An Unremarkable Story from the Age of Trans
My story is completely unremarkable. When new parents introduce themselves on the Genspect forum, the introduction is often word-for-word the same as mine. So here is my very ordinary 21st century story.
We’re a liberal family, of the social justice variety. My husband and I both have a postgraduate education. I’m trained in epidemiology so I know how to spot bad science. We both have senior jobs in our fields, and we live a comfortable upper middle class life.
My daughter was a joyous child from the day she was born. Always so interested in everything, exploring the world, engaging with new things. Laughing came easily to her. School work was a breeze. Friends were plentiful. On more than one occasion, a teacher would phone me and tell me about something she did that day that was extraordinarily kind to another child.
She was outgoing, never afraid of sleeping out, speaking to new people, going on adventures. As she approached her 11th birthday, she spent her weekends flitting from sleepovers to birthday parties to outings with friends.
This child danced and she climbed trees. She was obsessed with dinosaurs and with her dolls’ house. She built amazing Lego constructions and wore fairy dresses. I always made an effort to teach my children that you should go where your heart and your interests take you, not where society says a girl is meant to go.
And then came the pandemic.
My country had one of the hardest lockdowns in the world. For five weeks, we were not allowed to leave our houses, not even to walk around the block. And in this time, my child got her first period. Like everything in her life so far, she seemed to take it in her stride.
But now begins the part of the story that I only pieced together later. Around June 2020, two months into lockdown, and with school fully online, my daughter did a module about identity in one of her classes. And what she was taught is, if you feel uncomfortable with your body, that probably means that you are transgender.
Let’s pause there for a moment and really take that in: a school, a really great school, a place where I trustingly sent my child, told a class full of newly-developing pre-teen kids that if you feel uncomfortable with your body, it’s probably because you need a new one of the opposite sex.
I am more than 30 years past the day when I had my first period. I vividly remember the horror of it. I vividly remember the awful reality of my breasts developing. I was very religious then, and I prayed to Jesus every single day that he would give me breast cancer so that a doctor could remove my breasts. If school had taught me that these feelings meant that li’l old tomboy me was actually a real boy, and that doctors could physically turn me into one, I would have leapt at the chance. But funny how those tumultuous teenage years work to turn you into an adult: by the time I was in high school, I understood that breasts gave me power, I had a boyfriend, and my hatred and fear of my body had melted away.
My daughter’s story is, sadly, so different: she went to TikTok to find out more, and promptly fell down a rabbit hole of transgender content. I didn’t know about any of this. I could see my child becoming more and more withdrawn. As lockdown eased and opportunities came to see people and go into the world, she didn’t want to. She wore her face mask at all times. Sometimes I would even go into her room and find her sitting there with the mask on. She did not want to be hugged or touched or comforted in any way.
In November 2020, I had a medical problem that almost ended in disaster. Two surgeries and two weeks in hospital later, I was recovering at home when she came into my room. “Mum,” she said to me, “I have committed a crime in 17 states … I’m transgender.” (We do not live in America, so this gives you a glimpse into how her world view has been shaped by social media.) I heard a giggle coming from her phone— it was her best friend listening in to the conversation (social contagion, anyone?).
It’s now nearly a year later, and it’s been an awful year. We had a brush with affirmative therapy. New name, new pronouns (a terrible mistake that now seems impossible to reverse). She has been miserable. Many of her friends identify as transgender. We have limited her internet access but are reluctant to take it away completely. I have read everything I can on the transgender topic, from Shon Faye to Helen Joyce. I cry a lot. I miss my child so much. And all of this, a totally ordinary story shared by many others.
There is hope. On the advice of the excellent Stella O’Malley, who is a shining light of courage and logic in all of this, we have made a lot of effort to connect with her. We have encouraged her to find interests outside of a transgender identity, and she has found a thing that lights her up in such a way that a little bit of her old self shines through. We have made peace with the fact that this won’t blow over overnight, and that we have to support her, love her, and set boundaries around what she can do with her body.
Throughout it all, I have lived knowing this: there are two scenarios in which our child enters adulthood hating her parents. In the first scenario, she hates us because we did not take her to an endocrinologist and surgeon to alter her body, and she starts that process as an adult. In the second scenario, she enters adulthood hating us because we DID have her teenage body altered before she had a chance to learn how to love it.
Every day, we choose scenario one.