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advice needed(16 Posts)
Hi, just had an unexpected conversation with 11 yo DS (with AS) at bedtime and I'd really appreciate any advice please. He has just started secondary school and has been having a very tough time socially, not making friends, and feeling very upset about it, feeling 'weird' and different. Tonight he said that he has been thinking he would like to identify as female. It was in the context of him asking about being trans etc. I'd been telling him how one of my oldest friends is trans and how wonderful it is that over the years she has felt more able to be open about about her identity. When I asked him him how long he'd been feeling this way he said 2-3 weeks. He says he'd found an Instagram page on trans pride and said he identified with it. He said the thing he most identified with was the feeling of 'not fitting in'. Okay, so although it would be quite an adjustment if he were trans, I'd be fine about it but the thing is, I imagine he's not. My instinct is this: that he has been having a massive issue with fitting in at school, and when he read that in relation to trans identity, he felt it applied to him, although I suspect if he'd been reading about being aspie, that would had hit the nail on the head in this respect. However, I really really don't want him to feel that I don't 'believe' him and shut down the conversation. I want to open up the conversation about not fitting in more generally, but he has introduced this in terms of being trans. When I've talked to transgendered people it seems that generally they felt they were the other gender all through their childhood, but DS has only thought this in the last couple of weeks or so, at the height of his difficulties with fitting in at the new school. But the last thing I want to do is come across like I'm persuading him he's not trans, coz maybe I'm wrong anyway (although I would be really surprised if he was). We had a lovely chat and I said we could talk again about it tomorrow and he could show me the thing he read about trans identity. Any thoughts on how to have this conversation?
A little bump in case anyone can offer any advice...
Sorry I don't have experience. It's a sensitive age for exploring those feelings of gender.
I think if it was me I would listen and try to get him to explor the wider issues of not fitting in. You wouldn't have to minimise is feelings towards transgender. Just explain it could be more and wider than just that one option.
Does he like the idea of being a girl? I guess that's the heart of that. Unless he has deep desire to dress and live as a girl doing girl things won't be any happier transgender.
How to put that to a confused and sad teen I don't know. Maybe just talking how he might feel dressing as a girl then leaving the house might make him feel it's not what he is looking for. Or exploring what he would feel comfortable doing. Trying something else new
Thanks bbkl. Today DS showed me the Instagram pages he was referring but he didn't seem so bothered about discussing it that much. In both conversations though he has mentioned not 'fitting in', never 'I feel that I'm a girl' or similar. I've told him he can discuss it any time with me, and maybe I just need to leave it to come up whenever, let him lead that... I'm not sure. I'm wondering though if now is a good time to talk more about what it means to have asperger's. He knows about it but he probably understands it more in relation to his sensory stuff than social difficulties. A little bit of me has been reluctant to emphasise the social difficulties, for fear of making him self conscious about his not-that-bad social skills (for someone on the spectrum). But I may have done him a disservice, coz he's clearly struggling socially big time in his new school and trying to make sense of this feeling of not fitting in...
Thanks 2boys, I didn't see you post before my last one. Yes, the wider issue of not fitting in might be useful to explore. I just want to be as sensitive as possible. Aargh it's not easy!
Thanks Polter for your perspective, it's really helpful. Yes, when everything is a bit confusing the world of gender stereotypes must be pretty difficult to navigate when you're 11 with AS.
That's really interesting bbkl, and I can see similar things going on with DS. The inclusivity is very appealing when you're feeling rejected in real life. It's such a positive thing so I feel kind of uncomfortable questioning DS's feelings, but I think things are pretty complicated for him at the moment.
For what its worth, we shut down our Dd3's instagram account after we had a visit from social services!! Someone had befriended her on there who she didnt know and was asking her to write suicide threats to childline!! Dd3 really thought this person was a friend who needed help but what it actually did was make everyone think she was suicidal!
Our children are massively vulnerable on social media because they want to be good friends but they have no way of deciding who is really a friend and who isnt!
Off topic I know and sorry,
back to gender issues, I have had issues with gender stereotypes all my life, they are definitely more to do with Asd than an actual desire to be a man! For me its about being allowed to be me and not being forced to fit in a box! It made life at school very difficult.
I would definitely explore your sons understanding of AS more and also make sure he is getting all the support he needs at school. Transition into secondary is monumentous when you have AS!
Thanks bbkl and Ineed, sorry been off the boil for a day hence no reply. Both your posts are really helpful, and really make me aware of how much more on the case i need to be re the Instagram stuff.
Ineed, your comments about your feelings about gender are interesting. My DS has said that he doesn't fit a 'boy stereotype' and I've explained to him that stereotypes are just that- stereotypes- and that actually we're all much more diverse. For example, I was never particularly 'girly'.
I definitely need to find a good, age-appropriate way to talk more about the social side of Asd.
Tonight DS wanted another conversation about trans stuff. He has asked if he can start identifying as female, which he described as DP and I and other people he's close to starting to use female pronouns when referring to him. This is going a little faster than I expected. I told him that this is the kind of thing that takes a while to think about and that we should all have a number of conversations over time before making those kind of changes, but that I wasn't negating his feelings or not taking them seriously. (It was first raised only 4 nights ago). I'm so confused. The more he talks about it the more I'm convinced he is confusing the feelings of difference to do with AS, with this idea that he is trans. He has started at a secondary boys school having been at a mixed primary school, where he'd been since reception, had a circle of friends and felt relatively secure. He says he has felt he doesn't get on as well with people now, that he feels like he doesn't fit in. And he says he thinks it's because it's a boys school, and that he doesn't feel boyish. Whereas, he says, he didn't feel that way at primary, ever. So it seems like a crisis of 'fitting in' which he now understands in terms of gender identity. However, he now wants us to immediately start identifying him as a girl? What should I do? I'm so worried about confusing him even more by going along with it, but don't want to make him feel we too are rejecting his true self. Where do you think is the best place for advice on this. I'm meeting the senco this week to discuss a referral to targeted family support (coz of high levels of school refusal since term started) so will raise it with her. Any thoughts at all from anyone on next steps?
Also I wondered if anyone could recommend any good online material on Asd/as suitable for an 11yo?
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