Update: after a row of critical responses, the article has been revised. The title has been changed, a short paragraph with remarks from a trans teen has been added and besides Rößner, psychotherapist Sabine Maur has her say as an expert. In other places, however, relevant points of criticism such as misgendering still remain.
Dear Nora Domschke,
with irritation and doubt we, the Queer Pride Dresden, had to take note of your recently published article on 20.01. in the Sächsische Zeitung. Already the title “Dresden mother in fear: ‘My daughter wants to be a boy’” takes up long refuted transphobic myths and spreads them publicly without critical journalistic classification.
In your article, you paint the picture of a despondent, frightened and ignored mother of a trans teenager. Anna, the young single mother of Marley, a trans teenager who has just changed the name assigned to him at birth, is said to be completely surprised and frightened by the appreciative treatment of Marley at his school. There is an LGBTQI+ – AG, Marley’s teacher uses Marley’s self-chosen name when talking about Marley in the parents’ meeting. Marley has new friends in the Neustadt district of Dresden. Since the name change and the new contacts, Marley goes out again and is less lethargic. For several months he has also been wearing only boys’ clothes and hides his chest under tight bustiers. Actually, we would like to congratulate Marley for so much support from the school and for making new friends. Anna confirms in the text that Marley is doing better since then.
However, we are also worried and afraid for Marley when we read in the article that Anna believes in some prejudices that lead her to hinder Marley in finding out his own gender identity. No one asks Marley: How are you actually doing? How can I support you? What do you wish from your mother? Unfortunately, we do not get to know Marley in the text. He doesn’t even get a chance to speak himself. How gladly we would also stand by Anna and advise her in dealing with her fears and insecurities! We can recommend the rainbow portal of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, which is unjustly discredited in the text, as a serious first point of contact for obtaining information. And also in Dresden there is e.g. with the Gerede e.V. a specialized an well set up consulting offer. We would like to say to Anna, don’t be afraid, give Marley the space he needs to live and try out his gender, give Marley the time to decide for or against a development of the body in the experienced gender. Spare him the suffering of having to later live in a body that does not belong to him. Or give him the opportunity to later have certainty that the body that develops unchanged is the right one.
Suicidality is five times higher among trans youth than among youth who are comfortable with their sex assigned at birth (Austin, Craig, D’Souza, & McInroy, 2022).
We do not want to scare Anna, but we also do not want to suppress this important information. So-called puberty blockers would allow Marley the necessary time to try out, to find out about his gender identity. After that, if Marley sticks with his decision to want to change his body, gender reassignment hormone therapy could take place. All of this, as long as Marley is under the age of 18, would only be done with Anna’s consent. Marley would have to seek advice from psychotherapists and medical specialists. Only if they agree to the administration of hormone blockers, Marley could be prescribed them.
Unfortunately, this path seems impossible from the beginning, as Anna’s fears lead her to “do everything to prevent taking medication”. How we would love to give Marley back his ability to decide for himself. However, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry, Veit Rößner, is given more credence in the text. He may compare the administration of hormone blockers to eating gummy bears. We assume 14-year-olds have the maturity to be aware that drugs are not sweets. We miss here a journalistic examination of Rößner’s provoking theses.
At this point, we would like to point out that experience with the administration of hormone blockers has been available for decades. These were already prescribed in the 1980s to delay premature puberty (Helyar, Jackson, Patrick, Hill, & Ion, 2022). According to Dr. Morissa Ladinsky of the University Hospital of the University of Alabama at Birmingham – one of the largest in the U.S. – potential side effects are no more likely or severe than, for example, with contraceptive pills, which are known to be recommended to millions of adolescents and adults (About puberty blockers, 2020). Rößner has not previously conducted research on the topic, but may still act as an expert in your Newspaper. Actually, his main areas of expertise are tic disorders and Tourette syndrome – there is no entry on the topic of gender identity in his list of publications.
Veit Rößner calls trans identities a fad. Ouch, that hurts even us older trans persons. Trans people are real, they have always existed. They are just more visible now than before. In a more trans-friendly society than 30 years ago, more trans people are deciding to come out while they are still young because they have less violence to fear. For this very reason, we consider the support and positive influence on our well-being from friends, family, and school to be very important.
We too remember that it was not always easy for our parents. However, we all wished for attention, recognition and the freedom to decide for ourselves. Anna has the chance to do many things right that previous generations of parents did wrong due to lack of knowledge. Rößner claims that in 98% of all trans youth, the desire to correct the gender assigned at birth disappears, although he has no research data on this at all. Which he admits himself in the text. He does not even know how many trans youth there are in Dresden. From our point of view, he and his suggestions for Anna are not helpful, neither for children and adolescents, nor for their parents.
In any case, there are more trans adolescents than before in Frankfurt am Main. This is according to child psychiatrist Thomas Lempp (Adler, 2022), who heads the specialist consultation on the subject at the Clementinen Hospital in Frankfurt am Main. He is considered – in contrast to Mr. Rößner, who promotes the simple formula of “stalling for time” – a leading expert on gender incongruence (trans identity) and gender dysphoria (discomfort with the innate and developing physical sex characteristics). Rößner recommends abandoning adolescents to their supposed physical fate against their will, thereby accepting potentially great suffering. Lempp, on the other hand, says in a Deutschlandfunk Kultur article, “Not acting and not helping adolescents who feel uncomfortable in their assigned gender and are searching is not an option.” He also says, “Hormone blockers stop puberty for now. Answering the question of whether and how to then further physically intervene is a process, he says. He would only make the decision about this together with the adolescents – and with the parents.”
Three guesses where we would want to go, if we would have to choose between Mr. Rößner and Mr. Lempp, if we were 14 years old like Marley and where we would like to send Anna and Marley. So far, none of us has found hormone blockers as ointment in the schoolyard, and that although we as Queer Pride stand for the absolute freedom and sole self-determination of all trans people about their gender identity and their bodies.
We wish Marley and Anna all the best, thank Marley’s school for the open handling of his transidentity and wish that Veit Rößner will appear less arrogant, alarming and self-promoting in the future. We also wish the Sächsische Zeitung a broader and more objective discourse on the topic of transidentity. Their reproduction of misinformation harms our society in general and trans people in particular. Maybe next time let Marley himself have a say or let other trans people simply speak for themselves. Neither those affected nor the discourse is helped if facts and empathy have to give way to clickbaiting and the unverified provoking theses of a media-savvy institute director.
Queer Pride Dresden
Adler, K. (2022, Oktober, 24). Ich bin doch kein Trend!Deutschlandfunk Kultur. https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/geschlechtsidentitaet-trans-kinder-jugendliche-100.html
Austin, A., Craig, S. L., D’Souza, S., & McInroy, L. B. (2022). Suicidality Among Transgender Youth: Elucidating the Role of Interpersonal Risk Factors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 37(5–6), NP2696–NP2718. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260520915554
Helyar, S., Jackson, L., Patrick, L., Hill, A., & Ion, R. (2022). Gender Dysphoria in children and young people: The implications for clinical staff of the Bell V’s Tavistock Judicial Review and Appeal Ruling. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 31(9–10), e11–e13. https://doi.org/10.1111/JOCN.16164
Oregon Health & Science University.(2020, December). About puberty blockers. OHSU Edu. https://www.ohsu.edu/sites/default/files/2020-12/Gender-Clinic-Puberty-Blockers-Handout.pdf