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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.


snice Sun 10-Feb-13 21:20:34

this thread is 3 years old

Scootee Sun 10-Feb-13 21:19:30

To a young child, this is a straightforward issue to grasp. I'd have no hesitation explaining this to my dc if the issue arose. Op - your ds has taken the lead with his straightforward statement that Peter feels that he's a girl in the wrong body. You just need to build on that a bit and you're done.

NatachaK Sun 10-Feb-13 21:14:05

BTW; I forgot to mention; Quint...

No child under 18 is allowed to have gender reassignment surgery. This is not merely in the UK but a worldwide ruling. In practice it means that trans girls will have to wait until 19 at the earliest for surgery on the NHS, trans boys much longer. Some will commence hormone blocker treatment at 13 or older but this is a completely reversible treatment.

What is not easily reversed are the lost years of school that most trans children experience. I know an 18 year-old trans girl who was bullied out of school aged 13, and a 9-year-old trans girl who has not been to school since she was 6. :-(

NatachaK Sun 10-Feb-13 21:08:23

A couple of things that might be worth noting. My own peer-reviewed research;

...clearly demonstrates that the age at which trans people become aware that they are trans is very young; mean average is 8, modal average is 5. So a child coming out as trans in year 4 is not unusual in the sense that she is discovering that she is trans, but unusual that she has the strength of character not to succumb to the cultural and social pressure to conceal or suppress her real gender.

Also, the figures about so-called "desisters"; children who are trans when young but do not grow up trans, is seriously contested. The explanations for this apparent change of heart ignore the social pressures on these children to conceal and suppress, especially when they are treated by parents, teachers, other children's parents and psychologists, as problematic. So far the organisation for parents of trans children, Mermaids, has not been able to find any instances of any trans child changing their mind, when they have been properly supported by their parents, schools and others around them.

The majority of studies which suggest that most trans children do not become trans adults are also carried out by people who have an interest in the outcome; often psychs whose careers depend on selling to parents the idea that they can 'cure' trans children. They are also carried out by psychologists, not sociologists and as such fail to account properly for social and cultural pressures on tarns children to conform to stereotypical gendered behaviour.

My research also highlighted the depressing statistic that the second largest source of bullying that trans children received from adults was from parents of other children (the first was from school staff). This is supported by anecdotal evidence from people like Livvy James, the young trans girl in Worcester, who was quite literally abused by other kids parents in school and in the street.

Why does this happen? Well this blog;

by a trans woman explains it very well; we live in a world which is media saturated, and that media is saturated by ubiquitous negative images of trans people. These portrayals of trans people have an effect in that they make the majority of people believe that we are evil, fetishists, wiredos, freaks who eat children, bite the heads off whippets...

Actually trans people are just like everyone else; only trans. And trans children just want to do whatever other children do; as this wonderful, moving and inspitrational trans child campaigning for her own human rights in the US shows in her own words;

Trans children need only acceptance in their real gender identities. There have been trans people in every civilisation that has ever existed in all of human history according to painstaking research by cultural historian Marjorie Garber; in native American societies trans women were teachers and foster parents, looking after older children of mums who had too many babies and toddlers to contend with. The problem is not trans people or trans children, but the way society and a culture dominated by a sensationalist and divisive media demonises trans people.

I would ask that you have a look at the words of an 11-year-old trans girl, who has been kept out of school in America foe many years because of negative attitudes by other children's parents.

Blu Thu 21-Jan-10 13:18:52

I was a complete tomboy, dressed as far as I could in boys clothes, and spent time imagining I would grow up as a boy.

But I was living that fantasy knowing I was a girl, iyswim. I had nowhere near the experience of the children in that documentary- and while I fantasised about a process that would enable me to morph into being a boy at puberty, I feel petty sure that had my mother offered to take me to a Dr and get my gender re-aligned I would have declined. It was a 'being a boy' fantasy of a girl. Not a 'give me the right body' fantasy of an inner boy, if that makes sense.

I saw a huge difference between my own experience and those children. It isn't merely a slightly enhanced tomboy phenomenum.

Jux Wed 20-Jan-10 19:57:08

hobbgoblin, hate to do this to you as I am generally in your camp on this thread, but if 9 out of 10 people do live in fluffyville, then there are indeed more than 1% of people who "are tolerant, accepting and who care about people other than themselves". 10 times as many as that in fact grin

Bear in mind that Y4 in the uk are two years younger than Y4 here, as we start school at 6. The child in question is 10/11 years old, not 8/9 - not sure if this makes a difference.

My 7 year old boy has been "in love" with girls since he was 5. "Peter" has openly been "in love" with boy since he was 8, and labelled "gay and camp" by staff at the school.

I think children can know from on early age, but what they cant possibly know, is if it is a phase they will grow out of, or if it will last for life.

RollBaubleUnderTree Wed 20-Jan-10 17:30:18

There was a biological girl living as a boy at my sixth form college about 20 years. He was not particuarly boyish looking, has a large chest so it must have been so hard. Looking back it is amazing how accepting everyone was. He used the boys loos, played football with his mates every break. Never saw him getting any abuse although I am sure he must have.

I remember thinking his parents must have been very brave.

scarletlilybug Wed 20-Jan-10 17:20:54

I think evidence suggests that year 4 children are indeed too young to know for certain that they have gender dysphoria, given that the majority "grow out of it".

If a child has never come across it in RL, I don't see that they particularly need to be educated about it unless the subject matter somehow arises naturally - perhaps from something they see on the TV.

My concern with parents openly labelling "Peter" as gender dysphoric at such a young age is that it may well make it more difficult for him to "back down" if he goes on to change his mind. I imagine his parents will have considered this possibility befre going public and made what they considered to be the best decision in the circumstances. Other parents might have come to a different decision. Whether any such decision ultimately turns out to have been the "right" one may well be something which it will be possible to judge only in retrospect.

hobbgoblin Wed 20-Jan-10 17:03:41

You did actually say that you thought Y4 children too young to know about this sort of thing. From this I presume you feel that sexual identity should not be mentioned to anyone under a certain age and yet we are talking about a child of this age with these issues which makes you sound very unaccepting - as though you prefer to discriminate against others based upon the world you would prefer as opposed to the world that is. I think this puts you more in the bigoted camp than the anti-discriminatory one to be honest.

I didn't say you were a fuckwit but you were bold enough to suggest that 9 out of 10 people were probably as thoughtless and unkind in their thinking as you. I disagree. Though there are many people who prefer to live in fluffyville, there are also more than 1 percent of us who are tolerant, accepting and who care about people other than themselves.

Fuckwitted is poor vocabulary. Ignorant, selfish and blinkered might have been better.

claraquack Wed 20-Jan-10 16:06:50

Did I say transgender people are bad and should not be mentioned?

I would say you are as bigoted as me by your explanation, as I am obviously different from you.

SolidGoldBrass Wed 20-Jan-10 15:54:37

Wilful ignorance (ignoring facts that contradict your prejudices) and bigotry - thinking that people who are dissimilar to you are bad or wrong - does kind of make you a fuckwit.
FWIW you're not alone. But thinking that transgendered people are bad and shouldn't be mentioned is a fairly reliable stupidity-indicator.

claraquack Wed 20-Jan-10 15:50:20

I wasn't going to come back to this thread as it will make me cross but I will say that I have no problem in beign told I am wrong and am interested to hear some of the opinions, even if I still don't agree with them necessarily. I can't watch the programme as we are not in the UK. I am a liberal, open-minded person and don't have a problem with gender changes in adults etc, I am not just not convinced that a child that age knows for sure and was shocked by the words primary school and transgender being in the same sentence.

However I do object to be called a "fuckwit" by one of the posters. Thanks. Very nice. Sorry if my opinions are different to yours but why does that make me a fuckwit?

SolidGoldBrass Wed 20-Jan-10 15:33:16

I think that doctors etc who specialise in gender issues generally do know the difference between a child with serious gender dysphoria and a child who wants the social/surface aspects of the other gender role. A little girl who loves Top Gear and football and a little boy who wants a set of Bratz dolls aren't necessarily grappling with gender dysphoria.

However, I wouldn't be at all surpised if the current awful trend towards rigid gender stereotyping in children doesn't bring out a lot of mild gender uneasiness in the next decade or so.

I see where you are coming from Gladders.

A child does not have the maturity to know what will be best in the future. There are so many outcomes! Life as a gay man/woman, life as a heterosexual person in the body he/she was born with (but with a genderdysmorhpic stage in childhood), Life after a gender change, Life without without a gender change, and the possible regrets of doing either. Who is to say what would be the happiest?

gladders Wed 20-Jan-10 15:04:53

fwiw i was a real tomboy and desperately wanted to be a boy from about age 5 til about age 9. for me it was just a stage....

i think it's great that people are being open about this one child - and the documentary everyone's referring to is an interesting one. the one thing that alarmed me in the programme was that these kids (in the US) are receiving medical intervention (hormones) at sucha young age.

OI know there are stats about transgender suicides and also that it is better physically to intervene before puberty, but really - these kids are so young? nif at age 8 i'd been asked to decide i might well have opted to be male?

Jux Wed 20-Jan-10 13:05:17

We live in a small town. One of the shopkeepers is going through gender reassignment atm. People here are very accepting - maybe it's just luck, but I think it's because it's a small town and everyone knows everyone else at least a bit.

Our friend has a wife and 3 children. Before s/he started the process, s/he and his wife went to the school and explained it to them, then the teachers explained it to the pupils, who explained it to their parents! There doesn't seem to have been any backlash, she picks up the kids from school, and the other mothers are perfectly normal with her.

She and her wife are staying together for the foreseeable future. The children are lovely, polite, bright, pretty well-balanced.

I am really proud of our town; I have not heard one adverse comment from adults or children about it. Everyone has adapted quite happily to the new name, the new she/her (though sometimes, in the early days, it was easy to forget).

I wish 'Peter' and her parents well with all my heart.

scarletlilybug Wed 20-Jan-10 11:39:59

Interestingly, of those boys who "grow out of" childhood gender dysphoria, the majority go on to identify as homosexual. One study (don't have time to track it down at present - will post linl later if I remember) found 12 out of 16 boys who had childhood gender dysphoria went on to identify as homosexual, having "grown out of" their gender issues. From memory, the majority remained quite effeminate, too, whether or not they were homosexual.

AitchTwoOhOneOh Wed 20-Jan-10 11:36:08

i think that the whole point of acting before puberty, quint, is to delay the onset of bodily changes. meanwhile the child is still growing older and more mature, so can still change his or her mind. i believe that taking hormones to promote change to the preferred gender is not done at all lightly, and certainly any surgery comes much later.

Lancelottie, did you see the program? It is called "Transgender children - age 8 and wanting a sex change". Maybe you could try and watch it with him, and see what he says?

Yes, that was my outspoken son. Amazingly, the other boy wanted to play with him at breaktime the next day...

Lancelottie Wed 20-Jan-10 11:21:14

' 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.'

Quint, you've just described my 11-yr-old son, who is currently not happy in his skin, and who I've long assumed is gay. He's quite a private and intense child, so it could be that there's more to it than we've thought. We do know one (fully) transgendered individual and sadly she isn't a shining example of a transformed and happy life -- though obviously one person's experience is not much to go on.

Your son sounds like he takes people as they are (was he the one who went for some pretty plain speaking at a 'mean child's' birthday party last week?), so good on him!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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