PODCAST: Heather Brunskell-Evans wants to talk about the idea of ‘trans kids’

Heather Brunskell-Evans was the National Spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party Policy on Ending Sexual Violence until she started asking critical questions about “trans kids.” In this episode, Meghan Murphy talks to her about her perspective and the response from the Party.

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As the debate around gender identity intensifies, it seems more and more people are asking questions about the impact of transgender ideology and legislation on women, children, and our understanding of gender under patriarchy, more broadly. At the same time, those who do speak out or challenge the ideology behind the concept of transgenderism (or connected policies and practices) are being punished for doing so.

Heather Brunskell-Evans is a Senior Research Fellow at King’s College in London and was the National Spokesperson for the Women’s Equality Party Policy on Ending Sexual Violence until recently. After appearing on Moral Maze — a BBC Radio 4 series — she was removed from the position of Spokeswoman for the Party. Students at Heather’s university also no-platformed her, cancelling a scheduled talk on pornography and the sexualization of young women supposedly because her views on “transgender health… would violate the student union’s ‘Safe Space’ policy.”

All this came as a result of Heather challenging the idea of so-called “trans kids” and the practice of transitioning young people on the basis that they are “born in the wrong body.”

Heather is a co-founder of Resist Porn Culture and co-editor of a new book called Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body. I spoke with her over the phone from her home in London.

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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  • therealcie

    Something that I’ve become very aware of in the past year is the vehemence of many of these “trans activists” even to people who are sympathetic to those who are transgender but who want to be sure that such a serious procedure is not performed without being really sure that it is the only way the person may find happiness. This isn’t like getting a tattoo that one regrets. It is a procedure which completely changes a person’s body. They also shout down those who had the procedure done and later regretted it.
    I am completely gobsmacked by these parents who take their children to foreign countries to have the procedure performed.
    I’ve always been sympathetic to transgender people, possibly in part because I’ve always been bullied and an outcast myself. The current crop of “trans activists”, however, are not like the trans people I’ve known, who simply wanted to be accepted and treated kindly.
    Identity politics is not helping anybody.

    • Sionna B.

      I don’t think many of them are rational about it, that’s part of the problem. I think they are/exhibit a particularly virulent form of narcissism that desperately needs attention, and they get it in the most extreme way possible; a way which allows them to be victim and abuser all in one. I think it works really well for many men who also quite enjoy humiliation. That might sound odd, but I have an ex who was trans(vestite was the term then) and I observed that his autogynephilia was related to humiliation for ‘being’ a woman while dressed up, a gender role he held in contempt. A strange combo of contempt, humiliation at behaving like a woman, and extreme need for attention. and I mean extreme. Violence was merely another form of attention seeking behaviour and fits right in with the way many tims act when ‘calling out’ feminists. I don’t think they are remotely interested in discussing any of this rationally. And because they are narcissists, it’s easy for them to sway women to support them. It’s a toxic combination of personality disorders and it’s being treated as if it were rational, which is what the intimidators want. imho.

  • Alienigena

    Paraphrasing the speaker.

    “Who are these children who feel that they are in the wrong body? This is a new idea … that we can be born into the wrong body. With young people … this idea is in all of their social media. It is promulgated by organizations, for instance, Gendered Intelligence. Suggest to children that if they don’t conform to the gender to which they have been assigned they might have been born into the wrong body. It is nonsense on many levels just in terms of science.”

    Why are the same left-leaning organizations who foam at the mouth about climate science denial (and by the way I am a bit of a foamer) also not exercised about the denial of biological science (a life science, but a science) around this whole notion that people are assigned biological sex and can just switch sex. Where are all the medical professionals, medical and biological researchers, high school teachers, policy wonks, non-profit organizations who supposedly promote science and scientific literacy amongst school age children at least, on the issue of transgenderism and the anti-science rhetoric spouted by trans activists and allies.

    The answer is I guess that they are a bunch of cowards. This comes down to the right of children to be protected by society from the malevolence and ignorance of adults. And western society seems to be failing children and handing their fate over to a bunch of abusive assholes.

    • OldPolarBear

      I think I have mentioned in these threads before having gone through much of childhood and adolescence with what is now called “gender confusion.” I also had considered that it was just that I was gay. To help sort all this out and other things, I went to a therapist. This was circa 1975 and I was just shy of 20. I brought up at one point whether I might be “transexual” (correct term at the time). Like a decent therapist should, he listened and helped me walk through thinking about it. If I really wanted to, I would have to live day-to-day dressed and presenting as a woman for some period (maybe a year, can’t remember for sure) and do so on a day-to-day, full-time basis (not just “doing drag”). I would have to have regular therapy sessions. And then more stuff and more time, I don’t remember what all for how long. I sat there for a bit and said, “Nah, I’m good. And gay, thanks.”

      Nowadays, he would probably just whip off a prescription for hormones and some other shit and get me scheduled for surgery a week from Thursday. I shudder to think, and I feel so bad now for people who need to seek help like this.

    • Sionna B.

      I can understand a bit of why it is challenging for the ‘cowards’ to act–from what I have seen of many of the tims, they are histrionic attention-seeking narcissists who will do anything to be at the centre of attention. When they are setting off air horns at public political meetings or stink bombs, coughing and playing loud music at speeches (Derrick Jensen at Eugene Public Library a few weeks ago) or screaming about being victimized and hated, it’s not easy to speak up to that unless one is well prepared for the attacks. We all have to figure out ways of coping with their public verbal assaults or we will have a hard time speaking out while being screamed at.

    • Serai 1

      The idea of adults promulgating social concepts that end up victimizing children is hardly something confined to Western culture or society. It’s been with us for millenia. This isn’t a Western thing – it’s a patriarchal thing, and that goes back long before “Western society” ever came about.

  • Alienigena

    I wonder if illiteracy will be the next thing that is considered a feminine trait, given all the magical thinking around what makes one a woman. After all, two thirds of the illiterate adults on the planet are women.

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/oct/20/two-thirds-of-worlds-illiterate-adults-are-women-report-finds

    Are there any depths to which trans activists and their allies won’t sink in order to keep biological females down? Seems unlikely they will start promoting illiteracy as a feminine trait, but I think no platforming of feminists, because of the views they have of or the things they have said about the trans identity, would have seemed ludicrous even ten years ago. Apparently TIM’s make superior women, as they lack what makes natal women ‘so defective’ well all the while claiming that they are in fact female. So I am sure in the Brave New World of Trans those who are biological males but claim to be women will still be regarded as superior to biological females who are categorized as women.

    Among the list of reasons that girls are denied education from this source is the fact they are ‘girls’. So, yeah it still matters and it still disadvantages girls in a number of areas including in education.
    https://reliefweb.int/report/world/13-reasons-why-girls-are-not-school-international-day-girl-child

    Yes, I am being facetious about femininity being associated with lesser intelligence or unteachability or whatever reasons were used in the past or are still used in the present to deny girls an education.

    An interesting history of girls in the UK’s formal education system (including the experience of girls of African and Asian descent).
    https://www.bl.uk/sisterhood/articles/girls-in-formal-education

    Historically in western Europe it appears religious men were both for and against education for girls.
    “John Knox … took a vehemently anti-female stance in his treatise The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women … Luther himself was very supportive and set the stage for … women’s education, insisting on compulsory schooling for all boys and all girls on primary and secondary levels, and advanced education for qualified girls … Luther also noted the need for female teachers.”
    https://cws.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/cws/article/download/11719/10802

    • OldPolarBear

      I’m afraid that your idea about illiteracy may not be all that far-fetched. If people can insist that a middle-aged man can not only change sex but also his age to become a 6 YO girl (Stephonknee), or that a grown man with a diaper fetish qualifies for reasonable accomodation (some community college somewhere), well then …

      • Alienigena

        Actually it was not a community college that accommodated the man with a diaper fetish but a university, Vancouver Island University.

        • OldPolarBear

          Yes, thanks! I should have looked it up but was being lazy.

        • Sionna B.

          What? Really? Guess he wants his own endowment, jealous that Aaron Devor got it at UVic.

  • Goody Helena

    Has anyone worked out yet what the master plan of this all is? I refuse to believe that these MANY incidents of trans takeover are not being orchestrated in some way. It’s beyond coincidence that so many different bodies, institutions, organisations and individuals are all suddenly backing a batshit insane agenda. It’s a war on women, to be sure, but what is the end goal?

    • Sionna B.

      Big Pharma is part of it. The American billionaire family, the Pritzkers, is pouring money into ‘the world’s first endowment for a chair in transgender studies’ at the University of Victoria. Lifelong treatments are big bucks for them. They own a big pharma outfit.

    • Serai 1

      Oh, I don’t think any grand conspiracy is necessary. Human beings are batshit monkeys with brain cancer – we really don’t need masterminds in order to cook up heinous shit to do to each other.

  • will

    Most university libraries will get a book that they don’t have in the system if a student requests it. Maybe anyone here with student status can request it at their university library?

    • OldPolarBear

      It’s worth a try. I might even try the request form on my public library’s website. I did that for Julie Bindel’s anti-prostitution book and they got it! Big price difference though. But it can’t hurt to try.

  • Every time I read about transed children I am horrified bc when I was young I was definetly transgender – complete with avid desire to hide my sex, aversion to all bodily things feminine, male clothing, adapting a male name, etc. But problem is, I know why did it happen. I knew it even then.
    Partly because as an autistic person I have problems with the very concept of gender (as it’s totally a social thing and consists of many subtle self-presentations that are still hard for me to grasp) – this part I couldn’t put into words back then, as I had no diagnosis, but I certainly felt it.
    And partly because I felt that being a woman meant being third class being, someone who is worse in many aspects. My female body meant I am not one who is listened, my opinions are muted, my voice is irrelevant and my primary life goal is to marry and have kids. And that did not need any words besides those I used, because it was not some abstract knowledge, it was experience.
    Because as soon as I started behaving like a boy, as soon as I started presenting like a boy to my male classmates – I started to gain social weight between my peers. To gain respect and access to being not perfect (? – this I have troubles explaining, but boys would say “you can’t do it, you’re a girl” about many interesting things; you say “but I’m a boy” and fight for it a bit and they agree you are and you can do what you want) a boy naturally has. The teachers asked me to go to therapy, but my peers allowed me to play the way I wanted and do the things I wanted, and didn’t bully me the way they did when I was a girl.
    That is why I insisted on being a boy, not a girl.

    But the thing is, I was still a transgender according to diagnostic criteria. Because they don’t look much into the roots of the problem, and I have a long history of not wanting to be a girl, dismorphophobia, self-hatred etc.

    Growing up I accepted the troubles of being a woman. I decided to do at least something to change the world instead of adapting to its injustices. I eschewed transgenderism and embraced feminism.
    I am truly horrified when I think someone would’ve given me medicine to stop my puberty, then mutilate my body and re-make me into a man instead of giving me good advice how to accept being a woman.

  • And the strong association between our bodies and bad things that happen to us. Boys don’t grow tits that can be grabbed or ogled, boys don’t have menses (so don’t have to hide them and avoid mentioning them), boys are the norm and we are deviation.
    There are so many pre-teen and teenage girls who want to be boys/dream of cutting breasts off or just being flat-chested, etc that is studied in pedagogical university among other teenage issues a teacher has to deal with.

    Yet now in some oh so progressive countries this knowledge is ignored and those girls face a real danger of being mutilated.

  • Spike Robinson

    What a calm, brave, reasonable person Heather is. She is a true hero in the face of anti-scientific McCarthyism. In solidarity, I’ve bought her book.

  • Serai 1

    I deeply resented everything that made being female difficult or unhappy or dangerous, but despite having no truck with high heels (don’t like torture, thanks) and makeup (yeah, I’m gonna pay hundreds of dollars for colored mud to rub on my face), I liked pretty clothes and having long hair. So I compromised by dressing in beautiful colors, satin and velvet, and jewelry, and being a stubborn, take-no-bullshit bitch while doing it. And still do, to this day. 🙂

  • Topazthecat

    Before world war two,people used to dress baby girls in blue because it was described as a delicate ”feminine” color,and boys were dressed in pink because it was described as a light red strong ”masculine” color and then they totally reversed this,which just further demonstrates how totally artificially socially constructed most all of this gender bullsh*t really is!

    And in Scotland men wear kilt skirts,and there was a time centuries ago when women were ridiculously not allowed to wear pants. And in the beginning of time there were no clothes at all,everybody was nude as they were born,make up,high heels,dresses,skirts,pants suits and ties didn’t fall from the sky or grow on trees,nature didn’t create them *people* did! And in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s many women including famous model Twiggy and beautiful actress Mia Farrow wore their hair very short,and many heterosexual men who were hippies wore their hair really long

    https://www.google.com/search?q=Twiggy+with+very+short+hair&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiVmsrOn9HYAhXiYd8KHUD4AHUQ_AUICigB&biw=1155&bih=599

    https://www.google.com/search?q=Mia+Farrow+with+very+short+hair&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj9u_6EoNHYAhVNMd8KHUABC0oQ7AkIPA&biw=1155&bih=599&dpr=1.25

    Here is beautiful olympic winning skater Dorothy Hamill in a 1970’s Clairol Short and Sassy shampoo commercial.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W_GpLMEFI4

    I commented that today Dorothy would ludicrously be considered to be a transgender and that she looked beautiful with her short hair cut,I got 2 likes so far for saying this. And a guy Paul Kersey posted before me,that in 1976 90% of girls in America had the Dorothy Hamill short and sassy hairdo.So a poster super blue said,absolutely,90% of girls had this cut.

  • Topazthecat

    “Feminine” and “masculine” are really *HUMAN* traits,thoughts,feelings and behaviors. And there is plenty of decades worth of great psychological research studies by many different psychologists that shows that the sexes are much more alike than different in most traits,abilities and behaviors with a very large overlap between them,and that most of the differences between them are really small average differences,many of which have shrunk even smaller,and they find much greater individual *people* differences! Biologically the sexes are more alike than different too! As comedian Elaine Boosler said in the 1980’s, and she still says,I’m only a human being trapped in a woman’s body.

    Feminists(such as Robin Morgan,Gloria Steinem, Sheila Jeffreys etc) who have rightfully pointed this fact out,are not afraid of transsexuals or prejudiced against them,the issue is what I said it is. The only transsexual woman who actually debunks these common sexist gender myths,and gender stereotypes is Kate Bornstein author of Gender Outlaw:On Men,Women And The Rest Of Us,Gender Outlaws,My Gender Workbook etc. She was a heterosexual man who was married and had a daughter,then had a sex change and became a lesbian woman and then decided not to identify as a man or a woman. I heard Kate interviewed in 1998 on a local NPR show and she totally debunks gender myths,and rejects the “feminine” and “masculine” categories as the mostly socially constructed categories that they really are.She even said,what does it mean to feel or think like a woman(or man) she said what does that really mean.

    And as cultural anthropologist Roger Lancaster wrote in his introduction, in his very good 2003 book,The Trouble With Nature sex In Science when he’s talking about how scientists constantly search for a ”gay brain”,a ”gay gene” or ”gay intergovernmental” patterns. Roger came out as a gay man in college. He then says (One can hardly understate the naive literalism of present-day science on these matters: Scientists still look for the supposed anatomical attributes of the opposite sex embedded somewhere in the inverts brain or nervous system.)

    He then says and this notion now enjoys a second,third,and even fourth life in political discourses.He then says it is by appeal to such conceits that Aaron Hans,a Washington,D.C.- based transgender activist,reflects on his uncomfortable life as a girl:”I didn’t *think* I was a boy,I *knew* I was a boy.” He says,Hans elaborates: ”You look at pictures of me- I actually have great pictures of me in drag-and I literally look like a little boy in a dress. Roger then says,Far,far be it from me to cast doubt on anyone’s sense of discomfort with the ascribed gender roles.Nor would I question anyone’s sense that sexual identity is a deeply seated aspect of who they are .But testimonies of this sort and appeals to the self-evidence of perception beg the obvious question:Just what is a little boy or girl * supposed* to look like? The photograph that accompanies Han’s interview shows a somewhat robust girl.Is this to say that (real) girls are necessarily delicate and (real) boys athletic?

    He then says (If so,virtually all of my nieces are ”really” boys,since not a one of them is delicate or un presupposing) Roger then says,There is indeed something compelling about such intensely felt and oft- involved experiences-”I knew I was gay all along”; ”I felt like a girl” – but that compulsion belongs to the realm of outer culture,not nature.That is, if ”inappropriate” acts,feelings,body types,or desires seem to throw us into the bodies or minds other genders,it is because acts,feelings,and so on are associated with gender by dint of the same all-enveloping cultural logic that gives us pink blankets ( or caps,or crib cards,I.D. bracelets) for girls and blue for boys in maternity ward cribs.He then says,when we diverge one way or another from those totalizing associations,we feel-we really feel;in the depths of our being-”different”.Therein lies the basis for an existential opposition to the established order of gendered associations.

    Roger then says But therein also lies the perpetual trap: Every essentialist claim about the ”nature” of same sex desire in turn refers to and reinforces suppositions about the ”nature” of ”real” men and women (from whom the invert differs), about the ”naturalness” of their mutual attraction(demonstrated nowhere so much as in the inverts inversion),about the scope of their acts,feelings,body types,and so on( again, marked off by the deviation of the deviant). Aping the worst elements of gender/sexual conservatism,every such proposition takes culturally constituted meanings -the correlative associations of masculinity and femininity,active and passive,blue and pink- as ”natural facts”.

    Roger then says,In a twist as ironic as the winding of a double helix that goes first this way,then that,the search for gay identify gradually finds it’s closure in the normalcy of the norm as a natural law.In the end,I am not convinced of the basic suppositions here. I doubt that most men are unfamiliar with the sentiment given poetic form by Pablo Neruda:”It happens that I became tired of being a man. ”Even psychiatrists who treat ”gender dysphoria”- a slick term for rebellion against conventional gender roles -admit that at least 50% of children at some point exhibit signs of mixed or crossed gender identify or express a desire to be the ”opposite” sex. Roger has a note number to the reference in his notes section to a March 22,1994 New York Times article by Daniel Goleman called,The ‘Wrong’ Sex:A New Definition of Childhood Pain. Roger also says that the way the media reported the David Reimer case was very gender stereotyped and and biological deterministc.He also said that they raised him as a girl too late.

  • Topazthecat

    It really isn’t surprising at all that the sexes brains are more alike than different,( although given the fact that there is a lot of evidence from neuroscience that human brains are plastic and easily molded and shaped by different life experiences and different conditioning,and environments, and the fact that the sexes are born biologically more alike than different with very few differences but are still perceived and treated very differently systematically in every way by parents and other adult care givers, from the moment it’s learned they are a girl or a boy, before they are born it’s amazing that our brains are still more alike than different,and that we are psychologically more alike than different to despite all of this!) the clitoris and penis are very similar because they come from the same exact tissue, so does the male scrotum, the female vulva and even the ovaries and testicles.

    And men even have the same breast tissue that is responsive to estrogen and they can even develop full breasts ready for a bra right away if for some reason their testosterone level goes down,the small amount of estrogen(they also have progesterone which is necessary for healthy bone development,intelligence,healthy thyroid function,an anti-depressant, in both sexes and other things for health

    http://www.livestrong.com/article/290192-is-progesterone-produced-by-men/)

    Is Progesterone Produced by Men?

    http://www.livestrong.com

    Progesterone is commonly associated with many processes occurring in the female body. But just as testosterone and estrogen–each a male and female hormone, respectively–are present in both men and women, progesterone can also be found naturally in men, and it has some significant roles in male health, particularly reproductive vitality.

    that is normally in their bodies,causes this it’s a condition called gynecomastia. But of course none of all of these similarities are even recognized much less emphasized because we still all live in a very sexist,artificially gender divided,gender stereotyped,male dominated society that is totally obsessed and oriented to making the sexes into opposite artificial ”feminine” and ”masculine”categories.