‘WE HAVE a dilation problem,’ Jeannette Jennings tells her friends over coffee. The ‘we’ refers to her teenage son – now her daughter – and the ‘dilation problem’ refers to the maintenance of his vaginoplasty cavity, which closes up if it is not lubricated and stretched.
‘I will be so mad if that thing seals up,’ she growls, miming a neck-wringing of the imaginary child in the air in front of her.
This was from a 2018 documentary that made Jazz Jennings the first trans-child reality star and Mrs Jennings into the internet’s archetypal trans soccer mom.
No one remembers the names of the other women in the scene, the anonymous coffee-morning chorus, supporting Jennings with sighs of approval and compassion, but we should have paid very close attention to the outer layers of the Trans onion, back when we could have done something about it.
Because what the scene captures in real time is an example of how trans-cheerleading plays out amongst groups of adult women. This is a ‘dilation problem’ of a different kind: a network effect, where trans-affirmation becomes essential to a woman’s status within her hierarchies, across friendship groups and workplaces.
Women’s social hierarchies tend to differ from men’s in that they are built on subtle, more distributed systems rather than acute hierarchies. Status is derived from allegiances between women, through the mutual conference of rank, and loyalty building.
As Jennings explains how she fears her child won’t keep his vaginal cavity dilated, coffee-mum number two nods emphatically, turning to mum number three to explain knowingly that ‘without that watchful eye, they [trans kids] tend to go back to old patterns’.
It is an extraordinary comment, which appears to mean both ‘Our friend is central to the transing of her child’(withthe unwitting implication that the kid might otherwise revert back to their old gender), and ‘I amongst us have special knowledge on this crunchy subject’.The two knowledge owners form an allegiance and are momentarily elevated above the other women as the trans-enlightened of the group.
The exchange is a micro-moment of what has played out in the past decade as a festival of gender-enlightened mothering began to flood the internet. In a social media world clustered into algorithmic bubbles of agreement, the Insta-Mum celebrations of trans-childhood receive rapturous applause from their own (often entirely female) audiences.
Back in the real world, gender dysphoria is being addressed in environments dominated by female managerialism and status culture of a similar kind: in schools (70- 80 per cent women staffed), in the rooms of child psychologists (75 per cent women) and in communities of mums whose identities and values are tied up in an inclusive-centric female internet culture.
The subject is then publicly scrutinised by a left-wing legacy media (the preference of the female urban elite), who predominantly interview women on the subject and then release tentatively worded commentary, by upper-middle-class female commentators who are themselves heavily invested in maintaining a dual identity of both media pundit and inclusive humanitarian. It is hard not to see trans-child-affirmation as entwined with a kind of cultural cartel of female social managerialism.
The trans-affirmative bubble has made it impossible to be a woman in any of these environments and to push back on Trans.
A secondary-school English teacher from London told me: ‘You have to understand, teachers are surrounded by colleagues and bosses who make it impossible to challenge or even question how students with gender dysphoria are helped.
‘Not only can you not challenge the idea that a child has an ‘inner-gender . . . you are forced actively to adopt the ideology. You have to show you adopt their imagined sex by using the right language. There is so much unspoken expectation to show you have the “right attitude”.’
Another teacher I spoke to said it was too dangerous for teachers to push back: ‘It’s just not worth risking being labelled a TERF and losing your job.’
While the pushback on Trans is in full swing in the courtrooms and the political realms, challenging the cultures that may have cultivated the problem is more difficult. Unsurprisingly, the most direct condemnation of the narcissistic or self-interested elements of trans-affirmation has come from men:
‘We will never beat trans if we fear speaking about the heroic lovers of the limelight,’ said Dennis Kavanagh, the director of the Gay Rights Network and a rare campaigner brave enough to address the underlying cultures of trans-affirmation head-on.
Hacsi Horváth, an epidemiologist who himself lived as a woman for 13 years, sees his own experience of trying to transition as inextricably linked to societal and parental coercion: ‘Caring about, listening to, and lovingly parenting a child or young adult is not necessarily a synonym for unexamined “support” for everything the child says or wants.’
The academic Gad Saad goes so far as to link Trans to a kind of mass contagion of victim/saviour narcissism he calls ‘collective Munchausen’s’. The undertone of female spotlight-seeking to the comparison to Munchausen’s syndrome is clearly intended to be felt.
Recently, at an Ohio government hearing on gender-affirming care, a de-transitioner called Morgan Keller gave give her testimony. In the cracked voice of one caught medically between worlds, she told how she had become ‘captivated by the idea that my female body was fundamentally wrong, and seduced by the prospect that there was something I could do about it’.
Amongst the many tragic elements of her testimony, a sense of deep loneliness pervades: one of an individual who, despite being brought up in relatively comfortable circumstances, was never offered a way off the trans train by the adults around her. To them, she says: ‘if you wait until you have a de-transitioner, someone is already hurt and you have failed.’
As Trans now takes centre stage in the public battle for childhood, any challenge to the affirmation of child transgenderism must necessarily include scrutiny of the cultures that rubber-stamped the concept into existence in the first place. Without this retrospective, there is no way to reform the environments, whose cultures will remain powerful enough to override the law, even if it does eventually catch up.
We once wondered whether the time would come when young people, permanently scorched in body and mind by this craze, would come to ask us where we were when they needed us. That time has arrived and, as feared, we are struggling to find an answer.