Storify: NYT Opinion "My Daughter Isn't Transgender"

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

NYT Opinion: "My Daughter Isn't Transgender"

[This is a long thread, so lets get one thing clear up-front: The author-and-mother says her "daughter" has directly told her that he is a boy. That isn't mentioned in her first (and latest) NYT article, but instead comes out lower down in the thread from an older article. So we will start with that fact in mind: this child is a boy because he says so. It is genuinely that simple.]

@LisaSelinDavis: I wrote this piece for all the kick-ass non-girly girls out there: My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy.

@sapphixy: You wrote in an article on Parenting Magazine that your child has LITERALLY SAID THAT HE IS A BOY. YOUR CHILD IS A TRANS BOY.

Part 1: "My Daughter Isn't Transgender"

[The NYT ran an "opinion" piece about a child whose mother insists is a "tomboy" despite everyone they know ("100%", according to the author) believing the child is a trans boy. The article contained a lot of transphobic red flags and dog-whistles, and I (and others) formed an initial cautionary reaction to it. All these tweets were written before the article revealed that the child is in fact a trans boy.]

Opinion | My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy. She has short hair and doesn’t like princesses, so adults keep asking if she wants to be a boy. Can’t she just be who she is?

cis parent: "can't she just be who she is?"
same cis parent: "she's not transgender tho"

Look, can we agree that:
1. A tomboy girl may not be trans.
2. It's SUPER gross for parents to write articles insisting their kids are cis.

Maybe your kid is cis! But can you not see the STIGMA caused when you yell "STOP ASKING IF SHE'S TRANS" like that's a bad thing? "NO MY PRECIOUS CINNAMON BUN COULD NEVER BE THAT TERRIBLE THING" isn't exactly ~inclusive~, y'all.

This teacher needs trans 101, like, YESTERDAY. You ask the person in question what their gender is, not their parent. extremely cis voice: "is she a boy that wants to be called a girl?"

cis parent: "broader perceptions of what a girl should look like, pls!"
same cis parent: "fuck princesses tho"

The "No Princesses" thing is so deeply rooted in misogyny that it makes me flinch hard. Like, look, yes, we need to have room for women to be tomboyish and butchy and non-femme if they want AND still be women, but this whole supposedly-progressive article is written just dripping with disdain for femmes and a shit load of cissexism.

@eastsidekate: "I'm progressive because I hate femmes: a 1994 workshop at your local womyn's collective". I get that you're always years behind in your appropriation of queer culture, but could you skip this one, non-lesbian cis ladies? It's REALLY hard to overstate how damaging the narrative from that article has been to my community and me personally. People have died because of that article's attitude. Lots and lots of people.

Transgender is treated, repeatedly, as a "feeling" in the article, which: no. And if someone asks your kid's pronouns, MAYBE ASK THEM? I feel sorry for this kid. If they are trans, it's gonna be hard to come out when your mom "loves correcting" people about your gender.

@BamaWriter: if that child eventually IDs as trans, that parent is going to feel like an asshole.

@quicksilvre: that parent is unlikely to feel like an asshole in that event, alas. they’re more likely to insist that the world “made” the kid trans

YES. Honestly, there's a feel of this in the article already, like people are "pressuring" the kid to be trans. PRO-TIP: People checking your kid's pronouns to be sure is not "pressure" to change them. It's sensitivity.

Kid: I'm trans.

YES. Some of these "LET'S BEND GENDER ROLES" seem like a desperate attempt to have the person be anything but trans. Like, I'm all in favor of transgressing gender roles! But we seem to only bring that out when the alternative is The Dreaded Trans.

@TerraSirena: It's straight up an attack. Nobody is calling her trans, just asking if she is, and the article is phrased as if she is being forced to be. And the peanut gallery is loving it because it sounds like they're "fighting the trans agenda" by insisting she isn't trans.

@eastsidekate: "I love correcting their perceptions" reeks of GNC cis people are the REAL rebels, while trans ppl are counterrevolutionary.

YES. The article is written like inclusive sensitive people are retrograde zombies clinging to dogma. Those SHEEPLE think my daughter is a boy, but we're just HIP and NON-CONFORMING, yeeeeeeeah. Like.

@quicksilvre: @AnaMardoll Right? Like maybe, just maybe, if people keep asking you if your kid is trans then you should be talking with your kid about that? And not writing articles yelling about how it’s rude for people to *not* assume your kid is cis? "100% of people assume my daughter is a boy" like... that's... maybe... a thing you could be open to accepting?

@TerraSirena: The parent will undoubtably go from "my kid knows who she is and I respect that" to "my kid has been brainwashed" in a frelling heartbeat.

@eastsidekate: Cis people need to stop writing about trans people.


[My mentions then flooded with transgender friends and folks sharing their concerns on the red flags in this article and how closely this child's experience mirrored their own experiences: Being transgender but living with parents who insisted you were just a "tomboy" or just "gender non-conforming". This stuff isn't harmless; transphobia among parents leads to the high suicide, self-harm, and depression rates among trans kids and teens. Without acceptance, we are not safe.]

Gonna add that I have, like, a zillion trans people in my mentions going "oh god I was this kid" so MAYBE don't write these articles, NYT? Again, the kid could be cis (we don't know) BUT there's a lot of trans flags in all of that, to the point where I feel the article harmful.

And honestly, it sounds like the kid is throwing out flags in person, if teachers and friends and such are CONSTANTLY asking to be sure. Like, if there is a paradise where people check your pronouns regularly out of sheer polite SJWness, I want to go to there.

So people equating "double-check pronouns because trans flags" with "pressure to be trans", like, what world do you live in? WHERE ON EARTH are people widespread "pressuring" kids to be trans such that 100%--by the author's admission!!--of people check pronouns?

Because.........I gotta say, I've lived an entire life without someone checking my pronouns in person. I wish to live at this paradise.

(Or the article is wrong, people aren't 100% checking all the time, and the author is experiencing trans panic and exaggerating. That is a possibility, which is why I noted I don't consider the author totally reliable of a narrator at this point. Because "strangers [assume boy] 100 percent of the time" is just not plausible to me. 100%? Really? Even the teacher in the opening anecdote didn't "assume boy", she ASKED. She asked BADLY, but she asked: "Which [gender] is it again?")

Part 2: "My Daughter Wants To Be A Boy!"

[After the initial reactions to the NYT article, the internet dug up an older article posted on by the same author/mother about the same child. In my personal opinion, the article confirmed her trans-panic and bigotry. This second article also clearly states the child has declared he is a boy.]

“My Daughter Wants to be a Boy!”: When my daughter turned out to be a tomboy rather than a princess, the feminist in me was relieved...and then worried. Is life harder for girls who defy gender roles and blaze their own trail?

@CHASESTRANGIO: Here's another piece that Times tomboy author wrote about her kid with a different tone & similar problems.

@adrienneleigh: cc @AnaMardoll - yeah, i think that poor kid is trans

UPDATE: The author is apparently a full-on bigot so that's LOVELY and I hurt for her kid.

[A side-note before we get into the article: The article quoted Peggy Orenstein, author of "Cinderella Ate My Daughter". In conversation with Peggy, she seemed surprised and stated she had no idea the interview was about a trans kid. My personal opinion is that the author/mother is experiencing trans-panic over her son and is grasping at anything she can use, in this case gender non-conformity, to "prove" to herself her son isn't trans. I am sympathetic to Peggy for being unknowingly caught up in this woman's bigotry.]

Peggy Orenstein, I liked your Cinderella book, why are you being interviewed by a transphobic bigot? Peggyyyyy, why. @peggyorenstein Peggy, I really liked your book, but please be aware this author is engaging in harmful transphobia, both here and elsewhere.

@peggyorenstein: It seemed to me in this piece she was saying that trans kids should be free & safe AND that girls who express in ways that are associated with boys can still identify fully as girls, which I support. The other way, too. Boys can gender express in ways we see as feminine and be boys. I thought that was the point of busting up the binary?

It's 100% okay for a girl to be a tomboy and a girl, but this child is saying he's a boy and the author's dismay at that is bigotry. You are quoted (probably unfairly!) in this piece by a woman who describes her dismay at her son being trans.

@peggyorenstein: There was no discussion in that interview of transkids. It was about stereotypes.

It's the same author of the piece you shared today about her "daughter" (son) being a tomboy.

@peggyorenstein: Yes, I'll read. That is not something apparent in the piece or in the interview she did with me, which as I said, was about stereotypes.

Apparently she called you for reassurance that it was okay to be a tomboy (it is!) and is using that to suggest her trans son is a girl. Which is not your fault, but be aware that you shared her follow-up piece today and she's being VERY transphobic. I have a long thread on it I read your book, btw, and liked it! So I reached out to you because I don't think you deserved to be quoted by this person. Her continued articles in various publications INSISTING that her son isn't trans is SUPER harmful and gross. I'm sorry you were quoted.

@peggyorenstein: Oh, it breaks my heart to hear that, but I will read all about it. Sigh.

Thank you, truly. I appreciate it. And I very much liked your book. Also, I'm open to questions but I wanted to share this, with love. They're "trans kids" (adjective noun), not "transkids" (othering noun). Thank you!

@peggyorenstein: Thank you for that. Learning.

I really appreciate it SO much. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

@peggyorenstein: If he's a boy, he's a boy, totally agree. If she's a girl in a tie, ok. If she's a boy in a skirt, also ok as long as it's child's decision.

CURRENT STATUS: So very happy Peggy is nice and didn't know she was being interviewed by a transphobe. *relief* tfw a famous author actually thanks you for talking to them about trans things. I'm actually crying. Thank you.

[Now back to the article: Here is where we find out that the child has said directly that he is a boy, has asked for "boy" clothes to wear, and is only allowed to wear those clothes if he wears "girl" clothes he hates (i.e., skirts and dresses, which his mother describes as "lovely" and which he does not want to wear). He also apparently has to wear "girl" clothes to school so that his peers and the other students will not ask his gender identity, which the author notes is painful to her when it happens.]

[This act of forcing a child to dress in feminine articles of clothing he doesn't want to wear is both cruel and undermines the whole "tomboy" and "gender non-conforming" points the author is trying to make in order to support her continued campaign of misgendering her son. She is forcing her child to wear skirts because she wants the child to conform to his assigned-at-birth gender. This is not a pro-tomboy, pro-feminism situation being described here.]

Fuck, this article is so garbage it actually hurts to read. I can't take it apart piece by piece like I usually do. Just. Avoid. Ouch. I will just say that the article says her child has DIRECTLY announced he's a boy. And, if that is so, I believe him.

no, fuck it, I'm going to go through this disgusting article.

“My Daughter Wants to be a Boy!” By Lisa Selin Davis

Okay, first of all, the title is transphobic. Your "daughter" IS a boy, ma'am, per his direct statements you note later on. The article opens talking about her child modeling male clothes and dressing "like Daddy". The child has been dressing like a boy, to the point of asking for TIES at CHRISTMAS, and only wants to play as (male) police or a dog.

Wow, okay so first of all, the child has announced in direct ways that he's a boy. So he's a boy. Second of all, "uh-oh!" and "heart-sinking" on learning your kid is trans is GROSS TRANSPHOBIA. What the even hell, lady?

So dressing like a butch girl is great, but being a trans boy is not. This. Is. Bigotry. It's gross. I've read and positively reviewed @peggyorenstein's book; I'm HOPING she doesn't realize she was quoted in this transphobic piece. Because if I were Peggy I would be pissed. It IS okay to be a tomboy; it's NOT okay to insist that your son is really a girl.

And what is this deft sleight of hand here? "Only in America...would not being a seen as a problem." The author appears to be suggesting in both her pieces that her son only thinks he's trans because people expect girls to be feminine? Her son is literally demanding to know why boys can't have vaginas (they can), so why is she assuming he's just been pressured to be trans?

Who on god's green earth is pressuring kids to be trans boys instead of tomboy girls? This is... no. This woman is not living in reality. YOU. ARE. REJECTING. HIM. You are! You are misgendering him in your own article!

Trans people don't "identify with the gender we weren't assigned at birth", we ARE a gender we weren't assigned at birth. The whiplash in this article is surreal. She doesn't want a "girly-girl" (misogyny) but she doesn't want her son visibly a boy either.

She wants her son to be feminine enough to be misgendered by society but not so feminine he trips into her anti-princess misogyny. This... this woman doesn't have issues, she has SUBSCRIPTIONS. She earlier said she wanted her son to be a lesbian, now boys and marriage? And she's still aggressively, cruelly, heartlessly misgendering him over and over again. This actually HURTS to read.

This woman needs, and I say this nicely, to STOP pouring her issues into articles and to see a professional about how to NOT. She wants a trendy butch lesbian but also for her kid to marry a boy. She wants a tomboy but also an adorable girl. What the even? Even if this kid is cis and straight as an arrow, I would feel sorry for em; their parent doesn't want a kid, they want a conflicting ideal. Nothing this kid can ever be or do will measure up for a parent who wants a Trendy Tomboy Butch Lesbian Conservative Married To A Cis Man.

HE DOESN'T WANT TO BE A PRINCESS! He's told you repeatedly! He's told others! @peggyorenstein said it's okay, even! ONLY YOU WANT THIS! How did that convo even go?

"Peggy, is it okay for my daughter to not be a princess?"
"Great! Honey, you have to be a princess."
"Mom, I'm a boy. I don't WANT to be a princess."
"Oh, honey, you DO want to be a princess, you just THINK you don't."

what the hell.

The article ends with the mother FORCING her son to wear dresses with his ties. Fucking hell. Yeah, you're SO proud of your "tomboy". When he wants to wear ties, you make him put on a skirt. Fuck this. Fuck all of this.

"Enna", (I hope that isn't your birth name and I doubt it's your real name even if it is) please know that I see you, I believe you. I'm sorry your mom won't accept your gender and I'm sorry she's forcing you to wear clothes you hate. I promise you there's a world of accepting people out here who WILL see you for who you are, just hang on and be safe. I know that's cold comfort, but you're real and you're you and you're okay. There is NOTHING wrong with being a trans boy.

An aside on clothes and having the right to determine how we are dressed and perceived, all of which is very important to identity for both cis and trans people.

@mitzy247: Forgive me if I'm wrong, but the whole wanting to wear a shirt two sizes too big to hide his body was a big signal that she's ignoring. And particularly chilling after her flippant dismissal of puberty blockers in the more recent article.

@demigirlace: *cries* baggy t-shirt that's too big... And yet still trying to deny her kid's obvious discomfort and dysphoria. That gender policing fucking KILLS KIDS. And tying something positive to something dysphoric? Just ugh. Dead daughters over live sons.

@chel_c_cam: I hope in like 15 years this kid writes a BLISTERING article to burn this shit down.

Child: I AM A BOY.
Parent: What's that? You want to wear a tie with a skirt?

Child: NO, I'M A BOY.
Parent: *wrings hands* I DON'T UNDERSTAND.

I cannot get over the fact that he ASKED FOR A TIE FOR CHRISTMAS. I'm crying.

and for everyone asking me "oh maybe the child changed their mind", this is for you: He asked for a tie FOR CHRISTMAS and she will ONLY let him wear it if he wears a SKIRT HE HATES.


HE. ASKED. FOR. A. TIE. FOR. CHRISTMAS. And he can't wear it UNLESS he wears a SKIRT HE HATES.

Imagine your most treasured childhood toy, your most wanted Christmas present. And you can only play with it if you deny your identity.

He used a CHRISTMAS WISH on a TIE and he can only wear it if he submits to wear a SKIRT at the same time.

@RemembrancerBex: This is just too many fucking memories for me. Are all transphobic parents the same or something? Yes I could read a comic, if I wore a dress that day. Yes I could have a video game if I did a sleepover w/ girls I hated.

@heidiheilig: Imagine having to beg for the ability to express your gender, and your parent holding it over your head like it was their gift to give.

@leilah: Something else that struck me... she's forcing him to wear dresses on Thursdays. *Specifically* on a school day. It feels extra vindictive. And it makes me wonder if she's doing it in part to get back at that teacher who (hopefully) knows her son isn't a girl. God, the teacher's "is he a boy pretending to be a girl?" question doesn't sound quite as bad now.

@demigirlace: Holy shit, you're right. So, it completely undoes his presentation and opens him up to abuse. That's so unbelievably evil.

@TerraSirena: I mean, this totally explains why the teacher assumes the kid is trans. The kid SAID SO. Probably to the teacher when out of parental sight.

@quicksilvre: I just want to mail this kid ties now. Black ties. Pinstripes. Polka dots. Stars. Rainbows. And suspenders. And vests. And dapper little shoes. I want to shower this child in love and choice so much

@KaylaBashe: The mom is a YA author; what if we just showed up to her readings like "here are some ties for your child"

@quicksilvre: hide tiny affirming messages on slips of paper inside the bows

Part 3: "Our Sleep Training Nightmare"

[A friend then sent me another article by the same author that is... distressing. I'm not sure what to make of it or even how to trigger warn for it.]

Our Sleep Training Nightmare: We are the family your pediatricians warn you about.

Is... is this woman's entire career writing terrifying articles about her children?

At 7 years old, her child (I think the SAME child, her trans son?) is screaming in terror all night long when locked in his room. I...... am not a doctor, but maybe denying his gender identity from ages 3 to 7 and forcing him to wear skirts weekly might have been bad?

I think her entire career is writing about her kid's medical and gender history, which seems really cruel? I am suddenly grateful that my mother didn't make a career out of disclosing my medical and gender history to the world.

Like, yes, okay, parenting articles, but this is just THREE that have been sent to me, and already I know WAY too much about her son. Kiddo, I am so damn sorry. Hang in there. It gets better.

Part 4: "I Couldn't Turn My Abortion Into Art"

[Another article was sent to me which I share only because there's some strange details in this article about abortion.]

I Couldn't Turn My Abortion Into Art: I believed completely in a woman’s right to choose, but I didn’t know what a brutal choice it was.

@Quinnae_Moon: ... Is this woman turning her family into a creepy op-ed factory? That's... dystopian.

And someone found an article about her abortion that seems factually wrong (general anesthesia used?), so I don't even KNOW.

@redsonika: There are so many reasons they DON'T use general for uncomplicated abortions.

@migamoo: I'm curious to know who would put her under general, supposedly, without someone there to be with her afterwards.

@redsonika: You also can't eat before hand, so telling her AT THE APPT just isn't possible. No surgeon would risk their pt aspirating. You ALWAYS get a heads up before general!

[I can't comment on the abortion and anesthesia stuff, but I add it here because it's being passed about in response to this whole transphobic saga. The most charitable interpretation I can give is that a lot of the stuff in these articles seems embellished, yet even if certain details have been exaggerated or even made up out of whole cloth, these articles are still harmful to trans people. (More on this in Part 5.)]

Part 5: Closing Thoughts

This isn't funny and it's not a cool thought experiment; the fact that people don't accept our gender kills us. Stop.

@vesaldi: hello i am here to tell you that it is both okay for afab children to be girls who are tomboys, and also for afab children to be trans boys

Tonight's most exhausting take: "I thought trans people were overreacting about the first article until I saw the second!" Yes, it's almost like we've seen and done this enough times to recognize dog whistles and red flags and YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO US.

*extremely cis voice* what if the child literally doesn't exist would you still ""drag"" her then YES I FUCKING WOULD. Because if the child doesn't exist and this is all a wild fever dream on the part of the author it STILL FURTHERS TRANSPHOBIA.

Other parents are gonna read this article and take away that they should force their sons into dresses. I realize this is a Thought Experiment for cis assholes in the audience but REAL KIDS DIE OVER THIS SHIT so YES I CARE.

"The kid might not even exist, why so upset?" because this STILL FURTHERS LETHAL TRANSPHOBIA. I'm goddamn crying. This was AFTER I told her about suicide rates among trans kids. I can't deal with cis people today who think it's funny to force a boy to wear skirts he hates to school so his peers misgender him.

I just.... can't. My heart aches.

I mean. GODDAMN. You can disagree with me. I'm not perfect. But to LAUGH at this kid? I spent most of last night and this morning worrying he won't make it out of this, so "haha" is basically the grossest thing I can hear. I am making a STORIFY of all this, because the twitter threading is a MESS, but I want to make a point here:

I have seen nothing in any of these stories suggesting that this child prefers "they/them" pronouns, just that he says he's a boy. Please choose carefully which pronouns you use to support him, if you tweet support. "They/them" can be subtle misgendering in cases.

I used "they/them" at points in this thread too, because this whole thing has been a mess of discovery and the mother is a terrible writer, but I'm henceforth using "he/him" until the kid tells us otherwise, because he says he's a boy and those are the default boy pronouns.

Addendum: A Bit Of Humor

Because if we don't laugh, we die. Hang in there, my trans siblings.

OPINION: My daughter is not a set of novelty salt and pepper shakers. She's a tomboy.

In this liberal world gone wild, 100% of strangers ask me if my daughter is a set of novelty pig-themed salt and pepper shakers. I delight in correcting them and subverting their expectations of what a "child" should "look like".

"Can a tomboy NOT have one nose hole for pepper and two for salt?" I ask. The narrow-minded strangers look stunned.

"So they're...salt and pepper shakers PRETENDING to be a girl?" they ask. "No, she's a girl, really," I assure them. They look skeptical.

"It's just that...they're CLEARLY a set of pig-shaped salt and pepper shakers," they fumble, brainwashed by SJW notions of conformity. "Look, salt comes out of the nose here," they press.

"She's going through a phase," I explain, serene in my enlightened understanding.

If my daughter--WHO IS NOT PIG SHAPED SALT CELLARS--comes out as a salt cellar later, I will research spices (more than I have). I want her to feel free to be cardamom, or paprika, or even saffron if she wants to be. Not salt and pepper shakers. Never that.

She may come to feel like a cat-themed set with cowboy hats, or perhaps a napkin cozy. I won't limit her to the pig shape she insists on. In the meantime, I have a solution: on Thursdays, I fill her with Tabasco sauce. Dinners are unpleasant, but my husband will adapt.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm parenting the child she is or the child I want her to be. Perhaps pepper in my eyes clouds my vision. I can only hope when she grows up, she'll appreciate all I've done for her and maybe also stop spilling salt everywhere. She means well.


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