NY Mag's article "S/He," published earlier this week, focuses on issues of transgender youth and shares the stories of four young people. Specifically, the piece examines the transgenderism from a familial perspective—how is the family affected when a child begins at a very young age to identify with a gender which does not align with their biological sex? What is the family's response? How can parents show support and ease the pain of their child's dysphoria? Is it in the interest of the child to provide synthetic hormones and / or surgery at a young age (before puberty), or is it better to wait until they are 18, or past their pubescent development from childhood into adulthood?
Seventeen year old Isaac was one of the boys interviewed for the article. In 7th grade he was forced to go up in front of all of his classmates and explain why he bound his chest. As a result, he lost all his friends. He then petitioned to the school board to create a "Transgender Day of Rememberance" on November 20th, but he was turned down. However, his parents were supportive throughout Isaac's decision to take Lupron pills and his mastectomy. His father explains that he was "proud and very quickly got used to the pleasure of having a son." Isaac's mother makes art out of Isaac's story—he is a thematic presence in her paintings, silk-screens, and artworks mounted on wood panels. You can read a first-person account from Issac when he was 16 on New York-based photojournalism project We are the Youth's website.
Isaac explains how the approach of puberty was like a counting-down clock. In some ways, it seems that the process of transition at a young age is like deconstructing this clock and then forming it into something that is more suitable to the individual. Each process of deconstruction and reconstruction is unique, and thus deserves acceptance without reserve. One of the mothers in the article emphasizes her child's right to "have an authentic childhood and be an authentic person in this world and to live the way she's comfortable." Every kid deserves to transition socially and medically with ease.
However, this again brings up questions of parental support and responsibility—especially with aspects of medical transition. Are young people mature enough to intiate a medical transition at such an age? Should these kids wait until they are adults and then reshape their bodies as they see fit? Are there adequate resouces and transgender health care providers to help kids cope with the frustration of dysphoria?
These questions seem to be without straight-forward or easy answers.
I understand Youth Transgenderism as a natural shift into something that is more comfortable. Because the brain is a gendered organ, the essential part of who someone is emerges early and is authentic. But within a society with rigid roles and rules, it can be hard to juggle the body, the self, freedom, comfort, sex, and gender.