"My 16-year-old daughter recently told me she identifies more as a boy than a girl. When she was younger, she was always very girlish. Now, she's telling me she wants to start binding, and she's asking me to call her by a boy name. I'm worried she's going through a phase. Is she?"
EXPLORATION OF GENDER IDENTITY IS NOT UNUSUAL
The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy recently estimated there are roughly 1.4 million adults in the United States who identify as transgender. Because of changing public opinions in regard to the LGBTQ community, transgender individuals feel safer coming out earlier in life. To date, there are no reliable estimates on the number of transgender adolescents and teenagers living in the United States. There have been smaller, countywide surveys, providing us with what national figures may look like. In 2015, a countywide assessment in Dane County in Wisconsin found that 1.5 percent of students in grades 7-12 (18,494) identified as transgender.
Sometimes, teenagers need to experiment with their gender identity. In 1948, Dr. Alfred Kinsey established the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale, also known as the Kinsey Scale. The scale explained that sexuality can be numerically categorized between 0 (exclusively heterosexual) and 6 (exclusively homosexual). Many of us fall somewhere between 0 and 6. Gender sort of works the same way. Not all of us identify as exclusively female or exclusively male. Our adolescent and teenage years are when we explore where on the scale we feel comfortable.
Support your daughter's journey and let her know you are there for her. Ask her questions about what it means to be transgender and how she is feeling. There are many resources on the internet. The University of Rochester's Counseling Center has a helpful website for parents (rochester.edu/UCC/parents/transgenderchildren.html). Trans Youth Equality Foundation also has a wonderful website for parents (transyouthequality.org/for-parents). There are also several therapists and support groups in the Tampa Bay area who work with transgender youth and their parents.
Dr. Katie Schubert has master's and doctorate degrees in sociology and gender studies from the University of Florida and a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling from Adams State University in Colorado. She completed her postgraduate studies at Florida Postgraduate Sex Therapy Training Institute and is a certified sex therapist, providing therapy to individuals, couples and families on issues related to sexuality, sex and gender in St. Petersburg. Contact her at Katie@Cypresswellnesscenter.com
Juli Hindsley, owner of Children's Counseling Center of Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg, has master's degrees in applied developmental psychology and clinical mental health counseling and a graduate certificate in child and adolescent development. She has worked as a therapist in New Orleans and in the Tampa Bay area, and specializes in anxiety and depression in children and teens as well as families dealing with divorce. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.