A careful step into a field of landmines

by Jenny Cyphers

Jenny Cyphers is a homeschooling parent. She has been writing about that experience for many years, in various online forums. Jenny has been married for 24 yrs to the father of their two children, one adult and one teenager. They all live, work, and create, in Oregon. Jenny is available to interact in the comments section of this post.


“Jenny, you’re wrong. You’re playing with your child’s life. It’s that simple. Putting your misguided beliefs before your child’s well-being could cause irreversible harm.”

This scathing judgment came from another mother in a trans-support group for parents. I’ve seen many fads and trends over the years, but I’d like to talk about the transgender fad, which has impacted my life.

I have a transgender teen. My teen has held tightly to this identification for just over 2 years. Throughout this time, I’ve heard many stories from parents whose children are gender non-conforming or questioning their gender, their identities. Like most parents, we want to support our children and help them through their obvious suffering and pain.

In order to examine the “Jenny, you’re wrong” statement, I need to address what causes “irreversible harm”. Within the trans support groups, there are two diametrically opposed camps. One–and this is important because it is the predominant narrative–is the camp that believes If a child or teen says they are transgender, the protocol is to confirm, affirm, and transition. If parents opt to not transition their child, it puts you in the other camp.

What is transgender? That’s the crucial question. As far as I can tell, the answer is a definition based off individual philosophy. I’ll let others do the defining. One aspect that’s generally accepted is that a person can be transgender whether or not they medically or surgically transition.

But there’s one exception to that accepted definition: a transgender child or teen. As the predominant narrative goes, we’re supposed to confirm, affirm, and transition a transgender child or teen. But the irreversible harm I want to avoid for my transgender child is medical and surgical harm. I made the error in a trans support group of admitting that.

“Jenny, so your support is conditional based upon what you chose to believe. So what makes you qualified to make that decision for your child aside from being the parent?”

What makes any parent qualified to make any medical decision on behalf of their children? This is both an honest question and a rhetorical one. Parents get to make all sorts of decisions for their children. We decide what to feed them, which doctors to take them to, and how and where they’ll be schooled. We decide whether to circumcise and whether to vaccinate. Both of those are medical choices fraught with contention in either direction one chooses.

Jenny cap 2

How do parents make these choices? We talk to our doctors. We talk to our own parents. We talk to our friends and people we respect. We read books. We ask questions. We research and research. The more controversial, the more we research. What parent would NOT do these things?

So, what do I believe? Nobody asks that in honesty unless they are friends who genuinely care. Trans support groups do not care what individuals believe, especially if it questions the necessity of medical intervention for a transgender child.

I’ve had surgery. I know how traumatic it is. I’ve had to take medication with terrible side effects. I know how it feels to be dependent on medicine that makes you feel sick. That experience caused me to question the side effects of drugs used to transition children. What I discovered was surprising.

“When it comes to situations that may require medical assistance parents have the responsibility to seek professional advice.”

“Your support is absolutely conditional. You have essentially decided to control how your child transitions based upon personal belief and nothing more.”

“You’ve drawn a line in the sand with nothing more than personal belief to back it up and you’re controlling how your child transitions despite what the medical establishment recommends. Disagree all you like but your prejudices should not be more important than the wellbeing of your child.”

When I started to ask questions, I found it difficult to get basic answers to the most basic of my questions. It was especially hard to get that information from trans support groups and doctors. I expected to find experts who had done their research. I did get answers, but not the sort I was looking for. I wanted to know actual data and statistics about safety of cross-sex hormone treatment. Instead, what they insisted, without corroborating evidence, was that it was safe and not a big deal at all. Given my own experience with taking medication, I did not automatically believe that. I dug deeper.

I had only ever heard of puberty blockers from knowing a child with precocious puberty. The puberty blockers had dangerous side effects. I knew that already from listening to the mother of that child and hearing her weigh the pros and cons of whether the puberty blockers were worth the risk of broken bones and eventually needing a wheelchair to support fragile bones. These are the exact same puberty blockers being used on transgender children. That alone gave me pause. My own kid was already about a year and a half into puberty, so we weren’t looking at blockers anyway.

While reading about puberty blockers, I also learned that in the United States, nearly 100% of children who choose to take puberty blockers then go on to use cross-sex hormones. So, despite hearing that blockers are meant to give a child time to figure things out, that is not actually what happens. When you stall puberty, you go on to transition. All data that I’ve read, anecdotal and otherwise, supports that. What surprised me even more, in researching, is that when a child uses puberty blockers and then goes on to transition with cross-sex hormones, it results in permanent sterilization.

That fact deeply disturbed me. Bringing up the subject of sterilizing children also brings up the question of ethics and eugenics. Currently, from what I’ve seen, we- the collective we- are okay with sterilizing transgender children. I was surprised to find that many parents were okay with this. It didn’t bother them in the least.

My personal belief, and I do believe I’m entitled to one, is that sterilizing children is wrong.

If an adult is allowed to be transgender without medically or surgically altering their body, then a child should be allowed the same. Furthermore, my bias is that children should not be medically and surgically altered based on being transgender.

I didn’t come to that decision overnight. It took a lot of research and a lot of reading. My teen may have been too old for puberty blockers, but still wanted to transition through hormone replacement therapy. But there is a huge risk of sterilization from hormone replacement therapy. It’s not 100%, all the time, but the percentage is high for all people who do hormone replacement therapy. At 14-years-old, my child didn’t care about sterilization. Very few young teens want children; it’s not on their radar, which is totally normal. That’s why parents make life-altering decisions for their children. Parents are able to see the larger picture.

“So, your answer is that you have no credible information that supports your child because everyone who says you should can’t be trusted?”

“It really sounds like you want to wear the label of supportive so you can feel better but don’t want to “walk the walk,” as they say.”

Let’s talk about support. What is valid support for a child dealing with this?

When our child told us they were transgender, we’d already experienced many teens changing their names and adopting nicknames, which made it easy to adopt a new name for our youngest kid. The insistence of pronoun changes was difficult, but we tried. My husband,who’s a lot like our child, was a champ at being supportive.

The steadfast identity of being transgender grew over time. Nearly every conversation I had with my child was like a careful step into a field of landmines, in which everything was about being trans, but we couldn’t actually discuss it without upset. The only acceptable discussion was my being supportive. One time, when I tried asking my kid honest questions, I realized I had stepped on the landmine known as being one of “those moms”. The unaccepting ones my kid was reading about online, who didn’t accept their kids’ trans identity, and who made their kids complain about how terrible and miserable their lives were because they had bigoted parents who didn’t accept their trans identity. The reality of how our actual relationship had always been up until this point was ignored in favor of feeling oppressed. Being transgender became the focus of every aspect of life.

We were already used to doing life a little differently to accommodate a sensitive child’s odd quirks. Accommodating transgender was just another step down this path. Right up until we could travel no farther down the path. And this is important. The insistence on personal gender identity is so pervasive that one cannot question it. To question it is tantamount to cruelty and violence and bigotry. Transgender is a deeply felt sense of self. Questioning a person’s sense of self is a personal violation. Framed as a personal violation of self, questioning the transgender identity invalidates their very existence. In social groups, both in person and online, there is one accepted dialog: that identities are to be accepted at face value. For most involved, it’s already an accepted truth that anyone can be whatever they identify as, that this is healthy and good and right.

jenny nat geo coversRight around this time, National Geographic put out a specialty magazine about transgender and other identities. When I studied the cover, it was glaringly obvious to me what wasn’t represented, a regular run of the mill female person. Of the kids and teens and adults represented, there is a female identified person, and it isn’t a natal female woman. There is a transman. There is a person marked as male, but nobody marked as female. To be fair, the magazine did some in depth coverage of the material reality of being female across the world. However, the cover was a tiny glimpse into transgender ideology, in which women are being erased- unless of course a transwoman identifies as one.

From that point, it was like a cascade of ideas came into focus for me. I had small epiphanies about how this all impacted civil rights. The transgender politics and policies have the potential to undo civil rights for all people. If civil rights are not based on material reality, then anyone anywhere can undo them and change them. This seemed extremely dangerous to me. When that idea hit me, it was like a sucker punch; it was the pulling of the thread that began to unravel the tapestry of transgender ideology.

Just before this time, my kid was insistent on seeing a gender therapist and getting into a gender clinic to start transitioning. I dragged my feet. Doctor appointments cost precious money we have little of. We finally did make the appointment, and my kid started seeing a regular therapist also. This is when the massive anxiety and depression started taking hold. The combination of seeking out a gender therapist and the deeply held identity of being transgender caused so much distress, which led to more anxiety and more depression. But seeing a therapist was a good thing, anyway. Right?

The cascade of ideas swept over me, just as coverage of the BBC Two documentary “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best”. I watched it, and then rewatched it with my transgender teen. It’s no longer available to watch, which is really unfortunate. It’s a well-done documentary that helped bridge a conversation gap with my child. The unsupportive parents in the documentary really made my kid mad, and we were able to talk about their feelings. For my part, I was looking at this trans issue in light of civil rights issues and bathroom bills, and the documentary opened up a way for me to discuss civil rights with my kid. The documentary was the first and only really in-depth discussion I’ve been able to have with my kid about transgender issues.

bbc trans kids who knows best

In the profound conversation that came out of that documentary, in a moment of very deep pain, my child shared that no amount of wishing or believing or transitioning would ever make her into a he, even if they looked the part and acted the part. It was a moment filled with tears and vulnerability, as my child admitted aloud that she would never be biologically male, even with surgery.

My child was very sad about this, and I could see the struggle. The struggle is very real. Every parent who has a child going through this will understand this feeling, this pain, this struggle. This is what drives parents to do anything to make that pain stop. I get that completely. And deep inside of me, I knew there were answers that didn’t involve medical and surgical transitioning. I talked about it with my oldest daughter and she said something really important. She said, of her sibling experiencing the pain, “What’s wrong with that?” and what she meant was that it’s normal for people, for kids, for teens to feel pain and express it.

I tried to understand where this was coming from, this desire to be male, to change this body, this personhood so drastically. For years, I’d been looking at what drives individual behavior, in part to ease the frustrations my child had from being a sensitive person in a callous world. Had there been an inciting moment that had caused the identity crisis?

When this child was 11, and in the throes of the onset of puberty, I almost died. I had two heart attacks and emergency double bypass heart surgery. I didn’t make the connection right away. Nobody seems to look at underlying trauma of trans-identifying kids. I brought the subject up with both the regular therapist and the gender therapist. The gender therapist we found was surprisingly thoughtful. I didn’t expect that. I shared with her my reservations about allowing my child to transition without first addressing underlying issues. I shared with her my feelings about how impulsive this particular child was and how firm they held ideas they impulsively grabbed onto. I suggested this may be one of those ideas. She took my feelings into account when I told her I was wanting to wait until my child turned 18 to transition, that I wanted everything to go very, very slowly.

My kid was mad at the therapist’s final assessment that waiting until 18 was prudent. I made all the therapist’s paperwork available to all medical professionals that were to be working with my kid, but the pressure to transition didn’t stop.

In Oregon, the age of medical consent is 15. Since medical professionals were unwilling to read available medical charts explicitly recommending waiting until age 18 to transition, I made sure that I had access to all medical care and records. I had my child sign all medical release papers for that to happen. Every parent living in a state with low consent age should do this.

When we went to doctor appointments for totally unrelated things, they would refer my child to the gender clinic, even though we’d already been, and tell my child they shouldn’t have to suffer and that they could easily take testosterone to alleviate these horrible symptoms like periods and breast development. But they wouldn’t actually prescribe my child testosterone; they’d instead just reiterate that it was an option. My child already knew that this was an option, but that the gender specialist had said to wait until age 18. It felt like hope being held out of reach, like a cruel bait yanked away.

It happened every time. The doctors wouldn’t stop dangling the bait. Because of the turmoil this caused, I had to stop taking my child to the doctor, unless it was an emergency.

“So let’s not pretend you are supporting your child. You’ve clearly convinced yourself that you are but the fact is that you could be causing your child grievous harm and you seem totally unconcerned.”

Meanwhile, I intentionally started focusing on big-picture ideas with my kid. We acquired a telescope and fixed it up. Now, we discuss stars and planets and the universe. We used our now freed up money, that we were spending on doctor appointments, to take more dance classes. My husband, a musician, includes our kid in making music. I bring my kid with me to help in the theatre I work in, where their quick engineering skills are valued. We support their new interest in herbs and plants and research how to care for them and what to use them for. We use websites and books to identify rocks and stones. We drive to visit friends that live in nearby cities, for a change of scenery.

When we started on the new transgender journey, together, my child and I decided that no matter what, this was not going to be the life focus. We opted not to join any queer youth support groups. What I’ve seen in those groups is that life becomes very narrow. One doesn’t play music, they play queer music. One doesn’t do art, they make queer art. My kid even began to notice this and didn’t want to make life all about being transgender. A too-narrow focus goes against the very fabric of our family life, the one we built by bringing the world to our children and our children to the world. Our life has evened out a little.

Our teen is now desisting. The goal wasn’t desistence though; it was to prevent irreversible medical intervention of a teen, whose identity is malleable and in flux, as all teens’ are. If one can BE transgender based on feelings, deep seated and strongly held and persistent feelings, then why must the push be towards chemically and surgically altering one’s body? If we are to accept each person’s identity at face value, what does it actually mean to BE transgender? If my child desists, does that mean they weren’t ever transgender to begin with?

If I’d opted to follow through with all the current protocols, my kid would be taking testosterone right now, with an eye towards mastectomies and a hysterectomy. If we’d done that, and my child desisted, would they have been truly transgender? What if I’d gone into the gender therapist’s office and pushed for transitioning? If being transgender means that one is the other gender born into the wrong body, but not everyone fully transitions medically and surgically, then why must children do so to be truly transgender?

I’ve been accused of causing grievous harm to my child by not following this path of hormonal and surgical transitioning. I’ll be the first to say, I could’ve been super supportive of transitioning my child. I could have entered that gender therapist’s office and insisted that we jump through whatever hoops were necessary. I know of people who have done that. I’m sure that’s what my kid expected me to do. I’ve been accused of being unsupportive of my child by not confirming, affirming, and transitioning my child. This is laughable that anyone who knows me would say such a thing. My kids are my life, literally and figuratively. I think that’s true of most parents, even the ones who make terrible mistakes that destroy relationships. Even those parents who are lost and don’t know how to deal with transgenderism, but love their child and don’t readily accept whatever their kids say. Even parents who are religious and object on moral grounds. Even parents that are very liberal and accepting.

For every parent reading this, remember that most mistakes are recoverable. You can apologize and move towards restoring the relationship. Don’t buy into the emotional blackmail so common among the transgender community. Keep your children close. Make all the choices in the world to build up your relationship. Do it as if their life depends on it, because it does. If they can wait until they are older, and they do end up transitioning, they will need you as their support. Let me be very clear here. You do NOT have to agree with the choices your adult children make while still supporting them as people. If your focus is on imparting bigger ideas than self-identity, there will always be ways to support your child, no matter what choices they end up making.

I’m much more concerned with mental health and maturity to handle the long-term effects of transitioning, than I am about identities. Identities are always changing as you grow and learn, and while some aspects of your past will always remain a part of you, some things you choose to discard when they cease to be relevant. Teenhood and childhood are all about trying on ways of doing and being in the world and seeing how it works.

You cannot discard a body that’s been altered to bring back the old one.

Get angry, read, research. Seek help when you need it, from people you know, trust, and respect. Then get out there and focus on the things that bring you joy and include your children. Be brave. Most of all, don’t be afraid to question the prevailing narratives.

jenny landmine

 

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No glitter life: Don’t be swayed by middle-aged transitioners–including me

by Helen Johnson

As time permits, Helen will be available to interact in the comments section of this post. As always on 4thWaveNow, comments that challenge the author will have a better chance of publication if they are delivered respectfully.


My name is Helen Johnson and I am a trans woman.

That’s partly true. I am trans, but I’m not telling you my real name. After you have read my piece, I hope you’ll understand why. Transgender activists reserve a special kind of treatment for apostates who speak out against their dogma. I have no wish to deal with their threats and intimidation, but neither can I remain silent when those transgender activists are driving a contagion that is consuming our young people.

Much has been written about the explosion in the number of children who have come to believe that they were born in the wrong body. I’ve said nothing because — like other trans women who transitioned as adults — I’ve nothing to offer. I’ve no childhood experience of living as the opposite sex and my own kids are thankfully unscathed by this epidemic. I can therefore only sympathize with other parents whose children are struggling with their gender. Some have asked me directly, but I have always suggested that they seek support from other parents in the same position. Certainly not from me.

Unfortunately, other trans women think differently and some of them seem to think they know best. Entire pieces have been written about trans activists like Rachel McKinnon,  who told trans kids to dump their moms on Mother’s day and join the “glitter-queer” family of adult trans activists. Worryingly, Dr McKinnon is far from alone. The message is pervasive, and it is sinister: transition your kids or lose them. Sometimes it is subtle.  For example, Julia Serano, a leading figure in the trans community, suggested that children will grow distant unless parents affirm the transgender behavior. Others are more blatant. Caitlyn Jenner is one of many who throw suicide statistics around like confetti.

None of them are experts. All they have to offer is their own experience of growing up. But if they can do that so can I and, unlike deluded fantasists like Zinnia Jones who thinks they actually were an adolescent girl, I am in touch with reality.

Gender dysphoria was present in my earliest memories; it persisted throughout my childhood and stayed with me in adulthood. It made me socially uncomfortable and I struggled to make friends. My dreams of becoming a girl were never fulfilled and I reluctantly accepted that there was no alternative to becoming a man. I’ll say no more about that. The trans narrative is repetitive and it is tedious. But just like McKinnon, Serano, Jenner, and Jones, I survived childhood and everything it threw at me. Yes I had difficulties, but lots of children have difficulties. Growing up is hard.

Today’s youngsters are being fed dangerous and fallacious nonsense. Society has been infected by post-modern, post-facts, post-truth ideas that spread unchecked on social media. Opinions and feelings are on the ascendancy, while facts and evidence are cast aside. For socially awkward children struggling to understand themselves, McKinnon’s “glitter-queer” family may look superficially attractive; an easy escape from reality. But it comes at huge cost.

I am glad that I did not succumb as a child.  Male puberty was a mixed blessing for me. It changed my body in ways that I did not like, but it enabled me to have my own children. Today they are my pride and joy: fine kids who are now making their own way in the world.  They would not be here had I been transitioned in childhood.

It’s now becoming all too clear that the first generation of child transitioners may have thrown away more than the chance to be parents.  Sex reassignment surgeons need material to work with. Only after male puberty did I have sufficient tissue for my vaginoplasty. Children who never experience natural puberty, like Jazz Jennings for example, are finding that they have a serious problem. To be blunt, there is no way that a functional vagina can be created from a penis only two inches long and an inch and a half in circumference. Sadly, Jazz may never be able to enjoy the sex that adult male-to-female transitioners take for granted.

Even transitioning later is a mixed blessing. I am in remission from the gender dysphoria but that is only half the story. My life is harder in other ways. Whenever I am clocked as trans I am treated differently, and not better. Mostly I deal with this by living in stealth. In my day-to-day life I just don’t mention it. People can’t discriminate if they don’t know. But that brings troubles of its own: when I’m asked about my childhood, I obfuscate; when asked about my children, I fudge; when asked about my private life, I create back stories. I hope they are consistent. When acquaintances become friends, I anguish over whether to come out to them, then when to do it and finally how to do it. Lying about your past is not great, but admitting it is harder especially in the early stages of a new friendship. Securing a life partner is something else. Trans people are seen as exotic curiosities rather than possible suitors. Rarely are we seen as human beings, usually as trans human beings. Not quite the same and not quite suitable.

But, people say, at least I have found my true self. Maybe, but I’ve always been my true self. I transitioned to escape the pressures that I faced but I will never really be a woman, I merely live as one, and I am always one step away from being outed. It works but it’s an expedient tactic rather than a fulfilling solution.

But you must be sure, they say. How can I be sure? All I have are circular arguments: because I needed to transition I must be a woman, and I must be a woman because I needed to transition. But I can never know what it is to be a woman. All I can know is what it is to be me. My experience will always be different from the women around me. It isn’t a glitter life, it’s a hard life. It works because I make it work, but it’s not great.

To kids contemplating transition I have no answers, only questions. Do you really need to transition? Give up the chance to grow up and form relationships as a human being rather than a trans human being? Have your own children? Have sex like other adults have sex, and live free from lifelong medication? If gender expression is the issue then be yourself and embrace your gender, but don’t try and change your sex in the process. One day, society may free itself from the shackles of gender norms, and feminine men, masculine women and gender-neutral members of both sexes will be able to take their rightful place in it. Make it your generation that does that, not the ones that follow you.

To your parents I would say, give your children a hug. Love them and nurture them. Let them be free to explore their gender and help them make that break from the crushing weight of society’s restrictions and expectations. But steer them away from transitioning from one gender prison into another, certainly before they can experience what it means to be an adult. If their gender dysphoria persists, as mine did, they can always transition in adulthood. That option will always be there. If it desists, then they will have avoided making a truly catastrophic mistake.

But above all, parents, don’t be swayed by middle-aged transitioners. That includes me, but it also includes McKinnon and the others. You know your children, we don’t; you brought them into the world, we didn’t; you love them and care for them, we don’t even know them.

Have confidence in yourselves because, when it comes to your children, you will always know better than people like me. Never forget that.

Nevertheless, she persisted… as a role model for girls in STEM

Yesterday, the Washington Post published the account of a girl who heretofore—since the age of 8–had been a role model for other girls interested in science and math. She was a popular YouTube star, garnering up to a million views for her robotics videos. She was even invited to the White House in 2013.

But at 16, Super Awesome Sylvia, after (by her own report) spending some time on the Internet considering trans stuff, announced she’s now a boy.

wapo sylviaAs is typical for journalists covering trans-kids at the once-venerable Post, not even the mildest skeptical question was asked about why a strong, somewhat gender-atypical girl would morph from a positive example for other girls, into a “trans boy.”

And not only are there no questions: The author of the puff-piece even used male pronouns to refer to the little girl before she “identified” as a boy, thereby neatly erasing her past as a spunky 8-year-old girl with a penchant for invention.

We used this story as a springboard to create an alternate story: about a different girl named Spectacular Sarah who resists the gender-saturated, society-wide encouragement to proclaim she’s a boy because she likes short hair and geeky pursuits (in Sarah’s case, renewable energy).

For full effect, we recommend you read the entire Washington Post story prior to ours.

Note: This piece is a work of fiction and a fair-use parody. Characters and details in this story should not be construed to represent any actual person or situation.


Anywhere, USA. — This is the story of Spectacular Sarah, an ingenious little girl who made portable backyard windmills.

At age 8, Sarah Smith put on a lab coat and started a web show. A gap-toothed little kid with a pony tail and soldering iron, a rare sight in the boy’s club of amateur inventors.

Before long, Sarah had tens of thousands of viewers. And tons of windmills, of course.

The most famous was the windmill that powered her family’s kitchen appliances. On days it turned, it generated enough power to keep a small fridge running and to cook three meals a day on the electric range.

But that windmill did other things, too.

It got Sarah invited to her state’s Science Fair in 2015, when the governor tried it out to run the microwave in the governor’s mansion. He told its shaky-legged, 10-year-old inventor that it was great to see girls in tech who could serve as inspiration to other girls.

By middle school, Sarah was giving speeches all over the world, from the United Nations to elite girls’ schools in South America. This was a big deal for a kid from a small, windy town in Anywhere, USA, whose parents often worried about paying the next bill.

That’s how — year after year, show after show, speech after speech — Spectacular Sarah’s windmills turned a little kid into a role model for girls everywhere.

And that’s how “they”—some adult activists and confused kids on Tumblr– tried to trap her.

Because these days, when a girl breaks the stereotypical mold, people start asking if she’s “really” a boy. Especially people who’ve spent a lot of time on the Internet, or reporters who didn’t take the time to get the backstory. Sarah didn’t feel like a genius, or a celebrity—but she knew darn well she was a girl—though she had her doubts for a while.Wapo SarahThis is the story of Sarah Smith, a 16-year-old girl who actually prefers art to science, and knows a lot more about herself than her Tumblr pals and clueless reporters seem to think.  Now when people ask about her pronouns and assume she is a boy, she tells them, “Just because I’m a girl who got famous for doing geeky stuff, that doesn’t mean I’m going to take the easy way out and tell everyone I’m going to ‘transition.’”

Instead, Sarah broke free.

  1. My name is Sarah

In the beginning there was simply Sarah. No one asking if she was a boy (this was before that sort of nonsense got started), no spectacular anything. Just Sarah and her mom and dad (and later a sister and two brothers) growing up in windy Anywhere, USA. A regular little girl, by all appearances.

“When I was a kid, I was just a kid,” Sarah said. “Making cool stuff.”

Sarah had always wanted to know how things worked.

She liked to pull apart old TV sets and put together miniature solar panel kits with her dad, Bill, an industrial engineer.

One day in 2011, Sarah decided to make a Vimeo show about making things. Her mom, Jane, sewed a lab coat fit for a 7-year-old. Dad helped write the scripts and held the camera. (Mom and Dad were pretty “gender conforming”). Then Sarah just did her thing—and her thing was renewable energy projects on a kid-sized scale.

“Hi! My name is Sarah and this is our spectacular science show!” Sarah said in the first episode, pumping her arms in the air. “Let’s get out there and show the world we can do better than fossil fuels!”

Spectacular Sarah showed kids how to make a miniature solar panel that could power a table lamp, a small radio fueled by the energy from a super-hot compost pile, and a boom box wired to the mini windmill that would serve as prototype for the bigger windmills she engineered later on.

And kids watched. And Sarah watched, amazed, as hundreds of viewers became thousands. “Renewable Energy for All” magazine started hosting the show on its Vimeo channel, and altogether more than a million people clicked on Sarah’s videos.

Sarah got into the character. She wore the lab coat to alternative energy fairs, selling Sarah bling at her booths, or posing with cardboard-cutout idols like “Hermione Granger” from Harry Potter.

In time, Sarah would get emails from parents who told her she was an idol herself especially to their daughters, but also their sons.

One day last summer, when it was all over and Spectacular Sarah was just Sarah, dad Bill sat on a patio eating chips and salsa, watching his daughter splash in a pool, wondering if the fun had been worth all the trouble it caused.

“Before any of this happened I used to tell Sarah, ‘Fame happens to the unlucky; it’s not a healthy thing.”’ Bill said. “As a kid, it’s a trap.”

Bill was thinking about something else, too: He’d seen “I am Jazz,” and he knew that a new fad was starting to take hold: A fascination with kids who were “gender nonconforming” who are now being promoted as “born in the wrong body.” He knew Sarah had already been asked more than once about her “preferred pronouns”–including by some adults who ought to know better.

 2.  Sarah meets the governor

When she was 10, with a few years of making miniature renewable energy devices behind her, Sarah decided to enter the international “Alternatives to Fossil Fuel” games. The competition was fierce: teams from around the world competed to see whose toy-sized windmills and solar panels could keep a test radio running the longest.

wapo windmill 2Sarah dreamed up something more in her artistic style:  windmill arms that painted abstract designs as they rotated around. Her windmill had a paintbrush on two of the spinning arms, with a bright wood frame and five little trays of paint. As the arms spun, paint spewed onto a canvas. A local tech company partnered with the Smiths to build it, Sarah’s fans helped crowdfund it, and Sarah’s dad made a computer app to send windmill artwork through a Galaxy Note.

It won the gold medal in the Most Creative Renewable category — and caught the eye of people in the Anywhere State legislature and the governor’s mansion.

“They were just freaking out that there’s a girl making stuff,” Sarah said.

Right then and there, Sarah knew she wanted to be a role model for other girls. She was starting to learn, even at 10, that some of the other techy girls in her school—some of whom liked short hair and rough play—were wondering if all that meant they weren’t “really” girls.

Sarah remembers shaking nervously as she walked through the governor’s mansion that spring. The other kids’ projects all seemed so elaborate. A huge solar panel; an artificial waterfall to demonstrate the power of rushing water; even a ski parka heated by a small solar panel on the back, invented by three 9-year-old boys.

“Why am I here?” Sarah thought. “I have this weird windmill that I made.”

“It’s really neat!” Spectacular Sarah told a solar engineer who’d come to see the show.

And she smiled in her lab-coat with the governor, and held up a model of a windmill that might someday power the state legislature building.

She came back to Anywhere, USA with photos that still get passed around her family — the highlight of her career as a girl genius.

At the end of that school year she got an F in math.

The truth was, Sarah says, she’s never been a natural at science. She liked the fairs, and she liked messing around with her family on the show, and she knew how to say the right things.

The last big trip was to South America, where Sarah would make speeches at elite private girls’ schools — and finally begin to confront those who claimed a girl like her just had to be a boy.

3.  Just the beginning for Spectacular Sarah

Even before South America, there had been signs that all was not as it seemed with the person called Sarah Smith.  Sarah remembers asking a friend in seventh grade, “Is it weird that people keep wondering if I’m a boy? It’s starting to make me wonder, too!?” In her private sketchbook, she started to draw herself with shorter hair and hairy legs. Her friend, who’d just gotten a Tumblr account said, “Yeah, I’ve noticed lots of girls who hate long hair and never want to shave their legs ‘coming out’ as boys. What do you think?”

Sarah spent a lot of time thinking about this stuff. But they were still passing thoughts. In South America, in 2014, girls in uniform skirts crowded around the windmill and listened to Spectacular Sarah’s tips on invention.

The tour went so well that after Sarah returned home, the Smiths said, she got an offer to come back and study free at one of the schools — “a place where girls make their visions come true.”

“It’s an amazing school,” Sarah said. “An entire wing is dedicated to women inventors.”

But as she waited for the start of the South American school year, those questions she’d discussed with her friend began to pass through her mind more and more often.

The character Spectacular Sarah began to fade from her life—and for a brief time, so did the person called Sarah.

Sarah became reluctant to make new Vimeo shows, and eventually stopped altogether. Her parents weren’t sure why at first. They didn’t know that Sarah could no longer stand to look at her long curls, or listen to “how squeaky my voice was.”

And the thought of that school in South America, with its laboratories and uniforms, loomed in Sarah’s mind like a deadline.

Finally, she decided, “I can’t live with myself wearing a skirt every day.”

She wrote a letter to the school, asking why a girl couldn’t wear pants instead of a skirt to school. To her surprise, the school principal wrote back right away. She said, “You know, you’re right. We support girls being and becoming who they are, no matter what they wear, how they cut their hair, or what they like to do. If you want to wear pants, you’re still very welcome. In fact, you can be the first to challenge our outdated dress code. Hope to see you soon!”

4.  Shape-shifting goddess of the sea and prophecy

Sarah was spending more and more time alone in her pink-painted bedroom, not making things anymore, not talking much, sometimes crying for unexplained reasons. The Vimeo show was all but abandoned.

Sarah’s mom, Jane, went into the room one day to talk it out, mother and daughter.

“Mom,” said Sarah. “Why is everything pink in this room? You know, I’ve never liked that color. And you know what else? I hate dresses, and I want to cut my hair—I hate the curls and they just get in my way!”

Jane looked surprised for a moment, then answered,” Of course, we can change that. It’s just a color, after all. And you can do what you like with your hair. I’ll make an appointment for the haircut this afternoon.”

Sarah hesitated. “Mom? You don’t think I’m really a boy because I want to have short hair and I hate pink—do you?”

“Of course not!” Jane answered. “I know there’s a lot of those kind of messages on TV and the Internet now. It’s pretty much everywhere, wherever you look. But you just be the best person you can be.”

In secret, Sarah was already working on that. She was drawing herself in her sketchbook all the time, prototyping new haircuts. She was looking up words on the Internet: Lesbian; gay; gender fluid; pansexual; asexual; bisexual; tri-gender; demi-girl.

“So many labels,” Sarah thought. None seemed to fit.

She sat down at the dinner table one evening, and told her parents and siblings: “I have something to say. Everyone on social media, and even some of my friends keep saying a girl like me must be transgender. But the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m fine the way I am. But sometimes I do get confused by the stuff I see online, and what my friends are saying.”

Luckily, Sarah’s parents weren’t born yesterday. They said, “You know, Sarah, trends come and go. We know it’s tempting to believe you might be “born in the wrong body” because you’ve done stuff more typical of boys your age. But you shouldn’t feel any pressure at all to agree with what other teenagers are saying or doing.  No matter what, just think for yourself!”

It took some time for Sarah to get used to the idea that the older teens on Instagram and Tumblr might be wrong.  She started reading and watching worrisome accounts and videos by young people who’d been injecting themselves with testosterone and having their breasts removed. A lot of them seemed happy for awhile, but the obsession with “passing,” and the side effects from the drugs and surgeries, weighed on her.  With her parents’ support, she came to realize she’d been swayed, as teenagers always have been, by the opinions of her peers. She’d always been a tough, independent thinker, and it didn’t take long for her to realize she was fine just as she was—especially since her parents fully supported her getting a super-short haircut and taking all her “girl clothes” to the thrift store, swapping them for the more comfortable pants and T-shirts in the boys’ section.

As fall turned to winter, Sarah fell silent less often, and her confidence grew. She painted her room blue over the pink, covering one wall with a “women in tech” mural, and another with Post-it notes to herself. “Wow, that was a close call. Girl, you are loved.”

The family came to realize that Sarah Smith’s greatest project had been to figure out that she had always been Sarah Smith, after all.

But she still wanted a change, something to honor the journey she’d been on—from wondering if she was a boy to returning home to herself again. So, the family sat down and brainstormed a new name. They settled on Thetis, a Greek goddess known for shape-shifting and prophecy. Sarah liked that Thetis was a sea goddess, given her own strong interest in protecting the planet by working with renewable energy.

Sarah’s journey home to herself may seem pretty simple, in hindsight. It was anything but at the time.

“About the best thing we can do when we’re young is give ourselves time to grow and mature into the unique adults we all become someday,” her mom told Sarah one day.

“There’s no need for a strong girl to say she’s trans, just because she’s different,” her dad remarked. “Strong, independent girl” probably covers 90 percent of what you are. The rest is something else that’s uniquely you.”

5. Spectacular STEM girls

“Do you want to just shut it down?” her dad asked Sarah one day, when she was still in the throes of trying to figure out if she was “really” a boy or not. He meant the show, and Spectacular Sarah. To erase and move past that whole chunk of a life.

But Sarah didn’t want that.

“I’ve thought about it, and I’m still that girl role model I’ve always been,” she said. “I don’t want it to end. Yeah, I’m not crazy about my squeaky voice, but I’ve noticed most women’s voices change and get a richer tone as they get older. Besides, I also did research on the testosterone that some girls are taking to lower their voices. That’s a permanent change. What if I regret it later? I can’t go back—my Adam’s apple will stay the same. And that’s not even considering the hair I’d grow on my face and chest, and maybe later going bald!”

So, she decided to keep Spectacular Sarah on Vimeo–but also added a drawing of the Greek goddess Thetis whose name she’d chosen: a powerful woman who could shape-shift when she wanted to. Thetis/Sarah could wear what she wanted, cut her hair or grow it long, choose a career as a social worker some day or as an industrial engineer. That brainy girl character was here to stay.

Sarah drew a comic strip, explaining how shape-shifter Thetis represented the wide-open choices every girl had, if she had supportive parents and teachers who believed in her potential.  And because Thetis was also a goddess of prophecy, Sarah added a caption predicting that one day soon, girls who didn’t fit the typical “feminine” mold would  no longer be asked “preferred pronouns.” They’d just be left alone to become  shining examples of the many unique ways girls can live their lives.

6. Mini windmills

Life now . . . well, it’s never perfect. Sarah met another girl who had also considered whether she was trans for a while last year. They bonded over a shared hatred of gym and started dating. Sarah is coming to terms with the idea that she might be a lesbian, and feeling glad that she didn’t start down the road to hormones and surgery like some of the girls she’s seen on Tumblr. She’s learning to do sculpture and working on her drawings of Thetis.

She gets a few glares in the hallways of high school, people insisting on misgendering her as male, others asking her if she’s sure she doesn’t want to be referred to as he/him. But all in all, she’s glad not to be worried about which locker room to use; glad to be done with the chest binder a friend let her borrow to try out a couple of times. That binder hurt, and made it nearly impossible to run faster than a walk,  without having to take a time out to catch her breath. And while wearing it, she sometimes thought that the only way to get away from that constricting device would be to get rid of her breasts entirely. What was the point of all this, really? Who wanted a life spent in doctors’ offices and hospitals?

A few months ago, Sarah went with her family on her first science trip since fully resolving her feelings about being a girl—and a lesbian.

Sarah and her girlfriend and Sarah’s dad sat at the next table, trying to sell mini windmill models to pass the time.

To advertise, they put up the same photo of Spectacular Sarah and the governor, which had always drawn customers. That day, it drew a huge crowd.

“Oh, who’s this person?” someone would ask, looking at the ponytailed kid in the photo.

“Well . . . it’s this person, right here,” Bill would say, and point to his daughter.

“But that’s a guy.”

Bill tried the direct explanation: “That’s no boy—it’s my daughter. She just likes her hair short now and wears more comfortable clothes.”

To Sarah’s surprise that day, a lot of girls her age walked up to talk to her. So many had the same story: They preferred the hobbies, clothes, and hairstyles more typical of boys, had briefly considered they might be trans—then realized they could do everything they wanted as the awesome, strong girls they’d always been

The next time someone looked at the photo and asked for the girl — “Oh, is she here today?” Sarah was the one who answered. Pointing to herself, she said:

“She hasn’t gone anywhere. She’s right here.”

wapo windmill 4

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.

The Lost Generation Strikes Back

by Worriedmom


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

 

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

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

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 00.10.45

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about you?


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

Graphics by Lily Maynard


 

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 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.

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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.

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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.