Dear Parent: Do you really know what's best for my son?
I’m so thrilled that you asked about continuing our conversation about the medical decisions we have made for our child and your very relevant opinions about said decisions. I am confident that you came away from our meeting knowing that, despite our obvious ignorance and bigotry, we are decent-enough people and maybe capable of being enlightened by a “well-informed” educator such as yourself.
After all, you’ve had at least five interactions with my child in the past four months since our kids became… friends? What does one call a relationship where, with your approval, your daughter purchased estrogen made by a “bathtub brewer” who concocts his mixtures in what is surely a sterile environment in his home and sells it online to anyone willing to pay, and then injected it into my son? I know your highest priority is to keep my son safe. I mean, not safe from illegal, unregulated substances that will sterilize my child within 4 months, but safe from meddling, backward parents like us. As you said, isn’t it better, given that my 15-year-old kid is dead-set on starting hormones, that he do so in your home? I mean, if he were playing Russian Roulette, I’d rather him pull the trigger in the safety of your living room than just about anywhere else. Having you overseeing that is immensely comforting. It takes a village!
As for my simpleton viewpoint on medicalizing children who adopt a gender identity, I know the year and a half I have spent tirelessly searching for the latest and highest-quality research and articles regarding hormones and blockers, and hearing from therapists, endocrinologists, biologists, physicians, gender clinicians, young detransitioners, and trans adults, can’t compare to all the (likely two or three) trans people you know well who are all really happy with their transitions. Obviously, their experience is a mirror image of my child’s. And despite the words of detransitioners about how they told others how happy they were at every step of their transition even while keeping their own mounting regret at bay, I’m sure those you’re close to couldn’t possibly be questioning whether committing to being a lifelong medical patient with a future of known health issues, the loss of their fertility, and an existence based on convincing others you are something you never can be is a great way to live out your days. Why let the recent shifts in Sweden and Finland — two of the most trans-friendly countries in the world who have severely restricted medical transition for those under 18 because of the high risk of negative effects and growing concerns about regret, and the lack of evidence that medicalization is effective for managing dysphoria — color your opinions, which are clearly unbiased by facts? And how could my meager, desperate concern for my vulnerable and mentally fragile child hold up against your innate knowledge that as an academic, you simply know better. Clearly, you’re willing to sacrifice your career (and the best interests of your family) by overstepping your bounds and running roughshod over our parental authority in your righteous indignation. Your daughter knows better, too, because, as she said, lots of her friends have done it. Who would ever doubt the sage wisdom of an 18-year-old?
I can understand your significant frustration that we will no longer let our child spend time in your home. I’m sure those two or three times you had him over for dinner (and an injection!) were wonderful. No doubt our kid spared you the insults, the anger, the unwillingness to lift a finger, the disdain, the casual but consistent reminder that he DOES NOT CARE about you. You probably heard an earful about how abusive we are, despite us making sure he eats well, has nice clothes and a comfortable, safe home, that he gets to and from activities, and has ample access to music lessons, extracurricular activities and anything else he’s willing to participate in that gets him out of his own head, working with his teachers and school administrators to make sure he gets the support he needs. It’s incredible he’s survived this long in our hateful environment.
At the same time, I can’t help but wonder why you weren’t there at his bedside as I was for the three days in a row just a few short years ago when he was admitted on a 5150 (the first time). You know, that time when he had 5 months of therapy in the intensive outpatient program, when there was no mention of gender dysphoria and no referral to the in-house gender clinic? I don’t remember seeing you when we rushed him to the hospital after he fell and split his forehead open after he slipped on the concrete, refusing to let his collection of pinecones fall. I missed you at all of the dentist appointments when the staff had to hold him down to clean his teeth. And who could forget that night when he ripped out his own newly cemented orthodontics because he didn’t like the feeling of metal in his mouth. Remember how exciting that was? No? I missed you essentially every night of his childhood, when he and I would snuggle in his bed, reading and talking and then waiting until he finally fell asleep so that I could start my night’s work. You must have been busy all of those long nights when we were helping him finish his science fair projects and prepare for his exams, unable to make the countless band performances or patiently sit with him as he worked through new pieces of music. We certainly missed you at all of the concerts and plays we went to, all of the trips to exciting faraway places. So sorry you couldn’t be there on the countless grocery-store runs, when I would take his hand when he started running wild in the aisles and feel his little body relax, relieved to be unburdened of his freedom.
Surely you have insight into our child that we couldn’t dream of, and I am eager to take in all that you have to share. Truly I am. Because if there’s one thing I am dedicated to, it’s finding out what is best for my beloved child — the path forward that will keep him safe from his own worst impulses and allow him the space to grow and explore and develop into the fullest version of himself. If you hold the answer that has eluded me all of these years, I want to hear it. If my child has confided the true source of all of his distress, please let me in on his secret. If you have solved the mystery of how to tell who will and won’t benefit from the magical transformation from male-looking person to female-looking person, I eagerly await this revelation (as do thousands and thousands of other parents dedicated to the health and well-being of their child).
If not, I have heartfelt advice for what you can do with your know-nothing opinions, and I’m definitely looking forward to sharing it with you.