Thank you for investigating this aggravated debate in many of its aspects (‘An explosion’: what is behind the rise in girls questioning their gender identity?, 24 November). In the light of so much uncertainty about the origins of the rise in the number of gender-questioning girls, it is essential for vulnerable teenagers to receive prompt, qualified therapeutic help to explore their feelings.
This kind of inquiry would broaden our understanding, but has been unhelpfully labelled “conversion therapy” by groups pushing the ideological line that one’s sex can be changed if it feels uncomfortable. All children deserve clear, simple truths, not encouragement to believe that transition will allow them to escape bullying, misogyny, homophobia, sexual rejection, internet porn and gender stereotypes.
Girls especially need help to find their own way amid these confusing and negative influences on their self-esteem, at a time of intense peer pressure and sensitivity about their own developing bodies.
• It was extremely affecting for me to read in your article about the opportunities and openness connected with the topic of trans boys/men in society today. I am overwhelmed with sadness and emotion reading the accounts of young biological girls who suffered and are suffering with gender dysphoria.
I am 77 and, having longed to be a boy throughout my childhood, at the onset of puberty in the late 1950s there was nowhere to turn. My mother was even more unable to talk about personal despair than I was. With my enormous breasts and unbearable period pains, the abject misery can be imagined, and did indeed increase the desire to be a boy. A chequered life ensued. Gender dysphoria is a desperate condition and should always be taken desperately seriously.
Name and address supplied
• As an autistic person, I was disappointed that your article raised the question of whether autism is a reason why children and young people might question their gender, without mentioning that research on adults shows that autistic people are in fact disproportionately likely to be trans or non-binary, and vice versa (eg “Elevated rates of autism, other neurodevelopmental and psychiatric diagnoses, and autistic traits in transgender and gender-diverse individuals”, published in Nature Communications).
The reason for the correlation is unknown, but autistic people are also disproportionately likely to be left-handed, lesbian, gay, bisexual or asexual. Gender can be a complex journey for many of us, but autism shouldn’t be assumed to invalidate a young person’s feelings about their gender identity any more than it invalidates their feelings about who they are attracted to or which hand they find it easier to write with.
Author, Martian in the Playground
• With regard to your article (‘It’s complicated – but you can’t shy away from it’: everything you wanted to know about pronouns (but were afraid to ask), 26 November), Marge Piercy had an elegant solution in her feminist utopian classic Woman on the Edge of Time. She envisaged a world without rigid gender-defined identities, with the universal pronoun “per” as in person. Although “they” speaks to the multiple identities we are all composed of, maybe new social constructs such as gender fluidity demand new words, not simply existing words shoehorned in to make do.