Gay-Straight Alliance school bus

Image by jglsongs via Flickr (Gay Straight Alliance School bus)

This topic I am about to embark on can be a touchy issue for many, and in some regards I feel it’s overlooked far too often.  For many of us in the GLBT community we know that dealing with and coming face to face with our gender or sexuality issues is a difficult one.  I imagine most wish they could have discovered and understood all this, and resolved it internally a lot earlier than they did.  Early enough to have prevented all the mistakes and awkwardness that came with coming out, and self-acceptance.  This is all the more important why early intervention can make the difference between life and death for GLBT youths.  The more stress, stigma, and time that a young person can spend grappling with these issues correlates to a higher risk of suicide (especially among teens).  Much of this is because of societies perceptions of these sexual and gender minorities, but a lot of it is that it is something so seldom talked about in our culture.  Most people are brought up to believe in only heterosexual cisgendered relationships, so it can come as quite a shock both to parents and children when they realize this doesn’t work for them.  It is a stressful experience.

What history, science, medicine, and psychology has taught us is that for most people who are homosexual or transsexual are such throughout their life.  For those who are, intervention to help them deal with the adversity faced by GLBT people in our society is especially pivotal.  Recent acts of violence raise even more flags for why children (elementary – high school) need to understand this more and be educated on it.  Being a child doesn’t protect you from hate crimes anymore than anyone else.  Stories like the shooting of Lawrence King by Brandon McInerney in California paint the picture crystal clear that education and resolution of this all to often misunderstood condition is important for all.  But it is most important for the GLBT individual.  In the case of gay, lesbian and bisexual teens and children the sooner they can come to grips with this the better, and the more healthy they will be for it.  They face not only issues of prejudice but the somewhat difficult process of dating, and finding friends and companionship both as children and as adults.  In the case of transgender teens and children, early intervention takes on a somewhat more important and controversial issue.  In the instance of transgendered children, treatment to prevent or delay puberty can be the most important difference between happiness and being another suicide statistic.  It is a point I focus on quite often when dealing with issues about gender and sexual minorities because it is important to understanding the issues they face.

Stigmas and stereotypes can be the most difficult thing for a GLBT teen to understand and cope with on top of other challenges they face. Another area where counseling youths can help them understand this accept themselves, and learn health methods to deal with it.

Puberty can be a difficult time in one’s life, the greatest physical transformation any one of us human beings can go through; it can be a nightmare for a transgender child.  However, opponents of the treatment of transgender children argue “There is no way that child can know his/her gender at that age”, or “It’s criminal to allow a child without the capacity for reason or enough experience to change genders”.  It’s also a similar excuse in the treatment with conversion therapy of young persons, that people feel “early intervention” means preventing your children from becoming homosexual or transsexual.  With Gender Identity Disorder in Childhood, many children can and do often grow out of feelings of gender dysphoria most of which become homosexual or bisexual as adults.  Even though such conversion therapies are now considered unethical, many parents and clinicians force the issue and attempt those therapies in spite of the warnings.  This kind of thinking can be further damaging and may eventually lead to the child’s inability to cope with the situation.  That is a dangerous place to be.  I have seen quite vitriol debates about the issues, but fundamentally most people don’t understand the treatment protocols in place when you are dealing with children.  In intervention for transgender children usually puberty blocking drugs are prescribed until the child is old enough to legally make decisions about hormone therapy (estrogen and testosterone), usually 16 years of age.

It is essential to understand in that GnRH Inhibitors are a completely reversible method to prevent or delay the onset of puberty.  It causes no physical harm to prescribe this medicine, and allows clinicians, parents and patients time to figure out which path is right for them.  Yet I still see a lot of people getting up in arms when this sort of thing occurs in blind ignorance to the protocol that doctors follow.  This type of treatment has a high level of success with children who have persistent cases of Gender Identity Disorder, and it helps prevent the development of secondary sex characteristic which could be traumatic to the child.  This treatment can literally make the difference between life and death for a transgender person.  It aids a transgender teen in making a successful and happy transitions to their target genders, and allows for complete feminization or masculinization of the primary features that gender dysphoria centers around.  Having secondary and primary characteristic of the sex you are born with as a transgender person can be very painful, and difficult to deal with and the aforementioned treatments are the best way known to reduce that stress through suppressing secondary sexual characteristics.

This image is from an ABC special on Transgender Children call "My Secret Self". You can watch it on YouTube, but it elaborates on a lot of issues facing transgender children in our society, and further highlights the need for early intervention.

In gay, lesbian and bisexual children and teens, while they don’t need hormonal treatments to give them the best chance of success, they still need just as much help transitioning to be healthy, happy, and functional adults.  Fear, and stigma are a short road to disaster for all GLBT persons, not just suicide, but depression which can lead to risk taking behaviors, substance abuse, promiscuity, prostitution and the list goes on.  It is a very insular world to live in if you can’t accept who you are, and thus therapy or counseling for homosexuals is just as important.   Being able to understand one’s sexual orientation and accepting it is a key step on the road to happiness but not the only one.  Counseling can also help a GLBT child or teen deal with the hatred and persecution the may and often do receive when it becomes known they are homosexual or transsexual.

Dealing with everyday social situations pose an entirely different battery of issues the average cisgender heterosexual may not know of or understand.  This is especially true for transsexual people, whom usually have a point in all relationship where they may feel the need to express their difference to their partner.  Quite a few hate crimes against transsexuals relate to the “Outing” or discovery of their transsexual status by a partners, friends, family, et cetera.  Often times homosexual people have to face fear, not only of rejection, but of violence for admitting their affections towards someone especially if that person’s sexual orientation isn’t known.    It affects everything from friendships, to potentially marriages.  Counseling GLBT youth as early as possible can help prepare them for such situations and give them the tools they need to survive and successfully integrate into society.

Ultimately, the hope is that all prejudice against gender and sexual minorities will end, and we can just be ourselves without the fear of persecution even death for being different.  Education for all, and counseling for those who need it is the path from ignorance, discrimination and bigotry to understanding, integration and acceptance.  The purpose of this blog was to explain why the earlier we can understand and accept our differences the better.  I hope that I have illuminated that issue as much as possible.  If anyone has anything to add, or any other topics I can highlight on for this blog feel free to make comments.  I hope all enjoyed and thank you for reading.  Until next time, take care.