If you are familiar with the works of Neil Gaiman you may perhaps have read the Sandman series by him. If you have not, then you have to know that it's a story mainly revolving around seven siblings governing our world and many others—ancient gods, basically. One of the siblings happens to be Desire (all of their names alliterate: Dream, Death, Destruction etc) who was neither male nor female while all the rest of the seven had a decided gender.
Anyway, as I spent time coming up with an intro for this topic I felt it was so clever and so fitting for Desire out of all things to be sort of genderless yet possess the characteristics of both genders as well. Even in the comics, the drawings of Desire in almost every panel are androgynous to showcase the versatility and whimsical nature of the emotion and its embodiment. It's no small feat to be able to put a genderfluid character into the mix and draw it well, too—all this by unashamedly straight people.
Another example that I found would fit quite well into the topic and would highlight the sense of know-how of heterosexuals was that I had the good luck to watch the Danish Girl. Wonderfully crafted, beautifully shot movie. The film itself probably doesn't need an introduction but I'll humour those who aren't familiar with the premise.
A painter, after a session of role-playing with his wife for her new artwork, starts to unfold a second personality or as we later find out, his true self, as a woman. (I will apologise now if I did not use the right terminology here.)
His true self; as Eddie Redmayne's character says in the movie as well—he has always been a woman, the doctors, his wife just enables him/her to become whole. I feel this experience described best what trans people may be going through—but what do I know, right? While the movie shows the nuanced discovery of this new being and later intricately displays the suffering and ostracising the then Lily instead of Einhart (Eddie Redmayne's trans character) goes through, yet we stand there unable to help, wringing our wrists as none other than his/her wife.
What I'm trying to get at is that it is insanely difficult to begin to grasp what people could go through when they don't feel that the body they have belongs to the psyche residing in it. It's more than the uncomfortable extra pounds gained after Christmas or a pregnancy. It's an itch one does not know they need to scratch and when they do, the relief is cataclysmic.
My intention by explaining my few encounters in trying to understand what trans people might go through is to illustrate how poorly it is depicted and how much we cannot empathise without a valid portrayal. To this day I haven't found a source that would give an insightful account into trans issues so that we outsiders could have an inkling of what a person could go through - apart from maybe Danish Girl. However, that is a movie set in 20th century Holland so I believe its currency has expired somewhat.
My limited insight into this issue made me debate writing about it. I hate not many things more than when people form adamant opinions about issues they have little to no knowledge of or have not spent the time to explore the topic at length. I am aware that this is a controversial topic and is a subject that needs extensive research since we're talking about the relative cognitive maturity of children.
So the subject at hand would be as to whether it would be ethical to start transitioning under the age of 18 or 16 with parental consent.
I have recently seen a segment about parents hailing their six, seven or twelve-year-olds down the path of hormonal treatments to make them happy. Or the small, evil, cynical voice said in my mind—to shut them up.
What I'm trying to get at by bringing this up that teenagers or prepubescent children are generally uncomfortable with their bodies, especially at a young age. Even throughout adolescence, they're not the confident butterflies they will metamorphose into after puberty.
Your body is changing, girls are terrified of periods, boys of the deepening of their voice, the hair all over their bodies, wet dreams, etc. Adolescence is confusing, smelly, and awkward for most people.
You try to find yourself in the order of things while everything is changing around you and your body and emotions are all over the place. I'm not trying to diminish gender dysphoria as confusion at all. It is a real thing. However, to perhaps too harshly liken it to young offenders; where, or rather, when is it truly the line when children are considered to have the appropriate sound mindset that they can be considered responsible for decisions of such gravitas as transitioning?
Let me introduce you to the seed of doubt in my mind. The impulsivity and rebelliousness of teenagers comes from a simple issue of the developing brain. Namely that the system that would regulate risk-taking behaviour and would urge children to consider their actions and evaluate the following consequences is far less developed than the system that is meant to circumvent these types of behaviour.
How do we know then that we're meant to take their word for it? How do we know that this is not one of their whims and they will change their minds later? Especially at six years of age!
Remember the marshmallow test? How some kids could wait for the experimenter to come back into the room and how some couldn't? They're usually submitted to the test at around four to six years of age.
It was shown even in that experiment that if you explain to the child what the consequences of their actions might be it was much less likely that they would devour the marshmallow. They'd rather suffer in silence but wait for the experimenter to return with the second one.
It begs the question after this whether some parents are taking the easy way out by saying 'oh, my child already knows what it wants' at six years of age and me being a liberal-ass parent instead of sitting down and talking to my child I'd rather medicate them so I don't have to be uncomfortable explaining to them why it might be dire if they start hormonal treatments.
I know, I know—I'm not a parent. Parents want their children not to suffer. We often forget though that parents are also people and humans who make mistakes, who have baggage and their judgement might not be sound at all and definitely not all the time. They are, at heart, children whose time already ran out and they had to unwittingly grow up. Not to mention the often maladaptive patterns they carry from their childhood passed down by their own parents. Such as pretending to deal with a certain problem so that one does not have to be uncomfortable.
I concur that pharma companies have helped a lot of transgender people become who they really are and there are not many more beautiful things than that. There is, however, a line that we have to draw as to when we can medicate our children and when it is appropriate to let them make life-changing decisions. After all, you would not trust your six-year-old with choosing a mortgage.
I believe that children that young, and I'll daresay not even 18 year-olds, really truly know what they want in life. It is a criminally reckless act to allow them hormonal treatment as young as the age of four or six when they cannot cognitively comprehend the consequences of this decision and what it might entail later in life. And the consequences might indeed be dire (eg. impotency/infertility).
It's easier to be uncomfortable for a few minutes than to explain to your child why you allowed him/her to ruin his/her life when he or she didn't know better.
Hormones are not the antidote of being a confused teenager or an experimental child. Nor are they a substitute for being an attentive parent.
About the Creator
Studying Psychology, getting angry about issues on the web, addressing social conundrums concerning humans that surround me. And just pointing out my subjective majestic opinion. :) Film buff, artsy, reader - I do art too @morcika96