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How the Gender Industry Has Parasitized People’s Emotions: Alasdair Gunn on the Spike in Teens Seeking to Transition

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[FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW] “By the time this hits the parents, there's … almost a religious fervor that they're up against.”
Alasdair Gunn, also known by his pen name Angus Fox, is a vice-director at Genspect, an organization seeking to broaden the treatment options available for people questioning their gender—beyond “gender-affirming care.”
Mr. Gunn helped inspire parents to share their stories in the new book, “Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans: Tales from the Home Front in the Fight to Save Our Kids.”
The gender industry has “parasitized people’s emotions,” Mr. Gunn argues. “And it's managed to remain as though it's some very respectable normal field of medicine, as though it's knee replacement or orthodontics or something, and it's not.”


Jan Jekielek: Alasdair Gunn, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Alasdair Gunn: Thank you very much for inviting me. I'm delighted.
Mr. Jekielek: Or should I say Angus Fox?
Mr. Gunn: You can say either. My Twitter handle is a portmanteau of the two that got mashed together as well, so there's three options for you.
Mr. Jekielek: I should mention that because you have written in Quillette and in other places under the pseudonym Angus Fox in the past. I'll give people a bit of a preview here. I read the bulk of your book, Parents with Inconvenient Truths About Trans, 75 anonymous essays by parents who are in the midst of this issue. You've been nominated to speak about this whole thing, but you're not a parent yourself. How did you get into this and get the trust of all these parents that are in a precarious situation?
Mr. Gunn: Have you ever slipped and fallen and thought, "Oh, here I go and I'm going down." That happened to me this morning by chance. Honestly, I fell into this in a backwards sort of way. I didn't expect any of this to happen. I came across an anonymous video, an asymmetrical interview where the interview was seen and she was not seen.
It was a mother who was simply describing what had happened to her daughter who had decided to start identifying as male. It was extraordinary, and I had no idea. I'd never even heard of a woman having a sex change. I thought that wasn't a thing, much less with a teenager. My first reaction was I felt terribly sorry for her because she was obviously a very normal, decent person who'd been hit by something.
My second reaction was, and I happen to be gay, was that we're going to be blamed for this because LGBT is everywhere. There's very much this sense of including transsexual and trans people, which honestly I'd never really thought in any depth about. I reached out to a group of similar parents. I joined a message board, which had parents who were similarly experiencing this very strange new phenomenon of an adolescent child developing a transgender identity seemingly overnight.
They were quite skeptical because at the time this was a community very much under attack. It still is, but it has changed. They wish to protect their identities mainly because they wish to protect their children. They think their kids are going to grow out of this and they don't want this to follow them for the rest of their lives.
They want them to be able to leave this behind. If it weren't for that, most of them would be public. They've been attacked by activists who decry them as transphobic, and so it took a long time for them to trust me. But they did in the end and they let me into a meeting. I heard their stories and I decided to write them up.
We started something together. It was a very strange moment, but it helped because these parents feel very helpless. They feel ostracized, they feel attacked by society, and they need to do something to give themselves a belief that they can resolve their situation for the better.
Mr. Jekielek: We've learned over the last few years that the fear of ostracism can really affect human behavior. I read over 60 of these essays and one of the themes that comes out is that there is a standard playbook these kids get pulled into where they already know what to say.
Then in some cases it's the therapists or guidance counselors that respond in a particular way. It's like this extensive coaching exercise to the point where the parents realize that the kids are all saying the exact same thing. How did this happen?
Mr. Gunn: Yes, we call that the script. From a parent's point of view, the script is written on Reddit, Tumblr, and Discord, those three platforms, but on other platforms as well. These are just platforms. It could be WhatsApp, and it could just be your mobile phone, but this is how these kids are communicating. It's a generational challenge because my generation wouldn't necessarily use Discord, for example. We are in very different spaces.
They receive this script from their friends. The best way to think about this script is like if your child found a poem that resonated with them. The feeling is probably real, but the information in it is not real. When they say, "I'm at risk of suicide," this is something they've learned from their friends.
We actually have no evidence of that risk. It's a very complicated and thorny issue, but there is no evidence of suicide risk. They tell this to one another and then they believe it—that they're at great risk of suicide if they don't transition. I could introduce you to detransitioners who would tell you, “I really believed that about myself. I believed if I didn't transition, I would be at risk of suicide.”
Mr. Jekielek: The complicating element is that if you believe it, it makes it more true.
Mr. Gunn: It may make certain types of behavior more true, and then those certain types of behavior could in theory put you at risk. It's true to say that there is some elevated suicidality among young people who question their gender. According to one study, it's also true to say that there's an even higher degree of suicidality among bisexuals. Now, we don't take all bisexuals and say, "We must rush you to a doctor."
I'm not saying there shouldn't be discussion of these things, but it's not necessarily a medical issue, and it's certainly not evidence of a physiological problem. These young people read this script, and then they present with this script, and in a sense it's kind of outlining the way that they feel. They could feel that way for many reasons, but the information is very often false and it's taken from elsewhere.
The parents who are writing and talking about their experiences in PITT [Parents with Inconvenient Truths About Trans] and who've joined Genspect, very often by the time their child actually presents to them, they've already been identifying as a member of the opposite sex online for six months or more. They've been sharing information with people who've been encouraging them to see themselves as transgender, and who've been telling them that anyone who doubts that is transphobic.
They are very often told the only people who would doubt they are trans are trans people. When you think about it, that is a cognitive sinkhole. Because as soon as you question if you are trans, it's like the ground is gone from beneath you, and you're trans.
In fact, there’s a website called, “Am I Trans?” If you go there, you just get the word yes. They're existing in this kind of community which is quite different from what their parents expect. By the time this hits the parents, there's almost a religious fervor that they're up against. They don't realize how far this has gone in the child's life already, and a lot of that is from the internet.
Mr. Jekielek: There's a whole series of essays in the book about something that I was aware of. I've been looking at this issue for the last two years. I wasn't aware of how deep this could go. There's a connection to specific types of pornography, and there's a connection to sexual predators that are participating in this. The kids get pulled into the dark web in some cases. I don't know how prevalent this is, but clearly this has happened to numerous parents.
Mr. Gunn: The dark web is a technical thing, and one of the stories in this book is about a young woman who was actually pulled into the dark web. The dark web is a particular interface using the internet, which is really very sinister. There isn't a way of keeping young people out of these communities. The screen literally just says, “Confirm that you're over 18,” and then you click yes. This is a problem that has been going on since I was a teenager.
I'm no longer a teenager, and I haven't heard a single politician come up with a serious answer on how to stop this, and I'm afraid I don't have one either. There's a much broader problem of the sexualization of children. But with this gender identity, it's very clear that it’s something which has allowed predatory men to be a lot bolder and exploit children. They say, "The adults around you don't understand your gender identity. They don't understand that you're trans. I do."
It's an unrolling and unfolding disaster for these young people of both sexes because there are no guardrails. There is no way to keep predatory men out. One of the stories I wrote about two years ago in Quillette was a horrible story, and I won't give the details. But it was very clearly an older man by 14 years interfering with a younger man who was a post- pubescent 15-years-old.
There's something that has afflicted our culture where people can say certain words like, “Maybe this is a trans woman who's advising or helping or understanding.” For some reason we then reroute the normal part of our brain, which would normally say, "Why is a stranger talking to a child about sex?" That's normal thinking.
I'm particularly angry about it because there are a lot of people who will attack that normal question, and they don't realize we'll get the blame for it. Gay people will get the blame for it. There's a lot of normalization of this that's going on under the banner of LGBTQ, and that makes me extremely angry, because there's nothing about being gay that makes me want to talk to your child or anyone else's child about sex. Yet clearly, our culture is giving a very different signal.
Mr. Jekielek: Another theme that I noticed is that the GSA [Gender and Sexuality Alliance] organizations within schools are somehow often involved. Is that accurate?
Mr. Gunn: Yes. For a start, GSA did a nice little bait and switch. It used to be Gay-Straight Alliance, and now it’s the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. Notice the pivot from talking about sexuality to talking about gender and sexuality, which is nicely, smoothly done without anyone having to reprint their stationary. Particularly, young women are going into these GSAs and they are being bombarded with ideas that they simply don't need to have. They simply don't need to have them. It's not making them happier and it's not making them safer.
There is a very brave young woman I know called Helena Kushner who's a detransitionist. She appeared on Fox News and she's spoken about this. If you turn up and you are what in their dialect they would describe as cis, which means you're not trans, you're not identifying yourself as non-binary, and you don't have anything snazzy going on in the gender department, they will really be pretty awful to these young people, particularly to the girls it seems.
If you go to one of these GSA clubs, they're just going to push you, at the very least, to have the courtesy to be non-binary, pansexual, or to be trans. It really is a very strange ideological environment. I was very resistant when people said, “Oh, it's like a cult,” because I thought, “I've never been in a cult, and I don't know about them.” But there is something quite cultish about this mentality. It is a one-way street.
There's another detransitionist that some of your viewers may be aware of, another very brave young woman called Chloe Cole who's speaking out about this. She was told on Twitter the other day, "You're a traitor." Now, this is Jonestown stuff. If you believe yourself to be the victim of medical malpractice, that's not treason. You're not betraying a country, and there's nothing you're betraying.
This mindset is being indoctrinated through schools and through the internet in particular. In the book there's a title which says, "The internet and school indoctrinated my child." In a way they go together. There are parents who have noticed very negative behavior on their children's devices and have done the right thing, which is to take away the device.
Not only will they take the device, but they will ensure that other devices can't come in. In other words, they are doing good old-fashioned parenting and confiscating them. Thanks very much. But I've heard of schools replacing them, and if the school doesn't replace them, a friend will replace them.
Mr. Jekielek: You were talking about the way the so-called cis people are treated in these groups. That reminded me of queer theory, because according to queer theory, the struggle is against normal people. The normal people are viewed as the oppressors, and the not-normal people are viewed as the oppressed. The oppressed or anyone who's not normal has to struggle. If you subscribe to that ideology it's part of your duty—to struggle against the normal. I don't understand this deeply, but I think that's happening.
Mr. Gunn: Essentially, yes. It's giving them purpose and it's giving them a sense of identity and community. I'm sure many people watching this will have seen the trans flag; a blue, pink and white flag. It's very colorful, and it was actually invented by a pedophile, which a lot of people don't know. Did you know there's also a cis flag? There's a cis flag, and it's gray. It has three different, very similar shades of gray. That's a very clear signal. You are boring if you are cis. Cis even sounds like sissy.
It sounds derogatory, and there is clearly a link with queer theory. There's clearly a link with undermining the family. It's also very interesting how suddenly overnight some people have totally changed what we mean when we talk about parents and safety. These children will say, "I don't feel safe at home." When I was growing up, if you said, "I don't feel safe at home," the school would phone a social worker and potentially call the police.
Today, maybe only one in a hundred of them are in that situation. But today nearly all of them actually mean, "I want to use different pronouns, but I know that my mother will hit the roof." Of course she will hit the roof. Why wouldn't she hit the roof? And so, don't tell her. Schools are going along with this saying, "Yes, okay, you may not be safe at home."
This is terrible. This is the threshold for cutting parents out. Right now, we’re preparing this gender care framework, which in part will be about education. The threshold for cutting parents out of their children's lives is extremely high. It's malnutrition, it's physical abuse, and it's sexual abuse. It's repeated and intense psychological abuse. It's not providing a roof. It's not providing clothes.
Abuse is not the parent saying, “I won't agree with your pronouns, and that I have to call you Raven.” That's not the grounds to begin the process of estrangement. Because when a school takes that step and comes in and says, "We are going to decide to break the communication barrier here." If that child is 15, that could be setting up a template which could last for many years.
Mr. Jekielek: I keep thinking about this script that the kids find. I didn't realize that there's a whole script on Reddit or Discord that you can follow. I was imagining someone coaching you on what people are going to say and how you're supposed to respond.
Mr. Gunn: You wouldn't exactly say it's a copy and paste paragraph. When we say the script, it might imply that. Certainly there are things which have gone into the mix which are totally false. Like for example, 41 percent of children will attempt suicide if they're not medically transitioned with hormones. This is just complete pseudoscience. You can throw a stone in any direction and it will hit somebody who has debunked that, but that would be one of the things they talk about in the script.
Mr. Jekielek: It's almost like a catechism. Do you see it like that?
Mr. Gunn: Yes, increasingly, I do.
Mr. Jekielek: Apparently, there's also another script. In so many of these stories, the parent shows up at the therapist or counselor meeting expecting to get help. The moment the idea is voiced that there might be gender confusion, the affirmation script on the therapy or care side kicks in. It frequently seems to be only one path.
Mr. Gunn: There's this concept of affirmation which has been pushed in this very polite, nice sounding, and innocuous way which says, “You're saying that you feel something, and I'm recognizing that you feel that." But that's not affirmation, it's confirmation. Imagine you are a young person and you turn up at a hospital. You walk down those corridors with hospital smells, and you walk past surgeons and people on trolleys.
Then you go into an office, there's a skeleton hanging there, and a doctor in a white coat says to you, "Okay, I'm going to use the pronouns he and him," and you are a natal female. That's not affirming anything, it's confirming. This is garbage to say that it's affirming. This is clearly an authority figure, and it's clearly providing a stamp of social approval. The same thing happens in schools, although to a lesser extent.
We know from research done by Ken Zucker in Toronto that if you affirm the child's transgender identity, you are making medicalization more likely. Conversely, if you don't, then you're making medicalization less likely. There are people who say, "Who cares, it's all equal.” I don't believe that's ethical. I don't believe it's ethical to say intervening medically and not intervening medically should be put on an equal par. That's an absurdity to me, and I think to most people.
Mr. Jekielek: Alasdair, there's one essay in the book that was both thoughtful and thought-provoking. The thesis was that there's no such thing as a trans kid. What's your reaction to that?
Mr. Gunn: My reaction to that is as a trained linguist is to ask, “What is trans an abbreviation of?” If it's an abbreviation of transsexual to mean somebody who has medicalized the body to appear like a member of the opposite sex, then very unfortunately, and I say that with no apology, there are trans kids. I don't think they should be interfered with. The term exists if we are using it to talk about somebody like Jazz Jennings who has been medicalized to appear as though female.
If we're using it to mean transsexual, it's not a matter of opinion or philosophy. It's simply a matter of what has happened in the medical sense. If we're using it to mean transgender, I would agree. I would further say I'm not sure there's any such thing as a trans person, although I can see that it's a useful descriptor.
I'm much more comfortable saying trans to mean transsexual because we're talking about something which is observable, which has happened, and which is part of a historical record. Certainly it's a terrible thing to say there's such a thing as a trans child because for all sorts of reasons, aside from anything else, it's deeply homophobic. Most young people who have cross-sex ideation will move through it and will turn out to be same-sex attracted. That's the fact of it. You can find different statistics from different studies, but we think most is a fair statement, and if it's not most, it's a plurality.
In my mind, there's a whole problem with the idea of gender identity theory, and Genspect rejects gender identity theory. We do not believe that you are a man because you have some internal man feeling. At the same time, we should have compassion for people who have distress over these issues. But there's a real problem with concretizing that, particularly in a young person. In a young person, you're actually foreclosing their options. You are taking very many parts and you're closing them down.
There are different views. There are views that say, “Okay, we should continue with pediatric transition.” But it should be made clear that you're closing off all sorts of parts of life. I reject that because I don't think children are mature enough to make those decisions. It's that simple.
Mr. Jekielek: That's what I understood from this essay. The argument is simply that a kid can think all sorts of things along the way, and that is part of being a kid. Later in life, after thinking this through, maybe they will be able to make some decisions about that. But you should not be doing it when you're 3, 5, 10, or even 15-years-old.
Mr. Gunn: Jan, I was a truant for a year of PE [Physical Education]. They split the year alphabetically and it worked out that I could lie to both PE teachers. I hid for a year, so I didn't have to do PE. The reason I did that wasn’t because I thought I was a girl.
I just was terrified of being in male company, terrified so much so that I was a truant for a year, which was very much out of my character. I was a very good boy, and I never got detention. But I got away with this. You don't encourage a boy who feels that way by saying, "You're right, you're inadequate." You don't do that to a girl either.
Mr. Jekielek: These essays suggest that a significant portion of the kids are autistic or on the autism spectrum, which is also associated with being very suggestible. In this internet reality, they would be easy prey. I don't know if that is the right way to say it, but it feels like that.
Mr. Gunn: There is some evidence that if you're autistic, your development is different. There seems to be around a three-year lag in hitting full brain maturity. It seems that full brain maturity possibly comes around 28-ish, rather than around 25-ish. There's a period in child development around 11-ish, where children start to respond quite differently around natal sex. They suddenly realize, “I'm a boy and the boys are doing this, and the girls are doing that.” They suddenly sort themselves out quite differently and interact quite differently.
During the time when most kids can get along with mixed company quite easily, very often that whole phase can be quite different for autistic children. It can result in a young woman feeling that it's much easier to make friends with boys. She may have real difficulty making friends with girls until she's 14, 15, or 16-years-old. It could even be later. Who knows where the autistic mind goes with all this?
But there's one place it will very likely go if you've had a whole schooling of being told you might be a boy. You might think, "I only get on with boys and I don't understand the way that girls interact with one another,” because female interaction at that age is quite different. Bullying is different. Autistic girls can be really hit hard by female bullying and not understand it. A lot of these children are in that situation, but our culture is telling them, "This is evidence that you're a man," which of course it's not.
The other big issue with autism is at time of publication, there isn't a major society which is representing autistic people, their parents, or anything to do with autism. But it has actually been recognized that there is a problem here. There are organizations that have recognized that autistic people are more likely to transition, but they haven't recognized that very often this is accompanied with severe distress and avoidance of a real problem like self-harm or eating disorders.
It's just presented that some people are trans, and some autistic people are trans. There's no connection here. We are waiting for an organization which has really got some infrastructure and has the support of autistic people to come forward and actually say that there's a problem here, because there clearly is, and there clearly needs to be a lot more research.
Mr. Jekielek: Another theme in the book is the multiple psychiatric comorbidities associated with gender dysphoria, which actually used to be called gender identity disorder.
Mr. Gunn: Yes, GID [Gender Identity Disorder].
Mr. Jekielek: Right.
Mr. Gunn: Don't get too stuck on gender dysphoria because that's probably going to go out the window in a year or two as well. I think we'll have a new name for it soon. I don't know what that will be, but that seems to be the way things are moving.
Mr. Jekielek: There's even some studies showing that children that have gender identities or gender dysphoria have multiple other psychiatric conditions concurrently. The current trend is the one-size-fits-all approach of affirming, so to speak, and then the affirmation train. All this happens without those conditions being dealt with. This is a horrific reality for a lot of people that are suffering from multiple issues.
Mr. Gunn: Not only are they not dealt with, but will you find parents receiving conflicting information in the same building. One of the first parents I encountered had been interacting with eating disorder services for some time. Unfortunately, in her son's case, it was very serious. The whole modality of treating an eating disorder is that you have to impress upon the child, “You are not making decisions in your best interest. Therefore, we are laying down the law, and there are some things which are going to happen.”
Families go to extraordinary lengths in dealing with bulimia. People take the bathroom door off its hinges so that you can't vomit without everyone seeing. People will go to these lengths. These clinics clearly know that you don't just turn around to a child and say, "Look. you know what's in your best interest."
I interviewed this mother a long while back now, and her son had been struggling with an eating disorder for a long time. They said he then developed gender dysphoria. There's certainly a whole conversation to be had about that diagnosis. He went to a clinic within the same building and they essentially told him, "Your desire to take estrogen has nothing to do with your desire to minimize your body."
Now, this is clearly absurd. Estrogen stunts your growth and an eating disorder is the desire to minimize the body. It was in the same building that her son was being told that you cannot make decisions for yourself because of a comorbidity. This was an existing problem where the parent was actually doing the right thing—taking it seriously and seeking to address the problem.
There's a question about whether some people are medical professionals, or whether they're just activists that are totally undermining medical advice. We can see this with ADHD [Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder]. These are attention deficit things where there are protocols around how to help children like that. These protocols do not involve saying, "You are always right, you can do what you want."
We see that there's certainly elevated rates of obsessive-compulsive disorder in this population. There's also something which people are talking about more and may explain a lot of what you see in the media on this issue, which is there are elevated rates of narcissistic personality disorder. There also seem to be elevated rates of borderline personality disorder.
There are a lot of different conditions here, but none of this is being recognized. Essentially, you always hit the same cognitive brick wall. They say to the child, “That's got nothing to do with the fact you're trans,” but it does for these young people. There's no question that these conditions are an issue, and very often the children say it themselves.
Mr. Jekielek: Please tell me about this term gender dysphoria, because you said it's going to disappear at some point. We hear the term constantly. Again, it's tied with a very specific script of interventions.
Mr. Gunn: The authorities who are really evangelizing this do have a habit of renaming this condition every now and then. It’s like spring cleaning, if you like. It used to be called gender identity disorder. There are different ways of defining gender dysphoria. They are all deeply worrisome in my view because they include things like preferring toys associated with the other sex.
To my mind, a little two-year-old or three-year-old girl who likes trains and not dolls tells us very little. It may tell us she's more likely than the average woman when she grows up to work on an oil rig. When you look at these diagnoses, they're pretty regressive in many ways. They're not terribly accepting of those of us who were a bit different in some way, maybe because we turn out to be gay or whatever it might be.
You can think about the influence of the script. The script is not just what's presented to parents, the script is also what's presented to the family doctor, “I feel this way, and this way, and this way.” It's not to say they're lying, but it's a script. The way that impacts the diagnosis is there are all sorts of things going on underneath this blanket we're calling gender dysphoria.
It goes from highly distressed young people who are deeply disembodied and alienated from their own sex and at risk, to young people who really just want to be big on TikTok. They're going to be non-binary, but there's nothing wrong with them at all. Also, you can hear young people using this phrase dysphoria. They'll say things like, "I had a fight with my friend and then I got really dysphoric."
No, you didn't. You got sad. That's fine because I get sad if I fight with my friends. I'm sure you do too. It's not a medical condition. There's a huge amount of pathologization. It's in our culture, and it's also among these kids. They're almost addicted to finding things wrong with themselves, or perhaps not wrong, but unique about themselves, which nobody else can understand in this quite secretive way.
I worry about all of this. One of my worries is that I don't want young people to fall out of this vicious trans-activism into some kind of other identitarianism, because they have some other kind of victim minority label. We need to urge them to look higher into the landscape, rather than just trying to find another way to suffer.
Mr. Jekielek: You've mentioned Genspect a number of times. We haven't actually told people about Genspect, a remarkable organization. Let’s go into that right now.
Mr. Gunn: Genspect is about two-years-old. We were formed as an alliance of parent groups and people like me who supported them, because there wasn't an international group that was really cutting through. Since then, we have expanded. We did some events for detransitionists, so that people would be more aware of detransitionists. We issue guidance and platform people in the media. But our new big project is essentially twofold.
One is to go all around the world saying, “You don't have to medicalize. If you feel this or that inside, you can do all of that without hormones and without surgeries. There is a way to get through this without changing your body.” The other part of our mission is to essentially lay that out in a framework that is accessible to members of the public, so that it goes beyond just clinical help for these young people, and it goes into what schools should do. How should schools accommodate this horrible issue where there are young people who feel like they want to compete in sport as members of the opposite sex?
Our argument is that you can't. However, you could conceivably create some kind of third space or third competition if you wanted, if you felt like it was worth doing. Our mission is essentially to provide an alternative and allow everyone to see that the idea that the only way to help trans people is through medicine is wrong, and that there's another view.
Mr. Jekielek: These parents are acutely aware of the fact that this is a whole system and a whole industry. It has been compared to the opioid industry, where opioids were sold to doctors as being non-addictive, when it was known that they were incredibly addictive. Similarly, you have some of these incredibly destructive drugs. Lupron, once used to chemically castrate sexual predators, is now actually being used as a puberty blocker.
Mr. Gunn: It is used off label as a puberty blocker, which is a medical way of saying it’s completely at your own risk.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s discuss the number of gender clinics around the country. Again, there has been this unbelievable explosion and it's become industrialized, if you will.
Mr. Gunn: There have been various projects looking at these things over the years, but we are now seeing a little bit more muscle being brought in. My colleague, Robin Respaut, from Reuters, has started to look into all of this in more detail with all of these insurance claims going on. There's a huge problem with lack of data, but there are also some very interesting themes.
You mentioned the number of gender clinics. What a lot of people don't know about is the real estate link—a lot of those were AIDS clinics. They were HIV/AIDS clinics, which were needed. We now have a lot better information about that, and it's not seen as a massive, pressing social crisis. People know how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. I'm sure there's still a lot to be done, but we are not where we were in the eighties.
You're a gay rights organization and you are sitting on this property. It's like when Pizza Hut went bust. You're sitting on top of all of this property thinking, “What am I going to do?” If we want to talk about the industry and the socioeconomics of creating gender clinics, you've already got the property. There are some connections there.
This year this industry is going to cross the threshold from one point something billion to two point something billion. None of these people are working for charity. This is the key point. They go out there and they say their little messages about they're saving trans lives and they put on little hearts and unicorns and rainbows. These surgeons aren't charity workers, they're being paid.
The people who hold the stocks and shares, and organizations like Howard Brown Health are not doing it out of the goodness of their heart. This is an industry, and I think that it's an abnormal industry. It's an industry which has managed to rig all sorts of quite deeply emotional things in order to serve itself by bringing statutes of limitations down to absurdly short lengths. If you regret your surgery after three years, in some states in the United States, it's too late. You've got the rest of your life with a body part that you don't want, but the statute of limitations is only three years.
Honestly, I can see things in my kitchen which have a longer warranty than that. It has parasitized people's emotions and it's managed to be regarded as a very respectable, normal field of medicine like knee replacement or orthodontics, but it's not. It's operating in a very, very strange way.
Mr. Jekielek: Let's talk about some practical things. You've put it really well, how the parents' perspective on this unfolds. Some of these stories are so harrowing because these parents actually believed in it and had the veil forcibly pulled from their eyes. Kudos to those people, because that can be an incredibly difficult thing to do. First of all, what would be some of the warning signs that a parent might watch for? In a lot of these cases, the parent becomes aware of some weird behaviors. They're trying to give the kid their distance, but then it turns out there has already been a year of this internet porn grooming scenario, and the kid has already changed. How do you deal with that?
Mr. Gunn: It's a little bit tough if you have a teenager. The idea that a normal teenager is fine and that you're not going to have any problem is kind of laughable. You've always got something to navigate. But it’s a common experience that around three to six months before the announcement in the script, the child does seem to become quite inward. I would urge parents to be authoritative, which is not to say authoritarian, but you are not your child's friend. You're a parent, and just look at the screens. You can say, "I've noticed you're not happy. I want to see what's on your screen."
You can say, "I want your login details. I want your password. This is my house and I bought this phone. I'm not trying to belittle you. I know that you're a teenager, and normally I would give you some freedom. But I have noticed that you are unhappy, and I want to see what you're up to because I care." That would be the advice that I would give. A lot of this is about the screen.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the parents didn't want to go full tilt, but there was a mom in the group that got rid of all those screens completely and took a very firm line. It feels like you have to because these screens are incredibly addictive. The kids are saying things like, "You're persecuting me. I feel threatened. You're taking away my lifeline." They feel like that legitimately, because they're addicted, so it must be very difficult to deal with.
Mr. Gunn: It must be difficult to deal with. With this generation of parents it's a very different thing because of the internet and the whole digital realm. I don't even think we've necessarily got the vocabulary that we need to start understanding the way these kids are interacting. A lot of parents very sadly did not manage to stop their children from medicalizing, or to salvage their relationship. If you said, “What would you have done differently?” They would have said, "The internet. I would've been a lot tighter."
If you don’t go full tilt, then there are still all sorts of options. You can have devices in shared spaces, or you can turn off the mobile router at night. You can limit the data on your child's plan, that's an option. There are things that you can do to stop the child using the internet without fully taking the phone away. In general, I would not be neurotic or paranoid, but cautious about what is going on in online communities.
Mr. Jekielek: Absolutely. Then you have to watch for other people passing the devices, as we talked about earlier. Alasdair, this has been an absolutely fascinating conversation. Any final thoughts as we finish?
Mr. Gunn: Buy the book, and read the book with an open mind. Read it with an understanding that you are looking at parents from the truest, bluest household in the United States, through to the red states, through to people from all over the world. It's actually diverse, not pretend-diverse like we have nowadays. It's the old kind of diversity. Please Support Genspect. If there is somebody watching this who's going through this, no matter what age your child is, no matter if it’s your parent or anyone else in your family, don't suffer with it alone if it's giving you distress in your life. There are people that you can talk to and who will help and who will fight from your corner.
Mr. Jekielek: Alasdair Gunn, it's such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Mr. Gunn: Thank you very much. Thanks very much for having me.
Mr. Jekielek: Thank you all for joining Alasdair Gunn and me on this episode of American Thought Leaders. I'm your host, Jan Jekielek.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.