Finding Hope on the Road to Ruin
During the last week of school before summer break my son’s 4th grade teacher asked the students in the class to write something down on a piece of paper. She asked them to write a problem they were having or what was on their minds.
My 10 year old son thought about it and decided his particular problem may fall under the category of TMI (too much information) but he was feeling brave that day and decided to go for it.
He wrote: “both of my sisters are trying to change their gender and it is ruining my family”.
Understandably, the teacher was concerned. She told him that she was sorry that his family is going through this, and asked my son if he would like to talk to a counselor. He declined and instead we talked about it when he came home that day.
My heart is broken for him. He’s a sensitive and caring kid and he desperately misses his sisters.
He is caught in the middle of this gender war where we all carefully navigate the name and pronoun minefield in our home all day every day. It is a nonstop relentless assault on proper grammar, free speech, and rational thought. It is exhausting.
Inevitably there’s a misstep that is unavoidable, followed by an explosive argument. The fallout can last for days or hours or minutes but, regardless of duration, it’s always excruciatingly painful.
During and after, my mind is flooded with memories—usually of my daughters when they were babies splashing in the pool together, smiling and laughing, singing and happy. All chubby thighs and rosy cheeks toddling around and nearly falling down. In the before times it was all so easy to regain your balance and keep going. Not any more. The force of this flood of anger and hatred knocks me down and there are times when I am utterly broken.
I tell my son that we can disagree with them and still be okay.
I tell him that this is a difficult time for our family but in spite of that we still love each other.
I tell him that this doesn’t have to ruin us and that we can navigate this tumultuous sea together.
But, despite my shows of optimism and strength, inside I am desperately worried about him and for him. As he goes out into the world he will inevitably see and hear ideas around gender identity—a confusing and damaging concept for young kids. I tell him to just be himself, that there is no wrong way to be. We don’t have to fit ourselves into these made-up categories—that is a choice that some people make, but we don’t all have to.
I worry that his new school will normalize these ideas and I intend to go there and ask questions about the curriculum. As parents we need to do these things now because, in making schools a “safe space” for “trans kids”, administrators seem to be overlooking the safety and wellbeing of everyone else. Where it will end? Somedays it’s hard to even believe that the schools and doctors whom I have trusted with my precious children are capable of such a betrayal. It’s unconscionable.
The trouble is that, as parents who are holding the line on affirmation and social transition, we are deemed abusive. We are fighting against the tide all day every day. There are so many of us now but somehow it still feels like a lonely path.
We are told we are “bad parents” for not supporting our kids. We are told that we are “bad parents” for letting this happen in the first place. We are meant to feel ashamed and embarrassed for not completely affirming our kids new trans identity which came out of the blue. We have been blindsided but are expected to just shrug it off and fall in line. I can’t do it. I won’t do it.
Both of my daughters are female, unambiguously observed female bodied when they were born. How and why this could ever be called into question?
I understand that it might seem easier to my immature 14 year old daughter to opt out of shaving her legs—but she loses me when she declares that she is a boy and has always been a boy. What does it mean to “feel like a boy”? I can’t get an answer to that question.
Having been around for her entire life I know this to be an entirely false narrative.
Sometimes I feel the need to remind her of how much she once loved soccer or singing. I am told that was never the case, despite the many weekends I spent on the sidelines at soccer games in rain, sleet, snow, and blazing hot summer sun. We drove for hours and got on airplanes to travel to games and tournaments. In spite of video and photographic evidence—it has been forgotten, erased from her own past—but not mine.
If you lie to yourself long enough you start to believe your own lies.
If I ask about the why and how of it all I’m just shut down and dubbed a transphobic TERF. This doesn’t hurt me at this point—I don’t care much for the name calling but those slurs are truly meaningless and over used.
It’s not helpful to blame myself but I do it anyway.
My older daughter’s high school GSA introduced these ideas into our home. It all seemed so benign to me—I was proud of her for coming out as a lesbian and for volunteering to be co president of the GSA. She seemed very happy.
Then came her downward spiral—depression and anxiety, eating disorder, inpatient hospital stays, covid, and a new nonbinary identity.
She happily introduced her younger sister to gender. In this they find solidarity—just two “trans kids” supporting each other in their staunch political views that they don’t even realize are political. Capitalism is bad by the way and college is racist.
Meanwhile, my 14 year old daughter, a former elite athlete and a happy, social, and well adjusted kid has transformed into a complete stranger.
The new version of my younger daughter is sloppy and rude, argumentative and aggressive. She now enjoys manspreading, burping and farting loudly, sneezing directly into peoples faces, and adopting what seems to me like a distinctly stereotypical “male” persona. It’s all very performative and utterly strange. I am not at all fond of this new person who seems to revel in slovenliness like a pig luxuriating in the mud. Part of me is thoroughly embarrassed for her.
I find myself reminding my 2 older children, who have been indoctrinated into gender, that they don’t come from an abusive environment. I see them reveling in the fabricated idea that they are persecuted and marginalized. Is this what happens when you give your kids everything?
This situation makes me doubt everything about myself.
I don’t fault the parents who are participating in the gender affirming model of care because everyone is telling them that this is what is best for their child. Who doesn’t want what is best for their child?
My younger daughter was called by her preferred name when she walked the stage at her middle school graduation. My son was squeezing my hand. I wanted to scream. No! You have no business saying that name! What on earth are you doing?! Please stop! I wanted to disappear. Instead I silently screamed and gritted my teeth until it was over. I feel ashamed about that. When the graduation is over we make our way back to the car and get out of there as fast as we can.
In the last week, both the pediatrician and the dentist used my child’s preferred name at her request. The pediatrician changed the name on her chart and put it in quotes after her given name.
Well meaning trusted adults like teachers and dentists undermine parental connection and authority by participating in the social transition of children. Adults can see this but all my children see is that the whole world is in support of this with the exception of their parents. This is an extremely damaging belief system.
If only my daughters could see that it is because we love them so much that we have no choice but to question this.
There are days when it seems like too much. I try to remember that there are some things I can’t control. But my children behaving in this way in the name of finding their elusive “authentic” selves comes at a cost to everyone in our family.
We all have feelings—and our boundaries matter too.
I want my words to my son to be true. This doesn’t have to destroy us. I am determined not to let it. I have to hope that, in spite of all of the forces conspiring to ruin my family, against all odds we will pull together in the end. Although the future is uncertain, that hope is everything.