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A State of Parental Dysphoria

They say it takes a village to raise a child. What happens when that ‘village’ tries to convince your autistic daughter she was ‘born in the wrong body’?

· 9 min read
A State of Parental Dysphoria
Image by Jasper.

I suffer from parental dysphoria.

Parental dysphoria is a new condition, growing in prevalence as the transgender trend that is indoctrinating our children picks up steam. Specifically, it’s the discomfort with your sense of self and view of reality that results from your child’s sudden announcement that he or she is transgender. Parental dysphoria commonly results from the immense societal pressure to unquestioningly support your child’s “gender journey,” up to and including social transition to the opposite gender (or non-binary identity), wrong-sex hormones, and surgeries.

Parental dysphoria involves the extended state of having to stay silent about something that you know will lead to tragedy, because you don’t want to lose your child, your friends, your extended family, and your marriage—everything you’ve worked to build. You do this to preserve some small chance of having an impact, to keep your child close enough to eventually help them find their way out of this delusion. It’s living with fear—fear of loss, fear of estrangement, fear of losing your own mind, fear of losing your integrity by denying your own instincts. Those who suffer from this condition, myself included, know this to be the most awful feeling you’ve ever experienced in your life.

If you suffer from parental dysphoria, you wish to say, “You were not ‘born in the wrong body’—that’s impossible.” But you also know your child wants so badly to believe this that you aren’t sure whether to lie or tell the truth about how you see things. So, instead, you say very little and pray every day that your child will find peace in their own body before it is too late, before your child denies and destroys their own sexual function and fertility, and poisons their body with synthetic hormones.

It’s the tears you choke back as you do your best to support your child despite their best efforts to push you away. It’s holding your breath, not even knowing how you can carry on. It’s a feeling of hopelessness you have never felt before.

It’s the horror of being told by your other child, the one who serves as the pronoun police in your home, that you are the one who isn’t loving and supportive. It’s the shame of realizing that you’ve lost your ability to be the adult in the room. It’s feeling that the liberal, progressive values you instilled in your children are being used against you in a way you could never have seen coming. It’s disheartening, destabilizing, and destructive.

Parental dysphoria is what follows when you’re advised by a professional to call your child by a new name, one that represents to you a symbol of their deep pain, a name that is more likely to have its origins in Pokémon than in the family heritage you tried to pass on to them.

It’s the dissonance of having to validate a decision to transition at school made by a child going through a confusing and difficult time in their life. It’s the out-of-body experience of hearing your child say, “I am not the person you raised—I am someone else entirely.” It’s the loneliness of being the only person who thinks all of this is damaging to your child, rather than it being “brave” and “liberating.”

It’s insane, actually, this parental dysphoria. It’s insane to live with and to live through. It makes you gradually lose your own tether to reality, bit by bit, day by day.

We should all want to know why so many kids are declaring a trans identity. We should not simply accept this as normal, and we should certainly not teach it, nor enshrine it into law, until someone can demonstrate through unassailable longitudinal studies that any of it is valid in the first place. Many of these young people are being led astray by the very people who are supposed to protect them. Doctors and psychologists are no longer experts to be trusted.

Teachers and schools have not only betrayed their most vulnerable students by encouraging them down a path of self-sacrifice but have also destroyed the sacred bond they hold with parents to ensure the healthy growth and development of their children.

To experience parental dysphoria is to be told you are wrong when you know your instincts come from the deepest place a mother can ever draw from—the instinct to protect her own child.

Our children, our friends, and our society are being groomed to believe a harmful ideology, and they aren’t even aware that this is happening. Even though it’s hard, I choose to treat my parental dysphoria rather than to live with, “affirm,” or “validate“ it. That means I must keep speaking up. I must never stop believing that my child’s dysphoria can be healed, as can my own; that this cultural phenomenon will pass, as all trends pass; and that our children will come back to us, hopefully all still in one piece.

The situation is especially bad for parents of children on the autism spectrum, parents like me who were trying to protect their already vulnerable child.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) varies greatly from one child to the next, but common characteristics include black-and-white thinking, sensory challenges, and difficulties with interpreting social cues, processing language, planning, physical coordination, and proprioception. For girls on the spectrum, the process of menstruation can be extremely difficult to adjust to and manage, especially if extreme hormonal shifts, imbalances, or endometriosis accompany their monthly cycles. It is not uncommon for individuals on the spectrum to have digestion issues and food sensitivities that result in chronic stomach discomfort. Communication challenges associated with autism and poor mind-body connections can make it difficult for young people with ASD to articulate their physical symptoms. In a nutshell, there are many reasons why a teen with autism may feel uncomfortable with his or her body, even before introducing confusing concepts such as gender identity.

Children on the spectrum are especially vulnerable to a theoretical concept that suggests a person can be born in the wrong body and that identifying and transitioning to the opposite sex could relieve the individual from all the mental pain and physical discomforts they have been experiencing. Gender ideology conveniently avoids the obvious, that an individual’s biological sex cannot be changed and that medical interventions are purely cosmetic and come with health risks, many of which are still unknown due to lack of research.

As a child growing up in Canada, I benefited from the “village.” Before I started kindergarten, my retired neighbor read to me in English because my immigrant parents could not. The first time I ever put on a pair of ice skates or visited a museum was on a school field trip, and it was the librarian at my local public library who helped me fill out an application for a library card. These experiences complemented the efforts of my parents to positively impact my overall development.

Things are so different now. My child and I experienced a radically different village, a threatening one that actively sought to work against my efforts to protect and nurture my autistic daughter in her teen years.

This village interpreted her nonconformity to gender stereotypes, her quirkiness, and her same-sex attraction as things that needed to be fixed medically. In order to be part of the community, she needed to fit a specific box, even if that meant taking lifelong medications and undergoing multiple surgeries. Because she wasn’t mainstream, it wasn’t okay for her to stay in her natural state. Meanwhile, I accepted and loved her differences and wanted to give her time to see if she could love and accept those differences in herself.

The “village” turned on me, and tried to prevent me from fulfilling my responsibility to protect my daughter. The first stop was my daughter’s public school, where gender ideology was introduced into the anti-bullying/sex education curriculum, not as a theoretical concept but as fact. The school curriculum informed my vulnerable daughter that individuals who feel uncomfortable with their bodies, and whose preferences and behavioral traits fit the stereotypes of the opposite sex, are transgender.

The next stop was the medical community. After she learned of the concept of trans, and decided that it applied to her, we sought professional help. Every single one of the clinicians involved with my daughter instantly “affirmed” her self-diagnosis of being trans and her belief that she required testosterone and a double mastectomy to survive.

This was back in 2016–2017. The medical community not only dismissed my concerns about the risks involved and the lack of assessment inherent to the affirmation model, but also told me my questions were not supportive and were detrimental to my daughter’s mental health. The “village” was telling me I was wrong and negligent for trying to weigh the benefits against the risks, and for considering other less invasive methods of treatment.

I quickly learned that I could not safely ask questions about these procedures. Nor could I demand that these clinicians evaluate the root causes of my daughter’s distress and treat any coexisting conditions first, without the risk of having social-services officials become involved. Like the school system, the healthcare and social-services system further ingrained into my child the concept of “being born in the wrong body” and the need for medicalization.

At that time, the gender clinic inside the children’s hospital where my daughter was seen still acknowledged biological sex in their consent form for testosterone, making it clear that any medical interventions could only go so far, not to the point of literally changing a person’s sex. It included the following language: “Even though I think of myself partially or completely as male, I am genetically, biologically and physically female.” Today, the language in those consent forms no longer includes the words “male” and “female.” They now refer to “masculine” and “feminine” traits, resulting in even less clarity and less reasonable possibility of informed consent.

Even at the time of my daughter’s visits, important information was withheld from patients and their families before medical interventions were introduced. For example, none of the clinicians told me that, prior to the “affirmation” model, under the watchful-waiting approach to gender confusion, approximately 80 percent of patients with childhood gender dysphoria desisted and eventually accepted their biological sex; and that many, if not most, grew up to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This was kept from me even after I told them my daughter was unsure of her sexual orientation.

What does it say about a “village” that doesn’t allow such children to realize their sexual orientation naturally, knowing that many would otherwise grow up to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual?

I was also not informed of the documented overlap of gender dysphoria with autism and other coexisting conditions, despite the concerns I expressed about my daughter’s black-and-white thinking, immature social skills, and body dysmorphic comments. What does it say about a “village” that immediately accepts a teenage girl’s declaration that she is a boy without first considering whether she had experienced sexual trauma, suffered from an eating disorder or body dysmorphia, experienced painful periods, or was neurodiverse—or without first questioning or discussing any other potential causes of her distress?

It means the “villagers” have chosen to look away from the truth: that homophobia exists, that children and adult females are the predominant victims of sexual assault, that social media exacerbates body-image issues, that the medical community has not poured sufficient time and energy into researching gynecological issues such as endometriosis, and that some people’s brains just work differently.

Parents are undermined in other ways as well. There are cases of schools proceeding with the social transitioning of children despite the objections of parents who think a watchful-waiting approach is what their child needs. Parents who have not affirmed their child’s gender identity have had their child removed from their care, and two court cases in British Columbia ruled against parents objecting to the gender-affirming medicalization of their child due to prior mental-health concerns that had not been addressed under the affirmation model of care. The mainstream media further undermines parents by presenting affirmation as the only viable means by which a parent can show love and support, while at the same time refusing to report on the growing number of detransitioners.

It is hard to protect your child when the other “villagers” are holding your arms behind your back.

My daughter’s gender dysphoria gradually resolved without medical interventions over a two-year period, as she began to accept her bisexuality and learned how to better cope with the sensory and social challenges of autism. I shouldn’t have had to fight “the village” to allow my child time to do that.

This article was adapted from the newly published book, Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans: Tales from the Home Front in the Fight to Save Our Kids, edited by Josie A. and Dina S., with a Foreword by Stella O’Malley. Published by Pitchstone. Copyright © 2023 by Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans.

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