Let Me Clear Up Some Myths About Transgender Kids
Last week, our school board finally made a decision to protect our trans kids in school.
It’s been on their docket for well over a year, so it was about time.
There was an uproarious school board meeting in 2016 when one of the first trans kids came out publicly to challenge the (oh-so-exhausted) bathroom conversation. And the conversation continued to get louder as trans students, allies, community advocates, and parents pushed for policies and guidelines to keep our kids safe.
It took quite some time and a whole lot of conversation, but the superintendent finally pushed these supportive guidelines out after ten of us spoke at a September 2018 board meeting, which seemed to be his tipping point. Finally. They’re on the right side of history.
It was a big win for our small, red county in southwest Florida.
But, of course, the fight is far from over.
The opposition is out in full force donning all of their ignorance and hatred. All because one uber conservative school board member dog whistled for her base to assemble. They’re digging their heels in, kicking and screaming that the guidelines are “radical,” especially because they state that parental involvement isn’t necessary if a student comes out at school; the school is to respect and honor that student (as they should since family acceptance is not always guaranteed and home can be a flat out dangerous environment).
It’s an ongoing discussion.
And because I’m a public advocate for trans rights, specifically for students in our district, I field a ton of hatred and tongue lashings via every virtual media outlet possible. Keyboard warriors unite!
But some questions I receive are out of genuine curiosity. Questions that I believe most parents of trans kids field nearly every single day.
So, I would like to dispel some myths and hopefully even squash some outright dangerous lies. Especially since the Trump administration is attempting to erase our entire trans community by redefining gender, which scientists have fiercely rejected, yet here we are.
1. You make your kids transgender.
I literally cannot get my child to do the two simple chores I ask him to do in a week. I can’t get him to brush his teeth twice a day. I can’t get him to keep his clothes neat in his drawers.
I certainly cannot make him into something he isn’t.
And I know because I tried to force him into being a girl once upon a time, before I understood what it meant to be transgender. Because I really did secretly want a girl, the gender he was assigned at birth.
I dressed him in pinks and purples with bows and headbands, up until he made his own clothing choices. And even though I allowed him to wear boy clothes as he grew, trying to support his unique character, I was still rooted in the idea that he couldn’t possibly know his gender at such a young age.
I wanted to wait and see what age would bring, despite his verbiage of feeling like a boy in his mind. Which in turn only soaked him in shame. So much so that he was self-harming at age 8.
Once we sought professional guidance, I realized that he knew exactly who he was. He began using his new name and pronouns, and like magic, he was happier, well adjusted, confident, and no longer self harming.
We don’t make our children into what they’re not. We follow their lead. Not to mention, why would we purposefully sign our kids up for a lifetime of societal rejection? That defies all logic.
They were born this way. And if you need science to prove it, there’s plenty of it.
2. They’re too young to make life-altering decisions.
Referenced above, I myself once thought that elementary-aged children don’t know themselves well enough to understand their gender.
Which actually sounds ridiculous as I type this out.
Because… what age were you when you realized you were a boy or a girl?
I was 3. I loved dresses that twirled, carried around baby dolls, and embraced everything else that falls into the category of the female gender.
But more so, since it isn’t about just toys and clothes, I never had a devout misalignment between my brain and my body like our trans kids (and adults) do. I was in complete acceptance of who I was as a female in a female body.
My son was drawing himself as a male character by the age of 3 or 4, imaginary playing as male characters, begging to change his name from that same age. Because his body and his brain weren’t aligned.
So, kids know. Just as we knew.
Usually, the “what if this is just a phase” question is asserted in this same conversation. And to that I say, “What if it is?” Who cares? At least I followed my child’s lead and allowed him some autonomy in exploring his gender identity. It’s really okay.
Also, we cannot confuse gender identity with sexuality. Gender doesn’t have anything to do with who we are attracted to, but I believe many of us confuse the two, therefore believing kids are just too young to know themselves since sexual preference usually emerges around puberty.
Oh, and a change in name and pronouns is not life altering, but it is life enhancing for our trans kids.
3. You’re pumping your kids full of hormones and mutilating their genitals.
This actually makes me fucking angry.
Medical professionals are a part of our kids’ lives, as in, a trifecta of physicians including a primary care doctor, a mental health professional, and an endocrinologist. And this team develops a treatment plan for our kids including talk therapy, possibly puberty blockers, which simply pause puberty since that time in life can be detrimental to our trans youth, and maybe, possibly, eventually, hormone replacement therapy that aligns with their gender identity. This usually would be prescribed in the teen years, as puberty would be occurring.
And gender confirmation surgery might be discussed as a young adult. Possibly.
Not every trans person follows the above-mentioned treatment plan.
Everyone’s transition is different.
But I assure you, we are not pumping our young children full of hormones or surgically altering them.
Just no. Stop. It.
4. Being transgender is a mental illness.
I might hate this one the most. Not because there is anything wrong with mental illness. I live with one myself (severe anxiety).
I loathe this one because it’s used in such a dismissive, oppressive way towards the trans community.
The World Health Organization historically classified being trans as a mental illness, but it is now considered a “health condition,” solely for the purposes of allowing access to medical treatments that trans folks might choose to seek, such as hormone replacement therapy, so their body can align with their identity, so they can minimize gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria, the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex, does remain in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual as a mental health diagnosis, where professionals, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have agreed that the only course of treatment is that of the affirmation model, meaning to guide them in transition socially, and possibly medically (hormones and/or gender confirmation surgery), if diagnostic criteria have been met.
To put in perspective what that means — not all mental health issues listed in the DSM V have a cure per se, or aren’t exactly a mental issue at all, such as restless leg syndrome or narcolepsy, which are also listed. They require a diagnosis for a treatment plan, but they’re not something to be undone or even medicated.
So, the only time mental illness comes into the conversation might be if the individual experiences anxiety or depression, which usually is the result of family, peer, or society’s rejection of them.
Family rejection remains high, unfortunately, even given all of the scientific data that supports that being transgender is, indeed, real. And statistics show that suicide rates can be as high as 57% when a young trans person is rejected by their family.
And, of course, most of us acknowledge that the general population remains grossly undereducated on this subject, which results in stressful social situations, which can certainly contribute to emotional distress.
We have to do better about educating one another. And stop the stigmas.
5. You’re pushing your liberal agenda.
I’m not even sure what this means, but I hear it all.of.the.time.
The way I translate this is, “We need to just ignore this entire community to preserve everything we view as ‘normal’ because it threatens the patriarchy.”
But I doubt anyone would own my interpretation.
So, what I’ll say is: OK. Sure.
My “liberal agenda” consists of fighting for equality for our kids and for all trans people. Because they’re humans, and they deserve some equity in society. And they need to stop being “other’d” by society.
Our kids aren’t political pawns. They’re humans. And because they do happen to be transgender, they need advocates fighting for their basic civil rights.
If that’s “pushing a liberal agenda,” yep. You’re right. That’s what we’re up to.
We prefer the term “social justice warriors,” but potato, pa-ta-toe. “Liberal agenda” will work.
6. I don’t understand what it means to be transgender.
This sounds innocent enough, innocuous even. And I’m always, always happy to educate when I hear these words.
But this usually results in people steering clear of the family with a trans kid. They might not outwardly spew hate, they might even do a great job of tolerating us, but because they’re not educated, they keep at an arm’s length.
Which is fine. But personally, I would rather they ask questions, even if they’re invasive.
Questions are good. Sticking your head in the sand is bad.
7. What will I tell my cis (non-trans) kids?
This is an easier question to answer than it sounds.
Kids are easy. And whether you are onboard with what it means to be trans or not, you frankly don’t need to say much.
It’s as simple as, “Well, little Sally, your friend at school who you’ve known as Lily is now going by the name of Dylan and will be using he and him instead of she and her. He feels like a boy in his heart and brain and so this is honoring him. Try your best to respect his new name and pronouns. It’s ok if you make a mistake. Just gently correct yourself.”
And, like magic, kids will simply say… “OK!”
That’s usually that.
The remainder of the conversation is really up to you and how much you want to explain.
There are some great books available for young kids. As for older middle and high school kids, trust me when I tell you that they already know.
Because kids are very accepting and loving.
It’s the parents who teach bigotry and hatred.
Keep the conversation simple and honest.
8. You and your child are going to hell.
I can’t even with the religion conversation. And I hate the phrase “I can’t even.”
There are so many things in the Bible that aren’t honored on a daily basis, like, hello, you’re not supposed to touch the skin of a pig? Or be around a woman on her period? And you’re supposed to gouge a man’s eyes out if they force him to sin?
Get the hell out of here. No pun intended.
But other than that, my God wouldn’t want you to be an asshole. He would want you to be accepting and loving and He will sort us all out.
God loves everyone. Full stop.
9. If your child has a penis, they are male; a vagina, they are female.
First, the obsession with genitals is alarming. It’s very strange to me when grown adults talk about children’s genitals.
But if you must, I’ll engage.
This is fake news.
Because, did you know that 1 out of 1,500 babies are born intersex, which means they have sex characteristics of both male and female, such as a penis and ovaries?
Which gender are they?
Unfortunately, for many years, doctors were making that decision and surgically modifying these babies at birth…only to choose the wrong gender in many cases. Some intersex people never even knew this about themselves. Some that do are very private about it.
All of this to say, genitals do not always determine gender. Even though many of us do identify with the gender assigned at birth, gender lives in the brain. And science, once again, has drilled down on this with research.
10. But! Bathrooms!
I know, I know. You don’t want your precious girl in the bathroom with a penis lurking.
This whole bathroom debate is a complete fallacy with zero substance.
Studies have shown that not one incident is on record of a trans person violating someone in a bathroom. Not one. Cis men are the ones we need to watch out for. Not trans people.
When is the last time you saw someone’s genitals in a bathroom anyway? I never have. Because I go in the bathroom to do my business.
And I have news for you — you’ve shared a bathroom with a trans person whether you realize it or not. That’s a fact.
But the bathroom debate that was sparked a few years back and just won’t die is all a distraction and aimed to continue to the oppression of and discrimination towards trans people. There’s no other basis for it to exist.
Not to mention, when my child was still identifying as female, he was policed in bathrooms constantly since he presents in such a masculine way. Everyone assumed he was a boy and would call him out when he was SEVEN YEARS OLD.
This is unacceptable. Don’t police genitals, friends. It’s weird. It’s creepy. It’s unnecessary.
So, please. Take a shit, pee, change your clothes, whatever, just be sure to wash your hands and exit the bathroom. That’s is all.
Whew. That was information overload. But all necessary to work through for those who need to catch up.
We are in desperate need of an education so we can see more allies rising up for this amazing, resilient community.
Our kids are the bravest of the brave, and we, as their parents, are the fiercest of the fierce.
Once you break down your biases, challenge everything you’ve known in terms of gender, and get to know our kids, get to know our families, you’ll find that are all the same, navigating this thing called life. Doing the best we can.
No matter what happens in the world, our trans kids will always exist and we mama and papa bears will always love, support and advocate for them.
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