The Trans Detour
When trans 'treatment' derails actual healing
My son, James, now 23, is my only child. He identified as ‘trans’ from early 2014 until autumn of 2017, when he decided that the trans label no longer fit him. Although at that time he desisted from being ‘trans’, he’s still struggling to rebuild his broken life.
Why? Because he had other issues that have been left unaddressed when he was shoved into the one-size-fits-all mold of trans, with ‘transition’ as the only possible cure.
We live in England, in a rural village. Far from being an absent parent, I’d been happy to stop work to be a full time mum when our son was born. My husband and I separated when our son was around 14 years old. We have no religious faith, and we had no strong allegiance towards any political party. I'd accepted our son readily when he came out as gay at age 14. My ex-husband was more hesitant at first, but ultimately was accepting as well.
James fitted the profile of today’s trans-identifying teens (sometimes termed to be suffering from Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, or ROGD) in so many respects. He is on the autism spectrum, with the typical black and white thinking of ASD, was diagnosed ADHD, and OCD, with fear of contamination and intrusive thoughts. In addition to the above, my son is twice exceptional - he is also gifted.
Amongst the parents I know of trans-identifying teens, this is extremely typical of the teen susceptible to trans.
My son had also experienced severe homophobic bullying, and, as a socially awkward teen, he found his escape online, with immersion in gaming and anime.
By 16 years old, and within weeks of being diagnosed with OCD, he'd suddenly declared he was transgender. He’d never previously shown any sign of unhappiness about being male, nor did he ever present as feminine in appearance or mannerisms. Just like that, my family was swept up in the madness of trans.
From the age of 15, OCD overtook my son’s life, until it lost all semblance of what it had been. IBS triggered severe OCD panic attacks several times each day. In the midst of all this CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) referred James to the Tavistock as soon as he self-diagnosed himself as transgender. They believed that the gender stuff was the root cause of all this.
From the start, the sole focus of CAMHS and the Tavistock had been transition. I had been told by CAMHS it was vital that I shouldn’t enable or collude in any OCD behaviors, so I was shocked to realize that they were cheerleaders for his new belief. I was also skeptical— even without any real knowledge of Gender Dysphoria, I knew from the outset that my son being unquestioningly affirmed was wrong. How would this address the OCD that was dominating my child’s existence? To keep a steady ground for my son, I avoided using pronouns altogether and persuaded him to use a gender-neutral new name, which, by the way, he still uses after desisting.
My son remained catastrophically mentally ill and housebound after almost a year of being under CAMHS affirmation-only care. The initial appointment at the Tavistock offered no hope that treatment for OCD would be a priority, despite James being in 24/7 crisis with contamination fears and terrifying intrusive thoughts.
Overtime, James realized that neither the Tavistock or CAMHS had any interest in helping him overcome his crippling OCD.
I took a gamble and suggested that, if he overcame his OCD, perhaps he’d be better able to cope with transition and his other ongoing issues. He jumped at the overture and willingly agreed to instead see a private counsellor, whose remit was purely to give CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) for OCD.
I’m thankful my gut instinct was right.
Removing my son from affirmation-only care, was key in him desisting. Private ethical counseling, which focused on treating his actual mental health issues, helped him begin to find his way back to accepting the reality that he is male. Today he is desisted. He no longer identifies as trans.
Despite finding self-acceptance as gay, and desisting from trans, this is now the 8th year of James living as a virtual recluse, immersed online. He was a gifted spectrum student, but his education ended at 15 years old. Before ROGD he was a studious, socially awkward, artistic ‘super geek’. He’s made so much progress from how unwell he was when ROGD hit, but is still struggling with untreated complex mental health issues, which became entrenched. His unhelpful detour into trans stalled any real treatment of the root causes of his distress.
James still sleeps through most days in order to be awake online at night to his US online “family”. He lives an isolated life. He struggles to focus and seems disconnected and dissociated. The only people he sees are his grandparents who he visits one afternoon per week. He seems to pull himself together for that one afternoon.
James' silent hostile dissociation from me has continued after desisting. For the most part he's seen me as his enemy and still does, because I dared to gently question gender ideology. He has online friends who’ve transitioned, so he feels loyalty to their choices and can’t join the dots that being deeply concerned for their health doesn’t make me a bigot.
My heart is still heavy with worry for what the future holds. He's now a 23 year old with untreated mental health issues who refuses to seek help. He stopped seeing his private psych in 2017. And he has replaced 'trans' with a new escape-from-reality maladjusted coping mechanism with his online life... I just have to hope that in the passage of time he will continue to evolve and to grow through this.
My heart also aches for all the kids who didn't escape interventions, and who thought that trans and irreversible medicalization of healthy bodies was the answer, the quick fix for deep-seated issues.
The fact that he was affirmed as trans, despite being so obviously, SO seriously ill with OCD still shocks me.
My son wasn’t taught about gender at school. He had no trans-identifying friends, there were no transgender students in his year. His life has been derailed purely from becoming immersed online in his room as a struggling bullied teenager. Gaming and social media chat rooms led him into the world of trans ideology. And then his disastrous wrong-track, trans-affirming detour further pushed him off-balance. This is now the 8th year of him struggling to rebuild his life.
No child is safe from the trans madness, especially our most vulnerable.