No League of Their Own (Transgender Athletes)

no_league_of_their_own__transgender_athl1Fab is an athlete.  She has the potential to be great at whatever sport she chooses to play.  She was a phenomenal young gymnast before transitioning, and while her mother and I are open to her competing as a female gymnast (US Gymnastics is inclusive), gymnastics still serves as a reminder of her life as a boy.  We can see she misses it terribly, but if she goes back, that will be her decision to make.  She will play soccer in the fall on a coed team with the YMCA.  It will be a safe space for her, because I coach the team, her brother plays for it, and I have changed her gender marker with the Y.  However, it does give us pause as we contemplate her playing on all girl teams.  Unlike most parents, parents of transgender youth have to consider a sport’s governing body’s policy, or that of a school, school district, athletic organization, etc.  Some simply refuse to let our kids compete out of some misguided, false belief.  It is especially bad for MtF youth, where misguided notions are the worst.  Of course, then there are also the parent’s to consider and how they will take it if found out.  The solution is to stay stealth, but this is not always a possibility, and if your child becomes an elite athlete, then it will be very likely that they will have come out or risk being banned from the sport they love.

I just watched a great documentary on transgender athletes that was put together before the 2016 Olympics.  I thought it was well done, and did a good job of explaining the realities for transgender athletes, and more importantly how athletics can serve to be inclusive, not exclusive if we are willing to let it. Anyways, I wanted to share that documentary here for anyone else who has a budding athlete, or simply just because it is a chance to educate yourself on reality.  Hope you enjoy!

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About a Girl

georgie-stoneFor today’s post I’m gonna take it to Australia.  Australia is the only country in the world that requires children to obtain court permission before going on blockers and hormones.  Currently, there is a brave 16 year old transgender girl, Georgia Stone, who is fighting to get this law changed so that children are not waiting on the courts to get the treatment they need not only for their physical health, but their mental health as well.  I took some time to watch a half hour documentary on her this morning (embedded below), and thought it was excellent.  Her parents took many home videos so you can watch her transition from young child to young woman.  In addition, as a dad, it is great to see her father so passionate and active in seeing that she gets what she needs to be happy.  He features prominently throughout the piece.  For anyone that might wonder what blockers and hormones will do, or for those who have family members with questions this is a great piece to share where people can visually see the importance of such treatments for kids like Georgie, my Fab, or any other child who has that need to see their bodies fully match who they are on the inside.  I think she is an amazing young lady.   I hope you enjoy!

 

Getting a Passport and Changing Social Security

passport-on-a-map

Short post for the day.  I wanted to put this on the blog so that it is easy for me or others to retrieve necessary links and information needed to make sure we can secure passports for our children in the most expedient manner possible.

I know many of us are concerned that the day or week President Trump assumes office (yes, my hand just cramped typing that, and I threw-up a little in my mouth) he will revoke the Obama administration’s guidance for the issuance of passports.  If we can manage to get one now, and get it for at least five years then maybe there is  good chance…he will be gone before a renewal is needed.

Anyways here are the links for the information we should need to get a passport or change the gender marker with Social Security for our children to the correct gender marker:

Passport

US Department of State Gender Designation Change Passport Page

The page above has information and links for what is required to ensure the appropriate gender marker for transgender persons.  For minors passports can be issued for 5 years, and parental consent is required for issuance.

Passport Medical Certification Sample Letters

The link above will download sample language from a link also embedded on the above State Department page.  I have included this here, but actually would recommend the letter linked below in the Social Security section.  It seems to combine the best elements of both letters.  As for the link above, from my research I would recommend the language from the example at the top of the page.  “Clinical Treatment” could be whatever is deemed appropriate for your child’s age.  Mine is seven, so obviously surgery, etc. are not appropriate interventions/treatment.   An attorney friend of mine suggested that of these two examples the second one is more likely to get a 2 year provisional, or have it thrown back to you as it says “in the process” meaning it has not been completed and so the State Department may want to see if in two years it “the process” has been completed.

Finally,  don’t wait for the name change.  You don’t have to have it to get an appropriate gender marker on a passport.  Once a passport is issued you have up to a year to amend it for a name change.  As long as this is done within a year, the cost for the name change on the passport is free.  For peace of mind, go ahead and get it done.  Get it out of the way.

More excellent information on passports can be found here:

National Center for Transgender Equality, Passports

Social Security

Social Security is much easier than changing the gender marker on a passport.  While you can wait until you have a passport and use that as proof.  According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, you need only a doctor’s letter identical to the one you would need for a passport in order to change a Social Security gender marker.  If you are seeking a name change then expert advice is to wait until the name change is official, so that you can change them both in one trip.  In addition, the only issue that might occur with Social Security for transgender persons is when it comes time to go on Medicare depending on medical procedures requested, so there is plenty of time to get the gender marker changed.  Expert opinion is that name change is far more important for Social Security.

Physician Sample Letter for Social Security and Passport

In my opinion, the above letter is the ideal letter for both Passports and Social Security.  Make sure it is on your physician’s letterhead and you should be good to go.

More excellent information on Social Security can be found here:

National Center for Transgender Equality, Social Security

Other Info:  Name Changes and Gender Markers at the State Level

Finally, the National Center for Transgender Equality has some really great resources on a variety of topics, including document change information for each individual state.  Making it a one-stop resource regarding most of what, we, as parents, need to know to take care of our children’s name and gender marker changes.

Late Edit:  I strongly suggest getting 5 official copies of any documents (name change, birth certificate, etc.)  Often times government entities will keep the official document, and depending on where you live, getting more will require having to go in person to get more.  Save yourself the hassle.

“A School Success Story” (Working with Schools For a Transgender Child’s Needs, Part 1)

src-adapt-960-high-lgbt_bus-1388530599232This blog post will actually come in a minimum of two parts, and possibly more depending on how long Part 2 appears to be.  The first is our personal story of success for those that have not seen it elsewhere, and to establish the case for the actual “Best Practices” post that will follow this one up in Part 2.

On her seventh birthday Fabulous decided that from now on she would live as the girl she always was, but this also presented new obstacles not only for us as parents, but for the school she was going to attend as well.  At seven years of age this is not her problem.  Her problem is to go to school and learn the best she can.  As adults, her parents and the school staff it is our job to ensure she has the best learning environment possible.  This does not happen overnight, and it does not happen when the adults choose to battle or fight for ground that is irrelevant to the child’s learning needs or peace of mind.  Too often as adults on both sides we get so caught up in the righteousness of our cause that we fail to see our children couldn’t care less about who wins an argument.  Our children simply want to learn and go to school as their true selves.  Fabulous is no different then this, and with an eye to the possible future, Mom and I began to set the groundwork months before her transition.

I began this blog last spring, in part, to work through the thoughts I had surrounding my youngest son becoming a gender-fluid child.  I say that, and realize now that Fabulous had always been a girl, but at the time it was important how the school received the news that Fabulous might come to school in girl’s clothes.  I educated myself, and set a meeting with the school principal, counselor, Fabulous’ assistant principal, and Fabulous’ kindergarten teacher.  During the meeting we shared that Fabulous was gender-fluid, explained what that meant, and that we wanted them to be prepared for her to wear a mix of boys and girls clothes to school.  At the time we said that it was possible Fabulous might decide to transition, but that she wasn’t there yet, and if she did get there then we would schedule another meeting.  We also explained that we “wanted to work with them and not against them” to ensure Fabulous was safe at school.  They received the information well, the assistant principal shared that her sister is a lesbian, and Sean would have her full support.  We already knew her outstanding kindergarten teacher had Fab’s back, and then the principal assured us that Fabulous would be safe and secure in her school.

Summer went by, and we thought Fabulous was going more boy, but she had just become really good at hiding when she was around boys all the time.  School started up again, and this time around we dealt with some bullying issues.  Once in after school program, and then later in a school bathroom.  After school had been name calling, where the horrible slur of “You’re a girl!” was thrown at Fabulous for her backpack.  We notified the principal and she addressed it to our satisfaction.  However, this would happen again from the same boys, culminating in them cornering her in the boys’ bathroom where they all called her a “girl,” and hit her hard on the arm before letting her leave.  At the time she was still living as a boy, granted a very feminine boy, but still a boy.  This time, when we notified the principal she went ballistic.  She immediately had Fabulous identify the boys, and then pulled them from class, before proceeding to destroy any bullying tendencies they had left.  She won us over with how she handled that event and we were sure to let her know it (I also sent a letter to the school superintendent commending the principal for what a great she does on behalf of all the children.  Actions like this are not forgotten, and will serve you well.  Most parents will never do this type of thing.)

After that, Fabulous began pushing the boundaries more and more, until three months into the school year..Surprise!  It’s a girl!

The revelation, as shared in another post, came on a Sunday.  We immediately started game planning, and asked her if she wanted a new school. She said, YES!  We already had one in mind, and so I reached out to see if they could fit her in.  We assumed (don’t do this!) that she wanted to go to a new school so that nobody would know she had been a boy (how wrong we were!).  During the early part of the week I spoke with the new school, and I shared about Fabulous, asking the right questions to ensure the school was willing to accept her.  Everything was going according to plan.  I even sent in the applications for both our kids to attend the new school…and then we come to the end of the week.

So…what do you do when your exuberant child decides to transition in the middle of a semester, and on top of that also decides to out herself to her classmates?

Mom gets a call from Fab’s teacher (we’ll start calling her Fab, easier to type, and sound’s more girly than Fabulous.)  Apparently, Fab outed herself to her classmates and teacher.  We had agreed she would go to school as a boy until the week of Thanksgiving, but she decided to throw away all her boy clothes, and make us help the day before.  So…I say went to school as a boy, and by boy I mean, in name only. She wore a sparkly “Trolls” shirt with skinny jeans from Justice, and apparently Miss Sassy Pants had her fierce up as she announced to all that could hear how she had thrown out her boy clothes, and that she was going to be a girl from now on, and would also be going to a school where she could wear dresses. Her teacher called my wife to tell her that the school was ready for Fab to be a girl and had expected it.  Teacher also told mom that it was kind of obvious that Fab was a girl, and that teacher had just been waiting for Fab to come out.   She said all the kids were happy for Fab, and that she hoped Fab would stay at the school. Mom told her it was Fabs’ choice, which meant we would have to have another talk with our little diva.  When Mom told me all I could think was, I’ve started to move forward with the other school, I mean,  I’m happy she’s proud of herself…but this little girl is gonna kill her mama and me.

To continue, I’m on my way to pick up the kids from school, and Mom calls me to let me know the kids’ principal called her. Apparently, Fab’s teacher went down to the office to tell the principal that Fab was leaving the school, and that the principal wanted to speak with me when I got to the school.  Upon arrival I was ushered down to the principal’s office where she welcomed me and shut the door.  Now I should be clear that I’m a state level education official, probably a higher mid-level bureaucrat, and that part of my job is to deal with school system superintendents, board members, principals, central office staff, etc.  When school personnel have to deal with me they are often fearful and not happy to see me.  I admit that my job has removed any fear or feelings of intimidation when I deal with school administrators.  I will talk about this in part two, but suffice it to say as we sat down to talk, I saw principal as woman who was expressing concern for my child, and so I met her with openness to hear what she had to say.

We met for a half hour. I explained why Fab was leaving, and (how I wrongly thought) she wanted to go stealth and a new school would allow this.  After hearing me out, she told me that they had expected Fab to begin first grade as a girl,  and so they had prepared for the possibility.  She also told me she had served on the district’s committee to set transgender policy for the school district, and she was still learning as the district had not really had any dealings with pre-pubescent transgender children, but that Fab’s safety and and happiness was important to her, and that she also felt Fab was safer and better off at her school than the new one.  It was becoming apparent that principal was giving me the hard sell as to why Fab should stay, and it also became more apparent, her top reason actually, that she wanted Fab to stay at the school.  I voiced my concerns, asked questions as to the school board and superintendent backing her if the worst case scenarios were to happen.  I showed her picture of my little lady, and she gushed at how adorable Fab was, and was certain that other parents would never be able to tell she had started the school year a boy.

We talked about some policy issues, and the only issue that we agreed to compromise on was the bathroom.  I know this can be a sticking point, and I’ll touch upon it in Part 2 at greater length.  With a Supreme Court case looming on this issue, I didn’t feel like I needed to challenge her on the one issue that could cause her problems.  In Fab’s case, she is just so happy to be herself, knows nothing of the bathroom debate raging in our country, and therefore is more than happy to skip her little self down to the clinic bathroom…as long as she can wear a dress while doing it.  Knowing all this, I let the principal have her way…a win/win for each of us.  If SCOTUS decides in my kid’s favor, then she will be able to use the bathroom she identifies with, and being federal law the principal will never have to fight with other parents, because she can cite the federal law.  Remember, this is a marathon we’re running, and there is no need to spring at the beginning.  I might care about the bathroom, but Fab doesn’t, so why fight over this point right now.

We ended our meeting with smiles, and I told her that I would talk to Fab and lay out everything, but that it was still her choice. (Below is a pretty accurate version of our discussion, normally she can’t stop talking, but ask her questions, and well, you’ll see.)

  • Me:  Fab?  Why do you want to switch schools?
  • Fab: I don’t know.
  • Me: You’re OK leaving your friends?  You won’t miss them?  It won’t bother you?
  • Fab: I can visit them on days when I don’t have school and they do.
  • Me: It doesn’t work that way sweetie. Are you sure you want to switch?
  • Fab: Yes.
  • Me: (Remembering something the principal said about the new school) Do you want to switch schools so that you can wear pretty dresses and shoes?
  • Fab: Yes.
  • Me: Baby, you have to wear uniforms at the new school. You can’t wear pretty dresses or shoes there.  You have to wear basically the same thing everyday.
  • Fab: Oh…(she looks down at her lap)
  • Me: You know your teacher and principal want you to stay at your school.  Youre teacher and friends were happy for you when you told them you threw out all your boy clothes, right?
    Fabulous: Yeah. (She looks up at me)
  • Me: If you want to stay at your school, they want you to be yourself. You can be all girl and wear pretty dresses, shoes, whatever you want. Would you like that?
  • Fab: (Incredulous, with the start of a smile) Wait, I can wear dresses to my school?  I thought I had to go to a new school to wear dresses.
  • Me: (Laughing)Yes, baby, if you want to, you can wear whatever you want. Do you want to stay at your school now?
  • Fab: Yes, I thought I couldn’t wear dresses…(nods while beaming broadly)

She didn’t care at all about people knowing which is what we thought…She just thought she had to switch schools to start wearing dresses, because we asked her to wait until we got safeguards in place.

We need to know “what” is important to our children, and then advocate for that.  We assumed she wanted to be stealth, and that wasn’t even on her mind.

We agreed with the principal that Fab will use the adult or clinic bathroom for the rest of this year, because the principal did have a good point.  Kids knew Fab as a boy, and while the girl’s in her class love her and accept her, kids are kids and for some a boy becoming a girl is a novelty too good to ignore, and it might have kids peaking under the stall, etc.

I also found out today that our backup school would give in to all our requests, including use of the girl’s bathroom for Fab…but wearing pretty dresses is way more important to her than where she pees right now, and we’re good with that.  (Yes, there was a way I approached them which I will share in Part 2)

I will admit that there are certain things that make this easier for me, which I will try to share in Part 2.  Certainly, my experience with school systems is an advantage I have in navigating the schools, there is no doubt about that.  In addition, I will also admit that my daughter is only seven.  She is petite for her age, and in a dress easily passes.  Fab is also a high achiever, her teacher adores her, and (at school, home is another story) she lives to follow the rules.  Basically, she is the ideal student.  I know other kids, especially older ones have a whole host of other issues that can make things difficult for parents when attempting to work with school administrators.  I also taught ten years at an “at-risk” high school, and so I hope that I can provide insight there as well in Part 2.

I recognize, at the moment, we’re pretty blessed and Fab is very lucky. I know this could change as she gets older, and as she switches schools and/or administrators.  Every situation is different, and so I will try and approach Part 2, which may become a Part 3 in a way that recognizes most parents of transgender children do not have it so easy.  I also am aware that an administration change could change everything in an instant.

Gender WHAT?!?

1600-genderbread-person(The image in this post would serve as an excellent talking point to educate others on the difference between gender identity and gender expression)

I know I’m writing at a mad clip as of late, and perhaps it will slow down soon, but when I have an idea or thought that won’t leave the brain I have two choices:

  1. I can talk to myself, which makes me look crazy.
  2. I can write about it, which makes me look slightly more sane.

See, most of us live in a world where men aren’t supposed to talk about their feelings, or if they do, then it should only be with their spouse or maybe a therapist.  If you’re a guy and you want to make your buddies uncomfortable start talking about your feelings, or your genderfluid kid.  The look in their eyes is priceless, like a deer in headlights, or a horse that has been spooked.  They can’t change the subject, or get away fast enough.  This is because most men “express” themselves as extremely masculine.

It’s not always our fault, we’re taught to do this, even if it isn’t how we really feel.  Guys, if you’re reading this, prepare yourselves because I’m going to share.  Ladies, for most of you, I know you have no issues with this, and may even applaud me for doing so…because it is so foreign for a seemingly masculine man to do so.  As to you wondering what this has to do with transgender children, I will get to that.

My son, Fabulous, is my inspiration for this post, because he is my most favorite unique, march to the beat of his own drum person in the world.  Fabulous loves mostly girl things, and has repeatedly (more often now) said he wants to live as a girl, and he wants to be a woman when he is older.  His behavior has made me look inward, because on some level I feel a connection to him and what he is going through.  That’s why, to begin with I will share about myself as we talk about the difference between gender identity and gender expression.

What is Gender “Identity?”

When you’re a big, masculine-appearing guy, people see you a certain way, and at times there are expectations as to how you should fit into the world.  I’m a guy, and more often than not, I like being a guy.  I like how I get treated, and how people see me most of the time.  I identify male, and am good with it.  I’m not jealous of women physically, nor do I feel I am in the wrong body.

Gender identity should be easy to understand for most people, but it’s not.  You should be able to ask yourself,  “Am I a male or a female?”  How you express yourself, your gender “expression,” is a completely different issue.  You’ll notice above, I said more often than not, I like being a guy.  I don’t believe anyone is 100% anything, or if they are, then they most likely will go through life completely single (don’t know many who can handle a 100% alpha male all the time).  I think we have elements of both genders in all of us.

Mentally, in many ways, I have come to admit there is some female in me.  I like to talk way too much, and when I say talk, I mean share.  I’ve lived over forty years as a man, and other than a couple gay friends, I don’t really know too many guys who like to share as much as I do.  I’ve learned to pick up on cues, as when I’ve said too much about something.  At times, I have had trouble making friends with other men, especially those guys who express as certain masculine tendencies. .  In many cases, what they’re into, and the way they talk just puts me off.

As for the male side of me, it sometimes is hard to quantify why you feel a certain way.  I just feel more male, and know that is what I am.  I cite the above, to simply clarify that there are many cis-gender and transgender people who have elements of both genders within them.  Although maybe I’m wrong on this point, and I’m choosing to let my freak flag fly.

What is Gender “Expression?”

This is how you express yourself to the world.  This is what we know as masculine, feminine, or androgynous.  Most people tend to favor one of the other of the spectrum, but as your expression also includes your likes and dislikes, it needs to be pointed out that how you dress is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to expression.

Gender expression is the point most cis-gendered people and even some transgender people get hung up on when it comes to how we identify as people.  People often confuse identify with expression, just as they also confuse gender with what is in your pants.  Those who have been reading my blog know that Fabulous is gender-fluid.  He will tell you he has a boy heart and a girl heart.  He presents more androgynous in his clothing choices during the day usually,  dresses as a girl at night (all night gowns), all boy at gymnastics, and sometimes on weekends, he will dress as all girl.  His hair is long enough now that if you style it up right, he looks like a petite little girl with sassy, short hair (how a friend’s 60-something year old mother labeled him, before being corrected).

Now to the part all us parents hate…what Fabulous likes.  Fabulous loves boy’s gymnastics, and inspiration struck last night when we were told that he stuck a high bar move that many boys don’t learn until they’re between 10 and 12.  He is only about to turn seven. In the past, whenever he has done something we considered “masculine,” we would think, “he’s turning the corner and about to tell us he’s a boy.”  Yeah, it doesn’t work that way, but every time things like this have happened in the past our hopes go up that he will stay gender-fluid, and that he will just grow up to a fabulous man.

Fabulous is allowed to express himself however he chooses.  He can be a girl on the inside and like boy’s gymnastics.  He can be a girl on the inside and like animals, bugs, Legos, and to run around the house without his shirt on.  He can like farts, rough-housing with his brother, and a variety of other things that people want to place firmly in the category of “things boys like.”

My wife still has a sliver of hope as to what these events mean, I can see it, and I let her have that sliver, because this has not been easy for her. It’s the family and friends that have started to drive me crazy.  Every time those in the know see or hear about him doing something masculine they can’t help but point out, “well that’s a really boy thing he just did” or a “well girl’s don’t behave like that.”  To date, I’ve kept the smile on my face, but sometimes I want to ask them, “why can’t girls like or do those things?”

Society has set up a double standard for gender expression.  Girls can wear girl and boy clothes.  Girls can play with girl and boy toys.  Girls can like sports, cheer-leading, and dance.  Boys can wear boy clothes.  Boys can like sports.  Boys can be outspoken.  Women can say what comes to mind.  Men can be aggressive.  Women can be emotional.  I could go on and on with these expression stereotypes, but we know them all.  When someone openly ignores them, then people get uncomfortable.  We’ve come a long way since I was a kid in the 1980s and 1990s, but we still have a ways to go.

Growing up, I never said to myself “I’m a girl” or even “I want to be a girl,” but I did have moments, especially during my chubby/awkward phase around puberty where I was jealous of girls and women.  Girls talked to each other, and seemed to relate to each other better.  It was easier to talk to them, at least until sexuality came into the picture.  As for adults, it was always easier to talk to women vs men.  It was these things I was jealous of.  How come it seemed like girls and women could like whatever they wanted, and no one judged them for it.  Girls could like video games, sports, any kind of music, and guys would actually think they were cool for it.  However, if a guy liked boy bands or romantic comedies then he would be met with ridicule if other guys found out.  As I went through high school, my body continued to grow and broaden.  Muscle was easy to put on, and I embraced it.  I loved playing football and wrestling, but at the same time read the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen’s complete works.  I had always loved history, and I rationalized that was why.  There were certain things I shied away from, because I didn’t want to be seen liking something that girl’s liked (even though I probably would have liked it).  Throughout it all I kept most of it to myself, after all I would be judged negatively for it.

Now all of that said, I recognize that my expression is mostly masculine.  I can be aggressive and physical.  I love to compete, with myself, against others, it doesn’t matter, sometimes it drives me.  I still love sports, but am choosy with my time.  I watch soccer religiously (Go Chelse F.C.!), and I manage and play goalkeeper for a men’s Over 30 soccer team.  I’m not big on musicals, or romance movies, and I can’t stand arts and crafts.  There are some things women do, or ways that they react that leave me flummoxed.  I also couldn’t give two shits what most people think of me.

 

When I say I have a connection with my son, it is because I understand what it is like to hide things, to keep things to yourself knowing that you will be judged for them.  I also know that expressing a liking for things traditionally associated with the other gender does not make you that gender.  It simply means that you have varied interests, which I think makes you all the more interesting, and may give more insight into the other gender.  I also understand that one reason why he is eager to socially transition is because if he is seen as a girl by society then he can express himself in whatever manner he desires with less judgement than he receives now from people.

As for sexuality…well, we’ll leave that for another time.  Fabulous is only seven, and my mind isn’t ready to process that nugget yet.

 

Let the Child Lead the Way

set_trans_kids_640

Today’s post was inspired by the daughter of a friend, and is a pivot off of yesterday’s post about Blaire White’s assertion that children should not be allowed to transition until they are older.  It isn’t the first time I’ve heard that belief, but it was the first time I’ve heard a transgender woman say that kids should be made to wait until they are adults.  Now, her claims were that it was due to the medical procedures and hormones that they would need to transition, but I think she is incredibly uninformed on what a “social” transition is, so I am going to try and explain it in a way that will help other parents new to this, along with family and friends who are working to come to grips with what it means to have a socially transitioned child in the family.

For a child to socially transition, all this means is that they begin living as the gender they identify with.  No medical procedures are needed and no drugs required.  If your son says that he is a girl, and is adamant about living that way then you let them dress and behave as the gender your child identifies with.  If they want a new name, you call them by it, and you use the pronouns associated with the gender they identify as…that’s it.  If they decide they want to go back later, they can.  At this stage nothing is irreversible.

Earlier this year an academically, peer-reviewed study was conducted and reported on in Pediatrics (Link to Article HERE).  It was one of the first scientific studies of it’s kind, and it looked at levels of anxiety and stress in socially transitioned transgender children as compared to their cis-gendered counterparts.  We have known for sometime that transgender teens and adults have traditionally suffered from higher levels of anxiety, stress, and suicidal thoughts.  We also know this has been true for younger children expressing higher degrees of dysphoria who are not allowed to socially transition.  Researchers wanted to see how what effect a social transition has on pre-pubescent children.  The results overwhelmingly showed that socially transitioned transgender children exhibit similar levels of stress and anxiety as their cis-gendered counterparts when families accept and support their social transitions.  When we don’t let them socially transition then bad things can happen, and sometimes bad things can happen before we can even act.

The testimonial I am about to share is from a friend of mine, Kathy, about her daughter, Rowan, who turns 13 today.  I know Kathy will share this with Rowan, and so I want to wish Rowan a Happy Birthday!  Thank you for being the strong, beautiful, young lady that you are.  I know your mom is proud of you.

Kathy writes:

“I am the mother of five amazing children, four biological, and one by love not blood.  I have, not one, but two gender nonconforming kids. My oldest child came out about five months ago as trans-masculine at the age of 20.  My daughter, Rowan, who is transgender, will turn 13 tomorrow. She made a complete social transition over six years ago, and at the time was just shy of turning seven.  I could write a novel about all the obvious signs that were her way of telling us that she was transgender.  The signs went back to as soon as she could communicate independently.  One night, when she was six years old, I walked in on her in the bathroom.  In her distress, she had taken cuticle clippers to her genitals, in and attempt to remove her penis. Having done some real damage, I rushed her to the emergency room.  After a small amount of repair, and a LOT of blood, the doctor told her that she was lucky. The doctor shared with us, that if she had cut herself just a little bit over to the side that she could have hit a major artery, and that she could have accidentally bled to death.  In her despair, she responded, “It doesn’t matter, I am not really alive now anyway.”  She went on to tell the doctor that being a boy was as bad as being gone.  She was six,  only six years old at the time.  Hearing these words, the doctor called for a psychological consultant, and I began to immediately look for help. She saw numerous doctors and therapists, and all of them agreed that she was “one of the clearest cases of gender dysphoria in a child” that they had ever seen.  To give her peace of mind, and alleviate her despair, we let her socially transition immediately.  Today, Rowan, is your typical teenage girl (Kathy wrote preteen, but I know that day matters, and I’m sure Rowan would point out she is a teenager now.). She likes shopping, horses, hanging out with her friends, and swooning over whatever pop star has caught her fancy at the moment. The despair and hopelessness that filled her before is gone. I know, with all that I am, that my child would not be alive today, had she not transitioned. Instead of a tormented son, we have a funny, brilliant, creative, and happy daughter. I think she is pretty darn perfect the way she is, penis and all.” 

In Rowan’s case, transition brought peace of mind for herself, and her mother.  This wasn’t a fad.  Rowan knew she wasn’t in the right body, and she was screaming out for help.  Rowan’s case of dysphoria was severe.  My own child, Fabulous, doesn’t suffer from physical dysphoria most of the time, except to say he doesn’t like his penis because it reminds him he wasn’t born a girl.  Most cases of dysphoria are somewhere in between Rowan and Fabulous, and dysphoria can be both physical and/or mental, but if we can make the anxiety, stress, and feelings of being alone go away by allowing a social transition, then who are we hurting?  As parents we are free to live our own truths.  Shouldn’t are children be allowed to do the same?

For blockers and hormones, “The Endocrine Society’s guidelines suggest starting puberty blockers for transgender children when they hit a stage of development known as Tanner stage 2 — usually around 10 or 11 years old for a girl and 11 or 12 years old for a boy. The same guidelines suggest giving cross sex hormones — estrogen for transgender girls and testosterone for transgender boys — at age 16. However, doctors caution that estrogen and testosterone, the hormones that are blocked by these medications, also play a role in a child’s neurological development and bone growth.” (From PBS.org/Frontline)

As for sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), surgeons in the United States will not perform such surgery until the age of 18.  This is in part due to the age of consent, and because it is recommended that children wait as long as possible to finish their physical development.  These recommendations are also true for top surgeries and breast augmentations.  Below is a table that can serve as a reference for those parents looking for answers, or to give those answers to family and friends who might be curious.

Event/Procedure Recommended Age Effects
Social Transition Can occur at any time No permanent effects.  Child can always go back to living as assigned gender.
Puberty Blockers Around Age 11 Prevents hormonal development, can be stopped and development will continue as assigned gender.  May affect neurological development.
Hormone Therapy Around Age 16 Development as identified gender, will cause sterility in patients.
Sexual Reassignment Surgery Age 18 in the United States Traditionally known as bottom surgery.  Genitalia is transformed to appear and function as the genitalia of identified gender.  Cannot be reversed.
Top Surgery Recommended Age 18, some doctors will perform younger. For transitioning males this is the removal of breast tissue to alter the chest to appear masculine.

For transitioning females this is breast augmentation where implants and/or breast shaping may occur to alter the breasts to appear more feminine.  To a degree, these procedures could be reversed.

As you can see, for a pre-pubescent child there are no medical choices that need to be made right away, other than finding  a therapist, which I wholly recommend.  As parents we have time to figure it out, and to get a team of professionals in place to help us make the best decisions possible.  Listen to your child, and let them lead the way.  Trust them to know who they are, and always let them know you love and support them for who they are.