Keira Bell, the 23-year-old Manchester woman who regretted her surgical transition to become male, had her rights recognized on 2 December 2020 when the British High Court of Justice accepted to hear her case; to settle and redeem–as T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) put it in Ash Wednesday–the time in which we live.
She did a dumb thing at 16, and later realized that it was indeed a really dumb thing. She has therefore decided to make amends and is now calling to account those who had a deontological and moral duty not to acquiesce to her enormous stupidity, but did not. Keira sued the Tavistock clinic where, at 16 and after just three one-hour appointments, she was prescribed puberty-blocking agents. She was then given massive doses of testosterone because Bell had gotten it into her head that she should become… a boy.
Adults have a duty to watch over those who are not adults. They have that duty because they have greater experience. They can, at least in part, glimpse what the younger ones–for reasons of stature–cannot even imagine. No, there is no age at which DNA crosses the threshold where one goes from being a child to an adult. Laws of countries can only set conventions for states to let us drive, vote, drink, and a couple other things, but we all know we’re not adults at all when we cross the posturing border of that gruelling war of position.
Adults do not become adults when they succeed in doing things for themselves, because that would mean never. It is, rather, when they become aware that they are not enough for themselves. Before that moment in life, as long as you think you don’t need anyone and that you know how to do everything and how to put up with everything, you think you are an adult. But you actually aren’t.
During my university days, I was strolling down via Paolo Sarpi in Milan and a fellow student of mine, obviously more advanced than boys, as girls are, both proverbially and on average, passing in front of the Jurassic red-light district threw a glance at the winking signs just long enough to hiss “Movies for adults. Yes, ‘for adults’…”. That teaching stuck to my skin then and still won’t come off. That of “adult” is a chevron that must be earned on the field: it is not the stuff of ministerial rankings with points.
The female Keira who dreamed of becoming an adult male was not an adult, and the adults around her were cardboard cutouts. They let it happen, cynical and self-interested and disinterested. They let it go, like a void not even worth the pennies of the return. They let her sail on sight, tossing in the billows, shipwrecked without companions, breaking on sharp rocks. The process Keira now invokes will run its course, but papier-mâché adults like those who threw her in the water are morally and culturally guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
Keira should have been told “no” and instead a bloody “yes” was said. It is not true that “young people must have their own experiences”. If it were true, the world would be stuck in the Stone Age without having progressed even one step as an ant, as they used to say when in the courtyards people played Queen, little queen. Rather, young people must be confronted with past experiences so that they can experience them, so that they can experience their own.
Bernard of Chartres, who lived in the 12th century, said “we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants”. Metalogicon by John of Salisbury (1120–1180) reports it and everyone has treasured it, even the “modern” Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727), but that maxim would be a vacuous exercise in intellectualism, or rather a veritable trifle if it were not forged in the crucible of the relationship between parents and children, between older and younger brothers or cousins, between older and younger friends.
Keira had to be stopped, and doing so would not have been prevarication, but mercy. Instead, she was allowed to reach the precipice, and when Keira turned back for a last desperate, unconscious aid, she was tripped by adults whistling with their eyes looking up.
Now Keira is an adult, branded to the bone by experiences that fake adults should have spared her. In full and felt consciousness, and repeatedly, she now knows it to be her own sacrosanct right to hold the Tavistock silhouettes and cardboard persons to account. Her case will be the giant on which all the dwarves of tomorrow will sit, when the red-light adults talk to them, like Bluebeard, about “sex change”, “gender transition” and other plagues.