Bruce Parker

Hormone Blockers for Transgender Kids?

Filed By Bruce Parker | July 11, 2007 8:07 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: hormone blockers, transgender youth, transition, TransYouth Family Advocates, TYFA

When I was growing up from the ages of four until seven Skipper, Barbie's younger sister, was my favorite toy. When the kids who lived in the same hollow as I did in Eastern Kentucky played house, I was more than happy to take on a traditional female role in the game making tea and dinner for my husband. Even when I played video games my favorites always had the option of letting me select a female character to control while navigating the worlds contained in Nintendo cartridges.

Alongside this attraction to things traditionally associated with the female gender in our society, I have always liked my body. When puberty started I was thrilled with the physical changes in my body. This seems to be where my gender expression separates from my gender identity. When I first started dating and later developing friendships with people who identified as transgender in one way or another I often heard stories like the one below from them or their parents.

At age five, the discord between her identity and body seemed to take its emotional toll. At times she would play recklessly, and at other times, seem withdrawn and preoccupied. Marty's parents took her in for a psychiatric evaluation, and she was prescribed antidepressants. She told Margaret that if she had to be a girl, she'd rather die.

This quote is from an article about transgender youth and hormone blockers. Despite my gender bending tendencies as a kid the narrative above and ones similar to it don't resonate with me. They just don't reflect the ways that I interacted with and understood my body when it started developing secondary male sex traits. Although I have never been too happy with my male pattern body hair growth, I would blame that on gay beauty culture and not gender identity.

A mother I work with in TransYouth Family Advocates tells the story of finding Ashley, her five year old affirmed (male-to-female transgender) daughter, with a pair of scissors at her penis in the bathroom to illustrate to audiences how gender variant kids experience their bodies. Ashley explained herself by saying that she would prefer death to not being able to be a girl. In that moment a young girl was affirmed in her gender identity and an activist was born. Stories like theirs seem be becoming more common or at least more commonly covered by mainstream media.

The article goes on to say,

"Advocates say the treatment saves kids the anguish of continuing to develop into a gender they don't identify with -- reducing the risk of everything from depression to self-mutilation to suicide attempts -- as well as later surgeries to undo what Mother Nature has done. By sitting out the irreversible changes of biological puberty, patients will pass more easily as the target sex, protecting them from potential discrimination and even violence."

The idea that transitioning at a younger age or at least holding off unwanted puberty has the potential to ensure a healthier and safer adult life seems to be a reasonable one. As the suicide rates of queer youth shows us, this is literally a matter of life and death to the kids that it affects.

An interesting thought from the article is sticking to my thoughts on the issue of younger transitions,

If medical technology keeps advancing, are we going to eradicate transgenderism?" Rivera asks. "The younger the transition starts, the younger you start socializing a biological female as a boy, they're not going to have that transgender identity. They're not going to have to walk this earth as their genetic sex."

Perhaps, science will enable us to revision and rearticulate what gender means in ways that are more open and accessible eliminating the need for an identity category titled "transgender." Instead this rearticulation of gender might eliminate the silly assumption that a two-gender system defined by biology alone is sufficient for anyone.

If you read the article please let share your thoughts about it in the comments section.

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Shannon G. | July 11, 2007 9:05 AM

Avoiding the changes that puberty brings can truly be life saving for these kids.

Put aside your biases for a moment and pretend that tomorrow you woke up with the same brain that you have now, but the opposite body. Everyone expects you to behave like the body that they see...but your brain screams otherwise. You are expected to wear the clothing that fits your body, speak in ways consistent with your body, and behave in ways consistent with your body. No one will listen to you....because they know better than you do who you are. Now once you have started to learn to live with that...the body starts doing weird things ....let's add that to the mix.

That is a daily battle for these kids. Society continues to say....wait until you grow up. You are too young to make such a big decision. Come on people! How old were you when you "decided" your gender? You NEVER decided your just KNEW. Did you magically grow a brain when you turned 18?

I don't know what I would have thought had I not had a beautiful trans angel placed in my life. As her mother, I watched her suffer. I watched her withdraw into herself. I watched her disappear into the hell that she called her life. It was a no brainer for me...unhappy dead boy vs. happy living girl. As a do WHATEVER you have to do for your child's happiness and well being. If my daughter had cancer, I would seek any available treatment for her. I would do ANYTHING to save her life. This is NO different!

It is our job as a society to nurture our children...they are after all, our future. Do we only nurture the ones that fit our expectations to a tee? I implore you to do more to parents of these special little ones. What can you do to make the world a better place for these kids?

there's this tendency to paint all trans people with the same brush, when in fact, there exists an extremely diverse set of conditions under which people might be either diagnosed, or consider themselves some flavor of trans. and while the "i knew i was a boy/girl since my earliest memory" type is often depicted, there are many others who came to this knowledge at a later age, during puberty, early adulthood, or even later in life. and yet others who don't necessarily exhibit the experience of having been "born in the wrong body", or of even seeing themselves or identifying as the sex "opposite" to which they were assigned at birth.

compounding this, there are medical professionals and even members of the trans community who would "rate" the degree of "trans severity" based on the timing and extremity of this self knowledge.

this can result in the erasure of many trans people and their lived experience, dismissal of their suffering, and the prevention of proper medical care.

as one example, i became aware of my own transness just as i enter puberty, at perhaps 12 or 13. i suffered many years, and finally transitioned in my mid 40's. and while i had perhaps not experienced the depth of pain that someone who realized their condition in early childhood, it doesn't reduce or dismiss the need i had to transition, or the relief of my symptoms.

i would have jumped at the chance for this type of treatment in my early teens, but fear now that my "late" discovery might be a factor in determining eligability.

further, since many trans people do not opt for surgery, i wonder how the want of such would factor in to the eligability for such treatment.

anyway, lots of questions i know, but those are my thoughts.

let me point out, that not all trans people were aware of there true identity at 5 or 6. i am a trans girl, i did not realize my who a was until i was 11 or 12. also, there are people that transition at age 40 or older, i don't want the public thinking that All trans people knew it from the beginning.