The Role Of Counsellors And Therapists

One of the biggest concerns of parents who contact this site is the difficulty in finding counsellors or therapists who will not just jump to affirm their child’s “preferred gender” but take the time to support a young person in exploring the issues which led to a cross-sex identification in the first place. We went along to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) conference in November to attend a transgender workshop and find out what advice therapists are being given in this area. In a nutshell the advice consisted of “affirmation” and “support for LGBT youth” with no recognition of the difference between “gender identity” and sexual orientation, nor of the pressures on young lesbians in particular to identify as “straight guys.” Our letter expressing concerns was subsequently published in the BACP monthly newsletter Therapy Today:

 

counsellors and therapists

It is crucial that professional counsellors and therapists are able to offer their normal standard of care to vulnerable young people rather than merely performing a role to validate an unproven ideology and further a political campaign through their clients, but it is increasingly difficult for therapists to do their job properly without risking the charge of “transphobia.” We hear from therapists who are privately extremely concerned but cannot speak out publicly for the same reason.

The website youthtranscriticalprofessionals.org has been writing some fantastic and thought-provoking articles examining the role of professionals in this area for some time now. A more recent site, Inspired Teen Therapyis also now publishing pieces which challenge the replacement of normal therapeutic protocols with trans orthodoxy within the counselling profession.

We re-post here, with permission, an article from September last year written by Sasha Ayad who set up the site and offers online therapy for teens as well as counselling for adult detransitioners and those regretting their transition. The link to the original piece is here.

What Gender Therapists Are Getting Wrong

It seems these days, that whenever we hear about LGBT issues, we are hearing more and more about transgender kids and gender identity. I know many parents are confused by this concept and what it might mean for their teen. If your child has been questioning their gender, or told you they believe they are trans, you’ve probably been reading about gender therapy. Most gender therapists will tell you that sometimes a child’s “gender identity” doesn’t match their biological sex. Gender identity, in this model, is defined loosely as “feelings” the child has, and often, gender identity is confirmed by exploring the child’s toy preferences, clothing choices, and sexuality. Many therapists claim that when a child’s behavior doesn’t fit neatly into gender stereotypes, if they claim they would rather live as the opposite sex, or experience negative feelings about their genitals, the child is transgender. Thirty years ago, clothing and toy preferences, haircuts, and sexuality would have likely been explored as indicators that your child may be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, but in today’s gender therapy model, these are strong indicators that your child has been born in the “wrong body”. Additionally, gender therapists may also list statistics about the psychological dangers a child will face if we don’t immediately affirm their identity and help them with medical transition.

Like many worried adults, I too, used to think that we should accept, unequivocally, what a child believes about their own body. After all, if they are suffering, we want to alleviate that, right? However, as I continued to research the facts, talk to more trans adults and GLB people, and think critically about my role as a therapist, I started to see things differently, especially when it comes to children.

I’ve identified several main reasons for taking a very different approach to gender identity in teens:

1. Roughly 60–90% of kids who identify as trans no longer want to transition once they are adults. Instead, they generally turn out to be regular gay or lesbian folks! I fully support age-appropriate exploration of sexuality for lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens.

2. There is zero sound evidence that brain sex exists or that real differences exist between men’s brains and women’s brains. Therefore, it seems impossible for a person to be born with the “wrong body”. Additionally, no one is actually born with a gender, we are born with a sex. And according to the American College of Pediatrics, it’s biologically impossible to change one’s sex, even with surgery or hormone treatments. Therefore, teaching kids that they can change their sex and solve their problems is misleading and false.

3. There seems to be a strong link between social media use and a phenomenon called “rapid onset gender dysphoria”. This means that kids often binge on websites that promote transgender ideology and subsequently become gender dysphoric in a very short period of time, with no previous symptoms. Many of the ideas presented on trans-affirming websites may set kids up with unhealthy thinking-patterns and cognitive traps in a very short period of time. Affirming these kids without any further exploration is hasty, unethical, and dangerous.

4. There is a growing population of detransitioners. These are people who at one point identified as trans, made some modifications to their body or lifestyle, then decided to revert back to living as their biological sex. The stories I’ve heard from this brave group tell me, as a therapist, that mental health practitioners owe young people thorough and careful exploration of gender. Many of the medical changes that detransitioners have gone through are dangerous, painful, irreversible, and have sterilized them permanently. Many are deeply regretful and have been harmed by their transition.

5. Some gender therapists emphasize the statistics that trans-identifying youth are at higher risk of self-harm, drug use, and suicidality, and advocate for parents to accept and affirm their child’s trans identity without any further exploration. Did you know that kids who have experienced sexual abuse, kids on the autism spectrum, and gay and lesbian kids are also at risk of those same issues? Did you know that those groups of kids often display gender non-conforming behavior and preferences? As a therapist, I believe it’s my ethical duty to explore ALL the factors before affirming identities or advocating medical transition.

6. I believe all kids deserve a compassionate and judgement-free opportunity to deeply and thoroughly explore their struggles before putting them puberty blockers and hormones. Children should be assisted in working through their issues and become inspired about whomever they are, without having to find a perfect label or permanently changing their body. Just as there are infinite ways to demonstrate creativity, intelligence, fashion sense, and personality, we should allow children infinite ways to accept who they are, break free from gender stereotypes, and to thrive in their own bodies.

Citations:
1. http://www.sexologytoday.org/2016/01/do-trans-kids-stay-trans-when-they-grow_99.html
2. https://sexnotgender.com/brain-sex-does-not-exist/ & https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children
3. https://4thwavenow.com/2016/07/02/rapid-onset-gender-dysphoria-new-study-recruiting-parents/
4. http://guideonragingstars.tumblr.com/post/149877706175/female-detransition-and-reidentification-survey.
5. https://www.nspcc.org.uk/globalassets/documents/research-reports/relationship-between-child-maltreatment-sexual-abuse-suicide-attempts-report.pdf & http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/facts-about-suicide & https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990505/

17 Comments

  • Carole Reply

    I worry that my daughter has become endocturnated into this. She is neutral general claims she is no longer my daughter but a they. I do not know what to do because now she is over 18.

  • ScaredMum Reply

    Carole – look at the website 4thWaveNow – there are loads of us with the same concerns.

  • ScaredMum Reply

    Transgender Trend – well done for getting that letter published. A counsellor I spoke to is shocked at the uncritical stance taken by BACP to date so it is good to know they are open to hearing another side to the argument, even if only in the letters page for now.

    • SkepticalMom Reply

      Yes, I think the fact that they published TransgenderTrend’s letter in their newsletter is huge. I hope this is an indication that professionals are starting to wake up to the harms which are being done in the name of “acceptance and affirmation.” Each child/patient has their own story and needs to be examined and treated thoroughly and individually. The current one-size-fits-all, automatic “affirmation followed by transition” treatment plan is harming those patients who may actually be gay, lesbian, sexually abused, autistic, wishing to escape sex stereotypes, etc.

  • Jessica Reply

    Wow! Thank goodness for common sense – my 20 year old dyspraxic son has been caught up in this phenomena since going to university. He shown no signs of any form of gender issue but suddenly – within the last few months – he has asked me to call him by another name and use different pronouns – I am totally lost and have no clue how best to deal with this revelation. Having watched the BBC2 programme Transgender Kids and done a lot of online research I am even more fearful of the transactivist agenda. Have looked at 4th Wave blod – not yet found the website so many things seemed so familar i.e. cosplay/Tumblr forums etc etc. Any advice welcomed….

  • Terrified Dad Reply

    So relieved to find this website. My seventeen year old son declared three days ago that he’s trans and I haven’t slept properly since. Questioning him about it the sum total of his reasoning seems to be that he’s alienated by lad culture, dislikes it when people expect him to live up to stereotypical laddish behavior and prefers female company, therefore he must be female and must transition so others will identify as female and deal with him appropriately. Given that I had similar issues at his age part of me figures it will all blow over and he’ll realize the obvious biological facts. I had a few months around the age of fifteen fantasizing about what would now be called “transition” but back then was called “sex change” followed by the realization I needed to abandon this destructive fantasy followed by four or five years intense sadness that I’d never experience what it is to be female followed by a slow fade and gradual acceptance of my masculinity. Both of us were born male and are sexually attracted to women, but times are so different now and he’s bought into the lie that modern medicine can turn him into a woman. I’m terrified he’s going to go and see a medical professional who’ll fritz his brain with fake hormones and stunt his emotional development with unnecessary surgery. So pleased to see people out there challenging that narrative.

    • EndTheHarms Reply

      Terrified Dad,

      You will find plenty of understanding and support here, as well as over at 4thwavenow.com. There has been a 1000% increase since 2009-10 in the trend of young people questioning their biological sex to the point of clinical referral for gender dysphoria. Another father’s blog can be found at gendercriticaldad.blogspot.co.uk.

      You instinct of wariness toward medics in this area is, sadly, justified. Common practice is too often to unquestioningly ‘affirm’ toward dissociation, with swift prescription of cross-sex hormones.

      If you haven’t seen it (sounds like your news is too recent), many would recommend watching BBC2s documentary of 12 January, 2017, ‘Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?’. It examines and seriously calls into question the doctrine of ‘affirmation’. It is available on iPlayer for another few weeks, but also – and for anyone outside the UK – here: https://archive.org/details/BBC-trans-kids

      • ScaredMum Reply

        Yes you are definitely not alone. It is good that you can talk to him – I think fundamental that your son has a secure foundation, and that he knows you love him unconditionally. 17 is a tricky age – soon to be an adult, but still so long until fully mature. Each case is different, so hard to give advice. With our 18 yr old (we are 6 months in) we are being supportive but neutral (whilst terrified and sleepless in private – she doesn’t need to deal with any of our problems on top of her’s). Our’s suffers from anxiety and depression and we now think on the autistic spectrum. I think this “black and white” thinking is the root of her conviction she is transgender, not a biological cause (if indeed that exists). Although not very “girly” she gave absolutely no sign of being uncomfortable with her biological sex at all growing up. We are trying to slow things down and help her resolve her mental health difficulties first, not giving her a reason to rebel against us, or feel ostracised. It is bloody hard, far harder than anything I have ever dealt with. Very good sources of information above. I would also go and talk to your GP and share your concerns, and get help for yourself too.

        • Terrified Dad Reply

          There’s so much wisdom in what you’re saying, thank you so much for sharing that, it’s exactly what I needed to read right now. I can relate to almost everything you’re saying, this is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. I really admire your ability to stay neutral and keep your own problems to yourself, that’s definitely something I’m going to try and do more of going forward, with or without medical help. In some ways I’m very close to my son and we do talk a lot and through all the trauma of this week I’ve made it clear he has my unconditional love and he’s said the same to me but this situation has really exposed the limitations in our relationship and how superficial some of it has been. Hopefully we’ll make it out the other side stronger and closer.

        • ChrisT Reply

          This is such an excellent response I think…

      • Terrified Dad (trying to calm down) Reply

        Thanks for understanding and sharing. I’ve looked at those blogs and a few others, tried to watch Transgender Kids and managed about twenty minutes before I had to switch it off. It’s all too much for me right now, I’m far too emotional and keep breaking down which doesn’t help at all when I try to speak to him. He’s apologetic but taken by the illusion that this is all unavoidable. When I can concentrate a lot of what I’m reading makes sense, I feel like already I have a good understanding of what’s happened but no real way of communicating with him about it. I’ve made a few gentle attempts to challenge his perspective, acknowledge his feelings but suggest he consider there might be other ways of looking at it. He says it’s a generational divide and not the big deal that I’m making it out to be, that in saying that it’s not possible to change sex and pointing him to writings from trans people who acknowledge this and explore the implications I’m spreading “hateful” propaganda. When I give him space I feel like I’m neglecting my duties as a parent, when I try and talk to him I feel like I’m alienating him and reinforcing “trans” ideology. I know this is all going to take time but I’m struggling to accept that.

  • ChrisT Reply

    I fully agree with the article and I strongly believe that sacking Dr Zucker was an outcry, but I would argue for caution in that we must guard against going too far the other way in our response to transgender pressure groups.
    This is a response to the article, it’s not a response to the many parents on here who are in real distress. I can’t imagine what a situation like that, when your teenager suddenly declares they want to be referred to as they or ‘ze’ must feel like.
    I know several people with ‘gender dysphoria’ as children or later on in life (I am 52!) who are not, or didn’t turn out to be gay or bisexual, neither were they abused as far as I know, and at least one of them most certainly doesn’t have ASD or autism and I strongly suspect the others don’t either. They just had/have personality traits, interests and characteristics which are normally attributed to the opposite sex, and there is or should be nothing wrong with that, neither did they feel they needed to, or wanted to transition to the opposite sex.
    Their feeling of having ‘gender dysphoria’ was triggered by society not accepting that anyone could be anything other than entirely the male or female stereotype and they were made to feel ‘abnormal’ or they were told they were gay when they were not, or in the worst case their condition was pathologised. As a society we need to allow people to be who they are (without pandering to fads). This doesn’t mean that we need to condone ‘bandwagons’ and mental illness as the norm, but that we need to recognise that each and every one of us is a mix of feminine and masculine traits, interests etc… Doing this will allow children, young people and adults the space to work things out for themselves, rather than as a society more or less forcing them into escaping into an idea that they were born in the wrong body, that they are the opposite gender etc… Equally, I’m sure we all know men who are emotionally stunted because they felt they had to fit in with ‘the real man’ image.
    I strongly feel that, to create a healthy society, we need to learn to recognise that there is nothing wrong to, for instance, like pink as a man, to cry as a man, or that there is nothing wrong in a car mechanic being a woman. Everyone is different and I have a sense that, and experience of, may people subconsciously or on purpose applying a cookie cutter model of what people should be In this sense, expressions like “don’t be a sissy” and “man up” are inherently toxic and may perpetuate or worsen a child’s or young person’s feeling of not fitting in, of being ‘invalid’, potentially forcing them to hop on a bandwagon, whichever bandwagon, that makes them feel accepted or that makes them feel better.
    I would argue that ridiculing feminine traits and interests in men stunts human development and is equally unhealthy for the individual, leading to conforming behaviour that for that person is not natural and potentially causes short or longer term depression, exclusion and ridicule/bullying. Being a ‘tomboy’ as a woman seems more acceptable for some reason, up to a degree.
    Generally, not forcing children into a strict male or female stereotype by condemning any behaviour that goes against the stereotype, will offer children and young adults (as well as adults) the chance to work things out for themselves. Pushing people into a box they don’t fit (I’m a boy/man so I shouldn’t like sewing; and ‘I’m a girl/woman, girls/women shouldn’t like car mechanics) is arguably equally unhealthy.
    Equally, puberty blockers, if it is true that there are no lasting effects, can offer a teenager valuable time to explore and make up their mind if they identified or claimed to identify, as the opposite sex since childhood. This is, if they are not used as a preamble for automatically offering opposite sex hormones.
    Caution needs to be applied both ways so those very few people with a genuine transgender condition are not harmed as children either. I recognise this is extremely difficult, if not impossible to accomplish. A lifelong transsexual condition can by definition almost, only be recognised after a long time and then it is often too late to make a successful transition. If no underlying conditions can be found, then this would put the therapist in an almost impossible position to either recognise the genuine nature of the young person’s condition or to continue the search for underlying causes. Lack of (scientific) evidence doesn’t automatically mean a condition, situation etc… isn’t true.
    I feel we have to guard against going too far the other way and treating all gender dysphoria automatically with suspicion. I have known at least one person who displayed gender dysphoria from a very early age, suffered with ill mental health/depression because of this (not the other way around), which disappeared completely and permanently after their transition. I fully agree that caution needs to be observed and I also fully understand the worry of the parents in the comments section here. This person too didn’t have, as far as I know a history of abuse or ASD, and was only gay in the sense that she were attracted to people of her own birth sex (male), which means she was recognised as heterosexual after her transition. In that sense, I feel it is dangerous to see a genuine transsexual condition without underlying cause (abuse, social coercion, ASD or autism) as mental illness. It’s not too long ago that being gay was seen as a mental illness as well…
    I feel that Dr Zucker is 100% right that every case needs to be seen and treated on its individual merits, but that goes both ways. Hopping on the transgender bandwagon is a very bad idea, but so too is dispelling all cases of gender dysphoria or transgender identification as rubbish or mental illness/illusion or as an expression of homosexuality that has not been accepted by the child/teenager/young person. Both of these reactions are potentially very harmful.

  • ScaredMum Reply

    Chris I agree with you wholeheartedly – all I am asking is that there isn’t a “one size fits all” treatment for people in distress about their biological sex.

  • Alex Reply

    Yes, there is a “one size fits all” treatment. It’s called “time”. Time will cure gender dysphoria in virtually every case. Most kids outgrow this condition during their teen years. Only one case in five persists until adulthood. Eventually, they all realize that their birth gender is who they really are. There are physical, psychological, and social reasons why people differ in their recovery time, but eventually, they all surrender to reality. No one’s mental illness or depression will disappear completely and permanently after transitioning. It only seems that way in the short term. Will that person still be blissfully happy 30 years from now? Not likely. Remember that most trans people are reluctant to admit their regrets, partly to keep other trans people from looking bad.

  • Lily Maynard Reply

    Children placed on puberty blockers invariably go on to transition. Puberty blockers come with big health risks attached. They do not ‘give you time’ they buy into and help cement dysphoria.

  • wendy gahles Reply

    I can’t believe I found this article. Thank you so much for writing it. I found myself saying “YES!” to so many of your points. I am so relieved. My daughter is on the autism spectrum and is “different” but Yes! I believe she has been influenced by trans websites. She has changed her name and pronoun (he/him). But I just don’t believe it. Thank goodness my husband has the sense to say no to all the talk of hormones and top surgery. I just want to make her happy but didn’t want to allow anything drastic… I can’t wait to show this to him and also to her therapist. It is our belief that she’ll grow out of this. Thank you again!

  • ScaredMum Reply

    Wendy – you are not alone, many anxious parents of suddenly trans teenagers out here! Have you looked at 4thWaveNow – lots of good resources there too.

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