Dealing with gender identity disorders
Every parent expects their little girl to wear bows in her hair and play with dolls, while little boys are expected to play with toy trucks and love sports. But what happens when your child starts to exhibit traits of the opposite sex?
Dealing with a child who has a gender identity disorder can be trying for the whole family, not only because of personal beliefs, but also because of ridicule and hurtful comments from strangers. A gender identity disorder is defined as psychological disorder in which a “male or female feels a strong identification with the opposite sex and experiences considerable distress because of their actual sex”.
Lauren Quick was one such child that had a particularly difficult childhood because she always felt like she had “a girl brain in a boy’s body”. At the young age of 11, she had already known for 8 years that she was meant to be a girl, even though her physical appearance was that of a boy’s.
Right from her very first day at the coed school she attended in Yorkshire, Lauren was harassed and heckled by other students, mostly boys, because she dressed like a girl. On her first day, a boy from one of the higher grades burst into her classroom and shouted, “Oi, there’s a tranny in here – show me where it is!”.
A few weeks after she started at her new school, Lauren tried to take her life because she could not deal with the constant onslaught of hurtful comments by her fellow students, and one occasion, a parent of one of her schoolmates.
“We were dealing with things that we could not possibly ever have expected. Who teaches you how to deal with a 13-year-old who wants to be a girl, but is having erections in class?” said the deputy head of Lauren’s school.
The breaking point occurred when a group of older boys tried to remove her skirt when she was walking home from school one day. Lauren’s mother decided to transfer her to another school, but she did not last long there either. To deal with the pain she was feeling, Lauren turned to self-harm. Eventually, Lauren was enrolled into a unit for long-term ill and severely bullied pupils to continue her education.
How parents can help understand the symptoms
Symptoms of an gender identity disorder include an innate desire to change genders, expressing disgust towards one’s own genitalia, feeling anxious about the onset of puberty or displaying behaviour typical of the opposite sex. If a child exhibits these symptoms, parents should accept that this is a real disorder, and not simply ‘confusion’ about gender roles.
Talk to teachers to determine extent of problem
Talk to your child’s teachers to assess the severity of your child’s disorder and also let them know what you are doing to help your child. This is also a great way to find out how your child’s classmates are reacting to his or her behaviour and whether your child is in a healthy environment.
Stay open minded about therapy
Parents may want to consider therapy with a licensed psychiatrist, not to ‘cure’ their child, but instead to help the child deal with feelings of depression and anxiety, which can be common in those dealing with gender identity disorders.
Provide a safe and loving home environment
As harsh as it sounds, parents can’t always protect their children from hurtful comments and actions by other people. But what you can do, is make sure your home is a safe haven for your child. Shower your child with all the care and support to make them feel loved, regardless of what other people say.
Understand that you can’t always control the outcome
Some children who face gender identity disorders do grow up to be adults who are comfortable with their gender. However, factors like hormone imbalances and chromosomal abnormalities also play a part in a child’s perception of their gender, and forcing a child to behave ‘normally’ is just a short term solution.
American Psychological Association