Sunday, 14 April 2013

Skylar and Richard

This week I read an article in The New Yorker about young people in the United States who are having irreversible surgery and hormone treatment to change their sex. The article dwelt mainly on those who are crossing from female to male, although the process is - or has been - more common in the other direction, partly because it can be done more completely (I will leave the details to your imagination).

The article claims,

'Transgenderism has replaced homosexuality as the newest civil-rights frontier'

and rather tentatively suggests that just possibly there may be influences other than pure muddled biology at work on some of the children who pursue the goal of changing sex. It focussed on one child, now called Skylar, who has been supported in changing from a girl to a boy by their parents, who allowed surgery and hormone treatment when they were, as far as I can tell, fourteen or fifteen. Skylar's mother explains that

'Skylar never wanted to wear a dress.'

Skylar claims to have found puberty 'weird' and, after browsing in Barnes and Noble and finding some young-adult novels about trans kids and then researching on the Internet, came to the conclusion that becoming a boy was the next step to take. As a result of the decision, Skylar has become very in demand and a focus of interest for classmates and the wider world. Attention is something adolescents do love very much.

An alternative case study is also described in the article. She is a girl who was a Tomboy as a child. In the final year of 'an alternative high school' she decided she wanted to become a boy. Her mother tells the writer of the article,

'"I'm still not convinced that it's a good idea to give hormones and assume that, in most cases, it will solve all their problems. I know the clinics giving them out think they're doing something wonderful and saving lives. But a lot of these kids are sad for a variety of reasons. Maybe the gender feelings are the underlying cause, maybe not."'

This conversation took place in a pie shop and, rather chillingly, the author tells us, it was interrupted by

'the college student who'd been studying across from us'

who told them,

'that she, too, was about to transition to male'.

The mother of the Tomboy continued, saying,

'that she had met many teenagers who seemed to regard their bodies as endlessly modifiable, through piercings, or tattoos, or even workout regimens. She wondered if sexual orientation was beginning to seem boring as a form of identity; gay people were getting married, and perhaps seemed too settled. 

"The kids who are edgy and funky and drawn to artsy things - these are conversations that are taking place in dorm rooms ... There are tides of history that wash in, and when they wash out they leave some people stranded. The drug culture of the sixties was like that and the sexual culture of the eighties, with AIDS. I think this could be the next wave like that, and I don't want my daughter to be a casualty"'

After reading that article, I read another, this time in Vanity Fair, about Rachel Johnson's troubled editorship of The Lady. Among the many criticisms of Johnson made by the magazine's part owner is that ,

"'You can't get her away from a penis. I think it comes from growing up with all those boys [Johnson has several brothers, including the current Mayor of London]. She is basically a boy. But we didn't pick up on this,'"

Johnson's surprising response to these commments was that they were

'"worryingly accurate": when she was at primary school she refused to wear a dress and made classmates call her Richard.'

And Richard she might have become forever had she been in a different place at a different time.

No comments:

Post a Comment