In one of my recent links posts on my own blog, I linked to an article by Helen at Bird Of Paradox where she explored the possibility of trans-friendly books for children (which she kindly allowed me to cross post here at this very blog).
A comment from Margie questioning the benefit/risk of the idea:
Don’t you think offering “trans-friendly” books to CHILDREN is a bit like offering pro-plastic-surgery books, or pro-limb-lengthening-surgery books, or gastric-bypass-friendly books to kids? I mean we’re talking about major pharmaceutical dependence, the long-term consequences of which aren’t yet known, and major surgical intervention against what is in actuality healthy flesh. Are none of these trans-advocates concerned at all about children being indoctrinated and influenced to do themselves bodily harm, when they might under less woman-hating circumstances simply be lesbian women or women who otherwise do not adhere to societal gender roles in style or behavior?
My response to this is, I admit, straight from my head as I’m not an expert on transsexuality or transgenderism. However I’d like to invite readers to give their own reasons why they agree/disagree with Margie, because this is an interesting opinion and I think the dialogue could be important.
Firstly, a child who reads a book containing a trans person and then decides/realises he or she is trans, is not going to immediately be put on hormonal treatment or given surgery. The only transitioning options available to children, as far as I know, are social and ‘appearance’ based i.e. the option to use the other pronoun, go by a different name, wear different clothes and live in their desired gender.
Secondly, children’s books containing say, lesbian couples, aren’t designed to turn children gay. To imply that children will be ‘indoctrinated’ wanders dangerously close to the “I don’t want my kids to have books containing gay characters because they turn children gay/are part of the ‘Gay Agenda’ etc.” line of thinking, which is clearly sensationalist and untrue.
As a corollary to the second point, we advocate books containing lesbian/gay/bisexual characters as a method not of turning children gay but to encourage tolerance and to show children from minority families “people like us”. A child with lesbian parents may well feel validated by seeing a character in a children’s book with two mums. Likewise, it may reduce the likelihood of her being bullied for her family situation, because it is more normalised. In turn, it may help raise children into more accepting adults because they haven’t grown up seeing non-heterosexuality as ‘different’ or ‘other’. Added to all that, it helps children who are troubled by their own sexuality to realise that non-heterosexuality is valid and acceptable.
Books containing trans characters would have the same benefits – not to turn children trans but to give validation to children of trans people, reduce bullying as a result of other kids seeing trans parents as ‘other’, therefore raising more accepting adults, and helping children who are already having gender issues to resolve some of the feelings of ‘weirdness’ and despair by showing them people just like them.
Thirdly, the last paragraph of the comment mentions that trans people “might under less woman-hating circumstances simply be lesbian women or women who otherwise do not adhere to societal gender roles in style or behavior?” This appears to relate to FTM trans people but doesn’t address what might under less woman-hating circumstances become of MTF trans people? Does this comment mean that it doesn’t matter if we turn boys trans, only girls? Or is there something deeper at work here?
So there’s my (admittedly basic) take on this. Readers, I’d love your input because I’m sure there are far more articulate arguments for both sides of the coin. Over to you.