"With gratitude."
December 7, 2014 10:29 AM   Subscribe

M. tells her friends. Marlo, aka gendermom, over a series of blog posts, talks about her first grade daughter's decision to tell her friends that she is transgender. (Trans Youth 101)
posted by roomthreeseventeen (42 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
I like the tip of using "private" instead of "secret;" that's good for any parent to keep in mind.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


whenever people talk about how much better the past was i just laugh and laugh and laugh
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:58 AM on December 7, 2014 [31 favorites]


So rather than spew ignorant vindictive about how a baby has no permanent gender identity, kids don't even know if they like red apples or green apples better, educate me about why it's healthy to let a kid lock into something so major when so undeveloped.

I'm not trying to be a disrespectful ass, but as a parent, I see this as overly sexualizing a kid. I don't see much difference between this and pageant parents. You're enabling a kid to make decisions, conduct themselves in a manner they are not emotionally ready for.

Again, I apologize if my question is offensive, I don't mean to insult.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:11 AM on December 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Keith Talent, gender isn't sexual, and while some kids might (if they had the language) describe themselves as agender, a lot of them have very strong feelings of a particular gender identity and those feelings should be (and in this case are being) respected. It's super clear from those links that the parents here have entirely followed their daughter's lead. Every kid should be so lucky.
posted by you're a kitty! at 11:19 AM on December 7, 2014 [25 favorites]


So rather than spew ignorant vindictive about how a baby has no permanent gender identity, kids don't even know if they like red apples or green apples better, educate me about why it's healthy to let a kid lock into something so major when so undeveloped.

Children first recognize their gender identity at about two years old. But M, in this case, has not done anything permanent to her body. She is not on hormones, or even hormone blockers. She is a six year old girl who is living in her truthful gender identity. If that changes at some point, and she would like to live as a boy, I don't think it's that hard for her to do that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:21 AM on December 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


I agree that kids may not really know this at a young age. But when you ask

educate me about why it's healthy to let a kid lock into something so major when so undeveloped.

I have to think, that they're not, are they? If the child changes her mind -- or rather comes to understand her nature better -- would they not be supportive of that? I just read this as saying that it's the child's decision to make as she grows up, and not an early lock-in based on gross anatomy.
posted by tyllwin at 11:23 AM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


And following up on tyllwin's answer, I'd also highlight the fact that most of culture works to massively, heavily, and often violently push kids into cis identities starting from age zero. It's not as if kids live in some magical genderless world until they hit puberty.
posted by you're a kitty! at 11:26 AM on December 7, 2014 [39 favorites]


See, that makes sense to me. THis is kinda just be who you want to be, and you'll get unconditional love and support from your family.

Now clean your room and eat all your peas.
posted by Keith Talent at 11:28 AM on December 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


It is actually already a legal human right for parents in Europe to be allowed to bring their kids up in an environment that conforms to their (the parents) beliefs. This is because the twin fundamental rights of a child are the right to a relationship with their parents and the right to be treated in a way that is reasonably in their best interests.

And the focus on the child and their "choices" is entirely inappropriate, I have no opinion about whether it is ok or not ok for parents to feel that a 6 year old can manifest a gender identity. I do know it is none of my fucking business how a non-abusive parent brings up their child.

This means that if parents want to create an environment where their kids are supported in apparently exploring gender identity it is just as legitimate as parents who want to support 6 year old evangelical christians . It is no-one else's business unless you want to say it is legally unreasonable.. which is absurd in both cases.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 11:46 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm off to buy some presents for a little girl and if I'm lucky there will be something to choose from that isn't pink, because children don't get gendered every day.
posted by bleep at 11:48 AM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Maybe I'm just hopelessly old and out of touch with today's first graders, but as I recall when I was in first grade we were just learning to read and how to print and how to add and subtract. During recess we'd go out and either play on the swings, teeter-totter and slides, or play tag or other games or just stand around sucking in some fresh air and sunshine before going back inside. There was never any in-depth conversations of gender-identity or any concern pertaining to same. Some of the boys played jump rope and hopscotch, some of the girls played rough-house games; at that age none of us knew what the word "gender" meant. At my small school each classroom had its own unisex restroom, so there was no problem of deciding whether to use the boys or girls bathroom.

I guess my point is that the blog posts in the OP use aliases and pseudonyms and stock photos, and all hint to me that it may not truly be the story of a parent of a transgender child who identified as female from almost birth. I could be wrong, but I'm getting the sense of a Go Ask Alice scenario, where the author purports it to be a true story...and then eventually we find out there was no Alice, that the story was based on anecdotes from a few people the author allegedly knew... I could be wrong, but I'm suggesting a possible Kaycee Nicole.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:11 PM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have no opinion about whether it is ok or not ok for parents to feel that a 6 year old can manifest a gender identity.

cis people have gender identities too! if i ask a six year old kid or a grown-ass adult if they're a boy or girl and they say the one i would expect them to, thats just as much as "gender identity" as if they say the other one. cis and trans, we can use the same language tools to talk about the system we're in.

(the difference [or lack thereof] between "having" a gender identity and "mainfesting" a gender identity is outside the scope of this comment)
posted by thug unicorn at 12:17 PM on December 7, 2014 [17 favorites]


I have no opinion about whether it is ok or not ok for parents to feel that a 6 year old can manifest a gender identity.
It's hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that anyone would think that most six-year-olds don't manifest a gender identity. Do you mean for a parent to feel that a 6-year-old can manifest an unconventional or non-cis gender identity?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:21 PM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


"She said, “I’ll tell them that I was born as a boy but that I’m a girl in my heart.” When I asked her why she wanted to tell these three friends, she said it was because she wanted her close friends to understand who she really was."

This seems like an incredibly profound statement from such a young child. Wow.

The entire post nearly brought me to tears. I wish it was more common for trans people to receive such acceptance, kindness and support upon coming out. Stuff like this gives me hope. :)
posted by stubbehtail at 12:25 PM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


at that age none of us knew what the word "gender" meant

that trans youth 101 link didn't come out of nowhere. trans kids weren't and aren't 1-in-a-million rare. there were trans kids and kids who grew up to be trans in YOUR generation and in YOUR town and in YOUR school. some of them are out there writing and trying to help others like them.

aliases and pseudonyms and stock photos
a transgender child who identified as female from almost birth
think about what happens if a trans girl presents herself in literally any other way.
posted by thug unicorn at 12:42 PM on December 7, 2014 [17 favorites]


> There was never any in-depth conversations of gender-identity or any concern pertaining to same

I'm very much in touch with today's first-graders, and there's a whole lotta stuff that comes up about gender. They all know if they're boys or girls.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:43 PM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ok, rather than "I have no no idea" perhaps I should have said: "in the absence of good evidence that it is harmful for a child of 6 to manifest an unconventional gender identity I don't care." In the absence of evidence that it is harmful I am happy to let parents bring up their children as the feel fit. Just like I am happy to let them bring up kids who think they have a conventional identity, or who think santa claus is real or whatever.

But the undercurrent here in my posts was the idea that if a parent disagrees with a 6 year old who supposedly thinks they are transgender or gay or perhaps even an atheist/christian should they be allowed to keep parenting the child and in many ways imposing their will over the apparent will of the child. In my mind the answer is obviously yes, and that is what I suspect you are actually objecting too. I think you want too say that the state or "society" should intervene and protect that kid from the influence of ideas you see as bad and exercise a choice. That choice is really only present in the rights of the child and their relationship between a child and their carer so that is what i was objecting too
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:11 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you're not trolling a good place to start is the WPATH Standards of Care and it's huge reference list.
posted by odinsdream at 1:11 PM on December 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


I have no problem trusting a very young child to have a solid sense of their own gender identity, but I don't know if I'll ever get over my reflexive mistrust of parenting blogs.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:33 PM on December 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


If you are not trolling state your position clearly. I stated mine. You are just signalling affiliation. What part of my standoff liberal position do you think is wrong? What part is morally problematic to you?
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:42 PM on December 7, 2014


[Guys, find a way to discuss this without the "if you're not trolling" or "here's what i think you're actually thinking" stuff, please, and this will go better.]
posted by cortex at 1:45 PM on December 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


For the record: one of the developmental "milestones" that a three year old is expected to have achieved is to know their gender and be able to correctly state what it is when asked. They ask you this at the doctor's office at your 3 year visit. That seems like pretty good evidence that gender does exist for 3-year-olds and their parents without the parents being weird gender-identity-pushers or whatever.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:00 PM on December 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


its 2014 and we can direct you to the WPATH and things like Official Academic Studies done about how trans people kill ourselves way less when respected.

but twenty years ago? forty years ago? nothing. you want to see why paying attention to and respecting lived experiences beats the shit out of evidence, go learn what the ~good evidence~ looked like twenty years or forty years ago.

seriously. people who are all gung ho about ~evidence~ need to learn the history of the "science" of the bodies and selves of queers and women and trans people.
posted by thug unicorn at 2:30 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


“Sophie said to me, ‘Daddy, what’s the difference between boys and girls?’ So I said, ‘Well, umm, girls have vaginas…’”

Sophie didn’t let him finish. “She rolled her eyes and gave me a look,” Sophie’s dad said.

I’ve seen that look. Sophie is not a child to be trifled with. Certainly not by her dad, the neurologist. What does he know?

“And she said, ‘Gosh, Daddy, don’t you know that some girls have penises?’ And she walked off, shaking her head at how stupid I was, I guess.”


A first grader having the concept of the separation biological sex and gender? That's probably the happiest thing I've read all day. And what a great example of how having experiences with trans folk completely normalizes them and their experiences to cis folk.
posted by damayanti at 2:35 PM on December 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


Also, I don't know about phrase "locked in" -- there's nothing locked in at this age, not even gender identity. Remember that time when you were 4 and acted like a dinosaur for 2 months? Maybe this is a phase, maybe it isn't, but either way I think it's fine. If you want to change your gender identification on a daily basis, that's all good, whether you're 3 or 30.
posted by axiom at 2:51 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think you want too say that the state or "society" should intervene and protect that kid from the influence of ideas you see as bad and exercise a choice.

nope, actually. worrying about prescriptive political philosophy is not something i've really done much at all of since i stopped being a straight dude.

look im here to say that there are really good reason why trans girls should be unquestionably accepted as girls and the people here who are into "what the state and society should or shouldnt do" or "rights" can take that and run with it or not i really don't know.

signalling affiliation
*shrug*
posted by thug unicorn at 2:58 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


[Her teacher] called up the guy who runs our support group for parents of young transgender kids and grilled him on the best way to support M. and the kids she wanted to tell. She attended a training session about transgender kids in schools (last-minute, after hours, on her own time, even though she has her own small child waiting at home for her!) that happened to be taking place last week at another local school. She called me to discuss strategies. She ran various scenarios by M. and the two of them came up with a plan together.

I am so, so thankful for this teacher and the others like her, and I am overcome with joy that more and more trans kids are having this kind of experience.
posted by Corinth at 3:12 PM on December 7, 2014 [18 favorites]


My gods, to have had such a sensitive environment to grow up in. I'm not trans, but I am a tad genderfluid (man it really feels weird to actually say that to people). I'm mainly cis woman though.

I say this because I grew up constantly missgendered as male. I looked, acted, and spoke "like a boy". I didn't do all the "girl" things. But let me tell you - NOTHING hurt more than substitute teachers yanking me out of line for the girls bathroom, or making me sit with the boys. Random strangers assuming I was a boy, and worse, the "Wouldn't you rather do x, like all girls your age?" when they found out I wasn't a boy, on top of the other kids on top of everything else. Year. After year. Week after week. Even when I started to hit puberty, well into my late teens even, I had this happen to me. Adults, other people my age, everyone, missgendering me over and over and over. I cannot imagine how much worse it must be for a trans kid to go through this than it was for me.

Here's the moment I will always remember, the moment I realized that me being a girl was always going to be a problem for people. I was maybe 13, working at a volunteer program for our local zoo. There was a boy, I don't even really remember his name now, but in the two weeks we'd been working together, I'd developed a bit of a crush on him, and we had gotten to be friends. Then one day we got split up by gender for some reason, and after, he refused to believe I was actually a girl. I had shortish hair (shoulder length, but shaved in the back), I didn't shave my legs, I didn't wear girls clothes, I didn't mind getting dirty, I was as strong as he was - all of it, he said, I couldn't be a girl. He put his hand on my shoulder - something he'd probably done 50 times before that - and suddenly felt where my bra strap was under my t-shirt. He ... freaked is the wrong word. But after that day, he barely spoke to me, and I was miserable. I was a girl, and that had ruined everything.

... I cannot imagine the experience of being trans.. but I've shared this story with trans friends, and they've seen an echo of themselves in it. But hundreds of times worse, over and over....

You want to ask if a child has a gender identity? Go back and ask 6 year old me, crying because I was embarrassed by a teacher for using the "wrong" bathroom. Go back and ask 8 year old me, being put in a corner because the teacher couldnt figure out where I went in the "girl boy" pattern of desks. Go ask me, every year. Go ask me the night after 13 year old me realized a boy who she thought was her friend didn't want to be friends with a girl.
posted by strixus at 5:02 PM on December 7, 2014 [34 favorites]


I guess my point is that the blog posts in the OP use aliases and pseudonyms and stock photos, and all hint to me that it may not truly be the story of a parent of a transgender child

What else would you expect from a family trying to protect their kid from Internet trolls and worse, and moreover, a kid that specifically has requested "privacy" relating to these matters? If the blogger didn't use aliases and stock photos, I would be shocked and angry for the child.

On the question of whether kids know about their own and others' gender identities, I just spent a weekend with a friend and her three year old. The friend hates all the pink/blue gendering nonsense for babies, and her daughter has always had green, yellow, brown, and mixed-colour clothes, a simple bowl unisex haircut, and toys that cross the supposed gender lines. They make a big effort withe this.

The daughter has recently figured out how gender works (sort of) and my god, she won't shut up about how she's a girl. Every couple of sentences, you get. "I'm a girl!" And "mummy's a girl, and daddy's a boy, and I'm a girl like mummy." And she asks everyone on first meeting, "Are you are boy or a girl? (I'm a girl)."

I have no trouble believing that a child who feels that their gender is not congruent with their genitals would let people know about this, and that the parents could pick it up this early..
posted by lollusc at 6:19 PM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also, obviously I considered the possibility that my friend's daughter was just sharing information she had been told, without "feeling" deep down that she was a girl ("in her heart", as the blog post nicely put it).

But this "I'm a girl!" stuff has been going on for a few months now, and other information that the child has learned about herself during this time doesn't get nearly so much air-time. E.g. she recently learned that her name starts with the letter S, and yes, she did tell me this, and ask me what letter my name started with, but she did this ONCE in a whole weekend. Likewise, she told me that she has brown hair, and that I have red hair, but again, this was just part of the general introductions phase and she didn't come back to it again. The "I'm a girl" stuff was clearly something that is much more important to her, because she came back to it, I am not kidding, like once every conversation: maybe 100 times over the weekend.
posted by lollusc at 6:24 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Some kids know they are trans, it's something that happens. Doesn't need to be proven in the comments section here in the hinterlands of the Internet.

I'd blow y'all's minds by telling you "kids like this should be able to take hormone blockers to delay puberty while they sort all this out with the society surrounding them"
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:57 PM on December 7, 2014 [14 favorites]


I'd blow y'all's minds by telling you "kids like this should be able to take hormone blockers to delay puberty while they sort all this out with the society surrounding them"

I agree with you, but first grade? Seems unlikely that a child would need to delay puberty. Even very early bloomers don't start puberty until third grade-ish.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:33 PM on December 7, 2014


Anyone who has doubts about these blog posts should read more about young trans kids --- very young trans kids. For example, there was the FPP About a Girl: Coy Mathis' Fight to Change Gender which started with this excerpt from the linked article:
One night in January 2010, Kathryn was tucking him in for bed under his pink quilt, and Coy, then three, seemed upset. "What's wrong?" she asked. Coy, his head resting against his kitty-cat-print pillow, hugged his pink stuffed pony with the glittery mane that he'd gotten for Christmas and said nothing, his mouth bent in a tight frown. "Tell me," Kathryn urged. Coy's chin began to quiver.

"When am I going to get my girl parts?" he asked softly.

"What do you mean?"

"When are we going to go to the doctor to have me fixed?" Coy asked, tears now spilling down his cheeks. "To get my girl parts?"
Then there was Transgender at Five which describes how a child --- born with a vagina --- was finally able to convince his father that he was a boy:
“We were in the car; I was driving,” Stephen told me.

Kathryn [the child] was in the back and grabbed a book off the seat.

“Daddy, I’m going to read you a story, okay?” Kathryn said, opening a random book and pretending to read. “It’s about a little boy who was born. But he was born like a girl.”

Stephen nearly slammed the brakes, then listened as the story unfolded about how unhappy the little boy was.
This is not about kindergartners taking a break from giving cootie shots to discuss gender non-conformity. This is about children whose experienced gender identity is not the same as their external genitalia, kids who know they are a boy even though they have a vagina, or know they are a girl even though they have a penis. These little kids are wise and clear-eyed and say the deepest heartbreaking things because they just don't know any better. They haven't been brainwashed about gender roles the way all us adults have. They just know the truth of what they experience, even in the face of grownups telling them the opposite.

Until recently these kids would have been given a life sentence of unhappiness, of a world insisting that they were wrong. That insistence very often ended in suicide. That is why it is so incredibly wonderful to see that that is starting to change, to see these beautiful little kids who are finally able to get through to the thick-headed adults and convince them about what is going on.

The kids know. It's like my four year old son who just assumed his uncles Peter and Bob were married because, well, they were just obviously married. We didn't bother to tell him that it wasn't yet legal in their state for them to be married (and luckily that's changed since then). That's why it's so wonderful reading about little girls like Sophie who laugh at their know-it-all doctor fathers for being so stupid as to say that all girls have vaginas and not penises. Dad, who would ever think such a thing? How dumb!
posted by alms at 7:56 PM on December 7, 2014 [20 favorites]


When I entered kindergarten, my mother came up with two ideas. The first was to chop my hair off short so that she wouldn't have to spend so much time combing the snarls out of it. The second was to buy boys' clothes for me to wear, because they were cheaper and more sturdily made than girls' clothes. This went over with me, a cis girl, not at all well; I was terribly upset at the thought that people would think I was a boy. And that is how I know that people who are all, like, "little kids have no idea what gender is" are full of shit.
posted by LindsayIrene at 8:24 PM on December 7, 2014 [19 favorites]


"delay puberty" in my mind had connotations of waiting until puberty is about to start. Sorry for allowing that to be implicit in my comment and indicate I think 5 year olds should be taking blockers. not my intent at all!
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:43 PM on December 7, 2014


Seems strange to be arguing about whether a child should be taking puberty blockers at a time before those blockers would have anything to block.

Oh, but it would be Terribly Wrong to start at such a young age... well, kinda DUH? It would also be pointless.
posted by tigrrrlily at 5:01 AM on December 8, 2014


The point I was trying to make, to clarify, is that we are sitting here questioning if a child knows they are trans or not, with the assumption they don't. The reality is they are trans and they know it. My point is that I believe discussing "learning about how communities move forward over the course of their lives in a trans-inclusive way" would be a better discussion than "make them prove it to me".
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:24 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


This girl's school sounds so amazing. Seriously, MULTIPLE trans education sessions for teachers within a short period of time? I also wonder whether the teacher is as amazingly on-board just personally, or whether the school board level education effort has a big role there. I've never heard of such comprehensive-sounding education in schools, and it sounds like a really effective approach. Curious about where in the US this family lives. (But obviously it's ok and understandable that they prefer to keep that private!)

(As for anyone who thinks kids that age don't have a gender identity... obviously nobody ever misgendered you as a kid! I'm a cis woman, and ONE time, when I was a five or six year old, rollin' on the sidewalk with my pink bike and training wheels, some man said "Hello, little boy" to me. It pissed me off for weeks at the time, and I still remember it 20 and change years later. So hell yes, at six I had a gender identity. Most people do.)
posted by snorkmaiden at 7:12 AM on December 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


One of my 8 year old niece's friends, who has been in her class since kindergarten (now in 3rd grade), is transgender.

The mom is AWESOME and certainly wasn't plotting for her child to tell her that she was a girl. The dad left the family 3 years ago because he couldn't deal.

There is no sexuality there. She's part of a little gang of girlie girls at her school. Some of her friends know and some don't. They are all into Monster High and American Girl dolls right now. During play dates, they sing Katy Perry songs at the top of their little lungs (they all LOVE her).

She is a girl. Period.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:54 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


I like the tip of using "private" instead of "secret;" that's good for any parent to keep in mind.

Yeah, that's actually pretty genius. Private things aren't secrets, and you can tell them to parents and authority figures if needed, but it's just, you know, not done to do it! Secrets are things you can't tell that eat you up inside then (for children) you burst to tell. I'm going to try to incorporate this in my own parenting.
posted by corb at 11:20 AM on December 8, 2014


I think I was trying to address the sexuality issue above and I didn't at all make it clear.

My niece's friend, we'll call her Bella, is a girl. That is her gender. In terms of who she likes (boys and/or girls or neither) none of the girls, cis or trans, are into their sexuality right now, they're into Katy Perry and the American Girl dolls. In 3 or 4 years, they will start thinking about sexuality and learning who they do or don't prefer as kissing partners, but they are not thinking about their sexual orientations when they think about their gender.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:27 PM on December 8, 2014


From my experience, even though I grew up in a totally gender-neutral environment WRT to "what girls and boys do and how they are allowed to play", it's really important for parents in the community to be inclusive of trans children when discussing the inevitable discussion about what body parts do, why they exist and what they mean. That time of my life is where the "girls" separated from the "boys" in a very serious way, it was the trauma and othering began in earnest, and marked the earliest stages of repressing myself and suffering in silence. This was at about 7,8 years old.

It's not easy for parents to grasp the notion that "sex parts != gender" and even harder still to put that into language for children. Yet it is a big deal.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:37 PM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


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