Free speech event at SFU in jeopardy after threats of violence
Word spread quickly on social media this evening that Simon Fraser University has backed out of its decision to host the event entitled “#GIDYVR: How Media Bias Shapes the Gender Identity Debate” on November 2nd.
“Detransitioning” is a touchy topic for the trans community. Individuals who medically transition only to figure out later that they were never truly trans are a probably unsurprising phenomenon. It’s only common sense that a certain number of people who take the leap into hormone treatments or cosmetic surgery may end up having a change of heart.
In the last few years, there has been a huge statistical rise in young people identifying as transgender. According to The Children’s Gender Service at the Tavistock in Britain, there were just 77 trans children at their clinic in 2010. By 2019, there were 2,950 patients with 3,000 more on the waiting list to be treated.
Many young adults are turning to vlogging their detransition experiences and stories on YouTube. As a trans woman myself, I remember these stories being rarer in the past. A few years ago, there were a few detransitioners on Youtube talking about their experiences, but not many. Now, there appears to be almost as many people talking about their transition failures as there are people talking about their transition successes.
What’s the explanation for this? I have a few theories, the first being the overdiagnosis of mental disorders in children today. Now more than ever in history, we’re quick to throw a kid who’s disruptive in class or rowdy during recess on medication. As hormone replacement therapy becomes more commonplace, specifically for teens, it only makes sense that a certain number of those being overdiagnosed will end up on it.
Many of the teen detransitioners on Youtube cite falling into trans activist circles online as a contribution to the mistake they made. This brings me to my next theory, which is that transgenderism has become a fad for some. What used to be a medical issue that a small but very real segment of the population sought help for has now become politicized and popularized to the point where you’re not TRULY WOKE unless you have some sort of alternative gender identity. I see this online all the time, and you know you do too. Don’t lie.
I spoke with one teen detransitioner, Elle Palmer, whose YouTube video about her journey from female to male, and then back to female, is garnering quick traction on the website. Our interview is fascinating, and she corroborates my above theories as to why this is happening more frequently.
“My puberty was medicalized”, states Elle. “From a young age, I dealt with mental health problems that ultimately put me on a path of trying to fix myself- to figure out what was wrong with me”. She goes on to cite the deepening of her voice and growth of facial hair as huge regrets as a result of taking testosterone.
This puts a hole in the argument that children should be able to transition, which is predicated on the belief that they are always right about their feelings of belonging to the opposite sex. This is simply not the case, and we must exercise extreme caution.
Author’s note: I am grateful to the recently-launched caWsbar (Canadian Women’s Sex-based Rights) for bringing the McLean Clinic, and its aggressive marketing techniques, to my attention, as well as for files they contributed to this column. Dr. Alicia Hendley, Phd in psychology and founding member of caWsbar told me: “We’re very alarmed about the current trend of young women having double mastectomies to treat their dysphoria. We urge medical professionals to move beyond the external pressures they are being faced with and to put into action their most sacred principle—first do no harm.”
The rapid escalation of gender-fluid identification amongst young people in the West is nothing short of astounding. Adolescent females are now in a majority of those seeking transition. An Ottawa clinic, CHEO, used to see one or two patients a year. Last year it saw 189. It’s the same in other provinces:
Girls who are dissatisfied with their post-puberty bodies and wish to present as boys, naturally focus on their burgeoning breasts. They may use binders to flatten them, or they may seek surgical removal, referred to in the gender-fluidity world as “top surgery.”
Until fairly recently, a patient needed to undergo psychiatric testing before receiving OHIP approval for funding. Now a patient can be diagnosed by a GP or any other “expert” in gender health. Effectively, OHIP is now approving funding for any teenager who self-diagnoses as gender dysphoric, since Ontario law forbids any health professional from practicing “conversion therapy.” That is, any attempt by a doctor to inquire into contributing factors such as autism, anxiety, sexual preference, depression or other influencing factors could easily be construed as illegal.
The primary destination for top surgery in Ontario is the McLean Clinic, run by Dr. Hugh A. McLean, who has himself performed hundreds of top surgeries and who is not shy about promoting his clinic as a place where gender-fluidity dreams come true.
On the clinic’s Instagram page you can see dozens of photos of post-op FTM (female-to-male) clients posing bare-chested and happy. The clinic cheers on their patients—and prospective patients—with encouraging posts such as “Postop one day! What a way to start the holiday season. Nice job, Dr. McLean!” and “Ready for a topless summer.” Some of the females seem extremely young. Other adolescents comment, “I can’t wait to have this surgery too!” “I’m jealous!” In one photo, fellow surgeon Dr. Giancarlo McEvenue (more on him anon) wearing a mask and a Santa Claus hat holds up two buckets labelled “Breast tissue,” accompanied by a Dr McLean post: “For all you good boys, Dr McEvenue is not bringing gifts, he’s taking them away!”
We already know that adolescence is a notoriously labile period in the maturation cycle, and that teenagers under the age of 18 (at a minimum—our brains are not fully mature until 25) cannot be assumed to be making momentous decisions with truly “informed consent.” This Instagram page straddles a line between affirmation and recruitment.
Dr. McEvenue, Dr. McLean’s (until recently) colleague at the McLean clinic (he is listed as a surgeon here now), is as well a paid consultant for Johnson & Johnson, whose products and services are employed in these surgeries. Under their sponsorship, Dr. McEvenue participated in a gender reassignment surgery panel last September in Markham, Ontario. You can watch the panel and his performance here.
In the video, you see a marked transformation in Dr. McEvenue’s pitch. He’s jettisoned the Instagram-friendly Santa hat and the buckets of breast tissue. He is now the smooth, Madman-esque embodiment of Corporate Guy, representing a mammoth company that brands itself as so LGBT-friendly they are bursting with Pride and self-congratulation.
Dr. McEvenue tells us that there could be as many as two million people with gender dysphoria in Canada – about 1.5% of the population – considerably more than the DSM-5’s estimation of .002-.003%. Not only is the wish for top surgery not indicative of a disorder, he says, but it is even “not a distress,” and in fact it may not be necessarily exclusively related to gender dysphoria. Sometimes it is just “breast dysphoria,” he says, a term new to me, which turns out to mean that “you don’t like your breasts.” If that is your issue, Dr. McEvenue is there for you, and will remove them. Because he has a “passion” for what he does.
At the 14:30 minute mark, Dr. McEvenue inadvertently demonstrates the health community’s general dumbing-down of the transition process that he is abetting.
He says, “Believe it or not, when a patient wanted top surgery five or ten years ago, they had to go to a psychiatrist to get diagnosed.” (Here he grins, presumably at the craziness of the very idea that a woman wanting to lop her breasts off might benefit from sorting through her motives with a mental health expert). He continues, “If a woman comes to me for breast augmentation, I don’t make her go to a psychiatrist. I say, okay, are you an adult? Do you understand the surgery?” (laughter, applause. This audience really really wants to believe that top surgery on teenage girls is no big deal.)
So let’s unpack these statements. Dr. McEvenue is comparing breast removal to breast augmentation as though they were two sides of the same coin. But they’re not. The parallel to a breast augmentation is a breast reduction. Both surgeries are performed on women who identify as women, but for reasons of comfort (reduction) or perceived enhanced sexual allure (augmentation), seek surgical alterations. Of course such women do not require psychiatric evaluations. How is augmentation in any way logically comparable to top surgery for transitioning girls who want their breasts removed so they can present as male? It isn’t, unless you are attempting to trivialize both the operation and its psychological implications.
Furthermore, he asks his augmentation patients, “are you an adult?” But from the photos on the Instagram account, a great number of Dr. McEvenue’s patients are not adults at all. How does he know they truly understand what they are doing? Why wouldn’t he want them to see a psychiatrist beforehand? If they are sure of what they are doing, what harm can deeper exploration do? And if they are not sure, what’s the down side of them changing their mind? There is a long waiting list at the McLean Clinic, according to Dr. McEvenue. If one or two drop off it after consulting with a mental-health expert, where’s the tragedy there? Dr. McEvenue claims it is a matter of “respect” not to challenge his patients’ self-diagnosis. And at the 18-minute mark, he says, “Why would I send [a patient] for a second opinion?” Yet “second opinions” are standard in every other field of surgery, and no other surgeons consider them a sign of disrespect. (I guess it’s a good thing Dr. McEvenue isn’t an oncologist.)
Dr. McEvenue enthuses about the benefits of Instagram (“Instagram has been huge for us”) and boasts of the clinic’s 14,000 followers. He claims that he doesn’t moderate the discussion generated, although, “If I see a negative comment, I delete it.” The McLean Clinic is certainly dedicated to FTM transitioning as a “fun” experience.
Representing the patient experience on the panel is a likable transman, Yuri, who is warm, amiable and articulate, clearly at home in his new persona and eager to extol the benefits of his top surgery. Notably, he is now 30 years old, and had the surgery in his 20s. So he is hardly representative of the growing demographic that is seeking the surgery. If all the clinic’s patients were in their 20s, this panel wouldn’t have been needed. The subject is only controversial because the age of those undergoing it is moving downward. Parents are of course concerned, confused and occasionally desperate for objective advice.
They won’t find objectivity on this panel. Two of the speakers, the J & J host and Dr. McEvenue, are stakeholders in the business end of top surgeries. One of the panellists is a mature patient who had gone through years of reflection as an adult before doing it, and the last panellist, Melissa, is the parent of a child to whom she has given her full affirming support since her (then) daughter was four years old and refused to dress in princess clothes.
Melissa, unfortunately, plays the “suicide” card, saying, “I’d rather stand beside my son than over top of his grave.” Suicide is a “big possibility,” Melissa says, and a parent’s job “isn’t to understand, it’s to support” the dysphoric child. Dr. McEvenue reinforces her message with, “a lot of time this is a life-saving operation.” But since he is committed never to second-guessing the patient’s self-diagnosis, he cannot be sure that psychiatric help wouldn’t be equally life-saving.
Brown University researcher Lisa Littman, who coined the term “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD) found that many adolescent girls with problems other than gender dysphoria—autism, anxiety, depression—glommed on to gender dysphoria as the source of their troubles through sites like Reddit and Tumblr, where “social contagion” took hold of them. These sites school new adherents in the kind of tropes—such as threatening suicide—that are sure to get their parents on board and assure instant affirmation from therapists. Parents should know this.
So just how real is the risk of suicide if a young girl does not get her double mastectomy? In a very recent article published in Quillette, psychoanalyst Marcus Evans, who formerly served as Consultant Psychotherapist and Associate Clinical Director of Adult and Adolescent Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, the Tavistock Clinic being England’s premier public gender clinic, has this to say on the subject of suicide risk: “Those who advocate an unquestioning ‘affirmation’-based approach to trans-identified children often will claim that any delay or hesitation in assisting a child’s desired gender transition may cause irreparable psychological harm, and possibly even lead to suicide. They also typically will cite research purporting to prove that a child who transitions can expect higher levels of psychological health and life satisfaction. None of these claims align substantially with any robust data or studies in this area. Nor do they align with the cases I have encountered over decades as a psychotherapist.”
What else is missing from this panel presentation? Questions that weren’t puffballs. For example, nobody asked whether Dr. McEvenue had ever had to reconstruct breasts after a client felt regret over the top surgery? (The McLean Clinic website says that “very few trans folk regret their decision to undergo top surgery as part of their transition to their experienced gender,” but they do not reference any studies.) Regretful detransitioners abound, and many of them want to be heard, but trans activists make life difficult for them when they speak out. Or another unasked question: Do you talk to these adolescent girls about their sexual preferences before planning their surgeries? Some girls presenting as trans are in fact merely lesbians who have difficulty processing that notion. In such cases, transitioning is neither required or advisable. But the subject did not arise on the panel.
As noted in a balanced, in-depth Atlantic magazine article on the subject by seasoned researcher Jesse Singal, the American Psychological Association’s guidelines observe that “adolescents can become intensely focused on their immediate desires.” It goes on: “This intense focus on immediate needs may create challenges in assuring that adolescents are cognitively and emotionally able to make life-altering decisions.” The McLean Clinic is marketing itself to this demographic, and far from appearing to see “challenge” in this demographic’s vulnerability, they show every sign of seeing only market opportunity.
It will be clear to any objective observer that the McLean Clinic’s “fun” approach to top surgery and its dependence on social media promotes a perspective that underplays the complexity of the issue and overplays the magical-solution angle. The McLean Clinic’s bruited compassion for their patients is commendable. But their Instagram culture makes a mockery of the “informed consent” they claim to respect.
From a business perspective, the Mclean Clinic’s long waiting list is a sign of success. Their marketing techniques are not illegal. But are they ethical? That is a subject the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons might wish to take under deliberation.
Actor Laurence Fox says that “the wokist is a fundamentally racist bunch.” On BBC’s Question Time, he said that the backlash against Meghan Markle was not racist, and called a woman of colour racist for suggesting that his identity means he can’t discern racism.
“The problem we’ve got with this is that Meghan has agreed to be Harry’s wife,” a woman spoke up from the audience, “and the press has torn her to pieces, and let’s be really clear about what this is, let’s call it by its name: it’s racism.”
He decried her view, saying “It’s not racism, we’re the most tolerant lovely country in Europe.”
“Says a white privileged man,” she shot back.
“It’s so easy to throw the charge of racism at everybody,” Fox replied, “and it’s really starting to get boring.”
“What worries me about your comment,” she said, “is you’re a white privileged male.” A round of audience boos rose up.
Fox was clearly annoyed by her comment. “I can’t help what I am, I was born like this,” he said, “it’s an immutable characteristic, so to call me a white privileged male is to be racist. You’re being racist.”
For this, he was skewered in the press and received death threats. Even after “Equity’s minority ethnic members committee… called on fellow actors to ‘unequivocally denounce’ Laurence Fox for comments he made during an appearance on BBC1’s Question Time,” author Shappi Khorsandi spoke against that denunciation.
And Fox wouldn’t back down. Instead, he took to the airwaves with Julia Hartley-Brewer on Talk Radio’s Breakfast Show this morning to expand upon his views.
It was in talking with Hartley-Brewer that he said “I think there’s racism everywhere but I don’t think we’re a systemically racist country. I don’t see a lot of racism, but then I’m a straight white male.” He went on to say that “identity politics is fundamentally racist as well,” because “it’s about silencing opinion,” and “seeing colour everywhere.”
Fox gave voice to what many people have been thinking, that the language of racism and accusations of bias have jumped the shark. Racism had been a charge that could only be levelled by minority racial groups against dominant racial groups. It was a scourge that needed to be rooted out at the highest levels of power to prevent systemic inequity. This project was undertaken by Civil Rights activists, and that work has continued in all of us. As Fox notes, there is still racism.
But the way to fix that racism is not by categorizing everyone into their own little identity boxes and determining what they are allowed to say or think based on the rights and privileges of that identity. The thing to do is to treat everyone like a human being, capable of having their own thoughts and ideas. People must look for the best in one another, not the worst, and not seek out every opportunity to be offended.
Calling someone a privileged white male, said Fox, is a way of “silencing opinion,” saying “you’re not allowed an opinion, mate, you’re white.” Fox has had enough of it, as have so many people.
There are no identity factors that make someone a bad person. Identity factors, such as race, sex, ethnicity, or sexual orientation should not have value judgements associated with them. For one hot minute, we used to know this. The goal was to look at each other and not parse up individuals into their requisite labels, to not use a person’s external characteristics to determine the worth of their ideas or their rights under the law.
That all turned around with concepts like “valuing differences,” wherein we were supposed to look at the ways in which we were different first, dissect and acknowledge those, before seeking for the ways in which we were the same. How much better it is to find kinship with one another first, before sorting all the ways in which we are different.
Fox’s perspective on racism and identity will most likely continue to be discredited because his identity factors are deemed more essential than his actual perspective. His views are taken with large grains of white cis het male privileged salt. But it’s time to start realizing that the brilliant Civil Rights movement, which told us not to judge someone on the basis of their physical characteristics, has been co-opted by haters who would have us do that very same thing. It doesn’t matter who is being boxed by immutable identity factors and judged by them, it matters that it’s being done at all, and it must stop.
Drag Queen Kitty Demure has taken to Twitter to speak out against the sexualization of children by woke people co-opting drag culture and rebranding it as an educational tool.
“I have absolutely no idea why you would want [drag queens] to influence your child. Would you want a stripper or porn star to influence your child?”
Demure notes that just as you wouldn’t take your kids out to see porn stars or strippers read stories while in full dress and makeup, you shouldn’t take them to see drag. There’s an effort to introduce kids earlier and earlier to adult sexuality. The idea is that this will help kids be more open-minded and understanding about the difference. What it really does is normalize deviant adult behaviour in children’s minds and override their own instincts. Giving children access to sexual content makes them think this kind of thing is for them, it opens doors that should stay closed until a child is of age.
Demure says here what all of us know: drag culture is adult entertainment. The look is sexualized. The names are sexualized. In fact, the entire concept of drag is a send-up of beauty queen culture. Beauty queen culture is sexualized as well, and while that is sometimes subsumed beneath the surface, it’s obviously fully part of it. That’s what drag plays on. Drag can be lots of fun, but it’s grown-up fun, not for kids.
Pushing drag on kids, normalizing sexualized behaviour within an educational frame, does a disservice to kids who are initiated too soon into adult sexuality and to queen culture, which is better off not being tagged with tendencies toward pedophilia. Demure rightly points out that gay culture has spent decades trying to convince the public that they are not pedophiles. Having grown men in mini skirts and makeup lounging about with kids doesn’t do much to dispel this image.
Drag Queen Story Hour was founded in San Francisco, and has taken North America by storm. LGBTQ+ activists and children’s librarians tout the events as wholesome affairs where kids can get cozy with cross-dressing adults with provocative names and hear stories about gender non-conformity and sexuality. When conservatives and gender-critical people speak out against the phenomenon, their motivations are called into question. Demure is telling a truth that her community doesn’t want to hear, but she’s not wrong.
The American Library Association supports Drag Queen Story Hour, stating that they have a “commitment to combating marginalization and underrepresentation within the communities served by libraries through increased understanding of the effects of historical exclusion.” But drag queens are not a protected class, they are not marginalized, they are performers plying their trade. Drag queens are not underrepresented and in need of protection by librarians.
They want to reframe drag queens as not only children’s entertainment but a valuable component of their education is a kind of intentional confirmation bias. The logic goes that if conservatives don’t want to expose children to sexualized education and alternative lifestyle acceptability at young ages, then that must be the thing to do.
Children don’t know what’s okay and what’s not until we tell them, they count on the adults in their lives to not put them in harm’s way, physically, intellectually, or emotionally. It’s odd that the same ethos that holds that children don’t have to hug their grandparents would also say that it’s ok to plop them onto a drag queen’s lap at library storytime. Why do children have a right to say no to Granny’s embrace but not to Penny Tration?
The most shocking thing you will find out about Kitty Demure online is not that she reads erotic literature to children in a library, or that she encourages “Desmond is Amazing” to dance for adults, but that she supports the current U.S. president.
She spoke out against drag culture in the #WalkAway project, saying that she’s encountered racism in the community, and as someone with a black husband, this was not okay.
Demure’s mission is to bridge the gap between the gay and the conservative communities. Part of that is to reinforce the idea that drag is for grown-ups. And of course, she’s right. If you want a great drag show, go see one, they can be lots of fun, but please, leave the little tykes at home. Drugs, sex, and lascivious behaviour are all well and good, but they’re just not for kids.