In my experience working with parents, the sudden announcement of a young teen that he or she is trans can bring confusion and isolation. Most parents that I have seen in this situation feel a strong urge to support their child, even while questioning whether such an announcement represents their child’s authentic expression, a transient exploration along that child’s developmental path, or the child’s effort to both fit in and stand out. Since unquestioningly affirming a teen’s sudden declaration of being trans can nudge him or her in the direction of serious, permanent medical intervention, caution should be the word of the day. Unfortunately, most parents are not supported in their desire to approach such a momentous shift slowly and carefully. Parents are chastised for being “transphobic,” and told to get on board or risk losing their child to suicide.
Given what is at stake, I feel that we as professionals need to educate ourselves about the very real effects of social contagion. In the ’60’s, young people embraced sexual and drug experimentation with abandon. Society would never be the same, and much was gained as a result of that social contagion. However, there is no question that lives were ruined or ended in the process. In the ’80’s, eating disorders were everywhere. College dorms were filled with young women supporting each other in counting calories or bingeing and purging. I do not know of any positive effects that the social contagion of eating disorders brought with it. I do know that, again, many lives were lost or ruined.
The current cultural shifts around gender may have the possible positive outcome of reducing prejudice for transgendered or gender non-conforming people. I imagine it could also have the positive effect of loosening cultural expectations around gender, making our society a friendlier place for “masculine” females or “feminine” males. These would be good changes. However, the most immediate effect of this social contagion — and that is certainly what it is in many cases — is that young people are seeking and in many cases receiving medical treatments that permanently alter their bodies and render them sterile.
We need to trust that parents that come to see us know their children and have their best interests at heart. When a parent has a child who is about to be swallowed by the trans cult, we need to help that parent trust him or herself. There is some anecdotal evidence that a parent standing firm in the face of a child’s declaration that she is trans can help that child remain intervention-free longer than if a parent equivocates or affirms. Given the seriousness and permanence of most medical transition treatments, remaining intervention-free for as long as possible ought to be the goal. Transition will always remain an option once the young person has become an adult. One can never regain one’s pre-surgical body or fertility once these have been sacrificed.