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09:14 AM

Kansas City Parents Find Struggle, Satisfaction in Raising Transgender Children

Parents expect to raise the child born to them. So, when a child takes on a different gender identity, they take on a unique set of challenges.

With heightened public awareness of transgender issues, an increasing number of parents are facing these challenges.

Debi Jackson is one of them. Her daughter transitioned socially (as opposed to medically) to a girl at four years old.

Avery's mom, Debi Jackson, has become an activist for the transgender community.

Debi thought she was raising two happy, healthy young boys when at about the age of three, the older one – who now goes by Avery — started asking for sparkly shoes and princess dresses. She only wanted to shop in the girls department.

“Then she got to the point when she very directly told us, 'you think I’m a boy but I’m a girl inside.'”

The family immediately sought out therapists, and talked to the school about what was going on.

Dr. Jill Jacobson, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Gender Pathways Clinic at Children’s Mercy Hospital, says the clinic draws patients from all over the Midwest for its multidisciplinary treatment of young people with gender dysphoria.

Jacobson tells patients one thing at the outset.

“Raise the child you have rather than the one you expected," she says. "I think sometimes that can sound harsh, but it's a message I give to families.”

So how's a parent to know when to trust their child's behavior?

Heather McQueen, a clinical social worker at Gender Pathways, says clinicians look for a pattern of behavior.

"We look for three things — consistence, insistence and persistence," she says. Basically, that a child keeps saying the same thing.

Read more via KCUR.com.