Trans Awareness Week: Myth Debunking

Updated: Feb 20

Updated Feb. 20 2021 before our 3rd annual 2021 Inclusive Classes Read Nova Scotia event:

As part of #TransAwareness Week, Nov. 12th - 19th, let us examine a few harmful myths still circulating in 2018.

Since 2016 North America saw the first openly trans employee hired in the White House, they called it a' Transgender Tipping Point' when Laverne Cox made the cover of Time magazine and up North in Canada, we passed Bill C-16 in June 2018, creating a new law which explicitly prohibits discrimination against transgender Canadians and affords them protection against hate crimes.

Yet, in many ways, we're dangerously stalled (leaked memo about U.S. President's intentions to erase trans peoples rights, right-wing movements around world spark rise in transphobic and homophobic hate crimes).

In 2017, research indicated one third of all trans people in the UK suffered hate crimes:

In the UK, two in five (41 per cent) of trans people have experienced a hate crime because of their gender identity in the past 12 months, with that figure shooting up to 53 per cent for young trans people aged between 18 and 24.

More than a third of all trans people suffered hate crimes in 2017,

research suggests

If we want progress, we need to know what is real and what is Fake News.

What you don't know is there is Fake News out there that wants you to believe trans children't don't exist, or that is is a 'condition', or that, 'if left alone -- eventually a person will simply change their mind/fix them self'.

I believe a better word for Fake News is Fear-based News.

The fear when we are uncomfortable talking about something and when we don't have factual information. Change takes time and for decades we've been taught gender is binary. That we are simply the sum of our body parts, based on our sex as assigned at birth, when in actuality biology is not so simplistic.

The Myths

From bathroom threats to children unable to discern their own gender; let us examine the myths prevalent in 2016:

Myth #1 of the article focuses on the bathroom and sadly this still provokes violent feelings and polarization. So much so, in southern U.S. parents at a local Jr. High threatened on social media to kill a trans child for using the bathroom.

The idea that trans people are sexual predators is ignorant and discriminatory.

Many transgender people already use the bathrooms that fit their gender identity. The state of Maryland, hundreds of cities and dozens of schools ban bathroom discrimination. And there have been no reported cases of such laws leading to harassment.

Meanwhile some trans youth are so scared to use the bathroom that matches their identity, they're experiencing extreme dehydration from not drinking fluids or they're holding their bladders to the point of injury.

While some schools in Nova Scotia have incorporated 'everyone' washrooms that support anyone who would like a little privacy once in a while, there is still a long way to go. Allocating a teachers washroom for transgender students often proves 'othering' and harmful. My own kiddo was often called out by substitute teachers assuming a student was sneaking into their loo.... or by students asking, 'why are you using the teachers washroom?' .

This results in being counter-intuitive to creating safe spaces.

Myth #2: A 5-year-old doesn’t know enough about gender to be transgender.

It's important to note there is vast progress being made to counter presumptions around trans youth. The American Academy of Pediatrics released in Sept. 2018 a standard of care recommendation for all health care providers supporting trans youth and gender diverse children. It's accurate and medically backed by an association of more than 67,000 children's health specialists.

Here I speak with Co-Author DeShanna Neal and Author Theresa Thorn about their children's storybooks featuring trans characters and celebrating diversity in an education, classroom-friendly way. Both My Rainbow and It Feels Good To Be Yourself are featured books in the 3rd annual Inclusive Classes Read Nova Scotia in February 2021. They share as mother's, why it was important for them to have language to be able to connect with young children about gender identity:

PFLAG Canada chapters are seeing more and more families with young gender creative / gender diverse children between ages 3-to-10 years old, needing support.

Key areas include:

  • Acceptance

  • Normative

  • Education

'Awareness is key as it leads to a more informed and accepting society...The feeling of isolation is high for our community which often leads to a higher risk for depression.'

PFLAG Canada Durham Region

After a Grade 8 trans youth was brutally assaulted in school on Jan. 11th in British Columbia, while fellow students stood around and video recorded the girl being kicked and punched by two students, we spoke to Pflag Durham Advocate and Elementary School Principal Barry Bedford on Hey, Cis!

In episode #11, Ally is a Verb and not a Noun, we talk about inclusive schools, transphobia and homophobia and how educators can break down stigma in early childhood education:

Myth #3. Being transgender is relatively new

As the above article illustrates, gender-bending has been around a long time.

Ancient Greek mythology references feminine souls in male bodies.

Anti-trans sites (disguised as helpful resources) emphasize trans youth as victims of a phenomenon, attention seeking or subjects of a made-up, medically unrecognized term called, Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria. It's highlighted as a phase and provides a platform for these hate-oriented sites to promote conversation therapy, 'a cure', because they're transphobic and don't recognize trans people as human beings.

A teacher reading a book about gender identity, will not make a child want to change their gender. It may help a child find words to describe how they're feeling; make them feel less alone; and help end stigma surrounding gender diversity.

Education around gender identity is also not sex ed.

It's about including all children; and not every child identifies with their sex assigned at birth. To deny them inclusion is to scar their childhood with invisibility. It fosters feelings of aloneness.

See yesterday's post for a more about Trans Youth.

Myth #4: Transgender people often come to regret transitioning.

Being transgender is NOT a phase.

The misguided belief that a child can 'outgrow' or 'desist' is both harmful in promoting stigma and mistreatment of trans youth and GDC.

There is a stat that was published highlighting that '80% of children will desist if left alone'. The stat often appears at the top of search engine results when new parents of GNC are trying to better understand what it means for their child to be gender questioning. The research was proven flawed and not factual years ago, the researcher lost their license to practise. But this statistic continues to circulate despite its harmful intent to generate fear.