Below is TransActive Education and Advocacy's response to yet another attack on transgender youth, this time by the Philadelphia Catholic Medical Association. The PCMA takes the position that trans youth need to be forced to adhere to the proper confines of their "birth gender," at any cost. According to them, it's in trans kids' best interests to be forcibly denied their basic rights of self-expression.
I wish I could chalk this up to the work of insane right-wing Christians whom nobody could actually take seriously, but the PCMA's position seems to be reflective of the current climate surrounding trans youth. The PCMA cites Kenneth Zucker's writings to support their claims. And... Zucker was just appointed to head the APA's committee to review the DSM - V, which covers Gender Identity Disorder.
Does anyone else find this infuriating? Is it possible to deny that there is currently a full-fledged assault on transgender youth going on in this country?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Portland, OR (May 27, 2008)
TransActive Education & Advocacy, a Portland, Oregon-based non-profit organization that works on behalf of transgender and gender non-conforming children, youth and their families speaks in opposition to the Philadelphia Catholic Medical Association's recently issued Press Release on so-called cross-dressing In schools.
Our response to this Press Release follows the excerpted statement below.
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THE PHILADELPHIA CATHOLIC MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
May 16, 2008
Excerpt from the Catholic Medical Association's statement:
"Superintendents and school district should insist that parents who want their children to attend school dressed in opposite sex clothing be required to have a mental health evaluation for such a child to determine if the child has a gender identity disorder.
"Permitting behavior such as cross-dressing by a child with GID will not help the child; rather, it will enable and reinforce a serious psychiatric disorder. Principals and superintendents should not permit or tolerate any cross-dressing in schools. Not only will this further harm a child with GID, but it will cause other children to suffer confusion and distress.
"The Philadelphia Inquirer recently published an article on May 3, 2008 about a nine year old boy at suburban primary school, who will be allowed to dress as a girl and be addressed by a girl's name. In the article the principal of the school is noted to have written a letter to parents explaining that a transgender child is one whose biological gender does not match his or her gender identity.
"This demonstrates a common but serious lack of knowledge of the medical literature related to psychiatric diagnoses in children. These studies show that children with strong transsexual thinking and behaviors, in fact, usually have the diagnosis of a Gender Identity Disorder (GID). GID leads to the desire to dress in clothing of the opposite sex and to be called by a name of the opposite sex. The major textbook on this subject is Gender Identity Disorder, by Zucker and Bradley.
"These children have failed to identify and embrace the goodness of their masculinity or femininity for a number of reasons, related particularly to conflicts with peers and parents, primarily with their mothers.
"As Zucker and Bradley document in their clinical work and research, most children who are treated for GID recover. They come to accept and embrace their birth gender.
"Paul McHugh, former chairman of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, studied those who sought transsexual surgery and has written, 'I have witnessed a great deal of damage from sex-reassignment. The children transformed from their male constitution into female roles suffered prolonged distress and misery as they sensed their natural attitudes. Their parents usually lived with guilt over their decisions - second-guessing themselves and somewhat ashamed of the fabrication, both surgical and social, they had imposed on their sons.'"
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From the outset, the Catholic Medical Association's statement is disingenuous in its representation of both the child and parental motivation for allowing this nine-year old to attend school in a way that is respectful of their true gender identity (female) rather than reflective only of their assigned birth sex (male) based solely upon their anatomy. Furthermore, this is a standard to which other students are not held. There is no school in the country that we are aware of that requires students to first submit to a gender identity/anatomical sex congruity exam prior to being allowed to attend school.
To imply that this child simply "wants" to attend school dressed like a girl is a gross and misleading over-simplification of what a gender non-conforming child experiences. This child has always identified as female. She simply wants to be extended the right to express herself in a way that is consistent with her gender identity.
The implication by the Catholic Medical Association that gender non-conforming and transgender children, youth and their families do not seek out psychological guidance prior to making these difficult decisions is nothing more than a blatant attempt at prejudicing their membership and those who might read this press release against these children, their families and anyone who might support them.
Our organization works with many therapists that provide counseling services to these children, youth and families. In fact, we have never come across a single case of a parent or caregiver that has not first sought counseling for both their child and their family before taking any specific action related to their child's gender non-conforming identity.
Nor is there and credible evidence that a transgender or gender non-conforming child will cause other children to be confused or distressed. They may ask questions, but the last time we checked, school was about asking questions and learning not only about reading, writing and arithmetic but about developing the social skills to work with and respect the many types of people our children will encounter throughout their lives.
They assert, incorrectly, that "children with strong transsexual thinking and behaviors, in fact, usually have the diagnosis of a Gender Identity Disorder (GID)." In fact, the reverse is true.
A clinical diagnosis of GID (Gender Identity Dysphoria) in children predates by several years any conclusions regarding what may or may not be a 'transsexual' outcome. It is not up to the therapist, psychologist or the Catholic Medical Association to decide when or if a child is a 'transsexual'. That decision is theirs and theirs alone to make once they attain an age of informed consent.
They claim in their press release that "GID leads to the desire to dress in clothing of the opposite sex and to be called by a name of the opposite sex. The major textbook on this subject is Gender Identity Disorder, by Zucker and Bradley."
Again, this is a misleading and distressingly wrong-headed statement for a so-called medical organization to make. GID does not "lead" to the desire to dress in any type of clothing or to be called by any particular name. In fact, a child's sense of their gender identity is independent of clothing or name preferences.
As to Zucker and Bradley having written "the major textbook on this subject", this is a substantial overstatement of the credibility and acceptance the work of Kenneth Zucker and Susan Bradley has been accorded within the circle of those who research and treat transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth.
In their press release, they outrageously state that, "These children have failed to identify and embrace the goodness of their masculinity or femininity for a number of reasons, related particularly to conflicts with peers and parents, primarily with their mothers."
They clearly choose to accuse these children of "failing" to accepting the "goodness" of an arbitrary or stereotypical standard of 'masculinity' or 'femininity' and then go on to broadly apply questionable Freudian thinking regarding peer pressure, parental influence and ultimately, blaming the mother for causing a child's gender non-conformity. This is more than voodoo medicine...it's blatantly misogynistic.
The Catholic Medical Association quotes Zucker and Bradley as reporting that, "most children who are treated for GID recover. They come to accept and embrace their birth gender."
The facts are that Zucker and Bradley believe (inaccurately) that 75% of gender non-conforming children end up identifying as homosexual rather than transsexual or transgender. We suspect this is what they refer to as "recovering" from GID and later "embracing" their birth gender. Would it be too cynical to believe that under different circumstances, in a different press release, the Catholic Medical Association might not consider this alleged "recovery" to a homosexual identity to be an altogether positive outcome?
The quote from Paul McHugh, former Chairman of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University contains, to be blunt, a misrepresentation of data clinical research with regard to transgender identity and surgical or hormonal outcomes in children and adolescents. During Dr. McHugh's tenure at Johns Hopkins there was virtually no hormonal or surgical treatment of transgender children or adolescents.
There was treatment by Dr. John Money (since completely discredited) done with regard to intersex, genitally ambiguous and surgically mutilated infants, however those conditions are unrelated to transgender identity in children. Any suggestion otherwise by either Paul McHugh or the Catholic Medical Association is, to put it generously, a stretch.
The continued assumption by organizations like the Catholic Medical Association, Exodus International and NARTH, as well as individuals like Kenneth Zucker and Paul McHugh that gender non-conforming and transgender children are confused, distressed or 'disordered' as a result of their gender identity belies an arrogance that only does further damage to these amazing children and their families.
Their failure to recognize that the stress, unhappiness and too often, suicidal ideation these children and youth experience comes as a consequence of the judgments, stereotypes, fundamentalist religious persecution, indifference and ignorance of these organizations and individuals is not only appalling, it dances precipitously near the fringes of child abuse.
The Philadelphia Catholic Medical Association should ask forgiveness for their ethical, moral and medical sins against these children, youth and their families.