Pediatricians should not be transgender children’s first bully

C.J. and Chase recently made their professional speaking debut in Washington, D.C., at an annual meeting for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

IMG_2639AAP invited us and another family to speak to meeting attendees about caring for gender nonconforming and transgender youth.

When asked what he specifically wanted pediatricians to keep in mind when working with differently gendered kids, C.J.’s answer was something they don’t teach in medical school: Offer all stickers to all kids, not just boy stickers for boys and girls stickers for girls.

FullSizeRender(1)AAP President Dr. Benard P. Dreyer was in the audience and published the following letter in response to our panel. I plan on sharing it with our pediatrician and thought you might want to do the same.

Letter from the President: Pediatricians should not be transgender children’s first bully

By: Benard P. Dreyer, M.D., FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics

Dr. Dreyer As I sat at the AAP Districts II and VIII joint meeting in late June listening to two families talk about their experiences with their young transgender children, I felt privileged to witness such love and acceptance — and such normal, happy children who just happened not to fit their “assigned” or birth gender. I was proud to be an AAP member and a pediatrician, just as I was proud in April, when the North Carolina Chapter and national AAP called for repeal of North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill,” a law that denies transgender students access to gender-segregated spaces such as restrooms and locker rooms in schools.

I’ve learned so much from these children and their families. First, gender dysphoria can start very early. Both children experienced strong opinions about their gender at the age of 4 or 5. Second, there is a continuum in gender dysphoria. Both children had natal male genders. Yet one child changed her name to reflect a female gender and insisted she was a girl, while the other child wanted to be addressed with male pronouns in spite of a preference to dress like a girl and choose play and roles traditionally engaged in by girls.

Both families stressed how important it is for home to be a safe and accepting space for the transgender child. When those children walk through the door of their homes at the end of a school day, they should be able to be themselves without any judgment. As one of the fathers passionately said, “I won’t be my child’s first bully!”

The pediatrician’s office, and the entire health care setting, should be a safe, accepting place as well. I was sad to receive an email from one of the parents telling of another family’s encounters with the health care system when they bring their 5-year-old transgender daughter in for care for her serious chronic disease. The doctors refuse to treat her as a girl until she is older, and some have even called child protective services claiming the mother is harming her child for allowing her to live as a girl.

This is done even though a study by Olson and colleagues, published in Pediatrics in March, showed socially transitioned transgender children who are supported in their gender identity have improved mental health outcomes (Olson KR, Pediatrics. 2016;137:e20153223, There appears to be no harm — and possible benefit — from such parent-supported early social transitions.

The parents asked the AAP to get the word out to our members about our support for transgender children and their families. I will paraphrase the statement made by one of the fathers and suggest we pledge that as physicians, especially pediatricians, we not be our patients’ first bully.

It’s been 44 years since the release of “Free to Be …You and Me” by Marlo Thomas and Friends. When it was first published, my daughter was 5 years old, and I must have listened to every lyric in the book enough times to memorize them all. My beloved wife, Constance, made sure we had every version of the text (book, record album and video). After all, the point was to empower girls to believe they could do anything, empower boys to think outside the narrow constraints of male stereotypes and empower all children to be unique individuals. It had a major impact on my daughter who quotes it to this day.

Now I’m a grandfather with two granddaughters, so I’ve been listening to the lyrics once more. This time, however, I’ve been thinking especially of transgender children and how the words so resonate with their world.

I will end this column by speaking directly to transgender children and youth with a quote from the book: I would like “to remind you that you’re the hero of your own life adventure and that you can write your story any way that you dream it can be.” You are free to be whomever you want to be!

Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics

About raisingmyrainbow is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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17 Responses to Pediatricians should not be transgender children’s first bully

  1. frankie278 says:

    I completely support LGBT+ so I’m glad you created this blog to share some knowledge on transgender problems.

  2. Stephanie says:

    I’ll be sharing this on my FB page. It’s so perfect, and it must be amazing to think your son helped inspire it.

  3. auntiemip says:

    And then, I sobbed! I work, every day, with children who have cancer. I am a nurse. Too many times there is NOTHING we ca do for these children. They suffer and die, despite our most heroic efforts. So I simply cannot reconcile a world where children are treated badly, bullied, injured, harassed because of who they are. It angers me to my core. “ are the hero of your own life adventure…”. There are very few words that are more beautiful and truthful!

  4. Just as there is no doubt in my mind that gay people were born that way and did not choose I feel the same way about transgenders. I pray that your child Christine and Lyn will be able to complete the transition and live a happy life. love, garnella jean

  5. I also appreciated the person working the McDonald’s drive thru who asked if we wanted the “X” toy or the “Y” toy, instead of the boy toy or girl toy. But, unfortunately, that was just that one time. But, drive thru person, who ever you are, thank you!

  6. Jay says:

    I first saw you on certain shows many years ago. My thoughts then were how could someone treat their child as another gender at such a young age. My second son came into the world in 2006. By 2009 it became evident that he was different. I refused to believe the possibilities of a gender change or being gay as I was of an ignorant mentality that it is chosen and not born with it.
    My wife was first to read your book and I could only make it through several chapters before the tears flowed and the realization seeped in that this is my son.
    How will we protect him, how will we all be treated in a now “good ole boy” State ( We came down from New Jersey). At the age of 10 now we are seeking help. We thank you for being open and helping all of us in the same situation cope.
    Kind regards,

  7. Monica says:

    You are an amazing family – breaking barriers in such a delightful way. And CJ….I absolutely LOVE the mint sweater and cream crepe dress – your style is as amazing as you and your family! Keep on being YOU!

    • Lori T. says:

      I agree Monica. The Duron family is amazing! I learn something every time I read the blog. I echo the statement – keep on being you!

  8. Martie says:

    Hi Lori, thank you for sharing. This really resonated with me, since I also have a gender creative 10-yr-old son (who for now is happy being a boy and having boy parts, but just prefers all the things stereotypically marketed to girls, and all female friends since they like to play the same stuff.) Also, we’re lifelong residents of NC, the state that made that horrific law, HB2, aka the “bathroom bill.” I fight an uphill battle in my home state just letting my son wear dresses. I’d love to connect more, at least to show Amy son Charlie that he’s not alone. 4th grade was his hardest year yet. He carried a “girls” backpack and occasionally wore “girls” shirts to school. In spite of the awful reception from a few kids at school who tease him and call him “gay,” he has chosen to wear “girls” sneakers (I just bought him two pairs) when he enters 5th grade. He also chose a new “girlier” backpack, and a “girls” lunch box that looks like a purse. I write about a lot of our journey for The Huffington Post, and also on my website, Would love to connect sometime. Thanks for all you’re doing.

  9. As always, I am impressed by your willingness to share your experiences with others (and I don’t even have a gender-creative child or grandchild) and your compassion. Healthy families, healthy kiddos!

  10. Great letter, thanks for sharing.

  11. mdaniels4 says:

    Very interesting. I find it interesting that the Hippocratic oath says physicians, first do no harm. And yet, when it comes to treating a child with a chronic illness, I must treat them based on wearing a skirt or pants. Odd. Very odd. If I were a physician, I treat the body. Not the fashion. I might not care for the particular dress, but I absolutely care for the body, and its dis-ease. This is not rocket science folks. I could care less if my patient is xy sex, but thinks herself xx. Fact is male biology is different than female biology, and I’ll treat them as such variance. But it has nothing to do with the way I personally interact with my patient on an individual basis.

    • Richelle says:

      Okay, I understand that from a biological standpoint, XX and XY have differences that might impact treatment of physical disease. But as far as I’m concerned, those doctors mentioned in the letter, who called CPS on the mother for allowing her XY-born child to live and present herself as someone who was born XX, are doing harm. They’re doing harm by telling this child there is something (besides the chronic illness) wrong with herself. They’re doing harm by refusing to call the child by her chosen name and gender pronouns. They’re doing harm by threatening the child’s family.

      • mdaniels4 says:

        Yes. I fully agree. Read the post again.

      • mdaniels4 says:

        I fully agree. That was the premise of my point. If she had a testicular injury I would treat the body as it presents itself. If I knew that the kid wanted to be called she, that’s what I eould expect no matter what other evidence I had to the contrary. Why would I care, unless it was just to support my own beliefs and then imposed on another person.

  12. loveonastick says:

    Hi Lori
    Thank you for this post and all your past posts. I’ve gained much strength and knowledge reading them. My own daughter has recently transitioned, at age four, and it’s so nice to know you all are walking just ahead of us, the road seems that much less daunting.
    Lots of love x

  13. loveonastick says:

    Reblogged this on loveonastick and commented:
    I hope I never have to use this letter, ( given my conversation the other day with the local hospital – maybe I’d better print it), but if I do – thank you Dr Bernard P Dreyer and thank you Lori Duron for sharing.

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