I am the author of a series of articles published in the online journal Quillette, investigating what it means for parents when their boys say that they’re actually girls. It’s a rabbit warren of a topic. It takes in sex, sexuality, fetishization, internet use, clothing, naming, parenting, peer group dynamics, online grooming, eating disorders — you name it.
My articles were based on interviewing American parents and telling their stories. In the process, I have accidentally become a journalist.
Parents who don’t play along with transgenderism are desperate to be heard. “I’ve got half a year to change his mind,” one mother said to me a couple of weeks ago, six months before her son’s eighteenth birthday. “If I don’t, he’s going to do this.” She wants to stop her son taking hormones and getting surgery, both of which he has suddenly fixated on, despite being a totally normal “boy’s boy” for the whole of his life.
As soon as he said he thought he was a girl, this young man was love-bombed. And now, the doctors, therapists, teachers and talking heads alike are telling his mother that she should simply accept her new “daughter.” She has good days and bad days. On the bad days, she’s a wreck.
This phenomenon is happening far more than you think. It’s also happening to families that you might imagine to be immune from it. At least a third of the mothers I’ve met are devout, churchgoing Christians; many are Trump supporters, albeit understandably shy ones. Others hail from across the political spectrum, from true blue liberal to centrist to libertarian to the newly politically homeless. All but one live in stable, two-parent households. There’s often an assumption that dreamcatcher-wielding lefties are the only parents whose children make these sudden announcements. But trust me on this one: it isn’t just the American CNNariat dealing with transgenderism. You could be next.
As complicated as this new surge in male-to-female transgenderism is, certain themes crop up again and again.
These boys are academically advanced but socially inept. Sexually, they’re all over the place. Some seem to have had their brains captured by porn; others are so freaked out by sex that their alternate “girl” selves are cartoonish, and even creepily infantile, as though they’re just trying to stave off adulthood altogether. And, like so many of their generation, they’re all tethered to the internet. Cutting off their wifi is like cutting off their legs.
But the wifi does get cut off — especially when parents realize how serious these boys are about taking oestrogen as soon as they can get their hands on it. Many of these families already had strict rules on internet use. They bought parental controls to monitor how often their kids were online; they put the computer in a central spot in the living room. But these little geniuses can work their way around content filters faster than the nerdiest of Palo Alto nerds. Then there’s schoolwork, which so often has a digital component — to the point that some US schools now issue electronic notepads to their pupils.
And Covid lockdowns are making all of this worse. A lot worse.
When you get into the details of these families’ lives, you realize how atomized their sons’ generation has become. These kids were already devoting hours per day to their curated, online identities; they were already better at speed-texting than making eye contact. Depriving them of real-world interactions has only thrown them deeper into this digital world.
Rather than dealing with the things which made them uncomfortable in their pubescent years, and frankly getting over them, now they’re even more obsessed.
Much of their schooling has been via Zoom, further enabling them to wallow in existential malaise. Controlling internet use has become tantamount to book-burning, if the teachers are to be believed: after all, how can Johnny ever understand physics at all unless he has his own computer? Never mind that the content of Johnny’s hard drive may not be entirely — let’s say — academic.
As the educational profession slumps further and further into accepting permanent distance-learning, the screen consumes all. Interacting with strangers, playing sports or simply getting some fresh air all seem to be foreign concepts in our “new normal.”
What do the parents want? They want their boys to understand that the vast majority of people will never see them as women, no matter what polite lies are told. But in lockdown land, which is practically coterminous with cyberspace, they are women. Or furry animals. Or two different people at one, cohabiting the same body. Or whatever they like.
These lads’ friends — especially the girls — seem to take great pleasure in reinforcing trans identities, making the boys in question feel fun and fashionable. Before lockdown, these confected versions of the self would often smack into the brick wall of reality. Simple, day-to-day encounters served to remind the boy that he was, in fact, a boy. Take away those encounters and you’re left with a vacuum; and we all know how nature feels about a vacuum.
This isn’t just my theory. So many of the parents I’ve spoken to say that lockdown has only worsened an already bad situation. Much of this is about schoolteachers, many of whom have recklessly encouraged kids to explore their so-called “gender identity” knowing that someone else will mop up the inevitable mess. Shielded by Zoom, these crypto-activists can now let loose, safe in the knowledge that parents are now the only ones in loco parentis. Turn up, clock in, subvert the ubiquitous patriarchy, sign out.
But much of this is also about social media, and the scarcity of normal, physical peer-to-peer interactions which comes with it. With each passing hour holed up in a bedroom, kids become more detached from reality — and reality more detached from them.
And it’s not just parents who agree; it’s also detransitioners, those who started down this path of transition and then changed their minds. With the benefit of hindsight, many detransitioners now understand that their obsessions with gender were driven by isolation and screen time. What helped them was getting off the computer and out into the real world. Bit by bit, they pieced themselves back together by reconciling their minds with their bodies. But Generation Lockdown has fewer and fewer opportunities to nurture this once-normal spiritual harmony. It’s hardly surprising that they’re treating their body parts as optional accoutrements.
I also know that your children are suffering, too. Lockdowns are making them unhealthy and pale and sad and inward. They aren’t learning how to play; how to negotiate; how to stand up to bullies, and not to become bullies themselves. It’s a catastrophe whose minutia may not become clear for years, if not decades.
But don’t just look at the families whose kids are freewheeling down the highway to transgenderism and assume they’re nothing like you. In lockdown land, we all have more in common than we think.