Isabel, Southern United States
Early last year, our 13-year-old daughter M shared that she was a lesbian, and we welcomed the news. Soon after, M announced being non-binary, then transgender, which came as a bit of a shock, as M had never expressed any kind of gender struggles. Accepting this as truth, being generally LGBT+-supportive, my husband and I allowed M to get a very short haircut, buy masculine clothes and a binder, go by the more gender-neutral middle name, and — of seemingly utmost importance — change pronouns to “he/him.” We took M to two different therapists, both of whom were immediately affirming — one of them after only an hour of talking to our child.
It’s important to understand that M has Asperger’s syndrome (now recognized as high-functioning autism), and has suffered debilitating panic attacks since age 5. After the first therapist met with our child, she reported that we had a “happy, healthy boy.”
Around the same time, I became very dizzy, to the point that I could no longer walk the dog. I saw a doctor, trying to determine the cause. After a slew of tests, I realized the dizziness was due to stress and maternal instinct telling me that something was completely off-kilter. I began questioning whether or not M was truly transgender, even though teachers, doctors, therapists, family and friends were all very quickly and gleefully affirming. No one else questioned it but me and my husband.
Then I discovered the book Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier. I had shied away from it for a while, thinking it was right-wing propaganda, and only gave it a chance when I realized the author was Jewish — like me. I’m so glad I did. It provided an eye-opening counter-perspective to the slew of gender-affirming parenting resources out there. My dizziness subsided when I realized I am SO not alone in questioning my child’s gender dysphoria. It’s an alarming trend — especially among kids with other issues like anxiety, depression, and on the Autism spectrum. I know quite a few kids in our city who are declaring that they’re transgender and demanding hormones and surgeries, and parents are encouraging it as the culture cheers these kids on. I know 4 parents who have supported medicalizing their children’s transitions, and wonder what the long-term outcomes for these kids will be.
I began doing research into the exponential number of kids saying they’re transgender (some studies say the incidence has risen 4000% in the past 10 years), and seeking psychology experts who were asking the same questions. I’ve found a lot of articulate, intelligent information, including a support group for other parents of ROGD (rapid onset gender dysphoric) teens. When I first found all of this information, I was quite suspicious of anything being conspiracy-driven or politically motivated, but found the opposite to be true. Many of these parents seem a lot like me…upper-middle class, well-educated, and progressive…and above all, genuinely concerned about their kids.
The good news is that after a year of trying to really listen and bond, I feel much closer to our daughter, who now uses the pronouns “they/them.” We seem to be developing an ironclad bond through this journey. It certainly isn’t what I expected during the teen years, but I hope they are growing into their authentic self in a healthy way. That’s my hope for both of my children.
Marie, Eastern Canada
When my daughter was young, she fiercely loved dolls, princesses, sparkly dresses, and pink, which ironically, as a 21st-century feminist, made me feel slightly uncomfortable, but I supported her. When she was 12, she said she was bisexual, and I supported her. When she was 13, she said she was lesbian and began spending time with all LGBT friends, and I supported her. When she was 14, a new trans kid joined her friend circle. I accidentally discovered she considered herself genderfluid, that the school was using another name and pronouns at her request and without informing us, that she was considering top surgery, and that she thought we would kick her out of the house if she told us any of this. Eventually we had a big talk and many subsequent talks about her gender dysphoria, but she has stayed adamant, supported by her friends, several of whom have subsequently also come out as trans. She has rewritten her childhood history, saying she never liked “girly” things and always had gender dysphoria because she dreaded puberty. A few months ago, we heard that a teacher might call child services on us for not using her preferred names and pronouns. She probably has anxiety and is intellectually gifted.
Lily, London, UK
LEFT LIBERTARIAN, BISEXUAL, NOT RELIGIOUS
In 2015 my fifteen-year-old daughter, who had come out as a lesbian age 14, told me she was transgender. She had shown no discomfort with her female body as a child, although she’s always preferred jeans over dresses and enjoyed boisterous play. Prior to her announcement she’d spent a lot of time on YouTube watching ‘trans’ videos and, I later found out, she had created an online persona as a boy.
I was hugely concerned about the medical pathway that potentially loomed ahead. I read up everything I could on the subject and talked about it with her. I sent her articles, discussed feminism and asked awkward questions like: ‘How can you know what a boy feels like, when you’re a girl?’. I was very vocal about my disagreement, while making it clear I loved her and would always be there for her. I told her she was spending too much time online and had to leave her phone downstairs to charge at night. I encouraged her to get outside ‘in the real world’. I told her many teenagers have some sense of dysphoria and showed her a graph recording the increase in girls presenting to gender clinics.
She wanted to start college as a boy. I said no. She could have gone behind my back, but she didn’t. Sometimes we argued. I remember her shouting ‘I am not a lesbian!’ Then a close friend of hers desisted, which made a big impression on her. We’ve always been open to debate & disagreement in our family; I know my approach wouldn’t work for everyone. Just under a year after first ‘coming out’ to me, she sent me a text saying “I’m a girl. I was never a boy.”
Six years later, my daughter has just graduated from university. She is happy and confident, a lesbian, and looks back on that time with slight embarrassment. We are very close.
Clare, Northern California, USA
My daughter was all girl all of the time until about age 12. At 12 her entire friend group was gender questioning – moving from pansexual to lesbian with my daughter finally landing on transgender. Her mental health deteriorated as did her relationship with her family. Unbeknownst to me, she had been reading endless anime porn, in chat rooms with other older trans young adults, was even sent child pornography and was looking at videos espousing the wonders of transforming her body with hormones and breast removal surgery. I was called transphobic for merely asking if “watchful waiting” without any social or medical transition made sense. She is now 14 with signs of bipolar disorder emerging.
FORMER RADICAL FEMINIST LEFT
Our beloved first-born child is now 23. Two years ago, on a weekend trip back from college she presented us with a shocking typewritten letter about her intentions to undergo drastic surgery and take male hormones, irrevocably changing her body with life-limiting implications. From quite early in our daughter’s life I found her hard to parent – teachers hinted at autism; when she was 6, we sought advice resulting in an ADHD opinion. We managed to keep her in mainstream schooling as she wanted, with extra help, but she struggled and had few friends. Then away at college she found her “trans glitter family” who co-habited and applied for their treatments together. The first year of this was one to forget with so much conflict and pain for the whole family. We found other affected parents who felt the same. We found useful approaches through GDSN, which helps our family with the shadow of our daughter’s impending medical intervention, including for our younger son who has felt very marginalised.
Parent, Wyoming, US
INDEPENDENT VOTER, DECONSTRUCTED CHRISTIAN
Daughter has been suffering with gender dysphoria since 14, recently turned 18. No childhood dysphoria, not very masculine as a child. “Came out” with friends at school as pansexual and non-binary. Has had troubles with friendships and getting bullied by boys in the past. Is an over-reactor. This really hit us out of blue. She became depressed, very angry, anxious. Took to child psychiatrist and was pushed to go to gender clinic. I looked online and thought those are all medical doctors, with one person who had a mental health degree. I was baffled. Why would I take my daughter into them when she needs therapy and started researching what the heck was going on. Found a good therapist for a year, and then we moved from the very liberal state for a more moderate one, with no gender clinic in site. This stuff still goes on here too.
Finally, she wanted to go back to therapy, and I hope I have found a pretty good therapist. Was also diagnosed after we moved with ADHD, other physical issues, anxiety and has many sensitivities physical and emotional. I think puberty just really hit her especially hard and not emotionally mature for her age. Our focus is getting her to grow up and take on her life after high school, outward focus, stop ruminating, possibly gay. Needs time to figure it out. Our rules are nothing harmful, nothing permanent when a minor. She has a gender-neutral name she can change. I do not use opposite sex references to her and try to use gender neutral language around her when I refer to her to minimize distress. I am hoping she does not do anything she will regret. Have productive conversations very carefully when the situation arises. Empathize with distress and connect as much as possible.
My daughter was raped at 15 by a school friend. Had always been very feminine up until then. Through grooming by another family with an ROGD youth (also had an attempted rape), and also in constant contact with a local transgender activist group, she began to see herself as male. Came out at 16 as trans, started testosterone at 18 and had breasts removed at 21. I believe it was a way to hide in ‘safety’ in plain sight. As the transgendering seems to be the most important aspect, she’s never received proper trauma counselling for the rape. The gender clinic she went to believe it was unrelated.
Her mental health since has become very poor. Quit school, college, everything. Her whole personality has changed. Has never had a proper job. As per many people in my situation, she was encouraged to stop contacting us as we were abusive for not using preferred pronouns.
Mother, Seattle, US
My daughter declared that she was transgender just before her 13th birthday.
Being her mother, I knew that she was struggling through puberty and was uncomfortable with the over-sexualization of our culture. I was horrified to learn that the therapists were telling my daughter that she was a boy, on the very first visit. We stopped therapy because her mental health was never addressed.
Cutting her hair and wearing “boy” clothing, was not enough, she was still miserable. One horrific day, she attempted to jump off the roof and carved the word “boy,” into her arm. We went to the ER in desperation. A sympathetic nurse warned my husband and I to leave, because the social worker was on her way to emancipate our daughter, so she could get testosterone. We realized that we had no parental rights in our state. 13-year olds have complete control over all of their medical decisions. We had to move to save our daughter.
At her new school, she became friends with a nice boy who was showing an interest in her. He did not use wrong pronouns. They began dating. She slowly dropped the trans identity. Fortunately, she is much more comfortable with herself as a female. She needed time and to be affirmed as her authentic self – a female.
Rachel, Maine, USA
I can’t say for certain the exact moment my daughter let go of her trans identity, just as I can’t say for the certain the exact moment she decided she was transgender. What I know for certain is that for almost a year (from age 12 to 13), my daughter felt lost to me. She had a new name at school, used different pronouns, and in many respects was hardly recognizable.
I affirmed my daughter’s trans identity at first. I listened to the predominant, easily accessible information that promotes affirmation over inevitable suicide. The highly accredited gender specialist my daughter saw convinced me to affirm and suggested medicalization to our daughter. The LGBTQ youth group she joined backed swift transition and offered free binders and support if parents didn’t.
I started to push back when I decided to listen again to my instinct: I knew my daughter better than the influencers on social media, better than the facilitators pushing an agenda at the youth group, better than the therapist suggesting hormone therapy at our daughter’s first appointment.
I retracted my support of my daughter’s trans identity but not my support of my daughter. I avoided calling her anything but childhood pet names, avoided using pronouns at all costs. I shared my deepest thoughts about her new identity, the dramatic uptick of trans youth, the realities of medicalization. She rejected my views wholeheartedly, called me a gatekeeper and transphobic, but I held strong and continued to show love. I set stricter boundaries, monitored her social media, blocked questionable accounts. I leaned in so much that very little time or space remained for anything other than loving, supporting, reminding her that she is perfect as she is, and that gender is a piece of who she is, but not the biggest piece. There were moments along the journey that indicated she was softening, but these moments were fleeting.
And then, new flickers of hope. She one day told me I could use her name, if I wanted to. It took me over a month to begin using it again without fear of backlash. Next, she “allowed” pronouns fitting with her biological sex. I took another 2 months to carefully sprinkle pronouns into conversation, testing the waters. And like a flower blooming, she began to open again. Slowly, steadily she shared a recognition that the trans community seemed less based in reality than she once believed. That perhaps the ever increasing number of labels and genders and pronouns was too far-fetched, even for her. She questioned the growing number of peers coming out as transgender and admitted that this felt like a trend, a craze. Most importantly, perhaps, she recognized that she was miserable the whole time she presented as transgender. She admitted she liked – needed- the attention because she was struggling to fit in. She believed that creating a new persona, as she put it, was going to help her find friends. It didn’t have the effect she had hoped for. She told me: “Mom, you were right all along.” She missed her “old self.” She sees now that her old self wasn’t too bad at all.
Desisting has its pain, too. Covid 19 has afforded her time at home to reinvent herself again as the girl that she is. She is terrified about going back to school presenting as a girl, using her proper name and pronouns again, but thankfully there are some months still to let the dust settle. I continue to spend loads of time with her. We talk openly about those dark days, and I continue to hold strict boundaries and limitations on internet use. It will take time for me to let my guard down. It will take time for me to fully exhale. It will take time for her to find her confidence again. I believe the strength of our bond, the trust we developed prior to transition and after, and the love we share have helped us through, and I am ever grateful.
Angelika, Hamburg, Germany
My daughter was already very extroverted and enormously strong-willed as a child. Certainly, her living together with two older brothers played a role in this. She liked to play with her brothers’ toys, but she was also very busy with dolls, Barbies and Lego girls’ toys. Her room was painted pink in phases, she sang in the choir and went horseback riding for years. She played with girls, rarely with boys.
But at 15, she suddenly became intensely preoccupied with her identity, telling us parents she was panromantic, then genderfluid, then nonbinary. All these terms were foreign to us parents, we were surprised what she was dealing with on the Internet. She spent a lot of time on You Tube. A few weeks later she came out to us as transgender. She is a boy and born in the wrong body and that was always the case. She had already felt like a boy as a child. And she now wants to become a boy physically as soon as possible, she now needs puberty blockers and binders. We were completely shocked, but thought, this is now again such a phase, on her search to be something special. It will go away again.
Then came Covid 19 and with it school closures and the lack of social contacts. She spent her time only in her room and found the transcommunity on the Internet, a new family. She became more and more withdrawn and finally she also became depressed and announced suicidal thoughts, which we took seriously and sought treatment with her, which was very difficult. We did not give in to her desire for quick irreversible treatments, such as puberty blockers and testosterone, and will not allow it until she reaches adulthood. Currently, she is trying to live socially as a boy and keeps getting into identity crises. We hope that through pubertal development she will be able to come to terms with her body as a girl.
Sally, Dublin, Ireland
PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL, RAISED CATHOLIC, NO LONGER PRACTISING
My child was always quirky, always different, and always gender conforming. Nonetheless she was a happy enough child until she entered secondary school aged 12 and suddenly she felt excluded, not cool, and found it difficult to make friends. She immersed herself in anime and DeviantArt. I was happy with this but in hindsight I wish I had checked in on her online content more. She came out to us as trans with a letter she left on our pillow. We were completely blindsided. In all the many fixations and quirks she had in her childhood she had never once shown any interest in being a boy and now she was declaring that she was a boy? None of it made sense but, like the good liberals we are, we affirmed her belief. We allowed her to change her name, we allowed her to change her pronouns. We fought battles on her behalf with the school about which bathroom she could use. I usually use he/him but have reverted to she/her for the purposes of this piece. Yet, even though every request has been acceded to, our child’s mental health has deteriorated significantly since she declared she was trans. She spends all her time online. She is miserable. She has been diagnosed with ASD, and many of her problems seem to stem from this. We are at our wits end because our child seems to be falling apart, and being transgender has created nothing but problems.
Jane, rural Ontario, Canada
My son attended Catholic schools his whole life. As a child, he played with yu gi oh cards, pokemon cards, roblox, minecraft on the computer, and skylanders on the wii. As a brother of 2 sisters there were plenty of girly toys around that he never touched. Ever. Ironically, when he told us he was transgender, he also told us how he always wanted barbies and that we wouldn’t let him. This was never the case. All toys were available to whoever wanted them. He just never wanted them. He was incredibly shy and had a hard time making friends. At his grade 8 grad he was so excited to have danced with a certain girl. He played hockey and rugby, but he also took piano lessons and liked to read and write stories. He was tested for giftedness in grade 4, but because there is no gifted program in the Catholic board it never went anywhere.
In grade 11, out of the blue with no warning, we discovered he was identifying as transgender. He was growing his hair out, had a spotify, twitter, and instagram profile with a feminizing snapchat picture and a female name. He talked constantly of “while male privilege” and seemed to really hate men for existing. We saw a family therapist to help us understand him. We did not affirm his new gender, but we did affirm his feelings. Every day I told him I loved him. Conversations were weird. My oldest daughter, to this day, called me a transphobe. My youngest daughter was just scared of what was happening. My other son didn’t know what to say. One day, when I’d finally come to terms with things out of my control, my son asked to go get a haircut.
All of a sudden, as fast as it started, it ended. He doesn’t want to talk about it. At all. He changed his social media pictures back to his male self and his male name. To this day we don’t know what happened to bring this on. But I do know that if we had affirmed him and his ideas, he would be in a much different place. He is 19 now and happier. He has a job; he is still at home and not running to leave as fast as possible. He doesn’t seem nearly as angry and he doesn’t hate himself anymore. I am so grateful to the people who helped me acknowledge and affirm his feelings, to remind him he was loved, without forcing him down a path of medicalization. How much worse off would he be had we said “yes, this is great?” Damaged? Confused? Still hating himself? Things are not perfect now, but we are working on it.
LEFT-LEANING, SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS, LGB-FRIENDLY
In her last year of high school my daughter was in class with a close friend on a medical path (hormones and mastectomy) and I watched the light go off in her eyes. Almost overnight she started wearing a binder, drawing on mustaches, and hiding under a male persona. She was the last in her friend group to identify as “Not Female”. I knew confrontation wouldn’t work so I didn’t say anything about identities and focused on normalizing experimentation and growth: “haha, that’s the mustache I have without waxing!”, “love this look, I spent 4 years only wearing combat boots and baggy clothes!”. Signed her up with the most hippy, somatic, yoga, trauma-informed therapist I could find because “being a teenager is confusing and hard” (I was so scared choosing the therapist). Spent a fortune on stylish sports bras that I passed along “in case” they fit and were comfy. Talked about biological realities as if gender ideology didn’t exist. Shared stories of our own teenaged fears and strategies. Had tipsy family dinners and talked about how much our experience of life changes from 7 to 17 to 27 to 37, etc.
Over a 6 month period she matured and desisted. She is dressing in her normal playful way, looks comfortable in her body, and the light is back on in her eyes. I overheard her saying transgenderism is a response to trauma, and trust that soon we will be able to talk rationally on gender ideology, porn, social media, cult thinking and the impact it is all having on her generation.
My daughter has always been a lovely, sweet and very feminine girl. Then, at around 10, she started to have a very bad relationship with her girlfriends. She was teased for being too skinny, not good enough in school… too tall.
She was really suffering with the situation, and when she was 12 she started “dating” a boy four years older. We trusted him because he was a family friend.
After six months they split up… she cut her hair and started crying every day. We thought it was because of the school, and we changed it. But things went worse and one year later… she told me she wanted to become a man.
We “affirmed” her in the family, but we forbade her to get blockers and testosterone. She got mad… and she still is. She cut herself, she burnt herself, she got drunk, she smoked weed… she tried all the things that on YouTube are suggested… every month something different. She is driving us crazy. Next year she’ll be 18… and she’ll be able to start the path. I’m scared but I know I won’t be able to stop her anymore.
And here in Italy everybody seems to be affirming.
I am the mother of a daughter who announced she was a boy a month before she turned 18. It was completely out of the blue. She had never shown any masculine tendencies growing up. She told me she was a lesbian at age 14. She had very poor mental health for 3 years prior to announcing she was transgender. She had diagnoses of anxiety, depression, bipolar and possible borderline personality disorder at that point in time. She was bullied for many years both by a relative then also at school. She had a hospital mental health admission just after announcing she was trans and was immediately affirmed by the hospital staff. They referred her to an endocrinologist with no examination of her long and complex mental health history. We objected to the referral but the hospital staff wrote up her discharge summary saying we agreed to the referral. She was given testosterone after 2 appointments with the endocrinologist. We found a history on her computer browser of transgender websites and videos and found messages akin to grooming from transgender adults. Two other girls in her drama group had also come out as transgender. She has since been diagnosed with Complex PTSD (from the bullying), ASD and ADHD. She dropped out of school and became so abusive towards us that we had to move her out of our house. Her younger brother had developed anorexia from the distress of her constant abusive behaviour. She is crowd funding to have her breasts cut off. She will not speak to us. Since she announced she was transgender over 2.5 years ago she has done nothing with her life but lie in bed and collect government benefits. She was so intelligent and had the world at her feet.
Mother, California, USA
CLASSIC LIBERAL, NON-WOKE, NON-RELIGIOUS
My son is heterosexual but claims to be a lesbian. My gifted, ADHD, processing disorder, athletic son learned in a 7th grade anti-bullying campaign that you can be any gender. His dream was to play high school baseball and be in the orchestra. He made both in 9th grade, and everything seemed to be going as planned. He had a lot of friends, good grades, and was very happy. He got cut from the baseball at the end of the first semester and decided to leave his friend group from middle school. He now was eating alone since he had been eating with the baseball team and started texting a friend from Boy Scouts at another school during lunch. Together they decided they must be transgender. Now he has a girlfriend who affirms him, and the friend is on hormones. My son is now 17.
Kate, Mount Barker, Australia
CENTRE RIGHT, NON-RELIGIOUS
I am the mother of a 20-year-old son who has gender dysphoria. I have always voted for the Australian Liberal Party and feel deserted by them at present. The Liberal party is afraid to push back against gender ideology and allows harm to come to vulnerable adolescents. My son comes from a home with happily married parents and caring siblings. All the family are university educated. We are not a religious family. Common sense has the entire family (minus my GD son) reject the notion that a person can be born in the wrong body. We all have science backgrounds and realise hormones and surgery will not change a person’s biological sex or their personality. The affirmation model is pushing adolescents to believe that physical treatments will fix their social problems. My son was prescribed hormones on his first visit to a GP. It was affirmation all the way. We believe psychotherapy should be offered to relieve distress. The underlying cause of the gender dysphoria needs to be addressed.
Our daughter was 12yo when she told us she was a boy trapped in a girl’s body and wanted to live as a boy from now on. At first we were okay with it, we saw it as a way for her to find her own identity. My wife went to shop for boys‘ clothes with her, even underwear. In school, she asked to be called by a boy name and her classmates immediately obliged. The teachers still used her real name and that was no problem to our daughter until one teacher approached her and told her: “Your parents only have to fill it a form and we can all use the boy name.” This is when we put the brakes on. But from then on, we were regarded as old fashioned and our daughter was pitied for having such authoritarian parents. For 3 years, she put a lot of pressure on us. We refused to use the boy name. We also didn’t buy her a binder. She is on the autistic spectrum. Staff at the specialised unit at hospital helped her explore her issues around self-awareness and confidence.
At age 15, she desisted and told us she wants to get proper therapy. But she hasn’t faced up to her school and classmates yet. She is afraid, after all the praise and support she received from everyone, she‘ll be ridiculed if she re-identifies as a girl. Recently, two more girls in her school have identified as boys.
Mother, Portland, Oregon, USA
Four years ago, my mildly brain-injured daughter asked the therapist helping her qualify for special ed an innocent question. Teachers said people could be in the “wrong body,” and as a disabled kid she wondered if hers was “wrong’ too? The therapist’s answer? Yes, and the fact that you’re asking means you’re really a man.
I know about it now because I’ve read the therapist’s own description of the event. But I wouldn’t have known then except for a tech glitch that sent me text messages meant for my daughter.
My daughter was never “butch” (which I don’t consider a medical disorder), or “noncompliant” (a homophobic slur I don’t use). And she was “girly,” which I mention only because gender ideology puts such great stock in sex stereotypes. My daughter was a normal kid dealing with mild disability, and was used to bad medical news and painful surgery. When trusted adults mentioned yet another thing that could go wrong, she assumed this hurdle too would come her way.
We’re close. As soon as we found out, we spoke together, honestly and receptively. It didn’t take long to get to the bottom of what was really bothering her–fear of growing up as a disabled young woman.
But extricating her from the therapeutic and educational setting, where the wrong-body narrative continued, was terrifying. We learned that in our state she was an “adult” at 15 for the purposes of gender interventions; and both her therapist and her school could report us to child-protective services for “failing to affirm” our “son.”
It was six months of grueling family work–sometimes pulling all-nighters—but what spilled out were normal teen worries, tinged with the added anxiety of being disabled, and being an old soul who empathized with adult problems a bit more than most kids her age. We quietly stopped taking her to the therapist, and interestingly she never asked to go back. The word “gender” disappeared from her vocabulary, and she began to generate her own insights instead of the scripted ones her therapist had fed her. She’s long since desisted, and says she no longer relates to the momentary desire to do something “dark,” and the opportunity that the therapist (whom she actually disliked) handed her, scripted and on a plate.
While she’s moved on, I still have trouble sleeping. It was three years before I had the courage to read that therapist’s records—to learn just how basic and innocent my daughter’s questions had been, and how instantly and thoroughly she promoted the idea that dissatisfaction with growing up, and dealing with being you, means you don’t have to.
Every day I talk to families of kids, or kids themselves, who were just typical in their teen struggles and impulsivity, and just as misled by trusted adults; but who suffered far more damage before realizing that it wasn’t for them. Some have shared their therapy records with me, and they’re shocking. Parents need to realize what’s being done behind their backs. How pervasive and sanctioned the wrong-body ideology has become under school, insurance, clinic, legislative and child-protective policy.
One normal, momentary teen impulse can be solidified by an army of school and clinical authorities into a permanent and life-altering mistake. And disabled, quirky, conscientious kids like mine and yours, who try on lots of ideas because they’re bright, are in the crosshairs.
My son claims to be a lesbian but we believe he is gay. My gifted, socially awkward 14-year-old went looking for information on the internet. His searches were “Why am I so different from everyone else?” and “Why am I uncomfortable with my body?” He came across information about limiting food intake and being transgender and thought it was interesting and really “fit.” He then binged on trans Tik Tok videos and entered trans subgroups on Reddit, where he was told he was definitely trans. He was accepted with open arms and even “coached” by a 20-year-old trans adult on how to come out, how to transition and how to navigate his parents. He now states that he is a girl and believes he is a lesbian. He has rewritten his childhood to fit this new narrative.
Mother, semi-rural Ireland
My daughter attended a mixed sex private school. From the time she could crawl, her adventurous, curious, fearless, independent spirit, drew my awe and my fear. Puberty and adolescence brought different problems. She lurched literally overnight, from a high heel obsession to announcing herself a boy. Immersed in the online world of anime, tumblr, deviant art and cosplay. Hobbies I had seen as a creative extension of childhood felt as risky as drugs.
Luckily family, school and friends did not share her conviction of wrong body, and no one in her real life affirmed. Instead we distracted, diverted and gently expressed doubt. It was a long tortuous, terrifying, excruciatingly lonely time, as professionals either confessed they had no experience, or advised her how to transition. My isolation was only eased when I discovered 4thwavenow on wordpress, along with Lily Maynard and Gender Critical Dad.
Our relationship suffered, her hostility to my refusal to use her new name, palpable. Gradually, subtle changes toward her old self began. I made no comment, asked no questions. Allowed myself no celebration. It felt like carrying an egg while walking a tightrope in a gale.
Six years on she refers to it, very rarely, and if at all, as her punk phrase. But it was three years at least before I relaxed and my hyper vigilance reduced. I am not sure I will ever be as casual as she is about it. But I am glad she can be.
I am grateful I did not have to wrestle her from school LGBT clubs, from affirming family or gender clinics. None of those were available to her. That made all the difference.
CATHOLIC AND CONSIDER MYSELF RIGHT-WING
Here’s my daughter’s story:
2013 – Age 13, depression, cutting, suicidal, spending a lot of time on Internet, her friends struggling with similar issues, grandma living with us but went back home, my husband losing job and I started working
2014 – Age 14, emailing about being transgender, seeing doctors that according to her would help, one claiming she was a perfect candidate for hormone treatment, but no doctor did medical or psychological tests on her
2015 – Age 15, starting hormone treatment, saying she would be happy but no improvement, saying that she had psychosis, going to hospitals several times while doctors claimed she had other problems with no relation with her identity problem
2016 – Age 16, changing name to “Tyler,” still with depression, suicidal thoughts, saying she was psychotic, opening up with a teacher about being sexually abused at 10, until now refusing to talk, doctors medicating for psychosis, hormone treatment continuing, and in spite of learning about sexual abuse doctors never considered it to be related to her situation, starting with substance abuse
2017 – Age 17, “Tyler” wanting to change legal papers, getting into rehab, starting suboxone, finishing high school, moving out with a “friend” saying we hated her and didn’t accept “him,” getting monetary help from Ministry of Children and Family, refusing to study or get a job saying she had mental and physical impediments
2018 – Age 18, still struggling: self-medicating, immersing in social media, trying LGBT groups but never getting involved
2019 – Age 19, still living with her “friend,” not studying or working, collecting welfare
2020 – Age 20, changing name to “Zix”, applying for PWD (person with disabilities), getting extra help from Ministry of Social Development with “support” from pseudo doctors, social workers, psychologists, etc.
To this date – Age 21, still struggling with “mental problems”, on buprenorphine treatment, but I know she’s using cannabis and other substances as well, living still with her “boyfriend” (FTM), waiting for top surgery.
I believe my daughter is very confused, and the pseudo professionals have only “supported” her without even trying to find the root of her problem.
South Carolina, USA
CHRISTIAN UPBRINGING, POLITICALLY MODERATE/CENTRIST, NOT WOKE
Son says he’s asexual but he’s always liked and had crushes on girls. My gifted and Autistic son who is socially awkward and emotionally immature was befriended at 19 by two girls in college who were taking a gender studies class. He became their queer friend. He went on the Internet and found the answer to why he always had felt so uncomfortable in his body: Gender Dysphoria. When the pandemic hit, his classes moved online. He became obsessed by researching Gender Dysphoria and transgender issues. He had 1 year of non-affirming therapy and then went to an OBGYN who prescribed him hormones on his first visit. His therapist had no say in that decision. He has been taking hormones for four months, believes he is a woman, and has changed the narrative of his life to fit the “I was born in the wrong body and have always been this way” story line. He wants us to use preferred name and pronouns. We don’t affirm him. He is not succeeding in university and will be moving out of our home soon.
In 2016 we were completely shocked when our 14-year-old son declared that he had gender dysphoria. Our son had never been gender non-conforming; in fact, he was a typical boy growing up.
We arranged a meeting with the school counsellor who immediately affirmed our child and advised us to change his name and pronouns and arrange for a referral to the Tavistock clinic with a view to obtaining puberty blockers to halt puberty.
We were surprised to discover that the medication to halt puberty was prescribed off label with no real evidence of its long-term effects. We therefore decided to follow a watchful waiting approach, given that our son was showing no signs of distress.
It wasn’t until June 2020 I discovered that there was a whole online community of people who were grooming each other to believe that they were transgender. My son had begun to withdraw and distance himself away from his whole family and we discovered that he had planned to estrange us to pursue a medical pathway. The last year has been one of the hardest, as we have battled to keep our beloved son happy, healthy but more importantly in our lives with his loving family.
Gráinne, Galway, Ireland
CENTRE LEFT, LAPSED CATHOLIC
Our son was always gender nonconforming, and family and friends have presumed he was gay since he was seven or eight. He was always effeminate and enjoyed playing with girls toys. We are socially progressive, and so we were very comfortable with this. Sadly, when John (name changed) went away camping with the Boys Scouts two summers ago he was very badly bullied and he has never fully recovered. The bullying was homophobic, and John became ashamed of his femininity. Our lovely sunny, talkative, cheerful boy became morose. He stopped going out to play and instead played games online. He found friends online and lost all interest in his real life friends. He identified as trans a year ago when he was 12-years old. He is obsessed with getting puberty blockers and cross sex hormones. We have intercepted packages that have come from opportunistic pseudo doctors who seem determined to medically transition young people. Our boy has ADHD and his campaign is relentless. He is very immature and has no concept of how hard a medical transition will be on his life. He thinks it’s cool and it’s fun. We live in terror that he will secretly transition through an online source.
At fourteen, our daughter came out to us as transgender. Since puberty she has been increasingly uncomfortable with being a girl and wants to be seen as male (though she doesn’t really feel like a man). We were completely shocked as there were no signs. We are a gender non-conforming family. Our eldest daughter is a lesbian.
She was in a gifted program at school where a friend recently announced a male-to-female identity and is transitioning. Many of their friends are non-binary. She has thoroughly researched transitioning and says she is aware of the health risks and that it won’t solve all her problems but that it is what she needs for her mental health.
We have allowed social transition but are delaying cross-sex hormone treatment. The local, free, gender clinic counsellor recommended testosterone at the first session. We never went back. With some difficulty we were able to find a costly private psychologist, who our child is still seeing for gender dysphoria and social anxiety. I’m hopeful that good counselling and conversations will convince her to live a life free of medication and surgery, but I fear that she will proceed when she turns eighteen.
Clara, Grenaa, Denmark
When my son was in his early twenties, we noticed he had been cutting his arms. He said he was seeing a psychologist. Later on he sent me an SMS saying that he was “a woman in the wrong body.” Suddenly, he changed how he dressed, his voice, and revealed he was taking hormones. He talked about how ugly his body was.
Eventually he said he didn’t need a psychologist. We tried to get him to discuss his situation with us, but he refused. Then he wrote to us to say he didn’t want any contact with us at all in the future, and stopped responding to us.
We learnt from a university friend of his that he was cutting class. His friend was worried about the risk of suicide. We tried to visit our son, but he shouted at us and threatened to call the police.
I contacted my doctor and explained the situation. The doctor said my son seemed to be suffering from psychosis with delusions. I contacted an organization for mentally ill people and their relatives, who told me I needed to contact the police if I am worried about my son committing suicide. The police visited my son and told him to write me a message. In the message, he says that I am the one who has psychosis.
For a period, he came back into contact with us, his family. He looked unwell, and wasn’t showering or looking after himself. He had completely changed. Even though he was talking to me again, he wouldn’t let me come into his home until I said I needed to use the bathroom. It was very dirty, and the smell was terrible.
The authorities cannot help me. The university says they cannot discuss his life with me; the social authorities tell me he is of age, so there is nothing I can do. One specialist tells me that she thinks he is schizophrenic; another thinks he may be autistic.
We are begging him to get help. We hear that he is in pain. Our hearts are breaking. Churchill once said: ”If you’re going through hell, keep walking.” We have been walking for four years now.
Parent, Brisbane, Australia
My son has high functioning autism. At the age of 15, he was struggling with rapid pubertal changes. The death of a family member caused additional stress. After intensive exposure to information about transgenderism online, and with the influence of a peer group who all identified as trans, he announced that he too was trans and wanted to take female hormones. He never showed any signs of gender distress before this age, and was not gender nonconforming. He still is not.
Two years later he still considers himself to be “trans” but seems to be gradually getting more comfortable in his body. I have found it very hard to find therapy or help which explores rather than blindly affirming. I am left wing, not religious, and I voted for same sex marriage in the plebiscite on the topic. However, I do not believe that extreme, experimental drugs and surgery are an appropriate way to deal with the bodily distress of adolescents. They can cause sterility, sexual dysfunction, and the long-term effects are unknown. When society subscribes to a belief system that encourages this (and gender ideology IS a belief system, there is no solid science to base it on), we need to ask some hard questions about what is really behind it. I can see that there is a social contagion going on, and it is important for people to realise it is affecting boys as well as girls, in particular those with autism. His sisters, mother and I have all been affected by this and it is important not to forget the impact on families.
When our child questioned their sexuality in their early teens, we explained that it was part of growing up and they would come to their own conclusions. We were so proud that they felt able to share their feelings with us. Our child had a relationship with a friend and the mother’s reaction was to banish them and to tell other parents that their child would not go to parties etc. if ours did.
Our child quickly went from having hordes of friends round and lots of parties to none, literally within a couple of weeks, and then, soon after, they identified as trans. We agreed to a CAMH appointment; it was the worst decision we have ever made as they immediately led our 14-year-old to believe their life would be improved with medical transition. On top of this we found that the school had been calling our child by a different name and pronouns. We arranged meetings with the school and the school safeguarding officer said “we have to give them options.” Options don’t start with the suggestion of drastic interventions.
We went from having a child who we argued with once a year to one having utter meltdowns including with knives and pills. We don’t blame my child, we blame the doctors and the psychologists who didn’t give appropriate care to my vulnerable child. We also blame the schools and mental health professionals who went along with it.
If my child had been anorexic or taking illegal drugs the treatment, they and we would have received would have been so much different, we would have been supported. There is a huge failure in the system and it permeates throughout.
We will never trust the NHS, Schools, Safeguarding, and many people we used to call friends.
It has broken us to my core, the fact that so many people are complicit in starting a perfectly healthy child on a lifetime of medication and surgery.
Jody, New Zealand
My family was a warm, loving and connected family until the spectre of trans entered our household via the Internet.
My eldest was girl was 19 when she first announced that she was trans. She had been having feeling socially insecure in the months prior to the declaration because of friendship difficulties. We thought she was just being a typical teenager, spending all her time in her room, but this wasn’t it at all. It turned out that she had fell into a whole world of simplistic solutions and fake positivity. My girl had never before shown any interest in being a boy and suddenly it completely consumed her life.
She was told by her new online friends that her parents were transphobic. She was groomed to hate us. She, in turned, groomed her sister who came out as asexual (ACE).
They have left us behind and we don’t see them anymore. Nobody knows the grief we parents feel when their children estrange from us. Helpless and broken.