There are Two Phases—a Mother’s Intuition about Gentle Deprogramming
Note: I’m not a therapist. My parenting experience is limited to children and teens with no significant mental health issues or spectrum disorders.
As a mom of a newly 18 year old son, who has been questioning his gender identity for the last twenty months, I’m no stranger to the ups and downs of this terrifying and depressing journey. My recent hobby, called “Helping My Son Accept Biological Reality,” led me both to research and rumination, and lately to an attempt of some kind of personal growth. When I randomly picked up a book at a used bookstore, titled “The Spirit of Happiness: The Monks of New Skete,” I was simply attracted to its tattered cover and soothing title. The very first chapter, however, gave me an insight into deprogramming the cult-captured teens which I haven’t encountered before.
When we fall in love, start a journey on a spiritual path, sign up for a new exercise program or find ourselves in a cult, our initial experience is of excitement. Our attention is selective, and we notice only the positives. It is common to feel renewed—a new name certainly helps, whether you are a monk or “simply born in the wrong body.” This phase lasts about six months, and then the mundane sets in. While a monk who just started his monastic journey might want to continue seeking this initial tingly excitement, he would be advised that this is futile. He is to embrace the mundane, because it is in the ordinary that he is to discover himself and God. The mundane is never as attractive and shiny, and without a supportive community this is the phase where most do give up.
A teen captured by the trans cult will likely also experience a phase of disappointment, frustration and doubt following the shiny new phase. The phase of pure, joyful belief in the God of Trans does not last forever. Immature and narcissistic influencers will tell them that there is always the next step to achieve in order to rediscover the so quickly passing tingly gender euphoria—paint your nails, stuff your bra, paint your lips, wear a skirt in public…The list goes on.
I believe this is similar to the previously described boomerang effect, when it seems the teen is on his or her way to desistance, only to boomerang and dig deeper into the ideology. However, if we break the gender questioning journey into the phases of doubt and belief, we can develop better communication and gentle deprogramming strategies with our teens.
During the phases of belief, teens are irrational and emotion driven. They are happy, excited, confident. Watching detransitioners or bringing up the side effects is not going to be effective and will likely only alienate them. This is the time to do everything we can to bond with them, without mentioning the elephant in the room. This is the approach that was recommended by Sasha Ayad and Stella O’Malley in their “Gender: A Wider Lens” podcast. They believe that gender dysphoria is not about gender, but is, instead, a socially-sanctioned manifestation of distress. Accordingly, talking to your teen about gender is not productive, and it is better to talk about anything and everything but gender. During the happy first phase, we can build on those positive emotions and spend time with our teens doing happy things, making our relationship stronger.
Invariably, the disillusionment will set in. Compared to a monk whose life is centered around prayer, work and study, and who needs to find answers within himself, our children are only a click away from being reassured that they are still “really trans.” The ones on the spectrum or with ruminative OCD tendencies might mindlessly redo the “Am I Trans” quiz. Others will ask their friends and will be love-bombed in their LGBTQ+ communities.
I believe that taking away or limiting the social media is one of the key elements of deprogramming, and attempts should be made relative to the teen’s age. However, even when social media is still present, this is the time to be more proactive in engaging their critical thinking skills. This is the time for that podcast, that video, that conversation about the binary of biological sex, that documentary on the “transracial” Rachel Dolezal, on the Opioid epidemic and the big pharma. This is the time to plant those seeds of doubt, prime their critical thinking sills, and throw facts at them.
I doubt that any teens will be immediately grateful for those facts. They are already in a very uncomfortable phase of doubt. No one likes uncertainty. No one likes being told that they are wrong. If you would like to experience how it feels to be challenged about your previously unchallenged core beliefs, I urge you to expose yourself to the other side of the opinion spectrum—it is a viscerally unsettling experience, which helped me understand what my teen is going through when his beliefs are challenged. Depending on his or her personality, your teen might storm out of the room, become emotional or rebellious. She might tell you that she hates you and that you are transphobic. As parents, this is when we go into our own dark place, thinking that our teens are digging deeper and heading for medicalization. However, it is very likely that this level of discomfort is healthy and the lashing out is indicative of the fact that they feel safe with you while they are processing the very unsettling truth and the feelings of doubt.
With the omnipresent grip of the Transgender Cult, I expect teens to cycle through those phases many a time. If they are on the right track, their discomfort when encountering gender critical information should be lessened in each subsequent cycle. Alternatively, their joy at finding their “Authentic Trans Self” during the belief phases should also be reduced. As parents, we should try to look for the bigger behavioral pattern, instead of the focusing on the “signs of desistance” which are invariably followed by our own despair and disappointment. If we learn to recognize these phases, we might be able not only avoid our own emotional rollercoasters, but we also might be able to tailor our deprogramming approaches more strategically and thus more effectively.