Gender confusion among children had been steadily increasing over the past several years but seems to have surged during the pandemic, during which schools shut down, and in-person interaction moved online. Indeed, gender dysphoria tracks closely with increased rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal impulses among young adults, which suggests these mental health struggles are in some way related.

This was certainly true for Amanda, a mother from Oregon whose daughter began falling into the gender ideology trap when she was 13. It began during the pandemic, Amanda said, when her daughter became heavily dependent on the internet for both school and socialization. One of her daughter’s online friends, in particular, a girl from California, began discussing transgenderism with Amanda’s daughter regularly. This new friend began identifying as a boy, and they would talk about gender identity, pronouns, and ways to transition physically, which included chest binders.

It wasn’t long before Amanda’s daughter began referring to herself by a new name and pronouns, which Amanda discovered after reading a group message chain on her daughter’s phone in which her friends referred to her as a “he.” When Amanda asked her daughter what this new name was all about, her daughter said she just didn’t always feel like a girl. Amanda pointed out that, as an engineer, she rarely wears makeup, mostly works with men, and never really dresses up. “Does that mean I’m not a girl?” Amanda asked her daughter.

Amanda said it was clear through repeated conversations with her daughter that her daughter didn’t understand what a “gender identity” was or what it meant. And how could she? She was just 13 years old — far too young to understand who she was, let alone who she would like to be.

The situation spiraled last March when Amanda’s daughter tried to commit suicide. She was hospitalized and then placed in a mental health facility for teenagers, where a family therapist tried to force the issue of gender identity onto Amanda and her husband. The therapist told them their daughter felt unsafe in their home and that she would not be allowed to return to their care unless they used her preferred name and pronouns.

“It was clear to me that they were blaming the suicide attempt on the gender stuff,” Amanda told me. “But when someone tries to commit suicide, it’s because something much deeper is going on. It’s not just because someone is using words you don’t like.”

Amanda immediately contacted a lawyer but hoped it wouldn’t have to come to that. She knew that her daughter was troubled, but she was still her daughter. She just needed to be reminded of that.

And that’s exactly what Amanda did. She brought the boy her daughter had a crush on to visit her, took her shopping, and reminded her of all the cherished nicknames and memories associated with her birth name. If you change names, Amanda told her, you’ll be giving all that up. “Is that what you want?” Amanda asked.

This was the first time it seemed to dawn on Amanda’s daughter that transgenderism, or the giving up of one’s self for a new identity, has a cost. It means separating yourself from the things that make you distinctly you. Your name, body, your experiences — all of it has to be rejected, suppressed, and destroyed.

Indeed, isn’t that the entire point of medical sex-change procedures? Double mastectomies, penile inversions, puberty blockers, chest binders — these treatments can’t create a new body because that’s impossible. All they do is mutilate and destroy the existing one, making it just unrecognizable enough that the “new” person can look in the mirror without constantly thinking of the parts of themselves they’ve left behind.

Children don’t have the capacity to understand the seriousness of this, as Amanda learned.

“She had no idea what the possible ramifications were,” Amanda said. “To her, it was just words. ‘What difference does it make if you call me by my birth name or by a different name?’ she’d say. She didn’t understand that there were actual, real-life implications to this stuff. She didn’t understand what she was asking — she was just asking because it was the trendy, cool thing to do.”

Shortly after this conversation with her daughter, Amanda was able to check her out of the mental health facility, though the therapists and doctors there fought against her efforts to do so. Once out, Amanda began making incremental changes to her family’s life. She found a doctor and therapist who agreed not to force gender ideology onto her daughter. She cut off her daughter from social media, yanked her from her school system, and eventually moved her family to a conservative farming community.

As of today, Amanda’s daughter has completely desisted.

“We were driving in the car last September, and I asked her how she was doing with the gender identity stuff,” Amanda said. “She goes, ‘Oh, mom, I know I’m a girl.’ She’s back to my happy kid again. We had lost that for a long time.”