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A crowd of about 260 gathered at the Croatian Cultural Centre in Vancouver on Thursday night to hear three perspectives on the issue of gender identity and kids. Event attendees had to face about 100 protestors holding signs with slogans such as “Transphobes Kill” and “Support our Trans Sisters or Fuck Off” before entering the venue.

Independent journalist Meghan Murphy, who was banned from Twitter earlier this year for misgendering someone claiming to be a transwoman, offered a feminist lens on the topic of trans children and youth.

Murphy asserted there is no such thing as a “trans kid”, as boys and girls can have all kinds of personalities that don’t conform to gender stereotypes, and their bodies should not be medically altered to fit their personalities. Murphy called puberty blockers a dangerous and unnecessary solution to reducing gender dysphoria in children and emphasized the need for female-only spaces. She took issue with men being allowed to enter women’s changerooms and with transwomen who were born male being allowed to compete in women’s sports. She ended her speech by proclaiming there is no empathy for women and girls in trans activism.

22-year old Dagny, co-founder of the Pique Resilience Project, then offered her story as a “detransitioner.” From age 15 to 19, Dagny identified as a non-binary transman before detransitioning back to female at age 20. She offered her first-hand experience being diagnosed with gender dysphoria at 16 and starting testosterone shortly before her 18th birthday, naming Tumblr LGBTQ blogs as one of the “toxic” social media sources that radicalized her. Dagny recalled how her former non-binary identity made her feel “special” and “interesting”, and how anyone who slipped up and misgendered her was the enemy. Dagny, who still experiences gender dysphoria today, emphasized that the public is being inundated with only one narrative: that trans children and youth must medically transition if they demand it. However, “detransition” stories like her own are becoming more prevalent. She received a standing ovation.

Last to present was Dr. Ken Zucker, a psychologist and sexologist who is considered “controversial” because he challenges the notion that every single child who says they are the wrong gender is actually transgender, citing research that shows most children with gender dysphoria desist by puberty. Zucker, who used to be the head of the gender identity clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), was fired in 2015 and filed a lawsuit against CAMH for defamation and wrongful dismissal in 2016. Last year he received an apology from CAMH as well as $586,000 in damages, legal fees and interest.

Zucker’s academic-style presentation questioned the “I’d rather have a trans kid than a dead kid” trope, citing research that showed rates of suicidality were similar amongst youth with gender dysphoria and youth with other mental health issues. Zucker also noted it is mostly biological females who take on a trans identity, and asked whether perhaps “trans is the new tomboy”, and if we are seeing the disappearance of the butch lesbian.

While Meghan Murphy stated she “does not have a gender identity, and no one does”, Zucker said that he does believe in gender identity, and brought up that perhaps gender identity can change just as religious or political identity can.

The audience was pleased to have Zucker’s trove of data and research bestowed upon them – all of the questions during the 30-minute Q&A period were addressed to him.

The only minor disruption during the event was caused by a protestor who charged into the auditorium and screamed “Stop murdering trans women”, and by the end of the night, the number of protestors outside had dwindled to a dozen.

The Facebook event for the protest claimed “TERFs [trans exclusionary radical feminists] Meghan Murphy, Dr. Kenneth Zucker and Dagny are at it again, and this time aiming their hatred towards trans youth.”

However, anyone who listened to these three speakers would be hard-pressed to identify any examples of hatred towards trans youth. The panelists simply rejected the idea that hormones and surgeries are the only way to reduce gender dysphoria in children and youth, and it is difficult to see how that is not a compassionate position to take, considering the empirical evidence that shows the majority of trans children desist.

As Dagny put it in her presentation: gender dysphoria can pass. What is so wrong with telling a child or teenager experiencing dysphoria that it will get better?

Photograph by @jennamoroza [Twitter]