Published January 11, 2023
Parents who oppose so-called transitioning their children are not the bad guys. The bad guys are the transgender activists who have promulgated a false narrative labeling these parents as suicide-inducing bigots when these parents try to protect their kids from a destructive ideology pushing dangerous medical experiments.
The explosion of transgender ideology and identity ought to be the subject of a critical, well-funded documentary series — the sort that wins awards at Sundance, is prominently featured on Netflix, and is praised in the legacy corporate media. Instead, this phenomenon is being addressed piecemeal, with filmmakers independently addressing bits and parts of it. Matt Walsh’s “What is a Woman?” is the most prominent of these films. These efforts are now joined by “Dead Name,” a new documentary by Taylor Reece that highlights parents as they tell their side of the story.
“Dead Name” captures the pain and confusion of parents trying to protect their children from self-harm induced by an ideology that teaches them to despise their bodies. The film, which is available to rent or buy on Vimeo, is professionally done on a limited budget, with footage that is hard to look away from.
Shared Story of Parents Who Want the Best for Their Kids
The film profiles three parents, Amy, Helen, and Bill, who were each in very different circumstances when their children claimed a trans identity. Amy’s daughter was 15 when she began to identify as transgender, Helen’s son was 4, and Bill’s son was entering college. Nonetheless, commonalities emerged between their cases. Each parent saw the claim of being transgender as a sudden product of outside influences. Each parent also faced opposition from their children’s therapists, all of whom unquestioningly affirmed their kids’ new transgender identities.
But the biggest commonality was the suffering the parents all shared. Contrary to the claims of trans activists, these parents love their children and opposed transition because they want the best for their kids. The genius of “Dead Name” is in letting them talk; the film becomes difficult to watch only because the anguished love these parents have for their children is so clear as to be painful to the viewer.
This is a necessary film because it is not a feel-good film. Only one of the stories has what could be called a happy ending; the others conclude in uncertainty or worse.
Highlighting Trans Movement’s Lies
And yet there is hope amidst suffering, in part because sharing these stories of pain may help rebut the false ideology that led to it. Each case also highlights distinct lies and abuses of the transgender movement.
Amy’s daughter illustrates the surge of adolescent girls who have suddenly declared themselves to be trans. In Amy’s view, this was not something “organic” from her daughter, rather it “just came from somewhere and swept her away.” Amy’s daughter deployed the familiar threat of suicide, and she was given hormones behind her mother’s back after a single tele-med appointment with Planned Parenthood. Yet transitioning only made her more withdrawn.
Helen’s case demonstrates how young children are coached about transgender identities. Her son was socially transitioned by school and daycare, with the encouragement of her ex. Helen initially went along with some of this on the assumption that it was just a phase. But when it persisted, and her kindergarten-age son began repeating what he had been told about having his penis surgically turned into a pseudo-vagina — the videos she shares of him parroting what he had been told about genital surgery are harrowing — she became increasingly resistant to the identity he was being coached into.
Her son became “two different children — a girl named Rosa with [my ex] and a boy named Jonas with me.” In the happiest ending to these stories, Helen got sole legal custody, but not sole physical custody. She concludes that her son is still torn in two, as her ex still calls him Rosa.
Finally, there is Bill’s son Sean, who endured much in life. He fought cancer for most of it, losing a leg and receiving a bone marrow transplant. His mother died, and he also lost an older brother to a heroin overdose. Despite all of this, he carried on, but in his freshman year of college, he fell into trans social circles and announced himself to be transgender. His father believes Sean was vulnerable to the ideology because he disliked his cancer-ravaged body.
Cancer-Ravaged Teen Dies
However, Sean’s medical problems made physical transition especially dangerous, and so his initial endocrinologist refused to prescribe him hormones. But that wasn’t the end of it. He continued to identify as trans until his sudden death, which Bill suspects may have been caused not by the progression of his cancer, but by finally acquiring and taking female hormones.
Even Sean’s death did not stop the wrangling over his identity. His new friends complained bitterly about the memorial service using his “dead name” rather than his new trans moniker: They considered it an insult for a father to mourn his dead son by his given name.
Nor should these activists’ disdain for a parent be a surprise, even in the graveyard. After all, the givenness of Sean’s name represents the givenness of existence, which transgenderism revolts against. We are embodied as male and female, and cannot change this by an act of will or longing, not even through chemical and surgical alteration into a facsimile of the other sex.
“Dead Name” shows the pain of parents fighting to keep their children from this self-destructive path. The director made the right decision to focus on just three stories, with only brief expert interviews and additional vignettes at the end of the film, as this allows viewers to connect with these parents, who are not the bigoted villains they have been portrayed as by trans activists and their media allies. Rather, they love their children, and want to protect them from the self-destruction of living a lie.
Nathanael Blake, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His primary research interests are American political theory, Christian political thought, and the intersection of natural law and philosophical hermeneutics. His published scholarship has included work on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Alasdair MacIntyre, Russell Kirk and J.R.R. Tolkien. He is currently working on a study of Kierkegaard and labor. As a cultural observer and commentator, he is also fascinated at how our secularizing culture develops substitutes for the loss of religious symbols, meaning and order.