What would we do without the crop of gender therapists who seem to have sprung up like mushrooms after a rainstorm in the last few years? How did we raise our tomboys and “effeminate” sons before these specialists arrived on the scene to tell us naïve parents what to think and do?
This little tidbit in the Chicago Windy City Times is emblematic of the same sort of breezy, reassuring advice dispensed by the therapists I consulted when my own daughter was insisting she was trans. We hear similar gender-therapist stories every day from the parents who blow into 4thWaveNow like so many shipwrecked sailors.
Ariel Groner, the author of this piece entitled “Transgender kids: Is my child just going through a phase?” is a gender identity therapist (specializing in kids 6 and up) at Chicago’s Juniper Center. The Center has a lot of predictable gender identity ideology on its website. The Windy City Time (“the voice of Chicago’s
gay, lesbian, bi, trans and queer community since 1985″) seems to have simply picked up Groner’s piece from the Juniper Center’s own website—sort of like free advertising.
Besides promoting its therapy services, the Juniper Center also instructs parents on how to transition their children in the school system, including a quick mention of Title IX as a way to strong-arm balking school staff; as if President Obama did not singlehandedly reinterpret that statute to redefine sex as “gender identity” (a redefinition that is now wending its way through the US court system).
But now to a quick review of Groner’s advice column.
Many parents come into my office asking if their child is identifying as transgender because it seems to be a popular trend.
Groner mentions Jazz Jennings, Caitlyn Jenner, the media attention given to trans issues, but instead of delving into whether there’s any truth to these worried parents’ concerns, she simply provides a crash course in Gender Identity Politics 101.
If a person tells you she identifies as a woman and is only sexually interested in women, many people would label her with the identity of being a lesbian.
She may fit the criteria for one’s definition of the term, but she never identified herself as a lesbian. Perhaps she identifies herself as queer. Instead of getting caught up in the terminology, make sure to ask what that person’s identity, or label/term that they are using, means to them.
Who you gonna believe—me or your lying eyes? A woman only interested in women=lesbian? No, don’t get “caught up in terminology” (more like, caught up in reality). Self-defined labels, identities, terms—that’s the ticket.
Just follow your offspring (or anyone else, for that matter) down whatever identity rabbit hole they are currently burrowing into. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to use your own brain to figure things out.
If your child is telling you that they are transgender or that they are struggling with their gender identity, do not dismiss it as a phase; get educated! There are great resources out there to help answer your questions.
But what if it is a phase? Shouldn’t this specialist with “advanced training” in LGBTQ++++++ youth entertain that possibility? Nope. Don’t use your critical thinking skills, or any past or present knowledge of your own child. Get educated! Consult the great resources out there, including
a support group and/or in the form of a trans aware therapist.
Not just any therapist, mind.
Is the incidence of transgender increasing?
The truth is that trans people have been around forever. There is no evidence that there are more trans people today then there were 50 years ago. People do however, feel freer to explore their gender identity than they did in the past, thanks to a more public dialogue and acceptance, and they are doing so at a younger age. As a result, people are discovering themselves and being given a platform to do so that never existed in past generations. As our society becomes more accepting, people feel more comfortable being themselves.
It’s all so revolutionary! Forget the second wave of feminism, when women abandoned their skirts and makeup in droves and came to the realization that they could be or do anything they set their minds to. Those past generations of trouser-wearing dinosaurs? The tomboys who hung out in treehouses and played with gender-neutral toys instead of color-coded Legos? What did we from “past generations” know about how to “discover ourselves” without the “platform” of gender identity politics built and maintained by fawning therapists and sycophantic journalists?
But hang on. The gender identity specialist tells us it’s NOT about toys or even how the kids act!
Sometimes when children play with toys not associated with their birth gender, parents are concerned that they might be gay or transgender. Sometimes they are and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are trans and still play with toys that are associated with their birth gender. Sometimes they are cis and only play with toys that are not associated with their given gender. The bottom line is, try not to focus on what they are playing with and how they are acting, and spend some time listening to them. Give them that space to explore without judgement or shame.
Good advice, overall—except for the “cis” and “trans” stuff. So what makes a kid trans then? This is a trained therapist dispensing advice. There must be some diagnostic criteria.
For children, it is important to listen and validate what they are feeling. Some may know for sure, but others may still be exploring feelings of being different.
Right. So the key diagnostic criterion for a kid to be trans is that they “know for sure.” Turning the old parenting saw on its head, it’s because they said so.
Parents, listen up. Unlike all the generations before you, it’s not your job to guide your offspring based on your own accumulated wisdom or life experience, nor your knowledge of your own children. You must never contradict your child. It’s only and always about validating, listening, getting educated, and above all—never seeing your kid’s trans identity as a “phase” (even when it is).
Given that this therapist specializes in kids as young as 6 and has “advanced training in working with LGBTQ-identified youth,” it’d be nice to see some acknowledgment/knowledge about developmental psychology – stuff like magical thinking, obsessive interests, rigid ideas about gender and just about everything else, and, especially for tweens and teens—social contagion.
As someone whose daughter did experience a trans identity as a year-long phase, the pap spooned up by this gender specialist tastes all too familiar in its bland superficiality and circular reasoning: they’re trans if they say they are. PERIOD.
I encourage any parent reading this post to do two things:
- If your child experienced a rapid onset of gender dysphoria, please consider participating in this survey before recruitment ends.
- Exercise extreme caution before sending your child to a gender therapist. Do your homework, vet mental health professionals before the first appointment, and consider whether a dose of the outdoors or a break from the Internet might be just as therapeutic as an appointment with a “gender affirming” therapist.