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Erin Carlyle delves into the often blustery worlds of transgender youth
By Erin Carlyle
Published on March 03, 2009 at 1:15pm
ON HER THIRD birthday, Sarah Barnett tore open a package from her grandmother that would delight most girls her age. Gently folded on a pillow of tissue paper lay a frilly, ruffled dress. Sarah looked up at her mother, Kathy, perplexed.
"Mom, why did Grandma give me a dress?" she asked.
A perfectly reasonable question, since Sarah had refused to wear girls' clothing as soon as she knew the difference. Kathy explained that Grandma was just trying to be nice—Sarah didn't have to wear the dress.
"Why don't you tell Grandma that I'm a boy?" Sarah asked.
Kathy marveled at her child's logic. The mother chalked the child's comment up to the imaginative reasoning of a toddler.
A few weeks later, Sarah asked her Sunday school teacher to label her nametag "Steven." Soon, she was insisting that her parents call her Steven and refer to her as "he." Kathy and her husband, Joe (names have been changed), gently explained to their daughter that she was a girl, not a boy. But the toddler became so upset that they eventually conceded to calling her Steven at home.
Her behavior and tastes, too, were more like those of a stereotypical boy. She preferred active, rough-and-tumble play. At Christmas, she'd gaze forlornly at dolls she received, clearly preferring her older brother's train sets. At the pool, she insisted on wearing swim trunks instead of a one-piece girl's bathing suit. At age four, Sarah gave all her dresses away to a neighbor girl. She wanted a little suit—like Daddy's.
Walter Bockting Ph.D., president-elect of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health