The tragedy of the transgender child

The official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics has a policy statement on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health and wellness.  There's nothing wrong with pediatricians wanting to give the best care possible to all children, and I applaud their desire to work with youngsters who identify outside the mainstream.  What I find incredibly troubling in going through this document is the thinking on preadolescent children.  The idea that very young children may not know their own sex is considered outdated, and it is considered important to validate children asserting a different sex from the one they are born with, in the name of social acceptance.  The policy statement also defines cisgender as a term for someone who accepts the sex he was "assigned" at birth.

I don't understand the concept of sex being "assigned" at birth.  In the animal kingdom, to which humans belong, males are born with male parts, and females are born with female parts.  It's not an "assignment."  It's biology.  There may be anomalies, with individuals born with the parts of both, or neither, but science is science.  Young children who have not yet hit adolescence are not nearly as cut and dried, and science may never be settled on what goes on in their hearts and minds.  However, anyone who has ever parented or worked with children knows that they are constantly changing their minds.  One day they want to be a cowboy, and the next day they want to take dance lessons, and maybe next week they want to be the first colonist on Mars or under the sea.  Young children are weathervanes, constantly spinning around and vulnerable to whatever winds are blowing through the society they live in.

When I was a little girl, I was a regular tomboy.  I lived in jeans and t-shirts and sneakers, and my mother kept my hair short because I had no interest in having pretty hairstyles like my friends.  I liked to play with toy cars and dinosaurs and go headfirst down the sliding pond.  One of my mother's friends gave me a doll because she wanted me to play "like a girl," and I took the doll for a walk and left it on a street corner blocks from my house.  I wasn't at all like the other little girls at school or church, but I definitely wasn't a boy.  I never thought I should be a boy, and I never wanted to be a boy.  Fifty years ago, no one else ever thought I was a boy, either.  My mother's friends shook their heads and said it was a shame I wasn't ladylike, but not one of them ever said my mother should raise me as a boy.  I was all girl, and I liked it that way.

It is nothing less than a tragedy that today a little girl who "acts like a boy" could be labeled as a boy.  She could be pressured by society into believing that she really is a boy and her body is irrelevant because "she doesn't act like a little lady."  A little boy who likes to play with dolls or his mother's makeup might be labeled as a girl, and his parents might try to turn him into a girl based solely on his behavior.  In other words, there is a Boy box and a Girl box, and children are to be put into the box that is traditionally associated with their behavior.  No more tomboys, just boys.  No more boys who enjoy "feminine" pursuits like cooking or needlepoint, just girls.

How many children will have their natural impulses stifled because their parents are afraid of their children being assigned to the opposite sex?  There is a great deal of lip service paid to the idea that children should not be sexualized, but I can't think of anything more sexual than taking a child who does not conform to traditional behavior and labeling him as the opposite sex.  Let children play with the toys they like, and get dirty, or have tea parties where everything is scrubbed and polished.  Children should be free to grow into their own identity without being forced into a caricature of the opposite sex.

Image: fishin widow.

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