by Janet Bedggood
The recent New Zealand documentary I Am Transgender, broadcast on TVNZ, Channel One on November 5th this year, tracks the story of a young female adolescent. Charly, an attractive curly-headed teenager, is a girl, supposedly “born in the wrong body”. She hates her female body.
After a suicide attempt, she comes out to her family who are relieved to know the cause of her depression. All will be well if they support her transition to a male body. So, Charly begins to take sex hormones which develop male physical characteristics. She is delighted when her voice deepens.
The documentary accepts the opinion of doctors who promote the use of puberty blockers. It does not explore any ill effects caused by these drugs although some medical specialists describe them as “highly toxic and potentially dangerous”. Charly is likely to be taking Lupron, often prescribed for young girls who feel like her. A common effect of Lupron is a decline in bone density.
Charly has started a transformation that will affect her even if she changes her mind. De-transitioning will not obliterate the changes now in place. Other young people who change their minds regret having made such a big decision when they were immature. (See, for instance, here.)
Currently the surge in children who believe they are transgender (a 3,200% rise over the last ten years in Britain, 75% of whom are girls) has engendered a transgender ideology that cannot be questioned, according to its advocates.
Nonetheless, a Detransition Advocacy Network (DAN) recently established in Britain, has opened up discussion on this orthodoxy. At the first DAN conference many young women said therapy would have been a helpful alternative to puberty blockers. The conference heard many harrowing stories. However, the mood of I Am is buoyant. Charly is positive, and has no doubts about her decision to change her body. The documentary does not adopt any critical detachment.
Nor does it delve into the source of her rejection of her female body other than suggesting the onset of puberty caused immense unhappiness. When I remember that time of my life, I recall finding my emerging breasts a nuisance. My chest was tender and more vulnerable to pain if I knocked against something. My first period was even more of a nuisance. My sanitary pad was uncomfortable and chafed against my thighs making them sore and red. I didn’t discuss any of this with my mother although that may have helped the discomfort.
Despite these inconveniences, I never thought a male body preferable to my female body. I didn’t regard boys as superior beings and felt I could do anything that boys could do.
I am curious as to why so many young people decide they are in the ‘wrong body’. The rising trans movement appears attractive to suggestible youth, and promoted as a more acceptable alternative to coming out as a lesbian as in the case of Charlie Evans.
But what’s the reason for feeling male or female? Wanting to switch sex is likely to involve an image you have of that sex based on ‘normal’ appearance and behaviour. You have an idea of sex that is socially constructed. That is what gender is about, the socially-defined characteristics of a sex.
Intersex people who have characteristics of both sexes are the exception but will usually choose the dominant sex.
J.K.Rowling’s recent comment emphasises we do not have to follow gender stereotypes, we can choose not to conform, whereas our sex can never be a choice. We all have the right to live a fantasy so long as we don’t insist that society do so.
Even if you can change your genitals, your body hair, your breasts and your voice, you have not physically become the ‘other’ sex. Your chromosomes, your pheromones and your bones remain part of your body and, of course, your sex. A recent news item reported the 6,000 -year-old body of a cave woman was DNA tested proving she was female. The sex of any trans person as a fossil will be similarly identified!
Although Charly identifies as male, her female body will never match the physiological aspects of male bodies. She will not carry many of the physical strengths that men acquire through their higher testosterone levels that occur in utero. Males have more muscle mass/strength and bone strength over females. Medication will not alter that imbalance as the advantages of ‘transwomen’ who compete in women’s sports prove.
The uncritical account of Charly’s story makes I Am propaganda for the trans movement. People wanting to trans are seeking a solution for their personal problems as if individual change will make them happy despite the existence of gender oppression under capitalism. For Marxists, the point is not to change gender but change society, to become gender-free in a socialist society free of class and sex oppression!