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With special thanks to the Central Oklahoma Transgender Alliance

(Editorís note: We, likewise, believe that multiple points of view are important to get a proper perspective on this issue. You will find several articles here, and more as we find them. We encourage you to always obtain as much information on issues such as this as possible. We are editing only for technical details. Information presented here is without content editing. That is why we are crediting the original editors in each instance.)

To the parents of transgendered teens:

We know that parents of transgendered teens sometimes, perhaps often, ask, "Why does my son want to dress as a girl?" To some people such a notion may sound amusing, but not to the parents whose son has this so called affliction. So why, then, does your son want to dress as a girl? Is it because of something that you did? Or, something that you did not do? Or, is it in his genes? Or, is it because of something entirely different? In this article we will try to answer those questions.
To begin with, your son does not want to dress as a girl, rather he needs to dress as a girl. Cross-dressing, especially at your son's age, is a compulsion. While this compulsion will remain with him throughout his life, it will never be as strong as it is during his pre-teen and teenage years.

No one knows the cause of this compulsion. Some believe the cause to be heredity, while others feel it is caused by the early childhood social climate. Most, today, believe that the cause may be a combination of both.

There are several hereditary theories. Hormonal changes during the mother's pregnancy may cause or not cause certain brain determinants. Or, a miscoding of the genes could be the cause. Even the concept of the sperm making a weak push at the egg has been proposed. None of these theories have been proven, although, hormonal triggers during pregnancy have been demonstrated to cause gender discrepancies in laboratory tests.

The early childhood social theorists believe that there is an underlying biological cause which is triggered by one or more events during early childhood.

Transgenderism is a term that describes an incongruence in a person's physical and mental sexual characteristics. This term describes your son, or daughter, if he wants to dress and act as a member of the opposite gender. No one knows how many people are transgendered. The accuracy of estimates of the number of persons who are transgendered is very questionable. By nature, most transgendered people hide their feelings and will not disclose them. Yet there are estimates. Probably, the best estimate is that from three to five percent of the population, females as well as males, are transgendered.

Transgenderism seems to come in three different forms: crossdressing, transgenderist lifestyle and transsexuality. Crossdressers, who are by far the most common, recognize themselves to be males or females, and live as such, but also recognize that they have a feminine, or masculine, component to their personality that needs to be expressed. They usually do so by wearing the clothing of the other sex from time to time. Often, only in private, but sometimes, in public as well.

Transgenderists and transsexuals go beyond that of crossdressers in that they desire to live as the opposite sex. The difference being that the transgenderist will live and dress in a manner opposite to his or her physiological body without trying to change that body, while transsexuals want to have their body completely altered to that of the opposite sex.

You might ask, "Does my child plan to have a sex change?" The answer is at your child's early age he or she probably THINKS that is what he or she wants. It is not uncommon for crossdressers, especially during their early years, to feel that they are transsexual. However, only a very small percent will ever take the first step towards that goal. The truth is, most crossdressers are not transsexual. If a youth feels that he or she is truly transsexual, then, professional counseling with someone who is familiar with gender dysphoric issues is highly recommended.

While we began talking of sons, daughters can also display crossdressing tendencies. The difference being that while crossdressing is frowned upon for boys, it is acceptable for girls to wear "male" clothing. For that reason, in our society female crossdressing is not as noticeable as that of males.

The first thing that comes to mind when a parent discovers their child is crossdressing is that he or she is gay. In all likelihood your child is NOT gay. In almost all studies of crossdressers it was found that only about 5 percent were homosexual. That figure is actually less than that of the general population. However, because our society tends to believe that crossdressing is a gay thing, it will not be unusual for him or for her to question their sexuality, especially at their early age. This is a point where parents can help. If your child is gay, there is little that you can do about it. But, if your child is not gay, then you should do all you can NOT to steer them to such a lifestyle.

Often parents will ask if this is some sort of phase their child is going through. Absolutely not. Almost all crossdressers attempt to purge themselves of their need to crossdress sometime. Some will do it many times. Psychiatrists have tried many different methods of therapy, including electric shock, to cure crossdressing, but with poor results. The conclusion they, as well as members of the transgendered community, have come to is that crossdressing is a lifelong thing. Today, psychologists and therapists attempt to teach such persons to accept themselves and to be content with whom they are.

Another question that is often asked is if there are dangers. Yes, there are. The teenage years are, perhaps, the most turbulent in any person's life. Peer pressure is the greatest during this time and a teen is constantly wrestling with trying to discover just where he or she fits in the world. Because our society does not condone boys wearing girls clothes, and all too often looks upon the crossdresser as someone who is gay (a lifestyle that is, also, not condoned by society), they may lead to further feelings of rejection. The turmoil from such rejection could become so great that the teenager becomes suicidal.

What can you do as a parent? To begin, DO NOT condemn your son or daughter. He or she feels rejection already. Being condemned by a parent can only lead to further turmoil. However, even though you are being asked to accept his crossdressing, we do not mean that you must sanction it. You should talk to your son or daughter. Help him or her to realize that true femininity or masculinity is not just in wearing clothes. Teach him that femininity and masculinity does not have anything to do with clothes or looking pretty or macho, but is more about feelings and attitudes toward himself and towards others.

Most important teach him or her to be a person. Let your child know that he or she should not lose sight of the fact that they are a male or a female and must continue to develop those traits that will become necessary in later life.

You may set ground rules, but do not prohibit crossdressing entirely. Not only will this not work, but it will signal rejection by you and cause additional turmoil. Unlike many compulsions, crossdressers can control the urge to crossdress. For that reason, it is possible to set down the rules concerning times and places that it will be permitted.

If you are not sure you can cope with the matter and need help, help is available. One form is that of peer support and education through various social and support groups that exist for that purpose. These groups allow transgendered people to come together and meet with one another. They not only eliminate the feeling of being alone, but also allow the transgendered and their loved ones to understand what they are. These groups often hold clinics to aid the transgendered improve their feminine and/or masculine image and to grow in their role in life as completes persons.

For you, the parent, the ability to talk with transgendered people and with their family members can be both an educational and an assuring experience. Please understand that these groups are for social and support purposes ONLY. They are totally NON SEXUAL in nature. The groups are neither dating services nor sexual swingers clubs in any way. The truth is that most male crossdressers make good parents and husbands and are usually devoted to one person throughout their life.

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Last modified: 02/09/09