#1. Emotionally supporting my transgender child is a life-and-death decision.
Really. Truly. Honestly. And statistically–– with lots of actual data to back it up.
If I choose not to support my child (and/or my child is forced into environments where they are not supported), the chances of her harming herself goes up to 85% or higher. The chances of her attempting suicide if she is not supported are anywhere between 40% to 60%. All studies agree that the self-harm rates are very high for gender-creative kids who are not in supportive environments.
But a transgender or non-binary child who is supported and loved just as they are? Their chances of suicide and self-harm go back down to the same low risk of their cisgender classmates, which is 4%. You read that right. The chances of self-harm go down to 4% merely by being validated as they are.
Supporting our kids is not a whim we as parents are catering too. It isn’t cute or funny or that we “let our kid dress how she wants.” We are not giving in on some typical parent-child battle where we “should be standing firm.” We are listening to our child and honoring who she consistently tells us SHE IS because if we don’t, there are astronomically high odds that she will eventually hurt herself. If we simply love her as she is, those odds go down to a much lower number.
Supporting my child is not a decision for me––it’s a necessity for her survival.
I have to believe that most parents would be supportive of their kids, if they were presented with the same information.
#2. In a young child, there is no medical intervention at all.
Young children like mine undergo “social transitions,” meaning the only things that (possibly) change are clothing, hairstyle, names and pronouns.
Read that again. THERE IS NO MEDICAL INTERVENTION AT ALL.
Our daughter has annual visits to our local Children’s Hospital pediatric gender clinic but only to gather resources and make sure we are doing all we can emotionally for her. And even though we have no issues or concerns right now, we also see a therapist who specializes in gender. We want our daughter to build a relationship with someone safe so when hard times inevitably come, she has someone to talk to. Other than that, there is no medical component to our lives. The only meds my kid takes is vitamins.
Medical transitions or interventions do not happen until the second stage of puberty, and then the first step is a blocker, which is essentially a puberty pause button for a few years. At this point, everything is still completely reversible. It’s not until after all of these steps (and lots of testing) that cross-hormone therapy comes into the picture. And as for surgery, laws vary by state, but all require patients be at or very near adulthood.
What I’m saying is that no one is “altering” their children at their first suggestion of gender variance. Years of counseling, medical doctors, and testing are required before ANY medical treatments occur. And again, nothing medical occurs until the second stage of puberty.
Ultimately, it will be up to our (much older) child to tell us what steps she wants to take to be content and comfortable in her own body. And that is the goal, her own acceptance of her own body— not society’s ideal, not some version or perfect or even “passing.” The goal is whatever keeps her safe and happy in her own skin. And that choice will be solely hers when that time comes, with the assistance of trained and affirming medical professionals.
#3 Gender is in the brain and the heart, not the body parts.
Nearly all of us have been conditioned to believe that there are only two genders (male and female) and they are defined by our body parts. Penis equals boy. Vagina equals girl. XX or XY. No exceptions. End of story.
But that isn’t true. First of all, the population of humans that are intersex, and thus literally and biologically a combination of both female and male, is nearly 2% of the population. That’s the same as the population of Russia. To say that there are no variations besides male and female is completely, utterly, and scientifically false.
And it isn’t nearly the whole story. We just haven’t been encouraged ––or taught–– to talk about gender as a spectrum, instead we’ve been heavily taught a false binary. If anything, the topic has been made to be taboo here in America and secrecy has been encouraged.
For lots of us, like me, our body parts match how we feel inside about ourselves- otherwise known as cisgender. I have always known myself as a girl, and eventually as a woman. No one ever had to tell me or remind me. I have always possessed this information and my body has always felt like my own.
But that isn’t true about my daughter. Despite being born with parts generally thought of as boy, and despite being raised as a boy from birth (because we just assumed based on body parts), the first thing she told us when she started to talk was, “I’m a girl.”
Like each of us, her gender is built in as WHO SHE IS. It isn’t something I taught her because it can’t be taught. Equally, it’s not something I can unteach her.
Who taught you that you were a girl? Or a boy? Did you have to be reminded lots of times? What kind of corrections did your parents make when you got it wrong? How old were you when you finally knew and made the decision? Or was this knowledge always there, inside of you?
As many as 1 in 500 people are gender-creative. Some studies suggest that percentage is even higher. For them, the bodies they were born into do not correlate with who they truly are.
It is outdated thinking to believe that body parts need to “match” societies idea of the gender binary to be valid.
And regardless of what kind of parts anyone has, they know who they are just like you and I know who we are. All of our perceptions of ourselves are equal, valid and real. Even if they are different from your own experience and comfort zone.
The idea that there are only two genders and that that gender is based on body parts is an urban myth that has been perpetrated for generations in our culture. It is an injustice to our entire society that we haven’t been taught the truth about gender.
For anyone interested in learning more, this is from the American Academy of Pediatrics website and it’s full of information.
I also highly recommend the documentary Gender Revolution with Katie Couric, and the book The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie A. Brill
**Respectful questions and comments welcome. Close-minded haters and ignorance-spreaders can take a hike/will be blocked.