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What We Know About Transgender ChildrenOverview of an academic article Presented by Isaac Hannagan WRTG 3020 University of Colorado at Boulder Apr. 4th 2011
Publication "Transgender Children and Youth: A Child Welfare Practice Perspective. " appeared in the Child Welfare journal distributed by the Child Welfare League of America Inc. (CWLA) in a special LGBTQ Youth in Child Welfare issue in 2006. The CWLA is one of the foremost originations in advocating the well-being for vulnerable children and families.
Article Summary This article was designed to give social welfare practitioners and educators an introduction to treating transgender children and families from a welfare perspective rather than a pathological perspective Gender variant children have been particularly vulnerable to medical treatment in the past The authors’ suggestions : rather than be treated for an illness, children should be nourished for who and what they feel they are.
Authors: Gerald P. Mallon Doctorate in Social Welfare from City University, New York, NY Professor and Executive Director of the National Resource Center at the Hunter College Social Work in New York City Number of awards including 2007 Academic Book of the Year Mallon has been a child welfare practitioner, educator, and researcher for over 30 years
Authors:Teresa DeCrescenzo Masters degree in Social Welfare from the University of Southern California Honored on national level for her social work efforts Recognized as an icon in the LGBT community since the early 1970’s 2007 Knee/Wittman Outstanding Achievement in Health and Mental Health Policy Award
Purpose: This presentation was constructed to provide an overview of Mallon and DeCrescenzo’s article and relay key concepts in an easy-to-read manner I hope to raise awareness and sympathy toward those struggling with stigmas surrounding transgender feelings and behaviors
What’s helpful to know in understanding what transgender is Sex: refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women Gender: refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women
Terminology: Transgender: While definitions tend to vary: Transgender can be thought of as a set of characteristics applied to behaviors and individuals that don’t unambiguously identify to conventional gender roles according to one’s biological sex. Synonymous with: gender variant, gender Dysphoric, or Gender Nonconforming.
Aren’t transgender and gay the same? A common misconception Transgenderrefers to how a person identifies themself as something other than what biology suggests. Homosexuality refers to a person’s sexual orientation, being attracted to the same biological gender.
Development as a Pathology. Transgender was termed ‘Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in 1980 with the 3rd edition of the Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Medical Manual of Mental Disorders. (Also know as the DSM III) GID was defined as: “An Incongruence between assigned sex and gender identity.”
Gender Identity Disorder (GID) Children were “pathological” for the following criteria: Boys playing with dolls Boys wearing dresses Boys helping in the Kitchen Girls Climbing trees Girls playing with boys’ toys Girls wearing boys clothes
According to the guidelines set by the DSM-III these children could have GID
C’mon… Is GID really a disorder? evaluated as a mental disorder despite the acknowledgement from the American Psychiatric Association that “some of these children, particularly females show no other signs of psychopathology” added to the DSM III after homosexuality as a mental illness was removed added to DSM III as result of a Government funded “feminine boys” project
Feminine Boys Project Project was from 1972-1986 funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Original government grant goal was for “treatment of pre-homosexuality” Mid-1970’s grant goal changed to “treatment of Pre-trassexuality” Goal of project was aimed to “keep children from acting queer”
“Treatment” for GID Those found with GID were subject to : Psychological “brainwashing” Brutal aversion therapies Commitment to mental hospitals Removal of gender variant children from supportive families by the police
Vulnerability in Children Children are particularly vulnerable to “treatments” for GID children have no legal ground on what’s deemed right or wrong Children cannot refuse treatment for GID
So, we’ve evolved since the DSM III…Right? In 1994 the DSM IV came out with a new criteria for GID Does the condition (being transgender) cause the individual distress?
The problem How do we evaluate whether being transgender causes distress or whether social ideals cause a gender variant person distress? Is it the condition that causes distress? Does a person become distressed when they’re told they can’t be what the feel they really are? Does being socially ostracized cause distress
It’s all perspective Gender variant children can be seen in two lights: Pathological lens: treated with illness and “treated” accordingly Transformational lens: Notion that children can construct their own identity
the Big question: Why are gender variant children found to be so disturbing?
Misunderstanding Most don’t understand what’s it’s like to feel like something else TG goes against the “natural” relationship between sex and gender Failure to adapt to traditional gender norms
Parents Start the Nurturing Process In many cases parents need proper education about gender variant children. Recognizing “gender identity” vs. “sexual identity” Developing strategies in dealing with social stigmatization Finding mutually acceptable compromises for behaviors Keep open communication.