Lisa Marchiano: trans activism’s dangerous myth of parental rejection.
Here’s a quick response article — I found this being celebrated on Mumsnet of course. But reading I’m honestly surprised at how bad it is. It seems its entire purpose is to poison the well and make it seem like trans people are being unreasonable when we say parental support is important for trans youth’s mental health. But we aren’t, we literally have the data she claims doesn’t exist.
I’m going to do this in the quote and response format I do sometimes so I don’t miss anything. It’s a bit of a long article already, so it’s probably going to be a very long response!
When children and adolescents experience gender dysphoria, our aim should be to provide them with treatment of the highest standard of care.
So far so good.
We should be attempting to provide assistance that will result in the best outcomes—in the short-term, as well as the long-term.
Unfortunately, treatment of childhood dysphoria is an area not yet well understood.
I mean… it’s understood a lot better than you give it credit for…
The extreme contentiousness around the topic means that research can be difficult to conduct and is often hampered by ideological agendas. (For example, see here.)
I agree there are definitely ideological agendas at work here and they can hamper the research. However the article you’ve linked has some glaring errors too and seems rather ideological itself. For example;
There is no lack of internal consistency here. One is conversion therapy and unethical. That is to say, forcing a child into a gender identity and expression they have rejected is unethical, and we have studies which prove it. Showing that trans kids supported in their gender identity (the one they actually have, not the one you want them to have) have positive mental health outcomes.
The other is psychotherapy to help them alleviate distress around dysphoria. So, talking to the child about the things that bother them and are causing distress and trying to alleviate them as best as possible. In my experience as a trans person who was once a kid? Parental rejection was definitely one of the things which bothered me. As well as social rejection from my friends too.
The former takes the child’s agency away from them, the latter doesn’t. It gives them space to decide what they want, with advice from the professional about how best to overcome obstacles to getting there. It’s a complete apples to oranges situation here.
Without a clear consensus among researchers about the best way to treat gender dysphoric children and teens, input from parents increases in importance when determining course of treatment, since it can be assumed that most parents know their children well and have their best interests at heart.
I honestly think you’ll struggle to find a trans supportive doctor who thinks that a supportive parental input isn’t valuable or part of the most desirable out come for any child. There are even studies which show this to be the case, one I linked above and another I’ve linked here.
Anecdotal here I know but… Early in my own transition one of the things which really upset me was the contrast between how my parents felt about my transition and how I felt.
I was so excited, I was walking on air with how much of a weight had been lifted off my shoulders just by taking a few positive steps towards being my self. It was a truly amazing feeling to finally be able to address this stuff. But to do so I had moved over 200 miles from my parents and family home. I literally hadn’t seen them in about 4 years and only rarely talked to them on the phone.
When I called my mum to tell her she was semi supportive; but also questioned if I should do it because “what if your girlfriend doesn’t want to be a lesbian?” From there whenever we would talk on the phone and I would try to keep her up to date with how my transition stuff was going she would always just go really quiet and the conversation would die.
When they eventually came to visit me for the first time, one of the very first things my dad said to me, in a vaguely playful manner, was “that voice? Really? I don’t like it.”
There’s more of course, but this stuff was over six years ago, and it’s still as fresh as the day it happened. Its all totally minor compared to some of the things I’ve heard from other trans people and still hurts six years later. The idea that parental rejection doesn’t leave lasting scars on your psyche is just plain wrong.
However, narratives promoted by activists and the media currently undermine the crucial parental role in diagnosing dysphoria and helping to determine the most appropriate treatment.
Parents are crucial in both the diagnosing and treatment of dysphoria. I don’t think you’ll find anyone trying to undermine their role. However, you’re massively overstating said role to suit your argument here. As previously stated, parental support in the process of diagnosing and treating a trans child is key to positive mental health out comes.
However that’s not to say that the parent is likely to be automatically right about everything relating to their kid. Many parents aren’t aware of, or miss the signs entirely that their kid is struggling. This happens across the board with all sorts of things from depression, to autism, to child abuse. There are also countless false positives, with parents thinking their child has appendicitis or something when they don’t. Parents aren’t omnipotent, it’s expected that there are things they don’t know about their kids.
Again, anecdotal experience from my life; I experienced dysphoria from as young as 5. Occasionally stealing clothes from my sister, like tights and skirts. Also as a teenager I would change in bathroom stalls for PE at school. I had a boyfriend nobody knew about. How were my parents supposed to know better than me whether I was experiencing dysphoria or not when they knew basically nothing about me?
They can’t. So why on earth would you think they know more than the child does about how the child is feeling? And maybe my parents were just bad parents — but I don’t agree they were. Especially my mum, who raised three kids on her own and worked night shifts stacking shelves. She did the best she could, but sometimes things fall through the gaps, parents aren’t omnipotent. They’re just people like you and me.
Amid glowing media discussions of brave trans kids and their heroic, supportive parents hangs an ominous specter of ignorant, bigoted parents who coldly turn their child out, or cause him or her to endure torturous conversion therapy to eradicate transgender feelings.
Breaking news: conversion therapy is bad and the parents who push their kids into it shouldn’t be celebrated.
These stories are told in detail and with soaring rhetoric. In contrast, the latter kind of parents are always darkly implied, but rarely discussed with specifics.
And to put this squarely back on debunking your idea that parents know everything and should always be trusted here’s what Leelah’s mum had to say about her daughter’s suicide as a result of conversion therapy…
"My sweet 16-year-old son, <deadname>, went home to Heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers."
You will find many other people talking about their unsupportive parents online too. Just Google it. Heck, I even run a discord server with a lot of trans people in it, I hear the horror stories which make me feel like my parents were amazing by comparison. Stop minimising this, it’s disgusting.
Rather, their influence is frequently invoked to underscore the dangers of not immediately affirming a child’s chosen gender.
Gender identity isn’t chosen. And there’s a huge difference between not supporting your child immediately and actively trying to force them to stop being trans.
Above you mentioned the soaring heroic rhetoric of those supportive parents yes? One of those parents you’ll probably be familiar with. Debi Jackson, who became an online sensation when she gave a speech about her daughter, who is trans.
In said speech she mentions how she was cautious and unsure, took her time with accepting stuff and didn’t immediately jump onto allowing the child anything they want. I think one of the examples was girls underwear, which Debi and her partner felt was too far.
She’s celebrated even despite her lack of immediate support and affirmation — why? Because even though she had her concerns she did the right thing. She listened to her kid, she didn’t actively try to undermine them or act like she knew best purely because she’s the parent. You’ll find most of the ‘famous’ parents of trans kids have their own similar stories too, entirely debunking your perspective.
There are several problems with this. The foundational assumption seems to be that many, if not most, parents will reject or condemn a child who comes out as transgender. But we have no evidence that this is the case.
I disagree that’s the foundational assumption, but it is a possibility — so why should we not prepare for the worst while hoping for the best? If we don’t… we will just be unprepared if the worst happens. This is a bad plan Lisa.
A 2015 study by the Pew Research Center noted that a majority of American parents report they would not be upset to learn that their child is gay or lesbian, and most gays and lesbians who came out to their parents felt that their relationship with their parents either grew stronger or stayed the same.
Gee. It’s a good thing being trans is exactly the same as being gay or lesbian.
Oh wait. They aren’t the same at all. If I had been gay, my sister would not have told me not to transition because my dad might get into a fight if someone pokes fun at me. Because being gay and lesbian is far more accepted in society than being trans — probably because gay and lesbian rights have been far more highly politicised already, whereas trans really hasn’t until around 2010.
Parental acceptance rates have been steadily rising since the 1980s and continue to inch up year by year. While the study did not explore parental reactions to having a transgender child, it would be surprising if family acceptance trends for trans kids were found to be moving in starkly divergent directions from those for gay and lesbian kids.
It’s not at all surprising when you’re trans and experience this crap everyday. It’s literally just our lives.
Nevertheless, the media continues to cultivate a narrative of widespread parental rejection and abuse.
I disagree they are cultivating a narrative. Most articles comment on and raise awareness of the issues which happen in these situations. And I don’t think it’s super widespread, but even a handful of these cases is bad and should be addressed.
“To Stop Trans Kids from Killing Themselves, Shocking Study Says ‘Accept Them’” reads one Vice headline. The article makes the rather startling assertion that “in most species it is typically taboo to reject offspring, but something has occurred in our culture that has made it socially acceptable to reject transgender or LGB children.” No evidence is offered to support the claim that parents are rejecting their gender nonconforming children in heretofore unseen numbers against the promptings of parental instincts evolved over the eons. Readers are asked to accept this on faith.
You talk about cultivating a narrative but have now switched from talking about trans kids to gender non conforming children. Two entirely different kind of child, something which the literal diagnostic criteria for trans kids painstakingly points out:
The conflating of gender non conforming kids with trans kids is an anti trans narrative. Used to try and cast a shadow of doubt on every kid who says they’re experiencing dysphoria and want it to stop.
But anyway back to the Vice article… which doesn’t actually imply the thing you claim it does. It merely shows two studies and reports on the claims supported by them. The first is The Williams Institute study which discusses the life time suicide attempt rate of trans people, it also includes a small section on parental support.
In short this section shows that the likelihood of you having had a suicide attempt rises by about 15% (almost half the average) if your parents rejected you for being trans.
The second study is one specifically about trans kids mental health outcomes which I referenced above and again, shows trans kids who are supported to have positive mental health outcomes. Specifically, trans kids supported by parents vs those who aren’t show normative levels of anxiety and depression whereas those who aren’t have elevated levels.
Regardless of whether this is happening en masse or not, its important to warn against things which will likely harm your child.
A recent Daily Beast article decrying legislative proposals to keep schools from usurping parental authority in the case of trans kids starts off with this fallacy embedded in its opening sentences.
“For transgender kids, home is not always a safe place to be out of the closet.According to an online resource from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), most kids “have a stable sense of their gender identity” by age 4. But they don’t reach the legal age of majority until at least 14 years later—sometimes longer, depending on the state.
That means many transgender children spend over a decade in the custody of someone who may not support them, and who may try to enroll them in harmful conversion therapy programs to try to change their gender identity. ”
Merely by virtue of living with parents, the author appears to be implying, trans kids may be at risk.
Thats a ridiculous interpretation of what this article says. It merely states that some parents are not good parents for trans kids, and as evidenced already; this can lead to bad outcomes for said trans kids.
It’s not merely by virtue of living with parents, its by virtue of your parents being terrible parents in relation to trans issues. There are many great parents of trans kids, such as Debi Jackson, who worked through their hesitance and lack of understanding and that’s why they’re considered good parents to trans kids.
Parents aren’t inherently bad for trans kids, and as the studies I posted above suggest — supportive parents are actually really great for us and our mental health outcomes.
In another Vice article published a few months later—this one grandiosely titled “How the Mothers of Transgender Children are Changing the World”—we are again asked to believe that rejecting parents are the problem even though scant evidence is offered.
Not THE problem. But one of them yes.
Trans people have many issues in society, parental rejection is one of them — prejudice in the work place is another. And they should all be addressed in their own ways.
High rates of suicide and homelessness in the transgender population can probably be traced back in part to parental rejection,” the article asserts. In fact, the research linked in support of this statement notes that “the suicide attempt rates among those whose families supported them after coming out as trans was 33 percent.
And it’s 57% in those who’s families didn’t support them. So are you still going to try and argue there isn’t a legitimate cause for concern with parental rejection?
Evidently then, parental rejection is far from the only issue here.
We know. Still doesn’t mean parental rejection isn’t an issue worth discussing.
A further problem with the rejection assumption is that it leaves no room for sensible parental concern. If our starting supposition is that parents who express anything other than effusive enthusiasm are bigoted and rejecting, then the parental voice quickly gets lost, discounted, and even mocked when addressing clinicians.
Except as proven with Debi, this isn’t an issue. Sensible parental concern is fine, actively undermining your child is not.
Rather than discerning whether transition might be right for a particular child after a careful evaluation that includes information from many sources including parents, gender therapists tend to assume that transition is the one and only right response, and parents are wrong if they don’t affirm. According to this belief, a questioning parent who wants to slow down on medical intervention is prima facie wrong.
This is entirely false. NHS numbers show kids in social transition at clinics to be 8.9% — the idea that all clinics want to do is help everyone transition as quick as possible is a complete fabrication.
And in fact, I’ve had trans kids message me to tell me about the process which involved not just the parents, but up to 8 other specialists to even get close to hormone blockers.
Parents often have crucial information that could be important in making a differential diagnosis. Since children and teens are often poor historians, parental input can be key.
Parents are not omnipotent. There’s literally no reason to assume they know more than the child about whether they’re experiencing dysphoria or not.
Parents may have information about whether the dysphoria was present in childhood and whether there are other psychosocial challenges that may confound diagnosis.
By all means, give said information to the doctors. But that doesn’t mean just because you believe its information which confounds the diagnosis, that it actually does. Parents are wrong too sometimes.
For example, the middle name my parents gave me was my dad’s name… except it was spelled wrong. Well, they thought it was spelled right, but it turns out my dad, for 37 years, had been spelling his own name wrong.
Another example: after about 5 years living away from my parents I got a phone call after my grandad with dementia sent me a card saying “happy 15th”. I was clearly not 15… but more worryingly, not one of my not currently suffering with dementia parents actually knew what age I was actually turning. They couldn’t even remember my birth year.
Stop pretending like parents know best in all situations. It’s a dangerous lie.
Many of the parents I speak with report having had their information and opinions rejected by gender therapists who appear to be distrustful of them.
Okay so you don’t just want to be able to give your opinion, you want it taken as gospel — even if the professional in this area disagrees with you?
One mother was told by a gender therapist that she needed to enter her own therapy to learn how to support her ‘son’ when she shared information about her daughter’s recent sexual harassment by a boy in the neighborhood. The therapist even scolded the mother, suggesting that the mother’s sadness and concern for her child’s potential transition were inappropriate responses.
Good therapist. Being sexually harassed doesn’t make someone trans and looking for excuses for why the child is experiencing dysphoria as some way of denying that they’re trans is fucking disgusting.
A third problem with the belief that parental rejection is the norm is that it makes for bad policy. How can a society function efficiently if it cannot depend on parental good faith toward offspring as a bedrock assumption?
Parental good faith toward offspring isn’t a bedrock assumption. Literally never has been. Our society continues to function nonetheless.
Could we do better? Yes. Absolutely. And I think we are doing better every year, not least thanks to studies like the ones mentioned above. Which raise awareness of the key role parents have in their trans children’s mental health outcomes.
This does not mean, of course, that there aren’t truly awful parents who reject and abuse. But they are the exception rather than the rule.
I don’t think anyone is saying that they aren’t the exception. They’re still a massive problem which needs to be addressed.
To establish guidelines and policies based on these exceptions dangerously arrogates too much authority to the state and institutions for children’s well-being and undermines the role of the parent. This leads to policies that range from the dangerous to the absurd.
Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best doesn’t harm anyone. Whereas not preparing for the worst and hoping for the best actually does. As evidenced above with stories like Leelah.
In 2016, the National Education Association issued guidance for schools in conjunction with the Human Rights Campaign and other activist groups. The guidance stipulates that when students have parents who don’t agree with immediate affirmation of a trans identity, schools should step in. According to the report, “the school and student should determine how to proceed through the collaborative process of figuring out how the school can support the student and balance the student’s need to be affirmed at school with the reality that the student does not have that support at home.”
How dangerous and absurd it is for someone to accept a trans child when when their parents refuse to!
In practice, many schools have informal policies whereby any request on the part of a student for a change in name or pronouns is immediately granted without any discussion with parents. In my work consulting with parents of teens who have adopted a trans identity out of the blue without any prior history of gender dysphoria, I hear frequently that the child has been affirmed at school without parental input
The child would tell the parent if they felt safe doing so. The problem here is with the parents and the environment they are providing, not with the school stepping in to ensure the kid stays in school. I didn’t tell my parents because I had heard them make jokes about gay and trans people before. One of the things my sister said to me when I came out was “this isn’t you, I remember how we would make jokes about this stuff together”.
As for school, I would often claim to have stomach aches or have sprained my ankle to get sent home during the dinner hour of school. I would also forge notes from my parents to get out of PE, or say I had a dentist appointment to attend. A few times, I didn’t even bother to go to school at all.
A positive learning environment is more important than whether or not a parent truly believes the child is trans or not. Their support is valuable but their input isn’t necessary. You, as a parent, don’t automatically know everything about your child just because you’re a parent. This is a straight up appeal to authority fallacy.
In one case, a family whose daughter was in the midst of gender exploration at home asked me to have a conversation with an administrator at their daughter’s private school. In a phone conversation with the head of the upper school, I shared my concerns about social contagion and poor outcomes in teen girls who appear to have developed rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD). I asked whether he might consider having a conversation with parents when a student came to school administrators asking for name and pronoun changes. “We can’t do that,” he responded. “It would put the child at too great a risk for parental abuse and rejection.”
First of all “social contagion” and “rapid onset gender dysphoria” are dog whistles for anti trans activists. They have no real basis in science or medicine at all, and were made up on sites like 4thwavenow as a way to sound official when they aren’t at all. Heres’ a great breakdown of ROGD.
Second, data protection is a thing. You don’t own your child, they’re a person with free will and agency. If the child were old enough to apply for a gender recognition certificate and have their gender identity legally recognised — it would be literally illegal for the school to tell you anything about that.
The child isn’t old enough to do that, but the reasoning for the school policy on not telling parents about their child’s trans status remains the same. It could lead to abuse. Not that it necessarily will, but the potential is there. Again, better to prepare for and prevent the worst from happening, rather than not.
Of course, this is an incoherent and poorly thought-through policy. Keeping parents in the dark to ‘protect’ the child is naïve at best.
Only if you can guarantee the parent isn’t going to reject or abuse the child. Which you can’t. So it’s a pretty good policy.
It appears that most kids suddenly claiming a trans identity are from educated, upper middle-class households.
Since you’ve been a stickler for data and evidence. Where’s yours for this claim? I’m working class and when to a crap school that used to have kids setting off fireworks in the corridors.
Also “suddenly”? Haha. Just because it seems sudden to you doesn’t mean its sudden to the child. I experienced dysphoria from as young as 5 — possibly younger but it’s hard to remember 20 years ago. I didn’t transition until I was 19. It probably seemed sudden for my parents, but it wasn’t for me. I had a few near misses with going to a doctor about my issues at 14, and 17.
Again. Stop acting like parents are omnipotent.
The parents I speak with are deeply engaged in and concerned about their children’s lives. It is very unlikely that a name change at school would escape notice for long in families where parents routinely check homework and are in close contact with teachers and others at the school. Most of the parents I speak with whose child has been affirmed without their knowledge quickly discover what has happened simply by seeing an assignment come home with a different name on it. Far from being rejecting or abusive, these parents are deeply concerned about their children’s struggles and spend considerable time researching the best way to support their child.
And that’s bad practice which should be mentioned to schools to fix the problem. The child will tell the parent when the child is ready to do so.
The parents you’re speaking about don’t want to support their child. They want to deny that their child is trans at all costs, that’s why they invent fake medical sounding things like “rapid onset gender dysphoria”. Because again, there is no such thing.
Some parents just didn’t know because they weren’t looking for the signs, so if course it comes as a surprise to them.
But let’s imagine for a moment that the school manages to affirm a child while ensuring that the parents don’t find out. The NEA guidance does, after all, encourage school administrators to address “how to refer to the student when communicating with the student’s parents or caregivers, both in writing and verbally,” as well as “how to refer to the student when communicating with the student’s siblings.” What is at stake if a school’s deliberate deception of parents succeeds? In such a case, parents would lose the opportunity to be alerted to their child’s distress in a timely manner. Perhaps the family has information the school does not that might shed light on underlying issues—histories of depression, eating disorders, or recent traumas, for example. By not informing parents about their child’s struggles, schools may be closing off an important opportunity to get appropriate treatment for comorbid issues.
Schools aren’t actually responsible for medical treatment of your child. They literally can’t consent to any thing passed basic first aid. Yet you think they’re somehow going to be in the position to block treatment for eating disorders etc by agreeing to use different pronouns and names?
That’s completely ridiculous.
Moreover, changing a child’s name at school can come with a host of potentially serious problems. One mother I spoke with told me that her child had been affirmed at school with a boy’s name without her knowledge. The mother received a phone call from the school one day stating that there had been and accident, and her son “X” (boy name) had been injured. The mother replied that the school was mistaken, as she did not have a son, nor a child named “X.” Of course, the medical emergency had in fact involved her child, but she only found out later.
Again this is just bad implementation of a good policy. When contacting parents the school should have used the name the parents know the child by. The policy of not outing children to their parents is still a good policy despite this, teachers just need to be trained in it better.
Another family’s daughter had been quickly affirmed at school without any discussion with the parents. Soon after, the teen was signed up for the SAT under the new, male name. This presented a significant challenge, since ID is required when taking a standardized test. In this case, the teen subsequently changed her name back to her birth name, and the family faced a bureaucratic struggle when it came time to apply for college, since the teen’s scores had been sent to universities under the male name and sex.
These aren’t problems with the policy of not outing a child. They’re problems with the fact we live in a society which isn’t very considerate of the existence of trans people. Trans communities often refer to this as “cissexism”. Which is something I think should be addressed, and can be addressed without outing children to their parents when they don’t want to be.
But perhaps the most serious problem created by the assumption of parental rejection is that it encourages familial estrangement. Alexis is a young reidentified woman who now feels that the narratives around being transgender encouraged her to distance herself unnecessarily from her parents. “The activists really do separate families,” she told me in an email conversation recently. “I thought I couldn’t trust my own mother.” Alexis says that, although no older trans person ever told her she would have to leave her family, she was given to believe that parental alienation was inevitable
I’m sorry she felt that way and I’m not going to lie... I’ve felt like giving up on my parents accepting me too. But it does get better and usually they come around.
I don’t know of any trans people who don’t want themselves and other trans people to have good relationships with their parents. Again I can’t stress enough the studies which show how key it is to positive mental health out comes and a lower life time suicide attempt rate.
But there are a lot of us who are having problems with our family accepting us, and so of course we talk about it. We vent. We whine. We get sad. We get angry. It’s all just the process of dealing with emotions when we’re in a less than favourable position.
So yeah often it looks bleak and often we are pretty negative about it. It sucks but the issue here shouldn’t be policing people who vent about the problems in their life. It should be fixing the problems they’re venting about.
Only when there’s no trans kid being rejected or having their parents refuse to accept they are trans will this go away. Your entire article is doing the opposite of helping.
“There was this time in class where my friend who was a transgender boy talked about dealing with his relatives. He said he cut them out of his life completely. He had to, he said. Everyone in the room nodded in agreement, even the teacher seemed to approve. I assumed I would have to do that too.”
Not to sound like your mum, but if your friend jumped off a bridge would you do it too?
Again, I’m sorry you felt this way. But your parents aren’t that other person’s parents, and some people’s parents are really genuinely bad. Should they not be allowed to vent about that because of how it makes you feel? That doesn’t seem fair to me.
Having been in contact with hundreds of families with ROGD teens, I am aware that parental alienation is a not infrequent outcome. Contrary to the scare-mongering in the articles cited above, the family rejection I have seen is almost always initiated by the young person, not his or her parents. I have known multiple families in which trans identified young people cut off all contact with their families simply because the parents suggested to their child that a cautious approach to medical transition might be best or shared some academic journal articles about the side effects of treatment.
So maybe don’t do that? Understand, support and help your kid. Stop trying to find excuses for and deny what they feel and gee maybe your kid won’t despise you.
As mentioned previously, the Pew Research Center study noted that family relationships often improve after a young gay or lesbian person comes out to parents. Only in a minority of cases did the relationship worsen. According to recent research on ROGD, parental relationships tend to worsen after a young person announces a trans identity, and the relationship continues to deteriorate over time.
You’ll find that if you did this same study 50 years ago the gay kids would be experiencing what the trans kids are facing now.
I believe that this difference is due in part to the belief promulgated by transgender activism that parents are not to be trusted, and should be looked upon with suspicion. Once such a belief has been created, even loving, well-meaning questioning or discussion is usually interpreted as evidence of ‘transphobia.’
You keep posting transphobic dog whistles then acting like you didn’t do anything. You can’t be trusted, neither can the parents who listen to you and think you’re making good arguments.
They see and read what they want to see and read, and often that doesn’t align with how the child feels. Yet everything the child says and does serves as confirmation bias for your bullshit theory of “rapid onset gender dysphoria” and “social contagions”.
I absolutely want parents to have good relationships with their trans kids. But not at the expense of the trans kids well being. FUCK. THAT. NOISE.
Separating young people from their families serves no one, least of all the trans identified person.
Correct. Which is why familial separation isn’t ever recommended, it’s just unfortunate that it happens because of bad parents refusing to understand their child.
Young people experiencing gender incongruence are often psychosocially vulnerable and in need of family members who can offer material and emotional support.
Yes, this is exactly why it’s important for parents to work to understand rather than undermine what their child is saying.
You’re advocating the latter, just so you know.
Stephen Levine is a psychiatrist who has had a long experience in working with transgender patients. He chaired the WPATH committee that developed the fifth version of the standards of care in the 1990s. In a recent academic paper, he shares concerns about family rupture. “The literature laments that some families reject their children, but it does not mention the patients’ rejection of their families,” he writes. He posits an ethical conundrum:
In diminishing our patients’ gender distress, we are enacting the ethical principle of Beneficence. But we are ignoring our empathic concern for those deeply connected to our patients. Perhaps the protocol for these patients ought to include counseling on how not to lose connection to others. By not doing so, it is likely that we are failing to help our patients to understand and preserve their familial and peer bonds.
I agree, the focus on trans people “fixing ourselves” and assimilating is far too high. When regardless of what we do to ourselves there will always be people who reject us — including in some cases, our parents and family.
That’s why it’s important to change those external factors, to work against prejudice and help trans people be included in our societies and families. Yet you found it offensive when a doctor suggested a parent get therapy to work through her prejudice…so I’m not sure what you think the solution is here.
As a society, we have decided that there are times when it is appropriate for the state and other institutions to intervene between a child and his parents. Courts have found, for example, that medical providers may overrule parental objection to blood transfusions for their child in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Do parents who don’t immediately affirm their child’s sudden transgender identity fall into the same category as Jehovah’s Witness parents seeking to prevent blood transfusions?
Immediately? No. But…
Yes. If your ideological perspective on the existence of trans people, as is usually the case with the parents who frequent sites like 4thwavenow; a radical faux feminist website where phoney terms like ROGD are coined, is preventing your child from getting help for a serious medical condition. Then the courts should be allowed to overrule your parental consent, and if necessary remove the kids from your care.
Obviously, this is extreme and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But it’s child abuse to deny your children medical help for conditions, and child abuse is extreme and shouldn’t be taken lightly either.
There is no robust evidence that immediate affirmation for teens is necessary to avoid harm. Medical intervention for gender dysphoric adolescents remains a controversial subject, about which no clear consensus exists at this time.
I don’t think anyone is asking for immediate affirmation. Just that parents try to understand rather than undermine. The parents you’re defending do the latter.
In fact, some anecdotal evidence points to the reverse. Many reidentified young people note that they were less happy when trans identified, and rates of depression and suicidality remain high for adults after transition.
There’s also evidence of trans people who detransitioned and retransitioned later in life. Citing that it was too difficult to live as a trans person because of prejudice, and that they would rather experience soul crushing dysphoria instead.
And that’s just tragic.
In some sense, the discussion turns around what we mean by the word ‘support.’ Transgender activists believe that the only way to support a transgender identifying teen is to immediately accede to all requested changes, including potential medical intervention
No it isn’t, and you’ve cited no evidence as such either.
If you were to ask me for example I would tell you that if you child comes to you expressing that they are experiencing gender dysphoria; you listen. You don’t try to undermine what they’re experiencing, or deny how they feel. You give them space to explore and understand it all better.
Medical intervention shouldn’t even be brought up until the child expresses an interest in it. At which point, if it were my child for example, I would sit down with the child and talk to them. I would ask what they want and why they want it, I would look up the things they want (making sure the sources aren’t biased) and I would give them the information and work with them to reach a goal that improves their well being.
My own opinions on what trans is, what a woman or a man is, anything — are entirely irrelevant to the equation. All that matters is my kid is saying they’re in pain and I want to help them not be in pain.
Parents who support their child in this fashion are signing off on hormones and surgery — treatments that will have irreversible consequences possibly including sterilization and loss of sexual function.
You know what else has irreversible consequences for trans kids? Trying to tell them they aren’t really trans, that its all just a social contagion and allowing them to go through a puberty which cause their body to develop in ways which are irreversible to a large extent and make it difficult for trans kids to just get on with their lives as they grow up because prejudice really does kinda suck.
Its basically gaslighting your child into a life they’re going to hate. Readers of the original article should note there is no citation here which shows even a single example of what the author claims. Nor is there any data which suggests the loss of sexual function amongst trans people.
In fact, most of my trans friends report that they had increased sexual function as a result of transition. As a trans person myself I understand why; dysphoria fucking sucks. I mentioned above how I changed in toilet cubicles for P.E or just straight up skipped the lesson, and that was because of physical dysphoria about my body.
Though sexually speaking I’m personally probably an edge case, most trans adults I’ve spoken to didn’t have sex until post transition for the same reasons I hid in those stalls to change. Its extremely difficult to put dysphoria to one side, even for sex. I only managed to do so because I was heavily intoxicated every single time. I literally didn’t have sex sober until I was 23.
They will do so in spite of the fact that there is no consensus as to whether these treatments are indeed effective or prudent.
There’s pretty heavy consensus that transition is the best course of action for trans people. The efficacy is unmatched by literally anything else, and the only people you will find saying this isn’t true are people like AcPeds who have a clear anti-trans bias.
When parents don’t agree with immediate transition, activist clinicians pressure them with misleading references to suicide.
Again, no citation which suggests immediate transition is recommended. And NHS numbers still puts the social transition rate at 8.9% — meaning it isn’t being pushed on anyone otherwise we would likely see a far higher rate.
Many parents, however, have a different understanding of the word ‘support.’ The parents I speak with overwhelmingly love their children.
Loving your children doesn’t mean you support them. I’ve heard parents tell their children they love them but then in the very next sentence say something like “but do you have to be gay?”
If you truly want to support the child you claim to love; listen to them and stop trying to undermine their experiences.
They are interested in supporting their children in growing to adulthood with healthy bodies.
Trans people have healthy bodies too — most of us would likely live longer than cis people if it weren’t for all the poverty and prejudice. Since physical dysphoria is such an overshadowing presence in our lives, we’re far more likely to take care of our bodies than anyone else.
They want to support their child’s emerging identity by allowing wide-ranging exploration of different orientations and interests.
Unless they’re trans, in which case that’s cause for concern right?
And they want to guide their child in weighing long-term consequences so that he or she can make wise decisions.
As long as the decisions they make are in line with what you want for the child… otherwise no bueno.
Many parents who support their child in this way find that their child moves through her period of gender exploration without feeling the need to make permanent changes to her body.
Again again, I refer back to the NHS figures showing social transition rates to be 8.9% — which isnt even permanent. So if kids aren’t socially transitioning en masse, what makes you think they’re medically transitioning en masse?
The NHS already does everything you want to happen, they just sometimes, with some kids, reach a different conclusion than you want them to reach. And you don’t want them to reach that conclusion because you have a bias against trans people.
Young people with parents who supported their gender nonconformity while encouraging them to accept their bodies often express gratitude for this kind of parental support.
Again, I refer back to the diagnostic criteria for trans kids — which shows that doctors already know there’s a huge difference between gender non conforming children and trans children. Therefore they will already work this into how they approach children who come to their clinics.
By encouraging teens and young adults to break away from their families due to ostensible ‘lack of support,’ trans activists are alienating kids from their bedrock source of support.
If your child feels you don’t support them I don’t think you can blame anyone else but yourself for your child wanting to spend more time with people who do support them.
Perhaps your method of support needs work?
(and again, for emphasis, nobody wants trans kids to separate from their parents. WE ARE ALL TOO AWARE OF HOW IMPORTANT FAMILIAL SUPPORT IS.)
Who besides one’s family is always going to be there, and always have one’s best interests at heart?
WE DECIDED? MY BEST INTERESTS? HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT MY BEST INTERESTS ARE?
Undermining your child’s experiences and essentially gaslighting them into believing trans don’t real isn’t in their best interests. You’ll notice this when they start distancing themselves from you because you’re actually acting in your own best interests and ignoring how they feel for the sake of your beliefs about who you want your child to be, rather than who they actually are.
The activist community won’t be on hand to pay college tuition, or set the child up in their first apartment, or help pick up the pieces when life strategies fail.
And I don’t think these kids went to go live on the street because some idiot on the internet told them to. They probably did it because their home environment was abusive and intolerant of who they are.
We each only have one set of parents. Encouraging someone to walk away from these unique relationships is breaking up a special and priceless bond.
Good thing nobody actually encourages that, and outside of one person saying they sort of felt like that happened to them you’ve posted no evidence of such.
And again, trans people are all too aware of how much familial support is key to positive mental health outcomes. Why on earth would we encourage separation?
It should go without saying that, as a society, we acknowledge parents as the authorities when it comes to protecting the well-being of their children except in extreme cases where we have good evidence otherwise.
Parents are not omnipotent. They don’t know everything just because they are a parent to a child, and often the child is right and should be listened to.
Parental love is overwhelmingly a force for good
Good is a matter of perspective though. You can believe you’re doing the right thing, but actually not be from someone else’s perspective. That’s why its important that parents with prejudice against trans people listen to their trans children.
Attempts to undermine or discredit a parent’s love and concern for her children are shameful. We shouldn’t stand for it.
Parents wouldn’t be facing undermining if they weren’t first trying to undermine their children. The entire problem you have here can be easily resolved by the parents you are talking about not being dicks.
An eye for an eye makes the world blind and we all lose; but we’re not the ones throwing the first stone here. Stop trying to make excuses for why your kid cant be trans and listen to why they think they are. Help them work to reach a goal that alleviates their dysphoria in a manner which they are comfortable with. Chances are they likely wont be trans, like 99% of all people; but on the off chance they are… do you really think its worth the risk of them growing up to resent you forever?
The ball, as always, is in your court. I hope you make a good decision, for the benefit of your children.