I’ve only told a few people that my now 18 year old daughter is somehow convinced she is a boy. My daughter would claim I am embarrassed of her, but honestly it just feels too much. My wounds are raw from the last few years of her mental distress. I am in so much pain I cannot make a sound or I will be dragged under.
My husband and I found out she was self-harming months before lockdown, hiding razors in her shampoo bottles. In January 2020 I was called to pick her up from school because she had made a suicide threat that day. The counselor said I needed to pick her up “as soon as you can or we will take her to the hospital on a 5150 hold”. That night, while I thought she was safe in her room and her bed, she texted pictures of her newly-bloodied wrists to a girl who had tormented her. In March of 2020, Covid hit and my already depressed and anxious kid was locked in her room, feeling even more alone and depressed. I still have not come up for air. The waves keep coming. I don’t know how much more I can take.
In May 2020, her dad took her to Texas for eating disorder treatment. After three weeks we were told that her eating disorder was secondary to her mood disorder and we had to find her a higher level of care.
At her second inpatient treatment center she lasted two weeks before we were told we needed to take her to a higher level of care.
At her third facility, she stayed for 47 days to stabilize and for testing to find out what her primary mood disorder was. We never saw the words “gender dysphoria” in the 57 page report.
The next stop was a reputable therapeutic boarding school. We were also never told in the 14 months she spent there that she thought she was a boy. In the reports full of references to depression, suicidal ideation, body dysmorphia, anxiety, and self harm, we never saw the words “gender dysphoria”.
In December of 2021 she graduated, both from the therapeutic program and from high school. She was wearing a dress and full make-up at her graduation ceremony.
Then, at last, she was finally back home. At first, things were great—full of family jokes and cuddling. She and her brother laughed and made up for lost time together. She filled out eleven college applications and she was accepted to many of them. One would think this should be a happy punctuation mark after almost losing your oldest child. We were wrong, as we were about to find out.
She began seeing a therapist who knew her at her worst from the second facility. I thought I was making the right decision, that my daughter was safe and was working through her mental struggles. She starting wearing her dad’s shirts, oversized men’s sweatpants, and crocs with socks to therapy, which looks like a depressed kid to me, not a boy. I thought I was paying for someone to get to the root of the depression and body shame and self hatred that began years prior. Actually, my daughter was being affirmed as a boy for months without my knowledge.
This last spring she decided on a fantastic liberal arts college. We sat side by side on our laptops on the couch filling out forms for meal plans, academic interests, housing and classes. With each form that was filled out we both received an automated confirmation email—addressed to a name that was not hers. I gasped in shock and confusion. She quickly changed her name back and left the room.
Next came the housing form, on which she checked “male” without my knowledge. We actually didn’t learn she checked male until she was assigned her male roommate in July. She is currently living with an 18 year old boy on a co-ed floor.
I feel so bad for him.
My daughter’s side of the room is decorated with anime posters and jewelry organizers. She has at least 10 pairs of shoes and so many items of clothing we had to purchase more shelves on move-in day. She says her roommate smells. She changes in her “man cave” to hide from him, which is a shower curtain under her lifted bed. She says he is hardly in their room. I cannot imagine why.
After she left for college we still feel we are walking on eggshells, afraid of saying something that might upset her so that she yells at us and hangs up. I want to text her some truth, but I’m afraid that, if I do, we won’t hear from her again. Our daughter attends a college in a state where it is illegal to get an abortion—but where she can go to a “gender clinic” 35.8 miles away (my we mapped it). We check her location on our phones and go into white hot panic if she is near the city. We scroll in, it’s the mall. It’s a Walmart. I am loosing my mind.
When she was home for winter break and fell asleep on my lap watching tv. I took a picture of my beautiful girl. I know she is still in there. We had one (ahem) loud conversation after I couldn’t bite my tongue anymore. Her dad and I were crying, we were begging her not to start Testosterone. The night did not end well, but the next morning I did what I always do when she is home—I climbed into her bed and spooned her. A week later we had a calm conversation a few nights before she flew back to school, just so I could unemotionally say it all. My husband drove her to the airport and asked her to hold off on anything medical for a while. She may have seen our pain, but she also may have lied to us when she told him that she will wait.
My daughter now sits like she was at her annual exam. She is proud of teaching herself how to burp. She stopped shaving her legs and was actually annoyed by her underarm hair last summer so she piled on the old spice mens deodorant, Swagger. The smell makes me gag when we are in the car listening to her Japanese pop music. The nausea comes in waves.
I feel sick. So unbelievably sick.