Parents' Response to LQBTQ Talks in Schools
This is a letter written by a couple of parents as a response to a talk given by an expert in their kids' school about diversity. We would like to share it with other parents who want to give a critical response to schools and workplaces authorities about the
current gender indoctrination. The letter can serve as a model and includes reliable sources helpful for families to have handy as they develop their own responses".
Although the contents of the talk seem very consistent with current dogma, we believe the information presented acquires serious examination. As parents, it seems that the speech includes a lot of information that is debatable, risky, or even false.
The psychologist ……………………..presented as a consultant and expert on LGBT issues presented issues that are very relevant to the development of children and adolescents. While we won’t provide a systematic review of her talk, the main contents include the following:
The expert stated that some children and adolescents go through a psychosexual development that can be very different. The gingerbread cookie diagram points out all the possibilities that can occur and the different combinations of a) gender identity (typically male or female), b) people to whom someone is attracted to (male or female), c) behavioral expression (within the spectrum typically male to typically female), and d) biological manifestation of primary and secondary sexual characteristics (typically male or female body).
As a fundamental rule, she pointed out that all the possibilities of experiences shown in the diagram would manifest within a gradual spectrum. In addition, its manifestation is not guided by a pre-established association pattern (for example, one may have been born a woman, with a current masculine gender identity, bisexual orientation, and with typically masculine behaviors). Finally, there is talk of fluidity, by which a person can move or transit from one state to another, at any time in life.
From this description, she urged the audience to assume that realities have changed and that it is very important to recognize all these diversities. The accent was placed on the fact that any experience of sexuality or new gender is as legitimate as any other.
Regarding gender identity, she stated that it constitutes an essential, private condition known only by the person him/herself. No one who knows him/her not even his/her parents would have access to a truth as intimate as that. Sometimes, unfortunately, the "sex assigned at birth" does not match the gender identity that the person perceives for him/herself. Given this, the child or young person who decides to assume his/her new truth, could by himself and for himself determine his new gender.
Given the above, if a child seeks to explore his/her sexuality or assigns a new gender to him/herself, the only thing that would be expected is that the parents allow his/her free expression. It is assumed that we live in the era of recognition and appreciation of diversities, anything else would be a coercive and dehumanizing act towards them. For the expert who gave the talk, if a child wants to try something different, and then they realize that they like it and it makes them feel good, it means that this is their path. On the contrary if, after exploring, the child realizes that they feel very uncomfortable, there would be nothing to fear, since there is no risk in backing down. Finally, in terms of exploration, it was suggested that if parents oppose a child's behavior, they should keep in mind that this would have an amplifying effect on their child's behavior.
In the case of children and adolescents who declare themselves to have gender dysphoria, what would correspond is to facilitate their social, legal, hormonal and surgical transition. According to this, each person should be treated according to the name and pronoun they choose for themselves. In addition, there would be hormonal blockers of puberty, whose effect is considered totally reversible. What must be kept in mind according to the presenting expert is that if parents oppose the progress of their children's transition, they would also risk a high probability of suicide. So, fathers and mothers would have to choose whether they want to have a trans child or a dead child.
In short, parents were invited to “open their minds,” and keep up to date with the times. It was promoted to understand that sexuality and gender issues always have ultimately an essential and mysterious component. Faced with this, it is only possible to accept, value and celebrate the condition of each one. Children should be released, their condition would never be debatable, let alone questioned.
The talk presented by the expert psychologist follows the dominant discourse, reproducing concepts easily found on the Internet, from Wikipedia to books by famous academics such as Judith Butler or Paul Preciado. Its background spirit is highly visible in culture and in the media. It can be heard on television, in company trainings, and in universities. This is affirmative discourse, which arose as a counter to decades and centuries of coercion and mistreatment of sexual minorities.
According to the affirmative model, everyone is free to be what they are. And no one is in a position to question another person's gender identity. This position reveals a zeal for the freedom and rights of all sexual minorities. It constitutes an ethical and social cause, in defense of groups that have historically been oppressed. However, although the affirmative discourse would represent a kind of historical overcoming of the previous model, it would be convenient to stop and analyze some of its cracks and contradictions.
Before presenting our objections, it is important to clarify that an exercise of intellectual criticism against a social trend does not in any way represent a marginalizing, abusive or transphobic attitude. In fact, raising doubts about the explosion of a recent wave of children and adolescents who self-diagnose themselves as dysphoric does not in any way mean violating the dignity or social rights of this group. Rather, it is an exercise in thinking about things, evaluating their origin, countering with certain external validation criteria, and -above all- taking into account the consequences that this self-diagnosis can have for children and their families.
First Objection: Pointing out Major Distinctions
To begin with, in the affirmative discourse, one speaks in the name of sexual diversities: LGBTIQ+, where all the initials are equal. Why? Because it is assumed that all people must be recognized in their dignity and rights. However, without ignoring this equality, it is necessary to consider the enormous differences between these groups. For example, a first and thick distinction consists in verifying that those who subscribe to the initials LGB are characterized by having an experience in their lives - something very concrete and perceptible - which is feeling sexually attracted to people of the same sex or both.
Something different is what happens with those who identify with the letter T (trans). They are people who at some point in their lives come to the conviction that they were born in the wrong body. Said conviction, expressed as “gender dysphoria,”represents an idea, a belief, a self-representation of themselves. The background experience, then, is not that of an impulse but of a perception about themselves.
How does it happen? The person who self-identifies within this category has feels that they do not fit within common expectations of their gender. Faced with this discomfort, comes a response which is expressed as an assertion about intimate personal identity: "I am a woman in the wrong body, because I feel that way". "I am a man because that is my identity." To get to say this, no validation criteria is considered, no explanation required. Only an "inner feeling" is indicated, that is, "I am a man (or a woman) because that is how I feel." A tautological proposition.
What is the problem with this lack of explanation? That the self-declared trans person aspires to a gigantic process of social and bodily transformation, on a basis that was never established. Keeping the proportions, it would be like having a house in the city, and after a short time wanting to demolish it, to build a hut or a pagoda. Shouldn't that be explained?
On the other hand, it could be countered that those who conform to their gender never have to give an explanation about their gender experience. True, but they haven’t proposed such a radical denial or deconstruction of their identity and corporality.
Second objection: Development matters
Gender dysphoria can present during childhood or adolescence. It is documented that, of the cases in which childhood gender dysphoria occurs, without any type of intervention, 60-90% revert upon reaching puberty1 2. It would be good then to verify that gender dysphoria does not imply something definitive, but rather represents a condition of variable persistence. In addition, it has been clinically seen that cases of childhood gender dysphoria can be associated with other conditions, such as autism3 4 , depression, or sexual abuse5. Faced with this, it would be good clinical judgment to pay attention to its underlying factors.
Regarding adolescents, a phenomenon called "Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria"6 (Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria) has been described, whereby a young man or woman suddenly receives a kind of revelation. From one moment to the next, his/her concerns and his/her existential problems are described (pseudo-explained) as the fact of being born in the wrong body. To arrive at this conclusion, a long discernment process is not necessary, a comment from a friend or some internet searches would be enough. Indeed, let us remember that in the case of gender dysphoria, what happens is a self-diagnosis. And later, after this self-categorization, experts and specialists may come to confirm the adolescent's assertions.
Third objection: At present, it is not difficult to cross the Rubicon
Being transsexual today is not what it used to be. It is no longer marginal, but a trend. The main specialized gender clinics, have seen an exponential increase in cases7. In addition, the social contagion components of this trans wave have been studied and documented8.
To illustrate this, anyone can see how the transsexual and transgender issue is very present on the internet and social networks. A basic search on Google, YouTube, Tiktok, Reddit, or Tumblr, results in a series of testimonials that show how children and young people have experienced their gender transition process, from a state of vague and diffuse malaise, going through a personal revelation, then a revelation to his environment, to later find well-being and happiness through his/her new identity, to the extent that some change their name, take cross-sex hormones, and go through surgery. Faced with these testimonies, children and young people are encouraged to follow the path of others. Furthermore, videos that invite all viewers to question their own genders are not rare.
Thus, the conditions are created for children to change their mind about themselves. And when the change occurs, a rapid consolidation is acquired, in the manner of a truth or faith. From then on, it is most likely that a child or young person will find successive confirmations regarding their perception.
Fourth objection: crossing the Rubicon does not imply only losses, it also has gains
It is worth asking why the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria assume that a mere self-declaration is enough for someone to be considered as such. One of the explanations commonly put forward is that making a gender transition entails something very tragic and painful, with many losses. It is assumed that there would be no gain in wanting to do something like that.
However, in today's reality, things are not so. The first benefit is that, in these circumstances, a child gets an explanation for their discomfort. A story appears, a rereading of his life. That can be reassuring. Although, those who define themselves as trans can find a light at the end of the tunnel, a path to happiness. That is exactly what the testimonies tell him. Lastly, a self-defined trans person can find a new space of affective belonging with peers. The trans community offers significant support through the internet, chat rooms, foundations and NGOs.
Saying the above does not imply that those who declare themselves trans make a conscious and voluntary choice, or that they do it only to obtain those benefits. Nor does it not imply that their underlying discomfort and suffering is trivial. Rather, that is the issue: what could be appealed to is precisely to be able to find, together with them, what their deep emotional problem would be, what is that nucleus of non-acceptance of themselves. In this regard, families and education and mental health professionals would have a lot to do, encouraging young people to ask themselves questions, before arriving at answers written in stone.
Fifth objection: influence of self-classification
As in this talk, many sexual-affective education programs based on the affirmative model expose in detail all the possible variants of sexualities. It is assumed that this validates the presence and dignity of each one. It is presumed that this promotes self-acceptance. In addition, it is thought to prevent mistreatment of sexual minorities.
However, that exposure is not trivial. Why? Faced with this emphasis on the color palette, one of the problems that occurs is that children and young people are exposed early on to classify themselves, with a kind of urgency to know who they are. Not infrequently there is the case of young people who define themselves as one type or another of sexual diversity, without ever having held someone's hand, without ever having gone to a party, or without ever having kissed someone. In other words, it is like the world turned upside down: first self-classification occurs and then experience. Something is wrong here.
So, reflecting once more, is self-classification a way to strengthen self-esteem? Does it really end up like that?
Sixth objection: health professionals reproduce dominant discourse
As noted, the mental health diagnostic manuals are categorical: to diagnose gender dysphoria, only the declaration of the child is enough. Something like, "whoever says it, it is." A self-diagnosis, which is then ratified by a professional. It is here when the affirmative model becomes confirmative.
All of this leads to something very contradictory. According to the current dominant discourse, children and adolescents can question their gender, showing that their family and environment have been wrong in how they treat them. A young woman says, "I am not a woman; all this has been a big mistake. In reality I am a man. I want to be treated as a man and I want to see myself as a man.". By this order, the child or young person questions her story, but, in turn, her statement does not admit of any questioning or challenge. Any attempt to ask her for an explanation would be "offensive," and represent a "transphobic" act, not accepting what she "feels." That is the contradiction: it is the young woman who questions, but no one can question her.
Faced with this situation, the health professional aligns himself with the adolescent discourse. As bad as it seems, that's what the official clinical guidelines recommend. But let's think for a moment. Will that be okay? Where is the possibility that a mental health professional wonders about what is happening to his patient, beyond the literal content of his statements? In fact, in normal clinical practice, when a patient consults, let's say, due to depression or anorexia, it is to be assumed that the psychiatrist or psychologist is not going to agree with everything the patient says. Validating the literality of everything that a patient points out about himself can be dangerous, even more so if he is a child, with a brain and affective relationships that are still immature. It is not about waiting for a mental health professional to contradict what his patient tells him, but instead, to help him investigate what is behind what he says, what is his underlying problem.
Objection 7: Medical and surgical treatments have problems
The psychologist who gave the talk pointed out that there are two types of hormonal treatments. One of them, puberty blockers, which are completely reversible. What she didn't say is that this hormone therapy has numerous side effects9 10. Blockers are associated with short and long-term side effects. This is why they have been banned in countries including Finland11 and Sweden12 and are prescribed with great caution in France13. In addition, currently the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) only approves the use of puberty blockers in the treatment of precocious puberty, endometriosis, uterine fibrosis and certain types of cancer. The FDA has not approved the use of puberty blockers for use in children with gender dysphoria.
The presenter also neglected to mention that puberty blockers are not considered to be reversible. In fact, almost the children and adolescents who start this “reversible” treatment go on to crossed-sexed hormones and/or surgeries14. No reference was made to the side effects of the multiple surgeries offered by this growing market, which we won’t cover in this letter.
What the psychologist did emphasize is the risk of suicide. According to her, parents should follow what their children are living and asking for. While it is true that evidence has been presented in this regard, this evidence has been strongly disputed15 16. In fact, what has been seen is that the risk of suicide could be associated with other variables present in the history of young people who question their gender, such as sexual abuse, depression, or autism.
Eighth objection: in the transition, not everything is glory
There are various authors who have observed that the transition process can indeed be accompanied, for some period, by relief and even euphoria after certain milestones that mark the adoption of a new gender. However, in the long run, the discomfort and dysphoria tend to persist.
More than the clinicians, those who have realized this in a very solid way are "detransitioners," who, after a long journey, have regretted their transition, often after serious harm and irreversible changes. A deep depression ensues, understandably, with the risk of suicide. In this condition, people feel even more marginalized. Their testimonies are similar, like those of those young people who are beginning their transition. They point out that when they were very young, they joined a kind of sect and that they were sure of what they wanted...until they were no longer so sure.
FINAL COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS
School and its responsibility
A very important aspect of the school is that teachers, parents and students are encouraged to develop a critical vision of society and culture. There is particular concern for those who suffer and find themselves experiencing difficulties, including those who are marginalized.
Additionally, the school intends to have a leading role in the affective and sexual education of students. This objective crosses all stages of development. When approaching these subjects, the school has a great responsibility for the messages that are transmitted. It is important for the school to reflect deeply on these matters.
In the past, when current parents were children, there was more social trust, and children spent more time outside the house. The construction of identity from early childhood occurred through playing with peers in the open air, in the squares and in the streets. There were bicycles, skates, sports, fledgling love, pranks, so many things. Early on, the children rode the bus or walked to school. They had neighborhood friends.
This generation of children and adolescents grew up under the model of protection against the threats of abuse and delinquency. They lived between their home and school, often transported by car by their own parents. They don't have neighborhood friends. When they get home, they interact with the world through screens, particularly their cell phones. It is there where children and adolescents encounter social networks which open their world to many things, but at the same time close it to others.
Thus, currently a child is gradually building their identity from the privacy of their room. Lots of cell phones, few streets. This trend reached its peak during the forced confinement of the pandemic.
It is not surprising then that currently identity of children and adolescents has gone inwards. They are no longer social or religious causes; it is not so much the adherence to a soccer team or even the taste for a way of dressing. Now, it seems that identity is at stake in an important way by responding to sexuality and gender, understanding this as self-classification within a certain pre-established type.
The voice of the children
For centuries, children and adolescents did not matter. The children were not allowed to speak at the dinner table, they were physically punished, they were even reprimanded for writing with their left hand. Any hint of divergent behavior with respect to expected models was severely subjugated. The testimonies of sexual abuse were silenced. These were difficult times for children.
Today, children and young people have more voice and power. Their parents listen to them, their teachers too. Given this, the challenge is how to listen to them. Paying attention to everything they say or ask for? With what limits? And even more, with what consideration for stage of development? For example, will a young child be able to decide what his gender is if he still has so many things to know or experience? And if a teenager does not have legal authorization for such common things as voting, getting a driver's license, or buying alcohol at the supermarket, will he have enough judgment to weigh the implications of a social transition? Will he be able to decide on hormonal and surgical modifications to his body? Please, let's think things through. Questioning does not imply turning a deaf ear to the voice of children and adolescents. Rather, it necessary in order to guide the adults listening to that voice.
The questioning of gender
Throughout life, it expected that young people have dissatisfaction with oneself and one's own body. In particular, a boy may feel uncomfortable with his penis. A little girl does not imagine herself wearing a skirt. Later, adolescents may experience bewilderment and discomfort at the emergence of their secondary sexual characteristics. Men may dislike having so much hair. Women may feel that their menstruation and the growth of their breasts limit the possibility of doing things that men of the same age do with greater freedom. Does that mean they were born in the wrong body? No, it does not.
During childhood and adolescence, it may be normal to go through fantasies or imaginary identifications with some aspect traditionally associated with the other sex. Many of these fantasies transitory or permanent have been part of the history of homosexual people, but also of heterosexuals. But imagining something like this does not mean that the only possible conclusion is that gender must be questioned. And if a child feels gender-dissatisfied, it doesn't mean that they are essentially and definitely trans. It just means that he is not conforming to his gender.
Cultural penetration of the affirmative model
As has been pointed out, the affirmative model represents the currently dominant discourse. There are many reasons that have led to this position taking root, even in highly enlightened media. Its style coincides with the culture of these years: emphasis on seeking the path of individual happiness, giving rise to the simple acceptance of felt identities, siding with those who appear as victims of mistreatment and marginalization from society. Also, the wide acceptance of the affirmative model is partially due to the use of simple and high-impact messaging (e.g., “Trans rights are human rights”).
Additionally, the affirmative discourse has been identified with the progressive values of tolerance, freedom, and acceptance of diversity (any questioning of gender theory tends to be associated with punitive and ultra-conservative values). Furthermore, the affirmative paradigm is easily embraced because we live in times when society feels guilty after having marginalized lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. By extension, one is careful to avoid history with those who do not accept their gender.
Lastly, being on the affirmative path is more natural, simple and untangled: you just have to say. Let them be. The easiest thing will always be to find the reason for a child or young person. It is a position that does not imply thinking or conflict. In short, when it is affirmative, one is in the place of the good ones.
Nothing is set in stone
Given the issues with affirming gender identity, it is important to stop and concider the culture and ideas in which we are immersed. It is necessary to give space to consider that, in the face of emerging social changes, no one can claim possession of the absolute truth. Not even the “experts,” nor an incipient “evidence”.
We live in times that call for prudence and to take things easy: you have to read a lot and pass that through a strainer. Better not to be afraid to rethink what one perceives. It is necessary to seek other opinions, dialogue in small groups, avoid polarization into ideological camps. Find the marginal discourse, the one that arises at the edges.
One should not be afraid of doubting a speech that appears to show solidarity with the victims of society's prejudices. Let us remember that, when rethinking things, it would in no way mean becoming transphobic, much less offending or being indifferent to the suffering and anguish of children and young people. Rather the opposite: because they matter, a space for reflection on their underlying discomforts could be opened.
Faced with an affirmative official truth, there is criticism of prevailing model (Errasti & Pérez, 2022; Moore & Brunskell-Evans, 2021; Shrier, 2021; Stock, 2022). The analysis are journalistic or academic, not ideological. None situate their position in value terms. They do not propose to defend traditional orders for the mere fact of being such. Seek authors who discuss these official truths, particularly, Kathleen Stock a woman who raises her ideas from her position as a philosopher, academic, feminist, lesbian and gender non-conforming (yes, gender non-conforming, but without self-determining a new gender).
• Errasti, J. & Pérez, J. (2022) “Nadie nace en un cuerpo equivocado”
• Moore, M. & Brunskell-Evans, H. (2021) "Inventing transgender children and young people"
• Shrier, A. (2021) "Irreversible Damage"
• Stock, K. (2022) “Material girls”.