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A father is weighing civil action against the Minnesota gender clinic he claims tried to refer his autistic son for puberty blockers after affirming him as transgender when he was nine years old.
Brenton Netz, 49, of Marquette, Michigan, detailed to The Daily Wire the uphill battle he has faced trying to prevent his son from being inducted into the transgender ideology he described as a “state-sanctioned cult.”
When he accidentally discovered his son’s medical records in 2018 because they were linked to his name, Netz realized the child’s mother had been taking him to a “gender-affirming” clinic without his consent.
After a long legal battle, Netz obtained a court order in 2020 to prevent his son, now 11, from receiving further medical intervention at the clinic, which he claims was “weeks away” from issuing a referral for puberty-blocking drugs.
Netz holds joint legal custody, which affords him equal say in major decisions about his child’s education, health care, and religious training under Minnesota law. He alleges the gender clinic did not respect his parental rights until he retained legal counsel.
Since lawyering up, Netz is planning to file a lawsuit he hopes will set a precedent regarding the rapidly proliferating number of gender clinics that offer puberty blockers to children.
“Re-Parenting” And Redefining Abuse
CentraCare Health’s Gender Medicine Clinic in St. Cloud, Minnesota, was founded by Joni Steffens in 2016 and began taking on pediatric patients in 2018.
Steffens, an advanced practice registered nurse and certified sex counselor, told the St. Cloud Times in 2018 that the clinic assists their younger patients “primarily with behavioral health services and family therapy, in a gender-affirming approach and model.” She also explained that they offer hormones for adolescents.
According to medical records that Netz provided to The Daily Wire, CentraCare’s Family Health Clinic diagnosed his son with autism when he was four years old. When he was eight, the boy began treatment at CentraCare’s separate specialized Gender Medicine Clinic. There, he was diagnosed with gender dysphoria by the clinic’s gender therapist, Troy Weber-Brown, who identifies as a non-binary male and uses “they/them/theirs” pronouns.
Weber-Brown’s session notes repeatedly refer to Netz’s son using female or plural pronouns, as well as a female variation of his name. One entry claims the young boy identifies as a transgender lesbian.
Another entry indicates that during one session with Weber-Brown, which took place just two months after their sessions began, Netz’s son and his mother “participated in a structured discussion to identify fully [reversible], partially [reversible], and irreversible treatment options” for gender dysphoria, which were defined as “psychotherapy, hormone blockers, feminization hormone therapy, and surgical options.”
Weber-Brown’s CentraCare profile notes that the therapist is “a Board Approved Superior with the Minnesota Board of Marriage and Family Therapy and the Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health,” who “has given workshops and presentations on clinical considerations for working with sexual and gender diverse individuals at the local, state and national levels.”
In one presentation obtained by The Daily Wire, which bears a copyright that reads “CentraCare Health 2016 Confidential,” Weber-Brown laid out a methodology of “post-induction treatment of trauma in gender non-conforming individuals” using a model of “re-parenting.”
“Re-parenting,” according to Weber-Brown, necessitates that a therapist “affirm,” “nurture,” and “challenge” the patient, which means they must “respectfully restructure [a] client’s reality” and “obtain consent to confront skewed reality.”
In one slide that presented a hypothetical scenario by which a gender therapist would counsel a 12-year-old transgender client, Weber-Brown stressed the importance of identifying and defining “various categories of abuse.”
The presentation defines emotional sexual abuse as “invalidating one’s masculine or feminine identity, invalidating or denial of access to one’s preferred sources of affection, invalidating or denial of access to one’s preferred sexual preference, etc.”
Social abuse is defined as “direct or indirect interference with access to peers,” which includes “instilling fear that others aren’t safe.” Intellectual abuse is when “thinking is attacked or ridiculed,” or when one is “not being allowed to do one’s own thinking, not being supported when one’s thinking is different from caregivers’.”
Neglect and abandonment are defined in part as “limiting access or denying…sexual information and guidance.”
Weber-Brown’s slideshow also addressed spiritual abuse, which was defined as “experiences that distort, retard, or otherwise interfere with spiritual development,” such as “when a caregiver replaces a child’s higher power; when caregivers are addicted to religion; physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from a religious representative.”
The Daily Wire reached out to CentraCare Health’s communications director with a link to the slideshow and asked if it believes a parent, pastor, rabbi, or other religious figure who does not endorse a child’s sexual preference or gender identity is guilty of sexual abuse, as Weber-Brown’s definitions suggest.
CentraCare was specifically pressed to clarify what it means for a child’s caregiver to be “addicted to religion.”
The Daily Wire also inquired whether such definitions were Weber-Brown’s personal opinion or if they governed the therapeutic approach of CentraCare’s entire organization, which includes eight hospitals, more than 30 clinics, and multiple inpatient and outpatient specialty care services in central Minnesota.
When The Daily Wire declined the communications director’s request to disclose Netz’s name and offer specifics about the scope of this article, she replied, “Without further context, I cannot provide any information.”
Netz is frustrated that his son’s primary diagnosis of autism has seemingly been placed on the back burner to focus instead on his supposed gender issues.
“My son does need treatment,” he said. “It’s gotten so bad. His real problems have been neglected for years. And that’s going to be another one of our arguments in court: that CentraCare is not only not solving the problem, they’ve exacerbated and they’ve stalled real treatment that should be happening because they’ve pinned all of his problems on the fact that he’s a girl stuck in a boy’s body, and they can fix that with hormone therapies and surgeries.”
Jennifer Bauwens, Ph.D., who serves as Director of the Center for Family Studies at the Family Research Council and has extensive experience as a clinician providing trauma-focused treatment to children, said she was “absolutely baffled” when she perused Weber-Brown’s case notes regarding Netz’s son.
Laying aside the case deals with a minor, Bauwens said that an observation period of six months is typical even for adults with gender dysphoria.
“This therapist is introducing hormone blockers, feminization, hormone therapy, and surgical options within two months of seeing this child now,” she noted of Weber-Brown, based on the session notes she read. “I’m perplexed that someone would offer such radical treatment to a nine-year-old within two months of treatment.”
Echoing Netz’s claim, Bauwens singled out an entry in the case notes that quotes the boy saying “imagination is real” and “reality is dead to me,” which she said “certainly raises concerns about this child’s ability to understand and consent to his treatment plan.”
“Not to mention the symptoms described in the case notes indicate other possible diagnoses, none of which were properly addressed or ruled out,” she added.
In the endnotes of her book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” journalist Abigail Shrier observed that high-functioning autism was a common thread among the transgender-identifying girls she wrote about.
Her book focused on rapid-onset gender dysphoria in girls, but the academic studies Shrier cited also indicate a correlation between autism and gender dysphoria in boys.
“In the course of writing this book, I learned two disturbing facts about autism and its treatment,” Shrier wrote. “Like gender dysphoria, the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder has skyrocketed in the last decade. And many clinicians specializing in autism are actively encouraging gender exploration in their autism patients. The possibility that some clinicians working with adolescents who fixate might be supplying these kids with a fixation merits a book of its own.”
“We Could Blow That Whole Thing Open”
Robert C. Roby, Netz’s attorney, said assembling a civil case against CentraCare that proves damages will be challenging, but could prove precedent-setting if it succeeds.
“If we could get the third leg of the stool on that case where we can show damages, we could blow that whole thing open,” Roby said of the pediatric gender clinic industry. “There needs to be a major correction in the mental health field on the position that they have taken on gender issues because you can’t divorce mental health from the idea of self-acceptance.”
Roby maintained that medical professionals are “basically encouraging self-loathing and self-rejection” when they reinforce to children that they were born in the wrong bodies, or that their bodies are somehow unacceptable or defective.
“I think you can draw a straight line from that to the suicide rate with these kids,” Roby continued. “So that’s the case I’d be building on the civil action. And if that correction can be made and it has to be done through litigation, so be it.”
“In the name of political sensitivity, whatever you want to call it, they’re perpetuating a narrative of self-rejection with these children and it’s damaging them in very real ways,” Roby added. “I have no question about that.”
“Covering All The Exits”
Living a relatively isolated lifestyle in rural Michigan, Netz said he once thought he suffered alone, but has since learned through online groups that there are many other parents nationwide contending with similar ordeals with their children.
One father he met was Jeffrey Younger in Texas, whose son James was seven years old when his mother planned to transition him into a girl named Luna despite his objections. Younger claims the boy’s mother was close to putting him on puberty blockers until a court granted him joint conservatorship.
The Younger case drew national attention and prompted proposed legislation in the Texas House of Representatives that would define administering “puberty-blocking medication to stop or delay normal puberty” as child abuse.
During an online discussion in June, the two fathers reflected soberly on how they feel nearly every institution is stacked against them.
Both men have been particularly frustrated with the family court system. Letters from CentraCare that Netz provided to The Daily Wire repeatedly defer to the family court when he protests his son’s treatment. Netz said the court, in turn, would urge him and his son’s mother to work it out and “exhaust every remedy.”
Because they disagree with their sons’ mothers so profoundly on such fundamental issues, Netz and Younger conceded that the legal system is effectively designed to render one parent a winner and the other a loser. As Younger pointed out, the law and the courts typically side with the mother.
According to a court memorandum Netz provided to The Daily Wire, one judge warned that a stalemate between the two parents could result in the court amending the legal custody arrangement. Netz claimed that the judge, who has since retired, scolded him for failing to affirm his son’s gender identity, asked him if he knew the suicide rates among transgender children, and threatened him with contempt of court.
Netz described the continuous passing of the buck between the medical industry and the family court system as a “vicious cycle” that is both time-consuming and disastrously expensive.
Parents such as Younger and Netz also face opposition from the government at local, state, and federal levels. On July 16, Democratic Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order banning state-licensed “conversion therapy” on minors, the definition of which has grown to include not just sexual orientation but also gender identity and expression.
According to Walz’s order, which echoed bans already in place in some parts of the state, conversion therapy refers to “any practice by a mental health practitioner or mental health professional that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward people regardless of gender.”
Similar conversion therapy bans exist at least partially in more than 20 other states and the District of Columbia, as well as numerous cities and municipalities.
Netz recounted to Younger that when he sought therapy for his son at another clinic in Minnesota, the therapist told him it would be illegal to offer counseling that affirms his son’s biological sex if he identifies as transgender.
“They’ve got him in a box,” Netz said. “I call it ‘covering all the exits.’ I see the system as, they continue to watch people figuring out ways to get out of this and they just cover all the exits.”
Ultimately, Netz believes there is a money-driven agenda taking advantage of particularly vulnerable and impressionable children. “They’re not just waiting for kids to fall through the cracks,” he said. “They’re sweeping kids toward the cracks.”
“Two Different Worlds”
Netz remains determined to fight for his son in a battle he sees as fundamentally spiritual.
Having become a Christian in recent years, Netz said his faith in God has helped him immensely. When he first discovered what was happening to his son, not only did he feel that God was absent, he worried that he had done something to bring down his curse.
Remembering when he found his son’s session notes from CentraCare, Netz said, “I was in so much pain. I would just lay in bed in the morning and have this overwhelming sense of powerlessness.”
At his lowest point, he said he “just started to force myself to reach out and pray about it and to ask God for something, to come and help.”
He said those prayers have been answered as he has found support from others who are also suffering with similar predicaments at the hands of pediatric gender clinics.
“There are two different worlds happening right now,” he said of the growing cultural divide over the issue. “They’re incompatible and they’re on a collision course.”
“All I know is sane people are not going to allow this to be done to their children,” he added.