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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
Sharon October 22, 2008, 1:32 PM

Kim, I definitely meant no judgement in mine, that was my point. I’m glad that your child is happy now and feels themself. :-)
I have only met 1 TS person before, but have known quite a few homosexuals and I think we’d all be better off if we tried to put ourselves in other’s shoes. For instance with homosexuality…how would each of us feel if we were told we could not love who we wanted, I don’t just mean physically. I think I would be celebate, but especially how I was younger in life, I’m not quite sure that would be true. Would I repress myself, try to force myself into the norm or try to hide (leading to precarious situations)?
A great friend of mine in HS was always denying he was gay (he was raised by grandmother, mother and sister…) I didn’t care about that, and he knew, esp. since I also would often talk about my favorite brother who is gay and he’d met him on a couple of occassions. He continued to deny even into adulthood, he went to a dark place (fights, heavy drinking, drugs) even when he finally came out…we lost contact and I still will think about him and wonder if he’s even alive.
Having said all that I also know that there are people who are not necessarily born homosexual (or ‘deviant’ straight) but by circumstances have different feelings (physical & sexual abuse for example).
My oldest daughter has a friend that reminds me so much of my HS friend, he’s been through so much he may just ‘feel’ a certain way, but I’ve always encouraged him to be himself and honest with himself at least and that we love him no matter what. He “came out” fully during his senior year last year…his dad’s been violent in the past and kicked him out. He thanked me at one point & said something about me always knowing, that I was the only adult who didn’t care about it, just him. I said something like amazing how you feel comfortable when you’re yourself.
(BTW his mom’s dead, she fought cancer basically his entire childhood until a few years ago…she loved him a lot).

Tom C October 22, 2008, 1:40 PM

This a bunch of baloney by people who are perfectly happy to sacrifice the next gender of children to what they perceive as their anti-patriarchy crusade.

I have dealt with these “experts.” Their analysis falls apart at the slightest questioning. They are ADVOCATES for sex change - they are NOT advocates for their patients.

If there were any honest people left in the “soft science” such nonsense as this would be dismissed before it got out of graduate school, never mind being embraced by so many with impressive sounding credentials.

beth October 22, 2008, 5:23 PM

The people who are struggling with accepting this quite normal human condition should not be faulted because it is hard for them to accept the change. It took a long time for many people to accept that “colored” people should be able to drink out of public drinking fountains. If you go back far enough in human history, you find that there was a time that left handed people were considered evil. Allowing for differences takes society a while. Transgendered people are as normal as left handed people and right handed people and even as normal as the people who are bothered by transgendered people. Most people aren’t severely masculine or fragile, delicately feminine. We all move around and across the gender spectrum

Kim Pearson October 22, 2008, 6:32 PM

Tom C, what the heck are you talking about? You think parents would wish their children to grown up discriminated against and to have painful surgeries? Are you kidding? Are you a parent? Seriously, there are ‘experts’ on both sides of this issue. I’m sure all of them believe in their point of view, but at the end of the day I don’t give a rats a$$ what they say. What my child says is what is most important; what my child needs is most important; keeping my child alive is most important!

Kim Pearson October 22, 2008, 6:47 PM

To anonymous, they block puberty only after tanner stage 2 so they child is able to experience the hormones. If they child does not react adversely they do not proceed.

Barb October 23, 2008, 12:51 PM

Most outside looking in can not fathom what it is like to be transgendered. Not surprising as most of those inside that boy-girl gender blender are having a hard time understanding themselves.

I can understand the horror of those who aren’t gender different as they are told that boy or girl wants to be the opposite of what is on the birth certificate. Most are happy with their birth design and to them it is a complete loss of self to think everyone else isn’t also.

After slicing and dicing hundreds of brains three different independent labs found out men and women really do have a different brain design. Duhh! I could have told them that. What they found stunned the medical world. Those who are transgendered really do have the brain of the gender they are claiming to be. Thus a male to female is really operating with a female brain, a female to male is working with a male brain.

With the millions of things that must go perfectly right in perfect sequence for that sperm to fertilize an egg and change into a baby, it isn’t a wonder some of us end up with the wrong brain in the wrong body. What is a miracle is anyone is born with all the right parts in all the right places.

I pray in time transsexual becomes a lost word in some dictionary as science learns to correct the brain development and make sure it matches the body it is growing inside there of. I’m glad boys are boys and girls are girls. God got it right. Some of us didn’t get the instruction booklet when we started building this human form we were going to live in the rest of our lives.

Does it really matter if that boy or girl wants to be the other gender? Are your rules of life so static you can’t allow them the life their minds are telling them they should be living?

By the age of five I knew someone had made a mistake. By ten I would have traded all the rest of the life God had planned for me if I was only allowed one year as a real girl. Some of us know and to be honest, some don’t understand until middle age or later.

Stop trying to put all of us in the same cookie cutter assumptions. Despite being called an abomination, I am regretably a part of the human race. I’m unique unto myself just as all of us are. God made only one me. There are no “them” or “us”. Every boy or girl whether transgendered or not is God’s own one of a kind. We are models, actors, doctors, lawyers, NASA Engineers, writers, husbands, and wives. We are the neighbors next door. The odds are you have met one of us and never knew it. Most of us like it like that. That’s all most of us want is a life with all its problems and happiness the same as everyone else.

Pam October 24, 2008, 9:37 AM

I feel that you are born what you are and if you feel the opposite sex then yes, you should be able to live as that sex. I think transgender people are born with some kind of scrambled up chromosomes, either missing or adding some of the oppisite of what they are born causing them to feel the oppisite. I feel that why let your child go through a life of ridicule,pain, and suffering when you as a parent have the power to help them when they are young. For the person who said, “If God made them that way” you need to go to therapy yourself for feeling the way you do. I would feel sorry for your child if he/she was born that way. How would you feel to be trapped in a body that you knew wasn’t right? Your the one who’s sick.

pamela  October 24, 2008, 2:21 PM

if your basing your dicitions regarding your child on god or religon, in my opinion you dont have the intelligence to in any way make decitions regarding a childs physical or emotional well being in the first place.

Andre October 24, 2008, 3:07 PM

To the person who suggested letting natural puberty take its course, to see if the child suddenly adapts to their birth gender… that’s what I tried. Failed miserably, and now I have to pay to get these God awful chest growths (breasts, I guess) removed. If only I’d mentioned something sooner…

geen October 24, 2008, 3:08 PM

Pam I take it you are a transgender?

s October 26, 2008, 7:32 PM

Gender is not natural. It’s a social construction. None of us is “naturally” a man or a woman, we all assume the either identity (or both or neither) through the process of enculturation. As a result, I would not have minded if my male child liked to assume a feminine identity or if my female child assumed masculine identity. However, I would not allow any medical or psychiatric intervention either. (I don’t even see a problem here).

Pam October 28, 2008, 8:34 PM

No geen, I’m not! But this is what I believe.

Pam October 28, 2008, 8:44 PM

Well S, It’s a fact that if you have a penis you are male and if you have a vagina you are female. It’s not like if you are born, grow up, and choose which one you want like you choose your religion or something. How in the world can you say , “gender is not natural”? I think you need to talk to someone. It’s people like you who mess with kids heads now days, if you do have kids I bet they are as confused as he!!

Marlo Mina October 29, 2008, 1:01 PM

This is just too much! It’s NOT right and it’s NOT natural!

gabbie October 29, 2008, 3:40 PM

raise those kids as the gender gave them…put girls in dresses and let ur boys play football…too much is going on in these days to let ur kids turn the other way

Pam October 29, 2008, 8:46 PM

BUT, if your child looks one gender on the outside and is another gender on the inside,….what do you do? I say fix the problem when they’re little if that’s what they want because you are just in denile and setting yourself up to watch your growing kid go through a life of hell.

What? This is GROSS!!! October 29, 2008, 11:52 PM

This is disgusting,… I think that the parents should mind their own business… and let their chidren make their own dumb mistakes when they’re older. I have no sympathy for Transgenders, GOD made them, and GOD doesn’t make mistakes!!! Anyone who thinks different will end up in hell. I think that they should live as what they feel, but I don’t think that they should change their body!

Jason Goldtrap October 30, 2008, 9:34 AM

As parents are concern should not be what makes the child happy. My parents focused on what was right for me, my happiness was a result of their wisdom.

Kim Pearson October 30, 2008, 11:59 PM

What are you so afraid of? Why does this upset you so? How does it hurt you? No one is asking you to do anything differently.

Why is it gross? Why are you so invested in how someone else sees their own body? Condeming that which you clearly do not understand and have no compassion for reflects more about who you are than who these children are.

Look in the mirror and take stock…do you really love what you see?

Kim Pearson October 31, 2008, 3:38 PM

Yes, I do think that puberty affects how the child feels. That is why the puberty delaying medications are not administered until tanner stage 2 of development. So they child can experience the hormones. If they do not have an adverse reaction then treatment is not indicated.

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