Childrearing

Transgender Kids Aren’t Confused About Who They Are, So Stop Trying To Tell Them

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Gay Pride Rally In Tel AvivA familiar (and awful) theme running through certain discussions of transgender teens (or gay teens, bisexual teens, any teens deviating from the narrow range of socially-acceptable parameters …) is that they are somehow “confused” about their gender. That a young person herself is not the person in the best position to understand her own identity. Somehow, someone else — a parent, a bunch of legislators, Michelle Duggar — is better qualified. Sorry, no: transgender youth are not the ones who are confused here.

A recent study on transgender kids’ sense of identity found, to the great surprise of exactly no one who has ever known a transgender person, that these kids are no more “confused” about their gender than any random cisgender kid would be. They know exactly who they are; it’s the rest of the world that’s confused.

It shouldn’t take a scientific study to get people on board with treating transgender teens humanely, but if it helps, I’ll take it.  People have got to stop saying things like, “He’s just confused” or “God doesn’t make mistakes, so you must have” — especially when the people trotting out this garbage are the parents of transgender young people. And the “they came from the previous generation, they can’t understand” excuse doesn’t get you anywhere with me, except possibly a little further up Shit Creek (and by the way, when was the last time you saw your paddle?) When you sign on to become a parent, you’re bringing a human into your life, not a pet rock. You don’t get to redecorate their identity if it doesn’t fit with the baggage of your life up to that point. Your kids are going to be who they are, whether you like it or not, and if you can’t get with that pretty simple program, don’t act like they’re the ones who are confused.

If it were simply a matter of ‘confusion’, how many kids do you think would be lining up to be subjected to the kinds of humiliation, harassment, and violence that transgender people face every day? I have a hard time imagining that any teenager would look at the stories of Leelah Alcorn, Islan Nettles, or Keymari Johnson and say, “Yeah, that sounds like fun, where do I sign up?” Facing that hurricane of abuse every day is not the act of someone whose internal compass is spinning freely in the wind. It’s an act of certainty, and one of bravery. A lot more bravery than it takes to swallow your antiquated notions of gender and accept your child for the person he is, instead of the “she” you thought he was supposed to be.

If you’re thinking of having kids, but you aren’t prepared to have a transgender child, let me give you some advice: do yourself and that potential offspring a favor and get a parakeet instead. My earnest apologies to the parakeet, who I’m sure also deserves better — but I’d rather he have to deal with your nonsense than a child should.

(Image: David Silverman / Staff / Getty)