Obey Thy Child
When Governor Walz signed an executive order last March to declare Minnesota a ‘trans refuge’ state, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan was brimming with pride. She knew she was on the right side of history and wanted everyone to notice. So she stepped in front of the microphone and paraphrased a wise old saying from Maya Angelou:
Very apropos. After all, Angelou had been a civil rights crusader in the 1960s. Trans is basically the new Black, haven’t you heard?
According to Flanagan, parents have no right to question their children’s gender identities. All that matters is what kids tell you. Asking for proof that your son or daughter will benefit from cross-sex hormones is hateful. Differential diagnosis is a form of cis-heteronormative oppression. Controlled trials are unkind.
But in the original version of the quote (coined in an off-camera discussion with Oprah Winfrey) Angelou used the word ‘show’ instead of ‘tell’.
What the poet laureate really meant was that talk is cheap. Words don’t always align with reality and you should not automatically trust what people say. Believe the evidence of your own eyes and experiences. Don’t be gullible.
In fact, Flanagan’s quote was a complete bastardization of Angelou’s. Rather than being wary of words, Flanagan demands that parents blindly trust that their kids know what they’re talking about when they say they’re trans. She might as well have said when Reddit tells your kids who they are, believe it.
But there is no blood test, brain scan, or conclusive questionnaire that can detect gender dysphoria. The only criterion for diagnosis is a verbal declaration. Words. And there is also no evidence base to prove the safety and efficacy of these treatments.
Again, we are told to rely on the assurances of professional groups that refuse to show their work. RCTs? NNT? COI? STFU.
Flanagan did what TRAs do best: sophistry. She hijacked a wise old saying from yesteryear and twisted its meaning to make her own intellectually bankrupt political message seem more respectable than it actually is. Whereas Maya Angelou fought to desegregate schools, Lt. Gov. Flanagan wants to de-sex adolescent bodies. There is no moral equivalence between the two.
It’s the same thing they did to Hillary Clinton. Women’s rights are human rights? Not when it comes to single-sex spaces. In 1995, our first lady flew to Beijing and argued that women living in war zones deserve protection from rape. But now the slogan made famous by that speech has been distorted to justify something completely different: male sex-offenders serving time in women’s prisons. Oh well! Trans rights are human rights.
To this day, I’m still not sure what to make of the knife on Flanagan’s Protect Trans Kids shirt. Perhaps it’s a symbol of cutting off body parts to ‘protect’ kids from the wrongness of their anatomy. (He played with dolls? Cut off his balls. She climbed a tree? Mastectomy.)
Or maybe the knife is supposed to represent justified violence against transphobes. Who knows? I do, however, appreciate the designer’s use of hackneyed tattoo images to convey the message that minors know what’s best for them. The garish calligraphy, the rose-and-dagger cliché…it’s just perfect. People never regret tattoos, you see. Especially the ones they get as teenagers.