Main | Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Transgender Third-Grader

In the Philadelphia suburbs, the cross-dressing of a 9 year-old transgender child has caused some parents of students at her elementary school to object to the school's apparently respectful and conscientious handling of the issue.
For school officials in Haverford Township, the challenge was daunting: What do you do when a 9-year-old student, with the full support of his parents, decides that he is no longer a boy and instead is a girl? Parents of a third-grade student at Chatham Park Elementary School approached the administration on April 16 to ask for help in making a "social transition" for their child.

The Haverford School District consulted experts on transgender children, then sent letters to parents advising them that the guidance counselor would meet with the school's 100 third-grade students to explain why their classmate would now wear girls' clothes and be called by a girl's name.

Some parents objected. Eight called the principal to ask that their child not attend the session, and some posted angry messages on the Haverford Township blog. "Why is the school introducing this subject to 8- and 9-year-olds?" wrote the parent who started the blog thread, which had been viewed more than 3,000 times as of yesterday. "Why were we not notified sooner. We received the letter today, the discussion at school is tomorrow."

Other parents thought the school should not have called attention to an already delicate situation. "I did not think that the letter needed to go out," said Valerie Huff, whose daughter is friends with the transgender student. "The kids don't make any big deal about it at all."

Mary Beth Lauer, district director of community relations, said there were no easy answers for school officials. "This is something that was going to come out," Lauer said. "Isn't it better to be proactive, and let people know what is happening and how we're dealing with it?" The student has not received medical treatments to change his sex, but has told others that he considers himself a girl, according to several people who know the family.

He had begun wearing girls' clothes, Huff said, and an approaching school event would have made the child's gender identity an issue, according to Lauer, who declined to discuss the matter in greater detail.
It's interesting that even one of the objecting parents says that the students don't appear to have an issue with the child's situation. The bigger question here, of course, is when it's appropriate to assist a transgender child with their transition. From what I've read, the prevailing opinion today seems to be to delay any surgical or hormonal treatments until after puberty, at the earliest. According to the story, one of out every 5000 persons is transgender.

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