While watching a video of Montana lawmaker Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a trans woman, telling Republican state legislatures they will have blood on their hands because they oppose gender-affirming healthcare for minors, a host of impressions crossed my mind. 

The first impression was cosmetic. I like the way Zooey Zephyr’s hair flows down on one side of her face; I like her masculine features and her lean-as-a-carrot Ann Coulterish body. I also respect her sense of passion and commitment, that “me against the world” energy she projects. There’s integrity in that, heavily misguided as it is.

Zephyr’s look taps into the androgyny I used to praise as a young journalist writing movie reviews for a magazine in Boulder, Colorado.

Those days found me glorifying androgyny in the form of Mick Jagger in the film “Performance,” when the rock star found himself in a hot tub with a woman and a person who looked like a boy who could have been a girl, or a girl who could have been a boy, the three of them coming together in blissful sexual ambiguity. 

Zephyr also got me thinking of David Bowie at the Tower Theater in July of 1974, hair-do, makeup and glitter aglow in the bright lights, all of it a big smack in the face to what was then a culture overflowing with real and perceived homophobia, including metal rockers who hated gays or Elton John because of suggestions of homosexuality and femininity. 

There was no question then that the prevalent “redneck” mentality was suffocating in its rigid demarcation lines between male and female. 

Fast forward to 2023, the cultural pendulum in the intervening years having gone ballistic. Gay marriage with its white picket fence respectability is one thing, gender-affirming healthcare for minors — children — quite another. 

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Zephyr was barred from the Montana House floor for breaking decorum during a “trans children” or gender-affirming healthcare for minors debate. It can be argued that the House ban was perhaps a little excessive, based as it was on the Representative’s strong language rather than the disruptive tone of the pro- “trans children” protesters who filled the galleries of the House after the ban was announced. 

Banned or not, Zephyr, undaunted, went on to pursue her misguided crusader’s role by working from a bench in the hallway outside the Montana legislature House chamber. She said her duty was to her constituents, the people who elected her and expected her to pursue the agenda she once packaged as a campaign promise. 

Part of that agenda is to vigorously advocate the use of puberty-blocking drugs and hormones for children who think they are the opposite sex. “Think,” of course, is a narrow ledge when it comes to a child’s brain power. Children “think” they are mermaids or made of Legos. When I was in the fourth grade I wanted to be a Catholic nun in a long white habit and even dressed up in sheets to flesh out that fantasy. Happily, the childish fantasy passed.

The addition of children into the trans rights debate is a relatively new thing, but it is garnering the most protest from politicians in the form of new, serious legislation. The reason for this is very easy to understand. The “transition” of an adult from male to female is a personal matter, but encouraging children to think they are the opposite sex and then putting them on a fast or slow track towards that goal has enraged conservatives, liberals, and even many gays who would never call themselves transphobic at all.

And yet voicing opposition to gender affirming healthcare for minors automatically puts you in the transphobic category. It makes you an enemy of progressive people. 

When PBS NewsHour reported on Oklahoma joining at least fifteen other states with laws banning gender affirming healthcare, it added that “conservatives across the country have targeted transgender rights.”

Count this as a lie. It’s not a transgender right to mutilate children. 

“Transgender advocates and parents of transgender children say such care is essential,” PBS added before quoting Lambda Legal and the ACLU: “Gender-affirming care is a critical part of helping transgender adolescents succeed, establish healthy relationships with their friends and family, live authentically as themselves, and dream about their futures.”

So much for rhetorical gobbledygook… 

The online publication “Do No Harm: Protecting Minors from Gender Ideology” states that “90% of children who believe they are a different sex no longer held that view as adults if left to develop on their own without medical interventions.”

And yet ongoing scientific research and debate on this topic has become the target of trans activists who want to shut down dissent and debate. 

Shutting down debate is crucial to these activists because debate raises questions and ideologues do not question because they already have the answers. 

Voicing opposition to gender affirming healthcare for minors automatically puts you in the transphobic category. It makes you an enemy of progressive people. 

Trans stridency is being met with an opposing — growing — stridency. Sixteen states have already banned gender-affirming healthcare for minors, although each time a state is added to the list, mainstream media outlets broadcast the news as another assault against transgender people, which of course is a big lie. 

The truth is that it is not anti-transgender at all; it’s pro-children. 

Still, liberal parents who should know better are taking this stuff seriously, mistaking a theatrical episode in which their seven-year-old son walks in his mom’s high heels as proof that he’s really a girl, when actuality he may only be having a “fashionista attack,” or expressing curiosity about what it feels like to be mom. 

In many ways, gender-affirming healthcare for minors is really a form of gay aversion therapy. Yes, even in this era of same sex love positivity, there still exists in the minds of many liberals lingering doubts about homosexuality, so that the option to “switch genders” may seem far less toxic than coming out as homosexual. Not to mention of course the huge pharmaceutical and corporate interest in keeping people on a lifetime of hormones and expensive drugs — this is where the big push for gender-affirming healthcare is coming from. 

After all, there’s no money in coming out and becoming another grassroots Harvey Milk.

This brings me to a photograph that was taken of a group of Montana women protesting Zephyr by sitting in her hallway seat outside the House chamber. The photo shows the occupying women snickering as they look at Zephyr who is forced to stand at a counter in order to work. 

The women are snickering at Zephyr with her long hair hanging down on one side of her face. 

I know the stares of these women very well, and so does every gay person who has been around since the 1970s. It’s not a nice stare, but in Zephyr’s case it is somehow warranted because in its “ocular orbit,” there’s something different and deeper than mere disapproval. 

It’s outrage and disbelief that children have been made a part of this debate. 

Thom Nickels is a Philadelphia-based journalist/columnist and the 2005 recipient of the AIA Lewis Mumford Award for Architectural Journalism. He writes for City Journal, New York, and Frontpage Magazine. He is the author of fifteen books, including “Literary Philadelphia” and ”From Mother Divine to the Corner Swami: Religious Cults in Philadelphia.” His latest, “Death in Philadelphia: The Murder of Kimberly Ernest“ will be released in May 2023.

One thought on “Thom Nickels: Progressive advocates should be protecting children, not endangering them”

  1. You nailed it here very well! As a gay man who is slightly right of center, it’s my observation and experience that the civil rights movement for gay men and lesbian women has been ferociously hijacked by a new generation of crazed narcissists. As a retired educator, I am shocked at how quickly too many of today’s parents are being hoodwinked and seduced into this growing phenomenom of “trans children” and how they must be rushed into “gender affirming care”. The medical industrial complex is aligning itself with this movement to guarantee for themselves hundreds of thousands of new customer/patients for a lifetime need, extended from childhood, of drugs, hormones, surgeries and therapy. What a racket! It may come as a surprise to the woke crowds, that there is a growing number of gay men and lesbian women quietly agreeing with and supporting those state legislatures authentically protecting both children and what little innocence is left in childhood.

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