“Trans hype”: How can parents protect their children?

A prominent example of the transgender trend is Alex Mariah Peter, transgender model and winner of Heidi Klum’s show “Germany’s Next Topmodel”. Children and young people are not unaffected by this trend, some jump on the bandwagon and question their gender, others are deeply affected by this trend. uncertain. But do such identity conflicts inevitably affect every family, or are there ways and means for parents to protect their children and protect them from medical interventions with irreversible health consequences? As in the search for the diverse and so far little-studied causes. also no clear picture of gender dysphoria in relation to prevention, but there are some directions which are outlined below.

Concerned parents

First of all, it is important for parents to familiarize themselves with terminology, the dangers of puberty blockers and invasive procedures and the legal rules at an early stage. A number of easy-to-understand guides are now available to help you get started on this complex subject. The organization “Genspect” (www.genspect.org), an international association of parents and professionals, works for parents of adolescents and young adults who question their gender. Genspect publishes a quick guide for families. The German version of the English text can be downloaded from www.transteens-sorge-right.net. The parent self-help group “Parents for ROGD Kids” also provides additional information.

Queered language

“Genspect” first emphasizes the importance of language. Queer theory aims to alter (“queer”) language to undermine “power dynamics”. According to the guide, young people could fix this language; Parents should not interfere. In everyday life, this means, for example, that we as parents talk about both sexes, about men and women.

The Munich youth psychiatrist Alexander Korte places the phenomenon of gender identity disorders in the context of puberty. In an interview from April this year, available on YouTube, Korte points out the enormous challenge of puberty for young people. Without belittling or trivializing it all, the onset of puberty is a critical situation that is often accompanied by significant self-esteem conflicts. “Extremely existential questions are raised: who am I, who should I be, what should I become?” Young people often ask themselves whether they are “man enough as a boy” and “woman enough as a girl”, Korte describes an alm. problem among young people. For some, the deep uncertainty leads to a rejection of their own body.

Gender conflicts as a result of role stereotypes

Child and youth psychotherapist Monika Albert experiences girls and boys full of body hatred in her practice. In her contribution to the polemic “Transsexuality”, edited by Alice Schwarzer and Chantal Louis, she writes: “I sit in front of these girls who tell me that they are ‘actually’ a boy. They were told often enough, even in kindergarten , even in primary school: ‘Girls don’t do such things!’ The boys feel the same way: They tell me how uncomfortable they feel in groups of boys, where men always have to be so strong, where everything is so macho, the language is so rough, and men are not allowed to show any emotion.”

Albert sees in these young people a great request to society, which should drop its role expectations for men and women. They are “an invitation to let people develop according to their temperament, their talent, their interests, instead of squeezing them into narrow drawers that are either pink or blue and leave little room to breathe.”

Gender identity disorders as a problem of puberty

Assuming that gender identity disorder is at least a problem during puberty, parents can use basic recommendations for this developmental stage as guidance. Puberty does not only bring about physical changes. The hormones sometimes assert themselves through mood swings, uncertainty, doubt and the urge for freedom. You can start at both poles.

Boys and girls do well during this time if they can see their developing body in action, get to know and experience its growing power. Being outdoors or building something with your hands is an easy-to-implement way to experience self-efficacy. Parents should also take the time to answer the many questions that teens of both sexes have about puberty. Conversations between father and son, mother and daughter are an important preparation for the new phase of life. For example, mothers and daughters could see the composition of various hygiene products on the website www.aufgeklärt.info before their first period.

Find your own identity

Socially, young people face the challenge of finding their own identity that differs from that of their parents and siblings. They want to be recognized by their peers and strive for independence and autonomy. Those who find fulfilling occupations in hobbies such as sports or music, or who take responsibility in youth groups according to their age, have good opportunities to build their own identity without major crises. It is up to the parents to be aware of their child’s talents, to promote them and to encourage their child to try different activities – even those that are not in the “mainstream”.

Parents need to realize that no teenager wants to be an outsider. However, you can help teenagers choose good friends by building a circle of friends from families with children their own age and later maintaining an open, welcoming home for the children’s friends and showing genuine interest in those friends. If a friendship develops that the parents are worried about, it is important to keep in touch and ask what exactly the child likes about the friend. It is also important for holiday camps or group offers that parents orientate themselves and question whether the organizers’ values ​​are in line with their own.

Particularly vulnerable young people are affected

In the end, it’s about giving the young people enough freedom. Asking them about their opinions and plans, giving advance notice of family activities, and giving them a choice about whether to participate helps the young person experience self-reliance. As parents gradually allow more freedom, they want to be able to trust the growing child. Freedom and trust go together, and we have to talk about that too.

Despite the media hype about transsexuality, not all young people are equally susceptible. “Genspect” points out that the desire for a gender change is often accompanied by a number of other diseases and problems, so vulnerable young people are more vulnerable. Since these associations can influence the child’s behavior, parents should be especially educated about certain neurological disorders such as ASD (autism spectrum disorder), ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), psychological problems such as psychosis and depression, and disorders such as psychopathology, mood disorders and anxiety disorders.

“Contagion” through social media

Another important building block for parents is media education, because at-risk youth can be “infected” with the transgender trend through social media. The neurologist and psychiatrist Müller-Vahl, a specialist in Tourrette’s syndrome, demonstrated this in 2021 for a specific new tic phenomenon. Vulnerable youth developed the same symptoms as the Zimmermann they admired by watching certain videos on YouTube, identifying with and emotionally connecting with YouTuber Jan Zimmermann.

Müller-Vahl described the phenomenon of the new functional tic disorder as “mass-induced social media disease”. The parallels with gender identity disorder are obvious to professionals. Therefore, media consumption in the family should follow fixed rules. In this context, “Genspect” talks about “digital hygiene”.

How the life of their own child actually goes is ultimately not in the hands of the parents. But attentive and empathetic accompaniment supports young people in their search for their identity and helps them get through the storms of puberty. The foundation is of crucial importance: a good atmosphere in the family.

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