What happens when your son tells you he’s really a girl?
Twenty years ago, you probably would have crossed your fingers and tried to wait it out. Today, you might buy him a whole new wardrobe, find someone to prescribe hormone blockers, and help him live as a girl. Maybe he’ll even become a celebrity. A recent Maclean’s magazine cover, posing that very question, featured a lovely 11-year-old with long, flowing locks and enormous eyes. His name used to be Oliver.
Suddenly transgender kids are everywhere – in the news, on Dr. Phil and in your neighbourhood. School boards have developed detailed transgender policies. Clinics to treat transgender kids have sprung up. A condition that used to be vanishingly rare, perhaps one in 10,000 children or less, now seems common. In a random sampling of 6th- to 8th-graders in San Francisco, kids were asked if they identified as male, female or transgendered – 1.3 per cent checked off the transgendered box.
What’s going on? To find out, I sat down with Dr. Ken Zucker, one of the world’s foremost authorities on gender identity issues in children and adolescents. As head of the Gender Identity Service at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, he has worked with hundreds of kids like Olie.