The Many Months to Desistance
This time last year I wrote my first PITT piece, “This is Not a Desistance Story.” It was spring, and I was optimistic and hopeful. “Next May, I’ll write an update with a different title,” I thought. Yet, I both believed it, and didn’t—living in the state of uncertainty and low-grade depression is a surreal experience. My son was 17, and I thought I had a year left. It was spring. I was scared and anxious.
That summer I was on a mission to take as many trips as possible with my teens, and I was joyful and grateful that they were happy to join me. Each week we picked a new destination and I drove for hours. In the car I was in my happy little universe where I was whole, and we were safe. I was selfishly living an ideal homeschooling summer and I was determined to fill it up with ice cream on waffle cones in far-away, half-abandoned towns, sunrises and sunsets on the beach, bonfires and fireflies. I wanted to make sure I would have those memories no matter what. Every day was beautiful and achingly bittersweet.
My son hadn’t socially transitioned, he still looked like a boy. By midsummer, his exploratory therapist said that he had a breakthrough. The therapist wasn’t worried about him wanting to medicalize, but he was also not sufficiently aware of the immensity of the ideological brainwashing. He thought my son was too smart to be captured. I was aware though—and I was worried. I knew how many smart kids were captured. But my son seemed happy, entirely unconcerned about being called “sir” on occasion. He was growing into a handsome young man. We didn’t talk about gender ideology. On Sasha Ayad’s advice, gender topics were for him and his therapist to discuss.
Then the too familiar punch in the gut came in the Fall, when he started a part time job and was adored and praised by everyone there—he was still thinking of himself as transgender, and this was not going to change. Ever. He was impatient to socially transition and start taking hormones at 18. On the outside nothing changed. I still saw a happy teen. I had less than 6 months left.
I tried to calm myself with thoughts that this was the often-mentioned Boomerang Effect. My little home-grown, intuition-based “theory”, which I wrote about for PITT, was that The Boomerang Phase was actually The Uncertainty Phase, where teens double down on gender ideology to combat fading conviction and a growing sense of cognitive dissonance. It is a difficult, emotional phase, and probably the phase when they are most easily influenced.
I didn’t know whether my “theory” was correct, but I also felt I had little choice but to push back during this phase. I wasn’t going to stand idly by, watching him being led deeper into the cult by trans influencers. I started to integrate information on the trans ideology into our homeschooling via different podcasts and documentaries by figures including Helen Joyce, Stephanie Davies-Arai, Douglas Murray, Jordan Peterson, Barry Wall, John Uhler, Chloe Cole, Kellie-Jay Keen, etc. It was scary at first, as I was worried about his reaction and our relationship. Some days he would pull his hood over his head, but I saw that he was still listening, and he would perk up within minutes after a podcast or a documentary was over. We watched What is a Woman, and he lived, but we skipped the intro and the ending. Whatever bad mood they caused, it didn’t linger. I never made it personal and never asked him where he was at with his own gender identity.
We watched hours of podcasts and the manner of how he was sitting at the table started to change. He didn’t cover his face anymore, he sat straighter.
His 18th birthday came and went, with no big announcement, but the uncertainty was still overwhelming. By February I was telling myself that I should stop with the gender critical stuff and we should focus on something else, but then The Affirmation Generation came out, and I just had to show it to him. When I asked what he thought about it, he said there was nothing there that he didn’t already know. I was still too anxious to ask what it all meant for him. If he was still thinking of himself as transgender, I didn’t want him to verbalize these thoughts to me, thus potentially making them something he needed to defend.
Then at some point in early spring he laughed at a gender critical meme I sent him. Then he made a couple of gender critical jokes. But when I casually said that gender was just a modern and ideological term for personality, he rejected the idea. This made me doubt everything yet again. A month or two later he made fun of the idea that biological sex was nonbinary, and I felt in my bones that this was over. The curse was lifted. I exhaled.
Are we there yet? I wish I knew. From what I’ve read, some never leave the cult entirely and come back to it in the times of stress. But for now, I won’t think about that. I too need a break. In retrospect, he has been incrementally desisting for the last nine months—there were little signs all along, but how do you trust them when you are on a rollercoaster? I’m sure that if I were to ask him about his desistance a year from now, he’d say that he made up his mind entirely on his own and that all the podcasts we listened to didn’t matter. Maybe he’d say that he simply grew up, and he would be right. But I would not have been able to live with myself if I didn’t make the information about the ideology and biological reality available to him.
The last year went by too slowly and yet too fast. I’m grateful, humbled, empowered, still not entirely back to normal. I know how lucky we are, how, in retrospect, comparatively easy it has been—a mere 21 months, and he hasn’t even worn a skirt or a bra. And now it is over, almost like it never happened, like a bad dream you’d rather forget.
Thankyou for sharing your story, I am 4 months away fo the bi 18. I am anxious as I have ever been. I have no idean when the best time to start sharing what I have invesitgated. with your story my intuition says it can be the right time.
I hope you pray you are right, and that the whole awful thing is behind you. Remain vigilant, as I know you will. You were courageous to show him all the documentaries, have him listen to the podcasts, etc. My husband wants to do that with our daughter who lives "as a male" away at college, but I am afraid of alienating her further. What you said about not being able to live with yourself, though, has given me something to think about.