There’s a sudden surge of trans students coming out at my college … and I’m scared to talk about it

by Emily Williams

Emily is a 20-year old college junior at a selective liberal arts university in the US. She is using a pseudonym for obvious reasons. All respectful commenters welcome, as always, but if you’re also a college/university student, we’d especially like to hear from you.


I have always been empathetic and sensitive to suffering. From a young age, I remember worrying about families who lost their health insurance, the exploitation of women, and the huge discrepancies of wealth in the world. So when I first heard stories about transgender teens, I was very troubled.

emily college silencedI got my Instagram account when I started high school six years ago. That’s when I started learning about the transgender community. I stumbled across their images without even trying. Most were young, 14 or 15, and laid a tragic narrative of being sickeningly confined to breasts and intolerant parents. Many of these internet strangers used the Instagram platform to connect with other trans youth, share their progress and unhealthy coping mechanisms, and discuss their comorbid mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and the fallout from sexual abuse. I did not interact with their posts, but read them out of curiosity and an attempt to understand.

That same year, I met my first real-life transgender person — the first of many. When I started high school, she went by her given name, Ingrid. She had buzzed hair, long winged eyeliner, combat boots, and lots of mini skirts. Clearly aiming to be different and cool. She was a senior, and spent most of her time painting in the art studio. Her look did not change throughout the year, but her name and pronouns did — at some point I began to hear people referring to someone named Diego. Before Diego/Ingrid graduated, s/he gave a presentation on “the transgender experience,” at which s/he defined what it feels like to have gender dysphoria, cited the suicide rate of trans people, and, most memorably, taught us trans etiquette: how to refer to trans people, use pronouns, and to never assume another person’s gender.

Throughout the rest of high school I came across this phenomenon several more times. Many more people I knew by association came out as trans. I heard more and more about trans people in the media (including celebrities like Laverne Cox and Caitlin Jenner), and began to hear LGBT or LGBTQ thrown around a bit more in a political context. I remained empathetic towards those who came out as trans, and tried to remember the politically correct language as best I could, often at the cost of what I had learned to be grammatically correct in my AP English Language class. While I still did not really understand how being or feeling transgender could work, I did not hear anyone else questioning it and felt I could not without offending or being insensitive.

emily college pullquote
But I was not ready for the culture shock of university, a small, selective liberal arts college. On the first day of orientation after moving into my new dorm, we had a floor meeting in which we introduced ourselves by name, location, fun fact, and preferred pronouns. “Remember, you cannot assume ANYONE’S gender identity!”  I felt silly having to tell a room of 40+ people that I prefer she/her pronouns, yet many people, at least five or six, who looked obviously male or female announced that they preferred the opposite pronouns. No one flinched or stuttered or acted like this activity was superfluous–though one international student asked me later, privately, why we had to do that. One person even announced that “some days” she would prefer to be called she, but other days would be going by he. Everyone nodded along, as if, of course, this makes sense.

By one month into my freshman year, the number of trans people I knew personally or by association was growing steadily. The school is small enough that even if you don’t know someone by name, you’ve probably seen them around. There were many boys wearing eyeliner but those were boys. There were girls wearing eyeliner that were also boys. Boys with small beards that were actually girls. And everything in between. One of my roommates started dating a “cis-passing” trans boy. Someone I met at the beginning of the year whose name was Tim would now like me to relearn that name as Rebecca. Someone else who started school with hair to her waist cut it all off and became Andrew. If you can’t determine gender by someone’s appearance, why have gender at all? Why not just call each other by our biology, whether we are happy with it or not, if only for consistency and clarity’s sake? I was trying to be empathetic but it was not easy, and confusing at best. No one said anything skeptical, and neither did I.

Two months into my freshman year, the signs on the bathrooms in an academic building were changed. Rather than being marked for men/women, both bathrooms were now “multi-stall.” The only indication that one was for men was the small print “with urinals,” vs “without urinals.” …

emily college pullquote 2It seemed that most of the students who were suddenly transitioning were biological females who were smart but socially awkward. They revealed their identities as trans men, usually through a haircut and new wardrobe, followed by a Facebook post alerting associates to a name and pronoun change. They would soon take to social media, student forums, and classroom discussions to rant about “cis privilege,” how oppressed they are because they get stared at by strangers, how they want to assault people who misgender them, and how in love with their “queer” identities they are.

A few weeks ago, a research paper was published suggesting that the recent increase in transgender identification among young people is the result of social contagion. This seems obvious to me. Yet officials at Brown University censored this paper. I shouldn’t be surprised. This is a topic that we can’t discuss on my college campus, either.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is a social contagion among college students. At my school, it is trendy to be transgender, and to people who feel like they don’t fit in, particularly with other people of their biological sex, choosing to transition to the opposite sex, and become a member of the opposite sex, may certainly seem like a more viable option than continuing to feel rejected while trying to fit in. But a lot of this culture surrounding trans teens and college students is aggressively narcissistic and cutesy — selfies captioned “i love being nonbinary,” “you’re gay no matter who you date,” and “baby’s first binder!” At best these random, new identities are invented to fit an aesthetic. At worst they are aggressively anti “straight white men,” apparently the worst species on earth and the ones responsible for all hardship, as they threaten professors and other students who dare to hint at an observation that doesn’t sound affirmative of transgender identities.

urinal dressWithin the past year, my second year at this college, I have had girlfriends who had to share a room with a biological male who decided, within the year, to change his name to Valerie. My two friends felt bad for Val, who was clearly socially awkward, had very low self confidence, and was always asking for their approval, (“do you think I look pretty?”). When they said yes of course, to validate Val, Val would reply with “I don’t think so.”

The odd part is that when we apply for housing we are able to select sex segregated or non-gender-based housing. If you select sex segregated as a female, you are paired with females, but if you select non-gender-based housing, you are paired with other people who selected non-gender-based housing, regardless of gender. These two girl friends of mine signed up for sex segregated housing, expecting to be roommates with only other females. Val signed up for non-gendered housing, yet it seems they did not have anyone to pair Val with, and thus decided it would be better to pair a biological male with two girls than two boys.

This is concerning for me, as a feminist. There is a reason why sex-segregated housing exists, and it is not for sexist reasons. Many, even most, women and college-aged girls are not comfortable sharing a room with a man they have never met. While sexual assault can happen in a number of circumstances, forcing women to room with men seems an easy way to increase the possibility. It has been important, historically, that women have spaces that are not open to men, for their own safety.

college piece flagSimilarly, this past year, on the “trans day of visibility,” all of the bathroom signs throughout school were replaced with paper signs that made all of the bathrooms gender neutral. This was done by the campus LGBT club, in order to make straight people get “what it feels like to decide which bathroom to use as a trans person.” I doubt this was accurate though, because I was still caught trying to decide which bathroom would not have men in it. I opted for the bathroom I remembered had been the women’s room, as did most women. One of my directionally challenged girl friends forgot which one it was and picked the men’s. She was immediately embarrassed and confused and went to hunt for the single stall a couple floors up. If our bathrooms were more European-style bathrooms, with floor to ceiling private doors, I would probably mind very little. However, these are cheap stalls that come up to your knees, and in the men’s room of course the urinals are open to all to see. One girl shared with me that she walked into the “women’s” gender neutral bathroom to find one of our younger male professors. She was overwhelmed and went to a different bathroom. She admitted to feeling bad, as she gets the point of gender neutral bathrooms and believes that trans people should be able to use any bathroom, but she just couldn’t bring herself to pee in front of our professor. Understandably.

What has been even more upsetting is to see is how quickly these new identities are accompanied by medical changes. I know several young women who were able to easily access testosterone soon after deciding they were trans. I know four who have had mastectomies. One is currently raising funds for her breast removal as part of  a GoFundMe campaign.

While I have tried my best, and initially succeeded, in believing the narratives of the transgender experience, it struck me at college that this phenomenon is so widespread, so political, and so trendy, that I am now completely dubious. I am not allowed to speak honestly and openly on this subject without being defamed as a conservative, a transphobe, intolerant, and anti-feminist. As someone who is not trans, I am not allowed to think or talk about trans issues unless I am agreeing with a trans person. Because I can’t know what it’s like to feel born in the wrong body.

At the present time, I now know about 30 trans people personally, and another 20 by name. Given that I attend such a small school, this is a very high percentage. Even the RA of my freshman year floor, who introduced herself two years ago with she/her pronouns, now goes by he/him and identifies as a boy.

This issue became personal when my childhood friend announced she is transgender, We played with Barbies and dressed as Disney princesses when we were young. We talked about our crushes on boys, and experimented with makeup and fashion when we were teens. I can’t believe that she really thinks she is a man. She plans to medically transition. I am scared for her.  But I am afraid to say anything.

I find it biologically and statistically improbable that all of these people, born at around the same time, were actually “born in the wrong body.” I find it strange that they think they need hormones and surgery that will sterilize them permanently. What seems obvious to me is that they are uncomfortable with their bodies, suffer from other issues like anxiety and depression,  and see the attention and attractiveness of transition as a way out.

What I don’t understand is why all of my friends act like this is normal. Am I really the only one who has concerns? Or is everyone as scared as I am to say something?

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Queering the Student Body

by Missingdaughter

Missingdaughter is the mother of a young woman who went missing in college. The author is available to interact in the comments section of her article.


How many college students identify as genderqueer, as transgender, as something other than male or female? Short answer: we don’t know.

The Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law tracks transgender demographics. In 2011, the Williams Institute found that 0.3% of adults identified as transgender. Another analysis from 2016, which utilized data from the CDC’s 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), showed the number of adults identifying as transgender had risen to 0.6% of the population. What about teenagers? Yet another Williams Institute estimate in January of 2017 suggests that 0.7 percent of youth ages 13 to 17 identify as transgender. Teenagers are a difficult population to survey. Dr. Emily A. Greytek, director of research at G.L.S.E.N. thinks the numbers for teens identifying as transgender could range from 0.5% to 1.5%. Transgender is an umbrella term—this could also account for the fuzzy numbers.

For many reasons, the aforementioned data requires closer examination. For one thing, any statistic based on a generalization across a large population does not capture local variances. There is anecdotal evidence of localized clusters of transgender-identifying young people in much higher proportions than these US-wide statistics would indicate. Escalating evidence suggests an expanding social epidemic, a phenomenon being described as Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD).

Malcolm Gladwell argues in his book, The Tipping Point, that social epidemics germinate, emerge, and grow by specific mechanisms and for specific reasons, ultimately reaching a tipping point, the pivotal threshold at which ideas and behaviors spread uncontrollably throughout larger society. The surveys we have do not record the germination of alternative gender identities on college campuses.

The colleges themselves report only a vague sense of the numbers. In the Spring 2017 Association of American Colleges and Universities journal, a report titled “The Experiences of Incoming Transgender College Students: New Data on Gender Identity” uses data gathered from the 2015 CIRP Freshman Survey. The report follows 678 transgender students from 209 colleges and universities.

On financial matters, the report states, “transgender students receive financial aid at a higher rate than the national sample. More transgender students reported receiving Pell grants (32.8 percent versus 26.6 percent), need-based grants or scholarships (47.8 percent versus 36.6 percent), and work-study funding (35.4 percent versus 20.9 percent). More transgender students also received merit-based aid (60.7 percent versus 51.6 percent), which is especially encouraging given that the average high school academic performance of transgender students was slightly outpaced by the national average.…”

The trans-identified students have self-reported emotional health concerns: “52.1 percent of incoming transgender college students reported their emotional health as either below average or in the lowest 10 percent relative to their peers.” However, “nearly three-quarters of transgender students reported a good chance they would seek counseling (74.6 percent). One reason for this difference is that evaluation and referral by a mental health professional is typically recommended to those seeking or undergoing hormone therapy or gender confirmation procedures.”

campus queer college guide.jpgTransgender students are a politically and socially engaged group: “Nearly half of the transgender student sample reported having engaged in some type of activism within the year prior to college entry (47.4 percent), which is more than double the percentage of students in the national sample who reported having done so (20.8 percent). Other authors have noted the tendency of transgender students to view their identity through an activist lens, describing the intersection between their gender and activist identities, and the role other identities play at the intersection.” Further, more than two-thirds of incoming transgender college students indicated they were likely to participate in protests on campus (68.7 percent), as compared to about one-third of the national sample (33.1 percent).

Nowhere in this report did it state how many students pursue a medical transition while in college. It is understandable that colleges may not be able to track shifting gender and sexual micro-identities on their campuses. Some of these identities may be a passing whim. But we don’t know anything about how many students arrive at college with a transgender identity, or who adopt a transgender identity while in college, and—more importantly—how many of these students access campus health services for cross-sex hormones or are referred to a nearby off-campus provider for life-changing hormone treatments and/or surgery referrals. Because the students are over 18, FERPA restrictions may prevent a parent from ever learning that his or her young adult child has undergone life-changing medical interventions—even if the child is still covered under the parent’s insurance plan. (True: the student is legally an adult, though not fully in brain function.) Considering the heady atmosphere of trans cheerleading on a college campus and the easy access to medical clinics, a young adult could be more likely to pursue medical transition while away at college.

As noted in the article “Are you sending or losing your teen to college?” published last year on 4thWaveNow, “if it were all just identity exploration, it would be one thing; but many college students are quickly advancing into medical treatments—often with the financial support of the university. Diagnostic testing or even basic counseling are no longer necessary, and college-bound teens have quickly figured this out. ‘Coming out’ as transgender is now treated pretty much the same as a gay or lesbian coming out, not as the gender identity disorder it was considered to be only a short time ago.”

Some students arriving at college without a previous transgender identity will adopt this label in college. How does a coming-of-age journey turn into a coming-of-transgender journey? Why would a young person without previous gender dysphoria adopt this identity? Some would term these new identities as “late harvest apples,” a term used by Diane Ehrensaft to explain unlikely transgender proclamations from older teens and young adults. There are several reasons this identity might bloom in college. One is that gender ideology on most college campuses is an entrenched dogma that manages to unite marginalized and protected identities, tribalism, theory masquerading as science, the queering of curriculum—all these ideas combined form a nebulous all-encompassing groupthink. No one dare question this gender ideology, as this theory involves a protected class of people who are highly triggered by reality.

This new identity could form during O week, which is the week for welcoming new students to a college campus. There are also welcoming queer weeks and Q week. Further, it has become the norm to announce a preferred pronoun to other students and professors, and to be instructed on pronoun etiquette so one does not make a blunder.

From O week introduction icebreakers to the classroom, it is increasingly common to make a preferred pronoun declaration and to be asked to use assorted preferred pronouns for others. The following excerpts on preferred pronoun usage are from a guide created for faculty at Central Connecticut State University:

There are also lots of gender neutral pronouns in use. Here are a few you might hear:

They, them, theirs (Xena ate their food because they were hungry.) This is is a pretty common gender-neutral pronoun…. And yes, it can in fact be used in the singular.

Ze, hir (Xena ate hir food because ze was hungry.) Ze is pronounced like “zee” can also be spelled zie or xe, and replaces she/he/they. Hir is pronounced like “here” and replaces her/hers/him/his/they/theirs.

Just my name please! (Xena ate Xena’s food because Xena was hungry) Some people prefer not to use pronouns at all, using their name as a pronoun instead.

Never, ever refer to a person as “it” or “he-she” (unless they specifically ask you to.) These are offensive slurs used against trans and gender non-conforming individuals.

Why is it important to respect people’s PGPs? You can’t always know what someone’s PGP is by looking at them.

Asking and correctly using someone’s preferred pronoun is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity.

When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric (or, often, all of the above.)

It is a privilege to not have to worry about which pronoun someone is going to use for you based on how they perceive your gender. If you have this privilege, yet fail to respect someone else’s gender identity, it is not only disrespectful and hurtful, but also oppressive.

You will be setting an example for your class. If you are consistent about using someone’s preferred pronouns, they will follow your example.

Many of your students will be learning about PGPs for the first time, so this will be a learning opportunity for them that they will keep forever.

Discussing and correctly using PGPs sets a tone of respect and allyship that trans and gender nonconforming students do not take for granted. It can truly make all of the difference, especially for incoming first-year students that may feel particularly vulnerable, friendless, and scared.


Do take care, faculty. It is oppressive to oppressed classes to screw up their pronouns. But it is not oppressive to you to have to learn and use preferred pronouns. Can professors be dismissive of this silliness? No, not if they wish to not be dismissed from their positions. To take one example, a recent article stated that at the University of Minnesota a new draft proposal discloses that not correctly recognizing preferred pronouns could result in “disciplinary action up to and including termination from employment and academic sanctions up to and including academic expulsion.”

pronoun-buttons.jpgProfessors at many colleges are compelled to use the student’s “chosen” names, the preferred pronouns–and of course, since we are talking about legal adults, the families may have no idea this is happening with their student: “If you are made aware of a student’s LGBTQ or transgender status do not assume other professors, friends, or family are also aware of the student’s status.” CCSU recommends that faculty read Author Dean Spade’s journal article on working with transgender students. Dean Spade is a professor at the University of Seattle School of Law.

The idea that someone is defined by a gender identity will be promoted, the idea enforced, as soon as the student arrives on campus. If a student has not given gender identity much thought, she or he will now be fully immersed in declaring a gender. What is the effect on one’s identity when forced to declare a gender identity in a classroom or with the weekly RA meeting? Champlain College decided that it would be a good idea to have everyone wear a preferred pronoun button. Imagine declaring other identities on introductions, name tags, etc.: My political party is X, my sexual identity is X, though occasionally Y, my religion is X, my mixed-ethnicity includes V,W,X,Y,Z.

Sexual identities are whirred together with gender identities. It is no wonder that with so many options available that identities often do shift. Resident Advisors often receive LGBTQ training. RAs at UC San Diego are provided with a 74 page training manual on LGBTQ identities. This publication dates from 2007. If there is a more recent update, one would assume it focuses heavily on gender identities and creative sexuality labels.

Here is one item from this 2007 guide under ‘B’:

BDSM: (Bondage, Discipline/Domination, Submission/Sadism, and Masochism ) The terms ‘submission/sadism’ and ‘masochism’ refer to deriving pleasure from inflicting or receiving pain, often in a sexual context. The terms ‘bondage’ and ‘domination’ refer to playing with various power roles, in both sexual and social context. These practices are often misunderstood as abusive, but when practiced in a safe, sane, and consensual manner can be a part of healthy sex life. (Sometimes referred to as ‘leather.’)

Professors are expected to not only practice compelled pronoun speech, but also to queer the curriculum. From Vanderbilt University, we have a comprehensive guide, “Teaching Beyond the Gender Binary in the University Classroom”:

In this guide we learn the reasons some students may question the non-binary, “Clark, Rand,and Vogt (2003) observe that students may sometimes hold onto their current understanding of gender roles ‘like lifelines in class discussion’ when confronted with information that challenges their existing views.”

Instructors are encouraged to: “integrate non-conforming gender topics into courses that are seemingly unrelated to gender…Instructors might also “discuss medical diagnoses that have emerged in light of intersex patients.” Another recommendation is to “incorporate a class debate about the impact of gender labeling on the development of criteria for diagnosis, drug development and medical treatment.” Lastly, the authors suggest that “instructors might incorporate debates around the research on gender non-conforming brain structures, such as that of the female limbic nucleus neuron counts for male-to-female transsexuals. For some, the latter recommendation may seem problematic given the history of biological sexism and racism in the United States…In engineering classrooms, encouraging students to think about how existing technologies might require modification if one were to consider the needs of gender non-conforming individuals…In biology classrooms, incorporating readings about the variation of gender identity and expression when presenting about sex chromosomes.”

campus flag.jpgSo we can see that gender-related ideologies and pedagogy are no longer confined to the departments of Queer Studies, Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, and the Humanities.  The college experience is queered in likely and unlikely places by professors and students alike. Some other examples include:

A professor at Northern Illinois State is concerned that masculine lesbians are viewed as women and not transgender. ‘Zir’ says that “compulsory heterogenderism, participants’ gender identities often went unrecognized, rendering their trans* identities invisible.”

“Queer Ecologies” is a course taught at Eugene Lang College. A partial course description: “Drawing from traditions as diverse as evolutionary biology, LGBTQ+ movements, feminist science studies, and environmental justice…”

If one is stumped for ideas on queering the curriculum, QuERI is a site for courses such as, “Goodgirls, Sluts and Dykes: Heteronormative Policing in Adolescent Girlhood.”

To a young ideological student, it makes sense to insert queer into the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. This honors thesis is from the department of Gender & Sexuality at Davidson College:

The Gender and Sexuality Studies Department provides you with a solid grounding in the interconnected, interdisciplinary fields of gender, sexuality, and queer studies, and engage these fields from a variety of perspectives – religious, economic, political, social, biological, psychological, historical, anthropological, artistic, and literary.

New Mexico Tech promotes non-binary awareness in STEM fields.

It is no surprise that a full immersion into gender ideology on a college campus (that is consistently reinforced) could lead a young person to embrace this identity. Yes, some students arrive to college with a genderqueer or transgender identity. Some do not. If a student adopts this identity, there is no barrier to this identity going medical. A transgender identity, a non-binary identity–both of these stated identities can receive hormones and surgeries. There is a social contagion to this identity; if many other peers are headed to the student clinic for a testosterone shot, why not?

campus injectionIn last year’s college piece, we documented that medical transition services were easily available on college campuses, often with just a single visit to a counselor. The 2017 Campus Pride guide listed 86 colleges that cover medical transition surgeries. Students are often covered under their parent’s insurer, and these young adults can gain access to transgender medical services. We can only assume that insurer coverage will continue to increase. If the campus student health clinic does not provide these services, the student will be sent to a nearby off-campus “informed consent” clinic. Planned Parenthood now plays a large role in transgender health services. As in, young women come to Planned Parenthood for testosterone shots. Ironic, isn’t it? Most people think of Planned Parenthood as a place to obtain birth control–not as a place to obtain an off-label drug that may render these young women sterile, not to mention the many serious and permanent side effects of this drug.

Brown University has a generous student health care plan that provides a full range of sex reassignment surgery (SRS). As stated on Brown’s counseling website: “We partner with Brown Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and University Health Services to collectively provide access, without undue barriers, to medical resources on and off-campus. Brown University health insurance provides trans-inclusive coverage for therapy, hormones, and gender affirmation surgeries for students, staff, and faculty.”

campus student healthRecently, Brown University has been in the news–no, not for the reason of ranking 14 in U.S. News Best National Universities. Professor Lisa Littman of Brown University recently published a study on ROGD, or Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria. Her study was posted on the university’s news feed and then quickly taken down when students and other activists protested. A petition was created to support academic freedom and scientific inquiry. Dr. Littman’s study created a wake beyond the research community.

Does this university have conflicts of interest between supporting faculty research, scientific integrity, appeasing activist students and outside political groups–possibly conflicts with competing interests of faculty? Dr. Michelle Forcier is a professor at The Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University. Dr. Forcier is passionate about transgender medical care: “Should we let them die when we have medicine for diabetes?” she said. “And we’re really talking about the same level of intervention. When gender non-conforming, transgender kids and adults are not supported (and) are stigmatized, then they can’t be healthy.”

Many colleges provide cross-sex hormones for their students. Here is some budgeting advice from Tufts University Health Care:

We recommend that Testosterone be obtained from pharmacies that have special expertise—Health Service commonly works with New Era Pharmacy in Portland Oregon which ships directly to you. At New Era, a 10 ml bottle of Testosterone lasts for 9 months or more depending on your dose, and costs $65 out of pocket, which is much cheaper than using your insurance. Prescriptions for needles and syringes will also be needed. Our nurses will work with you to help you learn to administer your injections. We will also provide you with a small sharps container for safe needle disposal.

Whether through the student health plan, the parent’s medical insurance (unbeknownst to the parents), or with some creative patch funding (as in one of the thousands of accounts on Go Fund Me by young women seeking “top surgery”), college students are a vulnerable population to the social contagion and permanent medical harm of a phenomenon being termed, ROGD or Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria.

campus u of iowa clinic.jpgIn fall 2018, “The number of students projected to attend American colleges and universities is 19.9 million...Females are expected to account for the majority of college and university students in fall 2018: about 11.2 million females will attend in fall 2018. We don’t know the exact number of college students who are identifying as genderqueer or transgender. Colleges aren’t tracking these students. Let’s choose 1% as a number in the middle, approximating from various surveys.

What could this mean for these young women? This could translate into potentially 100K young women put on a pathway to receiving a mastectomy. No one is tracking these numbers.

Colleges must reveal how many students they refer to transgender medical health services on-campus or off-campus. Colleges and universities have an ethical responsibility to state how many students are receiving cross-sex hormones and even mastectomies due to the colleges affirming and encouraging these interventions, and sending these students to providers that are more than willing to chop off their breasts.

What will become of these young students, their futures? Many, with encouragement from peers and counselors, will estrange themselves from their families.

We will hear from some families, like this one, in a future article:

“the phone call from my daughter in the deepening voice, the phone call to the college dean of students who told me ‘sometimes children do not have the same moral compass as their parents,’ the visit to the same office where they threatened to call security on me, the generic text my husband and I received from our daughter cutting us out of her life”…

Are you sending or losing your teen to college?

The following piece is a collaborative effort by a group of parents whose offspring began “gender transition” at university. They will be responding in the comments section under the username “POSTS”: Parents Of Sudden Transgender Students.


What if you sent your kid off to the Ivory Tower and you never saw her or him again–at least, you never saw a recognizable facsimile of the person you knew and loved for 18 years?

College is a time to “find oneself,” to try on different hats. How about transgender, genderqueer, non-binary? Some teens start to explore a transgender identity in high school, often via the Internet. Others may not have previously considered or even imagined a transgender identity before stepping onto a college campus.

If it were all just identity exploration, it would be one thing; but many college students are quickly advancing into medical treatments–often with the financial support of the university. Diagnostic testing or even basic counseling are no longer necessary, and college-bound teens have quickly figured this out. “Coming out” as transgender is now treated pretty much the same as a gay or lesbian coming out, not as the gender identity disorder it was considered to be only a short time ago.

And colleges compete to show how inclusive they can be of a myriad of transgender identities. The college end game is to be and stay highly ranked.

chronicle of higher ed


For a high school student questioning their identity, there is much advice available to help them select a trans-friendly campus. Your soon-to-be-away-from-home child may click away on the new wealth of information that could feed into their choice of college, as in campus pride, more pride, a pride guide to transforming your body.

There are even scholarship opportunities available for those considering a transgender identity. If one can commit to a new identity (and possibly a new body), the money is waiting. The Internet is full of transgender opportunities that institutions of higher learning offer before and during those formative college years. If we provided an inclusive list, it would all run together into a confusing (to parents) alphabet soup of acronyms. These acronyms and micro-identities are an easy sell to today’s gender-questioning students.

Campus pride student health clinic

Some students never question their gender identity until after being immersed in college life. Perhaps they take an elective course in Queer Theory in the Gender Studies Department, opening their eyes to viewpoints they didn’t know existed. Ok, isn’t that what an education is all about? But the medicalization of a newfound queer or trans identity can happen astonishingly quickly now.

Many young-adults-in-formation who suddenly announce a trans identity have a history of anxiety; are brilliant misfits with few friends; are gay or lesbian (and thus in no need of medical intervention); are a tad nerdy with possible autism spectrum traits–or perhaps all the above. Your daughter or son may lack a strong identity–in fact, the list gets so long that we could shorten it to “your child, any child.” Any kid who feels a great need to belong somewhere.

Once a transgender identity decision is made, instructions for what to do next are only a click away, such as at Carleton College in Minnesota:

carleton

In the National Geographic special, Gender Revolution, Katie Couric interviewed Tamar Szabo Gendler, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Yale. Dean Gendler is pleased that Yale is at the forefront of the gender revolution:

Universities are places that thrive on new discovery and I think that universities find it thrilling to feel like in the face of new knowledge we are able to figure out how to transform society as a consequence.

Some colleges cover trans medical treatments under the student health insurance plan.  According to Campus Pride, a whopping 86 US institutions cover hormones and surgeries, while another 22 will pay for hormones only. In a story in the New York Times on February 12, 2013, the author notes that no university covered such treatment as recently as 2007, but now exclusive universities like Stanford are onboard.

ny times

“No one knows how many” indeed–though we know that number has grown since the article was written four years ago.  Where once universities provided birth control and routine care on their health plans, now many (like the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) offer the full gamut of major, irreversible sex-reassignment procedures–including phalloplasty and vaginoplasty.

umass amherst

And while it may be hard to imagine how a student could take time out of their busy schedule to have sex reassignment surgery, the coverage of cross-sex hormones on so many student health plans might catch the eye of a gender-defying high school student; especially now that they’re away from the prying eyes of their parents.

Washington State University, in rural Pullman, scores a solid five stars from the CampusPride Index. Why? Trans health care, including (starting fall semester 2017) cross-sex hormones, is available via the student clinic. And as WSU explains, they are continually making changes to meet the needs demanded by their students:

WSU hormone treatment

At the University of California, Santa Cruz, the Queer Center provides a page chock-full of resources, including lists of sex reassignment surgeons, affirmative therapists, and how to get legal name changes on campus and state ID documents.

ucsc

Many colleges embrace the WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) guidelines:

A mental health screening and/or assessment as outlined above is needed for referral to hormonal and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria. In contrast, psychotherapy – although highly recommended – is not a requirement.

But informed consent gender clinics do not require mental health screenings by licensed therapists, and access to these clinics has been growing in recent years. Under this model, cross-sex hormones can be available even for a “non-binary” presentation; it is the individual’s choice what their goal and treatment protocol is.

Yale has provided gender surgeries on the student health plan since 2013; more recently, gender fluid and nonbinary Yale students have begun agitating for their right to treatment on demand.yale enbies

 

“The medical establishment is prejudiced against nonbinary people, ignoring the fact that gender fluidity exists,” Amend said. “Doctors can propagate a notion of ‘not being trans enough,’ which is toxic to the mental health of patients.”

Amend added that there is a community of nonbinary or gender fluid students at Yale, and that he knows of students who have had to tell psychiatrists that they are “more trans” than they feel, out of a fear that the doctors will withhold treatment if they appear more gender fluid.


Affirmative Care in the Student Counseling and Health Centers

How does this all happen so fast….a teen learning about transgender in high school, and starting cross-sex hormone injections in college?

Every day, young fresh faces, some not looking so fresh anymore, crowd the waiting rooms of student counseling centers all over Campus Country. Being a counselor in a college setting makes for job security: the 18-25-year-old cohort has the highest rate of mental health issues and the waiting list can be long.

Students have many stressors: a new environment, roommates, academic pressures, sexual shenanigans/hook-up culture, social pressures of every kind. Some of these students arrive burned-out by an intense college prep course in high school. Some have pre-existing mental health woes. They are strongly encouraged to use their student mental health center if any issues arise. That’s generally a good thing; we all want our kids to thrive and be healthy. But it can also be a less-positive thing, when the clinic is known as Affirmative Care.

What is Affirmative Care? In the mental health world pertaining to LGBTQetc it means that whatever narrative you bring to the table, you will receive an amen, a yes, a suspension of disbelief from the therapist. A student can make a transgender proclamation, whether this  is sudden, whether it makes any sense in the ongoing narrative of his or her life, and it will be accepted without question by the affirmative therapist. If one brings a tangible mental health diagnosis to the affirming counselor, whether it is mild depression, anxiety, bipolar, psychosis, no problem. Because if you have a mental health concern, it must be because you have not been affirmed and celebrated for identifying differently from your “assigned birth sex”. A life out of line with your gender identity explains all other mental health issues….or so the argument goes.


 Safe Places

Concerned about what your student is doing on campus, suddenly transitioning socially and via hormone use? If over 18 (as most are), they are considered to be adults now, and they can be safe on campus, even from parents, in “Safe Places.” Recently, the proliferation of “Safe Places” on college campuses have received a lot of attention, mirth, and critiques. Some argue that Safe Places magnify victimhood narratives and curtail freedom of speech and thought on college campuses. But the organized Safe Place coalitions do serve a valuable function. There are many people who need shelter and protection: domestic abuse victims, sexual assault/sex trafficked victims, run-away teens, individuals in groups that are marginalized, including LGBTQ people. None of us should tolerate violence or bullying.

If your child claims to be transgender, on most campuses they will be treated as a protected class against anyone who might question this new identity. A young adult caught up in the transgender warp will often say or do anything to have their way, to claim victimhood status. Doubting parents could even be hit by a  Do-notContact Order if they express dismay that their child is using cross-sex hormones via the student (or off-campus) health clinic—after all, the benign and kindly college administrators serve as in loci parentis. So the college clinic that injects students with cross-sex hormones, which cause permanent harm and morphed bodies, is just another “safe place.”

The subject of gender identity and safe spaces is a moving target, with the defining happening on college campuses. From the Los Angeles Times:

The meaning of a “safe space” has shifted dramatically on college campuses. Until about two years ago, a safe space referred to a room where people — often gay and transgender students — could discuss problems they shared in a forum where they were sheltered from epithets and other attacks.

Then temporary meeting spaces morphed into permanent ones. More recently, some advocates have turned their attention to student housing, which they want to turn into safe spaces by segregating student living quarters. Who would have imagined that the original safe space motive — to explore issues in an inclusive environment — would so quickly give way to the impulse to quarantine oneself and create de facto cultural segregation?

Safe space activism stems primarily from the separatist impulses associated with the politics of identity, already rampant on campus. For some individuals, the attraction of a safe space is that it insulates them from not just hostility, but the views of people who are not like them. Students’ frequent demand for protection from uncomfortable ideas on campus — such as so-called trigger warnings — is now paralleled by calls to be physically separated too. Groups contend that their well-being depends on living with their own kind.


In preparing this piece, we talked to several parents whose young adult offspring transitioned while at university. Here are a few of their comments:

 She did have some troubles in high school with anxiety, cutting and anorexia

From three mothers of sons who suddenly decided at university they were trans: all are very bright, nerdy and on the ASD spectrum

She asked us not to come to the Family Weekend at the end of October, she told us she was invited elsewhere for Thanksgiving

He had a romantic rejection, he attended a talk about trans at his university, he spent a lot of time online and developed dissociative disorder, then said he believed if he transitioned he would be more present in his body

We were met at the airport by a stranger: her skin was coarsened with acne, she had noticeable facial hair, her hair was chopped into a severe cut

The trans woman announcement came when my son was depressed and struggling with the complexity of social and romantic life at the university

She said she was lesbian in high school, but next spring in her first year in college there was a shock: a health insurance claim for testosterone

Several months later, it became apparent by both her appearance and mysterious medical bills, that our daughter was receiving testosterone in the college health clinic

His personality changed and he appeared terrified by everything; he told me that his friends thought the university failed to recognize mental illness

It was all hidden from us.

It was all hidden from us.  Until the body morphing started.