Kids These Days

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S1: Hello and welcome to outward for the month of November. I’m Brian Lauter editor of outward and I have a semi a correction from last month. My mom confirms that while I did not play with dolls per say.

S2: She said that quote you liked a talking robot that asked you science questions and inquired. I checked this is true. Shout out to all my fellow to excel fans out there. The smartass talking to our robot in the world. Does that count as a doll. I don’t know. I mean it was like the size of a doll but you put cassette tapes in and then we’re like ask you. It’s like I have like C D buttons and you would be like a trivia thing. I was great. I did love it very much.

S3: You just sort of talking go on. You loved learning so much. That’s me. I’m Kristina cutter Ritchie a staff writer at Slate and host of The Wave Slate’s podcast about women and gender and it’s my birthday month this month which means my wife was not allowed to complain when I forced us to watch yet another Kristen Stewart movie last weekend. It’s my choice all month long and we’re joined this month by a special guest who you’ve heard from before.

S4: I’m Vermont alarm. I am one of Slate’s care and feeding advice columnists and I am in recovery from the shock of the end of Daylight Savings Time seems so tough man. It’s really been brutal and it’s also been quite cold in New York the past couple days and I just feel underprepared.

S3: I’m already there. Yeah it’s been cold here in D.C. too. I I’ve been wearing my fuzzy est garments indoors and out.

S5: So this month because we are gearing up for the end of the year and Thanksgiving and the holidays and there’s a lot of opportunities for multigenerational gatherings in our near future we wanted to talk about kids. How do kids learn about gender and sexuality how we teach them about gender and sexuality and also how they’ve been occasionally weaponized to support various political agendas. You know when we talk about raising kids or being good neighbors and friends and role models to kids we’re talking about a lot more than just kids we’re talking about the values we promote the world we want to build the kinds of futures people imagine for themselves. So today I’m very excited for the topics we have on deck. We’re gonna kick things off with a special edition of STREET studies where we will bring in a representative from the straight community to chat with us about how parents and other adults and kids lives shape their views on gender and sexuality or don’t. Then we’re going to talk to Laura Edwards Leeper a professor at Pacific University who specializes in child psychology and gender identity. She’s going to talk to us about caring for trans children and what a recent highly politicized custody battle over trans kids says about the discourse in politics today.

S3: And we’re going to recommend some items from the queer canon that we would recommend for the kids and possibly adults in your life.

S6: But first we’re going to kick things off with our usual round of pride and provocations. Christina what did you bring this month.

S5: I have a pride I am proud this month of Robin Crawford who just published her new book A Song For You My Life with Whitney Houston. Yeah I haven’t read the whole thing but I’ve read some bits and pieces of it. Robin of course was you know Whitney Houston’s best friend for for most of her life and all of her career. They met when they were summer camp counselors in New Jersey as teenagers and from several people’s accounts. It sounds like you know Crawford was one of the few truly supportive and caring presences in Whitney Houston’s life which was of course marked by abuse and exploitation at various points. And you know Crawford writes very beautifully about the early moments in their relationship and the joy that they brought each other their deep connection. She writes that you know they never really talked about labels like lesbian or gay but they were physically and emotionally intimate from very early on in their relationship. Although the physical part she writes stopped once Houston got a big record deal with Arista because you know she thought it would it would harm her career. But you know it really it even more so than the specifics of this book and what I read so far as it gives me pride to see that Robin Crawford is finally able to talk about the truth of their relationship and sort of take the narrative back from from everyone else who has been talking about it. I mean it’s it was the the subject of much gossip and sort of mean spirited rumor at the time when when Whitney Houston was alive. So I see this as her sort of taking that narrative back from people who hated them for their relationship or who used to portray it as something scandalous which you know it probably would have been at the time had they been open about their relationship. And I think she’s doing right by Whitney Houston. I know Brandon Hensley Rest in Peace has talked about this on this show.

S7: You know like when someone leaves this podcast there.

S5: You know Brooke Brandon has talked a lot about and written about how how very smart and attuned Whitney Houston was to the ways that she needed to portray herself sometimes painfully or disingenuously in a way to succeed within the sort of raced and gendered confines of popular music in America. And so I think this is a it’s a worry the addition to to you know that that public narrative of Whitney Houston’s life.

S8: That’s nice to hear because I think it could so easily seem exploitative. Yes you know if you but you’ve actually read it and looked at it and are saying that there’s something deeper here and so that’s reassuring because when I when I saw the news of the book that was my first instinct and then my second was to just feel so sad about you know that she died so young and she just had this talent that was really baffling and that’s tarnishing you know that’s so sad.

S9: Yeah I’m glad to hear that that’s true that was as well. Ramona are you proud or present.

S4: You know I actually I’m really torn about whether I am proud or provoked I’m going to talk about a viral video which is so unlike me.

S10: A couple of days ago a young teenager in Indiana went viral and making air quotes for a video in which he he is an out gay kid and he was being taunted by a bully with you know the sort of typical epithet. And he fought back. He punched this kid. Yes. Really stood up for himself. And it is very hard to watch because I think most of most gay people remember hearing that as children themselves and sort of wished in that moment that they would have fought back. But of course you don’t want violence to be a part of the toolkit that kids are using to get through just being at school. So I guess I’m neither proud nor provoked but I’m sort of happy that it exists so that people can have this irrefutable evidence of what it feels like that that the words are a kind of violence too. And it’s a kind of violence that kids who are different have to navigate daily and you know every kid has a breaking point. And when you’re 15 and you’re full of testosterone and just sort of like your mind’s not fully grown up you can’t really be blamed for physically lashing out. And I just I felt so sad for that kid watching it and I felt so sad watching people kind of celebrate it also.

S6: Yeah I feel like there’s a lot of like I don’t know if this is the right term but like back projection you’re right. It’s like like I wish right. We wish we had done that. But that’s not really what we want. I mean I think it is like you said it is good that this you know perhaps some people think that this kind of thing doesn’t happen anymore or that it doesn’t hurt but it doesn’t hurt.

S9: And what are the consequences. I’m sorry. Yeah that part of it is as useful I guess. But it is it is sort of sad also at the same time.

S11: So I have a pride it’s a small thing but I think that I really love and it is pride at queer waiters in restaurants who make a point of connecting with you with the customer over awareness. I was reminded of how much I like this recently by going to a new restaurant in my neighborhood with one of my partners and the waiter came up sort of clocked us I think immediately as as being together treated us that way which was like a nice thing at first but then proceeded before he even took our orders to ask us our science.

S12: So that was the clear like clear like OK like girl we’re like here together.

S2: And so we discussed that and that like had some bearing on the menu which was that we chose nice.

S6: And then he made a point like sort of later on and during the meal of like mentioning his boyfriend and you know just just like making us feel very much like we were in the hands of another career person and that was very warm and lovely. And of course that formed a nice association with this new restaurant. So we’ll be back now because not just because the food was very good. Ronald’s in Harlem. He wants to go but because of the just coolness of this waiter sort of acknowledging our shared queerness together that’s so lovely.

S4: That’s so cute. That’s a show like Sesame Street story.

S9: You know like he even wrote a little cute little note on our like that was pizza. We had like a box take home in a row just like a little like. Thanks for coming of a bar huh. Yeah.

S3: This good return of one of my favorite things to do which is pretend that they’ve gotten it all wrong. Even when you’re so obviously queer. I recall a time that my friends and I went out there were like maybe seven of us all of whom were queer about half of whom were like gender nonconforming like it was very obvious what was what the sexuality situation was at our table and at the end like we all happened to have like Bank of America debit cards or something. Sorry I know that. That’s like an evil corporation and as queers we should do better. Anyway we the the waiter who was queer was sort of like Oh ello well is this like the official lesbian debit card.

S7: And we were like We’re not gay. Like what the hell are you talking about. And I got his face was red and then I was like haha just kidding. And he was like Oh my God. Oh oh. So it was really fun to play. Try it out sometime.

S4: I was. I was in Fort Worth just this past weekend visiting my husband who’s been working there for the past couple of weeks and we were with the kids and we went out for tacos one morning. This is the inverse of Brian’s story. We went over telcos one morning and we had a lovely waiter. And then at the end he said he looked at us and said Do you want separate checks. And I was like What is the calculus here. We here at nine o’clock in the morning with our children gone. And I guess he was just like Well obviously you’re just like two guys who happen to know each other having breakfast together lives there. Yeah your wives are getting the Medicare and the treasure aspects of it was really and this is not the first time this has happened it happens at restaurants typically not in New York City. But I actually think it’s kind of sweet and funny.

S9: Yeah yeah. That’s wild. Just the other backflips he had to do to do that. Homophobia is a bitch. Yeah. Yeah.

S3: Well speaking of straight people in honor of all the straight waiters out there who don’t understand what’s happening at the tables they serve we’d like to welcome our street correspondent Allison Benedict. Welcome Allison.

S13: Hello. I’m happy to be here.

S3: So as I said the beginning of the episode we wanted to talk about kids in part because we have so many family gatherings coming up in the future. But for me I was thinking about this this month because you know in our last episode we talked about Mattel’s new gender neutral doll and my niece came to visit me. She’s three recently and I had her play with the doll. And you know I was sort of like very performative li like this doll can be any gender. Now clearly doesn’t understand what gender is but was very excited about the variety of clothing that she could possibly put on the doll. She did understand though when I was like you know this doll could be a boy or a girl or like it’s a he or it’s a she and then she was like Oh yeah yeah. And then kind of like use pronouns that differed throughout the course of her play. I think she finally settled on he him pronoun but you know dressed the doll in all manner of feminine clothing.

S5: But it got me thinking about you know how kids conceive of gender and sexuality and what sorts of influence people parents aunts and uncles of friends and neighbors can actually have on a kid and how much they sort of figure out on their own or glean from pop culture. So I’m really excited to have multiple parents in this discussion and I’ll put it to you guys first. Do you feel any sort of duty or compulsion to instill any sort of ideas about gender and sexuality in your kids.

S14: I think it’s inevitable that a parent will kind of instill their politics in their kid and as gender and sexual identity have become sort of like staple parts of the political discourse they’ve become things that are just part of what you talk about. So when my kids my kids were old enough when Hillary Clinton was running for president that we could have that conversation about what it is or what it meant us as adults to see a woman running for president and what that meant to the culture. And so there’s just a familiarity there that’s an extension of being a sort of liberal New York parent. And so gender falls within that more comfortably now I think than it did when I was a child myself. But the flipside of that is that I am a gay dad. And part of the worst kind of thinking that’s sort of like anti-gay parenting is the idea that you are somehow indoctrinating your kid with you know who knows what it’s like as though gayness were true. You know a communicable disease or something. And so then there is a sensitivity there in us as parents to you know there’s just a sensitivity there but also now that I have children I realized that you can’t actually even give them your political values. You mean a sensitivity they’re like you feel a certain pressure to not be perceived as like programming our kids with some kind of like to be gay or just like teaching them like boys can wear skirts or something. Even though of course boys can wear skirts so it’s it’s hard to it’s hard to get a handle on what’s you know in so many ways we are such square parents right. Like we try we drive a minivan and we go to like soccer or whatever and I want and it’s this is all like an internal struggle of are we trying not to make them into sissies because we are afraid of being accused of indoctrinating them somehow. And at the same time I think that the very notion of being a sissy is like ridiculous and old fashioned and of course little boys can wear skirts and push strollers and all of that stuff that like modern parents encourage their children.

S13: Well so I mean what you said at first we have a similar dynamic and that just in our household we talk about politics a lot. So you know we talk about racism we talk about income inequality we definitely talk about. I definitely feel I think the way you phrased it is like if you feel a certain duty and duty implies some kind of like greater external responsibility and I think I do feel that when it comes to sexism like you know whatever we have all there all this book there’s still many books like The rad American women and five great female scientists like I’m surprised that they even know that men can be scientists. But when it comes to it when it comes to like you know when it comes to sexuality and like gender fluidity that stuff I would say like I feel like we are less out like out in front of. And we kind of take those conversations as they come and it’s much more about like I feel a duty to make sure my children are comfortable being who they are and happy and feel supported. But I don’t think we’ve introduced that many conversations about like what it means to be transgender. Transgender rights or gender fluidity. We tend to take those conversations I guess more as as they come. Like when the kids come to us and ask about things. I feel like in our like sort of day to day there’s a lot of like just. It feels very basic but a lot of like oh our middle son like he loves glittery jewelry and so we’re like it’s supportive of his love of glittery durable jewelry or like we’ve encouraged him to like take a dance class because he loves to dance and he feels the dance is like a girly thing and he doesn’t want to do it all these like extremely like feels like you know it doesn’t feel different than than a conversation parents might have had with their kids five years ago.

S15: Having those conversations in school though about identity and about. Because like I’ve heard my kids use the word transgender based on something that they’re hearing and yeah.

S16: So is that happening in your school system.

S13: Yeah I mean I think the baseline knowledge is just is different now and the baseline like I don’t know what the word is like tolerance I guess I think it’s not you know just I don’t know what it was like for you guys when you were growing up. But for them like whatever just having friends who have two dads or two moms that’s just not a thing. It’s like not a thing at all. And so we don’t really even talk about it and I don’t if that’s good or bad because maybe it is. Maybe they are more curious in their mind and I just sort of take it for granted that they take it for granted that it’s incredible how much has changed in some ways.

S3: I mean you know when I was growing up it definitely was a thing to learn that some adult was gay. And certainly there were very few out gay kids and I grew up in New Hampshire which is you know more or less socially liberal and was at the time when I was growing up. But you know when we found out that for instance my student council adviser in high school was gay it wasn’t like a shock and nobody was nobody that I witnessed was like homophobic toward her but it still was a big deal. And like I think we thought it was very like cool and different. But it’s also incredible how much hasn’t changed like just to hear that your kid thinks you know dance classes girly and he might have a little like reluctance to participate in something like that like. I think there are so many norms that are incredibly persistent and so the first thing I think about is how do we teach kids and raise kids. And so whenever I think about you know do I want kids or what does it mean to be an influence on or even just in relationship with the kids in my life my friends kids are my sister’s kids I’m like How do I indoctrinate them like kind of exactly what you are saying Mom that people hope gay people aren’t doing. I am a little bit like how do I indoctrinate them. Because even though you know there might not be a way to turn your kid gay or turn the kid straight for that matter. I do think that there when kids are trying to figure out who they are.

S5: There are so many barriers to a kid being able to explore being gay or being trans and and even to realize even if even if from a young age they feel that that might be true for them even to realize that like a I can be that and no matter who I am what I look like like that label or that lifestyle or identity could fit me. And then also that you know that you could have a great future in any one of those identity groups like I just remember especially if if you’re not gay not straight but maybe like bi or pan or something and it doesn’t necessarily feel wrong to you to be in a relationship with somebody of a different gender like it it might take you a really long time to even recognize that it’s possible for you to find fulfillment in relationship with somebody of your same gender.

S15: It could just be the case that these things naturally require time and maturity as an individual and I think that the way that you actually indoctrinate is by adult presence like you remember this lesbian figure from your own childhood. It does make an impact and like it’s not about indoctrination it’s just about providing for kids a very visible example of like the multiple ways that they could be an adult.

S13: I think that makes that’s a that makes a huge difference. There’s like there’s also there’s some level of kind of engineering and parenting that I think is really hard to achieve. Like you hear people talk about like I didn’t my kids didn’t just like I didn’t buy my boys trucks they just were drawn to trucks and then and but then some you know there were some parents who would certainly like they wouldn’t buy trucks right. They would only buy like gender neutral toys or gender neutral clothes or it’s like it’s like a lifestyle. It’s intense. And I frankly like I just don’t parent like that in other parts of the parenting like either and it feels it feels. I mean maybe this is just a out but it feels extremely overwhelming and like it has to be like your main priority to work that way whereas whereas having like all different kinds of people in your life feels full and wonderful like how you’re how you would want your life to be.

S11: I think that’s so. So I I’m hanging back in this conversation a little bit because I can’t really remember the last time I spoke to a child.

S12: I don’t I don’t want to speak out of school about like that. You’re welcome to babysit this show. Maybe I should. That’s good. You need a gay presence in there. And I do get caught. I do.

S11: I look forward to you know perhaps one day maybe being like a gay uncle. That would be very fun. I would be into it. But what I wanted to say was to this idea of having like many different kinds of adults in the child’s life as a way of sort of modeling possibility that is that seems to me to be something that is so perhaps regionally specific. I’m thinking about like in my own childhood I didn’t have any of that in terms of other gay people at least that were out about it there.

S17: Now in retrospect I am aware of some people who were gay. But in South Carolina and you know the 90s it wasn’t discussed. And so I don’t think I really knew the word until like waylaid and definitely didn’t figure out that it had anything to do with like an identity or me until you know until I got to college. I came to New York. And so you know the the availability of all of those model those role models and a child’s life. I think it just is so dependent on where you live and what the kind of culture of that place is. And of course you do your parents have a lot of friends and like all of that but that seems like something that if you live if you live in a place that’s not New York or not you know a city maybe you do have to engineer it into their lives a little bit if you want that influence that Mattel has a new gender neutral.

S12: That’s right. Oh yeah yeah.

S3: Thinking about this also made me wonder about the ways we think about heterosexuality and homosexuality as sexualities versus identities. Like when I think about the ways even just very young children get a sense of what’s normal and you know what is a normal family you look like. It’s it’s not just you know I think a lot of people would say like oh well what don’t impute sexuality on to like characters for instance that you’re exposing young children to but I mean every story that that children absorb from a very young age or most stories have like parents for instance or a family structure and almost all the time I mean besides like books specifically written to counteract the like hetero centric like world do you have children’s books like every other cultural product children absorb from my perspective it’s had straight parents and like those are people in a romantic and sexual relationship even though sexuality doesn’t play into it at all like their identity as straight people does. And I I wonder you know as kids are learning about like what what do families look like what sorts of relationships do adults have like when they’re getting that sort of message from the stuff that they’re watching. It’s not just about sexuality. I mean it. And you know kids of course like do have sexualities and understand sexuality. I think kids from a very young age are like making their dolls have sex and things like that.

S7: It’s now a rule on our that every episode we have to talk about having sex last time. Had like a little boy. Yeah.

S3: It just sounds to me like teaching kids about you know queerness for instance isn’t the same as teaching them about sex and I think that’s something that the conservatives who will pass these like no promo homo laws where like teachers and schools can’t even talk about you know queerness at all like I think they’re it’s telling that their perspective is very sex focused like oh well if you wouldn’t teach a kid about sex acts why would you bring being gay into it. But but it’s it’s about a a way of being and not necessarily just about sex but it’s the sex that panics people of course.

S14: And as you say like you know heterosexual as an identity is also related to sex and the truth is that kids figure sex out much earlier I think than people are comfortable admitting and they make they draw conclusions and a lot of them are really like sort of sweet and funny and confused but they figure this out. And it’s like part of the animal nature and it’s very distressing to people to. Confront that.

S2: Do parents now or do you all like put sexual and gender identity and to sort of like the talk or the series of talks around puberty and adolescence.

S18: And in that case it seems like you would just be kind of introducing the idea that there are people who are heterosexuals and people who are it’s like very scientific right but that’s that’s separate from the sort of much richer notion of gay and lesbian in the LGBT community and like a political history and like all of that stuff that’s like you could in theory talk about before you’ve had that side that stuff is easier.

S12: Yeah it’s interesting to think about the twenty five gay thing.

S9: Yeah I’d like it’s a funny idea to think about like what is what is gay then mean to that child. If it’s not about like because you as a gay person you experience the sex part the attraction part for. Maybe it’s about love.

S19: Yeah I was going to say we are talking to kids about relationships and generations like Love Like This is why I’m not speaking to me. When your kids are very little.

S13: I mean I know some people talk to their kids about sex like extremely early so then they never have to get over that weird awkward hump when they’re older. We unfortunately didn’t do it that way and I really regret it. I remember an old colleague of ours Hannah Rose and said that she just like one day in the swimming pool when her kid was like two and a half she was like This is I wish we had done that and we hadn’t.

S19: But anyway. Yeah yeah.

S15: The early conversations about sex whether heterosexual or homosexual is is is to people love when two people love each other they know totally and they’re definitely like that is like a way of that is simplifying what Christine is talking about but it’s like a accessible to a child to talk about sex in those terms. And I also think that the notion of one talk is kind of outdated.

S16: Yeah. Yes. Right. And it’s sort of like you’re laying the groundwork because the kids are coming home hearing these conversations in school or among friends about you know oh god I’m this. I don’t even have like a pop cultural reference but they’ll hear something sort of vaguely pop cultural and say look this person said that they’re gay or whatever you know. And that gives you an opportunity to have a conversation even before they have like because the language around attraction and your own sexual maturity is like not it’s not like a it’s not a verbal language. So the interior language and so you’re just providing them with like an alphabet and sooner or later they’re going to figure out how to spell you know how. That’s such a good analogy.

S13: I think this stuff also strikes me similarly to like when I think about how white people should talk to their kids about race like there’s they’re certainly like a lot of people I think who think it’s better to like not talk about it like we don’t see you know we don’t see race. But obviously like all the research says that’s not a good idea at all. And so I think the same about this probably for straight parents is like it’s just better to have it be part of the conversation early and then it feels it’s much less like we’re not pretending we live in a world that we don’t live in.

S3: Yeah yeah. The other thing that I was thinking about that’s similar to that Alison is when I have been looking at some like kids books about LGBT history or something like it’s hard to talk about that or like what you were talking about Brian you know about LGBT culture and in a political you know history without it focusing on a lot of bad stuff discrimination and you know I was I was reading a book that was like meant for kids the other day like oh maybe this would be good for my niece or something and it was like the assassination of Harvey Milk.

S13: I was like OK. Like now we have to talk about like sometimes people kill each other at Lego. It I mean this is everything this is parenting. I feel like it wasn’t like this for our parents because they just they didn’t talk about it now.

S15: And I think it’s sort of that indicates where we are politically. You know like it’s like like you said about race. It’s the sea. It’s really the same conversation. It’s an analogous conversation because you mix both of my children where blacks are trying to teach them about blackness specifically does involve teaching them all the stuff that is a tremendous bummer. Yeah yeah yeah. It’s important to talk about and you can’t there’s no there’s no like dolling it up you know it’s just like yeah some people think black people are lesser and that guided like all of American history until like right now and saying I mean kids can kind of deal with a lot more than I think people think they can and they sort of they can try and make sense of that even though it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. And I think sex and sexuality works kind of the same way and they can. You know when I explained to them the injustice of like you know. From those 50 books of great great women scientists like the injustice of Marie Curie not like being acknowledged as a great scientist or whatever they couldn’t make sense of that. And it’s and it’s important that they do.

S3: I think that’s all the time we have for this incredibly vital and wonderful discussion. Thank you so much for joining us Allison. It was great to have you on. Thanks for having me.

S19: Thank you for speaking for the entire state. I did everyone proud.

S2: Your perspective is valid and in late October news broke of a heartbreaking custody battle between two divorced parents and Coppell Texas center around the gender identity of their 7 year old daughter Luna younger widow has identified as a girl since she was about three and has been professionally diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Her mother has supported Luna’s desire to socially transition by dressing in feminine clothing growing her hair along and changing her name. Meanwhile her father has made waves in conservative media by rejecting Luna’s trans identity and claiming that she wants to live as a boy when in his care. Though a slew of other family members doctors school staff and therapists have denied this as the case stands now the parents have joint custody and while that’s on appeal Luna must move between one household that supports who she is and another that actively undermines it. If that weren’t hellish enough her case has also become the focal point of a conservative panic around trans youth and their health care. With Ted Cruz calling Luna quote upon and a left wing political agenda. End quote. And Texas Governor Greg Abbott reportedly directing state agencies to investigate the family. Much of the drama here centers on the notion that Luna’s mother and other trans affirming parents like her are out to quote unquote chemically castrate their young children and force them to undergo other scary sounding medical procedures that the child might later regret. We want to say it up front here on the podcast. This is not true. This is not what happened but to help us unpack why and how it is untrue. We’re joined today by Dr. Laura Edwards Leeper a clinical psychologist at Pacific University who specializes in child psychology gender nonconformity and transgender care. Thanks so much for being here with us today. Thanks for having me. So we’re actually not going to talk in too much detail about the case today but I want to point our listeners to a really great piece over in Vox by Caitlin Burns called what the battle over a 7 year old trans girl could mean for families nationwide. If you want to know more about this case in particular there’s a there’ll be a link on the show page but that piece really gets into the details. What we want to use it for today is as a jumping off point for a broader discussion about trans youth health care. So when a child like Luna comes to a parent with a sense that they would like to socially transition or express their gender differently what is the current sort of medical professional bias on the to do for a parent in that case.

S20: Well typically the best thing to do is to first consult with a professional who is knowledgeable in this area and trained to work with young children and fully understands the complexities of child development and you know is able to take some time with the family to really understand you know what what’s going on and what’s in the child’s best interest. And then through that assessment if it seems clear that the child you know is really strongly pushing for presenting in a different gender or from what they were assigned then many times that is the recommended course of action particularly if it’s going to alleviate a lot of psychological and emotional distress and through behavioral issues that might be present because of the gender dysphoria. And so that you know that often is the case in some cases in some situations.

S2: Right. And so so it starts with with Yeah like this consultation with sort of like a therapist or psychologist or someone like that who can you can add more guidance but we’re not talking and I said this already but we’re not talking about medical interventions at this stage of the game right. When you’re talking about a young child.

S20: Absolutely not. We net would never intervene medically with that child that hasn’t even reached puberty yet.

S21: And one thing that stuck out to me as I’ve read about the case in Texas and several other articles that I’ve read about trans kids and you know the reaction to that especially in right wing media is it seems like there’s a real fixation on the body of the child in question. You know whenever there is a discussion about trans and gender affirming care for kids we hear it talked about in terms of a quote unquote sex change or you know worried about making irreversible changes to a child’s body. Where do you think that fixation and that fear comes from.

S20: Well that’s a good question.

S22: I mean I think that our culture is just very focused on on sexuality and you know and a fear of you know children I guess in particular being sexual beings. So maybe that’s part of that. You know I think that you know there are certainly fears that people have around homosexuality that may play into that. But you know it’s it’s really misguided for people to focus on that. You know with with anyone I mean anybody any gender dysphoric person transgender people adults adolescents and especially children because we’re not we’re not even thinking about that with younger children. Basically we’re just considering allowing and supporting the child and presenting themselves in their identity and being true to themselves and so sometimes that can mean changing their name and pronouns it can mean changing their gender expression which would be things like clothing or hairstyle. And also just allowing them to engage in the kinds of activities that they’re drawn toward and not kind of forcing them into what’s considered stereotypically masculine or feminine types of play activities.

S21: Yeah. And how does that change as a child approaches puberty.

S20: A lot of it continues to stay the same. The only thing that that we start to consider in some cases as a child starts to progress towards puberty is you know the consideration of puberty suppressing medication. The goal of that is just to give the child more time to continue sorting out their identity as their you know a little more mature as they’re maturing into adolescence and they’re cognitively emotionally psychologically able to understand themselves in the world and a little bit more of a sophisticated manner. It gives them time to really think about how they want to proceed with their identity how young to really reflect on how they feel about their identity and what kinds if any other medical interventions they might want to do when they get older.

S23: It’s interesting reading up on this and talking to you about it like there’s a real sense that the approach here should be that the child needs to lead. And I think that that is probably like challenging for a lot of parents who might approach parenting generally as as a thing that where their their goal is to sort of bleed the child and guide the child. And you’re talking about having you know quite young children in fact sort of taking the lead and they’re sort of self determination. How do you think about you know shifting parents view of that in these cases because it seems like that could be a real a real paradigm shift for a lot of parents.

S20: Well I guess I don’t see it quite so black and white. I mean I I do think that there is certainly an element of taking the child’s lead but it really has to be done in a very thoughtful and balanced manner because children are children. And so you know the way that they understand the world and just think about everything including gender is very concrete and black and white just because of the state of their brain development at young ages and so. So yes I mean absolutely we need to follow the child’s lead but some children gender does fluctuate. And for example I’ve where I worked with a child who told me that they felt like a boy when it rained. And so we you know I live in Portland Oregon. So it rains a lot here so long as it helps their gender identity. But you know so some kids really are you know one day they may feel one way one day they may feel another way. And it’s critical that we’re not assuming that the way a child feels at one point in time is necessarily going to predict how they feel tomorrow or next year or five years from now or when they’re twenty five years old or beyond. And so I think that’s that’s the challenge and that’s why having you know professional guidance is really really helpful for a lot of these parents and families because there is a lot in the news right now about how to best support these kids. And it’s very you know it’s kind of like either you support them or you don’t. And you know I kind of see it as you know there being a lot more nuance to it that people aren’t always recognizing. So but I do think that you know I’ve sometimes worked with parents who have a fear that if they allow their child to play with the toys that they want to play with even if they don’t align from what kind of stir typical gendered manner the signed gender of the child that that’s somehow going to make the child transgender or cause more confusion. And I can say very confidently that that is not going to happen. I’ve never seen that happen but in fact it actually has a very positive effect when children are allowed to you know just engage in the things they that bring them joy and happiness and that kind of gets more into just in my mind the problem with the gender binary that we have in our culture that we kind of enforce upon children that is really damaging to them as they grow up whether they’re transgender or cis gender or somewhere in between non-binding binary or some other gender.

S2: So in the Vox article that I mentioned at the top of the segment they talk about how a number of legislators conservatives around the country are threatening bills none of these as far as I know have been really advanced yet at a threatening bills that could outlaw things like puberty blockers or make it even child abuse quote unquote to allow a kid to transition that that sort of thing happened.

S24: What would be the impact on on the kids you work with and then just the work you do generally. That would be extremely detrimental for these kids.

S25: I mean I can’t I honestly can’t imagine how horrible that would be if that were to end up happening. You know it’s been incredible to see at with not just my own clinical experience but some research now that supports that these young children who are supported in their identities do very well psychologically. And you know and prior to being supported they do not do well.

S20: And I’ve worked with with children who whose parents and sometimes the therapist involved took a more kind of behavioral approach to try to just help the child feel comfortable in their assigned gender in the body that they were given. And it didn’t work. And you know the child’s emotional behavioral problems or just horrible. And so the parents then eventually decided they couldn’t do that anymore because that thought like child abuse.

S26: And so you know they sought a different kind of help and began supporting their child. And many of them talk about it being like flipping a switch that you know suddenly their child’s mental health problems improved and they were confident and had friends and you know more behavioral problems no more emotional problems. So yeah it would be extremely detrimental for these kids if you know if the legislature was to go forward in that way and same with the medical stuff you know I think for the adolescents that you know we’ve come so far with being able to support children in a way that’s for those who again you know who who really need it and will benefit from it. It’s been such an amazing intervention both the blockers and then being able to use hormone treatment and sometimes surgeries for older adolescents and improving their quality of life and improving their mental health symptoms and all of that that to take that away particularly you know with the medical stuff with adolescents with all the risk they have of severe mental health issues including suicide self harm all that that could be extremely detrimental.

S21: Yeah. On that note as we wrap up the segment I wonder if you could just just still one or a couple key takeaways for our listeners you know as they go out into the holiday season prepared to possibly debunk myths or or better the understanding of the people around them about you know care for trans kids. I mean I think the the most important thing is just you know to encourage people to not get so stuck on the binary when it comes to gender and to you know get try to move away from thinking that certain toys are for boys and certain toys are for girls and certain colors are for boys and certain colors are for girls in that clothing you know all of it and that you know just allowing kids to be kids and be happy and you know in situations where they feel strongly about their gender identity and you know they’re clear about that you know that they really do benefit from being supported in that and in other cases if they just don’t have the interests that align with their assigned gender they should be the child to be should be supported and that you know and to not make children feel ashamed or embarrassed or that it’s not okay to play with the toys they want to play with.

S26: And do the things they want to do. I mean they’re gonna be healthier people with it whether they’re ultimately transgender or cis gender or something else if they’re allowed to follow their heart and be who they are.

S2: Well Dr. Edwards Leeper thank you so much for first for the work you do. Then second for being on the show with us. I think it’s been really really helpful.

S26: Thank you for having me.

S21: Yeah. I learned a lot.

S16: Thank you so much I think that’s about it for this month but before we go I think we have time to talk about our updates to the gay agenda. And if I can go first. I’m worried about I’m worried about Christina beating me to it.

S14: But tomorrow I’m going to go see Charlie’s Angels starring the sexiest man woman or other I can think of Kristen Stewart. And I’m very excited about it. It looks totally ridiculous. Totally fun.

S3: She’s so good. She’s such a bad actress. But I’ll watch her do anything she’s Yeah.

S4: You know if you look like that I don’t think you have to be a good.

S3: Yeah. We saw the movie that I was talking about that I recently watched was personal shopper. Yeah yeah. Very first scene like no dialogue has been spoken yet. She walks out in a leather jacket and I’m just like oh my wife goes you’re allowed to make three more of those noises. Yeah I mean I she we value her because of the way she looks staring into middle distance with no expression on her face. We don’t value her for acting. I’m going to recommend one day at a time. It’s a sitcom that aired for a couple of seasons on Netflix and is now going to be resurrected that Pop. It’s about a Cuban-American family in L.A. The daughter in the family.

S5: Olena is I believe in high school. She’s gay. She dates and on binary person named said. And it’s just such a positive view of how families can like learn about and deal with and support a queer kid. The show’s just so so corny and I think that’s a good thing actually. In this case it takes on like pretty difficult issues but always wraps and into a bow at the end of the episode. There’s some good natured jokes about how this Lena is like a super activist the grandma like doesn’t understand the word Latina X and like. But what the jokes are never punching down. And and I think it’s just a very lovely vision of like queer youth. That doesn’t diminish them. The other one I’m gonna recommend is lumber jeans which is a series of comics and graphic novels about girls at a kind of scouting camp. And so there’s like a core group of girls and there’s actually one non binary character in the group to that one of the girls is trans. Two of the girls have a romance together and it’s just really fun and adventurous and full of like supernatural characters. The two things that I picked are both visual because I think although I do love a lot of queer books I think it can be really powerful to actually see like a wide variety of what queer people can look like you know. And both of these shows do a really good job of you know showing having like queer characters being queer but also not having that be like their only characteristic and also not reducing their storylines to ones of trauma like both of the stories are pretty optimistic visions of what queer life can look like. Highly recommend both of them.

S11: So I was thinking about a movie I wish I wish I had seen younger because I think it would have it would have done a lot of the things we’re talking about earlier for me and that is the birdcage actually. I love that movie.

S2: I you know I think it’s probably a film for slightly older kids but not I don’t get to be super old. And I think it’s great because it sort of is a perfect account of the value of difference and like what. Forcing people into conformity. How painful that can be on how impoverishing that can be to to a life.

S6: I think it shows different sorts of families of course and then it has just the fun identity exploration that drag offers. And so I think you know a younger child would just have a lot of fun watching you know the drag queens who are a type of clown. I think you could you could say I and they probably relate to that. But then you get all of these other sort of messages. Yeah.

S18: Just about like the value of difference and the possibilities that could that a life could look like in a very lighthearted you know of funny and that and then you know it’s politically kind of biting to when you’re when you’re ready for that kind of part of it for the conservative side of things but I do think it’s beautiful and it’s it stands up really well.

S6: There’s some certain aspects that are a little problematic now but most of it I think I think works. So yeah. Bird Cage is something I would I would love to have seen younger and would love to show to catch her nieces and nephews maybe all of these also are very good for adults too.

S9: I mean I watched at least once a year. Yeah. All right. I think that is it for November. Please send us feedback and topic ideas that outward podcast at Slate dot com or via Facebook and Twitter at Slate outward. We’re also always looking for questions for potential advice segments. So please send those our way to thank you to Melissa Kaplan who provided engineering assistance for this episode. Our producer is the wonderful Daniel Schrader.

S27: June Thomas is senior managing producer of Slate podcast and insider fact one of the gay mafia’s most prized recruiters if you like out there please subscribe in your podcast app tell your friends about it and write and review the show so others can find it. We’ll be back in your feeds on December 18th. Goodbye. Bye. Thank you guys. See you casino. Bye. Bye everybody.