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the shot

The 15-Year-Old Transgender Boy Who Already Had His Breasts Removed

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THE SHOT — Cormac O’Dwyer (right), a 15-year-old transgender boy in Vancouver, with his sister Roisin. At age 12, after dressing like a boy and rejecting girls’ toys, Cormac told his mother he was transgender. Last week, after plenty of counseling sessions and hormone treatments, Cormac underwent surgery to have his breasts removed. [Globe & Mail]

By:           editor editor
On:           Sep 2, 2009
Tagged: , ,
  • 37 Comments
    • Beto
      Beto

      Wow! How courageous!!

      Sep 2, 2009 at 11:14 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • rigs
      rigs

      hmm i really think he should wait, doesn’t sound right. I know transgendered people may disagree, but at that age i don’t think you can fully grasp it…

      Sep 2, 2009 at 11:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tina
      Tina

      At that age, I already knew something was wrong, and some of us really do.

      Just something to think about, dont be offended…Do you want him to wait because of empathy with your human beings, and don’t want him to do something he might regret, or because it challenges your own values of masculinity/femininity?

      Sep 2, 2009 at 11:45 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Richard in DC
      Richard in DC

      I think it’s great that he’s following his heart at a young age. I wish somebody would have told me at 15 that it was okay to be Gay, it would have saved me a lot of anguish. Out of curiosity, is it easy to transition back if he really needed to?

      Sep 2, 2009 at 12:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Qjersey
      Qjersey

      I hope he had proper counseling; I know too many “butches” that transitioned to male and then back to butch female.

      We also need to explore the notion that “not feeling like a girl” does not automatically mean you are a boy.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 12:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • A T
      A T

      When I told my mother I’m trans, she said she wished she would’ve known earlier. I don’t know if she felt like she could have prevented my being trans, or if she just meant as far as counseling. I wish I’d have know earlier because I would’ve started hormone therapy much earlier and not been such a tormented ass in school. In hindsight, I realize that’s why I was so moody and angry.

      And, for the record, I knew that “girl parts” weren’t right for me when I was 9 or 10 – before I ever knew the about Gender Identity Dysphoria (GID). Having said that, I think I would have taken the opportunity to have the breast tissue removed as soon as I could have scheduled the appointment. I don’t think non-trans people comprehend how disconnected it can be living with that kind of secret – and I say secret because if you say it as a child and that’s as much a torment as being stuck in the wrong body.

      Think of this analogy:
      You wake up one morning and you’re in the wrong home. However, no matter how much you protest, everyone believes and treats you as if you’re in the correct home. Right across the street is the home you *know* is yours, but no matter how much you protest that you belong across the street, people don’t accept what you’re saying. If you can picture that, it might come half-way close to realizing what it’s like to be trans in our binary based societies.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 12:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • A T
      A T

      @ Richard – That’s why the counseling is so important – because when you start any of the physical therapy, it’s pretty much irreversible.

      @ QJersey – I think “not feeling like a girl” is a very simplified look at the complexity of trans feelings. It’s the easiest way to articulate it at first, but (at least for me) seeing a professional who is familiar with trans issues (that is extremely important) is part of the transitioning process. I’ve been transitioning for a while now, and it’s also the way one relates to one’s self internally.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 12:15 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tina
      Tina

      Your body has your own map in your brain – if you chop off an arm, a leg, a penis – you KNOW and can sometimes feel that its supposed to be there. To me, it was a discomfort for a long time with body hair/other parts that I just knew i wasn’t supposed to have.

      Also, yes, testosterone HRT is irreversible. Estrogen on the other hand can be reversed fairly easily within the first several months. Most people, once they meet the requisite amount of hoop-jumping to get hormones legally, already know they won’t go off the hormones.

      Hopefully that helps.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 12:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Distingué Traces
      Distingué Traces

      Do you want him to wait because of empathy with your human beings, and don’t want him to do something he might regret, or because it challenges your own values of masculinity/femininity?

      I agree that it’s important not to let received ideas of conventional masculinity or femininity govern our behavior, particularly when those abstract ideas obviously don’t match physical reality.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 1:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • naprem
      naprem

      I have no problem with his doing this at 15 if that’s what he feels he needs to do – given sufficient counselling etc. But I would think that 15 is too young biologically. At that age your body is still within the window of puberty – those breasts could conceivably grow back, and then he’d have to go through it all again. Bear in mind that I say this with very little in-depth biological or surgical knowledge.

      Also, I live in Vancouver, and it does seem that there’s an inordinate number of trans individuals here given the total population. Not a judgement, just an observation.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 1:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jeton Ademaj
      Jeton Ademaj

      I’m uncomfortable with this. I read up on the emerging science on intersexuality and transgenderism, and i’m also aware that the most successful physical transformations start early…early surgery, early hormone admin, early counseling.

      However, I’m troubled by the increasing chance of ever-younger people making surgical decisions they may regret forever, and also by what still seems to be a fairly primitive success at transformation. If trans-boys could be given more functional and convincing penises, and trans-girls more functional and convincing vaginas, i’d be less troubled. the overall success of these surgeries is hit n miss from an outsider’s view.

      in terms of TVs, i do hope for the day when one could make such a transformation fully complete, meaning trans-girls with functional ovaries/uterus and trans-boys with functional testicles…able to reproduce. super-ideally, that it also be fully reversible in case anyone regrets their decision.

      hell if i could be a true women for (only!) a day i’d take a walk down to the nearest military base with a gallon of vodka, a bottle of levitra and a mattress tied to my back! :D

      Sep 2, 2009 at 1:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Fitz
      Fitz

      It’s better to do this before more development happens. If we let go of our own shit around this, the goal of a healthy aesthetic and “passability” really means we should be helping at or before puberty. This is a young person who wont have to go through hating their body during college years. How cool is that?!

      Sep 2, 2009 at 1:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Distingué Traces
      Distingué Traces

      our own shit around this, the goal of a healthy aesthetic and “passability”

      The irony, it burns.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Fitz
      Fitz

      @Distingué Traces: meh, think what you want. I live in the real world.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 2:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Distingué Traces
      Distingué Traces

      Oh, really? I live in a magic fairyland where everyone is nice to me all the time.

      That’s the only reason I don’t mutilate my body in a desperate attempt to win acceptance from the people who treat me like shit.

      What other reason for not “passing” could there possibly be?

      Sep 2, 2009 at 2:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • fitz
      fitz

      @Distingué Traces: Apparently where you live is Bitterland, where it is more important to hold the grudge of righteous indignation than to find a way to enjoy your time on the planet. I am glad that I don’t live there, and glad the the 15 y/o doesn’t either.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 4:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kropotokin
      Kropotokin

      “hmm i really think he should wait, doesn’t sound right. I know transgendered people may disagree, but at that age i don’t think you can fully grasp it…”

      -Actually, a lot of us do. Cis people seem to have a lot of anxiety over this because they project a lot on trans people (akin to straights project confusion with sexuality on gays). But there’s really not much to be concerned with here, just another person living their life as they see fit.

      “However, I’m troubled by the increasing chance of ever-younger people making surgical decisions they may regret forever, and also by what still seems to be a fairly primitive success at transformation”

      -Even for a teenager I don’t think this decision is taken lightly. People just don’t say “I’m bored, I know, I’m gonna lop off my breasts today!”. Doesn’t happen in the real world, only in anxiety ridden fantasies.

      Qjersey:
      “We also need to explore the notion that “not feeling like a girl” does not automatically mean you are a boy.”

      -I agree with that, there are a lot of genderqueer people out there who aren’t transsexual. Like someone else said, the not “feeling like a girl/boy” description is a real simplistic idea that awkwardly describes gender dysphoria…. because well, gender dysphoria is real hard to describe to someone who hasn’t felt it. The feelings are more complex.

      Naprem:
      “At that age your body is still within the window of puberty – those breasts could conceivably grow back, and then he’d have to go through it all again. Bear in mind that I say this with very little in-depth biological or surgical knowledge.”

      -Not if he’s on testosterone.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 5:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Scrufff
      Scrufff

      Sometime last year i watched a program on TV (PBS, Discovery?) about how transgendered people are “transing” at a younger and younger age. The notion is/was is that by chemically delaying puberty (by hormone blockers) teens can make up their minds as to what gender they feel comfortable with, and presumably once the decision is made, if indeed want to transition, by blocking hormones it would be easier for them to “pass”.

      The show feature a MTF boy who at 13/14 was already transitioning – again the idea was if you stall ones hormonal (male) process, one could better “pass” once gender reassignment surgery took place. Watching this i thought, great without their natural hormones, kids (male or female) once reassignment took place would be able to “pass” – which of course would make their lives considerably easier in society in general!

      However, the fly in the ointment was a very open minded trans specialist doctor who was adamantly against gender reassignment at this early stage in a kid’s life. The show documented a kid who had grown up thinking he was a girl trapped in a boys body, but after considerably therapy (with said doctor), he realized that he was just an effeminate boy, but a BOY nonetheless. He thanked the doctor on screen about saving his life, and that he was too young at the time to make such a crucial decision in his youngh life.

      Again, this doctor was very Trans friendly and it was his professional opinion that kids are way too young to call the shots and i have to agree. Let them grow into ADULTS before making sure that this is really what they want.

      AS A SIDE NOTE (of course by anecdotal observations), as a Brazilian American I’ve worked with many transgender MTF boys/men in the past and almost all of these Brazilian boys had no gay role model in which to identify with. So when they realized, “I like boys” in a macho culture like Brazil, many thought “I must want to be a women.” Plus when you factor in the soci-economic aspects of a poor gay boy growing up in Brazil’s favelas, being a “He/She” has an attractive option in Brazil’s polarized macho male culture; Trannies make more money! Either you’re a top thus a “man”, or you’re a bottom, thus a “women”. Its no wonder why Latin America has so many “trans folk”.

      All I’m saying is let kids grow up and then let them as ADULTS make that decision.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 6:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • scott ny'er
      scott ny'er

      @Scrufff: Interesting Brazilian perspective. And overall interesting thoughts.

      I can’t help but think these kids are too young to undergo these ops. But what the hell do I know. I just with these peeps the best.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 9:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • A T
      A T

      What many people fail to realize is that trans kids don’t go through puberty “normally”. Yes, it’s fraught with horrors for non-trans youth, but when you’re trans, everything is magnified and compounded. As a trans kid trying to figure out what was going on with my own body and in my own head (let alone with my peers) I resorted to things like collecting knives and having dangerous thoughts about taking revenge on all of the kids that called me shim. I’m not saying trans kids have an excuse to be more moody, but I think many people don’t give younger people credit for knowing on a much more primal level that the psychology doesn’t match the physiology.

      I spent years of my life trying to figure out why I was such an ‘inadequate’ girl. I know from childhood that I wanted to be a boy. When I was in fifth grade, a girl asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, a man or a woman. I knew what I *wanted* to say and what I was *supposed* to say. That young, I definitely knew the difference on a physiological level. The fact that it has stayed with me for this long and still causes me pain that I had to give the “expected” answer leads me to believe that I would have benefited from an earlier transition.

      Now that I’m going through the transition process, my family and friends have noticed that I’m not nearly as moody, mean and violent as I was when I was a teenager. Again, I suspect that’s because I’ve finally got the chance to actualize. Being trans in college is a nightmare when everyone else around you is getting started on the rest of their lives and you’re trapped where you don’t want to be and when you finally start transitioning, it’s like puberty all over again.

      The first year I was on testosterone, it was like being in high school all over again, trying to figure out how to manage what I knew (as an adult) as inappropriate responses to “normal” events.

      Having said all of that, I think mental therapy is necessary before the physical therapy begins. As a matter of fact, the Harry Benjamin guidelines strongly suggest it and some doctors require affidavits from therapists before they perform the surgery. So, trust me, it’s not a willy-nilly sort of endeavor.

      And, I’ll be perfectly honest. All of you that are saying “he’s too young etc.” sound just like my mother did when I first told her and I was 23. I’m not calling you reactionary – far from it – but I think your responses are perhaps coming from a place that doesn’t fully comprehend the ongoing torment and agony of being helplessly trapped where you know you don’t belong.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 10:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kropotkin
      Kropotkin

      “And, I’ll be perfectly honest. All of you that are saying “he’s too young etc.” sound just like my mother did when I first told her and I was 23. I’m not calling you reactionary – far from it – but I think your responses are perhaps coming from a place that doesn’t fully comprehend the ongoing torment and agony of being helplessly trapped where you know you don’t belong”

      Right on A.T.

      Also what our friends who are of the opinion of “let them wait” here don’t realize that some trans kids don’t make it 18 because death from suicide or other self-destructive behavior. Our trans version of the closet (not coming and transitioning) also kills many teenage kids.

      And the puberty delaying that Scruff is talking about just simply delays puberty, nothing more, no one is out there is giving kids SRS at the age of 15. There’s only one case that I know of nearly that young, but she transitioned at age 10 and had SRS when she was 16.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 11:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • mulletkitty
      mulletkitty

      Smart discussion. Nice when stuff doesn’t devolve into snark. I find this thread very thought provoking.

      Sep 2, 2009 at 11:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tina
      Tina

      @ AT:

      WOW. Thats EXACTLY what my mom said to me when I first tried to talk to her about it when I was 19. And when I officially came out to her and said “YES, I am a girl” at 21. And when I told her when I was going on HRT at 22. And she still tells me, “Why couldnt you have waited until age 26? Or 30?”

      Because you can’t change who you are, just like sexuality. Another four years in that body was another four year prison sentence, on top of the eight years from 1st puberty on. Another four years of social awkwardness, of depression, of confusion while my college classmates got careers and moved on.

      Sep 3, 2009 at 2:31 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Andrew
      Andrew

      @Kropotkin: Exactly. Hormone blockers that delay puberty don’t have any lasting effects, and can be stopped without any harm. I don’t think people realize that the changes of puberty — breasts, a deep voice, etc. — are permanent and can ruin your chances of passing if you’re trans. If a male-to-female transsexual declines hormone blockers until she’s an adult, for example, she’ll have developed body hair that’s very difficult to remove, as well as a permanently deep voice. With hormone blockers, these changes are mitigated until the trans kid is old enough to decide what to do.

      Sep 3, 2009 at 4:58 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Patrick
      Patrick

      Very interesting thought provoking thread. Thanks to all the posters. I do recall when I first came out in the early 80s a young MTF friend and she was on hormones at a young age either 14 or 15. She has since transitoned into a beautiful women and can “pass” very sucessfully, perhaps due to early HRT.

      Sep 3, 2009 at 10:57 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jake
      Jake

      How can a 15 year old know whether he is gay or transgendered? There is a difference between the two, no? It seems like it is too early to make such a huge decision about changing his body forever, IMO.

      Sep 3, 2009 at 2:31 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mike
      Mike

      He knows he is.
      Thats what he wants.

      He has made the choice.
      Surely we should be commending him for being strong enough to make the choice and be praising his mother for standing by her child?

      Or of course some of us could just berate the person who we have never met and make suppositions about his mental state ?

      Sep 3, 2009 at 2:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jake
      Jake

      I’m not berating him. I just know when I was 15, I played with dolls and looked at boys and knew something was ‘off.’ But whether that ‘off’ feeling meant I was supposed to be a woman as opposed to being a gay man are two very different things.

      Sep 3, 2009 at 2:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kian
      Kian

      I’m jealous that he recognized his transness so young and has a chance to experience the life of a teenager not huddled away in his room and depressed (look how happy he looks in that picture; you can see the pure joy on his face). Too bad he can’t take hormones.

      We let kids go on death row as young as 14 and yet this kid can’t even take hormones to treat his condition. Shame.

      Sep 3, 2009 at 3:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • fitz
      fitz

      @Kian: Which kids are on death row?

      Sep 3, 2009 at 5:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ian
      Ian

      He’s hotttt

      Sep 3, 2009 at 7:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kropotkin
      Kropotkin


      I’m not berating him. I just know when I was 15, I played with dolls and looked at boys and knew something was ‘off.’ But whether that ‘off’ feeling meant I was supposed to be a woman as opposed to being a gay man are two very different things.”

      But you knew something was “off”. But you didn’t have very deep internal drive to start taking female hormones, have major surgery to your genitals and live as a woman for the rest of your life? Correct?

      It seems that even at the age of 15, your judgment was pretty sound.

      I mean, should gay teenagers wait to have sex? That can have irreversible consequences also, getting caught by bigoted parents and getting thrown out, STDs that all people must be careful of , and generally being outed in a hostile place. Sex is a life changing thing not to be taken likely. But people in the LGBT commnity generally feel that kids have a right to explore their sexuality and have control over their bodies as long they are not reckless or hurting themselves. I think that’s correct based on my own experience.

      There are similar consequences to transitioning and having sex, why the double standard?

      Quite frankly, I known people who have “detransitioned” as we call it in the trans community, sometimes people do go that route and then back out in the process of exploring their gender identity. But 99.9% of the time they only get a little way down the transitioning process before backing out and trying something different. Gender Identity is of a such a strong nature, that if you’re going the wrong way, you quickly know that something is not right, that’s why trans people are ready to risk so much in transitioning in the first place. The danger of “making the wrong choice” is really being over-estimated in this thread from my own personal experience

      And Andrew’s comment is right on, I waited for five or six years to transition, my body masculinized by a good degree from ages nineteen to twenty-five, it’s even more dramatic for MtF’s between the ages between ages 16-21 or so. I got very lucky and everything turned out okay. But I still consider myself worse off that I didn’t do it at sixteen or eighteen.

      Thanks for this conversation people. This is one of those rare sane comment threads here at queerty. You guys rock.

      Sep 3, 2009 at 8:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jack
      Jack

      Goodness gracious, he’s lucky, and I am mad jealous. As a 17 year old FtM, I would have killed to have had this done and over with by age 15. One thing I’d worry about though is, at age 15 your breasts aren’t done growing, and even some much older FtMs who have chest surgery experience some regrowth of tissue. I’d be afraid that at age 15, the regrowth might be more pronounced.

      Nov 12, 2009 at 10:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cormac
      Cormac

      My name is Cormac and I am 15 also. Only I am a trans gender girl. This is so funny!

      Mar 21, 2010 at 6:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Logan
      Logan

      Oh, I know it’s wrong to be but I’m jealous of him… My parents want me to wait till 18 for hormones and such.

      May 25, 2010 at 10:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Viviana
      Viviana

      I think he shoud wait because this hormones are necessary for many systems. And I understand that sometimes we may change our opinion about our gender. I’m a real woman a beautifull one but when I was a child I felt like a boy for many years, and liked doing boy’s things. All this can happen because even if christianity doesn’t accept reencarnation I know that exists and sometimes we choose different bodies to come to this world to evolve spiritually by passing through different life experiences. Sometimes we come here in female bodies or in male bodies, but when we don’t adapt to our body is because we unconsciously are attached to the personality we had in one of our past lives.
      I had a past life study made, and I found that in my recent past life I was a man a talentd artist, a musician and a comediant too.
      And my parents let me express my self and be all I wanted to i coud dress as i wanted allways sometimes as a woman sometimes as a man I even used my hair cutted sometimes and I even looked like a boy sometimes. Even when I played with my friend another girl, I played to be a man and she played a girl part.
      I took a sword and played a superhero and at kinder and also at school people used to call me varonera, in spanish is the girl that looks and acts as a boy shoud do. Me and my cousins used to pick our wooden and plastic swords I disguised myself as the Zorro with moustaches and all and we used to fight that was the way I played with them.
      And as I grew up and knew all the misteries of being a woman, like the power of creating a new human inside, I loved and embraced my feminity but having both famle and masculine energies inside.
      And If I shoud have taken my genitals or my breasts off when I was that age, I shoud have regreted.
      I think I shoud have dressed as a boy but I shoud have waited for the opperation to pass the puberty.

      Mar 23, 2011 at 4:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • tian
      tian

      @A T: I envy transgender people so much coz they finally throw their wrong original body live in the body they want. For me, I don’t even have courage to tell my parents that I’ve been sick to live in a wrong body since I was a 3-year-old girl. Now, I feel silly every day and really scare to face my life. I wish one day I can free myself through escaping my family and live somewhere nobody knows me, only if I have that chance, I might have my transgender surgery and live as a boy. However, not like many transgender kids’ parents, if my parents know I will go for living as a boy on oneday, they will really think I am delirious and they will get crazy and mad, what’s next…they just won’t allow me to do it until one day I can escape from this family…sad for me

      Oct 14, 2011 at 8:52 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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