Lyndsay Brown describes one of the hardest periods of her life: the first year of parenting a transgender daughter, 14 year old Olivia. This short book is an easy to read record of Brown’s changing experience as a new trans parent as well as reflecting on her daughter’s early journey.
Olivia was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, or the dissonance between the gender assigned at birth and her self-perceived gender identity. The image observed in a mirror did not match Olivia’s perceived concept of self. A powerful yearning to lead an authentic life requires courage because being transgender is an intensely difficult process. But trans children also demand realisation of the “right to be seen as equal, ordinary, normal and commonplace”. They are simply living life as ordinary teenagers progressing through puberty.
Brown details her initial shock, lost parental expectations and fears imagined for her daughter as she struggled to adjust to a difficult and stigmatised life.
The book describes school bullying and exhaustive hypervigilance in social settings if Olivia did not “pass” but was “clocked” as her birth gender. The book estimates that around 1.3 per cent of high school children identify as gender diverse and up to 50 per cent of trans teens attempt suicide. Trans parents must also live with a constant expectation that their child might fall apart. This book helpfully offers many practical tips and insights for navigating these and other challenges.
In a contemporary world where there is less clarity around gender identity, transgender children are futurists. Children express their own individual sense of gender and can be gender fluid or gender non-conforming. There is now relatively greater freedom for people to identify and present as they wish. If children teach their parents life lessons, then the key message from a trans child is greater acceptance of difference.