By Melissa Ballard
And the follow up to an actual transition beginning is that parents are often jumping into this decision too fast or without the proper research or education. I have found in the past two years that this really is totally the opposite in the world of trans kids and parents. Luckily, we happen to part of a large transgender children’s clinic, Genecis, at Children’s Health Dallas, which is new to the south and they mirror a protocol that has been in place at Boston Children’s Hospital transgender youth clinic, GeMS. The current protocol is not a fly by night decision to suddenly have our children operated on and force them into a life they do not want. As parents we do not want to do anything to harm our kids or to affect their life in any negative ways, now or in the future.
“WE THOUGHT WE HAD A VERY DEPRESSED KID AND COULD NOT FIGURE OUT WHY.”
We personally began this journey with a psych hospital visit due to self-harm. At the time we had no idea we had a transgender child; we thought we had a very depressed kid and could not figure out why. Once you start seeing a therapist or a psychiatrist, some things begin to come to light and that was how we started seeing this was more than depression. Our child was feeling things they did not yet know how to express. We had raised them in a Christian home and they had always been home schooled so there was little outside influence and input. We wanted our kids to remain little, and be childlike as long as possible; to worry only about things kids should worry about….sex and attraction were not things we discussed with them at their particular ages at the time. These children did not know there was such a thing as gay or what homosexuality was until they learned of another family member who was gay and happened to be married to a same sex partner. We did not know anyone who identified as transgender at the time nor did our kids even know the term, but when your child is feeling a certain way and not having garnered the proper language to express what they feel, you seek out the best way to help them. So many people are opposed to the belief or possibility of young transgender children, when in reality the concept is generally understood by 2-3 years old for most small kids. For other transgender people this becomes more apparent around puberty; thus the situation with our own child.
“OUR WORST FEARS WERE THE THOUGHT OF LOSING ONE OF OUR CHILDREN AND WE KNEW THAT WE NEEDED MEDICAL ASSISTANCE.”
Our worst fears were the thought of losing one of our children and we knew that we needed medical assistance. Once we checked our kid into the hospital and had to deal head on with self-harm and suicidal ideation, we learned they were hiding what the real issue was; that our daughter felt trapped in her female body and hated everything about it including the changes that were beginning to happen. This once happy and outgoing little kid now wanted to hurt themself and ultimately try to end their life if they could not live as a boy. This is when we knew we had a son, and needed to accept him and help him in any way. After this first hospital stay we began seeing many specialists not only from the psych department at the hospital, but then we were introduced to Genecis. We also began therapy with a local gender therapist, group and individual/family therapy with the psychiatry group, and an intensive outpatient program to address the other metal issues we were dealing with at the time.
The staff at Genecis did an intense psychological evaluation of their own, even though we had already been in the hospital system and psychiatry unit at Children’s Health Dallas. These were new doctors to us who specialized in Gender Identity and Dysphoria (among other things) and were to become a part of our son’s transition team. As a family, we had to also go through an evaluation process which began over the phone with an hour long discussion, which then led to the first 3-4 hour meeting with a team of psychologists and social workers speaking to my husband, myself and our son separately. The information gathered in these sessions was used to determine that our son was indeed suffering from gender dysphoria and to assess the situation. The doctors look for consistency, persistence, and insistence from the child. I can tell you this is not something that can be coached or taught. When you are asked as many questions together as you are separately they can make an assessment and understand the severity of the situation. Granted this is not a one-time thing, we are now part of this team and clinic that is looking out for our child’s best interest. We have gone through bone density scans, and growth plate measurements, blood draws and numerous counseling sessions. All of this was to even reach a point where the doctors were comfortable enough with our situation to suggest a puberty blocker to pause the female puberty that was looming. This was a huge stressor and trigger for our son. Can you imagine hating your body and it was changing daily almost into the thing you feared the most… a curvy, chesty female that had a monthly menstrual cycle?
“HIS BODY AND HIS BRAIN ARE NO LONGER FIGHTING EACH OTHER EVERY DAY…”
He was finally approved for a puberty blocker in June 2015 and that was one of the greatest days for him. His body and his brain are no longer fighting each other every day thanks to the implant. He is now one year into the blocker and this so far is the only medical intervention we have done. We just recently had our one year follow up with this same team of doctors and have decided to re-evaluate hormone therapy in 3 months. We will continue to follow up with our resources at Genecis and work the plan we have decided on as a team. Today we have also wrapped up over a year of outpatient treatment in which the doctors involved also report to the transition team we have from Genecis.
Over the past year our son has gone from an anxious self-harming preteen with gender dysphoria to a happy teenager that is in early transition but has been living as a boy for more than a year. For anyone who ever questions our decisions and choices as family, they have not been in our shoes. I can’t tell you how many hours we have spent in therapy over the past two years but it has been worth it all. We were faced with losing our daughter but we chose to accept our transgender son. The changes in our son have been amazing and although this is not the path we had imagined when we had children early on in our marriage, we have a living child that knows he is loved and accepted. This is one of the greatest gifts we have received as a family from this transition – being able to love our child for who they truly are and see him thrive!