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WORKING THINGS OUT: Gender identity, violence against females, and language confusion in a Chicago-area high school and suburb

Like many high schools and communities around the world, the high school in my hometown is dealing with a set of interlocking crises and confusions that most of us (a) didn’t see coming, or (b) if we did see the complex set of issues coming, we were not well prepared for it. A recent open letter from two transgender students seems to have initiated a review of the high school’s policies regarding gender identity. So far as I know that review is currently in process.

Evanston, Illinois is an urban suburb right outside Chicago. In the interests of helping my home community support the students, parents, teachers, staff, and board of Evanston Township High School (School District 202), here are some recent resources that I have found relevant to such a process. I speak and write as a 70-year old woman, the mother of an ETHS graduate (1996), professional gardener (retired), currently a strategist on FoodFarmsDemocracy in the U.S.

I also speak as a former teenager who, like every other teenager, had to deal with a changing body, changing feelings, and changing thoughts that defines growing from a child to an adult. I speak also as a former teenage female who had to deal with being female in a misogynistic society and who, when I pondered it, didn’t look forward to a lifetime of being female and dealing with female things (such as monthly bleeding). So it was in 1967, at the age of 16, when I heard that actress Elizabeth Taylor had had a hysterectomy at a fairly young age (in her 30s), I felt momentarily relieved that there was an “out”, a safety valve.

In truth, I don’t think I ever thought about it again. I do know that I never seriously considered such a step. I was unusually adverse to any kind of bodily constraints, interference, or mutilations, including piercings, tattoos, surgeries, etc. I knew my body as my personal piece of real estate that we call nature, through which I experienced the universe as a fabulously designed organism that feels, sees, hears, moves, thinks, etc. I didn’t think that humans could improve on the design.

Because naming the issues correctly is the first step to drafting the best policies, here are the three core issues that I see as presenting themselves to the community in immediate and distinct but inter-connected ways: Gender identity, violence against females, and language confusion. My specific purpose in writing this blog is to encourage and facilitate honest conversations, within the ETHS community and within the rest of Evanston. I hope these resources prove useful to my hometown, as well as to people in other communities.

INTRODUCTION Evanston Township High School: The current conversation
RECENT RESOURCES for community learning
A. Genspect ROGD webinar: Professionals and parents
— Webinar agenda (3 hours)
— Dr. David Bell: socio-cultural factors causing geometric increase in female referral to gender clinics
B. The Heterodorx interview Kara Dansky: Midwestern podcast on new book by progressive Democrat
—The Heterodorx (artist Nina Paley and transsexual Corinna Cohn)
—Book: The Abolition of Sex:How the “Transgender” Agenda Harms Women and Girls
C. Systems thinking — article by Annie Kia: “When Linear Thinking hurts Gay Kids”
D. Well-meaning Leftists: Misinformed on gender identity politics (by Michelle Thomason)
— Twitter thread
— 15-part blog
E. Gender identity industry: The degradation of language (article by Jennifer Bilek)
F.  Holding providers accountable: Gender Care Consumer Advocacy Network
G. Seven Medicines by Susun Weed: a continuum of health action from “Do Nothing” to “Break & Enter”
CONCLUSION Community Conversations: working things out
— An Indigenous N. American model for community-wide input
— Some additional complexity

NOTE: Because this post is long and complex, the places where I have quoted various resources at length are highlighted in color. Shorter quotes just use the conventional quotation marks.

UPDATE, Dec. 3, 2021
Re violence against high school girls (15 & 16 year olds)
A new local story, based on a massive FOIA dump, reveals many more details about the sexual misconduct allegations by female lifeguards (and other beach staff) against other (male) City staff. Details and link are in Section 3.a of the INTRODUCTION (Violence against women and children).

EVANSTON TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL: The current issues re gender identity, violence against women and children, and language confusion

Population 78,000 on 7.8 square miles
— People: Black, Latino, Asian, Indigenous, white
— Religion: 90 churches, synagogues, mosques, humanist groups
— Housing: single family, ADUs, multi-family (small & large), group homes, senior (public & private)
— Retail: big box, neighborhood business districts; chains, independent
— decaying retail (“fish don’t shop” — a reference to Evanston’s eastern border, Lake Michigan), arts, dining, healthcare, water
— growing inequality (very wealthy, 20-25% of schoolchildren are eligible for free/reduced lunch, large homeless population; more luxury housing, less affordable housing)
— good public transportation, parks, beaches, recreation centers, libraries, walkable/bikeable, community gardens, farmers markets, outdoor fairs, concerts 
— public schools: K-5, junior high, magnet K-8, high school
— private: pre-K, K-8, high schools (in Evanston & nearby)
College town (Northwestern University)
Votes: corporate Democratic, many activist bubbles  

A recent open letter from two transgender students sparked this blogpost. Here’s some of the recent context, including the letter.

a. ETHS needs to re-evalute policies regarding pronouns
by Nova Horrell, The Evanstonian, Oct. 15, 2021
b. Open letter from ETHS Students to Administrators on Issues Affecting the Trans Community and their Solutions (signed by about 150 students)
c. Transgender students call for changes at ETHS
EvanstonNow, by Jeff Hirsh, Nov. 20, 2021
d. Two ETHS seniors lead the push to make school a safer place for trans, gender non-conforming students
by Olivia Alexander, The Daily NU, Nov. 22, 2021


a. Sexual harassment of high school girls (and other Evanston females) by males
— City of Evanston lakefront staff
After more than a year of neglect and stonewalling, the City finally issued an apology
Evanston apologies to lifeguards, other beach workers, by Dan Mihalopoulos (WBEZ, Oct. 5, 2021)

UPDATE  Dec. 3, 2021
After lifeguards complained of abuse, Evanston official called it ‘doubtful’ anyone would apologize
by Duncan Agnew

A new story in the EvanstonRoundtable reveals many more details of this on-going saga, based on FOIA documents, including:
>>>the July 2020 petition signed by 53 female lifeguards and other beach employees
>>>“a year’s worth of email exchanges among city staff”
>>>information that some of the lifeguards were 15 and 16 years old 

A key reveal is that the mayor at the time (Steven Hagerty) knew as far back as August 2020 and chose not to share the information with the City Council or the public, even though (a) Evanston’s City Code lists the mayor as a Council member (no one seems to know why), and (b) Evanston’s election season began in Sept. 2020. (Wisely, Hagerty chose not to run but at the time gave no reason for his decision.)

— ETHS band color guard
Student board member says coach complaints mishandled, by Jeff Hirsh (EvanstonNow Oct. 2021) 
“The student member [Barbara Tomaradze] of the District 202 Board of Education says Evanston Township High School failed to take proper action against an ETHS band color guard coach despite complaints from students at the school.”

b. Social violence against females by females or males (shunning, name-calling, etc.)
I have not heard of any incidents at ETHS whereby girls or female teachers who question gender identity, etc., are called transphobic, TERF, etc.

But the current atmosphere, whereby dialogue about gender identity is immediately cut off by accusations of transphobia, death threats, etc., makes such incidents likely, whether they’re public or not. This is especially true given the statistical likelihood of questioning about these new issues arising in the general population and the growing pushback against such violence. I would guess it likely that there are girls and women in the ETHS community (a) who have either self-censored or (b) whose free speech, personal boundaries, etc., has been violated in some way.

A special note: While such violence may be perpetrated by females or males, given the historical record of women enforcing misogynistic (patriarchal) ideology (e.g., footbinding, female genital mutilation), I am personally most concerned about Evanston females who may be partaking of such violation of other females and, of course, the women and girls who are the targets of such violence.

c. Social and physical violence against boys by males
I have not heard of any such incidents at ETHS, but given the historical frequency of privileged males bullying other males in the U.S. (and other colonial and/or patriarchal societies), this would seem likely and may be a cause of ROGD (rapid onset gender dysphoria) among boys.

Also, I am one of those Jews who questions the effect of circumcision on boys. I remember many years ago (1980s) at Family Focus, a friend (a long-time Evanston restauranteur) telling me how horrified she was that she’d allowed her son to be circumcised (against her better judgment as a loving, health-conscious mother). She said that she witnessed an immediate personality change, which she seemed to suggest was long-term, negative, and possibly permanent. 

I believe other people (Jews and non-Jews) have been questioning the necessity for this common U.S. medical practice, but I don’t see much discussion in mainstream media.

4. LANGUAGE CONFUSION: Recent language uses in Evanston
The following are some primary sources for examining the issue of language confusion (in connection to gender identity and violence against women & children).

a. ETHS official page
Support for Transgender & Gender Expansive Students

b. ETHS curricula and tests
I have no knowledge of the specifics of the ETHS curriculum, but various curricula seem highly relevant (e.g., biology, sociology, psychology, history, philosophy). Likewise the tests by which students prove their mastery of knowledge, truth, and reality seem important primary sources for unpacking our language.

c. Language by civic leaders
Oct. 2021 blog: To survivors & other women, “I’m sorry,  20th century feminist strategy was wrong”
Sections A & B of this blog document some questionable language or actions (e.g., ribbon cutting for a domestic violence shelter) used by leaders in addressing institutional responses to male violence against women.

d. Midwife Practice Act: State of Illinois HB3401
Congratulations and thanks to Evanston’s State Rep. Robyn Gabel for finally getting a midwives bill passed legalizing the licensing of midwives in Illinois — 43 years after I gave birth at home, alone, because I couldn’t find a midwife.

Unfortunately, based on a fairly thorough scan, the 53-page bill does not mention “woman” once, uses the term “mother” once, “maternal” a few times. The main noun used to refer to the mother is “client” meaning “a childbearing individual”.

e. Evanston resident gets cancelled  (by national listserv) for recognizing similarity between farmers being “administratively redefined” (State of Maine) and women being redefined by the gender identity industry, despite noting the difference between individuals who are questioning their gender identity and the gender identity industry. Nov. 2021 blog: EXPLODING LISTSERV: Industry & lobby groups “administratively redefining” farmers and women — I’ve been cancelled

RECENT RESOURCES for community learning
A. Genspect 

Genspect is an international alliance of parents and professional groups (15 countries right now) providing a voice for parents with gender-questioning kids. Based in UK. Recently they hosted an excellent webinar that frames the issues in a professional, caring way. Here are the contents, followed by some quotes by Dr. David Bell about the “socio-cultural” factors that seem to be causing a “geometric” increase in referrals of girls to gender clinics:

1. Genspect ROGD webinar (Nov. 20, 2021)
ROGD = Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria
Angus Fox, moderator
0:00:00 — Introduction
0:03:15 — Stella O’Malley, psychotherapist & author — ‘How Clinicians Work with ROGD’
0:45:30 — Jude, a parent campaigner — ‘From Theory to Reality: When ROGD Hits Your Family’
1:15:50 — Dr David Bell, Former Consultant Psychiatrist, Ex-Governor at Tavistock & Portman NHS Trust — ‘First Do No Harm’
1:57:00 — Dr Lisa Littman, Public Health Researcher — ‘Psychosocial Factors & Gender Dysphoria’
2:40:10 — Questions from the audience

2. Notes from David Bell’s portion (1:37-1:45)

“Geometric increase in referrals (to gender clinics).
Rising number of natal females, which is a relatively new phenomenon.
Cannot be explained by individual factors alone.
Or by a large number of individuals at last feeling free to come out in this liberal atmosphere.

“It must be derived from socio-cultural forces that are as yet fully understood or even investigated.

“It is regrettable that children-adolescents that has been increasing exponentially, being treated without inquiry into this ?? socio-cultural context, where we have no real knowledge of the consequences and no adequate follow-up

“Preliminary sketch of the factors that may be relevant to these sudden changes.

[At 1:40 mark, Bell displays a graphic of factors all pointing to “transgender” referrals. These factors, which he discusses individually, have created a “perfect storm”.]
— Commodification of health care and identity (patient as customer)
— Internet/social media
— Relativisation of truth claims
— Hatred of mental illness
— Body as machine
— Identity politics: entitlement, exceptionalism
— Misogyny (nanny state)

B. The Heterodorx interview Kara Dansky

1. Heterodorx podcast: Abolishing Gender, not Sex, with Kara Dansky
Recent (Nov. 2021) podcast by two Midwestern progressive-libertarians (is there such a thing?):
— Nina Paley (Urbana, IL), artist/animator known for Sita Sings the Blues and Seder-Masochism (the story of Exodus and other things).
— Corinna Cohn (Indianapolis, IN), IT; a transsexual who transitioned (male to female) in his teens, currently in his 40s. Board member,

Link in podcast notes refers to an Ohio college professor who won a court case after he was fired for refusing to use “preferred” pronouns.

2. New book by Kara Dansky
Kara Dansky’s new book is The Abolition of Sex: How the “Transgender” Agenda Harms Women and Girls. Currently only available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I believe she’s working on getting it to independents.

Dansky is a progressive Democrat, former ACLU lawyer, currently the president of the U.S. chapter of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign, an international movement to protect women’s and girls’ sex-based rights. Based in Washington, DC. Here’s a short summary of the WHRC Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights. Short list of books annotated in reference to the Declaration; some are being actively suppressed.

3. Just posted: interview with Dansky by Beth Stelzer (SaveWomensSport). Stelzer is based in Minnesota.

C. Annie Kia: Complexity and social learning

Annie Kia is a holistic systems thinker and climate activist, based in Australia. As someone who has worked on numerous issues during my lifelong activist life, I appreciate her efforts in putting all these issues together in one long (but very readable) well-organized article, Uncritical allegiance: the harms of queer ideology (When Linear Thinking hurts Gay Kids) (July 2021). Here are some quotes from the beginning of the article:

When I refer to linear thinking, I’m talking about the kind of thinking that reduces complexity to a singular assumed causal relationship (sometimes called reductionism).  

In this piece I will make the case that what’s happening to same-sex attracted youth is complex, and that they and other vulnerable kids are at risk where the cultural context assumes a simple linear relationship between gender non-conformity > gender dysphoria > being trans

I will describe what can go wrong when we apply linear thinking to something as complex as the rise in youth identifying as trans, and why we let these things happen even when there is evidence of unintended harm. Usually, if we notice something that’s harmful, we’re able to get information and talk about it. Then we can make adjustments to what we’re doing and change the trajectory. Another word for this is social learning.  

But something is happening that stops social learning when it comes to this issue. I’ll explore this in terms of social bubble dynamics and how this shapes collective thinking.

I want to make it clear that this blog is not about trans people. It’s about a particular ideology that is either shared or not-shared by transgender people, and exists independently. My positive regard for trans people is not diminished by my critique of queer ideology.

This is about social bubbles, to which we are all prone.

This deaf ear, this dismissal of detransitioners is the bubble.

Misinformed on gender identity politics

I do not know who Michelle Thomason is or where she is based, but I find her analysis compelling, detailed, clear, and true. Her Twitter account suggests that her main interest is to end gaslighting by psychological abusers when they are caught and accused. DARVO stands for the technique that abusers apply to avoid accountability: deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender.

Her analysis is summarized in a recent Twitter thread. Or read her extended analysis on her blog. (The Twitter thread links to her blog.)

1. Nov. 18, 2021 Twitter thread starts with: 

Transgenderism is about EXCLUSION.
Sexists want to EXCLUDE men they view as sissies from their manbox.
They also want to EXCLUDE women who are not sufficiently feminine from their womanbox.
Feminists want to INCLUDE all male humans as men & female humans as women. We are INCLUSIVE. They are EXCLUSIVE.

2. The New Backlash
Introduction (March 28, 2015)

I am a woman and a feminist. I fully support the human rights of transsexual people. (I fully support the human rights of all humans!) However, “transgender” identity politics are not about the human rights of transsexual people. Transgender identity politics are about men weaponizing the suffering of transsexual people – in particular, transwomen – in order to destroy women’s boundaries and undermine basic feminist analysis.

Many well-meaning Leftists seem to be entirely unaware of or misinformed about this situation. I made this blog for them.

The degradation of language

Jennifer Bilek, based in New York, writes on the gender identity industry in her 11th Hour Blog. Here are some excerpts from a very recent article (Nov. 25, 2021), We must resist the degradation of language being forced on us by gender identitarians.

“Transgender” and “gender identity” can’t mean anything because they are used to define too many things and experiences, much of it completely illogical. They encompass the fetishes of adult men, intense body dysphoria focused on genitalia, adopting drag performances, teenage social contagion, homophobia positioned under a human rights banner for people who are same-sex attracted, the buttressing of sex role stereotypes on one hand, and the attempted deconstruction of sex role stereotypes on the other. 

They involve creative expression for some young people, serious medical and mental health conditions for many others, disorders of sexual development, and for others still, they entail life-long drugs, and the amputation of healthy sex organs. “Transgender” and “gender identity” are like a mass hallucination of identities cobbled together, sexual orientations, fetishes and adolescent discontent.

Though material realists resist the insanity of sex not being real, many argue that compromises should be made to support “transgender” people. That some of us do so, speaks to how strategically brilliant the corporate propaganda to undermine sex for profit, has been. There are no “transgender” people because there are only two sexes, though there are people who identify that way and prefer to live as the opposite sex. It is a newly minted term driven by billionaire philanthropists and corporate profiteering to dismantle sexual dimorphism, at least legally, and to open markets in sexual identity.

Gender Care Consumer Advocacy Network

New guide to making professional board complaints about U.S. doctors and therapists.

A continuum of intervention from “Do Nothing” to “Break & Enter”

This resource is not specifically related to gender or sex issues. It is an all-purpose framework that can be applied to any human health concern.

Susun Weed is an elder, a green witch, and shamanic herbalist, founder of the Wise Woman Center in Woodstock, New York. Her latest book, Abundantly Well: Seven Medicines (The Complementary Integrated Medicine Revolution) (2019), is a culmination of a lifetime of study, teaching, and experience on human health. The Seven Medicines is a continuum of intervention, designed to address any and all health issues.

This description of the Seven Medicines is taken from a recent essay, People’s Medicine: Herbs for Hags (Sept. 16, 2021). Boldface has been added to the category names.

The safest medicine is Serenity Medicine, also called “Do Nothing.” It includes meditation, sleep, deep relaxation, even idleness. Rest cures, going fishing, and time away from responsibilities are also Serenity Medicine.

The next safest medicine is Story Medicine, also called “Diagnosis.” Here we collect information. Ideally, figuring out the nature of our problem is done without dangerous hi-tech techniques such as x-rays, MRIs, CAT scans, and exploratory surgery. Remember that every story/diagnosis implies and leads to a treatment. The story (and the plan of action) you’ll get from an acupuncturist will differ significantly from the story (and drugs) an MD will give you for the same problem.

Only slightly more dangerous is Mind Medicine or Energy Medicine; some call this “Placebo Medicine.” Anything that engages our mental ability to heal is included here, from flower essences to psychic healing.

Lifestyle Medicine speaks to the ways we “Nourish and Tonify” and, while generally quite safe, is more dangerous than the previous three Medicines. What we eat, what we wear, where we work, how we use our bodies, and how we amuse ourselves are all part of this Medicine.

The first four Medicines build health, even if they don’t cure; and they frequently do cure, while causing minimal harm. The last three Medicines always harm, even if only slightly, even if they can create miracles of healing.

The fifth Medicine is Alternative Medicine; the action is “Stimulate and/or Sedate.” Alternative Medicine includes herbal medicine, naturopathic medicine, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, and many more specialities. Unless used wisely, these medicines have the potential to do serious harm. At the least, they excite or depress us by using, but not replacing, our core energy.

The sixth Medicine is Pharmaceutical Medicine. Drugs, as we are all aware, are fraught with problems and side-effects. In fact, one of the leading causes of death in the United States is reaction to prescribed drugs. Pharmaceutical Medicine is not limited to prescription drugs, nor to products of the pharmaceutical industry. Essential oils, supplements, and most encapsulated herbs are so drug-like in their actions that they share the dangers of drugs.

The last, and most dangerous of the Seven Medicines, is Hi-Tech Medicine, or “Break and Enter.” While surgery and other hi-tech techniques can work miracles, the harm done by this last medicine can be fatal, permanent, and disfiguring. The amount of hi-tech diagnosis that is currently done is truly scary. Using the first four Medicines not only prevents the need for Hi-Tech Medicine in most instances, it also improves our ability to benefit from — and protects us against the harms of — Hi-Tech Medicine if we do choose it.

Community Conversations: Working things out

In order to support the ETHS community as they discuss and deliberate the issues and solutions, it would seem useful for the larger Evanston community to host community conversation(s) on these interlocking issues.

I believe that there have been at least two recent community conversations in Evanston on supporting transsexual people (in the past year). So far as I know they were not widely publicized and I did not attend either. Nor, if I remember correctly, did either event discuss the set of interlocking issues that professionals, parents, and other people have identified, such as those outlined in this blog. Unfortunately, I do not remember who sponsored those events. I mention these events only to point out that future conversations may not need to reinvent the wheel in terms of organizing, sponsors, publicity, etc.

1. An Indigenous N. American model for community-wide input?
In the interests of complete, comprehensive, and satisfying conversation, I would like to recommend a possible model for such a complicated situation. I have never experienced or practiced this model, but I think that it is easy to understand and seems universally applicable to all humans. En’owkin is a method of “dialogue & deliberation” developed by the Okanagan people of British Columbia, as described by Jeanette Armstrong in Let us Begin with Courage (Dec. 15, 2013).

Briefly, the first two steps of the process seem to be these:
— GATHERING ALL THE INFORMATION, no matter how small
In public forums where everyone can speak, the issue at hand is examined from all levels of human experience — individual, land, family, community. 

— SUGGESTED RECOMMENDATIONS from four perspectivesIn public forums where everyone can speak, recommendations are made from four basic groups, playing four distinct roles:
YOUTH – innovative possibilities
FATHERS – security, sustenance, shelter
MOTHERS – policy, workable systems
ELDERS – connected to the land

Armstrong’s description of the process is much richer and more poetic than I can offer in this short space. It is not clear how a final decision is made. Aspects of this model may already be used in “restorative justice” practice, used in Evanston as an alternative to criminal justice.

2. Some additional complexity: other recent blogs 
As Armstrong describes, good decision-making in any human group, in any era and in any location, depends on inclusion of all people (real democracy), all issues (ecology), and truth (nature’s design). The following blogs are some of my attempts to grapple with much of our current material complexity — food, land-use, knowledge, leadership, non-humans, words, housing, transportation, money & banking, etc. My ultimate intention is to observe and document with an eye towards creating decision-making processes by which we build a society that doesn’t destroy the Earth’s vitality and renewability, upon which we all depend.

Women’s Ways of Knowledge  Nov. 2021
THE “PERSONAL MISERY” OF ACADEMICS (and other U.S. folks): Some Remedies and Resources  Nov. 2021
EXPLODING LISTSERV: Industry & lobby groups “administratively redefining” farmers and women — I’ve been cancelled  Nov. 2021
U.S. MONEY SUPPLY: Why the numbers ($$ + time) don’t add up — American Monetary Institute conference (Nov. 5-7, 2021) Oct. 2021
“Tell me how you really feel”:  Media coverage of the Farm Bureau  Oct. 2021
To survivors & other women, “I’m sorry,  20th century feminist strategy was wrong”  Oct. 2021
IS CONFUSION THE DEFAULT SETTING of the 21st century American mind? Aug. 2021
Public trust in Evanston, IL: Sexual harassment complaints buried for years, weeks, days  Aug. 2021
Camp Auschwitz and an Ancient Women’s Peace Center (Chicago)  Feb. 2021
#MeToo in the U.S. Food & Farm Movement  Dec. 2020
MY AMERICAN DREAM, 1951 — ?  Oct. 2020
WHO’S YOUR CLAN MOTHER? Saying STOP is women’s public authority—including Impeachment   Sept. 2019
U.S. 2018: For Women who are Feeling like Livestock  Sept. 2018
In Case of Constitutional Crisis…Start Here: The Great Law of Peace  Sept. 2018
Women’s Authority, Women’s Lives: The ERA or the Great Law of Peace  March 2018