“They better not think they can get an operation to change genders on MY dime!”
“It’s not right. You’re either born a girl or a boy.”
“It goes against what God wants.”
“My kid wanted to be a puppy when he was five. You think that’s OK, too?”
Sadly, I’ve heard all these things and more over the last year and a half since Noah came to us with his realization. At that time, he realized he had been dealing with gender dysphoria for many years. Ten years, to be exact. Now, as my 21-year-old trans daughter, I’m proud to say that Noah, who has now chosen the name Natalie, bravely sought help to become the gender with whom she identifies. (*Noah came to us after I published this to let us know she has chosen Nat, as in Natalie, as her name.)
Through Natalie’s journey, I’ve had the privilege to learn about gender in ways I never had before I turned 45.
First, let’s define gender dysphoria, according to Dr. Murat Altinay, Cleveland Clinic, as “the psychological distress that many transgender people experience because their assigned gender doesn’t match the way they see themselves.”
So what should you consider if you know little to none about being transgender?
Here are four things I’ve learned that might help you:
- Gender develops in the brain.
From the Cleveland Clinic article, Research on the Transgender Brain: What You Should Know:
“When we look at the transgender brain, we see that the brain resembles the gender that the person identifies as,” Dr. Altinay of Cleveland Clinic says. For example, a person who is born with a penis but ends up identifying as a female often actually has some of the structural characteristics of a “female” brain.
Though these differences in brain structure and function are important markers for gender determination, it isn’t always as simple as male or female.
“Some research shows the brains of transgender people are somewhere in between, sharing characteristics of both male and female brains, Dr. Altinay says. This is consistent with the growing understanding that gender exists on a spectrum, with people identifying not only as male or female but also as genderqueer, genderfluid or nonbinary. These terms refer to gender identities that incorporate a variety of gender characteristics.”
- Many kids who are transgender experience devastating anxiety and depression starting in puberty.
This was the case with Natalie. Debilitating generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and subsequent depression came on strong at age 10. In fact, we noticed sudden onset stuttering when Noah (now Natalie) was in second grade, which was a biproduct of the anxiety. Considering that, we did everything we could to help quell the anxiety, but nothing seemed to really make a dent in it. Some kids figure out they’re dealing with gender dysphoria at a young age; others don’t until later in life. Neither is right or wrong — it simply is.
- Anyone considering changing genders, whether they are thinking about surgery or not, must consult with a doctor in order to get access to hormone therapy. Care and surgery are NOT on anyone else’s dime.
In most cases, you need a “gender dysphoria” diagnosis in order to get insurance coverage for healthcare. In addition, talk therapy is highly recommended as well. There are a lot of hoops to jump through when you recognize you are transgender. Hormone therapy can take roughly two to three years to help change body chemistry to the gender with whom you identify.
- Just because your religion tells you that being transgender is wrong doesn’t mean that it’s true.
As mentioned above, research shows that gender develops in the brain. This is nothing new; many folks from generations past feared coming out as transgender due to the social climate of the time. Even today, hateful, shaming messages damning the transgender community are commonplace. From a spiritual perspective, as a non-professional, intuitive medium who works with law enforcement officers helping solve murder and abduction cases, I can personally attest to the fact that those who have passed on are not judging those who change genders. Quite the opposite. Those who are experiencing a transgender journey are highly evolved individuals who are shining a light on the need for more love of self and love of others, regardless of their gender/race/ethnicity, etc.
I sincerely hope what I’ve shared has given you insight into what to consider when you’re pondering gender. I’m extremely grateful to have such an amazing teacher — one whom I’ll continue learning from (and loving) for a lifetime and beyond.
Kiersten Parsons Hathcock is the author of the upcoming memoir Little Voices and the vice president of marketing for Moonshot. To learn more about Kiersten Parsons Hathcock and her book, visit www.kierstenparsonshathchock.com. For more information on Moonshot, visit www.moonshotaz.com.