Trust Transferred from Parent to Predator
Like so many teens that declare a transgender identity, our kind, gentle and very intelligent son is on the autism spectrum.
Beginning in his early teens, we noticed that something was causing great turmoil, but we were not able to get him to articulate what it was. When he graduated from high school at 16, we questioned whether it would be too soon for college but since two of his brothers attended a nearby college, we decided commuting with them would allow gradual change.
Life seemed to be going well during these college years. He was enjoying choir and making friends. We were feeling optimistic about his future. By his 3rd year of college, things still seemed to be going very well. Our son mentioned that his advisor had proven a great advocate for him, and made arrangements for me to meet with her. I had no inkling of how drastically our world was about to change.
As soon as I stepped into her office, she placed a five page letter in front of me that she and our son had arranged to present to me. The letter began with “Hi, Mom,” a greeting I had taken for granted and one that I would later long to hear. His letter was written with the tenderness that was a consistent part of who he was:
“I have to let you know that I’m every bit as afraid of this hurting you and the rest of the family as I am of it hurting me, if not more so…Because what it comes down to is that I’m not your son, or anybody else’s son, for that matter. What I am is your daughter. I’m a woman.”
Giving me just enough time to read, his advisor knocked on the door and returned to her seat across from me. Following her was a small parade of characters—our son, an LGBTQ family coordinator, a licensed professional counselor, and a chaplain. I felt as if I was on trial as each one of them looked into my face to assess my response to the letter. I gently smiled and moved in the direction of the only one I wanted to see at that moment. We embraced in a long hug. I thought I’d handled the moment well under the circumstances, although I later learned that I had used his name and it hurt him deeply. No one had given me the rule book— the one called “Affirmative Care” that I would learn about years later.
This was in 2014 and resources on this topic were extremely limited. One of the first things I searched was “transgender and autism” as it seemed reasonable that they would be connected. I was quickly chastised by a Social Justice Warrior. We had dealt with other health conditions, why was I forbidden to ask questions about this one? Even more troubling was that I was demonized for doing so. I was deemed unsafe. One question that did get answered was that our son’s help was coming from Tumblr.
We had made it a tradition to grab ice cream with our family on Wednesday nights, an activity we all enjoyed. We stayed in touch in other ways as best we could. On occasion, our son, now living with another young man on the autism spectrum, would show interest in being picked up (he had decided against getting a driver’s license) on a weekend for a visit. I also made a trip weekly to help him with his grocery shopping. He was getting along well with his new roommate and making good progress in living independently. Shopping continued to be a bit of a challenge as there were still times that he would freeze up when there was a need for a decision. We were still working on these life skills but I was confident that he would get there and continued to encourage him towards his independence.
Six months after his “coming out”, we were doing our best to keep the lines of communication open. I was thankful that he could communicate so well in writing and that we had this new technology through text to do so. One day, as I reached out to confirm a meet-up with him, I sent out a text but received no response. When I reached out to his roommate, I learned that our son hadn't returned to the apartment for the last few days. The roommate was surprised to hear my surprise— he had been under the impression our son was with us. He confessed that our son had “seemed off” recently, and raised the concern of suicide.
We immediately got to work tracking him down and were soon relieved to see recent activity within a video game that he played with his brothers—but we still didn’t connect with him. On the following Sunday one of his high school friends successfully connected with him via a video game and relayed, “She’s doing fine and will contact you soon. No need to worry.” After several days passed, we reached out to this friend to followup. He didn’t know much but relayed that, “She won’t be returning to the apartment.” We learned later that our son was nearly 2,000 miles away.
Entering his empty room was one of the hardest days of my life. As I climbed each step of his second floor apartment, I felt more and more like vomiting. Everything appeared to be the same as usual with nothing but his computer missing. It's as if life just stopped suddenly for him. His quilt from mom was still on the bed. The quilt that he made sure he always had, along with the thin feather pillow he couldn't give up, his Wii, notebooks from school, his favorite novels, loose change, deodorant... It just didn't make sense.
Then there were reminders of the battle he was fighting: over a dozen appointment reminder cards for a local counselor, an empty package that once contained women's underwear, a bag of makeup and jewelry (obviously a gift because it had gone untouched), unpaid bills from an endocrinologist and a small pile of business cards from various doctors. I stuffed a flood of thoughts that began to rush through my head into a mental compartment, the same way that I stuffed the belongings into bags. I then hauled the bags down to the car with the help of his roommate.
We have been in touch with the human trafficking hotline. Given the amount of red flags shared, they highly suspected that our child was trafficked. We were met with kindness, compassion, given a case number, but not much hope.
It will be eight years in May since we have heard from our son. The thing that angers me most is our culture is paving the way to have this happen again and again. The transgender ideology is tearing vulnerable children from the safety of their loving parents and leaving them wide open to be taken captive by predators.