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Letters from the Front: US Edition – Part III “America isn’t Stopping to Think. It’s Doubling Down”

After reading the recently published book by Hannah Barnes, Time to Think: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Tavistock’s Gender Service for Children, our US Correspondent laments the fact that while several European countries are now urging caution in the treatment of children and teens with gender dysphoria, America remains divided, largely along political lines. And while the opposing factions in Blue states and Red states fight it out, the rapid proliferation of gender clinics continues unabated, and vulnerable children are being harmed.

This letter is late. I had a few ideas but I shelved them because I got a copy of Time to Think by Hannah Barnes delivered to my Kindle on the 23rd of February.

I read it as fast as I could, but I had to take breaks because it was heartbreaking. It just confirmed what a lot of us suspected – that kids were getting fast tracked onto drugs, and many were coming away harmed. Not all, but many. It confirmed that no records were being kept on autistic kids, no one was really following up, and that those “long term studies” were five years at the most and featured mostly boys who wanted to be girls.

Europe seems to be getting the idea that giving kids synthetic hormones isn’t a good idea, that the original Dutch Model put therapy first and foremost and considered drugs as a last resort. Several European countries are backing off and finding ways to use the Dutch Model.

America however, is full steam ahead.

America has experienced an explosion of “gender clinics”. According to the website Stats for Gender [1]Home – Stats For Gender, we went from 1 clinic in 2007 to 40 in 2017. A New York Times article dated 24 June 2022 puts us at 60 clinics. Another article says 100. These clinics can range from offering social services, legal advice, or medical services, or all of the above. This isn’t counting anecdotal evidence found online, where a large number of “gender doulas” are now offering services to “help young people be their true selves”, or some other iteration of the sloganeering.

Americans aligning themselves with transgender ideology are writing self-help books, workbooks, hosting classes and seminars, offering exploratory online courses for gender, anything at all to call themselves an ally or cash in, I can’t tell sometimes. I recently found the website of a Sales and Marketing Specialist, a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for three years and is now offering life coaching for trans-identified males. Like a lot of other people offering services or writing books, she has no qualifications in social work. This one smells like a clever scam, which I’m not going to interfere with.

Hospitals and medical facilities here are largely private, but most of them get public money in some way. When hospitals started opening up gender clinics of their own and cashing in on gender medicine, even so far as being recorded saying gender medicine was profitable due to surgery revisions, policymaker’s heads started to pick up. It’s these hospitals that got the attention of Conservative Legislators, both at the State and Federal level.

America’s legislative system is unique in that our laws go through the states first, then the Federal government, which can override the states if needs be.

Take abortion, for example. When Roe v. Wade was overturned, the excuse provided by conservative legislators was that it was now “up to the states” and therefore still legal. In some states. Many states banned abortion, others did not. Whether or not American women will have to take pregnancy tests before crossing state lines remains to be seen. While there has been talk of a Federal ban, Biden has promised he will veto any such bill that comes across his desk. It’s a balancing act of power, and it doesn’t always work.

Many states are now passing what are called “Anti-Trans” bills. Meaning, they don’t think it’s right to give synthetic hormones and surgeries to children. The bills are varying widely, with some of them banning “gender affirmative care” for anyone under 18, or anyone under 21, or anyone at all. They can ban synthetic hormones, surgery, or both. Some states are also placing restrictions on who isn’t allowed to pay for such care; their Medicare dollars or private insurance, either or both.

America largely runs on a private healthcare system, with all of us forking over a lot of money from our paychecks every week into a private health insurance plan purchased by our employer, which is of varying quality. I have a HMO since it’s cheaper and has lower out of pocket costs. Meaning, if I get caught in the crossfire of a mass shooting, I’ll only have to pay $3000 out of pocket from a provider my HMO chooses. (I’m rarely sick so this works for me. The mass shooting part is a risk we all take at this point.)

The states banning hormones and surgery for kids are conservative leaning. They would be the Red states. States now calling themselves “sanctuary states” are Blue states, or left leaning.
Blue states are accusing Red states of wanting kids dead, and Red states are accusing Blue states of sterilizing kids in addition to wanting them dead. Both sides accuse each other of using “think of the children” propaganda, and both are right.

Blue states accuse Red states of being illiterate neanderthals, Red states accuse Blue states of being mindless liberals. Neither side listens to the other as the question of, “Where are you from?” renders anyone’s answer as ignorant or mindless depending on what color your state was on election night 2020.

The Red state/Blue state phenomenon has its roots in the Civil War. The line between Red and Blue is physically close to the Mason Dixon Line that demarcated the Union and the Confederacy. Red states are considered hillbilly white trash, and Blue states are elite liberals who don’t know anything about how the world works. It would be worthy of a Dr. Suess book if the stakes weren’t so high.

Since roughly the 2000 Presidential Election where Democrat Al Gore lost in a debate over hanging chads on paper ballots, states now speak of each other in stark terms and dire language. Wars, defense spending, social security, Medicare, all of it now has severe and dire consequences should the other side not do the right thing. The Gender Debate is particularly toxic.

In early February, Jamie Reed of Minnesota wrote an essay to The Free Press (a right leaning publication,) where she says that in her role as patient intake manager at Washington University Transgender Center at St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri, she witnessed kids being fast tracked onto drugs and surgery, with little regard for other mental and physical health concerns. She repeated several of the same concerns of the GIDS and the Cass Review. She describes herself as queer, and she says she joined up with the clinic with the intent to help kids. In writing her essay, she simply wanted to say what she had seen and give voice to very real concerns, concerns that were being brought to light in other countries.

None of it mattered. Several journalists took it upon themselves to dig up her past and find some link with anything vaguely Red Right. They found out that her lawyer had founded an “anti-trans organization”. Not her. Her lawyer. Others pointed to her stated goal of shutting the clinic down; some called up families that got treatment from the clinic that they said didn’t mirror what Reed said. Still more said that Reed was only involved in scheduling, that she didn’t have any medical certifications, and some said they had felt uncomfortable around her.

“The United States is currently in the grip of a full-blown transphobic moral panic. Dubious, unrepresentative, or entirely made-up anecdotes are trumpeted across right-wing media,” writes Ryan Cooper of the website[2]Ryan Cooper, 2 March 2023, The Useful Idiots Fueling the Right-Wing Transphobia Panic – The American Prospect He neatly sums up why it’s important to not listen to anyone with a different opinion. You’d be stupid, gullible and considered a Red Right Winger. He closes his article with, “There are always risks and trade-offs with any health treatment, transition care included. But hyper-focusing on unrepresentative or fake stories in the context of a frenzied political assault on trans people is gravely irresponsible journalism.” Ryan doesn’t seem all that interested in presenting anything from someone who advises caution on the matter, which could also be considered “Irresponsible journalism”. But it’s “winner take all” here in the US, so Ryan isn’t going to hand anyone else the microphone.

The reporters don’t seem interested in speaking to detransitioners at all. When someone mentions detransitioners, the accusation is that “a few bad experiences are being weaponized” and used to “incite violence”.

When Chloe Cole spoke at the Tennessee legislature as they banned synthetic hormones for kids (Tennessee is a Red state), the sounds of a booing crowd, wailing sirens and banging pots and pans could be heard in the background. Similar things have happened in other states, with trans rights activists flooding municipal buildings, draping themselves in pink and blue, waving signs and even having the occasional “die in” with cardboard headstones scrawled “SUICIDE” in case anyone didn’t get that memo. In all cases, it’s teenagers and kids, their Left Blue parents in tow, all with rainbow hair and piercings, which the Red Righters point to and laugh at.

Two arguments are made by those who support unquestioning gender affirmation – that if the kids don’t get the care they want, they’ll kill themselves, and that talking about it makes people want to kill other people. This is usually enough to shut up most Americans, but not everyone. More voices are speaking out.

The suicide statistics invariably come from the Trevor Report and are dated 2017, while the violence theory is usually evidenced as the trans identified man who died under vague circumstances last week but it was certainly anti-trans violence. There’s always a GoFundme. Forgive my gallows humor. Concerns for violence are always genuine, and any death is a sad one. But while some are accused of weaponizing the bad experiences of detransitioners, others are weaponizing what is actually a low suicide rate and the lack of a police report to tell us what actually happened. Both sides are still blind to their own actions.

The Cass Review and Barnes’s Time to Think both said the suicide threat isn’t bearing out in reality. Once kids start getting therapy and counseling, the situation typically resolves itself, or the kid is just gay and can go their merry way. The Dutch Model, which I didn’t know specifics about until I read the book, puts therapy first and foremost. Drugs are a last resort. The key word is therapy.

America is going to have a reckoning on this front. A severe one, and it’s aimed at their kids.

We’ve been polarized for a long time. I can’t remember a time when both sides listened to the other. It might have been Nixon, but that’s before my time and all I have are history books. I remember Reagan, and the first Bush. I remember Clinton and the blue dress, where I got a teenager’s view of a sex scandal. I think that was when it got bad. Red Republicans barely let Clinton do his job, they had so many investigations into his personal life and affairs.

In Scandal by Bob Woodward, Clinton frequently complained that with all the investigations and committees and snooping into his bank accounts and businesses and properties, he couldn’t get much actual legislating done. Clinton accomplished a lot, but imagine how much more he could have done had he been left alone to do his job.

Then it was the Younger Bush, Obama twice, the moron, and now Biden. In all these presidencies I don’t see much of the president beyond what the opposing side thinks they are doing wrong. Memes fly, opinion pieces are written, articles go up on all sorts of science and studies, and no one has time to go and really look at what this reporter is saying and where they got this information anyway. Aunt Becky posted a meme of a president holding a baby wrapped in a flag, cousin Sharon posted a picture of a migrant child in tears. All the voices cry up at once and all with their own dire warnings.

It’s tiring. And nothing gets done.

Red and Blue just can’t be bothered with the idea that maybe, just maybe, the other side might be acting in good faith. That maybe the Hillbilly could listen to the Elite Liberal, and the Elite Liberal might do well to see why the Hillbilly has dug in their heels so bad. It’s just not even discussed.

When it comes to kids who need help, a consensus must be reached.

America is well aware it has a mental health problem. The debate gets thrown up at the week’s mass shooting, and it’s forgotten in an hour because it never goes anywhere. Don’t worry, there’s always next week.

America isn’t quite aware that the mental health problem is more deeply affecting their kids than the next isolated dude in a basement. That maybe Cicily is up in her bedroom seeing that choking is a normal part of sex. Or Benjamin is playing XBox and getting a dose of misogynist chatter alongside his first person shooter. Tracie is spending too much time on TikTok looking at “thinspo” and Eric is seeing homophobic slurs on his friend’s Insta. Dany is asking the group “transteensupport” for a new name, and Alex is making a flag for Strawberrycowgender because that’s how he feels that day. (I swear I did not make that up. The flag is pink stripes and a cow head.)

America was so busy screaming at each other, they forgot their kids.

They wasted so much time arguing about the failed healthcare system, it failed their kids.

The Washington Post did a recent story about a report that said the mental health of American teens is in really bad shape. For girls, especially. The Cass Review and Time to Think both point to underlying mental health concerns fueling trans identities in kids. It would make sense that European kids and American kids are looking at a lot of the same internet content. And it makes sense that Covid locked kids in with that internet content for a long time. Several young people interviewed for Time to Think said internet influencers made them think a trans identity would work in place of addressing sexual trauma.

America, however, seems more willing to believe a girl who says she’s a boy rather than listen to a girl who has been raped. The first answer is trendy and fits on a yard sign. The second one will take time and listening to each other to fix our useless to the point of nonexistent mental health systems and our male violence problem. America can’t seem to do that. Especially that second one.

I can only hope people read what’s coming across the Atlantic. That they read the reports and the books, and stop referencing any study older than six months. That throwing barbs over Facebook isn’t political discourse, and nasty comments of “TERF dogshit” on Yahoo aren’t productive. That Red versus Blue isn’t getting us anywhere. That neither side is wholly right nor wrong and all of us speak a degree of truth. Democracy is somewhere in the middle.

My thoughts on recent talk of secession and the next Civil War are for another day. In the meantime, and for this issue, kids are getting hurt.