At What Age Do Trans Children Know Their True Gender?

Jennifer and John of Ohio support the female identity of their 10-year-old transgender child Jackie. But Jackie’s grandpa thinks that 10 is way too young an age for a child to foreclose on a gender identity. Jackie’s father retorts, “I knew I was a boy at 2-years-old. Everyone knows what gender they are from a very early age.” Some people say they knew their same-sex attraction from a very early age, so why shouldn’t the same apply to gender identity?

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  • Andreas Lights

    SHAME ON ABC for allowing the final speaker, the unusual MtFtM person to spout on in absolutes that no child should be given hormone blockers or be allowed to transition so young. He(She/He) was completely unqualified to speak, yet drew professional conclusions, drawing only on his own personal experience. He admits he received little to no counseling, and gave in to peer pressure.

    ABC, once again, screwed the LGBT community, this time by distorting the relevance of this guy’s opinion by giving it so much airtime and so late in the program, leaving a lasting and false impression that the report was fair and balanced by presenting his sad side of the story.

    In the past, the story on Matthew Shepard’s assailants having their say on what “really happened” when he provoked his attackers, they now say, through unwanted sexual advances, causing a “homosexual panic” response that lead to his horrific death.

    Transgender-bound youth are well aware of their mind/body gender mismatch early on. To deny these beautiful children to pursue their tendency toward an alternate gender expression–simply because one misguided and whimsical individual made a mistake not caught by the usual, strict 1-year preoperative counseling and mandated cross-dressing waiting period process is akin to not serving hot coffee at McDonald’s becausem some idiot clutz burned himself. Let them be who they feel they really are. Like the lady said, the hormone blockers are reversible.

  • Katt

    She looks happy. Isn’t that all that matters?

  • mike128

    Realizing your sexual orientation or gender id and being able to admit, acknowledge, and state it are two different things. This young person was fortunate to have a supportive and safe environment at home. I think we all figure out who are are at a different pace – but also think I may have “known” I was gay earlier had I grown up in a different time, a different community, or a different church.

  • Jill Davidson

    Jackie is not “foreclosing” on her gender identity. Puberty-blocking medications delay male puberty, and male puberty will kick in if she chooses to go off the hormone blockers.

  • Ginasf


    Mike, I very much agree with your statement, there is no single, universal experience. While I didn’t know the word transsexual when I was five, by the time I was 10-11 and learned it, I remembered having had those feelings around 4-5. With some people it happens when they’re 15 or in their 20s. However, it is true that people are almost always aware of their gender before they’re aware of sexual orientation… just from a child development standard that’s pretty much a given. But you’re very right that an environment that even allows you to think of these issues can have an impact on age of discovery. Otherwise, what happens is you just feel crappy about yourself or like a freak without knowing the exact reason. Which is why people, in their slow voyage of discovery, so often get into self-destructive behaviors. I hope little Jackie will be able to avoid some of this pain and I give much love, respect and admiration to her parents and incredible sister.

  • christopher di spirito

    I am not qualified to answer this question. My guess is, every trans kid is different.

  • Ruhlmann

    Tip of the hat to the parents.

  • Dan Avery

    I just wonder if it was right for the parents to go on network television with her story? She seemed to support telling her story, but I dont know if she’s old enough to understand the consequences. I think her parents did it with good intentions—sharing their story for other parents—but the backlash she will face could be significant. As we’ve all learned a million times over, once something is recorded, posted, uploaded, etc. it haunts you forever. When Jackie is a little older, she might not want everybody knowing her private business.

    Im not saying theyre wrong or right—just something to consider.

  • Eagledancer

    Speaking as a family therapist, this is a complicated issue (to discuss in this format) because both children and parents develop different coping skills in dealing with “difference.” In historic research, we see some young children who are very vocal and active in expressing what they feel is their actual gender identity (as opposed to their assigned one), but we also see some children who repress or deny it, and indeed, may “overcompensate” by becoming even more stereotypical in their assigned gender roles. For those of you interested in knowing more about the topic you might start here: http://www.transkidspurplerainbow.com/links.htm

  • missanthrope

    @christopher di spirito:

    In my experience this is true. There’s trans kids who express their gender dysphoria at a very young age (as young as 3) and some people who aren’t ready to cope with it honestly until their 30s. There a lot of variables that go into every situation that can change how people deal with it.

    Considering all of the disincentives and punishments there are out there to be trans in society, including parental shaming and bullying, it’s amazing that some trans kids have the courage to express themselves at that early of a age.

  • Scott

    I think the word “know” is wrong. As a child I didn’t “know” I was gay but because of the way my brain is wired I fantasized about other boys and wanted to be closer to males. Eventually that evolved into emotional and sexual relationships with men. I went with what was right for me.

    My best friend in college was born female but was male in the brain. He automatically acted male because of the way his brain was wired despite his outward appearance. He went with what was right for him. He started transitioning at age 24, back in the 1980’s before there was much information available and trans people had to negotiate with doctors as if they were doing something criminal. When he told me what he was doing I wasn’t surprised in the least because of they way he acted over the years of our friendship.

    To say you “know” something about yourself is to acknowledge that society has a label and you agree that it applies to yourself. This evolves over a period of years and probably is settled in the teen years. I’m not sure that someone should do something drastic to themselves before having reached physical maturity although I understand the urgency that puberty creates for a trans person. I’m glad I don’t have to make such a decision.

  • Dr. Dick

    Can we get just ONE news special on transgendered children that doesn’t feel SSSOOOOOOO awkwardly forced and condescending? Just one?

  • jason

    I knew of one man who, as a teenager, wanted to be a woman. He would put oranges down his T-shirt to make himself look as if he had breasts. He would also push his penis down towards the back of his pants so it looked as if he nothing in his crotch area. He bent his penis so much out of shape, it developed a bend. He truly wanted to be a woman.

    A few years later, he was a grown-up, strapping young man, a fine sample of masculinity if ever there was one.

    My point is that youngsters sometimes do experience gender uncertainty and that it is only temporary as part of a journey in life. We shouldn’t be rushing to assign a category to them nor should we be encouraging genital surgery.

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