The whole world has turned their attention to Bruce Jenner, whose transition has been the number one trending story for two days. Big Media, cultural elites, and even the White House are falling all over themselves to swoon over Mister Bruce Jenner and his “transition” to womanhood. Some of the adjectives bandied about describing his coming out include “Brave” and “Courageous.” But all I see is a man lifting a life-long burden from his shoulders and placing it squarely (pun intended) on his children.
“Oh no no no!” you say?
Because you’ve seen nothing but support from his family, right? Except that his youngest daughter was “humiliated” by Jenner’s plans and couldn’t bring herself to see him after his breast implant surgery. And some of his children refuse to be involved in the reality TV series documenting his “transition”. And one daughter left the room in tears because she was “simply overwhelmed” when Bruce announced his desire to become a woman.
Overwhelmed with joy, of course. Right?
If all the applause is leading you to believe that perhaps kids really are better off when their parents take measures to transform into a member of the opposite sex, here’s a few off-camera reactions from kids who have learned that the mother or father that they have always known will be transitioning into extinction:
- “…I want to die. I want to curl in a ball. I want to scream, but right now I feel just so numb. I feel like a zombie. I feel more alone than I’ve ever felt in my whole life…” From my journal on September 6th, 2010 – The morning after I found out. http://mydadjill.blogspot.co.uk/
- “My Dad came out as Trans less than 6 months ago. Since then I’ve been depressed, started cutting, and even made several attempts at suicide. It wasn’t just the coming out, it was school and other things, but ultimately it was the coming out of my father. One thing that hit me the hardest was “I don’t have a dad anymore. My dad is gone.”” http://kidsafe.tumblr.com/post/119878712685/my-dad-came-out-as-trans-less-than-6-months-ago
- “Every day I walk around like everything is okay. When in reality my heart is broken. My father who I loved so much broke my heart. My father who I looked up to and loved so deeply left me. The father who I thought was the best man on earth, and could have not been more proud of disappeared.” https://catholicclassyblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/being-a-child-of-a-transgendered-parent/
Make no mistake, Bruce Jenner has struggled in his life and he deserves our compassion and our prayers. Many transgendered individuals suffer from co-morbidity, that is, multiple underlying social and emotional problems. Sometimes with therapy, as in this case of a transgender woman with dissociative disorder, treating the underlying disorder alleviates the feeling of being a woman trapped in a man’s body. But while Bruce has struggled, perusing a new identity is not “brave.” The brave ones are those who do the hard work of dealing with their mental illness, working through it, overcoming their broken past, and restoring their minds to health. That’s hard. And heroic. But instead of toiling to discover and treat his psychosis, Bruce will now build his life and identity around the symptoms of his illness.
In short, he will stop struggling. And his kid’s struggle will begin. The burden isn’t gone, it’s just been transferred. In these cases, the children now have to deal with the problem, not the adult. As with divorce, abortion, third party conception, single-parent by choice, and same-sex parenting, a “transitioning” parent exemplifies the popular refrain of this millennia: kids sacrifice so that adults can follow their desires.
But wait, there’s more. Not only will the kids have to deal with the shock and trauma of losing the parent they have always known. Some kids will actually be saddled with the very thing that their transgender parent is seeking to escape- gender confusion.
I’m not aware of any studies which measure outcomes for children with transgender parents, indeed finding such a miniscule population in a random sample would be extremely difficult. But I imagine they will face similar struggles to children who have gay or lesbian parents. In that regard, several studies have found that children with gay parents are more likely to suffer gender confusion, engage in homosexual behavior and have same-sex relationships. A quick browse of the COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays) blog will give you several snapshots of kids with gay/trans parents who identify as gay or trans themselves- such as here, here and here. But if you want to check out the studies for yourself, see this, this ,this and this.
Stanton Jones sums it up here:
The small bit of research that exists suggests increased rates of same-sex orientation among the children of such couples; my informal synthesis would be that gay parenting approximately triples or quadruples the rate of same-sex attraction. It may be technically true that “the vast majority of these children eventually grow up to be heterosexual,” but only because if being raised by same-sex parents increases the occurrence of same-sex attraction from 2 percent to 8 percent, 92 percent are still heterosexual. But a fourfold increase is still a sizable effect statistically.
I had availed myself to these studies and synopsis when I first started blogging, but personally I only knew a handful of other kids with gay parents. Now, a couple of years into my odyssey, I receive emails and listen to the stories of many other children who have gay/transgender parents and I have discovered that I may be the anomaly because I didn’t struggle with my gender or sexual identity. A large percentage of kids with LGBT parents have at least experimented with same-sex relationships. Many have rejected their bodies entirely. I’ve compiled a few for you, and these are just the ones who are willing to put their struggles in print.
Thomas, now Tammy: The mothers say that one of the first things Thomas told them when he learned sign language aged three – because of a speech impediment – was, ‘I am a girl’… At age seven, after threatening genital mutilation on himself, psychiatrists diagnosed Thomas with gender identity disorder. By the age of eight, he began transitioning.
VJ: My half-brother thought our mothers were men. He would constantly call them his daddies and would ask them for our ‘real mother’. Our moms thought this behavior was cute, and often encouraged his confusion… Right now he thinks he’s a transvestite and is taking hormones to make the transformation.
Denise Shick: I can testify to the emotional strain and confusion that my (trans) father’s life played in my sexual and gender identity. I sought out our neighbors for a foster father. Many times I pretended that one of my uncles or a friend’s father was my make-believe father…It is not fair or healthy for a daughter to feel guilty about her developing body, or about becoming a woman.
Robert Lopez: I had no male figure at all to follow, and my mother and her partner were both unlike traditional fathers or traditional mothers… When I got to college, I set off everyone’s “gaydar” and the campus LGBT group quickly descended upon me to tell me it was 100-percent certain I must be a homosexual. When I came out as bisexual, they told everyone I was lying and just wasn’t ready to come out of the closet as gay yet… I dropped out of college in 1990 and fell in with what can only be called the gay underworld. Terrible things happened to me there…
So while the world falls all over itself, cheering Mr. Jenner on for his courageous trailblazing, take a moment to consider what following a parent down that trail looks like. Real courage is the fortitude to self-sacrifice in order to protect the emotional health and safety of those who are dependent on you. “Bearing your cross” for the sake of others, so to speak. It’s what adults, and especially parents, are supposed to do. But that is not the road that Bruce Jenner has chosen. Instead of protecting and sacrificing for his family he has embarked on a journey which compels his children to carry his emotional baggage.
He is relieved of his burden, it seems. But the weight on his children has only grown heavier.