Social transitioning is not a good idea
Social Transitioning locks in gender dysphoria
By the time your child tells you they’re transgender, they will have already been swamped by both information and misinformation on the internet. There is no shortage of online groups, containing both adults and peers, telling kids that if they’re feeling awkward about their lives and bodies or if they’re struggling to fit in socially, they may be transgender. In fact, the kids can get told that if they’re even just thinking about whether they may be transgender, they probably are.
The first you as a parent may know about it, is when your child requests (or demands) to “socially transition”. This can mean anything from choosing a gender-neutral nickname and wearing androgynous clothing, right through to adopting an opposite sex name, pronouns, and clothes and wanting to be recognised as the chosen sex by everyone else and in all facets of life.
This thorough article from Transgender Trend, A Childhood is not Reversible, explains why social transition is not the “kind and affirming” act it is purported to be.
Affirmation makes it harder to desist
At first, social transitioning may seem to be a good idea, to help your child through a difficult patch in life. Parents can also be emotionally blackmailed by therapists, counsellors, and schools with incorrect dire warnings of the harm their child might do to themselves if absolute affirmation of their transgenderism is not forthcoming. However, if left with a way out, around 80% of kids desist with the ideation of transgenderism after going through puberty. Of course, it will be much more difficult for them to desist if they feel locked into being transgender by their own dramatic insistence, and if all the adults in their lives have fully affirmed the child or young person’s new identity and the entire family has been affected by it.
Large amounts of time immersed on the internet can be a lightning rod for cultivating the belief for a child or young person that they’re transgender, when they showed no previous signs of it. Children who are non-conforming, lonely, have abnormally discordant and tumultuous lives, or particular discomfort with puberty, can be seduced by the feeling of belonging to a ‘tribe’. Although it is okay to not be stereotypically conformist, it can be hard to feel okay in the world about it. Transgender ideology offers a way for kids to conform to a stereotype and feel that they fit in somewhere where they are unquestioningly supported. Parents, on the other hand, can be slated as the enemy for their hesitancy to believe their child is really transgender.
Parents may feel blindsided by their child’s announcement that they’re transgender. Often, they don’t see it coming, and the only information they can find when they go looking is to be instructed to defer to everything their child wants in their transitioning journey to live as the opposite sex.
Tension with others’ rights
On the surface, social transitioning sounds like a harmless thing to go along with but delve a bit deeper and there’s a lot attached to it. Using preferred pronouns, for example, is akin to immediately giving the child or young person permission to use the facilities for the opposite sex. Most girls who identify as boys probably won’t immediately use the boys’ facilities, but boys who identify as girls will often immediately start using the girls’ facilities, with the blessing of their school.
Irrespective of what may appear to be a consensus amongst girls that this is okay, it is often a false consensus as girls can feel uncomfortable for various social reasons at not going along with what appears to be the ‘right’ belief. That means that there could be a boy, or boys, in with the girls when a girl most needs privacy. The boy is also left open to accusations of improper behaviour. With the advent of more mixed-sex facilities, especially in schools – promoted as being gender-neutral – there is likely to be a rise in tensions around this.
Although language is always evolving it also helps us to navigate the material world, and changing structural language also changes everything it supports. More commentary on preferred pronoun use is here.
Being trans is tough
Changing gender is not the easy road to happiness it’s promoted to be by those invested in encouraging people to take that path, as the growing numbers of detransitioners will attest to. It is hard work to try to force one’s body to be the opposite sex to that which it was born, even with puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and it requires maturity to be able to deal with that.
Chances are that the initial encounter with your child when they announced they were transgender may not have gone well. All is not lost, however, so don’t be afraid to ask to start again with them but request the respect of a two-way conversation. Keeping the lines of communication open is most important.
Listen to their point of view calmly and ask them to do the same with your perspective. Ask for time to process this new information before any decisions are made. Go to Genspect and Transgender Trend for authoritative information about all facets of gender beliefs and guidance for parents so that you are fully informed when talking to your child.
"It can be important that you don’t overwhelm your child with advice or information when your child is feeling vulnerable and trying to find themselves. It can sometimes be more helpful to ‘show’ you care rather than ‘tell’. "(Genspect)
When the time is right, talk about applying sensible caution to all life-changing decisions and the importance of leaving the door open for changing one’s mind. Discuss the reality of transgender medicine (see our reading list here) which is quite different from the relentlessly glamourised accounts they will have viewed online. The dating pool for transgender people shrinks, no matter how much others are admonished to accept trans people in their new gender, and long-term intimate relationships, although not impossible to achieve, will be more difficult to find. Ask them to watch some testimonials from detransitioners.
"We recommend that you focus on your personal understanding of your child and find areas where you might agree." (Genspect)
Try to negotiate a compromise – agree to use a gender-neutral nickname but ask that they delay making permanent decisions and public announcements until an adult. As they grow up and go through puberty, allow your kids to express themselves how they want and emphasise that being different does not automatically mean they are transgender. Exploration of our identity is normal and to be embraced, but identity should not be set in stone at a young age.