I have always believed that young transsexuals need to be helped and definitively but I do have some worries. The worries are directed at the therapists and not the children. I am unconvinced that many therapists are qualified to either diagnose or treat children. The irony here is that all transsexuals were essentially child transsexuals whether they want to admit it to themselves or not. In my opinion if one did not have some form of gender discomfort when young then I have reservations about them being classified as transsexual.
The child transsexual everyone reads about today such as a Kim Petras or the 6 year old transitioning are the exception not the rule. Diagnosing gender identity issues in children is life altering and if the therapists are wrong a life can be ruined. Because a child wants to wear girls clothes and acts up if not allowed to does not make the child transsexual. It is far more complicated than that yet many believe it is that simple.
Dr. Benjamin believed such children were what he defined as those with complete psycho sexual inversion which in layman's terms means they actually believe they are girls. They did not identify themselves as a girl trapped in a boys body they completely identified as girls. Kim Petras was such a case although I do not know her I am sure she is a very happy young lady today.
I have been looking at a lot of video clips from television shows involving children that transitioned early and that have been identified as transgendered/transsexual and in all honesty some of them may not be transsexual. I could never harm a child so I will not mention nor even hint which ones I feel may be misdiagnosed because hopefully I am dead wrong. In one I heard the words "I am a girl" and I have few concerns there but in several others I heard parents say the child liked to wear girls clothes and acted up when not allowed to and the child said "I like girl things" and comments that left me wondering because it almost seemed like the parents caved into the child to avoid confrontation and in several cases the children almost seemed to parrot words their parents used to define them.
I would have been considered a child transsexual many a moon ago and I have 2 friends that would also have qualified. We all identified ourselves as girls and told people that would listen we are girls. I grew up with two brothers as the middle child. One friend grew up with an older sister and another with a younger sister and in none of these cases did we demand to dress and live as girls at very early ages and have tantrums if we were not allowed to. Maybe it is the difference in eras but we knew little about the difference between girls and boys. We liked pretty things and preferred girl toys but there were no tantrums because we were not allowed to live as a girl or have girls toys just disappointment. Maybe the three of us were anomalies.
Personally I thought I was a girl and mentioned it early and began to become very uncomfortable being boy around 8 but it was absolutely never about dressing as a girl. The lone girl I would consider a friend was Roberta Fogo and when we played house on rainy days she asked what I wanted to be and I said her sister and well I was dressed as her younger sister and that resulted in me being caught by her dad dressed as her sister and being marched down the street in broad daylight to my home and presented to my mom as unacceptable behavior. My parents were disturbed by this scene, it was the 50's after all, but I didn't have a tantrum when told to change and for some bizarre reason they bought me an advanced chemistry set which was not a smart move.
I never needed to dress as a girl to feel I was a girl. Being a girl is not defined by how one dresses and how pink your room is and so forth. That led to my first shrink and a suicide attempt because I was really uncomfortable as a boy. If my parents had told me you are a girl I would have been perfectly happy being a tomboy with my brothers but it was the simple concept that nobody would admit I was a girl that hurt so much. I was confused because I was who I was and that was not what I should be. I am not explaining this as well as I should because it is not as simple as we all wish it was.When my older brother Ray said "he is a she" I was a happy little girl.
My parents were wonderful to me and I clearly remember many sit downs where I was the only subject but my brothers and I learned early on acting up and screaming and having a tantrum was not going to get you what you wanted. Many times I remember them telling me we will figure this out together but I was not dressing in girls clothes that young.
All this resulted in a series of sessions with a Psychiatrist from Harvard and my first confrontation with a Psychiatrist. It took a while but I just told him I was a girl and he said no you are not and mentioned physical stuff and I said I didn't care because I knew I was a girl and it went from bad to worse. In the world today that might have gotten me an offer to live as a girl and a new birth certificate changing it from M to F.
It wasn't until somewhere between 10-12 that the intensity increased and I had to be a girl but even then it was not about dressing it was I needed to physically be a girl because I knew the difference and I was wrong. When I realized I liked boys was when dressing as a girl became very important. I was feminine because of the endocrine hormone issue resulting in low testosterone but boys could never like me as a boy. If mom was alive she would attest that that was when I began saying "I am a girl. Why can't you just let me be a girl. I am not hurting anyone if I am a girl." and it became my lament in words close to that. It was then that I pushed every limit possible and I was as feminine as possible.
I guess what I am saying is I am really worried that some of these therapists are diagnosing kids as transgender because they fit some gender-variant defined under transgender when they should really be determining if they are transsexual or not and basing any transition on that. I do have some experience in this area since my surgery.
In the nearly 40 years since I stopped being transsexual and became the girl I was a friend and I together helped 7 kids like us through this process. It started with a kid in Philadelphia and ended with a kid in Philadelphia for me personally and all of the ones we helped were from 12-14 except for one that was 18 which was the last one. In none of these cases did any of these kids demand to be allowed to dress and live as girls as young kids. It was more about being accepted as girls because they were girls. My friend has continued on because she can afford to and has two kids in Great Britain she is helping who transitioned at 13 because it was time and neither demanded to live as girls at young ages but as they reached puberty it became unbearable not to be female. Because of circumstances and the era in which it happened none of the original 7 transitioned until they left High School except for the last one who transitioned in high school and might be one of the most courageous kids I have ever known.
I flew with my friend to Wales and England to meet the new kids this summer and they were identical to the kids we helped earlier except in this case they were able to let the kids transition during the summer and return to school as girls. The two new children are on spiro and estrogen because even the therapists felt it was the best way to go. Except for surgery and a boyfriend when my breasts began to develop fully was one of the happiest days of my life and putting them on spiro without estrogen is silly in my mind since spiro also physically alters the child's development.
Giving in to children who demand they must live as girls is not the way to determine if a child is transsexual. In all the cases I have been involved with, it is a small sample, the parents rebuffed the attempts or the children did not push that issue which resulted in a kind of steel like determination to be what they should be which is characteristic of an intense psycho sexual inversion transsexual.
I want children that are transsexual to be helped early but when is it too early and when is it just giving in to a tantrum? I wish I was smart enough to know the correct answer but my fear is many of the therapists diagnosing kids early and allowing them to or even encouraging them to transition as early as kindergarten are even less knowledgeable than me and at least I was one once. Letting a child "express" themselves is not reason to define a child as gender dysphoric and even though I dismiss Person-Ovesey as fraudulent they did recognize that many of the young effeminate boys ended up being gay and not transsexual and it pains me to say this but I fear this may be an issue in some of these early diagnosed children.
It is such an inexact science that being cautious at an early age may not be the worst idea but being aggressive once the determination is positive is more effective. We do not need kids being driven down this road unless they are really determined to drive themselves down this road. In all of the cases I have been involved with including myself it was our determination to drive ourselves down the road that made it work and I do not believe many kids at a young age truly understand the road they want to travel.