Psychotherapist and Guardian columnist Phillipa Perry asserts that sensationalist media stories about transgendered children serve to further isolate and confuse children who do not conform to gender stereotypes:
“The internet has made transgenderism in children more widely known, which makes it easier for it to be accepted and, hopefully, more normal. But as the recent spate of sensationalist news stories about young children with the condition show, we, as a culture, have work to do: “normality” needs to widen its net.”
Well, quite. Any reasonable radfem would agree with this stance, and yet with a remarkable leap of reverse “trans” logic, Perry goes on to reach the opposite conclusion to what you would expect. Rather than suggesting that society should widen its net to expand the range of behaviours deemed acceptable for any child, she bizarrely goes on to argue against her own point of view, stating that boys and girls who do not conform to culturally imposed gender stereotypes have a “condition”.
It’s possible that they do indeed have a condition, but only if you believe that “being a non-conformist” is a problem to be treated (which I don’t.)
The author demonstrates a worrying ignorance of history. Any discussion on gender lacks context if it not acknowledged at some point that historically it is women who have always been treated for the condition of non-conformity to gender stereotypes. Nobody knows better than women what it means to refuse to be passive, docile and compliant. It wasn’t so long ago when uppity women in the U.S and the U.K were whisked off to mental hospitals to receive lobotomies, or hysterectomies, or oophorectomies, or clitoridectomies, for no other reason than they weren’t biddable (i.e feminine) in the eyes of their fathers and husbands. The horrors they were subjected to certainly rendered them “feminine”, if femininity is to be equated with compliance. They became what society expects girls and women to be: brood mares and domestic drudges. Many were impregnated, and most were used as domestic labour. The lobotomy would kill enough brain cells to ensure their creativity and personality was destroyed, but not quite enough to allow them to escape hard labour. Incidentally, doctors noted that lobotomized women “made excellent housekeepers”. (Gyn/Ecology, Daly).
Can we take an authority on gender seriously when she does not understand what gender actually is, or how it is imposed on all girls and women?
Perry then offers some child-rearing tips. Which is just what mothers need: another stick to be beaten with. Tellingly, she uses the gender-neutral “carer” to describe the people who are responsible for raising children, but we all know that regardless of who the “carers” are, it’s the mother who will be blamed when things go wrong. (Unless she’s dead. Dead mothers are sometimes let off the hook, provided they were young enough when they snuffed it.) But no, apparently in the “aren’t-we-modern” twenty first century, it’s not the mother, but the “carers of a gender dysphoric child” who need to understand the following:
“When raising any child, gender dysphoric or not, upbringing should not be about whether to oppress or indulge children, as it too often is. Ideally the carers of a gender dysphoric child should neither be punitive nor overly enthusiastic, as both of these responses would be judgmental. A judgment is a bit like a full stop and, once reached, further exploration tends to cease. Instead, adults need to honour children’s subjective experience. They should endeavour to understand and validate a child’s feelings.”
It’s interesting how these elusive “carers” have got so much time for all of this extra-curricular mental activity. That’d be because the mothers of the kids are actually doing everything else, namely being preoccupied with the (unpaid) work of making sure their children get three meals a day and go to sleep in a warm home, while managing with varying degrees of success to dodge domestic violence, rape and other such distractions. “Honouring a child’s subjective experience” is not something your average mother has got time for. “Oh, you think you’re a girl, very good, now go outside to play and don’t come back until dinner time” does count as “honouring a child’s experience” for those of us deep in the trenches of motherhood. No need to give the child a complex. The last thing any child needs is a mother who is preoccupied with his inner world.
Which is not to be confused with lack of caring. Every mother wants to know that her child can come to her for help if s/he is being bullied. And because society is still so stringent in its gender dictates those who do not conform to sex roles are indeed targeted. Culprits must be duly punished by the schools and parents. However, what I suggest we should not do is tell children they have a “condition” when what they actually have is the strength of character to step out of the box and the creativity of spirit to behave differently.
Therefore I disagree with Perry’s view that gender non-conformist children are “abnormal”; on the contrary, they are the epitome of normal.
[Photograph of Phillipa Perry and her husband, who describes himself as ” the kind of woman who eats ready meals and can just about sew on a button“. Alrighty then.