UPDATE 5/24/16: The National Review (NRO) has published an article discussing Dr. Levinstein’s post here on 4thWaveNow. It was pointed out in the comments thread on the NRO piece that Dr. Levinstein’s bio on the U Michigan-Flint site includes a statement that she is the “proud mother of a trans son.” I asked her for a response, and she submitted the following for this update.
That bio was written two years ago, prior to all my daughter’s surgeries and the ensuing and now chronic health problems resulting from testosterone, at a time when I was trying my best to be supportive of my child’s choices.
I am indeed proud of my daughter, who has been a victim in this process.
Dr. Levinstein also stated that she is happy to discuss her situation further with the press.
Dr. Kathleen “Kelly” Levinstein, PhD, LCSW, LMSW is a Professor of Social Work at the University of Michigan, Flint. Among many other accomplishments, Dr. Levinstein was a Heilbein Scholar at the NYU School of Social Work, where she also taught, and has directed and provided clinical services for people with disabilities for many years, primarily in New York and New Jersey. A clinical and research social worker for 40 years, Dr. Levinstein describes herself as “the only out autistic PhD level social worker” in the world. Her research and advocacy work includes human and civil rights violations against the autistic community.
In this post and accompanying short interview, Dr. Levinstein tells us about the ordeal currently being experienced by her daughter who has undergone transgender medical transition. Dr. Levinstein also shares her thoughts about the current increase in young women with autism being diagnosed as transgender.
A version of Dr. Levinstein’s account will be published in an anthology entitled Female Erasure: What You Need To Know About Gender Politics’ War on Women, the Female Sex and Human Rights, Tidal Time Publishing, Fall 2016. Ruth Barrett, editor, forward by Germaine Greer. www.femaleerasure.com.
For previous 4thWaveNow posts on the subject of autism and transgenderism, see here:
by Kathleen “Kelly” Levinstein, PhD, LCSW, LMSW
My daughter, who is on the autism spectrum, as am I, is now 19 years old. She had felt (and told others) that she was a lesbian most of her life. When she was 16, she began watching a TV show called “Degrassi,” which featured an FtoM character. After a few weeks, she announced that she was not actually a butch lesbian, as she had previously said, but was in fact trans. She started attending a local PFLAG meeting, where she met many trans people, including a number of FtoM trans teenagers who were raving about a certain “gender therapist.” Although the APA recommends a minimum of one year of “gender counseling” before surgery, this gender therapist (whom I consented to, before really understanding what I was doing) gave my daughter the go-ahead to have a bilateral mastectomy after only two sessions. This gender specialist never reviewed any of the Special Ed records or spoke to my daughter’s previous therapist, who had known her for a decade. And, crucially, she never asked my daughter, “Might you be a lesbian?”
The gender therapist (whom I believe has an unholy financial alliance with the surgeon) gave my daughter (then 18 and one day) the go-ahead for the $30,000 surgery (covered for all university employees and their families where I work). My daughter is now on testosterone (which she clearly is unable to evaluate the risks and consequences of).
To give you some sense of my daughter’s level of understanding of what it means to transition, she told me recently that she believes that the testosterone “will grow her a penis.” I had to break the news to her that, although this is the mythology in the PFLAG meetings (where a number of the other young trans people are also autistic), this is not the case.
She has been taken advantage of. Healthy organs were amputated. This is insurance fraud, poor clinical practice, a violation of APA standards, unethical and unjust. It is a crime not just against women, but particularly against disabled women. So many of these young women who are “transitioning” are also autistic.
My daughter has a representative payee on her SSDI [disability] check, as it was felt that she was unable to handle her own money. This was of little concern to the gender therapist. I believe that once the therapist realized the “treatment” would be covered by the University of Michigan insurance, it was full speed ahead.
You mention that your daughter previously considered herself a lesbian, and this changed when she started watching the TV program “Degrassi.” Was that the only thing that influenced her to claim a trans identity? Was there anything else?
Other than Degrassi, the PFLAG meetings–which are now the cult of trans–sealed her fate. There were no young lesbians there. In fact, there are very few young lesbians left–they are all transitioning. If she had been able to have a lesbian relationship prior to transitioning I believe that things would have transpired differently. I attempted to get her in a support group for young lesbians when she was 12, but was informed that because of liability insurance reasons, she was not welcome until age 18. By that time it was too late.
She had a legal name change in Dec of 2014, a bilateral mastectomy in April 2015, and started testosterone in Sept 2015. My daughter has severe Crohn’s Disease, and currently, she is having grave reactions to the testosterone. She has been hospitalized three times now for complications.
Many professionals, as well as some autistic people themselves, have written about the fact that young people on the ASD spectrum are often “gender nonconforming” and have a less stable sense of identity. Can you speak to this regarding your daughter?
I DO believe that there is an overlap with the autistic and transgender populations. Some studies show a higher level of testosterone in autistic human beings. For males a high enough level of testosterone converts to estrogen. This may explain the large number of autistic people of both sexes claiming that they are transgender.
In recent years, activists have agitated for disabled people to be treated as having the same “agency” to make medical decisions as non-disabled people. In fact, when anyone brings up concerns about young people with autism being questioned about their transgender identity, they are accused of “ableism.” Do you have any thoughts about this?
Yes, I agree–anyone asking for critical thinking about these issues with autistics is accused of ableism and transphobia. This is often an effective silencing tactic. I have found no allies in the autism community. Instead, there is a vilification of anyone daring to ask questions about these issues, including the evidence of MtoF physical, sexual and psychological violence against women. Women who publicly question receive death threats, threats to rape us and our children, burn us to death with gasoline, decapitate us, and so on. This all coming from people who claim they are our “sisters.”
Given that your daughter was recently hospitalized for health issues related to her use of testosterone, have you found any medical professionals who are willing to speak up about this?
I have found no health professionals willing to go on the record against this. Everyone is afraid of professional suicide and threats of violence. I am standing alone.
My daughter’s latest hospitalization has been described by doctors as due to “absorption issues.” She now has a full beard but still has her period. The testosterone is wreaking true havoc on her system.
Autistic women (again, I am one) frequently have a difficult time, sensory-wise with their periods. But rather than attempting to help us with this difficulty, our problems get labeled “gender dysphoria” and the answer has become to remove our periods from us.
We will find out in 20 years the effects of testosterone on our young women. I am confident that it will not be a pretty picture.