Intuition Told Me to Go Against Everything I Knew
I'm Glad I Listened
I have so enjoyed reading your Substack. It has felt like a much needed dose of sanity. It helped me feel hopeful while my niece was trans-identified and makes me feel hopeful still that we can get out of this mess (soon!) Truly, my intuition's alarm bells - set off by my love for my niece - were the sole reason I dug into this issue.
“Uncle Bobby, I have something to tell you and Aunt Jane. I’m trans. I’m really a boy. I’m going to go by Alastair. I hope you’ll understand and still love me.”
The text my niece, Alice, sent to my husband on an unexceptional Saturday said something to that effect. I can’t remember exactly – and does it matter? Given what I know now, I’m sure it was a carefully crafted sentence or two taken from the internet, not a heartfelt written missive to us.
That text completely changed my life. How often can we pinpoint one singular moment that changes the course of our lives? Alters our thinking? Breaks us out of boxes we didn’t even know we were in?
My husband showed me the text and I said, immediately: “No.” Out loud! I said it out loud – me, the die-hard vote-blue-no-matter-who Democrat. The one who had just months earlier seen a woman refer to her own trans-identified niece as being in a cult and thought, “How cruel.” I believe in women’s intuition (after two plus years of diving into the ways women and men are different, now more than ever) and my intuition set off every alarm bell in my body the moment I read that text. No. No. NO. Something is not right.
We told her we loved her and accepted her. And in retrospect, thank god we didn’t yet know what we know now. Because that kept the door wide open for relationship.
Do I even need to say that this happened during Covid? That my eleven-year old niece was in lockdown for months? That her school computer was the passport to all the weird, unhealthy, toxic spaces she haunted online?
Her school, unbeknownst to her parents, changed her name – first to Alastair, then to Steven, at her eleven-year old request. They used he/him pronouns. They kept it their little secret – their little secret with a child – for two years. My brother-in-law found out by accident. We live in the Deep South, for god’s sake. They live in a conservative suburb of a purple city. Nowhere – nowhere – is safe from this gender ideology nonsense.
As my niece deteriorated, partly from the trans-id, partly from the lockdowns and total lack of social life, I dove in. My “no” drove me. I can’t even remember clearly the path that led me to being the full-fledged TERF I am today, but some moments stand out:
Jesse Singal’s detransitioner article in The Atlantic (This was the first thing I found. When I read those stories the scales started to fall from my eyes.)
Finding the moving, and tragic, subreddit of r/detrans. The stories were all a variation on a theme.
Finally hearing what the TERFs had to say – men are getting access to women’s spaces, sports, prisons, shelters. Sound the alarm, we are not safe!
Seeing the homophobia for what it was. Seeing the regressive stereotypes weaponized. (In the thick of this, I started bawling as I watched my daughter, just over one at the time, squeal with delight and run to the window to see the “Big tuck!!” At the time, she was so much more interested in “boy” things. I wept because I feared that someone would suggest that maybe that meant she was wrong. That the healthy female body she had been blessed with was actually a curse to be fixed.)
“Lia” Thomas. Oh, fuck you, sir. Fuck. You. That was the first pushback I ever posted on social media. It led to the end of a friendship with a trans-identified male who insisted that men and women weren’t different, that “transwomen are women.” I couldn’t say it. I wouldn’t say it. He called me a TERF. I decided that I didn’t care.
The fruits of that text have been bountiful. Here is a list of what I’ve lost:
My ideological blinders
My faith in media, the CDC, the American Pediatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the Democratic Party, the “moderation” of social media companies, my belief in “hate speech”
My alignment with liberal feminism
(Probably) my social standing with still-woke family members and friends
I am not sorry. The person I am now was worth all the mind-shattering revelations and the grief I felt about the insanity that has overtaken society. I am kinder. I am less certain and therefore curious, the most powerful thing you can be, especially when faced with the modern media landscape. I am more womanly – I embrace my differences as a woman, I celebrate the masculinity of my husband and my male friends. I care more about men and I appreciate them more. I appreciate women more, too. We are two pieces of a whole. We balance each other. We cannot survive without one another. I am grateful for the balance of male and female energy in my household, grateful for the healthy dynamic it creates and that we are raising our two daughters in.
The more I learned, the more terrified I became for Alice. I was not just terrified of medicalization – something she talked about doing when she was 18 – but of the effect her obsession with gender was having on her. Everything she did or wanted to do or interacted with first had to be passed through some internal filter for how it was “gendered.” Haircuts, clothing, interests in everything from music to art to outings – none of this could just be. The question was not, “Do I enjoy it? Do I like it? Does it make me feel good?” The question was, “Does this make me seem masculine? Does this make me more like a boy?”
She’d show me her sketchbook – she’s an incredible artist – and I would see straight cartoon characters re-drawn in anime style kissing each other. Or snuggling. It was, as the Gender: A Wider Lens gals put it, the most girlish way to pretend to be gay. In any other context, seeing these glimpses of her internal life as puberty started to awaken her to the fact that she wanted to kiss boys (!!!) would have been funny and sweet. Instead, her parents told me she was agonizing over her sexuality, unsure if wanting to kiss boys made her “less of a boy.” She “dated” a girl for a while – over the internet. The self-deception made possible by the unreality of the internet seemed to make her miserable.
We hosted her for entire weekends as often as we could. I used he/him pronouns, then stopped using pronouns at all. I decided that by god, I would do whatever I could to subtly, lovingly, help her escape. And so I talked about myself. About what I loved about being a woman. When she started to grow her armpit hair out, I said, “Man, you know what? That’s a great idea. You’ve inspired me! Why shouldn’t women have body hair?” And stopped shaving.
I got pregnant with my second daughter. She has names picked out for the children she wants to have one day. I talked about the changes in my body, the wonderful way I felt, the magic of holding life in my body. My excitement for my home birth and for breastfeeding my baby.
I pushed back when she said this or that was masculine or feminine. Gently! Lovingly. I just asked questions – why? What makes it so? I gave examples of my female friends and family members doing the things she said were for men.
Towards the end, I called her “she” in conversation. A family friend was over and attempted to dress me down for doing so. He told me that he “didn’t understand it, but that didn’t mean he shouldn’t respect it.” No, he didn’t understand. I just stared at him until he looked away. Later, I fumed to my husband that this interloper felt he could talk down to me, tell me how I should love my niece, and even doubt that I did so.
School started again. She started playing her instrument in the band. She lost weight, spent time in the sun, away from the make-believe world of the internet.
Her parents, whom she loves fiercely, never bought into the trans-id. Her dad would, on occasion, use the boy name. Her mother never did. Over two years, I shared what I learned with them. I told them I believed them, that I knew they weren’t crazy. That yes, the world had gone insane.
It ended with a text. I had pulled my car into the driveway. I opened my phone and there, at last, was what I had prayed for: “Alice has realized that she is not trans. She will be going by Alice again. She already told her school herself. We are so proud of her.” A breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding blew out of my chest. I burst into tears. This girl, this marvelous, clever, talented girl, was okay. My niece, my sweet niece, back to herself. And me: never the same, but the better for it.
“Practice listening to your intuition, your inner voice; ask questions; be curious; see what you see; hear what you hear; and then act upon what you know to be true. These intuitive powers were given to your soul at birth.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves