Raising A Transgender Child

Raising A Transgender Child

Here is a personal story of a Mum who is experiencing the parenting journey of raising a transgender child.

I raised my child with the intent of growing a wonderful adult, full of creativity, keen to explore and confident enough to ask questions. I really tried hard not to project my ideas and expectations on to my child. I offered options. Perhaps it’s because I felt I hadn’t been offered enough choices in my growing-up. I do realise that in having a daughter, there was a small optimism that I could realise my unfulfilled dreams through her.

My daughter told me she was transgender when she was nine years old. We always knew she was a tom-boy and she was clear to explain to us that she was not like other girls, she was more like a boy. I didn’t introduce her to the vocabulary of transgender because I didn’t want to put words in her mouth and I thought it was probably just a phase. A phase that lasts the majority of her life, I realise now, is not a phase.

As she became more and more independent, the toddler could dress herself and then actually choose what to wear as well. As a pre-schooler she would wear shorts and t-shirts except for special occasions when I would insist on a dress or skirt that a relative had purchased. We’d go shopping and she wouldn’t come into the store but would sit outside so I could hold up my suggestions on hangers. “Too frilly!… too pink!… too peachy!… flowers?!”. Until we left with a camo-print t-shirt and two pairs of cargo shorts. This went on for years.

My child identified as a transgender from the age of eight years old

At age eight, we were out having dinner and an older lady passed our table on the way to pay her bill. “What a beautiful son you have. So well-behaved. What a heart-breaker he’ll be, like a little Brad Pitt”. She walked away and then between us began the conversation about who Brad Pitt was and that the comment was intended as a compliment. My daughter, masculinely dressed and with a boy-haircut, looked like a handsome young man. “Ironic”, I said, “given that Brad Pitt has a transgender son. And actually you do look a little like him!”. That was when she was introduced to that term, and once it was explained she exclaimed, “transgender! That’s me”.

Researching gender diversity

So, I’m the kind of parent that, when confronted with something like this, finds out all there is to know about the topic. I’ve read, I’ve watched, I’ve attended conferences, Facebook groups, in-person coffee meetups, rallies and numerous doctor’s appointments. I’m now safely a parental expert on the gender diverse child. I’d like to share what I’ve learnt.

There’s different groups of gender diversity;

  • The gender curious/ the gender fluid/ non-binary
  • The transgender
  • The pre-homosexuals

The pre-homosexuals don’t tend to identify these awkward feelings until puberty or just before. Gender and sexuality are two different things. They tend to wonder whether they’re born in the wrong body but then eventually figure out that they’re happy with their body but don’t conform to traditional romantic attractions. Usually this is pretty easy to identify once they get to puberty.

The gender curious and the transgender may be difficult to differentiate and this is where a lot of parents, medical professionals and critics get caught up. What if a child believes themselves to be transgender, then makes some regrettable changes (with the help of parents, health professionals and so on) and decides to transition back to their birth-assigned gender only to realise they regret making those changes. Wouldn’t we all feel terrible?

Hence why it is recommended, and accepted as the preferred pathway, for children to socially transition first. This means living life as their preferred gender, firstly at home then reaching out to particular social environments, with extended family and usually finishing with a transition at school. The child can control the timeline, the introduction of different pronouns and a change of name if desired. Only then, when a child has lived a number of years in their identified gender, does medical intervention have a role.

When medicine is introduced it is largely reversible. It begins with “puberty blocking” once a natural puberty starts, medicine is given to stop this process. This can be reversed at any time, so a child can progress through a natural puberty on cessation of this medications, should they “change their mind”. Usually in the mid-teens the hormone of the affirmed gender can commence: testosterone for boys and oestrogen for girls. It is fairly easy to create a masculine face and physique with appropriate levels of testosterone. Feminising boys is more difficult if they have already been through a male puberty, so the introduction of puberty blockers at an early age is more important for them.

Of those who have socially transitioned, less than 1% “change their minds” or desist with the course of treatment.

For transgender people who are not socially supported and respected, approximately 50% attempt suicide.

24.9% of LGBTQA people aged 14 to 21 live in regional towns or cities and

10.5% live in rural or remote locations

I know that in the appropriately supportive family, school, community and political network, my son will flourish as a trans-male. He will have the same risk of suicide as the rest of the population. For now, he lives as a boy and there is no confusion for him whatsoever. He plays with other boys, likes boy toys, dresses like a boy and has boy mannerisms. He corrects us if we accidently use the wrong pronouns and he feels proud to be a trans-boy. My hopes of living my girly dreams have vanished and I now only feel empowered to support my son in his chosen life path.

If you have a gender non-conforming child, you will undoubtably need support. Navigating the public and private health system, parent support groups and the politics of the issue can be difficult. Please contact me at katie.williamson@gmail.com.

Dr Katie Williamson is a parent of a trans-boy, is a General Practitioner and Medical Educator.

References and resources:

TransHub resource platform

The Gender Centre

LGBTIQ+ Health Australia – April 2021

Wear It Purple organisation

Headspace organisation for mental health support and locations in Bathurst, Cowra and Orange

Amorette Zielinski

Amorette is a Mum of two boys who often keep her flying by the seat of her pants and a wife to a man who is so much fun to share life with; never dull! Friends often call her a ‘connector’ because she loves putting like minded people together curating experiences for them.

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