Dealing with adolescent transgenderism
So Billy decides, one day, that he is a girl.
Billy is 15; therefore, Billy's job is to be different; to push boundaries; to be incredibly self-involved; and, most importantly, to annoy his parents.
From this pivotal decisional moment, there are many paths to take.
You could, if you do not want the county to take Billy away, immediately acquiesce to his — sorry, her — demands, take her to a clinic, and start the transformation process (a process you know has potentially catastrophic long-term physical and psychological health impacts, but you push that knowledge deep down inside).
Or you could say, "Hey, maybe let's talk about this for a minute" (which, according to the experts in the media means that Billy will immediately start thinking about suicide, so saying that makes you very, very nervous).
Or you could, if you've previously noticed a long-term behavioral tendency toward actual gender dysphoria that is apparent in one in 10,000 kids, say, "Okay, let's all work through this together, and we as a family will be here for you."
Or you could, if you are a dad and have an inkling that social pressure is involved in the sudden desire, look up from reading one of the 743 books you have on World War II and say, "Fine, talk to your mother, but make sure before you do anything to at least mow the lawn for Chrissakes"; push your glasses back down; and get on with the Battle of the Bulge. Considering the current trendlines, the situation is almost so unexpected that you probably don't even have to go to the fridge in the garage and grab a beer.
It is this fourth option — projecting a sense of tactical indifference, no matter what one is feeling inside — that may be the most appropriate response and the best answer for Billy.
Kids are kinda dumb. They want to be both unique and part of the group. They want absolute freedom but zero responsibility. They are — on purpose, so don't hold it against them — pushy, obnoxious narcissists who cannot imagine that anything else has ever been as awful as their life or that anyone else has ever experienced the pain and trauma that are part of growing up.
And they want to push buttons — every button of every other person (except the other cool kids) they ever encounter. In part, this is how adult personalities are formed: pushing out and being thwarted.
So imagine the situation through that lens. Being trans is cool — that's great. But simultaneously irritating your parents and being cool and — as you have been assured by your guidance counselor — never ever having to face any consequences for your actions? That is the trifecta of teendom, but it is a win utterly negated by the feigning of seeming indifference.
Of course, every situation is different, but just maybe nonchalance — the one thing teens cannot abide when it comes to themselves — might not be a bad idea. If it is a passing phase and they don't get a rise out of you, they may drop the whole thing and find some other way to make your life as a parent miserable.
And they will find a way — and you'll love them still the same.
Thomas Buckley is the former mayor of Lake Elsinore and a former newspaper reporter. He is currently the operator of a small communications and planning consultancy and can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more of his work.
Image: Ted Eytan.