This story was originally written for testimony and read by Brandon Showalter at the Ruth Institute when he was a reporter for the Christian Post. You can watch his testimony here. It was also recorded as a podcast episode for The Witness here.
When your child is diagnosed with a disability, processing that information is much like passing through the stages of grief. It feels like your child has died, because the idea you held about who your child is does die.
My daughter was diagnosed with high-functioning autism when she was seven, in second grade. The pieces of behaviors we’d labeled “quirky” now fell into place. When the psychologist gave us her diagnosis I realized that my daughter would never grow up to be who I’d imagined she might. She would probably never like to hug or be hugged. She would never be a popular kid, a charming girl, a social butterfly. She would never link arms with me and whisper a secret or confide in me about her inner thoughts and dreams.
I had to grieve those things, that imagined future young woman. The daughter that I thought I knew died that day. I had to start discovering who my daughter really is, and watch as she unfolded into the reality of who she would become. I learned to love her for who she is, rather than who I imagined she was.
Then, just a month shy of her thirteenth birthday, she announced to her father and me that she’s transgender—non-binary specifically, but leaning toward male.
Nothing could have shocked me more, because she’d never exhibited any desire to be other than a girl, and until just the previous few weeks she’d always presented as a girl: dresses, long hair, jewelry, and attempts to get me to let her wear makeup and high heels. This bizarre announcement was the craziest thing I’d ever heard. And she dug into it with both feet and both hands.
As the enormity of my daughter’s horrific decision sank into me, everything inside me screamed, “No! No! I already dealt with her death once, and now she’s trying to kill this girl I’ve come to know and love. She is my daughter, and she is part of me, and I can’t let her kill herself.”
I’d never suffered from anxiety, but during those first few weeks I learned what anxiety is. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I’d go to bed physically and emotionally drained, but the moment I dropped off to sleep my brain would hurl me back awake again, as if screaming, “This is an emergency! We’re under attack! You can’t sleep! Get up and do something! Save her!” Terror and fatigue led to waking nightmares and the inability to concentrate or think clearly, which led to more insomnia, and worsening psychological and mental stability. The fight-or-flight instinct wouldn’t let me rest until this disaster had passed.
But this is a disaster that goes on for years. You’re living in a war zone now, and the bombs just keep screaming to the ground around you, exploding, day and night. Transgender activists teach your innocent child to yell demonic obscenities at you, and to make up lies about things that never happened. They tell your child to threaten suicide or to cut herself to get her way.
One day, early on, my daughter lay in bed, covers over her head, refusing to go to school. She yelled, “I hate myself! I wish I were dead! I want to kill myself!”
I asked her, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” No answer. “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” I asked again. She just snuffled at me. “I’m going to ask you again, and if I don’t get an answer I’m going to understand that as a “yes” and I’m going to take you to the emergency room right now. Are you thinking seriously about hurting yourself?” She screamed, “No! Just go away and leave me alone!”
I’d called her out, and I’d “won”.
But if I knew then what I know now I never would’ve done what needed to be done that day, what I did, in calling her out. Today I know that if I’d taken her to the emergency room she’d almost certainly have been affirmed in her desire to transition. And if I didn’t agree to it they very well might have taken her away from me, as has been done to other parents who didn’t agree to let their children medically transition.
I’m scared to take her to doctors now.
After her announcement I began to research rapid-onset gender dysphoria, and what I learned sickened me. Teenage girls were having their healthy breasts amputated. They were being given puberty blockers that halt not only their endocrine systems but their brain development. Doctors were giving them massive doses of hormones like testosterone that caused them to grow beards and lose their feminine voices and curves.
The beautiful, brilliant, perfect daughter that my body conceived, incubated, and birthed! They wanted to physically mutilate her, and she wanted to let them do it.
I thank God every day that my daughter was only thirteen when this started, because we still had control over her life and choices. We pulled her out of public school, where the GSA club had recruited and indoctrinated her, and where teachers and staff used her trans name and pronouns behind our backs. We took away her internet where social media influencers had preyed upon her naïveté and adolescent fears. While we affirmed her pain and struggles as real and valid, we refused to agree with anything about the transgender narrative.
It’s been two years. The militancy she exhibited in the early weeks died off pretty quickly after we severed the transgender influences from her life. She’s coming back to herself now, slowly. I believe we’ll get her back again.
But I’m angry because of the years I’ve lost with her. I’m angry at the stilted, deformed way her maturation has been derailed by this hideous lie. And I’m terrified to send her or any of my children off to college, where transgender activism operates as the de facto law of the land.
I’ve never been so scared in my life.
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