Irreversible Damage

Last updated

See the update at the end of this post

(Disclaimer: I, obviously, do not speak for my employer)

I wholly endorse certain forms of gender transition in the right context. From my understanding of the historical, endocrinological, neuroscientific, and psychological evidence, as well as a wealth of direct observation1, there are identifiable cases where transition is likely to lead to a significantly improved life and it can be approached cautiously with respect to the potential risks.

I am also, of course, a strong advocate for personal autonomy. Someone with first-person experience and skin in the game may know more than I do, and in any case it's generally better to make mistakes on your own rational judgment than do the right thing unthinkingly following someone else (or everyone else). Legally, of course, this is a no brainer; you should be free to do whatever you want to your own body.

In addition, we culturally and politically over-infantilize youth, and have an overly rigid/one size fits all system for distinguishing youth from adults. There are some decisions that I at 13 could have made "as an adult" and some I couldn't. I believe that in a different culture this could have been recognized/agreed to by responsible adults around me and my autonomy adjusted accordingly. I am less informed about this, but it seems likely there are cases where some steps in transition are appropriate for some people before full adulthood; there are certainly cases where "full adulthood" comes before 18.

All that being said, I have seen worrisome trends. General population-level statistics combined with anecdotes from friends with older kids, in high school education, or in the summer camp industry make me suspect that a non-trivial subset of teenage transitions are unwarranted and possibly very harmful, and that this situation goes beyond an unavoidable rate of teenagers making poor decisions. This is just a suspicion, I'm far from certain and I have not investigated deeply, but it's definitely something worth looking into in principle.

Of course, my hopes for a quality investigation of this issue are not high. Start with the general difficulties of social science, add in the sensitivity required when children are involved, and investigate a central issue in the identity politics culture war? The deck is, to put it mildly, stacked against objective research2.

Imagine my pleasant surprise when a few people whose judgment I trust messaged me about Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters overnight. Sadly, they weren't telling me about a great work of scholarship that addressed an issue of concern of mine, they were telling me about how it was removed from Target's assortment:

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Note that the first tweet, from @BlueIris04, is from a screenshot I found in the thread, as the account was locked. Some chance it is faked. The second screenshot I took, from the reply tweet.

To be clear: This is not a free speech/censorship issue. Private entities not only have the right, they are in the right to establish appropriate principles for what they will sell and promote. Nor am I in any meaningful sense a stakeholder; I own a small amount of stock, I shop at Target, and I work for Target, but I have no specific skin in this particular game. If anyone relevant at Target sees this, they should give it credence only to the extent it convinces them, not because I should have some say in the outcome.

With the disclaimers disclaimed: What the hell, Target? Why shouldn't "help[ing] families discover the joy of everyday life" include informing them about potential threats to their children's well-being? Why is an entitled information-free tweet given sway over Target's decision-making? To be clear, I haven't read3 and can't currently endorse the book. If it is low quality work or is based on values antithetical to Target, by all means remove it. The author claims4 to support transition for adults, but the marketing material on Amazon makes no reference to this, and so reasonable people might write it off as likely to be inappropriately biased and skip it, and Target might reasonably pass on it for the same reasons. But to make a decision like this without any reference to reason or principle, in response to contentless rage from Twitter of all places, is craven injustice.

Target should reconsider this decision. If the book never should have gotten past initial screening, make sure the principles underlying that screening are sound and fix the process. If the book is found to be inappropriate after the fact, some reference to why would be helpful to their guests. They are, of course, under no obligation to do so, but they should expect to be percieved as unprincipled cowards by reasonable people if not.

ETA 2020/11/13 12:30 PM ET I have no special knowledge of the decision or how these decisions are made, or of anything related. The only relevance my employment has in this post is that I can rattle off Target's (public) purpose by heart.

Update 2020-11-15


Target has restored the book to their assortment based on the response to the removal. Appreciate that they referenced a specific reason to do so! I might hope for more but this is a good resolution all things considered.


Yes, yes, I have trans friends.


From either "side".


I probably will now, though!


As an aside, she also is either a moron or disingenuous in implying (but not outright stating) that the upset her book caused was not priced in from day one

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