I just read this article on the Advocate's website about a parent who accepted her transgendered kid early on. It's heartwarming that the kid wasn't bullied (at least, not yet--fingers crossed for him in middle school). But what really caught my eye was the sentence, "He transitioned at the age of five."
My first thought was this: no one knows what he or she wants to do or be at five. Five-year-olds will assert that they are dogs or fire trucks, or that they want to eat only pickles for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they assert such things with startling persistence. Are we supposed to take all these things seriously?
At the same time, maybe assertions about sex and gender are more fundamental somehow--more elemental. Maybe by being perceived and treated like a boy from age five, the kid in the story will avoid nasty bouts with depression and gender dysphoria that would have plagued him if he'd transitioned at 25. He'll be able to go through puberty as a boy the first time around. Kids know who they are, this line of thinking goes. And a really big part of me agrees with this.
Still, another really big part of me knows that the world is packed with sex divisions and gender norms. From a very young age, I certainly knew that I wasn't like the other girls. I always wanted to play with the boys and wear boys' clothing. When I looked in my parents' closets, it was my father's ties that I coveted (and my mom is by no means a "girly" girl, so it's not like ties were the alternative to dresses and heels). If the mom in this article had been my mom, I probably would have transitioned.
Instead, my mom would reassure me that not all girls liked to wear dresses or play with dolls. There were unfortunate restrictions (how I wished I was allowed to shop in the boys' department!), but as best she could, she taught me that there were a lot of different ways to be a girl. I'm positive that her open-mindedness helped me to become the dapper butch I am today. For a lot of reasons, the road was not an easy one. But I am very glad to be a girl; my girl-ness just doesn't look like most other people's.
I guess what I'm struggling with in reading this article is a fear that gender nonconformity will be taken for early expressions of trans identity. I think it's super important to accept kids as they are, but how do you do this--and support a kid you think may be trans--while at the same time, leaving wide open the door that your dress-eschewing kid may be a female butch? I worry that labeling gender-nonconforming kids "trans" is another incarnation of affirming gender norms.
As you can see, I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about this. What do you think, dear readers? Is five years old too young to transition?