In the hopes of “normalizing the narrative surrounding trans children,” one California couple is speaking out about their experience raising a son and daughter, both of whom are transgender.
Ben and Sara Kaplan, residents of the liberal enclave of Berkeley, say strangers often react with skepticism to the fact their two children, James, 11, and Olivia, 7, are transgender.
“The reaction when people hear that we have two trans kids is pretty shock and awe,” Sara told Barcroft TV in an interview posted Sunday to the British news agency’s YouTube channel.
Some wonder whether Olivia and James’ transgenderism is a “copycat situation,” Sara added.
The Kaplans, however, contend they are simply loving their children.
“For anyone who says we’re pushing an agenda I would ask them to look at their own children,” Ben told Barcroft TV. “If you can’t find a way to love your child and your faith or your fears are more important than you caring for your own child, then don’t look at me, look at yourself.”
The father-of-two said he went through a “a grieving process” when his children transitioned that had to do with his “own misunderstandings” and biases.
“The reason that we chose to be public at this point is because having two transgender children is not that unique, but it’s very difficult to advocate for the second child without it looking like there’s a problem in the house,” said Sara.
“It looks like there is an agenda,” she added. “Like the mother is sick, and that’s not the case here.”
James and Olivia, transgender kids
James was 8 years old when he told his parents he wanted to transition from female to male. Initially “nervous,” James was relieved to discover his mother and father were more than accepting of his decision. Following his declaration of a new gender identity, the Kaplans took James to get a haircut and bought him boys’ clothes. James also asked his peers to start calling him by male pronouns.
The elementary schooler started hormone blockers last month to halt the development of breasts and menstrual cycle that come along with puberty. Sara said James is eager to begin receiving testosterone, a permanent step which would irreversibly affect his fertility.
As for the younger Kaplan child, the family has “lots of time” before they need to decide on whether to expose Olivia to any medical treatment.
“The first thing would be a hormone blocker and that’s not until she would hit the Tanner stage 2 of puberty, so for now, we follow her lead,” Sara told Barcroft TV.
Olivia socially transitioned at age five, her parents revealed, and James’ encouragement made Olivia feel “very confident” that other people would accept her.
“I transitioned first, so I think that helped Olivia see that it’s okay to be trans,” her older brother told Barcroft TV.
“Anyone can be whoever they want,” Olivia added.
The transgender debate
The Kaplans told Barcroft TV they based their parental decisions on available research on transgender children, particularly studies that show troublingly high rates of attempted suicide among trans youth.
Their stance reflects that of the progressive movement at large, which has made significant inroads into making transgender and nonbinary identities more acceptable in American society. In addition, LGBT activists have spearheaded a rapid advance in trans rights in recent years.
However, a number of experts have warned that many parents, educators, and doctors have become too accommodating. Longterm research on transition outcomes is scant to nonexistent, but the concern is that children may regret the often-irreversible process when they get older.
In a story published over the weekend in The Observer, psychotherapist Marcus Evans criticized the “trans political agenda” for encroaching on the “clinical environment” surrounding the U.K.’s Gender Identity Development Service, a clinic that specializes in young people presenting with gender identity issues.
“Young people need an independent clinical service that has the long-term interests of the patient at heart,” said Evans, a former governor of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Gender Identity Development Service.
“To some extent, this requires a capacity to stand up to pressure coming from various sources: from the young person, their family, peer groups, online and social networking pressures and from highly politicised pro-trans groups,” Evans added.
Earlier this year, a two-generation transgender family was turned in to social services by an anonymous neighbor in their hometown of Glasgow, Scotland for allegedly pushing their 5-year-old biological son to transition.
In May, local U.K. child services officials launched an investigation into foster parents who are believed to have “manipulated” their children into identifying as transgender.