What is gender dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is a mismatch between the gender assigned to a person at birth and the gender that they actually identify with. Sometimes in younger children, this may surface with boys playing with dolls and other traditionally female toys, or girls who refuse to wear dresses or hate having long hair, along with a persistent, insistent and consistent cross gender identification. It is important to note that simply playing with toys or clothing usely associated with the opposite gender does not mean a trans outcome, and freedom of expression is important for children. Enforcing binary expectations is generally unhelpful but for trangender children, can be actively damaging. Most young people will disclose their feelings in their teens, often around the time when puberty is progressing. They may find the changes of puberty very upsetting, and a lot of trans teens begin to get very depressed, withdrawn and may even self-harm or have suicidal feelings.Some young people may identify as non-binary, meaning that they feel as though they are neither truly male or female, they may feel like they can be both at once, either one or the other on different days, or just a mix of the two.
How will this affect me and my child?
In the short term, with your support, a lot of changes may take place, but it is important to remember that everyone is different, and the most important thing is that your child knows whatever the outcome, that they are loved unconditionally for who they are. Many families find that as time goes on, their child may become happier and more active as they take on the identity they feel that they should have been assigned at birth. Acceptance and support is key for your child to live to their full potential. Knowledge and understanding in services, including schools, is improving as information surrounding trans issues is spreading and with the right support, children can transition in school or college with few issues.
But I’ve never seen any signs
Some children or teens will actively try to hide the way they feel as they are aware that it is not widely accepted. The pressure to conform in society is immense. Often the signs can be as simple as your teen becoming very depressed but refusing to talk to you about how they’re feeling, or your child having a large number of close friends being what you perceive to be the opposite sex. Teenagers are often afraid that divulging information about their gender variance will result in their parents disowning them, and unfortunately we do support a number of teens who are in such an unpleasant situation. The important thing is that they will talk to you when they are ready and will be incredibly grateful for your support.
Is it ok to feel upset?
Of course, it’s a big thing for your child to tell you, it does not make you a bad parent to be upset, worried or even feel grief. The fact that you are here reading this means that you are supporting your son/daughter regardless of your fears for their future. We are here to provide strength and understanding in what is a difficult situation for you, your child and your family. Discovering that you are not alone may be a great comfort to you, and sharing experiences with other families in the same position as you will help your own understanding.
What if they change their mind?
Medical transition in young people usually consists of taking hormone blockers after the inital stages of puberty which are completely reversible and simply pause puberty and stops the young person’s body changing in ways they don’t want it to. Studies have reported that for a young person with gender dysphoria, living through a puberty at odds with their personal self is torturous, blockers give time for them to think and they can stop at any point and normal puberty will resume. Most young people who start blockers will progress in time to cross sex hormones which then reflect their inner self, but this is done in a staged approach with full knowledge, consent and guidance at every step along the way. Some young people progress onto surgery, others don't, and everyone is different.