The authors Miquel Missé and Noemí Parra: “If the quality of life of trans adolescents improves, the society in which we live improves”.

The authors Miquel Missé and Noemí Parra | Cedited photography

Choose your reading level:

STANDARD

The authors Miquel Missé and Noemí Parra: “If the quality of life of trans adolescents improves, the society in which we live improves”.

Written by Siscu Baiges

May 17 marks the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Authors Miquel Missé and Noemí Parra present a book in which they analyse and explore gender identities at puberty.

How do we understand and how do we accompany trans adolescents? This is the question posed by Miquel Missé -sociologist and expert in gender and sexuality- and Noemi Parra -doctor in gender studies, anthropologist and social worker- in the book “Adolescents in transition” (Bellaterra Edicions). Adolescent gender transitions have increased a lot in recent times. The social debate -often excessively heated- on this subject requires an honesty and an effort of analysis and understanding that Missé and Parra provide in this book.

They argue that there is no clear and clear way of “inhabiting a gender transition”. What is the definition of gender transition on which you base your research?

M.M.- I would say two things. The first, to avoid relativism, would be to say that a gender transition has to do with someone moving out of the gender category in which they were assigned. When someone stops naming themselves in the “boy” or “girl” identity they grew up with. And the second is that, beyond this definition that we are going to use as a starting point, one of the things that happens with this phenomenon is that we think that what we mean by transition is modified according to its historical and cultural context. What is a gender transition in our society today does not mean the same as it did 20 years ago or 50 years ago. As society moves, the framework for interpreting it or the possibilities for experiencing it also pluralise. To give a very concrete example, 20 or 30 years ago when someone thought of a transition – which at that time would have been called a sex change – people always thought of surgeries, especially genital surgery. This was kind of very obvious. Today, in this generation of teenagers, surgery is much more secondary. It has more to do with other kinds of explorations. Depending on the context, it takes on new meanings. And what we are saying is that we have to interpret better what this generation of adolescents is experiencing under the idea of gender transition, which does not necessarily agree with the story of other generations.

N.P.- One of the contributions we make in the book has to do precisely with this idea of transition not as something predetermined or fixed. The meanings of trans in 20 years have changed from a fixed idea of passing from one sex to another, directly associated with surgery, to a more complex experience. The answer to what a transition is today is not so obvious. It opens up new questions and presents us with a very important challenge as to how to accompany these processes. What seems contradictory from my point of view is that the way of experiencing transitions, of signifying them, is changing, but it seems that those of us who are called to accompany them have not yet fully moved in terms of these meanings. We continue to work with rather rigid models or ways of understanding transition that do not allow us to see the complexity of these transition processes today.

The subtitle of the book is “Thinking about gender experience in times of uncertainty”. Is the fact that we live in times of uncertainty progress or is it an added problem for adolescents?

N.P.– We have been living in uncertainty for a long time. It is very important to contextualise what is happening nowadays, how the loss of grand narratives that order existence or the lack of expectations about the future impacts on our subjectivities. We experience this uncertainty as a society, but it has a particular impact on adolescents in terms of the difficulty of projecting the future. In the end, life is uncertainty and in these situations there are possibilities of thinking or experiencing one’s own experience related to gender, new frameworks open up, new possibilities… Certainties are ideal, it is difficult to live in certainties constantly, but it is also true that for many people the loss of certainties has meant a lot of disorientation, and particularly in adolescence, which is a key moment in the construction of one’s own identity and in which one needs to have certain bases, this disorientation sometimes reaffirms very fixed identity positions. We saw that there was a certain risk there. At the same time that possibilities open up in this crack of uncertainty, this need for certainty can place us in very rigid positions about what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, or even very polarised positions, as we are seeing today.

You point out three protagonists in accompaniment: adolescents, family members and professionals. Is there adequate advice for parents to accompany their adolescent children in transition in the best possible way?

M.M. We have to spend time thinking about how we accompany families. Families have to accompany a difficult process, but at the same time they are also asking a lot of questions. The first thing we see is that families often do not have places to hold on to in order to have the calm and serenity to accompany from a position that is not that of their own anxiety and anguish that they feel because they are frightened. For example, there is a very strong story about these adolescents committing suicide if they are not attended to very quickly. So, of course, the families get scared and because they don’t want any misfortune to happen, they try to find solutions very quickly. In this book, some of them say that they lose their ability to think because instead of thinking “let’s see, how do I do this, calmly”, they get scared and need to find a quick solution to mitigate their children’s discomfort. The first thing, then, is how we accompany the families we accompany. The ideas that we can give them have to do with listening, not panicking and not rushing because nothing bad, serious or terrible is going to happen. A gender transition is an experience that a person makes, it is not something dangerous. Most of the recommendations focus on the issue of medical treatment, but most of these processes do not start with medical treatment, they start with someone asking themselves questions and needing to talk about them, and often here there are already many families who are very anxious. The first issue is to reduce this anxiety. In this generation the exploration of gender is something that we see and we are going to see a lot more of in the coming years. Some teenagers will follow that trajectory, others will explore it and go back to the previous category. That’s fine. We have to be able to accompany that calmly. This is the fundamental thing right now.

N.P.- At some point in the interviews there were families who said how the whole discourse of fear led to invalidating their own resources. One mother in particular said that “fear doesn’t allow you to apply everything you already know with your child”. You have had a life with your child, you have accompanied her, she has a life that you know, that the psychologist, the psychologist, the social worker do not know… This seems to me to be key. When we go in, we come up against a reality that we don’t know, our clues are great social narratives about what should be done. In the end, we often expect professionals to give us answers to “what should I do”. The most important thing from my point of view is to open the space for conversation, not to close it, not to look for someone to tell me what I have to do, but to be able to open the space for conversation and to be able to accompany this process wherever it takes us. We already have tools for that as a family, we have resources that we must bring into play. In the work we have done, families ask themselves: Who accompanies us? We also need to be listened to, to be part of this triad of accompaniment in which we are often left out. We need to understand what is happening, we need time to elaborate, and we need to have the tools to open that conversation with our child, because in the end we are the ones who stay with her the rest of the time. A psychologist, a psychologist, a social worker, maybe they are there for two months, or sometimes they only have one appointment, but the rest of the time you are there and you need to have the tools to be able to accompany them.

complementary activities

EASY

The authors Miquel Missé and Noemí Parra: “If the quality of life of trans adolescents improves, the society in which we live improves”.

Written by Siscu Baiges

May 17 marks the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Authors Miquel Missé and Noemí Parra present a book in which they analyse and explore gender identities at puberty.

How do we understand and how do we accompany trans adolescents? This is the question posed by Miquel Missé -sociologist and expert in gender and sexuality- and Noemi Parra -doctor in gender studies, anthropologist and social worker- in the book “Adolescents in transition” (Bellaterra Edicions). Adolescent gender transitions have increased a lot in recent times. The social debate -often excessively heated- on this subject requires an honesty and an effort of analysis and understanding that Missé and Parra provide in this book.

They argue that there is no clear and clear way of “inhabiting a gender transition”. What is the definition of gender transition on which you base your research?

M.M.- To avoid confusion, a gender transition implies moving out of one’s assigned gender category.. It is when someone stops identifying as a “boy” or “girl” that they grew up with. Also, we understand that this concept changes with time and culture. Twenty or thirty years ago, it was mainly associated with surgeries, but now it is more diverse. For example, today, surgery is less common among adolescents exploring their gender.

N.P.- In our book, we emphasise that transition is no longer simply changing gender with surgery. It has evolved into a more complex experience. However, we still use rigid models to understand it, which makes it difficult to adequately accompany these processes today.

The subtitle of the book is “Thinking about gender experience in times of uncertainty”. Is the fact that we live in times of uncertainty progress or is it an added problem for adolescents?

N.P.– We have been living in uncertainty for a long time. This lack of clarity impacts on the way we see life and how we face the future. It is especially difficult for adolescents to project their future in the midst of this uncertainty. Life itself is uncertain and in these situations, new ways of thinking about gender and new possibilities emerge. Although certainties would be ideal, it is difficult to have them constantly. The loss of certainties can cause disorientation, especially in adolescence, which is a crucial time for identity construction. Sometimes, this lack of certainty can lead to very rigid positions on what it means to be a man or a woman, or even to very polarised positions.

You point out three protagonists in accompaniment: adolescents, family members and professionals. Is there adequate advice for parents to accompany their adolescent children in transition in the best possible way?

M.M.- We need to reflect on how to help families in this difficult process. Often, families feel lost and anxious because they don’t know how to help their children. Sometimes, fear prevents them from thinking clearly and looking for quick solutions. It is important for families to listen, not to panic and not to rush, as gender transition is not a dangerous thing. Most of the time, this process begins with questions and conversations, not medical treatment. It is essential to reduce anxiety and accompany adolescents on this journey calmly.

N.P.– Some families have mentioned that fear prevents them from tapping into their own resources. It is key to remember that as parents, we know our children better than anyone else. We should not rely solely on professionals, but open up spaces for conversation and accompany the process. We need tools and time to understand what is happening and to be an active part of accompanying our children. The professionals may be present for a limited time, but we are the ones who remain with them always.

☑️ Test your knowledge

Reading Comprehension questions. Miquel Missé and Noemi Parra: "If the quality of life of trans adolescents improves, the society in which we live improves".

Step 1 of 3

What does "assigned gender category" mean in the context of the text?
Skip to content