It is usually something along the lines of, “Transgender ideology is confusing our kids,” or “Treating children who have gender dysphoria is a form of child abuse.” I must admit headlines like these are pretty frightening if you believe them. Such reports usually come with a side dish about how there is a secret transgender agenda out there, as if there is some underground army hiding in the wings ready to pounce on all that you hold dear in some diabolical scheme to make liberals out of everyone. I get it, it feels like life was so much simpler when you were growing up, and now all of a sudden transgender people seem to be everywhere. You may feel overwhelmed as a parent, not knowing how to explain all this information to your kids. It all seems too complicated. It goes against everything you were taught and for some, everything you believe.
As a transgender person, I feel obligated to shed some light on this discussion. I have to start by clearly stating that there is no transgender craze where all of a sudden people are “deciding” to be that way. Though it may seem like transgender people are all coming out of nowhere, I assure you they are not. We have always been around. What has changed is our understanding.
“WE REPRESS THE QUESTION OF WHO WE ARE, BUT IT FOLLOWS US FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES.”
Just as many of today’s parents have, I grew up in a typical household where gender roles were enforced. I was brought up with the binary rules of how men and women should behave. I was taught how I should dress and what toys to play with. I was reprimanded if I deviated from these patterns. You were either male or female based on the parts you were assigned at birth. It all seems simple right? But the truth is it was not. I always knew I was different. I always struggled with my gender. What confused me at the time was the fact that there was no one like me that I could identify with. I didn’t see myself reflected anywhere in society unless it was in the form of a joke. I didn’t learn to be transgender. I was always that way. I was born that way. What I learned was how to repress who I was. I learned to hide it, believing that deep inside I was broken. I thought I was a freak and any attempt to understand what was going on with myself would result in ridicule, punishment, and rejection. It is a typical narrative for transgender people of my generation. We repress the question of who we are, but it follows us for the rest of our lives. Eventually we realize we cannot run from it and we decide to finally deal with it.
So we come out to everyone, and for many around us it is a complete shock. At this point your now older parents wonder, “Where did this come from?” It almost seems impossible, as that is not how we were raised to be. “Damn you Caitlyn Jenner,” it must be her fault. For many around us we are liars, we deceived them. We begin to suffer the losses of people who turn their back on us and many of these people are family members. Some of us lose our jobs, our families, and homes. We begin to realize that every one of these fears that were instilled in us as children were for good reason, as almost all of them become true. We now have no rights and we get watch as the world fights to decide whether we will be treated as human beings or not. What a great choice we made right? I mean who wouldn’t line up for this? The facts are we don’t choose this. It is who we are and always were. There was no outside influence. The only influences we had growing up were to learn to be ashamed of who we were.
So now look at today’s kids. They are growing up in a world where there is more awareness of transgender people. Though many may think this awareness may confuse a child, it actually does the opposite. Today a child with gender dysphoria can look at someone like Jazz Jennings and relate to her. This is something that was not available to me when I was growing up. I couldn’t see anyone else and say I was like they were. It took me half of a lifetime to realize there were others like me. Jazz is not making your child transgender; she is only letting them know that they are not alone if they are transgender. If influence affected a person’s gender identity then I should be the exact opposite of who I am today, because the only influence I ever had was to not be who I was.
As a parent you are getting bombarded with conflicting stories about transgender people. You hear stories about how parents are forcing their kids to have gender confirmation surgeries and that they are making their kids to undergo hormone hormone treatments. This is simply not the truth. There are standards of care for transgender kids. First of all, after birth, no child experiences hormonal development again until they hit puberty. For this reason you have an average period of 13 years for you and your child to figure out how handle their gender identity medically if it came to that. At that point a parent under the guidance of a doctor may decide to delay puberty by putting their child on hormone blockers to give them time to make the best decision for themselves when they are older, without them having gone through the crippling changes associated with the hormonal effects of the wrong gender. But up until puberty, there is no reason for a child to receive hormone treatments. If you really want to understand how it works, I would suggest you check out Dr. Norman Spack. He is a leading authority on the subject of treating transgender children.
“IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT THOUGH YOU MAY BE CONFUSED ABOUT TRANSGENDER ISSUES, YOUR KIDS MAY NOT BE.”
It is important to understand that though you may be confused about transgender issues, your kids may not be. Teenagers today live in a world where they are bombarded with information. They are playing videogames while simultaneously surfing the Internet, chatting with their friends and sending pictures on Snapchat all while doing their homework. They live in a world where there are 1,000 TV channels and where they don’t need to bug their parents for a ride to the library in order to get information. Trust me when I tell you that 30 gender identity options will not confuse your children. What will confuse your children is not telling them that people come in all shapes, colors and sizes. You will confuse them by teaching them to hate others for being different than they are. Kids aren’t confused about gender; they learn to be confused about it from their parents. Of all the people I have had the experience of coming out to, young kids understood it the best. The reason being that they haven’t yet learned how to hate.
As a parent it is your choice how you choose to raise your kids. You can make the choice to raise them according to the strict gender binary of simply male and female based on parts assigned at birth. For many of you it will all work out, your kids will grow up and gender identity will be a non-issue. For some however, your child may end up being 30, 40 or even 50+ years old when they figure it all out, all because they were taught to be ashamed of themselves for who they were. That was certainly my experience. Again, it is your choice, but don’t be shocked if it happens. You can also make the choice to help your child by making it okay for them to be who they are, and in the rare case that they are transgender or gender non conforming, you can choose to be an ally and help them to figure things out. In the end you may learn something about yourself, and you will realize that all this ‘gender” stuff is not so confusing if you make the effort to actually understand it.
Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us!
Love and peace,