Our Story Update
Five years, it has been five years since the gender craze struck our family and turned our flawed, but mostly content life upside down. Really, if I consider the pansexual declaration, which so many trans-identified young ladies make before coming out as trans, it has been six years. And it has been almost two years since my last essay for PITT. So many things have changed, while others stay the same.
Where have we been, and where are we now? My daughter navigated a highly gender-affirming art-focused high school and graduated in May of this year. COVID hit in the middle of her freshman year and caused the normal high school development and growth in independence to be stunted. She had no motivation to join clubs, do her school work, or to get outside. A full year and a half of online classes were nothing more than a place holder for her. She made it through, but didn’t accomplish anything academically, socially or personally during that time. For a child that is extremely intelligent and was once highly motivated, this was a stark change. It took all of her junior year to recover and to finally start to show some growth. I was thrilled to see what she accomplished in her last year of high school. She started taking responsibility for herself, advocating for herself, and developing a sense of independence.
Part way through high school we took it upon ourselves to explore the possibility that she might be on the autistic spectrum. We (her father, myself and even she) had suspected she was on the spectrum for some time, but a previous psychologist had not explored this on any more than a surface level. This was the same psychologist who had told me that my daughter just needed to learn how to live as a non-binary person instead of exploring her other difficulties. Getting the diagnosis required us to pay out of pocket for testing. We were more than willing to pay, hoping that it would help her to understand herself and how to navigate her unique personality and difficulties in communicating with others. Once she was told that yes, she is on the spectrum, she began to get angry and to reject any of the resources we attempted to provide to help her. She once talked about how autism caused her to have certain difficulties, now she acted as if she wanted nothing to do with the diagnosis or the resources designed to help her. Why the change? I have my theories, but I may never know.
How have we been dealing with gender? We mostly ignored it, trying to pour all our resources (time, emotions, energy, money) into connecting with her and making our relationships better. We have only addressed gender issues directly when absolutely necessary, like the time that she begged us to allow her to start T. We didn’t allow it. We made sure to vet any doctors and psychologist ahead of time to ensure they would not feed further into the lies she had been told by schools and society. We both called her different names depending on our comfort with her request and our own personal convictions. I once told her I was going to use her preferred name because I truly believed that God was encouraging me to in order to not further exasperate her. But I made it clear I would only do it around those who knew her that way, that I would never use preferred pronouns, and that I would never see her as a boy.
In addition to connecting with her, we tried to encourage her to develop life skills by pushing her to drive when she was extremely fearful of it, encouraging her to get a job, and teaching her how to cook and do laundry. Over time, she has softened. She is more pleasant to be around, more willing to spend time with us, completes tasks without the drama we once had, talks to us again (don’t wish that your chatty daughter was more quiet, you may live to regret it), and is learning to be responsible for herself. Who knows if anything we did helped, or if it was just a natural maturing that took place.
We navigated the process of picking a college and area of study, slowly and with a lot of stress and fear. I have heard from many parents who are convinced that their child’s trans identity was cemented in place partially because of their experience in the first few years of college. Helping her find a place that fit her needs and trusting that God was working through the process of her going away to school has been a lesson in surrender. If ever there was a child that was made for higher education, she is it. But trying to find a place that would challenge her intellectually, while not bowing to gender ideology has been difficult. And I still question, at times, if we made the right choice. So, she is off to school and appears to be thriving. She is involved in clubs that she loves, doing well academically (at least as far as I know), working part time, and making plans for internships and study abroad. She still uses her trans name, but it all appears to be fading slowly.
Recently, I listened to a Gender, A Wider Lens podcast where they discussed that desistance is hell on parents partially because it is done so quietly, unlike coming out as trans, which is explosive and loud. They also make the point that the process is often two steps forward and one back. I think that may be where we are right now, but who really knows? It can drive you crazy watching all the little things that could signify a change and wondering if she is desisting. If she desists, it will likely be years before we can breathe a sigh of relief, or even talk about it.
The one thing I have really spent the last five years focusing on is my faith. This tragedy has awakened me from my slumber when it comes to my Christian faith. It has caused a deepening of my relationship with God and a desire to read and understand the Bible in a way that I never had before. Every decision or action we made was first and foremost bathed in deep prayer and reflection. I realized that the only one I could really depend on to make this situation right was God. I couldn’t fix it, and all the “experts” have been hell bent on making things worse in the name of progress, inclusion, and kindness. I am so grateful for the parents facing this who have prayed for my child and me. Parents of faith are sometimes written off as transphobic fundamentalists no matter how supportive and loving we try to be. We often find that our voices are not as valued as parents of no particular faith. Within the private and secret groups online, we have subgroups where we turn to each other to encourage our faith and support each other through this trans nightmare. These people have lifted my spirits through some very dark days. My child may be desisting, but I know many parents whose children are mutilated, sick, and with worsening mental health issues. Even if my daughter decides that she is going to follow in their footsteps and make irreversible changes to her body, I have to trust that my God is still going to bring good from it, and beauty from our ashes. That is the only hope that I have, and the only thing that keeps me sane today.
In that same Gender, A Wider Lens podcast that I mentioned earlier, they discuss a theory that what trans-identified kids want from their declaration is a change in us. If that is true, my child has gotten that. I am not the mother I once was. There is good and bad in that statement. I don’t know where my daughter will be in five years. But, for now and every future day, I am placing my hope in the One who created her, and surrendering my control to Him.