Becoming a light for our wayward son
At the tender age of 15, our sweet, nerdy son announced, completely out of the blue, that he was “trans” and needs hormones. I feel like a broken record—he has autistic-like personality traits, a tendency to black and white thinking and hyper-focus. A sweet and empathetic character, he is a quirky, brilliant, STEM and computer-focused, social justice warrior. He is also one of a significantly increasing number of teen boys and young men, tragically overlooked, who are identifying as “trans”. Also similar to many other trans identified male teens and young adults these days, his “trans” persona appears to be more like an anime character than an actual woman.
About a month ago, my now 18 year old son started taking spironolactone and estradiol, provided by a WPATH aligned physician after only one visit, under the informed consent model. Informed consent is not informed nor is it real consent for these confused kids. Many of these kids have never lived life in the real world on their own before deciding to take on the heavy burden of medicalization. They are naive and tender, often a year or two behind in social and emotional development. My son has spent the better part of the last three years in his room, alone, online for school and for socializing, because of COVID and lockdowns. While his trans ID came out before COVID, we had noticed strong signs of desistance two years ago, only to see the trans ID come roaring back when he hooked up with a toxic friend or two online during the long winter of school closure.
I would argue that these are kids who have missed out on a solid 2 years of crucial, in-person social development. I’m not a mental health professional, but that seems obvious to me—so how in the heck can a physician decide, on the first visit, that these kids are able to give so-called informed consent? I don’t care that the magical age of 18 has been reached; my son is acting much more like a 15 or 16 year old emotionally and mentally right now, clearly exacerbated by the pause in development caused by COVID.
Is our child listening to anyone cautioning against medicalization? Heck no! Although our relationship is pretty good all things considered, he has completely shut us out from the gender conversation and has latched onto the idea that transition is what he is going to do, no matter what. Unfortunately, by the time COVID restrictions eased, he was well and truly indoctrinated and has now constructed a super strong steel castle of defense around this identity. If we keep directly pushing against this, we risk estrangement.
How do we now parent a newly minted young adult who knows everything, won't listen to anyone, and who is embarking on a risky pathway of using harmful medications for a self-perpetuating mental condition? This is a shattering situation as we watch our child head off on a very risky path. I wish I had a road map, but feel like once again I am flying blind into a hurricane. Our focus is changing from setting guardrails around medicalization, to working on staying connected, becoming a safety net, and setting out a lighted pathway home in the event that he detransitions. We have to take a step back to preserve our relationship, even while we want, more than anything, to stop the madness. Even Dr Erica Anderson warns against simultaneously starting college and medically transitioning at the same time. I doubt our son would listen even to her.
How am I coping when our fears of medicalization have come true? I try to focus on the positive things happening each day and give myself breaks from “transworld”. Even the smallest little things help lift my spirits and bring hope. While this may seem trite or trivial to some out there who are engaged in activism, this is what keeps me going and enables me to write articles like this. Sometimes if I can just sit outside with my dog, mentally let go of all things trans and watch the bees buzzing around the flowers for 5 minutes, I count that as a win for the day.
Positive signs in our broader society are encouraging. I recently had a conversation about gender issues with some friends who are very progressive. Our conversation was wide ranging, covering the potential harms of medicalization, what is happening in schools today, the violent threats against JK Rowling for sticking up for women’s spaces, and more. I was stunned by how much we agree on gender issues. This is a conversation I would never have dared to have three years ago because it likely would have imperiled our friendship. The tide is indeed turning and everyday liberal-minded people are seeing through the lies now. I find this immensely encouraging. When more liberal, democratic voters see through the gaslighting, a real sea-change is inevitable.
What next? We are laying out breadcrumbs for our child to follow his way back to us when he detransitions. I want to sincerely thank the person who wrote this recent PITT essay from the perspective of one who detransitioned and found a safe harbor with her mom. I plan to follow that advice as we move ahead into an uncertain future. Every piece of advice I have read from detransitioned people has been like pure gold to me and I am eternally thankful to you all for your courage and bravery in speaking up from your hearts.
We are enlisting help from lifelong friends in creating a support network so that it will be in place when our son detransitions. Our friends say they will tell our son that, if he should ever decide to detransition, he can go to them and tell them—no judgements or questions asked—and they will give him the unconditional love and support he needs. This way, if he is afraid to tell mom or dad, he can go to them first, if that is more comfortable. I would encourage parents in a similar situation to consider enlisting loving extended family and friends in building an a priori detransition support network for your child, just in case. I think more people than we assume see that trans is not always “for life”. Like my friends, they may be very happy to provide nonjudgmental, and loving support when your child detransitions.
Even though I am bracing myself for rough waters ahead, I am making small steps of progress in my attempts to set up a loving and supportive landing spot for my child. Therapists, scientists, and physicians—you all have to step up to the plate here quickly before we lose a generation of sweet, brilliant young men to lifelong complications from inappropriate medicalization! For me, now, though, everyday is a battle between fear and despair, and hope and light. But I’m holding out for the light—because love always wins.