Kind is Better: Mother of transgender child seeks to demystify the transition

The girl drawing a rainbow. (Tina Mulqueen)

“It wasn’t a surprise for me as a mom to learn that she felt she identified with a different gender.” - Tina Mulqueen

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- It's not a conversation many parents expect to have with their kids, but a Vancouver mom wants to use her experience to help others understand her daughter’s transition from a boy to a girl.

We're not identifying the child to protect her privacy.

She told her mom of the decision to identify as a girl one afternoon.

“She came home from school one day and she sat down next to me on the couch and said, “Mom, I wanna be a girl,’” said Tina Mulqueen, a business owner and a Vancouver mother of two. “And I said, 'What will that look like?' And she said, ‘Well, I want to get rid of all my boy clothes. I want to go shopping. I want to get dresses. I want to get my nails done. I want to be a girl.’"

So Mulqueen came up with a plan to ease the transition.

She did her research and sent an email to her family with links to a Scientific American issue that focused on transgender-ism.

“What the research says is that if we want to keep her safe, we need to be on board with this,” she said. “And we need to love her through this. So that’s the approach that we took.”

Her extended, conservative family was understanding, but the parents of her friends were not as understanding.

Play dates dried up.

Party invites went unanswered, or rejected without explanation.

Her elementary school experience was marred by episodes of discrimination.

“More than the kids, we get discrimination from parents because kids tend to be ... they have just less history with the environment, less bias and less baggage,” Mulqueen said.

Mulqueen says there are plenty of people in their corner. But she wants to share their story in hopes of helping anyone else on a similar journey.

“The research suggests that it’s not a phase,” Mulqueen said. “Gender identity is set from a really young age, just like it was for you and me. That’s why we didn’t ever have to think about that.”

But some advocates go overboard, Mulqueen said.

“When they hear about discrimination, they tend to get really riled up,” she said. “They can kind of pounce on that kind of issue in a potentially righteous way. I would say that I don’t think that does anything to open up a dialogue and create the kind of conversations we need.”

Portland is home to numerous transgender health programs including Legacy Health System and a Transgender Health Program at OHSU, among others.

WATCH: Full interview with Dr. Milano


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