The first step into the world
We left our kind, funny, shy and self-effacing son with you on a late summer evening. His initial impression of university was that everyone else was taking it in stride, having the experience he had been hoping for, and fitting in… and that he wasn’t. This intimidating start was followed by a relentless march of exhausting days, where each seemed harder than the one before. Eventually he withdrew. He was tired of being different, tired of being alone. He went online.
And there he found someone who told him that medicalizing to look female would help him, that all he needed was drugs and surgery. That he was really a woman. This was the answer. The reason he felt different.
All of this is, in some sense, an old, old story. A young person goes to university, feels alone, finds some people who say they understand him. In this case, people who would let him join their club if he took drugs, did drastic things to his body. People who told him lies,1 either out of malice or out of ignorance. It is not the first time in history this has happened.
He told us his discovery and that he immediately needed medical intervention. And your university health services quickly offered to provide it. As loving and supportive parents, we got up to speed2 as fast as we could about what was known about how to help people with his distress, and met with your health services to learn why they were encouraging him to start taking permanently life altering drugs right away.
They should have discussed with us that likely outcomes are not known for these medical treatments, that some people have been badly harmed, and that others who are similar to our son have been seen to recover with therapy. They didn't. Instead, the response we got to our concerns was a condescending pat on the head. As if our brains had fallen out the minute our kid had brought this up. As a female professional, I recognized the pat on the head, however, in my profession, facts eventually prevail. In contrast, at your school, facts did not. Instead, your health service people smiled knowingly and gave us a recording alluding, ever so subtly (not), that we’d be better off with a live daughter than a dead son (known to be a false dichotomy,3 but perhaps not by them). They insinuated that, because we had not enthusiastically thrown ourselves behind our son starting hormones on the spot, we had taken leave of our senses.4 That we, the ones asking for and showing evidence, were willfully fooling ourselves about his situation, his personality, his developmental stage, the entire arc of his life. That we were denying reality.
Because apparently our son has a magical (but unmeasurable) quality, self-diagnosed online. And accordingly, your health services believed they had to help him quickly trade away his fertility and healthy body, and drastically interfere with his developing (currently distressed!) brain, so that he could grow breasts. Maybe have a knife cut up his sexual organs. They nodded sagely to each other, and exchanged satisfied looks when we parents went from bafflement to shock, as we realized that we could not do a thing to get our son appropriate evidence based care for his distress.
He didn't know one doesn’t make drastic life altering medical decisions in such a way— teenagers don’t know these things. Nor did you or his cheerleaders tell him. And he didn’t believe us when we tried to explain how serious these interventions are.5 The interventions are deceptively banal at first: a pill, maybe a patch—and your health services feel so kind, so cozy, so safe! He reasonably but mistakenly believed your school health providers would know enough to not advise him to do something incredibly risky and unproven. That they would “first, do no harm.” We know our son is at the age to turn to his peers and to detach from us, but it was your school, not us, pushing him into danger. And welcoming him into your arms. But I repeat myself.
You are a university. You certainly must know that every nucleated cell in his body reflects that he is male and that if he did change his sex, he would be the first mammal on earth ever to do so. Has your health services told him this fact remains no matter what he feels or how he modifies his body? You supposedly understand scholarship well enough to teach it, but a key paper used to justify your health services' “affirmative” approach is widely known6 for misrepresenting the references used as justification. You’re being paid tens of thousands a year to teach my son how to think critically. So, you tell me, where is the evidence7 these medical interventions are safe, effective, necessary? It wasn’t that hard for us to discover it’s not there (and that much less dangerous exploratory therapy is sometimes effective on its own). Indeed, the FDA hasn't established that the benefits of medical interventions outweigh the risks, so the drugs are off-label.8 The considerable risks and lack of evidence are not a secret.9
And surely, as a university, you know that although your students are legal adults, their prefrontal cortex is not yet developed enough to responsibly weigh long term risk in decision making.10 Although you proudly intone how much you care for trans identifying young people, you seem unaware that, for many, trans identification is temporary. No one has any idea how many or which11 of the 3% of college students currently trans identifying will continue to do so in 5 or 10 years. However, no matter how they identify once they’ve grown up a bit more or for some, healed the underlying distress which caused their gender distress, the modifications enabled or offered by your “health” services will be lifelong: the sterilization, added or removed breasts or sex organs, deep voice, beard for women. A “gift” from their university years, disastrous for some.12 Their still developing minds and the wide range of possible paths their gender dysphoria might take are strong reasons for college aged kids not to rush to medicalize.
There is a rush, however, coming from the internet, from your signs around campus (“are you trans?”) and the warm, celebratory, cult-worthy welcome, including from your health services, which even brags about how easy it is for your students to obtain medical intervention. In contrast, they mention nothing about differential diagnosis to try to find those who have locked on this “solution”13 by mistake. Not a whisper that for some the wish to transition is an attempt to distance from part of themselves;14 nothing about those who have recovered with supportive exploratory psychotherapy,15 many of whom resemble my son. Nor is there any hint of the many detransitioners and their struggles.16 Do you and your health services know that several countries have recently been carefully scrutinizing medical intervention for young people, and then hitting the brakes?17 That, as of October this year, even US leaders in WPATH are sounding the alarm, explicitly warning about the dangers of rushing?18
Your health services appear negligently unaware, as they instead enthusiastically “helped” our son chemically castrate himself. (Permanently? No one knows.19) But as these unproven drugs are powerful and dangerous, there's more: risks to his bones and his cardiovascular, endocrine and immune systems,20 and the drugs have also rapidly attacked his still developing brain, damaging its neuroplasticity, leaching water out of his astrocytes and shrinking his hippocampus.21 They likely increased his depression22 as well, but your health services told us eagerly, eyes aglow, that he could take23 antidepressants, too. Done. He’s a walking pharmaceutical company cash cow now. And he will be, for the rest of his (probably much shorter) life since, in order to be his “true authentic self”, he must never stop taking these drugs. We all know that taking drugs to persistently alter your brain and body is the best way to be authentic.
This should have never happened to him. And today, tomorrow, another parent’s child will fall in. Another young person, with a future ahead of them and a healthy body and a mind in distress (it happens in university, who would have thought), will go to your dangerously misinformed health services for “help.”
Your university is ignorantly and irresponsibly providing lies, poison and lifetime bodily injury instead of an education. And to parents, pats on the head and Stepford Wives smiles. I have made note that, since the drugs are off-label for treating gender dysphoria, your “health” services, not the drug companies, are legally responsible for the harm done to my son. I am going to do my best to sue you and others like you out of existence in return. [And as suggested in the comments, I should tell your donors; I expect they would not want to underwrite the damage being done to people like my son.] Maybe it will stop you from destroying someone else’s child. But it won’t undo what happened to my son’s body, his mind and his future at your university. While we parents will of course continue to lovingly support him in every way we can, I will also do my part to warn every parent, every young person, every college counselor I know of what you have done. I have already started. Before this anonymous platform was available, before genspect.org, you profited from our silence, because speaking up risked pushing our very much loved and vulnerable kids even further into their dangerous paths. You have been holding them hostage.
We sent you the most precious being in our lives. We only have one child. And you fed his mental illness, celebrated it, invited him to further harm. You pushed us aside, pushed facts and reason aside, and shoved him over the cliff. With your brains off, your critical thinking off, following the blind and stupid mob.
Showing a teenager that his new online friends were telling him misinformation was not, it turns out, a winning strategy.
Teenager. And “professional” “health” “care” providers.
Spelled out in an expert authored peer reviewed article. The policy statement failed not only “to include any of the actual outcomes literature on such cases, but it also misrepresented the contents of its citations, which repeatedly said the very opposite of what AAP attributed to them.” Was my son’s body, his future as a healthy young person, not worth reading a 7 page paper? If any of you read it, why did you not understand it?
Yes, we asked your health services for evidence and spoke to the experts they advised. None of them had studies supporting the proposed treatment for our son.
These drugs are off-label for treating gender dysphoria at any age. You may hear it would be unethical to do a randomized controlled trial, a circular argument from people who assume that only medical treatment exists (i.e. ignoring psychotherapy which has helped many) and that medical intervention is known to reliably work (which has not been shown).
Developmental maturity isn’t reached until around age 25, those who are younger aren’t able to rent a car here in the US (the insurance companies put their money where the statistics tell them to), similarly, young people can’t legally smoke or drink until they are 21.
There is no clinical test to determine who will continue to identify as trans, and outcomes for any approach are especially unstudied for this new adolescent onset cohort. Some who medicalize are at first satisfied, but then eventually regret and/or detransition after the euphoric/placebo period ends, average observed regret times range from 4-10 years.
No one knows how many of these either, no study has measured it reliably. Does this not worry you, or do you not care since it's not your child in this experiment?
“The Gender Dysphoria was a solution that their mind had come up with to make sense of the confusion, which they happened to find in a gender framework. Once they had come to the conclusion that gender was the framework they had stuck with it.” (source)
Dr. Anderson, President of USPATH, criticized “Rushing people through the medicalization, as you and others have cautioned, and failure — abject failure — to evaluate the mental health of someone historically in current time, and to prepare them for making such a life-changing decision.” Seemed like a good description to us.
Our son didn’t know it was important. That alone should have given them pause.
More generally, medical risks are not yet fully understood, especially long term. From what I’ve been able to find, no one has even checked longevity effects of hormones on rats. Straight to our young people.
Brain shrinking at 10 times the rate of healthy adults. Just what we wanted to happen to our child at university, I’m sure it will well prepare him for his future.
If medicalizing didn’t make him happier (it didn’t seem to), he must not have been doing enough of it. If it had made him happier, he would have been encouraged to medicalize more. Notice a pattern? There are also timelines to follow, just like for anorexics.
Why didn’t they try these first? Before the hormones?