Editor’s note: This hypothetically open letter was originally posted by its anonymous author on Medium and was rapidly removed as “hate speech.” We found it to be a refreshing dose of honesty, a charming and relatable open letter from one parent to other parents (not to the child, obviously!) about dealing with a challenging and dangerous moment in raising children, especially “weird” adolescents who search for their identities harder than others and risk making life-damaging mistakes in a way never before possible. We are reposting it here on New Discourses with the permission of the author.
My dear, sweet, son,
I’ve got to break it to you: you’re not trans, you’re just weird.
This seems like a cruel thing to point out right now. Clearly, you are struggling and feeling pretty awful about things. I can see that you are in a rough patch, and one of the first rules of parenting is to not pile on. The world is pretty heavy on your shoulders. You’re fifteen. There’s a pandemic going on. But here I come anyway. I’m about to throw more on you.
When you were two – a happy, chubby, little tyke in pull-ups, you watched the world with wary eyes behind the thumb in your mouth. You leapt with joy in the rhythm of the toddle music classes. You chattered and shared stories about your stuffed animals. You loved your little sister. Enjoyed cookies and finger painting. That was all pretty normal.
But you also started to count to one thousand on our walks. And you started to call out the store names as we drove around. And you preferred reading books rather than playing with the other two-year-olds at preschool. And you hated sitting in the circle when instructed. And you hated the feel of blue jeans. And you threw big tantrums when you lost any kind of game. In other words, you started to show signs that you were… weird.
The grandparents were the first to notice. They said gentle things like “You oughta keep an eye on that one,” and sent us links to Wall Street Journal articles about child prodigies. And then the other parents in the play groups started to comment; “He’s pretty intense, huh?” And the teachers were on to it pretty quickly. They started to use fancy terms like “asynchronous development.”
By third grade, we realized you were different, but we still didn’t realize you were weird. Truthfully, we’re used to people like you. Our family is full of engineers, artists, musicians, computer programmers, and a lot of “free-thinkers.” Family gatherings always have chess, political debates, and quartets around the piano. That’s just us.
And besides, you had a small but solid group of friends. There was Pokémon, then Minecraft, then Magic, then Dungeons and Dragons, then Catan. You were never in the center of things, but you weren’t alone.
But then, in middle school, things started to change. By 7th grade, school finally started to require some effort, and it turned out you were pretty disorganized. People kept calling you smart, but the teachers were annoyed at your humor, and frustrated that you wouldn’t or couldn’t follow the guidelines for assignments. Classmates didn’t appreciate your frank (if accurate) descriptions of their efforts. I’ll admit, we got pretty frustrated with you, too.
And then puberty arrived, with its triple curse of acne, braces, and bizarre growth. The girls appeared to have it all together (I know they don’t, but they do appear that way). And the popular boys seemed to know exactly what to do. They can talk sports to each other, they brag about their romantic exploits. They never get in trouble for stupid reasons like forgetting an assignment three times in a row. Your anxiety started to kick in, and it seemed like you got smaller. And some of your guy friends moved on.
So you drifted over to the weird-o crowd. Well — I’m not sure what you call yourselves, but that’s what we would have called you back when I was in school. At different schools these are the geeks, or the theater kids, the math team kids, or the artsy-fartsy kids. This used to be where the gay kids ended up, but I think they’re more dispersed now. You get some kids whose parents are going through some rough times. Some girls with anorexia. A few boys who are edgy and angry. Kids with a great sense of humor and big hearts.
And some of these kids are really passionate. Just full of righteous anger about the injustices of the world. And some of them are dramatic. And truthfully, that looks pretty attractive to you. Because you share some of that confusion and anger about the world. And though you may not be sure what you think or what you feel, you are certain you don’t want to be on the bad side. You certainly aren’t like those popular boys with their suave charm and dominating manners. You’re not like them at all.
You’re actually more like those vibrant girls who can speak for hours about their ideas. Well, you would be if you could find the words to speak. And there is something so fascinating about those girls, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You’d never think about talking to those girls anyway, because that’d be weird. Because you are weird. You’ve never been good at chit-chat, or eye contact. Or girls. And besides, you wouldn’t want them to get the wrong impression. You understand that your peers are starting to date, but you really don’t see the point. Sex is still gross and weird to you. It’s better to just call yourself “asexual” or “pansexual.” It’s like a get-out-of-jail-free card that helps you avoid the whole mess. And your group of friends tell you that you are super cool and brave for being able to say that about yourself.
But you’ve fallen into a funk. Anyone can see that. But computer games help. And there’s always trying to beat the speed record for that one game you’re kinda good at. And that one guy on reddit always has good tricks. And the people on that message board seem to get your humor.
So when one of them posts a meme about trans rights, it makes sense that you’d check it out. You’re curious! You’re a free thinker! You’re not like the normies. And the web quiz hits home. You do feel discomfort with your body. You don’t like sports. You do wonder what it would be like to be a girl. You’ve always felt like something was different about you.
You’re right. There is something different about you.
But you’re not trans, you’re just weird.
So we’re right here for you. We’ll always be here for you. But those online folks who urge you to “crack your trans egg” and rush to hormones and surgeries don’t know you at all. They don’t know that gifted kids and ADHD kids and Autism kids and Asperger’s kids are slower to develop emotionally and sexually. They don’t know that sexuality takes time and experience to figure out, and that the majority of trans teens seeking medical treatment haven’t even masturbated or kissed someone yet. They don’t know that 80% of trans children end up becoming comfortable with their birth sex if you just give them time. They don’t know that there are increasing numbers of desisting and de-transitioning people in their twenties. They don’t realize that hormones permanently stunt your growth, decrease your IQ, and can cause sterility. They don’t know that these hormones are prescribed off-label and there’s no research on the long-term outcomes. They don’t even know that the most recent research shows that short-term outcomes are clearly worse.
They don’t realize that you’re weird. But I do. You’re weird, kiddo. You’ll figure that out in a year or two. But that’s okay. We are all weird. And I love you anyway. You’re going to be just fine.