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Transgender Kids: Girls Will Be Boys

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


Chaz Bono, formerly Chastity, the daughter (soon to be son) of Cher, told ABC that he "felt male as far back as I can remember." Soon Chaz will make the full leap to manhood by undergoing gender reassignment from female to male. The 40-year-old told "Good Morning America," "This was a very difficult decision to make, but it was the best decision I've ever made."

Chaz is one of the lucky ones.

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.

Last year, Tina Simms made the difficult decision to allow her son Brandon to live his life as a 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.

Cornell University Professor of Human Development Ritch Savin-Williams disagrees. "The quicker you are able to intervene hormonally," Savin-Williams told momlogic, "the easier the 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 commit to 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 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-Williams concludes, "And it's not like the problem is going to just go away."

next: Shaniya's Brother Speaks Out
25 comments so far | Post a comment now
arisma November 19, 2009, 12:36 PM

Would I let my child? That’s like asking if I’d let my child have blue eyes. A parents job is to enable their children to lead a full and happy life, to the best of their ability. You can’t demand your child stop having gender identity issues because it makes you uncomfortable or you don’t understand it.

I can’t imagine the pain of feeling like your entire body was the wrong fit. I can’t fathom how that would feel. I would do anything I could to spare my child as much of that agony as I could.

Also, Chaz identifies as male and goes by the name Chaz. He is a he. What’s between your legs doesn’t define you, what’s between your ears does.

MarMar November 19, 2009, 1:50 PM

Arisma, the question is posed because most parents would force the stereotypical gender roles onto a child. Even in this situation - did you ever notice how Chastity Bono was always wearing frilly dresses for the photo ops, when you know now Chaz would’ve much rather had on slacks and a boys shirt? The question is posed because most people wouldn’t let their kid have the blue eyes, to use your example, if they thought that brown was the norm. I wish Chaz, Bridget, and their families and friends all the best.

em November 19, 2009, 2:12 PM

Please review the AP guide regarding pronouns and trans individuals. Thank you in advance for your corrections.

arisma November 19, 2009, 5:15 PM

MarMar, I understand where the question came from, and I know that there are many, many parents who wouldn’t accept or support their transgendered child. I also think it’s one of those things that at the basis of it, isn’t actually a question. If your child is trans, your child is trans, and your attitude and behavior can’t change that, only the ease and joy of their life and their ability to be happy in their own skin.

MarMar November 19, 2009, 7:10 PM

Also, your attitude and behavior can change whether or not you enjoy your child for who he or she is, and not for some fantasy of what you want them to be. It breaks my heart to know that some people feel they have to hide who they are, and that some families would rather lose their child rather than see who he or she is.

GPC November 19, 2009, 10:38 PM

Not a snowballs chance in Hades I’d let them change over. I know a transgendered person and he/she is one of the most messed up people I know…he/she makes the world’s problems look like tea on a sunny afternoon. It did more damage than good to allow him/her to induldge his/her’s fantasy…

N November 19, 2009, 10:45 PM

GPC- maybe the person you know is screwed up because they had a parent like you!

GPC November 19, 2009, 11:14 PM

Or maybe he/she is just an indulged mental case. Because I’ve never seen a person so Hades Bent on getting themselves killed. He/She is dishonest to other people about who he/she is..and I suspect that any future partner of hers won’t like that at all. If you’re going to lie to people about the situation, it’s going to come back to haunt you…or he/she’s going to come back to haunt someone depending on how the other person takes the truth. If you masquerade as something your not, you have to be prepared for the discovery of what you really are…people don’t like surprises like that…me I don’t care.

finch November 20, 2009, 10:46 AM

i went to school w/ someone who went thru with the change and he is the most well adjusted person i know. he has a great job and a great supportive girlfriend. he says he was much more messed up when he was a she. i can’t imagine being born as a male so yes, i would definitely support the change.

finch November 20, 2009, 10:50 AM

and GPC, it’s not a fantasy, it’s a very real situation. these people don’t just have a fantasy. it’s much more complex than that. a fantasy is wanting a vacation around the world. it’s much more than that.

christina November 20, 2009, 1:24 PM

So, GPC, you know ONE transgendered person and have made assumptions about an entire group of people based on this limited exposure? That’s pretty much like my saying people with the initials GPC are all bigots.

jenn November 21, 2009, 6:45 PM

Our organization is one of the only in the nation working to support and advocate on behalf of families of children who are transgender or gender non-conforming. For GPC, do not judge the future outcome of transgender children who receive support for who they are by the outcome of SOME trans adults who did NOT receive the support and affirmation of their identity in childhood. We are talking apples and oranges here.

For more information on our organization, please visit our website at: or send us an email at:

Jenn Burleton
Executive Director
TransActive Education & Advocacy

xrk9854 November 23, 2009, 5:18 AM

GPC you are CLUELESS. First of all anyone who transitions has to see a gender therapist before they start treatment and a second one before any surgery is done later. Can you name me any other medical treatment that requires 2 therapists to sign off before treatment? You can’t because transsexualism is the ONLY medical condition with that requirement. We are quite sane. If we weren’t we wouldn’t be allowed treatment. I suggest you learn a little about transsexualism before you open your mouth. I can tell all you know are learned negative stereotypes. Try going to this site: Tons of information there.

xrk9854 November 23, 2009, 5:35 AM

To the authors: Maybe you could have mentioned the Dutch gender program? They have been treating young teen transsexual patients for over a decade. And they have NEVER had a child “change their minds”. People have to realize that transsexual people are BORN that way, they don’t “become” transsexual. Gender variant children follow one of three trajectories: 1. Many turn out to be gay/lesbian. 2. Many become “normal” teens. 3. A select few are transsexual. By age 12 these children KNOW who they are and the Dutch gender program proves that. It would also have been nice that instead of courting to parental fears that you maybe did more education. For example you could have explained that being born transsexual is NOT a mental illness, that it is in fact normal biologic diversity. There have been transsexual people since the beginning of time, this isn’t anything new. The only difference is now we can get treatment and avoid a lifetime of pain and misery. And finally, you could have explained that there are rigid guidelines in place for treatment, the internationally recognized Standards of Care: You’ll find a document over 20 pages long that outlines how we’ll be treated. Nobody transitions on a whim or overnight. Transition takes YEARS to accomplish. So how about giving us a break and present the facts instead of playing to peoples fears. If they knew the facts they’d realize we’re simply correcting a birth condition.

Jessica November 23, 2009, 11:50 PM

To GPC: … it upsets me to no end when people say, “I know a trans person” as if knowing someone who is trans makes them an expert on all things trans. And the fact that you think that being trans messes up a person’s entire world perspective as you do, show’s you know nothing about the issue. I have served honorably for my country for 9 years, been deployed to Afghanistan and am now retiring honorably with a medical disability from my time over there. I am respected in my community, and am told time and time again by people I run into, that I am one of the best mothers they’ve seen to my son. And oh, guess what? I happen to be a trans woman as well. I can not tell you the amount of pain I experienced as a child when my father abused me because I was trans, or the pain I felt going through my mind hiding it. If my child turned out to be trans, which I pray to God he is not, cause I would never wish the pain that I’ve gone through on anyone, I would love and embrace him and allow him the opportunity that I never had.

And to the Authors: Please take the earlier advice and educate yourselves on pronouns and trans people. It was a bit upsetting to read you continually referring to Bridget as a he. She is now living true to her gender identity, and should be referred to as such.

cheapviagra3568 August 30, 2010, 7:48 AM
lopez9 November 16, 2010, 4:23 PM

GPC, I hope you know that not only transgendered people, lesbians, or gays, have issues like that. Have you not been hearing the news? How many men have killed not only thier wives, their children, even unborn children? It does not matter if you are straight, or transgendered, everyone has different issues, and everyone handles them differently.

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