Transgender Children and Youth: A Child Welfare Practice Perspective

By Mallon, Gerald P.; DeCrescenzo, Teresa | Child Welfare, March/April 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Transgender Children and Youth: A Child Welfare Practice Perspective

Mallon, Gerald P., DeCrescenzo, Teresa, Child Welfare

Using an ecological framework, the existing literature and research, and the authors' combined 60 years of clinical practice with children, youth, and families, this article examines gender variant childhood development from a holistic viewpoint where children, youth, and environments are understood as a unit in the context of their relationship to one another. The focus is limited to a discussion about the recognition of gender identity; an examination of the adaptation process through which gender variant children and youth go through to deal with the stress of an environment where there is not a "goodness of fit"; and a discussion of the overall developmental tasks of a transgender childhood and adolescence. Recommendations for social work practice with gender variant young people are presented in the conclusion of the paper.

The film Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink) (Berliner & Scotta, 1997) is a story about the innocence of childhood as told through the experiences of a seven year old boy, Ludovic. Ludovic desperately wants to be a girl and everything about him says that he already is one. He has it all figured out; God messed up his chromosomes, simple as that, no judgment, no morality. Ludovic is a prime example of a female brain in a male body and he is putting up a valiant struggle not to be erased as a person. It's all very honest and natural to him. He is only a small boy and is much more in tune with his needs and desires than is his family.

Ludovic is 7 years old, born to a middle class, suburban family. He is very much like other children, but he is different in one key way-Ludovic is sure that he was meant to be a little girl, not a little boy-and he waits for a miracle to "correct" this mistake. Whenever able, he dresses in typical girl outfits, grows long hair, and is certain of his gender identity despite the fact that others are less sure. His parents, while tolerant of his gender nonconforming behaviors, also are embarrassed by his insistence that he is a girl, not a boy.

His siblings, although loving their "brother" in their home, are fatigued by having to fight for him in school when he is teased and harassed. Even though everyone else is unsure, Ludovic muddles along, praying for the miracle that will change him into the girl he knows he is. Everything falls apart however, when he falls in love with a boy who happens to be the son of his father's boss, a man who is uncomfortable in his own skin.

When Ludo's father is fired from his job because his boss cannot abide by Ludovic's crush on his son, Ludovic's mother increasingly blames his gender nonconforming dress and behavior for the family's estrangement from their community. The gender variant behavior that was once tolerated is now unsupportable: Ludovic's hair is cut into a typical boy's style; he is forced to wear traditional boy's clothing; he is brought to therapy; and he is encouraged to play sports and to be more like his brothers-all "corrective" actions designed to make him to be more like a boy, to make him "fit in," by force if necessary.

Ostracized by his schoolmates, misunderstood by his family, and eventually run out of town by bigoted neighbors, Ludovic accepts that he cannot be the boy his family wants him to be. In a desperate attempt to break away from his life, Ludo tries to end his life, at which point, his family realizes that in spite of what their community thinks, Ludovic should be accepted for who he really is. The final lines in the film, "Do whatever feels best. Whatever happens you'll always be my child."

"Our child" is a line that every transgender child longs to hear from his or her parent.

Ah, if life could just be as simple as it is in the movies... although, Ma Vie en Rose is a powerful story of a gender variant child who struggles to be accepted by his family, and finally is, contemporary real-life childhood undoubtedly is a very difficult period for gender variant children or youth and their parents.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Transgender Children and Youth: A Child Welfare Practice Perspective


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?