Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Advice to a young person

    I'm a moderator of a mailing list for transgender people in my part of the world. Today, I had a membership request from somebody self-describing as a young person with transgender feelings.
    We all want to help someone like that. We went through that, and it was awful. But we can't, because of course such a person is a vulnerable young person who really shouldn't be talking to people they don't know on the Internet. Child protection laws aside, it would be irresponsible of us to admit someone in that position, so the group has an age policy of 18 years old and over.
    Here's the mail I sent. I hope I hit the right note.

Hi
  Thanks for joining our group. I'm Jenny, group moderator.
I'm mailing you directly because you mention you're a young person.
Having grown up having to hide gender dysphoria I guess I know
something of what you are going through and I know just how confusing
and dreadful it all is. I think we'd all be very anxious to help
anyone in your situation to ensure you don't have to go through what
we had to.
However, because you say you're a young person we have to proceed
with caution before I can approve your membership. There are all sorts
of child protection laws to stop Internet predators and all kinds of
dodgy people who might take advantage of young people, and as well as
being highly irresponsible we'd probably be breaking some of them if
you are under 18. Though we're all pretty normal people we are after
all people you've never met, and I don't think any of us have the
background checks that for example teachers have.
So I guess I have to ask some slightly difficult questions.

First of all, are you 18 years old or older? If so, welcome aboard,
how can we help you?

If you are under 18, are you out to your parent or guardian? If you
are, we'd be only too happy to provide you with whatever support we
can, but only through them. Don't worry if you aren't out to your
parents, we understand that only too well. I was in my 30s before I
came out of the closet.

If you're under 18 and still in the closet then don't worry! We can't
help you directly for the reasons I outlined above, but there is an
organisation just for you. It's called Mermaids, and you can find it
at http://www.mermaidsuk.org.uk/index.html

The Mermaids support page is here:
http://www.mermaidsuk.org.uk/New%20Mermaids/support.htm

And their Yahoo group for transgender young people is here:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mermaids_uk/

I hope the above is of some help to you. I feel rather crap for having
to proceed with caution in this way for someone who needs the help I
wish I'd had when I was younger, but I hope the Mermaids people can
help you.

If I can leave you with a few words for a trans person at the start of
their journey, here goes:

(1)You are not alone. You'll find men and women like you are
everywhere, getting on with their lives and doing fantastic things.
You do that too.

(2)There are as many routes through all this as there are trans
people. There is no single path you have to take if you don't want to
or aren't quite ready. Choose the way you want to go and do it in your
own time. Being young you have the luxury of time to get it right. You
don't have to transition at all, but if that's what you end up doing
it's better slow and right than fast and wrong.

Good luck :)

Jenny

10 comments:

  1. Well said, if only I had that sort of contact #* years ago.....

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  2. Very sensible advice Jenny and very wise to be cautious too. Pointing someone in the right direction is oh so important, as you say, we didn't have the same potential support when we were young. As adults we can take steps to control our lives and what goes on in it and if transgendered we can easily find support but for a young person who may be frightened about exposing their feelings, getting the right support is so important. I hope the person in question takes the advice you have so thoughtfully given and that they discover that things are not so bad as they might be thinking.

    Shirley Anne x

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  3. What Paula said times ten!

    When many of us were young there was as close to nothing available to even confirm that were were not the only ones on the planet with this problem let alone any help or advice. The medical treatment was as likely to have been "Electro convulsive therapy" more likely than not. Positive help was as likely as a lottery win, there was no lottery back then!

    I wish your correspondent all the luck they deserve and a happy life to come.

    Sadly in the UK we still fail to help he young early enough to make transitions unaffected by incorrect puberty. This is a criminal shame on the medical fraternity.

    Far from perfect, our present channels of help are beyond the wildest dreams we had ourselves when young an a full and happy life lies ahead for those brave enough to step forward and ask for help.

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  4. My first thought when I started reading this was that I would have been devastated to be turned down . . . assuming, of course, there had been such a thing as your mailing list when I was young. I remember desperately searching not just for support, but confirmation or validation that I wasn't alone . . . and that there were other real human beings behind the trans* label (not just badly scanned shemale JPGs).

    Having read your response all the way through, however, especially with the options you offered at the end, I think you did a fantastic job of handling it. Your point #2 about there being "as many routes through all this as there are trans people" is probably the strongest message I would have taken from such a response. I remember being so caught up in what I thought was an absolute hard-line transition, stressing and obsessing over whether I could ever be ready for surgery, that I never imagined it was OK to be comfortable somewhere else along the gender spectrum.

    About the only other thing I might have done is recommend a few trans themed memoirs, biographies, or guides to help provide some offline support, but then again I'm much more book obsessed than most. :)

    Good for you, Jenny! Very thoughtful and very well said.

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  5. An excellent and responsible reply Jenny. Well done. xx

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  6. If only the poor thing knew who they were seeking "help" from huh! but you handled it well.

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  7. Covered all the bases and did it clearly and cheerfully. Good show!
    We're having a Newt Aid concert here next week, Newt Ransitioner. For a new pond. Thought you'd appreciate that https://www.facebook.com/events/227817117335249/

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  8. Morning all, and thanks for your comments.

    Difficult thing to write. TBH it's more than just a legal thing, I don't think a bunch of grown-ups are best able to help a young person through all this without specialist experience.

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