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By Willow (willowashmaple.xyz)

Spinning false narratives

July 3, 2024

Maybe I really need to cut down on the almost-now-subconscious habit of checking Instagram too often. There was a time when Instagram was about beautiful pictures without words. Now the news media, commentators, pundits, and activists have moved in and turned it into a Twitter with pictures (even though there is Threads that serves this very purpose).

This morning my Instagram feed had several posts pushing a spurious, alarmist narrative that the Biden administration had "caved" to "far-right fascists" because it recently issued a statement expressing an opposition to sex-reassignment surgery for minors -- something even WPATH has never advocated.

I think this was in response to a leaked story last week that a high-ranking CDC official allegedly pressured WPATH to drop the minimum age requirement for SRS. That story quickly was picked up by the right-wing media.

If you look at social media, you might even think this was a sign that Joe Biden suddenly joined Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott in the MAGA war on the trans community. Some are even claiming that this portends a nationwide ban on trans people's existence.

And this is happening conveniently at the time when the mainstream news and pundits are sowing seeds of doubt on the future of the Joe Biden presidency (due to the last debate performance and the growing progressive discontent on his handling of Gaza). I'm probably not the only one who smells something, maybe either the GOP operatives or Russia is behind this psyop to weaken the Democratic Party to help Donald Trump? The Gaza and trans issues both mobilize young, progressive voters. Getting them jaded now will certainly boost Donald Trump's prospects for the White House.

Sometimes the Left is just as bad as the Right when it comes to lack of critical thinking and media literacy.

I believe it should not even be a controversy about this.

For one, I do feel that the WPATH Standards of Care (SOC) badly needs reform. In its past move toward depathologization and inclusion, SOC has been too watered down and the safeguards intended to protect patients have all but disappeared. While for adults, WPATH opened up multiple paths to supporting diversified gender expressions and identities, it inexplicably shifted its promotion of medicalization toward youth, without sufficient evidence based on longitudinal research.

We live in a generation in which gender nonconformity is accepted like never before in modern Western history. Despite recent political backlash, the United States is far more accepting of trans people than most of the world. Indeed, many such people from Latin America, Africa, Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and Asia seek refuge in the U.S. and have done so even during the Trump presidency (2017-2021).

In a number of states, nonbinary legal identity is now possible. Society at large also accepts a broad range of gender expansiveness today, not just limited to the classical idea of transsexuals. All this is the achievement of the tireless works of LGBTQ+ activists spanning half a century. We stand on the shoulders of giants in this regard.

Yet, medical care must be evidence-based, and patient safety and quality of life ought to be a priority. Gender-affirming care is no different. SRS is no minor cosmetic procedure. It has an inherent risk of complications and comes with a very long recovery time. The impact of the procedure will be felt even decades later.

In the past, many trans people sought SRS just so that they could have a semblance of a normal life without being bothered by others. Those were the days when SRS was a requirement for changing any official document (and still is in many countries). They had to go through a strictly regimented, multi-year pathway culminating in SRS just to be accepted as somewhat normal human beings by society.

Today, things are vastly different. "Nonbinary" was not an option merely a decade ago, but now I find so many people around me who are some form of nonbinary, and they can obtain an ID that has an "X" gender marker with relative ease if they so desire. They can also switch from M to F or F to M with a simple do-it-yourself form filed with a court (note: in the State of Oregon).

Without trivializing the realities of severe, debilitating sex dysmorphia among some trans -- and yes, nonbinary also -- people, other trans and nonbinary people simply do not need much more than an affirmation and social transition. If queer dating apps are any indication, a lot of these people do not suffer from sex dysmorphia even if they are dysphoric about gender. So why pressure them when they are still figuring out what they want in life?

If there's anything, either reclassifying all trans people as nonbinary (with an ultimate vision of reclassifying cisgender people as nonbinary as well, abolishing the very concept of gender itself) or at the very least, requiring that one can only transition from M or F to nonbinary as an intermediate step before transitioning to the opposite gender, would benefit all gender-expansive individuals. What wouldn't, is to falsely market SRS as a panacea and "only" path forward -- a rather outdated and regressive idea for trans adults now but for some reason, that's what's happening with youth.

None of what I just wrote is far-right, fascist, transphobic, or TERF. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I dream of a world where sex, as a biological accident and one physical characteristic among hundreds of others, no longer is ascribed special meanings by society. After all, we do not segregate people by eye color or make a huge social construct out of it (interestingly, a few decades ago there was a social experiment in which a classroom full of elementary school kids were told by their teacher that kids with blue eyes are smarter than those with brown eyes -- and soon later their academic performance was affected by this!). Sure we all will still have unique medical needs and we will continue to be attracted to a specific kind of people, but gender -- the cornerstone of patriarchal domination -- would lose its oppressive powers.

Also: I do not oppose other forms of gender-affirming care for minors, including some forms of puberty-delaying and HRT medications for teens (although they call for better research) and extensive mental health services for kids of all ages. But SRS should be, as it was intended in the older versions of the WPATH (HBIGDA) SOC, the "last resort" escalation only after all other modalities of gender-affirming care failed to alleviate one's gender dysphoria. It should not be something that is promoted willy-nilly like candies.

(Background) WH statement on gender-affirming surgery for minors


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