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.
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."