Trans Day of Visibility

Hey guys,

As many of you may know, this Friday (31st March) is Trans Day of Visibility. I wanted to write a quick blog entry on why this day is so important from the point of view of a young trans person.  

It is so incredibly easy to feel isolated as a young transgender person. We have very little representation in the media, and where it does exist it is rarely accurate and often portrays us as either the butt of a joke or as a two-dimensional tragedy. Nonbinary characters are pretty much unheard of. And the tabloid coverage of trans people is frankly appalling. All in all, the image most people get of being transgender is not particularly inspiring or diverse – which is nothing like the transgender community that I have grown to know and love.

"Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?" Reviewed by Young Trans People

Recently, the documentary "Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?" aired on BBC2, its aim, to discuss the issue of trans kids and their trans related healthcare, however, it fails to do this fairly.

The program suffers from transphobic views, cissexist language, an arguably one-sided view, un-sourced claims, and worse of all, it includes Dr Kenneth Zucker.

Dr Kenneth Zucker was the Head of the Gender Identity Clinic for Children at CAMH in Canada until December 2015, and his treatment/therapy protocol was criticised massively in March 2015 when a bill banned the use of conversion therapy for gender identity or sexual orientation in Canada. His clinic came under allegations of the use of conversion/reparative therapy. Young trans kids attending the GIC would be subjected to "play therapy" in which they were forced to play with gender-conforming toys, and parents would be instructed to schedule more playdates with the same sex. (source) Whenever Zucker encounters a child that he diagnoses with gender dysphoria, he tries to make the child to accept the gender they were assigned at birth, he often does this by instructing the parent to not allow a child to spend time with, play with, or pretend to be a character of the opposite sex. (source)

We know from extensive research that these therapy methods are extremely harmful and don't work at all. The mental health impacts if conversion therapy includes:
  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance Abuse 
According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBT people who go through conversion therapy are eight times more likely attempt suicide, six times more likely to develop severe depression and three times more likely to use drugs and alcohol. (source) Backing this up, the American Psychiatric Association stated that:
"The potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviour, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient." (source)

And even with all this research into the negative effects of conversion/reparative therapy, Dr Kenneth Zucker supports his problematic practices by using the incredibly poor excuse of  "80% of patients who go trough reparative therapy desist" (a claim that has been debunked below) and Zucker has even been noted of saying to a parent of one trans child that as (the child) grew older, they likely would be rejected by both peer groups. They would be an outcast, and therefore should not be allowed to transition and instead forced to go through Zucker's abusive treatment.

And this is where the documentary part comes in, as the show gives Dr Kenneth Zucker a platform to shout his ignorant, old fashioned and transphobic views down to people who don't know any better and will take in all his words as the true way to do things. How can they disagree with a man who was heralded "a top expert in his field" by the TV program boasting a fair viewpoint on the issue of transgender kids?

Our main worry when it comes to this show, is the negative effect on the parents of a transgender kid who watch this. We, and many other trans kids know, that parents already worry deeply about the effects of trans healthcare like hormone-replacement-therapy, to the point where they can deny much needed health care. So to be told that 80% of patients that attend Zucker's clinic desist after therapy, or being told about horror stories about "former-trans" adults that "felt pressured" by the trans community to medically transition only to deeply regret the decision later, could be massively damaging and make the ability to obtain appropriate healthcare for the young person much harder than it already is. None of these claims represent the entire truth and are very misleading (which will be explained down below). It doesn't represent the trans community fairly at all, but who cares if it makes a headline?

The documentary and Dr Kenneth Zucker use a lot of claims in the program to support their view on transgender issues that I couldn't find any sources on. I checked the credits, the website, anything official, trying to find anything that back up their claims . However, the only sources (if you can call them that) was the show saying: "Dr Kenneth Zucker believes that: " and "research has found that: " Which is no way to back up claims if they support your entire argument. So we decided to research the claims that they were making myself
Claims include:
  • "Transgender people often regret their healthcare!" - This claim is often used to deny transgender people affirming care (something which the documentary has a surprisingly negative view of), or preventing them from transitioning. This is a claim that the TV program and Kenneth Zucker use a lot, there's a whole segment about a woman who thought she was trans, however, her trans related health care and surgeries is something that she deeply regrets and is something which "haunts" her. These examples are always used to stop trans kids getting the healthcare they need. Furthermore, basically, every modern study on transgender transitioning puts the feeling of regret at 1-2%, which should disqualify this issue. Compare this to the 65% of people who have regretted plastic surgery,  and it really puts things into perspective, you don't see people concerned about their medical procedures for conditions other than Gender Dysphoria. (source

  • A quote from the documentary:  "Studies from Europe and North America suggest around 80% of children with gender dysphoria eventually accept their biological sex." The whole "80% of trans people desist" is a  claim that is used a lot in the program and is used to back up Zucker's idea that conversion therapy (or his take on it) is effective,  however, this doesn't support the conclusion of the study. First of all, its definition of "cross-gender identification" is a very loose one, as it doesn't separate between actual transgender kids and cisgender kids who like interests or do activities that don't match their respective gender roles. Therefore the boys that like pink and aren't that into football are defined as a person with a "cross-gender identification" and add to the results of the study. Let's not forget that these "60-80%" figures are from an incredibly old Danish study, whereas more recent studies have found that trans kids actually are the gender that they say they are and this is extremely unlikely to change. Another very insulting thing is the show almost takes pride in this claim, repeating it in quotes such as: 
    • "In a recent study, Zucker's colleague, Devita Singh, looked at the outcomes of more than 100 boys who attended the clinic. 88% of them eventually desisted.",
    •  "And there is now evidence that childhood gender dysphoria could be linked to homosexuality in later life. Studies have shown that between 60% and 80% of boys who desist turn out to be gay or bisexual adults. The great majority of children who show significant cross-gender behaviour in childhood end up as ordinary gay men and not as transsexuals
    • and finally "Cases like Alex, where children do not transition, are common. Many overcome their gender dysphoria." (Source 1, 2 and 3)
  • As young trans people this is insulting. We are not 'just gay', no matter how much our parents wish we were. The dysphoria we experience on a daily basis is very real, and having our parents exposed to false claims that we will just magically get over it has very real, very negative real-world implications for us and our healthcare.
  • A quote from the documentary: "There's also evidence of a link between gender dysphoria and autism. One study found that children with gender dysphoria are seven times more likely to be on the autistic spectrum" This also seems to be a claim that Kenneth Zucker and the documentary say as one of best arguments against affirmative care. It is incredibly ableist,and only serves to invalidate the lived experience of young trans people. However, just like all of his claims, this one has been proven misleading at the least. An article from "The Atlantic" stated that: "some (researchers) have pointed to the fact that children with autism are often considered less inhibited by social maxims, including ways different genders are supposed to stereotypically behave. People on the spectrum who express a gender identity that doesn’t conform to their assigned biological sex can be seen as doing so because they’re refusing expectations society has placed on them." (source) This points out that maybe, autism, instead of being linked to a trans identity, could be linked to not following typical gender roles instead caused by a lack of conforming to social norms. What it definitely is not, is a claim that trans people are 'just autistic' and should, therefore, be ignored - a sentiment that we fear will have a lasting effect and is already making headlines and being spread around schools

This documentary is not balanced, it is not fair, and it has the potential to be dangerous. It presented a world that set trans activists against the reasoned voice of science as though the two are polar opposites without recognising the doctors and scientific study who are proponents for a child/young person centred approach - that is to say that the best thing to do is follow the child's lead. It ridiculed well founded research about the high rates of suicide among trans youth (Source ), compared to 77% of trans youth with very supportive parents who are satisfied with life (Source ) For us, it is fairly clear that being able to transition has probably saved their life - a story that is far more common than stories of regret, and that this documentary completely failed to show.


About Us:

Welcome to the Proud 2 Be Youth Blog!

We're a Youth Group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender,questioning intersex and/or asexual+ (LGBTQIA+) young people. The group welcomes LGBTQIA+ young people aged between 13- 19 and meets twice a month in Totnes, Devon. Our group is one of the many projects run by Proud 2 Be, a social enterprise supporting LGBTQIA+ people, their friends & family members in Devon & beyond.

This blog will be used by the youth group to help give a voice to the LGBTQIA+ young people in Devon, giving you an insight into the lives of young LGBTQIA+ people, as well as sharing some of the things that we do as a group.

The blog will mainly be run by Erin and Charlie, both of us are members of the Youth Group, but we will also have guest contributions from other LGBTQIA+ people. Feel free to submit a contribution that fits our guidelines.

We hope you enjoy reading!

- Erin & Charlie

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