Parents are afraid their kids will make an irreversible call that is wrong for them down the line. This fear plays out in several ways; sometimes, parents prevent those decisions, saying, you’re too young to know what you want, I know better, etc. However, the reason remains the same: they do not want to make a mistake with their children. And so, they ask, “When do they really know they’re trans?”
Knowing is Different for Everyone
There is no straightforward answer out there. However, as a parent, it means that you can define a positive approach to the situation involving you and your child, not some pre-designed step-by-step process. You can support and accept the process or fight it until the protectiveness inherently perverts itself into bigotry and transphobia.
If you’re asking this question at all, it is commendable. Many adults do not understand or accept transgender children and teenagers. So, if you’re wondering how you can know the age they know what they’re talking about, it means that you care more than the average adult (claps for accepting your child for who they are instead of denying them with the “not my kid” argument).
To Know, You Must Listen to Your Child
Suppose you can rely on your child’s lunch and dinner preferences when they say so. How about also relying on what they say about their gender identity?
Chances are that your child knows early on that there’s a difference between the sex assigned to them at birth and the way they feel inside, especially since you, their parent, may already be stereotyping their activities and interests according to the sex assigned at their birth.
Between 18 and 24 months, your child can already label the people they meet according to one of the stereotype binary genders. By the time they’re three years old, they can categorize their own gender. Depending on whether they’re exposed to gender-fluid knowledge or gender stereotypes, by age 6, they’re rigid about gender preferences. However, you may need to watch out for patterns as your child develops during this age range.
Children will want to behave in ways that bring the least amount of scolding and the highest amount of reward from you (the parent). So, while they may set their gender preferences according to what they’ve discovered keeps you comfortable, you must wonder, is it true?
For example, when children insist that they’re opposite their birth sex, you might want to pay attention. Sure, it might be a phase (although please don’t suggest this to them), but let’s say they’re older and continue to harbor those sentiments. In fact, you can see them expressing themselves in ways that are not consistent with the stereotypes assigned to the sex they were assigned at birth; a phase should not last that long, should it?
Go Beyond Listening
It’s one thing to listen to what your child says. You must go beyond that moment to pay attention to every detail. If you do not do so, you could dismiss their words and label it a phase. When you’re paying attention, you’re looking for actions consistent with what they’re trying to tell you.
If your kid is trans, it shows in their behavior and actions; it’s impossible to hide it, and least of all, from you, unless you are not paying attention to the point where the inattention may be bordering on purposeful (really damaging, really not ok….)
Pay attention when your child pushes back to being treated as the wrong identity. Pay attention to how frequently they feel as though they’re not really male or female. Pay attention to their gender expression.
Kids know early, and they say it; the only challenge will be if they have a supportive parent–a parent that listens and pays attention to everything.
If They Think They Might Be Trans, But You Think It’s Too Early
Support is everything for a kid exploring their gender or who thinks they may be transgender or gender non-conforming. So, you’re concerned about their not getting into a situation they might regret when they’re older.
You must find a way to support them. You can provide that kind of support even when they’re not sure. Be careful that you’re not trying to nudge them to decide. They pick up on these things, so the more assertive kids might insist, but the less assertive ones may feel pressure to conform.
These are handy options when your kid hasn’t hit puberty and also something that strikes utter fear in parents and politicians everywhere.
Let’s say that their assigned sex at birth is female, but deep down, they might feel disconnected from the whole female gender; they not only don’t identify with ultra-feminine activities, clothing, gender expression, or assigned roles but also their female BODY they are developing. Hormone blockers are sometimes prescribed by medical providers to address this situation (always consult a medical provider).
Hormone blockers slow the start of puberty. Around puberty, gender-nonconforming kids might grow more anxious because the changes they’re undergoing feel permanent. Hormone blockers delay permanence, allowing these kids to take more time to decide their identity. About transitioning, that’s a complex and sometimes very needed process to discuss in a complex and likely very needed article/blog post in the future.
This approach is often easier to implement right away because it is also reversible. For kids who start exploring their gender at a young age or aren’t sure yet, a social transition lets them enter fully or partially into the social lifestyle of their preferred gender.
Should they choose differently in the future, they can make changes as they see fit.
Trans-genderism in Kids Does Not Equal Surgery Right Away
Therapy, support, inquiries, and consultations with specialists are steps that come before any transition surgery is scheduled. This should make parents rest easy because your kid saying they think they’re transgender does not automatically mean they’re heading for the surgical theatre.
Permanent sex reassignment surgeries will be the last resort. They can come in when every indication (from the kid, specialist, and counselor) points out that the kid’s current choice/preference is there to stay. Otherwise, reversible, social transitioning approaches work best when your kid is showing signs of uncertainty.
Remember, supporting your kid the right way is the most crucial part of the process. Validate their journey to determine their gender identity and never blame them for being who they are. Your kids are never too old for you to support them to the fullest extent of your power.
I hope this helps!