Open Letter in Response to Transphobic Claims

Open Letter in Response to Transphobic Claims

Content Warning: Mentions of sexual assault, childhood trauma, mental health crisis.

Transgender and Gender Expansive people are not sexual predators. I’m frankly horrified that this statement needs to be made in 2023, but based on hate speech from a recently resigned board member, made in person during a policy meeting and on Twitter, we still have this ridiculous perception. Words from people in power tend to be believed as truth, so I’m debunking several transphobic thought patterns with credible sources, so people have access to the truth.

Transphobic assertion #1: All transgender/gender expansive people are predators, and will use bathrooms to assault other students. A case in Loudoun County, VA is used to support this claim. 

However, after doing research, there is almost nothing concretely in the Loudoun County case that indicated that the child who assaulted two peers in the women’s bathroom was transgender. There have been no school records released that state that the child was a trans-woman, and all the various reports refer to the child as a male and use he/him pronouns. The only thing that is being used to label the child as a trangender predator was his choice of clothing, a skirt. In case we needed a reminder, what someone chooses to wear is not an indication of their gender. People are free to wear whatever article of clothing is most comfortable to them. By no means am I minimizing the damage and trauma of the victims and their families. This is tragic and inexcusable behavior. However, it would serve well to decouple the mentality of transgender and gender expansive students being rapists. They are not the same. 

In fact, according to the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS) 2021 results, transgender students have experienced more than 3 times the amount of forced sexual intercourse (22.9%) than their cisgender peers (7.7%). Of the 22.9%, 36% of transgender students report a lifetime of forced sexual intercourse, and 11.3% report past year forced sexual contact.[1]  Both sets of data are substantially higher than their cisgender classmates. This would suggest that transgender and gender expansive students are far more likely to have unwanted sexual contact than their cisgender peers, and that they are not the perpetrators.

This begs the question of sourcing, and where the former board member got his information. He said, “It’s in the news. You guys can look it up.” While this incident was reported on widely, the one source I found that matched his information was a Fox News article. The article contained language dismissive of gender fluid persons, but mostly was critical of the school district responsible, not the student.[2] Still, it is important to note that Fox News is considered highly unreliable, with around 59% of the claims being false or factually incorrect, according to a study by Poynter University of Journalism.[3 Another source calls the sourcing “questionable” with influences of “conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, propaganda, and numerous failed fact checks.”[4] It’s safe to conclude that the information within this article houses biased and a negatively skewed presentation of the transgender and gender expansive community.

As a whole, it seems as though it was forgotten that transgender/gender expansive people are human. These are kids that are being oversexualized and labeled as rapists, simply for trying to be more comfortable within their own skin. With senseless propaganda like that which Fox News spreads, it feels like we’re walking around with a bullseye on our backs. As someone who is queer, I do everything to avoid sharing locker space. I used to ride home in my wet swimsuit, change before practice, and use single stalled bathrooms. We are just trying to get in and get out without being hate-crimed, assaulted, or accused of inappropriate conduct.

Transphobic assertion #2: Teens can’t be allowed to decide to transition, they detransition all the time, some within 5 months.

Detransitioning was brought up to address the misguided concern that transgender people would transition to gain access to a bathroom and then de-transition. Once again, an ignorant argument which further tries to make trangender and gender expansive people appear predatory. To make the argument presented weaker, detransition rates are low, and primarily are due to external factors, rather than regret. In a study conducted in 2015, 8% of the transgender people surveyed reported detransitioning. I was slightly surprised by that statistic until I read further into the reasons given. Most of the people who de-transitioned lived as their assigned sex at birth only temporarily, in fact, 62% of the people who detransitioned resought gender affirming care later in life. Those who answered that their transition wasn’t right for them only accounted for 0.4% of the survey. The question of what prompted the 62% to detransition temporarily can be found in a second survey from 2021. In the survey, responses from detransitioned persons indicated that 82.5% had detransitioned due to an external driving factor.[5] The highest percentage of external pressure to detransition came from parents (35.6%) and community/societal stigma (32.5%).[5] 

The name Chloe Cole appeared in the school board meeting. She accounts for the 0.4% of people who detransitioned because it wasn’t right for them. The difference in this case is that since she returned to her assigned sex at birth she has been advocating for all kids to be barred from gender-affirming care. After reading her story, I acknowledge that the medical professionals involved in her treatment were not as thorough as necessary, and I can imagine it was a very painful experience to undergo. However, in any situation, there will always be outliers. The logic that she has presented can be explained this way: if someone was bit by a dog, would it be logical for them to launch a campaign to put down all dogs?  Obviously, no, and so should Chloe Cole’s argument.

Also it is important to note that Chloe’s story is irrelevant to the KHS policy. The policy that is currently being reviewed is in regards to students being able to socially transition. This means that they would use their preferred pronouns, name, and bathroom that best coincides with their gender identity. Nothing in the policy is discussing medical transition. Let’s instead focus on the issues that matter.

Transgender and gender expansive students face dire numbers in access to safe households, and poor mental health. In the 2021 MIYHS survey results, 53.5% of trangender kids report 4+ adverse childhood experiences, and 46.2% have left home at some point due to a threat of violence. The lack of love, care, kindness, and support is likely leading to extreme decline in mental health. In the past 12 months before the survey, 58.5% of transgender students seriously contemplated suicide, and 24.8% attempted suicide at least once.[1]  For me, these numbers are way too high. Instead of causing more hurt, discrimination, fear, and abuse in the lives of transgender and gender expansive kids, we should educate ourselves and provide as many safe spaces as possible, including this school district, RSU 21.