A Resistance Story
The anxiety that remains after the desistance of my daughter from nearly two years of trans identification is persistent, insistent, and consistent. An identity that was moulded by poor peer relations, bullying, online immersion, and professional grooming. Is she safe from this? Will she be drawn back in? How can we make this all stop? How did we get here?
My sleep is fitful. My thoughts are constantly processing articles, studies, policies, data, and online discourse. I urgently wait for this castle of sand that is the gender industrial complex to be taken by the largest of tides. When will the full moon shine on this darkness. When will this be visible as the pure evil that it is? And when will those who do not completely understand the harm that is being done stop blindly supporting this cause so as not to taint their own sense of virtue. This is not all rainbows and glitter. Surely the elaborate packaging of trans ideology is a red flag?
To preface this piece I will give some personal history for context. Born in the USSR and raised in the USA in the 1980s I lived a life somewhere in between cultures—not quite American enough, not quite Soviet enough, never quite belonging. I was a tomboy, and made to feel shameful for it. My mother was deeply dissatisfied in my presentation and preferences and was sure to let me know it. I wished I could play sports, but that was not considered appropriate for girls by my parents. “Why not ballet?”. On the sidelines I watched as my brothers played sports. It seemed life for girls was unfair, full of judgment and limitations set by society.
I am all too familiar with the language and tactics of abusers.
At a young age I was groomed by our neighbors, a father and older son. They tended to all of my tomboy desires and worked to build my trust in them. They eventually seemed like a second family. Then the behaviors started to change. There were the attempts to slip a tongue into my mouth by the father when greeting me with a kiss. The attempt by the son to lock me into a room with him, coaxing me to get into the bed. I did not understand why, but I knew that I needed to get out of that room. I made an excuse and ran. There was an incident where I was out playing in the rain and the son called me over to him. He was masturbating in the driveway. These adults made me fear talking to my parents. I was terrified, betrayed, and unsure of who to speak to. But I eventually spoke to my brother who shared all this with my parents. The son was deemed schizophrenic and was treated at a mental facility for a period of time, then he returned home. At night he would sit on his porch shouting obscenities at my mother and I. The nightmares persist today.
My mother was emotionally and physically abusive all through my childhood. In my teenage years I did not become the unattractive and undesirable person as she had predicted, but quite the opposite. I grew to be a target of more male attention than I was able to process. Eventually I ended up in an abusive relationship far too young and was far too fearful to disclose what was happening with my mother. During this time she had remarried and gotten involved in a religious cult of whom my stepfather was the leader. Her level of judgement and cruelty only grew more volatile. Emotional blackmail was the language of control in both my home and in the toxic relationship. Threatening suicide is an effective way to insure compliance. It is a fear tactic used to deter victims from questioning the intent of their abuser.
In resistance to all of these factors, I developed an extreme case of anorexia. A physical response to all of the trauma I experienced being a girl. My body became a protest, I allowed it to whither away trying to escape the burdens of womanhood. It was a trip to my birth country for a summer that broke the spells of the abusive relationship and the eating disorder. It became apparent in a different social environment that I was ill. I was able to reflect on my deep discomfort with my body and the abuses that lead me to hate it. My true self came through, the defiant, athletic, and bold individual who knew when to escape and when to fight.
What I learned was that abusers lose interest when you start to resist, when you start to ask questions. They cannot be faced with the truth of their actions, therefore they need to dehumanize their subjects. Not everyone makes a good subject. The abusive relationship ended as this person found a new target. I caught my mothers fist as it attempted to land on my face when I returned from that trip. I said “no more!”. A year later I was thrown out of her house, kicked out of the cult. The neighbor had nothing but words to sling at us after the court case. He never physically advanced again. Those who don’t play by the abusers rules become enemies.
After high school I visited a town regionally renowned for its gay culture and arts scene. I fell in love with the energy of the place and began living there for part of the year. It was a refuge for an outcast. The formative years of my youth were experienced here amongst people of many walks of life, many cultures. This place embodied freedom to express, freedom to love, freedom to just be. It was here that I blossomed and healed from my past. I found my tribe. It was here that I was inspired to see the world and experience life to its fullest. Eventually I would travel, meet my husband and start a family, settling a few towns over. It is here that my two kids have been raised, free to be.
I have a similar story as to how I got here to most parents of trans identifying teens:
My extremely talented artistic, quirky, kind girl, who never showed any interest in anything stereotypically male, suddenly decided she wanted to be perceived as a boy in the spring on 2021. It was the middle of the pandemic and she had been spending lots of time online communicating with other artistic socially awkward kids in various online forums including discord. She had begun puberty in the summer of 2020. The changes were deeply uncomfortable for her and she was consistently moody and withdrawn. School was also difficult as her old friends started to reject her. Bullying set in during middle school. Each day it became more and more challenging to focus on schoolwork due to the online hybrid method that was introduced locally. There was a brewing anger within her and she was not willing to discuss it with us. The family bore the brunt of her bitterness, shouting at her younger brother and lashing out at her mother and father. She would stay up late at night online talking to “friends”, while she became increasingly detached from her peers in real life. Hearing her giggle and engage with other youth kept us from prying into her online life. It all seemed so innocent and we were happy to hear some social engagement especially during the isolation periods of the pandemic. But she became highly critical of our parenting, constantly insulting us and comparing her life to those of her online friends. The door slammed consistently, we felt like we did not know this person.
We sought help professionally from her pediatrician of 8 years. We were given a list of therapists to contact, but finding someone available in 2021 proved very difficult. Our daughter had began asking to see a therapist, suddenly eager to talk. The pediatrician offered to start speaking with her until we found someone. They would meet in private, then myself and the pediatrician would speak in private in order to share some insight into my daughters feelings. I trusted this doctor. She advised many things that seemed to be more disruptive and distressing in our house than helpful. But I only realized this in hindsight. At the time I was desperate, My daughter was doing poorly in school, she was depressed. So when the doctor offered her time, I accepted it as a great gesture of kindness. What a mistake this was.
Around the time my daughter started having her monthly checkups with this doctor, she decided to cut all of her hair off. She completely changed her appearance and began wearing bulky oversized clothes, all dark colors chosen from the men’s department. All of her more feminine looking clothes and accessories were cast out. The basement was stacked with boxes hastily filled, overflowing with colorful wigs, necklaces, clothing and photographs from elementary school. She took on a new persona.
As the all too familiar tale of the ROGD parent goes, I spent time online trying to learn what I could. As the parent, I could see that this was a reaction to her maturing body and a rejection of her childhood identity. She had always struggled with sensory issues and puberty was deeply distressing and uncomfortable. The online community she was spending time in had trans identified kids whom she would talk about consistently. I was certain she got the idea online and opted to allow her to pass through this as a phase. We were watchfully waiting.
But those appointments once a month with that doctor were not what I thought they were. I should have noticed the warning signs such as the change in behavior upon entering the doctor’s office. The man-spreading, deep voice change, and apathetic character presentation. There was the nurse assistant who kept asking if she had a nickname. The nurse behaved awkwardly before the official doctor meeting would commence, unsure of what to say. This started in spring of 2021 and was intended to be a substitute for actual professional therapy until we connected with a therapist. We found a therapist in early August. Nevertheless the doctor insisted on continuing the meetings. Something seemed strange, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
I will never forget the day that my whole world changed. This pediatrician requested an additional visit in order for us to discuss hygiene. It was just after Christmas. I was invited back into the office after the pediatrician spoke with my daughter for a few minutes. In a brash and hurried manor, I was informed upon re-entering the office that my daughter is not a she but a he and that I should go ahead and start affirming her as such. My daughter was diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria. All the while my daughter was uncontrollably crying. The pediatrician went on to explain that some kid’s brains just don’t match up with their bodies. This is totally normal and they may go on to transition. She expediently handed me a business card for PFLAG and said maybe I could help convince Dad to get on board. She implied that she had spoken to the therapist and perhaps this could be worked out in sessions with that professional. When I stated that I had noticed a change in my daughter’s behavior the past year or so I was immediately spoken over in a condescending way: “She’s always felt this way, she was just never able to tell you”.
Now she knew my child better than me?
We were to book another appointment in a month. We did not.
There were a couple of conversations with my daughter about all of this after the pediatrician appointment. She blew up on me about not wanting to be a women. I spoke of the idea of transition and how I don’t believe altering your body even outside of the context of trans is healthy. She spewed angry rhetoric like:
• “I’d rather die than be who you want me to be!”
• “I thought you would throw me out once you found out I was really a boy!”
• “When I think about being a woman, I just don’t want to be one!”
• “I'm just a guy with a vagina, you don’t get it!”
• “I’ve always had gender issues!”
Where was this coming from? She never even wanted to hang out with boys, let alone be one.
My daughter assured me she’s been doing research on how to solve this problem, that there were ways to fix her. Transition was something she’d clearly been pondering for months. The pieces were coming together from the whole year. The hints had been dropping for months alluding to her gender transition fantasy and her newly acquired perception of herself as male. I just didn’t take it seriously. This was coming from the kid who was stereotypically female in all ways up until recently. All of the ways I was incapable of being as a child, all with no encouragement. There was a performative aspect to her presentation as male; It felt inauthentic, labored, and poorly informed.
She admitted to being same sex attracted, which I already suspected. Nevertheless, she seemed uninterested in the High School LGBTQ club. Apparently her friend group had come up with a new male name for her in a ceremonious way. It seems that in this group everyone chose a letter. But during this conversation on gender and sexuality I was sensing some ambiguity. She was expressing confusion on the topic of gender. There was concern over the term lesbian, it was clear she was not comfortable with this label. She wavered between laughing and crying as we discussed Gender fluid and the slew of other gender identities her friends had acquired. I sensed her foundation in this belief system was fragile. It was as if she was dipping her toes into hot water, reluctant to fully immerse. There had been no name changes at school formally and she used the girls’ bathroom. But she admitted to being recognized as a trans kid. Some teachers and most students used the new name.
I told her that I didn’t understand all of this but we will try and figure things out. I expressed that I love her no matter what and will learn what I can to help. The next step was for her to discuss this with her Dad and this could happen during therapy if she preferred. She never made that move, and never requested that we formally change her name and pronouns in the house. Yet, her demeanor began to improve at home.
The next month was a blur of tears and panic. I became all too familiar with “Affirmation” and was appalled. I looked up PFLAG and realized that sending my 14 year old to a meeting with a bunch of adults to talk about sexuality and all of the various genders available was inappropriate and potentially confusing. The conversations I had with people I thought were reasonable did not go so well. The therapist seemed shocked by this proclamation and said that she had not spoken to the doctor nor had my daughter ever brought this up. Maybe this was a deception as well? Knowing this person as an acquaintance, I felt I could share my thoughts and concerns. On a lengthy phone conversation I discussed all of the factors I felt led to this conclusion. I shared my instinctual opinion that affirming this identity felt wrong. It felt like an immense lie to my daughter, my child who trusted me as her care taker and advocate. Social transition sounded deeply impactful, a slippery slope towards medicalization. It sounded like solidifying an idea in her head which I was certain was transient. This therapist sent me an email a few days later. It was a forward to PFLAG. It stated:
“My client would like help with his transition, please advise”.
I had done my research and was well versed on the advise I would receive.
A few weeks later after another long conversation with this therapist, I was forwarded to a gender clinic. The email expressed concern that if I did not accept this identity I risked “losing my child” and that she is not “abusing substances yet” or “hurting herself yet”. All it took was one look at the website homepage to recognize the facility was composed mostly of endocrinologists. I did not call.
Was no one listening to me? What was happening?
I looked to friends for support. What I got was flippant advice and slogans.
I heard things like:
• “If this is her truth you need to support it!”
• “Would you rather have a live son or a dead daughter!”
• “It’s no skin off your back to just change your kid’s pronouns and name, it’s totally harmless!”
• “Don’t worry, the surgeries only come later.”
• “Just let these kids have gender, it’s their revolution!”
• “I’m not sure what you are so worried about, I don’t think medicalization is even available for teenagers.”
One mother asked me in a bubbly manner after taking a look at my teen…
“So is she going to transition or what?”
All parents of trans Identifying teens have these experiences.
Moments that pierce through your heart.
There was a fellow parent who advised me on just how poor of a reputation the pediatrician had. Apparently this doctor was infamous in our community for targeting struggling teenage girls and guiding them towards medications. The pediatrician eagerly played therapist in order to diagnose these kids with mental health ailments. This same parent had an incident with her own teen regarding this pediatrician’s consultations on anxiety and eating disorders. There were suggestions towards medications that were undisclosed to the parent. The parent ceased to use the pediatrician any longer. Even this person who was completely aware of the misconduct on behalf of the pediatrician was insistent that regardless, in my daughters case this could be her “truth”.
I spoke with my daughter’s best friend’s mother. She informed me that her daughter showed her the ropes in the trans arena. My daughter was now trans and had a new name and pronouns. Her old name is a dead name. She also said that my daughter was under the impression that she would start puberty blockers soon. This parent casually remarked that I should discuss my teen’s treatment options with her and just do some research. She also noted that of her daughter’s class, several identified as trans. Two months later, I got the call from this parent that her daughter now identified as trans.
As I was clearly being seen as the crazy person with all of my questions the next step for me was a therapist for myself. I needed someone to hear me, to actually listen and not solely attempt to persuade. At this point I was in a very bad place, poor sleep, constant tears, nightmares, and suicidal thoughts. I was suffocating. A local parent offered her therapy services to me. This only lasted 2 sessions. In the first I was showered with advise on how to accept the trans identity. This could be a fleeting thing but it could be real I was told. We needed to change the name and pronouns at home to show respect for my child. Doing so would better our relationship! This was not helping me. I slid further into depression and hopelessness. I could not agree with this, it just didn’t seem logical.
These sessions ended after the revelation that this therapist also has a trans identifying teen. It came to light that this teen was affirmed, yet her mental condition had been deteriorating. The teen had then accused the therapist parent of transphobia for questioning the chest binder that had been surreptitiously mailed to the house by a “friend”. The teen determined her home unsafe and moved in with her father. We did not meet again. Neither of us pursued. It was awkward.
Luckily I had my husband, my father, sister-in-law, and uncle for psychological support. My father was mortified with the whole story and was there to listen to my rants and read the resources I found. My husband and I were both on the same page regarding not affirming and remaining skeptical. He had received similar advice from male friends to affirm (guided by their female partners) but he could not truly accept the advice. He too followed his instincts. We read books including Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage and Helen Joyce’s Trans When Ideology Meets Reality. We spent hours sharing articles, thoughts, and fears. Both of us spoke with family overseas and paid great attention to how other countries were handling this phenomenon.
I am deeply grateful that my trans crash course started in late 2021. The resources available through Genspect, 4th Wave Now, and Transgender Trend helped me get out of my misery and back on my feet. It was monumental psychologically to know that it was not just our family going through this. There was advice out there. There were stories, opinions, conversations, and documentaries ready to be consumed and pondered. My husband and I attended a meeting through the Gender Dysphoria Support Network with Stella O’Malley and several other parents of trans identifying teens. Their stories made mine seem so trivial, the magnitude of grief parents were experiencing was awful. But it was hard to ignore just how similar the experiences were in terms of the personality types becoming involved, the rhetoric used, and the treatment received by parents. I realized this trans thing had a far greater reach than my own household or community. It was a global phenomenon of first world proportions.
The Gender a Wider Lens Podcast helped me solve the puzzle of my teen’s personal distress. Through hours of attentive listening I was able to recognize the factors that lead to my own daughter’s trans conclusion. Sasha Ayad’s Inspired Teen Therapy resources were instrumental assisting in my parenting and understanding of all of the influences and trends in my teen’s life.
I found a non affirming therapist through The Gender Exploratory Therapy Association. It was essential to have a therapist to consult with my daughter and allow her to work through her distress without defaulting to thought terminating affirmation.
How we got through this as a family is not a simple journey to explain. I feel we are deeply fortunate to have a daughter who worked a lot of this out on her own. The first step we had to do was sow the seeds of critical thinking and take a deep dive into our own behaviors and family dynamics to understand how this all came to be in our home. Where did the distress originate? The next step was to understand the dynamics of trans ideology and the vast nets cast out to catch distressed youth. Know the perpetrator. We got her to assess her own behaviors regarding technology, to think about the psychological affects it had on her. We discussed influencers, algorithms, social media, marketing strategies and patterns. We put limits on usage and without aggressive enforcement we allowed her to know that we pay the bills for the technology and have a right to know what’s she’s looking at. I never went through her accounts, I couldn’t bear the pain of learning exactly the types of things she was being exposed to. I decided to inform her as best as I could to allow her to critically think about content on her own. The main goal was to improve communication and ultimately allow her to discuss content when she was ready, and she has. The hours of resource consumption fueled me with information and rhetoric to share in the moments when she was receptive to hear. But mostly I tried to make myself available to listen. Gradually the pieces of the story are being told. The puzzle is coming together and it’s not a pretty picture.
I could easily fill pages with all of the stories of the past year of my life and how emotionally tumultuous it was. Now that I have reached the other side of this tunnel. I feel relieved yet anxious, angry, and betrayed. The first 8 months of the year I cried at least once a day.
There were even moments when I cried from one eye in the car, the one my daughter could not see. It is a heavy emotional burden to know that my child was swept up in a movement so evil and steeped in hatred right inside my own house, in her doctor’s office, and at school. The outside shell of the trans movement is glossy, colorful and full of promise. A wolf in pride clothing. It is no more than an advertisement for a different life, a better future, a rebirth, an escape. I have come to see this a medical construct. A product that the gender industry fuels with direct to consumer marketing to youth online, in school, and in the offices of medical professionals. But on the inside of this product is a dark and deceptive ideology rooted in self hatred and body dysmorphia. There is the predatory medical quackery void of science touting cures. Shrouds of secrecy and deception. The gaslighting of parents who ask appropriate and reasonable questions. These are extreme life changing medical interventions that adults are advising troubled youth to partake in. This is an abusive model and has nothing to do with care.
My daughter’s trans identity was a theatric performance of stereotypes. For how can one claim to know the lived experience of another group of people if they have not lived it themselves? Is this not appropriation in the worst way? Never in my life have I heard so many different hate orientated proclamations out of her mouth as in the last year. This identity was based on egregiously sexist stereotypes (in her case of males) which were completely ill informed. It was based on disdain for anyone who disagrees, anyone who misgenders. This movement is happy to knock down women and children in order to win. We are pawns in a game. It is not the concept of trans that is problematic. Adults should be able to choose how they want to live. But adult activists have no business advising youth on how to modify their bodies, their sexual parts in particular! Adult strangers in general have no business discussing sex and gender with children as this leaves the door wide open for abusers. Adult medical professionals have no business suggesting that teens who experience distress around puberty are problematic and require medical and psychological interventions. When did puberty and adolescence become a disease? There are plenty of people living as trans and not proclaiming to know what is best for a child they do not know who is experiencing distress. Pulling families into this debate is like kicking a beehive. Parents will fight back once awareness of what is happening is wide spread. There will be a swarm. Beware of the fury of mothers.
I am plagued daily with a sense of complete betrayal. Betrayal by the institutions that promise to look out for the best interest of our youths. The politicians that close their ears to comment, that would rather be complicit in damaging policies than to admit any form of error. They do not speak for us, they speak for themselves. The medical system and its penchant for profiting from suffering, for targeting weakness. Predatory providers seek to boost their own sense of self worth and virtue by pushing agendas they do not completely understand. Betrayal from society as a whole for not putting the safety of children as a primary concern. Who are we as a society if we cannot protect our children? Instead we eagerly take advice from professionals regardless of whether that advise is harmful. We shame those who do not blindly follow such advise, who ask for proof. How did our children become sacrificial lambs to an ideology? Why are we so “OK” with the idea of administering hormones and surgeries to teens who are different, who are troubled, and who are often just gay?
When will we stop this structure of abuse? When we start asking more questions. When we catch that fist that threatens to silence our protesting mouths—that’s when. It’s time to say “no more”. It’s time to listen more. It’s time to end the abuse and heal those who have been harmed. It’s time to resist.