‘Histories of the transgender child’ – a discussion

About the event

Join us to read and discuss Jules Gill-Peterson’s monograph, Histories of the Transgender Child.

The session will feature an introduction by Jules Gill-Peterson, followed by 40 minutes of Q&A. Participants are encouraged the read the monograph prior to attending. 

Blurb for event

Monograph means ‘a detailed written study of a single specialized subject or an aspect of it’.

It was held by the Queen’s History of Sexuality Reading Group, which is strange because being transgender is supposed to not be about sexuality. Queen’s University is based in Ontario, Canada.

About Julian/Jules Gill-Peterson

As we learnt during the webinar, Julian came to realise he was Jules during the writing of the ‘monograph’. Gill-Peterson told us that he now has tenure in the field of trans studies and sees himself currently as a historian, although previously his specialism was English. He is from Vancouver, Canada and yet another white middle class man exploiting identity politics for his own end (addendum, a lovely shit poster named Hurf as informed me that in fact Gill-Peterson is mixed-race – I must be blind!).

Jules Gill-Peterson won a couple of awards for Histories of the Transgender Child in 2018, the Children’s Literature Association’s Book Award (their upcoming virtual conference looks at ‘decolonisation’ in video games amongst other things) and the Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction.

His next book project is how trans people have had to develop their own form of medicine, which he referred to as ‘DIY medicine’ and had been interviewing extensively about that (cue horror stories about injecting concrete into faces, if it’s going to be an honest account).

Gill-Peterson on his book

The book supposedly shatters the myth that medical transition for children is a new thing. Gill-Peterson told us that the Transgender Child has always existed, yet the period of history that he looks at (according to the chapter list, I didn’t actually buy the book, or read a single page of it) covers the last hundred years – so exactly the same period that this area of quack medicine has existed for adults then.

List of contents from publisher

The main motivation for writing the book was to counteract the political opposition to the medicalisation of children and create an argument that the practice has had some longevity. He started writing the book in 2014, just before the so-called Trans Tipping Point of 2015.

He had two bug bears: ‘anti-trans’ campaigners naturally, but also allies (it turns out that white middle class women who are medicalising their children are shit too, because they aren’t better campaigners for critical race theory – surprise twist).

Progressives were making things tough for trans kids by holding them up as an emblem for the future/utopia which tied them to the idea of newness/ethereality, which is obviously the wrong message to send when you’re trying to build a narrative around ‘born this way’.

Just a few minutes in and we already got mention of the ‘archives’ that Gill-Peterson had beavered away in. He claimed that children were ‘very central’ to the development of gender clinics between the 1940-70s. ‘How on earth were teenagers getting in? That was my riddle,’ he said.

Well of course if you’ve spent any amount of time looking at gender identity ideology and its lies, then it won’t be a riddle, because Lo-and-Behold, Gill-Peterson got out the intersex card and waved that about a bit.

Our very conceptualisation of what it means to have a sex and gender are largely determined by experimental research on infants and children.

Gill-Peterson – needless to say nothing was said which could possibly back up this ridiculous statement

His philosophical argument is that gender and sex have a plasticity, especially in utero and infancy, which is also racial and does not make one iota of sense. He claims that feminists did not invent the term gender or any of the theory behind it. No, that was John Money, the sexologist and quack who set up the first Gender Identity Clinic in Baltimore.

Gill-Peterson argued that ‘plasticity’ was weaponised in biology and that:

By the time we get to the 1950s, although the epistemology of human sex is kind of completely fallen apart, right? Despite every best effort, Western, Colonial and European scientists can’t prove what makes people male or female. They can’t predict who will grow up to be a man or a woman. And they can’t figure out whether or not it’s normal, right, for human beings to have a mutually exclusive binary sex. They fail. And in that moment of failure in comes a new discourse called Gender.

Gill-Peterson, at full froth

Gill-Peterson claimed that children during the 50s were able to access hormones and ‘later surgeries’, if, like adults, they presented as just wanting to be ‘straight’ and to ‘pass’ (in other words describing the experience of people distressed by same sex attraction).

Plasticity was something that white people could do, whereas black people were presented as non-plastic – hence science was racist. Only white trans kids could transition in the 60s because black trans girls were excluded and pathologised for being schizophrenic, etc.

He claimed that it took years looking at medical records deciding which record might represent a trans kid. He said he spent time at John Hopkins Hospital (the site of Money’s clinic) and private clinics all over America. Some of these archives even took ‘years to get access to’ and ultimately he looked at ’50 years worth of medical records’ in urology and endocrinology at the John Hopkins Hospital.

Gill-Peterson wanted to make clear that these kids weren’t dupes or monopolised by the medical establishment. No, they were smart, ‘often outthinking their own clinicians’ and ‘got away with the last laugh in a lot of ways’. He didn’t give one single example of any child or medical scenario, so I think we can be pretty certain that this is a load of shit.

It’s been a wild ride, I’ve been grateful to be able to stand up against these folks peddling these anti-trans bills, and say ‘No, kids didn’t learn about being trans two minutes ago, these are not untested medical [therapies]’.

[…]

It’s nice to be able to provide receipts. Love to do that.

Gill-Peterson

With yet another bleating about how white middle class transgender allies were ruining everything with their lack of fanaticism, Gill Peterson ended his 30 minutes lecture.

Question and Answer

Did you interview any of the kids?

The first question was from a female academic who loved the book so much she was about to include it on the syllabus she was just putting together. What she liked about it particularly was its non-triumphant tone. She wanted to know more about the research and if Gill-Peterson had sought out any of the kids as adults to corroborate the evidence.

The short answer was ‘no’. The long answer was long. Ten minutes to be precise. He claimed that he had received permission to look at medical files for historical purposes (most of these people would still be alive, so I don’t possibly see how this could be legal for a non-medical research purpose, unless ex-patients had consented).

It was a chilling, barbaric, tortuous archive, which didn’t record how the kids felt about being used in experiments (so the kids didn’t have the ‘last laugh’ or ‘outthink’ the doctors then?). Some stuff about his upcoming book (again). Moreover most the clinicians involved were dead, so you see it just wasn’t possible to corroborate the ‘evidence’ in any way. Shame.

Please could talk about the differences between parent advocacy on behalf of trans young people, and the desires of trans young people themselves.

Gill-Peterson repeated that white middle class mums are the face of transgender kids advocacy but they were just pushy! Not political. (One got a sense that he thought them stupid and bovine.) He needed them to be anti-racist too. Often trans kids hadn’t been able to count on parent support, that had changed. Harry Benjamin (the other sexologist at the forefront of gender identity ideology) had received letters from kids asking for hormonal treatment, which Giles-Peterson said he refused because of the age of consent.

The idea of consent is just a legal fiction anyways.

[…]

One of the interesting ways that we could maybe get around that, is that there are already zones of exceptions carved out of the age of consent, because it’s just a fictional age, so you know some young people in some States in the US can get contraception and sexual healthcare without parental consent, or can consent to abortion. So we already have this kind of idea that there are exceptions to that idea.

[…]

How do we attend to trans children’s desires?

Gill-Peterson

Gill-Peterson went onto explain that we needed to move toward a desire model, where the kid says they want to change their body and the medic says cool. He wanted people to take children seriously as a ‘desiring subjects’. The age of consent was ‘not a very useful legal fiction’ and circumventing it would get outside the ‘problem of parents’.

Did you have pushback from other academics (since trans studies is controversial)?

This question was asked by a Professor of History, who has published works. She prefaced her question by saying that she appreciated that he had delved into a dark difficult history and made a direct comparison to the Holocaust. It’s clear that she thought he was really something and was not being sarky. She said that history is a reflection of who we are today.

This provoked another ten minute babble. Gill-Peterson says that the book never defines transness or what it means to be trans ‘because the past is not here to serve as a reflection of who we are today, that’s not why we do history’. So a clear two-fingers up to the questioner. Besides he now has tenure so the scramble for jobs is behind him now.

Another white middle class woman makes a sycophantic comment.

This one was a graduate history student. She seemed overcome by Stupid-Peterson’s largesse, as tongue-tied she inarticulated her appreciation for his book. She was incensed by white parents who were speaking up about the issue of sports. But not those speaking against mixed sex sports. No, the ones who were allying themselves with it. They were disappearing black trans girls. People needed to improve their game, she said. Ah-ha, whinnied Giles-Peterson throughout in satisfied response.

Giles-Peterson claimed that he speaks to a lot of parents about their kids and that he understood their fears. He would tell them ‘this is not your individual child to protect as a property relation’. The real problem was, he said, was that the trans child had been framed as family melodrama, in documentaries, etc. It was about the only insightful thing he said.

Making a brief detour to claim that intersex children in the 40s underwent surgery without the permission or even knowledge of the parents, whilst social workers were assigned to cases. In the only specific example he gave during the entire talk, he claimed that a girl was cut open to find gonads, which were promptly removed, and then the parents were told ‘your child is a boy, you have to raise him as a boy’. Think he might have that story the wrong way round, but since sex is a construction in his mind, perhaps not. Social workers were then used to ensure that the gender switch happened.

He claimed that women like Abigail Shrier, and terfy mums like her, were making an argument for eugenics and that the only role for white girls was to reproduce, which was a far right argument. Then he boxed clever and said they obviously don’t literally say that, but it’s what they really mean.

Talk about verbal diarrhoea

Someone else made another comment, too esoteric to repeat here, and Gill-Peterson babbled on for another fucking fifteen minutes. I made it through to the end for this beauty though.

I just want to say thank you for taking the time to read my work, especially to read a whole book. Yeah I’ve been dealing with a lot of cognitive and physical disabilities and I haven’t read a whole book in a long time, so thank you for reading mine. It’s something I miss doing.

Gill-Peterson, Associate Professor, Children’s Literature Certificate Program, University of Pittsburgh

I hear that oestrogen and trans hypno porn isn’t too good for the brain.


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5 comments

  1. I think you forfeited the right to call them “stupid,” since you’re too dumb and British to realize you were watching a mixed-race person

    Like

  2. Much of the transgenderism in the West is definitely a result of having the time and social privilege to be ‘edgy’, and makes trans and trans serfs feel that they’re doing something profound by dismantling the social system. They’re not. They’re just doing what young people have always done – experiment with their identity and sexuality. Except now it’s being well funded and publicised, and being encouraged to expand because there’s serious lifelong money in transing young people. Real gender dysphoria starts presenting in childhood, not suddenly later on (although it can be stifled until later on, but that’s usually a lot later on).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh the swearing and bad language! Not nearly enough of it.

    I did enjoy the grand finale – but how does anyone take these people seriously? I know they are all academics but still . . .

    “I just want to say thank you for taking the time to read my work, especially to read a whole book. Yeah I’ve been dealing with a lot of cognitive and physical disabilities and I haven’t read a whole book in a long time, so thank you for reading mine. It’s something I miss doing.

    Gill-Peterson, Associate Professor, Children’s Literature Certificate Program, University of Pittsburgh

    I hear that oestrogen and trans hypno porn isn’t too good for the brain.”

    Like

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