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.

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Too much trust

4thWaveNow contributor Overwhelmed is the mother of a daughter who previously identified as transgender. Her daughter is now comfortable being female even though she chooses to eschew conventionally feminine clothing and sports a short haircut.

Overwhelmed can be found on Twitter: @LavenderVerse


by Overwhelmed

Why does the public seemingly trust that gender doctors know what they are doing? Well, one of the reasons is the frequent media portrayals of trans kids. Children who have recently undergone medical transition are being presented as success stories, even though no one knows the long term consequences of gender-affirming treatments.

I came across this article on the University of California San Francisco website. It covers the transition of three children—two who have puberty blocker implants and one, a natal female named Oliver, whose treatment has included puberty blockers, testosterone, a double mastectomy with chest contouring, a hysterectomy (at 16 years old!) and plans in the near future for the first in a series of phalloplasty surgeries. The article also highlights the involvement of three gender-affirming pioneers—Dr. Ehrensaft, Dr. Rosenthal and Joel Baum—whom I will discuss a little later in this post. But first I will focus on Oliver.

Oliver’s story (which I’ve pulled from three separate articles) starts off as expected—a young child uncomfortable in dresses who likes short hair and playing baseball. When puberty started, it caused a great deal of distress. Suicide was considered. And then:

A few months before his 15th birthday, …stumbled across the word “transgender” online. He read about people who had had medical treatment to align their bodies with their gender identity – their inner sense of who they are.

“Bam, my life changed,” he says. “It lifted a major weight to find out I could do something about all this pressure I had been feeling.”

 At first Oliver’s parents, especially his father, didn’t accept that their daughter was really their son.

“It took me a bit to become a really supportive dad,” ….

For months they didn’t speak. But in the end, reading the suicide statistics for transgender teens brought him around.

“My kid’s not going to kill himself,” …. “I don’t care what he is, as long as he’s a productive person in society, and he needs all the support we can give him.”

Oliver was taken to UCSF’s Child and Adolescent Gender Center.

By age 15, Oliver… was on a dual regimen of testosterone, plus puberty blockers to keep his endogenous estrogen from competing with the male hormones.

While he had to endure a second puberty, and he’ll need to take testosterone for the rest of his life, he’s had no second thoughts about transitioning.

The summer after his sophomore year, he had “top” surgery – a double mastectomy and male chest contouring – in San Francisco. To pay for the procedure, which was not covered by insurance, he used earnings from years of showing and selling pigs at the Tuolumne County fair.

“It’s a lot of money for a 15-year-old,” he says of the $8,000 price tag. “But I appreciate it every day.”

His family’s insurance also wouldn’t cover a puberty blocker implant, so… at first chose cheaper but “gnarly” monthly shots. Later, concerned about unknown long-term effects of the blockers, and hating the painful shots, he opted for a hysterectomy at age 16 – performed by the same family doctor who had delivered him.

In June, he’ll undergo the first in a series of “bottom” surgeries to create male genitalia.

His only regret, he says, is not finding UCSF’s Gender Center sooner. “To not go through the wrong puberty, those kids are lucky,” he says. “That’s a team effort. You have to show [gender dysphoria], and parents have to catch it.”

Oliver’s story has been published in at least three media articles, likely reaching a large audience. The teen has also been influential in Oliver’s small town high school  where at least four other transgender students have since come out.

ucsf-logo

An increasing number of children like Oliver are announcing they’re transgender, and families are looking to the experts in the field for guidance. Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, a clinical and developmental psychologist, is one of a number of pediatric gender-affirming pioneers in the San Francisco Bay area. She is Director of Mental Health and founding member of the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center. She is a well-known proponent of the gender affirmative model and has authored two books on the subject. Ehrensaft has a private practice in Oakland and serves on the Board of Directors of Gender Spectrum.

Her credentials seem impressive, but there are concerns that her stance could unnecessarily pressure parents into eventually medically transitioning their children. She’s often quoted in news reports about trans kids. Here she is in the Duluth New Tribune article from above, rationalizing the dramatic increase in trans-identifying kids seeking treatment:

“We have lifted the lid culturally,” said developmental psychologist Diane Ehrensaft, whose Oakland, Calif. practice has seen a fourfold increase in the number of gender-questioning kids in recent years. “These kids have always existed, but they kept it underground.”

She is also quoted in the UCSF article:

“When a child says, ‘I’m not the gender you think I am,’ that can be a showstopper,” says Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, the Gender Center’s director of mental heath as well as a private-practice psychologist in Oakland. “Some parents say, ‘Not on my watch. No way am I signing off on a medical intervention. When they’re 18 they can do what they want.’ I say, ‘You’re absolutely right, you’re the ones minding the shop, but let me share with you the risk factors of holding back.’”

A parent swayed by Ehrensaft’s logic may believe that, contrary to historical records,  there were always this many trans kids. This could lead parents to disregard the impacts of social contagion. And she tells parents that being cautious and holding back medical interventions until their child is 18 could lead to serious “risk factors.” Suicide seems to be implied.

Stephen Rosenthal, MD, is another pediatric gender-affirming pioneer in the San Francisco Bay area. He is a founder of the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center and currently serves as its Medical Director. He is also the program director for Pediatric Endocrinology, director of the Endocrine Clinics, and co-director of the Disorders of Sexual Development (DSD) Clinic. Additionally, Rosenthal spends time as a professor of clinical pediatrics at UCSF and conducts research. Currently, he is participating in an NIH-funded study of pediatric medical transition.

He has stated that “these kids have a very high risk of depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. Not treating is not a neutral option. He promotes early treatment—puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and sometimes surgeries—to alleviate these symptoms without any proof of long term relief.

Under his direction, the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center has grown substantially. It opened in 2010. By 2012 there were 75 patients and currently there are over 300 patients with about 10 new referrals a month. Business is booming. Clinics are being added in San Mateo and Oakland. The UCSF Gender Center network isn’t the only place in the San Francisco Bay area offering pediatric gender affirming treatment. Stanford and Kaiser Permanente provide similar services.

What could be driving all of these children to seek treatment? Well, the San Francisco Bay Area has been well-educated by Gender Spectrum, a “national advocacy group for gender expansive youth whose mission is to create a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens.” Many schools in the area have hosted training sessions by Gender Spectrum. The goal of gender sensitivity training is to increase acceptance and decrease bullying, but it’s likely that some children get confused by the information, leading to a rise in referrals to gender clinics.gender-spectrum-logo

Joel Baum, MS, is an advocate for pediatric gender affirmation. He is the Senior Director of Professional Development and Family Services at Gender Spectrum and is the Director of Education and Advocacy for the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center. He co-wrote Schools in Transition, A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools, which I discussed in this blog post. He has spoken in schools, at conferences (mentioned in this 4thWaveNow post) and, according to this article, promotes transgender awareness on radio shows.

Per the article, it was Baum who helped Emily and her husband realize that their son was really their daughter (Kelly).

One day Emily got a call from her husband, who was in his car listening on the radio to Joel Baum, MS, the Gender Center’s director of advocacy as well as the director of education and training for the Oakland-based nonprofit Gender Spectrum. “You’ve got to turn on the radio,” he told her. “I think this is our kid.’”

Emily was horrified to learn about the high rates of harassment, school failure, and suicide among transgender youth. “I couldn’t talk about it without weeping. I kept going to all these images in our culture for transgender people, that they’re on the edge, disenfranchised,” she says. “I was thinking, ‘I can’t lose my kid. I don’t care what her gender is. I’ve got to get on the other side of those statistics.’”

Her path forward, she says, was “unconditional acceptance of my child’s truth.”

The family started regular visits to Gender Center clinics and let Kelly be their guide. She grew her hair long. In third grade, she switched her masculine birth name to a gender-neutral nickname. At age nine, she transitioned socially, becoming “she” to relatives, friends, and classmates.

Intensely private, Kelly wanted no emails to parents, no classroom announcement. Just a quiet switch in pronouns. Her elementary school administrators and teachers – faced with their first transitioning student – were “incredibly supportive,” says Emily, who sought out staff training and put Kelly in a classroom with only one student who knew her from “before”: her best friend.

Now 13, Kelly has a matchstick-sized implant under the skin near her left bicep to suppress the male hormones her body produces. She’s blossomed into a “beautiful, smart, artistic, empathetic, fun kid,” Emily says. “I’m like, ‘Whoo! I hit the jackpot.’ But it was definitely a process and a journey for our family, and our daughter, to come to understand who she was.”

Ehrensaft, Rosenthal and Baum are promoting treatment for gender dysphoric children based on unproven theories, not solid evidence. There has been a dramatic rise in trans-identifying youth, but instead of questioning why, Ehrensaft says that the increase is due to hidden trans kids coming out. Rosenthal seems to believe that pre-emptive treatment (leading children to become permanent medical patients with unknown long term side effects) is worth it to potentially avoid future depression, substance abuse and suicide. Baum doesn’t appear to consider that transgender advocacy can lead some impressionable kids to mistakenly self-diagnose as trans. Or, that it can affect how parents interpret their children, potentially leading their gender defiant kids unnecessarily down the path of transition.

And each uses suicide statistics, flawed as they are, to justify early intervention. I’ve seen many parents in news articles state that the motivation to go along with transition was to avoid suicide. Parents are scared and feel pressured. They want to keep their children alive, no matter what. They don’t feel like they have a real choice. “I can either have a live son or a dead daughter” (or the reverse) is a common saying. When parents trust the advice of gender experts, they will accept puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, mastectomies, and hysterectomies as necessary. Unfortunately, though, this approach does not guarantee a live child.

Tremendous pressure is being placed on parents to provide gender affirmative “support.” Media articles never quote these pioneers recommending what we do at 4thWaveNow—to support our children in defiance of gender. We allow our children to choose their haircuts, clothing and interests. We accept them as is, without pressuring them to conform to societal expectations. We urge caution and encourage reflection on what it means to be male or female. We consider the long term impacts of medical interventions. We don’t rush into gender affirmation via pronouns or treatments. We want to avoid suicide in our children, but realize that the underlying reasons are more complex than the trans kids media articles portray. And some of us have had success with this approach.

There is a great deal of trust being put in the experts in the field, but we need to remember that they are pioneers in the strictest sense. They are still developing new ways of thinking about and treating gender dysphoric patients. The process is not complete. Gender science is rapidly evolving and changes to treatment protocols are likely. Today’s success stories may not be tomorrow’s success stories. The trust in experts should be viewed from this perspective.

Gender-affirmative therapist: Baby who hates barrettes = trans boy; questioning sterilization of 11-year olds same as denying cancer treatment

Note: 4thWaveNow frequently features posts (like this one) that focus, often unflatteringly, on the activists and providers involved in pediatric transition. These people aren’t ogres who intend to bring harm to the young people and families under their care and influence. They undoubtedly sincerely believe they are doing the right thing. The purpose here, as ever, is not to demonize, but to shed light on the potential and actual damage done by the practice and ideology of “gender affirmation.”  Harms done not only to children and their families, but to the decades of progress achieved by the women’s and LGB liberation movements.


A well known subscriber to the “gender affirmative” approach to trans-identified children is Diane Ehrensaft, PhD., a clinical and developmental psychologist. Dr. Ehrensaft, author of The Gender Creative Child, plays a powerful role in the burgeoning field of pediatric transgenderism. She is director and chief psychologist for the University of California-San Francisco children’s hospital gender clinic, and is also an associate professor of pediatrics at UCSF. She sits on the Board of Directors of Gender Spectrum, a San Francisco Bay area organization which is heavily involved in matters pertaining to trans-identified children and youth.

In February, Dr. Ehrensaft, along with other pediatric transition specialists, including Joel Baum, MS (senior director of professional development and family services at Gender Spectrum), presented at a conference and continuing education event in Santa Cruz, California.  The all-day event, attended by over 400 people, was recorded and video is available here. (Hat tip: GenderTrender, which covered part of Ehrensaft’s presentation here.)

The 5.5-hour video is well worth watching in its entirety for anyone interested in the current state of “gender affirmative” therapy. This post will touch on only a few highlights from the conference. There is much, much more.  (Numbers in square brackets give approximate hour:minute time stamps for each video excerpt.)compare-models

Dr. Ehrensaft [1:31] tells the audience that “gender affirmation” differs from the more cautious approach of learning to “live in your own skin” provided by Dr. Ken Zucker in Toronto. Zucker’s clinic was shut down by trans activists a few months ago—reported by Ehrensaft with obvious glee and to the applause of her audience. Gender affirmation also parts company with the “watchful waiting” protocol pioneered by clinician-researchers in the well known Amsterdam gender identity clinic founded by Peggy Cohen-Kettenis. The Dutch have repeatedly counseled caution in social transition and early intervention for gender dysphoric children, given the high rate of desistance and the fact that early social transition has made it more difficult for some young people to change their minds later—and might even increase the likelihood that a child will persist in a trans identity.

kid-tells

Ehrensaft labels “gender affirmative” therapy as “listen and act,” i.e., essentially follow the child’s lead in whether or not to proceed with early interventions like social transition and puberty blockers.  According to Ehrensaft, this boils down to whether the child says they ARE (vs. “want to be”) the opposite sex, and how “persistent, insistent, and consistent” they are in asserting their cross-sex identification and gender “expression.”

Ehrensaft denies that gender-affirmative therapists simply “rubber stamp” a child’s gender identity, yet despite her protestations to the contrary, she constantly reifies the idea that gender identity is innate and recognizable even in pre-verbal babies and toddlers (more on that later in the post).

rubber-stamp

To be fair, in her presentation Ehrensaft does acknowledge the replicated research showing that a large majority of gender dysphoric kids will grow out of it. Yet she strongly believes that she and others like her can reliably distinguish between the “apples” who are truly transgender and the “oranges” who are only exploring.

Even if you believe there is such a thing as a truly transgender child, what is the justification—the evidence— for her hubris, her certainty that she and others like her who peddle the “gender affirmative” approach can predict which children might be happy, decades later, as sterilized, surgically and chemically altered adults? There really isn’t any. Even so, at one point, she claims science is on her side, pointing (without directly citing it) to “research” out of the University of Washington that proves—gender-defiant children really, really, really mean it when they say they prefer the clothes, toys, and lifestyle more typical of the opposite sex.

Let’s take a closer look at the “insistent, consistent, persistent” mantra—droned incessantly by gender experts, with this conference being no exception. While Ehrensaft and Baum take great pains to say they support and even celebrate gender “nonconformity,” when the young trans-identified people (present at the event and on video) talk about their experiences and how they “know” they are trans, we hear the same rationale we always do: they eschew sex-stereotyped behaviors and appearance.

How does Ehrensaft directly instruct us in what it means to be “consistent, persistent, and insistent”? She plays a video clip of a young FtoM who has this to say about why s/he is and has always been trans: [47:00]

 We [trans kids] don’t know about much but we know about gender. We know that girls are the ones supposed to be in skirts and dresses and guys in jeans and fight all the time…I think what should have been a sign to my parents was um…I was a quiet child. I didn’t fuss or anything. But whenever my mom would try to dress me up and put lipstick on me and get me all pretty for pictures I would throw a tantrum, I would scream … that should have definitely been a big sign to her that I was not trying to fit into the girl role… The most feminine thing I did as a child was paint my nails—black.

There is knowing laughter from the audience at this last point—as if choosing black (instead of pink or purple?) fingernail polish were a sure sign that this child was, in fact, a boy.  A child who was, yes, persistent, consistent, INSISTENT…that she didn’t want to act like a stereotypical girl in a dress wearing lipstick.

persistent-teen

If Ehrensaft could respond here, I imagine she might say something like, “oh but it’s more than gender expression!” If it’s more than that, why is the one video excerpt provided to teach us about who is really trans all about stereotypes? Could it be that conforming to stereotypes is the very basis of the definition of a “trans child”?

We hear from another trans-identified teen during the panel discussion, Jordan, a 17-year-old FtoM. We also hear from Jordan’s mom, Heidi, who leads a local support group for trans-identified youth and their families.

Heidi—who at several points mentions her strong church affiliation–talks about some of the childhood experiences that convinced her that her daughter was actually her son, including this [4:37]:

 When Jordan was about 2 it became clear to me that Jordan liked boy things—you know trucks, video games, violence…when he was about between 2 and 4 I noticed he would rip off the pretty little dresses I would put on him. Would go screaming through the house and would not leave the house until he had on his brother’s big, holey T-shirts. I just thought he was a tomboy and that it was a phase.  He was driving me nuts but it was a phase. During this time I worked for a very large church… We are Christians… We were told by everyone around us to make that kid wear a dress.

Another kid screaming in a dress.

Mom tried to force her kid to wear dresses: check. The kid liked trucks: check. A girl not wanting to wear dresses is ”a phase”: check. Mom didn’t like this (it drove her nuts): check. Mom was involved with a church, whose members wanted her to “make” her child wear a dress.

Could this stuff be any more obvious?

Jordan seems to agree that an aversion to wearing dresses is a key sign of one’s innate gender identity [4:44].

 My mom put me in a dress at Easter.  [But I] went to church in dirty jeans and a big T-shirt. That was kind of a big signal.

A big signal of what? That Jordan didn’t like dresses, preferred to wear jeans? What is this obsession with dresses that we see in each and every media story about girls who are “really boys?” When did we step into this time machine, returning to the turn of the 20th century? Even Katherine Hepburn wore pants and eschewed dresses in the 1940s.

Then there’s this from Heidi [4:40]:

[During the elementary school years] I was [putting up] posters of really strong women. You know, like the singer Pink? Oh, this is a real kick-ass girl, you can be like her… when he had a crush on her. It was things like that.

Things like… not wanting a lesbian daughter? This conference took place in 2016, in the San Francisco Bay Area–for decades considered one of the most gay-friendly places in the USA, and the audience tittered at this revelation of Jordan’s same-sex attraction—as if that were a sign Jordan was actually a boy!

Mom goes on to describe how Jordan was diagnosed with a whole “plethora” of mental health issues, from ADD to bipolar to mood disorders, and concludes that it was being trans that was the root of all these other problems; once Jordan transitioned, everything else cleared up: the self hatred, the self harm, the unhappiness.

This is an increasingly common refrain, and in fact, Ehrensaft at several points in her presentation asserts that “gender is the cure” for an array of other mental health issues. What we don’t see, from Ehrensaft or anyone else, is actual evidence that allowing children to “transition” results in improvements in mental health over the long haul. What we are beginning to see in accounts from some people who have detransitioned is that transition essentially put their other issues on hold for a while—only to re-arise when the initial transition exhilaration began to dissipate.

We have evidence from several studies that gender dysphoria often co-presents with other mental health issues. Ehrensaft and others like her are now turning such research on its head, positing that the cause of comorbid mental health problems is a child being somehow thwarted in their gender identity.

Returning to the conference, although Jordan’s “gender expression” is not assumed to be the real reason for transition, it is telling that, as always, it is examples of how a person does or does not conform to sex-stereotyped behaviors that are presented as the evidence for being transgender.

And that goes even for babies, according to Ehrensaft. During the audience Q&A, a man asks how one might tell if a pre-verbal one or two-year-old is transgender. Ehrensaft’s answer, delivered with a knowing and confident smile [Clip for this excerpt is here, starting at approx. 2:05-2:06 in main video]:

 [Preverbal children] are very action oriented. This is where mirroring is really important. And listening to actions. So let me give you an example.

I have a colleague who is transgender. There is a video of him as a toddler–he was assigned female at birth–tearing barrettes out of then-her hair. And throwing them on the ground. And sobbing. That’s a gender message.

barrettes

Ehrensaft miming a significant “gender message:” a toddler ripping barrettes out of her hair

Ehrensaft is a developmental psychologist, and the only reason she can think of that a 2-year-old girl might detest the feel of barrettes in her hair is that the child is really a boy?

Again, I imagine Ehrensaft’s retort: Oh, that was just one thing–there were lots of other signs. Then why does Ehrensaft use this as a seminal example when responding to a question from the audience? And according to Ehrensaft, if the child (consistently, insistently, and persistently?) tore the barrettes from her hair “not once, but twice, three times,” that is the clincher.

Ehrensaft elaborates:

Sometimes kids between 1 and 2, with beginning language, will say, “I BOY!” when you say “girl.” That’s an early verbal message! And sometimes there’s a tendency to say “Well, honey, no you’re a girl because little girls have vaginas, and you have a vagina so you’re a girl…Then when they get a little older [the child] says, “Did you not listen to me? I said I’m a boy with a vagina!

Believers in gender identity accuse gender skeptics like me of “reducing people to their genitals.” But here we have a developmental psychologist saying in so many words that the only thing that makes a girl a girl….is her vagina. I don’t know about the other parents reading this, but I can say my response to my two-year-old in that scenario would not have been a reference to (one aspect of) her genitals.

What else does Ehrensaft advise for parents who are so concerned about their baby’s “gender identity”?

They can show you about what they want to play with…and if they feel uncomfortable about how you are responding to them and their gender… if you’re misgendering them. So you look for those kinds of actions….like tearing a skirt off. …There was one on that Barbara Walters special, this child  wore the little onesie with the snap-ups between the legs. And at age one would unsnap them to make a dress, so the dress would flow. This is a child who was assigned male. That’s a communication, a pre-verbal communication about gender.

Ehrensaft then counsels parents not to try to squelch non-sex-stereotyped behaviors (good advice), but ruins it with a faith-based assertion of innate gender identity:

And children will know [they are transgender] by the second year of lifethey probably know before that but that’s pre-pre verbal.

Not to put too fine a point on it but…this is a PhD. developmental psychologist talking here. What is her evidence base for saying babies “know” their gender identity?

…Especially since, at other points in her presentation, Ehrensaft acknowledges that gender identity can be fluid.

So which is it? A baby innately “knows” their gender identity, or it’s mutable?   To be logically consistent, Ehrensaft ought to also say that some infants are born (innately) “gender fluid”—an assertion that would be much closer to the truth, given the fact of lifelong neuroplasticity.  I wonder when the NIH will fund a study to determine which babies are born “binary” and which “genderqueer”?

What if gender-fluid children transition but change their minds? No harm done, according to Ehrensaft. She breezily asserts [1:50] that there is “no data” that it harms kids to switch back and forth between identities, as long as we “support” them in their “journey”—presumably even if that journey takes them down the road to hormones and surgeries which will alter them forever. She even touts “nonbinary transition” [3:57] as if it is something to be celebrated when youth who define themselves as “agender,” “nonbinary,” or any of the other “genders” (better known as “personalities”) might choose irreversible medical interventions.

Is Ehrensaft aware of cases like this? Would she just chalk it up to this detransitioned woman being “gender fluid” instead of “binary” and the permanent damage done to her body just part of her “gender journey” for which we have “no evidence” of any harm?

My double mastectomy was severely traumatizing. I paid a guy, a guy who does this every day for cash, to drug me to sleep and cut away healthy tissue. I did this because I believed it would heal all of the emotional issues I was blaming on my female body. It didn’t work. Now I’m still all fucked up and I’m missing body parts, too.

Ehrensaft also thinks social media has “been a godsend” [2:08] and a “tremendous boon” for young people to find others like them, with the only real ill effect being the online bullying of trans-identified kids. To be fair, she does throw a bone later to the fact that some kids presenting to clinics may be using a “script” and it’s important to look deeper to see whether it’s “their script”—which is something;  although if Ehrensaft was trained in child/adolescent developmental psychology, her cheerleading for nothing but the positive effects of social media is stunning. Has she never heard about online “communities” of teen anorexics and cutters?

Now to touch upon one final topic covered by Ehrensaft and others in the conference: permanent sterilization caused by prepubescent hormone treatment. This “side effect” is rarely mentioned in the countless media stories celebrating trans kids. One usually has to hunt for obscure literature references to find any mention. But during the conference, several providers do  acknowledge—repeatedly–that puberty blockers followed by cross-sex hormones always result in permanent infertility. They do so at least three times in the conference: [3:53], [4:18], and [5:06].

During the closing panel discussion, Ehrensaft and Baum devote several minutes to the topic of sterilizing trans kids—but explain it away with a twofer: By equating it to treatments for children with life-threatening cancers, and by stating that parents reluctant to sterilize their 11-year-olds are only concerned because they selfishly want grandchildren.

Actually, it’s a three-fer, because Ehrensaft and Baum manage to squeeze in the usual emotional blackmail: children who have to go through their natal puberty might commit suicide. [5:06].

Ehrensaft:

Another thing that’s a show-stopper around [parents] giving consent is the fertility issue. That if the child goes directly from puberty blockers to cross- sex hormones they are pretty much forfeiting their fertility and won’t be able to have a genetically related child.

There’s a lot of parents who have dreams of becoming grandparents. It’s very hard for them not to imagine those genetically related grandchildren. So we have to work with parents around, these aren’t your dreams. [she laughs]. You have to focus on your child’s dreams. What they want.

Let’s be very clear here:  Ehrensaft laughingly implies that parents concerned about their child’s human right to choose or not to choose to reproduce, a decision heretofore seen as inalienable and reserved for mature adults, are really only concerned about future grandchildren, not the bodily integrity or cognitive wherewithal of their prepubescent child. These egocentric parents are denying their children “their dreams.” These thoughtless parents need to be “worked with” by gender specialists.

And that’s not all: Ehrensaft goes on to shame these recalcitrant parents with the implication that puberty-blocked, 11-year-old trans tweens are more socially responsible than their clueless parents:

 And what I will say about many of the youth who want puberty blockers is: I have never met such an altruistic group of kids around adoption! Never! “I will adopt because there are so many children who need good homes.” And I think that’s both heartfelt but also they’re trying to tell us the most important thing to me right now is being able to have every opportunity to have my gender affirmation be as complete as possible. Anything else is secondary.

Do we need a PhD in developmental psychology to tell us this? You bet an 11-year-old thinks anything but what they want RIGHT NOW is secondary.  I want it, and I want it right now: the motto of youth, of children who are a decade or more away from full development of their reasoning, judgment, and awareness of future consequences.

But wait—perhaps there’s hope. Asks Ehrensaft:

The question is, can an 11-year-old, 12-year-old at that level of development, be really thinking and know what they want at age 30 around infertility?

Can they? Might it be ok to wait and allow this child to mature to adulthood before making such momentous decisions?

The answer to that is: We don’t think twice about instituting treatments for cancers for children that will compromise their fertility. We don’t say, we’re not going to give them the treatment for cancer because it’s going to compromise their fertility.

So here we have a woman who is directly responsible for sterilizing 11 and 12 year old children equating simply waiting–allowing a child to grow up to make their own decisions—with denying cancer treatment. And of course, we know what’s coming next: Transition or suicide.

For some of the youth, having the gender affirmation interventions is as life-saving as the oncology services for children who have cancer.

And they must have these interventions right now!

I wonder: Do Ehrensaft or any of the others here, so very certain of their moral superiority, ever lie awake at night wondering whether these children in their care could just as easily be supported in waiting?

baum-threat

Joel Baum instructs parents to transition their kids–or else.

Joel Baum, head of education for Gender Spectrum doubles down [5:09] to deliver the coupdegrâce to any parents who might still be hesitating:

I’ll just add one thing here. When we’re working with families, what is the leverage point for that family?…The fact of the matter is at the end of the day, it is their decision and we just hope they’re going to make an informed decision. Just make sure you have all the information you need. Which includes:

Here comes the punchline—the ultimate “leverage point”:

You can either have grandchildren or not have a kid anymore because they’ve ended the relationship with you or in some cases because they’ve chosen a more dangerous path for themselves.

Here, I’ll just let one of my lovely, unpublished commenters translate Joel Baum’s so-very-subtle veiled threat into plain language:

You are a horrible mother and you are abusing your son. You’re the reason trans people kill themselves. I hope one day he escapes from you and your transphobic abuse and never has to see you again.

Never mind that my daughter desisted from trans identity; never mind that our family remains intact despite my “transphobic abuse” i.e., refusal to pay for hormones and top surgery. And never mind, Joel Baum, that there is no evidence that troubled youth will desist from self harm if their parents are terrified into paying for irreversible medical interventions.

At this juncture, let me repeat what I’ve said many times before: A concern about sterilizing children is not a statement about whether a person ought to reproduce or not.  It’s about respecting the right of children to mature to adulthood to make the decision for themselves. It’s a basic moral tenet, respected in every other area of human rights law: you don’t sterilize children.

And this, too: There is no evidence, historical or otherwise, that a child prevented from medically transitioning will kill themselves before making their own medical decisions as an adult. That activist-clinicians feel justified in holding this threat over the heads of loving parents—and that journalists, politicians, and pediatric specialists who should know better abet them in wielding this weapon—is deeply shameful and should be exposed to the intense, disinfecting light of public scrutiny as long as necessary; until the purveyors of this immoral strategy are finally forced to answer the difficult questions they have been avoiding for the better part of a decade.

This conference is worth studying for anyone who wants to fully understand how a formerly rare diagnosis, with medical treatment only available for legal adults, has morphed into a pediatric specialty area where doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists wave away the sterilization, drugging, and permanent medical alteration of children with nary a peep of dissent. And they do it by shamelessly scaring the bejesus out of everyone, by shaming parents into believing that unless they permanently sterilize little Judy or Billy at age 11, unless they agree to irreversible medical interventions for their teenager, they will be colluding in their child’s demise.

Watch the entire 5-hour presentation, even if you have to do it over several sessions. What you’ll be observing is how key movers and shakers on the cutting edge of pediatric transition in the United States are moving inexorably forward. Understand their tactics. Understand their ideology.

Because despite its steady progress so far, the “gender affirmative” pediatric transition juggernaut is only beginning to pick up speed.

[Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, be sure to read this post by a therapist who is skeptical of the “identity model” for trans-identified youth.]

Layers of meaning: A Jungian analyst questions the identity model for trans-identified youth

Lisa Marchiano, LCSW, is a Jungian analyst. She blogs at theJungSoul.com (Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/thejungsoul), and can also be found on Twitter @LisaMarchiano.

Lisa’s thoughtful essay stands in stark contrast to the simplistic advice we see from self-declared gender therapists like this one. For the perspective of another therapist skeptical of the “gender affirmative” approach, see this post by Lane Anderson, a former therapist for trans-identified teens who quit her job last year due to ethical concerns.

Lisa would like to thank Miranda Yardley, ThirdWayTrans, and Carey Callahan for their contributions to this post. Though these three individuals were generous in sharing their time and expertise, the views expressed here are Lisa’s own.

Lisa is available to respond to your remarks and questions in the comments section of this post. In addition, Lisa is interested in being in contact with other therapists who share her concerns about the identity therapy model:

If there are other therapists reading this and wanting support to question or work outside of the identity model, please be in touch. Contact me privately on Facebook or Twitter, or ask this blog to put you in touch with me via email. There are lots of us out there. Let’s start talking.


by Lisa Marchiano 

As a social worker and a Jungian analyst, I have become increasingly concerned about the rush to affirm children’s and young people’s transgender self-diagnosis, and then transition them to the opposite sex. I am particularly worried about social and medical transition among teens whose transgender diagnosis arose “out of the blue,” without a significant history of early childhood dysphoria. I fear that, via their well-meaning desire to validate young people in pain, therapists are discarding basic principles of psychotherapeutic care.

My views have been informed by my work with detransitioners, as well as with parents of trans-identifying teens. I have also sought to educate myself further by listening to trans people, parents, clinicians, academics, lesbians, feminists, educators, gays, and others who are writing and speaking about gender. I believe that transition may be a viable and even necessary option for some people. I support the right of adults to choose this option with appropriate therapeutic care and support. I certainly believe that trans people deserve human rights, legal protection, humane care, and respect. However, there are potential physical and psychological dangers of transition, and we need to exercise astute clinical judgment and caution when working with young people who are seeking transition.

I have often seen trans activists and gender specialists promote “social transition” of trans-identifying youth as a positive and “fully reversible” intervention. Social transition refers to a number of steps one can take to present as the opposite sex. These might include making changes to one’s hair style, make-up, name, pronouns, and dress. One might also begin binding breasts or wearing a packer to “present” more convincingly as the opposite sex. Social transition is sometimes described as something that has few if any long-term consequences, and therefore can be recommended with minimal concerns,  even for young children. However, in some significant percentage of cases, social transition leads to medical transition. It appears likely that being conditioned to believe you are the opposite sex creates ever greater pressure to continue to present in this way. Once one has made the investment of coming out to friends and family, having teachers refer to you by a new name and pronouns, will it really be so easy to change back? Children who socially transition at a young age may have little experience living as their natal gender. How easy will it be for them to desist?

At least some of the time, each step taken toward transition creates pressure to continue. Numerous blog posts from detransitioners explore how transition made dysphoria worse, often because the young person became increasingly preoccupied with passing. This further discomfort created pressure to take more steps toward transition in order to present more convincingly as the opposite sex. To take just one example, breast binding may bring relief to some natal females who experience discomfort with their breasts, but binding in itself can be quite painful, restricting breathing and movement—thus creating an incentive to take the next step—“top surgery”/double mastectomy. I have heard one mother of a FtM young person stating that this natal female “got his lungs back” after getting a double mastectomy because he no longer needed to bind. Additionally, anecdotal evidence indicates that it is not uncommon for teens who socially transition to move on to hormones and/or surgery shortly after their 18th birthday. So it’s clear that social transition must be viewed as a treatment that carries with it a significant risk of progressing to medical transition.

Medical transition refers to a number of interventions undertaken to alter one’s body. These can include administration of hormone blockers to children and teens; administration of cross sex hormones; mastectomy; phalloplasty; hysterectomy; body masculinization; orchiectomy; vaginoplasty; facial feminization surgery; and others. All of these procedures can have permanent effects, and most of them carry significant risks. It is unusual (though not unheard of) for minors to have these surgeries. However, it is not uncommon for minors to take hormone blockers and cross sex hormones. And in 100% of the cases reported in the literature, children on puberty blockers went on to cross sex hormones. Top gender clinician Johanna Olson reports that no puberty-blocked children at her clinic in LA Children’s Hospital have ever failed to continue hormone treatment. Therefore, the claim that blockers are “100% reversible” is not accurate in practice. In fact, being on blockers appears to consolidate an investment in a cross sex identification. And although one rarely sees this “side effect” reported in the mainstream media, because gametes do not develop when an adolescent does not undergo natal puberty, hormone blockers followed by cross sex hormones results in permanent, life-long sterility 100% of the time.

Hormone blockers and cross sex hormones are being used off label (that is, they are not FDA-approved for this purpose). We have almost no knowledge about the long-term effects of taking these drugs over the course of decades, as anyone beginning transition as a young person will likely do. According to Madeline Deutsch, clinical director at University of California, San Francisco’s Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, “it scientifically makes sense that if someone is on hormones for decades, it’s highly likely that they’re going to be at higher risk [for certain health issues] than someone who started taking hormones at age 40 or 50.” Even the top pediatric gender doctors admit that there’s a dearth of good data on the long-term health outcomes of transition.

Certainly, there are risks. Cross sex hormones change bodies fairly quickly. Some of these changes are irreversible, such as a deepened voice, facial hair, and baldness for testosterone, and breast growth and, potentially, infertility for estrogen. In addition, use of cross-sex hormones carries with it potential negative side effects. Girls who take testosterone will be at increased risk for developing diabetes, cancer of the endometrium, liver damage, breast cancer, heart attack, and stroke. There may be other adverse effects of which we are not aware at this time, since long-term testosterone use in natal females is a relatively new phenomenon that has not been adequately studied.

I fear that there are young people transitioning – with the ready help of therapists, doctors, and others – who may regret these interventions and need to come to terms with permanent and in some cases drastic changes to their bodies. In fact, I know this is already happening. I have had considerable contact with the growing community of detransitioners. In many cases, the hatred for and disconnection from their bodies that these young people experienced was due to sexual trauma, internalized homophobia, or bullying. In videos and blogs, young women speak about their sadness over their lost voices and breasts. Male detransitioners mourn the loss of their testicles, the loss of their ability to orgasm, in some cases the loss of their fertility. Many have had complications from hormones such as vaginal atrophy, nerve damage, or chronic pain. You can hear some of these stories for yourself here, here, and here, among other places.

I have also spoken with many parents. Their stories are just as heartbreaking. These usually involve a teen who was anxious, depressed, socially isolated, or suffering from PTSD coming to identify as trans after internet binges on social media sites. These parents report that mental health professionals are validating the self-diagnosis of transgender after a handful of therapy sessions, without any exploration of prior mental health issues, trauma, sexual orientation, or history of gender nonconforming behavior. This clearly violates APA recommendations, which urge special caution in treating adolescents who present with sudden onset dysphoria.

All of this comes down to an essential question: When treating someone with gender dysphoria, do we do so using a mental health model, or an identity model?

An identity model is founded on the belief that we ought to be able to define our own experiences for ourselves. It proclaims that each of us has a right to assign our own meaning to our lives, our feelings, and our bodies. We get to decide who we are, and no one has authority over our self-perception. An identity model offers respect and self-determination for every person to define themselves as they would like.

An identity model has a place in psychotherapy. As people, we all self-identify aspects of our personality, values, and experiences in ways that are often very important to us. We might identify as Catholic, or as a Democrat. We might identify as an artist, an introvert, or a lesbian. As therapists, accepting and affirming our clients’ self-identification is important and empowering. As therapists, we can accept and empathize with a client’s story about his or her life experience. We can hold this story as valuable and important whether or not we objectively agree with it. As long as the client’s story does not lead to maladaptive behaviors, we do not need to challenge or attempt to discredit or disprove such a self-identification.

However, an identity model of working with transgender people goes further. An identity model stipulates that it is wrong to explore or question a client’s self-determined identity. Gender dysphoria is seen as evidence that someone is transgender, and merely wondering about underlying psychological reasons for dysphoria or alternative explanations for symptoms is seen as synonymous with denying a person’s identity. Applying our own clinical judgment to someone’s proclaimed self-diagnosis is seen as bigoted and wrong. Our role as therapists becomes limited to enthusiastic affirmation only.

In contrast, when we are working in a mental health model, we understand that clients come to us with symptoms that cause distress, and may interfere with a person’s day-to-day functioning. As therapists, we ought to be interested both in helping to alleviate or manage symptoms, as well as helping to understand the underlying cause of the symptom. If we are psychodynamically oriented, a basic assumption of our work is that every symptom has a meaning beyond its superficial presentation, and a major part of our work is to help our clients gain insight about this meaning.

In opposition to an identity model, then, the main task in mental health therapy with a client experiencing gender dysphoria would be to deeply explore the symptoms without making assumptions about what the symptoms mean. In fact, while identity therapy knows what gender dysphoria means – i.e. that the client is trans – mental health therapy will start with the assumption that we have no idea what the symptom means. We must be open to the meaning that emerges for patients as we explore their experience with them.

Seeking to understand deeply the nature, quality, and etiology of the dysphoria is not at all the same thing as denying the reality or importance of the symptom. When I explore a client’s anxiety – when did it start? What tends to trigger it? How does it feel? – I am not implying that I do not feel that the anxiety is unimportant or illusory. As we come to understand more about a client’s unique experience of a symptom, we may unwrap the meaning behind the suffering so that the problem resolves in a surprising, unexpected way. Or we may simply gain better information about the best course of treatment to alleviate the symptom for that particular person.

An identity model is not an appropriate basis on which to prescribe drastic, permanent medical intervention.

An identity model does not leave room for a therapist to exercise his or her clinical judgment. It disallows the possibility of a thorough assessment and differential diagnosis. According to the identity model, a client’s self-diagnosis is not to be questioned or explored. Therefore, alternative causes of dysphoria cannot be sought. As with many other mental health issues, the symptoms of gender dysphoria can be caused by many different things. Feeling uncomfortable with or disconnected from one’s body can go along with being on the autism spectrum; having experienced trauma; having bipolar disorder; having an eating disorder; or experiencing internalized homophobia. And sadly, it is a normal experience for teen girls, 90% of whom express dissatisfaction with their bodies.

An identity model subverts the normal diagnostic paradigm in which a patient presents with symptoms, and the clinician makes a diagnosis. In an identity model, the diagnosis is the identity. This occludes the focus on symptom resolution and management because the priority becomes affirming the identity. When symptoms are seen as validation of an identity, clinical judgment becomes irrelevant.

Before determining that a young person ought to undergo drastic treatments that may permanently alter their bodies and lead to permanent sterilization, a thorough assessment should be conducted that explores all potential factors contributing to the dysphoria. Unfortunately, because exploration of gender dysphoria is construed by some to be tantamount to “conversion therapy,” this kind of extensive assessment is frequently not performed. Though data is sparse, I personally have had contact with dozens of young people and/or their families who received a transgender diagnosis and a prescription for hormones after one to three appointments with a therapist.  According to this survey of more than 200 detransitioned women, 65% of those who transitioned received no therapy at all, either because they were referred for treatment at their first visit, transitioned through an informed consent clinic, or bought hormones through unofficial sources. (The median age for beginning transition in this survey was 17.) Only 6% of respondents felt they had received adequate counseling about transition. In fact, according to the ideology of gender identity, thorough assessment is seen as inappropriate “gatekeeping.”

An identity model does not allow us to rule out cases of transgenderism where social contagion might be at play. It appears quite likely that the striking increase in trans-identifying teens in recent years is due at least in part to social contagion. There has been a sudden sharp rise in the number of children and teens presenting at gender clinics. The first transgender youth clinic opened in Boston in 2007. Since then, 40 other clinics that cater exclusively to children have opened. Inexplicably, the ratio of natal males to natal females has flipped sharply, with many more natal female teens now presenting. Many of these young people have been presenting with dysphoria “out of the blue” as teens or tweens after extensive social media use without ever having expressed any gender variance before. This now-common presentation was virtually unheard of even a handful of years ago. Thousands of home-made videos on sites such as YouTube chronicle the gender transitions of teenagers. These teens show off their new-found muscles or facial hair. The Tumblr blog Fuck Yeah FTMs  features photo after photo of young FtMs celebrating the changes wrought by testosterone. “I finally have freedom!” posters boast under photographs of their scarred chests post mastectomy. “I’m no longer pre-T!” boasts another under a video of someone injecting testosterone. Almost all of these posters are under 25 years of age. According to Jen Jack Gieseking, a New York academic and researcher who was interviewed by BBC Radio 4 last May, “There really isn’t a trans person I’ve met under the age of 30 who hasn’t been on Tumblr.” There are multiple credible online reports of whole friend groups coming out together as trans.

But correlation isn’t causation. As this brilliant blog post explores, the contagion factor only speaks to the particular way that young people choose to deal with distress. It isn’t that the internet is “causing” the rise in transgenderism. It’s that many young people – particularly young females – are feeling alienated from their bodies due to trauma, porn culture, societal standards of beauty, oppressive gender roles, sexism, homophobia, and so forth. Self-diagnosing as transgender becomes an attractive way to deal with the alienation because it is so validated and even lionized in the culture and the mainstream media. For therapists, an identity therapy model does not allow us to acknowledge the role of social contagion, though contagion has been well-documented in contributing to suicide clusters and other behaviors.

An identity therapy model encourages us not to put safeguards in place to prevent young people from undertaking treatments they may later regret. According to an identity model, self-diagnosis as trans should never be questioned. To do so implies a lack of support and even bigotry. Therefore, the clinician must not stand in the way of transition to the person’s “authentic self.” Because of this, an increasing number of minors are going on hormones and even undergoing surgery that will permanently alter their bodies. Even 18 is probably too young to make such major medical decisions. In cases where the 18-year-old is making medical decisions based on a social transition that she or he began years earlier, it is possibly even more likely that that young person has not carefully considered the consequence of transition. Top gender doctors are hoping to see the recommended age for “bottom surgery” lowered.

In sharp contrast, it’s not easy for non-trans patients to be sterilized before adulthood. For instance, in Massachusetts, a patient must be at least 21 years of age to qualify for sterilizing surgeries under the state’s public health scheme. When such a surgery is undertaken, patients are carefully counseled and must sign a form stating that they understand the permanent nature of the procedure, and that they do not wish to bear or father children. Patients must then wait a minimum of 30 days after signing the form before having the surgery. This procedure has been put in place because surgical sterilization has been shown to come with a high incidence of regret. Why are there not similar safeguards in place for those transgender identifying young people wishing to amputate healthy organs and/or sterilize themselves?

There is a wealth of research about cognitive and emotional development in adolescence. The upshot of it is that teens and young adults are more likely to act impulsively, are unable to assess risks well, and are more emotionally reactive. It is partly for these reasons that we do not allow teens to drink, get tattoos, or use tanning beds without adult consent.

An identity model does not allow us to examine the homophobia that drives some – possibly many — transitions. According to extensive research on desistance, a significant majority of children who identify as the opposite sex will not continue to do so into adulthood. The majority of those who desist will come to identify as lesbian or gay. “Feminine” boys are actually many times more likely to grow up to be gay men rather than transgender women. The same is true for “masculine” girls. Many lesbian bloggers (such as this one and and this one) are very concerned that the current trend to transition young people is disproportionately hurting lesbians and gays, and their fears appear to be well founded. This conservative Christian Texas mother was bothered by her son’s “flamboyant, feminine” behavior. Rather than accepting her son’s gender-defiant presentation, she has decided he is transgender. She now has a very pretty, gender conforming “daughter.”

There is widespread concern in the lesbian community that many young would-be lesbian or bisexual women are finding it easier to become “straight men” due to internalized homophobia. In this article, fourteen-year-old Mason describes how he knew he was transgender. “I’ve always known something was up about how I felt about myself,” says Mason, who as Madelyn had refused to wear pink, or to dress in stereotypically feminine attire. “I thought I was gay or bisexual or something.” In years past, Madelyn most likely would have grown up to be a lesbian or bisexual woman. To paraphrase psychiatrist Ray Blanchard, surely it’s preferable to have an outcome of a reasonably well adjusted lesbian woman, rather than someone who identifies as a trans man who has had many irreversible surgeries and a lifetime of drugs.

An identity model makes us unable to tease out other mental health concerns that may be impacting the desire to transition. There is considerable research that points to a high likelihood of co-occurring disorders in young people who wish to transition. For example, this study from 2015 noted that “severe psychopathology preceding onset of gender dysphoria was common. Autism spectrum problems were very common.” In this study, 68% of the population had first had contact with psychiatric service for reasons other than gender dysphoria. Thirteen percent were being treated for psychotic symptoms.

This study from 2004 found high rates of “comorbidity” in those with gender dysphoria, and noted that this was often not taken into consideration when treatment planning for these patients. “Results: Twenty-nine percent of the patients had no current or lifetime Axis I disorder; 39% fulfilled the criteria for current and 71% for current and/or lifetime Axis I diagnosis. Forty-two percent of the patients were diagnosed with one or more personality disorders. Conclusions: Lifetime psychiatric comorbidity in GID patients is high, and this should be taken into account in the assessment and treatment planning of GID patients.”

This 2015 study found a link between gender dysphoria and dissociative symptoms secondary to trauma. According to this blogger, trauma and dissociation were a big part of her desire to transition. This was also true for this blogger here. Similar stories from detransitioners with histories of unaddressed trauma abound.

An identity model does not allow us to take into account reports from parents or previous therapists who may not agree with the patient’s self-diagnosis. I have received dozens of distraught emails from parents trying in vain to get gender therapists to listen to them when they share information about their child’s mental health history that ought to be taken into consideration while assessing and treating gender dysphoria. While I cannot share the contents of these emails without violating people’s privacy, I can point to quite a few places online where frustrated parents have shared similar stories. For example, this social work professor states that the gender therapist did not review her daughter’s special education records or speak with the previous therapist before recommending hormones and surgery for this young autistic teen.

Parents I have had contact with have told me about their child having a history of anxiety, panic attacks, depression, trauma, loss, bipolar disorder, anorexia, cutting, borderline personality disorder, and psychosis. In these cases, as soon as the young person brought up their transgender self-diagnosis, the focus of the therapy shifted to this alone. The parents’ fears, concerns, and information about past treatments were disregarded as obstructionist and transphobic. I am not alleging that this is happening in every case. However, it certainly is happening with some degree of regularity.

An identity model does not allow us to question the incoherence of gender identity ideology. While gender dysphoria appears to be a meaningful diagnostic term that describes a set of symptoms – namely intense discomfort with one’s sexed body – it does not follow from this that one is “trapped in the wrong body,” has a “female” or “male” brain, or even a “gender identity” that doesn’t match one’s body. Though the concept of gender identity is currently being enshrined into law, the truth is that we have no meaningful definition of the term. (For an excellent analysis of the incoherence of the term, take a look at Rebecca Reilly Cooper’s work.) When a trans-identified person is asked how they know they are transgender, they are usually unable to answer the questions without reference to sex role stereotypes. For example, a physician who prescribed cross sex hormones to a 12-year-old natal female stated that the child had “never worn a dress.” This was offered as evidence of the child’s being “truly trans,” and therefore needing these hormones. I would strenuously argue that one’s clothing preferences should not be a reason to permanently sterilize a child.

It doesn’t make sense to say that one’s sex organs don’t matter, but then assert a primary, essential difference based on a sexed brain. Sexed brains do not exist. It is absurd to posit that one’s chromosomal sex, genitals, and entire reproductive system are meaningless and irrelevant or a social construct, and then assert that a subjective feeling of being the opposite gender is determinative. There is no robust science behind the notion of gender identity. Journalists have been quick to report on studies that seem to prove brain differences among those who are transgender. However, as the sexology researcher James Cantor has pointed out, these studies actually seem to be documenting brain differences among those who are homosexual.

If you want to see a review of some of the literature out there in support of a biological basis for gender dysphoria, this blog post does a good job. There are some solid studies that seem to indicate that genetics or pre-natal hormone exposure may play some role in the development of gender dysphoria. That isn’t really surprising. Pretty much every diagnosis in the DSM – from depression, to anorexia, to borderline personality disorder – has some genetic component. Gender dysphoria is real. As with other mental health diagnoses, its causes are likely complex and involve genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. But it doesn’t follow from any of this that the sufferer has an inborn “gender identity” that ought to supersede any consideration of one’s objective biological sex. Body dysmorphic disorder is associated with brain differences and appears to have a genetic component, and yet the biological component of the condition does not dictate that we understand the patient’s suffering to reflect objective reality.

Transgender activists assert that “gender is between the ears, not between the legs.” However, this is an ideological, faith-based statement that cannot be scientifically validated. What is “between our ears” — meaning our inner experience of ourselves as a gendered person — is purely subjective. Within this context, asserting that one is transgender is an unfalsifiable statement of belief. In reality, feeling like the other sex does not in any way mean that you are the other sex. Identity is an important aspect of one’s experience. We get to define ourselves subjectively, and I would argue that full-fledged adults ought to be able to modify their bodies in accordance with their sense of themselves. However, subjective identity should not dictate a necessity for medical treatment of any kind, especially body-altering treatments with highly significant side effect profiles for minors or young people

An identity model does not allow us to consider treatment outcomes critically. The research on outcomes post transition is mixed at best. It is well-known that one study showed that 41% of transgender people had experienced suicidal ideation or self harm. It is less well-known that the study gives no indication whether the attempt was before or after receiving transition care. Several large studies show astonishingly high rates of suicide among transgender people who have medically transitioned (see here and here). It has been argued that suicide rates continue to be high after transition due to societal prejudice. While this likely is true some of the time, post-transition transsexuals are more likely to “pass” as the target gender, and therefore ought to be less subject to discrimination. Given the undeniably high rates of suicide in post-transition transsexuals, it is disingenuous to claim that transition is a panacea that will prevent suicide.

While this study showed positive outcomes for early transition, there were only 55 subjects included. Perhaps more importantly, they were last assessed at one-year post sex reassignment surgery. In the survey of detransitioned women, the average length of transition was four years. It seems possible that some of the 55 individuals followed in the first study might go on to have regrets if they were followed for longer. Worryingly, one of the 70 individuals invited to participate in the study was unable to do so because the person died as a result of postsurgical necrotizing fasciitis after undergoing vaginoplasty.

While the media is full of stories of young people becoming happier and more confident after being allowed to transition, there is some evidence that this is not always the case. In addition to the research that documents high suicide rates post transition, I am aware of anecdotal evidence of continued or even increased anxiety and depression, social isolation, psychiatric hospitalization, and poor academic outcomes for those who have transitioned.

An identity model does not allow us to explore other options for dealing with dysphoria. Transition – social and medical — is currently the only treatment commonly prescribed for gender dysphoria. If what we are treating is an acute discomfort with one’s body, it would seem reasonable to offer a range of different treatments before prescribing transition, including anti-depressants, talk therapy, and emotion-regulation skills to help patients manage their distress. However, none of these treatments is routinely prescribed for gender dysphoria. In the survey of 200 detransitioned women, some significant percentage of them stated that they found alternative ways of dealing with dysphoria other than transition. Detransitioner and therapist in training Carey Callahan offers several specific techniques that she has found helpful on her blog. Clinicians and researchers ought to be mining these experiences to find other effective treatments for dysphoria in addition to transition.

whitman-quote-2

An identity model makes some questionable assumptions about the nature of identity and our ability to know ourselves. An identity model is predicated on the notion that identity is immutable, essential, and knowable. This is not my experience of human nature. Identities are useful for approximating something about ourselves. They are constructs that allow us to talk about our experience. But they are not absolute truths, and they rarely say something about our most essential, mysterious, and ultimately unknowable essence. To quote Whitman, “do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” I have had the good fortune to contradict myself many times in my life – contradict myself on things that at one time felt utterly essential and absolutely true. I believe this is a universal human experience, and yet another reason why making permanent changes to one’s body at a young age ought to be approached with extreme caution.

An identity model makes it impossible for us to acknowledge or discuss the varied reasons why a person might want to transition. The desire to transition likely has many varied causes. Seeing all transitions as an expression of innate gender identity obscures the very real differences between one person’s situation and another, making it impossible to assess and treat people in an individualized way. A late transitioning MtT autogynephile has an experience of gender dysphoria that is vastly different than that of a fifteen-year old lesbian, and the former’s experience ought not in any way to dictate how we understand or treat the latter.

An identity model creates a false dichotomy between affirmation and bigotry. According to the current narrative, the only supportive response to a teen who has self-identified as transgender is to affirm this identity and begin transition immediately. Any other response is quickly labeled transphobic. In reality, there is a huge range between assisting a child in transitioning immediately and affirming that they are and in fact always have been the opposite sex, and denigrating or shaming them for their desire to transition or coercively trying to get them to conform to rigid gender expectations. Parents can communicate their unconditional love and support. Parents can offer solace and warmth as the child struggles with distressing feelings. Parents can seek legitimate psychotherapeutic help to offer space for the young person to explore and understand the desire to transition. Teenagers often develop strong beliefs about what they must do or have, and it is well known that these beliefs and demands are not always sound or rational. Never before have parents of teens been told that they have to accede to the demands of their teenager or risk doing irreparable harm. Parents of teens have always had to step in and set loving limits on behavior that may not be in the young person’s long-term best interest. When dealing with a child who has diagnosed themselves as transgender, parents can do what parents of teenagers always do – set sensible limits and help a child to reflect on the potential consequences of his or her actions. Parents can assure the child of their ongoing love and acceptance if he or she does eventually decide, as a full-fledged adult, to transition.

An identity model offers an inferior kind of therapy to those who identify as transgender. As the blogger Third Way Trans has pointed out, “if someone is a member of a dominant class they receive regular psychotherapy but if they aren’t they receive a special kind of social justice therapy.” Those who come into treatment with gender dysphoria are not given the opportunity to explore deeply their experience, but instead have their self-diagnoses affirmed. There are people who will need to live as the opposite sex in order to have the happiest, fullest life possible. These individuals may need to consider taking hormones or having surgery. Surely these people deserve to have a place to explore these consequential decisions without prejudice in favor of a specific outcome so that a process of careful discernment can take place. If therapists are only cheerleaders for transition, how can someone in this situation get help to make the best decision?

I believe we should offer clients with gender dysphoria high quality mental health therapy. In a guest post on this blog, a woman who considered transitioning several times during her life shared a moment from her own therapy that proved important to her.

“When I started therapy in my early twenties, I revealed to my therapist that I had been raped at 18. It had been four years and I had never told anyone. In the process of uncovering that rape and telling her about it, I stated, during a session, that I wanted to become a man. She nodded, she said she understood, and that it was something we could explore, but in the meantime, we really needed to talk about the rape. I appreciated her approach. She wasn’t directive, judgmental, or reactive, she simply stated it was something to keep talking about, but encouraged me to focus on my experience of being raped and other traumas.”

In providing high quality mental health therapy to all patients, we would communicate unconditional positive regard to our gender dysphoric patients, just as we would with anyone else, and as the therapist in this blog post did. We would greet their announcement that they feel as though they may need to transition with acceptance and curiosity, communicating that we are willing to go there with them, to explore this desire in all of its intricacy, without prematurely coming to a fixed notion of what is right for our patient. We would see the person in front of us in all of their miraculous complexity, and not just as a “gender identity.”

As therapists, we have been trained in assessment. We have been trained to wonder about layers of meaning that may not be visible at first glance. We have been trained in how to recognize and work with trauma. We have been trained to help out clients explore their labyrinthine inner lives. When clients come to me wondering whether to end a relationship with a boyfriend or change careers, we typically spend months considering all of the different facets of such a decision. Don’t we owe at least as considered a process to someone contemplating making permanent changes to his or her body, especially when that person is a teen or young adult?

K-12 schools morphing into indoctrination hubs: Parents share their stories

Seemingly overnight, US public schools have been transformed into no-questions-allowed re-education centers for inculcating the notion that children as young as 4 or 5 years old can be innately transgender, and that any student, of any age, who claims to be or “feel like” the opposite sex is entitled to use not just private bathroom stalls, but shared locker rooms and showers designated for the sex s/he “identities with.”

As a result of this imposed sea change in US school policy, there has been a growing pushback from parents across the nation; the battle is raging fiercely, having recently reached the Supreme Court in one important Virginia case. And yesterday, it was announced that a federal judge had issued a “nationwide injunction” to halt the Obama administration’s directive to open school bathroom/locker room facilities to any student on the basis of their stated gender identity.

The mainstream media continues to (inaccurately) present the issue as between two clear opponents: Right-wing, homophobic and transphobic reactionaries, vs. the virtuous progressives and forward-thinking people who unquestioningly support President Obama’s “guidance” to force public schools into compliance with trans activist demands.  (Regular 4thWaveNow readers will know that most parents who congregate here are of the liberal/Democratic persuasion.)

Parents who have questions about the wisdom of this exercise in social engineering are ignored, marginalized, and even deliberately excluded from decisions about how their children are treated during the school day (and on overnight field trips, as well). A few months ago, 4thWaveNow contributor Overwhelmed wrote a post about the situation in US public schools, and yesterday, a very important post, “Gender Activism in Schools,” appeared on the blog Youth Transcritical Professionals, written by a parent named Emily, who has been embroiled in a battle with her 4th grader’s public charter school and school district.

The brawl at Emily’s school–Nova Classical Academy, in St. Paul, Minnesota–started and then escalated when the parents of a 5-year-old demanded opposite-sex toilet access for their son-now-trans-daughter.  According to Emily’s account, the school went from being a place where all parents’ views were respected, and where they had consistently enjoyed a major role in setting school policy, to a very different situation: a school where administrators and teachers knowingly hide information from parents in the name of adhering to an ideology that may neither be questioned, nor tailored to the needs of all the children and families in the school community—not just those who claim a trans identity.

I highly recommend that you read all of Emily’s post, and then ask yourself: Is this the way major social change should take place in a representative democracy? Should the executive branch subvert the checks-and-balances of the US legislative and judicial branches of government to bend a balking populace to its will?

Here’s a slightly tangential thought experiment. Trans activists are forever comparing their efforts to that of the fight of gay and lesbian people to attain civil rights.  But twenty or thirty years ago, can anyone imagine that adult gay and lesbian activists would have dreamed of demanding that public schools identify and “affirm” those kindergartners most likely to grow up to be gay or lesbian (the adult outcome for most “gender nonconforming” children)?  Back in the halcyon days of the LGB and women’s liberation movements, the idea of bringing children as young as 5-years-old into a discussion about private body parts,  or whether LGB people are “born that way” would have been beyond the pale—let alone any such initiatives being mandated by the President of the United States.

Emily wrote to ask us to reblog her post. We went a step further: We asked parents in our blog community if anyone would like to share their own experiences with their children’s schools vis-à-vis transgender issues and rights. From the accounts we’ve received so far, it’s evident that private schools are also affected, and the situation in UK schools is very similar.

Several of the below contributors (most of whom are not at liberty to identify themselves publicly), as well as Emily, who wrote the original post on Youth Transcritical Professionals, are available to participate in the comments section below.  Please feel free to add your own school-based experiences to the discussion.


Parents weigh in: School experiences


Nervous Wreck says:

My 18-year-old daughter’s very sudden decision to transition only happened after she herself learned as a public high school senior about the whole concept of transgender from classmates. It provided her an answer that made sense to her…a highly intelligent girl who never quite “clicked” with other girls. For her it was the power of suggestion from a classmate. How much more powerful the suggestion might be if it had come from the instructor?

Where I live, the public schools give a presentation to the parents about the sex education/STD materials that will be presented to students in the various grades. Parents are allowed to watch the very same videos that our students will watch, and parents are given the option to opt their student out of these presentations. Our students are not mandated to learn sex education from our public schools. We parents have the choice to teach our own students at home if we so desire.

Why is it not the same with gender identity materials? Are the health instructors expected to teach these materials as scientifically proven when it is not? Even if I didn’t opt-out of these materials, I want to know what the schools are teaching so I have the opportunity to have my own discussion with my child.

This all makes me sound terribly conservative doesn’t it? But I’m a life-long Democrat. I just happen to have a spiritual life that helped me as a youth to accept that our bodies are a gift to accept as is, simply a vehicle for carrying our spirit around. One does not have to be “conservative” to have a spiritual life….let’s put an end to the “right/left” notion about gender identity.  I myself have certainly never felt pinned down by gender stereotypes.


 Gary (New London, MN) says:

Early in the spring of 2015, a number of NL-S school district residents met with the school board to express concerns about their proposed transgender policy. This controversial policy was presented without any advance notice to parents or the community.  We were stunned that the Board of Education and the administration chose to ignore our request to delay its adoption.  Very few have had the opportunity to become aware of the policy, or to read and understand its implications. A simple delay is a most reasonable request. Why the rush?

Are we in this community ready for a policy that allows boys to use the girls’ locker rooms and girls’ bathrooms and to participate on the girls’ athletic teams? That will be the almost certain result if the school board’s proposed transgender policy is adopted.

The proposed policy states that the school is committed to “maximizing the social integration” of transgender students. This means that boys who at any time wish to see themselves as girls can do anything in schools that the girls do. These boys can use any of the girls’ facilities and participate on any of the girls’ sports teams.

We weren’t misled by the superintendent’s statement that it may be that transgender students could use “gender neutral” bathrooms and showers. Other schools tried that approach only to find themselves sued by GLTB lawyers and then forced to open all girls’ facilities to the boys.   “Maximizing the social integration” for transgender students does not allow for keeping the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms and showers separate.

Our Board’s proposed policy says that “sex is assigned at birth.” What kind of fantasy is that? My own experience is hearing the doctor or nurse say, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” I have yet to hear the doctor ask, “Which sex shall we assign this to baby?”

Aren’t schools supposed to teach our kids about the real world? This new policy requires our schools and teachers, by word, example and policy, to substitute a fantasy world for the real world and force our kids to conform to a make-believe world where biology isn’t real.

And what about the nonsense that putting our kids into a fantasy world will supposedly lower suicide rates? There is no evidence that such is the case. But, when we enter fantasy land, there are no limits to where it takes us, because truth and reality no longer matters.

We need to provide safety to all children, and many see this policy, as written, as harmful to every child. Keep in mind that most gender-confused children lose their confusion by the time they reach their 20’s. We all want all children to feel loved and accepted. Are we really helping them by affirming their confusion, rather than helping them address the underlying issues causing it?

After much deliberation and many revisions to the policy, the school board refused to remove the most objectionable wording that was contained in the policy; that being:  No one will be denied access to opposite-sex bathrooms or shower rooms.

We formed a community group in order to better equip us to oppose the ‘Gender Inclusion Policy’ (as they later labeled it), and with the help of numerous parents and concerned citizens did convince the school board to table the proposed policy until further guidance has been initiated either by the courts or other educational entities.


Miriam says:

Last February, a 15-year-old boy who claims to be a girl walked into the girls’ locker room at the school my child attends and began to undress in front of them. The girls, who were changing for basketball practice, some without shirts or shorts, were shocked and upset by the boy’s presence, so they ran out of the locker room wearing towels to a bathroom to finish changing. The boy tried to use the girls’ locker room again two days later, but was prevented by one of the girls’ boyfriends, who stood in his way. The girls in the locker room were devastated; they hadn’t been warned that boys would be allowed to use the girls’ locker room.

I got together with a few other mothers and we called the police to notify them of ongoing indecent exposure at the school. Then and only then did the school write an email to a few of the parents to inform them that there was a transgender girl (biological boy) using the girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms. The letter looked almost identical to the one that the Palatine school district used to notify families of bathroom use regulations. Additionally, the school told parents that we did not have a choice in the matter. They said we could home school our children if we didn’t like it.

The school then hosted a LGBT information night for parents and a day training session for students and teachers. The gender training facilitator used the “Gender Unicorn” as a visual aid for the students. The concerns of parents about mixed bathrooms were dismissed and there was no interest in finding a compromise. We discovered that our school had been hiding the fact that there was a boy in the girls’ room for over a year. They never said a word until the police got involved. Also, we were told that the district is “required by law to allow the boy to use the girls’ bathroom and locker rooms.” The same boy, who has been allowed to be a member of the girls’ basketball team and the girls’ marching band, has also demanded to sleep in the same hotel rooms with girls on band trips, but he has so far been denied.

A district elementary teacher reported that she was told by the administration that she was required to allow her students to use opposite-sex restrooms if they “identified” as the other sex. A female elementary student was even told to use the boys’ bathroom, simply “because she likes to do ‘boy’ things” and prefers pants to dresses. They claimed the law required telling her that.

genderunicorn1

Don’t believe the rhetoric about gender identity laws simply allowing someone to pee in peace; it’s not just about the bathrooms!

I would encourage parents everywhere to go to school board meetings. Be proactive and ask your athletic director to make sure your children have access to an alternate changing, showering, and restroom area.


ThinkingMom says:

Emily’s story has struck a real nerve with me.  My children have been attending a school very similar to the one that Emily’s kids attended, in another state.  It has been a great school and was founded on classical teaching.  My older child started having issues with what we are now learning is a borderline personality disorder, and possibly autism spectrum disorder.  She struggled with the large amount of homework at that school so we moved her to an associated charter school.  There, she was friendly with several kids who were identifying as “gender non-conforming.”  They started doing lots of cosplay, and copious Internet use – YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, DeviantArt.  Suddenly, my daughter started dressing differently, cutting her hair short, and even started some drug use.

Now in public school, she started going by a male name and male pronouns.  The public school, of course, has the policy to accept whatever kids present as, without parent consent or knowledge.  Each of the teachers and counselors I have dealt with are very apologetic about not being able to respect the parents by using given names, but have apparently received a directive to “make the student feel accepted and comfortable.”

The longer my daughter has gone by male pronouns and a male name, the more anxious, depressed, and rebellious she has become.  At home, she generally acts the way she has always acted, no pretense of male persona, no voice altering.  But she becomes irate when we don’t use her preferred name and pronouns because after all, “HE is accepted and admired at school by friends for being so unique”– we just are ignorant and don’t see who HE really is.

I will tell you who SHE is: She is still the sensitive, creative, intelligent girl who loves to take walks in nature and collect wildflower bouquets and unique rocks and bugs.  She still gets compliments on her beautiful singing voice, on her beauty, and her kindness.  But now, with all the “support,” she cusses like a sailor, sits with her legs wide apart and talks loud and abrasively, rude and crude, when in public.

The schools are just making things worse by making this a part of the education system.  It is something that should be dealt with by professionals, therapists, counselors–and by the families.  It makes things so much worse with the open and blatant pandering to the activists.  These kids are suffering and the help they need is NOT to become the poster child for their school, or their community.  The pressure to continue on the path of transition is now so intense, just because everyone is now watching.

What it is becoming is another platform for activists who use children as pawns for their activism.  It keeps the real problems – mental health issues – hidden and undiagnosed.  Self acceptance is so important for every human being.  Why has it become such a taboo subject and so many are working against it for the sake of permanent damage – hormones, medication, surgery – that will not even touch the real issues?

I do agree with one thing: School should be a safe place for all kids.  ALL KIDS. 
So why are the rest of the kids, the ones who aren’t suffering from these mental health and identity issues, being pushed aside?  Their feelings about themselves, the world, their friends and life in general, are being squashed and treated as unimportant compared to the few kids whose parents are intent on pushing the agenda on everyone, maybe for their own 15 minutes of fame and attention?  I am not saying it’s the parents’ fault in every situation, since every one of these situations also have a lot of other professional adults involved.  I just see this as such a tragedy for everyone involved.  We need to stop it now.  With this new school year, I see the problem getting worse, much worse, before it ever gets better.  But it has to get better, for the sake of our kids and the future for all.


Jane says:

I took this photo over the summer. This appeared on the main bulletin board in a progressive private school that goes from grades 7 through 12. Tuition at this school runs about $30k per year. Most upsetting thing to me about this poster is that “female” has nothing to do with biology: “Female: identifies as a girl. Does not necessarily refer to genitalia.” Might as well teach creationism.

School poster

This is not the only progressive private school in the area to have swallowed trans ideology.


UKMum says:

This is happening in UK schools too. My daughter is one of seven other trans-identifying girls who live within a square mile of us that I know of (clearly social contagion).

One day, she and another trans student knocked on the door of the school counsellor’s office, and requested to be known by boys’ names and pronouns. She told them that we, her parents, were ‘not supportive’ and it was therefore kept secret from us. She was given a new ID badge, all the school records were changed and she was helpfully advised right there and then that she would have to change her name legally by deed poll if she wanted to write her new name on her exam scripts. (So of course, that is what she eventually did!)

The first I knew of this was when the school ‘slipped up’ and sent me a text communication with her boy’s name on. I was driving, pulled over to read the text, and then spent half an hour crying in a layby, until I felt stable enough to continue driving. What a shock!

I wrote to the school, telling them that we were considering having her assessed for Aspergers, pleading that this affirmation by adults in authority would not help at this stage, that this had come out of the blue, etc. I felt it was wrong that she wasn’t interviewed individually by the counsellor and that two kids going together on the same day to request the same thing, should have raised alarm bells about ‘influences.’ Also, as she was wearing a new ID card, with a male name, if she was involved in an accident, she could potentially receive the wrong treatment, since her emergency contacts (us and her grandparents) do not use that name, nor would hospitals be able to access her medical records. (How would they find them, since they are not in this new name?) I felt this was a duty-of-care issue, and the school relented and told her she would have to just use the first initial of her birth name on her card, whilst it was still her legal name.

Of course, within weeks of being known as male at school, she developed dysphoria and felt that she now could no longer go out without a chest binder. Next, she began to be dysphoric about her voice and to intentionally lower it…then a new way of sitting, and beginning to be aggressive and swearing a lot. All of this was completely out of character. Our family and friends have looked on aghast at the rapid decline of our sweet, sensitive, funny, overthinker. It is a nightmare.

Our scepticism has caused great damage to our relationship which has all but broken down, with both sides feeling hurt and disrespected.

During part of the time we were going through all this, our daughter attended a girls’ school. While one might think single-sex schools would be immune to some of this, the official GSA in the UK has now begun the process of replacing the word ‘girls’ with ‘pupils’ so as not to misgender anyone.

Now I don’t want my daughter to go to University because I am afraid that she will be encouraged further down the road. And as she is now an adult, we will just have to stand by and watch her disappear.


Skepticalmom says:

Well-meaning adults need to understand just what they are encouraging kids to do when they give blanket acceptance to all things trans.  Well-meaning school administrators and parents just don’t realize what sort of damage they are doing to kids when they apply transgender ideology within their schools. Although trans is associated with gay rights and acceptance, trans is a much different animal. Of course we want to be accepting of all children, but should we accept, without question, children’s fantasies and false beliefs? While compassion is admirable and necessary, it is not an act of compassion when adults lead children to believe they are or can become the opposite sex.

We are allowing young people to be drugged and even surgically altered, based upon their personal, self-identified beliefs — which have no basis in science. Not only is trans ideology based upon belief rather than scientific fact, the end result is kids who are tethered to the medical system, receiving ongoing medical treatment, for the rest of their lives. School are accepting this and encouraging it. They should be teaching science instead.

Well-meaning adults also may not know that most kids who say they are trans grow out of it if left alone (in other words, no social or medical transitioning) to mature into adults. Well-meaning adults may also not know that many kids who claim to be trans have pre-existing problems such as past sexual abuse or physical or mental trauma, or have mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. There is also a correlation between autism spectrum disorder and kids who claim to be transgender. These issues need to be carefully, thoughtfully and thoroughly explored and sorted out by professionals. Unfortunately, however, current medical protocol allows kids to be socially transitioned immediately upon self identification and begin medical transition shortly thereafter.

My own family is quietly and privately struggling to get my teen daughter past her feelings of not wanting to be female. She is making progress with the help of a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist. She says doesn’t want to be a man — it’s just that she doesn’t feel comfortable as a woman. Yes, this is progress. Yet, if well meaning teachers, parents or administrators invite the trans political machine into our school, I can guarantee you all progress would be lost as she would feel encouragement or even pressure to further her male persona.

My child’s school doesn’t know what we are dealing with at home. In order to help other students who might be dealing with the same issue either now or in the future, I would like to warn our school’s administrators and counselors of the dangers and junk science behind transgenderism, and the fact that teen girls, especially, are falling prey to trans social contagion. I would like to help implement a program that teaches both boys and girls about the dangers of todays easy-access internet porn. However, I must wait until my child is out of our school system, as I can’t risk them finding out about her problem and encouraging it.

Families should be allowed to deal with these situations privately, allowing their therapists, psychiatrists and physicians to do what is right for each individual patient. It is harmful to our kids when schools encourage them to believe they are something they can never be (the opposite sex), or encourage our kids down the path toward dangerous, invasive, unnecessary and never ending medical “treatments.”


TheMom says:

My daughter goes to a very large public high school. As she has not come out publicly, she has not experienced any issues. I do know that her school last year was looking at changing bathroom and locker room policies in anticipation of accommodating trans students. They had one openly trans student a few years ago (FtM), and that student used the bathroom in the nurse’s office, which the student did not find acceptable. But the student graduated and moved on. The school board said that they have a dilemma because their current policy doesn’t allow students to use individual locking bathrooms. Students could go in there and commit suicide, do drugs, have sex, etc. and it would be very difficult for security to get in the bathroom. So they were looking at options. They already have changed their PE policy, stating that students are not required to wear a PE uniform, and that students don’t even have to change for PE if they don’t want to.

Announcing a new online survey for detransitioned women

Cari is a 22-year-old detransitioned woman who was interviewed recently on 4thWaveNow about her experiences as a former teen client of Transactive Gender Center in Portland, OR.  Cari wrote to us today to announce an online survey she has created for women who are reclaiming themselves as female.  I’ll let her introduce her work in her own words shortly. But first, if you have not had a chance to watch Cari’s very powerful YouTube video,  please do so. In it, she deftly takes apart a post on trans youth, desistance, and detransition by trans activist MtoF Julia Serano.

Cari is not the only detransitioner talking back to Serano. Several other women have come forward in recent days to eloquently and incisively describe the many facets of the female detransitioned experience, including Maria Catt and crashchaoscats. Transgender Trend also posted an excellent response to Serano.

Now I’ll let Cari introduce her Survey of female detransition and reidentification. Please share widely!


This survey is for anyone female/AFAB who formerly self-described as transgender. This includes women who transitioned, whether socially and/or medically, and have subsequently detransitioned, as well as individuals who still identify as nonbinary or genderfluid, but have desisted from medical or social transition. The purpose of this survey is to provide information about the demographics of those who detransition and reidentification, motivations of individuals to detransition, and survey general attitudes of female detransitioners towards transition.

I’m posting this as a way of getting some data about detransitioned women where none seems to exist, particularly regarding motivation to detransition and the efficacy of managing dysphoria without transition. This survey is short due to surveymonkey’s question limit, and not very scientific, however I may create a longer and more controlled one in the future, should there be interest in that.

An inconvenient survey: Activists scheme to squelch research on teen social contagion

One might think that purported pediatric gender experts would have a vested interest in investigating all facets of the current worldwide massive increase in kids wanting to chemically and surgically transition to the opposite sex. After all, in most civilized societies, adults want to protect young people and seriously ponder what’s best for them—all of them. Certainly, when it comes to permanent, lifelong medical interventions, most responsible professionals who work with youth would realize that not everyone who wants a treatment is necessarily a good candidate for it; as one bioethicist memorably put it, “a doctor is not a candy seller.

But at least one director of a well known pediatric gender center and national trans activist lobbying group in Portland, OR—a full-grown adult who nevertheless takes to Facebook to brand anyone not fully on board with the organization’s mission as a “TERF ” or “anti-trans hate group” —evidently cannot tolerate a researcher even studying the phenomenon of teens who came quite suddenly to the idea of transgender identity. [Note: All screen captures are from Burleton’s publicly accessible Facebook page.]

burleton on survey

The survey study, “Rapid onset gender dysphoria, social media, and peer groups” (still actively recruiting participants) seeks to better understand, via parent survey, the phenomenon of teenagers who (after never previously expressing gender dysphoria) suddenly announce they are the opposite sex.  Many parents in the 4thWaveNow community have teens who, in many cases, have demanded immediate access to medical transition, with all that entails—cross sex hormones (with concomitant permanent body changes, particularly for biological females), and major surgery, often involving removal of both breasts. Some of these teens changed their minds about transition, while others have not–but all are worth studying in the interests of discovering whether there is (as many of us have observed) a social contagion contributing to the increase in teens (especially teen girls) who express a desire to become the opposite sex.

Wouldn’t any reputable purveyor of a treatment which will change the lives of teenagers forever have even a modicum of intellectual curiosity about what such a survey might reveal? One would think, also, that Jenn Burleton might feel slightly chastened after recently hearing from a detransitioned, former teen client who was unhappy about the fast-track transition that was enabled by TransActive gender counselors. Instead, Burleton (whose Facebook description lists only studying “Resilience at the University of Life“ as professional credentials) would rather  cast aspersions on the MD/MPH conducting the “bogus” study, as well as the organizations and websites (including this one) which have publicized the research effort.

Commenters on Burleton’s post (who were obviously approved by Burleton) go even further, with one intending to deliberately “throw off the statistics” on the survey.

burleton commenters 2.jpg

Burleton obviously approves of the “throw off the statistics” scheme:

burleton+likes

If trans activists are so confident that kids as young as 3 or 4 can be legitimately and reliably diagnosed as “transgender” and in dire need of intervention by organizations like TransActive, why would the executive director need to stoop to childish tactics like screaming “TERF” and encouraging Facebook followers to gum up a survey study? What’s the worry? Why wouldn’t someone with such a huge responsibility for the well being of teenagers want to learn more about teens who were simply following a social trend, later changed their minds, or who actually might not be appropriate for treatment?

Burleton’s open hostility and the jeering, sophomoric reaction of the post’s followers lead inexorably to a question: Are some key activists in the forefront of pediatric transition genuinely interested in looking at all the evidence about “trans kids”? Or are they, instead, driven by a desire to shut down any and all inconvenient fact-finding efforts when it comes to promoting drastic medical interventions for other people’s children?

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the meaning of a Facebook “like” won’t have much difficulty answering that question.