The Gaslighting of Skylar – Part Three
Updated: Jan 28
by Cincy Kem with Robin Singer
In Part One and Part Two of this critique, we asked questions as to why no else is asking questions about I Am Skylar – an award-winning 2019 National Film Board (NFB) documentary about the gender transition of a 14-year-old boy. Directed by Rachel Bower and promoted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), I Am Skylar aims to educate parents and communities in the “right” way to listen to, support, and medicalize a self-declared transgender child.
In this final part of our critique, we shine a spotlight on a few more of the public service announcements contained in this film with files from the post-production director’s blog, and from interviews with the title character and the director.
MESSAGE 4: PUBERTY BLOCKERS ARE A GOOD THING
Doctor: Puberty has progressed a little bit, not very far. All the changes like the beard, the jaw changes, shoulders getting wider, body hair getting coarser and more of it, happens really late in puberty. So, this is a good time to start.
Skylar’s father: Yeah, no, we're not waiting for any longer.
Doctor: You haven't waited too long. If you want to proceed with Lupron [puberty blocker], then this is a good time to start it.
(Cutaway to close-up on Skylar)
Skylar: What needs to happen in the future is, due to puberty being a thing that bodies go through, we need to stop that as soon as it starts because we don't want me to progress with the “boy” puberty. So, for example, growing the Adam's apple and getting facial hair and getting wider, broader shoulders and like a, a more male body type. We don’t want that to happen. We don’t want my voice to drop. So, we want to stop that as soon as possible.
As per this scene, it is standard for a trans-identifying kid to be placed on a medical regime at around 13 years old, starting with puberty blockers and then cross-sex hormones. The meds are followed by a range of sterilizing surgical procedures to choose from when the teen “matures.” It is only then, once the blockers and hormones have done their dirty work and the child reaches the provincial age of majority that the medically and psychologically primed teen can decide which body parts to amputate, invert, stitch over or add onto to better align with the other-gendered vision they have of themselves. In six of Canada’s provinces, trans-identified youth may be referred for such surgeries at 18 years old -- a full seven years before the “rational part” of their brains are fully developed.
But, what parents would choose to steer their children towards developmental disruption and bodily mutilations that are commonly fraught with serious complications unless it was absolutely necessary?
We surmise that it is those parents who have been sold lies by sales agents of the medical-industrial complex. The same parents who have been counseled by authorities with university degrees in critical sexuality and gender studies that they must be cool, they must be kind, and they must not question their children’s gender aspirations lest they be vilified as transphobic and bigoted. The same parents of children who have now been indoctrinated in the “born in the wrong body” storyline by government-funded gender messengers and activist unicorns (see below). The very same parents at whom this film is targeted.
In a follow-up interview, writer/director Rachel Bower admits that before making the documentary, she wasn’t sure about stopping puberty in kids but is now “completely for it.”
Being LGBTQ interview @ 10:00, Rachel Bower: Skylar knows who she is. She’s known who she is since she had consciousness; she just had the words to talk about it when she was ten. … No child would come out [as trans] if it wasn’t true!
Bower is correct in that there were few words around before Skylar was ten with which to describe what he “knew” about himself.
Public schools across Canada began to incorporate the concepts of gender identity and gender expression into policy and lesson planning around 2014-15. When Skylar was nine years old, the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development published its Guidelines for Supporting Transgender and Gender-nonconforming Students, created “with guidance and support from the Toronto District School Board and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.” This section of the table of contents demonstrates how children who identify as the opposite sex at school (or no sex at all, e.g. non-binary, a-gender) are to be accommodated:
Gender fever started infecting students in Canada’s western public schools in 2016 as per the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity three-step program, SOGI 1 2 3. This pedagogical cook book, backed by the ARC Foundation, teaches teachers in British Columbia and Alberta how to create the “right kind of educational environment” to bake the gender belief system into their classes. Alberta’s sexuality, orientation and gender identity guidelines, in turn, acknowledges copying content from the Nova Scotia publication.
All of these mutually informing educational guidelines adopted by Canadian school boards over the past six years advance the unscientific, unprovable notion to students and their parents that being transgender is innate and not a choice. In-class exploration of each student’s individual sense of their own gender identity and how to express, accept, and celebrate it, is now a standard theme in elementary grade classes. Masses of online resources are available to help educators create trans-positive environments in their classroom settings, libraries, hallways, and washrooms. For children who self-identify as transgender in school, teachers are advised to use the child’s self-selected name and pronouns and to provide them access to the facilities and activities for the gender with which they identify rather than those with which they biologically correspond. Teachers are told to keep their students’ gender self-diagnoses a secret from their parents unless the student gives them explicit permission to share it with them. (To learn more about Canadian school practice of concealing a student’s daytime gender identity from their parents, listen to this Sauga 960 interview with a concerned mother at 26:00.)
In addition to the march of gender ideology through our educational institutions, community organizers, online influencers and entertainment superstars must also be credited with the super-spread of radical gender thinking among Canadian kids.
To confirm the film director’s point, provided the timeline for the introduction of gender ideology in our public school system, Skylar, the-person-previously-known-as-Dylan, was indeed ten years old when he was equipped with the brand-new words and concepts he needed to explain his gender non-conformity to his concerned parents. Over the next couple of years, through directed marketing of gender transitioning solutions, including feminizing hormones directed at boys, Skylar would learn that there are many products and procedures available to him to with which he could superficially and permanently quash the indicators of his healthy male development.
Bower offers more rationale as to why she believes it is a good thing that Skylar’s development be medically arrested:
Being LGBTQ interview, @11:05, Rachel Bower: What I feel is, is that it’s better for the child, it’s better for the family and it’s better for the community if a child can become who they are before they’ve gone through puberty. Because then they’ve grown up, like … it’s not a shock.”
She uses as an example Skylar’s younger brother and how readily he picked up the new name and pronouns to address his older sibling. Bower suggests it would have been a far greater challenge for little brother to start addressing Dylan as Skylar and using she/her pronouns if he had been 16 rather than ten when his brother’s new identity was announced. “It’s all-round beneficial and that completely solidified my opinion on that,” says Bower.
But what if Skylar changes his mind? How beneficial is immediate affirmation and puberty blockade for those young adults who were encouraged to transition as kids but then come to realize that they actually are not, and can never truly be, the opposite sex or some other gender variant? How easy is it then for parents, teachers, doctors and communities to admit that they played a key role in encouraging the child’s transition? Especially when Detrans Canada, an advocacy organization for “detransitioning, desisting, and re-identifying Canadians” reports:
As the number of personal tragedies and professional errors caused by immediate affirmation undoubtedly begin to escalate, it will be important for Canadians to remember who the political leaders were who supported injecting of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones into the bodies of gender-questioning children. Politicians such as British Columba MP Randall Garrison, along with doctors who choose to prescribe and administer such drugs to kids, must be held accountable when the lawsuits by forever-damaged detransitioners hit the courts.
MESSAGE 5: WITH THE PROPER MEDICAL INTERVENTIONS, A BOY CAN BECOME A
In the Being LGBTQ interview,@ 26:15, a year after the film’s release, Skylar, now 15, talks about reaching a special milestone in his medical gender transition:
Skylar: The first time I took estrogen was one of the best experiences of my life because I knew, like at that moment, this was going to be, like… I am becoming a woman. This is my journey into womanhood. From the moment estrogen started, I’ve been so happy.
In spite of this novel ideology that enables Skylar to characterize his journey as womanly, he appears to be cognizant of the fundamental biological function that distinguishes him from the opposite sex, even while the hormones he is mainlining are increasing his chest tissue, redistributing his body fat and softening his facial features:
Director’s blog, Skylar: I’ve taken estrogen and it’s started puberty a bit. The things you would expect a female-born person to go through in puberty, I’m experiencing, except that biologically I can’t experience periods.
Skylar is aware that monthly periods won’t be a thing for him. Presumably, he also understands that he’s never going to gestate and birth babies. But being unable to bear children is no big deal for Skylar, as revealed in the gender doctor scene. Evidently his idea of what a woman is stops at a smooth face, narrow shoulders, high voice. The film never gets into what he plans to do with whatever is left of his penis once the cross-sex hormones have had their way with it, which seems an odd thing to omit, given that this is an obvious question for anyone watching this film.
As was encouraged by Skylar, his parents and the director -- that people should not be afraid to “just ask” – we have more questions about Skylar’s appreciation of what it means to be a woman.
We wonder if Skylar aware of the very real concern for “female-born persons” that once menstruation begins, they may be impregnated by male-born persons and that impregnation is not always welcome and sometimes occurs unhappily and violently? How sensitive is Skylar to the fact that “female-born” persons must always be prepared to avoid such violence and that their washrooms are one of very few safe spaces where girls and women can retreat when feeling threatened? If Skylar and his family, especially his mother, are aware of this feature of womanhood, why do they consider it fair for Skylar to stake a claim in these spaces?
Perhaps Skylar, because he is a boy, can be forgiven for not appreciating the personal hygiene requirements associated with the monthly cycle that cause many girls and women to feel vulnerable and self-conscious in public washrooms. It would be another two years, after all, before the incident in Loudon County, Virginia hit the news wherein a teenaged boy wearing a skirt raped and sodomized a girl in the school washroom. But in the end, biological reality and safety for girls and women is dismissed because, in accordance with Nova Scotia’s guidelines for supporting gender-diverse students, Skylar’s right to do his business in the girls’ washroom is far more important than the discomfort, embarrassment or insecurity that his “female-born” classmates may experience when forced to conduct their necessaries in his presence.
Since the film premiered, and as a consequence of laws and policies that now enable boys and men to self-identify as the opposite sex, examples abound of the ways that Canadian women’s and girls’ rights and protections have been negatively impacted, if not annihilated. Timing, as they say, is everything, and it is simply to Skylar’s benefit that our entire society is now obliged to accommodate and genuflect to boys and men who decide they are girls and women, whether they have had their penises removed or not.
MESSAGE 6: IF CHILDREN ARE NOT SUPPORTED IN THEIR QUEST TO TRANSITION THEY MIGHT COMMIT SUICIDE
Film, @ 12:22, Skylar’s mother: I don’t know that any parent knows for sure that it’s right for their child, but what I know is, if we don’t help guide her through this journey, and listen to her on this journey… (bites lip, looks away from camera)… we could lose her and that’s not an option.
The suicide threat is a particularly devious scare tactic used by trans rights activists, child psychologists, and all those who stand to make money off the likes of Skylar. Not only are parents told that their transgender-identifying child is at high risk of killing themselves but also that if they fail to help their child obtain the puberty blockers and hormones they need to become their “authentic selves” the parents themselves will be the ones to blame.
The thinking process for any caring parent of a child who insists on transitioning will naturally be boggled and influenced by highly publicized studies such as this one by Jack L. Turban et al. (2020). It concludes, “There is a significant inverse association between treatment with pubertal suppression during adolescence and lifetime suicidal ideation among transgender adults who ever wanted this treatment.”
At the same time, counter-pieces such as this one by Robert D. Angelo et al. (2020) expose the aforementioned study’s “problematic analysis and flawed conclusions” which are used “to justify the misguided notion that anything other than ‘affirmative’ psychotherapy for gender dysphoria is harmful and should be banned.”
But confused and frightened parents should take a pause before bringing their suicide-threatening child to the gender clinic. The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) is now cautioning against rushed medicalization regimes for gender dysphoric children.
In December 2021, WPATH launched a six-week public consultation on its updated Standards of Care. The standards contain a new chapter with recommendations specific to adolescents that should reduce pressure for parents to instantly commit to facilitating their child’s transition. One of the recommendations is that any existing mental health concerns that could cloud their child’s decision making must be addressed before they are prescribed “gender affirming medical prescriptions or surgical treatments.”
In addition, a brand-new report published on January 18, 2022 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior should provide more relief to frightened parents. In Suicide by Clinic-Referred Transgender Adolescents in the United Kingdom, Oxford University sociologist Michal Biggs confirms that while suicidal thoughts (ideation) are common for trans teens, actual lives lost through suicide are rare. The instances of completed suicides are “orders of magnitude smaller” than suicide attempts made, Biggs writes, and it is “irresponsible to exaggerate the prevalence of suicide for trans teens.”
Autism, anxiety and depression feature prominently among gender dysphoric youth. Suicidal ideation is a common symptom for anyone struggling with such mental health conditions. Parents should never be coerced into agreeing to taking permanent steps towards modifying their child’s gender before all possible underlying psychological issues have been fully examined and attended.
This should never have been up for debate. And yet, in Canada, due to the new, ill-designed conversion therapy ban, supposedly intended to “protect the human dignity and equality of all Canadians,” this debate has been lost.
Which leads us to the final message…
MESSAGE 7: TRANADA™ IS A GREAT PLACE TO BE TRANSGENDER
The initiation of the entire Canadian society in the transgender belief system has been stealthy and swift. In just six years, our schools, our media and our public institutions have been primed and are now operating under equity, diversity, and inclusion policies that favor gender identity and expression over biological fact.
Being LGBTQ interview, @ 18:46, Rachel Bower: Even in this time of Covid where, right now, in Canada we’re so fortunate, I feel. Like, we have a lot of support from our government.
Creative endeavours that confirm and communicate the government’s social agenda get funded over those that do not. Bower’s film was produced and distributed by the National Film Board and is promoted and platformed by our national public broadcaster. That’s about as good as it gets for a Canadian documentary film maker.
Support for initiatives that prioritize and further ingrain the transgender belief system in Canadian society continue, even during the pandemic. In February 2021, the federal government announced $15 million in funding for 76 LGBTQ2 community-led projects across Canada.
This is bound to serve Skylar well, for Skylar, who dreams of a being a real actress someday also intends to be an advocate for the rights and well-being of transgender persons. With this leading film role already under his belt, along with the feminizing effects of the hormones on his face and voice already evident, Skylar is set to be a passable, and popular “spokeswoman” for Canada’s burgeoning trans youth army.