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HELP! My 20-year-old son has been hijacked
By Marie P.
HELP! My 20-year-old son has been hijacked – well, not really. He is physically present but his true self is missing. His brain has been captured and his personality has been completely shifted. All of this happened virtually overnight and we are trying to figure out how to get our son back.
From the time our son was a toddler he was obsessed with all things mechanical, electrical and technical. He loved trains, cars, Legos, and science experiments. He was speech-delayed, uncoordinated, couldn’t sit still in class and couldn’t look at the teacher in the eye. By the time he was 6, he had a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. He had trouble navigating social situations and got in trouble at school because of it. He discovered video games and became obsessed with Mario Brothers, Minecraft and others.
He got early interventions and by the time he was in middle school, he was in gifted classes and in competitive technical teams representing his school. He experienced significant bullying in elementary and middle school. He had positive experiences in high school and did very well academically. He excelled in state and national technical competitions. Socially, he connected with a group of like-minded boys who were interested in building things and blowing junk up in the woods. When he was 17, I suffered a catastrophic illness that nearly killed me. He came to the hospital to say good-bye to me because I was at risk of dying. I survived, but my son went into a deep depression and was in a dark place where no one could reach him. We offered mental health help, which he rejected.
When senior year of high school came, he became paralyzed with fear of leaving high school and having to go to college. He didn’t want to grow up; whereas his peers looked excitedly to going away to college, he wanted to stay a kid and refused to go away to school. He also experienced rejection from girls, but especially from one girl, who he really liked and who turned him down. This hurt him deeply.
In his free time from school, he had a part time job, at which he excelled. He was into heavy weight lifting at the gym. He was proud of his strength and his muscles. He also loved hanging out with his friends from high school and met with them weekly.
We told him he could go to college or take a gap year and work full time. He opted to go to the local university and live at home. At the university, he was approached by two girls who were taking a gender study class. They befriended him, paid him attention and convinced him that he was “queer” and “transexual”. He was so happy to have “friends” in college and to belong to a group that celebrated his quirkiness. We noticed that he started letting his hair grow out long, tweezing his eyebrows and wearing rainbow buttons on his lanyard. I asked him if he was gay and he was offended that I would think that about him. He said he was “asexual” and wasn’t interested in either girls or guys. He would stay up for hours at night on the Internet connecting with transexual support groups.
His grades in school started slipping. He went from being a Dean’s list student to failing courses because he was so distracted. When he was 19, he came out to me and told me that he had gender dysphoria and that he felt that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body. My first reaction was to listen and ask questions. How long have you felt this way? What are your plans? His dad and I assured him that he had our unconditional love. We found a counselor who advised him to wait and not to take hormones until he was a professional adult who had finished college, had a full-time job and was independent. Besides his pre-existing autism, the counselor diagnosed him with clinical depression, independent of the gender dysphoria as well as suspecting OCD. We reported that he was bulimic and engaging in laxative abuse. Our son refused to engage in any type of exploratory therapy to discuss the trauma that could have triggered the dysphoria. He rejected anti-depressants, and would shut down at any talk about his autism. His indoctrination by the transexual groups on the Internet had been so thorough that his only goal in life became to transition to being a woman.
Our son asked us to call him by a female name and use female pronouns, which we refused to do. We understood that this was a struggle for him but we were not going to dishonor or disrespect him by joining his delusion of something that he would never be able to change about himself – his male natal biology.
During the past year, his personality changed completely from a funny, witty, interesting, intellectually stimulating and inquiring young man to being myopically focused on the goal of transitioning. He dropped several of his lifelong friends and became obsessed with this new virtual world that fed his dysphoria. He was depressed, angry, disrespectful and alienating to everyone who would not cheer him on this new path. He started spouting off ideological ideas which he had never had before and had no tolerance for anyone else’s opinions. He spent hours shaving his body, doing hair treatments, skin care routines, and spending endless amounts of time on trans groups on the Internet. As a result of these distractions and obsessions, he was in danger of failing in University. He had to drop out of his four-year University and go to tech school. He stopped doing the things about which he was so passionate and at which he excelled: lifting weights, building structures, inventing new gadgets, welding, etc. Instead, he became a hermit in his room living in an alternative reality. Every time his natural inclination to do something stereotypically manly, such as welding, kicked in, he would then obsessively shave his whole body or treat his hair. It was almost as if he had to prove to himself that he was a woman, not a man.
As parents, we were willing to give him the time that it took for this experimentation to play out. We understood from Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development that people don’t define their identity until they are 25 when their brain is fully developed. We also knew that our son’s emotional maturity was at a 13-year-old level.
But then, tragedy struck in the form of an OBGYN who gave our 20-year-old Autistic, depressed, immature, traumatized, confused and bulimic son a prescription for cross sex hormones and a testosterone blocker. She didn’t do a psychological assessment. She didn’t talk to or get a letter from his mental health provider, who would have recommended against it. She didn’t get a detailed family medical history which would have told her that he is at a high risk for dangerous side effects. No, he walked in armed with the script, given to him by the Internet transexual groups, that would secure him those hormones and walked out triumphantly with the weapons of his destruction.
He started the cross-hormone therapy and is still on it. This hasn’t made him happy. He has stomach cramps, swelling, depression and crazy mood swings. He is still not succeeding in life because his brain is in a fog. If he continues down this path, we see him as one more victim of a medical system that has been politicized and is breaking its Hippocratic oath to do no harm. He will be one of the people who lives with regret, with potential irreparable and irreversible damage to his body, brain and soul. He has sacrificed so much for this pipe dream which has been fed to him. He has lost relationships with good life-long friends; he has alienated himself from our family, especially his siblings who are profoundly hurt by what he is doing to himself. He has missed out on the opportunity to have an early brilliant professional career in the technical field. He is miserable, and a prisoner to an ideology that has hijacked his brain.
As his parents, who know him and love him more than anyone in this world, all we can do is watch in horror as he medicates himself to numb the pain that has driven him to this.
In a moment of vulnerability when he first came out to us, our son told his counselor and us that he never felt comfortable in his body in general. There was no gender discomfort as a child or even as a teenager. He just felt that he didn’t feel connected to his body. Then, one day, he went on the Internet and read about Gender Dysphoria and it all made sense to him. He said “I really wish more than anything that I could be the guy who ends up with a girl on his arm. I have tried but it hasn’t happened. This is the only thing that makes sense.” We tried to explain that the discomfort is part of the Autism spectrum but he wasn’t buying it. The pain of rejection and the wounds of many years of being bullied and being made to feel that he was not “man enough” to get the girl or to be good at team sports are too much to bear. He is looking to make sense of a world where he doesn’t fit in and it is better to cast aside who he is – who he really is – because it hurts too much to be him. So, he is trying to become someone new: a new identity that gets cheers and applause, that gets support and “friends” who give him attention. What he doesn’t know and what we, his parents and those who love him, know is that the cost of this new fake identity is so high, and that it will not complete him. I know this because the cries of regret, pain and suffering from those who tried to numb their pain by medicalizing it are louder each day and they will not be shut up anymore.
Marie P is a pseudonym.