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Transgender youth are children and adolescents who identify as transgender and/or transsexual. Because transgender youth are usually dependent on their parents for care, shelter, financial support, and other needs, and because most doctors are reluctant to provide medical treatments to them, trans youth face different challenges related to their condition when compared to adults. Trans conditions manifest at different times in life in different individuals. In most cases of gender identity disorder, the condition is often apparent in early childhood, when such a child may express behavior incongruent with and dissatisfaction related to his, or her assigned gender. However, many of these children experience rejection as a result of their differences and quickly attempt to repress them. Therefore, people who see these children regularly may be unaware that they are unhappy as members of their assigned gender.
According to the DSM-IV, most children diagnosed with gender identity disorder will establish an identity as a member of their assigned sex in adolescence or adulthood. The DSM states, however, that physical males diagnosed with this condition are more likely to develop a homosexual orientation in adulthood. However, it is known that many transgender and transsexual youth retain their trans identity in adulthood and the factual accuracy of the DSM, in regard to this matter, has been questioned.
In many parts of the world, transgender and transsexualism are not widely accepted by the public. Therefore, transgender youths may feel that they need to remain in the closet until they feel that it is safe and appropriate to reveal their gender identity to their parents and other family members and friends. This is probably justifiable, as parents usually have a great deal of influence in their children's lives, and many parents will react negatively to such news. However, some parents, such as Just Evelyn  are very supportive when such news is broken to them. It may be impossible to predict a parent's reaction to such news, and the process is fraught with tension for many transsexual youths. Additionally, reactions of parents to transsexual children can change over time. For example, parents who initially reacted with negativity and hostility may eventually come around to support their transgender children. And parents who were initially supportive may later develop hostility toward their child's gender identity.
Transgender youths face many hardships in obtaining medical treatment for their condition. Psychiatrists and endocrinologists are generally reluctant to provide hormone therapy to youths under 16, and obtaining sex reassignment surgery prior to the age of 18 is almost impossible in most countries. However, the latest revision of the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care has addressed the needs of transgender children. Currently, the SOC allows for medications for prevention of puberty to be prescribed to these children as soon as the first signs of puberty become apparent.
Puberty is a very difficult time for almost all transsexual youth, and many other transgender youth as well. Puberty is often considered to be a difficult time for everyone in many ways. But unlike their peers, who may be excited about bodily changes and thrilled with growing up, transsexual youth are appalled by the changes that take place. While their peers may seem to be happy about going through puberty, the changes that they are experiencing do not feel right. The androgyny of childhood is lost at this time, and transsexual youths see changes in their bodies that make them very uncomfortable and put them through considerable agony.
In addition, many physicians insist that adolescents go through the puberty associated with their chromosomal sex before they prescribe hormones that could have prevented the masculinization or feminization of a transsexual man or transsexual woman, respectively. Because of this, transsexual people must often undergo expensive, risky, time-consuming, and painful procedures to reverse pubertal changes that could have been prevented with early intervention. Additionally, some pubertal changes, like the widening of a young transman's pelvic bone, can never be corrected. During puberty, some young transwomen attempt to perform castration on themselves, but often, they are not successful, and self-castration is generally considered to be dangerous. However, as stated above, the Standards of Care now authorize, and an increasing number of physicians are willing to prescribe hormone blockers to trans children in order to prevent puberty.
Ensuring the child's securityEdit
In recent years, some transgender children have received counseling and, in some cases, medical treatment for their condition, as well as the ability to change their gender role.
Families with a young child who may identify as a member of "the opposite" sex and who chooses to alter his or her gender role through dress or behaviors may respect their child's decision, and sometimes, may decide to relocate the child to another area in order to afford the young person the best opportunity to live in their desired gender role among a novel set of peers and community. This helps protect trans children from peer rejection, bullying, and harassment.
Families who choose to continue living with such a child within an intolerant community which has had previous experience with the child as a member of his/her assigned sex, may face challenging issues. Gwen Araujo of Newark, California was a young person who was living as female, when she had been assigned to the male gender at birth. When her trans status was revealed at a party she attended, she became the victim of violent crimes that resulted in her death.
The film Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink) (1997) by Alain Berliner depicts a similar scenario. Ludovic is a young child who is assigned male but who lives as a girl and tries to make others agree with her identification. Ludovic's "gender play" incurs conflict within the family and prejudice from the neighbors; in the end, the family had to relocate to a new community.
The 1999 documentary film Creature, directed by Parris Patton tells the story of Stacey "Hollywood" Dean, a young transsexual woman who grew up in rural North Carolina. It follows her over four years and includes interviews with her conservative Christian parents.
The decision to relocate, however, depends on the social environment and the handling of the situation by caregivers and other adults. There were cases in which no need was felt to relocate, particularly in Western Europe.
- Antijen - Support site for transgender youth. Includes sample letters to parents, articles, and links.
- TransProud - OutProud's website for transgender youth. Headline news, links to other sites for trans youth, resources and information, stories of other transgender teens, message boards, as well as resources for parents of transgender children.
- Mermaids - A UK based family support group for children and teenagers with gender identity issues. Includes resources for international transgender youth.
- Gender Public Advocacy Coalition Youth - National network of students combating bullying and discrimination caused by gender stereotypes through peer to peer mentoring, grassroots organizing, and community education.
- I think I may be transgender, Now what do I do? - A brochure by and for transgender youth.
- Canadian Transsexuals Fight For Rights Youth - A collection of links for trans youth, both Canadian and international, compiled by the CTFFR.
- Our Trans Children A publication of the Transgender Network of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
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