British Columbia

SFU professor's book explores challenges of growing up transgender

Associate professor Ann Travers interviewed dozens of transgender children while researching her new book, The Trans Generation.

Ann Travers' research included conducting dozens of interviews with trans children

Enforcing gender norms on transgender children can cause serious mental health issues throughout their lives, says SFU professor Ann Travers. ( Purple Sherbet Photography, Flickr)

While human rights laws and school policies in Canada have come a long way in protecting the rights of transgender children in recent years, the lives of those kids are still often exceedingly challenging. 

That's the subject of SFU associate professor Ann Travers' new book The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) Are Creating a Gender Revolution.

"We're seeing more kids who identify as trans," said Travers, adding that's because there are more trans adults visible in the world, but also because parents are becoming more accepting.

"Often this happens with children whose parents haven't given gender a lot of thought," said Travers, who interviewed dozens of children that identify as trans while researching the book.

"They love their kid ... And they educate themselves and come to the very wise decision that the best thing they can do is get behind their kid and advocate for them."

Societal pressures

Travers said it can devastating for a trans child when their parents don't support them and enforce gender norms.

Research also shows that the majority of trans children hide their gender because of societal pressures they encounter at school and in their communities, said Travers.

"Their families, communities and schools can be such dangerous places for people who don't conform to gender norms," said Travers.

"You're going to see incredible mental health consequences and all kinds of things."

Travers said one boy interviewed for the book had been so brutally bullied by his peers that he often had to miss school. He was attacked by classmates and attempted to take his own life.

Another interviewee shared the story of being called an "abomination" by their father after sharing their gender identity.

However, despite trans children often facing discrimination, Travers said there certainly has been a recent change in society toward acceptance.

"We're seeing a significant shift, in that more so-called regular moms and dads are supporting trans people's rights to exist and be respected," said Travers.

"They want their child to grow up and be safe and welcome in society."

With files from The Early Edition