Becoming whole: Could integrative medicine heal the mind-body split in gender dysphoria?

by worriedmom

Worried mom lives in the Northeast, and is the mother of several children. She works in the nonprofit area, and is a voracious reader and writer in the area of gender identity politics. She is available to interact in the comments section of this post.


Imagine this world: A child is sad, depressed, and struggling with uncomfortable, odd, or scary feelings about his or her body. Maybe a little socially awkward, maybe a lot. Worried about the fact that his or her interests don’t seem to fit in well with peers’. Maybe being mocked or bullied, because s/he doesn’t “act like” the other kids. Perhaps that child is having trouble making friends, or is even having intrusive thoughts that make it challenging to succeed at school, athletics or social life. Maybe that child has started puberty, and is concerned or ashamed about the physical changes in his or her body, and the way other people are reacting to those changes. The changes might not feel so good, even be quite unwelcome. The child’s body is perfectly healthy; the mind–not so much.

In this world, our child can go someplace where people know that there’s a solid and extensively documented connection between the mind and the body. In this place, treating the child involves taking into account the physical, social, psychological, community, environmental, and spiritual realities of the child’s life. Here:

  • The patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
  • All factors that influence health, wellness and disease are taken into consideration, including body, mind, spirit and community.
  • Providers use all healing sciences to facilitate the body’s innate healing response.
  • Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive are used whenever possible.
  • Good medicine is based in good science. It is inquiry-driven and open to new paradigms.
  • Alongside the concept of treatment, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
  • The care is personalized to best address the individual’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances. Practitioners of integrative medicine exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development.

integrative medicine circle

Our child receives sensitive, understanding care, to help navigate through a hard time in life. His or her feelings are taken seriously (which isn’t always the same thing as literally). S/he will learn techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, and deep breathing to help cope with discomfort. Our child may have the chance to learn yoga, or T’ai Chi, qi gong, healing touch, and other movement therapies such as the Alexander technique. S/he may try out massage, biofeedback, acupuncture, or hypnotherapy. Non-western therapies, such as Chinese medicine or Ayurveda, are a possibility.

The medical care our child receives is coordinated with other therapies to help him or her feel comfortable, accepted, and confident. Perhaps our child will receive social skills training, with peers, or have the chance to interact with a specially-trained service animal. Maybe someone at this special place will work with our child using art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy or even horticultural therapy.

When all is said and done, our child is healed, calm and well, without ever breaking the skin! S/he is prepared to face the challenges of teenage and adult life, understanding that “feelings aren’t facts,” and equipped with techniques, ideas and support to help manage those unpleasant or unhelpful thoughts should they recur.

What is this place you ask? Well, it’s only the hottest trend in medicine these days. Call it integrative medicine, holistic, alternative, or complementary… whatever you call it, this approach to healing has taken the Western medical world by storm. World-renowned treatment centers have formed integrative medicine units – Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the international cancer center, is one of them. The Mayo Clinic is another. Many integrative medicine centers are affiliated with major teaching hospitals or medical schools. Over 40% of U.S. hospitals now offer at least some integrative medicine techniques to their patients.

The foundation of integrative medicine is the recognition that there is a profound, and not yet completely understood, connection between the human mind and the human body. That this connection exists is no longer open to question – otherwise, no drug trial would control for the placebo effect! Beyond this, research has shown that humans can, indeed, use their minds to control or change the way their bodies feel. These techniques provide a powerful way for people to actively participate in their own health care, and to promote recovery and healing for themselves.

not just the disease

While the jury is still out on the efficacy of some “CAM” practices (CAM being the term of art for “complementary and alternative healthcare and medical practices”), what is not in dispute is CAM’s rising popularity and acceptance among the general population. Far from being a “fringe” or counter-culture phenomenon, in certain patient populations, CAM use has been as high as 90%, and has been estimated at 38% for the United States as a whole.

According to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine:

HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores are higher when patients receive integrative services. In one study, 76.2% of patients who received integrative services for pain in the hospital felt their pain was improved as a result of the integrative therapy. [Source] Health-related quality of life was significantly improved for patients who received integrative care. Treatments were also found to reduce blood pressure, decrease anxiety and pain, and increase patient satisfaction in thoracic surgery patients. Additional studies have corroborated the observation of reduced pain and anxiety in inpatients receiving integrative care.

In addition to its use in fields such as pre- and post-surgical and cancer care, integrative medicine is increasingly used to help patients manage or cope with such chronic medical conditions as diabetes, arthritis, Crohn’s disease (and other IBDs), asthma, allergies, hypertension, headache, insomnia, and back pain, as well as psychiatric maladies such as anxiety, depression, phobias and PTSD.

People who practice in this field do not argue that integrative medicine is the cure for all ills:

Using synthetic drugs and surgery to treat health conditions was known just a few decades ago as, simply, “medicine.” Today, this system is increasingly being termed “conventional medicine.” This is the kind of medicine most Americans still encounter in hospitals and clinics. Often both expensive and invasive, it is also very good at some things; for example, handling emergency conditions such as massive injury or a life-threatening stroke. Dr. [Andrew] Weil is unstinting in his appreciation for conventional medicine’s strengths. “If I were hit by a bus,” he says, “I’d want to be taken immediately to a high-tech emergency room.” Some conventional medicine is scientifically validated, some is not.

A 2010 review of the medical, corporate and payer literature showed that:

to start, immediate and significant health benefits and cost savings could be realized throughout our healthcare system by utilizing three integrative strategies: (1) integrative lifestyle change programs for those with chronic disease, (2) integrative interventions for people experiencing depression, and (3) integrative preventive strategies to support wellness in all populations.

boy trapped in girl bodyWe’ve certainly gone quite a while in this post without mentioning the word “transgender,” but the implications for the application of integrative medicine in this area should be crystal clear. If folks are literally or even metaphysically “born in the wrong body,” or if dysphoria is primarily caused by an incongruence between one’s physical sex and one’s gender (“what’s between the ears doesn’t match what’s between the legs”), then dysphoria would appear to be a mind/body problem of the first order.

In fact, it would seem that the transgender phenomenon is the prototypical example of a mind/body disconnect – because in the case of dysphoria, all involved acknowledge that the body in question is perfectly healthy. Something seems to be amiss in the way that the body and the mind are connected, or in the way the mind thinks of or perceives the body. So, what’s the application of integrative medicine principles to the problem of dysphoria? Wouldn’t it seem like the two are a natural fit, and that dysphoria would be the perfect arena in which to use these techniques, which are now in the medical mainstream?

You would think that, but you would be wrong.

Suppose, as is all too common nowadays, that our child’s feelings of distress and discomfort are interpreted by a parent, pediatrician, teacher, or other well-meaning professional, as the harbinger of an incongruence between the child’s sexed body and his or her brain. Let’s visit a few pediatric gender clinics (there are more than 40 such clinics in the United States alone) and see what’s on offer for our confused and hurting child.

At the Boston Children’s Hospital Gender Management Service clinic (GeMS), one of the oldest pediatric gender clinics in the U.S., the course is clear. The child meets with a clinical social worker whose job it is to “make sure that you fully understand our protocol.” The child is referred to a therapist who will need to work with the child for a minimum of three months (gosh, a whole three months to decide on something that will completely dominate the rest of your life!). Next is an appointment with a GeMS psychologist for a specialized “gender-related consultation” and then… it’s off to the races with the pediatric endocrinologist.

The Seattle Children’s Hospital Gender Clinic provides pubertal blockers, cross-sex hormones and “mental health support and readiness discussion.” The shiny new gender clinic at Yale New Haven Hospital offers “puberty blockers,” “cross-hormone therapies” and “mental health services” focusing on “readiness.” Not to worry, of course, since “male to female” surgery may be obtained for those over 18 through Yale Urology. Here’s another one: the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Gender Development Services department “provides medical consultation, medical intervention (e.g., cross sex and pubertal delaying hormones) and health research with gender non-conforming youth across the developmental spectrum of pediatrics and adolescence.” Oh, and here’s another one: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Adolescent and Transition Medicine Department (note “Transition” is right there in the title of the department) provides “puberty blockers, gender-affirming hormones, menstrual suppression and referrals for therapy, psychiatry, psychology, pediatric endocrinology, pediatric gynecology, nutrition and other services as needed.” The University of Florida’s Youth Gender Program provides “consultation, psychotherapy, psychiatric medication management and assessment of medical readiness for cross-sex hormone therapy.”

Celeb ftmsA short note on the term “readiness.” It’s interesting and perhaps unintentionally revealing that this word shows up on so many pediatric gender clinics’ websites in connection with gender counseling, rather than other terms that could be used such as “suitability,” or even “screening.” “Readiness” connotes a certain inevitability about the transition process – for instance, an educational psychologist assesses a child’s “readiness” for school. The question is not if a child will go to school, of course, but when.

Although I’ll admit I haven’t reviewed the websites of every single one of the 40 U.S. pediatric gender clinics, so far I haven’t seen any that are incorporating integrative medicine techniques and principles. What seems clear is that pediatric gender clinics do not view their mission, in any sense, to include assisting their patients in resolving dysphoric feelings short of medical intervention, much less engaging in discernment or decision-making as to whether medical transition is appropriate in any given case. In fact, as we know, the primary approach to the treatment of dysphoria in the United States has shifted away from the much-maligned “gatekeeping” of the past, to an “affirmative” model. What this means in practice is that the patient (or the patient’s parents) dictate the terms of engagement; if you’re going to a “transition” clinic, guess what you’re going to get?

And although much lip service is given to the idea that a child is on a “gender journey,” it’s pretty clear from the gender clinics’ websites that this journey has only one expected destination. Most of the gender clinics’ websites contain cheerful, if not glowing, testimonials to the happiness that lies ahead for their successfully transitioned patients (“Never a Prince, Always a Princess” “Becoming Lucy,” and of course, “Born in the Wrong Body”).

The Gender and Sex Development Program, housed at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, is especially upbeat about the amazing future in store for their pediatric transition patients, with links to a documentary entitled “Growing Up Trans,” testimonials from grateful parents and thankful teens, and multiple links to news stories with titles like “Trans Teen in Chicago: From Surviving to Thriving,” and “When Boys Wear Dresses: What Does it Mean?” (hint: the correct answer isn’t “nothing”).

gender spectrumIn fairness, it’s possible that the mental health assistance pediatric gender clinics promise their young patients could include helping children and families decide whether medical transition is the optimal outcome. It’s impossible to know whether psychiatric care given by a therapist who is professionally affiliated with a transition clinic would still be unbiased about the subject. But anecdotal evidence certainly suggests that “gender therapists” are personally and professionally invested in the transition narrative to the exclusion of all other therapeutic approaches.

Moreover, one of the primary activist goals of the transgender lobby is insuring that young patients do not have access to integrative medicine, CAMS, or to any other treatment modality, besides “gender affirmation” (i.e. medical transition for all who seek it). “Conversion therapy” bills, which prohibit therapists and other professionals from adopting any other treatment approach for pediatric gender dysphoria other than gender affirmation, have already been passed in seven states and many cities, and federal legislation that arguably would enshrine “gender affirmation” as the sole acceptable treatment has been proposed in the current Congress. (Even legislation which confuses the issue would also confuse would-be caregivers and create a chilling effect.) A new lobbying group, 50 Bills 50 States, has been formed to push for anti-conversion therapy laws to be passed in all states that do not currently have them.

One point on which all sides in this debate can agree is that gender dysphoria represents a radical “disconnect” between the mind and the body. But there is another, fundamental, “disconnect” at work here, too. We know, and have known for millennia, that there are many ways to address mind/body dysfunction that do not entail wholesale alteration of the body, which can succeed in healing and strengthening the mind. Integrative medicine blends the best of these techniques with Western medicine to obtain the healthiest outcome for the patient, yet those involved with pediatric transition appear resolutely blinded–if not hostile–to any potential application in their own field… willfully “disconnected” from current medical thinking and practice.

In fact, if the activists get their way, the “healing place” envisioned for our child at the beginning of this article will not only remain imaginary, but will be outlawed throughout the United States. Parents–indeed, all people who care about children–should be very, very worried.

Adrift on the River Trans

by missingdaughter

missingdaughter is the mother of a daughter who went missing in college; she disappeared into a “safe place.”


 Endless Identities

What happens when there are no limits to how we define ourselves?

What is real? It used to be obvious.

People become lost seeking identities.

Our story: With our own daughter, we witnessed a total erasure of self. Her history, appearance, real concrete facts, our family history–obliterated. Flipping through dark rooms on the internet = gone.

Artificial identities can be created, and they have grown exponentially since the birth of the Internet. Immediate, intimate, brain-searing, stranger-advice and images all become siren calls for the disturbed who are looking for way to channel pain or explain it. But could it be that sometimes the imagery and intimacy of the Internet Siren are the cause of the identity meltdown, the disturbance?

Lila Greenfeld , a professor at Boston University, writes:

As I argue in my recent book Mind, Modernity, Madness, the reason for high concentrations of severe mental illness in the developed West lies in the very nature of Western societies. The “virus” of depression and schizophrenia, including their milder forms, is cultural in origin: the embarrassment of choices that these societies offer in terms of self-definition and personal identity leaves many of their members disoriented and adrift.

The US offers the widest scope for personal self-definition; it also leads the world in judgment-impairing disease. Unless the growing prevalence of serious psychopathology is taken seriously and addressed effectively, it is likely to become the only indicator of American leadership.

It’s not that the delusional didn’t exist before the advent of the Internet. They did. But perhaps the Internet spreads things, like a cold virus wreaking havoc on an airplane.

 Madness and Identities

An article by Carl Elliot, A New Way to Be Mad, tells of an odd disorder– the desire to be an amputee. I found this article (written in 2000) fascinating, because many of the author’s cultural observations, as well as the behaviors described, foretell of the expanding transgender movement we see today.

The phenomenon is not as rare as one might think: healthy people deliberately setting out to rid themselves of one or more of their limbs, with or without a surgeon’s help. Why do pathologies sometimes arise as if from nowhere? Can the mere description of a condition make it contagious?

Language can make a condition contagious. Language can create an identity.

But we shouldn’t be surprised when any of these people, healthy or sick, uses phrases like “becoming myself” and I was incomplete” and “the way I really am” to describe what they feel, because the language of identity and selfhood surrounds us.

The Internet magnifies the language and the message.

On the Internet, you can find a community to which you can listen or reveal yourself, and instant validation for your condition, whatever it may be.

Says one amputee in Elliot’s article, who also turns out to be transsexual.“There was a huge hole to be filled and the Internet began to fill it.”

Fifteen years after Elliot wrote his piece, there are now seemingly infinite descriptions of trans and queer identities on the Internet. Some involve role-playing. There are sexual fetishes and micro-definitions of selfhood. Yes, some are relatively tame, and simply answer queries about awkward adolescent angsts. But the intimate stranger playing the teacher-role will invariably suggest that your child has an alternative identity.

Elliot says in his Atlantic article that “Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn is an influential novel in certain psychopathology communities. Apparently, it is compelling to some to be different, to distinguish oneself from the cookie cutter masses–to be distinct, better?

I started to notice that term, Geek, coming up a lot with my daughter. I suppose it means different things to different people. She seemed to use it to define herself as intellectual—in the way that a genius might not have the best possible social skills. And then the term queer reared its head. Queer as in non-binary, different, none-of-the-above. Looking into it more, I see that the Geek and Queer world collude and collide on the college campus. To take but one of countless examples, http://www.queergeektheory.org/ is a site and study by a Women’s Studies/LGBT Studies Professor at The University of Maryland. Queer-geek, apparently, is a new definition of selfdom.

We live in an age of micro-identities. Micro-identities will splinter you into a gazillion tiny quarks. Do you want to live in Quarksville?

quark subatomic explosion

Could the rise of transgenderism be a transient mental illness?

Why do certain psychopathologies arise, seemingly out of nowhere, in certain societies and during certain historical periods, and then disappear just as suddenly?

In Mad Travelers/Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illnesses, philosopher and historian of science Ian Hacking discusses the phenomenon of transient mental illnesses and how they arise, limited to a certain time and place, and how they spread in ecological niches.

Niches require vectors, and Hacking emphasizes four that are essential for a transient mental illness to thrive:

1) Medical. The illness should fit into a larger framework of diagnosis, a taxonomy of illness.

2) Cultural polarity The illness should be situated between two elements of contemporary culture, one romantic and the other tending to crime. What counts as crime or virtue is itself a characteristic of the larger society.

3) Observability. The disorder should be visible as a disorder, as suffering, as something to escape.

4) Release. The illness, despite the pain, provides a release that is not available elsewhere in the culture where it thrives.

Hacking writes of “the fugue,” a transient mental illness first named and observed in late 19th century France. It was considered a dissociative disorder, and arose in young men expressly by their excessive/obsessive wandering—and resulted in the loss of self and memory. The first identified patient with this newly-termed illness was named Albert.

Albert and his doctors establish, in a hyperbolic way, the possibility of the fugue as a diagnosis. Everything I am about to describe could be fantasy. Everything could be what in the trade is called “Folie à deux”, half madness, half folly, produced by the interaction of the doctor and the patient.

Hacking writes about how this new diagnosis took flight; a disorder that had barely been described was now considered commonplace. “Mad Travelers” also talks about anorexia as a transient mental illness:

The suffering is manifest, but are we talking about behavior that is produced by stereotypes of female beauty, combined with a way of rebelling against parents, or are we talking about a “real mental disorder”?

Could we not be talking about the epidemic of transgender here?

Changing Souls

In another work, Rewriting the Soul Multiple Personality and The Science of Memory, Ian Hacking writes of semantic contagion:

When we think of an action as of a certain kind, our mind runs to other acts of that kind. Thus, classifying an act in a new way may lead us on to others.

How do we form our identities? Hacking’s observation applies to many ideas and the identities that flower from these ideas. We all know that pornography is widely available on the Internet. I had previously considered pornography as something that some men got hooked on; something that would be natural for a teenage boy to click on. But I think the viewing of pornography is more common in girls than many parents would like to think. There is a realm of queer pornography–queer, as a steppingstone to transgender. The pornography of the dark internet is brain-warping, soul-warping. Call it identity-warping if you’d rather.

One thing that some pornography does is to disseminate new modes of action, new descriptions, verbal or visual.

What we have seen with our daughter seems to be a dissociative disorder—a total disconnection from and loss of self.  Hacking’s books are both about dissociative disorders, or what used to be called hysteria. Can one not think of mass hysteria when we see so many young people declaring themselves “trans”?

When Hacking writes of transient mental illnesses reinforced by the psych community, he includes the epidemics of fugue in 19th century Europe (young men wandering the continent with no memories), as well as the multiple personality disorder explosion in America of the 1970s-1980s.

In the New Yorker issue April 3rd, 2017, Rachel Aviv writes in “The Apathetic” about a mysterious illness affecting refugee children in Sweden. Some of these children whose families were denied asylum have fallen into a coma– a cultural response? a transient mental illness? that expresses their pain. One child, Georgi, describes the experience of being trapped in a glass box—dreamlike—until slowly he realized that the glass wasn’t really there. “The glass wasn’t real. And now—now I understand that it wasn’t real at all. But, at that time, it was very difficult, because every move could kill you, I was living there.”

Transgenderism has found its ecological niche in Western culture, here and now. I first thought of the college campus and high school campus as possible ecological niches, until I realized that the trans condition has metastasized and is now found widely across the Western world. To be clear, Western world means societies that affirm transgenderism, promote it, give it special protected status, and naturally pay for all the treatments to become a different person.

Hacking describes what he terms the “looping effect”: people become aware of how they are being classified, which then results in the person altering their behavior and self-conceptions in response to their classification.

Classifying a phenomenon as a medical condition amplifies and colludes with broader cultural forces to create the condition. Susceptible young people who think they have this “condition of trans” are being fast-forwarded into medical treatment–permanent, harmful, devastating treatments that maim the individual, the family, and the wider society. We now have a transient mental illness mating with a social theory (gender theory was invented in the 1970s as an offshoot of feminist theory) to produce a mutant: a perfectly fine, healthy young man or woman mutilated to resemble the opposite. It is dehumanizing.

Contagious Desire

Ian Hacking uses the term “semantic contagion” to describe the way in which publicly identifying and describing a condition creates the means by which that condition spreads. He says it is possible for people to reinterpret their past in light of a new conceptual category.

Speaking of semantics, my references to transgenderism reflect the “new transgenderism” and not the old. I do not refer to the very young being gender-confused—persistently genderconfused. I refer to a movement that muddles sexuality and gender and opens the gender-revolving door to any who enter, as in, choose thy gender and medicalize it and surgicalize it.

There is much re-writing of history among the young adults proclaiming transgender. Hacking, in Rewriting the Soul, addresses memoro politics:

The doctrine that memory should be thought of as a narrative is an aspect of memoro politics. We constitute our souls by making up our lives, that is, by weaving stories about our past, by what we call memories.

Ask a parent about their daughter who has suddenly announced that she is a “trans man” without any signs of her being gender-atypical and then you discover that many in her friend group are doing the same. Social contagion. Mass hysteria. Memoro Politics. The looping effect is magnified by the identity-seeker.

Warped Adolescence

When we are young, in our formative years, we are heavily influenced and shaped by our environment. Current brain development science tells us we are still in-process until age 26 or so. Our experiences and exposures and perceptions shape our developing character. The young person who gets sucked down the wrong tunnel of the Internet is in danger of derailing from their true selfhood. The notion of gender identity seems based on gender stereotypes. Since when are all men the same and all women the same? Of course, much of gender is based on culture but not all–so what? Duh—girls are not born loving pink.

What about sexuality? Some people are sexually fluid; some are firmly rooted in one camp from an early age. Yes, for some there is a biological, perhaps genetic influence. Others have their sexuality tweaked by obviously, experiences, but in these days much experience is virtual: viewing a screen behind a closed door—extreme stuff that creates identities, names the identities, labels the person. Again, brain-warping, soul-warping, warped.

Science and Progress

If “progressive” ideas have brought us the notion of gender destruction with the ultimate goal of body destruction, no thank you—I’ll take our original form.

Thomas S. Kuhn writes in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that the scientific community can be guilty of linear thinking.

When a revolution (in science) repudiates a past paradigm, a scientific community simultaneously renounces, as a fit subject for professional scrutiny, most of the books and articles in which that paradigm has been embodied.

Kuhn suggests that scientific education would be better off with the model of the art museum or a library of classics, not the repudiation that can be a drastic distortion of a discipline’s past. Kuhn believed that science didn’t advance in a steady march of incremental progress; scientific insight could happen in great bursts. One interpretation of this is that ideas of years or decades earlier may be valid–or the correct theory. A discovery could burst forward in science, have a breakthrough, and the progress/idea could also rain down as a cloudburst.

It is one thing to be young and experiment with presentation. But when we medicalize and surgicalize a social movement, a transient mental illness, we cause harm to every one of us. As with Georgi, the young Swedish boy in The Apathetic, who felt trapped in a glass box, how do we break the glass and release our children trapped in the transgender glass box?

The Wide, Muddy and Turbulent River Trans

I think of the many streams of young people attracted to transgenderism. I think of a river composed of many tributaries, of a drainage of dendrites: the girl without a strong identity who goes searching, the girl who was a bit tomboyish but still happy being a girl, the teen girl who identified as lesbian until the muddling of sexual identity and gender identity pushed her over the bank, the socially awkward, those identified as being on the autism spectrum, those with serious mental illnesses that alter perception, the self-haters on the gamut spanning cutting, anorexia, transgender,  the boy who identified as gay and then took it a step further, the teens lost on identity-sucking websites, those hooked on pornography of a certain kind, the gamers and cosplayers who forget what is real, all of those young lives, each unique, each precious, all of them young men and women with their entire lives ahead of them sucked down the wide and muddy and turbulent River Trans and out to sea.

Loss

When your child re-writes history and does everything, she can to cease to exist, she re-writes your history too. There is the daughter you have known since birth. You know her. Yes, I grant that we can never truly know another. But when your child takes a 180 degree turn from herself, from her family, from all who know and love her, when she hates herself and hates you, it is a death.

We do not exist in a vacuum. We are all connected, a part of our immediate family, extended family, friends, village. When an individual is lost, the entire village will search. If we don’t, we will all become lost. Moral relativism, individual libertarianism, whatever, we say, that’s cool, I’m Ok–You’re OK, whatever you want to do—as though that person exists in a vacuum and has no connections.

When everything is okay, nothing is okay. We all lose.


The below is excerpted from

A Poem Epilogue by James Dickey (1966)

Turning Away

Variations on Estrangement

 I

Something for a long time has gone wrong,

Got in between this you and that other one other

And now here  you must turn away.

Beyond! Beyond! Another life moves

In numbing clarity begins

By looking out the simple-minded window,

The face untimely relieved

Of living the expression of its love.

                               

II

Shy, sad, adolescent separated—out

with its nerveless vision

Of sorrow, its queen-killing glare:

The gaze stands alone in the meadow

Like a king starting out on a journey

Away from all things that he knows.

It stands there  there

 

With the ghost’s will to see and not tell

What it sees with its nerveless vision

Of sorrow, its queen-killing glare:

 

 

Let’s Play Gender Clinic: Announcing a new line of children’s books for glitter families!

combo blue revised

Which box will fit your child best, the pink box or the blue box? We’re delighted to offer you a preview of these wonderful children’s books, produced by everyone’s favourite gender expert, Lily Maynard.

In her selfless quest to make money–I mean, reach out and help children everywhere choose the right gender identity for themselves–Lily has produced an exciting new range of quickly churned out… I mean carefully compiled… books for the contemporary glitter family.

By leaving these books casually strewn around your bathroom or living room, you can be sure your visitors will see how totally progressive and reactionary your gender politics are, and how well you understand the rigid borders that define what is acceptable behaviour for boys, and what is acceptable behaviour for girls. After all, you don’t want to be called transphobic, do you? Or even worse, a TERF? With these books on your bookcase, your liberal credentials will sparkle for all the world to see.  You’ll be a beacon of hope for all those gender-affirming glitter families out there!

Maybe your child is questioning their gender identity?  Maybe your child has a friend who is questioning their gender identity? Maybe your child hasn’t thought about gender identity at all?  If not, why not? And what can you do to change that? Aren’t you going to listen to your child: don’t you want them to become their authentic self? Surely you don’t want to risk your child turning out gay when there a chance they might simply be born in the wrong body?

When you buy Lily Maynard’s wonderful collection of books for your child, you are giving them an heirloom to treasure forever. Who knows, it could turn out to be a reminder of the day they started down the glitter path to their very own gender journey: a lifetime of circumvention, artifice, medication and surgery.

Lily Maynard has the heart of a bisexual polyamorous gender-fluid rainbow sparkle unicorn, despite having been married monogamously to the same man for the past twenty years.  She has three children. The eldest used to identify as transgender.  Lily spends far too much time on Twitter. You can follow her @lilylilymaynard


Exclusive sneak preview below!!!

lets play gender clinic

Mrs mouse revised

Text and images/image edits by Lily Maynard

The stories we tell: Inspiring resilience in dysphoric children

Lisa Marchiano, LCSW is a psychotherapist and certified Jungian analyst. She blogs on parenting at Big Picture Parenting, and on Jungian topics at www.theJungSoul.com. You can also find her at PSYCHED Magazine and @LisaMarchiano on Twitter. Lisa has contributed previously to 4thWaveNow (see “Layers of Meaning” and “Suicidality in trans-identified youth”).

Lisa is available to interact in the comments section of this post.


In recent years, stories of young children socially transitioning have been increasingly common in the mainstream media.  Frequently, the focus is on the child’s preference for toys, activities, hairstyles, or clothing more typical of the opposite sex. Critics of these articles sometimes insinuate that parents merely need to reinforce that non-stereotypical toy and clothing choices are acceptable, and this will resolve the child’s distress. “Why don’t the parents just buy their son a doll instead of agreeing he is a girl because he doesn’t like trucks?” is a typical critical statement. But it is my belief that in some cases, such criticisms oversimplify the complexity and difficulty of situations in which a young child experiences severe dysphoria.

There are certainly cases where parents hastily infer that a child is transgender and ought to be transitioned based on non-sex-stereotypical choices on the part of the child, and these are troubling indeed. To take but one example, the mom interviewed about her nonbinary child in this BBC story was looking into blockers for her daughter partly on the basis of the child preferring pirates to princesses.

But closer attention to the details in some of these stories reveals a more complicated picture. For example, there are media stories about children who appear to despise their own genitals.  In this account, according to his mother, a little boy attempted to cut off his penis at age 4 with a pair of scissors.

Clearly, a parent facing a situation like this would want to seek out professional help, and might understandably conclude that the child is suffering from intractable dysphoria.  It’s worth noting, though, that the current trend in the US focusing on gender affirmation makes it difficult to consider alternate explanations for such distress in a child, including co-occurring mental health problems—or even more mundane explanations. See, for example, in this piece, the observations of a parent of such a boy, who discovered

…the importance of asking “Why?” Had I asked that when [my son] told me that he wanted to cut off his penis with a pair of scissors, who knows what I would have learned? But I didn’t ask because I thought I knew precisely what he meant. Applying an adult perspective, and my own views on gender, I immediately concluded that that remark was a rejection of his birth gender. But maybe he had a urinary tract infection and his penis was sore. Or maybe he had been wearing a pair of pants that he had outgrown and they were uncomfortable in the crotch. Or maybe having a penis made him feel like he didn’t fit in with his sisters and cousin, and he thought that if he looked more like them then they would all get along better instead of squabbling. Who knows. But we should at least have had the conversation. The same way we would if he had said “I’m sad” or “I’m angry.”

But setting aside for the moment alternative explanations for why a young child might want to mutilate his own genitals, it seems to me that in at least some cases where young children have been transitioned, these kids were experiencing a significant amount of distress over their sex. They may have suffered from a deep feeling of having been born “wrong.” They may have a powerful feeling of really being the other sex. They are likely subjected to significant social stress at school due to not fitting into gender expectations. The pain experienced by these children – and families – is very real and sometimes quite extreme.

I imagine it would be very difficult to be the parent of these children. One would have to bear with so many unknowns. Will the dysphoria resolve itself? If so, when? How? Will my child be subjected to bullying? How can I protect him or her? What if the dysphoria worsens? What will happen at adolescence? What is the right thing to do?

Above all, a parent in this situation would be subjected to the horrible reality of having to watch their child suffer each and every day.

Childhood Transition Solves Some Problems…

Although affirmation and social transition are frequently prescribed in todays’ activist climate, we do not have any good long-term evidence to support social transition among pre-pubertal children. The clinical practice guideline of the Endocrine Society recommends against doing so. The Dutch researchers who developed the use of puberty blockers also recommend against it. Nevertheless, I can certainly understand why social transition would be an attractive option for parents.

First, it would resolve ambiguity. One would know what course their child would be on, and could embrace the new reality and adjust accordingly, rather than have to tolerate the agony of not knowing. Consider for example the following excerpt from a 2013 story from The New Yorker.

One mother in San Francisco, who writes about her family using the pseudonym Sarah Hoffman, told me about her son, “Sam,” a gentle boy who wears his blond hair very long. In preschool, he wore princess dresses—accompanied by a sword. He was now in the later years of elementary school, and had abandoned dresses. He liked Legos and Pokémon, loved opera, and hated sports; his friends were mostly science-nerd girls. He’d never had any trouble calling himself a boy. He was, in short, himself. But Hoffman and her husband—an architect and a children’s-book author who had himself been a fey little boy—felt some pressure to slot their son into the transgender category. Once, when Sam was being harassed by boys at school, the principal told them that Sam needed to choose one gender or the other, because kids could be mean. He could either jettison his pink Crocs and cut his hair or socially transition and come to school as a girl.

Hoffman ignored the principal’s advice. She told me, “Are we going to assume that every boy who doesn’t fit into the gender boxes is trans? Don’t push kids who aren’t going to go there.” Still, as Hoffman’s husband said, “It can be difficult for people to accept a child who is in a place of ambiguity.” A kid with a nameable syndrome who requires a set of specific accommodations at school (recognition of a new name, the right to use the bathroom and locker room he or she wants to) is, in some ways, easier to present to the world than a child who occupies a confusing middle ground.

Above all, it must be extremely compelling as a parent to know that there are simple steps you can take that will resolve your child’s unhappiness in the short term. Many parents in these stories report that their child immediately become happier, more playful, and more joyful as soon as they were allowed to wear dresses full-time, or cut their hair short and choose a new name. It is hard to argue with what looks like success.

…And Creates Others.

While I have a great deal of empathy for parents who, in the face of their child’s overwhelming distress, decide to allow a social transition,  there are serious risks to doing so. As human sexuality researchers point out, every parent in this situation must weigh the immediate suffering that their child is experiencing against potential future suffering of regret or medical complications. There is accumulating evidence that Lupron may have serious side effects. Testosterone and estrogen may increase risks for heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. And of course, as has been pointed out even by gender specialists themselves, the child will become permanently sterilized if puberty blockers are followed immediately by cross-sex hormones.

What an agonizing choice. Such parents believe they can relieve their children’s distress for at least a while, but there may be real consequences down the road. There is very little evidence to help a parent make this decision. We simply don’t have good criteria for decisively determining which children will persist in a cross sex identification into adulthood. Though some gender therapists claim those who are persistent, insistent, and consistent will benefit from transition, the evidence we do have indicates that this is not a fool-proof criterion.

The second significant risk in facilitating a social transition among pre-pubertal children is that transition almost certainly increases persistence. If a five-year-old boy is “affirmed” that he is the opposite sex, and is addressed by a typically female name and pronouns by the adults around him, it is very likely that the child will be reinforced in his belief that his body is “wrong.”

Moreover, the surge of endogenous hormones at puberty rewires a young person’s brain in complex ways. It is likely these hormones and the changes they bring that in part account for desistance in the roughly 80% of children who grow out of dysphoria and come to feel at home in their natal sex. By blocking these pubertal hormones with Lupron, it is probable that clinicians and parents are setting the child’s cross-sex identification in stone.

The Stories We Tell

Therapists like to remind our clients that there is the thing that happened, then there is the story we tell ourselves about what happened. The stories we tell can make a huge difference in how we feel and respond to events–and the options we have.

For example, if a friend doesn’t call when she said we would, we could tell ourselves any number of stories about that. We might imagine our friend forgot. She’s been busy lately. We might call her instead, or we might move on with other things, intending to catch up with her later.

But what if we tell ourselves a different story? What if we decide that she probably didn’t call because she is angry? Or has decided she doesn’t want to be friends? Then we might find ourselves upset. We may experience a significant amount of unnecessary distress as we react to a situation that is mostly of our imagining. We might even make a choice – such as avoiding or confronting her – that might wind up bringing about the very outcome we feared.

A lot of what therapists do is help people to generate new stories that can maximize the potential for positive outcomes. Roughly speaking, there are two main criteria that make for good, adaptive stories. First, does the story more or less reflect reality? Second, does the story open up new possibilities for response?

Reality

Reality, of course, is sometimes a matter of opinion. It isn’t always possible to judge what is “real.” However, in general, those beliefs that do not line up with objective reality are often not very adaptive. If we believe, for example, that no one ever gets into college without straight A’s, we may feel as though our efforts at obtaining a university education are futile, and we will be more likely to give up.

An exception would be the coping strategy referred to as denial, which can be adaptive if it shields us from realities that are too harsh or painful to tolerate right now. However, even denial can be maladaptive, since it may encourage us to ignore or avoid important realities. Imagine, for example, someone diagnosed with cancer, who decides to forgo the recommended treatment of chemo and use ineffective herbal remedies instead.

Telling—or agreeing with–a child that she is a boy in a girl’s body doesn’t pass the reality test. It may be true that a child strongly feels she is the opposite sex. It may true that she feels very uncomfortable with her body, or the social roles ascribed to her. But to assert that she is really a boy is to deny objective, material reality. It sets a child up to manage massive cognitive dissonance, and to be at odds with her own biology.

We only have one body. Part of being a parent is teaching our children how to accept, love, and care for the one body they will have throughout their life. Believing that there is something fundamentally wrong with our body, such that it might require drugs and/or surgery to be corrected, makes it more difficult to accept and care for ourselves properly.

Options

A good story increases our options. Generally speaking, one story is better than another if it allows us to generate more possible ways to respond. Returning to the example of our friend who doesn’t call, if we believe she didn’t call because she hates us, our one option may be to sit home and feel miserable, sad, and angry. If we believe that she may be busy and perhaps she forgot, we have other options. We can call her right away. We can wait and call her tomorrow. We can decide we are tired of her being forgetful, and decide we aren’t going to call her until she calls us.

Having multiple choices increases our agency, and gives us an internal locus of control. Psychologists believe that developing an internal locus of control is one of the key variables that determines resilience. We experience ourselves as active participants in our lives rather than passive victims.

Affirming that a child is transgender is a story that reduces rather than increases options. If I tell a five-year-old that he is a girl in a boy’s body, then the choices become transition, or be miserable. The internet is quick to tell young people that their choice is to “transition or die.” Many parents who have decided to support social transition report that they believed they would either have “a dead son, or a live daughter.” When there are only two choices and one of those is suicide, then there really is only one choice.

In contrast, if the story we tell our child is that he has gender dysphoria, suddenly a range of possible options becomes available to us. We can support him in managing his distress. We can work to challenge rigid gender expectations. We can try to find him like-minded peers, and adult role models of feminine men. We can teach him self-soothing skills. We can work with the school to reduce bullying. And of course, the option to transition will still be there.

When Pharma Shapes the Story

Influential journalist and author Alan Schwarz convincingly traced the explosion of ADHD diagnoses to Big Pharma’s aggressive marketing of stimulant medications for the condition.

“A.D.H.D. Nation” focuses on an unholy alliance between drug makers, academic psychiatrists, policy makers and celebrity shills like Glenn Beck that Schwarz brands the “A.D.H.D. industrial complex.” The insidious genius of this alliance, he points out, was selling the disorder rather than the drugs, in the guise of promoting A.D.H.D. “awareness.” By bankrolling studies, cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with psychopharmacologists at prestigious universities like Harvard and laundering its marketing messages through trusted agencies like the World Health Organization, the pharmaceutical industry created what Schwarz aptly terms “a self-affirming circle of science, one that quashed all dissent.

Our children look to us, their parents, to help make sense of their experience – to know, in effect, what story they should tell themselves. The marketing messages of pharmaceuticals change the stories we tell ourselves and our children about their suffering.

When our toddler falls and bumps herself, she looks at us to gauge our reaction. If we reassure her that she is okay, she runs off and continues playing. If our face reveals fear and alarm, if we rush to her and ask worriedly whether she is all right, she is likely to burst into loud wails.

Before 2007, when Lupron was first used in the United States to block puberty for gender dysphoric children, kids who experienced even extreme distress over their sex were probably rarely socially transitioned. After all, the physical changes of puberty were inevitable. Before Lupron, there were very few “transgender children.” There were certainly gender dysphoric children, whose parents likely did the best they could to help their child navigate distress.

Lupron is a profitable drug. The drug’s manufacturer AbbVie reported making $826 million on Lupron sales in 2015. New off-label uses for the drug, such as helping kids grow taller or delaying puberty in gender dysphoric kids, have certainly provided new markets. The annual cost for Lupron for a transgender child can be around $15,000. The story that tells us we need to arrest puberty for dysphoric children or risk dire consequences directly benefits the pharmaceutical industry.

The treatments available to us shape how we conceptualize our symptoms. Pharmaceutical companies magnify this influence through marketing and hiring of physicians as consultants. As the image below shows, mentions of the term “transgender children” was nearly nonexistent in published books before 2000 – not long after the Dutch published their studies about using Lupron to block puberty. The mentions rise sharply around 2007 — the year Norman Spack began using Lupron for gender dysphoria at his clinic in Boston. Google’s Ngram had data available only through 2008. We can only imagine what the mentions must be like in recent years.

Marchiano ngram

With the ability to suspend puberty granted by the magic of pharmaceuticals, a whole new treatment pathway has opened. I fear that the temptation to take this route may be strong, even though there is little empirical evidence about where it leads.

Psychotherapists know that often, the answer to dealing with discomfort is to learn to sit with it. It must be excruciating as a parent to watch a child suffer with dysphoria. The temptation to end the suffering with a quick pharmaceutical fix must be immense. But I can’t help but think that at least some of time, it might be better to sit with this discomfort rather than reaching for a drug.

Having a young child with severe dysphoria presents an excruciating dilemma for a parent. I can’t say without any doubt what path I would choose, as I have not been faced with this very difficult decision. I do believe that those supporting these families ought to offer them honest information about what we do and don’t know, both about gender dysphoria, and the effects of transition.

MtoF tells trans kids to dump moms on Mother’s Day and join the “glitter-queer” family of adult trans activists

It’s Mother’s Day in the United States, and trans activist Rachel McKinnon, PhD in philosophy and lecturer at Charleston college, has a YouTube message for all you cisnormative, unsupportive moms out there: Get with the trans-activist program, or risk losing your kids to the “glitter-queer” family of adult trans waiting with open arms.

mckinnon

McKinnon, who is childless,  spends just under 3 minutes lecturing moms on how to parent kids who might believe they’re trans, then speaks directly to the children (as the YouTube written description puts it, “offer support for trans kids whose parents may not be supportive”):

I want you to know that’s it’s ok to walk away from unsupportive or disrespectful or even abusive parents. And I want to give you hope that you can find what we call your glitter family. Your queer family.  We are out there. 

You sure are: on Reddit, YouTube, Tumblr, and other online fora, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, tweens and teens will find plenty of trans adults like McKinnon, eager to take them under their wing.

And the relationships we make in our glitter families are just as real, just as meaningful as our blood families.

It’s Mother’s Day, but you trans-identified youngsters shouldn’t be thinking about breakfast in bed or a nice card for mom. No, you need to know it’s perfectly ok to abandon your mother, if she’s not onboard with your sudden mission to change sex. Not to worry: adult trans activist “glitter” families are “just as real, just as meaningful” as the people who have known and loved you all your life.

At 4:18, McKinnon, the childless parenting expert, generously offers to be a safe harbor:

Also, you can reach out to me. You can email me. You can call me.  We can Skype. I’m happy to talk if you need someone to talk to.

glitter queer familyUPDATE 5/15/17: In the YouTube comments last night, McKinnon confirmed that parental refusal to use pronouns or a new name was tantamount to abuse and a good reason to “walk away” to the queer “glitter family.”  The comments were altered this morning, but are archived here.

But enough heartfelt cooing from the surrogate trans parent. As important as this message is, trans kids, the bulk of this video isn’t really about you.  Nor is Mother’s Day about you, you cissexist mom.  Once the online support-group advertisement is out of the way in the first 5 minutes, the real meat of the infomercial is this:  Daddy, once he “transitions,” has just as much right to be celebrated as a mom as you do:

Is it ok for trans women to be a mommy? Is it ok for trans women to take on the mantle of motherhood?  I talk to a lot of trans women who had children before they transitioned. There’s this idea that going from being dad…to being mom…is somehow taking away from their wife or partner or their children’s mother. It’s somehow “usurping” [air quotes] something that belongs to the original mother. And I wanna suggest that this thought that “mother” and therefore “Mother’s Day” belongs to the cis mother in the partnership, is BOTH cissexist and heteronormative.

McKinnon goes on for several minutes, attempting to justify the idea that someone who fathered the children should get to be called “Mom” because, after all, there are lesbian families with two moms—so what’s the prob? A cis mom and a trans mom are exactly the same as two lesbian women! McKinnon goes further:  if the “original father” who is ostensibly now a woman doesn’t get to be called “mom” too, this “erases lesbian mothers.”

For good measure, McKinnon adds adoptive parents into this “argument” too, drawing a false equivalence between adoptive mothers and men who fathered children and now want to be called “mom” because mothering isn’t just about biology.

And it’s cissexist to say a trans woman can’t be a mother…because it seems to suggest she’s not really a woman. The language we usually use for a woman parent is “mother.” So to deny that to trans women is to suggest that cis women own motherhood. And that’s a problem.

cissexist bs

Once McKinnon finishes schooling viewers in the proper language to be used, we get a lesson in all the ways families can celebrate Mother’s Day with their newfound enlightened thinking:

You could both celebrate on Sunday, or –and this is what a friend of mine does – one of the mothers is celebrated on the Saturday, and the other mother on the Sunday, and every year they swap who gets Sunday. …so that way, both moms get equal treatment …they both get to feel special.

We wouldn’t want the former dad to feel diminished or snubbed on that special day, now would we?maddy

Another issue is that trans women sometimes don’t feel comfortable being called “mommy” or “mom.” …What are some alternatives? One common way is for the trans mom to be referred to as “Maddy” or “Mada” …

Then there’s Didi and Dommy, but as McKinnon helpfully points out,

…although for the BDSM people, that last one might have a completely different meaning.

dommy

Then you can always

…encourage the children to produce their own affectionate nickname for the trans mother.  I know trans women early in the transition are uncomfortable being called “mommy” but that may change over time. So be open to your preferences shifting. Also it’s important that it’s about your preferences and people respect your preferences.

I know we have a tendency to worry about the children but I think if we communicate to the children that this is important to you and that it makes you feel bad if they call you daddy, if you would prefer mommy, that they will come around to it, they will respect it.

Don’t worry about “people” like your kids (or the “original” mom)—they’ll come around.  Because it’s all about what you, you, you (me, me, me!) —YOU, the trans woman want and feel.

So, yay! Happy Mother’s Day!

If you, as a trans woman, want to take on the mantle of mother, awesome! I think you have permission to do that.

On Twitter, McKinnon is miffed that (so far) the video has gotten a thumbs down: WTF is wrong with them?

mckinnon gripe twitter

According to McKinnon, only a transphobe would find anything peculiar about an adult trans activist inviting “trans kids” (again, McKinnon’s term, generally understood to mean transgender people under the age of 18) for direct contact via Skype.

Mckinnon bad message

This morning, McKinnon added a new comment to the YouTube video, claiming that the repeated use of “trans kids” in the video/video title is only in reference to “teens and adults” (even if true, teens under 18 are still minors).

Like the “teen or adult” in the video at timestamp 3:16, presumably?

If–despite all evidence to the contrary–McKinnon really wasn’t targeting the “call me, Skype me, email me” invitation at minors, one simple sentence in the video itself would have sufficed to make that clear, like: “Now, of course I would never interfere in a relationship between parents and their minor children, but if you are a legal adult in need of support, contact me!” McKinnon did add a disclaimer to the description text below the video days after the YouTube was originally posted; no such caveat existed until we blogged about it.

Better late than never?

 

The Lost Generation Strikes Back

by Worriedmom


Dateline: New York, New York, May 6, 2027

 

When you look back at it, what’s most striking is how it seemed like nothing much was happening…and then it happened all at once.  Like watching a thunderstorm roll in over the prairie: the sky strobes with flashes of far-off lightning and the thunder is a barely audible rumble, the clouds mass slowly, the wind picks up bit by bit, but it seems hundreds of miles away; until suddenly it’s right on top of you and pouring down like there’s no tomorrow.

Was it the emergence of PUFF (Parents United For Fairness), the nationwide group of outraged soccer dads and softball moms, who finally rose up as one to demand that girls be included in sports, once every team at every school became comprised exclusively of males and transwomen?  Or was it in 2020, when 57% of all gold medals awarded at the Olympics in women’s events were given to biological men?

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 00.10.45

Or was it the simultaneous, highly publicized nationwide demonstrations aimed at the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, by mobs of furious gays and lesbians, chanting “no gay eugenics” and demanding their movement back?  Was it the Oprah episode featuring 15 de-transitioned adults, which made #HowCouldYouDoThisToMeMom the third fastest trending hashtag in Twitter history?  Many thought the death blow came with the sex abuse scandals.  Interpol had been on the trail of “transition porn” for years, and when the Boston Globe blew the lid off in 2023, many thought the writing was on the wall.

But even though all this helped lead to the eventual fall of the once all-powerful “pediatric T lobby,” the day the movement died was when the trial lawyers smelled blood in the water.

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 00.40.22The first rumblings came when the hospitals started spinning off their gender clinics into separate corporations and classifying clinic workers as independent contractors.  Medical schools and teaching hospitals started trying to put as much daylight as possible between their own organizations and the gender crew.  Pediatric gender doctors began setting up contingency plans for a hasty exit from the practice and quietly moving assets abroad.  Insurance companies, faced by skyrocketing costs associated with transition, were by then doubly rocked by the realization that transition would only be the starting point for years of expensive treatments for chronic illnesses brought on by those same pricey procedures and drugs.

Managers of “gender clinics” belatedly realized that it might have been better to impose a distinction between transgender political advocacy and medical advice. They started cracking down on therapists and doctors who made policy and pursued professional vendettas on Twitter and Facebook, but thanks to the Wayback Machine, it was a case of too little, too late.  It took a while to weed out the clinicians who advertised primarily on Tumblr and other youth-oriented platforms, although all of that evidence came in handy later on in courtrooms across the United States.  (To this day, the Trial Lawyers of America sends the “Testpocalypse” doctor a bouquet of roses for his birthday.)

By this point, all 50 states had passed legislation that permitted “gender confirmation surgery” and cross-hormone treatment for children as young as six.  But by 2021, the first wave began to emerge of frightened, sick, and miserable adults.  Few of these individuals were counted or helped by the then-ubiquitous gender clinics, and even though their stories were suppressed by every mainstream and QT media outlet, new underground story-telling techniques started to connect them to each other.  The most prominent voice among them was Brayden, a rising star on the once-popular Trans Channel who had begun his transition at age 7 months.  By then the permanently disabled victim of years of unproven drug therapies and repeated (and unsuccessful) surgeries, all of which were televised, Brayden became a crusader for the “lost generation,” as the legions of victims began to call themselves.  Telegenic and appealing, before he passed away Brayden became the “face” of the movement, and achieved what thousands of previous victims could not: attracting sympathetic news coverage from the many outlets that had once been under the sway of the all-powerful T lobby.

Eventually the stories of the lost generation reached the ears of people who had a tremendous financial interest in seeing to it that they received justice, or at least compensation.  The first lawsuits were launched.  How could we forget that moment in 2022 when, right after he filed the first of what became dozens of lawsuits, a key plaintiff’s class-action attorney was interviewed on the steps of the Southern District of New York: “Dude, we brought the cigarette industry down.  You really think this is going to be hard?”

Although there were several tricky legal problems that had to be resolved first, the plaintiff’s bar sat up and took notice when in 2025 a Texas jury delivered the first successful $10,000,000 verdict for “wrongful transition.”

tenmillionThe verdict was later reduced on appeal, but not until discovery had revealed the astronomically high expenses that would be entailed in providing lifetime care for a young person suffering from fragile bones, peeling and broken teeth, severe mood disorder, cardiovascular disease, and, of course, sterility.  It developed that “informed consent” was anything but, since nobody involved with that documentation actually had any idea of what was being consented to.  Although practitioners had hoped this paperwork would shield them from liability, one of the earliest cases in the area established that neither minors nor their parents could provide informed consent to unknown, and unknowable, medical consequences.  The courts also generally affirmed that patients couldn’t “waive” their care providers’ gross negligence: who knew?

After that, it was off to the races, legally speaking.  Everybody left standing got sued (although by then, most of the top “pediatric gender specialists” had re-located or made themselves judgment-proof).  Insurance companies were the first to crumble: faced with virtually unlimited future expenses, they imposed a blanket denial of coverage for any “gender therapies” for under-age 18 patients.  R.I.C.O. (the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) proved a remarkably flexible tool for pursuing groups of affiliated health care providers, surgeons, counselors, drug makers, and the advocates who had encouraged and developed a steady stream of patients.

The NIH finally got into the game when in 2025, it began to finance large-scale studies of young people who had received GnRH agonists at a young age, followed by cross-sex hormones.  Unfortunately, there was no shortage of damaged and ill subjects.  At the congressional hearings that started later that year, government “watchdogs” were faced with angry speeches in the form of questions.  What congress-people from both sides of the aisle urgently wanted to know was why the FDA had permitted human experimentation on, and sterilization of, children, in violation not only of medical ethics but the Geneva Conventions.  There was no good answer.

Many of the “transgender reforms” were reversed as quickly as they’d been enacted.  For instance, the mandatory “Might You Be Trans?  No, Think About It … Really, Might You Be?” psychological screening test administered at the start of the school year for all pupils in all grades was abruptly discontinued.  Hormone-suppressing drugs and cross-sex hormones were pulled from the shelves of school infirmaries everywhere.  Congress amended Title IX again, and sports authorities everywhere agreed to pretend that the period from 2015-2027 “just didn’t happen.”

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Few of these developments healed the victims.  However, a portion of the immense liability pay-outs were eventually directed to the establishment of a nationwide fund, from which disbursements could be made to qualified plaintiffs.

As might be expected, no word was ever heard from most in the press.  There was a limited amount of soul-searching in academia (Pediatric Transition and Satanic Panic: Did We Really Get It Wrong Again? was one of the most-downloaded papers on PubMed in 2028) but by and large, the majority of the most vocal trans-proponents in the press simply “moved on,” and wished everyone else would, too.

By far the most enduring impact of the rise and fall of trans-mania, as it came to be called, will be its impact on the culture wars.  The line between “conservatives” and “liberals” became increasingly blurred, as people on both sides began, first, to realize that they indeed had a common interest and, second, that they could work together effectively despite their differences.  People who had once regarded each other with horror and fear learned that they could advocate for the same outcome, and that joining forces made their voices stronger and more credible.  The respect, tolerance and cooperation that pervaded the “trans lib” movement eventually affected social issues beyond trans-mania: working together, it was not difficult to find solutions to other social justice issues that took into account and respected personal rights and religious freedoms.  Life became much easier when one side did not have to lose so the other side could win.  At last, the war over Planned Parenthood was ended when representatives of all viewpoints were able to hammer out compromises that satisfied all (okay, most) concerns.new york trans

Once the culture wars were finally settled, people of all political persuasions realized the tremendous amounts of energy and time that had been wasted in fighting them, and turned, at last, to solving larger and more systemic problems.  Environmental, educational, economic and social problems became much more susceptible to solution once ideology was out of the picture and the goodwill of both sides was assumed.

Even with all these positive changes, I still mourn the victims, and their faces and stories will haunt me forever.  But at least I can sleep at night, knowing that I did what I could, when I could do it.

How about you?


Worriedmom is a mother of four (allegedly) adult children, who lives in the Northeastern part of the United States.  She practiced law for many years and now works in the non-profit area. She is available to interact in the comments section of this post.

Graphics by Lily Maynard


 

A “sinister mental trap”: One man’s journey back to himself

Potentilla is a detransitioned male who spends his days farming, making gardens, practicing herbalism, and reading Carl Jung. He is interested in history, human nature, and the occult, and greatly enjoys giggling with strangers, the utter improbability of life, taking long walks, and making music with friends. He is available to interact in the comments section of this post. Potentilla can also be reached at potentillacinquefoil@gmail.com, where he is happy to discuss these issues privately with concerned parents and people contemplating transition or detransition.


by Potentilla

I was born male and lived for the first five or so years of my life totally OK with that. As I got older and was taught postmodernism, white guilt and misandry, I started to hate my male body and wanted my maleness to be destroyed. I became suicidal and practiced self harm, including towards my genitals. I wanted to magically turn into a girl, and thus be redeemed.

Growing up, it was hard for me to conform to the norms of American masculinity. Part of this is that my dad is a reflective and empathetic man, and so my natural model is someone who himself doesn’t necessarily conform to gender norms. Nevertheless, I was ok with my body until maybe the age of 19, when I realized I’m attracted to other men and am both a “bottom” and somewhat swishy. Around 20 I had multiple crises; I moved to a gay hippie commune, I broke up with my first serious boyfriend, I did too many drugs, became homeless, and had several very confusing sexual relationships with women.

Slowly I came to believe that I was a repressed woman. It is a testament to my credulity that I could honestly assess my own life situation, and yet come to that conclusion. But that is exactly what happened. Trans let me explain away all my problems with a new and compelling narrative. This promise held enormous emotional appeal. At the time, I was living in a trans/genderqueer space where there was a cult-like atmosphere in regard to transitioning. Being trans made you an insider and conferred upon you sympathy, respect, and resources. Being merely gay was frowned upon.

For the past 10 years ago or so, I’ve “lived as a woman.” For the first 8 years of that, I was on cross sex hormones, when I began to use herbs to manage my health.  I had an orchiectomy about 7 years ago. After my surgery, every punk house was open for me to live in. I had become a protected class.

Even though I didn’t pass as a natal female, being trans made my life easier to navigate socially. People seem much more comfortable with a somewhat feminine man becoming a transwoman than a somewhat feminine male owning his maleness. It is fascinating that this is the case, that it was and is scarier for me not to pretend I’m a woman.

So, I had some very compelling reasons to transition, those being:

  1. unprocessed trauma concerning my gender
  2. poor mental health and poor reality testing
  3. social pressure
  4. social rewards
  5. a postmodern ideology that rewards transition

I believe that the trans movement has qualities that make it very similar to a cult. I became trans for the very same reason that people join cults; and similarly to those who escape cults, I’ve found profound healing in my slow path towards detransition.

Now, almost ten years later, it is clear that I am not a woman. In fact, it is obvious that I am still very much a male, but now with breasts and mutilated genitalia. That is an uncomfortable position to be in; not only was I mistaken; everyone knows it. But his uncomfortable reality is still preferable to the intense self-delusion and narcissism that I lived in and with for many years.

The Curse of Trans

While there is a certain temptation to accept all of this as personal failings; while there are certainly many ways that I have been weak and unstable, it doesn’t feel particularly genuine to try to explain my immersion into trans as solely a personal choice and experience. To understand trans sensu lato means understanding the ways it resembles a cult. I transitioned only after heavy indoctrination into genderist ideology. Most pertinent was the pernicious “cis” and “trans” dichotomy.

I believe this binary ideology to be a very profound curse to susceptible individuals. “Cis” is defined as someone who is okay with their body as it is, while “trans” means someone who isn’t okay with their gendered body, regardless if they physically transition or not. Given this definition, most people have at certain points of their lives been functionally trans. This is usually especially pronounced at puberty, and it is horrifyingly predictable that we’re now seeing a trend of trans children, given the intersection of pubescent dysphoria and genderist ideology.

When I encountered this false dichotomy, naturally I put myself on the side of “trans” because I have a long history of hating my gendered body. Once I accepted this as true, I was locked into the certain path of claiming I was a woman. This led to faith-based beliefs that “gender is innate” and “I am a woman,” which in turn led to the blind faith that “hormone replacement therapy will solve my problems” and “I’ll be so much happier after I’m castrated and no longer male.” This was compounded by the widespread belief that transgender feelings grow worse with time and inevitably lead to insanity or suicide if there is not medical intervention.

And away I went, my mind totally taken with genderist ideology, with full faith that transitioning was the only way to save my life.

This is why I consider “trans” to be a curse. I imagine the evil trans witch standing over the gender-nonconforming children lost in the woods, reassuring them that “cis people are comfortable with their bodies and trans people aren’t. I can help you become at home in your own body” as the children follow her deeper into the woods to be transformed. What the children don’t realize is that they must pay for this with a piece of the glowing, golden ball that is in their hearts. Later, only a few become disillusioned and decide to retrieve the piece of their heart that they lost. They wander alone hither and thither in the dark woods for many years to find the sacred springs where they wash off their deception, fear and helplessness, and find that the golden ball never actually left. They are still themselves, only disfigured and disoriented by the deal they made with the evil witch. But they are finally able to leave the dark forest and again become part of the human family.

glowing heart

I’m open to the idea that some individuals need to transition to live their authentic selves. There may very well be folks who genuinely and beautifully find themselves in transition. That being said, though, I believe it is inevitable that these stories of self-discovery through sex change, no matter how true they are or beneficial to the individual, contribute to the destructive myth of the trans/cis binary. I don’t want to generalize too much from my own experience, but I also strongly believe that transition does profound harm, even when it does help. People have the right to transition, but I also believe that the entire gender identity movement has become unfathomably destructive, especially to gender nonconforming young people who, for the most part, would almost certainly otherwise be homosexuals. There are areas of subtlety which I’m not sure how to explore in this regard, and they are beyond the scope of this essay.

Sense of Self

During the time I believed I was a woman, I enjoyed every step of transition, because it gave me an identity. I didn’t know who I was and a transgender narrative gave me a handle to understand myself. Rather than needing to take care of the wounded parts of my self, I created an entirely new persona, and I played that part every moment of every day.

This worked as a great solution for a time; I did a good job playing that part, rather than living as my authentic self, and was thus shielded from the vicissitudes of the world. This is of course textbook narcissism, which makes me wonder if trans is as much a cult of narcissism as a cult of gender.

With time however, my authentic self was nonetheless nurtured by my experiences and I began to become more genuine. This transformation had three parts:

1) Leaving the Trans Cult

After a nasty breakup, I left a queer land project and LGBT community where postmodern Marxist ideology was very dominant. I constantly self-censored to fit in with the group. My own political leanings tend towards Burkean conservatism, so I was more or less lying to myself and others. I attended mandatory sensitivity training which had the feel of a political indoctrination meeting. Almost every day, I ritualistically confessed my guilt as a white person in conversation with my peers, and they did the same with me. Over time I began to feel an actual intense guilt. And with that, I began to wake up to the fact that this sort of politic was bad for my mental health.

So after my nasty breakup, I left this queer community and got a live-in job at a farm. My coworkers there were much more free thinking, and I began to find it easier to think for myself. That year I worked 55-hour weeks and read about 60 books (including Spengler, Odum’s Ecology textbook, Marcus Aurelius, Homer, and more). This study, and the new milieu with new friends, allowed me the opportunity to learn that I’m strong and capable living on my own, and my worldview was massively expanded.

2) Going off Hormones

About 9 months after leaving the trans cult, I stopped taking hormones, and began taking herbs, and studying them, to maintain my health instead. I could pursue a passion that connects me to my inner self while showing me that I’m not dependent on maintaining a trans identity to meet my own health needs.

medicinal herbs

I’ve also developed skills which have helped many other people. In turn, I saw people valuing me for something deeper than my identity. I am very passionate about plants and have been my entire life. I am also open and spiritual in my psychological orientation. This makes the study and practice of herbalism deeply rewarding to my authentic self, and helped me become strong enough to escape from living mostly out of my trans identity.

3) Detransition

After leaving the queer land projects, I fell into several other social milieus where thoughts were heavily policed. By this point I had already stopped believing in the idea of transition, but kept up appearances for social benefit–and that social benefit was huge. Certain people would hire me because I was perceived as trans. I could find places to live with queer folks largely on account of my identity. Living in these environments, which were well stocked with self-appointed thought police, was bad for me, and I began contemplating leaving. Near the end of this time I developed debilitating chemical sensitivities, and decided my best bet was to live with my parents for a time. At that point, the entire trans narrative dissolved, and just as quickly, my chemical sensitivities became very easily manageable.

Some Closing Thoughts

Over the years, I’ve known dozens of trans people. Most had reasons that were less convincing than my own for transition, and as we’ve seen, my own justifications were rather feeble. This leads me to believe that, by and large, trans is a disingenuous ideology that is a current mass hysteria. It is also clearly something of an unintentional eugenics program against gender nonconforming folk. The entire enterprise makes me feel sick. It has become trendy to commit oneself to lifelong hormone therapy and surgical mutilation. I was not able to correctly appraise the situation at the time I became trans and deeply regret the decision now.

Going a little deeper, trans is profoundly sexist and actually creates less diversity in expression. I went from an authentic, studious, awkward, somewhat feminine man to performing full time as a trans woman. Eventually my authentic self reasserted itself, and now I’m slowly moving towards more integration. The trans narrative does much more than merely normalize mental illness; it creates mental illness. I would have never transitioned if I hadn’t been wounded by postmodernism and then given an escape hatch in trans. The narrative made me crazy just as much as my own predisposition made me vulnerable to it.

My sense is that no one wants to hear the voices of detransitioners until it is too late. My sincere hope is that some people who are considering transition, as well as parents with “trans” children, might read my essay and choose a brighter path than that of transition. Please learn from my mistakes and consider other options. Most dysmorphia goes away with time. The entire trans narrative is a sinister mental trap which is profoundly harmful. There are infinitely better ways to deal with the universal experiences of dissatisfaction and desire to be someone else.