Maria: The Story of a Transsexual Child
Sexuality has many dimensions. One of those dimensions is transsexuality. A transsexual person has a biological identity but doesn’t identify with that gender. They seek to acquire characteristics of the sex they identify with. For example, we could say that a transsexual boy is a girl who feels like a boy. With a transsexual girl, it would be the opposite.
This identification can be gradual and stronger in different areas. Some of these areas include their external appearance such as the way they dress or style their hair. Other areas include taking medication to alter their hormones or paying for a sex reassignment surgery.
Without wanting to arouse controversy, we would like to state that we think that sexual diversity has always existed. The difference now is that we live in a society that’s slightly more open-minded and informed. More people know about homosexuality and transsexuality. Intersexuality doesn’t arouse as much rejection as it used to. Our current society is more respectful when it comes to people’s different sexual preferences. We can also observe that the way people come out in their sexuality has changed.
In this regard, today we’ll talk about a girl named Maria. Her case was a professional challenge, as child transsexuality is a difficult topic.
“The idea is very simple: accept people as they are. Accept them even if they’re different.”
At what age do we form our sexual identity?
Puberty is the stage that’s most associated with sexuality. Therefore, many of the ideas or concepts related to sexuality emerge at this stage. It’s likely that during childhood the child experiences a sample of sexuality. However, they generally are unable to give meaning to that behavior.
Many times, when we see a child playing with dolls, putting on a dress, or surrounded by others of the opposite gender, we start to “gender” them. We have preconceived notions about what’s feminine or masculine. We assume that their actions are a clear indicator of how they’ll build their sexual identity from that moment on.
In many cases, we lack the patience to wait and see if it’s only curiosity or if it’s something more definite. We want to immediately label children’s behavior because that reassures us. In our society, although some things have changed, it’s still easier for us to see someone as how they’re born than how they’re made.
Maria’s case is special and very rare. However, there have been many cases like hers in recent years. When Maria was three years old, she started saying that she felt like a boy. Her parents acted with insecurity, not knowing what to do with their mixed feelings.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
What was Maria telling us?
In general, children are very sincere in the way they share thoughts. They do so in a trusting manner, and Maria was no exception. She was very communicative about how she was feeling and changing. She told her parents that she felt like a boy and wanted to dress like a boy. Maria wanted to cut her hair like a boy and would call herself by a name that she had chosen: Juan.
Almost all children are curious by nature. They ask and wonder about the mysteries that surround them. They wonder about their bodies, the differences between boys and girls, etc. What Maria was experiencing was more than curiosity. When she began to develop her sexual identity, she didn’t want to identify with a girl. This made her want to change the way she dressed, her name, and how she acted.
Maria was open and honest about what she was experiencing. We knew that we had to encourage her in order to help her. We had to give her a little more attention and see if these changes would stick so that we could give her the proper help she could eventually need. The basic idea was to cushion the effect of “social shock” and minimize the possibilities of suffering anxiety, stress, and depression. These are common problems that transsexual children deal with, along with not wanting to attend school, having nightmares, or experiencing gender dysphoria.
“Any destination, however long and complicated, actually consists of a single moment. The moment in which a man knows who he is.”
-Jorge Luis Borges-
Working with the adults
It’s important not to panic and keep calm. This allows us to see if we’re dealing simply with a behavior or something else. The important thing is to observe carefully. We should make ourselves available to the child for any questions and try to understand how they’re feeling. We have to be open and tolerant so that the child feels that they’re in a trusting environment where they can fully express themselves.
The adults in a transsexual child’s life, especially parents and immediate family, can start to harbor feelings of guilt. We can easily let ourselves think that we did something wrong and that we’re the reason the child is experiencing these feelings. It’s also normal for us to experience fear of what may happen in the future to the transsexual child. We have to remember that we’re not alone and that, in these cases, we just need to do our best, even if we’re not entirely sure of what we’re doing.
We must remember that we’re not dealing with a sick child. We’re dealing with a child who’s discovering themselves, just like everyone else. In this process of discovery, different things can come up. If you’re having trouble dealing with the situation, it never hurts to seek professional help.
“The identity of a man consists in the coherence between what he is and what he thinks he is.”
-Charles Sanders Peirce-
What changes do we make and how do laws protect us?
In regards to transsexual children, unconditional love and acceptance are fundamental. It’s also important to treat changes and transformations as natural. We can’t demand our children to do something they don’t want to do or take on roles they don’t fit into. During this time, we must look for information and adapt our mind and language to these changes. It’s important to understand that transsexual children are unique.
For example, the 2/2016 law in Madrid states, among other things, that all children have the right to live their own identity. With their parents’ approval, they can change their name. However, they can’t change their gender until they’re adults. They have the right to use that name in school and everywhere else. They also have the right to treatments, such as hormonal blockers, to avoid certain physical changes.
The transsexual child will have difficulty dealing with language, culture, and society. When it comes to language, it’ll become necessary to incorporate more gender-neutral and inclusive terms. Let’s start to think of language as an expression that can change the way we think little by little. We owe it to all the Juans and Marias out there.
“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”
-Ralph W. Stockman-