Thursday, May 28, 2009

Transgender Nebraska 8-Year-Old

Hrm. I think I may need some help with this one, folks, so give me some good information and let's chat about it:

A family in Omaha Nebraska, who is named for their protection, is allowing their son to change schools so that he can live his life as a girl. The child's current school -- private and Catholic -- refused to allow the change to occur, so she was removed and will be placed in a new one in the coming school year. She plans to throw out all of her boy clothes, grow out her hair, and get her ears pierced. Says the mother about a regular conversation with her child: "One night she said, 'Every night when I go to bed, I pray my inside will match my outside. But it never happens."

Please don't attack me on this one, kids, as this is one of those "Barry needs more information moments" (and one of those moments when I think, "Gee... we need a trans-identified person on staff here at" -- hint hint hint -- but more on that later). When I explain how I came to "know" that I was gay, I ask people if they remember around the time when they thought, "Gee, I'm attracted to the opposite sex" -- their sexual awakening, if you will. Most people say "Oh yea," and I say, "Mine just came differently." I think they get that.

In my head, I suppose I always pictured trans-identity to be much the same ... when you "come to" in your sexuality, you would similarly "come to" in your gender. Am I wrong? I mean, 8 years old (or, 4 by this article's telling) seems really early in life. I don't even remember what I thought at 8...

...and I'm sure my perception of self has changed significantly since then.



Stuff Queer People Need To Know said...

An expose of transgender kids. It is a 20/20 special, but it does have some merit.

Jeff Elrod said...

now, i'm CERTAINLY no expert, but i feel like one can understand gender identity at a much earlier age than sexuality. sexuality is far more related to your relations with people of the sex(es) to which you're attracted, and until you've had the hormonal shift that makes you WANT sex, you really don't much think about it.

gender, on the other hand, is something that starts very early. binary-normative socialization and a "typical" understanding of the differences between boys and girls is something well within the intellectual grasp of children who lack the sexual maturity to understand to whom they may be attracted. kids can understand gender.

the amazing thing about this story is the clarity of understanding this child has of the difference between her sex (male) and her gender (female). couple that with the confusing nature of gender/sex as it is typically taught to children in schools and via television shows, and it's really amazing that this child isn't bound by the constraints of mainstream socializing.

you go, girl.

Anonymous said...

core gender identity is established around 3 years of age. So, I would think that an awareness of gender dysphoria would be much earlier than an awareness of one's sexuality being outside the norm.

that being said, sticky ethical questions of autonomy and competent decision making are always in play with children.

my opinion: children who express the desire should be able to do any and all non-permenent changes to establish a trans gender identity. For hormone therapy (which is extremely effective in pre-pubescent people), a more thorough screening criteria should be established and researched. The family should always be the final decider.

Young adults 16+ should be able to make the decision independently.

Doug said...

I think the others have given good descriptions of gender vs sexuality development, so I won't belabor the point. I just am so pleased at how the parents are handling the situation, as so many drive to one extreme or another. Either they immediately take the kid to get gender re-assignment started or they refuse to accept the situation actually exists. This is a nice, measured way to handle things.