A week before Emma* turned 18, she told her family that she was a boy.
"We were really sceptical," said her mother, Judith Hunter, "She had no history of gender dysphoria, and she was at the end of three years of very poor mental health."
Despite the family's objection, Emma visited a gender clinic in New South Wales, Australia, expressing her wish to physically transition into a male. The doctors quickly accepted her assertion and with the signing of an informed consent form, and a one-hour appointment, Emma was put on testosterone.
When Hunter rushed to the hospital asking to see her daughter, the doctors told her she had a son.
“I said, this is ridiculous,” said Hunter. “[Then] I was called a hateful parent, a bigoted person, a transphobic. I was told I had a live son and a dead daughter.”
“Why would the medical profession want to destroy families and badmouth parents who are just trying to help their children?”
A New Gender IdentityIt only took a couple of months later before Hunter could barely recognise her daughter. Emma shaved her hair, put on male clothes, and went by her male pronoun. She became estranged from the family.
“Every day, she verbally abused us, telling us what disgusting people we are, how we are transphobic, bigoted and hateful,” Hunter said in frustration as she recalled how her then 14-year-old son would curl up in a little ball on the floor, begging his sister to stop her out-of-control behaviour.
"We were basically living in a war zone."
In the end, the family was on the point of breakdown. Finally, they had no choice but to move Emma out. She dropped out of high school at year 11, and spent three years living out of home, unemployed and relying solely on government benefits.
Then in 2021, Emma told her family she never wanted to speak to them again before cutting off the contact.
“For the best part of three years, our family was just absolutely decimated," Hunter told The Epoch Times. "We were just a broken family.”
“We’ve lived through hell because medical professionals turned our daughter against us.”
However, it was not until Hunter opened Emma’s browser history that she realised what had pushed her daughter down the irreversible path of medicalisation and ripped the family apart.
“It was full of all the transgender websites, videos of girls taking testosterone, cutting off body parts, cheering each other on, ‘you can do this, you’ll feel better, this is the solution to your teenage problems,’” Hunter said in exasperation.
“It’s like an online manual, what to do, what to say, how to treat your parents. So you tell the doctors if your parents won’t go along with it, you tell them you’re suicidal, you’ll end up in hospital where you’ll be affirmed by the hospital staff who will turn on your parents and take your side.”
Social ContagionEmma belongs to an emerging cohort of young people with rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD), a condition where those with no history of gender identity issues believe they have a different gender during puberty due to social influences and poor coping mechanisms.
“It’s what we call a psychic epidemic. The COVID pandemic is an exact analogy except in the physical realm,” said Dianna Kenny, a former Professor of Psychology at the University of Sydney and now consultant psychologist and psychotherapist.
"People are social beings; they tend to copy each other and congregate together," she told The Epoch Times. "People just latch on to influencers and believe the message that they’re propagating, even if the message is false."
“Online content may encourage vulnerable individuals to believe that nonspecific symptoms and vague feelings should be interpreted as gender dysphoria stemming from a transgender condition,” the paper said.
What's notable, however, is that most of these children (60.7 percent) enjoyed increased popularity after they declared themselves as transgender, and 60 percent of the friend groups were known to mock people who were not LGBTIA.
This phenomenon, the author argued, is also observed in people developing symptoms of anorexia when attempting to conform to certain standards of one’s body image, which is set by their friendship cliques. In this group dynamic, the “best” anorexics—who are thinnest and display the most medical complications—are admired, while those who want to recover from anorexia are “maligned” and “ridiculed.”
"A lot of young people think [declaring themselves trans] is a solution because suddenly they feel accepted and they feel special," Kenny added.
"[But] it doesn't matter how loudly you say it, or how much you vilify people who say the opposite, it doesn't change the scientific fact that sex is dimorphic. Every piece of chromosome and DNA in somebody's body either has the male chromosomes or the female chromosomes. That is how human bodies are constructed, and everything else is fiction."
"Trans activists are trying to overturn 1000s of years of science."
This sentiment was echoed by psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed, whose experience includes helping patients with gender dysphoria. He told The Epoch Times that "a lot of psychological problems come about when we prioritise subjectivity as some kind of truth."
"The trans movement is a great example of this," he noted, explaining that it has normalised the idea of gender identity, a "relatively new" concept emphasising one's subjective sense of self and undermining sex as socially constructed.
He added that these ideas were based on the "Marxist ideologies" that consider the "male heterosexual type world" as "the site of power suppressing all other groups," among which trans are the more vulnerable.
The Way BackThings started to take a turn for Hunter's family in November 2021, when they eventually managed to get in touch with Emma for the first time in a year. Their interactions increased over time until early January 2022, when Hunter got a sudden call from her daughter. Emma was in a mental health ward. Hunter, again, rushed to the hospital. But this time, they are no longer estranged.
Emma informed her mother that she really regretted her decision to medically transition. By then, she had stopped taking cross-sex hormones for over a year.
“I think she started to realise that it wasn’t helping her. It wasn’t improving anything for her. She lost basically three years of her life,” Hunter said. "It's a big psychological adjustment to admit to yourself that some decision you made as a teenager would change you for the rest of your life."
The 18-months of testosterone have affected Emma's body. It has deepened Emma’s female voice, caused a receding hairline, and redistributed the body fat. It has also led to facial hair and increased the hair over the rest of the body. Her mother also notes her body shape has also changed significantly.
“I do believe it enlarges the females’ clitoris significantly,” Hunter added.
“If you take testosterone for long enough, it will atrophy your uterus, which then causes pain and dryness in the uterus. And sometimes, it means that you have to have a hysterectomy. Or maybe you'll be infertile.”
“She hates what it’s done to her body, the changes that it’s made,” Hunter further noted. “But they're not reversible.”
The mother added that she can not understand how doctors are able to make such decisions so quickly and for people of such a young age.
"It's just beyond belief," she exclaimed. “It’s a medical scandal unfolding.”
Long Road to RecoveryThe number of people wanting to detransition has been growing in the past few years, with a Reddit group for detransitioners having over 29,000 members.
Psychiatrist Ahmed said it's a "chicken or egg" dilemma.
“I think it's being formulated or conceptualized inaccurately for a lot of people where being trans is being seen as the solution and not the actual result of broader psychological disturbance,” Ahmed explained, revealing that between 80 and 85 percent of trans-identified people no longer identified as such after a few years.
"The reality is a lot of these people need to work on their sense of identity disturbance. Then, the problems around integrating their gender identity are solved, but not the other way around.”
In order to help trans-identified children, people should find "the middle ground," he noted.
"You don't need to be gender affirmative, but you can be very sympathetic and supportive and acknowledge their experience."
Hunter understands this deeply. In the first couple of months after moving back, Emma barely got out of her bed. But the family persisted in trying to communicate. They have been encouraging her to get back on her feet and get on with life. There are still ups and downs, but Hunter has noticed some positive signs. Recently, Emma has been out practicing her driving. During the week of the interview, Emma was going to get her driver's license.
"And that, to me, will be a really, really positive thing heading in the direction of a new life and positivity," Hunter said, her voice becoming warm and softened. "She's 21 now and has never tried to get it, but she's got it herself. And so let's hope that she achieves that goal this week."
Currently, Emma is still recovering from her experience and is giving priority to her mental health, her mother said, and found it still too emotional to revisit her experience with The Epoch Times.
"It's going to be a very, very long road to recovery," Hunter noted.
The campaign is led by a group of accomplished women, including Karyn Lisignoli, Former Girl Guides WA CEO; Sall Grover, founder of Giggle, the social networking app for women; and Bronwyn Winter, Emeritus Professor at the University of Sydney.
Meanwhile, despite the numerous ordeals that the family has been through on this journey, Hunter categorically knows there's one thing that doesn't change, a parent's unconditional love for their child.
“You never stop loving your kids; you never stop wanting to be there for them. But you don't have to agree with everything they do, especially if you think it's harmful,” she said.
“But I would never say to her, 'I told you so.' I'm just gonna say, 'I'm here and I will help you, however you need.'”