What I am Reading: Trans Kids in the News and Feminist Killjoys

I wanted to share some articles that I have been reading recently–there has been a lot of buzz around the results of a recent study on trans kids, as well as the defeat of an anti-trans bathroom bill.  Sara Ahmed also wrote a great blog post (everything I have ever read by her is incredible) on “losing confidence” which discusses the role of violence, gender, cis privilege, among other factors in relation to how we carry ourselves and feel confidence or lose confidence.  See below for more!

Good News #1: Kristina Olson, of the TransYouth Project, recently published an op-ed in the LA Times with Katie McLaughlin about the latest results of her longitudinal study, showing that trans kids who are allowed to socially transition have levels of anxiety and depression that match their siblings and their cisgender peers. This is significant because it contradicts earlier data that showed trans children and teens had higher rates of anxiety and depression, however, those earlier cohorts of kids did not have the same levels of support or affirmation from their parents. This confirms earlier research, like that from Caitlyn Ryan’s Acceptance Project that shows that supporting LGBTQ kids leads to healthier outcomes.

Good News #2: In other news about trans kids, South Dakota governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bathroom bill that would have restricted access to school restrooms and lockers based on biological sex, as defined by chromosomes and anatomy at birth. There has been a lot of activism by trans students and kids in an effort to stop the bill, which did pass the Senate and House. It is great to see their hard work pay off. Unfortunately there is more work to be done, as there are several other states also considering similar bills including Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Finally–the latest blog post on “Losing Confidence.” by Sara Ahmed’s for her Feminist Killjoy is amazing. I love Sara Ahmed’s writing, and it is worth the time it takes to read through the whole post, but here are some of my favorite excerpts.

“When you sense the world “out there” as a danger it is your relation to your own body that changes: you become more cautious, timid, you might withdraw in anticipation that what happened before might happen again.  It might be your own experiences that lead you here, to caution as withdrawal, but it might also what you have learnt from others. You are taught or told to be careful: to be full of care as to become anxious about the potential to be broken. You begin to learn that being careful, not having things like that happen to you, is a way of avoiding becoming damaged.  And you sense the consequence: if something happens you have failed to prevent it.  Losing confidence might be about the work we have to do to be; a loss of confidence that registers not only as bodily fragility but also in how the world registers as intrusion, as not providing a shelter or home.”

“Not all of us have to pass as confident to pass through; not all of us have to pass to pass through…Passing is what you have to do because or when your legitimacy is in question. Trans women may have to pass in a way that some cis women do not: because of this constant questioning of legitimacy. To pass would not necessarily mean here to pass as women, as if trans women are not women: although the perception of trans women as not women has material life consequences. Juliet Jacques (2014) drawing on Julia Serano (2007) explores precisely this problem: how the passing narrative casts trans women as deceivers or as fraudulent. But sometimes, as Jacques herself notes, passing might be what you have to do to avoid being harassed. To pass as cis is to pass through without being detected: or to try to. Passing might then require a certain kind of confidence: the creation of an impression of having a right to be where you are; who you are.”

“Sometimes in order to become a feminist we need to lose confidence in a view that we have been encouraged to hold dear: we might need to acquire confidence that we can go on without that view. Sometimes we need to lose confidence or even our trust in a world that diminishing what it is we can be. Sometimes a new thought, a starting again, requires losing confidence.

I once put it like this: to lose confidence is the gift of a new thought.

Feminist confidence: the process through which we validate and support each other in our project of dismantling a world. We have to have a certain confidence to do this kind of work: to use words like “sexism” and “racism” for example. A feminist movement thus requires that we acquire feminist tendencies, a willingness to keep going despite or even because of what we come up against.”


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