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Our story of trans-identification in our child doesn’t start with loneliness stemming from the pandemic as many others’ stories do. It started about a year prior to the pandemic. I was taking time to deal with some childhood trauma of my own, with the help of a therapist. I dove into my healing, was fully engaged in it, and consequently my daughter may have felt abandoned by me, for a time, in the process. She had just finished an animation camp and made some friends there who told her about an online drawing group. She was very excited and convinced us to let her have one of our old iPads and join the group. I was nervous about her being online at all at 10 years old, and we watched closely by becoming one of her online “friends” in this drawing forum. It seemed to be mostly young girls and seemed harmless, but looking back I realize we didn’t watch closely enough. This was where the ideas about sexuality and transgender identities started. At the time I didn’t realize what kind of actual physical and mental harm these ideas could lead to.
Over the next year, our daughter went through a plethora of identities. She started with aromantic (this apparently means not being attracted to anyone which made sense since she was only 10) and moved on to gay, non-binary and then ended up at transgender when she was in 5th grade. At first I thought these were all harmless and part of exploring who she was, which seemed developmentally appropriate. Interestingly it was only happening at school where she had a group of girlfriends who were identifying as one of the many possible gender identities. With girls these identifications often occur in friend groups pointing to the possibility that there is a social contagion at hand (young teen girls are particularly susceptible to social contagions). It becomes a means of finding their place of belonging among peers. This has a very strong pull for girls who struggle with fitting into their peer groups. Our daughter who had been surrounded by mostly boys her whole life (her brothers and neighbor boys she played with) consequently had a hard time navigating female relationships. She also struggled with her place among male peers and in our family, being the youngest of three with two older brothers. I believe she struggled with feelings of not being valued as much as her brothers or boys in general. She never mentioned her new identity at home or to any of her extended family with whom she is close and spent much of her time. Her older brothers to this day don’t even know it happened.
What we didn’t know at the time was that the school she went to, an elementary school, was actively supporting her trans-identity without consulting or even informing us. In the classroom, her teacher and consequently the students, were all using male pronouns. Nobody asked us what we thought about this or if we had any concerns. We didn’t know that adults were reinforcing this identity at school. We weren’t consulted or asked for any background information on our child or asked what we thought of our daughter taking on this new identity. It was as if we had no insight into what may be going on with our daughter. The school made the decision to socially transition our daughter completely independent of us, her parents. I never would have imagined they would do this. It was as if we didn’t exist! They may have considered this harmless but it was not.
Schools are always talking about partnerships between parents and teachers. This was the opposite of that. They also were clearly not asked to act in loco parentis, and should not have been because I, the actual parent, was available and asking to be involved the whole time. They were willfully and intentionally keeping information from us because they deemed themselves more qualified and more responsible for our daughter’s upbringing than us, her parents. They had to make all kinds of assumptions about us in order to draw this conclusion. They would have to assume that we are not deserving of the information, not capable of treating our child with love if we had the information, maybe that we have no interest, maybe that we would be abusive or that we would “interfere” in their social development of our child.
I got a call from the school counselor a few months after the school year started informing me that our daughter had confided in a friend that she was suicidal and was cutting. (I later found out children learn to use these words, suicide, self-harm on the internet when they stumble into trans-narratives online). This took me by surprise as I had seen no evidence of it but I was concerned, nonetheless. The counselor then convinced me to let my daughter see a “special” therapist from a local hospital that was contracted by the school district and specialized in “these kinds of issues.” I met this therapist, and we discussed how my daughter was exploring her sexuality. I expressed that as a parent I thought she was too young to explore and understand the meanings of these words (aromantic, gay, non-binary, transgender) but that my husband and I would love her no matter where she landed. Looking back, I realize this therapist didn’t agree or disagree with me. She merely nodded. Looking back I’m not sure she listened to a word I said.
Our daughter saw this therapist weekly for two and a half months. I asked how things were going in therapy, and she would usually respond by asking me how things were going at home. I said things seemed fine at home. Looking back I realize that she avoided answering my question. I thought they must not have talked about anything noteworthy or this therapist would have told me when I asked. I trusted the therapist would involve me in the decision-making for my young child, since I was her parent and responsible for her.
A couple months later, I got a call from this therapist about our daughter…only she didn’t refer to her as our daughter. She was using male pronouns and a name that our daughter had chosen and she informed me that “he” wanted to be with the boys for an overnight school trip. She also told me that “he” wanted to reveal to us that “he” was a “he” and she was going to help “him” present this to us because “he” was very “nervous” to do this on “his” own. She called me on a Tuesday to give us time to “process” this information so our daughter could present it to us on a Friday. She gave us three days to process the idea that our daughter wasn’t actually a girl. We heard nothing of this very important detail until this point even though I had very pointedly asked the therapist what they were talking about in their sessions several times throughout my daughter’s time with this therapist, which was my legal right as a parent of an 11 year old child. How could she have failed to mention this very important development? It seems to me that she was purposefully withholding that information from me. She was making assumptions based on very limited information, which was not only unethical but psychologically damaging to trust between my daughter and our family. Technically, legally, I had the right to know this information since my daughter was still under the age of 13 and she broke the law by not disclosing that information to me.
My first response was “Wait a minute. This doesn’t make any sense. She just hosted a sleepover with six girlfriends and loved it. Why does she need to sleep in the same room with boys at an overnight function? This is starting to feel like a cry for attention to me. I think there’s something else going on.” I got no response to this observation. I didn’t get any response to any of my observations sent to this therapist. It was as if we had no insight into our child’s personality, and this person knew something so deep and meaningful from her ten-half hour sessions with our daughter that we had somehow completely missed in all our experiences with her from the moment she was born. Putting our daughter in an overnight school event with boys instead of girls is not something we were ever going to consider. There are so many reasons this would not be a good idea. I wasn’t as concerned for her safety (this was 5th grade) as I was of putting her AND the boys in a very awkward situation. It didn’t seem like a good idea socially at all, especially for a child who was having some social issues. I had a right to make that decision, and I felt like I was being coerced to agree with something that I didn’t think was healthy or safe for my daughter or her classmates.
We never had the meeting where our daughter presented herself as a boy to us with the help of the school therapist. We felt the whole idea was highly inappropriate and that our reactions might cause strife between us and our child. This therapist was not helping our daughter by keeping secrets with her from us and not ever consulting us to get insight on what might be happening with our daughter and how we could work together to help her. The self-righteous idea that she knew our child better than we did, so well in fact, that she was going to help her explain to us such a monumental deep truth about herself was absolutely ludicrous. As is true with most parents, we know and care about our daughter best. We were there raising her from the time she was born, and we have a much deeper knowledge of our child than a therapist who has met with her for a total of only five hours. It is also ridiculous to believe a pre-teen child “knows herself” so much better than her parents. This flies in the face of everything known about child development. This therapist was not going to help our family through this period in our lives and reinforce trust and familial cohesion between our daughter and us . She wasn’t even going to listen to us. That was clear. She had a script and she was following it no matter what evidence was in front of her face.
We terminated the relationship with the school therapist, and I started my intense investigation into what it means to be “trans” and what is being done to help kids who identify as such. What I found during this investigation completely turned my world upside down. I consider what this therapist did with our daughter to be medical malpractice. She performed a clinical diagnosis and treatment without consulting us, the parents. That is illegal. I learned that if our daughter was just 2 years older, at 13, due to new laws and policies in our state and school district, we would never have been consulted about our daughter sleeping in accommodations with the opposite sex. I learned that it is in our school district policy to keep trans identifications from parents if the child wishes, no matter the age. I learned that in our state there is a “conversion therapy” ban. This brings to mind the idea of “praying the gay away” or shock therapy and chemical castration drugs to “fix” a homosexual and make them heterosexual. These practices are awful, but that’s not how that term is being used now. I had no idea that under this law has quietly been added another definition. This definition disallows normal exploratory therapy when a child identifies as transgender. It is now illegal for a therapist to investigate why a child feels this way or to question how they came to this conclusion. They can lose their license to practice. In what kind of therapy do we not ask questions about our perceptions? Isn’t that the whole basis for any mental health therapy?
I learned what kind of drugs and horrific surgeries were recommended to children and teens who identified as trans to “align” their bodies to their perceptions. These medical “treatments” were meant to fix their feelings of discomfort with their actual sex by changing their bodies with harmful, irreversible drugs and surgeries. I learned that there were thousands of other parents out there who had children that were exploring these types of identities that had similar concerns to mine. I learned that they were scared to share their concerns for fear of losing their children to child protective services or some “glitter family,” who offers to take in a child no matter how young to “save them” from an assumed “abusive and hateful” home, that is likely none of those things. I did not know that children are encouraged by others to permanently rupture the connection to parents—to distrust them, hate them, and leave them. In fact, these things have already happened to other families. I learned that many therapists, doctors, and school professionals were completely disregarding, undermining, and deceiving parents of children who identified as transgender, following a script that assumes the worst of all parents without considering any actual evidence. I was horrified! It felt like there was this system of rule that had been put into place overnight that was functioning to take these life altering decisions about the health and safety of children away from parents, as if a difference of belief makes a parent unsafe or abusive. I felt an intense need to escape with our daughter to some safe place away from the misguided adults who seemed determined to lead children like mine down a path to being used as a medical experiment.
Because we live in a very liberal area and gender ideology seems to reign, our specific area didn’t feel safe to me. I began to realize that asking questions about trans-identification was not allowed or I would be considered a dangerous bigot. I soon learned that similar sentiments were true across our country and around the world. It seemed that there was no safe place to go to and no mental or medical health professionals we could trust.
We wanted to sue this therapist to make sure she didn’t harm other families by keeping health information about children from parents. We sought professional legal advice, and we quickly realized that, living in a very liberal area with liberal lawyers and judges, a ruling would very likely not be in our favor. We realized that we were in uncharted territory when we explored the idea of suing this therapist for medical malpractice. We considered that we could potentially open our family up to scrutiny by the state, so we reconsidered. We closed ranks. We couldn’t risk allowing the state to take our child away from us as has happened to other parents.
We only spoke to close family and friends about what had happened. Even some of them treated us as if we didn’t know our child and as if we were ignorant and intolerant. This is still a source of heartbreak. We are not unique in having this kind of a response from people who previously thought we were caring parents and ignore all of that evidence to adopt the idea that anyone who doesn’t immediately accept a child’s declaration of a “trans” identity is a bad parent. This ideology has so infected our culture that many people seem to have completely lost their ability to reason when the subject comes up. There is very good reason to question social and medical transition and not any really compelling evidence that these treatments are safe and effective.
Once I had collected myself and felt I was beginning to see what we were up against, I asked the therapist for the notes from her sessions with our daughter. I was legally still allowed to ask for these as our daughter was still considered a minor in our state at 11 years old. It took her three months to finally get me the notes that I had asked for several times. She apologized and said “I’m so sorry. I completely forgot.” She blamed the pandemic. When I finally received these notes, I realized the real reason this therapist “forgot” to give them to me. She had apparently decided our daughter was a boy in their first half hour session together. We had no idea that she was using male pronouns for our daughter the entirety of their time together. This seems like a significant detail she might have mentioned in any one of the several times I asked what they had discussed. Their sessions seemed to consist solely of her teaching our daughter to advocate for herself whenever anyone “misgendered” her, including us, her parents and her brothers who were completely unaware any of this was happening. There didn’t seem to be any help with some of the real social issues she was having with her friends at school. Later my daughter reflected upon her time with this therapist and said “Actually, she didn’t really help me that much.”
We took our daughter out of the public schools because we realized they were not acting in partnership with us as we had previously believed they were. I’m not sure when they decided we were the enemy of our child and that they knew better than we did as parents, but this is how we were effectively treated. This was so shocking to me and felt like such a betrayal as I had spent many years volunteering with this school. I knew many of the teachers and staff. I thought they knew I was a loving and dedicated parent! How could they so quickly change their perception of me?
The pandemic made the choice to pull our daughter out of school much easier than it would have been otherwise. At the beginning of the pandemic all children were essentially homeschooled. Our daughter didn’t have to feel singled out as if she had done something wrong. This was one of our pandemic silver linings. We are continuing to homeschool our daughter and she is doing very well and is much happier than when she was in the middle of this social transformation at school. All her energy was spent “advocating” for herself whenever she was (mostly quite innocently) “misgendered” by her schoolmates. This identity was very wrapped up in victimhood, and it was the lens through which she viewed everything. It was a negative feedback loop and the mentality she and her friends seemed to be stuck in. Everyone was “against” them. They were “oppressed”. They were miserable together and therefore not alone. Misery and self-righteous indignation were the price of admission into their social group and my daughter desperately wanted to be part of a social group.
Not only was the school not our partner they were actively working against our efforts to keep our child safe from harm. The schools are effectively diagnosing and therapeutically treating children when they help them socially transition and they are not qualified to do this. In our case and that of many other families they are doing this without the consent or knowledge of parents. There are a number of things wrong with this 1. Teachers are not qualified to make a diagnosis or to therapeutically treat their students. 2. This teaches children not to trust their parents. 3. It teaches children that their parents are not supportive of them. 4. This supports the idea that children should keep secrets with adults who are not their parents. This is a number one tactic of predatory groomers. Even if this is not the school’s intent, they are teaching our children that this type of predatory behavior is acceptable which leaves them open to others who may take advantage of them in the future.
Social transition is not benign. As Stella O’Malley (a therapist in the UK who has worked with thousands of families of gender questioning children) says in her podcast with Sasha Ayad, Gender A Wider Lens-episode 40, “Social transition is a powerful psychosocial intervention.” School personnel are not qualified to socially transition children, much less to do it behind their parent’s backs. Schools are seriously damaging the child/parent bond, functionally hindering parent’s ability to protect their children and leaving them wide open to be preyed upon by others. This culminates in harms being done to children and families.
All of these issues don’t even touch upon the reality that most children don’t stop at social transition. Many of them will go on to take wrong-sex hormones and have barbaric cosmetic surgeries that have a whole host of harmful health and developmental consequences. A child cannot fully grasp how this will affect their future health and happiness. The social transition alone does enough harm by concretizing an idea that is not based in reality and teaching a child they are not OK as they are.
Our family was mistreated by the school and by this therapist. They broke something in our family that we had to work very hard to repair. There was trust and a closeness that had been damaged. There is my trust of schools, government agencies and professionals that I’m not sure will ever be repaired. Our life has been fundamentally changed and will never be the same. We will always be wary of any situation that might send our daughter reeling back into this way of thinking. We don’t know who we can trust to support us and who will be working against us.
I am actively fighting this ideology in our schools, institutions and in our culture. Consequently I am now in a sea of parents and children suffering at the hands of gender identity ideology. It’s like we are in a never-ending Twilight Zone episode where the rest of the world is telling us that all of these harmful treatments are really good for our children and we are crazy and bigoted to believe otherwise. If we don’t agree to allow these harms to be done to our children they may be taken away from us for their own “safety.” I know families this has happened to. I see more and more families being destroyed by this daily. I listen to and read new stories of sons starving themselves to supposedly look more like a girl or of sullen and angry teen girls who hate their bodies because they were sexually assaulted and are trying to escape their bodies. I hear stories of confused autistic children who don’t identify with performative sex stereotypes being convinced that that means they aren’t the sex they were born with. I hear stories of gay and gender non-conforming children being told they must be the opposite sex. I see all of these kids dealing with the difficulties of puberty and peer relationships and grasping at what they believe is the trans life-raft. While I am watching this all happen with horror, I just have no patience for those with a superior stance that think they are saving our children. The idea that they are protecting these kids isn’t even laughable. It’s tragic.
I watch while these kids who are so confused and just trying to survive puberty (you remember how hard that was?) and being told that their parents do not support them if they don’t believe these delusions. I just have no patience for it because this ideology is then about telling these kids to hate and leave their parents, the people who care about them the most. The ones who would protect them. I have no patience for people who really believe there are so many parents out there who hate their kids and are kicking them out of their homes. It just doesn’t stand to reason. The thousands of parents I know are not doing this. I have no patience while people sit and celebrate the destruction of children who aren’t theirs. These people don’t know what they are celebrating. I see the wreckage. I see the families torn apart, not by the parent’s doing, but by everyone who supports this ideology. I see the angry, hurt, desperate kids who never seem to feel any better because this is not a solution to their problems. I see the wreckage. I have no patience for people who vilify loving parents who don’t buy the idea that their children were born in the wrong body. One that teaches their children to hate themselves and the people who love them the most. I have no patience for people who think children know themselves better than their parents do. What are parents for if not guiding our children precisely because they DON’T come into this world knowing how to behave and grow into successful adult humans?
I’m in the trenches. I see the wreckage and it’s devastating. I know thousands of families who are torn apart by this. The rest of you, the ones who don’t see what’s really happening, we know you mean well but you are not helping when you support these ideas that function to destroy our families and our children. We are begging you to wake up and quit buying into this delusion. You think using the different pronouns is kind or at the very least harmless but it is not kind and it is not harmless. We understand that you have been fooled into believing this but we can tell you from the trenches that it is not helping our children. It is not making them “happy.” It’s not saving lives. It’s destroying families.
You young teachers who are coming out of college and being taught that you are fixing our children, we know you mean well. We know you care but please realize that we know our children better than you do. It is not your job to psychoanalyze our children. You are not qualified to do so and you have not been called on to do so. Many of you don’t have children yet or most likely you haven’t lived long enough to be humbled. I can tell you that raising kids will humble you. So will life experiences. I’m in my 50s and I continue to be humbled and to learn, by this experience not least of all. Please listen to those who have more life experience than you do. Age is not a thing to be derided as it usually coincides with the wisdom of humility. As you get older you will begin to realize how mightily imperfect you are and how much you don’t know. I hope that there is nobody there to tear you down and tear your family apart as you go through this process. This ideology captures vulnerable children. I hope you never have a moment where you were distracted and didn’t see what was coming for your child who was misled down a path to potential irreversible harm. This can happen in any home and in any type of family. Please consider what I am saying and realize that when you conspire with our children to hide these new identities from us you are an active participant in their harm. I know this is not your intention. For those of you who know that there is something damaging about keeping secrets with our children from us but feel shackled by school policies, I empathize with you. I implore you to come forward with your stories, even if it is anonymously. We parents need your help saving our children. We know that is your desire too.
For many reasons our family was lucky, and our daughter grew to be comfortable with her sex once we removed her from public school, took her internet access away for an extended time (she now has limited, monitored access), and she became distanced from her old friend group. She had a falling out with her old friends and never expressed a desire to get back in touch with them. She has made new friends who are not entrenched in gender ideology. She has grown, matured and blossomed while her old friends seem to be stuck in the same old negative narratives that were holding our daughter back. We carefully had conversations with her on subjects that were tangentially related to her trans identification without challenging it directly. We found a therapist who treated us as a whole family unit and helped us see where we needed to improve our family dynamics. We let her know that we will love her wholly no matter how she identifies because ultimately she is a person who we know and love and no identity declaration would change that. We validated her feelings even though we didn’t necessarily agree with her conclusions about what they meant. We spent lots of quality time together with extended family and much of it in nature, away from devices. She no longer desires to be a boy. This change took a little over a year which is about the amount of time it took her to get into it.
I realize how lucky our family is to have had our daughter come back to herself and us so quickly. I know many families who have been in this battle for their children for many more years. I consider ourselves fortunate not to have been some of the parents at the forefront of this social contagion. We had some warning and examples of what worked and what didn’t. I will forever be indebted to the parents who shared their absolutely heart-wrenching stories with me and helped educate me and others in hopes of helping us save our children. Many of them told me things they wished they had done and small handful of them told me things they did that helped bring their children back to themselves. I listened to them and I believe that made a difference. I wait with many of them for the day their children return to them as well. I believe it will happen. I hope for them and their children that they return with the least amount of damage possible but this attack on our families leaves no one unscathed. It’s much like being in a war to save our children and I think many of us suffer from some level of PTSD and are hyper-vigilant, always watching for another attack or some type of boomeranging by our children back into this maladaptive coping strategy. I’m starting to see more and more families with children who are desisting. This is encouraging. I believe that it’s because more of us are telling our stories and new families affected by this are catching on sooner, armed with information. Many of us seem to have some level of “survivors guilt” because there are still so many thousands of families suffering in the grips of this destructive ideology. Maybe that has some small part in why we are still fighting it. Also, we may be fueled by the thought that It still feels like this ideology is an imminent danger to many others and we don’t want anyone else to be harmed by it.
I believe this is a medical and psychosocial scandal like none we have seen in our lifetime. What I call the first wave detransitioners (young people who medically transitioned and realize they were misled and came back to identifying as their birth sex) who are mostly in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties (not incidentally, I think, about the time their brains are fully developed), the ones who were at the forefront of this contagion, had nothing approaching the level of indoctrination our young children are experiencing now in the school systems. I believe this will be worse than the opioid crisis which we as a society are still experiencing the ramifications of because pharmaceutical companies and doctors misled the public. This will affect our entire society as we attempt to pick up the pieces of the children and families who were attacked by the hideous lie that our children were born in the wrong bodies. Schools that teach gender ideology and hide social transition from parents are now ground zero for this devastating epidemic.