Actress’ son is a boy trapped in a girl’s body
Love your children, however they are, is the advice from British actress Adjoa Andoh.
She’ll be on the Island for TedX Bermuda next month, speaking on lessons learned as the parent of a transgender child.
Ms Andoh’s son Liam revealed he was “a boy trapped in a girl’s body” while in his early teens.
Born the middle daughter of three girls in London, England, Liam had refused to wear dresses from the age of two, and was uninterested in traditionally girlie things.
“In primary school he lobbied for the girls to be able to wear trousers,” said Ms Andoh.
Liam will always be Liam to her, regardless of what gender he is.
“The personality is what I value, and that doesn’t change,” she said. “In the imperfect language we have to describe people, we call Liam transgender. In too many places today, and in too many ways, we suffocate our true potential selves at birth.”
She initially wasn’t sure if Liam was done figuring things out.
“I don’t believe it is a phase,” she said. “So often that word is used in a pejorative sense.”
She prayed on the matter, and asked God for a sign that the family was headed in the right direction.
“Half an hour later, I was putting out the recycling and I was going through our borough newspaper,” she said. “On the back page in one little column, there was an advertisement for an art project run by a group called Gendered Intelligence. It was for young adults coping with challenges around gender identity.”
Through the art project, Liam found his peer group.
Ms Andoh said transgender children often have a tough time.
“I think whichever way around you are transitioning — from female to male, or male to female — there is the opportunity for you to be abused and excluded.”
A strong support system is very important for young transgenders, According to the Youth Suicide Prevention Programme in the United States, around half will attempt suicide before their 20th birthday.
Ms Andoh said taking part in the project helped Liam, and also the family, realise they weren’t alone in their experience.
“This isn’t aberrant behaviour,” she said, “just a different normal. Gendered Intelligence was invaluable.”
She said her family, friends and even her church were very loving and accepting of Liam.
Some parents allow their transgender children to change their gender before adolescence as the surgery is easier if the child hasn’t gone through puberty.
“The issue of surgery doesn’t apply so much for me because I have an 18-year-old who is old enough to vote and marry,” Ms Andoh said. “The decision is his.”
She first spoke publicly about her experiences on British radio.
“I said there are lots of parents like me, so what,” she said. “I was more interested in what the experience reveals about who we are as humans.”
To other parents who are just going through the transgender journey with their child, she said: “I would just encourage other parents to be brave and support their children. You have them, you love them, you raise them and then send them out into the world.”
Ms Andoh appeared in the movie Invictus, alongside Morgan Freeman and on such British television programmes as Dr Who and Casualty.
For information about Gendered Intelligence see genderedintelligence.co.uk/.
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