A therapist is using satirical memes about the plight of “Bird Kids” to mock trans-activists’ arguments supporting medical gender transitions for children.
Stephanie Winn, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Portland, Oregon, started a meme campaign about a fictional subgroup of kids who identify as birds, likening discrimination they face to the debates over medical intervention for gender-confused minors, parental rights and mental health issues among transgender youth. Her satirical comparisons have garnered hundreds of thousands of viewers and captured the attention of prominent figures like Jordan Peterson and Elon Musk.
The first meme of the series shows a young child wearing cardboard wings on his back and includes the text: “Cardboard wings are wings. Let bird kids fly.” Winn jokingly advocates for adults to allow Bird Kids to attempt to fly with their make-shift wings and added the hashtags #CardboardWingsAreWings, #LetBirdKidsFly and #ProtectBirdKids.
“This idea that we should give in to a child’s imagination and affirm their delusions and then empower them to do dangerous things — my aim is to poke holes in that,” Winn told Fox News. “Of course, it’s ridiculous to suggest that cardboard wings are real wings and that the proper thing to do is let children fly with those wings.”
“And by fly, I mean jump off of roofs and get hurt,” she added.
The number of gender reassignment surgeries nearly tripled in the U.S. between 2016 and 2019, according to a JAMA Network Open study published in August. Nearly 8% of the 48,000 patients studied were between the ages of 12-18. More than 3,500 patients ages 12-18 underwent surgery, and around 3,200 had breast or chest procedures.
“Transgender children exist and are valid in their identities. They are not in a phase, it’s who they are,” Cam Van Fossen, the executive director of trans-inclusion advocacy organization Gender Spectrum, told Fox News. “The narrative that transgender children are delusional or going through a phase can have negative and even deadly impacts on the long-term mental health outcomes of transgender children and youth and put their families at greater risk of violence and discrimination.”
“Gender-affirming caregiving practices and medical care are both associated with decreased rates of long-term adverse mental health outcomes among trans and nonbinary youths,” Van Fossen added.
Winn said her memes attempt to draw a comparison between adults enabling or allowing children to make dangerous, life-altering decisions.
“The idea is that children have big imaginations, and that’s never been a problem whenever we adults have been on the same page about our role in allowing for imaginative exploratory play,” Winn said. “The problem isn’t that children are using their big imaginations, not that adolescents are grappling with identity issues and trying on different roles and fads, the issue is with how adults are thinking about it.”
While youth access to medical interventions for gender transition, such as puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgery, have been widely debated in recent years, advocates argue that such care is life-saving since untreated trans youth face higher rates of depression and suicide.
Winn addressed Van Fossen’s and others trans-activists’ arguments that discrimination causes mental health issues among the trans population in another meme showing a graveyard with text reading: “Bird kids murdered by bigotry. They didn’t die because they flew. They died because you tried to stop them.”
“I had to make a meme showing where all of this leads and how the trans rights activists flip the narrative around the tragedy of people losing their lives over this issue,” Winn told Fox News.
She acknowledged that trans individuals are at higher risk of suicide but disagreed that the risk largely stems from discrimination.
“Trans rights activists will say it’s all because you didn’t affirm them, it’s all because they were so oppressed and unsupported,” Winn said. “But we have no evidence for that claim.”
“To me, that just makes it very clear that all of us who are trying to say, ‘Don’t jump off the roof! Cardboard wings are not real wings,’ that’s not coming from a place of hate, it’s coming from a place of care,” she added. “And anyone who’s saying, ‘Go ahead, jump off the roof,’ you have to question their motives.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) rejected the idea that affirmation can bring more harm upon transgender children.
“Transgender youth know who they are,” a spokesperson told Fox News. “Some people can trace their awareness back to their earlier memories — they just knew. Others may need more time to realize that they are transgender. We know from the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey that many (32%) of transgender adults began to feel different from their assigned gender at birth as early as 5 years old or younger.”
“As transgender people, our joyous and fulfilling lives are often overlooked,” the spokesperson added. “Just like everyone else, trans people deserve to live joyfully and authentically – and so many of us are doing just that.”
In another meme, Winn referenced an ongoing battle over parental rights in which trans-advocates argue children need to be protected from parents who are not accepting of their gender identity.
Earlier this month, California legislators voted in favor of a bill that requires judges to factor in whether a parent “affirms” a child’s “gender identity or gender expression” when determining custody. In August, a federal court in Maryland ruled against parents who were suing their school district over its policy against telling parents if their children identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming.
Winn wrote in one meme “It is a privilege, not a right to know if your child wears cardboard wings at school” over an image of two children standing on a roof with cardboard wings on.
The family therapist said it’s “unfortunate” that the debate over parental rights has been politicized.
“I don’t think that the idea of a parent’s right to protect their child should be a politically polarizing issue,” Winn said.
However, Gender Spectrum’s Van Fossen said the issue is one worthy of debate.
“Research has shown that gender-supportive parenting can significantly affect our children’s positive outlook on their lives, their mental health and their self-esteem,” Van Fossen told Fox News. “On the other hand, gender-rejecting parenting practices are directly correlated to transgender youth being more depressed and suicidal.”