guns will be taken away)… others get emotional when other brains behave as though THEY get to decide who/what some brains ARE as people.

    Identity is not only (very importantly) self-defined but fluid. Messy, yes. But when it comes to the intersection of, say, the Law and Identity, I’ve noticed that the Law (in “The West”) has little problem, broadly, accommodating the messy/ irrational/ self-contradicting needs of adherents of the Judeo-Christian belief system… they get their holidays, they get legal support for their weird beliefs (abortion evil, war and the gas chamber good), they get to mutilate the penises of their sons, et al.

    What this “debate” is really about is POWER. As ever. Who gets to tell ME what “race” I am? Who gets to tell Ms or Mr X what gender(s) they are?

    Well, we all know that too many Straight White Males (and their minions) think they know the “logical, rational and reasonable” answer to that question

  8. “Stop looking at yourself as a part of groups and look at yourself as an individual and argue as one.”

    This is an easy argument when you’re a member of a large, powerful group, talking about members of a group that are subjected to unprecedented levels of hatred, violence, and discrimination.

  9. @Steven

    Much respect for your articulate expressions both here and on other sections of The Millions.

    Definitely in agreement with most of your points, especially about arbitrary Judeo-Christian institutions. But what tells you what race you are or what gender are is factual science and reality. Individuals don’t get to define reality. You exist in the real world. If your eyes are brown, they’re not blue. If you’re six foot two you can’t say you’re five foot five. You have a womb or you don’t. You have estrogen coursing through you or you have testosterone. You have a certain percentage of various ethnicities and races in your make-up and let’s be real, a large percentage of how you’re judged by the world is based on appearance (height, attractiveness, symmetry, race, weight, age, etc.).

    Some of this is socially circumscribed of course. Obama is commonly called “black” when in reality he is mixed race. If he were an athlete instead of a politician, no one would call him a “black football player” the way he’s called a “black president”

    Power is unevenly wielded but the solution to racism isn’t give the black people the whips and make white people the slaves. That’s the problem with the agenda of the people who scream racism/sexism/transphobia about things they simply don’t like, whether it’s a commercial or an Academy Award or a bathroom.

    I just don’t see how getting emotional about any of these isues (or guns, or abortion, or school uniforms, or the fact that “Straight White Males” as you call them are regularly barred from scholaships. There is legal discrimination against people and that needs to stop. The answer to racism is not more racism. The answer to sexism is not more sexism. The answer to transphobia is not traditional-gender-definitions-are-evil.

  10. ” But what tells you what race you are or what gender are is factual science and reality.”

    Well, no, Sean, I know many of us like to *think* that race, for example, is a scientific description, but it’s actually 90% social construct padding minute, largely phenotypical variation in genetics… it’s usually a very lazy (and often prejudiced/ divisive) way of trying to sum up a person’s background, physical appearance, personality traits and cultural preferences with one of three or four one-word labels. Race, as we deploy it today, is Eugenics Lite. It needs a genuinely rational interrogation and dismantling; there are either no races or thousands of them. And that is the crux of my comment: race has nothing to do with “logic” or science and the authority to assign race is a question of POWER.

    Similarly, gender needs a bit of work, as a concept, before we can go around saying, confidently, who is and isn’t whatever the various terms should be… please resist the urge to take this task upon your own shoulders. You are no expert. You are merely indulging in the understandable human foible of mistaking your habits and traditions for Eternal Verities. You wouldn’t be the first. But how another human defines his/her gender is quite clearly NONE of your business. I find it astonishing that you can’t admit that to yourself.

    “You exist in the real world. If your eyes are brown, they’re not blue. If you’re six foot two you can’t say you’re five foot five. You have a womb or you don’t.”

    You could mention shoe size, while you’re at it, to further make my point for me. None of these physically-descriptive variables you mention are fundamentally determinative of Race/Gender (ie, there are blue-eyed “Blacks” and Lesbians with wombs, for example, no? Are you arguing that there are no such things as Lesbians? Or that all humans with wombs are Lesbians?).

    “Individuals don’t get to define reality.”

    Individuals in charge of the textbooks, media, political and judicial landscape and overall tone of the broader culture clearly do “define reality”… for you at the very least. Stretch your mind a bit, Sean, in order to see that so much of what you’ve been lead to believe is an Objective Reality is, in fact, a simple case of Normative Brainwashing. And try to imagine how surprised your great-grandfathers would be to learn that both the Irish and the Italians are considered “white” in 21st century America! Wasn’t the Eugenic gate designed to filter them (along with Jews) out, originally? Times have changed (so much for “objectivity”).

    Oh, and knock it off with the patronizing praise, chum… I’m old enough to be your uncle, most probably! laugh

  11. @Sean

    “Obama is commonly called “black” when in reality he is mixed race.”

    That’s not true. Yes, Obama is mixed race. However, he is also black. He is considered black because in America, you only need partial black ancestry to be considered black, and simply appearing black is usually enough. If you look a little bit white, you are not considered white. That is how the “factual science” of “reality” works in America (and many other places). It is hard to believe you are a professor and don’t know this.

    Anyway, this is a pointless argument because transgenderism isn’t about your penis or vagina or womb. It’s about the social construct we call “gender identity” and whether that identity conforms to your sexual characteristics. If someone is born with a penis, they are physically male. However, you can’t tell by looking at them if they are gay or straight or if they will identify as a man or a woman, because these are things we have invented to describe behaviour, just as we have invented race to describe a set of characteristics that have little intrinsic meaning.

    “Power is unevenly wielded but the solution to racism isn’t give the black people the whips and make white people the slaves. That’s the problem with the agenda of the people who scream racism/sexism/transphobia about things they simply don’t like, whether it’s a commercial or an Academy Award or a bathroom.”

    How many people like that are there? You probably spend too much time on the internet. Honestly, transgender people are more worried about being murdered than about being represented at the Academy Awards. At the same time, they have a right to be concerned about how they are portrayed, legislated over, and accepted socially.

    In any case, in the real world: people have eyes that appear to be different colours at different times. People are born with both sets of genitalia, or none. Females are born without reproductive organs. Men are born with more estrogen than testosterone. The real world is much more complicated than your reductive appeal to emotion (yeah, that’s what you’re doing when you compare the transgender rights movement to reverse slavery, and it’s pretty fucked up). It’s possible to accept that we may not understand everything, and we may not agree with everything, but by being kind to people in distress, and by accepting people for who they believe themselves to be, the world can be a better place.

    Or we can complain about something that doesn’t affect us in the slightest, because there’s nothing more important than “skepticism”.

  12. “promising to publish responses in future issues.”

    That’s funny because I wrote them right after publication to ask if I could respond in print. They have not yet responded. So, I guess they are not interested.

  13. I struggle with the lables we as society use when we refer to the LGBT community, personally I have no gay friends I just have friends (some of whom are gay) I think that the bigots are really reflecting the own insecurities onto what they see as a problem, when in reality they should embrace the diversity. I write a lot about feeling and relationships, but it’s all true whatever the gender/ orientation of the reader, Love is Love after all

  14. ““Power is unevenly wielded but the solution to racism isn’t give the black people the whips and make white people the slaves.”

    I searched every inch of this comment thread for the commenter(s) who advocated such a thing… (only because I thought there might be free whips on offer; I promise I would only use mine in a playful, mildly vengeful fashion)…

  15. well, i don’t believe any one is born transgender because it stops reproduction. it is a psychological issue and proper education can help.

  16. People make it their business because of their own beliefs and values and personal experiences. Some do so because they see transgender, gay women and men struggling with their public voice. This is not any way a fault. It is hard to speak against judgement. IF you are going to be a representative of anyone’s voice, be a well-spoken one. Why are there debates like these? Why make it our business? Perhaps, we feel the need to speak or write about what we are trying to understand or defend. If I were not transgender or gay? That would not stop me from wanting to know. However, when I see debates like these, I want to see all the points from both sides. I want to understand why people need to judge or classify others, and why the others are outcasts based on those judgements. I search for the logical and compassionate. I do not think there is a person that can be labelled as an expert on these topics. I would love to see more people debating with less judgement. It gets confusing. And doesn’t it just make it harder to communicate? There is a wonderful debate between you and Sean. IF I can put a black marker over the accusations, it becomes an important and informational debate. I believe that was what Sean was trying to convey.
    ‘There is legal discrimination against people and that needs to stop. The answer to racism is not more racism. The answer to sexism is not more sexism. The answer to transphobia is not traditional-gender-definitions-are-evil’

  17. PeterPayne and Coockiencali, your comments are insightful and helpful to me personally as I watch my young nephew (born female) become a man. Sean and Steve, I’d kill for 5 % of your intellect and debating skills. I always simplify everything: every human being on this planet of 3 billion or so is worthy of love and compassion. It is crazy to cast judgement on the LGBT community. It is ok to admit one struggles to understand, but it is not necessary for one to understand. All that is required is acceptance. And never say “tolerance”. This word should be thrown out when describing human beings. It is grossly patronising. Tolerance is for when you are in a situation that is stressful, say bumper to bumper to traffic, and you accept that since you can’t fly over the cars you put on the tunes and chill. That is tolerance.

  18. Good discussion here. Quickly, I think Steven’s line to me in his last longer email was meant sarcastically but I actually DO think that: There IS nothing more important than skepticism.

    Skepticism is the key to progress. Not just accepting the way things are is the way to progress. Grace Hopper famously said “The most damaging phrase in the language is: ‘It’s always been done that way.’” And I agree with her POV. To claim that trans- individuals should be free of skepticism or judgment is a terrible idea. Judgment is good. Prejudgment is bad. The only ideas that should be allowed to proliferate are those people can defend with rhetoric.

    For example, to take on one more point of Steven’s: “In America, you only need partial black ancestry to be considered black, and simply appearing black is usually enough. If you look a little bit white, you are not considered white. That is how the “factual science” of “reality” works in America (and many other places). It is hard to believe you are a professor and don’t know this.” My response is – You can only KNOW a fact. Your statement is not a fact, it’s an opinion, an argument, a position. Similarly, my position/stance/claim re: mixed race vs. black as designator for Obama is not a particularly radical one either. There are truly radical and fringe POVs on race and identity, but if you really think mine is one of those I’d be surprised.

    Lastly, I don’t think universal acceptance is as much of an ideal as Heather. It is just as important to reject things as to accept them. What I want to reject is the privileging of feelings over logic, reason and rational thought. I want to reject the notion that anyone who is critical or skeptical of a group is somehow bigoted against that group. I want to reject the notion that you should just take someone’s word on what they are think they are.

  19. @Heather:

    Hug! So you are warming yourself on all our hot air? Nice! laugh

    @Sean, you cite, as mine:

    “In America, you only need partial black ancestry to be considered black, and simply appearing black is usually enough. If you look a little bit white, you are not considered white. That is how the “factual science” of “reality” works in America (and many other places). It is hard to believe you are a professor and don’t know this.”

    I didn’t write that, that was “Butt”. However, how can it be possible, Sean, that as a “professor”, you’re not aware of the One-Drop Rule, or the Grandfather Clause, and so forth? Because these heirlooms are embarrassing to our modern sensibilities, we now exist in a Legal limbo regarding Race. But there is no, and never was, a *scientific standard* for dividing the world’s population into three or four “races”, though there was the aforementioned legal standard, in the US, for determining Negritude: if one of your grandfathers was Black, you were Black (which is ingeniously recursive, if you think of it for longer than a minute).

    Neither did I write the line about skepticism that you reference, as mine; that, too, was Butt.

    However, to return to the actual debate between Steven and Sean: you write: “What I want to reject is the privileging of feelings over logic, reason and rational thought.,” without having managed, as yet, to support your opinion with a shred of logic, reason, or rational thought. What you have done, time and again, is express, very passionately, your *feelings*.

    I, too, believe in the primacy of Logic, Reason and Rational Thought… but I think you, Sean, need more rigor in defining, detecting and then applying these thinking-systems. As I always say: “No logic, no justice”. But logic is not defined by whatever *feels* logical to *you*. Likewise, Science is not the sum total of all attitudes and pre-conceptions which jibe with your own. Your use of the concept of Race is absolutely (intellectually-lazily) folkloric; you base it on appearance (vide: your “blue eyes” riff). To be fair, again: Race is a conservative pseudo-science that walks hand in hand (as parent and child but which is which?) with Eugenics, so your wholly subjective and preconditioned notion of it is utterly appropriate! Laugh. But our topic today is Gender, about which your feelings appear to resolve to the beautifully evocative line…

    “I want to reject the notion that you should just take someone’s word on what they are (sic) think they are.”

    Of course you do! You want the Power to tell Lesbians that they shouldn’t, naturally, prefer women, sexually/romantically; Gay men shouldn’t, naturally, prefer men; Transgendered people shouldn’t, naturally, with any *authority*, provide us with their definitions of themselves, sexually and socially… you think the Power to make these determinations and to bless or reject certain longings or unions should be *yours*, or belong to Authorities who share *your* outlook.

    That’s an understandable feeling… but it’s a little too provincial/ immature/ egocentric to work anywhere but a very small (and depressing) village. Until such time as you are crowned a kind of Caesar. Yes, most of us can remember an era during which your world view was dominant, and enforced by Law… thankgods that era is over! Those were very ugly times for the majority of the people. Things are not exactly Utopian now, but they are better, by orders of magnitude, than they were in, say, 1957. (Well, not for the people “we” are droning/ bombing around the world, but that’s another discussion).

    But, to say it once more (and then never again): what is the Science of Gender as it applies to humans as social animals? Your notion of Gender, Sean, is simple enough to apply to dead mammals (in which the absented minds are irrelevant): you want to reduce it to a question of physiology. Which clearly doesn’t work. There are tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of people around the planet who are either exclusively, or powerfully, or occasionally, attracted to the same Sex: are they all wrong, or does Science have to catch up? And so with Transgender matters. Is it “scientifically wrong” to be Transgendered, or does Science have to catch up?

    If Science is being scientific, it would have to agree that it’s time to catch up, being a methodology, after all, generally speaking, for interpreting observed phenomena to the desired conclusion of being able to understand and therefore predict it. So, The LGBT community, on planet Earth, is not wrong, and it’s not wrong just because *you* can’t understand it. It represents a massive database of variables and unknowns and Science will need to catch up to it.

    But… and here’s a concept you may not be ready for: Human Rights transcend Science. Self-definition is a Human Right I expect to see the total expression of in only the most advanced civilizations, of course. And the civilization you would seem to prefer, Sean, is the polar opposite of “advanced”.

    Anyway. Your nostalgia for Ike’s era (and/or before), Sean, is what makes you A) a conservative B) my ideological enemy C) irrelevant to hundreds of millions (if not billions) of people.

    Unless you can come up with a new (talking point) point, I’ll respectfully bow out of our giant-paddled, basketballing ping-pong game of diminishing returns now! Laugh.

    Happy Trails!


  20. Today is my First day on wordpress, I get done managing my noob page, go look to see what’s out to discover, click and after Trump find this? I read here you’d like me to add to the conversation, and as my very first post on another blog, I would like to say this. What are you guys thinking? Its quite obvious to me that the LGBT fights are only making things worse. Now I am not saying that LGBT needs to run and hide, but if LGBT looks at human history, then the only thing humans can do by default is reject them. Why, I wonder, LGBT thinks that people in the majority will ever accept them? Black people are still fighting to be socially accepted in many areas and they had a century head start on you guys. So since LGBT is continually comparing themselves to racial wars, then look at the example your setting for yourselves, racism still exists. I can understand that LGBT feels compelled to marry and such. But please remember this. White people fought white people in a civil war. Killed each other for the right to own slave or free them. And that was before blacks had the right to legally marry in most of the U.S. So by that example, umm wait, that example sucks because only LGBT is fighting for LGBT. There will not be a civil war. ‘Our fights in the courts” I can see them saying that. And I understand. But seriously. You guys would be better off trying to find a state, and take that state over. I support people weather black, white, Native American (all of which I am), gay, bi, trans, whatever. I am not even debating. Look at humans. Do we seem like we are naturally accepting? Please, realize that if LGBT wants to compare themselves to races, there is still racism.

    Just wish people could stop fighting and start working for solutions. And yes I feel like if the LGBT leaders when to I don’t know some random state like North Carolina. Then flooded the political offices and ran the state as they saw fit, we could then devote more time to things that actually matter like mentally ill criminals who go to prison and only get worse. Trying to break up these drug communities that keep the masses of the poor high on drugs. But no our government has to be burdened, as if they weren’t incapable enough, to try and grapple with an issue that’s really a non issue. If LGBT would solve their own problems rather than to try and force all of America and the world to. I mean seriously? Our government can’t balance a budget, and you want them to make social decisions like where trans genders can urinate? They’ll be lucky if government doesn’t one day just force all Walmart’s to build multi-sex outhouses to shut everyone up.

    My advise is take these long drawn out same old arguments, and take a new view. Realize these highly motivated complicated arguments about a letter someone published in a book, are still shots in the dark, illuminating no one as I read in the posts thereafter. Stop hating people as much as they hate you, Fight with love and search for solutions. If you fight with hate, then all that can happen is more hate.

    Maybe you could have said somewhere that you realize that this guys is a human, The same thing that LGBT is fighting to let everyone know that they are, humans. Then maybe I can believe, that your fighting for peace instead of hate.

  21. Just wish people could stop fighting and start working for solutions. And yes I feel like if the LGBT leaders went to I don’t know some random state like North Carolina.*

    there was another typo I read, but sadly your lucky you got me to change that one =D typo’s for the win!!!

  22. Unlimited: I totally agree there are really important issues that are dire; one you mentioned is the justice system in the U.S. The mentally ill going to prison and being executed (medeival and henious crime by state), and the poverty in so many communities. And you are right of course. But this is a different discussion, and yes the comment section on contentious issues can spiral into new topics, which is ok. Keep reading The Millions. It isn’t all just “white privilege” here (a term I am starting to loathe). This article happens to be about LBGT, but it is not written as a means to dismiss other concerns and abuses of power.

  23. Thanks Heather, and I am not trying to bash on anyone, just throwing my love in somewhere so people might start being able to let go of this hate stuff we got going on. Hope I make the cut. =)

  24. Quick apology to Steven for confusing his post with Butt’s. I thought your long last post was intriguing if almost entirely wrongheaded.

    How is race pseudo-science? If a black person from Nigeria has a kid with a black person from Kenya, the kid isn’t going to come out looking like a white person from Scandinavia. That’s all I’m saying about race, it is largely biological. Is there some “nurture” to how mixed race people are treated? Of course. But the One Drop Rule and Grandfather Clause are relics from the days of speaking about quadroons and octoroons. To act like that has relevance to 2016 America discussions about race is a stretch at best. History only matters so much. The fact that someone’s great-great grandfather was a slave should get that person precisely nothing. A 2016 German doesn’t owe his 2016 Jewish colleague on the assembly line at BMW a single cent.

    Human rights do not transcend science. Nothing does. It’s the one true unifier — gravity, physics, chemistry, genetics. Self-definition is absurd and Orwellian. You don’t get to say you’re something you’re not. Your height is your height, your weight is your weight, your gender is your gender, your race is your race — reality exists. If we could stop being so sophomorically utopian we might actually get somewhere. Read more Cormac McCarthy.

    I have no nostalgia for Ike’s era (nostalgia in general is sentimental and a big part of the problem — Black Lives Matter is a bunch of people who are sad they missed out on the Civil Rights Movement and think raising fists and holding demonstrations in 2016 is fun and culturally invested and allows them to feel superior). If you think smart people can be defined as either “liberal” or “conservative” you’re part of the problem. If you think ideologies should make people enemies you’re part of the problem. If alternative points of view are abhorrent to you (and millions of others) you’re part of the problem.

    I am all for equality. I am against special treatment.

  25. “History only matters so much. The fact that someone’s great-great grandfather was a slave should get that person precisely nothing. A 2016 German doesn’t owe his 2016 Jewish colleague on the assembly line at BMW a single cent.”

    This is the ugliness of racism taken for granted. Yeah, white man, I bet you’d like to forget the past. The truth is, racism and homophobia and hatred has created the world we live in, like it or not, and there are consequences. You think the problems facing black people in America today have nothing to do with slavery? That is just stupid. It is stupid and blind. Read a book, professor. Do the least bit of research. You don’t get to ignore the fact that people are rich today because their ancestors enslaved people and stole and raped and pillaged, and that people are poor today because their ancestors were enslaved and robbed and beaten down and exploited. This isn’t to say that individual people necessarily owe something to other individuals, but that people who collectively benefit are indebted to those who collectively suffered… Cormac McCarthy? Try Malcolm X, or W.E.B. DuBois, or Ida B. Wells. It’s insulting to suggest science is some kind of cure-all that will lead humanity into the light. As for your claim that “Your statement is not a fact, it’s an opinion, an argument, a position,” how is your puerile worship of science any different? Science may tell us that Barack Obama is half black and half white, science may also tell us that race is a genetically insignificant distinction, science may tell us that it doesn’t know what transgender means (because science does not have all the facts), but where science fails is in offering meaningful solutions to the problems we face, which are historical problems. That is, they come from the past. History is the only thing that matters. We live in the world that history created. There is no other reason for one person to hate another, or to judge another, or to love another, than history. The attitude that says otherwise is why we still live in an unjust and cruel world–not because we don’t all embrace the wonders of science.

    Taken to an extreme, this attitude leads to people like Unlimited Christ Works, who is so clueless of the past that his opinions are nonsensical garbage. By the way, UCW, black people also fought in the civil war.

  26. “This isn’t to say that individual people necessarily owe something to other individuals, but that people who collectively benefit are indebted to those who collectively suffered.”

    @butt – I think that this is illustrates well why this argument has become so unwieldy, both in this thread and in the broader culture: who, exactly, are “that people who collectively benefit”? It may be just my reading of it, but is there not a slipperiness, a fatal imprecision to the formulation, one that – to all appearances – replicates the very order of stereotyping, (or at least the lazy profiling) that it decries?

    I don’t pretend to have any answers, and will not offer any feckless defense of what is historically and morally indefensible, but would offer perhaps only this caution: I am writing from a background where “collective” applications – to social policy, cultural determination, scientific rigor – have, as a rule, resulted in ever greater inequalities, usually with horrifying consequences. “Rivers of blood” to re-use the phrase I heard recently from an interview subject.

    I may suffer the fallout from the sins of my fathers, but the only “benefit” I can claim is the education I received that compels me not to repeat them, and to resist them wherever I do see them.

    peace from Kyiv

  27. @il’ja

    “…who, exactly, are “that people who collectively benefit”?

    (pre-clarification: the “you” addressed in the following text is not, necessarily, you)

    Luckily for this debate, the Law (past and present), a meticulously recorded testament of those who were allowed or not; those who were welcome or not; makes that easy to determine.

    When I was five years old, in the USA, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made me officially human; before that I had more definite rights than livestock but fewer than the Americans who were accorded the standard protections of citizenship. Even after that Federal moment, of course, there were states in the union where I, or my relatives, could be thrown in jail (and worse) for using the wrong water fountain/ swimming pool/ WC/ library/ lunch counter, etc.

    By having a look at the various “Race”-specific statutes in various law books around the country (for example, there were states in which it was still *illegal*, for the “Races” to intermarry, or mix at high school proms, well into the 1980s), we can extrapolate a fairly accurate sense of who collectively benefited, during the period, say, from 1900-to-1980, from *not* being Black. This is not to say that these non-Black groups became wealthy or were treated like royalty… but surely we can all see the psycho-social benefits of not being treated, *officially*, like a cross between a barnyard animal and a plague-carrier for most, if not all, of your life…?

    No, we can’t reliably calculate these matters and reduce them to dollar-amount reparations (it’s different with Jews seeking financial redress from post-Nazi Germany; many of them, and their heirs, could produce deeds to the property stolen; stolen Africans had no deeds to point to)… or scientific units of pain. But Blacks have been so obviously and so thoroughly demonized, demeaned, debased, denatured, disenfranchized, disrupted, defamed, deconstructed, decorticated and denied nearly every Magna-Carta-indicated advantage of citizenship, for so many centuries (four and counting) that it’s a little…you know… disingenuous, I find: all this head-scratching and head-shaking.

    No, you are NOT to blame. Still: do you really have to add insult to injury by screaming, from your seats in the bleachers, for the 90-pound kid in the ring with the 400-pound-Minotaur, to “shake it off” after he’s been stomped and gored all night? It’s an absurdity worthy of a New Yorker cartoon (as drawn by Hogarth) to expect anyone to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps when they don’t even have shoes.

    The solution? Simple. Desegregation (the genuine kind). It will be awkward and painful, for the first generation or two, but it’s the *only* solution. The genteel word for the process is “assimilation” and the Irish, Italians and Jews (and, to a lesser extent, Asians) have been enjoying the benefits of it for a century. Separate is NEVER equal.

    Listen, I’m as straight as they come (no pun intended), to swing back to the core-topic of this thread… my interest in the Human Rights of the chronically, vulnerably Othered comes largely from the fact that it happens to be the group I was born into (though I’d like to believe that I’d still care, even if I were a super-het son of WASPs). I’m not Transgender or Queer but I was born just as damned. I have never entirely recovered (try being a sensitive, physics-book-reading teen, as I was… and being SPAT on, in public, as I was, for example, in the Vegas of the early 1970s… or threatened by a redneck on horseback… great story, in retrospect). The fact that I’ve come as far as I’ve come… starting so profoundly below ZERO, socially and legally and materially… probably indicates that I’m either as resilient as certain strains of bacteria… or a superman. Does it matter which? Laugh.

    So, come, friends! Enough with the hair-splitting sophistries. We all have problems (not the least of which being that we’re all fated to die)… that’s not the point. The point is to listen and learn, sometimes.

    Which is better put by my old chum Witty:

    “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann…”

  28. @Steven Augustine

    Stipulated. Largely.

    I do think you place a greater faith in political processes than I am capable of, but I agree that the greater part of the solution is desegregation. Implementation, however, is problematic. My saying that is not indicative of privilege, but experience. Blunt enforcement would almost surely produce consequences that no thinking person wants, consequences that arise – and I know I’m becoming redundant – out of a repetition of the very violation of dignity in identity that it hopes to ensure. On a macro scale, I hold that to ensure the preservation – and eventual refinement – of the imperfect Union as a political entity, we must do everything to encourage the submission of a willing conscience among the entire population, regardless of race, as essential to a more equitable society.

    You say the point is to listen and learn, and I wonder if the fears expressed (irrational as they may be) among those who would still resist equal representation (or who insist that none of this real) are being heard for what they are? Because what they are, I think, is largely a fear of being coerced. A fear of having their willing conscience violated – yes, despite their putative majority, and presumptive “benefit”. Is the path of wisdom to address those fears, or to shout louder “your privilege precludes you from understanding your guilt or my pain”? In the contemporary context, is it prudent to foster yet greater ulceration in the social fabric?

    The human heart is what it is. Overcoming its irrationalities (and racism is as most -isms, irrational) and combating ignorance is, of necessity, a long-term project. A project which will, despite our best efforts, produce uneven results. But insisting that the impetus for the project arises from some arbitrarily and narrowly-defined historical benefit (and no NOT the benefit of “not being black”, but the benefit of “being white” – that’s very slippery of you, Agent Starling) is open to the worst kind of social engineering. I will fall back again on long experience in eastern Europe: one-size blames all social engineering ends up badly. Always. The reason, well, you see the reason.

    No sophistry here: I am no more interested in admitting the kind of personal incredulity that insists these inequities are contingent or non-existent than I am interested in flirting with arguments that employ selective attention or that bete noir of all bad thinking, special pleading. Insisting that the playing field is even, so, hey, what’s wrong with you? is no more true or helpful than insisting that the arbitrary assignment of my race renders me incapable of a)empathy or b)places me outside of real time and/or legal imperatives.

    So that’s a response, for what it’s worth. In fact, it’s the second one I’ve typed in, the Millions swallowed the first one. I hope you can receive it in the spirit in which it’s intended. The conversation is too important to succumb to evasion or anaudia.

  29. @il’ja

    First: many thanks for the carefully-considered response, which doubled as a good read!

    Second: I suppose I should have prefaced my remarks with the disclaimer that I’m a Cynic (partially in the modern sense of the word, and partially in the classical… woof!)… I certainly don’t expect a massive and effective desegregation program to be undertaken in the US within our lifetimes (if ever). Not because it couldn’t be done but because it would be geopolitical suicide (eventually) for the people in charge… imagine unifying so many Serfs!

    However, should the planet pass through a wormhole of some sort and reverse Reality’s Polarity as we know it, and the Political Machinery of North America (and, by extension, of much of the world) decided to do such a thing merely because it would be for the greater good of humankind, The Owners (not a cabal but hundreds of interlocking institutions) could affect the same kind of massive paradigm shift, re: Xenophobia, that I’ve seen (or read about ) them managing regarding other matters.

    It took thirty years, for example, by my rough estimate, using powerful propaganda in film, TV, pop songs, school, et al, to undo the Populist Unthinkability of War after Vietnam. They used catchy TV-adverts (“Be all that you can be!”) they used films (far too many to cite ), they used video games (perhaps you’d be surprised that the Pentagon was an early developer of video games?). Regarding TV: the psycho-social distance from “MASH” to “24” is something, eh?

    Similarly, after the tireless work of every kind of (often stealthy) Think Tank and Right-Wing Foundation, they managed to make business /materialism seem “sexy” and moral and profoundly democratic… and so forth. The country has moved so far to the Right (as Chomsky points out) that Nixon would seem like a hippie (or a commie) by today’s standards. Dr. Michael Parenti is very good on this topic, too, btw.

    Any American or British school kid can (or could) identify Nazi, or Stalinist, propaganda… but the trick is being able to recognize the propaganda you were raised with… the propaganda you swallowed with your mother’s milk. Not so easy.

    These paradigm-shifts are never organic (not after Bernays)… the techniques they use to make silly hunks of Apple-stamped plastic so beguiling, or to make every near-identical and moronic hit TV show seem so clever and real to otherwise-intelligent adults, are the same techniques they use to make War seem like a noble-but-necessary sacrifice instead of the absurd and utterly avoidable abomination it is…. which are the same techniques they use to make the increasingly neo-Medieval (no offence to The Dark Ages) USA still seem, somehow, to so many, to be that shining City on that Hill.

    The Group Mind is far more malleable than we, as individuals, like to think it is. Of course, not every propagandistic objective is met on schedule or without hiccups… if only because there are competing propagandistic imperatives; it isn’t just the pseudo-dyad of the nominal government asserting its media-amplified will. There are techno-robber-barons like Bill Gates, for example (surely as powerful as any Senator) with lots of platforms to assert his will through. There are the media moguls and media-savvy lobbying groups and so on.

    But, to return to an earlier point: do a little research on the influence (and ubiquity) of Right Wing Grants and Foundations and Think Tanks… it will astonish you.

    All to say (as Marshall McLuhan already put it, in his jazzy way) that this is a heavily-mediated Empire… if the people who want you to hate Moozlums wanted the general populace to accept Black Americans as humans, neighbors, friends and family, instead, it wouldn’t take, I think, more than a few generations to make that wish come true on a massive scale. In fact, this very process actually started, post-MLK, but was wiped off the media map by the counter-insurgency of the “Reagan” (aka Bush) Revolution. It could be started again.

    Well, ha ha, first they’d have to *stop* actively *demonizing* Black Americans, obviously… but, again, that would be political suicide for Democrats and Republicans alike… who derive enormous political energy from keeping middle class voters afraid of “crime” and the Congenital Underclass. Reagan converted his “welfare queen” meme into rich political capital just as surely as George Bush used “Willie Horton”… neither of whom could beat the Clinton Hydra at that game.

    So, no… no desegregation. No time soon. And, remember: the worse things get between Genders and Races and Religions and Shoe Sizes, the less The Owners (the 1%ers) have to worry about the penny finally dropping for hundreds of millions of angry Serfs who might, one day, otherwise, wise up and shake their torches and pitchforks in the opposite direction.

    No Candide am I.

  30. One of the longer discussions I’ve seen here on The Millions. Interesting how the focus moved largely to race after starting with LGBT. I guess the larger issue is identity politics and classic left/right/center stuff. And I would argue that the greater underlying issue is individualism vs. collectivism. It’s just very hard for an individualist and a collectivist to agree because they perceive the world so differently.

  31. Well however off topic, it is fantastic to see il’ja back. Where have you been damn it?

  32. @Heather Curran

    Heather! Surviving revolutions, chatting with Nobel laureates, and staring south across the Black Sea, hoping to catch sight of your sloop sailing up from Istanbul. You know – the usual. You’ll be flying the Canadian colo(u)rs?

    For me, the secret thrill of this conversation thread comes from knowing that Ukraine is 20 years away from having it. Russia 50.

  33. Well il’ja, being Canadian, I am making a birch bark canoe. It isn’t as easy as I thought it would be!

  34. It must be a wonderful feeling to find that you are in agreement over pretty much everything at The Millions. The new cultural standard amounts to an allegiance to Women’s Sudies programs, and independance and rebellion is out of favor for now. Your articles have all the insight, maturity, and riskiness of Millennials elsewhere. It must be fun. I say goodbye to a formerly fine site.

  35. Likewise, I don’t care whether someone thinks that biological sex is determined by individual subjectivity, but I do care when they teach that ideology to children who don’t understand the consequences of permanently altering their bodies. And hormone blockers do permanently alter their bodies. They prevent natural puberty, and lead to lowered bone density for the rest of that person’s life. This writer is using children as a pawn to prop up their own identity, and then accuses “conservatives” of using children.

  36. U: Hadn’t you better revise you editorial to include the fact that two people at the Antioch review resigned from the review because of death threats or is this just not relevant to your arguments? I know you see yourselves as victims but aren’t they?

  37. I feel compelled to add my two cents even though this thread is old.

    Gerbby, allowing a transgender child to freely express her/his gender identity is not “teaching ideology to children who don’t understand the consequences of permanently altering their bodies.” Children are smarter than they get credit for. My two sons understand that their born-male cousin has changed her name and is dressing as a girl, because she feels she is a girl. My sons know that this is how their cousin feels, and that’s good enough for them so far. I’ve told my sons that I don’t know why their cousin feels this way, and my sons accept that. I have seen no signs of them questioning their own gender identity as a result of this. Instead what I have seen is two boys learning to accept, respect, and love others even if they don’t understand them or their choices. They are learning to be compassionate and tolerant.

    As for the risks of hormone blockers, I would much rather my niece suffer from lowered bone density than be saddled with major depression and suicidal thoughts for the rest of her life as a result of self-hatred and being rejected by her own family and community, not to mention the risk of being a victim of violence by others. In the case of my niece, and, I would hazard to guess, many other children as well, parents make a gut-wrenching decision to support their transgender child out of love and a desire to protect them. And they don’t do it flippantly or casually, but rather after a long period of questioning, looking at the evidence, talking to their child and doctor, and soul-searching.

    Finally, your comment about adults using children as a pawn to prop up their own identity puzzles me. I don’t see how you draw that conclusion from the fact that some parents are making the decision to support their child’s desire to express a different gender than their biological sex would normally dictate.

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