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I'm going to give a quick history on this to support my question. When my daughter was 12, her & I moved to my hometown, where we already had friends and family that we are very close with. After moving she joined 4H, track & band (her grades weren't the greatest) and really started coming out of her shell.

A couple new students started at her school, 1 of them a grade above her. After hanging out with these friends she started to copy their style (colored hair, music, ripped shorts/jeans & whatnot). I had a "unique" style & friends in school as well so I had no issues with that. But she then decided that she was bi-sexual after awhile.

After these changes she started having issues getting along with other girls at school, started developing anxiety issues, then started having issues getting along with these friends, 1 of which started cyber bullying her(on top of the general teenage girl drama). As sad as it is to say, it seemed like it was a trend in this group of girls & boys to cut yourself and post attention grabbing things on facebook, they ALL did it. Things were going so horrible for her that I wanted to get her out of that town, and away from these kids, so we moved back & she returned to her previous school. Since we've been here her grades have improved tremendously, she made several friends the first day of school, & the cutting stopped, as well as the depression, she seems very happy & upbeat now which means more to me than anything.

She now is insisting that feels like/would prefer to be a boy. When she's at school it's like she lives a double life. As hard as it was I let her get a very short haircut, she dresses more like a boy now and goes by a boy name at school around her friends. She plans to take testosterone as soon as she's old enough, which is one thing I will not support at 15 years old.

So far what I keep telling her is that this is a big decision and these are changes that you can not fully make until you've grown up, gotten out of school, etc. As a teenager you are gonna spend all 4 years of highschool just trying to figure out who you are, you can't make these kind of life decisions as a teenager. I also tell her that being a teenager & being in highschool is hard enough, making these decisions right now is going to add to the highschool angst. I am fully supportive of her feelings and wishes on this, & she's very open with me, we are very close, but I will not allow her to make any drastic changes to her body. If once she graduates she still feels strongly about this, I will support her all that I can.

I would just like to know if there are any other parents out there that are going through anything similar to this, when you know your child may have a long hard & painful road ahead if they follow this path, how you handle it? What do you say to your child about it? What are your feelings? (Please no disrespectful comments)

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    I am not going through this, but it sounds like you are doing the right things. At 15, she may well know, but it is far too early to make a commitment. **IF ** she were to become a man, she would need to go through extensive therapy. That has nothing to do with being right or wrong., but is part of that process. If it is feasible, why not offer her a head start on that? Win/win. No judgement, but honest support and loving understanding from you, is usually a good path. Best of luck and I hope someone with experience can help. – WRX Apr 20 '17 at 19:38
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    I understand that you think it is too early for large modifications of his body and body chemistry, but as you are doing your best to be supportive, why don't you just let him live as a boy, clothes and all, just without the testosterone, and maybe give him a head start on the therapy, as @Willow already suggested. (And, as I tried to model in this comment, also call him and see him as a boy, which I think is the ultimate support anyone could give.) – skymningen Apr 21 '17 at 8:25
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    Rebesalt -- I think identifying any person as the gender they see themselves as is just common courtesy. I would not be pleased if someone intentionally called me a man (in person). However, do you think this is a phase or do you think your child is honestly male? I was (probably mistakenly) under the impression that you think it is a phase rather than actual identification. I'll admit, I know very little about this, but loving support won't hurt and neither would therapy -- perhaps both of you could benefit. I'd be looking for help understanding if it was my child. – WRX Apr 21 '17 at 13:59
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    Most importantly, it is a race against his/her biological clock. Calling it a phase or trying to suppress is not a good idea. She/he will become more frustrated later in life in case it wasn't just a silly phase. If she/he decides to medically transition, then you will be spending more money in the future than you would now and the transition won't be as effective either. – Yashas Apr 24 '17 at 5:14
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    The HRT is more effective when started young. Puberty is irreversible. The more time you give for puberty to do its job, the harder it becomes to medically transition. Well, at least, she/he can be put on puberty blockers and give her/him time to decide later. – Yashas May 27 '17 at 0:42

11 Answers 11

17

I am not a parent going through this, but I've been that child, so I have a few suggestions.

The most important thing is to take her seriously. You can express this in various ways. The first is to really try to understand her situation.

She's not gay, she's having trouble with her psychological gender idendity vs her physical sex. Do some research on the terminologies and what they mean, so you can use the right words and better understand what she's going through. You seem accepting and as supportive as you can, but the more you know, the better you can help her.

Accomodate her as much as you can. So what if she wants to wear guy clothes? If that makes her feel more comfortable in her own skin, and therefore helping her in a time when she's already struggling and unbalanced, go for it.

Seek professional help. It is too early for surgery, especially since I get the feeling she might just be in the process of figuring out where on the gender scale she actually is, and 15 is probably too late to push back puberty and buy more time, but there might be other ways to help her. But only a professional can really figure out what might be appropriate in her case.

More importantly, they can help her on the journey of looking inside, finding out who she really is. Currently she's probably rebelling against the ouside world which says she's a girl, when that doesn't feel 'right'. With patience and guidance she might be abble to accept that dichtonomy, but for that to happen, understanding is key, as well as being accepted fully and without reservations, whichever way she decides in the end.

Whether in the end she accepts her current sex or takes the plunge, it will be a long and often painful process, and I whish you and your daughter all the best.

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    Would strongly disagree that 15 is too late to push back puberty, at 15 there are still many active changes taking place which puberty blockers could delay until the kid is an adult and can make a more permanent decision. (other than that its an excellent answer 1+) – user27243 May 18 '17 at 8:35
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15 year old means she is old enough to discuss things seriously with her.

The facts: If this is just a phase that she's going through, then it is absolutely fine to dress more like a male, and acting more like a male, and then switching back to female if that phase is over. And of course she needs to be aware that this could lead to problems at school, because some 15 year olds wil just act in a nasty way. Same if she doesn't really feel like a male, but like a girl or woman who wants to dress and act as a man.

If this is not just a phase, and if she feels as a male, then both you as the adult, and he or she as the person affected, should find support to first of all figure out 100% what her state of mind is. If he feels genuinely like a male, then at some point he will want to have medical changes. That's a big decision. It's a decision where one must be 100% right about their feelings, because it's a decision that cannot be completely undone. and one definitely doesn't want to make the wrong decision.

And the problematic thing for you is that the younger a person is, the easier medical changes can be done. So at some point there may be need for professional help, not to influence him or her, but to find out what exactly is his mental state.

Someone named "physics_compute" thinks I should mention that nothing can permanently change a person's biological gender. That's quite missing the point. Surely a male mind in an outwardly male looking body is better than a male mind in a female looking body. And today we can modify a biologically female body in such a way that nobody sees the difference without close examination, and to such a degree that this person can find a female heterosexual partner if that is what they want. Not just slightly better, but a lot better than being in a female body for a male mind.

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    This hits the key point with medical changes being easier now. I would also add that they will have less of a "paper-trail" to deal with if they make some legal changes now. For instance if you change your name before you graduate school you will not have your "egg-name" on your graduation cert. – user27243 May 18 '17 at 8:37
8

This screams out phase, whether true or not. I like the advice thus far of taking her seriously and educating yourself.

Beyond that, I suggest doing nothing outside of "normal" parenting. I would absolutely avoid counseling for at least a year unless you suspect she is losing her sense of reality and might need a mental health professional.

This is by no means defamatory. And her true intentions may be to create a reaction or get your attention. Oftentimes, teenagers don't know why they do the things they do, and counseling means I have a problem, and my parents think I'm a freak.

There's at least a 90% chance that she will have been married with children by 35. Let her go through her phase and by and large stay out of the way.

The only major problem in these situations is the potential abuse of testosterone obtained illicitly. Deepening of the voice and facial hair would be the most obvious signs. Steroid abuse is a vicious addiction and requires professional attention.

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    I think it screamed out 'phase' too, but whether that is due to parental denial and the way they worded the question, or confusion on the part of the 15 y/o, it is hard to say. My (then) 10 y/o nephew came out to me and it was because he was not yet at the same developmental stage as his peers. He did not like girls and assumed that meant he was gay. We handled it by telling him it was perfectly okay to be gay, and that he did not have to decide until he was older. He wasn't gay, but one of those girl-liking boy friends (at 10) ended up being in fact gay. The OPs child may be bi -- who knows? – WRX Apr 23 '17 at 14:07
  • Absolutely. As I mentioned, the statistics highly favor a traditional family arrangement; it doesn't guarantee it. There's little harm letting the matter simmer for a year or two while both parent and child think about it before proceeding. – Stu W Apr 23 '17 at 14:18
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    @StuW You mentioned you would avoid Counseling - however do you mean strictly in relation to gender identity? Because, it seems like some potentially serious other issues are going on and there may be a need to get a grip on those issues long before dealing with any gender issues (imo). i.e. see my comment to 'not store bought'. – Adam Heeg Apr 24 '17 at 1:57
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    Letting a kid in this position know that you (as a parent) think this is "just a phase" is very condescending and isolating for the kid, regardless of whether the parent is right in the end. – user27243 May 18 '17 at 8:42
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    @TheoreticalPerson: I don't think Stu was advocating telling the child "this is just a phase dear, you'll grow out of it." Rather I took it to mean that the parent shouldn't get flustered at this point and it would be better to let the child wear whatever boys clothes etc. Then revisit this topic if the situation persists in a few years. For all we know the child is taking this tact as a way to provoke a certain response. So, the best response is Love. – NotMe Nov 7 '17 at 16:23
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I'd like to start off by saying I'm not a parent, but am a younger trans person with lived experience, so hopefully this helps a bit. The most important thing you can do at this time is support your child, and it seems like you've been doing a good job thus far. Here are some things that you can do immediately:

  1. see if there are any trans youth groups in your area your kid can join. this does not mean your kid is trans, but rather can help them figure out if they are.

  2. think about getting your kid a therapist to talk to. if they do realize they are trans, state laws usually require talking to a therapist for a few months minimum before you can start hormones.

  3. read up on some resources. there are a bunch of short booklets you can read to familiarize yourself with common terminology and dispel misconceptions you might have.

  4. test out a social transition, rather than a medical one. it sounds like your kid had already picked a name, try using it along with the appropriate pronouns. getting more masculine clothes, haircut, etc are more easy, reversible things that can also be done.

  5. realize that even though it seems like your child has a long and painful path ahead of them, this is usually the hardest and most painful part. for me, having the courage to transition and be genuine with myself was the best thing I ever could have done for my mental health. yes, it comes with some dangers, but the potential for actual happiness feels far greater now than ever seemed possible.

    Even though it seems like this is too big a choice to be made this young, kids at this age and younger are already deciding they would rather die than live another day being invisible.

Okay so it seems like there's just a lot of general misinformation going around and some mild confusion so I'm going to post a few helpful links:

https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/asher-not-your-mom-s-trans-101 Really good read, highly recommend.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-something-unique-about-the-transgender-brain/

http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2016/gender-lines-science-transgender-identity/

http://kuow.org/post/when-do-kids-know-they-re-transgender-younger-youd-think

I would also like to point out that this isn't a decision that someone just makes one day, but rather more of a realization. I came out as trans to my parents at 17, went on hormones at 18 (though I know of several younger people on hormones or blockers, and several people in the early 60s just starting!) and still years later my parents are waiting for this "phase" to end.

Listen to your kid, but wait it out a little. If it's persistent for more than a year, it's not something they'll grow out of. Starting hormones later in life won't decrease their effectiveness or increase the cost whatsoever.

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    Thank you for sharing your experience. My concern about going along completely with this ( hair and dress changes, calling the child by another name) -- is that IF it is just a phase, copying a peer or 'just' an attempt to be cool or different -- is the psychological damage it might cause that could last beyond the phase -- IF it is a phase. This is why my own way of handling it would be to ask for counselling first and then stand with my child should she decide after say six months of therapy that she wanted to take that next step. Please feel free to school me on this! – WRX May 17 '17 at 13:44
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    I honestly don't see what long lasting damage could occur from playing with an identity. I don't think it's any different from trying out for soccer or cheerleading and finding out it's just not for you. – just a trans guy May 18 '17 at 1:59
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    @justatransguy it could suck if people important to them would react badly to them deciding it wasn’t actually what they wanted. Hopefully the kid will feel that its no big deal to back out if they decide that it's not actually better for them. People have a tendency to label that sort of thing as attention seeking though. – user27243 May 18 '17 at 9:44
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    @TheoreticalPerson that is a part of my concern, but also that the peer group at school will insist on the label and that may cause difficulties with choices and more important -- how teens feel about themselves during a critical period. It could affect grades, interests and self-confidence. This is why I'd select the neutral course for the first six months. My request would be to do therapy individually and as a family for six months before any outward choice was made. I'd fully support while asking for a breathing/decision period. After that, I'm onboard 100%; kid's informed choice. – WRX May 18 '17 at 11:39
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I was in her position at 15. I had really short hair, dressed completely as a boy at home and at school. I started at a new school and my new friends thought I was a boy for a good 6 months before they realised I was female.

I was very confused about my gender, and back then (~15 years ago) being trans wasn't really as well-known as it was today. My parents were supportive of me. They let me express my gender without making a big issue of things, even through they probably were quite unsure themselves. They always reminded me that I was okay just as I was, it was okay to take time to figure that out, and they love me just the same nonetheless.

Over the following 5 years I came to better terms with my identity as a woman and now it's 15 years later and I'm very happy with myself. I realised that (excuse me if I explain this awkwardly) my gender wasn't such a big deal to me. I could consider myself a gender-fluid person in a female body and that was perfectly okay. My feelings toward gender were completely neutral. To some extent, I didn't care what I was. I found Vihart's video on youtube where she discusses this and it really struck a chord with me.

I think that you're doing a great job of being supportive and encouraging of your child. My parents did the same and I really appreciated the openness and safety I found at home. It's their choice to transition or not, and different people choose to transition to different extents, and some people like me come to terms with their bodies and choose not to transition, even though they're not completely cisgender. I commend you for giving your child the space and safety to figure out what they want to do in their own time.

4

In all likelihood it is just a phase. Transgender identity politics seem to be a trend at the moment and like most teenagers she wants to conform and fit in to her peer group. I think it isn't a coincidence she has decided this after finding new friends.

There are also groups involved with pushing this agenda in schools so maybe it would be a good idea to check to see if that is the case in your daughters school to see if there is any undue influence being put upon her.

Other than that I would just let her dress as a boy if she wants to and accept any non harmful lifestyle choices but i wouldn't support any physical changes at all like surgery or hormones, she is a child and cannot reliably/responsibly make such life altering decisions at that age and it is your duty to protect her, even from herself.

If she still feels the same when she is 18 then she can decide for herself.

3

While you think seriously about how to deal with the big scary future, like medicine and counseling there are some low commitment things you can do to signal support.

Consider the pronouns and name you use. This more than anything signals acceptance and respect.

Go shopping. Personally I have trouble telling the difference between some boys' and girls' clothes.

Look into activities or role models in your kid's planed gender. Adolescence is a time really set aside for trying new things, and while gender roles are waining it may be there is something particular that's been reserved that you can try.

Going slow and not making big commitments isn't wrong, but be sure to signal that you are on the same team.

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    I can't put fully coherent thoughts together - but I feel compelled to say this is close to the opposite of what I am thinking. Feeding into - or even focusing on the gender identity seems FULLY tangential to the actual issues this young girl is facing. I'm in full support of getting into her life and understanding her feelings and issues, but not through the gender issue. I don't know how to express it, but the gender thing is just not the right focus. – Adam Heeg Apr 24 '17 at 1:55
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The first thing to do in my opinion is ask her one question. Why do you want to be a boy? If she keeps bringing up her friends and that is the main focus its peer pressure and she might get over it. But still might need a councelor. If her focus is on what she herself feels and thinks then, she needs counceling, then you will know its more serious and need a eye kept on.

  • This is a good question to ask. But it doesn't need to be treated as a problem if the answer is that it is truly because it's what she wants. – L.B. Jun 27 '17 at 20:45
3

I'm a transsexual woman and I'm part of the extended family of a slightly older trans youth, and good friends with a trans man of about this age.

Welcome to a personal problem that a large number of people with no personal experience are going to inject their own fears and needs into, as witnessed by many of these answers.

Sort out your own needs and wants from what your son needs. Being a parent means taking care of someone else before taking care of yourself.

Continue to be a supportive parent, and give your child basic respect. If he wants you to use male pronouns, a male name, etc., then do so.

Medical intervention is something for 'down the road' a bit - though, as others have pointed out, the earlier it's done the better for his health the remainder of his life. But start with establishing support and

Find other parents in a similar situation. Your local chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays is a good starting point.

Is this a phase? Almost certainly not. The experience of every trans person I've known and talked with over the more than 3 decades I've been out has been that we knew from a quite young age that we were trans. I myself tried to come out at 14.

Kids do want to be cool, and right now the US is in the middle of a political crisis that includes a campaign against trans people. This has raised awareness of trans identity. But a young man who'se saying 'I'm a boy, not a girl', who'se asking for hormone replacement therapy, and who is this committed certainly sounds like one of us.

And, I should say, I'm not out recruiting - being trans IS hard. When the young woman in my extended family came out, I certainly wasn't turning cartwheels of joy. But I'm glad she figured it out at the age she did. And I'm glad your son is figuring it out.

You are not alone. There are other people in your area who are in your situation. I'm writing this in a small redneck town in Eastern Oregon, and know at least 4 trans youth here. They all have parents. And they're as freaked out as you are right now.

Find those parents!

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    Thank you for the personal perspective and providing a supportive path forward for all involved. – Acire Nov 3 '17 at 12:36
2

As a pre-T kid, this guide was gold: http://ftmguide.rassaku.net/ it gives some very solid advice on how to present as male without any medical intervention.

Secondly, don't underestimate the impact of social transition. Using a name and pronouns that feel right. We don't normally see our reflection very much, so for a lot of the time a trans person can forget anything is amiss if people refer to them in the way they expect. You will mess up and refer to them with a name/pronouns you didn’t intend to, that's ok, your only human. Just say sorry and move on. It really is the thought that counts.

I won't talk about medical aspects other answers have covered that extensively.

2

Most of us have been thru such a phase. And even if it is not, 15 IS too young for life-changing decisions. It is vital that you do not push her into life altering decisions at this age, especially decisions that, even in adults, are hard and take a very long time to be taken with complete understanding.

Moreover, most of us in high school were (i) still unsure of our sexuality (ii) desperately looking for attention.

Point ii + the massive amount of mediatic coverage recently given to gender issues may be pushing her to say such things in order to get attention.

You are on the right track with the "give it time" approach and with the future plan of giving her your full support if, after having gone thru puberty and reaching an appropriate age, she still will have the same ideas.

Mind also that is your job as a parent to help her and provide her the answers she is looking for. If you don`t she may well end up getting (very damaging) answers from people with an agenda to push.

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    "Point ii + the massive amount of mediatic coverage recently given to gender issues may be pushing her to say such things in order to get attention." I agree with this, and some may crucify me for saying this, but it seems as though gender fluidity has become trendy among teenagers w/in the last 2 years, so I am keeping in mind that she has 3 years of highschool left and a lot can change. As I said I love her and I will be supportive of any decision she makes by the time she graduates and has gotten to know herself & what she wants in life, but until then, anything is possible. – Rebesalt Jun 28 '17 at 18:21
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    First do not worry about social justice warriors that crucify people for opinions, politically correct is the new obscurantism. Second, to add to my answer: this may be similar with the behavior observed in teens with eating disorders. It often is a request for attention and help and if the teen manages to get attention in such manner the behavior gets a positive reinforcement leading to added confusion. Love your daughter whatever she turns out to be and keep in mind that she is a teen, not an adult. – Caterpillaraoz Jun 29 '17 at 7:22

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