Conservatives are rapidly redirecting their anti-LGBTQ animus. In North America and Western Europe at least, opposing gay rights has become an increasingly toxic political stance: In the last decade alone, support for marriage equality has increased by almost 50 percent, and a record-high 59 percent of Americans now support same-sex unions. It’s clear that on mainstream gay rights issues, conservatives have lost the battle of public opinion. Consequently, some have adopted a tactic that hard-liners caught in unwinnable battles often resort to: Retreat, review, and find a new, weaker target.
An increasing number of people who invested time and effort into fighting advances in gay rights have pivoted to more winnable fights. For many, this means taking aim at transgender rights, and as in the war against marriage equality, they often frame their arguments as an appeal to family cohesion and the best interests of children.
Last week, conservative columnist Margaret Wente published an op-ed in Canada’s Globe and Mail titled “The March of Transgender Rights.” The piece, nearly identical to her Feb. 15 op-ed, “Transgender Kids: Have We Gone Too Far?,” reduces the dysphoria experienced by transgender children to “a fad that has been spread by social media and embraced by individuals (and families) as the explanation for their confusion, loneliness, and dysfunction.”
Apparently, the first week in August is prime trans-bashing season in Canada, because last Wednesday, the National Post published an op-ed by Barbara Kay headlined “Transgender Advocacy Has Gone Too Far.” Throughout the piece, Kay laments recent advances in transgender rights, suggesting that advocacy has gone “too far” by encouraging parents and society at large to be more accepting of transgender children. She suggests that providing trans preteens with medication designed to temporarily postpone puberty—which would afford the child, the parents, and their medical provider the opportunity to delay the development of irreversible physical characteristics, allowing all involved parties the chance to review their options before moving forward—is more harmful than forcing them to endure the permanent, dysphoria-inducing effects of a puberty in line with the gender they were assigned at birth. (Should they eventually decide to forego hormone replacement therapy, they can resume their body’s biologically induced puberty at a later date without any significant physical effects.) Also signaling the transgender movement’s overreach, as far as Kay is concerned, is the number of states that have banned psychiatrists from attempting to “re-orient” children to the sex society sees them as. Never mind that reparative therapy has been proved to be scientifically bankrupt, and, in fact, to inflict lasting harm on those forced to undergo such barbaric tactics.
On the day that Kay’s column appeared, conservative radio and TV personality Laura Ingraham hosted Wente on her radio show. Together, the two of them continued their assault on trans children, with Ingraham arguing that trans kids simply “want attention.” Ingraham then accused parents who accept their child’s transgender identity—as groups like the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health recommend—of child abuse.
The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey reveals that transgender children who have been rejected by their families were nearly 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families accepted them. Additionally, kids rejected by their families were 85.7 percent more likely to engage in sex work, 72.7 percent more likely to experience incarceration, 68.4 percent more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and 20.6 percent more likely to contract HIV. Unsurprisingly, none of these statistics made it into Wente’s or Kay’s op-eds, nor were they mentioned on Ingraham’s show.
A parent who wants to decrease the likelihood that their child will be forced to partake in sex work, to attempt suicide, or to find themselves homeless and impoverished is not guilty of child abuse. A parent who accepts their transgender child for who they are is a hero.