Listening for Trans Childism in Discursive Concern

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Keira Bell’s case against the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust challenged the notion that children can consent to certain forms of gender-affirming care, and the subsequent trial has sparked global effects. This paper considers the unconscious fantasies and anxieties that surround both this trial and trans childhood more broadly. Although psychic phenomenon, the normalized defenses of adults continue to inform policy, healthcare, and have a significant impact on the materiality of trans lives. Drawing from Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, I argue that gender non-conforming children become an extension of their caregiver’s subjectivity and provide a unique container for adult’s projected, unbearable thoughts and feelings. In particular, Young-Bruehl’s use of three Freudian personality structures is helpful for tracing symptomatic expressions of childism and conceptualizing the different unconscious motivational forces behind otherwise disparate, public discourses of concern for the child’s wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-197
Number of pages7
JournalPsychoanalytic Study of the Child
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Gender-nonconforming child
  • childism
  • prejudice
  • transgender childhood
  • transphobia
  • transgender
  • countertransference


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