Aug 13, 2019
208 min read
When a child feels that their body is different from the gender they feel inside, which we call transgender, the chance to express their true identity can have a powerful effect on their self-esteem. The process of changing from identifying as a boy to a girl, or vice versa, is called transitioning.
The process doesn’t always mean getting surgery. It can take several forms. Some are nonpermanent steps, such as choosing a new name, changing pronouns, and wearing different clothes and hairstyles. Others include medical treatments and procedures to change the body.
There’s no set formula for a transition: Some transgender children are happy to express their gender identity without any medical steps, while others want to change their anatomy to match how they feel and how they want others to view them.
Along with your child’s doctor and a mental health counselor, you can help your child figure out the right path. Whatever you choose, the research shows that kids whose families support and accept them in the gender with which they identify have the best mental health.
Children often start the transition process on their own by changing the way they present themselves. They may want to dress or wear their hair like the gender they identify with, maybe just at home at first. At some point, they may want you to call them by a different name and use different pronouns. With the right support, kids can work up to living full-time in the gender they identify with. These are all completely reversible steps, and they may be all that your child needs to feel comfortable.
Puberty can be especially upsetting for many transgender children. Starting at the first signs of the changes — around 10 years old for girls, and 11 for boys — doctors can prescribe hormone blockers, which are injections or implants that keep the body from releasing estrogen or testosterone. That means the body won’t go through the permanent changes that normally happen during puberty, such as growing facial hair, getting an Adam’s apple, voice changes, breast growth, and the start of menstrual periods. But the effects of the medication are reversible. Your child could decide later to stop taking them and go through the physical changes of their biological sex.