By: Jasper Griswold, Columnist
There’s a lot of controversy around transgender children. How can a child know that they’re trans? That’s a big change. Can they make it responsibly? And yes, it is very true that being transgender causes a lot of big changes in your life and can put you at risk for harm. It’s not as simple as changing your clothes and name. And gender is complicated as well. How can a child be sure of their gender identity? Doesn’t it take a lot of introspection?
I counter that with a question of my own. How do you know your handedness? You didn’t have a mark on your right hand at birth, telling you that it’s your dominant hand. But when you started picking up things, trying to use a crayon, you noticed that something just felt wrong when you held things in your non-dominant hand. And that it felt right when you held it in the other.
Imagine if you were forced to write with your nondominant hand — how uncomfortable that would be. Gender is a lot the same, although it differs from that example in that someone does tell you what they think your gender is. There was always this sense of weirdness or wrongness when someone referred to me as a girl. But it felt so right when they referred to me as a boy. I know that as much as I know that I’m right-handed. Everything else just feels wrong.
Children can have that level of understanding, too. There are likely more transgender children now because “transgender” has become a household word so more children have something to relate those feelings to, and people are becoming more accepting so children are more likely to come out. I didn’t know that transgender was even a word until I was a teenager. Now there are trans people with their own TV shows, and they are often in the news.
There is one misunderstanding with transgender children that exists, and that is that all trans people know since childhood. That is wildly inaccurate, as I didn’t know until I was a teenager and many of my friends didn’t know until they were older as well. My introduction to trans people was trans children that said they didn’t align with their birth sex since just about when they could start talking. These kinds of misconceptions only lead to gatekeeping, and people thinking they can’t be trans because they didn’t know at a young age.
Sometimes people figure themselves out right away. Sometimes it takes more time. Sometimes they force themselves to do something uncomfortable because they feel they have to. Trans people come from all walks of life. It’s important not to invalidate people based on age, when they came out, or anything else of that nature.