Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Parents' and Psychologists' Different Approaches to Trans-Gender Children

This is amazing. Seriously, go listen...


NPR's two part series: "Two Families Grapple with Sons' Gender Preferences; Psychologists Take Radically Different Approaches in Therapy"


Part 1 and Part 2

6 comments:

La Pobre Habladora said...

Oh- I'm glad we're going to talk about these. I heard them on my drive home about two weeks ago, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about them. Really, they were amazing pieces.

I teared-up when I herd about the one child who was hiding 'girl toys' around the house so they wouldn't be thrown out.

There are two very separate issues exposed by this piece - one is the plight of trans-gender children.

The other, very separate, issue is ... well, it's just odd that I played with boys, wore only pants, played with Transformers (robots in disguise!) and was bored by all other dolls - and no one worried about me. Girls are EXPECTED to identify with the boy characters in movies and books- hell, there are hardly any girls in most kids books and movies anyway, so you better be able to identify with the opposite sex. Girls are allowed to take on elements of traditional 'male' gender rolls, and no one bats an eye. So, do non-trans gender girls have it easier than non-trans gender boys? Is being 'girly' so stigmatized that we teach boys to scorn the very things we label feminine? Are we teaching boys that they shouldn't identify with female characters or have girls as friends?

As I said, the above are two very different issues - I KNEW I was a girl just like Johna does. Yet, the stupid idea that you could make the kid feel 'comfortable with his sex' by stealing his pink crayons made me wonder about how we treat all kids, what our messages are.

FeministGal said...

Pobre Habladora, i couldn't agree more. I also think that boys and girls are both deeply impacted by parents, society, care takers, ect stifling their creativity by not allowing them to explore gender roles. You are right in that girls get a lot more leeway to explore and identify with traditionally "male" interests, but like you said, a lot of that is out of necessity. If they like comics, they probably found them through male super heroes, if they enjoy magic, Mr. Potter is their man... Hermione kicks ass, but she's no Harry Potter. Boys are absolutely stifled a lot more than girls when it comes to crossing the gender roles in play time. Parents automatically jump to conclusions if their boys are coloring with a pink crayon or interested in playing dress up. I think this sends several damaging messages. For example, girls are effected by boys not being able to play with girls' things because it leads girls to believe and learn from an early age that "girly things are sub par." Boys are effected because their creativity is suppressed and the "macho man" standard is shoved down their throats from birth. "Boys will be boys" "Boys get dirty" "Boys play rough" These teaches boys and girls separate skill sets that are both incomplete. Boys and girls both need to grow up exploring all avenues for creativity and problem solving. Boys may be boys but they also have to use their words and resolve conflict through words. Boys may play rough but it's ok for a girl also to get messy, use her body, and explore the world.

As far as the NPR segment, i too was moved to tears. The first thearapists' theory of forcing a child to exist in his gender while he's clearly and extremely uncomfortable doesn't seem like the best option to me. And the example he provided, although made me think about the situation differently, didn't seem to apply: If a black child came into his office and told him he wanted to be white the psychologist would focus on making the child more comfortable in his/her skin versus allowing the child to have a "white" identity. I don't know, the more i thought about it the less it seemed like a parallel example. Changing a child's racial identity doesn't seem possible whereas it seems a lot more manageable to allow a child to explore the other gender. Gender identity (to me) seems a lot more fluid than racial identity. The second therapist compared trans-gender issues now to homosexuality a few decades ago. She called it "a normal variance in human behavior" and i think trans-gender issues will retain the same label soon, it just education and commitment from all persons involved (parents, mental health professionals, and the community).

La Pobre Habladora said...

Also, in the made-up example of a child wanting to switch their race, you would seek to show that child that the things they associated with the desired ethnicity could be found in their ethnicity too - not by reaffirming those stereotypes and asking the child to change his/her identity to fit withing them.

Kacie said...

I read the transcripts for those. I agree, the first part with the boy they tried to make "feel comfortable with his gender" broke my heart. I wonder if they know how bad that is probably going hurt their child in the long run.

On the other hand, Jonah, I think her parents are handling it very well.

This is...wow.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

WOW....

This is really.....

WOW.

phd in yogurtry said...

thank you, thank you, thank you!

I am seeing a TG individual and after a session, as I was riding in my car, I heard a segment of this NPR story. I sat in my car and listened, but my husband was a distance away waiting for me, and I had to stop listening. I have been meaning to track this down and hear it from start to finish. And now here it is. Providence or what?