In one of her most recent Opinion articles for The New York Times, journalist Lydia Polgreen explores the intersection between gender, race, and ethnicity to shed light on the ongoing debate about transgender and non-conforming children.
Polgreen begins the op-ed by reflecting on personal decisions and societal perspectives related to gender identity, drawing parallels to her own experience of quitting competitive swimming in sixth grade.
“I have been thinking about this decision a lot lately because many of us have been forced [...] to think about children, the decisions we allow them to make, and what it might mean for them to regret those decisions.”
Polgreen challenges the notion of a clear binary between genders, highlighting the “complexity” and “malleability” of identity categories, such as ethnicity, race, and gender, and how they all intersect in conforming to one’s individuality.
“Race is not an exact parallel for gender identity, but as categories, we experience them in large part through the perceptions that others have of us, based largely on our outward appearances.”
Also, the author discusses the discomfort society often feels regarding gender transitions, and while there are progressive people who believe gender-affirming care for children is important, it is still “a small category of people who were born in the wrong bodies.”
“But when children say they are one of these people, we must be extremely careful and rigorous in being certain that their gender identities have been unearthed and verified through a lengthy medical and psychiatric inquiry before they are validated by social, legal, and medical interventions. [...] For many people, the possibility that children might make irreversible decisions on this particular question that they later regret is simply intolerable. To borrow a phrase, transition should be safe, legal, and rare.”
In that sense, the article questions the idea of regret in the context of gender transitions, comparing it to regret in other life decisions, including cosmetic procedures. It argues for a more nuanced understanding of gender experiences, acknowledging that gender identity can be fluid and subject to change over time.
“We allow children to make irreversible decisions about their lives all the time, ideally with the guidance and support of the communities that care for them. Sometimes they regret those decisions. The stakes vary, but they are real. So what are we saying, really, when we worry that a child will regret this particular decision, the decision to transition? And how is it different, really, from the decision I made to quit competitive swimming?”
Lastly, the piece touches on the legislative challenges faced by transgender people and focuses on the "born-this-way" narrative in activism, suggesting a more inclusive and nuanced approach to understanding gender experiences.
“Many major identity categories, like race, gender, and ethnicity, seem absolute and immovable. But dig a little deeper and quickly you realize how malleable and mutable they are. Indeed, the freedom to participate in the way you are viewed through these identities is a basic part of being a modern human. So is the right to change your mind about them over time.”
You can read the full article here.