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Specific resources to talk to young children about trans issues?

(25 Posts)
PeggyGuggenheim Sun 20-Jul-14 23:53:06

Hi. My 7-year-old daughter came home from school recently and told me that there is a special hospital where she can get a willy. She was expressing an interest and raising it with me because she has an ongoing issue about boys not allowing her to play football.

I had a very calm conversation with her along the lines of "Well, I don't think you need a willy, sure you can play football and do whatever you feel like, you know there are women footballers" but beyond that, I didn't venture further.

She's been raised in a feminist atmosphere and she's pretty aware of the limiting stuff that surrounds her, and names sex ism when she sees it (especially in advertising) but she was obviously quite taken with the idea that she could aquire a willy and thereby save hassle at school.

I wonder whether I need something more specific than my calm reassurance and the books she's grown up with (Princess Smarty pants / Paperbag Princess / Princess Knight etc)... Someone also made the very good suggestion today that I pursue football lessons which I will do - my local club has lots for kids.

Very interested to hear what others think.

DadWasHere Mon 21-Jul-14 04:53:27

Seems very young to start exploring trans-gender issues with her, unless she is expressing serious discontent with her self rather than her situation. Sounds more like what she wants is a mechanism that gets her what she wants, not the mechanism itself; more like her bumping up against gender exclusion frustration than transgender identification. It aint easy, our girls all cried lots of tears over gendered expectations and exclusions through school over the years, but we helped them survive the tears and they excelled.

PeggyGuggenheim Mon 21-Jul-14 07:05:29

Yeah, it's horribly young. I could be more chilled about it if she was just weeping about the boys excluding her - it's the specificity of the "solution" that alarms me. I guess your answer is what I WANT to hear, but, but, but...

Hakluyt Mon 21-Jul-14 07:10:14

I wouldn't explore anything. I would just keep channels of communication open. In my experience they all do this "what if" thinking about all sorts of things.

And find out about local football clubs. There are girls in all the age groups at ds's club. Ds is jealous because as there are fewer girls they are statistically more likely to get "scouted"!

I think she sounds pretty smart - there's an issue (stupid rules not being allowed to play footie because she's a girl) she's cross and seeking a solution. Very similar to the plot line in Princess Knight come to think about it.

I'd probably use this opportunity to explore more with her about traditional gender roles and why they are often very unfair and prevent people doing what they want to do/fulfilling their potential. You could touch on the specifics of mtf/ftm but I think the main issue she's raising is rooted in feminism.

Good luck!

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 21-Jul-14 09:49:15

I don't know how reassuring this is, but FWIW, when I was little we didn't know about hospitals to get a willy (!) but I do remember being in early primary school with girls who really wanted one for a while. Is it not quite normal?

I'm not trying to belittle anything and I don't have children so obviously I'm not much use.

PeggyGuggenheim Mon 21-Jul-14 10:28:10

Lol ! For goodness sake, now you mention it - is this penis envy?! Not sure if that was all a load of bullocks (!) that's all been discounted anyway, but yes, a friend told me she wanted one when she was small coz it's so much easier to have a wee behind a tree etc.

scallopsrgreat Mon 21-Jul-14 10:31:56

I think it's envy that boys can get to do the stuff she wants to do just because they are boys. The identifying factor for a boy being that they have a penis.

It is rage-inducing tbh that she is being excluded at such a young age because of her biology.

TheWorldAccordingToJC Mon 21-Jul-14 10:34:26

Goodness me - she's 7. What you have said suffices. She doesn't need to explore trans gender issues just yet does she?

' you don't need a willy to play football ' is more than enough for now isn't it?!

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 21-Jul-14 10:35:26


I think 'penis envy' in the sense of 'ooh, I can wee behind a tree' is perfectly practical (and waaaay too practical for Freud who thought it was all mystical).

In fact, I would love to see the 'outtakes' of Freud's theories, all the moments when small girls replied 'no, no, I just like willies because Timmy showed me his and it was squidgy!' And the great man would pull a face and write 'it is innate in women to envy the marvellous plasticity of the male organ, sign of the male brain's immense power ....'

scallopsrgreat Mon 21-Jul-14 10:40:05

grin Loving that image of Freud, LRD. Sums him up nicely!

enderwoman Mon 21-Jul-14 10:47:20

I've had a discussion with my son recently where we were discussing how being a woman or man is a spectrum with an area in between where people are born with bits from one gender but should have been born the other.

I think that citing examples of real people was helpful. He has a female friend S who only plays with boys but wears skirts and long braids to school. I am a woman with long hair and don't own a pair of high heels or wear make up.

Hakluyt Mon 21-Jul-14 10:52:12

"I think that citing examples of real people was helpful."

Up to a point. It's very easy to fall into stereotyping.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 21-Jul-14 12:08:13

grin Thanks scallops.

ender - but, not to be picky ... it isn't a spectrum. Humans are fairly predictable. Some people are born intersex, but 'spectrum' suggests (to me, anyway), a gradual range of possibilities. We don't have that. Any more than the fact some people are born with seven fingers and some with none means that humans have numbers of fingers on a spectrum from none to seven (or whatever, I don't know what the highest number is).

I'm mentioning it because I think calling it a spectrum slightly washes over the fact that for a lot of intersex people, live is difficult (just as it is if you're born with two fingers not ten).

I also think it's totally unrelated to the spectrum of gender presentation choices people make, surely?

weatherall Mon 21-Jul-14 16:35:12

Yes, lrd.

Ender- I think it's part of the confusion when people mix up sex and gender. It doesn't help that sources that should know better use the terms interchangably.

Sex is one or the other with a minuscule % of intersex people with various very different conditions.

Gender is more complex and conflicted. One of the gender theories is that it is a spectrum so that is maybe where you picked that up. But there are other theories which challenge that.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 21-Jul-14 16:41:17

I have just re-read my post and realized I appear to believe I am part of some strange seven-fingered human species.


LurcioAgain Mon 21-Jul-14 16:56:19

LRD - can I nominate your "Freudian outakes" image for post of the week!

Ender - for me the problem with your approach is that it heads perilously into the territory of gender essentialism. I'd far sooner say (and in fact do say) to my DS "there are some very silly people who think some toys or activities are only for boys and some are only for girls - but they're wrong - it is perfectly okay for you to like football and playing with your dollshouse, and for (female-friend's-name) to like dresses and climbing trees."

Otherwise you get to the ridiculous conclusion that because I'm good at maths and map reading, and like playing football and rock climbing, but also wear high heels occasionally, like dresses, can sew and cook, this means I must be intersex. It doesn't. I'm simply an individual member of the human race (who is biologically female) who happens to have a wide and eclectic range of interests.

Penny - your daughter is probably not unlike me at that age. I think if 70s feminists could have political lesbianism, what I went through was a phase of political transexualism. It's not that I wanted to be a boy, simply that they had all the cool stuff (train sets, cricket instead of rounders, woodwork instead of needlework at school) and I thought passing as a boy would help me to gain access to this cool stuff. I think your "There are women footballers" line was perfect - read up on Rachel Yankee, most capped England player ever, with her - I think she'd find her fascinating (not least because at one stage as a child Yankee did pretend to be a boy so she could join a local boys' team).

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 21-Jul-14 17:08:50

grin I'm flattered.

Hazchem Thu 24-Jul-14 10:23:56

When I was about 8 i demanded we have a a girls cricket team. The boys were getting to play another school at cricket and I felt it was unfair. So I got a few other girls together and we went and asked the Principle for a girls cricket game as it was unfair. The Principle organised for the girls to have cricket team. At that point all of us girls realized we didn't actually like playing cricket and we were very rubbish at it but we stilled played ( and lost)
I guess I'm suggesting rather then having to explore complex questions about gender identity is that she might like to be a bit more of a feminist activist.

AnArgumentWithMyself Sat 26-Jul-14 12:02:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PeggyGuggenheim Sat 26-Jul-14 22:20:39

Thanks everyone

SolidGoldBrass Sun 27-Jul-14 01:30:04

At the risk of going 'whataboutthemenz' my DS went through a stage of wanting to be pregnant. I do think that some kids, around the point they become aware of sex differences, start wanting the bits they haven't got. Though I do understand that it's more likely that little girls may start to percieve that there are things they can't have/do because they are female which are actually nothing to do with biology and everything to do with sexism...

ArcheryAnnie Mon 28-Jul-14 11:43:05

Slightly sideways, but this thread has one of the best takedowns of Freud I have ever seen. Brava, LRD!

This made me think of a girl we know but rarely see, who firmly identifies as a girl but wishes she was born a boy (because: professional football) and who cuts her hair and wears clothes marketed at boys (football gear). She has taken an immense shine to my DS, which is great, but also slightly baffling, as he has zero interest in football, can't kick a ball to save his life, and long hair, and although identifying firmly as a boy, is frequently (even as a young teen) taken to be a girl. I do wonder if it is joy at seeing someone else who doesn't fit the accepted template for what "girl" or "boy" is supposed to look like. It's also worth pointing out that this girl's wish to be a boy has faded considerably in intensity since she's been taken up by proper girl's football teams.

however Wed 30-Jul-14 06:39:31

Peggy, I watched this Australian piece on trans children with my kids, who are 7 and above.

I'm not sure it's exactly what you're looking for but I found it easier to watch it with the kids, and answer questions along the way (as best I could) rather than have a discussion without a frame of reference. I need something to fall back on otherwise I get horribly sidetracked!

however Wed 30-Jul-14 06:42:09

Just to add, none of my kids have ever even remotely expressed any preferences to be anything than the sex they have been given. It just happened to come on and I thought they'd be interested.

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