When I first started delivering Transgender Awareness Training in 2005, I found that the level of confusion most people experience over “Why” someone would want to change gender was much greater than I had thought. It is very difficult for most people who are comfortable with their gender to comprehend the torment and anguish felt by someone who feels deep inside that they simply have the wrong body.
I knew at the age of 7 that I was transgender. Well I didn’t know that was the label, I just knew that I was not comfortable as a boy; that I wanted all the things my sister had. But I also knew that this had to be my secret. There was no one to talk to and I was already well aware that there were very different rules for boys and girls and that breaking the rules for boys would result in ridicule – or worse.
That is the question I have been asked on workshops more often than any other. To answer that question read my article on Gender Identity summarising the discussions I have had on the Transgender Awareness Workshop. If you or someone you know has a child you believe may be transgender then follow the link below, though first it is worth reading on and watching the documentaries on this page.
The good news is that the topic of Transgender Children is in the media spotlight at the moment and a quick Google search will bring you up lots of articles and videos - I have added a few of them below and have featured some in blog posts. Just hover on Blog in the menu and select Transgender Children.
I am Leo
Last year as part of Anti Bullying week and as far as I am aware for the first time CBBC broadcast a documentary on the life struggles of a young trans boy called Leo. Written by Leo this is an excellent insight into the life of a young trans person. His mother has always been hugely supportive of him despite having to “lose her daughter”. Please help by sharing the documentary and link to this page.
The story of two transgender children
Most of the documentaries on Transgender children feature US kids but on Easter Monday 2015 Victoria Derbyshire launched a new BBC news and current affairs programme with a documentary feature on two trans girls. It is nice to see a programme at last addressing issues in the UK and hearing from parents in the UK who are being supportive
The support article on the BBC site is definitely worth reading as is the interactive section that is available for a few months .
ABC 20/20: My Secret Self Documentary with Barbara Walters
In 2007 I came across the 20:20 My Secret Self documentary and for the first time I had a means to help people understand. The entire documentary is about an hour long which was far too much for a workshop, so I picked Part 3 , the first of two which explore the story of Richard/Riley Grant, a male to female transgender child and the challenges parents Stephanie and Neil face in coming to terms with their child’s gender identity. This video has formed the basis of a 20-30 minute discussion in all my workshops for the past 7 years and I have still to find a better way to address so may core issues. I have outlined some of the discussion around that video here.
However the entire programme is eye opening and without doubt the best documentary ever produced on this topic, which primarily because of the sensitive way in which Barbara Walters gains the trust of the children and parents and presents the information paying particular attention to getting the pronouns right throughout the show, something British documentary makers consistently get wrong.
If you have attended one of my workshops and discussed the programme I encourage you to still watch the entire programme, including Part 3. I guarantee you will hear things that you completely missed the first time. This documentary really does transform peoples views and the more people who see this the better it will be for everyone.
Transgender Children – My Secret Self – Part 1 of 5
Part one introduces the three young people and their families whose lives will be explored in the programme then moves on to focus on six year old Jazz and her parents, Scott and Rene Jennings. The Jennings family are all incredibly supportive of Jazz and have decided to participate in the programme because they feel passionately that they "want to pave the way for a better life for her and any trans kids - they didn't ask to be born this way". I have an entire page about the more recent work of Jazz and her family here.
Trans children – My Secret Self – Part 2 of 5
Part 2 continues to look at Jazz Jennings and her family and is really all about the difficulties parents face when they allow their child to transition at a very young age. If you have a gender variant child in your family then I really recommend that you get everyone to see this part of the documentary. As you watch it try to imagine what life would have been like for Jazz if her parents had not been supportive and had tried to make her be a boy, in the way that other people thought that they should.
Trans children – My Secret Self – Part 3 of 5
Part 3 visits a very different family, Stephanie and Neil Grant and their fraternal twins Ali and Riley (Richard). Riley, like Jazz made it clear that he should have been a girl from a very young age. But the medical support received initially was very different with a pediatrician advising to "teach him how to be a boy." Not understanding what was going on Stephanie decides to secretly allow Riley to dress as a girl, a decision that eventually put her marriage at risk. In their case it was a forward thinking school that helped them get the right support. This is the video I use on my Transgender Awareness Workshop and you can read an extended discussion on the multiple issues raised here.
Trans children – My Secret Self – Part 4 of 5
Part 4 continues the story of Riley and looks at the challenges of transition. Riley starts attending school as a girl and faces cruel bullying by other children and tries in vain to hide her pain. And we also hear from Ali about her fears of associated bullying. Then the worst time of all for a trans child - puberty. For Riley this is particularly difficult as she watches Ali begin to develop into a woman while she remains poised on the verge of developing irreversible male characteristics and the family ponder the difficult decision to begin hormone blockers and gender reassignment therapy and the challenging life ahead from Riley.
Trans children – My Secret Self – Part 5 of 5
Most trans children actually don't come out before puberty and many parents simple see gender variant behavior as a phase. In Part 5 we meet Rebecca Singer who at the age of 14 after years of silent struggle, came out to her shocked parents Betsey and Peter in a letter explaining that he was now going to live as a boy and change his name to Jeremy. Like so many trans people Jeremy now has to cope with having a female body while presenting a male gender by binding breasts and dealing with his parents denial and refusal to allow hormone therapy. This video also looks at the importance of support groups, supportive parents and the very real problems of self harm, suicide and sexual health issues.
20/20 – My Secret Self – A Story of Transgender Children – Complete Documentary
Just in case you prefer to watch the entire programme - Here is the entire 42 minute programme as a single video. I am really pleased to see this on line - I hope that ABC planned for this to be here becauswe it is a huge benefit for all trans people that these programmes are available. Enjoy
Don't forget to check out my page on Jazz Jennings showing updates on her life as she continues her crusade to change the hearts and minds of the world.
Kim Petras -Transgender Pop Star
Kim Petras is famous for two reasons - First, she is a talented rising pop star from Germany. Second, she was born a boy and became the youngest person know to have undergone full gender reassignment surgery at the age of 16. The reason I have included her in this page is because she demonstrates why it is so important for trans children to receive support and treatment early.
In the past gender variant children were considered too young to understand the implementations of gender reassignment and were prevented from having any form of treatment until they were at least 18. That was certainly the policy in the UK until a couple of years ago. Following the experiences in the USA, Holland and elsewhere there has been a major shift in attitude and now it is clear that the best treatment is to suspend puberty and begin cross hormone treatment so that the child can grow up in the gender they feel they should have been.
That is what happened to Kim. At 11 years old, she was given hormone blockers and stopped developing as a male. After a period of psychiatric assessment she was then prescribed female hormone therapy and began developing as any other young girl. At 16 she underwent gender reassignment surgery and is now free to live as a woman without the trauma of having give away male characteristics like facial hair, male body shape, deep voice. She has chosen to be open about being transgender, and that will have an impact on her life. She will face some discrimination and be at risk of transphobic abuse, but as you can see from the videos below, she is able to now grow and develop as an attractive young woman.
The video below on the left is her debut single "Die for YOu" released in 2009 and on the right a more recent fan club compilation of her.
“Worlds Youngest Transsexual” Kim Petras on “This Morning”
Below is a recording of Kim's interview on the BBC Good Morning programme in 2009 with Philip Schofield and Fern Britton. In this she speaks about her life as a boy, her transition to living as a girl and the support she has received from family and the medical profession in Germany to enable her to be the woman girl she most clearly is. This video now has over 2.3 million views.
A Video Slide Show That Has Made an Impact
Finally for this page a video slide show that has had a huge impact.
The Whittington Family produced this 7 minute video about their daughters transition to become their son Ryland. The video resulted in them being presented with the Inspiration Award at the 6th Annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast and since then the video has clocked up a staggering 7.5 million views making a huge impact on attitudes globally.