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Another teenage girl who want to be a boy

(195 Posts)
allatsea123 Fri 31-Mar-17 11:32:04

This is my first post on mumsnet! I have read and reread other post on girls with gender dysphoria and have gained a lot of support, so here goes! Our daughter told us about 6 months ago that she felt she should be a boy and the only way forward was to transition fully. She was 14 then, now 15. I was totally devastated and utterly lost. I had felt that something was on the horizon as she had asked for a hair cut and started wearing boyish clothes a few months previous. We didn't know what to do so suggested she give herself 6 months to think about things. We did take her to the GP though as I thought counselling might help. She was referred to CAMHS and the psychologist told us that she wasn't convinced by our daughter and that we should come back to her in a year or so. Thank god for the voice of reason, I thought! We did get referred for counselling which was not helpful because she wasn't given any strategies to help deal with her feelings. The last six months have seen her become socially isolated, depressed and she has developed an eating disorder. We are now back at CAMHS with the eating disorder nurse and hopefully soon for a more thorough assessment of her mood, OCD behaviours etc. I completely fell apart at the beginning but seem to have convinced myself that this, although very real for her at the moment, won't persist and so am better able to cope. I believe this is sudden onset gender dysphoria, she never showed any discomfort with being a girl until a few months before she told us. as a small child she was very girly, she became a tom boy for a while a primary school but never asked for boys clothes. As soon as she left primary school it was earrings, make up, hair styles etc. She embraced puberty and it doesn't seem long ago she was moaning that I wouldn't buy underwired bras. I feel as if she was struck with a thought one day that has taken hold and drawn her in. She is sad, lonely and lost and so are we. We still use her name and refer to her as she because although we know she doesn't like this she won't let us tell anyone, even her siblings so we have no choice. I know that she is totally convinced that the only way to be happy is if someone can wave a magic wand and she can leave the house tomorrow a boy. How that would help I have no idea as she would then be a girl in a boys body! She has never had any typically male interests, has an older brother but never shown an interest in his things and all her friends are girls, how could she relate to people if she was a boy? I don't know how to help her though this. We have said that we will support if she still feels this way as an adult but I can't give permission for any medical interventions when I am not convinced that this is a permanent thing. She has always been one to reinvent herself every now and then and I suppose that is what I am hoping for, that she finds a way back to being happy being herself. But how???

Thisisanotherusername Fri 31-Mar-17 11:39:25

I can't offer any advice but eating disorders, depression, social isolation, OCD behaviours and gender identity issues are common in girls with autism. Have you considered that she might be autistic?

pollyglen Fri 31-Mar-17 20:52:46

So sorry you have found yourself living in the same out of the blue nightmare i find myself in with my 13 year old dd.Life has been completely unbearable since our daughter announced she wanted to be a boy after a rapid change over a short period of time(3 months)from a regular teenage girl who just got on with things and took life in her stride to a foul mouthed depressed self-harming unrecognisible isolated child.

The change has been so dramatic.At no point in the past has she ever hinted that she was unhappy.Then she asked for a short haircut,wardrobe change and started to become fussy around food.Then two weeks later she dropped the bombshell.

We have been referred to CAMHS who are close to useless.Many appointments but no actual progress or useful treatment.We have had no Psychologist input at all.Only a counselor who always leaves me feeling like a shit mum for being upset.

I wish this would just go away.Our family is being destroyed by stress and fear for the future.Fed up walking on eggshells in case we do or say the wrong thing.

allatsea123 Sat 01-Apr-17 10:23:42

pollyglen, I am sorry that you too are in this situation. It is and has been one of worst experience of my life so far. Like you my daughter has become unrecognisable from the happy girl she was before this idea took hold. My beautiful, happy, loud girl is utterly miserable, thin and rarely speaks above a whisper.

It has put a massive strain on our marriage as it has consumed all my waking thoughts. I only feel more sane now because I have persuaded myself that it is temporary. I may be storing up trouble for the future if she does persist because I know I will find it impossible to bear watching her slowly metamorphose into someone else. I suppose if she is truly transgender it will be seeing her happy again that will make it in someway bearable. However I am putting those thoughts away as much as I can and dealing with the moment. I have said I won't give permission for any medical intervention so that will have to wait till she is 18, she has accepted this I think.

Thisisanotherusername , I have recently begun considering ASD as when reading about how teenage girls present I can see similarities with my daughter. I have asked CAMHS for an assessment with a psychologist and specifically looking at ASD and OCD. She has OCD behaviours but they may be because of her eating disorder. As a small child she would make friends by becoming a reflection of the other child and so is brilliant at accents and mimicking people. She has always found school a difficult place and now as teenager either likes people and is a loyal friend or doesn't like them so would never be rude but can't see the point of trying to be friends. She doesn't get people who are two faced or bitchy at all so a lot of teenage behaviour she doesn't want to join in with. I think this is admirable but see that it could also be the black and white way of looking at the world that some people with ASD have.

At the moment we are trying to get her weight up and I am planting the seed that while I believe she is transgender now that this may well change as she develops. This is probably an impossible notion for her though as teenagers want everything now.

pollyglen, like you I just want to wake up one morning and for everything to be back to normal and that we can get on with our lives again. I hope things settle down a bit for you and that you get some better support. The counselling sessions we had were useless so am hoping for more specific help next, although they want the weight to be stable first.

pollyglen Sat 01-Apr-17 14:45:02

Thanks all at sea,wishing you and your family all the best for the future.I too try to focus on the fact that this situation will most likely turn out to be temporary as that is the only way i can keep going on.

Stopmakingsense Sun 02-Apr-17 22:27:12

Hello Polly and AllatSea. We are going through the same thing with our 18 year old for the past 9 months. It is really horrible and I can really empathise with what you are both going through, I haven't slept properly for months and this goes round and round in my head all the time. Our DD is now being assessed for autism, being treated for her anxiety and now seeing a psychologist (for CBT for now). She has been referred to a gender clinic but I am praying that the waiting list is very long. I too keep myself sane believing that with enough love I can keep her safe from harm until she realises that it is impossible to be born in the wrong body. I daren't talk to her directly about it and risk alienating her or making her feel rejected, so try and stay positively neutral. I use her preferred name and try not to use the wrong pronoun (I actually avoid using any pronoun as calling my daughter my son is profoundly upsetting) as she does genuinely believe she is the wrong gender and I have no wish to belittle her.
I do keep mentioning to her that people are not fully mature until they are 25 (in respect of every reversible decision) in the hope that this will be an unconscious brake in her mind.
We are riding the crest of a wave here and I do think that we as a society will look back and find it incredible that so many young people who are have mental health and identity difficulties, and many on the autistic spectrum (leading to a weak sense of identity apparently) are being offered surgery and hormones.
If you haven't found have a look - loads of information there. If you scroll down and read through the comments after the blog posts, I find that most helpful (if consuming of all my spare time). Check out the feminism chat section here on Mumsnet too - you will find that there is a growing scepticism of the message being pushed by transactivists that it is possible to be born in the wrong body. But like you, I am prepared and will willingly embrace my child if she needs to live her life as a transman, as long as it is a decision taken with good mental health and maturity. It's just that every fibre of my being knows that until she began suffering from anxiety then depression she was at ease with herself and her body.

allatsea123 Mon 03-Apr-17 18:47:14

Hi Stopmakingsense, thank you I have seen 4thwave and was massively relieved when I found it. I really believe that this increase in sudden onset gender dysphoria is very different to gender dysphoria which begins at an early age when children are establishing themselves and who/what they identify as. I do appreciate that there are a small number of people who have grown up knowing they should be the other sex. For this reason I believe that the treatment and outcomes should be different too. It makes no sense that there are suddenly huge numbers of girls wanting to be boys (oddly not so many boys wanting to be girls). I have asked for a psychological assessment because if she has OCD it could be an obsessive thought pattern and then the treatment would be CBT and perhaps medication. If she has ASD then I would insist on waiting things out as with any other obsession it might pass. I totally agree with you no teenager should be allowed to make decisions on things that are irreversible when the teenage brain is not fully mature and psychology services are well aware of that. I too hope the wait for gender services is long although I am hoping that someone knowledgeable might be able to get to the bottom of things with her.

The eating disorder seems relatively straight forward compared to the gender issues, odd how our sense of normal changes! I do hope things settle down for you x

Blossom789 Mon 17-Apr-17 10:16:33

There's such a lot going on for your daughter allatsea, eating disorder, OCD, ASD, and GID. I work for camhs and my guess is they are focusing on the ED as the primary need due to weight concerns? It sounds like she needs a thorough assessment to work out what links with what. It's useful to validate her thoughts around her gender battling against it can create a distance between you and ultimately she really needs her mum at the moment.

Stopmakingsense- it'll be the Gender identity development service you've been referred to. Before I went on maternity leave, the wait was long - 9months from point of referral. You can give them a call and ask how long the wait is (you don't need to say who you are). They are very gradual with their assessment and you will have the opportunity to raise your concerns during this time.

Good luck both.

allatsea123 Mon 17-Apr-17 12:16:40

Thank you blossom, CAMHS have prioritised ED and we have just had another appointment. Weight is going up and she is accepting of the fact that her body shape will change as her weight increases, so that is positive, she is also finding it easier to eat more, which is a relief. We filled in screeners for OCD and ASD, which came back showing a lot of OCD traits , very few ASD though. I have also found a good counsellor who specialises in CBT and works with a lot of teenagers and school phobic children. First session was really positive and practical. I am hoping that some techniques to limit unhelpful thoughts will help her to manage everyday life more easily. I think she will be referred to the Tavistock for specialist counselling, although I know the wait is about 8 months and my dilemma is that as we have discussed waiting till 18 for any intervention ( she agrees with this and can see why I have suggested it) would they still be willing to help? It is just the counselling that we want , to try to help her unravel her thoughts, should I go ahead with the referral? Your thoughts would be very welcome , allatsea

Blossom789 Mon 17-Apr-17 15:07:14

Yes definitely, Tavistock will go with what you want to do. They start with an assessment/exploration period the shortest I have known this be is an appointment every 6 weeks over 6-9 months. They will explore young persons thoughts, family history and context, and also how the young person demonstrates their gender (with preferred name, clothing choices..) Following this there is the option to consider hormone blockers (I forget the lowest age this is offered) you have to take these for at least a year and be over 16 before cross sex hormones are considered. There are very rigorous physical health tests before any physical interventions are offered. Hormone blockers are sometimes offered to help young people who seem desperate to get things moving, they do not have lasting effects and having this medication can help the young person to explore there other issues rather than purely focusing on the rush to transition as they feel they are being treated. I know that wasn't your question but thought it may be useful to know. The staff at Tavistock are really helpful and knowledgeable. They will be led by you and your child you can access their service up until age 18 so it may be after the assessment period you decide to do nothing further at that point but can access again in the future. My experience has been that counselling works better locally rather than with Tavistock as sessions can be too far apart, but you can discuss this with them. Your local camhs should be able to point you in the direction of any groups (for parents and or young people) along with more specialist counselling. It's so dependant on area.

It sounds like your camhs are bring supportive and considering all angles. OCD and ASD are so similar at times, the main difference is that ASD is pervasive and developmental meaning it's always been there throughout development. Are you happy with their screening? Did they talk to you about any speech and language difficulties. If you feel you want to read more about ASD research the triad of impairment- you need evidence in all areas for ASD.

I know camhs get a bad reputation at times - hope you're having a positive experience. Good to hear your daughters making progress smile

allatsea123 Thu 20-Apr-17 09:41:07

Thank you, that sounds helpful. I can't help being relieved that we live in the UK where the approach is at least measured in some way. I wasn't completely happy with the screening questionnaires and think a more thorough approach is needed to fully understand her as a whole person. They have suggested the Tavistock as there is no one where we live with a real expertise in gender identity issues. Our lmost recent appointment with the counsellor was difficult and there were a lot of tears afterwards. Apparently the counsellor said to my daughter that it must be difficult for her as she is not masculine in any way ( in her appearance, apart from her clothes and relatively short hair) This is true and she found it really difficult to have someone say that to her. I am not entirely sure of the context and so don't want to be overly critical of the counsellor. The counsellor has asked her to makes notes of times and situations that are difficult over the next week, hopefully with a view to giving her some strategies to deal with them. I had a long chat with my daughter who says that she knows that she is very feminine, she doesn't have any typically masculine interests or traits and has no desire in developing them. She is ok with being feminine but doesn't want a female body. I am really struggling to understand this. Her dislike of her body seemed to start after it changed quickly after puberty. Is this an extreme reaction to becoming a woman before she was ready or is it true transgender? I really don't get how someone can be completely happy being a girl for fourteen years and then develop such extreme feelings. I feel if she changed her body she would then be a girl in a boy's body because she is so essentially feminine. She doesn't really want to identify as male except in body and even with this in mind is trying to increase her weight which will make her look more female. I am very confused and finding the whole thing utterly exhausting. Any ideas anyone?

Blossom789 Thu 20-Apr-17 10:45:49

It sounds like she's struggled with the bodily changes since puberty and has in some way made sense that a male body is what she's more comfortable with as they don't have breasts. This could be a body image issue or relating to this ASD that's queried. I'd be interested to know if she was wanting a penis or more to not have breasts. It's incredibly complex and the feel of it is less of a transgender issue but something underlying it. Have a chat with the counsellor or whoever the lead professional is about your thoughts, you describe it so well and have a good perspective. Having a firmer plan in place would be useful for you to know the purpose behind counselling and also longer plan as counselling is not going to treat this but may support your daughter.

You're doing the exact right things- supporting DD whilst questioning what all this means.

Blossom789 Thu 20-Apr-17 10:51:36

Didn't answer your question- In terms of more practical things, if it does feel much of this relates to puberty you can help her to manage this e.g.. make sure she's happy with managing her periods, are they heavy or irregular, can she change her pads/tampons with confidence. Help her to dress in a way she is comfortable- if she doesn't like curves or boobs, help her in exploring ways to dress. Teaching her about puberty (how often periods are, anything else to look out for). Maybe include puberty of boys too as it can appear it's nothing other than getting taller, and happens later- as if she did go through a transition she would go through a male puberty. Sometimes you can assume young women know how to deal with this or work it out but my experience of girls with high functioning ASD they struggle with these things.

Stopmakingsense Thu 20-Apr-17 11:01:54

I am really struggling to know what is going on with mine, so can't give you any real ideas but I do read and research relentlessly in the hope of understanding what is going on. So all the following just my opinion, based on our own experience.

I am not sure there is any one single reason people feel this way, and I am certain that "true transgender" (born in the wrong body) doesn't exist. It is very complex. But it is I think about identity. I can see how a child who from the age of 5 who has developed the identity of the opposite sex, which is then reinforced through social transition, will probably grow up unable to live as their biological sex, hence hormones and surgery might be appropriate in those circumstances. Sudden onset gender dysphoria which we are seeing in teenage girls is far more likely to be caused by mental ill health /a weak sense of identity / undiagnosed autism/difficulties coping with puberty/sexuality and dare I say it social contagion. That is not to say the feelings aren't valid and real.

My DD (prob on autistic spectrum) won't really discuss why and how she feels male, so at least your's is trying to and you can talk to her about it which is really positive. Mine has acknowledged, however, that she probably doesn't want to grow up - and in fact the way she presents is as a 13 year old boy (when she is in fact over 18) . I found this article interesting, as it explores difficulties with identity:

I think (completely unmedical opinion here!) there may be parallels with anorexia too?

Hopefully the Tavistock have seen all of this before, and may be your best bet. I would be fairly cautious of a counsellor who doesn't have postgraduate level knowledge of mental health (i.e. a clinical psychologist) and particularly with experience in adolescent mental health.
All the best to you all.

allatsea123 Thu 20-Apr-17 11:49:56

Thank you both.
Blossom, your thoughts around puberty are interesting. Initially she embraced puberty, was ok with periods and wanting underwired bras etc. However she put on weight very quickly after starting her periods and went from being very skinny to much bigger over just a few months, at first I don't think she really noticed. At the same time her periods became very irregular and as we have a strong family history of thyroid problems she was tested for that and polycyclic ovaries. Negative for PCOS and was put on the mini pill to help regulate her periods. She took the pill religiously for six months even though during this time she told us about her gender issues. We stopped the pill to give her body a chance to regulate itself and because I thought it might be adding to her depression. She hasn't had a period since, possibly due to her cycle or her weight loss. I don't know how she will deal with this if her weight goes up and her periods start again. She has just started taking thyroxine in the last two weeks as repeat tests now show her levels to be low. This is another factor which can affect depression.

She already wears baggy clothes, is totally flat chested and wears sports bras ( I have not wanted to get a binder as they seems to have health warnings and any way she is no more than an AA cup) . Her chest looks totally flat which I find hard but she doesn't see it and still tries to hunch her shoulders to disguise it.

I think you are right she doesn't feel ready for a female body so logically thinks she needs a male one instead. I haven't asked about a penis, don't think I am ready to hear that yet. I am trying to deal with this in the best way for her but can't always disguise my feelings and she knows I find it really hard, so might say what she thought would protect me anyway.

Thank you stopmakingsense, I will look at the article. I think you are right and I am sure she has ASD traits even if it is not enough for a diagnosis, I have seen her struggle to have her own identity in a group too by times and fit in by becoming a chameleon.

The counsellor has a post grad in CBT and has worked a lot in schools, but if she turns out not to be helpful we can see a psychologist at CAMHS, I was just fed up with the wait!

All the best to you too, this is so hard for all in this situation X

Blossom789 Thu 20-Apr-17 16:40:06

Absolutely, it's hard for you and DD. I think it's good that DD knows you find it tough as this in turn validates how she's feeling and that she's ok to be confused.

Once her weight increases this may also increase her talking about the changes in her body which whilst it may increase her distress temporarily it may make the treatment on terms of talking therapies clearer.

I think you're doing a great job, open, honest and there for her. There's no right and wrong with this.

In trans language, surgery is referred to as top and bottom surgery, if you and DD were talking about her body one day this may naturally occur in conversation and you could casually talk it through rather than directly talking about a penis- which frankly we'd all cringe at! - obviously only if you wanted to explore her thoughts.

TheCometAndLittleLegend Fri 21-Apr-17 00:39:00

Hi there, I just wanted to thank you for starting this thread as I am in a similar position with my DD (albeit she's asked to be known as 'they' for non-binary transgender rather than 'he') and although I am so sorry that you are going through this anguish, in some way it has helped me to read about other experiences as I feel quite alone with this new development at home. My DH is also very worried. I feel like I am grieving my daughter somehow.

My DD has been recommended for full ASD assessment as a late diagnosis and we are waiting for CAMHS to sort this out. Everything is incredibly slow though. Since reading about ASD (likely Aspergers), it has been like a penny dropping with her behaviour. She managed to get through primary school somehow but secondary school has been a disaster and she has ended up with severe anxiety. I worry about ED/self harm appearing as she is already tricky with food and has raised suicidal thoughts at school.

As I am the start of this journey I can't offer advice but just wanted to offer some support x

Blossom789 Fri 21-Apr-17 09:48:58

Trickyness around food could be a sensory based thing rather than an eating disorder which is common in ASD. (Disordered eating rather than eating disorder) not sure just throwing it in to consider.

allatsea123 Fri 21-Apr-17 10:07:07

Thank you so much, your comments are really valuable to me and whatever the outcome later on I feel now that it is ok to question this and not necessarily accept it as a given that she is truly transgender, I am also slowly trying to open her mind to those possibilities. At first I did all the research and kept it to myself thinking she would just be offended if I shared it with her. I am now more able to do this with the hope that she will be able and willing to allow herself to change her thinking if she begins to doubt herself. She said she doesn't want to feel like this and wants to go back to being how she was. Tha saddest thing is seeing her so isolated from her friends and relying almost solely on our immediate family for social interactions.

It is definitely easier for me being able to share theses thoughts and receiving thoughtful feedback, thank you again 🙂

allatsea123 Fri 21-Apr-17 10:22:54

Thecometand littlelegend, I am sorry to hear you are going through this too. I can totally empathise with your thoughts of grief, I had a happy, cool, beautiful daughter and I feel that she has been replaced by a shadow of herself. I miss her laughter and fun and whether it's wrong or not I miss her looking lovely and her hair which was long all her life until last September. If she does go ahead with this in the future I can't imagine how I will deal with it, very badly I suspect. I do absolutely love and admire her, but even her voice is strained. There is no enjoyment in life for her, I want the old daughter back. I think it is ok to grieve, but I do my best to convince myself that this won't last forever, it is the only way I can manage, thinking about the alternative hurts too much.

Everything does move incredibly slowly, which is very frustrating but I suppose does give time for things to develop and change as the might. I hang on to the thought that adolescents are works in progress and many of them don't find themselves until early adulthood.

I have found the threads on mumsnet invaluable, hope you are able to gain support too. X

897654321abcvrufhfgg Sat 22-Apr-17 12:22:32

Crying as I read this thread. I too have posted about my DD believing she is a boy in a female body. Today is a hard day as taking her to get her waist length hair cropped. I am also internalising a lot of anger as I feel that she finds me disgusting in some way as I am a female with a female body. She has also now stopped make up/using toiletries completely and stopped shaving.

897654321abcvrufhfgg Sat 22-Apr-17 12:24:42

I too feel that my daughter was so much happier before. I am dreading her walking in to school on Monday with her super short hair as teenagers can b cruel and she is not a confident child.

allatsea123 Sun 23-Apr-17 09:30:56

897654321, I hope you are ok today after the hair cut. I have to admit it is the thing that I found the hardest. My daughter like yours had lovely long hair and even with wearing boys clothes she still looked lovely. I too cried when she had it cut and would still much rather she had long hair although she does suit short hair. She had it cut just before going back to school after the summer holidays, as far as I know no one was unkind to her, some people even said they liked it. Her grandparents think it is marvellous, so much more manageable! My daughter doesn't shave either which I also find really difficult, although she hides her body so you never see her armpits or legs. I think it is really important to hang on to the fact that they are so young and this is most likely another developmental stage in their lives and that one day they will redefine themselves again. There are too many girls presenting like this for them all to be truly transgender. My daughter has never been more miserable since telling us, having her hair cut and dressing as she does, it is not a wow I am a boy, now I know what was wrong, more of an obsessive thought pattern that she can't shift, that occupies all her thinking time and drags her down. I have to think that will change with time and talking therapies.

You must be kind to yourself, I started running agin to give myself goals, it breaks up my week and gives me something to aim for, as otherwise all I do is think, read and research gender issues. Take care of yourself xx

897654321abcvrufhfgg Sun 23-Apr-17 11:51:40

Thank you. I have taken up running too.

Daphne65 Tue 25-Apr-17 07:48:56

OP can empathise with your post and some of responses. I am further down the line than you. 5 years on i have come to terms with things .My then very feminine DD started self harming at 14/15 and became more isolated etc at school. After failed attempts at counselling for self harm she eventually​ " came out " as ftm trans. Now at 19 known as male and has boys name ( we chose this together) there have been many tears and pain my own and his. The best and only advice I can give is talk. We talked about it all over the years- including the options re genitalia surgery for etc which when u mention trans everyone seems to be obsessed with. He is now on hormone T injections and once he had his appointment at the gender clinic (over a year waiting) this happened more quickly than i expected. He is very female body shape with huge boobs so wears a binder. Wants top surgery only but waiting list is very long so that is far off. He is at uni now and coping. He is much Happier now than living as a male and that's the main thing for me. His happiness and well being. Yes i grieved the loss of my only daughter ( have several sons) yes it was hard to change and took time accepting. Ultimately I had as a mum no choice though. I read lots and educated myself and puberty IS common time for transition. Not all trans know as children many just feel different as kids n can't understand why. Its a myth every trans person knew they were trans at 5 yr old . The best education was talking to my son as he having experienced it all .....knew what it was like. For another poster to day trans isn't real or doesn't exist is ridiculous. Gender boundaries have now become fluid. Young people are not fixed into such feminine and masculine categories that we were. The incidents of suicide in trans people is shocking mainly caused by lack of acceptance​ and prejudice. As parents we need to be there for our trans kids and listen to them carefully. It's a hard journey but in the end one you have to take to support your child. It worries me that many of these kids are being labelled asd due to people being unable to accept or understand trans exits- but like the reaction to homosexuality years ago. Stay strong and if i can help in anyway please ask anything

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