A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter to bioethicist Alice Dreger about an essay she posted on her blog at Bioethics Forum. Alice, Professor of Clinical Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Northwestern University, is well-known for her frank, thoughtful, and sometimes unconventional views on how the medical community approaches intersex people, conjoined twins, dwarves, and other people born with bodies that challenge cultural norms. I was quite curious to hear what this prominent bioethicist had to say about gender-nonconforming kids.
While Alice spoke eloquently in that essay about what can only be called the “warring” factions in the medical community—should we force pink boys to conform, or launch them on the transgender path?—I told Alice that there was a third, quieter point of view. What if, I suggested, instead of concluding that all gender-nonconforming kids need medical treatment (though acknowledging that some in fact do), we instead work to change how society views them? What if we shift our efforts from “fixing” these children to fixing a world that allows girls in soccer uniforms but not boys in tutus?
Alice was kind enough to listen, and we entered into a dialog which became the basis for this follow-up essay. I discovered that Alice is not only an engaging, provocative conversationalist and critical thinker, but she is open-minded, deeply curious, and, I gratefully discovered, willing to have an ongoing dialog with me—a layperson who appeared out of the blue to challenge her assertions.
The conversation—both the one between me and Alice, and the broader cultural one—is by no means over, and we invite you to chime in both on Alice’s blogs and mine.
And Alice is now my most-favorite-ever bioethicist. It’s worth delving into her website and checking out the other things that she is curious and passionate about. Let’s all give her a big hand…and I’m giving her my humblest, warmest thanks for working to forward the dialogue about how to best care for our kids.
Please read the essay and share your thoughts in the comment section below.