Death Cults and Unicorns
Six months ago my daughter, who is 16 and identifies as trans but has not yet socially transitioned, took a massive paracetamol overdose. It was sheer coincidence, or perhaps a mum’s intuition, that I checked in on her at 1am that morning – usually I would have been asleep at that time. We rushed to the hospital where we spent three days. It was touch and go, but she survived, and I cannot even begin to contemplate the alternative scenario.
Since then, the promised weekly sessions from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) have not been forthcoming. Instead, I did lots of research and found only one psychotherapy practice in the whole country (we’re in the UK) which has not explicitly been captured by the affirmative model. Ambiguities in the government’s proposed anti-conversion bill for LGBT people, which has now been overturned for trans people but upheld for LGB people, would have left scope for this clinic, which just offers no-frills, standard psychotherapy, to be branded transphobic. So now, mercifully, my daughter is able to explore her feelings about her dysphoria in a nonjudgmental and supportive environment, and hopefully stave off, and even divert, the seemingly inevitable pathway to irreversibly damaging medical transition.
My daughter is autistic. She suffered early trauma when I was hospitalised, on more than one occasion, with suicidal psychosis. I am schizophrenic and when delusional, believed that everyone in the entire world wanted me to kill myself. We are very close and as a single-parent family, her own world was turned upside-down when she had to leave our family home and go to stay with my sister. I’m not a psychotherapist myself, so I can only speculate that seeing her mum, the closest woman to her, in such a frightening and disempowered situation might have impacted on her conception of her own gender identity, along with putting ideas into her mind that suicide is a viable option when in mental distress. Add social contagion to the mix, beginning with a penchant for Anime, as in so many cases, and the powerful obsessions kids on the spectrum can develop about a whole range of subjects, from My Little Pony through to unicorns and double mastectomies: the conditions were ripe for Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD).
As far as I’m concerned, my daughter has joined a death cult. The figures surrounding suicidality and trans are deliberately obfuscated – the charity Mermaids cites the Pace stats on child suicidality, which are inflated and distorted, in order to argue for early medical intervention (blockers and hormones). See here for a full analysis. My daughter has cited these same statistics on several occasions, and her firm belief that as a trans person, whether she goes ahead to transition or not (this is still a question in her mind), the chances of her taking her own life are much higher than for other people, is frankly, terrifying. Beliefs can be made manifest. Suicidality, like Trans Ideology itself, is contagious.
Suicide is romanticised in the collective psyche, especially among alternative, marginalised communities. Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain and countless other cultural icons are mythologised decades after their deaths, their untimely and tragic demises glamourised in the popular imagination. Emile Durkheim demonstrated, back in the nineteenth century, that cultural factors could influence this otherwise most personal of decisions. Teenagers, especially, are drawn to romanticise suicide. I did it myself, as a young Goth back in the day – like my daughter, I sat in a darkened room and self-harmed while listening to my favourite moody tracks – in fact, the parallels between Goth and trans are striking in so many ways, the main difference being that unlike my daughter, the most serious bodily modification I was considering undergoing at that tender age was a homemade tattoo, but that’s a story for another time.
Why if, as is so often argued, the trans population was always significant in numbers but historical oppression meant that they could not come forwards and seek to medically transition, were there not proportionally high suicide rates then, reflecting the currently touted suicide stats?
Yesterday, my daughter came home and initiated a chat about hormones and surgery. I held my usual line – she can be as gender nonconforming as she likes, I just won’t support her harming her body. She seemed satisfied by this answer, although she disagreed with it at first. Then she went off to play with her teddies, dressing one fluffy dinosaur up as Che Guevara. She’s a young sixteen and needs help to do lots of things that other kids her age have done independently for years. Following her devastating attempt last year, I took advice from an affirming psychotherapist. I was, of course, wracked with guilt. Had my non-affirming stance led to this? I relented on the issue of respiratory restricting binders, I asked her about preferred pronouns, which she was unsure about. And then, once things had calmed down, I trusted my gut. I found a more compassionate therapist and realised this: she wants me to keep her safe.