Trust me, one doesn’t get to write the essential guide for parents of trans children and avoid the misinformed rhetoric from keyboard warriors on the internet. Some comments I’ve received are clearly dog whistles and a rallying cry for hate, while others seem to beg for clarification. So, I figured I could debunk the top five myths that get shared about transgender youth in one post and maybe enlighten a few people who are open-minded enough to read this entire blog.
1. Sexualizing Transgender Kids
The sexualization of children refers to the inappropriate portrayal of children as sexual objects or the imposition of adult sexual norms and desires onto children. This narrative comes from conflating sexual orientation with gender identity. Transgender individuals have a gender identity that does not match the sex they were assigned at birth; it’s not related to their sexual orientation or sexual behaviour. Being transgender is not a form of sexual deviance; it’s a natural and valid aspect of human identity. Sexualizing transgender people, especially youth, is harmful and reinforces harmful societal norms. It objectifies transgender individuals and reduces them to sexual objects rather than treating them with respect and dignity as whole individuals.
When certain people in society reduce transgender kids, or any youth for that matter, as sexual subjects according to their body parts, it has a lasting harmful impact. These harms include damaged self-esteem and body image, prematurely exposing children to adult sexual norms, reducing them to sexual objects rather than treating them with respect and dignity, normalizing harmful behaviours such as sexual violence, exploitation, and harassment, and finally, reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes, such as portraying girls as passive and submissive and boys as aggressive and dominant.
2. Trans Children are too young to know who they are
The myth that trans kids are too young to know their gender identity is based on a misunderstanding of gender identity and its development. Gender identity refers to a person’s deeply held sense of their gender. This sense begins to develop in toddlers and preschoolers and solidifies at various ages for different people after that. Research has shown that transgender individuals can know their gender identity from a very young age, and it is consistent and persistent over time.
Gender identity is a complex and individual experience, and people of all ages can know and understand their own gender identity. No magical knowing happens when a person turns 18 years old. It is crucial to provide a supportive and affirming environment for all individuals, including children, to explore and understand their gender identity in a safe and healthy way.
3. Trans kids are following the group
The myth that being transgender is a social contagion suggests that transgender identities are spread through social influence rather than an inherent aspect of a person’s identity. This idea is not supported by scientific evidence and is a harmful and stigmatizing belief. Transgender people have existed throughout history and across cultures, and their experiences and identities are not a trend or a fad. The reason more people are sharing their gender diversity is the same reason we are hearing of more people diagnosed with ADHD—more awareness and better testing.
The idea that being exposed to transgender people or information about gender diversity would “contagiously” make someone transgender is ridiculous. However, it’s also important to note that the idea of a “social contagion” is being used to justify discrimination and marginalization of transgender children and used to prevent them from accessing vital resources and support, such as healthcare and mental health support.
4. Transgender children are confused
Transgender children, like all individuals, have the right to self-determine their gender identity. They are usually very sure about not aligning with the gender they were assigned at birth and have a strong sense of self. They may take time to explore their gender identity, try on different names or gender expressions, and make decisions about their transition, but this doesn’t mean they are confused or uncertain about what feels right to them.
Whether socially, or medically for older youth, transitioning is a personal and complex journey involving various steps. Each stage has its own set of considerations and can take time. It’s a process that requires careful thought, planning and support. It’s also important to note that not all transgender children will choose to transition in the same way or to the same degree, and that’s okay. Gender identity is not a choice. It’s not a decision a person makes one day. Being transgender is not a phase. Gender identity and expression can be complex and fluid, and not everyone fits into a binary gender system. People may identify as non-binary, genderfluid, or agender, and some individuals may not need a medical transition. Gender identity is a deeply ingrained and stable aspect of a person’s identity.
5. Parents are making their kids transgender
The myth that parents are making their children transgender suggests that transgender identity can be imposed or induced by outside influences, such as parents or friend groups, rather than being an inherent aspect of a person’s identity. This is not true.
As I’ve mentioned, gender identity is a deeply ingrained and stable aspect of a person’s identity. The idea that parents can make their children transgender is not supported by scientific research and is considered a harmful and stigmatizing belief. Transgender children are often aware of their gender identity from a very young age and may express discomfort or distress with the gender they were assigned at birth. Parents and caregivers do play an essential role in supporting and affirming their child’s gender identity to relieve that discomfort and distress. But the idea that parents are “making” their children transgender is often used to blame and stigmatize them, preventing them from accessing the support and resources they need to understand and support their child.
I know I am biased when I think that my transgender children are phenomenal human beings, but the truth is that through my work and volunteering in the community, I have met many amazing trans kids. They are bright, creative, kind and the most self-aware people you might ever meet. I dare you to get away from the negative online narratives and see the humanity within transgender children.
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