Last Night’s TV – Age 8 and Wanting a Sex Change

by Lynn Connolly

kyla - Age 8 and Wanting a Sex Change

What a desperately sad and alternately positive film this was. Part of Channel 4’s Bodyshock series, this documentary featured, as per the title, children as young as 8 years old who were suffering from gender dysphoria.

This condition means that the children featured were/are convinced they were born in the “wrong” bodies and their parents have taken the decision to take on board their child’s deep-seated longing to be the opposite sex.

And in the case of Joseph, he is now referred to as Josie and to all intents and purposes – aside from having male genitalia – lives as a girl.

Josie’s mother said, “She looks at her penis as a birth defect that she wants to get fixed”

Likewise for Kyla who was born a boy, her parents have fully accepted that their son is in fact a girl born, and trapped in, the wrong body. One very touching scene came last night when Kyla was telling the filmmaker that if she had to live as a boy forever, she’d want to die.

Her mother broke down and Kyla rushed over to comfort her as she wept and explained that of all the things that could’ve gone wrong with her child, gender dysphoria wasn’t so bad, but the thought of her child being unhappy was.

The parents of 16 year old Chris, who was born a girl but believed he was boy, have been similarly supportive of their child. Chris has been having hormone therapy since he was 14 and this has meant that he now has a deepening voice, male-like body hair and he shaves.

Sixteen-year-old Chris, who was born a girl, started testosterone treatment at 14. He now has a deep voice and plentiful body hair, and shaves regularly. By starting the hormone treatments so young, it’s given Chris a much better chance of ‘becoming’ the male he longs to be in as much as he looks male and therefore, society as a whole will be more accepting of him as a male. But more importantly, what he himself sees in the mirror and feels in his heart is increasingly content with himself.

One of the things that most struck me about this film is that all the parents of the children featured were very much glass-half-full sorts of people; for instance, Chris’s mother jokingly said of his dating, “At least I can guarantee that you won’t get her pregnant.”

As a parent myself, I know well – as will millions of us – the abject misery of seeing your child unhappy and being unable to do anything about it, so it’s perhaps understandable why the parents of the children in this film are totally supportive of doing what it takes to make their children happy. For most 8 year olds, happiness is the latest toy or gadget, but for these children, happiness was being allowed to be the gender they believe they are, irrespective of the one they were assigned in the womb, and I for one wholeheartedly applaud these parents for their actions.

It can’t be easy on them. And of course, it’s not easy on their kids either but for parents, accepting such an enormous shift in their fundamental thinking about their own child must’ve been exceptionally traumatic. They must also fear for their child’s future and, if the kids go ahead and have gender reassignment surgery, there’s the sorrow to come that they can never have a child naturally.

This was a truly thought provoking film and a very timely one, coming as it does as gender orientation experts here in the UK are reviewing guidelines for treating transgendered children. It’s a subject that’s sure to spark a great deal of controversy and we’d be interested to hear what you thought of the issues raised by the film.

If you missed it, you can catch it here on 4oD.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.