The question of when children should be allowed to transition brings controversial, complex, and necessary discussions to the forefront.
There was a time when anything attached to homosexuality was considered a serious crime. As little as dressing like the opposite gender would have gotten you sent to jail. People thought transsexuals were freaks, and that something was seriously wrong with them. However, today, we live in a digital society with more available information about transitioning. Because of this development, more people understand and accept the transgender point of view, to a point where it provides them more freedom to transition at any age.
Society wasn’t always as supportive of transsexuals. In the past, the public had no idea what to identify them. Because of a lack of accepted identity, the government just associated transsexuality with illegal activity. This type of behavior was not tolerated. If anyone was even caught crossdressing, serious consequences would follow. The article, A Brief History of Transgender Issues, written by Prof Stephen Whittle, discusses how transgenderism was treated from the very beginning.
“In 1885 the Criminal Law Act was passed in the UK, which made all homosexual behavior illegal. Similar laws were put in place throughout Europe during this period. When homosexuality was made illegal, those suspected of it – such as Oscar Wilde – could face imprisonment and hard labor for up to two years. People who cross-dressed became easy targets of the law because they were associated, in the public mind, with the homosexual subculture.”
Professor Whittle knew his history, and this just goes to demonstrate the treatment of trans people in the past.
This led to people being arrested for identifying as transgender. As a historical example, Shelter Boulton and Fred Franny Park were two people just living their lives until the government had a serious problem with their lifestyle and arrested them. Professor Whittle’s article also talks about the trial that defined the century.
“One of the first public trials for transvestite behavior was that of Ernest (Stella) Boulton, and Fred (Fanny) Park, arrested in 1870 for indecent behavior. The authorities based the prosecution on their transvestism and their soliciting of men as women, rather than the act of sodomy.”
Even though these two individuals went to trial, they were acquitted of all charges. But people’s fears of transsexuality did not stop there. Since the trial, people in the community became worried that they were labeled transsexual.
The public did not have the information about transsexuality as we do today. In those days, many perspectives were based on assumptions and rumors. Scientists have done research based on why and where that thinking came from. One of these scientists was sexologist Krafft Ebbing. His research on transsexuality was published in a book called Psychopathia Sexualis. Once his book came out, it defined that generation and those that followed. The book became more recognized for study, and eventually, people became aware of the term transsexual.
Over time, more people went through transition procedures like Lili Elbe and his servant Dora in 1930. However, nothing was brought to light until 1952 when Christine Jorgenson returned from Denmark having already undergone several operations. Once word got out, the media picked up on it and her transition became public. She became an overnight sensation and the most famous transsexual figure of the 20th century. Professor Whittle’s article showcases a quote from Candice Brown Elliott who said the following about the fellow star.
“Her very public life after her 1952 transition and surgery was a model for other transsexuals for decades. She was a tireless lecturer on the subject of transsexuality, pleading for understanding from a public that all too often wanted to see transsexuals as freaks or perverts… Ms. Jorgensen’s poise, charm, and wit won the hearts of millions.”
Ms. Jorgensen became a positive figure for the transsexual community and influenced many in her time to pursue what they wanted. Plenty of public figures today have become trailblazers in their own way to a point that one of our trans public figures, Laverne Cox, inspired the first transgender Barbie doll. Do you know how important that is for a kid who is also dealing with their own transition to see that?
Acts like these can influence children to pursue their dreams. If you feel out of place and miserable with your life, you will start looking up to people who influence you the most. Transsexuals as a whole have come a long way. The fact that they are where they are now just shows how much society has grown. But, of course, that doesn’t mean it is all perfect.
It is now common practice that parents are willing to learn who their child is. Before, it was easy to shame children because a transgender lifestyle was not the norm. Now that there is more representation and voices speaking out, parents and children have gained a healthier relationship when dealing with this situation.
Celebrities like Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade have set the tone on how to raise a child that is a part of the LGBTQ+ community. When their daughter Zaya came out as transgender two years back, it upset another celebrity. In Sabrina Rojas Weiss’ article, Gabrielle Union & Dwyane Wade Call on a ‘Cavalry’ to Defend Their Parenting Choices With Zaya. she speaks on the criticism the couple has faced with their daughter being transgender.
“With all of the love comes the hate too,” Union told Variety [magazine] in her cover story. “It’s the love that handles the hate that has been encouraging. We’re just loving and accepting our kids, which is not revolutionary. To some people it’s nuts.”
And then Sabrina continues, “For every person who shamed Union and Wade for how they’re raising Zaya, [Union] said, “many more have rallied in support of the family. … I’m not standing on my own. The cavalry is arriving, and they are unafraid to stand in their truth and not be compromising when we look at right and wrong.”
This celebrity couple is not the only one that had their child transitioning at a very young age. It seems to be more common nowadays. More often, parents find an approach to support their kid’s decisions when they feel they belong to the opposite gender. With this parental attitude shift, it has become more common for kids to express themselves freely.
A study from the UCLA School of Law at the Williams Institute found that the percentage of youth that identified as transgender ranged from 1.4% of 13-17-year-olds and 1.3% of 18 and 24-year-olds. It does not stop there; it has come to the point where studies have shown the possibilities of children transitioning. The article Young Trans Children Know Who They Are written by Ed Young talks about a study done with a group of kids.
“Olson [a psychologist at the University of Washington] stresses that she has no magic test that can predict exactly which children will transition and which will not. It’s a question of probabilities. In her study, based on their answers, all the children received a gender-nonconformity score between 0 and 1. For comparison, those who scored 0.5 had a one-in-three chance of socially transitioning, while those who scored 0.75 had a one-in-two chance. “This study shows that kids develop their gender identity by using their actions. Individuals who socially transition make a choice if they want to physically transition or not.
Even though we live in a more accepting society where people who are trans can be themselves, we still live in a world where other individuals will have a problem with that. There will always be individuals that have a more traditional way of thinking. Some people not only feel transitioning is bizarre itself but letting kids do it at a young age is a whole different ball game. Because children are now starting out in life, they do not know how the world works yet. Having them make tough decisions like that can be too soon.
When Mario Lopez made comments saying, “parents supporting children’s self-identified gender is dangerous and a weird Hollywood trend that will have repercussions later”, the public was not happy about it. In the article Mario Lopez’s Views on Trans Kids are a Real Danger, written by Christina Spears Brown, speaks her opinion on Mario Lopez’s views.
“What is much more dangerous is supporting a culture that accepts (even implicitly) the rejection or harassment of trans or gender-nonconforming youth.”
Christina’s article continues with evidence backing up her argument by stating that “90% of teens have been called a derogatory name during the past year, almost 50% have been physically harassed and 25% have been assaulted because of their gender identity.” Regardless if Mario was stating his own opinion, there are people who have mindsets that lead to actions to harm others. But people disagreeing with the choices of someone transitioning is nothing new. Since the very beginning, conservatives have been extremely judgmental of people in the LGBTQ+ community’s choices.
Trans people who live in today’s generation do not have to go through as many obstacles as in previous generations. Everywhere you go, you can see more of the trans community being represented. Whether in schools, on television, or in modern children’s books, transgender identity has found a way to showcase its message.
Understanding why parents these days are on board with their children’s transitioning is crucial; this is something that they and their children cannot control. From day one, a child’s mindset is already programmed to the gender they identify with. But if the gender they identify with does not match what they are biologically, then things can be quite confusing.
Gender dysphoria is when a person has discomfort caused by the discrepancy between their biological gender versus the one they identify with the most. This discomfort can be a problem when almost everyone is telling you the standards of what a boy and girl are supposed to be. This can be difficult if a person does not traditionally fit in either box. Imagine if a person did not have anyone to go to for help. This can be emotionally difficult. In the article Most Gender Dysphoria Established by Age 7, a study by Cedars Sinai explains what gender dysphoria can do to a person.
“Gender dysphoria manifests early in childhood and can persist for years before patients undergo counseling and treatment. The findings also reveal that untreated gender dysphoria can result in poor quality of life for transgender people, beginning in childhood and lasting throughout adolescence and adulthood.”
Gender dysphoria is a common thing transsexual men and women go through. Whenever they are trying to figure themselves out, their mentality does not match the reality of their situation. Kids have already made up their minds about which gender they align with. It does not matter how anyone else feels about the situation. The only thing that matters is how the person feels and what they know is best for them. The article, mentioned earlier in this document, written by Ed Young, discusses the findings Kristina Olson has witnessed.
“Implicit in a lot of people’s concerns about social transition is this idea that it changes the kids in some way, and that making this decision is going to necessarily put a kid on a particular path,” says Olson. “This suggests otherwise.” Children change their gender because of their identities; they don’t change their identities because they change their gender.”
Do you think this mentality is going to change later? For most, it does not. Once a person decides who they want to be at an early age, the chances of them changing their mind become slim to none. The article 94% of Transgender Youth Maintains Transgender Identity 5 Years After Social Transition wrote by Brian Mastroianni supports this point.
“The researchers found that after an average of five years following their initial social transition during childhood, 7.3 percent transitioned at least once. At the end of that five-year period, 94 percent of these young people identified as binary transgender people. That number includes 1.3 percent of participants ‘who retransitioned to another identity before returning to their binary transgender identity,’ according to the study. The researchers report that 2.5 percent of the youth identified as cisgender, while 3.5 percent identified as nonbinary.”
This study shows that the people who figure out who they are early in life tend to benefit from it in the end. There are some people in life who wait until the last minute to be who they truly are, which impacts their mentality. When a person is living in their truth, they feel much happier and are more accepting of themselves. For those who don’t transition early, it is the complete opposite. The article Study: Earlier Transitioning Better for Trans Teens Mental Health written by Elizabeth Hlavinka talks about dealing with the transition at certain ages.
“Transgender youth who presented to a clinic for gender-affirming care in early adolescence had fewer mental health problems than adolescents who first sought care when older, or in later stages of puberty, researchers reported… Among 300 teens seeking gender-affirming care, a significantly higher proportion of adolescents older than 15 reported experiencing mental health problems compared with children under 15, including the following: Depression (46% vs 30%), Self-harm (40% vs 28%), Suicidal consideration (52% vs 40%), Attempted suicide (17% vs 9%).”
Even though it seems like an easier outcome to transition at an early age, there are still problems for people who transition early in life. Some parents worry about their kids decided to take that step; they are afraid of the hardships their child would face. This is completely understandable because previous generations had a huge phobia of the LGBTQ+ community. The last thing parents want is for their child to struggle more just for being themselves.
We still live in a time when it is very possible for some of them to get hurt. Some people disagree with the lifestyle choices of transsexuals, and some even take it as far as killing trans people or bullying them till they kill themselves. The article Study Finds that Early Social Transition for Transgender Youth Results in Good Mental Health Outcomes but Unaccepting School Environments May Lead to a Greater Risk of Suicidality speaks on how harassment affects trans mental health.
“BOSTON, July 21, 2021—A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health finds that a social transition during childhood or adolescence is not harmful to transgender or gender diverse youth, but experiences of harassment based on gender identity in K-12 school environments are.”
Even though transsexual men and women can benefit by knowing what gender they want to be at an early age, it is harmful when other kids do not understand. Cisgender kids do not have the same thinking process as trans kid who is dealing with gender dysphoria. Often, cisgender kids are going to attack trans kids because they are different. Most kids are taught traditional gender values from their parents. If their parents are harsh on their child for breaking those gender norm rules at home, that ignorance is passed down and can turn into something violent.
According to Forbes, almost 375 transgender people were killed in 2021. Now, last year is being called the deadliest year of violence towards transgender people since records began. The worst part about that number is that one in four of those murders took place at home. Can you imagine if it was one of your kids getting killed? It would be impossible to bring up a child who is trans with so much violence against them. The last thing parents want to do is make that a possibility.
When kids are coming to terms with who they identify as they usually start to socially transition themselves to the areas where they feel comfortable. But this does not always mean they wish to be that gender. Some, they are just more attracted to feminine or masculine qualities. Not all children are 100% sure of what they want. In the beginning stages of child development, they are just starting to come to terms with their position in life, let alone their identity.
It takes some a lifetime to figure out who they are as a person. In the article, The Danger of Letting Children Transition Too Early, Leyla Sanai speaks on the dangers of parents assuming their child needs a sex change.
“An Oxford University associate professor of sociology Michael Biggs has also accused GIDS of suppressing negative results of hormone treatment and said his research suggested that after a year of treatment ‘a significant increase’ was found in patients born female who had transitioned to male confiding in staff that they self-harmed. These fears seem eminently sensible to doctors and people alike. It has been shown that some parents encourage children to change gender when in reality, the children are simply gay.”
The effect of abuse and being taken advantage of is hard on anyone. People who are transgender do not have an easy road. No one around them understands where they are coming from. It is understandable that parents will have a problem with kids transitioning because of the harassment that will happen. Especially when they are at school. Just because their life is different from others, people do unnecessary and harmful actions. In the article What Age Do Transgender Kids Know They’re Trans Tyler Santora talks about the abuse transsexual men and women have to face and how it impacts them.
“Life is hard for transgender kids. Rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide tower over the lives of transgender kids at dramatically higher rates than their cisgender peers. One obvious and troubling reason for this is sexual violence. About 30 percent of trans high schoolers report being the victim of sexual violence within the past year, three times the rate of cisgender peers.”
Can you imagine sending your trans kid to school and they end up getting hurt? This experience is not easy to overcome. Once you experience a traumatic event, that event affects you mentally. It will impact you in all areas of your life and it can be hard to overcome. All because of a decision you have made for yourself. When making hard decisions like this, just take into consideration that depression and abuse may come into play at some point.
Even though parents’ intentions are good, transgender ideas can be learned too early for kids to fully understand. These ideas can cause early confusion and can put them in a position that will be hard to get out of.
The main problem is that society focuses too much on gender roles. Because of this, when a kid doesn’t follow traditional roles, changing genders is their first option. What is really being said is we should not make assumptions off the bat, and make sure this is really what’s best for the child. The Tyler Santora article, above, supports this point.
“There’s no clear evidence that points to any parenting behavior or experience that would cause a person to be transgender. But what the research does say is pretty clear: Sex is not even a binary. Our whole notion that there are only boys and girls, and only cisgender boys and girls, is flawed from the very beginning.”
Even though some parents have very good reasons to have their kids transition, I still think it is too soon to let your child make that choice. Kids are just now trying to understand who they are and in order to make that decision, they must grow into their original selves first. Kids have no idea who they are yet, so putting them in a position that is serious does not prepare them for the challenges they face ahead. I am not saying supporting your child during this time is bad. Just make sure whatever decision you make turns out to be the right choice for their development.
Yes, we as a nation have come a long way when it comes to recognizing the rights of transsexuals, but we still have areas where improvement is needed. Whether you are for or against young children transitioning, we all must come to an understanding; we all want what is best for children. Just keep in mind that regardless of what decision is being made, just know that the child is the one that is going to be most affected by it, not you. Think about how it will benefit them.