Recently we were faced with two cases relating to gender variant children at polar opposite ends of the scale.
On the one side we had a parent accused of abuse and whose child has been actively removed from their care, because the mother has supported the child’s desire to express themselves as the opposite gender – let’s call this case A.
On the other side we had a child whose parents refuse to accept any suggestion that they might be gender variant until that child is 16 or even 18 (at which time she “she must do what she wants to do”…) we will refer to this as case B.
But which parent is acting in the best interest of the child? Does mother B have the right approach? Are we looking at a classic case of tough love in action? Does the child simply need to tow the line and bide their time until they are old enough to go their separate ways? Is mother A who enabled her gender-questioning child to explore her feelings and to act them out irresponsible or enlightened?
And what are the implications for other parents of children in a similar position? Will the police come knocking at their door in the dead of night to whisk their children away and save them from themselves?
One voice which appears to have been lost in this narrative is that of the child. Statistics show that nearly half of all gender variant children attempt suicide (there are no official figures for the greater number who self harm). For a parent of a child exhibiting gender non-conforming behaviour this statistic is one they carry with them from the moment they wake to the moment they fall asleep.
If I do not support my child, if I do not allow them to express their variance, is there a near 50% chance that my child will attempt to commit suicide? Show me a parent who will not act given these circumstances.
Mother B was quoted as saying: “The rights of parents in the UK are being eroded, especially those who have traditional Christian values. It is leaving parents to feel fearful, vulnerable and intimidated.”
And she is absolutely right. Parents are feeling fearful, vulnerable and intimidated but it is not only the parents who are fighting against their children’s gender variance, it is also those who are fighting for the rights of their children to explore their gender identity.
By helping their child, by listening and providing support and comfort they are being accused by some of enabling and even encouraging the child’s transgender journey. Not one of the parents I have met during my time as a gender specialist has actively wanted this turmoil for their child. Yes they have held their hand along the way, as any loving parent would, but I have seen first hand the devastation it can cause.
That is not to say that mother B has got it wrong. This is not a question about whether or not the parent loves her child, merely that she chooses not to accept the child’s wishes as they go against her Christian beliefs.
Whatever path the parent chooses to take, the child’s wellbeing must remain front and centre. Transgender issues have always existed, this is not a new phenomenon, yes we must without doubt be wary of the flighty nature of children but what we mustn’t do is ignore their cries for help. We must listen and guide them.
Ask any transgender adult when they were first aware of their gender variance and most will tell you that it was from a very early age. True gender variance in children exists. Our humanity will be judged on how we as a society help them through the challenges they may face.