05 September 2013

When Kids "Come Out"

I've just come across this interesting article.  According to Kris Wells, a researcher at the University of Alberta, more kids are "coming out", not only as gay or lesbian, but also as transgender.  And they're coming out at earlier and earlier ages.

One thing I find interesting is, according to the article, that kids are increasingly supportive of their LGBT peers.  To be sure, there is ridicule and bullying, but more kids are making efforts to befriend their gay classmates.  Others simply see their peers' identities as a non-issue.

In some cases, it seems that parents who support a kid's gender transition get more flack than anyone else.  They are often accused of "confusing" their kids, or of intentional or unintentional intolerance.  Perversely, the same sorts of people who want to rigidly enforce "traditional" gender roles for children are the ones who accuse trans kids' parents of not accepting the "tomboyishness" of their daughters or the "sensitive, feminine" traits of their sons.  Or, they try to counsel such parents that their kids' assertion of his or her gender identity is just a "phase" and will be "outgrown".

The funny thing is that the people who judge such parents are the ones who are themselves most confused about what constitutes gender identity, let alone transgenderism.  They have a point when they say that a tomboy isn't necessarily a trans boy.  Millions of girls who hate the color pink or wearing dresses, or who like to play in dirt, do not see themselves as anything but girls.  Likewise, there are plenty of boys who don't care about sports or cars but would never think of themselves as anything besides boys.

Those who are transgendered do not merely flout norms about appearance, behavior and interests.  Whether and however they express it, they actually know themselves as being of the gender to which they were not assigned at birth.  I can remember seeing myself as a girl at a very young age; as I have mentioned in other posts, I--like nearly everyone else half a century ago--did not have the vocabulary or other means to express it, and few, if any, people in my environs would have understood because they were not aware of how someone could come to such a knowledge of his or her self.

Plus, if a kid knows at three or four or five that something is not "right", and expresses the wish to live in the gender of his or her mind and spirit for a decade after that, it's not a "phase".  I myself wished that my knowledge of myself--let buying shoes, clothes and accessories "for my cousin Linda" or "for my mother, and dressing myself in front of a mirror, were all just part of a "phase."  I still had that wish by the time I turned forty:  I still hoped that extreme sports and other "macho" pursuits and sexual relations with women would end it for me.

Granted, some kids will decide they aren't really trans or that, for whatever reasons, they don't want to live as the "opposite" gender and undergo hormone treatments and surgery.  Still, I can't help but to think that whatever conclusions they come to, they will be more secure in themselves if they probed whatever questions they may have had about their gender identities or sexuality, and had adults (ideally, parents, but others can fill this role) who loved them unconditionally in their journeys to self-knowledge.



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