Transfigurations – Trans Children and Trans Youth
The special needs of transgender children – a guide for parents of trans children and trans youth
I argue that it is surely much more abusive to make a child go through a puberty which is wrong for them – and then in adulthood have to:-
- In the case of male to female trans children – undergo extremely painful and expensive treatments such as electrolysis and/or laser treatments to remove facial hair, surgery to reduce the Adam’s apple, vocal cord surgery and also facial feminisation surgery to lessen the debilitating effects of facial masculinisation brought about by testosterone
- In the case of female to male trans children – undergo extremely painful and expensive treatments such as mastectomies and hysterectomies and the mental distress caused by the onset of their menstrual cycle and breast development.
Much is now being done to make schools more aware of transgender children and Intercom Trust has created an excellent guidance document for schools which you can download from here. Natacha Kennedy, a well know campaigner for the rights of transgender children and youth, especially in the sphere of education, had compiled an excellent small informational site – now disabled which was aimed more at teachers and schools and educating them about transgender children.
You will probably have noticed over a period of time that your child has been displaying a need to present in one way or another as the gender opposite to that of their birth sex – and this will have been consistent. Your child might even have expressed that he or she should have been a girl or a boy. More alarming examples might have been an attempt to cut off their own genitalia (in the case of natal boys). You, as the parent will probably have been worried about this over that time period, but not known what to do about it.
Puberty can be a time of great distress for young trans people as they realise they are being physically confirmed into their birth gender and the psychological trauma can be devastating leading to at best anxiety and depression right through to self harm (eg cutting), suicide ideation and even suicide itself. It has been shown in a recently published medical paper that transgender children who receive parental support, suffer from depression at the same rate as their peers and siblings and only slightly elevated levels of anxiety, which was well below pre-clinical levels of concern – (Kristina R. Olson et al).
We have a special forum within our main forums which is only available to the parents or guardians of transgender children, where you can talk to other parents about your child’s behaviour. We also have a private forum for the trans children and trans youth themselves – only trans children/youth (and their parents) have access to this forum. Obviously it is virtually impossible to vet every adult who joins who says that they are the parent of a trans child, but various safe guarding procedures have been put into place to help reduce any risk. These consist of:-
|No parent is allowed access to the children's forum unless they have a child who is a member of the site unless they are personally known to the owner of the site and have been vetted.|
|The private messaging has been disabled in this forum - which means that a child cannot be groomed by an adult without either myself or one of the other moderators seeing it.|
|Disabling the private messaging also means that our policy of no bullying can be enforced by either myself or one of the other moderators.|
Of paramount importance though, especially if your child is upset and anxious, is to reassure them that you love them and will care for them, no matter what. Read this moving letter from a mother to her transgender son which was published in the Guardian newspaper in April 2014.
You will go through all those emotions yourself (and probably many more) on your child’s journey to self fulfilment. Not only does your child need support, but we recognise that you need also support. It becomes a lot easier if you know other parents who are going through this and who you know will understand the emotions that you will be going through. Never be afraid to ask for that support, it will be willingly and generously given.
I will not go into care pathways here as that is a topic best dealt with inside the forums ……… but I will stress that there is help and emotional support for both you and your child out there – please, please, please avail yourself of it. I attended an NHS England conference recently on the future pathway for transgender children and adolescents and although change will come slowly, the future does look brighter for trans children if they implement many of our recommendations.
Other excellent resources for the parents of transgender children and youth can be found at Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids.
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