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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.


Horton Tue 19-Jan-10 20:36:35

Also, I think 'let children be children' is an unhelpful comment. This isn't about sex but about identity. Most children seem to be very clear about which gender they are (and who they feel they are) well before they have any understanding of sex or relationships or other more adult issues. My three year old is quite clear that she is a girl and some of her friends are boys and they have a willy and she has a vagina etc etc. It doesn't mean she is thinking inappropriately about any of this. As I understand it, it is very normal for children to start to work out how their bodies relate to their image of themselves etc. Presumably at age 10 or 11 her ideas of it will be much more elaborate and much more entrenched as part of who she is.

SleighGirl Tue 19-Jan-10 20:43:33

I think children are far more perceptive than we give them credit for.

With transgender perhaps a very simple situation is that when they were in the womb their body wasn't made the way it was supposed to be, just like some people have extra toes or have turners syndrome the make up if their body is different to other peoples.

I hope the community shows some tolerance and understanding of the child in question.

Hope it's a bit warmer this week where you are Quint!

LadyG Tue 19-Jan-10 20:52:34

It sounds as if the school and parents are dealing with it well. I would probably only ask mine to watch it if they were in that year or seemed interested or confused (asking lots of questions etc). Slightly off-topic but does anyone remember seeing that sweet French film Ma Vie en Rose about a little boy that thought he should have been a girl?
I thought that dealt with the whole thing very well.

Having seen the whole programe, I have no problems letting him watch it. I think he can cope with it.

The "camp" and "gay" comments happened two years ago, when the child was 8/9. He then said openly that he was gay. I remember my son talking about the gay boy in school. I suppose, at the time, "gay" was the most fitting identity this child found for him/herself, and as time has gone by, they have realized it is not just about preferring boys to girls, it is about feeling like he is a girl.

My son came upstairs and sat down to watch the last part with me. He said he could not sleep when there was something on tv about a child in his school. (due to a really strange class divisions here across age and year groups, and starting in March the school year before rather than in August, he was in this boys class the entire spring term, prior to starting year one, it is complicated, dont ask. So, he knew this class better than most of the year 2 boys)

I asked him to tell me about "Peter", and he said, "well, he plays with a group of girls, he has longish hair, tied with ribbons, or clips. Sometimes he wears girly clothes, sometimes he doesnt".

LadyG, yes, I remember ma vie an rose, I saw it when I was in my early twenties, with a group of gay (male and female friends).

Horton, thank you that is a very nice comment. I have such parenting dilemmas and troubles at the moment, your comment really warmed. smile

Blu Tue 19-Jan-10 21:52:23

I would watch the programme in order to be as informed as possible for any q's DS might ask, or things he might say. (but i saw one or two of them before Christmas - very very interesting and enlihgtening)

Clara, if you watch the prog you might find that some of your assumptions are not correct, and you might find it interesting. I imagine that one of the things the parents of the child in Quint's school are dealing with are people who have a set idea about the whole thing which is unsympathetic.

AitchTwoOhOneOh Tue 19-Jan-10 23:55:15

kai and josie, yes, that's the same show. i really found it interesting, and was impressed by the parents' approach.

SolidGoldBrass Wed 20-Jan-10 00:08:02

I have several transgendered friends all of whom say they knew from a very young age that their bodies didn't match their brains/selves. Because something is rare is not a good reason for hiding it and pretending it doesn't happen, or that the people dealing with it are liars/attention seekers /'polictial correctness gone mad'.

Gender isn't binary. It's perfectly possible for people to be born hermaphrodites and many, many people are born with some blurring of sexual characteristics, some muddling of chromosomes - in a lot of cases they only discover this when they want to have DC, but in plenty of others, given that the usual medical policy is to toss a coin advise the parents to bring the DC up as a boy or girl and seek hormone treatment later, there is a lot of confusion and misery.
A substantial percentage of the male/female divide is of course socially-constructed and about hierarchy rather than biology, but that doesn't alter the fact that people can be born with their minds heading in one direction and their bodies heading in another.

kreecherlivesupstairs Wed 20-Jan-10 07:21:36

Good post solid, in Thailand there is a greater than average number of transgendered individuals. They are known as Khatoey or the third sex. I read a very intersting book about this group, virtually all knew from being 6 or younger that they were in the wrong body. Khatoey are accepted genrally with the majority wearing subtle make up and getting on quietly with their lives. One khatoey worked on the desk in our bank. Very few opt for the gender reasingment, possible due to costs. On the whole, the boys start taking hormones very young, age 9 is the one most quoted. This is because they are available over the counter.
The child in question is very lucky to have such supportive parents.

malovitt Wed 20-Jan-10 07:37:56

NorbertDentressangle - are you in the south-east?

My male GP had a full sex change too, although it was a good few years ago now...

PfftTheMagicDragon Wed 20-Jan-10 08:58:03

good post,SGB

SolidGoldBrass Wed 20-Jan-10 09:37:15

Kreecher: I wonder if it's a greater number or just that the Thais are sufficiently accepting of it for the transgendered/intersexual/gender dysphoric not to have to agonise for years about being 'wrong' or 'wierd' before feeling able to tell their families and seek treatment.

kreecherlivesupstairs Wed 20-Jan-10 09:47:50

Solid, it is a greater number, nothing to do with acceptance or tolerance. If I had the book still, I'd be able to give you an accurate number, from memory it is around 7%.
My favourite 'girl' was the one in the petrol station near our flat. Some days she was very glam, some days just normally girly and on her off days had just put a head band on.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 20-Jan-10 09:52:32

I was quite hmm at the negative comments earlier in this thread. The 'let children be children' comment is a peculiarly adult perspective that confuses gender with sexuality. This is about someone who is convinced that she's a girl being a girl. To have a happy childhood she needs support in this - which fortunately in this case seems to be forthcoming. As others have said, transsexuals often know from a very young age that they are in the wrong bodies - its not something related to puberty and sexual awakening.

hobbgoblin Wed 20-Jan-10 10:01:00

clara, until what age would you prefer a transgender child to wait before you deemed their admission acceptable to your delicate ears?

I doubt that whilst this inner body versus mind confusion goes on the poor child is having a fab old childhood anyway. The least any of his peers and educators can do is try and understand and show compassion which I suspect is exactly what this letter is aiming for.

Though a proportion of people on the street might be fuckwitted, I doubt 9 out of 10 of them are.

youwillnotwin Wed 20-Jan-10 10:05:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tartyhighheels Wed 20-Jan-10 10:24:10

If it is the same one as was on before Christmas, I thought the programme was really great. My 8 year old daughter watched a bit of it and she seemed to make sense of it. We have very butchy lesbian mate, who doesn't have gender issues but looks very blokey - i had to explain the difference to the DD and she took it all in her stride.

In my husbands family there is a member who has gender issues, he still lives daily as a man and secretly as a woman and has a male partner. He doesn't know we know this and sometimes I feel I should speak to him about it but I am not close to him and feel that it isn't appropriate. My husband tells me that when they we all growing up that the boys Mummy knew something was up but this was the 70's so nothing was done. If you met him, you would sense something is out of whack for him and I think that this is dreadfully sad as clearly he's no idea where to turn. Sadly, given lots of oppotunities this man has ostensibly failed to achieve and is not too happy - I wonder how different things would have been 3o years on?

It is amazing to hear that the school and indeed this child's parents have grasped the nettle so to speak, because this is not a choice for people, it is biology. It is also heartening to hear on this forum that so many people seem very open and receptive to the idea which can only be good for all of us to live in a tolerant society which should start in the home and school.

There are so many good posts on this thread.
Clara, you are right, your opinion is likely to be that of the majority, especially in a small provincial town, which is why it is such a good idea by the school and the parents to send out the letter and try educate people.

Clara, I think it is important to recognise that for this child, it has nothing to do with sex, or romance. It is about wanting long hair, nice hairclips, play with barbie dolls, read about ponies, and generally do what girls do, with her girl friends, and having the kind of child hood that girls have. Wanting to be a mum one day, even.

And I think therein lies part of the headahce, these children are never going to have straighforwared teenage years, romance, first love, and fast forward to parenthood.
It must be so hard for the parents. To see their child suffer, see that there is something unusual, and slowly unravel the thruth, and help the child on his/her identity journey.

I really wonder if the letter was such a good idea. As soon as you MAKE an issue, it becomes an issue. My son was not bothered about "Peter" he took the situation pretty much at face value and accepted the truth in that "Peter" should really be in a girls body. I wonder if this is also the case now, when the issue has been highlighted.

scarletlilybug Wed 20-Jan-10 10:32:50

It is not uncommon for childrten to "grow out of" gender dysphoria.

"Often, children do grow out of gender dysphoria. Only a small number of children continue to feel the same way in later adolescence." From the Mind website.

AitchTwoOhOneOh Wed 20-Jan-10 10:37:32

nah, i disagree. better that everyone in the community is fore-warned and any questions are answered before puberty strikes the other kids and they start getting really catty. it may be that they'll delay puberty in peter's case.

there's also really interesting stuff on david reimer, not the best doc but gives the gist, whose penis was injured during cirumcision as a small baby, and he was raised as Brenda. He was miserable and confused, by all accounts, and went back to being david when older. poor guy committed suicide not long ago.

Aitch - there was one sentence in the letter that stood out "by now all the children at xxx school and many of the parents have discovered that there is a child with gender identity issues ..."

AitchTwoOhOneOh Wed 20-Jan-10 10:47:23

yes, so they're taking control of the 'story' iykwim? they must be going through HELL, poor parents.

NorbertDentressangle Wed 20-Jan-10 10:55:49

malovitt -I don't live there now but (I'll be cryptic in case you don't want to out where you live) it was a modern purpose built Health Centre, called St B's on a road called M. Way, just off C Rd. This was about 9/10 years ago I think as I remember seeing said GP with DD when she was a baby.

We actually also had a gp who did a gender transformation at our local health centre. It was also done over time. She contacted her local newspaper, explaining what would happen, so the whole town knew about it. She also explained that she had known she was in the wrong body since she was a child.

It is actually interesting to read what scarletlilybug says about growing out of gender dysphoria. Thanks for the link!

What happens if you set yourself on track for a gender transformation from an early age, and the later, realize it was just a phase and you mourn the body you lost, wishing you hadnt done it?

I am hoping, as the doctor at our local health centre has gone through it herself, that these parents are getting all the help and support they need.

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