La Croix: The documentary “Little Girl” by Sébastien Lifshitz features Sasha, born a boy and aged 7, who does not feel in harmony with her biological sex. She aspires to live like a girl and to be recognized as such. How do you perceive this film?
Daniel Marcelli : Beyond its documentary aspect, it is a very worked film, staged, scripted. I saw it as a manifesto, aimed at denouncing the suffering of these children, so that their situation is considered. The documentary denounces the rigidity of the school, and the conformism of society. We cannot ignore the ailments of this child who suffers from major gender dysphoria. Sasha must be recognized and everything must be done to appease her. In the name of what could she not wear feminine clothes, if that relieves her? Where is the harm, provided there is no surgery in childhood?
The recognition of the suffering of this child can certainly promote a salutary awareness, a relaxation of the system. But the risk of lobbying worries me. Behind this form of social recognition, I fear proselytism. Where it would have taken the necessary restraint. In the film, the mother adopts her child’s point of view, then becomes more and more combative to have the child recognized as a girl, especially at school. But, at puberty, what will happen? Is Sasha going to undergo hormonal, surgical treatment? The documentary does not say so.
What role do Sasha’s parents play?
DM: There is a strong closeness, a warm bond, between Sasha and her mother. They are mutually beneficial. But we can ask ourselves a question: who fulfills the desire of the other? In this case, I don’t have the answer. However, Sasha does everything to please her mom. A child feels all the better when he is carried by the admiration of his parents. I would have liked to see how Sasha behaves alone with the child psychiatrist, how she talks to him spontaneously.
→ ANALYSIS. The unprecedented weight of parental expectations on their children
Is gender dysphoria more prevalent today?
DM: Consultations specializing in “gender dysphoria” are welcoming more and more children who are younger and younger. However, we must distinguish the case of very young children like Sasha from that of adolescents, who doubt their gender identity. We must not make an amalgamation between obvious situations of gender dysphoria, like this one, and more nuanced situations, of older children, in full floating identity. To encompass all these situations, we speak of “transidentity”.
The world is not divided between black and white: between the two, there are all shades of gray. It is the same between man and woman, masculine and feminine. The construction of gender identity is fragile, composite. The genre is built gradually, in a context specific to biology, physiology, family history, social history, etc. Thus, for example, a teenager may go through a stage of development of “homomorphic practices”, in order to reassure himself with another who has an identical body, without becoming homosexual as an adult.
The risk is that more and more requests for sexual transitions will be formulated, and that people located in “gray areas” engage in definitive surgical procedures. Today, everyone has the right to choose the genre in which they want to exist. At the same time, he needs that his choice be recognized and poses as a victim if he does not get it. This is the whole paradox of the individual … We, child psychiatrists, have a duty to be careful, to accept doubt, to give ourselves time.