Grace, your confusion about transgender kids is understandable and shared by most Americans our age.
The number of children seeking help with their gender identity has tripled since 1971. It was once estimated that 1% of children will have gender identity conflict, but the numbers have increased as better research is available.
Let’s start with the child who truly, since being a toddler, identifies completely as the sex other than which they were born. How do we respond to such children? Do we seek understanding and support? Yes. A parent shouldn’t go through this alone, nor should a child. Should parents support the child in its consistent gender dysphoria? Absolutely. What does that look like?
Insisting that a child dress and plays as if they had no gender conflict is child abuse. By the time that child reaches puberty and their teens, they can become suicidal. If I had such a toddler, I’d allow them to wear what they felt most comfortable in and call them the name they chose for themselves. I’d also have them under the watchful eye of a qualified doctor.
When the child is ready for school, I’d talk to the kindergarten or 1st grade teacher, explaining the situation, and providing them with helpful information. The doctor can aid with the decision on whether and when to start hormone therapy.
What bathroom should your beloved child use at school? What locker room? What shower?
Your child is athletic and wants to go out for sports? Should they be allowed to play on the team with whose gender they identify? Boys who transition to being girls take estrogen. The male advantage of testosterone is gone in three years.
You’d be a great mother of a transgender child, Grace. You’re a lioness, who knows to seek out information.
So, there needs to be clinics where a youngster and their parents can get help. Should they have surgery as a child? If the child was an adult, they would have to work with a therapist and for one year live totally as the gender to which they feel most drawn. For a child, that would mean being “out” to all classmates, teachers, neighbors, grandparents, cousins, etc. Even then, I think that they first put the child on the appropriate hormone so that their experience of puberty isn’t traumatic. They can reverse that any time they want. Surgery should wait, in my opinion, until the child is old enough to understand the full implications of what they’re asking.
What’s with the increase in numbers of adults and children who identify as transgender? My guess is that there are multiple reasons, including the more open culture, the increased awareness, and perhaps for some it’s a whimsical experiment.
But, if a child or adult tells us that they are transgender, the proper response is to support them, and to use the name and pronouns they prefer. And why not?