The following column was published on April 8, 2017.
At the age of 15, Cari began living socially as a boy. Her parents wholly supported her decision to take puberty-blocking and cross-sex hormones two years later. The insurance company covered her mastectomy, and would have paid for a hysterectomy and genital surgery had she chosen to undergo those procedures.
She faced no socio-legal obstacles as she transitioned into life as a young man. Five years later, she de-transitioned because she realized that she could not “keep running from and dissociating from” her womanhood.
Today, Cari is a 22-year-old woman with a scarred chest, a cracked voice, and a five o’clock shadow. She describes her counseling sessions in a video blog: “When you go to a gender therapist and express feelings of confusion, they don’t tell you that it’s okay to be butch, to be gender non-conforming, to not like men, to not like the way men treat you. They don’t tell you that there are other women who feel like they don’t belong. They tell you about [taking] testosterone” (YouTube: “Response to Julia Serano: Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation;” Aug. 2016).
Cari’s story is not unique. The heart-wrenching tales of countless de-transitioners prove that gender ideology is not an exact science. Rather, it embodies a spectrum of contentious political identities rooted in biosocial nonconformity.
Confronting gender-related distress or confusion thus requires emotional maturity to grasp the full scope of the condition, and the (un)intended consequences of proposed treatments. For instance, Cari cannot bear children because she consumed masculinizing hormones. Do persons, legally designated as minors, possess the mental competence to make life-altering decisions about permanent bodily change and sterility?
Recently, the Vermont House of Representatives voted 125-12 in favor of House Bill 230 (H.230), which enables minors to give consent for mental health treatment related to gender identity or sexual orientation without the approval of a parent or guardian. The bill affords all minors with access to outpatient counseling and psychotherapy.
Rep. Maxine Grad (D-Moretown) emphasized that removing the parental consent requirement was “key.” She declared, “We know that LGBTQ kids are more likely than other kids to suffer from symptoms of depression and more likely to take their own lives. They are less likely to seek mental health help if they need their parents’ permission,” (StoweToday: “House passes bills to support and protect Vermonters;” March 30).
Teenagers, no doubt, find it challenging to discuss such sensitive issues with their moms and dads. However, the assumption that parents, in general, do not support the best interests of their children is deeply offensive. The assumption that strangers, certified as counselors, would be more invested in the well being of a child than his/her parent is deeply naïve and misguided.
When Rep. Janssen Willhoit (R-St. Johnsbury) argued in support of the bill, he stressed the importance of expert advice: “We need to trust the professionals we have in our community, and we have very skilled professionals who can help our young people” (VTDigger: “House Passes Bill to Let LGBTQ Minors Consent to Counseling;” March 23).
The experts, however, lack consensus. For example, the American College of Pediatricians denounced gender ideology as harmful to children in a statement: “Conditioning children into believing a lifetime of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex is normal and healthful is child abuse” (ACPEDS; Jan. 2017). Rep. Willhoit declined to answer whether the above medical opinion had informed the development, debate, and ultimate passage of H.230.
If lawmakers felt compelled to address suicide rates of minors related to gender/ sexual dysphoria, then they could have created legislation mandating parents to attend counseling sessions with their children. Isn’t it ultimately counterproductive to condemn all parents as part of the problem, instead of including them in the solution? Yet, the State chose to draw a legal wedge between parent and child using H.230 over promoting measures that would bring families together.
Whether you birthed or adopted your child, s/he is a part of you. You will never forget his first words, her first steps, his middle school graduation, or the day she earned acceptance to her dream school. You stayed up all night taking care of him when he had chicken pox; boosting her morale when she didn’t think she could take the SAT; worrying till you heard from him when he went out with friends; and consoling her when she had a falling out with her best friend. Her tears break your heart; his laughter multiplies your happiness.
The state should not have the right to decide that you, as a parent, do not wish to help your child were s/he experiencing anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts. Under the façade of mental health access, H.230 will undermine the sacred parent-child relationship – and achieve what is perhaps its true intention.
Meg Hansen is a syndicated columnist from Windsor, Vermont. The Vermont House Republican Caucus consults with her communications firm. All views expressed are those of the author alone.