At the early stages of understanding that a child is trans, many -- maybe most -- parents experience denial. There are a million ways to get around hearing a young person telling you their gender -- over and over and over again, for years, insistent, consistent, persistent.
You can decide it's physically impossible for a boy to be a girl or vice verse.
You can decide it's against God's will for a girl to be a boy or vice verse.
You can simply refuse to see the signs or entertain the conversation -- most of us don't even know we are shutting down dialogue around gender when we are doing it.
Years after my child transitioned, I found an old journal entry in which I'd described a cute shoe store scene in which my three-year-old "son" pronounced every pair of shoes on the boys' side "uncomfortable." So uncomfortable "he" didn't even need to try them on to know how uncomfortable they were. "He" miraculously found many shoes in the girls' side that were comfortable, and this comfort was apparent to "him" without even trying the girls' shoes on. I thought I was pretty slick, guiding "him" back to the boys' section of the store and finding the flashiest thing there -- Spider-Man sneakers with satisfactorily blinding lights. My brain had no context for what my child was telling me, for ***her*** clear experience of who ***she*** was even then. I seamlessly found a way to rewrite and contextualize what I had seen, what she had said. I never said to my child "you're not trans," because the word "trans" was not in my vocabulary and trans experience was not available to me. Most interesting to me when I read this anecdote years later was not that I had totally shut my child down without knowing it -- most interesting was that I'd forgotten the incident altogether and had I not happened to write this throw away, "cute" moment down, it would have been lost to me forever. This is perhaps how many of us come to feel "there were no signs." There were signs. But our minds contextualize so fast that we don't even know they've done it. It's like the dress: Once the brain has seen gold/white or blue/black it's close to impossible to tell it to see otherwise.
This is the vital importance of understanding that if your child is insistent, consistent, and persistent, it is important to question your perception of reality -- not theirs.
I am realizing that within special needs community, there is an extra layer of protection for parental minds desperately seeking a way to not see the blatantly obvious: We can say a child who has been totally clear with us for YEARS about their gender is not mentally competent to know such things. We can say that they have the mental age of a much younger child, totally glossing that *we* at whatever mental age we adjudge our child to be - two, three, four, seven, fifteen - were ALWAYS adjudged competent at least to know our own gender. We can effectively write our kids off as mentally incompetent. Nobody will even notice we're doing it. They won't want to notice.
We can even think we are being pretty liberal letting them wear whatever they want, but holding tight to incorrect pronouns, because our kids couldn't possibly know their own gender. We might decide they are "cross dressers," a term totally anathema to adult trans persons big enough to defend themselves from the assertion inherent in this language that trans identity is something that can be put on and taken off, anathema in its whiff of sexualization or out scale performativeness. We might treat their gender as cute.
There are a million ways to undercut a trans special needs kid.
The world is just full of people who are more than happy to support a mom in forcing some degree of gender conformity.
Conformity is what mothers are largely charged with in this time of policing motherhood in America.
The thing is, patting them on the head , declaring them incompetent to know their own gender and maybe making some sartorial concessions is dangerous as hell as kids approach puberty and dysphoria begins to take dark, depressing, dangerous turns.
We are still at a time in much of the country in which though GID is out of the DSM, trans people -- and especially young ones -- are expected to procure a letter from a therapist stating that medical transition is an appropriate next step. And the psych profession -- which truly should be recusing itself from making pronouncements about a way of being that is no more up for debate or a psych issue than being gay -- is not only not recusing itself, it's covering its collective booty by refusing letters.
In other words, even where a child has entered wrong puberty and is clearly in trouble and has a parent solidly in their corner to get blockers going as breasts or Adam's apples are forming -- even then it's tough to get that witch's broom of a letter.
So what's going to happen to the kids of parents who for years have been smugly telling all the world that their kids are incompetent to know their own gender? What will happen to the kids of parents who have agreements with pediatricians and family and everyone they know about a kid who has been nothing but clear about gender somehow not knowing their own gender?
What special needs parents of trans kids need if at all possible is a strong paper trail and strong advocacy in place prior to puberty, so that at the onset of puberty all things are possible to a young person quite capable of knowing their own gender, other difficulties not withstanding.
My child can not recognize faces very well. Not even mine. On a playground of mommies in hats and sunglasses, I could be anyone. She has all sorts of autism challenges. AND she's been damn clear about her gender for a very long time AND I don't want to find myself seeing vital doors of medical support slammed in her face because I've conspired with everything in this culture that would tell her she can't possibly know her gender because she is young, because we don't want people to be trans, because she is on the spectrum.
Many, many many people on the spectrum are trans.
I think it is crucial to raise awareness among peaceful parents of special needs kids, that out beyond supportive educational practices and food freedom, we also need to be thinking in terms of hearing our kids EARLY on gender and lining our ducks up very, very straight so that when the time comes, they get lifesaving trans medical care. We have a reported 41% suicide rate. We have high murder rates, too. And if you think being denied early medical care that is the difference between living "passable"/safer and living with a target on your back isn't a huge piece of the suicide/murder puzzle, you're just not paying attention.
So... This is going to be a challenge from all sides. It's going to be a challenge to get incredibly taxed and stressed parents of trans kids to see disability and rampant exclusion in our trans supportive communities. And it's going to be a challenge to get incredibly taxed and stressed (and culturally vindicated) special needs parents to also fully support trans kids around gender and timely, safe, appropriate trans medical care.