Can we have an informal chat about TRANSGENDER issues in Primary school children?

(71 Posts)

We had a letter home from school today advising parents to watch a programme on tv this evening about transgender and transexuality, in relation to children. The letter was from the parents of a boy in year 4, who feels he is a girl in the wrong body, asking for understanding for their child and the problems he/she is facing, physcially and emotionally from now on. The letter said that statistically 1 in 4 transgender children commit suicide before adulthood, and a gender corrective operation is on the agenda for this child.

I have never had to ponder this particular issue, and I am keen to get some perspective on how to talk to my own son about it.

I remember this boy from before, the staff was referring to him (or she) as very camp and very gay. The letter said his condition should not be confused with homosexuality, as this was secondary to the entire issue, like a "side effect".

I asked my son if he knew we had a letter home from school, and what it was about and he said "sure it is about Peter in year 4 who is really supposed to be in a girls body". Pretty straight foreward so far, but I assume as the letter has gone out today, the programme is on tonight it is for sure the talk of the school the next few days/weeks.

Opinions?

claraquack Tue 19-Jan-10 16:26:38

What the? Sorry but year4 makes him how old? Mine haven't started school yet so not sure of ages. But surely too young to know this already????

Year 4 here are 10 / 11 year old (we start school at 6 here)

fernie3 Tue 19-Jan-10 16:30:18

I think its great that both the parents and the school are trying to educate people about this BUTI worry that so much attention on him may single him out even more.

claraquack Tue 19-Jan-10 16:32:33

All sounds a bit ridiculously pc to me but perhaps I am behind the times.

iheartdusty Tue 19-Jan-10 16:40:02

well clara, let's hope your DC don't have any issues around their sense of identity then. What an unhelpful post.

southeastastra Tue 19-Jan-10 16:41:31

ooh i read a really good book about a bloke who was transgender, he knew from a really young age that he was in the wrong body. was really interesting. there was also a documentary about him with a less than helpful nhs doctor.

FabIsGoingToBeFabIn2010 Tue 19-Jan-10 16:46:16

My son is year four and the children are 8/9 in his year.

I wouldn't watch the program or talk to my son about it - unless he asked specific questions.

I wouldn't have any problem watching it and talking to DD (10) or DS (11) about it.

What I would be more hmm at is "Peter" knowing he was transgender at 10, but then I have little experience of transgenderism so afaik that might be normal. And I would personally be angry at the staff referring to him as "very gay", how unprofessional and just downright inaccurate.

NorbertDentressangle Tue 19-Jan-10 16:53:46

My gut reaction is that its probably a good way of dealing with things, although I don't have any experience of this.

The programme (which the parents of the child in school have presumably seen and found positive in its approach) will presumably "educate" the parents of the other children in the school, dispel myths, answer questions they may have etc.

It brings it out into the open and will hopefully avoid the whispering behind backs as people notice how this child is different (you said the teachers have already made comments about his "campness" etc).

Actually its just reminded me of a situation from years ago -my male GP who had a full sex change. He sent a letter out to all patients explaining everything, how he would be dressing and living as a woman for x months, later having surgery etc. It avoided the local paper running a " shocked exclusive" and patients wondering what was going on when Dr X started looking different. No doubt there were still some pateints who had a problem with it but the GP had been open and honest and tried their hardest to make the transition smoothly.

What age is your own son? I'd look at the listing for the documentary and decide whether it sounded a suitable level - this family may be thinking from their own perspective that it is suitable for 10/11 yo but if your son is younger then it might not be so suitable for him.

Whether or not he watches it, you can have a fairly low-key conversation about the general "being nice/not bullying" issue, but it sounds from his comments that he's not that bothered by the whole concept.

claraquack Tue 19-Jan-10 18:18:36

iheartdusty - really? she asked for opinion, I gave it. And I suspect that that is probably what about ninety per cent of people would say if you asked them on the street. Just because it is different from your opinion why is that so unhelpful?

Sorry but transgender issues in primary school? Can't we let children be children for a bit longer?

However. like I said I am probably totally behind the times and maybe 10-year-old pre-pubescents know a lot more about themselves than I give them credit for.

Acanthus Tue 19-Jan-10 18:20:22

I'd watch it myself, then decide whather to show DS

AitchTwoOhOneOh Tue 19-Jan-10 18:22:22

i think the parents are handling it well, tbh. there was a doco on before christmas, young kids completely consistent in their opinion that they were wrongly identified as girls/boys.
my dd1 is deffo a girl, is fond of saying that she is etc, i can't imagine how confusing it must be for a child who felt as strongly as she does but who everyone else saw as a boy.

nickschick Tue 19-Jan-10 18:23:29

I think its sad that we cannot support a young child with what is clearly a very emotive issue without such negativity.

I have always tried to very open with my dc and as a result I think I have 3 well informed dc.

Id be pleased that your son already understands and accepts the child for who he is -perhaps its mainly to educate the parents?

RubysReturn Tue 19-Jan-10 18:23:59

I have a vague feeling that transgender issues are paid more attention to these days before puberty, as it is possible to delay puberty for boys->girls using hormones - temporarily at least until they are old/mature enough to make permanent decisions that don't leave them 6' 4" with huge hands and feet and would be unlikely to make reassignement convincing, so maybe that is why it is being raised.

tbh it sounds as if your ds knows what he needs to know already to me.

TotalChaos Tue 19-Jan-10 18:28:28

sounds like your DS doesn't really need further discussion - sounds like he's taking the info about the boy is his stride, in a matter of fact way. I would watch the TV programme, but not let your DS see it unless you think it will be suitable/informative.

sugartits Tue 19-Jan-10 18:35:51

I think that the parents of this child sound great, they surely wouldn't get to the point of talking to the school let alone all the parents unless they were absolutely convinced it was the right thing to do. As we are always telling parents that they know their child best then I'd assume that they had very good reason for exploring this issue.

I also think that children of this age are very accepting we have some good friends who used to live next door who are gay. Our dc's know they are a same sex couple who love each other - no problems. Knowing this isn't going to affect their sexuality. So, in a similar vein I'd only explain it to my dc in the brilliant way that the op's son explained it to her.

I really cannot see why this would be an issue.

wannaBe Tue 19-Jan-10 18:43:37

well, nothing wrong with being supportive of one's child and how he/she feels and asking for support from the school. But I cannot understand why any parent would want to put their child through having a documentary made about what is essentially one of the most difficult things he will ever have to deal with in his life. I can't comprehend why any parent would do that.

tethersend Tue 19-Jan-10 19:03:20

I have taught a transgender child (a girl who felt (s)he was living in the wrong body) and he was the one of the most complex cases I have ever seen. Parents were in complete denial, teachers didn't know how to handle it, and he withdrew completely into himself.

Other children were completely unfazed by it. Children never fail to astound me with their level of acceptance and capability to understand; they made the adults look like a bunch of bumbling idiots.

This child- and I am convinced other transgender children- knew he was in the wrong body from a very early age, and dressed as a boy from the time he could express an opinion.

It sounds to me as if this child's parents and the school are handling this well.

mamazon Tue 19-Jan-10 19:07:47

my daughter is 5 and she knows very clearly that she is a girl.

why is it so difficult to understand that an 8/9 yeasr old would also feel that they are male or female, despite what their body tells them.

such an ignorant view.

I hope you do watch the tv show and i hope it helps you understand how this girl feels.

I would also hope that your son continues to be so fabulously ok with it all.

AitchTwoOhOneOh Tue 19-Jan-10 19:09:43

quint, do you have the programme info on the show, from the newspaper? i bet it's the same show that was on here before christmas. it was really good, well worth a watch, nothing remotely disturbing, all very matter of fact and the children w(who had been allowed to dress for their true gender for a while) were just completely compelling and at the same time ordinary. watch it and then see if you think it's suitable for him, i'm not sure how old year 4 is.

I missed the first few minutes of the beginning of the programme, as I was at my parents with ds2, but it seems it is an American production, the kids are called Kai and Josie, do you reckon it is the same you saw before Christmas?
So far it seems good and informative. I will watch it on my own, and see if we can find it on I player or somewhere, if it seems ok for my 7 year old son to watch. Commercials are over, so I will be back later. smile

JeremyVile Tue 19-Jan-10 20:10:22

Yeah, its the same one.
Nicely done iirc.

Horton Tue 19-Jan-10 20:31:06

I can absolutely see why you'd let your transgendered child take part in a documentary like that. Presumably the parents would think that the more open we can be about such issues and the more knowledge people have instead of ill-informed prejudice the better the outcome and lives of all children who are struggling with such issues. It must be an enormously hard thing to tackle and good on them for opening up their lives to people who may never have encountered this issue in their daily lives. Hopefully some who watch it will be kinder to someone with the same issues in the future.

As for the OP, I wouldn't have a problem with letting a child watch something like that. It might help them in exactly the same way that it would help anyone else who saw it by demystifying and explaining and making it more 'normal'. Your son sounds like a credit to you with his matter of fact acceptance of the issue - well done on bringing up such an open-minded little boy!

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