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  • Mia Ashton

To the mother who has stopped crying

by Mia Ashton

Last month, I read this essay in the Globe and Mail, and for days afterwards I wasn’t able to stop thinking about it. It’s a heartbreaking story told by a mother who thinks she’s doing the right thing by her daughter, because no one in Canada is allowed to talk about the social contagion of gender dysphoria that her beloved child is currently caught up in, nor the medical scandal that is occurring as a result. So I wrote this letter to her, even though I know that she’ll never read it.

To the mother who has stopped crying,

In the place where mothers know things, you know something is wrong.

You may have stopped crying. You may have done research to reassure yourself. But you still know something is wrong.

You found someone who claims to be a specialist, and your daughter has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Maybe it helps to have a name for it. An explanation for the sudden storm that has entered your home and turned your world upside down.

But what does this diagnosis really mean?

Your daughter hates her body. She didn’t celebrate when she got her first period. She started wearing baggy clothes. As her body changed, her discomfort increased.

Sounds just like normal puberty to me. Perhaps it wasn’t that way for you, but it certainly was for me. I felt shame and embarrassment at my developing body. I hated the arrival of my first period. I certainly did not celebrate.

But I grew up in a different time. We both did. The world your daughter is growing up in is barely recognisable to the one in which we both made that awkward transition into womanhood.

There is a strange paradox that characterises our time. With the invention of a device that has the capability to connect us to almost every human being on the planet, we are lonelier than ever before.

There is no group in society for whom this change has been more devastating than for teenage girls. Rates of depression, anxiety, and self-harm in this demographic have increased dramatically since smartphones and social media took hold of our lives.

Perhaps one day you’ll find out what happened during those long months of lockdown that led your daughter to start hating her developing female body so much that she has to hide it under baggy clothes and shower with the light off. Or maybe you’ll never find out.

But while I’ve never met your daughter, I am confident I can guess how this happened. Because I’ve heard your story before. More times than I can count. It has sadly become the unremarkable story of our time.

My guess is that at a crucial stage in her development, she stumbled across the concept of gender identities - the entirely unscientific idea that it is possible to have a gendered soul that doesn’t match your biological sex. Maybe she came across the idea online, or perhaps a well-meaning teacher told her that if she’s uncomfortable with her body, that might be because she is transgender.

You may never know what led her there, but somehow or other, she found her way into a dangerous fictional world. A world that you likely didn’t even know existed because here in Canada we are forbidden from warning parents about it. Because to do so is considered bigotry. Or more specifically, that most dreaded of all accusations: transphobia.

This world is a fantasy land in which humans can change sex like clownfish. A world of lies and wishful thinking - where shots of testosterone and bilateral mastectomies magically vanish all the woes of female puberty, turn girls into boys, and then everyone lives happily ever after.

Of course, none of this is true. Humans cannot change sex. The reality is that one set of problems is traded for another. The discomfort of going through puberty is swapped for a medicalised lifetime of pretending to be someone you are not.

But this world is seductive. It sells hope. Depression will be replaced by happiness; loneliness replaced by popularity; awkwardness replaced by confidence.

All lies. All fantasy.

Its celebrities are mostly teenagers or young adults too. Transgender influencers who themselves have grown up in this fictional world, so perhaps they can be forgiven for their youthful indiscretion, even though their actions are causing such devastation, leading so many down a path of destruction.

But we’re the adults. We know better. We know adolescence is a turbulent time. A time of raging hormones and confusing feelings. A time to experiment with different identities, try on different hats.

Your daughter doesn’t know who she is yet. She won’t know until she has tried out many different versions of herself. This is just one of them, and it will almost certainly pass. If you allow it to. If you keep her grounded in reality and resist the desire for a quick fix.

As a mother, I know that desire well. I feel it every time my children are in pain. Every time they are struggling, my instinct is to fix the problem instantly. Bring an immediate end to their suffering. But sometimes they need to suffer. Sometimes they need to experience hardship. How will they become fully formed, resilient adults otherwise?

In the place where mothers know things, you know what your job is.

It’s to love your daughter. It’s to hold on to the truth for her. Keep her tethered to reality while this storm rages all around her. She is your daughter, and she will always be your daughter. She can never be your son. It’s not too late to make sure that she knows this.

Show her she can be a girl with short hair. A girl with baggy clothes. Girls can be whatever they want to be, they just can’t be boys.

Get her offline.

Take her hiking in the woods, or swimming in a lake. Go on long walks, even if it’s in the city. Reconnect her to nature. Reconnect her to her body. Let her discover her strengths and learn what her body is capable of.

And above all, beware of the people claiming to be experts.

We are in the midst of what will almost certainly turn out to be the worst medical scandal the world has ever seen. History is full of examples of the medical world getting things wrong. From hysteria to lobotomies, false-memory syndrome to the opioid crisis, doctors have ruined millions of lives in one medical misadventure after another.

This is another such moment, but it’s harder to see because we’re watching it unfold in real time.

Did the specialist you found tell you that in the past, without affirmation and drugs, approximately 80% of children outgrew their gender dysphoria and came to accept their bodies?

Did they warn you that social transition - a change of name and pronouns - is a powerful psychotherapeutic intervention that locks the new identity into the child’s mind?

Did they tell you that 98% of children put on puberty blockers go on to take cross-sex hormones, meaning that these experimental drugs are not the temporary, fully-reversible pause they were once thought to be?

Did they tell you that in every nation touched by the modern trans rights movement, there has been a sudden on-average 4000% increase in teenage girls identifying as transgender?

Did they tell you that teenage girls are the very demographic known to be most susceptible to social contagions and that this current phenomenon has all the hallmarks of one?

Did this specialist tell you that several countries have now banned puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for minors because thorough investigations found there is no evidence to support their use?

Did they tell you that they don’t have any idea how many young people later regret their transition because not one paediatric gender clinic in Canada bothers to follow up with the young people they experimented on?

If they didn’t tell you any of this, but instead told you that all you have to do is accept that your daughter is your son and all will be fine, don’t take your daughter back there. You still have time to prevent her from being one of the casualties of this catastrophe. She’s still within your reach.

There will come a time when this cultural moment of madness is over, and people will wonder in bemusement how society could ever have been gullible enough to believe that all these girls were boys. How we could have celebrated the demolition of so many young bodies.

And those young people will want answers. They will want to know why the adults in their lives, the people whose job it was to protect them from harm, failed them so badly.

So tell your daughter you will love her no matter what. But do everything you can to pull her away from this danger and guide her back to the truth. Not everyone in your position succeeds, because the allure of this ideology is strong, but you at least want to be able to say that you gave it everything you had.

In the place where mothers know things, you know this is worth fighting for.

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