R is currently 12, and due to start high school in August.
R’s mental health has been as big a rollercoaster anything else.
I don’t remember when exactly it became an issue but I do know R began puberty early and I remember R expressing severe dislike at the idea of female puberty. At the time I put this discomfort down to beginning puberty earlier than their peers. I now know this discomfort was dysphoria. We were referred to endocrinology due to early puberty and the blood tests taken showed that while puberty was early, it was on the normal side of early and therefore I didn’t think anything needed done. Now I have a child who turned 12 a few months ago and who has refused to leave the house without a binder since the first binder was bought. The thought of developing as a female (the gender assigned at birth) is distressing.
I’ve mentioned before that about 2 years ago now we had a referral to CAMHs due to a suicide attempt. The facts’ of this incident are vague, at least for me. R confessed pretty casually one day to having taken a potentially lethal dose of paracetomol and ibuprofen. R had blood tests to check for physical damage but more concerning to me was the mental and emotional wellbeing aspect. We got an appointment with CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) quite quickly but the gender issue was still hidden at that point and after chatting for an hour or so they were happy to declare R as okay and not in need of further help.
I’m aware this post could be seen as a criticism of CAMHS services and that is so far from the truth. I have the upmost respect for professionals working in the metal health feild, never mind working in CAMHS.
I can look back at comments and behaviours prior to R coming out to us and easily see them as being related to non-binary or trans identification but they (who is this ‘they’) say hindsight is always 20/20. I can look back and see these clues and it’s pretty clear now that they were related to gender identify but at the time it was nowhere near clear what was going on, other than a very unhappy child.
R came out to their class at primary school (p7) just before the Christmas break and I was tied up in knots about it. I had a work meeting that night and left later than I should have so I could see R after school and gauge what the reaction had been. Within 15 minutes of the end of the school day I received a private message on Facebook from a mum of a child in R’s class, it said how brave R was to come out and reaffirmed that families support. The reaction has been generally positive, and the telling of the secret has been so beneficial for R’s mental health.
I will write a post specifically about coming out at primary school but the key was helping them understand that having this ‘secret’ was bad for R’s wellbeing, guiding them towards useful resources via Mermaids and LGBT Youth Scotland, and also being very clear that my focus was my baby and their wellbeing.