Transgender kids: Families pushing the boundaries

Transgender children are increasingly featured in the news as parents and kids fight to be recognized and treated with respect.

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Photo: iStockphoto

A 12-year-old boy received his new birth certificate yesterday from the Minister of Health in Alberta. On it was an “M” for male.

That one single letter has a huge impact on Wren Kauffman, though. Wren is transgender—he was born a girl but now identifies as a boy. He complained to the Alberta Human Rights Commission, because the law said a person’s sex on their birth certificate could only be changed after sex reassignment surgery. Wren said it was very stressful having his birth certificate list him as female.

That law will now be changed.

Transgender children are increasingly featured in the news as parents and kids fight to be recognized and treated with respect. In BC, the school board is voting on a controversial law that would allow transgender kids to choose which washroom they want to use. It is a difficult, messy and emotional issue—one that is difficult to understand from the outside.

Read more: Should move towards non-gender-specific terms and names?>

The gut reaction some people have is that a transgender identity goes against the laws of nature, as well as society. But, for the kids who know they were born in the wrong body, it is nature that has let them down.

This video about six-year-old Ryland Whittington went viral last week with more than six-million views. It details the journey of one family coming to terms with their child being transgender.

Watch it with some tissues handy.

“We believe we are parents with no strings attached,” the Whittingtons wrote in a statement. But not all transgender kids have supportive communities and family members around them. In fact, as Ryland’s video says, more than 40 percent of transgender people attempt or commit suicide.

They couldn’t stand by and watch their child suffer that fate, so they decided to trust and love him for who he is.

Being transgender isn’t a phase—it isn’t about being labelled a “tomboy” or a “girly” boy. As I learned from writing a story about kids who challenge gender roles for Today’s Parent, kids who don’t conform to their gender are not necessarily transgender. Transgender kids identify as the other sex consistently and over a long period of time. This is not about sexual orientation; it is about a individual having an abiding, intuitive sense that they were born in the wrong body.

A few years ago, this issue was barely discussed, but our culture is opening up and we are learning to accept difference in all of its forms. People like the Whittington family and Wren Kauffman are the ones who are pushing the boundaries, so we can all follow.

Emma Waverman is a writer, blogger and mom to three kids. She has many opinions, some of them are fit to print. Read more of her articles here and follow her on Twitter @emmawaverman.  

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