It is time to depart trans children alone
What if leaving your child the way they are was so controversial that it regularly sparked outrage? social media? What if there were articles, videos, and documentaries about kids like yours arguing against their access to public washrooms, exercise, or proper medical care? What if these were forwarded to you by concerned family members or used as a reason for refusing to support your child?
Welcome to my life – and the lives of many parents of transgender children.
It seems we can’t go more than a few days without another attack on trans children. I don’t use the word “attack” lightly either. The spate of media articles and online commentary targeting the rights and identities of trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming young people, while not physical violence, is no less harmful – and it needs to stop.
For years, I have watched society vacillate between supporting trans children and condemning them. Trans adults are of course also affected, but children are particularly vulnerable to anti-trans sentiment and changes in the law. Without affirming parents, it is almost impossible for them to live authentically or happily. Without protective laws, they are increasingly discriminated against in society.
It’s time this ramblings ended. It’s time to leave trans kids and their families alone.
I am a parent of one of these children. They are 19 years old now but they came to our family in 2014 at the age of 11. During that time, I’ve watched her grow from a depressed and insecure tween who would barely go to school, to a more confident young adult who has some great friends and recently graduated from college with a 92 percent average. The change has been remarkable, and as they’ve told us many times, much of it is thanks to the unconditional support they’ve needed from day one. Watching her grow in a loving environment was very rewarding. Isn’t that what all parents want for our children?
A year after our child started living authentically, my partner told me she was a trans woman. And just last year, after much self-reflection, I came out as non-binary. You could say that our family of six knows a thing or two (or three) about the trans experience. Trans people of all ages are everywhere, even on the quiet suburban street my own family calls home.
Progress is rarely a straight line
When the idea of trans children was first introduced more broadly into society, I could understand many people’s concerns. I even shared some. Anything else will take some time to absorb. While trans identities are not new – we see examples of trans and queer people throughout history – the visibility has increased dramatically over the past decade. At least for a while, it seemed like we were getting there: trans people were being portrayed positively in the media, school boards were working on inclusion and Trans affirmative health care increasingly recognized and available.
But progress is notoriously seldom a straight line. With more acceptance came louder resistance. With more progress came new fears. Today, more weight is given to voices promoting misinformation, conspiracy theories, and even outright bigotry. In historically advanced countries like the US and UK, laws specifically targeting transgender rights are being introduced and often enforced at an alarming rate – and children are paying the price more than anyone else.
What Science Says
This trend of targeting trans children is not due to a lack of good science; there is plenty of it. Data from research over the last few years makes it overwhelmingly clear that trans people of all ages are who they say they are – they are not confused, they are not mentally ill, they are not following a trend in society – and they know it better than anyone, what you need.
In addition, studies show that young people who are supported through their transition, whatever it may be like for them, achieve better mental health outcomes. One such study showed that adolescents were given access to hormone replacement therapy a 40 percent reduction in depression and suicidal tendencies. Another shows how, when trans youth receive strong support from their parents, their The risk of suicide decreases significantly. Another example shows that when a transgender youth’s chosen name is used both inside and outside the home, the risk of attempting suicide decreases by 65 percent and symptoms of major depression are reduced by 71 percent.
In other words, when children get what they need, they thrive. If they don’t, they suffer. This is just the transgender version of a much larger truth. So if the research is clear that we must affirm young trans people, why are we still debating their existence and their rights?
It’s not because of a lack of information, but because of an abundance of transphobia.
We don’t buy your “worries”.
Unfortunately, no matter how much evidence there is out there supporting a marginalized group, there will still be people who hold bigoted views. Obvious bigotry is easy to spot. But there is a more insidious way, which manifests itself in the form of “concerns”.
It’s true that people can have real concern, especially parents who recently found out they have a trans child. Many of us were worried at first. But when strong, compelling evidence is presented to allay these concerns, they fall by the wayside. Education alleviates anxiety.
However, regularly introducing “concerns” about a marginalized group into the broader society discussion about it can cast just enough doubt to provoke backlash. Earlier generations saw this when white mothers in the US raised “concerns” about black children being allowed access to previously all-white schools. The same “concerns” have been raised about multiracial couples or people of color moving into traditionally white neighborhoods. We saw it again when anti-LGBTQ groups raised “concerns” about gays and lesbians getting married or raising children. We continue to witness Fat phobia masquerading as a health problem.
What we see in trans people today is just prejudice in a shiny new package. How do we know? There are many aspects to being trans, but society consistently sounds the alarm about one element more than any other: medical transition in trans children and the risk of regret.
“What if they change their minds?!”
Despite long waiting lists, careful scrutiny at gender identity clinics, and studies showing happy young trans adults being confirmed as teenagers, a “reasonable concern” expressed by some anti-LGBTQ groups is that teenagers are transitioning rush and will only realize that they have made a mistake when it is too late. In spite of a growing body of evidence that transgender youth receiving gender-affirming health care rarely change course A common “reasonable concern” is that being trans is just a phase for most young people. An early study showing that around 80 percent of children who claimed to be trans “rejected” — or stopped identifying themselves as such — is repeatedly cited as evidence of how trans children “usually change their minds ‘, although the research has been serious and legitimate criticism for its flawed methods.
A recent theory called Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) caused a stir, claiming that children are influenced by the media and their peers to believe they are trans. This too has happened widely discredited as a false study, as it mainly focused on the views of parents, culled from an online forum full of anti-trans sentiment. In addition, parents often see no prior signs that their child is trans or non-binary, and the child’s gender identity transition is often “quick” from the outside.
Shockingly, there is even a campaign by an anti-trans organization in the UK claiming that homophobic parents are pushing their gay children into transition so they can have a straight child instead. There is no evidence of this, of course, because it is not true (plus, a large proportion of transgender youth do not identify as straight). But it has worked well in some circles, as it cleverly sends the message that supporting lesbian or gay teens cannot support the transition.
A lot of bigotry is meant to sound reasonable, since instilling fear is far more effective than yelling at a soapbox. We can be easily manipulated with fear because it is a powerful emotion. We need to start getting acquainted with this old trick.
If you really care, learn from the source
Our job as parents is to love our children who they are– not the ones we expect them to be. We meet our children where they are and we help them to become the best versions of themselves. In order to do this, we sometimes need to overcome the fear of the unknown and grow as human beings.
Luckily we now have the internet. If we use it carefully, it is a cornucopia of education. When it comes to trans people, it makes sense to learn from the source. There are plenty of trans youth with YouTube channels and TikTok accounts to learn from, as well as advocates of all ages on every social media platform. Articles, blogs, books and documentaries are constantly appearing with trans people and their loved ones sharing their own experiences. These are far better resources than the views of those with no personal experience but with many opinions.
It’s time to stop listening to misinformation and hate. It’s time to retract the well-worn and constantly debunked arguments against young trans people. How many times do we have to go in circles before we give these kids a break and turn this into an unfortunate history lesson on recycled bigotry?
It’s exhausting constantly battling waves of misinformation, dissecting and correcting arguments aimed at a very vulnerable demographic of children — especially when one of those children is your own. Of course, trans children and their families would appreciate your acceptance and support. But at least drop the “concern” and skepticism and let them live in peace.