Last week, BBC Radio Four’s evening news programme PM aired an interview with a ten-year old child who self-identifies as having a ‘non-binary’ gender. That is, s/he believes that s/he is neither a boy nor a girl, but both.
The child, who was born a girl, has decided to call her/himself ‘Leo’. S/he was interviewed alongside her/his mother [we’ll proceed with just male pronouns from now on, before I go insane]. Leo’s mother explained his personality thus: “Leo is definitely not a girl. Leo is more boy than girl … but he’s not, like a lot of transgender people, a male mind who happened to be born in a female body. He’s a non-binary mind who happened to be born in a female body”. A profession of a truly remarkable knowledge of her child’s psyche. But is this just some off-the-peg gender-identity which, having been found on the internet, is now being hung upon Leo’s shoulders, one which he must grow into? Or is this, genuinely, Leo’s own personality organically forming?
The BBC interview probed none of this, doing no more than bathe the interviewees in warm adoration. Mum got a free pass. The interview did, however, provide glimpses into the events which had initiated Leo’s journey through the genders. He tells us that upon first broaching the subject with his mother, “[she] was completely on board first thing”. Really? First thing? It took me months of inner struggle before I would let my daughter play outside by herself, but here Leo wants to change gender and it’s all systems go. Mum did ask him, however, whether he would be “a gay man or a straight man”. The interviewer then informs us that, “helped by research from his parents [Leo] decided that he’s non-binary”. What is apparent from this last sentence is that Leo’s specific gender-identity is not some gradually arrived at realisation, but a ‘decision’, or choice, made after viewing a various options presented to him by his parents. His parents are, through their interventions, impelling their child through this process.
One telling moment in the interview occurs when the interviewer, obviously attempting to be achingly politically correct, describes Leo as identifying as a boy. “No”, snaps the mum, as the boy (who, lest we forget, has a vagina) remains silent. “Non-binary”, she corrects. If ever the boy momentarily forgets what he is supposed to be, mum will be there to keep him on track.
One effect of mum’s apparent influence over Leo’s psychological development is his obvious sense of entitlement. At one point he recounts his displeasure upon seeing the director of his school play selecting only boys to play the roles of boys: “I pulled her [the teacher] over and said ‘this isn’t right’”. Little fingers were clicked, the lackey duly summoned. Leo later discusses his school toilets, opining that, “I’m not allowed to [use the male toilets]. I feel as though I should be allowed to do that … [because] that’s where the conversation is”. What ten year old speaks like this? Is this the real Leo speaking, or the ‘cultivated’ Leo? Mum is, of course, on hand to drive home Leo’s sense of injustice, remonstrating that, “The school need to understand that they have an obligation and that Leo has rights”. All rules must bend to accommodate Leo’s self-perception, which, being that of a ten year old, is immutable and eternal.
One of the most depressing parts of the interview involves Leo’s mother revealing her own father’s ‘problematic’ attitude towards transgenderism. Not because the old man expressed any hostility towards Leo, but because he briefly found it all a bit strange. Granddad is dismissed by Leo’s mum as being “not really up with the Zeitgeist”. And there we have it – the Zeitgeist. The fashion, the moment, the spirit of the time. Here, the non-binary, as a ‘thing’, has all the profundity of the mini-skirt, pop music, and stone-washed jeans. It’s way cool! Leo’s grandfather, in cleaving (momentarily) to both biological reality and the social constructs that have existed for all of human history, renders himself entirely dismissible.
No ten-year-old child can have such a fixed idea of him or herself. Maybe Leo will grow up to believe himself to be non-binary, but maybe he won’t. The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) notes that “as many as 98 per cent of gender confused boys and 88 per cent of … girls eventually accept their biological sex after naturally passing through puberty”.
The parent should be there to support the child when they grow to finally understand who they are, not help/push them further into the depths of their childhood confusion. That a ten-year-old can talk psycho-babble about gender fluidity tells us what the adults around him are filling his head with. But it’s worse than being merely pointless – the ACP observes that many of the eventual ‘treatments’ prescribed to young people with gender dysphoria, be they hormonal or surgical, are downright dangerous. Leo’s mum states matter-of-factly that she is “interested in finding out more about hormone-blockers”.
In unquestioningly placing both this child and his mother on a pedestal, the BBC are complicit in a reckless process that moves a young person that much closer to potentially harmful treatments. The BBC even gave out transgender-information web addresses at the end of the programme. It was overtly propagandising. A poor show.
(Image: Ted Eyton)