Suicidality in trans-identified youth & the question of media ethics: a roundtable discussion

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post published a story about last year’s tragic suicide of a 14-year-old trans-identified teen named Kyler. Although the Post refers to Kyler by male pronouns, according to earlier reports, Kyler identified at other times as genderqueer and nonbinary, preferring they/them as well as he/him pronouns.

By all accounts, Kyler (a natal female) was fully supported by family, support groups, gender specialists, and friends to identify as and embark upon social and medical transition. The reports also indicate that Kyler had a history of self harm and mental health problems, as well as gender dysphoria, which worsened during puberty. Kyler’s death was one of a cluster of three other similarly supported young teens who died by suicide within 5 months of each other in San Diego, CA in 2015. Kyler and two of the other young people attended the same support group for trans youth. The ongoing emotional devastation experienced by parents, families, and friends of these young people is unimaginable.

This terrible cluster of suicides, including Kyler’s, was widely reported last year. Why did the Post publish another story about Kyler more than 18 months later?

The apparent rationale for the new coverage is that Kyler’s mother has brought suit against San Diego’s Rady Children’s hospital where Kyler was admitted as an inpatient under observation for 24 hours due to suicidality. This brief hospitalization occurred 6 weeks prior to Kyler’s suicide.

The suit alleges that some hospital staff discriminated against Kyler by repeatedly referring to Kyler as female. Although Kyler’s mother stated for the record in the Post story that she is not holding the hospital directly responsible for her child’s death, she makes clear that she believes some staff at the hospital caused serious harm by referring to Kyler as a girl and with female pronouns. She stated that Kyler went into a “spiral” after the events at the hospital.

The Washington Post story was picked up very quickly by Pink News and Gay Star News with headlines asserting that Kyler committed suicide “after hospital staff called him a girl.” (Again, Kyler’s death occurred some six weeks after the 24-hour hospitalization.)

One concern raised by the Post article (and the headlines chosen by the news outlets which re-ran the story) is potential suicide contagion, and how this reporting conflicts with well-established ethical guidelines recommended for news organizations. While these guidelines have been in existence for decades, online blogs and social media, along with the relatively recent phenomenon of stories going “viral,” add a layer of complexity to the longstanding ethical dilemma faced by media who report on suicides. Adolescents, who are most vulnerable to suicide contagion, are almost universally denizens of the Internet, and sensationalized accounts of troubled teens killing themselves are all too easy to find nowadays.

Over 20 years ago, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published guidelines for responsible reporting about suicide. These guidelines—still relevant decades after they were written–mirror those released in other countries and by other health care and suicide-prevention organizations.

The CDC guidelines make special mention of the vulnerability of young people to suicide contagion:

 One risk factor that has emerged from this research is suicide “contagion,” a process by which exposure to the suicide or suicidal behavior of one or more persons influences others to commit or attempt suicide. Evidence suggests that the effect of contagion is not confined to suicides occurring in discrete geographic areas. In particular, nonfictional newspaper and television coverage of suicide has been associated with a statistically significant excess of suicides. The effect of contagion appears to be strongest among adolescents, and several well publicized “clusters” among young persons have occurred.

The CDC guidelines list a number of things that news organizations should avoid in their reporting of youth suicide. Among them:

…the likelihood of suicide contagion may be increased by the following actions:

  • Presenting simplistic explanations for suicide.

Suicide is never the result of a single factor or event, but rather results from a complex interaction of many factors and usually involves a history of psychosocial problems. Public officials and the media should carefully explain that the final precipitating event was not the only cause of a given suicide. Most persons who have committed suicide have had a history of problems that may not have been acknowledged during the acute aftermath of the suicide. Cataloguing the problems that could have played a causative role in a suicide is not necessary, but acknowledgment of these problems is recommended.

  • Engaging in repetitive, ongoing, or excessive reporting of suicide in the news.

Repetitive and ongoing coverage, or prominent coverage, of a suicide tends to promote and maintain a preoccupation with suicide among at-risk persons, especially among persons 15-24 years of age. This preoccupation appears to be associated with suicide contagion.

Whether intentional or not, the Post (and the other outlets who republished the story), by their choice of headlines as well as their coverage of the mother’s lawsuit, give the implicit message that it was the hospital’s misgendering that was a leading contributor to Kyler’s suicide 6 weeks after the 24-hour hospital stay. (The Post story diverges from a different account published shortly after Kyler’s death, in May 2015, by the Daily Dot, which, quoting friends and Kyler’s mother, explicitly blamed social media online bullying for Kyler’s death. Other reports last year mentioned the online bullying along with the death of family pets as contributing to Kyler’s deep unhappiness.)

The CDC’s ethical-reporting guidelines emphasize that suicide is always the result of many factors, most prominently a history of mental health concerns; and that news stories focusing on a single cause for a suicide could contribute to suicide contagion in young people. In the case of Kyler’s untimely death and the other young people in the San Diego suicide cluster last year, the Washington Post and other news outlets which revived the story this month focused on gender dysphoria and related “misgendering” in their reporting. But there is broad consensus amongst suicide prevention organizations and researchers that the primary factor consistently tied to a desire to take one’s own life is underlying poor mental health.

Even the often-cited Williams Institute survey study of self harming behaviors in gender nonconforming and trans-identified adults notes that a history of mental health problems is the most frequent underlying cause for suicidality; and that the reported rate of suicidal and self-harming behaviors in their survey did not adequately take into account the well-established link between poor mental health and self-harm:

Second, the survey did not directly explore mental health status and history, which have been identified as important risk factors for both attempted and completed suicide in the general population. Further, research has shown that the impact of adverse life events, such as being attacked or raped, is most severe among people with co-existing mood, anxiety and other mental disordersThe lack of systematic mental health information in the NTDS data significantly limited our ability to identify the pathways to suicidal behavior among the respondents.

Many parents who contribute to 4thWaveNow have felt pressured into agreeing to medically transition their children, due in part to the frequent assertion of a direct causal relationship between gender dysphoria and suicidality, and an underlying assumption that medical transition will halt self-harming behaviors. The terrible story of Kyler’s suicide, revived by the Washington Post, has generated a new discussion among us.

We asked three professionals who work with children and families to respond to the Post article. Their responses, in the form of a roundtable discussion, are presented below, and Stephanie, Lisa, and Lane are available to interact with readers in the comments section of this post.

Stephanie Davies-Arai is a parenting consultant and author of Communicating with Kids. She writes a blog for parents at and also runs the website Transgender Trend, a research-based site for parents and anyone seeking information about the current situation in the UK.

Lisa Marchiano is a licensed clinical social worker and a Jungian analyst. She blogs at and can be found on Twitter @LisaMarchiano.

Lane Anderson (a pseudonym) is a licensed clinical social worker. Currently in private practice, she previously worked in a clinic serving trans-identified youth. Lane is the author of “Exiles in their own Flesh,” in which she chronicles her experience in the adolescent clinic, and her reasons for reluctantly resigning from her position. 

Stephanie: This is a devastating case and difficult to talk about. The suicide of a child is an awful tragedy and a private grief for the parents that you don’t want to step on. We have to talk about suicide, though, if we want to gain more understanding about how to prevent the same tragedy from happening in other families; and I think there are factors in this case which really need examination.

We don’t know all the details of the case, but what we do know is that this child is part of a wider picture of the sudden, unprecedented increase in the number of girls identifying as transgender at puberty/adolescence, many of whom exhibit the same suicidal ideation and similar self-harming behaviours. We also know that one factor discussed as a key risk to transgender youngsters– lack of family support—is absent here: Kyler was fully supported by mom, family, and a support group.

What is striking in this case is the child’s need for validation not only from family and friends, but from adults and the wider society (not normally a concern for teenagers). This begs the question of what messages the child has received about the necessity of having a fragile identity affirmed by strangers in order to construct a healthy sense of self. The dependence on outside confirmation creates a very shaky foundation on which to build the self, and puts a troubled child in a further disempowered and vulnerable position.

The way this case has been reported only reinforces the message to young people (and their parents) from transgender advocacy groups: that being “misgendered” is a devastating attack from which it is hard to recover. The common narrative of “affirmation or suicide” needs to be strongly challenged if we hope to truly support vulnerable young people in building a strong inner sense of self and identity. In transferring the power to outsiders, a child is left helpless and dependent on the whims of other people, on what they are led to believe is a life or death issue.

Lane: Stephanie, yes. Whether or not a prohibition on misgendering becomes the law of the land, it is always a bad idea to teach over-reliance upon the opinions of others, particularly when one’s opinions require the suspension of disbelief within others. We should encourage trans-identified youth to understand that most people will probably have some trouble digesting the whole transgender concept. While it may appear as if people are fully onboard with affirming a person’s self-proclaimed identity, this may be due to fear of being called transphobic. Also, many youth who are hurting for absolutely legitimate reasons may also be deeply attracted or unwittingly drawn to live inside new social categories that mirror their own preexisting inner states of deprivation/alienation–inner states that are enlarged and/or embodied in collective narratives of oppression.

Stephanie: We don’t know the initial causes of this child’s desperate unhappiness, but it seems to me that “gender reassignment” is fast becoming an instant panacea for all the underlying problems an adolescent may be experiencing, which means they are denied the normal level of care and support from professionals to explore and manage these issues. When a condition comes with as devastating a prognosis as “affirmation or die” we really need to be looking at how helpful the sole diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” really is for young people. Otherwise, we will just keep reinforcing the same narrative that many more troubled young people will grow up to believe as truth.

Lisa: You make an excellent point here, Stephanie. The narrative available to gender dysphoric children is one that offers only the direst of consequences – transition or die. Research does not support transition as a panacea for mental health concerns. Indeed, some research suggests that suicide rates remain very high after transition. As a society, we ought to be very focused on finding a range of treatment alternatives to offer to dysphoric young people.

I was deeply saddened to read the story of Kyler’s suicide in the Washington Post. There is no pain more unbearable than losing a child, and losing a child to suicide is unimaginably awful. From the article, we learn that Kyler was experiencing anxiety and depression and was engaging in self-harming behaviors. Kyler killed himself in spite of being accepted by his friends, and having a family fully supportive of transition. The article states that Kyler “went into a spiral” after hospital employees referred to Kyler as a girl. “They were completely traumatizing him,” his mother is reported to have said.

Hospitals have a duty of care for patients in a way that takes into account their needs and psychological state and to act in a way that isn’t detrimental to the patient’s well-being. However, I was disappointed to see the lack of critical thought presented in the Post’s coverage of the lawsuit brought against Rady Children’s Hospital by Kyler’s family. The Post presented only the superficial story, and did not look deeper into the circumstances that caused Kyler to be so vulnerable.

When transgender activists and the media give kids the message that being misgendered is equal to an act of violence, it sets them up for inevitable wounding and disappointment. We cannot control how others perceive us or what they call us. Hospital staff certainly ought to be as gentle and humane as possible with patients in their care. But if kids are taught that they have a right to expect others to address them according to their wishes at all times, they are being given unrealistic expectations about the world.

The Post’s focus on misgendering obfuscates the complexity of teen suicide in general, and Kyler’s situation in particular. There is much we do not yet know about teen suicide, suicide clusters, suicidality, and poor mental health in those who identify as transgender. Approaching the subject in open-minded spirit of inquiry is the only way to begin to unravel these important topics. The Post’s article gives the impression that we know the answers before we have even asked all the questions.

What a frightening vision of the world trans-identifying must teens must have! They are told that that their choices are “transition or die.” Transgender activists online warn them to be perpetually on guard for being misgendered or “dead named,” and fuel fear and unhappiness by stating that these are both “actual violence.” No wonder trans-identifying teens are scared. Yes, scared. In recent weeks, a handful of trans-identifying teens have contacted me, and this has been the common denominator. They are frightened and confused, and want a place to talk about their feelings where these won’t be shamed or disallowed based upon someone’s rigid ideology. At first, I was so surprised to hear how frightened these young people are, but when I thought about it, it made a lot of sense. Transgender ideology has indeed made the world a frightening place, with few options for young people with gender dysphoria.

Lane: Lisa, this is extremely encouraging that the kids were able to talk to you about their fear. Their anxiety is most likely coming from a natural sense that they are being pulled into something much greater than themselves. From my own clinical practice with trans-identified youth, I often had the feeling that many were partially aware of this loss of control. But to acknowledge what is happening would create a cognitive dissonance they are ill-prepared to tolerate. There are no easy answers to the struggles of living, but the trans-narrative that has sprung up from our liquefying culture like some kind of multi-headed hydra is, in fact, presenting itself in a rather threatening way as The Answer. Of course, it is anything but. The fear the children are expressing is actually healthy, because it reveals their ambivalence about—on the one hand–wanting to believe in the infallibility of the trans solution, yet at the same time knowing in some emergent and liminal part of their psyche that such a threatening narrative will require from them personal sacrifices they may not be willing or able to make.

Lisa: The following is a quote from a recent blog post by a “guy called Helen” entitled “A Culture of Fragility,” excerpted with the author’s generous permission. In this piece, Helen astutely points out how transgender ideology results in a self-concept that is volatile, unstable, and fragile. As Helen knows, it is possible to deal with dysphoria and even live as the other sex without subscribing to a harmful delusion that leaves one at the mercy of others’ perceptions of us.

I’m often told that “Dead-naming and misgendering are literally responsible for the deaths of trans people” and I’ve personally known trans people who have committed suicide. I nearly did so myself a few years ago. I know how much these things can hurt. I used to feel devastated, crushed, invalidated and ashamed.

I was lucky though because something changed for me. I started to see gender as being socially constructed and to see how society conflates femininity with being female and masculinity with being male. I came to accept that it’s ok for me to be a male who looks and acts like I do. How there should be no need for anyone to think I’m *actually* female to be a perfectly valid and worthy person as I am. Accepting this meant I no longer had to live with the cognitive dissonance of believing that I’m female whilst knowing that females don’t father children. It meant I was able to let go of the volatile, unstable belief system that, despite objective reality, I have a female brain and that made me female. So now I’m fortunate that I don’t get too upset, or damaged by somebody using my old name or misgendering me because it doesn’t burst my bubble.

People don’t just self-harm or commit suicide because they are dead named. It might be their final straw, but they commit suicide because they are already volatile and unstable. Their self-worth is fragile because it’s based on a view of the world that relies on everybody else seeing you the way you see self and doesn’t provide any coping mechanisms for when people don’t choose to validate your self-perception. This is what transgenderism does to transgender people. I’m not saying it’s OK to dead-name someone or to misgender them on purpose. It’s rude and inconsiderate at best and dangerous at worst. Doing this might indeed be the final straw that pushes someone over the edge and that’s totally not OK. Of course, it’s always important to be aware of the potential repercussions of our actions and be aware that people are fragile. But I truly believe that identity based politics causes as many problems as it solves and the hypersensitivity to dead-naming and misgendering is one of these things. The trans community actively promotes the view that dead-naming is an act of violence and I can’t help but think that this only exacerbates the negative impact on somebody when they hear this.

Whilst we are still fighting for acceptance, we need to survive the battle. Enough people have died, and we, the trans community, need to think about how we instill a culture of strength and pride rather than a culture of fragility.

Lane: The layers of tragedy in Kyler’s story make it extraordinarily treacherous to discuss. Clearly, the loss of a child to suicide is a catastrophe beyond all comparison. I don’t know how anyone’s heart, if it is still beating, wouldn’t leap to console those survivors remaining in the wake of such a devastating loss. Life will never again be the same for the ones who knew and loved this young person, now gone My heart seizes when I consider the child’s pain. For these reasons alone, social discussions of suicide generally do submit to the authority of those who have been most impacted by its effects. To consider the causes of such tragedy through the lens of reason, which would mandate a level of detachment, could be viewed as callous. A child is gone.

Unfortunately, it is likely the extraordinarily sensitive and traumatic nature of the subject may hinder a more thorough investigation of the conditions surrounding it. But absent the permission to honestly explore possible causes of transgender suicide, we will be hard-pressed to reduce its prevalence. Obviously this isn’t a good thing. We certainly need to increase our understanding of the relationship between those who identify as transgender and their rate of suicide. Though research shows a higher prevalence of suicidality in those identifying as a gender other than their biological sex, we don’t conclusively know why.

As effective, evidenced-based solutions to the problem remain frustratingly at large, naturally we cast about for ways to improve the dire situation. Because nobody wants a child to hurt so badly, we may find ourselves rushing to conclusions, and we might hold firmly to what is at best a working hypothesis on grounds of urgency. But the truth is, until we gather more facts, we should be careful not to close the door on deeper investigation. We must also be careful that any conclusions drawn remain free of political and/or ideological motivations.

Stephanie: I think you’ve said it there, Lane: “nobody wants a child to hurt so badly,” and I would add to that (although it goes without saying really), “especially the parents.” If your own child is suffering depression or anxiety, your biggest fear as a parent is that your child could commit suicide; it’s an automatic reaction to go straight to the worst outcome in your head. The problem is that if we react from that fear we can set in stone for the child the seriousness of the condition and compound the helplessness a child feels. We lose our ability to step back and help them find a way to manage their feelings and find their inner strength, because we become too emotionally involved. My first advice to parents about responding to any emotional problems a child is suffering is “don’t catastrophise it” (and my second point is always “I know that’s really difficult”). The problem is, parents of trans-identified kids try to find information about a subject they know little or nothing about, and inevitably come across the suicide narrative which confirms their deepest fears. How hard does that make it for a parent to communicate trust and confidence in their child, how much harder does it make it for them to try to equip the child with tools to manage their feelings and find different, more self-empowering ways of thinking about their problems?

I’d also say that the message that being misgendered can destroy you is the exact opposite of the message parents try to give their kids in any other area of social difficulty, like being called names, left out or bullied for example. In these cases, we want our child to understand that other people’s actions can’t destroy them, they are stronger than that, they will survive, that they can find ways to protect themselves from people who are mean to them. We acknowledge our child’s feelings, but also try to empower them to be resilient and robust in the face of unkind treatment from others, because we know they will inevitably have to deal with these kinds of situations as they grow up in the world. We might also inform the child’s teachers and do our best to stop any bullying, but we don’t give a child the message “this will destroy you” which I think is the message kids are getting from the trans lobby.

Lane: Some would say that it is society’s lack of acceptance of trans people (signified, partially, in the act of misgendering) which fuels the increase in their rates of suicide. But the assumption that oppression or discrimination is entirely to blame for increased suicidal ideation—which, on the surface may seem compassionate–is not necessarily the best way to actually help those identifying as transgender. Attributing the lion’s share of one’s emotional distress to less than optimal conditions in the social environment is not always an effective means of achieving consistent emotional equilibrium.  Believing one can change the world outside the self, in lieu of finding ways to meaningfully or reasonably adapt to a given environment, is a seductive idea. However, problems invariably arise with this tactic, mostly because the social realms/cultures in which we are deeply embedded are designed to provide relative consistency to their inhabitants; they are not designed to change swiftly. Targeting a slow-to-change external realm as the primary means of altering one’s internal state isn’t generally regarded as the most effective intervention for managing mental unrest.

I fear we may be witnessing the unfortunate convergence of a kind of radical activism with mental health treatment. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the potential problems resulting from the collision course of these two disparate paradigms — one focusing on the environment and the other the individual. Social justice activism, the sort seeking to raise awareness and/or fundamentally alter or deconstruct deeply embedded (and often cherished) beliefs about shared reality (such as the existence of biological sex differences), is mentally taxing in the extreme. Such prolonged and dramatic clashing over the nature of our reality is exhausting for adults; it orients them to a life of battle. Without proper reinforcements, engaging in culture wars can fatigue even the heartiest of souls. Imagine such a call to duty and how it is experienced inside the chaotic mind of your average teen, let alone one whose level of internal chaos may be dangerously elevated.

Lisa: This is a good point, Lane. We need to clarify that we are addressing mental health symptoms, i.e., dysphoria, depression, and anxiety. A transgender identity is not the presenting problem. Rather, it is a self-identification whose significance is determined by activism. As clinicians, we need to be careful that we are assessing and treating symptoms according to a mental health model, and not allow treatment to become ruled by concerns that belong in the realm of social justice and activism.

Lane: Consider such a suddenly gender-dysphoric teen wading into the turbulent battlefield of identity politics, just as they embark on the journey of figuring out who they are. They’ve got serious struggles of their own, but instead of dealing with them on a personal level, in a contained manner, on a private stage tailored to their unique needs, these kids now get corralled into the trans narrative and essentially receive their treatment en masse. Instead of sensitive treatment, they get social-justice activism. From a clinical standpoint, this is appalling. This level of activism puts our youth in harm’s way when they are least prepared to withstand the force of such a cataclysm. They are still children. They are too young and inexperienced to see this is a war for which their bodies, their passions, their hopes, their fears and uncertainties have sometimes been exploited for another’s gain.

The Washington Post article emphasizes the origin of transgender angst as issuing from the outside world, as opposed to being localized within the individual. In this way, it also subtly and perhaps inadvertently relocates the transgender individual’s locus of control outside herself rather than within. Much has been written in the psychological literature about the concept of human agency, and its role in healthy emotional development. Encouraging treatments that inhibit individuals from focusing on ways they can manage in the world, such as increasing their tolerance for distress, or not placing undue reliance upon garnering the proper responses from others to maintain emotional equilibrium, is a better way to keep people from sinking into despair. Overdependence upon changing the world instead of growing the self stunts and inhibits the development of self-awareness (one of the foundations of sound mental health). Activism can blind these young people to alternative solutions that don’t serve the mission of the “cause.” Activism encourages the youth to hunt for and then accentuate problems in the external environment that support the activist narrative. In turn, these youth may become increasingly disturbed by viewing their culture in a negative and punitive light.

Teaching impressionable young people that their psychic safety in this world is absolutely predicated upon whether or not others can or will perceive, as well as actively validate, the profound and idiosyncratic fullness of all that they are, is corrupt pedagogy. It is also a devious form of cruelty.  Those who indoctrinate children with these impossible-to-achieve standards spoil a child’s chance of trusting others, for all the child will likely encounter in such a falsely constructed reality are either lies (from the fearful capitulators) or reactive-anger brought on by feelings of defensiveness from those unable to offer anything less than total validation of the activist narrative. Many people do not appreciate being forced by law and public opinion to so swiftly alter their perceptions of reality. Unfortunately, when these people try to defend their reality, they wind up badly injuring transgender children. The life of a child turned poster child/activist is swirling with fear and deception, all the while most everyone on the sidelines, both supporters and detractors, feel they are defending their version of the good.

Stephanie: It’s frightening how we have been manipulated into believing that “affirmation” is the only caring way to respond to a child confused about gender, that it’s what nice people do. People want to be nice and caring. But of course the issues inherent in medical transition—such as sterilization–are not covered much by the media, so people are being given false and misleading information on which to base their views. And no matter how people try, trans people will always be misgendered because when we meet an adult, the first thing we do is distinguish which sex they are. It’s the most ingrained unconscious response from the primitive brain: “Do I want to mate with this person or should I run from them?” These instinctive responses are there for a reason and of course it’s especially crucial for females to make the distinction. We’re very good at immediately quashing those instincts for fear of appearing rude or unfriendly but is it healthy for us to do so? Is it healthy for children to be brought up to immediately suppress instinctive knowledge because that knowledge is “transphobic”? And of course it’s the opposite of the message we give to our teenage daughters, which we hope will keep them safe. We tell them “trust your instincts, they’re often right. If you feel uncomfortable or threatened by someone, go with that feeling and don’t be afraid of looking unfriendly.” This is a very different issue to teaching children about transgender people and the importance of not discriminating against them. It’s teaching children to re-order reality according to a new subjective belief system which they are obliged to believe in, or at least pretend to.

Lane: The implications of what you say here, Stephanie, are huge. It seems we are teaching children to be fearful of their own instinctive responses. This is what is accomplished when we focus children’s attention on how their instinctive responses could hurt someone else’s feelings. This is quite problematic, as our instincts exist precisely to guide us, as well as provide us with a sense of safety in the world. People who do not know how to listen to themselves, who view their own perceptions as mere static and interference to the greater emerging socially-prescribed “truth” are in serious danger of being exploited.

Stephanie: Yes Lane, and I think that’s especially true for girls who are socialised to be nice and think about others’ feelings first; they really don’t want to appear “rude.” It’s a bigger issue for girls and women, who are often treated as if their perceptions are “wrong” so they may have already learned to doubt them – and that’s part of the reason, I think, that we see that the most vocal support for trans people comes from young women — the group, ironically, who are most at risk of being exploited.

Lane: Now that transgenderism has become so visible in the culture people have feelings and opinions about it they need to express — but these questions and concerns are explicitly forbidden.  How can we discuss this topic when our concerns are equated with invalidating another’s reality, even linked to the transgender person’s urge to die? Who wants to bring out that demon or be branded as responsible for the suicide of another?  So we remain silent, even though a paradigm shift this big cannot be truly integrated into the hearts and minds of others if they are deprived of the right to turn the new ideas around a million times in their head. Additionally, besides being actively silenced in this discussion, our healthy skepticism is also elevated due to the sudden and insistent prevalence of transgender issues in the culture. The trans movement’s debut as the new civil rights movement has felt suspiciously orchestrated from without. Those who take note of this are hardly transphobic; our caution more likely indicates we sense something highly unusual is unfolding within our culture; for from the moment we learned of the transgender narrative, it seemed to already be written in stone. How peculiar. Our kids deserve so much more than this new orthodoxy.  Because activism has supplanted true clinical treatment our most vulnerable youth remain bound in this, the latest installment of received wisdom, before which we all seem to have all lost our inalienable right to question.

49 thoughts on “Suicidality in trans-identified youth & the question of media ethics: a roundtable discussion

  1. I am quite concerned that there is some magical thinking about how challenging it is to transition that our kids are soaking up. When I suggested to my child that transition would mean a lifetime of straddling the gender binary because physically she would always be partly female she took it as a cruel remark intended to wound. I was taken aback because I assumed that she would have made this calculation already and determined that it was preferable to not transitioning. At the same time I think it’s pretty sad that staff at a psychiatric hospital aren’t more careful about this issue when addressing really fragile young people. It seems unlikely that the suicide was caused by this behavior, but I understand the impulse of the parents to take some action to prevent the underlying behavior which was likely harmful to their child. In our society law suits have the effect of changing practices and policies and training and even as I am uncomfortable using male pronouns for my own child I do it at the moment because my child is too fragile and too weak to bear the full weight of my skepticism, and I would most certainly expect a nurse who was treating my child for a 72 hour suicide hold to take extra care. But I am also clear that I am not using those pronouns because my child made a half-hearted suicide attempt but because I need to do so to earn my child’s trust that I want to make her feel safe and supported even as she knows I do not yet accept the underlying narrative that she is intrinsically a boy. And she has tried to look the other way when I “misgender” her so that has also been a mercy. But what was described in that story was more than casual or accidental misgendering, it was intentional denial of the child’s chosen gender identity by a hospital staff person and that seems like it should have been avoidable with better training and supervision, and I imagine that this is what Kyler’s parents are really after.

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  2. Thank you, 4thwavenow, Stephanie, Lisa and Lane for this post about such an important topic.

    There is much we do not understand about gender dysphoria. Why is there an increased number of young people showing up at gender clinics?

    My daughter waited until she was an adult to tell me she is transgender. Hers is just another of the rapid onset stories, right before going off to college, a new life away from parents. At the end of Spring of her Freshman year I met with the college psychologist who brought up “transgender suicide statistics” in our meeting, after explaining how happy my daughter is as trans so what is the issue?

    Universities fear “suicide” so very much. It very much affects how they handle this issue. As long as they can keep students happy, all is good, no worries, the university takes care of itself and its reputation.

    However, the college psychologist admitted (while sort of winking at my daughter) that they do not diagnose…which really means they do not question. They simply refer self-diagnosed transgender students to the gender clinic at a local hospital.

    Which in fact my daughter did visit. And where in fact she was able to get a prescription for testosterone after a one-day evaluation. One day.

    And so ultimately it is the mysterious overhanging threat of transgender suicide – no actual threat on my daughter’s part at all – that resulted in poor mental health care for my daughter. Why ….especially since my daughter has shown no signs of being suicidal…can a gender dsyphoria youth…assuming that is even the correct diagnosis since she never really received a diagnosis… not receive comprehensive diagnostic testing with psychological therapy and perhaps medication for underlying issues, but instead is sent immediately for hormone “therapy”. This has made me sick indeed.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Nervous Wreck, your story sounds like mine. My daughter waited until freshman year at college where she was given carte blanche to all the to all the medical necessities to quickly transition. I never put it together as to why health services at her university rapidly moved on this……..fear of suicide. My daughter never once showed any inclination to kill herself. In fact she used to be so level headed. Now, along with injecting herself with testerone, she is also now on anti anxiety meds. She used to let things that she disagreed with just roll off without much concern. Now she is hyper sensitive with just about everything. She was never your “typical” girl, but that was what was cool and special about her. She never had any trouble with fitting in with peer groups and has always been well liked. Why can’t these young people be made to feel comfortable in their own skin instead of poisoning and mutilating them? She would have gotten through her “dysphoria” without medical intervention had she just been given the proper help. Shame on the the medical community for quickly doling out the testerone instead of working a little harder to actually help these young women…….you know….first do no harm.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a difficult issue. I am deeply sorry for the Prescott family’s loss. My heart goes out to them. I couldn’t begin to comment on Kyler’s personal situation, as I witnessed none of it. I will, however, go so far as to state the media is known to simplify stories on which they report, and conveniently tie them up with a nice little bow for closure; it is my gut feeling that there is much more to this story than the Washington Post reported in that story.

    Regarding the mental health of all trans kids in general, I do think the media and transactivists need to cool down the “transition or suicide” rhetoric. I agree with Davies-Arai, Marchiano and Anderson that this mantra is contributing to the misery and hopelessness these kids feel. Grown men who wished they passed as women more convincingly are telling kids that time is of the essence and these kids need to transition NOW so they’ll pass better and not suffer the same tragic fate as the very masculine-looking transwomen counselling them. At the same time, the media has the flawed 41% statistic on permanent repeat, without bothering to look into where this statistic came from and how badly flawed it is.

    The “transition or suicide” meme does more harm than good. While it might help persuade (strong-arm?) parents to allow their child to undergo body modification treatments, if the parents do not take the bait and sign on the dotted parental consent line, kids may feel their next step must be suicide.

    Kids hear “transition or suicide” over and over — it’s basically the number one rule in the transkid playbook. Additionally, transkids who do take their lives are canonized and lionized. It is all very glamorous. I can easily see how a simple suggestion could lead to contagion; a repeated message, hammered home, certainly could be very, very powerfully persuasive with kids. So many trans kids have underlying psychiatric troubles such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, ADHD, autism and sensory issues. These kids are already so fragile and troubled. They don’t need anyone telling them they will surely commit suicide if they are not allowed to transition, or maybe the kids are simply scared to undergo the medical treatments but don’t want to face inevitable suicide if they back out.

    Like losingsleep’s child, mine made a half-hearted suicide attempt once; it was basically self harm and nothing close to actual suicide, but definitely clued us in to her fragile, troubled mental state. In her case, Prozac (combined with amantadine, a Prozac enhancer) has restored her happiness to a great degree. Additionally, we allow her to wear the clothes and hairstyles typical of the opposite sex and this has helped her feel less anxious, more confident and more at lease. In fact she is choosing less masculine clothing and hairstyles lately, and says she does not want to transition, although she still insists she is a boy.

    But I do still fear the ubiquitous message that caused her to feel self harm was “the next step” or suicide is “what happens when you don’t transition” could get ahold of her once again. After all, this message is everywhere, repeated ad nauseam, along with the 41% statistic and celebrity victim status for the tragic child victims.

    The media, transactivists, therapists and “pediatric gender specialists” need to stop being so irresponsible with the “transition or suicide” meme.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Regarding the suicide statistic, the expert in the Gavin Grimm case stated in an affidavit (which is submitted under penalty of perjury) that “more than 50% of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by age 20.”

      No source is cited for this alarming figure. Instead, a lengthy bibliography is attached to the affidavit, leaving it to the reader to figure out 1) which of the referenced stories is on point and 2) whether it supports the claim in the affidavit.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I read the WaPo story back when it came out and I want to say how much I appreciate the way you handled it here. I learned so much from the exchange among the women, far more than I did from WaPo.

    The lawyer in me has a lot of questions about this case. The WaPo piece was sloppy, in my opinion, in taking the complaint as true and failing to tell readers that the hospital hasn’t yet filed a response. There’s nothing wrong with reporting on a complaint that’s been filed — it’s a common practice — but it is wrong to pretend that the complaint is the end of the story rather than the beginning.

    Far worse, however, is seeing WaPo serving up what is essentially propaganda for trans activists. They took it on faith that the misgendering is all there is to this story. It’s obvious that’s not true. The various stories show Kyler as a young, fragile child whose world was upended. Two young people involved with the transgender resource center died in a short time span, then there was the added grief over the pets. That’s a lot for anyone to take.

    How much worse was it made for Kyler to see the words of Max Disposti of the resource center delivering this tribute to Sage, one of the young people whose death preceded Kyler’s:

    “As much as I wish he were still here, it’s selfish of me to want him to be here, knowing he would still be suffering. I know that wherever he is, he’s better. He’s not suffering anymore and he’s not battling depression or struggling to even just get through the day.”

    What the hell kind of message is that? Did Kyler internalize it and accept that death was the way to end the suffering? That death would make things “better”?

    I also wonder about Kyler’s admission to the hospital with, we are told, “serious, self-inflicted lacerations.” Was this cutting and suicidal ideation or was it a suicide attempt? If it was the latter, then the direction of the inquiry needs to turn towards Kyler’s “gender specialists” who made the decision to take that fragile, at-risk child out of the hospital only a day into a 72-hour suicide watch admission.

    I could go on, but let me just say that everything I’ve read confirms for me what I’ve suspected all along: Those promoting gender transition care less about the children than their cause. What I see are so-called experts standing atop the bodies of dead children to virtue signal, then using those children as shields that deflect inquiry, questioning, and the ability to save the next child’s life.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Hear hear! These comments are so astute, and i feel so strongly about this topic – that the MSM and transgender activists are actively touting a dangerous, irresponsible message. Take Leelah Alcorn, for example. People are so quick to blame the parents in entirety, and while i don’t agree with their tactics, i cannot overlook the fact (if we are taking Leelah at their word) that they were on 60 mg of prozac per day and that the reddit community was telling them that if they didn’t transition before they were 18, a scant 11 months away, that they’d never be able to pass, and never find a man who would want them. If you read the suicide note the sense of urgency and distress is quite clear. If they weren’t constantly bombarded with the idea that this was the only way they could ever be happy, perhaps they wouldn’t have thrown themselves in front of a semi. I tend to think the prozac played a role in that as well. And yes, speaking out about this issue was where my user name came from as no one seemed to be making that connection at the time and i felt i had to point it out.

      It’s a disgusting, heavy handed tactic to tell a parent or child that life altering hormones and transition and are only way your child can survive. Especially when they are an otherwise healthy child. Please correct me if i am wrong but it seems to me that most cases of suicide are preceded by some signs of mental disturbance at the very least. A medicalised transition as a preventative for suicide in a non suicidal healthy child is akin to treating a hangnail with emergency surgery, antibiotics and a lengthy hospital stay. Totally unnecessary and expensive, but a boon for pharmaceutical industries. Gallus recently pointed out that if those companies got 1% of people to take hormones it would be a larger market and money maker than HIV or diabetes patients for them.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I recently read Hillary Whittington’s book, “Raising Ryland.” Whittington is the mother of a young child who socially transitioned from female to male at the age of five. Like many parents of gender dysphoric kids, the Whittingtons sought help at a gender clinic. In this case, the parents’ concerns weren’t all about hair, clothes, and toys– Ryland was having toileting problems and had expressed some dark, depressing thoughts that would raise any parent’s alarm bells. Ryland’s parents were told to socially transition their child immediately– they couldn’t wait until the beginning of the next school year, as was their initial plan. The gender docs scared them with suicide statistics. This kid was FIVE!!!


  5. Poor Kyler and poor Kyler’s parents. Really, how awful. Nothing about all this negates the fact that this is such a tragedy. Now Kyler can never get better, it’s all said and done. Kyler’s parents must be devastated and the starting point for any comment is just the sadness about it all. Bottom line is, these folks lost their child.

    With that said – it has always seemed very clear to me that the only way parents would accept pediatric or adolescent “transition” would be if it were a clear “life and death” question. In other words, I do think that the vast majority of parents would refuse to permit their child to be the subject of a medical experiment UNLESS they were convinced that the likely alternative was death. It’s like when people try experimental cancer drugs or unproven treatments – usually they are at the end of their rope medically and figure, what is there to lose.

    Where the rub obviously comes in, is that in the illness scenario, usually the predictions are pretty spot-on. Or, there is enough data out there (results of medical tests such as scans, blood tests, biopsies) that people can do their research and make their decision. With the trans situation, by contrast, there is NO data from which parents can draw a conclusion. This is why, I think, the advocates need to nurture fear and dread among parents by the constant invocation of suicide. And as the original post and commenters have pointed out, this is extraordinarily reckless and irresponsible (not to mention deceptive).

    What a horrible situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am saddened by the loss of this child to suicide. My heart goes out to his parents, who obviously were trying desperately to save him.

    My question to the therapists out there is this: At what point will a child who has other mental health issues receive treatment for those issues? When they have transitioned and have a great support system, yet they are STILL suicidal? It seems like we as a society have rubber-stamped transition as the solution to all problems that these kids experience. It’s becoming clearer that transition isn’t the solution for everyone, or that the rare few kids who should transition should have other mental health issues well under control prior to transition. It takes a strong person to transition and deal with all of the physical, emotional, and social challenges that come with it. It would be nice if we as a society could hang up our social justice warrior hats for a while and consider these kids as individuals who are clearly NOT receiving the treatment they need.

    I’m afraid that the more we use the one-size-fits-all treatment plan for trans-identified kids, the more we’ll see stories like this one.

    Liked by 3 people

    • “It takes a strong person to transition and deal with all of the physical, emotional, and social challenges that come with it. ”

      Another thing that is not taken into consideration — or rarely — is the emotional upheaval biologically caused by taking the cross-hormones. For our family member (MTF), taking the estrogen has caused a biological “hormonal hurricane” of mood swings, edginess, outbursts, crying jags, and intense acne, which had not been the case before. The acne alone can make a kid horribly self-conscious and depressed, but then many of the other symptoms remind me of how I felt in in my first trimester of being pregnant. Add this to normal teen fluctuations in mood and emotion and it is overwhelming to deal teen to deal with. I am less familiar with the effects of taking “T” but what we have witnessed in terms of the estrogen effects is brutal. Not to mention sore tender breasts as they begin to grow. So, does anyone take into account how going through the actual medical transition itself can actually further (and possibly radically) destabilize teens because it actually intensifies emotions and make them even more moody, raw, and sensitive than they would be otherwise. In essence, they are going through major hormonal upheaval and introducing a whole new chemistry to their body that it not built to cope with.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I also appreciate the thoughtful, nuanced discussion! Thank you 4thWaveNow, Stephanie, Lisa and Lane for taking the time to delve into this topic more deeply.

    Suicide is a difficult subject to talk about, but it’s important to since it’s such a powerful motivator. Parents repeatedly see the “you can either have a live son or a dead daughter” argument for allowing medical transition. And children constantly read: “Your only option for happiness is to transition NOW, otherwise you’ll never pass and will likely commit suicide.” Of course this scares adults AND children and many end up making decisions out of fear rather than careful consideration. Medical transition can feel like the only option.

    After my daughter told me she was transgender, I read up on the high suicide rates. And I was definitely scared. But based on her history (no obvious gender dysphoria) and my gut instinct, I decided to be cautious. This was not an easy path to take. At the time my daughter was deeply hurt that I didn’t fully embrace her as my son, buy her a binder and start her on hormones. Her online friends were telling her that I was being hateful and ruining her life. She was very distressed, angry and frequently broke down in tears. Being transgender felt very real to her. But I continued to interact with her as calmly and rationally as I could. Eventually, we found a therapist who helped her work through some past trauma and now she’s back to believing she’s female again.

    I chose to be cautious of binders and hormones with my kid, but even though she was very emotional during this time, I didn’t feel she was suicidal. But based on parent reports, there are many children who are confused (not transgender) that ARE self-harming and/or threatening to kill themselves. But just because they are fragile, doesn’t automatically mean they are transgender and will benefit from medical transition. This is the point that the media fails to convey.

    And, although this drifts a bit off the topic of trans-identifying children, I personally know a woman impacted by someone who chronically threatened suicide. A man she was dating said he would kill himself if she ended their relationship. She felt dreadful and incredibly stressed. She didn’t want to cause him so much misery that he committed suicide, but she also didn’t want to stay with him (someone she didn’t love) for the rest of her life. It caused her a great deal of turmoil, but she did eventually break off the relationship and he never did commit suicide.

    Sometimes suicide is used as a way to motivate people since it pulls on the heartstrings so firmly. These strong emotions often cloud our judgement, but it is best to reflect and carefully consider the options.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Manipulation could have been an issue in Kyler’s case. This is pure speculation because there are no publicly available facts on point, but it’s possible that Kyler used the misgendering as a way to get out of that hospital.

      To be clear, I don’t mean “manipulation” here in the sense of cold calculation. But someone trapped in a place where they don’t want to be, especially someone who is, like Kyler, in serious mental health distress, might well grab hold of anything they think will get them out.


  8. This post is particularly relevant to me right now. Last night my 14-year-old child woke us up to say she had tried to commit suicide. She had written a suicide note and then used her fingernails to try to scratch open her wrist. She stopped before she actually brought blood.

    She let us read the note. It didn’t actually mention gender; it only said that taking her life was “inevitable.”

    Last night she attended her first gender therapy support group, and I think she was disappointed with how it went; also, she’s very stressed about school. She hasn’t said this outright, but I think she blames her unhappiness on me–for not validating her decision to socially transition at the beginning of the school year.

    When we were discussing the elephant in the room over the weekend, I told her that I believed it was my duty to raise objections about decisions that I thought were bad for her. At the same time, I told her, I’m trying to be loving and supportive. I’m taking her for counseling. I let her dress any way that she chooses. I don’t get in her face and challenge her constantly about her position. I don’t misgender her. Also, against my wishes, I agreed to let her go to two pride festivals recently and to sign up for this gender support group.

    She told me she appreciated the physical support but she needed my emotional support. I asked her why it was so important for us to be on exactly the same page. Couldn’t we agree to disagree?

    She told me my position was not valid: I wasn’t accepting the “science” of being born in the wrong body. (I blame her psychiatrist for this. The doc has read a few studies and now believes that transmen have female bodies and male brains. She has told my daughter as much. I have tried to overcome this by showing my child the studies that indicate brains are usually a mosaic of male and female characteristics–neither essentially one way or the other, but she has rejected my arguments, asking me how I could argue with a medical doctor.)

    I am so frustrated and frightened. I feel I’m fighting for her future, but she, her doctors and therapists, and even my husband, to a certain extent, believe I’m undermining it.

    I really need to find a psychiatrist and therapist who aren’t drinking the Kool-aid.


    • BornSkeptical I just want to give you a hug and say I am with you. I feel like I am in exactly the same place. A little over a week ago I stupidly and kind of selfishly tried to explain my skepticism about the transition narrative as a solution to her problems and it of course backfired and by the end of that day she was “out” on Instagram with her male name and pronouns. Which was the result I feared and why I was trying to avoid unburdening myself at this point in time. But it’s hard to feel that distance from someone you love so much and who has counted on you as their rock. I want her to know that my skepticism is informed and full of love and care and not hate and fear but now is just not the time to get that across very effectively. The only good part was that she did kind of get to the essence of our difference of opinion — she said “you think I’m trans because I’m depressed and not that I’m depressed because I’m trans?” And I was able to say clearly that I thought the former explanation was at least as likely as the latter given that she was depressed before feeling dysphoric at all and that only time would tell. We are in an ok place, but it hurts to have the distance. Our therapists are all pretty neutral so that helps a bit, but it’s just exhausting and the most exhausting part is that my child has so little sense of self or love for herself. The last thing she posted on her tumblr was “some day I will learn to love myself.” It really feels horrible as a parent not to be able to fix that. I truly believe right now that the trans thing is a frame for her self-loathing — it explains to her why she feels this way in a tidy manner — but I am completely at a loss as to how to parent under those circumstances…


      • To BornSkeptical and Losing Sleep,
        You are in a very difficult place – who would have thought that one day loving, thoughtful, thinking, compassionate parents intent on keeping their children from undo harm and exploitation would lead to this. By your descriptions, its as if your teens have been stolen from you, plucked unjustly from the world of care you have for so long built and maintained for them. What is happening to your children is wrong, wrong, wrong, but what’s worse is your vigilance as caring human beings is also now called into question, marred (“I’m the bad guy now”). Pure treachery. When I started looking into all this stuff, about 3 years ago, I too was incredulous, but I allowed myself to learn more, to go deeper down the rabbit hole – not everyone is willing to do that – case in point, look what you’re each going through. Suddenly you have been inserted in the role of reactionary. Pure nuts.

        I think the trick for us who wind up as “Accidental Reactionaries” (I’m starting a podcast by the way with that name to address this experience), is to know the lay of the land, understand the ways in which our opinions are being systematically dismissed, deconstructed. In the end it’s really not so much about us, right, it’s that we’re the older/wiser people and our care for our children is actually woven into the fabric of our being and into theirs. What we have to offer our kids as far as guidance and direction goes is not skin deep like this transgender ideology;but rather, it is the embodiment of true knowing, and love.

        Breath, and breath again, and again, and remember there is no way an ideology can forever replace real relationships, real love and care. Don’t be reactive, just listen to the kids and be present. The ideology cannot provide a real presence. Be calm inside this chaos. You are flesh and blood. The trans ideology is like fire in the sky (remember that scene from St. Elmo’s Fire? Apparently the flashes in the sky were something sailors lost at sea would imagine in the darkness, they literally guided themselves by a fire that was a projection of their imagination to keep them from losing their nerve. At least that’s how I recall Rob Lowe’s character describing it to Demi Moore.

        I’m not saying any of this will keep your kid from transitioning, but I do think lived truth, which is the wisdom of the lives of others woven into us at a deeply unconscious level, cannot be easily overlooked, and it surely cannot be manufactured and replaced by ideologues who do not know or love or care about your children. I guess I’m talking about really knowing what it is you offer and sitting with that knowledge, letting it blossom inside of you. The love of a parent cannot be replaced. It is singular, even if it is imperfect, it forever contains the hope of fulfillment.

        Listen to the kids, model for them the manner in which they must listen to themselves. Life if very difficult now – the children are being manipulated (as we all are – Capitalism and technology gone mad, and those in power exploiting the vacuum created by the loss of shared meaning).

        It’s a changing world. This isn’t easy. Some reading material that is a bit more philosophical might also help you. The first article I read a few years ago regarding the ways in which society helps to fashion or sculp the expression of mental illness and the ways it is expressed was by a man named Carl Elliot, it appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and was called “A new way to be Mad.”

        To me, this view of society as helping to create categories inside which people express their distress rings true. Some disorders, a lot of them, particularly now with the internet and our ability to create community online, do actually wind up become identities in and of themselves and form the center of what becomes a new kind of culture. Within each culture there exists ways of being, attitudes that unite the group members. Oddly, many of these new identity cultures place great emphasis upon tolerating unique self-expressions, but their rules for membership are actually the exact opposite. There is actually more comformity within these newly established subcultures-they can have a cultish/totalitarian vibe– as these cultures are new and in the process of forming their shared language as evidenced inside shared life perceptions, behavior, you name it.

        End note: Keep getting your own support, stay calm, hold the fort, educate yourself, be sad life is so weird, have a glass of wine, listen to good music, light a candle, say a little prayer even if you don’t believe in god, get deep, get philosophical, listen to the ideas of people you may have in the past readily dismissed, feel humbled, grow, shine, love, make dinner, hug, be curious, walk your dog, smile at strangers, and mostly, know that you are not alone. You are not. I am certain many feel as you do, only they haven’t the courage or personality to face this mess. Look what facing it has brought to you? We are encouraged to put our head’s in the sand. We risk having people who have valued our opinions suddenly question and doubt the veracity of what we say. We are the “odd man out”. Or the odd woman out. This is deeply and existentially threatening. I am convinced this is part of why this trans movement has gotten as far as it has. We have all been too terrified to apply the brakes, as when we do we are threatened with character assassination . For me, I’ve finally admitted to myself I am not and can no longer identify as a straight on Liberal progressive, even though that’s what I’ve been my entire life. I haven’t been able to state that fact to any of my friends in real life.

        ***(I couldn’t get the squiggly red line off half this message, so if half this message, the lower half, has some strange effect, just blame it on this red line I couldn’t erase)

        Liked by 5 people

      • BornSkeptical and Losing Sleep —
        Sending warm thoughts. No good advice. But you’re not alone, as Lane said.

        Lane, thanks for your kind and perceptive comments. One of the hardest aspects of this journey for me (on top of the terrible sorrow of seeing your kid in pain and taking such a potentially scary and risky path) is the level of cognitive dissonance it causes. It’s made me question my longstanding politics in a deep way, for instance, and made me walk away from progressivism feeling sad and jaded. And the idea that being a “supportive and loving” parent means you MUST support, facilitate, and fund a course of action that you deeply feel is going to be bad for your kid, long-term, and will fail to address kid’s actual problems — yeah, that is crazy-making. And you know us women, we think we are supposed to be kind to everyone; we think we are supposed to cure pain. Having the “transphobic” epithet thrown at us, the “bigoted” epithet, being told we are hurting our kids so badly that they might kill themselves — that is incredibly powerful. Which is why it’s worked so well to shut down discourse. We all just want to protect our kids and be good people, you know?

        Outside of 4thwavenow (thx again 4thwave for your tireless efforts), there are precious few places to even TALK about these feelings, as a parent. The only approved response is to be a brave cheerleader and advocate for the party line: Celebrating your kid’s path to becoming their true self via blockers/hormones/surgery. If you’re not on board with that, you just take your grief and stuff it down and stay quiet and try to go on. (Because, hey, it’s “not about you.” You’re not supposed to have feelings about this as a parent, in fact, other than the approved ones. Having non-approved feelings makes you a bad person.)

        Now that my kid is 18, but with zero individual financial resources, spouse’s and my continued refusal to financially support gender clinic/hormones has caused something close to estrangement. The bare minimum of logistical/financial communication is going on. We continue to offer general counseling as an option, and we are paying educational/living expenses, but … it’s a sad situation, esp since it’s been SUCH a long hard road building trust with this kid. Kid (who is angry/sad but not self-harming) knows that when kid has own resources we will respect a transition decision, but we’re not going to pay for it, and kid knows why we feel that way. Many statements of permanent love and our wish to continue a relationship, no matter what, have been made and continue to be made by us, despite kid’s protests that this “support” is meaningless unless we do what kid wants.

        There aren’t enough glasses of wine in the world to fix this sorrow, this waking up in the middle of the night second-guessing, this seductive idea that we should just do what kid wants, get on the fast train, and accept the all cheers that would come from our progressive peers.

        Hard love is … hard.

        Liked by 4 people

    • Hi there. I’m sorry that you are going through this. There is zero evidence to support the theory of brain sex. Unfortunately much of our society, including educational systems, mental health systems, etc, are based on this concept, which has no foundation in solid evidence (see Cordelia Fine’s book “Delusions of Gender”). I am a licensed therapist in Texas who currently works in a charter school with at-risk middle school kids. I agree with all the points made in this round-table and I’m hoping that the mental health community is able to start thinking more critically about this topic.

      I also hope the gender support group doesn’t exacerbate the problem. Keep searching for a therapist who will explore the multitude of complex factors that may be challenging your child. I will be active on this site as well as several other trans-critical sites. In a few months, I will be publishing my own website where I will offer online therapy services for girls who struggle with body image, gender dysphoria, and sexuality. I am pro-gay, pro-lesbian, and pro-bi and will focus on the trauma brought on by the micro- and macro-aggression of misogyny, unhealthy thinking patterns, and other contributing factors. I look forward to hearing about your daughter’s progress.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I think the article posted by Lane is so relevant to what we’re seeing with trans. One question it raises is that if it is registered as an official disorder, will the diagnosis and treatment be applied to minors? I very much doubt it, there would be an outcry. The point about an official diagnostic classification giving people a model of understanding their pain and therefore more people will self-diagnose the disorder, reminds me of what Bernadette Wren at the Tavistock gender clinic said at a seminar I attended this year: “perhaps gender clinics act as an invitation.” I think that was her most perceptive comment.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Losingsleep: Thank you for your reply, and I’ll send a hug right back. I know exactly what you mean—I too am at a loss as to how to parent under these circumstances. But I did have one thought. You seem to be beating yourself up a bit for sharing your reservations with your daughter. Even though she didn’t respond as you might have hoped, I don’t think that necessarily means it was a mistake for you to bring them up. As you pointed out, at least she did get your point. And maybe after the emotional dust has settled, she’ll be able to think about what you said in a calmer, more objective manner. But your love for your daughter really shines through, and I’m sure she’s feeling it.

        Lane: Thank you for your thoughtful and generous reply. Yes! You were exactly right. It feels my child has been stolen from me. Thanks for reminding me of the power of parental love.

        S.A. LPC: Thank you for your response. I would be very interested in checking out the website you plan to create, so please share the URL when it’s ready. And I would definitely be interested in hearing more about the therapy services you plan to offer online. I’m not sure I could talk my daughter into it, but I think it would be good for her.

        Puzzled: I’ve heard the same thing from my kid. My support is “meaningless” if it doesn’t include affirming her trans identity. And you put this so well: “There aren’t enough glasses of wine in the world to fix this sorrow, this waking up in the middle of the night second-guessing, this seductive idea that we should just do what kid wants, get on the fast train, and accept the all cheers that would come from our progressive peers.”

        I wanted to provide an update on my daughter’s status. She was admitted into the mental care facility on Wednesday (following her Monday evening suicide attempt). When we checked her in, I kept thinking about Kyler’s story because the nurse practitioner at the facility kept referring to my daughter as “she” and “her.” I gently corrected her the first time she did it, but throughout the visit with us, she kept doing it, so at the end of the visit, I told her, “I know it’s hard to remember the gender thing, but it really is important.” She nodded and agreed she would try to remember. So anyway, I can vouch for the fact that staff at a mental health facility might “misgender” a fragile, trans-identifying child. (By the way, at home I do not refer to my child as “he” or “him”—I simply avoid pronouns altogether in her presence.)

        Yesterday morning my husband and I met with the psychiatrist at the facility. He had just met with our daughter earlier. I was very nervous that he would flatly say, “Well, she’s in here, mom, because you are not affirming her transgender identity.” And my fear increased when he insisted on using male pronouns even when she wasn’t in the room.

        But things went up from there. He didn’t dispute her conclusion that she was transgender, but he didn’t affirm it either. He noted her intense anxiety and her rigidity of thought and suggested that the first thing we should do was to get a handle on the anxiety. He believes that the transgender identification stems from the anxiety: she doesn’t know who she is, so the transgender identity gives her a way to understand herself. He wants to get her on a medication to manage the anxiety and to help her focus on school so she can get some successes under her belt. I was relieved, and I’m cautiously optimistic about working with him.

        When my husband and I went to visit my daughter last night, she did not seem well. She told me that she felt she was losing us, that we only “tolerate” her now, that we don’t support her. I asked her to tell me how we could support her better, and she said to not treat this like it’s a problem to be solved. Then, to my surprise, she said, “I’d rather you treated this as if it’s a phase that I’ll grow out of.” She was near tears by this point. She said goodbye before visiting time was over–she said she needed to go pace.

        Tonight, she seemed a little better, but she did not want to talk about the issues, so we just chatted while she ate the quesadilla and the donuts we brought her. She talked and laughed and seemed to be more relaxed. She said she thought she was getting better.

        But the thing that blew my mind was that, while we were waiting for her to come into the visiting room, I overheard a girl across the room begging her father to bring her binder from home. “It will make everything so much better,” she said. I snuck a look and I recognized a child that reminded me of my own–short hair, sloppy T-shirt, slumped shoulders to conceal her breasts. Seeing that kid just reinforced for me how common this experience is becoming. We’re having an epidemic of girls trying to run away from their sex. It breaks my heart, and it makes me so mad at the same time.

        I heard another piece of news that blew me away earlier this morning. Until about a month ago, my daughter had been seeing a therapist for more than a year. She really liked her, but I always had my reservations because I thought she spent too much time inviting my daughter to “explore” her feelings about her gender identity. Then a few weeks ago, when she was first hospitalized, my daughter told me that her therapist had told her I needed to be in a treatment facility to help me come to terms with my grief about my daughter’s transgender identity. I was furious. I later learned that the therapist had also recommended to my husband that our daughter should go on testosterone right away. That was it. I pulled the plug on that therapist. But just this morning I found out that our family therapist had come close to reporting this same therapist for generating conflict in another family. I wasn’t told the particulars, but apparently she had done the same thing with this family as with ours—she had urged a child to take a position that she knew the parents didn’t support. Finding this out was liberating for me in a sense because it further validated my conclusion that this woman was out of line.

        Anyway, that’s where we stand. I’m currently shopping for a new therapist and hope to find one before my daughter is released from the hospital.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. My daughter has two modes of suicidality — rage and manipulative behavior and what I think of as “true” suicidality. The latter is very, very frightening and was brought on by medication. I believe the manipulative variety to be brought on by emotional disregulation and poor coping strategies which typify her mental illness.

    The manipulative variety is always loud (in volume) and dramatic and I am always the reason she wants to kill herself. And, it always ALWAYS came when she was not going to get her way in some other arena and we were simply not going to back down. She’s done it TWICE when we had to call the police on her for assaulting her sister and me. When the police came the second time, she suddenly shifted from loud and violent and cursing to meek and quiet and just said, “I want to kill myself.” And we got a call two hours later from the mental hospital telling us to come and get her, she was not suicidal. We used that to our advantage — I called the police and sent them a copy of the dismissal paperwork to have on file and to refer to the fact that if we have to call them in again, they will NOT 5150 her, but take her somewhere in a criminal capacity. (In case someone wants to question what we did to cause her to strike us — she was being emotionally and verbally abusive in a restaurant and I said we had to leave and she kicked her sister in the head. Then I was waiting to take her to school and that was some terrible crime, to want my teenager to go to school, and she hit me in the back of the head with her shoe. So, save your trolling about how we “caused” her to be violent. She’s got that covered what with her diagnosed mental health issues, thanks.)

    The suicidality which terrified me and which caused me to drop everything and take her to the ER she was affectless, just had tears streaming down her face, and she said, “I don’t want to live, Mommy.” My kid hasn’t called me Mommy since she was 6 or 7. She didn’t blame anyone; she wasn’t demonstrably dramatic. It had ZERO to do with identity. Twice this happened and the professionals determined that she had been misdiagnosed and her medications were causing her suicidality. And, yet, still, I was told to “accept my son” and told, directly, that I was to blame for this by medical professionals. The only thing which started to turn the tide was when my kid flipped out when I refused to allow her to do something on the afternoon they were preparing to release her from the mental hospital. The social worker and nurse gently informed her that this was a parenting decision and one they thought was A-OK and she cursed and tried to throw a chair at me. They kept her an additional night and that was when she accused us of abusing her.

    The manipulative suicide threats are really frustrating. I have no doubt she feels really deeply and badly about things, but that is a truly awful thing to do to anyone — using this as a threat or retaliation for some perceived slight. And, when it’s used to get yourself out of a sticky situation of your own making? Let’s just say I now have a LOT of anger at my kid. Her mental illness and behaviors are bad enough without adding on lying about wanting to kill herself and then we get to pay for an ambulance for the person who physically attacked us, but who we’re told is not really suicidal.

    So, for activists to push this as a strategy and as a definite outcome of frustration for people who trans self-identify? STOP IT. This is not the way to garner sympathy. Also, I get a distinct feeling that most of these people couldn’t care less about MY ACTUAL CHILD, but only see her as a tick in the statistics and that she’s better as a suicide than a kid who gets treated for her actual mental health issues and goes back to realizing that pretending she’s a boy is not a helpful coping strategy.


  10. Sadly, what is happening to gender dysphoric kids is a reflection of our broken mental health care system. It is so hard for parents to get help for kids in crisis, even harder if the kid is over 18– a friend of mine recently lost his 25-year-old son to heroin addiction. A few years ago, I saw a piece on TV about parents of schizophrenic kids. These kids clearly needed to be hospitalized on a long-term basis, but there were no beds available.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. This reminds me of how a while ago, 4chan harassed the family of a young teen boy who committed suicide. They made up a story that he killed himself because he lost his iPod because one of his last posts was about or mentioned losing the iPod. They also made fun of all the messages friends from school left in memorial on his Myspace, especially one which said he was “an hero” instead of “a hero” so some people say “become an hero” instead of “kill yourself”. They also called the parents saying they found his iPod, someone put an iPod on his grave and took a picture etc.


  12. Here’s a question for the therapists in this discussion (or for those who may be reading): How do we, the parents of trans-identifying kids, get it through to our kids that we hear them and are trying to understand their pain, but we don’t agree that transition is the best treatment for them?

    What I am observing in these kids is that if you don’t fully support the drastic treatment I want, then you are denying my pain.

    How to we bridge the gap, so we can get good treatment for our kids that prevents them from becoming suicidal? We must have some methods that are used for eating disorders or other mental health issues that could be adapted?


    • I think it’s a real balancing act for parents and it takes a lot of self-control of your own feelings. I would take every chance possible to listen and just acknowledge when they communicate their pain, without trying to reassure or add your own opinion. I wouldn’t focus on their feelings and use emotive words, just empathetic statements using quite neutral language, like “having a hard time..?” or “you’re going through it a bit..?” or “finding it tough..?” so you’re not reinforcing stuff but giving space for them to carry on talking, allowing them to process their feelings. And acknowledge their desire for transition: “it seems like the answer..?” “you want a way to fix it..?” or “it sounds like a way to solve things..?” – resist the urge to always jump in with “but…” Because we all understand don’t we? We all want to believe in something that magically works to fix things sometimes. It’s finding ways to help your child feel understood, acknowledged and validated, even though you disagree with transition. I think as parents we also need to manage our own fears and cultivate a kind of fierce trust in our kids that they’ll be OK, because that communicates to them – we strengthen ourselves to strengthen them. Taking a deep breath before saying anything is very helpful. Have your reasons for not allowing transition very clear in your head, be confident of your right to state them and ‘own’ it: “I don’t agree with…” “I’m not prepared to…” “I can’t accept that…” I’m not experienced in dealing with extreme mental health issues (perhaps Lisa or Lane could step in?) but I think parents play a crucial role in “holding” a child in a way that listens without indulging or reinforcing ‘victim’ feelings, and is authoritative without being dismissive, controlling or full of fear.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Such excellent advice. Trans activists like to paint us as “unsupportive” or even “abusive” if we don’t immediately go along with what our kids are saying. I like how Stephanie has presented a middle path: staying engaged, making our love clear, affirming their feelings if not what they immediately want to do about them, while at the same time making our opinions clear. What we really need is a study of gender defiant or trans identifying teens with supportive parents. Parents who are fine with whatever the child wants to wear, do, or how they want to express themselves. But who draw the line at medical transition. And possibly also draw the line at “affirming” the teen’ identity, I.e., not using opposite sex pronouns or agreeing that the child is really the opposite sex and needs medical intervention. The evidence we have about self harming behaviors is that parental support is crucial. The problem is that the media and activists have given only one option for support: fully going along with transition in all of its forms. This is grossly unfair both to the parents and the children.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I also find this advice helpful and a reminder that I need to exercise more self control about my emotions. Most recently I had an exchange with my daughter who looked really down so I asked what was wrong and she said it was that she was just feeling real hatred for her voice (because it is feminine). I was pretty quiet in response — I tried gingerly to askshe can talk about those feelings with her therapist but then she lashed out and said that since her therapist is not a gender therapist she can’t really help. I am not about to send her to a gender therapist so I just let it drop off while trying to acknowledge her distress. I definitely feel more helpless as a parent than I have in a long time. I personally could not come up with a compelling reason not to use masculine pronouns given that they are words and I am clear that my using them is not about my belief in transition but only my desire to reduce distress. Maybe I am wrong, but it just feels too hard to see my child in pain every time I use a name or a pronoun. But still it feels not quite right either. I trust my parenting instincts overall and am just trying to be the good enough parent that my child needs.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Every family is unique and there’s no right way to navigate these rapids. We are all just feeling our way through. It’s not wrong to use male pronouns. It sounds like it’s the right thing for you and your particular situation.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I think Stephanie’s advice is excellent. As parents we need to strive to regulate our own feelings — as difficult as that can be — and be the rock upon which our kids’ storm breaks. Of course we have to take into account the particulars of our child and his or her mental health history. I do feel, however, that we have gotten off track a bit in this culture. Loving our kids sometimes means allowing them to learn to tolerate some discomfort. It means setting limits and then tolerating their anger at us. Part of what is wrong about the trans narrative is that it implies that we must make our kids comfortable at any cost. That isn’t normally a tenet of parenting. I genuinely believe that setting a kind limit with firmness and compassion IS received as love by our children, even if they act as though it is anything but.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree Lisa. There’s a whole parenting advice industry out there which teaches us to tip-toe round our children and be afraid of upsetting them. I find myself saying to parents more and more “dare to be unpopular with your kids! Honestly, they get over it really quickly…” I know because I used to follow that advice when my kids were little and I began to see the confusion it causes them. I know teenagers can hold onto grudges for longer, but our role has to be that of an adult. It’s almost become seen as bad parenting to admit you know more than your teen, that we should instead follow them and let them teach us. Of course they can teach us some things (and we should listen to them more than we did in the bad old days), but that doesn’t mean we throw out our own wisdom and experience and withhold that from them.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. An online friend, who decided she was “genderqueer” and uses “they” pronouns awhile ago, posted that story about Kyler with a line like, “See? Transphobia really does kill!” Suicide is a horrible tragedy, particularly when it’s someone so young, but it’s clear there was a whole lot more going on than just “misgendering.” It’s like these people seize on the trans identity and don’t look at any other factors at play, either in suicide or the declaration of being trans.

    When I was going through one of my periods of depression, during my junior year of high school (due to being forced to move out of state and live with my rather provincial paternal grandparents, may they rest in peace), a great help I discovered towards the end of that nightmarish year was an AOL chatroom called The Psych Patio, later renamed The Sunroom. (Psych was short for Psychology, as this was part of the psychology corner of AOL.) It was so wonderful to have so many people (almost all women) to talk to, people who knew exactly what kinds of feelings I had and what kind of things I’d experienced and felt previously. It would be nice if there existed more resources like this for troubled and depressed youth, trans-identified or otherwise, where other people listen and support them without feeding into any negative or delusional feelings and causing the issues to get worse. I continued chatting in The Sunroom after I’d moved out of my grandparents’ house and was starting at my third and final high school in a third state, since I still needed and appreciated that support and those virtual friendships.

    As others have stated, it’s so emotionally manipulative to scare parents with suicide statistics, particularly when we’re dealing with very young children who don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy yet. We need to get to the root cause of these problems and realize nothing happens overnight or in a vacuum.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This was a very thoughtful and thorough discussion. I agree with all 3 participants and would like to add on a few observations I’ve made as a mental health professional:

    1. I agree completely that the trans identity model focuses the locus of control OUTSIDE the trans-identifying teen and that’s a very dangerous recipe for unstable emotions and a feeling of hopelessness. Most therapists would agree that one of our main responsibilities is to build resilience in our clients. We as therapists can’t often control the world around our young clients, but we can help them build skills and confidence to live a resilient life, capable of dealing with challenges and discomfort. If the support group with the suicide cluster included several children who died this way, we might assume a few things: that either many the children in the group were highly disturbed with very severe mental health issues when they joined, and/or that the group was unable to instill this sense of resilience in it’s members or sufficiently assist them in managing their suicidality. In the case of the former assumption, those children likely should have been seeing both a psychiatrist and mental health counselor individually, frequently, and intensively. If many of the group members had histories of self-harm behaviors, then healthy coping methods and and a focus on safety and self-care should have been core aspects of the group’s work together.

    This is not a high-order or complex therapeutic skill. Helping clients recognize their own ability to control emotions and responses to the outside environment is one of the most fundamental tasks in therapy. If gender clinics are failing to do this, its incredibly dangerous considering the tumultuous developmental and psychological states of the group members. It’s almost always a bad idea to focus on outside validation for happiness: leads to disempowerment and sets the client up for moods which are inextricably linked to the behavior of others, rather than an internal ability to manage his/her own responses to the outside world.

    2. Recently a “gender identity expert” was hired to come train all the licensed counselors and social workers in our school district. Why is it that gender identity groups, based around an ideology are now being recruited to train mental health professionals? This is not done with any other type of social-emotional concern. For example, we don’t have pro-life groups come and train school counselors on how to emotionally support teenage girls who have recently become pregnant! So why are we now outsourcing mental health training to political groups with an ideology not founded in the basic principles of mental health?
    As Lane said, “I fear we may be witnessing the unfortunate convergence of a kind of radical activism with mental health treatment” – the implications of this hybrid are vast and unstudied. I believe as therapists and counselors, we should not be so quick to disempower ourselves and throw away decades of clinical knowledge for fear of being called transphobic. Many of us spend decades helping people who are deeply troubled and suffering greatly. Surely this expertise is useful and transferable to many different presenting problems. It’s scary that we are being lead to believe otherwise. Trusting our OWN instincts is just as important as the ability of our clients to trust their own.

    3. I’d like to make one last point about instincts and intrinsic responses in the following quote,
    “It’s frightening how we have been manipulated into believing that “affirmation” is the only caring way to respond to a child confused about gender, that it’s what nice people do. People want to be nice and caring. But of course the issues inherent in medical transition—such as sterilization–are not covered much by the media, so people are being given false and misleading information on which to base their views. And no matter how people try, trans people will always be misgendered because when we meet an adult, the first thing we do is distinguish which sex they are. It’s the most ingrained unconscious response from the primitive brain: “Do I want to mate with this person or should I run from them?” These instinctive responses are there for a reason and of course it’s especially crucial for females to make the distinction. We’re very good at immediately quashing those instincts for fear of appearing rude or unfriendly but is it healthy for us to do so? Is it healthy for children to be brought up to immediately suppress instinctive knowledge because that knowledge is “transphobic”? And of course it’s the opposite of the message we give to our teenage daughters, which we hope will keep them safe. We tell them “trust your instincts, they’re often right. If you feel uncomfortable or threatened by someone, go with that feeling and don’t be afraid of looking unfriendly.” This is a very different issue to teaching children about transgender people and the importance of not discriminating against them. It’s teaching children to re-order reality according to a new subjective belief system which they are obliged to believe in, or at least pretend to.”

    Though this doesn’t relate directly to the trend of transitioning children, it’s still relevant:
    Having worked with many women and girls who have been abused by men, this is a crucial point. Society in general, is already a challenging and sexist place for all women, but especially so for abuse survivors, since we are bombarded daily with messages that the abuse of women is not a serious concern, or sometimes even something “empowering”. For female survivors in particular, being able to recognize males and create some personal boundaries is vitally important as these women and girls assess for their own safety and regain trust with reliable people in their lives. But asking these survivors to suppress their gut response to males (who may identify as transwomen) is both unfair and incredibly distressing. This allows women no opportunity to prioritize their own physical safety or emotional well-being. It also precludes them from forming any schemas about potentially dangerous people or recognizing the traits that are typically present in controlling abusive males. While of course “not all men” are dangerous, the overwhelming majority of violence against women comes at the hands of men and completely re-ordering the way women make sense of the world around them is completely irrational. It places the subjective identity of a male above the material and emotional safety of a woman and I find this to be very disturbing.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. One of my fears is that teens with depression or anxiety or trauma or eating disorders won’t get treated for their mental health issues. Instead, if they identify as transgender, some therapists seem to assume that transition will fix everything. We know that it doesn’t, but right now kids are being diagnosed and treated by people who don’t know that much about gender dysphoria. Add on a distrust of the research we do have and you get a recipe for disaster.

    I think that may be what was going on here. Transition doesn’t cure depression and anxiety.

    It’s scary for the parents who thought being supportive would be enough. It’s also a story more of us parents need to hear.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I saw a report about a student at my alma mater who committed suicide. This person had transitioned to male in high school with the support of her parents, then after several years of T, reverted to female pronouns and college and began identifying as gender fluid. A few weeks later, she was dead. I only know about this story because I was looking up things about my college; it didn’t get a lot of media attention and wasn’t politicized. But it really makes me wonder what was going through her head and how her family feels now. Did she have underlying issues that she thought transition would solve? Did she feel guilt over what she had done to her body in her attempts to be OK in her skin? Did her parents feel guilty about approving medial interventions that she later decided weren’t right for her?

    Suicide is a very real problem, but it is a lot more nuanced that political movements want to believe.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Sorry this is so long!

    Suicide as a contagion among young people, triggered by the media, is a long-known phenomenon, originally called “The Young Werther” effect, after a novel by Goethe about a suicidal young man that sparked a suicide epidemic in Europe.(In the late 18th century, when “Werther” was published, novels were “the” media for young people).

    But contagions can come from more intimate group settings, too. Not just contagious suicides, but also contagious factitious disorders with odd symptoms like fainting, paralysis, vomiting with no infectious agent (there was a recent case in Upstate New York). Interestingly, these factitious disorder outbreaks are far more common among girls & women than boys & men. I have long been suspecting that the great increase in numbers of girls going FTT is likely a contagious idea spread by tumblr, among other social media.

    In the case of Kyler, and the other 3 young people who all attended the same support group for similar reasons, it seems unlikely that the media spread the contagious suicidal ideation to them.
    The group seems to be a much more likely source, since it’s the thing these 4 kids had in common. I doubt they read newspapers.


    The claim that the mental hospital that was trying to save Kyler’s life was the cause of the suicide, because of their recognition of Kyler’s female body, suggests to me that letting people formulate their social lives around fake personas that don’t align with their born sex actually makes these people more self-destructive, even when surrounded by supportive families, schools, support groups, clubs. I think this makes it even more important to resist efforts to make society, schools, businesses, government and courts go along with the trans ideology, trans pronouns, and gender-by-declaration.

    Liked by 2 people

    • They are being coached, encouraged and pushed into suicide as an option by the transgender community, in the same way young women were by the male nurse a few years ago, on social media. If. you constantly suggest that this is an option, they will believe that, and take it. Especially when they are suffering delusions, hallucinations, suicide and violence ideation side effects from the medications they are ALL on. Follow the money.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Nona,

        Even if they are not literally being coached to see their lives only in terms of trans or suicide, the fact is that young kids who announce they’re trans have already shown themselves to have a tendency to be vulnerable to social contagion (this is likely the explanation for why in recent years, the change in the ratio of FTTs and MTTs). Suicidal ideation is also a socially contagious idea on its own, separate from transition (see the history of the suicide epidemic among the young of Europe after the publication of “The Sorrows of Young Werther”)

        The recent suicides of trans teens (who all knew each other in LA) who had parental, school and support group support shows these vulnerable kids can’t be protected from suicide by just going along with the trans program.

        If kids like this are told that lack of effusive support for transition will lead to suicidal despair, the kids will look for clues as to impending suicidal despair. But even with immediate, above-and-beyond support, these kids are still vulnerable to social contagions that lead them to other self-destructive behaviors.

        Also, I have to ask readers in general, considering that our bodily sex is one of the easiest things to determine about a human – even infants seem to detect it), could the desire to trans be a self-destructive behavior?


    • yes!! And about the social contagion and young girls.. aren’t the Salem Witch Trials an earlier known example? I’m starting to think the whole FTM-in-teen-girls trend is a social contagion masking trauma, misogyny, homophobia, etc in the surrounding society.

      Liked by 1 person

    • ps looked up Salem Witch Trials and they are considered “mass hysteria.”. Maybe that’s more what I was thinking? There are some pretty amazing cases documented if you start poking around online (or in a library I dare say) , such as young nuns in a nunnery, having bizarre “contagious” outbursts. Maybe this is getting a bit off topic, sorry, but I see some parallels!!


  18. This is, I believe, an excellent brochure on how to talk responsibly in the media about suicide among LGBT youth. Suicide among LGBT youth is an issue we need to talk about, but if newspapers or social media report about it the wrong way, we may increase the number of suicides.

    The brochure was put together by a number of groups including GLADD, the Trevor Project, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

    Click to access talking-about-suicide-and-lgbt-populations.pdf


  19. It’s an interesting, heartbreaking discussion, and unfortunately many more of these conversations need to be taking place. I’m not willing to medicate my young daughter who wants to transition to male with hormone blockers or cross hormones, at this point. I’m not against transgender adults. My vocation has put me in contact with many gay, lesbian, and transgender people over the years. As a young broke woman I lived in the “gay” neighborhood because I felt safer on my own there. It’s cliche but some of my best friends are lbgt. T included. These are very close friends who I am still in contact with. I have been through times (admittedly when we were all younger) where a few of my close friends have been suicidal, have sat with them through nights that were nothing I would ever choose to cause my child to experience. The main reason for this according to what they told me, in every case, was family rejection. Usually religious. I don’t think suicide in transgender youth is being caused by withholding transition or not. I do think it’s the power of suggestion that the depressed, confused, and generally fragile adolescents (all adolescents really) are being told that if they don’t transition soon enough or pass well enough that they will be driven to suicide, even if parents support them. It’s hopelessness for a future. A future that is reality.
    I’ve asked my friends for advice, and even the transgender ones have said that they wouldn’t transition a child. One didn’t even realize that it was more than just identity. They do say that I need to accept and affirm my child, but nothing permanent. I think blockers are permanent because they alter the development process. I think I finally sold my child on waiting, because I explained that even though identity and orientation are different, they are related. And if we block puberty there’s no romantic attraction. Not that I’m crazy about my child having a sexual relationship but adolescence is about living with those feelings.
    I use the preferred name and pronouns, but that’s it. I’ve never been one to worry about hair or clothes. All of these things can change.
    The tactic I’m going with is that you don’t have the wrong body, you can’t get a different body but when you’re older you can modify the one you have. If she transitions she will be a transgender man. It’s not something to be ashamed of but it’s never going to be a “cis” male body. I’m hoping some of the older transgender people (I’m in my 40’s, as are my friends, and I had to explain cis and pan etc to my transgender woman friend, who said oh lord they’ve got too many choices!) would come forward with support. The problem is that they really don’t stand out and they aren’t the activists. They want to keep their jobs and such. We need more public presence.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Despite all the scare-mongering about ‘transgender’ children and suicide, the only case in the UK of which I have been able to find a record is that of Cameron McWilliams, who hanged himself in 2008 at the age of 10. It was reported at the inquest that he had been caught wearing some of his sister’s underwear, and that he had told his mother that he wanted to have a ‘sex change’ some day.

    Some sections of the press (Independent, Guardian) have claimed Cameron as a victim of ‘gender identity disorder’. However, the inquest also heard that shortly before he died he had talked to his mother about a series of suicides in and around Bridgend in Wales which had been widely reported in the news.

    The best report of the inquest is probably a piece in the Daily Telegraph.


  21. Looking for advice, and not sure where to post this. How do you talk to a therapist who isn’t trained in this field about some of the problems?

    I have an adult kid who wants to have surgery. They are getting letters for it. One of the therapists is not a gender therapist per se but has been working with my kid on other issues (some of which starter after transition). To the therapist’s credit, she attended a conference to learn more. What she heard was very pro medical transition.

    How can I talk with this therapist without sounding like a crazy mom? Are there things I can get her to read on this? Can any therapists comment on this?



  22. The best thing you can do to keep from being seen as crazy is to know without a shadow of a doubt that you are not. We are living in a crazy world, it’s painful, most would prefer to question themselves so as to preserve their faith in a system inside which they have no choice but to remain. Sort of the way children whose parents are nuts, often prefer to believe themselves nuts, as they are dependent upon their parents and need to believe these all powerful ones know what’s best.

    Right now our parent culture is showing signs of serious insanity – I believe we are all waking up to this dysfunction in our own way.

    I would recommend you read this site and others linked to it – get some alternative information to what is presented at large. You must know more. However, this may or may not have an impact on your kid’s decision to transition.

    Perhaps you could provide the therapist with info from this site; it’s hard though as I know this may out you as a skeptic. I believe we should all be skeptical, this is healthy. Particularly with something so profound as transitioning genders. I believe many or most of the practitioners have an exiled skeptic within them. Remember that. This doesn’t mean you say transition is wrong, only that you admit it is difficult to swallow without first being allowed to chew on it. These practitioners aren’t allowed to chew any of this, it’s just business as usual. When I was working with kids and this happened to me, it felt traumatic. I wanted to tell parents my true thoughts, but I feared such honesty could come back to haunt me. Even with parents who were outright skeptical with me,
    I was still terrified to tell them I agreed with them.

    You might be so bold, it you are alone with the therapist, to ask about the therapist’s initial process of coming to understand gender dysphoria, ask them casually and with great and honest curiosity how they were able to wrap their head around it. Perhaps such an inquiry will remind the therapist that they never really did take the time to clinically grapple with this diagnosis or the new and popular treatment now being prescribed.

    None of this is easy. People, especially any professional, are terrified of falling outside of acceptability. Normal, natural skepticism has effectively been banned. So just know, this professional helping your child can’t safely access their own truth. They can’t afford to investigate the truth like you can, or they would risk losing their job. It is they who are being made crazy, not you. They aren’t allowed to say what clinicians used to be able to say so as not to misdiagnose; they can’t say, this is a working diagnosis and we’ll see if we need to change it as new information emerges. Once a person declares they are trans the clinician loses all authority as a diagnostician.

    In closing, I would read as much as you can on the trans phenom, and then listen to your gut and keep loving your child. Love is more than a feeling, it is a light in the darkness. Your child won’t find that kind of illumination in a subculture devoted to compulsory blindness in the name of its own preservation.

    If anything this insanity has taught me is that we are lost as a culture, we have lost our values and therefore our way. Because of our radical adoption of a kind of enforced relativity, often known as “tolerance”, we and are children are wide open to attack by any power-mongering and divisive ideology that comes along. Critical thinking, facts, reason, logic, skepticism, our own perceptions have all been taken away from us. We need to realize mere tolerance is not enough –
    I don’t know how we as good liberals can really blindly and uniformly “tolerate” anymore. Our acceptance has been abused. I question the wisdom of being tolerant of those who abuse our system of analysis, those who call us names and seek to literally destroy our credibility because we have questions about radical and new, untested ways of being.


    • Thank you. It helps to remember that I am not crazy.

      I have read a lot and know more than most people, I suspect more than many therapists. I just can’t figure out how to communicate what I know in a productive way.

      I have worked hard to keep showing my kid my love. We’ve managed to keep a connection, but we haven’t slowed down the transition. This would be the first step which is completely irreversible. There are so many more costs to it than to hormones, although hormones are bad enough.

      I’m sorry if I’m babbling, I’m a bit in a state of shock. (Once again, I keep finding myself in shock over and over these past few years.)

      I really wish as a parent that I could know that the psychological community had my back. That my kid would be carefully diagnosed and counseled over a long period of time before they could do something they might regret.


  23. Something that occurred to me yesterday. If suicide is a rational (or at least understandable) response to social prejudice and discrimination, why is it that in the United States, suicide rates for white people, historically and now the most privileged group, are nearly treble that of African-American people, historically and now the least privileged group? Just a quick Google search on suicide rates by ethnicity turned this up: “In 2014, the highest U.S. suicide rate (14.7) was among Whites and the second highest rate (10.9) was among American Indians and Alaska Natives (Figure 5). Much lower and roughly similar rates were found among Hispanics (6.3), Asians and Pacific Islanders (5.9), and Blacks (5.5).” (Source:

    I am assuming that at least a partial explanation is, that suicide is actually NOT primarily caused by discrimination and prejudice against the individual. However, we frequently hear that the persistent high suicide rates among trans people (even post-transition) are motivated by “prejudice and bigotry.” Prejudice is an ugly thing, no doubt about it, but attributing high trans suicidality to prejudice is probably over-simplifying the issue by quite a lot, if not intentionally bypassing what could be more pertinent factors.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Leela Alcorn, as tragic as that story was, was totally romanticised. It was all over TV, FB and Twitter and Tumbler people expressing how sad it was, this poor child’s despair and how her parents intolerance caused her death. That sent a powerful message to worried parents that this was what would happen if they weren’t supportive and to kids that this was their only way out if they were not 100% accepted. I can’t help but think she sacrificed herself on that altar. I really wonder what dialog she may have been having with people online, if they encouraged her or if the trans or die mantra was so internalized by then?


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