It takes a village…
Many would interpret the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” to refer to the efforts of a community striving to encourage the mental and physical growth of children in a safe environment. Today, unfortunately, in Canada, that village is working to separate children from their parents, rather than helping the parents along. Safeguarding protections have been cast aside, and community institutions and members such as public schools, teachers, hospitals, doctors, psychologists, social workers, mainstream media and the legal system are preventing parents from protecting their children from a lifelong dependency on chemical and surgical interventions and the inherent risks that come with them.
The situation is often even worse for parents of children on the autism spectrum, like me, who are trying to protect their already vulnerable child. Autism varies greatly between affected individuals but common characteristics include black and white thinking, difficulties with interpreting social cues, processing language, planning, physical coordination, proprioception and sensory challenges. For girls on the spectrum, the process of menstruation can be extremely difficult to adjust to and manage, especially if their monthly cycle is accompanied by extreme hormonal shifts imbalances or endometriosis. It is not uncommon for individuals on the spectrum to have digestion issues and food sensitivities that result in chronic stomach discomfort. Communication challenges associated with autism and poor mind body connections can make it difficult for young people with ASD to articulate their physical symptoms. In a nutshell, there are many reasons why a teen with autism may feel uncomfortable with his or her body even before introducing confusing concepts like gender identity.
Children on the spectrum are especially vulnerable to a theoretical concept that suggests a person can be born in the wrong body and that identifying and transitioning to the opposite sex could relieve the individual from all the mental pain and physical discomforts they have been experiencing. Gender ideology conveniently avoids the obvious, that an individual’s biological sex cannot be changed and the medical interventions are purely cosmetic and come with health risks, many of which are still unknown due to lack of research.
As a child growing up in Canada, I benefited from the “village”. Before I started kindergarten my elderly neighbor read to me in English because my immigrant parents could not. The first time I put on a pair of ice skates and visited a museum were during school field trips and it was the librarian at my local public library that helped me fill out an application for a library card. These experiences complemented the efforts of my parents to positively impact my overall development.
Things are so different now. My child and me experienced a radically different, and threatening village that actively sought to work against my efforts to protect and nurture my autistic daughter in her teen years. This village interpreted her non conformity to gender stereotypes, her quirkiness and same sex attraction as things that needed to be fixed, medically. In order to be part of the community she needed to fit a specific box even if it meant taking lifelong medications and undergoing multiple surgeries. Because she wasn’t mainstream, it wasn’t o.k. for her to stay in her natural state. Meanwhile, I accepted and loved her differences and wanted to give her time to see if she could love and accept those differences in herself.
This is how the “village” turned on me and tried to stop me from fulfilling my responsibility to protect my daughter:
First stop was the public school my daughter attended where gender ideology was introduced into the anti-bullying/ sex education curriculum, not as a theoretical concept but as fact. The school curriculum told my vulnerable daughter that individuals who feel uncomfortable with their bodies and whose preferences and behavioral traits fit the stereotypes of the opposite sex are transgender and introduced the concept of being “born in the wrong body”.
Next was the medical community. After she learnt of the concept of trans, and determining that it applied to her, we sought professional help for our daughter. In 2016-2017 every single one of the clinicians involved with my daughter instantly affirmed and confirmed her self diagnosis of being trans and her belief that she required testosterone and a double mastectomy to survive. The medical community not only dismissed my concerns about the risks involved and the lack of assessment inherent to the affirmation model but told me my questions were not supportive and were detrimental to my daughter’s mental health. The “village” was telling me I was wrong and negligent for trying to weigh the benefits versus the risks and for considering other less invasive methods of treatment. I learned quickly that I could not safely ask questions about the procedures or demand that the root causes of my daughter’s distress be evaluated and any coexisting conditions be treated first, without the risk of having social services involved. Like the school system, the healthcare and social services system further ingrained into my child the concept of “being born into the wrong body” and the need for medicalization.
At this time, back in 2017, the gender clinic inside the children’s hospital where my daughter was seen was still acknowledging biological sex in their consent form for testosterone, making it clear that any medical interventions could only go so far, not to the point of literally changing sex. It included the following “even though I think of myself partially or completely as male, I am genetically, biologically and physically female.” Today, in 2021, the language in those consent forms no longer include the words male and female. They have been replaced with “masculine” and “feminine traits” resulting in less clarity, and less reasonable possibility of informed consent.
But, even in 2017, important information was withheld from patients and their families before medical interventions were introduced. None of the clinicians told me that, prior to the affirmation model, under the watchful waiting approach to gender confusion, approximately 80% of patients with childhood gender dysphoria desisted and eventually accepted their biological sex, and many if not most, grew up to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. This was kept from me even after I told the clinician my daughter was unsure of her sexual orientation. What does it say about a “village” that doesn’t allow a child to realize their sexual orientation naturally, knowing that some will grow up to be gay, lesbian or bisexual?
I was also not informed of the documented overlap of gender dysphoria with autism and other co occurring conditions despite the concerns I expressed about black and white thinking, immature social skills and body dysmorphic comments that I had observed. What does it say about a “village” that quickly accepts a teenage girl’s declaration that she is a boy despite the knowledge that some would have experienced sexual trauma, have an eating disorder or body dysmorphia, experience painful periods, or are neurodiverse, without any evidence that being in the wrong body is more likely?
It means the “villagers” have chosen to look away from the truth: that homophobia exists, children and adult females are the predominant victims of sexual assault, social media exacerbates body image issues, the medical community has not poured time and energy into researching gynecological issues such as endometriosis and some people’s brains just work differently.
Parents are undermined in other ways as well, there are cases of schools proceeding with the social transitioning of children despite the objections of parents who think a watchful waiting approach is what their child needs. Parents who have not affirmed their child’s gender identity have had their children removed from their care and two court cases in British Columbia ruled against parents objecting to the gender affirming medicalization of their child due to prior mental health concerns that had not been addressed under the affirmation model of care. The mainstream media further undermines parents by presenting affirmation as the only viable treatment and way a parent can show their love and support while at the same time refusing to report on the growing number of detransitioners.
It is hard to protect your child when the other “villagers” are holding your arms behind your back.
My daughter’s gender dysphoria gradually resolved without medical interventions over a two-year period as she began to accept her bisexuality and learned how to better cope with the sensory and social challenges of autism.
I shouldn’t have had to fight “the village” to allow my kid time to do that.