Across the country, state lawmakers are debating whether to ban doctors from giving hormones, puberty blockers, and gender surgeries to children who identify as trans. Some of the people who’d most like to see these bans take effect: the parents of these children. Many of them have found themselves blindsided as their sons and daughters announced their new gender and then in many cases, stood helplessly by once they turned 18 and began to take hormones.
These worried parents have formed an underground movement of sorts to support each other. They’re meeting online and in-person across the U.S. and internationally to respond to what they see as an epidemic of young people caught up in a dangerous trend that can lead to irreversible medical decisions.
Their organization, Parents of Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria Kids, has grown rapidly since it started in 2017. More than 1,500 parents have joined with groups or clusters now in 49 states.
A spokeswoman told CBN News that states like California and New York have multiple groups. Parents of ROGD Kids started initially on the coasts but in the last two years, its fastest growth has come in the southern U.S.
CBN News met with parents from one group in the Southeast that includes 20 families. Its rapid increase in the last year comes with a mix of emotions for leaders Kristie and Kevin Sisson. They’re well acquainted with the grief and confusion that goes with the journey.
Their daughter was 17 when she first announced she was trans, shocking both of them. Despite their protests, she began taking hormones while away at college. More recently, they learned of her double mastectomy.
“I actually saw a post on social media where she had posted a picture of herself with no shirt on,” Kevin Sisson.
“It was just heartbreaking,” said Kristie Sisson, “because that’s what I had been hoping I could stop because it was such an irreversible step.”
These trans-identifying children and young adults encourage each other towards life-altering medical procedures through a variety of social media platforms including Tik Tok, Tumblr, and YouTube. The parents we met with described similar patterns, what they see as almost a trans playbook. It includes heavy internet use, similar coming-out announcements to parents, and a large majority of girls who want to transition to male. Three-quarters of those involved in Parents of ROGD Kids have daughters, including the group we met.
These parents ask CBN News to protect their identities, fearing social and professional backlash if they spoke publicly.
“Kate” and her husband say they knew their daughter was struggling socially in college and had battled anxiety and depression for years. When she announced her identity as a man to them she had already come out to her friends.
“She’d had two years of everyone around her affirming her, telling her she was wonderful with no pushing back,” said Kate.
After lengthy conversations, the couple thought that their daughter had changed course and was rejecting the male identity but after she graduated and moved out-of-state they learned otherwise.
“She sent us a video saying she lied to us—that she was still a man and that she was planning on going forward,” said Kate.
She also sent demands.
“If we sent her any mail in a name other than her new name, she would send it back unopened. If we showed up and called her by her old name she would call the police on us for harassment,” said Kate.
“Steve” and his wife also received demands from their college-aged son. The last time they saw him, he had begun hormone treatments.
“He was starting to grow breasts. His voice, whether real or acting, was higher,” said Steve.
Parents of ROGD Kids serves primarily as a support organization for parents like Steve and Kate who suddenly find their child acting in ways they never imagined.
But the group we met with is also supporting legislative efforts to ban hormones and surgeries for youth, believing such laws could prevent life-altering medical interventions that these young people would later regret.
“I am completely in favor of whatever legislation can make this more difficult,” said Steve. “Your kid can’t go to the dentist and have a tooth pulled under 18 without parental consent. Why are these doctors so willing to jump at the opportunity to prescribe these medicines that they have no idea as to what the long-term effects will be?”
The growing field of transgender pediatric medicine still lacks long-term data on how hormones, puberty blockers, and gender surgeries affect the body throughout a lifetime.
Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Paul Hruz told CBN News last year that the long-term studies will take ten or twenty years to begin to see outcomes. The unknowns raise ethical concerns for him.
“The question that needs to be asked,” he said, “if this turns out not to be a good approach, how many children are going to be harmed?”
Still, trans activists and many in the medical profession maintain that these medical interventions, part of what’s considered gender-affirming care, are the most compassionate approach for youth that desire change. They note that adolescents and adults who identify as transgender have high rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide.
Some also argue that their mental health issues stem from stigma and negative experiences around their identity.
Such thinking places parents in a bind. If they question their son or daughter’s newfound identity, they not only face the child’s wrath but the loss of relationships with family and friends who consider them to be cruel. They can also face the loss of work for not complying with woke politics.
Kate said she will continue to keep her views private. “I don’t want to face the people who are going to say I’m a transphobe or that I’m a bigot or that I’m a hater because I love my daughter,” she said.
“We’re in the minority,” said Steve. “It’s hard to stand up against this tidal wave right now and you might lose family and friends over it—we have. But I’m not going to sacrifice my child’s well-being in order to get along.”
These parents are also grieving the profound loss that comes with estrangement. Most have children who have cut themselves off from family.
Still, these parents tell us they’re holding out hope for the long haul, believing that their children will someday return home.
Steve’s wife continues to keep in touch with their son. “She is great about texting him whether he responds or not,” said Steve. “Texting him about how she loves him, how he’s still an important part of the family…just that motherly, unconditional love.”
Kristie continues to pray for her daughter, that she will open her heart to God. “I’m going to leave the door open for her and I told her that, whenever she’s ready to come back home—just let me know,” she said.
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