Lecturer discusses struggles of transgender individuals while coming out

Guest lecturer Irwin Krieger leads discussion about the struggles that transgender individuals face when coming out to their family and friends, especially their parents. (Tyler Benton/The Daily Campus)

On Wednesday, the University of Connecticut’s Rainbow Center hosted guest lecturer Irwin Krieger, LCSW, who discussed the struggles that transgender individuals experience when coming out to their parents.

Transgender individuals’ gender identities differ from their assigned sexes at birth. A biological male could identify as female because that identity is more comfortable. Gender identity is also not solely a binary concept; it is a spectrum. Everyone possesses both masculine and feminine characters, but each person expresses these characters at different levels.

Doctors assign biological sexes to children when they are born, even when they have ambiguous genitalia. This assignment has problematic implications since children are placed into binary roles from birth.

Since parents play such critical roles in the lives of their children, their reactions have large effects when their kids come out as transgender. Parents have numerous fears when their children come out as transgender. They fear the low level of acceptance from society, question where they went wrong in raising their children, and worry about the embarrassment and shame they would face from the community for having transgender children.

A question by an attendee of the lecture was if older children, such as the first child in a family, experience more negativity from their parents than the last children of a family. Since parents have high expectations from their firstborn child, they expect that individual to live up to them.

There are medical interventions and treatments that transgender people are able to undergo. The primary hormone for male characteristics is testosterone and for female characteristics is estrogen. The effects of testosterone include a lower voice and facial hair. On the other hand, estrogen causes more padding around the hip area and breast development. These hormone treatments are for individuals who have already undergone puberty.

For the younger individuals, such as elementary or middle school children, who feel that their gender identities differ from their assigned sexes, there are puberty blockers that can prevent the effects of puberty from occurring.

“In therapy, we don’t think of gender identity as a mental illness, but someone can be diagnosed with gender dysphoria,” Krieger said. “Gender dysphoria refers to feelings of stress or unhappiness due to issues with gender identity. Once diagnosed with gender dysphoria, people can be prescribed medical treatments, such as hormones.

When others refuse to acknowledge an individual’s affirmed gender identity intentionally, it is called misgendering.

“It’s nobody’s business what your gender identity is, as long as you are comfortable,” Renee Watson, a fifth semester pre-pharmacy major, said. “Misgendering can be a large problem in society because it puts more stress on transgender individuals, especially if society does so purposely."


Kevin Li is a campus correspondent for the Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at kevin.li@uconn.edu.