Two big articles in the news the last week about trans youth, one from the Chicago Tribune, Transgender issues – at a very young age, and one from New York Magazine, S/He. I’d definitely recommend giving each a read, as they present varying pictures of how young people (as young as two years old in the Trib article) and their families are coping with gender expression and trans identities.
Both articles, however, mention the possibility that gender dysphoria is something young people “usually outgrow.” The Trib says that “there’s some evidence — most of it anecdotal — that gender dysphoria is a phase many children outgrow” and “in the decade that Menvielle has been counseling such children [with gender identity issues], he says that about 80 percent end up switching back to what their biology tells them. The rest remain transgender into adulthood.” New York Magazine says “some studies report that less than a quarter of prepubertal children diagnosed with gender dysphoria become transgender adults, but these numbers count anyone who leaves the study or who does not elect to have surgery as nonpersistent.”
To be clear, I think both articles do a great job furthering the cause of healthy, supportive care for trans youth. This is a minor issue in much larger articles which are, on the whole, well-written and respectful. At the same time, I don’t like the idea that kids may outgrow their gender dysphoria as a possible justification for not allowing gender exploration or for refusing hormone blockers, something discussed at length in the New York Magazine article. The articles don’t really address that implied logic, which is very problematic.
Continue reading 'Trans youth in the media'»
A recent piece I performed at The Encyclopedia Show.
I have a question for the audience. By a show of hands, who here was happy with the changes they experienced during puberty? There’s no right or wrong answer, I’m just curious. Now, by a show of hands, who was unhappy?
I was unhappy when puberty hit. Miserable, actually. On-and-off suicidal. I’m transgender, which means I was assigned one gender at birth (male) but identify as another (female). So when puberty hit, around thirteen, I began developing in all of the ways which are normal for boys: Hair started growing in places I didn’t really want hair to grow (namely, everywhere), my voice dropped, I didn’t grow boobs or get all curvy, I discovered how great masturbation is, and I was slightly irritable, angry, or depressed for the next seven years; any normal boy’s puberty and trans girl’s nightmare.
The things happening to my body felt totally foreign, and not simply because puberty was changing my body from a child to an adult. They felt foreign because my body was changing from a child to a man. Continue reading 'Delayed Puberty'»
My parents aren’t perfect. I doubt any are. And, yet, I feel pretty lucky to have them. I’ve talked about my coming out experience, and how – even though my parents responded with love – I wish they had responded to my coming out with understanding. With the knowledge to say, “Yup. And this is what we do about that.” I wish there had been things like summer camps for trans youth, or conferences for their families, or books for parents, or any of the things that have really come to light in the last decade or so. At the same time, I feel lucky and fortunate to have the parents I do.
I was reminded about this when my mom sent me a link to a Chicago Tribune article titled Study: Family ties cut suicide rate for LGBT youth. In fact, my parents responded on a similar script to what the article suggests:
[One of the study authors] said parents can make a difference. It’s important parents respond with love and acceptance from the moment their child tells them he or she is gay, and that’s true even if parents need time to process the information.
“You can say something like: ‘I’m glad you shared that with me and I love you no matter what. This is new for me and I have to think about it, but I want you to know that I loved you before you told me and I love you now,'” he said.
Continue reading 'Thanks, mom and dad'»
This past week I was at Butler University in Indianapolis, performing Uncovering the Mirrors and leading a workshop around trans issues. Everything went really well, and I met some great people. All in all a very good trip.
During the workshop, however, something came up that I had not previously considered. Specifically, someone asked about how trans youth are (medically) treated. I said that it varies, but that there’s an increasing use of hormone blockers to delay puberty. This allows a twelve or thirteen year old to age a few years and – hopefully – be able to make a more informed decision about transitioning. In my I-am-not-a-doctor opinion, it’s a good compromise: simply doing nothing can result in spending thousands of dollars to undo puberty, but launching fully into hormone replacement therapy opens the door to a twelve year old realizing they weren’t really trans at thirteen or fourteen.
Ultimately, I said to the questioner, there isn’t a perfect solution. Once a child realizes they’re trans, it’s a matter of picking the best choice from some bad options. Which, to be very clear, doesn’t mean that being trans condemns an individual to a life of misery. But it does, as far as I can see, necessitate some tough decisions and a difficult journey.
The questioner then posed something that has been bouncing around my brain this past week: Could allowing fifteen and sixteen year olds to be making informed consent decisions about their healthcare lead to the criminal justice system saying they were able to make informed decisions about crimes, and should thus be tried as adults?
Continue reading 'Trans youth and informed consent'»
When I was a child it – I must have been 6 or 7 or 8 (certainly younger than 10, for my family had not yet moved for the first time) – I remember playing a ‘make belive’ game with SB. I don’t remember the specifics, mainly just running around the park behind my house, going ujp and down the small hill and playing on the playground. I think we were searching for something, or hunting for something, or being hunted by something. Perhaps we were spys?
I do remember that, at some point in the make belive, I was transformed into a girl. SB had to rescue me, but I don’t think ‘rescue’ meant ‘transform me back,’ just ‘free me from the bad guys.’ I remember it being important (for some pre-puberty, gender-affirming reason) for me to be naked on the bed in my room, my penis tucked between my legs in a hairless V.
I told him not to tell his mom, but he told anyway and I was told that was not a good way to play and being naked with each other wasn’t OK. (At least, that’s what i remember being told, so many years later.)
But the part that was actually important – not the nudity but the gender – was never mentioned. I don’t know if he even told his mom about that part, or if she told my mom. But in retrospect I feel like yelling at my in-the-past-mom, “The point isn’t that I didn’t want to be clothed! The point is I didn’t want to be clothed and have a penis!”