Editors' note: Frequent guest blogger Monica Helms is the president of TAVA, the Transgender American Veterans Association.
First of all, I have to say up front that I am not a fan of Dr. Phil. Never have been. He comes off as being a pompous, arrogant know-it-all most of the time. Yet, on January 14, 2009, I have to say that he impressed me on how well he presented his show called, "Little Boy Lost," a sequel to the show he had called, "Gender Confused Kids," which aired October 24, 2008. From all of what I read and heard, that first show was not taken very well by the transgender community. This new show quickly made up for that.
On this show, Dr. Phil had Glenn Stanton, researcher for Focus on the Family and psychologist Dr. Joseph Nicolosi from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH,) both saying it's the parent's job to guide their child away from what they call a "phase." On the other side of the debate was psychiatrist Dr. Dan Siegel and psychotherapist/sexologist Dr. Michele Angello, a good friend of mine. They say children are born this way and parents should support their children in their decision to transition to the opposite sex.
We all know where Focus on the Family stands on LGBT people. For those who don't know, NARTH is an organization that uses junk science to try to "cure" gay people. They have a very poor track record in that area, so how can anyone think that they would be any better when it comes to transsexuality?
Also on the show was a single mother of three sons, Toni, with the middle one now living as her daughter. Toni went through the grief process of "losing" her son, but now loves her daughter without conditions.
Dr. Phil made his first comment to Dr. Siegel, asking him to clarify the development of a child in the uterus. The doctor stated that the when the body develops in the womb, it starts as female and becomes male with the introduction of male hormones. There are times when the nervous system will not bond with the male hormones, but the rest of the body does, or visa versa. Stanton, from Focus on the Family, says that there is no connection between transsexualism and biology. Wrong!
Then, Stanton stated that the typical patterns they see is an over-involved mother that has a symbiotic relationship with her son and the father is out of the picture. He says they get the mother to not be involved so the son can bond with the father. Dr. Angello responded, saying that she found the antithesis of this situation and that if the child is loved, then they can express their feelings to their parents.
Then Dr. Phil brought out Toni to tell her story. He stated that she now feels she has made the right decision by supporting her child and she agreed. He then asked how she made the decision to support her son transitioning from male to female. She said he didn't give her the choice, stating that this was what needed to be done for her to live.
Stanton was given the chance to speak and he said, "No human being is cookie cutter... but what we have found is that time and time again that if kids do fit into this situation (over-involved mother and missing father), they are likely or somewhat tending to turn out that way. But we see similar things here in that close relationship with the mom and dad not being there, at least seeing in your profile, I mean, dad wasn't there..."
Toni interrupted him, "Dad wasn't there after the transition, not before the transition. That was after."
Dr. Nicolosi stated, "This is different with what we would do in our clinic. We would involve the father more. We would encourage a bonding between the father and the son. We would discourage - not to shame the child - but to discourage the feminine interests, build up his boy identity. Make him feel good as a boy and get mother out of her over enmeshment with the boy."
Toni came back at him big time. "My son (the daughter), I was not close to at all. My second son. In fact, that was why my fiancé became so close to him, because I wasn't close to him. I wasn't enmeshed with him. I really think your theory sucks." The audience applauded.
Don't mess with a mother and her children.
Toni then asked, "I just want to see your results. Where are your sixteen-year-olds now?" Dr. Phil didn't allow Dr. Nicolosi and Stanton to answer.
After the break, Dr. Phil turned to Toni and said, "Toni, you are very upset with what these guys are saying. Tell me why."
"Because they're the reason I have to worry every day my child walks out the door." Stanton and Dr. Nicolosi looked stunned. "They're the reason that I have to wonder what's going to happen to her, that people don't accept, or don't understand. Because you are showing something that is wrong. You are wrong."
She then focused on Dr. Nicolosi. "Do you have a transgender child?"
"I'm providing a therapy..."
"Do you have a transgender child?"
"Does that exclude me from the conversation?"
"I'm asking you a question."
"Does that exclude me from the conversation?"
"No, but I'm asking a question. Why can't you answer the question? Do you have a transgender child?" Stanton tried to interrupt. "I'm not talking to you." The audience clapped. She then said, "You guys are nuts."
Dr. Phil turned to Dr. Angello and asked, "What happens if she resists, if Toni resists at every step. She never ever allows this transition from male to female, in terms of dress and pursuing interest in preferences. What do you see happen when that occurs?
"What I have seen is the part that is frustrating for me about the glib response of just make your kid play with gender-typical toys or engage in gender-role-specific activities is that it's not only disingenuous advice, but it's redundant for all the parents I worked with. Bar none, every family I have worked with, with the parents, have tried that. Not once, but multiple times, over and over and over again. And, what ends up happening is that for the children who are in fact truly transgender, this actually makes them more troubled. This adds to the comorbidity, meaning they have more mental health issues, because they can't figure out why they are being invalidated."
This was a very interesting show. I think that Dr. Nicolosi and Stanton received a complete lashing that they deserved. They tried to make it look like they have such a wonderful and loving approach to this issue, when we all have heard the horror stories from people who were forced to go through their programs. Brainwashing is what they try to do to children who are transgender, gay, lesbian or bisexual. It's a shame that they are allowed to impose this sham on unsuspecting children, all with the complete permission of parents who think of themselves over the welfare of their children.
It is true that Dr. Phil wasn't a saint during this program, insisting on using the words, "gender-confused children" occasionally. Overall, he stayed neutral. He even said in the beginning that this was not an area he had any expertise in. We, as a community, like it when we can complain about something that doesn't go our way. I was highly skeptical when I heard of the subject matter of this program. But after seeing Toni defending her child against NARTH and Focus on the Family, you have to love it. Thank you, Dr. Phil, for showing us this topic in this wonderful manner.