Jesse Singal on schools that help kids change their gender identity without notifying the parents

January 23, 2023 • 1:00 pm

In this morning’s Hili dialogue I mentioned a NYT article recounting the case of a biological girl, 15, whose school had been facilitating her gender change by letting her use the boys’ bathroom as well as a male name and pronoun. The kicker was that the parents weren’t informed, and found out this only about by accident. They had a fit, but the school told them that they were simply obeying state regulations, which I guess is true. (The child hadn’t yet had any medical intervention.)

This raises a sticky ethical question: should schools do this (or even go further), or should they report it to parents? My own view was that I thought state regulations should be obeyed (and questioned), but NO medical intervention should be promoted by schools without telling the parents. That is the very least that must be done.

But in his article on his substack site “Singal-Minded” (good name!), Jesse Singal shows his usual thoughtfulness about transsexual issues, and raises a point I hadn’t thought of. And that is that a substantial number of children with gender dysphoria have psychological problems that need to be addressed at the very time when schools are “helping” a child transition. The child may be on the autism spectrum, or have a form of gender dysphoria that might resolve into homosexuality rather than full sexual transition, or simply be in mental distress and seeking gender/sex change as a possible cure.  Because these issues are very common, they need to be addressed by professionals (i.e., therapists and doctors), for I think we all agree that therapy must precede any medical intervention that involves giving puberty blockers, hormones, or surgery to young people. (Once they’re over a certain age, say 18, I guess the teenager can make their own decision.) In general, then, Singal thinks that at some point the school has to tell the parents.

Click below to read his piece:

Now in some situations schools should NOT “rat a kid out” to their parents. Here are a few:

There are clearly some situations where school should be a safe haven for kids who are experimenting with different ideas or ways of expressing themselves, and where teachers should let them do so without the risk of parental interference. If a male student from a conservative religious household were, within the security of his school walls, dressing in a feminine manner, it would be quite inappropriate for a teacher to rat him out to his parents — for many of the same reasons it would be inappropriate for a student from a conservative religious household to be ratted out for reading Carl Sagan’s and Bertrand Russell’s arguments against Christianity in the school library. Minors do not have full autonomy, and adult supervision and/or permission are required in a host of different settings. But surely they should have some right to pursue their own path without their parents hovering over them every step of the way, even if reasonable people might differ on the specifics, and even if age clearly should be factored in (a 12-year-old and a 6-year-old are both minors, but no one would argue they should be granted exactly the same amount of autonomy).

But as Singal notes, changing one’s sexual identity is very different from examining abstract ideas:

But adopting a whole new identity, as a different gender under a different name, is a bigger deal than experimenting with fashion or atheism. For one thing, if a decision to socially transition that is kept from parents sticks, a young, developing person will then spend months, or maybe even years, living one identity at school and another among their family. That just can’t be psychologically healthy. It fosters distrust between students and parents, and it isn’t sustainable because the parents are inevitably going to find out (if schools think they can keep it a secret in the long term, that’s ridiculous).

For another thing, the teachers and school administrators participating in this agreement might lack certain basic information about the context surrounding the kid’s declaration that he or she is trans — information that could be vital for determining whether a swift social transition is appropriate.

And that basic information is psychological: what exactly is the kid going through. Is it confusion, homosexuality, or a form of mental illness that, they think, can be resolved with a gender or sex change? Singal cites the oft-cited World Professional Association of Transgender Healthcare’s (WPATH) Standards of Care, as well as the Cass Review of the Tavistock Clinic, which note that autism issues or other mental health problems very often accompany a kid’s desire to become transgender or transsexual. Both organizations recommend that healthcare professionals/therapists discuss these issues—and the benefits and risks of transitioning—with a gender dysphoric child.

Singal recommends that this also be done even for purely social transitioning:

In short, the decision even just to socially transition a kid like Jon is potentially fraught and complicated, and in some cases schools might not have all the background necessary to make an informed decision about whether it’s the right move. Jon’s school likely knew about hisautism, but what about his ADHD, his other mental health problems, his shifting identities, and pandemic travails? On what planet is a teacher or school counselor qualified — on the sole basis of a single child’s say-so and in the absence of a fuller picture of who that kid is and what they have experienced — to make this decision?

Finally, there’s one more issue to consider: gender identity and sexual identity are not the same thing, and schools don’t have the ability to separate them and treat children appropriately:

On Twitter, the philosopher and bioethicist Moti Gorin points out that this conversation is plagued by a lack of agreement on very basic concepts, including what it means to be transgender:

The difficulty here is that there is deep conceptual disagreement and confusion about the nature of the phenomenon. Is it like sexual orientation, or a mental health/medical issue, or a choice about membership in a subculture, etc? Schools vs parents cannot be resolved if there isn’t some agreement about how to conceive of what these kids are doing. And sadly the state of the discussion among those who should be figuring this stuff out is very poor.

. . .Setting aside the many philosophical problems with the concept of gender identity as the term is used at present, all these fuzzy definitions make the situation in schools rather complicated. If a kid doesn’t have diagnosable gender dysphoria that needs to be alleviated, why would a school take it upon themselves to facilitate a social transition, especially one that is kept a secret from their parents? If a kid does have diagnosable gender dysphoria that needs to be alleviated, they might be a good candidate for social transition, but in this case how can you hide from parents that their kid has a mental health condition — one correlated with various negative mental health outcomes? Plus, how can you make sure the kid gets the comprehensive assessment that should precede a decision to socially transitionincluding a formal diagnosis of GD, if their parentsdon’t even know they feel this way?

It appears that from many schools’ perspectives, the answer to all these questions is  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. At this point, as Gorin notes, the way we talk about sex, gender, and gender identity is so confused that it’s hard even to know where to begin.

His conclusion:

In much the same way the discourse over sex and gender is plagued by philosophical incoherence, it’s also plagued by the endless invocation of this comparison. Gender identity and sexual orientation are very different things, and they require different approaches. If coming out as gay required name and pronoun changes, and sometimes was the first step on a short path to permanent medical procedures for which the available evidence is lacking, and if experts believed that it was harder to reliably “diagnose” kids as gay if they had autism or other mental health problems or recent trauma or disruptions to their life… well, in this hypothetical universe, yes, you absolutely would need to loop parents into the process of a kid coming out as gay, at least as a general rule. But in the universe we actually inhabit, if a kid is gay, or thinks he’s gay, you don’t have to do anything. There’s no psychosocial intervention, so there’s no justification for notifying parents.

Being trans is different. Especially for younger kids, or even older ones with mental health and other problems that might lead them to be a bit developmentally stalled, coming out is a process that is going to require parents’ input and approval, at least if it’s going to go smoothly. That doesn’t mean parents should be automatically informed about a kid’s gender questions or statements as soon as they crop up — like I said, I can imagine lots of situations where some degree of discretion is warranted, and there’s obviously no reason for teachers to “report” students merely for gender nonconforming behavior.

It does mean we probably need to land somewhere between “Parents should be instantly notified whenever a young kid says they might be trans” and “Young minor kids get to unilaterally determine every aspect of their social transition, including whether their parents are informed at all.” But facile comparisons won’t help us work through these issues.

That seems sensible.  I suppose where it’s okay for the school keep gender identity secret from parents might be in using new pronouns and names, but not with respect to other stuff like bathroom or locker room use. And ANYTHING beyond that has to involve the parents.  For in all these cases therapy is going to have to be used at some point, and perhaps medical advice tendered as well.  I don’t think anybody would disagree that when professional advice is needed, as it always must be, the desire of underage children to change their gender should be brought to the attention of their parents.

Or do you feel that there is no case when the school shouldn’t tell parents? If you have kids, you may be stricter about this than I or Singal are, for I understand the desire of parents to have a part in such an important decision. Leave your comments below.

38 thoughts on “Jesse Singal on schools that help kids change their gender identity without notifying the parents

  1. This is complicated. I’m a long-time educator, and I’ve known my share of parents who are dangerous to their kids for a lot of reason. I am also a life long progressive who is very skeptical about gender ideology (there are way more of us than a lot of people know.) I do think that unless there is evidence that parents are dangerous to a non-conforming kid, they need to know what is going on. At the same time, the practice called “gender affirming care” is being questioned in a lot of places that were once gung- ho for it ( a number of health agencies in Europe, for example.) There is an alternative called watchful waiting where counselors and teachers listen to kids, but encourage them to explore other emotional issues they have and to look at a range of ways of dealing with them. Before anyone claims this is conversion therapy, it is not – it has nothing in common with that religious practice. I hope people will be thoughtful, but if I am flamed, I’ll ignore it.

    1. No flaming from me, Paul. Watchful waiting might be considered conversion therapy in Canada under a most unwise, ideologically crafted law passed in 2021. We won’t know for sure until a physician or therapist advises watchful waiting instead of the immediate hormone treatment demanded by the child or parent and is charged with a criminal offense.

      1. The “Charter Statement” says this about Bill C-4 (banning conversion therapy):

        Interventions that support an individual’s exploration and development of their own identity would not be prohibited, provided that they are not based on an assumption that a particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is to be preferred over another.

        That does leave open a window for therapy to help the child work through their identity, provided it isn’t to “convince Clara she’s a girl.”

        But Leslie might be right that the concept of “watchful waiting” could end up in the courts, hinging on whether or not non-intervention counts as an intervention under the Act.

        1. And if Clara really is a girl, because she has ovaries that (will) make large immotile gametes, what then?

          “In the courts” means in this case a charge under the Criminal Code of Canada which carries a prison term, not merely a lawsuit or a professional discipline hearing. I don’t think there will be much watchful waiting prescribed if it annoys a person who knows she’s a boy and why are you not prescribing the testosterone that I want, Doctor?

          1. And if Clara really is a girl, because she has ovaries that (will) make large immotile gametes, what then?

            That’s what I meant. Clara wants to become Charles, and her parents take her to a therapist and ask her to convince Clara that she’s not a boy. That would, per the charter statement, be “conversion therapy.” Minus that instruction, and so long as the therapist did not guide Clara one way or another, it would not.

            “In the courts” means in this case a charge under the Criminal Code of Canada which carries a prison term, not merely a lawsuit or a professional discipline hearing.

            Yes, I know that. And the court would decide in that criminal hearing if “watchful waiting” — i.e. the lack of an intervention — counted as an “intervention.” I have little doubt that this will end up in the Supreme Court eventually.

            1. But Clara is not a boy. She’s a girl. Eventually she has to come to terms with that, one hopes before she has her breasts cut off and hormones masculinize her voice and render her unable to bear a child, much less father one and chest-feed it. Under the law, the therapist who has to salvage her when she’s 25 will only then be able to commiserate with her, “Yes, I’m sorry it’s only now that you realize you aren’t a man. Now I can help you.”

              You don’t know what would and what would not lead to a charge of conversion therapy, Dean. Anyone can be charged with anything. The Crown must prosecute if it’s in the public interest and there is reasonable likelihood of conviction. (Defense lawyer Marie Heinen writes in her memoir how devastated her basically law-abiding clients are when they realize just how much trouble they are in when the police charge them with a criminal offense. “But there must be some mistake — they can’t really try me for that can they? What if I explained the situation to them?”)

              Doctors don’t want to be charged with criminal offenses. The safest path is to prescribe whatever therapy Clara and her valorizers want. If this isn’t what the parents want, they will complain to the regulating College and the doctor will be in a classic double bind. The doctor has a better chance of winning against the College because he can point to the criminal law against conversion therapy to cover his butt.

              Years from now, these damaged kids will likely sue the doctors who mutilated them instead of taking the legally riskier watchful-waiting path. The doubting doctors will leave this work altogether and let the enthusiasts treat these kids.

              Anyway, that’s probably enough of a rant for me. I’m not in this line of work, fortunately.

    2. Exactly. It’s complicated. Which is why the trans activists’ urge to shout down everyone who wrestles with the issue in anything but a “100% gender affirming” way is so harmful.

      In the NYT article, self-professed liberals were distressed that they had to throw their lot in with right wing culture warriors. They have to do that because well-meaning liberals don’t want to be labeled transphobes, so they either parrot the ideology or stay quiet. The RW culture warriors aren’t worried about being shouted down — they get off on it — so they are the only path to pushing back.

  2. Children keeping what an adult have said or done from their parents, and being encouraged to do so by that adult, is usually a major safeguarding red flag.

  3. I suppose where it’s okay for the school keep gender identity secret from parents might be in using new pronouns …

    I (for one) would not go along with changed pronouns lightly, and yes I would involve parents in that. For one thing, there is evidence that this sort of social transition can cause teenage feelings of gender dysphoria to persist, when otherwise they would dissipate over time. Thus social transition (such as accepting changed pronouns) is not a neutral act (I think the Cass report says this).

    Anyhow, when was it decided that pronouns refer to “gender” or “gender identity” rather than to biological sex, and who decided this? And do the rest of us get a say?

  4. The Interim Report of the Cass Review says (pp 62-3):

    Social transition – this may not be thought of as an intervention or treatment because it is not something that happens within health services. However, it is important to view it as an active intervention because it may have significant effects on the child or young person in terms of their psychological functioning. There are different views on the benefits versus the harms of early social transition. Whatever position one takes, it is important to acknowledge that it is not a neutral act and better information is needed about outcomes.

    The Interim Report (published in March 2022) is an independent and balanced consideration of the evidence base for dealing with transgender issues and is a useful read: https://cass.independent-review.uk/interim-report/

    It was instrumental in the imminent closure of the Tavistock Clinic’s Gender and Identity Services (GIDS) unit.

    I believe that the final report is due later this year.

    1. “Social transition [is] an active intervention because it may have significant effects on the child.”

      Social transition also matters a lot because it seems to facilitate later medical transition. In this study (10.1542/peds.2021-056082) about two-thirds of young kids (age ~6) who socially transitioned were on puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones at the end of the study ~5 years later. Maybe that’s a good thing in the tiny proportion of kids who suffer genuine gender dysphoria, but it seems like a disaster for the 80-95% who are are not trans (whatever that means) and are merely gay, lesbian, autistic, or depressed and who would have desisted without social transition (https://segm.org/early-social-gender-transition-persistence).

      1. Absolutely. It’s only after puberty that the issues get resolved, in the majority of cases through becoming reconciled with their biological sex (and sexual orientation).

  5. The decision of whether schools should tell parents if a child wishes to socially transition to being considered the opposite sex is indeed hampered by the unique controversy surrounding the entire concept of “being transgender.” Some parents don’t believe in it. That’s because the existence and nature of Gender Identity is still a live controversy.

    When children realize that they’re gay, there’s little to no real controversy on what that means. Humans evolved to experience sexual and romantic attraction. Right. Understandable and accepted, we’re familiar with this. If someone experiences sexual and romantic attraction to others of the same sex, that same-sex attraction is called “homosexuality” or being gay. Also understandable and accepted as a description. There are common behaviors which can verify it, also well understood. A kiss will do. Parents who object either have moral concerns, or think it’s a phase. They’re not wondering what it is.

    Look though at what I think is the clearest definition in the article: “Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else.” What is an “internal sense of being male?” Can that be described? Is it the same for all males? Is it unaffected by social learning or messages about manliness or masculinity? Can it be objectively verified without relying on fallible human feelings about feelings? Even before we get into the idea of a mismatch between sex and gender identity, there’s vagueness. And where there’s this kind of vagueness, there’s controversy.

    Parents don’t just question whether their particular child is transgender. They can question the entire framework itself. This is different from homosexuality, and another reason the two shouldn’t be lumped together.

  6. I’m all for people talking about this in school regardless of anything. I’ve found the best way with this subject is keep it casual.

  7. When adults disagree on what is or is not appropriate for a child, especially on contentious or invented-the-day-before-yesterday issues (reading material, behavior, what have you), then I would keep parents informed and default to their judgment until one establishes through legal means that a particular parent is unfit to exercise such judgment.

    To put it more bluntly: they are my children, not yours (whoever you might be), and I wonder with what arrogance you assume that you love them, know them, and have their best interests more in mind than I do?

    I say all this as a parent who made different decisions than did my own parents—and I support them in having made those decisions even when I think they may have acted ignorantly and made mistakes. (And which of us as parents haven’t?) And to those teachers who disagree: my children are your students for a very limited time. They are my family forever.

    1. If your children don’t feel comfortable sharing their identity with you maybe you should reflect on why that might be instead of lashing out at the people they do trust. Just a thought.

      1. If you find yourself calling thoughtful commenters child abusers on the internet, maybe you should reflect on your internet usage. Just a thought.

        1. I might be wrong, but I don’t think Tim’s “you” was targeted directly at Doug, nor do I think it implies an accusation of abuse. I read it as a more generic “you,” directed towards parents whose children are socially transitioning in secret. There could be a number of reasons that the child would keep that secret from their parents, not necessarily being fear of emotional or physical abuse. It might just be the child doesn’t feel comfortable talking to their parents because they don’t have a relationship in which that kind of conversation feels welcome.

        2. Thanks Dean. Yes, maybe. Doug was talking about his own children, and Tim referred to “your children”, seems pretty direct, but I admit I’m not a mind reader.

          The context of both the NYT article and Singal’s substack was the certainty among some teachers that trans kids need protection from abusive non-affirming parents. That’s the discourse (and the condescending twitter style) Tim seems to be coming from. Maybe Tim will comment.

          Agreed parents and teens can have blind spots in their relationships. I have them with my own teens. But the solution is not for teachers or counsellors to fill the blind spot themselves, but to contact the parents and say “You need to discuss gender [and mental health and sexuality and whatever else] with your child.”

          1. A double “Yes” to that last paragraph. Teachers should serve a supporting role to the parent-child relationship to the degree they get involved at all. The fact that many parents are disengaged does not grant license to usurp the parenting roles of those who are engaged and with which one disagrees.

      2. Trust doesn’t necessarily indicate trustworthiness, though. A cult’s typical MO is to engender feelings of trust in the cult and distrust in a person’s family and friends. A con man works by gaining the trust of his victims. And children are very impressionable.

        Reportedly, trans “support” groups on social media often push children to transition and distrust their parents. Some school counsellors plant the seed of doubt about gender identity themselves. “Are you sure you’re really a boy? It’s possible that you’re a girl. Have you ever felt like you want to play with the other girls?”

        One commenter here on WEIT has a trans child. He notes that his child only began expressing a desire to transition after moving to a new school, and not only that child but a subset of his peers too, who all moved together to the same school. Counsellors at that school are assigned alphabetically based on the child’s name, and curiously all the students he could find that suddenly began feeling trans all have the same counsellor. Coincidence?

        Some parents are bad parents, but some activists are actively pushing kids to become trans, and which is the case must be sussed out.

      3. It is an unfortunate fact that many – maybe most – children will “trust”, which here means let themselves be manipulated, by an abusive person with an agenda, rather than their parents.
        This is common knowledge about sexual predators, and also – in totalitarian societies – about the people charged with indoctrinating children and separating them emotionally, culturally and sometimes physically from their families.

  8. I see no issues with calling a student by the name or pronoun they prefer, and don’t see that as anything to bring up with the parents of the student has indicated that they face hostility at home for such things. Schools are not bussing kids to clinics to get hormone blockers and they’re not dropping them off at hospitals for gender reassignment surgeries. This is a tempest in a teapot as far as I am concerned. Would you out a student who was gay to their parents? Would you out them as atheists? Or liberals? Think of how conservative Christian parents would react to any of those things. Again, it’s a change in name, pronoun, and bathroom, not genitalia! The only time I feel there needs to be any contact is if the student has mental health issues associated with the transition, but then those are possibly due to the way parents have treated the child if they have any inkling about the child’s choice. That, however, needs a great deal of tact and the student will need a great deal of support to protect them from the parents while assuring they get proper help, meaning not shipped off to conversion therapy or some vile Christian reform school/camp. But I am clearly in the minority here.

    1. You raise good points for well-adjusted kids, Christopher. However….

      . . .if the student has mental health issues associated with the transition, but then those are possibly due to the way parents have treated the child if they have any inkling about the child’s choice.

      is way off base. I think you are arguing too glibly from parallels with homosexuality.
      Gender dysphoria in adolescents is strongly associated with mental health problems of anxiety and depression in the same rubric as cutting, eating disorders, and illicit drug dependence. It would, according to my reading, be extremely unusual that a kid would exhibit trans identification without these problems already being manifest. It is most unfair to blame the parents for the mental health symptoms because the parents were insufficiently supportive of the child’s gender “choice” — choice?? it’s supposed to be an inevitable consequence of the child discovering its true self, correcting the error of assignment of sex at birth, isn’t it?

      So to hide these gender dysphoric symptoms from parents who are already, usually, struggling to help a child with mental health challenges interferes with their parental rights and obligations to know what else is happening to their child. This is not at all the same as ratting out a kid who is discovering his/her sexuality by exploring coming out. It’s also not the same as benign neglect of well-coping kids for whom gender fluidity is something cool because many of their friends are exploring it too, which I think is what you were trying to say in your first sentences.

      In contradistinction to homosexuality, the threat to gender questioning kids is that they will be kidnapped into the trans cult by enablers in the education system, not that their parents will send them off to conversion camp.

    2. Christopher, you are in the minority here because the other people here are better informed than you are. Please, read comments numbered 4 by JezGrove and Mike above: socially transitioning a child is a medical intervention (and teachers are not medical professionals). Also, suffering from gender dysphoria is not like being gay. In fact the research suggests that most gender dysphoric teens will end up being gay (so no puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgery is necessary for them to be well; their first-line treatment should be psycho therapy to deal with their gender dysphoria). I know that radical transactivists keep claiming this (that their fight is just a prolongation of the struggles of gay people), but that does not make it true. Furthermore the claim that any other mental health problem(s) a gender-dysphoric kid may have is/are likely due to how the parents have treated the kid (because of its gender dysphoria) is false. For instance, a lot of gender dysphoric kids are on the autism spectrum. Do you think autism in children is caused by their parents behavior?
      You seem to have bought the radical transactivists’ narrative hook, line, and sinker: The only reason one could oppose this agenda is because one is transphobic. The vast majority of the people reading and commenting here are liberals and also atheists. So transphobia seems an implausible explanation for their views.

      If you would like to educate yourself about this issue, I recommend:
      Helen Joyce’s book Trans: When ideology meets reality (2021).
      Transgender Kids: Who knows best? BBC2 This World, 2017, 59 mins

      The Swedish investigative journalism series Trans Train (4 parts, 2019-2021, comes with English subtitles)
      part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJGAoNbHYzk
      part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73-mLwWIgwU
      part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3WqLT9NEnU
      part 4: https://www.svtplay.se/video/33358590/uppdrag-granskning/mission-investigate-trans-children-avsnitt-1?id=jp9dBRA
      Jesse Singal also interviewed the Swedish journalist Carolina Jemsby who is behind this documentary tv series:
      A Swedish Investigative Journalist Talks About The Youth Gender Medicine Scandal She Helped Uncover At One Of The World’s Top Hospitals. Jan 26, 2022
      “It’s so important for the healthcare workers in this field to not become activists”
      https://jessesingal.substack.com/p/a-swedish-investigative-journalist

      1. Thanks for the useful information. I’d make a wee suggestion: try to go a bit easier on other commenters than you did in your first sentence. I strive (and sometimes myself fail) for hyper-politeness on the site.

    3. Christopher, I’m not saying you’re totally wrong. But think about this (one of the top-rated comments on that NYT article):

      “If a school has enough concerns about the safety of a student should the family find out about their transgender status, then that means they have fears of child abuse, which means they need to report the concerns to Child Protective Services. They can’t have it both ways. Either the student is not in danger, and the school should inform the family of the student’s request to be called by a different name and/or pronouns, as this is a fairly major event in a child’s life that family should be aware of, or the student is in danger, and schools have mandated reporting rules for suspected abuse.”

    4. Surely though there’s a difference between just using pronouns a kid wants, versus actively hiding this from parents. If a kid says to call them “max” in class I’m going to use max in conversation with parents as well.

      In many of these cases teachers are using one set of pronouns/names with students and reverting to another when talking to parents. This is dishonest and in my view unfair to parents (unless there’s a real possibility of abuse, in which case teachers and school admins are not equipped to handle it and should contact appropriate authorities). It also illustrates how this is different from being gay – as the gender thing is a very public persona not a mere detail about a child’s social life. Unlike those things it has to be actively covered up if it’s to be kept from parents.

  9. I’ll read this later, but Jesse S. (from an interview w/ him on Skeptic) seems like a smart, sane writer.
    D.A.
    NYC (FL)

  10. The hardline position of radical transactivists is: Gender dysphoria is not a mental health condition requiring the intervention of a medical doctor, the same way that being gay isn’t one). Doctors should just affirm a patient’s self-diagnosis and then prescribe pills or surgery. This viewpoint came out clearly in the debate over the revision of the WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) guidelines in 2022. There you had doctors clearly stating that no mental health assessment should be required before kids can be given puberty blockers, etc.
    There are probably quite a number of teachers who also regard gender dysphoria/being transgender as no different than being gay.
    Of course, this is lunacy, especially given that such a large share of gender-dysphoric kids have mental health issues. These kids go online and find some website where they are sold gender transition as cure for their problem(s).
    This is an issue that will hurt the Democrats electorally if they push for teachers being held unaccountable for hiding crucial information from parents. I also don’t see how this will not end up before the Supreme Court.
    Let’s also remember that, in the US, schools of education have low intellectual standards*, that the average SAT score of education school students is the lowest of all college students (see here https://archive.is/Ond0x section “Most competitive majors”) … those are the people who think that they know their students better than the students’ own parents.
    I’m a liberal like Jerry but would vote against Democrats if they push this.

    * Why Are We Still Teaching Reading the Wrong Way? New York Times, Oct 26, 2018
    Teacher preparation programs continue to ignore the sound science behind how people become readers.
    https://archive.vn/MIgPZ
    At a Loss for Words. August 22, 2019
    How a flawed idea is teaching millions of kids to be poor readers
    https://www.apmreports.org/episode/2019/08/22/whats-wrong-how-schools-teach-reading

  11. Obviously, those who have read my posts here understand that this is a subject about which I have strong feelings.
    It is generally implied that the children involved are coming to school for help with their existing gender issues.
    That might sometimes happen, but it is just as likely that the staff had to go to some effort to convince the child that their normal discomfort with puberty is actually a sure sigh that they were born in the wrong body.
    I will also concede that there are occasions when parents pose a clear danger to their kids. However, schools are abusing their discretion on that risk to keep parents from interfering with their plans.
    When your child finally tells you that they have been transitioning at school, and has a new name and pronouns, you are not going to be angry at your kid. I was not. What I felt and still do is deep concern.
    There is also quite a bit of rage, but that is directed at the people who did this to the child.

    On the larger concepts, I am unwilling to concede that I believe that anyone has ever been born in the wrong body. Even if such a phenomenon existed, it would be very unlikely that middle school counselors would have a unique ability to diagnose and treat the condition.
    I grew up with a gay sibling. That this was the case was obvious to all of us before she or I even knew exactly what the word meant.
    Trans kids, in my experience, are normal kids who have been convinced of something that is not true, like joining a cult. They become gay after they transition, which is not really being gay at all. The two things seem to be unrelated.
    I do not accept the excuse that they keep it all a secret from the parents, and ask the child to keep it secret as well, out of concern for the child. Perhaps there is some rationalization along those lines, but under that, they have to know it is wrong.

    Finally, although the schools are not themselves prescribing hormones and puberty blockers to the students, they absolutely put the kids in touch with people willing to do that without the parents knowledge. We learned about all of this when we accidentally found a bottle of pills in our minor child’s room.

      1. Thanks, I will be here all week.
        But seriously, reading the comments here makes me want to add some points.
        To begin with, the issue of mental illness. As far as I can tell, all trans kids end up on antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or even antipsychotics. About half of them will seriously attempt suicide.
        Of the trans kids I know, the percentage who have seen a therapist (per their parents) prior to becoming trans is about the same as in the general population. I don’t have numbers for that, but my impression is that previous diagnosis or treatment for mental disorders is not a real factor.
        Hormone treatments inevitably destabilize the mood of normal kids taking them. What follows is an effort to use more meds to try to achieve some livable balance.
        It is fairly common for them to crash occasionally, if they run out of a critical drug, forget a dose, or even if one or more has become less effective through use over time.
        Nobody can say whether those kids might have suffered from depression or other mental issues if they had not started transitioning. The trans activists would have us believe that it would have been much worse without transitioning. I disagree.

        Long term outcomes. This is supposed to be for the good of the kids involved, so I would imagine in a sane world we would want to see lots of examples of happy, well adjusted trans adults and senior citizens. I am not seeing that at all.
        That probably relates to the impossibility of many of the promises of transition.
        It is a lot like Scientology. There is a great deal of sunk cost and peer pressure driving you forward, but no matter how far you go in Scientology, you never get magic powers.
        At best, they get to a point where they learn to live with the results of their choices, which is not the same as being happy with them.

        I propose that even if people were born in the wrong body, the body they actually desire is not attainable. Either way, their best outcome is to be resigned to that reality. I think it would be better to learn to live with that fact without also having to cope with sterility and a lifetime of complications from surgery and mood altering medication.

        I apologize to Dr. Coyne if my responses here are too long.

        1. Your penultimate paragraph, Max, beginning with, “I propose . . .” is why I cannot abide a definition of conversion therapy that would criminalize your proposition, as our government did.

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