I have the best job in the world. I am a counsellor working with transgender people and my role is to help them make sense of their lives by putting meaning to their feelings around gender identity.
I also identify as transgender which means that, while I am not for a second suggesting everyone’s experiences are the same, I am able to bring some essential insight to the table.
Since specialising in this field, I have found it particularly rewarding to work with children who come out as trans or gender-questioning but, as my work with this group of patients ruffles feathers, it is not something I tend to shout about.
Reading through newspaper articles covering the phenomenon of gender questioning children, they are rarely positive. Scaremongering is rife and any professional putting their head above the parapet and speaking up for these children, is quickly shot down (the wonderful Susie Green at Mermaids being a case in point).
Instead of showcasing the positive work of those supporting the community or the incredible stories of the children themselves and the unwavering support of their parents, the media paints a picture of a trans community actively recruiting innocent souls.
The internet has opened up a whole new world. We have given language to this section of society who can now verbalise their feelings and in doing so begin to come to terms with all that that means. This is something to be celebrated.
Instead, now that these children have the language they need to express themselves what do we do? We shut them up! Refuse them access to the services and treatment that could very well put them on a path to a life in which they feel at ease with themselves (rarely are members of the trans community asking for more than this fundamental human right.)
But this battle for self acceptance by these brave children appears to have been overlooked by many journalists writing on the subject. As a counsellor I watch and I listen and what is coming across loud and clear is that gender questioning children have become the victims in this debate.
Every time there is an article written on the subject, the figures of children being referred to the Tavistock GIC are quoted as having risen exponentially. But of course, this isn’t left as some ambiguous number, instead the figure being bandied around is 2000%. A 2000% increase in children questioning their gender. This is a frightening figure and the media use it for one reason only, because they want us to be frightened.
I have probably had more first hand experience of gender questioning children and their parents than most people in the UK and I can tell you categorically that, no one is persuading anyone to be trans.
Not once have I heard the name Caitlyn Jenner sighted as a reason for a child questioning their gender – or any other celebrity – for that matter. What I do hear time and again is their accounts of hating their bodies and feeling in some way inferior, different, or trapped.
The current media frenzy is adding to their suffering as potential sources of support are withdrawn for fear of a backlash. And it is a very real and very frightening backlash, headlines screaming about the treatment of young children, trolls out in full force on social media, the angry mob outing parents for supporting their children, threatening to report them to social services.
If you believe what you read, it is clear to see that supporting gender questioning children is not something to be encouraged. So where does that leave them?
The children that I meet just want a space to talk and to be heard. These children are not a statistic or evidence of a gender crisis – they are children, who are suffering. As the adults, it is our responsibility to listen and to do what we can to help them together with the support of their parents and doctor, not the general public and politicians.
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Thanks to Juvian Duff for sharing their work on Unsplash