Stop telling minorities what is best for them

Nothing about me without meI was struck recently by a parallel between the “burqa ban” in France and the ongoing debate around prescribing hormone blockers to transsexual children and teenagers.

The ban in France is against the niqab, a full-face veil, and the burqa, a full-body covering that leaves only a mesh to see through. Other forms of Islamic head and body coverings are not affected.

France has passed this law on the basis that the women who wear the niqab or burqa are oppressed and have been forced into it by their husbands or the local mosque. (See here and here, these links also include a slide show of what the different forms of veil and head covering look like) This is arrogant and small-minded, and one journalist who took the time to speak to a Muslim woman who chooses to wear the niqab got a fantastic interview, which I urge you to read. My favourite quote has to be “If women want to walk around half-naked I don’t object to them doing so. If they want to wear tight jeans where you can see their underwear or walk around with their breasts hanging out, I don’t give a damn. But if they are allowed to do that, why should I not be allowed to cover up?”)

Similarly, those who oppose giving hormone blockers to transsexual youth insist that they know what is best. That people so young can’t possibly know that they are transsexual, that X% (where X is anywhere from 50 to 98) turn out to be cissexual, that delaying puberty is harmful, and even that prescribing these drugs is child abuse. (I am with the camp that argue that not prescribing them is a form of child abuse). Janefae has written an excellent post on the subject on one of her blogs, Sex Matters.

The similarities in both these cases is that the majority is insisting, loudly and vocally, that they know what is best for the minority, ignoring the opinions and lived experience of that minority. I am left feeling jaw-dropping shock that anyone could be so arrogant, so condescending and so patronising.

For the heartbreaking story of what happens when these drugs are not prescribed, read one mother’s story: “I would rather have a live daughter than a dead son”.

On the other, much happier, hand we have German singer Kim Petras, who has been erroneously described as “the world’s youngest transsexual” (Gender Identity Disorder has been diagnosed in six-year-olds. Kim is the youngest person to undergo surgery, which she received when she was 16.)

I will spell out what I mean clearly and plainly: Do not tell minorities that you know what is best for them. Ever.