Here we have an account from another mother of a teen girl who wants to “transition” to male. This woman is one of many others I’ve heard from, all essentially in the same situation. I am beginning to think of these women as Everymoms, because their tales are so similar in their basic plot: A socially awkward or depressed girl who only began to talk about “transitioning” in adolescence–and only after being influenced by peers, the Internet, and/or over-eager “gender therapists.”
I intend this account to be part of an ongoing series of guest posts. Parents in a similar situation, please consider sharing your stories here. Anonymity is respected, although anyone who wants to speak publicly and openly is welcome too.
Our older daughter has always done things her own way, and never really fit in. She’s always been a little too naïve, a little too trusting, and slow to understand the social dynamics that were happening around her; nothing that warranted an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), but something that her peers instantly picked up on. She is super innocent, trusting and authentic. She is like this beautiful innocent sponge, ready to soak up anything near her. She is an old soul.
When she was 10, we moved to the East Coast (from the Midwest) and she started to be bullied in school. After some harrowing bullying situations, we pulled her out of school and her dad homeschooled her for 5 years until she was accepted to a Public Arts high school.
Right before high school, she befriended another homeschooler, a dysfunctional kid who liked to cut himself and do drugs whenever possible. Our daughter started cutting herself. This stopped once she went to high school. She had other friends, but they had been homeschooling together since they were very young, and had already formed a clique; our daughter never found a group that she felt she belonged in.
When she first went to high school (from homeschooling), she hadn’t interacted in a lot of regular schooling social environments since being bullied and pulled out of school.
She started meeting with the school therapist and talking about her discomfort with her breasts. In my mind, this was natural and normal. It’s hard to be a developing teen, and negotiate that along with all the other social stuff. The therapist immediately told her that if she wanted, she could go to therapy at the Children’s hospital for Gender Dysphoria and, eventually, have her breasts removed. Our daughter thought this idea sounded great — it was exciting! And it sounded easy! Maybe THAT was the problem!
I was aghast, especially that mastectomy was one of the first ideas that they would introduce her to. Whatever happened to understanding that our bodies are weird and sometimes uncomfortable and that this a normal part of living in a very dysfunctional world — along with levels of patriarchy in all of this as well? Anyway, our daughter asked her school to call her by a male name, which they readily did.
As she acclimated to school, the name and the discomfort stopped. She never asked her pronouns to change, and then told her school for sophomore and junior year to go ahead and call her by her previous name. Over her school journey, she’s heavily participated in gay parades, the GSA, she came out as bi, dated a super lame dude and broke up with him, got excited about feminism, didn’t really find a lot of friends to connect with — but it was okay. She started clubs for other women to not wear bras on Fridays and support themselves in loving their bodies, interning at a girls’ rock camp, and even helping to implement and then participate in a female-only camping trip in the winter. We saw the Vagina Monologues, and she found it inspiring! She painted vaginas during her painting class. She joined a GLBTQ acting troupe last summer, and acted with them over the summer and fall, taking a break over the spring.
This last year has been super rough. She was a senior in high school, and between finishing humongous stressful projects, feeling lonely, so much stress about colleges and not getting enough sleep, she started getting down. Part of it was that she would keep herself too busy with projects and not take care of herself. Part of it was that she hadn’t dated anyone in a few years and was feeling isolated. But then in mid-March, she came out to some teachers at school and said that she wasn’t doing as well because she was actually trans and she didn’t know how to handle it anymore. The school was supportive — no questions asked. They automatically changed her name at school, and her pronouns (to he/him/his).
She came out to us. We were skeptical. Everything she said sounded cultish and simplistic — and wrong. One of the reasons she told us that she was trans, was that she always liked Spiderman as a child, and not princesses. She then brought up the male brain. It sounded as though she were reading from a trans-pamphlet. We had so many discussions, all about how nobody fits neatly into the gender box, and that we could see her not identifying as a female the way that society prescribes the female gender. However, we said, just because you don’t fit neatly into one box does not mean that you should jump into another box. Just because you don’t feel you are “female” doesn’t equate to you being “male.” That there is no such thing as a male brain, that societal definitions of gender are a social construct; it is “the matrix,” it doesn’t exist, etc., etc.
She befriended some trans kids from her acting troupe. When you look at this group, each year they are something different. There are kids who, upon joining, are just “allies,” the next year they are bisexual, the next year they are gay, and then the final year, they are trans. And at every step of the way, they are being applauded and receiving so much positive support from themselves, each other, the group, the grownups, and the audiences that they declare this to (I call this the “echo chamber”). But it’s fishy. Why are there so many kids who, the more they hang out, all of a sudden, they are trans too? It doesn’t make sense. It is trans-trending.
Since our daughter came out to us, she has been binding (excessively, but super defensive and refusing to talk to me about it). She has been less happy, secretly packing in front of her sibling, and in her room, surrounding herself with trans music, stories, and friends– and actually, through all this, becoming dysphoric; hating her body– and we’ve never seen any of it before. We had her go to our health center for a therapist, who stated that the best place for our kid was to go to GLBTQ teen space for a trans teen meeting every friday. That’s where we are at, currently.
This all reminds me of when she was cutting herself. I think that there is trauma at the root of her being, perhaps with being bullied, perhaps with being lonely and not finding kinship with others her age, perhaps at the inability to handle and process stress well, perhaps with fear of the future.
Because my kid is 18, she is not beholden to what we say. I can’t make her do anything. I can’t make her not go on the internet. Cutting her off financially or refusing to send her to college isn’t an option. I can’t reach out to most people, or state my concerns publicly, because then I’m being a transphobic parent. I’ve told her that in my heart of hearts, this is not right, and that I love her and will call her by her new name, and I will use they/them/theirs pronouns, but that I honestly don’t see her any happier. More than anything, I want her to think critically about what she is doing and seeing, and to question her surroundings.
I have no idea what I could be doing differently, how I can really help her anymore. This has all happened within the span of 3 months. I’m hoping she can pull herself out of this madness, but I’m not sure she can. I’m really hoping by meeting all of you, and hearing your stories, that we can support each other, share knowledge and experiences, and build a path together that provides our daughters with a way into accepting themselves as they are.
Because right now I am feeling terrified and isolated.