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

by worriedmom

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


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

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

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

integrative medicine circle

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

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

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

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

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

not just the disease

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

According to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You would think that, but you would be wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Lost Generation Strikes Back

by Worriedmom


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about you?


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

Graphics by Lily Maynard


 

Anime culture & teen trans-trending

This morning, after descending into the bowels of the site “Kiwi Farms” (the lair of some of the Internet’s more colorful denizens), we tweet-stormed about the unethical “gender specialists” who profit from the identity confusion of teens addicted to anime and Tumblr-inspired cosplay. The particular Kiwi Farms thread discusses what many of us parents are all too aware of: The impact of hours of pretend-identity play on our kids’ desire to make their Internet fantasies a reality “IRL.”

The question is: Where the hell are the developmental psychologists, sociologists, autism experts, and responsible journalists [more and more an oxymoron] on this issue? It’s not like this stuff is happening in secret.

Here is the “storified” tweet storm, reproduced below.

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A mum’s voyage through Transtopia: A tale of love and desistance

Lily Maynard lives with her husband and their family in the UK. Her daughter, Jessie, was 15 when she first began identifying as trans.

In this post, Lily chronicles her grueling journey of self education on trans issues, and her determination to share what she learned with Jessie, who at first utterly dismissed her mother’s efforts.  But after 9 months, Jessie, now 16, eventually desisted from trans identification, and, with the support of her mother and another formerly trans-identified friend, came to recognize and embrace herself as a young woman.

Jessie adds her own observations at the end of her mother’s post.

Lily and Jessie are both available to interact with readers in the comments section of this post.


by Lily Maynard

My youngest daughter Jessie was not a ‘girly’ girl. As a small child she was often mistaken for a boy, despite her long hair, because mostly she wore jeans and dinosaur tops. She didn’t care much for the pastel, glitter, hearts and lace that tends to fill the girls’ section of most stores. Growing up, she liked Dora the Explorer and Ben 10; she liked Lego and Bratz dolls. Occasionally, she chose a pink sparkly top, or a crystal ballerina for the Christmas tree.

Once, when she was about 7, a woman in a second-hand shop said to her, “Oh you’re a GIRL! Why are you playing with that dirty old truck? Here’s a nice doll.”

So I bought her the truck to make a point, and on the way home we talked about how silly it was to have different toys for boys and girls. We always applauded the strong women in movies and cartoons. My kids would tell me, “Mum, you’d like this film, there’s a Strong Female Role in it.”

Jessie played with both boys and girls growing up; she had siblings; she was sociable; she had a wide circle of friends. She did ballet for half a term, but tripped over her feet and hated it. She tried football, but tripped over her feet and hated getting up early. She liked jujitsu and roller skating, drawing and writing stories. She hated skirts and dresses and tomatoes.

By age 12, she was spending a lot of time online. She had a Facebook account and loved YouTube, music videos, cat videos; Naruto and Hannah Montana. She hung out mostly with a small group of close girlfriends, but mixed well with anyone. At 13 she had her own iPhone and laptop, and worshipped One Direction. At 14, she began watching videos by lesbian YouTubers Rose and Rosie, and ElloSteph. For the most part, I liked them. These young women were funny, happy and confident, and they gave out good life advice. Their videos were well composed, although there was a bit too much of the obligatory YouTube navel-gazing  for my liking.

Jessie, slightly goth, long dyed dark hair and occasional black eyeliner, always in jeans and a band T shirt, Jessie came out as gay just before her 15th birthday . I wasn’t surprised. She’d briefly ‘dated’ a boy she’d known since she was five but it was obviously no great passion, so I had suspected she was going to tell me weeks before she did. Shortly afterwards she made a ‘coming out’ YouTube video and posted it on her Facebook page. She said she was ‘gay’; she didn’t use the word ‘lesbian’. I did think she was quite young to define her sexuality so suddenly and utterly, and declare it to the world before she had even had a relationship. By this time, I was very aware of the part YouTube youth culture played in the decision to ‘go public’ with a video. I told her that, but I wasn’t shocked or discouraging.  I had a few girlfriends myself when I was younger. If she was a lesbian, so be it. I just wanted her to be happy and healthy.

Soon thereafter, Jessie began watching ‘transitioning’ videos on YouTube with her friends and siblings: cute boys who became girls and cute girls who became boys; endless slideshows of their stories, entitled, ‘My Transition Timeline’.

The girls all had the same sideways smiles and little bum-fluff beards. “I never liked pink,” they declared, “I never liked dresses, I wasn’t attracted to boys. I wore guy clothing.” The boys twisted their long hair as they spoke through heavily lipsticked lips, leaning forward coyly and peering out from over-mascara’ed lashes.  “I always liked pink,” they cooed, “I played with girls’ toys.” I wondered why this generation seemed desperate to put itself into boxes and mark them with labels, but mostly I worried that my kids were spending too much time online.

“Read a book; go outside!” was my mantra. “Turn off the internet and put down your phone.”

Jessie took me to a YouTube convention and we sat at the front during the LGBT discussion. She had a crush on a high-profile teen who identified as a boy. Chris was on hormones and had had a double mastectomy. Chris was kind to Jessie at the ‘meet and greet’ afterwards and posed for a photo. I didn’t see Chris as a boy, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. What I do remember was those eyes, like a frightened rabbit, a frail little thing despite the smiles.

Jessie asked to cut her long hair short. I said, “Of course.” I was surprised how much it suited her. We donated her hair to the Little Princess Trust, to be made into wigs for children with cancer.

Jessie still had her phone 24/7. I ‘trusted’ her, despite knowing that many of her friends were online half the night. I knew some of them self-harmed, or starved themselves, or posted half-naked pictures online. I know now that it isn’t about trust. No one ever thinks their child is doing that stuff. Social media cliques are like a spiral, ever more insular and self-serving. They are more than the sum of the parts of their users. The internet can be a great source of support, but whole online communities have grown up to normalise disturbing behaviours: from the personification of eating disorders with Ana and Mia, through forums where kids discuss who cuts the deepest or most frequently. If my bright, happy child was vulnerable, anybody’s child can be vulnerable. You can’t ‘trust’ your child not to get drawn into a cult, any more than you can trust them not to get run over by a truck.

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A month after cutting her hair, Jessie said she had something to tell me. She was distraught, red-faced and bleary-eyed. There was a tiny part of me that knew what she was going to say, although I didn’t realise it until later. After almost an hour of pacing the room she grabbed a pen and wrote on a scrap of paper, ‘I am transgender’.

Despite having half-known what she was going to say, I was shocked. I had heard of people who said they’d always known they were ‘in the wrong body’ but there had never been anything in Jessie’s past to suggest that might be the case with her. She insisted the signs had always been there. She hated wearing dresses, she used male avatars in video games, she didn’t want to flirt with boys. She didn’t ‘feel’ like a girl.

“Do you want to go on hormones?” I asked, at one point during that first conversation. “You’d grow a beard.” I added, pointlessly.

She nodded. She never mentioned surgery, but I saw it looming in her future. The prospect terrified me. I didn’t know what to say.  So I said, “It’ll be ok.”

She seemed much happier after telling me and then went to bed, a million miles away, in her room next to mine. I went to bed too, and the darkness screamed at me. I got up again, and spent the night googling ‘transgender’ and crying. I tried to be open-minded. I wanted to support Jessie more than anything; to do the best thing to help her, but I was sure transition wasn’t the answer she needed. I told myself I was open-minded, but was I really? Was I in denial? I slept very little over the following weeks.

I spoke to a lesbian friend, in a panic.  “What does he want to do next?” she inquired.  I felt as if I’d been punched in the stomach.

One of the first places I looked for information was the National Health Service website, because I presumed there would be impartial advice: something about helping people with the issue of reconciling their bodies with their identity. I thought that thinking you were transgender would be treated as a mental health issue; surely  transition would be recommended as a last resort.

I typed ‘NHS transgender’ into Google, and the first article that appeared was the story of a boxing promoter who came out as transgender  at age 60; about  his ‘dreams, diaries and dress-ups’. A link on that site led to the children’s trans support group, ‘Mermaids’. which is run by parents who believe their children are born in the wrong bodies. Their advice to confused teens, in the section ‘I think I’m trans, what do I do?’ is ‘you can speak to your GP  without your parents being able to know if you are not comfortable with coming out to them yet.’ Next, I flipped through the testimonials from parents. Mermaids receives UK lottery funding and is often the first port of call for concerned parents in the UK.  As far as I could tell, every single child mentioned on the site has transitioned.

Another link on the NHS transgender page led me to a glossy brochure called ‘Living my Life’, featuring studio photos of good-looking transgender people. It struck me as more of an advert for plastic surgery than an information booklet.

A spikey-haired 20-something plays a guitar and shouts into the camera. ’We’re here for a good time, not a long time.’  A coiffed and manicured blonde wears a low-cut salmon pink top, and a pair of surgically enhanced breasts take up most of the bottom half of the picture.  ’I was always me but I just didn’t look like me.’

There was nothing on either of those two links about helping kids to reconcile with their natal sex. Nothing about working through it; nothing about learning to love yourself as you are. I saw nothing stating the obvious: that a healthy natal boy has a penis and testicles and a healthy natal girl has a vulva and vagina, and that both sexes should be able to do all the things they love while wearing whatever damn outfit takes their fancy.

I typed ‘Am I transgender?’ into Google and clicked on the link to amitransgender.com. One word filled the screen: a black YES on a white background.

“I want to change my pronouns,” Jessie announced. “I’m a boy in a girl’s body.”

“How can you know what a boy feels like, when you’re a girl?” I demanded.

She couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.

“You’re a girl,” I insisted. “You can do anything as a girl, achieve anything as a girl that you could if you were a boy, but you can’t just become a boy any more than you can become a cat. It doesn’t work like that.”

“Go away.”

My eyes were opened over the next few weeks. Staying up most of the night, every night, Google led me beyond YouTube, to Reddit, to Tumblr, to Pinterest and Instagram. To posts about pink, clothing, hair and make-up. To seemingly endless pictures and slideshows of men, dressed like pornstars, claiming to be women. Vague explanations about ‘feeling’ different; about ‘being yourself’. It led me to videos of girls in checked shirts with cute quiffs and bound breasts, who genuinely believed they were gay men. They talked of ‘gender identity’ and the sex they’d been ‘assigned at birth’, as if births were attended by a gender fairy who absent-mindedly distributed random gifts of genitalia. A huge amount of importance was attached to public bathroom access and locker rooms of one’s choice. Endless posts claiming, in all seriousness, that ‘misgendering’ transpeople is an act of violence tantamount to trying to kill them, and how the only way to stop the feeling of dysphoria is to embrace transition and start living as your ‘preferred gender’. Immediately. There is no shortage of gender therapists offering to help a child do that, because if you even suspect you might be trans, then you probably are. Type ‘child gender therapist UK’ into Google and you get over 15 million results.

Everywhere I looked, the internet seemed eager to affirm that transition was a simple and marvellous thing, the one and only solution to all the problems of physical and social dysphoria. If you don’t support your child’s transition, parents are warned over and over again, they will probably try to kill themselves.

amitransgender

I learned a lot. I learned that if you don’t believe a man can become a woman; if you are gender critical, you will be called a TERF, transphobic and told to ‘educate yourself’ at best; ‘die in a fire’ at worst. I became familiar with the term ‘die cis scum’ (‘cis’  are non-trans people). I learned that if you are a lesbian who doesn’t want to give fellatio, you are transphobic. You may be called a cisbian and you are responsible for the ‘cotton ceiling’. Men get pregnant  and you should say ‘chestfeeding’ not ‘breastfeeding’. Vulva cupcakes are violent. Women who menstruate should be called ‘menstruators’ so as not to trigger transwomen who cannot menstruate, or transmen who don’t wish to be reminded that they do. The term ‘female genital mutilation’ is ‘cis sexist’. Often, middle-aged people with names like Misty or Crystal will be the ones helpfully explaining this to confused ‘non-binary’ youngsters. If your child thinks they’re trans, there are a host of interested adults out there. They’ll help you select underwear, they’ll advise you to start transition as early as you can. Some will advise you to keep your feelings from your parents because they may become ‘crazy, hateful people’ if you come out to them. Worried siblings are told to keep quiet if they don’t want suicide on their hands. A few clicks will get you tips on how to get a binder without your parents knowing; some sites will even post you a second-hand binder for free. Tips on how to get hold of hormones illegally online and how to get ‘top surgery’ quicker by lying to a therapist are just a few clicks away.

I started taking Jessie’s phone away at night.

Here’s the thing – teenagers are dysphoric. Dysphoria is defined as ‘a state of unease or generalised dissatisfaction with life’ and that just about sums up being a teenager for a lot of kids. Many teenagers feel they aren’t in the right place, the right life, the right time. It is not such a huge leap, especially for a lesbian girl, to conclude that she is in the wrong body. Transkids call the name their parents gave them at birth their ‘deadname’. The appeal is clear. Society demands such impossible things from our youth. Our boychildren are expected to be tough, to ‘man up’, to scorn women yet acquire them, to value money and power above everything else. Is it any wonder if they shirk from what they are told is manhood? And if it is hard for them, it is so much worse for our girls. They are faced with endless images of airbrushed physical perfection in a society where women are told they can ‘have it all’ but are everywhere portrayed as constantly sexually available and intellectually and physically inferior. We are raising our girls in a society where women still earn nearly 20% less than men for the same work hours; where online porn is only a click away; where a third of young women age 18-24 report being sexually abused in childhood and only one in twenty reported rapes ends in a conviction. Is it really any wonder when young women want to cut off not just their hair  but their breasts and fantasise about emerging, as if from a chrysalis, to join men in their position of power and privilege?

“Gender is a social construct.” I repeated. “You are a biological girl. You can have no idea what it feels like to be a boy, because you aren’t a boy. Being a girl doesn’t have to dictate what you like to do, or wear, or who you love.”

She said, “I’m a boy.”

“No, you are a girl.”

“You can’t tell me how I feel.”

I worried myself sick that, at almost 16, my child was only a few months away from being able to visit a doctor privately and start hormone treatment. In fact, as I later learned, some UK children are receiving cross-sex hormones from private doctors as young as 12.

When I first started my research into transgenderism online, I could find nothing that questioned the trans narrative. Everything said transition was the answer, the only answer. Then I found 4thWaveNow, Transgender Trend and Gender Critical Dad. Those websites were saving lights in the blue glow of my laptop on those sleepless nights. From there I was led to others who questioned Transtopia. I read, with a mixture of relief and dismay, articles showing the huge increase in young people identifying as ‘trans’ and presenting to gender clinics in the last few years. Those most likely to be sucked in seemed to be white, middle class girls who spent compulsive amounts of time on social media. I read blog posts by thissoftspace and crashchaoscats. I watched YouTube videos by the inspirational Peachyoghurt. I read Sheila Jeffreys’ ‘Gender Hurts’. I joined online radical feminist groups and met wonderful women full of love and anger who taught me a lot.  I read stories about five year old children transitioning, and about parents discovering their child had ‘changed pronouns’ at school months ago, but the school had a policy not to discuss  the issue with parents. I saw picture books encouraging children to question if they were born the ‘right’ sex. I read about a woman who started a fundraiser for ‘top surgery’ for her disabled daughter who was hospitalised in an intensive care unit. I watched videos where young boys donned false eyelashes and lipstick and curled their long hair, and told the world that they were really girls, while their parents held the cameras that broadcast their lives to the world via their own YouTube channels. Trans-identifying Jazz Jennings stars in a reality TV show. I read about MTT (male to trans) boxers hospitalising women in fights, about MTT golfers who suddenly became world champions, about middle-aged MTT playing on girls’ basketball teams. And I read story upon story about women and girls being assaulted in bathrooms, locker rooms, prisons and refuges, by men who identified as women and used the privilege that gave them to invade women’s spaces.  In all my internet surfing, I never found a single story about an MTT being attacked in a men’s restroom.

I showed Jessie a graph that registered the sweeping rise in girls identifying as trans over the last decade. She seemed somewhat subdued by that.

“A woman can’t become a man, it’s impossible.” I reasoned. “How can your body be wrong but your brain be right?”

She repeated, “I’m in the wrong body.”

We went round in circles. And then, in my Internet wanderings, I discovered ‘Jake’.

Jessie had created an elaborate online persona as a transboy, as Jake. As the story slowly unravelled, I discovered that Jessie hadn’t met her new girlfriend, Beth, at a party, as she had told me. Instead, they had met online, and as far as Beth was concerned, she had a boyfriend, a transboy called Jake. As far as Beth was concerned, Jessie Maynard didn’t exist.

I was devastated, I was lost, I was furious. We’d had a strict ‘no fake profiles online’ rule and she had broken it, and then had lied to me.

“It’s not a fake profile,” she yelled, as she slammed her bedroom door. “It’s me!”

I changed the internet passwords and I bought her a ‘brick phone’, a phone without internet access. She was not impressed.

But I didn’t try to stop Jessie seeing Beth, or any of her other friends. Beth lived two hours away from us, but I paid Jessie’s train fare to visit her fortnightly, and gave her back her old phone to FaceTime most evenings. I was touched when Jessie wanted me to meet Beth, and I took them out for dinner. I had mixed feelings. On one level I felt the relationship was reinforcing her confusion. On another I felt it might help clear it. Yet I was horrified that Jessie had created this online world, slipped so easily inside and pulled it back into reality with her. There were others calling her Jake now, friends she had met online, and a few ‘IRL’ friends. Even some of her friends’ parents, I discovered, used the new name and pronouns.

“Do you think Beth really sees you as a boy?” I questioned, one afternoon.

“Yes.” Jessie didn’t look up from her book.

“Really?”

“She says if that’s how I identify, that’s how she sees me.” Jessie looked up this time, and seemed a little uncertain. “I have wondered about that,” she admitted.

Sometimes I would sit with her, coaxing her to explain how she felt, trying so hard to understand how she thought she really could be a boy; telling her what a talented and creative person she was and what a great life she had ahead of her.

Sometimes I couldn’t bear it any longer.

“Whatever you do to yourself you will always be a woman,” I shouted, exasperated. “Do you want a life where everyone around you creeps about pretending they think you’re something you’re not? Do you want to spend the rest of your life on hormones? Do you want a half-beard, phantom breasts, a life based on a lie?”

Sometimes she would not speak to me at all. And I didn’t blame her.

As I’ve said, the internet told me repeatedly that my child might kill herself if I questioned this new identity or whether transition was the best response to her feelings. I didn’t believe it. Jessie did not seem suicidal. Angry and confused, yes. There seemed to be no space for question, no one out there to tell these kids they might be ok as they are – that it was society’s expectations of what makes a man or a woman that should change, not them. This self-diagnosed condition seemed to be accepted without question by most therapists and health professionals.

I started a Facebook group just for Jessie and me, where I posted blog links, news articles and reports I found online, and checked if she had read them by bringing them up in conversation.

Sometimes I’d say, “You can have your phone to call Beth after you’ve read that article.”

Or, “I’ll wash up, you go and look at that video.”

Many of the links I shared with her explained gender as a social construct. Some unravelled the myth that our brains are gendered; some discussed what makes a woman a woman. Many linked FTT (female to trans) transgenderism to male domination, some discussed internalised misogyny. I made sure she knew that detransition was ‘a thing’ and that detransitioners were rejected by the community that had encouraged them to transition in the first place. Sometimes we read articles or watched videos together. She rolled her eyes a lot but didn’t seem to mind too much.

dolezal

I read everything I could get my hands on. I stayed up most of the night, most nights, reading and copying and pasting appropriate links for Jessie to read. It was easier than lying in the dark, thinking about my perfect child removing her breasts a few years down the line. I learned about breast binders and the problems they can cause. I learned that the facial hair produced by testosterone often remains even if hormones are stopped. I googled pictures that I now wish I could unsee. A pre-op torso sporting breasts and chest hair. Photos of badly scarred, crooked chests; of nipples that looked as if they had been glued or badly stitched back on, reports of nipples that had ‘fallen off’. A photo of bloody breast tissue lying in a silver surgeon’s bowl. I saw pictures of constructed penises that looked like ready-rolled pastry and the raw exposed flesh that was cut away from arms or thighs to build them. I learned about how an artificial vagina can be constructed from a scrotal sack, and how, in the words of one MTT, “some of the tissues get starved of nutrients and oxygen (and) tends to die off”. I learned about ‘phantom penis syndrome’ and how it can affect some post-op MTTs when they become aroused.

It was horrific. It was nothing like the ‘My 2 Year Transition Story’ YouTube videos. I did not make an appointment for Jessie to see the doctor. I did not take her to a gender clinic.

“You’re not a straight boy, Jessie. You’re a lesbian.” I reasoned.

She shouted, furious, “I am not a lesbian!”

Her 16th birthday came and went. She had a party and her friends took over the ground floor. I kept one eye out from upstairs. Some cross-looking little goth girls smoked and drank beer at the bottom of the garden.

“Who were those girls?” I asked the next day.

“Those boys were Ryan and Jake.”

I snorted.

I did try to find Jessie a therapist who would help her reconcile with being female. The only openly gender critical therapist a Google search threw up lived in Texas. No use to us, then. I was put in touch with several people by email, but I could find no-one who worked in our area. Those I did communicate with were wonderfully supportive but asked me not to name them, not to give out their email address or talk about them. The message was clear – publicly questioning Transtopia could be professional suicide.

Jessie talked disparagingly of ‘otherkin’, the world of people who seriously ‘identify’ as animals. Cats, mostly, or wolves, and sometimes dragons. She didn’t take them very seriously. I said I couldn’t see a lot of difference between their beliefs and her own. She scowled–but then she laughed.

I showed Jessie photographs of Danielle Muscato and Alex Drummond: both men who consider themselves to be women.

I showed her a picture of an FTT (female to trans), who claimed she was a gay man, breast-feeding her baby.

“Man or woman?” I pestered her. “What makes a woman? What makes a man?”

We watched a video about Paul Wolscht, a man in his late forties who now ‘identifies’ and ‘lives as’ a 7- year old girl. Jessie was horrified. She said it was gross. I said that if gender really is all about identity, then his identity is surely as valid as any other. She looked at me, incredulous. I shrugged. There was a silence.

I showed her Peachyoghurt’s YouTube channel and we watched the videos together. Peachyoghurt made Jessie laugh. Sometimes I felt like we were getting somewhere, but when I asked her, the answer was always the same.

“Nothing’s changed. I’m still a boy.”

“What about Rachel Dolezal?” I asked one day, in the middle of dinner. “She was born white but honestly feels as if she is black. How is that different?”

“It just is.”

“Why?”

“I’m eating my dinner, mum.”

I taught her about how gender is a hierarchy; I gave her articles that showed that ‘transwomen’ are as likely to be arrested for violent crime against women as men; and that wealthy, older men are investing huge amounts of money in the transitioning of children.

Sigh. “I’m still a boy, mum. Nothing has changed.”

When Jessie was due to register at college at 16, she told me she wanted to register as a boy, as Jake. I had seen this coming and I was not keen at all. I felt that the more she indulged Jake; ascribed the good things in her life to being perceived as a male, the less there would be left of Jessie. The deeper she waded in the waters of Transtopia, the harder it would be to turn back. I worried about the effect on her education, and the damage that would be done by people in authority appearing to buy into her delusion. I was determined to at least find her some time and space to think a while longer before stepping into a life in which her ’transness’ was either the elephant in the room or the main focus of her being. She’d been offered a place at an excellent college an hour away from us. I took a gamble.

“You can do what you like when you are 18,” I told her. “But for now, you register as Jessie- as a girl- or you go to the college two blocks away from our flat.”

To say she was not pleased is an understatement. There were tears and there was shouting.  But she registered at college as Jessie Maynard.

We know that we are supposed to say that transwomen are real women. We know that it upsets them when we don’t. We also know, although we think about it far less, that we are supposed to believe that teenage girls who think they are boys, are actually men. The reason the cry ‘transwomen are real women’ is so important is that the minute we stop buying into that ‘reality’ the whole house of cards collapses.

I talked with Jessie about the way we treat boys and girls differently and how their brains develop differences because of that. I reminded her that in Victorian times, and well into the 20th century, pink was considered to be a boy’s colour and boys wore dresses until they were as old as eight. Gender expectations are different in different cultures. How could your brain be right but your body wrong? Is Caitlin Jenner really a woman, and is the hardest part of being a woman really deciding what to wear? Can sixty years of male privilege be wiped away with surgery and a lipstick? I talked a lot.

After a while I would always ask, “Do you want me to go away?”  Usually she would say, “Yes,” but sometimes she would shake her head. “No, you can stay.”

I told her how angry it made me feel that she had friends whose parents used her ‘preferred pronouns’, because I wouldn’t tell an anorexic girl she looked better thin, or comment on how cool the cutting scars on a boy’s arms looked.

I tried to give her support and let her know that I would always love her, but I never wavered for a minute from the idea that a woman cannot ‘become’ a man. Jessie and I went out for walks, to the cinema; out to lunch. I watched her and thought how clever she was, how compassionate, how thoughtful, how beautiful. I couldn’t bear the thought that she might mutilate herself in pursuit of something she could never really have. I wore sunglasses far too often that summer, but it helped to hide my eyes.

Then, at a party, Jessie met up with a friend she hadn’t seen for a year. Hazel had lived as a boy called Harvey for 8 months and then re-identified as a girl. Unbeknownst to me, they talked a lot over the next few weeks.

“What does Hazel say about it all?” I asked, curious, when Jessie told me. She shrugged. “Pretty much the same as you.”

When she asked if she could stay the weekend at Hazel’s house, obviously I said yes. I began crossing my fingers and hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel.

A week later she said “I’m thinking about it all, mum. I’m not sure what I think anymore.”

Jessie started at college and had never seemed so happy. Slowly, she seemed to begin reconciling with her femaleness. Then she told me she wanted to tell me something ‘later’. I thought I knew, I suspected, I hoped and I hoped. I waited and time passed slowly.

One day she texted me on the way to college,  “I am a girl. I was never a boy.’

She has told the group of friends that called her Jake the same.  Beth has been accepting, saying “Now you’re my preferred gender.” The only friend who is disappointed is a boy.

“You are becoming problematic.” he told her. “You need to educate yourself.”

Jessie saw the irony.

Jessie wrote a respectful but trans-critical post on her Tumblr account, and two of her ‘transboy’ followers messaged her saying they had also been feeling that way for some time and asked her to tell them more. She is currently messaging with several young people who are experiencing gender confusion. I hope she can help them, as her friend Hazel and I helped her, to realise that your potential should not be governed by your genitals; that the problem is gender and the solution is to try to change the system, not yourself.

I realise that it could have all gone horribly wrong: Jessie could have turned her back on our family and bought into the myth that anyone who questions trans ideology is phobic, full of hatred, and should be discarded in the name of liberation and finding yourself. If things had gone that way, I could have lost a child as well as a daughter. Every family is different and I would not presume to tell another parent how to deal with their child’s assertion that they are transgender. It is a minefield. If I had ever felt that Jessie needed to transition to stay alive, I would have acted differently, but I never once felt that she was in danger of taking her own life. Of course, I had never expected my daughter to tell me she was my son, either.

I do not dispute that, for a very small number of people, their gender and body dysmorphia has gone so far that the only comfortable way for them to survive in this culture is to live as the opposite sex. These people should have the same rights as the rest of us, they should not be discriminated against and they should be able to move about their business in safety. Housing and jobs should be open to them, just as they should to any member of society. I don’t want to belittle their suffering and I would not ‘misgender’ someone to their face. But a man is not a woman and a woman is not a man. These are biological differences, and biology is the fundamental basis of female oppression. To claim that being a woman is no more than a feeling is to instigate the erasure of women. The idea that we should buy into the myth that our young people are ‘born in the wrong body’ because they do not want to conform to contemporary gender stereotypes is doublespeak worthy of an Orwellian dystopia. The fact that teenage girls, predominantly young lesbians, are rejecting their womanhood in an attempt to become their oppressors should fill society with horror. Instead we are making ‘being trans’ into the latest fashion and parading these children in newspapers and on reality TV shows. I don’t know where it will end.

What I do know is that if I had let Jessie register at college as a boy and taken her to a gender clinic, we would be looking at a very, very different picture now. My beautiful 16-year-old daughter would have stepped down the road to public transitioning and a lifetime on medication. She would be looking towards a very different future.

Thank you to those of you that gave me support. To the women and men who have written so honestly about their experiences as parents, or as gender questioning young adults. Words cannot describe the strength you gave me when I needed to believe that I was doing the right thing in not supporting Jessie’s immediate transition. One more strong, healthy young woman is growing up a feminist.


Thoughts from Jessie Maynard:

Although at the time I didn’t appreciate it, the constant repetition of “you can’t be a boy” did me good. A lot of good. I had been spending too much time on the internet and I had got it into my head that somehow, biological girls could really be boys, if they “identified” as such (& vice versa).

As someone who’s always had a mostly realistic grip on the world, for some reason I had been pulled into a world where boys could become girls and girls could become boys. I felt that because I said I was a boy, I was a boy.

At the time, I felt that my mum not immediately calling me Jake and using male pronouns was horrible and transphobic. But in the long run, without her resistance, I probably wouldn’t be as happy as I am today, as I would still be thinking I was a boy and trying to “pass” as a boy (which I would never be able to do without body-altering hormones.)

I think that if I had changed my pronouns in September, and registered at my college as a boy I would be a lot more unhappy as I would constantly be trying to “pass” and I wouldn’t be making the friends I wanted to, as I would be trying to fit in with the “male crowd”. When I arrived at my college, making friends wasn’t my primary motive, however the friends I have made are almost all female, and I don’t think I would have those friends if I had been trying to fit in as a boy.

Most of all, understanding gender as a social construct has taken me a long way in my personal life, and in my ideas about feminism and the way women and men are treated, especially women by the trans movement.

I’m glad that I realised before it was too late, as I am now happier in my own body and identity. I think that as a whole, many girls who wouldn’t’ve identified as transgender 10/20 years ago are now thinking they are which is dangerous and harmful to them, and that talking to them maturely and explaining gender as a social construct could really help them.

 

Internet parenting expert berates mom of teen who grew out of trans identity

The quoted comment was submitted in response to a 4thWaveNow post about a teen who desisted from a trans identity.  Below the comment is the 4thWaveNow reply.


I’m honestly so surprised. There are so many comments on here that just blow me away. It surprises me that many of you call yourselves mothers. I barely know where to begin.

First of all, the transgender community is not a “Cult.”
Transgender people surround themselves with other transgender people because they understand each other. They feel welcome and accepted, which is important. From reading these comments, I can tell that many of you are not making your home a welcoming environment. If someone isn’t transgender, it is a very difficult thing to understand. It’s like this right here. Mothers flock to each other to talk about the issues they experience with their children. Do not even begin to say that trans people are an issue. The issue is close minded people. I’m not saying that you should be open to everything, but I am saying that this is something that you should learn to accept. I don’t know the whole situation with your family, but if one day your daughter just “dropped” all of the said “masculine traits,” then I’m going to assume that she was: 1.) Nervous and unsure 2.) Realizing that it wasn’t exactly what she wanted 3.) Feeling hopeless. From reading this, it sounds like you pretty much told her that you wanted no part in her life if she made any decision. News flash- this is the child’s body, not yours. This is the child’s happiness, not yours. From reading a lot of this, it sounds like many of you are purely selfish because you can’t even begin to understand something bigger than yourselves.

Secondly, there is actually proof. Don’t believe me?
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-something-unique-about-the-transgender-brain/
The fact that some of you said that no proof exists was out of ignorance, and I understand that. This was an easy source to find, please read it and educate yourselves a bit more.

Third, I’m not trying to attack you. I know that this is scary but you need to keep in mind that this isn’t your choice. No, I’m not saying that a child should transition at a very young age. Anyone going through this needs to take it slow. It’s a long and scary process. Then again, I wouldn’t have a say in every situation. I’m also not saying that every therapist is completely correct. The reason that therapists are so eager to label “Trans” is because they want people to understand that it shouldn’t be scary. They aren’t trying to sell you some “scary trans cult” or anything of the sort. It’s so upsetting to see mothers act like this.

You are treating the children- the young adults that you are raising- like objects. You need to listen to them. Being trans isn’t a trend. It’s becoming more known and more accepted. Please read this and think a little. If your kid just dropped their identity like that, I’m going to bet that there’s something going on that they’re not telling you. Please show them that you care. This is scary and a lot of these comments are scary. I can’t imagine being in a lot of these kid’s positions, especially with the way a lot of you bad mouth and degrade your children.

Sorry if I offended anyone, but this whole website is a bit ridiculous.


Maddy, you speak with righteous authority, presuming to judge and condemn the caring parents who have congregated here– one of the few places on the Internet where a diversity of gender-skeptical parents feel safe talking about what their families are going through. Your viewpoint is everywhere to be found—as are your efforts to shame us, and to shout down any critical discussion about major medical intervention on kids who not infrequently change their minds–as, it turns out, several of our daughters have.

You misread our critical thinking as being “scared” to accept an inevitably correct trans identity. We’ve heard everything you say umpteen times before, but it doesn’t sound like you’ve spent a minute contemplating the alternative views expressed on 4thWaveNow. Since you came over here, it might behoove you to spend more time listening to what parents on this site have to say, rather than bludgeoning us with the same stuff we all hear 24-7. You might actually learn something. Believe it or not, we aren’t actually in need of your unsolicited parenting advice. We’re smart, well read, and quite a fair few of us have formal education in child and adolescent development—which entails a lot more than simply “affirming” the self-proclaimed, temporary identities of our offspring. Oh, and yeah, by the way–we love our kids.

Here’s the newsflash: Adolescents have tried on and discarded different identities since time immemorial—one of the many well-established realities of human development which people like you choose to ignore. Permanent chemical and surgical alterations to validate those often-shifting identities? That’s a recent phenomenon.

Like so many who take it upon themselves to scold and berate the community of parents on this site, you refuse to acknowledge that there is a social contagion going on amongst tweens and teens. Perhaps your livelihood depends on not acknowledging it? Most of the parents here don’t have kids who insisted they were or wanted to be the opposite sex from toddlerhood. Instead, our daughters (and a few sons) were happy in their bodies, with no inkling of gender dysphoria, until a bout of social media bingeing,  or until an entire group of their friends decided they were some variation of trans, genderqueer, or nonbinary. My daughter was one of these, and her eventual desistance was not arrived at under duress.  (As if a teen can be forced to do anything; as if a teen will do something simply because her parents want her to–do you have any experience with teenagers at all?) It was undertaken freely, with time, and with the support—yes, support—of her family and friends to be a gender-defiant female without thinking she had to permanently alter her body with the two Ts—testosterone and top surgery. Extreme medical intervention was what the three gender therapists I talked to thought she should be entitled to immediately, on her own (sudden) say-so. That’s the current trend in “gender therapy” today: “informed consent,” not the careful, slow consideration you claim is the norm (again, if you had actually read much of this site, you’d see that this rubber-stamping of medical transition is rampant in the US).

If gender therapists recognize any distinction between a child who has wanted be the opposite sex since toddlerhood, and a (typically) lesbian or bisexual teen who thinks transition is the answer to her internalized homophobia or discomfort with puberty, they don’t let on. (Of course, even among the most persistently gender-dysphoric young children, most have historically desisted, but that is becoming less common now that so many are socially transitioned and puberty blocked, effectively conditioning them to believe they are the opposite sex.)

As to telling our daughters we want “no part in their lives” if they do eventually medically transition, there’s nothing in the post you responded to, or for that matter, anything on this website to indicate any of us parents are rejecting their kids as you so knowingly assert. Of course, this is just your veiled attempt to say, couched in more polite terms, that we awful parents are driving our kids to suicide because we are rejecting or not supporting them in their trans identification. Telling our kids that we won’t pay for medical transition, that they’ll have to wait until adulthood if they want to make those choices, is the opposite of not caring about our kids. It’s recognizing and understanding that trying on and discarding different identities is the work of adolescence, not a call to turn them into permanent medical patients. If people like you weren’t enabling and propagating the medicalization of the normal explorations of young people, this site wouldn’t need to exist. If organizations like Gender Odyssey didn’t market “workshops” like “Testosterone 101” and “Chest surgery Show and Tell” to teenagers, but supported young people in developing unique personalities, regardless of regressive sex stereotypes, 4thWaveNow would never have come to be. Where are the workshops entitled “How to be gender defiant without drugs and surgery”? or “Might you be lesbian instead of a trans man?” or “Medical transition has major consequences: Be very very sure before you do it”? Nowhere to be found.

If you bothered to read more of this site, you’d see that while many of us question the concept of transgender children in general, all we are trying to do (and all we can do) is protect our kids from the surgeon’s knife and the endocrinologist’s needle while their brains are still in development, until their ability to understand future consequences is more fully mature. We support gender nonconformity (what I prefer to call gender defiance) but we don’t think gender specialists, trans activists, and Internet strangers (like you) preaching to us from their high horses understand our kids (or for that matter, adolescent development in general) better than we do.

What else do you refuse to acknowledge, Maddy, besides social contagion? This: the fact that many young people with gender dysphoria used to grow up and out of it to be happy gay and lesbian adults. That many young lesbians don’t fully claim their sexual orientation until the early 20s—long after gender specialists have started them on testosterone, binding, and even top surgery. Does it occur to you that we are protecting our lesbian and bisexual daughters, as insightful parents ought to? Does it occur to you that some of the parents eager to welcome a straight, surgically and chemically altered “son” are more comfortable with that outcome than a lesbian daughter? Read some of the interviews and writings of detransitioned lesbians, on this site and elsewhere, if you think such parental and internalized homophobia is nonexistent. There are several writers who are beginning to question whether transition in many cases is actually homophobic reparative therapy in disguise. Take a look at this comprehensive post by theHomoarchy for one such blog.

As to brain science, I know the Russo study you mention very well.  But it’s hardly the be-all, end-all you make it out to be. What it points to (as one sexologist has deftly pointed out) is possible brain differences pertaining to sexual orientation, not innate gender identity (for which there is no proof). I expect you’ve seen the MRI study by Daphna Joel et al, which illustrates the opposite of your cherry-picked conclusions? In fact, as Joel and colleagues found, most human beings demonstrate a mosaic of traits typical of both sexes, with some individuals falling more at one end of the spectrum than the other. Instead of medical treatment, young people should be encouraged to express themselves in any way they choose—without the oppressive gender policing inherent in defining someone as “really” the opposite sex. But trans activists and gender specialists don’t tend to cite Joel’s study much—it harbors too many inconvenient and uncomfortable implications. In any case, the nature-nurture argument can never be won by either side, since (apart from in newborn babies) it’s impossible to disentangle neurobiology from life experiences and influences.

We don’t all march in lockstep at 4thWaveNow. We don’t all see the issues exactly the same. Some of us call our kids by their preferred pronouns; some of us don’t. Some have bought binders for their daughters, while some refuse. Some are only concerned about medical transition, while others believe that everything to do with gender identity and transition is bogus and to be challenged.

But 4thWaveNow is a forum for all parents who are raising their kids without simply bending to the will and dictates of people like you, who arrogantly presume to understand the complex family lives of the parents who have found safe harbor here. Such hubris you have, Maddy. How do you think parents of lobotomized patients might have felt some decades ago, if supercilious, know-it-all therapists told them the only solution for their troubled offspring was to have a chunk of their brains removed, lest they kill themselves? Or psychiatrists who told parents they’d be “literally” killing their kids if they didn’t agree to electroshock “therapy”?  4thWaveNow parents think for ourselves. We aren’t interested in simply deferring to professionals or activists who have no love, understanding, or parental wisdom invested in our teens —only their rigid ideology and a blinkered refusal to consider that they might actually be doing harm to other people’s children. Our children. Not yours. Guess what: Some of us have experienced those harms first-hand.

Rather than telling us what we’re doing wrong with our own kids, why not try some introspection?  Why not take a real look at why a website like this became necessary in the first place? Why would (mostly) politically liberal, feminist, pro-LGB parents feel they had nowhere else to turn?

Come back when you have something constructive and nuanced to add to the conversation; when you’re prepared to concede a few points. When you can demonstrate a little humility. Until then, your comments are pretty much only a candy-coated rendition of the tiresome, screeching accusations we’ve heard so many times: “YOU ARE KILLING YOUR KID!!!! You are a transphobic monster!!!!”

 

Follow the money: Trans billionaire makes new $1 million grant to Chicago pediatric transition clinic

UPDATE 7/13/16: The Tawani Foundation is actually an alternate name for the registered charity “Colonel IL James N Pritzker Charitable Distribution Fund.” See below for details.


How did it happen so fast? That’s what so many of us keep wondering: the complete saturation of the media, government policy, school systems, psychology and medicine with unwavering promotion of the notion that people can change sex—with or without medical transition.

A societal upheaval this big doesn’t happen without a lot of funding, and the money has been flooding into medical clinics, summer camps, and every other conceivable outpost of the transgender child initiative, with a seeming acceleration in the last 2 or 3 years.

One source of gushing cash is the Tawani Foundation via its billionaire CEO and Director, 66-year-old Colonel (ret.) James “Jennifer” Pritzker, one of several family heirs to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, who announced a transgender transition a scant 3 years ago.

Forbes announcement

According to the 2013 announcement of Pritzker’s transition in Chicago Business, Pritzker’s net worth as of that year was roughly $1.5 billion. The article mentions Pritzker’s philanthropic work, including efforts to include transgender people in the military, Pritzker’s investment and real estate ventures, but nothing about child transition—even though Tawani’s money was used to launch the gender clinic at Lurie Children’s Hospital, an initiative announced several months before Pritzker came out as trans.

chicagobusiness bio

Oddly enough, the current website for the Tawani Foundation still, in 2016, makes no mention of that group’s ongoing philanthropic donations to the cause of transgendering children; all we see are military charities, military history, and a few museums.

tawani home page

Even under the grant guidelines (“not accepting inquiries at this time”) and grant history sections, there is no mention of the sizeable amount of Col Pritzker’s Hyatt Hotel fortune that has been devoted to the cause of transgender children. The annual reports section stops in 2012—the year before Pritzker’s transition was publicly announced.  A search of all grantees in that 2012 report does yield a $25K donation to Lurie Children’s Hospital for the “launch of new multi-disciplinary ‘gender management’ clinic,” as well as $9.5K to the Kinsey Institute for “the LGBT talk at Indiana University with Chaz Bono for Sexploration Week.”

Given the far larger June 2016 Tawani grant to the pediatric transition clinic at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital, it’s very odd that there is zero evidence of current philanthropic giving to transgender causes on the Tawani Foundation website.  An exhaustive Internet search for more information on Tawani also came up empty, including the Illinois Attorney General’s database of charitable organizations–despite a clear statement on that website requiring philanthropic foundations to register with the state.


UPDATE 7/13/16: Further research reveals that Tawani is actually an alternate name for the private foundation registered as the “Colonel IL James N Pritzker Charitable Distribution Fund” (EIN: 300040386).  The so-named fund (with assets of around $50 million) filed with the state of Illinois and the IRS (latest filing 2014).

Tawani

The question arises: Why does Pritzker donate (and receive press accolades) under the Tawani name, which has no information on its website about grants made after 2012, while the legal entity continues to be registered under Pritzker’s male name, Colonel James N. Pritzker?


In addition to funding the Lurie Children’s gender clinic, in January of this year, the Chicago Tribune announced that Tawani donated $2 million to “the world’s first endowed academic chair of transgender studies” in Canada’s British Columbia. Global capital knows no national boundaries.

Chicago Trib donation annoucement

In June, Pritzker announced the $1 million grant to the Lurie Children’s Hospital “gender and sex development” program, run by Dr. Rob Garafolo, a US pioneer in pediatric transition:Lurie grant

 

“I am pleased to continue the Tawani Foundation’s support of the Gender & Sex Development Program at Lurie Children’s,” says COL (IL) Jennifer N. Pritzker, IL ARNG (Retired), Tawani Foundation President and Founder.  “The team at Lurie Children’s has done an excellent job of initiating and developing a program of local and national significance. Yet, there remains a compelling need for expanding access and developing comprehensive services for gender-nonconforming children and transgender youth. It is my hope that the community will join me in investing in the health and well-being of these young people.”

…“This gift is so important for the families we serve,” said Robert Garofalo…
“Col. Pritzker had the incredible foresight to invest seed funding in our program and I’ve been proud to shepherd its growth,” he continued. “We are now a national leader serving a diverse patient population of gender nonconforming and transgender youth from across the Chicago area and an increasingly broader regional reach. “

I’m struck by the now-common lumping of “gender nonconforming” with “transgender” in the Lurie announcement. This is becoming more and more common—broadening the definition of who fits under the trans umbrella. I’ve started to think of this as a sort of mission creep. Even the American Psychological Association has fused the “T” to the GNC, labeling anyone who doesn’t fit stereotypes as TGNC in its guidelines for how therapists should approach and treat kids.

Why do “gender nonconforming” children even need the services of a medical clinic which promotes medical transition? Gender nonconforming/gender defiant children need love and support, but do they need millions of dollars from a late-transitioning male-to-female billionaire to foster medical dependency and (likely) eventual sterilization?

One online Chicago news outlet dispensed entirely with the term “transgender” in announcing Pritzker’s big donation to the Lurie clinic:

 CHICAGO — The world’s wealthiest transgender person is backing a big fundraising campaign for nonconforming patients at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

The Streeterville hospital, 225 E. Chicago Ave., said Thursday it was launching a $500,000 campaign for gender nonconforming patients in its Gender & Sex Development Program launched in 2013. It was the first such clinic in the Midwest upon its opening.

“Nonconforming patients.” If they’re “nonconforming,” why are they patients in the first place at a clinic that will help them “conform” to the opposite sex? Nonconformists don’t need hormones and surgeries to help them conform to sex stereotypes—do they?

Col. Pritzker is evidently not averse to continuing with a male identity in some online venues. A bio on the National Guard Educational Foundation website unapologetically refers to Pritzker under his male name.

NGEF bio

There is even a photograph of Col. Pritzker still linked on the NGEF website,  though it appears to have been removed from the bio page.

Pritzker NGEF jpeg

Having it both ways seems to be a hallmark of the trans movement: Society at large is supposed to accept that any man—no medical transition necessary–who believes he is a woman, even part-time, needs to be respected as such, yet we should all also be celebrating the idea that children as young as 12 should be put on cross-sex hormones, or have double mastectomies at 14. We’re supposed to accept that “some girls have penises” but at the same time accept that teens absolutely need to permanently alter their bodies with hormones and surgeries as early as possible.

In another trans-typical expression of having-their-cake-and-eating-it too, many proponents of pediatric transition are themselves biological fathers.  Pritzker is no exception; as several of the websites referenced in this post note, he has fathered three children. Why do so many of these late-transitioning fathers take such an interest in turning other people’s kids into lifelong, sterilized medical patients? It’s one thing to advocate for the civil rights of adult transgender people (as Pritzker’s foundation does for transgender military personnel and veterans). But this involvement in the ever-burgeoning pediatric transition clinics springing up all over the US? Does Pritzker wish, as so many MtoF trans-activists also claim, that he’d had access to estrogen and sterilizing surgeries as a teen? That would have meant, of course, that he’d never have been a father (nor experienced 63 years of life as a fully intact man).

If questions like these result in any soul-searching or cognitive dissonance for trans activists like Pritzker, we don’t hear about it. Maybe, in the case of a billionaire philanthropist, having your cake and eating it too is just all in a day’s work.

Exiles in their own flesh: A psychotherapist speaks

This is a guest post submitted by Lane Anderson (a pseudonym), a practicing psychotherapist who has worked extensively with “trans teens” and their families. She shares with us her clinical insights into her clients, adolescent psychology, and the impact of the transgender phenomenon on our society as a whole.

If there are other mental health providers reading this post, please consider guest posting or responding in the comments section below the article. See this earlier post featuring Dr. David Schwartz for another critical perspective from a psychotherapist.

I am extremely grateful to Lane and Dr. Schwartz for speaking up. Time is of the essence, since the American Psychological Association recently released new guidelines which will make it even more difficult for clinicians to step forward.


I am a licensed psychotherapist. I’m writing this post on my last day at a teen health clinic, where I’ve seen patients and their families for nearly a decade.

In the past year especially, it’s become increasingly clear to me that I cannot uphold the primary value of my profession, to do no harm, without also seriously jeopardizing my standing in the professional community.  It’s a terrible and unfortunate conflict of interest. I’ve lost much sleep over the fact that, for a significant portion of my clients and their parents, I am unable to provide what they profess to come to me seeking: sound clinical judgment. Increasingly, providing such judgment puts me at risk of violating the emergent trans narrative which–seemingly overnight and without any explanation or push-back of which I am aware–has usurped the traditional mental health narrative.

When I am suddenly and without warning discouraged from exploring the underlying causes and conditions of certain of my patients’ distress (as I was trained to do), and instead forced to put my professional stamp of approval upon a prefab, one-size-fits-all narrative intended to explain the complexity of my patient’s troubles, I feel confused.  It’s as if I am being held hostage. No longer encouraged or permitted to question, consider or discuss the full spectrum of my patient’s mental health concerns, it has occurred to me that I am being used, my meager professional authority commandeered to legitimize a new narrative I may or may not wish to corroborate.

It’s been perilous to simply admit to not fully understanding it all–let alone disagree with the trans narrative.  There was no training or teaching. I was just suddenly told that some of my patients thought they were trapped in the wrong body and that was that.

After much soul searching, I felt I had no choice but to remove myself from this crippling work setting. Being told to exercise my clinical judgment with some clients, while ignoring it with others, made me feel like a fraud.

Throughout my career, I have come to my work with these thoughts in mind: that life is complex, that people are complex. But in one way or another, most people tend to balk at that kind of ambiguity. I try to assist people in flexing a little, try to help them find ways to manage life’s gray areas, and the occasional distress that comes from simply being conscious. But at the end of the day, I couldn’t deny it was a little weird for me to go on believing I could effectively teach others to be less rigid, more free people facing their lives head on, when I myself, their humble guide, was being exploited, tongue-tied by a new party line.

There are so many complex forces, from many different realms, coming into play with this trans wave.  Most people are completely unaware of these intersecting interests.

Unfortunately the culture war has done a number on the concept of critical thinking.  I have considered myself liberal my entire adult life, and I still am. But for a long time I couldn’t find anyone questioning this trans explosion who wasn’t on the far right. It made me feel like only conservatives were allowed to think, to consider this issue, but ultimately their thoughts were rendered meaningless due to their branding by the culture war. It’s essential that left-leaning people model critical thinking for the masses in this regard.

It’s important to link people like us together, who have been silenced, so we can resume contact with our critical thinking skills and reduce our growing sense of self doubt.  Divide and conquer is best accomplished through silencing, through calling into question those who speak out. There is so much of this attached to the trans movement. Even just wondering about a profound concept such as transgender is  labeled transphobic. What I think has happened is that people are now phobic about their own gut responses to life. We are being systematically separated from our own intuition. This is fatal for a civilization, I think. Not that our intuition always tells the truth with a capital T, but it is a critical piece of who we are. Without it, we remain profoundly directionless, and more susceptible to coercion of all types.

What frightens me most about the trans movement is that the establishment has gotten involved and is leading it. I think that’s really weird. Clearly they are benefiting from it financially. So sad. It disturbs me to see how giddy my former medical director is to be part of this growing craze. We used to treat kids with mental health problems, but now it’s all about validating their emergent and shifting identities.  As professionals, if we don’t loudly prioritize their identities as being the most important thing about them (and identities do shift constantly in kids and teens), we risk coming across as unsupportive and even immoral. Identity development has always been a teen task, but in the past it wasn’t necessarily supposed to become a lifestyle, or colonize the entirety of your existence.

Our world is in a profound state of flux. We can’t begin to comprehend what the Internet has done to how we see ourselves. People are looking for ways to belong, ways to understand who they are in place and in time. They are looking to reduce the anxiety that comes when too much change happens all at once. I try and look at trans folks as people who are seeking to answer the new questions that have emerged in this early 21st century.  I have been trying to find a way to understand their urges to detach from their bodies, to undo that feeling of exile they experience in their own flesh.  We all want to get back to ourselves; it is our duty to reconnect with those weighty parts that inevitably sink to the depths of us, the parts too heavy to remain on the surface of our lives.

From what I can see, the age-old human task to reclaim that which has gone missing appears to be manifesting with great prominence in the trans community. The problem is this: we all look for shortcuts to finding the lost treasure. It’s human nature to resist the long and serpentine journey to our own sense of personal truth. In our fear, in our self doubt, we calculate the risk and often decide it is preferable to be shown what another person–a “helping professional” or an activist–bills as a sure thing, a direct path to what we sense we lack. We all, on some level, hold a childlike fantasy that someone else has figured it out and can provide us a direct map to ourselves. And that’s what the trans narrative does. It promises to guide the follower to their essential, authentic self.  But this, unfortunately, doesn’t happen, because the essential self, whatever that is, is not created from another’s road map, but can only be comprised of the trails we forge ourselves.

What saddens me the most is the way children are being trained to think their parents do not love them if mom and dad don’t jump aboard the trans train. To me, this is a brutal aspect of a near-dictatorship being foisted on everyone. The kids are too young to see that there are no other people who will have their backs, throughout life with lasting devotion, in the unique way their families will. They think these new friends they’ve made online understand them perfectly. And in believing this unquestioningly, they find themselves lulled by the frictionless experience delivered most powerfully by group think.

Of course, I’m describing the pull of all cults; that deep human desire to be known through and through and through.The cult experience seeks to end the frustration that naturally comes when we mature and begin to see ourselves as separate beings. In our separateness, we must do the hard work of truly learning to know another. Group think reduces the fear that comes when we are unsure if we will be located by another, when we remain unable to locate ourselves.

Cults and closed narratives neutralize and tame what we see as the unknown. I think somebody needs to put a refresher out there on the cult mindset and group think.  People seem to have forgotten that we are all very easily influenced by each other. Carl Elliot wrote about this in relation to body dysmorphic disorder (people wanting to amputate their own limbs because they disidentify with them) in the Atlantic, “A new way to be mad.”

One common trait I’ve noticed in nearly all the trans kids I’ve met has been their profound sense of being different, and too alone. They often have had little success with making friends, or what I would call contact with “the other.”  Because of their psychic isolation, they are prime targets for group think narratives. But in addition to looking for a way to belong, they are also craving protection and the stamp of legitimacy, perhaps because they feel a profound lack of it.

Now that the government and medical communities are involved in the creation of who trans folks are, this class of individuals have finally found their safe havens. Now, rather than being merely invisible and awkward, they have been transformed into veritable leaders of a revolution. Now, rather than cower in the shadows, they have commandeered the narratives of others into a similar dark and brooding place where they once were. The tables, as they lived and viewed them, have now turned.

It’s got to be dizzying for these formerly “ugly ducklings” to find themselves at the center of a flock of swans. To become a part of the movement, to finally be seen and found as whole, alive, and most importantly, wanted, all they have to do is renounce the very bodies in which they feel they have been imprisoned. In doing so, the promised payoff is very big, for they have finally found a way to render mute all those who once discounted and disbelieved them. Through silencing others who threaten them, they have unearthed a means of silencing their own self hate. Rather than being afraid of themselves, they make others fear what they have become.

Psychologically these interpersonal tactics would once upon a time have been categorized as immature, “primitive” defenses erected by an undifferentiated self that cannot see the self or others as whole creatures.  But as I witness it in my own practice, this is the basic thinking underlying the psychology of the trans narrative. In her recent blog post, “My Disservice to My Transgender Patients,” Dr. Kathy Mandigo talks about feeling threatened by some of her MTF patients.  Many of the trans kids I’ve worked with will joke about how they and their friends are dictators, “masters of the universe!” I find that clinically significant. This is something toddlers do when they are first discovering they are separate from their rulers (parents). Rather than fear the parent, they seek to control the parent, exert their will on the parent and co-opt the parent’s power as their own. In doing this they hide from view their terror at facing their own powerlessness.  Ideally, the child will gradually outgrow this urge to control, will gradually relinquish the dictatorial need to create safety through controlling the external realm. When that happens,  we say it is a sign of maturity. As our own sense of agency grows, we are better able to forfeit the habit of controlling others. We also begin to feel guilt at the idea of controlling others, as we begin to see them as separate from us, 3D human beings instead of mere props on our psychic stage.

Unfortunately some people have a hard time making this shift. They get stuck or addicted to manipulating their external environment, and will continue to create inner safety through the constant and relentless work of controlling others.

Last week in a team meeting, our medical director said he was meeting with a girl who identifies as FTM to discuss top surgery and testosterone treatment.  Apparently, according to the director,  the girl’s mom is slowing down the process of transition.  Bad mom, right? The director added that the girl’s mom told her that 9 out of 9 of her daughter’s friends also identify as FTM.

At this point I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer. I said, “Can we not be honest and see that we are dealing with a trend?” Of course, everyone else  at the table was mute.  Considering I’m leaving my post, I felt bold enough to say that I found it infuriating we couldn’t discuss this topic clinically. More silent colleagues (except their eyes were wide as if they wanted me to keep talking and taking the risk for them). I said that what we were doing as a medical community was potentially very harmful, and made mention of some of the videos I’d watched featuring transmen who decided to go off testosterone.  The medical director prides himself in providing special services for those patients he deems unjustly marginalized by society. But he can’t see how the medical community has become complicit in the oppression he earnestly seeks to remedy.

A large part of the problem comes with the revolution in health care. More and more, we are giving people the power to define their own treatments. This is good in many ways, but the trans movement is using this moment, and is actively recruiting young, psychologically undefined and frightened people to push their agenda through the medical community. It’s clearly not that difficult to do. These kids are just pawns. That’s how it looks to me anyway. The trans community needs more converts so that the narrative becomes more cohesive. I’m guessing the push for this comes from a need to further cohere so they will have more members to fully cement a fragile, constructed reality.

We–people who don’t identify as trans–are the external realm that must be controlled to bring the trans community the inner peace they now lack. But they don’t get that they will never find calm or strength this way. You cannot find yourself through coercing others. You cannot extinguish your fears by turning from them. The trans community must face their own fears, face themselves and their own demons. They can’t wipe out their fear that they are not really transitioning by censoring the thoughts and expressions of others. If they believe they are trans, they shouldn’t need to spend so much effort foisting that belief on others.

The fact that they do dictate to others is to me diagnostic of their very condition. They are uncertain about who and what they are. No sin in that. That’s human.  The transgression comes in refusing to accept this uncertainty, and in sacrificing the lives and consciences of others to nullify your own self doubt.