This story was also recorded for The Witness Podcast Episode 16.
I wanted to share my positive story in hopes that it will inspire some of you to continue to have hope and strength to fight for your children.
When the trans issue hit our home, it felt like someone reached inside me and ripped my heart out. It felt like our daughter was abducted from us. Her announcement was so sudden it left me and my husband debilitated. There were a lot of moments where no matter what I did, or what I said, to show her the lies and flawed intentions of this ideology, the farther she dove into it. It seemed like it made things worse and like she was slipping farther and farther away from us and from herself. Those days felt like they lasted forever. It cast dark clouds over our hearts and left us distraught. We often wondered if it would be much easier to give in to her desire to be considered a boy? Would she be truly happy? But then there were days when she would pirouette and squeal, and it reminded us and gave us a glimpse of the girl that she once was and it gave us hope.
I realized we needed to seek help. First, I feel so lucky to have found the group Concerned Parents of Transgender/Non-binary Kids, Teens, or Young Adults on Facebook. This group has offered endless invaluable information and support when I needed it the most. I also found an amazing therapist who focused on cognitive mindfulness therapy. She is neither affirming or non affirming and though she counselled transgender patients in the past, I found her to be neutral. She supported my well being and helped me with my parenting approach so that it was a lot calmer and softer. She encouraged me to rely on my intuition and listen to my body.
During one of my sessions, we sat down to look back at my daughter’s milestones and timelines of possible trauma. I tried to remember the big changes in her life that might have caused her confusion and that were not processed well. They left her stuck, causing her to create unhealthy narratives in her head for survival. The recurring one was abandonment and shame. Our family isn’t perfect. My husband travelled a lot and we don’t have any extended family to help me out. I was stretched thin. I yelled a lot. I was impatient. I became controlling because I felt like I needed to put my kids in a bubble to protect them. Little did I know, my daughter started to feel suffocated, confused about her place in our family and unwanted. She became desperate to bust out and find her autonomy. She shared with us that the last straw for her was when a male friend that she was in love with broke her heart. She felt unwanted and rejected. Then the pandemic hit. She felt lonely. She said that social media gave her connection with people who gave her the support that she needed. She didn’t realize these people were not who they said they were. And that made her scared and even more confused.
My therapist advised us to help her recognize the pain she was feeling and help her process it so she could start healing. We have been doing a lot of talking and shedding lots of tears. My husband and I admitted our faults that contributed to her emotional distress. She was taken aback by our humility. This was the beginning of her journey back to us.
She agreed to do a complete detox from toxic friends and delete all social media. We also found out that she was lured into a relationship with a trans woman via social media who posed as a 12 yo. Later we found out that this person was in fact a 27yo trans person that lured our daughter into a private chat group and proceeded to influence and brainwash her. She read things she wasn’t supposed to read and saw images she was not supposed to see. She learned the language of trans ideology. Her innocence was ripped from her too soon. Similar to other stories, my daughter sent us a letter declaring she was trans and demanded to be addressed with different pronouns, asked for male clothes and a binder to hide her breasts. Our hearts sank.
My therapist advised us to approach this issue head on without directly addressing or discussing gender topics. She said that often kids who have a strong hold on gender/trans views need a softer approach because the more you push to show them the reality/truth, the more they will hold strong in their views. They will resist just to prove you wrong because they are so desperate to find their autonomy. She helped us find a kinder way of engaging her in conversations. We had to define reasonable, clear, loving but firm boundaries and maintain our authenticity and values regarding demands and medical interventions or physical modification. We told her none of those will happen until her brain is fully developed and even then, she will have to pay for it because we don’t believe in mutilation and participating in a journey that she might or likely will regret eventually. My therapist also agreed that we are not to call her by her preferred pronouns but to maintain support for her emotional and mental health, reminding her that the only way to get through adolescence, no matter the difficulty and discomfort, is to experience all of it. There are no shortcuts. We reminded her that we will be behind her all the way. We won’t abandon her. But she can’t abandon herself either. Like Jon Kabat-Zinn said “wherever you go, there you are.” So you better work on liking yourself and your body because this is the only one you will get. My daughter sobbed. She said she felt alone and unwanted by us. Hearing us say these things made her feel a little better.
My Therapist focused on how to calm my stormlike style of parenting and taught me to approach my daughter in a calm, kind and empathetic way. She reminded me to take care of myself and my relationship with my husband. She said that my daughter is sensitive to my anxiety and emotions and will pick up and absorb them and that will cause her to resist me. I learned to meditate a lot. I prayed. I manifested her healing and imagined her coming back to the way she was. When I told my therapist this, she said to refrain from controlling what is happening or the outcome of my daughter’s journey because I might get blind-sided and miss the opportunity for connection that my daughter badly needs. Instead, I needed to try and reflect on my intentions and what I say and check if it’s for her well being or is it me trying to fix what I think is broken in her. She advised us to stop trying to fix our daughter and learn to connect deeper emotionally and listen often with intention to what my daughter has to say. She told us to be patient, slow down. Reconnect her with nature. Reconnect her with her body. Lean in, and learn about her interests, be curious about what she is doing and check in.
I had body dysmorphia when I was a child and when I shared this with my daughter, she thought she might have it too. I had unresolved childhood trauma and I think my daughter learned or inherited some of that from me. My daughter didn’t think her beliefs were broken, she thought her body and the world she lived in was broken. She didn’t like her body because parts of her felt hurt. She didn’t like being a female because she thought being a male was far easier. She had felt different for a long time. She didn’t feel like she belonged to any group of friends, which she interpreted as something being wrong with her and that caused her deep anxiety. Being with the trans group gave her the illusion of belonging. Her desperation and need to fit in a tribe that understood her discomfort was somehow explained but she began to realize that this journey was not for her. She said “I was so lonely. I was looking for a place to belong, but it’s not working. I just want to go back to the way things were before. I don’t think this trans stuff is me. The more I try to be it, the more I get confused and I feel more awful and unhappy about myself.”
I don’t believe we are completely out of this mess but, we feel that we are finally heading in the right direction. I will continue to be vigilant and keep a watchful eye on her. Today, my daughter wore girl’s clothes. She is growing her hair and she parted it in such a way that she didn’t look like a boy. She started to take a mindfulness course to get in touch with her mind, emotions and body. Her first class was last week and has already made a huge difference. She started to open up.
A big shout out to all the Dads out there who submerged yourselves in dealing with this issue and supporting your other halves. It’s not easy for Dads. When I asked my husband “how is your heart today?” He broke down and sobbed. My husband is one of those men who was tireless at holding firm yet kind, empathetic and loving boundaries for our daughter. He showed strength when I was down. He listened to my daughter when I couldn’t. He took her for long walks and held the space for her tears as she unloaded all the toxic narratives in her head. We were able to tag-team. He was able to listen and implement what my therapist thought we had to do next when I couldn't.
I wish there was one solution to fit all gender problems. Your kids are different from mine. What worked for me may not work for you. But I hope my story helps you to never lose hope.