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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Every Parent of a Gay Child Needs to Know: 5. What If My Child Is Transgender?

Navigating the world of the Ts and Is

The T and I in LGBTI are likely the most foreign and off-putting sexualities in the acronym. One of the most cruel tricks nature can play on someone is to realize that your body says you are of one gender, but your heart and mind tell you that you are really of another gender. So you may appear to be, say, a boy, but inside you know you are a girl (or just the opposite).  In the extreme case, you are born with what is termed "ambiguous genitalia," that is, having both male and female sexual organs to some extent.  The normal course of action, until recently, was "gender assignment" at birth, where the parents decided what gender the child would be brought up as, and the offending genitalia were surgically removed. This often created conflicted feelings in the child that caused permanent harm.  The trend now is for the child to remain "ambiguous" until he or she can name one's own sexuality (or not).  These, termed intersexuals, are now considered a normal, if relatively rare form of human sexuality.  It is estimated that one to two births in 100 are intersex.

Those with normal genitalia, yet totally rejecting that gender role, often opt for "gender reassignment" surgery, which is preceded by hormone therapy and rigorous psychological study, and live comfortably as the other sex from then on.  These are the T or transgender. (Note: not transgendered.)  Others adopt the dress and behavior of their opposite gender to feel comfortable with themselves, without electing the surgery.

According to the American Adademy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:
Children and adolescents who are growing up gay, lesbian, bisexual, gender nonconforming, or gender discordant experience unique developmental challenges. They are at risk for certain mental health problems, many of which are significantly correlated with stigma and prejudice.
If we lived in a world where LGBTI children were allowed to grow up without societal prejudice, most of the problems now associated with their lives would never materialize.  But we don't have such a society.  So the parents of these children need to provide as much safety and nurture as they can.  This will have to involve professionals trained in these area, as most of us are not equipped to cover all the issues.  So my advice is to surround yourself with as many people and services as possible who are.

Now for a side issue.  Some Christians associate T and I with the Mosaic denunciation that
A woman shall not wear a man’s apparel, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whoever does such things is abhorrent to the Lord your God. (Deuteronomy 22.5)
This is extrapolated to mean that Moses denounces any kind of altering of sexual patterns. (As for this being an "abhorrent," see for a full explanation.)  Two things need to be kept in mind. 1. The Mosaic Law was concerned with conformity.  The natural was considered to be a certain (arbitrary) form.  For example, a fish has scales, so catfish are unclean and an abomination. Scales as a deciding factor is arbitrary, as we now know fish are many things.  So men need to conform to what a man is and women to what a woman is.  2.  Sociologists suggest that in harem societies, this law was intended to keep men from sneaking into a harem and violating the harem owner's rights.

If your child is struggling with gender identification issues, you have an opportunity to make a significant and highly valuable contribution to his or her well-being.  The worst course is to take a combative approach, for if this doesn't lead to suicide, it will mean heartache for you and emotional issues for your child.  Get the best help you can now.
Here's a video that looks at intersexual biology and the ethical question of gender assignment.

For additional help, start here:

These are the links listed at the end of the video:

TUESDAY:  What every parent of a gay child needs to know: You did nothing wrong

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