Guest Blogger

Trans Youth Discussed on Dr. Phil

Filed By Guest Blogger | January 14, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Dan Siegel, Dr. Phil, Focus on the Family, gender identity, Glenn Stanton, joseph nicolosi, LGBT, LGBT youth, little boy lost, Michele Angello, Monica Helms, NARTH, trans, trans youth

Editors' note: Frequent guest blogger Monica Helms is the president of TAVA, the Transgender American Veterans Association.

First of all, I have to say up front that I am not a fan of Dr. Phil. Never have been. He comes off as being a pompous, arrogant know-it-all most of the time. Yet, on January 14, 2009, I have to say that he impressed me on how well he presented his show called, "Little Boy Lost," a sequel to the show he had called, "Gender Confused Kids," which aired October 24, 2008. From all of what I read and heard, that first show was not taken very well by the transgender community. This new show quickly made up for that.

On this show, Dr. Phil had Glenn Stanton, researcher for Focus on the Family and psychologist Dr. Joseph Nicolosi from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH,) both saying it's the parent's job to guide their child away from what they call a "phase." On the other side of the debate was psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel and psychotherapist/sexologist Dr. Michele Angello, a good friend of mine. They say children are born this way and parents should support their children in their decision to transition to the opposite sex.

We all know where Focus on the Family stands on LGBT people. For those who don't know, NARTH is an organization that uses junk science to try to "cure" gay people. They have a very poor track record in that area, so how can anyone think that they would be any better when it comes to transsexuality?

Also on the show was a single mother of three sons, Toni, with the middle one now living as her daughter. Toni went through the grief process of "losing" her son, but now loves her daughter without conditions.

Dr. Phil made his first comment to Dr. Siegel, asking him to clarify the development of a child in the uterus. The doctor stated that the when the body develops in the womb, it starts as female and becomes male with the introduction of male hormones. There are times when the nervous system will not bond with the male hormones, but the rest of the body does, or visa versa. Stanton, from Focus on the Family, says that there is no connection between transsexualism and biology. Wrong!

Then, Stanton stated that the typical patterns they see is an over-involved mother that has a symbiotic relationship with her son and the father is out of the picture. He says they get the mother to not be involved so the son can bond with the father. Dr. Angello responded, saying that she found the antithesis of this situation and that if the child is loved, then they can express their feelings to their parents.

Then Dr. Phil brought out Toni to tell her story. He stated that she now feels she has made the right decision by supporting her child and she agreed. He then asked how she made the decision to support her son transitioning from male to female. She said he didn't give her the choice, stating that this was what needed to be done for her to live.

Stanton was given the chance to speak and he said, "No human being is cookie cutter... but what we have found is that time and time again that if kids do fit into this situation (over-involved mother and missing father), they are likely or somewhat tending to turn out that way. But we see similar things here in that close relationship with the mom and dad not being there, at least seeing in your profile, I mean, dad wasn't there..."

Toni interrupted him, "Dad wasn't there after the transition, not before the transition. That was after."

Dr. Nicolosi stated, "This is different with what we would do in our clinic. We would involve the father more. We would encourage a bonding between the father and the son. We would discourage - not to shame the child - but to discourage the feminine interests, build up his boy identity. Make him feel good as a boy and get mother out of her over enmeshment with the boy."

Toni came back at him big time. "My son (the daughter), I was not close to at all. My second son. In fact, that was why my fiancé became so close to him, because I wasn't close to him. I wasn't enmeshed with him. I really think your theory sucks." The audience applauded.

Don't mess with a mother and her children.

Toni then asked, "I just want to see your results. Where are your sixteen-year-olds now?" Dr. Phil didn't allow Dr. Nicolosi and Stanton to answer.

After the break, Dr. Phil turned to Toni and said, "Toni, you are very upset with what these guys are saying. Tell me why."

"Because they're the reason I have to worry every day my child walks out the door." Stanton and Dr. Nicolosi looked stunned. "They're the reason that I have to wonder what's going to happen to her, that people don't accept, or don't understand. Because you are showing something that is wrong. You are wrong."

She then focused on Dr. Nicolosi. "Do you have a transgender child?"

"I'm providing a therapy..."

"Do you have a transgender child?"

"Does that exclude me from the conversation?"

"I'm asking you a question."

"Does that exclude me from the conversation?"

"No, but I'm asking a question. Why can't you answer the question? Do you have a transgender child?" Stanton tried to interrupt. "I'm not talking to you." The audience clapped. She then said, "You guys are nuts."

Dr. Phil turned to Dr. Angello and asked, "What happens if she resists, if Toni resists at every step. She never ever allows this transition from male to female, in terms of dress and pursuing interest in preferences. What do you see happen when that occurs?

"What I have seen is the part that is frustrating for me about the glib response of just make your kid play with gender-typical toys or engage in gender-role-specific activities is that it's not only disingenuous advice, but it's redundant for all the parents I worked with. Bar none, every family I have worked with, with the parents, have tried that. Not once, but multiple times, over and over and over again. And, what ends up happening is that for the children who are in fact truly transgender, this actually makes them more troubled. This adds to the comorbidity, meaning they have more mental health issues, because they can't figure out why they are being invalidated."

This was a very interesting show. I think that Dr. Nicolosi and Stanton received a complete lashing that they deserved. They tried to make it look like they have such a wonderful and loving approach to this issue, when we all have heard the horror stories from people who were forced to go through their programs. Brainwashing is what they try to do to children who are transgender, gay, lesbian or bisexual. It's a shame that they are allowed to impose this sham on unsuspecting children, all with the complete permission of parents who think of themselves over the welfare of their children.

It is true that Dr. Phil wasn't a saint during this program, insisting on using the words, "gender-confused children" occasionally. Overall, he stayed neutral. He even said in the beginning that this was not an area he had any expertise in. We, as a community, like it when we can complain about something that doesn't go our way. I was highly skeptical when I heard of the subject matter of this program. But after seeing Toni defending her child against NARTH and Focus on the Family, you have to love it. Thank you, Dr. Phil, for showing us this topic in this wonderful manner.

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austin crowder | January 14, 2009 1:16 PM

I've spent the past week studying Focus on the Family and NARTH's position on transgendered people -- after all, it's good to know about those who would see your lifestyle destroyed. Hearing a mother actively defend her daughter's lifestyle choice is, to put it lightly, a breath of fresh air for me.

If someone chooses to approach NARTH or similar associations in an attempt to cure their homosexuality or transgender feelings, that's fine. No sweat off my back. But it's about damn time someone actually _fired back_ at their crackpot theories on television.

Glenn Stanton of the same "Focus on the Family" of the "pray for it to rain on Obama" fame?

And Nicolsi--when your profession repudiates your positions, why do television programmes even give this man a second?

Could Phil have put up less credible "experts?"

I don't think that would be possible.

The whole time I'm reading Dr Phil, I'm thinking Phil Donohoue. No wonder I was so confused. I avoid Dr Phil like a bad cold. The problem with so called fair and balance programming is that in the zeal to present two sides any two sides will do. The right has been trotting out the overbearing mother/weak or absent father explanation since the beginning of time.

Did Phil give any voice to the fact that Focus and Narth's science has been pretty much discredited? I wonder how many viewers went away confused rather than informed?

I was thinking along the same lines. People who don't know anything about the issue would just see two doctors on one side, two doctors on the other, and assume that each "side" has the same amount of science behind, so it's all a wash and it comes down to personal opinion.

I didn't see the show though, and having a mother give a smack-down to that fraud Nicolosi sounds pretty funny.

I would have paid to see that. I got the show on DVD.

It still bugs me that Dr Phil and his producers thought it valid to bring on so called "experts" whose "science" has been so thoroughly debunked and whose efforts have done so much harm to our community. But that's television, I guess. I'm sure they tried but couldn't find any opponents of treating trans people with dignity in the mainstream medical community so they decided to manufacture a little more drama by bringing the FOTF and NARTH jokers on. Let's not forget this is not supposed to be balanced scientific debate, it's a TV show that is constantly on the lookout for increased ratings, and "who cares who gets hurt in the pursuit?"

I still think the show is transphobic in too many ways. Their use of the "confused" kids labels, etc,. proves it to me.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 14, 2009 9:26 PM

Could Phil have put up less credible "experts?"

None of the real experts hold the opinions of these bogus experts.

Monica, thanks for posting about this. As much as I--and many Projectors--never watch these sensationalists shows, MANY AMERICANS do. In fact, I think this is where a lot of "average Americans" first learn about LGBT issues. So it's a relief to hear that this ferocious mother tore this false expert a new one in defense of her trans child, and was applauded by the audience in the process! Bravo to her!!!

So, no he couldn't put up less credible 'sperts but they were the only 'sperts holding these silly views and he gave them air time and a rope and they tied themselves into a noose. Often the best way to expose a fool is to let him or her speak.

That's the saying from Abraham Lincoln: "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." Nicolosi and Stanton removed all doubt, at least as far the mother Toni was concern.

I think that Dr. Phil was fairminded during that show, but it was problematic in a couple of ways. I thought it was a weakness of the show that there was only one parent of a transgendered child there to represent that viewpoint, especially since Toni, the mother, clearly felt like she had been ambushed and was upset and on the defensive for the entire program. I felt really bad for her and didn't blame her, but I think a lot of the general American public would have seen it as impeding the discussion and silencing the other view (which I'm glad she did, actually, but I think it makes us look more argumentative than credible in the eyes of viewers who are less informed on trans issues). My stepfather even made the comment: "Geez, lady, it's not all about you and your experiences" and my Mom (who is very pro-GLBT rights and got really angry during the show when the Focus on the Family people were spouting their theories) thought Toni was going a little too far. Also, the whole "two sides of the issue" thing didn't work for me. I really wanted to see Dr. Phil step up to the plate to take a really enlightened stance to educate parents on how to support a transgendered child and explain to parents out there that you can't eradicate a gender identity. The episode was very open-ended and I'm sure it left a lot of parents of transgendered children confused as to whether or not they should accept and support their child. It could have been worse and been one-sided in terms of only showing the Focus on the Family side...ick. At least Dr. Phil made a genuine attempt to explore pro-trans views. And I did like it at one point when he stood up for Toni by saying that the Focus on the Family guy had no right to criticize Toni for being emotional, and had no right to dictate her reaction. Hopefully Dr. Phil will decide to keep progressing...

Here's what would have improved the show.

1. - Have at least 3 pro-trans parents and their stories. One is a father. Have one of the parents who actually tried NARTH or ForF to show their failure and speak of the methods.

2. - Insist on follow-up information from NARTH and FotF to see if their "success stories" were true, then Dr. Phil's team tracks some of these people down.

3. - Have a pro-trans, non-gay religious leader who helps parents work through this.

4. - Have a "successful" trans adult who may have experienced parents who tried the NARTH/FotF methods.

Obviously, this is way too much for one show, but it's ideas for the next "sequel," if Dr. Phil dares. He probably will with how much his message boards lit up from the last one. He commented, "I'm going to have to add more bandwidth to my web site after this show." Interest = ratings = money. The next sweeps week is in Feb, and trans issues for news shows or a transgender character in a drama have always drawn them in. We make some people nervous and others money. I just want a piece of the action.

So called Dr Phil is just so called Dr Laura in drag. He has no credibility as anything but a bigot. He and Dr. Nicolosi and especially Focus on the Family etc are the Religious fanatics that make being transgendered a near fatal condition. The world would be a far better place if we never heard from them.
Peace and love,
Tammi Dee Voytek
Trans, Woman, Atheist and proud of it.

I myself claim to be "Gender Angry", as it sounds to be more closely in tune with how I feel and think about my gender...insomuch to say that I fall under Transgender. I am angry because I cannot fully transition into womanhood, no, because I can not find any solid evidence of it being okay in the Holy Bible. Otherwise, I would, and as far as this show goes, all I got to say is that Focus on the Family is pretty cool, even if they are wrong.

You won’t find anything on bypass surgery or open heart surgery or Custom made arms or legs to replace limbs lost or do to birth defects either. These stories were mostly stolen from the Egyptians and have no information pertinent to today’s society. Jesus didn’t see fit to condemn anybody. You have a birth defect that can be treated and you can feel whole.
Ignorance is natural but stupidity requires effort.
Peace and love,
Tammi Dee Voytek