Should schools hide children’s issues about gender and transexuality from their parents?

August 31, 2021 • 12:30 pm

There must be tons of people who have Substack sites that I don’t know about. Reader Steve just acquainted me with the site of Abigail Shrier, called “The Truth Fairy.” Shrier, of course, is the person most demonized as transphobic by transgender activists, but unfairly so, for she is not in the least transphobic.

Rather, she became persona non grata because of her book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our DaughtersIf you’ve read that book, and I have, you’ll see that it’s about questioning the narrative of teenage girls who desire to transition to the male sex while they’re still very young.  Some of these people, say Shrier, are sincere, while others may succumb to social pressure to transition (this pressure is often very strong) rather than ride out the pervasive angst of teenage years or, if they’re lesbian, go that route. It seems that wanting to change gender is seen as a heroic act, while not doing so, if you have doubts, is denigrated. And saying you’re a lesbian gives you no points.

This valorization of transitioning among teenage girls—and also boys, but Shrier’s book is mostly about girls—is the basis for “gender affirmative” treatment, which is basically a one-way push towards transitioning. Without proper therapy, counseling, or parental discussion, girls may be socially pressured into making irreversible decisions, including getting hormone therapy and surgery. For raising these questions, and suggesting that in some cases “gender affirmation” may not be a healthy way to go, Shrier has become Public Enemy Number 1 to transgender activists, replacing J. K. Rowling. (There will be another.) An ACLU official suggested that her book be banned, and it was briefly removed from at least two book-selling venues, including Target.

In her latest post (click on screenshot below), Shrier takes up another contentious issue, another one that cries out for public discussion.

The issue is “Gender Support Plans” used by many secondary schools, in which a child’s name, desire to change gender, preferred pronouns, and so on are kept on record and used in schools, but hidden from the parents. Here’s one example given by Shrier:

Last week, I spoke with another mother who discovered her 12-year-old daughter’s middle school had changed the girl’s name and gender identity at school. The “Gender Support Plan” the district followed is an increasingly standard document which informs teachers of a child’s new chosen name and gender identity (“trans,” “agender,” “non-binary,” etc.) for all internal communications with the child. The school also provided the girl a year’s worth of counseling in support of her new identity, which in her case was “no gender.” Even the P.E. teachers were in on it. Left in the dark were her parents.

This duplicity is part of the “plan”: All documents sent home to mom and dad scrupulously maintained the daughter’s birth name and sex. But Mom noticed her daughter seemed to be suffering. Although far from alone in declaring a new identity – many girls in the school had adopted new names and gender pronouns – this girl’s grades fell apart. She became taciturn and moody.

When the mother failed to uncover the source of the girl’s distress, she met with teachers, hoping for insight. Instead, she slammed into a Wall of Silence: no teacher was evidently willing to let a worried mom know what the hell was going on. (Finally, one did.)

I’ve heard of such incidents many times. A very important decision by a student is not only supported by the school, but hidden from the parents. That seems to fly in the face of what being a parent is all about. Shouldn’t parents know this stuff at least at the same time as the school, at the very least? And what right does a school have to hide such a momentous change from the parents? It is the school usurping a parent’s right. (Of course, if the student wants to hide a gender change from both the school and the parents, that is also her right. Further, if the child wants to discuss it only with a therapist, that is also fine, as therapeutic sessions are confidential.) But I know of no other case in which schools keep such information from parents. As Shrier says, “For Pete’s sake, the state requires that teachers ask parental consent before they offer a child Tylenol.”

The schools, of course have their reasons, but they don’t seem to be good ones:

Teachers and activists who support this policy typically make two arguments in its favor. The first is that the very fact that a teen would want to keep her new gender identity a secret from parents is proof that home is an “unsafe” place for her; that is, her parents, if they knew, would abuse her. The second is that this gender declaration is a deeply held and personal decision of the child’s. The school, in this scenario, is merely a polite bystander—at most, a kindly chaperone. It’s not the school’s job to ask mom and dad for their approval.

The first is absurd; the second, dishonest. Why would a teen agree to keep a secret from her parents, if not for the presence of abuse? Well, as one sharp Twitter user pointed out in response to the documents I posted, one can think of a few things a teen might want to keep secret from mom: an eating disorder; her decision to join a religious cult; her dabbling in drugs; a decision to send or post nudes; or have sex with a much older boy. Teens tend to keep from mom and dad a wide variety of healthy and unhealthy teenage experimentations—sometimes to avoid parental protest; sometimes, just for the pubertal frisson.

And in virtually none of these cases is the primary motivation to keep secrets from parents necessarily fear of abuse. Sometimes it’s to avoid—groan—another lecture or even a conversation. Other times, teens keep something a secret just to avoid a “No.”

I think Shrier is right here. How many of us can say that we didn’t keep secrets from our parents in secondary school because it might upset them, or lead to “discussion”? When I was in high school everyone was smoking weed or taking hallucinogens, but I would never mention that to my parents. (My dad finally caught me smoking once, and hit the roof!) Why would it be okay for the school to know this but not my parents?

The fact is that growing up is a process in which parents guide their children by their own best lights, and sometimes that involves difficult conversations. But why are parents not as good as teachers and principals at trying to understand and deal with a child’s transitioning? Shrier’s thesis (and that of other people) is that in many cases gender transitioning is a symptom of mental distress rather than a genuine feeling that you need to be transformed into a member of the opposite sex, and that perhaps parents would understand a child’s behavior better than school officials (though not necessarily better than a good therapist). Plus, as Shrier says, once a kid leaves middle school or high school, the teachers move on to a new batch of kids, but the parents have a lifetime interest in the child.

A peculiar power imbalance has arisen between public school teachers and the parents for whom the necessity of work renders them too dependent on these schools to question them.  Parents discover radical materials pushed on their children by accident, like passersby happening on a crime scene. They are treated as interlopers, trespassers; they are made to understand they have no right to be there; information on the ideology pushed on their kids is revealed on a strictly need-to-know basis. When parents do object to classroom gender ideology, they’re treated as morally obtuse or child abusers.

The contempt shown parents would be inexcusable even if teachers stuck to reading, writing and arithmetic. In a time when so many public school teachers are properly described as activists, that arrangement strips children of their families’ protection. And families must indeed protect them from an ideology that would turn students against any adult who suggests that a seventh grader suddenly jonesing for hormones and surgeries slow down. I have more than once wondered whether public schools that would openly pit students against their families, turn them against themselves and each other, aren’t doing more harm than good.

Shrier’s solution? A federal law that would allow parents access to their children’s public-school records.

Actually, there is such a law, but schools can get around it simply by not keeping the records “in a centralized location”.  While grades and courses may be kept centralized, schools are apparently careful to keep records about gender and the like in other places. (I have no idea what a “non centralized location” might be.) This kind of end run around the law is unconscionable.

At the end, Shrier gets a bit apocalyptic about the issue, but remember that it is her main interest as a journalist now, and, importantly, she has children.

This is where the most critical cultural battle will be fought. Not with reckless doctors, for whom lawsuits are coming. Not even with the therapists—in many cases, a luxury, parents can walk away from. It will be fought with America’s activist teachers. Will we allow the activists among them unaccountable access to the next generation of America’s children?

If conservatives and liberals hope to save this country, this is where they will place their energies: campaigning for federal legislation to grant parents full access to all curricula. And no, granting parents’ review over sex-education materials alone wouldn’t solve this problem, since the SOGI (Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity) curriculum, for instance, is often inserted into other areas of the curriculum or disguised as “anti-bullying” education. We need legislation that grants parents a right to opt out of any instruction regarding gender and sexuality and stops schools from changing a child’s name, gender marker, or pronouns without the approval of a parent or legal guardian. This has nothing to do with “outing” students and everything to do with whether a school should be permitted to hoodwink the primary locus of love and responsibility in her life.

I’ve thought about this for a while, and I can see no reason for schools to keep this secret from parents unless there is a genuine danger to the child if she tells her parents. And how would you know that without telling the parents? If things become so bad that a parent becomes abusive about the issue, the child needs to be moved out of the home and given proper care (no not necessarily a regimen of “gender affirmation”).  But I can’t imagine that most parents wouldn’t be sufficiently concerned about the issue to try to help their child or get help for their child (the right kind of help: not “rah rah, cut off your breasts and take hormones” kind of help but help from an empathic and thoughtful therapist).

Do any readers feel that schools have a right to keep this information secret from a child’s parents?

***************

UPDATE:  Bari Weiss announced in her newsletter that she will have a discussion (“cocktail hour”) with Shrier this week, so if you subscribe look for a link.

I’m excited that on Thursday at 8pm EST/5pm PST we’re going to host an event for subscribers only.

h/t: Steve

56 thoughts on “Should schools hide children’s issues about gender and transexuality from their parents?

  1. Notice that these “activist” teachers claim that “the parents might become abusive” — not “parent/s”, despite the well-known fact that there are a lot of single-parent families around these days. In other words, they’re demonizing two-parent traditional families. Does this suggest a certain political bias to you?

      1. Every kid has (or at least had) two parents, even kids currently living in a household with just one. Strikes me as a helluva stretch to read the use of the plural in this situation as “demonizing two-parent traditional families.”

    1. Here in the UK, I haven’t seen a letter from school in years that doesn’t refer to “parents/carers”.

  2. I can see no reason for schools to keep this secret from parents unless there is a genuine danger to the child if she tells her parents. And how would you know that without telling the parents?

    Well, the school has access to public records, which would include police records, parent’s convictions for child abuse etc. So hypothetically they could do such work, though realistically they have not the time, funding, or expertise to do so.

    As a parent, I expect the school to ignore some small stuff, tell me the big stuff, and only withhold big stuff that would fall under standard doctor-patient privilege type info (i.e. if the kid sees the school psychologist or the like). For the latter, it’s worth remembering that in most if not all states, school employees are mandatory reporters. So if my kid makes a credible claim of potential abuse, the school is violating the law if they keep that secret or don’t report it to authorities.

    They seem to want to thread an unthreadable needle here: claim that a student’s fear of abuse is so credible the school needs to withhold important information from the parents, yet not credible enough to go to the police about.

    1. I agree about the unthreadable needle: that’s a very good observation. The non-reporting by teachers and principals shows their reluctance to embrace this approach in public – they know how ridiculous it would make them seem.

  3. If we are going to hold parents responsible for their minor children, which we should unless the parents have had their guardianship revoked by legal process, then absolutely NO, a school should not hide a child’s issues about gender and transsexuality from the parents.

  4. I think there should be laws to prevent schools from maintaining this or any other type of deception. Deception and the lack of transparency seems to be really popular these days, whether it concerns politics, schools and education or what is in the food you eat. Lying is very much the thing after four years of you know who and why should parents need to know anything about their own kids. I have no children but I was a kid once so keeping things from your parents was kind of a normal thing. It almost never worked and it was always wrong. Just the fact of being a parent means you need to know everything about your kids. If you come across a parent who says, oh, i don’t want to know about that, you better get that parent some help.

    Deception in our government has been a big part of our politics since the beginning. It is right there in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. If you had to pick a word for the last 20 years in Afghanistan it would be deception. If you doubt that read the Afghanistan Papers. Fifty years ago it was the Pentagon Papers and as Hugo Black said, only a free and unrestrained press can expose deception in government. Are our schools just being another part of government?

    1. I’m a parent and I approve of your post.😉 Seriously, Randall, I subscribe to practically everything you wrote here. To answer your final question, public schools are indeed government agencies and as such are answerable to us the people. Teachers may be authorized to act in loco parentis, but we parents are the ones who delegate this authority to them, and we certainly have the right, indeed, the obligation to evaluate how the teachers are doing our job.
      In closing, I’m thinking of my late mother, who impressed upon my siblings and me that honesty is the best policy.

      1. StephenB, do you mean that honesty towards the parents is always teh best policy no matter the topic ?

        I think that lying will at times keep a child alive.

        1. If a school is that concerned that a child’s parents pose a threat to life they should be informing the police, surely?

        2. Damien, I’m more of a consequentialist than a deontologist, so I cannot say that honesty is always and everywhere the best policy. But, if I understand your hypothetical correctly and we are to imagine a situation where it would be a greater good for the school to lie to a parent, that situation would have to be such an egregious and enormous one, on the order of the ethical problem of “lying to the murderer at the door,” that such a situation would be rare and that it would indicate, as Randall and others have alluded to, a serious problem with a dangerous parent who must be confronted.

          1. Furthermore, as Eric mentions above, the schools arerequired to report abuse to the authorities. I do understand the concern but (a) it would be rare and (b) there is policy in place (mandatory reporting) that specifically addresses this issue.

  5. I think there is some murkiness here. On the face of it, regarding gender dysphoria, what you say seems pretty straightforward. But there are parallels to other situations where informing parents might become problematic.

    In NM, it’s legal for teens (I can’t recall the age cutoff) to request vaccinations if their parents have forbid it. Should that be illegal?

    Also, there is a category of juvenile offenses called “status” offenses, things that would not be illegal for adults but are illegal for minors because of their age. The most nebulous and blatantly abused of these is “incorrigibility”, which is basically when kids don’t blindly obey their parents. The parents can legally, without any adjudication, have their kids locked up until they reach majority. If schools know that some parents would do just that, should they let the parents know about every little infraction?

    You can see just how messy this can get. I don’t have an answer, either, but I would hope that there could be some flexibility.

    L

    1. Hi Linda. Yes I agree about flexibility or nuance. I think about this a lot wrt my kids who are teens and get a ton of pro-trans influence in their schooling and their online culture.

      I think the question by Randall@4 is a good one: can we imagine a parent (even one who is supportive of trans identities) saying “I wouldn’t want to know about that”?

      I can’t imagine that, so no matter what the circumstances it seems wrong for the teacher or principal to not communicate this change in the practice at the school, and especially to not communicate knowledge that the child is suffering because of gender identity issues, to the child’s parent(s).

      1. I’m sure they WOULD want to know.

        Suppose the parents are rabid anti-vaxxers, and the kid gets the COVID shots, and the school tells the parents.

        The parents, at least here, could then have the kid thrown into juvie jail for “incorrigibility”.

        You can see the problem, no?

        L

        1. “The parents, at least here, could then have the kid thrown into juvie jail for “incorrigibility”.

          I’d never heard of “incorrigibility” as an offence before….so I googled it.

          I think the worry here is overblown.

          From “Criminaldefenslawyer.com”;

          “Incorrigibility: More than Simple Disobedience

          Of course, children often disobey their parents, educators, and other adults. At what point does simple disobedience become incorrigibility? Though state laws differ, there are several key components to determining if a child is incorrigible.

          Repeated actions. A juvenile must commit more than one act of disobedience in order to be considered incorrigible. For example, a juvenile in Indiana is considered incorrigible if the youth commits at least 8 instances of incorrigible behavior within a reasonable time period. That time period can be a single school year or a single month in the child’s home.

          Disruptive, dangerous, disobedient. It isn’t enough for a child to simply refuse to eat his vegetables or go to bed on time. In order to qualify as incorrigible, a child’s actions must be disruptive or dangerous. The child’s actions must threaten the welfare, order, or safety of the environment. For example, a child who refuses to accept the discipline of a teacher or school administrator disrupts the order of the school environment, making such actions disruptive.

          Lawful command. A child cannot be considered incorrigible if the orders the adult gives are illegal. However, this issue rarely arises in incorrigibility cases. Examples of illegal orders include those that would result in the child being forced to commit a crime, or those that would cause the child to suffer abuse or harm. Orders that may violate a child’s rights, such as ordering the child to salute the flag or to participate in religious ceremonies, are also not considered lawful.”

          I cannot believe any court would see that opting for vaccination against a parent’s wishes would qualify for incorrigible behavior.

          1. When I was a JPO, it was easy for parents to get kids imprisoned. It’s been a long time, and I don’t remember the exact wording of the statutes, but I vividly remember the instances where kids were locked up for what seemed to me were trivial problems. Of course, that was in dark-red conservativeland, too, so it’s altogether possible that more enlightened areas of society would be less trigger-happy.

            The idea was that if kids SUFFERED, they’d be more compliant. It rarely worked out that way.

            L

        2. Yes for sure I can see the potential problem between the child and parent(s). I just don’t think the school should be in the business of “supposing” anything about how parents will react to knowledge that their child is suffering from gender dysphoria, and that the school is secretly acting on that suffering.

          Sastra’s comment @10 about potential for abuse arising from secret-keeping also seems relevant.

    2. The older kids get the more hazy it gets, as realistically maturity is not a binary thing, it’s analog and it grows over time.

      Having said that, I would prefer schools *not* have the powers you state AZ gives them. In such a situation as vaccines (or to use another example, birth control), I’d much prefer the state make blanket determination that 15 year olds have this right, 16 year olds get this additional right, etc., etc. That’s clear, consistent, and in our democracy provides the citizens the ability to help fashion the law. Giving that decision-making power to a school Principal eliminates all this good stuff. It’s undemocratic, it means different schools may have inconsistent rules, it’s not as transparent or clear to kids OR parents what the rules are, and it may make the decision of whether to give vaccines dependent on who the principal happens to be and what their moral values are.

      So, in short I guess I’m saying that I have little problem with the concept of increasing rights for teens in some areas, but I think the implementation you’ve described is a very poor way to do it.

  6. I decided to become a teacher when I was eight years old. I loved school. Took my first ed class in college spring semester of my freshman year. It was partially filled with football players taking an easy course. Took other ed classes and decided you needed about a ninety IQ to succeed and much more was a detriment. So I ended up with a degree in education I never used. The folks who toil in our ed system are decent well meaning people but most of them would be turned down for employment by Microsoft.

    1. I don’t think your experience is uncommon, but it’s not everyone’s experience. One of the profs on my doctoral committee was an Early Childhood Education specialist. He told me once that over the course of his career the quality of the students he had deteriorated markedly. He attributed some of that to relaxing HS requirements to graduate, and some to the falling salaries of teachers, which attracted the really competent students less and less.

      He was a great teacher himself. I learned a ton from him, and I know several of his other students who said that his classes were the best they’d ever had. There are still, even now, pockets of excellence in education, but they are getting harder to find the more we denigrate them and their profession.

      L

      1. Excellent observations, Linda. I’ve met some brilliant teachers too. And excellent principals. But some of the stories coming from education lately remind me of the level of intelligence and degree of common sense I experienced in my ed classes many many years ago.

  7. The analogy school systems are using is that of an older teenager who has conservative, religious parents, and is coming out as gay or lesbian in school. There have been teachers who have called in parents to inform them of this “deviancy,” with the young person subsequently taken for Conversion Therapy and/or thrown out on the street. Advocates of Gender Identity doctrine consider being transgender virtually the same sort of thing: innate, immutable, and subjectively knowable with certainty by the individual.

    But virtually none of these conditions apply. Same-sex attraction isn’t just like “being a sex/gender other than the one assigned at birth,” because the first is simple to understand and doesn’t carry with it an overhaul of basic concepts and definitions applied to everyone else. And approaching the child’s belief with caution, exploring the differences between sex and gender, treating them as before, and telling them there’s nothing wrong with them or their body isn’t the same as informing a gay teen they’re an abomination unto the Lord and now dead to them. Keep in mind that Trans Activists often have definitions of “abuse” and “violence” which involve nothing more than “disagreement.”

    In Scotland, my understanding is that children as young as 4 can transition at school without the parents being informed. The schools are encouraging keeping secrets from mummy and daddy. Some people see a lot of potential for abuse right there.

  8. If I had kids they’d be going to Catholic school. As a catholic school graduate, at least I know their indoctrination doesn’t stick.

  9. I suppose if the parents are rabid Christian fundies and there is a credible threat of abuse for the child should she be outed, then there is an argument to be made for keeping the secret. As long as there is appropriate counselling and not automatic “gender affirmation”, it might be ok, but given the proclivity of woke-taught teachers in many schools to run with automatic gender change affirmation, keeping the secret may well be a danger to the child’s welfare if it leads to irreversible damage to the child’s body.

    1. I’m not going to take a side on this issue, but the problem with the contingency that you describe is one that lies along a continuum from “rabid Christian fundies” who could abuse their trans child to rabid Christian fundies who could oppose their trans child, and so on. I don’t know where to draw the line for keeping parents in the dark, and schools are far too busy and short staffed to know either. And the child could simply lie or exaggerate about what it’s like at home, so there is that too.

      1. I would be more concerned with where the fundy parents (rabid or not) would ship the gender questioning child off to. My state has outlawed conversion therapy for minors, but many others have not. These facilities abuse children. And many Evangelical parents would see sending the child off to one of these facilities as the righteous and loving thing to do. These parents aren’t abusive for the most part, I believe. They are people like my parents, who do not accept any sort of identity outside of the hetero norm. Just my two cents.

  10. I think that it is important to always keep in mind when talking about what is occurring in schools to differentiate between the school administration and the teachers. An individual teacher must follow the policies and instructions given to them by the administration or else be terminated, whether the teacher agrees with them or not. And they are not allowed to voice their disagreement with those policies with students, parents, or any of the general public. While some may agree, there are many who do not, but who must carry out these policies anyway.

    So, many people who criticize teachers as a whole group on a subject maybe should instead replace “teachers” with school administrators.

    1. Let’s take it up another level and replace school administrators with boards of education, who are the ones who set policy and sign contracts with teachers’ unions.

  11. Were I a teacher and a student confided a personal matter to me, I would feel obligated (as a matter of personal code, not professional duty) to keep that confidence (although I might well privately urge the student to share the secret with her parents).

    There’s a world of difference, however, between that and the situation at issue here where the student is living under a different identity at, and/or receiving counseling from, the school. Absent compelling circumstances (such as circumstances that would warrant a minor’s legal emancipation), the latter should not be hidden from parents.

    1. Yes. A personal confidence between a student and a teacher is one thing. An institutional response by the school to that confidence – by keeping a second set of records for the student, using a different student name, and directing others in the school how to address that student – is something else.

    2. Agreed. My kid went to a psychologist when he was young. There were certainly things the psychologist wouldn’t tell us, and that was fine. But I would’ve been very, very angry if his school had been sending him to a psychologist without informing us he was going. You don’t have to tell me what he’s discussing but you’d better tell me that he’s discussing.

  12. My wife Lyn just reminded me of the existence of “Gillick competence” in English and Welsh law, which arose from a legal challenge by a mother who disapproved of a health departmental circular advising doctors on the provision of contraception for under 16s without parental consent, but which has wider implications, too. From Wikipedia:

    The ruling holds particularly significant implications for the legal rights of minor children in England in that it is broader in scope than merely medical consent. It lays down that the authority of parents to make decisions for their minor children is not absolute, but diminishes with the child’s evolving maturity. The result of Gillick is that in England today, except in situations that are regulated otherwise by law, the legal right to make a decision on any particular matter concerning the child shifts from the parent to the child when the child reaches sufficient maturity to be capable of making up his or her own mind on the matter requiring decision.

    Interestingly, it was Gillick competence that the High Court considered in the December 2020 legal case Bell v Tavistock, specifically “whether under-16s with gender dysphoria could be Gillick competent to consent to receiving puberty blockers. Due to the unique specifics of that treatment, the High Court concluded that in such cases the answer will almost always be ‘no’, a priori”. The judgement is currently being appealed. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gillick_competence

    1. Sounds like that Pommie legal system of yours is all right after all, guv’nor, once you get past the powdered wigs. 🙂

      1. I recently heard a defence barrister saying that the wigs in court seem silly but provide a degree of protective anonymity. She realised this after defending an alleged rapist who had attacked a child; in some parts of cases involving children, barristers don’t wear their wigs to avoid spooking the kids but it meant that the child’s family recognised her as she got into the lift with them at the end of the session. She was lucky to get away relatively unscathed when the kid’s uncle took a violent dislike to her “defending that monster”.

        1. I was once in the middle of a long federal trial when I got on the courthouse elevator and didn’t straightaway recognize the other person on it as the trial judge. I was so used to thinking of him as this looming figure up on the bench in a black robe that I didn’t realize that he was the normal-sized older fella standing next to me in a suit and tie.

          It wasn’t until he addressed me by name and said hello that I recognized the voice and realized who it was. Then it was “Oh, jeez, sorry Your Honor.” Pretty embarrassing.

  13. I was on a jury pool, some years ago, and they asked us all sort of questions in the voir dire process. Having long been a fan of British crime series on TV, I made a point of prefacing all my answers by “M’Lud”. In the
    end, this did not save me from being picked for the jury. Luckily, however,
    a little later they cancelled the trial, probably after learning that I had been kept on the jury.

  14. I suppose those who have read my previous posts know that I hold pretty strong opinions on this issue.
    Fundamentally, it is about the rolls of both schools and parents. There is a precedent for schools or physicians to look for and report abuse. But that is a system for reporting their suspicions to higher authority, who are supposed to employ professional investigators and work through the established legal system, with all the checks and balances in place. A teacher or guidance counselor does not get to unilaterally take action to remove a child from a household where the teacher suspects abuse is taking place, except in very rare extreme and short term circumstances.

    I am sure that many here remember when recovered memories were popular, as well as facilitated communication. In both cases, very concerning allegations were made, people were assigned the roles of victim or perpetrator, but all of the horrors came from the minds of the mental health professionals involved. Those accused of abuse were in a real sense, the victims.

    It is largely the staff of the schools that introduce the idea that a kid undergoing normal physical and emotional awkwardness is actually suffering from a transgender disorder. All of the counseling and therapy is focused on affirmation. I say all, but I have no doubt that at some point a mental health professional somewhere has had the sense to tell a kid that they are going through a universal human experience, and will be fine. Such advice would be a very rare commodity these days. and might well bring a strong response from activists. I have personally attended such sessions, and the one thing they have in common is that the child’s status as trans is never, ever questioned.

    One might imagine that a responsible, caring, and open minded parent would be have more influence on their kids than strangers would. This is not always the case. The current issue seems to me to be about preempting parental interference. If your kid were to fall prey to a cult,( or a mainstream religion, for that matter) It often starts with “love-bombing”, which is largely affirmation and being told they are wonderful and special. Often the next step is isolating the victims from positive influences, or convincing them to isolate themselves from family or friends.

    The primary targets of trans ideology are minors, so the fact that most of them live with one or more parents can be an impediment. You can’t just whisk them off to the People’s Temple or the Sea Org like you can with a 19 year old.

    I really don’t think they understand the magnitude of what they are doing. To them, the kids themselves are sort of abstract, and are mostly mostly being used to promote an ideology. To the parents, this is a much bigger deal. Really, if you want to see how far someone will go, mess with their kids and find out. Among affected parents, the idea of suing these people into oblivion when the hysteria passes is probably the most restrained of likely outcomes.

    1. Recovered memories and Facilitated Communication are particularly good analogies because those who supported their validity were and are absolutely convinced that the children spontaneously volunteered all the relevant information in the first place, and were now in control of subsequent reactions. Most of those who believe in “trans kids” are outraged to think their influence — or any outside influence — is critically involved. No, it’s present at birth — before birth — and they bothered to listen.

      1. What is even more galling, is that the therapist seems to be able to make their diagnosis after briefly speaking to the kid, while asking a few leading questions. What I might someday learn after case discovery, is how many kids, if any, the therapist decided were not experiencing some form of LGBT.

  15. A few folks have mentioned it up thread but I wanted to add on another thought regarding religious parents. The readership here is made up of people who are thoughtful, considerate, responsible and kind. Should their child become confused about their gender I have no doubt they would seek out appropriate care and counseling for them. Evangelicals have a parallel system of care, if we can call it that. There is an entire industry of ‘counseling’ that is anything but. The folks providing the religious counseling are not trained necessarily- and probably not at all. Their solution to the child’s stress will be prayer and who knows what other more detrimental therapies. Real harm is done to children who are sent to these places instead of the actual therapists. So, as a parent who would definitely want to know if my child was having distress in this area, I suppose for now I can only work on strengthening the lines of communication with him, our mutual trust and respect.

    1. Exactly, yazikus. That “counseling” (or treatment from the parents) may well include beating it out of them, exorcism and more. I suspect fears of this kind of stuff is part of the reason for some of the lack of reporting certain things to parents by schools.

      1. But most parents are not the sort to reject or subject their child to abuse in such situations. We can’t just brush away all parent’s rights because of a fear that some parents might have unpleasant religious reactions.
        What percent of parents of LGBT kids have attempted an exorcism involving physical violence? Is it high enough to void one of our most fundamental rights?

        On the other hand, the kids who decide or are convinced to become trans are very likely to end up medicated for depression, and something like half will attempt suicide. Kids who have not previously exhibited symptoms of depression or trans behavior go into a school counselor’s office with normal adolescent concerns, and end up on a path with very little hope of a positive outcome.

        Contrary to what the trans industrial complex would have us believe, the trans kids who have not been rejected by their parents or ostracized at school start exhibiting symptoms of depression and anxiety shortly after coming out as trans. Of course a kid who was turned out or rejected could be expected to be depressed. But the ones in loving homes are as well.

        I have written about this before, but the comparison I use is Scientology. There is a promise of happiness, but there is always another step to take to get there. The next step is always the one that will bring real positive change. In Scientology, nobody ever becomes “clear” because it is an imaginary concept. The trans kids will never be happy on two levels. For one thing, no amount of chemical or surgical intervention will make them a real boy or girl. Beyond that, what they seek is an idealized version of what they imagine life is like for members of the opposite sex, an idealization shaped in large part by their natural hormones and brain structure.
        Even if we had the technology to seamlessly switch people’s bodies, the reality would not match the expectations.

        Beyond all that, there is not a bit of physical evidence that the trans phenomenon exists at all, except possibly for a very small number of people with actual intersex conditions. That is an important aspect of this discussion

        I apologize to Dr. Coyne if I have hogged this discussion. However, we are discussing parents of trans kids, and I am one of very few of those on this forum.

        1. What do you make of so-called “conversion [aka “pray away the gay”] therapy,” Max?

          It was (and, in some circles, continues to be) popular among religiously conservative parents of gay children, despite its demonstrated lack of efficacy and deleterious impact upon those subjected to it.

          1. I have never been much for the idea of praying at one’s problems, so it is not an avenue I would ever be likely to consider, and I am unaware of any family in my sphere using such therapies, either.
            But you brought it up, so I did a bit more reading. It is pretty easy to find horror stories about conversion therapy, but knowing how much of a politically charged issue it is, it seems best to look at the issue as a skeptic.
            It seems like much of what I previously assumed to be true about such therapy in the modern era is based on urban legends or fictional representations.

            “The ‘Month of Hell’ consisted of tiny needles being stuck into my fingers and then pictures of explicit acts between men would be shown and I’d be electrocuted.”

            “We were forced to masturbate to heterosexual images and soft-core pornography . . . . Twice a week, my hands were hooked up to electrodes for two hours at a time while we were shown positive images such as a nuclear family . . . . I was also subjected to forced IV injections twice a week for two hours each while being made to watch negative images . . . . The injections made me vomit uncontrollably.”

            The above accounts seem to have been reported as credible, but apparently were entirely fabricated. It brings to mind for me the sorts of claims made by the recovered memory people.

            I guess it all can be distilled down to a disagreement on the nature of transgenderism or even homosexuality. The APA avoids the specifics, and just declares it is an “absence of a mental disorder and the presence of a positive and healthy outcome of human development”. That does not address the basic nature of the condition, but just that whatever the base cause, it is not just harmless but positive.

            If someone can point out some particular element of body or brain anatomy that hard-wires a person as gay, heterosexual, trans, or whatever, then any kind of conversion therapy would be unlikely to be effective. That seems to be the current thought, although the physical or chemical evidence of it does not seem to have been found.

            If the nature of these issues is more experiential or a software issue, then I suppose it is something the individual could change through counseling or therapy, if they had the desire to do so.

            The evidence I have seen tells me that a larger part of the current trans phenomenon is experiential. The distribution is skewed, as trans individuals often emerge from particular schools, in otherwise unrelated peer groups, or kids who see the same school counselor.

            Since it is very hard to find objective and unbiased mental health assistance for trans kids, concerned parents are mostly on their own. I guess religious people turn to their faith, as they seem to do in other difficult circumstances.

            If anyone cares, my approach is to try my best to be supportive, compassionate, and non-judgemental, but never complicit. My kid is never going to be able to come to me in the future and say that I contributed to the “affirmation”, which is a poor word to describe what it really is. No matter what happens, I will always question whether my kid might have benefited had I responded differently. But we are on our own. I generally do not criticize how other parents deal with the challenge, because we are all just doing the best we can.

            I am sorry again that this was a long one, but I don’t have a short answer.

  16. As many previous commenters noted, this issue is nuanced. In my state, teenagers have limited rights to access some medical care, such as abortion and substance abuse treatment, without parental knowledge while needing parental consent to get a tattoo. This doesn’t seem logical, but the law recognizes that some teens simply cannot discuss some issues reasonably with their parents for any number of reasons. We simply cannot legislate good family communication or relationships.

    Thus a uniform ban or allowance for “keeping secrets” from parents doesn’t work. The state or federal department of education needs to provide a framework whereby the minor can access necessary services while not jeopardizing her family status. I think that trained professionals – not bureaucrats – need to discuss each individual case and determine the best course of action for the minor. I’m also assuming that licensed therapists would be involved at some point when necessary.

    In another life I worked at an abortion clinic and a battered women’s shelter, and I can tell you absolute horror stories about parents’ behavior when they found out that their minor daughter was pregnant and/or LGBTQ and/or atheist. Some parents simply CANNOT be involved. The minor’s best interests – especially physical safety – must be paramount.

    When we were 14, a friend of mine became pregnant as a result of rape. She wanted an abortion. As Catholic school refugees, however, we didn’t know where to turn. Having nowhere else to go, my friend told her Very Catholic Mother what happened. Mom literally threw my friend out on the street – all her clothes, etc., ended up in the middle of their street. I asked my own Very Catholic Mother if my friend could stay with us for a while, and my mom yelled and screamed and forbade me to see my friend again. And that was only the beginning.

    So no, not all parents need to be involved.

  17. On the broader issues around trans ideology, including politics, theory and activism, I can highly recommend “Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality”, by Helen Joyce.

    1. Yes, I’m reading it right now.
      I’d also recommend Material Girls by Kathleen Stock, an analytical philosopher who’s trained in the techniques of rational analysis. Sometimes philosophy is the sharpest tool we’ve got.

    2. Yup, Joyce’s book is very good – I recommended it on the “What we’re reading” discussion the other day.

Leave a Reply