I remember in the old days sometimes we would laughingly say that someone ‘didn’t know whether they were Arthur or Martha.’ But that old saying has come back to haunt me.
Don’t think that this is a subject that I view flippantly. On the contrary, it has become something that is with me all the time; that takes up so much space in my brain; that I find so difficult to understand and wish so much that I did.
This is our story.
I am a single mother. I have two adult children who live overseas, and a teenaged son who lives with me. I have no family in New Zealand. When my son was four my partner, his father, died by suicide. It was a huge shock to me. I knew he had suffered from depression and had attempted suicide when he was young, but I had never seen any sign while I knew him.
I’ll call my son Charlie. When he was a baby I wondered whether he was autistic. He didn’t make eye contact, disliked being held, hated loud noises,
was slow to talk and obsessed with certain things. However, he was a funny, much loved child, developing pretty naturally and appearing to be very
intelligent. At six years old I took him to an Educational Psychologist who rated his IQ at the gifted level, and agreed that he was probably Asperger’s,
As Charlie grew he did well academically, but socially he was inept. His Asperger’s made it difficult for him to read social cues and he seemed to be
lacking in empathy. His teachers spoke glowingly of his work, and kindly made allowances for his quirks. He was hopeless at sports though I tried my best to involve him. His clumsiness made it difficult for him. But he began music lessons, and to my surprise he did very well. There seems to be a similarity between maths and music which made it easy for him.
I did worry as he became a teenager.
I wanted him to have friends, to do the things a normal kid does. But he was a loner, never inviting friends home although he appeared to have them at school. Girl friends as well as boy friends. He began to grow his hair. I thought he was showing his individuality and that was fine with me . He said he’d never liked the way he looked until he grew his hair. He was changing from a tubby kid to a skinny teen and I had wondered if possibly he might be gay. It didn’t worry me. I wanted him to have a relationship and be happy.I watched him carefully because of the depression and suicide in his father’s family. But then came Covid and the March lockdown.
Charlie spent a lot of time online.
Well, a lot of kids did. However one afternoon soon after lockdown ended we were coming home from school when he turned to me and said ‘Mum, I’ve something I need to tell you. I’m transgender’.
To say it was a shock was an understatement. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined I’d be facing this. He’d never shown any signs of interest in things feminine and still didn’t. Not knowing what to think and wanting to be a supportive mum, I was proactive, immediately making an appointment with his GP. I could kick myself now. Not only was I told in no uncertain terms that Charlie’s sexuality was his business, but they started us on the merry-go-round of appointments at the DHB clinic.
Our first visit was a complete shock.
Stupidly I had imagined that Charlie would be asked to give it some time, and if he still felt the same in, say a year, to come back. But no, I was immediately informed that they used ‘the correct pronouns’ here’, and addressed him in the name he had chosen.
I found this really sad. Why did he want to change the lovely name I had given him, a name that was already appropriate for either gender. Then he was told about puberty blockers, which were, according to the doctor, perfectly safe and reversible. In that case, why have we had to go to the fertility clinic so that my seventeen year old can store his semen?
I gave the doctor Charlie’s history; the depression and suicide of his father, his Asperger’s. However these were not taken into account. I was told that he had said that he sometimes had suicidal ideation, and thought of cutting himself. I believe that the doctor herself put these ideas into his head.
We have been to the clinic twice. I fear that next time blockers will be offered.
And though I am opposed to the use of something I believe is experimental, I can’t stand in Charlie’s way if he really believes that this is truly the panacea which will make him happy. I will always love him but I’m afraid. I believe that his Asperger’s and not his gender is what makes him feel different. He told me that during the lockdown he met trans people online and after talking to them he realised that this was what he’d been looking for.
I believe that our children are being groomed online and it’s frightening. Sure there are those kids (and adults) who truly feel that they are in the wrong body, but there seems to be a huge increase in young people wanting to change and there must be a reason for it. Is it that it’s encouraged by online sites? Is it that the current education, and even the schools are pushing the trend? That it is seen as ‘cool’ to be trans?
I wish I could offer solutions and help to any parent who is going through the same kind of desperation I feel, but sadly, I can’t. There seem to be countless other parents in the same predicament.
You are not alone.