In response to the guest piece I posted earlier today, another mother of a teen writes in.
My teenaged daughter has some great qualities. If she sees someone being bullied, she will go and defend them (even if she doesn’t particularly like them). She holds strong convictions of what is right and wrong (and will enthusiastically debate anyone that believes differently).
She is open-minded, idealistic, and rejects stereotypes (sex, sexual preference, race, religion, you name it). She is convinced that drugs and alcohol are very harmful (and has voiced concerns about the very insignificant amount that her parents drink). She is very intelligent and has excelled academically. Even though she has been difficult to parent due to her stubbornness, strong opinions, and love of arguing, I thought we were raising her right.
When she was young, she never appeared to have issues with being female. She did have a rough time during her elementary and middle school years, though. Since she was emotionally sensitive, she cried a lot more than her peers and didn’t make many friends. She always felt different. She was bullied too. When high school arrived, though, she joined an extracurricular activity and made many, many friends and seemed to finally thrive. She became more confident and comfortable with herself. It was beautiful to see this change and I thought that she had left all of her troubles behind.
Later that same year she started dating a boy that grew increasingly clingy/dependent. She ended the relationship (with my encouragement). He started repeatedly threatening suicide and she became depressed herself. She felt like she was holding his life in her hands. I could see her crumbling so we started taking her to therapy, which did seem to help. But in therapy she also revealed that she had had two other episodes with boys that had made her feel violated (although not raped). It was at this point in her life that she mentioned “questioning her gender,” which I didn’t even understand at this point. I thought that maybe she was wondering if she was a lesbian.
She appeared to recover and become herself again. She had no interest in dating yet, but that was understandable. She had fun with her friends and continued dressing like she used to. She still had problems trusting, though. She never attained peak happiness again, but it seemed close. I thought that it would just take time, but that she was on the right track.
She gradually started dressing more and more in what I figured were comfortable clothes. Lots of loose T-shirts and jeans. She decided she wanted her hair cut shorter too, which I wasn’t alarmed about either. She started styling her hair in what I would have deemed an unattractive style, but it still didn’t raise any flags. It wasn’t until there was a special event that required her to dress more formally that something seemed wrong. She acted as if the dresses in her closet would burn her if she put them on. She fought tooth and nail and eventually we let her go in a pair of black jeans and a shirt that most would have considered inappropriate for such an event.
She started mentioning Tumblr. She said that she would post positive messages, accepting anyone who identified as LGBT. She was being an ally. She mentioned that many of her friends in school were gay and lesbian. I thought that this was great that she was so open-minded.
About a year after all of her troubles were revealed, she said that she had something very important to tell us. We thought that maybe she would tell us that she was a lesbian, which we would have been fine with, although she had always seemed to be attracted to the opposite sex. We were blind-sided, though, when she told us she was transgender and wanted to medically transition. She said that she was our son and that since she is attracted to males, she is actually our gay son.
She mis-remembers her childhood. She says that she was a tomboy. She thinks that all of her problems in her early school years can be pinned on being trapped in the wrong body. Also, since she has some male friends, this has convinced her that she is actually male, too. She talks about having a male brain.
Of course I have tried to debunk her reasons. We have talked quite a bit, but I have not been able to convince her otherwise—she has strong convictions. She is too open-minded about being transgender–she fails to research the other side of the issue. She feels bullied when I don’t fully accept her as my son.
I drink a lot more wine than I used to.
This young woman sounds so much like me. I, too, found the idea of pretending to be a man attractive. Anything to get me out of this feminization trap.
I know better now, but I hate to think what might have been done to me if I grew up in these years.
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In solidarity with you and the other moms. I’m not going to do ‘our story’ because some of my kid’s stuff would be way too easily identifiable, based on her history. Right now she (still a she by her own choice) is nearly 17 and in an OK emotional place, and I’m so grateful for that. She appears to be holding it all in abeyance for now, possibly mentally waiting for college at least, and keeping herself busy with other passions and decent academic performance and OK friend relationships. She wears guy clothes and a binder and very short hair but beyond that, she has not pushed to go. In short, she’s consistent, but she’s not exactly “insistent.” Frankly, I think she’s scared to push further — not scared of her parents or even necc of school but somewhat scared regarding the state of her own mind. I bless her scaredness, frankly. (Her only comment on the Jenner thing was, “hey, wasn’t there supposed to be some mental health piece before all that surgery? what the heck happened with that?” Which I thought was quite an intelligent assessment.) In her head, I think she still sees “man” as her future, however.
It sounds as though you are doing all that you can, mom. Really, once the kid approaches the age of medical majority, what can you do but keep offering support and context, based on your experience with your child, your experience as a woman, and your research? I’m not going to pay for any elective surgeries but I’m not going to take the kid’s college money or health insurance away, either. The health insurance would pay for T, and most college health plans will also pay for T. If my kid wants T in a year, my kid can get it, you know? And as a responsible human being — all I can do is express the concerns and expose the health risks and try to get the kid to tease out what is really driving these feelings — body dysphoria, suppressed lesbianism, rejection of societal dictates of how to “do” female? I can only say, as loving parents of kids who take worrisome paths have always said, “I will always love you and be here for you and you can always come home and tell me what’s on your mind.”
But requiring a parent to alter history, hide all the old family photos (metaphorically “killing” the girlchild), and say “yeah, you were always a boy?” I can use a new name and new pronouns but I can’t and won’t alter history. (Too Orwellian. “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.”) As a woman and a mother, can’t go there, especially not in service of a sociopolitical movement that is (as far as I can see) mostly being driven by natal males, abetted by a med/psych/pharma industry that never misses a chance to make money and has never prioritized women’s well-being.
I think, as mothers and as women, we have to hold up the side, you know? We have to encourage our daughters to look hard at the way the world is structured, and consider the sociopolitical ramifications of trying to defect from class “female” and become part of class “male.” In addition to all the ramifications for long-term physical and mental health. We have to make noise about what the hell is behind this pressure for girls to decide they want to embark on FTM transition — because it’s sure not something they are all doing spontaneously. Ultimately our kids will do what they do, as all legal adults are empowered to do, and we will love them, as good mothers love their kids. But that love does not, and cannot, require a parent to acquiesce to every idea their kids embrace, or endorse every choice their kids make.
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Puzzled, I agree with and can relate to everything you say in this post.
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Thanks for reading! Re the last paragraph — I find it upsetting that a lot of these girls are really too young to have any grasp of the whole hierarchical structure that they’re attempting to reject/subvert. They just know that ‘normal’ expectations don’t feel good, you know? But the maturity level is not there to help them identify that, in fact, those expectations don’t feel good to a whole lot of natal females, regardless of gender identification or sexual orientation. My kid is definitely not yet in an emotional / cognitive place to be able to dissect this stuff in any depth. (Honestly, she still likes getting out her kid toys and messing with them sometimes, you know?) To be making any permanent changes when your brain is still in such a juvenile state is a recipe for trouble, IMO. Which is why I’m all about foot-dragging and keeping the kid busy with other stuff that is healthy and productive, as much as possible.
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I am amazed at how many other mothers there are, I am so grateful I am not alone. All the stories I have read are like I wrote them myself. I sometimes feel paralyzed in what I can say and do for my daughter.
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Can you possibly find a gender-critical therapist? I would tell the therapist directly before your daughter speaks to him or her that you are concerned your child’s desire to transition has more to do with mental health issues that you would like to see worked on before making such a huge body altering decision. I have had more success with DBT and ACT therapy than CBT and would reccomend you try to find therapists who know how to do either of those types of therapy. I always found CBT too judgmental.
it’s becoming very clear that we need a critical mass of psychotherapists and clinical social workers who are willing to say, “You know what? I don’t buy this crap.” I have talked to two psychologists who are highly skeptical of the whole transgender diagnosis, particularly as it pertains to youth. Both said, though, that it is very hard to publicly buck the trend, because the APA and other governing bodies are dictating how to treat these kids. One of the therapists was really surprised and horrified (when I sent her links) to see the indoctrination and propaganda teens are imbibing on social media. Most adults–and that includes therapists–are clueless when it comes to Tumblr, YouTube, Reddit, etc.
As with parents, there have to be enough of these therapists who are willing to step forward for a change to start happening. But it’s a bit of a Catch-22, because most can’t risk speaking up without some backing from other professionals–but who’s going to go first?
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It is similar in regard to research that is critical of the trans phoneomena. Its career suicide.
…which is insanity, given how flimsy (mostly nonexistent) the research is that could justify pediatric transition. Even the big honchos of the child transition brigade–Drs. Spack and Olson come to mind–admit that we don’t have the data, and wouldn’t it be nice if we did.
The Big, Bad Trans-Medical-Complex that everyone is cowering before is like the Wizard of Oz: what appears to be a fire-breathing monstrosity is really just a little man manipulating knobs behind a curtain. When will more people start peeking behind it?
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Trannies attacked and threatened researchers like Bailey and Blanchard for having anything critical in their research (even though they still support transition). I would worry for the safety of anyone daring to try to research it. I also doubt they would get grants after the trannies go testerical that someone is questioning them.
It is like walking on egg shells with my daughter too. I feel the desperate need to challenge her belief that she is transgender, but I don’t want to push it too far. It is a balance I haven’t mastered.
I do tell her I believe she is in pain. And I keep reminding her that there could be other reasons (besides being transgender) for her pain.
I wish you luck. You are definitely not alone.
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“She mis-remembers her childhood. She says that she was a tomboy. She thinks that all of her problems in her early school years can be pinned on being trapped in the wrong body.”
This is particularly interesting as science has shown that memory is malleable.
See, and that’s a mind-box, because if it is ‘triggering’ to merely say ‘actually, I don’t think you were always a boy, and you used to enjoy wearing dresses’ — then you’re in a very tight spot. You know? If someone’s psyche is so fragile that rewriting history is required, so that truth can’t be expressed and photos have to be hidden, then we’ve really left the land of rational beings. If the mere expressing of an opposing parental view is deemed ‘bullying’ or even ‘violence’ — that is some very deep trouble. Because it’s a short step from there to ‘do what I want or I’ll hurt myself.’ And these kids are getting these ideas from somewhere, you know? They’re not springing forth in a vacuum.
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Also , how is this not a mental illness if reality has to change for the biological being to be comfortable with ‘living a normal human life’? It is an abnormal life if you have to erase and hide reality to be happy. That would be the first red flag missed…
They do not want a normal life and it is becoming common to see middle age men threatening suicide if they don’t get expensive plastic surgery to look younger – ‘gifted’ to them.. [Or threatening suicide to get things like plastic surgery they can’t afford].??
To insist it is ok to experiment and sterilize children- It is something triggered by a porn addiction that hyper focuses on fetishizing women, and using children as disposable experiments? Low. These men are willing to sacrifice children to get a better sex life,
-that gives you a clue of what you are actually dealing with
Yes, many kids are getting those ideas from online or their culty friends. The trans cult wasn’t really a presence when I started high school about 11 years ago. I had dial-up internet and so did some of my friends. Some of those friends also had personal issues and/or a dysfunctional home life, and a few of them bumped into predatory adults online who would suggest self-harm threats as a way to make your parents do what they want. So, this predatory adult thing has been going on for a while, but it’s gotten worse. The trans cult is run by some of the most predatory men. One argument I hear is, “why do you care what adults want to do with their bodies?” but it’s not really just an adult issue when kids are getting involved. (For the record, I just tell other adults that the notion of a sex change is a myth and they don’t have to follow misogynistic gender roles, but if you want to make stupid life choices that’s on you. Just don’t expect me or other taxpayers to pay for your plastic surgery.)
One of the big trends in the early-2000s was the “everyone is bisexual trend” which was ridiculous in retrospect but at least being bisexual doesn’t require you to get plastic surgery and take dangerous off-label drugs.
Yes, wanting to hide the pictures isn’t healthy. If your daughter had pictures of her and someone who was abusive to her that she wanted to get rid of that would be reasonable, but erasing her childhood is Orwellian and not healthy.
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