In December 2017 there was given a TEDx talk in Truro, Cornwall, by Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, an organisation set up to advise and support parents of gender nonconforming children.
I seldom cover TED talks, because the actual process of speaking is made fairly uniform and therefore gives me little to cause my rhetor hat to be donned. However I chose to explore this one as there is another speech giving a contrary view; and we will look at it in the post that follows this.
Thirty six years ago my elder son, likewise aged four, came home from nursery school one day and startled his mother and me with the declaration that he now knew the difference between boys and girls. We gulped gently and asked him to explain. He announced –
Girls cry and boys don’t.
A four-year-old boy barely knows what girls are, other than that they get treated differently, get dressed differently, and play with different toys. Unless he has a sister he probably won’t know the physical difference, and even then won’t care. If any four-year-old boy would rather fancy being treated as they do that other sort, have longer hair like them, wear those softer, freer, more fluid clothes, and play more gently, so what? Plenty of girls play football, even rugby, or climb trees. Our world is astonishingly rigid in its adherence to certain gender stereotypes and interpretation of non-conformity.
It’s not our fault: we were brought up from the cradle in these rigid conventions, and that conditioning goes very deep. It’s probably high time we dismantled much of it; but the current fashion for gender-nonsense, far from dismantling, actually reinforces the stereotype because its default interpretation of simple preference seems to be dysphoria. “If he wants to wear a skirt, he must want to be a girl” – why? He may be too young to have yet been conditioned, and may grow up to be a prop-forward. Convention aside, what is inherently female about a skirt? What is inherently male about climbing trees? I have no doubt that genuine gender dysphoria exists, but the way a whole industry is growing around it, must surely give us pause.
This speech tells a very moving and heartwarming story about a mother and child, and may be true in every detail. It may – in every detail – have happened to Susie and Jackie Green, or she may have cherry-picked some bits from others’ true stories with which to embellish it – as CEO of Mermaids she certainly has access to material.
[If that is thought to be an accusation of scurrilous behaviour, I would point out that there is noble precedent. We are in the season of celebrating the story of Christ’s nativity, the details of which we have cherry-picked and cobbled together from multiple sources. Nowhere in the Bible is there a star over a stable. St Matthew’s Gospel has the star, etc, St Luke has the manger, etc. Just about the only overlap detail is Bethlehem as the venue. Back to Susie Green …]
I get slightly concerned when Green supports gender realignment with statistics about the terrible rate of suicide among trans people, but fails to tell us how much of that happens after treatment. That is the sort of counter-information to be found in a blog called 4thWaveNow, which is far more knowledgeable and informative on the subject than I.
Nevertheless, misguided or not, she makes a good case in this speech. Whatever our views, those conventions are there and will cause the sort of adverse reaction from some people who were conditioned like the rest of us and don’t understand. It is therefore important that an organisation like Mermaids exists among parents trying to cope with a situation in their children that is at best confusing and at worst life-threatening.
In my next posting we will examine the opposing argument.