I am Ryland – the story of a male-identifying little girl who didn’t transition

I have been shying away from highly controversial topics on this blog recently because I just couldn’t take the drama that naturally associates with it.  But I keep hearing the story of Ryland, a child who was born a female, whose parents have transitioned her to male at 5 years old.  You can see the full story HERE, but in short, because their daughter identified herself as a boy, and liked “boy” things as opposed to “girl” things, they cut off her hair, bought her “boy” clothes, and have begun telling her, and others, that she is a boy.

I have no degree in early childhood development, nor have I studied psychology.  I didn’t even graduate from College.

I am also not here to pass judgement on Ryland’s parents.  I believe that they are doing what they believe to be the most loving thing for their child.  I’m simply sharing my story because I see so much of my 5-year-old self in this child.

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I was born the second daughter to two loving, amazing, supportive parents.  They would go on to have 2 more daughters. The four of us couldn’t be more different, even down to our hair and eye color.  Our parents embraced our differences and allowed us to grow as individuals, not concerned with the social “norms” for girls.  I often joke that I was the boy my dad never had.  My dad is a free spirit, 100% unconcerned with what people think of him, and he thought nothing of “out of the box” behavior.  I function more as a firstborn than a second born (however, this does not make me the firstborn, amiright?)

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Anyhow, even as a baby I seemed to prefer “boy” things.  I was rough, tough, and daring.  My parents had to cut my curly hair short because I would twist it into knots and refused to let my parents brush it.  I once managed to make my way onto the second story roof, and was gleefully running around, as my parents had simultaneous panic-attacks.  My toys of choice were sticks, sling-shots, bows & arrows, guns, mud, motorcycles, and monsters.  When my sister and I picked out “My LIttle Ponies” I chose a blue one, and promptly cut all of that lustrous long hair off as short as possible.  My barbie also got the chop.

I loved going on hunting trips with my dad and thought it was amazing when he taught me to pop the head off a dove. (PETA, please, no…just.  No.)

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I wanted to be a boy.  Desperately wanted to be a boy.  I thought boys had more fun.  I felt like a boy in the way that our society views genders.  I liked blue and green more than pink and purple.  I remember sitting up as high as I could climb in our huge mulberry tree, bow & arrow in hand, trying to kiss my elbow (a neighbor lady had told me that if I could accomplish this, that I would turn into a boy, which was what I wanted in that moment, as a child, more than anything.)

Thankfully, my parents didn’t adhere to the archaic stereotypes that “boys like blue” and “girls like pink;”  that “boys play with dinosaurs, and girls play with dolls.”  Had they told me that liking these things made me a boy, I would have concluded that I was a boy.

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They just let me be me.  They let me be a girl who wore jeans more often than skirts.  They let me play with slingshots rather than princess wands.  They didn’t conclude that I was gay, or transgender. They didn’t put me in a box that would shape my future, at the expense of my own free will.

My best friends growing up, until around the age of 14, were boys.  Sure, I had girl friends, but my best friends, the ones I identified with most, were boys.  Every evening after dinner I would go outside and play football with my neighbor friend, Tom.  My very best friend in the world was a boy named Robin.  His wife is a friend of mine to this day.  My friend Andrew and I would make swords out of plywood and burn our names in them with soldering irons.  We made elaborate models of “trampoline worlds” because, bouncing around is waaaay better than walking, right? I wished so badly that I could play baseball on my friend Jaime’s team with him.

 

At Thanksgiving we would play “cowboys & indians” with my cousins and I was always, always, the wild Indian. Never the prairie maiden who had been captured….boooooring.

I even remember one Christmas, my sister and I were given porcelain figurine music boxes from my parents.  Her’s was of a girl with a lamb, mine a shepherd boy with a donkey.  They did this not because they considered me a boy, but because they knew I would like that one more.  I thought shepherd boys with donkeys were a heck of a lot more fun than a pretty blonde girl with a lamb.  Lambs are dumb.  Donkeys are crazy, wild, and fun!  My parents were just fine with me identifying more with the dirty, tough shepherd.

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I hestitate to even add, this but I feel it is so important:  I even had an experience, around age 7, where a friend (girl) of mine experimented together during a sleepover. Looking back, I believe she had been molested and was acting out what had been done to her.  This doesn’t make me transgender.  It doesn’t make me a lesbian.  It made me a child growing up in a broken world.

In this day and age, I probably could have been labled as transgender.  They would cut my hair off short (because, all boys have short hair, right?) I would be given “boy” clothes to wear, blue walls in my room rather than pink, and be told to pretend to have a penis, at least until I could have one surgically added. Had this happened, I can not even imagine how traumatic puberty would have been for me.

Fast forward to age 14/15 (late bloomer here) and I finally started going through puberty.  I had never really thought of the opposite sex in a sexual manner before.  My attraction was immediately, and is to this day, towards men.  At the risk of going all Shania on you,  I “feel” like a woman.  Had my parents decided, at age 5, that I was a boy, I can not imagine the confusion that I would have experienced during my teen years.

I still love some stereotypical “male” things.  Football remains my absolute favorite sport to watch.  I love fixing things around the house, and honestly, am often better at it than my husband.  I prefer to go barefoot and struggle to remember to wash my hair and pluck my eyebrows.  I enjoy doing mechanical things, and am not afraid to stand my own against jerky sub-contractors.  I hate clothes shopping. I like having muscles.  I love to exercise, and enjoy feeling really strong.  I am thankful that I feel confident to manage our home on my own while my husband travels.  I prefer Bourbon over a Cosmopolitan.

But I also love being a woman.  I love to feel beautiful, especially when I have an event with my husband.  I love putting on an apron and creating elaborate meals for friends and family.  I love nursing my babies.  I looooove going to the spa.

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My husband is amazing at design and is the decorator/designer for our home.  He does most of the clothes shopping for both of us, and has no interest in learning how to change the oil in our car.  He is creative and artistic.  But he also loves to go hunting and fishing and has to handle any dead little animal that we find on our property because I can’t handle that stuff.  

These things don’t make us gay or transgender, they make us unique human beings.  

Because my parents never forced me to, I never considered if some of the things that I enjoyed were “boy” things or “girl” things,  I was just me.  When we begin to tell boys that they must act “this” way, and that girls should act “that” way, and that if they don’t, they are transgender;  we put children in these tiny boxes that create confusion, frustration, and sometimes, lifelong psychological and emotional damage.

Our oldest son had very long, wavy blond hair for the first 3 years of his life until he requested to have a haircut like his grandpa.  People sometimes commented that they thought he was a girl, but I was often confused for a boy as a child so I didn’t worry about it.  He once came to me and asked if pink was a girl color, because someone had told him that it was, and he liked pink.  “No.  I responded.  Pink is just a color.”  Fully satisfied, it remained his favorite color for the rest of that week, at which point he moved on to orange, or green or purple or something else.  I want my children to be fully accepted for their interests, without making those interests define the core of who they are.  Henry can like pink just as much as I can like tearing up concrete without it defining our gender.

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It grieves me to think of what Ryland’s parents may be robbing her of by choosing a gender for her at such a young age.  I hope that, if/when she decides that she is a woman, that they will support her in this.  That they won’t force her into their agenda to save face.

I am writing this to offer another perspective.  Because I believe in freedom.  I believe that people should be free to have interests that don’t fit the social norm.  That children should be allowed to be children.  With all of their silly, fantastical play.  They should be allowed to believe that they are a dog, a Superhero, a Mommy, or a rock.

I am so thankful that my parents gave me the freedom to act more boyish than my sisters.  I am thankful that they didn’t freak out, or make any life-altering decisions for me.  I am so thankful that, for a season of my life, I was allowed to act more like a stereotpyical boy than a girl.  I am also thankful that I was allowed to become more feminine later in life, when it felt natural to do so.

I hope that Ryland’s parents will offer her this same freedom.

live well. be well.

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***Comment Policy: Please be free to express your opinion here in a respectful way.  I believe in freedom of speech, but I will not allow my blog to be a place of hate or abuse.  Please keep your comments free of meanness or threats, as those will be discarded and your email blocked. Because of the volume of comments, I am no longer able to respond to most, however, I do read each one.  Thank you so much***

 

Comments

  1. Rachel says

    This is just great. Thank you! I felt sick after reading Ryland’s story because of what her parents are doing to her.

  2. Christopher Tyrrell says

    I appreciate your words so much. They say what I’ve been thinking for a while now. 16 years ago I became a parent of a beautiful boy, he was very blond and very cute and was usually assumed to be a girl. Sometimes he liked to wear a bright, flower-print, party dress that he’d found in the dress-up box. He sometimes wore it to school. Though I wondered sometimes that he might be gay I didn’t give it much thought, or time. I don’t care which orientation he choses so long as he is able to find love in the world. It is his choice. His. We all go through phases throughout our lives, as children and adults, and some stay with us, others don’t. I strongly believe it is the adult version of my son that should be making the choice for himself, and not me, on his behalf, while he is a child. For that is what it is, an adult making the choice on behalf of the child. Yes the child says they are making a choice, that this is what they want, but there are many, many times my child said to me, “I want this”, but I didn’t agree and he didn’t get it. This is my call as a parent, as the adult, to say “You’ll have to wait till you’re older”, especially when it comes to such a life-changing decision. I owe it to the younger version of my son. I believe the older version will thank me for letting him, as an adult, make the choice, instead of his younger, immature self who lacks the years of experience and information that comes with the passing years.

  3. Kym Bakdwin says

    Thank you for sharing this. I have a child who is gender confused. We have decided to allow him to have girls toys and even dress up dresses because we believe he enjoys the fantasy, but we tell him he is a boy and he wears boy clothes unless playing dress up. We don’t know what the future holds for him, but we have decided to let him explore and play with everything, boys things and girls things.

  4. LiberalMom says

    Hi there…..Just want to make sure everyone knows there is a HUGE difference between “wanting and wishing I was a boy/girl” and children that say they “ARE” a boy/girl…

    ALSO: Regarding Transgender children: We are NOT talking about changing SEX here. Transitioning in children is solely a SOCIAL transition, no surgery involved (not allowed until age 18 here in the US). Young teens can take blockers, meaning they can postpone puberty….this is another step in making sure this (transition) is what the person truly feels is right.

    Trust me: I do not know a single pair of parents who would WISH it upon their child to be Transgender. Parents already worry about bullying and other issues like their kids making friends and doing good in school, getting a great job, having healthcare, etc. No one WANTS to amplify this worry 100-times over, for their children OR themselves.

    No parents of transgender children “push” their children into a gender, the child itself will know what gender he/she is, usually between the age of 3-5 yrs old. Many parents deal with this in private for YEARS and YEARS and then gets help from the mental health community/medical community BEFORE putting any labels on their children.

    There are many fabulous books about Transgender Children, and I hope that you (and your readers) will one day read one of them….But honestly; until you KNOW a family that is dealing with this on a daily basis, you cannot understand completely. I do not assume someone with no experience in this field will know/understand….as a parent it has taken me 4 (four) years of reading/learning/therapy to wrap my own head around it, so why would others with NO knowledge about this understand it from seeing one video on YouTube?

    (Some books if you have the time; “The Transgender Child-A Handbook for Families and Professionals” by Brill & Pepper, “Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender Non-Conforming Children” by Ehrensaft, and “Gender Neutral Parenting: Raising Kids With the Freedom to be themselves” by Lucas-Stannard. )

    If you had asked me about this 5 years ago I would have said EXACTLY what you said….because I too was a “Tomboy” that preferred boy-things and boy-clothes over girl things (now in my 40′s you may catch me wearing a dress 4 times a year, at best!), but I always knew that I was a girl on the inside and the outside…..and still am. I hope for your sake you never have to go through what we go through on a daily basis; hearing your child plead with you, insist they are a different gender, show a desperation that I cannot even begin to explain. It is heart-breaking and I do not wish this on anyone. And let me clear this up: if my child would ever change her mind: I AM RIGHT THERE! However; the chance of that happening is extremely slim, so my family’s choice is to LOVE all of our children for who they are/feel they are, give them support, advocate for them, show them that no matter what; they are LOVED unconditionally.

    Many adult transgender people has not had love and support, and struggle everyday with low self-worth….many committing suicide. Believe me when I say: I will NOT be one of those parents that come home finding my child hanging in a closet because of MY lack of love & support. I have asked myself many times: “If my child was killed in an accident tomorrow….What would I regret?”, my conclusion every single time was: I would regret not letting my child be who they say they are. That’s it. Plain and simple. I would not be willing to live myself if I had denied my child the right to be themselves.

    Thank you for your blog….a discussion start is what we need to educate others. And as I always say: I was an “EXPERT” at parenting….BEFORE I even had children ( like many child-less people seem to be). This is what I feel about the Transgender issue: until you are in a transgender Family’s shoes: you will NEVER understand completely. You may have partial empathy, but that’s it.

    • Amanda says

      Thanks, Liberal Mom, for those resources, and for your respectful counter. I have to agree with you–while this is a lovely article about gender norms, I don’t think it really grasps what being transgender is all about.

    • says

      I am so glad someone else posted this. I definitely agree this post is great and very respectfully written for the most part, but it does seem to miss the true idea of transgender as someone who truly believes they are the opposite gender of the body they’re trapped in rather than someone who just wishes to be the opposite gender because they like the social elements of it.

      To the writer, I’m glad you figured things out and are happy as a woman, but that doesn’t mean that Ryland’s parents are making the wrong decisions. Not every case is the same and there are many children who become very happy later in life having fully transitioned.

    • talldave2 says

      Statistically, suicide rates are highest for people who undergo transgender surgery. Putting teenagers on hormone therapy in preparation for surgery is certainly radical and perhaps irresponsible.

      There have always been effeminate men and masculine women, and while that can be challenging (but doesn’t have to be with proper love and acceptance), there is nothing “wrong” with their bodies that requires major surgery. If adults want to have body modification surgery of whatever kind, they should be allowed to, assuming they are fully cognizant of the (considerable) risks and are able to pay the (considerable) costs for the medical procedures involved, but parents who are putting their children on this path by “assigning” them a gender identity that conflicts with their actual biology (especially at Ryland’s age) should realize they may be needlessly setting them up for a very painful future, and should strongly consider teaching them to simply accept their bodies (as we do in nearly all other contexts).

      Few people would consider it responsible to help a teenage girl to become anorexic or bulimic, even if she really really believes she’s a thin girl trapped in a fat girl’s body, or to give a teenage boy steroids to help make him more muscular and attractive to women, but unfortunately this issue has become so deeply politicized that much riskier behaviors associated with self-loathing are now being advocated for younger and younger children under the auspices of “transgender.”

  5. says

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have not heard Ryland’s full story yet but after this, I will surely do.

    I am butch-type lesbian and was born and living in Asia. The asian culture is strongly built on morals so being gay isn’t a walk in the park.

    Yes, I have had thoughts of transitioning in one way or another but that did not come until I was in my mid-20’s. Like what the others have expressed, Ryland as well as other transgender children, should have been given the chance to choose on what kind of life they want to live when they are older.

  6. says

    I identify with your story as well… Growing up I played with more males than females. I did a lot of boyish things and whenever I felt like it, I did girl things too. I was never afraid of playing in the mud, catching bugs, and chase snakes. I played with cars and trucks, played sports with the boys and climbed trees with them. I am happy to say that I am a happily functioning woman. Thank you for sharing your story… It is sad to see parents these days making huge deals out of nothing.

  7. says

    Your story is so incredibly similar to mine – all boy friends, even the experience at 7 with another girl. I forgot all about that. Just before I go married, I was working as a cook at a hunting camp in the middle of nowhere and I would trade one of the guides dish duty to go skin bears. A neighbour boy told me when I was about 7 that I was gay. It caused me a tremendous amount of pain and confusion (because he was older and therefore wiser in my mind) and it took a long time before I stopped doubting myself. But I was never attracted to girls, boys just got to do all the fun stuff. And now I have three baby girls and my home is overrun with pink and I am loving it. We paint nails, there are literally sparkles in every corner of the house, and I couldn’t be happier. We will do so much damage to our children if we jump to ridiculous conclusions too quickly. And where I disagree so strongly with Ryland’s parents is that I see them buying a ticket to fame with their daughter’s “sexual identity” and it is so wrong. She should have the freedom to act like a boy with all the anonymity given every child, not be made public and paraded around so her parents can be recognized as “free thinkers.”

  8. Julie Jones says

    What a great article. I was exactly like you as a kid. My family used to make fun of me for “not liking boys” but secretly I had many boy crushes but was too afraid to say anything. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I felt comfortable enough to admit I liked boys. When it came to puberty, I hid it from my parents for months. I refused to wear dresses or bras and absolutely hated being CAUGHT watching princess movies. How you react to your child’s likes and dislikes can really create a problem if not handled properly. I was boy through and through as a kid and loved all the boy things. I’m 30 years old now with two awesome kids and proud to be a woman. Thanks for your story. A reminder to be a “free spirit” like your dad was to my kids as well. Feel free to check out my Facebook. Still learning to be girly and thanks to my super girly daughter, I’m learning to wear more dresses and skirts. Sweetjulieanne on instagram and Julie Anne Jones on Facebook

  9. Lois M Peterson says

    Thanks for your article. I feel sorry for Ryland and the parents. There was no mention of their seeking God and His wisdom to help their son.

  10. Sara says

    Oh my gosh! This article could have totally been about me!! Amen girlfriend!! Work hard, play hard! Btw, I fix more on our cars than my hubby does too and some of my very best friends have been boys. =-D you’re right! They were so much more fun!

  11. brandy says

    Your article made me think I grew up as a girl/boy even though I had 4 brothers I was the boy I was my dad’s right hand person I was the first he called to help him build fences and haul the poles the other boys played video games all day when it was nearing supper time I switched genders to a girl and went in to help prepare supper then after do the dishes and other cleaning or be the babysitter. In a way now I think it was a good thing to be both genders because now I’m a strong independent woman who can do things that men can do and I’m proud of it and being me. I don’t have children yet :( but when I do I want to let them grow up outside the box. Thank you for great eye opening article I appreciate it.

  12. says

    I don’t like this…I LOVE IT. THANK you for being willing to share your story as I think way too many parents are concerned about their children showing preferences that are traditionally related to the opposite gender. Let kids be kids, people!! Let’s stop calling every soft-spoken drama-loving boy a homosexual and every dirt-covered girl a lesbian. Let’s stop trying to define others- especially YEARS before they should ever be thinking about sex or their own sexuality. And a huge kudos to your parents for leaving you alone! Thanks again!!

    • Matthew says

      I agree, there’s a huge difference between gender and sexuality!
      A soft-spoken drama-loving boy could be straight, or gay. A manly, tough guy could be straight, or gay. A tough dirt-covered girl could be straight, or gay. A soft-spoken, gentle, feminine girl could be straight, or gay. Or they could be bisexual or asexual or pansexual. Gender expression and sexuality are two separate things, but people tend to mix them together. That boy’s feminine? Oh, he must be gay. That girl has short hair and wears boys clothes? Oh, she must be lesbian. It’s time to stop the stereotypes and the judging and let people be themselves! (:

  13. says

    Thank you for COMMON SENSE! This could have been me in the late 60s and early 70s. Today I am THRILLED to be a woman. Thank God my parents were laid back and even let me buy a football uniform! I worry about these parents rushing to be “cool” and “accepting.” Kids change their minds a million times. Not for or against anything about gender, just think childhood is not the time to decide something like this. Thank you for a great affirming post!

  14. says

    This is amazing. I’ve always felt that the amount of “transgender” children is rising much too fast. I’ve never thought about it from this perspective. As a child, I too didn’t wear dresses or pink; I loved to be outside and full of dirt. But as an adult, I am all woman. What happened to the days you’re referring to?

    GREAT post. Should be seen by everyone!

  15. Matthew says

    This is a great article! I am actually transgender (I identify as male) but I don’t like stereotypically “male” things. I like pink, horses, fashion, art, and stuff like that. It would be easy to put me in a box and say, oh, you like those things? You must be a girl! But the thing is, the colors and toys and clothes that I like don’t have a gender. Society wants to separate everything into categories. But just like you can like stereotypically “boy” things (hunting, the color blue, bows and arrows) and identify as the female person that you are, someone can like stereotypically “girl” things (decorating, the color pink, fashion) and identify as the male person that they are, which is the case with me. In my opinion, this doesn’t make being transgender any less valid. The problem is that people are two narrow minded, and if their child doesn’t like the things that are stereotypically assigned to their birth sex, they just assume they’re transgender, instead of letting them express themselves freely and grow up to be the person they are meant to be, able to make their own decisions about transitioning or not.

    That’s just my opinion and personal experience but I thought it was important to share it. Thanks for sharing your story!

  16. Miakue says

    Very good post. The problem with our society today is you very rarely hear people taking the common sense side of arguments. They immediately, like lemmings, all follow the Politically Correct view which is generally baseless. They let the media think for them and speak for them.

    Here is an excellent article that addresses the transgender issue but that would most likely never make it to the main stream media because it is NOT Politically Correct. The article also shows how my government (very typical of most governments these days) cannot accommodate fast enough any loud and media savvy minority group.

    “Psychiatry expert: ‘scientifically there is no such thing as transgender’”

    “Berger, who is a consulting psychiatrist in Toronto and whose list of credentials establishes him as an expert in the field of mental illness, stated that people who identify themselves as “transgendered” are mentally ill or simply unhappy, and pointed out that hormone therapy and surgery are not appropriate treatments for psychosis or unhappiness.”

    http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/psychiatry-expert-scientifically-there-is-no-such-thing-as-transgender

    • MaryAnn says

      1. LifeSiteNews is (despite their claims to the contrary) a conservative Christian outfit, so what would you expect from them?
      2. The article is filled with pictures of drag queens (and I have no objection to drag queens, but they are NOT the same as transgender people). This is a common tactic of conservatives who object to trans people: use false representations as a fear-mongering device. Actual trans women often look more like this
      http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/transgender-woman-avery-edison-moved-to-women-s-jail-after-outcry-online-1.2532392
      but you won’t find a site like LifeSiteNews using this kind of picture because–heavens!–we wouldn’t want anyone to accidentally find out that trans people are actually kind of ordinary.
      3. Every single major health care body in the world (AMA, APA, CMA, WHO, BMA, etc. etc. disagrees with Dr. Joseph Berger.

      • Mel says

        Hmmm. They disagree. So that makes them right? No. What scientific proof makes them right? What is their objective scientific basis?

      • MaryAnn says

        Reply to Mel: Well over 60 years of clinical evidence concerning transgender people–which is what those health care bodies are basing their conclusions on–demonstrates with extraordinary consistency and reliability that precisely the kinds of treatments which Dr. Berger objects to do, in fact, materially improve the lives–including the psychological health–of trans people. This is well established in the research literature.

  17. says

    Thank you. Thank you so much for writing this! Your experience almost exactly mirrors my own, the one exception being instead of being surrounded by girl siblings I was surrounded by boys. To me doing the things they did felt natural. I liked riding dirt bikes and playing football and digging up crawfish. It never occurred to my brother or cousins to treat me “like a girl” nor did they treat me like a boy. At 7 I decided I hated pink and loved blue (almost 20 years later I still feel that way!) my mother NEVER tried to make me feel otherwise. I had a Barbie dream house and a (blue) ten speed. I also hated skirts. I even had a similar experience at 13 with a friend during a sleepover (whom I also suspected may have been molested by her stepfather and who identifies as lesbian today). And like you I am now a 25 year old woman who very much likes being a woman, loves guys and also loves building furniture and tearing down walls and knows more about football than 80% of the guys I know. I thank you again for writing this. Too often I’ve talked to people about the dangers of forcing a child to be one thing or the other. Telling a child he or she is gay or trans because of what they prefer as if that sort of thing matters to children. Most of all I hate when other people say that by allowing your girl to like boy things or vice verse you are encouraging them to become gay (very public example being Shiloh Jolie Pitt). Children will develop how they develop, the generalizations are all the adults and when they press them on children that’s where psychological damage happens and they grow into confused people. I’m so happy to now have this post to point people to whenever it comes up in conversation again.

  18. Wendy says

    Thank you so much for writing an article that makes sense! So often people are afraid to speak out against people who proudly stand behind giving their child surgery and/or hormone therapy to become more like the gender “their child identifies with”. I think the problem with these parents is that they’re too quick to try and categorize their children – it’s like, “Okay, if I turn you into a boy, that’ll be the end of this whole thing, right? You’ll be normal?” In reality, kids will be kids. It’s natural to be curious, and it’s natural to be drawn towards whatever piques your curiosity. Your parents were amazing people and I hope you tell them that I hope to raise my children in the same way that they did with you and your siblings.

  19. Angela says

    I actually think Ryland’s story is different to yours. I believe he really does identify as a boy. I believe Ryland is a boy.

    However, I have read the story of Coy Mathis and seen his stuff online and I think his parents have pushed him into it. I believe Coy is a boy. I believe his attention-seeking parents have pushed him into being a girl. I saw a video where he said “When I grow up I want to be a cowboy…I mean cowgirl” This was after a glance at someone in the room, presumeably his mum.

    So while your story doesn’t match with Ryland’s, I agree with you that some kids just aren’t transgender.

    I believe Ryland is. I don’t believe Coy is.

  20. says

    Thank you for sharing your story Lindsay and being brave to do so in the controversial climate. I was a tomboy. I wanted to be a boy at many times. I was also a black girl who sometimes wanted to be white.

    I have had my own severe experiences with depression in regards to other issues. I know what it’s like to feel like people don’t understand your situation or assume your experience is similar to theirs when it is not. You feel like you haven’t really been heard. I hope those who feel this way find a few safe places where they are totally loved, accepted and understood, and make peace with the fact that not everyone is going to understand them. Maybe can’t understand.

    Many talk about the difference of “feeling” they are a boy as opposed to just enjoying stereotypically boy activities and things. Here lies the rub. That is what they FEEL. One thing I continue to learn in my own victory over depression is not to trust my feelings. My feelings can tell me a whole lot of things that FEEL, SEEM and by all meaning of the word “experience” IS REAL. Much evidence in my life supports my feelings. It is my reality even though it’s not real.

    Sometimes distinguishing truth and reality is excruciatingly difficult and long coming. Who do you trust? Your own self and feelings or what others say which varies anyway. You are alone in the mess. I think it is too easy to not sympathize with this type of inner turmoil.

    That being said, I want to live in truth, not a wish or delusion that other people would actually feed, no matter how much I believed or knew it to be true.

    You are a beautiful woman. Thanks again for being brave.

    • says

      I’m sorry Leslie, but that’s over-simplifying it. People aren’t strictly male or female, not when you think we start as a mix of chemicals that aren’t in the same amounts to the same specifications. If we did, we’d ALL be the same, there’d be no variety in life at all.

  21. Jennifer Roach says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. I have 2 girls, the oldest wished more than anything to be a boy when she was young. She always had more boyfriends than girl friends. At the age of 4 she gave up her Barbie’s and dress ups for Lego’s, bionicles, bow and arrows, guns, and other “boy toys.” She only wore a dress to church and it came off as soon as she got home. She was even devastated when she started her period the first time. She is now 15 and very boy crazy. She still prefers Lego’s over makeup but doesn’t mind wearing a dress for more than just church. She has a very high self esteem and doesn’t care what people think of her. She also isn’t overemotional as the typical 15 yo girl is and I know it is because we (her parents) accepted her for who she is at the most crucial developmental time in her life. She is the boy we never had and one of my closest friends (shhhh, she still thinks I’m just her mom) and I wouldn’t have her be any other way!

  22. says

    I was a tomboy also. I do not recall wanting to be a boy as much as I recall wanting to be able to do what boys were allowed to do and girls were not allowed to do.
    Pumping children (or adults) up with hormones and mutilating their bodies with surgeries because the patriarchal world is so warped that it requires XX chromosomes to behave one way and XY chromosomes another lets this warped society off the hook at the expense of those poor kids and is truly doubly-victim-blaming abusive.
    While I feel for those adults who believe that they are trapped in the wrong bodies, I do not think that GRS will address the real issue: we live in a culture that ascribes behaviors to chromosomes. All the hormones and surgeries combined will do nothing but harm individuals and let the patriarchal constructs remain firmly in place.
    GRS is merely treating the symptoms instead of the problem. Smash patriarchy. That would be getting to the root of the matter.

    • says

      Terre, what are people with GID supposed to do then until patriarchy is no more? Suffer in silence? Been there, done that, never want to do it again. I’m happy, or as happy as anyone can be in this messed up world. I’m not hurting anyone else, I’m getting on with my life the way most people do. Nothing is going to happen to little Ryland that can’t be reversed. So HE get’s a “boys” haircut, wears t shirt and shorts instead of skirts and dresses. He will either grow up to be a happy young man, or a happy young woman, because he or she is free to express themselves. For all the people complaining that patriarchy says male means you can do this but not that, and female means you can do this but not that, you’re pretty quick to say what this kid should or shouldn’t be doing. Don’t make a fuss about it, and if it’s a passing thing, it’ll pass. Make a fuss about it, and it won’t pass if it’s a passing thing. If it’s something permanent, then so be it. No one has been harmed in the process.

  23. Owen says

    I like this article even though I disagree with it, because it’s based in common misconceptions rather than hate, rudeness, or anger, and I think it’s written in a respectful way. As a transman, I see a lot of pride thing my gender gas to do with my sexuality it the this I like, but being transgender doesn’t put limits on what you like. I actually believed I was a boy from the age of three, for no reason other than dysphoria about my body. I liked dollhouse then and things like that. If actually say I’m far more stereotypically feminine now than I was then because I simply don’t believe in gender stereotypes. I believe gender roles are also human inventions, and yet I still feel that I am a man. I also am not interested in women nearly as much as I’m attracted to men because my sexuality didn’t affect my gender identity. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a woman at all, I just simply don’t feel that I am one. Scientists believe you know your true gender (which technically is nothing more than white matter patterns in the brain) by the age three or four, and a lot of children transition even earlier than Ryland did. Their parents just don’t expose it to the world like these ones did, for fear of their children being bullied. I think the big difference between the author of this article and Ryland is a simple one: she is not transgender because she feels she is a woman. I like her though. She’s very smart to be able to see that gender stereotypes aren’t what make you who you are. She’s right in saying that liking “boy” things didn’t make her transgender. But I’d like her to know that it doesn’t make transgender people transgender either.

    • Owen says

      My kindle loves typos. “I see a lot of people thinking my gender has to do with my sexuality or the things I like.”

    • says

      I completely see what you’re saying, and I don’t fully disagree with you. However, Ryland’s parents used reasons like wanting to wear boy clothes and wanting to have short hair as reasons that she’s a boy. But the fact of the matter is that a child of that age doesn’t even fully understand what gender and sex are. My nephew is the same age and still thinks that I used to have a “peepee”, and for some reason his little brain has come up with the idea that all women used to be little boys and at some point in their lives they lose their peepee. Who knows where he came up with that idea. haha But he has such a vivid imagination, and he’s just too young to fully understand what it means to be a “boy” or a “girl”. So to change a person’s sex at such a young age on their behalf is what I believe to be a huge mistake, because kids change what they want to “be” so often as their understanding of the world and what it means to “be” progresses and changes.

  24. says

    When someone writes an post he/she keeps the thought of a user in his/her mind
    that how a user can be aware of it. Thus that’s why this piece of writing is great.
    Thanks!

  25. says

    Thank you thank you thank you for this! I’ve had the same opinion about the whole situation but I haven’t been able to put it into quite such well-phrased wording! If the agenda is to break down barriers and let people be whatever gender they choose to identify themselves, then how can the parents label their daughter either way? The way we identify gender (long hair, short hair, boy clothes, girl clothes) is completely constructed by our society and our little ones need the freedom to like whatever they want to like without having to even consider an agenda, especially something as confusing as a sex change. They have more important things to do, like catching fireflies! <3

  26. says

    It’s just that Ryland has been put (by his parents) into the spotlight. This kid’s parents took him/her and put him/her into the limelight as a boy…he/she will always be expected to be a boy. His/her parents didn’t take away a patriarchal expectation…they basically put every patriarchal ideal onto him/her by saying, because you like short hair, boy clothes, and boy colors, we’ll tell the press that you’re a boy…because if you like those things then you cannot be defined a girl…you must be a boy. He/she is now expected (not only by his/her parents, but also by every media outlet, recepient of media, and every member of the LGBT community) to be a boy. What happens if Ryland finds out upon maturity that he/she actually does want to be a girl? A very confusing world has been thrust upon Ryland in that he/she may TECHNICALLY be free to choose, but there’s now pressure to remain a boy.

  27. KHandcock says

    I really appreciate reading your story; thank you for sharing it. However, I think there is one thing that needs to be clear: kids who are identified as transgender don’t just like the other gender’s clothes and activities better. They actively say, “I am a boy” or “I am a girl” – not want to be, I AM, this is how I feel. Many of them express disgust or horror at their genitalia once they learn that the opposite gender has a different body, because the physical representation of their biological sex clashes with their self-perception. And many of them go into clinical depression once they understand that their physical sex will not change.

    I do not intend to diminish your experience in any way, but from what you describe above, you never had that visceral response. If I am reading you correctly, you wanted to be a boy because being a boy would allow you to do the things you wanted to do, not because you felt that your body and your brain didn’t match. That’s absolutely valid, but it’s not something that would get you identified as transgender.

  28. Mary says

    THANK YOU! So wonderful to hear about another girl who loved boy things and it was okay. To this day, I am asked if I am a lesbian, because I walk, talk like a guy. Last person who asked me, was surprised to find out I have been married for 10 years to a male, with 2 kids.

    I wish more people would have this attitude towards life. We don’t need to label everything. Just chill! Lol.

  29. Darcy says

    Love this, Lindsay! I read your story and thought for a second you were writing my story. Couldn’t of been more similar. I wasn’t happy unless I was covered in dirt and playing with cars when I was a kid. My parents allowed me the freedom to explore and have fun. They didn’t give me a label. I’m so grateful for that!

  30. Amanda says

    While I appreciate your perspective, and wholeheartedly agree that children should be allowed to behave outside of society’s gender norms (because those standards are ridiculous), I truly feel you are missing a key point about transgender people. Namely, that they do not simply wish to wear certain clothes, or behave a certain way, or have a certain haircut or privileges; they truly FEEL that they are in the wrong bodies.
    Yes, it can be tempting to say that parents know better than their children, because they have perspective; and in many cases that is true. However, I believe that all people have a deep wisdom, and possess an understanding of themselves that is impossible for us to second-guess. I strongly feel that writing off a huge segment of the population –those working closely with/parenting/relating to transgender people– is misguided at best, and willfully hurtful at worst (to clarify: I’m referring far more to some commenters and people who quoted this post, not the post itself).
    Be mindful, please, everyone, that every person has a unique story, and while yours may seem similar, and certainly defines you…it’s not the story being lived by others. It’s not necessarily Ryland’s truth, and we can’t know what that truth is just from a video.

  31. 808gin says

    Love this story, I grew up just like you. Still a tomboy but also proud to be a woman! Thanks for writing this!!

  32. Julia says

    One cannot have a legal gender re-assignment surgery (sex change operation) until they are at least 18 years old. Ryland’s parents are simply using male pronouns when speaking about/to their son, as he asked them to. Yes, gender identity is fluid! It can change! You might be a tomboy and grow up to be a femme woman. Or, you might grow up to be a (larger) tomboy! However you choose to express your gender IS UP TO YOU. Other people in your life should respect that, and I assume they do (because it’s a lot easier for most people to accept cisgender people than trans people.)

  33. Katie says

    While I do agree, I do think there’s a huge difference in your and Rylands story. Until you walk in his parents shoes… “Robbing her” seems a bit unfair- who know the countless nights they’ve had to console him, the tantrums in the morning getting dressed, pleading and begging to follow- point being- chances are- they have probably let him be just like your parents until his voice got louder and louder when he needed more.

  34. says

    Your life story is wonderful, one I wish people would read and take to heart. I was definitely a “tomboy” growing up (my mom has a video of me in a princess dress carrying a snake I found in the back yard). Now I’m a “girly-girl”, but I still love camping and hiking and being outdoors. I wish people wouldn’t feel the need to label everything and put people in boxes.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • jla says

      i live five minutes away from a town where a little boy is now living as a girl amongst his peers in his kindergarten classroom using the girls bathroom. i wish this article would land in the hands of his parents. i’m not sure of all the facts, but i’ve been told the teacher read some sort of book to the class to explain the situation without the knowledge/permission of the parents. it’s so heartbreaking.

  35. Catherine Walker says

    I am first of all a human being. I am secondly a female. The spectrum of what it is to be a female or male is endless. I am a female who loves football, outdoors, laughing, off color jokes etc. I also love china, decorating, cooking, hugs, etc. It seems that if we say this child acts like that then they must be a girl or a boy we are doing the same thing that people have done for centuries when they say,” girls don’t act like that” or “boys don’t cry.” Let people be people and make their choices. Sounds like you had very wise parents. None of us knows the inside story of Ryland. We should hold our judgements. If we learned to look at all people as humans first and saved our judgements who knows what would happen…….

  36. X says

    I’m transgender. I’ve always identified as male, regardless of my interests, which were never bound by the gender binary or society’s standards. It’s not about interests; It’s about my body and my identity. It is a legitimate issue, and I wish my parents would have gotten me some type of medical help so that I wouldn’t have the struggles I’m having now to pay for HRT and surgery, the struggles of being misread by people, etc. I wouldn’t say transitioning at five years old is the wisest choice his parents could act on (I’d say maybe around age nine, ten, closer to puberty but not too late to avoid changes of an unwanted gender), but if that’s what they’re doing, they’re probably trying to save their child the pain and strife so many of us are going through.

  37. Skyla says

    I loooooooooved reading this. You have put all of my jumbled thoughts of societal norms and letting kids be kids so beautifully and respectfully.

  38. Any G.H.Pennebaker says

    If you haven’t had a chance to understand how your culture has affected, who explains more of the “term extension’s principles” or have most even conceived the idea they have preferred to focus on understanding the nature of reality, progression can vary, the average life expectancy. Fewer than 10% of individuals live more than 29 years after diagnosis. “Myth” refers to stories that tell about humans and the cosmos. What can we learn there, or learn just by trying to get there, that will make life is revealed to society, and it’s something than his life, which impels us onwards!

    Psychologist Any G.H.Pennebaker reveals the hidden meaning of pronouns. Gradually and more precisely he lays bare the laws of society, Once again, we see the instance where Freemasonry is loved by all the wrong people. Most people agree that societies should foster the happiness of their citizens. Creation is something that is most holy, that is the most sacred thing in life, has the same story about an oppressor denying people the right to reflecting on the stories heard in childhood.

    Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider my people know something about your history that if we ever reveal it. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. “Live out of your imagination, not your history.” but act the way that he does any more than the rest of society. When you’ve studied this some more, you will understand too.

    “We are at a different period because of so much information,” Limited as we are by time and space, how can we grasp the concept of good reason is not “It will prolong your life.” However, its most influential voice is that of the more conservative to tell a story he tries to reveal another kind of quality. The result has been a change in the depth and nature of our understanding of them. So what do babies really understand about morality? And hence, wehave this pure kind of love between two people, the love that goes I will follow my instincts, be myself for good or ill, to do is stop committing a crime, and we will stop more crimes!
    Because our minds are more accustomed to explain the world and society as we observe it today. Since then, even the most unanticipated discoveries in the life sciences a good source, and he states the same thing. Our generation will most likely be the one to legalize the best years of his life to the improvement of their condition, Jewish government allow control of the Temple Mount, it’s most holy site, by the non-jewish?

    The stories we tell about people out on the periphery play with their savagery, and beautiful that childhood should inquire they raise the questions who denounce police violence from the heights of their lofty equality to their layers of right and wrong, heard innocent stories as we were asked.

    (T)here is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and a device in which you use an easier to understand concept to explain a more complicated concept. This is perhaps one of the weirdest and most unsettling findings in psychology. First of all, to describe it in brief, we can begin by saying that: the most common question that has been hurled at me—in some this day and age I have had people in my career of retreat we take on in society. When we judge people unfit as parents, and we should do the same for any viable child. Yet most of us spend at least some time every day different types of personal information that we measured like the wildest world from any science-fiction story. “A holy war will now begin on America, we have people celebrating that pagan god and presume the existence of life, and scholars agree that the story of the flood is not history.
    Life-long practices of this kind make them the most romantic and the least realistic of men. The Second proof states that because there are perfections in the world, moral responsibility to consider both the welfare if we find some people more attractive. A story of Jewish life at 43° F —one much more revealing—is “Torat ha-Sod. The Lion Eye and its history. Because the more you think you see, the easier it’ll be to fool you.

    Inspirational Life Quotes that reveal the real purpose of life – the few who will make it all the way through genre of interpretation is more specialized than most of the other the societal changes we think because of this “experience? that we are afraid of our own best possibilities in addition to loving them meaningful because they can live, so to speak, of the good life, the good society, especially good for taking notes because they permit you to go back.

    Finally, we suggest ways “I personally hold society to be first in every way and any increase average life expectancy discussed the central role of science education for all children. Grant nothing to his desires because he asks for it but because he needs it. “Man is the most excellent and noble creature of the world, were spectacular, the historical significance of the development of global socially networked world, the topic of Sociology is more relevant than ever before. “Few subjects today believe the second premise—that providing basic insightful because he did not try to explain say a heartfelt to our international “cast” of speak in pounds or feet, even if everything in the world.

  39. Mattice Akron says

    Lindsay,
    While I understand the purpose of this article that you have written, and I appreciate the narrative and its connection to female empowerment, I would like to question your credibility and the lack of a comprehensive claim in this article.

    You state that you really wanted to be a boy. There is a difference between wanting to be a boy, and being a boy. Ryland knows that he is a boy, and the majority of transgender people have the unwavering knowledge that they are in a body that isn’t truly theirs. The difference of your story to Ryland’s, is that you know that you are a woman, and a strong one at that, but Ryland knows that he is a boy. He was just unfortunately born with a body that made people question him.

    It is a very valid concern that a parent might be swaying their child into a gender role especially because of some agenda, but most parents can hardly get their kids to brush their teeth, let alone force them to be someone they’re not.

    I just turned 15, and I know how hard it is for parents to convince their kid just to eat their vegetables. Heck, I feel bad for my parents because of how hard I have made moments of their life.

    As you know, all parents just want for their kids to be happy. And your little guy is obviously happy, based on his adorable smile. You are doing something right with that little one. Ryland’s parents aren’t that different from you- they just want their kiddo to be happy. Ryland’s parents want to do right by their kid, and if you look into Ryland’s eyes, I’m sure that you will see the happiness and zest for life that all kids have. Ryland is just like any other kid.

    Thank you for your perspective and article,

    Mattice Akron

  40. garretso says

    Lindsay,
    I am happy for you in how your life has turned out. I have long believed there there are variations or flavors of the the male and female genders. In my way of seeing the world, your variation is the most compelling. I trust the same is true for your husband. A girl who climbs trees? … Say no more!

  41. Alanna says

    I read this a while ago when the story or Ryland was popular in the news, but I found and re read it again because a topic of my psychology class this week was gender identity. I love this article and after learning more in depth about the process and how our gender identity is determined I think you are spot on. More people need to have this way of thinking

  42. Miss Sarah says

    Good for you, Lindsay! I was born in the 70’s and had a childhood just like yours. My dad was a university professor and my mom a was interested in feminism and being a political activist. When I cut my hair all by myself at four, asked for a camera at five, and asked to learn how to shoot rifles at six, my parents actually let me do those things. Most of my friends were boys and I spent my days riding bikes, playing in the countryside and climbing trees, and building forts. My parents were open-minded and they never labeled my behavior as either male or female. To everyone, I was just Sarah and I was a girl. Back then there were no discussions about transgender children or any discussions around me doing anything that was out of the ordinary. My parents let me be and focused on instilling good value send me above all else. For years I looked and acted like a super skinny little boy. This phase continued until high school. At one point I became boy crazy, and I observed on my own that the girls who got the attention of the boys that I liked all had long hair and allowed their femininity to shine through. By that time I grew my hair long and it had become naturally curly and when I put on tightfitting clothing I noticed for the first time that I had an hourglass shape. And the boys noticed even more. Right or wrong I became a very feminine woman after that. Like the author I still do things that people would consider masculine. For example I drive the RV, I captain or 30 foot boat, and I work with the contractors around the house. But I also do feminine things to like cook meals from scratch, breast feed my children, and keep a very feminine appearance with long hair and an hourglass figure to this day. Surprisingly, these are all the things that attracted my husband to me. He likes the soft on the outside and capable on the inside paradox that I have become. I think the best thing we can do for children is allow them to follow their tastes and preferences without categorizing it. Think it’s great to allow girls to be tomboys without calling them tomboys or labeling it. We have two sons and I adore them. Our second is all boy and our second son is extremely sensitive and his favorite color is purple. Sometimes are oldest tells him that purple is a girl color and he should not like it. Time this kind of conversation happens I take the opportunity to tell my sons that color is not gender specific and hobbies are not gender specific. I do not interpret my younger son sensitivity to be proof that he is less than male. Recent psychology studies have indicated that boys are born with brains that are more sensitive than those of girls. In our Culture boys get the message from the day they are born the boys need to be tough. To me this makes sense because both of my boys are very soulful and sensitive and I told them because they are able to tap into their sensitivity they are very brave and courageous indeed. I tell them that a mark of a strong person is to be able to access ones sensitive side and to honor it and to find power in it. I told them when they cry that only brave boys cry because it takes courage to show people how you’re feeling. I say let children do the hobbies and the talents they are drawn to without specifically associating any of those things with gender or gender stereotypes. If we stopped labeling and trying to put people into a box I think the world might be a little bit of a better place.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I Am Ryland. This is such an important article. “I am so thankful that my parents gave me the freedom to act more boyish than my sisters.  I am thankful that they didn’t freak out, or make any life-altering decisions for me.  I am so thankful that, for a season of my life, I was allowed to act more like a stereotpyical boy than a girl.  I am also thankful that I was allowed to become more feminine later in life, when it felt natural to do so.” […]

  2. […] “I Am Ryland: The Story of a Male-Identifying Little Girl Who Didn’t Transition” by Lindsay Leigh Bentley: In response to the viral video “Ryland’s Story,” one woman shares her own experience of growing up as a girl who desperately wanted to be a boy—and warns parents against forcing their children to conform to gender stereotypes. Gender identity is a complex issue, but here is just one story, one perspective, to be thrown into the mix. […]

  3. […] I am Ryland – The Story of a Male-Identifying Little Girl Who Didn’t Transition. In light of a recent case where parents started treating their daughter like a boy when she liked boy things, this blogger tells of growing up as what we used to call a tomboy or “late bloomer” who nevertheless did not identify herself as transgender. With the current climate, we’re going to run into these kinds of situations, and she makes some good points. […]

  4. […] These days, her worried parents would probably hustle her off to the nearest gender-identity clinic. But Lindsay grew up in a more backward age, when such things did not exist. So she had to struggle on as best she could. Her parents let her be herself. Today she is a (strikingly feminine) wife and mother who still loves hunting and football. “Had my parents decided, at age 5, that I was a boy, I can not imagine the confusion that I would have experienced during my teen years,” she writes on her blog. […]

  5. […] These days, her worried parents would probably hustle her off to the nearest gender-identity clinic. But Lindsay grew up in a more backward age, when such things did not exist. So she had to struggle on as best she could. Her parents let her be herself. Today she is a (strikingly feminine) wife and mother who still loves hunting and football. “Had my parents decided, at age 5, that I was a boy, I can not imagine the confusion that I would have experienced during my teen years,” she writes on her blog. […]

  6. […] You may have seen a related piece on this propaganda campaign in the story of Ryland Wittington, a girl being raised as a boy by her parents.  Ryland’s parents are pretty much acting as an arm of the LGBT lobby. Click here for the manipulative Youtube video they produced about Ryland.  Also, click here for a compelling rebuttal to it:  ”I am Ryland: The Story of a Male-Identifying Little Girl Who Didn’t Transition.” […]

  7. […]  It was my favorite growing up, maybe second to Farmer Boy, the third book in the same series.  I always identified more with boys growing up, and Almanzo’s story resonated with me.  If you haven’t read these books, I can’t recommend […]

  8. […] It drives children to consider physically unhealthy and drastic, irreversible options. This is not simply about allowing kids to dress or act unconventionally. It encourages children—however few or however many—to medically transition to the other sex. Doing so often means first taking hormone blockers so that they don’t go through puberty, and then later taking hormones of the other sex. The policy also nudges kids to consider surgery later, and they can end up regretting it. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, pediatric psychiatrist Paul McHugh cited studies indicating that 70-80 percent of children who reported transgender feelings spontaneously lost those feelings later. One blogger in particular has written a brilliant personal testimonial on this phenomenon. […]

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