We are finally reaching a point in culture where the reality of the scandal of pediatric gender transition and it’s horrifying life changing consequences is beginning to prick the consciences of even the doctors involved in writing the recommendations that are used to justify it. Those of us who have been concerned about this for some time, especially parents, are happy to see this conversation beginning to evolve. It’s long past time to start facing the fact that kids and families have been deceived and ill-served by the so called affirmative care model. As of this writing, however, the focus is largely on young children and teens. We should be talking about this, however there is a larger problem that is being ignored, and it’s a serious one.
Like many parents I have talked with, my kids were in their young 20’s when they decided to medically transition. This is an age of crucial identity formation, and it’s well documented and accepted that the young brain is not fully mature until age 25, in youth who are neurotypical. This can happen much later in individuals who have ASD, ADHD, or other conditions that delay maturity.
When we are young, we often make decisions based on emotion. The part of the brain that is active in decision making during this period is the amygdala. The amygdala processes and stores memories associated with emotional events. It is central to decision making and emotional response. Young people, known universally for risk taking and emotional immaturity, gradually mature to more rational decision making processes using the frontal cortex of the brain, the part of the brain that is able to modify emotional responses and make more considered decisions. As we mature to this more moderated, mature response and decision making capacity, we are better able to consider the long term consequences of our actions.
For some reason, we have set the magical age of 18 as the day that children become adults, able to make all decisions and wise choices. What exactly changes on the 18th birthday? Not a lot. It turns out that we don’t become suddenly capable of mature decision making on the day we start our 18th journey around the sun. That’s why car insurance rates for boys don’t go down until they are 25. Insurance statistics don’t lie. 18 year olds are still in the process of learning things, sometimes the hard way.
The process of growing from an adolescent to a mature, responsible adult takes years. College is often the beginning of this process, and the newly minted “adult” leaves home to navigate a whole new world. Cut loose from the bonds of parental restriction, some thrive naturally, while others struggle to find their place in the world. Many are now coming home after just a semester or two with news for their parents.
Universities across the US are rife with “support” for gender confused young people. Many have special dorms just for trans youth. Hormones and surgery referrals are routinely available through college health centers. University culture is brimming with enthusiasm for gender diversity, and many kids are piling on board, convinced that the answer to their feelings, which usually have many sources, will be solved with the magic gender pill. At Uni, and in the culture at large, youth are being taught that respect for other’s identities, pronouns, and self declaration among the 100 genders currently being offered to choose from is just a basic human right. “Trans rights are human rights!” they all obediently chant.
So who are we, as parents, to take exception to this?
It’s difficult to even describe the helplessness of a parent watching on as their 18-25 year old child seemingly overnight becomes obsessed with changing sex. Unlike the parents of teens, we have no authority in our children’s lives. We know that there are underlying health or neurological issues that should be thoroughly explored before drastic and irreversible medical steps are taken. We also know that no one is going to take our concerns seriously. We know this because we have written letters and emails to therapists, doctors, universities, and anyone else we hoped would listen, and we got the same response every time. Silence.
At this time, every Planned Parenthood clinic in the US is giving cross-sex hormones to anyone over 18 who asks for them. In practically every city and university across the country, it is incredibly easy and inexpensive to obtain these powerful drugs. There are at least two phone apps available where hormones are prescribed over the internet for a nominal fee. I have yet, in talking to hundreds of parents, to hear of a single young person who was even cautioned by a clinician before starting this radical intervention, never mind being turned down. “Informed Consent” means that you simply sign a form (with minimal information), and you receive your prescription. It’s understandable if most people believe that youth who are going on hormones are getting extensive therapy before starting (we would think that would be a no-brainer) but that’s just not true. It takes an average of one hour at Planned Parenthood. We have no data on how many young adults are receiving these treatments, but the numbers are high, as evidenced by the more than 39,000 young women who are currently crowd funding for “top surgery” on GoFundMe.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the problem here. Immature, emotional decision making, plus easy access, plus lots of cultural and societal enthusiasm…what could go wrong?
Plenty, as evidenced by the new cohort of detransitioning young people, who are struggling to reconcile their bodies, which will forever carry the scars of rash decision making, with the understanding developed with time and maturity that their bodies were never wrong to start with, and that there was much more going on with them that was not cured with hormones or surgery. These stories are pushed down by the media and the culture. When these people speak up about the harms that were done to them, they are told that their stories are “damaging to the trans community”. This parent believes that nothing is more damaging to a young adult just beginning to figure out their place in the world than to lie to them about the reality of sex, biology, and the hard fact that while you may be able to imitate the opposite sex, you can’t actually change your sex.
Young adulthood is a time of self discovery, a time when we develop our own ways of seeing the world. Often, we arrive at beliefs that don’t coincide with those of our parents. This is normal and natural. It can be disappointing, and it can be difficult, but that’s what young adulthood is for.
The official definition of gender identity is the following: “Gender identity is the personal sense of one’s own gender. Gender identity can correlate with a person’s assigned sex or can differ from it. Gender expression typically reflects a person’s gender identity, but this is not always the case.” This is a belief system that has suddenly exploded in the past 6 years. It’s not based on science, evidence, or fact. It’s a belief. I would challenge anyone reading this to find two people who had even heard this definition before 2015. But factual or not, it’s a belief, and people do have beliefs, whether they are well founded or not.
So here is where it gets really tricky. Not only are parents of young adults terrified that their children will make irreversible medical decisions that they will end up regretting, but we are also assaulted with demands that we suddenly ascribe to beliefs we don’t have. Our children have a new belief system, and so we are supposed to radically alter ours in order to accommodate it.
We are told that unless we call our sons daughters and our daughters sons we will never have a relationship with them again. In other words, we have to lie, or it’s curtains, mom.
I certainly don’t believe that I have the authority to demand that my children follow my belief system. But I do believe that I still possess a right to retain my own, and that any failure to change my beliefs does not signify a failure to love and support my young adult children. Parents in this situation often walk a fine line, carefully avoiding the most contentious topic in the room, while trying to maintain what relationship they still possess with their children. In many cases, this proves futile, and the child estranges, leaving the parent to wait and hope for a homecoming that may or may not ever happen. This is tragic on both sides. Our kids actually do need us, their parents. Eventually the transgender cheerleaders will abandon them, and they will be left with family relationships that have been severely strained and broken, just when they need us most to pick up the pieces. Rarely are these kids thriving in their lives. Gender takes up an enormous amount of physical, emotional, and psychic energy in a young person’s life, and often the normal tasks and milestones of fledgling adulthood become delayed or are not reached at all. Parents are understandably concerned. The media likes to show us pictures of happy, well adjusted transgender people, but that’s not what most of us are finding our kids to be. They usually struggle, and most of them struggle a lot.
So yes, technically adults can do whatever they want. But we, as parents of kids who got caught up with gender in their early adulthood, are rightfully concerned that they are being served up heaping helpings of affirmative celebrations that are not likely to make the future brighter for them. Can we start talking about that, please?