An open letter to Pauline Hanson, who wants to take my child away

Photo: Carolyn Tate and her son. Supplied
Photo: Carolyn Tate and her son. Supplied 

Dear Pauline,

You made headlines recently when you publicly stated that parents who allow their children to be transgender should have their children removed from their care.

As the proud parent of a trans child, I thought I'd respond and ask you to consider both a) how damaging and unhelpful your comments can be to people who are vulnerable and not hurting anybody, and b) just how uninformed your comments made you sound. 

"These parents need their heads read or the kids taken off them," you said on Pellowe Talk, an online 'political discussion' program, "because they want to change their sex because the kid has gone and played with a doll."

You went on to describe how your son played with dolls when he was young. 

"I remember my son at 12 or 18 months old, he loved having a doll beside him and I put the bloody doll in the cot beside him. Guess what, there's nothing wrong with him."

And okay, let's get super clear on this. I'm willing to bet everything I own that no parent has ever advocated for their child's medical transition because they played with a "bloody doll". 

My son – who was born a girl – played with dinosaurs when he was young, but it took me years beyond that to even twig that he was a boy born into a girl's body. 

Of course there was nothing wrong with your son who played with dolls. That's because playing with dolls doesn't indicate anything meaningful about a child. It doesn't make them gay. It doesn't make them transgender. It just means they like dolls.

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There's nothing "wrong" with my son either, for the record. He's a bright student, a warm and loving big brother, a wonderful friend, and a talented actor. He'd like to be a psychologist some day, and I have no doubt he'll be excellent at it. 

And having spent a long time figuring out who he is and what that means in his world, he's also incredibly emotionally intelligent, and compassionate towards others.

I feel like I learn so much from him every day, and I wouldn't change him for anything. 

Photo: Carolyn Tate and her son (Supplied)

Photo: Carolyn Tate and her son (Supplied)

You should meet him. Perhaps if you spent time with some transgender kids and saw they're happy, healthy kids just getting on with their lives, you'd see there's nothing to worry about. Nobody to "blame" for their situation. No alarm to sound.

You also said that parents are asking doctors to change their child's sex at a young age. 

"Confusing kids and going to the doctor and parent's saying 'Look, my four-year-old they really can't identify, and we want to change their sex.' You are bloody idiots, how can a kid at four years old know if they want to be male or if they actually want to be a girl," you said.

What you don't seem to grasp here is that nobody is changing a child's sex at the age of four. The process of transitioning is generally quite a slow one, and when it comes to the medical side, it can take years. 

Children who identify as a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth will first make a social transition. That means dressing the way they identify, as well as possibly taking on a different name and asking people to use different pronouns.  

Cost to everyone? Zero.

If they change their mind later? Nobody has lost anything, so who cares? 

But if they are told to deny who they are and that they are wrong? Well, that's where the true damage starts. 

My son socially transitioned when he was 12, and went through years of counselling before I was asked if I would agree to puberty blockers – drugs that stop puberty from progressing any further than it already has. And it's not until my son turns 16 – which is happening in a few weeks – that he will be allowed to start taking testosterone. 

That's when the real medical effects start to take place. He will start to grow facial hair, his voice will deepen, and his body will change shape. It will be gradual, not overnight, so we'll all have a chance to get used to the changes as they're occurring.

He's understandably beside himself with excitement. 

Is 16 too young? I look at it this way: at 16, my child is legally allowed to have sex. That means the government thinks he's responsible enough to fall pregnant and have a child of his own. 

If he's able to be a parent – to raise another human being – then surely he's able to make decisions about himself. He's talked to psychologists, psychiatrists and an endocrinologist. He's spent years, telling us all that this is who he is, so we've listened to him. 

We've believed him. 

My son isn't a boy because I "brainwashed" him, as you believe parents are doing. I didn't desperately want a child of the opposite gender. I just wanted a child who wasn't depressed. Who didn't hate their body. Who wasn't self harming or punishing themselves in order to cope with their everyday life.

I wanted a child who was happy to be themselves.

That's what I've got now, and I'm both proud and grateful that we live in a society that has allowed this to happen.