Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:
Y is for ‘you’re too Young’
A common way that young trans people have their identity invalidated by cis people by being told they’re ‘too young’ to know they’re trans.
Yet somehow, I’ve never heard tell of any cisgender child being told they’re too young to know their gender. Cis children have their gender identities reinforced and supported all the time, every day, but for some reason the second a child’s professed gender is different from what we expected, we decide that it’s too early to tell for sure what their gender is.
I’ve actually written about this before, and one of the things that makes this argument seem particularly disingenuous is the fact that when someone’s no longer ‘too young’ to know they’re trans, they’re very often ‘too old’ to just be coming out now, because they should have known sooner.
Yes, I know that sometimes children identify temporarily with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth, before finally settling into a cisgender identity. But you know what? For every cisgender child who goes through a ‘trans phase’, there’s a transgender adult who went through a ‘cis phase’ in their childhood, too.
So if you’re going to use age to invalidate someone’s professed identity, you’d better do so across the board, because some of those apparently cis kids most definitely aren’t (and I suspect they outnumber the kids who are going through a ‘trans phase’). If it’s damaging to let a child explore their gender as they experience it in the moment, lest they wind up identifying differently in the future, then we’d better prevent all children from doing it.
People often suggest that letting a child with a penis wear dresses for a while might embarrass him later if he does, in fact, wind up identifying as a boy. But again, pretty much 100% of all trans people have to deal with this as it is, so if this is something you are genuinely concerned about, you’d better avoid gendering all children all the time.
You can’t have it both ways. Either children can know their gender or not, but all children may be going through a temporary ‘phase’, not just the ones who are telling you that they were assigned the wrong gender. It seems that for the most part, we accept that kids can and do know their genders, so let’s just extend the same autonomy to trans children that cis kids enjoy every day.
Ultimately, no matter how many times any child – cis or trans – changes their mind about what their gender is, the best thing you can do for them is always to respect and support them.
Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!