Talking about transgender issues can be difficult. Lukas Berredo, explains why families are key to this conversation
Talking about trans* issues in childhood and adolescence can be challenging and, in many countries, almost impossible, but we must start this discussion to support thousands of children, teenagers and their families living in invisibility and/or repression. When I use the term “trans*”, I’m referring to a range of identities that are incredibly diverse (see previous posts about gender and my life).
The main confusion surrounding trans* children and youth is not about their gender identity, but rather about not understanding why people around them do not see them as the person they really are. If they are neither seen nor recognised as who they are and, what is even worse, if they are forced to behave like someone they are not, the result is a deep sense of inadequacy and lack of belonging. They may hide who they are, and feel unaccepted and not loved.
Repressive and punitive actions only stifle their personal development and will cause emotional and physical damage that is difficult to heal in the long run. Stigmatisation and marginalisation increases vulnerability, which, consequently, contributes to the already high HIV rates among trans* people. Too often trans* children and teens who live in isolation and lack family support develop depression and consider suicide.
Nowadays, trans* children and teens are erroneously receiving diagnoses as diverse as attention deficit disorder, autism, Asperger’s, and bipolar. These kinds of diagnoses only cause further damage.
Schools should support the development of trans* children, teens, and their families, allowing them to be included in all activities with the peer group of their own gender identity.
Trans* individuals who are supported by their families show significant and persistent improvement in their school performance, their relationships with their peers, and with their families. Families, meanwhile, experience an improvement in their overall well-being.
As a community, it is important to question and criticise how we attribute gender-specific values to objects, colours, or attitudes and how we prohibit or encourage them based on our genitalia. Only when we unlearn this binary gender scheme (ie, man and woman, boy and girl) can we develop ways to create inclusive spaces for all. Only then can we grow up healthy and truly contribute to the change our society needs.