Can someone really be trans-gender? Can a child born male really be female? Can one’s “gender identity” (one’s innermost concept of self) be the opposite of one’s “natal” (biological) sex? Let’s leave aside that question for the moment and listen to some of those who believe this is, in fact, what has happened to them.
What is life like for these individuals?
What is it like to be trans-gender, “trapped in the wrong body,” as most of these individuals express it? What do these young people themselves say?
Oliver and Matthew
A recent article in a Canadian magazine describes the conflicts faced by two transgender children. Oliver, as a toddler, liked to play with dolls and wear princess dresses. As he got older, he liked to wear skirts, skinny jeans, a padded bra, and glittery shirts. As an 11-year-old he became Olie the girl, and for the first time ever felt “comfortable”, as if “in the right body.” Matthew was also interested in typical girl things from an early age. At the age of two and a half, when his mother praised him as “a good boy,” he screamed, “I’m not a boy, I’m a girl!” Both Matthew (now Mat the girl) and Oliver had interests more like those of girls than of the typical boy, and as children they were unhappy, anxious, and full of anger.
In Becoming Nicole, Amy Ellis Hutt gives a detailed description of the early life journey of one transgendered child, Wyatt Maines. As a two-year-old Wyatt loved to wear his pink tutu and colorful Mardi beads and dance, watching his image in the window of the oven door. He liked to play with Barbie dolls and play the part of the girl character when he acted out stories with his twin brother. From an early age he often told his mother, and by the third grade his classmates, that he was a “boy-girl.” In fourth grade he wore his hair long and wore nail polish and girls’ blouses, and he wanted to wear a skirt to the school’s Christmas concert. His best friends were girls, and they treated him as a girl. He was fidgety, nervous, easily frustrated, and argumentative.
Sara and Chobey
Sara, as an adult, told her psychiatrist that as Sawyer the boy she felt “excruciating distress,” so much so that she had considered suicide. She said she knew by age five that she was really a girl. Chobey was so uncomfortable as the man Charlie, a husband and father, that after work and dinner with his family he would drive into the city, change into feminine clothing and stroll through Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood trying to make transgender friends.
The confusion and deep distress experienced by boys and girls, and men and women, who feel they are really the opposite sex is real.
What will you do
… when your daughter tells you one of her classmates is transgender?
… when a teen in your youth group brings up the subject?
… when you are required to include “sexual variance” in your class on sex ed?
… when your son says he is really a girl or your brother says he is really a woman
None of these questions is easy to answer. Where do you begin?
First: Don’t deny that child’s or adolescent’s or adult’s feelings. Your first task is to listen.