I love to to read a positive story relating to the trans community and this one jumped out at me as flicked through the news over breakfast this morning (13.07.20):
As a whole I enjoyed it for what it was, a happy story about a modern family with two well-adjusted children. But it is also a lesson in accepting your child for who they are.
I wanted to share my thoughts about three key things that struck me:
- Gender reveal parties: While I love the thought of every excited, immensely proud mum and dad being able to shout their news from the highest hilltop, not every child goes on to identify with the gender they are assigned at birth. So what should we as parents do? Call our children they or them until they tell us which gender they identify with? Never use female or male associated names? Mark them as gender unknown on their birth certificate? Or go with the majority and hope we get it right? It seems that as a society, we are a long way from allowing children to develop their own identity, but what we can do is encourage them to be themselves, listen if they tell us that something is not as it seems and accept them for who they are. This family has chosen to mark the true identity of their child with a second gender reveal party to acknowledge their daughter’s existence and demonstrate their love and acceptance to the world. This is a very lucky little girl, whose parents are openly demonstrating that they are just as proud of their discovery the second time around as they were the first.
- You cannot make your kid trans: the mum explains in this article how the dad bought their child a doll when she was two, and how excited she was. She then goes on to explain that then the dad got worried that maybe his actions might encourage this ‘transgender thing’. It is absolutely vital to understand that it’s not affirmation or information that makes someone transgender, it’s the affirmation and information that allows them to put words to their experience of being trans. I have never ever met anyone who was ‘turned’ trans by their parents or teachers or friends or the Internet. I have met those who have experimented with their gender expression, who are not trans, and I have met many who have experienced someone trying to convert them to a cisgender identity. Despite this Dad’s anxiety, his daughter loved her first doll and would have taken the gift as a sign of his love and acceptance.
- The power of affirmative therapy: In the article the mum states: ‘They [her therapist] told us that hardly any children change their minds about their gender identity after this age when they are consistent, insistent, and persistent about it like she was – and that letting them be the gender they identify as was the best thing for their mental health,’ This affirmative approach, experienced by the family in the story, is a million miles away from what would be considered the “accepted approach” in the UK. I have heard so many families speak of their experiences which urged ‘caution’ and words which can be interpreted as attempts at conversion. Therapists sitting on the fence, discussing mum and dad’s feelings, encouraging them to ‘go slowly’. While this is happening I imagine the child sitting there with a frown on her face, arms folded thinking – ‘why won’t they listen to ME?’ The focus is very much on the needs of the parents to learn and understand and accept, which is interesting given that it is the child’s gender identity which has led to the discussion in the first place. Indeed, in a recent review published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Jack Turban and Diane Ehrensaft explore the benefits of affirmative treatment protocols: https://acamh.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jcpp.12833 Mum and dad should absolutely be encouraged to work out their feelings in the full knowledge and understanding that her daughter is clear on hers: she is a girl. We mustn’t forget the role, effect and influence that therapists can have on the whole family – and that can be positive or negative.
This young girl has: parents that understand and are willing to divert their parenting course and recognise their daughter for who she is; a therapist who isn’t scared to help the parents to support their child and each other; and a school that welcomes children according to their identity rather than their genitals.
I just hope and pray that when she approaches puberty she will be allowed to access the medicine that will stop her body developing in line with a testosterone fuelled puberty, that she is allowed the right hormones to let her develop with her peers, into a young woman. In the UK, as things currently stand, that would be unavailable on the NHS.
Before GenderGP was set up to provide interim care to those waiting for support on the NHS, children seeking access to gender affirmative care had to travel to the USA for treatment. As this family is based in the USA, I hope these options are freely available to her so she can have a happy life despite the fact that she is different.
If you have been affected by any of the topics raised in this blog post and you would like to speak to someone, please visit our Help Centre to access our team of gender specialists.