How to be a Good Parent to a Trans Teen
June 22, 2018 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Husband and I are feeling like we're not doing enough to support our kid during this time but we also worry that this is also happening too fast?

My 14-y-o kid (AFAB/FTM) came out as gay about 18 months ago and trans about a month later. I told the (then 12-y-o) to slow down a bit and give (them)self time. Kid has been in counseling for the last 2 years for anxiety, gender exploration, as well as coping with general middle school life.

I used the next few months to read a lot, find and attend local PFLAG meetings, as well as take the kiddo to a day long symposium for LGBTQ safe schools at a local college. Kid met a bunch of new friends, yay, life is good.

That night, kid came back out and said, "No, really, I'm a boy." We love this kid more than anything. So we got him new clothes, a more masculine haircut, and used the preferred pronouns. We have also moved ahead on getting him birth control to reduce the dysphoria of menstruation. The doctors and therapists say we are being awesome parents.

However, my husband and I just don't feel right about allowing testosterone at this age. 14 just feels so young. Since physical puberty is already over for this kid, blockers are not an option.

My question: anyone else out there dealing with this from the parental side? Am I the worst? Advice?
posted by heathrowga to Human Relations (43 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I have no real answer to your question. Came in to say that this question literally brought tears to my eyes. I think if I have had parents like you, I would have felt a lot safer to share with you about my own fears, uncertainties, exhilirations, etc. So I guess be open but not pushy for that. I bet you already are doing that, though.
posted by atetrachordofthree at 1:05 PM on June 22, 2018 [11 favorites]

At 14, puberty blockers may still be worthwhile. Have you spoken to a doctor about whether that's the case?
posted by l_zzie at 1:06 PM on June 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

There was a good KQED Forum episode on "When Kids Want to Transition..." That might give you some ideas and / or suggestions about people to talk to.
posted by salvia at 1:11 PM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I_zzie - we met with a pediatric endocrinologist yesterday who said that window has closed.
posted by heathrowga at 1:11 PM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

However, my husband and I just don't feel right about allowing testosterone at this age. 14 just feels so young.

posted by Hermione Granger at 1:16 PM on June 22, 2018 [6 favorites]

If your kid was AMAB and needed testosterone to correct a hormone imbalance, you probably wouldn't hesitate, would you?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:22 PM on June 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sevenyearlurk & Hermione Granger - the reason we're stumbling here is that prior to 12, there were zero indications that this was even an issue. Super "girly", loved dresses, makeup etc.. This was really a "Whoa, huh?"
posted by heathrowga at 1:36 PM on June 22, 2018 [6 favorites]

You're thinking about this carefully and lovingly. It's an emotionally challenging situation, and I think it's understandable that you and your husband have a complex set of feelings about this, just as you want to do right by your son. I am wondering if you have someone local you can talk to about this? Is there a family therapist that works with gender identity that you could go to with your son? Is your son clear on what he wants right now - in terms of medical intervention? Would talking this out in a setting with a counselor help both him and you two work toward a plan?

I think it's great that you're reaching out. I would suggest really trying to focus your discussions with a) trans people, 2) loving parents of trans people and 3) therapists with specific training in this area. Metafilter is a smart crowd that does include some of the above, but also includes folks who don't know anything about this so be careful of advice from uninformed folks. When you brought your son to the symposium, was there an opportunity to connect with other parents who have thought through this stuff? I do think you could use some more real conversations with both trans people and other parents of trans kids.
posted by latkes at 1:40 PM on June 22, 2018 [24 favorites]

The Atlantic recently had a cover story on exactly this, with plenty of follow up from parents who wrote in; you might benefit from reading it.

+1 be cautious about the motivations, information and agendas of all the sources you consult. Everyone is going to have a bias, even if it's as simple as "I chose X path [and it was the right one.]"
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:45 PM on June 22, 2018 [8 favorites]

You're already implicitly allowing his body to continue to produce estrogen -- I'd try and interrogate why allowing testosterone feels so different?

It is not intrinsically better to have a cis kid than a trans one. Are you in therapy yourself to work through this transition? I'm trans myself, and I think my parents (and a lot of parents of trans kids) masked their hope that I would turn out to be cis with concern that I hadn't thought things through -- which was not the case.

I'm sure you know this, but suicide amongst trans kids is so, so prevalent. It sounds like you're doing a good job affirming him in a host of ways, but bodily dysphoria is no joke. And it may get worse, even if his puberty is over. From what you've written, it sounds like your son has been consistent with his feelings for almost a couple years now, with consistent mental health care throughout. I'd encourage you to to listen to him and what he needs, medically, to continue to be a happy kid! I'm not an expert on this part of things, but I'd also suggest potentially getting a second opinion on whether the window for blockers has truly closed here.
posted by kylej at 1:46 PM on June 22, 2018 [15 favorites]

(FYI The Atlantic cover story was slammed by trans folks for being biased. Be sure to read the response pieces if you read the first piece)
posted by latkes at 1:46 PM on June 22, 2018 [31 favorites]

Also, ugh, that Atlantic article is a piece of harmful drivel by an author who has had an axe to grand against the trans community for years. Please don't read it without also reading the many trans/allied folks who responded to it. Here's a good article to start with there.
posted by kylej at 1:48 PM on June 22, 2018 [28 favorites]

The Atlantic recently had a cover story on exactly this, with plenty of follow up from parents who wrote in; you might benefit from reading it.

The Atlantic piece is written by a transphobic, abusive asshole, and is sourced entirely from bad information and most particularly the 4thwavenow message boards, which are an online home for transphobic parents who abuse their trans kids. It is worth less than nothing. Do not read it, and do not use it for planning any actions.

Support your kid. Let them ask you for what they need. Realize this isn't your life to control. Radically accept them and love them. If they've asked you to use he/him pronouns, by the way, you need to start doing that.

Find a doctor who knows their shit, by asking other AFAB folks for recommendations, and LISTEN to them, and your kid.
posted by odinsdream at 1:50 PM on June 22, 2018 [21 favorites]

Trying to not chatfilter (too late?) - We do use my kid's chosen name and pronouns. We go to PFLAG meetings and host monthly get togethers of other trans kids and their parents. Tonight, taking kiddo to a GSA summer picnic at a local UUC church to meet more kids. :)
posted by heathrowga at 1:53 PM on June 22, 2018 [11 favorites]

It sounds like you have a good endo but maybe not one who's really steeped in trans treatment? Do you have any access to a gender clinic in your area? I know they're not everywhere, and they may not all work with children, but just in case you haven't explored that resource.

(And yeah, don't read that Atlantic article and don't ever listen to anyone who wants to quote its author on trans issues in any way.)
posted by Lyn Never at 1:57 PM on June 22, 2018 [10 favorites]

the thing I think you are concerned he's too young for has already happened once, and it happened precisely because he was asked to "slow down." which, when hormone blockers are withheld, actually means "speed up, but in the opposite direction." I have to guess about your fears since you don't spell them out, but are you afraid he'll go through a hormonal transition and not like the physical result? that has happened.

I can see how menstruation might be more upsetting to him than taking the hormones in oral birth control, but I am surprised you see birth control as an acceptable stopgap measure when the idea of other hormones unnerves you. how is it that he's too young for added testosterone but not too young for added estrogen/progesterone?

If he is completely sure of what he wants in his own mind, if his therapists and doctors are trustworthy, experienced, and have no reservations, and if no serious medical risks have been disclosed to you -- I take none of these for granted, but if those things are all true -- what is the source of your hesitation? you and he both need to know what the developmental differences will be for him if he starts soon versus waiting years longer, and you need to know as much as possible how he feels about his current physical situation.

these are mostly questions for doctors and for your son to answer.

Super "girly", loved dresses, makeup etc.

Boys are entirely free to love and wear those things, if his tastes ever return in that direction.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:00 PM on June 22, 2018 [39 favorites]

Sevenyearlurk & Hermione Granger - the reason we're stumbling here is that prior to 12, there were zero indications that this was even an issue. Super "girly", loved dresses, makeup etc.. This was really a "Whoa, huh?"

Totally understand, but just because it was a surprise to you doesn't mean it's something that hasn't been on your son's mind even before they voiced it to you. Your son's body is their body.
posted by Hermione Granger at 2:01 PM on June 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

prior to 12, there were zero indications that this was even an issue. Super "girly", loved dresses, makeup etc.

It is not at all uncommon for a young person going through some gender stuff to dive headlong into the most extremely stereotypical presentation of their assigned at birth gender before realizing that they're not really that gender. I can think of two examples in my own social circle of people who were ultra girly or super bro'd out as young teens/pre-teens and then ended up transitioning.

I'm a hetero cis woman and even I think of getting dolled up in girly shit as basically performing drag, because really, it kind of is. That your child spent some time exploring that performance of femininity doesn't negate the way they feel today.
posted by palomar at 2:06 PM on June 22, 2018 [33 favorites]

Another vote for extreme caution or outright ignoring of that Atlantic article for which every single trans person I know has expressed very great loathing and disgust.

Please make sure that all doctors and therapists in any kind of contact with your son have a visible and open track record of treating transitioning kids with respect and without bias. Recommendations from other trans kids and their families is a good place to start.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:17 PM on June 22, 2018 [7 favorites]

the reason we're stumbling here is that prior to 12, there were zero indications that this was even an issue. Super "girly", loved dresses, makeup etc.. This was really a "Whoa, huh?"

If you're surprised, imagine how your kid feels. Seriously: this is for them to tell you what they need and want, and for you to listen. I'm speaking as a butch lesbian trans woman, here, who knew since I was four, but didn't have the language until I was 12, the self-acceptance until I was 20, and the nerve to come out until I was 30.

You may never know what they've internally been going through for their entire conscious life. Don't blame them for having to survive in a cissexist society that told them how to "be" a girl.
posted by odinsdream at 2:19 PM on June 22, 2018 [10 favorites]

What does your kid say? Where is he on the spectrum of "I'm probably not ready for testosterone yet" to "I want to explore the possibilities and learn more" to "I need it desperately, the dysphoria is overwhelming"?

Re the dresses/makeup/super girly thing, consider these three possibilities.
1) Like queenofbithynia said, it's possible he actually likes dresses and makeup or did at the time and might in the future since plenty of guys do.
2) He hoped that getting really into dresses and makeup would finally make him "feel like a girl".
3) He was worried people would notice that he's not a girl, and hoped that getting really into dresses and makeup would make sure no one noticed.
posted by capricorn at 2:19 PM on June 22, 2018 [12 favorites]

You might be interested in watching some of Ash Hardell's videos, or getting their book. They are an awesome resource and also happen to be a pretty great case of "omg im so girly oh wait nope" which is VERY common (and flipped around, very common for trans women, as well).
posted by odinsdream at 2:22 PM on June 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

You might be interested in checking out the UCSF Center for Excellence in Transgender Health discussion of this topic: here. It's pitched for providers but it's readable for anyone. Your kid falls between two categories they create of pre-pubescent and teen. They talk a little about how teens younger than 16 are evaluated on an individual basis, and include some of the available if limited research on trans youth.
posted by latkes at 2:22 PM on June 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

Part of the problem with not wanting to move too fast or do anything irreversible is that that view carries with it an underlying assumption that the present situation is sort of a neutral zone that you can just wait in for a while longer. But for many trans kids, it’s not. The present is harmful and getting more so as they grow older, and neutrality is not an option. (And, as others have noted, it’s likely that the birth control option you chose is already hormonal; you’ve already made the decision that hormones are okay in some circumstances for your child’s mental health.)

I don’t know that you need to run out and start your son on hormones tomorrow, but I do think you need more expert input. By which I mean more professionals’ second opinions but also more discussions with and reading stories by trans teens and adults, and their parents too. It’s great that you’re doing these things, and I hope you keep doing more of them, specifically working with professionals who have expertise in transgender youth.
posted by Stacey at 2:24 PM on June 22, 2018 [21 favorites]

I memailed you!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 2:29 PM on June 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

On a more personal note, a friend of mine is on his second month of T right now. I've known him for almost 14 years, the same amount of time your son has been alive. And right now, my friend is the most radiantly happy I have ever seen him, in no small part because he had the freedom to decide for himself how and when he wanted to transition. If your son tells you he wants to start T, please put his happiness above your fears, which you have already acknowledged are mostly from surprise rather than from actual medical concerns.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:37 PM on June 22, 2018 [11 favorites]

Here's what my family doctor friend tells people about hormone therapy (and blockers) for trans patients:

"Of all the care I give people, HRT is by and far the one that has the most immediate, drastic effect on the health and happiness of my patients. I don't prescribe anything else that even comes close to it."
posted by odinsdream at 2:57 PM on June 22, 2018 [12 favorites]

(and just in case it isn't obvious to you from interacting with this system: everything about how healthcare is set up to work for trans people is designed around the mythical cis person "accidentally" transitioning)
posted by odinsdream at 2:58 PM on June 22, 2018 [13 favorites]

Sevenyearlurk & Hermione Granger - the reason we're stumbling here is that prior to 12, there were zero indications that this was even an issue. Super "girly", loved dresses, makeup etc.. This was really a "Whoa, huh?"

Kid Ruki identifies as agender (but continues to use female pronouns) and she went through a phase of hardcore performative femininity before coming out to me in seventh grade. It was like a last ditch attempt to conform to social norms as she came to terms with her gender identity.
posted by Ruki at 3:55 PM on June 22, 2018 [10 favorites]

Here's another article from the Atlantic you might find eye-opening:

Just to add -- you told your son to wait when he was 12, and now he's being told it's too late for him to start blockers. You're also telling him it's too early for testesterone. How do you think that feels to him?

If you are going to stick with "too early", please, for your son's sake, pick a time now when it won't be too early any longer, document it somewhere, and stick to it. Trans people have these goalposts moved on them all of the time.
posted by l_zzie at 4:13 PM on June 22, 2018 [19 favorites]

The effects of testosterone are irreversible; given that, I think it’s wise to wait about as long as you’d wait to make any irreversible decision. Which is to say that it’s very fact-specific. If I had a tumor on my thyroid I would remove it tomorrow. I have a bump on my nose and I’ve been thinking about straightening it for 15+ years.

Where is this decision on that scale? What is the seriousness of the dysphoria? What are the downsides to waiting? All of these issues should be considered.

You maybe did move too slow before, but that’s irrelevant to whether this is a good idea now. The politics of it all, and what happens to other trans people, is also not relevant. Non-trans people with strong opinions but no personal experience are super irrelevant. Whether third parties will think you’re bad parents— irrelevant.

Stories that help you grasp the potential harm in delaying are relevant, though. Your own child’s feelings and well-being are relevant. Your understanding of him as a parent, and your feeling about his ability to make decisions like this, is also relevant. It’s basically impossible for me to answer this without knowing him. There are some 14-year-olds who I would be really reluctant to allow to make any permanent decision, and some whom I would let pay all of my bills. That is something that you as a parent know.

Good luck, but please do make this about your child and not about society, other peoples opinions, or about your identity as a parent.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 4:51 PM on June 22, 2018 [15 favorites]

I believe the TransFamily of Cleveland yahoo(!) groups are still going and have historically been the place to go (you don't need to live anywhere near Cleveland).

I am an actual living, breathing trans man on testosterone. I am happy to talk to you about my transition, though I figured out I was trans at 18 and it was a pretty windy road to "done". Metafilter can't tell you what to do here. The question of medical transition for adolescents is highly individual and you and your husband are really the only ones positioned to make the call. You have to be honest with yourself about whether your concerns are sort of abstract fears or actually reflecting something about your kid. There is a question of "ready", but it's not "ready" in the sense of "old enough to make permanent decisions" (because permanent is, uh, a spectrum). I don't really know how to explain it, which isn't particularly helpful.

I both want to say that you should take the people telling you a clock is ticking with a big grain of salt (if the top surgery ship has sailed, you're basically talking about risking whatever height boost*) and that you should seek a second opinion on hormone blockers. Unless he had a particularly early puberty, he's not done and blockers are still regularly prescribed at 14. (IIRC, the original hormone blocker study in the Netherlands was done with 15 and 16 year olds, for instance.)

If you me-mail me, I can likely lend you my mother to talk to and who did know one or two parents of trans youth (whether she's lost touch, I don't know).

*I should say that I am of slightly below average height for a cis man in the US. Someone shorter than me may be less glib about that.
posted by hoyland at 5:37 PM on June 22, 2018 [12 favorites]

As a parent who has had some different "whoa" experiences, although not related to being trans, I found one things that really helped was being able to listen to my kid about what was going on for them. My suggestion, is to ask your kid to work with their therapist to clarify what they really want and then you are open to having a conversation about it (maybe with the therapist in the room, maybe not).

Hearing them talk to you about their level of certainty or doubt about this identity and how it feels and what it means to them can help you get a much better understanding of what is at stake and what they think they need. Depending on their level of maturity, letting their therapist help them figure out how to put words to all of this can help the kid do a better job of letting you into their experience.
posted by metahawk at 5:38 PM on June 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

Another reason to get professional advice TO your kid, not for you specifically, is that it's actually not as simple as just blockers then T for afab people. Estrogen plays an important role in the lifelong height people grow to, cis men are generally taller than cis women because of the way estrogen and testosterone interact during puberty. Choosing how soon to start T is highly specific to your kid and their doctor talking out the options and making a decision and a plan together. If height is important to him long term then maybe that's best achieved by a delay on starting T or a lower initial dose or any of a whole bundle of options.

Your job is to help your kid get this advice. And then believe then and trust them to make their own decisions. And tell them that's what you're doing.
posted by odinsdream at 11:12 PM on June 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

You are doing an amazing job, but I want to focus on one thing: the advice from this endo that the window has closed seems very strange. I'm used to seeing puberty, especially AFAB puberty and sexual development, being discussed medically as a process that's ongoing from ages ~12-23. Growth spurts, brain development, body fat deposits and muscle development changing, menses stabilizing, the physical/organ/bodily changes that mean you have the ability to safely carry a child which typically happens a while after menarche, breast development, your hips opening. It's not just, "you got your period, time for a bat mitzvah, you're done"-- there are still a lot of really big hormone-related physical changes that are going on well through the teens and into college years. I worry this will sound weird, but I've seen this unspoken assumption before, and I'm wondering if you have the idea that going on T is going to mean that your 14 year old son is going to suddenly start developing a bunch of the adult male characteristics that we see in adult trans guys who medically transition, because transition is so seen as an adult thing-- like suddenly as a result of these hormones he's going to get a full beard and look like a grown man while he's still a freshman in high school, instead of his body responding to testosterone in a developmentally appropriate way. You are a rock star for taking him to an endocrinologist, but you might want a second opinion there, especially someone who's fluent in trans issues. Good luck to you and your family, you're doing great.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 3:12 AM on June 23, 2018 [12 favorites]

If you really accept your son for who he is, why are you worried about the permanent effects of T but not the permanent effects of estrogen? Why are you pushing him to go on birth control - ESTROGEN - rather than a hormonal program in line with his identity? This is in essence placing the hope that this will be a phase over the reality of his identity and sense of self, and it's causing him to continue to suffer dysphoria. Like some people have commented above, I doubt you would hesitate to let him have T if he were AMAB and had a hormonal condition where this was the treatment. This isn't different.

I know you think 14 is young, but please look at how you're framing this: he's known who he is for years. He's been telling you for years. You didn't let him go on blockers because you thought he was too young, and now you're framing it as too late. He's not too young to know who he is and to be sure - a lot of people are aware from very early and then spend years trying to force themselves to perform the expected gender. The "permanent effects" you're concerned about are not the end of the world, and giving him the possibility of being comfortable in his body for perhaps the first time in his life is worthwhile - what you see as a "risk" here is based on the idea that cis bodies and identities are more normal and more worth preserving than trans bodies and identities. You're talking about a risk that he'll change his mind, but not the risks around forcing him to continue living with dysphoria and in a body that doesn't match his identity, and these risks are much worse than whatever permanent effects you're worried about with T.

I know people who have been on T and then decided they didn't want to continue to transition and went off of it. All of them are fine. I also know a lot of people who weren't permitted access to hormones and other transition care for a long time after they realized who they were. They are not doing as well.

Please let your son take T. Please, at the very least, let him go on blockers. His past performance of femininity was likely an attempt to become the person he was expected to be, and it doesn't mean anything here.

You're doing really well on a lot of fronts here, but making him continue with female puberty is cruel and unnecessary.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:54 AM on June 23, 2018 [10 favorites]

I am a trans man who has been on testosterone 2.5 years and had top surgery 1.5 years ago. I did not transition until age 40 (long story, but in part because I didn't know such a thing was possible at age 12-14). The trajectory of my life would almost certainly have been completely different if I had transitioned as a teen. I probably wouldn't have attempted suicide or been hospitalized, for one thing.

This is a medical issue, not a psychological one, and should be treated as such. Your son has a deficit of testosterone and a surplus of estrogen. Testosterone does have some irreversible effects, and others which are reversible. No one can say with absolute certainty, but few people change their mind, and even if so, it's not as if they've cut off a limb.

Irreversible effects (some of which don't start until you've been on T for months, and don't fully stabilize until 2-5 years on T): facial hair, voice changes, hair loss*, genital growth. That's about it.

Reversible effects: increased ability to develop muscle, fat migration from hips (i.e. less of an hourglass shape), cessation of menstruation, further hair loss stops when you stop T, further facial hair growth stops when you stop T, increased sex drive, different body odor (think teenage boy smell), rougher and oilier skin. I know all these are reversible because I had to abstain from T for more than a month due to medical reasons. It feels like PMS; I was irritable and I cried at everything, including lost dog posters.

So - very worst case scenario - after a couple of months, your son decides it's not for him. He might have to shave or get electrolysis if he is bothered by the amount of facial hair (although many women have a "mustache"! If his voice is VERY masculine (unlikely) he might want voice training. Noticeable hair loss takes months to years so he may not have to do anything at all. Genital growth won't be obvious to anyone except sexual partners/doctors and I've never heard of that being an issue. You don't grow anything that someone would mistake for a penis; the clitoris just becomes larger than most cis women's.

Best case scenario - your son is happy, well adjusted and feels like he can live the life he was meant to be living. If he does his legal name change soonish, he doesn't have to deal with the hassle of changing his driver's license, credit cards, college degrees. He can start completely fresh in college; no one will know he's trans unless he says so. He will have communities to support him and can form tight bonds. Most of my best friends are trans because we have a deeply shared experience. It's not all going to be fantastic - there are a lot of anti-trans legislators out there - but I believe the general population is becoming more aware and tolerant every day.

KUDOS to you for supporting your son and asking this question. Lack of family support is the #1 factor in trans suicides so you may literally be saving his life. I encourage you to find a doctor with specific experience with trans patients. Ask around your LGBTQ groups for recommendations. Don't pick a doc out of a hat.

Regarding "Super 'girly', loved dresses, makeup etc." Here is a trans man who was very feminine before transition, this is a trans man post transition, this is a trans man, another femme > masc before and after. (pictured, respectively: Jaimie Wilson, Sunny Drake, Zen, Ashton Colby) I was not femme, but it's very common. Sometimes it's overcompensation, sometimes it's experimentation, sometimes it's a genuine love of feminine gender expression even though the internal sense of gender is male. Don't be surprised if in a few years, your son experiments with nail polish, makeup, etc again. Once he is secure in his masculinity, and strangers consistently perceive him as male, he may realize that he still loves those things and they do not diminish his manhood one bit. I have male friends with pink hair and fishnet stockings and eyeliner.

Please feel free to memail me anytime!
posted by AFABulous at 9:17 AM on June 23, 2018 [23 favorites]

I memailed you.
posted by linettasky at 10:20 AM on June 23, 2018

One more thing - don't be surprised if his sexual orientation fluctuates after starting testosterone. He came out to you as "gay," so I assume that when he was female-presenting, he liked girls. (This is an extremely common path.) It's almost certain he'll continue to like girls, since sexual identity and gender identity are two different things. However, testosterone is one helluva drug with respect to sexual desire, and many trans men find themselves to have a more expansive sexuality after starting testosterone. No matter if he starts it now or waits a few years, you're going to have a teenage boy on your hands. It absolutely feels like a second puberty.
posted by AFABulous at 2:39 PM on June 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

I was talking to my mom two nights ago and our conversation eventually landed on the fact that it has officially been a decade since I had "top surgery" in that "Wow, can you believe it's been so long? Time really flies" kind of way. I was 21 back then; I'm 31 now. My mom joked that her worst fear was that my newly placed nipples would fall off and she'd find them on the kitchen floor. I finally admitted to her that pat of my one nipple did fall off! She then shared that her actual worst fear was that I was moving too fast. She expressed that, at the time, she wasn't ready for the surgery. It was so permanent, so official, and I was so young. But she recognized that I was ready, that I had been thinking about these things long before I came out to her, and she trusted me to make the decision that was best for me.

I was 11 at puberty and realized that there was something not quite right in terms of gender and sexuality and my body. I was 16 when I realized I was a trans man, that transition was even a thing. I came out to my parents at 17, change my name and started testosterone at 18, and now it has been 13 years. Aside from the occasional pondering of "What if I had waited to start testosterone? What if I had explored gender expression more?," I don't have any regrets. I am happy that I started testosterone and had surgery and live my life as a man, and the decisions I made then were the right ones for me at the time.

From the trans child with very supportive parents, you are doing everything right so far. Reading your post reminds me strongly about what my parents did for me... and I couldn't be more grateful to them for doing what they did.You are doing a big important and loving thing: Giving your child a safe place to explore his gender identity and gender expression without judgment is the most key step, and also allowing your child to connect with the trans community allows him to further explore the vast uniqueness that is the trans experience (trans man, nonbinary, genderqueer, etc).

It is perfectly natural to go from being very "feminine" to being very "masculine", especially in your teenage years. Our society provides almost non-step messages of how a woman should be and how a man should be, and it is definitely natural for any teen to try to prescribe to those stereotypes initially because society tells them that's how they should be to be a "man". Many people figure out that those stereotypes don't make you your gender and loosen up to be what they enjoy.

Ultimtely, he may decide that hormones and surgery are for him, or maybe only hormones, or maybe only surgery, or maybe not at all. I don't think there is any rush to start testosterone now unless he feels it is necessary (and I'm sure he'd tell you). Plus he is able to start on a very low dose to adjust to the changes (lower doses = slower changes) and see if it is a good fit. He also may still benefit from hormone blockers at this age, as stated by another poster. Puberty is not a short thing and extends for many years through the teen. It would be worth discussing with a doctor the pros and cons of hormone blockers while giving your child the room to explore gender.

I'm open to talking about more if you'd like. In the mean time, I think you are doing a fantastic job in supporting your child, seeking resources, but also being thoughtful and cautious.

I can also lend you a mom to talk to. My mom was just saying how the parents at a local conference (The Philadelphia Trans Conference, to be specific, back in 2005) were how she came to accept my transition with such open arms, and that she feels like she should "pay it forward" and be the one to talk to parents now.
posted by Thirty7Degrees at 3:20 PM on June 23, 2018 [15 favorites]

I also memailed you!
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 12:28 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you all! I appreciate the posts and memails. Lots to think about.
posted by heathrowga at 8:08 AM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not a personal note, but there is an article from MPR about someone the same age as your child, it might be worth reading for his perspective.
posted by Think_Long at 1:27 PM on June 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

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