I was sitting in the school counselor’s office, but I felt like I was on a completely different planet. It was March 2016 and a few days earlier my husband and I had found a well-written letter on our 13-year-old son’s phone stating that he had gender dysphoria and that he was transgender.
I turned to the school for support and when they offered the assistance of a school counselor, I was relieved because I thought would get some sensible answers and advice from a professional. Naturally, I believed, she would question his feelings, ask me about his background, and reassure me that this was maybe a phase.
None of that happened. With no questions asked, she congratulated and affirmed my son right in front of me. Then she gave me the Mermaid’s website address to go to for support and advised me to get a referral to the Tavistock clinic so that we could casually pause my son’s puberty. I was numb. My son went back into class and I stumbled to my car and collapsed into the driver’s seat in tears.
I had never been so confused in my whole entire life. I wondered— had I imagined the last 13 years of my son’s life? My son is very clever, loving and funny. As a little boy, he had always been obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine, Lego and Pokémon. He was happy, and popular at school. The second born of four boys, he loved his three brothers, especially his younger brother who has special needs. They were all really close growing up and they would all spend hours in the garden, play fighting in the summer and building snowmen in the winter. At absolutely no point during his childhood did the thought cross my mind that my little boy was anything but a boy. In fact, he would snub any type of stereotypical girl toys, screwing up his face and pulling his tongue out at the dolls, pushchairs and play kitchens. All of these memories were reeling through my mind as I tried to make sense of what was happening, whilst at the same time battling with the thought that this councillor was a professional, so she must know what she’s talking about.
For the next few weeks, I researched gender dysphoria and became even more convinced that it didn’t fit my son. He had never shown any signs of being withdrawn, depressed or anxious during his childhood. I wondered if puberty might have been causing him to feel confused about his identity. Or could it be internet influence? He had a phone for his bus journey to school, but that had restrictions as did our internet… I relentlessly searched the internet for an answer, but found nothing.
Maybe I was in denial? I asked him if he wanted to wear different clothes or change his name, but he seemed to panic and had an uncomfortable look on his face. Something didn’t sit right with the situation—my son seemed confused and didn’t want to talk about it, at all.
As the years went by, he seemed to become more withdrawn and moodier, which could have been just normal teenage behavior…or not? We kept getting what I now call ‘the side eye’. He didn’t want to talk to us. He stopped wanting to visit family and wanted to spend every waking minute in his room alone playing on his computer.
I started to worry about his GCSE’s (General Certificate of Secondary Education), as he was hardly doing any revision for them, but he absolutely smashed them, with minimal effort, and got accepted into the best sixth form in our area. Then, shortly after starting sixth form, the pandemic hit and we were locked down.
He stopped wanting to visit family and wanted to spend every waking minute in his room alone playing on his computer. His mental health declined rapidly, he became very moody, anxious and withdrawn. We battled to get him out of his room for daily walks with the other boys, but he aggressively refused. ‘Just leave me alone! I am trying to do my school work’ was his reply.
A few weeks later we got a call from the school notifying us that, in fact he had done no school work at all. I was stressed—we had been trying to juggle our family business that had been allowed to remain open despite the restrictions and look after the boys, who were now at home full time. In June 2020, our lives were turned upside down when our son announced again, very calmly, at the dinner table that he wanted to be a girl and that he was going to start his transition as soon as he was 18, in four months time.
This time when I searched his internet history on his phone, I was shocked to find a long history of messages on a social platform called Reddit. There were tons of trans identified teenagers giving my son advice on how to become feminine, which foreign would allow him to buy drugs, how much he should take, how to deceive his parents and lastly how to estrange us.
My heart sank and I started to panic. This Reddit account had been going on since the beginning of 2016 when he was 13 years old. He had been coached on how to circumvent any parental controls. I blamed myself—my son had been groomed online and I was completely and utterly blindsided. The word estrangement broke my heart into a million pieces. I turned to the internet again and now there were 1000s of parents expressing concerns, forums for these parents, and a lady called Lisa Littman who had done a study and coined the phrase “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria”. This was my son— now it made sense!
I had absolutely no idea how the hell I was going to get my family out of this nightmare. Through stress I stopped working, started researching and connecting with hundreds of other extremely worried, loving and really engaging parents. The more parents I met, the more I found that estrangement was a very common theme, even for the most supportive parents.
I joined a group of mums with trans identified boys and these mums were on a mission. They had done their research and it was very shocking. Our stories and our sons were almost all identical. Our boys were super intelligent, quirky, awkward, immature and obsessive. None of the boys had any history of being gender non-conforming. One thing they all had in common was the social media platforms and anime. We spoke about how it was like our sons had been taken over and brainwashed. We met with a cult expert who agreed that this gender ideological movement had all the traits of being a cult. So, I started to research cults and only then did I realise what I was up against, and the enormity of the task that I had to take on.
I knew that the internet and the phone had to go. But my son was nearly 18 and I knew that this was going to cause a massive fallout, so I had to be prepared and strategic about it too. I watched a documentary called the Social Dilemma on Netflix and decided that this was how I was going to break the news. I needed to repair my relationship with my son; these people on Reddit had turned him against us all and I needed him to know that we loved him and would always love him no matter what.
The other boys were so worried about their brother and the way he was acting. I sat them down and explained what I was about to do and they agreed it was for the best. I ordered a new router with strong parental controls and got my older son, who was a software engineer to check it out, he confirmed that it couldn’t be bypassed. I managed to get my son out of his room for ‘family night’ and we watched The Social Dilemma together. Afterwards, I announced that I thought it was for the best that all the phone contracts were cancelled and that the internet was restricted for everyone as we all needed to spend more time together as a family. The next day that is what happened. I removed every device from the rooms and into a communal room for educational purposes and I reduced all our phone contracts to the minimal data, even our own. My trans identified son went into meltdown.
‘I need to watch anime’ was the argument I heard for the next few weeks. ‘We can watch it together on Netflix’ I said. ‘It’s rubbish on Netflix!’ What was with this anime? So, I agreed to watch it on the internet with him. I wasn’t impressed and remember thinking how depressive and angry the theme was, this kind of viewing wasn’t any good for anyone’s mental health and I told him. We argued about it and he ended up running away. The police brought him home but things got worse. I very quickly realised he had an addiction to the internet and specifically anime. He was acting like a drug addict whose drugs had been withdrawn. He was extremely agitated, restless and exhausted. I found myself constantly searching for answers, trying to understand what was going on in these kids’ heads, especially boys and there was a constant common theme. Anime. Then it dawned on me, as I scrolled though a trans subreddit, boys dressing as anime girls and adopting anime names. My son also wanted to be an anime girl. This phenomenon has recently been best described by detransitioner, magiruvelvet, in his essay “My experience with Anime and how it impacted my life”. With this new information, I doubled down on the anime restrictions and I did not hold back my hatred for it either, in just the same way I would for drugs or alcohol if that was what my son was addicted to.
It took a few weeks, but he recovered very quickly and our relationship began to improve. We walked the dogs every day, I took him out for driving lessons and we watched movies as a family—so many movies, funny ones mostly. He started to calm down and to like a normal person. He turned 18 and told me he was going to get a job and get his own phone contract. I told him that was fine however, as it was my house and I paid all the bills, I still was not going to allow any devices in bedrooms. I helped him get a little job in a supermarket. He did get a phone contract and I still stuck to my guns on the rules. He managed to pass his driving test and we helped him get a car, things were really good. Then he went back to school.
My husband and I had already agreed that we would not support a university placement away from home as we did not think he was mentally strong enough. He agreed that he would go to a local university and stay living at home, and he even made the application. Then, one day, I noticed an email come through from one of his teachers with regards to an estrangement application for university! It turned out that my son had been claiming that he was being physically abused at home, his one girl friend was backing up these claims, and the school were going behind our backs to help him make an application for estrangement support with no consultation whatsoever. I was furious and wrote to the headmaster, I even threatened legal action. How could they be so irresponsible? In what other circumstance would a school do this without consulting the police? I mean at least then we could disprove these allegations. They backed down, but we were back to square one. Things were a mess and he continued to tell his friends and their families that we were physically abusing him and eventually they rang the police, who came and removed him from our care.
He messaged me to say he was going to university to transition and he never wanted to see or talk to any of us again. I can’t even begin to describe how heartbroken we all were. What followed were nine months of hell. Sleepless nights with worry, numbness, guilt, doubt that I had been wrong. I attempted to stay in touch but I was always met with a barrage of abuse whereby he would make up a history of childhood misery. I would find myself rooting out family photo albums to confirm his happiness as a child and asking my other children if they had happy childhoods. The self-doubt was awful. My oldest son would comfort me and remind me that his brother had been brainwashed by this cult. It had destroyed my family and I would never forgive it.
A few weeks before Christmas I got a text message from him informing me that he was now taking drugs to transition. We already knew that he had socially transitioned, as his older brother had found his social media accounts. I was extremely angry in general and at all those people who had groomed my sensitive boy online, the teachers who had colluded against us, and his friends and their families who had believed we were abusers and facilitated his estrangement. I will never forgive them. My son was now on a pursuit of something that was completely impossible and would destroy his mental and physical health. I stubbornly argued with him about it during this communication, against everyone’s advice. But who else was going to tell him the truth? I knew these actions would result in me being blocked but I won’t and will never lie to him. He could never become a girl, least of all the anime type!
We found his online anime account and the addiction was clearly obvious. Every day and all night were an anime marathon. It was around five months after he had told us that he had started to transition that he stopped watching anime on this account. I wondered—had he found another platform? Then, out of the blue, shortly after noticing the anime stop, I got a text message. I pushed my luck on the hope that he had come out of the anime trance and asked him to come and visit. He did, on my birthday, and it was the best birthday present I could have ever wished for. He looked as though he had returned from battle, very gaunt and pale. I could also see signs of significant self-harming. I knew I had to do everything I could to get him home. We had the best day together, as a family. His brothers were thrilled to see him, as were we.
Our son came home a few weeks later a completely different person. He wanted to spend time with us. He was thoughtful again, he was back. It was so surreal, it still is, I wonder sometimes if I’m dreaming. All the behaviours stopped dead, the same way the anime did. He’s now a world away from that gaunt pale boy who returned to our door back in May. He’s happier and much healthier now that he isn’t under the mind control of anime and the gender cult.
Gender ideology stole nearly seven years of my son’s life, but I am truly grateful that something made him wake up, because a lifetime of medication and pretending to be someone you are not is no life at all. I am petrified of gender ideology and the impact it has on a specific type of kid. It certainly has no place in any school and, as I endeavor to piece back together my own family from this nightmare, I will do my best to help other families who are still caught up in it and, hopefully, bring awareness of this risk to other families too.