The parents MacFadyen made their decision thinking they were helping their child to be himself, without constraints. The surgical operation which turned Daniel into a girl, however, was absolutely premature. Daniel was too little to make a definitive gender choice, he could have changed many times his sexual inclination. Families and doctors who take such radical measures should be analyzed themselves. We should reflect on why doctors authorize such surgeries without first trying a therapy, in the shape of games or drawing, and what pushes the parents to take a choice like this.
At the age of three, there is still a long way to go before becoming aware of one’s sexual identity. Children must be accompanied. A child of three who makes a significant action such as trying to cut off his genitals, does so instinctively, because he feels trapped in his body, uncomfortable, and tries to escape, or simply because he is exploring his body as something foreign, manipulates it to learn how it is done, because at this age they begin to experience the first impulses towards sexuality. This is when the oedipal phase begins, characterized by attention towards their genitals.
They should have intervened with play therapy, to enable him to freely explore his possibilities. Even now therapeutic work should be done through games, to accompany him as he grows up and becomes self-aware, instead of building him a prison through drug therapy. His mom and dad need to be told that a child is a hormonal laboratory himself. He needs to be helped in this experimental process of self-discovery.
In Italy, such a thing could not have happened, and it is not even advisable. Parents’ concerns about acting so as to prevent future suffering for their children has its roots in problems caused by a sinful understanding of sexuality, which is the true evil of our society. Sexual orientation should be freed from moral judgments and should not be condemned. In 1979, I wrote a book, The Drain, featuring two characters: a bulimic teenager who felt attracted to his classmates, and his transsexual best friend who lived a dramatic situation because of the aggression he suffered due to his condition. The development of psychoanalysis on sexuality is recent, especially in the study of the importance of early childhood education for the individual, thanks to the expert in neuro-child psychiatry, Giovanni Bollea.
According to the sexologist Jole Baldaro Green, transsexuals are born that way. Hormonal changes occur also during their intra-uterine life, in the womb, in the symbiotic relationship between mother and child, and they influence their sexual orientation. But the discovery of sexuality is a process that occurs over time.
Maria Rita Parsi
Psychologist, psychotherapist, president of the Foundation for Children, director and founder of the Italian School of Psycho-Animation (SIPA).