For most of his childhood, my son showed signs of wanting to present as female. He kept his hair long, preferred wearing female clothing at home, enjoyed using nail polish and lipstick, chose to hang out mostly with girls rather than boys. By the onset of adolescence, he begged to be allowed to take puberty blockers as he didn’t want his voice to deepen or to develop facial hair and other male characteristics. I had long discussions with him, his doctor and therapist and decided to go along with his wishes. It was his body and he was the only one who knew what it felt like to be inside of it. So in his seventh grade year, he started on a program of hormone suppressants, changed his name and gender and happily became a girl. Luckily we live in quite a liberal city and his teachers, school and peers were sympathetic. Not all my friends, or even family members were, however, and that’s the problem. When I asked people who’d been part of my new daughter’s life since early childhood to attend her birthday party, for instance, they said they didn’t approve of gender change until the child was an adult and until such a time wouldn’t be able to use the right pronouns or even my daughter’s new name. This has caused me and my child great pain. What advice can you give about easing the way for my daughter with old friends and family opposed to the choice she’s made?
Mother of a Trans Child
As you know, opinion is very divided on this subject and your trans child has made a brave and difficult choice. Many people would say she’s far too young for this particular choice — that she may feel one way at twelve or thirteen and completely differently by the time she’s arrived at adulthood. However, puberty blockers can be reversed, and many would argue that there’s no harm for an individual to take the drugs (along with a lot of counseling) and explore their gender earlier rather than later in life. Again, this is a choice and obviously a very personal one. In the case of your daughter, I would suggest you limit her exposure to friends and family members who disapprove of her choice. Why submit her to that kind of censure? It’s unlikely that you will change anyone’s mind about your daughter’s decision, so you might as well keep her life as simple and easy as possible — she will have enough battles to face with strangers as she makes her way through the world. You, as her mother, should provide comfort, security and understanding but be careful not to influence her in her gender choices; these have to come from her own heart and being.
I wish you the best,
REACTIONS TO MOTHER OF AN EATING DISORDERED KID
Hey, I feel for you. I was in denial about my daughter’s problem from when it started, around age 14, till she turned 20 and by then it was full-blown and so ingrained in her system that it took eight months in rehab to turn her around. But at least she got turned around. By the end she was so painfully thin, we were really scared for her.
Jane B., NYC
This is a deep psychological problem that needs to be addressed immediately. I am very open about this because my own daughter died of heart failure due to anorexia. Don’t hesitate! Do the right thing and get help for your daughter before it’s too late.
John S., Philadelphia, PA
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Disclaimer: CD Knowles is not a doctor or psychotherapist. Any opinions expressed on Knowles Knows are just that — opinions.