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How To Rescue Your Child From The Trans Cult
A review of 'When Kids Say They're Trans'
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Parental authority is under attack. Sasha Ayad, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella O’Malley, the authors of When Kids Say They're Trans: A Guide for Parents, are “three psychotherapists, two of whom are mothers.” They have written “a book for parents who would like to support their child’s exploration of identity but who do not believe it is advisable to concretize such exploration with irreversible drugs and surgeries.”
“It is a guide for parents who affirm their child’s wonderful, unique personhood without believing ‘gender identity’ should be privileged over other aspects.” The idea that some sort of ‘true trans’ condition exists is “the wrong framework” for dealing with a child who claims a transgender ‘identity.’
“We don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘trans child.’ There is no evidence that children can be born in the wrong body, or that some children are born with an innate gender which is misaligned with their sex.” Furthermore, “the claim that your child is the opposite sex from the one you know him to be and that he requires life-altering procedures to thrive is not supported by good evidence, much less the extraordinary evidence such a claim demands.”
“We believe that socially and medically transitioning a child is not advised, given the current knoweldge about risks and benefits. As things stand, the medical transition of adolescents is, at best, experimental,” they write. No one is born in the wrong body. “We die when our bodies die, and what happens after that is up for debate. There is no evidence to suggest we had other bodies to choose from.”
“Gender identity theory is based upon a belief that we all have a gender identity. Similar to the concept of the Catholic soul, it is personally subjective, unidentifiable, invisible, untestable and therefore unfalsifiable, but it can also change over time — indeed, anyone can change their gender identity any number of times,” they write. From introduction to appendices, this book is a total refutation that your child, or any child, can be born ‘trans.’
Parents know their own children better than any other adults. Transgenderism undermines parental authority like nothing else in the western world today. Queer Theory seeks to demolish the structure of the family altogether under the rubric of liberation, but authoritative parenting is not authoritarian. Ayad, Marchiano, and O’Malley want parents to take back their authority. Take the smart phone, take away the internet, take a firm stand where needed. Be reasonable when they are being unreasonable. In other words: be parents.
This book will be a primary source for future historians studying what has happened to parenthood in the 21st century. “The culture of ‘attachment parenting’ and other factors have fostered responsive parenting, encouraging parents to be dilligently attuned,” the authors explain. “Somehow, along the way, parents of this generation absorbed the false belief that a child’s distress is a sign that something is wrong and must be fixed.”
But “excessive response tends to undermine parental authority, because it can be difficult to differentiate between what a child wants and what a child needs. Our parenting becomes overly reactive, gives the child too much power, and risks communicating to kids that they can’t tolerate distress.”
Likewise, parents must “beware of giving gender issues too much oxygen or allowing them to become a battleground,” avoid becoming as obsessed with ‘gender’ as their children. “Consider the 80/20 rule: the majority of your interactions with your child should have nothing to do with difficult gender talks.” Parents must avoid talking over their children, so that their distress feeds the child’s. “Active listening means paying careful attention to everything she tells you. It involves asking questions and attending patiently to the answers so that you can more fully understand.”
When children provoke, ignore it. Swallow pride. Listen, de-escalate, and manage your own feelings: you cannot manage theirs. That is exactly what your children are having trouble learning to do, right now. Model the emotional regulation for them as much as you can. Boundaries, however, must remain firm.
We believe it is best that parents affirm gender-nonconformity while asserting the reality of biology. If at the weekend your son comes out of his bedroom wearing a dress, simply proceed as if nothing is out of the ordinary. If, however, it is his sister’s dress, you might react as you would if he had borrowed any other item without permission. Treating gender experimentation in childhood as normal will avoid giving it too much power. On the other hand, it is inappropriate if your son borrows your daughter’s underwear and, in this context, you may need to protect your daughter from such behavior.
Whenever it is too much, leave the room. The child must work their own way through their distress. “You may wish to stay there until you have cheered up your child, but this is not necessarily possible, nor is it always the right thing to do. Every adolescent needs to overcome certain challenges so that they one day become a mature and reflective adult.”
The authors suggest that minor children receive a “psychosocial moratorium” in which all medical decision-making is suspended. Delaying the cascade of interventions is crucial, but do not unlimit them at 18. Instead, they suggest a script that punts medicalization past the point of real adulthood: “once you are on your own and supporting yourself financially and you’ve had romantic relationships and a job, if you still want to take hormones at that point, it will be your decision.”
Parents must “help them understand some immutable facts” about their bodies. “Sex constancy, the cognitive ability to discern that biological sex cannot be changed, should be reinforced by parents” at all times, they write. Draw limits on public toilet use, but let them have their hair and clothes in whatever style they please.
Children should be told that they cannot control what others call them. Ask “who owns the pronouns? is it the speaker, or is it the person they are referring to? Can we force other people to speak about us in the way we want? Considering that not everyone feels they have a gender identity, should those people made made to use the language of a belief system they don’t subscribe to?” Again: teach them boundaries.
Puberty is not a disease to be cured. It is in fact the only known cure for gender dysphoria in youth. “It seems plausible that part of what reconciles gender dysphoric youth with their bodies is the enormously complex changes that happen to us during adolesence,” the authors write. “The hormones of puberty don’t just change the body, they change the brain in important ways that we don’t fully understand. Interrupting this process will likely have unforeseen consequences.”
Of course, puberty was never comfortable. It is not supposed to be. “The loneliness that many teenagers feel is often the beginning of the existential ache and the sexual awakening that ultimately drives so many to seek a mate for life — if we didn’t feel that, then perhaps few of us would seek a partner, settle down and start a family,” they write. We learn to bond with other people by going through adolescence. What sort of ’social movement’ would seek to prevent, disrupt, or derange this normal human socialization process?
The answer, of couse, is a cult. Cults do that. Definitions vary, yet the only real difference between a cult and a religion is whether the cult has captured the hearts and minds of elites, the media conversation, and the educational and social institutions to impose itself on the unwilling masses for their own good. ‘Pride’ has just about succeeded installing itself as a civic religion in America. The cult of the ‘trans child’ is strong, but parents can be stronger.
Being scientifically-minded, the authors are more careful about their language than this writer. Parents report their children display “an almost religious zeal” about their new identities. “Much like those who leave a cult and its values behind, some desisters” — children who give up their transgender identity — “have felt ostracized and excluded from the tribe that once welcomed them.” Hearing cult converts bear witness can bring on conversion: “It is extraordinary how many trans people trace the origin of their bid to transition back to meeting or seeing a person who has transitioned.” Children who suddenly announce a transition out of the blue “tend to find it mentally satisfying to follow a treatment path with strict instructions about how everyone should respond” — i.e., they crave meaningful religious rites.
Children who give up a transgender identity may express “sadness and even depression” if they are very attached to the LGBTQAlphabetical community, or ‘glitter family.’ “The feeling that their friends are involved in a belief system that seems to be harmful may trigger loneliness and alienation,” they write. “A cynical outlook toward institutions, education and political systems is a common response.” Democrats, ACLU, Stonewall: are you listening?
“Diagnosis creep refers to the tendency for disease categories to evolve to include many more people.” They describe the phenomenon as a “mass sociogenic illness,” that is, a spread of disease-like symptoms where no infectious agent exists. They cite medical historian Edward Shorter and the “symptom pools” of “shared diagnosis” that he identified in past episodes of social contagion.
Ideology plays an acknowledged role. Queer Theory and social justice utopianism are “destabilizing” the kids and the families. “Cultural scripts that encourage children to see their parents as oppressive, rejecting or the adversary can help to destroy the attachment relationship,” they write, sounding utterly reasonable. They are not screaming: IT’S A CULT!
Yet the advice in this book resonates entirely with the literature on cults and cult deprogramming. Rather than strip people of agency, all the most successful cults rely on giving the convert a sense of agency, however false. Stripping a cult convert of agency does not convince them to leave the cult. Indeed, it is illegal to kidnap a cult member in order to deprogram them.
Similarly, the authors advise that if parents want to send their children away from the familiar for at least 3 months, limiting access to problematic peers and social media influencers, whether outdoors or simply out of their comfort zone, the child must agree to go. “Often, young people feel ambivalent about medicalizing and are secretly relieved to be offered an alternative resolution.” The important thing is that not be a punishment at all, but a distraction.
The cult of the trans child is everywhere. Parents find themselves suddenly alone, surrounded by family, friends, church, and state all eager to ‘affirm’ the child. “We’ve heard hundreds of stories in which schools, behavioral and mental health centers, therapists, counselors and recreational school summer staff actively conspire to keep secrets from parents and encourage children to regard their own mother or father with suspicion.”
Too often, therapists “are the first to suggest that the child’s eating disorder, body image problems, OCD, autism or other challenges may be cause by an undiscovered ‘gender identity,’” they write. The cult sees itself as saviors: “if a clinician truly believes that they can save a closeted ‘transgender child’ from unsupportive parents, this powerful motivation serves as the precursor for bizarre and unethical behavior not seen in other realms of youth mental health services.” When teachers “begin to see themselves as saviors, they can set up what is known as a drama triangle, which can significantly undermine parental authority.”
If this happens, “it is important that you feel empowered to call out any triangulation system developing — especially in the context of overeager school staff who are keen to transition your child without considering the impact on their life.” Get in their faces. A meeting is far better than email. “If you believe that the school are unapologetically dismissive or are actively damaging your child, seriously consider changing schools.” Impose diktats; do not accept them. Never let them get away with suicide blackmail. “These professionals do enormous damage to the child’s most important attachment relationship.”
There has perhaps never been a more beguiling concept unleashed upon teenagers: to hear, as an uncertain, unhappy adolescent, that you can become someone different, with a new name, a new identity, and nobody will ever be allowed to refer to your old, loathesome, shame-filled self ever again. Cruel optimism describes a situation where others cheer along a person who is becoming increasingly attached to a future that is impossible or will be a good deal harder than they have been led to expect.
Instead of arguing with the doctor, hold their professional feet to the fire in front of the child. Ask the surgeon about complications and long-term consequences. Ask the questions about the potential loss of orgasm frankly. Do it in front of the child so that they think about it themselves. Attack the cult without attacking the child, so that they do not push away from you: “give the indoctrinated as little to push against as possible. Connecting with your child, asking sincere questions, and listening compassionately to the answers — no matter how odd or exasperating — is a better strategy.” Remember, these kids are caught in a cult.
The problem might be a neighbor or a trusted friend. With boys, the problem might be internet pornography, but it is just as likely “an influential but troubled female friend.” A socially awkward boy is suddenly at the center of female attention, becoming a dress up doll. It can be too much for a ‘gender nonconforming’ boy who likes girls — classic cult recruiting.
Stabilization should be the goal. For example, “a trans-identified young person who functions reasonably well, maintains contact with family and doesn’t rush into medicalization” is a win. See the wins.
Of course, not everything can be under your control as a parent. In fact, “parents are unlikely to be the ones to penetrate a child’s defenses” at all. You might have to compromise on “an informal nickname” instead of a legal name change. Some parents agree to pronouns, but the authors cannot recommend this, since they have seen it go both ways. Silly as it seems, the ‘nonbinary’ identity can be an important “stepping stone into and out of transition” as children try on new ‘selves.’ “It is a way to retreat from the trans identity with dignity and zero fuss.”
Desistance and detransition are normally accompanied by embarrassment. Ironically, many young people become depressed, even suicidal, as they leave the cult that extorted them with suicide risk. Most desisters will wish the whole thing had never happened. “They may never want to speak about it, especially if they have lost or are in danger of losing their friend group, thereby losing both their faith and their community.” Others may relapse.
Detransitioners contain doubt. All cultists contain doubt. When a child expresses doubt, confusion, or ambivalence towards their claimed gender identity, especially when they are facing the consequences of medicalization, “deliver straightforward feedback in a brief, dispassionate style,” they advise. “Report the facts and avoid offering your opinion. Avoid the temptation to lecture or harangue. Less is more. Framing it as a question allows her to be in charge.” Ask “what do you think being ____ has helped you to do differently?” Acknowledge that “being ____ has helped you feel safer.” Reconnecting is a slow process.
Things will never quite get back to normal after detransition. The loss of potential grandchildren can be devastating. The imapct is hardest on the gender-affirming parent who believed they were doing the right thing. Some parents affirm because they don’t want their child to disconnect. “Accepting your children’s decision makes it less likely that they will cut you off,” they note, whereas “affirming your child is not a guarantee that your relaitonship will be harmonious. There is anecdotal evidence that significant conflict exists among families who have supported a child’s transition.”
And like transition, separations can be transient. Estrangement is almost always initiated by the adult child, a fact that flies in the face of pernicious myths about transphobic parents kicking ‘trans kids’ out on the street. There is always hope for reconnection, however tenuous. Give yourselves a break, moms and dads: you can do everything right and still lose a child to the trans cult. It might break up your family, divide you from all your children, or divide your children from one another.
“Recognize that the conflict is not about who is right or wrong, and it is not about gender,” they write. “It is about your child’s feelings of hurt and anger and the quality of the relationship between you.” Sasha Ayad, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella O’Malley founded Genspect “to advocate for a non-medicalised approach to gender diversity” with parents, detransitioners, clinicians, and transgender people. They have worked with schools which saw a sudden epidemic of trans identification after celebrating one child, and then a “culture of desistance” after following their advice in hasty retreat. We can beat this thing. Not always, not for every child, but we can beat it. They have shown us in this book that it is possible to win.