Someone who identifies as transgender is a person who strongly and persistently feels one’s gender identity does not match with their biologically assigned sex. Gender-expansive is a broad term to describe a person who identifies other than their assigned gender. There are children who clearly identify as the opposite sex from their assigned gender. For example, a biologically born boy identifies himself as a girl, or a biologically born girl who identifies herself as a boy. There are also some children who do not identify themselves as either male or female, which we refer to as gender non-binary. Many children and adolescents explore their own gender identity and sexual orientation more openly these days. Therefore, we should not conclude your child is a transgender by their one comment or an ambiguous behavior. It might take some time for them to understand themselves, which is totally OK. If your child expresses gender identity issues and his/her daily activities are restricted by them, it is recommended that you should consult with a professional who is familiar with transgender issues.
What is Gender Dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is a deep discomfort and/or distress about the gender that they were born with because it does not match with their gender identity. It is often triggered by an event or a situation that reminds them of their sex and their unmatched gender identity, such as gym class, girl scout/boy scout activities, clothes shopping and comments from family and peers. The symptoms include acute depression, social anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, poor concentration, suicide ideation, and etc. If the symptoms are severe, they can restrict a child’s daily activities. The study shows “one out of 6 students (grade9-12) seriously considered suicide in the past year, and the suicide attempt rate of transgender adults in a lifetime is approximately 40 %, which is much higher than average (The Trevor Project 2019.) Because the trigger is related to gender identity, once a child is in treatment for transgender issues, the symptoms can be alleviated significantly.
The common symptoms and behaviors of transgender youth are the following;
- Be upset with comments about their gender, such as “You’re a good boy!” “You’re pretty/beautiful.”
- Avoid looking at themselves in a mirror
- Have a desire to take a shower in the dark/or avoiding taking a shower
- Ask you to call them with a different name that is common for the opposite sex or a gender neutral name
- Get upset being called their name or referred to by their sex
- Try to hide certain body parts — dislike to going to beach/pool, wearing baggy clothes that hide their body.
- Express a desire to use a bathroom for the opposite sex
- Try to lower/raise the pitch of their natural voice Having poor body image/ eating issues
- Have a desire to cross dress
- Have a desire to wear a binder or a packer
The Cause of Transgender
The cause of transgender is still unknown. However, there are some studies that have tried to figure it out. Some theories explain how hormone levels in the uterus might caused transgender identity. (Between the (Gender) Lines: the Science of Transgender Identity. http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2016/gender-lines-science-transgender-identity/. ) Parenting and environment won’t cause a child to be transgender. There are several theories of what the cause might be, but for an effective treatment, it is more important to alleviate a child’s problems and issues rather than finding out the actual causation.