“What’s Missing from the Conversation About Transgender Kids”: New York Magazine

makes an increasingly-important point:

“If you wait until puberty has got a little way along, a fair proportion of the children change the clinical presentation and feel more like straightforward lesbian and gay kids,” said Barrett. “They don’t seek social role change any more and will end up with no need for lifelong medical intervention, surgery and with no loss of natural fertility should they want children.”

more. This article notes the limits of the studies we have about kids with gender dysphoria, and addresses some critiques of the position I just quoted. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this stuff but I do think two things are clear: 1) Our gender roles are bizarrely rigid. Pink princess everything for girls; gender norms for boys’ behavior are so constricting that ridiculously normal things like ballet and dolls (these are the examples in the NY Mag article!) mark a little boy as “gender-nonconforming.”

2) American culture assumes we have much greater control over our lives than we really do. It can feel like it’s immoral to assert one’s own helplessness, to say that some problems have to be lived through for a long time rather than resolved. We want a happy ending of change–taking the reins of our destiny–rather than a happy ending of acceptance. And we want it fast. I mean I’m a convert so I can’t talk, maybe this is my story too!, but I think it makes it much harder for Americans to accept a condition of waiting.

One thing I noticed when I watched MTV’s Transgeneration documentary was the way adults, including parents of teens who identified as transgender, would often be more comfortable with an unambiguous statement, “I’m transitioning, I’m taking hormones and getting surgery,” than with unresolved emotions like, “I feel really out of place in my assigned sex but I’m just not sure what I want to do about that.” It can be easier to explain to yourself or your relatives that you thought your kid was a boy but she’s really a girl than to say neither of you really know for sure what’s going on or what would be the best future for your child.

As with so many things in parenting–and life generally!–you’ve got to be able to live with uncertainty and ambiguity. That can be really painful. It can make you feel like there’s no answer to questions that torment you. Patience is a virtue in part because it’s an acceptance of suffering. Also, everything in life takes a million times longer than you think you can bear.

(I feel like there should be a WMATA joke there to lighten the mood.)


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