No Easy Answers In Gender Identity
If you are parenting a child that colors outside the gender lines, you likely want a “yes” or “no” answer to whether your child is transgender. Those answers are not easy to come by.
I have mixed feelings about labels—especially when it’s kids we are labeling. Children are fluid, ever changing little beings and labels have a way of hanging around forever freezing them in time. No place is this more evident than when talking about gender identity. Identifying your child as transgender may make it harder for them to find their path.
Labels can, however, be a lifesaver (literally) for children and parents. They give us words to explain what we see and help us find support for our kids and ourselves.
As Dr. Jo Olson, medical director of the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the largest clinic in the United States for transgender youth an Adolescent Medicine physician specializing in the care of transgender youth, said on yesterday’s Creating a Family show, if your child strongly and persistently over time identifies with the opposite gender to their biological sex then it is likely not a phase.
Words Matter In Gender Identity
The preferred words in the gender identity community are hard to pin down. Before the Creating a Family show yesterday, I spent way too much time trying to find the “correct” terms to use to avoid offense. Transgender? Gender nonconforming? Gender variant? Gender dysphoria? Turns out that my search was in vain–there is no one preferred term.
The lack of universal agreement on the “right” words to use must not stop us from talking about gender identity. Silence is far more dangerous than incorrect word choice. The following is the best explanation I found on the distinction between the two most common terms: transgender and gender nonconforming.
Gender specialists differentiate transgender from gender nonconforming by noting that a transgender child will assert firmly, over time, that their gender identity is the opposite of that which was assigned at birth. They will insist that they are in the wrong body, or that God made a mistake. Gender nonconforming children are often less adamant about who they are not, but will stubbornly assert what toys they do and don’t like, clothes they will and won’t wear, or activities they do or don’t prefer irrespective of their assigned gender. One way to think about the difference is that while all transgender children are gender nonconforming, not all gender nonconforming children are transgender. (fromGender Spectrum)
See and learn more in this Raising Transgendered Children video.