Atlantic contributing editor Hanna Rosin has a measured, nuanced article about transgender children in the November issue. Roisin spent several months with 8-year-old "Brandon Simms" and his family in their small, God-fearing Southern town. Even though Brandon had expressed the desire to be female since he could talk (his first full sentence: “I like your high heels.") Brandon's mom, Tina, hadn't even heard the word "transgender" until her mother showed her the 20/20 special devoted to transgender children a year and a half ago.Despite serious consequences from their friends and relatives (Brandon's best friend, Abby, is the child of Evangelical parents who now forbid her to play with him), Tina has encouraged Brandon to embrace being a girl, and Brandon is now living as Bridget. And experts are still debating over whether this is the proper direction to take. Earlier this year we covered a two-part NPR story about transgender children. The first part compared and contrasted two children who felt they were born to the wrong gender — Bradley and Jonah. Bradley's parents were trying to get him to act like a stereotypical boy, while Jonah's parents were allowing him to live as Jona, a girl. The second part was about an aggressive new treatment that allows transgender preteens to block puberty so that they do not have to develop the secondary sex characteristics of the gender they feel is not truly theirs. Rosin covers much of the same ground as these stories and interviews some of the same experts, and she also explores the issue of whether or not being transgender is biological. She comes up with a slightly different, and fascinating, conclusion from the NPR stories. She interviewed Catherine Tuerk, a woman who runs a support group for transgender parents in D.C. and is the mother of a gay son. Tuerk noticed that many conservative parents were surprisingly comfortable labeling their children as transgender, and she had the following theory: “Parents have told me it’s almost easier to tell others, ‘My kid was born in the wrong body,’ rather than explaining that he might be gay, which is in the back of everyone’s mind. When people think about being gay, they think about sex—and thinking about sex and kids is taboo.” In one case study, a 17-year-old girl requesting cross-sex hormones told her doctor, “Doc, to be honest, lesbians make me sick … I want to be normal.” As I said when I first wrote about the issue of transgender children, most of these parents just want to do right by their children, who are obviously suffering greatly. Above all, what one comes away with from Rosin's story is that even for a child like Brandon/Bridget, whose mother is letting her live as the gender she feels she is, the road is a rocky one filled with tough transitions and outside prejudice. A Boy's Life [The Atlantic] Earlier Transgender Boys Take Different, Provocative Paths Controversial Treatment Allows Transgender Children To Delay Puberty Related:
I can't help wondering if it is more than transgendered when a child's first sentence is "I like your high heels." That would be strange even for the most girlie girl, a first sentence is usually something like "I'm hungry" or "It's dark here."
With transgendered children, I always wonder how they would be if they'd grown up in a gender neutral home where a boy wearing high heels or playing with Polly Pocket was no big deal.