en English

On this episode of the GenderGP podcast Helen and Marianne are joined by author and sociologist Tey Meadow (she/her). They talk about Tey’s research into trans kids, discuss the challenges facing the families and professionals who support them, and share suggestions for making life easier for young trans people.

If you have been affected by any of the topics discussed in our podcast, and would like to get in touch, please contact us via the Help Centre. You can also contact us on social media where you will find us at @GenderGP on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

We are always happy to accept ideas for future shows, so if there is something in particular you would like us to discuss, or a specific guest you would love to hear from, let us know. Your feedback is really important to us. If you could take a minute or two to leave us a review and rating for the podcast on your favourite podcast app, it will help others to discover us.

 

Links:

Anti-trans legislation has never been about protecting children | Washington Post

 

Tey is on Twitter @dr_tey, and her website is teymeadow.com.  Her book, Trans Kids: Being Gendered in the Twenty-First Century is available via University of California Press.

 

We support trans youth – find out more

 

The GenderGP Podcast

Making Life Easier For Trans Kids

 

Hello, this is Dr. Helen. Webberley welcome to our GenderGP podcast, where we will be discussing some of the issues affecting the trans and non-binary community in the world today together with my co-host Marianne Oakes, a trans woman, herself and our head of therapies.

 

Helen:
Hi everybody. Um, Marianne and I again here today, um, as usual and we have another lovely guest with us. I’d like to introduce Tae Meadow and as always, I’m going to pass straight over to Tey to say hello and welcome. Tell us all about you all about the work that you do and wherever you might want to come and talk to us, um, on a rainy afternoon.

Tey:
Hi, thank you both so much for having me. Uh, I’m a sociologist and a professor at Columbia university in New York city. Um, and my work, uh, broadly is on gender and sexuality. So I’ve written on trans issues. Uh, I’ve written on sexuality globally, but with a particular focus on the United States and my most recent book, which came out in 2018 is called trans kids being gendered in the 21st century. And it’s an ethnographic and interview based study of a generation of parents who are learning to facilitate gender nonconformity in their kids who are calling their trans kids by their preferred names and pronouns, and even approaching the state and other social institutions to change their kids’ gender. And it seems to be a moment where that’s you, you know, of a particular import in the United States. So that’s been the focus of, of that particular part of my work.

Helen:
Brilliant. So tell us, what did all the parents say? What did you find out? What did they tell you?

Tey:
I mean, so many things, right? 300 pages worth of things, but really what was fascinating in the work was following parents who you are, not activists are not political people, just everyday people from all across the United States who had a child who said, or did things that they didn’t expect. And so parents from rural areas or major urban areas, religious and secular parents, parents of every, um, you know, gender and, and, and racial distribution, you can imagine kind of being confronted with new forms of gender or forms of gender that were new to them and kind of watching them grapple with and come to understand this as being something foundational to who their child was as a person was really kind of fascinating to watch. And as they were doing that, they were also looking to me as an expert for answers. And so we were in this like reciprocal process of sort of studying each other and trying to figure this out in a moment when, you know, when I first started the research, there weren’t a lot of trans kids in the media. It wasn’t a thing that was all over the news. And so just in the time that I entered the field, the discussions on these exploded and all of a sudden it was the topic Du juor, um, which was just a certain degree of luck on my part that I happened to capture that moment and that process of parents moving from having very few resources, even on the internet to being at this point, pretty overwhelmed by the political discourse in the United States, around gender nonconformity and childhood.

Helen:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, things have changed so much so quickly, haven’t they, I’m going through, um, a regulatory investigation at the moment for the work that I did with trans children, um, here in the UK, because it was unusual. It was surprising, you know, hang on a minute. What, what are you doing? And, and it’s taken five years for that investigation to come to the end. And it’s really difficult to look back to 2015, which is when I was working with, with young people, because the information that was available then, and actually the attitudes that were available then are, are very, very different to now. And in some ways they’re actually much easier. There was less politics and less unrest and less suspicion than there is now. Um, and everything has changed ever such a lot.

Tey:
Yeah. I mean, I think that there’s often a backlash when something new becomes visible or something becomes visible newly right. For the first time. So I think ultimately families in gen, you know, in generations past that found ways to facilitate their kids’ gender nonconformity often did it in private or in secret. And as this has become something that’s easily recognizable from the outside. Um, I think that we’re seeing, you know, as we have, like with many other issues, like a real pushback against this, you know, what people’s perceived to be a new way of thinking. I mean, it sounds almost like there was a, I don’t know what your story, but kind of way in which it seems almost criminalized. Yeah. To be gender expansive is something that’s happening in the United States in a really terrifying way right now. Right. We have nearly a hundred, uh, anti-trans bills across the 50 states.

Some of which criminalize pursuing medical care for children like criminalized doctors for providing it criminalized parents for pursuing it. And that’s to my mind, the most disturbing trend, right? It’s one thing to have political disagreements. It’s one thing to say, you know, you raise your kids the way you want to, and I’m gonna raise my kids the way I want to. And it’s another thing to say, like as a physician that following the basic standards of care for gender expansive care for kids could put you at risk of losing your medical license and your livelihood and mean that you come into contact with a criminal justice system. To me seems just unprecedented and, and really, really frightening.

Helen:
It, it is really frightening and that’s, and that is what’s happening with me at the moment. You know, I, my life to practice medicine is on, is on hold on suspension. And, you know, I’ll have a hearing in for three months at the end of this year to, to find the answers. It is scary. It’s frightening. And what it does is it stops other providers providing care from fear. Um, and also, you know, we’ve spoken to mums and they, they have said, you know exactly how you describe, you know, they’re not activist, they’re not political, they’re just mums. And they’ve got two or three kids and they’ve got, they go to the school and they pick up their kids and they play in the park. And then one day with their, their kid says I’m trans and they’ve flow into this completely different world. And they think they’re gonna get support and answers. And it’s, they’re not, they’re kind of floundering on their own. And then at some stage, someone comes in and goes, you are hurting your child by allowing this. And we are going to penalize you punish you, investigate you. And it’s it’s must be terrifying. I mean, Marianne, you are the one who sometimes picks up the pieces with these families as our kind of head of therapy at GenderGP. I mean, what did, is this resonating with you? Some of these stories that we are discussing.

Marianne:
I’m kind of fascinated, just listening to you both talk about it because on one hand, uh, I’m sure Tey you’ve met hundreds of families. And, and so do I, and to try and pin this down to about what’s the right way and wrong way, any family should deal with. It might say, then we end up with this political called discourse. And then we start getting legislation. We’ve had a court case in the UK that there’s basically a stopped all care for all medical interventions for, uh, children under the age of 16. And it’s like this pendulums just swinging erratically. And then we start talking about the people and, and you correct me if I’m wrong, Helen, the people that have suspended you, know bug at all about this subject. They suspended because they don’t know. And then the arguments are these not enough research. Well, that’s not the child’s fault and it’s not the family’s fault. They’re brave off. And a doctor that’s brave off. Why should be the under the threat of losing their careers, and having their kids taken off them because the people dealing with it don’t know. And it’s that, that frustrates me.

Tey:
And the notion that there isn’t research is also a somewhat false notion, right? So, so hormone blockers, as you both know, have been used since the 1970s for precocious puberty, we know exactly what they’re doing of kids’ bodies and what they’re not doing. And the notion that parents come into these decisions, Willie nilly is like very inconsistent with my experience of families who go for therapy and consult multiple physicians and have kids that are exhibiting like real psychiatric distress that sends them down that path in the first place. And, you know, I always feel a little anxious making that argument because I don’t believe that a kid should have to be borderline suicidal to be able to transition, but sometimes that’s what it takes. But even in those cases, right, the idea that we don’t know, I mean, doing nothing is doing something and we know a tremendous amount about the ways in way it, these medications affect the human body.

And we know a lot about the tremendous success that children have when they’re able to socially and medically transition in ways that are consistent with the kinds of puberty experience by their peers. Right? So the idea that you leave a trans kid alone until they’re 18, or some people want to advocate for 21, that’s not doing nothing. That’s, that’s holding a child in a precubital state while all of their peers are changing in dramatic ways. And that has its own psychological penalties, right. And its own kind of difficult after effects. So, you know, I, I have a really hard time with those, those arguments. And my experience with families is that that you’re right, that there is no one size fits all model for kind of moving through these decision making processes, but with a lot of tremendous care and support and resources, you know, really come to a pretty articulate understanding of who their kids are and how they feel. And it leads them to make a lot of different decisions depending on who their kids are, which is the right answer, right? That these are individual children with individual gender configurations and that, and the answer for each of them is gonna be different

Marianne:
Coincidentally. Uh, today I, I do a pleasure to work with one or two private patients outside of GenderGP. And these one that I work with, I’ve been working with them for two years. They are under the care of the, uh, NHS gender services. And they were taken to what we, what we call the Tavistock mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, and Portland clinic, when they were 13 came out when they were 11, they socially transitioned. They went on waiting this two years later, they got called. And when they went to see the clinicians at the Tavistock, they were, uh, four foot eight, their bonds hadn’t fused, and they were presenting and living as the boy they are. And they told the clinicians there I’m a boy and the, the clinic, are you sure you’re a boy. And then two years of them having to prove that they were a boy without any medical intervention, no blockers.

And eventually when they were 15, they got puberty blockers, by which time their, their bones had fused. And they, they can no longer grow any, any more height. So they’re now five foot three. And he said to me, I’m just so angry that somebody made the decision for me to not let me go onto blockers. That would’ve allowed me to have gained a bit more height that would’ve given me more confidence. That meant that I didn’t have to up this world. Now self-conscious about my height. Now. I, I realize there’s lots of people out there that just don’t get to them kind of Heights, but there was no good reason for that child to have not been given a puberty blocker. They weren’t asking for testosterone, just a puberty blocker that would have made a massive difference now, but two years for them to prove that who they are, and now they’re 18. And they are still who they said they were when they were 13. So yeah, that’s, that’s the challenge. And the clinicians are making that decision for that child and nobody trusts the child or the parents to know.

Tey:
Yeah. I mean, I think that it’s, it’s complicated, right? Because I also interviewed a lot of clinicians who feel the tremendous burden of the responsibility of being sure. Right. And so I, I don’t know what it’s like to be a clinician. And obviously you can speak to that far more than I can, but I have to imagine that, you know, a child comes into your office or your consulting room, and you’ve never met this child before, and it’s gonna take a minute to figure out what their story is and what the right approach is. Right. And at the same time you have the kid on the other side of the, of the room who, and, you know, children experience like a tremendous sense of urgency around did developing in a way that feels comfortable for them. And it’s a real conflict, right? The physicians who want to be sure that they’re doing the right thing as the quote unquote experts, and then the parents and kids, who’ve obviously been thinking about these things for much longer, you know, it takes a while before they get to the clinician’s office.

And then they’re told they have to like convince a new person and, you know, it’s tough. Like I have lot of empathy for both sides of that particular exchange. And I think, you know, a lot of the parents that I interviewed really had a lot of feelings about the very different kinds of medical treatment that they were able to access. And the parents with the most agency and the most kind of entitlement got better care, which I think is true in the United States, but broadly around many different medical issues, um, which is a real problem, um, because that also maps onto class and it maps onto education and it maps onto intellectual capacity and all sorts of other things. But yeah, I mean, you have this like generation of kids, that’s like having to fight for a basic developmental narrative. That makes sense for them.

Helen:
Yeah. It’s an interesting listen to the two of you talk because we have Marianne talking about somebody who was telling them that it took two years, and then Tey you were saying that you can empathize with those people who are having to make those medical decisions and the scare. And you said, you know, it’s gonna take a minute to evaluate that kid, but what we’ve got is a situation, how much time do we allow the evaluater to take? Is it, do we allow them a minute, which is too short, or do we allow them two years, which is too long and you know, what is the right number? And also, like you said, Tey um, who knows best because goodness gracious me. They didn’t just make the appointment 10 minutes ago. Did they? They’ve been thinking about that appointment for some time. And they definitely thinking about their gender at home. And, you know, if we could just ask the family, family, family, what do you think, do you think you’ve got a transgender son, brother, a grandson, niece, nephew, whatever, a bet that they would, they would be able to answer the question for us. Really?

Tey:
Yeah. I think parents come in actually with different levels of certainty. So if a parent comes in and, and says, this is who my kid has always been, or this is who my kid’s been since puberty, you know, I think that the clinicians that I know tend to trust that there are also parents that come in and they’re like, I don’t know what to do. Right. And then you have a constellation of adults surrounding a kid trying to like figure it out. But I think that the thing that underwrites a lot of this anxiety, I think that there are two issues that are underneath this one is at least in the United States context. And it sounds like, like it’s the same in the UK at this point, physicians and endocrinologists and doctors, and all of the folks who work with kids are under such scrutiny for their, the ways in which they practice medicine.

But I think it heightens the anxiety in a way that could make things take longer than they need to. Right. As people like have to be able to defend their decisions to colleagues or peers or whatever. And I have some, you know, interesting cases around that. And then the other thing is the kind of like more general political climate and the way in which the conversation has shifted from. Do you know if your kid is trans to, like, I think that we’ve been trained by psychologists to move very quickly from, um, asking whether or not a kid is trans to asking whether or not it’s possible for them to not be right. Like that, that, that is the question. Like, is there a way to, to have some other outcome this, and that’s something that gums up the works and, and it’s underwritten by this really kind of false fear that most of these kids are gonna regret these decisions.

When in fact, that’s not what we’re seeing that for kids who are consistent and persistently Crossgender identified, they tend to have pretty stable identities. Um, you know, that non-binary kids or kids that are somewhere in the middle are, are kind of a separate case, right? And I think that it actually is important because there are so many non-binary kids in the media. Now it’s important to make that differentiation that there are versions of trans that are medical. And there are versions of trans that are psychological, and there are versions of trans that are social. And, but for the kids that are consistently cross to under identified, not the ones who are saying, you know, I want to use they them pronouns. I really feel like I’m somewhere in the middle, but the kids who are like, I’m a boy, I’m a boy. Like, that’s what I am. That is a very particular version of trans that demands a medical response. And I think that you’re right, that parents can know that. And that should be in in many cases. Good enough. Right. Because anybody, I have a, I have a nine year old and, and, and I tell you, I make decisions for her that are, that are impactful with tremendous thought and care. I’m not gonna rush her into any major life decision. And I suspect most parents are the same, right? That, that this is not a decision that’s made. Like,

Marianne:
I think there’s also another bit that’s missing, certainly in the UK is what’s the motive behind the clinician coming into this work, you know, do they believe that they can cure trans people? Is that what their education was? What was the motive behind it? How do they, you know, genuinely believe that trans people exist and deserve, you know, all the care and are there to make sure that the child has every best chance of having a successful transition. And I don’t think that that’s even a question. I mean, I mean, my impression is it’s not a question that’s asked at the interview that actually, you know, if somebody wants to come work into this field, have you got the qualifications? Yes. Because theres no official training isn’t there in the UK Helen. So, you know, how do the, how do we filter out the people with good intentions and the ones that have got probably darker intentions, not that they are bad people that they just misunderstanding what trans is about, just because they’ve got a doctorate in psychology. I think that’s, that’s something that’s kind of missed that the, the, what they call it, the recruitment process

Helen:
I think that’s right, because, you know, one of the criticisms that’s being levied at me is that I’m not a pediatric endocrinologist. I’m just a GP. And I’m think GPS and family doctors, sexual health kind of doctors, those kind of doctors, we’re so used to this kind of work, uh, it’s bread and butter for us. Actually, we do it all day every day. And also the other thing is, you know, and the, the question’s often asked is, well, what if the child has some mental health issues either causing, uh, this problem or because of this problem, you know, you need a psychiatrist as part of the team. And it’s like, again, but do you know what family doctors like me, we used to be dealing with mental health issues all the time. That’s what we do. It’s our bread and butter. So, you know, I think by making a specialist in transgender care that can only come from one set specialty is a, is a danger. And, and I think the right Marianne, we, it should be a, something that is, is a real interest and passion in your career rather than.

Tey:
And truthfully, it’s also a, it represents a sort of misunderstanding of how this stuff has been happening from the beginning, which is that, you know, endocrinologists are often the ones who train general practitioners on a how to manage puberty. And it’s not, it’s look, it’s one thing. If a kid comes into your care and they have a complex endocrinological profile, and then you, maybe you need to seek outside support, but, but managing hormones is not a thing that a general practitioner can’t learn to do and to do well. And ultimately like isn’t the goal to have as much care as can competently be given by the professional that knows the kid and family the best. And if the concern is, is that there are mental health implications to transition, then the doctor that’s handling the rest of the child’s profile is in a sense, ideally situated to be the person managing this.

And if there’s no reason why you need a higher level of specialization to do it, you know, I think that, again, this is the same way that anxiety plays out, right? Like it attaches itself to these kind of red herring issues that are not actually the important issues. So if you wanna have like really competent trans care given to kids, GPS are exactly, particularly pediatric GPS are exactly who should be trained in this. It should become a part of basic medical training, right? So that people are competent. The, the answer is not to like over medicalize these kids and send them to specialists after specialists to be certified, right. This is a way that a fairly large percentage of human beings choose to live. Right. We know this from the adult population. And the fact that that’s mirrored in children is like, I mean, to anybody paying attention probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise.

Right? So in my day, you know, like people were adults when they came out. And I remember when I first met, when I’ve met the activist, uh, when I had the first conversation that became the basis for the book, I met a trans man just at a conference and we were chatting over lunch. And he was telling me that the work that he did for an organization called Gender Pack in the United States was to go into schools where kids were transitioning. And this was like, you know, 2007. And I was like, what do you mean schools where kids are transitioning? Like, this is something that happens like once in a while. Right? And he’s like, no, this is happening a lot now. And when I came out in my, you know, late teens, trans was something that you figured out when you were an adult, right?

So like you got out of your parents’ house. Sometimes you had to get out of school. And then it was like, okay, finally, now I can come into this thing. But the fact that we have so many trans adults and that, that has been in some way or another trans historically true, right? That there are people who, who, who defy gender norms in their social surroundings everywhere. Whether you call them trans or not is a discussion historian love to have. And I don’t, I don’t need to have a dog in that fight, but the fact that there’s a predictable percentage of the population that is gonna feel this way, seems to me to be the asked evidence for the fact that a predictable percentage of the child population is gonna feel this way. And the question is, what kind of adulthood do we wanna give these kids?

Do we wanna give them an adulthood where the, a adult trans experience has been so painful, right? The, the stories of like having a childhood that just felt wrong in parents that were rejecting and, and having to like argue that the alternative is psychological abuse and suicide. Like, I don’t like that argument. Like the, the idea is that if a predictable percentage of the population of kids is gonna be trans don’t, we want these kids to have the most fulfilling and affirming and supportive adolescents. We can, it’s hard enough for everybody to transition into being a sexual adult. Right. But to give these kids the added burden of having to go through an inconsistent puberty that they then need to medically undo seems to me to be tantamount, to abuse. So I don’t think the abuse is the medicalization of cross identified kids. I think the abuse is taking a kid, some of whom have been consistent from the time they developed the language and the capacity to advocate for themselves to tell that kind of a kid, you need to go through your natal puberty is psychological torture for no good outcome.

Marianne:
The risk of achieving the conversation. You know, when we talk about the clinicians, the biggest fear that parents have, and the biggest fear that clinicians have, what if the child change the mind? And what they’re thinking about is what’s gonna happen to me. If this child changes their mind, I’m gonna get blamed for this. Can you imagine if you said, well, actually, you know, if a kid doesn’t change the mind and you don’t help them, you are to blame and they can come back and litigate. What decisions would the clinicians then make?

Tey:
You know, what the scariest answer to that question is though the scariest answer is that they’re more comfortable with the idea of the normative trauma, of not being recognized as a trans person. Right. That this is my fear is that if you actually ask clinicians that question, they would say, yeah, but that’s normal. That’s the way it’s been for decades. Trans people have had to like, wait till they’re adults. So, so do you, but I think the thing that’s really important about your question is that it’s time to start to stop asking what will happen. If the kid makes a different decision. You know, what, if the kid makes a different decision, then the kid makes a different decision in the future. And what would happen if we lowered the stakes of the decision and said, you wanna be a boy in the world, give it a shot.

Like, I actually think that if we lower the stakes of the decision, if they don’t have to be a hundred percent short, if they get to try things, then you’re gonna have a generation of kids who, if they come into a Crossgender identity have. And so without feeling like they either have to fight for or against anything, they just come to it with their own in their own truth. Right. You know, the idea of like pre-pubescent trans kids making social transitions. For example, I think that that’s one of the lowest stakes decisions that a family can make. If you know, my pre-pubescent daughter who, you know, as far as she tells me is very girl identified. But if she felt differently, you know, what, what, what is the harm in saying, okay, you wanna see if that’s the way you wanna walk in the world, go for it.

And that way, if it doesn’t fit, she hasn’t had to fight so hard for it that she now can’t tell me. Right? And this is the other thing that if, if we lower the stakes of these decisions and these kids don’t have to fight so hard. And when you, when you fought hard for something, you’re more likely to cling to it, even in the face of contradictory evidence, then you are, if people are like, I’m gonna love you, no matter what you choose, we’re gonna support you. We’re gonna provide you with adequate medical care. You’re gonna have good mental health care. We’re work it through as a family. Like I’m gonna deal with grandma’s discomfort. I’m gonna help you with school bullying. Like I, you know, like if a kid just feels like they can be whoever they wanna be at home, at least right. Then they can be whoever they wanna be. And if that means that their minds change at some point, the idea that they would feel that they’d be welcomed you, no matter what decision they make seems to mean to be the ideal outcome certainly

Helen:
Seems like a very nice outcome. I’m gonna just pop back to something you said, which I think is really insightful. I love doing podcasts because I love learning. And you really taught me something a few minutes ago, because you said that someone who’s saying, I am a boy, it’s very, very different to somebody who, who is saying I’m some in the middle, don’t identify me as any gender don’t label me. Let me find out where I am. I’m bang in the middle. I’m neither. And I think it it’s really important because the, the intervention, if that’s what we’re gonna call it, the required for those are very, very different. And this always brings me back to something that Marianne, uh, taught me, which is you go into the doctor’s consultation room or the therapist, and you say, you know, what can I do for you today?

And they say, oh, I think it might be trans. And the next question should be, how would you like me to help you? And that’s gonna give us so much information. If the next sentence is I’m trans, I’m a boy. And I don’t wanna go through this hideous girl puberty, then that really focuses on what we want, um, and helps the parent focus. Whereas if they say, look, I’m, I think I’m trans. I think I’m in the middle somewhere. I don’t know. I’m just finding out about my stuff that that person doesn’t need medical intervention tomorrow. You know? So there’s a very different outputs that we, that you can help with. And if we don’t ask the family the really crucial question, what is it that you would like us to do for you? We’re gonna miss that aren’t we? Not every kid needs puberty, blockers, not every kid wants testosterone, but we don’t know without asking.

Marianne:
The concern is as well that if the child believes that they won’t be validated out asking for that, then they may be being wrongly prescribed. You know, if we don’t create the right environment for free and open conversation, how do we know we’ve said this with the gate keeping model, you know, if you make somebody fit into a box, they’re not gonna get the right care plan. They’re gonna get a care plan that fits that box. That could be equally as distressing. So we’re going back to what you were saying, Tey you know, all that’s going through my mind is when I talk to parents and this they’re saying to me, what can I do? I said, you know, just create an environment where they’re free to explore the gender, whatever that means for them. If they say they’re a boy and they come down wearing nail Polish, don’t invalidate gender, because just a boy that wears nail Polish. That’s about you. If you’ve got a problem with that, not your child. I know this is slightly different, but I watch, I dunno if you’ve seen it, Helen, they run a, a two part series called three families, and it was about abortion in, um, Northern island. It resonated with what we do and, you know, controversy and over that, you know, it’s abortion and the rest of the United Kingdom, you know, uh, really hard. Yeah. So I just think if you get a chance to watch it, it just kind of resonated that, you know, I don’t think this is always just a problem for, uh, you know, trans healthcare. I think there’s a social shift that, that some elements of society are really struggling with. And unfortunately, I think they’ve become the minority of what they become allowed well funded, well organized minority and the cause in the difficulties, certainly where, um, trans children are concerned. I don’t know what your, uh, experiences tell you, but I, I just come in this as an observer, uh, working for GenderGP. But the truth of the matter is they, kids were not being, um, focused on at all.

And they concern was to attack trans women. And they kept trying to bring out stories and we were all predators and it was this. And, and when they realized society didn’t care that society was supportive, they then turned their attention to the children. And they went at them viciously. It was at the parents. And then it was at the clinicians helping them. And even the Tavistock who I have not the highest regard for they were attacked as well. You know, this was indiscriminate anybody that dares to help a child. And I think that’s what I’ve kind of noticed. And that’s why I think it’s becoming more to the media attention.

Tey:
Yeah. I Mean, there’s a really in interesting op-ed that came out last week in the Washington post by, uh, someone named Nikita shepherd. I believe that’s about the history of child protectionism as a way of criminalizing difference. Right? And so, you know, you can think about attacks on, at least in the US contexts attacks on the, the black family as like a violated norms of parenting, and then attacks on the gay lesbian community as somehow endangering the lives of children and attacks on trans women in women’s bathrooms as if, you know, they’re going in there to attack or molest little girls, and now trans kids get to be the kid, the kids that we’re protecting. So we’re gonna do anti trans stuff by talking about child protection, whether it’s like protecting, you know, girls on a soccer team from a trans girl, participating in sports, which is another big focus of a lot of us legislation is on gender segregated activities for kids. And the ideas that you’re protecting, the cisgender kids from trans kids, which you know, like is, is, is kind of absurd. And then now the trans kids themselves need to be protected right from, from the trans adult ideology or something. But I think this idea of protecting women and children is always at the center of normalizing projects in various ways. In some ways that’s like a, an intellectual argument, but it really plays out very practically in the political realm.

Helen:
It it’s is often the, as you said a while ago Tey, it is the educated people who have, um, some privilege in access to either education or funding or, or ability to impact on policy or decision making. And, you know, we are very often, it is us discussing the rights of trans people, trans children, access to health. So what do we do about those who don’t have as much vocal power and the power behind the financial or educational backing? Um, anyone who might, you know, mums dads will be listening to this who might not have that force behind them. What, what advice can we give to those people who can’t maybe, you know, have that, that fear support of finance and education?

Tey:
I think this is where having community with other parents becomes very important, right? So now in the age of the internet, anybody with a public library can get online and connect with other families, find the good doctors, find the good parent support groups, find the good resources and does take a certain amount of what my grandmother would’ve called “Hudspa” right. Like you have to kind of like go for it. But I think, you know, you look, you can have, like, not a lot of material resources. You can have not high level education and be a pretty ferocious parent, right? Like I think that we know that parents are really protective of their kids, but sometimes you need help from other parents. Sometimes you need someone who’s already been down that road to say, this is the number to call. And I think that what I found is that, you know, once parents, particularly the parents who forged their own way, once they get to the other side, like they’re more than happy to help other people get there.

Right? Like that’s hard one knowledge for a lot of parents who just are not particularly trans learned before they have this particular child with this particular identity and this particular constellation of needs. And, you know, I think that the thing that’s so interesting is, is how parents become gender experts very quickly. Like at what I call the lighting in pace of children’s expectations, right? Like we all know kids want what they want and you gotta, you gotta get with it. Right. And like, so these parents learn a tremendous amount. And so I guess I also have, like, I have a certain amount of optimism that comes from direct experience with parents, you know, really networking with one another. So I think that like, to the extent that it’s possible will just reach out and find support cause it’s out there. And I think their organizations, you know, and you guys are certainly among them that are really working hard to be available to parents and families that are struggling.

You know, I get emails from parents that are struggling and I, I put them my first move is to put them in touch with organizations as close to where they live as possible where they can get really practical and, and emotional support. And it’s also great for trans kids to see other kids like them. You know, like I did some of the research at a conference in Philadelphia called the Philly. We used to be called the Philly trans health conference. Now it’s called it’s run by the Mazzoni center. And it it’s called something else, I think. And just seeing the glee and the joy in these kids as they ran around with a pack of other kids, like dressing and feeling good about themselves and knowing that they shared this, they had this commonality like the relief right there. I remember this one moment.

Can I tell a quick story? Yes, sure do. It was just this wonderful moment. So I was like, I was hanging out with one of the parent organizations, the parent support organizations at this conference. And so in the lobby of the mention center in Philadelphia, there’s a big long hallway where like you would imagine there’d be vendor booths at, at various events. And so at Philly Transhealth, there are all these organizations that put out brochures and stuff and people come around and get information and, you know, resources and whatever. And I was sitting with this group of parents and kind of like watching as parents came by to like get, or like hook up with other parents or whatever. And I was sitting and talking to this woman, um, whose child Hunter was, I think, seven at the time and, and had transitioned socially at school the year before.

And as we’re sitting there talking Hunter like runs up and he grabs his mother by the knees and he says, mom, guess what? And she says, what? And he says, did you know the Colton and Tommy both have vaginas. So Colton was like this other kid, his age he’d been running around with. And Tommy was the 22 year old volunteer in the childcare area of the conference. And I watched this as this mom, like looked at her kid and kind of shrugged her shoulders and said sort of, noncommittally like, sure, honey, lots of boys have vaginas. And it was like this incredible moment where I was like, oh, so this is a kid who has a potential to grow up with less body dysphoria. Right? Like what would it have been like for most, you know, cross identified trans people to have a parent who are like, yeah, some boys have vaginas. Absolutely. That is just a way some boys are, but you know, it’s like for someone of my generation, that’s strictly magical, right. To imagine that that’s a way one gets to feel about his body. Right. And to see that reflected in, in like these other little children and these older, you know, these 20, you know, like for a seven year old, a 22 year old is like this magical unicorn creature. Right. And to see somebody at home in his body and like to have that sort of model, it was just this really beautiful moment of how things can shift profoundly with just the tiniest shift in perspective,

Helen:
Marianne, I can see your face. does that resonate with you. I mean, what a wonder, what a wonderful thought for the future, isn’t it <laugh>, you know, that we can have that kind of discourse

Marianne:
I’ve been working with the family on and off over time, they just pop to see me now. And then the child was only eight. When I first met them probably only nine and a half now or something. And there’s not a lot. I can do the child’s perfectly rounded. They just wanted support that it was okay that they let them transition. And they came to me one and they just said, uh, and the mother was crying, actually said, oh, she run up to me. And, and she got a cushion up her, you know, her jumper. And she’s saying, you know, I want to have a baby when I grow up. And, and the mother was heartbroken, you know, how do I tell her she’s never gonna have a baby. I said, well, why do you have to tell her she never have a baby? Why don’t you just talk about the different ways people have babies?

Yeah. The way different ways that families are grown and just normalize that, that, there’s lots of different ways that, you know, certainly with rainbow families now. And I just not thought about that because we’re conditioned to think in a certain way. And we learn so much from trans children and how we could help other children who have got things that aren’t ordinary, you know, that it doesn’t have to be bad. It was one other thing that kind of just wanted to get in Tey as well. And I don’t know, cuz you’ve spoke to a lot of parents. One of the things that comes into my therapy room a lot is my child’s gonna have a really hard life and I just don’t want them to have, you know, my response to that is why, why do you think they’re gonna have a hard life, your child, you know? And so it’s easy for me to say that and I understand why they’re saying it’s that, but I just wonder is that a common thing that you saw the fear of what the child’s life was gonna be like?

Tey:
Of course. And I think as a parent, that makes perfect sense to me. Like I know that at some point, my nine year old, who right now is just interested in Lego and horses is gonna have her heart broken and I am going to die inside when that happens. I’m just going and that is normative emotional pain. Right? So the idea that there would be something in her life that would add to what she’s already gonna have to experience, right. She’ll get fired or she won’t get into the college. She wants to go to, or to add another thing on top of just the burden of how painful it’s to be a, a tiny human is a little overwhelming. And so I have a lot of empathy for that at the same time. I think that we have fewer narratives of just how painful it is to be a queer person or a trans person, or, you know, to have a sense of self that isn’t affirmed by one’s environment.

And that, that is a pain that parents can control, right? That being affirmed in whoever and whatever you are by your family. I mean, there are all these studies now that show that parental acceptance is the biggest predictor of psychic health for trans kids, right? That is literally the quickest and most direct path to having a kid who’s socially successful, educationally successful, you know, psychologically healthy, happy, secure, and securely attached to a parent, right. That, that is the way to minimize pain. But part of that has to be coming to terms with the fact that your child actually is trans the fear of the future pain is the grappling with the, like, how do I accept the reality? This is the path that we’re going down. And there’s a path that I was not taught how to navigate as somebody growing up in a cisgender world, right.

Like I was not taught what to do. Right. And, and, and the truth is, you know, I was writing this book at, at the time my daughter was born. Somebody asked me once, so what will it be like for you if she’s trans? And I kind of was like, oh, it’s gonna be fine. But the truth of the matter is that it would raise certain because there’s no parenting ma I mean, there are parenting manuals for this now, but there’s no, there’s no way to prevent the child at school with a conservative parental background. You know, who’s gonna be non unaccepting. There’s no way to, there’s no way to shield our kids from the meanness of other human beings, right. In the same way that we can’t shield ourselves from that. And so I think that the thing that I’ve come to is that, you know, it is an unknown for many, many parents. And also one big part of parenting is walking alongside your child through like the big disappointments of life, the things that they really love, that they’re just no good at. You know what I mean? Like, and, and like, you just have to be there through that. You just have to be there through that. And that’s really tough.

Helen:
You’re right. The trans manual wasn’t, hasn’t been written and, and maybe we don’t need to write it because I’m gonna kind of tie things up. Cause I know we can talk forever, but there are families and parents, um, and maybe even doctors and clinicians who might be listening and thinking, well, okay, I’m gonna change the way I approach this. And if I was gonna kind of sum this up and tide it up for parents, and I think number one, I think the advice would be, you know, listen to your child, listen to what they are saying. Hear the words, hear the thoughts, listen really carefully to what they’re saying to you. And then secondly, I would say, believe them, you know, why would they be making this up? Why would they be choosing this part? So definitely, you know, but leave them and follow your instincts as well.

You know, there will be people saying, you know, you know, this is a fad, this is a phase, but you know, your child best follow your instincts on what you think is right for your child after you have listened to them and believe what they are saying, and then also protect your child because that’s what we’re saying. Isn’t in any other situation, we would be protecting our children, protecting them from that awful pain of being dumped by their partner, not getting into the college that they wanted to being hideously bullied, cuz they look slightly different to what the perfect Instagram post looks like. But those actually are just fundamentals of parenting. Aren’t they, whether we have a trans kid, a cis kid, a gay kid, a lovely kid, a tall kid, small kid, whatever kid we have, you know, that’s just the fundamentals for parenting. Have I missed any really good fundamentals?

Tey:
I don’t know. I mean, I I’m thinking about the, the story that you just told about the child who wants to have a baby. Right. And at some point like, yeah, there are a million ways to have a baby, but at some point, you know, that child will to contend with a lack of a uterus. Right. But the idea that that is a particularly trans experience is kind of interesting cuz I know many women who have not been able to carry babies and that is a source of grief for them. I think that part of it is we also have the normalized struggle and grief that there are losses that come from non-normative life paths and there are benefits, right? There’s something to be said for the universe of beautiful genders being at your disposal, right? Like as a child, you know, and, and it, kids are a great place to see joy because they can find it, you know, in such tiny things.

But just the idea that you walk into a store and everything is for you, if you, if you’re trans affirming, that just means everything’s for you. And that’s great. And then you get to pick and choose and be authentic in it. But I, so I think that it’s both about acknowledging the particular joys of a non-normative life, a life that gets built based on what feels the best and that grief and loss and difference and desires that, that go unmet. You know, we, we really can’t protect them for that, from that, but we can normalize that as part of the human experience. Right. Which is what I think a lot of spiritual practices about. And I don’t think that identity is necessarily distinct from that. So just saying, yeah, there are certain, you can absolutely be a parent. You might not be a gestational parent and that might feel super sad for you.

And I understand that that might feel super sad. And you know, like maybe someday you’re gonna meet a woman who’s had the same experience, right. You really wanted to be a gestational parent and had to have their baby another way. And here’s a book on lots of ways that babies are made. Right. So I, I just think that it’s, it’s really both. It’s about pointing out the particular opportunities that trans presents for life lived authentically and the kinds of hardships that come with it. But it’s not as if any other normal life doesn’t have like hardships and joys. Right.

Helen:
I Think that’s a really another beautiful analogy that I’m gonna take with me in my, in my practice. Um, it reminds me of when we talked to give bad news to people and as doctors we have throughout career, we have to give bad news whether that is, you know, you have type one diabetes and you’re gonna have to do injections rest of your life. And, or you might have a diagnosis of cancer in you or someone that you love and that’s gonna be incredibly scary and it might cut your life short. And what we are taught to do is finish on some hope. Don’t let the last thing they hear be the word death let’s have. Death might be in your, uh, agenda, and it might come sooner than you were hoping, However, and I’m gonna really take that hope that you just gave me there today, which is, you know, maybe you won’t be a gestational parent.

Maybe you won’t have a baby grow in your tummy. However, look at the opportunities that are open to you in your trans-identified life because the, everything in the store will be able to suit you. You can choose from any aisle, you can choose from any belt because you, you are open-minded to own your own identity. And I think that’s a really lovely concept. We’ve reached the end of our time. Tey thank you so much for joining us. Um, it’s been inspiration talking to you. Thank you so much. And I I’m sure Marianne will agree with me that once again, we’ve, we’ve enjoyed and I’ve loved, um, the story of Hunter, um, and his newfound vagina friends. I, I really enjoyed that story. <laugh> lovely thought to you. Thank you too. Thank you both.

 

Thank you so much for listening. I really hope you’ve enjoyed our program today. Please go ahead and subscribe to future episodes if you haven’t done so already, if you or anyone else who have been affected by any of the things that we’ve talked about in our us today, and you’d like to contact us, please visit our website Help Centre and contact us while we’re there. We are very happy to accept ideas for future episodes and future guests. So let us know if there’s anything specific you’d like us to cover. You can also visit our website, www.gendergp.com for a multitude of information about transgender health and wellbeing. You can follow us on social media ID is @GenderGP and you can sign up to our monthly newsletter. Full details can be found in our show notes on our podcast page. Thanks for listening and see you.