Amanda Kovattana's review of Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult was first published at Flickr. Partners for Ethical Care is honored and grateful for the time she took to write this comprehensive, in-depth, and supportive response.
It was with some excitement that I read the subtitle of this book referring to the “gender cult”. It affirmed for me the reality that I had been observing was happening with this movement and with teen girls who are gender non-conforming (as I was as a teen and continue to be as a butch lesbian). The severity of this book’s approach in calling the trans movement a gender cult indicates a reality that deserves such a stern approach in the advising of parents facing this journey.
The first chapter posits that gender is a meaningless term because it has no basis in reality and is not actually defined by gender proponents as anything specific other than being an internal sense of self that is different for every person. (An observation made by Sasha Ayad a psychotherapist working with gender questioning teens.) In practice this is interpreted through regressive stereotypes of what male and female are in terms of interest, dress, talents, preferences. This may not be the intended nuanced expansion of boundaries of the original gender theorists, but it is how it is being interpreted on the ground.
Sex on the other hand is observed and immutable. The science does not support that a human being can have the mind of one sex and the body of another. Or can be born into the wrong body.
Then follows a telling comparison with 8 points that identifies a cult.
1) Identify potential recruits. For instance a Gender & Sexuality Allies club instructor has been observed to encourage teachers to chat up a child by themselves and talk to them about their sexuality and gender then encourage them to join the club. (HRC, a LGBTQ advocacy group, will send schools money to start a GSA club.)
2) Draw the recruit in. An environment of rainbow flags and monthly celebrations of various LGBTQ identities create an atmosphere of in-group celebratory status at participating schools.
3) Love-Bomb the recruit with affection, approval and adoration to create a false sense of well-being. Members of the trans community encourage and provide “glitter families” usually older trans identified people on youtube who groom the recruit into their transition.
4) Sell, sell, sell: on promises of love, joy, happiness, success and a meaningful life once transition begins.
5) Apply hard love: Cult members must follow the cult’s strict protocols in order to be acceptable to the group.
6) Require the renunciation of loved ones: especially if they express skepticism and refuse to affirm the ideology or comply to pronouns. Or commit the faux pas of dead naming (which has the psychological impact of severing the personality of the recruit from the context of the family and society in which it was created; same with pronouns). Or refuse to applaud social, chemical, and surgical transition to the opposite sex.
7) Introduce & coerce acceptance of core beliefs: By the time all these beliefs are accepted the recruit is well on their way to a new identity created by the cult values.
8) Permit zero tolerance of criticism. This is certainly the attitude of trans rights activists and their allies. The chanting of the mantra “trans women are women” forbids any other response other than complete, unquestioning trans affirming loyalty from allies to whatever demands these activists make. (Such a mantra chanting strategy was incidentally used by the Chinese in social mind control during the cultural revolution.)
The author warns the parent that this will be the hardest thing they will ever do. In setting out to shepherd their child and themselves through the gauntlet of trans ideological beliefs and societal pressures from an increasingly transgender affirming world they will be up against treacherous social terrain. The terrain of affirming to the exclusion of investigating any other mental health source of their child's anxiety and depression whether it be a personal trauma (however trivial in adult eyes), a devastating family event, sexual assault, eating disorder or other of the many plagues of adolescence. Or homosexuality.
To be sure there are parents who will be trans affirming and enjoy somewhat celebratory status for having a trans kid complete with a readymade support community of other parents of trans kids and eager allies for this latest of civil rights movements. (The same people who will vilify parents who don't.) I wish them all the best and hope the satisfaction holds through all the medical challenges of the journey.
And then there are those parents who want to “trans the gay away". As observed with a hashtag of that phrase on Twitter. A term applied to parents who would prefer a trans kid over a gay or lesbian one. This book is not one either group will likely pick up.
This book is for those blindsided parents who are not willing to sign their kid up for a lifetime of medical support involving rough surgeries and untold side effects of cross sex hormones without a thorough (and loving) attempt to investigate what brought their child to this conclusion. For it would be rash to rush into medical transition or even social transition before the personality is fully stabilized.
These decisions of what to do are left to the parents to make including accepting all the demands the child makes to transition or none, but caution is offered on being too strict. The idea being to give the parent some purchase on the situation by providing information on the territory needed in a parenting context. The strategies offered are based in communication, logic and love “at its toughest”.
The parent is empowered to set boundaries by deciding ahead of time, with the help of possible scenarios the book gives, what those decisions will be. But most of all not to affirm the trans ideology because it does not adhere to reality. The reality of biological sex that most of society believes in. Plus a chapter on communication skills to promote constructive results and strengthen the parent/child bond and mutual respect. In fact one of the results from their survey of parents and detransitioners say that the experience of negotiating this passage often makes them closer.
The psychological approach that the author takes in framing the territory is one my mother, a behaviorist psychologist, taught me. This offered me firm ground to assess the approach the book has taken. (My mother too was of the tough love school often to the alarm of parents.) The recommendations given in this book are standard issue parenting guidelines. First to listen, then ask questions as to what the child is feeling and affirming those feelings as valid and finally to set boundaries. Find out what their issues are, what reasoning brought them to the conclusion that they are trans and gently challenge that reasoning.
A list of questions is given to draw out the faulty logic of trans ideology. Two pages of them and worth the purchase of the book. Non-threatening, non judgmental questions of the premises of trans ideology to be asked when the child introduces these concepts. Many of them already asked by philosophers and scientists including Richard Dawkins whose prize from the American Humanist Association was revoked because he dared to offer as a discussion topic why it was possible to identify as the opposite sex and yet not acceptable to identify as a different race?
Another chapter on addressing various mental health struggles including autism, trauma and depression. And pornography which has become a huge influence in gender choices in its pervasiveness, brutality and misogyny.
And more on what this ideology projects God to be. I laughed out loud when I read that trans ideology implies that God is a sadist who puts you in the wrong body and then requires that you go through extensive painful, complicated medical intervention to make it right. I had asked basically the same question from my own spiritual cosmology.
The author’s conclusion is that this ideology is that of atheism defined as there being meaning only in serving one’s own self. This dovetails with the political assessment that trans ideology is Neo-liberal in its focus on fulfilling the demands of the individual. The God section responds to the line told to kids that God made a mistake. That should be a clue right there that trans logic is ideological.
Some readers might see the God section as an indication that the author has a Christian perspective. Yet a Christian who believes in the traditional biological reality that most of us believe in and long standing developmental psychology as the basis of constructing reality for a child. Bottom line—children form their beliefs in the social reality parents create for them. And we have long been a society that believes in religious freedom. I believe parents should have the right to raise their children accordingly and not be intercepted in schools by what is clearly a religious ideology. It certainly conflicts with my family's belief that karma from a past life influenced my gender non-conforming presentation and it is up to me to learn the lessons that this life affords me as a woman. To have trans ideology rob me of this cosmic history feels like colonization of the worse kind.
A chapter on strategy helps parents determine who or what is influencing the child. It parses out elements of social control that are used by cults including milieu control having to do with isolating the child from the rest of society. The interpretation of events as significant to trans moments of realization. The demand for purity as in right and wrong thoughts. Confessing these wrong thoughts and actions, Believing without question the sacred science of the ideology. Controlling all language around trans ideology to bend it to the belief system with Orwellian reversals and new vocabulary and new meanings of words. Heretics who question the belief system are not tolerated and are to be cut out of their lives or verbally or symbolically threatened with death threats. All currently going on between society and trans rights activists.
Parents are given a game plan to enlist family members and tips on how to find a psychotherapist who does not insist on immediately confirming the trans identity. All to help lead the child into voluntarily giving up the trans ideology and regain their own personality. Then to expect them to boomerang back into it as has been experienced by parents.
The end goal is for the child to accept reality and his or her body and birth sex. Also some good stuff about unconditional love, tough love and how to be a parent not the kids' friend. And how to manage the strain on every member of the family. And detect signs of desisting from the ideology back to being their pre-cult self. Which can be difficult if years have been devoted to this struggle and the child has outgrown their previous self. Truly this journey is not a walk in the park for anyone involved.
There are several appendix, one containing answers from the survey of detransitioners and their parents offering random tidbits of information. Including that parents report that giving into the child’s demands just seems to make them angrier. And one detrainsitioner who said she just knew she didn't want to be female.
The tone of this book is in itself harsh in the manner of being an example of tough love. The persistence of trans ideology is referred to in unflattering terms as a way to galvanize and motivate the parent for there is no neutral ground in this battle. The author is vigorously honest about her research, the survey used and the advice being given. The information is very spare and delivered with minimal narrative and storytelling. With copious footnotes of source material.
There is now so much material online that parents can delve into for help that trying to catch up on it will likely overwhelm the parent. This book provides all the needed background to provide context while offering a vital handbook for surviving the ordeal. given the situation of young people who are questioning their gender identity and their fixation on medical intervention. The medical piece of it is too high a price to be left to idle teen exploration and internet answers riddled with groomers and the lure of a chosen family who will love you “as you are”. This is a much needed handbook to navigate the treacherous territory from questioning to almost immediate affirmation in today's world.
Trans activists found the book within a week of publication and pressured the publishing platform Lulu to remove it. They boasted about the success of this campaign on Twitter. Amazon was going to do the same per their zero tolerance policy for non trans affirming books, but ended up offering the ebook and later the print copy.
Out of fear that the book would be erased entirely I ordered the PDF direct from the website Parents For Ethical Care as soon as I heard of this virtual book burning.
Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult is available in paperback ($14.95), ebook ($9.95) at Partners for Ethical Care and Amazon, as well as in PDF ($7.95) from Partners for Ethical Care. Smashwords and Lulu have both removed and banned the book.
Amanda Kovattana is a writer, speaker and professional organizer specializing in ADHD, hoarding and chronic disorganization. Contact Ms Kovattana via email@example.com.