To the glitter moms of social media:
To Those Moms Out There That Think I'm "Unsupportive"
Pride month was really hard to go through, as a parent caught up in this gender twilight zone. Something that particularly bothered me were the popular, rainbow-colored, Facebook posts that said things like: “If your parents don’t support you, I’m your mama now. Get some sleep. Eat breakfast. Take your vitamins.” You may have seen similar, colorful, easy-to-share memes. It really hurt to see nice women I know re-share these seemingly simple sentiments. I dejectedly thought, You have no idea...
Sharing these posts probably makes them feel good about themselves. It’s a quick way to signal that you’re one of the good guys; you’re on the right team! Of course it must be a lovely mental image, your kind, supportive words helping to encourage a sad, gay kid. But the friends, neighbors, and strangers posting these things likely have no idea what it is really like when the TRANS bomb goes off in your own home. Even though the T of trans has been lumped together with the LGB, it is an entirely different ballgame.
I wanted to beg these people on social media, Please, look a little deeper before spreading the “unsupportive parents” stereotype! I wanted to tell them that they don’t really understand us parents, or this exploding transgender phenomenon. In the last few years, an ever-growing number of parents (including liberals & progressives) have been blindsided by a suddenly gender dysphoric kid, often demanding to be recognized as the opposite sex, or be accepted as a completely new gender identity. And the list of different genders to choose from seems to be growing every day. Kids are bombarded with the idea of their happiness and self-worth being determined through finding their “authentic self” and choosing a queer identity, not unlike choosing an online avatar. There is a blurring of reality, and a demand that others validate a chosen reality. In fact, other adults sometimes conspire to socially transition a child secretly and actively hide a child’s identity and activities from loving parents. Many trusted professionals and institutions have now, inexplicably, bought into the notion that these (often transient) subjective transgender identities should be completely confirmed by everyone and, if the kids want medical interventions to concretize these identities (which are often fluid or fleeting), then these kids should have no obstacles, and no exploratory questioning from anyone, including concerned parents.
However, that one-size-fits-all affirmative approach does not take into account a vast array of complexities, and it puts vulnerable kids at risk. Many of these kids have coexisting medical and mental issues that are unknown or ignored by friends, schools, counselors, social media influencers, politicians, and various industries who rush to "affirm" the newly pronounced trans identity. Trans identification is used as a convenient way to explain away other problems—but, unfortunately, it does not solve those other problems. Meanwhile various people, institutions, and media are pushing an inflammatory narrative about the parents, alienating vulnerable kids from their families. Sometimes this culminates in social workers and courts removing kids from their homes because they conflate “misuse” of pronouns with “abuse” and “violence.” Unwittingly, well-meaning friends and neighbors are participating in the spread of this inflammatory narrative when they share the simple, sweet-sounding posts that say: “If your parents don’t support you, I’m your mom now!”
Concerned families are dismissed as “transphobic” if they ask questions to try to understand the source of their kid’s distress. Parents are vilified if they try to protect their kids from irreversible medical harm. The consequences, complications and risks of interventions are often downplayed and hidden from kids, parents, and the general public. This is one reason why we are starting to see many thousands of young adults who regret their “gender journey” and are now detransitioning, to re-identify as their actual sex. Many of the misinformed have made irreversible changes to their bodies that will be everlasting reminders of what turned out to be a phase in their young lives.
The damage and regret is real for detransitioners, whose numbers seem to be growing exponentially—but their experiences have been denied and silenced by an out-of-control, mainstream, cancel culture. There are kids and adults who were ABSOLUTELY convinced they were the opposite sex. Many of them took hormone-blockers, cross-sex hormones, got double mastectomies, and other surgeries to remove healthy genitalia and internal organs. But now they realize they made a mistake and have to live with the devastating physical and mental consequences. The narrative you will hear is that you must affirm trans kids’ identities or they will kill themselves. But the real, dark truth is that the suicide danger is actually much higher for individuals 7-10 years following transition—when they realize transition wasn’t the panacea they had been promised.
During the overwhelm of pride month, I wanted to shout and beg these friends, neighbors, and other mamas: Please, seek out and listen to the detransitioners! I did, in fact, post a few things on my Facebook page including some detransitioners’ stories, ROGD (Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria) info, and the potential harms of medicalizing kids caught up in this. Immediately some people disappeared from my “friends” list. One of the people who un-friended me is a woman who runs an activity that my kids attend on a regular basis, and that really scares me. That’s another thing those nice, supportive, meme-sharing mamas online don’t understand—the FEAR of all the forces and people out there trying to indoctrinate my children, influence my daughter’s sense of self, and undermine my parental protections behind my back, but right under my nose.
The growing numbers of parents who are waking up to the negative health outcomes, or who don't want to rush their kids down a path of social and medical transition, are being told they are “bigots.” Parents who want to engage in exploratory therapy, to question why their kids feel as they do, are labeled "abusive." In what other scenario would comorbidities (like anorexia, depression, anxiety, autism, cutting, body image issues, bullying, past trauma, difficult puberty, and more) be not only ignored, but promised to be cured by the journey to transition? It’s unthinkable that medical treatment is quickly agreed to and provided (sometimes at the very first visit) simply on the basis of a self-diagnosis by the child. For many kids who just can't seem to fit-in, in real life, the promises of BELONGING—of being seen as special/amazing/brave/inspiring and of immediate acceptance to a COMMUNITY—are all so tempting.
We live in strange times, and we are seeing strange effects on our children. So many kids are subjected to online bullying. So many kids are subjected to standards of (sexualized) beauty that real people can't ever attain. So many kids are lonely and isolated, left to immerse themselves in an online social world for extended periods of time. And they're being sold the promise of a cure to their distress if they take on a new identity. Through my kid’s watch history, I've seen the inundation of trans “influencers” on YouTube (that's their jobs!) I've seen the flood of fun-looking quizzes asking our kids: “What member of the LGBTQ+ community are you?” While my kids game or surf YouTube there are advertisements along the side of the screen that ask: “Am I trans?” (By the way, the answer is always YES.) So often kids come to their self-diagnosis of being trans after spending hundreds, or even thousands, of hours on social media sites... watching videos of people's happy trans journeys, all while being promised that they too will be “euphoric”, accepted, and celebrated if they become their “authentic self.”
I have seen this cult-like type of persuasion on YouTube and Reddit while researching what my daughter had been looking at. It was devastating. I was especially shocked at the level of hate and vitriol aimed at parents and people regarded as straight. There are a multitude of groups and forums dedicated to convincing kids that if they question their gender at all, then they are definitely trans. One in particular on Reddit, called Egg_irl, seemed especially dedicated to convincing questioning girls that they are really “transmasc” (trans-masculine) in denial. Their reasoning often was some version of: "because straight or cis people don't even have those kinds of thoughts.” Doubts are seen as evidence to double down on the trans identity. For example, if you think you’re trans but then start to have doubts (like wondering if you are actually trans at all) then those very doubts themselves are evidence that you are DEFINITELY trans: “because straight people don't think about these things” and “cis people don't have doubts about themselves at all.” It rapidly becomes clear: all signs point to trans.
Why are kids targeted by so much marketing and pressure to be trans? Well one idea is that the best way to prop up a subjective identity is to get others to join you. Another big reason is simply about money. One peek behind the curtain reveals a burgeoning industry of gender therapists, pharmaceutical companies and surgeons whose profits are soaring. They make no money off kids who are allowed to make it through puberty and young adulthood intact. Those who learn to accept their own bodies yield no profits. Big money, on the other hand, is made on the lifelong medical patients that a medicalized identity creates.
In times past, the vast majority of gender dysphoric kids outgrew their dysphoria when they made it through puberty (or to the age of full brain development, age 25) without medical interventions. A large percentage turned out to be gay. Think about the parents who worry that their daughter, who might otherwise consider herself a lesbian, is being told that her same sex attraction is actually a symptom of being trans—that she's actually a boy born in the wrong body! Or parents who see that their daughter is being convinced online, or through peer contagion, that her normal struggles of puberty (which make every young girl uncomfortable with her body) actually means “you're not a girl at all.” Medicalization of puberty and other forms of trans “medicine” are NOT shown to be safe. In fact there are no reputable long term studies at all that even indicate that they help with dysphoria. When you really start looking at everything in-depth, “support” of a trans journey can be a very slippery slope—sliding into mental, emotional, and medical harm.
Those of us questioning the dominant narrative are trying to prevent harm! I’m not angry with the people I know who post versions of the “I’m-Your-Mama-Now” memes. Those I know personally are truly kind people who genuinely think they are doing right. But these posts make me feel deeply uncomfortable and discouraged at the lack of information and understanding out there. I would ask that before posting memes about being the glitter mom for our children, they please think about the following:
1. Parents of trans identified children are NOT the same as parents who are abusive and unaccepting of their gay children. We love and accept our kids no matter what their sexual orientation. These issues are not the same and should not be connected. Our children are expressing great emotional and mental distress and suddenly think they are a different gender or biological sex, and are asking for major and very serious interventions. Asking questions and thinking critically before allowing your child to make changes to his or her body, or core identity, is not abusive.
2. Those describing parents as “unsupportive” are very often talking about parents who are asking questions, wanting to research topics before rushing into anything big or irreversible, trying to understand why their child feels they are the wrong sex, and trying to see how this fits into a child’s bigger complex mental health, medical, or developmental profile. Parents can love and support their child WITHOUT setting him or her on a path to being a lifelong medical patient, taking harmful blockers and hormones, and cutting off healthy body parts. Those outside our family should not assume to know what’s going on within our families.
3. Even if someone sharing these feel-good, glittery, rainbow memes thinks a parent is 100% wrong for not immediately affirming, the fact remains that the act of putting a wedge between a child and his/her parents and encouraging disconnection HARMS THE CHILD. The research on this is clear: Children and teens need to build family trust and bonds to have good mental health. These “I’m-Your-Mama-Now” posts are not encouraging that. These posts are just about the feelings of the person posting, not about the complex, varying, and individual needs of the children they think they are helping and their families.