Transphobia & Fake News: An Agenda of Ignorance & Hatred

Debra Lobel
Aug 4, 2017 · 6 min read

The above quote post is typical of some of the Facebook posts and messages that I have received since September 2011.

It was a reply to my Facebook post of a picture of my daughter and granddaughter interactively playing a video game at a Video Game Museum. They weren’t hurting anyone or doing anything inappropriate.

So why are we being picked on by judgmental, foul-mouthed women like this one?

My partner and I adopted our youngest child when he was two and a half years old. He had apraxia, a motor speech disorder which made it difficult for him to control the movement of his lips, tongue, and jaw and difficult to understand him when he spoke. Within months, we noticed he did not rough house as other boys do nor did he play with typical boy toys. He also loved to examine women’s jewelry, hair, and shoes. Our son was different than his older two brothers. We turned to a developmental specialist for help. She suggested physical therapy for his apraxia issues.

By the age of 5, we sent him to a special school to learn sign language. My partner and I also learned to sign so we could understand our son when he “talked” to us. He did well in school except he seemed to be confused between the signs for boy/girl and man/woman. He also “told” us he was a boy now and would grow up to be a woman. We brought these issues up with the development specialist who referred us to a child psychiatrist.

Over the years, our son’s speech improved. He stopped signing but kept insisting that he was a girl and he wanted to dress like a girl. We told him he was a boy and kept him in boy’s clothes. In June 2010, the psychiatrist told us that our son was transgender. Even with the information our son gave us, we were unprepared for this news. We found an organization, Gender Spectrum, that supports parents of transgender children as they navigate an unknown world.

We learned a lot including:

  1. How to explain to friends and family members that our son was our daughter. Our friends were very accepting, especially our Jewish community. Most family members took a little longer to accept the change.
  2. How to deal with the school. One of the services that Gender Spectrum offers is to teach staff how to make the school a welcoming environment for everyone including transgender children. They also explained to the students what was happening to their classmate. Parents of the students were also offered a learning session about transgender and non-binary children.
  3. Buying clothes isn’t all that goes into transitioning from one gender to another. Gender Spectrum had a conference a month after our daughter began her transition. We learned about legal, social, endocrinological and other issues that can come up throughout the transgender child’s life. Biological changes might — or might not — happen when our daughter became an adult.

One issue that was very important to my partner and myself was that our daughter would be given as much time as she needed to be positive about her gender. One of the topics at the Gender Spectrum conference was about hormone blockers. If our daughter were to get them, she would not develop male secondary characteristics including:

  • Facial hair
  • Adam’s apple
  • Big hands and feet

It would also delay puberty. We spoke with an endocrinologist who let us know when it was time to give our daughter hormone blockers depending on her Tanner level. A few months before the next Gender Spectrum conference, she started on the blockers.

About the same time, Gender Spectrum asked us if we were interested in being interviewed by CNN about our daughter being transgender. We agreed, hoping to teach other people what we learned, especially about hormone blockers. A couple of days before the conference, two young people, Madison and Brandon, came to our house, asked us questions and took videos of Tammy. They also attended a lot of sessions during the conference to learn about transgender children. All the formal interviews of families and professionals occurred at the conference. The article, Transgender Kids: Painful Quest to be Who They Are, includes our story and exactly reflects our experiences of raising a transgender child.

Not long after that, the Daily Mail in the UK called us for an interview, and we declined. The PR person that guided us during the Gender Spectrum process advised us that it would be best not to be interviewed by anyone else, especially a right-leaning, sensationalist tabloid. Instead, the Daily Mail took the CNN article, put their spin on it, and wrote their own story, The little boy who started a sex change aged eight because he (and his lesbian parents) knew he always wanted to be a girl. The biggest problems with their story are:

  1. The title is wrong and inflammatory. Our daughter didn’t start to transition until she was 10 and did not go through a sex change.
  2. My partner and I being lesbians have nothing to do with our daughter’s transition.
  3. The original article wasn’t all about us, and yet the Daily Mail didn’t include the important information from other people at the conference.
  4. In 2011, not many people were worried about privacy. The Daily Mail went to my partner’s Facebook page without letting her know and downloaded pictures of our family without permission. One of the pictures they used was from my son’s Bar Mitzvah which fueled anti-semitic remarks in future articles.

More recently, others have picked up the Daily Mail article and added their spins to the story.

1. There is the story by Brian Knight When the bizarre is commonplace in the Washington Times from October 2013.

2. Another article, State Should Remove Transgender Child from Home, Charging Parents with Abuse by Brian Tashman in Right Wing Watch based his article on Brian Knight’s story.

3. And why stop at transphobia when you can be homophobic and anti-semitic too? There are people who want to bash my partner and me for being a same-sex couple and Jewish. Henrik Palmgren wrote an article, Jazz Jennings and the Zio Conspiracy of Transgender Kids, about a fourteen-year-old girl and decided to throw in false information about my daughter being deaf, my partner and I of being part of the “twisted Zionist elite” and “two Jewish lesbians … pushing this insanity.”

4. Then Matt Barber from The Christian Post wrote One Screwed Up Jenner-ation and says “Think the fact that Tommy is being raised by two lesbians and has been intentionally deprived of his father has anything to do with his sexual confusion?” Not being fully informed about what it means to be transgender, Mr. Barber has shown his ignorance. Being transgender has nothing to do with sexual identity. It’s all about gender.

5. The most recent spin of the Daily Mail story is Lesbian Couple in California Chemically Altering Their 11-year-old Boy For Sex-change Surgery by Baron Von Kowenhoven in Joe for America. My daughter has never been chemically altered for a sex-change surgery. In five days since July 31, 2017, this article has been shared 16,900 times. Another version of the same story, Lesbian Couple in California Alter Their 11-year-old Boy to Prep for Sex-change Surgery by Katie McGuire, has been shared 84,100 times since May 2015.

Today, my daughter is happy. There is no question in her mind or anyone else that knows her that she is a girl. Has she had any surgery? No. Because of the hormone blockers, she never developed any masculine physical features and never will. She is tall (6’), beautiful (I’m not saying that because I’m her mother) and confident.

The people who wrote the fake articles know nothing about my family. Their articles are based on erroneous information, and their conclusions are hurtful and fuel hatred and fear. I have a question for the people leaving me hateful posts and messages:

“Why don’t you read the original story which is correct? Are you only reading fake stories because you can’t bear the truth?”

Thanks to Paul S Markle

Debra Lobel

Written by

Author, writer, fan of legacy and modern technology, and dedicated family caregiver

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