When I was a kid, I didn’t know any transgender kids. I didn’t know anyone who identified as transgender, but then again, we didn’t use the term “identify as” in the first place. You were either a man or a woman — nobody was transgender (or at least nobody that I knew).
I had never heard the term transgender during my childhood and didn’t really know much about it or gender dysphoria until I was older. As a kid, I remember talk shows about cross-dressers and watching the show Bosom Buddies, but other than that there wasn’t much discussion about gender identity.
Being able to decide your gender identity wasn’t an option, but the social norms were much, much different during my teen years. We have come a long way. It wasn’t even acceptable to be gay or lesbian when I was younger. I distinctly remember a boy being bullied on the school bus because people thought he was gay. He would get off the bus and run. I am grateful that today’s community of LGBTQ kids are more accepted.
In my lifetime we have made so much progress in ensuring that LGBTQ people are treated equally. Libertarians have played a big part in this transition. The Libertarian Party has historically supported gay rights, although we tend to describe this as supporting individual rights. We have always embraced the concept of live and let live, and that extends to your choice in gender identity.
Today’s teens are quite different from my generation though. Every teen understands what it means to be transgender. And, according to the latest statistics, more teenagers than ever are identifying as transgender. But why?
Why are there so many kids identifying as transgender?
Why are so many teens choosing the transgender lifestyle? Are more children struggling with gender dysphoria than before? Do we really have more kids with gender-identity issues or is the news and social media influencing our children?
These are the questions that everyone has been asking. Has society really changed this much or has the transgender movement gone too far? There’s no doubt that the growth of the transgender community has prompted a backlash from many parents who question the easy access to puberty blockers, gender-affirming hormones and surgeries.
Moreover, as transgender issues are gaining more and more attention, legislators are questioning the medical community, the transgender community, and where to draw the line. Should the government intervene to protect children from a misguided movement? Are our kids being “indoctrinated” in our public schools not only to accept transgender kids but, into believing they too were born with the wrong body?
Today’s teens are certainly more open-minded and accepting than we were. They don’t think it is wrong to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender and young adults no longer feel the need to hide “in the closet”. Even Republicans who have hystorically opposed gay marriage have come around, at least on the issue of gay marriage. However, when it comes to trans issues, the debate is incredibly heated. Joe Biden has refered to transgender discrimination as the “the civil rights issue of our time“.
In 2022, over 130 “anti-trans” state laws were introduced.
In 2022, numerous states will be considering legislation that some consider anti-trans legislation. But are they really anti-trans? Or are state legislatures just trying to protect children from making permanent changes they might regret?
According to the Human Rights Campaign, over 130 anti-trans state laws have been introduced this year. However, many don’t see these as anti-trans at all. Rather, they say that transgender activists and extremists are pushing kids too far. They don’t believe kids are old enough to make permanent decisions about their body or gender. They say these laws are intended to protect children, and not to harm them.
Additionally, much of the legislation is meant determine how sporting events will be addressed. This is a hot topic in the world of sports competitions. Should a transgender female be allowed to compete in women’s sports? Trans teens are concerned that these laws will mean they won’t be able to participate in school sports. While proponents of the legislation say they are just trying to keep things fair.
The big question for Americans, is who gets to make decisions when it comes to transgender kids medical care — the kids? The parents and doctors? Or the government?
I believe that the supporters of many of these “anti-trans” bills have much the same thinking as I do. Shouldn’t we be protecting our kids and making sure they are making sound, informed, and mature decisions? Are kids even capable of understanding and consenting to the type of gender-affirming medical care they are receiving?
While I am sure there are plently of people who just don’t like the fact that our country is drifting further away from our traditional “American values”, I think most parents and legislators genuinely believe it is their duty to protect the next generation of kids.
The number of Teens who Identify as Transgender has Doubled in the Last 5 Years.
We are venturing into new territory, as the transgender population has exploded. In fact, the number of teens who identify as transgender has doubled over the last five years. Around 300,000 kids between the ages of 13 and 17 now identify as transgender, according to research from the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute.
Should the government allow children to make life-changing decisions about their bodies at such a young age? If not, who should make the medical decisions for gender-dysphoric kids? Are these kids even gender-dysphoric or just caught up in a craze?
When I first started researching this topic, I immediately thought about my own children. How would I feel if my child wanted to take puberty blockers or have a gender-affirming surgery? When it comes to my own children, I have no shame or fear of having a transgender (or gay or lesbian) child. But, with regard to life-altering decisions, I am of the opinion that it’s better for children to wait until they are older to make these types of decisions. Heck, I didn’t let my kids wear dark lipstick or get piercings until they were older. I certainly wouldn’t want them to take hormones or have a surgery that was not medically necessary.
But, having a child with gender-dysphoria is just not comparable to having a child who wants to get a tattoo or a peircing. And, it’s also not the same as a child playing make-believe and identifying as a “unicorn” or “dinosaur”.
What many transgender adults say is that they knew early in childhood that they were transgender. They just didn’t know how to deal with these feelings. Transgender activist Cassie Brighter explains what she believes is the reason for the sudden increase in transgender kids. She says, “I’ll tell you why. Because they’re less afraid of you people.”
But many psychologists and others disagree. In her book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, author Abigail Shrier discusses the idea that young girls are being convinced by social media influencers, friends, doctors, school systems, and therapists to believe that they are transgender when they are not.
She refers to this surge of young girls who are suddenly coming out as transgender as a social contagion. She believes they are being socially influenced through peer acceptance, social media, and reinforcement from therapists to believe that all of their emotional issues, depression, and body dysmorphia is caused by gender-dysphoria.
Are we experiencing a social contagion?
After scouring the internet to find information on this topic, I discovered that many Americans agree with her. The author compares this social contagion to the ana-mia community where young girls participate in online forums that encourage their disordered eating with “thinspiration”, tips, and ways to hide their disorder from family members.
Gender dysphoria, however, is a real disorder that affects a child’s mental health and well-being. Children with gender-dysphoria often have profound issues with depression and 40 percent of transgender children will attempt suicide at some point in their lifetime. This is substantially higher than the general population.
The question is, do all of these kids really have gender-dysphoria? Or are we treating children as if they have a medical condition, when in fact, they are just confused kids?
Physician Lisa Littman, started researching gender-dysphoria when she noticed how many young girls were experiencing atypical gender-dysphoria symptoms in adolescence. She wrote a controversial paper that was published the Brown University website discussing her findings, but many experts were skeptical of her research methods and questioned the accuracy of her findings. After pressure from transgender advocates, the paper was eventually removed from Brown University website.
Littman and Shrier found that most of the female-to-male transgender teens that they researched did not exhibit typical gender dysphoria symptoms. Because their symptoms started in adolescense, rather than early childhood, she coined these cases as “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” Both believe that these girls were experiencing “socially contagious” gender-dysphoria, rather than the actual medical condition of gender-dysphoria.
However, critics, including myself, believe that the research for their findings was biased and misleading. After reading Shrier’s controversial book, I believe it’s important to note that all of her research was conducted by interviewing the parents and not the transgender teens. According to the mothers who were interviewed, many of the teens expressed hostility towards their parents, saying they were toxic and did not support them. While the author has presented this in her chapter about “the girls”, the fact is, we have only heard the mothers’ version of reality.
Should Doctors Be Banned from Prescribing Puberty Blockers, Gender-Affirming Hormones or Gender-Affirming Hormones, or Gender-Affirming Surgeries?
I completely agree that the social environment and culture of today’s teens is a factor in why we have so many more children who identify as transgender than in previous eras. However, without further study and interviews with the transgender youth and not just their parents, I think it is unwise to consider the findings or assumptions correct.
Maybe we have just turned a corner on what is acceptable in our society. It was not too long ago that it was illegal to have an interacial or gay marriage? Perhaps our younger teens are not misguided, but rather more accepting and tolerant than we were.
Should the government be able to tell any parent when their child should or shouldn’t have a medical treatment? Like any medical treatment, I believe these decisions should not belong to the government, but rest in the hands of the individual and their doctor.
If you don’t want the government to be able to dictate how you care for and provide for your children’s health and well-being, then you should carefully consider whether or not we should be handing this role over to the government to decide.
However, I do not believe that putting kids on hormones is the best approach. While many argue that puberty blockers give kids the time they need to decide, I think there are valid concerns about their use and them being so easily obtainable.
I would argue that the best option, besides outright banning or dictating medical treatment for children with gender-dysphoria, would be to require education, counseling and support to the children and parents first. Is this a Libertarian solution or transphobic? You tell me. Are kids old enough to make these kinds of decisions, or should we at least require them to learn more before they jump into hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgeries? What do you think?