Lisa: Julia Malott, welcome to Broad View. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Julia: [00:00:41] Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm excited to chat with you today.
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Lisa: [00:00:44] I wonder if we could start with your origin story of sorts, and you can talk about how you came to transition.
Julia: [00:00:53] My origin story. Oh, gosh. Do you want that? You want the Cosmos version? Do you want the book version? How how in-depth would you like me to go?
Lisa: [00:01:01] Oh, I know. That's a big. That could take the whole time. Well, do a little skimming, you know. Did you did you experience something called gender dysphoria where you gender non conforming as a child? Is it something you discovered later however you want to do?
Julia: [00:01:21] Yeah, totally. I would love to. So, yeah, I felt that as a child. I feel like it's so cliche to say that because when you're that young, you know, you don't know what you're feeling, but you know that you're unhappy with the way things are. And there was all of these little memories, like one that sticks out for me with kindergarten. I would never want to play. I wanted to play house because I didn't like playing with the boy toys. I wanted to play house, but I didn't want to play house because I had to be the father. I had to be the son. And those rules just didn't make sense to me. But I also knew that it was wrong for me to want to be the mom or the daughter. So I'd always end up being the dog because of course, when you're five, dogs don't have gender. So that was a very safe thing to be, and that didn't really change throughout my whole childhood. I think that's a lot for counselors before grade six is to try to figure out, you know, why? Why can't Jason find any friends? Why is he unable to, you know, connect with the boys? And this was this is the nineties. So there really wasn't any talk about gender dysphoria in transitioning because I was in my mom tells me that even privately she wasn't told anything about this. And I also was in a very religious household. So many of these counselors were also Christian based. And so even talking about, you know, whether I was gay and stuff, no one was having those conversations. And it was when I was 12 years old that I started to really. Find the language to describe what I was feeling. And of course, there was nothing in the school system at that point. There was nothing in our health system that was talking about it. But there was the Internet. And I had this conversation in grade seven with the classmates where I remember we were in the playground and I was really starting to solidify for myself how I was envious of not being able to be a girl and feeling very restricted. And I remember saying to my friend, But we all feel that way. But it is just the grass is greener on the other side. And I think we all just wish we were the other gender. And he kind of looked at me and was like, No, I, I don't feel that way. And that was like, Oh, maybe, maybe I'm feeling something different. So I go, go home. I was a huge nerd. I love to just Google things. I spent most of my days on HowStuffWorks dot com and other things to understand how the world works. So I went and started googling and sure enough, I searched to find blogs about transsexual ism, as it was called back then. Really, no academic resources at that point were online, but there were a lot of journal articles, but I didn't know what those were when I was 12, of course, But I found lots of lots of blogs, and when I started reading them, I instantly kind of went, This is me. Like everything they're describing in terms of how they feel, just perfectly describes kind of what I was feeling in myself. And I didn't. It was both relieving to be like, okay, other people feel this way. At least, at least I kind of have a box to put myself in. And it was also horrifying because this was right around the time that gay marriage was starting to become a conversation in Canada and being very religious. Of course, I was in the church that talked about how bad that was and how evil these people were. And I just remember sitting in a church thinking like, they're not even talking about people like me. Like if it's if it's so bad to be gay, then whatever I am is like, we're not even talking about that. And so I took it on. I had a lot of shame and embarrassment, and I didn't tell anybody at this point. But as I said, I was a huge nerd. So I think in grade eight I wanted answers. I thought, like, I'm going to figure out what this is, because in my head I was like, if I'm if I'm a woman trapped in a man's body. The classic narrative would go, Well, then I should transition. And if not, then I shouldn't transition. And so I figured if I just do enough research, I'll find the answer. So I got a grade nine and ten biology textbooks and third to read biology. And before I knew it, I was into the journal articles. So I was reading like Blanchard and Lawrence and Bailey, and a lot of those people, as these things were coming out when I was in early high school, but I was hiding all this from my parents because I just couldn't imagine facing having to tell them how I felt. And I never did. I told them that I was taking that step and I had to do it, but I didn't tell them at all in high school. I remember one day I was looking at the cost of transitioning and I think there's some number like $20,000 or something for bottom surgery. And I looked at my bank account that had $300 in it, but I just I can't do this because I'm gonna have to run away from home and all of these things. So when I was 14, I decided I'm not going to do anything about this. I'm going to ignore it. I'm going to be a man and I will make it work. And so I kind of buried it all and got very religious at this point to stay very deeply into my church. I met a girl when I was 15.7 years later. I did tell her when I was 18 about how I felt, but same thing. I was kind of, I'm not going to deal with this. I'm going to ignore it. And so we we were together for 12 years and I was a I was a pretty horrible husband. I didn't know I was a horrible husband at that time. But looking back now, I see that I had chosen not to be happy. I had this problem that I knew about and I said, rather than have any authenticity in my life, I'm going to bury this in shame, which of course leads to a lot of narcissistic behaviors. And that was how I live my life into my late twenties, where everything started to fall apart for me. I had like a midlife crisis in my twenties rather than maybe a bit later when it typically is. And that affected my job. It affected my volunteer programs, it affected my marriage, which ultimately kind of fell apart on me and brought me down to a place. I did end up in the hospital with a suicide attempt, and that was when I really started to face the stuff. And it kind of brought me to a place where I didn't have a lot to lose. So I finally came back to this and said, Maybe I should try transition because. You don't have much more to lose at this point. So that was exactly what I did. And. It. Everything. Everything changed at that point. I dealt with a lot of the emotional problems I was facing, the dysphoria that I had always had went away, and it allowed me to build better relationships with my family and I think everything took off again. And so I'm five years into my transition now, and that's kind of the long and short of my journey through my transition.
Lisa: [00:07:17] Does that make you wish you'd had the option when you were 12 or 14?
Julia: [00:07:25] It's such a complicated question because, yes, you know, I knew how I felt when I was 12 and 14, and I still feel that way. And of course, if I had transitioned and if that had been where the world was at then. It would have been easier. I would have avoided a lot of pain myself and other people. I probably would pass. There'd be a lot of benefits to that. And so I am not. Unilaterally against transition. I think it is like childhood transition. I think that there is a time and a place for it. But I also recognize that it's hard to know. I also know that kids can fall into this place and it may not be the right decision for them. And so looking back, it's easy to say 12 year old Jason was a good fit, but was it possible to know at the time that 12 year old Jason was a good fit? That's a hard question to answer, and I certainly can't answer it.
Lisa: [00:08:12] What benefit do you feel like you've incurred from from being Jason for a while and now being Julia?
Julia: [00:08:24] I would say for me there is. I deep, deep appreciation. My my partner comes from. A background where they had very little money growing up. She was used to utilizing the food bank and using other social supports to get by, and I had a pretty typical middle class lifestyle. And I've seen the difference with us in terms of how she knows how to appreciate money and security in a way that I don't I take it for granted. But she really values that and is so much more thankful for the little things. And even though she's now had money for a number of years, she still retains that. And for me, I would say that the same thing kind of applies with gender and gender expression and all these elements of. I don't take it for granted. Even now, I don't take for granted what I can do, how I can express myself, because I spent a long time not being able to do that. And I'm thankful and appreciative that that I've had that experience because I think it gives me context that most people won't have.
Lisa: [00:09:24] And you mentioned, you know, one of the benefits if you'd been able to if you've been able to transition early before puberty and during puberty, is that you would have passed. And I find this, you know, as someone who has studied gender non-conformity and and if I'm an advocate in any way, I mean, mostly I'm a journalist, but. I do feel like I openly advocate for understanding and tolerating gender nonconformity. So I feel like sometimes the emphasis on passing is about gender conformity, you know? And what if we just made room for you as you are right now?
Julia: [00:10:08] There's there's so much there. There's so much there. I when I started down this transition journey, it was all about passing because I think it is for a lot of people it was kind of, I need to pass. This is not going to work if I don't pass, but whatever I'll try. And if I don't pass, then I will deal with myself then. What I realized as I entered the journey and was kind of maybe midway through was that. Passing would present its own authenticity problems. I realized that, well, I had a gender issue while I had dysphoria. I also had the shame, but I had all these things I was hiding they're not telling anybody about. And all of a sudden now I'm transitioning, which means I am very vulnerable. I walk into a room, everybody knows what's happening to even talk to me, which is an incredible opportunity to be very authentic and real with people. And I thought, gosh, if I if I were to get to the point that I fully passed the now, I'm going to have to invent 32 years of history that didn't exist. I'm going to have to make up, you know, kind of people are going to expect me to have these experiences that I don't have. People are going to expect me to understand. All of these biological experiences that females have that I don't have, and I'm just going to blind from a different side than where I used to lie. And so that that was a perspective that kind of helped me realize that maybe there is a benefit to the authenticity that I get by not fully passing. As far as you also mentioned something there about the non-conformity of it, and I guess that depends on how you conceive of this of this gender space. I. I struggle with the concept of infinite genders and a lot of these the ideology that is very popular these days. It's if it works for some people, that's their business. It's not I'm not here to tell people what's right or wrong, but I didn't medically and surgically transition for diversity sake. I did it because I really felt that being a man didn't work. And so I am absolutely trying to align with, you know, with women and with female like biological females, if that makes sense.
Lisa: [00:12:03] Yeah. I mean, I think that's that is the case for a lot of people. And certainly the original cohort was I mean that was part of passing. Right. Is. And also to blend in, I heard that from a lot of older trans people. As you know, you, you transition and then you're and then you go out into society nobody identified as trans. Right. They the idea was you take this step and then and then you have your new life and and maybe that had some. Limitations also. But this. What's happening now? Which is right. Who did I just hear talking about this? Somebody was just saying the idea of trans visibility is kind of anathema to what the project has been historically, because the point was to be invisible. I have no idea where I heard that. But it was very, very recently.
Julia: [00:13:04] Well, exactly. And that's why I'd say I'm okay being visible now, because I understand the importance of people like me being visible in order to help to raise acceptance. But it's not because I'm proud to be trans, it's because I think it's important for me to be able to be visible. It would also be very nice to be able to display them, to be quite honest.
Lisa: [00:13:22] Yeah. I keep thinking about. There's a song by this, by this playwright and songwriter we love named. I don't know why I said we, but my husband and I love named Ethan Lipton, and he has this song. That goes, old fellows grow boobies. Old chicks grow beards. We just look more like each other year after year. And I do think that there is. Now that I'm older, you know, I just see, like, there are a lot of older women who I think, Oh, is that an older woman or a trans man? You know, like you do start as your hormone level shift in older age. No, there is more there is more crossover. And it is both easier or harder to blend. But how were you identifying before you transitioned five years ago? How were you walking around in the world?
Julia: [00:14:24] What do you mean by that?
Lisa: [00:14:25] No, it's like a straight man or just a man. I don't know. What was your.
Julia: [00:14:30] I guess. Okay. I mean, I guess that's an interesting question because I have identified as trans in the sense of feeling this way since, as I said, it was power. But I kind of found this. But I wasn't telling anybody that, so nobody would know. But I felt that way. Thought like nobody knows my struggle, nobody knows what a hard time I have. And I tell myself all of these things, which was not healthy and did not help any of my relationships. I presented as, Yeah, straight white man. I had a kind of nice, nice beard going on here at that point.
Lisa: [00:15:01] Did you were you feminine in your mannerisms, quote unquote, Feminine, typically. Yeah.
Julia: [00:15:06] Yeah. Everybody thought I was. Everybody thought I was gay. It was almost a joke because I. I talked the same way I talk now. I know I have very much an expressive feminine way of speaking. And it was the same back then, which was fine. I didn't have a problem with that. But that was an assumption that certainly came up frequently. Mm hmm.
Lisa: [00:15:29] Okay. So you transitioned five years ago. It. It worked for you. Things are going better. And then you've joined this. You become part of this community. When did you start to have a kind of awakening about the. The difference between your experience and the general rhetoric, the paradigm, the ideology?
Julia: [00:15:59] Yeah, well, the community is so interesting because you you decide you're going to transition. And of course, I had this immense shame that was keeping me private and hidden. But then I found individuals who were quite a bit younger than me who were in a space where this was much more normal. So they kind of help me deal with my own shame. And then I zeroed into those relationships where I felt safe. And when I did start transitioning, my family was not accepting my parents and siblings and not the extended family because, as I said, a lot of religious roots there. And so they struggled with that, which pushes you even more into finding that affirmation within within a group. Who is going to call you she, her and Julia, even when you literally still have a beard and all of these things going on. And so I think that was important. I think I needed that at that point in order to work through what I was working through. But. As I progressed through the years, I started to realize some of the problems with those ways of thinking. I think we're probably first became evident for me was when it came to pronouns and people, you know, misgendering as we would say where. I didn't have problems with people doing that maliciously. You know, I I'm surrounded by people who love me and who care for me. But it would happen a lot because my voice was lower because I was made transition or because someone just knew me before and they perceived me as male. And so someone who cares for me might come out and accidentally say, he when talking about me with a group of people. And I realize how much those moments would stick. They would stick for days or weeks. I could tell you like, yeah, that time. That time when I was hanging out with Natasha and she called me and I know that it was completely accidental. But as I thought about this more, I realized it stung because I was living a lie. It's done because I wanted to be seen as biologically female, and I was pretending I was biologically female. And I was going through the world saying, you know, Lisa sees me as biologically female, just like her. And the moment that you come out with, like, Oh, gosh, you just popped my bubble. You don't see me that way. You might love me, you might care for me, but you recognize that I'm biologically male. And then I would lose my confidence. And then I'd feel uncomfortable with you and think like, I don't want to really hang out with Lisa anymore because now I feel uncomfortable and. After reflecting on this, I realized I was doing all of that to myself because I am biologically male and. If I accept that, then there's no problem. If I can biologically male, then someone coming out and saying by accident is. Just. Then recognizing that. Right. But but the ideology helps you to. Create this structure for yourself that's not real. And so that was probably my first wake up call to that. Do you want to comment on that and you want to keep going?
Lisa: [00:18:35] No, I want you to keep going and you're going, okay. Yeah.
Julia: [00:18:38] Yeah. And so then my workplace hooked me up with that fantastic life coach, and I was moving up into leadership. And so I had this career slash life coach, which was the best experience I've had in my life. I had access to him pretty much as much as I needed. We met at least once a week or sometimes more. I read piles of books that year because he had all these amazing resources and they were sometimes they were work based resources. Other times they were Alan Watts or Werner Erhard or all kinds of philosophical books. I read Alfred at one point and looked at, you know, the general semantics and all kinds of things, and we talked a lot about authenticity, We talked a lot about integrity. And as I as I really explored that stuff more deeply at. It led to some of the things I mentioned earlier about, like, if I really want to be authentic with people, then I need to recognize that I'm biologically male and I might present as a woman. And there's a reason I do that. But but there's also to be authentic. I need to say that I am what I am. And around the same time, I adopted my daughter. So my daughter is my partner. One of my partner's younger siblings. And she came to live with me near the beginning of COVID. And I'm her primary caregiver giver because my daughter has some health issues so that my daughter, my my partner has issues. And so when she came to stay with me, it was during combat and she was doing online school. But her grade ten year, she was going to be starting doing school in person in a school board here in the Bay region. And she was very excited about this because she had been in very small schools before, because she had lived in a smaller community a number of hours away. And now she was going to go to a big city high school. And I was really scared for myself because I knew remembered what school was like when I was there in the early 2000s, and how if I had had a friend who had a transgender parent, we would have all made fun of them and been awkward around them. And I thought, Is this going to happen to my daughter? And is that going to cause her to be uncomfortable with me? Is that going to cause a relational strain if her friends don't like her because of me and all of this because I had no idea of what school throughout these days. So she goes to school and I really quickly realize that it's a very different place than it was 20 years ago, which is in many ways a good thing. The acceptance is there, which is wonderful and the education is there so people know what this stuff is, which I also think is a good thing. So at first I was, Oh, wow, this is amazing that this is talked about. And then I quickly started to realize that there's a dark side to it as well because it's also become very cool. I was cool that I'm trans because diversity is cool and diversity is hip these days and that was my exposure. All of a sudden, having a daughter in high school to what's going on now and how many identities there are and how different it is than when I was there, how you can have these identities devoid of dysphoria at all. And that's that's encouraged almost, because the more you explore, the more you find a way to label yourself, the better it seems seems to be that attitude. So that. That concerned me. I was still kind of shock and try to figure out what was going on. And then in early 2022, a teacher named Caroline Brodsky, she did a presentation at our school board called I'm from the same Board or she is. So she and she presented about books that she thought were inappropriate for certain age groups. And they were some of them were LGBT books, some were not. But it was all to do with sexualization and talking about things like transition into somewhat glamorous terms that maybe might be disruptive for children. And she was shut down about 4 minutes into the presentation because the board said that they thought that this was hate speech. And I, of course, wasn't watching that live because who watches school board meetings live? At that point, I didn't. But then I found the video on Twitter a few days later, once the board sent out an apology email for the transphobia that occurred in their meeting. And then I got that email, I thought, I've got to see this, see what happened. So I remember watching her video and getting to the end with it where it cut off. And I thought, But where's the bad part? Like, I thought maybe there was more that she said something really horrible that they cut out. And then I realized, no, she didn't say anything else. It was just what was there. And I come from the public sector space. I used to work in the municipal space, and so I knew the 2022 was an election year for us and the municipal school board level. So the minute I saw that, I thought this is going to be the 2022 issue and our local school board, and we're going to get people on the extremes on both sides who are going to come out and make this a political issue. And I thought maybe I should be running for this because I am trans. So I certainly understand that side of it. But I also think that. What she's saying is okay and that the speech is important, that we need to be able to talk about these things. And of course, I didn't know Caroline at that point. Maybe she really was a horrible person who hated trans people. I didn't know. But I did know that what she presented seems to be on its on its surface, very reasonable. So I ended up running in the election. Through that, I met Carolyn. She's actually a very close friend of mine now and we can actually really but it was a it was a good experience to put myself out there. I wasn't comfortable yet. I ran a very quiet campaign because that was my first time actually being open and public on these issues. And I was afraid for myself and I was worried for my daughter about what would happen. But following the campaign, I have become much more vocal since as I've made connections, as I've read many more books to understand what's going on more. And as I've become more connected to the community in Ontario and abroad, who is concerned about these issues, I, I realized that I have a powerful place to speak out from because there's a lot of assumptions that. To say anything negative about gender, ideology or queer theory is to be transphobic towards trans people, and you certainly can be both at the same time. But I don't believe that it is transphobic to raise concerns. And I know that when I deliver that message, it's very powerful because I am trans. So I speak from a place of understanding and knowledge and experience which can be quite powerful to help people understand that it's okay to have concerns about policy and you can do so well still loving and caring for trans people.
Lisa: [00:24:37] What are the what are the concerns you have about policy or about tenets of the the ideology about, you know, infinite genders and. And. You know that biological sex may not be real, etc.. What? What? When you said your daughter. She gained some social capital from having a transparent. But she was also exposed to some ideas that alarmed you. So can you talk a little bit about which ideas raised your hackles?
Julia: [00:25:15] Yeah, there are. There are a lot of them. I would say the one that I think stuck out to me first was that. We seem to be at a place right now where we celebrate transition for the sake of diversity. I'm not. Entirely convinced that that is a good thing. I look at someone like myself and I absolutely believe the transition was the right path. I think I needed that. I don't think I'd be alive today if I didn't have that. So I am not in any way anti transition. But I do think that it comes along with medical risks. I do think that it comes along with lots of. Consequences. And so I don't think that it is a path for. The light hearted, if that makes sense. It's not. It shouldn't be a default. It should be. This person is really suffering. And we can we can reduce suffering by by transitioning. So we should transition. And what I have seen in modern the modern ideological approaches is more of a. Someone described it to me gender euphoria rather than gender dysphoria. You don't have to be dysphoric, but you just feel even better. It's more. I like this feeling. This is interesting. This is fun. This gives me a way to be unique and special and. I think that we all we all need that in life. And we have always found ways to identify like that. But I'm not convinced it's something that might lead to hormonal and surgical transition is a good place to play with that, especially when it comes to younger children. I like I said earlier, I'm not saying that I don't think there are times in places where transitioning a young child is a I think there are places where that is appropriate, but it should be well-vetted. It should be occasionally, it should be that it really is an extenuating circumstance here. You know, this is deep dysphoria we're trying to deal with, not just. Exploration for exploration sake. And as I've been working very deeply in the school system across many boards here in Ontario, I've come to see that that that really is the mindset right now that that underlies the theory is that exploration for the sake of exploration is a good thing to do and you don't have to be dysphoric. Maybe you should just try being a girl or a boy anyways to see if maybe you like that. Better to see if something in-between works better for you. And when it comes to expression, absolutely, that's fine. When it comes to breaking down masculine and feminine stereotypes. If you can do that, that's great. We should break those stereotypes down. But when it comes to leading you down a path that might lead you to. Tradition that at the heart of the ball game, some of the issues I've been working on have been related to things like parental notification. Here in Ontario, all school boards. But one will prevent your parents from even knowing about a transition at school if the kids. I don't want my parents. I know they won't tell them. And to me that's what's very concerning because this is not a neutral act if you're doing a social transition and. We should have counselors and we should have psychiatrists involved in that process. But the connection between the medical community and the school is the parent. And if parents are not notified that that can't happen. And it's as I've I've dated pretty deeply with some school boards here, It's this is the only time that happens. Like I get a call if my daughter skips the class, I have to sign a form to say my daughter for photo taken. But yet they can change her name and change her pronouns and know that she is looking to go down a future transition, surgical and medical transition and not. Tell me about that. And of course, the argument on the other side is while the household might not be safe and that is that is a risk, but we have mechanisms to deal with that. There's lots of unsafe households and this is why we have children's services and we have when there's a bonafide concern, we have a process for that. But but we're treating this differently because of where the ideology has led us. So that's been probably my. One concern. But then the other thing that I've also come to discover as I've been working through this has been the fact that we just can't talk about it at all. There was a parent up in Ottawa, so this is another another born in Ontario, but he wanted to talk about the usage of Washington school. He had concerns about transgender girls using the women's washroom with other other students. And so he went to his board. He did a presentation. I didn't know him at the time, although I have met him since. And within 45 seconds he was cut off and told that what he was saying was unsafe for transgender individuals, that he couldn't speak. And when I didn't post the video, but I'm connected to some groups that provided me with a copy of what happened. And as I heard the video, he was extremely polite. He wasn't mentioning any particular individuals. He was all of the quote unquote right language according to how you're supposed to describe this stuff. It wasn't that he crossed those lines. It was that we can't talk about this. You're not allowed to even question this. And that concerned me because I thought it's not about what the board decides. If we're at a point that we can't even talk about things like this, then. Then. Now we have compelled speech to the extreme. Now we're at this place that we can't even explore these issues. And so I posted a video in defense of him, in defense of his position, just in defense of we need to let people speak and you've got to have these conversations. And it went viral and kind of took off, which was which was an experience. But I think that's that's the point, right, is that we need to be able to have these conversations and we're just not able to. So that's certainly another trend that I've noticed. And what I'm doing is that. I have concerns with the narrative that we have right now in the schools and in our government. But I also have concerns that you're not even allowed to question it.
Lisa: [00:30:35] Yeah, it's. It's really unpleasant to live in a society where. You are not allowed to say. I mean, sometimes just facts, sometimes just facts that we all know to be true because they're heretical and they'll be a pile on and everyone is terrified. And and you know, that use of the word unsafe, which has come to come to mean emotional discomfort. Right. Someone someone may be really uncomfortable and feel bad and feel shame. Feel a lot of the things that you felt as a child. And by the way, I didn't have gender dysphoria, but I had very, very intense bodily shame, very intense, which I think I still I still grapple with that. So. You know, in an attempt to make these these once unspeakable things discussable to do with transition. Now we've made all of these other things unspeakable and. And that is I get it. I get the overcorrection. But I just think it's going to backfire horribly. And I think it is backfiring in terms of backlash and lack of understanding. And that the reason I keep talking to two people like you who are happily transitioned, but I mean, not all of them are super happy, but, you know, transitioned permanently, mostly happy and objecting to some of these tenets of these ideologies is that I think that's the only way to maintain the gains in understanding of gender diversity and gender non-conformity. Without having all of this stripped back by people who have a really, really narrow range of normal.
Julia: [00:32:41] I think you I think you're spot on there. And that's something I identified in that first video that I posted in support of the auto parent was that my concern is the backlash comes against people like me because when people see people like Nick cut off, they blame me. They blame the transgender people for the fact that they're causing the situation when they can't speech speak. And I'm saying, but but that's not the case. The activists are causing that. The ideology is causing that. And there are certainly trans people included in that. But there's also a lot of other people included in it, and there's lots of other people who are trans who who are not. The problem there. I don't wanna say victims, but they're at least peripheral to what's going on. They're just trying to live their lives and have no concern with a parent politely expressing a concern like what? When they tried to do. You also mentioned something else there that I would love to zero in on, which is the way that the language is changing, where it's like safe words like violence, words like harm, words like hate as I had done. Don't get into that because I know I spend like, I don't know, 30 hours a week. I can get people on both sides of the fight, all these conversations. And it's a different set of language because hate on the on the Anti-woke side I'll you on the right side of things has the more classical meaning of coming from a place of contempt versus on the left. The hate now just means anything that might perpetuate a systematic oppression. And I feel that that is a very different concept of hate. And when you use the word hate, it brings up those feelings of I don't want to be hateful because that's content, that's all of this stuff here. But but it's causing people to get very confused and it's certainly causing our discourse not to work well.
Lisa: [00:34:14] I also think that's such an interesting definition of anything that perpetuates system systematic oppression. But I. I also think it means anyone who disagrees with me, anyone who. Anyone who disrupts my worldview. I mean, it's very convenient to say that's hateful because then you can't then you can't talk about it. Then the end. And when we label something transphobic, that's the end. That's the end of the conversation. And what you're saying is, no way we actually have to be able to have a conversation about it and people won't cease to exist. They won't die if we have a debate over what we should teach, what words should mean, how to accommodate different belief systems, and the research and ethics around socially and medically transitioning children and adolescents.
Julia: [00:35:13] And Absolutely. But you mentioned transphobia there. And there's a I think there's a huge cost to the way people are using that word, too. I've had a few conversations with individuals who don't believe that transphobia exists. And when I first heard that, I was shocked. But as I explored it with them, it's because these are individuals who have had concerns about gender ideology, and they have been called transphobic many times. And they know they're not. They love me, they care about me. They know that they hold no contempt. However, since they've been labeled transphobic for the last few years, they've just come to think that's the word that gets thrown at me by the progressive left, since they don't like what I have to say. And they kind of come to believe that that's just all that it means. That's what gets that's how that word gets used. And I'm like, No, there absolutely is transgender hate out there. You're not you're not hateful, but other people are. But when we use words like that so provocatively, it ends up putting us in a place where it just loses its meaning. And I think we should say words like transphobia and hate speech when real transphobia and real hate speech actually exists because those those things do happen as well. But they're certainly not everyday encounters.
Lisa: [00:36:17] Yeah, I think that's really important. It's almost the little boy who cried wolf, you know? That that same thing of your you're slapping this label on so many different things and then there. And at the same time. This also brings up, you know, back to the word, unsafe. That surely there are people who are really emotionally and physically abused and they are actually unsafe in their homes. And I. And I have talked to many older gay and lesbian people who really were treated horribly and or kicked out. You know, their parents did not understand. They didn't accept. But a lot of what you're seeing in your daughter's school of these of this explosion of trans identity is happening in liberal circles where the people are predisposed to be accepting of this kind of diversity. But they might object to they might object to a social transition because they know it's a psychological intervention or they might want to talk about it or they might want to explore what else is going on. And they might object to physical transition, medical transition for a whole lot of reasons. And that's interpreted as unsafe. And one of the things that's one of the I think, the biggest misconceptions that that schools and the and the medical profession are promoting is that kids are in danger if their parents are not affirming. And there is research about family support and family acceptance. There's a group called the Family Acceptance Project that's housed at at UCSF. And they've done this research about, you know, family rejection and increase in depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. But nowhere, nowhere in that research does it say you have to affirm and go along with everything. It's really more about how do you stay connected? How do you support even when you disagree? Nothing says affirm your child and do everything they say. And nowhere does it say. Schools keep keep secrets from parents. And nowhere does it say a child is better off without their family if their family doesn't affirm. So it's just this. We've just run wild with this idea that you're in danger if your parents don't affirm that. That isn't what the research says. And that and support is not the same thing as. I accept everything you say at face value with no challenge, I think. I think challenge is part of support. But when we are interpreting. Questioning as hanging. You can't challenge. You can't talk.
Julia: [00:39:32] I love everything that you you said there. I with the work that I'm doing now, I am surrounding myself with many people who do not affirm my identity. They might not have parts of it. They might not really support the idea of transitioning, but are empathetic with how I feel up to the point that they refuse to call me see her. They refuse to call me a woman and. I think that it's so valuable for me to have those connections because. For me. All I need is someone who loves me. They don't have to agree with me, but they have to love me. And that's good enough. And it allows me to have interesting conversations and it allows me to be stronger and more resilient in terms of having that experience. And the pushback that I get on that is quite shocking. The number of people who would tell me, you shouldn't you shouldn't hang out with people you shouldn't associate with, people who will not confirm you as a woman. Julia And I'm just thinking, why? Why not? Because, quite honestly, if I can go and have a conversation with someone who's willing to trust me enough to be authentic and say, I don't I don't agree with you that you're a woman, but I do love you and I want to invite you to my house to have dinner. That's a level of authenticity that I really get, because there's a lot of people out there who are going to say the right thing. They're going to use the right pronouns and they're going to say the right thing that they know they're supposed to, but they don't buy it. They're just lying to me saying the right answer. And. That is worse for me because, yes, it might be what I want to hear. But now you've they've created a barrier because they're not being honest with me, which means we can only get so close. And then there's these other people who are willing to go out on a limb and actually tell me how they really feel. And now I can have a deep, authentic conversation with them. And in the end, it really matters. It doesn't matter whether they think I'm a woman or not. It matters whether or not they like me and whether they love me, whether they want to be in community with me. And I think a lot of people are missing out on that by being so dug into this. If people don't affirm you, then cancel them, then cut them out and don't associate with them.
Lisa: [00:41:28] Julia, you sound so grounded. And you. I want to be like that myself. I'm not I'm not there yet, even though I'm much older than you. But I. I'm not good at having conversations with people who disagree with me. It's easier. It's easier for people who are further right than me, which is most. People or in the olden days. With most people, it's harder with people, I think, who are really, really dug in. And maybe that's because I don't. There are only a couple of things that I feel really sure about. Like I feel sure that the media has done a bad job covering this issue, and I feel sure that we need to be able to talk about it. But after that. It's always a little blurry to me because I guess having spent several years now studying the exceptions to the rules about sex and gender, i. I. And being raised hardcore feminist, I suppose that just sometimes I can't. I can't get on board with. There is just one way to see it and I don't want to anyway. But you know, that's not interesting to me. But I am. I get upset easily and I'm listening to you and thinking, how can we train young people to have the mindset that you have, which is you know who you are? So somebody calls you the wrong thing. You're not going to melt into a puddle. You're you can be curious and you have enough confidence and strength and yet vulnerability, openness, curiosity. I don't feel like we're training any kids to be like this in school. What? What should we do? How? You had to. We can't get them all. Though I'd be desperate to meet whoever your coaches. But we can't get them all this training in full. It would be great if they were all studying philosophy and linguistics and semantics and then coming to this place that you came to. But they're not there. Being there in school, being taught that everything is hate, that except for this tiny little sliver and and that if they're gender diverse in any way, they're incredibly fragile and the entire world has to accommodate them or they they can't thrive. And this is the opposite of what I want for my own child who is, you know, a typically masculine female and. And it and for myself who is some whatever the heck I am at this age.
Julia: [00:44:15] Well I think you really zeroed in on it when you talked about the unsafe, the way we're using that word previously. And we shut down things that we don't that don't make us feel good by saying it's unsafe. And when I started down this journey I've been on for the past probably nine months now, I started to have some of the early conversations that were recorded. So the conversations that I have or we'll be putting out on my podcast, but the very first time that I asked somebody, you know, do you see me as a woman? And this is someone who is quite gender critical but who loves me, who loves me deeply and I have this great friendship with. And she tells me, you know, I don't I see you as a trans woman and I love you as Julia, but I don't see you as a woman. And like, that whole night, I just couldn't the whole weekend, even after we recorded, I couldn't stop thinking about it because it did get to me and it was I had to work through that. But but experiencing that and going through that made me resilient. Made me realize like, Oh, what do I have packed up in this world? Why does it matter? Because I know that this person loves me. Why am I so concerned if they do what they don't? And instead what we've said is we have to stop those conversations. You know, we're in a place now where if that individual had said that to me at work, she could be fired for it. And that doesn't make me stronger as a trans person. That just puts me in a fragile bubble where we have to make sure it doesn't stop it because it's going to hurt Julia's feelings. And it doesn't that doesn't help me. That doesn't make me better. And I think I'm really sad that that's what we seem to be doing with. A lot of. Not just trans people. We're doing it with young people in general. I think back to books like like I Gen or Anti Fragility or Cosmo or The American Mind, and all of those authors are really touching on the same concept of how we're protecting people from things that might not feel good. And that's where life happens, is at the intersection of discomfort. [00:45:58][102.8]
Lisa: [00:46:01] Yeah. That's why they tell you to get out of your comfort zone. That's where you grow.
Julia: [00:46:05] That is exactly where you grow.
Lisa: [00:46:09] Do you think that if you'd grown up in a time or in a family where there had been room for you, as you as you were as a child, that. I mean, I know it's it's the same as the first question. Early question I asked you, but I mean, maybe the question should be. How do you think people should have responded to you? And when there's a child like you today who we we we can't know the outcome. We can't know for sure what the best path for that child is. But how should we treat or address that child's situation?
Julia: [00:46:52] See that? I don't think I'm comfortable answering that question because, you know, I'm humbled by the fact that I don't I don't know. I don't know the answer. Even in my own life. I know what I would have liked. At the same time, look at look at the growth that I'd be able to have by going through the journey that I've been through. And so I don't I don't know what's best for kids. I think back to like Norman's back and some of the advice that he's given before. And I think that there is it makes a lot of sense to me. But I also hear that whole you start to put someone in a social transition place and they're more likely to process just because they've gone down that path a bit and now they have established a public identity. So I. I don't know. And I'm okay being in that place of not knowing, because I think a lot of people have decided they know answers in this space when it maybe is unknown.
Lisa: [00:47:47] Well, I think that's one of the things that's so hard. And I and I have said before. When you are around people who are saying there's a very, very clear answer and this is exactly what should happen, be wary of those people. We don't have good research. We have to. It's all very murky. It's hard to know what to do. There are other cultures where they have room for gender diversity, you know, like the fa fa finesse of Samoa, etc.. But they're wildly homophobic cultures also with very narrow definitions of what you know, what it means to be a man or a woman. There are so many different ways of looking at it that I think. I think the not knowing and in fact I think the only way to get. Anywhere to get more information is to start with. We don't know. And I'm concerned about clinicians who don't start there. And then I'm concerned that that's not the first thing that we tell the kids and the parents of the kids we don't know and there's no way to know. And now we can talk. Are you okay? Can you handle that? We can. We can move on from there. But it's the the certainty. Anyone who is that certain hasn't been paying attention.
Julia: [00:49:15] And I talked to a lot of parents and kids who most of the parents, though, who are in really tight spots in that situation where they have a child who has ended up down this path and they're realizing that they're in a medical or school community now that isn't going to give them the information, isn't going to look at this compactly is going to say, this is the answer. And these conversations break my heart because these parents get on the phone with me and they're usually in tears and they first have to go on for two or 3 minutes clarifying to me, they're not transphobic. They do love their kid. They really do. They'll accept the kid no matter what. It's not that they want a transition, but and then they explain, you know, the context of their kid and what they've seen and why they're concerned. And they're not saying their kids shouldn't transition. They're saying, but I'm being told that they have to transition. They're being told there's no there is no other answer here. And but but here's my kids unique situation. Here's what I know about my kid from when they were five and when they were seven. And here's my kids co-morbidities and other things that align here. And all of these all of these factors that add to the complexity and some of those cases, maybe those kids should transition. But we've now ended up in a place where you said it's transphobic to even question whether or not having kids should transition. And that's heartbreaking in general, but it's especially heartbreaking when you're talking to those parents and that they feel the need to qualify themselves as non transphobic because they're so used to just being told, you must be a bad parent if you won't instantly tell your child that this is wonderful and they should and they should do this. And and having a kid that I can relate to that, you know, I have a daughter who I'm very fortunate. She's very open with me. She tells me everything far more than I want to know sometimes. And she's very feminine. She's very into boys. It's very stereotypical in that sense. But if all of a sudden, because of everything I've seen, she came suddenly and said, Actually, I have a boy. I mean, I would it would surprise me and I wouldn't tell you wrong. But I also would say, okay, that makes sense to me. I go, Something has happened here. We should we should be sure before we make any big steps here. And I just. I understand how heartbreaking it is, how people tell you you're a bad parent, you're a bad parent because you don't instantly affirm.
Lisa: [00:51:22] We got to wrap up soon, but I want to ask about the cost for you of speaking up and how other transpeople have reacted to you.
Julia: [00:51:38] The past for speaking up. Okay, so I I'm a centrist. I'm a classical liberal. I'm politically homeless, like many of us are, who are kind of in that space. And so I'm lucky enough to get the attacks and the vitriol from both sides. I get the Far-Left attacks and the far right attacks. That's that's been interesting. I've done some talk to people just talking about the difference and how the difference in hate across our political spectrum. But no, it has been. It has been discouraging for sure. I've realized that people don't. Necessarily care what your message is. If you're not with them, you're against them, as have many people see it. And so there is. It's a translator that you're supposed to carry. And if you go outside of that, you get you get canceled. So I had an experience earlier last month when I, I was defending the heart of a parent, as I mentioned. And then I was going up to Ottawa a week later because I was going to do some podcast recording with some individuals up there who are well-known names in the space who have expressed no questioning views, not questionable views, but expressing views that are questionable about climate change ideology. And so this was posted on Twitter and some individuals didn't like that. I was talking to these individuals, and so they started to post things about me about how I'm advocating hate. It's a pretty nasty stuff. And then locally, they tried to get me off the boards that I serve on and. I'm on the board of our local food bank, the wonderful organization, and people started posting to withhold food donations in the food bank until I was kicked off the board, which looks really horrible because saying that we should. Jeopardize food security for our most vulnerable citizens in order to get back at a director because they advocate for free speech is never a good luck. But even the fact that someone would try to do that, it's concerning. And for a while that really. It confused me because I couldn't figure out why would people not want me to go and talk to Chanel and Shannon in Ottawa? Like if you're very dater, convince these people that transphobic I don't find them to be transphobic at all or they love me. But even if they were, wouldn't that be a good thing? That they could talk to me? Maybe they'll meet a trans person. Maybe I could. Maybe I could fix them if that was the case. And what I quickly realized is that, no, it's not. They weren't afraid for me and my safety. And they weren't afraid. But anything that other than that, I might cancel that. But a lot of effort has been spent canceling these, too. One of them is a teacher who has lost her job and she's been investigated twice by the Ontario College of Teachers for comments that she's made questioning some of the ideology and me speaking to them and me. Exposing the fact that they're human, that they can love, that they you know, that they have good things to say, might risk on canceling them and giving them credibility. And that's very threatening to people who have a very, very entrenched way of looking at these matters. And so the only answer is I must be canceled as well. So that was that was concerning. I think what was even more concerning, though, was to see how how deep this runs. Our local newspaper that's owned by Rogers Media, one of the media giants, North Korea, they they cut a hold of this story and I spoke with them and then they put out an article that was as clear cut defamation as I have seen in my life. They they didn't say somebody said that I advocate hate speech, which would be untrue. They said I advocated hate speech as though it was a journalistic fact. And I saw this and I just I just my jaw dropped so I didn't even have to rely on my lawyer. I just went to them directly and like, this must change. And they did four revisions to that article in two days. The article is mostly being gutted at this point, and there's an apology at the top to me and my family for what they wrote. But the fact that we even end up there at all, the fact that we at a point that a major media company would publish an article that says someone's advocating hate speech with nothing to back it up, just, I think is very telling where we stand on these on these issues right now. So, yeah, there's absolutely a huge cost to me. I think that's emblematic of how important the conversations are, though. I think when there's this much pushback on something that just speaks to why it has to be. Well, it has to be said.
Lisa: [00:55:50] What would you like to see happen going forward?
Julia: [00:55:54] My my real hope for the short term is that we can have more conversations happen. I don't think I have the answers. I don't know what we should do with many of our policy decisions. These are complex. We need people who are credentialed in psychiatry and medicine, which I'm certainly not. So I don't have a list of what we should do. But what I know we need to do first is listen to each other and have these conversations. And I've seen successes in that. I mentioned Ottawa and how that parent was shut down. Well, last week. He got to speak again and this time he got to finish. And other people spoke in support of him and other people spoke against him. And that's wonderful. We had all these voices together. I don't want to make it sound to you too happy and idyllic because outside people were assaulted in the parking lot and all kinds of things that happened because 300 people showed up on both sides. So there were certainly downsides. But in the room in the board meeting, it was respectful, it was clean, and we had the dialog that we need to have. And last night they had another meeting and again, people came from both sides and they had that dialog. And I think that that's a small step forward, but it's such an important one that we can at least talk about it and we need to break down that idea that ideas are harmful and. That's that's what I'm working on right now, and that's what a lot of my videos and my efforts are focused on is just saying it's okay to have the conversations because that makes space for that. The medical and scientific community to come in and help us to say this is what the research shows we should or shouldn't do. This is what will help support kids. This is what will help support adults. And this is how we build a community where we really do reduce hate because transgender hate does still exist. And it is a thing. And I don't talk about it a lot because that word gets so overused, but it does exist. And I, being an active voice on Twitter, I get to see the worst of it. So it would be lovely to see us work on that. But we've got to be strategic and thoughtful about how we move forward and not just yelling and everybody for a street corner.
Lisa: [00:57:52] I think that's a great vision and a great goal and. And I think you're doing fantastic work. And I think Canada. Canada needs you from what I hear.
Julia: [00:58:06] Yes. There's so many wonderful people up here who are working on this. I've made so many amazing connections with the work that I'm doing and the people I'm talking with. And I'm so thankful that I have that support. I'm also thankful for the silent support that I have the number of people who cannot come out because of their positions, because of what they do, but they come up privately and they often have anonymous accounts on Twitter. They'll start with a private message, and before I know it, unprovoked. They're sending me pictures of their family and their kids and telling me about themselves because they want to be connected, but they can't because we've created a place where people can't speak. And I'm saddened. We need to open up so they can talk. But it's been so nice to even have them there to rally behind me. You know, people are coming in. How can I financially donate to your cause? I'm like, I don't need money. That's not my problem at this point. Thank you. But but really, we just need to we need to advocate for liberal principles so that we can get past this place we are, which will be ultimately better for everybody, transgender and non transgender alike.
Lisa: [00:59:03] Well, that's a great note to end on. And Juliet Malott, thank you so much for joining me today. This was a great conversation. [00:59:08][5.4]
Julia: [00:59:10] Yeah, thanks for inviting me. This has been a lovely way to spend my afternoon.
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As a retired early childhood teacher, I find the narrative on the Kindergarten play perplexing. From the other context of a very traditional Christian upbringing, I assume the cohort in the school was also very traditional and acting out home roles based on sex. However, in any quality Kindergarten setting, children should be painting, playing with play dough, working on a project at the science table and drawing/writing in purposeful ways, such as making cards to send to grandparents. I often had the Pretend Play area set up as a different setting from home, such as Animal Hospital, Farmers Market and even Space Station. At times, I assigned mixed-sex groups of children to play together so that cliques and "best friend" bonds were not over-emphasized for any of my students. As a teacher I never, ever had "boy toys" or "girl toys" and I generally did not have a lot of baby dolls, as it's impossible to keep them clean and dressed. The entire field of psychology must re-examine how they describe "sexed" behaviors and objects. I see a great deal of detail in this narrative involving outside, external influences on personality. I cannot imagine recommending surgeries because of play preferences remembered from childhood. Many detransitioners discuss a misread of childhood details which therapists used to push them in the "transition" direction. I hope this individual does not ever claim to be mother of children.
Here is what struck me about Julia's narrative. She accepted her friend's love because, although her friend still saw her as a male, she loved her right past that exterior definition. Her friend saw Julia's essence which was neither male nor female but just Julia. However, Julia could not extend that sort of courtesy to herself in that it was important that the cover of her book present as female. We live in a world of images and mirrors that lure us into looking at the surfaces of things. Could Julia extend her self-love to a Julia who didn't present as a female? Could she see herself to the essence if that essence was neither female nor male?
Secondly, the idea of safe spaces and hurtful behaviors and just the general sense that we are all weak and wounded creatures seems to benefit the therapeutic community which sets up shop to undercut our resilience instead of giving us the tools to cope. Alternatively, might this idea of weakness come from men who, having relinquished their power by becoming women, misunderstand that being a woman is not about weakness but about strength. See Darwell, Jane at the end of Grapes of Wrath.