This piece presents thoughts on “Jazz Jennings: The Transgender Teen and Wannabe Mermaid the Internet Needs”
Jazz; an art form which appears to transcend usual musical convention. Affected and nonsensical, it is studiously performed in order to appear natural, free form and released from the mundane. Its fans are almost fanatical in their devotion to it as musical ‘truth’.
Listen carefully, dear ones, for I have a cautionary tale to tell. It is the story of two daughters, one born, one made.
Born, one daughter to be the dutiful, dowdy, dull-feathered common bird, full of the usual eggs, who, with her flawed, ordinary female body, will suffer the familiar dangers, disappointments and hatred, and be expected to serve her family, not just in the everyday ways of always being the one to contact, to come over, to care, and to clean, not just in the usual expectations of continuing the family with her own offspring, but to also be the mere vessel, the incubator, for however many children her more-important sibling may desire for their perfect, pink, dazzling Disney fantasy. 101 Dalmations for Cruella, coming right up.
Made, one daughter-once- son forced Phoenix-like to transcend the limits of his parents’ misguided care to mimic a bird of paradise, all dazzling plumage, encouraged squawks, and apparent glee at the gilded cage they have been told is freedom. All cuckoo and magpie, this glittering creature has its lesser sister to tend to its young, whilst it gets on with the more important job of delighting us with its beauty and sweet gibberish.
Two daughters, to be both aspects of Cinderella at once; the rags and scraps slave of the hearth, and the enchanting, magical, captivating party princess. This Cinders will serve herself. It won’t just be the Ugly Sisters getting bits cut off themselves to win the heart of Prince Patriarchy.
Whilst the first sister stays forever landlocked, the second can swim. This Ariel, this sparkly fun mermaid, can live in water and on land. All the entitlement of breathing rarefied air, all the glamour of appearing to live in unexplored depths. Remove her tail and she only gets more perfect: what men truly want. Her breasts will never sag, stretch, pucker or leak, or be wasted on keeping a baby alive, or be lopsided or deemed the sum of her worth (the bright new jewel of privilege). Her factory-fresh vulva will be crafted to be porn perfect; trim, pink, childlike and hair free. No natural asymmetry, wild bush, secreting or bleeding for her. No birth to wreck it. She will be taller and leaner than mere mortal females, her belly untouched by growing life, never contorted with cramps, never anything but a smooth doll blank, inside and out. Her wardrobe will be sublime; as practical and mundane as the shell bras all true mermaids wear, all the time. Under the sea, you and me, where the waves distort the sound of truth being told…
… I need to wake up. To stop writing like this. This is a nightmare, but it is no fantasy land, it is all too true. We will have to save ourselves, and the children, because the prince has chopped off Rapunzel’s hair for himself.
I will put this bluntly: I believe that transing children is a form of child abuse. Furthermore, I feel that there is a sexual element to that in this case. What the hell are adults doing making such a big deal of sexual issues with a child?! Hypersexualisation is one of the most clear-cut signs of abuse in a child, yet here we have a child talking about being pansexual, about his sister’s vagina, like he’s reciting his times table, and everyone seems to be applauding instead of being alarmed.
I see the hidden message: here is a child we can sexualise and legitimise feeling sexual about, because they are apparently opting into adult notions of female sexuality. You can’t be a creep who fancies teenage girls when that girl is really a boy, oh no. Your arousal is just approval of *her* empowerment and choice. Right. Right. The fact that it will also encourages real girls to think of themselves as objects for sexual consumption doesn’t interest you, oh, of course not.
These cases, of transed children fool the public, like an evil stepmother’s (played by ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner) mirror telling us all that this way is the fairest of them all. But the truth is ugly, and downright wicked. Now, I do believe that virtually all of these cases are driven by either a well-meaning ignorance or unexplained psychological need of one or both parents, and that they genuinely believe they are going what’s best for their child. It’s pretty clear to me that having a child who’s a transgirl psychologically relieves the parents because they can indulge in a fantasy of believing that one ‘daughter’ is living a life free of the usual oppressions, dangers, etc., that actual females face. Instead of the hard work of supporting their real daughter, she must be sacrificed for her parents enjoyment and self-indulgent delusion of relief, of freeing at least one girl. What’s more, a mother can live out her fantasies of what being a girl is without the intrusions of the reality of her own limited body and its very real material oppression. They get to deny not only the pain of a daughter battling a lifetime of misogyny, but the mother’s own oppression as a woman, AND their own very real homophobia and gender brain-washing that led them to unconsciously psychologically abuse their toddler by telling him that he must be a girl because he loved pink.
Of course, this is no excuse. If your child is suffering mentally because they cannot physically bear a child or be a mermaid, you no more encourage their delusions of gender and cope with your pain at their pain by telling them they can be what they’re not, and especially not by offering up a sacrifice of the womb of your other child than you would hold their head underwater in the bath until their tail appears. Parenting is not always about making your child happy at any cost. It is certainly never about lying to your kids, or swapping truth for make-believe and placatory promises, because you, the adult, cannot control your emotions in the face of their distress. And creating family myths that become ‘truths’ is extremely irresponsible parenting: Jazz has been convinced that they knew they were female at 16 months old. This is developmentally impossible. A child of that age has no concept of gender or even sex, never mind if there’s some sort of perceived problem. Children of that age still think they and mummy are the same, for god’s sake. Oh, and Newsflash! Small boy with a sister wants to share and copy sister’s toys, clothes and activities – not exactly a Nobel-worthy breakthrough in understanding gender play, is it?
Transing children does not offer them a way to ‘truly be who they are’, as we are constantly told. It does the exact opposite of that. Everything opposite to that. Telling a boy he must be a girl because he likes pink is no different than telling him he can’t like pink because it’s for girls. The only difference is cowardly semantics, self-delusion, and a nicer intention. The message remains the same. What transing children does is offer parents the chance to see themselves as the good guys, the best parents, to deny their ignorance, narrow-mindlessness and bigotry, however unconscious they may be. The only true transformation is for the adults. In this crass new world, where fairytale is the new reality, transing kids is just the new way in which the witch can fatten Hans for the oven and get Gretl to open his mouth for her. Transing children is just the modern version of gay conversion therapy – and at least that doesn’t have a potential final outcome of extreme and irreversible genital mutilation surgery. When gay conversion therapy is the lesser of two evils, you really need to step back and think sensibly for a minute.
The really shocking aspect of that interview for me, and all women I know who’ve read it, is the casual discussion of using his sister as the incubator for any future children he may desire. Putting aside his scientific ignorance about conception, and my disgust that an adult female journalist would encourage, much less even tolerate this kind of talk from an interviewee, this is grotesque and proprietary male entitlement at its extreme. There is nothing female about the way he views his sister. This is a boy talking as though the future of his sister’s life and body has been decided in terms of what it can and will do for him and the family as a whole: give him children. He is saying that, even when I become a woman *like* you, I get to keep all my ownership and control over you. Is Jazz’s talking about ‘chucking my hubby’s sperm’ into his sister so a baby can come out of her ‘vag’, any less disgusting than a brother policing his sister’s body and rights in the name of ‘family hnour’? How come we demonise, say, Muslim males with that attitude towards their sisters, yet applaud and encourage Jazz treating his sister like she is no more than his personal breeder?! A combination of mixing bowl and oven to bake him a baby, not even vaguely human.
Where are HER rights? Where is the celebration of HER actual femaleness? Where is the support for HER dreams? When does SHE get to be a person with agency over her own body, someone who actually matters?
I believe that all the children in that family are, on some level, being emotionally and mentally damaged. The fun and spangles of this obscene indulgence don’t stop this being merely a modern twist on the classic Golden Child/Scapegoat sibling dynamic, and just, if not more, as damaging. Jazz is not just blatantly the favourite child, but he gets to be his own sister better than she ever can. Yet he can never actually be that either. I sincerely hope, however, that I’m wrong, and that Jazz’s sister will receive the same support and acceptance for declining to be his surrogate in the future that Jazz gets for his issues (for, of course, he deserves nothing less, even if I don’t agree with the manner in which its expressed).
Moving beyond Jazz’s family now, what implications does this case, and others like it, have for the female sex as a whole? I didn’t choose ‘A Transmaid’s Tale’ purely because it’s catchy; I really do see a potential for a actual dystopia that mimics Atwood’s sublime classic, where, instead of class separating women into breeders, servants or Wives, false classifications of ‘woman’ will be used so that we will see Transwomen being posited and legally protected as ‘real’ women, with us true, biological females being only of use as breeders for their babies, and skivvies for their homes.
Will people have daughters just to produce children for their Trans-sisters, the way some couples have a child to be a donor for a sick or dying existing sibling? At least one can see a justifiable motive in the latter, whatever your opinion on it as a whole.
What else could we see in the future – girls pretending to be transgirls in order to feel allowed, or even be allowed to have the same freedom, admiration, approval and fun as kids like Jazz, without all that lame and oldskool sense of material oppression? Girls having phalloplasties to look like transgirls?! If the choice becomes breeder-servant-TERF or Transwoman, what would young women do to escape that first fate?! As it becomes clearer every day that equality for women actually just means ‘do as men do, do as men say, but pretend you’ve chosen it for yourself’, are these ideas really so far-fetched? The neoliberal solution to patriarchy seems to be ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. As it’s part of our female socialisation to yield and adapt and accept to whatever extremes men demand of us, this seems like a horribly possible next step.
And we know that porn has so warped the minds of our young people that, when shown pictures of normal, healthy breasts and vulvas, both teenage boys and girls will recoil and presume they are being shown photos of abnormal body parts, with the boys declaring that they’d never have sex with females with bodies like that. Transgirls can have the ‘perfect’ breasts and vulvas required for this porn-poisoned new generation: fake, always available to men, always arousing, and with none of the actual functions they exist for in women. We know that in the UK alone, in just the last few years, the numbers of girls and women under-25 going to their doctors to enquire about labiaplasty has skyrocketed, so unable are they to cope with having lovely, normal vulvas. The same generation of girls and young women who are rightly protesting the horrors of FGM are demanding minor mutilation of their own genitals in the name of empowerment. How far can this cognitive dissonance go?!
What makes all this even more dubious is that it’s an interview for Cosmopolitan, a famous, popular magazine for young women. They’re sending out the message that boys can even do being female better than they ever could. They’ll have all the fun and fame, the glitz and glamour, whilst you just get to be a boring, dull, invisible, servile breeder for them. Have we not heard the last part of that message before?! At least in the bad old good old days, we were told to be servile breeders because that’s all we we’re fit for, not because we are so useless as human beings that even men are better at being women than women are. At least when we were servile breeders in our own right, we got to keep our own children.
Isn’t it time to break the spell? We are in serious danger of transgenderist poison apples ruining, even mutilating, the lives, minds, and bodies of younger generations. This is child abuse, not just of the children being transed, but their siblings and peers, all being taught these hideous new ‘truths’, and it has to end. It is time to close this chapter before it gets even scarier.