In the early days of Jeremy’s transition I was often asked “How does he know?” For me, the only answer I had was faith. I had to trust. I drew comparisons, knowing that there were so many immutable truths about myself that I was aware of at 16, Jeremy would also have that level of self awareness. But at that point it was certainly a step into the darkness.
In supporting Jeremy I faced different challenges to many other parents, and I am the first person to say that each person transitioning has an individual journey and so to does each family.
More often we meet new families who are supporting young children who are gender fluid or who have transitioned. Nearly every new parent to the various groups asks the same question “how do they know? How certain can my child be?” It’s a valid question. Unlike a child saying they want a certain toy, a child saying that they want to be another gender is outside the experience of many parents. Many parents would have little to no knowledge of what it means to be transgender. With a tired and debunked yet oft quoted statistic that 80% of children who identify as transgender as preteens desist in adolescence I see many parents initially question the legitimacy of what their child is saying.
In all the studies, foot stomping from external groups, what I didn’t see was the opinion of a transgender person. So I asked Jeremy.
He said that he didn’t have the words when he was young, so he couldn’t tell me how he felt. But if he could have, he would have. That if a child has the words parents should listen and those parents should feel that they have done a good job because they helped their child identify how they felt. He said that for him, he knew, like he knew that his hair was blonde and that he had beautiful grey eyes, so he can’t be alone in feeling like that. Other children would have the same level of certainty, in some it would be stronger and some not so strong but in the end that isn’t the point. They will know.
There are no certainties in life, no guarantees that what you have today you will have always. Each decision that you make can only be guided by the information that you have at that time. Some of those decision are huge, and so far removed from our own experience we hesitate. That’s ok. Just don’t stop. Immobility doesn’t help anyone.
During this discussion with J he expressed some very strong opinions about the role of mental health practitioners in supporting young people. Life is challenging on it’s own. Toss in some gender identity issues and you have pretty big kettle of fish. Jeremy has nothing but praise for the psychiatrist and psychologist who have supported him as he waited for treatment and as as he started testosterone. He believes that good mental health support leads to positive outcomes for people who transition. That has only be for his greater good.
In time the definitive studies will come. The statistics will be generated. Right now, for so many of us, our only guiding light is the determination of our beautiful wonderous babies.