The Transgender Children’s Crusade

With its vision of autonomous young people in touch with their innermost desires, gender identity negates all we know about growing up.

Kay Hymowitz: The Transgender Children’s Crusade

To grasp the novelty of gender identity, compare its idea of child nature with that of child psychology. The psychological approach is predicated on an idea that seems glaringly obvious to most people today: young minds differ from those of adults. Jean Piaget, one of the field’s first theorists of cognitive development, called the first two years the sensorimotor stage, when infants and toddlers explore the outside world through sensory means. They only gradually gain control of their arms and hands as they grab at their clothes and their hair, pull at their genitals, or reach for a caretaker’s necklace or hair. Anyone who has cared for a toddler knows that toddlers’ emotions are so fleeting that they forget the banana that they just demanded in a fit of red-faced rage, once distracted by a bright shiny object.

Here are other truths about young children known to experts and parents alike. They are prone to magical thinking; they believe, as Jazz Jennings did, that a fairy will change their penis into a vagina, or that they play with invisible companions, like the castle-dwelling ninjas that my grandson used to “fight” when he was five. Their sense of time is primitive. Young children have trouble thinking about being six years old; imagining themselves as 20, as they would need to do to know their identity, is like science fiction. Their personalities change; the placid infant turns into a chatterbox five-year-old, who suddenly turns into a withdrawn ten-year-old. Dysphoria itself is often a temporary condition. Assuming that they don’t socially transition, as Jazz did, the large majority of dysphoric young children will desist as they get older; most will become gay.

Yet pediatric gender experts have put psychology’s idea of the child out to pasture. In their view, kids, even those who have yet to pull themselves up in their cribs, are capable of insight that many adults don’t have. “Kids understand themselves better, and at a much younger age, than adults assume. This includes their gender identity,” theorists at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education maintain. Today’s prodigies intuit their gender identities before they can talk. Diane Ehrensaft, director of mental health at the University of California–San Francisco and one of the foremost exponents of youthful gender dysphoria, explained at a 2016 conference how preverbal children could communicate gender distress. A boy infant might pull at the snaps of his onesie, she answered, in order to “make a dress”; he is sending a “gender message” that he really wants to be a girl. Likewise, a toddler tugging at the barrettes in her hair is not trying to ease the pulling at her scalp; she’s demonstrating that she wants to be a boy.

In the past, when a child showed signs of gender dysphoria, clinicians took a stance of “watchful waiting,” an approach that recognized the inherent volatility and cognitive immaturity of creatures still sleeping in their Batman jammies and leaving cookies for Santa Claus. The essentialist logic of gender identity, however, requires teachers, parents, and therapists to take a “gender-affirming” approach. A boy who declares himself a girl must be validated: no questions asked, no therapeutic probing about anything else that might be troubling the child. The enlightened child has spoken. “If you listen to the children, you will discover their gender. It is not for us to tell, but for them to say,” writes Ehrensaft.

Source: City Journal


Love Refuses To Affirm Confusion