Hello friends and subscribers. Thanks for joining me here today to read my latest blog. I hope it gives you some food for thought. Follow this link for my video recording if you prefer to listen.
This week I’m thinking out loud. I’m trying to pick apart the big debate around transgender identity that is tearing families and communities apart. It is deeply disturbing to hear people speak out with extreme sentiments of hate and intolerance in defence of their strong beliefs. I’ve listened to both sides. I’ve shed tears for children, parents and those who live in fear of discrimination. And I just hope that people will come to rest in a place of respect for the rights of others.
Cause for protest
Every generation throughout time has fought against something they believed was unjust or simply wrong – whether that was war, slavery, religious oppression, breaches of civil rights, racism, oppression of women, with-holding of reproductive rights, homophobia, etcetera. Transgender identity is the latest topic of debate and one that is a cause for protest in some instances. Whatever our own personal views might be around this topic, healthy debate is important and vital in order to bring the issues out into the open and empower people to develop informed opinions.
Freedom to change ourselves
As humans, we are mostly lucky enough to have the freedom to change ourselves in every which way we choose. The world is awash with books, videos, and podcasts on self-transformation, how to be the person of our dreams, how to look younger, where to go to get the nose of your choice or ways to achieve the most desirable backside. Come on, we all know someone who has had adjustments done to their face or body because they weren’t happy with themselves as they were, right? I even know someone who put their three-year-old child under the knife because they were afraid their daughter would get bullied for her sticky-out ears when she was older. So many of us are obsessed with image and it is getting worse. I’m even guilty of it. The other day I was quite upset when the check-out assistant at my local fruit ‘n veg shop automatically applied a ‘senior’s’ discount to my bill. I got in my car and looked in the mirror at my 57-year-old face and said aloud, ‘surely you don’t look ‘that’ old’. Upon reflection, I had to ask myself what the hell is wrong with looking old anyway…. there are millions of people walking around with a huge smile on their face, yet they look much older than me. What’s this obsession with looking youthful? Reflecting on these questions has helped me to see that I am so much more than my looks. It also helped me to see how unconsciously, I have been programmed by my upbringing to place a lot of value on appearances. Keeping up appearances wasn’t just a programme we watched on telly, it was a way of life!
What’s at stake
But transgender identity is more complex than simply being unhappy with how we look and it’s something we need to try to understand before we start rolling our eyes and casting judgements. I have found it hard to get my head around the distress that a person must be feeling when the only solution they can see is to realign the body they were born with, through often painful medical intervention, with the gender they identify with. Their sole aim is to reduce their distress in the hope it will enhance their well-being. What’s at stake here though is the potential lifelong medical, psychological, and emotional implications of these medical interventions if the person is not yet old enough or suitably informed to make such a decision. I would argue that children who have not yet gone through puberty are unlikely to have the cognitive and emotional skills to fully understand how they might respond to puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. I would hope that psychotherapy would always be the first line of support.
I’m also hearing the voices of vulnerable women who have concerns around the prospect of big, hairy men who identify as women being given access to female toilets. It’s a thing, and it’s got to be faced. We are somehow going to have to find a way to sort this out. But how? If everyone’s rights are to be respected, then do we have to wait until something awful happens that will then deprive others of these rights? As you can tell, I have no answers. Yet. I trust that the voice of reason will reign, and we will find a solution. I have been accused of being naïve many times, but I continue to believe that most human beings are pretty decent. I like to think that when people are given the opportunity to understand the experiences of others, they mostly empathise and choose to support them, especially when no harm is being done. What’s it to you or me if a woman or a man decides to have their body altered to reflect what they feel inside? It might make us feel uncomfortable, but that’s on us. It’s on us because of how we choose to respond.
Well-being depends on values
Here’s where I feel the discussion needs to go. I think that in this fast-paced world that we live in today, we barely stop to catch our breath. We spend less time being quiet with ourselves, reflecting on who we really are, what our values are and what we truly desire from this one miraculous life that we have been gifted. Parents spend less time with their kids which means that social media has more influence over them, and the deeper more meaningful questions of our existence are never addressed. Gender dysphoria is, in my view, just another manifestation of the malaise that afflicts us humans. Many people wander around in a daze, unaware of what is happening in their unconscious mind because they haven’t taken the time to explore where their views were born, what drives their desires, what does success look like, how has cultural bias informed their view of themselves…. the questions are endless. But it’s only when we ask these important questions that we can find answers.
So, before we judge, ask why. Then we might actually respond differently. Curiosity allows us to find kinder solutions. I remain very open and keen to learn more about this topic. In an article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, I wasn’t at all surprised to read that there is evidence to support the idea that cross-sex identity in childhood is overwhelmingly predictive of homosexual orientation in adulthood. This begs the question how a child’s cultural environment might play into the views they form at an unconscious level about being gay, and how it might be contributing to gender dysphoria. I know for a fact that homophobia is still a thing. And I also know that it is perfectly normal for kids to explore their sexual identity and orientation during their childhood.
Whatever the case might be, I keep saying that we all need to be the change we wish to see in the world. A good starting point is for us is to be more reflective of how we view ourselves, and how our own biases might blind us to what’s really going on for someone who appears to be uncomfortable in their own skin. The more curious we are about our own conscious thoughts and the unconscious drivers for those thoughts, the more we can be open to talking about the real issues that are at stake in this crazy world. It’s a tough world for young people now more than it ever was. Let’s be a good example to them so that they know they count on us to be a compassionate ear and a supportive voice of reason.
As the great Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, once said, ‘Those who can’t change their minds, can’t change anything.’ Wishing you curiosity and compassion to guide you in all that you think and do in this crazy world. Love, Gill xx