Catherine Tuerk, who runs the support group for parents in Washington, D.C., started out as an advocate for gay rights after her son came out, in his 20s. She has a theory about why some parents have become so comfortable with the transgender label: “Parents have told me it’s almost easier to tell others, ‘My kid was born in the wrong body,’ rather than explaining that he might be gay, which is in the back of everyone’s mind. When people think about being gay, they think about sex—and thinking about sex and kids is taboo.”
Tuerk believes lingering homophobia is partly responsible for this, and in some cases, she may be right. When Bill [the father of a transgendered child] saw two men kissing at the conference, he said, “That just don’t sit right with me.” In one of Zucker’s case studies, a 17-year-old girl requesting cross-sex hormones tells him, “Doc, to be honest, lesbians make me sick … I want to be normal.” In Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death, but sex-change operations are legal—a way of normalizing aberrant attractions.
Overall, though, Tuerk’s explanation touches on something deeper than latent homophobia: a subconscious strain in American conceptions of childhood. You see it in the hyper-vigilance about “good touch” and “bad touch.” Or in the banishing of Freud to the realm of the perverse. The culture seems invested in an almost Victorian notion of childhood innocence, leaving no room for sexual volition, even in the far future.
I don't have anything to add, really--I had just never thought of transgender as a comforting (for some) "escape condition" for homosexuality. It dovetails nicely with how focused parents of transgendered children seem to be on the biological rather than environmental explanations. Not saying yes or no particularly--just musing.