Young transmen and transwomen in the struggle against oppressive heteronormativity

At the age of about four I wanted to be a boy. It is one of my more
innocent early childhood memories. I remember being in the family car, a
Morris 1100
I think, travelling through the Mersey Tunnel on a family visit to my
grandmother in Liverpool when I piped up that I was in fact a boy and my
name was Jonathan. I had taken a fancy to a boy of that name in my nursery
school. I still remember how exciting the idea was, akin to being a cowboy or
doing something vaguely dangerous that only boys could do, like riding a
bike with no hands.
My parents were vaguely amused, my mother said it was a nice name.
They didn’t take any more interest. That is what parents were like in those
days, whether you said something about gender, sexual preference, the
Second World War, or your school homework, they didn’t get excited and left
it to you. If it was something they really didn’t like, they would say it was ‘a
phase,’ and you’d soon forget about it, which was usually right. You ate the
food on your plate, there were no anorexics in our street, just as there were
no children with divorced parents. You mixed in with the other children as
much as you had to and attended birthday parties even if you didn’t want to. I
didn’t hear about Asperger Syndrome or Autism until I was well into my 30s.
Like nut allergies and food intolerances all that has come along since I was
well into adulthood, or so it seems.
Perhaps many people would disagree and say that those problem were
always with us, just deeply buried somehow. But how can anyone in their
right mind think it right to focus on the gender preferences of very young
children? We have swallowed boys of sixteen legally choosing sodomy, but
are we seriously going to start interfering with the minds of tiny children in
the effort to make them do the politically correct thing?
If I had made that remark in the tunnel as an infant today, instead of
positing it in 1960, who knows what concerned and earnest parental
investigations I would now be undergoing. Or if my parents had been the
current hysterical type, presumably I would now be sitting here in mole-skin
trousers, lace up leather Oxford brogues, an old knitted cardigan and
smoking a pipe. Well actually I am, not the pipe but my clothes are almost
gender neutral, which is down to living alone and laziness, nothing more.
Woman’s hour has issued a concerned report on what to do if your four
year old tells you he/she is batting for the wrong side,and Victoria

Derbyshire, Ramsbottom’s most famous daughter, former Radio 5 Live
reporter is now hot on the trail of the new craze for seeking out and tracking
down hermaphrodite sprogs. She has recently made a report on them for
BBC 2.
No-one knows how many people actually have what is now called,
‘gender dysphoria’ in the UK. A survey of 10,000 people by the Equality and
Human Rights Commission in 2012 suggested that 1% of the population is
transgender. That number is bound to rise, as the issue has suddenly become
topical, and children are now being examined on that basis.
The Tavistock Clinic in north London and the Portman NHS Trust
which has clinics in London and Leeds are now researching the gender
preferences of children. The Tavistock with surprising common sense says
that gender dysphoria in young people is a ‘complex and rare condition where
there is incongruence between the young person’s perceived gender and their
biological sex.’
But how long will it remain rare? It’s likely to go the same way as
Autism, Tourette’s and peanut allergies. Over the past six years there’s been a
four-fold increase in children aged 10 or under being referred to these clinics.
Of those children, 47 were aged five or younger and two of the children were
three years old.
Mermaids, a new charity has swum into view to help with this new
‘need.’ Its head says she’s received around 60 calls in the past year from
parents of under tens who think their child might be transgender. They were
formed in 1995 by a group of parents who were came together because of
what they termed, ‘their children’s longstanding Gender Identity Issues.’ I
don’t know why those words are given capital letters on their website.
Membership has grown, and they have what they call, ‘young
transmen and transwoman’ on their committee. According to their web page,
‘Over the years we have built up alliances with other organisations across the
UK, and in some cases internationally, to try to support, educate, and
alleviate suffering.’
They are probably on a roll, there is nothing like a new social condition
to get people, particularly parents, very excited these days. In her programme
Victoria Derbyshire finds these parental concerns convincing.
‘There might be some who would attribute the situation to the parents,’
she says, ‘maybe they inadvertently conditioned the child in some way
because they wanted a girl instead of a boy? That’s not what I found. I found
parents who’d gone through mental anguish – who had questioned if they had
done anything wrong, and who now appeared to be coping admirably with a
very difficult and sensitive situation.They were bewildered and upset –
particularly as both had older boys who were ‘typical’ boys. These were
parents who’d never heard of ‘gender dysphoria’ until they’d Googled ‘should
I worry if my son wants to wear a dress?’
Victoria is dangerously near to gender stereotyping there, and various
issues, such as cross dressing and nascent homosexuality seem to be getting
into the mix. It could even be to do with class and cultural background, if the
‘typical boys’ did not live up to gender expectations. Working class parents
have always emphasised gender far more strongly than the educated middle-
classes.Their daughters wear pink, the boys get a definite blue and brown.
One of the distressed mothers tells Victoria: ‘Coming to terms with the
fact that your child is probably trans is very hard. We watched a video two
years ago. It was an American video of families talking about having
transgender children and I thought, ‘my gosh, this is what we’re facing.’
Naturally what the parents, or rather the child then faces is ‘facilitating
counselling’ and support sessions. Thankfully medical intervention isn’t
considered until a child approaches puberty, when hormone blockers might
be offered. These drugs delay the physical change of puberty, allowing a
young person time to live as male and female in the longer-term, after which
they can consider taking cross-sex hormones at the age of 16, and surgery

after 18. The estimated cost of gender reassignment surgery on the NHS is
around £10,000 per patient.
Child gender swapping has just arrived from the USA with the
probable ubiquity once enjoyed by hoola-hoops and chewing gum. It’s a
brand new industry already characterised by a host of acronyms and
grammatical distortions. Derbyshire’s web page ends with a list of august
bodies now willing and ready to get hold of children who think they might
like to be a Jonathan rather than a Jane.
Mermaids gives support for children, young people and their families
Tavistock Centre NHS gender identity centre for under 18s.
The Gender Trust Gives support to the over 18s.
Gender Identity Research & Education Centre (GIRES) a registered
Gendered Intelligence, Perhaps most worryingly is a pressure group
which calls itself ‘a community interest company.’ It wants to ‘engage people
in debates about gender.’
‘We work predominantly within young people’s settings and have
educative aims,’ they say. ‘We believe the arts are an amazing tool for sharing
our stories.’
They also like turning nouns into verbs in the American way,
‘platforming our voices and building awareness around the ways in which
heteronormativity regulates and restricts everyone.’
I am so glad that heteronormativity was in place when I was a small
child. I’ve had plenty of time since as an adult to decide on my preferred
sexuality. Like most people I never needed any guidance on that matter,
certainly not from my parents.

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