My child is a member of the first generation of kids allowed to live transgender lives from a very young age. Until now, we parents have been making it up as we go along.
BY Marlo Mack
February 11 2015
When the suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn made headlines last month, my friends with nontransgender children made a point of congratulating me on my parenting: “That won’t happen to your child because you’re doing it differently,” they said. Perhaps that’s true, but I don’t yet know for sure. The fact is that no one really does.
My child, at age 3, told me she was a girl. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Mama, something went wrong in your tummy that made me come out as a boy instead of a girl.” She wanted to go back inside me so she could come out again as a girl.
Since age 2, she’d been begging me to dress her in the pretty clothes she saw little girls wearing and had been obsessed with the things little girls often love, like princesses and fairies and the color pink. At first I assumed the whole thing was a phase. I said she could like pink and play with dolls, but that she had a boy body, so she was a boy. When she kept asserting her girlhood, I did what parents do — I went looking for advice from the experts. I took my child to our pediatrician and more than one therapist, including a psychologist who specialized in working with kids like mine — boys who feel like girls, girls who feel like boys.
I was desperate for answers to my long list of questions: Should I actually let my child switch genders at age 4, or should I mandate life as a boy? What were the chances that my child would change their mind? And would there be long-term damage if we switched from boy to girl and then back to boy? On the other hand, what were the risks of forcing the kid to continue to live as a boy when such a thing caused my child so much misery?
In every case, the experts I consulted had the same response to my questions. They didn’t know. They shrugged their shoulders apologetically, made some vague recommendations, and admitted that there wasn’t really any reliable research on kids like mine.