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Dr. Lucas Crawford is the Canada Research Chair in Transgender Creativity and Mental Health at the University of Alberta (Augustana).

You probably do irreversible and regrettable things constantly. For example, have you ever reviewed your past fashions, hairstyles, nicknames, lovers, tattoos or injuries with both pain and laughter?

Yeah, me too. I had a phase of wearing sarongs! (A gorgeous garment, of course, but probably not right for me for any number of reasons.) I vaguely dieted throughout my youth, which caused irreversible physical and emotional harm I’m still repairing. Ditto to the hormones my teen self was prescribed (“the pill”), which my doctor hoped would feminize my naturally hirsute girl body.

Hearing the recent gender-based legislative proposals of Alberta’s United Conservative government, I understand the resulting leftist panic, especially from those fresh to the fight. But why settle for strategies that affix us in loops of reactionary inverse arguments? At present, this sounds like the left and right each staking claim to being a purer guardian of children. On either side, this age-old rhetorical position leverages sentimentality and shame into moral superiority.

As someone sympathetic to leftist goals (if not always the strategies), I believe that instead of accusing the right of being unloving, we should consider the visceral reality of the fear of regret. The fear of regret is something we all experience: it does not simply emerge from “mean” or “bad” people.

That said, I also want the right to notice that the UCP’s position hinges on weaponizing regret – on fear-mongering. I reject their underlying premise that regret would ever be a good reason to halt one’s transition plans. And that seems to be the left’s tactic thus far in fighting against the proposed legislation: Scrambling to prove that being transgender and transitioning are always and primarily medical conditions, ones with immediate mortal consequences.

When did we decide to flatten the myriad histories of transgender survival in the name of political expediency?

Instead, we could remember that no treatment (or life decision) boasts a 100-per-cent satisfaction rate, and should not need to. (Edmonton even has a clinic for revisions to weight-loss surgeries.)

Regret is human. It guarantees our right to make mistakes, to be imperfect, to change our minds. It is an emotion yoked to learning. You have grown, if you look back on your younger selves compassionately. But only by doing what you did have you become the person who knows you don’t need to do it again! That’s a mouthful, but it’s simple.

Parents can intuit the importance of learning vis-a-vis other types of sexual/gender regret, so let’s start there. Many procedures and solutions exist to alleviate heterosexual regret or change: divorce, for example. Add to that: shared custody. Abortion. All deserve protections that soften cis/hetero regrets or potentially painful changes. All aim to help people minimize the suffering that may result from certain choices (ours and others’).

Likewise, few parents view children’s early relationships as “forever” propositions. They know it’s exploration time, even though potentially irreversible things can happen: sex, pregnancy, heartbreak, violence, maturation.

Transgender people deserve to navigate unknowable futures, too. (We have a knack for it!) But we are not granted this dispensation. Many folks fail to view gender as a phenomenon of many phases, each of which is worth living. I am sure all parents regret one of their own bodily decisions (or maybe two, or 22). We all live with vast and tough feelings about decisions. Our shared right to grow could be a node of connection between trans and cis, child and parent.

In my 17 years as an out trans person, I have yet to encounter someone who regrets their trans-inclined decisions. Since those fears exist, though, let’s remember the following.

One: regret is okay. Two: being trans means receiving intense hate (which can motivate self-doubt). Three: when debates represent transition as homogeneous, finite, and perfect (or the opposite), we create unrealistic expectations and excessively high stakes. Nobody could meet such a standard of permanence. Big changes are often beginnings.

For the left, let’s rethink our strategy in presenting suicide as the ultimate bogeyman. Let’s question the messaging that children unable to medically transition are as good as dead. Let’s be wary of the outcome of trans youth hearing suicide threats made on their behalf.

Dig out that photo of your 1980s bangs and rock star aspirations. Now, love that weirdo. The most conservative parent can let their beloved kids make their own mistakes too (if that is how they view a new pronoun). We all can do better, by letting ourselves be more flawed. Trust your child’s future self (and your love) to rise to the occasion if they desire differently later. And who knows, the mistakes you “let” them make may not end up being mistakes at all.

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