My recent blog posts have been lopsided. I’ve been completely focusing on the adult view of transgendered people and now I am reminded that I have neglected to consider things from a child’s view. Consider that changed.
Allow me to introduce you to “T,” a transgender 9-year-old in Los Angeles. Yes, you read that right… nine. Born a male, the third-grader wears dresses and feels “like a girl, not a boy.” T is the first openly transgender student in her school. (And thanks to Kim for making sure I knew about her!)
Surprised? Don’t be. I predict you’ll be hearing many more stories like T’s. Like Sam Moehlig, who was born female but identifies as male. Unlike T, Sam has undergone gender reassignment surgery to further his transgender journey. And there’s 18-year-old Eli Erlick, who was born a boy but began publicly identifying as female at age 8. She said it wasn’t a decision, but a realization.
“You don’t choose gender,” she said. “Why would someone choose? It’s not a choice.”
T, Sam, and Eli have plenty of company. Just a decade ago, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles saw about 40 transgender and “gender nonconforming” youth. Today, the same center sees about 600 transgender patients between the ages of 3 and 25. I can only imagine as people become more comfortable with the concept, that number will rise.
As a parent, I’d like to think that I’d support my child if one of them came to me and said they were trans. I know I’d sure try. It must be challenging as hell to get used to the idea, but making sure my kids are physically and mentally healthy and well-adjusted as possible is my goal: which includes wholly loving them if they’re any one of the LGBTQ alphabet soup.
There are those out there that think these kids’ parents are crazy for supporting their children’s trans journey. Arguments against it range from “they’re too young to know better” to “it’s a phase” to “messing with God’s plans.” But considering the significant suicide statistics among trans people, I applaud these parents for being supportive of their child’s feelings. Parental support promotes better self-esteem and helps act as a buffer against the bullying and discrimination these kids are bound to face from a world that doesn’t understand. Btw, here’s a very cool article with other stories of trans kids and their families’ reactions, if you’d like to read more.
I am pretty confident that T, Sam and Eli – along with their parents – won’t ever read this blog. But if I ever had a chance to talk to them, I’d say this:
Your journey is your own, as are your struggles. No one knows what it’s like to be in your shoes, and no one can define you but you. I applaud you for honoring your authentic self, and am grateful that you have your parents’ love and support to do so. I am sure this journey is not easy and there will be challenges as the world fails to understand who you are. But know that there are some of us out here who are trying, and who want nothing more than for you to live a life in which you feel accepted. You’re showing more courage at a young age than some do in a lifetime. Thank you for teaching us. I’m grateful to learn.