Phase? What phase? Kid trans specialist dishes up the usual gender gruel

What would we do without the crop of gender therapists who seem to have sprung up like mushrooms after a rainstorm in the last few years? How did we raise our tomboys and “effeminate” sons before these specialists arrived on the scene to tell us naïve parents what to think and do?

windycity-times

This little tidbit in the Chicago Windy City Times is emblematic of the same sort of breezy, reassuring advice dispensed by the therapists I consulted when my own daughter was insisting she was trans. We hear similar gender-therapist stories every day from the parents who blow into 4thWaveNow like so many shipwrecked sailors.

Ariel Groner, the author of  this piece entitled “Transgender kids: Is my child just going through a phase?” is a gender identity therapist (specializing in kids 6 and up) at Chicago’s Juniper Center. The Center has a lot of predictable gender identity ideology on its website. The Windy City Time (“the voice of Chicago’s gay, lesbian, bi, trans and queer community since 1985″) seems to have simply picked up Groner’s piece from the Juniper Center’s own website—sort of like free advertising.

Besides promoting its therapy services, the Juniper Center also instructs parents on how to transition their children in the school system, including a quick mention of Title IX as a way to strong-arm balking school staff; as if President Obama did not singlehandedly reinterpret that statute to redefine sex as “gender identity” (a redefinition that is now wending its way through the US court system).

juniper-school-dos

But now to a quick review of Groner’s advice column.

Many parents come into my office asking if their child is identifying as transgender because it seems to be a popular trend.

Groner mentions Jazz Jennings, Caitlyn Jenner, the media attention given to trans issues, but instead of delving into whether there’s any truth to these worried parents’ concerns, she simply provides a crash course in Gender Identity Politics 101.

If a person tells you she identifies as a woman and is only sexually interested in women, many people would label her with the identity of being a lesbian.

She may fit the criteria for one’s definition of the term, but she never identified herself as a lesbian. Perhaps she identifies herself as queer. Instead of getting caught up in the terminology, make sure to ask what that person’s identity, or label/term that they are using, means to them.

Who you gonna believe—me or your lying eyes? A woman only interested in women=lesbian? No, don’t get “caught up in terminology” (more like, caught up in reality). Self-defined labels, identities, terms—that’s the ticket.

Just follow your offspring (or anyone else, for that matter) down whatever identity rabbit hole they are currently burrowing into. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to use your own brain to figure things out.

If your child is telling you that they are transgender or that they are struggling with their gender identity, do not dismiss it as a phase; get educated! There are great resources out there to help answer your questions.

But what if it is a phase? Shouldn’t this specialist with “advanced training” in LGBTQ++++++ youth entertain that possibility? Nope. Don’t use your critical thinking skills,  or any past or present knowledge of your own child. Get educated! Consult the great resources out there, including

a support group and/or in the form of a trans aware therapist.

Not just any therapist, mind.

Is the incidence of transgender increasing?

The truth is that trans people have been around forever. There is no evidence that there are more trans people today then there were 50 years ago. People do however, feel freer to explore their gender identity than they did in the past, thanks to a more public dialogue and acceptance, and they are doing so at a younger age. As a result, people are discovering themselves and being given a platform to do so that never existed in past generations. As our society becomes more accepting, people feel more comfortable being themselves.

It’s all so revolutionary! Forget the second wave of feminism, when women abandoned their skirts and makeup in droves and came to the realization that they could be or do anything they set their minds to. Those past generations of trouser-wearing dinosaurs? The tomboys who hung out in treehouses and played with gender-neutral toys instead of color-coded Legos? What did we from “past generations” know about how to “discover ourselves” without the “platform” of gender identity politics built and maintained by fawning therapists and sycophantic journalists?

But hang on. The gender identity specialist tells us it’s NOT about toys or even how the kids act!

Sometimes when children play with toys not associated with their birth gender, parents are concerned that they might be gay or transgender. Sometimes they are and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are trans and still play with toys that are associated with their birth gender. Sometimes they are cis and only play with toys that are not associated with their given gender. The bottom line is, try not to focus on what they are playing with and how they are acting, and spend some time listening to them. Give them that space to explore without judgement or shame.

Good advice, overall—except for the “cis” and “trans” stuff.  So what makes a kid trans then? This is a trained therapist dispensing advice. There must be some diagnostic criteria.

For children, it is important to listen and validate what they are feeling. Some may know for sure, but others may still be exploring feelings of being different.

Right. So the key diagnostic criterion for a kid to be trans is that they “know for sure.” Turning the old parenting saw on its head, it’s because they said so.

Parents, listen up. Unlike all the generations before you, it’s not your job to guide your offspring based on your own accumulated wisdom or life experience,  nor your knowledge of your own children. You must never contradict your child.  It’s only and always about validating, listening, getting educated, and above all—never seeing your kid’s trans identity as a “phase” (even when it is).

Given that this therapist specializes in kids as young as 6 and has “advanced training in working with LGBTQ-identified youth,” it’d be nice to see some acknowledgment/knowledge about developmental psychology – stuff like magical thinking, obsessive interests, rigid ideas about gender and just about everything else, and, especially for tweens and teens—social contagion.

As someone whose daughter did experience a trans identity as a year-long phase, the pap spooned up by this gender specialist tastes all too familiar in its bland superficiality and circular reasoning: they’re trans if they say they are. PERIOD.

I encourage any parent reading this post to do two things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


by skepticaltherapist

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

star trek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is very lonely, and very frightening.

 

Guest post: Tips for parents on finding a therapist for their trans-identified teen

So many readers of this blog have agonized over how to find a therapist who won’t immediately jump to the conclusion that their distressed teen is “trans” and in need of “transition” services. I asked Lane, the clinician who wrote the excellent guest post  “Exiles in their own flesh”, if she had any advice to offer. She responded in the comments thread of this recent post. I am reproducing her remarks here for greater visibility. Thank you, Lane!


As a therapist who worked with many teens who came into my office identifying as trans, I want you parents to know I did not automatically support their transitions. Like you, I was struck by the suddenness of this phenomenon of teens thinking they were born into the wrong body. My first concern was for the teen’s mental health, I looked at other causes. It’s interesting: around the time I started noticing an uptick in the number of kids identifying this way, I mentioned my concerns to a psychiatrist and a pediatrician who were both heads of the clinic where I worked. They were both on the brink of retiring, and they did not buy this new “trend” at all. They looked at what was happening as yet another medical fad. But, like I said, they were retiring. They were the old guard. The folks who replaced these dinosaurs (just kidding) had a complete absence of critical thought for the trans-narrative. It was almost as if they wanted to distinguish themselves from those they were replacing by being more open-minded, more patient-oriented.

The two folks who have come in to replace the old guard have a notable lack of developmental psych background. They are somewhat open to learning about it, but in general their work with teens (particularly any group billed as in any way marginalized – trans is pretty much the top of the heap in this regard) tends to be informed by a social-justice paradigm over something more clinical.

So, as far as finding a therapist more critical of the trans-narrative, it might be helpful to find a practitioner who is more classically trained and who is over 50. Also, find someone who is clearly a thinking, intellectual type, rather than someone more prone to falling in with medical fads. I hate to say it, but both of the old dinosaurs were uber smart, male doctors. Perhaps it was their sense of privilege, but these guys were not afraid of stating their opinions and had enough power in the organization to easily hold onto their own sense of reality. The people who embraced the trans-narrative on my team, apparently without a critical thought, were, I hate to say this, all women. So, using this small sample, which admittedly, may be utterly useless, I’d say that finding someone who isn’t as prone to the shifting sands of group-think, who hasn’t been dependent upon being seen by other professionals as “correct,” would help. Have your kid be seen by an arrogant, old man. LOL. Who would have thought I would ever write that!

Then again, I am not an old man, but I am definitely someone who has always valued and prized truth over belonging. I’m weird that way. That could be another way to screen for a trans-critical therapist, someone more old-style intellectual rather than social-justice oriented (not that I’m not down with SJ, but I qualify it when working clinically). Therapists who are critical of trans won’t be able to come out and say they are, so you’ll need to know to look for clues. You could also read their work, if they have any. Some have blogs and websites. If they say something like, well, it seems like your kid has some other mental health concerns, I’d like to focus on those for awhile before exploring their trans issues, that would be a good sign. If they do a thorough history of your family’s mental health, trauma history, that’s a good sign. These histories are an absolute must.

If a therapist is hopping on the trans explanation right out of the gate, that’s a sign they are inexperienced and lacking clinical authority. This is why you probably want your kid to see someone who has been practicing awhile–20 years at least–because, honestly, clinicians were trained so differently in the past. The training was less politicized, more intellectual and critical and I guess a bit more honest as far as research. It wasn’t perfect in the past, obviously there were abuses, but there were general, shared standards of care and it was a bad thing to breach them. There was more personal responsibility, more commitment and investment on the part of the clinicians. Now the vast majority of the clinicians and psychiatrists in the organization where I worked constantly complain about being overworked and exhausted and feel the org is screwing them over. They are too afraid to go into private practice where they could perhaps see fewer people in a day and therefore have more mental space to see each client as an individual. When people are overworked in healthcare, it means the treatment suffers; they don’t have time to look into the background of new therapies. Honestly, none of the folks I worked with had any training in working with transgender kids. They were starting to talk about getting some, but this is just now happening. And I practice in a large, metropolitan city. There are no standards of care or official certification processes yet in place for vetting therapists who work with transgender issues.

These days, training standards for therapists are pretty weak in general. Most good clinicians study for years and years, join institutes and hopefully become critical of a lot of what they learn. The point is, there are no short-cuts; it takes clinicians a really long time to become effective. Younger clinicians tend to be swayed more by current trends because they just don’t have enough experience with seeing loads of different people. Also their training is different, and they have much less clinical confidence.

If I were a parent and my kid were experiencing this issue, I would also just be as honest and loving as you can with them about your concerns, as many of the parents here on this blog have been. It’s hard because you don’t necessarily want to use this situation as the time to explain to your kid that doctors and the medical profession have been co-opted by activists and other folks looking to profit from their distress in some way. There’s so much that needs to fall away in order for you to help your kid. And if your kid is already unstable, it could be frightening to hear mom or dad sounding like they’ve been pulled into a conspiracy theory.

I think the best way to combat becoming reactive (as we do when we feel nobody believes us and yet we feel we must continue to speak since so much is at stake) is to deal with our own grief at being so alone and not being believed. Honestly, this level of self-doubt and invalidation is traumatic for people, particularly people who have in general spent their lives being respected for their measured take on the world (your basic educated liberal parent). I honestly can’t think of anything more hellish than to suddenly find your usual experience of being taken at your word ripped out from beneath you. But this is exactly what is happening to parents who question the trans-narrative. Caring, truly loving parents (not enabling parents necessarily, but good, solid parents) are being made to question their motives. It’s heartbreaking for me as a therapist to see this happening to families. I wish I had more answers for you. It might be best to keep your child away from people who bill themselves as gender specialists.

In order to reach your child, you will absolutely need to find a way to regain your own internal grounding. This blog is obviously helping with this task. You may need to “let go a little,” which it sounds like many of you have done. By this I mean, do not fight your kid on this issue. When we deal with kids with other compulsions, such as eating disorders, we encourage parents to stop talking about food.

Exiles in their own flesh: A psychotherapist speaks

This is a guest post submitted by Lane Anderson (a pseudonym), a practicing psychotherapist who has worked extensively with “trans teens” and their families. She shares with us her clinical insights into her clients, adolescent psychology, and the impact of the transgender phenomenon on our society as a whole.

If there are other mental health providers reading this post, please consider guest posting or responding in the comments section below the article. See this earlier post featuring Dr. David Schwartz for another critical perspective from a psychotherapist.

I am extremely grateful to Lane and Dr. Schwartz for speaking up. Time is of the essence, since the American Psychological Association recently released new guidelines which will make it even more difficult for clinicians to step forward.


I am a licensed psychotherapist. I’m writing this post on my last day at a teen health clinic, where I’ve seen patients and their families for nearly a decade.

In the past year especially, it’s become increasingly clear to me that I cannot uphold the primary value of my profession, to do no harm, without also seriously jeopardizing my standing in the professional community.  It’s a terrible and unfortunate conflict of interest. I’ve lost much sleep over the fact that, for a significant portion of my clients and their parents, I am unable to provide what they profess to come to me seeking: sound clinical judgment. Increasingly, providing such judgment puts me at risk of violating the emergent trans narrative which–seemingly overnight and without any explanation or push-back of which I am aware–has usurped the traditional mental health narrative.

When I am suddenly and without warning discouraged from exploring the underlying causes and conditions of certain of my patients’ distress (as I was trained to do), and instead forced to put my professional stamp of approval upon a prefab, one-size-fits-all narrative intended to explain the complexity of my patient’s troubles, I feel confused.  It’s as if I am being held hostage. No longer encouraged or permitted to question, consider or discuss the full spectrum of my patient’s mental health concerns, it has occurred to me that I am being used, my meager professional authority commandeered to legitimize a new narrative I may or may not wish to corroborate.

It’s been perilous to simply admit to not fully understanding it all–let alone disagree with the trans narrative.  There was no training or teaching. I was just suddenly told that some of my patients thought they were trapped in the wrong body and that was that.

After much soul searching, I felt I had no choice but to remove myself from this crippling work setting. Being told to exercise my clinical judgment with some clients, while ignoring it with others, made me feel like a fraud.

Throughout my career, I have come to my work with these thoughts in mind: that life is complex, that people are complex. But in one way or another, most people tend to balk at that kind of ambiguity. I try to assist people in flexing a little, try to help them find ways to manage life’s gray areas, and the occasional distress that comes from simply being conscious. But at the end of the day, I couldn’t deny it was a little weird for me to go on believing I could effectively teach others to be less rigid, more free people facing their lives head on, when I myself, their humble guide, was being exploited, tongue-tied by a new party line.

There are so many complex forces, from many different realms, coming into play with this trans wave.  Most people are completely unaware of these intersecting interests.

Unfortunately the culture war has done a number on the concept of critical thinking.  I have considered myself liberal my entire adult life, and I still am. But for a long time I couldn’t find anyone questioning this trans explosion who wasn’t on the far right. It made me feel like only conservatives were allowed to think, to consider this issue, but ultimately their thoughts were rendered meaningless due to their branding by the culture war. It’s essential that left-leaning people model critical thinking for the masses in this regard.

It’s important to link people like us together, who have been silenced, so we can resume contact with our critical thinking skills and reduce our growing sense of self doubt.  Divide and conquer is best accomplished through silencing, through calling into question those who speak out. There is so much of this attached to the trans movement. Even just wondering about a profound concept such as transgender is  labeled transphobic. What I think has happened is that people are now phobic about their own gut responses to life. We are being systematically separated from our own intuition. This is fatal for a civilization, I think. Not that our intuition always tells the truth with a capital T, but it is a critical piece of who we are. Without it, we remain profoundly directionless, and more susceptible to coercion of all types.

What frightens me most about the trans movement is that the establishment has gotten involved and is leading it. I think that’s really weird. Clearly they are benefiting from it financially. So sad. It disturbs me to see how giddy my former medical director is to be part of this growing craze. We used to treat kids with mental health problems, but now it’s all about validating their emergent and shifting identities.  As professionals, if we don’t loudly prioritize their identities as being the most important thing about them (and identities do shift constantly in kids and teens), we risk coming across as unsupportive and even immoral. Identity development has always been a teen task, but in the past it wasn’t necessarily supposed to become a lifestyle, or colonize the entirety of your existence.

Our world is in a profound state of flux. We can’t begin to comprehend what the Internet has done to how we see ourselves. People are looking for ways to belong, ways to understand who they are in place and in time. They are looking to reduce the anxiety that comes when too much change happens all at once. I try and look at trans folks as people who are seeking to answer the new questions that have emerged in this early 21st century.  I have been trying to find a way to understand their urges to detach from their bodies, to undo that feeling of exile they experience in their own flesh.  We all want to get back to ourselves; it is our duty to reconnect with those weighty parts that inevitably sink to the depths of us, the parts too heavy to remain on the surface of our lives.

From what I can see, the age-old human task to reclaim that which has gone missing appears to be manifesting with great prominence in the trans community. The problem is this: we all look for shortcuts to finding the lost treasure. It’s human nature to resist the long and serpentine journey to our own sense of personal truth. In our fear, in our self doubt, we calculate the risk and often decide it is preferable to be shown what another person–a “helping professional” or an activist–bills as a sure thing, a direct path to what we sense we lack. We all, on some level, hold a childlike fantasy that someone else has figured it out and can provide us a direct map to ourselves. And that’s what the trans narrative does. It promises to guide the follower to their essential, authentic self.  But this, unfortunately, doesn’t happen, because the essential self, whatever that is, is not created from another’s road map, but can only be comprised of the trails we forge ourselves.

What saddens me the most is the way children are being trained to think their parents do not love them if mom and dad don’t jump aboard the trans train. To me, this is a brutal aspect of a near-dictatorship being foisted on everyone. The kids are too young to see that there are no other people who will have their backs, throughout life with lasting devotion, in the unique way their families will. They think these new friends they’ve made online understand them perfectly. And in believing this unquestioningly, they find themselves lulled by the frictionless experience delivered most powerfully by group think.

Of course, I’m describing the pull of all cults; that deep human desire to be known through and through and through.The cult experience seeks to end the frustration that naturally comes when we mature and begin to see ourselves as separate beings. In our separateness, we must do the hard work of truly learning to know another. Group think reduces the fear that comes when we are unsure if we will be located by another, when we remain unable to locate ourselves.

Cults and closed narratives neutralize and tame what we see as the unknown. I think somebody needs to put a refresher out there on the cult mindset and group think.  People seem to have forgotten that we are all very easily influenced by each other. Carl Elliot wrote about this in relation to body dysmorphic disorder (people wanting to amputate their own limbs because they disidentify with them) in the Atlantic, “A new way to be mad.”

One common trait I’ve noticed in nearly all the trans kids I’ve met has been their profound sense of being different, and too alone. They often have had little success with making friends, or what I would call contact with “the other.”  Because of their psychic isolation, they are prime targets for group think narratives. But in addition to looking for a way to belong, they are also craving protection and the stamp of legitimacy, perhaps because they feel a profound lack of it.

Now that the government and medical communities are involved in the creation of who trans folks are, this class of individuals have finally found their safe havens. Now, rather than being merely invisible and awkward, they have been transformed into veritable leaders of a revolution. Now, rather than cower in the shadows, they have commandeered the narratives of others into a similar dark and brooding place where they once were. The tables, as they lived and viewed them, have now turned.

It’s got to be dizzying for these formerly “ugly ducklings” to find themselves at the center of a flock of swans. To become a part of the movement, to finally be seen and found as whole, alive, and most importantly, wanted, all they have to do is renounce the very bodies in which they feel they have been imprisoned. In doing so, the promised payoff is very big, for they have finally found a way to render mute all those who once discounted and disbelieved them. Through silencing others who threaten them, they have unearthed a means of silencing their own self hate. Rather than being afraid of themselves, they make others fear what they have become.

Psychologically these interpersonal tactics would once upon a time have been categorized as immature, “primitive” defenses erected by an undifferentiated self that cannot see the self or others as whole creatures.  But as I witness it in my own practice, this is the basic thinking underlying the psychology of the trans narrative. In her recent blog post, “My Disservice to My Transgender Patients,” Dr. Kathy Mandigo talks about feeling threatened by some of her MTF patients.  Many of the trans kids I’ve worked with will joke about how they and their friends are dictators, “masters of the universe!” I find that clinically significant. This is something toddlers do when they are first discovering they are separate from their rulers (parents). Rather than fear the parent, they seek to control the parent, exert their will on the parent and co-opt the parent’s power as their own. In doing this they hide from view their terror at facing their own powerlessness.  Ideally, the child will gradually outgrow this urge to control, will gradually relinquish the dictatorial need to create safety through controlling the external realm. When that happens,  we say it is a sign of maturity. As our own sense of agency grows, we are better able to forfeit the habit of controlling others. We also begin to feel guilt at the idea of controlling others, as we begin to see them as separate from us, 3D human beings instead of mere props on our psychic stage.

Unfortunately some people have a hard time making this shift. They get stuck or addicted to manipulating their external environment, and will continue to create inner safety through the constant and relentless work of controlling others.

Last week in a team meeting, our medical director said he was meeting with a girl who identifies as FTM to discuss top surgery and testosterone treatment.  Apparently, according to the director,  the girl’s mom is slowing down the process of transition.  Bad mom, right? The director added that the girl’s mom told her that 9 out of 9 of her daughter’s friends also identify as FTM.

At this point I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer. I said, “Can we not be honest and see that we are dealing with a trend?” Of course, everyone else  at the table was mute.  Considering I’m leaving my post, I felt bold enough to say that I found it infuriating we couldn’t discuss this topic clinically. More silent colleagues (except their eyes were wide as if they wanted me to keep talking and taking the risk for them). I said that what we were doing as a medical community was potentially very harmful, and made mention of some of the videos I’d watched featuring transmen who decided to go off testosterone.  The medical director prides himself in providing special services for those patients he deems unjustly marginalized by society. But he can’t see how the medical community has become complicit in the oppression he earnestly seeks to remedy.

A large part of the problem comes with the revolution in health care. More and more, we are giving people the power to define their own treatments. This is good in many ways, but the trans movement is using this moment, and is actively recruiting young, psychologically undefined and frightened people to push their agenda through the medical community. It’s clearly not that difficult to do. These kids are just pawns. That’s how it looks to me anyway. The trans community needs more converts so that the narrative becomes more cohesive. I’m guessing the push for this comes from a need to further cohere so they will have more members to fully cement a fragile, constructed reality.

We–people who don’t identify as trans–are the external realm that must be controlled to bring the trans community the inner peace they now lack. But they don’t get that they will never find calm or strength this way. You cannot find yourself through coercing others. You cannot extinguish your fears by turning from them. The trans community must face their own fears, face themselves and their own demons. They can’t wipe out their fear that they are not really transitioning by censoring the thoughts and expressions of others. If they believe they are trans, they shouldn’t need to spend so much effort foisting that belief on others.

The fact that they do dictate to others is to me diagnostic of their very condition. They are uncertain about who and what they are. No sin in that. That’s human.  The transgression comes in refusing to accept this uncertainty, and in sacrificing the lives and consciences of others to nullify your own self doubt.