Hello! Several days ago, I saw the advert for Starbucks in which a shaven headed young person wearing a hoody, called “Jemma” by a loving and proud father and by service providers. We are shown that “Jemma” is deeply unhappy and their life is arduous. “Jemma” only smiles when a Starbucks employee asks what name to write on the cup and “Jemma” says “My name is James” and the Starbucks employee writes “James” on the cup.
The mainstream media and gay media has said how wonderful this advert is, accepting a trans person for who they are.
Let’s unpack what to me looks like another cynical ploy by a multinational (with a dodgy tax record) to gain revenue by virtue signalling about trans rights.
I would question the mental stability of anyone who appreciates a total stranger who writes any name anyone gives them on a cup over the love and pride shown to them by a parent.
I also wonder if this advert is an attempt to cause further gulfs between trans youth and their parents. Parents report being actively pushed out of their child’s medical care when it comes to treatment for gender dysphoria. In the UK, children as young as 12 have been given puberty blockers on the NHS, and current guidelines state that this can be done on children aged 14 and above without the permission of the child’s parents.
In no other field of medicine is this acceptable. If we look at cancer treatments, the parents sign the consent forms, the parents together with the doctors make most of the decisions about what treatments the child should receive. The doctors and the parents talk about the longterm effects of any treatment; the positives and the negatives. They talk about what can go wrong and inform the child. This does not happen in a lot of cases where children are treated with the medical route for gender dysphoria in the UK. Parents say they were pushed out of consultations and decision making processes.
Parents have feelings, too. When I attended LGBT conferences, I made sure parents’ views and feelings were heard. I spoke up for parents and parents thanked me because they felt forgotten and pushed out. Parents have feelings and they have the right to their feelings. The father in the Starbucks advert was a loving and proud father, yet he is portrayed a baddie for deadnaming his child.
When a child is born, parents often spend a lot of time and effort thinking of a name for their child. They often choose a name that means something deep. Some names are religious, some names are cultural. Some names are family names. When a child wants to change their name – for whatever reason – this can be difficult for the parents who gave their child a name that to them spoke of hope and everything they wished for their child’s future.
It is not easy for a parent to hear from their child that they are in the wrong body and want to go down the medical route to change their body. So much of the narrative we hear is that we must say “yes” to everything a trans person says. There is little or no consideration given to parents, siblings, grandparents or friends of the trans person. None of us live in a vacuum. We are all loved by someone; someone who wants us to be happy but also might struggle to cope with decisions we make.
Some of the advice given is to put all the attention on a child who has gender dysphoria. The parents are told they should be guided by their child and must align themselves to their child’s feelings and wishes. No. The parent must parent their child. Adults have more life experience than children. This is why all societies are built upon a family model in which adults teach children how to be human beings.
In no other field of medicine nor area of life are children given the reigns. We have an age of consent because we know that children do not possess the skills to think critically and they do not have enough knowledge about the world nor emotional intelligence to decide for themselves who touches their body. The laws around the age of consent are there to protect children because children cannot protect themselves and cannot consent to sex.
Yet in the field of gender dysphoria, children are told to make all decisions for themselves, and the adults in their life must simply say “yes”.
Many of us have seen where this thinking leads. It leads to an over diagnosis of a rare condition with to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young adults in the UK detransitioning, saying that they didn’t know fully what they were doing and that the medical professionals were negligent in treating them. We have one such case going through the courts at the moment.
We have also seen a rise in aggressive behaviours from some people identifying as trans or non-binary. We have all seen the threats on twitter to “slit your throat” or murder you in some other way if you misgender someone. We have seen the school swap fly on the wall in which the trans child was the most obnoxious child who refused to take part in many of the activities that all the other children took part in, was rude to people and abandoned their school swap partner when their partner was making a real effort to learn about LGBT people and understand.
In the last LGBT group I went to, there were quite a lot of trans people – most of whom now no longer identify as trans. Almost all the trans group members were decent people who were friendly and affable, just like the LGB members. However, when there was trouble in the group, it came from one trans member and one non-binary member. The trans member became more and more hostile and aggressive to everyone in the group and even went to physically attack the facilitator, meaning they are now banned from all LGBT groups in the surrounding area. The non-binary member is not welcome because of the amount of lies they told that hurt people and messed with their heads. They also isolated vulnerable people, used them sexually and then bullied them. Two more trans members (a couple) were quite dictatorial about what other people were “allowed” to think, believe and say.
Did these people behave badly because they are trans or non-binary? No. All the other trans and NB members of the group were sweet and wonderful people. However, if we follow through the “say yes to everything a trans child says” mantra, we create an echo chamber around young trans people. I can see parallels with Elvis Presley. He employed doctors who would tell him what he wanted and would prescribe him whatever he wanted. Elvis believed his own hype and died, obese and unloved on a toilet, having driven away his wife and all the people who had genuinely loved him.
Real life is not comfortable, and it shouldn’t be. We should all be reaching outside of our comfort zones to push ourselves to try new things, to reach for new goals and to improve ourselves. When we surround ourselves with people who love us, we find ourselves surrounded by people who do push back on bad behaviour or bad ideas. People who love us are not “yes men”.
When I had gender dysphoria, I did not ever make it a focus. I dealt with it when it was a problem, and then I got back to living life. When a person goes down the medical route, they are encouraged to focus on themselves and their pain. In no other area of psychology is this recommended. When you focus on your pain – whatever it is – it magnifies the pain and makes the pain worse and the pain is with you 24/7. The narrative pushed at trans people is they should focus on the dysphoria. It does encourage people to become obsessed with gender and sex. I heard this same maxim from numerous people: “The first thing you notice about someone is their gender.” I had to break it to my friends that because of my eye sight problems, I sometimes can’t even tell if someone is Black or white until they are close to me, and the first thing I notice about someone is their height.
This is another example of how trans people are encouraged to obsess and see the world through a certain filter, and it pushes a sense of one size fits all. This is not life as most people experience it. We all have different methods of interacting with the world, different opinions and individual ways that are unique to us.
My name is Catherine. I always introduce myself as “Catherine”. Yet so many times, I am called “Christine” or “Caroline”. Always Christine or Caroline. I was called “Caroline” at one work place until my last day when the manager asked everyone why they were calling me by a name different to my own. I have been called “Cat” by two people (ewwww) and “Katie” by a college tutor (yuk). If anyone, trans or otherwise, kills themselves because they are called a name other than the one they want to be known by, this person has much deeper problems than they know.
I can see the point that a trans person’s preferred name is tied to their identity and sense of self. Again, I ask how normal this is and how much of this comes about through being taught to obsess over gender. I am in a Nero’s now. I can’t see the baristas or any of the customers tying their sense of self and identity to their name. Bob, Shane, Jackie, Sandy. They have all built personalities, characters, memories, the people they love who love them and life experience. These things give them their sense of self, not their name.
Some of the friends I have had who went down the medical route to transition did build a full life for themselves: a full time job, foreign travel, spirituality, hobbies and friendships with people of all backgrounds. It is a real shame that so much of the advice given to young trans people seeks to isolate them and limit their lives.
When I watched the Starbucks advert, I did not find it “heartwarming” or “touching” as mainstream media and gay media did. I found is crass, shallow and callous. It promoted putting weight behind a stranger writing a stranger’s name on a throwaway cup and the belittlement of loving family members. It promotes selfishness and self-centred thinking.
In the real world, we all need to give and take. We need to understand the feelings of others while not negating our own. We need to take people along with us and forgive, just as we are forgiven. None of us are perfect. We all need each other.