Parents who want to do right by their children have a lot on their plate, and I do not envy their task. It is far too easy for even the best of us to end up duplicating the errors that were inflicted on us, or picking up new ones from parenting trends with little basis in reality.
One reality that many well-meaning parents don’t know how to acknowledge is how to make sure that their children don’t fear disclosing their membership in gender and sexual minorities. This society is hideously transantagonistic, and children notice this well before they have a word for it, and that can make them scared even when they shouldn’t be.
There’s no script for a child who has picked up so much of that fear that they’re in denial before one gets to them. The hope there is for a clearly supportive home to make them feel comfortable disclosing their dreadful secret, and then to learn that it is not dreadful at all, but joyous.
Before then, it is important for children to know that their gender doesn’t have to be a shameful secret played close to the chest until adulthood. They must know that, no matter what that gender is, they can manifest it at the same time as their peers.
I am not a parent, and it’s possible I never will be. My relationship with my parents is fraught, volatile, and consists of alternating periods of wall-shaking shouting matches and peaceful dishonesty. I just might be the last person who ought to comment on how parents should operate.
But I know what I wish mine had said to me, eighteen years ago when their “gifted” (i.e. undiagnosed autistic) child began going through “his” first puberty. Maybe this script only makes sense for helping other young autistic trans women find themselves before their shoulders outgrow their hips and their neck cartilage starts to protrude. But if it helps even one more of us figure out who we are early enough to go through puberty only once, it’ll have been worth writing.
Kid, do you know who first told us you were a boy? It was the doctor. The thing is, though, sometimes doctors get it wrong, and you’re reaching an age where that might start to matter.
You’re reaching an age where your body is going to start changing, from child to adult. Most people’s bodies change in one of two ways, and those ways usually correspond to whether those people are boys or girls. The “boy pattern” makes people get taller, makes your shoulders wider, makes your hands and feet bigger, makes your chin grow, makes you grow a beard and mustache, and so on, until you look like an adult man. The “girl pattern” makes people get taller, makes your hips wider, makes your breasts grow, and so on, until you look like an adult woman. There’s a lot more to both and a lot of in-between, but we can get to that later.
Your body is going to do the boy pattern on its own, but it doesn’t have to. If you’re not sure that’s what you want, or you know that’s not what you want, we can tell it to wait, and eventually, we can even make it do the girl pattern instead.
You don’t have to decide now. There’s not much that’s more personal than this. Think about it, and we’ll go with what you decide, whatever it may be. We love you, and that means we’re here to help you be who you are, no matter what.
I don’t know if that would have worked on ten-year-old me. I sometimes forget how different I am from that confused, scared, lonely child, but what I never forget is how much of that person is still me.
But knowing that I hadn’t received a non-commutable sentence to testosterone poisoning would have taken at least a decade off of how long it took me to discover my womanhood, even if I might still have received said sentence.
And sparing someone else even that much is a quest worth finishing.