‘The Sun-Herald’s Anonymous Op-Ed About Trans Children Is Baseless And Unacceptable
It's invalidating transphobia masked as moral concern.
The Sun-Herald — the weekend version of Nine newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald — has published an anonymous opinion piece by a proclaimed mother of trans child, which makes unsubstantiated claims that it is ‘too easy’ for children to transition.
The article, which was published anonymously to “protect the identity of [the author’s] child, who is a minor”, was published under the title “My child is transitioning gender, but I feel the system makes it too easy”.
Almost instantly, it was criticised upon publication by LGBTIQ+ people and trans allies, who criticised the lack of editorial oversight and fact-checking, the continual use of an outdated term ‘transgenderism’ (described as “dehumanising” by GLAAD) and the continual misgendering of the author’s child.
Cannot believe this was written by a parent who cares about their child.
— Bethan “The End Is” Nye (@tharook) December 13, 2020
While reading the piece, it is never clear what pronouns the trans male teenager uses, as we do not get access to their voice or perspective — which is precisely the issue with the article.
Instead, we have an anonymous piece that uses several uncited and unverified notions of trans children as being given too much authority, where healthcare officials “assume that all patients are genuinely transgender and the only path for them is to physically transition”.
This is simply not true: in Australia, there is an extensive assessment with experts to undergo any medical transition, which requires a psychiatric assessment over multiple sessions. Only after a letter of confirmation is offered can hormone treatment begin, if the person decides to do so. And as per the Medical Journal of Australia, it’s far from “the only path”.
Before medical transition, trans children are encouraged to have psychological support, vocal and communication training, and undergo a social transition — aka express their gender identity outwardly, via clothing, name and pronoun changes or other forms of presentation.
The journal emphasises social transition does not require an “all or nothing” approach but allows children to explore their own gender and significantly decreases experiences of mental health issues.
The article then argues that their child may not understand the complexities of their own gender, as they had no interest in boys’ toys growing up, and seemed comfortable playing with girls toys and “had only female friends” until their early teens. She then implies that “transgenderism has now become fashionable to young people”, citing the fact that ‘it is everywhere’ in our cultural consciousness and we now have more than a handful of trans celebrities.
She also compares being trans or queer to a generational rebellion, on par with tattoos, piercings, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and dyeing your hair. The final argument is that women may fear the harsh realities of being a woman in the world, and decide to transition for safety and relatively easier life — an absurd notion for anyone with the slightest understating of statistics of violence, harassment, and mental health issues for trans people.
Current guidelines indicate the extent of the process’s rigour; Australian medical specialists can attest to how intensely thorough that process is in practice.
Every paediatrician in the field can tell you the amount of work that goes into ensuring any child is NOT transgender.
— Benjamin Law 羅旭能 (@mrbenjaminlaw) December 13, 2020
For these reasons, this author is “absolutely convinced” her child will wish to ‘detransition’, and fears that legions of others will too. Each of these points are made with no citations: while this is an opinion piece, it is an opinion divorced from reality, based off a mother’s refusal to accept what their child is telling them about themselves, or to listen to medical officials.
The notion of ‘detransitioning’ also simplifies the process of medical gender-affirmation, as children are, by and large, put on hormone blockers which only prevent puberty’s process temporarily. As per the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, gender-affirming hormones will usually only be offered after a significant time on blockers and to a teenager around the age of sixteen — giving them time to cognitively develop and explore social transition.
After Sun-Herald deputy editor Michael Koziol tweeted out the article, it was criticised for its shallow argument and wide generalisations without any context or inclusion of expert voices, to the point where people questioned whether the story itself was true.
just checking back in on this one
— keen online poster (@jonathonio) December 13, 2020
This is such a poor, poor choice, Michael. Horrific timing this week, misgenders the author’s son, isn’t fact checked, under researched, doesn’t provide context like the child’s age, doesn’t provide the medical or professional perspective, or hell, the child’s perspective.
— Maeve Marsden (@maevemarsden) December 12, 2020
The article also arrives the week after the death of a trans woman in Melbourne, and has been widely criticised for its insensitive timing. To that, Koziol said Victorian paper The Age didn’t publish the piece in their physical edition.
These protective arguments also underpin Mark Latham’s bill to remove any mention of “gender fluidity” from NSW schooling, which he believes only confuse children — this would cover all LGBTIQ+ identities or expressions. As Liz Duck-Chong wrote for the Guardian in November, “the true danger of a bill like this is not in its dismissal of the science, but how it positions its concept of “core values” and parental primacy as neutral, instead of what they really are: ideological”.
By presenting a mother’s concern as more valued than medical opinion or a child’s own identity, the Herald has published an ignorant, fear-based article that presents transgender youth as corrupted by pop culture, rather than children who are finally being given an opportunity to express their true selves. It’s invalidating transphobia masked as moral concern.
If you need support, both Lifeline on 13 11 14 and the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 offer 24-hour assistance. For further information about youth mental health, both Headspace and Reach Out can provide guidance. You can also talk to a medical professional or someone you trust.