9 Things They Don’t Want You to Know About Trans People
How anti-trans voices are misleading you — and betting you won’t do your homework.
Politicians and pundits have been saying a lot of negative things about trans and gender-nonconforming (gnc) people for a while, and now those words are getting cemented into laws that will affect the lives of trans and gnc people of all ages, as well as their families and communities.
If you don’t really know trans/gnc people and are only hearing the loudest anti-trans voices, you might be forgiven for thinking the commonly-repeated claims sound true or reasonable. In reality, anti-trans forces rely on factually wrong information, sometimes knowingly repeating lies or twisting half-truths for political reasons, while hoping you won’t look deeper.
Here’s what you need to know about the biggest myths about trans life today.
Myth: Tran/GNC identities are a modern invention
Fact: Trans/GNC identities have been recorded for thousands of years.
There is a difference between being a small minority in history and actual absence from it. Something being new to you doesn’t make it new.
Trans/gnc identity has been recorded in drawings and sculptures dating back to the bronze age — and beyond. Different cultures around the globe have had different responses to and different roles for people who lived either outside the gender binary or crossed it.
From Sumerian priests 5,000 years ago to Mexican Muxes and Indian Hijra, there are examples spanning millennia. Don’t know anything about Native American two-spirit people or Italian femminiello? Haven’t heard of the pre-Colonial Hawaiian māhū or the Fa’afafine of Samoa? That’s ok: the world is vast! Not knowing reveals only how hard it is to be educated in all subjects, but it is not proof that gender nonconformity is new.
Myth: Trans/GNC identity is unnatural.
Fact: Gender change and gender diversity occur widely across nature.
We’re not alone: The animal world is full of animals which can change sex roles or be more than one sex at once. Love Disney’s adorable Nemo? Clownfish males like Nemo (and his dad) can transition into females to keep society flowing the way it should, as this species requires a dominant female in each unit. From hyenas to cardinals to bearded dragons, the gender binary is not universally fixed in nature.
That’s not exactly a state secret if you’re a biologist. Yes, it seems like “common sense” to non-scientists, whose conclusions are based only on their subjective experience with one species, but that is about as far from factual as it can be.
Myth: Trans people are mentally ill.
Fact: Doctors say the opposite. Denying gender-affirming care is a health risk.
We don’t get to decide what counts as mental illness just because something is outside our own experience. If we turn to the experts, the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association, we find that both agree that Trans/GNC identity is not a mental illness.
Emotional suffering may, however, be present before one is affirmed in their trans/gnc identity. This takes the form of stress known as gender dysphoria, a widely-recognized medical condition with accepted treatments collectively called gender-affirming care. These treatments can alleviate pain and provide healthy outcomes — the same approach as health care providers offer for migraines, psoriasis, low blood pressure, or thousands of other human conditions that come without stigma.
One’s mental health can be worsened by being denied access to gender affirming care and/or by being ill-treated for gender nonconformity. The blame there does not lie with the trans/GNC person, but those prolonging or exacerbating the dysphoria. Here’s an analogy: If you are naturally fair-skinned and suffer a terrible burn on a boat ride because you were kept at sea too long without a covered cabin, the burn was not caused by your skin, but by prolonged exposure to harmful rays and your inability to seek cover.
If you really are concerned about fostering better mental health, support treatments that alleviate gender dysphoria and embrace trans/gnc people in their identities.
(It seems worth noting, too, that stigmatizing actual mental illness helps no one, least of all the millions of Americans diagnosed with mental health disorders.)
Myth: Gender affirmation is fast, easy to achieve, and often a rash decision.
Fact: The process is slow, deliberate, and evidence-based.
Some call gender affirmation a trendy fad being impulsively adopted by kids. Knowing the basics of the process reveals this to be false.
The process typically goes like this: a child experiencing gender dysphoria often presents with distress. Caregivers (parents, usually) seek medical counsel. Beyond medical examination, there will be counseling to help all parties understand the nature of the dysphoria and whether there are other factors in play.
Once gender dysphoria is identified, the standard of care includes a continued period of counseling from a professional. This may be followed (when indicated) by what are commonly called puberty blockers (which arrest puberty, specifically to allow time for careful decision-making). After that, some may seek hormone replacement therapy (HRT), to provide their bodies the hormonal balance that supports their gender. Surgical medical interventions may or may not follow. (Surprise, surprise: one doesn’t actually have to mirror any specific body image to be trans/gnc.)
Children cannot impulsively access any of the above, as minors always need consent for medical treatment, and HRT is not available to children period. HRT is for legal adults: 18+ in most states, though some states allowing 16-or 17-year-olds access with parent approval (much as they do for the right to marry, emancipate, or join the military before 18.)
Simply put, there is no quick or rash way to complete this process.
Myth: “Woke” parents are “forcing” transition on their children.
Fact: It is not possible for a parent to force a child into gender affirmation.
Parents cannot simply force children into medical transitions, because an array of actual health care providers must agree and be involved over a long period of time. (See above.) The very starting point that is that these medical professionals must agree that the gender identity originates with the child — otherwise it is not affirmation at all.
Caregivers must work with professionals — psychotherapists, endocrinologists, and pediatricians, for starters — any of whom may flag concerns about a child’s persistence or the fitness of the protocol for that child.
Myth: Gender-affirming care should be banned to prevent irreversible side effects.
Fact: Doctors prioritize health benefits over side effects for many life-saving procedures.
The two most commonly-argued side effects of gender-affirming care are damage to bone density and possible sterilization. Both contain elements of truth selectively applied to trans/gnc people but not to others.
Bone density may be arrested while one is on puberty blockers, which providers can monitor. However, when blockers are ended and/or HRT begins, bone growth returns. Some argue that this return occurs too late, that the crucial bone development time occurs at the same age as puberty blockers are typically used, which means puberty blockers should not be allowed.
However, bone density deficits are associated with a number of accepted medical treatments, including childhood cancer treatments, which no one is attempting to ban. Why not? Because logic clearly states that bone density should not take precedence over the high values of longer life and better overall health. That is exactly why medical professionals endorse the use of puberty blockers.
It’s true certain trans people who use HRT will become sterile. Ending HRT may, in some cases, reverse this (depending on gender, age, and other factors). As with the effect of puberty blockers on bone density, medical providers and the legal adults considering HRT are facing a choice common in the treatment of other conditions. A patient may choose a hysterectomy, knowing this means they can no longer get pregnant; a cancer patient may seek chemotherapy, which also can lead to sterilization. It comes down to a standard medical equation: what serves the patient best, even with potential side effects considered?
Politicians trying to ban medically-informed decision-making only for gender-affirming care are stripping patients, caregivers, and medical professional of their rights. They are not protecting anyone.
Myth: People who detransition prove all gender-affirmation should be banned.
Fact: The vast majority of those who detransition do so in response to external harm/pressure on trans people
Those who do not persist in a trans/gnc identity may be said to have detransitioned, and their existence is used to justify many of the anti-trans bills. But is that reasonable?
While studies show very low detransition rates for those who have had surgical affirmation, it is estimated that 13% of trans-identified people have at some point detransitioned (often early in the process and not always permanently); their experiences are absolutely valid. But the first major study of the subject revealed that the vast majority of those who detransition attributed that decision to external factors (disapproving family, other non-affirming environments, and exposure to violence), not to their identity itself. To ban gender-affirmation for 87% or more of the trans population makes no sense as a way to respond to this situation.
Anti-trans activists often claim that detransition rates reveal a potential for patient regret, and that these new laws will keep people from making physical changes they may later wish to undo (should a patient even go that route). However, no similar interventions are being mandated for cosmetic surgery, which yields high rates of regret, for instance, or cancer treatments (which has the same regret rates as detransitioning).
This “I know what’s best for you” approach, selectively applied by these activists only to people they don’t understand, mashes up Big Brother with straight-up prejudice. Adults (who are the only ones allowed to medically transition) should be free, in consult with their health care providers, to determine their own course of action.
Myth: Trans/GNC people are a threat to public safety.
Fact: Statistics show the opposite is true. It is trans/GNC people who face continual threat.
Because fear tactics are so politically effective, anti-trans activists continually cite the imagined threat of someone using their trans identity to harm others in public spaces. But this has not been the case in cities that explicitly grant trans/gnc people civil rights and/or access to public accommodations. In fact, the most commonly cited examples vary from imaginary to actually being the actions of non-trans men (whose rights are decidedly not in peril).
What is, however, statistically proven (again and again), is that trans people are far more likely than non-trans people to be the target of violence (both against their bodies and their homes), and suffer discrimination at work and in health care settings. If addressing actual, provable threats is the goal, then it is not trans people who should be targeted as the offenders.
Myth: Anti-trans bills will “save” children.
Fact: Anti-trans bills harm (and kill) children.
As the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics have gone on record arguing, anti-trans bills do not prolong the life or health of children. The opposite is true.
Being denied evidence-based medical treatment, being the subject of bullying, and facing social rejection would be deadly for anyone, and that is especially true for trans/gnc kids. The toll of such prolonged attacks on one’s wellness is seen in increased rates of suicidal ideation, self-harm, and mental health struggles.
Lucky for us, a clear solution has been proved: rates of harm go down dramatically when gender-affirming care is provided.
Almost everything you will hear from anti-trans forces is false on its face or applies a different standard to trans people than to everyone else. That’s not fair or moral. You need to know (and share) the truth:
Trans and gender-nonconforming identities have existed across time and all throughout nature. Medical experts now agree that trans/gnc identity is not a mental illness. However, lack of access to necessary health care, coupled with rejection from society, can lead to suffering and even loss of life. Evidence-based gender-affirming care, which cannot be accessed impulsively by anyone, can alleviate that stress, yielding much more positive outcomes. The trans population has never been a threat to others, but has instead been endangered by the same ignorance, hate rhetoric, and bias of those legislating against affirming care today.
If you really want to save lives, don’t listen to people selling you fake news for political gain. Fight legislation that denies people health care, civil rights