Genspect in Texas: What the ‘Sex in the City’ reboot can teach parents about gender-questioning kids

On Tuesday February 1, 2022, the Dallas Morning News, which last year printed a bold editorial on pediatric gender medicine, just published a piece by Stella O’Malley entitled What the ‘Sex in the City’ reboot can teach parents about gender-questioning kids. (The popular show from the late 1990s about single women in New York City has been recently airing an update on HBO called And Just Like That….)

In the piece, Stella provides the following advice for Charlotte, the character whose 12-year-old daughter tells her out of the blue that she doesn’t feel like a girl and is actually non-binary, complete with new name and pronouns, a scenario that parents in multiplying numbers are encountering these days.

“The advice I’d first give Charlotte, and real-life parents in her shoes, includes reserving judgment, continuing to listen and communicate, avoiding politics, and learning the lingo. This is particularly important when supporting an adolescent or tween experiencing intense and developmentally appropriate identity development who announces they’re trans with no prior history of gender dysphoria.”

Stella then points out that schools are often making decisions about students without parental consent or even knowledge:

“Charlotte should think about what she wants to say to Rose’s school. After all, they hid this identity from her, the mother. At the very least, Charlotte should insist the school work together with her and Harry in her child’s overall best long-term interest.

One solution may be to not worry about the name; after all, kids have been using nicknames for centuries. However, pronouns are an unknown entity altogether, with little research on what changing them means. Regardless, parents of minor children should be explicitly and jointly involved in any such educational and medical decisions; even some of the most experienced clinicians, who are trans themselves, agree.”

[P]sychologist Laura Edwards-Leeper, chair of the Child and Adolescent Committee for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, recently said she knows of no study that says if parents don’t immediately affirm a child, the child will commit suicide. In fact, research shows that kids with gender dysphoria have similar rates of suicidal ideation as those of children with other mental health struggles.

-Stella O’Malley, Dallas Morning News

Stella then recommends a digital detox, noting that “[r]esearch shows that social influence can influence young people to think they are transgender. This theory is supported in the peer-reviewed literature, and even top gender clinicians such as transwoman and trans health pioneer Dr. Erica Anderson are sounding the alarm.”

Therapy is not necessarily a given: “Bad therapy is worse than no therapy at all. If possible, Charlotte should avoid a narrow affirmation-only approach and instead aim to find a gender exploratory therapist who will listen and help the child to consider their whole life. Charlotte should know that since 2020, Finland, a trans-friendly jurisdiction, prioritizes exploratory therapy for gender-questioning young people under the age of 25, limiting medical intervention. Psychiatrists in Australia and New Zealand recommend the same.”

Stella continues:

“I would also advise Charlotte to investigate any possible comorbidities her child may be experiencing. Some gender-questioning kids have autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression or trauma. And historically many gender-variant young people have grown up to understand they are gay.

Mostly, I would recommend that Charlotte keep her child’s world expansive. Get outside and offline. Ensure young people have some fun, get exercise or play a sport, and interact with family members, as much as possible in real life.

The final bit of advice I’d give Charlotte is to take care of herself. Having a gender-questioning child or teen can be difficult emotionally and lonely, especially in such a polarized climate. A growing number of evidence-backed resources are available for people like Charlotte. She is not alone.”

The article in its entirety can be read here.

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