Listening to children imagining gender: observing the inflation of an idea

J Homosex. 2012;59(3):460-79. doi: 10.1080/00918369.2012.653314.


Using three of the clinical articles in this special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality as examples, the author attempts to show how their views of gender may influence clinicians' conceptualizations and treatment choices in response to children diagnosed with gender identity disorder (GID), or gender dysphoria. In particular the author argues that the belief that gender is a psychophysiological entity that is organismic and transhistorical, that is, the view known lately as essentialism, promotes more invasive interventions (e.g., endocrinological and surgical) and mistakenly deemphasizes psychological therapies as a clinical response to the suffering of trans children. He tries to show that the drawbacks of essentialism and its correlated treatment approaches are twofold, that a) they promote treatments with insufficient attention to our limited knowledge regarding their safety and efficacy, and b) they advance a reified differentiation of the genders that is politically problematic. The author suggests that a better response to trans children would be one that emphasizes the child's broadly subjective role in his or her construction of transgressive, gender-related psychological and interpersonal phenomena (both painful and not), thus, offering a deeper validation for trans children's challenges to our gender system.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Welfare
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Puberty / psychology
  • Self Concept
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Transsexualism / psychology
  • Transsexualism / therapy