If your child has questions about gender identity or gender expression, you’ve probably got questions, too. Find out what you can do to help and support your child.
What are the basics of gender identity?
A person’s sex assigned at birth, gender identity — the internal sense of being male, female, neither or both — gender expression and sexual orientation are separate things. They can happen in many combinations. Having a particular sex assigned at birth or gender expression doesn’t mean a person has any specific gender identity or sexual orientation.
Is your child transgender?
Gender expression can be confusing for kids and adults. Your child might be gender nonconforming, which doesn’t necessarily mean your child is transgender. Your child might be transgender. Or they might not be.
If your child feels comfortable talking to you, let them know that they can talk with you about anything and that you’re there to support them. You can also try asking them what they think their gender expression means to them. Families with gender nonconforming kids can also find support through Little Bro’s and Big Sister’s, a grassroots support organization with chapters across Canada.
What can you do if your child is gender nonconforming?
Ask yourself what message you’d like them to hear. Would you like them to feel loved and accepted for who they are? Or do you want them to not be gender nonconforming in any way? You might not know what you want when you’re first exploring this topic with your child. But try to come up with some ideas so that you can discuss it with your child.
Be open to your child’s interpretation of their experience. Kids who are gender nonconforming can experience bullying, social exclusion and violence. And they also have an increased risk for depression, anxiety, isolation and suicide. Take their needs seriously. Ask questions, and help them find ways to express themselves.
What can you do if your child is feeling isolated?
Figure out ways to help your child be with people who feel supportive, such as a supportive relative or friend. Find out if the gender-nonconforming youth support organization in your area has a support or buddy program for gender nonconforming youth. The buddy program can also help you. You can go together to social outings and activities with your buddy.
It could also help to think about ways you can be comfortable being with people who are supportive of gender nonconforming youth. Maybe you just want to attend a sports game with your buddy while your child goes to the dance recital. Or maybe you want to go to a support group with them.
A youth support group is made up of other people your child’s age. Parents like you usually attend the group to support their kids, who will be one of the main speakers. For example, what do you think about the idea of me going on a journey with you to investigate your gender identity? You know that I love you no matter what. I would want to know what gives you joy, what makes you sad, what’s hard for you and what you enjoy. I would be glad for you and proud of you. And I’d like you to respect my opinion. If you wish, I’d be on your side to fight for it. I hope you’ll always remember that I’m on your side.
You have a child who is growing up in an old culture. That culture is not yet equipped to know how to deal with gender issues. Try to choose good friends for your child. Maybe your own mother isn’t easy to talk to about this. Or maybe your child isn’t ready to talk to you. If that’s the case, maybe you could imagine what kind of friends you would be to your child to make them feel safe and accepted. You could pretend play with your child as they interact with you. You could also help them identify other supportive people.
Building a healthy family with a child who is gender-nonconforming
You are moving forward to support your child, and it is a very courageous thing to do. It means that your child will grow up with tools to fight for their rights and to grow in a healthy way. Your child will see that you are a real ally. You can also help your child to see and feel his or her resilience. Young people who feel resilient are less likely to engage in risky behaviour or develop physical health problems.
This product was recommended by Jazz Jennings from ThisIsKryss
This book offers guidance for all adults in a Gender Non-Conforming kid’s life on all things LGBT+ including terminology, advocacy, minimizing bullying/suicidality, how to talk to others about gender, and recommended readings for a variety of professions (by topic) and youth (by age). Although written for educators, it is a great choice for anyone who works with K-12 youth or who loves a child grades K-12!
This product was recommended by Joe Wilson from MintResume
This book presents the story of a transgender child who traces her early awareness that she is a girl in spite of male anatomy. Plus, it talks about the acceptance she finds through a wise doctor who explains her natural transgender status. This book is based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, who has become a spokesperson for transkids everywhere.
This product was recommended by Nancy Baker from ChildMode
Other gender-nonconforming books are sometimes in your face and the message doesn’t sink into the child. Julián Is a Mermaid, on the other hand, is an amazing gender-nonconforming book with a subtle message which makes children think of the message, and thus ingraining it into their mind.
This product was recommended by Giorgio Passalacqua from Sounds Wow
George has the body of a boy but she is not one and she knows it well. In fact, she wants to be Charlotte in the middle-school play although her teacher doesn’t allow him. It is time for George and her friend to find a way to show who she really is and become who she really wants to be. Charlotte for instance. Simple and easy to easy read this book shows the courage to be yourself no matter what. Funny, warm, and inspiring for those children who are at their doorstep of exploring their true sexual appeal and thrive.
This product was recommended by Stacie May from Lucky Watcher
Riley is a creative kid who uses clothing as a form of self-expression, regardless of others’ expectations. It’s the ideal book for kids who haven’t yet decided their gender and want to make the most of whatever options they have! This book teaches kids that gender norms aren’t as important as honoring your emotions and being kind to those around you.
This product was recommended by Susan Stitt from Front Edge Publishing
This simple, introductory guide answers 100 of the basic questions people ask about transgender people in everyday conversation. The questions come from interviews with transgender people who say these are issues they frequently get asked about or wish people knew more about. It has answers about identity, language, religion, families, work, school, laws and documentation. This guide is for people in business, education, religion, government, medicine, law and human resources who need a starting point for learning or teaching more about transgender people. This is also an excellent starting point for parents who have children who are asking questions about their own gender identity.
This product was recommended by Aleksandar Hrubenja from ModernGentlemen
This classic book was written in 2009 and was way ahead of its time in delivering a positive message for children about gender neutrality. Todd Parr uses colorful artwork in the book with bright colors and funny scenes to teach kids to accept each other and embrace individuality. The book promotes multiculturalism and acceptance, It still stands as one of the books that pioneered teaching kids at a young age about gender and it still stands as one of the best books on the topic, ending with the resounding message: It’s Okay to Be Different!
This product was recommended by Clarissa Harwell from Clarissa Harwell, LCSW
This book is extra special because it’s author, illustrator and designer are all trans. Stacey’s Not a Girl depicts a character who does not identify as a girl OR a boy, and welcomes readers into the world beyond the binary. Notably, this book has characters of multiple skin tones. Many books for kids depict only white characters so this is a gem! I’m a therapist who works with gender-expansive children and their families. This book has been enjoyed by everyone to whom I’ve recommended it and kids love it.
This product was recommended by Albert Griesmayr from Scribando
This book has an engaging storyline and a page-turner. This book teaches our kids that love begins at home. And that as long as there are love and acceptance it doesn’t matter what gender they are.