childhood

A note for parents, friends, and loved ones of transgender

Several people have written to me who are the parents, friends or loved ones of someone who is considering transition, and are concerned about the idea and wondering what they can do. This is a complex issue. My own experience was that my parents did not take it well, particularly my mother. I have only seen her once in the last twenty years. Even though I eventually did resolve my issues in a different way and detransition, this was not helpful. Now we do get along better, part of it is time and part of it is my decision to detransition, but I still have some resentment towards her for not supporting me during that time, and it made it more difficult to detransition because I didn’t want her to be right. I do see that much of my own behavior at that time as selfish also. It can be a tricky question.

Still a few ideas:

Have compassion and love your child, and keep your door open to them. You do not have to approve of their actions, or pretend to, you have the right to your own integrity in that. However, it is important to continue to support them.

You can’t control the actions of your child, particularly if they are an adult child. They will do what they are going to do. If they are a teen, particularly a late teen they are soon to be adults and out of your control. You might be able to clamp down on what they are doing now, but in a couple of years they will be able to do what they want. Better that they explore their feelings while they still have your guidance, then do it when they don’t.

The issue of pre-pubescent children is a whole other issue. We know that historically most of these kids did not persist in their gender identity issues. (Around 84% in an older study) I worry a lot that transitioning these kids will increase the persistence rate. Also, I think the experience of puberty itself leads to the desistance as the biological instincts kick in, so preventing these children from experiencing at least some of this puberty might again make more of these kids transition than would otherwise.

This stuff is hard to deal with. I am critical of some of the ways the psychological community handles these issues and wish there were better alternatives to deal with it 20 years ago. I provide the ideas I have garnered through my experience and studies of psychology in the hope that others can be prevented from the suffering that I had. There are several people that have found them helpful, so I think I am on a good track, but I don’t think they will work for everyone. In particular these are deep-seeded issues that require more than blog posts to deal with. Some people will transition, and they deserve to have good lives. Much of the problems of transition have to do with social stigma associated with it.

Try to make sure they see a lot of different perspectives if you can. I do think there is a lot of groupthink happening currently, and I think it is important to counteract that. Do not trust any one authority on these matters, there are lots of crazy ideas going around, even in professional circles.

If you can meet them where they are, you should. If you don’t use their preferred name or pronouns it will just prevent you from communicating with them at all, and if you aren’t in their lives you don’t have any influence at all. Again this is a matter of your own integrity, but I think meet people where they are and giving them courtesy helps foster good communication.

It started with a dream – Personal Journey pt. 1

My gender struggle began with a childhood fantasy. I was a highly intelligent child but physically weak. I was advanced in math and science which earned the praise of the adults, but was always picked last for teams and constantly bullied. Being smart was definitely not valued on the playground! I used to pray to be stronger and this caused me a lot of distress. I was bullied nearly daily by the stronger more popular kids. When I was around 5, I developed the fantasy of being turned into a girl. It seemed that if I were a girl, I could be a smart as I was, but then not suffer from the daily violence that I faced as a bit. Now I know how false that is, but I was 5 at the time!

I used the fantasy to help me sleep at night, and it was comforting. When I got to the 6th grade puberty started, and this fantasy became eroticised. I was also very definitely attracted to women, but then sometimes felt attraction for men as well. This was very confusing! My parents gave me a book about sex which contained a one page description of transvestites and transsexuals. It said that transvestites were men with a fetish for women’s clothing, while transsexuals were really women and would transform their body to make the outside match the inside. It clearly sounded better to be a transsexual, and since I had these fantasies of being a woman that must be what I am. It seemed so far fetched that I would ever do anything about it, but I felt that was the truth about me.

I felt very confused as I was also greatly desiring to find a girlfriend. Sometimes it felt like I was trying to be my own girlfriend. Plus, I was still sometimes attracted to men, which I tried to suppress. I had no success with dating at all until I was 16. Then I got online. This was 1990 before the internet was mainstream, so it was mostly on BBSs, and a local IRC (internet chat). This was something of a unique time, because the online world was only known to quirky, nerdy, smart kids. There were only a few of us at each high school, but together we formed a community of nearly 100 teenagers in the metro area. I was able to date successfully for the first time. I had 6 short-lived relationships with different girls that I met, mostly through this community. My transgender fantasies diminished and began to go away. I think this was partially because I was sucessful in dating, and partially because puberty advanced to the point where I could no longer see a woman in the mirror. I thought this problem had come to an end, and didn’t think about it much until I got to college…