Tumblr snags another girl, but her therapist-mom knows a thing or two about social contagion

Below is a comment recently submitted to 4thWaveNow by (yet another) parent of a girl who discovered the trans-trend on social media. This mom just happens to also be a psychotherapist.

Update: Please see the comments section for a lively and important discussion about the state of psychotherapy for trans-identified kids–including the controversy about what is (and isn’t) “conversion therapy.”

In a time when major professional organizations representing social workers, therapists, and school counselors are fully aboard—hell, they’re steering–the trans-kid bandwagon, it’s refreshing to hear from a therapist who hasn’t drunk the Kool-Aid.

But surely there must be many others who have doubts? Given the stunning disconnect between (on the one hand) the established knowledge about child and adolescent development in both neuroscience and psychology (things like identity formation, executive function, magical thinking, and neuroplasticity, to name only a few important lines of study), and (on the other hand) the simplistic mantra “if you say you’re trans, you are!” touted by “gender specialists,” there has to be some cognitive dissonance churning the minds of thoughtful clinicians.

We’ve heard from a few of them. In Exiles in Their Own Flesh, therapist Lane Anderson wrote that her skepticism about the transgender trend, along with her commitment to professional ethics, eventually drove her to resign her post working with trans-identified adolescents. Psychoanalyst  David Schwartz was featured in a post highlighting his insightful critique of the “inflated idea” of transgenderism.  And blogger Third Way Trans, a detransitioned man/former trans woman who is a graduate student in psychology, does yeoman’s work presenting a more nuanced view of transgenderism and identity politics.

Perhaps skepticaltherapist’s words will move a few more mental health professionals to speak up on behalf of our kids? We can hope.

by skepticaltherapist

There is an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the crew is introduced to a mysterious alien video game. It slowly infiltrates the minds of the crew, and Wesley Crusher and another young ensign watch as the adults around them slip into addiction. Wesley begins to sense that something is amiss, and goes to find Captain Picard. He is so relieved to find the Captain and to be able to confide in him. As Wesley leaves, we see the Captain reach into his desk with sinister sangfroid and take out a gaming device. He too has been infected. As we suspected, the game is really an insidious mind-controlling apparatus that will allow an alien race to gain control of the ship.

star trek

That is what this trans madness feels like to me. When I first began to hear this emerging in the young people around me, I felt confused. As a dyed-in-the wool liberal, I felt I should be accepting and affirming. As a therapist and long-time student of human nature, it just doesn’t make sense to me that people are “born in wrong body” except for perhaps in extremely rare cases. I believe there are “true” cases of transsexualism, but the number of those affected must be vanishingly small. Why all of a sudden did it seem to be everywhere?

When thoughtful colleagues and friends started talking matter of factly about five- and six-year-olds who were being supported and affirmed in choosing another gender, I was stunned. How could that possibly be anything other than very confusing for a young child? What was I missing? I must, I at last concluded, be getting truly old.

The alien mind control device made its way into my home about two years ago when my then eleven-year-old daughter begged me for a Tumblr account since her friends all had one. Foolishly, I consented without looking into it further. I wish I hadn’t. This trend toward all things pan/bi/non binary/gender fluid/trans, etc. has generated a huge amount of energy among kids my daughter’s age. I had been watching it with some degree of suspicion and concern. But last month the degree of my alarm grew. She started dropping provocative hints, such as asking us if she could get a buzz cut. I found some writing she had left around the house, where she wondered to herself whether she were “really a girl.” She was very excited a few weeks ago when a new friend came out as trans.

It isn’t that I am a hating ogre. I think if I really believed that my kid were profoundly unhappy in her body, that this narrative was coming from her and not from social media and the kids around her, I would be reacting very differently. I would also have a different reaction if I could convince myself that gender identity experimentation were essentially harmless. Girls want to pretend to be boys? Sure! Why not? But it is absolutely chilling to think that, these kids who are just doing what teens do, get support from the adults around them that let them get stuck in the experiment so that many of them wind up permanently changing their bodies.

For the record, this is a kid who has never had any gender nonconforming behavior at all. She has always been a girly girl. As a toddler and young child, she had several “crushes” on boys. She has always been very consistent in having fairly typical “girl” interests, with few to no “boy” interests. She has always been interested in art and dance at school. She is a little socially anxious, and that is about the only thing that makes her susceptible to this, I think. Probing further, she admitted that she has been binding, and has asked her friends at school to call her by a gender-neutral name. She also told us that she had begun researching testosterone. Luckily, her interest in this started just a few weeks ago, as best as I can tell.

After that conversation, I was a wreck. In spite of having taken a sleep aid, I woke up at four am that night, my heart pounding out of my chest. I started googling again, as I had done before, trying to find some place on the internet not infected by either the “trans is terrific” narrative, or hateful speech from the other side. Search term after search term returned similar results. “Trans peer pressure,” for example, returns article after article about how trans kids need support against bullying and peer pressure. Finally, “social contagion trans” brought me to this site.

Such a huge, huge relief. I feel like Wesley Crusher finding the one other person on board the Enterprise whose mind hasn’t been taken over.

Her current school is a wonderfully progressive and nurturing. But the school administrators all seem keen to jump on the “trans is terrific” train. They proudly proclaim to prospective parents that there are several kids transitioning in the upper school. It seems like this fact is sort of exciting to everyone, and establishes without question their all-accepting super liberal cred.

I have decided that the cult indoctrinators have had free access to her beautiful thirteen year-old-brain for two years now, and that it is time that I intervene and fight for my daughter. I am so grateful for the clarity I have found on this site. Because of this blog and the stories shared here, I am feeling cautiously optimistic that we may have been able to pull her back from this brink. We have closed her Tumblr account. My husband and I have been confronting her about thinking she is trans. We haven’t been yelling or ugly or angry. We have just been telling her what we think, how we are seeing things. Partly because of this blog, we have been able to avoid going through the, “Really? Well if you say so. That is great, I guess!” stage. Right when we got wind of this, we have just been very up front that there is something dangerous going on in society and that we will not tolerate her playing around with this. We are going to continue talking to her.

As a mother and a therapist, I have been stunned and saddened to the extent by which I feel silenced, both personally and professionally. I am afraid to discuss my concerns about my daughter with friends for fear of feeling judged and being accused of being a horrible mom who will damage my child. (Certain friends of mine have circulated petitions decrying thoughtful op-ed pieces in major newspapers that were approaching Caitlyn Jenner’s transition with some well-considered feminist questioning.) I am afraid of speaking up in professional circles about the phenomenon more generally for fear of drawing ire and misapprehension. It is so frightening to think that therapy for my daughter doesn’t feel like a safe option, since the process might be so easily hijacked just by the mention of the word “trans.”

As a therapist, I mostly work with adults. A common reason for seeking therapy is being at a place where you are wondering about leaving your marriage. When a woman (or man) comes in, they usually say something like, “I haven’t been happy in my marriage for a long time. My husband isn’t a terrible person, but I just don’t know if I can stay.” What I don’t say at that point is, “Well, if you are wondering that, it must mean that you need to leave the marriage. To stay any longer would be a terrible mistake. Here is the name of a divorce attorney.”

Ending a marriage is a huge deal. There are enormous consequences for several people, even when children aren’t involved. It isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. When a client says to me that they are thinking of leaving, I believe my job is to help create the space for them to explore this as a possibility without judgment in either direction. I want to provide complete acceptance of all of their explorations. It isn’t my job to interpret their feelings or tell them what to do. I listen. I ask questions. I reflect back what I hear. I neither rush them forward nor try to hold them back. It is a slow careful process of discernment, as it should be. There is a marriage in the balance.

I believe that open-ended non-judgmental exploration is the very essence of the therapeutic process. The current prohibition on exploring a patient’s feelings of gender dysphoria seems a perversion of this process. I would feel that I had done someone a terrible disservice by imposing an external yardstick on someone’s private decision as to whether to divorce. The potential for harm is so great! How much greater is the potential for harm when we are talking about impressionable young people electing to undergo permanent sterilization?

This is very lonely, and very frightening.


Summer camps for gender-whatever kids: Expanding or shrinking horizons?

Summer camp was a formative experience for me as a child. I’ll never forget the counselors who taught me archery, how to steer a canoe, and the right way to build a campfire. Swimming, singing, and giggling with new buddies, away from the watchful eyes of parents—all of it was magical, and crucial to my girlhood.

Perhaps most important was the chance to get to know kids from outside my own little neighborhood and school. Sharing adventures with youngsters from different parts of the country, with different backgrounds and ways of seeing the world, expanded my view of what was possible.

In the past several years, summer camps have been established for young (5-12 year old) children who define themselves (or who are defined by others) as “transgender.” Most of these camps also make a point of welcoming kids labeled as one (or more) of the following in publicity materials:

  • gender nonconforming
  • gender expansive
  • gender creative
  • gender variant
  • gender independent
  • gender fluid

I’m going to collapse this unwieldy bundle of terms into just….gender-whatever.

I doubt I’m unique in my baby boomer nostalgia: running around in scruffy shorts and a T-shirt, getting dirty, and playing a variety of games with both boys and girls, without the need for anyone to define me as gender-whatever. I mean, just exactly what has happened the last few decades, while we slumbered through the gender-fication of childhood?  Evidently a bunch of entrepreneurs found a new way to make money and influence kids by defining girls and boys who don’t “conform” to stereotypes as “expansive” or “creative.”

What does this even mean? There must surely be only a tiny number of school-age kids who “conform” to what—only wearing dresses and hair ribbons, and playing with Barbie Dolls if you’re a girl? No tree houses, Capture the Flag, or cavorting in the mud for you, young lady! Or only playing with trucks and dinosaurs if you’re a boy? No long hair, pink, or dress up for you, young man!

Now, “transgender” kids—we know what that means. Kids who are called by “preferred pronouns,” who are “affirmed” (the latest buzzword in activist/gender lingo) that they really are the opposite sex; the ones on blockers, the socially transitioned.

But the fact that they market these camps to the gender-whatever kids, not just trans kids? What do these activists think happens in regular summer camps for (ugh) “cis” kids? You don’t see ads for Camp Cis Kid.  Gender Uncreative Campfire Kids? Camp Gender Invariant?

We are talking about summer camp here, not school, where maybe the rules of behavior might be a tad more rigid–although public schools are anything but “gender conforming” anymore. (Do any public schools require girls to wear dresses or skirts these days? How many force girls into home economics, cooking, or typing class, with only boys allowed to take auto mechanics or shop? Answer: NONE.)

What would a “gender conforming” girl do in summer camp? Sit in a corner and sew doll clothes? As I recall from my own long-ago camp escapades, kids pretty much wore whatever and behaved however they liked in camp. It was kind of the point of it —to try out different stuff, do different activities. Have fun, you know, with all kinds of kids?

In recent years, “inclusion” has become the norm in classrooms and other children’s activities. For instance, you don’t stick the kids with autism, or Down syndrome, or a physical difference in a separate classroom or group. You include them with all the other youngsters. In fact, ensuring the “least restrictive environment” for all children is a matter of law in many places, because we want kids who are somehow different to be included and accepted by their peers. The goal is to encourage everyone to know and make friends with diverse others.

These camps are going in exactly the opposite direction by segregating kids in a separate summer camp based on their “gender expression.” Having an exclusive camp for young gender-whatever and “trans” kids reinforces the idea that they are different—so different, that some are encouraged in the notion that there is something wrong with their bodies that will have to be medically changed in the future. What does it actually do for these kids, to get the message that they don’t “conform” (to WHAT?) and need to go to camps only for kids like them? Conversely, how does it serve kids who do “conform” (to WHAT?) to attend different camps than their gender-whatever peers?

Let’s take a look at a couple of camps I’ve found for young gender-whatever and “trans” kids.

A cursory look at the promotional material and website for Camp Aranu’tiq shows…kids. Kids roasting marshmallows, climbing walls, canoeing, swimming. Kids doing gender-whatever stuff with other kids.

aranu'tiq home

The camp has garnered quite a lot of media attention, including from Katie Couric and Caitlyn Jenner. It was founded and is currently managed by Nick Teich, who identifies as a trans man and also works for the National Center for Transgender Equality.

In a story last year in the Huffington Post, Teich offered some insight into the reason for establishing Camp Aranu’tiq. It seems to mainly come down to bathrooms and bunkmates:

 Well, I started the camp for transgender youth in 2009. I myself am trans and I didn’t fully realize it until my early 20s, about ten years ago. Now that that the climate has changed and the Internet exists, more trans people are finding their identities and issues affirmed online and they, and their families, are discovering resources earlier. I went to camp as a kid and I really found it a formative experience for me.

As I got older, I started to think about kids who know they are transgender or gender-variant and how they could possibly go to camp. I found out from talking to some parents of trans youth that most camps were not equipped to take their children. Many camp administrators didn’t feel comfortable because they didn’t know where they could place the kids in terms of bunking them or which bathrooms they could use. And so the parents were told, “We can’t possibly do this, the child will have to go elsewhere.” Around that same time I was volunteering at a weeklong charity camp and when I told them that I was transitioning, they said I couldn’t come back for the good of the kids. So that was unfortunate. It was learning about trans youth’s lack of access to camp coupled with this incident of discrimination that motivated me to start Camp Aranu’tiq.

I sympathize with Teich’s experience of being let go from working at the charity camp. Trans-identified people should not be discriminated against in employment or housing. But I wonder about the bathroom/bunkmate issue. Do the “gender-whatever” kids just choose whichever bathroom and bunkmates they want? Do they get to switch around while they’re at camp? After all, they’re “variant” and maybe even “fluid.”

While Camp Aranu’tiq has been in operation for several years, Teich and others have raised money to purchase 115 acres of land in New Hampshire for a new camp facility. The site lists four individuals as “trustees” for the fundraising campaign (which they say is 65% towards its $3.6 million target), a veritable Who’s Who of the trans illuminati: Activist-author Jenny Boylan, WPATH president and activist Jamison Green,  founder of the first US pediatric gender clinic at Boston Children’s hospital Norman Spack, and PFLAG activists Marsha and trans-son Aiden Aizumi. (Some readers may recall a post of mine from last year about Ms. Aizumi and her Advocate profile, wherein she discussed her difficulty with accepting her then-daughter’s lesbianism, but came to embrace her child as a trans man.)

trustees for fundraising

A second camp for young kids is Camp Born This Way, which was featured on PBS affiliate Arizona Public Media in a 2014 story. Like Camp Aranu’tiq, the camp welcomes “gender variant” and “gender creative” kids. Were these children also “born this way?” Are gender variance, gender creativity, gender independence and all the rest of the gender-whatevers mutable traits, or does the camp’s moniker only refer to kids who think they are the opposite sex?

BTW fashion show

The fashion show photo reminds me of my own times playing dress-up as a little kid. I well remember putting on shows for my family. My kindergarten haute couture comprised princess gowns, cowboy chic, and mixed-gender attire. Odd that in the 1960s and 1970s, there was no special camp for those of us who were “gender creative.”

Lest anyone insist that gender-whatever kids are about much more than toys and clothes, a “Born This Way” parent says this in the news article:

 Kerrie had a baby boy five years ago. But growing up, her child wanted pink underwear for potty training and liked wearing sparkling dresses and high heels at childcare.

“We really just thought, ‘Our child is a creative spirit and loves this stuff, it’s bright, it’s fun,’ and we didn’t really think that much about it,” said Kerrie, who asked her last name not be used.

She and her husband would buy their child boy and girl clothes, trucks and dolls. The parents didn’t want to interfere with their kid’s current likes.

“As parents we thought, this is something that our child is interested in and there is no reason to discourage it,” Kerrie said. “Around the time that our child was three and a half or four years old, he started asking for clothes, like dresses, that he could wear to school, wanted to wear them every day. He wanted to be called a girl, he’d always say, ‘I want to grow up and become a mama and have my own babies.‘”

The group has helped clear many of Kerrie and her husband’s doubts and concerns.

“Our biggest value as parents is to raise a child who is confident, who is intelligent, who is kind in the world,” Kerrie said. “We raise our child as a girl, she goes by a new new name, she likes to be called a girl, she likes to have long hair, to wear dresses. In talking to people and to our family, I always say, ‘Our child is the same child she’s always been,’ we just understand who she is.”

Born this way? Either way, the camp counselors will be there to set things straight:

At camp, adults speak about concerns and successes, kids participate in activities seen at any other summer camp. And volunteers, many of whom are transgender adults, are there to advise the parents, and to ensure families that they can overcome any challenge.

The trans-kid honeymoon is sweet—while it lasts

I recently received comments from two readers (here and here) regarding a 2014 Dutch survey study of 55 young transgender adults (average age 20). The study, which reported overall positive psychological outcomes after medical transition, surveyed youth who had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, after which they had received puberty blockers, then cross-sex hormone treatments, and finally SRS surgery. The average length of time from first pre-treatment assessment to post-surgery was 6 years.

After gender reassignment, in young adulthood, the GD was
alleviated and psychological functioning had steadily improved. Well-
being was similar to or better than same-age young adults from
the general population. Improvements in psychological functioning

were positively correlated with postsurgical subjective well-being.

These findings would likely reassure parents and others who have ushered children down the medical transition road. And frankly, anyone who has watched even a few YouTube teen transition vlogs would not find these results particularly surprising. For these kids, it must be an exhilarating experience, to feel they can escape their dissatisfaction with sex-role stereotypes and/or physical characteristics, and embark upon the long-awaited transformation into the opposite sex.  The speed with which the metamorphosis happens—with many young people “passing” as the opposite sex after only a few months of hormone treatment–is  downright magical.

No doubt, at least some of these people will go on to live happy, long lives with no regrets. But it’s likely some will begin to question (at what age? 30? 40? 50? 60?) whether giving up their fertility; permanently altering their bodies; and facing a lifelong regimen of injections and medical monitoring were ultimately worth the price.

Here is one young woman who has begun to raise a few questions. In a recent video entitled “Gender Troubles” (uploaded 6 years after she first decided to “transition,” and after 4 years of videos on her channel that mostly celebrated that choice), she acknowledges what she values about her “transition,” while sharing her realization that things are not quite as simple as they originally seemed to her younger self:

 When I decided to go on hormones…it seemed like the most logical choice for me. I was in a very bad place emotionally…I hated myself a lot. I hated my body. I didn’t identify with it….and I felt very separate from my body. And finding YouTube videos of other people who were transitioning and finding out it was an option to do so kind of deeply affected me. It was very difficult to resist those changes….to resist taking hormones, to see those changes in myself, especially because feeling so disconnected from myself it seemed like the best idea….and you don’t often see other narratives out there, on YouTube, about gender…

…. I struggled with the changes, how I felt about them, how it made me feel and why. At first I accepted them. It was exciting. It was euphoric. It was certainly a ride. And I really liked seeing myself with more muscle, I liked my voice deepening, the hair that was growing…

… My parents were really cool with it. They were not cool with me being a lesbian at all…. [now] they didn’t have to say “I have a lesbian daughter. I have a son who’s straight”….My family was supportive of my transition, so we became a lot closer because of that…

…As time went on, I really felt like…I didn’t identify with the changes I was seeing…I didn’t like the fact that these changes weren’t natural. Part of it felt like I was burying a piece of myself…

…The other night, I cried, because I realized I really want to be able to get pregnant. And I really want to be able to breastfeed. … Maybe it’s me getting older, the internal clock…ultimately I don’t regret getting top surgery…but there are elements where I miss having them….only about 15% of the time. But I can’t deny that this happens…

…There’s a lot more that happens besides achieving a male body or a more masculine body….a lot of things change and you don’t realize it. I don’t think I realized it as much until  …  a year or two off hormones. Things started kind of affecting me…

…When I was transitioning I was really caught up in the thrill of it, the excitement of it, the endorphins that went along with it…[but now]  I’ve been thinking about things I wasn’t before.

Transition regret videos aside, even if we restrict our focus to the 55 subjects in the Dutch research study cited above–young people who (so far) are reporting largely positive benefits from their transition–there is more nuance to this study than first meets the eye. 4thWaveNow contributor fightingunreality delves into some of the study’s unexamined implications in the post below.

As you read fightingunreality’s analysis, consider whether survey studies like this one might be subject to the  “interpersonal expectancy ” of researchers and “supportive” parents. The interpersonal expectancy effect is also known as self-fulfilling prophecy, or the Pygmalian effect, extensively studied by preeminent psychological researcher Robert Rosenthal:

 …the tendency for experimenters to obtain results they expect, not simply because they have correctly anticipated nature’s response, but rather because they have helped to shape that response through their expectations. When behavioral researchers expect certain results from their human or animal subjects, they appear unwittingly to treat them in such a way as to increase the probability that they will respond as expected

In more recent years….research has been extended from experiments, to teachers, employers, and therapists whose expectations for their…patients might also come to serve as interpersonal self-fulfilling prophecies.

Analysis of the 2014 Dutch study (available in full at the link, and introduced above),

by fightingunreality

Any discussion of the “outcomes” for those children chosen for the experimental use of puberty-blocking drugs would be remiss without first addressing the ethics of what has been done.

First, this study is about young people, many of whom initially presented to the clinic as prepubescent children. Children’s understanding of gender is primarily comprised of the simplistic social stereotypes through which they have learned to perceive the meaning of biological sex, and which they lack the certainty of identity to resist. Developmentally unable to fully comprehend abstract concepts, they have little understanding of the social forces which inform and compel both them and the adults to behave in certain manners deemed to be “appropriate” on the basis of sex. The vast majority of these children were socially transitioned by their parents prior to their arrival at the clinic, thereby disrupting the chance that they may have had to experience a typical childhood.

hormone graph 2

Because 85% of the fathers and 95% of the mothers were supportive of their children’s desire to live as the other gender, and since virtually all of the children were living for all intents and purposes as socially transitioned, we can assume, with little doubt, that these parents subscribed to the idea of sex-based gender roles for their children akin to those we have seen in the plethora of news stories of (mostly) moms citing wrong toys and early color preferences as indications that their children were different.

Since none of these child-transition studies (this Dutch study being no exception) report the extent to which parents enforce traditional gender roles, we have no real sense of the degree of their influence on these children or how much they might affect the kids’ willingness to defy them in order to express their non-traditional likes and dislikes– without the expressed belief that they are in fact, a different sex. Is it only a coincidence that 94% of the males in this study were either same-sex attracted or bisexual (87.9% SSA, 6.1% BI) or that 100% of the females (89.2 SSA, 10.8% BI) had same sex attractions? Are we really expected to believe that social and parental attitudes in regards to homosexuality play no part in either the formation of the children’s understandings of what constitutes “feeling like the other sex,” or, more importantly, the acceptability to parents of what, in effect, becomes medicalized gay conversion therapy?

Since the stated protocol by these researchers is to provide a six-months to a year “diagnostic phase,” this means that prior to the first assessment for this particular study, they had already been living as cross-gendered for at least that amount of time, plus the previously acknowledged but unspecified duration of social transition. During the actual diagnostic phase, all of them “officially transitioned” –including name changes. Since the youngest, at the time just prior to the administration of hormone blockers, was 11.1 years old, that means this child had been living cross-gendered since a minimum age of 10.6 years old –in addition to the time prior to arriving at the clinic. What can such a child actually know about what it means to live as his or her own natal sex?

Given the willingness, as noted in the study, of peers and parents to promote and solidify by reinforcement these children’s sense of being wrong-bodied, it is hard to see how such children could establish a basis by which they could reasonably fully comprehend–let alone reevaluate–their child-based understanding of gender and gender roles. As has been noted in previous posts on this blog, identity formation throughout childhood and adolescence is both malleable and fluid. It is impossible to believe that the interventions by both the parents and the clinicians did not directly interfere with these children’s identity development. How does a child who has basically reordered their family’s lives by their insistence that they are actually the other sex back down from such claims? How do they tell their friends? We are not talking about adults, here, after all. By the time these children reached the point of choosing to delay their puberty, they had been living as the other gender for years –in some instances possibly half of their young lives. By the time it came to choose whether or not to imbibe cross-sex hormones, it is no surprise that none of these children chose to revert to living as their own sex: they had been socialized trans.

It’s interesting to note from the information in this paper that during the time between starting hormone blockers and their choice to be put on cross-sex hormones, these kids –especially the girls –actually experienced greater levels of “gender dysphoria.” I think it’s important to ask ourselves why that is. These kids were not facing the risk of further development of secondary sexual characteristics. They were living as their chosen gender. Why wouldn’t they be at least somewhat relieved of their dysphoria? Since levels of such dysphoria consist of self-assessment, this worsening could merely reflect the child’s desire to fully transition along with the knowledge that admitting a decreasing level of dysphoria might threaten the willingness of the clinicians to advance their transitions. That is one possibility. The other more likely possibility is that living as fully socially transitioned children, their awareness of not physically “matching” their chosen gender while assuming that role actually worsens the sense of being wrong-bodied. In other words, telling someone that you are actually a boy or a girl when you clearly are not increases self-awareness of and discomfort with your actual sex.

As was articulated in a BBC documentary by a gay Iranian who was pressured into transition, prior to transitioning he often heard, “He’s so girly. He’s so feminine.” After the surgery, whenever [he] wanted to feel like a woman or behave like a woman, everybody would say “look, she’s like a man. She’s manly.” This phenomenon can readily be applied to children who may have been considered like the other sex prior to living akin to that sex, but become seemingly less like the other sex when attempting to assume that role. The very fact that they are attempting to live as the other gender may very well increase the dysphoria that assuming such a role is meant to lessen. Is it a wonder that 100% of the children that comprised this cohort chose to go on to cross-sex hormones?

The gender specialists promoting these studies want us to believe that the use of hormone blockers provides extra time without the stressful development of secondary sexual characteristics. They’d like us to believe that the children are being given a sort of “time-out” to consider their choices and become more mature before committing to irreversible changes, but is that really the case? The hormones required for adolescent brain reorganization and development are not released when a child has received GnRh agonists. Physical development typical for teenagers is prevented, setting the children even farther apart from their peers, and sexual and romantic involvements –a key factor in desistance –are avoided.

Ultimately, 100% of the children who chose to utilize hormone blockers in this study went on to fully transition. In fact, virtually all children inducted for such therapy demonstrate 100% persistence rates despite that fact that even today, major proponents of this therapy (such as Johanna Olson-Kennedy and Robert Garofalo, in their 2016 paper detailing research priorities on gender identity development and biopsychosocial outcomes) acknowledge that “Clinically useful information for predicting individual psychosexual development pathways is lacking.” They do not have reliable information on who will or will not desist. Are we really expected to believe that these hormone blocker advocates are exceptionally lucky in their selection process when they themselves profess such uncertainty and bemoan the lack of adequate research? Or should such absolute rates of persistence be setting off alarm bells to those of us concerned with the practice of funneling children into a pipeline that flows in only one direction: towards lifelong medicalization with unknown long-term consequences?

Because of the extraordinary persistence rates of children infused with hormone blockers, it’s obvious that hormone blockers do not allow these children extra time. The choice to participate in this protocol becomes the decision to transition, because it prevents the aspects of maturation necessary for desistance from ever occurring. The one thing it does do, however, is to make it seem safer to interfere with the children’s natural course of development. Parents are assured that the effects of blockers are reversible, and the moral burden of placing young children in the position of making adult decisions is put aside.   As a result, even more children are being swept up by this 21st century version of reparative therapy. Altogether, we will never know the number of children who would have desisted had they been allowed to develop without social and medical intervention. This is a travesty.

As far as the “positive outcomes” this study purports, there are numerous problems. First, in order to understand this study, we must consider the selection process detailed in a previous paper by the same authors.  The 70 children chosen for this study were selected from an original cohort of 111 (out of 196 children arriving at the UV hospital seeking treatment for GD) eligible for hormone blockers, after having been “thoroughly screened after a comprehensive psychological evaluation with many sessions over a longer period of time” and found “eligible for puberty suppression and cross-sex hormones.” It was a group chosen on the basis of their likelihood of coping with the transition process. They had “no psychosocial problems interfering with assessment or treatment,” and “adequate” (in the case of this cohort, very high) “family or other support,” and what the researchers described as “good comprehension of the impact of medical interventions.” (We can only guess what that could mean, given the fact that pre-adolescents and adolescents do not have the frontal lobe development to fully project themselves into the future.) Altogether, they seem very unlike the average children and adolescents who are currently being inducted into this process of life-long medicalization either in regard to screening or support and ongoing therapy, which the study notes was provided to them for an average of 6 years “after first presenting at the clinic.”

Fifteen of the cohort of 55 had “some missing data” which we are assured resulted in “no significant differences” on the pre-treatment tests.   I think, too, that when considering the outcomes of these children, it would be remiss to ignore the 15 members of the original cohort of 70 who did not participate in follow up: six had not met the one year gender reassignment surgery anniversary for this study and were, therefore, excluded. Two refused to complete the assessment, and two did not return their questionnaires. (Why?) Three had health problems which prevented them from undergoing gender reassignment surgery, one “dropped out of care” (no clarification) and 1 died from complications from surgery. (How does one weigh such a loss against “positive outcomes?”)

Given the fact that all of these children had what is in essence a “gender obsession” since childhood and had been socially transitioned for years, it comes as no surprise that they experienced relief at finally accomplishing their goals. The kids as a whole did overall demonstrate better functioning than at their initial assessment –possibly from the counselling and special attention they were getting –but “it cannot be ruled out that it relates instead or as well to the benefits that accrue from being validated and accepted for treatment.” They were getting what they wanted, after all. Research has shown that gender non-conforming children and adolescents are at higher risk for PTSD due to abuse and bullying because of being different, and the prospect of “fitting in” provided by merely initiating action towards this goal certainly provides a degree of psychological relief- regardless of the actual physical changes that have yet to take place. This is evidenced by the “significant quadratic effect” that commences immediately upon initiation of cross-sex hormones, well before significant physiological effects of the hormones could possibly have occurred.

Would body image and psychological well-being have improved in these children had they been allowed to experience a natural childhood and identity formation without medical intervention? It is well known in the field of child development that children go through a period of significant peer gender enforcement which corresponds with their concrete thinking and familial socialization which certainly affects the self-image of those who fail to conform. This rigidity begins to relax at around 8 to 10 years –after some of the children in this study have already been socially transitioned due to the discomfort this rigidity has created. Would they have come to a more nuanced understanding of gender roles had they made it past this stage? We –and they –will never know. Logically, children have been shown to be more accepted by members of the sex with which they share interests, rather than those whose similarities are based solely on sex, and gender enforcement prior to adolescence tends to be enacted by members of the same sex. Is it any wonder that children tend to “identify” with those who seemingly accept them and share common interests? Would a more mature understanding of abstract concepts assist them in accepting their own bodies without conforming to artificial gender roles as it did for many of us who matured without the alluring possibility of appearing to actually change sex?

As adolescence progresses, criticism is most likely directed by male peers who are not known for impulse control or empathy. Certainly those of us who have been on the receiving end of such mockery can attest to the resulting social stigma and humiliations we suffered in light of it due to our vulnerability at that age and the fact that we were insecure in our own identities and lacking the self-assurance that maturity brings. It has been demonstrated that peer and social disapproval for gender non-conformity peaks in the adolescent years and gradually decreases throughout young adulthood and adulthood. Not only do we mature, but the peers responsible for the harassment mature, as well. The insults decrease. As gay rights activists in the past often said, in an attempt to help bullied gay and lesbian children, “it really does get better.”

Unfortunately, none of the children in this study will ever know whether this would have been the case for them, because they left behind in childhood the bodies which they very well may have come to accept in the absence of such criticism. In a study in which there is no viable way to create a control group with which to compare these children, there’s no way of knowing how well they would have fared with just the extensive psychotherapy alone, nor of desistance which may have taken place without these prolonged social and medical interventions which prevented the maturation and social and sexual experience that would have occurred otherwise.

As a gender non-conforming adult, I am occasionally harassed by what are typically groups of two or three teen boys out to impress their friends. Because I am an adult with a fully-formed sense of self, my identity is not threatened as are those of the children who have not yet discovered, through experience and physical development, who they really are or can be. Sadly, the ultimate result of medicalized disruption of identity formation –which would have included their whole selves, bodies included –creates an identity which is dependent upon exogenous substances, conscious gendered performance, and the willingness of others to deny their own perception in order to validate it. As such, the identity is not sustainable without significant degrees of external support, and remains more highly vulnerable to what are perceived as being threats to self when it is not validated.   As a result, they may be “at increased risk for the development of narcissistic disorders…as a consequence of the inevitable difficulties they face in having their cross-gender feelings and identities affirmed by others.” (Note: While the linked study is not specifically of children, it seems to me children subjected to early medical transition would also be at some risk of narcissism, given the confluence of factors brought to bear upon them.)

Perhaps the greatest hindrance to accurately critiquing this study is related to the ages and the timing of this so-called “long-term” study: it was completed after only a minimum of one year after gender reassignment surgery. These now young adults had barely any life-experience living as fully transitioned persons. They were still in the honeymoon phase of what had become a fully supported childhood desire. A significant portion of them were still living at home with their supportive parents and attending school. Their lives as fully transitioned adults were just beginning, and the difficulties of navigating sexual relationships and the hardships that entails for those not of their natal sex were in their infancy. They were many years away from the rise in suicidality noted in a Swedish long-term study of adult transgendered persons, which began to rise around 8-10 years after transition.

Because of the failure of the Dutch authors to denote significant variables among these youths (as I’ve outlined in this post), their study inspires more questions than it provides answers.   Have these children been harmed by the parental and medical reification of childhood fantasy and desire? We have primarily their own self-reports to rely on –the reports of young adults who never were given the opportunity to experience childhood or adolescence as one would experience their own actual sex. They have nothing with which they can compare their current experienced “gender.” They will not know what it’s like to have sex in their natural bodies, nor be loved as such. Certainly, as partially formed adults (remember- maturation takes place concurrently with hormonal action and resulting brain development and theirs was delayed), they had not reached fully adult status at the time of their self-assessment. We do not know how the difficulties of living as transgendered people will affect them. We do not know if the long-term effects of injecting artificial cross-sex hormones will damage them physically (or mentally). We will never know whether they might have resolved their gender dysphoria, as others have, and pressed on through life, because they were never given the chance to find out.

Their childhood fantasies were to become a different sex. What they have been given, instead, is the means of promoting that illusion—and the reality of becoming a life-long medical patient.


NEA teams with trans activists to set school policy & secretly undermine “unsupportive” parents—even on overnight field trips

by overwhelmed

As more transgender-identifying children enter our educational institutions, school officials have scrambled to provide accommodations for them, sometimes at the expense of other students’ rights, and sometimes against their parents’ wishes. The complications introduced are legion—ranging from opposite sex pronoun usage to highly controversial bathroom and locker room access.

One such school that has been affected is Township High School District 211, located in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. School officials had granted a natal male trans-identifying student’s request to be treated as a female in all areas (including bathroom usage and sports teams) but drew the line at access to the girls’ locker rooms. An attempt was made to balance the rights of the trans-identifying student (referred to as Student A) with those of the girls, by providing a separate changing facility, but it was deemed unacceptable.

The District offered to install—and in fact did install—a bank of lockers there, and to let Student A choose several female friends who would be comfortable changing alongside her. However, Student A told OCR that she felt this arrangement would “ostracize” her.

…The former Superintendent stated to OCR that she based her decision not only on Student A’s rights and needs, but on the privacy concerns of all students. The Superintendent told OCR that Student A explained that she wanted equal access to the girls’ locker rooms because “she wanted to be a girl like every other girl.”

But this male-bodied student was eventually given access to the girls’ locker rooms. Student A’s parents had filed a lawsuit and as a result, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights had become involved. The accommodation was made only after the school was threatened with the loss of millions in federal funding.

 After the student filed a complaint, the Dept. of Education’s Office for Civil Rights ruled Dist. 211 had discriminated against the student “on the basis of sex.”

Some attendees at the Sunday meeting noted the transgender student had been using female locker rooms already for two years without the school notifying students or parents.

…The school board changed its policies to allow Student A into the girls locker rooms, so long as the student changed behind newly installed “privacy curtains.”

Student A’s parents were able to achieve these new rights for their child, but it came with a cost. The natal girls in the locker room, many who feel uncomfortable changing within sight of a born male, had their right to privacy taken away. Six of these high school girls bravely spoke up during a school board meeting:

 Those curtains, the six girls said, shield Student A from personal insecurities, but they leave the rest of them uncomfortably exposed.

“It is unfair to infringe upon the rights of others to accommodate one person,” the six girls, in a joint statement, told an audience of at least 500.

“Although we will never fully understand your personal struggle,” they said, addressing the transgender student, “please understand that we, too, all are experiencing personal struggles that need to be respected.”

Some parents, organized as “D211 Parents for Privacy,” are putting pressure on the school board and their legislators to try to regain the privacy lost to their children. On their Facebook page, their sensible plea is for a compromise for Student A that doesn’t infringe on the rights of others:

 “We should be able to agree that accommodations can be made for those who need them due to rare situations they find themselves in so they can get through school without undue stress. That same principle should apply to EVERYONE.

Accommodations should NOT infringe on others if it can be helped and especially if the accommodation takes place in a private, intimate space where minor children are getting undressed!

It is called balancing your feelings with others. There is NO BALANCING of needs here. It is all ONE SIDED.”

Unfortunately, the situation in which these parents and their children have found themselves is becoming less rare. There has been a steady increase in the number of kids claiming to be transgender since the early 2000s.

rise in cases

The graph is from 4thwavenow’s post “Why are more girls than boys presenting to gender clinics?,” showing the relatively recent rise in the number of gender dysphoric adolescents–especially girls, but also boys. It’s an international trend. The BBC reported last week that there has been nearly a 1000% rise in the number of young people referred to gender clinics during the last six years, with a peak around age 16. I’ve also seen several anecdotal reports of multiple “trans kids” in one friend group, and the phenomenon was noted by a psychotherapist in this post. It’s clearly becoming more and more common for students to identify as transgender.

In response to the increasing numbers of trans-claiming students, the government has been pressuring schools to implement policies to safeguard these students’ rights. On December 1, 2014, the Department of Education released a memo declaring that gender identities are now protected under Title IX.

In one short paragraph of a 34-page memo released on Dec. 1, the Department of Education articulated a clear stance on gender identity, saying transgender students in public schools should be enrolled in single-sex classes that align with how they live their lives day-to-day.

“We’re thrilled,” says Shannon Minter, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “It’s so critical to the health and well-being of those students, and it’s going to be so helpful to have that guidance in writing so that schools understand what their obligations are.”

The memo is explicit that federal law protects students’ decisions made in accordance with their gender identity. “Under Title IX,” it reads, a school “must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of the planning, implementation, enrollment, operation, and evaluation of single-sex classes.”

Yes, you read that correctly, the legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) was “thrilled.” If you’re like me, you wondered why an organization with Lesbian in the title would support the increased rights of so-called transgender youth. After a quick search, I found a Wikipedia article that revealed Shannon Minter, a “trans man,” is a civil rights attorney with an impressive track record of LGBT legal victories. Minter was even appointed by President Obama to a White House commission. Having Minter as the legal director for NCLR coincides with the organization’s aims to cover the entire LGBT, not just the L. “Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy and Public Education” are the goals of this non-profit, public interest law firm.


In accord with the NCLR’s mission to promote transgender equality in schools, it joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gender Spectrum, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the National Education Association (NEA) to create a set of guidelines for schools. In August of 2015, NCLR issued a press release announcing the publication of “Schools In Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools.”

 Schools are increasingly being called upon to include and support transgender students. Recognizing that this can seem daunting or overwhelming, Schools in Transition offers practical guidance and field-tested tips to parents, educators, administrators, and community members on planning and supporting a transgender student through a transition at school. The guide is geared toward the needs of all students, kindergarten through twelfth grade, and incorporates recommendations that will allow schools to tailor those plans to the particular circumstances of the student and school. The authors include statements, recommendations, and resources which are based on data, research and best practices that have been tested in this field, as well as narratives of real experiences from students and educators.

So, “Schools In Transition” is a guide to help “schools understand what their obligations are” to transgender students. In fact, schools need so much guidance that this publication is a whopping 68 pages long. Bear with me, there is a lot of information to get through.

Who are the lead authors? Asaf Orr, Esq. (Transgender Youth Project Staff Attorney for NCLR) and Joel Baum, M.S. (Senior Director, Professional Development and Family Services for Gender Spectrum).

Before I get into the details of “Schools In Transition,” I’ll warn you that sprinkled throughout the guidelines is trans activist lingo. Terms like “cisgender,” “gender-expansive,” “assigned at birth,” “wrong puberty,” and “authentic selves” are used liberally and unabashedly. There is neither acknowledgement that students could be confused about their gender identity, nor any mention that most gender dysphoric children desist. It is assumed that once children declare themselves trans, it is a fact and they must be accommodated, even against parents’ wishes, if necessary. (There is actually an entire section devoted to “Unsupportive Parents” in Chapter 5.)

Hang on as I take you on a quick trip through all six chapters (and appendices) of “Schools In Transition.” I will share various nuggets of wisdom from the authors that I deem especially troubling. But I urge you to read the guidelines yourself. The authors thoroughly address all of the complications that trans students introduce into schools.


Don’t ever doubt children who think they are transgender. Period.

 The expression of transgender identity, or any other form of gender-expansive behavior, is a healthy, appropriate and typical aspect of human development. A gender-expansive student should never be asked, encouraged or required to affirm a gender identity or to express their gender in a manner that is not consistent with their self-identification or expression. Any such attempts or requests are unethical and will likely cause significant emotional harm. It is irrelevant whether a person’s objection to a student’s identity or expression is based on sincerely held religious beliefs or the belief that the student lacks capacity or ability to assert their gender identity or expression (e.g., due to age, developmental disability or intellectual disability).

 Chapter 1:

If you don’t affirm their transgender self diagnosis, it will likely lead to suicide.

 The consequences of not affirming a child’s gender identity can be severe, and it can interfere with their ability to develop and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. In the school context, that distress will also hinder a transgender student’s focus in class and ability to learn. The longer a transgender youth is not affirmed, the more significant and long-lasting the negative consequences can become, including loss of interest in school, heightened risk for alcohol and drug use, poor mental health and suicide.

It is best to socially transition children who think they are the opposite sex.

 With the goal of preventing or alleviating the distress that transgender youth often experience, typically referred to as Gender Dysphoria,3 healthcare providers recommend that the child “socially transition” and live consistently with their gender identity. That includes dressing, interacting with peers and using names and pronouns in a manner consistent with their identified gender. For most transgender youth, social transition provides tremendous and immediate relief, allowing them to flourish socially, emotionally and academically.

 Chapter 2:

This chapter deals with bullying of “gender-expansive” youth. I agree that no child should be harassed due to how they present or act. And, actually, I strongly support this statement:

 No child should be prevented from pursuing their passions simply based on others’ perceptions of their gender. By sending a message that certain pursuits are off-limits simply because of a person’s gender, we lose access to an incredible source of human potential.

 Chapter 3:

Staff, students and parents may need to be trained to accept a student’s authentic self.

 A student’s desire to undergo a gender transition at school is borne out of a deep need to be their authentic self. The urgency and timing of the gender transition must be carefully balanced. Ideally, the student is not currently experiencing an unmanageably high level of distress at school, which will allow the student, school and family (if appropriate) to work together as a team to establish the most positive scenario in which the transition can take place. This process could include training for staff, students and parents and a carefully laid out plan for the student’s authentic identity to be shared with the school community.

If anyone has a problem accepting children as transgender, it’s probably because they are uninformed.

 It is important to keep in mind that many negative reactions boil down to a lack of knowledge or familiarity with the idea of transgender people, particularly transgender youth. While a public transition might make others (including you) feel uncomfortable, that discomfort does not outweigh the student’s need to be safe and supported.

 Chapter 4:

Students get to decide where they go and what they do based on gender identity. If anyone has a problem accepting this, they should try to be more open-minded.

 Another crucial element in supporting a transitioning student is giving them access to sex-separated facilities, activities or programs based on the student’s gender identity. Restrooms, locker rooms, health and physical education classes, competitive athletics, overnight field trips, homecoming court and prom are just some of the explicitly gendered spaces that tend to be the most controversial because they require us to re-examine our beliefs about who belongs in those spaces.

Concerning bathroom usage, a transgender student’s comfort level has a higher priority than a non-transgender student’s comfort level.

 Any student who feels uncomfortable sharing facilities with a transgender student should be allowed to use another more private facility like the bathroom in the nurse’s office, but a transgender student should never be forced to use alternative facilities to make other students comfortable.

Teachers, are you planning an overnight field trip? Gender identity determines the sleeping arrangements. And the school cannot disclose to roommates or parents if a student’s gender identity and sex do not match.

 A transgender student’s comfort level with sleeping arrangements will largely dictate the manner in which related issues are addressed. If students are to be separated based on gender, then the transgender student should be allowed to room with peers that match their gender identity. As with any other students, the school should try to pair the transgender student with peers with whom the student feels comfortable. In some cases, a transgender student may want a room with fewer roommates or another alternative suggested by the student or their family. The school should honor these requests whenever possible and make adjustments to prevent the student from being marginalized because of those alternative arrangements. Regardless of whether those roommates know about the student’s gender identity, the school has an obligation to maintain the student’s privacy and cannot disclose or require disclosure of the student’s transgender status to the other students or their parents.

Don’t believe that trans girls could have an advantage over natal girls on competitive sports teams. Seriously, don’t think about it. Stop.

 Even in states whose athletic associations do not have a written policy or rule on this topic, schools and districts should allow transgender students to compete on athletic teams based on gender identity. Unfortunately, schools often erroneously believe that a transgender student, particularly a transgender girl, will have a competitive advantage over the other players and therefore should not be allowed to compete on the team that matches their gender identity. Concerns regarding competitive advantage are unfounded and often grounded in sex stereotypes about the differences and abilities of males versus females.11

Focusing on the perceived differences between males and females too often obscures the fact that there is great variation among cisgender males and among cisgender females. Moreover, the very small numbers of transgender student-athletes who have benefitted from transgender-inclusive eligibility rules have integrated well within the size and skill level of their teammates, such that there has not been any concern with competitive advantage. Thus, while a transgender girl may have been assigned male at birth, she still falls within the wide range of athletic abilities of her female peers.

Similarly, the participation of transgender student-athletes does not compromise their safety or that of other student-athletes. The safety rules of each sport are designed to protect players of all sizes and skill levels and adequately neutralize any concerns regarding the safety of transgender and cisgender student-athletes.

Chapter 5:

Schools should affirm and accept students as transgender even if it goes against their parent(s)’ wishes.

 In these situations, the transgender student will often seek out an administrator or educator for support. Whenever a transgender student initiates this process, the educator or administrator should ask whether the student’s family is accepting in order to avoid inadvertently putting the student at risk of greater harm by discussing with the student’s family. Based on that information, the school and student should determine how to proceed through the collaborative process of figuring out how the school can support the student and balance the student’s need to be affirmed at school with the reality that the student does not have that support at home.

Unsupportive parents might need to be educated by the school on how best to support their child. To sway them, school officials may need to remind them about the high rate of suicide.

 Addressing the student’s needs at school provides a great short-term solution; but where possible, the goal should be to support the student’s family in accepting their child’s gender identity and seek opportunities to foster a better relationship between the student and their family. A parent’s initial negative reaction to indications that their child might be transgender is likely based on inaccurate or incomplete information about gender identity or out of fear for what this will mean for their child’s future. Such reactions often come from a place of love and protection, and are not intended to harm their child — rejection can be a misguided attempt at protection. Learning that transgender youth experience these behaviors as rejection, and that these behaviors can have serious consequences for their children, often helps families change their behaviors.

Schools can assist the process of family acceptance in a myriad of ways, including arranging a safe space for the student to disclose their gender identity to their parents, providing counseling services for the whole family or connecting them to local resources or other parents of transgender or gender-expansive youth. As part of this effort, it is important to educate the student’s family members about the serious consequences of refusing to affirm their child’s gender identity. Sharing observations from school personnel that highlight the effects rejection has had on the student may also help encourage parents to begin moving toward acceptance.

When all else fails, school officials may need to testify against unsupportive parents in court. Parents, unlike educators, can be biased about their student’s needs.

 If the parents are unable to resolve the dispute amicably, it is possible that an educator or school administrator may be called to testify in court.

School officials interact with the student on a daily basis and focus on supporting the student’s growth and development, which gives school personnel unique insight into the student’s needs without the biases parents can or are perceived to have. Sharing the school’s experiences with the student before and after the student began identifying as transgender can help highlight to the judge the importance of affirming the student’s gender identity. Describing the academic, social or emotional changes that school personnel observed will strengthen the testimony and give the judge a fuller understanding of the child’s needs and what would be in that that child’s best interests.

 Chapter 6:

This chapter focuses on ways to get legal protections for transgender students. Just utilize Title IX, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and state anti-discrimination laws.

 Appendix A (Puberty and Medical Transition):

The benefits of binders outweigh the risks.

 At the onset of puberty, gender dysphoria can become incapacitating for transgender youth as their body begins to develop secondary sex characteristics that are inconsistent with their gender identity. These inconsistencies are also visible to peers. Transgender youth often take special precautions to hide their developing bodies with the hope of presenting to the outside world a body that is consistent with their gender identity. For example, a youth who identifies as male may use clothing and materials to flatten the contours of his chest. Those materials can be tight, constricting and uncomfortable; however, the dysphoria caused by not taking those additional precautions far outweighs the drawbacks.

 Appendix B (Gender & Pronouns):

To reduce gender dysphoria, use incorrect grammar.

pronoun chart

 Appendix C (Talking Points):

I won’t reproduce all four pages here, but Appendix C includes talking points developed by Gender Spectrum to address concerns about teaching gender and supporting trans students.

Some examples:

  • So who decides if a student is transgender? What is to prevent a boy coming to school one day and simply declaring that he is a girl and changing in the girl’s locker room?
  • Why should my child learn about gender at school?
  • Isn’t my child too young to be learning about gender?
  • If you’re talking about gender aren’t you discussing reproduction and sexuality?
  • Ideas about gender diversity go against the values we are instilling in my child at home. Are you trying to teach my child to reject these values?
  • Won’t my child get confused if we speak about more than two gender options?
  • Won’t discussing gender encourage my child to be transgender?

Administrators at US public schools–without consultation with parents or the rest of the citizenry–have enlisted the aid of a well known trans-activist organization to set policy. San Francisco Bay Area-based Gender Spectrum provides “consultation, training and events designed to help families, educators, professionals, and organizations understand and address the concepts of gender identity and expression.” Put another way, they are really big into educating people who may have doubts about gender identity.

Gender Spectrum cap.jpg

I admit that the information on their site makes my head spin. On the one hand, I am in total agreement that society’s rigid definitions of gender are harmful. And, likewise, I believe that it “is detrimental to those who do not fit neatly into these categories.” On the other hand, I cannot grasp how rejecting sex role stereotypes would lead a person to believe they are transgender. Their website is full of this kind of faulty reasoning.

Well, let’s get back to Schools In Transition. We are close to the finish line.

 Appendix D (Gender Support Plan & Gender Transition Plan):

Gender Spectrum is also the brains behind creating official-looking, convenient, ready-to-print forms. Included is a Gender Support Plan form and a Gender Transition Plan form.

 Appendix E (Assessing Transgender Students for Special Education):

Make sure that anyone evaluating a transgender student keeps affirming and accepting their gender identity. Educate them if necessary.

 Determining whether a student qualifies for an IEP or Section 504 Plan typically involves an assessment. To ensure the assessment provides accurate results, the assessment must be conducted in a manner that affirms the student’s gender identity. Beyond referring to the student by their chosen name and pronouns, the assessor should become familiar with the literature on transgender youth. Having experience working with transgender youth can also help lead to a more accurate assessment of a transgender student’s needs. Lastly, the assessor must not recommend any supports, services or accommodations that are intended to change a student’s gender identity or otherwise shame them for who they are.

Overall, I am quite amazed at the amount of information crammed into “Schools In Transition.” It seems designed to help schools navigate through ALL of the trans-induced complications. Schools under the threat of losing federal funding may feel they have no choice but to embrace these guidelines. Especially since the National Education Association (yes, the organization representing three million teachers) is a co-author and is promoting it as an “extremely valuable resource.”

 “NEA is proud to be a co-author of Schools in Transition, a first-of-its kind guide to supporting transgender students in K-12 schools,” added NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “This publication is an extremely valuable resource for the three million NEA members who work tirelessly to assure that their schools and classrooms are safe and welcoming for all students. And it will be a lifesaver for the increasing number of transgender students who are living as their authentic selves. Only when every school provides an inclusive, respectful environment can every student achieve their full potential.”

If there are any teachers out there reading this, I hope you are also skeptical about “Schools In Transition.” Many of you know your students quite well and realize that children can sometimes be confused. By “affirming” every student’s gender identity (because it is sanctioned by your schools’ policies), you may actually be causing them harm and setting them on the path to socially and medically transition with all of its attendant risks. If you share doubts  and agree that this type of “support” could be detrimental, please raise questions with your school administrators. There are many concerned parents who need your help.

4thWaveNow is evolving

As 4thWaveNow approaches its first birthday, the site is slowly transforming from a personal blog into a community of parents and friends who have become vital and indispensable content creators. Since 4thWaveNow’s inception, the comments sections have been populated by thoughtful and well spoken people. Some of those commenters are morphing into what I can only call “staff writers,” and for that I’m very grateful.

In the next day or two, I’ll be publishing a third piece by overwhelmed, one of the first parents to discover 4thWaveNow. In the last several weeks, the site has featured guest posts by other parents, as well as “gender nonconforming” women who at some time in their lives considered “transition,” but turned back. [NB: I think I’m going to start replacing the hackneyed and problematic “gender nonconforming” with “gender defying,” a wonderful coinage by fightingunreality, another key member of the 4thWaveNow community.]

I’m very grateful to all who’ve joined me here. I’ll be continuing to write posts myself, but I want to urge and support more readers in adding their voices. So consider this an official call for submissions, and spread the word. (In case it’s not obvious, let me make it plain—so far, this is an all-volunteer effort, so your reward will be the minds you open, not any increase in your pocket money.) I’m looking for both personal narratives/memoirs as well as news/analysis pieces.

As regular 4thWaveNow readers know well, there is nowhere else on the Internet where the perspective of parents skeptical of child/youth “transition” is featured as it is here. But while parents are particularly encouraged to contribute, so are other people who’ve been personally impacted by the trans-kid trend. Anyone who understands and supports the gender-defying mission of 4thWaveNow is encouraged to add your voice. And if you have ideas or suggestions for future posts—to be written by yourself or 4thWaveNow “staff writers”–please share them in the comments section below this post.

Thank you to every one of you who have helped make 4thWaveNow not only a safe harbor for parents dealing with this trend, but also a hub for high-caliber analysis and intellectual rigor. We’re all in this together, and I’m so glad you’re here.

We who congregate here often feel our voices are drowned out by the louder ones in the medical and media establishments. It’s a lonely exploration, but a vital one for this moment in history. Each time I open my home page, I am encouraged by the late, great poet Adrienne Rich, whose words will ever be my talismans and my touchstones:

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

 the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth


What the hell are you talking about? No. You’re a girl.

In this guest post, 25-year-old Charlie Rae (a pen name) shares her experiences living as a gender-dysphoric girl with a no-nonsense mother who didn’t for a minute subscribe to the notion that Charlie was really a boy. 

Charlie credits her mom, along with her training in martial arts and a peer group full of rough-and-tumble girls, with helping her realize who she really is.

Charlie is available to respond to comments and questions in the comments section below the post (her WordPress screen name  is artistarmy).

by Charlie Rae

I suffered from undiagnosed gender dysphoria for the first half of my life. I still often have the feeling that I am trapped in the wrong body, and that there is, somehow, another person living inside of me that my body isn’t represented by. I still try and change who I am all the time, endlessly searching for a way to look that fits who I feel like I am, but to no avail. It’s confusing, and sometimes painful, but I’ve come to see that it has more to do with society than with me as an individual.

It started as young as I can recall, in my family, where any and all activities were sex segregated: boys/men doing one thing, girls/women doing another. The older we got, the less accepting the boys were that a girl wanted to be around them all the time, and the harder it got to live in my own skin. I basically ignored my girlhood; I didn’t speak of it, and when they joked about it, I would ignore them. I didn’t want it to be a topic of conversation. I just wanted to be a boy. I thought something had gone wrong when my mom was pregnant with me.

Girls always talked a lot, about clothes and boys. They would try on outfits and go shopping. I would ask them, “aren’t you bored?” but they always said they weren’t. Once, at the beach, I tried to lie around and tan with them. “This is what you do all day?” “Here,” they said, and drew a little picture on my stomach with sunscreen. “Now you just wait until you’re tan enough to see the picture.” I thought, “I’m definitely not a girl,” and went back to playing pickle, and football, and getting dirty.

When I was in elementary school, the sex-segregated spaces continued. At recess the boys would play soccer, and the girls would be on the jungle gym. Once when I tried to play soccer, the boy who I was told had a crush on me (and that’s why he picked me), close-lined me as I was running for the ball. Everyone laughed. I was already in Tae Kwon Do by then, and I had been told never to use my skills to hurt anyone unless I really had to. So I didn’t. I just left. At recess, I started walking the perimeter of the field alone.

My mom never did entertain my idea of thinking I was a boy. Instead she just put me in martial arts class, which helped me in many ways but also perpetuated my confusion. As inclusive as Tae Kwon Do could be, some parts were still sex-segregated. Girls couldn’t fight or partner with boys. I was way too strong for the girls, and I was told to hold back on them. I would get pulled aside by the instructors and given talkings-to. “I’m a boy,” I thought, and I would ask, “Why can’t I fight a boy?” “It’s against the rules,” I was told.

But that changed as I rose higher and higher in rank. It was a fairly new martial arts school, and I ended up being the first person ever awarded a black belt at 8 years old. Something shifted then because I became such an authority. And my instructor started letting me fight boys. I felt somehow…accepted. That I had proven myself. I acted “like a boy” in mannerisms and speech, I fought “like a boy,” and I trained like the male instructors did, but I was the only girl. And I was only 3 feet tall.

I started to become somewhat of a freak show, the girl who was really good. I was featured in demonstrations, because, “look at that little girl!” I wanted to stop being a girl, though. I wanted to be taken seriously.

When I was 9 or 10 years old, something happened to me that must have deeply impacted me. There was a male-to-female transgender person named Kate who we met when my mother was taking care of a dying old woman named Pat. I only vaguely remember Kate. He sort of looked like a woman but he had man hands, and big feet, and something looked different about him. He was transsexual, and he had gotten all of the surgeries.

According to my mom, Kate went to my mother and said, “your kids are asking me questions, can I tell them?” My mother said, “yeah, tell them whatever you want.” My mother didn’t hide things from us; she didn’t whisper under her breath or spell words to keep things secret. She was flat out. She answered our questions, and she let other adults talk to us candidly.

He evidently told us he regretted transitioning. That after everything he’d done to his body, he said “I don’t know what I am.” He also said he knew he was a man, that it was never his body that was wrong. He called himself a he-she. I don’t remember this story. Maybe it was over my head at the time.  I do remember hanging out with Kate, and him laughing when I would ride Pat’s wheelchair around the apartment. I think I block a lot out because I loved the old lady, Pat, and Pat died. But I have no doubt that it had an impact on me.

Now’s as good a time as any to tell you more about my mother. I haven’t mentioned her much in this story so far because being a boy was just not something she entertained. My mom was a full-disclosure kind of mom, and she was also frank, and certain. About everything, it seemed. She would say, “What the hell are you talking about? No. You’re a girl.” She didn’t have an existential crisis, she didn’t send me to therapy, she didn’t sit me down to talk. She answered the question like she answered any other questions: to the point, with conviction, and then went on with her day.

She also blurred the lines of gender for me. I didn’t grow up with a father, and when I would get sad about it, she would tell me, “I am the mommy and the daddy.” She wore suits sometimes. She cut her hair short. She talked like my uncle, sometimes, when she was angry. She used body language that men used. I just remember thinking, “alright.” Because that’s how it was, she’d told me the answer, and I accepted it. Even though it didn’t feel that way, and I still hated it.

When it came to Tae Kwon Do, she’d say, “you’re not a boy, you’re better than the boys.” She was always proud to have two daughters. When everyone would make fun of me for wanting to do stuff with the boys, mom would say, “Rachel can do whatever she wants.” She was strong, and fierce, and when she was around, what she said would go. When people would make fun of me, she would say, “Fuck ‘em.” She never called me a “tomboy,” she mostly called me peanut and babygirl.

She wasn’t afraid of what people thought of her. I started to pick that up from her. People would get on her about how open she was with us, about swearing, about “adult stuff” and burping, and how rude we seemed to other people. “Oh, get over it. They’re kids,” she would tell them, and she would write them off.

When I wanted to cut all my hair off, she just told me how good it looked on me. It wasn’t an ordeal. None of my “boyish” qualities were an ordeal. They were what they were, and I was a girl.

When I got to middle school, and I found other girls who were weird, and wanted to be weird, and get dirty, and be unlady-like, was when I started cherishing the idea of being a girl. I kept my hair short, and everyone called me a dyke. I didn’t know what that meant, but it was okay, because I had all of my weird friends–all girls, 10 of us, and we called ourselves the Golden Mangoes. Four of us were what would be considered “tomboys,” and none would have been considered “girly girls.” We started food fights, got into trouble, loved rock climbing in gym class, and we didn’t talk about clothes and styles. We made sculptures out of garbage and told people off that were picking on us. We weren’t afraid to get dirty when we went outside for science class. We were loud and obnoxious. For the first time in my life, I recall loving being a girl, because it meant I could be in that group.

One of the Golden Mangoes started to transition to male in high school. It caused a huge rift in the whole group. She would get angry with us when we would misgender her, and I mean, really angry. This was when the idea that I was not a boy really sunk in. I saw her desperately trying to convince everyone that she was a boy, and we all knew it wasn’t true.

The group started meeting behind her back, not to be cruel, but to talk about how uncomfortable we were with it, and how mean she was to us about it. We didn’t try to misgender her, we had just known her as a girl for so long that it was hard to change. There were other things as well. She was touchy-feely with us. We had all always been touchy-feely with each other, but, we thought, if she wanted to be a boy, the rules would have to change. We didn’t want her to touch us anymore, we didn’t want her to be at sleepovers. Everything shifted in response to her anger at us. I knew that if I joined her thinking I was a boy, that would happen to me too. I gave up thinking I was born in the wrong body then.

I’m telling you, it’s all about finding your place. That’s what gender dysphoria is all about. I mean it.

It’s literally in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If your daughter or son’s self-actualization depends on having friends, feelings of accomplishment, recognition from society, and they can’t get those things in the body they are in, it makes perfect sense to me that they would think they are born in the wrong one.


I chose to do a speech about hair removal for my public speaking course last summer. I had read about a sociology professor who would get her students to change their shaving rituals for the remainder of the class. She remarked how she was surprised that the women quickly bonded over their behavior of not shaving. Though I’ve only taken intro level sociology courses, this didn’t shock me. We are reflections of our environment, always. When the environments change, we change, if only sometimes marginally.

The energy and attention around the trans issue isn’t just something happening in the home, it’s happening in society at large. See, some radical feminists (I think a little crudely) call liberal feminist ideologies “Special Snowflake Syndrome,” but in a way, they’re right. And it’s a paradox. Everyone does want to be special. That’s absolutely obvious in everyone’s life, even those of us who know that certain things are false because of the knowledge we’ve acquired. The paradox is, we all have a context in which that specialness is able to blossom, and self-actualization doesn’t come until we are accepted somewhere for who we are, for all of our special talents.

My conclusion is this: in society, and in the home, we are giving trans issues too much of our energy. Period. On a social, activist level, everyone seems to be in lockstep, because the trans platform is national and pervasive. It’s a fight that needs to be argued with logic. But in the home, especially in the sense of what’s actually happening around us in real life, we’re all becoming obsessed with a complete lie. Our bodies are our bodies. Period. No one was “born in the wrong body.” Body mutilation is body mutilation.

That’s easier for women, for feminists, to realize when we think about how we react to breast implants, and Botox, and all of these surgeries and medical mutations women are going through because they’re brainwashed by society to think they have to be beautiful and perfect. The trans thing is no different.

But the thing about thoughts is, the more weight you give them, the more important they become. That’s why mass media is so repetitive. It won’t stick the one time. You have to say something so many times to make it important.

The advice I would give to mothers, in all honesty, is stop taking this so seriously. I don’t mean to be callous, or write anyone off, and if it’s a struggle for you, then there certainly needs to be work and research done behind-the-scenes to deal with this.

But as a thought experiment, what if your 13-year-old daughter came to you and told you she wanted breast implants. Would you take her seriously? Or would you say “absolutely not, go do your homework”? Kids are uncomfortable in their bodies. Always. Being alive, growing up, is uncomfortable. To have intense reactions to this, to send kids to therapy, is to make it a big thing. It puts importance on it. Not all of kids’ thoughts are valid. They might mean something to them, but that doesn’t make them reasonable. Kids go through all kinds of phases. This might be one of them.

There’s something my mom used to tell me when I wanted something that she didn’t want for me. “When you’re 18, do whatever the hell you want.” This was how it was. My mom didn’t let me convince her that I knew more about the world than she did. She never let that get into her head. She let me get my ears pierced, but when I was 18, I could do whatever the hell I wanted. She didn’t take me to get my body piercings, she made me wait.

But when I was 18, she didn’t take me to get my piercings, she wouldn’t pay for them, sometimes she would say, “what are you doing to your beautiful body?” But I got some. After a few years, I took them out. They were uncomfortable. I couldn’t really move when I had them. And they were impermanent.

Injecting kids with hormones or giving them puberty stoppers isn’t good for their bodies. You don’t need any other reason not to let your kids have these things. Let them wear what they want, dress how they want, don’t make a big deal out of that.

But find them a place that they fit in. We are social creatures; we need that in order to become ourselves. You and your daughter need to find girls that like to do what she likes to do. And then give that all of the attention.

Blocking puberty–and the right to an identity crisis

I recently wrote about research findings that gay and lesbian youth are typically older than their heterosexual counterparts when they first act upon and realize their sexual orientation. While same-sex attracted girls, in particular, reach this milestone between 19-early 20s, the current trend is to “socially transition,” then puberty block, and finally move on to cross sex hormones at age 16.

It’s easy to see that many of these teens are being set up to short-circuit the natural discovery of their sexual orientation. But is that the only potential problem with social transition and puberty blocking—the preemptive conversion of likely gay and lesbian youth to transgender?

Not by a longshot. There are so many important things that happen at puberty which are critically important to the maturation necessary to make informed decisions about major life changes (you know–things like sterility, loss of breasts, and a permanently deepened voice) that a developmental psychologist or cognitive scientist could write a doctoral dissertation about the subject.

In fact, many have; the research and clinical literature going back to the mid-20th century is chock-a-block with replicated studies, clinical observations, and meta-analyses. More recently, we have MRI and fMRI studies corroborating earlier observations.

What we don’t have, at least not yet, are the PhD theses showing how the experimental “treatments” currently being implemented by pediatric endocrinologists and gender specialists—many of whom have no professional background in child or adolescent psychology—fly in the face of that large body of literature.

I have spent hundreds of hours poring over the literature on gender dysphoria and pediatric transition. But in all the studies and papers I’ve read, I have not seen mention of the vast body of extant knowledge about child and adolescent psychology. It’s as if these gender specialists just started from scratch.


Erik Erikson

What exactly are they ignoring? Well, for starters, there’s the work of Erik Erikson, a preeminent child and adolescent psychology expert of the 20th century. You can’t read the scholarly or clinical literature on pediatric psychology without finding a reference to Erikson’s work; in fact, much of the current knowledge in the field is built upon his fundamental insights. A blog post is not adequate to even summarize it, but his bedrock finding about the psychological journey of adolescence is this: Developing an identity takes place in stages, culminating in an integrated adult personality; and “identity work”—including an identity crisis—is critical to healthy adult psychological functioning.

erikson capAdolescent psychology expert James Marcia was another foundational thinker who built upon Erikson’s framework:

… two distinct parts form an adolescent’s identity: crisis (i.e., a time when one’s values and choices are being reevaluated) and commitment. He defined a crisis as a time of upheaval where old values or choices are being reexamined. The end outcome of a crisis leads to a commitment made to a certain role or value.

But we don’t need a study, a theory, or someone with a PhD after their name to prove this to us, do we? Any adult who has lived through that time of life called “adolescence” can attest to the fact that questioning, and trying on and discarding different ways of being, go with the territory. And it’s a rough time. How many adults would willingly relive the fraught and tumultuous days of middle and high school? Every psychologist (until the Age of the Trans Child) has agreed: it’s not supposed to be an easy ride. In fact, without the essential but painful work of adolescence, a person will not reach their adult potential: unable to achieve an integrated adult identity, either because they have failed to resolve the identity crisis or because they have experienced no crisis.

Contrast this long-accepted understanding of adolescence with the approach taken by today’s gender specialists. Instead of helping children weather the natural and not necessarily comfortable process of cognitive and emotional development, they concretize and freeze in place the certainties of childhood, in what should be a time for exploration, not stasis.

It would be one thing if these gender clinics were really in the business of helping a child expand or explore different gender identities, without medical interference. But we know that they support and encourage “transition” from one sex to the other, with all the permanent physical changes that entails. In terms of adolescent psychological development, once these kids have taken the irrevocable step of moving from blockers to cross sex hormones, they have been denied the opportunity to go through an identity crisis.  So, a 16-year-old girl who has lost her fertility and her breasts, and who has already committed to a permanent testosterone-deepened voice and increased body hair — how easy will it be for her to experience James Marcia’s “time of upheaval where old values or choices are being reexamined?” That adolescent girl has been cheated of that stage of life. And when did we, as a society, decide that was a good thing?

The media stories and anecdotes from gender clinics are all the same: The kids are uncomfortable, so they and their parents seek relief. Then, according to everyone, the treatment “works” because the kids are happy. For how long? No one knows.

Be that as it may, an identity crisis isn’t supposed to be resolved in preschool, or kindergarten, or even middle or high school: It is the work and the challenge of adolescence, not complete until late adolescence.

 Adolescence has long been characterized as a time when individuals begin to explore and examine psychological characteristics of the self in order to discover who they really are, and how they fit in the social world in which they live. Especially since Erikson’s (1968) theory of the adolescent identity crisis was introduced, scholars have viewed adolescence as a time of self-exploration. In general, research has supported Erikson’s model, with one important exception: the timetable. It now appears that, at least in contemporary society, the bulk of identity “work” occurs late in adolescence, and perhaps not even until young adulthood.

“Late in adolescence”—after the time when most “trans” youth have moved on from puberty blockers to cross-sex hormones, thus bypassing the period when they would have been able to explore possibilities in their original bodies—including, but not limited to, their sexual orientation and other essential aspects of their identities and personalities.

The insights of the earlier child development experts have been corroborated by advanced visualization technologies, such as MRI and fMRI, which have revolutionized our understanding of the human brain and psychological development. In recent years, we have come to understand that full maturation occurs much later than previously thought.

Recent research has shown that human brain circuitry is not mature until the early 20s (some would add, “if ever”). Among the last connections to be fully established are the links between the prefrontal cortex, seat of judgment and problem-solving, and the emotional centers in the limbic system, especially the amygdala. These links are critical for emotional learning and high-level self-regulation.

Beginning at puberty, the brain is reshaped. Neurons (gray matter) and synapses (junctions between neurons) proliferate in the cerebral cortex and are then gradually pruned throughout adolescence. Eventually, more than 40% of all synapses are eliminated, largely in the frontal lobes. Meanwhile, the white insulating coat of myelin on the axons that carry signals between nerve cells continues to accumulate, gradually improving the precision and efficiency of neuronal communication — a process not completed until the early 20s.

In addition to reading research studies, I spend a fair bit of time reading the blogs, tweets, and social media writings of trans-identified teens. While most teens are pretty self-absorbed, with these kids, I am always struck by the depth of self-involvement, the extreme obsession with looks and appearance, and the constant focus on getting what they want, when they want it.

What is conspicuously absent in the narratives of many of these teens is another key aspect of pubertal maturation: self reflection and awareness. Concrete, literalist thinking is a hallmark of childhood. So a preadolescent frozen at Tanner Stage 2 of pubertal development (when blockers normally begin to be administered) may still think literally and concretely: “I am a boy.” Instead of: “Maybe I think I’m a boy because I like trucks and hate girly clothes. Maybe there’s a reason I think I’m a boy, but I’m really not.” The name for such higher level reflection, or “thinking about thinking,” is metacognition.

So when these young people, frozen at an earlier stage of cognitive development, are asked at age 15 or 16, “Are you SURE you’re really a boy?” why would any of them say “no”? And in fact, in the small number of studies that have looked at kids who have been socially transitioned and puberty blocked, none of them have failed to move on to cross sex hormones. Is this because they are “truly trans” and their clinicians have godlike diagnostic skills, with zero—zero!—false positives? Or is it because the very act of endorsing and reifying their self-proclaimed concretized self-images has helped them persist in those self-perceptions?

 No adolescent withdrew from puberty suppression, and all started cross-sex hormone treatment, the first step of actual gender reassignment.

It’s not just metacognitive and abstract thinking that develops slowly, reaching fruition in late adolescence. As I wrote about in this post, executive function—the ability to make decisions, plan, and think of future consequences (like, “do I want to have children of my own, ever”?) doesn’t begin to consolidate until the mid-20s.

Then there’s social maturity and a more nuanced understanding of how to interact with one’s peers. Who doesn’t remember the awkwardness, the trying-to-fit-in, seasick self-consciousness of adolescence? Social development takes place in concert with one’s peers, along with the slow dawning of self-reflection. A socially transitioned, puberty-blocked 14-year-old who has avoided the rigors of hormone-fueled social issues won’t  understand any of this.  How will that lack of experience inform their decision to continue on to cross sex hormones?

 We previously investigated how the ability to understand social emotional scenarios using mixed emotions varied across puberty in girls aged 9–16 (Burnett et al., 2011). There was a change between early and late puberty in the number of emotional responses that participants gave in social emotion scenarios, with girls in late puberty attributing a wider combination of emotions in social scenarios than their peers in early puberty

… Our findings of puberty-related changes in neural activation, together with those shown in other recent fMRI studies using different ‘social’ tasks as described in the introduction, suggest that aspects of functional brain development in adolescence, like these behavioral changes, may be more closely linked to the physical and hormonal changes of puberty than chronological age.

 As the authors note, social intelligence—a more nuanced understanding of “social emotion” scenarios—develops as a result of the release of hormones, not chronological age. This is so obvious it hardly seems worth studying (or proving on a functional MRI study).  Yet gender specialists talk as if the brain develops separately from the body; as if hormones are only important for secondary sexual characteristics. They are constantly reassuring skeptics that blocking puberty gives these incredibly immature kids the time to figure out if this is really what they want—without the benefit of the cognitive, emotional, and social maturation processes that comes with the secretion of pubertal hormones.

I’ve touched upon only a few facets of adolescent cognitive-emotional development in this post. The literature in this area is vast, still accumulating, and spans decades and millions of pages of writing. Contemporary cognitive scientists like Russell Viner, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Jay Giedd are continuing to add to the body of knowledge. But their work on adolescent psychology and brain development is not referenced in the media or in the writings of trans activists or pediatric gender specialists. In point of fact, what little peer-reviewed research there is in the field of “gender identity” is going in the exact opposite direction of the rest of developmental psychology and cognitive science—towards a reification of rigid, unchanging identity and decision-making “agency” for younger and younger children; while the replicated research of developmental psychology and neuroscience is moving toward an understanding of neuroplasticity, the necessity of undergoing an identity crisis, and a later age for brain maturation than was previously thought.

Cognitive scientist Jay Giedd:

One of the most exciting discoveries from recent neuroscience research is how incredibly plastic the human brain is. For a long time, we used to think that the brain, because it’s already 95 percent of adult size by age six, things were largely set in place early in life. … [There was the] saying. “Give me your child, and by the age of five, I can make him a priest or a thief or a scholar.”

[There was] this notion that things were largely set at fairly early ages. And now we realize that isn’t true; that even throughout childhood and even the teen years, there’s enormous capacity for change. We think that this capacity for change is very empowering for teens. …

Instead of respecting this “enormous capacity for change,” gender specialists are tampering with the endocrine system, freezing gender dysphoric children in a state of suspended development—and then expecting these psychologically and emotionally immature children to make permanent decisions about their future as adults. It’s a huge clinical gamble. What it amounts to is hoping for the best.

But is anyone preparing for the worst?

Guest post: I put the shotgun down

This personal narrative by Juniper, a frequent commenter on 4thWaveNow, touches on and corroborates several themes that have been previously written about on this blog:

  •  A formerly dysphoric girl child (now in her mid-40s) who comes to terms with and accepts herself as female—but only after weathering an intense personal struggle in adolescence and early adulthood.
  • A lesbian identity that was not fully claimed until early adulthood, with a first sexual relationship at 19—right on target with the data showing that same-sex attracted women are late to fully realize their sexual orientation. (If Juniper had been born later, it’s likely, as she herself says, that she’d have been identified as “transgender” and in need of medical intervention, long before she came to terms with herself as female and same-sex attracted.)
  • Shame and shunning due to “gender nonconforming” behavior and homosexuality, which led to self hatred, self harm, and even suicide attempts.
  • The profound and currently unmet need of dysphoric or “gender nonconforming” girls to have adult role models and mentors who aren’t egging them on to “transition.”

 Juniper makes a strong case, as I have, that medical transition ought to be an adult decision, made (if at all) no earlier than one’s mid-to-late 20s. Her story is a testament to how much things can change in a young person’s mind as their mental capacities mature.

 And her story is a reminder of how very important it is to experience the storms of adolescence, because out of that struggle is born a depth of character and self-realization that might not be possible otherwise—that is, if puberty were “blocked” and a childhood insistence on being the opposite sex were coddled and celebrated.

Juniper is available to respond to comments and questions below her piece.

Update 2/7/2016: Please see the comments section for an in-depth discussion and expansion of the many points Juniper introduces in her autobiographical account.

by Juniper

I grew up with a twin brother; I’m female, and we are fraternal twins. My brother was sensitive and gentle, while I was tough and rugged. At age five, I remember the two of us looking into a mirror as my brother said, “I should have been the girl and you should have been the boy, because I am the pretty one.”  Indeed, my brother was prettier than I was and I nodded in silent agreement.

We were socialized in a restrictive, gender stereotypical home.  My brother watched wrestling on TV with my dad while I made breakfast with my mom. My dad was into health and fitness and I was allowed to do push-ups and sit-ups with them but I was scolded if I ever did more reps than my brother. My brother was ridiculed for crying or showing signs of weakness. When we went off to grade school, my brother was bullied.  He would run to me for help, and I would then confront the boy who was picking on him, even if it meant that I would end up in a fistfight. Before I knew it, every little boy came running to me if a larger boy was after him. I became the kid who would protect the ones who were being bullied. My brother made me promise never to tell our parents and we agreed this was best for everyone concerned. We kept our secret. My brother thought of me as a brother and not as a sister.

I felt like god must have made some type of mistake and that surely, a miracle would happen and I would awake one day as a boy. At a very early age, perhaps age 5 or 6, I began to self-harm. I felt such intense shame about my body and sex-related anatomy. I wanted to scrub those parts away. I would scrub until I bled from the abrasions.

I began puberty at a young age and started menstruation in the 4th grade, before any sex education at school or “heart-to-heart talks” at home. I was devastated to learn that I had become a “woman” despite my prayers, despite my efforts to stop the changes. My parents and other adults seemed displeased with my inability to adopt or cultivate some semblance of femininity. My body had betrayed me. Because I developed early, I was targeted with harassment and unwanted sexual attention from boys (and men.) This contributed greatly to extreme feelings of isolation and hopelessness.

The self-harm escalated and became much more serious at age 11. I began contemplating suicide and made several unsuccessful attempts. I began to wear my clothes as baggy as possible. It became commonplace that I was mistaken to be a boy by people who did not know me.  (Today, I am still most often called “sir” by clerks in stores and other strangers.)

I began to come to terms with my history of sexual abuse at about this same time: age 11 or 12. Meanwhile, my brother began exploring his own sexuality and started cross-dressing and experimenting with my mother’s make-up with another boy while my mom was at work. (My parents had divorced by this time.)  My brother and the other boy were chased down and threatened. They were called “faggots” by a truck full of young men one day when they decided to venture outside while cross-dressing. My brother became more cautious, closeted and secretive about his cross-dressing after this incident.

After puberty, we remained close as siblings. We loved each other, but his friendships with other boys became increasingly important to him and he began to prefer their company instead of mine. At age 12, the bullying stopped for my brother as he began developing into a very muscular young man. Unfortunately, he also seemed to pair his new masculinity with misogyny and violence.

When we entered junior high school (now called “middle school”), my brother and his friends no longer wanted to associate with me because I was a “girl.”  I had been considered a gifted student through grade school but I began to struggle to concentrate on my studies. The boys lifted weights and did “guy things” without me. I felt intensely isolated. I became increasingly introverted and depressed, and I continued self-injurious behaviors. The suicidal ideation intensified and I developed bulimia. I would sneak out at night to take long runs of 10 to 20 miles, several times a week.

At 15, I became very involved in religion. I was quite fanatical, and this was a new escape from my struggles. I also began working after school. I found ways to keep myself as busy as possible so that I could avoid thinking about my body, my past history of sexual abuse, and my feelings of loneliness.

At 18, I began to come to terms with my attraction to women, but I had not yet acted on my feelings.  I told my youth pastor that I was concerned that I was homosexual and he told me that I would not be welcomed back until I was straight. This was a very dark time for me and I attempted to overdose on a mix of aspirin and Tylenol.

At 19, I fell in love with a young woman.  I began a relationship and as the result of this, my church rejected me and my closest friends abandoned me. My family was also very unsupportive.

When the relationship ended, I felt ashamed and hopeless and I decided to end my life. I loaded up a shotgun and I was ready to pull the trigger when I suddenly realized that “this is it … there’s no turning back.” Something told me “You could pull the trigger and have a shitty ending to a very shitty life, or you can decide to live and have a chance of changing the story.”

I put the shotgun down.

This was my final suicide attempt.

I told my mom and stepdad what had happened. They were angry with me, and said they would keep the rifle loaded in the house, where it had been, and that I had no right to touch it. I finally realized that they were toxic people and I could not continue to be around them, since they contributed significantly to my depression.

My brother had gotten into drugs and joined a gang by now; he was gone and I was completely on my own.

I moved out and rented a room. I worked two full-time jobs and started to build a new life. As my confidence grew and as I learned to not be ashamed of my sexuality, I grew stronger. I began to wear the clothes I liked, “men’s” clothes. I cut my hair very short and I finally felt comfortable with my appearance. I became healthier as I started to lift weights and feel better about my body. I was able to free myself of my eating disorder – on my own. I started to make friends who accepted me. Most were lesbians.

I made a few friends in my early twenties who confided that they were transgender. These friends came out to me because they thought I was also transgender. This has happened several times over the course of my life, and I have questioned my gender very seriously. This was before it was common to hear of transgenderism.  I could have easily succumbed to the pressure to transition had I been younger or less confident in my identity. I felt at one time in my life that life would be easier had I been born male, but looking back over the last two decades, I see that my brother had his own struggles and that his life is not enviable.

Ultimately, I realized that I was a strong woman and that I did not identify as a man. My path has not been easy. I have been “gay bashed” several times.  I have been blatantly discriminated against at work and in housing (before laws included sexual orientation as a protected group.) I lost most of my friends from high school, as they were all very religious. But I moved forward and I eventually built a good life with my partner of 13 years (who is now my legal wife thanks to recent marriage equality laws.) I have created a life that is meaningful – a life that helps others. I have created a life worth living. My wife and friends today accept me completely for who I am.

My brother eventually found his way also.

The story of my brother and me is not picture perfect. (Most people’s true stories seldom are.) But we were able to find our way and make choices about our bodies and our gender identities, as we matured in our adulthood.  We both now identify comfortably with our birth sex.

I have friends who are transgender, who have personal stories that are similar to mine but who pursued transitioning in adulthood. Some have de-transitioned; others work to manage serious health conditions that have resulted from the use of hormones. We deal with similar social issues despite the fact that we have taken different paths in life.

Transition brings new challenges that are unexpected. Hormones and surgeries have limitations and complications. Still, I support everyone’s right to make their own choices about their bodies and identity. I think that for the great majority of people, with the exception of some children who are medically defined as intersexed, it takes time –perhaps well into one’s early twenties to sort out one’s identity in relation to gender, physical anatomy, and sexual orientation.

As difficult as my past was, I am grateful that I was not rushed into hormone blockers, hormones, or sex re-assignment surgeries.  For me (and my twin brother), this would have been a grave mistake as our issues with gender identity were rooted in traumatic histories and external societal pressures, which resolved when he at (age 12) and I (in my early 20’s) found kinship and support in our communities.

Societal pressures are even more complicated today because the transgender narrative omits stories like my own.

My oldest niece ended up being very “bookish.” She was also artistic and enjoyed wearing make-up and following fashion trends. Her younger sister loved athletics and hated anything “frilly or foofy.” Their mother was supportive and loving toward both of her daughters. She also had no problem with me, a “gender nonconforming” lesbian, being in the girls’ lives. She asked only that I never talked about “gay stuff” around them as she held the belief that homosexuality was a “sin.” She was a good mom who never pressured either child to conform to gender stereotypes. She seemed to love them both and did not prefer my “feminine” niece over her “rough and tumble” younger daughter.

Still, my athletic niece was taunted at school and her sister sometimes teased her at home. One time, when I came to visit, we were walking and I heard my older niece teasing her sister. My niece, who was eight at the time, ran up to me sobbing. “My sister says I am a boy!” I was in my early twenties and without thinking replied gruffly, “You aren’t a boy, you are a tomboy like me and that’s alright.” At that point, my young niece stood up tall, marched back to her older sister, leaned into her face and repeated what I had said to her, putting a quick end to their quarrel.

I didn’t think much about the incident but years later, when my younger niece came out as lesbian, she told me how important that brief conversation was. She said this was when she “knew” that she was “like me.” My niece was about twenty when she came out. I asked her during our conversation about gender and sexual orientation, if she ever wondered if she might be transgender. Without hesitation my niece said “No, I’m just a regular ole’ lesbian.” That gave us both a chuckle, but I assured her that I would love her either way. After a brief pause, I added that I was glad she would not need to change her body.

If my niece had told me that she was a boy at 8 years and that her sister was insisting that she was a girl, I would have asked the two what it means to be a “boy.” I would have explained my own past and how lots of people thought I was a boy and still seem to think I am a man when they first meet me. I would explain that for me, this does not affect my identity as a woman. I would explain that we are all different and that this is what makes us so amazing.