Misinformation: A New Epidemic Facing the Queer Community

A line of beads with colored letters on them spell out the word transgender

This is not a story about Easter.

For the first time in the better part of a decade, I decided to go to my family’s Easter lunch. That might also be the first time I’ve been enthusiastic about showing up at all, although I’d have to ask around to make sure. I started going to these things when I was freshly minted, nervous, and had no idea I was queer, so you’ll forgive me my short memory of the list of affairs, I hope.

Most of what I recall about that time is making sure not to enter the topic of Christianity at all. Some of that was a little unfair to my family, but I was a child growing up in a community shared by a large number of fundamentalists and hellfire Baptists. The biggest thing I remember from going to school was how often children were discussing how scared they were of eternal hellfire and spending lunch periods trying to figure out who among us would be forever condemned. Every time, I made the list. Christianity, then, meant outward hostility.

I can’t say it wasn’t useful to learn that one early on.

In the period of withdrawal from my family, I’ve become more engaged with activism. I’ve also become more confident and comfortable in my body, which has allowed me the energy and fortitude to do that in the first place. So comfortable, in fact, that I shared a ride with my cousin to the event.

The event was lovely, and people were respectful and polite. It’s nice to feel welcomed in a way that finally fits. It was also nice to go to a gathering of cis people and not have the entire thing become about my gender.

We’re here to talk about the car ride.

My cousin happens to be a medical healthcare professional, which matched up nicely with my entry to activism and unique position to be highly informed about transgender healthcare. We all are. If you’re trans, you’ve probably had to inform your own provider to some extent or another about your health. If you’re not, you’ve probably heard about this from trans people somewhere because we (rightly) refuse to shut up about it.

She’s got her head on right and decided to ask me about the gaps in her knowledge, especially given the state of things. I could be cheeky here for a bit, but this is inescapable in the U.S. news cycle at this point. Y’all know why.

Let’s take a little detour here – it’ll be quick, I promise (but get comfy) – and frame that a bit. Up until recently, and I mean this year recently, I would’ve shit myself in surprise to have a cis person willing to put up with listening to me about this stuff. Not for lack of trying, either. I’m about to say something so oversimplified that it’s not true, but I more or less only had two types of conversations about trans issues before the first days of the perpetual “culture wars” machine.

A group of people wave rainbow flags and banners at a pride parade

The first was the shocked wonderment type. Due to my terminal brain worms, I look back on these fondly. I’m secure enough in my gender that these are hilarious to think about now. It’s any of those situations where cis people will get very confused, curious, nervous, or any mixture of those emotions and more as they’re overwhelmed by the mere presence of a trans person. The best entertainment is watching two cis people argue with each other about what your gender is, silently begging you for the exit from this conversation that you don’t, and won’t, give them. I would probably pay actual human dollars for a repeat performance on that one. Not a lot, but they’d be real dollars that could earn someone a hamburger or something.

The second was me reaching directly into the back of my cis compatriots’ collective mouth before exchanging a single word and getting comfortable with all these nice teeth I’d be pulling. That’s to say, I would attempt to educate people. At the time, the only way this would have benefited them would be to make the trans people around them more welcome in their lives. The greatest success I remember having was getting people to listen some amount and then find they’d retained none of it days later. After a while, it became clear I was just wasting my time and whatever goodwill I’d earned with the unlucky student du jour.

So, back to now, where the United States is in a garbage fire tailspin of trying to scapegoat trans people as the cause of all your personal and existential woes alike, and my cousin is driving me back home from an Easter party.

We get to talking, of course, about how we as a society treat trans minors medically and how we consider the ability of minors to report on the state of their own wellbeing in general. It was a nice chat, genuinely; she was apparently in some kind of disagreement with a coworker who was deepthroating political bait on the weekends, and she knew something was up but had no idea what behemoth she was actually dealing with behind all that.

In brief, I was in the boon position of being able to explain to a health worker that we use puberty blockers for minors. Her first reaction gave me the impression she didn’t quite yet understand the difference between hormone treatment and puberty blockers would be. It’s not my first rodeo, so I manage to catch it and make a note that not only are puberty blockers the ideal amount of reversible but so is puberty.

After all, what are trans people doing in the first place?

I’m on full hormone replacement therapy at this point (and thriving, thanks for asking). I can’t say for sure it’s related, but something about that framing resonated enough to advance the conversation.

Let’s get a little more detailed than that conversation did since I have the benefit of not being in a vehicle with a relative. We did need to hash out what the differences between hormone replacement and puberty suppression are, although I’d argue that you’re getting exactly what it says on the tin. We’re discourse poisoned as a people, though, so I can’t rightly hold that against anybody. Dog-whistles are whizzing past like bullets on any given day, and words only mean things until they don’t.

Not to dwell on it, but hormone replacement therapy, or more precisely gender-affirming hormone therapy, is when you cook up a cocktail of hormones for a transgender person to use, and their life improves. Puberty blockers, on the other hand, are often referred to as a pause button. They block puberty from happening. If you know anything about endocrinology, you also know that it’s not a long-term solution – eventually, you need some kind of juice in your human to keep it going. It’s a nice way to meet in the middle with people who still have a sense of caution while also avoiding obvious medical harm. Or, well, it would be if the other side of the aisle weren’t located across a gaping chasm, and we’ve found that the other side refuses to budge while also lobbing grenades across to our side for no apparent reason.

What gives you losers? We’re trying to grill. Stop it.

The main driver here was that, for me, having access to puberty blockers should have been an option. Yeah, it would’ve helped me, but that’s hindsight bias.

Here’s the kicker. We’ve been using puberty suppression as a treatment for cisgender children for a while without controversy. If this were actually harmful, especially to reproductive capacity, we would know about it by now. For emphasis: it’s a pause button. For the hypothetical cis person questioning their identity, all they’ve done is wait a little longer than some of their peers. If you went to a public school, this might be something you recall as extremely normal and unremarkable. For someone like me, this could’ve saved me roughly $5k down the line in surgical costs, saved me a bunch of self-harm scars, and made a decade of my life into literally anything else than a carousel of suicidal thoughts. Not just me, either – we’ve got reliable data at this point noting the benefits of affirming care of trans youth. Thanks, nerds.

A close-up image of a person with rainbow stripes painted vertically on their face

Then we went down a path so old and well-worn it could be used for trench warfare. It’s the concern for imagined, desperate cis people seeking foul and arcane remedies for their cisgender woes. I saw it coming. If you’ve seen any gender-critical anti-trans activists even breathe, you’ve probably already guessed where we’re going. She starts talking about menstruation, how miserable it was for her, and how it seems like the holy grail for a certain population of cis women to figure out how to escape it. Credit where it’s due, she does go out of her way to note that she doesn’t mean to compare it to or diminish what it’s like to go through the wrong puberty. Hopefully, it goes without saying, but I have no trouble believing that cis women aren’t having fun during puberty. Especially given how many of them seem to have had such a bad time, they can imagine themselves agreeing to subject themselves to what is, for them, the wrong puberty to escape just one element of it.

I realize she’s heading in that direction and stop her a little short before she can imply she’d take the apparently Faustian deal. Friends don’t let friends embarrass themselves.

And with that, I introduce you to how that conversation ended.

“Well, if you’d really like to get rid of it, I’ve got a whole bottle of testosterone sitting at my house when you drop me off that’ll fix it for you. You’ll grow facial hair, smell different, and who knows what else. It’s puberty MK II. Does that sound like what you want to do?”

“It’s entirely unappealing! Good point.”

Good point.

I went to enjoy a nice Seder dinner later that night.

Notable Replies

  1. Thanks for this. Compelling personal stories make all the difference in these situations where militarist activists are trying to alienate members of their own communities.

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