Too Young to be Transgender

Transgender symbol

Transgender restroom sign
Over the past few years I’ve written several columns about Transgenderism, and I must confess that some of the nastiest emails I’ve ever received have come from Trans advocates who misunderstood my intent. In short, I have no problem with an 18-year-old transitioning to another gender, but I do have a problem with parents who encourage and enable that same transition in a small child.

It seems not a week goes by that we don’t hear about another publicity-seeking mother who brags about letting her 10-year-old boy wear dresses to school. In fact, these stories have become so commonplace that I’ve started to tune them out, that is until I heard about “Libby” Gonzales.

“Libby” has become the erstwhile poster child for those who oppose the controversial Texas bathroom bill. Similar to North Carolina’s HB2, the Texas bill professes to be about privacy rights and, if passed by both chambers, would prohibit Transgender persons from using public restrooms unless they use the facility that corresponds to their biological sex.

“Libby”, a biological boy, is only 7 years old, but her parents, Rachel and Frank, say that the child identified as a girl by age three. Rachel recalled the moment of truth for CNN. While visiting a toy store four years ago, Rachel said to her son, “You can pick out anything you want.” “Libby” selected a fairy costume with pink skirt and wings. Said “Libby” to her mom, “This is what I want.” From that point forward, Mr. and Mrs. Gonzales enabled their son’s alleged transgender tendencies.

Stories like those are a media staple these days, but what doesn’t get much attention are legitimate studies and experts who say that many parents are misguided, and are doing harm to their children by helping them transition too early. Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, told CNSNews.com that young children who act in conflict with their biological sex, suffer a mental “disorder of assumption.” McHugh also cites studies by Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic which found that 70% to 80% of children who express transgender feelings, “spontaneously lose those feelings” over time.

That view is echoed by Dr. Ken Zucker, head of the Gender Identity Service at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. Dr. Zucker told the Globe & Mail’s Margaret Wente, “About three fourths of little kids who have issues with their gender – boys who want to be princesses, girls who want to throw their dresses in the garbage – will be comfortable with it by adolescence…or grow up to be gay or bi.” Says Wente, “That’s why Dr. Zucker takes a watch-and-wait approach, and even advises parents of princessy 6-year-olds to say, ‘You’re not a girl, you’re a boy.’” Unfortunately you won’t hear those words coming out of Rachel Gonzales’ mouth, or from most of the attention-seeking parents who love to trot their child out to the media at every opportunity. Why, then, are we hearing about so many transgender children? Dr. Alice Dreger, a bioethicist at Northwestern University’s school of medicine, and a staunch advocate for Transgender rights, told the Globe and Mail, “The pendulum has swung too far. Parents who encourage their kids to change gender are socially rewarded as wonderful and accepting, while parents who try to take it slow, are seen as unaccepting, lacking in affection, and conservative.”

I’m neither a doctor nor a parent, but I have been a little boy, and experience tells me that a child’s utterances and desires are mercurial in nature. One day Johnny wants to be a fireman, the next day a cowboy. One day Suzy wants to be a veterinarian, the next day she wants to be an astronaut. A good parent takes those imaginings with a grain of salt, and rolls with the punches. She doesn’t rush out and send her 7-year-old to flight school at NASA. In like manner, if a little girl wants to dress like a cowboy, the parent shouldn’t tell the child that she’s a boy.

Opponents of the Texas bathroom bill say that it will stigmatize transgender youth, and even put them in danger. But Dr. McHugh says the greater danger to gender dysphoric youth is for their parents to push them into a transgender lifestyle too soon. For example, McHugh cites a new study that shows the suicide rate among transgender youth who go on to have re-assignment surgery, is twenty times higher than the suicide rate among the non-transgender population.

In short, parents of children who show an interest in gender-conflicting activities and clothing, should just take a deep breath and cool it for a few more years. Says Dr. Dreger, “You get the sense that what we have is not so much a rational approach to a psychosocial issue, as a radical ideological experiment.” Perhaps the Globe & Mail’s Wente says it best, “Maybe we’re manufacturing more problems than we’re solving. If we really want to help people, we should remember the old rule: First, do no harm.
 
 

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