Fox News regular Dr. Keith Ablow, infamous for his anti-LGBT rhetoric, has struck again with a commentary piece in which he claims there’s no science to support trans identity.
Under the ridiculous title, “All wrong — in California, girls can use urinals in the boys’ restroom,” Ablow begins by bemoaning California’s groundbreaking trans student rights law that went into force on January 1. The law takes what was already standard policy in many California schools and makes explicit that schools throughout the state should recognize the gender children consistently identify with regardless of their birth assigned gender, and that this should be honored for things like allowing access to restrooms, changing facilities and sports teams.
This, according to Ablow, is part of Governor Jerry Brown’s “disempowering” liberal agenda that Ablow says is damaging kids:
The mere fact that teachers and administrators will have to explain to kindergarten and first-grade students that they might see girls in the boys’ restroom, or boys in the girls’ locker room, but that those really aren’t kids of the gender they appear to be, could (and, here, data is sorely lacking) do harm to their own developing sense of self by suggesting to them that their gender is fluid, that it well might change for them, too, and that they should be on the lookout for signs that they want to switch.
The bill does no such thing, and the text of the legislation makes it clear that it is targeted at medically recognized gender variant and trans children who are presenting as a different gender. In reality, what Albow is saying here is a watered-down version of the men in women’s bathrooms meme that religious conservatives always trot out. Simply, it’s despicable.
His cry that there’s not enough data to show that such a law won’t harm children is also ironic when in the next paragraph he makes clear that he is willfully ignoring the science that has illuminated some of the underpinnings of trans identity:
Let me put that more clearly: I am not convinced by any science I can find that people with definitively male DNA and definitively male anatomy can actually be locked in a cruel joke of nature because they are actually female.
And I believe that telling third-grade or seventh-grade or tenth-grade children, adolescents or teenagers that this issue is settled to such an extent that they should feel comfortable with females walking in and seeing them urinating or pulling their pants down to change into football gear is a lie that can steal their ability to trust adults, shake their faith in any form of reality, traumatize them by shaming them and kindle waves of completely unnecessary anxiety related to whether they should be doing some sort of emotional inventory to determine whether they’re really going to turn into men, once and for all, or find out they’ve been suppressing the truth that they’re actually women.
Mr Ablow, in breaking away from the American Psychological Association and rejecting the DSM, seems terribly uninformed of some recent science. For instance, people classed as transsexual have been shown to have brain characteristics of the gender they identify with and not the gender they were assigned at birth. This avenue of research has seen further exploration, and those differences have repeatedly been evidenced, with more brain differences being found the more closely scientists explore this subject. However, this isn’t all the evidence.
While it is true that some children grow out of their gender dysphoria (though how much that has to do with the pressure to conform is unclear), there are several other biological indicators for possible gender variant and trans identity. Hormone differences and genetic differences have also been observed.
While it’s important to stress that what causes trans identity isn’t fully understood (as, for instance, what is behind sexual orientation isn’t fully known yet), there is as you can see plenty of research that confirms there are physiological markers for the existence of trans people.
This, of course, says nothing about the individual experience, which should be given a lot of weight. In short, why should it matter to Ablow if a child identifies as the opposite gender to what they were assigned at birth (or, for that matter, no gender at all)? Ablow makes out that trans children are a risk to those around them. This is sweeping, stigmatizing and quite frankly abhorrent and covers up his and other religious conservatives prurient interest in other people’s private lives.
What this is in reality, and Ablow admits as much later on in the piece, is an attempt to bolster a ballot repeal effort that would overturn California’s trans student rights law. After an initial signature count for the effort narrowly passed its required number of votes, the ballot effort must now undergo a full signature count. Whether the effort will ultimately make the ballot isn’t clear, but both sides are now gearing up for a potentially very bitter fight.
Taking a broader view, why is it important to challenge Ablow? Well, as a popular writer and commentator, who has featured on many television shows including the Oprah Winfrey Show and where his expertise as a psychiatrist is sought, Ablow’s views are taken seriously by some and so his comments do matter because they stand to do great harm and skew this issue.
Ablow has previously attacked subjects surrounding transgender people, his op-ed warning of the dangers of watching Chaz Bono on TV being one that sticks in the memory, but he lacked evidence for his assertions then and he does now. The fact that he has also so casually sacrificed trans children to support his prejudicial and evidence-free views, which could be so easily amended by just reading the scientific literature, is twice as despicable.
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