In a provocative essay, scholar and author Sophie Lewis, best known for her 2022 book in support of “family abolition,” makes the case for how society can not only protect trans children, but also learn from them. This is a call for a more expansive, generous, utopian way of thinking about the potential of youth:
The fear I inspired on the parent’s face riding the subway was what distressed me most about the incident in New York. Later that day, when I recounted the anecdote on Facebook, an acquaintance commented – unfunnily, I felt – that I was a “social menace”. A threat to our children, et cetera. Ha, ha. But what was the truth of the joke? What had I threatened exactly? A decade after the event, “The Traffic in Children,” an essay published in Parapraxis magazine in November 2022, provides an answer. According to its author, Max Fox, the “primal scene” of the current political panic about transness is:
a hypothetical question from a hypothetical child, brought about by the image of gender nonconformity: a child asks about a person’s gender, rather than reading it as a natural or obvious fact.
In other words, by asking “are you a girl or a boy?” (in my case non-hypothetically), the child reveals their ability to read, question and interpret — rather than simply register factually — the symbolisation of sexual difference in this world. This denaturalises the “automatic” gender matrix that transphobes ultimately need to believe children inhabit. It introduces the discomfiting reality that young people don’t just learn gender but help make it, along with the rest of us; that they possess gender identities of their own, and sexualities to boot. It invites people who struggle to digest these realities to cast about and blame deviant adults: talkative non-binary people on trains, for instance, or drag queens taking over “story hour” in municipal libraries.