Misunderstanding a New Kind of Gender Dysphoria

Oct 10, 2017 by

by Lisa Marchiano, Quillette Foundation:

A year ago, as a result of a blog post I wrote, I began offering consultations to parents of teens who had announced “out of the blue” that they were transgender. Each week, several new families made contact with me, and their stories are remarkably similar to one another. Most have 14 or 15-year-old daughters who are smart, quirky, and struggling socially. Many of these kids are on the autism spectrum. And they are often asking for medical interventions – hormones and surgery – that may render them sterile, affect their liver, or lead to high blood pressure, among other possible side effects.

The parents are bewildered and terrified, careful to let me know that they love their child and would support any interventions that were truly necessary. They speak to me of dealing with their fear for their child in terrible isolation, as friends and family blithely celebrate their child’s “bravery.”

I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of parents who call me. I find it difficult to listen to their stories – each one so like the others. The desperation in their voices is palpable. They ask if they can fly to see me and bring their daughter. When I tell them I don’t do that, they ask if I can direct them to any therapist who won’t just affirm and greenlight their child for medical transition. Their voices are tremulous with relief at speaking with someone who doesn’t dismiss their concerns about unnecessary medical interventions. Each consultation lasts longer than the time I have allotted for it.

At times, I am able to offer advice that helps a family steer their child clear of drastic medical intervention of dubious benefit or necessity. But sometimes all I can do is stand helpless and witness the wreckage. Claire’s story was one of the latter.

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