The Best Thing to Do for a Gender Dysphoric Child… Is to Listen to Them.

Serena aged 4 in 1997

On the eve of my 24th birthday, I came out as being transgender and I took my first dose of hormone replacement therapy. I remember thinking that as soon as I took that pill, something would change. I would feel more excited for life, I would feel more comfortable in my skin and settled into myself. Before I knew it, a month had passed, and although I was experiencing changes for the better, I realized that gender dysphoria was not my only problem. It was not a band aid I could put on my wounds.

I often thing about my childhood and how if I recognized my gender identity at a younger age, my world would be a different experience. Growing up, I loved playing dress up and I had a vivid imagination. Wearing my grandmothers heals, towels on my head that I pretended was long flowing hair. These of course do not necessarily define womanhood, but it defined the way I was expressing my femininity, and it was centered around an identity that was female. I quickly learned from the outside world, that what I was doing was not okay, and for that I feel a lot of the time that I was robbed of my childhood.

I grew up so quiet, and so timid and so depressed with no friends or way to express who I felt that I was. I quickly internalized that I couldn’t be this way and survive at the same time. Of course, I didn’t have the language to understand it, but the feeling was there.

It’s common for adults to tell children that something is “just a phase” when they deem it inappropriate from the status quo. But for many, myself included, that is never the case. Not once in my childhood did I ever imagine myself in the future as a male. Yet I still couldn’t piece it together because I didn’t know how to recognize it.

I can say with certainty that any mental illness, depression, anxiety, etc. are all based on how I was indoctrinated to live as someone I was not. And I was always starkly aware that I was different, and that it would be something deep down I could never hide. Society robbed so many of us of a lot of things, and then expect us not to have trauma.

The idea of “coming out” is to be visibly open and expressive of who you are, but being yourself doesn’t miraculously recover you from all the years of pain endured. I still find that I am hurt. And it’s not as simple as coming out and suddenly everything is at peace, because you are used to internalizing toxic self-destructive behaviors.

I spent the entirety of my childhood suppressing myself and was still internalizing my otherness, to a point where everything I did was animated. A friend once complimented me on always being so graceful in the way that I moved around the world, but what she did not know was that every step I took, from the way I stood to the way I walked, was very rehearsed and very thought out… and very exhausting.

Fast forward today, and I am still learning how to heal from trauma. I have issues getting close to people, so I push them away. I’m standoffish yet feign for company. I’m socially anxious. Scatter brained. Impulsive. I quit easily. I procrastinate often. I blow things up in my mind until I am mentally exhausted. These destructive patterns have a direct correlation with being brought up in a society that told me to be myself yet reprimanded me for doing just that.

So, I feel that it is very important that caretakers of children who are struggling with their identity, listen to their children. We have got to get to a point where stop thinking that having the ultimate say-so is beneficial to our youth without listening to them first, because many times it can prove to be more harmful.

So, think about the harm you could be doing, by telling your child to suppress certain parts of themselves, and encourage them to just be themselves, and I mean really be themselves. Strive to help them become the best version of themselves, and start doing that now.

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