Archive for the 'trans young people' Category

Josie Romero: daughter, sister, trans child

July 25, 2010

The recent New York Times article, When to Out a Transgendered Dater?, written by a cis man posing as an ethicist, was notable more for its display of blatant cisupremacism and noxious subtext of anti trans sentiment than for answering its own question in any useful way. Thankfully, it’s been thoroughly and deservedly deconstructed in numerous responses (see Questioning Transphobia, The Bay Area Reporter, Feministing and Bilerico, to name but a few).

In the light of that unnecessary reminder that many cis people will always make it about them, it’s a real breath of fresh air to read about two cis parents, Venessia and Joseph Romero, who are as open, supportive and loving as any child could wish for. Four years ago they found that their elder daughter Josie is transgender and since then, according to the Arizona Daily Star (see also the site’s health blog), have worked hard to follow her lead.

And Josie is not only adamant that she’s a girl, but also that she’s transgender. She doesn’t want to hide who she is, and her family says they respect and support that. Telling her story validates her, her mother says.

“Josie is very proud of who she is,” Venessia says. “Why go through life with a secret? Where’s the health in that? There should be no shame.”


“Josie will change her mind on many issues in her life. Halfway through grad school she may switch her major,” Venessia says. “But her blood type will never change, and she’ll always be female. All through Josie’s life she has persistently and consistently identified as female. Josie is a girl, has always been a girl, and will grow up to become a woman. That is just part of who she is.”

Josie Romero (image via Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star)

Needless to say, the Romero family has received a lot of criticism, not least for being the focus of a significant amount of media attention.

A year ago, National Geographic contacted TransYouth Family Allies seeking a family with a transgender child, and the group contacted the Romeros. Venessia says the family gave it a lot of thought, including talking with Josie. Ultimately, they decided it would be a good idea and other media appearances soon followed.

“This world isn’t going to change on its own,” Venessia says as Josie and sister Jade, adopted from China when she was 2 and Josie was 3, ride their pink and purple bikes. “I don’t want her growing into a world that isn’t ready for her.”

Which, to me, is the heart of the matter. Articles like the NYT piece I mentioned above have only one purpose: to reinforce the ciscentric (and cissupremacist) values of a world which is transphobic by default. All anti trans rhetoric is fundamentally and intractably aimed at upholding the essentially (and essentialist) transphobic belief that trans people simply shouldn’t exist. As Alison Davison, coordinator of the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance points out, in the debate about whether TS/TG people should be ‘out’:

Many transgender folks prefer to live what we call a ‘stealth’ existence.

If they are transsexual, they will go through the stages of transition and often do their best to quietly blend in. There are philosophical and political discussions about the importance of being ‘out.’

Personally, I think there is strength in being out and public. I think the rest of society needs to see faces and hear stories of transgender people so they can develop greater understanding and compassion.

Whilst I’m broadly in agreement with this, I doubt that any cis person can ever truly understand our experiences of being trans; however, it’s true that a little more acceptance wouldn’t go amiss. And a useful place to start for cis people who want to show solidarity with, and support for, our communities would be to actually listen to us with the same degree of care and attention as Venessia and Joseph Romero have shown for Josie. If we were able to feel safe enough around cis people that mentioning, or not, that we’re trans wouldn’t be putting our lives at risk whether we self-disclose, or not – then just maybe the world could take another small step towards being a better place for all of us.


Edited to add: There are a couple of YouTube videos of Tyra Banks’ interview with Josie and her family, televised in January 2010. Despite the poor quality of sound and images, either is well worth taking 10 minutes to watch. Here are the links:


Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia

April 16: National Day of Silence

April 16, 2010

Day of SilenceToday is the National Day of Silence in the U.S. when thousands of students around the country will remain silent for all or part of the school day to call attention to the harassment and discrimination faced by trans, bisexual, lesbian and gay youth.

Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

During their period of silence, participating students may hand out printed cards explaining the nature of their protest. This may be supplemented by additional texts or images.

Some school organizers also create or purchase pins or stickers to put on lockers and t-shirts. Others dress in all black, with rainbow ribbons or gags to emphasize the cause and their presence. Also if allowed, special announcements during the day allow the event to be recognized by the school.

Ideally, the silence ends with a “breaking the silence” event in which students participate in activism and education.[Via Wikipedia]

None of us are safe until all of us are safe…

Spanish court approves surgery for 16-year-old

January 13, 2010

Via The Guardian and others:

A Spanish clinic today revealed it had performed a […] sex-change operation on a 16-year-old, making her the youngest patient to undergo the operation in the country’s history.

The unnamed teenager had been taking hormones to change her body since she was 15, according to doctors who treated her at Barcelona’s hospital clínico, and she had been seeing doctors and psychiatrists for even longer. “The patient has been in treatment for nearly three years,” said the surgeon who carried out the operation, Dr Iván Mañero.

A sex-change operation on a minor requires the approval of a Spanish court to override a law that sets the minimum age for such operations as 18.

That permission was given in November by a judge after the the child’s parents had themselves made the request. The operation was carried out in December, though news of it was only released on Monday.

The teenager had reportedly tried to commit suicide on several occasions. As a child she was convinced that she was really female, but had been born in the wrong body.

“The judge consulted many medical experts and doctors, all of whom have recommended that [she] be operated on … she is very happy,” Mañero told El País.

Gina Serra, president of the Catalan Association of Transsexuals, said it was possible from an early age for a child to be conscious that they were in the wrong body.

“An eight-year-old child knows already what they want to be and what they do not want to be,” she said.

“In the end, everything depends on the support that they find within their own family.”

“It is a condition that one is born with but which you cannot operate for until they are 18 years old,” said Mañero.

“That, for a doctor, is something of a shock. No one could imagine that if your child was born with, say, leukaemia, we would say we must wait until 18 before operating.”

He said the question of whether children under 18 should be operated on was more an ethical and social debate than a medical one. “The younger the patient is, the simpler the operation generally is,” he said.

“To deny people transsexuality until they become grown-ups only lengthens the suffering of young transsexuals,” Mar Cambrollé of the Spanish Federation of Gays, Lesbians, Transsexuals and Bisexuals, said.

However, others believe that it was better to wait until someone was 18 to have an operation.

“We are not against it, but it is a life-changing decision,” said Monica Martín of the Spanish Association of Transsexuals. “It is a good idea to wait until the person has achieved maturity, legal and otherwise.”

I disagree strongly with this last comment. It reinforces the idea that trans people do not know our own minds. I suggest that we all, trans and cis, are aware from a very early age what our genders are. And when we experience an incongruence between our gender and the body into which we are born, we know it.

Also, the idea that someone wakes up on a completely arbitrary date – their birthday – and is somehow magically mature in every respect is laughable. From the point of view of medically/surgically transitioning, it is why we are required to undergo so many different examinations and consultations by so many different medical/surgical professionals. It is so that the “experts” can be equally sure that we aren’t “making a bad decision”.

GIRES Award 2009 announced

July 5, 2009

GIRES logoThe Gender Identity Research and Education Society has announced its Award for 2009:

The Award recognises the excellent work of eight eminent clinicians, who developed “Guidelines on the Endocrine Treatment of Transsexual Persons”

The Guidelines include a clear recommendation that suppression of pubertal hormones should start when girls and boys first exhibit physical changes of puberty, but no earlier than Tanner stages 2-3.


The Award is made in recognition of influential published work that will improve the lives of gender variant people.

The 2009 Award recognises the importance and excellence of the Endocrine Society “Guidelines on the Endocrine Treatment of Transsexual Persons”.


The Guidelines include a clear recommendation that suppression of pubertal hormones should start when girls and boys first exhibit physical changes of puberty, but no earlier than Tanner stages 2-3. That treatment is already available in highly reputable centres in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and the USA. The guidelines should now provide a substantial impetus to improving treatment in other countries, such as the UK, which require these young people to endure inappropriate full pubertal development before any physical intervention is offered.


Kim Petras

February 5, 2009

German flagVery briefly (for now), this morning’s free tabloid newspaper, The Metro, carries a remarkably even-handed report about Kim Petras “who has become the youngest person to have a full sex change”.

A teenager who has wanted to be a girl since the age of two has become the youngest person to have a full sex change.

Kim Petras, 16, had the operation in secret after psychologists confirmed she was “without doubt, a girl in a boy’s body”.

The aspiring pop singer says she cannot wait for summer to try out a new wardrobe of tight-fitting clothes.

“I had to wait until my 16th birthday. But once that was past, I was able legally to have the operation,” the German teenager added.

“Everything has changed because of this operation. I just can’t wait to put on my favourite bathing suit and go swimming like I’ve never done before.”

Kim PetrasKim – born Tim – began calling herself a girl when she was just a toddler.

Usually in Germany, sex change surgery is illegal until the age of 18.

But Kim convinced doctors she was transsexual when she was 12 and began hormone treatment.

“I suppose it took me longer than my wife to accept it but I am very proud of what she has achieved,” said the teenager’s father, Lutz.

“She has managed to get there and sticks to her dreams, no matter how hard and painful they are to follow.”

Kim finally had the operation late last year and has picked up a record deal after a song she wrote became an internet hit.

And last year, she became a model for a hair salon chain.

Kim added: “I was asked if I feel like a woman now but, the truth is, I have ­always felt like a woman – I just ended up in the wrong body.”

There are a couple of things in that report that I may well return to later with my (sparkly pink) tool kit for a little deconstruction. Nothwithstanding that, I send her a very gentle hug, and my best wishes for a long and happy life.


ETA: Okay, let me just pick up on a couple of things in that report; they’re niggling me a little bit and anyway I’m feeling grumpy today, so…

*picks up sparkly pink hammer for a spot of mild deconstruction*

A teenager who has wanted to be a girl since the age of two…

Interesting. My experience suggests that I always was a girl, just the luck of the draw meant I was born male-bodied. It was never a question of “wanting to be a girl”.

Kim Petras, 16, had the operation in secret…

As BadHairDays points out in the comments at QT, “She talked about it on her blog before and after”. But hey, since when did tabloid journalism ever let facts get in the way of a good story?

But Kim convinced doctors…

This is a really telling comment. It’s a sad fact that the onus is on us to “convince” the medical profession of our gender dissonance: we may tell them how we feel but there is always this demand for some kind of empirical evidence, some incontrovertible proof

If I went to my (non-existent) GP and said I was depressed, there wouldn’t be anything like the same pressure on me to “convince” hir. But try walking in and saying you’re trans and you can pretty much guarantee the answer: “But how do you know you’re trans?”

Me, bitter and twisted? Well, yes, actually, since you ask…

Kim finally had the operation late last year…

Variation on a theme part 94. “And have you had The Surgery?” This fixation on trans people’s genital topography foregrounds the notion that many cissexual people have, that a woman with a penis is somehow less than, or not, a Real Woman™. And when the essentialist theories are foregrounded, then the Really Real Issues™ – the social, legal, cultural and other contexts of being a transsexual person in an overwhelmingly cissexual world – are backgrounded.

I refer the jury to my right honourable friend Queen Emily’s Transphobic Tropes series over at Questioning Transphobia for further, in-depth enlightenment.

Direct links are also in my sidebar.
*Gestures vaguely towards the left hand side of the screen*.

…and has picked up a record deal after a song she wrote became an internet hit.

And last year, she became a model for a hair salon chain…

Do I detect a degree of what Julia Serano (in Whipping Girl) calls hyper-feminization? (“Attempting to highlight the ‘frivolousness’ nature of our femininity, or portraying trans women as having derogatory feminine-associated character traits such as being weak, confused, passive, or mousy”).

Or is it just plain ol’ trans-misogyny? (“When a trans person is ridiculed or dismissed not merely for failing to live up to gender norms, but for their expressions of femaleness or feminity, they become the victims of a specific form of discrimination: trans-misogyny”).

Perhaps it’s simply the old reifying gender trope?

And finally, to demonstrate that media prejudice isn’t the sole preserve of staff writers: when saving the image of Kim Petras from the website, I came across a fine example of cissexism (“the belief that transsexual peoples’ identified genders are inferior to, or less authentic than, those of cissexual people… Common examples include purposeful misuse of pronouns…”)

The image has been given the file name sex_change_boy.

But then, is it unrealistic to expect anything else from a tabloid newspaper which is owned by Associated Newspapers, itself a subsidiary of the Daily Mail and General Trust?


(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)

Trans-friendly books for children

January 19, 2009

Over the past few days I’ve been having an interesting discussion with Ruth and Anji of Mothers For Women’s Lib about the availability (or otherwise) of books that might appeal to quite young children whilst at the same time providing information for them on trans issues. We got on to the subject after reading this post, over at the Raising My Boychick blog, which was actually on the subject of sexism and stereotyping in children’s books, but in which the blog author, Arwyn, made this passing remark:

…what’s a good word, cisgenderism? (One can’t even call it transphobia, for it’s more the complete lack of acknowledgment that gender isn’t always obvious, simple, and binary. Transphobia might be a step up.)

Transphobia a step up? Now that’s a truly depressing thought, to say the least…

There seems to be a comparatively large number of books written around the subject of gay and lesbian relationships but we could find nothing about transsexuality. It occurs that this is an area which perhaps should be given more attention by authors and publishers, given that it’s not uncommon for trans children to know at quite an early age that they have a degree of gender dissonance. In my own case, I can remember very clearly the day when, aged five, I realised that “something wasn’t right with my body”. But I had neither the language nor the resources to say or do anything about it.

Certainly, there’s a range of help available online – the Department of Health has its own downloadable document, Medical care for gender variant children and young people: answering families’ questions; in addition GIRES (the Gender Identity Research and Education Society), Queer Youth Network and TYFA (TransYouth Family Allies) all offer various resources, although they seem aimed at mostly at parents and older children.

Targetting that particular demographic makes good sense, but I wonder if perhaps children themselves should be given access to the tools they need to help them in their own self-identification. To paraphrase Ruth, “I am thinking of something the five-year old Helen could have read that might have helped… but also something that the five-year old Helen would have actually been likely to read rather than have been stuck in a ‘specialist’ bookshop like News from Nowhere whilst Helen read Thomas the Tank and the Hobbit”.

It’s a difficult and emotive subject, I understand that, but my discussions with Ruth and Anji have really started me thinking. And if anyone has any suggestions for suitable trans-friendly children’s books, or wishes to engage in the general discussion, please feel free to leave comments.

(Cross-posted at Mothers For Women’s Lib)