Yesterday I was watching a video on CNN that discussed a clinic at the Children's Hospital in Boston who were offering sex changes to children as young as seven years old. I must admit that my first reaction was shock. A sex change at seven?! That doesn't even give you time to go through the confusing stage of adolescence.
I must admit, that at seven I had strong opinions about what I wanted: Mac & Cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner; To be an astronaut when I grow up; A puppy. The funny thing about a lot of what I wanted when I was seven - it all changed. Even though my wife and I are looking to get a golden retriever puppy, I can't remember the last time I had Mac & Cheese.
Even though I wore my first woman's clothes at four or five years old, I still could not imagine a child being certain enough to make changes that affect the rest of their life. I think my initial reaction mirrors some of the outcry against the clinic, which basically takes one of two forms.
The first argument is that a sex change is not right under any circumstance. You're born with the body God gave you and changing sex is against His will. There are many rational, emotional and moral arguments against sex changes at any period in a person's life. For anyone who is considering a sex change, I think it is important to understand the reasons not to have one. After studying both sides for a few years, I've come to the conclusion that having a sex change is not fundamentally wrong, yet it is a decision that must be weighed with all caution and care.
The second argument, is that a child of seven cannot possibly know that they want a sex change, and letting them take a decision at such a young age is potentially ruining their life. As you can see above, I think there is a lot of merit to this concern.
But what about the reasons for having a sex change at such a young age?
The clinic notes that such decisions are not taken lightly, and require deep involvement with the child, parents and psychologists. They say that a sex change will only be carried out if after careful study it is believed to be in the best interests of the child, and all parties are in agreement. This is a good start, and I would be outraged if this level of due diligence wasn't done.
A compelling reason cited by their clinic and echoed by Helen Boyd in her (very well written) book My Husband Betty is: Most transsexuals exhibit strong gender dysphoria at a young age, a sex change before puberty hits would avoid many of the costly and painful surgeries and behavioral changes transsexuals need to undergo later in life. More importantly, many transsexuals become suicidal in trying to cope with their gender identity, transitioning early could prevent a transsexual from committing suicide.
While there is validity in these reasons, I believe the best way to help someone avoid suicide is to offer love, support and acceptance of who they are. Don't try to change him. Don't try to "make him a man". Let him be who he is. Talk to him about his feelings and show him you care. Then if they are ready to transition they can make a fully informed choice with the support of loved ones.
P.S. Are you struggling with your gender identity? Gender is the first web-based gender clinic, and can help you understand your struggles with gender. I also recommend you see a qualified therapist before making any major life changing decisions.