For a very long time it seemed that only a few topics could possibly push the COVID pandemic off from the front page, but apparently, the latest round of clashes between the EU and Hungary managed the feat. It seems that some European politicians (or people) developed a massive Pavlovian-reflex to the name of Hungary and due to this; identity-wars not only overshadowed the COVID-crisis, but took over even the football cup.
The reason behind the new quarrel is the new, “homophobic” (sic!) Hungarian legislation that would ban sharing information with under-18s that promotes homosexuality or gender change. The law also means only individuals and organizations listed in an official register can carry out sex education classes in schools.
There was far less outcry, when, a few months ago, Arkansas became the first state within the US, to ban gender-affirming surgery for youth. Ok, it’s in the USA and not in the EU, still, if the EU is willing to stand up for human rights in Taiwan or Xinjiang, it should also do so, would those be threatened anywhere in the world, shouldn’t it?
The new US regulations prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to anyone under 18 years old, or from referring them to other providers for the treatment.
The sponsor of the bill drew attention to the fact that minors face limitations in many parts of their lives, including drinking, driving, having sexual lives, getting married and such. But those prohibitions are for their sake. “They need to get to be 18 before they make those decisions.” Very similar reasoning was used by Hungary, stating “There are contents which children under a certain age can misunderstand and which may have a detrimental effect on their development at the given age”.
Just a side note. This is not the only legislation in Arkansas (and in fact many other states within the US), concerning sexual minorities. Trans women and girls were banned from competing on teams consistent with their gender identity (this was also enacted in Tennessee and Mississippi), doctors were allowed to refuse to treat someone because of moral or religious objections and so on. Another bill is to be adopted, that would prevent schools from requiring teachers to refer to students by their preferred pronouns or titles.
Just like that, the same silence was the reaction to a December 2020 UK court decision on the work of the Gender Identity Development Service for Children and Adolescents (GIDS) at the Tavistock and Portman NHS trust in London.
The case was started by 23-year-old Keira Bell, who was a former patient of the clinic, and who argued that she had been too young to consent to the medical treatment she received, when the GIDS began her female-to-male transition as a teenager.
The GIDS has already faced major scrutiny in the last couple of years, with some former staff and campaigners raising concerns about the “overdiagnosing” of gender dysphoria, the consequences of early medical interventions and the significant increase in referrals of girls questioning their gender identity. Some critics of the procedure believe that “there is evidence that vulnerable young people – many of whom are homosexual and have homophobic parents or are bullied at school, who have autism or have suffered childhood abuse – are being convinced that changing sex will solve their problems and that professionals are scared of censure if they challenge this.”
And indeed, the court concluded that children under the age of 16 considering gender reassignment are unlikely to be mature enough to give informed consent to the prescribed puberty-blocking drugs, while “it is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would be competent to give consent to the administration of puberty blockers. It is doubtful that a child aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh the long-term risks and consequences of the administration of puberty blockers”. Another court ruling, a couple of months later clarified that minors can get treatment with parental consent.
The three above mentioned legislations (ok, two laws and a court ruling) have one thing in common, they focus on the under-18 cohort. There’s nothing in them affecting adults.
But if it is OK to prohibit children from smoking, drinking or being able to consent to a sexual act under 18 (yes, with different age limits in different situations, but this is the general rule of thumb), and even better, there is a push to raise more barriers to prevent child labor, child soldiers or early marriages; it should be just as acceptable to stop them from making serious decisions like those; because, as one unnamed mother put it, “the downside of getting it wrong, the outcomes of getting it wrong are also catastrophic”, as the case of Keira Bell showed it.
None of the above laws ban individual psychological treatment or social help for minors who need it, nor are they denied to make decision once they reached more maturity.
Another reason behind the (relative) silence concerning the prohibitions targeting transgender youth might be (though this might be only a guess) that they are only a small group (no judgement here, only statistics) within the LGBTQI+ community, and most of the people are not affected by those barriers.
There are many inner divisions and problems among LGBTQI+ people. A 2018 report of Stonewall revealed that 51 percent of Black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT people reported having experienced racism within the LGBT community. That raises to 61 percent for Black people, who, it turned out also have to deal with discrimination in the community that should be there to support them. Another research showed that most Pride events are majority white.
And yes, there are people who claim that even the term LGBTQI+ “community” is misleading, because different people face different problems and have different decisions to make. None of those is easy, but there is no one-size-fits-for-all solution.
The thing is that all over the world, societies are trying to accept and adapt: there are places where it goes easier or quicker or in bigger steps … while in other places more time is needed. People, whose lives are affected by any means of it, face difficulties, yet…
What won’t help is what is going on today.
There was a key expression in the news about the UK court case: professionals fearing censure if they’d challenge things. The debate is well beyond the legal-social-psychological-political phase and is so emotionally-overcharged that there is no chance for real conversation and (scientific) arguments.
The trenches are ready, the front-lines are more stable than during 1916 on the Western Front, when both sides dug in along a meandering line of underground forts stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. The Battle of Verdun, the longest of the First World War, meant a never-ending cycle of attacks and counterattacks literally over a few square kilometers, but it claimed about 306,000 lives and resulted in about 750,000 casualties.
Luckily, in Europe the latest battle doesn’t claim lives, except for the rare occasions, which of course, doesn’t make those less tragical; but the longer it goes on, the more casualties we’ll have.
But the points of views are non-less rigid then they were in 1917 and anybody questioning the other’s opinion is either a “homophobic Nazi” or a “neo-Marxist”.
What we lack is a Christmas miracle, a la 2017 style. (Even if it didn’t happen quite exactly the way it is remembered.)
Wolfgang Schäuble, the president of the German parliament offered an olive-branch, sorts of, declaring that Germany needs to start showing Central and Eastern Europe more respect and stop all the lecturing and acting as if it were the Continent’s know-it-all. He also dared to say that “It is completely legitimate to have differences of opinion.” But it is only a start and maybe will get lost in the noise.