More kids are cutting off their parents and families, deciding that the people who raised them are no longer worth their time.
The trend of going “no contact” with parents and family has ripped across social media and through friend groups over the last few years, gaining popularity especially among younger Americans and LGBT people.
On TikTok, the hashtag #ToxicFamily has 1.9 billion views. The hashtag #NoContact has 1.4 billion views.
About 27% of American adults are estranged from a family member, Cornell University professor Karl Pillemer found in 2020. He believes the trend is particularly strong among white and non-immigrant Millennials and Gen Zers under age 35 in the U.S. and other Western countries, Cosmopolitan pointed out.
Popular culture figures have put the concept of family estrangement in the limelight.
Drew Barrymore has discussed successfully petitioning to be emancipated from her parents at age 14 and her “very difficult, painful relationship” with her mother. Author Jennette McCurdy’s “I’m Glad My Mom Died” became a number one New York Times bestseller.
Some young people who say they have cut off their parents cite real abuse as the reason — childhood sexual abuse, parental addiction, emotional abuse, financial abuse, or a combination of abusive behaviors from parents.
Others cite more eyebrow-raising reasons. This alarming trend does not exist in isolation — there are powerful forces encouraging young people to cut off their flesh and blood.
One of those forces is the gender ideology movement.
TikTok is awash in videos of trans-identifying people going “no contact” with their parents, claiming their parents are not supportive of their new gender identities and in some cases, their medical transition.
For teens and adults, medical gender transition can involve cross-sex hormones and surgeries like double mastectomies of healthy breasts and genital surgeries, all of which come with the risk of serious long-term health complications.
One popular concept is the “chosen family,” which refers to the people an LGBT person surrounds themselves with to make up for their unsupportive family members.
Cosmopolitan cites a person who goes by “Ant” and identifies as nonbinary who cut off their “ultra-conservative” and “abusive” parents after Ant didn’t like how they responded to the Pulse nightclub shooting. Ant waited until turning 18 to actually cut contact.
Jeffrey Marsh, a popular LGBT influencer, has said he “coaches” people who are considering going “no contact” with their parents.
“It’s that time of year again when you start thinking about going no contact,” Marsh says in one of his videos, posted just before Christmas. “You’re going to love it.”
In some cases, the seeds for going “no contact” with parents are planted before the child even becomes an adult.
The Trevor Project, a widely cited transgender activist group focused on youth, tells youth they don’t necessarily need to have a relationship with their parents. The Trevor Project also has chatrooms for LGBT youth from ages 13 to 24.
The Biden administration linked a similar chatroom on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “LGBT Youth Resources” page. The chatroom, “Q chat,” connects teens as young as 13 with adult “facilitators” for discussions about sexuality and gender identity.
In many public schools, policies that restrict parental notification around a student’s gender identity drive a wedge between parents and children before they even reach adulthood. Nearly 18,000 schools across the country have policies allowing or even requiring school staff to hide a child’s new gender identity from his or her parents, according to a list compiled by Parents Defending Education.
In California, the state may start physically removing trans-identifying children from unaffirming parents.
A bill wending its way through the legislature would amend California’s family code to have child custody disputes take into account whether a parent affirms their child’s gender identity. In other words, if one parent does not want their child to transition, that parent could lose custody.
Earlier this year, Washington state passed a bill to keep parents in the dark about their runaway children.
The bill, which goes into effect this month, allows youth services providers not to tell parents of runaway children about whether their children received transgender treatments or “reproductive health care services” like abortion while they were away from home.
Meanwhile, it is more popular than ever for youth to adopt a new gender identity. An estimated 300,000 minors aged 13 to 17 identified as transgender as of last year.
Whether it is trans-identifying minors planning to ice out their parents as soon as they turn 18, adult children with legitimate grievances, or adults who simply hold familial bonds more lightly than previous generations, more people are now justifying family estrangement.
Between the influences of gender ideology, today’s mental health advice, and popular culture, the “no contact” trend does not look likely to die down anytime soon.