Is it selfish and irresponsible for a transgender father to transition?

by Felix Conrad - Clinical Philosopher on May 29, 2016

Share Button

Are transgender fathers selfish?

SCENARIO: A middle-aged father announces to his three children (all under 16) that he’s going to transition. Is this a selfish act that violates the parent-child contract?

The first thing we need to establish when answering this question is – what tends to be the effect on children when a father transitions to female? There will be trans activists who claim that transition within families goes swimmingly… and trans-critics who claim the whole episode fucks children up permanently and traumatizes them.

QUICK ASIDE: One difficult dimension is normalization. We could find many cases where ‘in the end’ the children adapted. However, in the end, children can adapt to child labour and child armies. If the children have to live with a transitioned father then they will end up seeing it as normal. This does not mean that it hasn’t had a damaging effect. Unfortunately, this is something that we could never measure because sub-conscious consequences are unverifiable. The point is this: just because there are cases where the kids ‘got used to the idea’ does not mean the kids were not effected negatively by it.

What effects does transition have on kids?

I’m sure both the initial scenarios are viable and there are families that coped well and families where it was a total disaster. I suspect, however, that the majority of cases end up somewhere in the middle and that there are two consequences.

1. It is  unsettling for a child to see their male parent start dressing and behaving as a female.

As adults, we find male to female transsexuals visually arresting but our knowledge of psychology allows us to attach a narrative to what we are seeing. No matter how many times you sit down a child and explain to them the transgender narrative you can not hope that they grasp the complexities of the issue and feel comfortable with what they perceive as a male dressing as a female.

As an adult you will inevitably start to project linguistic and conceptual ideas onto how the child will respond but none of their response will be articulated in language: it will be pure feeling…and that feeling can be characterized as deep confusion with what is happening.

2. Problems with their peers are inevitable.

Firstly, even if they attend some liberal paradise of a school where the children are all enlightened mini liberals, people will still be talking about your father’s transition and this surely falls into the category of unwanted attention.

More likely, however, is that the children won’t be so liberal and they will make fun of the child. Imagine the child starts to get their head around the narrative but then the kids start offering another narrative. “Your Dad’s a tranny!” Or maybe they don’t say it to the kid’s face but they overhear rude comments.

QUICK ASIDE: Once more, I’m sure there are lots of cases where transition has gone swimmingly…but the above is simply my educated guess. With that caveat let’s continue.

Given the negative effects…is it selfish?

ARGUMENT FOR:

To immerse a child in confusion and discomfort because of transition is morally problematic. Unlike disease, job loss or some other random adversity…the father has chosen to transition and therefore intentionally brings it into the family home. This is a violation of the parent-child contract because you have a duty of care to your child first and foremost…not to yourself…that’s what being a parent is all about.

Furthermore, exposing him to the ridicule and gossip of his peers is unforgivable. A middle-aged father has already spent his whole life in the wrong body so why can’t he wait out a few more years at least until the kids leave home. Insisting on transition – despite the effect on the family – seems like an example of individualism gone mad: me me me! I need to transition for me…so blow everyone else.

ARGUMENT AGAINST:

First of all, I’m sure that the children of mixed race marriages got abuse in school in the nineteen fifties and sixties. Does that mean that the pioneers who broke the social taboo never should have gotten married? Of course not. To not do something because there’s prejudice out there only keeps the prejudice alive. Yes, the kids might suffer…but if some brave fathers don’t do this then the transgender movement will be moving backwards.

Secondly, it’s exactly because the parent needs to care for a child that transition is necessary. Transition is not some whim but a medical necessity for someone suffering from gender dysphoria. If a father doesn’t cure that dysphoria by transitioning then he could end up committing suicide or spending months in a psych ward. How much parenting can he do then?

ARGUMENT IN THE MIDDLE:

I agree that there are many transgender fathers for whom transition is an issue of life and death. However, as everyone in this community knows, there are other transgender fathers for whom transition is something that appeals to them on a number of emotional, sexual and aesthetic levels. For the latter type of transgender father it is hard to see why transition is important enough to put their kids through it. Therefore, in some cases transition is not selfish but in others it is.

CONCLUSION:

There is no universal answer to the question: Is it selfish and irresponsible for a transgender father to transition? You have to deliver an individual judgement in each case based on the medical necessity of transition. If a father is suffering severe mental illness such as clinical depression and this illness is only manageable by transition then the transition is clearly not selfish. His duty of care is to be alive and capable of carrying out his duties as a father…therefore transition is a means of executing those duties.

However, sometimes transition is the result of strong desire rather than need; it is much more difficult to defend this against accusations of selfishness. All of us know that the transgender condition is not uniform, but comes in varying degrees of intensity and manifests itself in different ways. Although many transactivists wouldn’t want to admit it, we all know transwomen who transition for lifestyle reasons not essential medical reasons. That’s fine…who are we to judge? However, on the key question of parent-child contracts it does seem to me that it is a selfish act.

Share Button

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Vic May 29, 2017 at 11:47 am

As an adult, watching my boyfriend start transition was a prolonged and forced cognitive dissonance. It started making me feel crazy. Man = woman. Woman = heels and lipstick. Questions = discrimination. Support group = sex club.

How can we expect children to understand if adults struggle???

These men who transition late are really suffering from a compulsive sex problem. (Should we let kids into the world of swingers and bondage too?). Transition is not the right ‘treatment’. It is fueling an addiction. The more accepting I was with my boyfriend, the more he obsessed about it, and now it has fully consumed him. He won’t survive transition. He is a sensitive man with a kink, not a woman.

Reply

joanna Santos May 29, 2017 at 2:00 pm

this is a very spot on analysis and something I have pondered on at length. I have decided that if I were ever to transition my kids would need to be fully grown and away from being exposed to such a drastic change. One of the ways to do this is social transition where your presentation remains flexible and you don’t need to expose them to your female identity..

Reply

Kellie Walton May 30, 2017 at 2:23 pm

If you are not transgender, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. With this in mind, you need to listen to the person and not make assumptions. Also, please do not make the mistake of judging actions bases on your understanding. Note that the decision to transition is never taken lightly. It is always made with plenty of counseling and much reflection. In the end, no one transitions just to feel good. It is done in order to bring congruence between mind and body.

Reply

Vic May 31, 2017 at 12:00 pm

If a woman can have absolutely no idea what it is like to be transgender, how can a man have any idea what it is to be a woman?

Reply

Sandra Stewart June 2, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Anecdotes are not data. I did a study of “telling” and have interviewed a number of children of transgender parents. What I found is that if mom is ok with it the children are as well. Some of those children have gone on to jobs in the helping professions.
In this article I see a code word used by christians (purposeful small c) confusion, quite the contrary as it open up a freedom to explore. This code word however leads me to see a big red flag.

Reply

Millie McQueen June 6, 2017 at 6:21 am

If you took the time to make a family, like or not, you made your bed, and you have a moral obligation to stay. You gave an oath to God.

Reply

Edith M November 10, 2017 at 12:13 am

It is terribly selfish and narcissistic I’m afraid. My husband insisted on doing this and left his children. He was not suicidal or depressed but felt entitled to ‘discover himself’…. his children rejected him because he didn’t care about them and had no regard for their feelings, not because they were prejudiced. So much nonsense is talked about this issue. I have lived it. The majority of families break down but the media only displays couples where the (invariably) woman ‘loved enough’ or ‘loved the inner person’. So how about that selfish middle aged man lives the inner person instead of insisting everyone else line up around his wishes? It profoundly hurt my kids and they decided he was not reliable or caring or a fit parent so shut him out of their lives.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: