Update: Top San Francisco phalloplasty surgeon now with 8 malpractice suits

by Worriedmom

Second in a series. Part 1 is here.

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


San Francisco phalloplasty surgeon, Curtis Crane, M.D., continues his odyssey through the San Francisco court system. Since our initial post about Dr. Crane and his legal troubles, one of the lawsuits that was then pending against him has apparently been settled, and two more have been filed. This brings to a total of eight the number of times that Dr. Crane has now been sued for medical malpractice in San Francisco Superior Court.

This post updates the reader on the various lawsuits now pending against Dr. Crane, and also documents the peculiar silence with which these allegations have been greeted in the transgender community. It is indeed strange that, for all their fears about violence and mistreatment, transgender activists do not appear concerned in the slightest about a member of the medical profession who is alleged to have botched multiple surgeries, behaved insensitively (some would say cruelly), and caused medical havoc for many. (Of course, the allegations contained in the complaints detailed herein, until either admitted, or tested and proven in a court of law, remain just that – allegations).

In fairness to Dr. Crane, let’s start with some general observations about medical malpractice. Although it’s difficult to find comprehensive statistics, a recent (2017) survey conducted by Medscape found that 55% of all practicing U.S. physicians have been sued at least once. According to the survey, surgeons, such as Dr. Crane, are particularly likely to be sued (85% of them have faced a malpractice suit at some point in their careers). However, a large-scale study using data from the National Practitioner Data Bank also found that a tiny fraction of doctors (1%) accounts for almost one-third (32%) of paid medical claims.

Claim-proneness results from a number of factors, including type of specialty, age and sex; however:

“Compared to physicians with only one previous claim, a physician who has had three previous claims is three times as likely to have another one,” said lead author David Studdert, a professor of medicine and law at Stanford. “A physician who has had four is four times more likely and so on.”

Dr. Crane thus appears to be among the fraction of physicians who are extremely frequent targets for medical malpractice lawsuits.

Before getting into the details, we wondered whether perhaps lawsuits are a common occurrence in practice areas such as this one that involve relatively experimental or new procedures, and a patient base that might tend to have unreasonably high expectations. But a San Francisco Superior Court record search for Doctors Thomas Satterwhite, Michael Safir, Richard Santucci, Ashley DeLeon, and Charles Lee, all surgical partners in Dr. Crane’s practice, does not reveal any pending medical malpractice lawsuits for any of these doctors. Curious indeed.

As is common to all United States courts, records of lawsuits and the underlying documents can be found by going to the court website for the appropriate jurisdiction, in this case the San Francisco Superior Court. It is helpful to have the case number (also called an “index” or “docket” number), although a search can also be performed using the person’s name, so those are provided below.

A review of the lawsuits pending against Dr. Crane reveals the following detail:

Lewis Raynor and Haven Herrin v. Crane, CGC-17-556713. The plaintiff in this case alleges negligence in connection with Dr. Crane’s implantation of an inflated pump device in a second-stage phalloplasty, and the subsequent infection and loss of 40% of the plaintiff’s penis. Trial is set for December 17, 2018.

Crane Part 2 Raynor

Doe v. Crane, CGC-17-557327. The plaintiff alleges negligence in connection with three “transformative urological surgical procedures,” including a “procedure similar to a metoidioplasty,” replacement of testicular implants, and the placement of a new 3-piece inflatable implant. A metoidioplasty is a surgical procedure that uses clitoral tissue that has been enlarged through testosterone use to form a “neophallus.” Trial is set for February 19, 2019.

Carter v. Crane, CGC-16-554254. This case involves the truly unfortunate case of Cayden Carter, a young trans man who has endured over 20 surgeries in a thus far fruitless quest to obtain, and then ameliorate the effects of, a male-appearing genital structure. Carter maintains a Tumblr blog and has written extensively about the many surgeries and lasting problems resulting from the original phalloplasty, including an ileostomy and the continued need for a colostomy bag.

Crane Part 2 Carter

According to Carter’s complaint, the first surgery performed by Dr. Crane resulted in a perforated colon, which Dr. Crane first ignored and then failed to repair. There is no trial date set for this matter.

Taylor Carson v. Crane, CGC-17-556743. This case involves a plaintiff who was operated on twice by Dr. Crane, first to create a penis (which became infected) and second to attempt to repair holes in the urethra in the new penis (which failed). The entire penis was later removed, and the plaintiff was informed by another doctor that he never should have been considered for this surgery. The case has been set down for trial on March 4, 2019.

Crane Part 2 Carson

Doe v. Crane, CGC-17-560690. This case involves a plaintiff who had already undergone several transgender surgeries who wished to replace an earlier phalloplasty with a new graft that would also include lengthened urethra. The plaintiff had already undergone a “vaginectomy” (surgery to remove all or part of the vagina) and a “scrotoplasty” (a plastic surgery designed to transform part of the female genital area into a scrotum). According to the plaintiff, he specifically advised Dr. Crane’s practice in advance of surgery that he did not require a vaginectomy or a scrotoplasty; however, during the phalloplasty both of these surgeries were indeed performed. Interestingly, possibly due to potential statute of limitations restrictions, the plaintiff brought his complaint seeking damages for “medical battery” and “promissory fraud,” rather than medical malpractice. On January 4, 2018, the court denied Dr. Crane’s motion to dismiss the complaint. Trial is set for June 24, 2019.

Oliver Davis v. Crane, CGC-17-557363. This case involves Dr. Crane’s performance of a stage 1 phalloplasty that subsequently acquired a large blood clot, which the plaintiff claims that Dr. Crane ignored.

Crane Part 2 Davis

Most recently, Dr. Crane moved to have the complaint dismissed on various grounds and on February 14 of this year he lost that motion. The case does not appear to be set for trial.

Andrew Shepherd v. Crane, CGC-17-559294. In this case, the plaintiff sought to have a phalloplasty and the construction of a “large, realistic-looking scrotum.” However, the scrotum that the plaintiff was allegedly given by Dr. Crane was too small to contain even the smallest testicular implants. Since this surgery, the plaintiff has had two more surgeries, with other doctors, to obtain a larger scrotum, but they have both been unsuccessful. The case is set for trial on April 15, 2019.

In addition to the above seven cases, an eighth case, Doe v. Crane, CGC-16-550630, has now been settled (as of June 2017). This case also involved urology/surgical services provided as part of a female-to-male transition. According to the plaintiff,

Crane Part 2 Doe

The court documents do not disclose what, if anything, the plaintiff received in settlement of the case.

One allegation common to virtually all of the above cases is that Dr. Crane “over-promised” and “under-delivered” in terms of the likely success, appearance, and functionality of the constructed genitals. Moreover, several of the plaintiffs also allege that Dr. Crane’s response, when confronted with complications or distressing symptoms following surgery, was inadequate, unconcerned, and even unfeeling.

As a final note, other than coverage by 4thWaveNow, there appears to be nothing on the internet about Dr. Curtis Crane that is not completely laudatory and admiring of his surgical skills and acumen. YouTube videos sing his praises (see “Dr. Crane is AHmazing” and “Do I Regret Lower Surgery?” for two recent examples) . The Brownstein-Crane Facebook page contains 22 5-star reviews and only 2 negative reviews (neither of which mention the eight malpractice lawsuits). Susan’s Place, a major resource page for transgender people to connect and share resources, has a thread on Dr. Crane which contains only praise and, again, no mention of the extensive legal history cited above. Transgender Pulse, another major transgender resource and support forum, also has none of the above information about Dr. Crane. TSSurgery.com, a site providing information for transgender people about surgeons and others, that also contains reviews, has a large section on Dr. Crane, but again, no mention of his legal troubles.

Poignantly if not somewhat hypocritically, the “ftm” (female to male) Reddit references our earlier post about Dr. Crane as the source for information about his practice, and goes on to allege that his practice has been dropped from the Kaiser Permanente California health plan due to “the amount of lawsuits” against him:

Crane Part 2 ftm reddit

We were not able to confirm whether Dr. Crane is still a listed physician with Kaiser Permanente from that insurer’s site, but at least one additional source seems to confirm that he is not. (The insurance section of Dr. Crane’s practice’s website also does not indicate that it is “in-network” with Kaiser Permanente.)

The types of injuries detailed above are truly sad. One can only imagine what life will be like for these patients in the years ahead, as they try to cope with malformed, misshapen, and certainly non-functional genitals. Moreover, many of these plaintiffs will have difficulty in maintaining proper excretory function, a complication that can have serious ramifications for health. The embarrassment, pain, expense, and disappointment must be profound. We ask, why are these actual injuries, suffered by actual transgender people, so much less important to the transgender community than such nebulous insults as “mis-gendering,” the inability to access a desired dressing room, or hurtful Tweets? The fact that Dr. Crane has been sued for medical malpractice in connection with transgender surgery no fewer than eight times in the last two years is a highly pertinent and relevant thing for transgender people to know. Why doesn’t the community want people to know it?

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

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


By Inga Berenson

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

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

The offending words

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

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

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

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

Unmasking euphemisms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mermaids unsupportive parents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncomfortable truths

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

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

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

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

An RN & mum of a trans-identified young adult on perils of off-label cross-hormones as first-line treatment for gender dysphoria

Mumtears is a registered nurse, a wife, and mum of two daughters, currently aged 23 and 20 years old. She lives with her husband of 27 years, the father of her two daughters. She says: “Because of my currently unpopular thoughts, and because of not wanting to cause harm to my family, I feel I need to remain anonymous. I also started a blog a while ago, but- frankly- I haven’t kept it up. I am not very technologically sophisticated. If you want to read what there is in my blog, you can find it at myheartandhope.wordpress.com.” She can be found on Twitter @Mumtears1 and is available to interact in the comments section of this post.


by Mumtears

I have been a registered nurse for 30 years. From childhood, I always wanted to be a nurse. I really feel like being in the nursing profession was a “calling” for me.

While going through my post-secondary studies, studying for my Bachelor of Nursing degree, I recall being taught that, in all conditions, medical and nursing treatments should always begin with the least invasive way to treat that condition. I was taught that this was best practice care for the human body.

I have had many years’ experience working in Acute Care Pediatrics at our local children’s hospital. It was there that I learned that children are not simply “little adults”. Pediatric patients require specific attention and care, due to their rapidly developing minds and bodies. Their bodies and minds function very differently from adults. Medications and treatments are all prescribed based on the child’s body weight. They also cross different developmental stages at different rates on their way to becoming adults.

For the past 7 years, I have been working at a very busy family practice, caring for all types of patients with all types of concerns, from birth to the very elderly. I work with a family physician who also specializes in transgender care and sexual health. I have seen, assessed and cared for countless adult transgender patients. They comprise a combination of male-to-transgender and female-to-transgender patients.

Almost 5 years ago, my youngest (then 16) daughter expressed to her dad and me that she “thought she should be a boy”. That was the day our family life changed in ways we never anticipated. Throughout childhood, our daughter never presented as stereotypically “masculine”. She never outwardly expressed to us any kind of discomfort. She appeared to be mostly happy. A bright spark. She loved to play outside: doodle with chalk on sidewalks, sandbox play, climb trees, ride bikes. She smiled often. She loved building with Lego, playing Polly Pockets and with tiny toy horses. She enjoyed making tiny crafts, including models of people and animals made of Sculpey clay.

She was also very academically smart, reading beginner short novels before entering Grade 1. She taught herself how to tie her shoes and how to ride a bike. With the help of her father, when she was about 8 years old, she built one amazing bicycle from two used bikes purchased at a garage sale. In Grade 4 she challenged a Math unit about fractions and passed the final exam with flying colours, even before the unit began. She was musically advanced, playing beautiful piano tunes at age six, wonderful tenor saxophone solos in junior high. We had her tested for giftedness by a school psychologist. He told us that she was “just below” the gifted category.

We parents did begin to notice some general, social discomfort in late junior high, but we assumed that this was normal teen awkwardness, which can happen during puberty, so we were not concerned about it. We were absolutely blindsided by her proclamation that she thought she would be a boy.

My older daughter never had a temper tantrum when she was a toddler. I thought it was down to good parenting. How wrong I was. When our younger daughter was born, she behaved quite differently from her sister. Different personalities, which was not surprising to us because my husband and I are also very different from each other. Our youngest daughter started having temper tantrums at 18 months of age, which lasted 4 long years. Then, it was like a light switch turned on. Suddenly she realized she could settle her emotions down by reading quietly, alone on her bed. After just over 4 years of a frequently chaotic time, our house and family seemed to be at peace again. It was lovely.

Thinking back to this time in early childhood, I thought my daughter’s gender discomfort might be a similar phase for her. I still think it might be. I pray that, with time and life experience, she will develop an acceptance and comfort about her female body, and a knowledge that being the female sex does not have to place limits on her happiness and what she can accomplish in life.

drawing-testosterone-injectionBefore daughter told us she thought she should be a boy, I had already seen and assessed countless adult transgender patients. They comprised a combination of male-to-transgender and female-to-transgender patients who ranged in age from late 20s to early 50s. I admit that I when I first started working in family practice, I was very naïve about what “transgender” means. I noticed that all of the adult transgender patients I met also had comorbid mental health issues, which had not been fully resolved and, in some cases were severe/debilitating. My professional duty was (and still is) to provide excellent, compassionate nursing care to these patients. My personality is compassionate, empathetic and caring. I learned some of the transgender lingo; for example, “top” and “bottom” surgery. I’ve administered countless testosterone injections. I’ve changed the dressing on the donor arm of a young 20-something female-to-transgender patient who had recently undergone phalloplasty surgery. And now, after I administer these injections, I’ve found myself in the staff washroom, trying to compose myself for my next patient. Watching female erasure (in particular) causes me much sadness, partly due to what is going on with my own daughter. But mostly due to the fact that I am an adult female-born woman.

As I already said—but it’s worth saying again–I was taught that, in all conditions, medical and nursing treatments should always begin with the least invasive way to treat that condition. I was also clearly taught that pediatric patients have smaller, ever changing and rapidly developing bodies and minds, and need to be treated differently from adult patients. I was taught that physical, mental, and emotional development in children is ongoing, well into the early to mid 20s. Because of my knowledge about child development, both body and mind, I don’t understand why the medication Lupron is being given to healthy-bodied children. This medication is approved for use to treat adults with advanced prostate cancer and endometriosis. In children it’s used to slow down precocious (early-onset) puberty. It’s only in the past few years that it’s being prescribed for children who have gender dysphoria. This is an off-label use for this drug and it’s being given to healthy-bodied children even though there has been no research done to determine its safety or efficacy regarding gender dysphoria.

And we know that puberty blockers lead in most cases to cross-sex hormones. Why is the current first-line treatment for gender dysphoria in young, healthy bodies off-label, unstudied cross-hormone prescriptions? Young adult females can go into a family doctor’s office, state “I’m transgender”, and be handed a Rx for Androgel. This is what happened with my daughter, over a year ago. She never filled that particular prescription. However, last week she notified her father and me that she plans to start taking testosterone. She’s in a lengthy queue to be seen by our city’s gender specialist/psychiatrist and is impatient. She gave us no concrete reasons for wanting to start taking testosterone. She demonstrates little outward discomfort when she is in our home or when interacting with extended family.

She had one visit with the same family doctor who gave her the previous Androgel Rx. She told us that he told her what side effects could occur (while reading from a computer screen). She told us that he did not discuss reproductive planning with her, and that he gave her no written information about any of the side effects. She told us that he gave her the prescription and some bloodwork requisitions. This family doctor did not take a multidisciplinary team approach; he acted on his own. He did not refer her to an endocrinologist to check her hormone levels. He did not send her to any mental health professional, who could have assessed her for the source of her discomfort and possibly provided her with other less-invasive treatment options, such as cognitive behavioural therapy. How is the way in which this family doctor gave my daughter this off-label cross-hormone prescription medically ethical? In my province, family physicians can be the primary prescriber of cross-hormones. While using a multidisciplinary approach might be a good practice, it is not mandated. I’m currently trying to find answers via our provincial and national medical associations. The answers I’m looking for aren’t forthcoming.

I know that in no other medical or other health-related case would something like this happen, with regard to the prescription of off-label medications. I’d like to give you another home-based, common-sense example: Young adult child says to parent: “I have a really bad headache.” Think about this. Would it make any sense for the parent’s first response to be, “Your dad has some leftover oxycodone from his recent surgery, which he no longer needs to take- here, have some!”? Of course not. What would make medical/practical sense would be to first check that the young adult isn’t dehydrated. It is known that dehydration can cause headaches. “Try drinking some water and see if you feel better”. That would be the least invasive thing to try at first. If drinking water didn’t help the headache and if the young adult child had no know allergies or health conditions, it would be appropriate to next offer them acetaminophen, dosed per the package instructions. It is known that acetaminophen is a very effective analgesic, with a low incidence of side effects. If the headache persisted, perhaps it would be appropriate to then try a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, such as Advil. There might be some inflammation in the neck or jaw muscles, causing the headache, which, if reduced, could relieve the headache. It is known that Advil is a mostly safe anti-inflammatory medication, with low potential side effects.

Recently I attended a Medical Education Session, which was held at a recent clinic retreat. The session was about low testosterone levels in adult males and testosterone replacement therapy. What I learned is, that for male bodied patients, the recommendation is that if the testosterone bloodwork result is low, it is important to clearly understand the patients’ symptoms concerns and general health. If the patient’s symptoms are low and the patient is not concerned, then giving the patient a prescription for testosterone is not advised. This is because there are also many side effects that can happen from taking testosterone, which can cause negative symptoms/concerns for the patient–especially if these male-bodied patients also have other health concerns. I learned that this is appropriate safe medical care for male-bodied patients.

I’ve done my own learning about testosterone. The pharmacy companies’ printed drug information about testosterone products states that this medication should not be given to women. It has never been studied in female bodies. Also, there are no long-term studies which indicate safety or a positive result for females who take this medication. Physicians are prescribing it “off label”.

I have been trying to learn as much as I can about gender dysphoria and its treatment. I have read many studies, documents, medical association websites, etc., and continue to do so.

When I learned about the newly recognized “rapid onset gender dysphoria”, I realized that much of its description matched what we were/are witnessing in our youngest daughter. Currently there is little known regarding care or treatments for young people presenting with rapid onset gender dysphoria. And few physicians are even aware of this phenomenon. There has been a dramatic increase, over a short period of time, in the number of teens and young adults who are seeking care for being transgender. And the demographic for which sex is declaring transgender has also changed. There are now more natal females than males with this concern.

With all that I have learned about rapid onset gender dysphoria and current treatments for it, I have more questions: Why are these off-label testosterone prescriptions being given to young healthy-bodied female patients as a first-line treatment for gender dysphoria? Especially since it is known that testosterone causes permanent body changes in female bodies, making it an invasive and irreversible treatment. Why are physicians prescribing these off-label cross-hormones without doing further assessments to ensure that this is the best treatment for their patients? I believe these are reasonable questions to ask. I believe these are prudent questions to consider. It is not transphobic to ask these questions. Many parents are asking questions like these. If you’re a parent wanting to learn more and connect with other parents, you can check out: https://gendercriticalresources.com/Support/index.php


Afterword:

I have recently learned that my daughter has likely started her testosterone prescription already. I found the receipt for it in her room at home, for low dose Androgel, from a pharmacy our family never uses, so I know that she has purchased it. She is currently living away for university, in a city which is a 2-hour drive from our home, studying in an arts program there. She has never told any of our close extended family anything about her gender dysphoria. We all live in the same city and see each other fairly frequently. Our older daughter (a graduate with a degree in Cultural Anthropology) knows and supports her sister’s claims, but that is all.

androgelOur younger daughter had the opportunity over Christmas (two Christmas dinners actually), to tell anyone in her extended family about her plan to start testosterone. She hasn’t said anything to any of them. Nothing about her gender dysphoria. I’m sure that it will be upsetting to many of them. My daughter and I text back and forth. We text about her activities (theatre, parkour). About her classes (she studies hard and gets excellent grades). About her saxophone practice (she recently was accepted into the university’s wind orchestra). I am proud of the person she is. I see so much potential for her to become an amazing woman and I am sad that she wishes to erase her female body. Frankly, I believe that “gender” is a crap concept, which is why I don’t discuss this with her. Ever since she first told us her thoughts, we have been clear in telling her our concerns. It’s up to her to think about what we have told her. We hope that she will undergo some work to understand the source of her discomfort, but we know that the decision will be hers to make. She tells us that she loves us. We have clearly told her that we love her and always will. We financially help support her post-secondary education. We want her to have many good job opportunities. We want her to have a good life and be happy and healthy. I dread her voice changing. I dread seeing her beautiful face change. And I find myself wondering if she actually needs to go through all of this, in order for her to “find herself” and come out the other side. The birth name we gave our youngest daughter means “strong”. I thought this would serve her well. We continue to use her birth name because we have not given up hope. As parents, we were never prepared for any of this. And as a registered nurse, I am very disturbed by all of it.

Baptised in Fire: A relieved desister’s story

by Sam

Sam (not her real name), 22, identified as trans between the ages of 16-19. A relieved desister, she enjoys tidying, writing, and watching the weather. She lives in the United Kingdom. Sam is available to interact in the comments section of her article.

Sam joins several other desisters on 4thWaveNow who, along with their parents, have shared their experiences of rapid onset of gender dysphoria (ROGD) in adolescence.


I was not a trans child. I was a gender-conforming little girl, as far as children are ever completely gender-conforming.  I liked pretty clothes but I also jumped in the occasional mud-pit. I didn’t play with Lego very much, because I wasn’t particularly good at it, but who cares? Not I. I felt no discomfort with being a girl. I felt little discomfort with anything, really; I was a bossy, blunt, stubborn little girl with very important opinions about everything.

I was not overjoyed about puberty. I don’t think I’m alone in that! Bras–miserably restrictive. Periods–horrible. Men followed me home from school even when I was twelve and thirteen; I in my uniform was not a very pretty child, but that didn’t seem to be the point. I didn’t like high school because I didn’t understand how I was supposed to act. Being overtly smart, because I was, made people dislike me, so I tried being stupider, but even then, I was still doing it all wrong. I thought I wasn’t on the same wavelength as everyone else, which, of course, is what loads of people feel like. But I didn’t know that. My relationship with my parents wasn’t perfect, but it was good, and we all got on.

When I was in my teens, I got into a disaster of a relationship with a girl. I was no longer in control of myself, of my body, of when I slept and when I ate and where I could be when. Things got very difficult. As the situation became increasingly unhealthy, over a very short space of time I became deeply dysphoric. Suddenly I loathed my female body and its nauseating shapes and its catastrophic frailties with a vehemence I had never known before. I stood in the bathroom and knew I needed to wash but I couldn’t take off my shirt, I couldn’t, because of what was underneath it, so I went out foul. I lost a lot of weight–partly from stress and partly to prove I could still control one aspect of my body. The new flatness of my chest only relieved me, it felt good like nothing else in my life felt good. As my legs got scrawny and the line of my figure straighter I felt only relief. I dressed only in masculine clothing, chopped my hair very short, felt like it made me tough, mean, safe. I still remember the exact moment a man said, “Excuse me, mate” to me as he passed me. It felt so much better than being hit on, even if nothing felt very good anymore.

God, everything hurt. I was desperate, unspeakably desperate to be in control of my own body, in the middle of a situation in which I wasn’t. I wanted to be strong, but I wanted even more to disappear. I wanted everyone in the world to go away. If my body was different, I knew I would have power, to walk away, to STOP IT.

I knew a little about what this was that I was feeling, I’d looked it up online –oh, I’m trans.  I tried to tell my girlfriend that I was trans, that I wasn’t a girl. She carried on as if I had said nothing, wouldn’t humour me by using my new name. I was stung, confused. A friend gave me a binder. I got thinner. I was “he”, or maybe “they”, yes, that was nice, like a cool drink of water; just anyone not called “she”. The “she” I was walking around in felt disgusting to me. “She” was all wrong. Skinny male me, pleasantly mistaken for a boy, felt like a port in the storm, if still not enough. I wanted control, control, of my body, of my life, but not to be me as I had been, because whoever that was far away, getting further away all the time, waiting for all of this to be over. I wanted like hell to be everything I wasn’t, and I didn’t know that other people felt that way too, not just transgender, but apocalyptic, so I was all alone.

The relationship ended. I was in a bad way. I’d made a Tumblr blog, looking, really, for a space that I could have to myself to vent, and I found myself on it a lot more. There is good stuff on that website. But the nasty stuff is so easy to find and so hard to wriggle free of if you’re like I was: lonely, miserable, hollow, and utterly lost, uneasy about everything, because now that she was gone I wasn’t quite so sure about being a boy, but I knew very definitely I couldn’t be a girl. Everything was still all wrong.

It’s difficult to explain what the “nasty stuff” is if you haven’t spent time on there yourself, exactly how pervasive and focused the brainwashing is, how perverse and suffocating and addictive it can be. The convoluted and illogical discourse, the constant shifting of goalposts so you are always on your toes to know what can I say? What am I allowed to think? What does this word mean today? So many lies were told to me about gender, sex, oppression, people, love, health, and happiness. I didn’t get better, and neither did anyone else I spoke to, but we were assured that this way–with our made-up pronouns and our made-up genders and our self-diagnosed illnesses–was the right way. It was a real crabs-in-a-bucket mentality, where any criticism, even of downright abusive behaviour, was transphobic and/or ableist and/or racist. To suggest improving oneself, sorting out your life, was cruelty of the highest order; we were perfect as we were, they  cooed, and anyone saying otherwise hated us and everyone like us. Narcissism ruled supreme.

We copied the writing style everyone else used, and we copied what they said too. They said and then we said we were beautiful. They and then we said we were against the world, the cis world, the hateful world, the world that wasn’t ideologically pure like we were ideologically pure. Nobody suffered like us. We were martyrs, floating high above reproach and deserving, more than anyone, of every good thing in the world: comfort, other people’s money. We deserved to have every rule bent for us, because we were right and they were wrong.

I could go on, describing every argument they used to justify this attitude, but I doubt they’d work on you. A lot of us were young teens, vulnerable in some way, whether abused or ostracised from society or just weak-willed. They gave us a new self, and all the power in the world. We thought so ruthlessly, that people against us didn’t deserve to live, reasoned it out in our mad non-reason –horrible, horrible, icy, inhumanly mechanical thinking that I have never encountered anywhere else since. We didn’t think about what we said, we just repeated what we knew we were supposed to say, and really, truly thought we were expressing our own thoughts.

They told us that we could choose a gender, any gender, out of countless, that we could make up our own and they would be taken seriously; they were, but only ever by others on there. Words on Tumblr ceased to mean the same as in the real world. Words were made up. They said if we wanted to wear make-up, or pink, or feminine clothes, we had to have a label for that, and if we wanted to have short hair, and wear masculine clothes, we had to have a label for that too.

I am not even touching the language around sexual orientation, because that is a whole other article. If we liked to switch how we “presented”, we would have a label to describe that we switched, and we could also change our labels and our pronouns day-to-day to describe how we felt (FELT! That is the crux of all of this nonsense) each day. It is so, so exhausting to be constantly examining every desire, thought, inclination of your shifting, constantly changing adolescent self, trying to find a word to fit, only to question yourself again the next week, or day, or hour. We adjusted our entire sense of self once, again, again, again. Every time, distancing ourselves a bit more from the person we used to be, that we couldn’t bear to be anymore. (I think we knew the old us would be ashamed, so we hid our faces from them.)

The time I wasted! Years on this! The energy! They say “agender” means I don’t have a gender. Do I feel like that? How do I know? How can you “feel” that? They said this was freeing for us, to finally know what to call ourselves, but the boxes they said we had to choose from were so tiny we couldn’t fit, unless we had a hundred, and even then we didn’t feel satisfied. We were forcing ourselves apart into splinters until we weren’t people any more, just words, and words that didn’t mean anything.

Why on earth weren’t we happy? We were children who knew so little about the world, and we believed everything everyone on Tumblr said. They–and then we–all spoke with such perfect arrogance, like we knew everything. We knew we did. There was also an awareness we had–although never, ever voiced, even to ourselves –that if we were just a white, normal, “cis” kid, we couldn’t be part of this club. We were part of it because we were special, and we were special because we were part of the club.

I questioned nothing. I didn’t have one original thought. And I didn’t really feel a thing.

I never looked at myself and thought: girl. That wasn’t right, and what’s more, it was vile. I was something else. I knew it.

Well: my parents knew I was sad. All that I told you about above didn’t fulfil me, although I knew it had to, because I had nothing else. My misery was obvious. One day, I stopped being able to smile. I was so emotionally numb, and that frightened me. I just couldn’t make my face smile. As I spiralled deeper into the trans-cult, my parents & I had arguments over everything. I was snappy, I was mean, I was acting recklessly, I was telling them off for using language that the trans-cult said was bad, I was ignoring all of their eminently sensible and kind advice. I tried to tell them I wasn’t a girl, to use different pronouns when they referred to me.

baptised in fireWhile they weren’t angry, just bemused, and while they really did try, I never felt my parents’ efforts were good enough. It was horribly unfair of me to treat them this way when I myself was always unsure. Even when someone in the real world “validated” me, it didn’t feel as nice as it was supposed to. Why not? I didn’t know. Were they lying? Did they really get it? Why didn’t I feel happy for more than a few minutes, did it mean I was using the wrong words? I crawled back onto my online spaces for further fruitless introspection. Over time, I lost contact with virtually all my old real-life friends – I was no longer invited to anything. I must have been annoying as all hell.

One tiny event in particular– my poor parents, poor me, poor all of us– sticks in my head and makes me feel sick whenever I think of it:

I was in the car. They were driving me to a college lesson because I hadn’t got up in time, because I wasn’t sleeping. I hadn’t washed. Before I got out of the car, my mother gave me a five-pound note.

“It’s the “cheering-up Sam” fund,” she said.

I suppose it sounds silly. But it burns. I’m looking down at that five-pound-note in my hand, and it’s breaking my heart. They knew I was so sad, but what could they do? They loved me so much, but what could they do? What were they supposed to do? How could they possibly help me? I couldn’t hold a civil conversation with them. I was mad, wildly irrational. I knew I was in the wrong but my pride was searing me full of holes. I lost my temper when the conversation became stressful, I walked out of the house and wandered around, alone, sick to my stomach with anger.

I became convinced that T was what I needed. I felt sick at the thought sometimes, but other times I would feel giddily sure, so eventually I summoned up the courage and called a clinic to make an appointment to start testosterone. But before the clinic called me back, something strange happened.

My dysphoria went away. It just went! Why or where it went I can’t say. I was 19 by this time, still clinging to my “trans identity”, insistent I wasn’t “cis”, but the feeling of wrongness about the sex of my body was gone and has stayed gone since. I didn’t love my body in the slightest, but I no longer hated it and think it completely, fundamentally wrong like I had before. I struggled with my weight for a long time then and after, but I began to realise I was female.

My close brush with acquiring testosterone shook me back into my senses somewhat. I was conscious as I came back into my body that I had almost made a huge mistake. The fear of what could have been stayed with me, that as my dysphoria passed I might have been trapped in a body more foreign to me than the original, a body like a boy that my brain no longer actually needed. The irreversible changes that would have occurred weighed on my mind:  the voice no longer mine, the man-face, the dark, thick hair. So anxiously, I thought – that’s not me…

I very slowly, not quite realising it, was distancing myself from the trans-cult and its thinking.

Well, this and that happened, I struggled on, I had a few setbacks, I struggled on a bit more. I got a proper job. This was the kick in the backside, the firework up the arse that I had needed. I was busy. I was tired. I was called “she” – I was too embarrassed to ask for special pronouns. I had to wear work clothes like everyone else. I took my work seriously, but I had to listen to people chatting in such a heretical way! Saying things that I hadn’t dared to even think, for so long! Talking about men being men, and women being women, so casually using language I had forgotten I could use. At some point, I started to agree with them. The hours I worked kept me off Tumblr and Twitter. The real world beamed blinding, hot sunlight into the dark and cold and dusty parts of my world. And one day, I simply deleted all of my social media. I can’t remember why – I just knew I had to. I didn’t stay to say goodbye to anybody I knew, I just wiped it all. I have never missed it since.

My relationship with my parents recovered. It’s a lot better now than it was before, somehow. They know I’m myself– a real, human woman who knows it– again. I started tentatively using the words daughter, woman, girl, sister to describe myself in conversation. Even now when I say those words I feel them in my mouth. I worked, shopped, ate, and I was doing weird things I did before; laughing like a horse, telling off-colour jokes to make my parents snort.

I had spent a lot of time at home, and perhaps the loveliest thing is that I ended up spending much time with my mother, while I was unemployed and recovering. We talked and we argued. But we talked far more than we argued. Sometimes I fell asleep while she was talking; she has a very soothing voice. Sometimes she fell asleep while I was talking – maybe my voice is soothing too. I loved my mother before, but I didn’t know how much I could love her, because I had never tried to understand her. I wonder, if I had breezed through my teens and headed out, unhesitating, into the great beyond, would I talk to her so fondly and treat her so kindly as I do now? Every cloud.

For a long time, I was a shell of myself. But the bossy, blunt, stubborn girl wasn’t all gone. The trauma I went through took time to fade to something I could manage, but I forgave her and I forgave myself. If I met her in the street I really think I could chat with her. I go stretches of days without thinking about it for more than a few seconds. At first my views on, well, everything, flip-flopped wildly. I went to a much wider variety of websites, I read books, I learned about things happening that I had missed, or worse, things where I had believed completely untrue versions of events.

The world had been such a hostile place when everyone was supposedly out to get me, and the only safe space was my Tumblr, where people only ever told me I was right. I learned that people thought a lot of things, had a lot of opinions, and get this: that some people could think one thing I agreed with, as well as another thing I disagreed with. I had been divorced from humanity in the trans-cult, and I was shocked at the empathy I found in myself for people, shocked at all these people, walking around, all with their lives and their feelings and their hearts. The “privileged” people actually suffered; I had believed they couldn’t. There was so much more suffering than I’d known there to be, but there was also so much more goodness. Every morning I realised my horizons were broader than the morning before, only to discover by the evening there was still so much more I hadn’t the faintest clue about.

Turns out, being a woman? You can wear anything you want, and you’re still a woman. You can do what you want, and you’re still a woman. Reality never needs to be validated.

My ability to think critically returned bit by tiny bit. It took time for me to get used to asking questions, checking sources, not believing every little thing I saw or read. I had been taught to believe unquestioningly and I had to wrestle myself out of the habit. Even now, I remind myself I can have opinions and I can disagree with someone, and they can disagree with me, and it doesn’t mean I’m a bad person; it just means that people are people, and I’m a person, and I have to deal with them being people just as they deal with me, because we have a great deal more in common than not. Through it all I have had the support of my parents – we can talk now.

I’m here now. I’ve slowly, quietly rejoined the human race as a woman, knowing it a miracle, holding both the stubborn determination of my childhood and the grateful joy of my young adulthood. The old me I was once so ashamed to face is here, and we are one again, baptised in fire and back fighting.

 

Who’s gaslighting whom? Susan Bradley, youth gender dysphoria expert, weighs in

Child psychiatrist Susan Bradley, MD, FRCP(C), founded the Child and Adolescent Gender Identity clinic at the Toronto Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), originally the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, in 1975. She continued to direct that clinic until 1982, when Dr. Kenneth Zucker took over as head of the clinic after joining as a student in 1977. Dr. Bradley was subsequently employed at Toronto Sick Kids Hospital, where she was chief of the department of child psychiatry. She was also head of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University  of Toronto from 1989 until 1999. She is currently professor emerita at University of Toronto, and is writing a book about supporting youth with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Dr. Bradley recently wrote an article for the Post-Millennial about the current political and clinical climate surrounding issues of childhood and adolescent gender dysphoria; highly recommended.

We will be posting a lengthy 4thWaveNow interview with Dr. Bradley in the near future. Stay tuned.


Below, Dr. Bradley responds to a recent paper by Damien Riggs (associate professor of social work) and Clare Bartholomaeus (research associate) of Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia entitled “Gaslighting in the context of clinical interactions with parents of transgender children.”

gaslighting author screen cap

The piece is, in essence, an attack on skeptical parents of trans-identified children, in the form of three “fictionalized case studies.” Riggs and Bartholomaeus characterize parents who do not fully affirm their child as transgender as engaging in “identity-related abuse”; they use the term over 30 times in their paper. According to the authors, “abuse” and “gaslighting” include such transgressions as not using preferred pronouns; cancelling appointments; and not agreeing to medical transition on the timetable preferred by Riggs and other providers engaged in pediatric transition.

The authors counsel therapists to try to see a child privately when parents are not sufficiently obsequious. They even refer to non-compliant parents as abuse “perpetrators”:


gaslighting article 5

Authors suggest therapists should find “creative ways” to make private contact with the child


We have included more screen captures from the Riggs article in Dr. Bradley’s response below. However, we will not be deconstructing the entire paper in detail. We strongly encourage readers to examine it closely.

 


by Susan Bradley, MD, FRCP(C), Consultant Child Psychiatrist

 Where is Damien Riggs coming from?

That’s what I had to ask myself when I read his diatribe against parents of youth who have recently expressed their feelings of gender dysphoria. His position seems to be this: Parents who are reluctant to simply buy into his belief that anyone who expresses feelings of gender dysphoria must be “trans” and supported in their transition with no questions asked, are not being adequately supportive of their child; further, he terms this parental skepticism “identity-related abuse.” But it’s natural for any parent of a youth expressing such feelings, particularly if they are of recent onset, to wonder “why?” or “how come now?” Such sudden changes in identity would make anyone question what is really going on inside that person.


gaslighting article 1

Parents are “gaslighters” if they question hormone blockers or want to slow down medical intervention


To be a parent of a child undergoing such a radical change in identity is a very stressful experience, with conflicting feelings of wanting to support their child, but also wanting to be sure that what they want really makes sense. If this child has a previous history of feeling rejected by peers, many parents will be aware of the damage that has been done to their self-esteem, and rightly see them as vulnerable to those who offer acceptance, at whatever cost.

But Damien Riggs, the therapist advising us, seems to see things in black and white terms: if they voice any feelings of being “trans” they must be “trans”. What about those individuals who change their minds? Does the therapist know for sure that my daughter is not going to change her mind? How do we know that this sudden, intense interest is different from other intense interests the child may have had in the past? How do we know what impact interventions such as puberty blockers will have on her future, especially if she changes her mind?


gaslighting article 2

“Cisgenderist” parents who misgender their kids should not be allowed to apologize


These are just some of the questions that would go through the minds of any caring parent in that situation. If the therapist does not address these concerns in a straightforward manner, most parents would then begin to wonder if they are in the right place to help their child. Failing to engage wholeheartedly in the “therapy” would be one way of trying to deal with their uncertainty when they sense that the therapist is not open to a discussion about their concerns.

This hardly qualifies  as “gaslighting,” a term defined in the dictionary as “behavior intended to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity” or behavior that “seeks to sow seeds of doubt” about their reality or beliefs. To the contrary, those parents are behaving as most parents would in a situation where they do not feel heard.

From the description of the process of therapy engaged in by Damien Riggs, there appears to be no attempt to help parents be understood in terms of what most would regard as very normal worries about a process that seems to be moving forward with little thought for the persons involved. There is no evidence of intent to deceive by these parents; only a lack of faith in the person directing their child’s treatment, who after all, has very little prior knowledge of that child, their issues, their vulnerability, or their ability to make a competent decision about life-altering interventions.

I would argue that Damien Riggs’ accusations about the parents “gaslighting” is unethical and lacking in understanding of the relationship between child and parent. Amongst other things it is the parents’ job to protect the interests of their children until they reach an age when they are capable of doing so by themselves.  Riggs appears not to understand the importance of this relationship when he mislabels the rather normal reactions of parents with a rapid onset dysphoric child as “gaslighting”.


gaslighting article 4

Parents who ask for a diagnosis for their trans-identified children are gaslighters.


If Damien Riggs had done a careful assessment of the youth, particularly, the girls with rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD), he would have understood that most of these young women had begun to have homoerotic feelings as they moved into adolescence. Experiencing crushes on same-sex peers is not unusual both in individuals who later become lesbian, but also in heterosexual women.

However, if you are a teen who has had social difficulties, it is easy to feel that having these feelings will make you feel more “weird” than you may already feel. Homophobic slurs are common amongst teens, further increasing anxiety about acceptance in these young girls. The process is easy to uncover if you—as a therapist—ask the right questions, in that these young women desperately want friends and someone who accepts them. The internet sites for “trans” individuals are very welcoming of anyone who expresses interest. Because many of these young women are not really skilled at self-reflection, finding a simple solution (“I’m trans!”) that makes them feel accepted seems perfect. Unfortunately, as we all know, life is more complicated and what seems like a simple way of feeling good may not be a good long term solution.

Caring parents take time to understand and accept mental health issues even when they are more common than the belief that one is in the wrong body. Recent onset gender dysphoria is a rather sudden change in how the youth sees herself, and although some of these individuals may eventually decide that transitioning is best for them, many will realize that they are lesbian and can explore that and find acceptance in a same-sex relationship without having to change their bodies. They need time to understand their feelings and explore ways of finding the best solutions for them. Parents can usually participate in being supportive when they understand what their child is struggling with and how they can help.  For Riggs to blame parents for not accepting his approach wholeheartedly is not what those of us in mental health are trained to do.