A Canadian anti-bullying group has created a transgender puppet character and accompanying booklets and videos to be used by teachers in the classroom. According to CTV News, the group hopes the materials will help educators assist children in navigating questions about their own gender and expression and will serve to minimize bullying of transgender children in schools.
Julia is a transgender puppet who was born a biological girl but wants to become a boy named Julien. Her puppet friends Leo and Arnie, as well as a female human character named Alex, assist her in her exploration of transgenderism.
Julia was created by the Jasmin Roy Sophie Desmarais Foundation, an organization with a mission to “fight bullying, violence and discrimination against elementary and secondary school children.” Created in 2018, the foundation already has significant reach, as it is registered as representatives of civil society with the United Nation's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
The foundation’s founder, Jasmin Roy, contends that Julia and her story will help educators, parents, and children to teach and learn acceptance of those struggling with transgenderism.
"We need to develop emotional and social skills for educators, parents and other children who are around those children exploring their gender or expression," Roy said. "Now, every time you have a child in your community who's dealing with that reality, you'll have a tool to help you."
Roy claims to have based Julien on a Sesame Street character named Julia, an autistic girl introduced in 2015.
"I said we should do the same thing for a child who is exploring because some children will just explore, and that doesn't mean they are going (to grow up) to be trans," Roy said.
The foundation created videos that detail Julia’s story. Here's the first one:
In the first video, Julia tells Alex that she does not want to be called Julia anymore because “Julia is a girl’s name, and I’m not a little girl. I’ve never felt like a girl, but everyone thinks I’m a little girl.”
Alex responds, “Well I’m glad you told me. I had no idea you felt like that. You know I love you and I’ll always love you.” She immediately begins referring to Julia as Julien and indulges all of Julia’s wishes to transition to a boy, including cutting her hair and changing her clothes.
Alex explains to Julia that the change may be confusing and difficult for Julia’s friends to accept at first, and that they might “forget” to call her “Julien.” Alex encourages Julia to be patient while her friends accept the change.
In an effort to normalize gender dysphoria, Alex tells Julia in the same video that there are “millions and millions” of children like Julia who feel the way she does, to which Julia responds, “That’s wonderful!”
Another video features Alex explaining to Julia’s puppet friends that Julia wishes to be a boy. She employs some dangerous logic in the video: “If the heart says so, then it’s true.”
Along with the videos, the group created four “social and emotional guides” to be used alongside the puppets. They provide the following support, according to the organization’s website:
The Jasmin Roy Foundation commissioned a survey about the LGBTQ community that found that 98 percent of transgender respondents have felt lonely and helpless. The group is also concerned over the high percentage of people within the transgender community who have considered or attempted suicide and hopes to encourage interaction and acceptance of individuals who are struggling with gender confusion.
But while the foundation’s intentions may be commendable, studies indicate that they are going about it the wrong way. In fact, a 2016 report in The New Atlantis Journal by former Chief of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University Dr. Paul McHugh and Arizona State University Professor of Statistics and Biostatistics Lawrence Mayer contends that it is dangerous to indulge children’s gender confusion.
“Children are a special case when addressing transgender issues. Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood,” the report stated. "There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender."
Similarly, Psychiatrist Stephen Stathis states that up to three-fourths of young patients who “present with gender variant interests and behaviors, or are gender diverse” will grow out of that phase and will not require treatment.
“You might get a six- or seven-year-old girl wanting to dress as a boy,” he said. “She may even say she wants to be a boy. When she hits puberty, she says, ‘No, I’m just a girl who likes to do boy things.”
Stathis contends that the “trendiness” of transgenderism is actually a contributing factor to the growing number of people who claim to be gender confused.
Stathis told the Courier Mail last year that one of his teen patients said, “Dr. Steve ... I want to be transgender, it’s the new black."
Dr. Ken Zucker, head of the Gender Identity Service at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada has observed the same phenomenon. “The No. 1 factor is the Internet,” he said. “If you’re struggling to find out where you fit, the Internet is filled with things about gender dysphoria.”
“When we ask, ‘When did you first learn about this label of gender dysphoria’, they’ll say, ‘Me and Mom watched Oprah,’ ” adds Dr. Hayley Wood, a member of Zucker's team.
Still, Julia and her accompanying educational tools have found support amongst the foundation’s key sponsors, including TD Bank.
"The project the Jasmin Roy Sophie Desmarais Foundation has created is extremely promising. TD is very proud to support the development of educational tools that will provide children experiencing challenging situations an opportunity to engage in respectful and constructive dialogue," says Samia Medelci of TD Bank Group. "With these kinds of initiatives, we're opening the door to a more inclusive future."
Photo at top: screen-grab from "Julia is sad" video