Common sense

The news is full these days of trans-person debates. For example, should a trans person be allowed to compete in athletic contests? Should insurance pay for surgery to transition? And so on. But of all the debates, the one that puzzles me the most is the question of a child’s “rights” to choose to transition from one sex to another. Those rights are often debated under the label of “gender-affirming care”, a codephrase covering actions that can range from verbally supporting the child’s gender choice to medical procedures. A very wide spectrum.

It puzzles me because this debate defies common sense. Because of common sense, for decades we have made laws about the things that children, minors (under age 16 or 18, depending on location and activity) do NOT have rights for.

  • Minors may not buy alcohol or cigarettes.
  • Minors may not drive an automobile or use/buy a gun.
  • Minors may not vote in elections.
  • Minors cannot enter into a contract with an adult.
  • Minors cannot be employed in the production of goods.
  • Minors cannot consent to sex with an adult.
  • Minors may not marry.

These are all common sense decisions encoded into law because society has rightly judged that minors simply aren’t mentally or physically prepared to make decisions that will affect the rest of their life. These laws are to protect them from exploitation by evil-minded adults and to protect them from their own lack of judgement and experience.

So why should we allow a minor to make a life-changing decision about sex transitioning? The answer is we shouldn’t, and it has nothing to do with judgements about trans persons. It has to do with the common-sense principle of doing no harm to minors, who by definition are not ready to make adult decisions.

Someone will come up with a hypothetical example of a thirteen year old who absolutely, positively knows they were born the wrong sex and is anxious to take steps to correct that surgically. This hypothetical person will be miserable, will suffer needlessly by waiting until they are 18 to take this life-changing action. I will agree that this is possible.

But balance that against a thirteen year old who is uncertain about sexual identity, and who has a parent or mentor who strongly encourages them to act on that uncertainty. That person and their perhaps-well-intentioned guardian may make the right choice or the wrong choice – we can never know except in hindsight.

For every one of the first case, I posit that there are many of the second case. In any event, the law is designed to deny minors that choice because we (and they) cannot know for sure if they are making a decision which they are prepared to live with, forever. So that right is denied, or delayed until they are an adult in the eyes of the law.

I realize that this is a hot topic, and my position can be attacked with the argument that I have no training or experience in the matter. That’s correct. But my position is based on logic, and on common sense.

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