Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Helping Our Trans Children

Brandon Simms is eight years old and lives in a small town with his parents. Since his youngest days, Brandon has felt female. After much research and heart-searching, his parents are now letting him grow up as Bridgette. His case is one of many in which parents are navigating the often difficult path of accepting their transgender children for who they truly are.

At the toy store, Brandon would head straight for the aisles with the Barbies or the pink and purple dollhouses. Tina wouldn’t buy them, instead steering him to neutral toys: puzzles or building blocks or cool neon markers. One weekend, when Brandon was 2½, she took him to visit her 10-year-old cousin. When Brandon took to one of the many dolls in her huge collection—a blonde Barbie in a pink sparkly dress—Tina let him bring it home. He carried it everywhere, “even slept with it, like a teddy bear.”

Be sure to read today's article in The Atlantic. This is a thought-provoking look into the lives of families with young children who are transgender, and hurdles they face through the misunderstandings of loved ones, neighbors, and even some anti-trans therapists. I really enjoyed reading that there are children who are lucky enough to have parents who are willing to listen and learn, and help their children grow to reach their potential.


KS1 said...

I have some problems with this article. As I was reading it some words and phrasing really popped out at me that seems to me to put a negative tone to the article.
First of all the title of the article was "A Boy's Life"---this is not a boy, but a transgendered female. Also the subtitle said this:
"Since he could speak, Brandon, now 8, has insisted that he was meant to be a girl. This summer, his parents decided to let him grow up as one. His case, and a rising number of others like it, illuminates a heated scientific debate about the nature of gender—and raises troubling questions about whether the limits of child indulgence have stretched too far."
"Child Indulgence?" As the parent of a female affirmed 8-year-old, and as any parent of a transgendered child can tell you, transitioning your child is not like relenting to some random whim or indulging your child. It is a life-saving treatment to a medical condition your child was born with.
She also referred to parents like myself as a "subculture". I am not part of any "subculture." Referring to me and families like mine is demeaning. She also said most therapists dont advocate for transitioning our kids...who says? She did not attribute this to anyone and I have seen the COMPLETE opposite and I live in small-town Kansas. I have seen most therapists and counselors and social workers be supportive and understanding.
And WHY would a lesbian mom be an "unlikely friend" Also at one point she referred to someone at the Philly conference who transitioned in his 50's and HE looked like "a biblical prophet with breasts" that's awful... "HE" was a transgendered FEMALE.
Also notice that she said Dr. Spacks' evaluation was not as comprehensive as Zuckers...not mentioning...the most often the kids Spack see have been in therapy and have been diagnosed. I realize that the "other side" has to be written about too to make a story fair but Zucker seemed to be put in a more positive if more psychiatrists believe his theory's when they dont...(nor do they even make sense in my opinion)but of course society seems to think it is far better to be gay than transgendered? Something of course that has GOT to be changed...because gay and trans are not the same and the parents who support their trans kids should not be described as a "subculture" anymore than parents who support their gay kids.
This reporter did her research but she let her own opinions slip in there.
I could go on...but just read the article again and you can really see a subtle undertone that is negative.
Kari, proud mom of 8-year old affirmed female.

Anonymous said...

I am in agreement with Kari on this. I realize that to those who are not raising a transgender child, this article seems to be well-written and unbiased. However, as the mom of an 8-year-old trans-boy, I find it disturbing, opinionated, and harmful.

I DO think Hannah Rosin was quite careful not to blatantly state her opinions and attempted to casually represent all sides of the issue. However, I think she failed miserably. Actually. the article was brilliant in that she used it as a carefully written forum to say that we, the parents of these kids, are messed up and causing harm to our children. She obviously has no clue!

Firstly, Hannah Rosin had access to literally DOZENS of families who were going through transition with their children. She chose to highlight a family who was at the very beginning stages of transition - a family who was vulnerable - and she took advantage of them.

Consistently throughout the article, Rosin uses incorrect pronouns when talking about trans-kids (and adults). When talking about "Jazz" who was featured in the Barbara Walters 20/20 special, Rosin deliberately takes the word "she" out of Jazz's mother's quote so that she can highlight her opinion that "Jazz" is a boy. Anyone who has ever met "Jazz" can clearly see that "Jazz" is all girl.

One paragraph specifically referred to a workshop presented by Kim Pearson, TYFA (Trans Youth Family Allies) Executive Director. Rosin said that Pearson encouraged parents to use a "quasi-therapeutic language that... inspires deference." That's simply not accurate. I was at the conference. I attended that workshop. Kim Pearson did not say anything like that at all.

Rosin also states that parents of young trans-children "are open to letting even preschool children define their own needs." I beg to differ. Rosin's insinuation that trans children wake up one morning and tell their parents that they are the opposite gender, and their parents say, "Okay, let's go buy you some different clothes," is absolutely absurd. She neglects to articulate the denial that parents go through initially; she fails to mention the struggles that parents face when trying to ascertain why their child is feeling the way they are; she doesn't even touch upon any of the events that lead up to allowing a child to socially transition. She writes as though we are discussing a 4-year-old who wants a lollipop, and after five minutes of arguing, the parent gives in and buys one for their tantrumming child.

Later, Rosin attempts to discredit Dr. Norman Spack from the description of his office to the accusation that Dr. Spack does not require an extensive diagnostic protocol before treatment. One point that Rosin fails to mention is that Dr. Spack's patients are screened and diagnosed BEFORE ever setting foot in his office. Patient's must first see numerous other health professionals who handle therapy, social transitioning, sometimes hormonal tests, etc., and only consult with Dr. Spack when it is determined that transition is the most viable option for the child. Even after many years of care by other professionals, Dr. Spack and his associates still screen patients to make sure that blockers and/or HRT is the best alternative.

I could go on and on. As one of the parents who spoke to Rosin and the Trans Health Conference at Mazonni Center, let me tell you that her story is a betrayal. We trusted her to write an objective piece. We trusted her to represent our children and their situations accurately. She did neither. I am thankful that Rosin did not choose my child to highlight in her article. Unlike my son's social transition, THAT would have been a huge mistake.


Kim Pearson said...

All I can say is WOW and ask that folks please read this article with a critical eye.

It wasn't a great article. There was some good information and there was some mis-information and there were some very unfortunate descriptions of transgender people.

Parents of transgender children were referred to in some pretty harsh ways.

The fact is we are parents. Parents who are doing the best we can to help our children live healthy and productive lives. We may not care what the statistics do or don't say. We may not care what society thinks is 'normal' or what social conventions dictate. When you are faced with the possibility of your child taking their own life because they are so miserable and you find out that there just might be a way for them to survive and be happy wouldn't you consider opening your mind to that possibility?

Folks can talk till they are blue in the face about this and can throw out all the theories they want, but one thing will not change...keeping children alive is the bottom line. That is never mentioned in the article.

One of my best friends lost her child last October and I nearly lost my own. This is our reality and we choose life for our children.