Trans Kids May Reject Family, Not the Other Way Around, by journalist and filmmaker Tina Traster, was published today in Psychology Today. It was up for three hours. It had about 1,500 clicks and more than 80 comments. The editors then took it down.
In explanation, this is what the editors wrote:
“This post is more problematic than needed.”
Tina Traster is a socially-conscious, award-winning journalist, author, and filmmaker. She is the director of the award-winning documentary Catnip Nation and author of the award-winning memoir Rescuing Julia Twice: A Mother’s Tale of Russian Adoption and Overcoming Reactive Attachment Disorder. She has written about the transgender trend for Psychology Today. We are happy to re-publish her post here.
Trans Kids May Reject Family, Not the Other Way Around
More than a third of New York City’s young people in foster care identify as L.G.B.T.Q. A recent report published by the Administration for Children’s Services, the city’s welfare agency, reveals this cohort is more likely to experience homelessness than their counterparts.
The New York Times writes “While some children are placed into foster care because of abuse, neglect or poverty, many L.G.B.T.Q. teens enter the system after families reject them.” That language assumes a causal relationship between homelessness and a parent’s reaction to a child’s choices.
The A=B in this formula is disingenuous to many parents struggling to parent L.G.B.T.Q. kids. Teenagers are not necessarily entering the foster system because parents have rejected them – many enter the system because they have rejected their parents.
Let’s talk about trans kids. The generally accepted narrative among activists, the therapeutic community, and the media is that many trans kids are living with parents who reject them based on morality or intolerance. However, there are legions of parents who themselves are being rejected because they have not picked up a pair of pom poms to cheer their tween or teen through cross-dressing, name-changing, hormone-treatment and life-altering surgeries.
Parents who detected signs of gender dysphoria in their very young or prepubescent children might feel more comfortable in accepting that their child really has been disordered for a long time. But a different cohort – those grappling with a sudden “coming out” as trans at 13, 14 or even through their 20s, remain skeptical. That skepticism guided a study done by researcher Dr. Lisa Littman, who looked at why a sudden spate of teen girls were announcing themselves as trans.
Littman’s ground-breaking but controversial research focused on feedback from parents who largely said their daughter’s decision to become “trans” came out of nowhere or appeared to be related to social contagion within a friend group. Littman coined the term “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria,” which is threatening to those who believe any self-diagnosed trans-declared person deserves to be affirmed as such and should have access to any medical care to achieve transition.
And that is often the critical junction where tension escalates between “trans” children and parents. While some skeptical parents can support, or at least participate in pronoun changes, short haircuts, cross-dressing and name changing, medical intervention raises the bar. Many trans tweens and teens – who are not old enough to vote, drink legally, or marry – are, with the help of the therapeutic and medical community, starting on hormone treatment or considering double mastectomies.
In today’s culture, children spend more time with Tik Tok, Reddit, and Instagram than they do with their parents. Children believe every question can be answered on Google. If they’re looking for role models, social media influencers are there to cheerfully guide any journey, particularly for children who are led to believe they may be trans. It’s a strong suction, the internet. One that parents can hardly compete with. Add to that the new normal – a world where the policies of schools, summer camps, therapists, doctors, and social communities – reinforce the notion that being trans is cool and normal and should be supported no matter what.
Amid this pull, parents are experiencing parenting dysphoria, as they fight to preserve their relationships with children who are often taught to treat them as if they are the toxic ones. Parents tell their trans declared children that they are worried about them, that they don’t think they should make life-altering decisions, that they’re young and they should explore slowly. In return, trans children will recite what they’ve learned to parrot from internet influencers and activists. They will call these parents transphobes. They treat parents like the enemy. They will demand total buy-in or the gig is over.
Worst of all, parents find that some therapists are the ones who are accelerating the tear in the familial fabric. There is much testimony among parents of trans kids who have been told by therapists that lack of support for these children is the same as harming them.
Ultimately, particularly as children enter their late teens or early 20s, they are more emboldened to leave behind their families, to disconnect from parents who’ve wanted nothing more than to make their children happy and whole. There are many exceptions to this, of course; some trans children have suffered abuses at the hands of their families. But trans kids have also co-opted the “I was abused” phrase to describe a home life where their gender choice was not embraced, either in part or at all. Equipped with the fevered feeling to transition, the scripted language they study online, and the sense that there’s a “glitter family” out there waiting to make their world a perfect utopia, teens are more empowered than ever to walk down the lane and shut the garden gate, maintaining the belief their parents don’t love them. In many, many cases, they are very wrong.