Saturday, May 10, 2008

Transgenderism and children, part 6

Yes, this actually the sixth post I have done on this topic or topics that are very similar. I started in July 2007 with this one and then there is this one, this one, this one, and, of course, this most recent one. It seems I talk about this idea a lot from what I can figure and I didn't even include the other probably five or six times that I have discussed children and gender roles or children and sex education. Since I have done this so often and seems to come up here a lot, I really want to do a much shorter post this time. NPR had a two part series about transgender children this week which you can read/ hear here and here. The first one is about two families and how they are approaching the fact that their six year old boy is transgender in very different ways. While one family is accepting this fact and trying to find a balance between allowing their child to have dresses and other more stereotypically feminine items, the other family has actually taken away all of the feminine toys of their child. Both families have made their choices in accordance with child psychologists that specialize in trangenderism in children. The therapists are the ones who disagree with how the child should be treated when they view themselves as transgender. I found myself frustrated with the psychologist who insisted the parents take away the feminine toys and not allow the little boy to use "girl" colors. This seems to go against working in the child's best interest, you are making a child become someone they are not comfortable with and you are attempting to change this child. You are not listening to the child and what they are saying in addition to the non-verbal communication that they are sending. This child still wants to play with girl toys and when they are at a family gathering where there are dolls and such, they will sneak away to play with them. The child also has to ask their mother to not take them near where there might be the color pink or to hold the parent's hands over the child's eyes so that they cannot see the pink. How is this a good thing when the child is still this traumatized by the actions you are taking as a doctor? Also, as a parent, you have bought your child toys that were stereotypically female, dolls and such, so why now do you think that you should change that. I would understand if you kept trying to change your child and then a therapist agreed with you and so you continued with the same course of action, no I don't agree with it, but at least you were consistent. But doling one thing for six years and then radically changing your actions because someone tells you that the child may have some struggles because, "Girls would want more boyish boys. Bradley would be an outcast." This therapist is doing a great job of perpetuating the misogyny that is inherent in this society, telling parents that girls only want manly men, that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.

The second part of this series is about a family who is starting their son on hormone blockers to suppress his puberty. The child is transgender and is now 10 and has always seemed to be transgender. The suppression of the hormones that cause puberty will allow the child to wait till they are close to 16 when they can then start to take the hormones of the opposite gender to become that other gender. So the boy in this story will be able to start to take estrogen when they are older so that they may feel like they are more comfortable. The hormone blockers also allow for the child to have more time to figure things out mentally, if they decide that maybe they do feel like a boy than they can stop the hormone treatments and continue on with puberty, if they really still feel like they are a girl than they can start the estrogen treatments. This seems to me to be a good compromise. The most common response from both professionals and others is that these children do not know what they want. They will feel like one gender one day and another the next day. So now they have the ability to be 16 till they finally really have to be sure of what gender they are. If the child still feels like they are the opposite gender after 16 years of their life, than we need to respect their wishes and they will probably not just one day wake up one day mad at themselves for making the wrong decision.

This is a tough decision for parents, I know. It has to be tough to know what to think when your five year old boy thinks that they are a girl. It has got to be easy to dismiss this and tell yourself and others that they are so young how can they know? But if your child still thinks they are stuck in the wrong gender after 10 or 15 years of their life, than although this is still tough, it is also probably the truth.

I also want to thank my mom for sending me these articles, I am not sure I would have seen them anyway and this is definitely a topic that I just keep exploring.


Comrade Kevin said...

A woman I dated briefly has now undergone top surgery and has been undergoing hormone replacement therapy for the past six months.

I was not surprised when she came out as a lesbian. But I have to say when she revealed herself to be transgender it really took me aback. Not because I don't accept her as he, but my gaydar is usually so efficient. This was most unexpected.

Anonymous said...

:] :]

I have serious concerns about a family who follow the advice of an "expert" when common sense says that the advice is questionable. Trying to mold the child into someone that she/he is not will seriously affect her/him despite what the "expert" says.

Can either psychologist present to any valid & reliable studies that equivocally conclude that this psychological approach helps the child as she/he grows and matures. I think not.

Boxer's mom

BAC said...

Boxer I applaud your "let them be themselves" attitude. The children you work with are lucky to have you in their lives.

Kids need to be allowed to be who they are, and they need to be accepted for who they are. I think we'd have a lot more happy, well adjusted people if this were the case.


FranIAm said...

Oh Boxer- can you stop making me love you more and more for your depth, widsom and compassion, for your curiosity and so much more?

Not only is it great to see Boxer's Mom comment here with her thoughtful comment, but I get to say something to her.

That kid of yours is one great mensch. He is an extraordinary human being and if that is the case at this age, only greater things can follow.

You've done well Boxer Mom- all the best to you.

May I direct your attention Boxer, your Mom and others, to this post over at Jewgirl's blog.

It has stopped my heart. I want a lot of people to see this post.

As both a teacher and as Jew, you need to read this Boxer.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much Franiam for your compliments..

We learn from trial and error.Children need to learn to make choices and make decisions for themselves so they can learn and grow. I see that as primary role as a parent. Parents need to expect children to be themselves and learn through their experiences BUT it is difficult!!!!. That is not to say that Boxer and his brother were not given limits and structure in their lives (correct Boxer?) when they were young but as they grew and were allowed to form their opinions and make some decisions and gradually more decisions they learned from them. Did I always agree w/ my children's decisions? No, but I knew that they needed to go through the process. Both of my sons are relatively independent thinkers and I am very proud of them :]

Boxer's mom