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 free