Dangerous stance

April 12, 2018

The co-authors’ response (Letters, 22 March) to my review of Transgender Children and Young People: Born In Your Own Body (Books, 15 March) miscasts my critique as personalised. I did not call them “trans-exclusionary feminists” (TERFs), because they self-identify otherwise (a privilege that their book denies others). I used “white middle-class” to describe not the writers but the genealogy of the book’s core ideas: some contributors dip into queer/transgender studies, but highly selectively, ignoring contemporary liberatory ideas that incorporate the differences the book is fixated on rejecting.

Just as problematic was the book’s circumvention of the current evidence base on transgender youth. It claimed a trans-supportive culture and easily accessible medical treatment, for which there is no evidence. The authors position my review as an attempt to shut down critical scrutiny, which is reserved for their own perspective. It is worth restating their main argument – “transgender children don’t exist” – which by any standards is an extreme stance and, for many, is dangerous.

Finally, I sense an implication that as a geographer I lack qualification to debate this subject. We human geographers get used to this, but I’m guessing that my 30 years of studying gender, not glaciers, are a fair match for any of the book’s contributors, and getting on for 30 more than some.

Rachel Pain
Professor of human geography
Newcastle University

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