This is another in our ongoing series of personal accounts by formerly trans-identified teens and their parents. Ash, age 16, identified as trans from ages 12-15 and has now desisted. We start with her mom Kelly’s account of her experiences, followed by Ash’s essay. Ash and Kelly are available to interact in the comments section of this article, as time permits.
4thWaveNow is always interested in hearing from desisters and their parents. Please let us know if you would like to guest post.
By Kelly O’Connor
I didn’t take it too seriously when my daughter told me she was transgender. She had already told me she was gay, and she had ongoing anxiety and depression that I knew she was actively looking for relief from. She started puberty early, acquiring breasts which amplified her already frenetic mental state to the point that, like a wild horse, she could not tolerate most of the ropes society tried to hang her with. What young girl in her right mind wants to be culled from the herd and corralled into a ‘girl’ pen?
Prior to her identifying as trans, we had weathered a divorce, and I went back to being the single mom I had started out as (her biological father has never been in the picture). We began homeschooling soon after because there was bullying at her school. This brought the two of us much closer together, but she also began spending more time on social media looking for social outlets. That’s when the Trans Meme entered our lives in a big way. We were in a homeschooling group that had one kid who had trans’ed really young, but Ash’s biggest exposure was online on DeviantArt and Tumblr. Around the same time a close friend’s daughter, who was also on Tumblr, went on testosterone. Ash was now surrounded online and off by the idea that identifying as transgender was some sort of escape hatch.
Knowing that Ash was identifying as male online and wanted to do so IRL, I just kept up a non-committal, non-judgmental attitude about it. I never called her by a different pronoun, although she and her trans friend had made some attempts to get me to do so. I resisted because it felt like a slippery slope and reality was a pretty flexible concept for her at the time. She used to spin tales about people who didn’t exist or events that didn’t happen. She was into cutting and knives and horror films and intense, scary anime. Frankly, I didn’t have a big reaction to her coming out as trans because there were other, much scarier scenarios looming large in my mind. Her sexual/gender identity wasn’t a big concern for me. I was more focused on keeping her off of anti-psychotics. Looking back I think my non-reaction made it easier for her to change her mind. There was never a big line in the sand drawn by either of us and so nothing was ‘decided’ or set in motion. I’ve also always been very anti-interventionist. I don’t go to the doctor unless something is broken or the bleeding won’t stop. I once declined a D&C during a miscarriage – I didn’t want anyone scraping around in there – and the only drugs I take are ibuprofen, or antibiotics if necessary. Maybe that is why Ash never directly asked to be put on testosterone.
Having a child stand on the brink and stare into the maw of insanity was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It was a years-long scream into the dark and I felt I could tell no one. I knew drugs or institutionalization would put her in a place she would not return from but I wasn’t sure others would see it that way. The possibility that she was transgender complicated matters for us and she was very vulnerable to the idea, as I can imagine any teen struggling with mental illness would be.
But we got through it. I listened to her when she would talk to me, I told her about some of the things I had been through at that age, I found her a therapist she liked and I trusted, we took lots of walks, and we got a great big dog. I kept encouraging her and trying to connect her with friends and the outside world. I took an interest in her world which was mostly anime, and horror films at the time, so we went to anime conventions and did cosplay and watched movies. I just kept holding on to her and didn’t let go. Eventually, she emerged from the other side of her darkness and slowly came to re-inhabit the body she had abandoned. Now, at 16, she’s learning to be better friends with herself, and finding ways to deal with her mental lows like exercise and diet. And the ‘girl-pen’ is just a place she left in the dust.
Ash is a 16 year old dual-enrolled college student who previously identified as transgender for 2+ years. She enjoys art/animation, games, and learning languages.
I am writing this essay because I want people to understand that mental illnesses aren’t being given the attention they deserve for many transgender-identifying teens and also that for females who are attracted to other females, we don’t usually get to see ourselves in popular culture.
From 12 to 15, I identified as transgender. I’m 16 now and I present as androgynous but I am a gender abolitionist in that I want people to be able to present however they choose, even though I also think gender roles are harmful.
Starting in 2012, around the time when the rates of trans people were just starting to spike, I was very much involved in the LGBT community online and beginning to realize that I was attracted to females. All of my friends were female and there was a lot of drama. That was difficult, being attracted to people who were mean. It seemed like being a guy would make everything easier.
There’s also a lot of pressure on girls to be attractive. On guys too, but it takes ten times more effort for a girl to be seen as attractive than for a boy. As a young teen, the thought of having sex with my female body repulsed me. But thinking of myself as male, with a new life, without my past trauma, was a lot more comforting to me. I didn’t want to associate anything about myself with being female because my body felt like a canvas of memories I didn’t want to remember, didn’t want to see anymore. I was molested when I was younger by an older male teen. Everything about my female body felt wrong and dirty and dangerous to me.
When female teens I know started identifying as trans, they instantly became more sexual. There are a number of reasons why: repressed emotions, “daddy issues,” negative body images, previous trauma, and some are also disabled. It’s completely unacceptable to be a fat horny girl, but it is more than acceptable to be a fat horny boy.
It’s safer and more socially acceptable in general to be a sexual boy than a sexual girl, especially a girl who is attracted to other girls. The word “lesbian” makes a woman sound gross for liking another woman but the word “gay” sounds completely fine and happy. When I was 12, I told some friends who are boys that I was attracted to girls. They basically said that’s not real, meaning it’s not possible for two girls to have a relationship. However, they also said it was hot, which made me see the label “lesbian” as a fetish term, unlike the label “gay” which is a legitimate form for a relationship.
Anime was a very big interest of mine, just like it is for many other transgender teens. That led me to fan art for shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes as well. A good deal of the fan art focused on two male characters who were romantically involved, not in the show, or in canon, but in the fandom. Gay male relationships were glorified on all the art and social media websites I was using but it was very rare to ever see two women from the same show or two women from any show depicted as lesbians. Most of the females I knew were drawing gay male relationships, not female ones, because the desire was for what we thought that kind of relationship would be like (the gay male kind). My mom and I have talked about how different things were when she was a teen. She would have had a crush on the boys in the shows she liked but me and my friends wanted to be them.
I was drawing that kind of gay male relationship art when I started questioning my gender, and I received a lot of positive feedback for my art from people in the community. On social media, I set my gender to male and no one questioned it. As soon as I came out as trans, I started to receive a lot more attention. I felt happier and much more confident in myself than I ever had.
Things didn’t exactly change with my life, but I had much more confidence looking in the mirror. I used to completely break down because I hated myself so much. Once I had the word “transgender,” I had a better idea of what my identity was at the time and I was able to find information and resources to help with many of my issues: depression, anxiety, weight, etc. I truly believed I must be a boy because of how happy I felt coming out as one.
However, now I feel like the term “transgender” has become a coping mechanism for sufferers of abuse, trauma, emotional neglect, and mental illness. It’s not that big of a coincidence that many of the transgender people I’ve met have some kind of chronic physical or mental illness or come from a childhood where they were emotionally or sexually abused, or suffered neglect or abandonment. They need some way to cope and gain the attention and sense of control that they always craved and never received.
I used to feel incredibly dysphoric over certain parts of my body that a lot of transgender people also feel dysphoric over, such as my chest, my legs, my hips, etc. It is not exactly something I can explain but I have always felt very off about myself. I also struggle with quite a few mental illnesses that can make my mind not the most stable. I unfortunately mistook overall body dysphoria and the emotional results of trauma for gender dysphoria and came close to ruining/mutilating my body in an attempt to fix it.
I was the most dysphoric when I thought I was trans, I never wanted to leave the house. I was heavier and my boobs were larger and I was very obviously female. I had a binder for part of that time but it was uncomfortable and gave me breathing problems. My ribs were in severe pain from wearing it for hours a day. I almost fainted multiple times at an anime convention.
The dysphoria grew when I thought I may be a boy. I always wanted to come across as more masculine rather than feminine. I never wanted to be a tomboy, I wanted to be a real boy. When I thought I was trans, all I wanted was to have gender reassignment surgery but now, I’d never consider it, even though I prefer coming across androgynous. Part of the reason I would never consider surgery or hormones now is because I feel better about my body. I eat better now and exercise a lot. While you can’t control dysphoria, you can learn ways to get used to the feelings and those feelings get better over time as puberty ends. That’s how puberty works, it messes with you. When you first hit puberty, dysphoria spikes because there are all these changes you can’t control and in my case, didn’t like.
My boyfriend at the time, who was also identifying as transgender (I knew them as a girl for a few years beforehand), convinced me I should transition a few days after I mentioned I might be trans too. If I remember correctly, I told my mom a few months later, when we were sitting in the car at the drive through for Starbucks. We were pretty quiet until I turned away from her and said “Hey, I think I’m a boy. And I want to go by “Avery” (a name that I went by for awhile even after realising I wasn’t a boy). She turned to me and raised her eyebrow and said “Uh, alright. So you’re this now?” We got our coffee and it wasn’t spoken about again. I figured, since she didn’t freak out, that meant it would be OK to start some kind of process, but then the next day, she was talking to one of her friends on the phone, and she referred to me as “she” like usual.
During that time, I had no questions regarding the side effects of being on T; I just wanted it, none of the side effects mattered or seemed important. My mindset was just “if I do this, I will feel better about my body and I won’t feel suicidal anymore.” But, the thought that maybe I couldn’t get on T or blockers sent me into a much deeper depression than I was in before. No one was there to inform me about the side effects of hormone therapy and in the groups I was involved in, people only encouraged me to go ahead in my transition once I officially came out even though I was still a minor, still growing, and not yet receiving the mental health care I needed. They encouraged me to go ahead and do what I needed to do to be happy with myself.
Because I didn’t have much support in my life in other areas at that time, their support felt amazing. Up until that point, I had struggled with gaining friends for months, years even. The only person I really knew and talked to daily in my life was my mom and my ex boyfriend (who was severely mentally abusive towards me). All of a sudden, I had many new friends and I was getting a lot of attention for my new identity.
The next three years were me believing I was trans and my mom blowing me off. Thank goodness, because I would be close to getting my first surgery now at 16. I have a lot of transgender friends and the difference between me and them is their parents brought them to gender clinics or special gender therapists. Some of my friends self-harmed and threatened suicide so their parents would take them to gender therapists but I never did that. I did tell my mom I needed a therapist and she found one but her focus wasn’t on my gender identity. We never talked about that until this year.
While I realize now that I am not a boy and will never really be a boy, I’ve also come to discover the androgynous community. I still feel like there’s something missing and I may never find it but finding a nice balance between both genders has been better, healthier and safer for me. I’ve never supported gender roles and usually tend to ignore them and wear what I want, but the harsh reality is if gender roles weren’t so ingrained into today’s society then a lot of kids might not even be transitioning at all.
Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to change my lifestyle. I recently registered at a community college, and I’ve been making more friends and getting involved in things outside of the house. I have a therapist who looks at my mental health issues instead of my identity. She helps me explore my feelings of dysphoria and repulsion over having a female body. I’ve come to understand that these feelings come from past trauma not because I’m really a boy.
Most of my friends are either transgender and/or gay. Some of my closest friends have struggled with their identities as long as me. I also have friends who I’ve watched go on testosterone, and while I may not agree with their decision, I support them no matter what.
For me personally, my identity doesn’t mean a lifetime of hormone therapy and it certainly doesn’t mean a series of surgeries. For me, I realized that if I had even one small doubt, it would lead to more and more doubt. That was a red flag for me and it should be a red flag in general. Once the process of HRT and surgeries starts, there’s no going back. I think it is very hard for teens who’ve made these choices to change their minds both because they’re afraid to lose the control they never had before and once they go back to being “cis,” they’ll be unimportant and nothing special in this world.
It’s so heartbreaking that young women are learning that it’s unacceptable to be fat, female and sexual, and that being a lesbian is “gross.” Being a lesbian is great, actually!
Thanks for writing and best wishes to you both!
LikeLiked by 9 people
It’s encouraging to hear about gay people realizing being gay and leaving the trans behind them, but I only wish we could stop it before it starts.
I recently learned about David Oliver Cauldwell, the man who coined the English word “transsexual” in the 1940s and was the first to do so in English after Mangus Hirschfeld did it in German. He believed surgery was not the answer, that jenn-durr is plastic and therefore no basis for corrective surgery (there’s no such thing as jenn-durr so it can’t be dysphoric), and that homosexuality and cross-dressing should be tolerated. I wish more expansion was done on his work instead of the likes of John Money.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Ash, how do you think other parents should support their kids through this process? What are some things that your mom did that helped you get through this and come out of it without irreversible outcomes?
Thanks for being brave enough to share your story!
LikeLiked by 8 people
In all honesty I think the best way to go is waiting it out. My mom took the more “harsh” road and didn’t acknowledge my new identity at all, but had she acknowledged/encouraged it without even thinking if it was a phase or not, I would probably be a completely different person (literally).
Other parents don’t need to take that road though, I think its also good to expose them to the gender critical theory when they’re making these kinds of decisions, so they can second-guess. Otherwise patience is key. You don’t need to support your kids choices but making sure they know that you love them can do wonders.
LikeLiked by 9 people
Hi Ash thank you for your posts. Are there gender critical sites that you can recommend for a teenager ? Thanks Donna
Hi Donna – sorry its taken a bit to get back to your question. Ash is a bit busy with school so she gives me permission to answer for her. From what I’ve noticed, her online behavior has shifted and she spends alot less time on social media since disengaging from the trans mentality. She has connected with the outside world in a big way these days, and spends her online time mostly skypeing or gaming with friends. She likes Magdalen Burns – here’s her YouTube channel:
Hi Ash and Ash’s mom. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I care about this issue a lot and wish I could do something to help. I think a lot of GenXers do because we came from an era where severe dysphoria in the LGBT community was not at the epidemic level it seems to be at now.
It also sounds like you have some mental health issues. Sorry to hear that but I understand. Intense feelings in adolescence are petty normal for a lot of people and not necessarily life-long. I had mental health problems through adulthood that became extremely serious and nothing helped (drugs, therapy). I’d attribute about 30% of my downward spiral to issues around my identity. In my case my sexual orientation. I wanted to punch walls because of my experiences in society around my sexual orientation and probably did. I experienced depression around not being a boy as a tween. And obsessive body dysmorphic disorder as a young adult as one of several manifestations of generalized anxiety disorder. So looking at those two points in my life I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what GD feels like.
I used to be an extremely closed person but I actually think it is really important to openly talk about mental health so people, especially young ones don’t feel so alone. And I like to talk about it because I actually fully recovered from my very serious mental health problems. My story has a happy ending. Lives filled with more satisfaction and joy are possible. I actually managed to completely rewire the way my brain works. And I’m always happy and willing to share what I did with anyone. Especially young LGB people because those issues contributed to my problems. Even if someone needs to be on drugs, outlook and lifestyle can really help. It sounds like you are already doing the right things. I’m not anon on my website and comment here a lot. firstname.lastname@example.org
LikeLiked by 6 people
I completely agree and relate! I feel like a lot of teenagers mix up general body dysphoria that we get when we first start puberty, as gender dysphoria.
I’m so happy to hear that you’ve become more stable and I wish the best for you. Its really saddening to see teenager’s mental issues thrown under the rug, especially a BIG majority of trans people who feel like the only way to get the help they need is by changing their identity. If you are diagnosed with a mental illness, it does not lower your chances of having a happy life unless you let it consume you.
LikeLiked by 6 people
theHomoarchy, I like what you say about ‘rewire your brain’. Ash and I were just talking yesterday and I made an analogy to learning a new piece of music on your instrument. Its like getting a song stuck in your head, and training your brain to play another one. I’ve observed my daughter doing this over time, and she could have just as easily gone on a different, more destructive path if she hadn’t gotten the support she needed to see her through.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Thank you Ash and Kelly for sharing your story, wishing you both all the best. And thank you 4thWaveNow for publishing yet another important story that should have people asking questions about what’s happening.
So many of these stories, of young people who desist/detransition/find other ways of dealing with their dysphoria, seem to follow the same pattern. Trauma, misogyny and homophobia always seem to play a major role, which doesn’t come as a surprise to those of us who have followed this issue for a while. This makes the lack of coverage in mainstream media all the more frustrating. There are important conversations we should be having about the welfare of young people that are just being swept under the carpet. I’m glad blogs such as this one exist to offer some balance but it’s heartbreaking to think of all the people who will unnecessarily go through irreversible and potentially damaging changes in the name of an ideology that has no scientific backing.
LikeLiked by 8 people
It is puzzling to me that the “ban” on female sexual expression in young women exists side by side with slut walks and other demands by young women that no judgements of any kind be made of female sexual behaviors.
LikeLiked by 4 people
It’s actually a “ban” on any expression of female sexuality that isn’t approved by patriarchy. Expressions of female sexual submission to men are applauded.
LikeLiked by 3 people
Ash and Kelly – thank you for sharing your stories here where they will help other teens and their parents.
Ash – there is great maturity in your personal reflection. I am so sorry our culture didn’t do better for you. Has much changed culturally/artistically in online spaces since you first identified as trans? Are there more places young lesbians might find clearer reflections of themselves now then there were then or have things gotten even worse?
Kelly – your reflection highlights how easily things could have gone differently in your family had you not recognized Ash’s discomfort as bucking against the “girl pen.” That must have been such a lonely, scary time for you and Ash and I shudder to imagine how Ash’s life would be different now had you sought out a gender “specialist.”
LikeLiked by 4 people
Hi, Kelly and Ash. Thanks for sharing your story.
Ash, I have a question for you. You say, “A good deal of the fan art focused on two male characters who were romantically involved, not in the show, or in canon, but in the fandom. Gay male relationships were glorified on all the art and social media websites I was using but it was very rare to ever see two women from the same show or two women from any show depicted as lesbians. Most of the females I knew were drawing gay male relationships, not female ones, because the desire was for what we thought that kind of relationship would be like (the gay male kind).”
As somebody who’s been a slash fan since you were a baby – although I haven’t had nearly as much time for anything fandom-related since having my own baby three years ago – I’ve read countless commentaries on why women and girls like slash fiction. Generally speaking, I find them to be way too reductive and focused on simple answers – every other hobby, it seems, gets fans who have a wide variety of reasons for being attracted to it, but “why do women like slash fiction” always gets narrowed to one or two things. At the same time, the people you’re referring to are people you have personal experience with, and I don’t have that experience with them. My question is, do you know that your explanation was why they were slash fans, or is that the conclusion you reached on your own?
I think the “very rare to see two women from any show depicted as lesbians” part might have something to do with your choice of fandoms, although I agree that male slash pairings generally have more fans than femslash. If you’d been, say, a “Once Upon A Time” fan, f/f fan art and fiction would have been pretty common in your fandom circles.
Once again, thanks for sharing your story. I don’t mean to pick on you or on this small aspect, but I think there’s a certain risk inherent in deciding why other people are fans of something without their input. Good luck with college and your journey forward in life.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Women are drawn to slash/yaoi for a wide range of reasons; I’ve been in fandom for a long, long time, and I also roll my eyes at reductive (and usually insulting) attempts to explain fangirl sexuality.
That being said, over the past few years I have noticed an alarming uptick in “gay transmasc” slash fans/fujoshi, particularly among fans who are in their teens and early twenties. I think some—although certainly not all—of the newest generation of slash fans do fantasize about being gay men (although these fantasies are of course uninformed by any actual knowledge of gay men).
I definitely bristle at blanket statements about obsessive, delusional fangirls who fantasize about living out fanfic. But unfortunately, fangirls of this type do exist—they’re the ones who have started calling themselves “fanboys.”
LikeLiked by 1 person
I do think it’s weird that there’s countless commentaries about how odd women and girls are for liking slash fiction and fanfiction in general. But hey, novels used to be looked down upon as distractions for empty-headed women and later Penny Dreadfulls were looked down upon because of classist reasons (most of the readers were working class men). This is probably a modern rehash of the same bs.
Me personally, I would read any manga or watch any anime that had a same-sex relationship that I could get my hands on especially when I was coming to terms with being a lesbian as a teenager. I still enjoy fanfic and prefer same sex pairings and probably read more slash since there’s usually more of it in most fandoms I both to read fic for. Also, I’m super picky about f/f fic and accuracy whereas with slash I can sort of suspend disbelief.
I’m 28 and I don’t think any straight women who I was friends with who were into yaoi/slash in high school have gone on to think they are literally gay men. I grew up in an urban area but the trans trend was not a thing at all when I graduated. We had a GSA in high school too and we kind of knew what trans was but most of us just thought it was kind of silly. No one would have suggested that someone under 18 was trans and the general belief was that you had to be really, really sure you wanted SRS before you could get it.
I’ve had mostly positive experiences in fandom with straight women who write slash, but like with anything there are always cringey people. Tumblr, home of the trans trend, does have a huge misogyny problem and women and girls there are desperate to identity as anything but a “cis” woman. I suppose if being a gay man is presented as appealing and there’s all the magical thinking going on about feelings trumping reality, it can create the perfect storm of trans trender yaoi bois. Additionally, I think the trans trend is appealing to hetero females with cluster B and narcissistic tenancies. They get to be sympathy vampires and wax on about how oppressed they are, while oppressing real gay men and calling them bigots for not being interested in vagina.
The ironic thing is that they fail to realize that as straight women, they actually do have problems to deal with, such as misogyny.
The “fujoshi” tag from this tumblr blog has interesting information about this trend. https://larpsandtherealgirl.tumblr.com/tagged/fujoshi
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hi! Thank you, you’re not picking on me at all don’t worry.
I think some fandoms definitely have a wide range of f/f art, but the thing is those fandoms are very small nowadays. I involve myself in big world wide fandoms such as games like Overwatch, etc. That game has a lot of opportunities for f/f ships but the females are either blown off or turned into “minorities”, because no one wants to ship a cis woman with another cis woman right?
People either change their favourite female character’s race, can change their identity to “trans woman” or “gender fluid” (anything that isn’t cis basically), change their body types, etc. Thats completely fine! but it really puts the impression out there that two women can’t just… be in a relationship together anymore without one party or both parties needing to be different somehow. If any of that makes sense lol. I’ve been in several fandoms in the last 6-8 years and things have changed very drastically and so suddenly too.
Of course that doesn’t mean that there are simply women out there who enjoy slash/yaoi for multiple reasons or because its cute to them, because thats still a big majority. Its just a lot of today’s fandoms for newer things like new anime shows, cartoon network, etc. have been overrun by these people who not only want to draw their favourite male pairings but also want to be them, and completely block out women as a whole unless they’re not cis, not white, and anything that isn’t “boring”.
It definitely has to do with choice of fandoms, but I’ve been associated in very world wide/popular fandoms that a lot of teenagers (especially people who use tumblr) have involved in. But I hope this helps to some degree!
I must be getting old. Back in Ye Olde Ancient Days of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fandom in the early-to-mid-2000s – when I was in high school and college and had the most time and energy for fandom – there was none of this identity politics aspect. Sometimes people would say something like. “It would be great to have more fics focused on female characters” and then host a big fic drive on LiveJournal or something – yes, I’m dating myself – but any need to change the gender identities of characters was pretty much limited to HP fans wondering if Tonks had ever used her Metamorphmagus powers to temporarily become a guy. Or if characters could Polyjuice into the other sex, or something. Sometimes girls posted pictures on DeviantArt of them and their girlfriends dressed up like Harry and Draco and kissing, but it was always *girls* and their *girlfriends*, not trans boys and their genderfluid partners.
Yep. I’m getting old.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I miss when fandom wasn’t about identity bs. And I never thought I’d miss the days when if I wanted to write about my gay or lesbian OTP holding hands I’d have to put up a million disclaimers to keep away the homophobes. No wait, still have to deal with the homophobes, but they’re more insidious now.
There is some good femmeslash out there, but oh no, you can’t just ship two “cis” lesbians together, you need to throw in some trans/non-binary bs into the mix to get all of the woke points. I need to figure out how to use AO3 savior to block out the trans nonsense.
There’s a few m/m pairings I like where unfortunately there’s way too much trans nonsense. They make one of the characters into a trans man (the other is a normal man) and it’s all about trying to present PIV sex as gay. Lol nope. PS, a dude eating out a woman who happens to be taking testosterone is not “gay” either. The hilarious thing is when they decide that the guy who looks more feminine and/or is the bottom is really a trans man. So according to trans logic, feminine gay guys and bottoms are really women. Nice combo of sexism and homophobia there.
I also find it annoying when people think that they’re super progressive just because they drew bad fanart of a character as a different race. Look, if you don’t want to draw white characters then don’t and if you want to draw POC characters, please do.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks everyone, for your comments and encouragement. 2 or 3 years ago it was possible for me not to feel overly pressured to affirm my daughters chosen identity, at least in my circles. Now, that she’s entering college there are added external forces working to re-inforce the idea that transing is a positive and singular approach to solving emotional problems that our kids are grappling with. So glad to be able to share our story with all of you.
LikeLiked by 7 people
I’m so glad I read this beautiful, calm, reflective, well written sharing of perspectives from Mother and Daughter. Thank you both for taking the time to do this. I’m sure you have helped many others as a result of your honesty.
LikeLiked by 7 people
Thank you Ash for your courage and effort to help others by sharing your story!
You’re quote “But, the thought that maybe I couldn’t get on T or blockers sent me into a much deeper depression than I was in before. No one was there to inform me about the side effects of hormone therapy and in the groups I was involved in, people only encouraged me to go ahead in my transition once I officially came out even though I was still a minor, still growing, and not yet receiving the mental health care I needed. They encouraged me to go ahead and do what I needed to do to be happy with myself.” speaks to why affirmation therapy is wrong because it only cements the transgender belief and narrows the focus to transition only, while stomping out healthier alternatives. Affirmation therapy just doesn’t allow for a well-informed opinion to develop.
As you indicate, refocusing on becoming healthier mentally and physically is a much better approach. I wish more T prescribers and therapists could see this.
I’m so glad you saw it and that you are healthier and wiser for it. Best wishes to you and your family.
LikeLiked by 7 people
Thank you both taking a leap and sharing your story.
I did not want to respond because I know so little about anime culture. I will risk responding to something that I do not understand.
When I first heard of teenage girls and young women insisting that they were gay men, I laughed. It seemed absurd. I stopped laughing when I realized that it was possible for these immature girls to get started on testosterone injections
I thought that the logic of being a female “gay male” when one was in a lesbian relationship was something like: I am a guy; so is my girlfriend; therefore, we must both be gay males.
Kelly, good for you for not over-reacting and creating more division in your relationship with your daughter. I know nothing about anime culture. It is always good to learn about your child’s interests—which is something that you did.
Recently, I started to hear mention of Yaoi. Oh, that did put my previous logic to a test. Just a short study of Yaoi informed me that Yaoi anime is created mostly by female artists to appeal to young teenage girls. It is about sexualized boy love. Now, that seems odd to my old brain that young gay male “boy love” is being used to hook young girls into this world. This is not the bodice ripper rags of a distant generation (not that I am recommending those role models as role models). Some of the stories in Yaoi seem to be about incest– or perhaps I misunderstood some other allusions? I didn’t want to dig too deeply. This is troublesome territory. This stuff is light-years beyond the traditional gender and sexual roles found in gay and lesbian communities. It whips together gender and sexuality and–?
Kelly, were you aware of Yaoi culture and the online world of Yaoi that segues easily into pornography? I have a “moderate safe search” on my device…just wondering, I am sure most parents are not aware of this.
Ash, I am happy that you have found a comfortable place to inhabit and that you are doing well. You seem wise and mature for your age. Clearly, you have a bright future. You say that you have many trans friends. Since trans means different things, do you mean girls that have decided to inject testosterone and consider surgery? What advice do you give young peers that are attracted to this world? I know many of us moms wish that more young people would speak out.
Another commentator mentioned it is possible to re-wire your brain. Yes, it is. For the young people caught up in this, you deserve loving and wholesome relationships. A return to a whole self is possible.
Again, best wishes to both of you.
LikeLiked by 1 person
“Just a short study of Yaoi informed me that Yaoi anime is created mostly by female artists to appeal to young teenage girls. It is about sexualized boy love. Now, that seems odd to my old brain that young gay male “boy love” is being used to hook young girls into this world. This is not the bodice ripper rags of a distant generation (not that I am recommending those role models as role models). Some of the stories in Yaoi seem to be about incest– or perhaps I misunderstood some other allusions? I didn’t want to dig too deeply. This is troublesome territory. This stuff is light-years beyond the traditional gender and sexual roles found in gay and lesbian communities. It whips together gender and sexuality and–?”
I’m not a huge yaoi fan, though I like quite a few western (American/European) male/male romances and slash pairings. I did like Yami no Matsuei, FAKE, and Yuri on Ice. Ash can correct me if I’m wrong here, but I don’t think yaoi is “being used to hook young girls into this world” in any kind of conscious sense – as in, I don’t think yaoi artists are working with an agenda to make teenage girls identify as male. I had tons of friends in high school who were yaoi fans – this was in the early-to-mid 2000s – and trans issues had nothing to do with yaoi at the time. (One friend from high school who was a yaoi fan did end up identifying as a gay trans man by 2010 or so.)
Women and girls liking male/male romance has been an observable phenomenon for decades, and only in the last few years does it seem to have gotten to the point where you have teenage girls thinking, “I like gay male romance, and I don’t feel comfortable as a girl, so I guess I’m really a gay man on the inside.”
LikeLiked by 1 person
I confess to not getting the fandom world. It is foreign to me. Just thinking of all of the influences out there on young minds. OK, and I had to look up what slash might be. It is difficult to get a good internet filter. That is one thing I do know. Thanks for your response.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I don’t think yaoi necessarily encourages the whole trans issue as a whole. But on Tumblr especially, a lot of my dashboard was filled with nothing but yaoi art, and a lot of that art came from people who were trans men and also labeled themselves gay. A lot of people who draw yaoi are girls that come from East Asia, but the transgender idea is not that popular or well known in those countries.
I think people, westerners specifically, draw yaoi nowadays in a way that makes being a man and being gay look very appealing. Young girls will latch onto this (mostly when they’re just going into puberty) with some hopes that they can be that attractive or have that kind of relationship. There’s still a big majority of girls who simply like seeing two dudes together though, and I’m not saying yaoi is completely not okay. I still like it myself lol.
Yes, I do have a few friends who label themselves as transgender. Only one of those friends started the process of T years ago and is starting to consider surgery, while my other friends have made the choice not to go on T for personal reasons, medical reasons, etc.
My only advice is there should be no rushing into it. If a person is thinking maybe the identity they have isn’t the identity they want, they should look at other reasons why they feel the way they do before labelling themselves. Consider seeking out a therapist (not a gender therapist), and understand that being patient with yourself is the main key. You could have completely different thoughts about yourself a week, month, year, or even several years from now. Its better to wait than be sorry.
Thank you for your response!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I was aware of Yaoi because my daughter and her friends told me what it was – it
mostly looked like gay male love relationships to me. It seemed to be their version of boy band idolization from era’s past and pubescent girls fan-girling over anime characters was on track for where they were developmentally. I remember thinking I was lucky that they were in love with cartoon characters instead of real boys with real-life consequences.
There is porn and pornified fan art connected to all kinds of fandoms – even Star Trek and Doctor Who and there is the ever present representation of women as sex objects in much of media we consume without a thought, which does concern me.
In Anime the girls are often sexualized and stereotypically portrayed. Ash and I talked about that alot, to the point that she would actively seek out Anime with strong female characters for she and I to watch.
Ironically the one friend I had that had a ‘net nanny’ installed on her computer went on testosterone at 16. The apps don’t always screen out what you’d want them to and might lull parents into a false sense of security.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you Ash, for being my cultural guide to the world of Yaoi and beyond. This is a foreign world to many of us that are older. I am glad you are doing well.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I want to echo the thanks of others — your stories help us have hope that taking a wait it out approach can be something that our children can be grateful for in the long run.
LikeLiked by 2 people
It’s so great to hear these direct voices of young people as well as parents. It helps to demystify what’s happening and give a clearer sense of why some young people find alternatives to transition – and why some don’t.
I’m not able to like comments for some reason – but I’ve read them all and appreciate them – thanks!
Ash having grown up gay in the 90s you did nothing I couldn’t imagine myself doing. That wasn’t one of teh options for enduring school and growing up so I went another way/ All my life I had been cool about people being gay and had wicked supportive parents and was from a pro gay religious tradition but I got involve in evangelical christianity and ended up proposing to a girl at the end of highschool. My parents where so distraught but sort of did a low impact hands mostly off aproach and by the first week of college I was back on track but I can tell you I hurt some people allong the way so I think yours was a moore morally admirable way to handle the insanity which is youth culture and school but sadly one that probably deals most of its damage back at your own self. Doing good my lesbian sister. When lonely grab you some Alyson Bechdol comics and know there is an old gay guy here in Arizona rooting for you ever step you take. Fags and Dykes we are the original face of Gender nonconformity and still the best representations of how its done available out there today (though we always have to aknowledge the great foremother– women straight and less so who began the fight that made the concept of homosexuality a possibility).
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you so much! That really means a lot to me, and I’m really happy to hear you were able to get back on track. I’m rooting for you too 😀
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for sharing, both of you.
Your stories are giving me hope. I have one transitioning at the moment, who is 21. The youngest sibling who is 15 has just told me he is trans too…. and he’s absolutely not and i know it. As his parent, he’s just so clearly a confused teen and I will take all of the advice you offer in your posts. I’m simply not agreeing with him but I will continue to love him and help him out of the other side.
LikeLiked by 1 person
You’re so welcome. I’m so glad our stories are helping and offering another perspective. Wishing you and your son all the best ❤
Dear Ash and Kelly, Thank you so much for your open, thoughtful writing. I wish all mothers and daughters could have a relationship like yours. I have a question for you: I’m actually a journalist (sorry!) making a radio documentary about why so many more people–and particularly young women–are identifying as trans for the BBC. I would love to talk to someone like you (both of you) about their experience; we’re looking at Britain, though, rather than the US, which is where I assume you are? If you do happen to be in Britain, and might like to talk to me, please let me know! Best wishes, Maria
Hi Maria – we are in the US – but thank you for doing a story on this phenomenon. The more parents can become aware of this and read about it, the better they can navigate through with their kids. I’ll keep an eye out for your article 😀