Sunday, 30 March 2014

Pete Burns

I've been deliberating over writing a post about Pete Burns for quite a while now. You may know him as the front man of Dead or Alive, and, somewhere along the line, you are sure to have heard their one hit, You Spin Me Round (Like a Record). If you have lived in Britain, you may also know him as an outspoken and sometimes controversial individual, known for his dramatic cosmetic surgery, and for struggling to re-establish his former celebrity on shows such as Celebrity Wife Swap and Celebrity Big Brother.

Pete Burns died in October 2016 of what was reported as a "massive heart attack". He was 57. Although I wrote this article in 2014, I have edited it into the past tense.

Androgynous: Burns in the 80's
What fascinated me about Burns is his deliberate changing of appearance. In the 1980's he was only one of half a dozen popular music artists who used deliberate androgyny as a theme for their appearance. But since then he went further and further down the path of cosmetic surgery, until he was unrecognisable from his former self. This article seeks to explore that a little.

One of the things I like about Graham Norton is that he is fearless in tackling any subject, but he disarms his subjects into revealing things by being funny and quirky and camp. One of the funniest things I have ever seen on TV is Norton's interview with will.i.am sitting beside Miriam Margolyes. Norton just sets the two of them up, and like a master conductor, sits back and lets them strike perfect comic sparks off one another. You can see it all here on YouTube.

Norton's interview with Burns took place sometime before 2006, although I can't quite establish the exact date. Here, Norton broaches the subject of Burns' cosmetic surgery:
Norton: Have you finished?
Burns: Oh no, no.
Norton: What next?
Burns: It depends on the boredom factor. It's very difficult for people to understand something like this, but in the 80's when I became a pop star, I saw myself on the front of so many magazines, on TV all the time, and I got really bored of looking at the same face, and I am sure most people do get bored of looking at the same thing. That's why women bleach their hair, that's why women buy makeup, that's why men grow a beard, that's why they shave the beard off. I just got really bored. And when I'm bored with things, I alter them.
Norton: So there's no attempt on your part-- it's not about masculine, feminine. You're not trying to become a woman in any way.
Burns: I think if I was going to try and become a woman, I know enough about women to be a darn sight better woman than this. I could be a very good woman because I know all the trickery and everything they do to build that image. I have absolutely no intention of being-- in fact, I have an absolutely ginormous knob. I would never dream of getting rid of that. It's Venus with a penis.
Supernatural beauty?
And that seems to be true from a certain perspective. Burns never adopted a fem name. He did not take hormones (and I think we would reasonably know if he had, since he revealed everything else about his appearance and personal life). No breasts, no feminisation of his voice, and by his own admission, no sex reassignment surgery.

And yet, his appearance was all woman: long hair, huge glossy lips, long sparkly nails, outrageous dresses and high heels. And it was this curious dichotomy which prompted me to write this blog post. At the time of the Graham Norton interview, Burns had been married to his wife, Lynne Corlett, for over 25 years, and gave every indication of being still happy; he even recommended to Norton (who is gay) that he should try marriage.

Then, in 2006, Burns separated from his wife, and began a relationship with male partner Michael Simpson. In in interview with talk show hosts Richard and Judy, he announced their engagement. (Wikipedia says they underwent a civil partnership later that year, split, and later reunited. Simpson and Corlett released a joint statement after Burns' death, implying at least that he remained on good terms with both).
Judy: You had a perfectly normal heterosexual marriage for a long time, very happily in love, now you're with Michael, with whom you're very much in love--
Burns: That's, I guess, my first homosexual relationship, and we only have sex at home. So there you go. (Richard and Judy laugh) And I'm not bisexual because I don't pay for it.
Richard: So how long have you two been together now?
Burns: We've been together in former lives. I lost him a lifetime ago and I've been looking for him ever since.
Judy: That's how it came across in Big Brother, you missed him very much.
Burns: I don't care how anyone else felt in there. This is a different thing. He's a physical part of me. (...) We're just in love.
Overcooked?
Burns is making jokes: Home-osexual, Buy-sexual. I didn't get either of those on my first run through. Later in the interview, Richard goes on to talk about Burns' appearance:
Richard: How does it make you feel if I tell you that quite a few, 100% heterosexual guys in our office of varying ages, find your physical appearance very attractive? They describe you as sexy.
Burns: You know, the first time I've ever seen myself objectively was when I left the Big Brother house, when they showed [me] on the eviction screen, so I'd never seen myself, this is just the way it needed to be, so I don't need to look at it very often.
Richard: And what do you think? What do you think of the way you look?
Burns: What do I think? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I behold myself, and I'm exactly what I've always needed to be.
Richard: But the fact that heterosexual men find you attractive?
Burns: They always have. Gay men don't. But it's been since a child that heterosexual men have found me attractive. It's usually, unfortunately, and it's not a misogynistic statement, but most of the hatred that I've encountered on the street and in nightclubs has been from girls. And you know, I love girls. But I couldn't eat a whole one. (...) We live in an age of supernatural beauty, where nothing that we see is real. Even the young girls in pop videos, they've all been tweaked and nipped. It's mandatory now.
I found this interesting: "I'm exactly what I've always needed to be". Not wanted to be. Not felt like being. But needed to be. It's plain that Burns was driven to do this. Perhaps driven in the same way some of us are driven to express femininity? Perhaps not. But driven by what? Was he driven towards something, to become something? Or was he driven away from something? And in either case, what might that something be? I cannot possibly tell, and I wonder if even Burns was aware of it on a conscious level.

HolyMoly.com writes this of Burns in its most recent interview of him in 2012:
HolyMoly: Interviewing Pete Burns is difficult. Not because the Dead Or Alive frontman and Big Brother’s Bit On The Side star isn’t at all times charming, engaging and forthcoming. He really is. But because he clearly subscribes to the Quentin Crisp philosophy of interviews: say what you have come to say. So here’s Pete Burns answering almost none of our questions but being incredibly fascinating and entertaining all the same. Enjoy.
I think there is a leeeetle bit of manipulation here.
This observation is absolutely spot-on. In all the interviews I have seen with Burns (in research for this post), he had done exactly that. That makes it very difficult for me to try to interpret Burns' motivations and true character.

First, Pete Burns was a very quirky and interesting individual. He was indisputably talented, confident and forthright, occasionally abrasive. However, he seemed to be a deeply fractured individual. As a man who spent a lot of money and time cultivating a female appearance, he is undoubtedly fair game for this blog.

On the one hand, Burns craved the oxygen of celebrity. He needed it for his income, but in addition he was willing, almost desperate, to put himself in front of any sort of camera, and there was a period where he seemed to be on every single celebrity reality TV show imaginable, including one where he selects his new Personal Assistant. On the other hand, he seemed to loathe celebrity and its emptiness and falsehood. This from HolyMoly:
Burns: It’s like now. My partner, my husband of nine years, he has a 16-year-old daughter and I get to hear what’s current in passing, through his daughter. And you know what, I wouldn’t fucking know one of Girls Aloud if they came up and spat in my face, but I know if I hear their records that it’s Girls Aloud. I have no interest in celebrity culture; I’ve never suffered from media sickness. It’s not me being rude, I genuinely don’t know who most people are.
Second, he seemed to be desperately in search of beauty. I agree with Graham Norton's assessment, that for Burns, it wasn't about seeking femininity. But for most of us, beauty equates with femininity: we are deluged with images of female beauty, and far fewer of male beauty. If you want adornments (nails, shoes, jewels, cosmetics) then you go for female beauty, and Burns seemed to have gone for all those things in abundance.

Burns: seriously?
For Burns, that search for beauty involved a lot of surgery, and he achieved a period where he really did look beautiful (and there is a reasonable argument about which point along the line was the peak). His comments above (about emerging from the Big Brother house) suggest that he had never really seen his own appearance until he saw himself on television, like catching a glimpse of himself in a mirror. This remark seems, at best, hopelessly disingenuous; at worst, complete nonsense. Burns was obsessed with his appearance for all of his public life. He knew exactly how he looked, right down to the smallest eyelash, and he was completely unwilling to reveal his feelings about that to the rest of us.

Wherever he was at his most beautiful, he didn't stop there, and went further and further down the route of cosmetic surgery, until he looked hopelessly grotesque. Although he described it as getting "bored" with his face, I suspect that he was using surgery as a means to fix something deeper down; the fact that he pursued more and more surgery tells me that surgery was not the answer to what Burns was looking for; that wasn't where the problem lay. And where, I wonder, do you find a doctor who says "Sure, Pete! No problem. I can do even more surgery on you."?
Oh Pete, you poor thing.

When I think of other people who have taken cosmetic surgery beyond the attractive and into the grotesque, I think of Michael Jackson, and Jocelyn Wildenstein. What they (and Burns) seemed to have in common is deep insecurities, which they seemed to think could be fixed by surgery. I wondered if he would eventually reach a point where he looked in the mirror and thought: Aargh! What have I done? But this last picture of him suggests not.

Ironically, he was reported as saying "I hope God doesn't recognise me when I get to heaven".

So what I saw in Pete Burns was a man of deep inner conflicts: he wanted to remain a man, but look like a woman. He wants to look beautiful, but he had so much surgery he looked awful. He was married to a woman, then married to a man. He wanted to be famous and adored, but he hated the culture of celebrity and professed no interest in it. And he came across as being bold and confident and abrasive, but I think this was a fa├žade behind which hid someone who was lonely, profoundly insecure, and desperate to be loved.

Of course, this is only my personal view, and alternative viewpoints are always welcome!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

More About Pornography

Via Helen Boyd, I came across this interesting article in the New York Times. Written by porn actress Stoya, it is a surprisingly articulate account of how it feels to have a public persona (and we are talking seriously public) and a private persona, and keep them separate.
Stoya: Not everyone performing in adult films uses a stage name. Tera Patrick has said she legally changed her name to match her professional one. A few use their whole legal name; others keep their given name while taking a suggestive or unique surname. Still more take Love or Star, sometimes with creative spellings, and I’d support a 10-year ban on every iteration of both.
Articulate: Stoya
I had never heard of Stoya before reading this article, and naturally performed a Google search, during which I was able to see, in some detail, how she makes her living. I didn't see anything I hadn't seen before, leading me to conclude that Stoya is special by being so insightful and so articulate. As someone in the porn industry, she has some very interesting viewpoints, such as this one:
Stoya: Yes, there’s a paradox here in that I willingly engage in work that reduces me to a few sexual facets of myself but expect to be seen as a multifaceted person outside of that work. I participate in an illusion of easy physical access, and sometimes the products associated with that illusion — the video clips and silicone replicas of my sexual organs (seriously, and they’re popular enough to provide the bulk of my income) — do, in fact, exist without attachment to a person with free will or autonomy.
Very interesting themes. I commend the article to you. In her video interview with The Huffington Post, Stoya describes how her father's reaction to her career choice has been, not overt disapproval, but merely disappointment that he could no longer enjoy internet pornography, since the websites he used often featured links to her pictures. That noise you can hear in the distance is the sound of my mind boggling at the nature of their relationship.

Although I have already written in this blog some thoughts about my view of pornography, I was struck by several things about the Stoya article.
 
First, she is disarmingly articulate, and funny. She writes well, and she makes her points very powerfully. One assumes porn stars choose their profession because they are blessed with good bodies, few inhibitions and few other skills (though I do not doubt that the very successful ones are also very shrewd).
 
Hidden depths?
Secondly, she seems to have chosen a career in porn quite carefully and deliberately, which again is a surprise. She is no meek or hapless victim of the porn industry, but someone who knows exactly what she is doing and why.
 
Thirdly, she seems to be remarkably open. I suppose one would expect that, but I wouldn't necessarily expect someone to reveal matter-of-factly that there are silicone facsimiles of their genitalia available to purchase, or the porn habits of their parents.
 
Fourthly, she seems to be aware of the irony that she is prepared to have herself photographed in all sorts of sexual activities, and to be considered to be a sex object, always available; and yet she values her personal privacy. You may think I am for sale, she seems to be saying, but only what you see on the screen is. The rest is private. It's mine, and you can't have it. I found this to be deeply insightful.
 
I find myself intrigued by Stoya. I can't help finding her choice of career somewhat distasteful. Pornography is a facet of prostitution, and while some people (perhaps even Stoya herself) might consider it to be no more than a simple economic transaction (I have something you want, you have something I want; let's trade), I am uncomfortable with the commodification of humans in this way. I discuss my views of pornography in detail here in my blog.

And yet, I am always attracted to the combination of confidence and brains, and Stoya seems to have a generous helping of both. (This may create the irony that I am not particularly attracted by her body, though as you can see it seems to be a perfectly nice one).
 
A colleague of mine has a daughter in her twenties. At a work dinner, I found myself sitting opposite this daughter. She was beautiful, confident, clever and funny. I was quite taken. I asked her what she does for a living, and her answer was that she is an erotic dancer in a nightclub. Her parents were originally horrified at her choice of career (she surely has the talent to go a lot further) but now they are more accepting, and even drop her off at work sometimes.
 
Pornography and lap dancing are probably very lucrative careers for young women, and they no doubt come with a large helping of life experience thrown in. I found myself viewing lap dancers with a new respect.
 
Bank manager: making a deposit
What I wonder (and was heading towards asking my friend's daughter, but we got interrupted) is how women like Stoya and my friend's daughter come to view men. I assume they come to view them with contempt and loathing. It must be hard to visit your bank manager without imagining (probably correctly) how he looks with his tongue hanging out, stuffing money into your G-string. When all you see is men who are in a state of sexual arousal and testosterone toxicity, it must be hard to remember there are decent, balanced men with other interests beside masturbation. When men (including quite possibly your boss) treat you as if you are nothing more than a pair of breasts mounted on an always-willing vagina, it must be infuriating and dehumanising. Of course, I might have an extremely skewed view of the sex industry, but it's hard to imagine lap dancers or porn actresses coming home at night with a deep sensation of fulfilment at another job well done.
 
I have never been to a lap dancing club. To be honest, I don't really get the point. It seems like going to a gourmet restaurant and spending the evening reading the menu and looking at the food.
 
However, coming back to Stoya. A generation ago, it probably wouldn't have mattered that Stoya is brilliant and articulate and insightful; the New York Times would almost certainly not have published her writing. Now, however, it does. Does that reflect a newspaper which recognises good writing regardless of where it comes from? Or does it reflect that pornography is becoming recognised as a more acceptable phenomenon in our society?
 
Either way, Stoya has made me think about the people involved in pornography in a new way.

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Addendum: 23rd May 2014

I came across this recent post by Georgia over at BroadBlogs. She writes that the porn industry deliberately creates the desire in men for things which ordinary women are unwilling to perform. This means that the only place men can see those acts is by watching porn.

A comparison can be made with mainstream films, or computer games. Some people are critical of their content. The makers of those media say: "Hey, don't look at us! We're just giving the consumers what they want!" while the critics say "No. Actually you are driving what people want". So, for any medium, how much is a reflection of the actual demand, and how much is a driver for that demand? (Of course, in many situations, these two phenomena feed one another, as you describe). Advertising is a highly evolved industry designed to create demand for new products, and it does that by sowing dissatisfaction with what you've already got.
I remember reading that the porn industry is one place where the women are routinely paid much more money than the men. To me, this boils down to simple economics. Men are prepared to do it for less money because they enjoy it; women intrinsically don't enjoy it, and therefore require to be paid more before they will participate. This is a simplification with, no doubt, many exceptions, but I believe the central premise holds true.

 

 
 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

More About Children and Gender

In a previous blog post I discussed two particular parenting styles, which seem especially unusual concerning children and gender. The first was (what was probably) a fa'afafine, a boy raised as a girl in a culturally sanctioned third sex, a practice which occurs in several of the Pacific Islands. The second was about Kathy Witterick and David Stalker, who have refused to reveal the sex of their third child, Storm, with the intention of allowing Storm to discover his or her own gender identity, free of societal expectations.

Storm with brothers Jazz (left) and Kio (right)
As I write this, Storm is now three years old, and still of unrevealed sex. There is a more recent interview with the family here. It seems quite clear that Storm's parents love their three children very much. They seem able to stand aside from any expectation of what their children will be, and just watch what happens. As a parent myself, I find it extremely difficult not to project onto my children some sort of expectation about what sort of adults they will eventually become. In addition, gender-neutral parenting is extremely difficult to achieve, for even the most well-informed and well-intentioned parents.

Witterick and Stocker have (perhaps understandably) provoked a fair bit of outrage. While I admire the unconditional nature of their love, I ultimately think their idea is misguided. Children are not simply free to decide for themselves how the world works. I believe that responsible parents attempt to equip children with both cognitive and moral structures which help them to make sense of the world. (If they don’t, then sure as eggs someone else will: via the TV or the Internet or popular music; even their peers). Therefore, it is inevitable that some parental biases and ideas (and neuroses and hangups) will be communicated to their children. I believe it is an essential part of growing up to weigh those parental structures and decide to keep some and abandon others.

One might, for example, discover that one's child had a penchant for cruelty or mischief. I don't think a responsible parent would simply stand by and admire that ("Aww, bless, there's the kid setting fire to the cat again. Isn't it cute?") but would actually intervene.

Both of those situations are where the parents have decided how they are going to raise the children in a certain way. What happens when the child has other ideas from the parents?

In this powerful and thought-provoking article, Eric Adler of the Kansas City Star describes the situation of "A.J.". Born an apparently normal boy, A.J., now six years old, knows he is a girl.
Then around Christmas, A.J. said it. He took his mom's breath away. They were in a store, walking hand in hand.
"'Mom,'" she recalled him saying. "'Do you know that I'm a girl? I'm really a girl on the inside.'"
It was not a question. It was a statement.
"My child did not say, 'I want to be a girl.' He said, 'I am a girl. How can you not see it? Don't you know?'"
The room went out of focus. She tried to respond.
"I said, 'No. No. I didn't know. The doctors told us you were a boy, so that's what I thought.'"
"OK," her son replied. They kept walking. Her mind spun.
"You cannot be prepared for this as a parent," she said. "It's not in any of the What to Expect When You're Expecting books."
Back home, she phoned her husband. "We have big stuff going on here," she said.
A.J., has one older brother, who seems to be an "ordinary" boy, into trucks and sports and the like.
"We were just parents going to work, sending our kids to day care, and this happened to us," the mother said. "I had never even heard the term 'transgender.'"
A.J. in her bedroom
The article goes into considerable detail about the parents' reaction. For reasons of confidentiality, they are not named. As comparatively conservative people, they supported their child the best they could, and sought professional advice.
They called Children's Mercy [Hospital] and then Gibbs [Caroline Gibbs, gender counsellor]. They remained cautious and skeptical, wondering whether someone who ran a place called the Transgender Institute might be too apt to diagnose a child as transgender. They sat down with A.J., watching Gibbs for signs of leading questions. Gibbs, as A.J.'s mother recalled, began talking to A.J.
"Can you tell me something about yourself? Are you a boy or a girl?"
"I'm a girl," A.J. said.
"What makes you think you're a girl?"
"I just am," she said.
"Is it what you wear or what you play with?"
"No. I just am," she said.
"Your parents say 'my son' and 'him.' How does that make you feel?"
"I'm really a she," A.J. responded, "'cause I'm a girl. I'm a daughter."
"But they don't call you that."
"Yeah, I know," A.J. said.
Her mother could see her sadness.
The eventual diagnosis: gender dysphoria, which led to weekly counselling.
Both parents were supportive of A.J.'s change in gender and role, and both the school and the other schoolchildren were accepting. However, the parents of the other children were a different matter. Sadly, many of them turned their backs.
In the pickup line after school, parents stopped making eye contact. Invitations disappeared. Some parents said they would call, but they never did.

"It is not something that I expected," said A.J.'s father, "but as a parent you want to do what is in the best interest of your child. Your job is to shepherd them into the world. And if your own family can't be accepting of who they are, how is the rest of the world going to accept them, or how are they going to accept themselves?"
A.J.'s mother wrote a follow-up article, which you can read in full here. This article attempts to deflect potential criticism of her and her husband's approach to their transgender child. From my perspective, A.J.'s parents come across as sensible, concerned, loving and right-thinking people, and therefore this article does a great job. But doubtless other people may hold different views.

I absolutely admire A.J.'s parents for their standpoint. What they have done, in openly supporting their child in this difficult time, is both painful and courageous. It's quite clear this situation is not of their choosing; nonetheless they both seem determined to make the very best of it.

Adler's article goes into some discussion about what therapists do when faced with gender dysphoric children.
Treating and guiding young children identified as transgender remains a thorny issue. Some therapists discourage the transitions. Some remain neutral and allow free gender expression to see what evolves. And some actively support and guide children with their new identities.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/02/26/4850042/i-am-a-girl-transgender-children.html#storylink=cpy
The problem is that nobody knows how these children are going to turn out. Some children, known as "desisters" eventually change their minds and return to their birth gender. Again, nobody knows how common desisters are. The experts quoted in the article consider desisters to be few, but studies from other countries report that desisters are quite common. (Even adults occasionally detransition, as described in my blog post here).

Autism: getting commoner (US figures)
A generation ago, autism was very rare. Then suddenly it seems to be everywhere. Is that because we are facing an epidemic of autism? Maybe. On the other hand, maybe we are just getting better at recognising it. Autistic genius Daniel Tammet describes in his extraordinary autobiography, Born on a Blue Day, that his parents struggled to deal with his stereotyped behaviours and incessant wailing as a child, but labelled him "sensitive".

I wonder if something similar isn't happening with transgender children. A generation or more ago, most parents would just not have listened or sympathised (unless the child were a tomboy!). "It's just a phase, son. Here's a toy gun. Go and shoot something". I know that something akin to this happened in my own upbringing. My boyish behaviours were encouraged, and my non-boyish behaviours discouraged, and my family was educated, kind and enlightened. (And I believe, to a great extent, parenting of the kind I had is still very prevalent).

On the other hand, transgender children seem to be becoming more common. (Now you can even get picture books for children about it). The problem is, how common are they? Nobody knows for sure. There are no clear terms of reference, or agreed standards of diagnosis. In other words, we can't even be sure that the numbers they count in the Netherlands are directly comparable with the numbers in the US, or the UK, or anywhere else. I tend to think that, as with autism, the apparent rise in prevalence is not due to a sudden rise in actual numbers of gender-non-conforming children, but an increase in recognition and tolerance of them.

How should they be treated? Nobody knows for sure, and I can say this with absolute certainty. In scientific terms, it is an evidence-free zone. No amount of professional expertise (so-called "eminence-based medicine") can substitute for good scientific studies-- and there are none.

A generation ago, children with ambiguous genitalia were arbitrarily assigned their most likely sex at birth. This was done, with the very best of intention, by doctors, and supported by parents. It was believed at the time that surgical assignment of sex, together with hormonal and psychological treatment, would be all that was necessary to ensure the child would grow up happy and well-adjusted in their assigned sex. Unfortunately, this was often a disaster.

As they became adolescents and eventually adults, some of those people rebelled against the arbitrary assignment of sex at birth, and transitioned to the other sex. One particularly tragic case concerns David Reimer, born a normal male, whose penis was accidentally destroyed during circumcision. His parents were persuaded he should be raised as a girl, but despite orchidectomy and female hormone treatments, Reimer never accepted his assigned sex. He underwent surgical transition to a man, married a woman and became a stepfather to her children. He took his own life at the age of 38.

Reimer's case is pretty extreme, and the psychologist involved, John Money, seems in retrospect to have been profoundly misguided-- if not an unmitigated quack. Nonetheless, Money reported Reimer's habituation as a girl to have been successful, leading to this becoming the template for the care of many other children in similar circumstances.

Boy: dress
The warning signs are all there. Assuming Money was acting with good intentions (which is questionable), we have a case where a prestigious doctor decides on a course of treatment without doing any sort of studies first. Money brushed aside any evidence that went against his belief: that Reimer was doing fine as a girl. Unquestioning acceptance of Money's technique led to it becoming an accepted, standard treatment. I believe that most of the doctors who performed surgery on intersex children were doing it with the very best of intentions, believing they were doing the right thing. But we now know they were wrong.

Likewise I do not doubt that the clinicians caring for A.J. believe they are acting in her best interests, using the latest medical knowledge. Unfortunately, the latest medical knowledge just isn't up to much. All we have are case series; in effect, anecdote and eminence. There is absolutely no way to be sure that what we are doing now is not going to lead to further problems a generation hence.

What do we actually need? First, we need agreed definitions of what we are studying. Next we need numbers; as many as we can get. Next, we need randomisation into two arms: a treatment arm (say, hormones), and a non-treatment arm. Next we need double-blinding: the non-treatment group should receive placebo tablets instead of real hormones, and the researchers recording the results should be blinded as to which subjects have had which treatment. Next, we need clear, clinically-relevant endpoints. Finally we need time, lots and lots of time, since these outcomes can't be measured in six months or a year but over a decade or more.

There are plenty of good reasons why research like this is cumbersome, time-consuming, expensive, uncomfortable for the participants and difficult to conduct easily. Nonetheless, without it, clinicians treating transgender children are doing no better than informed guesswork. We do have the opportunity not to make the same mistakes as John Money, but do we have the will?

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My thanks to Randy for drawing my attention to the Kansas City Star article. Thanks to Una for pointing out a factual error which I have now corrected.

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Addendum 13th April 2014

My thanks to Heather Colleen for drawing my attention to this interesting article in the New York Times written by the mother of a non-girly girl. What I hear in the article is the perplexity, the uncertainty, but also the love and acceptance, and the lack of hand-wringing or catastrophising. Well worth a look.

My thanks also to JJ Saphir for drawing my attention to this article from the New Zealand Herald, which strikes a very opposite view, and is highly critical of allowing children free gender expression. The author unfortunately trots out some fairly obsolete views in support of his very hardline position.