Our daughter in college just announced her/hir intent to start taking Testosterone. What should we do?

April 23, 2015

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Request for advice and guidance from a concerned parent:

Our almost 21 year child just announced yesterday her/hir intent to start taking T and said that she was considering top surgery eventually as well but “that’s all”. Ze has been wearing men’s clothes for a couple of years now, hates having a period, and appears very butch. Seems most interested in/connected with other butch/lesbian individuals. We have tried to understand and have asked if hir intent is to transition to a male, but she claims not; stating that she’s just tired of being seen as a female, despite the butch clothes etc but does not want to be a “full male”..more like androgynous or “non-binary”.

It’s a long story, like many, but it started when she went to college and found her “place/home” in the LGBTQ community, and then changed her major to “Gender & Women’s Studies”. We are so concerned about whether this T medical treatment and surgery is truly what will make her happy versus being pressured by the environment she is currently in. She wants to change her name legally this summer. She seems attracted to other lesbians from what I can tell which may not be much! I know this may not be PC but what we’ve seen develop in her school experience feels “cultish” to us. Maybe we’re in denial? We are so very concerned about the permanent nature of this “transition” and that it is being done without any in-depth psychological evaluation or counseling. There is a possible history of abuse from a male babysitter when she was 4, but it was never possible to establish exactly what happened..she was examined and no physical evidence of anything was found. We did take her to counseling of course. She was also bullied in both middle and high school. She does suffer from anxiety and has trouble handling “stress” She has done extremely well academically and is very bright. She has always been quite nurturing and wonderful with babies and young children and even thought about becoming a preschool/elementary school teacher up until fairly recently.

What should we say to her about this upcoming transition? Should we give her any advice or information? We have tried to be accepting/loving parents but we are so afraid she is making a mistake that she could seriously regret later in life once the changes are permanent and that her decision to do this is encouraged so much by the community she is now involved with.

Thank you so much for reading this and any suggestions you can make would be very welcome.

Sue

From comment left HERE.

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63 Responses to “Our daughter in college just announced her/hir intent to start taking Testosterone. What should we do?”

  1. michelle Says:

    Sadly, ANY comment to her that won’t be interpreted as an all-embracing go-for-it will be met by resistance, never mind that concerns from a parent are entirely warranted. And the cultish friends will enable that resistance by claiming you aren’t respecting her ‘identity’ blah, blah, blah…

    All the red flags are here…surrounding by group thinkers, changing to a major that really won’t translate to the real world, moving towards medical “treatment” that has a potential to do very real harm. And it IS a harm that cannot be practically undone…once healthy tissue is cut away, it is gone…forever. Not to mention the damage that injectable testosterone will ravage upon her body.

  2. emmajune Says:

    http://redressalert.tumblr.com/

    Blog from an FTM detransitioner, she might be able to provide you some insight.

  3. Mormo Says:

    This breaks my heart.


  4. At this point I probably wouldn’t necessarily speak out against “transitioning,” but I would be very vehement about the impact testosterone will have on her body. There are videos out there that discuss some of the problems other females taking testosterone have encountered; up to and including early death. Certainly estrogen is a vital component to a female body. It is vital to brain function and it also protects the female anatomy from recurrent urinary tract infections. Breasts are also a crucial part of the endocrine system, and a mastectomy is not “minor” surgery. It can have crippling results if the lymph nodes are compromised. So focus on the medical aspects of making such a decision for what are mainly cosmetic purposes. Point out that if she dislikes having a period there are birth control pills that can eliminate that, at least for the most part, and that impact is reversible. Whereas the impact of testosterone including everything from high blood pressure to male pattern baldness to voice and temperament changes are NOT reversible.

    • Sue B Says:

      roslyn
      I have spent the morning looking for video’s on youtube that address the impacts of testosterone on females as you describe above and have not been able to find any. Frustratingly, all I have really found are either basic, minimalist descriptions of what happens when a female takes testosterone or transitioned FTM’s extolling the virtues of T.

      Can you point me in the right direction pls?

  5. kesher Says:

    This is a really interesting article about an FTM who found transitioning to be not all it’s cracked up to be: http://the-tusk.com/2015/04/20/uncomfortable-people/ She was also raped, and that seemed to have an influence on her desire to transition.

    One of my main takeaways from that article were that the author had really unrealistic expectations as to what transitioning would accomplish for her. She wanted to look like David Duchovny, which isn’t a realistic goal for most actual men. And her female body type was a completely unfixable obstacle to her looking like the manly man of her dreams.

    If I were dealing with a situation like this, I would try to find out what kind of expectations the wannabe transitioner has, and, if her expectations are completely unachievable, I’d try to gently point that out to her. I’d also do what Roslyn mentions, pointing out how awful testosterone is. And I’d try to convince her not to take any hormones until she’s tried living socially as a man for some time. I’d wager that this is easier for FTTs than MTTs and that it should be somewhat achievable on a college campus given how deep in identity politics the kids are these days and how terrified school administrations are of “misgendering” anyone.

  6. weirdward Says:

    This article from a detransitioned woman about how she was socialised ‘trans’ by the lgbt and queer community may also be helpful for understanding what might be happening in your daughter’s life in the kinds of spaces she’s inhabiting. I’m sure every case is slightly different, but this is one woman’s perspective on what she went through that might elucidate some of the issues a bit:

    https://crashchaoscats.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/socialized-trans/

  7. KgSch Says:

    I do have to agree with michelle. Any comment that is seen as not being completely supportive will be met with resistance and your daughter’s friends will likely tell her that you are transphobic bigots (if they haven’t already).

    But, you could mention health problems, like how the “low-T” pills marketed to insecure middle-aged men already have a ton of lawsuits, because they can cause strokes, heart-attacks, and deaths. If testosterone pills cause this in men, then imagine what they do to a woman.

    Also, tell her it’s perfectly natural to hate having a period. No woman enjoys it, but taking testosterone isn’t the answer. If your daughter has an unusual menstrual cycle schedule and/or excessively heavy/painful periods, and hates her periods for that reason, she could have endometriosis or poly-cystic ovary syndrome. These things are very common in women, but sometimes it can take doctors forever to figure it out.

    I guess what I could think of is to focus on the dangers of having surgery and taking male hormones and look at the blog links other people posted. Those might be of some help.

  8. GallusMag Says:

    Advice for parents from a woman who took, and later stopped testosterone:

    “Advice for Parents of Teen Girls and Girl-children who Think they are Trans

    If you are reading this, you’re a parent who is dangling by a thread and not sure how to reach your child/teen who is considering transition. I’m going to open this up with a bit of bad news, but you might also have some success if you follow my steps/advice.”

    Read more here:
    http://nymeses.blogspot.com/2014/07/advice-for-parents-of-teen-girls-and.html

  9. GallusMag Says:

    Blog of the concerned mother of a teenage girl who is considering transitioning:

    http://4thwavenow.tumblr.com/

  10. Sue B Says:

    Thank you all so much for your comments, recommended reading and advice. I agree that anything we say is unlikely to change what she thinks but that it is important for us to at least try; honestly, I just want to cry at how helpless we feel in tempering the speed with which she plans to do this. She hopes to start taking the hormones next week after her blood work comes back. My husband and I are working our way through all the recommended links and reading. Sage advice. She is supposed to be coming home for a few hours this weekend as we told her/hir we really wanted to talk about this. Her response was “it’s uncomfortable and you are not going to change my mind”, but I think she will meet with us if only for a couple of hours at most. One aspect we plan to discuss is financial. We are also trying to learn what the costs involved with this are – the cost of Dr appts, bloodwork, and T, let alone the surgery; none of this will be covered by insurance as far as we can tell? She already called the insurance company and said she could not get a clear answer from them. We are paying for 80% of college and associated costs and honestly it is very hard for us to do this. She has one more year and we are also afraid that taking T during her Senior year is going to be a disruptive process to her success as well.

    Again thank you all, please keep the comments and advice coming – we truly appreciate it.

    Sue

    • GallusMag Says:

      Testosterone is about $200. a month. Lab work is done sporadically, usually pre T, 3 month, then every six month or even annually. Figure a few hundred bucks for that including office visit. These patients are not closely tracked. As someone (a female transitioner) said, “We are not even lab rats” because there are no controls on any of this, all of it is off label, nor is any study or tracking of outcomes of this “treatment” being done by the medical authorities implementing it.

      Of course these costs are lifetime.

      Getting breasts chopped off costs around eight to twelve grand from “reputable” providers, which are few and far between, because very few physicians specialize in cutting off perfect body parts and remodeling them. Even cosmetic surgeons, who will do just about anything for money, have a hard time doing this. But you want one of the few “specialists” because the results from general practitioners can be so tragic: https://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/if-the-nipple-falls-off-just-throw-it-in-the-garbage-when-ftm-top-surgery-goes-wrong/

      So figure on top of the 8-12 grand surgical costs the cost of travel flights, hotels, and transport. She may also need a repeat visit for revision, to repair skin flaps that remain under her arms or other imperfections.

      If your daughter remains on T for more than a year or two she will want to have her ovaries and uterus surgically removed. That costs around sixteen to twenty grand, minimum. If she doesn’t do that, she can have way more problems, because the testosterone causes deformity and cancer of the female reproductive system: http://buckangel.tumblr.com/post/4048572475/my-his-tirectomy

      Obviously your daughter should be advised of her loss of the ability to bear children. Although some F2T have (famously) been able to gestate after years on T there are anecdotal reports of a high incidence of developmental disabilities among those children. Again, anecdotal because the medical authorities administering these “treatments” are not and have never tracked and studied outcomes.

    • kesher Says:

      I thought about mentioning this earlier, but then changed my mind, thinking that it might make her determination to transition even more urgent, but you might consider mentioning to her the continued costs of taking testosterone in a situation where she may not find a job with health insurance for a long time, and, actually, given the difficulty in finding a good job as a trans person, she may not find a job with benefits for an extremely long time. And a job without benefits straight out of college isn’t going to offer great wages either.

    • Violet Irene Says:

      I commented at length below, but I will add a couple things here about the financial side.

      First of all, I don’t think you should be paying for her to go to school and be indoctrinated by a cult. If I put it that way, it seems obvious, doesn’t it? Because that is what is happening. You are scrimping and saving and struggling to pay 80% of a full-time live-in cult indoctrination workshop. And you don’t want to be doing that.

      So if I were you…and I know to upper middle class parents this really sounds like a nuclear option…I would stop. Period. Do not subsidize things that are unethical and harmful to your child.

      I would say “I am sacrificing and saving to send you to school so you can learn skills and information that will help you in the world. I am not sending there so you can be indoctrinated and experiment with irreversible modifications to your body. If you want to do those things, you will have to do it on your own dime.”

      You could offer to let her get a job and take a year’s leave from school while living at home and thinking things over. But I would absolutely positively right NOW stop paying my hard-earned wages towards genderqueer indoctrination camp.

      And it goes without saying, that all trans body mods are paid out of her pocket, not mine, not my insurance policy.

      It’s a big adult decision and she needs to take responsibility for it like an adult.

      • Dogtowner Says:

        I am so glad you wrote this, Violet Irene! This is exactly what I thought; this is what is called a consequence for a very bad decision. It is absurd that college has become a genderqueer indoctrination camp, but if it has, one can continue paying the camp fees oneself. Paying for hormones and/or surgeries is not all that different from paying for heroin, so parents need to ask themselves if they would willingly do that.

        Your last sentence is SPOT-ON!

      • boringradfem Says:

        But this sounds a bit like conservative parents who make their children leave college when they are openly gay. I am a lesbian and my parents tried to get me to leave an out-of-state college and come back home when I cut my hair and came out. Of course this is different, but cutting people off from their social support network can be really devastating. All social networks exist for a reason (even toxic ones). The emptiness does not go away when you are “cut off” from your friends.This person probably feels crushed by gender expectations. I graduated university a few years ago, and among people my age women are either hyper feminine/hyper sexy or “genderqueer”. There are no other “real” options. Socially, you have to be one or the other. The “genderqueer” route is really dangerous, but conventional femininity is no walk in the park either. People in this situation need social support and resources to help combat internalized misogyny! They also just need to realize that the situation sucks and there is not much that they can do about the widespread misogyny in our society. Isolating people only makes them more depressed and lonely!

      • Dogtowner Says:

        @boringradfem

        I understand what you’re saying, but no one is saying she needs to leave college. if my husband could manage nursing school (minimum 40 hours per week) and a full-time job in his fifties, young people can certainly manage the same thing.

        And, gee, I didn’t go to college and I had quite a social circle. It is very depressing that the only roles available to young women are hyper-feminine and genderqueer. Maybe it’s time that young women who don’t like these options say to hell with them. Whatever happened to rebelling against constricting and imbecilic norms?

    • marymacha Says:

      You could draw a line in the sand and she would probably hate you for it. You don’t agree with her decision, it’s rash and too precipitated for you AND you’re already paying for her schooling which is an actual obligation (of sorts). You have the option of telling her that if she wants to ruin her life and mutilate herself (not in those words, but more diplomatically of course) she’s going to have to pay for it herself. This might be preferable to living with the consequences of shared responsibility for testosterone poisoning and long-term cancer risks, not to mention the psychological/emotional damage when she wakes up one day to find she’s really not a guy after all, that (possibly) the only people who are really “accepting” of her are the other “genderqueers” and that more doors have closed than have opened.

      I feel for you and for her too. Long term, whatever she ends up doing, your daughter is going to have to learn to love and accept herself.

      • marymacha Says:

        Okay, that was harsh. I guess what I wanted to say was that

        a) you have the option of not agreeing to pay for this and

        b) if you do agree to pay for or defray costs you can set conditions and timelines. For example she has to be fully informed about what she’s getting herself into, talk to others who’ve done what she’s planning on doing and later regretted it.

        I really don’t know if any of it would work but buying time for long enough could mean that in the mean time she’s exposed to more, new and different information and POVs.

        Though there are others on here who recommend against negotiating and have more direct experience and knowledge, so these are just some thoughts.

  11. 4thwavenow Says:

    Sue, it has to be so difficult, knowing you no longer have legal influence over her medical decisions. You can only hope she will listen to you as a trusted advisor now. As GallusMag mentioned in her comment above, my blog is specifically geared toward parents and their daughters who are considering transition. There is a lot of important information I’ve found regarding the dangers of medical transition, alternatives to transition, and supportive voices for you and your daughter. My most recent blog post speaks directly to young people considering transition, and while it is aimed at minors, it is very pertinent to people in their 20s as well. I don’t know if it would help to refer her there. But in any case, and whatever happens with your daughter, please come and contribute your voice. It is needed. I know how alone a parent can feel in all this.

    https://4thwavenow.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/i-sound-like-your-mom/
    https://4thwavenow.tumblr.com

    • Oceans Says:

      Although Sue may no longer have any legal authority over her daughter’s choices, if the daughter is relying on Sue’s health insurance coverage to defray the costs of T or other medical approaches to this, Sue still has a little leverage. Just a thought.

  12. Smits Says:

    I would say two things are important here:

    1) Testosterone will not make your daughter “more androgynous”. It will cause her to develop thicker terminal hair and a male-pattern hairline (or even cause her to become bald), to develop a male-pattern body fat distribution (fat currently held around the hips and thighs will move to the stomach), to have her voice break much like a teenage boy’s, and to encounter a wide array of physical and psychological side effects ranging from a highly increased risk of UTIs/yeast infections to struggling to control anger.

    If your daughter currently has a fairly “boyish” figure, taking testosterone will likely cause people to assume she is male and treat her as a man. If your daughter is less ambiguously female as she is, people will likely continue to treat her as a woman, but as an extra weird one (on top of the stigma I am sure she already encounters for visibly stepping outside the female role). There is no way of being “treated as non-binary” outside of queer bubbles. Taking testosterone is not a way to eliminate sex-based oppression for oneself. Artificial hormones are often provided on the basis of “informed consent” but try to make sure her consent really is informed and that she knows what will and will not happen if she starts T.

    2) Regardless of what she decides to do, please try to avoid the extreme catastrophising and inflammatory language about women who take T that can be common in gender-critical circles, particularly amongst women who are very removed from “queer” types. Your daughter is not going to become a “freak” or “mutilate” herself. She is not “destroying” herself as female or in any other sense. She is a young woman trying to find a way to survive in a world that categorically refuses on all fronts to accept that the way she is is a way women can be.

    I do not believe that testosterone is the answer to the intense, soul-deep loneliness and self-doubt that comes with being a butch lesbian in the modern world, but it is an apparent solution that I cannot blame other butch women for taking. And should your daughter come back to herself as a woman next month or years from now, she needs to know that making hard choices for her survival does not make her any less female or less of a human being.

    • moira Says:

      Thank you, Smits. Your comment shows a level of understanding I rarely encounter from anyone but detransitioned women, and I think your suggestions are right on.

      To your first point, I know many women for whom T took away their “ambiguity” and landed them soundly on the side of being read as male. Some were surprised to experience this as a loss.

      One thing I would add is that it’s always a crapshoot with T. Everyone goes into it thinking about what they want to have happen and in reality the only sure things are things like vaginal atrophy, increase in blood count, and increased risk of heart disease. It will probably thicken your vocal cord and change your voice…but then sometimes it doesn’t. It will probably change your fat distribution…but then sometimes it doesn’t. It will probably give you facial hair…but then sometimes it doesn’t. It is a volatile thing to dose a female body with male-range levels of T, and outcomes are not neatly predictable. Hormone-hacking is not any kind of exact science.

      This is from a blog post I have in drafts right now:

      “The main thing I wish people understood about T is that you are not in control of how it changes you–and you may be surprised by how you actually feel once changes happen, even ones you thought you wanted.”

  13. born free & female Says:

    One theme that I have repeatedly seen from FTM detransitioners is the presence of people in their life who asked neutral questions with hard answers – for example, responding to “I have a medical condition because I’m uncomfortable with my gender, unlike you – you’re comfortable with your gender” with “Why do you conclude I’m comfortable with my gender?, or responding to “I feel like a man, not a woman” with “How is that different?”, or to “I’m a man because I like sports” with “Aunt Mary likes sports – how does that fit?”

    I know it is hard to sound interested but unconvinced when the other person is going to interpret disagreement as attack. Some detransitioners, though, have written about how considering questions they didn’t have good answers for eventually led them to realize the problems with trans activists model of gender.

  14. Violet Irene Says:

    Sue, I’m sorry you are going through this. Let me tell you, as someone who many years ago now was in your daughter’s shoes–and now couldn’t be farther from that place, thank heavens–what the best thing was that my mom did for me at that time:

    She was honest about her grief.

    She could have sent me piles of studies, she could have raged, she could have lectured, she could have used logic and reason, she could have pleaded and built a case and I would have just shrugged it all off.

    She could have been the “PFLAG model parent” and cosigned all the bullshit I was buying into. My dad went for that, as did some other family members. Dad in particular seemed like he was legitimately happy about this, because he’d never really liked having a daughter.

    I don’t have contact with him anymore, or any of the other “PFLAG model relatives.”

    But mom was too devastated to be anything but perfectly honest. My choice broke her heart and she didn’t try to manipulate or bargain with me, she was just openly sad. Ashen faced, red eyes, trying not to speak so she wouldn’t cry. And she said that she just deeply felt that something was very wrong about all this, and that she wasn’t going to be able to get used to it.

    Then I guess she just waited, tolerating the idiocy I was going through. When I realized I had made a mistake, I knew I could talk to her, because she never “drank the kool aid” but she also hadn’t been aggressive or mean about it. At that point, when I expressed my doubts, she let it all out. She told me how and why she thought it was wrong, what her concerns were, and how it was never too late to turn around. Other people had told me that once I started, I couldn’t go back, because “this is who you are.”

    But mom remembered who I REALLY was, and was there to help me remember.

    I don’t know how this will play out for your daughter. One thing that worries me in your story is the environment she is in. I cannot explain in harsh enough terms exactly how toxic that environment is, psychologically. It IS like a cult. I wasn’t “full immersion” in lunacy like that. I was in a gender studies program, but at a state school, and I lived off campus with normal people. Read this op-ed for a peek into the “social justice warrior” cult mentality:

    http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2014/11/everything-problematic/

    She may stamp her feet and claim she will reject you if you don’t play along with the craziness, the custom pronouns, the new name. That is often a bluff, especially for a college kid at an expensive school who probably still comes home to lounge around on breaks and have her laundry done. You can be a passive resister, saying as little as possible, refusing to say “how high” when she says “jump,” without coming across as harsh. Just don’t humor that stuff. She’s looking for approval and testing for acceptance. Show her your real feelings, without lashing out, and she just might hear you.

    Most likely she’s hurting a lot and trying to kill off her real self to take on some fake persona so she can feel brave. She is being mentally preyed upon by some people who are very insane and very scary and when she escapes she will need to “deprogram.” Just remember that and let your heartache show.

    • gchild Says:

      @Violet Irene your mothers response was exactly what I tried to explain to a couple of my pro trans friends. I was asked what I would do if my child were trans and needed hrt. I expressed that I would be devestated and overcome with grief. I was called ignorant and bigoted. I was so shocked and horrified I quickly tried to explain myself. I tried to tell them that I grew her body inside mine and I cant see it as anything but perfect. Do they know how our hearts leap when we realize they have all 10 fingers and toes? Something so simple as flat feet or a strawberry birthmark on their bellies, even an unsightly mole somewhere makes us feel …grateful that they made it into this world with healthy bodies. Not everyone is so lucky.

      Saying goodbye to my daughter and embracing the son who has replaced her would break my heart forever. But my explanation only made it worse. I was dumbfounded by their anger (at a hypothetical situation!) So much so that I did some research and found this blog.

      • kesher Says:

        I suspect that reaction is more enraging to them because it’s not an easy target. If you react with hate, they can counter it with hate. They don’t know how to handle tearful compassion.

    • Sue B Says:

      Violet Irene,
      Thank you so much. Such wise words. The “it’s not logical” path is the one I’ve been heading down as well as the additional financial burden it will undoubtedly place on us – if only because what she is earning w/part time work will go to support this transition instead of helping out with her school bills. We are struggling and plan to tell her this. We want to ask her to wait…but I am sure she won’t.

      Thank you for sharing the story of what your mom did for you. It reminded me of what is in fact the biggest piece of this in reality and truly the hardest part – the grief I feel. I feel a terrible, bone-deep grief at this imminent loss of our beautiful daughter and the risks to both her mental and physical well being and even as selfish as it sounds…the idea that she might never be able to have her own child. I know that last one might sound strange, but it’s how I feel. It is hard to pretend things are “normal” and your comments about “buying into this insanity”, the “PFLAG model parent”, the “call me by these pronouns” etc hits the mark…I just can’t do the whole “they and them”…sorry but it feels just plain crazy – too many years of English grammar just make it impossible for me to adopt this way of talking with my child.

      We have been worried about the toxic nature of the environment she is in at school. Some of the people (including academia) definitely seem toxic to me and what’s of great concern is that she is now tying her professional career plans to this “field” as well. I really fear for her because the path she is taking is one that could be so hard to turn back from in light of the personal and professional investment in this “queer bubble” community, but I have to hope she will be resilient enough mentally to figure a different path, should that be her road to take….

      Thank you Violet Irene – your words have helped me think it might be OK for me to be honest with her about the grief I feel. Hopefully I can express it kindly but honestly.

  15. Oceans Says:

    If it is at all possible, perhaps you and your child could do some counseling together? Good communication is imperative, especially outside of the airless environment of her college. You could very reasonably insist on second opinions (re medical as well as psychological). The hormones are no joke and can have serious side effects that would make icky periods seem tame by comparison. But really, it sounds like she needs some serious reality-testing about the medical and psychological dimensions of this. I hope everything works out for you.

    • Sue B Says:

      Thank you Oceans. I thought about this but when she asked us to go to PFLAG about 4 months ago, we hesitated because we are private people and not really comfortable sharing in such a public “in person” forum and were also concerned that it would be more “coolaid” afer watching a couple of the videos on their website, but maybe not?. We are more interested in what it means for her, specifically. Maybe we should go anyway? As to a counselor – I expect she would want to pick a counselor who would just provide more confirmation bias…but maybe I’m just too upset right now to feel positive about someone she would find acceptable who is experienced in trans issues.

      • Oceans Says:

        I would say to go to a PFLAG meeting with her, even if only to show her that you are open to communication with her and want to know what this means to her. I understand the issue about confirmation bias in selecting a counselor, but really it is to facilitate conversation with her rather than walking her through the transition process. But if she is really adamant about transitioning, perhaps counseling is not a good route.

        But really, you know your daughter best. I think a lot of the other commenters here have written brilliantly on the subject and have wonderful insights and advice for you. In my job I spent years dealing with trans people and each and every one of them had serious mental health issues that went beyond the feelings of being hurt by rejection from family and friends. Sadly, the mental health profession is wary of anything other than enthusiastically embracing the trans phenomena.

        I really hope you are able to delay her from any decisions that have serious consequences until summer break. If she’s depending on family paying for treatment or for your insurance covering it, you have every right to have a voice in this. You are not her bank and you are not a bobblehead, nodding along to everything she wants. Once she is home for the summer and away from the college environment it may be much easier to have these conversations. There are so many resources like this blog. Unfortunately, right now everyone is so caught up in the social correctness of it all that any dissent is characterized as “transphobia.” But perhaps the summer will be a good time to work on her other issues about her body, feeling rejected as non-conforming, and the very real consequences of these medical choices.

  16. puzzled Says:

    4thwave, I read all your wordpress blog today. Bless you for saying so much of what’s in my head. Left a comment. Parents of the ‘go slow’ variety have to be willing to make more noise. At the very least we can start to understand that good parenting does not require you to allow your kid to be railroaded by what is, at root, a sociopolitical movement whose goal is not necessarily the individual well being of your kid. How long will it take before the inevitable backlash begins percolating through the medical and behavioral health world? Too long, I’m afraid, to save some of our kids from lifelong consequences that are anything but benign. Sue B, my heart is with you.

  17. Loup-loup garou Says:

    I was in the midst of composing a rambling reply when the WiFi in my secret feminist bunker went out. However, Smits said essentially the same thing that I was going to, minus the anecdotes.

    So I’d like to add another thought — the plain truth Smits points out, that your daughter is “a young woman trying to find a way to survive in a world that categorically refuses on all fronts to accept that the way she is is a way a woman can be,” is not a thought many young women will allow themselves to entertain nowadays, because there are so many social penalties for doing so. Talking about sexism is sooooo passé. In a lot of settings, including very liberal ones, trying to discuss the persistence of sex stereotypes and sexism will get a dismissive, condescending, or even hostile reaction.

    Of course you’re daughter’s tired of being seen as female — she wants to be SEEN. Being a young woman means being under scrutiny pretty much all the time, and often that scrutiny is hostile. It doesn’t take much to be told your doing girl/woman wrong. If she’s one of those women who never got the hang of standard feminine self-presentation as a girl, she has probably been made to feel like she’s under an electron microscope 90% of the time, not just by passing guys in cars who yell offensive things, but also by well-meaning idiots who want to “help her improve her self-esteem” by telling her that make-up can be empowering.

    Of course the trans option looks good — it seems to promise freedom from hostile scrutiny, and from constantly being told (by nice liberals) that she’s somehow unnatural. It’s something she can do now, as an individual, without waiting 50 years for society to change a little bit.

    You mentioned she’s bright, and that she got bullied in school. Chances are, her intelligence made her a target for bullying in school as much as her not conforming to sex-stereotypes (I’m assuming the latter was also the case). Bright kids are often contrarian and willing to challenge authority; although our society pays lip service to the idea of rugged individualism, we don’t really tolerate too much of it in young people, ESPECIALLY GIRLS. Sorry for the caps, but I cannot emphasize this strongly enough.

    Before my internet connection disappeared, I’d written a whole essay on how isolating and frustrating it can be to deal with liberal sexism. I happen to think that teenaged girls and young women get a triple dose of it, because it’s combined with this pervasive societal attitude that they should fall into line with other peoples’ expectations, no matter how wrong or inappropriate, simply because they ARE young (also, men of all ages hate it when young women do things that kill their boners. Ask your daughter how many times some random 50 year old man has ordered her to “Smile!” Probably five times in the last week alone.)

    Suffice it to say, hanging around in a politically progressive crowd does not mean you won’t be blindsided by heavy-duty sex stereotyping. It’s usually not the frontal assault you’d get if you were a member of a fundamentalist religious group, but it can wear you down. By the time I got to college, I was already bone-weary from it, and didn’t even realize how much. Swimming against the tide can be draining. If your daughter’s 21, no matter how young that seems, she’s been swimming against the tide for a long time.

    I don’t know your daughter, so therefore have no idea what might be the best way to reach her. But one thing she really should consider before she goes through with this is whether or not her queer friends are correct in their belief that adopting a male or non-binary identity and changing her appearance through hormones and surgery will fix the things that are causing her grief right now.

    Smits is right in saying that there’s no such thing as a non-binary identity outside the queer bubble. I live in an area with a high concentration of female-to-trans individuals (male-to-trans, too, but I’m not talking about them). Most of them are easy to identify visually as women who have taken testosterone. They blend in as part of a “queer” community, but they do not blend in as male. One thing that could affect their lives in the future is the fact that “queer” is a counterculture, and like other countercultures, it will get smaller or fade away entirely. And when that happens, I hope there’s a strong, renewed feminist movement ready for these women if they want to join, so they won’t be left high and dry.

    What your daughter’s dealing with isn’t new; we used to call it sexism. I hope she will at least entertain the idea that society is the problem and needs to change, not her and her body.

    • Sue B Says:

      Loup-loup garou
      Thank you for the essay shared and for the effort of the essay lost! Your and Smits comment about non-binary not existing outside a “queer bubble” is eye opening. Why do you say that Queer is a counterculture (I really don’t know)? its counterculture status sounds plausible if only because of how prominent it is now vs years prior. It is a world pretty much unknown to my husband and I, at least until recently.

      I had to laugh at the “RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM” comment – it is so true…! and has always made me take an “attitude” with the “rugged engineers” at work :)- apparently I “intimidate them” them sometimes so they have learned not to mess with me too much or too often and the older I get (I’ve been working a looooong time) the less tolerant I get of their BS but you are right, even at my age and with years of experience in deflecting/dealing with this “stuff” it does get to me sometimes because there truly are some real “idiots” out there and that’s being polite. but I guess I’ve gotten used to it…and have learned to ignore it most of the time so I can definitely imagine how hard it still is to deal with this. In some ways it may be harder because it is far more subtle now than when I was growing up – it was still very blatant and stereotypical that I could ignore it if you know what I mean?

      “Of course the trans option looks good — it seems to promise freedom from hostile scrutiny, and from constantly being told (by nice liberals) that she’s somehow unnatural.”

      I guess I don’t get the “promise of freedom from hostile scrutiny” comment – won’t she experience more hostility as a “trans”? aren’t people less tolerant of that?

      “But one thing she really should consider before she goes through with this is whether or not her queer friends are correct in their belief that adopting a male or non-binary identity and changing her appearance through hormones and surgery will fix the things that are causing her grief right now. ”

      You make the perfect point. This would require a degree of self-examination that unfortunately I don’t think she is ready for or capable of right now. I don’t know any 20 year-olds, no matter how smart/bright they are, that are seasoned enough to do this. It is a scary trade-off / proposition – the fear of social isolation, even from what many consider a fringe group or “counterculture” for a child who was not accepted by too many (and you are right – her academic achievements did isolate her in school from her peers – I’d sort of forgotten about that – kids can be so cruel). I wish I knew how to articulate these informed points of view as well as you all do – you are all so eloquent about this. I’m trying and really appreciate your comments and the education.

      • Loup-loup garou Says:

        Abut “queer” — gay people started reclaiming this term in the late 80s/early nineties; this happened in conjunction with a certain kind of AIDS activism that emphasized radical acceptance of everything that had been stigmatized about gay men’s sexuality, including porn and sadomasochism. I’m not claiming, by the way, that these things are inherent to gay men’s sexuality, or that straight people have no interest in them — quite the contrary.

        However, the reasoning was that if shame around sex leads to unsafe sex and HIV infection, there should be no more judgment about anything sexual. A number of lesbians were also on board with this, as not all lesbians are Girl Scouts, unfortunately. So queer became a kind of shorthand for “I’m gay and I view myself as sexually non-normative.” It was the rebel term, and the gay people who used it were trying to distance themselves from the boring assimilationist types who just wanted to form boring monogamous relationships and live in the burbs (like their boring straight oppressors.)

        Because of the non-normative associations, “queer” turned into a kind of umbrella term that included bisexuals, and then trans people, and then straights who think of themselves as sexual non-conformists in some way (“We’re kinky and have an open relationship! That means we’re queer, too!”) However, not all gays and lesbians, not all bisexuals, and in fact not all trans people like to define themselves as permanent outsiders who are inherently different from the rest of humanity, or think that their sexuality has to be “transgressive” to mean something. But that rhetoric about outsiderness and transgression has become entrenched in academia and pop culture, and there’s still this queer subculture that exists within the gay population — except the queer crowd isn’t really all that gay anymore. It’s cooler to be some form of trans, or pansexual, or bi. Being a lesbian is seen as hopelessly out of date in some circles, and even kind of backwards.

        About hostile scrutiny — I’m not suggesting trans people don’t face hostility. However, female transitioners who even kinda sorta pass don’t get the daily drip-drip-drip of overt and covert criticism for not being feminine enough — at least not from liberals. After all, they’re really men, right? To a young woman who has been constantly getting the message from society that she’s failed at being female, that might look like a reasonable trade-off, especially if she believes she will have no trouble passing. Some female transitioners — a lot, actually — do report being treated more respectfully in public once the go from being seen as butch women to being seen as men (at least some of the time). Again, I really can’t say this strongly enough — there are a lot of people out there who support gay rights in the abstract, and who are fairly comfortable with gay men, who are deeply uncomfortable with lesbians.

        That’s my four cents, and probably enough from me.

      • LC Says:

        I guess I don’t get the “promise of freedom from hostile scrutiny” comment – won’t she experience more hostility as a “trans”? aren’t people less tolerant of that?

        It depends on where you are and what context, from what I’ve seen. As a leftist, I quite literally cannot find a community that both supports my political views and allows any criticism of transgender individuals. Even those that have committed violent crimes get a free pass of being “misunderstood”. Living in a big city, transgender individuals are not uncommon and most everyone knows about it right now. Trans is a popular fad on college campuses and in liberal communities.

        On the other hand, merely being gender non-compliant still causes confusion from others(in my own experience, at least, in high school and college), and constant self-doubt of trying to compare yourself to the sexist stereotypes you’re supposed to be following. It’s a far more subtle problem than being openly trans, and with the internet culture as it is today, the question is likely to come up of “why don’t you just transition”? I’ve had friends ask why I’m opposed to transgenderism, given my own history as being gender non-compliant, and to me that’s just the tip of the problem, because it’s not the same thing at all:

        Gender non-compliance requires defending your right to dress the way you want to, act the way you want, have the interests you want in apparent defiance of the common wisdom surrounding what males are like versus females, every day of your life. It is learning- painfully- to accept oneself when the rest of society tells you you’re wrong.

        Transgenderism, on the other hand, claims that these differences are innate and you have no choice about it. It’s a short cut to acceptance and it both limits self-agency while providing a relief to the question of why you’re different from others. If you have no choice about your dress/interests/behavior, then no one can question or argue with why you’re deviating from the gender norms. It would be a wonderful premise for gender-nonconformity, if it were at all true. The reality, it’s a band-aid on a social hemorrhage.

        And of course, it’s also an immensely popular fad right now where you’ll be constantly told how brave and inspiring and true to yourself you are- ironic.

  18. Sue B Says:

    Thank you everyone for the additional information, advice, words of truth and other sources to explore. I am grateful. I am actually a very private person and find it hard to share something like this in a public forum, but I have to say it is worth it and helpful and a new experience for me – i feel a little bit less alone. so thank you all for that.

    GallusMag – Thank you also for the cost information and secondary consequences. The women in our family do have a significant history of uterine cancer and other gyn cancers but at 21 I doubt this will matter to her/seem a possibility. There is also an extensive history of diabetes in the family and I read a study last night that said Type II diabetes can be a common side effect of FTM T treatment in those who are already overweight.

    SMITS, what you wrote really resonated for me and I appreciate the hope you provide even though the thought of where she appears to be going with this makes me so sad; your words are both practical and kind. One minute I feel like “OK, maybe we can figure out how to deal with this, we can adjust to this, she is still our wonderful child who we love, who is so smart and compassionate, but I also feel grief, and anger at the “coolaid” and unethical medical professionals who promote this based on “informed consent”. It’s really more feeding selective information based on a confirmation bias” imo but she is so articulate I can see how she could come across as having it all together and knowing what she wants…but who can really know at 20?.

    Also your comment “Testosterone will not make your daughter “more androgynous” – I don’t even know what androgynous really means – how do people achieve Androgyny?

    I looked up the definition and Wiki says:
    “Androgyny is the combination of masculine and feminine characteristics. Sexual ambiguity may be found in fashion, gender identity, sexual identity, or sexual lifestyle.”

    For the record, she does not have a boyish figure at all; is rather overweight at this time but is not obese by American standards but I don’t think she felt satisfied at all with her appearance through most of her teens because of the weight issue. She also suffered from severe acne until very recently, but the treatment she is now on has been quite successful, thank goodness – it was a significant source of anguish for her. Expensive (think >$500/month for medications that we’ve been paying for out of pocket for a few months now) but she was supposed to finish up with these meds soon – unless of course the T will make it flair up again..

    Thank you all for being here and responding to my quest for information and support – your words are truly helpful.

    Sue

  19. Sue B Says:

    Wow. I read it was possible, but I didn’t know how common it appears to be when taking T! When she announced her intentions to go on T, I asked her about the acne and she responded that it would be manageable because she plans to continue the heavy duty antibiotic treatment regimen she is on now – but this treatment was supposed to be very time-limited (2-3 months and she is now in month 4+ and it finally started to work well but it took longer than typical) and it was only the major “all guns blazing” antibiotic treatment that finally got her current acne under control – it was really really bad…

    I also read that T can cause bad headaches? She already suffers from frequent bad headaches – has for a long time – especially around her periods…

    and as to the PCOS comment – I have OFTEN wondered if she had PCOS, but could never get her to agree to go see an OB gyn to be formally evaluated for it – she was already sort of “coming out” and said she did not want to take the pill for any reason whatsoever.

    • weirdward Says:

      Just butting in about acne. I suffered from quite bad outbreaks periodically for years. Tried antibiotics and various other treatments. Even if they worked temporarily, the effects ultimately didn’t last, and because of that I ultimately ended up being prescribed Accutane for 12 months. This is typically the medication they give you when all else fails, but certainly if this is persistent, bad acne, I wouldn’t count on the antibiotics to keep working forever for your daughter, especially after she’s stopped taking them for a while. And if she did need to think about Accutane down the road because of her acne coming back again, then goodness knows how that would mix with T and whatever else she was taking.

    • weirdward Says:

      And – unsolicited advice – feel free to ignore if it’s not relevant! But with regards to your daughter’s acne, I do highly recommend taking her to see a dermatologist who specifically specializes in that area. GPs are pretty clueless, and even dermatologists who don’t specialize in acne often don’t have the expertise to recommend the best treatment. Just what I learned from many frustrating years.

    • weirdward Says:

      And – gosh I’m sorry for the serial commenting here, but another thing about Accutane (now actually rebranded as Roaccutane) is that it causes birth defects, so as I understand it, in the US taking the Pill is mandatory in order to even be prescribed the medication (luckily for me I’m not in the US, so that was left up to me and my GP, to whom I explained, well, I’m a lesbian).

      It’s also a requirement to get regular blood tests for pregnancy, amongst other things (e.g. checking the state of your liver).

      I mean, I realise she’s on other treatments, and hopefully they’ll work, but…Any responsible dermatologist is going to need to know about the actual relevant biological sex side of things when considering treatment options. Accutane has a lot of safeguards around it (as it should, and starkly unlike, oh say, testosterone), and as we all know, no matter how deeply invested someone is in their subjective identity, objective biological sex is going to keep working in exactly the same way.

    • rtv Says:

      Sue, I know it has been months since you posted here, but I wanted to chime in with urgency because I was once in your daughter’s place.
      The movie that changed my mind was a popular documentary called “TransGeneration.” It is pro trans. However, the individual profiled who transitioned to male at an all women’s college gives a LONG speech about all the side effects and health problems he is experiencing or could experience. Prior to that I had not realized there were so many. It scared me to hear that from someone who had chosen to go through with it. I decided not to transition. Additional factors included the costs. There was no way my parents would pay for transition and I hope that you do not pay for this either. My mother very simply expressed “I think this is a phase, i went through something like that myself when I was your age,” then didn’t say anything more. Furthermore, I *WAS* diagnosed with PCOS. PLEASE if you can, get your daughter to take a blood test at an endocrinologist for existing hormonal imbalances. Treating my PCOS has allowed me to feel like a healthy woman. I take some powerful multivitamins, exercise and eat a low carb (insulin resistance) diet, and my hormones have stabilized. I truly used to feel awful for many reasons and felt I’d be better off–and more normal–as a male. The idea that your daughter may have ALREADY been receiving too high levels of T which have caused weight problems, acne, and (I believe in my case) a sense of dissociation or gender confusion, may shake her out of the desire to pump MORE T into her body. High T can make you feel AWFUL, and as a woman with PCOS, seeing that high free testosterone level on the test made me realize I wasn’t in need of transition and hormones, I ALREADY had a hormone problem. I know it may be too late for this to be relevant but I felt I had to try. I wish you and your family all the best.

  20. 4thwavenow Says:

    These are such excellent comments. Reblogged with the title “But Mom remembered who I REALLY was”
    https://4thwavenow.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/but-mom-remembered-who-i-really-was/

  21. Sue B Says:

    Is anyone familiar with this book:
    http://www.thegenderbook.com/the-book/4553374748

    This is what our daughter suggested we read a few months ago.

    • Leo Says:

      Looking at the pages available, it talks about gender as a social construct. So maybe that would be a start for gently questioning things with her? Plenty of places in the book the word ‘gender’ could easily be replaced with personality, so why does stuff need to go in ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ boxes at all? No boxes, rather than more boxes. (does she have access to any feminist theory other than Lib Fem stuff, to help her make sense of things? I tend to find, if you explain how it was in past centuries and the concept of gender that existed then, people can more easily see how gender is related to sexism/women’s oppression. A bit of a reminder of a back to basis approach, even though she should know already, might help to cut through the po mo gender theory stuff) Can’t people just like what they like, and dress how they want, according to their personality? Affirming how common it is for people to be unhappy with gender roles, and for women especially, with their bodies, and with periods (lots and lots of women hate them, I do!), might help. Sometimes it’s like vulnerable young people just get lost in trans community rhetoric, and don’t realise that what they’re going through isn’t actually that unusual and doesn’t have to be a definitive sign they’re trans. Most people don’t really believe in a totally inflexible ‘gender binary’, because if they did they’d fit gender stereotypes 100% and basically no one does, yet the fact that they don’t doesn’t surprise anyone, yet the trans community sometimes insists on acting like this is something only they’re aware of. What is it she dislikes about being seen as female, is it limitations that are actually down to misogyny?

      I’d advise approaching it gently if you can, as far as is reasonable, anyway. I guess judge the approach from how you feel her overall mental state is? She may very well be depressed (which could be contributing to a sense of disconnect from her body), so if so, may be hyper-sensitive to anything that feels at all harsh or rejecting, and if she feels unhappy with herself and this idea of taking testosterone is a coping strategy, her feeling worse may set her more firmly on it. The academic stress could be a big factor (might be worth asking about, especially as she’s bright she may be putting a lot of pressure on herself), including the social life side of things at college, and how she’s fitting in there or if she finds it stressful (I was bullied at school myself so I know it can contribute to finding that hard). It seems that she experienced not fitting in, which must have been very painful for her, and now suddenly she’s in this environment in the kind of bubble of college that’s presenting transition as a way of being herself and accepted, maybe she’s receiving positive attention from peers for going along with it, which could make it hard for her to go against the messages she’s getting… Maybe ask her the questions, and help her towards finding the answers – you probably can’t actively force her to turn back from this path, so, she has to come to the conclusions that would lead her to change her mind herself.

      For the physical side of things, is there anything non-medical she could do that might make her feel more comfortable with her appearance? Perhaps she’d be interested in exercise/working out if she doesn’t already at present? As well as the appearance aspect there, physical exercise might help her reconnect with her body and appreciate it as functional, rather than just aesthetically, and if she’s depressed could help there, too. You mention she seems drawn to butch women, so, does she know many butch women, have any role models? (difficult I know due to lack of media, wasn’t there a photoproject, though?) Obviously that’s already the kind of appearance she has and is drawn to, but maybe any additional encouragement that her way of doing woman is already fine would help.

      Best wishes to both of you, and anyone else in this difficult position.

      • GallusMag Says:

        “..she experienced not fitting in, which must have been very painful for her, and now suddenly she’s in this environment in the kind of bubble of college that’s presenting transition as a way of being herself and accepted, maybe she’s receiving positive attention from peers for going along with it,..”

        Taking testosterone provides immediate entry into a lesbian subculture that simply does not exist for butch or gender-nonconforming lesbians. The pressure on lesbians who are not feminine to become “one of us” is intense. In the “queer” subculture lesbians like this woman’s daughter are called by male pronouns whether they want them or not, and are regularly asked, not if, but “when are you starting T”? and “What are your pronouns?” Conformity is the rule, and Genderism is the fashion of the day.

    • Loup-loup garou Says:

      It’s designed to look like a children’s book. That in itself is really, really strange. However, it’s not the first thing like that I’ve seen.

      There seems to be a fad right now for producing cartoons that look like they’re for the 7-and-under crowd, but deal either with trans issues or with specific sexual practices. They have a lecturing tone and are sort of like those little comic books about flossing you used to get from the dentist, except they’re all about the right and wrong way to tip a pole dancer or…well, never mind. (Hint: it’s all about “consent and respecting their agency.”)

      Is there any tactful way you could point out how weird this is?

  22. shediogenes Says:

    I was on Accutane twice as a teenager, 2 treatments the legal limit at the time for such a dangerous drug. It still didnt work, follow up with a new dermatologist. She tested my testosterone levels and determined because my testosterone was on the high side for a female, I never should have been considered a candidate for Accutane and prescribed for it, prescribed a drug to lower my testosterone thru remainder of puberty. My acne was improved by Accutane, but not enough to warrent its use, some credit going to mandatory birth control. Males are successfully prescribed Accutane despite naturally high levels of T because their bodies are adapted to T. Women taking T are wasting their time and subjecting themselves unnecessarily to side effects of Accutane, and what about the birth control? It is mandatory for females to take birth control on Accutane and refrain from getting pregnant for years following treatment because of the tendency of Accutane to store itself in body fat and to cause extraordinary birth defects. Taking both T and birth control, adding Accutane, what a toxic stew. Hello “manhood” goodbye liver.

    • Dogtowner Says:

      I hosted an exchange student who had pretty bad acne and was treating it externally. I finally got him to eat yogurt — homemade, live culture –and the acne began to noticeably improve. Acne is a sign of poor gut health, and MDs know and care nothing about gut health. Gluten may be a contributing factor if you are gluten-sensitive, and it has powerful effects on the brain, including depression.

  23. Dogtowner Says:

    Once again, everyone makes me grateful for being the daughter of a FIERCE mother. I never learned that being female makes one vulnerable or a victim; whatever my mother’s shortcomings, and they were considerable, this was not one of them.

    What I have found handiest in the world is using that intelligence, Sue. My friend at work told me I “intimidated” everyone in the shop — when I asked why, she said it was my intelligence. I worked in a man’s job, and no one ever gave me one ounce of crap because they knew they would have regretted it instantly. I strongly believe that gender-nonconforming women should look into the trades — we have a program here in Maine training women to be draftsmen, heavy equipment operators, etc. I have had far fewer problems dealing with working-class men than middle-class men who apparently have no experience interacting with forceful women.

    The acne problem is another whole ball of wax, which may not be unrelated to your daughter’s mental health issues.

  24. I'm No Cissie Says:

    What a wonderful resource this article is for families and young women who are questioning. I applaud the insightful, empathetic and knowledgable women who comment here and of course, I applaud Gallus for keeping this blog running.

    The best contribution I can make to this thread is to send you a donation. I’ll be doing so next week. Thanks for being here.


  25. I know this is an older thread, but I read it frequently. Having lost a number of gender non conforming friends to cults during my 20’s, I feel real heartbreak seeing my friend’s daughters and my daughter’s friends seek solace in transitioning, and it IS very cult like, especially in women’s colleges. And my generation had two advantages…people didn’t ordinarily suggest that life in a cult was intrinsically better than life outside one, and feminist theory still discussed misogyny as a bad thing…as opposed to being an immutable condition that required individuals to adapt themselves to cope with it.

    It is hard to love ourselves in a culture which hates us. But it’s still the only game in town.😦


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