There is a pet peeve I have had for a long time now that I have been keeping to myself. It hit a boiling point after my last guest column. As a parent we have to respect the line of our child’s body and our parental authority. I got feedback from two parents of trans teens who were horrified that I “allowed” the guest column. They are opposed to bottom surgery and do not ever want it for their children. They do not want my column to give the impression that it is acceptable to have bottom surgery. One even told me that it was dangerous for me to allow this because my kid is popular and other trans kids think I am cool. There is a line and we need to mind it. This isn’t your journey. This isn’t your body. That said, this is your child.
I am going to flash back several years to when I was a minister and had a mess put into my lap. A young lady in my church was raped the night of her prom. She would later find that she had become pregnant from that rape. Her parents were physically and verbally abusive. If they were to find out about this, they would have hurt her badly. Department of child services had investigated the home a few times, but the father had political connections locally and was always able to make investigations go away. This was a teenage girl with no recourse or viable options. She was able to terminate the pregnancy without parental consent.
This young lady had the legal right in our state to exercise her reproductive rights without the consent of a parent. However, if she were trans, she would have less rights in regard to her body and her gender identity. The parents are the bridge to a child’s medical transition. Some parents become the troll blocking passage to that bridge.
The most common barrier I encounter is the divorced parent or the one parent that supports and is blocked by the other. I see this in parent support groups often. You will have a parent who supports, accepts, and affirms their child completely. The other parent, however, does not. The supportive will be blocked from allowing hormone therapy, legal name changes and many other essential options for the health and well being of a child who is transgender, fluid, or anywhere in the non binary spectrum.
The most common barrier my son encounters with peers that reach out to him is the parent who makes medical declarations from a position of willful ignorance. They hold off on the name changes and the hormone therapy not realizing (or sometimes caring about) the triggering harmful effect this has on dysphoria.I fully understand that there are other factors in the mix that may make parental intervention necessary and I also understand that not every matter our child wants is something that is affordable. What I am trying to get at is there is a difference between an inability to support our child in the way they may need verses an unwillingness to support our child.
There have been things my child has needed that I have not been able to afford. It is a painful position to be in. But it is also the reality for many families in America regardless the gender identity or orientation of one’s child. Lack of funds, access to healthcare, and other factors prohibit families every day.
We also need to be honest and know that sometimes children want things that are not good for them. We as parents need to step in and make sure they do not have a diet consisting solely of pizza, cola and candy. So what is a parent to do when their child expresses a need that makes us uncomfortable? How do we determine what is a need that we should address and what is a desire that could be harmful?
When dealing with matters of gender identity or sexual orientation we have to remember that our opinions are not always the correct ones. This is not our journey. We have to do the very hard thing, open our minds, and educate ourselves. Prior to 2006 I had a conservative evangelical “biblical” view on LGBTQIA issues. If I was still in that space when my son came out in 2014, it would not only have been harmful to my child, it would have been potentially deadly to my child.
There are times when name changes, medication, and surgery is not appropriate for a child at a given time in their life. My son met for over a year with a therapist before he began his medical transition. There was one point where his therapist felt he was ready. My son decided he needed more time in an incredibly mature show of self awareness. I know some parents who have wanted to support their child in medical transition. They had to hold off for extremely valid reasons.
Finally, if there is a parent who moves forward in a direction that you as a family have not, tread very lightly in your judgement of them. There are factors that we do not know about. Each journey is going to be very different. Some children come out when they are in grade school and others as young adults. There are some children that place high value on passing and others that do not. Some transgender people elect not to have hormones, top surgery, or bottom surgery. This is their body and their journey.
Support their journey with wisdom. Support their journey with love. Being a parent does make you an authority, but there is more to being a parent than being an authority.
We hold the key to the treasure of their becoming. Be their champion who opens treasure, not their warden that locks them in.