Article from ABC News – USA http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=3074652&page=1
Frequently Asked Questions to Help You Understand Transgender Children
April 25, 2007— – Stephanie Grant compiled the following frequently asked
questions and recommended reading for Parents, Families and Friends of
Lesbians and Gays.
1. How do kids know they’re transgender?
Trans children know who they are the same way we know who we are. Imagine
you go into the hospital for a minor operation; you wake up to find that by
some horrible error you’ve mistakenly been given a full sex-change
operation. Do you think that just because your body now looks like the
opposite sex you will ever be comfortable living as a man or a woman? This
is the only way those of us who “match” (our brain development and our
biological body are congruent) can relate. At no point, regardless of how
happy the child looks, is the child truly comfortable in his or her body or
with his or her expected social roles. The only recourse for these children
is to dress as they identify and hope that no one remembers what is really
under their clothes.
2. Isn’t it easier to teach your child how to be a boy (or a girl)?
Not for the child. Trying to teach a trans child how to be the opposite of
how he or she feels is like trying to teach a nontrans child the same. All
you are really doing is teaching them how society expects them to behave
based on their genitalia, which also comes with a number of ramifications.
First and foremost, this track further emphasizes trans gender children’s
hatred of their bodies. Telling a child “You are a boy — you have a penis”
(or the opposite for a female-to-male child) just reinforces the feelings of
discomfort. This “hatred of their body” often leads to eating disorders,
self-mutilation and suicide.
And even if you could successfully teach “proper expected behaviors,” you
end up sending mixed messages when you attempt to teach your child right
from wrong when dealing with peer pressures. How do you successfully teach
your child how to be who others expect and also try to teach your child not
to be pressured into acting like “all the other kids” when the behavior is
wrong? Teaching your child to “be what others expect” is contrary to
developing a good sense of conscience and self-esteem.
3. How do I tell my family?
Keep your family informed and involved from the beginning. By supporting
your child and allowing him or her to express in front of others, you avoid
the “bombshell.” Your family will become the most important part of your
If you have already hidden these behaviors and feelings, then bring family
members up to speed with as much history as you can. Then give them time to
adjust and absorb. Remember, you didn’t “get it” at first either. Do not
expect people to accept this within one or two conversations; time and
patience will play a huge part in the transition.
Finally, get educated. Help family members understand that your child is not
alone nor are you the only family faced with openly raising a trans child.
There is wonderful documentation out there to help family, schools,
pediatricians and others understand. A great place to start is http://www.transfamily.org/
4. Aren’t there problems in school?
Yes. But the most serious problems are those associated with not allowing
your child to “be who they are.” Most children born gender dysphoric suffer
from high levels of social anxiety and attention deficit disorder. When a
child needs to spend so much time focusing on “acting in a way that pleases
others,” the child finds little energy left to relax and be attentive in
Keep the school informed from the beginning. Make the faculty and
administration another part of your child’s team. Ask them for their help as
opposed to demanding it; ask them to protect your child from bullying
and to inform you at all times of any problems. Most problems are based on
society’s lack of understanding. Therefore, be prepared to be the teacher.
Again, equip yourself with information and educational packets to help
school personnel understand and help your child. There is protection through
5. What about dating?
Dating is an issue for all parents, regardless of their child’s identified
and biological gender. As parents, we all hope that we have equipped our
children with enough pride and self-esteem that they will be able to choose
“nice” people to date. We also hope that we have taught them when and where
sexual activity is appropriate.
The most important part about allowing your child to date is teaching
him or her to be comfortable about “who” they are and how they differ. As they
build relationships, they need to know how and when to inform friends and
the importance of doing so. The danger arises when a “surprise” is
discovered in a place where your child may not be safe. Making sure that
your child has the “right tools” to build strong relationships is the best
weapon against a dangerous situation. Parenting with common sense really
gets pushed to the limit in this arena.
6. Will you allow your child to have surgery?
This is entirely up to the family. Finding a doctor to perform sex
reassignment surgery on a child under the age of 18 is extremely hard if
not impossible. There are a few doctors in Thailand who have reportedly been
performing this surgery on children as young as 14 with great success. This
author has no opinion either way; there are consequences to performing
surgery as well as not.
Take one day at a time. Hormone blockers and hormone therapy are now being
prescribed to children reaching puberty to alter and control the secondary
sex characteristics in trans people. It is highly advisable that you do
your homework about these treatments before contacting a physician or making the
decision to not do anything at all. Any decision you make about your child’s
adulthood should come only after you have a thorough understanding of all
The best advice: Never say never. Do not plan too far ahead and never make a
decision that cannot be changed. Surgical changes are forever and should be
left up to the individual whenever possible.
7. Aren’t you scared that something bad will happen to your child?
Yes. I am scared something bad may happen to either of my children. Because
trans people are at high risk of being victims of hate crimes, it is
important to instill a strong sense of values, including good self-esteem
and positive decision-making skills in your trans child.
More important, it is the belief of this author that the best way to
protect our children is by educating the public. With increased awareness, society
will soon begin to understand that transness is not about a person’s
genitalia; it is a condition of the brain. Because science is many years
away from affecting brain development, our only choice as parents of trans
children is to help them accommodate their bodies to live as normal a life
8. Do you tell the parents of your child’s friends?
Whether or not you reveal that your child is trans depends on the route you
took during and after transition. Parents most commonly choose one of two
options after allowing their child full-identity expression; they either
remain in the same location with the same friends and schoolmates, or they
move the family to a place where they are unknown and can start fresh.
If you choose to do this publicly, then it is important to continue to
inform the families of new playmates that your child is transgendered. In
this way, you will avoid them learning about your child improperly. Most
people cannot explain the path that led you to allow open expression. They
tend to spew out something like “that kid’s really a boy in a skirt” or
“that’s really a girl under those clothes.” Again, you may spend a lot of
time discussing what should be a very private issue, but the purpose is to
educate and thus, protect. New parents in your child’s life can become
important members of your child’s team if the situation is handled properly.
On the other hand, if your family transitioned privately, then you must
attempt to keep it that way. Your child and your family may become
unprepared to explain this condition if “the word gets out.” Private
transition avoids the ridicule and taunting that both you and your child
may face; but it is the belief of this author that secrets have a way of coming
out, usually when least expected. It is highly advisable to build a team for
your child even in a private transition, in the event that one day it will
9. Whom do they marry?
It’s hoped that your child will marry the person with whom he or she wants
to spend the rest of his or her life. If your child is comfortable with
“who” they are, your child will be able to build long-lasting, honest
relationships; any relationship is only as strong as the people involved. If
they chose to have children, they will seek out options available to other
infertile couples. With your support and your child’s team, the answer to
this question will be in the hands of your child.
10. Where do I go for more information?
There are many great resources for information and support, but the best
place to start as a parent is with other parents. The feeling of loneliness
can be overwhelming.
Our Trans Children (pamphlet): Published by the PFLAG Transgender Network (TNET).An introduction to transgender concepts and issues. Available from
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Trans Forming Families: Mary Boenke, Editor
A series of stories by the families of transgender people, all finding their
way to acceptance. Available from email@example.com or
Mom, I Need to be a Girl: Just Evelyn A wonderful story of one family’s
journey with their teenage child’s transition from male to female.
Finding the Real Me: Tracie O’Keefe and Katrina Fox
A compilation of stories by transgenders about their accepting,
transitioning, and coming out process.
Always My Child: Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of GLSEN and Pat
Shapiro, MSW. A superb book on dealing with GLBTQ children, especially during the coming out process. Many of the principles apply to dealing with ALL children.
The Agony of Nurturing the Spirit: A Mother’s Recount of Raising a
Transgender Child (pamphlet) by Stephanie.
Available at http://www.pflagphila.org/orderform3.html
Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures