A Return to Reality
A Follow Up to True Believer
In August of 2022, I wrote the piece True Believer for the PITT Substack. Based on that written piece, I was invited to speak on Triggernometry (@Triggerpod). This piece seeks to share some further reflections from the interview, which can be watched here.
I wrote True Believer because I felt I had an important story to share. Within the debate on "gender affirming care" for minors, there is a significant focus on adolescents and teens, and with good reason. Through these stories, we hear about how gender ideology shapes the belief system of adolescents, teens and young adults, and those who adopt a transgender identity based on the influence of schools, peers, online communities and other factors.
Some of the stories we have yet to hear, however, are about how gender ideology impacts parents who hold this belief system prior to having children, and/or who come to adopt it when their child expresses that they are or want to be the opposite sex. These are the parents, who, like I did, somehow force themselves to believe their child could be born transgender and "know" at a very young age, and who follow the "gender affirming" path. I believe there is a tsunami of children who are in this group, whose stories we do not yet know, and whose wave will be flooding our awareness in the next decade to come.
We were parents who went from affirming our young child's cross-sex identification through social transition to realizing we were wrong, and we were able to get off of this one-track highway to irreversible damage before it was too late. My hope is that our story can be of service to other parents who may find themselves in a similar situation, who do not know what to do or who to trust.
Thank you to @Triggerpod, Genspect and the editors of PITT for your courage to continue speaking out about this issue.
In the interview, I speak to how I adopted gender ideology as a belief system, and how it was part and parcel of a larger ideology, which for simplicity's sake, I will call social justice ideology. As a young person, social justice ideology offered me a simple solution to the complex problems I saw in the world, and gave me purpose and meaning.
According to "the formula" offered by social justice ideology, systems of oppression are the root of all society's problems. These systems are rooted in history, and create two categories: oppressor and oppressed, into which all identity groups can be divided. This oppressor/oppressed binary is the lens to see everything through.
The solution that the formula offers is that in order to create a better world, we must work for radical change that dismantles these systems and recreates the world to build "collective liberation," where all people, both oppressor and oppressed, are liberated together.
How do we get there? Those who are most oppressed and most marginalized must lead the movement to tear down the old and recreate the new, and people who are privileged (oppressors) must support their leadership. This is the "theory of change" that is now the operating system within almost every progressive organization, non-profit, and philanthropic foundation in the United States, as well as what underpins diversity, equity and inclusion work across public, private and faith based institutions.
Many people who come into social justice with very good intentions may not be aware of this ideological operating system, even if they begin to practice it. People may see it as a simple idea that since oppressed people have been historically marginalized, they should be given a chance to be put at the center, as a way of correcting history. What is underneath, however, is a vision of radical change - one that I have come to see uses the same people it claims to support as a means to an end.
Perhaps because of the special role the oppressed must play in creating a better world, social justice ideology also results in treating these identities as morally superior and even sacred. That is the context behind what I refer to later in the interview as a "transgender child" being in a sacred category or having a sacred identity. I believe it comes from the ideology, the formula, and the theory of change imbedded within it.
Last, but very important, is that in the oppressor/oppressed binary, adults are oppressors and children are oppressed. So collective liberation (and queer theory), requires children to be "liberated" from the "oppression" of their parents. This is one of the layers underneath putting children in the lead—a practice that lies at the heart of gender ideology.
In the interview, I refer to the moment in time when I finally could see my belief in gender identity as a belief for the first time. It was this moment when I feel I moved out of experiencing this belief as absolute truth, and was able to "see" it from the outside looking in. I describe this moment as feeling like a pin came out of my head, which led to the whole belief system collapsing. Then immediately after this, I felt like I was leaving a cult. How else could I describe being in something so deep, that I could not see outside of it? At least when you are religious, you realize you hold beliefs, you understand you have a faith, and you consciously practice it. This was different. I had been in something that I did not know I was in. And in that moment, I came out of it.
This shift was absolutely critical, and profoundly alarming to me in a number of ways.
Once I could see that believing in gender identity was a belief, and that the concept of gender dysphoria was a different way to see it, I was able to recognize that I had experienced gender dysphoria in my own life. This idea was no longer sacred or untouchable—something I "could not know" inside of my child. I could understand this feeling and speak to it, and share that experience with my son—a feeling of being uncomfortable, not quite feeling like a girl or woman myself at different times in my childhood and throughout my life.
I also almost immediately rejected the category of "cisgender."
Once I found the Gender a Wider Lens podcast and other resources, I dove in, deep. To be honest, I had lived in almost absolute denial of the realities of medical intervention for my son. It is as if I saw the potential future of medical interventions as one dimensional. Similar to the one dimensional view the ideology paints your brain with, I had not let the reality of these interventions enter in. I had to convince myself that if it was what was best for my child, it would all be okay.
What I had been told was that social transition was important to allow your child to "explore" their gender identity. Well, my child was not "exploring." He needed something to hold on to, and once he got it, he held on very tight. When I started to read about how social transition is not an exploration, but a major psychosocial intervention which leads directly to puberty blockers, and that 98% of children on puberty blockers go on to cross sex hormones, and that it is very likely they will go on to surgeries after that, I was absolutely horrified. This had been described to us as "exploration," "reversible," and a "pause button." Known side effects and complications were rarely, if ever, mentioned. The children could "always change their minds." All of it was lies.
Reality came flooding in like waves crashing the shore, layer after layer of distortions peeling off. I began to see the reality of the irreversible damage of the medical interventions. I learned about the Keira Bell case and other detransitioners who were speaking out. I was shockingly aware that none of this information was being shared with the parents in the support group we had attended. None. Of. It. And I can assure you, it is still not being shared to this day.
I remember standing in my yard. Maybe it was the day of the conversation with my son, maybe it was in the days following. I remember, again, a feeling of this inverted reality flipping. A huge cognitive shift.
I viscerally felt the realization that I had believed that I was doing something "good," but that it was actually not based in reality. That in reality, the track that I had put my son on would have ended in irreversible damage to him. Not my "transgender daughter." My son.
The Off Ramp
In the interview, I speak to it being harder to get off "the highway" then to get on.
Once your child is seen by others as transgender, they are vulnerable in so many ways.
Because I knew that the belief system I had held was invisible to me, I realized that it is also invisible to others who hold it. With shock, the realization came crashing down that every institution, many of our friends and neighbors, and the culture as a whole was captured by the "cult" that I had left. And if those institutions knew that I had chosen to lead my child out of a cross-sex identification, even if I begged and pleaded and explained to them everything that I saw and understood, they could still attempt to take my child away from me.
The same progressive left that I protested with in outrage at children being separated from their parents at the border would not blink an eye to separate children from their parents based on this ideology.
I called a close friend and whispered to her on the phone in my backyard, "Now I know what people mean when they say 'the totalitarian left.'"
We made it off the highway, we made it out. Both of our sons are doing very well. They are blossoming and growing.
In the interview, I speak to how my older son's cross sex identification did, somehow, function as a defense for him. Perhaps as a result of this defense, he had started to show many signs of being "stuck," emotionally and developmentally. For example, he had a very difficult time adapting to things he could not change, and he did not have a warm attachment even to me. Once this defense was released, whatever it shifted in him, the change was profound. Releasing this defense allowed for a softening, and an opening, that allowed him to be more fully who he was.
Our son needed time to come back into himself, to come to peace with being a boy, and to adapt to change. We don't know the actual impacts of socializing a young child in these formative years as the opposite sex, or what all needs to unfold in the process of desistance. What we trusted is that time would heal. We did and continue to do all we can to play with him, accompany him in his imaginary worlds, be outside and physical, and offer new interests that he can structure his world around, that he can hold onto. As time goes on, healing continues to unfold.
The Internet is a Mean Place
I am aware that many people who read my first piece, listen to the interview, and read this piece will think I am a terrible, evil person who is not worthy of compassion. You have good reason to feel this way. I am also aware that many people will also blame me and my partner because we are two female parents raising boys without a father. So be it.
Let me simply remind you that if those who are "true believers" read this or watch the interview, they will also consider me a terrible, evil person who is not worthy of compassion. They will believe I have abused my son by telling him he cannot be a girl.
At the end of the day, I assure you, nothing anyone could say or do can come close to the feelings of anguish I have felt in realizing that my beliefs and actions could have caused irreversible harm to my own child. So, if it makes you feel better, say what you need to say. It is nothing compared to what I have already felt about myself.
I cannot change the past. What I can do is share my story. In hopes it can serve to pull one more brick out of the wall.