Intervju s Claire Graham, interseksualnom osobom koja u Australiji radi s djecom s posebnim potrebama, obavio je naš čitatelj iz Australije Simon Vallance. Claire nam je rekla nešto o tome s kojim se izazovima danas suočavaju osobe netipičnog tjelesnog identiteta, a koje nisu čvrsti zagovornici rodnih ideologija te kako vidi potencijalno rješenje tih izazova u budućnosti.
First and foremost thank you Claire for graciously accepting to be interviewed and for granting us the opportunity for you to provide your insights on some every complex and politically charged subjects! Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
Sure, I’m a special educational needs teacher by day. I work with children who don’t have a place in the system, either due to illness of disability, or because their behavioral needs make it difficult for them to access an education setting. I also have a DSD (what some people call “intersex”), so in my spare time I advocate for other people with DSDs and provide information and support to them, their families and the wider community.
What are some of your key concerns regarding legislation on gender identity and expression, isn’t this just a plea for protection and compassion for minority groups?
I think the things that worries me most are how children are treated in gender legislation and also how many trans orgs advocate for replacing “sex” with “gender identity”. I worry about the children, as I think they are being encouraged to make very serious, life altering decisions, at a time when they cannot really understand the consequences of those, such as agreeing to hormone treatments which will affect their fertility.
I think the things that worries me most are how children are treated in gender legislation and also how many trans orgs advocate for replacing “sex” with “gender identity”. – Claire Graham
My concern with “gender identity” replacing “sex” in legislation is that this will make the law blind to the rights and needs of women. Women have been historically discriminated against because of their sex. Even today, in the west, law makers attempt to control women’s bodies through abortion laws, etc. It’s important that we can recognize and name this group, so that we are able to tackle these kinds of issues.
I think it’s important to add that I completely agree that trans people should not be discriminated against and we should have laws that protect them too, but these cannot come at the expense of the rights of others. I think it’s possible to both protect trans people and women and children.
What are the fallacies endemic to transgender ideology and intersectional discourse as you see it?
I think the biggest fallacy in gender ideology is that someone can be “born in the wrong body”, or that the beliefs someone holds about themselves should override material reality for other people. At the risk of oversimplifying, it’s obviously not possible to be born in the wrong body. I find this a troubling concept, as someone who works with people with disabilities and as someone with a DSD myself. The implication becomes that there can be “right bodies”. Where does that leave those of us with bodies that do not function as they should, but are unable to change this? Our bodies are our bodies. We don’t have to like them, but that doesn’t mean we got the wrong one.
Intersectionality is more complex to critique. I think its original purpose, of recognizing that people may face numerous points of discrimination and understanding how that might have a impact on their ability to participate fully in society, For example, someone may have a disability that makes access to something difficult. This could be additionally hampered by prejudice against their race or sex, etc. Understanding the whole of a person and the barriers they may face is really key to fighting inequality.
That being said, the problem with intersectionality now is it has become an identity politics battle ground. We now have what I think you might call the oppression Olympics. The assumption has become that having a particular characteristic means you are always discriminated against or that another characteristic means you’re never discriminated against.
A good example of how this fails people is illustrated by the issue of white, working class boys in the UK. This group is known to be doing less well than other groups when it comes to education. We have lots of data and studies which shows this. However, many people seem to think that initiatives cannot be set up to help these children, as they believe that inequality based on race or sex can only apply one way. We’ve lost the ability to see actual inequality because we make assumptions based on the group someone belongs to, rather than the reality of their situation.
Can you tell us more about DSDs, the history of diagnosis, and its conflation with transgenderism?
Sure. DSD stands for difference of sex development. It’s an umbrella term for a number of different congenital conditions that affect reproductive development. Another word you see being used for this is “intersex”. People often thinks this means we’re not male or female, which is untrue. What it means is that we are male or female, but something unexpected happened when our reproductive tract developed. In my case, this means I was born without a cervix or uterus. It would be impossible to recognise and diagnose DSDs if we did not understand the person’s sex. Were I male, the lack of these body parts would not be a surprise, the fact I’m female makes it a DSD.
The conflation of trans and intersex is a really complex issue. There are many reasons why it happens. First of all, doctors and sexologists used to speculate that gender dysphoria may have been caused by a sort of “intersex brain”. We now know that there are no links between the mechanisms that cause DSDs and those that cause gender dysphoria. In the past clinics used to test trans patients for DSDs as a matter of course. As these tests never produced any results, they stopped doing it as it was a waste of time and resources. This hasn’t stopped political activists from still claiming that the two are related though. Some trans people feel that being intersex gives them more legitimacy to access medical care, such as hormones and surgery. Some see claiming to be intersex as a way to mess with the system. They see it as a political label that confuses the definitions of male and female, so is a way to destroy our understanding of these words and replace definitions based on sex with those based on gender identity. This is really helpful to intersex advocates as it means that, often, when you hear intersex being talked about, it’s often not by people with actual DSDs.
More and more research is coming out of the halls of academe that is indicating an overrepresentation of autism spectrum and/or autistic traits among the transgender and non-binary population, what are your thoughts on this research?
It doesn’t really surprise me. I can see why gender theory may appeal to young people who already feel at odds with the world. The idea that you may have the wrong body, and fixing that will suddenly make you fit in, could be really compelling to these young people. I think a lot of autistic young people are also often gender non-conforming. Their rigidity of thought may make it difficult to be able to accept that GNC behaviour is okay, or may mean that they get stuck on the idea of transitioning.
I’m also not surprised that the new studies show that autism is higher in girls who identify as trans, given that girls with autism are more likely to display what society often thinks of as more “masculine” traits.
I’m quite concerned that these studies show that mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are higher in autistic people who identify as trans and, realistically, would like to see a lot more research in this field so we understand the best way to support these people.
What are your thoughts on the clashes amongst radical feminists, otherwise known under the derogatory term of TERF (trans exclusionary feminist), have you had experiences among this schism?
I have quite a bit of experience with this. I first started writing about having a DSD in response to how we are used in trans activists’ arguments. I hated seeing “some women don’t have wombs, so you can’t talk about yours” as a way to shut down women talking about their rights and bodies. As soon as I said I disagreed, I was labelled a “TERF”. The word brought with it a lot of hate and vitriol. I actually have a lot of trans friends who are very supportive of what I do, but I was being labelled as “hateful” by people who didn’t know me and would not actually listen to what I was saying or why.
I keep seeing people say that the vitriol works both ways, but I’ve never seen “TERFs” threaten violence like the trans activists do. I’ve received quite a few rape and death threats myself. In the UK, women have received bomb threats and actually been subjected to violence, from trans activists, just for meeting to talk about their concerns and their rights.
I’m not a radical feminist, although I have a lot of sympathy for their stance. I agree that women face discrimination based on their sex. You only have to look at the world and see things like FGM, sex selective abortions, female infanticide, etc, to know that this is a reality. I can understand why they are opposed to woman being redefined to an identity, as identity is irrelevant to these issues.
Where do you see the state of the discourse heading on these issues and where would you like to see it heading?
I worry that, ultimately, there will be a pushback against LGBT+ people that could have a genuine impact on their rights. The campaign of anger and bullying can’t, realistically, be maintained. Once people see it, they lose a lot of sympathy for trans activist, and then, by proxy, all trans people, even those who are not taking part in the activism. I see my trans friends, who don’t view themselves through the lens of gender ideology as being abused by both sides, and that worries me for them.
In an ideal world, I’d love to see more open conversations that look for actual solutions. Inevitably, everyone will have to compromise to make that happen.
Recent neuroscientific research has implicated the fear and distress network in the brain for gender dysphoria and not simply anatomy that conforms with the gender identity incongruent with natal sex, what are your thoughts on this research?
I find it really interesting because I think it opens up some important discussions about the way gender dysphoria is treated. Is it necessary to change the body so drastically, with surgeries, if we can find other ways to help individuals cope with the distress? In light of the increase in desisters and detransitioners, who regret extreme medical interventions, `\|these are things we really have to think about. I also think that it’s important as it looks at gender dysphoria from a multi-sensory approach, which is something I think has been missing from a lot of previous studies.
Affirming subjective anecdotes in childhood and adolescence over empirical and quantitative approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy appears to be standard procedure in various gender clinics, what are your thoughts on this? Is suggesting more quantitative and less qualitative, subjective assessment akin to conversion therapy in your estimation?
It’s really troubling that we might be ignoring the underlying factors behind someone’s distress. Gender dysphoria seems unlikely to be caused by the same thing in all people. I’ve been listening to a lot of stories from detransitioners lately. Many of them talk about childhood abuse and trauma, and say these issues were never explored before they were put on a medical transition pathway. Some of them talk about how they were confused about their sexuality and did not know how to talk about this and were never asked about it. Now these people regret the permanent changes made to their bodies. You can’t undo the affects of testosterone, nor replace body parts which have been permanently removed. I don’t see how exploring these issues and ensuring that more people don’t end up in this situation can be seen as conversion therapy. To me it would be good practice to ensure that the pathway someone is put on is the right one, especially when we’re talking about such drastic procedures. I genuinely think we need better research in this area, but I understand how difficult it is to do this. The hostile response to Lisa Littman’s paper on ROGD (rapid onset gender dysphoria – which looked at the idea that some young people may experience GD due to social contagion) really showed this. It’s a great disservice to dysphoric children to deny practitioners the right to explore questions about what is happening and how best to treat it.
Thank you very much for your time and insights on these multivariate issues, Claire.