Some thoughts on speaking out
at least we have a discourse now
In a murder trial, the victim’s grieving loved ones are never seated in the jury box. We can probably agree that’s a sensible rule if the goal is impartial justice.
The same principle might explain the absence of parent voices in the public conversation about trans-identifying kids — that is, the absence of critical parent voices. So-called 'affirming' parents have been amplified from the start. We’ve seen their emotional testimony in sympathetic television interviews, in courtrooms, even in Congressional hearings. But elders like me (I became an ROGD mom in 2016, two years before the term existed) would have to learn what 'lack of representation in the media' felt like.
It's hard to describe the profound weirdness of being introduced to a new idea that’s apparently new only to you, while everyone else seems to have studied it thoroughly and arrived at the only logical consensus; but that consensus strikes you as insane (because it’s insane) and no one wants to hear you say it. That’s when I found the information rabbit hole and started to dig. Early on, the pickings were slim even down there.
Eventually, dissenting voices started to emerge, though you still had to seek them out. They weren’t given column inches, even on the opinion page, and they certainly weren’t broadcast for just anyone to stumble across. I somehow found a podcast called 'The Boyce of Reason' — since renamed 'Calmversations with Benjamin Boyce' — that featured eloquent detransitioners like Helena Kirschner, sane doctors like Will Malone, and what might have been the first interview Helen Joyce ever gave on gender, at least a year before her game-changing book (Trans: Where Ideology Meets Reality) was released. That’s when the clouds parted for me. I sent Benjamin $200 out of pure gratitude, as those podcasts were my one link to sanity. On another good day, a friend brought me a photocopy of a Wall Street Journal editorial by Abigail Shrier titled “When Your Daughter Says She’s Trans.” It was a smoke signal from Planet Reason telling me help was on the way, foreshadowing the publication of Shrier’s blockbuster book, Irreversible Damage.
Every rational voice was valuable, but none was the voice of a dissenting parent. I certainly wasn’t going to lead the charge, even if an invitation appeared (it didn’t), but I really wished someone would speak up on our behalf. I wanted the world to know there were parents who weren’t cheerfully marching their confused kids to the gender clinic to have their childhoods erased due to some imagined internal programming error. Not all of us rushed to Facebook to celebrate a daughter’s mastectomy with proud mother-“son” hospital photos. So many mothers did, though, and still do: it takes my breath away.
Against that backdrop, it was a big deal when PITT came on the scene in June, 2021. Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans created a space online for parents to describe what they were experiencing within their families, their schools, their pediatricians’ offices, their social circles. This opened a floodgate of eyewitness testimony to a scandal of massive scale and consequence -- medical sex reassignment experiments on kids -- that went utterly unremarked upon by the media. For this and other galling reasons, the scandal continues unabated in our country, even as it begins to be reckoned with and harnessed in Europe, in response to systematic evidence reviews that U.S. medical societies won’t acknowledge. All of this is being written and recorded in real time by PITT's contributors, to facilitate the prospect of future accountability, but mainly to serve as a daily smoke signal from Planet Reason, reminding us we're not alone, and we're definitely not crazy.
PITT’s first book, Tales From the Home Front in the Fight to Save Our Kids, is a compilation distilled from more than a thousand reader stories shared with PITT in its less than two years on Substack. I recommend the book as a primary-source historical record of a shocking collective trauma that is largely suffered in isolation.
For me, that isolation has been the worst feature in a long list of terrible features. If you can’t even describe a problem, or if no one will listen or understand it as a problem, you are powerless to help your child. It's hard to think of a feeling more infuriating, or more stressful.
While I’ve been a daily reader of PITT's stories, I didn’t think writing an anonymous post would offer much relief: I wanted to go on the record. About a year ago I submitted a draft book chapter on ROGD, under my name, and I was thrilled to have it accepted. That book, a publication of Women’s Declaration International, will come out on October 13. The title: Women’s Rights, Gender Wrongs. The psychic boost I’ve derived from writing openly has been enormous. It’s also helped me locate my experience relative to that of the PITT authors, for many of whom public exposure would be seriously risky.
Some stand to lose their jobs by exercising their fundamental right to free speech: think about that! We're talking about a public health issue affecting children -- our own children -- yet we're warned in no uncertain terms that expressing our concerns, which are supported by objective evidence, can bring heavy consequences.
Some who write anonymously are in a period of acute crisis within the family. I've been there. When you're in that place, you dare not rattle the cage your child has confined herself to: your priority is to coax her out. Writing can be extremely therapeutic in such a situation, as many PITT essays have shown us. Anonymity makes it possible.
I don't remember which essay it was, but I know this realization struck me after reading a daily PITT email post: I'm no longer vulnerable to punishment for 'speech crimes'. I have a negligible online presence, a tolerant family and friend group, and a business from which I can't be fired because there's no one above me. (Okay fine, there's no one below me either.) I still have to consider my daughter's reaction, because she's not fully out of the woods yet. But, when I review our tumultuous seven-year struggle — which has every chance of becoming an eight year struggle if not nine or ten — I become more and more convinced that sunlight, whether or not it can fully or quickly disinfect anything, is the best way forward for us.
So I told her about my contribution to the book, and you know what? She said she's happy for me and encouraged me to travel to Glasgow for the launch event. That's an illustration of her kind, generous heart, as well as her ability to hold two thoughts at once: we can disagree about her gender ideas without staking our relationship or our love for each other on who's right and who's wrong.
It took years for us to get here. Years and tears -- so many tears. When I think about the perilous 'journey' that I've been on with my daughter for seven years now, it looks like a dichotomy: 'Before' is when I walked on eggshells all day every day. I couldn't (or wouldn't) use 'he/him' pronouns, so instead I adopted a tortured syntax that avoided pronouns altogether: I just wanted to get through each day without unnecessary pain.
'After' is when I felt it was safe to be honest. I'm sure I don't need to tell you which feels better! I think my current approach might be accelerating my daughter's progress toward desistance, because just as we know social transition is an active intervention, so must be social detransition, right? If people around her act as if it's truthful and normal to acknowledge her femaleness, maybe she will get there sooner, with less turmoil and self-doubt. Even if it's a net-zero modifier for her, it's a new lease on life for me to let go of the constant self-censorship; and you know what they say about putting on your oxygen mask first. It's sage advice, even coming from a flight attendant.
For anyone in a position to be canceled, fired, ostracized or attacked, speaking out requires a degree of courage I'll never have: I'm not sure it's even advisable. But if you perform an internal audit on your personal exposure and find you're less vulnerable than others to the potential punishments we see inflicted on our allies (J.K. Rowling, etc.), I recommend dipping a toe in the water of public truth-telling. Until the time comes when everyone can 'go public,' we have a precious resource in PITT, and I'm grateful for it.
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