North Texas Daily

Children’s bodies do not belong to us

Children’s bodies do not belong to us

Children’s bodies do not belong to us
March 10
09:00 2022

Editor’s Note: This story was submitted to the North Texas Daily by Leah Walsh, a U.S. History doctoral student and teaching assistant at the Department of History.

Anti-transgender rhetoric is no stranger to the Texas resident. From campaign speeches to “news” channels, the public has begun to weigh in on the debate surrounding child social and medical gender confirmation. These discussions are inappropriate for the public sphere and have no place in political discourse. Children are still autonomous beings worthy of the rights and sovereignty afforded to all individuals. Does this mean parents no longer have the right to control a teenager’s weekend plans or take away their keys if they miss curfew? No, I mean children have the right to control and express themselves through their bodies without permission or input from their parents or guardians.

We must recognize organizations and events created to reduce the rights and expressions of traditionally othered groups as acts of violence. They serve to create a collective sense of power and justify hate, discrimination and harassment of marginalized communities. People like Jeff Younger, who have lost custody of their children, have lost the ability to assert patriarchal dominance and expectations of control over the lives and bodies of those deemed less than or unworthy of respect and bodily autonomy. They lose face in a community that values masculine and patriarchal power over the happiness and safety of their children. Children are not trophies to parade at country clubs or sporting events. Children are not a status symbol to signal masculine prowess or sexual success. They deserve more than to be the reincarnation and puppets of their parents.

For some, the trans community challenges social expectations of gender identity and expression. Individuals or groups with rigid expectations of gender hierarchy and social order are threatened by a perceived shift in their social standing. Sociocultural hierarchy is held in place by the crumbling. Yet, the stubborn foundation of white, cis, heteronormative supremacy has undergirded the American social experience since before Thomas Jefferson put pen to paper. Heterosexist expectations of the human experience continue to marginalize the LGBTQ+ community and disappear their lives through acts of brutal violence and vocal and silent oppression.

2021 was the deadliest year for the trans community since statistics have been kept. Trans women of color are much more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than their white counterparts. Trans people are four times more likely to be victims of violence when compared to cis individuals. Violence against trans people is not merely ideological and rhetorical — it is a very real and ever-present threat that the trans community is faced with every day.

If the goal of the conservative movement is to protect children, they would look at the empirical, statistical and scientific evidence that asserts the best way to protect trans children is to allow their social transition. Affirming children’s gender identity and expression saves lives. Allowing gender diversity and nonconformity saves lives. It was never about saving children, but it has always been about exerting control and maintaining the social hierarchy. Gender-affirming social expression merely poses an imagined and self-inflicted threat on individuals and groups who fear the potential of change.

What we see from the conservative community is an attitude of disposability. Bodies have assigned sociopolitical worth and are treated this way. They place such a high value on white, cis, heterosexual, male, non-disabled individuals and pay little mind to almost everyone else. This unequal value directly connects with the value of labor and social contribution. The fear of marginalized individuals and groups contributing and changing our sociocultural experiences and upending clearly defined gender hierarchy.

If we cannot categorize and place individuals or groups within our strictly linear social hierarchy, we cannot assign social value to their bodies. It upsets and upends how we view and understand our world. So, we put them at the bottom. We tell ourselves these people have no intrinsic value and their suffering is inconsequential to the lives of valuable bodies.

Many conservatives fail to comprehend that fear of trans people is deeply rooted in toxic masculinity and male violence. The argument surrounding so-called “bathroom bills” fundamentally protects women and girls from men, not trans women. The imaginary man dressing up as a woman to go into the women’s bathroom to assault women and girls is not a trans woman but a cis man.

UNT and our surrounding community have responded with a righteous and informed rage directed toward those who would organize and commune to degrade and hate such a vulnerable and marginalized population.

The Young Conservatives of Texas and its protesters are not the same. We gather to denounce one another. However, groups like YCT take an offensive and anti-scientific stance that intends to spread a message to reduce the civil rights of others. In contrast, we gather to defend those under attack and hold a mirror up to those who would violently oppress our voices.

President Neal Smatresk’s call for unity and an appreciation of all viewpoints is a flagrant disregard for our LGBTQ+ students, staff and faculty. Why is the onus of unity always placed on the shoulders of the oppressed? Why is it the job of the trans community to live and learn, forgive and forget? Why should they walk away when they are being threatened and abused?

In this statement, Smatresk expressed to UNT and the world that the university values so-called “political diversity” more than its students’ physical and emotional safety. They fear backlash from right-wing media and specious lawsuits asserting a violation of First Amendment Rights. They do not fear the rhetorical and violence levied against the trans community on campus.

Smatresk showed that the university will not spend our tuition money to protect already vulnerable students, staff and faculty. Keeping the peace always requires appeasing the group that poses the biggest threat, specifically, financial threat. They don’t want to fight for marginalized communities if it means risking their precious pot of tax-free gold.

The LGBTQ+ community is only a threat because you made us an enemy. It is equity we seek — power and control over ourselves, not others. Disaffirming student identities, sexuality and gender expression is not an appropriate avenue for political or social discourse, especially on a college campus that claims to value and respect all who learn and work within our community.

People like Jeff Younger failed to recognize that a parent’s job is to love and support the gender identity and expression of their children, even if those identities and expressions radically alter the course of a family’s structure. Mr. Younger’s life changed the moment his child came out. It did not have to lead to the loss of custody. He made the choice to abandon his parental obligations and his child.

Image source College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences

About Author

Leah Walsh

Leah Walsh

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