Why can’t we accept our children the way they are?

I’m her mother and I am accepting my daughter the way she is. I’ve nourished, supported and guided her through all her phases, alongside her step-dad, who drove her to ballet and girls’ choir and had tea parties with her; her younger brother who sang opera arias with her; her uncle who worked for hours with her on her fairy party; her aunt who put on the fashion show birthday she loved; her boy cousin whom she taught to sew, the neighbors whose children she nannied. We have all loved her exactly the way she is.

She’s a wonderful person, but vulnerable because of her history of trauma with her dad and the learning disability that affects her executive function, and she’s having difficulty launching into adulthood. Her solution was to proclaim herself to be transgender, a condition that now apparently occurs suddenly and comes with a list of certain urgent and inviolate demands.

I believe there are real transgender people, who know they are different their entire lives, who deserve respect and proper treatment, and that they are a tiny percent of a percent of the population. Not 20 percent of a girls’ club, who were happy to braid each other’s hair and knit infinity scarves one day and become transgender the next.

My own daughter declared herself transgender three years ago, just before her aunt took her shopping for an outfit for her first pop concert (she chose a sporty dress). She was nineteen, still wore lipstick and high heels sometimes, and never expressed any interest in becoming a man. She wanted to be a boy. Call me crazy, but that sounds a little short-sighted. Sounds to me like someone who is having trouble growing up and is needing some guidance.

However, the current model dictates that we affirm her identity, without regard to history or even current presentation, and comply with every demand she makes, including using a trendy new vocabulary as well as access to irreversible changes to the body with hormones and surgery. We’ve met with dozens of doctors, nurses, therapists, parent coaches, and social workers, who don’t see any problem with this trend, who see “support” as immediate and unquestioning obedience. Without this “support”, she is entitled to cut off contact with everyone who has ever known and loved her.

We haven’t had any communication with her for two years. I could write about the emotional impact this has on our family, especially on her younger brother, who is heartbroken and must keep this whole story a secret or face death threats. But, let’s just think logically about this for a moment.

What is the dynamic here? Take away the transgender thing for a moment and what do we have? A struggle for power and control. A young person who expects adults to cede to her demands. Everyone who questions her claims is dismissed from her presence, to be replaced by someone who believes and submits.

Children always have and always will engage in power struggles with their parents, but now adults are expected to not only listen to young people’s ideas, but allow them to dictate our decisions on serious matters! What a mistake, since the frontal lobe of the brain, where long-term consequences are evaluated, is not fully functioning until our mid-twenties. Certainly, there are immature adults walking around, but young people cannot have adult perspective or make mature decisions on their own. We have invested millions of dollars and years of scientific research to find this out! Yet, here we are, offering immediate and permanent changes to the body to every young person that says they are transgender, a claim based solely on the feeling that their unhappiness is due to being the wrong gender.

Well, no one would ever feel that they were transgender if they weren’t, right? When we are young, do we ever run into trouble due to emotion-based decision making? Do our strong and seemingly permanent feelings ever change? Are our decisions ever influenced by social trends or an immature explanatory style? Do we ever do foolish things that we regret? Every day, that’s why the drinking age is 21. Starting at age 21, we are trusted to chemically alter our brains for a few hours. Not weeks, not months, not one year! And, we only affirm that right under certain circumstances: if we agree not to drink and drive, not to become publicly boisterous or belligerent, not to play music too loudly.

But being transgender is different. Because you just know, because of your feeling. No rules, no restrictions, no outside input is needed. That doesn’t sound right to me. Should a mental health provider question a client’s self-evaluation? Should a doctor evaluate a patient’s claims before writing a prescription or performing major surgery? Yes, always! That’s what they’re there for! Should a parent of a child who has never played a note of music, but really feels that they are a concert pianist, encourage them to apply to Juilliard? Well, maybe they should. They certainly can trust the school to send a rejection letter to an applicant who doesn’t meet the criteria. Then the parent can help their child figure out why they wanted to apply, and what becoming a professional musician entails. They should not begin by finding a doctor to perform surgery to make the child’s fingers longer for playing the piano, or by introducing their child as a concert pianist to everyone they meet, or by helping them change their name to a good stage name.

There have been times throughout history when intelligent people have disregarded logic and common sense in favor of some new, revolutionary idea that has no precedent and no science to substantiate its claims: eugenics, communication with the dead, vegan marshmallows, raw water, the castrati of the early days of opera. If it’s basically harmless, why not go for it? But if the results are serious and permanent, if the people involved are helpless to think critically and evaluate long-term consequences, anyone who can do so had better step up.

A few years after my daughter’s declaration, I finally moved her bin of dolls and their clothes to the basement, even though they will smell a little musty when she finally comes back. At first, I had tried to go along with the transgender thing, despite the bin of Groovy Girls, in the hopes of retaining some influence over her. She could tell that I was getting impatient and that she was being ridiculous when she used Transgender Status to excuse her usual shopping mall meltdown. But with medical, social services, and mental health professionals affirming her claims, she was able to squash her uneasy feelings and cut her family off entirely. I wish more than anything to see her again, but she won’t speak to me, because she knows that I could never remain silent and allow her to destroy her body. That would be abandoning her completely.

There never has been a reason for adults to accept without question a young person’s judgement on serious issues. There still is no reason. Mature adults are not perfect, but it’s always a mistake to forget that all young people are, by definition, immature. It’s never okay to forget what we owe them, which is not our submission, but our leadership.