I thought my son - 4 years old - was trans: I was wrong
Lesbian mother and “true believer” of the queer cult accompanies and empowers her child to identify as female. Until he realizes that he made a mistake because of ideology. Crying over his mistake today he embarked on a "healing" journey together with him who has returned to calling himself male. An enlightening testimony

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I was a true believer.
I was a social justice activist before the social justice movement even took over the world. I was at the forefront of introducing the concept of intersectionality in progressive organizations and getting people to share their pronouns. My friends and I felt like the “cool” ones, the vanguard of a revolutionary work that it would change the world, that it would achieve what people within the social justice movement call “collective liberation.” I deeply believed, through this type of activism, that creating another world was possible.

In this context I came out as a lesbian, and identified as “queer.” Then I fell in love, began a long-lasting relationship with my partner and I gave birth to our first child. Two years later, my partner gave birth to ours second son. Having children, and feeling that life-changing love and devotion towards them, was an absolute turning point for me. And it was then that, to quote the subtitle of Helen Joyce's book, ideology began to clash with reality.

I immediately began to feel tensions within me, tensions between what I intuitively and instinctively felt as a mother and what I "should" have done as a white, anti-racist, pro-social justice parent. Because of my own experiences of victimization, perceived rejection of my sexuality by my parents, I wanted to make sure I honored my children's “authentic self.” I was ready to look for any clue that might suggest that my children might be transgender.

We raised both of our children in the most gender neutral way possible, with neutral clothes, neutral toys and neutral language. Even though we used the pronoun he to address them and other people in our lives called them children, we did not call them children, nor did we tell them they were children. We made sure that all language was “gender neutral”. If we read a book or described people we knew we didn't say "man" or "woman", but rather "people". We thought we were doing the right and best thing, both for them and for the world.

When he was very little, we noticed that our firstborn was a little different. He was very sensitive and extremely gifted. At about the age of three he began to orient himself more towards female acquaintances rather than males. Not yet having the vocabulary to talk about it, he said, “I like mothers”. We began to attribute some of these differences to the possibility that he was transgender. Rather than orienting him to the reality of his biological sex by telling him he was a boy, we wanted him to tell us whether he felt like a boy or a girl.

As true believers, we believed that he might be transgender, and that it was our job to be guided by him to determine his true identity.

At the same time that this ideology was shaping my view of my son, I was also deeply studying the topics of attachment and child development. This opened my eyes to understanding that the nature of attachment is hierarchical, and that it should be the parents, not the children, who act as guides. I began to feel a strong conflict between the desire to let my son guide me about his gender and the ever-deepening awareness of my responsibility to guide and orient him. Unfortunately my ideological conviction won out.

Around the age of four, my son started asking me if it was a boy or a girl. Instead of telling him it was a boy, I told him he could choose. I didn't use those words – I thought I could be more sophisticated than that. I told him, “When babies are born with a penis they are called boys, and when babies are born with a vagina they are called girls. But some babies born with a penis can be girls and some babies born with a vagina can be boys. It all depends on what you feel inside you.” He kept asking me what it was, and I kept repeating these phrases to him. I resolved my internal conflict by “guiding” my son with this pattern – you can be born with a penis but still be a little girl inside. I believed I was doing the right thing, for him and for the world.

His question, and my answer, would come back to haunt me for years, and they continue to haunt me now. What I know now is that I was “driving” it – I was leading my innocent, sensitive child down a path of lies that would lead directly to permanent, irreversible psychological damage and medical interventions for his entire life. All in the name of love, acceptance and liberation.

About six months after my son started asking me if he was a boy or a girl, he told my partner that he was a little girl, and that he wanted to be called sister and “she”. I found out about it by text while I was at work. On the way home that night I told myself that I should put aside everything I was feeling and support my transgender daughter. And that's exactly what I did.

With this one statement, after months of refusing to tell our son he was a boy, we completely changed his life. We told him it could be a girl. She jumped up and down on her bed, happy, saying, “I'm a little girl, I'm a little girl!” (What a relief it must have been for him to finally have an identity he could definitively recognize himself in!). It was we, and not him, who changed his name. We began the social transition, also forcing it on his younger brother, who was only two years old at the time and could barely pronounce his brother's old name.

When I look back, talking about it is almost too much to bear. The pain and shock of what we have done is so deep, so vast, so stinging and penetrating. How could a mother do this to her son? To his children? I truly believed that what I did was pure, right and good, only to later realize in horror what this could do to my son. The horror still shakes me to the core.

Readers of this site will not be surprised to hear that, after deciding to socially transition our son, we were showered with praise and recognition from our peers. One of my friends, who had also socially transitioned her child, assured me that social transition was a healthy, gender-neutral way to allow children to “explore” their gender identity before puberty, when they should have taken decisions regarding puberty blockers and hormones. We looked for support groups for parents of transgender children, and went there to get confirmation that we had “done the right thing.” After all Our son showed no signs of true gender dysphoria – was he really transgender? In these support groups we were told how good parents we were, and that children on the autism spectrum (and he probably is) simply “know” they are transgender before other children.

At one of the support groups we attended, we were also told that transgender identity takes a few years to develop in children. They told us that in that period it was very important to protect the child's transgender identity and therefore of eliminate all contact with any family member or friend who did not support this identity. Yes, the gender therapist leading this support group actually said this, and I believed her at the time. Looking back, I now see everything in a completely different light: it was an intentional process of concretizing the transgender identity in children as young as three years old (the age of the youngest child in this group. When the identity is concretized at a at such a young age, children will grow up truly convinced that they are of the opposite sex. How could they not follow a path of medicalization?

The therapist also used the same script that many teens use with their parents, helping parents of trans kids write letters to grandparents, aunts and uncles to declare the child's transgender identity, making the conditions of participation very clear: you must use the new name and pronouns, and accept the new identity, or you will no longer have contact with the child.

After about a year of social transition for our older son, our younger son, who was only three years old, started talking about being a girl. It was a complete shock to us. None of the things that made our older son “different” applied to the younger one. He was closer to the stereotypical boy, and didn't show the same affinity for feminine things as his older brother. We began to explore attachment more deeply again, and realized that the drive for “equality” is a primary drive in attachment. We felt that her declaration of being a girl was most likely a desire to be like her older brother, to feel more connected to him. The belief that she was female became more insistent when both brothers started school part time, and the curriculum they attended included sharing pronouns. Why could the older brother be a “she” and the younger one not? Our younger son became more and more insistent, and we became more and more distressed. Ideology was colliding with reality and crumbling what we had always considered a solid foundation. If our younger son wanted to be a girl for attachment reasons, could this be the reason for our older son too? An attachment that pushed him to be like me?

We made an appointment with the gender therapist who had accompanied us to the support group to talk about our youngest son. We truly believed that she would be able to help us understand whether or not he was transgender, to distinguish what was happening to him as the younger brother of a transgender older “sister” and as the only “he” in a family of “hers.” To our dismay, lThe therapist immediately began referring to him as “she,” stating that whatever pronoun a three-year-old wanted to use would be the pronoun she would use. In a patronizing tone, he assured us that we might need more time to adjust, since parents often struggle with these things. He stated that it was transphobic to believe there was something wrong with our younger son if he wanted to be like the older one. When I objected and stated that I was still not convinced the child was transgender, she told me that if I didn't change his pronouns and honor his identity, he might develop an attachment disorder.

We weren't convinced, but again we wanted to do the right thing for our son, and for the world. We decided to tell him that it might be a girl, and that night at dinner we told him that we would call him “she.” Immediately after dinner I started playing with him and wanted to affirm his identity. I gave him a big, warm smile and said, “Hello, my baby!” At these words my youngest son stopped, looked at me, and said, “No, Mom. Do not call me that." His reaction was so clear it made me stop. It stung me deeply. After this, I never looked back.

Over the next two years, my partner and I dug deeper, anguished, and we continued digging. Everything we thought we knew or believed, what had led us to socially transition our older son, began to unravel. I continued to study the attachment-based developmental approach and learned more about autism and hypersensitivity. We began to see clearly that not only was our younger son not transgender, but that our older son probably wasn't either. We knew we had to do something, but we struggled to figure out what. All I wanted was to be able to go back in time and undo what we had done. But I was still trapped in ideology.

On the one hand, I felt more and more clearly that our son was not transgender, and that we were responsible for leading him down that path by mistake. On the other hand, I worried that if he were truly transgender, I would cause him serious harm canceling his social transition. That period was deeply distressing and characterized by incredible desperation.

Somehow, me and my partner we realized that the truth was that our son was not a transgender child but rather a highly sensitive, probably autistic child, came into the world without armor, and why the structure of security that the female identity ensured him was a sort of protection, of defense. It also provided him a way of clinging to me through equality, and this was a primary need for his safety in the world. We decided that since we had brought him down this path, we had to be the ones to divert him.

A year ago, just before our son's eighth birthday, we did just that. and although the initial change was difficult, extremely difficult, the most immediate and tangible emotion we felt from our son was relief. Real relief. In the days following my first conversation with him about the go back to his birth name and pronouns, to the fact that males cannot be females and that we were wrong to tell him that he could choose to be a girl, at first he was very angry with me, then he became sad. The next day, however, I felt that my son was resting. I felt he was letting go of a burden, that he was freeing himself from an adult burden that he, as a child, should never have had to carry. It felt amazing lifted up. He finally rested.

Since then, we have been on the mend. He is on the mend. It wasn't easy, but my son is now happy and prosperous. We watched as he reached a profound peace with his being male, and now it is blooming and growing. For now he is safe, and with each passing day he grows more and more into his identity. As for our youngest son, he is also happy, thriving and recovering. As soon as his brother became his brother again, he settled permanently into his male identity, happily and almost instantly – further validation of our intuition about primary attachment drives underlying his search for equality.

I'm scared for the future, the future of a sensitive, feminine, socially awkward child who spent his early childhood truly believing he was a girl. I'm afraid of what our culture, our institutions, his peers, and the Internet will tell him. I am afraid of state power, who seems intent on destroying relationships between parents and children. No matter what the future holds, I will never stop fighting to protect my children.

I'm no longer a true believer.
This experience was for me like leaving a cult, a cult that would have made me sacrifice my son to the gods of gender ideology, in the name of social justice and collective liberation. I left this cult and will never go back.

Once one brick was removed from the wall that held up this belief system, the rest of the bricks fell as well. Now I'm clearing away the rubble and trying to rebuild. Rebuilding my values, my vision of reality, my belief system, my relationship with myself, with my children, and my way of understanding the world. Whatever emerges, the protection of my children will remain the compass to guide every step on the road before me.

Final Note: I would like to express my sincere gratitude to both The 4th Wave Now blog and the Gender a Wider Lens podcast. I discovered both the night after my partner and I made the decision to change course with our son, and they helped us immensely. Thank you for your courage.

Translation into Italian by Il Mondo Nuovo 2.0 with the consent of PITT – Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans
Original article here

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For those who want to delve deeper, a nice short essay by Lionel Shriver - author of the collection Abominations, published by Borough Press- on character building.

HOW WE CREATED A GENERATION THAT HATES THEMSELVES:

NOT CHILDREN CAN BE TRUSTED TO CHOOSE THEIR IDENTITY

Once upon a time, a fully realized person was something you became. “Coming of age” involved education, observation, experimentation and, at times, humiliation. As the project succeeds, we develop a gradually richer understanding of what it means to be human and what constitutes a fruitful life. This continuous project is interrupted only by death. Maturity was once the result of accumulated experiences (some of them terrible) and much trial and error (both comical and tragic), which explains why wisdom, as opposed to intelligence, was mostly the preserve of the elderly. We admired the “self-made man,” because character was a creation, often constructed at great expense. Many “character-building” adventures, such as joining the army, were a trial by fire.

Nowadays, discussion of “character” is largely relegated to fiction workshops and movie reviews. On the contrary, we incessantly deal with "identity", a concept now emptied and reduced to belonging to the groups into which we were involuntarily born, thus eliminating any possibility of choice about who we are. Rejecting the outdated paradigm of “character building,” today we inform children that their selves emerge from the womb fully formed. Their only mission is to tell us what those selves already are. The self is a prefabricated house to which only the owner has the key.

This is not an essay on transgenderism per se. However, our foundational text is excerpted from Christopher Rufo's September 2022 commentary, “Concealing Radicalism,” which quotes teens from a TikTok video about gender, assembled by the Michigan Department of Education:

“I'm a triple threat: I'm depressed, anxious and gay.”

“Last night, around 2, I wrote in my bio that I identify as 'agender,' which is different from non-binary because non-binary is like neither gender, right? Agender is the gray area between genders.”

Hi, my name is Elise. I have always used the pronoun “she/him”. But recently, and for some time, I have been struggling with gender issues and many other identity issues. So, I finally gave in and ordered a [breast] binder for myself and it arrived today.”

“A rational observer might suspect,” observes Rufo, “that these young people are in a state of confusion or distress, but rather than explore this line of reasoning, the Education Department promotes a policy of immediate and unconditional affirmation.” She quotes Kim Phillips-Knope, leader of the LBGTQ+ Student Project: “Children have a sense of their gender identity between the ages of three and five, so when they talk they can start to tell us whether they're a boy or a girl – that's usually the only thing they identify with, because they are the only options we have given them." She adds: “In response to a teacher asking how to respond to a student in her class who claimed to have the pronouns 'she/he/him/him', Amorie [a staff trainer] responded adamantly : 'Follow what the children say. They are the best experts in their life. They are the best experts on their identity and their body."

. Furthermore, I argue that throwing children who have just arrived here onto their own investigative devices – refusing to be of any help beyond “affirming” whatever they whimsically claim to be; fold your arms and ask, “So, who are you? Only you know” – it's child abuse.

The idea that the psyche is set from birth is inherently deterministic and therefore dark. The vision it evokes is fatalistic and mechanical: all these traits are hardwired, and life is about winding up the clockwork toy and watching it lurch across the floor until it crashes into the upholstery. If the new self already exists in its entirety, there is nothing to be done. Unlike becoming, being is an inert affair.

We have not given these young people jobs. Contemporary education tries strenuously to reassure students that they are already wonderful. Teachers are increasingly terrified of imposing standards that all their pupils cannot meet, so everyone gets a gold star. The Virginia school district of the once-renowned Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology now aims for “equal outcomes for every student, without exceptions.” The pedagogical emphasis on students' “self-esteem” has been separated from “esteem for having done something” for decades. Why would these kids get out of bed? No wonder they are depressed.

Minors know nothing, and it's not their fault. We didn't know anything at their age either (and maybe we still don't), even if we thought we knew, and turning away from senseless and hasty opinions and realizing the extent of our ignorance is a prerequisite for adequate education. Yet today we encourage young people to look within for answers and to trust that their wonderful natures will reveal themselves extemporaneously. Without any experience and guidance from adults, all many kids will find when looking at their navel is pajama fluff. Where is this mysterious entity whose nature only I know?

There is nothing to be ashamed of in being an empty vessel when nothing has been done and nothing has happened yet. Telling children: “Of course you don't know who you are! Growing up is difficult, full of false starts and it's about doing something of your own. Don't worry, we'll give you lots of help” is much more comforting than the ready-to-feed ego model. We ask children to decide whether they are “girl or boy or somewhere in between” before they have fully understood what a girl or a boy is, much less “in between.” Placing the total burden of understanding how to negotiate being alive on people who haven't been given the owner's manual is a form of abandonment.

Adults have an obligation to advise, comfort, and inform, to provide the social context that children lack the resources to infer, and to help form expectations about what comes next. Instead, we entrust children to their primitive imaginations. The first time they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I clearly remember answering “a bear”. I wasn't trying to be a know-it-all. I simply wasn't aware of the ambitions I was expected to aspire to. No wonder children now “identify” as cats. Next time they will identify themselves as electric lawnmowers, and we will have asked for it.

This notion of the preconceived self is asocial, if not antisocial. It separates personality from lineage, inheritance, culture, history, and even family. You are already everything you were meant to be, no matter where, what or who you come from. But seeing your identity as if it were floating in a void is a recipe for loneliness, vagueness, insecurity and anxiety.

In contrast, a self built brick by brick over a lifetime has everything to do with other people. The endeavor involves the assembling of tastes and enthusiasms, the formation of friendships and institutional affiliations, participation in joint projects, and the development of perceptions not only of one's own inner nature, but also of the external world. Character rooted in bonds with others is probably more solid and long-lasting. Older adults are more at risk of desolation when they have outgrown their friends and relatives. Who I am is partly made up of decades-long friendships, my co-workers, fierce devotion to my younger brother, a complex loyalty to two different English-speaking countries, and a rich cultural legacy from my predecessors.

In my adolescence, we used the word “identity” very differently. We thought that having an “identity” meant not only being comfortable in your own skin, but also having at least a vague idea of what you wanted to do with your life. It meant having connections with like-minded people (I found kindred spirits in my middle school debate club). “Identity” was formed less by race or sexual orientation than by discovering which albums we loved, which novels we ritually reread because they spoke to us, which causes we supported, which topics interested us and which did not. It meant understanding what we were good at (I was good at mathematics, but in my second year of mathematics I hit a wall) and what we couldn't stand (me, team sports). Identity merged with purpose: I knew I was drawn to writing, visual arts, and political activism (the latter made me quite tiring).

We were very invested in our determination to be individuals like Generation Z, but that particularity was commonly assembled from the cultural mix of other people and what they had thought and accomplished: Kurt Vonnegut or William Faulkner, Catch-22 or The Tides of War, Simon and Garfunkel or Iron Butterfly, hostile or enthusiastic positions on Vietnam. Of course, this is a version of identity that is subject to change. That's the point. It's normal for people to change. I don't listen to Emerson, Lake and Palmer anymore.

The self is not found but created, because meaning is created. Rather than being unearthed like buried treasure, meaning is laboriously created, often by doing difficult things. I shudder a little when I remember the person I was in my twenties, because it represented an initial phase of an ongoing project that I changed a lot in the years that followed. My twenties were a first draft of a manuscript whose sentences were revised, pruned and qualified. Ideally, if I keep forcing myself to do difficult things – accepting the premise of a novel that I initially have no idea how to execute, moving to another country, cultivating new friendships – subsequent drafts of my eternally incomplete manuscript will be more engaging. I would probably be a more complete person if I had done the hardest thing, which was to have children, but as a not bad second choice, I committed to a marriage of twenty years or more, and therefore to a man who loves me. Only death will separate us.

Of course, in constantly reforming and refining who we are, we can lose aspects of ourselves from previous drafts that we should have retained. I no longer dance alone for hours in the living room, and I miss that abandonment. I've been making ceramic figure sculptures for years, and I'm not sure that substituting journalism for fiction writing has been an improvement. Toward the end of our lives, many of us will abandon virtually all the paragraphs we have added and move from novel to pamphlet.

However, given the choice, I would rather spend time with myself in the present than with me at 35. I know more (though what I learn now struggles to keep up with what I forget), my sense of humor is sharper, and, to my surprise, I am more humble. I have more perspective; although this perspective is often dark, that same darkness – a cheerful darkness – can be funny. I'm not as neurotic about my weight and I'm more generous, both towards contemporaries and younger aspirants. I worry less about my professional status and think a lot more about death (which is torture, but smart). Some of this profitable evolution has been organic and effortless, but much of it has come from a challenging career that took a big risk in his youth and paid off.

It is clear that some aspects of character, of oneself, are determined from the beginning. I would never become a nuclear physicist, no matter how hard I tried. But the conventional opposition “nature versus culture” still eliminates free will: one acts without thinking, or one is acted upon. At what point on this nature-to-nature continuum does the object of all this theorizing have any say in the outcome? I am reluctant to venture into the thorny “no-go zone” of sexual orientation. However, while I'm open to the idea that some people are born gay, choices can influence what turns us on. Large consumers of online pornography tell us several times that their tastes are starting to change and that to get excited you need increasingly extreme videos, because human beings in real life no longer have an effect. Watching porn is a choice. Sexual tendencies also show a certain plasticity.

Following the modern script, 14-year-olds have learned to never say: “I decided to be trans”, because all my friends are trans and I feel excluded, but always: “I discovered I am trans”. This passive and helpless version of self has implications. We are telling young people that what they see is what they will have, that they already are what they will be. How discouraging. How boring. What is there to expect? Many victims of this formulation of existence, which apparently requires little beyond being, must search within themselves and find nothing. Under the direction of the sort of educational authority Chris Rufo mentioned above, they embarked on a psychic archaeological dig, only to end up with a grave. So they feel cheated. Or inadequate. Convinced that only they, among their peers, have exhumed nothing more than a disposable lighter.

Denying reassurance: “Don't worry about not knowing who you are; it's just that you haven't grown up yet, and neither have we, because growth doesn't end at 18 or 21, but it's something you do throughout your life", we cultivate self-hatred, disillusionment, bewilderment, frustration and anger. Young women often turn their desperation inward – hence the high rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and cutting. Young men are more inclined to project the aridity of their inner life onto the rest of the world and to take out their disappointment on everyone else.

In a hard-hitting essay last fall, “Mass Shootings and the World Liberalism Made,” Katherine Dee searches for a deeper explanation for mass murders committed by disaffected youth, whose anger blind and whose misanthropy are expressed today in the United States at a rate of twice a day. The proliferation of weapons, Dee argues, is not the main cause. Rather, “we have a nihilism problem.” The videos left behind by Sandy Hook child killer Adam Lanza suggest the belief that “even if we could free our 'feral selves' from the shackles of modern norms, there would be nothing underneath. Only black. A big hole. For many exterminators, the only reasonable response to this hole is death, the complete extermination of life. Not just theirs."

According to Dee, all these atrocities come from “a world where everything revolved around the individual.” The result is narcissism, which “expresses itself through our perpetual identity crises, where the pursuit of an imaginary 'true self' keeps us busy and distracted. We see it in people who use their phones and computers as if they were prosthetics, who are always there but never present, and who gaze endlessly at their reflection in the pond.”

An authentic sense of self commonly involves not thinking about who you are because you are too busy doing other things. It is inextricably linked to, if not synonymous with, a sense of belonging. Nihilism, an oxymoronic belief in the impossibility of believing in anything, can prove literally lethal. Young people who do not feel a personal sense of purpose are inclined to perceive that others do not have a purpose either. They don't just hate themselves, they hate everyone. By telling people who have been on the planet for about ten minutes that they already know who they are and that they are already wonderful, we incite this malignant, sometimes murderous nihilism. Because they don't feel wonderful. They are not undertaking any project but, according to adults, they embody a completed project, which means that the status quo is the best there is – and the status quo is, subjectively, not very good.

Transgenderism may have become so attractive to contemporary minors not only because it promises a new “identity,” but because it promises a process. The transformation from caterpillar to butterfly involves a complex sequence of social interventions and medical procedures that must be terribly involved. The transition is a project. Everyone needs a project. Embracing the label of trans gives oneself a direction, a task to accomplish. Ironically, contagion expresses an inconsistent desire for the discarded paradigm with which character is built.

We should stop telling children that they are the “experts of their own lives” and repudiate a static model of self-esteem as a fait accompli at birth. Of course, some innate essence is specific to every person, but it is a spark, not a fire. We could return to the language of character building and creating a life for oneself, urging teachers to exercise the leadership they have been encouraged to give up.

As we grow older, we are not just that unique essence in the cradle, but the consequence of what we have read, watched, and seen; who we loved and what losses we suffered; what mistakes we have made and which ones we have corrected; where we have lived and traveled and what skills we have acquired; not only of what we have done with ourselves, but also of what we have done outside of ourselves; above all, of what we have done. This is an exciting and active version of “identity”, whose work is never done, full of choices, animated by agency, although, admittedly, full of responsibility and therefore a little scary. But at least it gives young people something to do that isn't mass murder or gruesome selective surgery.

original text here


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