Thomas Lobel: the 11 year-old boy who started sex change process.
The lesbian mothers of Thomas Lobel, an 11-year-old boy who is undergoing the process of becoming a girl last night defended the decision, claiming it was better for a child to have a sex change when young.
Thomas Lobel, who now calls himself Tammy, is undergoing controversial hormone blocking treatment in Berkeley, California to stop him going through puberty as a boy.
The women say that one of the first things that their son Thomas Lobel told them when he learned sign language aged three – because of a speech impediment – was, “I am a girl”.
At age seven, after threatening genital mutilation on himself, psychiatrists diagnosed Thomas Lobel with gender identity disorder. By the age of eight, the little boy began transitioning.
The hormone-suppressant, implanted in Thomas Lobel upper left arm, will postpone his developing broad shoulders, deep voice and facial hair.
The lesbian mothers faced intense criticism from friends and family as a result.
“Everybody was angry with us. <<How could you be doing this? You might be ruining his whole life!>>,” said Pauline Moreno.
Citing a statistic from the Youth Suicide Prevention Program, Pauline Moreno noted over 50% of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.
And ignoring their son’s incessant pleas, Pauline Moreno said, simply was not worth the risk.
“What is so frightening to me is that you would be willing to say <<no>> just because you don’t like it – even though your child could lose their life?”
Thomas Lobel’s adolescent transition, she hopes, will help him have a less conflicted adulthood.
“The whole idea now is let’s stop creating a third (gender) that is neither one thing or the other, so we transitioned her,” she said.
“The protocol now is to transition these children as soon as you can make a diagnosis, because otherwise they end up being not one thing or the other… because they experienced puberty.”
Pauline Moreno recalled the first step of Thomas’ transition to becoming female by letting him pick his own clothes.
Thomas Lobel favoured headbands to baseball hats and picked out bras and dresses to start wearing when given choice in clothing to wear. And the change in his personality, Pauline Moreno says, was instant.
“He was in his own world just completely detached and that was a problem we always had was getting Thomas to participate in life,” she said.
“What we saw emerge when Tammy was allowed to be Tammy is, <<Whoa!>>… It was an immediate transformation. She was so giggly and she was now interacting she was now making it a point to defend herself.”
The diagnosis has been hard to accept for Thomas Lobel’s parents.
The lesbian couple was married in 1990 by a rabbi and has two older sons and grandchildren. But they insist their sexuality has nothing to do with it.
“It was odd to us,” the mothers said.
“Even though she has lesbians as parents, this is all new to us in every possible way. We know what it’s like to feel different – we’ve got that one. But to feel like you’re not in the right body was just something we could not put our heads around.”
Fortunately, the family of Thomas Lobel has a vast support system. The couple credits Tammy’s teachers and officials at Children’s Learning Center in Alameda, California, and their religious community, for being open-minded about their son’s decision.
“We live in the Bay area where lots of alternative lifestyles are in place… and we belong to a religious community that was incredibly supportive. They make it a point when we’re in synagogue to come over and tell Tammy, <<Oh, you look so pretty today>>,” Pauline Moreno said, adding, “There’s never going to be enough gratitude for them.”
The mothers say the hormone treatment will give him time to figure out if he wants to fully transition to being female or go through puberty as a boy.
If Thomas Lobel chooses to stop taking the drugs, he will undergo natural male puberty at a later stage and his future fertility would not be impacted.
Should their son decide to transition to an adult female, he can take female hormones as well, which would raise his voice, allow him to grow breasts and develop other feminine physical characteristics.
San Francisco, right by Berkeley, is one of four cities in the United States with a hospital that has a program for transgender children.
The University of California San Francisco is home to the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health.
Children like Thomas Lobel are seen at length by mental health professionals and then treated by pediatric endocrinologists.
Others cities with youth programs are Boston, Seattle and Los Angeles.
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