Monday, 19 October 2009

Age 8 and wanting a sex change

Shouldn't that be 'aged'? That's a clunky title. How about 'My sex change: aged 8'. It's not entirely true, but it's snappier. Anyway...
Background: I think my feelings about transgendered people, and particularly their treatment by the media, (and then society), has definitely got a lot more defined in the past couple of years. It's all about the pro-nouns, isn't it (said in Gok style). It is so sick when the Daily Mail (oh yes, our old friend) insists on calling someone who's had a sex change by their old gender; if someone feels strongly enough to have their sexual organs operated on, and removed, then I'd say they deserve to be called a woman (or man, if it's the other way round), personally. Plus, the kind of agony it must take to come to that sort of decision; I mean, have a heart. Yet still, I barely notice jokes about 'trannies' sometimes, I'm sure I make jokes about them on occasion (yes even me!) They are an easily forgotten minority. Even some feminists seem unsure of where trans people fit in.
This documentary seems quite shocking on the surface; but what choice do the parents have? Let the child 'be themselves' whatever that might be, or suppress them? Isn't it better to let them find their own identity? That seems great in theory but in practice seems like a very difficult and confusing issue (and I'm just watching it!)
Josie is an 8 year old girl who used to be called Joseph and was born a boy. It does feel weird to call her Josie, initially, because can a child make that decision? I mean, they are American, and this is the country that brought you beauty pageants, Balloon Boy and My Monkey Baby. Who's to say a mother who really wanted a girl wouldn't put bows in her boy's hair for long enough until something stuck. But that's not the main reality.
It's interesting the way her mum said Josie ALWAYS wanted to be a girl; that it was just something so inherent inside. Not even that she wanted to be a girl, but that she WAS a girl. Even so, it does seem strangely psychotic to be discussing sex-change surgery with an 8 year old.
The mum said that Josie behaved badly as a boy because she wanted to be a girl so much. She finally found her in the bathroom considering castrating herself with a pair of nail clippers. The doctor diagnosed her with gender dysphoria (sounds like a Placebo song).
After that, the parents didn't seem so rash, they seemed very kind to have let her be herself at that age, rather than trying to fit her in another box. I guess a child who has had that freedom from 8 will be much better equip to deal with her teenage years, in many ways.
Kyla is another 8 year old boy with gender dysphoria (see, she wears pink!) Kyla seemed a little more like a boy in drag to me than Josie (and the voice-over was calling her him!!!) but I trust the parents have the child's best interests at heart. It's hard though; do you really know at 8? It's a scary decision to make, as they have to decide whether to give them hormones to basically change the path of puberty. That's a big one to get right. And I don't think it's patronising to question that; there's a reason why you can't get plastic surgery until you're 18, because your body changes, and your mind changes. But then there's this thing of just 'knowing inherently' and trusting someone to know themselves; I mean, I knew when I was 8 I never wanted to have kids. That hasn't changed. Argh, it's so difficult (see, this is why I don't want kids!).
It was weird to hear Josie at 8 coveting puberty and 'boobs'. That was funny when she said she was 'grumpy' that she had a penis. It seemed poignantly childlike.
Hold on, they just said 'it's been found that most people with gender dysphoria grow out of it.'!!! If that is the case (although they quoted no statistics) then surely letting the kids take the hormones before they hit puberty is pretty dangerous. I thought the doctors point about what if they change their mind about the hormones when the parents are quite fixed on it after so long was a good one. Christ, what a minefield!
Kyla then got highlights. I'm not sure an 8 year old should have highlights whatever the gender. I didn't dye my hair til I was about 13.
Ah, they finally have one the other way round! 12 year old Bailey was a girl who is now living as a boy. It seems more 'normal' that way round, I guess because it's more acceptable for girl's to act masculine. That was jarring when she said 'I don't even have girl thoughts; I think about sports and football'. This strikes me as a little worrying; because it's just this myth of defined gender roles, and they are hard to deconstruct at 18 or 27, let alone 12. Like, does it have to be one or other, or can it just be more fluid than that?
16 year old Chris was born female and now lives as a boy. He did take the drugs to stop him going through puberty as a girl, and now takes testosterone to make him a man. He really looked male too, except with a bit of a girly voice (but then I know many other men like that!).
It was interesting that his aunt said his dad always said he wanted a boy, but god, there's trying to please, and trying to please! Surely that can't have influenced it, it has to be genetic.
It was interesting when they were discussing should 12 year old Bailey tell his 'girlfriends' the truth? What if he does and it destroys his life, as they moved to an area where it wasn't known he was born female? It's a dilemma.
For Chris, aged 16, this was even more pertinent, but his girlfriend knew the truth. I liked his mum saying 'at least we can guarantee he won't get anyone pregnant'. Such a mum comment!
Bailey then had to chose between the testosterone injections and growing any taller, as they stop you growing. What a choice for a 12 year old. It just seems like too much. Testosterone also makes you infertile, so it's like a 12 year old choosing to be sterilised just for good measure. What a lot to take on, that's just mind-boggling.
In a weird twist of fate, Chris had a trangender mentor (FTM) who then fell in love with his mum! It's not the kind of family that Jan Moir would approve of, but it worked for them! I liked Chris, he was really sweet.
It makes you realise that these rigid little pigeon-holes we set up for children really are no good; pink for a girl, blue for a boy. They said Josie still likes cars and dinosaurs, so what? Maybe the little pink ironing board and kitchen set wasn't very much fun, did they think of that? I just feel lucky I never had to question my sexuality or my gender. I had it easy.
And as Brian Molko says, 'Don't forget to be who you are.' He also said 'For the first half of our gigs, there's normally some guy convinced I'm a girl, and a pretty cute one at that. As the gig continues, it begins to dawn on him that I'm a bloke, and suddenly he has to ask himself some serious questions.' and I think that's a good note to end on!

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