California Weighs Gender-Transition Bill for Youths Beyond Its Borders. A Former ‘Trans Kid’ Explains.

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California is moving ahead with a bill that would offer gender-transition medical treatment not just to in-state children, but also to kids across America. 

If passed, California’s “trans refuge” bill would allow young people from other states to visit California to receive sex hormones, puberty blockers, and sex-reassignment surgeries.  

“What’s happened is that there are a number of states that have recognized that these medical interventions are incredibly harmful,” says Erin Brewer, co-founder of Advocates Protecting Children.  But, she added, California has decided to “open its doors to people who want to access these medical interventions, even though their states have found them to be incredibly dangerous and worth blocking.”

Brewer is no stranger to the complexities of gender dysphoria, having herself once thought she was a boy as a child after surviving sexual assault.

Today, Brewer says she is thankful she did not take medication or have surgeries to alter her body, and hopes more can be done to provide young people struggling with gender dysphoria counseling and other help they need. 

Brewer joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss California’s transgender children bill, and share her own story of struggling with gender dysphoria. 

Also on today’s show, we also cover these stories:

  • President Joe Biden refuses to confirm whether he will discuss the gruesome killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when they meet Friday.
  • Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts files an ethics complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, accusing Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., of “knowingly and intentionally defaming” Heritage legal fellow Amy Swearer.
  • Twitter suspends the pro-abortion group Ruth Sent Us from its platform for posts encouraging the harassment of Supreme Court justices.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Virginia Allen: California is racing ahead promoting transgender legislation, and most recently the California State Assembly held a hearing on Senate Bill 107. The bill would allow parents from other states to bring their children to California to receive gender-transition medical treatments, whether that be surgeries, puberty blockers, or sex hormones.

So here with us to talk about that legislation and share a little bit of her own story is Erin Brewer, who is a self-described former trans kid. And Erin is the co-founder of Advocates Protecting Children and The Compassion Coalition. And she’s also the author of the book “Always Erin.”

Erin, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here.

Erin Brewer: Well, thank you so much for having me. There’s just, there’s so much to talk about and I appreciate your covering this issue because so many other news organizations either miscover it or just ignore it.

Allen: Yeah, well, it is critical to be talking about. I wonder if you could give us a little bit more information about this California bill that’s being referred to as the “trans refuge” bill—what is it? What would it do?

Brewer: Well, it’s really a scary piece of legislation. What’s happened is that there are a number of states that have recognized that these medical interventions are incredibly harmful. This includes puberty blockers that induce developmental delays in children; cross-sex hormones that when combined with puberty blockers results in sexual dysfunction and infertility; and then surgeries, which take healthy body parts off of otherwise healthy children.

And so California has decided to step up and I guess open its doors to people who want to access these medical interventions, even though they’re states [that] have found them to be incredibly dangerous and worth blocking.

It sort of reminds me of if California said, you know, “We’ve decided opioids are actually a great idea and since some states have concerns about them, we’re going to go ahead and open our doors and anybody who wants opioids come on down to California and we’ll hand them out like candy,” is basically what California is doing with regard to treatments for gender confusion.

And what is most concerning to me is that these are incredibly damaging interventions and all the research shows that the vast majority of children will naturally resolve these difficult feelings if allowed to naturally progress through puberty.

Allen: I love that description that you give because I think that paints a really clear picture of what this bill does, that it’s California opening its door to parents across the country and saying, “Hey, you can bring your child here and even though maybe transition surgeries are illegal for minors in your state, you can have them in the state of California.” So how will this affect our country, really, not just the state of California, but the whole nation?

Brewer: Well, it’s pretty duplicitous because what it’s doing is California is telling other states that it’s not going to respect their laws. And this is incredibly concerning for one state, especially a state as big as California with as many resources and as much influence as California, to basically tell other states it’s not going to respect their rules of governance. And in fact, they’re not just going to disrespect it, they’re going to actively undermine efforts in this regard to protect children.

It’s somewhat shocking considering that in California, a number of child transitioners are speaking out and talking about the incredible damage that was done in California with these interventions, and yet California is ignoring that.

And basically, to me, it looks like California has adopted a religious belief on this, that some children are born in the wrong body, and they’re going to impose that religious belief on everybody else in the country, regardless of what their states say.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court just recently ruled with the Dobbs [v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization] ruling that states do have the authority to make decisions about health care. But California is also trying to undermine the Dobbs ruling when it comes to states that come up with their own rules and regulations regarding abortion.

So in lots of ways, California seems to be saying that it’s not going to respect other states and it’s going to do what it wants and encourage people to basically be medical tourists.

Allen: Wow.

Brewer: It’s very concerning.

Allen: It is concerning. Erin, like you say, you believe that this legislation will cause harm, that this bill, if it became law in California, it would cause harm. And I know that your thoughts on that really come from your personal experience in many ways. You describe yourself as a trans kid, a former trans kid. Can you share a little bit of your own story?

Brewer: Sure. And I think this is something for people to understand, is that I call myself a former trans kid because, according to the transgender ideology, I was one, which means I was insistent and persistent and consistent with my belief that I was born in the wrong body and that I was actually a boy.

Thankfully, I lived in a day and age where my teachers and health care providers and other adults didn’t affirm that misbelief on my part and recognized it as a sign that I had some very difficult feelings I was struggling with and got me the help with the school psychologist and therapist that I needed.

The fact that these days I would be told, “Yes, indeed, you are transgender. You were born in the wrong body, and we are going to retard your growth and development, damage your otherwise healthy body, and allow you to disassociate from yourself and create a new persona,” essentially running away from yourself, it is just, it’s heartbreaking to me.

And I think about how hard it was having those feelings when I was a child, but how thankful that I was that I had very caring people to help me understand that those feelings came because of a sexual assault that I endured and the mistaken belief that if I became a boy, that wouldn’t happen and that it was my fault that it had happened in the first place. And really it was my attempt to protect myself from something like that ever happening again.

But it was founded on the idea that it was my fault that the sexual assault happened and that it was my responsibility to do what I could to stop it from happening again, really based in a lot of self-hatred.

And so, again, I feel like comparing it to opioids is really pertinent these days because children, when they have difficult feelings, they do whatever they can to run away from them.

And in my case, the running away was basically killing off Erin and becoming Timothy, becoming a little boy. And I had people help me to work my way back and accept myself as Erin and learn to live with myself and learn to unpack the feelings I had as a result of the sexual assault.

Now we’re essentially telling these kids, “Go ahead, disassociate, become a different person, run away from those difficult feelings,” in the same way as we would a drug addict, just say, “Oh, OK, go ahead and indulge that drug habit of yours, because we don’t want you to have difficult feelings.”

And then they compound that with these threats of suicide. And it’s very disturbing to me that we have adults telling children that they’re unable to handle difficult feelings, and either they get what they want or they kill themselves.

That’s an incredibly dangerous message to be giving to children. And I have no doubt that if somebody had told me when I was a child that I was born in the wrong body and I needed to access these medical interventions in order to feel better, that I would’ve done whatever I could, I would’ve threatened suicide, maybe I would’ve run away to California to access these medical interventions.

And that’s the disservice that we’re doing to these children, is telling them they can’t handle these difficult feelings and that the only solution is to embrace this identity rather than to work through the difficult feelings.

Allen: And as you’re speaking, there’s just so much to your story and it’s so powerful and I’m so glad for you, Erin, that you had adults in your life who came alongside of you and who were willing to do the hard work of processing with you and journeying with you through something so difficult as sexual abuse.

And I mean, of course, as a child, we can’t unpack all of those emotions and feelings and get to the root of, “Why am I feeling this and why am I thinking this?” That really is the job of the adults around us to help us do that.

What did you find most helpful for you as a young person, as a child, as a youth to begin to again feel comfortable in your own body?

Brewer: Well, it did take a long time. I started therapy with the school psychologist when I was in first grade and I continued to access psychological help well into adulthood.

I wouldn’t say that my gender dysphoria completely resolved until the day I had my daughter and they put her in my arms and I looked at her and I thought, “Oh, this baby is amazing, and my body made it.” And it really, it sort of reset my whole view on myself, just accepting myself as a woman who is now a mother and just so thankful that I got that opportunity.

And I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about this, is that the opportunity to have my daughter was what helped me so much in resolving those gender-dysphoric feelings. And that’s being taken away from children with these interventions, the testosterone, the puberty blockers, the estrogen that they’re giving to boys, those undermine their fertility.

And so those kids will never have the opportunity to understand that their bodies are awesome and that they’re able to do these amazing things like make babies if you’re a woman or be a father if you’re a boy.

I think another thing that really helped was cognitive behavioral therapy, where I learned to basically rewrite the self-talk that I was giving myself. So when I was stressed out, when things weren’t going well, when I didn’t fit in at school, when I didn’t have friends, initially my go-to was, “It’s because I’m a boy and if people would just treat me like a boy, everything will be all right.” And the therapist helped me learn to rephrase that.

So instead of saying, “It’s because I’m inherently flawed and I was born in the wrong body,” then I would start to say, “No, it’s because I have these difficult feelings that I need to work through. I’m really a survivor. I made it through some really difficult things, and I need to learn some skills in order to be able to make friends, in order to have better social interactions with my peers.”

And that cognitive behavioral therapy is a skill that to this day I use. When I start, in any kind of stressful situation, I start to give myself negative messages, I remember, “Oh, wait, that’s unhealthy,” and I have these skills to say, “It’s not because there’s something wrong with you.” I think that’s something, that resiliency is something these kids really need.

Another thing that really saved me is that not a single person said, “You were born in the wrong body, Erin.” Not one single person said, “You’re actually a boy, Erin.” Every single adult in my life recognized that I was struggling, that I needed help and support. Not one single one called me by the name that I wanted them to call me by. They didn’t let me use the boys’ bathroom. They didn’t call me by boy pronouns.

And at the time it made me angry, but now I look back and I’m so thankful that I had really caring adults who are upholding truth with me and insisting that I accept myself as the girl that I am rather than allowing me to run away from my difficult feelings.

Allen: Wow. That’s huge.

Now, I think you look at the heart behind—for so many people who are pushing transgender ideology, I think for a lot of them, they’re maybe just unaware kind of of the truth and their realities and they want kids to feel loved. And so we’re sort of hearing this narrative from those in California who are promoting this bill that they say it’s going to provide refuge for trans youth.

But Erin, in your opinion, what does it actually look like? What does it actually mean to provide refuge, to provide safety for those who are struggling with their gender identity?

Brewer: Well, it definitely doesn’t involve convincing them that they can’t live with themselves or that they’re inherently flawed. Those are messages no child should ever get. And the fact that California is now putting out that message to children across the nation is just unconscionable.

What is loving and kind and compassionate is to tell these children that they’re going to make it, that they’re OK just the way they are, that everybody has difficult feelings and that we will be there to help them work through them.

And I think, especially when I see how many young women are developing rapid-onset gender dysphoria, basically what’s happening is they’re uncomfortable with the changes of puberty. And they’re being told by transgender activists, that if you’re uncomfortable with the changes that your body’s going through as a result of puberty, it’s because you were born in the wrong body.

And most of us who have gone through puberty know that’s absolutely a lie, that going through puberty is tough, and these kids need to learn skills to manage difficulties rather than to be told, “We’re going to give you a quick fix.”

One thing I want to mention is that almost any child, young adult, adult who is put on testosterone will initially feel really good and that’s because it’s a steroid, it’s a controlled substance. And so it’s not surprising that a lot of kids will initially feel like they found the right treatment.

But ultimately, what that “right treatment” is is it’s damaging their body permanently, it’s reducing their lifespan, it’s untold medical problems in the future, likely medicalizing them for life. But ultimately, what it’s doing is telling that child that who they are isn’t OK and that they need to become somebody else. And that’s not a message any child should ever get.

So if California wants to be a refuge, what they need to be doing is telling children that they can make it through these difficult feelings, that no child is born in the wrong body and setting up support so that children have, children with autism learn social skills. Because a lot of these kids who are developing trans identities now have autism, and they need help navigating the difficult world of social interactions in high school. A lot of these kids had trauma like I did, and they need therapists or loving adults or pastors who can help support them as they unpack what happened to them.

Again, it’s difficult work. If there’s a way I could snap my fingers and have it so I didn’t experience that sexual assault, I would gladly do it. It’s something that has haunted me for my entire life. But if I were told I was born in the wrong body, I believe that might have been even more traumatic than the sexual assault that happened to me.

Allen: What do we know about kids that ultimately believe that lie, that they’ve been born in the wrong body, and that decide to transition? How do they fare emotionally, mentally, physically? What happens to them?

Brewer: Well, they don’t do very well. And that’s another thing that’s so confusing, is that we are encouraging a treatment path that has been proven to show really poor outcomes. And so, first of all, there’s no evidence that these interventions help with gender dysphoria. So the very treatment that we’re giving has no evidence behind it. It’s basically experimental.

What we have found is that kids who go down this medical pathway have higher rates of self-harm and higher rates of suicidal ideation, likely higher rates of completed suicide. And that’s because they’ve been told, if they embark on this journey to change who they are, that it will cure them, that they’ll feel great, that all their problems will go away.

So they embark on this pathway and they take the puberty blockers and that doesn’t really help. So then they get the cross-sex hormones and that doesn’t really help. And then they get the surgeries and that doesn’t really help. And then there really isn’t anything else for them to do.

And they realize that they’ve got all the problems that they had before they started down this pathway, but now they’re compounded because they’ve damaged their bodies. And … all the time that they could have been using to resolve the underlying issues that were causing the gender dysphoria was wasted as they pursued these really unethical, experimental interventions.

Allen: Yeah. Erin, what would be your advice to parents or other adults who know a young person who’s struggling with their gender identity?

Brewer: That’s a really good question. And I think the biggest thing is to encourage that child to understand that they are OK just the way they are, to provide them with support, to get them away from the peers who are celebrating a transgender identity, to get them out into nature, to get them some skills. I always call them kind of grounding skills.

So one of the things that happens when a child has been traumatized, and this happened to me, is that I developed dissociative coping mechanisms. So when things got very stressful for me as a child, I would just kind of go away and leave my body and sort of check out. And kids who do that … it’s almost like they view themselves and then their body is separate. And so they really need opportunities to integrate themselves with their body.

And so if you can get them out doing physical things, gardening, or riding horses, or snorkeling, or mountain climbing, or anything that gets them out of social media, away from that peer influence that’s telling them that they should move forward with this trans identity, and allows them to reconnect with who they are.

I also think it’s really important for parents to understand how this—basically, the transgender ideology is very cult-like in its approach and it encourages children to rewrite history and to disconnect with anybody who doesn’t affirm them. And so parents really have to view this as a child who’s been taken into a cult and use the same kind of methods that you would to save a child from any other cult.

And there’s some good books out there that can help you do that. But the main thing is to just continue to remind the child of who they are. If you have a long history with that child, bring up memories of things that you’ve done together, remind them of the things that they’ve done, that they’ve enjoyed, just to reinforce who they are, rather than that dissociative personality that the transgender ideology is trying to encourage them to embrace.

Allen: Well, Erin, I know that you are on the forefront of this issue, of offering resources and wisdom to individuals. Could you share just briefly about the work that Advocates Protecting Children does?

Brewer: Sure. We came together to do what we could to do outreach and education on this issue. So many people really don’t understand what’s going on. A lot of times people hear that a child was born in the wrong body and they don’t understand that this is an ideology rather than a fact.

A lot of people think that a child can change sex if they’re given these interventions and they just don’t understand that this is really very much like a religious belief that is teaching children that they have a gendered soul that’s been somehow put in the wrong body.

And so Advocates is doing our best to do outreach and education. We send books and resources to policymakers and doctors and teachers and parents. We do podcasts. And as you mentioned, we have a number of books. I’m actually publishing a new book this month, which is “Parenting in the Transgender World,” for parents whose children haven’t been taken over by this ideology and who want to help sort of arm their children against it.

We also provide a lot of support to parents who are just completely taken aback when their child who’s, up until this point, been perfectly comfortable with their body, comes home and says, “I’m actually born in the wrong body.”

And so providing support for those parents and education, but primarily just doing as much outreach and education as we can, because I really believe that the vast majority of people, once they understand how dangerous these interventions are and how harmful it is to tell a child that they’re inherently flawed and that they need to damage their body in order to survive, I think the vast majority of people will recognize that is a very dangerous thing to do.

Allen: Yeah. Well, and for all of our listeners, if you want to learn more about the work that Erin and many others in this field are doing, if you want to find any of those resources, those books, you can visit advocatesprotectingchildren.org to find those resources and learn more.

Erin, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate your willingness to share your story and really just bring some light and some truth to this challenging conversation.

Brewer: Well, thank you so much. And again, I just appreciate your covering this. I just, I honestly just have this sense of like, if there was some way to talk to every single American, that we’d overcome this so quickly, but the mainstream media isn’t willing to cover this. And so I’m so grateful for you being willing to cover it.

Allen: Absolutely. It is critical. Erin Brewer with Advocates Protecting Children. Erin, thank you.

Brewer: Thank you.

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