Bad advice for parents

There is a great deal of bad advice for parents of transgender children on the internet. You may be angry and frightened, but it is not about you. You can calmly and rationally care for your child. You need to consider what to do: angry outbursts are counter-productive. Avoid anyone who encourages an angry response.

There is suppressed rage in every word of 4thwavenow. She is revolted at the thought of transition, and oblivious to any validity in my opposing view: one comment says the psychiatrists “are writing their own paycheck” as if that makes them corrupt, and opposed to the interests of their patients; and “Dear God, we must rally the sane people to stand with us”. This is not “skepticism”, this is denialism.

Because of the upside-down activist-driven reality we live in today, rather than helping gender dysphoric young people come to terms with their healthy young bodies, Dr. Olson-Kennedy and her colleagues socially transition children to believe they are the opposite sex.  

She claims to know better than the medical experts, who she thinks are driven by activists.

When I transitioned, I said to a friend, “Most women get a great deal of pleasure from a penis”. She replied, “Yes, but I would not want one of my own”. I would not want one, either. Can you imagine presenting for a week as the other sex? If the idea revolts you, ask why it delights your child.

She supports “reparative therapy” for trans children, but not for gay people, whom she says are healthy. I agree; but the “therapists” do not, and objectively gay people are less able to form a stable heterosexual partnership, conceive and bring up a child.

She is repetitive. In that post, “mass delusion”, “unthinking”, “false”, “hoodwinked”… This language prevents clear thought about the good of your child.

Transgender Reality is anything but that. She is entitled to a policy that comments by transgender people that do not take a stance critical of “brain sex” theory and current trans dogma will be rejected, but it does mean you get one side only. I do not support a cult, and have no interest in “recruiting” young people into transition: I want no-one to transition unless they are certain it is right for them. Her falsehoods shut down discussion. She is welcome to comment here should she wish. I look forward to engaging with her Eye of Sauron gravatar.

She criticises a particular Reddit. I will have a look at it, and may post on it. Like her, I oppose lying to therapists. But the advice Parents whose children think they are trans: Get them off reddit is out of touch with reality. You cannot keep your child off the internet, but if you listen to your child you will be able to talk with them about what they read. They may understand that lying is counter-productive. I was advised to lie. I did not. I transitioned successfully under medical supervision.

If your child wants transition, ask psychiatrists and specialists. It is quite understandable that you may not want your child to transition. You feel scared and protective. Talk over your feelings with supportive friends, but do not visit these sites, which allow no criticism of their extremist position.

Arthur Melville, A Cabbage garden

Advice to parents

If your child says they are transgender-

Hello. I am trans. I have transitioned and not reverted, so I feel transition is an option which may improve someone’s life. I won’t say it is the answer to all problems. I am not a parent, and I don’t know what you are going through. But I want to give a friendly perspective. I understand if you fear the thought of your child transitioning, and I agree that it may be wrong for them. If it is wrong for them, you want to protect them from the harm it could do, and so do I. But how?

Say your teenager objects when you call them your daughter. (Do you mind if I use neutral pronouns?) They want to bind their breasts and use a male name. They want to take hormones, and have surgery. Don’t worry too much yet. Getting surgery is a long road. They can change their mind right until the moment the anaesthetist starts the gas. What matters is what they do today. You need to know what they are doing.

My advice is to support your child’s decision. That means they can’t rely on you to protect them from it: if transition scares them, they have to protect themself. If you treat them like an adult you force them to behave like one. If you are cautiously supportive they will talk to you. They won’t transition as an act of teenage rebellion, and regret it later, because you don’t give them something to rebel against. You might persuade them not to get hormones over the internet- you don’t know what is in those pills- but seek proper medical evaluation.

If your child wants to bind their breasts, buy them a binder. The advantage of this is that it confronts the child with the reality of their decision. It is like a very tight sports bra: it does not do permanent damage, but is uncomfortable. If your child wants to transition to expressing female, you might even suggest facial electrolysis. That is painful, and takes a long time before the beard is significantly damaged.

Use of a different name is not much more extreme than the ordinary teenage exploration of their world, testing boundaries, discovering their feelings. Unless unhealthily constrained, teenagers play with identities and responses to find what works for them. Teenagers have always shocked parents. Let them play. You can’t protect them forever.

Please consider the possibility that transition is right for them. Of course it is completely wrong for most people. They will be unable to have children. They might never pass completely as the expressed gender. You can discuss these disadvantages with them calmly and without fighting, if you admit the possibility that transition might be right for them.

Of course girls should be supported if they are natural leaders or if they want to study engineering. Not every girl who kicks a ball or climbs a tree is a trans boy. Where it does not fit their personality, boys should be protected from macho culture- they can be feminine men. But for a tiny minority, transition is right. You do not want them to be miserable and directionless in their twenties, then transition in their thirties, and find it was right for them all along.

Giorgione, Judith with the head of Holofernes

The inner child II

Rodin- Eve, from MetmuseumNot the easiest counselling session, but possibly productive.

In November 2012, I had my last job interview. At the end- Do you have any questions for us?- the woman said to me, “That is the first time I have seen you smile” and after I was smiling with every word I said, grinning like an idiot. Then I stopped going in to the CAB as a volunteer. I could not be bothered with it. I prefer my current lifestyle. I-

here I pause. I want you to react. I want you to make “go on” noises. I open up my body language a bit, crossing ankles rather than legs, hands loosely folded in lap rather than by my waist, but other than that stay still. Eventually she asks me to go on.

Another interviewer had told me that he had not thought I could relate sufficiently to their clients. Actually I could: with a client I sought to give power to the client, so got them to open up. People said things they found embarrassing, or said “I’m not explaining this very well”- evidence that they were concerned about their ability to tell someone but felt comfortable enough with me to try- but with a job interview all the power is the other way.

-Did you explain that in interview?
-Yes. Possibly not as much detail as there.

-Why did you go to that interview?
-Because I had not realised before quite how sick I was of it.

I prefer my current lifestyle. I read a bit, watch a lot of recorded TV (I would not want to watch daytime TV, but watch in the daytime) walk in the park. Last night there was a Quaker discussion group but I might go a week without seeing someone to talk to.

It seems to me that there might be something more to life than this, but I cannot see how to get it if there is. I like to think that if the benefits stopped and I had to change, I would, but I might not: people came in to the CAB with letters saying the bailiffs would evict them the following day, and I might stop paying my rent and run up my credit card, but the day before eviction I might just go back to bed.

Silently, I wonder if I could get any sort of job just for an income, and find some pleasure in a hobby. Or wean myself out of my shell, perhaps volunteering at the charity shop.

Oh, I want you to respond! I hunger for it! I take what I can- a slightly slower blink, a motion of the head-

That last speech therapist in Newport asked me what I wanted. I could not say, at the time, but I wanted
-to do Good, that I might be worthy of existing
-to see myself as a Good person, for some fragile sense of safety- I might continue to be worthy of existing
-to attract as little attention as possible, because any attention will be irritated, and will be unpleasant to me.

L'homme qui marcheIt seems to me that this is a small child response. (She asks me to explain.) This is me with my mother, very young, and taking that response into adult life. I blame my upbringing- not my mother, for she did her best, and I have seen a friend aged fifty express her live distress at 26 years before having a baby and not having a clue how to be with him. If she had realised she did not want me beforehand, and not had me, some delight would have been missed.

I curl up on the floor and scream. Even as I did the inner critic told me I was being theatrical, I was play-acting.

This is really painful. It may be useful, but only in uncovering my blind spots. I don’t think I have articulated this as clearly before. Do you think this is any use? She can’t tell me. I have to get wherever it is I am going, myself. Either she disagrees with Carl Rogers, or has been told to therap in a different way.

There is nowhere I can recover for a bit. She suggests the bench outside under the trees, which is covered in bird poo. I go to the children’s area, kneel, and “trace the spaghetti” with my hand. I ought to be past that developmental stage- perhaps I was honouring my inner child or something.  The beads make satisfying clicking sounds. Then I go to the butcher’s, and walk home.