SCENARIO: A middle-aged father announces to his three children (all under 16) that he’s going to transition. Is this a selfish act that violates the parent-child contract?
The first thing we need to establish when answering this question is – what tends to be the effect on children when a father transitions to female? There will be trans activists who claim that transition within families goes swimmingly… and trans-critics who claim the whole episode fucks children up permanently and traumatizes them.
QUICK ASIDE: One difficult dimension is normalization. We could find many cases where ‘in the end’ the children adapted. However, in the end, children can adapt to child labour and child armies. If the children have to live with a transitioned father then they will end up seeing it as normal. This does not mean that it hasn’t had a damaging effect. Unfortunately, this is something that we could never measure because sub-conscious consequences are unverifiable. The point is this: just because there are cases where the kids ‘got used to the idea’ does not mean the kids were not effected negatively by it.
What effects does transition have on kids?
I’m sure both the initial scenarios are viable and there are families that coped well and families where it was a total disaster. I suspect, however, that the majority of cases end up somewhere in the middle and that there are two consequences.
1. It is unsettling for a child to see their male parent start dressing and behaving as a female.
As adults, we find male to female transsexuals visually arresting but our knowledge of psychology allows us to attach a narrative to what we are seeing. No matter how many times you sit down a child and explain to them the transgender narrative you can not hope that they grasp the complexities of the issue and feel comfortable with what they perceive as a male dressing as a female.
As an adult you will inevitably start to project linguistic and conceptual ideas onto how the child will respond but none of their response will be articulated in language: it will be pure feeling…and that feeling can be characterized as deep confusion with what is happening.
2. Problems with their peers are inevitable.
Firstly, even if they attend some liberal paradise of a school where the children are all enlightened mini liberals, people will still be talking about your father’s transition and this surely falls into the category of unwanted attention.
More likely, however, is that the children won’t be so liberal and they will make fun of the child. Imagine the child starts to get their head around the narrative but then the kids start offering another narrative. “Your Dad’s a tranny!” Or maybe they don’t say it to the kid’s face but they overhear rude comments.
QUICK ASIDE: Once more, I’m sure there are lots of cases where transition has gone swimmingly…but the above is simply my educated guess. With that caveat let’s continue.
Given the negative effects…is it selfish?
To immerse a child in confusion and discomfort because of transition is morally problematic. Unlike disease, job loss or some other random adversity…the father has chosen to transition and therefore intentionally brings it into the family home. This is a violation of the parent-child contract because you have a duty of care to your child first and foremost…not to yourself…that’s what being a parent is all about.
Furthermore, exposing him to the ridicule and gossip of his peers is unforgivable. A middle-aged father has already spent his whole life in the wrong body so why can’t he wait out a few more years at least until the kids leave home. Insisting on transition – despite the effect on the family – seems like an example of individualism gone mad: me me me! I need to transition for me…so blow everyone else.
First of all, I’m sure that the children of mixed race marriages got abuse in school in the nineteen fifties and sixties. Does that mean that the pioneers who broke the social taboo never should have gotten married? Of course not. To not do something because there’s prejudice out there only keeps the prejudice alive. Yes, the kids might suffer…but if some brave fathers don’t do this then the transgender movement will be moving backwards.
Secondly, it’s exactly because the parent needs to care for a child that transition is necessary. Transition is not some whim but a medical necessity for someone suffering from gender dysphoria. If a father doesn’t cure that dysphoria by transitioning then he could end up committing suicide or spending months in a psych ward. How much parenting can he do then?
ARGUMENT IN THE MIDDLE:
I agree that there are many transgender fathers for whom transition is an issue of life and death. However, as everyone in this community knows, there are other transgender fathers for whom transition is something that appeals to them on a number of emotional, sexual and aesthetic levels. For the latter type of transgender father it is hard to see why transition is important enough to put their kids through it. Therefore, in some cases transition is not selfish but in others it is.
There is no universal answer to the question: Is it selfish and irresponsible for a transgender father to transition? You have to deliver an individual judgement in each case based on the medical necessity of transition. If a father is suffering severe mental illness such as clinical depression and this illness is only manageable by transition then the transition is clearly not selfish. His duty of care is to be alive and capable of carrying out his duties as a father…therefore transition is a means of executing those duties.
However, sometimes transition is the result of strong desire rather than need; it is much more difficult to defend this against accusations of selfishness. All of us know that the transgender condition is not uniform, but comes in varying degrees of intensity and manifests itself in different ways. Although many transactivists wouldn’t want to admit it, we all know transwomen who transition for lifestyle reasons not essential medical reasons. That’s fine…who are we to judge? However, on the key question of parent-child contracts it does seem to me that it is a selfish act.