For the first 19 years of Andrew's life, "he was all boy—literally all boy," his mother, Marie, told The Epoch Times.
But in college, the socially awkward teen began to find friends in an LGBT group, said Marie, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her identity and her son's.
Then suddenly, "he came out to me when he was 19 and told me he was a woman trapped in a man's body," Marie said. "To tell you this was a shock is an understatement."
Andrew is one of thousands of young adults and children with similar stories that make up the accelerating nationwide phenomenon of transgenderism.
Marie blames online influences as a key factor in persuading her son he was a woman. Other parents of children identifying as transgender echo that sentiment.
Their painful revelations have been documented in a new book called, "Parents with Inconvenient Truths about Trans: Tales From the Home Front in the Fight to Save Our Kids."
The book contains 75 essays written by members of Parents with Inconvenient Truths About Trans (PITT), an online support group for parents around the country with transgender-identifying children. The group has about 11,000 followers on social media accounts.
The book tells stories of parents losing their children to what experts have called a "massive social contagion" driven by social media celebrities and others.
Josie A., one of the editors of the book and a PITT organizer, asked to remain anonymous when speaking with The Epoch Times. She, too, has a child who identifies as transgender.
Every family sharing in the book attributed the influence of the Internet, at least in part, to their children's transgenderism, Josie said.
"Everybody had the same story," she said.
Josie pointed to the impact of so-called "influencers," social media users with big followings who share about their lives.
When it comes to promoting transgenderism, there are many, Josie said.
Influencing Sex-changePeople who identify as transgender often speak publicly, especially on social media, about the rejection they've faced from family.
However, testimonies in the PITT book suggest that, often, the opposite response is true, and acceptance is offered.
In their essays in the PITT book, parents talked about how schools, peers, and their own families supported their children in newly announced "gender identities," at first.
They began to object, they said, when they began to witness changes they felt were harmful to their children.
Some LGBT activist groups, including The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), say that gender transition helps transgender-identifying individuals feel more aligned with their identity or appearance.
But eventually, all the parents in the book say they discovered that their child's transgender identity wasn't as straightforward as it seemed to be.
Social confusion, search for belonging, mental disorders, and other factors played a part for their children, the parents wrote.
Some parents' stories in the book describe the shock they felt by their child's gender transition.
When Hannah announced that she was transgender and was "transitioning" to life as a boy at 19, she called her bewildered parents "transphobic," said her mother, Meredith, who also asked to remain anonymous.
The news of Hannah's new identity was delivered to her by text message, Meredith said.
"I'm coming out as a man," Hannah wrote to her parents. "I'm doing this. I'm not asking your permission. I'm telling you. I'm transitioning, and I'm starting on "T" [testosterone] in two weeks."
Meredith struggled to understand.
"She's always been very feminine," she said.
It's Not 'Political'In many of the stories in the book, the parent writers express that they didn't initially have strong feelings about transgenderism.
Some politically liberal parents in the book strongly support transgenderism and their children trying on new sexual identities.
But all the parents in the book said they felt sure, either right away or eventually, that their children weren't transgender, after all.
It's not an inherently political issue, Josie said.
"But it's become political," she said. And it's because "our country is so divided that if one political party takes a stance, the other is going to do the opposite."
Meredith recalled thinking, "What's the big deal?" when she first heard news reports about men who identify as women using women's restrooms.
But when her daughter announced her transgender identity, she knew it wasn't right, she said.
In story after story in the book, a smart but socially challenged kid grows to adolescence without a hint of transgender identity.
Then, the child hits puberty, and a friend, teacher, or book suggests his or her social isolation might be blamed on an unrealized transgender identity.
Girls seem likely to announce they are transgender after others in a friend group identify that way. That was the case with Hannah's daughter.
For boys, the road to transgender identity often seems to begin with pornography, parents' stories suggest.
Marie's son "was uncomfortable socially and would get in trouble in school," she said.
But in college, he found social success in an LGBT campus club.
"Next thing we know, he is wearing rainbow lanyards, all these buttons about LGBT and trans-this-and-the-other, and it was concerning," she said.
He brushed off their worries, saying, "'Oh, they're my friends," she said.
They later discovered that after starting college, Andrew began viewing a type of pornography that uses hypnotic suggestion to get men to imagine themselves as women, Marie said.
"In hypnosis porn, these kids are being told over and over and over again, 'You know you're a woman. You're going to turn. You know you're going to transition to a woman. Love your womanhood,'" Marie said.
"He would open the door, and his eyes would be glassy, almost like he was hypnotized," Marie said.
Marie's husband works with computers, and they had put up safeguards to block their son from viewing porn.
But Andrew found a way around them.
"These kids are way smarter than the parents," Marie said.
'Pot of Misery' at End of RainbowOften, when children declare themselves transgender, they rewrite their past to fit their perceptions, parents in the PITT book said.
Lydia's son revised his entire childhood, she told The Epoch Times.
As a little boy, he didn't cross-dress, show interest in stereotypically feminine activities, or indicate a transgender identity in any other way, Lydia said.
Now, he often insists he exhibited feminine behavior from an early age.
"He's absolutely gone back and changed things to say, 'See, I always felt this way,'" she said.
In her written account in the book, Lydia says she grew up in a religious cult. Eventually, she "logic-ed" her way out, she said. Currently, she works as a scientist.
She's alarmed watching her son enter what she sees as a social movement that resembles a "God-less cult," she said.
"It feels like an old suit that I chose not to wear anymore," Lydia said of cult mentality. "And now my son's put it on and is dancing around saying, 'Don't I look great?'"
Some stories told in the new book describe children severing ties with parents as they pursue sex-change procedures.
Others return to their original identity after time on cross-sex hormones. And some stop their gender transition before making permanent changes to their bodies.
Hearing the stories of other parents was, at first, encouraging and "incredibly validating," Marie said.
But eventually, seeing the number of children identifying as transgender wore on her, she said, as she read posts shared on the PITT group's pages.
"I honestly can't even read the stories anymore," Marie said. "Can this madness just stop already?"
Andrew still identifies as transgender, Marie said. He has dropped out of college, hasn't spoken to his family in months, and struggles with depression, she said.
"This is what happens at the other end of the rainbow," she said. "It's not a pot of gold. It's a pot of misery."
Hannah sees a good therapist now, Meredith said. After a long absence, she's talking with her parents again.
"She hasn't had any surgery," she said. "But she hasn't walked away from it. And she's still on T. I have hope that she will walk away."
Josie advises parents with children struggling with gender identity not to leave them alone with other adults, whether online or in person.
"As a family, you can do family therapy, but never let your child alone with an adult," she warns. "You don't know if they have nefarious intentions."