“I am not obligated to tell you about my body.”
Imagine being born in the body of your natal sex (your assigned sex at birth), but your brain consistently and persistently tells you that you are a different gender. This is known as “gender dysphoria,” and for many transgender individuals, this begins in childhood.
In part one of our transgender series, our guest Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy discusses transgender youth, including the facts, complexities, and hardships for individuals with gender dysphoria.
You can listen to the full podcast here. Below, we’ve transcribed one particularly poignant segment from the interview.
“When conformity is at a premium in the middle school years, feeling different for any reason is horrible, and so for a young person that has not socially transitioned yet, I always say that before you disclose your authentic gender, your secret is you’re trans. And after you socially transition and you’re presenting as your authentic self, your secret is you’re trans.
That’s ongoing, and for a lot of people, secret equals shame. Living with shame on a daily basis is hard. It’s a big task and it shows up in a lot of ways. For older kids, there are questions like: who am I going to partner with? How am I going to tell people this truth about myself? And how am I going to talk about it? Who do I have to tell and when do I have to tell them?
There’s a common perception that people have, and it comes from parents a lot as well, that if they don’t disclose this information, they’re lying to people. Actually, you’re not. This is private information. You should have the right to disclose it or not depending on your situation and what feels right for you. There’s a constant ongoing thing that I hear that cisgender people feel entitled to know things about trans people that they have no right to know. Empowering young people to say, ‘Google it. You wanna know more about it? Google it. I’m not obligated to tell you my life story. I’m not obligated to tell you about my body. I’m not obligated to tell you about my genitals or any of those things.’
That’s a really important piece for both families and young people to have in order to be armed to move forward and feel better. At the end of the day, until we start celebrating trans identities, we really can’t expect young people to integrate trans identity into their core self with great happiness.”
Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy is a full-time faculty member of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and spearheads a program of research at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles that aims to understand the experience of gender nonconformity from childhood through early adulthood. In 2012, she became the Medical Director of the Division’s Center for Transyouth Health and Development, the largest clinic dedicated to the care of transgender youth in the United States.