(Did I start university just to write about trans issues? Maybe. Here, have an essay I wrote for school to replace my silence.)
In her article “Transgender Kids: Have We Gone Too Far?” Margaret Wente discusses how many more transgender children there seem to be now. She believes this is because it has become trendy to embrace your diverse child without question. Transgender children are represented in the media now more than ever, and Wente believes this has made children more likely to believe they are transgender as a solution to other problems in their lives. She says physical transition will harm children who are likely to be okay with their gender assigned at birth by adolescence.
I believe children are not given as much power over their gender as Wente thinks. Before a child can be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, they must “experience a marked difference between their experienced and assigned gender which persists for at least six months, and causes significant distress or impaired functioning” (Shumer, 2016). Until those criteria are met, I believe speaking gently with children is the best approach, allowing them to experiment with their gender expression so that gender variance doesn’t seem taboo to them. With this approach, whether they change their mind about transitioning or not, no harm has been done and the child still feels very safe and loved. If you tell a child that they are wrong about their own gender without letting them experiment or discuss it, they will likely pretend they aren’t showing the signs of gender dysphoria simply because they no longer trust you to support them.
Some have said that parents should immediately allow their children to socially transition, which means having people call them a new name and new set of pronouns. I believe that children must show the long-term signs that they wish to transition before this occurs. If a child socially transitions before they are absolutely sure, it could cause them problems later if they decide not to transition. I don’t believe these issues would be physical, as Wente suggests, but social. However, kids who show a persistent desire to transition should be permitted to. Wente says treatments for transgender people are neither simple nor benign. “They may, among other things, retard maturation, suppress your growth or render you sterile.” Wente also spoke to Alice Dreger, a bioethicist and professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who said, “Some kids need [hormone therapy], but for the kids who don’t, it’s dangerous. All else being equal, it’s better to avoid long-term hormone therapy and major surgery that removes a lot of tissue.” I believe this is an attempt to play on parents’ fears, because small children do not physically transition. Another source (“Transgender children in Canada,” 2013) says seven is the earliest age one can receive hormone blockers, which only temporarily suppress puberty and are completely reversible. They cannot receive hormones like estrogen or testosterone until they are in their early teens, and surgery is usually not available until adulthood, which renders Wente’s concern about children’s physical well-being unfounded.
I believe children should be respected and accepted no matter their gender identity. People should be educated on the process through which children and adults transition because that would quiet a lot of the concerns about transgender children. Everyone should work together to make all children feel comfortable in their own skin and we should do what’s best for them in their stages of development, including social or physical transition if that’s what the child needs.
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