In this guest post, 25-year-old Charlie Rae (a pen name) shares her experiences living as a gender-dysphoric girl with a no-nonsense mother who didn’t for a minute subscribe to the notion that Charlie was really a boy.
Charlie credits her mom, along with her training in martial arts and a peer group full of rough-and-tumble girls, with helping her realize who she really is.
Charlie is available to respond to comments and questions in the comments section below the post (her WordPress screen name is artistarmy).
by Charlie Rae
I suffered from undiagnosed gender dysphoria for the first half of my life. I still often have the feeling that I am trapped in the wrong body, and that there is, somehow, another person living inside of me that my body isn’t represented by. I still try and change who I am all the time, endlessly searching for a way to look that fits who I feel like I am, but to no avail. It’s confusing, and sometimes painful, but I’ve come to see that it has more to do with society than with me as an individual.
It started as young as I can recall, in my family, where any and all activities were sex segregated: boys/men doing one thing, girls/women doing another. The older we got, the less accepting the boys were that a girl wanted to be around them all the time, and the harder it got to live in my own skin. I basically ignored my girlhood; I didn’t speak of it, and when they joked about it, I would ignore them. I didn’t want it to be a topic of conversation. I just wanted to be a boy. I thought something had gone wrong when my mom was pregnant with me.
Girls always talked a lot, about clothes and boys. They would try on outfits and go shopping. I would ask them, “aren’t you bored?” but they always said they weren’t. Once, at the beach, I tried to lie around and tan with them. “This is what you do all day?” “Here,” they said, and drew a little picture on my stomach with sunscreen. “Now you just wait until you’re tan enough to see the picture.” I thought, “I’m definitely not a girl,” and went back to playing pickle, and football, and getting dirty.
When I was in elementary school, the sex-segregated spaces continued. At recess the boys would play soccer, and the girls would be on the jungle gym. Once when I tried to play soccer, the boy who I was told had a crush on me (and that’s why he picked me), close-lined me as I was running for the ball. Everyone laughed. I was already in Tae Kwon Do by then, and I had been told never to use my skills to hurt anyone unless I really had to. So I didn’t. I just left. At recess, I started walking the perimeter of the field alone.
My mom never did entertain my idea of thinking I was a boy. Instead she just put me in martial arts class, which helped me in many ways but also perpetuated my confusion. As inclusive as Tae Kwon Do could be, some parts were still sex-segregated. Girls couldn’t fight or partner with boys. I was way too strong for the girls, and I was told to hold back on them. I would get pulled aside by the instructors and given talkings-to. “I’m a boy,” I thought, and I would ask, “Why can’t I fight a boy?” “It’s against the rules,” I was told.
But that changed as I rose higher and higher in rank. It was a fairly new martial arts school, and I ended up being the first person ever awarded a black belt at 8 years old. Something shifted then because I became such an authority. And my instructor started letting me fight boys. I felt somehow…accepted. That I had proven myself. I acted “like a boy” in mannerisms and speech, I fought “like a boy,” and I trained like the male instructors did, but I was the only girl. And I was only 3 feet tall.
I started to become somewhat of a freak show, the girl who was really good. I was featured in demonstrations, because, “look at that little girl!” I wanted to stop being a girl, though. I wanted to be taken seriously.
When I was 9 or 10 years old, something happened to me that must have deeply impacted me. There was a male-to-female transgender person named Kate who we met when my mother was taking care of a dying old woman named Pat. I only vaguely remember Kate. He sort of looked like a woman but he had man hands, and big feet, and something looked different about him. He was transsexual, and he had gotten all of the surgeries.
According to my mom, Kate went to my mother and said, “your kids are asking me questions, can I tell them?” My mother said, “yeah, tell them whatever you want.” My mother didn’t hide things from us; she didn’t whisper under her breath or spell words to keep things secret. She was flat out. She answered our questions, and she let other adults talk to us candidly.
He evidently told us he regretted transitioning. That after everything he’d done to his body, he said “I don’t know what I am.” He also said he knew he was a man, that it was never his body that was wrong. He called himself a he-she. I don’t remember this story. Maybe it was over my head at the time. I do remember hanging out with Kate, and him laughing when I would ride Pat’s wheelchair around the apartment. I think I block a lot out because I loved the old lady, Pat, and Pat died. But I have no doubt that it had an impact on me.
Now’s as good a time as any to tell you more about my mother. I haven’t mentioned her much in this story so far because being a boy was just not something she entertained. My mom was a full-disclosure kind of mom, and she was also frank, and certain. About everything, it seemed. She would say, “What the hell are you talking about? No. You’re a girl.” She didn’t have an existential crisis, she didn’t send me to therapy, she didn’t sit me down to talk. She answered the question like she answered any other questions: to the point, with conviction, and then went on with her day.
She also blurred the lines of gender for me. I didn’t grow up with a father, and when I would get sad about it, she would tell me, “I am the mommy and the daddy.” She wore suits sometimes. She cut her hair short. She talked like my uncle, sometimes, when she was angry. She used body language that men used. I just remember thinking, “alright.” Because that’s how it was, she’d told me the answer, and I accepted it. Even though it didn’t feel that way, and I still hated it.
When it came to Tae Kwon Do, she’d say, “you’re not a boy, you’re better than the boys.” She was always proud to have two daughters. When everyone would make fun of me for wanting to do stuff with the boys, mom would say, “Rachel can do whatever she wants.” She was strong, and fierce, and when she was around, what she said would go. When people would make fun of me, she would say, “Fuck ‘em.” She never called me a “tomboy,” she mostly called me peanut and babygirl.
She wasn’t afraid of what people thought of her. I started to pick that up from her. People would get on her about how open she was with us, about swearing, about “adult stuff” and burping, and how rude we seemed to other people. “Oh, get over it. They’re kids,” she would tell them, and she would write them off.
When I wanted to cut all my hair off, she just told me how good it looked on me. It wasn’t an ordeal. None of my “boyish” qualities were an ordeal. They were what they were, and I was a girl.
When I got to middle school, and I found other girls who were weird, and wanted to be weird, and get dirty, and be unlady-like, was when I started cherishing the idea of being a girl. I kept my hair short, and everyone called me a dyke. I didn’t know what that meant, but it was okay, because I had all of my weird friends–all girls, 10 of us, and we called ourselves the Golden Mangoes. Four of us were what would be considered “tomboys,” and none would have been considered “girly girls.” We started food fights, got into trouble, loved rock climbing in gym class, and we didn’t talk about clothes and styles. We made sculptures out of garbage and told people off that were picking on us. We weren’t afraid to get dirty when we went outside for science class. We were loud and obnoxious. For the first time in my life, I recall loving being a girl, because it meant I could be in that group.
One of the Golden Mangoes started to transition to male in high school. It caused a huge rift in the whole group. She would get angry with us when we would misgender her, and I mean, really angry. This was when the idea that I was not a boy really sunk in. I saw her desperately trying to convince everyone that she was a boy, and we all knew it wasn’t true.
The group started meeting behind her back, not to be cruel, but to talk about how uncomfortable we were with it, and how mean she was to us about it. We didn’t try to misgender her, we had just known her as a girl for so long that it was hard to change. There were other things as well. She was touchy-feely with us. We had all always been touchy-feely with each other, but, we thought, if she wanted to be a boy, the rules would have to change. We didn’t want her to touch us anymore, we didn’t want her to be at sleepovers. Everything shifted in response to her anger at us. I knew that if I joined her thinking I was a boy, that would happen to me too. I gave up thinking I was born in the wrong body then.
I’m telling you, it’s all about finding your place. That’s what gender dysphoria is all about. I mean it.
It’s literally in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If your daughter or son’s self-actualization depends on having friends, feelings of accomplishment, recognition from society, and they can’t get those things in the body they are in, it makes perfect sense to me that they would think they are born in the wrong one.
I chose to do a speech about hair removal for my public speaking course last summer. I had read about a sociology professor who would get her students to change their shaving rituals for the remainder of the class. She remarked how she was surprised that the women quickly bonded over their behavior of not shaving. Though I’ve only taken intro level sociology courses, this didn’t shock me. We are reflections of our environment, always. When the environments change, we change, if only sometimes marginally.
The energy and attention around the trans issue isn’t just something happening in the home, it’s happening in society at large. See, some radical feminists (I think a little crudely) call liberal feminist ideologies “Special Snowflake Syndrome,” but in a way, they’re right. And it’s a paradox. Everyone does want to be special. That’s absolutely obvious in everyone’s life, even those of us who know that certain things are false because of the knowledge we’ve acquired. The paradox is, we all have a context in which that specialness is able to blossom, and self-actualization doesn’t come until we are accepted somewhere for who we are, for all of our special talents.
My conclusion is this: in society, and in the home, we are giving trans issues too much of our energy. Period. On a social, activist level, everyone seems to be in lockstep, because the trans platform is national and pervasive. It’s a fight that needs to be argued with logic. But in the home, especially in the sense of what’s actually happening around us in real life, we’re all becoming obsessed with a complete lie. Our bodies are our bodies. Period. No one was “born in the wrong body.” Body mutilation is body mutilation.
That’s easier for women, for feminists, to realize when we think about how we react to breast implants, and Botox, and all of these surgeries and medical mutations women are going through because they’re brainwashed by society to think they have to be beautiful and perfect. The trans thing is no different.
But the thing about thoughts is, the more weight you give them, the more important they become. That’s why mass media is so repetitive. It won’t stick the one time. You have to say something so many times to make it important.
The advice I would give to mothers, in all honesty, is stop taking this so seriously. I don’t mean to be callous, or write anyone off, and if it’s a struggle for you, then there certainly needs to be work and research done behind-the-scenes to deal with this.
But as a thought experiment, what if your 13-year-old daughter came to you and told you she wanted breast implants. Would you take her seriously? Or would you say “absolutely not, go do your homework”? Kids are uncomfortable in their bodies. Always. Being alive, growing up, is uncomfortable. To have intense reactions to this, to send kids to therapy, is to make it a big thing. It puts importance on it. Not all of kids’ thoughts are valid. They might mean something to them, but that doesn’t make them reasonable. Kids go through all kinds of phases. This might be one of them.
There’s something my mom used to tell me when I wanted something that she didn’t want for me. “When you’re 18, do whatever the hell you want.” This was how it was. My mom didn’t let me convince her that I knew more about the world than she did. She never let that get into her head. She let me get my ears pierced, but when I was 18, I could do whatever the hell I wanted. She didn’t take me to get my body piercings, she made me wait.
But when I was 18, she didn’t take me to get my piercings, she wouldn’t pay for them, sometimes she would say, “what are you doing to your beautiful body?” But I got some. After a few years, I took them out. They were uncomfortable. I couldn’t really move when I had them. And they were impermanent.
Injecting kids with hormones or giving them puberty stoppers isn’t good for their bodies. You don’t need any other reason not to let your kids have these things. Let them wear what they want, dress how they want, don’t make a big deal out of that.
But find them a place that they fit in. We are social creatures; we need that in order to become ourselves. You and your daughter need to find girls that like to do what she likes to do. And then give that all of the attention.
Great essay – it is good to see that you found your path and that you have been able to remain healthy and strong. Great to hear you are in college as well!
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It took a long time, but feminism helped a lot!
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It’s so important for non-conforming kids to meet other kids who can understand them and to learn that it’s not necessary to conform. Great piece, thank you!
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Agreed! And great role models 🙂
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Thank you for telling your story. I found your high school memories especially interesting: “One of the Golden Mangoes started to transition to male in high school. It caused a huge rift in the whole group. She would get angry with us when we would misgender her, and I mean, really angry. This was when the idea that I was not a boy really sunk in. I saw her desperately trying to convince everyone that she was a boy, and we all knew it wasn’t true.”
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Definitely a big eye opener for all of us
Thank you so much for speaking up and telling your story.
With regard to this:
“Let them wear what they want, dress how they want, don’t make a big deal out of that.”
I couldn’t care less about what she wears otherwise, but my daughter sometimes wears a binder. It’s not all the time, somewhere between 1-4 times a month at this point, I think, if that, but occasionally twice in a week, and she has some number of hours (under 8? Can’t remember now) that she goes by as being “okay.” I’ll be happy enough for her to get out of this without any lung or rib issues, but am also really hoping she doesn’t end up altering her breasts in ways she will later regret. Any knowledge or thoughts on this?
That’s not something I would recommend you let her have. There’s a good deal of research the says this is unhealthy. Even little things like not being able to take full breaths is damaging to the body. How old is she? Maybe let her know that it’s not good for her body? Or think of an alternative like a sports bra?
Mine (17) has been binding on all school days for about a year and a half. She takes the thing off as soon as she gets home. She is nearly absolutely flat chested to begin with and could practically go braless or certainly wear a sports bra and get the same visual effect. It’s kind of the last remnant of her ‘i think i’m trans’ phase — which she has not brought up verbally almost since the time she started wearing the thing. She is very resistant to my advice that she just give it up. She has an explosive temper and it’s a ‘pick your battles’ situation here; there are other bigger ones that I won’t go into. So as much as I hate this, I’ve let it stand. I’m kind of waiting for it to fall apart.
LIke you I worry about lasting bad effects. I can see where the potential crush factor would be worse if a person has larger breasts to begin with.
I know we’re going to have to have a serious talk before she goes off to college; i’m afraid in a dorm setting she’s going to want to wear it a lot more hours. The ‘armor’ as it were. Like many kids her age she doesn’t want to hear about science and side effects, I’m sorry to say. Especially not from me. (Though the pro-binding sites also are full of cautionary advice.)
I keep hoping she’ll want something new and just put the damned thing aside and get more reconciled to the body she’s in, and less disassociated with it.
Thanks for the tale, Charlie. I like your mom. 🙂
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Yea, that sounds like being caught between a rock and a hard place. Sorry you have to see her struggle with her body so much. *hugs*
This might not be the kind of advice that usually gets shared on this blog, but as someone who used a binder for years (transparency: I ended up having surgery) I feel compelled to share it. If someone, especially a teen, is going to wear a binder, I can’t stress the importance of wearing it properly in terms of long-term effects. Many young people try to get as flat as possible by binding “down and out” with their breasts, pushing them toward the underarm area. That can cause tissue breakdown much more than “up and out” or “up and in” which would be more like how to wear a sports bra, so the fabric is just compressing the breasts inward rather than tugging downward on the skin too. I saw this start to happen on my body and I’ve seen it much worse in some of the photos that go around the internet too. I can definitely understand not wanting to share a binding resource with your daughter but looking for those phrases on Google might turn up something that she would find trustworthy that if you’re also comfortable with could save her from long-term negative effects.
Eh, I wore a corset on a weekly basis as a late teen/early 20 something. Like the legit real thing with metal stays and everything. I survived.
Thank you for sharing your story. I am having a hard time with my 15 year old child facing gender dysphoria. We just had a meeting with the pediatrician yesterday in which I had an emotional break down, since I legally have no rights to know let alone help determine medical care anymore. I am at a loss and it seems the medical community has lost their minds and thrown out everything we understand about human development. Encouraging such long reaching “treatments” at such a tender age is irresponsible at best. I have so far tried to be open minded and supportive, but am experiencing a lot of anger towards the culture that has taught my child that I am a bigot for simply questioning how this all works. Gender and human sexuality has had very little research and our ignorance of how hormones work within our bodies is apparent to anyone who has hormonal issues. I appreciate hearing from someone who has been there and can offer some perspective without telling me that if I don’t 100% agree with who my child has determined they are, by finding the proper label and doing research on Twitter, that I do not love them and am simply transphobic. No one on this planet loves them more or wants to see them become the best versions of themselves on their OWN terms, but adolescence has not been proven the time when anyone knows definitively who they are or want to be for the rest of their lives, quite the contrary. Thank you again. It is a breath of fresh air. More people like you need to stand up for our kids. The only faces they are sing in the media are those who are pushing for transitioning or the true bigots who hate and deny anything that doesn’t support their small minded notions of how the world should be. Two extremes….
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I am having the same struggles. Everything I have read (until I found this) makes me out to be a horrible person only because I am grieving over this nightmare happening. I am praying and praying and praying for God to step in and stop this madness.
I’m thankful that you shared your story. And I very much admire your mom.
I think that “stop taking this so seriously” is good advice. I know my daughter (who previously identified as transgender) would get very bent out of shape when I would question her gender identity. She would say she rejected being female because she did or didn’t like X, Y and Z. I would remind her that her likes and dislikes didn’t make her the opposite sex. And this set in motion the digging in of heels. I knew that I had to be very selective in what I said. That if I constantly contradicted her, she might grip onto her trans identity even tighter.
As with anything, though, I think it is about balance. On the one hand, it is wise not to assign so much importance to gender identity. Rebellion-prone adolescents are going to seize the opportunity for a power struggle.
But on the other hand, parents are understandably concerned by where this identity may lead their child. The risks are real. And they feel like they have to counteract all of the pro-trans validation, especially since it seems they are the only ones doing so. They are stuck between a rock and hard place and for many of them it is a nightmare.
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“especially since it seems they are the only ones doing so” – exactly. Thank you 4thwavenow for providing us a place where us parents can compare notes on all of this…so we don’t feel so alone in questioning this trend.
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This is a wonderful post and thank you so much for sharing your story and your insights here. I especially appreciate your words about your mother – that you had a strong, “gender non-conforming” (in many ways) Mom and yet still had doubts about your identity until you found your pack of girls to fit in with. But at the same time, it sounds like she kept you on track and focused on the good parts of being a girl, too, and all the possibilities for your own expression. I can never stress enough how important that loving, guiding hand is when the rest of society is so difficult and cruel and exclusionary. Maybe it’s not always what we feel we want, but it seems to keep us pointed in the right direction nevertheless.
The point about finding that place to fit in is so important as well. To be able to say “She is like me; I’m not alone” is one of the most powerful realizations, and then expand to “They are like me” and at some point the dawning of “All women are essentially like me; I belong in this body.” Open-mindedness, curiosity and exposure all lifting us step by step towards acceptance of ourselves, and maybe even personal pride, after all those years of feeling “wrong.” It’s there. It’s always there, just a matter of finding the path.
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Please I know you all love your children and want the best for them but sometimes it’s best to let them try things out, I know it seems like they’re ruining their femininity but there are real trans people and if your child is saying they are trans then letting them express themself without you outwardly disproving can help build a healthy relationship.
Yeah they might grow out of it and if they do that’s fine but if they don’t please please please don’t tell them that they are ‘truly’ a girl or boy , they really do know themself best and exploring their gender is a part of their affirmation of self.
And yes sometimes that ‘self’ will not be the sec they were given at birth but let me tell you a transman is not a girl calling herself a boy, a transman is a man who is told that he is a girl.
Please I know it seems like the whole trans teens are a new thing but it’s not it’s just becoming more public and less of a shameful thing.
If I could get you to do one more thing read this comic online called ‘Rain LGBT’ it follows a transgirl who had relatives like you and I hope you can see the child’s side of the story from this comic.
“Alice,” your earlier, nastier comment (which I’m not publishing) was submitted under a different user name. Use only one user name here, please.
It doesn’t sound like you’ve read much of this blog. Please do that before attempting to submit another comment. No regular readers here are against kids “expressing themselves” and no one is disapproving of gender nonconformity–outwardly or otherwise. And “femininity” is not promoted here–not by a longshot. Most people here do question your assertion that kids of any age always know best. We also question the notion (unsupported by history or science) that there is such a thing as inborn gender. That’s a new thing under the sun with the trans-kid trend.
It’s always obvious when someone shows up here who hasn’t read many posts, because they accuse the parents here of being hateful and bigoted, simply because we’re not in favor of hormones and surgeries for young people. But many of us have seen, with our own eyes, our teenagers who have been perfectly happy with themselves radically change, practically overnight, after imbibing social media, and demanding “T” and top surgery at the soonest opportunity.
Other readers, please chime in, but I’ll give “Alice” the benefit of the doubt (at least this once) that s/he’s actually here to learn something from people who disagree with the dominant trans activist paradigm. Alice, if your intention is only to shame and scold, you’re wasting your time.
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Alice, I disagree with your statement:
“Please I know it seems like the whole trans teens are a new thing but it’s not it’s just becoming more public and less of a shameful thing.”
You may believe this, but it doesn’t make it true. This is a trend. A wave of trans-claiming teens influenced by social media. There is no way that an exponential increase like this is due to it becoming a “less shameful thing.”
Look at the graph in this article:
There has been almost a ten fold increase in kids being referred to gender identity clinics in the UK in under 6 years. And notice the ages of kids affected. Most of them are teenagers. It peaks at age 16, which coincides nicely with what parents on 4thwave’s blog are reporting. Many teenagers, like my own daughter, are great imbibers of social media. And, I am not alone in observing that Tumblr and Youtube transition videos helped our children come to the realization that they are transgender.
Also, it doesn’t make sense that this boom in “trans kids” is because society is more OK with it now. The current line of thought in gender therapy is to affirm and accept anyone who self-diagnoses as transgender. Otherwise, if they are not “supported,” it will likely lead to suicide. Well, this approach wasn’t common in the past and there isn’t a historical record of a massive amount of child/teen suicides.
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Alice, you are trying to tell parents and others here that their questioning and research and time spent speaking to psychologists and doctors and also to their children is fruitless. Instead they should be reading a comic? Real life means facing up to reality, which can hurt sometimes. It means always asking WHY and being able to think critically and not be swayed by propaganda no matter how earnest and appealing that propaganda is.
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The rhetoric of “the child knows best if he or she is a boy or a girl” really needs to be put to rest. Just this morning I was reading another account of a trans person who was in the process of returning to his natal gender – in his case, transitioning back from female to male, after years of hormones, surgery, etc. In his account, he said he often asks when changing paperwork back to his natal sex if the clerical worker has seen any other trans person come in recently to do the same thing. And he said they always say yes. And it’s happening more and more.
If we “really know” – and let’s say children again – if *children* really know they are “boys” or “girls” – then how do you explain those who reconsider, detransition, retransition, even regret? Are they all not “real” trans people? Despite their stories being similar? Despite the therapists diagnosis, the doctor’s prescriptions? You cannot say who is going to be truly helped by transition and who is not. Especially not in the case of young children.
It’s not that children who claim to be opposite their natal sex need their statements of gender identity be wholeheartedly accepted. It’s that the confusion about gender roles, the histories of bullying or abuse, the mental health, the social and family dynamics of these children has to be examined and healed. And that is what we’re talking about here, for the sake of all confused children – and adults – who suffer through these things.
The gender roles – the “I’m a boy” and “I’m a girl” don’t mean a thing literally. Gender roles can be cast aside and a healthy, happy life lived without them. But those statements, that preoccupation with gender roles, those are red flags indeed.
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Since the brain doesn’t fully finish developing until about age 25, how can children really know themselves best? They don’t have enough cognitive development or life experience to know exactly who they are and what they want to do with their lives. We change and grow so much over the years. Even if there are some things we always passionately know and want, like wanting to be a doctor since age five, we still evolve in how we think about those life goals as we get older. For example, I’ve been a writer since I was four years old, and when I was a lot younger, I thought I’d automatically become rich and famous as a teenager.
There’s no evidence of transkids in history, not the way we have extensive, obvious evidence of gay people existing well before it was socially acceptable and no longer hidden away. I just don’t understand how anyone could buy the media stories hook, line, and sinker, instead of applying principles of skeptical inquiry. I know so many people who are skeptical about everything they deem woo (pseudoscience), even things which aren’t either pseudoscience or science, like cloth menstrual pads, just because it’s associated with the crunchy crowd. Yet when it comes to the transkid trend, then they’re all about parroting nonsense like “Some women have penises!” instead of looking at the actual science.
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Alice, my goal as a parent is for my daughter to find happiness in the body she was born in. She has days where she feels more masculine and days where she feels more feminine. Both are fine ways to be. I cannot accept or support my daughter doing things that have permanent medical consequences, such as binding and taking T. She is not allowed to get a tattoo, drink alcohol, smoke, or take drugs. Why would I allow her to “experiment” with her body by taking T? The thought of sitting idly by and watching my child become a lifelong medical patient and destroy her healthy body on purpose makes me ill. I cannot do it. I know my child. I know that allowing this would destroy her.
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Alice, Alice, Alice — the fact that you think our main concern is that we are ruining our kids’ “femininity” if we allow them to transition as minors shows how poorly you understand our thought process as parents of daughters.
I don’t give a shit about my kid’s femininity or lack thereof. She has short hair, she wears clothes from the boy’s department, she refuses makeup/jewelry and any kind of female gender signifiers. Whatever.
What I, and most of the rest of us here, are terrified of ruining is our kids’ BODIES, Alice. We’re afraid of collaborating in an experimental treatment protocol that forces natal women’s smaller circulatory systems to deal with the increased red blood cell counts caused by administration of T. We’re afraid that they aren’t going to give themselves the rigorous self-care required of a T-enhanced natal female body, including ongoing bloodwork and gynecological checks and recommended total hysterectomies, and breast checks even after ‘top surgery.’ We’re afraid they’re going to look at themselves in the mirror at some point down the line, balding and hairy and deep-voiced, and find themselves disturbingly unrecognizable with no way back — just as reported by many, MANY detransitioned/detransitioning natal females.
And we’re afraid they’re going to die before their time, as numerous FTM people have already done. Not by suicide, but by the physical effects of transition.
Look, if there were a way to ‘try out’ the guy thing that was completely reversible and physically benign, just like piercing and tats and modes of dress are reversible — I’d sign on. There is no way to do that. There is no low-risk method of letting these kids do what they want to do. At the very least, I don’t want my kid doing it before she has enough brain development to understand the long-term ramifications — not just the glowing honeymoon-phase advice in “my first year on T” videos up at youtube.
You write apparently as a transwoman and may not be completely up on the significant physical risks FTM transition involves, compared with the lower hormone-related risks of MTF transition. Believe me, this is real stuff, and there is no doctor out there who can tell us that this is going to work out well. As with the other parents here, I will do all that is humanly possible to protect my kid from these risks. When the kids are adults, they will, of course, do what they will do.
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Oh, shut up. Seriously, I have a mentally ill child who is NOT GETTING PROPER TREATMENT because professionals could lose their jobs by actually telling her the truth — that she’s a girl and her disease is making her want a magic out from her illness. Also, asking a 16-year-old girl if she wants to room with a boy in a mental hospital.
Go away. Do whatever you want to yourself and leave those of us who love our children to parent and guide them with love instead of the self-interest you’re displaying.
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Charlie, thank you so much for your story. I’ve been in a panic as to how to proceed ever since my 15 year old let me know she feels she wants to be a boy. This website has given me hope and courage, and I’m going to take your advice:. I’m going to just accept and love her as before, and try to find other strong girls for her to connect with. I’ll probably read your post another 10 times. When she told me, my gut reaction was like your moms: “What? No you’re not!” I’d been so upset that I’d just made things worse. In the future, though, I’ll try to just listen and not argue. I’ll tell her that when she’s an adult she can do whatever she wants. I’ll tell her again that her body is beautiful, and that she can do great things just as she is. I’ll try very hard to not take this too seriously, at least in front of her. Now I can breath again.
Thank you, thank you so much for this post! I’m a 55 year old woman, back in therapy and finally, finally figuring out my lifelong self-esteem issues. When I was an adolescent I had very strong gender dysphoria, and tried to read all I could about it… but this was the 70’s so there wasn’t much to read, other than Renee Richards’ story. My self-image could very well have tracked yours: I loved being dirty, being strong, doing “boy” stuff, but no way in hell were my parents going to let me do martial arts. I learned to become invisible & my female needs were neglected in puberty, so being un-feminine was the safety net I built for myself.
Fast forward 40 years, and I’m discovering that I am the victim of narcissistic abuse & unacknowledged bullying, un-diagnosed ADD, and the resultant anxiety, depression, and OCD that comes with growing up without much other than the basic needs being met. To your Maslovian hierarchy: “If your daughter or son’s self-actualization depends on having friends, feelings of accomplishment, recognition from society, and they can’t get those things in the body they are in, it makes perfect sense to me that they would think they are born in the wrong one.”
Surprise surprise…. growing up being denied any sense of agency over my own feelings and goals; an un-diagnosed learning disability; excessively shy due to ostracism and bullying; and a rigid social atmosphere all coalesced into a very confused and unhappy child. I hated myself, and felt trapped in my hateful and unloved body.
I never had kids, so I cannot know the anguish and guilt that parents here must feel… but I would suggest that appropriate screening for learning disabilities, and close attention to possible socialization problems, be reviewed along with gender identity issues. There are many, many reasons that kids & adolescents feel ashamed and unwelcome in their own skin… but some of those reasons could have a cause that could be addressed and, perhaps, help free your children from their pain.
Peace and blessings!
Charlie – I loved reading your history and loved getting to know you even better – its a lifetime effort to develop as a full person and then be open and honest so others can continually get to know you and love you.
I always felt – even before your birth – that first I was a “person” and needed to fully develop as a “person” and not a gender. I grew up seeing signs that said “No women allowed” and I thank my father for bringing me anyway, even when it meant when we got inside he would have to fight to keep me there (and he did). I joined the gyms before women were welcomed, played pool, golfed and loved to talk and listen to business conversations – all labeled “things men do” and I proceeded to live my life to be ALL of me rather than “just the girl me” (that was imposed upon me by society).
When I was growing up I did not think I was a boy. I thought “boys have it better” and I wanted that. Boys had more freedoms, more opportunities, they were taken seriously far more often than girls, they had more support, success and space than girls. I wanted all of those things. I attribute my ability to be focused on the things I wanted rather than my gender to my father – who – against everyone’s insults – raised me to be a FULL PERSON regardless of the fact that I was “a girl” and even though society had a “box” for me he never put me in it.
My father never referenced my gender – ever. He just supported me in whatever I wanted in life. He kept pushing back society-type boundaries that limited and oppressed me (and all women) and never talked to me about it at all….he never said society was wrong, he did not preach, he did not lecture me. He cleared my path sometimes daily but always quietly and when he was loud (even physically fighting) it was never towards me–it was towards what was limiting and oppressing me. So Grampa needs a nod too….and its important to know my mother never agreed and was vocal against him about HOW he raised me – he ignored her completely. THANKS DAD.
When I started my own business at the tender age of 22, people talked against it and my desires but he did not. He talked business to me all the time and pointed to other “great business people” to follow or listen to. He would give me names of people to contact and that would support me. I ran that business for 3o years and used it to support you and your sister the whole time you grew up. I bought a home alone – not a “normal” thing that women did . I never thought twice about it.
As you know the schools and the pediatrician all worked against me and how I raised you and your sister. I always knew if I were a man and you two were boys, they would be erecting a statue for me. The school system and the doctors wanted me to behave a certain way and wanted you and your sister to be raised to behave a certain way too, and as you know I rejected what they wanted for us.
When the pediatrician suggested “craziness” I changed your doctors to a doctor who supported “full well rounded holistic health” instead of “let’s write a prescription for what ails you” as that pediatrician had. I was not a “popular parent” as you well know…and yes I often said “fuck them” and I have no regrets. My only obligation was to you and your sister and you know that cost me dearly – but I still have no regrets.
I love you Charlie and I believe that childhood brings certain things WE ALL GO THROUGH – and they all pass – regardless of what we do to stop the process or make our selves comfortable in the midst of the growing up process – the process will come and go through our lives. GROWING UP IS UNCOMFORTABLE – and no pill or surgery, clothing or haircut changes that.
For children who believe otherwise they are mistaken and to parents WHO GIVE INTO THEIR CHILDREN;S BELIEFS THAT there is something to DO that makes growing up less uncomfortable – I am sorry that you have the ADDED discomfort of that.
First we are PEOPLE then we are a gender – can anyone honestly say they have mastered the PEOPLE part of that equation – I don’t think so BUT to anyone who believes they HAVE mastered the PEOPLE part then go ahead and mess with the gender part. I think that challenge alone will put this entire subject matter to rest.
PARENTS – Here is your job description – raise your child to be healthy – whole and educated to adulthood. P.S. our kids don;t always like it and don;t THANK US along the way.
That is really our only job during the total discomfort of growing up – regardless of our chronological age.
Knowing that “this too shall pass” is what gets us through life – regardless if we are 5, 15, 22, or 56.
I am proud of you Charlie – so proud!
Mom of Charlie–thank you for contributing here. Since this is a comments thread on an older post, I’d like to take what you’ve said and make a new post (linking to Charlie’s original). Would you be willing to stick around and answer readers’ questions?
Here it is:
What the hell are you talking about? Mom weighs in
Readers, please respond to Charlie’s mom in that post above, rather than here.
Hey there charlie’s mom. I am in my early twenties and I am also looking to start a business. It looks like you started your business at the age of 22 and started making money right away, like a normal job. May I ask what type of business you started? I am currently in the process of trying to start an internet business but I know it will be at least 6 mos to a year before I start making anything. Thanks a lot!
What a healthy challenge to the anxiety ridden parenting prevailing today. What comes through is your confidence and strength, your bravery in face of professional doubt about your methods. I wonder did you experience doubt and did your stance ever threaten your relationship with your daughter? I ask the final point because that fear seems to drive parents today.
This is a really interesting piece and I plan to hold on to it for “skeptics” file, but I’m not totally convinced the author was experiencing full-blown gender dysphoria. It reads more like the story of a major tomboy and proto-gay youth who really wanted to be a boy in order to access cultural privileges available to males. I could be completely wrong here. Charlie, feel free to set me straight!
For while when I was about ten, I became repulsed with girly things. I wanted to be a cowboy. I was never going to be gorgeous, but I sought out men who were interesting. It was before Title 9, no money for my ski racing.
Where are the grandmothers like me now? I just read all of the comments at the lastest New York Times. It’s as if sex, being the end in itself that it is now, excludes the reality of children. Transgender seems to be mostly men who want to outdo women at “femininity”. Nonsense!
I got pregnant at 21, we married, we had five children. He went to medical school, I didn’t. I stayed home and took care of our family. It was really hard staying married at times. I do everything at home except cut the grass.
Now that we are 65 and expecting our 13th grandchild, we know deeply that what we sacrificed to do it the old fashioned way was worth it. There is nothing left but this reality. The joy of watching all of our children be adults, the joy of the grandchildren, makes it all worthwhile. Our friends who had none or just one or two children are sorry now. Our health is failing, sex is random, our friends are dropping dead left and right. The childless our age seem to have no values except their bike riding and constant selfies about how they look at 65. It’s a desolate life compared to ours.
It sounds like you were a tomboy. So was I. (I still am, and maybe you are, too.) My daughter was a tomboy until she did some research online and decided that she really should be a he. Many of these girls believe that because they don’t fit into the ever-shrinking girl box that they should be boys. Because they don’t want to post duck-lipped bikini selfies and don’t wear dresses, their bodies are wrong. I hated my body as a teen. I didn’t conform to what all of the other girls were doing in high school. I just had to muddle through it. The social media messages today bombard girls constantly and make it seem like transition is the way to be happy.
Unfortunately, there is way too much of all kinds of peer pressure because of the internet, too much early sexualization probably because of porn, and there is too much information giving kids wacky ideas.
There are not enough babies and children in the life of the average teen, and girls have lost touch with their own incredible biology. Not marrying, expecting, and having children, prevents both sexes from growing up, IMHO.
This is a mass delusion of the worst kind. Largely male trans activists are using your children to brainwash them and advance their own agenda of dominating women once again, in our own spaces. Late at night, in their rooms, kids are reading about this awful delusion on their phones.
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I am not a fan of moral panics but in this case.,, the adult responsible transgender person, could not argue with protecting children. They would gainer support if they acknowledged the online cult is ‘too much and too soon’ tell the kids – go awY experience life play around with fashion find yourself. Only then can you consider changing identities. You should not try to become a man or woman before you have finished being a boy or girl.
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Thank you, Charlie Rae, for your thoughtful and eloquent post. It is very hard for me to “stop taking this so seriously” when my 19 year old daughter (who- 3 years ago suddenly, with no previously voiced or visual concerns, told us-her parents- that she thought she should be a boy) is constantly having her friends, coworkers, employers and previous teachers agree with her internet and society-based misled conclusion that she is “male”. These people in her life have no choice but to agree, because in some cases, it is legislated that they do so. And she’s been careful not to tell her extended family members or her church members (most of whom have known her since she was born) that she believes she is “trans”- I’m pretty sure many of them would ask her “What the hell are you talking about?” As her parents, we can say “What the hell are you talking about? Of course you’re a girl” but if no-body else she associates with does this, it worries me terribly that her misled conclusion is just being justified for her.
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It is very disingenuous of professionals and media not to clearly and firmly assert a truth. ‘Gender identity is a rare condition. The numbers of young people currently presenting are indicative of a trend. The reasons behind are of interest to sociologists and fashion editors but should not be pathologised and medicalised for fear of causing irreversible harm’. It would be great if someone with sufficient clout, eg minister for health, chief medical officer, could state this as an irrevocable truth instead of hiding in fear of political correctness costing him his job. This is internet driven. Bad things happen when good people do nothing.
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My 16 year old daughter has determined she is a boy this year after making friends with several other girls who say the are boys, or gender fluid. My daughter has a history of mental health issues, anxiety being the top one, but we have a happy and healthy family life. All these other girls seem to have troubles at home, they smoke, do drugs, steal. There is one exception amongst these friends and that is girl that transition to a boy in 9th grade. That boy is graduating this year, but had all the drugs and operations and is seemingly happy and giving advice to my daughter. I truly believe it is all these friends, especially to FTM trans who have impacted her decision, along with the Tumblr community. I have been letting her dress as she wants, cut her hair, but I am drawing the line at calling her anything other than her given name and I don’t want her insisting that she’s a boy at school. I am planning to tell both my kids we are having a summer free of internet, and will be cutting off the Tumblr this summer. I am also hoping to have her spend time working somewhere away this summer with other/different kids. I am hoping that might give her time to rethink. I worry that with the start of school again in the fall, she’ll fall in with these same confused kids though. Do you have any advice on how to keep her away from these so-called friends?
Dear Concerned, my hat is off to you! You are absolutely doing the right thing for your daughter.
You are absolutely right that these kids, especially the “boyish” girls, are under huge pressure these days to actually try and become boys. This is so wrong! The key, if it is even remotely possible, is to learn to love yourself as you are. Why would anybody sign up for a lifetime of fighting their own body? My goodness, on my daughter’s FB yesterday, I saw a post from a girl she knew at college. It said something like “comfortable in my own body for the first time ever” and it showed her without a shirt and with enormous surgical scars, swelling and discoloration across her entire torso. I cried. It just can’t be that is what it takes.
My suggestion, based on many years of parenting my own kids, and also serving as a youth leader in multiple capacities, is to help find your daughter activities and friends that are completely unrelated to anything having to do with gender or sexuality. She is not of the age where this should be her focus at all!
If you can afford to send her to a youth sleep-away camp or summer program, that would be great. How about a local art or theater camp or group? Computer or anime camp? Singing in a local chorus, or playing in a youth orchestra or band? Can she get a part-time job locally? What about a volunteer commitment? Not just a one-off, but something like helping at the animal shelter, the library or with the local kids’ day camp, where she has to commit to being there a certain number of hours per week? (This has the extra bonus of helping with the college resume). Of course, the ever-popular SAT prep? (She’ll love you for that…). You are entirely correct that the computer will have to go. She will live.
If it were me, I just wouldn’t discuss the “trans” thing at all. Don’t give her the chance to fight with you or think it’s open for discussion, since it isn’t.
I just do not believe that we, as parents, have to sit back and let other people try and indoctrinate our children into affirming their own disastrous choices. At the very least we have the right, if not the duty, to speak up and tell “our side” of things and share the facts with our kids. You know they are not getting “the straight story” from the pro-trans camp and it is our job as parents to share our values.
Fighting it will energise her and empower her to the cause. She is emotionally invested but the less direct opposition she meets the quicker it will die. Ignored and distracted it will burn out, flare now and then but when out in the real adult world disappear. She is rebelling exploring subverting and avoiding. It is the medicalisation and language that is scary. Treat it as fashion it will pass.
Oh and I had one other thought for you while I was outside working in the garden. I wonder whether (and this could be a problematic thing, of course your judgment as the parent prevails) your daughter might really benefit from some time working as a volunteer at a local hospital. She will soon discover that having surgery, procedures, and being involved with the medical system doesn’t look like a lot of fun (because it isn’t).
In fact, this may lead to a successful strategy or discussion topic with an adolescent who is considering transition. In my years of working with teens, I have noticed that the kids who are “tied” in some way to the medical system really, really come to hate that. Examples that I have encountered include kids with Type I diabetes, a blood disorder, liver disease and even a major organ transplant. To a person, they really come to dislike having to check in constantly, worry about their meds, worry about whether their levels or status are correct, etc. They also resent the fact that, unlike their friends, they can’t just pick up and travel, or move, or go on an adventure without taking their medical issues into account. The same would absolutely be true for a trans teen.
Even though intellectually of course the teen appreciates having the medical care, at that age they also have a love/hate relationship with their docs and most of the time it’s mostly hate!
Thanks for the suggestions, all good. She does already volunteer with animals, and I am hoping to have her volunteer almost full time this summer. Yes, distract, and refocus. I hope two months is enough to undue 9 months of her so-called friends’ influence at school.