At a meeting of Wicklow residents concerned about gender ideology being taught in schools psychotherapist, Stella O’Malley, spoke of her experience dealing with the issue saying that it has come about “like a rocket” in its increasing prevalence amongst youngsters.
The Genspect founder said that many people shy away from discussing the issue, and that because of its “heady” and “frantic” nature “people are choosing not to speak and to stay away” from the subject which has swept in “over the last ten years”.
She said that there used to be a lot more freedom for people to simply “be who they were”, whether that was “a masculine woman or a feminine man” but that this freedom was becoming more “narrow”.
O’Malley said there had been a huge increase in pressure on children and adults to “categorise themselves” and that things like people receiving diagnosis would have been far less likely 20 years ago.
“There’s been a huge creep in of a lot of categorisation”, she said adding that “ as a result an awful lot of kids are very quick” to jump towards categorising themselves and others in much the same way as she herself had previously been interested in ‘horoscopes and star signs’.
“When children hit around ten through to the age of around twenty they’re all about ‘who am I?’”, she said, adding that this was “identity exploration” which she said is “the most normal and natural thing you could do”.
She continued that children and young adults use things like this as a way to “find tribes” saying that up until around ten children have a fairly “superficial view of the world” in which they think “the good guys always win” and “if you try hard enough it will all be fine”, but that between the ages of ten and twenty they begin to realise that “life is really hard”.
O’Malley said that some proponents of gender ideology ascribe to the model of unquestioning affirmation – saying that they believe “basically, if I say I am a man, I am a man, or if I say I am non-binary, then I am non-binary, it’s my definition, it’s my subjective idea”.
She continued that this makes the assumption that everyone ‘has a gender identity’ and that everybody is ‘aware of it and can name it’, which she added was “an awful lot of pressure to put on a kid because” they don’t understand what this means” as “some little boys are very feminine and some little girls are very masculine”.
She said another theory on gender identity, where she would place herself, is the ‘gender developmental model’ of understanding whereby it is understood that some people may develop distress around gender.
However, in this model of understanding, there is no cause for the gender affirmation style of psychological intervention, rather that gender identity distress in children is seen as more akin to a developmental understanding of things like OCD or depression which she says can “cause real havoc” and “deep distress” in our lives.
“Anybody who knows children knows they go through things” she said explaining how a freer understanding of how children develop was more likely to lead to a positive outcome for a child than making assumptions about how they might feel about their gender longterm.
She said that changes in hormone levels have a “massive” impact on children and that it should be “free and easy” until puberty, continuing that it doesn’t really matter if any boy is feminine or if any girl is masculine.
She emphasised the importance of ‘letting children be children’, saying that a key feature of transgender was that “it can’t really be explained without using stereotypes”.
She said it wasn’t the job of schools to “enforce complex future decisions on kids”, noting the case of a young girl who had socially transitioned to a boy at school, but eventually “started to fancy someone”, and after a three year period of difficulty became comfortable in her body and resumed life as a girl.
“Our job as adults is to provide mature wise guidance”, she said adding “our job is not to run with the latest theories and impose them on the shoulders of children”.