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My daughter has Gender Dysphoria – being biologically a girl, she identifies as a boy; it’s hard on her and all of us in a society that still knows little about this.
Author’s note: This is the true story of a close friend in ‘first person’.
I am a homemaker, in my mid thirties and mother to a stubborn teenager, a hyper sensitive offspring with Gender Dysphoria.
Yes, I have a 14 year old daughter who is yearning for a gender reversal or as we more commonly know it- a ‘sex change operation’.
I did not recognise her shocking transformation until three years back when she displayed visible signs of this utter dislike with her ‘female body’. Her demeanour was nearly boyish, that too, in the all girls’ convent school, it hardly seemed to trigger the keen desire in her at present. I didn’t realise as to when her appearance, clothing or body language took a drastic aversion to anything like a girl, and culminated into a strong mindset, adamant at doing away with her biological identity.
As a mother I carry layers of pain and struggle that I have locked firmly within, for years.
Well, who wants the Pandora’s Box out in the open and send tremors into our calm and normal life. We were certainly not ready to encounter such a sensitive situation, that too, in the kind of social set up we are a part of. I knew I had a bunch of otherwise mature individuals around me in the family and society, who perceive such behaviour as odd, unconventional and by large, unacceptable.
The mentally laborious process of denying and defying began a few years ago when she was 11. Our first face-off with her ‘truth’ was very challenging. For my husband it was extremely distressing to cope with this bitter reality. He often raised his hand on her, and I told him – this was not the way to handle this. He is yet to close the long gap between acknowledgement and acceptance of our only daughter’s ‘identity in transition’.
The hostility and the unwelcoming attitude has pushed her into a traumatic silent world. She lives in this hard shell of solitude, keeping at bay the world that surrounds her, juggling between her sense of ‘body betrayal’ and the resistance from her own father.
We have been through endless psychiatric consultations, counselling sessions, leaving us mentally exhausted. We had been keeping it under wraps for all these years. The fear of social stigma has haunted us for long and we have been hiding this uncomfortable fact from our family and friends, although, her appearance and gestures are unmistakable. My husband doesn’t like to take her for outings. One day during a movie interval, she entered a ladies’ toilet, only to be mistaken for a boy, faced immediate objection and was asked to leave. Such situations are far more embarrassing and she too, behaves abruptly being hyper sensitive.
The onset of puberty was another task to tackle. It was a reminder that her physicality wasn’t in alignment with her mind. A year back, her dislike for her female being scaled another level when she happened to watch a youtube video on sex change operation. She has now been constantly insisting for the same. Our efforts to tell her that it is not possible before a certain age and doesn’t guarantee success, have failed to convince her.
I was in fact surprised that she had access to terms like ‘puberty blockers’ and ‘hormonal injections’. I wasn’t shocked either, as we live in this age of information explosion. Nevertheless, she had been counselled that puberty suppression with hormones to develop traits of the gender that she identified with may be her way out, but at the same time, the changes may be hard to reverse. I have been struggling every time, attempting to explain to her the medical complications and the possible repercussions.
Having a young child with Gender Dysphoria earlier known as Gender Identity Disorder is not uncommon. It’s just that our awareness of such a fast growing sensitive issue among children worldwide is very limited. How to come to terms with the feeling that your body does not reflect your true gender and that significant discontent with your biological sex? However, the mismatch between body and internal sense of gender is not a mental illness, which the society otherwise is so adamant to label.
And our social responsibility to not disappoint people around us; that grave fear of rejection and the much bigger fact that everyone has been treating them as ‘one particular gender’, forbids us to gather the courage to confront the cruel world.
I always urge my husband to be friendlier with her and take her along out, though he still ignores my request. He loves her so much, but has lately become a reservoir of conflict. And she too, in the process, adapted to his indifference. She has turned into a loner, opening up to a very limited set of friends.
I feel guilty, at times, as to how we put our own children into a ind of solitary confinement, few friends and forced social deprivation, only because they deal with something that has sprung naturally and we are wary of accepting it. I am in constant pain to see my daughter’s dilemma.
Her disorientation and increased levels of discomfort with her body needed a more favourable approach from her father first; who believes it is something terribly wrong with her. In that case how can I point a finger at the world outside when her own father is reluctant to accept her the way she is. And for that matter, how many of us are willing to accept and digest the fact that it is not an illness?
An offbeat situation like this raises our eyebrows and leaves us wide eyed open. I guess we are never conditioned to accept and absorb the ‘most sensitive’ issues of life with ease and maturity. Rather we grow up with inherent mute instructions to disregard them, as such behaviour is profoundly questionable, until the trauma tends to be unbearable and we desperately seek a helping hand and look for solutions in a psychiatrist or a therapist.
Gender dysphoria with problems like cross dressing, awkwardness with peers and such others are issues to be handled more sensitively, rather than respond with a beating or threaten with dire consequences. Being unable to embrace one’s masculinity or femininity only requires a broader mindset from people around.
Unlike the western nations where they have more ‘gender management clinics’ and a wider acceptability of the situation, I wish we rise above our levels of intolerance for gender dysphoria.
Editor’s Note: In this story the child in question identifies as a boy; however, the pronoun ‘she’ has been used since it is the mother’s first person narrative about a child at a stage where she is currently perceived as female by the world outside and a transition which the family is coming to terms with.
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