James Cantor shreds American Academy of Peds gender-affirmative policy statement

Anyone who is paying attention knows the US holds the dubious distinction of being the world’s incubator for the “gender affirmative” approach. This treatment pathway–increasingly, the only pathway available in the United States–frequently consists of:

  • full social transition for children, starting as young as toddlerhood;
  • cross-sex hormones and even “top” and “bottom” surgeries for young teens, some of whom showed no childhood gender discomfort and only announced a trans identity in adolescence; and
  • affirmation of a child’s trans identity at any age, regardless of other possible causative/related factors (such as autism, social contagion, or same-sex attraction). Some of the more fervent US clinicians eschew careful psychological assessment before they prescribe full social and/or medical transition, asserting that such thorough evaluation is unnecessarily onerous or “triggering” to the young patient.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a policy statement  which essentially rubber-stamps the affirmative approach. (While the Academy itself has tens of thousands of members, a recent article pointed out that the policy document was the work of a very small, activist-inspired subgroup). The AAP document creates the impression that affirmative treatment is a matter of settled clinical consensus.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The AAP policy has a number of glaring flaws. To take just one example, it omits a significant body of research evidence that is inconvenient to the AAP’s affirmation-only doctrine. Worse: the research the AAP document does cite ironically substantiates the very “watchful waiting” approach dismissed by the AAP. The truth is, this more cautious approach is the most commonly used and evidence-based treatment for childhood gender dysphoria recognized by clinicians around the world.

There’s a lot more to pick apart in the AAP’s policy statement, and James Cantor, PhD., a Toronto-based sexologist, researcher, and clinical psychologist, did just that today. His long (but worth it) fact-checking article is required reading for anyone interested in the topic of pediatric transition.

Please read and share Dr. Cantor’s piece widely. You can read the whole thing here.

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Does prepubertal medical transition impact adult sexual function?

by Brie Jontry

Brie is a public spokesperson for 4thWaveNow. She can be found on Twitter @bjontry. To learn more about her, read her interview, “Born in the Right Body.” 

All audio clips (click to listen) are from the Gender Odyssey conference in Seattle, Washington, August 2017.


A few months ago, I watched a YouTube video made by a young non-binary person who couldn’t orgasm. Born female, their natal sex hormones were suppressed in late puberty and testosterone followed. While I knew “puberty blockers” (a gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist) followed by cross-sex hormones stops future sexual development in males–and sterilize both sexes–I realized I didn’t know anything about how this process affects females and their future ability to experience sexual pleasure.

GnRH agonists suppress 95% of all sex hormone production. For a “vagina-haver,” low levels of estrogen, LH, and FSH can mean vaginal atrophy, or life with a potentially very dry, possibly itchy, thin-walled vagina that is more prone to bacterial infections, bleeding during sexual activity, and urinary incontinence, among other annoying-to-serious health issues. Estrogen keeps mucous membranes healthy and pelvic floor muscles strong.

I read a number of studies that found  “sexual desire, sexual interest and sexual intercourse were totally annulled” during GnRH use in male cancer patients and repeat sex offenders, and that females, sent into “chemical menopause” after being treated with Lupron for endometriosis, experienced even greater decreases in libido, sexual function, and ability to achieve sexual pleasure than women in natural menopause. This could be because during natural menopause, LH and FSH hormones, which are important to emotional well being and sexual desire, surge, but they are also suppressed by GnRH agonists.

I turned to the Facebook group frequented by members of WPATH, hoping to find more information. Surely members of the World Professional Association for Transgender HEALTH would be concerned with protecting young people’s’ abilities to function sexually as mature adults, right?

My search for “orgasm + blockers” turned up six posts. None about what happens to female bodies. The first and most pertinent post is this one (click to read the whole conversation), written by a therapist who has helped “100s of kids transition” and who is also an aunt to two trans teens. In reading her posts, I usually find this therapist to be thoughtful, with sincere concern for teens’ well being, and I was glad she was the one asking (even though it is concerning she’s helped so many kids down this path yet required a “sophisticated” parent to jolt her into thinking about this question):

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None of Arlene’s very, very, smart friends were able to give her much of an answer.

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Bummer, even the Dutch don’t know. That’s when Arlene is reminded by her fellow WPATH members that dead people can’t have orgasms.

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While Arlene defends the value of difficult questions, one of the busiest pediatric gender docs in the country, Johanna Olson-Kennedy who oversees the care of some 900 plus patients at The Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, stops by to share a report about infant and toddler masturbation.

She tells readers that she’d “love it” if everyone could “enjoy” an “amazing article” that talks about how “of these 13 orgasming and masturbating infants and children, 5 were misdiagnosed with seizure, and on anti epileptic meds.”

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She doesn’t bother to post a link to the full text report published online in Annals of Saudi Medicine (but I will), she just uploads a sideways picture of the first page.

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It’s a sad read about the sex hormone levels in a sample of thirteen babies and toddlers diagnosed with “gratification disorder” (they masturbate. Often) who were seen at pediatric neurology clinics in Jordan. It wouldn’t be worth mentioning here except that Olson-Kennedy references this study again a year later when she talks about the population of natal males who will be forever stuck with “Tanner II genitals” during her presentation for parents: “Puberty Suppression: What, When, and How,” at the 2017 Seattle Gender Odyssey Conference. Audio of the presentation, which is excerpted below into small clips, is available in full here.

It is unclear what this study has to do with protecting sexual function in males denied natal puberty. At the conference, Olson-Kennedy explains that she “went on a journey to find out if prepubertal kids have orgasms.” But how does the study support her own practice of administering blockers and hormones to prepubescent youth? First and foremost, orgasm is never mentioned in this short report focused on masturbation. The subjects were thirteen children between the ages of 4 and 36 months, not “18 months and nine” years old, as she claims. Moreover, only three of the thirteen young ones studied were male, the group of people Arlene is concerned with in her FB post. “What if “we” get it wrong?” Olson-Kennedy asks towards the end of the anecdote, and laughs.  The “Cis Trajectory” is the problem; conceiving un-medicalized bodies as preferable, according to Olson-Kennedy, is the problem (Olson-Kennedy, Gender Odyssey, 8/25/17 8:41-9:50).

Most of us have known or heard of babies and toddlers who like to fiddle with their bits. No one should deny that even the youngest of infants is capable of pleasurable feelings when they touch sensitive parts of their bodies. Even people with immature genitals and lower levels of sex hormones can experience sexual pleasure but are these early childhood experiences comparable to adult ones? Are they ‘good enough’ for a lifetime? Do you think you’d be bitter, as an adult, if as a minor, doctors took away your potential to ever experience full adult sexual pleasure? I would be, yet it appears Olson-Kennedy is suggesting that since very young children masturbate, parents shouldn’t worry about the potential loss of sexual function that results from GnRH agonists used in early puberty and followed by cross-sex hormones.

We need to talk about this more, even if it is uncomfortable. Our children have a right to grow into bodies capable of experiencing full sexual pleasure. The organs responsible for fertility are also those responsible for sexual function. Locking people into an adulthood with prepubescent sex organs–or a need for genital surgery–should be a focal point in all conversations about the consequences of denying children natal puberty.

These issues are rarely discussed anywhere, unless you’re lucky enough to catch Olson-Kennedy at a gender conference. Olson-Kennedy “gives prescriptions to people to masturbate” because (as she explains at Gender Odyssey conference in Seattle in August 2017),

Blocking is one tool that’s an awesome tool for a lot of people. And what does that mean? Does that mean that trans feminine, trans girls who get blocked in tanner 2 we are we are making the assumption that all of them are going to have genital surgery. Are we doing that? Because we might be doing that. (Laughs) I’m just saying we might be doing that. And so that actually is worthy of a conversation. Because many trans women do not have genital surgery. Love their genitals, enjoy their genitals, like to use them.

That’s fantastic. We love people who love their bodies and use them and enjoy them. That’s a great human place to be. But we have to ask ourselves if you have Tanner II male genitals are you going to be able to use them, are you going to want to be able to use them? Or we are we just assuming that everybody is now going to have to say “Well I either need to go through puberty to get adult sized genitals or I’m going to have these genitals that I have or I’m getting surgery.” Does that make sense?…If we are judging the success of vaginoplasty by post-surgical orgasm how do we know people are having orgasms prior to surgery if we are blocking them at Tanner II? (Olson-Kennedy, Gender Odyssey, 8/25/17, 8:41-9:50)

In another Facebook post, Olson-Kennedy asks:

sexual function post olson 3

Procuring approval for vaginoplasties at younger ages is important because, only guessing here, her patients aren’t happy to “have NON FUNCTIONING genitals because they had the extraordinary opportunity to avoid “male pubertal maturation.”

sexual function post olson 4

Let’s talk about that. Drugs that are successfully used to chemically castrate sex offenders, which have been shown to lower IQ as much as ten points in children taking them for precocious puberty, are now being prescribed off-label to kids in Tanner II who don’t want to suffer what Winters describes as “irreversible disfiguration from incongruent puberty.” How can adolescents or their parents make an informed decision or a balanced cost-benefit analysis about the potential for permanent sexual dysfunction when the language used to describe the natural process of development equates a body capable of ejaculation and orgasm with one that is disfigured?

We’d be reckless not to think that at least some of the bodies acted on with cross-sex hormones before they have a chance to fully develop will, at some point, seem “disfigured” to the adults who live in them and to those who might want to have sex with them. In a recent study, 958 adults aged 18-81, 87.5% said they wouldn’t consider dating a trans person.

However, even among those willing to date trans persons, a pattern of masculine privileging and transfeminine exclusion appeared, such that participants were disproportionately willing to date trans men, but not trans women, even if doing so was counter to their self-identified sexual and gender identity (e.g., a lesbian dating a trans man but not a trans woman).

How much more difficult will it be for some to find partners and sexual pleasure in their altered bodies? Does Olson-Kennedy talk about these challenges with her patients? In her talk at Seattle Gender Odyssey last year, she says she checks in with some about where they’re looking for dates. Online, she says, it’s easier to disclose and find people interested but “you may be someone’s fetish” (Olson-Kennedy, Gender Odyssey, 8/25/17 1:15:23).

I’m stuck once again, wondering how knowing all this, she still claims that her role is to “Do everything in your human power to get them what they need and deserve” (:29 – 1:14)) when they’re eleven years old and what they want may not be in their long-term best interest?

Oh, and natal females, the group that set me off on this research in the first place? According to Olson-Kennedy, suppressing puberty isn’t all that wonderful for them, either. She explains to parents at Gender Odyssey that not only are emotional lability and significant behavioral changes frequent and serious side effects of blockers (29:15) but another reason these kids are “doing so bad” is because blockers put them in menopause. I appreciate her candor,  “Menopause is bad enough when you’re menopause-age, but when you’re fourteen and you’re having hot flashes, memory problems, insomnia, and you feel like crap, it is really terrible. This is really common” she says, of the current treatment protocol. “What happens when you put a fourteen year old in menopause?” she asks the audience. “You’re shutting down their ovaries,” she answers herself (Olson-Kennedy, Gender Odyssey, 8/25/17, 30:25)

Towards the end of her talk, Olson-Kennedy briefly mentions that pelvic pain is common after 18+ months on testosterone, and that she thinks it comes from “the pelvic floor” not an atrophic uterus. She says genital dysphoria usually sets in two-three years after starting on testosterone, which also negatively impacts the health of female sexual organs, causing vaginal, cervical, and uterine atrophy. I can’t help but wonder how GnRH agonists followed by testosterone, a treatment plan that may produce a double whammy of vaginal and pelvic area discomfort, impacts an already dysphoric teen’s feelings about her body, about her sexuality? The potential for vaginal, cervical, and uterine atrophy needs to become a focus in discussions surrounding youth medical transition, and what that means for the sexual becoming of a vagina-cervix-uterus-haver (perhaps still with the shallow vaginal cavity and thinner vaginal walls of a prepubescent child).

So, why? Why, given all the negatives associated with puberty suppression and early medical transition, aren’t mental health tools like dialectical behavioral therapy, which is successful at helping even suicidal people learn to manage distress and discomfort, offered first?

Instead, Olson-Kennedy focuses on getting parents to stifle every protective urge they possess so they’ll sign off on unnecessary and harmful medical interventions for a group of children, at least some of whom sound remarkably like those categorized by Lisa Littman, Susan Bradley, Riittakerttu Kaltiala-Heino, Ray Blanchard, Michael Bailey, Tania Marshall, and 4thWaveNow parents as experiencing ‘rapid onset’ gender dysphoria:

Some present with a prolonged history of gender dysphoria but the absolute hardest are the twelve to fourteen year old trans boys coming out to their parents…they came out like two months ago, and what happens? At nine years old something doesn’t feel right. I’m starting puberty, I’m doing all this work, I’m going online, I found 750,000 YouTube videos “this is me one month on T;” I’m connected to my community; I know I’m trans; I’m twelve years old and I absolutely have to tell my parents and now my parents are here and I’m here [points far away]

And because I’m thirteen you need to get on the ball and this needs to have happened yesterday and because I am here and my parents are here [far away] and the parent desperately wants you, the provider, to close that gap by pushing their kid backwards. But you as a professional know you have to close that gap by pushing them forward and keeping them. You want to keep them because you want them to give consent and be supportive. (Olson-Kennedy, Gender Odyssey, 8/25/17, 48:30-49:50)

I didn’t find all the answers I was looking for because no one has them. There is no medical diagnosis of “wrong” or “incongruent” puberty. Denying a body any stage of sexual development as a first-line of treatment for a non-lethal condition should never be encouraged let alone celebrated. Let’s refocus the discussion on ways to help young people manage their distress that prioritizes their physical and sexual health.

Why I supported my autistic daughter’s social transition to a man

by FightingToGetHerBack

FightingToGetHerBack lives in the United States with her husband and 17-year old daughter Zoe. Four years ago, Zoe made the surprise announcement that she was transgender. 

FightingToGetHerBack shares her personal story to illustrate how even smart, educated parents can be emotionally blackmailed into supporting their children’s transition. She is available to interact in the comments section of this post, and can be found on Twitter @FightingToGetHerBack


 For almost a year, I actively supported my daughter’s social transition to appear as a man. I called Zoe by her preferred masculine name and pronouns, and introduced her to others as my son. I was by her side as she marched in a Trans Pride Parade, waving pink and blue flags and dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” I purchased the binder she wore to flatten her breasts.

Outwardly, I appeared as the supportive, loving mother of a transgender child. Inwardly, I was conflicted. Privately, I grieved. Alone, I cried.

As I look back on all I did to affirm Zoe’s mistaken identity as a man, I am mortified.

What caused me to ignore what seems like common sense: that my daughter could not possibly be my son?

Why did I dismiss my initial intuition: that Zoe was caught up in a false identity that was actively promoted at her school and online?

How did I fall for the unsupported scare tactics of “affirmative” gender specialists and the narrative widely promoted by lazy journalism: that Zoe’s mental well-being — and indeed, her life — hinged on my unquestioned support of her sudden self-proclaimed identity as a man?

Like my daughter, I became a victim of transgender ideology: a non-scientific, activist-driven dogma that inexplicably dictates protocol for medical practices, mental health counseling, school policies, media coverage, and an increasing number of laws in the U.S. and abroad.

Let me begin by telling you about Zoe. Throughout her childhood, she preferred feminine clothing and hairstyles, in marked contrast to my own low-maintenance appearance. As a pre-teen, she seemed to embrace the changes brought about by puberty, expressed excitement when her period began, and enjoyed shopping for bras and body-hugging clothes. When she started 7th grade, she begged for permission to shave her legs and wear make-up. Zoe had no stereotypical male interests and shied away from all sports, hating to get dirty or sweaty. There was nothing about her childhood that I would consider boyish, except for one: her difficulty in fitting in with other girls.

Zoe is autistic and highly gifted; socially challenged, yet intellectually precocious. When she was little, she talked to her peers as if they were adults and didn’t understand when they were bored by her academic monologues. Though we invited children to our house for playdates, the invitations were rarely reciprocated. At her annual birthday parties, the other kids ignored her and played mostly with each other. Fortunately, she was oblivious to their social rejection.

But as Zoe grew older, many girls became cliquish and exclusive. They judged each other on their appearances and their fashion choices. They were turned off by my daughter’s social immaturity and her low social status. My intellectual autistic girl had a hard time navigating their complex social cues. She was not aggressively bullied, but she was left out, and she began to realize that she was different.

Around 5th grade, she started to associate more with boys than girls; not because she shared their interests or participated in their rough-and-tumble play, but for their lack of drama. Thankfully, the boys were accepting of her quirky off-putting ways. Hanging out with them was much easier and preferable to being alone. And though the boys accepted her, she still felt disconnected from her peers. “Why doesn’t anyone like me?” she asked me more than once.

So when Zoe suddenly announced that she was transgender at the age of 13, this seemed to come out of nowhere. Zoe was confused, I thought, and had misinterpreted her difficulty in fitting in with the girls as a sign that she was a boy. My disbelief was not a reflexive reaction based on intolerance or prejudice (in fact, I have leaned toward the left side of the political spectrum, and have a career devoted to progressive causes), but based on a lifetime of observations as her attentive mother.

But I was concerned: How could such a smart girl believe she was a boy? What happened to make her believe this so strongly and so suddenly?

I asked Zoe to tell me when it was that she first started thinking she was transgender. She said she got the idea after attending a school presentation. I was appalled. I had no idea this was part of the school curriculum. Zoe also told me about other kids she knew who were transgender. I was stunned to learn that this was so common. Interestingly, all of the “trans” kids that Zoe knew were very similar: highly intelligent and with apparent autistic traits–and with a history of not fitting in.

I asked Zoe, “If you hadn’t known there were other kids who were trans, would you believe you were a boy?” Her answer was telling: “No, because I would not have known it was an option. But I don’t think I am a boy; I am a boy.” She patiently explained to me the differences between gender identity and sex assigned at birth. When I expressed confusion, she told me I wouldn’t understand because I am cis. I had never heard that word before. Clearly, she had been doing some online research.

I began to do some research of my own. But nothing I found confirmed my theory: that my child’s autistic thinking and history of not fitting in made her vulnerable to the false belief that she was transgender. To the contrary, all of my online searches told me that a child’s gender identity was not to be questioned, and that children, no matter their age, know who they are. Still, I held onto my belief that this was likely a phase that would pass.

I decided the best approach was to ignore the gender issue and help Zoe develop her identity based on her interests, not on her feelings. I signed her up for 4H and nature groups. I did everything I could to help her connect to who she really was, and help her find other kids who shared her passions.

isolated girl.jpgOver the course of a year, Zoe’s anger toward me grew. Our once strong, loving relationship deteriorated, and she threatened to leave home many times. She blamed her worsening depression on me and my lack of acceptance of her “true” self. It became clear that this was no simple phase that would fade away on its own, but I didn’t know what to do. Maybe she was really transgender, I wondered. My husband thought Zoe was just being a selfish, belligerent teen. But I decided that I needed someone to help me sort this out, a trained and experienced professional to answer some questions: Is my daughter really transgender? If she is, what should I do? And if she’s not, how do I convince her otherwise? I turned to gender specialists for help.

This was my first big mistake.

I went to the Psychology Today website and contacted ten local therapists who claimed a specialty with transgender issues. After explaining a bit about my daughter’s history, every single therapist responded in a similar manner: “A child would not choose this.” “A child would not make this up.” “Once teens reach puberty, there is no question that their gender identity is set.” They all ignored the fact of Zoe’s autism. “Even autistics know who they are.” They ignored the possibility of social contagion. “It’s becoming more common now because society is more accepting.” They did not see this as a temporary identity crisis, but as an absolute, undeniable truth that was dangerous to question.

Perhaps if I had found just one authoritative professional to confirm my misgivings, I would never have doubted myself.

Instead, I deferred to the apparently unanimous consensus of the experts and decided to work with Dr. Brown [not his real name], a therapist in private practice whose clinical specialties were transgender care and autism, and who was a member of WPATH, an organization that I ignorantly assumed was grounded in a scientifically-based, expert approach to transgender care.

My husband went along with my plan. We both met with Dr. Brown before he met Zoe. Surely, based upon his extensive experience, he could tell us if our daughter was really transgender. After hearing our story, he confirmed that she was. Since it had been over a year since Zoe came out to us, and because she had been “insistent, persistent, and consistent” in her identity, this meant that yes, this was real.

Dr. Brown comforted us by telling us what great parents we were for finding support for our son; that many parents refuse to believe their children are transgender and they become estranged from them. He told us that as a transgender teen, our son is at high risk of suicide and that research shows that the best way to prevent this is parental acceptance. Dr. Brown told us to start slowly by allowing him to transition at home using his preferred name and pronouns, but to wait several months until the summer to start coming out to friends and family, and to wait until the fall to come out at school.

I loved — and love — Zoe unconditionally, fiercely, and deeply. I would do anything to save her life and minimize her suffering. I have always sought the best care for her, no matter the cost. I was — and am — a vulnerable, confused, and scared mother. So I did what Dr. Brown told me I MUST do or my daughter would kill herself. I fell for the “live son” vs “dead daughter” scare tactic.

Though it was hard to hear those words — that my daughter was really transgender and that my actions were critical to preventing her possible suicide —  in a way, it was a relief. Finally, I could stop debating with myself and just work on accepting my daughter as my son. It was easier to put my faith in Dr. Brown and his expertise than to constantly question myself. I rationalized that I had been in denial for the past year, but now I needed to face reality and focus on Zoe’s mental health, our relationship, and keeping her alive.

I began supporting the first step in Zoe’s social transition that evening when I used masculine pronouns and called Zoe by his chosen name, Joe. I told Joe about Dr. Brown and his recommendations. I apologized to Joe for my lack of support over the past year. Joe was overjoyed. Later that night, I sobbed privately while I grieved the loss of my daughter.

Joe started seeing Dr. Brown right away. After each session, Joe did not seem happy or content. He seemed more fixated on transitioning. Despite the original plan to take this slowly, he immediately changed his name and pronouns at school. The school never notified me of this change, nor asked my permission. Since there were already several other “trans” kids at the school, this was seen as a normal request that did not need to involve parents.

Joe’s transition at school, as with the other “trans” students, was met with complete unquestioning acceptance by peers and teachers alike. Trans teens had become so common that no one acted like this was a big deal. And after years of not fitting in, Joe thought he had finally found his tribe.

Though I was upset with the school staff and concerned with how fast things were moving, I said nothing. I needed to support my son and maintain his mental health, so I kept my concerns to myself.

Now that Joe was “out,” I helped with his social transition by taking him to a barber followed by shopping for “boy” clothes. But that wasn’t enough. Joe begged me for a binder. I discussed this with Dr. Brown who told me it was now psychologically necessary for Joe’s social transition to be complete. Dr. Brown assured me that as long as I bought one from a reputable company, there were no dangers. He told me if I didn’t buy one, Joe would just use duct tape, which was very dangerous. Given the alternative, I felt like I had no choice. I complied.

Within one month of seeing Dr. Brown, Joe’s physical transformation was dramatic. His appearance disturbed me in a deep and visceral way. My once curvy 14-year old daughter now resembled a pudgy, unattractive 11-year old boy. I was ashamed of my feelings and felt guilty for caring about his physical appearance. I told myself it was his mental health I should be focused on, but I still found it painful to look at him.

Dr. Brown kept telling me what a good job I was doing, that Joe is so happy now, and that for the first time in his life, he feels like he belongs. Despite Dr. Brown’s assurances of Joe’s happiness, that was not my observation at home. Joe seemed more and more depressed. His periods, which had been non-events until he started seeing the gender therapist, now became a crisis. Joe refused to go to school on those days and became angrier and more depressed. After each step in Joe’s transition process, he became fixated on the next. So after binding his breasts, his new obsession was medically stopping his periods.

During the time that I supported Joe’s social transition, I purposely avoided any news articles on the topic. And when I heard critical voices — which at that time seemed to come only from ultra-conservative gay-bashers  — the unintended consequence of their hurtful words served only to harden my support for my son’s transition and bias my thinking.

As Joe continued to see Dr. Brown, I sensed that his “therapy” was mostly about validating Joe’s conviction that his was trans, while pushing the next step in transitioning. I eavesdropped on one session where I listened to Dr. Brown ask Joe about his week, how much he enjoyed being his authentic self, and about his next plans for transition. I did not hear Dr. Brown ask Joe about his increasing depression, or explore the basis for his growing discomfort with his body.

Despite this, we continued to see Dr. Brown and followed his expert advice. Although I never stopped having fears and doubts, I tried to convince myself that I was just a worried mom lacking objectivity. Meanwhile, my husband was mostly disengaged, refusing to talk with me about my worries, but willing to go along with whatever I decided.

Dr. Brown’s experienced, authoritative, and persuasive voice continued to convince me that my actions were the key to preventing Joe’s suicide. I deferred to his self-proclaimed authority, which was seemingly consistent with the overwhelming majority of the medical and psychological establishment. So when Dr. Brown recommended that I enroll Joe in a therapeutic support group for trans kids, I complied.

This was my second big mistake.

I selected a support group at a well-respected gender clinic, a collaborative practice that included clinicians who specialize in autism, clinical psychology, and adolescent gynecology. Their approach was described as research-based and conservative.

Before Joe started attending the support group, I met privately with the head of the clinic, Dr. Jones, to learn more. He told me that every meeting began with the kids announcing their preferred name, their pronouns, and the gender that they identified with on that particular day. He explained that the goal was to impress upon the kids that their current gender identity was not necessarily fixed. He told me that every child in the group had either been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or had symptoms that suggested autism. I was reassured that Joe would fit in well with the other participants.

When I told Dr. Jones that over 5% of the students at Joe’s school thought they were trans, he denied the role of social contagion. He said the increasing numbers were a result of society and schools becoming more tolerant.

I asked Dr. Jones why kids with ASD were more likely to identify as transgender. He told me researchers do not know, but theorized that both transgenderism and ASD were caused by prenatal exposure to an excess of androgens. I asked if gender identity were innate, then why would it appear so suddenly with no signs throughout childhood? Dr. Jones explained that this was probably because ASD prevents children from thinking flexibly about gender until they are older. So although Joe’s gender identity was always that of a boy, Dr. Jones explained, Joe didn’t know his identity until recently because the ASD precluded the flexible thinking required to come to this realization when he was younger.

Privately, I thought all of his explanations seemed far-fetched, but as I had been doing with increasing frequency, I kept my doubts to myself, followed the “expert” advice, and agreed to allow Joe to participate in the program.

The kids in the group had many traits in common besides autism. Their trans identity came on suddenly when they were teens, they seemed really smart, and they were obvious social misfits. All had serious mental health issues. Compared to the other kids, my daughter appeared the most well-adjusted.

Although the clinicians acknowledged that these kids may change their minds, all of the parents were told to put their children on hormone blockers. When I questioned the possibility of side effects, my concerns were arrogantly dismissed. The head clinician told me that blockers were well-studied and perfectly safe, and encouraged me to set up an appointment with the clinic’s gynecologist. He recommended that Joe take blockers for one year, which he euphemistically described as “buying time.” At the end of his year on blockers, Joe would likely be ready to proceed to the next step: testosterone. Unconvinced, I refused to consent.

While Joe was in group, I got to know the other parents. We were all genuinely troubled by our children’s trans identity. We talked about how we lost friends and family members over this issue; how we had become more socially isolated; how our marriages had become strained; how surprised we were when our kids announced they were trans; how there had been no signs of this throughout their childhoods. Like me, these were caring, thoughtful parents who were determined to help their children in any way they could.

Unlike me, all of the other parents consented to medical treatment for their kids. Some were on blockers; others were already on cross-sex hormones. Apparently, I was the only one who had concerns about the medical protocol, and the only one who still harbored doubts about my child’s transgender identity. As the months passed, I felt more disconnected from the other parents. They began to question why I refused medical treatment for my son, told me I was endangering his mental health, and seemed personally offended by my non-compliance. I started to keep my opinions to myself and wondered if there was something wrong with me. Were my doubts and concerns well-founded? Or could I just not accept the reality of having a transgender child? I now believe that if I had met at least one other parent who shared my misgivings, I would have had the courage of my convictions to question the trans narrative much sooner than I did and would have escaped the power of groupthink.

So what finally woke me up? It was when the head of the program, Dr. Jones, the  well-respected “expert” threatened me: “Your choice is between a mental hospital or hormone blockers.” That’s when I finally realized the clinic’s true agenda: not to therapeutically help my child, but to push her on a dangerous path to medically transition under the pretense of it being a psychological necessity.

That night, I turned to the internet to figure out what to do next. That’s when I discovered 4thWaveNow, TransgenderTrend, GenderCriticalDad, and other reasonable gender-critical voices.

I could not stop reading for days. All of my original theories were shared by a group of intelligent, thoughtful, and eloquent parents and therapists.. For the first time since my daughter announced she was my son, I found evidence-based information to support my own ideas. My God, how could I have been so stupid to doubt myself? How did I fall for this? How could I have played along with her ridiculous belief that she is a boy? How did I not see that this sudden increase in trans-identifying teens at her school was part of a psychic epidemic? That these vulnerable children were being medicalized by unscrupulous professionals? That most journalists were singularly focused on portraying transgenderism as a human rights issue, rather than what was obviously a psychological and sociological phenomena?

It has now been over one year since I discovered the online support I needed to realize the truth. But my daughter remains a victim. It is as if she has been brainwashed. And increasingly, it seems as if society has been brainwashed.

Thanks to Zoe’s school, her gender therapists, professional health organizations, the media, and the internet, my daughter is still certain that she is really a boy. She refuses to discuss the topic with me, and refuses to listen to my concerns. She is also convinced that medical transition is necessary for her future happiness, a process she plans to begin when she turns 18 next year. And I will be powerless to stop her.

The only thing I can do is speak the truth and encourage others to do the same.

If you are a doctor or therapist, please don’t reflexively endorse a child’s belief that s/he is the opposite sex. Children need good therapy to explore underlying issues that are likely fueling their discontent.

If you are a member of a professional health organization, please demand that they base their professional guidelines for gender-confused children on science, not politics or ideology. Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the Endocrine Society will continue to irresponsibly promote ideologically driven protocol as settled science until they are held accountable by their membership.

If you are a college professor, administrator, or counselor: Please speak up about a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common across college campuses. Although most college students are legal adults, their brains are still developing and they are just as prone to social contagion as young teens. Those with underlying mental issues, often exacerbated by the stress of college life, are especially vulnerable. Many students begin their medical transition services as part of their college health plan — with little or no mental health counseling to explore other underlying factors.

If you are a journalist, please re-think the currently popular mainstream narrative and investigate this issue more deeply. Why are there suddenly so many kids who think they are trapped in the wrong body? Does science really support “an innate gender identity?” Why have the number of gender clinics treating children skyrocketed in the past ten years? What is the source of the millions of dollars that is funding this movement?  Does it really make sense to treat children medically on the basis of a belief which is likely to change over time?

Whoever you are, please speak up. Please help prevent more children’s minds from being poisoned by lies, bodies from being irreversibly altered, and families like mine from being destroyed.

The project of a lifetime: A therapist’s letter to a trans-identified teen

Therapist and Jungian analyst Lisa Marchiano received the following email recently. She and the writer of the email agreed that Lisa would address the author’s questions in a public forum, and the author kindly agreed to allow the email to accompany Lisa’s response.

Lisa can be found on Twitter at @LisaMarchiano. She blogs at theJungSoul.com

Please note that this post is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace professional advice.


Email from a trans-identified teen:

Hello. I’m almost 16 years old and recently I have been reading some of your writing on “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria.” Currently I identify as transgender and have for almost 2 years, but as a chronic over-thinker, I like to expose myself to viewpoints and ideas that are different from my own. If my parents knew what ROGD was, they would probably argue that I am in that category. I came out to them about a year ago and I hadn’t shown any gender dysphoria in early childhood. To them, it probably seemed a little “out of the blue,” though I had known for a year before that, had begun to transition (cutting my hair and buying from the men’s section), and had been questioning since puberty. I don’t have any mental or physical health problems, and I have a wide social circle of friends, none of whom are transgender or homosexual (though one of my friends is asexual, and my girlfriend is bisexual). I’m almost positive that I’m transgender, but your writing got me thinking and I have a few questions for you.

If what I am experiencing is ROGD, and simply a coping mechanism for something else, what signs could I look for in myself to figure that out? You talked a lot about the parent’s side of the equation, but what can I, as a trans teen do to ensure that I’m not “tricking” myself into believing this?

When do you believe a trans identity is valid? I certainly don’t disagree with you that there are many teenagers in my generation that are “becoming” trans because it is trendy, having no symptoms of gender dysphoria (I know a person like this). But do you think that trans people need to meet certain criteria to be considered trans and be considered for medical transition? If so, what criteria? Do you believe that gender dysphoria can present itself at puberty?

Thank you for reading and hopefully replying. I really appreciate your time.


Lisa Marchiano’s response:

Thank you for writing me such a thoughtful email, and for your willingness to take the answer here in this public forum. First of all, it goes without saying that this letter can’t take the place of therapy. I can’t diagnose from afar. I am, after all, just a stranger on the internet, and this is just my opinion. I believe it is an informed opinion, but it can’t take the place of discussing important issues face to face with someone who knows you well. Looking at these issues with a qualified therapist who can help you ponder your feelings in an open-ended way without prematurely foreclosing exploration can be very helpful. In addition, I hope you might feel comfortable someday discussing this with your parents. There may be a lot they don’t understand, but it is likely that there is no one on the planet who is more steadfastly on your team than they.

As a Jungian, I see psychological health in terms of a movement toward wholeness. Over the course of our lives, we hopefully integrate more and more aspects of ourselves, including parts that may be “feminine,” and parts that may be “masculine.” This life-long growth process means that we become larger and more complex as we become conscious of more aspects of ourselves. I do not believe that it makes sense to think in terms of identity, as this implies a single, fixed “truth” about ourselves – an endpoint that can be decisively known. Rather, I believe we continue to grow and change throughout our lives.

There is no robust evidence for innate gender identity. Our sense of gender appears to be an emergent property that arises out of a complex interplay between our bodies, our minds, and the social world. Though there is almost certainly a biological component to gender dysphoria, it is also likely shaped by our life history. The way we experience ourselves in terms of gender – that is as more or less male or female or both – is shaped by our family, our wider social network including friends and teachers, and the culture, including advertising, YouTube and other social media. Traumatic experiences, such as the loss of someone close, parental divorce, or emotional, physical or sexual abuse can also affect our experience of our gender.

Can gender dysphoria present for the first time at puberty? Clearly, many young people feel dysphoric at adolescence. Nearly all natal females feel discomfort with their bodies at puberty. I wonder if the question you are asking is whether dysphoria at adolescence but not before means that one shouldn’t identify as trans as a result. I think the answer to that is complicated, and I can’t really answer that for you. Again, this would be something to explore with a therapist who could really get to know your unique situation. Let me just say that based upon my reading of the medical literature, dysphoria presenting for the first time at puberty used to be unusual (but not unheard of) until recently.

Rapid onset gender dysphoria appears to be a relatively new phenomenon, and we don’t understand much about it yet. It appears as though the typical presentation of an ROGD teen involves considerable social influence, either online or by peers, as well as psychiatric comorbidities and/or vulnerabilities. Based on anecdotal reports, many ROGD teens first decide they are trans after reading on the internet. There is very little research on this, but the little there is seems to point to a different outcome for those with ROGD traits (no dysphoria in childhood, higher rates of psychiatric comorbidity, social influence) vs those with the more typical presentation of GD. And outcomes matter, because at the end of the day, we want all people to do as well as possible.

People often come to therapy to explore difficult decisions. I’m going to share a little bit about how I help someone explore their options. If you were to find a therapist to have this discussion with, here are some of the things the two of you might consider together.

There is a difference between what we feel, and what we choose to do about those feelings. I have a passionate conviction that all feelings are valid and important. We should be encouraged to feel them, to take them seriously, to honor them, and to be curious about them. We can take our feelings seriously and acknowledge them as valid without that acknowledgement meaning that we need to take a particular course of action as a result of them. For example – if we are very angry at someone, our feelings of anger are valid and deserve to be felt. What we do about that anger – whether we lash out at the person, for example – is another question entirely. When considering what to do about feelings, I am always interested in whether a given course of action is adaptive or maladaptive.

Let me explain more of what I mean by that. When someone comes to me with a question or a problem, I find it very helpful to examine the issue through the lens of pragmatism. I am interested in identifying what works for this particular person. This means that I ask us to set aside – at least for a moment – judgments based on values, morals, or ideology, and just explore whether a given response works.

What do I mean by “works?” In some sense, we all get to define that for ourselves, and one person’s definition might vary greatly from someone else’s. But we need some firm ground to stand on, so I do have a general answer – something works if it helps you to “do your life.” Freud famously said that the cornerstones of a mentally healthy life are the ability to love and to work, and I think that’s a great place to start. To have a life that is fulfilling, we generally need work that we find meaningful, as well as abiding relationships, at least some of which are truly intimate. I would add a third category to these two: . we can consider that a life strategy works if it is protective of our physical health – or at least not inimical to it. In sum, something works and is adaptive if it doesn’t interfere with our ability to work, to love, and to maintain our health.

Whether identifying as transgender for any individual is adaptive of maladaptive will depend on the person’s particular situation. If we are a natal female who has an inner experience of maleness (and I, in fact, believe that all females have masculine traits, and that our experience of the male side of ourselves can be very important psychologically), then identifying as male could be very liberating, exciting, and growth promoting. It could very well enable someone to engage productively in work and relationships. In this case, a transgender identity would be adaptive.

There could also be cases when identifying as transgender may not be adaptive. Whether it is or not will likely depend in part on how we understand what it means to identify as trans. For example, if part of identifying as transgender means that we need to be perceived as male when we are female bodied, we are putting ourselves in a vulnerable position, as we are giving others power over our sense of ourselves. We can’t control how others see us. Positioning ourselves so that we only feel okay when others perceive and validate us as we want to be perceived, rather than focusing on developing self-acceptance and resilience in the face of slights or rejections, is a decision that may promote worse mental health. This in turn could make it more difficult for us to concentrate at work or school. It might cause us to withdraw from friendships or other important relationships. If this were the case, we might say that our trans identification was proving to be maladaptive.

Furthermore, if identifying as transgender means that we understand ourselves to be literally male when our bodies are female, we may experience cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance refers to the inner tension that we feel when important beliefs are contradicted by evidence. It can be quite uncomfortable. Psychologists have studied those whose strong beliefs are challenged by material evidence. (The theory of cognitive dissonance was developed by a psychologist studying a doomsday cult, and what happened to cult members’ beliefs when the world did not in fact end as their leader had predicted.) They note that we have a tendency to “double down” on our false beliefs in order to resolve the internal tension. Our beliefs become more extreme, and we work even harder internally to justify or reconcile with the challenged belief. (This isn’t just true of cult members. It’s true of every one of us.)

Those who identify as transgender can suffer from pangs of cognitive dissonance. This can often make the dysphoria worse. I have heard many stories from desisters and detransitioners that identifying as transgender made them feel worse, because they then had to deal with a constant tension around the fact that their body looked and acted differently than how they thought it should. This can invite obsessive, perseverative thinking, which can be draining and cause increased distress and anxiety. Adopting a belief that contradicts material reality can be a recipe for unhappiness, as we will likely feel the need to strive to become the thing we are not. This is part of the reason many wisdom traditions and psychotherapy schools direct us to cultivate acceptance of those things we cannot change.

The blogger ladyantitheist articulates the above sentiment eloquently in her post about her trans identification and desistance from it:

One of the biggest problems I think with being transgender is it comes out of an unhappiness, and that the impossibility of the accepted solution amplifies the unhappiness. Having short hair doesn’t give you an Adam’s apple, testosterone injections won’t change your bone structure, a phalloplasty won’t let you produce sperm. The closer you get to the real thing, the further the gap between you and being a real male grows. Freeing yourself from the task of climbing a mountain whose peak can never be summited is your only chance of ever actually being happy. I eventually stopped looking for validation as something I would never be, and started the process of loving myself.

If identifying as transgender amplifies our unhappiness with our bodies, if it causes us to perseverate on features of our bodies which we don’t like, then I would say that doing so is probably not adaptive.

There’s one other major conversation to have when considering whether identifying as transgender works, and that is the matter of maintaining our physical health. If identifying as transgender means that we feel compelled to engage in activities that could cause long-term harm to our body, then it may be maladaptive. Binding can result in collapsed lungs, compressed ribs, and back problems, and some report that they continue to suffer ill effects even after they are no longer binding. Mastectomies remove healthy tissue and can result in painful scarring. Testosterone will result in vaginal atrophy and may damage fertility. It can negatively affect one’s lipid profile, bone density, and liver function. It may increase one’s risk of heart attack and diabetes. There are currently 6,000 cases pending in litigation against drug manufacturers having to do with male bodied people who took testosterone, and experienced blood clots, heart attacks, stroke, and sudden death. Phalloplasty is known to have a high complication rate, and these can be serious and debilitating in some circumstances. If a basic measure of whether something “works” is if it helps us to protect and maintain physical well-being, it would appear that medical transition may not do so in many cases.

Could medical transition ever be adaptive? Yes, I think so. There are trans adults who feel that their capacity to love and work has been enhanced by transition. I suspect that those who benefit from transition have had a good process in which they explored their gender; addressed any underlying issues; and had realistic expectations for the outcomes of transition. Since transition compromises physical health, it is important to carefully consider such a step, and be certain that the benefits will outweigh the considerable known and unknown risks.

I would like to offer another rule of thumb when considering whether a particular life strategy is adaptive or maladaptive. All things being equal, it is better to preserve options and maintain flexibility. This is especially true when we are in the first half of life. When in doubt, leave options open. One of my concerns about medical transition for young people is that it shuts down future options. Having a mastectomy will permanently remove the option of nursing. Taking testosterone may render us infertile. Even if we think we never want to become a parent, there is still a value in protecting the future possibility of doing so. And fertility is not the only option to protect. If a person has taken on a significant transition to another gender expression and then has serious questions about it, they may be faced with even more serious challenges than they had before. Freedom of expression may be seriously, and in some cases, profoundly restricted or limited. Transition does have the potential to seriously limit additional life choices.

We really are all works in progress. Our sense of ourselves will continue to change and shift throughout our lives. It may be tempting to strive for certainty in tumultuous times, but I’d be wary of any urgency. You do actually have time on your side. By staying curious – as you clearly are – and trying out different things, you will gather more and better information in order to help you decide what works for you. One of the helpful things about a pragmatic framework for evaluating life strategies is that it leaves room for things to change. Most strategies don’t work forever. For any decision we make, we can ask ourselves, is this working? And then a few months later, is this still working? If the strategy is benefiting us in living our fullest life more than it is hampering us, we know to continue pursuing it. And if the day comes where we realize the balance of the equation has tipped so that the strategy is more costly than beneficial, then we can abandon it. We need not limit ourselves according to rigid beliefs about what is right or wrong.

elephant-blindmenWhile I was working on this letter, I was reading a novel called The Nix by Nathan Hill. The novel is in part the story of a woman named Faye, and it follows her throughout her life as she tries to discover who she truly is. Toward the end of the book, the author makes some comments about how we understand ourselves that I thought were very wise. I’ll let him have the last word.

In the story of the blind men and the elephant, what’s usually ignored is the fact that each man’s description was correct. What Faye won’t understand and may never understand is that there is not one true self hidden by many false ones. Rather, there is one true self hidden by many true ones. Yes, she is the meek and shy and industrious student. Yes, she is the panicky and frightened child. Yes, she is the bold and impulsive seductress. Yes, she is the wife, the mother. And many other things as well. Her belief that only one of these is true obscures the larger truth, which was ultimately the problem with the blind men and the elephant. It wasn’t that they were blind – it’s that they stopped too quickly, and so never knew there was a larger truth to grasp…. Seeing ourselves clearly is the project of a lifetime.

 

Has the UK become a police state? (And has Twitter become its informant?)

Inga Berenson is the mom of a teen girl who previously identified as transgender but has now desisted. She lives with her family in the United States.


By Inga Berenson

Freedom of speech took another big hit in the United Kingdom last month. In response to a complaint filed by Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, the Yorkshire police interrogated Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull because of some tweets she posted in 2016 and 2017. Known on Twitter as ThePosieParker, Ms. Keen-Minshull is a stay-at-home wife and mother of four.

Mermaids is a nonprofit organization based in the UK. According to its website, Mermaids “supports children and young people up to 20 years old who are gender diverse, and their families, and professionals involved in their care.”

The offending words

According to Ms. Keen-Minshull’s account, Ms. Green objected to a tweet stating that “the CEO of Mermaids took her 16-year-old to Thailand and got him castrated.”

For this tweet and others criticizing Mermaids for promoting pediatric transition, Ms. Keen-Minshull was “interviewed under caution” for 40 minutes on February 23, 2018. She now awaits the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision on whether she will be charged. According to Ms. Keen-Minshull, the potential charges against her are “nuisance, public order, malicious communications compounded with a potential hate crime.”

On the crowd-funder site she has set up to raise funds for her legal defense, Ms. Keen-Minshull writes, “This fight is not whether you agree with my views on [the] transgender issue as much as it is that you agree that I have a right to air my views, a right to voice an opinion, a right to free speech.”

Without question, Ms. Keen-Minshull’s tweets were strongly worded, but were they untrue?

Unmasking euphemisms

It is not disputed that eight years ago Ms. Green took her 16-year-old child to Thailand to receive gender reassignment surgery, which was and still is illegal for minors in the UK and is now illegal in Thailand. (In fact, the legal age for SRS was raised to 18 not long after the Greens went there for the surgery.)

In a 2012 BBC 3 documentary, Ms. Green confirmed that her child underwent full GRS in Thailand. The narrator [4:15] states that Ms. Green’s child was “the youngest person in the world to change gender through surgery.”

It must indeed have been painful for Ms. Green to see a tweet in which someone says she had her child castrated, but the statement is not untrue. In fact, this type of surgery involves far more than castration, which refers only to the removal of the testicles in natal males. But Ms. Keen-Minshull used the word “castrated” to make an important point: GRS is a euphemism that conceals the drastic nature of this medical intervention.

And if it seems unfair that Ms. Keen-Minshull singles out Ms. Green, we must remember that she is not merely a mother who did what she believed to be right for her child. As CEO of Mermaids, she is an advocate for the use of these interventions in other people’s children. Mermaids has provided training and education to various UK government agencies, including schools and (interestingly) the UK police force. Mermaids representatives regularly attend Pride parades and other events to reach out to gender-nonconforming children and teens to inform them about transition. Ms. Green cannot reasonably expect that others won’t point out the full reality of these interventions if she is promoting them for other children.

Ms. Keen-Minshull also came under fire for a tweet that said Mermaids “prey[s] on homosexual teens,” alluding to the organization’s efforts to reach out to gender nonconforming and gender dysphoric children, many of whom (many decades of research have shown) grow up to be gay or lesbian.

The 4thWaveNow website has previously featured articles about Mermaids and its influence on UK policymaking, as well as their efforts to circumvent parents and appeal directly to children and teens.

Although our website hosts authors from both North America and the UK,  4thWaveNow is based in the United States, which protects the freedom of speech via the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution. If that were not the case, we too might have been interrogated by the police, because Ms. Green’s complaint (which we have seen but are not at liberty to share at this time) also cited a tweet we issued in the summer of 2017:

mermaids candy and puppiesWe decided to raise this question in our tweet,  after seeing this one posted by Mermaids a few weeks earlier:

mermaids unsupportive parents

As parents of current or formerly trans-identified teens, we are concerned that Mermaids is trying to influence teens whose parents do not share the organization’s definition of “unsupportive.” (In fact, as parents who try to help our kids find ways to feel comfortable in their natural bodies – at least until they are adults, we are being supportive.) And the fact that Mermaids feels empowered to publicly state its intention to influence teens like ours is all the more troubling.

We and Ms. Keen-Minshull are far from alone in believing that Mermaids oversteps appropriate boundaries in advocating for transgender services for children. In October 2016, a court removed a seven-year-old child from his mother’s custody because she was found to have essentially groomed her child into a transgender identity. The mother had been receiving support from Mermaids. The court reportedly ordered the child should have no further contact with the charity. (See “The boy who ‘lived in stealth’: Judge challenges ‘emerging orthodoxy.’”)

Twitter’s role in the interrogation of Ms. Keen-Minshull

Although it’s troubling enough to think that a supposed democratic Western nation would interrogate someone for expressing her opinion, it’s even more troubling to hear that a US-based company revealed the person’s identity to the government. According to Ms. Keen-Minshull, the police informed her that they had obtained her contact information from Twitter.

This is not the first time that Twitter has shown its bias in the battle between adherents of gender ideology and those who see dangers in it. Gender-critical individuals have had their Twitter accounts suspended for merely stating that “transwomen are men” while adherents of gender ideology regularly direct misogynistic language like “cunt” or “Kill All TERFs” at people who disagree with them.

It turns out that individuals associated with Mermaids are also guilty of mud-slinging on Twitter. “Helen” (@Mimmymum), who has frequently stated she is a member of Mermaids, regularly brandishes the word “bigot” at those who don’t share her opinions. In a tweet referring to Dr. Ray Blanchard, an American-Canadian sexologist, best known for his research studies on transsexualism and sexual orientation, she writes:

mimmymum blanchardBoth sides of this debate are exercising their democratic right to express their opinions and their concerns about public policy, but it appears that both the UK police and Twitter have chosen to respect the rights of the one while disregarding the rights of the other.

Uncomfortable truths

Ms. Green and her organization suggest that those who oppose the transitioning of minors are motivated by bigotry and hate. They refuse to acknowledge that this opposition could stem from genuine concern for the welfare of children and outrage that organizations like hers promote transition so eagerly and misrepresent the realities of it.

In a segment on BBC Newsnight in November 2016, Stephanie Davies-Arai, founder of the organization Transgender Trend, said that “the treatment pathway [for treating trans-identified children is] … cross-sex hormones…. It leads to children being sterilized and on medication for life.” When the interviewer asked Ms. Green if this were correct, she answered, “Well, no,” then changed the subject. (See “Should Mermaids be permitted to influence UK public policy on ‘trans kids’?”)

Yet this statement is correct, and it’s acknowledged to be so by clinicians who promote and administer these treatments. While the word “castration” may be jarring, Ms. Keen-Minshull used it because it exposed the reality that activists like Ms. Green would evidently rather conceal.

Ms. Keen-Minshull believes strongly, as do we at 4thWaveNow, that drastic interventions like these deserve public scrutiny. To be able to express our concerns about these interventions, we must be able to name them. If people no longer have the right to speak uncomfortable truths because others may find them offensive, a democratic society is no longer possible.

Cincinnati trans-teen custody decision: More than meets the eye

by worriedmom

4thWaveNow contributor Worriedmom has practiced civil litigation for many years in federal and state courts.

Note: Bolding in the court decision (reproduced at the bottom of this post) is by 4thWaveNow, to draw our readers’ attention to certain aspects of the case which have been ignored (so far) by the mainstream press.

Update 2/19/18: We have just posted a more detailed legal analysis of the case here.


So, we now have the decision in the soon-to-be-infamous “Cincinnati transgender custody case,” which we have reprinted below in its entirety as a service to our readers. Does the case strike an amazing and courageous blow for the freedom of transgender teens everywhere? No. Does the case give jack-booted government thugs the ability to batter down parents’ doors and drag kids off to the surgical suite? Again, no. Should this case strike fear into parents’ hearts and cause them to re-think their views on the advisability of transition for their children and teens? No.

A reading of the case – which we plan to review in much greater detail in the coming days – shows that it is, by and large, a temperate decision, the primary effect of which is merely to maintain the status quo until the person at issue, “JNS,” reaches the age of legal majority, which will happen shortly.

In fact, it is abundantly clear that JNS’ impending 18th birthday, which the decision characterized as occurring in a “few … months” is the over-riding factor driving this opinion. The Court has actually insured that nothing will take place in JNS’ medical care until JNS makes the decision, because the Court ruled that no treatment options can be pursued by the grandparents unless and until JNS has been evaluated by an independent medical authority. Practically and logistically, this will not happen until after JNS has turned 18, at which time JNS will be making the decision.

A few other points from the decision also raise interesting issues:

* The parents, while characterized as religious zealots and worse in the press, have supported JNS’ psychiatric treatment, both financially and otherwise.

* The Court noted that the parties’ claims about the likelihood or potential for suicide had constantly shifted throughout the history of the case; and

* The Court in fact expressed “concern” about the admission by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center that “100%” of its patients are considered “appropriate” candidates for gender treatment.

cincy court case

Particularly in view of the sensational coverage attracted by this case, we feel it is even more important than usual for our readers to know and understand the relevant facts for themselves. In our view, this is a highly unusual case, likely to be of limited precedential value and confined to its particular facts and circumstances, that should not occasion undue concern, or elation, on either side.

Court decision is reproduced below for our readers’ convenience.


HAMILTON COUNTY JUVENILE COURT

In re: JNS                                                                           Case No. Fl7-334 X

JUDICIAL ENTRY

This case began on February 8, 2017, with the filing by the Hamilton County Department of Jobs and Family Services [hereinafter HCJFS].seeking an Interim Order of Custody of the child in question. Two days later an agreement was reached – specifically “to avoid a hearing on the motion”- whereby the parents agreed to abide by a pre-existing 11Safety plan,” thereby leaving the child in residence with the maternal grandparents. Parents further agreed to make the child available to participate in recommended therapy with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center [hereinafter Children’s Hospital]. The agreement included the warning that “Any breach of these orders of interim protective supervision should alert HCJFS that an emergency situation exists and a risk assessment should be done to determine whether emergency court action is needed.11    A Guardian ad Litem for the child was also appointed at this hearing.

In April of 2017, the situation had deteriorated to the point that HCJFS proceeded on the complaint alleging dependency, neglect and abuse and sought temporary custody of the child.

By stipulation, the parties agreed to an adjudication of dependency, and the allegations of neglect and abuse were withdrawn. Based upon the agreement of the parties, the child was placed in the temporary custody of HCJFS and ordered to remain in continued residence with maternal grandparents. The parents declined reunification services and all parties expressed their agreement with the permanency goal of preparing the grandparents to guide the child to adulthood.

Following that adjudication and disposition by stipulation, several case plans were filed, all stating that Children’s Hospital “would like” to begin hormone therapy with the child pursuant to a treatment plan for the diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Parents objected to the plan and several hearings were held. On August 23, 2017, the Magistrate declined to expedite the matter as he found that no emergency, as previously suggested in the petitions, existed. Inexplicably, the case plan seeking hormone treatment was withdrawn and the case took the posture of a relatively routine post-dispositional hearing on the issue of who should be the custodian of the child, weighing first and foremost the best interests of that child. HCJFS filed a Motion to Terminate Temporary Custody and Award Legal Custody to the maternal grandparents. An in-camera interview of the child was conducted on October 2, 2017, by the Magistrate and reviewed in preparation for the post-dispositional phase of the trial by this Court.

On December 6, 2017, maternal grandmother filed a Petition for Custody, and maternal grandfather filed a Petition for Custody on December 8, 2017. The matter was before this Court for final determination of custody.

If only it could be that simple.

On December 12,2017, January 23,2018 and January 26,2018, the Court conducted a trial on the post-dispositional motions.

The following attorneys and parties appeared: assistant prosecuting attorney Donald Clancy representing Kody Krebs and Diedre Gamer (HCJFS); attorney Karen Brinkman and attorney Amanda Pipik representing mother and father; attorney Ted Willis (civil attorney for mother and father); attorney Paul Hunt representing Brenda Gray-Johnson (Guardian ad Litem) and Mary Ramsay (Court Appointed Special Advocate); attorney Tom Mellott representing JNS (child); attorney Jeff Cutcher representing maternal grandparents; and attorney Jason Goldschmidt representing Children’s Hospital.

Despite the withdrawal of the case plan calling for hormone therapy to begin, the testimony presented by HCJFS centered on the medical condition of the child and the function of the Children’s Hospital Transgender Program. While the child was first presented BY HER PARENTS to Children’s Hospital for psychiatric treatment of anxiety and depression, that diagnosis rather quickly became one of gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is defined as: discomfort or stress that is caused by a discrepancy between a person’s gender identity and the gender assigned at birth, and the associated gender role….11   (World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People, 7th Version). Treatment of that discomfort and stress can involve different degrees of intervention,and must be highly individualized and can range from psychotherapy, hormone therapy and ultimately surgical intervention to change sex characteristics. (It must be noted that the parents, while objecting to the administration of hormone therapy, have continued to financially support the ongoing therapy sessions for the child at the Children’s clinic.) The entire field of gender identity and non-conforming gender treatment is evolving rapidly and there is a surprising lack of definitive clinical study available to determine the success of different treatment modalities. One aspect, however, is constant in the testimony presented in court of all of the medical personnel, and in the sparse recognized professional journals available, and that is that the potential candidate for gender transition therapy must be consistent in the presentation of his or her gender identity. It is a concern for the Court that the statistic presented by Dr. Conard, the Director of the Transgender Program, in her testimony is that 100% of the patients seen by Children’s Hospital Clinic who present for care are considered to be appropriate candidates for continued gender treatment.

In this case, it is understandable that the parents were legitimately surprised and confused when the child’s anxiety and depression symptoms became the basis for the diagnosis of gender dysphoria. The child has lived until the summer of 2016 consistent with the assigned gender at birth. The parents sought appropriate mental health treatment when their child’s generalized anxiety and depression reached the point that hospitalization became necessary. The parents acknowledged that the child expressed suicidal intent if forced to return to their home. It is unfortunate that this case required resolution by the Court as the family would have been best served if this could have been settled within the family after all parties had ample exposure to the reality of the fact that the child truly may be gender non-conforming and has a legitimate right to pursue life with a different gender identity than the one assigned at birth.

It is not within this Court’s jurisdiction to intrude on the treatment of a child except in the very rare circumstance when the child’s life hangs in the balance of treatment versus non-treatment. The threat of suicide and the existence of suicidal ideation can never hold this Court hostage as it searches for proper outcome of litigation revolving around the best interests of that child. Despite the fact that the parents initially stipulated during the adjudicatory phase that the child had expressed suicidal ideation, the medical records in evidence indicate that at the time of the filing of the complaint, that ideation was not presenting as an imminent threat.

It is particularly troubling to the Court that the initial filings in this case indicate that suicide is a potential factor to be considered by the Court, when in the medical records admitted during trial it is clearly not. On January 31, 2017, the medical record clearly indicates “NO” to the question: Is the patient at risk for suicide? The complaint alleging the emergency nature of the facts was filed the very next week! The medical records admitted into evidence show that on February 10, 2017, the same response was entered to the same question. This was a mere three days after the filing of the complaint, and during the pendency of the 11emergency” posture of the complaint. The suggestion of imminent suicide alleges a fact pattern that requires this Court to act expeditiously in determining to what extent-if any-court intervention is appropriate. Should the Court take jurisdiction every time a minor threatens self-harm if he or she is unable to gain parents’ consent for some desired procedure, such as a rhinoplasty or similar cosmetic surgery? It is a sad commentary that the Juvenile Court system deals with the suicidal ideation of troubled adolescents on a regular basis but cannot let that threat govern the outcome or disposition of a case before it.

It now becomes the duty of this court to determine what is in the best interests of this child for the few remaining months of minority. Evidence was presented that the parents agree that the child should remain with the maternal grandparents and continue to attend the high school at which the child is excelling both academically and musically. The child wishes to remain in the care of the grandparents. The grandparents are suitable caregivers and have demonstrated an ability to meet the child’s needs. The Court Appointed Special Advocate and the Guardian ad Litem for the child recommended a grant of legal custody to the grandparents and advocated that the child’s best interest was served by the continued placement with the grandparents.

THEREFORE, it is the order of the Court that the Temporary Custody to HCJFS is terminated and Legal Custody of the child is awarded to the maternal grandparents, subject to the following conditions:

  1. Grandparents shall have the right to consent to the child’s petition to change name filed in the Probate Court.
  2. Grandparents, indicating in open court that they do not choose to pursue support for the

child, shall immediately cover the child with insurance for medical care.

  1. Grandparents shall have the right to determine what medical care shall be pursued at Children’s Hospital and its Transgender Program, but before hormone therapy begins, the child shall be evaluated by a psychologist NOT AFFILIATED with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on the issue of consistency in the child’s gender presentation, and feelings of non-conformity.
  2. Parents are granted reasonable visitation and encouraged to work toward a reintegration of the child into the extended family.

In accordance with 42 U.S.C. Section 11431, the above-referenced child is entitled to immediate enrollment in school as defined by O.R.C. section 3313.64. The enrollment of a child in a school district under this division shall not be denied due to a delay in the school district’s receipt of any records required under section 3313.672 of the Ohio Revised Code or any other records required for enrollment. Northwest School District shall bear the costs of education, pursuant to O.R.C. sections 2151.35(8)(3) and 2151.362. Such determination is subject to re-determination by the department of education pursuant to O.R.C. 2151.362.

The Court would be remiss if it did not take this opportunity to encourage the Legislature to act in crafting legislation that would give the Juvenile Courts of this state a framework by which it could evaluate a minor petitioner’s right to consent to gender therapy. What is clear from the testimony presented in this case and the increasing worldwide interest in transgender care is that there is certainly a reasonable expectation that circumstances similar to the one at bar arc likely to repeat themselves. The Legislature should consider a set of standards by which the Court is able to judge and act upon that minor’s request based upon the child’s maturity. That type of legislation would give a voice and a pathway to youth similarly situated as JNS without attributing fault to the parents and involving them in protracted litigation which can and does destroy the family unit.

Judge Sylvia Sieve Hendon

February/16, 2018

 

A careful step into a field of landmines

by Jenny Cyphers

Jenny Cyphers is a homeschooling parent. She has been writing about that experience for many years, in various online forums. Jenny has been married for 24 yrs to the father of their two children, one adult and one teenager. They all live, work, and create, in Oregon. Jenny is available to interact in the comments section of this post.


“Jenny, you’re wrong. You’re playing with your child’s life. It’s that simple. Putting your misguided beliefs before your child’s well-being could cause irreversible harm.”

This scathing judgment came from another mother in a trans-support group for parents. I’ve seen many fads and trends over the years, but I’d like to talk about the transgender fad, which has impacted my life.

I have a transgender teen. My teen has held tightly to this identification for just over 2 years. Throughout this time, I’ve heard many stories from parents whose children are gender non-conforming or questioning their gender, their identities. Like most parents, we want to support our children and help them through their obvious suffering and pain.

In order to examine the “Jenny, you’re wrong” statement, I need to address what causes “irreversible harm”. Within the trans support groups, there are two diametrically opposed camps. One–and this is important because it is the predominant narrative–is the camp that believes If a child or teen says they are transgender, the protocol is to confirm, affirm, and transition. If parents opt to not transition their child, it puts you in the other camp.

What is transgender? That’s the crucial question. As far as I can tell, the answer is a definition based off individual philosophy. I’ll let others do the defining. One aspect that’s generally accepted is that a person can be transgender whether or not they medically or surgically transition.

But there’s one exception to that accepted definition: a transgender child or teen. As the predominant narrative goes, we’re supposed to confirm, affirm, and transition a transgender child or teen. But the irreversible harm I want to avoid for my transgender child is medical and surgical harm. I made the error in a trans support group of admitting that.

“Jenny, so your support is conditional based upon what you chose to believe. So what makes you qualified to make that decision for your child aside from being the parent?”

What makes any parent qualified to make any medical decision on behalf of their children? This is both an honest question and a rhetorical one. Parents get to make all sorts of decisions for their children. We decide what to feed them, which doctors to take them to, and how and where they’ll be schooled. We decide whether to circumcise and whether to vaccinate. Both of those are medical choices fraught with contention in either direction one chooses.

Jenny cap 2

How do parents make these choices? We talk to our doctors. We talk to our own parents. We talk to our friends and people we respect. We read books. We ask questions. We research and research. The more controversial, the more we research. What parent would NOT do these things?

So, what do I believe? Nobody asks that in honesty unless they are friends who genuinely care. Trans support groups do not care what individuals believe, especially if it questions the necessity of medical intervention for a transgender child.

I’ve had surgery. I know how traumatic it is. I’ve had to take medication with terrible side effects. I know how it feels to be dependent on medicine that makes you feel sick. That experience caused me to question the side effects of drugs used to transition children. What I discovered was surprising.

“When it comes to situations that may require medical assistance parents have the responsibility to seek professional advice.”

“Your support is absolutely conditional. You have essentially decided to control how your child transitions based upon personal belief and nothing more.”

“You’ve drawn a line in the sand with nothing more than personal belief to back it up and you’re controlling how your child transitions despite what the medical establishment recommends. Disagree all you like but your prejudices should not be more important than the wellbeing of your child.”

When I started to ask questions, I found it difficult to get basic answers to the most basic of my questions. It was especially hard to get that information from trans support groups and doctors. I expected to find experts who had done their research. I did get answers, but not the sort I was looking for. I wanted to know actual data and statistics about safety of cross-sex hormone treatment. Instead, what they insisted, without corroborating evidence, was that it was safe and not a big deal at all. Given my own experience with taking medication, I did not automatically believe that. I dug deeper.

I had only ever heard of puberty blockers from knowing a child with precocious puberty. The puberty blockers had dangerous side effects. I knew that already from listening to the mother of that child and hearing her weigh the pros and cons of whether the puberty blockers were worth the risk of broken bones and eventually needing a wheelchair to support fragile bones. These are the exact same puberty blockers being used on transgender children. That alone gave me pause. My own kid was already about a year and a half into puberty, so we weren’t looking at blockers anyway.

While reading about puberty blockers, I also learned that in the United States, nearly 100% of children who choose to take puberty blockers then go on to use cross-sex hormones. So, despite hearing that blockers are meant to give a child time to figure things out, that is not actually what happens. When you stall puberty, you go on to transition. All data that I’ve read, anecdotal and otherwise, supports that. What surprised me even more, in researching, is that when a child uses puberty blockers and then goes on to transition with cross-sex hormones, it results in permanent sterilization.

That fact deeply disturbed me. Bringing up the subject of sterilizing children also brings up the question of ethics and eugenics. Currently, from what I’ve seen, we- the collective we- are okay with sterilizing transgender children. I was surprised to find that many parents were okay with this. It didn’t bother them in the least.

My personal belief, and I do believe I’m entitled to one, is that sterilizing children is wrong.

If an adult is allowed to be transgender without medically or surgically altering their body, then a child should be allowed the same. Furthermore, my bias is that children should not be medically and surgically altered based on being transgender.

I didn’t come to that decision overnight. It took a lot of research and a lot of reading. My teen may have been too old for puberty blockers, but still wanted to transition through hormone replacement therapy. But there is a huge risk of sterilization from hormone replacement therapy. It’s not 100%, all the time, but the percentage is high for all people who do hormone replacement therapy. At 14-years-old, my child didn’t care about sterilization. Very few young teens want children; it’s not on their radar, which is totally normal. That’s why parents make life-altering decisions for their children. Parents are able to see the larger picture.

“So, your answer is that you have no credible information that supports your child because everyone who says you should can’t be trusted?”

“It really sounds like you want to wear the label of supportive so you can feel better but don’t want to “walk the walk,” as they say.”

Let’s talk about support. What is valid support for a child dealing with this?

When our child told us they were transgender, we’d already experienced many teens changing their names and adopting nicknames, which made it easy to adopt a new name for our youngest kid. The insistence of pronoun changes was difficult, but we tried. My husband,who’s a lot like our child, was a champ at being supportive.

The steadfast identity of being transgender grew over time. Nearly every conversation I had with my child was like a careful step into a field of landmines, in which everything was about being trans, but we couldn’t actually discuss it without upset. The only acceptable discussion was my being supportive. One time, when I tried asking my kid honest questions, I realized I had stepped on the landmine known as being one of “those moms”. The unaccepting ones my kid was reading about online, who didn’t accept their kids’ trans identity, and who made their kids complain about how terrible and miserable their lives were because they had bigoted parents who didn’t accept their trans identity. The reality of how our actual relationship had always been up until this point was ignored in favor of feeling oppressed. Being transgender became the focus of every aspect of life.

We were already used to doing life a little differently to accommodate a sensitive child’s odd quirks. Accommodating transgender was just another step down this path. Right up until we could travel no farther down the path. And this is important. The insistence on personal gender identity is so pervasive that one cannot question it. To question it is tantamount to cruelty and violence and bigotry. Transgender is a deeply felt sense of self. Questioning a person’s sense of self is a personal violation. Framed as a personal violation of self, questioning the transgender identity invalidates their very existence. In social groups, both in person and online, there is one accepted dialog: that identities are to be accepted at face value. For most involved, it’s already an accepted truth that anyone can be whatever they identify as, that this is healthy and good and right.

jenny nat geo coversRight around this time, National Geographic put out a specialty magazine about transgender and other identities. When I studied the cover, it was glaringly obvious to me what wasn’t represented, a regular run of the mill female person. Of the kids and teens and adults represented, there is a female identified person, and it isn’t a natal female woman. There is a transman. There is a person marked as male, but nobody marked as female. To be fair, the magazine did some in depth coverage of the material reality of being female across the world. However, the cover was a tiny glimpse into transgender ideology, in which women are being erased- unless of course a transwoman identifies as one.

From that point, it was like a cascade of ideas came into focus for me. I had small epiphanies about how this all impacted civil rights. The transgender politics and policies have the potential to undo civil rights for all people. If civil rights are not based on material reality, then anyone anywhere can undo them and change them. This seemed extremely dangerous to me. When that idea hit me, it was like a sucker punch; it was the pulling of the thread that began to unravel the tapestry of transgender ideology.

Just before this time, my kid was insistent on seeing a gender therapist and getting into a gender clinic to start transitioning. I dragged my feet. Doctor appointments cost precious money we have little of. We finally did make the appointment, and my kid started seeing a regular therapist also. This is when the massive anxiety and depression started taking hold. The combination of seeking out a gender therapist and the deeply held identity of being transgender caused so much distress, which led to more anxiety and more depression. But seeing a therapist was a good thing, anyway. Right?

The cascade of ideas swept over me, just as coverage of the BBC Two documentary “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best”. I watched it, and then rewatched it with my transgender teen. It’s no longer available to watch, which is really unfortunate. It’s a well-done documentary that helped bridge a conversation gap with my child. The unsupportive parents in the documentary really made my kid mad, and we were able to talk about their feelings. For my part, I was looking at this trans issue in light of civil rights issues and bathroom bills, and the documentary opened up a way for me to discuss civil rights with my kid. The documentary was the first and only really in-depth discussion I’ve been able to have with my kid about transgender issues.

bbc trans kids who knows best

In the profound conversation that came out of that documentary, in a moment of very deep pain, my child shared that no amount of wishing or believing or transitioning would ever make her into a he, even if they looked the part and acted the part. It was a moment filled with tears and vulnerability, as my child admitted aloud that she would never be biologically male, even with surgery.

My child was very sad about this, and I could see the struggle. The struggle is very real. Every parent who has a child going through this will understand this feeling, this pain, this struggle. This is what drives parents to do anything to make that pain stop. I get that completely. And deep inside of me, I knew there were answers that didn’t involve medical and surgical transitioning. I talked about it with my oldest daughter and she said something really important. She said, of her sibling experiencing the pain, “What’s wrong with that?” and what she meant was that it’s normal for people, for kids, for teens to feel pain and express it.

I tried to understand where this was coming from, this desire to be male, to change this body, this personhood so drastically. For years, I’d been looking at what drives individual behavior, in part to ease the frustrations my child had from being a sensitive person in a callous world. Had there been an inciting moment that had caused the identity crisis?

When this child was 11, and in the throes of the onset of puberty, I almost died. I had two heart attacks and emergency double bypass heart surgery. I didn’t make the connection right away. Nobody seems to look at underlying trauma of trans-identifying kids. I brought the subject up with both the regular therapist and the gender therapist. The gender therapist we found was surprisingly thoughtful. I didn’t expect that. I shared with her my reservations about allowing my child to transition without first addressing underlying issues. I shared with her my feelings about how impulsive this particular child was and how firm they held ideas they impulsively grabbed onto. I suggested this may be one of those ideas. She took my feelings into account when I told her I was wanting to wait until my child turned 18 to transition, that I wanted everything to go very, very slowly.

My kid was mad at the therapist’s final assessment that waiting until 18 was prudent. I made all the therapist’s paperwork available to all medical professionals that were to be working with my kid, but the pressure to transition didn’t stop.

In Oregon, the age of medical consent is 15. Since medical professionals were unwilling to read available medical charts explicitly recommending waiting until age 18 to transition, I made sure that I had access to all medical care and records. I had my child sign all medical release papers for that to happen. Every parent living in a state with low consent age should do this.

When we went to doctor appointments for totally unrelated things, they would refer my child to the gender clinic, even though we’d already been, and tell my child they shouldn’t have to suffer and that they could easily take testosterone to alleviate these horrible symptoms like periods and breast development. But they wouldn’t actually prescribe my child testosterone; they’d instead just reiterate that it was an option. My child already knew that this was an option, but that the gender specialist had said to wait until age 18. It felt like hope being held out of reach, like a cruel bait yanked away.

It happened every time. The doctors wouldn’t stop dangling the bait. Because of the turmoil this caused, I had to stop taking my child to the doctor, unless it was an emergency.

“So let’s not pretend you are supporting your child. You’ve clearly convinced yourself that you are but the fact is that you could be causing your child grievous harm and you seem totally unconcerned.”

Meanwhile, I intentionally started focusing on big-picture ideas with my kid. We acquired a telescope and fixed it up. Now, we discuss stars and planets and the universe. We used our now freed up money, that we were spending on doctor appointments, to take more dance classes. My husband, a musician, includes our kid in making music. I bring my kid with me to help in the theatre I work in, where their quick engineering skills are valued. We support their new interest in herbs and plants and research how to care for them and what to use them for. We use websites and books to identify rocks and stones. We drive to visit friends that live in nearby cities, for a change of scenery.

When we started on the new transgender journey, together, my child and I decided that no matter what, this was not going to be the life focus. We opted not to join any queer youth support groups. What I’ve seen in those groups is that life becomes very narrow. One doesn’t play music, they play queer music. One doesn’t do art, they make queer art. My kid even began to notice this and didn’t want to make life all about being transgender. A too-narrow focus goes against the very fabric of our family life, the one we built by bringing the world to our children and our children to the world. Our life has evened out a little.

Our teen is now desisting. The goal wasn’t desistence though; it was to prevent irreversible medical intervention of a teen, whose identity is malleable and in flux, as all teens’ are. If one can BE transgender based on feelings, deep seated and strongly held and persistent feelings, then why must the push be towards chemically and surgically altering one’s body? If we are to accept each person’s identity at face value, what does it actually mean to BE transgender? If my child desists, does that mean they weren’t ever transgender to begin with?

If I’d opted to follow through with all the current protocols, my kid would be taking testosterone right now, with an eye towards mastectomies and a hysterectomy. If we’d done that, and my child desisted, would they have been truly transgender? What if I’d gone into the gender therapist’s office and pushed for transitioning? If being transgender means that one is the other gender born into the wrong body, but not everyone fully transitions medically and surgically, then why must children do so to be truly transgender?

I’ve been accused of causing grievous harm to my child by not following this path of hormonal and surgical transitioning. I’ll be the first to say, I could’ve been super supportive of transitioning my child. I could have entered that gender therapist’s office and insisted that we jump through whatever hoops were necessary. I know of people who have done that. I’m sure that’s what my kid expected me to do. I’ve been accused of being unsupportive of my child by not confirming, affirming, and transitioning my child. This is laughable that anyone who knows me would say such a thing. My kids are my life, literally and figuratively. I think that’s true of most parents, even the ones who make terrible mistakes that destroy relationships. Even those parents who are lost and don’t know how to deal with transgenderism, but love their child and don’t readily accept whatever their kids say. Even parents who are religious and object on moral grounds. Even parents that are very liberal and accepting.

For every parent reading this, remember that most mistakes are recoverable. You can apologize and move towards restoring the relationship. Don’t buy into the emotional blackmail so common among the transgender community. Keep your children close. Make all the choices in the world to build up your relationship. Do it as if their life depends on it, because it does. If they can wait until they are older, and they do end up transitioning, they will need you as their support. Let me be very clear here. You do NOT have to agree with the choices your adult children make while still supporting them as people. If your focus is on imparting bigger ideas than self-identity, there will always be ways to support your child, no matter what choices they end up making.

I’m much more concerned with mental health and maturity to handle the long-term effects of transitioning, than I am about identities. Identities are always changing as you grow and learn, and while some aspects of your past will always remain a part of you, some things you choose to discard when they cease to be relevant. Teenhood and childhood are all about trying on ways of doing and being in the world and seeing how it works.

You cannot discard a body that’s been altered to bring back the old one.

Get angry, read, research. Seek help when you need it, from people you know, trust, and respect. Then get out there and focus on the things that bring you joy and include your children. Be brave. Most of all, don’t be afraid to question the prevailing narratives.

jenny landmine