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Transgender Kids: Boys Will Be Girls

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If your child longed to be the opposite sex, would you let them "switch teams?"


Congratulations, it's a girl! Well, at least that's what you thought you had. For parents of transgender children, not everything is what it seems. Some children are wracked with what's called a "gender-identity disorder" and are profoundly depressed and can even become suicidal if they are not allowed to express themselves as the opposite sex.

A recent article in the Atlantic Monthly examines the difficult decision of Tina Simms to allow her son Brandon to live his life as girl. After all, Brandon had expressed a desire to be a 'she' instead of a 'he' almost as soon as he could talk.

In typical transgender fashion, when Brandon was a little boy, he rejected all things "male." He only wanted to play with dolls and preferred dressing up in his mom's clothes. Once, holding his penis between his legs and obscuring it from view, he gleefully told his stunned mother, "Look mom, I'm a girl!"

After years of therapy and family counseling Brandon, now eight years old, has made a complete transformation. He is now called Bridget. He only dresses in feminine clothing, has his ears pierced and is by all accounts the happiest he's ever been -- and his parents fully support his decision. Eventually, as he nears puberty, he will begin receiving puberty blocking hormones.

And he might not even have to wait until his teen years to start treatment. Pediatric specialist Dr. Norman Spack opened a clinic last year in Boston for transgender kids as young as seven. Critics argue it is morally wrong to put a child through that process at such an early age.

Professor of Human Development at Cornell University Ritch Savin-Williams disagrees. "The quicker you are able to intervene hormonally," Savin-Williams told momlogic, "The easier transition from a boy to a girl in terms of physical appearance. By not even allowing the masculine effects of puberty to begin you can prevent years of misery for the child."

Only time will tell if Brandon will eventually make the leap to a total sex change surgery -- most American doctors will not perform a sex reassignment until the age of consent, which is 18.

So how can a parent tell if their child might be struggling with gender identity disorder? Just because a boy plays with a doll, does it mean he's transgender?

"This is not just a boy wanting to dress up like a girl for Halloween," cautions Savin-Williams. "It's about persistence. It's when a child is so miserable that the only thing you can to do to lift the child's spirits is to let them become the opposite sex. And it's also a matter of time. If a child is consistently communicating their gender preference, for over a year to family, it might be time to seek counseling."

But again Savin-Williams suggests not putting off facilitating a child's transformation. "It doesn't make mental health sense for a child to be miserable." Savin-Willimas concludes, "and it's not like the problem is going to just go away."

What do you think? Comment in the momlogic community.

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73 comments so far | Post a comment now
RealMomsHaveCurves  October 21, 2008, 3:05 PM

If a child was truly unhappy, it would pain me to watch them suffer. However, just because they naturally feel like they’re a girl doesn’t mean that it’s right to just allow them to live as such. Sometimes it’s not about feelings — it’s about what’s right. I can’t say exactly what I would do in that situation (as I am not in it) but this mom’s choice definitely wouldn’t be mine.

Anonymous October 21, 2008, 3:29 PM

I think this is sick. If God wanted these kids to be boys or girls he would’ve made them that way. Science is not the answer. It’s the families that are creating these problems for themselves. These parents need to get therapy not the kid.

Anonymous October 21, 2008, 3:47 PM

“If God wanted these kids to be boys or girls he would’ve made them that way.”

Oh, good grief. What if there is no “god” and nature is responsible for this? Do you believe we shouldn’t be fixing things like illnesses since they, too, are products of your delusional “God”? Of course you don’t. This isn’t any different whatsoever.

Anonymous October 21, 2008, 3:53 PM

“If God wanted these kids to be boys or girls he would’ve made them that way.”

What if God, DID make them that way?

geen October 21, 2008, 4:28 PM

wow “anonymous”, talk about delusional. grow a pair and put down your own name.

Kim Pearson October 21, 2008, 6:59 PM

I am the mother of a transgender child. My decision to support my child was very clear for me. I could stay the course and end up with a dead girl or I could seek treatment/transition and have an alive son. I have no regrets. My son is much happier and healthier than my daughter ever was or would have been. No one can say for certain what they would do until they have walked a mile in our shoes.

Kim Pearson October 21, 2008, 7:02 PM

I am the mother of a transgender child. My decision to support my child was very clear for me. I could stay the course and end up with a dead girl or I could seek treatment/transition and have an alive son. I have no regrets. My son is much happier and healthier than my daughter ever was or would have been. No one can say for certain what they would do until they have walked a mile in our shoes.

Marci October 21, 2008, 7:10 PM

I wish to God I could have told my parents what was in my heart, that every night I prayed to God to transform me into a girl. That feeling never left me, and it was only after enduring the heartache of my childhood that I allowed the full measure of my femininity to emerge. If only I could have lived as a little girl and started my hormones sooner, I might have been a happier person for the first 23 years of my life. There is no way I can described a transgendered little boy’s ache to be a girl. It is constant, with few moments of relief from the ache and disappointment with life. Not only does it hurt, there is such a stigma about sissies that it’s both an ache and a shame. And yet, your veins pulse with femininity with every beat of your heart, like a rose bud constantly pushing against its sheath, yearning to break free into reality, into the light of day, to love and to be loved for who you feel you are. Any parent who can understand and medically address their little boy’s transsexual feelings is to be blessed for your wisdom, your empathy, your bravery, but most of all, your unconditional and extraordinary love.

Zoe Brain October 21, 2008, 7:28 PM

I’m very conservative, and don’t think any irreversible change should be authorised before the age of consent.

My studies have shown that about 2/3 of children showing cross-gendered behaviour aren’t transsexual (TS), just “pre-gay”.
Those who aren’t TS will (almost?) always be Bi or Gay, and nothing can be done about that.
Those who are TS will have to transition or live a lifetime of horror.

Autopsies and brain scans have shown that TS is caused by a male-shaped brain in a female-shaped body, or the reverse. That’s an over-simplification, but true in essence, a biological not a psychological issue.

My advice to parents - let your children tell you what gender they are. Neither encourage nor discourage cross-gendered behaviour, but support them in what they decide to do, with love. They’ll *tell* you what gender they are, and although that usually matches the body, it doesn’t always.

At around 11, time to discuss gonadotrophins for those children who are obviously Trans. The pre-gays will have moved on by then.

Gonadotrophins put puberty in “Deep freeze” and are fully reversible for several years, and partly for a few more.

At around 14, discuss feminising or masculinising hormones, and possibly letting puberty complete a little first to store genetic material. Hormones will start making irreversible changes in about a year. Permanent Sterility will result after two.

Surgery would be indicated as soon as legal thereafter. Though for boys, this might not be needed, as there will be no breast development.

I should mention - I’d picked my new name, Zoe, at age 10 in 1968. But it wasn’t until 2005 that I transitioned. I gave pretending to be male my best shot, for as long as I could.

I could never put my child through the hell I endured. No mother who knows what it’s like could.

Meg October 21, 2008, 7:36 PM

People who say “I would never do it” don’t really know that. The question is “Do you love your child?” If you do, you will do everything in your power to ensure a happy, healthy childhood, which in the case of transgender children means an early social transition followed by puberty blockers and eventually hormones.

rupunzel October 21, 2008, 8:20 PM

One of the most difficult lesson for any parent to learn is allowing children to be who they are and not what their parents expect them to be. Some parents project their dreams, wished and legacy upon their children and expect them to meet their parents expectations. An individuals sense of gender is uniquely their own and not what a parent, society or culture expect it must be based on superficial judgment like genital configuration.
If parents allow children to learn and discover who they are and parents support the gifts their children are born with, this would be a better world for all. Each individual has been born with specific gifts that they can contribute to the society we live in, but many times, children are not allowed to become who they truly are. The only individual/child knows what gender they truly are which is specific to that individual and no one else should have the ability or power to determine this. Like our journey in life, it is a journey of discovery and learning. Gender identity is such a basic aspect of an individuals personality and basic to how we interact with the world and society we live in. It is not possible for one to live a truly honest life without being honest and true to oneself. The basic fundamental question parents with gender different children is who’s life is it? Am I, the parent projecting my expectations and dreams upon my children or are the lives of children their own? Children are dependent upon their parents for their survival and being rejected by parents is one of the worst things a parent can do to their own children.

Anonymous October 21, 2008, 8:32 PM

Kim Pearson - Thank god for parents like you who can look past social stigma and the hatred of others to do what is best for your child. I wish there were more parents out there like you.

freefromitallnow October 21, 2008, 9:01 PM

I have no problem with parents supporting their children in behaving like whatever gender they feel they are.
But I’d hesitate to give hormone treatments, or perform surgery.
These are changes that have a lasting impact, and I’m not sure I would trust a seven year old to make those sorts of decisions.

Uly October 21, 2008, 9:03 PM

It’s very impolite and disrespectful for you to continue to refer to a self-identified female, Bridget, as “he” and “Brandon”. I understand that you need to clarify the situation in the beginning of the article, but once you state that the kid is living as a girl named Bridget it is *rude* to continue to refer to her as a boy.

Now, if you want an *interesting* discussion, bring up intersexed children. One of the most common birth defects, and not many people know about it at all. (I wonder if God does.)

Kim Pearson October 21, 2008, 10:40 PM

freefromitallnow, no one is giving hormones or surgery to 7 year olds. Where did you get that idea?

The young child goes through a ‘social transition’ not a physical one.

LJ October 22, 2008, 1:34 AM

I have been reading alot about these children recently and my heart goes out to them.

I beleive that there is more to this than simply “I want to be a girl or a boy. Do we actually know if there aren’t chromosome abnormalities changes that influence behavior. Oprah had a great show last year on this topic. The best explanation I had ever heard.

I have heard about girls that actually are more”boy” chromosomally, but are girls. If I had a child in that had that chromosomal situation I would allow change earlier)to be who they are.

There are many things we don’t know right now that science many uncover in a few years to unravel this puzzle of that some have to change gender .

If that were not the case (Chromosomal abnormality),I think that choice must be the childs at maturity.

Life isn’t perfect.I do understand a parent that would make a different choice.

I don’t agree ,but understand and don’t judge.

Trisha October 22, 2008, 8:21 AM

Hey, geen. I’ve got a BIG pair… and I’ll say it. “What if God DID make them this way?”

We don’t know. God make people who are born without limbs, babies who die with hours or minutes of birth, babies who die before being born… We don’t know why he makes them this way, but he DOES…

And I for one would rather see my child happy then to have him or her miserable during the hardest years of life and possibly lose him or her to their own hand.

Sharon October 22, 2008, 9:14 AM

This was an informative article, representative, not inflamatory. YEAH MomLogic, do more like this!
I’m also impressed with the posts.
I can’t imagine having to go through this situation. I agree with the nothing too permanent until adult, but at the same time, not being in the situation I can’t say for sure that I would stick with that.
As for the religious aspect (personally) I wish it was a non-issue. I have a daughter with many allergies and asthma, she was born that way. There are people born with XXY chromosones (I would say obviously only they know which sex they are); the surge of hormones during pregnancy could start and stop, be interrupted, etc; there are people born as hermaphrodites (some internally, even if not externally) and none of that can be known by just looking at a child.
I believe in God, pray often and attend church, but many people in churches are judgemental and we aren’t meant to be. We are supposed to love others and try to raise them up.
One of my mother’s favorite quotes, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” or should I say perceived sin some times. PS We’re all sinners.

Kim Pearson October 22, 2008, 9:24 AM

No one knows what causes a person to be transgender, not even the ‘experts’. There is much in science that is left to be discovered. In the mean time do we ignore what is happening with these children? Do we leave them to suffer and possibily die?

People always suggest that parents wait until their child is at the age of consent and then let them do whatever they need to do. That course of action assumes a parent has the luxury of that much TIME!

If I had chosen to tell my child to wait I would have lost him. I would have been attending a funeral instead of a 15 birthday. Does anyone get that part…that this can be a life and death situation? Would you be willing to bet your child’s life on someone’s theory or point of view?

I choose life for my child and I would do it again.

Anonymous October 22, 2008, 11:52 AM

So, you give the child meds to hold off the affects of puberty. What then? Doen’t you think that puberty might have an affect on how that “child” feels?

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