How does one write a compelling life story when convinced that those with significant interest in the details are bigots? You don’t, as Amanda Jette Knox proves in Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family. In a sense, Knox hasn’t so much written a life story as she has written a canonical screed (that reads like an extended blog entry) for the Church of Gender. She writes as an activist first, and as a wife and mother last.
How did Knox, who made a career out of publicizing her child’s mental health struggles and gender transition (and the subsequent transition of her spouse) online, fill 300 pages without a single salacious detail, offering platitudes (“lead with love” and fix your metaphorical “cracked foundation”) over substance? Easy — by preaching from the gender pulpit.
Knox explores three themes, all linchpins of the modern, quasi-religious social justice movement: sin, suffering, and acceptance. Knox is sinful — she must denounce her ingrained “transphobia” (i.e. banish any doubts and affirm, affirm, affirm!). She, her partner, and her child have all suffered, and only through accepting the true gender identity of her partner and child (and also accepting Knox’s supposed lesbianism) can their family be saved from misery, divorce, or suicide.
Knox, now in her early 40s, truly has suffered. As a child, she was viciously bullied and literally set on fire by her school peers. Her father abandoned her. She was raped. She spent two decades in an unhappy marriage that she claims was eventually saved by her partner’s transition. It’s easy to feel sorry for her, but I guess that’s the point — she mines her history for the sorry parts, presumably because this gains one the social credit required to have a valid opinion in today’s activist world, wherein oppression and victimhood are idolized.
Full disclosure: I followed Knox on Twitter (that is, until she blocked me) and find her unbearable. She is in the trenches of the dank and cruel Culture War. In my view, her social media persona is mean-spirited and attention-seeking. Regardless, I committed myself to a fair, neutral reading of her book, and reminded myself of this commitment more times than I can count. I’d like to rename her book, Lies Live Here: How to Stop Being a Transphobic Sinner and Accept Gender into your Heart.
Ultimately, we read someone’s life story because we are all a bit voyeuristic. And I don’t mean in the perverted sense, but rather the type that glances into a stranger’s illuminated living room at night, or strains to overhear what a couple seated at the next table in a restaurant is arguing about. Knox doesn’t allow the reader to see in, though. She makes it clear that the things readers might want to know — details about “gender affirming” surgeries, for instance — are inappropriate things to wonder about, let alone ask. (Though she does manage a whole detail-barren chapter on her partner’s “bottom surgery,” following a lecture on how improper it is to ask about a trans person’s genitals — I guess she just really wants us to know that her partner no longer has intact male bits, ergo her “lesbian” identity.)
Maybe I’m going hard on Knox, but she did more than write a boring book — her screed, a Canadian best seller (whatever that means), comes during a time when there is growing fervour over gender identity. It normalizes the falsehood that babies can be “born in the wrong body,” or that humans can change their sex. It promotes the lie that sexual orientation is an attraction to “gender,” rather than sex. It paints women who question gender identity ideology and protect women’s boundaries as hateful. I’m sick of it. It’s homophobic, anti-science, and harmful to women and children.
I could also write 300 pages, picking apart the many contradictions and absurd bits in Knox’s book. It would be tedious to name them all, but a few passages hit like a punch to the gut. For instance, her eight-year-old son’s reaction to his father’s transition news (and the fact that Knox would make this moment in her child’s life a matter of public record):
“‘You mean, I don’t have a daddy?’ Jackson’s composure crumbled at the realization and he began sobbing into his little hands, kneeling on the floor.”
Gender, accepted with religious fervour, is harmful. Knox and her family — and everyone who believes in wrong bodies or innate genders — would rather devastate a child, telling him his father is not, in fact, his father, but (surprise!) has been someone else all along, than accept that men can look and behave and dress as “feminine” as they would like, and still be men. Her children will grieve the loss of a father, instead.
Regarding her child’s transition, Knox nonchalantly drops two bombshells: she admits her child discovered transgenderism on Tumblr a few weeks prior to coming out (ROGD alert); and she mentions that her family had to explain to the pediatrician at the next (unrelated) appointment that the child was now transgender, meaning the child’s doctor was not involved in diagnosis or treatment. Like a good gender disciple, Knox doesn’t question, she affirms, and dutifully sets her child on the puberty blocker and cross-sex hormone path. Knox suppresses any doubt that her child is not, in fact, in the “wrong body”– she appears torn between her gut (or, as Knox would call it, her “ingrained transphobia”) and doing what is woke, led down the garden path by the “gender experts.” I want to be clear that I wish her child the best in both health and happiness, and hope regret will stay a stranger. I also hope Knox, who brings up her need for validation several times in the book (for instance, she talks about how she “worked so hard to get people to like [her]” and then “fed off that validation”), finds a way to achieve this without using her children as a means to this end.
If you can get through Knox’s book without reaching the conclusion that gender identity ideology is going to go down as something akin to the Satanic Panic craze, then I must inform you that you’ve been had. Lesbians don’t have penises, a gender soul doesn’t exist, men cannot literally become women, and, for the love of god, please leave children out of this.
Amy Eileen Hamm is a writer and registered nurse educator in New Westminster, BC. You can find her on Twitter @preta_6.