A mother whose daughter started believing she was a boy four years ago is speaking out about the many layers of manipulation she encountered at the hands of a gender therapist and through widespread misinformation about transgender medical practices.
For Doreen Smith (not her real name), the ordeal has been an ongoing, torturous nightmare. The Christian Post met Smith in person last month and has verified her story with other reputable sources. This report uses pseudonyms for her and her daughter and has removed other identifying details to maintain their anonymity.
Parents such as Smith who do not agree with or support their children’s belief that they are the opposite sex risk legal repercussions, including being reported to Child Protective Services, should their names be revealed.
Smith's daughter, Michelle (a pseudonym we're using here to protect her identity), announced that she believed she was really a boy when she was 14 years old, after having seen a presentation about transgenderism at her suburban Philadelphia high school.
As a mother, she spent a year hoping it was a phase that would go away. Her daughter's therapist at the time had no idea what to do. They both avoided the issue, but it only got worse. It was only after she sought the help of so-called experts that she became outwardly supportive of her daughter's transgender identity as a boy.
Little did she know then that she would subsequently have a change of heart upon realizing, in utter horror, that she had been systematically misled by many people and institutions she had trusted with her daughter's mental health and well-being. Ever since, she has been relentlessly fighting to get her back from the many forces entangling her in layer upon layer of delusion and severe confusion about her body.
"When this first happened, it made no sense," Smith said, explaining her bewilderment in an interview with CP.
She soon began to search for information but the only seemingly credible voices she found all told her to affirm her daughter as her son immediately. Smith and her husband questioned how they ought to proceed, not knowing what this was or what to do as their daughter grew increasingly hostile and continued to insist she was male. Their relationship was rapidly souring and they had nowhere to go for help.
Distressed and flabbergasted, Smith contacted 10 different therapists who, like the online resources she had reviewed, all told her she needed to start calling her daughter by her new, chosen masculine name, Mike, in addition to speaking with her using her preferred male pronouns.
Her daughter's sudden announcement had shocked Smith, as it came out of nowhere, and all the professional voices they sought out said that by the time children reach their daughter's age, they know who they are. After her relationship with Michelle deteriorated, she and her husband finally decided to visit a local clinic staffed with therapists who specialized in transgender issues and took the professional advice she was given there. Smith ultimately capitulated and started going along with her daughter's new self-identification.
"I outwardly told people that this was my son. I went in public with her identifying her as my son. I purchased my daughter a breast binder. [And] I allowed her to make all of the changes I was coerced into making because I was told she was at high risk of suicide if she didn't do these things," she explained.
Smith went so far as to march in a trans-celebratory parade with her to show her support and would tell other people that her daughter's transition was not to be questioned — including those who dared to express some skepticism and concerns. Privately, however, Smith's gut instincts about how wrong this seemed and other doubts she had were mounting, but she felt she had to keep pretending this was the right thing to do.
Manipulation from therapists, gender clinicians
The notion that children are at greater risk or will take their own lives if they're not allowed to alter their bodies to become their "authentic" selves is the most common manipulation technique employed by gender clinicians and pro-trans therapists. They do this, therapists and doctors who oppose transgender ideology say, to put confused children and teens on the pathway to transition and undergo permanent surgical procedures.
Transgenderism has become so deeply entrenched within certain respected professions that much of the general public now believes that socially and medically transitioning children into these identities is not only completely safe but necessary. As a desperate parent who had for a year been dealing with threats from her daughter, Smith was already fearing she was at risk of hurting herself.
Together with her husband she had a private meeting with a therapist in neighboring New Jersey before they allowed their daughter to see him. They went to his office feeling like they were in over their heads. They trusted that he would offer them helpful, expert guidance after a full year of questioning and fruitless internet searches.
The therapist they saw was kind and he praised them as good parents for wanting to do the right thing for their "son." He cited professional guidelines from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and his long work with the Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for same-sex attracted and trans-identifying youth.
"He came across as very genuine and that he was doing this work to save children," Smith told CP. And he urged them to affirm their daughter's new identity — pronouns and new chosen name included — explaining that the key factor in preventing suicide was parental acceptance.
"And so we did it. We felt it was critical. We had to put away all the doubts in our minds. We had to defer to his perceived expertise," Smith said, noting that their doubts would not go away.
Smith felt strongly at the time that it was important she presented herself as 100 percent supportive and "all-in." She wouldn't allow herself to go online and read anything that had even the appearance of criticism of transgender identities and regarded any such commentary as prejudiced.
In April 2017, Michelle started seeing the therapist in New Jersey that they had met and they were soon told to buy her a binder to flatten her breasts. Around that same time, Michelle came out as transgender at school without their knowledge, and the school officials and teachers immediately started calling her “Mike” and began using male pronouns when addressing and referring to her.
"We were blindsided at how quickly this all happened. And the therapist pushed this every step of the way. He was planning for the next step, and the next step, and the next step," she said.
They went along with it until they were essentially threatened by the therapist. He informed them that unless they agreed to put Michelle on puberty blockers she would end up in a mental hospital.
"That was my wake-up moment," Smith said, which sent her to the internet again, only this time she found thoughtful voices willing to scrutinize transgender medicalization and the underlying ideology such as 4thwavenow. These perspectives made much more sense to her than anything the therapist or other gender clinicians had said or written.
"And that's when I said: 'Oh my God, what have I done?" Smith recounted with sorrow.
She found the coercive language that the therapist used to frame her choice as between hormone suppressants or a mental hospital particularly disturbing as it caused her to call into question her maternal instincts. The therapist snidely dismissed her questions about the puberty-blocking drugs and gave her misleading assurances that they had been thoroughly studied and were a completely safe way to "explore gender."
"When I expressed concerns he told me I was a highly anxious mother," Smith said, disgusted.
She could no longer bury any of her lingering doubts and decided to reverse course. With Smith no longer in support of her daughter's transgender identity, Michelle has felt and continues to feel horribly betrayed, has screamed at Smith repeatedly, and has threatened to run away several times. She has never gone on the puberty blockers.
A suffering like no other
Ever since she balked at the therapist's threat, Smith has lived month after month in excruciating agony. The stress has yielded immense physical suffering, she recounted; she's lost weight, she's lost hair, and she knows the strain is harming her body in serious ways.
People she thought were friends have abandoned her and she has taken dramatic steps to cut off the flow of pro-transgender influences in her daughter's life.
"The hardest thing is that I didn't have support from anyone throughout this process. This was something that, unlike most issues where there is good information, most issues where you can find a therapist to help you or a support group, or even friends and family who get it and bring you casseroles — there's none of that."
The only place where she has found refuge has been other parents in similar predicaments who converse online, hiding behind pseudonyms. They keep their identities anonymous because of the social and increasingly legal repercussions —depending on the state or locality — that they could face for refusing to go along with their children’s confusion.
"To this day, I feel like my closest relationships now are with those parents. And yet, we don't even know each other's real names," Smith said.
Life got so miserable that Smith left her "too liberal, too trans-affirming, too busybody" neighborhood in leafy Philly and moved a few hours away to Snyder County, Pennsylvania, as she could not subject herself to the gossip and the celebration of gender identity ideology she sensed percolating around her family.
"I do worry that the only way for my daughter to see the truth, to come to me as my daughter once again, is to go through some serious medical changes," Smith said.
Michelle, being highly intelligent, has done her own online research and now knows what reputable medical organizations and their guidelines say. In professional, convincing language their words dovetail with who she thinks herself to be. The brainwashing, according to Smith, is all but complete as schools, popular media programming, and authoritative sources cheerlead for her new understanding of herself.
"When a child has been affirmed for years and years ... when they're celebrated at school as special for being ‘transgender’... when authority figures treat them like they are the opposite sex and use their male name and pronouns without hesitation ... when they've had experts tell them they should medically transition ... and everything on the internet tells them this is true, how could anyone reach a child who has been victimized by such deep, cult-like indoctrination? How could a parent possibly undo this?” Smith asked.
"The only thing I can do right now is love her with all my heart," she continued, choking back tears. "Everything I say to her I say in love. I'm the only person in this world who's willing to accept her wrath of rejection by speaking that truth in love because everybody else will tell her what she wants to hear."
She hopes one day her daughter will desist but has no idea when that will happen.
"I'm the only one who cares and I just pray that my love for her can transcend all of this enormous garbage that is being thrust at her at every direction. And I worry it's not enough and that it's going to take a lot of time for her to get to this place of maturity where she has already made some of these changes out of her own autonomy, her own pocket, and then she's going to come back to realizing that it was a mistake," she said.
"And that she is going to be able to see that her mother loved her the entire time."
Smith does not have a paying job. She now works 24/7 writing, strategizing, and connecting with others who might be able to help her save her daughter.
All the while, the tension and anxiety plaguing their relationship is ever-present.
"I've never screamed back [at her]. But I've screamed privately. I've punched walls. I've wept on the bathroom floor more times than I can tell you," Smith told CP.
"She has no idea what this has done to me."
Accentuating the torment even further is the devastation that Smith's aging mother, her daughter's grandmother, has endured. Smith tried to keep secret her daughter's belief that she's the opposite sex for as long as she could, but it came to a point where she had to tell her what was going on.
"It has taken such an enormous toll on her," Smith said, "and what she has told me is that despite her worries for her granddaughter she is more worried about me. And she even told me that she thinks I would have had an easier time had her granddaughter died four years ago instead of telling me she was transgender."
The Pennsylvania mother was hesitant to make the comparison to a child dying as that is the most horrific kind of pain a parent can experience, but she understood why her mother said that. Had her daughter died there would have been a grieving process, a sense of finality that she was never coming back, love from friends and family, and support groups and therapeutic options. Instead, Smith has experienced the exact opposite.
"There is no grieving process. I don't know the end of this story. I don't know when and if she will come back to me as my daughter. And unless someone has had this experience for themselves you really cannot appreciate the unique toll that this takes, and the isolation that ensues because of this," she said.
Such isolation is a natural defense against people who don't understand and make comments they think are supportive and against those who think by refusing to go along she is contributing to her child's potential suicide. Smith also has to guard against those who might invade her privacy or even report her to authorities for "medical neglect" for objecting to the medicalization of gender and its corresponding social practices, she told CP.
Her concerns about the role of the state in this issue are not without real-life examples. In February 2018, Judge Sylvia Hendon in Hamilton County, Ohio, ruled that a 17-year-old should be removed from the custody of her parents due to their objections to the controversial hormone treatments for trans-identifying teens.
Even now, Smith remains uncomfortable to be out in public with her daughter as she cannot and will not introduce her as her son.
"This very isolated, lonely life is something that does not have a resolution, no support. I don't think there is a single therapist in the whole country who could guide me through this."