The Cognition of Transgender Teens and Decisive Decisions

The Cognition of Transgender Teens and Decisive Decisions November 15, 2017

decisionsThere is so much parents of cisgender straight kids do not understand about our kids. That doesn’t stop many from pontificating on it. Many of them comment on how mature and well thought out my son is. In conversations I have had with other parents of transgender teenagers, they often get the same thing said about their child. There’s a reason for this. Our kids make several hard decisions in this road and the very act of being themselves is politicized.

This is, frankly, in response to a conversation I recently had with a dad of a cisgender straight child. He told me that it is impossible for a teen to be trans or gay because their brains are not scientifically developed to understand these choices. I asked him to cite a source, and he could not. The ambiguous ‘they’ and ‘them’ struck again. I asked him how old he was when he had his first kiss, his first crush, date, and loss of virginity. All of these events where he was established as a cisgender straight male with a penchant for brunettes occurred when it is allegedly impossible for my child to know his gender identity and sexual orientation.

When someone first comes out, they have to decide who they can confide in and who they cannot until they are ready to be out. My son had to pick his allies who would not only accept him, but be his ally as he came out publically. This is a deliberate and strategic move.

After he came out there was a series of other decisions that were mature and proved his cognition. The biggest was “the letter”. Before he could start his medical transition with hormone therapy, he needed a letter from a therapist and supervising psychiatrist that had to be recognized and approved by the hospital administering the hormone therapy. This letter states that he is fully aware of the permanency of this next step and mature enough to know what being transgender means. This is not to support a diagnosis. This is to ensure the child knows what they are doing and is not being coerced. For my son, this process took about a year with a therapist he still sees. His therapist actually offered him the letter months before he accepted it. He had told the therapist he needed more time to go through some more items with her.

He had to decide on a name. Anyone who has ever been an expectant parent knows the arduous process of choosing a name for your child. Imagine having to choose a name for yourself. That may seem innocuous enough. But this decision had many hurdles. The small ones were telling friends, family, and school administrators the name and pronoun he was to be referred as. If someone refused or accidentally used the wrong name and pronoun, he had to stand up and state his correct name and proper pronoun. Sometimes that happened in a room full of teens staring at him as a teacher got it wrong.

There came a point where he had to stand in front of a judge, in a courtroom full of people, and state that this was the name he wanted to go by. He answered questions with a lawyer at his side and the judged ruled in his favor. From there, it was visits to the social security administration and the DMV. He not only had to know his rights, but had to explain them to an administrator who tried to reject the change based on personal bias.

Then there was the hardest decision a teenager has to make. A decision many of us have a lifetime to make. Will he have genetic children? Before he could start on his hormone therapy, that decision had to be made. Because once he started the hormone therapy, there may be no going back from this decision. If he wanted to have children someday of his own, his eggs would have to be harvested and frozen now. The same goes for transgender teen girls regarding their sperm. This procedure is a hard one that some teens feel is worth the dysphoria triggers and others do not. Ultimately, he decided against the procedure. He had to, again, show a therapist that he understood the permanency of the decision and he had to stand by that decision even in the face of family members who disagreed with the choice.

I am proud of my son. He has had to make decisions that many teens do not have to face. He also had to defend them. This misnomer that his brain is not developed enough to make this decision is not the opinion of multiple therapists, physicians, lawyers and judges. May we all be aware of how brave and thoughtful transgender teens are. They make decisions many adults struggle with.

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