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On Sunday, the BBC aired the documentary Louis Theroux: Transgender Kids (you may recognize Theroux from his excellent docs about the Wesboro Baptist Church). Transgender Kids profiled a handful of kids at various points of transitioning. The most fascinating subject, in my opinion, was a prepubescent kid who was born with male anatomy as Cole but often goes by Crystal and presents as female. However, Crystal hasn't entirely abandoned Cole as an identity. When asked she/he says, "I'm somewhere in between," and furthermore, "I'm happy—I have a fun life," which is a relief to hear.
While the case could be made that Crystal/Cole is genderqueer (or just generally fluid in that regard) her/his identity is complicated by her/his father's disapproval. Says Crystal/Cole's mom, Joy:
She has said privately with her therapist that she is a girl, almost 100 percent. When I've sat down and had private conversations with her and said, "Would you ever be interested in hormones, blockers?" They need to be started soon, right? I've had to had more serious conversations: "Let me explain to you how your body's gonna change. Do you want to stop that? How do you feel about it?" And her answer is, "I can't do that, Mommy. I have to be a boy." And I inquire further as to why, and she says, because I'm Poppy's only son and it would destroy Poppy.
Crystal/Cole's parents are divorced. Generally speaking, she/he presents as female when with her/his mother, and as male when with her/his father. The reel above contains footage of both presentations. Crystal/Cole's father Eric says:
I've had the conversations with him that, you know, I don't want to prevent you from being who you are, I just feel there's a time and a place for who you want to be and how you want to express that...I don't want to be in the position where I've made a decision and then a few years later, it's like, it was something that he may not have wanted to do, or at least not his mindset when he's 18, 20, whatever...I don't want to have to carry that burden that I made that choice for him and then he changed it.
Crystal/Cole told Theroux that she/he envisions growing up to live full-time as a male with a wife and kids. It's really hard to unpack where this is coming from—societal pressure, family pressure, or maybe that's just how Crystal/Cole is. Time will tell. As it is, Joy expresses relief that Crystal/Cole may one day be just Cole again:
I think what's changing is being able to be who she is as Cole and being accepted that way. She's Cole and when she's Cole, a boy, at school, she can still have her mannerisms and her likes and dislikes and all of these things, and still have friends who love that in her, and she's happy and doesn't have to take on the role of a female to be who she is…I think that he being Cole isn't all that miserable and quite honestly that's the easy road, and I hate to say that, but that's the easier road. So if she can be happy in that skin as a boy, um, that's the preferred route for safety. Socially, unfortunately, it's still that way, so I support that.
By the way, psychologist Dr. Diane Ehrensaft had a lucid and pragmatic answer regarding fears like those expressed by Eric. When asked by Theroux if it's a "risk" that kids who take hormone blockers and transition early may one day change their minds, Ehrensaft answered:
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Is it a risk? Let's call it a possibility. So, with that possibility then we think the most important thing is the same exact idea: to find out who you are and make sure you get help facilitating being that person then. We have one risk we know about, the risk to youth when we hold them back and hold back those interventions: depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, even successes. And if we can facilitate a better life by offering these interventions, I weigh that against there may be a possibility that they'll change later, but they will be alive to change.