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Warnings on early reinforcement of transgender feelings among young children

A new essay published by Civitas today warns of the dangers of reinforcing childhood feelings of ‘gender dysphoria’ at too young an age.

Parent coach and teacher trainer Stephanie Davies-Arai cautions that encouraging pre-pubescents identifying as transgender to believe that they really are will often not be in the child’s best interests.

This ‘gender affirmative’ approach is increasingly adopted by organisations that come into contact with young gender dysphoric children and yet it is not an approach based on clinical research. It may also set children on a path towards medical interventions such as puberty blockers, the long-term effects of which are also poorly understood.

‘“Affirmation” is the political treatment of a clinical condition – its very aim is to facilitate persistence,’ she writes.

‘Until we are honest about that, the most vulnerable children and young people will continue to be subject to experimental and unnecessary medical interventions with lifetime consequences which can never achieve the goal of changing a child’s sex.’

‘Gender affirmation’ is often regarded as the only compassionate response. But about 80 per cent of children outgrow their gender dysphoria during adolescence and, before puberty, children are still learning to distinguish between fact and fantasy. Often children may not even be aware of their natal sex.

‘A child cannot distinguish between personally-held beliefs and facts, nor does the child know that this is a minority belief which involves the denial of biological reality. To the child, the adult knows everything; the child’s developing understanding of reality and interpretation of the world depends on the information imparted to them by adults,’ Davies-Arai writes.

‘Unquestioning affirmation of a child’s belief is not a neutral act of kindness, but an active intervention that shapes and changes a child’s understanding and development. Affirmation by trusted adults forms or reinforces a child’s perception of reality. Living, and being affirmed daily as the opposite sex will affect and change the child’s developing sense of self, which risks creating a self-fulfilled prophesy of outcome.’

The essay is published in Transgender Children: A discussion alongside a further piece by the educationalist and writer Toby Young, who asks whether the growing phenomenon of children registering as transgender should be a cause for alarm.

Many activists argue that the rise in young people identifying as transgender or ‘gender non-conforming’ is due to the decline of the stigma attached to doing so and, as such, it should be celebrated. Others are concerned that it has become fashionable to identify as transgender and that it is unlikely that the true underlying rate of gender dysphoria is as high as it has recently seemed to be, especially in certain geographical areas.

Young cautions schools against ‘parroting every word of the pro-trans lobby’ and encouraging children to take feelings of gender dysphoria more seriously than they need to.

‘Schools probably shouldn’t fret about the growing number of children who want to experiment with different gender labels,’ he writes.

‘The risk of treating them all with the same furrowed-browed intensity, nodding along gravely when they say they’re “non-binary” or “tri-gender” and handing them leaflets about transitioning, is that they’ll take what may be a temporary phase more seriously than they should.

‘We owe it to adolescents at risk of making medical mistakes to urge caution and not just unthinkingly applaud their “honesty” and pack them off to private clinics. Schools need to find the courage to stand up to the trans activists and not let them dictate best practice in this area.’

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