How Young Should We Recognize Transgender Kids?

In southern France, a family asked the local elementary school to call their child a new name.

Transgender children is a topic societies must face
Transgender children is a topic societies must face
Alessio Perrone

The storyline is foundational for many in the LGBT+ community: An internal struggle to come to terms with one's own identity is followed by an external battle with societal institutions that eventually leads to that identity being recognized and respected. This time, however, the protagonist is eight years old.

In the southern French town of Aubignan, a child and her parents have won a months-long fight with the country's bureaucracy and obtained official recognition from the local school of her transgender identity. No longer will the male name she was born with, Baptiste, be used, reports French public radio: teachers and classmates will call her "Lilie."

The landmark case in France comes as countries, families and researchers around the world debate what age is appropriate to transition from one gender to another.

She's known for a while: Lilie understood her transgender identity in kindergarten, but it was only last winter that she told her family.

• Lilie's mother Chrystelle Vincent told the local paper, La Provence, that her then son had been depressed for months and said she "felt like a little girl, trapped in a boy's body."

• The parents were initially shocked, then skeptical, then supportive. But above all, they were relieved when they saw that Lilie's depression had gone away after the announcement.

What to do about school: When the family asked school authorities to recognize the child's new identity, they started a long struggle with the French bureaucracy.

• The French public education does not allow children to change identity unless their officially registered name changes, so teachers were initially barred from using the feminine name.

• The principal at Lilie's school, Christian Patoz, says institutions moved slowly because the child's young age raised many questions: "It was about not rushing, and looking after the interests of the student," he said. "We had to verify that this was indeed the child's will and not that of those around him."

• The green light came after months of meetings and discussions with the school board, an academy inspector, doctors and child psychologists. The child comfortably returned to school last week as Lilie.

Evolving social science: By now, transgender children is a topic societies must face. There have been plenty of cases of children who began not to conform with gender rules at a very early age.

• In France, members of the transgender support association Transat who supported Lilie's family say it's common for children to understand their gender nonconformity in their early school years.

• But because of a lack of social acceptance, people can still take a very long time to come to terms with their identity.

• In neighboring Britain, there have been reported cases of boys as young as three years old asking to grow up as girls.

The Seattle Times reports on a study last year by the University of Washington confirmed that children can start feeling part of a different gender as early as age 3 to 5.

What to do: This all can pose a problem for parents and institutions such as schools: Should you be encouraging social transitioning among young children?

• The University of Washington study said when parents transition their children, it does not make the children create a stronger transgender identity. It's the other way around: the children who eventually transition do so because they already had a strong sense of identity. Still, the study warns that data around the subject is scarce.

• Standing policy in schools in most Western countries, do not allow children to switch identity unless this is formally attested in a name change.

• An Italian family chose to escape the country's strict rules around gender by migrating to Spain, where their 10 year old child, born Lorenzo, would be allowed to identify as a female — Lori.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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