To My Son: I Will Be Your Rock
For those of us living the nightmare, a lot of thought goes into trying to understand how the medical community could be doing what they’re doing to young people. How does someone who has supposedly dedicated their life to helping and healing others cause such horrific harm — not blindly, or under duress, but with pride and hubris? This question has been dissected, and I suspect the theories are dead on — a combination of the classic god complex; a gross misunderstanding of the difference between championing the rights of homosexuals and those claiming a gender identity; the attraction of being a virtuous hero delivering “lifesaving,” medical care to The Most Marginalized™ population in all of human history; the ego boost from hearing desperate teenagers express their gratitude; the self-congratulatory relief at stopping yet another suicide; and the personal SJW cred that comes along with all of it (plus the “I believed this was evidence-based, even though I’m supposed to be an ‘expert’ and should have done the research myself because this is so obviously insane” excuse).
But what about everyone else?
Unfortunately, I have the distinct displeasure of being married to an affirming spouse, which means I have a birds-eye view of the opposition. Every day. Every. Single. Day.
Early on, when our kid first made his big, stupid announcement, and we were equally stupid in our response, we were at least aligned. Both concerned and supportive of the “idea” of a trans kid, but skeptical that we had such a rare bird, given the lack of any childhood expression of gender distress. Ambiguity, maybe, but not distress. Neither of us wanted our kid to rush into medical transition (or our ignorant and naïve impressions of it). Neither felt comfortable with a rush to blockers, which we knew the bare minimum about, until our kid started really falling apart. A year past a serious suicide attempt, hospitalization, and 4 months of intensive outpatient therapy (no trans), we were too frightened and traumatized to face the risk of another suicide attempt, so we consented to the absolutely safe and reversible clock-stopper of puberty blockers and awaited the thoughtful, methodical pondering about the meaning of his gender distress that our depressed, anxious, uncommunicative, oppositional 14-year-old would never do. Who would have guessed.
My husband was relieved. I felt a little ill. Something wasn’t right. I knew instinctively that what was being done to our kid was wrong. None of it made sense. I jumped into the rabbit hole that pretty much every non-affirming parent heads down. There should be a big welcome sign: “You’re right! And you’re not crazy! But you will be!”
I read endlessly, looking for proof or answers or something to make it make sense. My husband binged on trans TikTok. I stalled on injection appointments. My husband went in person to schedule them. I searched endlessly for a non-affirming therapist — not one of the five “approved gender therapists” Kaiser recommended. My husband bought our kid a waist trainer and women’s underwear.
I tried. Really, I did. I scheduled calls with the big names, hoping to get clarity on what was happening delivered by an authoritative (but kind!) voice. We’d come away feeling united, but within a few weeks, the division would creep back in between us. Nothing stuck. I sent him article after article, podcast after podcast. He stopped acknowledging them. And then it got worse.
I became the one thing standing in the way of our kid starting hormones. I was suddenly a TERF and a transphobe. I’d magically transformed from a lifelong liberal to an ignorant, hateful, right-wing bigot. Nothing I said changed my husband’s belief. He was deep in it, overtaken by whatever this mind virus/cult thing is.
Sure, it’s not fun being the subject of scorn in your own home, or being unable to talk about anything that even vaguely suggests that it’s not just me and a bunch of rabid MAGA yahoos who have issues with the whole Affirmative Care business, or having to say our son’s new girl name a thousand times in conversations with my husband to avoid saying “he” or “him” and getting “The Scowl,” or worse feeling compelled to say “she” and feeling like I’m in Crazytown, or knowing that the person I have committed to, for better or worse, isn’t capable of basic critical thinking skills, at least not about this. But there is an upside, which in simplest terms is, “Know thine enemy.”
We don’t really talk about gender (although once every month or two we fight about it), and while I think my husband is about 70% sure hormones would be a mistake for our kid, he still believes in the “TruTrans” mythology and the social justice narrative that goes with it. I get no shortage of “white privilege” commentary and goading about whatever dumb, gross thing Marjorie Taylor Green has done, my husband checking to see if I will take this as a personal slight. All of this makes him the ideal subject for my effort to understand the affirming mind. I’m pretty sure my husband would be put off if I asked him to participate in my own private focus group, where I could pepper him with questions like, “Is there anything anyone could say or show you that would change your viewpoint on whether it is ever appropriate to medically transition anyone other than a mentally stable, mature adult and only as a last resort?” Or, “What is a woman?” But I understand what motivates and influences him and can extrapolate to the standard issue trans believer.
1. Believers need to be seen as good people. They may not trust that their own thoughts are good, so they must adhere to the prevailing social mores. Going against the cultural grain would put them at risk of being bad people because they trust the opinions of others over their own. To believe that the aligned masses are at best wrong, and at worst responsible for terrible harm, would be too destabilizing.
2. Believers put tremendous trust in “experts,” having somehow avoided comprehending the realities of medical care gone bad, and the benefit of sowing and maintaining division for those who want power and profit, be they politicians or purveyors of mainstream media or your everyday, basic human rights organization.
3. Being Kind and virtuous is, in the minds of believers, what sets them apart from the others. Being Kind means sacrificing for those who are disadvantaged, which would be great if what you were sacrificing didn’t always take zero actual effort, truly benefitted the disadvantaged, and wasn’t typically someone else’s to begin with (for instance, the sex-based rights of females).
4. Believers uphold the idea that anyone who is in the minority, no matter how influential, is disadvantaged, so any narrative that contradicts this idea must be a nefarious, hateful lie. Anything else is not Being Kind, so believers cannot only not accept the narrative, they can’t accept the by-association nefarious, hateful messenger, either.
5. On the flipside, believers must affirm information and actions that support the narrative of the Most Marginalized™ population in all of human history, no matter how absurd, because to challenge or doubt this group is not Being Kind.
6. Believers greatly value the idea of community, often more so than actual participation. Once a believer has established themselves firmly and safely in the believer community, they cannot easily extract themselves because to do so would be to not only admit to a catastrophic level of uncritical thought, but more importantly lead to the loss of likely everyone in their social circle. The easier and safer route is to avoid all critical thought whatsoever and to tell everyone that trans kids who’ve had the misfortune to be born into Republican and/or religious families are almost uniformly being kicked out of their homes for finally (and bravely/stunningly) accepting their authentic selves; that it is good to lie to a child, telling them that they can magically become something they’re not and that doing so won’t mean a lifetime of them in turn lying to everyone they come into contact with; that removing healthy body parts and introducing damage to an otherwise healthy body is medical care; and that men belong in women’s sports and bathrooms.
While these points explain the basic motivations, they don’t account for the level of anger and indignation I see around this topic—not just from my husband, but from pretty much all true believers I encounter. The additional layer that drives the torches and pitchforks mentality is tribalism. Liberal Democrats cannot on principle agree with anything supported by Republicans. It makes them uncomfortable. Because the media has successfully made this “medical problem” (by which I mean the problem with the medical model, not the gender distress) a political issue, even considering ideas that are characterized as “right wing” feels bad. Finding any common ground with a conservative makes you magically aligned with everything anathema to your core being and, more importantly, to your tribe. This explains the rageful accusations of “Transphobe! Bigot!” on Twitter and the absolute refusal to do more than glance at the title of references provided to back up a point. You may as well have asked them to review the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. That’s how incomprehensible it is that there could be anything even approaching reason from someone who must, despite any evidence, be a member of the inhumane, incoherent, sub-human Right. The risk that they might find reason and truth and points of agreement is too high. Rational, evidence-based debate isn’t tolerable, not because they feel so solidly assured in their contention, but because they’re afraid of getting dirty by finding common ground.
Even with my ongoing, intensive home research project studying my husband for signs of enlightenment, I haven’t developed a method for reaching the believer. And that is truly distressing, because I have faith that eventually, through lawsuits or self-reflection and shame (but mostly lawsuits), the physicians will stop transitioning minors and will become less enthusiastic about transitioning others as well. I have faith that through vocal parent pressure and the understanding that school staff are not qualified to initiate or manage significant psychological interventions, schools will stop socially transitioning students and hiding a child’s gender identity from their parents. I have faith that eventually the brutal reality of detransition will force politicians to quietly stop the affirming narrative, hoping that no one will remember (spoiler alert: we will). But I don’t have faith that the general affirming public, which unfortunately includes my husband, will let go of their ill-informed reality anytime soon and, until that happens, this will never truly end.