Once again, the press brings us news about gender ideology in schools. As a child of a transitioner, it was shocking to read in this week’s Times that a Headteacher on the Isle of Wight, following Cornwall school guidance, wrote to the parents of a six-year-old to state the child would be viewed as transphobic if he ‘demonstrates inability to believe a transgender person is a ‘real’ female or male’ .
To see the spread of this ideology is deeply concerning. As children of men who identify as trans, our safety and wellbeing depends on those in authority being able to acknowledge that our father is still a man. When we are little children we need trustworthy people to help us understand reality. Our father has not actually magically changed from male to female. Our intuition is right. More broadly, children do need to understand the difference between men and women. When mothers urge children to ‘ask a lady’ when they are lost, they don’t mean men who identify as ladies! 99% of sexual offences are carried out by men, and women and girls are the majority of victims. Offending rates do not decline even in transsexuals. We can’t pretend that sexual violence doesn’t happen just to make a proportion of the population feel better.
The family is Christian, and it’s interesting to note how little sympathy there is for people’s religious beliefs in gender ideology. In some ways, gender beliefs are the only ones we aren’t allowed to exit.
But the reality for the children of late-stage transitioners is that our parents can often come from religious backgrounds and the impact of our father’s transition can disrupt, and even fracture, our place in that society. A recent debate in the UK Parliament on the ‘exit clause’ in the Gender Recognition Act (summarised here: https://uncommongroundmedia.com/spousal-exit-clause/) failed to represent the needs of women whose marriage becomes forcibly same-sex. The assumption is that all women who do not want to be lesbians in law are somehow irredeemable bigots. This is the reality of our lives and our communities, and how we are unfairly portrayed.
The 2002 Atlantic article “Conservative Men in Conservative Dresses: The World of Cross-Dressers Is for the Most Part a World of Traditional Men, Traditional Marriages, and Truths Turned Inside Out” addresses the fact that the majority of men who cross dress are not from liberal backgrounds. Often their backgrounds are very traditional. Among the men Amy Bloom profiles is a “Southern Baptist minister from the very buckle of the Bible Belt.” His wife is “beside herself, tight-lipped, hands clasped; she is a Christian woman doing what she must, and though she might wish otherwise, she cannot be pleased.”
The media abounds with men from religious backgrounds who are transitioning:
In this case, the wife has argued that her children would be ostracised from their Haredi Jewish community should their trans father be given contact.
A few years ago Baptist pastor in Ontario was fired after announcing his plans to transition. He has two sons. After suing the church, which dismissed him after a majority vote on religious grounds, he has apparently moved to the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, after being named a “2021 Woman of Influence” for his contribution to “queer Christianity.” Apparently he is hoping to use his position help “transgender youth” in particular. I could not find anything about the feelings of his wife or children in the shift from a Baptist Church to advocating “queer Christianity” and child transition.
It’s not unusual to be shunned by your religious community when your husband abandons you for his sexual fetish. It’s not unusual for children to suffer because of their association with their father’s behaviour.
Here is a contribution to this site from a child of a transitioner who has had this devastating experience:
I was born into a religious family. Like many mainstream religions from across the world our community expects believers to be faithful to marriage vows – divorce is rare as marriage vows are for life. In this it follows the teaching and practice of many other religions across the world. Like the Cof E in the UK and Roman Catholic churches worldwide, it doesn’t recognise gay marriage. If you divorce you lose your ‘good standing’ in the community – you can’t hold a leadership position and can’t remarry in ‘church’- ever, for the rest of your life. Divorce has catastrophic repercussions for people in this situation and the only way to avoid this is annulment. At worst in certain circumstances you are excluded and shunned totally by the entire community.
When my father first decided he wanted to wear women’s clothes, my mother stayed with him, despite the increasing emotional and domestic abuse by him in our home, as advised by the community leader. (I am carefully not naming the religion as this isn’t about a particular belief, but the conflict between gender ideology and other beliefs generally).
According to research, families with religious beliefs which emphasize ‘traditional’ gender stereotypes, female submission, clothing choices and male leadership (e.g. Muslims, Jews and Christians) are more prone to domestic abuse, and women more vulnerable. When my father’s behaviour became more public, the friends who knew banned their children from coming to play at our home (I can’t blame them – my father’s behaviour had definite sexual creepy undertones). When his sexual fetishes and coercive control became too damaging, the leader still told Mum to stay with him as marriage is for life. It is very hard to go against this, but when the chance arose, she left with us kids in tow, with no money and only a bag of emergency clothing, to stay with a friend outside the religious community.
The impact was immediate. Not just the housing situation – I can hardly remember that. But the shunning. From that day to this the entire religious community – who were our entire social support – stopped talking to us, and this extended to us as children. My friends at school could not play with me anymore, a group of them literally turned their backs when I walked into the classroom. At the supermarket, people we had been friends with looked right through us and on one occasion an entire family turned their backs on us in public.
Mum was rehoused by the council far away from our original home for our safety. She told the new leader of her situation. He confirmed that if she divorced instead of getting an annulment she could never remarry in ‘church’ as marriage vows are for life, or take part in certain communal religious activities or lead any children’s groups. So you may believe divorce is fine, and it may be for you, but it isn’t for many religious women whose husbands later ‘identify’ as women, or for the children who will pay the price for their father’s sexual fetishes, nor any of those who need an annulment not a divorce. You may believe my father becomes a woman if he puts a dress on. I don’t. And my mum got pregnant by him so she probably recognises reality better than you. Please don’t remove the right to an annulment when someone wants a GRC just because it doesn’t affect you, or you don’t share religious beliefs. The marriage will end either way – divorce or annulment – but a divorce will be a lifelong punishment to the family members left behind, for no reason other than maliciousness by trans activists. This affects real people, in real situations, and it’s vital to our wellbeing our mums can get an annulment, even if it doesn’t affect you.
I recommend ‘Trans Widows Voices’ as a good guide to the situation for women in the UK:
And here a good description of how language is used in this debate:
When you see MPs debating these issues in Parliament it can seem abstract, but for women in particular communities there is a huge difference between annulment and divorce. The government has said that it believes the need for the spousal veto will end with the introduction of its new ‘no-fault’ divorce. But where does that leave our mothers?