Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Common Myths About Trans Kids

As the parent of a child who has identified as transgender for the last 3 and a half years, I have seen and heard many misconceptions about trans youth being publicly shared as factual.

Every time I see an article on the subject of trans youth, I find myself scrolling through the comments - reading the same few misleading and untrue assumptions over and over again. 

So when I was recently asked to write an article for a third party parenting website about supporting your trans child, it didn't come as a great shock to see the comments section full of the usual ill-informed half-truths from people with a huge desire to voice their opinions but little inclination to educate themselves on the topic beforehand.

The problem with these myths and misconceptions is that people often have a tendency to believe what they are told without investigating the truth for themselves, which leads to even more misunderstandings and fear-mongering - so I want to set the record straight.

Because when these misconceptions and lies reach the ears of the family members of these trans kids, they can cause real damage and can even actively contribute to the oppression and harm caused so often to the trans community.

So let's break these myths down, shall we?

Trans Children (and Trans people) Didn't Exist Until Recently - It's Simply Trendy To Be Trans!

This is completely untrue. Transgender people have existed in different cultures around the world for many years, in fact it is believed that transgender people even existed in ancient civilisations as far back as 12,000 years ago! In India, they are known as Hijra and in indigenous cultures they are known as Two-Spirit.

Lili Elbe was one of the first known people to receive sex-reassignment surgery in 1930, and there are records of the existence of transgender people being reasonably common in the 17th century.

So to say that being transgender is a modern thing is just not true. 

But it seems to be the existence of transgender youth that really gets some people angry...personally I believe this to be for a number of reasons, one being that adults in our culture generally have a problem with children having autonomy. We still seem to believe that children are lesser-beings who are incapable of knowing their own minds or understanding themselves. This is not a belief that I personally hold.

 I also believe that the problem stems from a misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender - so many people seem to class gender identity as a "sexual preference", making it seem like something inappropriate for a child to understand.

 But gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing...a persons gender identity is something that they are born with. How often do any of us question our sons or daughters on HOW they know that they are a boy or a girl?! We don't...we just accept that they are comfortable in their gender identity, we trust it because we know it is natural to them...just as it was natural to us when we were children. 

Those of us who are cisgender (eg, people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth) understood ourselves to be male or female, it was just something that we knew instinctually, right? 

 Transgender children are no different - their gender identity is just as natural to them as it is to any other child, and it should be allowed to be expressed just as freely.

Children Are Labelled As "Transgender" When They're Actually  Just "Tomboys" or "Feminine boys"

Gender roles and stereotypes are manmade concepts - they do not exist in nature. The idea that pink is for girls or that boys don't wear dresses are social norms that were made up by human beings...these are nonsensical rules that are designed to keep us all in neat little boxes, but human beings are much more complex than that. 

A male-born child who enjoys playing with dolls and wearing dresses is not automatically transgender. Just as a female-born child who enjoys playing with trucks and wearing trousers isn't either. 

A child is only transgender when they expressly state that they are a gender other than the one they were assumed to be at birth, and the general guideline is that a child should be "Insistent, consistent and persistent" about this so as to differentiate between role play, childhood fads and being transgender. 

What they play with, enjoy doing or like to wear is not to be confused with their gender identity.

Trans Children Will Be Damaged For Life If They "Change Their Minds"

Did you know that research has shown that less than 1% of transgender people go on to "change their mind" about their gender identity?

And of that 1%, more than half state that they only changed their minds due to social pressure and then went on to re-transition again later on when they felt more supported.

However, if we look at the figures for suicide and suicide attempts in transgender people who are not supported in their gender identity - the figure is much more frightening. A massive 82% of transgender youth reported considering suicide, and 40% actually attempted it.

So if the health and wellbeing of these kids is truly our real concern, don't these figures speak to the need for support and affirmation? Shouldn't the obvious needs of the 82% and 40% who are struggling to stay alive be more urgent to us than the less than 1% who detransition?

Can some children be confused about their gender identity? Might they be going through a phase? Of course! But nobody is out here giving sex reassignment surgery to children on a whim - there is no need to panic. Nothing irreversible is done during childhood, a childhood transition is purely social - involving potential changes of name, pronouns, hair, clothing, etc. All things that can be easily changed back.

Transgender children should be supported and affirmed in their gender identity, yes...but it is only after a number of years of being insistent, consistent and persistent in this identity that any further action is taken beyond simple, reversible social changes.

Trans Children Are Given  Puberty Blockers Like Candy

This is a very common myth which is regularly peddled by transphobes, but nothing could be further from the truth in this country. 

I'm a member of various support groups for the families of transgender youth, and I lose count of the number of desperate pleas for help I see every day from families who are struggling to access puberty blockers and hormone treatment even after years of mental health support for their young people.

In the UK, transgender youth are referred to Gender Identity Services by their GP - the waiting list for an initial consultation is currently over 4 years long. Even then, there are months and months of consultations and mental health checks to be carried out before puberty blockers are prescribed. 

As most transgender youth don't come out as trans until post-puberty, the long waiting list usually means its too late for blockers anyway. 

For children like mine who come out very young (which is rare), the long waiting lists still mean that there's a high risk of not getting access to puberty blockers in time.

This treatment is NOT easy to access even for those who desperately need it, so there is no risk of it being handed out willy-nilly to every child who declares themselves trans on a whim.

Puberty Blockers Are Damaging And Dangerous

Another common myth. Puberty blockers are completely reversible - they are used as treatment not only for transgender youth, but for any children who start puberty too early and they work by way of pausing the production of testosterone and oestrogen hormones. This pauses puberty-related changes such as breast growth, body and facial hair growth, vocal changes and hairline changes. Once treatment is stopped, puberty will resume as normal.

There are some side-effects of puberty blocking medication, such as bone thinning when used for long periods of time but this is monitored and treated with supplemental medicines. 

Puberty blockers are safe to use for most people, however a lack of puberty blocking treatment leads to irreversible changes which can be mentally damaging for transgender people and can require expensive and invasive surgeries to repair.

Trans Children Are Really Just Gay Children Being Raised By Homophobes

This gem is one that I was first introduced to after reading a bizarre rant by a certain wizard-related author and although the sheer ridiculousness of it made me laugh out loud, it seems to have struck a chord with many a let's talk about it.

The belief seems to be that some parents are so very homophobic, that rather than allow their child to be a gay male or gay female ... they would rather encourage them to identify as the opposite sex and therefore be straight!

But...where exactly does that leave gay trans men and trans lesbians?! 

Again, the need to point out that being transgender has nothing to do with sexual orientation crops up. Transgender people may be gay, straight, bi sexual, pansexual, asexual....any sexual orientation at all. If they were all simply the gay children of homophobes, then they'd all be straight...surely?!

I've also yet to meet a homophobe who's a-ok with trans people, but there we go....

Transgender Children Are A Trend Invented By Pushy Parents

This one really baffles me, if I'm honest.

I've met and spoken with a lot of parents of transgender children, and I have yet to meet a single one who hasn't struggled with the emotional turmoil and social struggles of parenting a child through their transition. 

Parenting a transgender child is anything but easy, and as much as I love and support my child - I have to be honest and say that this is not a life path I would willingly choose for her, because all parents want the easiest life possible for their children surely. 

I don't believe that any parent would choose for their child to belong to one of the most at-risk groups in society, nor do I believe that its possible to force a child to be something that they're not. This theory just does not hold up.

Trans Children Don't Exist

This is one I hear a lot. Most recently it was left as a comment on my Facebook page. What struck me as particularly interesting, was that the person who left this comment - declaring transgender children fictional - came from someone who had a profile full of religious posts. Posts about her love for God.

Now here's the thing...I personally happen to believe that God is fictional. Controversial, sure...but the difference is that I don't feel the need to go seeking out believers in order to proudly post on their pages about my own personal disbelief in God. I am happy to let people live their lives as they choose to, believing in whatever they choose to.

But the fact that this person, who has such a strong belief in something that cannot be proven to exist by science, feels the need to declare transgender children (whose existence IS backed up by science) as fictional - is mind boggling to me. And only goes to prove the mindset of the people who make these statements.

Whether you like it or not, transgender youth exist. They are people, just like anybody else, deserving of basic human rights and common decency.

Just like I don't have to believe in your God but still support your right to do so, you can afford the same courtesy to people whose lives and beliefs are different to your own. In fact if your God does exist, I can't help but feel that this would be what they themselves would preach as a being of love.


I'm sure there are many more myths out there that I haven't covered, but I'd be here all night. The fact is that trans youth are just like anybody else - they are young people figuring out their place in the world, and dealing with something incredibly difficult along the way  - they need support and understanding.

I beg of you, don't listen to the hate-peddling of the tabloids - educate yourself on the truth behind these myths and be the best ally you can be to a community that desperately needs it.

Trans children do not hurt or harm anybody, but they are hurt and harmed by many.

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