An anonymous letter has been published in The Guardian newspaper dealing with the terror parents face of social media sites such as reddit and tumblr ‘telling your little girl she’s really a boy’. You can read this letter here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/23/a-letter-to-my-little-girl-who-identifies-as-a-boy?CMP=share_btn_tw
Here is another letter, inspired by the anonymous Guardian writer, from a professional thinking critically about the youth transgender narrative who is the parent of a trans identifying teen.
There was no sign of your transgender identity until you were fifteen when your ‘I want to transition’ announcement came right out of the blue.
When you were little you spent a two-week Christmas holiday in your Disney Princess dress. We had to peel it off you to wash while you were asleep and wriggle you back into it before you were awake. The following Christmas you loved your pink pop-up princess castle so much you took all your presents inside to open and wouldn’t come out. A few years later you chose yourself a rainbow bicycle with pink and silver tassels. You noticed that your brother and the boys next door had different stuff and different clothes and liked wearing your brother’s hand-me-downs and playing his games. He was your absolutely beloved hero. You loved playing football in the garden and hours spent playing knights with wooden swords. But equally you liked to abandon the boys and line up playmobil animals with your best friend Elfie for entire weekends at a time, or bake cakes with her or trampoline or climb trees and teach your doggies tricks. For years both you and Elfie wanted to wear your brother’s hand-me-downs but also you loved outgrown clothes from your girl cousins and older friends. You chose clothes you liked ‘because those shorts are orange’ ‘or ‘that t-shirt has a lion on it’ with no regard for gender.
When you went to the garden party of the Vicar’s ten year old twin daughters in your football strip because you thought fairy dresses were silly I felt in awe of your originality and independent character. You loved sky blue. You said shorts and trainers were comfy. You loved your huge group of girl-friends and being one of them. You never ever said you thought you were a boy.
When you were thirteen you said you were gay. At fourteen you fell in love with a girl who identified as bisexual. You were very concerned about her history of self-harm and took to staying up all night to support her on line, seeking advice from Tumblr, terrified to be away from your phone in case your absence led her to cut herself or stick her fingers down her throat. And then she re-identified as ‘pan-sexual’ (I had to look it up) and hey presto, you re-identified as ‘trans’ and have hardly spoken since.
You briefly told me your friends now call you by a boy’s name and use male pronouns. You found voice lowering training on-line and took to wearing your jeans low slung. You seemed in a muddle to me because at the same time you wanted me to teach you how to put your long hair in a chignon, paint your toe nails and help you choose a yellow dress for Prom.
I have never minded how you dress or behave in relation to gender. Your Aunty Julie had a boys hair cut as a young teenager, played football until sundown with the neighbourhood boys and was nicknamed ‘Scratch’ because of her fearsome reputation for beating boys in a fight. By seventeen she was training to be a beautician and winning modelling competitions with waist length curly hair that was the talk of the town. Your Aunty Vanessa has never worn a dress in her adult life and I haven’t had any cosmetic routine to inspire you to love applying make-up. I thought the message of your childhood was that everyone, especially you, is naturally beautiful howsoever and exactly as they are.
I haven’t yet directly opposed your plan to become a boy. There were no scenes though I was deeply shocked. We agreed we would both try to find out more about transitioning. I know you’re too young to fully understand your adult sexuality or to definitively know how you want to comply with or challenge the general conventions prescribed for gender conformity in our neighbourhood or your world. You’re not a ‘girly-girl’. That’s what you’ve always said. But until the months of researching self-harm for your girlfriend on Tumblr when you were fifteen, you never, ever said you were not a girl.
And today you wrote to me on whatsapp:
‘‘trans people think they’re born in the wrong body and really they’re a boy. I don’t understand that … if someone asked I would still say I was trans though because it’s easier than explaining all that’
‘there’s no point talking about the dangers any more, I know what they are and I’m still going to do it’
Well, I’ve been reading about transgender, the hike in identification of teenage girls as FtoT, listening to the voices of de-transitioners and reading blogs of people who express trans-regret. I have interrogated the evidence on side effects of taking hormones which include – but aren’t limited to – infertility, mental health jeopardy and osteoporosis. I’ve researched the side effects of surgery including physical and psychological scars, urinary tract infections, septicaemia and strokes. I don’t want any of this for you. You have a healthy female body. I cannot stand by and facilitate harm to your body through medical intervention because you are being persuaded it is a requisite for living in the gender of your own choosing. You can live in any gender variation you like. You always have. You always will. But I cannot collude in plans to harm your body. This is not transphobic. It is resisting clinical injury.
I am up against a huge campaign from trans advocates who seek to convince you that medical intervention with all its attendant harms is best for you. I am determined to turn back the tide of those domineering voices. I am not afraid of backlash. I am no longer frozen by your anger or certainty of rejection. I am only afraid that irrevocable harm will come to you if I do not struggle to speak out and turn back the tide of trans tyranny which is blocking sensitive discussion of the divide between gender confusion and intervention. I am your mother. Every fibre of my being is geared towards protecting you from harm.
What if you will not listen and you take steps towards medical intervention even though you know it will not alter your sex or determine your gender or assure you of future happiness? I will still love you. You are my child. However you live in relation to social definitions of gender is fine by me. But I cannot stand passively aside when you are so confused by the transgender trend or cheer you on to the starting line to injure your very own body. Not when you say yourself ‘I don’t understand’.
I have to intervene and to fight for you.
You have all of my love and endless support. You always will.