One of the greatest misconceptions about transgender identity is that it begins and ends with sex reassignment surgery (SRS). In reality, the vast majority of transgender individuals realize their gender identity does not conform to their anatomical or assigned birth sex withing the first five years of life. Rachel Pepper, Coordinator of LGBT Studies at Yale University and Stephanie A. Brill wrote in The Transgender Child (2008) that transgender boys and girls may being exhibiting gender variance as early as age four and will show consistency in their gender identity/presentation through age eight. Such consistency will indicate to parents and educators that it is not a “phase” or experimentation in defying cultural norms, but an authentic transgender identification.
Ignoring the fact that trans men and women develop their sense of gender in early childhood contributes to the misconception that gender identity and sexual orientation are interchangeable and that gender identity is a direct result of sexual arousal. Fortunately, news coverage of transgender children is becoming more frequent, dispelling such myths. Barbara Walters recently conducted an interview with a transgender pre-teen named Jazz on ABC's 20/20, who talked about the problems she faces with the onset of puberty, including taking hormone blockers to prevent the development of masculine characteristics and deciding when to being taking estrogen.
Today, TransDailyNews, a social networking organization, shared an essay on transgender identity entitled "Sadie's Dream for the World" written by Sadie Croft. Croft is a fifth grader who expressed the difficulty she and other transgender children face in public schools and the difficulties they will face in adult life. An excerpt from the essay reads:
Transgender kids like me are not allowed to go to most schools because the teachers think we are different from everyone else. The schools get afraid of how they will talk with the other kids' parents, and transgender kids are kept secret or told not to come there anymore. Kids are told not to be friends with transgender kids, which makes us very lonely and sad.
When they grow up, transgender adults have a hard time getting a job because the boss thinks the customers will be scared away. Doctors are afraid of treating transgender patients because they don't know how to take care of them, and some doctors don't really want to help them. Transgender patients like me travel to other states to see a good doctor.
Jennifer Boylan, a friend of Croft's mother has asked the trans community to help this essay go viral. Like Walter's interview with Jazz, Croft's essay provides much needed visibility to the difficulties faced by transgender children, including the need for safe and nurturing environments in public schools and access to proper health care. Making the 'Dream' a reality begins with the click of a button.