I’ve covered this before, but with the hot topic of social transition and parental rights it needs to be said again. And again. And again. I’m so sick of seeing loving parents told that they don’t have the privilege of raising their kid, and that they are inherently transphobic if they have reservations rushing into social transition (which for those who aren’t up on the lingo, means changing your name and pronouns).

So let’s talk about it!

Parents are entrusted with raising their children. This is their legal responsibility. But schools all over Canada have adopted a policy where they will allow a child to socially transition in the classroom without even speaking to the parents.

Actually, that’s not what’s happening. Schools are not just allowing it; they are assisting a child in changing their names and pronouns while very intentionally avoiding reporting to the parent that this is happening. The child’s classmates all know, and every teacher in the school knows. And those teachers also know NOT to tell you, the parent, because you might be transphobic. Because you might not affirm your kid. Because you might not love them right.

Why would we ever do this?

This is not the first video I’ve made on this topic, and if you want a comprehensive take I’ll link to it in the comments below. But in this video, I want to look at just how insulting this is to the parent-child relationship.

As a parent, there are so many things I can’t do for my child because I am not a specialist in everything. This is why we have doctors and dentists and psychiatrists and so many others who can fill the gap to make sure that our children gets the best care possible.

Oh yes, and we also have teachers.

But every single one of these professionals are subordinate to the parent. Always. A dentist might recommend that certain work be done in the best interest of my child, but I decide if we will move forward with it. I’m probably going to listen to my dentist because they have years of specialized training and experience in navigating dental health and I have… well I read a textbook once but that’s it.

Teachers are trained in teaching. And they are trained in supporting children. They are not trained in the nuances of comorbidities surrounding feelings of gender dysphoria. There are people who are trained in this—wonderful specialists and therapists and counsellors who can support our children in making the decision that is best for them. They can help a child to understand their feelings and to identify if there are other mental health issues that might need to be addressed before or during a transition.

But the connection between these professionals and the child is… the parent.

I know, I’m a radical!

What gets me about hiding social transition from parents is that no one has any idea how this hiding thing ends. So, you change your name and pronouns at school, but not at home. Now you are extra resentful when at home because of the dissonance between what you get in your affirmed circle and what you receive with your family. That resentment draws you into deeper connection with teachers and classmates at the expense of the parental relation, where tension and dishonesty exist. This can have a deep-seated effect and cause rifts that don’t recover. I have seen this break apart families.

Starting down this transition path will likely make them want to continue ever deeper. The child may want cross-sex clothing. They will want affirmation everywhere. But in order for them to tell their parents now, they need to somehow share—not just what they didn’t share originally—but now the fact that they’ve been hiding this from them for weeks or months or more.

When I was a kid, every TV show had an episode where the hero tells a little lie to their parents. But then, they need to tell a larger lie to cover up the first. And on, and on, and on. It grows out of the control and eventually blows up one way or another. The moral of these episodes: don’t like to your parents. It doesn’t work! Why are our schools’ encouraging kids down this path in this one particular domain?

All of this circumventing the parents is only tolerated because we are elevating identity as though it’s the most important faacet of a child’s upbringing. I’m not saying that identity doesn’t matter—it does! But at the same time, we have an epidemic of young individuals fixating on identity in a way that’s all encompassing and it’s incredibly unhealthy (I made another video about this that I’ll link to this video as well).

New Brunswick, a province in Canada, recently introduced changes to require parental consent to make name and pronoun changes in the classroom. The policy is mild, and says that students who are not comfortable coming out to their parents will be provided with the appropriate mental health counselling to assist them in figuring out how they can come out to their parents. 

But in response, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau jumped into the discussion by calling this change “far-right politics” and say it inflicts “cruelty and isolation” on vulnerable people. He further said, “Right now, trans kids in New Brunswick are being told they don’t have the right to be their true selves, that they need to ask permission.”

But here’s another take: Most of us don’t know what it means to be our true selves, that can take a lifetime journey to uncover. And children with undeveloped prefrontal cortexes definitely don’t know this with certainty. We can help them figure it out, if we talk to them. So let us talk, let us support our children, and let us be part of the equation of relieving of child’s mental health distress.

As someone who has been through a social, hormonal and surgical transition, I can unequivocally say that sacrificing the family over identity can feel appropriate in the short term, but in the long term there can be regrets.

And that isn’t even to mention the regrets that can arise from transition itself. I spent last weekend with a Canadian detransitioner who is suing her doctors for improper vetting and procedure that has lead her to make decisions she deeply regrets.

As I already mentioned, I have a longer take on this topic that I’ll link in the comments. But I want to finish this segment by specifically addressing the trans activists and allies who are pushing talking points as though this particular issue—transition behind parent’s backs—is somehow an existential issue.

Dear Transgender Activists,

Fighting to allow children to socially transition behind their parent’s back doesn’t help your cause. This hurts the cause for acceptance. Badly.

Why must you assume the worst in parents, and why are you ignoring all of the ways this can go horribly wrong and cause further mental health complications for the transition seeking child? 

Your behaviour doesn’t make us look good as transgender individuals. You are sending the message that the average parent is inherently untrustworthy and unloving towards their child. Is this what you believe?

As it turns out, that message doesn’t sit well with the majority of parents who love their children unconditionally, no matter what, and treasure their parent relationship with their child.

What parental rights advocates are asking for is involvement in the raising of their children. This isn’t anti-trans, and isn’t even necessarily anti-transition. It’s pro parent-child relationship. That’s a beautiful thing.

So maybe we can calm down a little bit and assume the best in parents, like we do in literally every other parenting decision.

Julia Malott

Julia Malott is a Canadian based transgender individual who advocates for bridging the gap between diverse viewpoints on gender identity and ideology. Julia is the host of Alotta Thoughts Podcast which features bi-weekly long form discussions exploring the complexity of sex and gender.

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Julia Malott

Julia Malott is a Canadian based transgender individual who advocates for bridging the gap between diverse viewpoints on gender identity and ideology. Julia is the host of Alotta Thoughts Podcast which features bi-weekly long form discussions exploring the complexity of sex and gender.