When Denise Canaan’s 17-year-old daughter Chiara came out as a trans man in 2014, she thought it was “cool” at first.
Even though Chiara made her announcement after watching trans-oriented YouTube videos and social media for just a few weeks, Denise said she wasn’t worried.
“The trans thing sounded like it was going to be the next big civil rights issue and I thought, great!” said Denise, who lives in North Carolina. “I didn’t know much about it.”
But when Chiara immediately began talking about undergoing a medical transition, which can involve puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgery, Denise got nervous. Chiara wanted a mastectomy, or what is called “top surgery.”
“I knew something wasn’t right because this came out of nowhere,” Denise said. “I didn’t care what kind of clothes or hairstyle my kid wanted to wear. I supported all that. The medical intervention is the real issue. I scoured the Internet for help but there was nothing out there. I was screaming into the void. But there were no groups out there to help.”
So she started one, called 4th Wave Now, which was the first to question the more extreme aspects of gender ideology and “trans kids,” a population that started to explode in 2015, accelerated by trans-friendly content on social media.
Since then, a number of activist and parent support groups have sprung up, including GenSpect, Partners for Ethical Care, Our Duty, Transgender Trend and Parents With Inconvenient Truths About Trans or PITT.
Parents of Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria Kids launched in 2017 with just two mothers. Now they have more than 2,000 members and are growing rapidly with chapters in most states and some in Europe and Asia.
“I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” an activist mom who uses the pseudonym Charlie Jacobs told The Post. “We face teachers going behind our backs, radical trans activists trying to doxx us, we face gender clinics pumping our kids full of hormones and we face our college-age daughters coming home for Christmas with no breasts. I’m a liberal. I believed it all at first. But this is the emperor’s new clothes, designed to hurt children.”
In the past, some experts say, transgender people were a rarity and doctors advised months if not years of counseling prior to taking hormones or undergoing surgery to change gender.
It wasn’t until 2007 when Dr. Norman Spack, a pediatric endocrinologist, opened the country’s first pediatric gender clinic in Boston. There are now an estimated 60 to 300 gender clinics that provide hormonal intervention to minors.
According to activists, kids in some states can get blockers and hormones just by walking into a Planned Parenthood office or a gender clinic within an hour.
“The colleges are handing it out like candy,” said Josie, head of Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans website and the mother of an 18-year-old son who came home from school one day and said he wanted to transition. “You go to the college health center and say you’re trans and you get the hormones with hardly any questions asked. Some colleges you can get the surgery free.”
The majority of parents who spoke to The Post described themselves as Democrats. They said they are not anti-trans but oppose extreme gender ideology and what is called the “medicalization” of trans youth. They rail against what they say is the emotional blackmail peddled by trans activists.
“They all say you must affirm your trans child because anything else leads to suicide,” said Maria Keffler, a mother, author and head of Advocates Protecting Children. “That’s not true and they don’t have the data to back that up. We offer a counter-narrative for parents to navigate out of what we believe is a cult, a gender cult.”
The rise in parent opposition groups coincides with the Biden Administration’s increasing advocacy of all things trans.
On March 31, the Dept. of Health and Human Services, where Admiral Rachel L. Levine, a transgender woman, is Assistant Secretary, released a manifesto encouraging early “gender-affirming” surgeries for young people as well as puberty blockers and hormones.
The Department of Justice also sent a strongly worded letter to all state attorneys general “reminding” them that anyone who does not allow “gender-affirming care” for trans youths could be violating their constitutional civil rights.
Many of the parents involved in the support groups asked to be anonymous, saying that if they question any aspect of the trans kids movement they are immediately labeled transphobic, bigoted and guilty of hate speech.
“I have nothing against the whole trans thing except for the fact that my kid isn’t transgender,” said Gigi, a California mother in her 50s whose child wanted to become trans and who works with the UK anti-gender ideology organization, Our Duty.
“Most of these kids fit a pattern — they may be depressed, have anxiety, be on the spectrum or have same-sex attraction. But they get celebrated for coming out. People applaud, the teachers call you the name you want. You become bulletproof, it gives you status. Meanwhile the parents have to worry about Child Protective Services (CPS) coming to their door if they don’t go along with it.”
Three different parents told The Post they did not find out for months that their children were secretly wearing clothes of the opposite gender and using a different name with different pronouns, and that their kids were encouraged in their transitions by school staff, who kept them in the dark.
Some parents have even lost custody of their children because judges believe parents must affirm their child’s gender and not oppose medical intervention.
Ted Hudacko, 56, of Richmond, Calif., an engineer at Apple, said his wife of 20 years came to him one day in August 2019 and told him their older son was transgender. She left with the boy, then 15, the next day. The couple had a bruising custody battle over their son, now 17, that ended with Hudacko’s wife being awarded sole custody of the older boy with no visitation for Hudacko even though they share custody of the younger son.
“I’ve been grieving him and mourning him for three years,” Hudacko told The Post. “It’s a Kafkaesque situation.”
Most disturbing for Hudacko, however, is that he insisted his son have no medical interventions before turning 18. Though it was supposed to be part of the custody agreement, Hudacko said his son got the $210,000 Supprelin puberty blocker implanted last August and is also taking estrogen.
“I’ve been told that Supprelin and estrogen together can sterilize you in four months,” Hudacko said. “This is not always reversible no matter what they say. It also can cause brain injury and loss of IQ. I don’t want my son to be cognitively harmed.”
Hudacko said his ordeal has been so miserable, he no longer cares about speaking out about it. “This will affect my son adversely for the rest of his life,” he said. “I don’t know how the family court could have done this and why all these bad judges and politicians are going along with this.”
Abigail Martinez, a California mother, spoke out in March about how her “girlie girl” daughter wanted to be a boy when she entered high school — after a period of depression. She said the child’s teachers pushed transgender ideas and treatments on her and Martinez eventually lost custody. Her daughter, who changed her name to Andrew, went into foster care and eventually committed suicide at age 16 in Sept. 2019 by kneeling in front of an oncoming train.
There are many parents who celebrate their trans kids, notably the mother and father of 21-year-old transgender woman and activist Jazz Jennings, who began appearing on TV at age 6 and has starred in TLC’s “I am Jazz” since 2015. The Jennings family allowed cameras to chronicle 17-year-old Jazz’s initial “bottom surgery,” which involves the removal of male genitalia and fashioning of an artificial vagina, and additional surgeries after her first one went wrong.
Other parents support and encourage children as young as 3 and 4 to transition socially as a first step. Some buy what are called packers, or kiddie phalluses, for their little girls who identify as boys to wear in their bathing suits or shorts. Parents of young boys who identify as little girls can buy them what is called “tucking” underwear. Older trans kids can now buy accessories like chest compression tops or “binders” and “gender-affirming swimsuits” available on Amazon and now being offered for the first time this month at Target.
But just as many parents struggle with the fact they are allowed no agency or input when their young children suddenly announce they are trans.
Susan, who began Parents of ROGD, said she is one of the lucky ones. After her daughter decided she was a boy as a teenager, she began taking testosterone and bound her breasts for five years, she stopped talking to her mother for 18 months.
“She was not in touch with us while she was medicalizing,” said Susan, 64, who lives in the Northeast and asked that her real name not be used. “Then one day she decided she was my daughter again and de-transitioned.”
As a result of taking hormones, Susan’s daughter has a permanently deep voice and must shave her face regularly. Her breasts, she said, have been “crushed” after all the binding. However she never had bottom surgery, Susan said, and still gets her period.
Susan believes that her daughter, who now identifies as a lesbian, was never transgender but succumbed to what she calls intense social pressure to become male.
“It’s uncool to be a cisgender white woman,” Susan said. “You want to be a cool oppressed minority and the minute you become trans all the doors open and everyone applauds and you’re a star.”
Even transgender pioneers are starting to express concerns about the rising number of youth who say they are trans. Psychologist Erica Anderson, 71, who is transgender herself, told the Los Angeles Times last month she is horrified that even 13-year-old kids are now getting hormone treatment without meeting with psychologists.
“I think it’s gone too far,” said Anderson, who until recently led the US professional society at the forefront of transgender care but has since stepped down.
Dr. Marci Bowers, the transgender woman who was Jazz Jennings’ surgeon, admitted during a recent Duke University Zoom call with Olson-Kennedy and others that young boys given puberty blockers and hormones probably have never experienced orgasm and likely never will once their testosterone is shut off.
“We know there will be some sensation,” Bowers said. “But are they going to be able to achieve sexual satisfaction? This is what really raised the red flag for me. We need to have our eyes open about it.”
Many parents feel that support groups are the only place they can turn amid a society that practically encourages kids to become trans.
“At first we were like the underground railroad and in some ways we still are,” Susan told The Post. “Some parents who get hit with this just start spinning and spinning. Unlike other parental situations you can’t tell anyone. Nobody shows up with a casserole or a Facebook message with thoughts and prayers. You get ostracized. Parents are terrified.”
Denise Canaan of 4th Wave said she is relieved that she forbade her daughter from getting hormones or surgery. When Chiara was almost 18 she spent nine months away at a horse farm with little access to the Internet. After she returned home, she decided to “desist,” the term given to trans people who have not had medical intervention and return to their biological gender.
“I would’ve greatly regretted medical transition, and although at the time I thought I’d die if I didn’t get my way, I’m immensely grateful my mother knew better,” Chiara wrote in a 2019 essay.
Says her mother: “There are definitely people who don’t regret having transitioned. But a lot of them are the ones who did it as adults, with their brains fully formed. The real issue and the one I won’t stop fighting is the pediatric medical transition sweeping the country and the way the federal government is shoving it down our throats.”