A Perfect Letter to Community & Friends: (names have been changed)
Dear Family and Friends:
As part of our family and community, we wanted to share some important news in our life.
After careful deliberation, over an extensive period of time, with the assistance of professionals, and unconditional love - but mostly after listening to our child - we have come to realize that the daughter we have known as Carolina is really our son, Kyle.
This is not a light or simple decision, nor is it made in haste or hurry. Looking back, Kyle has always shown signs typical of the male gender since age 3. Kyle wore boy pants, boy shorts, boy shoes, and always asked for a boy haircut. When we dressed Carolina as a girl, he would return home and quickly change out of girl clothes and put on boy outfits, preferring to play with boys and melting down when we attempted dresses and “girly” things.
When your child asks you, why God made her a girl instead of a boy, your heart hurts. Mike and I have always know that Kyle was an extremely unique child, and have been so proud of his determination and confidence in expressing exactly who he really is, even when it looks strange to others.
Through the process seeing a counselor, reading all materials that we could find, meeting with other Transgender parents and families, we now see that Kyle has the heart of a boy, Nothing in this world would make him happier that to finally be himself. As a result, he has chosen to align his outside that people see with the inside that he has always felt. When school starts up again, Kyle will begin with a new name and his new gender identity.
You may wonder if he is too young to be making these decisions and changes. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that most children have a stable sense of their gender identity by age 4. Our research confirms this as well. There is no evidence (yet) to suggest that environment, specific genes, pregnancy, or family home life contributes to gender non-conformity. Our child has hit all of his milestones in a typical fashion. He is otherwise healthy, happy, thriving…but as unique as a snowflake.
And, we are convinced that transgender youth who get family and community support enjoy better lives and happiness….they get to live like everyone else. If you would like more information, read a good book called The Transgender Child.
We believe this is the perfect time for Kyle to transition. He will have the luxury of friends and family who will love him. He will also have the best school support we have been able to find locally.
If you choose to talk to your children about Kyle, and our family, a simple explanation works well: “Some people are born with the brain and heart of a boy, but the body of a girl, and that makes them sad. Sometimes they want to change the way people see them on the outside, they might change their name and start to wear different clothes. If you use his new name, he will feel so happy and accepted.” Usually children accept this matter of fact delivery.
Are we scared or confused at times? Yes! But we believe that we are absolutely doing the right thing for our child. We hope that aligning his outsides with his insides will only bring more joy and a “normal” life.
We humbly ask that you receive us compassionately, with an open heart and an open mind. And we are sure that you would want the same thing if this was your child. In the end, clothes are just clothes and a name is just a name. But our child is perfect no matter what he wears.
If our son chooses to transition back to his born gender of female, we will be there as well. In the meantime, with a 40% suicide rate for TG children, we are not willing to risk letting our child suffer to such a degree. We value you in our lives. It is our greatest desire that you will continue to love and accept us. Please support our child, Kyle, as you always have.
"How can you tell it's not just a fad the child is going through?"
"Do you persuade them one way or another?"
"Why is it so common now?
Both surgical/medical therapy and chemical/hormonal (aka cross-sex) changes are between a physician and the child's family: I refer the patient back to his physician formedical treatment, if that is the desired outcome.
Again, that is a lengthy process andnot something I, or anyone else, jumps into quickly. However, in my experience, by the time I am working with a family, the transgender client has already done their own research on the topic andcomes in with quite a bit of their own knowledge.
A slow-going, thoughtful clinician will simply allow the discussion and experience to unfold, without prompting, pushing, or stifling the process.
For female to male (FTM), this usually looks like:
Step One: I listen.
Step Two: I ask questions.
Step Three: I ask, "how can I help?"
Step Four: We walk through "whatif's?" together.
Step Five: I meet with the family and allow for all expressions.
Step 6: Refer to a local LBGTQI group (San Diego's Center)
I am often asked how a clinician can assist an adolescent through a gender transition.
Of course, every path is unique - there's no manual on how an adolescent should navigate gender non-conforming development, in other words, getting from point A to point B. There's not really a linear line for gender dysphoria.
The clinicians role is to by-stand and be a sounding board through the emotional and psychological struggles.
Remembering also that there is no end point. Wherever a transgender person chooses to stop in their journey, that is the destination, at least for the time being. A counselor cannot be invested in the final outcome. Much like the English-channel swimmer with support crews nearby, or the escort vehicle...just nearby enough to be a rational instrument, measured and steady.
The process is not as complicated as it sounds.
For starters, I do not push someone towards a sexual preference, or gender identity.
And, I do not dissuade them against a preference or identity.
Frankly, either would be unethical and against my duties as a mental health clinician.
It is normal for parents to be worried that their child or loved one will suffer as a result of agender-changing decision: there's no getting around that reality. It is not an easy experience.
Stigma DOES exist but society and culture have greatly changed in this regard.
Most adolescents who are seriously considering a transition to the opposite gender have felt "as if" they were the opposite gender from earliest memory. They may have dressed gender-neutral... for example, tomboyish or feminine...
Many try on "gay" only to find out that this label doesn't accurately fit.
When the earnestness is present, with a desire to further live, behave, and represent as this "different" gender, it is obvious to me and those around the young adult that this has been thought of for quite a long while and they are not being influenced by current trends or fads, as is often suspected.
Most teens are NOT craving attention. In fact, in my experience, their very worst fears relate directly to peers noticing, commenting, judging, or dramatically acknowledging the changes.
If you identify with your birth gender, ask yourself this question: "Would I have switched genders if given the opportunity?"
My answer is, "Of course not!" No way...it never crossed my mind. The likelihood that a young adult is pseudo - interested in an identity shift, for a protracted period of time, is minimal. With that in mind, I will also state that I typically find these kids squared away; in other words, not suffering from sexual deviance, rebellious depression or maladjusted childhood. I cannot stress this point enough. The typical trans-child is clear-eyed, clear-thinking, and mature beyond their years.
Questions such as, "What has been on your mind?" or "What do you see happening next?" can inform you of exactly where the adolescent is emotionally, mentally, and psychologically. It is the therapist's job to simply provide the space for dialogue - not to drive the process.
Often, the teen has one or two supportive friends who are "in the know." These are great allies, so invite them into therapy for a support session. It's a formal invitation to support the process to others.
I encourage teens to take baby steps, with the assistance and approval of their loved ones.
Because familial support is critical, I venture into this patient/therapist relationship ONLY with parental involvement. It would not be in the adolescent's best interest to engage in such a drastic change without familial support.
All young adults need to learn how to assert themselves verbally, in a healthy and clear manner. This is a tall order but it can be done...guiding them into an honesty and openness with their parents, even in the face of fear and judgment. I work diligently to bring all parties on board before beginning a real outward transition - I believe this is safest for the client and creates the least inner turmoil.
"Gender Dysphoria in Children refers to the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one's experienced or expressed gender and one's assigned gender. Although not all individuals will experience distress as a result of such incongruence, many are distressed if the desired physical interventions by means of hormones and/or surgery are not available." Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
If you are a young person struggling in this area, and feel rejected or unsupported, I urge you to contact a trusted friend or the Lesbian Gay Transgender center nearest you.Your life matters and there are people who can guide you and your family towards a solution.
If you are thinking of harming yourself, please call 18887247240(it's free and confidential)
Let a teacher, relative, or neighbor know that you need to talk with someone who better understands your thoughts and feelings.
For male to female (MTF) transitioning, read here.
I offer integration as a goal, but not necessarily joy, peace, or relief. For example, I would not say: "You will be so happy when this is over," "Your life will be better now," "This is what God intended," or "Let's not worry about what others think."
Remember, it is a privilege to accompany a family through this experience.
Copyright of Christina Neumeyer, 2017