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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Decisions, decisions

If you watched the footage from the Dr. Oz show in the previous post there is a theme you will notice. It is a theme I notice in my life when I tell people about Anneke's journey, blockers and the many other choices we make on behalf of our kids. "Are you sure you are doing the right thing?" or "Don't you think giving your child a drug to stop puberty is extreme?"

There are two things I know for sure.
1. As a parent, you never know with certainty you are making the right choice for your child. You have to trust your instincts and listen to your child.

2. Doing nothing, when it comes to big decisions like blockers and surgery is making a decision for your child.

Since the age of 6 Anneke had suffered from migraines and extreme stomach pains. S/he has had head CT's, ultrasounds, X-rays and countless days of missed school. When signs of female development began, all of these things got worse and a deepening depression ensued.

The universe takes care of us, I beleive. When I confided in my student at the time she had told me she had just recently attended a trans-health conference and heard a talk by Dr. Metzger, a pediatric endocrinologist who helped gender-variant kids stop puberty. When I told Anneke about this s/he jumped at the chance without hesitation. Dr. Metzger has been a gift to us. Since starting blockers Anneke has not had any more migraines, stomach pains or missed school.

I hesitated to get in touch with him at first. When I reached out to medical professionals, when Anneke was about 4 or 5 we met Dr. Zucker. He is a world renowned specialist in 'Gender Identity Disorder', especially with respect to children and adolescence. When he realized Anneke indeed fit the diagnostic criteria for GID, he wanted to enrol her in a study

The following is a summary I found on line
Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and head of the gender-identity service at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, disagrees with the “free to be” approach with young children and cross-dressing in public. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Zucker has treated about 500 preadolescent gender-variant children. In his studies, 80 percent grow out of the behavior, but 15 percent to 20 percent continue to be distressed about their gender and may ultimately change their sex.
Dr. Zucker tries to “help these kids be more content in their biological gender” until they are older and can determine their sexual identity — accomplished, he said, by encouraging same-sex friendships and activities like board games that move beyond
Zucker thinks that an important goal of treatment is to help the children accept their birth sex and to avoid becoming transsexual. His experience has convinced him that if a boy with GID becomes an adolescent with GID, the chances that he will become an adult with GID and seek a sex change are much higher. And he thinks that the kind of therapy he practices helps reduce this risk. Zucker emphasizes a three-pronged treatment approach for boys with GID. First, he thinks that family dynamics play a large role in childhood GID—not necessarily in the origins of cross-gendered behavior, but in their persistence. It is the disordered and chaotic family, according to Zucker, that can’t get its act together to present a consistent and sensible reaction to the child, which would be something like the following: “We love you, but you are a boy, not a girl. Wishing to be a girl will only make you unhappy in the long run, and pretending to be a girl will only make your life around others harder.” So the first prong of Zucker’s approach is family therapy. Whatever conflicts or issues that parents have that prevent them from uniting to help their child must be addressed.

Once we realized this was Dr. Zuckers' approach we ran for the hills. He basically wanted to enrol Anneke (and our whole family) in behavioural modifcation therapy. When I confided in my friend Christine that I didn't know what to do about Anneke's kindergarden depression, and the interaction with Dr. Zucker, she asked simply "What do you want to do?"
"I want to take her out of this school that she hates, and surround her with people that love and support her, no matter what - not people that want to change her."
"Then that is what we will do." she said with a certainty that I yearned for. As we walked up to the school Anneke attended at the time.
I took Anneke out of that school that week. I begged the YMCA where s/he went to preschool to accept her in their kindergarden program, which they did. And I never returned Dr. Zucker's phone calls. As you can imagine, these were obviously big decisions. I had no idea if they were the right ones.

I now know they were some of the best decisions I have ever made.


  1. i am so sorry she has suffers from migraines. they throw me over the edge. pain beyond belief.

    does she have current relief?

    h xo

  2. Congratulations. You may very well have saved your child. I wish quacks like Dr. Zucker would stop preying on children. Doctors like this preach that one's gender identity is malleable in childhood, while many cases have shown this to be the contrary, including the tale of the boy forced to live as a girl after a botched circumcision. He eventually transitioned back to male.
    A doctor like this found a parallel in a black child wishing they were white. This doesn't apply here at all, however. You would counsel such a child by convincing them that as a black child, they could do whatever they wanted to, not by attempting to stymie their self-expression or enrolling them in basketball. I read a heartbreaking story about a little MAAB child who went through a therapy like this one, in which the doctor insisted the child stop drawing their favorite subject matter and instead draw little boys, just because this is what is deemed appropriate for that sex. I find it sickening that parents would stifle their child's self-expression, so long as it did not hurt anyone. Behavior outside what is appropriate for one's sex doesn't. Attitudes that encourage therapies like this one do.
    Thank you so much for supporting your kid.