On Tuesday, popular journalist Matt Walsh, known for his strong and usually unpopular opinions, posted a blog in response to this story about Ryland Whittington, a 5 year old boy who was born a girl. The story talks about how Ryland declared that he was a boy from the age of 2 and never wavered in his beliefs. It talks about how Ryland was unhappy living as a girl, constantly talked about how he was waiting for the day he could be himself. After years of fighting it, followed by consultations with the medical community (including those that specialized in gender fluidity in children), Ryland’s parents decided to honour his wishes and allow him to live as a boy.
Matt Walsh came along and posted this response to the story, claiming the child was not in fact transgender but rather confused. That this was his parents’ fault for ‘allowing’ the behaviour and that Ryland simply doesn’t have the intelligence to know what gender he should be unless someone tells him. Honestly, the article is so full of ignorance and discrimination that I hesitated to even link it but I think it’s important that we understand just how prevalent this discrimination is in our world, particularly with people who are hiding under their veil of Christianity as an excuse.
Some excerpts from Matt’s response:
“This child didn’t ‘choose’ her gender. She didn’t choose to cut her hair and dress like a boy. Kids that age can only wear what you put on them, sport the haircut you assign them, play with the toys you give them, and mostly believe what you tell them they should believe. Tell them there’s a magical fat man who flies down the chimney to bring them presents every Christmas, and they’ll believe it. Tell them that they get to choose their own gender like it’s an ice cream flavor at Baskin Robbins, and they’ll believe it. Their reality is whatever you construct for them.”
“That’s insane. This girl did not choose to be a boy. She can’t. She also didn’t choose to be a world famous face for the transgender movement. Her parents made that decision. Her parents decided to make her a ‘boy’ and alert the press.
It’s interesting, when you think about it. If a girl declares that she’s a lesbian, progressives would tell us that this identity cannot be modified. It is ingrained in her soul and nothing can ever alter it. Her sexual preference is immutable. Her sex, however? Fluid. Subject to change. And what if she ‘becomes a boy’ and still finds herself attracted to girls? By their standards, she’s just turned herself straight. But isn’t that impossible? So is she still gay? But if she’s still gay then she’s still a woman, which means she’s not a man, which means your sex can’t be changed.”
When Matt garnered over 4000 responses in a day on his Facebook page, many of them irate with him for posting something so uneducated, the right thing to do would be to apologize. To take a deep breath, evaluate why he was getting the reactions he was, do a lot of self reflection and apologize for being a bigot. Did Matt do that? Of course not – that wouldn’t get hits! Instead, Matt got back up on his (very privileged white, cisgendered, straight, male) high horse and posted a follow up:
“To prove my point, this post has provoked more unhinged hatred than anything I’ve written recently.
If I’d written this ten years ago, half of the people upset about it wouldn’t care, or they’d even agree. That’s because the moral and intellectual collapse of our nation is in hyper drive. Most of those who react with such venom because of what I’ve written here are merely following cultural cues. They know they’re supposed to think I’m a bigoted jerk, so they do…
Even if you think that “transgender” exists and sometimes women should live as men or vice versa, any rational person, even people in that ideological camp, ought to understand that toddlers are not nearly old enough to make these kinds of decisions. Honestly, if we can’t agree on this, then there is little hope we can agree on anything else. The people who think a two-year-old’s “I’m a boy” declaration should be taken seriously might, really. I feel like saying to America what my parents often said to me as a teenager: “I’m not mad at you. Just disappointed.”
Even if you think that “transgender” exists and sometimes women should live as men or vice versa, any rational person, even people in that ideological camp, ought to understand that toddlers are not nearly old enough to make these kinds of decisions. Honestly, if we can’t agree on this, then there is little hope we can agree on anything else. The people who think a two-year-old’s “I’m a boy” declaration should be taken seriously might as well be living on a different planet. They exist in a reality that is light years removed from anything resembling reality here on Earth.Even if you think that “transgender” exists and sometimes women should live as men or vice versa, any rational person, even people in that ideological camp, ought to understand that toddlers are not nearly old enough to make these kinds of decisions. Honestly, if we can’t agree on this, then there is little hope we can agree on anything else. The people who think a two-year-old’s “I’m a boy” declaration should be taken seriously might as well be living on a different planet. They exist in a reality that is light years removed from anything resembling reality he as well be living on a different planet. They exist in a reality that is light years removed from anything resembling reality here on Earth…”
He goes on to again discount Ryland’s experience and explains that he will not apologize for “reacting in a way that offends popular sensibilities.”
Matt Walsh, it’s pretty clear that you are extremely ignorant to the realities of transgender youth. Well, actually, the trans* community as a whole since you deny their very existence, but I’ll focus on youth since that was the meat of your post and because I simply don’t have enough time or brain cells to address the entire myriad of issues I have with your very uninformed views. I recognize that I’m also writing from a place of privilege being white, cisgendered and straight myself and for having children that (so far) present the same way. The difference between you and me though Matt is my willingness to learn, be humble and follow God’s ACTUAL advice and love everyone for exactly who they are.
For starters, Ryland did indeed first claim “I’m a boy” at the age of two. It didn’t stop there. Ryland did not claim this once to have his parents jump on a single sentence and make their child into the transgender poster boy. Ryland never stopped in his adamant insistence that he was a boy and it was only after years of this followed by professional medical consultation that it was realized that it was in Ryland’s best interests to start honouring his wishes. That’s right, Matt, despite your claim that allowing Ryland to exist as a boy is harmful and evidence of the moral and intellectual collapse of our nation, actual researched proof indicates the exact opposite. Some food for thought:
-The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 45% of 18-24 year-old transgender/gender nonconforming people had attempted suicide. There is no group with a higher suicide rate then the transgendered. In a survey, 50% of Transsexuals have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday. Many have had multiple attempts from ages as young as 7. In the UK a ten year old transgender child committed suicide. This means that transgender teens are the most vulnerable. (source)
Denying Ryland’s reality means greatly increasing the chances he will try to kill himself. How very Christian.
-Recent research has shown that in carefully selected patients, people who transition young suffer few ill effects, and maintain a higher level of functioning than before transition. Additionally, results of treatment are considered better when it is offered at an earlier age. (Cohen-Kettenis, P T. Dillen, C M. Gooren, L J. (2000) “Treatment of young transsexuals in the Netherlands” Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde 144(15):698-702, 8 April 2000)
Although I think it’s important to note that nowhere on Ryland’s story do I see any evidence that his parents’ are currently pursuing medical transition at this time, nor would most professionals consider it at his age, it’s critical to understand that supporting him early if this is a step he wishes to take actually means reducing the chance of complication.
-Trying to teach a trans child how to be the opposite of how he or she feels is like trying to teach a nontrans child the same. All you are really doing is teaching them how society expects them to behave based on their genitalia, which also comes with a number of ramifications. First and foremost, this track further emphasizes trans gender children’s hatred of their bodies. Telling a child “You are a boy — you have a penis” (or the opposite for a female-to-male child) just reinforces the feelings of discomfort. This “hatred of their body” often leads to eating disorders, self-mutilation and suicide. And even if you could successfully teach “proper expected behaviors,” you end up sending mixed messages when you attempt to teach your child right from wrong when dealing with peer pressures. How do you successfully teach your child how to be who others expect and also try to teach your child not to be pressured into acting like “all the other kids” when the behavior is wrong? Teaching your child to “be what others expect” is contrary to developing a good sense of conscience and self-esteem. Transgendered children and youth that are supported have the best chance of growing up to be content, productive adults. It is universal that any human being who is allowed to be him or herself, and who is loved and supported, will ultimately do far better in life. On the other hand, transgendered persons that must stay “closeted” due to shame and fear of rejection from loved ones have the strongest likelihood of negative future outcome, which unfortunately can include clinical depression and even suicide. (source)
Again – denying Ryland to be himself means you increase his chances of self-harm.
-Most children born gender dysphoric suffer from high levels of social anxiety and attention deficit disorder. When a child needs to spend so much time focusing on “acting in a way that pleases others,” the child finds little energy left to relax and be attentive. (source)
-It is normal for many boys and girls to experiment with different gender behaviours as they are growing up. Many boys may try on girl’s clothing, and many girls may try on boy’s clothing. Children and youth with transgender issues are truly and deeply distressed by their biologic sex on a fundamental level.
Ryland showed this distress over the course of several years and several situations. This goes far beyond a girl wanting to play in the mud or wear superhero costumes. It’s an identification on a much deeper level.
-Gender identity is usually formed by age three and is extremely difficult to change after that. The formation also commonly concludes between the ages of four and six. (Stein MT, Zucker KJ, Dixon SD. December, 1997. “Gender Identity”, The Nurse Practitioner. Vo. 22, No. 12, P. 104)
That’s right – THREE. The argument that a 5 year old can’t possibly know who he is or how he identifies directly contradicts professional research.
Matt Walsh, it’s posts like yours that are the reason the parents of transgender children don’t feel comfortable supporting their child and the reason why transgender children are so much more likely to consider and attempt self-harm. You deny the existence of transgender people as whole, despite the fact that transgender individuals have been present for the entire human history. You are taking your limited, narrow minded existence, transferring it to an entire population of humans and claiming that their reality simply doesn’t exist. You are indeed fortunate to be living the life you are and identifying as you do – you have virtually never experienced true oppression. And, quite frankly, Ryland’s story doesn’t affect you. The Whittingtons shared their experience in support of all children who may not fit into society’s super narrow boxes of expectation, and for that I applaud them.
The world has changed from ten years ago because it had to. Because it should. If you had written a similar article about race even fifty years ago, you would’ve gotten a lot of support for it, too. That doesn’t mean that it’s true or acceptable and it wouldn’t make it okay to write it today.
I desperately hope that one day soon you’ll wake up and realize that you’re speaking out of a place of sheer ignorance, likely to get attention. I pray that you’ll become enlightened to God’s true teaching of unconditional love and acceptance, instead of trans* erasure. I want you to do Christians proud and teach your kids how to carry on that legacy. You have a large readership and thus a large reach – and for once, I’d like to see you using it to promote peace and understanding. I gather that you’re likely too stubborn to do that kind of reflection, so I won’t hold my breath that one day you’ll be part of the solution. Until then – Matt Walsh, you are the problem.