There’s something rotten in the state of my profession, the mental health field. While therapists are usually the first to reach out to trauma victims, there’s one group we neglect. Even worse, we blame the victims.
I’m referring to parents of gender-confused kids, whose stories I am hearing firsthand in my office. Parents come to me because I’ve publicly objected to my profession’s faulty views about gender identity and its treatment. How many parents are unable to find help? Judging by the number of recently created organizations and online groups where such parents gather, there are thousands, and the numbers grow by the day.
My patients, and those in the parent-run groups, are shocked, overwhelmed, confused, and anxious. They’re not sleeping or eating. Many have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Why have they turned to one another for help? Why don’t more come to us – psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors? We’re the ones with the degrees and experience.
They don’t turn to us because we have failed them.
Of course young people are also victims of the trans craze, but my focus here is their parents’ distress. It is massive and demands acknowledgement.
Following their teen’s bombshell announcement, most parents initially consult with gender therapists or clinics. The vast majority tell them they must unconditionally accept their child’s chosen identity, use a random, unfamiliar name, and help Sara bind her breasts and Michael tuck his genitals.
Parents object, suggesting a slower process and deeper exploration. They insist: we know our child! The ideologues dismiss their parental instincts. They see their discomfort, but brush it off.
For those therapists, the parents are the problem. Not the child’s social anxiety, autism, irrational thinking, or social media addiction. No, the issue is mom and dad’s refusal to embrace their teen’s two-week-old identity and allow a kid to run the show.
The therapist shares that assessment with parents, sometimes in front of their child. In doing so, the gender specialist strikes heavy blows against a family in crisis, who turned to her with hope and trust: she undermines parental authority and weakens the parent-child bond.
As if that’s not enough, she refers them, following a hasty, incomplete evaluation, to an endocrinologist for hormones to block development. Safe and reversible, the therapist reassures the parents. Your child needs them now. In fact, it’s already late.
She speaks with authority and confidence. There’s a consensus among professionals, she explains. If you reject our advice, the risk of losing your child to suicide is increased.
She threatens this about their child — the center of their lives, their most precious relationship! The therapist may have spent only a short time with him or her, but she knows what’s best.
Some Parents Find the Facts
The parents go home, emotions reeling. Some decide to trust the expert and they’re soon at the endocrinologist’s office, signing consent for drugs that will prevent their teen’s physical, emotional, sexual, and cognitive development. Their child looks happy; they pray it lasts.
Others dive into the research. Sooner or later they are startled to learn the truth: If teens go through natural puberty there’s a 60-90 percent chance of desistance (outgrowing transgenderism, aligning with one’s biology). Changing names, pronouns, and presentation can be a slippery slope and decrease desistance. Once on puberty blockers, desistance is very rare.
Blockers are controversial, have a history of lawsuits, and their off-label use in healthy children is experimental. There is a risk of suicide in gender-questioning teens, but there is no evidence that transition lowers that risk.
Parents learn that the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Finland carefully examined the dangers of hormonal treatment of minors and minors’ ability to give informed consent for such treatments. As a result, those countries made U-turns in their policies; patients must wait until they are 18 for medical intervention. Similar concerns are coming out of New Zealand and Australia.
Bottom line: parents who look further than gender clinics and therapists discover a heated debate regarding how to help kids like theirs. There’s a consensus among experts, they were told. Are you kidding? There is no consensus whatsoever.
So the parents search for a therapist who won’t immediately affirm the new identity, but instead take it slowly, get to know their child, and figure out the appeal to her of a new identity. A clinician with a more cautious, nuanced approach — that’s all parents want. Another shock: there are almost none.
Counting psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors, there are more than a million therapists in this country. I located a group of therapists who believe in long-term, exploratory talk therapy for gender-questioning youth, and there are only 60 members, with many outside the United States.
My Patient’s Sad Experience
My patient “Cheryl” is an example of a traumatized parent. Her 18-year-old autistic daughter, her only child, identifies as a man and has been on testosterone for six months. Cheryl is convinced she and her husband were misled by a gender clinic and that “Eva” did not have adequate evaluations and therapy. For the first time in her life, Cheryl is taking psychiatric medication for her constant crying, sleeplessness, and anxiety.
Cheryl feels she’s at odds with everyone: Eva, family members, friends, schools, doctors, therapists, politicians, the media, and the culture. On how many fronts can one person fight?
I was not surprised when Cheryl told me, “Sometimes I wish my daughter had cancer. The whole world would be there for me.”
Doctors at Johns Hopkins tell Cheryl to embrace her child’s “evolving sense of self.” But when she first heard the lowered pitch of Eva’s voice, Cheryl threw up. A double mastectomy is planned; the thought of it floods her with panic and horror. She fears for Eva’s physical and emotional health, including her sexual health.
Cheryl also grieves for the biological grandchildren she’ll never have. But there’s nothing to be done about any of it. Horror, fear, helplessness, and grief are Cheryl’s constant companions, outside of the days when she just feels numb.
We Must Challenge the Narrative
There are thousands of parents like Cheryl. Where are the psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors who will validate their experiences without judgment? How is it we’re able to serve the emotional needs of sexual offenders and murderers but not the traumatized, grieving parents of transgender children?
It’s because to do so would challenge the entrenched narrative in our field: that denying biology is part of normal development, and if “transphobic parents” would just accept that, it will be all rainbows and unicorns for their kids.
Few of us challenge that narrative, at least publicly, so parents have turned to one another in droves to cry, rage, and brainstorm. But they can’t even meet openly; the woke environment forces them underground. They fear losing their jobs and relationships, even their child, if exposed. Hence the secret meetings, private Facebook pages, made-up names, and extensive vetting. They hide in the dark as if they’re guilty of some awful crime.
This is an appalling betrayal of parents. To my colleagues: we’ve lost all credibility because of our surrender to a destructive, unscientific ideology. We’ve harmed thousands of parents and children, and they’ve had it with us.
Not too long ago, doctors performed frontal lobotomies as a cure for severe mental illness. They severed connections in the brain with crude instruments inserted through the eye socket. It was a barbaric but mainstream procedure, performed on about 40,000 people.
Right now in the United States, girls as young as 13 are having mastectomies and minor boys are castrated. What will it take to put the breaks on the massive transing of children? Call me a cynic, but I’m guessing a few huge lawsuits.
Trust me, the lawyers are coming, and victims will finally have a public platform. They will tell the world of the nightmare that descended on their precious children and families, leaving them traumatized and broken.
I eagerly await that day. Until it comes, I will be meeting with Cheryl every week, validating her story, helping her cope, and weeping along with her.