Originally published on Reclaiming Trans
On April 7, an anti-trans organization called Partners for Ethical Care released a book called Desist, Detrans, & Detox: Getting Your Child Out of the Gender Cult by Maria Keffler, one of the organization’s co-founders. This book is currently being sold by Amazon, among other online retailers. The book accuses the trans community of being a cult indoctrinating vulnerable young people and promotes conspiracy theories about a “billion-dollar gender industry” preying on children. It claims to “[provide] a roadmap to help families navigate the treacherous terrain of gender indoctrination, and bring their children back to reality and safety.” In other words, it’s a conversion therapy manual for transphobic parents, claiming to provide them with psychological techniques for coercing their trans children into “desisting”.
Upon learning of the book’s release and listing on Amazon, I attempted to raise awareness among trans people and our allies, urging them to contact Amazon and express their disapproval of Amazon’s willingness to profit from a transphobic book that promotes not only baseless conspiracy theories but conversion therapy for trans young people. Amazon briefly unlisted the book before reinstating it, claiming it had been taken down by mistake. In between the book’s unlisting and reinstatement, PEC went to the right-wing media and rallied their supporters to contact Amazon and urge them to resume selling the book.
I had attempted to get Amazon to unlist Desist, Detrans & Detox because the company has already stopped another transphobic book, When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T Anderson. Explaining the decision, Amazon’s vice president of public policy Brian Huseman said that Amazon has “chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” Surely, a book that promotes the view being trans is unhealthy, inauthentic and self-destructive, and instructs parents on how to pressure their trans child into “desisting” counts as a book that treats trans identity as a mental illness!
When Amazon decided to stop selling When Harry Became Sally, I quietly celebrated because that book had had a very personal impact on me. You see, Anderson included my story as a detrans woman and quoted my writing without my consent. While he claimed that he found the experiences of detransitioned people “heartbreaking” and that it was one of his main motivations for writing his book, I found his inclusion of my experiences and work incredibly violating. He was using my work and story to promote values and politics that I find deeply harmful and morally reprehensible. Conservative Christians like Anderson have created a culture that’s hostile to people such as myself. Finding out that he was using my experiences, including my trauma, to attack trans people was absolutely horrifying to me. I would have never consented to his use of my work had he asked me. His misuse of my work and story caused me significant psychological distress, to say nothing of the negative impact it’s had by promoting transphobia in the larger culture.
In the years since When Harry Became Sally was published, I have come out again as trans and come to understand my detransition to be something akin to conversion therapy motivated by transphobic radical feminism. I detransitioned and converted to transphobic feminism because I thought it would heal my pain and bring me wholeness. Instead it caused me years of needless psychological distress. My detransition was a manifestation of self-hatred and repression. I’m now deeply concerned about how my past words and actions have negatively impacted others, by encouraging other trans people to deny and suppress themselves and promoting transphobic beliefs in the larger culture.
This is why I feel so strongly about limiting the impact of Desist, Detrans & Detox. I know the harm such a book can do firsthand. Practicing anti-trans conversion practices on myself had a terrible impact on my mental health. It increased my depression, self-hatred, self-destructive coping mechanisms, dissociation and suicidal urges. I am still recovering from the years I spent internalizing the idea that I needed to change who I was to heal from past trauma and be whole. Instead, I have more trauma to heal from. I can only imagine the harm that such practices would have on a young non-consenting trans person, especially if performed by a parent. That is abuse, plain and simple.
I too once promoted the idea that being trans was a kind of false consciousness or maladaptive coping mechanism rooted in negative social influences, just substitute “patriarchy” for “gender industry”. I too claimed that gender dysphoria was often a symptom of unresolved trauma. And I promoted “alternative treatments” for gender dysphoria that involved learning how to accept one’s assigned sex/gender, dis-identifying from being trans, and treating all manifestations of trans identity as symptoms to be managed. I now deeply regret the role I played in spreading these baseless and harmful ideas and practices. I helped create the society where PEC can peddle their book and so I take it on myself to speak out against the damage I know they’re doing.
In order to illustrate further why I think Desist, Detrans & Detox is harmful, I am including some excerpts I found from previews of the book available online.
As you can see, the book casts the trans community as a dangerous cult recruiting vulnerable young people and specifically targets GSA and other LGBT support groups in schools as “recruitment sites”. It implies that autistic people, trauma survivors and others suffering from psychological distress, and young people in general are incapable of knowing what gender they are. It promotes Behavorist techniques, similar to those used in ABA, to push young trans people towards “desisting”. ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis is a “treatment” developed to make autistic people act more neurotypical and is widely decried as abusive and harmful. It was invented by a therapist who also created a form of anti-gay conversion therapy, using similar methods. Rather than promoting ethical care of trans youth, PEC would be better described as a group for “Parents Enforcing Conformity”.
Desist, Detrans & Detox is just one example of the harm Maria Keffler and her organization PEC is promoting. PEC promotes baseless conspiracy theories about a “gender industry” pushing medical transition on young people that’s supposedly funded by billionaires to advance a transhumanist agenda. Another founder of PEC, Alix Aharon, stole a map of clinics offering trans healthcare created by Erin Reed and repurposed it as the “Gender Mapper project”. As the “Gender Mapper” Aharon claims to be documenting the harms and excesses of the “gender industry” so that doctors providing trans healthcare to young people can be “held accountable”. Even more troubling, Aharon and others associated with her Gender Mapper project have submitted testimony in favor of bills outlawing pediatric transition, including the recently passed bill in Arkansas. PEC has also taken part in protests at clinics offering healthcare to trans youth. On March 14, they helped organize protests at three clinics across the country, in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and New York City, with signs bearing transphobic slogans and headless images of transmasculine people who’d had top surgery.
All sales of Desist, Detrans & Detox will go to funding PEC. Not only does the book itself encourage harm towards trans children whose parents purchase it but it also funds a hate group that is working to make pediatric transition inaccessible to all trans children, even those whose parents support them. Not only that, PEC is also working to stop schools from including trans-friendly material and LGBT youth groups. They are doing all they can to “de-trans” young trans people, since they see their identities as the products of the malevolent ‘gender industry” and sinister “trans cult” instead of their authentic selves.
Please contact Amazon and let them know that selling this book is unacceptable and that they should unlist it at once. This book pathologizes trans people, calls us cult members and dupes of a “gender industry”, and promotes dangerous psychological techniques to pressure trans youth into “desisting”. It promotes conversion therapy, misinformation and conspiracy theories. And worse yet, sales of this book funds a hate group that doing all it can to make it impossible for trans young people to live openly and freely as they are.
You can can contact Amazon at:
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: 1–888–280–4331
You can also report the book for inappropriate content by going to the book’s page Amazon and scrolling down near the bottom. The book is also being sold at Lulu and Smashwords and violates both sites’ terms of service for offensive material. Please report the book on these sites as well and request that it be removed.
Meanwhile, A Room of One’s Own, an independent queer/trans-owned feminist bookstore in Madison WI, did the right thing and refused to sell the book. In response they’ve been harassed online by TERFs and other transphobes. Please consider thanking them for taking a stand and supporting them by ordering books from their site. They also encouraged supporters to donate to trans people and organizations, particularly organizations that center Black trans people.
A Room of One’s Own has a very special place in my heart. I have family in Madison and have stopped by the bookstore many times during family visits. They were especially important to me when I was young genderfreaky queer teenager who frequently felt alienated living in a rural conservative area. A Room of One’s Own was a place where I could finally find culture that represented me and let me know I wasn’t alone. In addition to books written by queer and trans people, I found buttons and patches, including a purple pin with the word “Dyke” that I still have to this day. I wore it to my high school to indicate that I wasn’t ashamed of being who I was, even though I got harassment from both other students and teachers as a result of being so out.
I know firsthand how important it is for young queer and trans people to find support and how devastating it can be when those around you refuse to respect who you are or try to tear you down instead. I know how damaging it is to be exposed to an ideology that says that being trans is harmful, inauthentic and a result of trauma and negative social influences. I know how harmful it can be to internalize those ideas and how much suffering can result. I am speaking out against this book because I lived through the kind of harm that it pushes. I cannot stand by knowing how much young trans people will suffer as a result of the ideas and practices this book promotes.
PEC and their book are a symptom of a larger transphobic social order that targets all trans people but is currently focusing much of its attention on trans youth. Anti-trans groups are trying to reduce the number of trans people by making it as hard as possible to grow up trans or live openly as a trans person. Even if we succeed in getting Amazon to pull Desist, Detrans & Detox, the fight will continue. The work we need to do to build a society where trans people can live freely is just getting started.