More and more, concern trolls are hijacking the discussion about transgender people in society. A concern troll is a person who participates in a debate posing as an actual or potential ally who simply has some concerns they need answered before they will ally themselves with a cause. In reality they are a critic, or flat out someone who wishes harm upon the transgender community. The ultimate goal of concern troll is usually to keep transgender people marginalized, mistreated and without legal protections.
The best that can be said of these concern trolls is that they have a very limited playbook. Never fear, though! As a community service, here are the key phrases and ideas that will help you spot them immediately.
1. Concern Troll says, “Transgender people often regret…”
Any time the subject of regret comes up in the media, it’s usually in the context of denying transgender people affirming care, or preventing them from transitioning. Because concern troll is very worried about the well being of transgender people, and doesn’t want them to rush into anything. Really.
The reality is that the existing guidelines for the treatment of transgender people are designed to prevent people from rushing into transition already, and follow a conservative timeline in order to prevent misdiagnoses. As a result virtually every modern study puts regret below 2 percent. In some other recent longitudinal studies, none of the subjects expressed regret over medically transitioning. When people cited in anecdotes do have regrets, it is mostly because of lack of acceptance, or poor surgical outcomes.
In short, concern troll is more worried about the 1 percent of transgender people who MIGHT not benefit from transition, at the expense of the 99 percent who will.
2. Concern Troll says, “What if society completely accepted gender variance? Then we wouldn’t have to…”
This line of thinking usually finishes with “give transgender people medical care,” or “need laws protecting transgender people.” The entire concept is asinine at many levels.
First, the idea of culturally abolishing the concept of gender is about as likely as humanity abolishing the concept of money.
Next, the idea that we should aim for a perfect society rather than have a system of laws that takes into account how humans have historically harmed each other isn’t aiming for utopia. It is snake oil sold by rich, heterosexual white male Christian libertarians who like the fact that being a rich, heterosexual white male Christian is a position of unrivaled privilege.
Beyond that, concern troll ignores the reality of being transgender. They deliberately conflate gender identity, gender expression and ignore the nature of dysphoria in order to sow doubt with readers. They push the notion that if transgender people (well, transgender women, concern troll ignores transgender men) could just put on 50’s vintage house dress and flounce around without fear of harassment (and that’s a huge assumption to begin with), then we wouldn’t have to give those people any medical care.
This completely ignores the reality that transgender people have to look at ourselves in a mirror. Increasing societal acceptance of gender non-conformance does NOTHING to alleviate dysphoria. Minority stress (social pressure and isolation) and dysphoria are two entirely separate concepts.
Why does concern troll say these things? Because it’s good to be the king.
3. Concern Troll says, “80 percent of children with cross gender identification desist…”
This comes from a Danish study. However, the actual study doesn’t support this conclusion. First, it didn’t discriminate between gender non-conforming children and those with insistent, consistent and persistent cross gender identification. Basically, the boys who liked playing with “My Little Pony” and sparkly dresses got lumped in with the ones who announce at 18 months they’re a girl, and keep it up for years.
The Danish study also lost track of a lot of the kids enrolled in it, and counted all the children they could not account for as “desisters.” The American Psychological Association states that, “this research runs a strong risk of inflating estimates of the number of youth who do not persist with a TGNC identity.”
The biggest proponent of the 80 percent narrative, Dr. Kenneth Zucker, pushed the idea that coercive behavior modification therapy could be used on children to change their sexual orientation for decades. Now that changing sexual orientation is passé, he’s selling the same snake oil as a “cure” for transgender children. As a result of concerns over whether his “treatments” are ethical, Dr. Zucker’s own clinic has forbidden him from taking on new patients.
More recent research has shown that transgender children, and not ones who are simply gender non-conforming, have a gender identity that is as consistent as that of cisgender children. Children who identify more intensely with a gender different than sex assigned at birth are more likely to persist in this gender identification into adolescence and that when gender dysphoria persists through childhood and intensifies into adolescence, the likelihood of long‐term TGNC identification increases.
There is also a growing body of evidence that practices like Zucker’s are actively harmful (Hill et al., 2010; Pyne, 2014; Travers et al., 2012; Wallace Russell, 2013), and that supporting transgender children leads to better mental health outcomes. As a result, there are fewer and fewer professionals who promote rejection of a child and their interests.
When it comes to adolescents, even proponents of the 80 percent figure (like Zucker) admit that if an adolescent has across gender identification, it is very unlikely to ever change.
So why does concern troll keep bringing up the 80 percent figure? Because concern troll wants transgender people back in deep dark safe closet.
4. Concern Troll says, “Dr. Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins…”
Let’s establish who and what Dr. McHugh is. Dr. Paul McHugh is an ultra-Conservative Catholic who blames gays for the church’s sexual abuse scandal, believes sexual orientation is a choice and would rather let an 11-year-old girl raped by a relative die rather than have an abortion. He was part of the campaign that led to the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in 2009.
When he was put in charge of the gender clinic Johns Hopkins in the 1975, by his own admission he intended from beginning to close it. The “study” he did was designed from the start to facilitate his goal. The study itself was pure nonsense, full of non-reproducible results, punishing patients for having jobs that were “too masculine,” or having been married to a woman at some point in their lives. McHugh has made it clear he finds cultural acceptance of transgender people unacceptable.
As a result, no reputable researcher will cite his “study,” and was not considered credible by any professional medical or mental health organization when developing guidelines for the treatment of transgender individuals.
Why does concern troll bring up Paul McHugh? Because concern troll hopes you won’t Google Dr. McHugh.
5. Concern Troll says, “We don’t know the long term effects of puberty blockers on children…”
The drug used to block puberty in children, Leuprorelin has been approved for this purpose since 1989. It just hasn’t been used on transgender kids. So yes, we don’t know what it does 40 years down the road. But then again, by the same standard, we don’t know the effects of a lot of drugs 40 years down the road either.
However, the most recent study on the effects of Leuprorelin, on transgender children show considerable benefit so far. The study found that the children who had used blockers, “were no longer experiencing mental health consequences related to gender dysphoria, their quality of life and happiness levels were on par with their non-transgender peers and none expressed any regret about delaying puberty or transitioning.” A new, $5.7 million dollar, 5-year large-scale study has just been launched to settle this matter.
So why does concern troll show so much concern? Because concern troll is afraid happy, healthy, beautiful transgender people will convince others that transgender people aren’t so scary after all.
6. Concern Troll says, “The 2011 Swedish study…”
Whenever a concern troll brings up Dr. Dehjne’s study, they try to use it to prove that transgender people commit suicide at a really high rate. Or that they’re just as criminal as men. Or that health care for transgender people is ineffective and should be discontinued. In fact, all of these are either gross representations of the actual findings of the study. Let’s take them one by one.
So what does the study say about transgender people and suicide? It’s higher, but only statistically so for those who transitioned before 1989. Afterwards, there’s no statistically significant difference between transgender people and the general population.
What does it say about criminal convictions? It says the same thing, no statistically significant different for those who transitioned after 1989.
What does it say about the efficacy of health care for transgender people? It says the study shouldn’t be used to make any judgments about the efficacy of transgender health care, because there is no control group, and that the consensus is health care is beneficial.
So what does the study ACTUALLY recommend? Transgender people need better follow up care after surgery.
So why does concern troll bring this up? Because concern troll hopes no one will read the actual study.
7. Concern Troll says, “What if people didn’t have to be transgender?”
The line of thinking here always goes the same way. Transgender people suffer from suicidality, depression, drug abuse, homelessness, unemployment, etc… far more than the general population. If they weren’t transgender anymore, then these bad things would go away, right? Wong. This is effectively no different than asking someone, “Have you tried not being gay?”
For most transgender people, the answer is of course we tried not being transgender, and it nearly killed us. As bad as things are after coming out, it’s still better than the closet where we were. That’s why we came out in the first place.
It is rare for a concern troll to offer any ideas on how one might choose not to be transgender, or what sorts of credible therapists might help someone become “not transgender.”
What concern troll leaves out is that no such treatment exists.
The world’s leading body on transgender health care (WPATH) states: “Treatment aimed at trying to change a person’s gender identity and expression to become more congruent with sex assigned at birth has been attempted in the past without success, particularly in the long term. Such treatment is no longer considered ethical.”
When the concern troll is cornered and forced to recommend something specific, it’s the same pray-away-the-gay organizations that failed so miserably at making people “not gay.”
So why does concern troll ask this? Because concern troll is sad no one like pray-away-the-gay anymore. Maybe work this time with trans, though.
8. Concern Troll says, “The quality of studies on transgender people are poor…”
Medical studies on transgender people have two very difficult hurdles. The first is being double blind. There’s really no placebo for hormones and surgery. It’s not as if you can perform gender reassignment surgery on someone without them noticing it. People don’t wake up one morning and say, “Whoa! When did I get a vagina?”
The second issue is control groups. There is an accepted body of evidence that transition related health care is beneficial, and that denying it carries a strong risk. In order for a study to happen, and especially if there are human subjects involved, it has to be approved and monitored by an ethics review board.
Conducting a study where you deny necessary medical care to people, and there is evidence that denying it will dramatically and unnecessarily increase the risk of suicide and mortality will never make it past an ethics board (IRB).
Beyond that, there’s a strong chance the control group will “cheat” by finding medical services outside the study if they’re desperate enough.
The last time someone got a transgender surgical study with a control group through an IRB was 25 years ago. This study found that the group receiving treatment did significantly better than the control group.
Concern trolls are well aware of this, and also well aware that most people won’t examine their question further.
So why does concern troll say this? Because they know that no one will be allowed to conduct a study that will meet their impossible requirements.
9. Concern Troll says, “Transgender is really a sexual disorder.”
There’s a small group of people promoting the discredited theory that all transgender women are either self-hating homosexual men, or heterosexual men with an out of control fetish (known as Blanchard’s Autogynephilic Theory).
The only people who actually promote this theory are purveyors of reparative therapy, anti-LGBT hate groups, some small circles of anti-transgender radical feminists and a small cluster of people who have invested their professional reputations in promoting the idea. When concern trolls bring this up, they try to not sound anti-transgender, claiming that even though transgender people are perverts and sexual deviants, they don’t hold anything against them morally. They claim they’re just interested in “spreading the truth,” and that they oppose discrimination against the people they just called sexual deviants.
The problem is, these concern trolls are more than happy to let hate groups use their pet theory to argue for discrimination, and even encourage members of the hate groups on their own bulletin boards. One of the primary promoters of this narrative, J. Michael Bailey, even offered free copies of his book to a group whose sole purpose is opposition to legal protections for transgender people. They also go online to troll transgender people and humiliate them.
So why does concern troll say this? Because calling gay men pedophiles has failed. Maybe work on trans people this time.
10. Concern Troll says, “We give health care to transgender people, and bad things still happen.”
This is perhaps the easiest to debunk. We’ve already established that the overwhelming body of research shows that transgender health care and acceptance is beneficial. This is accepted as a truism by every major medical and mental health organization in America. However, a lifetime of prejudice, harassment and discrimination both leaves scars, and follows you around even after you have transitioned.
What the concern troll says is akin to asking why we give prosthetic legs to people, when they’re still going to walk with a limp anyway.
Because it’s better than the alternative of doing nothing, and it’s the best option we have now.
So why does concern troll say this? Because concern troll assumes you won’t think.
More on HuffPost:
On June 1, 2015, Caitlyn Jenner (formerly known as Bruce Jenner) made her debut on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine. The issue followed her public interview with Diane Sawyer, in which she spoke openly about her transition and journey.
2013 was an incredible year for transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox. Not only did her groundbreaking “Orange Is The New Black” role launch her to superstardom, but Cox continued to be a a voice for the voiceless when it comes to transgender issues, particularly those pertaining to women of color. Among a landslide of other honors throughout the course of the year, the transgender pioneer received the “Reader’s Choice Award” at this year’s OUT 100.
Following her trial for leaking classified government documents, Chelsea Manning sent shockwaves through the nation when she announced her transgender identity and asked for the public’s support.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning said in a statement. “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”
Cassidy Lynn Cambell, 16, made history in September when her peers voted the teen homecoming queen at her California high school.
Immediately following her win, Campbell became the victim of online bullying and harassment for her win, inspiring her to pose for the “NOH8 Campaign.” Her win became one of the first in an incredible year of victories for transgender and gender non-conforming students at their respective homecoming events across the country.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” season three contestant and transgender model Carmen Carrera unexpectedly became the subject of a viral Internet petition in early November. The petition called for Victoria’s Secret to hire the showgirl as the company’s first transgender model in its annual fashion show. Though Victoria’s Secret did not respond to the Carrera petition, the model has claimed that she will campaign to be included in next year’s show.
In light of recent controversy surrounding McDonald’s treatment of the company’s employees, one Washington franchise of the fast food chain impressively allowed transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. The letter read,
We respect the rights of all customers and employees. We believe all people must have access to safe and dignified bathroom facilities regardless of their gender identity or expression. Therefore, the following policy has been adopted for this restaurant at 1530 3rd Avenue … Employees and customers may use any restroom that corresponds with and is based upon the gender identity they publicly and exclusively assert or express.
Historically anti-gay pundit and conservative talk show host Pat Roberston made jaws drop collectively across the nation when he claimed that he didn’t “think there’s any sin associated with” transgender people having gender confirmation surgery.
However, just a few weeks later he went on to counteract the minimal amount of progressive hope in his views by comparing transgender people to his castrated horse.
Looks like some things never change.
DC Comic fans were introduced to Alysia in “Batgirl” #19 in early April, who went on to reveal that she is transgender during a conversation with Barbara Gordon (Batgirl). The move made Alysia not only the first DC Comics transgender character but the first transgender character in mainstream comics.
Jennifer Natalya Pritzker, decorated colonel and one of the richest people in the world, announced her transgender identity in an uncharacteristically public appearance in late August.
Following her announcement, Pritzker awarded a $1.35 million grant to the Palm Center, the UCLA-based think tank, that will fund a multi-year research initiative about service by transgender people in the military. The ban on openly transgender military service remains in effect.
In another challenge to the U.S. ban on transgender service members, Kristin Beck, who served 20 years as a Navy SEAL and was once a member of the elite SEAL Team 6, came out as transgender in her memoir Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming out Transgender. “[P]erhaps this memoir, which documents the secret torment of one of the U.S. military’s most effective and loyal agents, will lay the groundwork for even greater inclusion in the armed forces,” The Atlantic Wire’s J.K. Trotter wrote.
Arin Andrews and Katie Hill warmed hearts around the world last summer with their unique and touching love story. The pair met at a trans support group, after each had begun the transitioning process, and fell in love.
When Ari South first appeared on “Project Runway” season eight, the designer embodied a different name and different identity. When she returned to “Project Runway All Stars” in October, she was living as her authentic self and blazing through uncharted territory for transgender people both within — and outside — the fashion world.
In wake of the pervasive climate of fear and violence plaguing LGBT Russians, top Russian lawyer Masha Best came out as both transgender and bisexual in protest of the country’s institutionalized homophobia. Best later went on to announce her campaign for the Russian presidency in 2018. Here, Best poses nude in honor of the 2013 Transgender Day of Remembrance.
For the first time in history, legislators in multiple states weighed the benefits of providing access to gendered spaces and organizations for public school students that identify as transgender, such as using the bathroom or playing on the sports team that corresponds with their gender identities.
California passed such legislation in early July, inspiring this iconic freakout by “Fox and Friends” and Michelle Malkin.
Other states also met these bills with resistance, with one Arizona lawmaker, John Kavanagh, attempting to push through legislation that would prosecute transgender people for using a public restroom if their appearance didn’t match the listed gender on their identification.
One local new station dubbed this the “Show Me Your Papers Before You Go Potty” bill. The backlash convinced the lawmaker to tone down the language of his bill, and put it on hold until next year.
In January 2012, Argentina passed a Gender Identity Law that enables citizens to change their names and government-sanctioned sex on official documents without approval from a judge or doctor. In late September, 6-year-old Lulu became the first minor to legally change their sex on a government document since officials initially passed the legislation.
Prior to California passing legislation that extended rights in public schools to transgender minors, Ashton Lee, a transgender teenager, petitioned California Governor Jerry Brown to sign the legislation. Not only did Lee deliver a petition to Brown that contained over 5,700 signatures, but the teen also testified in front of the California Senate Education Committee about the bill’s necessity to protect and value transgender individuals within the public school system.
Domaine Javier, a nursing student at California Baptist University, revealed to the world that she was transgender in an MTV episode of “True Life.” The university’s response? Accusations of fraud followed by expulsion because Javier had given her gender as female on her admissions application. She went on to sue the institution.
During a historic year for LGBT athletes, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Fallon Fox came out as transgender in an early March interview with Outsports. “I’m technically, legally, physically and mentally female. Everything about me is female,” she stated. “I happen to fall into the transgender category, but I rather describe myself as a woman first, transsexual woman second.”