Psychology and Development Term Paper

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Childhood Development of Sexual Minorities

One might originally think it odd to approach a question about the experienced childhood development of minorities by opening a discussion of the children who will grow to be sexual and gender-identity minorities. Unlike most other minorities, these children are not generally being raised in a minority culture and family, and do not have the immediate support of their own race or culture about them to help prepare them for life as a minority. So in some ways, this is actually the ideal place to start such a discussion, because in this area one has unmitigated access to the experience of being a minority on the child's development, without the sheltering environment that surrounds other minorities. These children will, a majority of the time, emerge from the crucible of childhood as homosexual or possibly bisexual adults. A few more will go on to actually have their gender physically altered. (Ceglie) Gender Dysphoric children experience many of the developmental difficulties of other minorities, in addition to (obviously) specific developmental problems regarding gender roles and body image, they also experience setbacks in other areas: attachment and social development, aggression and victimization, unique problems with their parents, and general social dysfunction's.

Before moving on to the specific developmental issues faced by this minority, one would do well to admit that some might be skeptical that such a minority even exists. Because of the degree to which society (somewhat artificially) denies any sexual appetites existent among those under eighteen, the existence of sexual minorities among children may seem odd. However, increasingly research has show that both male homosexuality and gender dysphoria have biological roots, (Swan) and so one should expect to see the existence of transgendered children as well as transgendered adults. According to an interview with Louis Gooren, who heads up research at the Dutch National Clinic for Gender Dysphoria, evidence of being transgendered usually shows up in very early childhood, and needs to be addressed often by the time a child is five or six. (Swan) As one social worker who deals extensively with the families of transgendered children explains, as awareness of the issue grows more parents are seeking help and guidance while their children are still very small. "She is campaigning to widen the availability of treatment and receives up to eight inquiries a week from parents of children unhappy with their gender. 'One family has a child of seven who has wanted to be a girl since he was four,' she said. 'He exhibits all the signs of cross-gender behaviour.'" (Rogers)

Nor is this a mere matter of gender hysteria which forces young children into strange gender predicaments. "A follow-up study of transsexual adolescents who, after careful assessment, started the process of sex reassignment during adolescence (after the age of 16) shows that they had achieved a good level of psychological and social adjustment at least 1 year after surgical intervention (Cohen-Kettenis & van Goozen, 1997)." (Ceglie) Consistent clinical and anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that sexual minorities are innately aware of their status from the earliest moments of childhood when such things were still unnamed. In cases where the reality of their feelings were denied, the children were very negatively effected to the point of violence to self or even others. So one can see how this should have by now become a major issue for the story of childhood development.

Some aspects of child development are directly affected by this minority status, and others are merely affected in a secondary fashion. The most obvious aspect of child development to be affected is obviously that of gender. Child psychologists have long argued whether gender differences are based on the way in which children are raised or on a more general biological basis. For some time it was believed that the case study of Joan/John, as presented by Dr. Money, proved conclusively that child gender development was an issue of nurture. However, retrospectively we are given to understand that John had faith in his masculinity and never for an instant wished to be other than a young boy --today he is living and functioning as a boy, despite being raised female. So the predominant explanation today is one of nature.

Consistently stories speak of very young children who view their biological gender as a…

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