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Conservative Town & the Child Exploring Their Identity

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I am in need of sincere consul.


My son (until otherwise identifying, he has not yet explored his pronouns yet and I will fully embrace them when he has) has been recently requesting to wear dresses. I have absolutely no problem buying him the clothes that he will feel more comfortable in and will help him love himself for who he is.. But I do have a problem with wearing them out into public - however, not for reasons you might expect.


We live in a considerably conservative city. My son has been in full bloom and expresses his love for all things pink/purple, covered in glitter and exploding with rainbows. He loves unicorns - he will tell you so in as many words as you allow. He loves all things cute. If it's small, in dog-form and can wear an outfit, he probably owns the stuffy. My son is eight years old. My son has also been violently bullied at school.


We spent most of last year struggling with four boys bullying him every day. I met with his teacher countless time, demanded an audience with his principal, called regularly to speak to the on-site counselor - and it became easier as my son surrounded himself with the children that accepted him. The bullies persisted, and there were days he didn't want to go to school, but we survived. He wore his unicorns, he painted his nails, he grew out his hair - as long as it was within the school's dress code, I allowed it. 


Over this last summer, he asked the question I was waiting for. "Mom, can we buy a dress?"


I'm no stranger to bullies. I know as he gets older, it's going to get harder. I know that those boys shoving him may come to blows and nose-bleeds. I know it may involve flipped up skirts, confrontation in the bathroom and ugly slurs... I know the boys he was in class last year are still here this year and with many others added to the pack. They already aren't kind, I don't want to add fuel to the already unsupervised fire.


We have since bought several dresses that I allow him to wear at home or out in town if he's with me but he wants to wear them to school. I understand why he wants to wear them to school but I also know why I don't want him to. I told him that I would let him wear a dress to school as soon as he could defend himself in one - and he has been in Taekwondo for months since. But I still don't feel it's fair to him. I don't want to closet his identity because I'm trying to protect him.. I also don't want to set him up for failure. He's struggled with depression and I'm at a moral standstill. Do I protect my son and continue to allow him to wear them only at home, where he is surrounded by the love and protection of his family? Or do I allow him to be who he longs to be without restriction and come ready to face the consequences?

What would you do in my shoes?

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Looking at your state location, I believe you folks just had some new legislation protecting Trans children and those need to be enforced.  The American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) helped a the family of a young Trans child (then 12, now 18) that I know very well in dealing with the local school board to provide a safe environment for her.  I would also get in touch with your local LGBT Community Center and see what resources they have to help as well.  Maybe they can also get your child to slow down a little bit and recognize the safety issue for now.  You do not mention it, but I would also recommend that your child begin Gender Therapy, because the therapist will also help your child recognize and evaluate their safety.  It sounds to me like you have the right concerns and support attitude, but you cannot do it alone, and it sounds like your child's school is a bunch of slow starters which happened in my young friend's life. 

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I definitely agree with Vicky about her suggestion to see a gender therapist.  While your child is only 8 a discussion with a third party about finding direction may well help now and in the future.  GT's also often have a good knowledge of local resources.  

I'm sorry but not surprised that there is a lot of bullying.  Perhaps a local LGBTQ center could help set up a program for the school system.  





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Thank you, both of you. That is a phenomenal suggestion! Our LGBTQ community is rather lacking in the area, but after some searching, I have found a handful of gender therapists that see children (our resources seem largely available to adults). I am always wary when looking into therapies, certainly of this style, just in case it sits on the wrong side of the fence where they may want to force him back into the box he was born in. In the very least, he could use another ally in his corner.. His school has thankfully been very on board with accepting him as he is (sans dresses, I haven't heard of another trans child in the district), but their method of handling the bullies leaves something to be desired. He's already seeing a therapist for his depression but perhaps the gender therapist will help level that if he can find the ground he's most comfortable to stand on.

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1 hour ago, macklemic said:

He's already seeing a therapist for his depression but perhaps the gender therapist will help level that if he can find the ground he's most comfortable to stand on.


A gender therapist starts out as a "garden variety" therapist such as your child is seeing.  Perhaps a collaboration could get going and you end up with another GT.   That is what happened to me.  I started with a chemical dependency therapist who collaborated with a GT, and it worked out fine.

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