PODCAST: The trouble with transing kids

Image: Veer Images
Image: Veer Images

The days of Marlo Thomas’ “Free to be… You and Me,” it seems, are long gone. Now, when kids don’t quite “fit” within the gender roles prescribed by a patriarchal society, no longer do we say, “You’re fine just the way you are!” Instead, more and more frequently, we are saying, “Maybe you were born in the wrong body.”

The quickly popularized phenomenon of transing kids — that is, to begin youth on treatment programs as soon as they proclaim a “gender identity” that doesn’t match the gender roles traditionally attached to their biological sex, ushering them into the process of “transitioning” towards living as the so-called “opposite gender” — has been widely celebrated and supported by liberals and progressives alike. But are we moving too quickly? What are the consequences of medical interventions like this on children? What are the social consequences?

With many questions left unanswered (and many questions not being asked in the first place), the “trans kids” trend needs more interrogation.

Lisa Marchiano, LCSW, is a clinical social worker and Jungian analyst. She is also one of those people who is concerned we’re moving too fast and too uncritically towards transitioning kids. Her article, “Layers of meaning: A Jungian analyst questions the identity model for trans-identified youth” can be found at 4thWaveNow. For more on her work, visit The Jung Soul. I spoke with her over the phone from her home in Philadelphia.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Meghan Murphy

    Well yes. If gender didn’t exist, transgender wouldn’t exist… People would simply be able to be themselves. There might be some with ‘sex dysphoria’, I don’t know, but it wouldn’t have anything to do with clothing, makeup, or mannerisms, since those things are only gendered because of… gender.

  • Just Passing Through

    If only there could be as much interest/care in this subject as there were about pole dancing… kinda sad isn’t it?

    • FakeFeminist

      I’m actually surprised there’s so much less uproar on the gender identity posts than there was on the poling article. I would have guessed the pole-dancing thing to be much less controversial.

      • Meghan Murphy

        Same.

  • Cassandra

    Agree.

  • Cassandra

    Your conclusion is correct.

  • Cassandra

    This interview is really, really good. If only A LOT more people would hear it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I hope many people hear it too! I learned so much from Lisa.

  • Milli

    I always say “archetypes, not stereotypes”. Jungian lens can be very feminist. Well, when I was a kid, my parents let me wear boys clothes, wear girls clothes, play with dolls, play with car toys…I tend to be more on a tomboy side and very nerdy. I felt discomfort when teachers in nursery tell me “…do this because you are a girl…”. I hated it. Later, when I started to write, people told me “…you see the world like a man…”. I was confused. But maybe because I am different genaration and I had time to read things, I had time to think and to talk about my thoughts, I never self-diagnose myself as trans. I had big issues with my body. I don´t fit to stereotypically “female” box. So what? I am woman. I think that today a lot of people mix gender dysphoria and deep discomfort with gender roles (this is what Lisa Machiano basically said). How you can separate those things from each other as a kid? It is complicated. There are some special diagnostic methods for such a young individuals? But maybe it´s better for health to get hormone blockers during childhood. I think we need the research first.

  • Milanomom

    Interesting that you didn’t choose to speak to any experts on the other side of this or any of the families of children who are trans and fully comfortable and happy in their gender post transition. Also interesting that the expert you did speak with repeatedly clarified that the data she refers to is anecdotal and she’s not a medical professional. Some of the research she sites has been widely debunked. It is dangerous to present this kind of incomplete, inaccurate and clearly biased information to your listeners. I don’t doubt that a variety of kids and families have a wide variety of experiences and some that identify as trans early on will question or change their identity later, but the implication that the majority of “trans” kids are not getting appropriate support or being asked to question or challenge their experiences seems really judgmental without hearing directly from any of the professionals and families actually dealing first hand with these experiences and identities. In my experience families and professionals go to great lengths to question their children’s identities and medical providers have very high bars that kids must clear before even considering treatment and there are many kids who claim to be trans who are denied hormone therapy because medical providers do not believe them or insurance companies can’t check all of the boxes they need to qualify them for treatment. As a journalist you owe it to your listeners to present fair and balanced information. At least half the story is missing here.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Considering that every single mainstream media outlet and liberal feminist outlet promotes the notion of ‘trans kids,’ I think that it’s probably ok for us to present an alternative perspective that isn’t presented anywhere else. That is what we do here: present radical feminist analysis. We do not exist to cover issues in the same way all other media does.

      • Milanomom

        I don’t have a problem with different perspectives being presented. In fact I think it’s hugely important. But you claim within the podcast to be acting as a journalist yet present very one sided and factually questionable information. It’s great to have different views and opinions from the main stream, but it’s important to clearly state that that’s what’s being presented. I don’t in any way mean to imply that the other side of this is always presented in an unbiased and fact based manner. It’s a very emotional issue. I’m only saying that when acting as a journalist you have a responsibility to present unbiased, well researched and well rounded facts that show all sides of an issue. When using your platform as a writer/blogger/podcast host to present your opinions or amplify the opinions of others you need to clearly state for your audience that that’s what you’re doing. I’m pretty new to your work so if you clearly state that on a regular basis and feel that the majority of your audience knows that you are presenting opinions, then I’m sorry for any misunderstanding my comments may have created.

        • Meghan Murphy

          All of the Feminist Current podcasts are long form interviews, that offer a radical feminist analysis. We don’t do news-style podcasts and they aren’t intended to be unbiased. It is very clear that Feminist Current is a feminist podcast, which means that it will always be ‘biased.’ If you are looking for a news-style podcast that presents various sides of an issue (but that will rarely present a radical feminist perspective, you’ll notice), I recommend the CBC.