‘My son Dylan is 14-years-old and he is transgender’

Mum Kirsty had, like many people, ‘never considered the idea that gender was a spectrum’

Dylan and his family with Frances Fitzgerald and Katherine Zappone.

Dylan and his family with Frances Fitzgerald and Katherine Zappone.

 

My son Dylan is 14-years-old and he is transgender.

Until the age of 13, Dylan was raised as a girl. In March of 2015 our family changed when Dylan came out and told us he was trans. The months leading up to this were incredibly hard for him.

At first I’d assumed that the reason Dylan had become increasingly withdrawn was because he had recently started secondary school and was struggling to adjust to this change in environment. But rather than settling down with time, Dylan seemed to become more and more unhappy. Often he sat alone in his bedroom in the dark.

He disclosed to school friends that he had begun self-harming and we were lucky that they encouraged him to discuss this with a member of staff at the school. Dylan told his teacher he was struggling with his gender identity – he had discovered a name and label for his feelings and already knew he was trans. He just didn’t know how to tell us.

We later learned he was often so tired in the day because he had been up late at night talking to other trans people online.

On March 13th, 2015, Dylan left his phone downstairs when he was in bed. I think he knew I would check it. In his messages to friends he had mentioned he was transgender. I was shocked and the days after that were difficult for the whole family. Like most people, I had never considered the idea that gender was a spectrum and I was very unaware of trans issues. But, thanks to Dylan, I have learned so much and have a greater awareness of who he is which is what I want for everyone in Ireland.

You always love your children unconditionally and I wanted to help Dylan become the best person he could be which meant listening to him and helping him in his journey. It of course affected my whole family and we had to explain to Dylan’s brothers that they actually had an older brother, not an older sister but we have all been helped immensely by the support of friends and wider family.

Dylan wanted to cut his hair short and so we donated the hair to the Rapunzel Foundation so that he could say he had the haircut for charity to ensure he didn’t out himself to classmates before he was ready.

He was delighted when he was able to have his hair how he wanted and was keen to seek medical treatment. However, in Ireland the medical process for transgender young people under the age of 18 is not well understood. Dylan was the first trans patient our GP had as a result she had no idea about what should happen next – there are no clear pathways for our trans young people or their parents.

I found out that he needed to be referred to a specialist service in Crumlin Hospital, having spoken to other parents at the Pride Parade in Dublin in June 2015. Clinical psychologists from the UK have to come to Dublin to assess Dylan up to six times before he can start any form of treatment. This would typically consist of hormone blockers that would arrest the changes brought about by a female puberty to give Dylan time to consider future treatment as an adult.

This process could take years and Dylan already knows who he is so the slow process of assessment is incredibly frustrating. However, key to Dylan’s happiness was joining BeLonG To’s trans youth service ‘IndividualiTy’, who are, in my eyes, life savers.

Transparenci (TENI) have also been of immense support to me over the last 12 months in helping me to cope with such a radical change in our family life. Last September he went back to school in his new gender role and has been accepted by all around him. As his mother, I can see is much happier in himself and I think he is amazing to have had the strength to do that.

The Gender Recognition Act 2015, campaigned for by BeLonG To and TENI, was one of the most progressive pieces of legislation to protect transgender people in the world - it allows transgender adults to legally amend their gender with a straightforward and easy to access process administrative process. However, it fails to provide the same legal recognition of trans young people under 18.

The process for Dylan will be much more arduous, requiring two medical opinions and a court order, which can be a lengthy and cost prohibitive process. Without this piece of legal paper recognising Dylan as a boy, we cannot get him a passport. and so we cannot travel abroad together as a family.

When Dylan changed his name, I had to swear an affidavit renouncing his old name and confirming that it would no longer be used. So we cannot use his old passport and it remains impossible for me to change his name and his gender marker for a new passport. His medical card and many other official documents now display the incorrect gender and this is frustrating for us and particularly for Dylan himself.

We’ve been blessed with a courageous young man, who, by being open and honest about who he is, will hopefully give so many more trans young people the strength and courage to come out and be themselves too.

Dylan is amazing and I wouldn’t change a thing about him. I hope that we will soon see greater legal protections for him and other transgender people in Ireland.

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