Gender Spectrum ConferenceThis past weekend I attended my 4th Gender Spectrum Conference. I always learn something new and I was pleased to see how much I’ve learned in the past 3 conferences I attended.

The first day was the Professional Symposium. Presenters and attendees alike are quite impressive! It is encouraging to know there are so many professionals dedicating to helping our transgender and gender expressive kids.

Some of the statistics I learned in the workshop on the biology of gender identity were quite interesting. 1 in 140 teens between the ages of 13-17 identify as transgender. 150,000 young people identify and 1.4 million adults, over the age of 18. I found that remarkable. With identical twins, when 1 is transgender, there is a 39.1% chance that both will be. With fraternal twins, the chance was 0%. The fact that 60% of identical twins with a transgender twin are not transgender indicates that more than biology is involved. There is an interplay between biology, environment and cultural factors.

In the workshop on puberty blockers and cross sex hormones, I found out that not all kids who are transgender have body dysphoria. I guess I assumed that was true but it is not. The level of body dysphoria varies from person to person. When a child is put on puberty blockers, it gives them time to figure things out. The effect is totally reversible.

With kids who are gender expressive, it can be a little more of a challenge. The puberty blockers do give them time to figure out which puberty they want to go through. The fact is there are only two; girl puberty and boy puberty. With proper mental health assistance, a gender expressive youth can better make that determination. And there are ways to use hormones to create a more androgynous body.

Saturday and Sunday was the Parent’s Conference. The workshops were geared toward  parents. The first one I attended was called “Things I Never Thought I’d Think About.” Here are some of those things:

  • Talking to my 13 year old about prosthetic penises
  • Letting my 4 year old wear makeup
  • Defending my child’s use of pronouns
  • Having to examine my child’s genitals to determine where they are in puberty

Some of the challenges for parents:

  • Clothes for gender fluid kids
  • Depression
  • Bathrooms
  • Sleep overs
  • Locker rooms
  • Pronouns
  • Grandparents
  • Sports
  • Being afraid for their safety

I attended an open forum where we could just ask questions of the professionals. I asked the question about people who think young children are too young to know. I was told this was one of the 5 most common concerns of people. The question to ask is when do cisgender children know their gender? When did you know yours? A study done in the 1970’s, long before young children were coming out, showed that children knew their gender between the ages of 3 and 5. At that young age, they haven’t been influenced by culture. Another question to ask a parent who wonders if their child is too young is “Did your other children ask about their gender.” Cisgender children don’t ask. It’s only transgender children who do.

I attended a very interesting panel about surgery and the effects. I’ve attended panels where doctor’s talk about the surgeries themselves and show pictures and talk about the “technical” parts of the surgery. This was a panel that included a young man who had had top surgery and a young woman who had a vaginaplasty and her mother. They talked about the pain, the side effects, the after care and how they feel now. Neither of the young people regretted having surgery but both had surprises. The young man still had numbness in his chest. The young woman experienced more pain and for longer than she had anticipated. Neither regretted having the surgery but it was not what they expected.

The teen panel on Sautrday afternoon is always a highlight for me. 4 teens shared their experiences of growing up transgender or gender non-binary. They are always so thoughtful, insightful and articulate. Gives me so much hope for the future of your transgender youth!

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