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“A Boy’s Life” in The Atlantic

The November 2008 issue of The Atlantic magazine contains an article called “A Boy’s Life.”  It’s a comprehensive exploration of the topic of transgender children:  where it comes from, the struggles that parents and children experience as they strive to find ways to deal with it, and the difficult choices they must make in that process.

I’m not sure how I feel about this article.  Much of it is troubling, since I wish the whole topic of the origins of being transgender and how best to treat it to be neat and simple, but it just isn’t.  In the end, I believe that children should be allowed to make their own decisions to the extent that’s feasible.  (Obviously, that’s a huge loophole, but, for the moment, I have neither the time nor the inclination to try to define my position any further.)  If a child typed as a boy at birth wants to live as a girl, she should be allowed to do that with her parents’ support.  At the same time, her parents need to make clear that either choice is OK.  If she later decides that she wants to live as a boy, that too should be allowed.  Will it be more difficult then?  Yes, of course.  Every choice we make has consequences and, as much as we might like to, we cannot insulate our children from the consequences of their choices any more than we can avoid the consequences of our own.  But I believe that the challenges of returning to life as a boy, after living as a girl for weeks or months or years, will be less traumatic than growing up never having had the chance to have that experience and to make a more informed decision about her future.

Eventually, she will be faced with decisions that will have permanent, physical consequences — whether to begin cross-sex hormones, whether to have SRS.  That is where the use of hormone blockers has the greatest benefit, since they delay the onset of changes that will make living in her affirmed gender infinitely harder until she has the maturity and the information she needs to make that momentous decision, while retaining the option of allowing her puberty to proceed as it would without intervention.  In the end, however, it must be her decision, not her parents’, not her doctor’s.  None of can know what is truly best for another person, even our children.  All we can do is ask Spirit to guide our choices and the choices of our children and then trust that She will respond to our calls.

(Crossposted from my personal blog.)

3 Responses

  1. interesting

  2. When I posted the link to this blog on Facebook, I received, and then responded to, a comment about one part of the Atlantic article. I thought it would be interesting to share part of that conversation here:

    L: I wish that the Zucker part [of the article] had been a lot less positive than it was. The guy’s advocating emotionally abusing children to make them not want to transition, but it’s really repression therapy, not “reparative.”

    Abby: Yes, I agree. The only way Zucker’s approach can be justified is if you assume that being transgender is the most horrible thing that could ever befall a person, so that anything that can be done to prevent that “fate” is justified. I have a different perspective.

    Being transgender is challenging, no doubt about it. But it is also a source of many gifts, primarily spiritual and emotional. Given the alternative of living the rest of my life in misery, accepting who I am and transitioning was probably the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. And, no, I wouldn’t take that pill that would remove my “gender dysphoria” and make me content to live as a man my entire life. I am a woman and I like being a woman. Plus, given the use of hormone blockers and greater recognition and acceptance of transgender children, growing up trans doesn’t have to be the painful journey that many of us experienced.

  3. For those who are interested, NPR’s Talk of the Nation program did a half hour interview with Hanna Rosin, the author of the Atlantic article, and Tina Simms, the mother of the trans girl featured in the article. You can listen to the interview at the link above.

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