Watching Chaz Bono Won’t Turn Your Kid Transgendered

What Women Really Think
Sept. 21 2011 3:11 PM

Watching Chaz Bono Won’t Turn Your Kid Transgendered

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Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images

On Monday night, Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and regular commentator on Fox News, appeared on the O’Reilly Factor to defend his assertion that parents should not allow their children to watch Chaz Bono, a transgendered man (and the son of Cher), on this season of Dancing With the Stars. In a column published Sept.  2 on foxnews.com, Ablow contended that seeing Bono on television would cause young viewers to want to change their gender:

J. Bryan Lowder J. Bryan Lowder

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.

The last thing vulnerable children and adolescents need, as they wrestle with the normal process of establishing their identities, is to watch a captive crowd in a studio audience applaud on cue for someone whose search for an identity culminated with the removal of her breasts, the injection of steroids and, perhaps one day soon, the fashioning of a make-shift phallus to replace her vagina.

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In the interview with Bill O’Reilly, Ablow went on to say that young “tomboy” girls might be encouraged by Bono’s appearance to “cut off their breasts.” Many critics, psychiatrists—even Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly—have condemned Ablow’s comments, arguing that they are not based on hard science and, moreover, are ideologically motivated.

“You seem to be adding to the hate [for LGBT people],” Kelly said on her show.

Before I get to Ablow himself, let’s take a moment to fact-check his claims. Dr. John M. Grohol, editor-in-chief of PsychCentral.com, conducted an “in-depth literature search” and found “not a single study…that associated watching television with directly (or indirectly) influencing childhood sexual development or self-identity.” In other words, watching Bono dance has about as much of a chance of making you transgender as watching The A-List does of making you gay: none.

This isn’t the first time Ablow has oddly upset by gender-bending: When J. Crew designer Jenna Lyons did a photo-spread in which she is painted her young son’s toenails pink, he had a veritable hissy fit:

The fallout is already being seen...Girls beat up other girls on YouTube. Young men primp and preen until their abdomens are washboards and their hair is perfect. And while that may seem like no big deal, it will be a very big deal if it turns out that neither gender is very comfortable anymore nurturing children above all else, and neither gender is motivated to rank creating a family above having great sex forever and neither gender is motivated to protect the nation by marching into combat against other men and risking their lives.

Maybe we’ll all have shiny, colored lips, though, and pierced ears and perfect eyebrows and mommies who get applause from their J. Crew friends at the park for parading their sons through the streets in costume.

Washboard abs and children and YouTube and lip-gloss and “the nation” are all mixed up in this anxiety-ridden whirlwind of political rhetoric masquerading as clinical opinion. Parents, Chaz Bono aside, please don’t let your children listen to this charlatan. Chances are Ablow’s strange obsession with amputated body parts, make-shift phalluses, and shiny lips will give your kid more of a complex than an awkwardly dancing man ever could.

[Clip below; please ignore the offensive title on YouTube]

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