Sorry son, you can’t be a dinosaur until you’re older

You may have heard the reports recently about Zach Avery, the five-year old boy from Essex who has been living as a girl for more than a year.

Zach is one of the youngest in Britain ever to be diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID), which is estimated to effect 1 in 10,000 children, and leaves the sufferer conflicted between their actual physical gender and the gender they identify as.

Now I could completely understand someone of 15 or 16 deciding one day that they don’t quite like having a dangly appendage hanging between their legs, because by that time you’ve seen enough of the world and have sufficient self-awareness to spell ‘appendage’, which is probably a good qualifier.

You could even make a case for younger children on the cusp of adolescence, whose parents subscribe to the Discovery Channel, as being well qualified enough to choose between modelling their lives on Dame Edna or Phil Mitchell.

But at three? Really? At that age most children aren’t really aware of what gender really is, let alone which side they fall down on. When I was three I wanted to be a dinosaur, not what you’d call the zenith of sensibility, but there we are.

All of which brings me neatly onto the subject of responsibility. There will be those of a medical interest who can point out evidence which supports the existence of this condition, and I’m sure there is plenty, but is it right for families and medicine to indulge this behaviour from such a young age? Children always want to explore new roles, and there is nothing wrong with this to a point. If my parents had let me run around pretending to be a Triceratops day and night, you can bet I would have.

For my sake, however, and to preserve the glass doors I kept headbutting with my forehead, they calmly told me I was a boy-human and should therefore focus on learning to tell the time and not to wee in buckets.

In the same way, wouldn’t it be better in the long run, for children like Zach and his school friends, if supervising adults spent a little more time trying to preserve an established normality, postponing these decisions until later, even if it proves the more challenging route to take in the short-term?

There is a lot to be said for making sure a child is happy, of course, but then, how often do children know what is good for them?

Fortunately in Zach’s case there seems to be little immediate cause for concern – in Americaland many young children receive puberty blocking drugs from a similar age – but the precedent being set is perplexing.

Like the girl who only ever ate chicken nuggets, Zach is being somewhat let down by people ready to say ‘yes’ before they stop and ask why.

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