Sunday, June 1, 2014

Can a Child Make Life-Altering Decisions?

Yesterday on Facebook, a friend of mine had posted an article about a family who has decided to let their 7 year old daughter live as a boy.  The child was 5 when the decision was originally made.  This friend asked for polite comments, as he wanted to start a discussion about this topic.

Last night, it started a discussion with my husband and I.    Read the article here, and then the video is below.

Ryland is the same age as Brandon.  After watching it once, I watched it again, with Brandon in mind. It was difficult to wrap my head around this.  I realize that I DON'T HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THESE PARENTS HAVE GONE THROUGH, AND I DON'T HAVE ALL THE DETAILS OF THIS STORY.  I also realize that it's NOT MY PLACE to judge them. Attempting to keep my religious beliefs out of this, since that will lead me to the NATURE vs. NUTURE part of this controversy (which I'm not interested in debating right now), I wanted to look at this as objectively as I could.  I still found many aspects of this story that bothered me a great deal.  There are many questions I wish I could ask this family.  Honest, sincere questions.

Right out of the gate, the biggest concern I have is the age of Ryland.  She was only 5 when this decision was made.  Does a 5 year old have the mental capacity to truly make this decision?  Can they really comprehend that they are the wrong gender and would rather live the rest of their life in the opposite sex?  I would argue NO.  When we are young, we say and do things because we don't fully understand. Brandon has told me on many occasions that when he grows up he wants to marry me.  Does that mean I should start planning the wedding?  NO!  I redirect him, as parents so often do, and SHOULD.  When Brandon says this to me, I let him know that mommies don't marry their children, and that mommy is married to daddy. Brandon is too young to understand what marriage is.  If Ryland had told her parents she thought she was a dog, would they have bought her a leash and started walking her around the block?

I'm very curious to know how often Ryland spoke about being a boy.  Was it a casual comment in the bathtub, like on the video, or was it a constant battle?  If it was, remember again that she was 5 when this decision was made.  Do we give 5 year olds everything they want?  We SHOULDN'T, although it's becoming more and more the norm in society.  Do you always get everything you want, even as an adult?  Probably not.  I want to look like a Victoria's Secret model, and be millions of dollars richer with a huge house.  It's not going to happen.  The video shows Ryland's life after choosing to live as a boy.  She is playing baseball; girls do that.  She is playing soccer; girls do that, too.  Who cares if she doesn't like girly stuff....neither do I.  I HATE the color pink, and I'd rather talk about Star Wars than celebrity gossip.  Does that mean that I was born in the wrong body?  What criteria is set that determines this?  The age Ryland was when this decision was made is my biggest issue with this.

What happens when Ryland hits puberty?  She will grow breasts, her hips will develop, and her period will begin.  If she is living life as a boy, I can only imagine how traumatizing this will be for her.  Heck, it's traumatizing for any girl who DOESN'T think they are the wrong gender!  Ryland is now known as as a boy.  Won't these changes alienate her from others even more?  Can her parents begin giving her testosterone injections?  I'd love to hear if/how her parents are preparing her for this, because it has the potential to lead straight to the suicide concerns her parents pointed to as one of the biggest reasons they made this decision FOR her.  (and on a side note, I'd like to know how many 5 year olds struggle with suicide?) Like I mentioned earlier, I don't believe Ryland has the mental capacity to make this decision at the age of 5.  Who knows, when Ryland hits puberty, her feelings about this may change.  And since her parents have already committed her to this life choice by allowing her to dress and look like a boy, changing the pronouns to he/him, and they've even sent letters out to people explaining the change, what happens if she does change her mind and decides she wants to be a girl? Isn't there even more potential for trauma in her life?

What would I do if this was Brandon?  He is the same age as Ryland.  He is too young to make this kind of decision.  If 5 was old enough, then states would change the parental responsibility age from 18 to 5.  It's my job to help teach and guide him, the best way I can, until he is able to make these life-altering decisions on his own.  I realize that is EXACTLY what these parents are trying to do.  This is what they believe is right for their daughter.  However, I would wait until Brandon had already gone through puberty, and was older.  I hear many stories of teenagers who struggle with this and decide to live their life as the opposite sex.  By their teenage years, where they are by no means perfect decision makers, (we never are!) they are much more mentally capable to make this decision.  There is more of an understanding about life, their bodies, and what they want.  Would I be happy?  No.  Would I understand the decision?  No.  Would I do all I could to support Brandon?  Yes.  He will always be my son, and I will always love him, no matter what choices he makes in his life...whether I agree with them or not.

The bottom line for me is this:  Do I believe a 5 year old is capable of making life-altering decisions like this? NO.  I am very curious to see what is happening with this family 5 years from now. I hope that all is well, but I have my doubts.

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