* The events in this post are true. Names and identifying details have been changed.
Marla’s daughter, Annabelle (Belle), has suffered from depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, self-harm, substance abuse and defiant behaviour since the age of 11. Therapy and medication has had only limited success. A year and a half ago, shortly after her 16th birthday, she left home and moved to a city five hours away, to live with her aunt.
At that time, Belle came out as transgender, took on a boy’s name, cut her hair and started wearing boy’s clothing. Her aunt, who was supportive of her transition, bought her chest binders and enrolled her in the local high school as a boy. Against the urging of Belle’s therapist, her aunt was in no hurry to continue Belle’s therapy. She believed that there was nothing wrong with Belle’s mental health and that all Belle needed was a supportive environment, “unconditional love” and “to be accepted for who she was”.
Belle’s aunt cut off almost all contact with Belle’s parents, because they were not supportive of her transition. She feared they would try to “fix” Belle. She believed their views were abusive and the cause of Belle’s problems. She believed she needed to protect Belle from her parents.
Last week Belle was picked up by police under a special warrant and forcefully taken to a locked psychiatric unit. Over the last few months, she had been hospitalized twice for manic episodes, and had developed an obsession with guns, knives and violence. On her Tumblr account, she posted pictures of death, gore and suicide—some of the vilest images on the Internet—posting up to 100 pictures per day. In her diary, her aunt found something so terrifying she called the police.
Marla prepared the following letter to read to the Risk-Assessment Committee at Belle’s high school, as she didn’t think she would have the emotional wherewithal to speak. The Committee was convened to decide whether Belle posed a risk to the school if she were allowed back.
“If they say they’re transgender, then they are.”
This is the prevailing wisdom recommended by current gender specialists for dealing with a child who says they are transgender. This ideology has also been adopted by this school board, and most school boards across the country.
It reflects a kindergarten level of understanding of human nature: “I feel like a boy, so it must be true!”
To accept this view, is to toss out 150 years of accumulated knowledge in the field of psychology and human development in favour of a child’s self-declaration.
It’s not that simple.
Although there is a possibility that someone truly is transgender, these cases are exceedingly rare, especially in girls. Conversely, there are many more common reasons why a child may need to convince themselves they are the opposite sex.
Some well-documented reasons are: sexual abuse, trauma, body dysmorphic disorder, bullying, difficulty accepting homosexual feelings, parental influence, cultural homophobia, autism, social isolation, difficulty fitting in, social pressure, depression, anxiety and self-harm. These are just a few. There are many more.
There is also emerging evidence of a social contagion, with entire peer groups “coming out” together. Then there is the question of influence by websites such as Tumblr and Reddit, and videos on YouTube. The Internet is flooded with websites that are actively promoting transitioning as fun, cool, and the “Ultimate Solution to All of Your Problems.”
These issues often occur together and intermingle. For example, a child who is depressed may have trouble fitting in and is more likely to be bullied. And so, they withdraw and focus on the Internet, where they meet other socially-isolated kids, and spend time on sites like Tumblr, Reddit and YouTube, increasingly immersing themselves in the transgender culture and identifying with it, until they convince themselves that they, too, are transgender. And on it goes.
Yet, on the surface, these children just present as transgender. And under the current ideology, “if they say they’re transgender, then they are.”
All the while, their true issues go unaddressed, left to fester and stew until they finally blow up in an all-out crisis, and the child must be forcefully apprehended by police, handcuffed and dumped in a locked psychiatric unit, injected with Lorazepam and strapped to her bed in 5-point restraints and left there, scared and alone, while her parents are 5 hours away, stuck in a snow storm and unable to get there for her.
Please, I am begging you, please drop the ideology and focus on the illness.
Please let me take care of my child!
In the end, Marla decided against presenting her letter to the Committee, knowing that the school board supports the current transgender ideology. If she read her letter, Marla knew she would be viewed as “abusive” and blamed for causing Belle’s problems. Instead, Marla sat quietly and answered their questions, being careful to refer to her daughter using her new boy’s name and male pronouns.
After the meeting, the principal commended her for making the effort to accept her daughter “for who she was” and to love her “unconditionally”.
Marla’s sister will not allow Belle back in her house out of fear for her own safety.
Belle is now homeless, living in a city five hours away.
Marla sleeps with a little bag packed, ready to leave at a moment’s notice. She is waiting for the call. From whom, she does not know. The hospital? The police? The school? She doesn’t know, but she knows it will come. And so, she waits…