Heather Brunskell-Evans book “Transgender Body Politics’ is an excellent critique of the current trans-activist movement and its threat to, not only the safety and well-being of women, but to the human rights of women and children. The author explores the medical harms being done to children in the name of trans politics, and how this is being promoted by powerful, rich men to intrude on women’s rights and has been so influential in the political and legal system. She also addresses how the medical and pharmaceutical industry is benefiting by this movement.
Her analysis leads her to conclude that the transgender movement is in fact a men’s rights movement, with the intent of invading not only women-only spaces, but as a silencing of women’s voices and colonising and erasing our bodies, agency and autonomy.
In this blog I will focus on Heather Brunskell-Evans concerns about the physical and emotional harms done to young people, particularly girls -two-thirds of referrals are female (p.54) – by the transition process.
Gender Identity Development Services have been established in most Western countries, including North America, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
“it is a matter of grave concern for the safeguarding and protection of children (girls and boys) that the GIDS refers young people for medical intervention, despite the lack of evidence to support its stance, and that much of the data that exists points to the physical harms of the treatment and fails to support claims that medical transition is psychologically beneficial” p.46
Puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.
Some of the concerns about these drugs that Heather Brunskell-Evans raises include:
- Such drugs are unlicensed and are being used without adequate trials, or without recognising the dangers to children’s bodies or the long-term impacts.
- These drugs produce significant risks to fertility, brain development, cardiovascular and bone health and impeding development of sexual functioning,
“…including for some never developing the capacity for orgasm, or experiencing pain in the uterus at the point of orgasm. One of the least discussed harms is the physical pain of orgasming that occurs after taking testosterone, and the number of women who eventually end up having to have hysterectomies and oophorectomies (removal of ovaries)” p. 47
Meghan Murphy in a recent article highlights the dangers of transition for children.
“Over 90% of children who start on puberty blockers go on to take cross-sex hormones, eventually getting surgeries like mastectomies. But the blockers themselves can also have significant side effects, as Bell’s lawyer argued in court, including loss of fertility and sexual function, as well as decreased bone density. The impact on brain development is not yet fully known, but we do know that the surge of sex hormones at puberty triggers important changes in the adolescent brain, connected to cognitive development. Puberty is not only about developing breasts or body hair, it is a necessary part of developing into a healthy adult in many other ways.”
What it means to be a teenage girl in patriarchy.
Being a girl in this patriarchal world is often difficult, confusing and traumatic. This occurs in our highly sexualised and sexist world –as their young bodies develop breasts, they become targets of the male gaze, the object of male desire, and victims of male sexual predation.
There are strong societal pressures on young pubescent girls to fit with the idealized standards of femininity and girls are often exposed to sexual and judgemental observations if they do not perform femininity required by patriarchy. This can lead them to self-doubt and a hatred for their own bodies which can lead to self-harm – the ultimate being to cut off their breasts.
Rather than challenging the hierarchical, patriarchal society which creates self-doubt, makes young women vulnerable to sexual predation and condemnation, transition procedures affirms and compounds her distress about her female body.
“In ignoring the painful embodied experiences of girls which arise out of living in a highly sexualised and sexist culture, the affirmative model – and the possibilities it opens for medical intervention – leaves the normative cultural and psycho-social issues that bear down on girls largely intact and renders their bodies available for violation” (p. 57)
Lesbians are particular vulnerable to the transgender movement. Young women struggling with their sexual preferences in a world where homophobia is still widespread, are particularly perceptible to feelings of loneliness and isolation, particularly if there are no strong lesbian communities available to her. In today’s world it is much more acceptable to be trans than it is to be lesbian.
Young autistic women who feeling weird and unable to fit in, who struggle socially and outside of the norm can also be drawn into the trans trap.
The trans affirmative movement.
There is a failure in the GiIDs framework to adequately examine the psychological path that young people have taken to reach the point of seeking the possibility of transition. Past traumatic experiences, such as child sexual abuse, often result in feelings of anxiety and body dysphoria.
The author cites a report by David Bell (2018):
“He cites the high percentage of children suffering gender dysphoria who also suffer from other complex problems left unaddressed, such as trauma, autism, a history of sexual abuse, eating disorders and so on. The letter says some children “…take up a trans identity as a solution to multiple problems such as historic child abuse in the family, bereavement … homophobia and a very significant incidence of autism spectrum disorder after being coached online.” (p.61-2)
GIDS programmes use what is called the affirmative approach to the transitioning process. Their stance on what they term as ‘conversion” therapy is that any attempt to develop an understanding with the young person about their motivation to transition is deemed as unacceptable and likened to homosexual conversion therapy. So, any underlying psychological problems, any traumatic life experiences such as child sexual abuse, any exploration of these issues in a therapeutic setting, are deemed as undermining her claim to be a boy, and is understood as a violation of her human rights. (p. 41)
Kieran Bell is a young woman that the author talks about in the book. Kieran went through trans conversion as a teenager, but later decided to detransition. She is now taking legal action against the Tavistock and Portman NHS trust, which operates gender identity clinics in Britain.
Meghan Murphy cites Lisa Marchiano, a Jungian analyst in the US, explaining that:
“… the young female detransitioners she sees in her practice were all “suffering from complex social and mental health issues” at the time they decided to transition, and that “transition often not only failed to address these issues, but at times exacerbated them or added new issues”. Girls struggling with puberty, mental health issues, sexual identity, bullying, trauma, eating disorders, or gender roles will not be helped by testosterone and surgery. The real risk is that, with no caution, these practices will ruin their lives.”
In many Western countries, legislation is being proposed that would criminalise “conversion therapy” Meghan Murphy talks of this happening in Canada.
“Bill C-6 proposes to criminalise those who profit from or advertise “conversion therapy”, which would include therapists and medical practitioners who do not practice the “affirmative model” — which means confirming “trans identity” unquestioningly. Choosing not to encourage a child to transition; suggesting a teen wait, and see if the “gender dysphoria” sticks a few years before beginning the process of transitioning; and challenging the concept of “gender identity” itself would potentially set a therapist or medical practitioner up for criminal sanctions.”
Heather Brunskell-Evans explores how this movement has impacted on professional psychotherapy institutions in the UK.
“It is now all psychological associations – professional bodies that register and govern practicing psychologists – that are compelled to comply with the fiction that trans identity, unlike all other identities, has no psychological basis or components.” P. 16
The author emphasises the travesty of allowing children to choose the path of transition, to be considered able to give consent to such procedures, given their lack of maturity, and their difficulty in understanding the life-long impact of this decision.
“… a child will have little or no cognisance of a future in which she will become a medical patient for life, may come to regret lost sexuality and fertility (including for example, the lack of breasts, ovaries and uterus), and the lack of organs for sexual pleasure.” (p 67)
Sheila Jeffreys (2014) has also written about the devastating effects of the transition movement and is cited by the author:
“Sheila Jeffreys (2014) describes the effects of the drug treatment and sexual surgeries as breaches of girls’ and young women’s reproductive rights, as well as causing harm to their bodily integrity and future health.”
Janice Raymond is also cited as someone who has raised concerns about this phenomenon:
“History testifies to the brutal control of female flesh through foot binding, clitoridectomy and infibulation (the latter are still practiced within some cultures), hysterectomies, radical mastectomies, oophorectomies etc to restore patriarchal social order (Raymond, 1980, p. xvi)” P. 77
“Raymond suggests that for a woman to castrate herself through surgery in order to become male is ‘the ultimate weapons in the hands of the boys’ (1980, p. xxv)” p. 77