COMMENTARY | As the Associated Press' Lindsey Tanner reports, "A small but growing number of teens and even younger children" are beginning to identify as transsexuals, and are receiving medical treatment to alleviate their dysphoria. These treatments include male or female sex hormones, and (in some cases) prescription drugs which block puberty from occurring.
The reasons why some kids and teens want do this are difficult to relate to for some cisgender (not transgender) parents because their kids may not fit the typical psychological profiles of troubled or rebellious children. In fact, they may be scrupulously obedient, or even seem confident and well-adjusted. Because of this, trying to understand their children's behavior the same way that they understand other "misbehaviors" will not work.
It's not about rebelling or being different
Some transgender kids are forced into rebelling, when parents (or teachers or classmates) don't accept them as their preferred gender. But most of them actually fear the consequences of transitioning; Nov. 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance, is set aside to honor the memories of the many transsexual persons who have been killed as a result of hate-based violence.
Very few states and countries have legal protections for transgendered persons, meaning they can be legally denied employment or housing because of their gender identity. Partly because of this, many transgendered persons live in "deep stealth," presenting as a member of their preferred gender at all times without ever saying what sex they were born as. To do so, they learn to conform to society's norms for that gender -- the opposite of teenage rebellion.
It's not about scaring others
A common fear is that accepting transgendered kids will mean letting boys join the Girl Scouts or use the women's restroom and harass people. But the real danger is to the transgirl, who could be subject to violence and prejudice or kept from using the restroom if she were found out.
Bobby Montoya, the 7-year-old transgirl who was finally allowed to join her local Girl Scout troop, is frequently subject to teasing and bullying because of the way that she dresses and acts, according to Dean Praetorius of the Huffington Post. Her experience is the norm, not the exception.
It's not about sneaking into the girls room
Not only are transgirls in danger from the people around them if they are found out, the medical treatments they receive to cure their dysphoria make them less capable of causing harm to others even if they wanted to. A teenage transgirl who takes female sex hormones will lose both muscle mass and libido, becoming effectively chemically castrated.
Needless to say, there aren't many reports of asexual women assaulting others in the restroom. There are, however, reports of transwomen being brutally attacked there, such as when Chrissy Lee Polis was kicked and beaten and spat on at a McDonald's near Baltimore, Maryland. The attack was recorded by a male employee who did nothing to help her, and the video was republished on places like CBS News.
Transgendered people who need to go to the hospital are often denied medical care, and referred to as a "thing" by doctors, as in the case of Erin Vaught in Muncie, Indiana. Few laws exist which protect them.
Why would they choose to subject themselves to this?
The best way to find out why a child identifies as transgender is to ask them. But the reasons most transgendered persons give involve simply not feeling right in their bodies. They don't want to behave like a person of the gender they identify as, necessarily; they just want to be one. And just as boys and girls, and gay and straight people can be born in any household, they can be any kind of person and have any sexual orientation, regardless of which way they want to transition.
Once they begin their transition, they will be part of one of the most discriminated-against groups in the country. The parents who are helping their kids go through with it understand this, and are doing their best to make things as painless as possible.