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Growing Up Transgendered

A Significant Other View
by Julie Freeman

Originally puplished in "Devil Woman", August 2015
Republished here by permission February 4, 2017

Growing Up Transgendered

With all the attention and concentration on transgendered today, it comes as no real surprise to find a different television show every week dealing with one or more issues facing those with gender identity concerns. Some shows may have been pure entertainment while others were well-done documentaries.
One show that I saw recently dealt specifically with children who knew from a very early age on that their gender did not match their physical body. It was amazing how articulate and intelligent these young children were.
Most had not yet reached puberty and the issue these young children and their parents were facing was whether or not to start a regimen of "puberty delaying" medications. This would give the child more time to determine whether he or she was truly "born in the wrong body."
Those young children who believed they were "male" were horrified at the thought of developing breasts and starting their periods. Those children who believed they were "female" were equally horrified at the thought of developing muscles, developing a deep voice, etc.
As the doctors who were consulted told the families, there are changes brought about by puberty that cannot be reversed. The concerns of all families were whether or not the medications being proposed could have long-range effects that were unknown at this point.
Delaying puberty for gender-conflicted children is relatively new. For most adults who transitioned well after puberty, this procedure was unknown, and puberty descended upon them with little warning and brought about changes they had no control over. Most would have been delighted to have such a protocol available to them when they were pre-adolescent.
But there are difficulties for the young transgendered person. He or She has to be educated about physical changes that come about that they have little understanding of, less alone comprehend the consequences of. You can only imagine how difficult it is for parents to listen to doctors telling their young children in detail how puberty affects their bodies.
But with puberty starting earlier and earlier, it is not unusual for children as young as seven and eight with identity issues being asked questions that normally are asked of young adults considering transition.
The documentary also showed how these young children were treated in school, and it was heartening to learn that many of them had supportive friends and encouraging teachers. Most, but not all, were not facing the usual bullying you hear about.
Not all parents were supportive. It was difficult to watch those situations where the children were obviously distressed that they could not get the approval needed for medication or even something as basic as a name change.
Over time, we will probably revisit these children as they progress from childhood to adolescence and then adulthood. Some will have had surgery. Others may well have decided against any surgical procedures.
We will find out as well how the parents and other family members adjusted to whatever decisions their children made.
Another show, well-worth watching, is about a 14-yr. old girl knowing she has a multitude of adult decisions to make - I am Jazz.

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