I am one of a growing number of parents whose children, after exposure to pornographic content online, experienced a sudden and rapid change in behavior, ultimately culminating in a new transgender identity.
A few days ago I read “Transgender’s Connection with Pornography: It’s Undeniable”, by PITT (Parents With Inconvenient Truths about Trans). It is a dark and disturbing story about online porn exposure and a young girl’s journey towards identifying as “trans”. So much of what is in the article is disturbing and disheartening. Also, sadly, it’s all too familiar to me and my family.
Twelve months ago, I checked my inbox and there, waiting for me, was a link to a Google Doc from my 14-year-old son. It began:
“I have got something really important to tell you but, it’s probably not what you are thinking.”
“I am not gay, well kind of.”
My son went on to tell us that he was transgender and that, for the last 3 years, we actually had a daughter who was a lesbian. In the now infamous Google Doc, he defined “dysphoria” and included a link to a source, “just in case” we wanted to look up more information. He spoke of the pain he was going through and likened it to wearing a mask with razors inside. He expressed his fear that we would not accept him and asked for help. Stunned, we said, “I love you” and hugged him. We asked for his patience as we found help and resources to try to understand what he was going through.
To say that this revelation came as a shock is an understatement—we did not see this particular thing coming. However, we did have an inkling that something was going on. In the time leading up to his pronouncement, we had noticed some significant and out of character behavioral changes. A few months before this news, our son had begun brooding and was short tempered with us and his brother. He was sullen and began sleeping a lot—but we felt that this was the first true sign of puberty kicking in. We got increasingly concerned when he began limiting his food intake and his grades started slipping. He always had erratic scores in school but he was actually failing a few classes, which was very much unlike him.
When we asked how long he felt this way and where it was coming from he supplied short, canned-sounding responses, including: “I came across information about being transgender on the internet and it looked interesting and just fit.” “Being trans explains why I have always felt different and never fit in”. When asked why he believed what he believed he would shrug his shoulders and say, “I just know.” I silently kept asking myself, “How does one suddenly “become” a girl 3 years ago? Was there a metamorphosis that I missed?” It turns out this is and was representative of the confusing thought processes that we have encountered so often this past year.
For a month, we were in a fog and did not know what to do. Then we found writings that included suicidal ideation and drawings made by friends that depicted him as a female. He also started cutting. We removed knives from the house and developed a habit of checking on him in the middle of the night due to fear of him hurting himself more significantly. He made the request for a new name/pronouns and began shaving all of his body hair.
Most disconcerting to me was when he began speaking in a high, monotone voice. He was disconnecting from his body and the person before us was nothing like the child we had raised. He was becoming something else and by all accounts it was not a healthy situation. We sought out parent support groups and medical professionals. In an attempt to learn about what our child was working through we found the wild west that is “transgender medicine” and a dark aspect of the internet and society that we simply could not fathom, it was so far removed from what we considered to be reality.
After weeks of worsening mental and physical health, I grabbed the school-issued laptop to make sure it was charged and ready for a day of virtual learning. I flipped it open and saw a name I didn’t recognize. I never even thought that the school laptop might have anything to do with what was unfolding in our home, assuming (falsely) that it had all the safeguards and site blocking that the school purported to enforce. When I walked into the living room with the laptop and saw his face, I knew instantly that what I would find would not be good. And it wasn’t. The laptop was chockfull of evidence from his trip to the dark side of the internet, where no child should be wandering. I found the pornographic side of Deviant Art, Tik Tok, YouTube and Reddit. Late at night while we slept, my son had been on these sites and was interacting with adults and older teens in many different subgroups.
I looked through the history, I could not help myself, even though it made me sick to do so.
It started out innocently enough. He initially asked simple questions like, “why am I different from other guys, am I gay and what can I do about hating my body.”
His questions were met with some thoughtful responses, but I was surprised to read comments such as:
- “u r trans”
- “Have you ever heard of being trans?”
- “Maybe ur a girl”
- “If u are sad, cutting can sometimes help”
- “start skipping meals, you can be thin and look like a girl”
I also noticed that a few users commented and interacted with my child more than others. These people invited him to private chat rooms and then suggested that they video chat because typing was “too much”. I continued to sift through the computer and was shocked to learn that one of the online friends was a self-identified adult transwoman who offered to coach him and help him accept who he really was.
The “friend” sent what I now know are dysphoria hypnosis recordings to “help him relax and sleep”. I listened to this recording and it included mantras about imagining himself as the women he was always meant to be and described engaging in sex acts such as fellatio and being penetrated by a man while visualizing himself as a woman. I have yet to listen to the entire track as I was so disturbed by the content and even more disgusted that an adult sent this to my 14 year old kid. This was grooming in action and my son fell down the rabbit hole.
I panicked and rather than taking screenshots and reporting this information, like I might have done if I had had my wits about me, I deleted it all. I deleted the account, wiped the history and cut all internet access. It all had to go—immediately—for his safety. And I could not cut the connection to these people and this content fast enough.
During this time we were on an emotional roller coaster. A few days after finding all of the explicit online content, our son had an incident at school. This itself was not unchartered territory for us. Over the years my son always had incidents. Such as the time where he slammed a kid down after weeks of them repeatedly stealing his shoes and water bottle. The time when he hit a kid in the face with a basketball after being repeatedly called a faggot. His last day at that school was filled with taunting and making fun of the “smart kid”. After he got a problem wrong in math class, someone thought it would be funny to have notes about his idiocy follow him to every class.
But this day was different.
At the end of the day, once at home, my child chose to strangle himself. Luckily, it was not well planned and he passed out and hit his head instead of ending his life. To date this is the worst day of my life and I will never forget my terror and fear.
After this event, our son told us that he felt all of the “gender stuff” and self harm was coming from the things he was dealing with at school and he begged not to return. We thought about going to the school to discuss what happened. Then, reconsidered because, in the past, this changed nothing and in fact usually made things worse. We are a family for whom anti-bullying campaigns did not help. We also considered letting the school know that their computers had zero protections. My son accessed all of the adult content on the school laptop.
I investigated the steps to take to report this to the school and discovered that, in many states, this may not go well for parents. Especially, if we did not follow the affirmation only approach (ie, immediately agreeing with our son that he was trans). One over-zealous teacher or administrator could result in a cascade of events that could end in reporting us to CPS. Did you know that there are laws passed in some states that allow a school to hide an alternate gender identification from parents? I also personally know families who have been reported or a parent that has lost custody for this very reason. We are just one family and we were scared. Hiding our identity and participating in groups using online pseudonyms, we decided to band together with other parents navigating similar paths and, in the process, we are finding our voice.
After connecting with other parents, we did eventually reach out to local law enforcement to discuss the possibility of trying to track down the online groomers that had targeted our son. Somehow, just as we feared, the conversation became about us as parents, and we were told how “at risk” trans kids were. They indicated concerns about our child’s welfare, and there was nothing they could do if my child did not personally come forward.
We brought the concerns to them and now suspicion was being cast on our caring and loving families?! This is what we and other families are encountering. We love our children and are trying to help them become well functioning adults. We have found that many schools and law enforcement have no idea of what is really going on and the default is an affirmation, protective approach that views these kids as marginalized and potentially abused. It places any parent pushing against the current narrative in a defensive position.
So, what did we do? We ran from all the services that exist and the people that were supposedly trying to help our son, finding them to be dangerous to our son. Instead, we chose to disconnect from all internet influence, changed to a new “classical” model school and found ways to encourage our son to interact in the real world. We listened to books about rhetoric, practiced critical thinking and worked together to evaluate sources of information. We fed his mental and physical health with physical activity, sunshine, nutritious food, art and music. We loved him and found a wonderful therapist who let him talk.
Over time, we saw subtle shifts and changes, hints of a smile and glimmers of his previous wit and quirky sense of humor. He never again asked us to use different names or pronouns and when we asked him about his previous requests he said that he could care less. He told us that initially, he was very angry with us but that eventually he came to understand that we just wanted him to slow down, take his time and think about his actions and thoughts.
We discussed porn and he verbalized that his curiosity led him there, but that what he saw scared him. He also indicated that he now understood the negative impact it could have on him. Now that he was away from the influence of the internet, he said that he could really figure out what he thought about gender and sexuality. We had always taught him that thoughts had power and that negative self-talk could harm his psyche. He revealed that, in never feeling like he fit in, he had tried to put himself into a more restrictive box. A box that really did not work for him. Today he is still working through things but he is healthy, happy, enjoying his music and interacting with the world.
WPATH [World Professional Association for Transgender Health] is telling us to shut up and let the professionals discuss transgender medicine in journals behind a paywall. Activists call us transphobic, allies say we are harming our child. The media says affirming and celebrating a trans identity is suicide prevention. I disagree! In our experience, the more our child attached to the trans identity the less functional and more self destructive he became. We are the parents of a formally trans identifying kid —what more of a stakeholder could we be than that? Where would we be if we had not disconnected our child from the internet influences and influencers? Where would we be if we had rushed to the gender clinic and followed the advice of affirming professionals? What if we had approached the school?
I am a parent and I will continue to fight against the medicalization of young developing bodies and minds. I will help others uncover the disturbing influence of online porn and destructive subreddits where predators find and target young kids encouraging them to disconnect from their physical body. There’s nothing that WPATH can do to stop me, and the thousands of other parents that are now, at last, questioning the harmful trans narrative.
This article has been republished with permission from the Substack blog Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans (PITT)