Genital surgeries on children are inconsistent with the principle of genital autonomy, regardless of the justification used.
If you agree with the above statement, then it follows that infant circumcision and childhood gender transition surgeries are both wrong.
If you are comfortable saying that one of the above forms of genital cutting is wrong, but not comfortable saying the other is also wrong, congrats, you now know why others might be afraid to stand with you.
There is a leadership principle that if you want others to act a certain way, you must go there first. If you want others to stand up for human rights against child genital cutting, you must do the same. Whatever excuse someone gives for not standing up on one form of child genital cutting, they probably hear from others on the other issue.
Here are a few excuses I’ve heard on both issues: “I might look stupid.” “People might attack me.” “I might get canceled.” “I might look bad.” “I might offend others.” “I might lose friends.” “It might hurt my reputation.”
All of those are true. Yet, if you want to be an activist, you’ll have to decide that doing the right thing is more important than the consequences those who want to harm children might attempt to inflict.
This doesn’t mean you have to work on both issues. I am positioned to do more good on the issue of circumcision than on gender cutting of children. However, I recognize the same moral principle applies to both.
There is a word for those more concerned with looking good than actually doing good: fake. If someone values their appearance more than protecting children, they are not an activist.
The good news is that once your resolve an issue within yourself, you can resolve it in others. If you get over your own fear, then when someone says “I am afraid to speak” you can say “I used to be afraid too” and share your solution.
You have accurately framed this issue!
Brendon, you've dedicated your life to children's justice, and you argue very cogently about how children and teenagers are a "subaltern" class that is often ignored, or coerced into a shape that is more convenient for adults. You've powerfully (and correctly IMO) argued in your book "Children's Justice" that one of the ways that society coerces kids and renders them subaltern is by denying them agency over their lives and by ignoring the language that kids use to express their needs if it's not exactly in "adult format". You've done great intellectual work towards understanding how children are systemically ignored and denied agency by the greater society.
And because of that great intellectual work, it's clear that a pathway towards justice for children is for adults to actually listen to the children and make a big effort to understand what the child is trying to communicate, even if it's hard for an adult to understand them. This includes learning how babies communicate without words, and carefully listening to the nonstandard words that children use when they're first learning language. It takes work and creativity on the adult's part to understand a child, to "meet them where they are". And then once it is understood what the child is trying to communicate, the child should be respected as an agent able to make decisions, limited of course by their own lack of capabilities / ignorance. The role of a parent is to respectfully guide the kid through a time in their life when they're profoundly ignorant and have very few capabilities. For example, you physically stop the kid from eating poison, not because you're protecting your property, or because the child's will is irrelevant and yours is the only thing that matters, but because you correctly understand that if the kid really knew that the poison would kill them, then they wouldn't want to eat it anymore. You respect them as an agent while protecting them for their own benefit. Something has gone horribly wrong if a kid, looking back over their life with an adult's understanding, still feels that their agency was unfairly suppressed.
I think you've missed the mark and fallen short by your own standards with this article. No big deal, it happens from time to time to everyone! The reason I think you're fallen short by your own standards is that I notice that in this entire article, you've not considered once what the opinions of the trans kids themselves are. There's not one quote from a trans kid in the article. You didn't speak to a single trans teen or trans tween to get their opinion, even though I'm sure you could find some to speak with if you tried. It's only about what you, your readers, and your fellow activists think. If you're going to opine on whether kids or teens should be able to do a thing, then your own principals of justice demand that the kids themselves should be included in the discussion, to the extent that it's possible to include them! I think you'll agree with me that the amount of inclusion of trans kids' opinions in this article (currently zero) is not in line with your own principles of justice that you so beautifully outlined in your book!
I'd recommend as a cure that you try to listen to the kids, even if it's hard or goes against your own desire for moral consistency. I think you might learn something.
After all, it's just a fact of the matter that there are toddlers that, as soon as they can talk, will tell people that they "should have been <other-gender>". Those kids will spontaneously say that their body has some kind of "mistake". Or they'll talk about becoming <other-gender> when they grow up.
The fact of the matter is that there are an awful lot of prepubescent kids who really dread going through puberty because they feel like they're going to go through the wrong kind of puberty, and who can tell you as much if you care to listen. And they can tell you way stranger things besides, that really challenge the whole gender system we currently have in society! These kids are way more articulate than the toddlers. They can speak in complete sentences!
And there's a lot of teenagers who will tell you with seething anger and righteous resentment that they wish you'd just fucking listen to them and let them "be who they are" and not tell them what they're allowed to do and not do with their own body. Can you set aside your ego and really listen to them, even if they're angry or strident, or naive about a lot of things? They're on reddit, right now, just a click away. You could go on reddit this very moment and be talking with three different trans teens with different perspectives on life by the end of the day. You could talk with 10 young adults who recently transitioned and remember their teen years well by the end of the week. You could meet some of them in person!
My call-to-action for you is to actually talk to some trans youths and learn about how they feel about these issues directly, and then give them some space in this article. You might learn something! And it will definitely be a much more powerful article and more consistent with your principles of justice once you do.