“The capitulation of the establishment to the politics of transgenderism has been astonishing. I’m struggling to remember any other time when a new and contested ideology has been so uncritically embraced by the powers-that-be,” writes English pundit Brendan O’Neill in a November Spectator column, titled “Questioning gender fluidity is the new blasphemy,” an excellent contribution to this ferociously contested political terrain.
A prime example of the capitulation of the “powers-that-be” was the decision early this week by the CBC to withdraw a scheduled showing of the BBC documentary, “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best,” after receiving a handful of complaints from transgender activists.
Having watched it twice, I can attest it is an excellent documentary, presenting both sides of the thorny questions surrounding this issue with admirable balance, objectivity and neutrality.
But that is precisely the problem for trans activists: the neutrality, that is. As we learned from the Lindsay Shepherd affair at Wilfrid Laurier University, social justice warriors have adopted a particularly steely attitude of entitlement towards what is permissable speech and what is not regarding gender identity.
What they fear is that, given a level playing field, which the BBC documentary offers, skeptics will be perceived as having made a more persuasive case than spokespeople for the “if a child says he is the opposite gender, then he is” movement. Their fears are not unfounded, because in my opinion, that is precisely what did happen in the documentary. However, that is still no reason not to run it.
The CBC was wrong to pander to the trans lobby. But I can’t complain about it too much, because their act of appeasement has probably doubled or tripled the viewership for the documentary, which you can watch here. I encourage everyone who wants to understand the deeply political nature of what can only be described as a social-contagion epidemic to take the time to watch it.
All the major players are given ample time to make their case. One player – a target for special loathing by trans activists – is Dr. Ken Zucker, considered a world expert on gender dysphoria, and former head of Toronto CAMH’s Gender Identity Clinic (GIC), who was fired in 2016 for amply documented political reasons. He explains his approach to transgender children as “developmentally informed therapy,” and states that “it’s an intellectual and clinical mistake to think there is only one single cause that explains all gender dysphoria.”
Activists particularly detest Dr. Zucker because he believes (and has had success in demonstrating) that children under the age of five or six convinced they are really the opposite gender can be guided into acceptance of their natal gender through therapy. One of his success stories is featured in interviews with both a father and his daughter, a girl who was so convinced she was a boy as a young child that she used to punch her genitals in anger.
At age 12, after several years of what activists claim is “conversion therapy,” but what Dr. Zucker thinks of as just normative mental-health therapy for the child’s OCD and other underlying psychological issues, the daughter settled back into femalehood without further mental conflict.
On camera, she says, “a huge weight came off my shoulders.” The father never wavered in his belief that catering to his daughter’s delusion would have been wrong. He says: “What does a three year old know about gender at that age?”
This is a question many parents of trans-presenting children ask themselves, and therefore, a question trans activists want squelched, so it is that segment in particular is what trans activists do not want people to see.
In opposition to what looks like such gender heresy are extended interviews with such trans activists as Cheri Di Novo, an Ontario MPP whose political life is almost entirely bound up with LGBT advocacy. Di Novo thinks being trans is “normal” and has “always been with us.” She expresses a warning that parents hear very often from gender gatekeepers: “Do you want them free from suicidal ideation?”
To Di Novo, Dr. Zucker is a driver of suicidal ideation, although neither she nor any other trans activist offers evidence that Dr. Zucker’s methods have ever actually caused a suicide. Zucker, in response, says it is “clinically unsophisticated” to tell parents the choice is so stark, and poses the ineluctable question for any reasonable observer: “Why do they feel suicidal?”
That is the big question. Do they feel suicidal because they feel they are in the wrong body, or do they seek another kind of body because they are suicidal as a result of other mental problems? The documentary does not attempt to answer the question, but airs all viewpoints.
One trans therapist, Hershell Russell, himself transgender, is given respectful attention and time to make his case that “gender is between the ears and sex is between the legs.” He paints a positive picture of youthful transition, but shows no interest in engaging with the statistics that show over 80% of children who present as trans in childhood desist post-puberty, accepting their natal sex and usually also accepting that they are gay (60-89%, according to Dr. Zucker).
Dr. Devita Singh, a researcher in the Toronto clinic, states in her interview that, of the 100 boys studied who attended the GIC, 88 desisted post-puberty, even though their childhood certainty had been as intense as those who persisted.
Several interviewees are transitioning or parents of trans children and happy; the documentary makes no attempt to cast doubt on their choices. But desistance is clearly a problematic area for trans activists, since their claims rest on the inherency of the feeling of being in the wrong body. And one interview with a desistor is disturbing.
“Lou” is physically obscured in the documentary to protect her identity. She is a desistor who only realized her mistake after having fully transitioned, including undergoing surgery. Her story is pretty grim. Lou had always hated her body, she says. She struggled with self-harm and suicidal ideation and, after receiving gender counselling, felt she must “transition or die.”
Lou says she did not understand her hate for her body “could be considered a mental health problem.” She had a double mastectomy at the age of 16, but, soon after, realized her body had not been grotesque as she had imagined it, but “slim and pretty.” Now, with her flat chest and beard that won’t go away, she feels her body is “freakish.”
Lou has received death threats for contesting the normalizing and positive trans movement messaging exemplified by Di Novo and Russell. She says, “Nobody wants to be the one person who says, ‘hang on, this isn’t right.’”
What it comes down to, in the film, is the question of who trans presenting children belong to: the parents or the state. Di Novo says the “safety of the child” is paramount, and it seems clear she is prepared to employ state levers to ensure the trans activist perspective is given full weight, as is evident from the fact that she was the prime mover behind Ontario legislation Bill 77, which embraces the gender affirmation model of dealing with trans-presenting children and demonizes the Zucker therapeutic model.
What is happening, says Dr Ray Blanchard, a longtime researcher and clinician in the gender-dysphoria field, is that adults in the trans community are intervening in the lives of children that are not their own, which is a troubling development.
In his interview, Blanchard also draws attention to the penumbra of fear that has fallen over researchers and health professionals, who wonder if they will suffer the same fate as Zucker if they practice what they consider responsible medicine. They are, in a word, “terrified” to challenge the gender-affirmative rubric.
According to the documentary, transgender surgeries are up 400% in Canada since 2010. The Tavistock Clinic in London, England has seen a 1000% increase over the last few years. How many of those taking this irreversible step have given truly informed consent to their bodies being mutilated? We should all be “struggling” with this question, and this documentary encourages us to do so.
Now you understand why the trans activists do not want you to see it. Sadly, the CBC’s acquiescence to their pressure tells us who holds the reins of cultural power on this issue.
Having begun with the opening words from Brendan O’Neill’s column on the new blasphemy, I will end with his wise closing words: “Trans adults should enjoy the same rights as every other adult, and by the same token, their ideas, their beliefs, their faith, should be subjected to the same levels of criticism and even ridicule as everybody else’s. People have rights; their ideologies do not.”